Social constructs and disability.

Everybody learns how to interact, and everybody learns that there are parts of themselves that must be changed or hidden.

This is for the best, mostly. One can’t go hitting others, even if one is quite angry.

So, there’s a… polishing? phase of life. Finishing, I suppose, certain educators of people socialized as women may assert.

And that’s a template. “Woman”. It’s a template that society creates. Sometimes explicitly, as in various religions or archaic cook books where what a woman does, as enforced by the template, is described in detail.

But I think those are often a cannonization of existing norms.

Humans are social creatures, as a group we do better when we’re together. Looking after each other, specializing a bit here and there, people who tend to the near, the community and people who roam.

Those roles are all templates, built over time, repeated patterns that prove themselves over and over. Finding those patterns is a key way our brain has been optimized. There’s significant advantage in that pattern matching.

I don’t know if there’s something about scale that … let me back up.

I am making a lot of assertions. None of them have been validated. Sourced objection to any is welcome, it takes a village afterall. Opinion shared in the interests of exploration is welcome, but I’m not here to convince anyone or be convinced by anyone.

These templates stabilize over time, and can stagnate. They are the status quo, and therefore they are taught implicitly as well as explicitly. Deviating from the status quo often has real risks. We’re taught to avoid intense heat because it damages our bodies. That’s a good template to follow!

I think that the scale of our societies enforces these templates, and I think most of the 20th century in the society I inhabit (southwestern ontario from 1977 on) has held these templates to be Universal Constants, like Gravity and the Speed of Light. They aren’t.

Gravity is measurable. Manliness isn’t. Morality isn’t. A good life is not.

Capitalism is a specific artificial construct and it claims that money is a universal constant, and that morality and success and a good life are measured by it. These things are not true.

Ability is a social construct. There’s a template of “able bodied person”. Ability is measured in a capitalist society by one’s productivity. If you can not earn enough money to feed yourself, you are not able.

That’s a tough assertion to support all on its own and I’m too ignorant of the details to bring it home. I’m past things I’ve read at some time or another and deep into the reality I’ve knitted together for myself.

I think it’s grounded in truth, but it’s reasonable to say there are other measures, but that’s not entirely where I’m trying to go here either so I’m going to leave it as a very big gap in my understanding, to be explored more soon.

Humans modify our physical environments to suit our needs. At an individual scale the impact those changes have is minimal, and if we are the ones modifying our environments then we can modify them for specific needs.

At scale the indivdual is lost and the modifications are made to suit the templates. At scale, the templates are believed to be fact, and deviation from those templates is punished. Directly, with explicit commands to behave in certain ways, and indirectly with incentivizations like the ability to acquire and keep a job to buy food.

These templates, these social constructs are not constants. I’ve seen people say they aren’t real. They aren’t real measurable force, but they have a real impact. The reason to call them unreal is to help us recognize that they are variable. Ultimate, to recognize that we are the ones who impose them on ourselves.

The consequence of not conforming to those templates is real. People get attacked. Verbally, physically, emotionally, for not conforming to those templates. People who don’t conform to those templates are held up as examples of wrongdoing, of deviance, of otherness.

These templates are what we consider normal. If we deviate from them physically in such a way that we are not able to conform - we are physically unable to use our legs in certain ways, unable to process sound waves, have a small lesion in our basal ganglia (perhaps) that makes it impossible to process non-verbal forms of communication - we are disabled.

This is all social model of disability stuff, obvious I think if you’ve encountered the concept before and obvious I think as well why it’s on my mind, with the context that the formal report confirming my autism and documenting some of the ways it has impacted my life.

My autism doesn’t disable me, society does. I conform to the vast majority of templates enforced by my society. I am white. I am biologically male and have learned to perform manliness sufficiently, most of the time. I have extremely valuable skills which capitalism lauds and rewards me for. As far as disability goes I’m still playing on easy mode and since I have financial privelege I was able to pay someone to help me understand how my brain works which believe you me is an extraordinary privilege.

I don’t know what impact knowledge of my disability is going to have, but I’m pretty sure because of how well I fit those templates I’m going to be lauded for it. And I know that because of how well I fit those templates I need to work harder to help the people who don’t. I’ve only just learned about it myself and have started sharing it, broadcasting it really, but I’m still isolated.

It won’t have meaningful impact on my employment, at least until my age also becomes an issue, and since I’m a white man with unique skills even that’s going to happen a lot later to me than it will to others.

I'm Such a Poseur, Man.

Growing up, being a poseur was probably the worst possible thing to be.

Now that I know I’m autistic, I know that I was in fact a complete poseur, and probably that’s why I perceived it as being very horrible. I couldn’t skateboard super well, I couldn’t hackysack particularly well, and those were activities that the people I wanted to spend time with valued pretty highly.

I had good friends, and they were generous and compassionate with me. They themselves never made me feel bad about being less athletic than them and this isn’t really about them. They accepted me which is a truth that I am sad about in this moment. I don’t have those friends any more. We couldn’t hold the threads. I get to see these friends on occasion still, and there is a comfort and home-ness. But this isn’t really about them.

This is about my perception of social norms, especially in groups. What groups value. What the community values. And I value authenticity and I am attracted to personalities that present as authentic, and when you’re talking about skateboarding or indie rock, authenticity was doing.

I was a competent musician, and I think I could be one again. I could travel on skateboards just fine, but I never had a trick-focused board even though it was the late 80s and early 90s. My boards were department store boards purchased for me as gifts by people to whom I couldn’t adequately communicate what attributes mattered. I’ve never done an ollie. I probably could learn but even though I could buy myself a board now when am I going to try? Maybe this summer but probably not. But this isn’t really about skateboards.

Autistic people don’t behave like neurotypical people. We’re literally incapable of it out of the gate, and when we aren’t known to be autistic the behaviours we engage in appear to be intentionally contradictory. Sometimes I am intentionally contradictory, but most of the time as it turns out I’ve just had no idea what the fuck to do, so I bounce around doing the wrong thing until I finally learn through trial and error what the right thing is, or at least to a close enough approximation that I can get through the day.

That’s a really weird thing to learn about yourself. I’ve never been conciously aware that I don’t understand what’s going on. I’ve thought I’ve been operating with my full sensor array, that the world I experienced was as close to the objective truth as it was possible for a human to get.

Objective reality doesn’t really exist, but there in any given society there is is a shared perceived reality. The vast majority of people are in agreement about what is supposed to happen, and they are so deeply entrenched in it their entire lives that they are literally unable to perceive alternates. I mean, probably everyone is. That’s the whole process of disillusionment, the loss of childhood naivity, adolescent dissilusionment is literally developing a deeper understanding of how the world actually exists and how much we’ve been lied to by the people who taught us about it.

These thoughts don’t make sense, they aren’t coming to a point, there is no conclusion to this. It’s an exploration. This disclaimer should be part of the post template, really.

Old code is a messy kitchen

It’s like a messy kitchen. An old code base, I mean. You can walk in and you can try to understand it before you do things and maybe ultimately that is best I don’t know. But I like to figure it out by getting in there and puttering. There’s usually a lot of very obvious garbage to toss and even if you just move it into a corner until you better understand what is and isn’t garbage, working through that layer starts to expose the valuable bits underneath.

Usually the most frequently used stuff is at the top

I should disclaim this with saying that I’ve never worked through a hoarder situation but I’m a messy person and I’ve cleaned up after myself a lot and that’s really what I’m talking about here.

Usually the most frequently used stuff is at the top, and this is really the most valuable stuff. The first thing to do, I learned this from Colin and Grant at Vehikl, the first thing to do is make it possible for the daily work to be done well. In a kitchen you gotta get that sink cleaned.

Years and years ago I had a notion for a chore management app, and as part of my efforts on that I researched marketing efforts a bit, including stuff like finding good advertisers. Blogging was just underway and probably mommyblogger was a coined term but it was definitely a realy thing and they were a good option but also I found a site that had a calendar of steps to take to start cleaning up. Like, a set of rules and a system to work towards a less messy existence in general but house in specific. And they started with the kitchen sink and that’s rung true to me since and for myself even the one thing I try to work on is a clean sink. I don’t often get far and I certainly don’t ahve a system or schedule but is the triage model applied to chore management. The shit that is actually important gets bubbled to the top. I was thinking about it in the incentive/economy model which is still interesting to explore but I think probably I need to think of it from the triage model. There’s just a ton of shit to do, but is your time today best spent vacuuming (most of the time!) or maybe it is tackling that big project you’ve been putting off for months and it’s okay to skip the vacuuming this time because there’s a really good habit of it in place already that will return next cycle.


I’ll process this guy later I guess. the whole site is busted right now anyway

Incomplete thoughts

Things aren’t always going to end properly or be edited or be posted on the date they are timestamped. The github repo will have more accurate information about creation dates and such but not too much more since things publish when I push them.

Anyway, I start the files on the day and if I don’t finish the thought, oh well. That’s kind of the point I guess?

So I played a couple more hours of Hollow Knight, and I didn’t really log it. I was living risky. Having a notes file is a bit of a responsibility as well as a benefit. Without logging the block points it’s not

Sentences and paragraphs can end mid-thought I’ve decided. I promise not to abuse this, but frankly I just want out of whereever I was going.

I think being able to add ad hoc notes to a game, or to have games where note-taking is more of a feature, is an interesting point. I do like how part of Hollow Knight’s progression is point of interest markers but also… I’d just like to write stuff. But on a console would I really? Probably, yeah. It’d still be easier than using a notebook.

And in the case of Hollow Knight and many others, I think most metroidvanias probably and things like RPGs and open world adventure games and such, I don’t think that the depth of the experience would suffer really? I don’t know.

Note taking inside a game can’t be that innovative a thought and there has to be reasons not to do it, but like last time I played a Civ game (Civilization 6) I really wanted to add notes about what I wanted the different cities I was managing to do, things like that.

I can understand how managing that sort of thing is probably just a really shitty experience all around. My notes are not great, and I have complete control over basically everything about them. Medium, level of detail, you name it.

Some Other Things

I haven’t gone back into Baldur’s Gate 2 yet. I might, but it does seem likely that the specific urge to do so has faded for a fair bit of time.

Part of that is because on the evening of Friday last, which was the start of Thanksgiving weekend, I finally gave Hollow Knight a shot (on PS4, it was a PS Plus game a few months back) and it has sunk its hooks (or nails, I suppose) in deep.

I don’t play a lot of out-and-out metroidvanias. I like a lot of metroidvania conventions and Castlevania was a very important series for me but I haven’t gotten into them deeply in a really long time. I waited for Castlevania 3 for an extremely long time, I bought it brand new and reached Dracula before the end of the weekend. I drew the cover for a Grade 8 art project and still have it around somewhere. It was the best thing I’d done to that point according to my memories so there’s some attachment there.

But I also was deeply disappointed in how quickly I burned through it. I put it aside for a long time after reaching Dracula because I just didn’t want to have finished it that quickly. I don’t specifically recall actually finishing the game but I know I must have. I replayed all my games time and time again growing up and I must have done it with Castlevania as well, but from 30 years distant that aura of disappointment sticks and I think it eventually seeped into my impressions of the genre as a whole.

I was very excited for Metroid Prime, I still have the t-shirt I got when I preordered and it even gets in rotation semi-regularly. But I am pretty sure I didn’t ever get around to finishing it.

Somewhere along the way I’ve stopped enjoying consuming the same media multiple times over. There are books that I could literally read straight through and start right at the beginning again. Movies I would play over and over again, tv reruns were a foundational part of growing up for me. I still love listening to music over and over again of course, sometimes doing that thing where you listen to one track on loop for hours (I have a playlist filled with tracks specifically for this purpose) but even then there is a strong novelty factor required for me, most of the time.

Metroidvanias are about really knowing an environment. Treading the same space over and over again and experiencing it anew. Not entirely of course, quick travel options and the ability to open shortcuts to bypass areas is critical but there are hub areas and certain paths that get travelled over and over and over again. When I think of metroidvanias, I think of that experience.

Hollow Knight, to the point where I’m at (In the last hour or so that I played, I had the Dreamers added to my map but have not sought any out yet) definitely shares that trait. And I don’t entirely love it. But I am getting a lot of satisfaction out of it.

I played too much over Thanksgiving weekend. I’m somewhere around 25 hours I think, definitely over 20. I’ve had at least a couple of points of frustration where I’ve been going from exit to exit in the map, revisiting and trying to figure out where my next opportunities for advancement are, or throwing myself at a significant fight and at least once just grinding around for currency.

But the frustration has all been limited and predictable. I had to grind for currency but I could explore at the same time, revisit some old mini bosses and see how my skills had improved and if I’d been more concientious about recovering my loot after dying I wouldn’t have had to at all. There’s almost always been at least one other thing I can think of to do and ultimately, on Monday, I started a text file to keep track of goals, environs and other details.

There’s a very special place in my world for games that force me to take notes. I haven’t done so in earnest since I last tried to play Ultima 5 a few years back, and this blog is being updated specifically because I’d expected to do so for BG2 as well.

I haven’t played Hollow Knight since Monday (it’s Thursday as I write this) and that has been intentional. For one thing, this is a game that I like to be able to sink into for at least 30 minutes and ideally a few hours.

But more importantly I think, I am taking a break so that whenever I move on to my next task I get to learn some of the environments I traverse again. I have been so deeply enjoying revisiting and relearning some of the environments that when I reached the point where I had pushed too hard and was

so yesterday, So I finally checked it out too. I am intentionally giving myself a few days away from Hollow Knight so I can forget a bunch and explore a little anew which I think is really important for me with played it for the first time too. Harvey bought it on Steam a few days back. I lasted 24 seconds into the daily before dying to spikes, Harvey died to spikes somewhere on 1-3 and Jon didn’t recall the specifics of his death but it was