The Attack of the Evil Interdimensional Psychic Trains

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10:00 PM

Cups of coffee: 0

It’s horrible just how many all-nighters I’ve pulled this semester. What makes it even worse is that the real reason this is necessary is just that the middle of the night is the only time I can get a moment’s quiet. My life is essentially characterized by an incessant cacophony of train whistles, airplanes, sirens, people’s voices, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, running faucets, hair dryers, loud footsteps, and slamming doors. The lawn mowers are the worst. The train whistles are really high on the list, too, and they unfortunately are the one that is still present in the middle of the night. But at least the noise level goes down enough that it’s technically possible to get work done, which simply isn’t true during the daytime. So I’ve gotten into the habit of pulling all-nighters at least once a week, and I think I’m actually in danger of literally going insane. If for no other reason, I’m looking forward to graduation because after that, I’ll be able to sleep occasionally.


11:00 PM

Cups of coffee: 1

As long as I’m going to be up all night, I decided that this would be a delightful opportunity to do my laundry. Once upon a time, (until about a month ago, in fact) Saturday mornings were laundry time, but now the universe is falling apart and laundry time has become a movable occurrence. I cannot shake the conviction that Monday night is not a time during which one really ought to be doing laundry, but the fact of the matter is that I didn’t do laundry last Saturday morning because I really, really didn’t feel like it, and so it is necessary that I do laundry early this week. So I put my laundry in a laundry bag and headed to the laundry room, only to find to my dismay that washer number nineteen had someone else’s laundry in it. Now, there’s nothing particularly significant about the number nineteen, (in fact, I happen to intensely dislike the number nineteen) but there is something significant about washer number nineteen. That significant thing is that I always use washer number nineteen. Except sometimes when it’s full of someone else’s clothes, and so I use washer number seventeen instead. But this time, washer number seventeen had someone else’s clothes in it, too. I settled for washer number seven, but this is not the way it should be. This is an even greater problem than the new uncharacteristically mobile nature of laundry time. In fact, the horror of this situation is comparable (although still significantly less) than the trauma of finding someone else in my favorite parking space. For the record, I am a Lutheran and a ballet dancer and I’m OCD which means that nobody had better take my parking spot. When they do, bad things happen, and considering that I’m the one to whom they happen, other people don’t necessarily have an incentive to stay away from my parking spot, which is really a problem. Granted, my parking spot has only been taken from me once in the last several months, but it was a very traumatic experience and will probably haunt me for as long as I live.


1:15 AM

Cups of coffee: Technically still one. I just poured the second cup.

This is a book I greatly enjoyed, and its title is very relevant to my life at the moment.

This is a book I greatly enjoyed, and its title is very relevant to my life at the moment.

I have no idea what has happened to the last three hours. Well, actually I do; they were killed by homework, a fate which I fear I may end up sharing. But while they were in the process of slowly and pitifully losing their battle against the overwhelmingly powerful army of my math homework, I was not aware how many of them had fallen. And now the three of them lie lifeless on the battle field, and I sadly stand here staring at their remains and thinking of all the potential they had. I could have used those three hours to read interesting books or to write Doctor Who fan fiction or to play many games of Settlers of Catan or to do any number of other delightful things. But instead, they gave their lives so that I might do my calculus and linear algebra homework, and indeed, they died in vain, for I still don’t understand math. Over the course of this semester, there have been times when I’ve hated calculus but been okay with linear algebra, and there have been times when I’ve hated linear algebra but been okay with calculus. At the moment, I’m not on very friendly terms with either of them. But if I had to choose one as a favorite over the other, I’d go with linear algebra. In calculus, I understand the concepts, but I somehow invariably get the wrong answers anyway, and I have no idea why. In linear algebra, I don’t really understand the concepts, which completely explains why I’m not always getting the right answers. It’s a much less frustrating situation, because it implies the possibility that there shall be a time in the future, perhaps the very near future, that I will understand the concepts and will find correct answers to the problems. Or maybe not. Because that’s just not the kind of thing that happens in my life.


2:30 AM

Cups of coffee: 2

I got this picture from Google, but it looks a lot like the train tracks I remember from when I was little.

I got this picture from Google, but it looks a lot like the train tracks I remember from when I was little.

I hate trains. This is a sad turn of events, for I once loved trains. That is, I loved toy trains. The wooden train track set that my siblings and I once played with, which is presumably still in a box in my parents’ garage, was a source of much entertainment and many good memories. I have not had many experiences involving real trains, although last year I read a very fascinating book on the history of the Milwaukee Railroad. That may sound like a somewhat dull subject, but I greatly enjoyed the book for two reasons. First, it was extremely well written, and I found myself admiring the prose in a way that one does not normally do when reading a book about the history of a railroad company. Second, as it turns out, the history of the Milwaukee Railroad is a riveting tale involving many interesting personalities, some very complex controversies, and probably a few illegal dealings. Unfortunately, I do not remember the title of the book and cannot specifically recommend it, but I do wish to express a general recommendation for books about the history of the Milwaukee Railroad. Nonetheless, I hate trains, for they seem bent upon preventing me from accomplishing anything tonight. The train whistles have been going constantly all night long, without so much as pause. I’ve been keeping track; it’s literally true that the train whistles haven’t stopped since I got back on campus hours ago. This has also been the case every other time I’ve tried to use the middle of the night to do homework. In fact, I have had this same problem for my entire college career, although it has been worse since I’ve lived in my current room, which has a window that doesn’t close and that looks out over downtown. It makes no sense for train whistles to blow constantly, so I can only come to the conclusion that this is a deliberate conspiracy aimed specifically at me. Unfortunately, it seems to be working, because I can’t do this anymore and will probably now have to drop out of college, despite the fact that I’m supposed to be graduating in less than four weeks. I can only imagine how odd it will sound when I try to explain to future prospective employers that the reason I don’t have a college degree is that the trains were out to get me. Alternatively, I could make an attempt to stay in college despite the train conspiracy, in which case “train whistles” will be the cause of death listed on my death certificate. This, I can only imagine, will both baffle and amuse many people. Many years from now, historians will have long
arguments as they try to guess what exactly happened to me. I will become famous as the only person to have ever died of sheer annoyance.


4:00 AM

Cups of coffee: 3 ½

This was the episode I saw.

This was the episode I saw.

They say that one of the main purposes of sleep- and of dreams in particular- is to organize and arrange new information. It’s an essential part of the learning process. Unfortunately, I’m too busy learning to sleep. This is a problem; college is making me stupid. Fortunately, I’ve recently come up with something that helps a little. Sometimes, watching an episode of Doctor Who is a reasonable substitute for dreaming. I tend to dream in Doctor Who fan fiction anyway, so the only actual difference is that it isn’t my own brain that’s making up this stuff. (Admittedly, that’s a pretty significant difference, but I don’t really have a better option.) Also, Doctor Who only takes about 45 minutes, while sleeping takes a few hours. And Doctor Who involves wearing earphones and deliberately blasting noises into my eardrums, which temporarily block out the train noises. (Which, unfortunately, I can now hear again. This is ridiculous; it’s been at least eight hours since they’ve been quiet.) In case it isn’t obvious by now, trains are not my friends. I prefer weeping angels. Maybe, when I go downstairs to get my laundry in just a minute, there will be weeping angels down there, and they’ll catch me and send me back to a time before trains existed. That would be nice.


4:30 AM

Cups of coffee: 3 ½

Pictured: An ordinary, harmless train

Pictured: An ordinary, harmless train

I have a theory. As you may have guessed, it involves trains. My theory is based upon two observations. For one thing, I don’t know where the train tracks are. In the course of my daily life, I drive a total of more than 200 miles each week, and I never ever cross train tracks. Yet these trains must pass quite close to where I am, since they’re so loud and disruptive. The other observation is that I rarely hear anyone else mention or complain about these trains. Instead, other people mention and complain about the birds. It’s true that the birds on campus are fairly loud and have a tendency to sing at all hours of the night. I’ve been hearing them for the past three or four hours now. But I am very baffled as to why someone would be bothered by the sweet, melodious tunes of a little bird when they could be bothered by the loud, mechanical bellow of a train whistle. Evidently, other people simply do not hear these train whistles, which is quite odd, considering the fact that they are absurdly loud and unbearably frequent. So I ask myself, why is it that there are trains without train tracks, and that other people can’t hear these trains? The answer is obvious. Well, not really, but I’m going to go with it anyway. These trains exist in an alternate set of dimensions. They are evil interdimensional trains that cross the void into my own dimensions for the sole purpose of antagonizing me, and their whistles of doom have properties that pull IQ points out of my brain, depriving me of intellectual capacity. That’s why I can’t ever get stuff done adequately. Maybe I should explain this to all of my professors and see what they have to say about it.


6:00 AM

Cups of coffee: 3 ½

sunshine‘Tis approaching sunrise, that time of day when the sunshine reappears on the horizon and says in its cheery early morning voice, “Good morning! I’ve just gotten back from having a lovely day on the other side of the world, during which time I provided light and warmth to billions of people and made all the plants grow and brought smiles to many faces. What about you? What have you done in the last few hours?” To which I respond, in my grumpy early morning voice, “Be quiet, sunshine. I’ve done my best, and it isn’t my fault it hasn’t worked out. Don’t criticize me unless you yourself have experienced the plague of evil psychic interdimensional trains stealing your brain from you.”


7:00 AM

Cups of coffee: 3 ½

At last, there is some progress being made on my linear algebra homework. In fact, I have suddenly found that I’m nearly halfway done. That’s after working on it for the past nine hours, and it’s due in about five and a half hours. Um, never mind, I guess this isn’t such a good thing after all. Especially considering that I have other homework to do during that time, too. Meanwhile, the city has woken up and the train whistles have been joined by their friends, the ambulance sirens and a lawn mower. Meanwhile, I’m pondering how ironic it is that I once loved the song “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”. On an unrelated note, I think it’s about time for me to take a short break to get breakfast and, more importantly, coffee.


8:00 AM

Cups of coffee: About 4

My question is what the trains want with my brain anyway. I mean, they’re presumably from some planet with advanced knowledge and technology; otherwise, they wouldn’t be capable of mind theft. I doubt there’s any information in my brain that would benefit them in any way. Even I am not quite paranoid enough to imagine that an alien race would do things to mess with my mind for no other reason than to be evil to me. There must be some motive. If I can come up with a good one, this could be the basis for a decent science fiction story. I would call it “Train of Thought”.


9:30 AM

Cups of coffee: About 4 ½

I posted this on tumblr the other day for the purpose of complaining about math.

I posted this on tumblr the other day for the purpose of complaining about math.

I was finally starting to think I was actually going to get this algebra homework done, and even have a couple of hours to spare for other stuff, like, you know, calculus or something. But this last problem clearly just isn’t going to happen.  I hate eigenstuff so much because I have no idea what the camaduka any of it means, which probably is due to the fact that I was in Louisville, Kentucky, presenting a paper, during the time when the rest of my linear algebra class was learning what the camaduka eigenthingies are. Considering the fact that this was a couple weeks ago, you’d think I’d have caught up by now, but the book makes no sense and my notes from subsequent classes contain contradictions. I have come to the conclusion that eigenstuff, like trigonometric functions, have no purpose or definition and exist solely for the purpose of making mathematics more confusing. At some point, some evil genius realized that he was so much cleverer than everybody else that he could make up random things that sounded like math, and everyone would believe him, and some people would even pretend to understand it, just so that they could feel clever. And thus was born a branch of mathematics that doesn’t actually exist. Either that, or I’m too stupid to understand it, and I don’t like that theory much.


10:45 AM

Cups of coffee: About 4 ½

The morning has more or less come to an end, and I’m about to go to class. Therefore, I shall now wrap up this blog post with the acknowledgement that I have succeeded in surviving one more night without having my brain taken over by a sinister extraterrestrial psychic train. I can still hear them even now, but their power seems to be diminished slightly in the daytime, or maybe it’s just that I can’t hear them as clearly over all the daytime noises. At any rate, the fact remains that I still have at least some remnant of my mind more or less intact. One more alien invasion survived.

Flashback from August 11


Almost three weeks ago, I took the GRE, and later that day, I started writing an absurdly long blog post about it. The day before, my sister had asked me to tell her what the GRE was like, and I was facetiously pretending that I could only answer the question by going into detail about everything that had happened that day. (For the record, I actually am not allowed to say exactly what was on the test. They made me sign a waiver. Really.) As it so happened, though, I was so busy that weekend that I never actually finished that blog post. I was about three pages into it and had still only gotten up to 8 AM.

I just discovered that I happen to still have that unfinished draft on my computer. Here are a few excerpts.

“This morning, I awoke at 5:18. I had set my alarm for 5:20, and even that was just a safety measure to ensure that I would be up by 5:30. But as it turned out, my alarm was completely unnecessary because my brain had cleverly remembered that I needed to wake up early. At 5:19, I un-set my alarm clock, and then proceeded to spend the first hour of my awakeness today being a complete klutz by loudly dropping my alarm clock, a shampoo bottle, my comb, and the spoon with which I ate my oatmeal. I justify this clumsy behavior on the grounds that I had not yet consumed any coffee. Then, I consumed some coffee and thus became more adept at doing things without dropping stuff all over the place. As I drank my coffee, I noticed that it tasted a little different than usual. I did not know why, and even in retrospect, the reason for this anomaly eludes me.”

“As I started my car, I was pleased to find that it was still functioning. Indeed, I had expected this to be the case, as I had no reason to doubt my car’s functionality, but it is always a good thing when one starts one’s car and finds that said car functions. However, last night’s rain had rendered the brakes wet and squeaky, and therefore, for the first several minutes of my journey, they made a loud and slightly disturbing noise every time I braked. Also, there was a misty spot in the middle of my windshield. I tried to wipe it off when I stopped at a stop sign, but in doing so, I discovered that it was actually on the outside of the windshield. At the stoplight by the campus gate, I briefly turned on my windshield wipers to remove the misty spot, and thus, this problem was solved.”

“I arrived at the testing place at about 7:20, I think. I didn’t actually see a clock. I pulled into a parking space that appealed to me, then backed out and pulled back in, for I had not parked very well the first time. I then parked the car, rolled up the windows, checked to make sure that my lights were off, and removed the key from the ignition. Following this, I proceeded to open my car door, get out, push the lock thingy, and close the door, in that order. Next, I attempted to open the door just to ensure that it was locked. Not surprisingly, it was.”

“Before I went into the testing room, they had me put my purse in a locker and then they told me to stand on the green X on the floor while they scanned me with one of those security things that they use to scan people. (If it isn’t obvious, I have no idea what they’re called. I also am not entirely sure what it is that they’re meant to detect. Metal? Marijuana? Extraterrestrial technology?)This was necessary because, for all they knew, I was a dangerous terrorist. It turns out that I am not a dangerous terrorist, which is good to know. I had been worried about that. Well, not really.”

“As all these things occurred, I narrated them in my head for the sole purpose of being able to write all of these details later in the day. Note to my sister: I am telling you all of these things because you asked me to tell you what taking the GRE was like. As I do not know which details may be relevant, I am deliberately giving you an excessive number of details so that you can decide for yourself which ones are worth knowing. You are welcome.”

That’s as far as I got, but I have decided that at this point, I would like to relate the tale of the perpetually red stoplight, which occurred several hours later, as I was on my way back to campus. I had taken a wrong turn and was in an unfamiliar area miles from where I should have been, but there was a road up ahead that I knew would take me to an interstate going in the correct direction. I pulled into the appropriate turn lane to turn left and stopped at the red light. Shortly thereafter, it occurred to me that the light was staying red for a pretty long time. It seemed as if every other lane of traffic in every direction had moved more recently than I had. I waited a while longer and determined that this was the case. The sound of my turn signal was starting to get on my nerves. I became irritated at the thought of all the gas I was burning just sitting there. The temperature slowly increased as the hot August sun shone into my non-air-conditioned car.  It occurred to me that if I did it at the right time, I could safely make my left turn in spite of the red light. However, it also occurred to me that perhaps someone was secretly watching this intersection and doing a statistical study on how drivers would react to a perpetually red light. Although that idea seemed so unlikely as to be safely dismissed, I nonetheless decided that, if it was the case, I had better not mess with their statistics. I am extremely stubborn, so, for the sake of accurate results, I owed it to science to sit stubbornly at that light and wait for it to turn green.  Furthermore, there was no one behind me, so my presence in that turn lane did not hinder traffic in any way. I waited a little longer, but the light still didn’t turn green. My concern over the gasoline I was wasting joined forces with my impatience and they argued with my stubbornness, which still insisted that I was absolutely not to turn onto that road until the light turned green. So my impatience and my stubbornness came to a compromise. I pulled out of the turn lane, drove straight through the intersection, turned around at the first opportunity, and then got onto that road using the turn lane coming from the opposite direction. I should have done that much, much sooner.

The oddest part about this story is that I still remember my exact train of thought even though it was nearly three weeks ago.

A New Experience

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This summer, I have been expanding my horizons, embracing new experiences, and learning about how other people see the world. It was not my intention to do so, it kind of just happened, but I have been living life as I have never lived it before. What I mean is this: I have temporarily stopped being a morning person. It is no longer natural and normal for me to get up and start my day long before everyone else and then to be asleep when the night is still young. Now I tend to go to sleep at two or three in the morning, if not later, and then struggle to wake up at a reasonable time. Because my to-do list specifically says that I have stuff to do in the morning, I generally do force myself to be out of bed by about seven-ish (which is already pretty late by my regular non-summer standards) but every now and then, I decide to sleep as late as I want, mostly out of curiosity to see what it’s like to sleep up late, and to see what time is a natural waking-up time, according to my current lifestyle. Each time I do that, it is a little later. Today, it was going on nine when I finally dragged myself out of bed, which is probably the latest I’ve ever woken up when I’m healthy. If this trend continues, I might end up waking up at three or four in the afternoon by the end of the summer.

Actually, this has not been a complete transformation. I never was completely a morning person, at least not for the last several years. Waking up is not a fun thing to do and I think it is horrible that people have to go through that ordeal every single day. What makes it even worse is the fact that we have to do it before having breakfast and coffee; any task that difficult should only be done after having slowly eased into the day. Unfortunately, that’s not actually possible. I am enough of a non-morning person to feel that way even when I’m in the habit of getting up at 5:55 AM every day. Even now, though, I haven’t completely become a night person. I still have less energy and less inclination to do important stuff when it’s late; lateness is a good time to listen to music or watch science fiction, and even then, there’s a good chance that I will fall asleep before the movie/episode is over.

I definitely intend to revert back to my morning-person schedule by the end of the summer, but for the next few weeks, I’m fine with this whole staying-up-super-late thing. It has long been a matter of interest to me to know whether morning people and night people really see the world differently. Does the chronology of the day literally work in opposite directions for these two different categories of humanity, or do night people just feel morning tiredness more acutely than morning people, and vice versa? Based upon my recent experiences, I think that the latter is the case. Since I still retain many of my morning-person tendencies, I can’t offer a definite and decisive statement on this matter, but it has seemed to me that morning still feels like morning and night still feels like night. I just don’t necessarily like the morning anymore.

Dear Morning, I know you and I have had some good times together, but now I hate you. No offense.