Things Normies Do That Confuse Autistic People

Notice: pictures used in my blog are not my own unless I say they are. Credit goes to their owners.

I recognize that this goes both ways. Chances are, there are plenty of things autistic people do that make you scratch your head. But that’s what gets all the attention. Today, I’m going to be talking about things that other people do that confuse autistics. It makes sense in the minds of people doing them, but infuriates us.

Forcing us to smile. 

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The world isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Our faces would tire if we had to smile all the time. Just let the smiles come naturally, okay? I know today’s world is obsessed with fitness, but a few minutes of exercising your facial muscles won’t burn that many calories. Aside from that, people can spot a fake smile from a mile away. And fake smiles are cheesy. If seeing someone else smile is that important to you, why not be nice to us or tell us a joke?

Eye contact. 

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I don’t need to look at your eyes to listen to you, and most autists aren’t crazy about eye contact. Also, most animals consider eye contact a sign of aggression. That is, except most humans, who consider NOT making eye contact a sign of aggression.

Feeding anxiety, and then getting mad at us for being anxious. Or telling us to “calm down.” 

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I know autism and anxiety are two different animals, but anxiety is a common problem that comes with the autism package deal. Telling someone to “calm down” does not calm down a person who is having anxiety. In fact, it does the opposite. If you’re faced with someone having an anxiety or panic attack, don’t give them commands or invalidate how they feel. Instead, try to help the person by figuring out their triggers, and what calms them down. And here’s another thing that frequently happens with anxious people…

Person with anxiety: *makes a small mistake*

Person without anxiety: Curse your treacherous soul! You and all of your posterity shall suffer for this evil misdemeanor! I shall rip your heart out, sacrifice it to God to make up for your terrible sin, and burn the site where I did it! And then I’ll use a picture of you and your story, so that all children know not to do what you’ve done!

Person with anxiety: *apologizes profusely*

Person without anxiety: Jeez, don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. Why do you have to make a big deal out of everything?

On that same note…

Overreacting to a small social faux pas. 

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All I have to do is shift eye contact, or forget to bless someone when they sneeze, and then that person has a blood grudge against me for the rest of my life. Some people will scream and explode on you for the tiniest things, acting as if you keyed their car, burned down their house, and drank a cup full of orphans’ tears. It doesn’t take much to set off some people, but the next time you’re working with someone who’s autistic, remember: accidentally making a personal comment is NOT on par with bloody murder.

Buying into pseudoscience. 

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Some people look for quick fixes, probably because they get tired of “problem” behaviors in autistic children. The fact is, an exotic plant that grows in the Himalayas, broken into powder and condensed into a pill at your local health store, isn’t going to help your kid’s autism. Also, vaccines absolutely do NOT cause autism. However, that is not all I have to say on this subject. Even if vaccines did cause autism, is the idea of an autistic child such a horrible possibility that you’d rather your kid die of a preventable disease than end up autistic? I think not.

Double standards. 

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Oh, boy. Alright, here we go. There are so many double standards in place for autistic people. A “normal” kid interested in history has an interest. An autistic kid with an interest in history has an obsession. Foot tapping is perfectly acceptable, but stimming with your hands? No, ma’am, that’s just weird; what kind of uncivilized Neanderthal would ever do such a thing in public? NT kids are told to be themselves, while autistics are trained to act “normal.” Now, if you brought a wolf from the wild into your house, you wouldn’t expect it to act like a dog, would you? It’s a wolf, not a dog that needs training. When the “wolf” parts come out, and you punish the wolf for not being dog-like anymore, all you end up with is a wolf who thinks that he’s a bad dog. It works the same way with autistic children.

Using “Autistic” as an insult. 

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I’m sorry, but if you’ve ever done this, you are a horrible person and I want nothing to do with you. Burn in hell.

Saying, “You don’t look autistic.” 

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Every time someone says this, I 1) would kick that person in the balls/give them a titty twister if it wouldn’t send me in jail, and 2) am tempted to say, “You don’t look like an airheaded, bigoted twat, and yet here we are” if it wouldn’t get me punched in the face.

If you do any of these things, for the love of God, stop. Then, we can be friends. 🙂

I have created my very own autism network!

I am proud to announce the creation of HUMAN (Help, Understanding, and Mediation Autism Network.) It allows autists to help themselves and others, learn to understand themselves better, and mediate the relationship between themselves and the world, through a network created for autistics, by an autistic. The network includes a discussion forum, the option to upload videos, and the options to chat in private and/or send messages to other members. If you know someone who is autistic, this could be a great website for them.

The website can be found at humanautismnetwork.yooco.org. The Facebook page for it can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/humanautismnetwork/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

The website still seems a bit watered down, because at the moment, I have created it for free. Eventually, I may upgrade the website once I have more money.

Regarding Autism and Self-Directed Ableism

Disclaimer: Pictures on my blog are never my own unless I claim credit for them. I am saying this because I have seen other people giving me credit for pictures that aren’t mine.

A while ago, I found an article from the BBC about self-directed homophobia. Let me digress here and say that, because I am not gay, it may be unfair to compare my experience to that of someone who is. I do, however, think that homophobia isn’t the only form of bigotry that a person can face from both others and self. This brings me to my topic for this month, which is, of course, self-directed ableism in autistic individuals.

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The picture above, from fullmetalheart.com, gives what I believe is a mostly adequate definition of ableism. I do, however, think that it only covers external ableism, which is the form of ableism that gets more attention. While external ableism, or hateful attitudes toward a person for having a disability by others who aren’t disabled, is a serious issue that needs to be eradicated, there is another form of ableism that is, in my opinion, more subtle and dangerous. External ableism is definitely a playing factor in the development of self-directed ableism in autistic individuals. From the moment of their diagnosis, autistic people are labelled as “retarded,” “stupid,” “nerdy,” or “weird.” Special education children, or any child who is different, is an obvious target for bullies, and all schools are rife with bullies. Teachers and relatives do things that usually stem from having good intentions, but often cause problems or exacerbate ones that exist. Autistic children are told that their meltdowns are annoying and reprimanded for being “naughty,” or labelled as “problem children.” There is constant talk regarding autism about all the things that autistic people can’t do. Autistic children are compared to their neurotypical peers and told that they’ll never be able to live complete lives or do many things that other people can; they are told that they will always fall short. They are given weird looks if they stim or have meltdowns in public. Teachers try to suppress stimming, either because they think it’s distracting to the other kids, or simply because they think it looks weird. As I said before, autistic children are targets for bullies, and while American public schools like to pretend that they don’t tolerate bullying, they usually give bullies a slap on the wrist at most. Bullying victims are punished in public schools far more than the bullies will ever be punished.

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Even as adults, autistic people continue to face ableism. There is a common myth perpetrated even by psychology “experts,” stating that autistics have little to no empathy. We are told that we have a crippling disease that limits us greatly and needs to be cured. It is difficult for autistics to get jobs, in part because some employers either can’t be bothered to make accommodations, or they  assume that an autistic employee is going to be lacking in required skills. This is in spite of discrimination laws that work about as well as trying to train a grasshopper to chase wolves.

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Even if it is not true that autistic people don’t have the capabilities of everyone else, or that they don’t have empathy, even those of us who are autistic start to believe these lies when we hear them over and over again. I myself have fallen victim of this dangerous pattern of thinking. For example, there is another myth that autistic people are anti-social. I bloom around the right people and tend to get along with people quite well. In spite of this, I assumed for many years that I had poor social skills, just because I’m autistic. It is true that autistic people, especially children, may have social difficulties, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t learn. I once thought, “I have autism; therefore, I have weak social skills.” Nonetheless, the connection here is not as straightforward as it may seem. I once shied away from working at an organization for which I wanted to volunteer. It was a charity organization for children, and I wanted to participate in it, but decided not to, because I thought, “My autism and social handicaps mean that I’ll have trouble working with the children.” Similarly, I only recently became interested in driving. I have been taking a bus service to college due to road anxiety, mixed with the mentality of, “I’ll never be able to drive. I’m too easily distracted, too quick to panic, too…autistic. I’d land myself in the ER before I’m even fully backed out of the driveway.” Only recently has it occurred to me that driving isn’t a high apple on a 20-foot-tree, out of the reach of proverbial arms that are stumpy from autism. Both literally and metaphorically, my arms are the same length as those of anyone else. As a teenager, I seriously started to question if I was even human. Around the time I was fourteen, I started suspecting that I might be some sort of defective cyborg or alien abomination. It took me a long time to fully accept myself.

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I am not the only person who has fallen into the trap of self-directed ableism. Many of my friends who are autistic have long-held tenets that there are certain things that they can just never do, simply because they are autistic. Some of my friends who are autistic don’t drive, for similar reasons that I only recently started studying Driver’s Ed in hopes of validating my permit. Another one of my friends once said that he wanted to be sterilized because he’s autistic. Still another friend once told me that he doesn’t believe he’ll ever be able to live independently, nor does he think he can have any job that isn’t menial labor, such as “stocking shelves.” The friend who told me this happens to be one of the smartest people I know–this came from a psychology student, as well as someone with whom I like to discuss and debate philosophical and religious ideas, someone who plans to study to be an Addictions Counselor, and someone who thinks that independent living is out of his reach, for no other reason than because he has autism.

It isn’t easy to break out of these toxic thought patterns, especially if they start at a young age. Self-directed ableism is easier to prevent than it is to cure. Fortunately, it is possible for autistic people to overcome self-directed ableism. If you are a relative of an autistic child, or if you’re working at an institution (ie a hospital or a school) where there is an autistic child, the first thing you should do is educate yourself about autism. It’s good to be discriminatory in what sources you use, because even some psychologists, and organizations such as Autism $peaks, perpetuate many of the harmful myths about autism. If you can, talk to autistic adults. We’re always happy to answer whatever questions you may have about autism, so that you can understand it better and know how to work with people who are autistic. ASAN, or Autistic Self Advocacy Network, is a good place to start.

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I have many other posts on this blog about autism. Instead of comparing autistic people to others and telling them what they can and cannot do, or treating them like they can’t live wholesome lives, encourage them. Allow them to stim, as long as they aren’t causing any property or bodily harm. Sit through their meltdowns (yes, I know they’re annoying) but don’t punish them. Get to know each individual, and remember that no two autistic people are alike. What worked for your nephew who’s autistic may not work for a student in your classroom. Figure out the person’s triggers, and watch their behavior for any clues or warnings that they are distressed. If the person needs accommodations, let them have accommodations. Don’t be tolerant of bullying. Be willing to give autistic people a chance–they just might surprise you. If you’re in a supermarket and you see a child flapping her hands or hollering, crying, and kicking, don’t stare. Preventing self-directed ableism starts with relatives, school staff, or anyone else around an autistic person as they come of age.

If you are autistic and have fallen victim to self-directed ableism, the first thing to keep in mind is to not be ashamed of yourself. This is an all-too-common phenomenon that afflicts many, if not most, autistic people. It is a good idea to see a therapist, preferably one who has experience with autistic patients. A therapist will help you with any other issues you may have, such as anxiety or post-traumatic stress. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is especially helpful, because it will point out any cognitive distortions you may have, allow you to see things from a fresh perspective, and give you a chance to develop a new, more positive mindset. Many of the old beliefs that one may still have, such as those connected to self-directed ableism, can be helped by CBT. Keep in mind that this method requires your active participation, and CBT is a gradual process, meaning that you will relapse on some days. Don’t get mad at yourself. It’s part of the process of recovery, and your issue won’t go away overnight. Another method that may help with self-directed ableism is to attempt something that you think you can’t do. This one might be somewhat risky, because if you have trouble, it may only serve to affirm your beliefs of inadequacy. The best way to deal with this issue is to remind yourself that other people who are autistic are probably able to do it, and we all have our talents. For instance, if you try drawing but find that you aren’t that into art, remember that there are lots of autistics who are talented artists, so if you have trouble, it’s not because of your autism. If you assume that you’re non-empathetic just because you have autism, try volunteering somewhere, and see how good it really feels to help others. That’s empathy in action. Dare to challenge the misconceptions about autism, especially the ones that you believe. Self-directed ableism is difficult to overcome, but if I can do it, so can you.

 

An Autistic Person Talks about the Anti-Vax Movement

Warning: Controversial opinions. If you are easily offended, you might want to sit this one out.

Disclaimer: Images on my blog are not my own, with exceptions of travel picture posts.

I have been meaning to write an article about this for some time, but put it off out of fear of backlash. Yesterday, I saw another article written by an autist regarding the Anti-Vax movement, and they don’t seem to be having issues, so I will write one with my own insight and experience. My name is Gina Andrews. I am 22 years old and training to be a veterinary technician. I’m also the Vice President of the Animal Care Club at my school, a volunteer at my local animal shelter, and an aspiring writer (hence, my blog.) I have a vast poetry collection and I’m currently working on a sci-fi novel. At first glance, there is nothing about me that seems abnormal; I look like any other college student in her early 20’s. However, I am not a typical woman. At four years old, I was diagnosed with autism; more specifically, with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is no longer recognized by the DSM, but the term “Asperger’s” continues to be used to describe people on the autism spectrum with a normal to high IQ.

First off, I want to clear the air and say that scientifically, there is no link between vaccines and autism. I have been vaccinated, but my autism is something I was born with. When I had my measles vaccine, the doctor did not accidentally suck out my soul with the syringe and turn me into a mere caricature of what a human should be. I did, however, have one serious side-effect from the vaccine. Can you guess what that side-effect is? (I’ll give you a hint: It’s NOT autism.)

No? Still no clue?

 

Okay. Give up? That side effect is that I never had measles, chicken pox, or polio. I am still alive past childhood and, according to my doctor, in excellent health. In spite of success cases like me, there are millions of people who refuse to vaccinate their kids, thanks to a fabricated study by Andrew Wakefield (notice how I deliberately omitted the “Doctor” title.) Several celebrities have jumped onto the anti-vax bandwagon, most famously Playboy human-in-a-lagomorph-costume Jenny McCarthy, along with Robert “you talkin’ to me” De Niro…

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And even the President of the United States.

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As a result of the anti-vax movement, we are beginning to see numerous outbreaks of preventable and potentially fatal diseases, and headlines like these:

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The MMR vaccine (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) is the shot that commonly has fingers pointed at it for causing autism. As a consequence, parents refuse to give it to their kids, and this causes a comeback of a disease that can be lethal. This is extended to other vaccines, causing outbreaks of diseases such as Diphtheria. Many of these diseases have serious complications. Measles, for instance, can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis, fever-induced seizures, and even myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle.) There is, unsurprisingly, a rise in deaths from diseases that were previously under control.

This video from Buzzfeed demonstrates a makeup artist and a model portraying how certain infectious, preventable diseases appear on the human body. The diseases include Hepatitis B (resulting in liver failure and subsequent jaundice-yellow pigment due to buildup of bilirubin in the blood) or the Black Plague (yes–that still exists, is potentially deadly, and can lead to gangrene) and the bloody cough associated with tuberculosis.

It’s worth noting that vaccines can come with potentially serious side effects, such as seizures and anaphylactic reactions, but these are rare enough that most pediatricians and immunologists agree that they are well worth the risk, because you’re less likely to experience a severe reaction to a vaccine than you are to suffer complications from the infections that they prevent. The anti-vax movement means well but is misguided, because the science here speaks for itself. This article from healthychildren.org explains in even more depth why vaccinations are a wise choice: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/immunizations/Pages/Weighing-the-Risks-and-Benefits.aspx

 

Another thing to keep in mind with regards to vaccines is herd immunity. Very young infants are unable to receive some vaccines, like the MMR shot. Some people are unable to receive certain types of vaccines, like pregnant women or people with specific immune disorders, including HIV. When healthy people receive vaccines, they are protecting not only themselves, but others. When fewer otherwise healthy people are infected, the immunocompromised and very young are less likely to contract the disease. This phenomenon, called “Herd Immunity,” is explained in a simple manner by this handy chart:

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You can see why the “vaccines cause autism” attitude is not only misleading, but dangerous. However, to people like me, it is also offensive. When you don’t vaccinate your child out of fear that he’ll get autism, you are saying, in the gentlest manner possible, “I’d rather have my child die an agonizing death from a preventable infection than have my kid end up like you.” By doing that, you are telling people like me that we have no right to exist in the world; that people like me are such a scourge to humanity that we don’t even deserve to live. You are telling me that I’d be better off ten feet under than out and about as I am. One may argue that I am splitting hairs and reading too much into it, but I know many other autistic people who have or are suffering from depression due to the ableism that exists in our society. I wouldn’t even have to go to school if I had a penny for every time I heard an autistic person say, “I wish I was normal,” “I hate my disability,” “I’m tired of being autistic,” etc. One of my closest friends, an autistic student a bit older than me, admitted that he doesn’t believe that he’ll ever be able to get any job outside of menial labor, even with a college degree, because of his autism. Even when I tell my friend that he has the potential, he doesn’t seem to believe me. In fact, if I had a penny for every time I heard/saw someone write this, I’d have my own private jet, complete with a 24 carat gold toilet seat encrusted with diamonds. At my age, I have learned to be comfortable in my own skin, at least for the most part. However, when I was a child, it was me saying, “I wish I was normal. I hate my disability. I’m tired of being autistic.”

Autistic people aren’t born hating themselves. Self-directed ableism is a learned behavior, one that is usually ingrained from an early age, and once you get into those patterns of self-loathing, it is hard to break them. It certainly doesn’t help that we have a whole community of people who think we’re so bad that it’s literally better to be in a hospital bed with diphtheria-induced myocarditis than to be running through the neighborhood with autism as your jogging partner. Although I’ve learned to be okay with who I am, I still find it hurtful that parents risk their kids becoming sick because they really, really would rather not be stuck with a kid like me.

But guess what? I’m autistic, and I’m alive. Every breath that I take, every beat of my heart, and every morsel of food that enters my mouth is an affront to anti-vaxxers. Your move, Jenny McCarthy.

Why I Hate Autism Awareness Month (and Love Autism Acceptance Month)

April is Autism Awareness Month. Alternatively, it’s Autism Acceptance Month. As an autistic person myself, I can’t stand Autism Awareness Month, and I know that many people on the spectrum agree with me. In lieu of that, I like to celebrate Autism Acceptance Month. “It’s just a difference in semantics,” one may argue, but I have my reasons, such as…

Everybody is aware of autism, but not everyone accepts it. 

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Let me be as straightforward as possible: Autism Awareness is not necessary. Everybody is aware of autism. There aren’t many people who haven’t heard of it. The problem is that there are way too many people who refuse to accept autistic people. By and large, when autistic people are brought into the equation, our society either ignores them or stigmatizes them. I think that it’s not enough to just acknowledge that autistic people exist; the focus should be on eliminating stigma and teaching others respect for autistic people.

The goddamn puzzle pieces.

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The puzzle piece is a commonly-used symbol for autism awareness, symbolizing the need to solve the “puzzle” of autism. Except that I’m not a puzzle. I’m a person. The puzzle piece is dehumanizing; it implies that autistic people are broken and need to be fixed.

LIUP. 

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“Light It Up Blue” is a campaign by Autism Speaks, which is just as it sounds: someone turns on a blue light to show their “solidarity” with autistic people (that is, with Autism $peaks.) As I said before, a light doesn’t have to be shone on autism. There are many problems with this organization: 1) They support eugenics to get rid of autistic people; basically, a pest control organization trying to get rid of something that isn’t a pest. They seem to not even see us as human beings with the right to exist. 2) They use the money donated more to line the pockets of the people in charge of the organization; very little money goes toward helping autistic people. 3) They released a documentary where a mother admitted that when her autistic daughter was diagnosed, she contemplated driving her off a bridge, and the only thing stopping her was was that her “normal” daughter was at home. She said this with the child in the room with her. 4) They don’t have a single autistic person on their board. Basically, we’re not allowed to represent ourselves.

Half the time, it’s all about the parents. 

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I get it. Parenting an autistic child is hard, but so is parenting any child. A lot of the time, autism anecdotes are sob stories about how hard life is for the parents. A child is having trouble getting along with others, gets bullied, has teachers who don’t like him, and live in a society that shuns him…and now Mommy and Daddy are whining about him behind his back about how hard life is for them. Sorry to burst your bubble, but parenting an autistic child doesn’t make you stronger or better than everyone else. By making the story about the parents, you are taking the focus away from helping autistic people cope in this world, making it more autism-friendly, and reducing stigma.

Because of the stigma, autistic people suffer. 

 

I know many autistic people, and too many of them say things like, “I wish I was normal.” “If only I could get rid of this wretched disability and have the same capabilities as normal people.” At a certain point in my life, this is how I felt every day: disgusted when I looked in the mirror. All I saw was autism; all I saw was a caricature of what a human should be, not because I was a caricature, but because that’s what our society teaches autistic people. We’re trained from an early age to hate ourselves; we’re told that we will never be able to measure up to “normal people,” that we’ll always fail, struggle, and fall short, no matter how hard we try. We are told to look people in the eye, to stop fidgeting, to control ourselves when we’re having meltdowns, and to fake normalcy, because our autism is a terrible thing that robs us of many opportunities that are given to everyone else. Because of this rampant bigotry, autistic children are “28x more likely to attempt suicide” than non-autistic children, according to Psychology Today. The autism community suffers from high rates of depression, in part due to mistreatment. Autistics also have a higher rate of obesity.

 

If you want to help autistic people this month, spread acceptance, not awareness.

Flashback Friday: Top Five Most Olympic-Worthy Animals

First off, I’d like to apologize for the late update. I have been busy with all of my classes.

This article appeared in the school newsletter of a school I once attended, and I wrote this in honor of a student who had been in the Special Olympics, who sadly passed away.

5. Cheetah. 

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There’s hardly anything in nature more striking than the sight of this endangered Africa cat with its golden coat and black spots. You may think that the spots are just for decoration, but they actually serve a purpose: the spotted coat breaks up the animal’s outline, hiding it from predators and prey. They’re most famous for being the fastest mammals o Earth and for appearing on bags of cheese curls. Although the cheetah can run up to 70 miles per hour, it cannot keep this speed up for long. Running at this speed takes such a toll on the cat’s heart that a cheetah will spend up to ten minutes catching its breath before eating its catch, hence its place at number five.

4. Shark. 

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While sharks are maligned in our culture for their abilities to feast on people, most shark attacks are cases of “test biting” to see what we are, and a human’s fat to muscle ratio does not make us ideal foodstuff for these ocean predators. Shark bodies are muscle machines, and some sharks can reach speeds of 25 miles per hour. To put that in perspective, Michael Phelps typically swims at around 12 miles per hour.

3. Horned dung beetle. 

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Most people know that ants can lift 50 times their own body weight, but another six-legged critter outmatches them in terms of strength. While the horned dung beetle may not be the most hygienic insect, it earns the honor as the strongest insect in science. It can pull 1,141 times its own body weight, which is like a 140 pound or 63.5 kg human pulling 159,740 pounds, or 72,609 kg.

2. Saluki

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Salukis are one of the oldest breeds existing, with origins tracing back to ancient Egypt. They were originally bred to hunt gazelles, so it makes perfect sense that Salukis evolved with larger hearts and well-padded feet for long-distance running. They are truly beautiful dogs, coming in a variety of colors including red, white, silver, cream, and gold. As pets, they are intelligent but stubborn, aloof toward stranges, and affectionate with their owners when raised properly.

1. Peregrine falcon. 

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Most people would assume that the cheetah is the world’s fastest animal, but that title goes to the peregrine falcon. The speckled birds reside in western Mexico and US states, although they may be seen up north during breeding season and farther east when migrating. Peregrine falcons usually feed on other birds like doves, waterfowl, and quail, although it may also take on insects, reptiles, and even bats. A diving peregrine falcon reaches speeds of 200 miles per hour, earning it a number one placement on this list.

5 Tiny Versions of Animals

As published in the Alumni Edition of the Cherry Hill, NJ Y.A.L.E. School Newsletter, where I formerly held a monthly column called “The Zoophanatic.”

Animals are great. They gladly work for humans, serve as our companions, and wild animals are sight for us to behold, as long as we treat them with respect. However, we tend to find diminutive animals to be cuter, perhaps because they remind us of our own young. Here are five adorable examples.

 

  1. Singapura. With a weight of 4 to 8 pounds (as opposed to the average weight of a cat, which is 8 to 12 pounds) the Singapura is one of the smallest cat breeds available. Most of them come in a sort of sepia color, and they’re all the more endearing with their large eyes in proportion to their faces. They are playful, intelligent, and family-friendly, as long as the kids don’t roughhouse with them. They are, however, very vocal, and so not the best choice for a person who needs quiet.

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  1. Panda cow. Panda cows only grow to a height of about 3.5 feet, as opposed to the 5 or 6 feet of an average cow. Panda cows are named for their distinct black and white patterning. It is an extremely rare breed; there are reported to be less than 30 of the little guys in the entire world! When sold, the calves can cost up to around $30,000.

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  1. Pygmy hippopotamus. The pygmy hippo is, as its name implies, a diminutive version of the more well-known, larger hippos that often live in colonies. The pygmy, however, is solitary. Wild specimens can be found in Liberia and on the outskirts of Ivory Coast. Unfortunately, they are an endangered species, in part due to war action in Liberia. However, they have a fair zoo population, which may help restore the species in the future.

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  1. Pygmy goat. An adult pygmy goat can reach a weight of up to 86 pounds. Other, larger breeds of goat can weigh up to 310 pounds. In spite of their small size, they are stocky, and were in fact originally bred as meat goats. Nowadays, they are more common as backyard pets or as residents of petting zoos. Pygmy goats are excellent for both of these purposes, because they are known to be friendly and amiable animals. As pets, pygmy goats should be kept outside, because they can be destructive indoors and are grazers who naturally like to nibble at grass. Basically, they will mow and fertilize your lawn at the same time. They have to be kept warm during the winter and need a shelter to protect them from predators, since they are prey animals. Since goats are herd animals, they will need another animal to live with them. It’s also worth mentioning that pygmies can produce quality milk, so you get bonus points at breakfast if you have a female.

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  1. Miniature Horse. This diminutive version of the maned barnyard giant grows to a maximum of 38 inches. Because of their friendly disposition, they make great pets, although they have seen action as service animals. In fact, miniature horses are now being trained as guide animals for the blind as an alternative for people who are allergic to or fearful of dogs. Horses also typically live much longer than dogs.

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5 Things to Watch Instead of the Inauguration

If you live in the United States, as I do, then you know that today, Trump will be sworn in as POTUS. First of all, watching new people get sworn in is kind of boring. Second of all, I’m probably going to get a lot of angry haters in the comments for saying this, but Trump is, in my opinion, one of the worst people we could possibly have as president. If you are like me and would want to watch other things today, consider…

5. Outrageous Acts of Science–Discovery Science

On Discovery Science, this will be on later in the inauguration, but it’s worth a watch. As the title implies, they show unusual, scientific events (natural or manmade, but usually manmade) caught on camera.

4. Animal Planet–Too Cute

“Too Cute” is a show that follows the journeys of adorable puppies and kittens from the time they’re born to the time they find their new homes. Today, there is a marathon from 6 AM to 4 pm. Count me in!

3. Comedy Central–South Park

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South Park will come on at 11:25 am, and will be on pretty much all day.

2. Learn about Man’s Best Friend on Youtube with the Dogs 101 Playlist

1. Learn about the things that will kill you. 

Questions I Like to Ask

__Who thought of the first hug?

__Is the grass really greener on the other side, or do I just need new glasses?

__If the grass really is greener on the other side, why not just water yours more and get some damn fertilizer?

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__What if my life is a movie? Who’s watching, and what songs are playing? Dear God, I hope there’s no Nickelback in the soundtrack, and I hope it isn’t a Lifetime film.

__What if Mario is just imagining the whole thing about himself going to the Mushroom Kingdom and rescuing a princess from an evil turtle. I mean, he’s always eating ‘shrooms and smashing his head against bricks.

__Why do barbecue restaurants like to use pigs in their logos? A pig would be the last guy to publicly endorse a barbecue restaurant.

__Is reincarnation real?

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__Waking up early can’t be healthy, so who decided that you have to choose between waking up early and starving to death because you didn’t do your freaking job?

__Who’s to say that the first unicellular life forms didn’t arrive on a meteor that crashed to Earth? It’s theoretically possible.

__If you do a handstand, is your head still at the top of your body?

__Why is it that the foods we love more than anything else are the foods that are high in fat and literally killing us?

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__And finally, what if everyone sees colors differently from me?

Five of the Most Expensive Foods

See that shooting star out the window? Did you just blow out the candles on your birthday cake, or throw a penny into a fountain? Quick, make a wish. Now, let me take a wild guess at what you wished for. If you’re like most people, you probably wished for a million dollars. Now, we all know that unfortunately, this “wish” stuff is superstition. But say that your wish did come true. And say that, after you got your million dollars, you became inexplicably hungry. Then you could go out and get…

5. The wallet-killing breakfast. 

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Both the picture and this information is from express.co/uk. If you ever found yourself in Helmsley, North Yorks, you might be tempted to crash at the Feversham Arms hotel, and maybe get breakfast from their restaurant. This restaurant is home to Britain’s most expensive breakfast, at £120, or $148.25 USD. According to Express, this meal “includes imported Balik salmon, two duck eggs, Oscetra caviar, creme fraiche and mini brioche.” There is Laurent Perrier champagne available to drink with it.

4. Rare Truffles

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Truffles are a type of fungus. They are notoriously expensive and can cost hundreds of dollars because they are difficult to farm. They are a fastidious organism, only growing in certain types of trees and soil. They grow in the roots of trees. Dogs or pigs are trained to detect their smell, then the humans dig them out. The rarest and most expensive is the white truffle, which is pictured above.

3. Not your mother’s grilled cheese. 

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Serendipity 3 is a restaurant in New York famous for its insanely expensive luxury foods. Their “Quintessential Grilled Cheese” costs $214 and, according to the Daily Mail, has to “be ordered at least 48 hours in advance” in order to allot the faculty time to prepare it. You might ask, “Well, what’s so special about this grilled cheese that warrants the price tag? It contains Caciocavallo Podolico, a type of cheese that can only be made from the milk of a rare breed of cow, and this breed only produces milk for two months a year. White truffle butter is applied to the bread prior to grilling. The bread is baked in champagne, and is also treated with truffle oil which contains actual, honest to goodness flakes of gold. Now, gold has no nutritional value, and I don’t imagine that it tastes like much, so at this point, it’s safe to assume that they’re just doing it to jack up the price.

2. You’ll Have to Search Hard for this Cheese

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The most expensive cheese in the world is so rare, your local markets probably don’t carry it. According to huffingtonpost,com, it “isn’t produced commercially.” You’ll pretty much have to actively hunt this stuff down and save your bucks, because it can cost up to $2,900 per pound. Part of the reason why it is so expensive is because it takes a lot of milk to produce even a small amount of this cheese. This isn’t standard cow cheese, or even from a sheep or goat: this type of cheese is made from the milk of the donkey. Makers need approximately 25 liters (or 26.4 quarts) of milk to make just one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cheese.

1. Truly Sinful Chocolate

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We all know about chocolate truffles, but the La Madeleine au Truffe has a literal truffle (the fungus I was talking about earlier) in the center. At some point, somebody decided that it would be a good idea to have a mushroom inside of an otherwise delectable ball of chocolate, presumably after a few cocktails and along with some bad karaoke. They come with the outrageous price tag of $5,122 dollars per kilogram (2.2 pounds.) The chocolate used is Valrhona chocolate with 70% cocoa, which also contains heavy cream, Indonesian vanilla (which I can’t imagine tasting differently than vanilla from elsewhere) sugar, and (wait for it) white truffle oil. That actually sounds divine, if only there wasn’t a freaking mushroom inside of it.