Bare bones outline of a post

There’s this thing where symptoms (broadly defined) that aren’t a serious problem for the person who has them, become a serious problem because other people feel uncomfortable about them.

To the person who has them they’re a harmless nuisance thing, or they’re a problem but there’s a treatment/assistive thing/workaround that fixes the problem reasonably well.

But, in order to go around with this harmless nuisance thing occasionally happening, or to use your workaround assistive whatever, and just get on with your day– before you can do that, you have to get everyone who might see you doing the thing on the same page with you that it’s not a big issue.

Otherwise they might think something is seriously wrong and they need to help you, or they’ll question whether your workaround assistive thing is correct/allowed/necessary, or they’ll just feel really uncomfortable because you’re doing a Weird Thing, a Creepy Thing, a socially unacceptable thing.

People respond to those varied types of “this isn’t normal, something needs to be done” in a lot of different ways, some of them genuinely well-intentioned and even genuinely helpful. But I think the basic reaction behind a lot of those responses– even the helpful ones– is an uncanny valley type of discomfort. That’s the root of a lot of the trouble people have with being noticeably disabled in public. That’s the force we have to counteract to keep things that should be minor problems from becoming big stop-everything issues.


I always tell people that the area where I grew up wasn’t Really rural (and really, it wasn’t), but then I see things like what I saw earlier today, where people are like Did You Know? There are places in the United States that don’t have Critical Infrastructure like municipal water and sewer systems!

Yes, there are places like that in the United States, and I grew up in one of them, and it’s not a scary thing?

Because this is the United States, and “infrastructure” and “access to technology” encompass more than just stuff built by the government, people who live in places without municipal water systems have wells with electric pumps, and septic tanks, and companies with vacuum trucks that come empty the septic tanks, and companies that test their water for pollution, etc. etc. etc.

There are people in rural areas who can’t afford those things, but there are also people in urban areas who can’t afford to pay their water bills, or to pay a plumber when something goes wrong with their pipes, and to me that doesn’t seem so very different, but idk.

Autopilot again, a silly thing this time

Most of the time, when I see people talking about executive function problems in the form of autopilot/habit fail, it’s things like “I put sugar on my toast and butter in my tea instead of the other way around,” or “I started putting my shoes on to go out the door but I hadn’t put my pants on yet,” things like that.

My most common and most annoying autopilot fail is clicking the wrong button on the computer. Examples:

  • assuming whichever button is on the left is “agree” or “ok” when actually it’s “cancel”, I hate websites/programs that switch that around
  • intending to click on something in the toolbar of the browser (like “refresh” or “back”) and instead clicking something at the top of the web page
  • or vice versa
  • within one toolbar or menu, clicking whatever I click most often instead of what I needed to click
  • clicking on an icon that looks superficially similar to the one I intended to click on (tumblr versus twitter, anyone?)
  • clicking on the location where some thing usually is, but it’s not there (dear programs that re-order things based on what you’ve used most recently: stop)
  • using a keyboard shortcut that belongs to a different program
  • typing the correct password… for a different website

The worst is when I do something wrong and then have to wait an interminably long time for the wrong thing to start up or load before I can get to what I actually wanted to do.


It’s late and life stuff has happened so here’s a random idea that I vaguely intended to write about ages ago but didn’t. Can we all agree that there’s no such thing as an objective, comprehensive standard for ranking the quality of books? Like, there’s no such thing as an objectively good book.

There are a few things that are, arguably, universal standards, but what makes them universal is that they’re a really damn low bar. Like, consistent spelling and grammar. Beyond that, there’s a slightly larger group of things that most people would agree are probably important, but exactly how important any one of them is, is a matter of personal preference.

Like… I tend to enjoy characters with idiosyncratic ways of speaking. “Characters should have unique, memorable voices” is a good general principle, but the line between “unique and memorable” versus “weird and distracting” is entirely subjective. I know that lots of people think characters that I personally like are too distractingly weird, and I don’t think they’re incorrect on the one hand, or that my enjoyment of those characters is indulging a guilty pleasure with objectively bad writing, on the other hand. It’s just a different preference.


I’ve been thinking about this for a while, of course, but I’m thinking about it tonight because of this advice column. And this is a really… bare-bones idea, not rigorously tested, and coerciveness vs okayness is sort of a spectrum, there are gray areas, but I think it boils down to two main factors:

  1. How much are you asking of the other person, what would it cost them to do what you’re asking them to do?
  2. How much power do you have to impose negative consequences on them if they say no?

and then, what you could call the actions of coercion or manipulation– as separate from whether someone effectively feels pressured or not, which can happen without any extra effort or fail to happen even when someone is trying to manipulate them– those actions would be defined as things that (from #1) twist a serious cost to seem like a minor cost, or (from #2) create or threaten extra negative consequences.

Yesterday I went to a talk with Sparkly

It was about the CIA and how they recruit people from other countries to give them information. I expected it to be historically interesting, and it was, but parts of it were also very counterintuitive and confusing to me, in a way I didn’t expect. It’s the idea that US citizens are “us” and everybody else is “them”.

How did this talk express this idea? Well, the (public, online) posting about this (free, open to the general public) event specified that only US citizens could attend, first of all.

There was also the idea that when students from other countries attend university in the United States, that contributes to the proliferation of potentially dangerous information to the rest of the world (e.g. students majoring in chemistry and physics graduate knowing information about how to make bombs and chemical weapons.)

There’s also the idea that being a US citizen who has friends who are “foreign nationals” makes you potentially compromised in some way?

Thinking of US citizens versus other people as an us-versus-them sort of thing is just foreign (no pun intended) to me, I guess. Both because I’m not used to lumping “everybody else” together in one group, and probably also because I don’t think of the whole United States as “us”.


Last week’s minor controversy in the autistic community on Tumblr was over the phrase “on the spectrum” and whether people should use it to refer to other “spectrums” besides autism. Here’s my two cents.

  1. Yes, as far as I know the phrase “on the spectrum” originated with autism, so in some sense it’s “ours”, we started it.
  2. Yes, it’s confusing and frustrating when people say “on the spectrum” without context and you can’t tell what they’re talking about.


Why would we want to lay claim to this phrase, though?

Is there any reason for us to say “on the spectrum” instead of “on the autism spectrum”, or if that’s too long for you, why not just “is autistic”?

The only reasons I can think of are:

— if you think the word autism only means ~severe~ cases and think there needs to be another term for when you’re including everybody else

— if you think the word autism is unsightly and embarrassing and you want to talk about it without actually saying it.

To anybody who isn’t already familiar with how people talk about autism, “on the spectrum” is confusing when it refers to us, too. It’s inherently confusing. Why do we need it?

It really fucking sucks

that the average person’s idea of what meditation is is so overwhelmingly defined by clueless New Age-y people either in real life or in fiction. And I feel silly talking about it, because (a) I really really don’t want to downplay the harm those clueless people do by e.g. treating it as a panacea for every problem and pestering people to try it, and (b) I don’t even know That much about it, but, I don’t think it’s a joke? And it bugs me that so many people do.

In which I get self-indulgently metaphorical

(or: this again)

There are people out there who have real honest-to-goodness immediate genuine Feelings of fear and anxiety, instead of freeze-dried individually wrapped text-message notification awarenesses of disaster occurring. What a thing. What things there are in this world.

Like, ok, you have your heart-pounding terror, good for you, and I have my heart-sorta-pounding-but-in-a-fake-low-blood-pressure-way and my slow slow frozen thoughts and my calmly and gently attempting damage control measures while the world collapses.

They sorta kinda implied that heart-pounding terroriness is the definition of Real trauma, but I know that’s not what they meant, and it’s not even really what they said. I’m not complaining about that.

I’m just having that feeling that’s like: why am I so un-relatable?

I feel like the only people I’ve heard describe doing the thing that I do– they don’t analyze it in terms of anxiety or anything like that. They don’t use those words for themselves. They think they’re actually being normal-calm. So I can’t exactly discuss it with them.