Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sleep Problems

I've always had a hard time falling asleep.
As a child with a bedtime, I think it's safe to say I spent an hour of every day of my life lying awake in bed, daydreaming in the dark, talking to myself and just generally not falling asleep. As a teenager I stopped trying all together, and stayed up reading or on the computer long after it was sensible for my 6 o'clock high school wake-up schedule. I just don't like to lie awake in bed. It's boring and it's tedious, and my brain is an alright guy but he's really chatty and can be really negative. So unless I'm using him to complete a specific task or think about things that matter to me, I'd rather not be alone with him.

Through college and into my early adulthood I've continued to stay up late and avoid the dark isolation of trying to fall asleep, but recently things have changed. It used to be that I could stay up until 4 in the morning and wake up at 10 a.m. and feel fine, but now, maybe because I'm getting older, the trick has been working less and less. If I stay up until 4 a.m. I sleep until 2 in the afternoon, and that gets old after a few weeks of seeing the sun set only a few hours after you wake up. So, against my better judgment and years of experience, I've been trying to fall asleep at a somewhat decent time these past few nights. And the shit is starting up again.
The other night, Lindsay and I went to bed at about quarter after 1 in the morning, planning to fall asleep to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

Hell yes.

Anyways, as the credits rolled two hours later and I found myself wide awake, I had two choices. I could get up, get on my computer and Stumble until my eyes burned enough that I genuinely wanted to close them, or I could lay in the darkness and hope that, just maybe, my brain would be merciful enough to leave me alone.

The thing about lying awake at night is that your brain latches on to one particular thought and won't shut up about it. "Let's think about this thing until you go CRAZY," is what your brain says. On this particular night, I found myself thinking, of all things, about a wooden box I built in high school and is currently holding all of the Animorphs books I own at my parents' house. It was for a Pandora's Box project for my mythology class, and it looks like this:

So anyways, I was thinking about this box, and about how it was one of the few substantial things I've ever made from scratch, and about how easy it was and how I could do it again if I ever needed a box for anything.

But then I was like... wait, how did I make that box again?
And my brain was like LET'S FIGURE IT OUT!

Because here's the problem: I remembered distinctly that I walked straight into the store, bought the wood, came home, and nailed that damn box together. It was just that simple. I didn't measure, and I didn't remember cutting anything. What I did remember was buying wood that looked like this:

But wait, if that was what I bought, how could I have possibly made the box? Because by nailing these parts together there would always be the same basic flaw in design. There are variations of this flaw, but really you can only have two basic outcomes with these materials.

And my brain went over these two options over and over and OVER again, even though I was like: "Please stop. This is stupid. Let's think about something else."
And I was like, "Next time I'm home I will look at the box and everything will make sense again, I promise."
And I was like "That is ridiculous. We will not be doing that."

To appease my brain I attempted to reach a compromise. An answer that, while not technically correct, could at least logically explain how a box could conceivably be constructed from these materials. It would be something like this:

And my brain was like LOL NOPE. THAT WASN'T IT. KEEP TRYING.

So I laid there, alternating between the only two possible outcomes from my PROBLEMS pictures above, for a good solid half an hour. It was awful and frustrating and full of irrational thoughts like "What if I need a box? I'll never be able to build a box again! I've forgotten how!" Again I tried to trick my brain, arguing that perhaps I had forgotten steps in the process of making the box. Maybe the box did, in fact, jut out unevenly like in the first example. Maybe I had made measurements to account for the extra inch hanging over the top like in the second example.

And then it hit me.
I HAD cut the wood.

I hadn't bought four long pieces and two square end pieces. I bought six long pieces and did this:

And so the mystery was solved! There was much rejoicing.

Then my brain was like, "Wow, you were right. That was a stupid thing to spend so much time on. You should write a blog entry about this because it was so silly."
And I was like, "Yeah, maybe."
And my brain was like, "But how would you explain it? You would have to draw a lot of pictures. I wonder what they would look like..."

I didn't fall asleep until 5 a.m.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

We Have No Rights

George Carlin used to have a routine about how, contrary to popular belief, we don't actually have any rights. You know, like the right to free speech, due process, trial by jury, and the right to be absolved from cruel and unusual punishment. We don't have these rights, Carlin said, because at any moment they can be taken away from us. To illuminate this point he referenced the interment of Japanese-Americans in 1942, where over 110,000 American citizens were jailed without due process or any rights at all except, as Carlin said, "Right this way! Into the internment camp."

And to me, Carlin is spot on with this assessment of rights in America, or anywhere else for that matter. Rights are privileges, he says, and temporary at that, because nothing is a right if it can be taken away. They're certainly not God-given rights. They're ideas, invented by humans, and which can be erased by humans. And you don't have to go back to 1942 to see action like this in the United States.

I just finished a book called Zeitoun (pronounced Zay-toon) which centered on the life of a man named Abdulrahman Zeitoun, his wife Kathy and his four children in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

To make a long story short, Zeitoun was a carpenter, painter and business owner in New Orleans when the hurricane hit in 2005. Because he had so many responsibilities to various properties in the city, he stayed behind to weather the storm while his wife and children fled to family and friends elsewhere in the country. He had no idea how bad the storm would be, and in the aftermath he spent his time not repairing properties but saving people from their flooded homes (the water reached the second story windows of most houses, even on the north side of the city where he lived) and feeding dogs left to die by their owners.

After about a week of rescue work, Zeitoun and three companions were arrested in a house that Zeitoun himself owned, were not read their rights, were not charged with a crime, and were taken to a Greyhound bus station where an enormous makeshift jail had been erected. Without charges he was handcuffed, strip-searched, probed and imprisoned by heavily armed guards with no discernible identities or affiliations to a particular law enforcement agency. He was kept for days at the Greyhound station, and then transported to a maximum security prison. All in all he served almost a full month without a phone call, a hearing or bail. The companions arrested with him were held at longest for eight months, and all charges were eventually dropped.

It was so unbelievable to read this about the United States in 2005, that in a time of catastrophe while people were struggling to escape the roofs of their houses and find clean water, so much effort was being put into arresting and detaining innocent civilians. In another account, one that received media attention in New Orleans at the time, a 73 year-old-woman was wrongly-arrested for looting when she was carrying a package of sausage from her car to her hotel room. She was incarcerated in a maximum security prison for over two weeks. In another incident, a woman working at the Greyhound prison compound threatened a reporter to leave the premises or else she would "throw him in a cage."

And I'm reading this book in the midst of news that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has plans to implement policies that could dissolve local governments and unseat elected officials under the direction of a single, unelected authority figure or board of directors.

And in Wisconsin the governor was attempting to eliminate the right of union bargaining in order, I can only guess, to further oppress the working class.

And the Patriot Act was extended at the end of February and the crazy power granted to authority figures under that act is still in effect.

And when the American government observes a person's right not to be tortured or detained indefinitely without trial, they simply move those operations to other countries.

And racial profiling of Mexican Americans is now protocol in Arizona, shifting the burden of proof off of the state and on to the individual, who must now make excuses for his or her right to live in a country they are a legal citizen of.

And I just realized earlier this week that I watch what I say on the phone because, in my heart, I don't 100% believe that there's absolutely no chance someone is listening.

Because we have no rights.