Day 236: Test the butterfly effect.

Originally scheduled for August 24.

“Chase a butterfly away from its flight pattern to disrupt meteorological systems worldwide.”

I saw no butterflies today. If I had, and I’d chased them from their flight patterns, would it have actually changed anything, or was I always going to have chased them, and so the real change would have been to not chase them away, except that path wasn’t and never was open to me?

…no, nevermind, I’m not going there this evening.

This is why we have narratives, right? To make sense of all the impossibly small and unknowable factors that make up big, complex, world- or life-changing events? I and my two of my friends and colleagues read Clarissa over the summer — and I promise I’ll write at least one last post about it at some point — and at least one of the things going on in that novel is an attempt (or parallel attempts) to figure out what happened, what thing or things propelled the paragon of virtue into the power of a libertine who eventually raped her, and how those things (and which of the things?) lead to her death. (And thus I reduce 1,500 pages of densely-printed text to one long and cumbersome sentence.)

We need narratives: nothing makes sense without them. At the same time, narratives make sense of things by ruthlessly trimming away all sorts of things that might or might not be important, and by loading down the things that are left with all the scraps and shavings of importance that the ruthless trimming left behind.

Anybody remember Day 43? (I didn’t, really.) An exercise in trimming, which is what this post needs, despite being barely 300 words long — all of it a digression, digressing from nothing in particular. My thoughts are the butterflies, and I’m chasing them around, fueled by bleary-eyed tiredness and bourbon, and it would defeat the point of this day’s task to edit, to revise — choosing one word instead of another, over and over, is what got me here instead of wherever it was I thought I was going when I started out.

Well, there you go. Time for bed.

Day 212: Put the Book under your pillow, and record your dreams.

I have this thing: I don’t remember my dreams.

I’m sure I have dreams, and they’re probably interesting; there are plenty of times when, in that groggy state between waking and sleeping, my conscious mind watches the last pieces of some dream or other drift away, and they always seem awesome in that moment, but then they’re lost forever.

If I didn’t like sleep so much, then I could probably make myself jot down notes in the middle of the night about whatever odd dream I’d just woken up from — I’ve even kept a pen and paper on my bedside table in the past — but really, I’m lazy and lack any sort of self-discipline. So most of my dreams are lost forever: most, but not all, because every once in a while one sticks with me long enough that my conscious mind can process and reconstruct it.

A few weeks ago, I had one of those dreams that stuck with me.

In it, I was in an elevator — one that was fairly large and actually kind of nice, as elevators go — carpet that had been recently cleaned, nice wood panelling, good lighting —— and I think there were a few people in the elevator with me, but I don’t remember who. So far, pretty exciting, am I right? Nothing more exciting than being in an elevator.

Three of the elevator’s walls — minus the door, of course — were lined with urinals, maybe three or five per wall: an odd number, anyway. The first thing I remember happening is the center urinal on the back wall exploding: well, it didn’t explode in a blaze of glory and porcelain, or I don’t think it did, but the metal hardware at the top burst, and water geysered out, and it was less than pleasant for all involved. At least it was water, and not piss.

We opened the doors, and exited the elevator. I think the water must have stopped, though, because then I was sweeping the water out of the elevator and into the gap between the elevator and whatever room the elevator had stopped at. I looked down into the gap, and caught a glimpse of some sort of subterranean cavern below us — and then I saw giant lobsters scuttling back and forth in that cavern, lobsters big enough that they could have eaten me.

Then I woke up, got up to piss, and tried not to think about the giant lobsters.

Day 204: Be completely serious.

Originally scheduled for Saturday, July 23.

I am always serious. I am, as they say, all business.

That is a thing that they say, people, and they say it with good reason.

Once upon a time, children, I went on a road trip, from north Texas to Idaho. I went with two friends — whose names won’t be mentioned — and we drove straight through, without stopping, in three-hour shifts. It was a good time, after a certain fashion.

Somewhere in western Montana or southeastern Idaho, we stopped at a gas station. Inside the gas station, there was a casino — a small one, obviously. My friends wanted to play the slots; I said no, and not just no but hell no. It was, for the record, sometime after midnight.

That was the first strike, as it were. Our stay in Idaho — we were there to check out Diedrich Manufacturing, makers of fine coffee roasters, because we were in our early twenties and going through our let’s open a coffeeshop phase — I say, our stay was uneventful. Enjoyable, even.

On the way home, though, somewhere in the middle of the country — it all looks the same after you’ve driven through it enough — we pulled off the highway and into some field for some reason that is still unknown to me. I was asleep at the time, in the backseat, and woke up to find us in the middle of a goddamn field, with a goddamn horse nibbling on the hood of the car.

Apparently, I said Why are we in a field, and why are there horses?!

Since then, well, everyone has known that I’m all business. Always.

Day 173: Come up with your own Book page idea.

There are so, so many possibilites here.

Shall I just put them in a list? I think I have to, or I’m not going to be able to keep my head on straight.

  • Pretend to be a time traveller.
  • No bathing.
  • Only eat foods whose names are four-letter words.
  • Shirk responsibility.
  • Confound a bureaucrat.
  • Communicate only in nods and grunts.
  • Wander aimlessly in a grocery store.
  • Skip work and read a book.
  • Eat cereal for every meal.
  • Urinate in an unlikely place.
  • Chase a stray cat, yelling protestations of love and/or anger.
  • Crack an egg with one hand, like Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina.
  • Make lists for everything, and don’t stop making them.

I actually did a few of these — I won’t tell you which — but all of the above are mere runners-up. The winner was going to be “Do something you’ve been putting off” — dangerous, because there are plenty of things on my “I’ll do this eventually” list, which is really my “I’m probably never going to do this” list — but circumstances intervened. Elanor is staying with my parents, and Lorna was at band practice all evening, so Jack and I were left to fend for ourselves. He went to bed without much hassle, but I fell asleep in the bed with him, around 7:15; I woke up about an hour later, groggy, and stumbled to the couch, where I promptly fell asleep again; at about 9:00, I woke up — still groggy — and stumbled to bed, where I slept until Lorna came home, around 10:00. (It might take a few bourbons, but I’m going back to bed soon.)

So: today is “Take an evening nap” day — an almost necessary follow-up to yesterday, at least for crotchety old men like me.

Day 172: No sleep day.

I love sleep. It’s not my Most Favorite Thing, but it’s certainly in my top ten of Favorite Things.

There was a brief, glorious period of time, when Elanor was very small and still slept a lot, during which I would come home from working the opening shift at Starbucks and nap from 2:30 or so until 6:00, and then get up, have some dinner, spend some time with my wife, and go to bed around midnight (and then get up at four the next morning and do it all again). It seems glorious in retrospect, anyway.

I don’t get to sleep as much as I’d like to, but that comes with being a parent. And I’m not a morning person, but that doesn’t mean I’m not up earlier than I want to be most days. Frustratingly, at least for me, all those years working the early shift at Starbucks — getting up at 4:00 or 4:15, getting to work at 4:45 or 5:00 — trained me to think that I ought to have a fair amount done by 8:00, and by 11:00 the workday was close to being over. These days, I’m usually still on my first espresso at 8:00, and not really running at full capacity until 10:00 or so — which works out alright, but it also means I always feel like I’ve gotten far less done on a given day than I ought to have gotten done, and so I always feel behind schedule. I usually am behind schedule, in an objective sense, which doesn’t help with feeling behind schedule…

Where am I going with this? I’m not sure. Maybe I’m just trying to say that I’m no stranger to no sleep.

I have a fair amount of reading to do over the summer, and I haven’t done much of it thus far: it’s time for me to get serious, though, now that I’ve frittered away a month, and so today’s task is conveniently placed for me. I’m going to stay up — probably not all night, but later than is good for me — and get some reading done.

I will probably fall asleep on the couch at some point, wake up some time later, attempt to continue reading, give up, and go to bed: that is, at least, the pattern I established last semester. I’m not as young as I used to be, and my body often reminds me of that fact.

I’ll post a running commentary on twitter, though it probably won’t get rolling until after eleven, and it’ll be after midnight before I start posting ridiculous, delirium-induced nonsense, so it might make sense to just check it tomorrow morning. Until then, I leave you with this:

Days 121-122: No TV Weekend! (part one)

…except I already don’t watch TV.

Instead, I’m having a no-internet weekend – and not exactly a weekend, because I was too lazy to move yesterday’s task to Monday instead. But two days with no internet, just the same.

That’s right: a full 48 hours of no internet – no twitter, no reddit, no any-of-the-things-on-the-internet-I-read-regularly, no email, no youtube, no zombocom – midnight Saturday to midnight Monday. I’ll do some reading, I might get some writing done; I’ll teach my last class of the semester on Monday, which will mostly involve collecting my students’ final papers. Not going to even think about grading them until Wednesday, though.

Of course, midnight Saturday was something like 8 hours ago – and this is a thing on the internet you’re reading, that was posted sometime around eight o’clock Sunday morning – well into “no internet weekened” – what sort of devilry is this? The devilry of scheduled posts, that’s what. Look on my works, ye mighty…

Tomorrow there will be no post, but there will be two on Tuesday: a damage report from my experiment in Luddism, and the regularly-scheduled post. I suppose it’s possible that I won’t survive the ordeal – or, conversely, that I’ll decide never to come back, and renounce all things electronical. It’s also possible that civilization will come crashing down around us, and industrial/post-industrial technology will already be a thing of the distant, mythical past by Tuesday.

We’ll see. I won’t know if the world ends, though: I get all my news online – so there should be a post here Tuesday either way, because I’ll write it before I find out what amazing/distrubing/catastrophic things happened while I was gone.

Day 116: Siesta day.

The Book wanted me to nap from about 11 this morning to about 2 this afternoon – as an “experiment with the concept of siesta.”

Napping is not something I have to experiment with: I love naps. In a perfect world, I would nap every day after lunch. Not three hours – although sometimes a ridiculously long nap is wonderful – but half an hour. Maybe 45 minutes. Just enough to get past that post-lunch drowsiness (and I’m always a bit drowsy post-lunch, because lunch always involves a few glasses of wine or beer).

This is not a perfect world, though, and I almost never get to nap. There’s always something to do – as if taking a nap isn’t doing something – and on those occasions when I think there’s actually not something to do, when I might actually be able to get away with taking a short nap, something requiring urgent attention materializes, usually about 60 seconds after I’ve lain down and gotten comfortable. If not that, then the children appear from wherever it is they are when I’m not paying attention to them, and demand that I not be asleep. The children hate for me to be asleep: they don’t want me to be happy, and sleeping makes me happy, and so they are constitutionally incapable of letting me sleep – during the day or at night.

There’s always something to do that gets in the way of napping: today, instead of having a siesta, I had conferences with my students about their final papers. I tried to zone out, to not really pay attention, to ‘sleep on my feet’ – but they kept talking to me, kept asking me questions, kept wanting me to read things, blah blah blah. Some of them didn’t even get the hint when I laid my head down on my desk and made snoring noises. By the time the last conference was over – around two in the afternoon – the optimal time for napping had passed. Damn kids.

I tried to make the best of a bad job, though, and did some things to try and wake myself back up, things that I thought might have similar effects to a nap: I had some coffee, I took a short wander around campus, I yelled at some people, I waded in one of the fountains, I looked at pictures of cats with funny captions on the internet — and then I was ready to work.

And by “work” I mean write this post; I do have a paper to work on, but all that “waking myself up” made me tired, and I don’t want to think and/or write anymore.

I think I’m going to have a siesta, instead.