January 20th, 2014
When I was 3-ish, we trundled up to Wisconsin to see my great-aunt in the hospital; it was her 88th birthday. She seemed nice enough, I guess? I don't remember having met her before, and my dad seemingly had a zillion relatives who he knew pretty well, so she blended in with the crowd. We came back to see her the next day, and I guess sometime during the visit she died. I knew you were supposed to get upset at people dying, so I cried for a bit, and my grandpa took me for a walk to console me - not that I actually needed consoling, but probably did actually need to get out of the room where the adults were gathered.
My next funerals were when I was 16 (and thus solidly in protomoof territory); my paternal grandparents and maternal grandma all died within six or seven months of each other. The first to go was my dad's father; he'd had Parkinson's for years, and had been in really bad shape. The last time I'd seen him was when he was restrained in a wheelchair (to keep from falling out), and he knew his mind was fading quickly; it was heartbreaking to see. I wanted to be one of the pallbearers, but grandma had already decided everything in advance, and it was usually best not to go up against her.
Next was my maternal grandmother; she'd had Alzheimer's for at least four-five years, and she'd turned into a husk of her former self. Occasionally you would see flashes of her prior intellect and personality, but there really wasn't anybody home. Unlike grandpa, she wasn't aware of her own descent, but it was extremely painful for mom. The funeral there was kind of a shock: when I saw her body, she had her hair done, and was dressed nicely; she looked almost regal. Powerfully evocative of the woman she hadn't been for quite some time. I guess the best word, strange as it may sound, to describe the funeral was "pleasant" - it was a release, a relief to everyone involved, and a time for people to get together and eat hotdish and reconnect.
Finally, my paternal grandmother. She frightened me and my siblings when we were younger; she had a sharp wit and a sharper tongue. (In later years, it was somewhat of a relief to hear my mom express the same sentiments.) She had the bad luck to be an intelligent, ambitious woman in then-rural Wisconsin born near the turn of the century, and was bitter about her lack of opportunities to the end of her days. I suspect she's the source of the Aspie tendencies of my father and me, too; she could be casually, unthinkingly, harsh without realizing or thinking about what she'd done. She'd had ovarian cancer before grandpa died, and had mostly recovered from it - but after he died, she went into remission, and died within the year. Pretty much, she lost the will to live without him.
What's probably the biggest influence on my life happened much earlier, though. When I was 12 or so, I found an embroidered pillow with the names and birthdates of me, my siblings, and my maternal cousins - and then one more name, a few years earlier than the rest of us, that I didn't recognize. A few days after asking my parents "Who's Christine?" my parents sat me and the sibs down: four years before I was born, my parents were driving their firstborn child home from the hospital, when a drunk driver plowed into them. Christine died in the accident. Mom lost her front teeth, too. As they put it, they almost broke up, and couldn't find enjoyment in anything for years; they still recall the exact moment when the laughed about something again. (Mom had accidentally her paycheck in the trash, and dad had to go digging around for it in the dumpster.) I'd wondered if they were a little bit overprotective; yeah, not a surprise, in retrospect.
To this day I wonder if it's a coincidence my middle name is "Kristian"; while my Mom swears up and down that it's some great-uncle of hers or something and has nothing to do with Christine, I have my doubts.
December 15th, 2013
I'm not intentionally being parsimonious with these postings, so much as trying to figure out "What's notably different from my childhood from most other people's?" Its corollary, "How do I and my perceptions and reactions differ from most other people's?" is in many ways the fundamental issue I've been grappling with for most of my adult life - but I'll save that sort of thing for "history of the protomoof" and later.
From a structural point of view, my childhood seemed and was pretty normal. I had (and have) two parents, a little brother (2.5 years younger), a little sister (8 years younger). I grew up in a pretty well-to-do Chicago suburb, although my parents weren't all that well-to-do; Mom didn't work until I was in high school, and Dad's ChemEng job was never especially lucrative. The schools, however, were pretty well equipped: my elementary school had an Apple II circa 1979, and a librarian who was very much keeping abreast of technology, noticed that I was rather keen on it, and guided me with resources and support. (I remember around 3rd or 4th grade thinking that I needed to learn 6502 assembly language, and when I asked the librarian she helped me get the books I needed.) So, from that point of view, things were pretty good.
Academically, however, things started to gang agly around late 3rd-early 4th grade. Homework started to be assigned, and I really wasn't very good at doing it. (Formerly, I'd only had issues with creative writing and things of that ilk: I wanted to spout fully-formed stories with plot and structure, but my efforts were what I deemed crap and nowhere good enough and not-quite-literally banged my head against the desk in frustration.) It was somewhere in that era that the school district gave me a battery of tests - Rorschach, what was probably the Thematic Apperception Test, an IQ test. I don't remember much about the tests themselves other than the presumed-TAT involved telling stories about the images on the cards and one of them was about abandonment, the Rorschach test had roman numerals written in pencil on the other side of the card, and that I spent way too long on the math portion of the IQ test trying to puzzle out what the correct answer to "if a=2, and ab=6, what is b" (I'd remembered half-watching some educational programs on algebra on PBS, and eventually decided that since I'd seen the expression "a+b" and "a+2b", the most likely explanation for needing at least that amount of symbols would be that ab must mean a×b. This was a far more interesting problem than most of the rest of the questions on the test, and I failed to answer a bunch of the easy stuff that was later on.)
So, yeah, the results indicated I was a child genius. Whoopee. They decided that I could skip fifth grade and go directly to sixth. In retrospect, while from a purely intellectual and didactic PoV this was fine and dandy... fifth grade was when they started to introduce homework "for real", and my reaction and adjustment to it was not graceful at all. My grades went from As across the board to Cs and Ds and Fs. While I recognize now that ADD (much less Asperger's) was not in the consciousness of many in the 70s, I'm still pissed that they, the school professionals, didn't notice anything amiss and just sort of threw up their hands when I started bombing abysmally. They certainly didn't sit me down and ask what kinds of issues I thought I had or why. The general attitude seemed to be "Eh, he's smart and will figure it out eventually."
Next time on prehistory of the moof: either high school or deaaaaaaaaath; haven't decided which one yet.
November 29th, 2013
I've been meaning to write this for months or years at this point, but never seem to get around to doing so.
I don't remember not having to wear glasses or not being able to read. I learned sometime between the age of 2 and 3; Mom has said that reading the ingredients list of cereal boxes was a common activity for me. As far as I can remember, I've always had lots of books and read voraciously. In a vaguely related vein, I've usually been more comfortable around adults than I was (other) children. Probably because they were easier to understand and could answer all the questions I had.
I can remember flashes of memory from when I was young, instants in time, but not so much in the way of episodes. Probably the earliest was when I was lying in my bed, chewing on a binky, and gnawed right through it; I got up and asked my mom to fix it (as I had been under the impression that she had fixed it before) - but (this time?) she said that now it was broken and there was nothing she could do about it. The particulars of the memory are fuzzy at best; I remember fairly clearly the bed I had, and mom's response, but everything else is inferred from later life's memories (the layout of the house, what the room was like, the tone of mom's voice, etc.) I couldn't have been more than 2.5 at most; I wasn't wearing glasses.
The next memory, though, is quite clear. I was at Mimi's Merry Mornings, a preschool in my hometown. I think I was 4, but I'm not sure about the date. It was a lovely spring/summer day, nice blue sky, fluffy clouds, and we were having Show and Tell outside. I'd decided to show them my copy of Sesame Street magazine. I showed them the various pages of the magazine, and pointed out how in some of the features therein there were instructions for the children (in big letters) and instructions for the parents (in much smaller print, with more complex words) and how interesting it was that for some of the activities it wasn't actually possible to figure out everything required to complete it without having read both sets of instructions. While I don't remember the faces, I remember the overwhelming feelings of blank incomprehension from the rest of the kids there, completely not getting what I was talking about at all. I think I sat down pretty quickly after that, with my mom arriving and driving me and one of the other kids back home soon afterwards. I remember feeling, while riding back, the most profound sense of alienation and dismay. Probably my very first depressive episode, too, but I don't remember anything after the car ride.
July 10th, 2013
Today I got to write the email turning down the (serious) wedding proposal I got via IM.
Man, did that suck.
June 3rd, 2013
Man, I really hope that our new manager, for whom I argued so vigorously, does not turn out to be authoritarian at heart. He's not winning over anybody from a cultural PoV right now, though - quite the opposite.
March 17th, 2013
My thirties seem to have been about my emotional ups and downs: it started with "watching my 30th birthday go crashing down into flames and making me feel rather suicidal despite/because of some of the people in the room with me"; a high in the middle, moving to Japan and being happier than I'd been in quite a long time, despite the lack of usable psychiatric care; another nadir close to the end with Google and London making me suicidally fixate damn near every day; GTFO of London and Google and finally traveling around Europe for a bit; emotional recovery at my parents' house in Chicago, letting the deep wounds scar up some at least, and getting to spend more time with my sister and her husband than I had in quite a long time; and finally moving back to the SFBA, whence I hung out with Tinny et al for a while and then starting at Twitter.
My forties, however, thus far seem to be about physicality and mortality and fun shit like that. I've been sick more often in the past year with a nonstop series of colds than I think I've had prior in my life. I found out that the pains I'd had in my heel were not, in fact, gout - but instead, an 18mm long heel spur that I'd managed to break in two places. (Oh, and plantar fasciitis.) My lower back has started to give me a bunch of issues (a trait from the maternal side of the family, it appears), my gout seems like it's coming back, and I've now had the second occurrence of some weird stomach/bowel issue that has me lying immobile in bed for a couple of days. (Need to go see a gastroenterologist for that, and I have a chiropraxy appointment for Tuesday.) My sleep schedule is pretty much the absolute pits. I've realized I probably need more sun than I've been getting, and I'm cold a not small amount of the time (and the wolves are out to get me, awooooo!) I find myself wondering if I need to move, at some point, back to the South Bay or one of the sunnier parts of Oakland to get my photophilia on.
Physical health care, incidentally, is one of the reasons that - as much as I'd really like to - I don't think that I'd be able to justify moving back to Japan without winning the lottery of some kind (state or IPO, I'm not fussy): I've been seeing the docs a lot, and it's hard enough to find non-nutter doctors over here where I speak the language natively. There's also that job thing, that lack-of-degree thing, the not-speaking-the-language thing, and a buncha other crap. People near and dear to me make concerned noises about their own long-term plans now that they're getting older: will they be able to afford to live in the Bay Area; will they become cat ladies; should they move somewhere cheaper even if it means moving away from family, chosen or otherwise. I have to wonder about the same sorts of things (except for being allergic enough to cats that the 'cat lady' thing seems safely avoided.)
Part of this goes back to not knowing wtf I want to do when I grow up; doing technical work for technical work's sake is increasingly less fun; I suspect that, were I to stay in this field, I'm probably going to have to go into management at some point - or at least, to a higher-level of abstraction than I'm currently at. This scares the willies out of me in some respects; Yahoo! was so incredibly political about everything that my own terrible abilities to pick up on the undercurrents of things (helloooooo, Asperger's) makes me second-, third-, and quadruple-guess my aptitude for management. The damnedest thing about it, though, is that I really do prefer working with people - that is, in IT-centric tech work, with social goals being the focus - than I do for production infrastructure work, with the focus on more technical "I need forty machines to process the blarghqueues with a minimal amount of latency" goals. If I don't stay in tech work, then I figuratively throw my hands up in the air; I'd probably have to go back to school and get a degree or something. If that's the case, library science or teaching of some sort (e.g. English to non-native speakers, programming for poets, etc) seem like they'd be relatively appealing. Those sorts of gigs are usually much more 9-5 than I'm comfortable with for various reasons (night owl, ADD, sleep issues, etc).
In short: buh, stupid mortality and meatsacks and money and shit like that.
February 23rd, 2013
The bigwig was in front of the entire company, giving one of his infamous inspirational speeches, walking around the lunch area to which we'd all been hastily called five minutes before. His speech, very lightly accented somehow - Israeli? SoCal? was soft and intense; he talked of great things and great people and the goals that lie ahead of us. He stopped in his tracks as his gaze fell upon a styrofoam cup on top of the microwave. He looked around the room very intently and started to talk again, his tenor changed. "I hope you see why I have to do this. I have no other choice, really. It's what I have to do." He looks down at me, and without a trace of outward emotion, says "You're going to have to go. I hope you see why." I look back at everybody who are doing their damnedest to avoid looking at anything and say, "Bye." In a single monotone everybody replies, "Bye." Satisfied, the bigwig moves on and starts talking again about Great Things. "Fuck you", I quietly say to the not listening boss - and then I wake up, my heart pounding.
Well, if you want to know how to induce terror in me, there you go: flaws or arbitrary behavior I don't know I have and don't realize is unacceptable, workplace and job, and in front of a huge mess of people. Seeing http://www.sfgate.com/technology/businessinsider/article/Marissa-Mayer-Tells-Hundreds-Of-Remote-Yahoo-3898967.php today is probably related; I'm really glad I don't work at Yahoo! right now.
January 16th, 2013
Last night, while trying to get to sleep, I was sufficiently stressed out by excessive social exposure, personal crap, and an 8:30am conference call I was dreading that I noticed I was starting to smell different - Cortisol or some other stress hormones, presumably. Normal people don't seem to get freaked out by things like that.
December 9th, 2012
The combination of coffee brewing, and brown rice and miso cooking, together smell like very yeasty bread baking. It's a really strange olfactory illusion.
November 27th, 2012
Three weeks until I fly to Chicago for just shy of a fortnight. Ugh, cold; yay, seeing family.