Last week, a 20-something on my staff said 6 hours of sleep a night was enough. I was skeptical. I used to sleep 9 or 10 hours a night in my 20s and 30s.

Those nights are gone. In the last few years, my sleep has been disrupted by breathing problems related to apnea. Sleeping with a CPAP breathing mask has helped, but I am still lucky to get 7 hours of uninterrupted rest. Lately, I have been using a blue light lamp, which seems to increase my alertness and improve my mood in the winter darkness. I also monitor my sleep with an app.

I am not alone in this obsession. In recent days, many articles about sleep have caught my eye on Twitter. There was the one about how when the brain ages, you get less, sleep, and that impairs your memory.  It's particularly hard to get sleep in the short days of winter. Your exposure to light plays an important role (link via @noahWG). Top performers attribute their success (violinists, notably) to getting more than 8 hours of sleep every night, plus afternoon naps (link via @moorehn). So it's a little disturbing that 43 percent of Americans between 14 and 64 report getting a poor night's sleep on weeknights (via @nytjim).

When you consider how much we rely on other people to transport us, make things for us and feed us, it is alarming to think that so many of them are sleep-deprived.

Go to bed!

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AuthorPatrick LaForge
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Remember zines? Before there was McSweeneys, before "A Staggering Work of Hearbreaking Genius," before The Believer, and so many other Dave Eggers projects, there was Might magazine, which could be found in certain obscure zine shops in the East Village (at least, that's where I found it). I still have most of the full run of Might in a box somewhere, but this 1998 paperback collects the best of its snarky Spy Lite vision. Eggers, the editor, was such an unknown at that point that his name appears nowhere on the cover, though there is an essay in here by him about the F word. Getting top billing is an essay by David Foster Wallace that I had completely forgotten until I just looked closely at this for the first time in a dozen years: "Hail the Returning Dragon, Clothed in New Fire," which tries to look on the bright side of AIDS. Yes, really. Also in here: Ted Rall's "College Is for Suckers." A piece by R.U. Sirius and another by the frontman for Soul Coughing, a band I barely remember. It's a strange little time capsule from the eve of the Internet age.

     This Old Book started as a Tumblr, which is also archived on Palafo.com. These are books that have survived many purges from my shelves over decades, with a few comments attempting to figure out why I have held onto them.

Here's a 2003 gem from The Atlantic on introverts (via @smc90). I hire a lot of introverts. They make great copy editors. The hard part is getting them past the newsroom extroverts in the interview gantlet. 

Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say "Hell is other people at breakfast." Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring. Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially "on," we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn't antisocial. It isn't a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: "I'm okay, you're okay—in small doses."
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AuthorPatrick LaForge
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I used to own individual paperback copies of this cult trilogy as a teenager in the 70s, but they were lost along the way. I picked up this omnibus edition sometime in the late 80s but never got around to re-reading it. A glance at the first few pages makes me think I might not have the patience to revisit it.

Its themes of secret societies and conspiracies, and the absurd or evocative character names (Hagbard Celine, Fission Chips, Mama Sutra), and certain phrases (first line: "It was the year when they finally immanentized the eschaton") remind me of David Foster Wallace, Umberto Eco and Thomas Pynchon, though the prose is not nearly as good. (It is much better than the writing in its trashier descendant, "The Da Vinci Code.")

The authors, Robert Shea and the strange polymath Robert Anton Wilson,  make the most of it, jumping around in time from the political assassinations of the 60s to Atlantis to John Dillinger and the final words of Dutch Shultz. There is a fair amount of right- and left-wing conspiracy theory about freemasons and the Illuminatti, riffs on Sixties radicalism, drugs and sex, numerology, Aleister Crowley, the Principia Discordia, the mystical properties of the number 23, and more. It's a wackadoodle ride on the dark side of the counterculture, mislabeled a work of science fiction, a perfect cultural artifact of the paranoid style of 1975. 

This Old Book started as a Tumblr, which is also archived on Palafo.com.  The Tumblr is probably more readable, until I get around to repairing the imported posts here. These are books that have survived many purges from my shelves over decades, with a few comments attempting to figure out why I have held onto them.

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AuthorPatrick LaForge

My ongoing experiment with Squarespace6 continues. My hope was to migrate all of the content I have created on various sites like Tumblr, Wordpress and Posterous into one domain that I control and own.

I hit a bit of a snag with my This Old Book Tumblr, which somewhat randomly catalogs books that have survived many library purges over the decades. I was able to import the posts but unable to move individual items into the main blog column here on the site. So, instead, the Tumblr posts, with the exception of a few that I duplicated here on the Palafo blog, may be found in this on-site archive, until such time as Squarespace6 makes it easer to merge collections, or I decide to do so manually. Inexplicably, the headline fields for the posts (there were no headlines on Tumblr) appear at the bottom instead of the top. Henceforth, the occasional This Old Book post will appear here on the main blog, and if I write enough of them I will create a link to the tag up in the header.

Here is a list of the books covered to date:

"Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony" by Lewis Thomas

"Essays by Robert Louis Stevenson"

"Silverlock" by John Myers Myers

"Bourgeois Anonymous" by Morris Phillipson

"The Media Lab" by Stewart Brand

"America: What Went Wrong?" by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele

"A Night of Serious Drinking" by Renee Dumaul

"Been Down So Long, It Looks Like Up to Me" by Richard Fariña

"The Glass Teat" and "The Other Glass Teat" by Harlan Ellison

"The Deptford Trilogy" by Robertson Davies 

"A Book of Surrealist Games"

"Without Feathers" by Woody Allen

"The Mezzanine" by Nicholson Baker

"Boss" by Mike Royko

"Thinking With Concepts" by John Wilson

"The Common Ground Book"

"The Tales of Hoffman" (Edited Chicago 7 Transcript)

"Out of Control" by Kevin Kelly

"Son of the Morning Star" by Evan S. Connell

"The Capra Chapbook Anthology"

"Poison Penmanship: The Gentle Art of Muckraking" by Jessica Mitford

Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter

"An East Wind Coming" by Arthur Byron Cover 

"Soul Catcher" by Frank Herbert

"Crackers" by Roy Blount Jr.

"The Dead Father" by Donald Barthelme

"Generation X" by Douglas Coupland

"Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

"The Book" by Alan Watts 

"Labyrinths" by Jorge Luis Borges

"The Straight Dope" by Cecil Adams 

"Ian Shoales' Perfect World" by Merle Kessler

"The Authoritative Calvin & Hobbes" by Bill Watterson

"Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur"

"The Illuminatus! Trilogy" by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson 

"Shiny Adidas Tracksuits and the Death of Camp" by the Editors of Might

"The Dog Is Us" by Marcelle Clements

"Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book" by Walker Percy

"Cosmic Consciousness" by Richard Maurice Bucke, M.D.

"The Philosopher's Stone" by Colin Wilson

"The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog"

"The Arbor House Treasury of Modern Science Fiction"

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AuthorPatrick LaForge
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Updated 4/1/13 (See below)

I heard about Tonx Coffee on John Gruber's "Talk Show" podcast and decided to give it a try. Every couple of weeks the company roasts a variety and mails it out in vacuum-sealed bags to customers from an address somewhere in Los Angeles.

Now, some people will tell you that it is important to have the freshest roast possible for a good coffee. But other people will tell you that's just marketing, that the beans will keep for quite a while once they are roasted. Tonx's pitch is that you are getting a roast as least as fresh as you would get at a local high-end coffee shop. For that luxury, and the convenience of delivery, you will pay a premium. But I am always interested in giving a new idea a whirl, especially if it involves coffee. 

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I started with the 6-ounce shipment -- a "half-sack" -- every other week, basically two shipments per month, costing $24 every 28 days. I had to wait for the next roast. The stuff came nicely packaged, with a cute seal on the box.

The beans were roasted on Dec. 16, shipped on Dec. 17 and arrived on Dec. 19. Now, six ounces is not a lot of beans, for me. With my normal consumption of a few espressos or one long cup each morning, I finished these up on Christmas morning. So I have increased my subscription to the 12-ounce bag every other week, for $38 every 28 days. That seems a bit pricey, so I'm not sure how long I will continue with it. It's not like New York is lacking for fine roasted coffee. 

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The shipment came with a little card that explains a bit about the origin of the beans, as well as a somewhat amusing holiday greeting from the company that touched on the prophesied Mayan apocalypse, among other things.

The beans were identified as subscription coffee #34, Los Eucaliptos, grown in Huila, Colombia. by Edier Cuellar Gutierrez, his wife, Notalba Noriega, and their two children. Their farm has 12,000 coffee trees. Varieties include Caturra, Colombia and, more recently, Castillo variety, in an effort to fend off any threat of coffee leaf rust. The tasting notes predicted a sweet, balanced cup, "with a lot of depth... Look forward to flavors of green apple, molasses and vanilla."

I don't know about the green apple. I'm never good at picking out that sort of thing, but it was a gentle coffee, taken black, and I definitely noted the sweet molasses and maybe a hint of the rest. It was definitely as good as many of the quality coffees available closer to home in New York City. I don't know how much of that has to do with the fresh roasting, since most of the coffees I buy locally are roasted in Brooklyn or Manhattan within a similar timetable (typically Cafe Grumpy, Intelligentsia, Blue Bottle, or Stumptown, all excellent). I'll give this a few more shipments before deciding what to do with my subscription. 

Update, March 2013: I've continued to use Tonx to supplement my local coffee buying. It's convenient, and the coffee is pretty good. Is it amazing coffee, a life-changing experience, as some reviewers online have said? Well, no. Some beans have been better than others, and while the roasts are certainly fresh, it's a matter of taste. I am also trying to weigh how "green" this is. Yes, everything entails shipping costs, and packaging, but it does feel mildly decadent to have someone mail you coffee when you can quite easily walk down the block to a good local shop. So, there's that. Let me know your thoughts on Twitter. 

Update April 1, 2013: This is probably my last update to this post. I ended my subscription, though that is no reflection on the coffee or the service, which remained spectacular. I am trying to save up for some vacation travel and could not longer justify paying $38 a month for the pound of coffee to be shipped to me, when there are some great (also expensive, but slightly less so) coffee options in New York City. I might feel differently if I lived in another town or out in the suburbs. This is no reflection on the quality of the coffee, which is consistently great, and I would not be surprised if I return as a subscriber to this service down the road. 

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AuthorPatrick LaForge

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AuthorPatrick LaForge

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AuthorPatrick LaForge

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AuthorPatrick LaForge

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AuthorPatrick LaForge