Polyphasic Cities: The Bedroom Exodus

I have to say, I think my single favorite thing about polyphasic sleep…is the people I've met because of it.  I won't try to list them all, becase I'd miss some that I talk to less frequently or recently and then feel bad; but man, there are quite a lot who are simply amazing, and of kinds and calibers I'd have a slim chance to ever run into otherwise.  And a really surprising percentage of them have become really close friends of one sort of another, too; friends in many countries with wildly cool experiences, skills and interests. 

I mean…YMMV of course.  :)  But in my case, it's been a pretty spectacular gain.

Anyway, this was a weird lead-in to talking about the Towards A Polyphasic City: Bedroom Exodus project I guess, but it's no lie to say that meeting and talking to these guys reminded me strongly of that point, of how stupidly grateful I am to my lifelong quest for better sleep, of all things, for putting me in touch with such fucking cool people.

So check it out:  these guys, named Jerome, Florian, and Lukas [and BY THE WAY what is it with people I talk to having such ridiculously amazing names] started their architectural work on the effects of sleep on cities (and vice versa) two years ago.  They've since been published, gotten a grant, and done a really impressive amount of thinking about these things from angles that legitimately surprised me at times.  I guess we all knew that how we build our environments has a huge impact on how we live, but take a moment to really think about what would be different if things were nap-friendly — and contemplate the crazy degree to which they're not.  It's a, well, eye-opener.  >,>

One thing I've learned from extensive discussions with another great person I met doing this, an experienced neuro-anthro sleep researcher in Europe, is that although we take the way we sleep for granted, it really wasn't always this way, and therefore other options are possible.  The Bedroom Exodus project is seriously exploring some details about "what options" and "how", and while I think we all agreed that their results are still just scratching the surface of the possible changes, they're incredibly interesting nonetheless.

You can check them out at http://cargocollective.com/bedroomexodus (yup, their project wins the Cool Name Award, too).  

[ADDENDUM:  I went on a trip this last weekend, and got a big fat reminder of how hard it can be to nap in middle America in the modern age — living in a rather bustling city, I think, shelters me from some of that.  But out in Midgard, man, things close at five sharp and people frown hard at a person napping on a bench, especially indoors.  (Did I miss something?  Is sleeping filthy?  I digress, but this is a point that bothers me a lot sometimes…people stick their noses up at me like I'm showering in their water-fountain.)  I also had a hair-raising time trying to leave a campground at 6am (I'd been awake almost two hours!) to get started on the trip home:  the staff were straight-up mad at me for violating their "obvious", unspoken rule that I would leave after they had arrived at 7am, so they could check me out.  Their response to the idea that I'd want to be up and doing anything earlier was the kind of "but that's common sense, so you're just crazy" that I haven't come up face-first against in Boston in a while.  Huh.]

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Buddha teaches the Internet: How to correct someone and not be an asshole

Questions I must answer before speaking up / correcting someone:
1. Do I thoroughly practice what I’m about to preach?
2. Do I even preach what I’m about to preach?
3. Am I speaking up because I really want to help, or is it because I’m angry, or because I want to be on record as being right?
4. Do I actually know what I’m talking about here, or is this a situation where I and others would both be better served if I listened and learned?
5. Am I skilled enough in the means and methods of conducting this particular type of discussion to correct someone without being misunderstood?

Things I must do to properly speak up / correct someone:
1. Speak at the right time
2. Speak using facts, not opinions or assumptions, to support my point
3. Speak as gently as possible
4. Make sure that the words I’m speaking will actually help the situation
5. Make sure that my inward motivation for speaking is kind, never malicious.

[Courtesy of the Buddhist “Eightfold Path” of Being Awesome / Seeking Enlightenment, one -fold of which is “right speech”, contained in which are these lessons for when it is OK for someone attempting to not be a shithead to correct someone else (direct quote follows):

[1] “Am I one who practices purity in bodily action, flawless and untainted…?
[2] “Am I one who practices purity in speech, flawless and untainted…?
[3] “Is the heart of goodwill, free from malice, established in me towards fellow-farers in the holy life…?
[4] “Am I or am I not one who has heard much, who bears in mind what he has heard, who stores up what he has heard? Those teachings which are good alike in their beginning, middle, and ending, proclaiming perfectly the spirit and the letter of the utterly purified holy life — have such teachings been much heard by me, borne in mind, practiced in speech, pondered in the heart and rightly penetrated by insight…?
[5] “Are the Patimokkhas [rules of conduct for monks and nuns] in full thoroughly learned by heart, well-analyzed with thorough knowledge of their meanings, clearly divided sutta by sutta and known in minute detail by me…?
“These five conditions must be investigated in himself.”

“And what other five conditions must be established in himself?
[1] “Do I speak at the right time, or not?
[2] “Do I speak of facts, or not?
[3] “Do I speak gently or harshly?
[4] “Do I speak profitable words or not?
[5] “Do I speak with a kindly heart, or inwardly malicious?
“O bhikkhus, these five conditions are to be investigated in himself and the latter five established in himself by a bhikkhu who desires to admonish another.”]

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Sometimes all you can do is draw a line around the blank space

When I hit a block and find myself staring at a million things to do or think or figure out, sometimes it helps to just try and encapsulate the things I can't do in some meaningful category.  Then, if they sit there a bit, often one or more of them will sheepishly present a useful next step or next piece to be done.  It's like, they love being all huge and unbounded — writing-projects especially — and therefore don't want to let me actually write words, because that will limit them.  But then I put them down in just the few words that they are — the title, the synopsis — and stick all of that in a sad little shoebox, and when they realize I'm serious, one or more of them will say "Wait!  We're also these paragraphs!  And this character!  Seriously, you can write this bit down too now…"

I find things like XMind(.net) helpful for this.  I can poke at and stare at things like this one when I need to, and think saucily to myself, SEE?  YOU STAY IN THE BOX UNTIL THERE ARE WORDS.


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The good news is, we’re all gonna die

::cue Whitey Ford::

Nothing makes you appreciate your financial mortality like a wade through the waters of your health-insurance benefits.

Ironically, this is doubly true because these are the best benefits I've ever had, and I'm currently making some of the best money I've ever made — certainly more than enough to be comfortable by most standards; my salary is higher than the average 2-income salary in some cities…and yet, it doesn't take much calculating to realize that any *real* medical issue would bury me completely.  There'd be nothing I could do, especially if the issue interfered with my ability to make my salary.

But even if I could continue working, these numbers are just, well, sick.  I'm "only" going to pay about $6,000 out of pocket per year before my benefits kick in — that's $500 a month.  Do you have that in extra income?  Because I don't, and like I said, I do pretty well.  Any more than a month or two of an extra $500 in expenses would have me bleeding my savings out, which I'm sure is true for many people.  And that's just the base pay — I'm also responsible for between 20-80% of the cost of everything from hospitalization to chemotherapy, plus all of the cost of any of the zillion things that aren't covered which are incidental to care, healing and recovery.  What's 20% of chemo?  I've got to imagine it's pretty awful.  I was hospitalized for an accidental injury years ago and the bill came to over $80,000 for a week-long stay and emergency surgery…20% of that is $16,000, or $1333 per month if I get lucky and land on a payment plan.  Almost double my rent payment.  HA.

And this isn't even getting into the good bits, like how there are certain "preferred" brands of drugs that are more covered than others, forcing me to give money to companies that my health-insurance (and likely also doctor and hospital) corporations get a kickback for.  I'm sure that, like the other strange little requirements sprinkled all over this policy, is totally there because it's giving me the best care and the best opportunity to heal.  And oh, if I don't heal, if one of these profit-motivated medical decisions keeps or makes me sick, then guess what?  More rent-payment-level bills in my lap.

Once again, what really bothers me is that we allow corporations to do all this (at all, but also) while claiming that their primary goal is the health of citizens.  If only there were regulations requiring them to disclose that their profit margin was their main concern, I could sleep easier.  I'm not sure why, but… Better the devil you know, I guess.

But I suppose the upside is, when you're this screwed, it's hard to really give a shit.  I can feel a little better able to accept the reality now that I know that the deal is:  I eat the $75/mo cost of health insurance (and count myself lucky that my employer pays for the rest, which is substantial — again, rent-level), and I use it for everything I can, but I don't let it make me think for a second that I'm not going utterly broke if I ever get sick or hurt.  If that happens, I'm going to give up hard and quick on ever paying those bills, because screw it, it's not possible; there's nothing to gain there morally by trying my best; instead I'll just try to keep my health and my life as long as possible, and accept that it will destroy my financial life to do so.

I live in a country that has no problem letting corporations take our life savings in exchange for medicine — to the point where our government spends tons MORE on health-care than countries which provide it for free, just to support this system —  and if I need lots of medicine, my country is going to let companies take everything I have or threaten to kill me if I can't pay.

Noted.  Thanks, USofA.  

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Light Exercise FTW

This post by almost-polyphaser Marco Calvo Cruz (I know, somebody won the name lottery, right?) has a bit of information in it that I feel kind of Duh for having never focused on before (at least, I don’t think I have) — and this excellent post over on Minding Your Way fits right into it, too.

The lesson is “light exercise”.

Exercise Lite

Yes, I do mean “light” exercise in the sense of “gentle / not intense” — I feel I should clarify that, because I rarely do anything “light”, at least not on purpose; and I certainly mostly don’t like my exercise that way. But it occurs to me after reading both of those blog-posts that I do get a lot of exercise that way, and it has surprising benefits.

(I’ll never spell it “lite” again — I did that to make a point, but I fucking hate that misspelling, thank you corporate brandvertising, ew.)

(Bill Hicks break to feel better about that for a second…aaaaaah. Okay, moving on.)

What is “light exercise” anyway?

I, at least, hadn’t pondered this much. But upon doing so:

Light exercise is when you’re moving, but not panting or sweating.
Light exercise is getting a thing done, or practicing a thing, or traveling under your own power.

It’s taking a long walk, or playing ping-pong, or slow-dancing, or balancing on a thing, or re-shelving all your books. It’s doing the stuff that it’s easy to overlook the physical component of (unless or until, gods forbid, something happens that makes doing that physical part difficult — dancing or shelving books is a whole different ball of wax with, say, a broken leg).

But it’s sooooper useful, for many reasons.

Staying awake!

…is a huge reason light exercise is handy. Heavy exercise wears you out and makes you tired, whereas light exercise just keeps your blood moving, your breath bellowsing; light work is moving at cruising speed, and it helps keep you aware and functioning smoothly even when you’re tired. That makes it an awesome way to stay awake when you’re sleep-deprived but don’t want to sleep right now — either because you’re changing sleep-schedules, or simply sleepy at an inconvenient time (hopefully not because you’re on the wrong sleep-schedule for you, because if you are, you’re better off being sleepy because you’re changing schedules!).

For polyphasers developing lists of things to do to stave off tiredness during schedule-adjustments (BFLs as I call them), I’ve been recommending loading those lists with light exercise for years, without quite seeing or calling out the pattern. Some of the best BFL items are things like:

Cleaning the house (mopping, sweeping, sorting, scrubbing, etc)
Doing all the laundry
Re-organizing things like books and tools
Taking long walks, or shorter walks that are difficult in some way (balancing, “silly walking”, etc.)

Health & Fitness

Light exercise is why we need about half of the calories we consume — it may not burn as much per hour as heavy exercise, but most of us do it nearly all day.

Or rather, we should, because our bodies are meant to work that way. Health experts have been saying for some time that being sedentary — being at rest for extended periods, instead of in a state of light exercise — is one of the most damaging possible things for our systems. Healthy people are those who move around in some way pretty much constantly.

A total or near-total lack of light exercise is also a failure to burn 500 or more calories a day, so basically if you’re sitting around instead of moving, you might as well be eating an extra fast-food meal every day, fat-gain-wise. In all seriousness, if most sedentary people got 3 hours more of sustained light exercise per day, and cut out the one junkiest food from their diets (for most people I know, it’s soda), they’d be svelte as deer.

Psychological reprogramming

And let’s not forget that second link I put up above: I adore the point that article is making, that we have this fucked-up tendency to view our lives as being periods of unpleasant work done for the goal-purpose of being able to eventually laze around and do nothing. It’s sick, right? But look at our big life-goals to see this writ large: Take vacations, retire in old age, die and go to a place where everybody just sits around on clouds sipping tea. And we break up our days like this, too, habitually: We pine for “getting enough done” that we can “finally” sit down and put our feet up and watch TV, surf, or play video games until we have to sleep. The goal of all that work was to stop moving.

Except that it isn’t: Work, moving, doing things, IS the goal; it’s the healthy way to be. We intersperse moving with rest as our bodies and minds need it — sleep, sitting down for a minute, reading a book — but this is all part of our natural state of moving with periods of rest. We aren’t being dragged into moving and if things were perfect or “all done”, we’d just lay around — at least, we sure shouldn’t.

Light exercise, seeing it and valuing it, is a great way to re-program this thinking, to, as the article puts it, recognize that “the ground state is in motion”, that being alive should involve being in motion most of the time. Consciously making light exercise the majority of your day — or just realizing that it is, and that that’s awesome and good for you — is reminding yourself that you’re alive and moving, that the work you’re doing is not just some terrible thing you’re getting over-with so that you can lay around, retire, or die; it IS life; it is itself the goal. And that point of view brings with it more present-mindedness, more respect for the task at hand, and more recognition that if you hate what you’re doing right now, you probably ought to change it. Hell yes.

Now go do a thing! I’m gonna. :D

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One million one

There are a million things I could be writing instead,

but today I had to remind every facet of myself

that judgment is bullshit.  Every measuring-device

we invent and hold up to ourselves is wildly flawed,

and every decision we make based on "I'm not good enough"

will never lead to better.

Accept what is.

Be gentle with yourself.

Be strong on the inside and vulnerable on the outside.

And when your mind hardens and declares something a failure,

remind yourself — and me! — that that is not its place;

that what we're here to do is the best we can with an ever-changing

(read that again!  ever-changing)

set of traits and circumstances.  Sick or healthy, ugly or beautiful, popular or

hated and hunted and hurt,

our job is the same:  Be here now.  Accept this.  Play your best with this hand.

In this we'll find endless gratitude, for each other,

and for sunny days and nice drinks and every little thing that helps,

and also the strength to turn away from our detractors

and walk to the end, like we're meant to.

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Give me back that word, you aren’t ready to use it yet: “Community”

There are some words I just want to yank away from people and put on a high shelf until they're big enough to know better.

"Community" is one of them.  There've been some particularly egregious violations of this word in my world lately, which is why I'm throwing it in the spotlight (and up on the high shelf), but it's hardly a new problem.  Rather than rail against the specific social groups and corporations I've seen rolling this word in the mud, though, I'm going to focus on what they're missing, and why it's important.

When we say "community", we are specifically referring to humanity's:

C1) need to BE SOCIAL — which is not just to co-exist, but to live intertwined with, and rely on, each other;


C2) desire to ACT RATIONALLY, consciously, and with better long-term self-interest than our animal urges would have us do.

I can't stress how important BOTH of those are in order to have a community.  If you have social without rational, you just have an animal pack or a mob.  If you have rational without social, you have a business or a military or similar, but it's got none of the benefits of working together and mutual support that we look for in communities.  There can be many types of communal structure and communal actions, of course, but they all have those two things in common, or they're not "a community" (or "community-oriented", or what have you).  

Here are a few things that are NOT COMMUNITY:

1.  top-down organization systems where one or a few people are explicitly in charge of everyone else (violates C1: we're not being social and relying on each other just by all obeying the same, epecially the same faceless or distant, authority)

2.  "cliques" and social groups where, no matter what rational policies and procedures claim to be used or valued, the reality of inclusion and participation is that you'd better be liked by the handful of people with power, or they will be able to successfully punish or ostracize you (violates C2: this is straight-up pack-animal behavior, driven by fear, greed and isolationism rather than any desire to work together)

3.  corporate organizations where the sole reason people are together is to make (or spend) money, and/or where the only thing holding the group together is money (violates C1: if money is the sole thing holding a group together, it's a business, not a community.  In a business, the values of social cooperation and gain-for-everyone are often shoved aside in the interest of increasing and protecting money, because without the money there would be no business.  In a community, however, if we lose money, we lose it together, and then we work together to help each other get what we need without it.)

4.  groups and situations ruled by a "mob mentality", where people who are different or intimidating, or have unpopular habits or opinions, can be turned on and punished / excluded because there's no functioning mechanism to protect them from fear-based reactions (violates C2: rationally, we know that diversity is a strength, and that without fringey people who may make us uncomfortable at times, we'll never make progress…but as animals, violations of the status quo scare us, and we want to respond to perceived threats by pushing people down or out.  In a real community though, there are clear rules for what constitutes unacceptable behavior, and — and this is important — clear, preferably multiple, paths for people whose behavior doesn't mesh well to re-integrate.  Without those rules and those paths — which cannot be overseen by one or a few people, or you have a case of #1 — every group will inevitably exclude (or kill — no accident that that's how the animals do it; it's efficient) its mentally-ill, its geniuses, its differently-abled, and those in the group who come from different cultures.)

SO, to condense that a bit, the next time someone tries to sell you on their thing by talking about what a great "community" it is, ask yourself:

  • Is this a top-down organization where all the rules are coming from one or a few people (especially if those people are not subject to the same rules, or can choose to enforce them or not)?  –> NOT A COMMUNITY
  • Is this a group where you can be punished or kicked out simply for "getting on the wrong side" of the person or people in charge, and the group as a whole (or its rules and procedures) can't save you if you do?  –> NOT A COMMUNITY
  • Is this a group that exists mainly for the purpose of making money? –> NOT A COMMUNITY
  • Is this a group without rules and procedures in place to protect people who induce a fear-reaction in others, by being different or having uncomfortable ideas?  –> NOT A COMMUNITY

I LOVE communities, if you can't tell.  I think working together in social groups that use our talents for rational thought, planning, and self-awareness gives humanity a huge force-multiplier, and lets us make amazing leaps forward.  But I lament the day that someone figured out how to sell people on investing in groups by calling them "communities", becuase it was a tricky word to begin with, and has now been ridiculously watered-down and appropriated by everyone from office-managers to forum-moderators to event-planners and more.  And it makes me seethe with rage, pretty much equally whether the intent was to lure and fake people into participating, or to try and create a community and not have two neurons to rub together to bother figuring out what that actually is, or sticking by it when it gets hard (like when you need to tell your favorite leaders "no", or stand up for people that not everyone likes).  I don't see either of those failures as better than the other.

So give me that word back, assholes.  I'm putting everyone who misuses the term "community" in the same circle of logical hell, and may they abuse and ostracize each other there for all eternity, and leave the rest of us alone; and until then, you lose your right to say "community" without getting at least metaphorically slapped in the face.  (That's right.  I've learned how to backhand people with metaphors.  Or I will soon enough.  :D)

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