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6:00pm on Friday, 28th October, 2005:

Side Thoughts


Here's something that I've experienced many times over the years, which happened again last night.

Basically, I'm in bed planning on going to sleep, and I'm thinking about this and that, and I'm stuck for some reason. I might be stuck because I can't think how to do something, or I can't think of all the possibilities in a situation that might be relevant, or I can't make a con ceptual leap that I know I should be able to make, or I can't think of a decent metaphor. Last night, I was trying to remember the names associated with some characters of which I had a mental image. These were the Knights of the Dinner Table Illustrated PCs, being referenced in my keynote speech today.

If I'd been completely awake, I would have had them at my fingertips: Knuckles, El Ravager, Teflon Billy and Zayre.

However, I was dozing off, so I didn't.

I've found that I can often break these blocks by lying on a different side. Last night, I brought the images up while lying on my left side, then when I couldn't remember their names I switched to my right side and they came instantly. I hadn't set something up to get them, I just remembered them as soon as I rolled over.

Now this is a phenomenon I've noted before, on many occasions. If I'm nodding off but trying to think things through, I lie on a different side and it breaks an impasse. I don't know whether it's the mere act of rolling over that has an effect, but I suspect not: names are a linguistic thing, and lying on my right is always good for linguistic things. I don't know why this should be so, because the left half of the brain deals with language and lying on my right should maybe send more blood to the right side of my brain. The converse is also true, though, in that if I want to envisage how something looks or something works, switching to lying on my left side will bring it up if lying on my right side has failed to deliver. Consistently, but equally perplexingly, I don't normally lie on my back but when I do that's the best place to be for creating full-sensory narratives. The visual cortex is at the back of the brain, so I'd have expected that lying on my back would give it more oxygen and I'd be better able to see pictures in my mind; however, I'm actually better at the frontal lobe task of higher thinking (planning, in AI terms).

Unfortunately, I've not had much opportunity to experiment with this as I'd need to bring all my faculties to bear on it, which kinda undermines it somewhat. Nevertheless, I've been able to observe what's going on and remember it in the morning. I offer this up as just one more example of the weird and wonderful experience I have of being me...

I've no idea what happens if roll over onto my front, as I'd suffocate if I did that.

Referenced by Funicular.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).