Sunday, January 30, 2011

Getting some Zzzzzz's

I haven't felt like I've gotten quality sleep lately. It's not that I'm staying up reading Stieg Larsson - that at least it a plausible excuse for sleeplessness - I'm just waking up tired, even if I've been in bed close to 8 hours. So the question is, am I imagining the poor sleep, or is it really happening?

Browsing the apps available on Android (I got a swish new smartphone because my little cell phone just wasn't working anymore), I found something intriguing : Sleep as an Droid. I decided I'd use its two-week trial period to see if I could uncover something about my sleeping habits.

The app tracks your sleep patterns, keeps track of your sleep deficit, enables sharing (though why I'd post daily updates to facebook I don't know) and the paid version adds nature sounds to the alarm options. Plus, it has a cute logo - don't you think?

The principle is this : use the sensors in your smartphone (in my case, a Samsung Galaxy S) to determine how much you move around during the night, thus guessing what type of sleep you are in and for how long. The trick of course is that you have to put the phone on the mattress when you go to sleep, so this won't work for "burrowers" or "flailers" who may knock the phone to the floor as they doze.

The official webpage does a much better job at explaining the aim of the app:

So far, my first night's sleep looks similar to the sample graph, and I slept well last night - likely because I didn't eat too late, and we had the air conditioner on and a blanket so I felt like it was time for sleep. Napping on the couch without blankets? No problems. In fact I managed to fall asleep midway through a TV movie a few nights ago, gunshots and explosions notwithstanding.

Oh - and this isn't a single incident. See this blog for two more sleep aid apps.

On top of mapping my sleep patterns, Sleep as an Droid has a few features I'll be trying out :
  • Gentle wake - begins to wake you with a pre-alarm, from 30 minutes to an hour before your set alarm, but only if it senses you are not in deep sleep
  • Lullaby mode - quiets text and message alerts
  • Music volume turns down as you fall asleep

I'll let you know if this is bunk or it actually works... Even if it doesn't, it might be worth it for the gentle alarm, according to other reviewers.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Taking On Water

This seems as good a time as any to start blogging again.

If you've been watching the news, my newly adopted state of Queensland, Australia is experiencing its worst flooding in more than a century. Originally compared to the serious floods of 1974, the water has risen above those levels, and the area affected is larger than France and Germany combined. Scarcely a week ago I was writing to worried family to assure them of my safety; last week's worst flooding was in Rockhampton, a good seven hours' drive north of Brisbane. By Monday, though, it became clear that Brisbane would not be spared.

Before I go further, let me assure you that my home is on a hill, and my area is not subject to flooding. Our drinking water is not contaminated, we have plenty of food (though very little fresh vegetables, and no bread - time for baking!) and flashlights and candles in case our power is cut.

I took a walk on Monday to the river and hopped on a ferry for the 3-minute ride to the university campus on the opposite riverbank. Even then, the Brisbane River was lapping at the sidewalk, debris cluttering my route - an hour after I took these photos, the walkway was closed.

Yesterday, by the time a break in the rain came and I ventured to the nearest grocery store (20 minutes' walk, downhill) the shelves were bare of bread (barring a few packets of wraps), bottled water, and longlife milk (except soy!) but I gathered some meat for the BBQ, soup and pasta, canned fruit, vegetables and tuna.

The Wivenhoe dam is at 190% and it may release the equivalent of 6000 Olympic pools per second. (Channel 10) Fortunately the rain forecast for today didn't come and the expected peak has been revised to a lower level, but the damage has already been done. Thousands are out of their homes, having lost everything. If you're going to worry or pray, please do so for those in low-lying areas. Many have already been evacuated, but the disaster relief centres are filling fast. Those with family or friends on higher ground have been asked to shelter there instead.

The death toll stands at 12, and dozens of people are missing. The media coverage is constant and people are harnessing social media to send out messages - some assuring friends they are safe, others pleading for rescue workers to aid people they've seen stranded on a roof. One now-homeless girl tweeted, with typical Aussie pluck, "We're ok. Send Sham-wows."

Just past noon today (Wednesday 12th January) I visited my favourite coffee shop - the proprietors are okay, just running low on milk and ginger beer - and continued down the main road of my neighbouring suburb, camera in hand. Helicopters flew by on their way to a rescue, warning sirens whooped, and a single policeman stood ankle-deep, directing traffic away from the intersection.

The supermarket I had visited just yesterday was shut, and water had started to roll in from downtown. Businesses had sandbagged their doors, taped plastic sheeting over the windows and put misspelled signs up, advising customers they had closed due to flood warnings. The West End's most popular cafe was closed and already gathering water in the front courtyard:

Today has been hot and sunny but now, at 8:45pm, it is raining. The next two days will bring the worst.  If, like me, you are safely on high ground, do not travel unless necessary.  If you can help, please send donations or volunteer through the Red Cross or Salvation Army, or your local church.


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