Aug 27, 2008

In The Corner Of A Round Room

As an Aspie I rely so very much on certain things in the world being predictable. I often don’t even realize it. So think for a moment about a hospital. They are terribly comforting places and it’s often easy to get lost. However, one can expect a series of hallways, waiting rooms, and nurses stations. Usually this is oriented in squares or rectangles. Sometimes there is a rotunda that joins two wings, the designers hoping to bring in something other than a clinical feel, but typically it goes back to lots of 90 degree edges and straight lines.

The Native American museum in Washington D.C. is a something different entirely. The designers of that building were seeking to achieve a very organic aesthetic. The building is a series of sweeping curves. Successive floors of the building don’t necessarily line up neatly with one another, but instead the whole building has an undulation like the gently rolling hills of the great plains. Some walls are stucco and some are made of flag stone or brick. The curves and variety of forms all combine to say, “this is not an institution.”

This all brings me to Goshen hospital. I visited my dad there as he was recovering from surgery. It appears that some attempt was made to achieve an aesthetic similar to the Native American Museum with Goshen Hospital, or at least parts of it. So the main entry area is a swoops and curves, the walls are of rock in one place and different materials in others. That threw me a little. I think it was a remodeled entry, because once I got back toward the elevators it was back to straight halls.

What really threw me was the patient rooms. Typically there is a square area with a nurses station. Instead the nurses station was in the center of a . . . well I think the idea was that it would be a circle, but all the walls were straight. It was sort of like the Pentagon, but with more like ten sides. A decagon? As you can imagine, the center of a circle or decagon is smaller than the outside (my apologies to all you geometry experts for the way I worded that). With the patient rooms on the perimeter of this decagon, each patient room was roughly wedge shaped. Like a slice of pie.

Pie sounds really good right now, but walking into that room I felt like a had just entered Picasso. So not only am I emotionally charged from visiting my father who is recovering from surgery, but my conceptual brain is working in over drive trying to get the wall of the room to straighten into a rectangle shape. It was all I could do to not start rocking back and forth. I really wanted to stand in a quiet corner, but there weren’t any.

Corners are comforting because they are distinct and strong and fixed. Corners don’t breath in and out, or shift and shimmer. This building had no quiet corners that I could stand in. Instead the walls in the patient rooms drifted out, the hall outside drunkenly careened in dizzy circles, and the entry of the hospital was trying desperately to be the American prairie.

That really freaked me out.

Aug 24, 2008

Bite Marks Are Bad (in food that is)

I had two pieces of gluten free banana bread this morning for breakfast. My wife makes it now and then. This morning I noticed, again, that I don't like the round bite marks left in the previously rectangular bread and feel compelled to bite the tips off so that the bread is returned to its roughly rectangular shape.

I'm the same way with a sandwich (don't get many of them these days) or any square food item. The bite mark seems chaotic and disorderly.

I can only guess that there is a part of the brain that identifies the general shape and properties of a piece of bread as being rectangular or square and another part of the brain that assigns meaning to the bite mark. There are probably still other sections that develop texture, color, etc. All these elements a some how combined by another part of the brain and then forwarded to the frontal lobe so that it can decide what I think "about" it.

In a neurotypical brain, a bite mark in food would usually mean nothing unless you hadn't started eating your food yet. Then it would be a problem, especially if the waiter just set it down in front of you supposedly fresh from the kitchen. Then the executive function of your brain would raise an alarm that some one else had taken a bite out of your food, and would set off a cascade of other reactions.

So, I think it goes back to the whole sensory integration. I'm guessing that because those of us in the Autism spectrum have a deficit when it comes to integration, that the something isn't getting combined and forwarded correctly to the decision making part of the brain. So, while that bite mark isn't alarming, it is vaguely disquieting. I even out the edges and it feels right again (of course then I feel just a little neurotic).

Perhaps the message that the bite mark belongs to me is lost in processing. I have a memory of biting the bread and eating it, yet the perhaps the visual image of the bite mark has not been integrated with the other sensory and cognitive memories of biting and eating. So, I know it's my bite mark, but there is a missing "green flag" and it makes me feel a bit uneasy.

Just some guessing based on what little I've read about brain function.


Aug 8, 2008

Why Isn't THAT Funny?

I was sitting in a staff meeting at work and one of my colleagues announced the new corporate IT policy that your laptop computer would follow you where ever you go. It used to be that if you changed departments you had to leave you computer with the other department and got a new computer in the next department. Now the computer transfers with you.

But when he said, "Your computer follows you wherever you go, I pictured this little computer floating along just behined my shoulder. At first it's convenint, but then it gets on my nerves because it's always there. So, I laughed and said, "It sounds like some kind of corporate drug trip." No one laughed.

But later when another guy was talking about something mundaine having to do with the family cat, everyone burst out laughing. What is it with humor and neurotypicals. They get a bigger charge out of laughing at each others mundain stuff, but can't laugh at the odd or nonsequeter.

I still don't understand neurotypicals. They don't get edgy funny stuff.