Friday, February 08, 2013

Niagara Non-Gaming Stuff

Two weekends ago I spent 4 days in Niagara at a board game convention. By my best guess the gaming room was open for around 60 hours. From my tally last week I probably spent about 20 hours playing board games. That's a really low number and many other people noticed and commented on how little time I was actually spending in the room. Now, part of that is I took the time off work more as a vacation in general instead of a board game vacation so I put a priority on getting enough sleep instead of on playing games but there was more at work. I've been doing a lot of thinking and reading in the last few weeks and was taking the time to test out my natural inclinations. I have a few health conclusions that I want to post about, but it's really not game related so it'll be stuck after the jump.

First off, after one night I noticed my back was hurting. Other people seemed to be experiencing back pain as well and thought it might be the chairs in the game room. Maybe that was the case for them, but for me I'm sure it sleeping in a bed. I normally sleep on an air mattress and for WBC I bring it along and sleep on the floor. But this time I had a room with 2 beds to myself and it seemed a little silly to bring an extra bed along. Well, in retrospect, it probably wasn't very silly after all. My back is still hurting two weeks later. This happened a couple years ago and I remember only getting it to go away after practically ODing on Robaxisal. (My whole body felt a little numb and I heard a constant buzzing sound. I remember having to listen to music at work or I would have gone bonkers.) In retrospect the timing might be right for it to have happened around the last time I slept in a hotel room, but I could just be making stuff up. At any rate, I should just know to not sleep in a hotel bed going forward. And if it keeps hurting after this weekend I'll try a moderate amount of Robaxisal to see if that can relax things down enough to get better.

I did mention that I don't sleep in a bed at home and was asked why. It's a weird question to answer since I'm not sure anyone really wants to hear the answers to that question. Because I can't afford a bed? Because the thought of dealing with a bed salesman generates a feeling of panic and terror? Because I don't know how I would transport a bed from wherever to my room? The actual answer now is just that I'm used to sleeping on an air mattress instead of in a bed and I guess it doesn't matter why I may have arrived at this point. But it seemed like a weird question; though I guess I opened myself up to it by talking about not sleeping in a bed.

Next up, digestion issues. I don't know what I did in Niagara but I started feeling sick again. These feelings started around 8 months ago and have pretty much been resolved by eating a very restricted diet. I avoid gluten like the plague and it seems to make me feel better. I don't actually know what's wrong, just that something is wrong and it gets significantly worse when I eat bread, or a brownie, or cookies. I'm a creature of habit so it's actually not a very big imposition to eat the same thing every day anyway. I did that even before I was trying to avoid gluten! The problem comes when I have to eat out, like when I go to another city for 4 days. Since I don't actually know what I need to avoid there's the danger I'll eat something bad without knowing it. I'm pretty sure I must have since the same feeling came back while I was there and has gotten a little better since I've been back eating my normal foods. The problem is I don't know what I could have eaten that was bad. My best guess is the potatoes at the chicken joint where fried in something bad for me. But since I don't have a doctor and haven't tried to figure out what's actually wrong I don't know. For the next while it'll all be fine since I'm not planning on going away for an extended period of time... Until WBC, that is. WBC last year was a digestive nightmare for me and I'd really like for that to not be the case this time. The solution is simple. Actually suck it up and put in some effort to find a doctor and get tested so I can know what to tell the servers at restaurants about what I can and can't eat.

Finally, about a month ago I had a phone interview for a really interesting job I'd applied to a while ago. It really freaked me out. I'm not good with phones in general, or with talking to people, or with talking about myself. It didn't go very well, but it gave me some things to think about. It didn't help that my stomach was angry with me for having absent-mindedly eaten a brownie the night before. (I really didn't feel like making food (likely from stress about the impending call) and got a tv dinner and didn't even think that maybe I shouldn't eat the brownie. Or the tv dinner at all!) So I started looking into anxiety in general and stumbled into some gluten related information. It seems there are people on the internet who think gluten causes anxiety in people who are sensitive to it. And that people who are autistic seem to be prime candidates for getting extra anxious from gluten.

Now, I like taking quizzes on the internet and a couple years ago I took one on Facebook that came back saying I was very likely to be autistic. I remember Andrew scoffing at that result when it got posted. After all, I seem to be a weird but pretty well adjusted person. I've lived on my own for almost 6 years and away from home for 15. Sure, I don't do a lot of normal things (like, say, sleeping in a bed or talking on the phone) but that just makes me quirky, right? Well, I've done a lot of reading in the last month and it really feels like maybe I'm not just quirky. I've been reading a lot of personal blogs from people on the autistic spectrum and the way they think really seems to line up with the way I think. It's really starting to feel like maybe my brain really isn't normal neurotypical after all. My mother thinks I just need to suck it up, try harder, and maybe get some anti-anxiety drugs. And maybe those things will help. But I think the cause isn't just that I'm normal but stressed. I think it may well be that I have Asperger's.

Of course, the solution, again, is to go out and find a doctor. Get tested. Of course there's a bit of a catch-22 involved here. To get help with social anxiety I need a doctor, but to find a doctor involves overcoming social anxiety. (As someone who gets into the building through a side door because they changed the lock on the front door 3 years ago and I haven't been able to go ask for a new key this is non-trivial.) But it is something that needs to happen, and I acknowledge that fact, and I'm hoping posting about it will acknowledge it even more and be the kick I need to get moving on the topic. And who knows, maybe I really am 'normal' and just need drugs and to try harder. But that has the same solution! Try and get a doctor who will hook me up with some drugs.

But what does this have to do with Niagara? Well, plenty, it turns out. I'm a fringe member of a gaming group on Facebook that was organizing a bunch of rides from Toronto and despite asking I couldn't really find a way to get one. Despite seeing 7 people agreeing to go down in two cars, and knowing that I could almost certainly be an 8th person in those cars, I couldn't being myself to ask about it. I didn't really know the people involved (I've played board games with them a few times at conventions) and didn't want to bother them. So I looked into taking the bus instead. (And strongly considered just not going at all.) Sara ended up noticing that I was probably rideless and ended up getting me a spot in a car which was really nice of her. The ride was just fine, and they talked about board games and RPGs and such. I couldn't really find a way to join the conversation (except to correct some information about Final Fantasy Tactics) but it was nice just to sit and listen.

Then during the convention itself there's the ever present problem of splitting a big group of gamers into individual games. Who wants to play Tzol'kin, or Gingkopolis, or Battlestar Galactica. And who wants to play with who. Making decisions is hard! For me it's especially hard when I don't have the relevant information (who likes playing which games, who wants to play with whom, etc...) and don't know how to get that information. So my strategy ended up being to indicate a willingness to play any game (except Space Alert) and just sit off to the side and hope a game would happen to start with room for me. And that worked, probably because people didn't want to exclude anyone. I was perfectly willing to watch (and ended up learning/relearning Tzol'kin, 6 Nimmt, Eclipse, and the new Galaxy trucker expansion by doing just that) if a game didn't crop up for me.

Also, I was perfectly content to just stay in my hotel room after waking up to play some FTL or FFT while taking a hot bath. So even though I 'only' slept in until 5pm one day I still didn't get to the room until 9pm. I also wandered off looking for food and ended up eating alone at a nice little Thai place. But I almost walked by it because eating in a strange sit down restaurant alone is scary. If it wasn't cold and if I hadn't already been walking for 20 minutes I probably would have skipped it, which would have been a shame since they had good pineapple fried rice and weren't scary at all.

Don't get me wrong, I had a really good time. It's just those times in between games which made me rather anxious. I don't know that I have the capabilities to get around that, and I am glad that there were people who got me into the games they did. I think this may be why I like WBC so much... I never have to worry about finding a game to play or people to play it with. I get to play such a wide variety of games, with a wide variety of people, without ever having to worry about the division of people into games. Open gaming I pretty much stick to playing with Robb and Pounder (and we get hassled about that tendency sometimes) and I'm pretty happy with that outcome. It's far less stressful for me than trying to get into a game with other people and I get to play plenty of new people in tournament games as it is.

At any rate, those are things I've been thinking of based on my trip to Niagara. As a closing gift to anyone who made it this far... Like I said, I like taking quizzes on the internet, and here's one I found recently that I'm sure isn't a useful diagnostic tool at all, but is interesting regardless. Broad Autism Phenotype Test It's hosted on a dating site but you can just hit skip at the end to avoid signing up and just get the results.

Your result for The Broad Autism Phenotype Test ...


You scored 127 aloof, 115 rigid and 118 pragmatic
You scored above the cutoff on all three scales. Clearly, you are either autistic or on the broader autistic phenotype. You probably are not very social, and when you do interact with others, you come off as strange or rude without meaning to. You probably also like things to be familiar and predictable and don't like changes, especially unexpected ones.


Duncan said...

FYI - both Sara and I took this test out of curiosity, and we both got the exact same result. Specifically, it is telling me that I am above the cutoff in all three, despite the fact that in one of the categories, I got 81%, "higher than 28% of your peers." That means that whatever cutoff they are using in that category, 3/4 of the population qualify!

Maybe they just think that everyone who takes this test wants to be told that they are autistic, so they are doing that? Like how Scientology will always find something to help you with?

Andrew said...


I also took it and only scored above the cutoff in 1 of the 3 areas, but I would consider myself shier than either Duncan or Sara. But it did seem like the cutoff was adjusted so that almost everyone would qualify in some way...

And apologies for ridiculing a potential autism diagnosis. I'm much further from your mother's opinion than I used to be. Though you do need to just suck it up and find a doctor.

Still wish I could have done some of the Niagara thing. And make sure you talk to Adam about next weekend. He could easily give you a ride and my place will be both 8-9 year old and Byung free!

Sky Roy said...

Having read quite a bit about Asperger's and autism I have been quite sure for awhile that you, if diagnosed, would either have Asperger's or be substantially far along on the autism spectrum. It is remarkably common in our demographic (geek, top 1-2% in math, male) and I sure lots of people we know from university would test as autistic.

As far as this test goes I think it is bullshit. I scored as autistic, above the line in all three categories, and I scored 108% in one of them, whatever the hell that means. I am sure that I am leaning towards autistic but there is no way I should actually get that diagnosis; I was fairly happy as a salesman for years! Of course I was only happy as a retail salesman where the relationships were temporary and fleeting... I would not be happy in corporate sales.

If you read Penelope Trunk you can find a lot of amusing (maybe helpful?) anecdotes about how she handles Asperger's. One thing she does is lean on her friends and associates to fix things for her when she needs to do things like make phone calls, renew licences, etc. which are terrifying for autism spectrum folks. If you want specific advice on doing something or even help doing specific things like meeting people, making phone calls, etc. I am willing to help. I like solving problems and I totally get the feelings you have even though for me they clearly aren't so strong.

Sky Roy said...

Also, re: Beds. I was a mattress salesman and actually know how that works. If you want to get a bed I can both tell you how to get a bed that won't make your back hurt and also make the 'dealing with a salesman' part of the process quite trivial. Getting the bed to your house is easy; large men do it for you for free. If you don't want a bed, no problem, but if you do want one you know somebody who can make the process very straightforward.

Anonymous said...

I like Sky's point. We can help.

One thing I know is wacky food issues and so I offer the following:

If you like brownies but gluten doesn't like you, get gluten free brownies. (Lots of gluten free or wacky allergy stuff is junk, but you can find good stuff, I found these to be good)