2 AM

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Night blogging“2 AM isn’t a place, it’s an emotion,” a night blogger once said on tumblr. And then others replied and pointed out that 2 AM isn’t a place at all, and yet others added, “That’s because it’s an emotion.” I was not that particular night blogger, nor do I know him/her personally, so I cannot say whether the use of the word “place” instead of “time” was a mistake or a philosophical statement or a decision based upon the aesthetic sound of the sentence. But I do know that the statement as it stands is true. 2 AM isn’t a place. It’s an emotion.

It is considered typical to sleep at night and to be awake during the day. 2 AM is not a time for typical people; it is a time for people who have odd schedules, whether by choice or because they genuinely like it better that way. 2 AM is a time when there are few sound waves in the air, but a great many metaphorical sound waves over the internet. 2 AM is full of ramblings that are either ridiculous or profound, and sometimes both. At least online, 2 AM belongs to the night bloggers and the overworked students, two groups of people who are (or at least should be) notorious for blending extreme genius and utter nonsense in one pithy remark.

At 2 AM, the internet is the only way to express the thoughts that run through the mind of the fatigued and overly creative mind of the night blogger. At 2 AM, the real world doesn’t exist, and the internet is all there is. At 2 AM, a blinking cursor on a computer screen or a page full of densely packed words offer greater possibilities than anything that a night blogger ever gets to see in the daytime. Thoughts don’t count for much if they can’t be formed into letters and words, and they count for nothing at all if they are formed into spoken words that are forever gone as soon as the sound waves fade into the oblivion of the motionless air which fills the place that we call Real Life. But on the internet, a fleeting random thought can be preserved in visible form so that fellow night bloggers or tomorrow’s day bloggers can see it and be duly amused by its absurdity or impressed by its profoundness or confused by its randomness.

I myself am not known for the kind of posts that show up around 2 AM, although I am occasionally responsible for a nonsensical insight that may or may not be worthy of remembering. One of the more recent of these (although it occurred well before 2 AM) is the concept that real life is nothing more than a frame narrative for everything that one reads or writes. This may perhaps be more true of my life than most people’s lives, especially this semester, since I am taking a class that involves reading five to seven YA novels a week, which is rather a lot of fiction reading when you’re a full-time student who also has a job and also feels compelled to find some time and mental effort for other reading and writing in addition to schoolwork. But the fact remains that many people, especially among the demographic that is most likely to be on tumblr in the middle of the night, spend much of their time and conscious thought on fiction, whether in the form of novels or television or other mediums. And I would argue that many types of nonfiction should also be taken into consideration in this matter, because non-fictional narrative prose often resonates in a reader or viewer’s mind in the same way that fiction does. It seems to me that it is no exaggeration to say that our lives are largely dominated by stories that are not our own.

As any avid reader or writer knows, the frame narrative is never the important or interesting part. The good bits of the story are always saved for the innermost tale. The frame narrative is simple and straight-forward and sometimes quite dull. If Real Life is a frame narrative, it sadly does a good job of following this standard. Some people claim that the enjoyment of fiction is a form of escapism, and I think that this is entirely true, but not quite in the way that they mean. An avid reader is not completely ignoring his or her own life. An avid reader is using the fictional lives of others to justify the fact that his or her own life is too empty and simple and straight-forward and dull to have much of any significance unless it is simply a framework for which other stories can be metaphors.

 But 2 AM is when the frame narrative of reality goes on hiatus. Typical people use this opportunity to sleep. They spend many hours lying perfectly still and resting their minds so that they can wake up in the morning and spend the next day of their real lives doing all of the real-life things that they think make their real lives important. But those of us who are awake at 2 AM, whether because of homework or because we like 2 AM, experience a view of the world that normal people miss. There comes a time of night when reality pauses itself and its place can be taken by fiction or by rambling words of incoherent wisdom typed on a computer screen by a fatigued night blogger who didn’t even necessarily mean it the way it sounded.

2 AM isn’t a place, it’s an emotion, and like other emotions, it is exhausting and incapacitating if it is felt too strongly, too frequently, or for too long a period of time. I myself would prefer to be asleep at 2 AM if my life allowed for that to be an achievable goal. But when I am awake at 2 AM, it occurs to me that people don’t know what they’re talking about when they spout cliches about living life to the fullest. Living life to the fullest doesn’t mean going out and doing crazy, exciting things. If that’s the way you’re looking at it, you’re forcing yourself to choose between craziness and normality. Living life to the fullest means taking advantage of the wondrous opportunities offered by books and the internet to experience excitement even while your own real life is filled with the mundaneness of not being the sort of person who goes out and does crazy, exciting things.

2 AM is where you can have it both ways. 2 AM is where it’s crazy and exciting just to be conscious and to have the wonderful ability to preserve your conscious thoughts in written form or to experience other people’s written thoughts without being interrupted by reality. 2 AM is where the frame narrative meets the cooler inner story because there isn’t any need to keep the two completely separate. 2 AM is where things don’t need to make sense because sense isn’t the most important thing around here.

Come to think of it, maybe 2 AM is a place after all.

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.

On Wasps

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This is a picture from a couple years ago that shows a diferent wasp on a different window.

This is a picture from a couple years ago that shows a diferent wasp on a different window.

A couple weeks ago, I experienced the first wasp infiltration of the season. That is to say, a wasp got in my room. Considering the fact that my window doesn’t actually close, it was inevitable that such a thing would happen at some point, but it was annoying that it happened in the middle of the night. Supposedly, wasps are always diurnal. Actually, the internet has helpfully informed me that there are a few species of nocturnal wasps, but none of them are supposed to be native to this area. So it was quite odd when I was awoken at about one in the morning by the sound of wasp wings beating against the wall just above my head.

nerf gunAs it so happens, I am deathly afraid of wasps. In fact, I spent the following hour and fourteen minutes crouching behind my bed with a water gun in one hand and a nerf gun in the other hand. If that thing had come any closer to me, I would have shot first and asked questions later. (Actually, I would have shot first and never gotten around to asking any questions.) Although I have never successfully shot an insect with a nerf gun, I can tell you from personal experience that water guns don’t kill wasps, but a couple good shots can stun them. Then you can easily catch them in a glass jar and leave them in there to die a sad and lonely death. For the record, I am strongly opposed to cruelty to animals except where the animals in question are misquitoes, fleas, cockroaches, harmful single-celled organisms such as many types of bacteria, and, of course, wasps. Although I’m also somewhat scared of bees, I much prefer them to wasps. To explain this, I hereby list several reasons why wasps are worse than bees.

  1. waspBees are intelligent and wasps are stupid. I judge insect intellect based upon the insect’s ability to find its way out of a room that it has accidentally entered. Since the dorm rooms at my college don’t have screens, I have had many opportunities to observe the relative intelligence of insects based upon this standard. More often than not, a bee that flies into the room will simply turn around and fly right back out again. A wasp, on the other hand, is generally unable to find the window. If it isn’t killed or captured first, it could spend a good couple hours flying around and walking aimlessly around the glass surface of the window (often inches away from the exit) before it eventually figures out how to go away. For the record, the aforementioned wasp did eventually leave by way of the window, but it sure took a while to find it. As a side note, June bugs are really stupid. I have never seen one fly out the window. They will fly to the light and batter against it until they die. If you turn off the light, they’ll just batter against the ceiling instead. If you trap a June bug in a jar, stick the jar out of the window, and then open it again, the June bug will fly right back into the room and fly into the light and/or ceiling again. I’m not kidding; they’re that idiotic.
  2. Wasps are much more likely to sting. If you are close enough to get a good look at a wasp on a windowpane that wishes it was on the opposite side of the window, it will actually sting the windowpane in frustration. Bees don’t do that because they’d die if they did. I have actually never been stung by a wasp and have only been stung by a bee once, about ten years ago. But that was only because I accidentally stepped on that bee. Most species of bees are not aggressive at all. Bumblebees in particular are unlikely to sting you. There have been a couple incidents where a bumblebee has actually gotten caught in my hair and I have pulled it out with my hand (because I didn’t realize at first that it was a bee and not a piece of leaf or something) and it didn’t sting me, even though I was momentarily holding onto it with my bare fingers. In that situation, I can guarantee that a wasp would sting.
  3. Wasps are sneaky and insidious. If a bee gets in the room, you know it’s there because you can hear it buzzing. If a wasp gets in the room, you don’t hear it until it hits the wall or window. Unlike bees, they fly in ominous and sinister silence. While there’s a wasp in your room, you have to keep your eye on it constantly or else you lose track of its exact location.
  4. bumblebeeBees are technically actually kind of cute. Wasps are hideously ugly. They have little beady faces with sinisterly oblong faces, and long, snake-like bodies with an almost-microscopically small midsection and a thick, wriggling back-end. Worst of all are the red wasps with black wings, which are the most common ones around here. The aforementioned wasp was of this type.   Those critters are just so horribly ugly.
  5. Bees make honey. Honey is good. What good do wasps do for the world?
Spiders, although often creepy and sometimes even dangerous, are not to be greatly hated. In fact, when small and not too disturbing-looking, they are to be allowed to remain in the home and affectionately addressed as something along the lines of Sophie or Charlotte. These are always good names for spiders, although I cannot explain why Sophie is a good spider name. Charlotte, of course, is a reference to the children’s book Charlotte’s Web. This particular spider was my sister's friend and his name was Beowulf.

Spiders, although often creepy and sometimes even dangerous, are not to be greatly hated. In fact, when small and not too disturbing-looking, they are to be allowed to remain in the home and affectionately addressed as something along the lines of Sophie or Charlotte. These are always good names for spiders, although I cannot explain why Sophie is a good spider name. Charlotte, of course, is a reference to the children’s book Charlotte’s Web. This particular spider was my sister’s friend and his name was Beowulf.

Homework, Coffee, Settlers of Catan, and Color-Coded Stuff: A Tale of a Night When I Didn’t Sleep

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9:39 PM

Cups of coffee: 0

M&Ms: 0

Homework done: None

Games of Catan: 0

 

The pattern is now familiar. I make a list of homework and a plan of attack, I get some M&Ms and make some coffee, and I sit down in front of my computer to document my sleepless night by writing random and rambling things about it, which shall then appear on my blog for all the world to see. Generally, these all-nighter chronicles begin with a remark that I wasn’t expecting to need to do this. That is certainly the case in this situation; I really thought that this semester wouldn’t call for any all-nighters. Academically, this is the lightest semester I’ve ever had. But around midterms, there’s no such thing as an academically light semester.

To be honest, this all-nighter probably isn’t necessary. I think that I could be ready to call it a night by about two O’clock or so. That’s really late for me, but it is much less drastic than pulling an all-nighter, especially since I don’t even need to be up at a reasonable time tomorrow. This semester, I only have morning classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, and tomorrow is a Tuesday. I prefer to be up at a reasonable time anyway, but I could make an exception to that habit if I felt it was necessary.

But, after giving the matter due consideration, I decided to pull an all-nighter. That way, I have all the time I need and don’t have to feel stressed about finishing by a certain time. Besides, it gives me an excuse to eat M&Ms, and it makes it possible for me to take the time for Catan breaks. Anyone who has been reading my blog regularly may have noticed a bit of a pattern lately, which is that I have a tendency to mention Catan quite frequently.

 

I didn't win. Life is tough.

I didn’t win. Life is tough.

11:26 PM

Cups of coffee: 1

M&Ms: 10 blue, 7 red, 3 yellow, 3 brown, 8 green, 8 orange

Homework done: All of my calculus homework and one single-spaced page of a paper that shall be double-spaced later

Games of Catan: 1. I lost. It wasn’t fair. I totally should have won.

 

I would say that I was making pretty good time, except that I’m supposed to have three pages of this paper done by midnight. That is, I’m supposed to submit a three-page draft online. Three pages really isn’t a big deal, especially because this draft isn’t going to be graded. The professor is just having us submit it to make sure that we actually have that much done. Originally, the paper was going to be due tonight, but now it’s due on Wednesday instead. Compared to certain papers from last semester, this will be quick and easy; it’s basically a paper on a project that was already presented in class today. But I’m a very slow writer. For me, any paper is a long paper. That’s a little ironic, considering just how much writing I do, even outside of schoolwork. I’m also very slow at math. I’m slightly proud of myself for being done with my calculus homework for tonight, even though it was a pretty easy homework assignment. It was on the partial derivative. Partial derivatives are pretty simple. Incidentally, I really don’t seem to have many yellow M&Ms here. That’s a little odd.

 

11:57 PM

Cups of coffee: Still just one

M&Ms:  12 blue, 9 red, 4 yellow, 3 brown, 9 green, 9 orange

Homework done: All of my calculus and that draft of that paper

Games of Catan: Still just one. I still think I should have won.

 

An incredible and very good thing as happened. As I logged onto the thingy to submit my paper draft, nothing went wrong. This is rare indeed. My college’s internet system doesn’t like me; whenever I try to log into something that’s through the college, it won’t accept my password the first few times I try. Sometimes, I keep on trying over and over and over and never even get in because it eventually blocks my access because of so many failed attempts to enter the password. This is extremely frustrating. But it didn’t happen tonight, which is good because I submitted that draft at 11:54, which was cutting it pretty close. The uncool part is that it’s a pretty lousy draft, but that’s not a big problem. I still have two days to finish it and clean it up, and I’ll probably be able to dedicate a significant portion of tonight to it. But I do have to concentrate on my algebra homework for tomorrow first.

 

Here's why the number of green M&Ms isn't a whole number.

Here’s why the number of green M&Ms isn’t a whole number.

1:57 AM

Cups of coffee: one and a half

M&Ms: 21 blue, 10 red, 8 yellow, 4 brown, 12 ½ green, 10 orange

Homework done: All of my calculus, that draft of that paper, and practically all of the computer assignment for linear algebra

Games of Catan: Just one. I really want to play another one now, but it isn’t time yet, according to my detailed plan for tonight.

 

Normally, whether I’m staying up all night or just staying up really late, I don’t actually leave my room in the middle of the night. Tonight was an exception, though, because the aforementioned computer assignment for linear algebra required a computer program that I can only use on the computers in the math building. So I headed over there a little after midnight and spent about an hour and a half on that assignment. It was weird being outside at that time of night; for once, it was quiet. There were a few people in the math building, because that happens to be a favorite late-night-studying place and all-nighter place. The assignment in question was actually pretty cool; it had to do with ciphering. I made a slight mistake on a cipher that I was supposed to be deciphering, so it came out correct except for one word in the middle, which said ‘rMOk’. This amused me greatly. But I redid the exercise anyway, and it came out with real words that time. I couldn’t quite figure out how to do the last exercise, though, so I’ll have to do that one later. I’ll probably do it right before class, because that’s the only way I’ll have a chance to ask the professor about it.

 

3:08 AM

Cups of coffee: Two and a half

M&Ms: 31 blue, 14 red, 14 yellow, 14 brown, 22 ½ green, 18 orange

Homework done: All of my calculus, the draft for that paper, almost all of that algebra assignment, and the reading for my postmodernism class on Wednesday

Games of Catan: Still just one. But the time for game number two is near at hand. First, I have some algebra homework to do, but Catan is next after that.

 

Colored index cardsThere are five greatly awesome things that are within inches of my hands right now, all of which I have used quite a bit within the past few hours. The list is as follows: coffee, M&Ms, colored index cards, sharpies, and dry erase boards. A few minutes ago, I was surprised and confused to discover that my fingers were speckled, but a moment’s reflection enabled me to realize that this was because I had been using my fingers to erase numbers off of my dry erase board in order to replace them with other numbers. I love using dry erase boards to keep track of random and inconsequential details of my life. ‘Tis an entertaining thing to do. The appeal of colored index cards and sharpies, of course, is that they allow you to color code stuff, and color coded stuff is automatically cooler than non-color coded stuff. As a matter of fact, this point also can be extended to explain the coolness of M&Ms, and to relate to my interest in keeping track of M&M colors on my dry erase board. But coffee isn’t colorful. The coolness of coffee is independent of its visual appearance. Maybe someone should invent colored color-coded coffee. By definition, that would be incredibly cool, but I can’t actually think of a good purpose for it. I’ll have to think about this.

 

4:06 AM

Cups of coffee: Two and a half

M&Ms: 31 blue, 18 red, 14 yellow, 15 blue, 26 ½ green, 19 orange

Homework done: See above, plus just a couple algebra problems. But those couple that I did took a really, really long time.

Games of Catan: Two and a half. The website’s down, so that last game was aborted. That’s okay; it was making me really mad because I was losing really badly because nobody was rolling fours, sixes, eights, or nines, which just shouldn’t happen. People were basically just rolling tens every single time, which was very much in orange’s favor and did me no good at all. It was really unfair, especially since I had had a very similar problem in the previous game. Sometimes I wonder if other people have discovered ways to rig the dice on internet board games. It seems feasible, since those are just imaginary dice anyway. Presumably, if someone was really good with computers, they could figure out a way to trick the system. I’m not necessarily saying that’s what happens, I’m just saying that it sure seems like it.

 

101_9851Aside from the Catan problems which I have lamented in the previous paragraph, I’m also frustrated that this algebra homework isn’t going well. I still have several hours before class, but I don’t want to spend that entire time on this one homework assignment. At the rate I’m going, that’s how long it’ll take.

The weird thing is that it’s almost morning now, and it really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long since I got back from dance class at around eight O’clock. It’s no wonder I always feel tired; apparently nights go faster than days, and so one doesn’t get a lot of sleep by sleeping through the night. But it wouldn’t be any better to sleep during the day, since I have just determined that nights aren’t long enough for doing homework.

The only solution I can think of is that days just need to be longer. Since the length of a day is determined by the amount of time it takes the Earth to revolve around its axis, we just need to slow the Earth’s rotation. I wonder what kind of an impact this would have on the Earth’s climate. Of course, in order to minimize these effects, it is important that the Earth’s orbit around the sun should not be changed at all. I think years are a pretty good length.

Although it would be nice if the number of days in a year was something a little nicer than 365 ¼. That’s such a random number. I would like to suggest 350. That’s close enough to the current year length that it wouldn’t make a big difference, but it’s easier to remember and it has more factors than 365 or 366. We could divide the 350-day year into ten months of 35 days each, which I think is a lovely length for a month to be, and ten is a nice number of months. And there will be exactly 50 weeks in a year, which would be convenient. It would also mean that holidays and birthdays would fall on the same day of the week every year, which is an appealing idea and would make it very easy to keep holiday traditions the same from year to year. And Advent would always be the same length, so Advent calendars could actually be Advent calendars instead of December calendars that call themselves Advent calendars.

It would seem that I don’t feel like returning to my algebra homework.

 

Between various math problems, you can see my M&M statistics.

Between various math problems, you can see my M&M statistics.

5:08 AM

Cups of coffee: Three and a half. Now my coffee is gone, but that’s okay, because I’ll be able to go and get some more from the cafeteria in just a couple hours. It is worth noting that, on days when I sleep, I hardly ever drink more than one cup of coffee.

M&Ms: 43 blue, 22 red, 19 yellow, 24 brown, 38 ½ green, 26 orange. This is a final count; my M&Ms are now gone.

Homework done: All I have accomplished since the last update was another couple paragraphs on that paper.

Games of Catan: Two and a half.

 

It’s still dark and will be for a while, but I hear birds singing. Some people on campus complain about how loud the birds are, and I am puzzled by their annoyance. Personally, I don’t mind the birds nearly as much as I mind the leafblowers and lawn mowers, which are also noises that one hears almost constantly on this campus, and frequently right under one’s window when one is trying to do homework.

I think I’m going to go take a shower now. After that, I have to get back to my algebra homework, and then I’m allowed to take a break to check tumblr.

 

6:26 AM

Cups of coffee: Still at three and a half.

Homework done: See above, plus a couple more algebra problems.

Games of Catan: Still at two and a half.

 

I actually didn’t take a shower shortly after five, like I said I would, because my roommate was in the shower. In my residence hall, we have suites, and each suite has its own shower. I definitely prefer that to a communal bathroom, but it’s more than a little annoying hearing water running when I’m trying to do homework. It’s weird how some noises, like showers and squeaky doors, drive me crazy, while other noises, like ticking clocks and the strangely loud hum of my desk light, don’t bother or distract me at all.

Right now, I’m a little annoyed at the world in general for the fact that it’s morning. I don’t know where all the time went last night. I was expecting that I’d get more done. Now I still have homework to finish and stuff to study for midterm exams later this week, but I have lost the quiet and solitude that the nighttime offers.

 

7:34 AM

Cups of coffee: A little more than three and a half. I just came back from breakfast in the cafeteria, and I brought back a cup of coffee with me. Coffee is good stuff.

Homework done: None since I last gave an update, actually. Unless I’ve done a couple algebra problems since then. I can’t remember how many I’d done before that point. I’m still less than halfway done with what I have due today.

Games of Catan: Two and a half

 

This is what one of my dry erase boards looked like by morning.

This is what one of my dry erase boards looked like by morning.

Today’s sunrise was disappointingly nonspectacular, but that’s okay, because now that the sun’s up, it’s a really beautiful day. Maybe it’s a bit chilly, but it’ll probably be really nice in a few hours.

Next on my agenda is the game I like to play where I use a random number generator to get twenty random digits and then try to memorize them in under a minute. Lately, I’ve only been doing this once a day. I’m on a good streak now, though. I’ve gotten a perfect score four out of the last five times. This may not be an achievement that means anything to anyone besides me, but I am rather proud of it. I just hope I can keep this streak going. Considering the fact that I haven’t sleep in over a day and I’m dead tired, my brain might not be at its best this morning, though.

I really wish I was playing Settlers of Catan right now. And I really wish I was winning.

 

9:13 AM

Cups of coffee: Four and a half

Homework done: More algebra, but I’m still not done with today’s assignment yet. I am actually making progress; it just really takes that long. Seriously, math is hard.

Games of Catan: Two and a half. But I’m getting close to my next Catan break. This excites me greatly.

 

Here is a picture of outside, despite the fact that the picture doesn't look as pretty as it really is.

Here is a picture of outside, despite the fact that the picture doesn’t look as pretty as it really is.

I just opened my window. It’s so ridiculously beautiful out there today. The thing about Alabama is that you never know from one minute to the next what the weather is going to be like. On Sunday, it was nice like this, but yesterday, it was gloomy and wet and rainy and just really ugly. But then it suddenly cleared up in the middle of dance class, very shortly before it got dark. And last night it was pretty chilly. As clear as the weather is now, there’s no telling whether it’ll rain again. For all I know, it could snow tomorrow.

I’m trying to remember what I normally write in my all-nighter blog posts. I seem to recall that they aren’t normally about the weather, but right now, the weather seems to be the most noteworthy thing. I tried to take a beautiful picture from my window so that I could show the beautiful weather, but it didn’t turn out looking very beautiful because most of the trees still don’t have leaves yet. I’m guessing that will happen soon.

 

10:28 AM

Cups of coffee: I’ve stopped at four and a half.

Homework: A couple more algebra problems

 

CatanOkay, I admit it, I just played several consecutive games of Catan; I don’t even know how many because I lost count. Most of those games were ridiculously short because one person got all the luck and won before I’d even had a chance to do anything. It was getting quite frustrating. I mean, here I’ve been awake all night, working long and hard in an effort to learn stuff. I feel like the universe at least owes me a few lucky rolls. So I just kept playing until I finally won.

And now, here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to put this on my blog, then I’m going to finish my algebra homework (which is finally almost done), and by then, it’ll probably be about time for me to get all my books and stuff together, go to the cafeteria for lunch, check my mailbox quickly, and then head off to math class.

 

 

Findings From a Prematurely Terminated Experiment

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This is more or less how I see myself. Except my hair is darker and less red. Also, my ears are smaller and lower down.

This is more or less how I see myself. Except my hair is darker and less red. Also, my ears are smaller and lower down.

One of the drawbacks of being a weirdo and a nerd who compulsively keeps records of everything is that you have an irresistible tendency to use yourself as your own guinea pig. However, one of the fun parts of being a weirdo and a nerd who compulsively keeps records of everything is that you can use yourself as your own guinea pig.

For example, I have been fascinated by a hypothesis I have frequently seen on the internet which states that a person can decrease the amount of sleep they need by splitting up their sleep time into several small intervals throughout the day. This is called a polyphasic sleep cycle, as opposed to the more normal monophasic sleep cycle, in which a person sleeps once a day for several consecutive hours. On the one hand, this idea seems ludicrous because everyone knows that people are supposed to sleep during the night and be awake during the day, right? (That is to say, humans are diurnal, which is the opposite of nocturnal.) On the other hand, though, there is some logic behind it. The explanation that is usually given points out that the benefits of sleep- that is, rest and memory organization- occur mainly in the kind of sleep known as “REM sleep”, “stage 5 sleep”, or, if you talk like a normal person, “deep sleep”. (Incidentally, this is also the type of sleep in which the majority of dreaming occurs, although not all of it.) It has been well documented that people who don’t get a lot of sleep will go through the lighter four phases of sleep quickly and spend most of their sleep time in REM sleep. Therefore, as long as someone’s sleep schedule is fairly consistent from day to day, they can function on a much lesser amount of sleep than the eight hours that is considered optimal. Fatigue and decreased cognitive ability are not so much a result of not getting enough sleep as they are a result of getting less sleep than what the individual in question has come to treat as normal. However, this doesn’t mean that someone could get away with just sleeping for a couple hours a night. Sleep patterns follow a repeating cycle. Once you’ve been in REM sleep for a little while, you temporarily revert back to a lighter sleep before returning to deep sleep. The length of these sleep cycles vary upon several factors, the most notable of which is how long you’ve already been asleep.  If you sleep according to a “normal” monophasic schedule, you will spend more time in deep sleep in the second half of the night than the first half. It can be demonstrated that the way to maximize the proportion of REM sleep to total sleep, and thereby to reduce the total amount of needed sleep, is to spread your sleep-time up into several short naps throughout the day. At first, your brain will react as if it is sleep-deprived and will practically dispense with the sleep cycle entirely in order to spend most of its sleep-time in REM sleep. Once you get used to that schedule, you will no longer feel sleep-deprived and will be able to function normally with as little as two total hours of sleep a day. That, at least, is the theory.

A helpful diagram illustrating different types of sleep schedules

A helpful diagram illustrating different types of sleep schedules

I first read about this shortly after I started college, and I thought that it was a fascinating idea, but too impractical to try. I have always been fascinating by the scientific aspect of dreams, and had gone through a phase where I had read every book I could find on the topic, so I was very familiar with the terminology of REM sleep. As far as I could tell, polyphasic sleep had some logical basis to it, even though it seems weird. Still, it is hard to find time to try out a bizarre and potentially useless experiment when it requires that you spend at least several days, if not a couple weeks, feeling like a zombie. This, I have heard, is what generally happens while you are adjusting to the schedule. Besides that, all of the information I could find was purely anecdotal. Many bloggers have tried polyphasic sleeping and have proclaimed to the world that it works well, saves a lot of time, and actually makes them feel more energetic and rested than normal sleep. I haven’t found genuine scientific studies verifying the validity of this system, though, and it is generally understood that one can’t cheat sleep, even based on the testimony of a few people on the internet.

A normal person might have either written this off as a silly idea or forgotten about it, but I’m not normal, and scientific curiosity (as well as a desire to learn to cheat sleep) compelled me to give it a try. This month seemed like the best opportunity. For the time being, my schedule is somewhat more flexible than usual, but I have a lot of stuff to do and could really use the extra time that could be saved by sleeping less. A couple weeks ago, I wrote out a detailed half-hour-by-half-hour schedule and figured out when I would have time to sleep, and determined that the best schedule would be to take a one-hour nap four times a day. If this worked, I could later cut down on sleep, maybe eventually leading down to the two-hours-a-day schedule that is apparently possible. (For the record, that schedule requires six twenty-minute naps to work, and is highly impractical because it will fail if you aren’t able to commit to taking a nap exactly every four hours.) This four-hour schedule actually didn’t seem that outrageous to me; I’m accustomed to getting about five or six hours of sleep a night, and it isn’t unusual for me to only get three or four hours. If I can make it work monophasically, it should work even better polyphasically.

Before I explain why I ended the experiment, I want to make it clear that it actually seemed to be working, and I do not by any means feel that my experience offers evidence against the hypothesis. In fact, I think it rather supports it. I was surprised by how little affect the change had on me; I didn’t feel tired and I didn’t have a hard time with any day-to-day activities, even including schoolwork and dance class. Due to other forms of compulsive record-keeping that were originally unrelated to this experiment, I can also verify that the change in sleep schedule had no measurable effect on my mood or my ability to memorize random strings of numbers in a short time-frame. (That is my method for keeping a record of the efficiency and effectiveness of my brain at any particular moment) In fact, one of only two problems I had was that I found it difficult to fall asleep at 11:00 in the morning, because that’s such a weird time to sleep. Although my experiment didn’t last long enough to produce a definite conclusion, it did suggest to me that polyphasic sleeping is at least more feasible than could be expected. Also, the part about feeling like a zombie was either an exaggeration or an effect that doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone.

The reason I stopped was basically because of the second of my two problems, which is that I didn’t like waking up from my 11:30 PM nap at 12:30 AM. 12:30 AM is a lousy time of day to wake up. I probably could have pushed through if it wasn’t for a couple statistics-skewing instances of oversleeping. This wasn’t a surprise because I hadn’t fully adjusted to the schedule. Until a couple days ago, it didn’t even add enough time to my net amount of sleep to mess up my data, but I was a bit annoyed by it. I was rather amused one time to wake up and find that my alarm clock was missing. My subconscious self, not wanting to wake up, had been unwilling to settle for merely turning the clock off, and had simply picked it up and concealed it by neatly wrapping it up in my blanket. I had been deeply enough asleep at the time that I had no memory of doing this and didn’t know where the clock was until I had spent a few minutes searching for it. Then a couple evenings ago, I was under a lot of stress and very depressed and accidentally turned a one-hour nap into an eleven-hour night of sleep, during which I dreamed up a novel experimenting with the idea that a person could escape from Life without actually dying and without actually losing one’s access to the internet. This, of course, would be the ideal state of existence. Upon waking up from this dream yesterday morning, I considered the possibility of starting my experiment over with new sets of numbers instead of ending it, or even counting those eleven hours into my data and continuing as planned. But my plans for the day were already completely disrupted, and I was starting to come to the conclusion that my brain was better wired for monophasic sleep than polyphasic. When I had thought that polyphasic sleep was the way to go, I was forgetting three things.

The first is that I hate naps and always have. I remember when my family moved during the summer when I was four, and people from the church came to babysit me and my siblings so that my parents could unpack without disturbances. These babysitters were shocked to discover that I didn’t take naps anymore, and I didn’t understand why that was a big deal.  I hadn’t taken naps since I was about two. Even then, I hated them, and my parents had a hard time getting me to sleep. My feelings towards naps are not quite as hostile as they once were, but I still find it difficult and even unpleasant to fall asleep when it’s not night, unless I’m extremely tired. In fact, I have long since come to associate daytime sleeping with being sick. This association is so strong that I sometimes feel slightly feverish and quite disoriented upon waking up after a daytime nap, even if I’m completely healthy.

The second thing I forgot is that, in my life right now, the point of sleep isn’t to get rest; it’s to hide from Life. In fact, the reason that I forgot the thing mentioned above is that I did get into the habit of taking naps last semester, but that had nothing to do with being tired. It was just that I didn’t feel like being awake because to be awake is to be conscious of the world around oneself and the world around oneself is often mean to one and deserves to be ignored disdainfully. As far as I have been able to tell, sleep is the most effective way of doing so. The most obvious alternative, which is to permanently hide in a closet somewhere, has several drawbacks. You’d get hungry and bored fairly quickly, there’d be a risk that someone would find you and make you come out, and if you were too insistent upon staying in your closet, people would come to the conclusion that you were completely nuts. For some reason, it’s easier to justify sleeping twice as much as necessary than it is to justify hiding for long stretches of time. Besides, if you live on a college campus, you have to pay for it whether you’re hiding from Life or not, so you may as well hide from Life in the comfort of your own bed.

It’s actually really strange that I forgot the third thing, because I have always felt that the third thing is pretty obvious. (I have not always referred to it as “the third thing”, though.)Although it’s true that insufficient rest leads to fatigue, the bigger problem is that waking up is hard. It’s an ordeal that requires a good deal of willpower and can only be pleasant on the very best of wonderful days. These types of days, by definition, do not occur frequently. On every other day, waking up is a great feat of endurance, and everyone who achieves it deserves congratulations. I don’t know if this is a universal rule or just something weird about me, but I personally feel that waking up is even more difficult and tiring than pulling an all-nighter. In fact, maybe I would do better to sleep for a really long time every couple days so that I can get away with waking up less often. Hmm, now that’s an idea…

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a novel to write.

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.