I’ve been interested in lucid dreaming for a long time, and I like to keep up with news about it. A recent podcast from Radio National’s Dreams — the Lucid experience rekindled my interest, because it showed how research into lucid dreaming is now on a solid scientific footing, and because it offered practical suggestions for how to enter into lucid dreams, and because these suggestions were particularly relevant to me.

If you aren’t familiar with the concept of lucid dreaming, it’s basically the idea that you can inhabit your dreams and exert some control over them, rather than just experiencing them as a sort of movie. Many people report being capable of lucid dreaming, and many of these are scientists and other serious folk.

I’ve heard of similar phenomena, such as OBE’s (out-of-body experiences) and astral travelling, in which an observer, often identified as the soul, leaves the body and moves throughout the real world as a sort of balloon tethered to the body by a “silver cord” or some such. I accept the idea of lucid dreaming more than these other phenomena, since lucid dreaming takes place entirely inside the human head and doesn’t require any mystical hand-waving to explain it, nor does it submit to such falsifiable experiments as reading a message only visible from a floating balloon. The world experienced in lucid dreaming is decidedly a dream world and therefore congruent with ordinary dreams and not with ordinary reality.

Lucid dreaming researchers have discovered quite a few facts about the phenomenon, for example that lucid dreams occur during REM sleep, and that dreamers can signal to the outside world that they are in a lucid dream by moving their eyes in a particular pattern that was agreed upon by them while awake.

One observation that intrigued me greatly was that successful lucid dreamers can recognize aspects of their dreams that alert them to the fact that they are dreaming. These are called dream triggers. People can train themselves to recognize these triggers, and essentially take the reins of their own dreams at that point.

I have a recurrent dream about my former workplace, and this dream is often full of such triggers. For example, if I notice in my dream that I am on a staircase that I know didn’t exist in that building, this can be a trigger. The other night I was in just such a situation, perched on a very steep staircase which as usual didn’t reach the floor. I was able to say to myself “OK, if I’m in a dream, I can just launch myself and start flying.” I couldn’t bring myself to do it, though, out of fear of hurtling to the floor. However, a moment later, a woman appeared before me, and I told her, “OK, if I’m in a dream, I should be able to make you laugh.” whereupon she immediately burst out laughing. I’m hooked now, and I can’t wait to fall asleep most nights and continue the adventure.

The All in the Mind podcast talks about one experiment that flows out of lucid dreaming research, in which the duration of “dream time” can be roughly measured, and compared with the duration of “real time”. In other words, how long does ten seconds of dream time take in real time? I’ll let you discover the answer to this by listening to the podcast.

People to unfriend on Facebook

Collecting Friends on facebook seems like a fun thing to do at first, and a way of competing with other Friends to see who can make the most Friends. But facebook Friends are not the same as real friends, and you really want to work on real friendships in real life and not imaginary friendships on facebook. So, chances are, you have far more facebook Friends than you need. Here’s a guide to getting rid of the least useful of them.

  •  People you thought you knew. These are people who popped up on the “people you may know” column in Facebook and you clicked on them because maybe you had forgotten who they were. Or maybe their name looked like the name of someone you actually knew. Now you know they were nobody you knew, off them.
  • People you friended because you thought they might broaden your outlook. These are the Republicans you hooked up with because you thought they might be interesting. They aren’t.
  • Former classmates. If you weren’t friends with them then, you probably won’t be friends with them now.
  • Distant relatives. Unless you actually know them, you’re better off keeping track of them in an address book or Christmas card list rather than in facebook.
  • People from past jobs. Networking is not what it used to be, and people who are still with the company you left five years ago aren’t going to be much help to you now. Dump people you haven’t heard from in real life in the last six to twelve months.
  • People who you thought might be interesting or exciting to know, like that hottie in shades, but turned out to be duds.
  • “Sharers” whose mission in life is to hang out on quote sites or meme sites or cat sites or “quirky news” sites, and compulsively share things that are basically just noise. You may have Friends who share truly amazing finds. Keep these treasures, and toss the rest.
  • Lurkers who never post anything, and never even click Like. They may very well be dead. Really.

A new direction

I’m turning my music business over to, and repurposing into a more political forum. This is my first entry in the new format.

Here’s a link to an article in Science Blogs by John Dupuis. To quote: “This is a brief chronology of the current Conservative Canadian government’s long campaign to undermine evidence-based scientific, environmental and technical decision-making.” It’s a long and growing list of Contemptible Steve Harper’s actions to erode environmental regulations and destroy libraries and research facilities concerned with science and the environment. John asks for your help in obtaining references in the media to support his statements so that they cannot be contested. It’s an ongoing effort, last updated in October 2014.

The Canadian War on Science: A long, unexaggerated, devastating chronological indictment.

Taking a vacation from Facebook

I took a Facebook break – a vacation if you will – this past month. I quit on the spur of the moment. Choose your cliché: It was a perfect storm of reasons to quit, or there was a straw that broke the camel’s back, or “I needed a chance to spend more time with my family”, but I made the decision to take a break within a few milliseconds of realizing that I really didn’t like being on FB any more.

I must say that I enjoyed my first three or four weeks on vacation, but I’m starting to feel the pull back to the community I left behind. My birthday is coming up anyway, and I think it would be rude not to acknowledge the greetings that will come my way. So I’ll be coming back fairly soon.

So why, really, did I feel the need to take a vacation from Facebook? None of the following reasons are all that compelling, but put together, they added up to enough frustration and discomfort to make me want to get out, at least for a little while.

  • Click Bait. I was really getting tired of the number of FB posts that claimed “We did such and such, and you won’t believe what happened next!” and a thousand variants of this. I realize this is a disease of the whole World Wide Web, but it seemed to me that it festered more virulently in Facebook.
  • Stock comments I have a sharp ear for chiché, so I quickly tire of people saying almost the same supposedly clever but ultimately tedious thing in their FB comments, such as “This is wrong on so many levels.” or “I tasted a little vomit in the back of my throat when I looked at this.”
  • Irony Enough said. The world is tired of irony, and starved for honesty and straight talk.
  • Memes and Mindless sharing I don’t think it’s particularly clever to surf the Net to share some gem on facebook. Even if the gem is a jewel of creative genius, your sharing of it is not.
  • Trolls, curmudgeons, and armchair experts. You know who you are. It is impossible to win an argument on facebook, or anywhere else for that matter. I learned this online about thirty years ago, and it’s still true, so it saddens me that people just keep on arguing, instead of sharing their knowledge.
  • Likes I won’t feel comfortable on facebook until I can find a way to disable “likes”. Waiting for someone to like your post (and being disappointed when they don’t) is the single most unpleasant aspect of the facebook experience, and I would dearly love to get rid of Likes completely, in the same way I can get rid of ads.

The 20 Pianos of Ernán López-Nussa

My friend Dr. Germán Rogés gave me this collection of etudes by Cuban pianist Ernán López-Nussa. They were composed for twenty of his piano students, each etude being targeted for a specific student. That said, they are useful to any piano player interested in exploring the Cuban style. I’m fairly certain that all of these etudes were recorded by the composer.

If you’re wondering about copyright, there is none, because López-Nussa placed all of these works in the public domain.

Each coloured link points you to a PDF of the piano score of the audio file immediately below it. Some of the titles, which are in Spanish and French, are followed by my clumsy translations into English.

Feel free to download any of these recordings and scores.

01. Al paso de Adán (No recording available)
02. Angeles de paso

03. Invierno en La Habana (1) – Winter in Havana

04. Locos y loqueros

05. La Voisine – The neighbour

06. Lobo’s cha (no recording available)
07. Voile de Mariee – Bridal Veil

08. Invierno en La Habana (2) – Winter in Havana

09. Zontime Nº3

10. Puesto y convidado (ZT 1)

11. La viña del señor – The lord’s vineyard.(ZT 2)

12. Renoir y Nana

13. Volver a Cuba – Return to Cuba

14. Danza de los inocentes – Dance of the innocents

15. Niña con violin – Girl with a violin

16. Reencuentro – Reunion

17. Figuraciones

18 Carta Anais – Letter to Anais

19. Bruma en otoño – In the autumn mist

20. Momo – Funny Face

21. Clave (Bonus score, but no recording available)