About Me

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grew up in Ang Lee's The Ice Storm, contemporary of Judd Apatow. Listened to Free to Be You and Me and Yellow Submarine countless times on a phonograph that could play 16⅔, 33⅓, 45 or 78 rpm records from the inside of a large console cabinet on the floor of my living room. John Lennon was assassinated, the 1980's began, and I went through puberty. On late night radio, random people asked Dr. Ruth all variety of questions about sex. She asked, "Do you masturbate?" If the caller said yes, she gleefully exclaimed "Gut!" in Yiddish, and then took the next call. Went to college, abroad, grad school, work and more grad school. Married, started a new career and had kids. Decided that like Jung at age 37, my time for individuation had arrived. I'm ISTJ according to Myers-Briggs; I'm a five according to Enneagram; I experience "flow" as described by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, but surely there must be more to it than cleaning one's closets. And what is "love" anyway? After one of my children was diagnosed with mild Asperger's, on September 24, 2010, I heard Tim Page on the radio say that he figured it out after his son was diagnosed. Oh.


6. thinking

talking to myself. I think in words. I hardly have any ability to imagine anything besides language. Complete sentences are always running through my mind as if I'm constantly talking to myself.

one track mind. When I get an idea in my head to do something, I feel a need to complete what I've started. I have trouble changing course. When I learned to play chess, I would develop a strategy to try to check mate my opponent and then follow through with it regardless of whether it was working or not. Sometimes I won with a surprising and creative strategy, but I usually lost, because I failed to adapt to what the other player was doing. I've always had difficulty asking for help. I probably epitomize the person who is lost but refuses to ask someone for directions.

memory. My family used to own some undeveloped property where we went camping for a few nights once a year. When I was 5 years old, I buried an apple in the ground there. When we came back the following year, I immediately wanted to find the spot to see if an apple tree was growing. Certain things make indelible marks in my memory, while other things don't stick at all. I have a terrible short-term memory. When a person tells me his name for the first time, I instantly forget it. If I look up a phone number in the phone book, I cannot remember it long enough to write it down on a piece of paper. I actually have a fairly good memory, but I need to "commit" something to memory, make a conscious effort to remember it.

learning. When I was 12, I loved learning how to diagram sentences in school. These are the different parts of speech, and here is a picture of exactly how they fit together to form an English sentence. Beautiful.

detail. I do not learn holistically. When I was 5, I took violin lessons that were taught by the Suzuki method. I was taught to memorize, through rote learning, Suzuki's Variations on "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." I remember the experience to this day as follows. I learned to play the song along with the other children exactly as I had been taught, but I was unable to understand how the song was "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." The Suzuki method version is in quarter notes, as if the song were "Twink, Twink, Kle, Kle, Twink, Twink, Kle, Kle, Lit, Lit, tle, tle, Star, How, How, I, I, won, won, der, der, what, what, you, you, are." We practiced the song for weeks until it was memorized, and then we performed it together as a group. During the performance, it finally dawned on me how the song was in fact Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. I felt no satisfaction or joy from what I had accomplished. The only thing I thought was: Why did these idiots spend an entire year teaching us "Twink, Twink, Kle, Kle, Twink, Twink, Kle, Kle, Lit, Lit, tle, tle, Star, How, How, I, I, won, won, der, der, what, what, you, you, are," instead of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, How I wonder what you are"? I have a natural tendency to focus my attention on something that requires meticulous attention to detail. Luckily, I now have an occupation where this is an asset, and I have a really good, high paying job.

reading. I learned to read at the same time as my classmates, but my reading comprehension lagged behind. Even though I could read the words, I had difficulty following the meaning of a passage of text. I focused on each word individually, not the meaning of the words when they were put together. Also, I was unable to focus my attention on a book for more than a few paragraphs. After reading about one page, my mind just wondered. When I was 10, I started to be able to read a full length book and comprehend what I was reading. For a long time, when I was asked in school to read things out loud, I remember that I was able to do so very well. But I never had any comprehension of what I was reading out loud. I just read individual words, and I could not process what the thing as a whole meant. I had no trouble understanding when others were reading out loud, and I was just listening. I have never had any trouble understanding things that were spoken to me verbally. Also, I wonder if I would have been able to understand non-fiction better than the fiction we were always asked to read. Why do schools always push children to read fiction far more than non-fiction? Even today, I find it very difficult to concentrate on pure fiction (as opposed to something like the "new journalism" style of Tom Wolfe). On the other hand, I can easily read and enjoy reading pure expository writing that follows a logical progression and structure. I have never been able to understand poetry, even if I really try. Poetry (other than something such as a clever limerick or haiku) has always been a complete mystery to me. Unless someone explains it to me, I never have any clue what a poem is about, other than the literal meaning of it.

math. I was always very good at math, but I never learned my times tables. So, for example, I never memorized that 7 X 6 is 42. If you asked me 7 X 6, I would think, 7 X 3 is 21, doubled is 42. 8 X 6? 8 X 3 is 24, doubled is 48. Why did I never memorize my 6 times tables? I have no idea. As a child, I counted everything. If I went to a theater, rather than watching the performance, it was more likely that I was trying to determine the number of seats in the theater. I count stairs when I climb them. The idea that someone could live in a house for years and not know how many stairs are on the staircase from the first to the second floor is absolutely incredible to me. How could a person possibly not take note of that?

achievement. In school, my IQ (according to a test I took when I was 13) was more than two standard deviations above the mean, whereas the scores on the verbal portion of my college board exam was within the first standard deviation from the mean. I think the reason was that I had extremely poor reading comprehension of random fictional passages. My brain isn't very good at processing this for someone with my logical reasoning ability. By the way, on the subject of standard deviations, my wife frequently asked me how big my child's bowel movement was after I changed a diaper. I would usually say that I thought it was within one standard deviation of an average size bowel movement. My wife was always nonplussed by this response. Was I supposed to give a different answer?

computing. In 1981, when I was in eighth grade, we got an Apple 2e computer, one of the first personal computers that people bought to use at home. It was more of a challenge to use it than today's computers, because there was no mouse or "Windows" operating system. If you want to remember what that was like and you have a PC with a Windows operating system, click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, and then click Command Prompt. You had to type DOS commands to get the computer to do stuff. I was able to figure out how to work the computer by using the books that came with the computer and teaching myself. I even started to teach myself Basic programming language. But no one else seemed interested in this kind of stuff, so I lost interest. I remember turning a homework assignment in that was typed on the computer and printed out on an early dot matrix printer. The teacher discouraged me from doing that again in the future. She didn't like the way that the letters looked like a bunch of dots, unlike a typeset font. She encouraged me to handwrite my assignments like everyone else. In retrospect, I think that was pretty idiotic advice.

auto-didact. The most valuable thing I ever learned in school by far was how to teach things to myself. Now, I spend most of my free time learning on my own. So I don't just learn what someone else thinks I should learn. I can go with the flow.

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