Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Explanation of the Zone of Silence

In the middle of the blazing, blistering Chihuahuan desert in Mexico, there’s a place dubbed the "Zone of Silence" by the curious visitors who venture there. Electromagnetic waves fail to travel through the air within an unspecified and sometimes shifting area, creating a sort of “dark” zone. No television, radio, short wave, microwave, or satellite signals seem to be able to penetrate this zone. The explanation remains unclear, but this is what I think must have happened:

“Ahem! Respected King Fortu the Four Thousand and Twenty Seventh!  My Dear Queen Linly of the Forty Chins! Ladies and gentlemen and robotic gnolms!  This is the moment we’ve eagerly been waiting for! 
After having bravely travelled 180,420 light-years in a round trip to the Mines of Methalda to obtain a nugget of the universe’s most sought after metal – toughasnailsium, - Master Spleck the Once Awkward has now returned!  As you know, any planet with even a tiny bit of the magnetic material becomes powerful enough to be added to the reputable UCTP*.  For generations upon generations we Armpetians have tried to defend what little respect we get for being tiny, hairy, and soft.  We’ve been mocked, ridiculed, sprayed and waxed.  But now things will change!  For now, our time has finally come! The plan that was masterminded by King Fortu the First nears its end.
Master Spleck fought against the Sparring Spectacles of Supercluster XI, shouted at the Whispering Asteroids of Andromeda, deflated the ego of an Earthling, sat on the Standing Ovation of Centaurus, and meandered between the not so mellow guards of the Mines of Methalda – all for the sake of this planet. 
More patriotic an Armpetian you will never find!  He gave up the life he had for us.  His beloved friends and family are long dead.  His own aging process was slowed, due to traveling at near light speed coupled with continuously performing the Time Warp** on board his ship.
And now, without further ado, let me present Master Spleck himself!”
All 568 square kilometers of the planet erupted in applause as the scrawny looking Armpetian stumbled out from behind the green curtain onto the balcony.  The more scrawny announcer clapped him cheerily on the back.
The additionally scrawny king and his not-so-scrawny consort, along with her forty chins, wobbled in delight.
“Come, let us see it, then!” chirped the eager king.
An anticipatory hush came over the crowd.  Well, all except Acidic Admiral Arnie, though he did keep the more respectful – and controllable! - end silent.
“Note that Master Spleck here hasn’t looked at the nugget himself as per rules laid down by King Fortu the First.  He had to search for it with a blindfold, and slip it immediately into his pocket.  And so, we will all be seeing it together for the first time!”  The announcer was spitting with excitement. 
Spleck wiped off the tip of his nose, then very solemnly reached into his pocket whereupon the ring on one of his fingers entangled itself with the button.  There was a bit of a struggle between Armpetian and button, yet the crowd, the king, the queen, the chins and Arnie waited patiently.
Spleck eventually overpowered the button, which consequently popped itself in depression and sulked off into a corner.
            The crowd, the king, the queen, the chins and Arnie all leaned forward as Spleck’s hand slipped into the pocket.  And leaned even more forward when it slipped out, empty.
            They very nearly fell out of their seats as Spleck began to frantically pat himself all over.
            “Where is it?  What are you doing? Is that supposed to be a magic trick?” the king squealed in delight.  Everyone knew of his obsession with magic tricks.  He would often attempt to entertain his wife by pulling her out of a hat, and just couldn’t understand why the queen was never surprised that she had been there all along.
            “Um.  Erm.” A look of panic overcame Spleck, and he began to sweat – much more than the average Armpetian.  “It seems, that I, um -- now please don’t get cross! -- but…I think I might have, um, dropped it somewhere...”

*Universal Council of Tough Planets
** a universally famous folk dance that combines arm waving and kicking oneself as hard as one can.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

10 Interesting Sleep Disorders

For as long as I can remember, sleep has not been a simple, straightforward experience for me.  Many a breakfast table conversation after a childhood sleepover involved being teased for talking loudly in my sleep -- words and phrases that never seemed to fit with the dreams I remembered having.  I've sleep-walked a couple of times too, according to other people.  I once ran into my parents' bedroom screaming about bears chasing me, though to this date, I cannot recall that experience at all.

Once, I woke up my little sister for school in the middle of the night.  The poor thing, having full faith in her sister's time-telling capabilities, never even thought about looking at the clock.  She had a shower, wore her uniform -- basically went through her entire morning routine -- only to find that no one was at the breakfast table when she was done...and it was dark outside.  I don't remember this at all, though what I DO recall is a very, very angry 7 year old slapping me awake when she realized what the actual time was!

As an adult, I befriended someone named Insomnia.  And other sorts of nasty folks as well...

It's nearly midnight and I'm trying my best to feel sleepy after the long day I had.  I'm not particularly succeeding, as you can see.  While I chat with Insomnia, I thought I'd look up some interesting sleep disorders.  Here are the 10 strangest I could find!

1. Sleep paralysis - When a person who's either falling or sleep or waking up can't move, at least temporarily.  They WANT to move, and they're conscious, they just can't.  And often, this is accompanied by hallucinations.  (I've experienced this one before, a few times. It's pretty scary, actually.  The inability to move when you want to is not a pleasant feeling!)

2. Sleeping Beauty Syndrome - This is also known as Kleine-Levin syndrome.  And it's exactly what it sounds like.  Someone with this can have a sort of sleep attack in which they don't wake up for long periods of time!  They wake only to eat or use the bathroom, and appear to be disoriented when they do.  And, unfortunately, there's no Prince Charming to cure it...

3. Sexsomnia - Yes, you read that right. I thought this was a joke when I read it, but after looking it up I found that it's indeed a real disorder. And it's exactly what it sounds like.  Someone with this disorder engages in sexual acts while asleep, and doesn't even remember what happened, after waking up! A different twist to sleep-walking, eh?

4. Fatal familial insomnia - A person with this very rare genetic disorder doesn't stay alive long after the onset of symptoms, because they eventually lose their ability to fall asleep.  Imagine not ever being able to sleep!  One night of complete insomnia drives me up the walls; I can only imagine what this kind of disorder does to the brain...

5. Nocturnal lagothalmus - I think I'd be spooked if I caught anyone with this disorder asleep, for it's the inability to close one's eyes while sleeping!

6. Narcolepsy - Someone with this disorder can suddenly fall asleep in the middle of, well, anything.  Particularly dangerous when driving or crossing the road!

7. Cataplexy - This is slightly related to Narcolepsy. It involves the sudden loss of muscle control during an emotional trigger, leaving the person temporarily paralyzed on the floor and even asleep.  Even a laugh could set someone off!  

8. Somnambulistic eating - We've covered sleep-walks and sleep-sex, and now it's time for food.  Someone with this disorder raids the fridge in the middle of the night, but totally asleep!

9. Non-24-hour sleep disorder - A disorder that involves a person's body not being able to follow a 24-hour cycle -- perpetual jet lag, if you will.  If their internal clock follows a 28-hour cycle, then they'll sleep four hours later everyday.

10. And last but not the least, is the Exploding Head Syndrome - I chose this mainly because the name sounds cool (well, more like deliciously awful!).  But it's really the simplest of these listed disorders.  Someone who has this hears amplified sounds, sometimes as loud as a bomb would be.  So, a small sound, even the shutting of a door, could sound like an explosion.  Not a pleasant thing to startle awake to, for sure! This seems to be fairly common, at least a diluted version of it.  Many people I've spoken to claim that noises heard when asleep seem to be louder than they actually are.

So, what about you? Do you suffer from any sleep disorders? Have you heard of other interesting ones?