Wednesday, 6 August 2014

An anti-climax 2 years in the making

..or is it a sign of things to come? The whole Lucid dreaming thing grabbed me late in 2012 and refused to let go. For months and months instead of rolling over and going back to sleep I forced myself from my pit and scribbled the night-time hours away pouring the contents of my subconscious images into a pile of ever-expanding loose-leaf sheets of A4. Painfully detailed descriptions of sights, smells, sounds and emotions have been at first handwritten and then earlier this year digitised in the form of an online folder full of searchable dreams.

The aim was to one day be not only aware that I was dreaming but to be able to control it while it was still happening. I was skeptical at first, thinking 'surely that can't be possible' - isn't the art of dreaming akin to watching a pre-recorded video of the previous day's events? Isn't it your brain processing and sorting out memories from various incidents in your past and deciding what to keep and what to forget?

Be as it may, the day finally arrived in late July when I just happened to be being chased by zombies (I gave up watching the Walking Dead several months ago when they just wouldn't leave that blasted farm - "Get on with it already!"). The part of me that sees logic and reason in things kicked in and I suddenly stopped and said to myself "Hold on, there's no such things as zombies, this scene is make-believe.

You sir, are dreaming".

After the initial excitement from realising my goal had finally been reached I was left with the feeling that you get when you finally get to the end of a really good long book that you've been looking forward to finishing, but now you have nothing to read and the story is over. The lack of imagination on my part left me standing in a room scratching my head and wondering what the hell to do. "The world's your oyster" I was thinking, "You can do anything you want, so what's it to be?". The answer was a shrug of the shoulders and mild disappointment as I couldn't think of anything.

In the end I did think of something that would be impossible to do in a few seconds when I woke up and joined real life, and as I just happened to be stood by a 10th floor window I thought the greatest thing to do would be to jump out of it. I've had dreams of flying before but of course this one was different as it was my own decision to become airborne, not as the result of some 'pre-arranged video recording'. The feeling was exhilarating as I soared through the air but unfortunately it was over just as quick as it had begun. I was awake and already putting pen to paper.

A few days later I had another realisation that I was, in fact, asleep in my bed rather than standing at a Formula 1 circuit with my Dad. I couldn't think of anything to do this time either so I asked my Dad and he suggested I fix his broken television with my mind. There weren't any other ideas on the table at the time so Hey Presto, with a blink of my eyes and the click of my fingers I fixed my father's TV.

You're welcome, Dad. Glad to have been of service after 2 years of training.

Of course I shall continue to document things and hopefully develop to the stage where I can actually think of something interesting to do, albeit simple tasks. It was in fact pointed out to me by a colleague when I mentioned the second occurrence that " were at a Formula 1 race circuit and you couldn't think of anything out of the ordinary to do? With multi-million-dollar cars flying past you at high speed and there being only 24 people in the world at any one time who can drive them, you were stuck for ideas?"

It's funny how the mind works really, isn't it?

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Sweet dreams are made of this..

..and who am I to disagree? I've certainly travelled the world and the seven seas (subconsciously from the comfort of my own bed). Everybody's looking for something, and I've certainly encountered a hell of a lot of people while recording my nocturnal imagery. Some of them want to use me, and some of them do indeed want to be used by me. Unfortunately some of them want to abuse me but I've yet to encounter anyone who wants to be abused so that's where the song reference ends. The word 'Eurythmics' actually means 'A system of rhythmical physical movements' by the way so it would be perfect if I did indeed move about in my sleep.

For the best part of the last 6 weeks I've been recording the noises made at night, and the results so far are, well, less than expected unfortunately. The dreams themselves are still being written down in excruciating detail and are slowly gathering in a large pile of A4 paper on my desk that will soon need its own postcode. So it's slightly disappointing to find out that whilst encountering some of the most beautiful, intriguing, incredibly detailed, disturbing, and at times just plain weird scenes that wouldn't look out of place in a John Carpenter or Stephen King novel, the conscious efforts and sounds are little more than some rapid breathing or, in most cases, total silence.

What I have discovered however, is that the people who live around me do keep some strange hours and the walls get pretty thin in the middle of the night when there's little to no background noise. Doors, car engines, dustbin wagons, birds, wind (not always just my own), rain, thunder and even someone doing the washing up at 11.30 at night have been known to make an appearance.

I keep repeating the morning ritual though, in hope that one day there'll be something exciting to show for a crazy night of dreaming. The recording is copied over to the computer for further studying (using a free program called Audacity - pretty nifty software) and poured over meticulously by yours truly with a set of headphones on and a diary to hand. The notes themselves are being uploaded daily to my webspace for more of a backup purpose than public viewing, but if you're interested they're here.

The actual dreams themselves are still in the process of being typed up - I'm about halfway through doing them. My plan is eventually to turn them into a screenplay format with cast lists and scene descriptions so they're not ready just yet, but just as an example of how incredibly detailed and vivid they are, here's the "cast list" from last night's epic 8-page thriller:

- A poodle
- A receptionist
- A policeman
- A drunk
- Three of my friends from Kalgoorlie
- A bunch of strangers taking photographs
- A woman that I work with
- A bloke I work with
- Another bloke I used to work with

- Mum
- Dad
- My Stepmother
- My sister
- My sister's friend
- My teacher from secondary school
- A barmaid
- My great-aunt
- An airline pilot
- 3 Crocodiles (no, really)
- Angelina Jolie with a chainsaw (yeah that one really confused me)

 ..and that was all in one night. There must be someone out there that can make sense of all this garbage and help me interpret what's going on, or whether an appointment as an outpatient to the local funny farm is required.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

A new telephone leads to advanced nocturnal scientific research

Number of times the word "interesting" appears in this post: 5

As with most casual bloggers, the first post in months usually begins with 'It's been a while since the last update but...' and the reason for me would be that honestly nothing interesting has happened since then. OK a few things here and there, and some stuff that would never be mentioned to Joe Public, but things have taken a rather interesting turn of late.

It all began with the careless handling of my beloved smartphone which led to a high-velocity hard impact involving concrete and the eruption of some rude words. The result was a large crack which greatly affected the touch-screen buttons and over a few weeks the crack got worse to the point where the device developed a mind of its own. Simply wishing to view the weather forecast or plan a bus journey resulted in me being presented with the football scores or being told how much money I have in the bank. All was not lost however, as by asking what time the number 85 bus was due told me I had some extra cash lying around, I decided to upgrade and purchase a replacement. Best thing I've done so far this year.

I'm not going to go on about the wonderful features of this new mobile (and they truly are wonderful); you can read up on it yourself by searching 'Nexus 5' if you're interested.

So, equipped with a fully-working mobile device, the older cracked model has been relegated to the 'just-about-works-but-not-sure-what-to-use-it-for' pile. I've thought about home security surveillance, a sandbox for testing rootkits, the usual pollava, but have settled on making it a dedicated nocturnal recording device.

I've been writing my dreams down for just over a year now. At first it was every few weeks between really vivid detailed sessions, but in the last few months I've been having on average one detailed dream every couple of days. By detailed I mean anywhere between 2 and 8 sides of A4 paper (and sometimes a sore hand from writing). They vary in content anywhere from explainable memories of the past few days involving people close to me, to the most bizarre and at times disturbing construction of incredibly random scenes. They're at times very personal and involve real people so they won't be featuring too heavily on this website, but I may put an abridged collection up some time in the future.

What's been playing on my mind lately is the question of what does a dreamer look (or sound) like to the casual observer? You see on television where people are locked up in dark rooms with night-vision cameras and sensors stuck to their heads, recording all kinds of interesting statistics. Alas, my technology does not cater for such a setup so I'm left with a recording device which is enabled when my head hits the pillow and disabled when I get up for my morning smoke.

There's only been 2 sessions so far and each of those has yielded results - on day one (or night, technically) I discovered that the sounds of my snoring range from something resembling a submarine's radar ping, to the clicking sound that the Predator makes in the 1988 Arnold Schwarzenegger film, shortly before it picks off its latest victim.

Day two was a good one - the dream involved me falling to my death in an elevator, upside-down, backwards and head-first (I mentioned that the content of these subconscious memories were rather peculiar, right?). Before I hit the ground I was jolted awake. After playing back the recording at the point where I was having the dream, I was expecting to hear maybe a grunt or some shuffling - and heard absolutely nothing. No breathing, no snoring, no grunts. This was slightly disappointing at first, then I got to thinking. If I wasn't breathing (or was not breathing enough), then maybe some part of the subconscious was thinking 'Hangon, we've got a problem here of lack of oxygen, we need to wake this guy up'.

Or I could be barking up completely the wrong tree, but it's certainly proving to be an interesting project which should yield some intriguing results.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Day 2

Well, the fun part's over, now for the long slog. The last one was extinguished at 3.49 on Friday morning. I even ditched the lighter, filters and remaining papers in a tree and set the date and time on the "smoking cessation" app on my smartphone.

The fun part, of course being the initial shock of depriving your body of nicotine. I remember this experience from last time and was actually quite looking forward to it. Despite the frequent hunger and anxiety, there's a definite feeling of increased awareness and yoyo-ing emotions which I'm finding hard to describe here. An example could be that I had the TV and radio on whilst also hearing someone else's music from outside, yet could envisage each of the three streams of music as separate entities and was able to understand each one individually. Time also passes very very slowly, at least it did on the first day. If I nipped off to do an errand at work for maybe 10 or 15 minutes it felt like I'd been gone for an hour, thus feeling the need to explain where I'd been and what I'd been doing. Very peculiar.

I'm also trying to make as many changes to my normal routine as possible - so far it's going well. Coffee instead of Tea, got a book from the library, going for a jog or run whenever I can, even listening to different radio stations (but my musical tastes of late is another story altogether).

I'm hoping that the familiarity of the weekend's sporting fixtures does not try to induce a relapse to the old ways. Beer and smoke at kick off, smoke at half-time, beer and smoke at full time.

I might have to take up knitting or something..

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

21 days

I read an interesting tweet this morning. I read a lot of tweets that appeal to me, but "life hacks" about putting hot spoons on mosquito bites and "woman crush wednesday" aren't really worth blogging about (or would that be 're-blogging'?)

This tweet this morning mentioned that if you can go for 21 days without something, you don't really need it at all. Now my first impression was one of skepticism - there has to be more to it than that. Then I thought maybe it's just the first step on a long journey to being without something: go for 3 weeks without it, then try another 3 weeks and then maybe 3 months, etc etc.

We all have at least one particular thing in the back of our mind that we know we should at least cut down on, or give up altogether - a few beers too many each weekend, or that extra round of eggs & bacon at breakfast time. Perhaps I can use this 21-day test on attempt number 3 to quit smoking. What's the worst that could happen?

I'm very much against persuasive advertising, so the pictures of dead bodies, failed chemotherapy, charred lungs and statistics on the toxic content of cigarettes and what they do to one's health really do not affect my decision to consume 20 cancer sticks each and every day. In fact (in a very macabre way and I'm sure I'm in the minority here) one of the warnings often makes me chuckle:

"SMOKING HARMS UNBORN BABIES" is the warning plastered over my packet of tobacco, accompanied by a picture of a small child on life-support.
"Well", I think to myself, "Unborn babies shouldn't smoke then." Plus, the child in the picture isn't unborn, unless they're going to umbilically reattach it and send it back where it came from.

Despite my adversity to being constantly told that I should quit, people fake-coughing when I'm puffing away down-wind from them and being shunted into constantly shrinking "designated smoking areas" whilst out and about, there is one main reason for giving up that makes me think I should've done it a while ago: the money.
In an average week, I'd say I spend over $30 on tobacco. Not that much really, but when you think what you could have each month for the same money, and also the amount of possessions I've sold over the last year to make a few measly dollars it doesn't particularly make financial sense.
$30 a week amounts to a Gold Class cinema outing once a month with wine and pizza, or the top premium satellite subscription with the HD sports package. I'll argue the toss over a few cents at the checkout and only buy groceries that are on special discount, but every month I'm burning and inhaling over $120. Madness!

Remembering the last time I tried to quit (and anyone who's tried can relate to this), the major hurdle is breaking the habit. Seeing as I am primarily a creature of habit, this can prove to be difficult. Every morning the routine is the same: Wake, brew, smoke, check phone, smoke, another brew, game of golf, lunch, check emails, then either work, TV and bed or just TV and bed. The thing that kept me off them for so long last time was the goal: save $554 and reward yourself with a tablet from a popular fruit company (which I didn't use for over 21 days after getting a new smartphone and now I never use it at all..)

It can be done, especially if there's a target or an end-goal. Merely saying "that's it, no more forever" is a lot more daunting than "if you can make it 21 days, you've reached a crossroads." Once you get there, make a choice.
So starting from this Friday, or when the pack runs out (could that be the first sign of failure - waiting for the pack to run out?), we'll see what happens. Also I'd like to put down into words the experience of quitting, more for me to read I suppose, consider it an electronic diary-in-the-cloud. There's also the worst-case scenario - if after 21 days I relapse, I've saved $90. Also the new Grand Theft Auto video game comes out in just over 21 days. Happy coincidence!

If the attempt fails, the article I read this morning is just a random boring tweet that disappears into existence as quickly as it appeared, but if I succeed, then I may rename this post to "twitter changed my life".

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll.

Or rather: Abstinence, Vaccination trials and Dance music. Anyway the previous statement sounded more exciting.

Yesterday was by all counts a busy day in the grand scheme of things. When I first became unemployed and started to think of different ways to supplement my income, one of them was to register for clinical trials. The idea of contributing to medical science has always appealed to me, and since I do not have the brain skills to become a doctor, I may as well offer my immune system to be a host for the latest vaccination which is still in the 'testing' phase.

You hear stories of people being hospitalised for months, their heads swelling to twice normal size, contracting bizarre illnesses and even death at the hands of medical research, but I choose to believe that hundreds of doctors and research assistants across the world who deal daily with unknown viruses and diseases and fight constantly to find a cure, would know what they're doing. Also, there's the reimbursement - not going to pay the bills for a year, but it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick (or rather a poke in the arm with a hypodermic needle).

So after a few months of being registered, I receive a phone call asking me to participate in a year-long trial. Sounds massive. What it actually is, is a few visits over the first 5 weeks, then a 6 monthly and 12 monthly visit. They have the money and the drugs, I have the time and the willingness. It's a no-brainer. Of course it didn't go down well with the parents, or even some of my close friends when I mentioned it, but a quick text to the folks to say I was still alive post-injections (and even walking home with a spring in my step) and most of their fears have been allayed.

Overall the process was just over 2 hours - on arrival I was asked a few qualifying questions, and as long as I promised to curb my drinking they would accept me for their tests. One of the other qualification requirements did make me chuckle slightly:

"We don't want any pregnancies" the doctor sternly informed me, with a look in her eye that said if I disobeyed them there really would be trouble.

"Well, with a face like mine, the chance would be a fine thing."

"That's not funny. And you're not taking or planning to take any recreational drugs for the duration of the testing?"

"No, absolutely not." (Again, the chance would be a fine thing)

"You're sure? Even if somebody offered them to you for free?"

"Why, do you have some?"

"That's not funny, either."

At least to me it was.

So after waiting around for an hour or so, with random nurses taking a few vitals here and there, "hold here", "put this here", "stand here", and so on, I was eventually stabbed with a syringe full of "virus-like particles" to see what my body and its immune system would make of them. Or I could've been stabbed with the placebo - nobody, not even the test administrator, is allowed to know for sure.

Then I was sent home with a diary, a thermometer and a free pen to record my symptoms (if any) for the next 7 days before returning for a follow-up meeting. The equipment was sealed in a plastic bag with my name on it, making me feel like a school kid heading home with his books and a half-eaten sandwich clutched to his side. The nurse even told me to "do my homework". Ah, at least one of them has a sense of humour.

So it's been 24 hours now, and there doesn't appear to be any symptoms manifesting themselves - no extra arms or legs, pus-filled boils or sickness. Plus I got a free pen for my efforts, and they even rang me today to make sure I was still alive and to schedule the next injection of drugs.

Such nice people.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

A day out / Meeting the locals / A new toy

It's surprising how things turn out in the end. If a certain parcel delivery company - lets just call them EdFex for now - had actually attempted to deliver my parcel, none of Tuesday's events would've happened (except for the new toy part, of course).

So it's Monday afternoon and I'm rapidly hitting F5 on EdFex's parcel tracking website, waiting to see when my new phone will be arriving, and it would appear that rather than get out of his comfy delivery van, Mr. Fex decides to just say that the customer was not in, and I was left feeling like a small child who was naughty at Christmas time and ended up without a present. No big deal - a quick call to EdFex's depot and we've arranged for yours truly to trek out into the middle of a not-too-nearby industrial estate on his day off and collect it himself.

So a bus, train (the first one I missed due to my nicotine addiction and the No Smoking policy on all Transperth property), then another bus journey and a small walk and 2 hours later I'm the proud owner of a Google Nexus 4. Hooray!
I've had a bee in my bonnet for a while about smartphones and how people are permanently glued to their screens, heads down and not paying attention to the real world that surrounds them, but I will admit that the devices do make life a lot easier and a whole lot more interesting while they're at it. So I succumbed and made a purchase that will hopefully let me continue on my current addiction of consolidation and selling things that are dear to me: Desktop PC replaced by laptop, 5.1 Surround system replaced by TV with built-in speakers, DVDs replaced with digital media. Why have a mobile phone *and* a tablet when you can have a phone with a large enough screen to do pretty much everything you need to on one device.

And of course, no day out on Perth's public transport system would be complete without the introduction of close-quarters random strangers. As a single heterosexual male I sometimes look forward (in a non-creepy way because I am also unreservedly "English") to being within unavoidable eye-contact distance of the plentiful supply of good looking females of the city, but also having luck like mine I usually end up with what the rest of car 2 of a 3-car train was subjected to on a random Tuesday morning whizzing out of Perth train station.
The closest I can come to describing the family of 5 that were occupying a good 8 or 9 seats not too far away from where I was sitting, is the Australian version of Frank Gallagher and the rest of the 'Shameless' crew. Suspicions were raised before I even entered the train as I witnessed a small child swinging dangerously close to the emergency exit button by the door, looking wide-eyed and anxiously up and down the platform presumably for any approaching security staff. However I was keen to get home and start tinkering with my new toy so I boarded the train and sat down, keeping the (thankfully) plain brown box rather close to me and within constant eye-sight.
Opposite me was a semi-respectable middle-aged lady surrounded by children between the ages of roughly 10 and 14. First impressions are that this lady is talking to them as though she is one of them - dropping the occasional F-bomb and poking fun at the boy who tried to stand on the seat on one leg but fell over as the train began its (thankfully) short journey.
What ensued was the most colourful and detailed description of the sex life of a teenager that would make a Sailor blush. Passengers shifted nervously (and pretended to be interested in their mobile phones strangely enough) as the semi-respectable lady loudly and proudly informed her daughter what she used to get up to at her age, all the people she used to get up to it with, and what substances she was on at the time. Oh joy.

Because of the stunned silence you could now hear the sighs of relief from fellow passengers as the Gallagher family alighted at the second stop, pausing only to stare back at the passengers still on the train, before hocking a huge green blob onto the pavement for the cleaner to deal with later.

I was tempted to look around and say something funny to break the silence, like "Model Citizens..." in the way that Dr Silberman does in Terminator 2 as Sarah Conner is wheeled away after a particularly psychotic outburst, but I got the feeling that a dodgy-looking bloke with scruffy clothes, a scruffy beard to match and a non-descript brown box clutched tightly to his chest muttering movie quotes would create even more unease among the shocked commuters after that episode, so I kept schtum.

So compared to last week, today has been quite interesting. What started out as an expected delivery turned into a 4-hour round trip on public transport, finding a nice cafe in the middle of an industrial park, and a close encounter of the Turd kind.

I love days off...