Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.

(Personal, GeekStuff)

2011-06-09 17:40
Comment [4]

This socket is rated for at most a 60W lightbulb. But wait! What about compact fluorescent lightbulbs, where 60W would be some kind of major flood light, and 26W or so gets you more light than a 100W incandescent?

Today, my new lamp answered: The limit is 60W incandescent, 15W CFL.

This is because a 15W CFL is equivalent to a 60W incandescent, and thus presumably generates the same amount of heat. This is… pretty much vacuum pockets territory.

Peter Seebach

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Comment [4]

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Ask a smart guy without empathy!

(Personal)

2011-06-04 17:39
Comment [4]

Okay, here’s a little experiment. One of the problems I have is that my default answers to questions are often Unacceptable in ways that I have a hard time understanding. Why? Because I’m not empathic. When people ask me how to fix problems, I tend to give answers that are… well, too correct but not friendly enough.

Hard to illustrate without examples. So. Pretend that I’m doing an advice column! Send in questions; either email them (tag them as for the blog; questions and answers will be posted here) or post them as comments.

No promises that I’ll get around to this, but I bet I’ll answer at least a few before I get bored.

What you get is an answer that is as correct as I can make it, without any attempt to be nice. This is not what advice columns are normally like, although I suppose Dan Savage has probably done it a bit.

Peter Seebach

Comment [4]

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So you think I'm wrong...?

(Personal, Autism)

2011-06-04 14:49
Comment [1]

Okay, this keeps coming up. People think other people are wrong. Then… they do things that cannot possibly help.

Let’s be blunt. If you think someone is wrong, and you want to tell them so, you have two options:

1. You can try to offer information or argumentation which could allow them to find out where their error came from.
2. You can be an asshole.

Seriously. Those are the options. If you didn’t pick the first, you picked the second. Being hesitant or timid? That doesn’t make you not an asshole. Covering things with disclaimers? Nope, still an asshole.

If someone believes something untrue, they believe it for some kind of reason. There is information they lack, or there’s argumentation they lack, or there’s some axiom they’re wedded to. If you are not helping them identify this so they can correct their position, you are not helping, and you are not giving them any information. They already know some people disagree with them. Telling them that people disagree with them doesn’t help them find out why.

Now, some people go further. Instead of just saying “you’re wrong”, they add insults. That makes it more annoying, but… That isn’t the point at which the “correction” became rude and unhelpful. The point where it went off the rails was the failure to support your case.

To tie this back into some recent autism-related blogging:

Many of the autistic people I know are very frustrated by unsupported assertions or refusal to engage or support. You wanna make an autistic person freak out and have an absolutely shitty day? Tell them they’re wrong but you’re too busy to talk about it. There’s nothing they can do about this that is remotely pleasant. They can’t just disregard you, because you might have good information. They can’t confirm or deny your information, because they don’t know what it is. They can’t find out what your information is; why’s that? Because you are a fucking asshole, that’s why. Don’t do that. It’s rude to anyone, but it’s particularly offensive to people who care more about finding out what’s true than about “being right”.

If I’m wrong, I want to know. Seriously. It does not bother me to find out that I’m wrong. I love it. It makes me be less wrong now. It is an improvement. If someone shows me that I’m mistaken about something I am happy; if it’s something major it can result in happy dances and running around telling people. But for me to “know” that I’m wrong, I have to be able to find out how I came to a wrong conclusion; I need to know which information or argument was flawed.

What got me onto this is that someone recently pulled this shit on Beloved Spouse. (Beloved Spouse may or may not be autistic; we’re still playing phone tag with the people who could set up an appointment…) Beloved Spouse asserted that a particular thing was not a matter of malice, but simply a cost-cutting measure; someone said this was wrong, said “you put your foot in it”, was generally smug and dismissive, and did not provide even the beginnings of a thing which could lead to argumentation or evidence.

Just… Don’t do that. It is a serious jerk move. It is disrespectful, insulting, and also fucking stupid. If you’re right, and you want people to know this thing that you know, failure to make it possible for them to do this is stupid.

How to have a rational discussion.

Peter Seebach

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Comment [1]

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Player vs. Player... FOR SCIENCE!

(Personal)

2011-06-02 23:09
Comment [3]

So. I hate PvP. I hate it because for some reason, for me, being attacked by other players is intrinsically antifun. This is not restricted to video games; I can’t spar, and I can’t play a lot of competitive board games. (I can play games of competing to reach a goal, but not games of preventing other people from reaching a goal. Except Robo Rally which I play as a single-player game of moving across the board so fast that I’m not in contact with other players anyway.)

But… The thing is, being aware of this means that I now have a shot at, say, changing it. After all, it’s just bits and pieces and thinking and habits; it does what I tell it to. Sometimes. Up to a point.

So I’m going to go roll me up a character on a PvP server in RIFT and see what I make of it. If it’s unfun enough, I’ll walk away, but… part of the point is to see whether I can change it. As part of the experiment, I’ve been asking people who enjoy PvP to explain what’s fun about it. I’ve… well, let’s just say I don’t understand the answers. :)

Why RIFT?

1. Most fun MMO I’ve ever played.
2. Above-average quality of community.
3. The calling/soul system means that I get a lot of variety of things to try.

Will be playing two characters on the Harrow server. (Why two? Because people always complain about how getting corpse-camped prevents them from playing. I see… a solution.)

Peter Seebach

Comment [3]

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Good days, bad days

(Personal, Autism)

2011-06-01 21:18
Comment

So, I have my good days and my bad days. This is true of both autism issues and ADHD issues… and they are not on the same cycles. This means that the variance between my good days and my bad days is huge. No, huger than that. I run the range from “I can’t feed myself” to “I just put in six hours and did something that was expected to take three to four weeks”.

A big part of coping with this is support and recognition. One of my friends is autistic, but wasn’t diagnosed until relatively recently. If she couldn’t handle cooking, her parents were dismissive and told her to soldier through it, hoping to toughen her up. Yeah, that doesn’t help. Seriously, some days cooking is too hard. I can’t deal with it. I just need to sit and have my thumpy music. If no one’s around who can make food happen, I probably stay hungry, or eat junk food. (I keep bags of chips to hand in case of such days.)

This kind of thing can be good or bad for jobs. It’s okay at my current job, where they’re generally okay with my long-term average being good. Sure, there’s the occasional day where the sum total of my contribution to our embedded software product is that I played Minecraft a lot. There’s also days where I’m on a roll and I clear up three or four old bugs that were expected to need a day or two each. On average, I understand I’m pretty good. But some days I skip conference calls because I can’t deal with using the phone. It’s… well, it’s different.

Peter Seebach

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Autism vs. Poetry

(Personal, Autism)

2011-05-31 16:50
Comment [2]

I am not great with poetry. Some of this, I think, is from people misexplaining it. See, when you use the phrase “the meaning of the poem”, you communicate, to me anyway, that the poem has exactly one meaning. Which you propose to identify and explain.

This does not prepare me well. I have some trouble with metaphors; I can use them just fine, but I can’t always tell. “Tiger, tiger, burning bright”… well, wait. Is that about an actual tiger or not? If it’s an actual tiger, I’m guessing the fire is a metaphor. But what if it’s not a tiger? Then the flame could be literal. I dunno.

This has plagued me with music, too. People derive a whole lot of information from lyrics, and I tend to get stuck. Lady Gaga sings, quite expressively:

I’m beautiful in my way
cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way

and I get stuck on questions like “assuming that either we adopt a fairly straightforward interventionist theism, or that this is more symbolic language for describing the intrinsic worth of human beings, what about cystic fibrosis? That just sucks.” No, really. I can figure out that this is more generally a song about maintaining a positive self-image, but the powerful emotional content is basically overwhelmed by what even I recognize as essentially nit-picking. And yet, if I don’t do that nit-picking, I have no way of weeding out implausible interpretations and getting towards the question of what someone was trying to communicate.

This ties into a broader general trend, which I don’t think I’ve yet really gotten into, which is how autistic people tend to perceive the world rather than opinions about the world. That one’s up “soon”, I think, but I’m not quite ready to work on it yet. But basically… When I hear poetry, I really do hear the words before I hear the meaning. I don’t necessarily even know what the poet was aiming for, and I don’t automatically assign a meaning and hear that; I just hear words and think about them.

Peter Seebach

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Comment [2]

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Setting idea, free to good home

(GeekStuff, Personal)

2011-05-31 10:18
Comment [2]

So, sometimes in fantasy settings, we find the occasional charlatan. Crazy thought; what if everyone were faking it? Okay, now, make it a high fantasy setting. Mighty wizards, priests who impose the will of gods, vampires, werewolves, stuff like that.

It is widely believed that our world shows that people can be caused to believe that werewolves, vampires, etcetera, really exist even if they don’t. Let’s just run with that. Imagine a world in which D&D-type magic is commonplace and taken for granted. Giant balls of fire are thrown, etcetera.

Now… Imagine that you are in the wizard’s guild, and the great secret, imparted to you under pain of death, is that wizardly magic either wasn’t ever real or has somehow failed, and the Guild maintains its position through trickery and cleverness. So that’s fine; you know your magic isn’t real, but you have to hide that because everyone else’s magic is.

But that’s what they all think. Werewolves are a wolf cult who pretend to their terrifying powers so people don’t dare come after them in small parties (they run away from large parties, because the large parties are easy enough to detect and avoid). Vampires just drain a bit of peoples’ blood because it makes people believe them to be real; they actually have false teeth.

And it’s all like that. Top to bottom.

I think the right way to tell the story would be from the perspective of one of the people who has access to one of the kinds of “magic”, but who still thinks the others are real. It’d be more fun if the reader didn’t catch on right away, I think.

Free to good home. Yes, I know ideas aren’t protected by copyright anyway; I’m just pointing out that not only do I not have particular legal rights, I’m also not inclined to be a jerk about the rights I don’t have. :)

Peter Seebach

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Comment [2]

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Am I people? I tend to think so...

(Personal, Autism)

2011-05-30 17:40
Comment [1]

So, someone wrote recently to thank me for the blog postings, reminding me that I was doing them. My correspondant commented about people seeing the diagnosis, but not seeing that there’s a person in there.

Is there?

I have no idea. I don’t know what it’s like to be not-me. Maybe what I am is not the same kind of thing that the rest of you are. I can’t see how I could tell. And the thing is… I’m pretty sure the idea of not being of the same category as other people would upset most people. Me, I’m just curious. Neither answer would make me unhappy. As long as people grant that I have the same basic rights that they do, I don’t really care whether they think I’m of their kind or of some fundamentally different kind.

The “person inside” thing gets into a fuzzy boundary. Am I inside? Is there a thing between me and other people, and they can’t see me through it, or is it that they think they can’t see me because they see a thing which is obviously not-like-people, so they assume there’s a more people-like thing which is somehow obscured by it?

I’ve had a lot of trouble with things like this. People who are used to the relative complexity of other humans will look at me, and conclude that I am hiding my True Self from them, because no one is actually this simple. People have hidden motives, and disguise their intent, and so on; if you can’t see the hidden motives, that’s because someone is being exceptionally deceptive, not because they just don’t feel like hiding anything.

This leads to what I have dubbed the Onion Problem: People who try to peel away all the layers to find the onion. They run out of layers, and conclude that there is no onion, or that someone stole the onion. But wait; onions are made of layers. When people try to get past the outer “layer” of my behavior to figure out what’s inside it, they get confused, or angry, or otherwise fail to find what they’re looking for. Actually, it’s just me; I really am that shallow. I don’t have particularly great hidden depths; I don’t hide my state, I just don’t always see any reason to discuss it. There isn’t anything else.

Sure, sometimes I have complicated or multifaceted goals. I’ll usually explain them to avoid confusion. I’ll just tell people straight up “I am curious about and trying to learn about how people think, could you answer some questions for me?” It’s a non-trivial effort for me to ask the questions first.

So far as I can tell, I’m people; I’m just a very simple people, without a lot of the complexity and overhead that makes other people work. But for all I know, that’s actually a kind of not-people, and that complexity is really what makes people “real” people. In which case, I guess I’m a not-people which happens to be similar enough to pass most of the time. Later, when we have finished taking over your world, television will be a lot different.

Peter Seebach

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Comment [1]

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Eating candy. FOR SCIENCE

(Personal, Autism)

2011-05-29 17:14
Comment [2]

Unsorted M&Ms taste the same.

I state this because, while I could have predicted it, it’s not something I knew. I can’t eat unsorted candy. I mean, obviously I can. I just did. I had to think about it, though. I couldn’t just reach in a bag and have candy. My brain kept throwing up alerts. “WARNING: This hand contains unsorted things. Sort them before eating? [YES] [CANCEL]”

This gets into something interesting about autism, which is that not all autistic people can do that. Lots of us have rules, like “candy should be sorted” or “books should be stacked so their edges line up perfectly”. For me, those are preferences, and things which violate them are distracting like that guy on the freeway who’s had his turn signal on for twenty miles and you’re watching him like a hawk because you know he’s gonna swerve unexpectedly for no apparent reason some day.

The question of why I’m more flexible is an interesting one. My very uneducated guess is that I’m slightly dissociative, and tend to just dissociate from my aspie discomforts when I need to ignore them. Thing is… That’s really useful, but it doesn’t change the rules. Five minutes later, I’m still getting itchy shoulderblades and twitching because that candy was unsorted. Think about that; handful of M&Ms. No red, several orange, couple brown, couple green. … Think about the fact that I got that in the second or so I was holding them and I wasn’t even trying to count. And it still bothers me that I didn’t sort them.

And this is “high functioning”. The same trait means that I can decide to send an email to a car dealer, or call a pizza place. Neither of the people I live with can call for pizza most days; that would be Stranger On Phone, and is therefore a problem. (Note: My spouse is not diagnosed as autistic, but I am pretty sure this will be corrected if/when an evaluation is arranged.) If I have already Been Out today, and then I find out that there is a need for a grocery, I can go get it.

I pay for it later; I still experience the stresses and overload, and I spend a lot of time in my room full of rainbow christmas lights doing rainbow-colored logic puzzles and listening to thumpy music. But I have the option.

… And I wish I’d at least arranged them by color, even if I was going to eat them all at once. Or that I’d gotten a handful with a more even distribution.

Peter Seebach

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Comment [2]

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Who does Lady Gaga sound like?

(Personal, GeekStuff)

2011-05-28 00:06
Comment [2]

Everybody.

No. Seriously.

In turns. Lady Gaga does songs which sound like other people. I don’t just mean a little similar. I mean melodies ripped whole for a bar or two. She sings in other people’s vocal ranges — complete with fake voice strain at the edges of their vocal range. Similar arrangements, instrumentation, choice of synthesizer sounds, and everything.

Some of these identifications are tentative, but here’s what I’ve identified:

  • Lovegame – Lords of Acid
  • The Fame – Madonna (note the word “material” right in the first sentence!)
  • Paper Gangsta – Missy Elliot, I think. Note the accent.
  • I Like It Rough – Information Society. Synth, melody, and the vocal style.
  • Summerboy – The Cardigans. Contrast with their Lovefool.
  • Bad Romance – Eurythmics, I think. Just because it’s a very Annie Lennox vocal line.
  • Speechless – Elton John.
  • Teeth – I don’t know, but I am totally sure I’d see it if someone told me.
  • Electric Chapel – Heart. Listen to Barracuda, then to Magic Man. (Especially the vocal intro to Barracuda.)
  • Fashion of His Love – Cyndi Lauper (I think). It’d be easier to tell if Gaga didn’t eerily avoid Rs in most of the song.
  • Black Jesus + Amen Fashion – Scorpions. Specifically, Rock You Like a Hurricane. Contrast the “AMEN!” in Gaga’s song to the “Here I Am” in the Scorpions piece. Now you know why “amen” is three syllables.
  • Schei├če – Can’t place it, but it’s very familiar.
  • Bad Kids – same deal. I totally know what band did that distorted vocals over guitar intro.

I’ll update this if/when I can figure more out.

Peter Seebach

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Comment [2]

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