My first niece Madelyn arrived a week ago, and while I've not yet been able to see her in person, and won't even try until the pandemic is over, by which time she may be graduating college, here are some pictures that I didn't take. I'm not above exploiting cute animals to promote my blog.
My sister wants people to know that she didn't use any painkillers because she's a strong independent woman who don't need no drugs. I guess that's her business. If I ever have a baby, I'm going C-section all the way whether I "need" it or not.
Frankly, I would be embarrassed to introduce a baby to the world right now. I'd be like "Yes, sweetie, I'm afraid this really is the best we have to offer, but on the bright side, Jesus will probably come and burn it all during your lifetime." Even so, here's the traditional song of baby-welcoming. It's the most I can do.
Auralnauts - Baby Time
I watched a clip from "Cuties" the other day to see what all the fuss is about. It made me feel like I should be in jail. I am well aware of the director's stated purpose for creating this movie, but I don't believe that any amount of context could possibly justify the existence of the footage I saw. If sexualization of 11-year-old girls is such a big problem (which I don't doubt), then surely the director could have achieved her desired shock and outrage by creating a documentary about the sexualization of 11-year-old girls that already existed, instead of sexualizing 11-year-old girls to prove that sexualizing 11-year-old girls is wrong. When all is said and done, regardless of the intentions behind it, she created something for pedophiles to jack off to and I'm baffled that it was legal. I'm baffled that a cameraperson can zoom in on the rear end of a twerking 11-year-old girl for any reason and not go to jail.
This week the university brought some completely unnecessary extra stress into my life by trying to make me pay $8,300.64 instead of the $595.34 that I actually owed. Somehow they forgot that I've been a Utah resident since 2012 - a fact they should be well aware of since I did my bachelor's degree here under the same ID number I have now, not to mention they never bothered to ask - and charged me $10,787.48 non-resident tuition instead of the $3,082.18 resident tuition that's covered by my graduate instructor tuition award. I lost considerable sleep over this which rendered me mentally incapable of doing almost any homework on Friday, and didn't get so much as an apology for their attempt to swindle me, and the only reason I didn't tell them to get bent is that I don't want to jeopardize my employment. But I still showed them. They didn't say sorry for making the mistake so I didn't say thank you for fixing it.
All this sleep deprivation I've been experiencing since late August for no legitimate reason just feels so gratuitous. It feels like God is saying, "Graduate school is too easy for you, so I'll make up some extra crap to make sure you can't enjoy it."
On the plus side, my neighbors' dog no longer wakes me up because they seem to have gotten rid of him. He was always out in their fenced backyard, obscured from view, and when I moved in over a year ago he barked every freaking time anyone whatsoever walked past the fence, because apparently he hadn't gotten used to the existence of this apartment complex that's been here at least since the eighties. One night he was barking while I tried to sleep, and I yelled at him a few times to shut up, and he didn't, so I went outside to throw rocks at him. But before I could find any rocks, he shut up. And after that night, instead of barking at passersby he just tried to jump the fence. He still barked at occasional random intervals but if it continued for more than five seconds I yelled at him to shut up and he did. I held no personal ill will against him. I reserved that for his owners, who never lifted a finger to prevent him from being a nuisance to the entire block. Until they recently got rid of him. I don't know why the change, but it may have something to do with this note I left a couple weeks ago.
I wasn't going to sign it "your very tired and pissed off neighbor" but I had extra space and wanted to use it wisely. And I'm glad they believed my bluff about the police. The only reason I would contact the Logan police would be to tell them to go choke on a cactus, but I wasn't sure about the legality of threatening to break the dog's neck.
The girls next door - that is to say, in this apartment complex, on the opposite side from the house where the jerks with the dog live - continue to be loud, but last Sunday they tried to make it up by dropping off zuchinni bread and a card.
Following the example of their predecessors, of course I told the police to tell them to never be nice to me again. (That joke only works if you know what I'm referring to and forgot that I just said the only reason I would contact the Logan police would be to tell them to go choke on a cactus.) Seriously though, I took them up on their offer to party the next day when I had to wait two hours for my laptop to update, but they were busy doing homework and only had time for a game of Uno. I felt very misled. I came over again on Friday because the loud one was screaming so much that I had to make sure she wasn't being murdered. She was just getting too worked up over a game of Sorry. Whatever her quirks, though, at least she probably isn't a delusional pathological liar like one of her predecessors I could mention.
Although I'm done with dating for the foreseeable ever, pandemic or no pandemic, that didn't stop someone in Uganda from trying to play matchmaker.
I appreciate the sentiment, really. There's just a slight cultural difference at play here, like the time he found the profile of some college student in Georgia, decided he was in love with her, and wanted me to add her and set her up with him. I'm not one to assert that my culture is "the right way" to do things, but that just wouldn't have worked. So I just stall and change the subject when these things come up.
I tried not to worry much about teaching my class on Friday, since worrying doesn't help anything, and it was bound to get better eventually since this is what God told me to do for a living, and compared to an average day at the call center where I once worked, the most awful teaching experience would be like getting a full-body massage from Gal Gadot as the sun sets on the shore of Bora Bora, Tahiti. Incidentally, one of the managers and cofounders of that call center, who has since sold it, is now one of my classmates. He has no idea who I am because he spent most of his time in an office and had employees quitting every week. Anyway, teaching my class on Friday went much better, even though Zoom decided for inexplicable reasons to automatically mute me, the host, when I ended the breakout groups, and I didn't notice for at least three minutes. My students weren't answering my questions, so I couldn't tell the difference.
My luck has run out and I have two new roommates. I should only have one new roommate but they got another bed and moved in together. I haven't had a roommate since my old one got married and moved out in December, and then the guy who bought the contract for summer moved home instead when the you-know-what broke out, so I've been alone and it's been great. I've been so lonely that I wanted to die but I've never been so lonely that I wished I had a roommate when I didn't have a roommate. I can't complain too much about these guys, other than the usual unwelcome inconveniences of sharing my home with other humans and my exponentially increased chance of getting the you-know-what. When they're not on campus, they spend the majority of the time in their room playing computer games, and when I'm not on campus, I spend the majority of the time in the living room with the kitchen door closed so I can't hear them talking. After avoiding my previous roommate as much as possible, this time I made an effort to introduce myself and get to know them when they moved in, but they don't seem very talkative either so we don't talk much and that's fine with me.
Some new girls also moved in next door. I was quite determined this time not to meet them or talk to them, ever. They came over and introduced themselves.
Actually, one of them claims to be related to the owners of the place, and has taken great interest in reporting to them her discoveries that Logan Preferred Property Management has refused to provide wi-fi like it's supposed, provide two couches in each apartment like it's supposed to, and fix the washing machine like it's supposed to. So that's exciting and gives me a bit of schadenfreude. These girls are much louder than the previous ones, and almost every day I hear them yelling, singing, and/or laughing hysterically like teenagers. You would think I would find this annoying. I would think I would find this annoying. But somehow, it just amuses me. And they know they're loud and they're self-conscious and apologetic about it but they keep doing it and that amuses me too. I find it much less annoying than being able to hear my roommates talk to each other through their bedroom door. I have a double standard and I'm not proud of myself.
My ward boundaries were drastically altered three weeks or so ago, landing me and most of the Logan YSA 46th Ward in the Logan YSA 19th Ward instead. It was a godsend because I could no longer be temple worthy as a member of the Logan YSA 46th Ward. Now, instead of experiencing painful personal growth by learning how to sustain the two out of three bishopric members that I no longer like, respect, or trust, I just have a new bishopric and I really appreciate that. I actually go to my assigned ward now. Despite scores of new membership records being moved in over the last three weeks, the Logan YSA 19th Ward isn't getting larger, and today the bishop mentioned that several people were out sick. I'm sure that has nothing to do with at least thirty of them cramming into a ward member's living room with no masks for a "Come Follow Me" lesson (which I wouldn't know about because I didn't show up, take one look and flee). If it did, they would of course deserve whatever happens to them.
The police in Salt Lake City recently shot a thirteen-year-old autistic boy after his mother called them to help him with a mental health crisis. He survived but will probably have medical complications for the rest of his life, not to mention a buttload of trauma. Not to victim-blame or anything - nobody is to blame here but the officer(s) who pulled the trigger and would, in a civilized country, already be behind bars or at least hanging from a lamppost - but she should have called almost anyone else. Almost anyone who isn't a police officer could come up with a better strategy for helping a mentally ill or disabled person than "Yell at him, and then shoot him several times when he doesn't comply within two seconds." And this is why people want to defund the police and stop sending them to deal with situations that they have less than zero qualifications to deal with. But sure, let's pretend it's a communist conspiracy.
On a Facebook post discussing this atrocity and the prospect of organizing a protest, I yet again mentioned my own experience with the brainless bully sent by the Logan City Police Department, as an unnecessary second witness of law enforcement incompetence and the need to hold them accountable for their actions. Someone asked if I would be willing to do an interview with Utah Public Radio, and that terrified me but I said sure, and she told me to email this person, and I did, and I warned this person that telling my story in a radio segment of less than two minutes would require us to be very sparse on detail but I'll still give it a shot, and she said she wants to go for it, and I suggested a time and she didn't respond, and that was four days ago so it looks like she's forgotten about me and maybe that won't go anywhere. If it does of course I'll post about it here, though I won't likely listen to it myself because I hate my voice.
“If we cannot respond, as a police agency, to a 13-year-old child who has autism, without shooting him, I don’t know if we should be in this business.” - Chris Burbank, former Salt Lake Police Chief
"No shit." - Chris Nicholson, current 27-year-old child who has autism
Monday, my first day of teaching, I showed up in my reserved classroom and set up Zoom forty-five minutes early just to be safe. As my students trickled in I was gratified to know that the link worked. However, I didn't think to test the audio. I thought I could just talk at the computer like I talked at my laptop all week during Orientation, because nobody told me I had to talk into this little radio thing. So the first seven minutes of class were wasted on me trying to figure that out as my students in the chat helpfully explained that there's a little microphone icon in the corner, then giving up and calling IT. The class went well other than that and I learned that disasters are okay. I wasn't very nervous going into it anyway, since all we had to do was get to know each other and discuss the syllabus, but that's actually a bad thing because Beth said that even after all her time as a teacher, if she didn't feel like throwing up before her first class of the semester, she would know something was wrong. So something was wrong.
Throughout the week, I corresponded via email or Canvas with some students who had various questions or concerns. The respect they showed me was so heartwarming. A couple called me "Professor Nicholson", which isn't technically accurate but feels really good so I hope they don't stop. I'm so used to feeling marginalized and invisible - for example, my email to the Logan City Police Department a few weeks ago went completely ignored because the recipients didn't and don't see me as an actual person who deserves to be acknowledged in any way - and I'm not the type to demand respect, and unlike a police officer, I'm not authorized to shoot people for refusing to kiss my butt, so the voluntarily outpouring of good will from these students who place a scary amount of faith in my qualifications to teach them composition is such a breath of proverbial fresh air. I will do my best to be worthy of it.
Friday, my second day of teaching, things once again got off to a rocky start when I failed to elicit the desired discussion from my students. Both my teaching style and USU English courses in general are very dependent on discussion. I don't have the capacity to just get up there and lecture for fifty minutes even if I wanted to. Asking a question and just having twenty muted microphones stare back at me was a very unnerving experience, and it repeated a few times. So I whizzed through the main class "discussion" and got right to the breakout groups. I had scientifically calculated the groups to ensure that none of them were majority male, but some of my students ruined that by being absent, so I had to make them from scratch and I think next time I'll just randomize them. I put the discussion questions for the groups in the chat. This worked fine every time Beth did it during Orientation, but as I rotated between the groups I discovered that none of them had received the message, so that was annoying.
Nonetheless, the groups had their desired effect of getting people to relax and open up more. Maybe too much. In one, I arrived just in time to hear a student opine, "I feel like he was just like 'Get into groups' because he doesn't have an actual lesson plan." I don't know at what point she noticed me, since her camera was off, but another student noticed immediately and laughed in that shocked "Oh my gosh" kind of way and had to turn her camera off. Basically it was something out of a movie. I pretended nothing had happened and I hadn't just been stabbed in the heart. I realized after a while that I shouldn't take it personally because the use of breakout groups was actually something recommended and modeled over and over in Orientation and the practicum, and it worked, so this student just didn't know what she was talking about. After we returned to the main group, the discussion went a bit more smoothly than before. I may have grilled one student a little too much about her career ambitions because I was just so enthusiastic about her actually speaking.
I wouldn't count that class among even the top fifty worst experiences of my life, but when I ate lunch afterward I got the PTSD shivers that have only happened to me once before. And though it was far too late to quit, I considered quitting anyway. I'd have to fake my own death or something but I considered it. I told Beth and she was very sympathetic and said she had a similar experience her first semester with a student who assumed she didn't know what she was doing when she put them into groups, so that comforted me. And it was still better than teaching elementary or middle school students.
On a more lighthearted note, here's an excerpt from the Zoom chat in our practicum when Beth had some technical difficulties.
Me: Is Beth frozen for everyone or just me?
Hannah: She’s frozen for me
Kelsie: She froze.
Steven: She's froze.
Greyson: me too
Madeline: Me too
Elle: Yup Beth is frozen for me too.
Hannah: NOOO Beth come back!
[Literally ten minutes later]
Hannah: Uh Oh.
Alex: bye beth
Greyson: She’s frozen for everybody right
Steven: Frozen II
Kylie: lol she is for me
Me: I guess we should just let it go
Hannah: NOOOO Christopher beat me to the joke
Elle: You guys are the best lol
Alex: can she see the chat when she comes back?
Me: And apparently I'm the host now for some reason?
Mia: I am so impressed by the amount of dad jokes in this chat.
Hannah: Now you’re in charge
Hannah: Teach us something
Elle: Christopher go! Teach!
Me: The area of a circle is pi r squared
Me: Oops, wrong class
Alex: get outta here
Hannah: Now I have useless math equation songs running through my head from high school
Kelsie: I love that we’re all interacting in the chat and no one has unmuted themselves.
Kylie: classic introvert English people.
Alex: speaking out loud is for chumps.
Me: If we speak out loud too much we might freeze
Madeline: Does that mean I'm next?
Alex: I hope not.
Alex: we should have told Beth to join on her phone if she can't connect to her computer
Me: For tonight's homework, read all of Shakespeare's plays
Alex: oh she's back
Hannah: Yuck, don’t make Christopher the host again… ;)
After spending twenty-nine hours in one week with these people during orientation, amounting to more social interaction than I had all year up to that point, I feel like we're all best friends forever. Except Steven doesn't seem to like me anymore. He broadcasts from his little office down the hall from mine, and sometimes during breaks or after class we emerge at the same time, and one time during Orientation he said "How has your day been?" and we chatted as we walked around the Quad for ten minutes, but since then he just stares at me when I nod or say hi. I guess I said something wrong. I'm good at that.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.