I was a fake geek girl.

When I was in college, my only concern was finding a peer group that would accept me. I had never found a peer group that had accepted me. I lived in a dorm that had suites organized around certain interests, so I decided to live in the Sci-Fi suite my sophomore year.

I didn’t really have too much in common with most of the other people there. I did like to read some science fiction, but I have a hard time reading books because they’re assigned, so I think I read only one of the assigned books while I was there. I did like Star Trek. That was about it. I didn’t grow up playing role-playing games or loving the works of Tolkien. I didn’t like collectable card games (Magic the Gathering was huge at the time). I wasn’t much of a gamer at all. I wasn’t even really into video games. I was really into playing the Legend of Zelda when I was in high school but once I entered college I didn’t bring my console with me and I completely abandoned video games for years.

I didn’t understand a lot of the references that were made. I didn’t know what an Orc was, or why saying “Tolkien-ripoff" was a running joke. Nobody really bothered me too much about it though. I was the only art major there (everyone else was either into Computer Science or perhaps Biology or Engineering) and that certainly made me stand out. But “fake geek girl" wasn’t a meme back then so nobody really put much pressure on me to prove my geek cred (of which I had none). And for the most part, I suppose it was a more comfortable place for someone chronically socially awkward than most, though I was struck by how unscarred most of the other people were. They had all found their niche and healed their childhood wounds; I had not. I was on the fringe, an outsider, even there.

But I wasn’t a fake geek girl for the reasons most people think women fake being a geek. I wasn’t there to flirt with guys and mercilessly reject them just for laughs. Instead I had angst about why even in such an environment that was relatively scarce of women, I got little attention. I really was just looking for a group of people who wouldn’t pick on me.

People should think about that next time they meet a woman at a con who doesn’t seem to belong there. Sure, she might be “fake." But it doesn’t have to be a big deal. Sometimes people try stuff out that they don’t know much about it. It’s not a crime. If any sort of social scene doesn’t get a regular flux of newcomers, it eventually stagnates and dies. And not knowing everything there is to know about the culture is part of being a newcomer. If you see someone at a con who seems clueless, maybe you should point out some stuff you think is cool, instead of berating them on their lack of “cred." Just a thought.


some thinky thoughts about the Sally Anne test

In case you're wondering what the Sally Anne test is...

For some reason I started thinking about this at work, and realized it was actually a thinly disguised logic/programming problem. This becomes obvious if you represent Sally, Anne, and the location of the marble as variables, and Anne hiding Sally's marble as a function of which the variable "Sally" is out of scope. And then I came to the opinion that if you explained it this way to a bunch of autistic kids, they'd probably get it just fine.

Then I started thinking of other ways in which someone could fail this test other than simply lacking an imagination. I'll use my personal experience to start off with, even though it's highly doubtful I'm on the spectrum and even if I am, it would be just barely. But anyway, I'll just say this, it was quite common in my experience when I was growing up to see that other people seemed to somehow know things, without knowing how they knew them. I can extrapolate from this to the Sally Anne example, because the key question in this problem is how Sally knows what she knows. I would not be surprised if it were also common for autistic kids to also frequently experience other people knowing things without being clear on how they knew, and to also be punished for not knowing things they didn't know they were supposed to know. So the idea that someone could walk away and magically know that their marble had been moved might not seem so strange in that context.

Though to be honest, I probably would have gotten this question right as a child. This might seem like I'm overthinking it, but I've honestly seen very little to convince me that autistic people lack imagination, or are not constantly trying to figure out how other people work.

I'm a superior person to you because of my innate superiorness*

* Note: I don't actually believe that.

I've been noticing as I analyze human behavior that an awful lot of it seems to revolve around the acquisition and preservation of status. And this leads in many cases to people engaging in contests of oneupmanship.

Exhibit A:

Hapless n00b: What's the best Linux distro?

Basement dweller #1: Slackware! Guis are for chumps!

Basement dweller #2: Nuh-uh! Debian roolz!

Basement dweller #3: Anyone who uses anything but Gentoo is clearly not evolved enough to tie their own shoes and wipe their own butt.

Only sane person: Well, what are you going to use it for? Are you looking to mainly run it as a desktop, or a server? Linux distributions tend to be optimized for different things, even ones put out by the same company are often put out in different versions for different purposes.

Exhibit B:

Hapless n00b: I'm having trouble breastfeeding. You think it's really going to do any harm to give the little pound of flesh some formula sometimes, just to let my nips heal?

Sanctimommy #1: Yes! Do not succumb to the sweet, seductive call of not having a screaming pound of flesh suck on your tits all the time! If you do, you will be the Worst Mother Ever. You want that kind of responsibility on your head?

Sanctimommy #2: You think you've got it tough? I gave birth to twins...unassisted, without painkillers!

Only sane person: You know, that actually sounds...pretty dangerous. Like, incredibly, foolishly dangerous.

Sanctimommy #2: True motherhood requires sacrifice. Women who get epidurals and give birth in the hospital are just being selfish.

Sanctimommy #3: Hang in there, I'm still breastfeeding my kids...and they're going into kindergarten next year!

Only sane person: Um...kindergarten's actually old enough to start having clear memories. Let's just say that if I could actually remember my mom breastfeeding me, I'd be a pretty disturbed individual. *shudders*

From what I've observed, gender differences in this are more stylistic than substantive. Women often try to outdo each other on the basis of moral purity. You see a lot of this in the social justice community. Men often try to outdo each other by claiming to be smarter than each other, which you see a lot of in the geek community. Fundamentally, it all seems pretty much the same to me though.

There's a lot of other ways people try to gain status of course. I assume I must do it as well, though the examples I can come up with are pretty few. Mostly though this has helped me somewhat to understand why people can be so intolerant of other peoples' choices when it's clear those choices don't affect them. I've generally leaned towards the "if you're not going to force me to do it, I don't care.  Do whatever floats your boat" school of thought, but that attitude seems hard to find on the internet.

On a completely unrelated note, I totally want "hapless_n00b" as my next screenname.

I want to know how the sausage is made.

The sausage being video games. These are the things I want to know:

1. Why do they often have certain areas filled with harder enemies or easier enemies, even if it's an open sandbox sort of game where you're supposed to be able to go and do whatever you want, whenever you want? What would be the point in that case of making some areas too hard for a low level character to survive?

2. Why is appropriate leveling of enemies so difficult? Oblivion got a lot of flak for making the enemies level up with you because apparently the enemies frequently got stronger than the player character. But this stuff is all based on math, so hard can it really be to have a computer program match the difficulty of the enemies more precisely to the strength of the player character?

3. How do mods work? Why do they not require you to recompile the program? Does making mods require programming skill?

oh today was awful

I was in a crappy mood, and I had a dentist appointment that I nearly didn't get to because the bus was being stupid. I mean, nothing horrible happened, it was just all stupid and stressful. I hate dentist appointments because they mess with my daily routine and throw everything off and that makes me all out of sorts.

Now my tooth hurts. Does anyone know if being really sensitive to physical pain has any relation to being emotionally sensitive? I'm really curious about this. I always require extra anesthetic when I'm at the dentist.

the illusion of individualism

I like individualism in the fact that allows for the tolerance of eccentricity and difference. However, I'm thinking more and more that the idea that a person can make individual, personal choices and be 100% responsible for them because they are free choices is in fact, a myth.

Which is to say, I'm starting to suspect that we all have a lot less free will than we assume. I'm not sure where this leaves personal responsibility. I don't think it's good for people to act as if they have no personal responsibility, but at the same time, I'm not sure how much personal responsibility we really have in the face of so little freedom.

I think collectivism is a lost art in American culture, but at the same time, I really dislike hive minds, and I'm not sure how to have the advantages of collectivism without developing a hive mind.

I know I've been really spamming LJ lately but...

and this is terribly unoriginal of me. But I'm really finding the whole typical American middle class ideal of "success" to be a pretty empty thing. To me success is being happy and having time to do the things you really want to do, rather than only being able to do the things you have to do in order to live.

okay, I feel really stupid now.


My reading comprehension is totally failing me on this one. What is this guy saying? Is he saying that poor people collecting disability don't really have disabilities, but that it's society's fault that it's the only way they can get financial support? Or something else? I'm really not sure.

Or for that matter, this one: http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2013/03/dont_hate_her_because_shes_suc.html. I *think* he's saying that Sheryl Sandburg is a shill for the capitalist system, but I can't really figure out the rest of the point of this article. I'm really confused. I think this guy's writing style just doesn't mesh with my brain or something.

this video is interesting

I never actually understood what Donna Williams was talking about before when she talked about "exposure anxiety." Her books, other than Temple Grandin's, were probably the first "autie-biographies" I read and I found them near-incomprehensible at the time. Though here it seems pretty clear she's talking about defenses people put up when they're being overwhelmed by sensory experiences and emotions and that after a while, it becomes like a learned hair-trigger response. So that makes more sense.

I'm not sure if it applies to all autistic people though, the methods she recommends. I don't think I do the stuff she recommends with my nephew, but we get along fine. Though I do know to lay off him if he's feeling overwhelmed, it's pretty obvious when that happens.

It's funny, when I was watching the video, I found myself looking off to the side so I wouldn't make eye contact with her video face, so I guess I find eye contact overwhelming even when it's not in person.

Oh I should mention that I'm not too keen on her language about it being a "cage" and so forth, just because I think a careless person could think she was reinforcing tired old stereotypes about autism being some kind of psychological locked-in syndrome. I think her points are more valid than that; she's really just trying to give advice about how to interact with an autistic person without overwhelming them, which is fine, but I could see how that kind of language could irk people who are used to the crap Autism Speaks and Jenny McCarthy spout all the time.