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Category — hacks

Roll your own: First Aid Kit

Hey all!  I carry a spiffy tin in my always-with-me bag with basic first aid supplies, and it's come in super handy, and others have asked me about how to make one.  The real reason I'm posting this here, though, instead of just telling the people who've asked, is that I just don't think there's any excuse for people to not have basic first-aid supplies on them at all times.  If all you carry is a tiny purse, you can still throw an Altoids Mini cannister in it with at least half of what I list below; and if you have a laptop bag, you can carry twice what I do and add next to no weight.  (Your house and car should have their own kits of course, and those can be bigger and, if you prefer, just storebought; but for a personal kit, I've long found that hand-rolling one is a) way cheaper and b) much more useful, since you can limit it to just the stuff you really need / care about.  Most store-prepared kits contain a lot of things that you, in your daily life, just won't need; and are conversely missing some that you will.)

So let's do it!

PD's Cheap Easy Hand-Rolled First Aid Kit

Supplies:

1.  A tin of suitable size, preferably metal and at least somewhat waterproof.  You'll want to base the specifics of your tin on where you typically are and what you're usually doing…a hardcore hiker may carry an Otterbox; people with small bags may like Altoids containers.  Mine is medium-sized and says "AUNT GERTRUDE'S INFAMOUS INFLATABLE MEATLOAF" on it, which I think explains a lot, don't you?

2.  Once you have a suitable tin, you'll want to decide what you must put in it.  Obviously if you have specific needs, you'll want to work them into your kit — epi pens, allergy pills, etc. — make a list of these before you start, so that you plan adequate space and conditions for those things.  (By "conditions" I mean, do they need to be on top; must they be replaced or replenished often; do they need waterproofing; etc.)

3.  Once you have your "must have" things listed, choose from the below "handy things" that I carry and recommend and add those; some you may not need, or may choose to exclude for space-reasons.  To make this easier, I've put a star (*) next to the ones I consider dead important.  Clever tips for storage and space included, because I love you.  

  • duct tape.  Simply take a piece and roll it up into a flattened tube — it can be stored in a "roll of itself" in any size for unrolling and using later, and is — this will shock you — super handy.  ;)  Alternately, and I love having discovered this, wrap a water-bottle, or your med-kit itself, or something else you always carry, in duct-tape; it'll protect the object as well as make for an easily-accessible stash of tape later if you need it.  (Oo!  Just thought of this today…if your tin has an indented bottom, like mine does, stick the flattened roll of duct-tape there!  Super-easy access and uses otherwise unused space.  <3)
  • gauze* and a needle*.  I keep these together by wrapping the gause into a little square/flattened tube and securing it with the needle.  
  • alcohol wipes* or other sanitizing thingy.  Not optional.
  • bandages of some sort for small injuries or to cover blisters (I like waterproof band-aids for this, but that's probably becuase so many of my relevant injuries happen in a pool ;)
  • bigger bandages, or butterfly closures, or dressings (I carry a few Tegaderms since they're easy to fit and mostly waterproof)
  • your favorite anti-inflammatory* — I recommend ibuprofen, but that's a personal call.  LABEL all drugs that are not in their original containers!!
  • any other drug you may need on the fly — for me, Sudafed, since if I'm even a little stuffy and need/want to go swimming/diving, I must have it.  If you play with fire, include a small quantity of aloe or Silvadine, for sure.
  • a small tube of super glue* and a small amount of single-ply toilet paper or kleenex* — this is the best combo for securing a deep cut, once the bleeding has stopped, so that you can keep moving/working/doing stuff
  • something for "bonks" — muscle and joint injuries, bruises, and generally ouchy things. I like salonpas; biofreeze or arnica are also good.  (Note:  Flying Tiger Cub Balm is actually my favorite-favorite thing for sore muscles / workout-related stuff, but I don't carry it since a) it's bulky and b) I can usually get home when I need it. I also carry a small thing of biofreeze since it's easy to fit and good for giving to people I don't want to cut my salonpas up for.  ;)
  • a scalpel-blade* (usually the handle is too big — but I recommend having a real scalpel-handle, blades and a hemostat as part of your home (or bigger kits), because cheap and hella useful).  Wrap this in the gauze, tape it to the bottom of the tin, or secure it in some other way so you don't cut yourself!  I taped two, in their sterile foil packets, to the inside lid of my kit — using waterproof adhesive tape that I can re-use when I remove them.  Takes up NO space.
  • at least one condom*.  Besides the obvious reasons to have one (which include possibly being a lifesaver for someone else in a tough spot!), they make a great waterproof barrier or germ-blocker (substituting for gloves if needed); AND they can be used as a tourniquet AND can transport water in a pinch.
  • matches or a lighter if there's room (I usually carry them elsewhere, but here is a good spot if you've got the real estate)
  • tweezers
  • Emergen-C (I use this whenever I miss sleep or get around sick people and need to duct-tape my immune system, so I carry some on me since, well, often when that happens I'm away from home)
  • Thera-Flu (or whatever your oh-shit-I'm-really-sick drug is)

Now, GET CREATIVE about space, and fit it all neatly in the tin!  This is kinda fun if you're a system-thinker and if you're not, just get a bigger tin or carry less stuff.  My little Meatloaf tin holds a LOT — almost everything above — plus it's fun to unpack in front of people and watch them go o.O at the clown-car aspect of it.  Make some sacrifices for quantity and usefulness — I took out my biofreeze to add another condom recently; stuff like that — and make sure you go through your kit periodically to add/replace/tweak things (a good time is whenever you run out of something).

…And that's basically it!  Some other hacks that I've run into that might be handy:

  • Cover the whole thing in duct-tape, as mentioned above…or sail-canvas, or silicone sheeting, or any other material you often find yourself needing or wanting
  • Alternately/ in addition, close or wrap it with a really huge fat rubber-band, a bunch of smaller ones, a tourniquet, a length of paracord or waxed thread, or some other handy fastener
  • If you can't pick your tin based on the pocket you want to keep it in, or really like a tin that doesn't fit well anywhere, make a space just for it — use velcro or tape to affix it inside or outside your bag, or sew it it's own pocket.  This is different than carrying sunglasses, and it's awesome for it to have its own permanent location in your gear.
  • TELL PEOPLE that you have a medkit on you!   Especially if you're out doing something crazy and they may not know.  I've been asked for mine plenty by people who would have just suffered along if they hadn't seen me showing off my inflatable meatloaf tin.  ;)

…And tell me (and others) here about your clever ideas, mods, and hacks for having a first-aid kit around!

(And a P.S. — regarding "other personal supplies" like a toothbrush, spare contact lenses, etc.  I carry those — a full complement of them actually, since I hate feeling like I *need* to go home just for some personal care thing that I could have easily handled with a little preparation – but I have them in a gallon zip-lock bag, so that when I travel, I just throw that bag from my everyday pack into my luggage and wham, done.  I like having my personal supplies separate from my first-aid ones too, so that if someone needs my medical stuff, I'm not handing them a bag full of tampons and my toothbrush (mm!).  That's all my $0.02 of course; do it however you like!)

April 17, 2013   2 Comments

Self-Esteem for Smart People (Part One)

This topic has been on my mind a lot lately for…various reasons, we'll say.  For background, I myself am a smart person (we can define that later if you like, but if you care about definitions then you're probably smart enough to qualify ;), and I'm pretty sure I've had every single self-esteem problem in the book, or damn close.  I've crawled my way out of bad relationships, bad habits (including outright self-harm), and bad situations all caused by my lack of self-love/esteem/confidence more times than I really care to admit.  But you don't do things like that without learning something, and if it's ok with you, Internet, I'd love a chance to share what I've learned.  I'm calling this Part One because I see a potential for a lot to talk about here, and depending on Life, the Universe and Everything I may or may not write it all [UPDATE:  I did in fact write Part Two and Part Three], but I at least want to have said some of this stuff — Ideally, I'd like to talk with some people about it, too, so feel free to chime in if this speaks to you.

Obviously I'm not a psychologist — you can take that as a detriment if you like, but personally I'm proud of it; and anyway if this advice doesn't stand on its own, then you should ignore it.  You're smart.

I.  Recognize what Self-Esteem is and Why It's Important.  Self-Esteem got a bad rap when people turned it into a bullet-point fix-all buzz-word bullshit answer to The Everything, but ignore all that and think about what it means:  It means not hating yourself.  Not experiencing your whole life through the filter of a constant buzz of negative thinking, the equivalent of having a whole roomful of people dissing and hating on you all day, every day, except that since it's you doing it to yourself, the dissing is amazingly pinpoint accurate and blisteringly hard to ignore by just gutsing your way through it.  Bad self-esteem is a handicap, a mental problem that not only prevents you from making the most out of your life, but that steers you inexorably into self-destructive behaviors and situations, and impairs your ability to make the kind of decisions you actually want to make probably worse than anything short of PCP.  (If that sounded overly dramatic, think about it again:  Would you rather be drunk and trying to make a long-term series of life-decisions in a positive way, or face the same decisions while possessed by demons that could trick you into thinking that you wanted and deserved what was worst for you?)

If you're smart, you are self-aware and therefore have a strong interest in fixing your self-esteem.  (Maybe you aren't convinced that you can fix it, but put that on hold for the moment; I'll prove it soon.)  If you're not sure whether you have a self-esteem problem, do this simple test:  Watch your thinking as closely as you can for a day, and note (with a mark on paper or something) how many times you think something negative about yourself, versus how many times you think something positive.  Doing this exercise will probably cause you to think extra positive things about yourself for that day, but that can be instructive too:  How hard is it?  How weird does it feel?  For me, for a long time even trying to honestly think something like, "because I'm awesome is why" was really, really hard, and I could tell I was faking it even while I did it.  You may not be (hopefully aren't) that bad off, but if you're not sure it's really worth watching and keeping track for a day.  This problem can be stealthy, since obviously it has a vested interest in hiding itself from your logical mind.  (And that's not an anthropomorphization or dramatization either:  It's a mental construct, and it's just as cagey as the rest of your mind can be.  Are you smart enough to lie not to get caught?  Then so is it.)

Self-esteem comes from two things:  Having accomplished things that you yourself are proud of, and having your basic needs met.  Think of this as the emotional side of the coin that "being physically fit" is the physical side of:  To be physically fit, you have to a) meet your basic health needs, and b) successfully accomplish some kind of physical exercise.  To have self-esteem, you have to a) meet your basic emotional needs, and b) successfully accomplish some kind of emotional growth.  

I'm going to start with basic needs, because as with the physical version, this often gets overlooked, and it's flat fucking stupid to overlook it.  You cannot be physically fit if you're fundamentally unhealthy:  Even if you manage to fake it for a while, it'll fall apart on you, guaranteed.  And being fit isn't about looking muscular; it's about strength, resiliency, and successfully being in the world in a positive way.  Same thing with self-esteem:  Faking it is not making it.  The basics are utterly essential.  

"OK," I can hear the DA in my head saying, "But it's a lot harder with emotional needs.  First you have to know what they are, and that's different for everybody, and and and…" –But I argue in return that it's not all that different, nor that much (if any) harder.  There are basic truths that apply in pretty much every case, and the process of finding out the specifics of what works for you is pretty much the same as it is with diet and exercise:  Try things that make sense, watch yourself to learn the results, keep what you're doing or change it based on the evidence, rinse repeat.  

However, we shouldn't overlook that we're talking about people doing this who already have bad self-esteem:  How do you figure out and meet your basic emotional needs when a part, maybe a large part, of your mind insists that you don't deserve to have them?  Well, you have some bad habits to get around in that case, but it's not impossible, and it's as worth doing as eating right and exercising is for the very physically unfit.  

This is long already, but I'll keep going for a bit, to discuss the first basic step in overcoming poor self-esteem enough to learn what your basic emotional needs are and how to get them met:

II.  First, recognize that your basic emotional needs are YOUR responsibility.  That's advice that most people like myself will find both easy and hard:  It's easy because it sounds unwhiny and self-reliant (or comfortingly self-punishing, depending on where you are on the scale of things); it's hard because it means that you have to admit that your own pain and suffering deserves your attention and effort to fix — and really fix, not just cover up well enough that you can function/behave for others.  

Funnily enough though, this easy/hard impression that you get from admitting that your low self-esteem is a problem that's your responsibility to fix is actually somewhat backwards from reality — and that's precisely because of the filters that low self-esteem puts over things like this.  In your mind, you're probably trying to "be tough" and "suck it up" and "not be dramatic" … but in reality, the effect of this is that you aren't getting your needs met, and this is causing you to lean on other people inappropriately, to "wait on" someone else to recognize what you need and make it a priority.  In essence, by absconding responsibility for identifying and prioritizing your needs, you wind up unfairly putting that burden on others — because the assumption you're making, that it's ok to just let yourself be trampled since you don't deserve better anyway, is a fallacious one; letting your own needs go unmet *isn't an option*.  You're a human being and you have needs, and your mind and body will seek to have them met even if you don't.  (That's why they're NEEDS.)  

It's easy to be ashamed of having needs, or to see them as weaknesses — I understand that urge, and I also don't think it comes from a bad place.  We want to be strong and independent.  But a strong person knows their limits and works with them:  We don't admire people who go hiking in the mountains with no food, water or gear and get themselves killed.  Some of your needs will turn out to be things you don't need all the time, or don't need very much of; and some of them will turn out to be like air.  That's ok; as long as you know which is which, you can make decisions accordingly.  And knowing that you need something and making decisions that respect that is a ton more responsible and "tough" than ignoring what you need and flailing all over the place because you're not able to breathe.

I won't lie:  You won't be happy about some of the things you need.  Especially if you have a life built, or partly built, already, you're likely to find that thanks to your lack of self-esteem, you didn't do a great job with some of the bits you built, and may have to make some uncomfortable decisions.  But remember that simply not having your needs met isn't an option:  Things you built that directly interfere with those basic needs will eventually fall apart anyway, so it's not like you're saving yourself any pain by not learning what you did wrong.  

Like your physical needs, your emotional needs will change over the course of your life.  Feeling bad about this is about as intelligent as apologizing because you no longer like to eat fistfuls of candy like you did when you were a kid.

So, let's recap:

1.  Self-esteem is important as hell, no matter how sick of the term we've all gotten.  It comes from the right kind of accomplishments, which we'll cover next time, and from having your basic emotional needs met, which we'll also talk about doing in more detail when my fingers uncramp.  ;)

2.  The first step towards getting your basic emotional needs met is to recognize that it's your responsibility to do so, and that if you don't do it, the problem won't simply go away.  (Think about people who think that they can just eat unhealthy food and sit on the couch all the time, and get away with it.  Same genius at work, there.)  Your emotional needs are needs, and if you don't take responsibility for identifying and meeting them, you will unconsciously ruin your life and probably all your relationships too, trying to get them met in other ways.  

Stay tuned for Part Two!

January 31, 2012   5 Comments

The Sudo Hack for Creating Change (in sleep or whatever)

The I Ching says that to make a major change in your life, you spend three days thinking about it to make sure you understand what you're changing and why and how; then spend three days consciously doing things differently; then spend three more days watching yourself to make sure the change has stuck.

This hack is something I've found immensely useful for making major life-changes.  It doesn't require the 3/3/3 days structure proposed by the Book of Changes (yup, that's what I Ching means ;), but that structure offers a convenient way to talk about the three "phases" this hack works in, so I'll refer to it anyway.  You can do this no matter how long or deliberately-delineated your three "phases" are, though.

  1. As part of your Pre-Change contemplating/planning days, you pick three words that signify what you want to do.  (It can be two, or four or five if needed, but you're going for short phrase / mantra-length.)  If you're quitting a substance, it can be "I Quit"; if you're changing your sleep-schedule, it can be "Get Up".  I like two-word phrases myself, because they can easily be said on an inhale/exhale, but obviously one can find a rhythm to any phrase if you work at it.  And you do — for three days (or your length of choice), you work on that phrase, repeating it often, meditating on it, writing about it, and letting it sink deep into you until it feels like a magic spell…or in my preferred analogy, a sudo command.  ;)
     
  2. During your Days of Change, you lean hard on that phrase.  Don't just save it for "when you need it" — repeat it constantly; let it define your entire world during that time.  If your whole life seems to be about that phrase for three days, you won't have to struggle to change your behavior; the change will literally be in the air, all around you.  Think about going to a major event, like a conference or concert:  You don't have to work very hard to live like you're part of that event, because it's the environment, it's the atmosphere.  Use your phrase to make an atmosphere out of your change.
     
  3. During the Days Following, you get back to "normal life", but you keep that phrase in your pocket for whenever you feel the urge to slip back into the old way of doing things.  (The I Ching's advice for this period of time is "Resoluteness" … having the sudo hack is like having a Resoluteness Pill you can take as needed.)  Whenever you feel weak or question your goals, you pull your phrase back out.  It will give you strength and remind you why you want to stick with what you've accomplished. 

I've used the sudo hack a bunch of times with varying degrees of deliberateness, but recently I used it very deliberately to kick a tough bad habit, and it worked so well — I'm on day 9 with no slip-ups as I write this — that I thought, "OK, time to write about that one!". 

All credit goes to the I Ching and to the Universe for being so considerate as to have a sudo command, of course.  ;)

August 8, 2011   2 Comments

Obvious Lessons in Exercise: We’re All Stuck Embodied

I don't fsck with not getting exercise anymore.

I do at least the basics (pushups/situps/squats/triceps/or something), stretching, and some weightlifting, at least a few times a week, no matter what.  I also make sure to get a workout from walking — I walk fast, concentrate on my form, and always take the stairs.  And this is not difficult — know why?  Because there's been SO much positive reinforcement from doing it, that I'd sooner not eat food at this point, than not exercise. 

Exercise means I stay warm, feel alert, don't feel sore, am not anywhere near as stressed, and go through my days feeling strong and solid and reassuringly capable.  Many other people either limp along, due to age or weakness, or they're fine but only by luck; if they fell or suddenly had to catch something or move something or burst into action, they'd be at risk — but I get to feel all the time like I'm in nearly top condition for my size, age and build.  (Some lucky suckers get to feel like this anyway, but I never did; even when I was young, I was pretty weak from…oh right…lack of exercise.) 

Oh, and I get to look nice.  I'm not a model-type and I'm not a bodybuilder; I'm not "cut" and I don't really care — I don't do the kinds of working out that burn of all one's fat, really — but having well-exercised muscles means a) a pleasing overall shape and b) effortless control of excess body-fat.  You can pinch an inch on me (which, no matter what anyone says, plenty of people consider attractive anyway) — but I went and bought some pants that fit the other day, and after a massive trying-on-of-things, guess what I learned?  That since I started working out, I've gone from a solid size US 10, cresting into 12, down to a 6.  Without trying to lose weight at all.  That's the size I wore in high-school, by the way, and it isn't tight on me today.  I wouldn't wear a bikini — as if I ever have, or want to — but I feel good and I know I look pretty damn good. 

To that last phrase:  Knowing you look good is one of those things that I, at least, wish didn't matter; but we're social creatures, and it just does.  It doesn't require being the prettiest person anywhere to reap the benefits — knowing that you look good for you is enough.  Knowing that you're strong and healthy for you is good enough too.  The mental change is quite profound — it gives you the confidence to act like yourself around people that you otherwise might have backed down to for stupid reasons…because they're younger, or thinner, for example.  You see that all the time in a social work-environment, and it often leads to incompetent people getting a big raise or promotion simply because the more competent person didn't like holding themselves up for comparison against the young/skinny person, simply because they aren't confident about the shape they're in — not compared to others, but relative to how they themselves could be.  An older person or heavier person who exercises and is in good shape is a truly formidable opponent in the workplace; their decades of experience is a powerful asset, but only if they're not afraid to use it.  (Some people — especially autism-spectrum people, in my experience — can actually just ignore the whole physical side of those equations.  But most people can't, or don't.)

We're all stuck being embodied, dammit. 

For the price of a few minutes every other day, it's possible to make that an asset, even if it's usually a detriment to you.  Even if you're in a wheelchair, working out the muscles you can will make you feel and look better.  Exercise is just a no-lose proposition, and I'm rather irked that I didn't know this, or know how to take advantage of it, until I was thirty.  But it's made being thirty far more awesome than it could have been!

January 24, 2011   6 Comments

Day Zero, Adaptation 2010

So, I tried to capture some monophasic sleep data on my Zeo thingy (the portable-EEG device, works by headband wirelessly attached to spiffy evolved-alarm-clock) the night before I begin my Everyman 3/3 schedule.

Unfortunately, my body decided to remind me last night why monophasic sleep can suck…I tossed and turned like mad, kicked the headband off at least twice, and in the morning I think the Zeo was laughing at me.  ;)  It gave me a ZQ of 14 based on the couple hours it was on my head, but in my opinion that's a little high; I feel like hammered poop today.  But you've got to appreciate the irony, if nothing else.  At least yesterday I slept well, and for a full 9 hours.  This morning will take some coffee to overcome, but hopefully the lack of rest will let me sleep for at least one of today's scheduled naps, giving me a head-start on tonight.

(By the by, as further preparation/practice, I took my 7:30-ish nap last night…didn't sleep the whole thing, but I did zone out and feel more refreshed when I woke up, and I stayed up past midnight no problem…so that's a good sign.)

***Please remember, if you're adapting the first time, that I've been taking 20-minute naps for years at this point, and I will almost certainly (re-)learn to sleep for those short naps faster than someone who hasn't!***

So, tomorrow we start for real…Here's my task list for today:

  • Pack a bag for work, with sleeping pad, eye mask, and a blanket…they'll all stay there, either in the breastfeeding room or the server room, whichever makes a better napping-spot
  • Record a video-blog about preparation (scary as hell, but must stop procrastinating ;)
  • Clean my room & put a table by the couch, so the sleeping areas are slightly less of a horrid mess than everything else (we just moved in, remember)
  • Empty some book-boxes and find my manuals from the Shaolin Temple (quite a few things I need to do are in there)
  • Brush up & finalize my BFL (Big Fat List of things to do), maybe print a copy tomorrow
  • Do some freaking laundry so I don't have to go to work nekkid tomorrow

OK, off to it, then!

November 7, 2010   2 Comments

Salt & Soda and Thou

Very first thing I want to say:  Wow, were there some great comments on my recent "An Argument for Right Now" post!  That argument is one of the cores of my personal philosophy and one of the main reasons I chose, in the last few years, to align myself with Chan Buddhism and Taoism.  I've made that argument to friends and family and philosophers many times before, mostly provoking the "omg you really are a whackjob, aren't you?" face in return.  To have thrown it at the Internet, and to have so many people offer wonderful and intelligent responses, was a total gift.  Thank you, everyone!  I'm planning a follow-up post soon where I can address some of those excellent points directly, and pull some textual and historical references to support my claim.  Exciting stuff!

The other thing worth bringing up today is the magic of baking soda and salt.  Years ago, on an herbalist's recommendation, I put equal parts sea-salt and baking soda in a grinder and whirred it to a fine powder.  I had no idea at the time how massively useful this stuff would be, but after using it again this morning, I thought, "This is something the Internet needs to know about!"

The principle is ridiculously simple:  Salt is a powerful killer of most germs and microbes, and it also, while stinging quite a lot in open injuries, is a great pain-killer.  Baking soda is a strong base, so it neutralizes acid; plus it has a nice toning and softening effect on skin and hair tissue (which is why you can use it for shampoo and to scrub your face, as well as to soak in a bath with).  The combination of the two is fantastic for basically anything related to your mouth or sinuses, like so:

  • If you have, or think you may be getting, any illness that involves your sinuses, put a pinch (just a pinch) of this mixture in your neti-pot, mixed into warm water.  It will kill germs like crazy and also soothe irritated nasal passages.  If I can make myself do this twice a day, there isn't a sinus infection / cold / etc I can't kill in three days, seriously.
     
  • Similarly, if there's anything going on with your mouth or throat that involves inflammation, irritation, or infection, swish or gargle with a (slightly stronger) solution of the stuff for powerful painkilling and germicide.  Works wonderfully on swollen tonsils, cuts or injuries in the mouth (not open bleeding ones, because ow ow salt ow — though if you do have an open cut, this won't do any damage; it'll just sting), post-dental-work pain and swelling, etc.
     
  • If your teeth are not in the best shape, this stuff is your best friend.  It doesn't replace toothpaste (if you have cavities or whatnot already, you need the fluoride), but it does something that, if you already have tooth-decay, is equally important:  It kills germs, better than alcohol, and brushing with it (while, as you can imagine, totally delicious) is much better at working it into the holes than swishing with mouthwash is.  A tooth with a cavity isn't the end of the world, even if it eventually breaks and falls out; but abscesses and infections are awful, and can even be life-threatening.

…And that's about all I've got today, EXCEPT for this wonderful poem I just ran across — I'll post it beneath the cut.  If you like it, you'll be really fascinated to learn who the author, Peter Erlang, really is…

[Read more →]

April 23, 2010   3 Comments

Horoscope for Everyone: Dangerous Times

There's more than a little Evil wandering the maps today*; did you notice?  Sometimes there's not much you can do to keep from tussling with it; but there are ways and means which, if you avail yourself of them when you can, will keep the worst of it from being attracted to you.  It's kind of like walking through an alley at night in a bad neighborhood, but with some special considerations for the fact that this is the world, not a few angry humans, that you have to brush shoulders with here.

Evil is not, itself, bad.  Like a wild animal, it can hurt you even by accident; but similarly, if you know what you're doing, you can walk right through it and suffer no harm.  Here's what I know about the kind of thing that's going on lately (which happens to be a kind of "Evil" I'm pretty familiar with).  Consider it a sort of horoscope, except having nothing to do with astrology, and pretty much applying to everyone (unless you exist somewhere, or in some state, that makes the current influx not apply to you).

 

 

 

Keep the evils away from you by carrying a bright light.  Make your light brighter with donations, smiles, offers of help, meditations and art.

Don't ignore these things, like you often do.  There's enough bad things loose today that to go out without protection is perilous.  This is a great time to give a few bucks to those various people in need you hear about and usually look over.  Make sure not to tell anyone about your good deeds, at least until this fell time is over with — you don't want to bleed the energy out of them while you still need to keep it close, to protect you.

Keep the fumes of the Evil from sinking into and poisoning your mind by remembering that it's necessary, that the world needs its high-cycles and low-cycles.  Pay attention to it, feel it, let it exist without letting it take over your thinking.  (Do not start fights with the demons; they have a right to pass through here, too.)  Grant, but do not indulge.  Feel, but do not own:  Sacrifice your reactions, your pain, your guilt, your doubt, your fear — put them in the cauldron and let the One who owns this Rancor collect its due.

(That's right, God doesn't just keep pink-shirted chihuahuas with white teeth and bows; sHe has more than a few dragons and Rancors too.  Respect them, and do not cuss when you step in their poop, or else.)

Do your part:  if the Evil spares you, then spare yourself some time and patience to listen to and comfort those it did not spare.  Do not wince when the phone rings; you owe, for your luck.

Don't make any big decisions or change any big plans that were working fine before this week.  Things you were doing wrong already may come to a head, as the bad things take advantage of the holes in your armor; obviously, if you've been putting off fixing something and you're under attack now because of it, fix it fast!  But unless that's the case, don't be fooled into feinting:  Walk firm and keep your head up, and yea, though you walk through the valley of the shadow of suck….

*bows as you pass*

 

*Depending on where and how you live, "today" could be any days in late March.  Keep your eyes open and you can't miss it, though.

Awesome CC-licensed image by Fabbio; thanks!

March 26, 2010   3 Comments

Ahoy there, 4am! I’ve missed you!

::breathes deeply::

Aaahhh, four a.m.  I've missed this time of day — it's so peaceful, and there's time to watch a whole movie (or whatever) before the sun even comes up.

Today is Thursday; yesterday there was no chance I was getting my weekly post done (nor was there on Tuesday, when I usually actually write them).  This is great because I have a job again — YAY! I still won't know I get to keep it for a few months, but for now YAY AND YAY AND YAY — but awful, because said job is eating a good 10 hours out of the middle of a day that had already filled up with several hefty non-job tasks…none of which have gone away now that there is a job.  Waugh.

In short, after working (for the moment, I work from home) on Monday, I looked at my husband and said, "I don't think I can do all this, without my Everyman schedule back!"

He agreed that, even on paper and using a calculator, I actually have more work to do than I can be awake for, even if I work continuously (and eff that), sleeping monophasically. And let's not forget that I'm not actually getting enough sleep on a monophasic schedule anyway, and that 6/1 as a substitute was okay, but not great, and I was missing the nap far too often and just ending up sleeping 6 hours.  Yikes!

So I checked in with my BFF and she agreed.  Now, I have managed in the course of my life to attain a very high-quality best friend and husband, and when they both agree on something, I almost never buck it.  Together they are more powerful than you can imagine, like one of those click-together giant robots.  ;)

…I had quit polyphasic sleep, remember, because my schedule got way sloppy when I lost my job, and it was difficult almost every single day to carve out time for my naps.  Now, what's happened is that my schedule got that full, and I have no choice but to force myself (and others) to make time for the naps, because I *can't* make enough time to do without them!  But I almost don't care what the reason is; I'm polyphasic again, hurrah hurroo!  ;)

So, two days ago (Tuesday) I took all my naps.  My husband took a look at me at ten o'clock that night and said NO.  "Sleep debt accumulates," he told me, "And you still haven't managed to catch up any of the sleep you missed [going out of town recently].  I demand you get one night of more than enough sleep before you start this."

We all know that sleep-debt is part of what makes the brain/body switch over to a polyphasic schedule, but we also don't know whether starting the adaptation process while already sleep-deprived is a good idea or not; so I had mixed feelings about his advice.  But in this case, he was very right; for the last seven days straight I'd been operating in a thick fog, and I didn't even realize it until I slept 9 hours (like the dead) on Tuesday night.  WOW did I feel better on Wednesday.  So I took all my naps again yesterday (couldn't sleep for one, but I laid down anyway), and then I stayed up last night — I was tired, but not horribly so.

Getting up at 4a.m. … yes, well, there are more fun things than that, especially the first couple times.  But I'm here and I'm quite functional, barely a yawn, and in less than 4 hours it'll be naptime again.  (On Everyman 3, I get up at 4 and take my first nap at 8; then my next at 1-2pm, then another at 7-8pm.  That's the schedule I held, with very little modification, for a few years there.  And it's back!  I'm so geeked. WOOT!)

It'll be interesting to see how long it takes me to "switch back".  I was on this schedule — Everyman3, which is one three-hour core nap and three 20-minute naps — for over three years before I quit it, and it's been, um, about 3 months since I started having such trouble getting my naps and "gave up".  But good lord, that "giving up" cost me almost four hours a day, plus a lot of soreness and grogginess and quite a bit of stress and feeling rushed, all of which could have been so easily solved…by a little 4am-time.

Good morning!! 

PD

 

 

Gorgeous creative-commons photo by Martin Pettitt — thank you!

March 18, 2010   2 Comments

Things to Do in 20 Minutes (Besides Nap)

20 things you can do in 20 minutes (and create a sense of momentum) has artist Michael Nobbs' list of things he can do in 20 minutes or less … I guess great (or at least kooky) minds think alike!  I call mine the "Got a Minute List".  They are, I think, especially (but not exclusively!) handy for polyphasic folks, whose time gets cut up into smaller chunks more frequently, and who often have really full schedules.tick tick tickin' in my head

What's the value of a 20-minutes-or-less list?  Well, if you're like me, there are a thousand things you wish you "did more often", like read poetry, exercise your triceps, practice some visualizations or memory-hacks you know about, etc.  These are things it's almost impossible to fit into your usual daily lists, which are already full of much more important things; and anyway, practicing those memory-hacks takes thirty seconds; you're going to schedule that?  (Not that you shouldn't schedule important small tasks, but for many people there are a lot of nifty small things that would just clutter up a daily schedule, and which don't need to get done consistently, but are nice to do when possible — that's what this list is for.)

Things on this list should be:  1) doable in 20 minutes or less, and 2) things that you'll be happy you did.  The goal here is to turn what would otherwise be a few minutes of staring at a wall or surfing FaceBook into an anchor that will let you think of today as a Good Day, as something more than another 24-hour box you put all the usual stuff in and mailed away to nothingness.  Those little things can make the difference between a good day and a super-productive-feeling day; or between a totally crap day and a day that had at least one good, worthwhile thing in it. 

Here's my list.  I order it, roughly, with the really-fast things on top and the ten-minutes-or-more things on the bottom, so I can quickly pick a task appropriate to the chunk of time I've got.  And of course, I'd love to see your list too! 

  • File a fistful of paperwork from any handy pile
  • Work on breathing-exercises (can be done to some degree in seconds, but ideally need 5 minutes)
  • Repeat a memorized poem/passage or, if alone, a song
  • Do stretches and/or the knee exercises I need
  • Prepare a healthy snack for later (I used to try and eat something healthy if I had a minute, but eating in the cracks of living isn't very healthy itself…if I prepare something healthy and stick it in the fridge, though, I know I'll eat it later.)
  • Do pushups or situps
  • Do any shorinryu or kungfu form (avg. 60 seconds to complete, but I can stretch it out by working on specific moves after)
  • Tidy up the laundry area
  • Tidy up the art-supplies
  • Write a few well-chosen words or a short poem (in one of the zillion notebooks available in my house for such things)
  • Look over and/or update the to-do lists (incl. gift lists, grocery lists, and lists like this)
  • Read a new poem
  • Re-read or work on memorizing a not-new poem
  • Grab an entire pile of paperwork / laundry / clutter / etc. and put it all away
  • Tend houseplants or garden areas
  • Do weapons-forms or longer taiji forms
  • Empty and organize one shelf or drawer (I set a timer for 15 minutes and work on this really fast, and I almost always finish before it goes off!)
  • Meditate (note: requires a timer if nothing else will notify me it's time to stop!)
  • Read from a difficult book (difficult books are best done in short chunks, for me; but I usually get sucked in, so this takes 15 minutes on average)


Creative Commons-licensed image from plindberg; thank you!

February 10, 2010   5 Comments

Manic Sunday / Sleep Fixin’

I do tend to get awfully high-energy some Sundays.  Not always…but especially if there’s been a long weekend, by Sunday I’m fully charged and looking for something ridiculous to tackle.

This Sunday, it was going to be wrapping presents, but somehow all the old wrapping paper from last year has disappeared, so I have to retreat and reconnoiter on that one.  Can’t really afford new paper…but I have a ton of paper bags saved up.  Maybe I can just buy some kitchy-looking ribbon…?  Darnit, I’m not good at this sort of thing!

*sigh*  Anyway, having been stymied in my attempt at domesticity, I guess I’ll be a weirdo with the extra time instead.  When it doubt, stick with what you’re good at, eh?

So, today is Schedule Fixin’ Day.  The last few weeks having been unspeakably stressful and oddly-timed really did a number on me, and I’m hovering sloppily around 6h / 1 nap, with interrupted sleep at night and extra naps as depression dictates.  …I know, right?  EW.  I deserve better than that, darnit!  I wrote a book!

(…psst…did the pep talk work?  do I look perkier?)

Unsurprisingly perhaps, I’m not really worried about this, as I’ve been on this schedule so long that getting it back from a state of FUBAR isn’t really scary anymore.  Here’s how I do it:

  • do something extra-special to get myself up stupid early one day (Sunday is great for this because I have an older relative who’ll go out to breakfast with me stupid early…yes, I am in the Old People Crowd most Sunday mornings)
  • set up something to get myself up from every nap that day (i.e. take food out of the freezer, start something interesting right before bed, arrange for a phone call from a friend or for business, or even drink a lot of water about half an hour before a nap) ((note that I may not be able to sleep for all these naps, depending on how off-schedule I’ve gotten; that’s why waking up the following morning usually sucks))
  • plan some chores I’ve been meaning to get done for late at night, so I don’t get sleepy from sitting and reading or whatever for too long
  • hide my alarm somewhere weird the next "night" (core nap), so I have to get up to get it; and also drink lots of water before bed
  • as long as I stick with my naps through this day and don’t miss any, that’s all it takes.

…And usually that’s enough; once I get two proper core-naps in and the naps between them, I slide right back into it.  I’ll be a little yawny tomorrow and waking up tomorrow morning at four will kinda suck, but it’ll be fine. 

Today, though, I want to do a little more.  I’ve never been as great at getting up with an alarm as I want to be, and I know it’s possible to train one’s brain to respond to an alarm by waking up quickly.  (Just to be facetious, I kinda dare someone to convince me that there’s something it isn’t possible to train the human brain to do. ;) 

I’ve never gotten around to doing that training…but by holy, today is the day.

Here’s what I’ll be doing:

  • set alarm to go off in one minute
  • lay down with eye-beanbag and blanket as per a usual nap
  • breathe deeply, relax to sleep levels
  • when the alarm goes off, LEAP out of bed, shut it off, and walk out of the room
    • walk with exaggerated movements, punch the air, lift knees, shake head, clear throat and cough — the idea is to get the body fully moving before slowing down at all to think

…And I’ll be doing that sequence 30 times, because you know how the brain is with repetition and the lunar month (or don’t you? should I write something on it?).  I’ll make sure a few of those times are right before my core-nap, because I’ve learned from martial arts that if you learn something by repetition during the day, then you should repeat it a few times before you go to sleep, and you’ll retain it much better. 

If it sticks, and I’m able to leap out of bed when my alarm goes off (with NO snooze-buttoning) all day Monday and Tuesday, I’ll call it finished and a success; and if I don’t, then I’ll do another round of 30 and see if it sticks then.  As with most things, I suspect getting right up for one’s alarms is something that’s easy once it’s a habit, so the trick is just to make it a habit, right?  Right!

Happy Sunday all — If you’re doing something manic with it, jump in and let me know!

December 6, 2009   3 Comments