Sleep and the Creative Mind

Like many creative people, I don’t find sleep easily.  This is a common theme among those for whom their mind is their instrument and as I lay in bed last night starting into the darkness, trying not to think of the latest crazy thing to do next to add to my list of projects, a thought slipped into mind I believe is worth sharing.

116 amLast week there was a Horizon special on the BBC regarding insight and creativity, the latest theories in neuroscience.  For those in the UK, or for those visiting, here is a link to the show on iPlayer.  One of the theories put forth is that moments of insight, clarity, epiphany or EUREKA! moments seem to occur when the visual cortex is not being stimulated.  They suggested that to stimulate creativity you should put yourself in an environment where you aren’t visually stimulated.  One piece of advice is to ensure you don’t have anything resembling a face or to avoid being around people too as our minds are hardwired to pattern match faces.

For years I’ve wondered why my mind goes into overdrive as soon as my head hits the pillow and I’d always assumed it is related to environment.  When I lived with my parents, at University and for years afterwards in shared houses my room was also my study and living room.  The idea that spending so much time, active and awake, in the same room you sleep in has long been suggested as a link to not being able to switch off.

I’ve also lost count of the number of times I’ve been sat on the sofa, in a bright room, watching people on television and find myself falling asleep.  Five minutes later when I hit the sack, my mind is running a mile a minute.

As I lay in the dark last night attempting slumber, with little to no light in my room and nothing to stimulate my visual cortex it occurred to me that the darkness itself may be the cause of my creativity and of my sleepless nights.  The question is, if true then how to avoid this state of mind?  If the sight of faces can subdue the creative process then I’m wondering if a randomised slideshow of faces could be the antidote.  My reasoning is that if the mind automatically pattern matches faces then a series of randomised portraits would constantly activate these areas of the brain and may assist in quieting the creative areas of the mind.

Hell, it’s worth a try.

Origin Story, now with added back story!  I’ve just imported the posts from my original blog on which included some of my earlier projects.  They may be a bit of a mess and the categories are all out of whack but good to have it all under one roof.

One project I’m going to have to revisit is The Jukebox, there was a nasty electrical issue which fried the motherboard so it is currently mothballed pending a rethink.

Let there be light!

Air Ambulance Challange Update – £2508 raised!

Now that the deadline for what I’ll get waxed has passed, I can confirm we’ve raised £2508 including GiftAid!  This means in about two hours time I’ll be getting back, bikini, crack and my legs waxed.  Bikini was substituted for sack as apparently it hurts as much as the sack getting waxed but without risk of tearing…  ::shudder::

The charity page will be open for another month but even after that the Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance Trust will still need help, click through to their page to see how you can help without putting yourselves through what I’m about to!

There will be a suitably censored video posted at some point over the next few days and I’ll be celebrating/drinking to forget this evening at The Alehouse in Reading.


Thanks to all those who have donated, spread the word and otherwise helped with this fundraiser.  It’s been an odd ride but successful for it!


The Challenge: Context

Two weeks ago today, while drunk, I agreed to do something stupid for charity.  I often do stupid things while drunk, as is the human condition, but when I woke up I rolled with it.  If I’m honest, despite the effort I’ve put into publicising it, I’ve mentally down played it to myself as the latest random thing I’ve got myself roped into.

Fast forward to today and £2060 has been raised with a week left in the campaign, I consider this no act on my part but a sign of the immense generosity of my friends.  I’m not a fan of using profanity on my blog, I can’t explain how amazing this is.

In the passed few days I’ve heard stories from someone who works in my local hospital regarding those brought in by the Air Ambulance, people presumed dead on arrival, who due to the rapid response of TVACAA are alive today.  I’ve also discovered I’d have never met a good friend of mine if not for the services of an air ambulance abroad.

I’m man enough to admit I cry when I watch soppy films, my favourite film is the romantic comedy LA Story followed by BTTF rather than the other way around and I once mounted an attempt to rescue a duckling from a swollen river as I couldn’t bare the thought of it struggling.  Right now I’m numb to the whole campaign out of self defence, not because of the waxing I’ll endure a week tomorrow but because of those the charity I’m supporting work to help and it’s all pretty damn awesome, using the word literally.

I’ve been in first aid situations before and I barely held it together, I can’t imagine what the paramedics of the air ambulance endure but I’m glad they do.  They have my thanks, my respect and hopefully your donations.  If you can, please donate and if you can’t please spread the word.

No ‘Air Ambulance Challenge

A few weeks back my favoured pub, The Alehouse, was broken into and the charity boxes for the Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance were stolen.  Fast forward a few weeks and I was there for their winter beer festival, propping up the bar as usual, when a stereotypical question was asked;

How much would it take to get waxed for charity?

Click here to find out!

A New Chapter

I’ve recently moved teams at work from SQL Developer Support to Office365, Exchange Online specifically.  As I’ll be learning new skills as I go I’ll be blogging my progress, as much as a reference for myself as anyone else who may find my mistakes useful to learn from.  The move to Exchange was a slightly unexpected one but experience with our online services and PowerShell scripting should be very useful in the long run.

I’ll still be blogging about my other projects on here so don’t fear, it wont be all cloudy.


Site Update

Long time, no posts.  To paraphrase Ian Malcolm; “Life finds a way… to interrupt the best laid plans”.

Since the last update I’ve been working on a few little projects, planning some bigger projects and started on massive project that comes under the heading of “life goal”.  The little projects involve putting up shelves and rewiring my home cinema rig and not really worthy of a post.  The bigger projects and Big Project of Doom are as follows;

As I’ve mentioned in my about page I work at Microsoft in the Developer Support team, SQL data access specifically.  The day job keeps me busy but the biggest benefit of the job is the other stuff I can get involved with, lots of beta testing (that I will not be discussing so don’t ask!) and another little project called the .NET Gadgeteer.  I was lucky enough to attend a training day prior to release last year at MSR in Cambridge and another later on in Reading.  They wanted volunteers to help out with a few things and I jumped at the chance!  Expect more on that topic in the near future.

One of the other projects I’m starting is a costume for a friends birthday in March, the theme is “comic book characters” and is very specific in that the character must have originated in a comic rather than another media.  Easy for me, who better to go as than one of the Ultimate makers but Tony Stark!  Yes, the pun was intended. 😉

To that end, an arc reactor chest piece and a few other props will be built.  Hopefully a fair example of the repulsor glove he tests in the first film too, depends if I can build one that looks good.  Electronics I can handle, aesthetics may be tricky as I’ve not done prop work before.  Another prop is top secret at the minute, the components I’ll blog about but the finished product will be unveiled on the night.  If it works and doesn’t just self destruct that is…

Regarding the projects previously mentioned this site, the 3d printer still needs finishing but the folding desk project has been scrapped for now.  The wood is still in the garage, I just can’t figure out a good way to do the hinge properly at the minute and I want to do it properly rather than quickly.

Regarding the Big Project of Doom, I’ve bought a 1990 Rover Mini Thirty which I plan to strip down and rebuild with a 1.6l Honda VTEC strapped to the front.  The suffix “of Doom” is entirely appropriate as the engine will have about 180BHP to put down and the car weighs little to nothing!  This is one I’ve wanted to tackle since I was about 15 and when the brother of a friend of a friend had a Mini Thirty for a sale and another friend had a scrapped Civic with the perfect engine it seemed too good not to take advantage of.  The interior of the Mini is stripped, just need to suss out what body work needs doing and take it from there.  I’ve a build log over on the 16v Mini Club forums and will cross post some stuff as I go.

Something else I’ve decided on is to expand my writing into other topics of interest rather than just stuff I’ve created.  It’ll be a combination of stuff I’ve found on other sites with my own commentary.  Hopefully it’ll be of interest to anyone who follows this site, it’ll mostly be a chance to write about a topic I enjoy.

Stay tuned for more, I’m aiming for an update a week.  Either of projects of my own or stuff I find interesting.