My favorite faith healer…

Had you ever had a conversation with someone who’s acted strangely, and only later you realized why? (Something like, “Hmm… John sure was acting weird. Oh, right, his ex-girlfriend was also in the room. No wonder he was antsy when I asked him about this other girl.”)

I hardly ever remember my dreams, but yesterday I took a pretty long nap, and woke up right after having a dream in which the above situation occurred. I was talking to someone in a very crowded room and he had a cute little kid with him, and he acted very strangely when I asked how old the kid was. It was only later in the dream, after this interaction, that I realized why.

The reason is not important, but this experience totally fascinated me. While dreaming, my own brain constructed a scenario complex and subtle enough that even it couldn’t figure it out until later. I don’t know much about dreams (since I never remember them), but it kind of blew my mind. Has this happened to you before? I guess I always imagined dreams as a sensory and emotional adventure, reflecting my own thoughts, and not so much a real-world experience involving interactions with other people who actually appear to have independent thoughts and behaviors.

Okay, here is another sleep story. I have a habit of falling asleep in class, and this is mainly a result of this bizarre trait of mine whereby I get extremely tired whenever someone tries to lecture to me. Having an active discussion is okay, as is learning stuff on my own through alternate media (reading, watching TV, etc.) but when someone is actually telling me information that I have to think about and process to understand, I head towards unconsciousness at an alarming rate. Of course, the better the lecturer (the more engaging and lucid), the less I have to concentrate and the more I stay awake. On the other hand, if I’m at all tired to begin with, it’s a losing battle: there’s nothing I can do to stave it off.

It’s a totally physical response, too: I just start yawning uncontrollably, and then if there’s nothing to stop me, I’m out like a light.

Since I generally feel guilty about skipping class, I remember many times in college just walking into the classroom, taking a seat in the back row, and then passing out for the next hour or so. It was ridiculous. (I’m generally better now because I get much more sleep these days.) I ended up learning virtually all the material myself, in a frenzied rush before finals.

The worst was when I was in high school, also taking physics. Our physics teacher was sub-par; I think the average AP test score the year before was like a 2, and I wanted to get a 5. Luckily, my dad’s a physics professor and he was willing to help me out. He also happens to be an amazing teacher: I’ve read a bunch of his students’ course reviews (illegally, no doubt) and they’re disgusting: “amazing”, “hilarious”, “best teacher I’ve ever had”, etc. Anyway, so here I was, getting one-on-one tutoring from an awesome Yale physics professor… but you also have to factor in the fact that I need about 8-9 hours of sleep a night, and in high school I averaged like 5.

In general, I had gotten kind of used to the the lack of sleep, so I’d hold out most of the time. But when my dad tried to teach me something, my lecture-detection circuit would switch on and within minutes I’d be yawning nonstop. Huge, gaping yawns, sucking in liters of air. My dad, of course, didn’t know about this phenomenon, so he would say stuff like, “Wow, you’re really tired. You need to sleep more!” Which I guess was true, but the point was that after we’d finish with physics… I’d stop yawning. I felt really guilty, but there was really nothing I could do. Luckily everything turned out all right in the end.

Wow, that was a pretty boring story. It would be poetic if you were yawning now too :).

Anyway, I’ve been watching the NBA Playoffs a lot recently, and I just love watching basketball. I realized that there are two big factors determining why watching sports is entertaining: one, for the intrinsic entertainment of watching the game itself, and two, for the pleasure of rooting for the team you want to win (the excitement factor induced by the game).

Of the major team sports I follow, by the first (and more important, I think) factor, from best to worst:

That is, basketball is just an exhiliarating game to watch, even if you don’t care who’s going to win. The athleticism, team interaction, and scoring method all make it awesome.

By the second factor:
Soccer/Basketball (tie)

To me, baseball is normally excruciatingly boring, but during the playoffs — when you really care — the long, drawn out pauses between plays that would normally induce boredom actually make the game ridiculously tense and exciting instead. This is an interesting twist.

Best highlights:
Basketball/Football (tie)

I know you guys really care about this stuff…

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13 Responses to My favorite faith healer…

  1. ratatosksv says:

    I love watching college basketball, but not the NBA… although I’d imagine the Wizards – Bulls game tonight would be a great one to watch.

    I’m just glad I’m not watching my baseball team (the Reds) right now. They’re down 10-0 after the first inning. Our #1 starter gave up 8 runs without retiring a batter before he was pulled. What The Hell? And they’ve lost 7 straight. Just be glad you’re not in that situation.

    • aj says:

      Haha, you know, on my walk home, I was thinking about what a boring post this was, and I intended to delete it when I got back. But now you’ve commented, so I guess it has to stay.

      Anyway, yeah, sorry about the Reds. The season is still young, of course. I’ve been a Red Sox fan since like age 5 so I know a thing or two about pain, but of course I can’t complain about anything right now :).

      Watch the Mavs/Rockets Game 7 tomorrow if you can. Amazing stuff.

      I personally also like the college game more, maybe because I have a much stronger allegiance there with UConn. But as a pure exhibition of the game, the NBA (in the playoffs) is better. The players are just a clear step up.

      • ratatosksv says:

        Yeah, I ended up not being able to watch the game tonight because it was on ESPN. Any clue whether tomorrow’s game will be on network TV?

        • aj says:

          Hmm, I think it’s on TNT. Soooo good!

          • gdogg says:

            Yup, it’s on TNT at 9:30 EDT. I agree — it’s an amazingly good series. Pretty much every game has been close and the differing styles are really fun to watch. I haven’t been so emotionally invested in a playoff series in a long time. Of course, I’m rooting for the Rockets (and Yao). It’s been a painful process because it hurts knowing that Yao is never going to live up to expectations. Everytime I know he’s going to fail, and I have no confidence in him, but I want him to do well. Frustrating.

            About dreams — yes, they’re incredible.

            I may be morbid, but I’ve sometimes tried to place my mind into the situation in which a friend or family member dies. I wonder — how would I react, what would I think, how would my life change. It turns out that it’s not an emotional experience at all, and sometimes I feel sad that I can’t “generate” those emotions. One night, though, I had a dream where my sister was actually murdered. I was freaking out in my dream, and when I woke up, I had tears streaming down my face. Of course, instead of being freaked out, I was like…”Cool, my brain can simulate me into situations so convincing that I have emotional responses.”

          • gdogg says:

            Oops, rereading your entry, I realize that this is what you think dreams exactly are — “emotional and sensory adventures.” Oh well.

          • aj says:

            Hey, can’t we agree? :)

            Anyway, I guess I’m morbid too because I’ve tried exactly the same thought experiment with identical results, including the meta-sadness part.

            Have not yet remembered a dream where anything happened to a family member though!

          • ratatosksv says:

            At certain times in my life, I have been unable to remember my dreams. But for the past few years, I’ve almost always been able to remember at least some details in the morning. I have occassional dreams that involve someone out to kill me, back from childhood. And those are the non-weird dreams.

          • ratatosksv says:

            Damn, I don’t get TNT either. Stupid basic cable package.

  2. vchou says:

    dude! i totally have the same problem with falling asleep in lectures!

    but maybe it’s just a general narcolepsy problem. my old coworkers in SF still make fun of me for napping at work.

    • aj says:

      Hmm, maybe it is. And I’ve fallen asleep at work, and in my office here in grad school, too. Actually I quite enjoy those naps.

      Once when I was younger I was taking a public bus to my trumpet lesson, and I was super tired. I was terrified that I’d miss my stop (and the lesson) and end up in some scary part of New Haven. (This was also in the pre-cell phone days.) But even this fear couldn’t keep me awake. I tried pinching myself, which works in movies, but did nothing for me. I even tried banging my head against the glass. No go.

      I think in the end I drifted off, but woke up like 30 seconds before my stop… Money.

      • which is how it always works…

        i love that you can be fall-down dead tired, completely pass out, and still always wake up for your stop. i fell asleep *standing up* on the T (red line) once, slept from south station to harvard square, and woke up just as when the train got there.

  3. gilson says:

    dude i totally kno how you feel bout falling asleep in class. everyday, i get to recharge my batteries in lecture. it doesn’t matter how good the lecturer is, i’ll be out once they start talking.

    i agree w/ brandon. i like watching college basketball more than the nba. to me there’s more teamwork and strategy involved in the college game. altho the nba playoffs are awesome.

    outta the major team sports hockey and soccer(i suck at soccer) to me are the most fun to watch(altho there’s no hockey this year). they require the most teamwork altho there’re instances where individual efforts can be rewarded w/ goals. actually i love all sports(even curling). ok i’ll shut up now=)