Thursday, May 31, 2007

Early birthday present for Brendan...

So I bought these clocks at Target to make an early birthday present for Brendan, and added the city/ country names.

They say: San Fran, New York, India and Aotearoa. The reason for these particular places is that Brendan has colleagues in New York and India, with whom he has 5am meetings every morning, and we are forever having to calculate time between NZ and here. So it's useful. Brendan also wanted London, but we ran out of black clocks.

Also, I ran out of 'N's to make "Wellington", and I thought "Welly" was probably too casual.

Brendan loves them - they're already on the wall. I should mention that his birthday is actually in July.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Coastal Highway and windy roads...

On Saturday we went for a drive out to Half Moon Bay, along the Coastal Highway and down to Pescadero Beach, coming back across the mountains. With our trusty Google driving directions, guidebook, camera and 'exploring hats' on, we headed first to Half Moon Bay sharing a winding road with (what felt like) half of San Francisco. (And then we had BK for lunch - see the post below.)

Side note: Thanks so much to my ex-colleagues at the Commerce Commission for this guidebook - we have used it many, many times and it's helped us a lot. I anticipate it will be even more helpful when we go on our honeymoon. :) So thanks once again, it was a fantastic gift.

The beach cost $6 to park for the day, and was packed with families enjoying a day on the beach. But it was foggy along the entire coast - very foggy. So what had been a brilliant day here in San Jose quickly turned into a slightly cold, sticky grey one. The sand was a beautiful yellow colour, and huge waves crashed on the shoreline. We walked along the beach and played chicken with the waves. Brendan decided it would be funny to push me right as a wave came! But several times we both had to run away before he got wet feet from rouge waves!

Next, we drove to San Gregorio Beach, and wandered around at the parking area there - it was quite pretty. We watched a guy performing an improptu singing concert in German, while people videoed. A plaque commemorated a Spanish explorer in the 18th Century who had camped at this beach, lost and looking for Santa Cruz Bay. Instead, as the plaque wryly stated, he found San Francisco Bay!

We continued on down the road, passing miles and miles of gorgeous hidden beaches. Eventually we arrived at Pescadero Beach. This beach had a remarkably different feel to it - it had rocks smoothed and rounded by the sea instead of the fine soft sand of Half Moon Bay. A rocky point extended into the sea.

A fisherman stood at one end, where the waves crashed into the rocks around him. Suddenly, a large wave broke over him up to his waist, almost sweeping him off the rock - dangerous! He quickly moved to higher ground. So many fishermen (and women) in NZ have been drowned at places like Castlepoint for just this reason.

The township of Pescadero itself was a tiny village with church, post office, oversized American flag and a few shops. Very cute.

We drove on, further into the mountains. As we climbed, the road became more and more narrow and winding, so much that I half expected it to end around any corner (or for us to meet someone coming the other way!) The trees started to grow hanging lichen and moss, and the fog closed in around us.

Finally we turned right at Alpine Road - even more narrow, extremely windy and one-lane in most places. Was this really where we were supposed to go? I checked the Google directions several times, but here we were, going right at Alpine Road. So we shrugged and continued on.

When we got to the top of the ridge, the sun started shining again and the fog cleared, since it was above the hill level. The forest turned to tall yellow grass waving in the sun. Further away, a bank of fog literally poured over the lower mountains. It moved slowly, much like a river of cream.

We stopped for a break at a small "open space" park at the top of a hill. Signs warned of rattlesnakes and mountain lions - I kept watching by my feet carefully for movement, and in the surrounding bushes. I don't particularly want to meet another mountain lion.

We felt increasingly lost as we continued on the road, since the directions given were slightly different in one or two crucial places. Were we ever going to find the right way back to Palo Alto?

Finally we found a sign which pointed that way, and gratefully followed it back to the 280 Freeway. (Everything in the US is navigated by which freeway(s) it's near.) Coming back down the mountains, we saw a great view of San Jose and the surrounding area. It always has a haze over it, though. I do notice that about NZ - there's no washed-out haze of pollution most days.

The link to our webshots page for the full album is here.

On the downside, I suspect our CV joints are going. Geoff says we can leave it for a while cos it won't break - any other thoughts?

Sunday, May 27, 2007


As I walked back from church today, tired and hot and needing a nap, I heard a small "vit! Vit!" noise at the road entrance to our apartment complex. Looking around, I spied a tiny hummingbird perched on a palm tree.

Normally hummingbirds are zipping around all the time, like a four year-old sans Ritalin. This one was just sitting on the palm leaf. I watched it for a bit. It didn't move. This was surprising - perhaps I could get a photo. I hastily fumbled in my bag for my little camera and took several photos. The hummingbird just sat there on its branch, unconcerned.

But I was getting tired again and really needed my nap. I walked back home and grabbed Brendan and the big camera on the tiny chance that the hummingbird would still be there. I didn't have much hope - for one to stay still-ish for ten minutes is nothing short of a miracle.

So I fully didn't expect it to be still there 5 minutes later. I walked very close to the tree, and it seemed unconcerned while I snapped photos. Eventually it started flying in circuits - from the palm tree to the tree across the footpath, then to another palm tree, then back to the first, several times. It moved so fast I could hardly follow it with the camera, making its "Vit! Vit!" sound. It had a dark olive-green /brown body and a red head, but another we saw by the gym didn't. So maybe it was the male one, I think it's an "Anna's Hummingbird" species.
The rest of the photos of it from our webshots album are here.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The BK Post

We finally went to BK (Burger King) in the US, and snapped a few photos for the benefit of those who love it most (i.e. Geoff). They do have some pretty mean stuff going on, take a look.

Burger King, Half-Moon Bay

The Basic Menu

The new BK Stacker

Drink Guides for the Soda Connoisseur

The Meal

Other Random Photos

My work permit is here....

I am seriously impressed. It arrived in the mail this morning.

Friday, May 25, 2007

American food....

We're having a week of "American cooking" using only American recipes. We just got back from Albertsons supermarket tonight, having bought all the ingredients. It was much more expensive even buying the generic versions of the food. We also bought a lot more than we normally would in a week, just to make the dinners. And this doesn't count breakfasts or lunches. And I haven't even been to the markets yet!

Will go and try out this ridiculously-bad-for-you American dessert which is like a frozen chocolate mousse - the main ingredient is something called "Cool Whip". As far as I can make out, "Cool Whip" is an all-purpose concoction of vegetable oil and sugar and a few other unhealthy ingredients all 'whipped' together with air to make fluffy white stuff not unlike whipped cream. Americans use it to make icing for cakes, chocolate mousse, and any other time you need something with lots of puffy volume and no substance. The main annoying thing about the recipe is that there is no way to substitute more healthy ingredients for any of it: it all comes from packets. To be precise, the ingredients are: 1 packet Oreos, 2 packets "Instant pudding and pie filling", and 2 cups "Cool Whip". What's even in these things?!

I'm also making watermelon sorbet with half a watermelon. Now that is much healthier.

There is a lot more I could say on American food, but that's another post, as Fia knows. This is only a short comment.

Other happenings... like Memorial Weekend

Went to see Shrek Three the other day with Alex and others from his flat. Good movie. Recommended if you liked the other two.

Memorial Weekend here in the States which is a huge national holiday and a long weekend on Monday. Apparently the number of American flags outside houses increases hugely on this day. Trying to think of a way to take advantage of this - I thought it was ages away and we wanted to visit a friend in Arizona and go see the Grand Canyon. Everyone else has already gone away for the weekend. Alex is in LA, but we'll probably all go down together sometime to Disneyland etc. I want to go!

Our only other thing is that this weekend we need to take some time to stick to our polyphasic schedule, so we can't go too far or we'll end up (not) sleeping in the car again. Brendan's getting overly excited and wants to try the harder sleep phases, but I told him he's on his own for those! I found it enough of a struggle at times to be motivated enough to get up with a 3-hour core sleep - I couldn't imagine what not having one would do to my mood.

Problem is for some of the stuff we wanted to do this weekend, there will be vast crowds of people, no matter where we go. This rules out any of the theme parks or the more major tourist attractions around here. Maybe we should go up to San Francisco... I feel lonely. Brendan doesn't work with the rest of the interns, so he's also a bit isolated. He doesn't mind, though, compared to me. I wish Ida was here. Actually, I wish lots of people were here... come and blow $5k on a visit - I can guarantee you'll enjoy it!

We've decided to find a Toastmasters here to keep up our public speaking practice, since it's been so useful while we were in NZ. And also to meet some new people. We need to pick up all our hobbies again, which have been pushed aside while we sorted out our wedding.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Second week of polyphasic sleep...

... we're a bit tired again. Must have been our sleeping in the car at Yosemite. Just when we were getting much better. Also still at 27 minutes, slowly getting down towards 20 but the extra few minutes are just so tempting! I find when I set the clock to 27 minutes, I wake up refreshed. At 28 mins.... bleugh. You've lost me for at least an hour of brain-fog.

And I discovered the reason we slept in the other day was because the alarm clock was set to something like 9am, not 4am and so it hadn't gone off. For my body to wake me up at 5.30 then was pretty impressive in my books.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Yosemite National Park

On Sunday we went for our first big trip: 4 hours drive each way to Yosemite National Park. This park is incredibly beautiful, with huge granite cliffs and forests. (See the slideshow of photos from Yosemite.)

We left just after 5am, and drove through the San Joaquin Valley. It was distinctly rural (smelled like chickens). The horizon stretched a long way ahead and the road was very straight for around 40 miles... signs advertised "Dickey Petroleum Farmers Oil" and "John Deere Tractors".

We stopped at Mariposa, the last small town about an hour's drive from Yosemite, to have a nap. We ended up having two naps of half an hour each in a vain attempt to sleep in the car, throwing our still-forming new sleeping patterns out. Just a bit uncomfortable.

So slightly bleary-eyed, we drove into the park. The hills mostly consisted of yellow hillsides with patchy scrub. The Merced River flowed swiftly and deeply on one side of a narrow, two-lane highway, while the other side was a rock face with pale purple wild flowers growing. Hawks circled on the breeze. There were no fences.

Here and there, stone walls and bridges hinted at Yosemite's history as a tourist destination for 100 years. Temporary Bailey bridges crossed the river where a large rockslide had wiped out the road.

We stopped at an area where the river fell impressively down some huge boulders. When we drove off, a rattling alerted Brendan to the fact he'd left the sunscreen and his sunglasses on top of the car. Stopping on the narrow highway, we quickly reversed back into the spot and grabbed them from the road, although the ruins of the sunscreen lid was spotted as we left much later, crushed completely.

Driving through the park, huge walls of granite rose on either side of forest on the valley floor. Suddenly the forest gave way to a broad, grassy meadow with El Capitan, a rock formation, on the left. Brendan said, "Stop the car!" and I screeched off the road and onto the gravel siding, heavily thumping the car as I did so. When I stopped, I noticed a little Asian couple standing on the side of the road, staring at me with mouths open in unison. They did this for so long that I thought maybe I'd broken the car and got out to check!

So just a bit up the road was Bridalveil Falls, and more views of El Capitan. It's a very recognizable landmark in the valley, being one of the first things you see as you enter from our end. We walked up the short path that lead to the waterfall. Spray blew everywhere, and we and the camera were drenched. Spring is the best time to see the waterfalls here, and we weren't disappointed.

Another place we went was supposed to be a swing bridge, but we never saw that. Just a wooden bridge across the water. The Merced River was calm here, shallow,and very bright green. Kids waded out to the sandbar to swim, and others rafted. Brendan and I saw a thin little eel in the water - it looked and moved like a snake because it was so long and thin. The water was sparkling and clear.

We also checked out the visitors centre very very quickly with the interactive musuem there which reminded me of Te Papa, and the Ansel Adams Photography Gallery - he did some amazing pictures. I wanted to stay there longer, but it was getting late and we needed to find a place for our 1pm nap. But we do now have another ridiculous squashed penny for our collection.
So we napped at YellowPine, a small wooded area away from the crowds of tourists and the road. I woke up around 2, and it was so peaceful and quiet in the trees away from everyone else. The birds were singing, the river was a very short distance away... heaven. I wish we had much longer in the park, it was so calm.

We had lunch there - Brendan was very naughty and fed the squirrels that came begging, even though you're not allowed to! They took food right of his hands and ran a short distance away, nibbling it. Oh well, at least we got our squirrel photos. And these squirrels knew exactly what to do!

After lunch we had to park the car and take a shuttle bus to the back part of the park. We walked to "Happy Isles", a series of small islands linked by bridges between two rivers which joined and split at different points, and "Mirror Lake" which is a seasonal stream. In summer, it turns into a meadow. It's very calm in places and the reflections are amazing, so I was keen to go there.

It was too late to go to Taft Point, a great lookout of several hours walk, so instead we did the quick walk to Lower Yosemite Falls. This was pretty amazing - the sun was setting in the valley, and the mountains were all lit up. Brendan and I climbed up the slippery wet rocks to the bottom of the falls, which roared down with incredible spray - in no time at all we were saturated.

We stopped to take one last photo. I walked into the centre of the meadow, and walked out again. When I got to the car, Brendan told me there was a bear in the meadow! Luckily it was on the other side though, about 100 m from me. We watched it loping along for a while.

Bears are dangerous - they can kill you. There are anti-bear rubbish bins everywhere, and signs warning people not to feed them or leave anything that smells in their cars. Bears can peel back a car door easily to get to the food inside, and sometime the rangers have to shoot them if they are too used to humans.

Lastly we saw a mule deer on the side of the road. We got back around 12.30. All in all, a fantastic trip! I can't wait to go again and bring some friends. :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My work permit is accepted!!!!!

Just in two minutes ago via email... exciting news!


Current Status: Card production ordered.

On May 22, 2007, we ordered production of your new card. Please allow 30 days for your card to be mailed to you.

Yay! I am so completely happy about this, that I just danced in the lounge. I was so worried that since I had to send in more information, they would make me wait another 90 days! Essentially the message above means my work permit has been approved. :D

Yesterday I drove to San Francisco by myself (!) to have coffee with a lovely Comms manager from IBM in San Francisco (and no, Brendan had nothing to do with it!) to find out more about doing comms/PR here in the Bay. Which was very helpful.

So, now to move on to job-getting! If you're reading this in America, and you know anyone at any of the San Jose PR agencies, please please contact me!!

Eat. Spit. Be Happy...

sunflower seeds packet
Eat. Spit. Be Happy. - Eeeew!

At least, that's according to the slogan on this packet of Nacho Cheese sunflower seeds. Disgusting!!! In China, people are being encouraged not to spit, and here people are being encouraged! Both of us found this distinctly unhygienic.

But the reason I have them is that they arrived as part of lunch when I was volunteering at a homeless convention in San Jose the other day. This was a large convention center set up with free healthcare, dental services, child-minding for the day, food bags, free clothing, shoes, free healthcare to preschoolers (the stand I was on), Help Centers, Social Security and other social services. They also gave out lunch to everyone.

Most surprising for me was that many of the clients didn't look stereotypically 'homeless'. Their clothes were casual, but nothing out of the ordinary. Most carried one small bag. If you saw them on the street, you'd never know their secret.

The atmosphere created was that the large number of volunteers and organizers really wanted to help those who were homeless, and went out of their way to do so. I was touched. Organizers used the word "clients" which I felt conveyed a sense of importance - for one day, people at the bottom of society here were treated with respect and dignity.

Now... to eat, spit and be happy...

Yosemite Slide Show

Click to view the full slideshow (our favourites are at the start)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Polyphasic Sleep: One and a Half Weeks

Christina and I have now been on a Polyphasic Sleep Schedule for a week and a half (if you have no idea what I'm talking about, see my earlier post Sleep Deprivation with a Plan). A lot of people have been asking how it's going and I've been slack about posting updates about it recently, so this seems like a convinient time to post some thoughts.

The good news is that the naps most certainly work to reduce the amount of sleep you need. I still feel tired during the days, but I don't feel like I've been living on 4 hours sleep a night for a week. I would compare my average level of alertness to how you feel after going to bed a couple of hours late the night before work, say 6 hours sleep. Not quite on top of your game, but not so sleepy you can't make productive use of your waking hours. Compared to days 3 - 5 where I was actually surviving on 3 normal hours of sleep (before my naps started to become effective), the difference is huge.

The first obvious benefit to the schedule is that I have around 4 useful hours before 9am (my previous wake-up time). On weekdays I attend a 5am meeting with guys on the East Coast and India, get off work around 2pm or 3pm, and often have most of the items on my todo list completed before 9am. We arrive at the fruit and vege market before the merchants have finished setting up stalls. Almost no-one is around when we go to the gym in the morning. Getting up early for things is accomplished more-or-less automatically, no matter how early something is scheduled we're almost always up well beforehand.

Another huge benefit for me is that I've gain the miraculous ability to reliably fall asleep within around 5 minutes or so. For someone who used to lie awake for at least an hour or two trying to get to sleep, I can't describe how great this is.

Our napping powers still need some work however. On Sunday we went for a day trip (left at 5am, arrived back at just after midnight) to Yosemite National Park, which was an awesome trip, but a somewhat unsuccessful experiment into how well we could nap in our car. The answer was "not very well at all". The best I managed was some light dozing during my 7:30 nap, despite choosing reasonably quiet shady locations to nap, and the weather being a perfect temperature. The lack of daytime naps has also made Monday much sleepier than usual. The park more than made up for it however, and I went through the day in a sort of dreamy bliss. More on that in another post.

The main downside has been scheduling. While we took care to adjust our daily schedules to accomodate the changes, the naps (mostly the 1pm and 7:30pm) do occasionally mean we have to forgo certain events. I'm hoping that after we've adapted a little more the ability to shift naps around by an hour or two will help remedy this.

The other disadvantage, at least at the current point in time, is that while the crushing tiredness of adaptation is over, we still experience definite lows throughout the day, which are more pronounced than previously. I often tended to be tired during the day anyway, due to needing a lot of sleep and having bad sleeping habits, so this doesn't bother me except when doing something physical like hiking or working out. Tina on the other hand doesn't generally need as much sleep as me, and is generally not as tired, so she feels the difference a lot more. We're both hoping that as we become more used to the schedule we'll gain a more stable daily wakefullness pattern.

Overall however, I'm loving it. I feel like I get so much more out of each day, and that I continue to benefit more and more as time goes on. I would say it's the best thing since sliced bread, but to be honest I'm getting much more out of this... I don't eat that much bread.

P.S. Special thanks to puredoxyk for the encouraging words last week, and for pioneering this particular brand of weirdness.

Pimp My Granny

Around once a week we go to the Capitola Market. This is a large, open-air market held daily in a disused drive-in cinema, where you can buy fruit and vegetables (as well as almost anything else you can imagine) for around half the price of the supermarkets.

A few days ago, while navigating the crowded stalls, we heard music coming towards us. The noise level is fairly high, and many of the merchants are also blaring their own music, so it's unusual for anything to rise above the din. We initially assumed it was a car or truck that had somehow made its way in.

Then we heard a faint whirring behind us and an ancient-looking woman passed us in a mobility scooter that would have made 50 Cent proud. Strapped to the back was a speaker so large it looked like the whole thing was about to fall over backwards. The speaker was as wide as the scooter and slightly taller. Streamers and little flags where attached all over it, and the granny appeared to be wearing a hoody. I didn't get a good look at the wheels, but I wouldn't have been surprised if they were chromed.

Question to the world: when someone chooses to look that entertaining, does etiquette allow me to stop and take photos?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Polyphasic day 7 - oversleeping!

Yesterday morning we both woke to the alarm, and promptly fell asleep again, thus oversleeping by two hours. Brendan was super-unimpressed. There was stomping. But the rest of the day was surprisingly fine, because we had all our naps at their normal time anyway.

Today I really feel it... the morning has been pretty sleepy, and not much book-writing has been accomplished. A wee bit of gaming was, though, until I felt too tired for even that. This afternoon is better - I wonder whether it has to do with our old schedules?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Winning cool prizes that you can't claim....

Last night, I got a call from a guy whom I thought was a telemarketer... until he announced that I'd filled in a card for a draw for a car or something at the mall and had won a prize. Yeah, OK. Wow. Really? What's the catch? I vaguely remembered doing a few of those cards, so yay! Apparently we had a 'Wheel of Fortune'-style wheel to spin to get one of 5 prizes:
a week in Hawaii with $1000 spending money
a week in Tahoe with $1000 spending money
a week in Vegas with $1000 spending money
a week somewhere else I can't remember
OR.... 500 cash.

So I was a bit more excited but starting to feel tired. I wanted to properly process the information but I was getting pretty tired, and too tired to feel very excited about anything. So I'm sure the poor guy was surprised that for someone who had just won some very exciting prize, I didn't seem very excited. I blame the 5th day of our polyphasic sleep.

The guy started going through the checklist:

Is this your address? yes
Your name? yes
Your phone number? yes
are you over 25? what? no

So it turns out that we can't claim any of our prizes as we aren't 25. *Insert general frustrated noise of your choice here.* I think he really wanted to give it to us, too! He promised to ring back in two years. (In the immortal words of a certain Tui ad - yeah right.)

And then the phone died halfway through. And it didn't ring back. Disappointing. I would have liked a trip to Hawaii.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Christina: Polyphasic Day 5

OK, things are getting better in terms of tiredness. Apart from the 4am starts which can sometimes be brutal. Those seem to alternate daily between more awake "oh look I'm blogging at 5am again" and "holding one eye open is the only thing that will help me stay awake because both eyes refuse to open at the same time"-types of tiredness.

This morning I heard the alarm go off, and wondered what that sound was. I mumbled something at Brendan. The noise faded from consciousness. Eventually I was roused from a warm and fuzzy state by Brendan shaking me and saying, "Come on, Tina." I said, "Why? What's happening?" I had completely forgotten that we had to get up! Luckily we are both doing this - I really think if it wasn't for him waking me up I would have definitely overslept.

Also, as Brendan helpfully mentioned in his last post, over the last few days I'm developing a tendency to dread the naps. I'm getting pretty good at falling asleep now, small chihuahuas howling next door notwithstanding, and I inevitably wake up tired and stay tired for around 30 minutes, rather than refreshed. I'm changing my nap times down to 25 minutes, and that seems to help. Brendan thinks this is a good thing because I'm repaying my sleep deficit - for him, naps are still a huge incentive to look forward to.

I'm almost always freezing cold in the morning and whenever I wake up from a nap - I have various blankets draped round me at the computer. Yet the temperature gauge on our A/C shows the usual 79 degrees F. What's happening, I wonder?

I also felt that I achieved a lot more yesterday by taking advantage of the time as much as I could (rather than sitting there in a sleep-deprived blur and just reading various newspapers). I'm not playing Warcraft (3, not WOW - as much as I think it would be very cool, I want a life) anymore, which is a good sign. I did lots of job-getting-related stuff - I've realised that I really need to find out as much as possible about the PR industry here to avoid making any major blunders, and to work out how to go about my job-searching. I've talked to a few people now about this.

Structurally, the major companies here seem to divide job titles up differently, and I need to discover which roles mean what, and what I will actually be able to do best. So, to that end, I have an informational chat on Monday in San Francisco with one of the San Francisco IBM Comms managers, which I'm very pleased about. (And no, Brendan had nothing to do with this one!) I can't believe how kind people are! now I've really got to organise my business cards!

I also felt productive enough to go to the gym around 6.30 and do some interval training again for the first time in months - I was going to be lazy and get on the bikes, but then I found I wasn't as tired as I thought. High-intensity interval training is much more intense than just going to the gym and plodding away on the elliptical trainer for an hour a la what Brendan and I used to jokingly refer to as the "weight-loss chickies" at the Vic gym.

Interval training gets great results in more like 10 minutes four times a week and is apparently the best way possible to get fit (and lose weight. because your muscles stay active for a full 24 hours afterwards. (We were doing it to gain cardio fitness, but the unfortunate side effect was that I lost too much weight to fit into my wedding dress properly.)

So, overall a good day. But by around 5pm, I was pretty tired. And there was an interesting phone call which I really should have given to Brendan to deal with cos I was so tired, not even something like that could make me excited. More on this later.

Brendan: Polynapping Day 5

Ok, I got distracted by work and skipped a few days of posts. I'm writing this midway through day 5, just after my 1pm nap.

Day 3 was relatively uneventful. In what has become a trend, we were both most tired during the 4am-8am period (during which we'd usually be asleep), but the tiredness lifts by around 10am and we are more or less normal until shortly before 1am. During some of her day 3 naps Tina managed to get through to dreaming, and can now do so reliably each nap. Being able to get a full REM (dreaming) cycle during a nap is what allows you to condense the amount of sleep you need, so she's on the right track :) The main issue currently is that she's waking up from her naps groggy and feels tired for a hour or so afterwards, which might actually mean she's starting to get too far through the sleep cycle in her naps and can start to scale them back (generally you start with 30 minutes on the timer and work your way back to 20-25).

Things have been taking a bit longer for me as I've always been bad at falling asleep quickly. It usually takes me anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour to get to sleep. All of day 3 and most of day 4 I had trouble getting to sleep and either got none or a short amount during each nap and certainly no dreams (except the confused half-awake sort where you fall down and then jump in real life). My problem is that as soon as I really need to get to sleep quickly I find it impossible not to lie there trying to get to sleep, which is hopelessly counterproductive.

However, I appear to be learning. During my last 4 naps I've been able to fall asleep consistently within around 5 minutes, something which I've only ever been able to do by accident. I think it's partially due a couple of techniques I've developed to fool myself (I hesitate to mention them in case I somehow make them stop working), and partially because when you're napping so much the novelty and strangeness of it eventually wears off. During my last nap I finally managed a decent dream. Embarrassingly, it was about Command & Conquer 3, which I've been playing a lot to keep myself awake. I know, the geek is strong with this one.

Neither of us have had any oversleeps which is great. I would rate my current level of alertness around 7/10, although it was around 3/10 this morning (around 6am) and will probably be still less than 5 tomorrow morning.

I have also told my workmates and boss about my new sleep schedule. I'd been hesitant to do so not because they would think it was weird (which is OK because it is weird), but because I could imagine people being somewhat annoyed that one of their workmates was intentionally making himself tired for a whole week. In reality, I should have turned my cynicism up a level higher: I now have meetings at for 5am each morning with guys in India and the east-coast.

Also, I have found a new favourite song (or at least one I find very entertaining):

Monday, May 14, 2007

Pretty Artwork

Tina artwork
I painted these the other day to go on our wall. We both like it a lot, it's based on a photo I took in winter of the cherry trees outside our house.

On the left are two ceramic hearts, a wedding present from Steph and Mekie.

Funny Wellington news....

found in the local Mercury News newspaper here about a burglar in Wellington locking himself in prison by accident. I love it when small, mundane stuff like this gets picked up in American newspapers.

Christina: Polyphasic Day Three revised

Apart from bone-wrenching tiredness at 4am each morning, it seems to get a lot better about 6am. I can then spend the rest of the day feeling a lot more normal.

Last night, both of us noticed a definite increase in weight from eating all this food and being too tired to really exercise - looks like I'll be heading to the gym then soon!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Christina: Polyphasic Day Three

...5.45 am. Tired... can't...think... must... play... Warcraft....

Brendan: Polynapping Day Two

Ok, now I'm tired. I've just started day three and the first half-hour after getting up was the first time the sleepyness has exceeded that of a good all-nighter. I looked in the mirror and let's just say I was extremely grateful there were no flatmates around to see me, only Tina who looked somewhat similar. My eyes were red enough for people to start wondering what I've been smoking.

That said, if I lived in a flat full of guys I could more easily get away with my preferred means of communication at this point, pointing and grunting. When I wanted Tina to pass me a glass of water earlier, my finger was up there for a good three seconds before I realised (with an embarrasingly large degree of disappointment) that I would have to switch on the rest of my brain and form words.

Today I expect to be made painfully aware of the fact that although I have created a day with 4 more hours than usual, it also has 4 mornings.

Yesterday, however, was actually a pleasant surprise. I actually felt more awake than day 1 for the bulk of the day. Of course, this did make it harder to get to sleep during my naps which was unfortunate. Only after the 7:30pm nap did tiredness really start to set in and by 1am I was definitly ready for a sleep.

One interesting effect of our new schedule has been its effect on our eating habits. We eat fairly erratically at the best of times, but already we've begun to move away from 3 large meals a day, towards eating 4 smaller meals during each waking period and snacking as needed. We still have a breakfast (albeit at 5am) and a dinner, but we also tend to eat at 10-11am and 2pm, in what I can only call early lunch and late lunch. That batch of fruit we got from the markets is certainly coming in handy as we seem to eat alot more this way :)

A tip for others trying to adapt to a sleeping schedule like this is to take your meals during the first half of a waking period so as to avoid going to nap on a full stomach.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Christina: Polyphasic Day Two

Suddenly it's 2 o'clock, and after my 1pm nap, I feel absolutely fine. And I even had a dream (which is a symptom of REM - the deep sleep you need. Yay!) This morning I just felt vaguely queasy, like I'd done an all-nighter. Will see what tomorrow brings.

Today feels like it's gone on forever - I'm very hungry, but very productive. I cleaned our entire house in about 3 hours! And then did baking, and lots of gaming. This has certainly freed a lot of time for me - just think of the amount of essay time I would have gained as a student!

Brendan: Polynapping Day One

Having just woken up from my second 3-hour sleep (hence beginning day two), I thought this was the best time to summarize my first day experience.

Getting up at 4am to begin the day wasn't inordinately hard, much like getting up early to catch a plane. I endured the standard "up too early" tiredness up until my 8am nap during which I did manage to get a very small amount of sleep. After the nap I felt genuinly more refreshed for an hour or so, but the standard low-level tiredness soon set in and by 1pm I felt ready for another nap, during which I again got a small amount of sleep.

After the 1pm nap I felt slightly more woozy than I did at 8pm, but after that passed I was more or less normal for the rest of the afternoon/evening, including being too awake to get any sleep during my 7:30 nap (which I changed from 9pm when I realised 7:30 was a more balanced time). By the time 1am rolled around I felt just tired enough to sleep and as far as I can tell, slept smoothly up until the alarm went off at 4. Getting up this morning was a little harder, but certainly not unmanagable. I'm curious to see how tired I feel throughout today, and how I feel after my next core sleep.

Christina: Polyphasic Day One

Yep, I thought everything was fine yesterday. I got mini-naps, I drove around Walmart, we laughed at the woman with peroxide hair and peroxide eyebrows and black regrowth, things were fine.

Today... woah. It's 4:26 am: 26 minutes into the second day and I want my sleep back, not least because it's Saturday. I'm a bit woozy. And Alex has invited us to watch the new Spiderman movie tomorrow, which would be fun except that I think we're both scared of falling asleep in the theatre. Warm dark room + 2 days sleep deprivation = oopsies.

Oh yes, and definitely no driving. Wonder if he'd pick us up?Hence not one but two trips to Walmart yesterday to get last-minute things of essential importance like peanut butter cups from the wall full that Walmart has.

So while yesterday I also succeeded in trimming back my "resume" to 1 page - believe me, it was very hard - today I only plan to do housework. That shouldn't require too much thought - right?

But, I suspect that finishing a Warcraft campaign will be there somewhere. Several somewheres. Hmmm.... maybe I should use the entire time to play Warcraft! Hmmm, no. Bad idea. I will revisit that idea later. Less willpower...

On that note, Happy Mother's Day Mum Fiona and Mum Julie, we hope you have an awesome day. And that the rest of your kids at home attempt to make you breakfast in bed, as I once did. And that their idea of "the perfect breakfast time" is not 6 am, which for some inordane reason as a child, I thought was.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Squirrels deadly threat after all, IBM absolved

Squirrel enters S. San Jose classroom, attacks two adults and a student
It's true! A violent squirrel attacked! It happened in South San Jose two days ago, about the time Brendan was thinking about how cute squirrels are. (I have a great video of one from our trip to Alum Rock Park - where I saw (but unfortunately did not tape) the cougar. Must post it sometime.)

Sleep Deprivation with a Plan

I read about some crazy sleep schedule on the internet that lets you get by on 2 hours sleep, and I was impressed and curious and now I'm trying it. And I convinced Tina to as well. There, confession over, time to explain.

It's called Polyphasic Sleep, and the general idea is that by having several small sleeps/naps throughout the day, rather than one long 8-hour sleep, you can drastically reduce the amount of sleep you need. The most well known schedule is called the Uberman Sleep Schedule, for which you take one 20-30 minute nap every 4 hours (6 total over 24 hours), and eliminate normal sleep entirely. What you gain is a whole heap of extra time, but in exchange you loose alot of schedule flexibility. Naps can't really be moved around much, and skipping one causes massive tiredness.

While the idea of only needing 2 hours sleep is very appealing, those sort of schedule constraints simply won't work for me. The program I'll be following is called Everyman (a pun on Uberman), which is comprised of 3 hours "core" sleep (i'm doing 1am to 4am) and three semi-flexible, 20-30 minute naps throuout the day (I'm using 8am, 1pm and 9pm). You still can't skip naps, but once you're adjusted you can move them around by an hour or two without severe tiredness.

The first week of following such a schedule is known as the "adaptation" period. Essentially, your brain has to learn how to get to REM sleep (dreaming) within a 30 minute nap, rather than the usual 90 minute cycle of normal sleep. You achieve this via brute force: essentially you fail for the first few days and get very, very tired, until you adapt out of neccesity. The most common problem people have during adaptation is oversleeping (as you might expect) so I will be investing in a very loud timer. Provided they can avoid oversleeping and stick rigidly to the schedule, most people appear to start feeling better around day 5, and are functioning more or less as normal after a week.

Answers to some obvious questions:
  • Yes, there is a nap in the middle of the work-day. I'm staying home next week while I adapt, and after that yes I will take a nap in my office when i'm at work (I'm buying one of those sleeping mats from Walmart).
  • Yes, people will probably find it very weird when I suddenly announce I need a nap. Most specifically the lady who occasionally shares my office.I have optimistic visions of people initially thinking I am very weird, but then falling over themselves with awe when they find out that I get to be both a late-nighter and a early-riser. I'll be like a geek superhero, except my superpower will be kinda sucky and mildly amusing. Don't ruin my optimism.
  • No, we do not plan on driving days 2-5. At the wheel is one place we don't want to nap.
  • I'm doing this for three reasons:
    1. A desire to get 4 extra hours in every day.
    2. A morbid fasination with being able to "hack" my sleeping patterns.
    3. Curiosity.
  • Yes, I do have some reason to beleive this will work. The following are good examples of people who have followed polyphasic sleeping schedules for reasonable lengths of time (usually until their schedule got in the way).
This is the start of Day 1. We've just had our first 3-hour core sleep, and will attempt our first nap at 8am. I'll be updating this blog daily each morning to let you know how I'm doing (Tina may do as well).

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Possums of America

I got this email at work today:
SITE OPERATIONS NOTICE: Parcourse / Recreation Center Facility Closure, May 12 to May 13

Project: Rodent Abatement
When: Saturday, May 12 through Sunday, May 13
Impact on site: Over the weekend, Facilities will begin rodent abatement treatments around the parcourse and recreation center facility. Affected areas will be cordoned off for employee safety.
The recreation center and parcourse will be closed over the weekend, but are expected to reopen on Monday, May 14.
For further information on the rodent abatement program - click here.
I figured it was pretty normal for a building this size to have a rodent problem every now and then. Fair enough. And then I clicked the link and realized they're not talking about mice, they're talking about Squirrels. Now I know how Australians feel when they hear about Kiwi's killing off those "cute, adorable possums".

A pet squirrel

A pet possum

Work permit updates.....

OK. I'm officially looking for a job in PR right now, and I can't wait to get one. I had a coffee on Tuesday with a lovely woman who works in my field, to find out what it's like to do PR in the US (very different! There are so many jobs I didn't know existed!), and I might do some volunteer work for her. Exciting exciting.

BUT. I need to find out exactly when I can start working. And this is where the confusion starts. First, I thought that at the end of 90 days, you could get an interim permit. But it turns out that they've now scrapped that, and at 90 days you have to apply again, pay another $180 and re-submit all your info, and they try to do it within a month. Sigh. To USCIS's credit, they are trying to do everything within the 90-day period, but still. And you have to apply to the processing centre, not a local office.

However, there is also another issue. When I first applied, I applied online. A link was supposed to show me what I need to send in in the form of paperwork, but it didn't work. SO I called the USCIS offices, and ask what I need to send in. They tell me, "Nothing, we will ask for it."

So, I think this is odd, but I don't send anything in because I'm not sure what to send. I go in and do my biometrics the day before we leave for NZ, and spend a few hours beforehand preparing everything I think I might possibly need to give them. But they don't want to even look at it.

Then, once we get back from NZ, I get a letter dated the day before the biometrics were taken, asking for all the information, plus more! Grrrr!

The frustrating thing is that online it says that if they have to ask you for missing initial information, it adds another 90 days of processing time from the time that they receive the missing information. So I could be looking at another 90 day wait!!!

Yet when I rang the processing centre, the woman told me that they will have processed it in 30 days and I should get my work permit within those 30 days. I really don't know whether to believe her.

On the bright side, the Laguna Niguel processing centre has just finished processing the applications from Jan 27th, so I think by that account my work permit is a month away. Here's hoping.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

When lovely hot weather becomes too hot weather....

Yesterday was scorching - 34 degrees C! Today's already at 31. We went in the pool at night, and it was surprisingly warm. Hmmm... its cooled down enough to go in the pool again.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Uni humour

I'm not entirely sure where this article comes from, since it is almost certainly a rip-off from someone else, but Brendan and I identify with perhaps 90% of the things on this list regarding our previous university lives. (Except for the beer ones. But we know people for whom those are also true.)

Particular favourites:
"You think it’s the weekend on a Wednesday and you don’t know what month it is."
Brendan used to do this a LOT. "What month is it? Is it September?" (in October).
"You try to study but seem to procrastinate by eating, going to study breaks, talking to people, etc... "
Man, that happened a lot for us - I ate so so much when I was studying!
"You pay $100 for a book you don't read once, return/sell it four months later, and get $7. "

"You stay up late to finish homework then sleep through the class in which it was due."
This happened many many times... for a few important assignments, too.

And of course, Mealz will remember this one:
"Going to the grocery at midnight is completely normal."
It happened a lot in our house, usually before a big all-nighter. Or we were just hungry and had no time to shop. Or we were just hungry. New World Metro was our dairy.

And Brendan's own one:
"You procrastinate by looking up websites on how to stop procrastinating."
So, yeah. Check it out - it's surprisingly accurate.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Seis de Mayo ("6th of May")...

...Sunday is the day San Jose celebrates Cinco de Mayo (the 5th of May), regardless of the actual day it falls on, because apparently a whole pile of the organizers only get time off on Sundays.

So, I took the Light Rail into town for church, and happened to stop right outside where the parade was starting, and be half an hour early. So I stayed to watch. It's a very hot and reasonably windy day - I want to go in the pool after this! First hot day all week.

Some highlights from the parade:

Sharks are the local San Jose football team, and here's a fire engine painted in their honour... blasting (Cypress Hill's?) "Jump around" and filled with nervous-looking girls.

Raiders super-SUV: these are surprisingly common. This is what I meant when I told you all about those huge mega-SUV's. The Raiders also had a few people dressed up with a sign saying "Say No to Drugs!"

Brendan and I have noticed this company before: Bad Boys Bail Bonds. I think it's one of my favourite company names. Look closely at the picture to find out their slogan...

And finally, if you go to our album, there are many nice classic car pictures just for Wal and for Geoff. However, one final picture: the biggest Humvee limo ever! (There were four of these in different colours.) Enjoy.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Cinco de Mayo....

is Spanish for "The 5th of May", a Mexican holiday celebrating the country's win in a battle against France, of all things. (Here's the downtown San Jose report.) So in true "living in America" style, we went to Alex's flat to party!

There were about 6 Germans, and about half the Kiwi contingent, and various other IBM-ers and non-IBM-ers. So it was great to see some more familiar faces, and meet some cool new people. We ate some German pretzels, barbecued food in different states of charcoal, and Kinder chocolate with white chocolate and honeypuffs in it! (The same brand as Kinder Surprises.)

We brought the 42 Below Feijoa vodka which we'd brought over from NZ, and lots of ice and lemonade to make Falling Water cocktails (recipe courtesy of Ida via the Matterhorn Bar in Wellington). They're our specialty, it seems. There was much interest as many Americans and certain Kiwis had no idea what feijoas were. Trying to describe them is a bit hard. Although Stefan tells us that NZ is the only country to commercially grow feijoas, hence their unknown quality. Luckily people seemed to like the taste. And the picture of NZ on the bottle came in handy.