Here are some of the things I learned while reading David K. Randall's book Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep . . . and while his lessons are often commonsensical, he provides descriptions of how these truisms were scientifically proven:
1) We often dream about what bothers us;
2) We often dream the same thing over and over;
3) While dreams don't have symbolic meaning, they can help us solve actual problems in a creative fashion;
4) Better to sleep than to cram;
5) The West Coast team has an advantage when playing Monday Night Football;
6) You need sleep to synthesize new information;
7) If you are deprived of enough sleep, you die . . . from lack of sleep;
8) Friendly fire deaths in the military are most often caused by fatigue;
9) The biggest hurdle in the military is not technological, it is sleep deprivation;
10) If you didn't get a full night's rest, take a nap;
11) You can kill someone in your sleep, and depending on the interpretation of the law, you might either get life in prison or get off scot-free.
12) Teenagers have different Circadian rhythms than adults;
13) Highschools that pushed their start time to 8:30 had higher SAT scores, better attendance, less fights, and a number of other quantifiable improvements;
14) Some popular prescription sleeping pills don't actually improve sleep all that much, they just give the sleeper temporary amnesia, so that it improves the perception of how one has slept;
15) The electric light, the TV, and the computer are enemies of sleep, because they fool our brains into thinking it is still daylight, and thus ruin our Circadian rhythm;
16) Before the advent of the electric light, the computer, and the TV, humans had two sleeps: a first sleep from when the sun went down until around midnight, then there was an hour or two of wakefulness, where people often ate or fornicated or talked, and then a "second sleep" until morning;
17) Sleep apnea is scary . . .
and the final thing to take away from this book is that sleep is really, really important for humans-- important for our health, our minds, and our stress levels-- yet even though we know this, married couples usually share a bed that is too small for the two of them and sleep together despite snoring, flatulence, kicking, blanket-stealing, late night reading, and general disruptions . . . and studies found that women primarily do this because they want to feel safe and that men do it because you never know when you might get lucky, and nothing improves your luck more than proximity.
Last Wednesday night, when I checked on my children to make sure they were tucked into bed, doing some reading before lights out, I found my younger son reading a large age-inappropriate biology text . . . and he was studying-up on vampire bats -- there was a photo of a vampire bat sucking on the teat of a cow and several repulsive close-ups of squashed vespertilion faces and pointy vespertilion incisors -- and so I gave him a kiss on the forehead and made a quick exit . . . I don't need to look at stuff like that before bed . . . and then I crossed the hall to check on my other son, and he was reading a book called Gross Body Facts and he told me he was looking for the chapter about "stinky armpits" and I pretended to be proud of his curiosity and inquisitive disposition, and then beat feet out of his room as well . . . and I am happy to report that neither child had a nightmare . . . nor did I (but my children never have nightmares . . . even after catching giant spiders and then reading books about giant spiders . . . which makes me wonder if they are actually part spider; that would explain a lot).
I am sure all of you are familiar with the sensation of getting "that look" from someone who passes you by in the hallway at work . . . that look that says: hey, there's something off about you, but I'm too polite to say what it is, and so you'll just have to interpret this look and figure it out . . . so you inspect your nose for boogers, make sure your fly is zipped, and ensure that you don't have semen in your hair (a.k.a. "There's Something About Mary Syndrome") . . . but when I received "that look" last Tuesday morning from a colleague, it was directed at my chest and so I was able to dismiss the usual suspects and instead assumed that I had a stain on my shirt . . . and when I looked down, I did see an odd "U" shaped stain on the right breast of my burgundy golf shirt . . . but upon further inspection, this turned out to be stitching-- I was wearing my shirt inside-out . . . and neither my wife nor several other teachers noticed this, and if it wasn't for "a look" from a random dude, I would have taught first period wearing my shirt in this ridiculous manner (because once you start teaching with your shirt on inside-out, there's no turning back . . . because though it's embarrassing if your students tell their parents that their teacher wore his shirt inside out, you don't get fired for doing that, but if a student goes home and tells his parents that their teacher took his shirt off in class -- whatever the reason -- you are getting the axe).
Posted by Dave at 9/28/2012
Read any article about how to write a successful blog and the first tip will be something like this: STAY ON TOPIC or CHOOSE A UNIQUE TOPIC or DECIDE WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO BLOG ABOUT . . . and perhaps that is why Sentence of Dave is not particularly successful, because the Topic is "Dave" and that's not very specific . . . but there are certain areas where Sentence of Dave excels -- according to the Blogger Statistics-- and so here are the most popular searches that lead to this godforsaken corner of the internet: trigonometry, peccary, Chatham Bars Inn, balls, emo, Andrew Strong, giant wasp, and . . . drum roll please . . . elephantitis.
After my son Ian surprised me with his ability to read a rather difficult book out loud, he explained, "My head is little, but my brain is big."
The Cabin in the Woods is the horror movie you've seen a million times before, except that it's not . . . so don't be fooled by the B+ actors and B+ plot . . . this movie turns out to be what The Hunger Games should have been; it's in the same satirical genre as Scream, but I liked it better, mainly because of two memorable scenes: one shows what happens when a confluence of elevators arrive at a particular floor-- a confluence of elevators full of an astounding bestiary-- and the other juxtaposes a celebration of technicians and hilly-billy zombie beatdown in a ironic cinematic kaleidoscope; nine mermen out of ten.
My wife was in a "I'm-going-to-get-a-lot-of-shit-done" mood over the four day Rosh Hashanah weekend . . . and in the midst of getting lots of shit done, she decided to take our two big jars of change to Stop and Shop; they have a CoinStar machine there and if you choose to get a Stop and Shop gift card, then you don't have to pay the 9% counting fee . . . you receive one hundred percent credit for the change you dump in the machine, an admittedly good deal, but this defeats the purpose of a change jar -- which is supposed to be "mad money" to be used for something frivolous (such as a pet monkey or the world's largest chocolate bar) -- to spend it on food . . . especially mundane grocery store food disappointed me (perhaps if we spent it on some kind of exotic food, like a dozen century eggs, then I would have approved) and so to make the event slightly more exciting, we all guessed how much money the jars contained: Alex said fifty dollars, Ian said sixty, I guessed two hundred and twenty dollars and Catherine -- ever the optimist -- estimated three hundred and seventy five . . . but when my wife returned from the store, she said that the machine was broken, and she couldn't cash in the change, and I am regarding this as an omen, and hoping that we will get to use the money for something more fun . . . perhaps I will finally get this (and if you don't think the title of this post is a great name for an indie band consisting of two nerdy percussionists, then you are a fool and I pity you).
So I am still on extended leave from the new George R.R. Martin book, A Dance With Dragons-- I am three hundred pages in but I keep picking up other entertaining titles that keep me from Westeros . . . the latest is a four hundred page thriller by Gillian Flynn (who is far cuter than George R.R. Martin . . . I know this because when my eyes get tired, I invariably open to the back flap of library boks and look at the author . . . and I'm aways amazed when someone cute has written a book, because you'd think they'd have better things to do) and I read this rather thick novel, called Gone Girl, in two days-- partly because of a quad pull, but mainly because it's a true literary page-turner; the book is detailed and realistically written; the narrators have sharp, witty, and unreliable voices; the chapters are short and always significant; the prose is perfectly written; and the plot is preposterous . . . you know the twists are coming, but they are difficult to predict in their entirety, and in the end, despite its realism, the book is good macabre fun: ten Punch and Judy dolls out of ten.
I was up early reading Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep, and I was reading the chapter entitled "Sleep On It," which detailed the research on how our brain often solves problems creatively while we are sleeping . . . there were anecdotes about Jack Nicklaus realizing his grip was off in his sleep, Albert Szent-Gyorgi figuring out how to isolate vitamin C in a dream, August Kekule dreaming of a snake with its tail in its mouth and relating this to the structure of benzene, Paul McCartney waking in a girlfriend's bed with the entire melody of "Yesterday" in his head, and -- of course -- Samuel Taylor Coleridge rising from an opium induced nap with the poem "Kubla Khan" in his brain (though he was interrupted by a visitor while he was transcribing his masterpiece and forgot the ending) and just as I finished this chapter-- coincidentally (or miraculously . . . that's for you to decide) my son Ian stumbled down the stairs, half-asleep, and mumbled: "I had an awesome dream . . . I have an idea for art" and he grabbed a piece of paper and drew a many-headed hydra-like beast, and he did this even before he went to the bathroom, the urge to draw what he had just seen was so strong . . . and the moral is, of course, if you need a good idea, take a nap.
I was walking my dog early in the morning-- before sunrise-- and it was foggy, moonless, and still; suddenly he lunged at a gray cat on the sidewalk . . . I was able to yank him away before he got too close-- but this cat reacted oddly, instead of arching its back and hissing, the cat collapsed into a lifeless lump, and upon closer inspection, I realized it was not a cat, but a possum, and it was actually playing possum . . . I had the urge to kick it, to see it come back to life, but I couldn't get any closer because my dog was going bananas . . . so later that day I told the tale to my kids, who were fascinated with this odd marsupial that lives among us, and then two days later-- miraculously-- when my wife and children were visiting "Field Station Dinosaurs," a leafy park in Seacaucus filled with animatronic dinosaurs (I couldn't go because of my stupid pulled quad muscle) my son Ian was selected to "play possum" during a live action dinosaur show; according to my wife, the MC asked for a volunteer who knew how to "play possum" and Ian raised his hand and he was chosen to come on stage . . . and when the MC asked him to "play dead," my wife said Ian closed his eyes and stiffly fell over backward and then never moved, despite the investigations of a giant T. Rex . . . and though Ian claims he wasn't scared at all, my wife has her doubts (and, if you look at the above photo of Ian being nuzzled by the T. Rex, that thing is damned scary).
Over the four day weekend, I was laid up because of a pulled quadricep muscle, and this gave me time to reflect on my life . . . and I realized that the only good I do on this earth is contingent on me being ambulatory: I am not wise enough to teach from a chair, so I try to be animated for my students; my coaching skills rely on modeling-- I play with the kids to show them how to do it; and my chores around the house consist of things such as walking the dog, teaching the kids tennis, taking the kids for bike rides, taking the dog for bike rides, carrying the laundry baskets up and down the stairs, and watering the garden . . . so when I can't walk, I am a major detriment at home, at work, and on the field . . . and so if I ever come up permanently lame, I guess it would be best to take me out back and treat me like Old Yeller.
So after spending eighteen hours last weekend at a travel soccer tournament, and then coaching five days of eighth grade boys try-outs, two travel practices, and one travel soccer game, I decided a fun way to relax on Sunday morning would be to go over to the turf field and play some pick-up soccer . . . and, of course, I snapped a muscle in my fucking quad: why didn't I take a walk? or go roller-blading? or take a ride on my stand-up paddleboard? or a bike ride? am I that stupid?
Though my U-8 soccer team took a beating at the hands of a deeper, more experienced Bloomfield soccer squad on Saturday, there was one exceptional play made by a Vulture: but it didn't happen during the course of the game . . . it happened during the car ride home, I was driving and my son Ian and his friend Jesus were wrestling in the back seat of the mini-van, but despite this distraction, when I went to exit the Parkway (Exit 130) and I noticed a massive pile-up of traffic for the Southbound lane, I instead took the Northbound lane . . . so like a good soccer player, I found the open lane and went North to go South . . . and so I drove up Route 1 North away from Highland Park, but into open space, turned by the Woodbridge Mall, caught Woodbridge Avenue and had a traffic free drive the rest of the way home (though when I told my wife about this amazing and creative play into open space, she reminded me that if I had gone one more exit to 129, then I could have caught Woodbridge Avenue there, as we had done many times before . . . but this is irrelevant, because in the heat of the game it's hard to remember things like that, and you just need to appreciate my brilliant move in the context of that particular car ride).
Dear Abby . . . when you reply to a party invitation on Evite, shouldn't you make a clever comment? -- for instance, if someone goes through the trouble of naming their pig roast "There Will Be Pork," then shouldn't you reply with something funny that acknowledges this allusion, such as "we will drink your porkshake!" --- or, as my friend Tim suggests, is this quick-witted wordplay pretentious, annoying and gauche?
My seven year old son Ian-- who should be old enough to know better-- picked up a whistle he found on the ground at last weekend's soccer tournament and immediately put it in his mouth and started blowing it . . . and so I told him that he shouldn't put things that he finds on the ground in his mouth and I tried to scare him straight by describing the snot-mouthed disease-ridden hobo that was using the whistle just before he stuck it between his lips, but this didn't faze him, and after a moment of discussion with his brother Alex, the two of them decided that no one was more disgusting then they were, and so the real problem was not with them . . . it was with whoever used the whistle next . . . because they were the grossest people on earth and so no one should put anything in their mouth once they had.
When you're selectively remembering how excellent your musical tastes were back in high school and college-- how you listened to The Clash and My Bloody Valentine and De La Soul . . . how you were the first to get into Appetite for Destruction and Shake Your Moneymaker and Louder Than Love and and Paul's Boutique . . . when you are reminiscing about the times you saw Soundgarden and Jane's Addiction and Guns N Roses and The Feelies and R.E.M. -- your old friends are there to remind you about that Judas Priest mixed tape you made for them.
Posted by Dave at 9/15/2012
Karen Thompson Walker's new novel The Age of Miracles portrays an unusually delicate and precise apocalypse, and her narrator is equally delicate and precise in her explanation of this odd and slow way for all things familiar to end; to explain: the earth's rotation begins to decay, and the days and nights gradually grow longer-- wreaking havoc with both the middle school bell schedule and the earth's magnetic field . . . hierarchies change at the bus stop and people revise their circadian rhythms . . . or some people do (they keep clock time) while a minority refuse and try to adjust to the much longer days and nights-- and I read this book to take a break from George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire," a series which spans thousands and thousands of pages and claims that "winter is coming"-- but if you want winter to actually come-- and summer too-- all in the same day, then read this book: ten beached whales out of ten.
At our first department meeting, Liz told a story about a "miracle" where she was stranded at an airport with her baby, and she was stressed out and lonely, and for some reason she was thinking about a certain wonderful person named Audrey and-- miraculously-- there Audrey was, sent by God to relieve her loneliness and to give her a much needed break from caring for her baby . . . but this sounds more like a coincidence than a miracle, unlike what happened in my class on Monday: I was making the kids think analogously about how having romantic relationship with a human is similar to having a relationship with a book . . . the students had written down questions they might ask themselves before they decided to "get busy with" a romantic interest and we were assessing the continuum of queries, which started light (do they make me laugh?) and ranged to the profound (would I die for him?) and it was easy enough to wax metaphorically about liking a book that had some humor, or being monogamous with a book, or liking a book with a cute cover, relatable subject matter, an attractive font, and that new book smell . . . but when it came to speaking of art you would die for, I hit a brick wall-- my only example was if one was a complete fanatic for the author or piece of art, and then I made the natural leap to Mr. C., my friend who loves the TV show Battlestar Galactica, loves it so much that he has purchased many, many props from the show-- including a chair from the military conference room, several uniforms, and loads of other bric-a-brac that appeared on camera in the various starships and planets of the Galactica universe-- and moments after I explained this (and my classroom door was closed) and remember, I wasn't thinking about Mr. C., I was talking about him in front of many other witnesses-- so moments after this analogous example, Mr. C. himself walked through my classroom door, and if that wasn't coincidence enough, he was holding a funky microphone covered in blood . . . and he immediately explained that he had made a "new acquisition" and that he had just purchased the microphone that was used just before the "slaughter in the Quorum" in the episode "Blood on the Scales" and so I was able to point to this man and say, "Here is the man that might die for a work of art" and Mr. C. acknowledged that he would take a "heavy wound" for Battlestar Galactica and if Liz is going to call meeting up with Audrey in a strange airport a miracle, when she was only thinking about her, then I am calling this a bona fide super-miracle, because I was actually talking about Mr. C. just before he walked in, and he was holding just the prop necessary to complete my analogy.
My friend Rachel told me that her property was " a skosh less than half and acre" and I said, "A what?" but apparently a "skosh" is a real word . . . it is a unit of measurement and it means a smidgen . . . and while I have never seen this word in print, people assure me that it is used in conversation quite often . . . but not with the people I converse with . . . and while I am glad I learned a new word, I much prefer saying "just shy," as in "Dammit! That ball was just shy of hitting me in the testicles! Watch where your kicking!" and if anyone has the testicles to say "a tad," as in "maybe you should drink a tad less beer" then I will punch them in the face.
So in the interest of being a good person, I decided to clean up my classroom a bit before the start of this year-- I took a number of American Literature text books that had been sitting in a corner of my room for several years back to the common book room so other teachers could use them and I also found a stack of misplaced World History textbooks on the windowsill (my room is used like a terminal for packages in the summer, so all kinds of strange stuff ends up there) and I found a history teacher and asked him what I should do with the books, and he told me that they were certainly needed and he asked if I could bring them across the school to the history office-- and in the interest of being a good person, I complied and returned the books . . . the next day was the first day of classes, and after I finished teaching my last period and was cleaning up and getting ready to go coach, a harried woman hustled into my room and when I asked her if she needed anything, she said that she was a new history teacher and they had her in five different rooms and that my room was one of them-- which surprised me, because usually my room is empty last period-- and then she surprised me again when she said, "I can't find my text books" because I realized that, in the interest of being a good person, I had totally screwed over this green and rather frantic new teacher . . . those text books that I returned to the history office were hers . . . and so there was a moment when I had to decide if I was really going to be a good person, and confess my crime-- and although I didn't want to because then I was going to have to retrieve the books and it was hot as all hell and I had a million things to do-- but the lady seemed nice and she was in five different rooms . . . so in the interest of being a good person, I told her that I was the culprit, and offered to track the books down and bring them back to her-- which I did (and I met an old student who is now teaching math in the high school and she helped me bring the books back, so it turned out to be more fun than I thought) and now I can honestly say that I am a good person (for now).
Posted by Dave at 9/09/2012
All you folks with full time jobs probably don't want to hear this, nor will you believe it, but nothing is worse than the end-of-the-summer-holy-shit-I've-got-to-go-back-to-work anxiety stomachache . . . it's an awful feeling (but not so awful that I would choose to work in the summer . . . God bless the agrarian calendar) and my stomachache was compounded by the fact that a tooth of mine cracked off at the crown, and so on the same day that I return to work, I will also visit the dentist for some kind of procedure which I can only imagine to be horrific . . . and the worst part is I can't even whinge about all this because it falls on deaf ears, since most people have been working all summer long and have no sympathy.
Last year on Labor Day weekend, I learned that "wrestling for a greased watermelon with buff lifeguards" is not the theme of an adult film, it is an event at our family swim club-- and this year I learned that last year's melee was rather tame because the watermelon broke open after one round; this year we played best of three and I am proud to say that I scored the first point, hefting the watermelon over the side of the pool from distance . . . but there is plenty that went on in this scrum that I'm not proud of-- ankle grabbing, the dunking of minors, pleading with the almighty that I might be allowed to return to the surface, attempting to drown my friends and neighbors, occasional cowardice, and a general sense of bewilderment that I have never felt in any other sport (besides cricket) . . . a petroleum jelly coated watermelon behaves very strangely in water-- someone said it is neutrally buoyant, so it goes in whatever direction you push it-- up, down, sideways, or all three-- and apparently, you can see where it is from the sidelines, so there is lots of cheering and screaming, and when my tall friend John, from Team 1 (my team!) spiked the melon over the side and broke it, cementing both our victory and the end of the battle, everyone was exhausted and relieved, and I am positive that the event was far more exciting than an Olympic water polo match.
After a vacation, instead of unpacking one's luggage, is it acceptable to leave the piece of luggage on the bedroom floor and simply take clothes out of the piece of luggage until it is empty?
The New York Times claims that 1/3 of all "consumer" reviews of books and other products found on the Internet are fabricated, whether by marketers or the retailers themselves, or by friends of the seller, or even companies that you can hire to write positive reviews.