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So how’s the Group Adaptation going?

Hey, world!  The group adaptation project is rolling along now — we're through August and most people have done their prep, and a good chunk of us — including me — have started our adaptations to new schedules (and our testing of Everyman Cake).  Here's how it's going!

  • By all accounts, having access to the group resources, to chat-channels and wake-up buddies and sources of in-the-moment information, is hugely helpful for everyone.  Obviously I'd banked on that, but even I've been surprised at times how useful it is to, say, have a group know to expect you to check back in on the chat-channel, and call you if you don't.  Once, my buddy didn't respond online after a nap, and I couldn't call her phone because mine wouldn't do an international call, and I was able to go to the group for help and get someone else to call her and wake her up — win!
  • Speaking of buddies, several of us have made new friends, and there've been some great conversations on a million topics already.  Even in just a few days, I've gotten on a first-name basis with several people I'm really glad I met, and I can't wait to get to know more of them and even better.  Serious win there.
  • There's a data form set up that everyone is trying to fill out after every nap, tracking how they feel, how they slept, what sleep-dep symptoms they had, and when they last ate and exercised, as well as daily reaction-time and memory tests.  It may not be perfect, but it's data, tracking the same things over multiple people trying different polyphasic schedules, so that's exciting!
  • A stellar amount of information and advice has been collected and shared in our chat and forum areas — not just tips for sleeping and waking, but lists of great movies and uplifting YouTube videos, upbeat music playlists, useful and interesting websites — you name it!  I'm starting to feel like I, um, won't ever have time to check out all the good stuff already.
  • Some of the group are doing really cool things!  Check out these graphics our member Leif (http://leifolsson.tumblr.com/) made to illustrate some of the different schedules!

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    Depending on several factors, I'm considering running another group(s) like this sometime . If you might be interested in knowing about future group adaptations, make sure you're on the ubersleep mailing list, as that's where announcements like that tend to go.  :)

For my part, I'm now on day 3/5 of my adaptation to Everyman Cake (I did a short gradual adaptation this time, so I "started" 5 days ago and have been on ECake for three), and it's going really well! Of course I'm a bit zonked — today saw my typing test score dive from 100WPM to 81, as an example — but I feel good overall, adaptation seems to be progressing very similarly to how my other ones have, and I'm starting to feel that crazyawesome sense of having soooo much time to work with–!  (That "time dilation" feeling takes a few days to start to kick in, and can take months to reach full effect, in my experience.)  Today I realized that although it's 9:30 on "Sunday night" and I'm not looking forward to a workday tomorrow, I actually have over eight awake hours before I have to get ready to leave for it!  \o/

I'll try to update you on our progress again soon!  

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I’m not a mutant

OK, I probably *am* a mutant in some ways.  I like spelling, for one thing?  And I can do that crazy-strong Internal energy/force thing sometimes; that's pretty rare I guess.

But I'm not a mutant because I sleep polyphasically.

I got an email today of a kind I get periodically, asking this question — where are all the other polyphasers?  Am I a freaky freakperson for replacing sleep with naps?

Pssh.  No.

First of all, yes, Virginia, there are other polyphasers.  Not many!  But definitely some, most notably (and provably) Buckminster Fuller (now deceased) and Steve Pavlina (no longer polyphasic); though I've spoken with more than a few other people who got through the adaptation period*, and a solid few who were polyphasic for months, though I'm not sure I know anyone who's been doing it for years other than myself.

Why so few?  Well, if you like to jump to conclusions, it's because it's NEW AND SCARY AND DOESN'T WORK, but how about considering these factors instead:

  1. It's hard!  These two major difficulties alone knock about 90% of the people who try to adapt out of the running inside of a week:

    1. It's physically and mentally demanding to grab the helm of involuntary processes and wrench them into a deliberate, hand-rolled schedule.  This is also a relatively unknown type of change to make to yourself — unlike, say, losing weight or going vegan — so those who do it are tackling some pretty tough stuff, and doing it mostly blind.  To the people who point out that I'm on the high end of intelligent, healthy, hardy, and gutsy, I say well yeah; in the beginning, that's what's required for any advancement:  A batshit vanguard that can take a beating and still pull through.  But those skills aren't as needed once things get ironed out more fully.
    2. It's ALSO hard because our civilization is monophasic.  Being vegetarian was hard as hell for the first people to do it in a meat-eating world, too.  So yeah, not many people are motivated to do that much work for it, and you can't blame them; or they do try, but things like "needing to have a job that your employer does not give a shit about your sleep-schedule at" stops them.
  2. It's boring!  I mean, not at first, and polyphasic sleep is exciting as an idea, but YOU try writing about your freaking sleep every day for a few months or a year and see how excited you are to continue.  Please remember that I wrote this website, and then the book, specifically because I'd hoped they'd give me something to point to so I could stop answering all those boring emails.  …This was a majorly flawed plan, obviously, and I've come to terms with that.  But that was still the idea originally, and for good reason.  Out of the few people who are willing and able to become polyphasic, very very few of them also want a serious side-hobby writing about their frakking naps.
  3. Signal to noise ratio!  Out of the people who want to be polyphasic, a good chunk of them will annouce it, start a blog or video feed, etc.  And the ones who are really into talking about themselves will continue that blog or feed, until they get bored or fail or both.  This is why about 90% of the blogs and vlogs and such that you see on polyphasic sleep are really just hymns to iconoclasm, and they range from bouncing off the walls at first, to giddy and heady when the adaptation gets hard, to some variation on disillusionment, when it gets really hard and they fail.  Meanwhile, the very small percentage of people who succeed are less likely to be heavily involved in their own documentation — because that's not the point for them, and also keeping up on those things is hard even when you aren't also juggling a somewhat superhuman selfhack.  So while it is possible to find material on or by successful polyphasers, it's really likely to be buried in piles of failwankery.  :P

My answer to the "mutant accusation" goes even further than "they're out there if you look," though, because many people I talk to are also forgetting a crucial fact:  human beings are born polyphasic.  In order to be a "mutant", I'd kind of have to be doing something new, instead of simply reverting to the type of sleep-schedule that defined humanity for the vast majority of its history!

This isn't a cute language-trick where we point to babies' weird little developing brains and go "see, it's natural!" — rather, it's a stone solid fact: we work very hard to train our infant children out of polyphasic sleep; and moreover, over 90% of other mammals, including the vast majority of primates, are also polyphasic — have been forever, and still are now.  Monophasic sleep is the outlier here, and it's something we did to ourselves.

Naps are the norm.  Remember that.  Mankind made a decision, not too many decades past, to trade in polyphasic sleep for a longer monophasic sleep that lets us stay awake for 14+ hours without a break, something very few other animals can do.  Then we built a civilization around it, making it so normal that many people find the mere idea of doing things differently intimidating or likely to be impossible.  

But I'm hardly a mutant, except perhaps in that I'm one of few (few, not zero) humans to decide that a deliberate schedule change was worth the effort for me.  But even when I did it, back when absolutely nothing about polyphasic sleep was online and I hadn't even heard the word before, I still knew that changing one's sleep schedule wasn't impossible, because I'd seen babies and adults go through it, and I knew people who chose to be vegan or vegetarian.  

The assumption that our sleep schedules can't be changed on an individual level is just that: an assumption.  And a hilariously poorly-supported one at that.

Love,

A Mutant For Other Reasons, Possibly

*you are not polyphasic, nor have ever been, if you didn't get through adaptation — one month minimum; more like two for core-nap schedules.  Adaptation is massively and qualitatively different than post-adaptation polyphasic sleep!

This timer has been through Hell.

The Sgt. Jackrum of Timers

This timer has been through Hell.

I can't remember if it was one of the ones I used in the first Uberman adaptation — I know the other of those, the white one, literally fell to pieces a few years ago — or if I bought it shortly thereafter, but man, this one's done some time.

I found it while moving house last weekend, and though it beeped as though sleepily happy to see me, I couldn't get it to work — the numbers were half-formed, and the buttons responded only sporadically.  

Yet, when I tossed it in the trash (after getting this picture) and turned away, it immediately began beeping angrily.  When I picked it up and shut it off, it glared at me with sharp, crisp numbers and responsive buttons.  So I kept it after all.  :)

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Epic Food Hack: Picklekraut (for breakfast!)

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Alright folks, here's a weird one for you, but especially given the number of people who've expressed concerns about weight gain, I couldn't not mention it (though I probably would have anyway, just because OMG COOL).  

So, I make pickles.  Not all the time, but a friend taught me how, and they're pretty awesome and they keep forever, so I do it.  "My" (his) pickle recipe is a little weird, but ultra-healthy and also crazy easy.  Hence, there are three pints of them in my fridge right now, just staring at me.  Always happens.  :)

I'm also having a hilariously stupid / awful week, one of the consequences of which is that I've run out of food for me — I can't eat wheat flour, so it can be tough especially to keep things around that survive several busy weeks of limited shopping and cooking — but man, yesterday I was hungry in the morning; I needed *something* in the gap between waking up early and heading off to work, and I'd had my wheat-free hot cereal for dinner (I know.  Last night I had two spoonfuls of peanut butter. >,<  I'm hitting all the requirements calorie, protein, and vitamin-wise, but not in anything like an elegant fashion!)

So, left without other options, I grabbed a jar of pickles and a fork; I was hungry enough to not care much what they tasted like, but to my shock, the sharp scouring sour actually was nice on fuzzy-morning-mouth.  And as soon as they settled into my stomach, where I'd been half-expecting I'd get an upset from eating pickles for freaking breakfast, I instead got a HUGE burst of energy — not a buzz, but a spreading gut-cleanliness, and one of the strongest and most immediate feelings of "this is good for you!" that I've had in a long time.  I ate probably a half-cup of picklekraut and went to work, and felt abnormally great for the next few hours.  I also ate more later, since .5c of veggies, yeast and salt is not a full breakfast! It was probably like 50 calories, heh.  Yet, it was probably 2h before I ate anything again, and I felt full (they're bulky), energized, and clean.  My stomach, which can be iffy obviously (see: wheat thing) was also great yesterday, like, better than usual.

Anyway, yeah, highly recommended!  Pickles as snack but also, as a major component of breakfast!  (Update:  It's two days later and I've had picklekraut for breakfast both days.  I love it silly; it continues to feel absurdly healthy, and my stomach is quite possibly the happiest it's been in months.)

BUT, you may have noticed I said "picklekraut":  That's right; my pickles are special.  Here's the recipe!  – Oh yeah, they're dirt cheap, too.  :D

PICKLEKRAUT!

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Start Here

- 1 red cabbage (the red isn't necessary, but it gives it the cool color.  Also, half a cabbage plus other veggies makes a LOT of pickles, be warned!)
- Other veggies, cut into largish chunks.  I like onions, garlic cloves, radishes and carrots best; my friend puts cucumbers, fennel, and asparagus in his; they're all good.  If you like spicy, grab your hot-peppers and leave the seeds in.  Go light because pickling does not reduce the spiciness — on the contrary, I made some of this with, like, two habaneros to a huge batch, and it almost burned my face off!
- Herbs, if you know how to do the herb or spice thing.  Not necessary, but by all accounts yummy. 
- Shitload of salt.  If possible, you want pickling salt for this — it's chemical-free — but I've done it with regular salt.
- Brine from previous picklekraut.  This is the easiest way to do this; if you don't have any, see below.

Chop veggies into bowl.  Big whacko chunks are best.

Add lots of salt.  Start with about a cup for a big bowl, but be prepared to adjust (i.e. probably add more).

Add any leftover brine you have from a previous batch, and top off the rest with water so that all of the veggies are covered.  Stir to make sure all the air-bubbles are removed.

Now — this is important — flip a plate, or a lid smaller than the mouth of your bowl, over and lay them on top of the vegetables.  Add a small weight if necessary, to make sure every bit of the veggies is pushed under the fluid — none of it can be touching air.  You need to create an anaerobic environment for the veggies to pickle in:  You're going to leave them on the counter, not in the fridge (or properly canned) as you would with regular pickles, because we're going to let these ferment.  Given a good anaerobic environment, they'll naturally lacto-ferment (I think it's called?) with a healthy yeast and bacteria combination that's great for your guts.  Given any air, they'll turn greenbluebrown and you will have the gaggingest mess ever to dispose of.  (If you can't tell, I've made this mistake.  >,<)

Cover the whole thing with a real lid, but not an air-tight one; this stuff will bubble a bit and you need it to be able to off-gas (like brewing beer).  Now leave it alone, in a warm place out of direct sunlight, for a week.  Seriously, don't touch it.

After a week, hold your nose and open it up — awww yeah, the smell of in-progress sauerkraut.  Once that clears a bit, taste a pickle.  (It tastes better than it smells, I promise.)  Add salt or adjust seasonings if desired.

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Now you can leave them some more, usually for another week — but if you didn't start with any brine, you'll need a lot longer.  Stir it up every day or two and check how it's doing.  You may see whitish film at the top and sides; we prefer to scrape that off, though it's harmless.  You should not see any green, blue, or brown stuff going on — if you see just a little, like where something was sticking up above the water, it's safe to just remove it; if it doesn't come back or spread, you're ok.  Generally once the yeast and good bacteria take hold, they'll keep other stuff from proliferating as long as their environment is maintained.  Once they're ready, transfer them to a jar (fill it all the way up and put a tight lid on) and into the fridge.  This will stop the yeast fermenting, and they'll stay in a nice stasis for a lonnnnnng time.  I have no idea how long, but I've eaten them after several months in the fridge and they're still perfect.

Picklekraut can be eaten in as little as 1 week, but get stronger and softer as you leave them.  You really don't need more than 2 weeks, but I've ahem accidentally left them "cooking" on the counter for 2 months and they only got stronger — creating the variant my family calls PICKLES!!! (you have to yell it).

Besides just being snacks, gifts, and a killer side-dish or appetizer, these are awesome for seasoning things like soup, congee and salad (chop up fine).  Save the brine from the jars (in the refrigerator, in a sealed jar) when you're finished and dump it in your next batch to get the colonies of good bacteria started more quickly.  (Some people say to do this, some say not to.  I do it because my friend does.)

Enjoy!

Prevention for Depression?

A random thing I've been meaning to write down for a while, brought to you by the letter D:

I hate who I am when I'm depressed.  And I mean, who doesn't; depression doesn't bring out the best in anybody; that's kind of definitional — and it's a vicious cycle, too, because being in a state of hating yourself and/or your life makes it awfully hard to find positive thoughts and supportive actions to take when every second of every day, you're fighting off wanting to die.

Having ridden this train for the majority of the last quarter-century, I've learned a few things; and one of them is definitely "an ounce of prevention is worth a shit-tonne of cure" — you can crawl back up from the bottom, sure; months or years of concerted effort, forcing yourself to therapy over and over, carefully meting out whatever drugs or supplements you've found that work, and more than anything that daily slog of thinking about it, trying, failing, crying, writing and coming back to square one over and over again — it can work; I think I've proven that.  It can't work "for good" or forever, at least not that I've figured out yet; not if your condition is chronic, like mine is.  But Recovery can work, and it can get you back to a place where you can move back to Prevention:  and my point is, Prevention is much much easier.  

What is Prevention for Depression, though?  If you're a chronic diabetic, you know that you have to guard your dietary equilibrium, always keeping in mind that a night of drinking or a day of skipping food or bingeing on twinkies is going to cost you a long hard climb back to Healthy again.  But what if your body's tendency isn't to short out the glucose-metabolism system, but rather to short out the emotional-will-to-live system?  What can you do, once you've done the hard slog (or gotten ridiculously lucky) and found equilibrium again, to keep it?

It was about ten years ago, I guess, that I first got serious about figuring out how to do Prevention.  I had an infant then, and man, having a kid really slams home how vitally important it is that you be, not just functional in the basic sense, but also reasonably well-off emotionally; because even as tiny babies, kids are wildly affected by their parents' moods, their mumbled thoughts about life, their outlook on the day, the expressions their faces take on when they're not thinking about it.  I do sometimes wonder if the fact that I was raised by a woman who was depressed much of the time had anything to do with the fact that I grew up with this giant monkey-wrench in my emotional regulatory system; and of course the very last thing I want for my own kid is to deal with the same thing living in her own head.  (She's eleven now, which is when things got really bad for me; and so far, no signs.  Fingers crossed.)  So faced with a still-in-formation kid who saw me every day, 24/7, in my worst as well as my best moments, it became suddenly critical that I figure out, not just how to save myself when I was mired in that hole, but how to live my life for the best possible chance of not winding up in it to begin with.

Here's what I came up with, in case it can help anybody else:

1)  Be brutally picky about who you're around, especially when you're feeling tired, vulnerable, sad or suggestible.  One of the many sick ironies about depression* is that it can be worsened by isolation, and yet it makes getting and keeping company much harder.  Not only aren't you great company, but you often don't want to be around people, sometimes just because you feel bad for them and don't want to alienate them with your moods, and sometimes just because you feel like you can't handle the emotional effort of another person in your space.  That means that both staying alone all the time, and allowing "whoever will put up with you" to be the people in your space, are easy to fall into.  But you mustn't, and not just when you're feeling depressed, but always.  Almost nothing has the power to drag you down like bad relationships; abusers, manipulators and the like all feed off of that precious resource of self-esteem and emotional balance that you desperately need — having them around is like inviting in tapeworms when you're diabetic.  It can be hard as hell to enforce this, I know, especially when you have to cut people off and haven't replaced them with anyone better yet; but you absolutely must control and limit your exposure to negative influences.  We all have to deal with them sometimes, yes.  But if you have capital-D Depression, you can't afford to deal with them more than you absolutely have to; and when you have to, you need to take extra measures to counteract that influence (i.e. get more good people and/or alone time, and other things that support and strengthen you).  And people who cause or make worse your Depression must go, MUST be excised from your daily life, even if they're spouses or parents or BFFs.  It's hard on the heart, especially since when you're young and unable to control your Depression, you probably built relationships that make it worse; you will almost certainly have to let some go that you really value, and/or have had for years.  But eventually you can't ignore anymore that these people could literally kill you; that they're not just parasites, but parasites draining you of a rare and precious resource, and if you want to survive this ride, and to succeed at things like raising kids and being functional and succeeding at some goals in life, you can't stay with them.  

2)  Be brutally picky about your job(s).  Yes, we all do what we gotta do to eat; and work isn't required to be fun, by any means — most humans come home from work tired, eagerly await their days off, and gripe about their bosses and coworkers; such is life.  (And any Depressed person will tell you, just dealing with Life and how it is a blessing.  Someone in the D-hole would kill to be able to just get up and go to work and have a crappy day like everybody else.  A simple crappy day with no unexpected crying-fits, nightmares, anxiety attacks or whatever other lovely symptoms you get — and without worrying that such things are right around the corner – would be awesome.)  But we've also, most of us, had those jobs that really suck, that really do burn some life out of you every single day, either because they involve a bad relationship (see point 1) or they're morally repugnant or what have you; and if you have Depression (or even just if you're going through a really bad patch and depression-the-feeling is particularly bad and hard to avoid / escape right now), you can't allow those to continue.  Obviously the sooner you realize this and the luckier you get about changing to a new gig, the better; but "meh I'll just tough this out, other people do it" is stupid thinking.  This is your weak spot and you need to guard it.  A little emotional draining from your money-making gig is to be expected, but you don't have the same stores, the same stability, to count on as other people, and you need to accept that (not easy, I know) and do the responsible thing.  And let's define "responsible" here:  Money and things are necessary in life, but they're not as necessary as mental health and staying basically functional (i.e. getting out of bed, eating, speaking, staying out of the hospital, and not offing yourself).  If your choice is "court a huge and dangerous Depression, or make an existing one worse" or "have to move into a friend's basement or live in a car for a little while," guess which one is better?

I guess one of the biggest lessons of Prevention is that YOU HAVE TO TAKE YOUR CONDITION SERIOUSLY.  This is extra challenging in a world that can still barely get its head out of its ass long enough to refrain from telling you you're not really sick because it's "all in your head", but you absolutely must do it.  Like any chronically-ill person, nobody can make you take care of yourself in the long run:  You have to accept responsibility for it, and do your damndest to make good choices no matter what.  

3)  Also, apropos of living in friends' basements, another key part of Prevention is that you must accept help where you can get it.  Nobody wants to be a freeloader, and I'm not suggesting you should — we all have help to give, too, and we should give it wherever possible.  But the isolating and shaming parts of Depression make it easy to hide your problems and/or refuse or refuse to seek help from the people in your life who are good and/or lucky enough to be able to offer it right now.  Because you won't feel like asking for help when you should, get in the habit of asking yourself, whenever you're unhappy about a situation, is this something a friend or family-member could help me with?  Maybe a little money, a night off from the kids, or a place to crash would really make a difference right now:  buckle down and ask for it; don't just drop hints or act hopeful and pray that someone will notice.  A) that's obnoxious; B) you'll feel like shit when it doesn't work, and wrongly tell yourself that there's no help available; and C) studies have shown and wise people know that asking your network for help is a big thing you can do to strengthen your relationships.  It does not, in fact, "burn" goodwill or harm your status in someone's eyes when you need help; often, giving them the opportunity to help a friend (etc) in a meaningful way is a great gift to people, and makes them feel closer to you.  And of course, know thyself:  If you tend to never ever ask or lean on people (like I do), then make yourself do it twice as often as you think is actually necessary.  You'll benefit coming and going, from assistance where you need it to stronger relationships.

Also, don't overlook that when your pancreas is out of whack, often it makes you crave sugar when sugar would be the worst possible thing:  And when your emotions are out of whack, they're going to tell you that getting help (or in fact doing anything directly useful to fix the problem) is a bad idea.  When I'm depressed, even if I desperately want a night off, I don't feel like I want a night off, and my inclination is to refuse one.  A night off doesn't feel like a fix anymore; I want to burn the world down and jump in front of a train; that's the only thing that feels like a fix.  That's not so much of an issue when you're accepting help as part of Prevention, but I think anybody who's read this far knows how ridiculously easy Prevention can become Emergency Mitigation in these circumstances.  So watch for that.

4)  The last major component of Prevention is broad and tricky, but that's because every mind-body is unique in some ways, and the details of what helps and hinders you are going to be, at base, something that only you can figure out.  You need to learn what affects you most strongly emotionally, and control your exposure to those things as much as humanly possible.  And this is going to feel like it looks silly at first:  We don't laugh at diabetics who pore over the ingredients of things, or can't eat at a restaurant with us; but sure as hell many people won't understand that it's a medical necessity for you to avoid romantic comedies, wear loose clothes, never watch a movie in a theatre, and move out of Detroit.  You'll probably get a good deal of labeling as "eccentric", "picky", and variations on that theme.  I can't say I have the best solution for that part, because it is very isolating sometimes; but I can say that after a decade of ever-more-firmly implementing my Exposure Control Protocol (haha no, I don't really call it that, though you're forgiven if you thought I might) I've learned that people actually care a lot less about such things than you'd expect.  They're also extremely easy to lie to about them, and after some moral flailing about it years ago, I decided that lying to worm my way out of judgment for something I need to do in order to be healthy is perfectly acceptable.  Why don't I ever go to the movies?  Why, I'm an MPAA-boycotter.  Or have bladder control issues.  Or I always fall asleep so it's not worth the money.  Why did I have to leave D-town even though my family is there?  Job market.  (Not untrue, but not nearly all of the truth.)  Why don't I watch the news, or even own a TV, or now that we think of it even consent to sit near a TV in a restaurant or tolerate one in a waiting-room?  Oh, it's a political thing.  Viva las Adbusters.  Whatever.  The point is, people have neither a right to nor an interest in most of these details — but you do, because you are living on a subsistence budget of happiness, and you are doing it in the fucking deserts of Dune, where what might be a minor slip-up in other places, for other people, can kill you like *wham*.   TAKE IT SERIOUSLY.  Every little bit helps, both in the positive (doing a thing) and the negative (avoiding a thing) senses.  Absolutely have a list of things that bolster you emotionally, and things that drain or unbalance you; update it frequently and use it every day to add as much from Column A to, and excise as much of Column B from, your life as possible.  …And even though it should probably be a point of its own, I'll list here that your diet, getting regular exercise (probably more than you think you need! Exercise is a huge help with both recovering from and preventing depression) and keeping your physical environment positive (i.e. clean and comfortable) are all things that should be heavily represented on that list.

Prevention is hard.

But it's not as hard as Recovery.

Take it seriously.  Help the people you love take it seriously (for you or them or both).  Depression kills — and if you're lucky, you have to remind yourself of that.  If you're not so lucky, you've lost someone, or nearly lost yourself, and you know it firsthand.  But either way, don't let anything make you forget it.

-M/PD

*I capitalize Depression when I'm referring to the clinical variety, the monkeywrench disease that causes, prolongs, and strengthens emotional lows independently of events in your life.  When I'm talking about the lows themselves, the emotional state of "feeling depressed" that we all experience sometimes no matter how emotionally healthy we are, I drop the capital letter.

Three Steps to Prepare for an Adaption (lessons from the Camp Chair)

Camp chair arrived, is comfortable, portable; it lets me put my feet up and rest the leg/hip bits I'm always overworking (especially now, with 4-6 taiji classes a week to either take or teach) — but is totally unusable for long periods of time, as it makes my butt go numb after about 20 min, requiring me to stand up and stretch.

PERFECT.  It could almost be marketed for polyphasers.  \o/

Getting this chair, by the way, is the kind of preparation I find incredibly valuable and wish people would do more of.  In fact, here are the steps of preparation as I see them, in order of priority:

  1. Read up on polyphasic sleep, understand what it is and what adapting to it requires, and carefully choose and document a desired schedule for yourself.  If you have big questions ("Can I do this with [health condition]?", "Is this going to screw up my marriage?") get them answered, so that you can rest easy (ha) knowing that you've done what you can to be aware of and responsible about them.
  2. Set aside adequate time for the adapation and identify all the challenges you know you'll face, and take at least one step BEFORE adaptation begins to mitigate each challenge.  

    1. Ex:  "I currently need a lot of caffeine" –> cut back or quit
    2. Ex:  "I'll have to take at least one nap away from home" –> plan places to sleep and pack sleeping stuff to carry at the relevant time(s)
    3. And so forth
  3. Make a Big Fat List of things to do, both generally with the time, and to stay awake during the adaptation; set up friends / alarms / fall-backs and Kill Switches

…And maybe that's not so bad, or so much (really, is it much more planning and prep than one needs to, say, become vegan?…and before you say, "But I knew someone who just dropped everything one day and became vegan!" remember that a) successes like that are unlikely but b) always possible — in fact, for my first transition to Uberman I had barely a few days of prep and basically went by the seat of my pants!). 

Maybe I don't even need the entire month or so I have to plan my next one…but given the circumstances, man I'm glad I have it!

Looking forward to it, though.  A better schedule will be a big win.

(P.S.  Thought of a great item for my BFL today:  Make Xmas presents!  I love to give clever homemade ones for several reasons, but they take some planning; starting in the fall with a big chunk of work on them will be awesome.  *yay*)

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The Big Fight

I feel like September's adaptation is shaping up to become a biiiiiig fight.  And maybe not one I can win!  Look at these "gotchas" that might interfere with my own adaptation:

  • unexpectedly (I just found out), I'm moving to a new apartment on or about September 1st
  • I have an irritatingly slow-to-heal sports injury I've been dealing with for a while, which I knew about and figured wouldn't be a big deal, but the recent intense acupuncture treatments (which are really working, yay) totally wipe me out.  After the last one I slept 7 hours on a day when I'd had two naps!
  • September might be my only chance to go freediving this year, so I was hoping to plan a weekend trip involving lots of gear and deep water…but that would be um, mid-adaptation…
  • ALSO, SEE: MOVING right when the whole thing's supposed to be starting!  The apartment is nice, but I'll have roommates, and their flexibility and tolerance for my being up / noisy is still an unknown.

So yeah, big fight.  Not that there's ever a perfect time, and nothing about this is really a deal-breaker yet; just a bit daunting.  Nonetheless, no sense dwelling on it; intstead, I figured it warranted discussion of one of my favorite movies of all time.

It's from 1980, though I probably didn't see it for the first time when I was two.  (Who knows, though.)  My dad had Enter the Dragon and used to put it on all the time, but I, at whatever very young age I was, couldn't really get behind the screechy guy who was funny without really being funny (this is how Bruce Lee looks when you're single-digit years old), so one day he put on something else.  The (VHS) case it was in said The Big Fight, though everywhere I've seen it since it's been called The Big Brawl or Battle Creek Brawl.  It was not, let's say, a commercial success.

It's very silly, very dated, and has many flaws.  But for all that, it may be the perfect kungfu movie.  Partly becuase it's silly enough to not let you take it seriously, but (unlike other gems like Kung Fu Panda or Shaolin Soccer) not silly enough to be only secondarily about kungfu.  The plot is classic, but well-paced; and the characters are stereotypical, but really well-executed.  And it's got everything you might want:

  • young Jackie Chan in sweater-vests and jaunty hats
  • inventive, no-special-effects fight-scenes with tons of humor, crazy props, and who-sat-down-and-thought-this-up stunts (including one of the first, I think, of Jackie Chan's "accidental fight" scenes)
  • the rollerskate race from hell:  makes underwater hockey look like a tame sport!
  • hilarious stereotypes, but not too many of them
  • awkward cultural and sexism stuff, but not too much of it
  • excellent old-school catchy whistled tune
  • a badass traditional Chinese uncle / Sifu / trainer who mercilessly beats his student into shape, like Mr. Myogi but cooler (trust me)
  • a surprising amount of sex — PG-rated, but a lot of getting laid goes on in this movie, and it's handled with fun and humor and hell-yeah without ever being squicky (or even really romantic, since "the girl" in this movie is the main character's established girlfriend, so they're like, obviously doing it and loving it whenever they can, but not "falling in love," which I find refreshing).  

In short, if you haven't seen this movie I've been watching for a score of years and still dig, go do it!  (At the moment, you can even watch it on YouTube. :D)

And if you think you can help with my own Big Fight in September, stepping up would be welcome!  I've barely started and already I feel behind.  :-\  …But that's another challenge I guess; August for me is going to be CRAZY, and I've just given up even trying to worry about my sleep then, figuring I'll focus on improving my diet (which has kind of sucked lately) and healing my foot, alongside the usual.

Have a great weekend everybody!

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Better faster better more ::clickclickclickclick::

I type fast…but I type a LOT, and anymore I feel like my typing is too slow; especially that having to use both a keyboard and a mouse, and typing in longhand, is costing me too much time.

Does anybody else feel this way, or have ideas for solutions? I'm already haunting the frogpad2 — here's hoping I find two benjamins laying on the street when it comes out! — but am also really interested in software that lets me increase my speed via typing shortcuts / macros. (I used similar software a zillion years ago and learned that in order to actually work / save time, it has to be REALLY well-designed.) I also use all three major operating systems pretty regularly, and would like any solution I use to work with at least two of them.

*sigh* The tribulations of being a high-performance nerd! This 90wpm isn't doing it for me anymore — someone bring me ROCKET FUEL! :D

Have a great day, everyone. Mad exciting polyphasic stuff going on; update very very soon I hope!

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Guest Post: The Fruit Politic

Hey all!  A friend of mine wrote this for me, and I thought it was all the best kinds of educational and beautiful, and so I asked him if I could share it with you all.  Thank you, Aatish!

THE FRUIT POLITIC

If there's one thing, and I think there might be just exactly one thing, that Indians love more than cricket, it's mangoes. High mango season in Mumbai is a frenzy of unabashed gluttony, covetousness and joy. Chausa, Hapus, Dasheri, Kesri, Malika…each varietal has extremely specific uses (dasheris are best in milkshakes, kesri makes the better ice cream though and the juice of the chausa mixes well with a sweetened ball of opium). As a culture we have come up with more ways to eat mangoes than we have sex positions in the Kama Sutra.

During the season people you haven't seen in a year will drop by your place just to taste how good your product is and how it stacks up to their stuff at home. The unspoken rule is that any offer of tea has to be accompanied by the offer of mango. Small talk happens – who's been busted for what corruption scandal? ("How sad and he was from such a good family"), have you seen the latest Sharuk Khan movie? ("My god, such things the youngsters are wearing these days!"), the price of vegetables ("I swear, how is one to keep the house going?") and then eventually, soft and sly just so's it might slip your guard, "So, bhai, where did you get these mangoes?" That's when you shrug modestly, click your tongue and say, "Oh, you know, the market. So hard to find the good stuff these days. We were hunting for hours."

No self-respecting Mumbai-ker buys their mangoes at the market. And you don't buy a mango, you buy a peti, a fragrant bundle of straw stuffed with exactly 48 of the gold-green fruit and crammed into a wooden crate that's just the right size to hoist onto your shoulder. This you pick up from your mango dealer. Ours is a man named Ram Bhai, which in India is the moral equivalent of being named, "Mr. Smith." He carries a pager tucked into a bright orange turban and drives a Land Rover with tinted windows and souped-up speakers that are constantly blaring Bollywood hits from the 80s. He smiles frequently and chews enough beetle nut to stone a whale, which gives him teeth the color of an abattoir's gutter. He used to manage one of the big plantations in Ratnagiri and since his replacement was (by total coincidence, of course) a second cousin once removed on his mother's side, he gets (for a modest share of his profits) the choicest picks from the best trees. Those mangoes, they never get within 20 kilometers of a market.

I remember that at school, during these short precious months before the monsoons hit, the deepest pity was reserved for the kids that showed up to lunch without a sliced mango. It was considered an act of charity, and thus, of course of power and plenty, to give one of these poor souls the ghutli, the giant central seed from your mango around which clung a meager corona of mango flesh, so that they could suck on it. The rest of us carried on a bellowing mango arbitrage over lunch that would warm the cockles of the hardest bitten commodities trader. The Hapus was the most prized, a half-slice of one of those babies could cost your your entire Chausa or two-thirds of a Kesri. The market was brutal. You could trade on futures for slices today ("But I'm telling you na? My uncle always brings an entire peti when he comes to visit and he'll surely come this weekend") but if you got called and could not deliver, you were out of the market for the rest of the season. Unthinkable.

My favorite varietal, back then and still, is the Chausa. It is a mango that is massively undervalued unless you know the secret to eating one. Its name means 'succulent' and its got a skin like alligator hide and flesh so fibrous that cutting it is like sawing through rubber. The way you eat one correctly is to start by slamming it roughly against a wall. Then, with your hand pressed firmly against it, you roll it back and forth, back and forth, for about a minute. Once you feel the skin heat up and give, you pull it to your mouth, press your lips to it and nip, hard with your incisors. And then it breaks – the pulped inside of the fruit pours out the gash as you suck on it. The juice that fills your mouth and throat, trickling down your chin, is dark saffron, rich and sweet. On a blisteringly hot Mumbai afternoon you can pull a cold one of these out of the fridge and drink it down like a beer. It is messy and delicious and glorious, all of the ways in which a mango should best be.

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Realizing how big a tree is

One of my favorite perception shifts in this life comes from suddenly realizing how big a tree is.

You're walking along, idly thinking or just perceptively assuming that you're passing these giant sticks with branches and big umbrella-tops with leaves, and sure, they're pleasant but they stay still and just hang there providing shade and cool breathable air and most of the time, you don't give them a thought.

Then something happens — You approach a ravine-edge, or some other spot where the tree's roots are exposed.  Or your brain just catches your eyes and your perceptive awareness up to reality, for no reason (it happens!).  And then you see it.

You see — no, you feel, you really realize – that that umbrella thing is in fact twice as big as you thought it was; that fully half its body is deep underground, and that you are walking through the middle of it.

It's not a cute umbrella of truffula harmlessness, that tree.  It's half-subterranean, half light-loving; and its body curves around just so that you, and everything else, can walk and sit and pass right through the center of it.  It is a massive hugger of the world; a giant of a living thing that's utterly friendly to being walked on, climbed through, and hung out in.  You think you're standing under it, but you're passing through it, standing on it, being held by it.

It creeped the heck out of me at first, to be honest.  But I've since come to love the sensation of re-realizing that, of brushing my fingers on a trunk and imagining that I can feel it all spreading out beneath and above me.

Daoists thought that trees were holy because they were always exposed to the elements.  Their entire being was shaped by never once hiding from the wind, the rain, the cosmic radiation.  They had reality so nailed.

Whenever I realize how big they are, and how I'm in the middle of one, I get a sense of awe and of cosmic radiation, too.  I'm such a frail, tiny thing next to this sturdy half-buried behemoth; and yet here I stand, rains of radiation pouring on my head too, and for the moment, we're both surviving it together.