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Tag: dreams

TBR Pile #3 – Dreamland by David K. Randall

Note: The TBR Pile series of posts aren’t strictly book reviews. It’s my excuse for writing a rambling blog post. While it will contain some of my thoughts about the book, I’ll may digress into other topics.

I really enjoy reading popular science books, mostly because if anything I get to learn something from them. Especially if the book’s subject is outside of my expertise. And if I get entertained by the author’s anecdotes and storytelling ability, that’s a bonus. In David K. Randall’s Dreamland, I got to learn all about the science of sleep.

What I found the most fascinating was that much of sleep is cultural. It’s not just about sleeping in separate beds because of middle-class morality or the lack of study in dreams because it’s considered woo. It’s also habit, too. Babies in different countries sleep in different ways. Type of mattress actually doesn’t make a lick of difference in sleep quality. What matters most is consistency, not the type of sleep habit one engages in.

But despite all the sleep labs and pharmaceutical companies touting their solutions for insomnia, there’s still a lot that we don’t know about sleep. I think this is just part of the bigger problem: that we still don’t know much about the brain.

One caveat, though. Randall is a reporter and not a doctor or scientist. He initially got into the topic because he had a problem with sleepwalking and much of the book, I feel, delved into the historical and societal implications of sleep. I would have liked a lot more science (especially since the book was billed as a discussion on the science of sleep)–particularly the neuroscience behind the phenomenon of sleep and the biochemistry used for the drugs that manipulate sleep. But then again, that may just be me. I’m not afraid of reading the technical details about this stuff. The general public, however, would probably be bored to sleep.

Thinking in My Sleep

Having dreams can be really annoying sometimes.

Oh, it’s not about the content of the dreams, whether they’re stressful nightmares or boring drabbles that could be forgotten after five minutes. It’s the quality. I’m one of those people who can dream vividly. Things are in color. I can hear things. I can taste and touch and smell. I can apparently read things, too.

You might think, what are you complaining about? It sounds like I can get immersed into a whole new world when I go to sleep. How can I find that annoying? Well, I find it annoying because I also find it exhausting. When I wake up, it don’t seem like I’ve gotten any rest at all because I feel like my brain has been working double time.

I’m blaming it on the freakishly early daylight at this time of year. It makes me wake up at approximately the same time no matter when I set the alarm–sort of like a sadistic sleep lab technician, always cutting my sleep-with-no-dreaming phase a little too short.

Dream Wimp

Last night, I dreamed I was watching a sitcom.  I woke up from the dream (or thought I woke up from the dream) thinking that it was actually pretty good and that if I were in charge of making a sitcom, I would add those elements to it.

But as I was lying in bed, thinking about this, I heard someone moaning my name.  I turned and saw some guy dressed in white pajamas with a towel covering his head creeping up to my bed.  He leaned closer.  At this point, I wondered if I was still dreaming.  I tried to move, but I was completely paralyzed.  I was actually aware that part of me was still half asleep and my brain had yet to hand my motor control back to me.

“How was India?” he asked.

What? I’ve never been to India.

“How was the fish?”

But I had chicken for dinner.

And then he lifted up his leg as if he was about to climb into bed.  That’s when I got really mad.  If it was a dream, he’d soon go away, but if he wasn’t–there was the matter of how the hell he got into my apartment in the first place.  At that moment, I totally intended to kick his ass.

I woke up yelling and pummeling empty air.

This Is How My Mind Works

The other night, I dreamed about being on a rescue team that was going to rescue a sentient mechanical doll from some bad guys.  I remember that the other team members and I were heading to the airport and we were trying to figure out how to get through the TSA without them mucking everything up.  We had frying pans and rubber kitchen utensils.  And I was going to use the rubber kitchen utensils like ninja throwing stars.

In the second part of the dream, I was observing a scene at a department store.  The toymaker who made the mechanical dolls was carting them around in a box.  Each of the dolls were dressed up in different ethnic costumes from around the world.  A woman who looked like Angelina Jolie (but wasn’t her, really) came by and picked up a doll dressed up in a traditional Chinese costume.  The toymaker warned the Angelina-look-alike that the doll needed to be fed or it won’t move and that punishing it would make the doll cry.

Angelina-look-alike seemed genuinely puzzled with the directions and asked “Why?”

“Well, it’s a person,” replied the toymaker.  “You wouldn’t punish a child just because you could.”

“But it’s not a person.  It’s just a doll.”

And the toymaker went into a fit as the Angelina Jolie look-alike made the doll wear western clothing.

I woke up wondering, philosophically, what really defines a person.  I’m thinking that a person, someone who has awareness, is not necessarily the same thing as a human being.  And if, say, these mechanical dolls in my dream had awareness, we would probably be obligated to treat them on equal footing like every other sentient person.  I don’t think the simple fact that something that doesn’t have the same DNA as we do is grounds to treat them less “humanely.”

* * *

This afternoon, I went to someone’s master’s thesis defense seminar and ended up thinking about nanobots.  I swear that I was not daydreaming.  This has relevance to this person’s master thesis.

Anyways, the thesis dealt with cow reproduction–particularly using hormones to control the bovine estrous cycle.  This is useful for agriculture because this would allow cattle operations to efficiently manage their animals–i.e. they can control cattle reproduction to fit their schedule and the demands of the market.*  This totally reminded me of a book I recently read (I may also end up reviewing this book, too.  But no, it was not this book), where human reproduction was controlled by the bad guys with nanobots.  The nanobots were hidden in the sugar supply so that everyone got inoculated. And whenever they wanted to stage an orgy, all they had to do was turn on the control tower.

And I was thinking: this is exactly like that book.  Except with cows and hormone injections.  And we humans are the “bad guys” – relatively speaking.  If the cattle had any sort of awareness about this going on, wouldn’t these animals be rather disgruntled to learn that we were in control of their love lives?

*At this point, you may wonder why a microbiology student is even at this seminar in the first place.  Well, I know the person who was defending and I went there to support her–even though I was mostly clueless about her research.

Dream House

Last night, I dreamed that my parents bought a house that they intended to rent out.  My sister and I were helping them clean out all of the junk that the previous owner had left behind, putting all of this stuff in the front yard for a sale.  Apparently, everyone else in the neighborhood had the same idea so the entire street filled with yard sales. Bargain hunters soon rushed in to see what there was to buy.  It was as crowded as a Macy’s during an after Christmas sale.

When I awoke, what I remembered most was the house. It wasn’t something that I would have bought.  It was too cramped and byzantine.  But it had entirely wood floors which I really liked.  Although now that I think about it, I would have liked any wood or stone floor.  The occasional rug would have been fine. But I hate carpet.  Absolutely hate it.  If I ever end up buying a house, I would most likely rip up any carpet and replace it with something else.

This kind of surprised me because I generally don’t have any idea what my “dream house” would look like–or if I even had a dream house.  I feel that I am a long ways away from even thinking about buying a house. So what business is it of mine that I even have these impossible preferences?  However, there it is.  What are these preferences?  Well, some would say it’s kind of wishy-washy. There are certain styles which I think are unattractive, but it’s more of a case of only knowing vaguely what I like.

So here’s what I’ve come up with:

*No carpet.

*Minimalism everywhere, except for the place where I stash my books. There might be the occasional piece of art and quite possibly a photo or two in a corner somewhere, but there will be only enough furniture to make the place livable.  And absolutely no knick-knacks.  None, whatsoever.

*A white room with lots of windows, a wood floor, and awesome acoustics.  The only things in this room are a grand piano and a cello.

*A room that has been converted to a library.  Floor to ceiling shelves that are crammed to bursting with books but mysteriously has space for more.  The room will be lit with weird paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling and populated with gigantic stuffed toys that look almost like owls.

*A garden filled with a variety of tulips, planted willy-nilly.  I’m not very good with plants, though, so this may never come to fruition.

No One Knows Who I Am

In last night’s dream, I was coming back from a conference. Back in lab, everyone was telling me that I was nominated for a research award that I had never heard of.  They asked me if I was going to the awards banquet the next day which puzzled me because no one had e-mailed or otherwise contacted me about this.  So I looked up this research award online and I saw a link to a video interview someone did with one of the members of the awards committee.  I clicked on the link.

The interviewer asked how the nominee was chosen and the awards committee member mentioned some recommendations from some professors I know.  So far, this made sense.  Then this person was asked, who exactly is this nominee?

“Well,” the awards committee member replied, “there’s actually a lot of detailed information about her online.”

Okay. So maybe this awards committee discovered my weblog.

“Her life is quite picaresque.  There’s a photo of her house online which has a bamboo grove growing right outside.”

Bamboo? I thought. I live in Idaho. There’s no bamboo groves growing in Idaho.  And even though there are pictures somewhere on my weblog, I’ve never taken any pictures of bamboo.

The awards committee member continued detailing my “exploits” which seemed like somebody else’s life.  Maybe me in a parallel universe.  But definitely not me here.  It’s like being a miner in West Virginia and discovering that somebody with your same name has set up a Facebook account detailing a life of indie rock and silk screen painting in Oakland. And nobody had the ounce of sense to realize that these were two different people.

“That’s not me!” I screamed at the internet video.

But, of course, the video didn’t pay any attention to me.  It continued: “And there’s even a biography written about her.”  What biography?  I’m too young and too boring to warrant a biography.  Maybe if I was Andrew Jackson.  But I’m not Andrew Jackson.  The video flashed a picture of “me”.  It’s not me.  It’s the picture of that girl in the graduate student association who thinks she knows everything.

I woke up in the middle of the night, heart pounding, thinking that someone else had stolen my life and identity.