Tools for dream typing

While trying any kind of sleep-typing, you probably want to use a keyboard like this:

This keyboard is missing every key that lets you delete words you’ve typed or otherwise send commands to the OS or text editor/messaging program you’re typing in (Ubuntu+ion3 and irssi here — your mileage may vary). When you drift off to unconscious sleep, it’s very easy to accidentally delete text, close the program, or other such counterproductive things.

It can be difficult to try to study something that by definition screws around with the thought processes you use to study it (I’m sure scientifically-minded drug-experimenter types would agree). But I have definitely had dreams where I was able to do some sciencey stuff while playing around — examining the simulated world to see how detailed it is (I wonder what rendering engine my brain uses …), testing what I can and can’t do in it, and so forth. Inevitably, since dreams are so hard to remember, I forget about the allure of the whole thing for long stretches of time. But eventually I have another vivid dream and start thinking about the possibility of playing around with a complete, realistic virtual world of my very own, and my inner SimCity player insists that I try it again.

Since dreams are so intangible when one’s awake, I don’t think that there’s any way for them to become a serious enough interest to detract from real life. But they’re a fascinating phenomenon and I’ve had fun when I’ve played around with them.  Also, a few nights ago I had a long dream where I spent a lovely afternoon with Janeane Garofalo. And when the negative results of your experiment are “a lovely afternoon with Janeane Garofalo,” you have a good experimental design on your hands.

MIT Talk

(Note: Firefox crashed just as I was finishing this post. This is a terse recreation, as I’m about to collapse.)

I gave a talk at MIT yesterday (now the day before yesterday). It was wonderful. I had never really done this kind of thing before, but it went so much better than I expected. I had someone tell me afterward that my talk was better than the one by the Penny Arcade guys, and that I was funnier in real life than in the comic. It’s hard to imagine better praise than that.

The talk sold out early and the place was packed:

I was stalked by RoboRaptors and pelted with playpen balls (which fell from the ceiling in the middle of the talk, courtesy some mysterious party) :

Feeling a lot less tired than I look in this picture, I signed playpen balls (with jokes about spherical geometry), comic prints, tickets, and — at one point — breasts.

There are more pictures here.

Firefox keeps crashing. Here are some brief Things I Did:

- Made fun of audience member’s mom, said “fuck you” to some of the world’s top young computational linguists, and answered a question by whistling the “Katamari Damacy” theme.

- Finally managed to give davean credit for all his work, in public, in circumstances where he couldn’t escape. He pretended to be annoyed later, but only a little.

- Met lovely people who twirled burning things at high speeds out on the lawn at night.

Oh, and I don’t know of any video of the lecture yet, aside from one bit floating around. It should be out there somewhere. But hour-long videos with troubled audio are no fun — what I’d like to find is a transcript, like the one of the Penny Arcade talk (although those are a lot of work to create). But I’m content just remembering how cool it all was.

Thank you to everyone involved, and I’m sorry to everyone who I couldn’t give enough time to that night (after the lecture, I was meeting and talking to so many people that I had trouble keeping track of who was where and when, or who I was speaking with from one minute to the next). But it was a lot of fun. Let’s do this again sometime soon.