Thinking about sleep

Waiting until before I go to bed to write these posts is not ideal. I’m doing my best to try to stay awake and write this. Ideally I’d write these when I’m wide awake, but I’m busy doing other things then, like thinking about napping. I have a long and intimate relationship with sleep. And in that sleep, what dreams may come? Often anxiety dreams, usually a recurring one (or variation of one) in which I awake in the dream realizing that I have little time to submit an important assignment. Completing that assignment is impossible in dream land, extending that anxiety into the night. I also regularly have a dream where I realize that I’ve missed courses in high school, and I need to go back and retake them. The idea that I’ve already graduated college makes no difference as I resign myself to being a 35 year old high school student. No real conclusion here, just stating my love of sleep.

Starting another habit

I’ve already done this for over a week, and I’m happy to report that this blog-post-a-day idea is officially an unbreakable habit. I no longer have to worry about missing a day or running of things to say. Every post has been on time and of glittering quality and wit, and it’s practically muscle memory now.

Now I can repurpose the block of time that I was previously using to fret about writing boring posts. I’m going to fill that time with yoga, or more seriously, at least 15 minutes of yoga a day. One of the perks of my job is a hour yoga session each week, but I haven’t been attending since I started this work from home arrangement last year. I think it’s starting to add up. That, and the fact that I don’t bike to work anymore. So, I’ll start doing yoga once a day, for a cumulative total of at least 105 minutes per week.

My all time favorite free class, and one that it easy to fit into my schedule, is this one:

Virtual Flea Market

I grew up going to flea markets on the weekends and thrift stores on the weekdays. Not every day or every week, but enough to get me addicted to examining at other people’s lives through the stuff they decided they no longer needed. As an adult, I don’t really go to these destinations, and I don’t need to because I have enough unnecessary crap, but I still miss that activity. Recently, I’ve been randomly dropping in on CraigsList’s “all for sale” link, which shows the most recent posts of uncategorized items. It’s kinda like visiting a flea market, except there’s less walking, and connecting with fellow people, and the tactile feel of picking up an item. And it’s missing other things too, but at least it’s something.

Avid Gum Chewing

I changed the title of this post from “obsessive” to “avid”. I love chewing gum. I have a sharp jawline, which I attribute to this habit. I also sometimes have jaw pain, which is likely attributable to this habit as well. I’ve leveled up my chewing game, though. No more artificial sweetners or gums flavored deliciously like apple pie or root beer. No, I’m an adult, and when I want an adult chew, I go for the obscure (to most people in the U.S.) Turkish gum that’s modeled after chewing tree sap. That gum of course is Falim.

Falim gum comes in a wide variety of flavors that actually all taste the same. I can tell them apart, but at this point I’m the sommelier equivalent of a Falim connoisseur. For most people new to this brand, you’ll probably notice an absence or vacuum of taste with subtle but comforting hints of masticated cardboard. Reading the negative reviews of this gum on Amazon is entertaining because people new to Falim all seem to have this reaction. The positive end of the review spectrum is a healthy mix of people who’ve stuck it out with Falim previously, people with dietary restrictions, and body builders trying to get that effortless ripped jawline look.

One detail that I haven’t seen broadcast is that Falim is actually really terrific for blowing bubbles.

A close up shot of a large bubble gum bubble

When it pops, I sometimes get the gum stuck on my eyelids and eye lashes.  Have I mentioned yet that I work from home permanently? Pretty sure my coworkers wouldn’t miss this.

Poor Sleep Hygiene

Ok. I actually wrote this blog post in the middle of the night on a scrap of paper. I think it still counts even if I didn’t post it until now.

I go through phases of poor sleep hygiene, and I’m in the middle of a nasty one now. To me the phrase means disrespecting my bedtime and instead falling asleep on that wonderful mistress, the couch. I’ll wake up some four hours later and stumble upstairs, where I’ll brush and floss and retire to my actual bed. Now fully awake, I’ll lie in bed with my mind wandering among subjects, a return to sleep at least an hour down the line. The next morning I’ll awake more tired than usual, as the night before I split my REM sleep in half and probably cut an hour out of the full duration. This inevitably leads me to another sleepy evening at the sweet bosom of the couch, the act of walking upstairs and brushing my teeth too onerous to give honest thought, thus continuing the cycle. To break this cycle and return to a good night’s sleep takes will power or some other external force like a townie cat fight outside that’s too riotous to ignore. And so I lie here in bed tonight, praying to the god of my life, the couch, begging it to release my soul from its coffers and return me to the land of the restful sleeping.

Urban Dictionary and Neural Networks

I spent some time this weekend feeding a recurrent neural network (torch-rnn) a dump of Urban Dictionary definitions that I found posted online. Once you train the neural network on a text corpus, you can ask it to generate a block text based on the rules it learned. Janelle Shane over at leverages this or a similar nn to great humorous effect. Maybe I’ll write a more technical post later to explain how it works behind the scenes. I’d have to understand that myself first.

I chopped the corpus in a few different ways in an attempt to get better results, but I never quite got it past the gibberish phase of training. The base idea is just feeding in the words themselves, sans definitions, and seeing what the nn makes of it. Here are a few I hand selected from its generated output:

Churching Butt


Brodie Poke

Truslin’ Rucy



Phone Salmon


Mortal Frownzz

Chabaco Bag




Bean Oneside

These would all be better if the nn generated definitions for each, but when I included the definitions in the training set, it just spit out effortless nonsense.

The kernel of what makes Janelle Shane’s work so fun and interesting lies in the anthropomorphizing of the rnn. We ask it to do something, and then when it does a terrible job at it, we can’t help but say “Oh computer, at least you tried to understand humans.” With this in mind, I decided to try one more thing before hanging this up for the day. What if I isolated just the definitions that were sex acts and fed them into the nn? Would the computer come up with something sexual that humans have never considered?

The Dozz

A sex act involves the felled-umbing this imerican inserted it


Bending Over Forward For Our Computers

A laptop with a homemade vertical keyboard.

I spend a lot of time in front of a computer for my job and in my free time, and I’m pretty obsessed with ergonomics and movement. I’m worried that a generation of people will suffer in the longterm from repetitive stress injuries developed through years of hunching over their laptop keyboards. I have a couple videos on youtube outlining some of the experiments I’ve run in split keyboard placement, and the picture above represents my first portable design. I’ll outline my thought process and construction of this one in a future video.

The rubber band is functional and aligns with my signature aesthetic theme of “middle school shop class”.

A split keyboard with a rough plywood base


Day 2 Writers Block

A little bird on the beach

I’ve restarted this post a couple times because I’m not really sure what I should write about. It’s probably better not to overthink this.

My grandfather’s 96, about to be 97 next month. He served in World War II, but he didn’t see combat due to luck and a family friend who was in charge of deployments. My other grandfather also served in WWII, and it’s my understanding that he was in combat and worked on or flew in gliders. He died before I was old enough to know him.

I was thinking about the recent and despicable spotlight on white supremacists and Nazis in the country, and the loathsome politicians who refrain from condemning them. Would it make any difference to these politicians if someone interviewed the remaining WWII vets and established that “Yes, after over 75 years, we still hate Nazis, and you should too, goddammit”?

Starting Habits at 35

I tell myself not to wait for holidays or birthdays to establish resolutions, even though a lot of people do. My opinion is if you really want to start something, just start it, right? I turned 35 yesterday, and despite that opinion, I’d decided it was finally time to start a routine of writing a blog post every day. The good news is that I failed to start writing yesterday, so my resolution’s starting today, which is just your average Thursday.

On the advice of my friend Nader, I recently bought a zoom lens for my camera. I have a Nikon 1 V1, which is an 8 year old compact camera with a 1″ sensor. It’s more than a few rungs down from a DSLR, but it suits me because I don’t know what all the buttons do on one of those things.

I’ve never really had a zoom lens, so I was excited to snap some photos of birds on a recent trip to Florida. On my return home, I passed this one over to Nader for inspection.

A heron in front of water rippled by the wind

Nader’s plugged into the social media scene, and he quickly suggested a tweak to appeal to more followers.

A bird in front of rippled water. There's a filter applied that vastly increases the contrast.

I’m not really on social media, but I have a pretty good idea of what the kids are into these days. I ran with Nader’s iteration and made this:

A bird wearing an "I voted sticker" and sunglasses, with accompanying air horns and labels proclaiming my social media brilliance.

Maybe a little on the nose, but I’m pretty sure that’s what the kids want. Nader said he’d follow that account.