Saturday, October 18, 2014

London Beer Flood

Yesterday, October 17th, was the 200th anniversary of the London Beer Flood.  It sounded humorous and I chuckled so I thought it would be a good subject for a random act of googling!  But it turns out to be more of a tragedy than a comedy.
A London brewery, the Horse Shoe Brewery, had an enormous vat that held approximately 160,000 gallons of beer.  A metal band snapped causing the vat to burst open.  The resulting outpour broke open other vats which resulted in more than 250,000 gallons of beer to flood through the streets of the St. Giles neighborhood.  Reports related that a 15-foot tall tidal wave crashed into buildings, knocking down walls and flooding ground floor rooms and cellars.  A total of eight people were killed; some drowned, some were slammed into walls, and one was crushed by a collapsed wall.

The Horse Shoe Brewery was cleared of any liability and remained open for more than another hundred years.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Insomnia – lying there at night, when it is dark and quiet but you just can’t get to sleep.  You glance at the clock and notice the hours as they slip by without being able to get to sleep.  Trying to shut off your mind, but the thoughts just keep coursing through your brain.  Getting up in the morning, tired and just wishing that you could get some sleep…  I like the word “agrypnia” better than “insomnia”; “chasing sleep” seems so much more appropriate than “sleeplessness”.
I have had lifelong agrypnia.  My first memory of agrypnia was when I was a preschooler.  I remember being glad when I learned to tell time in first grade specifically because of my agrypnia.  We had a mantle clock that chimed the hours and half hours, and somehow, it was comforting to know what time it was.  My agrypnia only got worse as I grew older, instead of being awake for hours at night, I began to be awake for the entire night.
I finally started doing some research about how to prevent insomnia in the 1980’s.  I followed all the recommendations: establish a routine, and go to bed and get up at the same time every day; don’t take naps; eat before you go to sleep (but don’t have a heavy meal); exercise before bedtime (but don’t exercise too much); avoid stimulants, such as nicotine and caffeine; avoid alcohol (wait, is that a depressant or a stimulant – oh, no, it is both!); only use your bed for sleep or sex – no TV, no reading of books (wait… read books but not anything stimulating); and most importantly – avoid stress and don’t worry!  Right
For years, I followed this advice.  Do you know how hard it is not to take a nap if you haven’t slept much the night before?  And to this day, I don’t drink caffeine after my morning coffee; in fact, I avoid any soft drinks with caffeine.  After a while, it really annoyed me when I realized that it was all “Do this”, “Don’t do that”!  Experts were saying that it was my fault that I couldn’t sleep – my thoughts, my actions, my choices were preventing me from sleeping!
After years of trying to follow all the advice, I began to think “How dare you?  What makes you the expert?  Unless you have insomnia yourself, you have no reason to say anything!”  I even read an article that said insomnia was a learned behavior, and when I couldn’t sleep I was supposed to get up and do something I really hated, like washing the kitchen floor.  This was supposed to condition me to decide to sleep because the consequences were unpleasant.  Like being so tired but lying as hour after hour passed wasn’t unpleasant enough!  Like struggling though a day at work wasn’t difficult enough!
I decided that if the “expert” hadn’t lain awake for hours and hours at night, wondering why sleep was so elusive, I wouldn’t listen to them!!!  If the “expert” hadn’t personally experienced their own agrypnia, and not just an occasional sleepless night, then their advice was practically meaningless.  Trying to sleep is difficult enough without wondering what I have done to cause my sleeplessness.  That doesn’t turn off my brain at all.
Sigh…. I am really tired but I can’t go to sleep tonight.  Again!
You know what is the worst?  I googled insomnia remedies again this evening, and they haven't changed since the 1980's!  The same useless advice.  Oh, well.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Phantom Music

I haven’t written a blog here in a while for several personal reasons but it is time to shake off the shackles and write again so here goes…
Musical Ear Syndrome!  Or as I like to call it, phantom music.  Musical Ear Syndrome is a form of non-psychiatric auditory hallucination, also called Musical Hallucination or Musical Tinnitus.  Most people have heard of tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.  It is a perception of sound when none exists.  Musical tinnitus (or Musical Ear Syndrome) is when that sound is perceived as music.  Usually, victims hear musical noises ranging from vocals to instrumental music, and some even hear announcers or commercials.
Most people don’t talk about it because they are afraid of being accused of being mentally unstable or psychotic.  This might be a good time to talk about psychiatric auditory hallucinations.  Psychiatric auditory hallucinations are generally defined as voices talking to the victim (on a personal level), usually associated with schizophrenia or mania.  There can also be medical reasons for some auditory hallucinations, such as brain lesions or medication side effects.  Musical Ear Syndrome (or MES) does not fall into these categories.
As I mentioned above, most people don’t talk about it because they don’t want to be considered crazy.  But MES is becoming increasing recognized as separate from other auditory hallucinations making it easier for people to discuss it.  Experts believe that MES is related to hearing problems, and usually (but not always), is experienced by those with hearing loss.
I started googling this subject because I have experienced this phenomena myself.  Let me start by stating that I have a HUGE problem with insomnia.  Every few weeks, I have extreme difficulty getting more than a couple of hours of sleep several nights in a row.  I become an extremely light sleeper, and can be awakened by the slightest sound.  I have been awakened by the sound of the refrigerator coming on in the middle of the night, in the kitchen when I am in the bedroom, on a different floor!  In order to combat this, I turn on a fan in the room to help mask normal nighttime sounds.
Then, occasionally, I would be awakened by music.  I would assume it was my clock radio coming on - I would reach for the alarm clock and notice that it was hours before I needed to get up!  So where was the music coming from?  I would try and hunt the phantom music down but it was faint and difficult to trace.  The music was not coming from my clock radio, it wasn’t the neighbor, nor was it anything I could find to turn off!  The phantom music would last for a period of time lasting from about thirty minutes to a couple of hours.  I would get so frustrated!
I finally complained to my sweetie, and she googled it and told me about MES.  After researching it myself, I realized that my phantom music was triggered was my fan!  The item I used to mask noise was causing the phantom music that woke me up and kept me up!  It was such a relief to know that there was this thing called Musical Ear Syndrome, and I wasn’t the only person to experience it.
Now, when MES wakes me up in the middle of the night, I turn off the fan and am able to get back to sleep.  However, turning off the fan allows other noises to disturb me but for some reason, the sound of the refrigerator or furnace does not bother me nearly as much as the phantom music.