July 23, 2000

July 25, 2000

Right now I'm feeling: Good!

Right now I'm listening to: Nanase Aikawa
(She ROCKS!!)

Nanase Aikawa: Bub

Closing Ceremony

The assembled students in the gym

Awards and recognition is given to worthy students

Damn, it was hot in there!!

This is the bow at the end of the ceremony... the bow at this school is ... slight. At some it's a full on 45 degree and at some schools it's non-existent.

Kickass link of the day: The best MP3 player I've seen. Doesn't work for everyone and the controls take a bit to get used to, but it's sooo much better than RealJukebox to play MP3s.


Reports of my being kidnapped and sold to the Japanese mafia have been greatly exaggerated.

I have been feeling so much better lately. I've had only two nights of nightmares in the past two weeks or so. I'm sleeping much more regularly. Was it sleeping pills? No. Vitamins? No. A large blunt object to the head before bedtime? No.

It was meditation. Believe it or not.

Yes, that's right, true believers. I have been engaging in intensive meditation for the past two weeks. An hour or two a day (interestingly enough, on the days I skip meditation, those nights were the only nights which I had nightmares). I've been meditating for over a decade now (not too many 24-year-olds who can say that, huh??), but it's always been an on-and-off type of thing. It's an extremely useful tool.

Use it and peel away your perceptions, your distractions, the outside world. Like peeling away the layers of an onion, until you get distilled consciousness. Quite an experience, I can tell you. A feeling of clairvoyant omniscience. This level of concentration is extremely difficult to get to, but once you are there, there is no problem in your life you cannot solve. Nothing that is not possible. There is no goal that is too difficult. No task of concentration which you cannot do. Count doubles to test it or to help get you there if you can't focus on an object or imaginary shape, or the stillness of your own mind. I stop when I get to the hundred millions.

Meditation has a way of re-aligning the body and has been shown to be helpful to heal the body.

School has ended.

I cannot adequately describe the physical sense of pleasure that being able to say this statement brings me. I have six weeks. Six weeks. I already hear the clock ticking.

But let me backtrack a bit. My last class was last Monday, but the day after was 'Cleaning Day' and the day after that was 'Closing Ceremony Day'. There's some pics on the sidebar of the oh-so-exciting-and-action-packed closing ceremony. The real reason I think students here get a summer vacation is because I don't think the teachers want to stay in an un-air-conditioned building while the temperature climbs to 192 degrees F. OK, that's an exaggeration. 150 degrees F.


So, the past couple weeks I'd been at Isao I was helping two students prepare for the English speech contest which is held in September. If they get the big prize they get to go to the US for six glorious days or so. Ahhh, yes. The Promised Land. One of the students is really trying my patience. I keep trying to get her to relax, speak louder, and do speech exercises which I learned in some of my old drama classes (thank you, Mr. Hocter), but she nearly trembles when I even ask her to repeat a sentence or word for a second or third time. I don't know her name. The other girl, Kiyoko, let me call her 'Seiko' for a week (I thought that was her name), before she told a Japanese teacher (who didn't know her first name either, incidentally) that her first name, was in fact, Kiyoko. Sigh.

So school ended, and with school ending came a new group of ALTs eager to begin their Japanese adventure. One of them moved into my building and me and Glen showed him around a bit, helped him get a few things for his empty apartment, and taught him the ropes. His newly furnished apartment has no water-heater for the kitchen. I.E., he has no hot water in the kitchen. What's up with that? Mr. T, our supervisor, asked him to buy it himself out of his own pocket. Grumble, grumble.

The new group of ALTs seem really nice. I'm going to miss Kara. A gal who I went to harvest bamboo with earlier this year.

Sleep Paralysis

Who else gets sleep paralysis? Shortly after my last entry, my little brother emailed me to tell me that he also gets (or suffers from, depending on how you look at it) sleep paralysis. He doesn't like it either and who could blame him?? Waking up to the sudden realization that you can't move a muscle. Your breathing is constricted. You feel like your chest is being sqeezed slowly. Panic may creep in. Then, after a short while, you can move again. Your brain finally says, "Oh!! DUH! I forgot to switch my body back 'on' after my dream ended! Sowwy!!" I hate that shit. Pisses me off. I kind of figured out what it was long before I knew there was a name for it. My mother didn't though... she thought my little brother was just dreaming when he told her about it. I don't really blame her... it sounds crazy.

Of course, no one really knows why people have sleep paralysis episodes, though I have a half-baked theory. I think it's due to a slight dysfunction in the Reticular Activating System (RAS). (I think the mis-activity would show up on an EEG and perhaps abnormalities might show up on a MRI or perhaps even a CAT or a PET scan.) This often overlooked and unexciting part of the brain is responsible for regulating neural activity as the brain ascends into or rises out of sleep (hence, the logical connection to sleep paralysis. GASP!) I also have strong suspicions that the RAS is the hidden culprit behind several other neurological disorders, most notably schizophrenia, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and manic depression/Bipolar disorder, but there doesn't seem to be much research in that direction (but what the hell do I know, right?). Classic symptoms of these disorders include hyperarousal/underarousal, sensory-gating deficits, hallucinations, sleeping problems and other symptoms, many functions of which are initally controlled or regulated by the RAS. It just seems to fit (sometimes I think I should have picked bio instead of physics). I think if you were looking for a root cause for one of those particular disorders, it might make more sense to look at a particular part of the brain which has a hand in all those symptoms rather than chase around a half dozen types of neurotransmitters (though I think that's probably the cause, sometimes). What kind of dysfunction could cause this type of response? Allergic reactions? Externally-originating biochemical damage (such as MSG or other artificial chemicals put into so many foods these days)? Genetics? And what form would the dysfunction take? Maybe a overproduction or underproduction of cells. Mis-metabolism of glucose in that part of the brain. Who knows. But I would absolutely love see a study or survey done to determine what percentage of people who suffer from the above neurological disorders also suffer from sleep paralysis... I think the results would be very interesting.

<-- End of Jeff's Amateur Neurobiology Class-->

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