Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bifocal Brainery

For the first time in a long time I sat down to write a two page paper. An ROI for some code I'm writing. I didn't expect it to be a problem, since I knew plenty of reasons why my code was a good investment, and knew my boss would agree. (it was really just an exercise, but I was taking it seriously) So I sat down at the table, and got started with the short notes I had written Friday. My significant other began playing Bully, and turned on a CD to listen to while playing. The CD had songs I vaguely knew, and as I stared at the mostly blank screen, I realized I wasn't writing anything. I had plenty of points to make, I just wasn't writing them. Man! Why can't I concentrate? AP English was a while ago, but I can't be totally useless! I got up and stretched, got some water, and sat back down. Nothing. It was like my brain was stuck. Why can't I think?! Getting frustrated, I closed my eyes and focused on how to expand upon my first note... I sat quietly, and suddenly I realized what my brain was doing. It was singing along to the CD.

Well that's stupid. Forget the song I barely know, I need to think about this. I stare at my notes and concentrate, but can only sing along. Ok, I'm getting earplugs. I plug my ears and sit down to concentrate. Beyond the ringing of silence I can still pick out the lyrics, and can't think about anything other than those lyrics. I get frustrated and grab my The Saint - Soundtrack CD (my first CD and most favorite CD) and a pair of headphones. Quickly all outward noise is drowned out by The Chemical Brothers - Setting Sun blasting in my ears.

Suddenly my mind is clear. I focus on my notes, and an hour later, I'm done.

I can't do this with a song with a lot of lyrics, speech part of the brain can only focus on so much and still allow me to talk to myself. When coding I only listen to hardcore electronica (, and it helps me think. Obviously it's not just for coding. I like the idea of both sides of my brain working at the same time.

This experience reminded me of when I used to live with some friends, and came home with my girlfriend to find one of my friends asleep on the couch, with the stereo blasting heavy metal. I wondered aloud how she could possibly sleep with all that noise (this was before I liked metal). My girlfriend reminded me that I can fall asleep to my favorite music. I understood what she meant, but it still seemed odd at the time. Now, it makes perfect sense.


Fletch said...

Side note: silence shouldn't "ring"...

Yeah, I really need to start doubling up on the ear protection at the range...

Anonymous said...

"That's the sound of the ear cells dying, like their swan song. Once it's gone you'll never hear that frequency again. Enjoy it while it lasts."

nebraska girl said...

I can only have music on if I'm cleaning house or driving or something like that. If I'm reading for class or writing I can't have music or I get distracted like that. If I'm just reading for pleasure the music is fine. I can't sleep with music on either, I wake up every 30-45 minutes if there's music.

JP said...

tinitis sucks. I've had a mild case of it for almost 20 years now. I used to drive racecars on dirt. one winter I got a potent ear infection in my left ear. I had a slight case of it from then in that side. couple of race seasons later, I was driving a far faster car, 2.3 Ford four cylinder turning upwards of 8500 rpm.
In the standard rush to get the car together and to the track, we forgot to put gear oil in the transmission.
In order to get any in there without missing the heat race, we cut a hole in the floor and went about racing.
The hole was right at the exit of the header. The scream was now reflected into the interior and I lost a bit of range in the right ear/ enough that I can hardly hear conversations on a cell phone or telephone. Women in certain octives of voice, and if there is background noise (like my previous job of fueling 737s for SWA) any conversation is gone.
Earplugs actually help my hearing in such situations. I had mine in most of the time, even when not close enough to the planes to worry about the noise level.
On the other side of that, the CRJ Canadaire flown by ASA or ComAir has a apu that is right in the no hear zone, and I'd forget to plug my ears from time to time. The damage continued. The ears would ring rather hard afterward. I now keep plugs in my wallet, and range muffs (non stereo) in my truck, or right now, to deal with a noisy gear pump at my new job, they're being worn at work, keeping my ears warm or hot (north Texas...cold and hot in the same day).