Surviving massive weight loss

Yesterday in Two bits about a shave and a haircut I wrote about a mild anxiety attack I had over, of all things, a haircut. In trying to explain what was happening, the essay wandered into the topic of body dysmorphia and my experience with that condition when I lost nearly 200 pounds. Among the responses was a comment that “you took an amazing success and turned it into a shitstorm.” There’s way too much in those 11 words to unpack in a reply to the comment so here ya go, another post. Continue reading

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Two bits about a shave and a haircut

Well, this should be interesting. I’m getting a haircut today, but not just any haircut.

I’ve made no secret that I color my mustache and hair. It’s not to do with disliking the gray so much as disliking that it grew in highly asymmetrical. On the mustache the gray came in from the bottom right while the opposite side was still pure black. It was as if the General of the Gray Army decided to concentrate all his forces in one sneak attack along the jawbone and then rush the right corner of my mouth in an all-out assault.

When from a distance it started to look like I trimmed my mustache into a question mark, I started to color it. I just couldn’t deal with that lopsided face looking back from the mirror and I wasn’t about to give up the mustache. Now and then I let it go natural to see if it’s evened up.  As of a month ago the gray is up creeping up both sides, but it is still lopsided. From a distance it now looks like my mouth droops left by about 15%. OK. Experiment complete. It’s no longer natural.

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An autistic rules the world (and vice-versa)

ambiguousthumbEarlier tonight I asked my wife a if she needed anything from me before she went to bed.  She was brushing her teeth at the time and gave me a thumbs-up gesture which I took to mean “No, I’m good.” I parted the long hair falling across her shoulders and kissed the nape of her neck before heading back to my office for some late-night coding.

Except that on later reflection I remembered her arm went about 45 degrees past horizontal and it was kind of a quick jerking motion, so now I’m wondering if she was giving me the thumbs-up, or miming “get the fuck out of here.”

After 35 years of marriage and despite my autism and partial face blindness I can now usually distinguish correctly between gratitude and annoyance in her face.  (Everyone who has NOT been married to me for 35 years should not expect this level of facial fluency from me, by the way.  This means you.) Brushing of teeth obscures all the usual facial clues. She hasn’t given any overt indication she’s annoyed with me tonight but that can be an unreliable indicator.  The thumb went just far enough past horizontal and jerked just fast enough to be ambiguous.  Either she appreciates the consideration or  wants to throttle me and I have no idea which it is.

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Welcome to the Grand Delusion

Feels like that some days

Feels like that some days

It’s been a hell of a year or so. You may have seen me post from time to time on Facebook about some of the crap that’s gone wrong but in case you missed it, there have been major issues pretty much every month or few weeks for 18 months or so both at home and the in-laws house (which I’m responsible for).

  • HVAC, dishwasher, disposal, in-wall oven, washer-dryer, refrigerator, water heater, attic fan, and even the countertop microwave we got to temporarily replace the built-in one, all failed.
  • Roof leaks, HVAC condensate drain, landscape drainage, failed double-glazed windows, and water heater overflow all led to water damage.
  • My truck, wife’s car, daughter’s car, in-laws’ car, motorcycle and even the freaking lawn tractor all needed major unscheduled work.
  • Several rounds of trees falling down. Once it was blight. Another time it was insect infestation. The last time we got so much rain the ground softened up and a whole stand of trees keeled over root ball and all and took out part of a neighbor’s fence.
  • A variety of illnesses and surgeries in the family. At this age every list of possible causes ends with the words “or it could be cancer.”  It hasn’t been cancer in any of the cases but that’s led to some tense weeks waiting out test results.
  • Over the last few months I’ve been pretty sick but since I wasn’t running a fever most of that time I didn’t know it until I was so fatigued and anemic that I only got out of bed to do my professional work and that was about it.

Because we humans are hard-wired to misunderstand probability we tend to think of things with astronomical odds as mere thought exercises.  Academic scenarios that could never actually happen to us.  But if there’s a 1 in 10 trillion chance of something happening, it is equally likely to happen on the first try, the last try, or any iteration in between.  Since we don’t understand that, we also tend to attribute a run of bad luck like I’ve had to karma, divine intervention, or other forces directed specifically at us.  And that’s my problem lately.

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Why I do this

Over at the Autism from a Father’s Point of View blog, today’s post by Stuart Duncan was The day ‘hackers’ told 6 year old autistic children that they should ‘kill yourself’.  One of Stuart’s sons is autistic and when he saw how much bullying autistic kids were experiencing on public Minecraft servers, he set up and now runs an autistic-friendly Minecraft server called Autcraft.

If that was the end of the story, it would still be a cautionary tale about bigotry and vulnerability, contempt and compassion, and ultimately about love and hate.  But that’s not the end of the story.  Not by a long shot.  After two weeks of relative peace, hackers began to attack the site and have been doing so continuously for about three years.  At one point they successfully redirected the site to their own servers and for a brief time kids logging on were told, among other things, that they should kill themselves.
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Panic room

I traveled to Las Vegas today for the IBM Interconnect conference. It wasn’t even close to being the worst travel day ever. Not even in the bottom 10. But it definitely kicked my butt.  I suspect my autism contributed to the level of distress so this is the right blog for this post.  I have on occasion blogged about my bad days just to get them out of my head so I could move on.  Turns out those are the posts that get responses and the consistent feedback is that it was helpful knowing someone else has the same problems.   Here then is another post in the bad day series.  If you want something more upbeat, head over to The Odd is Silent.

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All that in 5 seconds?

My post Google Male over at The Odd Is Silent is a stream-of-consciousness description of my reaction to a bad Google Voice translation.  It’s been polished up a bit and the multiple parallel trains of thought serialized into narrative form but it’s faithful to the actual process.

On reading it Morag asked “How can all that go through your head in 5 seconds?!”  I don’t propose that the answer to that question is entirely due to my autism, but I do suspect it is at least strongly influenced by it so I’m responding here.

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Who am us anyway?

The post Why “High Functioning” Autism Is So Challenging over at’s autism section is a more comprehensive and yet more concise write-up of some of the same ideas I’ve covered in past blog posts, especially the “but you don’t seem autistic” themed posts.

I have all of the issues mentioned to some degree or another but can usually do a good job passing. But not always. Last month on my first week of a new consulting engagement my client’s project manager said there was a “coffee social” going on.  He invited my colleague AJ and I to walk down the hall for a chat and to get some free coffee. I don’t drink coffee but I’ve learned that when the client wants to chat you go chat.

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Can I just be a functioning autistic?

Dani over at Autistic Academic recently posted Why This “High-Functioning” Autistic Really Wishes You’d Shut Up About High-Functioning Autistics.  It’s a well reasoned and provocative post that might make you reconsider how you think and refer to differences in others.

I highly recommend giving the post a read but some of the best parts are in the follow-on comments.  I’ll take some liberties and quote from one:

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I hope it’s casual day

Posted on the inside of the front door at my house is a list of all the things I need to remember before heading to the airport. I’m laser focused on some things like computer security, which is good because that’s my job.  But at the basics of life, I’m totally scatterbrained.  My executive function never was much good and I have to resort to building rigid routines like posting lists on the door in order to compensate.

Many of the items are on the list because I have at one point gone off without them.  If there’s one thing my wife hates, it’s overnight shipping a laptop power adapter to me.  she did it once, then added it to the list.  If there’s one thing I hate, it’s seeing how much it costs to overnight ship something to me. When I saw the bill, I invested in a docking station so I never have to use the power cord while at home.  If it stays in the backpack, I can’t leave it behind.

My alternate strategy is to keep multiples of most important things in my backpack in case I leave one behind.

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