Category: football


Hi!  It’s been a while since I’ve posted here.  There are some new things going on, though.

Probably the biggest is that I have a new part-time job!  I’m editing articles for an online physics journal.  Like my previous job reviewing English papers, it’s work I can do from home, but unlike it, I find it really interesting rather than stressful, so I have been able to get more work done.

I’m mostly doing copyediting for consistency in things like spelling, punctuation, and style of the reference list.  It definitely helps to have some familiarity with physics so that I can recognize the terminology, but thankfully I don’t need to understand everything the writers are talking about, because it’s really advanced stuff!

My coworkers/bosses have been really patient and helpful with all of the questions I have asked about specific grammar and style rules.  (I always have a lot of questions.)  So it’s not full-time employment yet, but I think it’s a step in the right direction, and I’m thankful for that!

I have also been continuing to try to develop my social skills; there is a local young adults Bible study that I’ve started going to.  It’s frustrating to me how little information I retain from talking to people, but I think I am beginning to remember a few names.

Other things that have kept me busy are watching our energetic dogs and following the crazy football season that’s been going on.

I have often thought about things I’d like to post about on this blog, but sadly most of those things fade from my memory when I don’t have time to write (or more often, the words to put them into).  I’d like to get to writing again, and I have at least one idea of something new to try for the video game posts, but we’ll see about that.  It seems that in order to write more, I need to think less, and the results are not always good if I do that.

Anyway, thanks for visiting, readers!

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In my last post, I talked about some of the things about being an “Aspie” that can be depressing.  In this one, I want to talk about one of the things that’s awesome about it– and that is the enjoyment I get out of doing something related to my “special interest.”

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on writing some code in Javascript for my football Web site that will generate a graphical record of every drive in a football game from a set of numbers and names.

For example, the code will create this image…

… if you enter this data:

[[“kick”, 30, “S.Hauschka”], “pit”, 14, “G.Russell”, 34, 84, 7, “3:38”, [“FG”, 34, “good”, “J.Reed”]]

The image represents a kickoff from the Baltimore 30 to the Pittsburgh 14, returned to the Pittsburgh 34.  Pittsburgh drives 50 yards in 7 plays to the Baltimore 16 using 3:38 on the game clock.  Finally, Pittsburgh tries a 34-yard field goal, which is good.

All of the data comes from the list of numbers and names.  (In case you’re wondering, the player names would show up in info boxes when you move your mouse pointer over one of the lines in the image; I didn’t demonstrate that in this example.)

There are typically 25-35 drives in a football game.  If I tried to make images like the one above manually, I could do it, but it would take me days to create the image for a single game, and I’d never be able to keep up with all the games I’d like to cover for my site.  But if I can use Javascript to generate the image automatically, all I will need are the numbers and names.
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I’m actually not sure if “obsessiveness” is the best word for this category, but I couldn’t come up with a better word that encompassed everything mentioned by the second criterion in the DSM-IV for Asperger’s syndrome:

Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

Another “multiple choice” criterion.  The manual lists four traits that fall under this category:

1.  Encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus.

I was reading through this information with my Mom the other day, and I told her that while this trait does describe me, I wasn’t sure that I was that unusual in having specific “special interests”– everyone is fascinated by different things from a very young age; that’s one thing that makes people so interesting.

Then she reminded me that she didn’t think most people could name their 70 favorite video games.  I had to admit– that probably does indicate an abnormal intensity and focus in that interest!  ; )  As does my ranking of all 176 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation from best to worst.

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If you ever get into a discussion with me about sports, it probably won’t take you long to learn that I am an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan.  I was born in the Steel City, and my family have been Pittsburgh fans going back two generations.

So maybe you can imagine my reaction when a couple of weeks ago I got an e-mail from the Steelers’ long-time rival, the Cleveland Browns, that began “Dear Browns Fan,” asking me if I would answer a fan satisfaction survey.  How had they come to the conclusion that I was a Browns fan?  A note at the end of the e-mail explained:

You have received this email because you have identified yourself to be a Browns fan or have demonstrated an affinity for the Club through a purchase or purchases you have made through the NFL or one of the NFL’s participating business partners.

I realized what had happened.  In addition to being a Steelers fan, I also enjoy learning about pro football history in general, particularly the history of all four of the teams in the Steelers’ division.  (Their stories are interconnected in some interesting ways.)  A while ago, I had bought a book from Amazon.com about the great Cleveland Browns teams of the late 1940s and early 1950s, who played in ten consecutive league championship games, winning 6 of them.  It was a good book, even though I don’t agree with its conclusion that those Browns were the greatest team of all time– the 1970s Steelers–of course– hold that honor, in my opinion.  ; )

The Browns’ e-mail illustrates one of the difficulties of defining something that is internal (team allegiance) by a set of outward characteristics (book purchases)– while it seems reasonable to assume that the majority of people who bought that book are Browns fans, it’s not true in every case.  But since the Browns didn’t have a chance to ask me if I was really a fan before they sent the e-mail, they made the best guess they could.

I think that’s similar in some ways to the task of defining something like Asperger’s.  It requires working backwards.  At first, all you have to go by are the outward characteristics, like the things that Hans Asperger noticed about some of the children he saw as a pediatrician.  You begin writing down character traits that go together, that form a pattern– a “syndrome,” and watch for those in other people.  The more people you see, the more data you gather, the more information you have, and you can try to form theories about what cognitive differences can explain these characteristics, and you can try to look for physical differences in the brain that may explain the source of these differences in thinking.

But at the same time, you also find that the set of characteristics you wrote down isn’t exactly right– maybe you left something out, maybe you included something that doesn’t belong, or maybe you misinterpreted the reason that two characteristics seem to go along with each other.  So you have to be open to the possibility that the definition of the syndrome itself will change the more you learn about it.  Science is “messy” like that.

I wrote all of that stuff because I wanted to find a structure that would help me talk more specifically about the traits of Asperger’s syndrome, and for that I’ve decided to use the diagnostic criteria given in the 4th (and current) edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the DSM-IV for short.  The DSM-IV is widely used in the United States, and understandably, a lot of argument goes on about it every time it’s revised.

The 4th edition was published in 1994, and it was the first edition to attempt to provide diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s syndrome– it uses six such traits to define Asperger’s.  (Note that it doesn’t try to explain why these traits are associated with Asperger’s, or what causes Asperger’s, or what people with Asperger’s should do/not do.  These questions are all outside its scope.  It’s merely trying to give a list of characteristics to look for.)

Finally, I want to say that I’m not any sort of doctor, and I have never studied psychiatry, so please don’t treat me as an expert!  The only “Aspie” I’m an expert on is myself, and I wanted to share my observations about how I think some of the traits in the definition fit me, and how others don’t, and some pondering over why that might be.  There was a period before I was diagnosed when everything I read about Asperger’s seemed to make me change my mind about whether I fit the description or not, and even now there are times that I feel unsure.

Well, I originally meant to actually get to some of the criteria in this post, but instead I got all of that introductory disclaimer stuff out of the way.  So, a partial success!  More posts later!