esteleth: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] esteleth at 11:40pm on 08/07/2010
This meme has been going around, so I thought I'd jump on it.
Here is a guide for the proper care and feeding of [personal profile] esteleth  

1. How can I tell if you're angry?

This can seem backwards. When I am moderately annoyed or pissed, I get louder and more ranty. However, when I am UTTERLY FURIOUS, I tend to shut down and retreat from society. This is due to my AS. Extreme emotions of most kinds essentially turn off my ability to function in society and I get overwhelmed. Thus, the shutting down and retreating. The easiest and clearest way of telling that I am angry is to ask.

2. How should I behave around you if you're angry?

You can offer agreement that the topic at hand deserves anger and sympathy, as appropriate. You may also attempt to logic me out of it. I actually appreciate this, which actually makes me unusual amongst people (and it took me a while to realize that most people don't want logic holes poked in their OMG RAGE). However, tread carefully in your logic-poking attempts. If your logic involves any or all of the following BACK THE FUCK OFF: pseudoscience, statements that it is "all in [my] head" or that I need to "get over it," misogyny / anti-feminism, homophobia / queerbashing. Also, tread carefully around religion. Also, if I respond to a logic-poke attempt by angrily poking holes in your attempted logic poke, back off on it. I am not looking for a debate, I am looking for an excuse to not be blinded by rage at $TOPIC. Suggestions on how to turn aforementioned rage into a constructive project are also appreciated.

3. How do you want me to behave when you are hurting emotionally? How is it best to comfort you?

Leave me alone. I hermit when hurting. I will emerge when I feel better. This is normal for me. Do not attempt to "draw me out." It not only will not work, it will actually increase the length of time I will need to be able to face society again. Forcing me to be social hurts me. I will have to heal, and I will end up resenting you for it. I carry resentments easily and for a long time. Yes, this is probably a bad thing. It is also a part of me.





4. Are there things we should not discuss?

Generally speaking, most things are on the table. However, I approach the world with certain non-negotiable mindsets. Attempting to refute them will piss me off. In no particular order, they are:
1) I am queer. I am not ashamed of this fact. I was born this way. This does not make me sick, broken, or in need of fixing. And no, I do not need "a good dicking." Been there, done that. Ineffectual. Yes, it was consensual, thanks for asking.
2) I have Asperger's syndrom / high-functioning autism. I am not ashamed of this fact. I was born this way. This does not make me sick, broken or in need of fixing. There are aspects of it that suck, true. I must push myself in ways that neurotypical people don't have to think of. My brain works along lines outside of the human norm - but the "human norm" is a bell curve. It is all connected, part of the same continuum. I am off to one side. And yes, I was vaccinated as a kid. That fact is unrelated. Related: the term "neurotypical" denotes someone who cannot be classified as being on the autistic end of the brain functionality spectrum. It is not related to the other spectrums of brain function, such as (but not, of course, limited to) the reality perception spectrum, the personality spectrum(s), the sexual orientation spectrum, the gender identity spectrum, or the depression / mania spectrum. The opposite of "neurotypical" is "autistic" not "having / related to any form of mental function outside the human / societal norm."
3) I am a scientist. I have no tolerance for pseudoscience such including homeopathy, naturopathy, acupuncture, reiki, aromatherapy or chi manipulation. I also have no tolerance for things such as crystal magic (or whatever it is called), harmonic rhythms, or things involving spirits. I am a cold-hearted rationalist. If it cannot be explained by empirical evidence, I do not believe it. I will not bash your beliefs if you posit them to me. Please do not attempt to get me to believe in them. I do have religious beliefs - I am a practicing nontheistic Quaker. I believe in the common morality of my fellow humans. I do not believe in any god.

5. How should I treat you when you are ill?

When I am ill, I will be emotionally drained. Let me be. Offer good thoughts as you will and periodically check in on me if the need is there. But let me heal in peace.

6. What makes you happy that's in my power to grant you?

I like books. I have a lot, but not enough. I also like warm thoughts from people who respect me.

7. How would you like us to recognise your birthday?

*shrug* A card or phone call is fine. A small gift would also be appreciated. Gifts to charities in my name are also nice.

8. Are there any standing categories of presents that would be appropriate or unwelcome?

Don't spend more than you can afford. If you know that I want a certain item, but cannot remember the specifics, get a gift card. I would prefer to get a "impersonal" gift card than an item I didn't want that I have to go to the hassle of returning. I don't like returning things. I feel dishonest when I do so or that I am insulting the vendor and the gift-giver. I have a lot of random crap that was given to me that I felt to awkward to exchange for something I actually would like. I like books and music. I read most kinds of books, so long as they are intelligent. Things that fail BS tests or perpetrate fail are bad ideas unless they are specifically given in a mood to get me to poke fun at them.

9. Are there times of the year that are difficult for you? Please explain if you are comfortable.

There is nothing in particular.

10. Are there important anniversaries in your life?

My birthday is January 20. I will be 26 on my next birthday.

11. How do I cater for you if you are visiting me?

I do not eat seafood. I am sensitive to salty foods, so tread carefully. Please limit your stinky messes. Sometimes, I am on a medically-commanded special diet that is very restrictive. If I am on said diet, I will let you know before I come over. I have a bad back, and need a comfy chair with good ergonomics.

12. If I want to contact you, how should I do it?

I am on Dreamwidth, LiveJournal, Facebook, Twitter, and AIM. I also have a personal and a work email (which I keep sharply segregated: don't send to my work email unless it is actually work-related) and a cell phone. All work.
location: in front of the air conditioner
Mood:: 'cheerful' cheerful
esteleth: (Default)

posted by [personal profile] esteleth at 10:10pm on 22/01/2010 under ,
Thus far in 2010, I have completed reading these books (in this order):
1. Thud! by Terry Pratchett
2. Mort by Terry Pratchett
3. Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
4. Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder
5. A History of God by Karen Armstrong
6. Men At Arms by Terry Pratchett
7. Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett.

Yes, I have read seven books, cover to cover, in the space of 22 days. I read fast. I always have, and a substantial part of me does not understand why it takes people longer than a day to read a 200-page novel. I suppose some must be startled that I read so much, or either they assume that I am only "skimming," and don't get anything out of the story. This is not true. I read very closely and pay attention - quickly.

So anyway, my comments:
Thud! (which I had read before) is the latest installment in the Watch mini-series of Disworld books and is, rather like the book that immediately precedes it in the Watch mini-series (the utterly amazing Night Watch), 1) chock full of hilarious jokes and all-around silliness while simultaneously 2) managing to not be funny or silly. This is a difficult line to walk, and it is one that Pratchett does very well. The best example of this is the climax of the story. The protagonist, Sam, has been previously established as someone who will come home every night to tuck his young son into bed and read him a story (always the same story, a picture book called Where's My Cow?). No matter what - Sam reasons that if he can justify delaying his return five minutes late, then that will turn into ten minutes, then half an hour, then an hour, and then he won't come home at all. Also, if he ever finds a good justification for being late, he will thus inevitably find a bad one. At the climax of the book, Sam cannot be there (homicidal bad guys are in his way). Sam, upset, begins mowing through the bad guys as a one-man bad-guy-chopping-up machine. While reciting - from memory - Where's My Cow?. This scene is thus very silly on its face - bedraggled man plows through army of homicidal, heavily armed bad guys ... while reciting (at full bellow) the words of a story that reads like it was written by Dr. Seuss. Comedic gold, just from the juxtaposition. But - it is not funny. Sam saves the day (the Evil Plot by the bad guys is averted), but feels like a failure - he wasn't there for his son. Also, the scene is interspersed with another - Sam's wife, Sybil, holding their son, full of fear while attempting to hide this fear from the boy. Sybil - rightly - knows that if Sam is not there, then he is either 1) in mortal danger or 2) dead. Not funny in the slightest. This contrast shows up frequently throughout the Night Watch books, and is the chief reason I like them - they are highly intelligent and don't take cheap tricks. Had read this before, will definitely read again.

Mort is the first book in the Death mini-series of Discworld that I have read. It's also the first book in the chronology of that mini-series. The main character is not Death, but rather Death's apprentice (Death is quite struck by how appropriate the name is). Much lighter in both size and in tone than Thud!, Mort is quite light-hearted and has moments that are downright silly, chiefly those relating to Mort's existence as Death's apprentice, living with Death in Death's Domain, along with Death's servant, Albert, and adopted daughter, Ysabell. Very interesting to me was a sequence where Ysabell explains that every single living person (past, present, and future) has their biography in Death's library - those who are dead have books - of varying lengths - full from cover to cover, those not yet born have empty books, and the living have books only partially written. This makes sense to me (in a way) and is also very evocative, especially when Ysabell says that she has explored it, and the biographies go from modern books to scrolls, to cuneiform tablets as she went further back in time. She does not know what comes before this - she ran out of candles - but knows that the library keeps going back, presumably as far back as the existence of people (and thus, possibly, writing itself). I enjoyed this book a great deal. Had not read it before, will probably read again.

Guards! Guards! is the first book in the Watch mini-series. It is, in tone, more similar to the early Discworld books than to the later Watch books. It is silly from beginning to end. It establishes the main characters in the Watch books - Sam Vimes (alcoholic, recovering in later books), the bad-tempered commander of the City Watch, and the three other members of the Night Watch - Fred Colon, a more-or-less classic "nice guy cop," "Nobby" Nobbes, a petty thief who finds being a cop profitable, and Carrot Ironfoundersson, a six-foot-tall red haired dwarf (adopted) with no sense of metaphor (when instructed, he literally throws the book at people) and a very highly developed sense of decency and the absolute rightness of law and order. Carrot is hilariously funny. I enjoyed this book. It is very light, and not one that provokes much thought. Had not read it before, will possibly read again.

Strength in What Remains is an utterly moving biography of a young man (his name is given only as Deogratias), a young medical student from Burundi, who flees the genocide in that country in the 90's. He gradually makes a life for himself in New York and is able to resume his education, graduating from Columbia. He then decides to return to his home and build a free hospital. The biography is excellently written and is full of those little details that make the story very compelling. An amazing sequence occurs when Deo lands at JFK, with only a backpack and $200. He speaks no English, so the customs official calls a translator, a man who happens to be from Senegal. The official asks where Deo is from (he answers truthfully). The translator, upon hearing this reply, immediately asks a second question, unprompted by the official: "How did you get out?" The translator, once Deo clears customs, offers Deo a place to stay until he gets on his feet, an act of charity and kindness that keeps Deo off the streets in a foreign city where he does not speak the language. Later, Deo winds up on the streets and sleeps in Central Park and finds work delivering groceries at a store where the owner is cruel and abusive towards him. Eventually, Deo makes some American friends who help him get into college and support him as he gets his degree, sponsor him for citizenship, and help him get news from his family and friends back in Burundi. I found myself becoming highly emotional as I read this and would definitely read it again.

A History of God is a very dense treatise in religious history (the subtitle, The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam perhaps hints and the density of this book). It is well-written, and I found Armstrong's attempts - not always successful - for a balanced tone in the discussion of the relative views of religions and sects helpful. However, I found her repeated references to a mythical egalitarian past a little grating - perhaps there was a time, prior to the rise of patriarchal religions, where human societies were truly egalitarian, but must admit skepticism at this. More egalitarian than later societies? Probably, in certain aspects. More egalitarian than modern times? Possibly. Her insistence that this past existed and then was undermined and ruined by the rise of patriarchal religions may have some truth to it, but I think that there is more to the story - the development of agriculture, the city-state, literacy, et cetera all combined with the rise of patriarchal religions to completely change the prior way of life - nomadic, non-literate hunter-gathering that may have had a religion that centered on a Great Mother. I did agree with her assertion that the premodern ways of religion are largely impossible in modern times - and not because of technology. She asserts, and I agree, that the old faiths cannot really address in a full, complete way that makes sense in an internally consistent way the genocidal and world-wide devastations of the 20th century. Theodicy as a religious concept is as old as religion itself - religion may be partially an attempt to address that query - but organized, bureaucratic genocide and man-made devastation cannot really be explained by traditional theodicy. This leaves the person wishing to explain the event along theodicean lines three options: 1) deny the event happened, 2) deny that the event was important or evil enough to fall under theodicy, or 3) fall into the argument that we cannot possibly understand the workings of the divine. The first option, denialism, fails in the face of evidence. The second, minimalism, usually involves the person making that argument agreeing with the goals of the perpetrators of the evil (i.e. being a bigot). The third argument is unsatisfying, as it answers the central question of theodicy ("Why?") with, essentially, "Don't bother asking!" This book was rather uneven and was difficult to get through, but had some very excellent portions. Maybe would read again.

This post is getting too long, and I am sleepy. I will comment on Men At Arms and Feet of Clay later, after I have slept.
Mood:: 'accomplished' accomplished
Music:: Christmas music, for some reason
esteleth: (Default)

posted by [personal profile] esteleth at 08:18pm on 02/12/2009
Can somebody explain to me what the difference is between these two videos?

Video 1:

Video 2:

I think one is meant to be funny and one isn't. Other than that, I'm drawing a blank on any difference.
esteleth: (Radiation)
posted by [personal profile] esteleth at 10:56am on 01/08/2009 under ,
I have not posted in awhile, but something has been getting under my skin. It does not have one trigger, but a thousand.
Namely: I grew up in a rural community in southern Illinois. There are many things I deplore about the community I grew up in, such as its politics. I have no desire to live there.


I am not ashamed of my origins, and I feel, very firmly, that if you cross the line between disliking the beliefs/practices of rural people and disliking the people themselves, then this is bad.
I am not ashamed of my origins. My accent, like that of many where I grew up, has a flat twang and an occasional drift into a quasi-Southern drawl. I am not ashamed of this and make no effort to hide it.

My beliefs run something like this: if you want to mock the politics of rural America, fine. I'll help. If you want to bash the hidebound religiosity of rural America, that's great. Let me in on that. If you want to deplore the racism that runs deep in a lot of rural communities, I'll agree with you.


If you tell "hick" jokes, I won't laugh, because I am one.
If you put on a fake drawl, I won't laugh, because that's how I learned to talk.

If you believe that the rural way of life is supremely messed up and that nothing good can come of such a way of life, then I really don't have anything to say to you. But then again, you wouldn't want to listen to me anyway, ignorant as I am.

Mock the aspects of rural life all you like. On many topics, I'll join in and help you mock away. However, don't cross the line. It is a way of living. It is highly problematic, but then so is urban and suburban life. If you think it is invalid, then you can't think much of people who come from it or those who live it.

Which means you can't think much of me and I'll take it as my right to avoid you.
Mood:: 'bitchy' bitchy
location: far from home
esteleth: (Radiation)

posted by [personal profile] esteleth at 10:53pm on 10/07/2009
In honor of recent events, I would like to offer a chemistry lesson.

If you combine "muriatic acid" (this is an (!) archaic name for the rather more recognizable "hydrochloric acid") with sodium hypochlorite (aka "bleach"), you will produce four things:
1. heat
2. sodium chloride (aka "table salt")
3. chlorine gas
4. water

This, by the way, IS BAD, as chlorine gas is BAD FOR YOU.

This is called an "acid-base" reaction and they are very common. Acid-base reactions all work the same way: the cations trade places. This results (always) in the production of a salt and the production of water. Heat also always occurs. Sometimes (as with this reaction) there is a further reaction of the products.
The final reaction looks like this:
HCl + NaOCl -> NaCl (solid) + HOCl + heat
HOCl + HCl -> H2O + Cl + Cl
Cl + Cl -> Cl2 (gas)

So, congratulations, person-who-mixed-acid-and-bleach. You just proved a fundamental concept of chemistry and gave one of my friends a rough day and freaked out a lot of kids and their parents.

Side rant: "sodium hypochloride" is a nonsense phrase. It means nothing. Sodium hypochlorite, however, is the chemical name for bleach.
Mood:: 'geeky' geeky
esteleth: (Hobbes)


posted by [personal profile] esteleth at 08:56pm on 07/07/2009
Dear whoever removed my samples from the freeze-dryer and hid them,
Please die.

Seriously, wtf?!
Mood:: 'angry' angry
esteleth: (Default)

posted by [personal profile] esteleth at 08:06am on 22/06/2009
Candidacy exam today. Eeek!
Mood:: 'scared' scared
esteleth: (Grammar)
I am very liberal. I usually vote as a Democrat in national elections, because I don't want to be part of tossing an election to a Republican by voting for a third-party candidate who hews more closely to what I actually believe. Now, I am not liberal in all things: this is where my status and identity as a scientist shows up. I am not a doctrinal leftist as a leftist quoi leftist, but a scientist, Quaker, and queer feminist whose politics flow from that. I could care less about the Democratic party as such, except when I hold specific members (or the leaders) in contempt for selling out. What I do care about are specific issues, such as equality regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, or gender expression; science policy (such as federal funding issues, plus things like global warming, pollution prevention, and science education); and unwinding the pernicious influence of industry (especially defense and agro industries) in government.
Given the fact that I'm a lesbian and not terribly gender-conforming (I wear my hair long and like poofy skirts, but I don't wear makeup, high heels, or care much at all about what is fashionable), my interest in equality is largely motivated by self-interest. However, I must also admit that as a white person of middle-class upbringing and attitudes, I am very much the recipient of lots of privilege. Also, while I have some mental/psychological health issues, they're all invisible and don't dramatically make me the victim of bigotry. I am firmly committed to the viewpoint that I will never have true equality when people who don't have my advantages (race, appearance, invisible problems) are pushed down. This is why I am infuriated when gay rights organizations toss trans people under the bus, or when hate-crimes bills don't include trans protections.
Being someone who works in the biosciences, I care a great deal about science policy, as it is quite literally my lifeblood. Even more so: I work in a "controversial" area - I study human embryonic stem cells - so I am very much aware of how much my ability to do anything is highly dependent on the will of some policy person in Washington or Albany (as I'm in New York state). It infuriates me that my ability to do my job is decided by someone who doesn't know a lot about what it is I do. I believe, very firmly, that many of the social ills plaguing the country would be alleviated by a more firm focus on primary and high school education, making it easier for people to get a university education, and by an emphasis on science and math education. It wouldn't be an overnight transformation, of course, but it would go a long way, I think.
Mood:: 'accomplished' accomplished
esteleth: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] esteleth at 01:36pm on 30/04/2009 under ,
I grew up in the rural midwest, where pretty much everything is dominated by Agro (with a capital A), specifically ADM (Archer Daniels Midland) and Monsanto in this case. I grew up around factory farms, I know what they look like and how they smell. The swine flu thing does not surprise me - I've seen the conditions on the farm near where I grew up. The terrible conditions of the animals and the high potential for disease is not the only problem with factory farming, either - the agribusinesses are destroying small towns. Now, I'm not terribly a fan of small towns or their nosy intolerance of difference and uptight insularity, but at the same time, I recognize that it is a valid way of living that should not be insulted and attacked. Agribusiness, by buying up huge tracts of land, is displacing families that have lived and farmed the land for generations, dropping the bottom out of the local income tax rates, and basically being one of the primary causes of the big-boxitization and impoverishment of rural America. Amanda Marcotte has a rather excellent post on many of the causes of the swine flu outbreak over at her place, Pandagon, here. During the eighteen and a half years I lived in a small town in the middle of nowhere, I saw the town I lived in slide into a sharp divide between rich and poor. The former was the normal doctor/lawyer mix, plus the farmers who were partners of ADM and/or Monsanto and thus now had money while the latter was largely consisting of the people who had sold their land to ADM or someone else and were now trying to live off of minimum wage at Wal-Mart (or by working land they had once owned). While that was happening to my hometown, nearby towns were essentially wiped out as people in them realized that there were no jobs, there weren't likely to be any jobs, and moved away. Some towns died, mine became a stratified place with people living on welfare and people with McMansions. This is happening all over the country, because of the desire of Big Agro to buy, consolidate, and work the shit out of the land for a few more pennies. Big Agro is not only killing the land through bad farming practices and producing antibiotic-resistant illnesses that are killing people, they're perpetrating human rights abuses in the treatment of many of their workers (many migrant, many undocumented immigrants, many poor people of color) and in the terrible beating they're meting out to rural America's way of life. It isn't pretty, and it pisses me off.
location: work
Mood:: 'angry' angry
esteleth: (Radiation)
posted by [personal profile] esteleth at 02:11pm on 28/04/2009 under ,
So, in my introductory post I mentioned that I have high-functioning autism, which is frequently referred to as Asperger's syndrome (after Hans Asperger, a psychologist who described many symptoms of what is now recognized as autism). Autism is, essentially, a way of mental function in which the affected person has decreased empathy. Essentially, someone with autism has difficulty (or, in extreme cases, the inability of) recognizing emotions in other people, understanding body language, vocal tone, and other such intangibles of interpersonal communication, and, quite frequently, "getting" others at all. Autism is recognized as a "spectrum" disorder, ranging from people who are profoundly autistic (such persons aren't really capable of recognizing shared humanity of others at all) to people who are very mildly autistic. The terminology denotes this as "functioning," with degree of functioning being inversely related to the severity of the autistic traits: thus a low-functioning autistic person is a person with very poor to nonexistent interpersonal skills. Simultaneous with the functionality scale is an IQ scale. Some people with autism have IQs below 70 (thus being, by definition, mentally disabled), some have IQs in the genius range, and some are in the middle. The relationship between IQ and autism is poorly understood, but many people with low-functioning autism also tend to be mentally disabled. However, this is by no means universal. Autism is more common in males than females, with a ratio of about 2.5:1 male to female autistic people. As a result of this, the AS culture is very male in it flavor. By convention, people with high-functioning autism with middle-to-high IQs are referred to as having Asperger's.
I am high-functioning autism, and my IQ has not been measured in recent years, but I am above average. This puts me solidly in the Asperger's category.
In addition to this, I am a lesbian. However, most of my relationships have foundered on the rock of my low sex drive, which as led me to conclude that I may be asexual - i.e. someone with no real desire for interpersonal sex. However, since much of the online asexual commentary is driven by what I tend to term "pure wankery," gender essentialism, and regressive attitudes, I'm not sure on this. What I am sure on is that while I have a get-off drive (i.e. I like the physical sensations), but I don't have much of a get-with-people drive. This is a very important distinction - I have left where a SO is sleeping to go be by myself for awhile. Maybe this is related to the autism - I don't feel the need to satisfy my needs (sexual and otherwise) with others, and this is a hallmark of autism, but I'm not sure why my sex drive is impacted more than other things.
Mood:: 'working' working


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