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January 11, 2009

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What a remarkable dream -- simultaneously terrifying and funny (only at a distance, awake and reflecting). It's a commentary on so many of the realities of your profession, but the grey stick of gum image adds a Woody Allen 'Sleeper' touch that takes it to another level.

I just had a flashback to my Intro to Kant class.

Not mine, but a colleague's, another composer. In real life he had a new piece butchered at its premiere. He suspected it was deliberate. That night in a dream he called for a rehearsal of the same piece the next day, where he came in with a machine gun and slaughtered the whole ensemble.

What's odd about this, to my mind, is the complete absence of indirection. No hermeneutics required.

When I first started learning how to analyze biological data and thinking about all the contributions to the fluctuations, I had a dream where I was walking amongst all these pulsating objects that were making sounds and emanating different colors. In the dream, the Truth was known by seeing how all the colors and sounds overlapped.

The next day I went to a meeting and there was an intense discussion about whether something displayed white, brown or pink noise and what happens if components with different types interact; concepts I don't remember hearing before but of course was nearly directly my dream.

"Cravsth" is probably a typo of "Cravath" as in Cravath, Swaine, and Moore.

I did have a dream that the substantial economic effect test in Treasury regulation section 1.704-1(b)(2)(ii)(a) was going to be modified by the Treasury Department until Sen. Chuck Grassley stood up and screamed "NOT ON MY WATCH B!TCHES!!!!"

Okay, maybe I made that up. I generally don't have dreams about the subject matter of my work, which is a good thing as dreaming about the Internal Revenue Code might indicate I need to quit.

Sort of for Ugh: When I was in college (about 1970 or so) I had a summer job typing a mailing list into a computer database. I did this for 8 hours a day for several weeks. After a while, my dreams all had 5-digit numbers rolling through them. (Yes, zip codes existed in the dark ages of almost 40 years ago. ;)

There wasn't anything interesting, vivid, or mysteriously meaningful about this motif, but Ugh's mention of the Internal Revenue Code reminded me of it. None of my interesting (vivid, mysteriously meaningful) dream motifs have ever had anything to do with my work, as such.

Hmmm. That in itself must say something about my relationship to my work......

I recall one night designing a transfer die for mixing up a bottle of formula; I woke up while puzzling out how to incorporate a station which would feed it to the baby.

I was an options trader. Yes, I had (and still have) dreams about it. I'm sure you can imagine what they are like. Yes, they were a sign that it was time for me to quit.

I'm dreaming that Hilzoy dreamt that she wrote an odd dreamlike post about Brad Delong dreaming that he was briefing attorneys prepping for a 75-year old legal case.

The dream ended when I dreamt Sebastian and Von woke up in cold sweats and argued the other side of the dream case.

The entire dream setting was a peninsula which I was running to the end of at which point the ocean rose up beckoning me. The peninsula was populated by odd, very tall towers which collapsed limply as in a Dali painting.

When the towers collapsed I would temporarily lose interest in running to the end of the peninsula. Then I'd regain interest about 15 minutes later.

Woody Allen kept telling "CUT!" through a megaphone, which somehow metamorphisized into Jennifer Aniston wearing a gown made of broccoli florets and bacon bits.

At one point I rescued OCSTeve from imminent frying in an electric chair. The pelican standing on his head didn't fare as well.

But we dined on gristly fowl.

"Question: do you have odd dreams inspired by your professional lives? If so, what are they?"

Back when I was really active in science fiction fandom, and running and going to sf conventions, I used to have dreams I was at sf conventions, sometimes flying down hallways, meeting people, and doing other, odder, stuff.

In general I have odd dreams with fair frequency. The other night I was a female spy, fighting another spy, in a cheap motel, and we seemed to be in an episode of Hawaii Five-O.

First they came for the open sentences, and I didn't speak up because all of my variables were bound.

And then they came for the definite descriptions, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't the present King of France.

And then they came for the paradoxes, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't the set of all sets not members of themselves.

And then when they came for the synthetic a priori propositions, there were no premises left to argue for me.

Shortly after I started learning computer programming, I had a dream that I had got lost in the math building, and whenever I asked for directions, people answered me in macro assembler (a low level language, hard to read for beginners).

I had 'inability to close the library dreams' when I was working as a college librarian with a regular evening shift. This is a magnified version of the actual situation, when you have been giving out warnings for twenty minutes that the library is about to close, and there are users who will still not leave the building so you can lock up and go home. Dream users are even more unable to accept that the library is closing (and I hadn't worked out that in my dream, unlike in real life, I could start yelling at them and physically dragging them out of the building).

On the other hand this is better than my husband's experience, since he used to be prone to panic dreams about sitting exams himself whenever he'd beem setting questions for students.

That's a wonderful dream. I like it. Its's much more clever than my dreams. But how do you know that synthetic apriori propositions are rectangular and gray?

I teach a Saturday morning community college class (statistics) and I'm also a huge fan of the Harry Potter books. Obviously, as a college teacher, concern about one of those mass-massacre gunmen is a realistic, albeit improbable, worry. I've had a recurring dream that a gunman invades my class, and I pick up a pencil and try to disarm him using the Potterworld disarming spell ("Expelliarmus!") only to discover to my horror that IT DOESN'T WORK. That's when I wake up.

Even though it's been over 25 years since my last restaurant shift, I still have nightmares about waiting tables.

I think I'd go back to being a janitor before I'd wait tables again.

As an aside -- I find that the "new and improved" Typepad thing is more or less non-functional in Firefox but works great on Chrome.

I finally got it to work in Firefox, Russell, after much struggle, by signing into Typepad, and making sure my adblockers and NoScript were leaving everything running, and then putting text in the box. But only after those steps.

Several times (6 at least) I have solved tough coding problems in my sleep. Dreaming. I hit a wall, totally stumped. I give up and go to bed. My mind keeps working the problem, examines new approaches. I wake up in the morning with the answer.

At one point I rescued OCSTeve from imminent frying in an electric chair.

And don’t think I don’t appreciate it John.

I think I'd go back to being a janitor before I'd wait tables again.

Yup. Toilets don’t bitch and moan.

Hi, Hilzoy: I hope u are better.

No, I don't think I ever had a dream related to my job. But I did once have a dream about the Roman Emperor Honorius (died AD 423). Sorta like a time travel story. In it, Honorius somehow traveled thru time to my old college, Merrimack He was full of anxiety and grief due to the troubles of his reign. And wanted to find out new ways and means of dealing with them.

Sincerely, Sean

I dreamt Sebastian and Von woke up in cold sweats and argued the other side of the dream case.

Sebastian and Von would be in cold sweats indeed, if they were arguing the opposite side of DeLong and the Cravath firm. That would make Sebastian and Von defenders of the National Recovery Adminstration . . .

"I dreamt Sebastian and Von woke up in cold sweats..."

If Seb & Von would just put their sweats on fresh from the dryer they wouldn't be so cold.

"And I realized: oh no, I am a synthetic a priori proposition! In the middle of this crowd of people who want to eliminate me!"

Who but hilzoy?... God bless her.

Several times (6 at least) I have solved tough coding problems in my sleep. Dreaming. I hit a wall, totally stumped. I give up and go to bed. My mind keeps working the problem, examines new approaches. I wake up in the morning with the answer.

I used to have this experience fairly often when I was a programmer, and I suspect it's fairly common. Does it have to with the dream, do you think, or just being fresher and more alert after a night's sleep?

My dreams sometimes are of great brilliancies at the bridge table. Upon analysis, regrettably, they involve extra aces, or suits previously unknown, or other minor variations on the standard game.

I don't remember ever "consciously" solving a programming problem in a dream, but I have often had the experience of giving up on a problem and going to bed, and finding the solution more or less waiting for me in the morning.

This is especially hard with bugs: I cannot stand to leave go away from the keyboard with a bug unfixed, but I've learned the hard way that there comes a point of diminishing returns from just staring at the problem and getting nowhere.

But to Bernard's question -- I suspect it's a little of both, because I have had the experience of dreaming the solution to a problem. I once lost my college class ring. My housemates and I scoured the house for it; we looked in every conceivable place and didn't find it. That night I dreamed that it was in a trash bag full of leaves -- I had been raking the day before -- and in fact it was, and I found it just before the bags would have been gone forever.

I had even looked in the trash bags when we were looking for the ring, without finding it. But my dream was insistent that it was there, so I went back, and lo and behold.

Hilzoy,
Did the lecturer in your dream look like a fat, well-fed Bernardine monk? If so, you too can claim that David Hume woke you from a dogmatic slumber...

This is the coolest dream ever.

I don't recall having too many dreams about my current line of work; marketing doesn't really make for a lot of nightmares, particularly B2B marketing.

But I do still have nightmares about my old line of work, radio. And most people who have worked in an on-air capacity can tell you they all have the same nightmare: DEAD AIR. Hearing a song run out and having nothing cued up and nothing anywhere nearby, and being locked out of the music library. Doing a talk show and realizing the transmitter was never turned on. All kinds of such nightmares.

Did the lecturer in your dream look like a fat, well-fed Bernardine monk?

Hey! I know I could stand to drop a few pounds, but that's not really any of your business.

I haven't been in the radio business in many years, but i still have radio anxiety dreams now and then: the song is ending and I have nothing else 'cued up' and/or can't move; or I open the mic and can't say a word. My anxiety dreams tend to be on the banal side. I enjoyed Hilzoy's though!

Several times (6 at least) I have solved tough coding problems in my sleep.

I routinely solve (music) compositional problems, and many other kinds, that way. It's going to the well.

oh my god, Phil! What are the odds?

"oh my god, Phil! What are the odds?"

What, that among people who write a lot are people who like to talk, or vice versa? :-)

Does it have to with the dream, do you think, or just being fresher and more alert after a night's sleep?

I can usually remember analyzing and rejecting different approaches. When I wake up, I can remember things I discarded and why. I go to bed and get a good night’s sleep. Somewhere in my mind, it keeps working the problem.

Even though it's been over 25 years since my last restaurant shift, I still have nightmares about waiting tables.

I don't have them anymore, but for the first month I waited tables, I thought I would have to quit simply because I couldn't get a good night's sleep. The most common dreams involved:
1. nearing a table with the food they ordered,
2. realizing I had forgotten something,
3. returning to the kitchen,
4. getting the forgotten item,
5. nearing the table with the food and the forgotten item,
6. realizing I had forgotten something,
Etc., until I woke up in a cold sweat.

On the other hand, as a lawyer I have come up with some fine arguments during my dreams.

"Lamont Cranston"

That's just a pseudonym; educated people know you're really Kent Allard.

What are the odds?"

Perhaps, Gary, there's a reason Phil and I posted at almost the exact same second - we were conditioned, somehow, to do it! Doing full time on-air radio was a deeply regulating experience. Hours and days are neatly subdivided into minute/second increments. You do the same thing at the same time, day after day, 6 days per week - no calling in sick, very few vacations - for years. The job can be quite boring, and the anxiety dreams are pedestrian, but they are still disturbing, and persistent, even after 15+ years. Imagine what it was like to work on an assembly line in the teens and 1920s - 12 hour days, 6 days per week. YOW.

Who is this "Kent Allard" you speak of? I was created from whole cloth by Universal Pictures in 1994.

"I was created from whole cloth by Universal Pictures in 1994."

You cannot cloud my mind.

You cannot cloud my mind.

These are not the droids you’re looking for.

Does it have to with the dream, do you think, or just being fresher and more alert after a night's sleep?

I think it has to do your brain needing to make new associations.

I run into this in writing software, and also playing music.

When I'm learning something new on the instrument, I will run exercises on the new thing for a while -- 30 minutes, an hour, a couple of hours. It will suck.

Then I go to sleep, wake up, and it's better, because while I slept, my brain was making the connections I was missing.

Same with software problem solving, I think. You beat your head against the wall, but it doesn't fall into place, because you're missing some mental connections -- the pattern isn't complete in your brain.

Then you sleep, and while you're sleeping your brain is filling the blank spots. By which I mean, actually wiring up whatever associations need to be made to solve the problem.

If you're working on stuff you've done before, you don't need the dreamtime. You're traveling paths that already exist, even if they're kind of dusty.

That's the sense I make of it.

"These are not the droids you’re looking for."

Your Jedi mind tricks won't work on me!

Mandrake gestures hypnotically.

"oh my god, Phil! What are the odds?"

Unity, ex post facto.

After college ended, I used to have nightmares about walking into a class, and being completely surprised that I had arrived right at the end of final exam, and not having prepared at all. Nor had I been to class for at least a month.

Which is shockingly close to how it actually was, at times. These dreams went on for years.

Nowadays I have recurring dreams about work problems. About seven years ago I had a stretch of time where I was working a particularly intractable problem that took me something like six weeks to solve, and I was working it nonstop, because it was jeopardizing what was potentially (and in fact eventually became) a billion-dollar production program.

No pressure, though. Used to get my mind swirling during dreamtime.

But how do you know that synthetic apriori propositions are rectangular and gray?

It's a synthetic a priori proposition, of course.

I am a student in philosophy (and I think it is fitting to so that synthetic a priori propositions would not look rectangular and gray; insofar as they are a radical movement by Kant away from convention, I would say they look like curvy, tye-dyed spirals). If I am successful, most of my waking life is a strange dream related to my "profession" (a propos Andre Breton). Maybe that's why I don't tend to dream when I sleep--that is time for rest.

Mike Schilling wins the thread.

I tend to dream that I overslept and would be late for an exam. It's usually so vivid that after waking up I have to double check that a) the clock is right b) there is no exam scheduled c) what else was just dream and at what actual point the dream ended and what wake-up was still just inside the dream.
Occasionally that goes to the meta level of dreams inside dreams (often with me looking myself over the shoulder and trying to tell me that it is a dream*).
Last night I actually sat in a (written) exam in my dream. I got the knowledge questions but never reached the math part.
Another dream with no connections to professional life is my search for a toilet that is not extremly dirty or overflowing with water. The setting always changes and I rarely remember ever having seen the actual location in real life, don't know how the brain conjures it up).

*the only case where I always know that it is a dream and also know at what exact point I will wake up is when the prospect of sex is involved. The censor is 100% effective in preventing any acts from being consumed :-(

I used to have nightmares that I was swimming in some major competition, and that I was actually doing really well, only the wall appeared just before I started thinking about turns, so I just smacked dead into it, and lost by a fair margin.

Since that actually happened to me in waking life, though, I didn't think it mapped well into hilzoy's nightmare. Unless of course she's rectangular and gray.

When I was working in a library, I used to have "organizational nightmares" occasionally. For instance, it would be my day for reshelving books, and I would discover that our library had converted from Dewey Decimal to Library of Congress without anybody telling me, and I would have to look up the new number for each book before I could put it back on the shelf.

I think the worst/wierdest one was where I was somehow in a European library (my impression was that it was somewhere in postwar West Germany), and we had to be evacuated by train for some reason, but I couldn't leave until I had shelf-read the biography section, which for some reason was alphabetized by nickname of subject (e.g., William Jefferson Clinton was in the B's, for Bill). I suppose it doesn't sound all that weird, but I can still remember some of the nicknames from that dream and wonder how many of them are real.

Did Kant actually suggest any synthetic a priori propositions?

It's risky for an amateur to wander in where professionals have no doubt thoroughly worked over the ground, but what about cases where we know that a proposition is true, but don't know specifically which one until we check? E.g.: (1): John is alive, (2): John is dead. If I understand the definitions properly, then the disjunction "John is alive or John is dead" would be an analytic a priori proposition, but the separate propositions are synthetic. Can we say that one of them is a synthetic a priori proposition, even though we don't know which one? For extra fun, substitute Schrödinger's Cat for John in the above.

So one day I read this blog posting, and the next day I see this New Yorker cartoon.

(If you don't want to go look, it shows two observers looking at a complicated apparatus with dials, connecting tubes, and horizontal scales. Caption: "Well, it's as we expected -- twelve inches equals a foot.")

ajay, his formulations of the categorical imperative (the most fundamental moral rule) are supposed to be synthetic a priori. One of them is that you ought to always treat other people as an end in themselves, and never merely as a means to an end.

This isn't supposed to be something that requires empirical investigation, so it's a priori. And it isn't a matter of definition, so it's synthetic.

I once had a dream in which I chased Immanuel Kant with a broomstick, shouting, "You are the stupidest man alive!" over and over again until finally I managed to land a few blows and woke myself up by swinging the broomstick too hard. I don't remember what he did to raise my ire, but it turns out that Kant is very hard to hit with a broomstick.

*the only case where I always know that it is a dream and also know at what exact point I will wake up is when the prospect of sex is involved. The censor is 100% effective in preventing any acts from being consumed :-(

That happens to you too? Here's one for the Freudians among you. I'm being menaced by some beast or miscreant, and have a gun. I turn to fire. I squeeze the trigger. It doesn't fire. I squeeze it harder. Still nothing. I squeeze it as far back as it can go. Still nothing.

The no sex censor might just be an insufficient data error. Wink wink, nudge nudge, say nor more. :-(

I've occasionally dreamed that I solved some pressing plot problem, although I usually realised upon waking that the solution made no sense whatsoever. My best dream almost fits though: after a hard night of reading blogs, I dreamed I was doing an online quiz that asked how best to liberate women worldwide and insisted the correct answer was "D: invade Cambodia".

it turns out that Kant is very hard to hit with a broomstick.

Kant be done.

Bloody hell, I'd hate to be you when you start on Levinas!

Great dream anyway. I insure hospitals for their liability for a living. The dreams that relate to my profession are horrible. I basically dream of the visceral, messy clamminess that is Life. e.g. I have been a wrongly excised kidney, and I have been surrounded by people in suits arguing about how much I'm worth.

Gak.

I dreamt in XML once (I'm a web developer). Everything my gaze fell on in the dream was surrounded by tags. So I looked at my hands, each of which had a nested tag, and as I looked harder I could see each of my fingers had a little tags, little tags.
I booked a holiday straight after.

Heh - the blog stripped out all of the code tags in that post. Could do with one of those for my subconscious.

I'm a bartender and I've often had dreams where I just couldn't cut it behind the bar on a busy night. It's interesting to know that others have similar dreams.

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