dreams Personal

Sense Sleep Tracker, Part II: Doth Murder Sleep


The glowing black orb that watches me while I sleep says I only got half an hour’s deep sleep last night. This doesn’t surprise, but disappoints me. It’s not the device’s fault, but it does provide information on what (tossing and turning) if not why (No environmental factors). Sleep score 81, because it counted the time after I got up as the deepest sleep I’ve ever had.

2015-05-20 09.22.56Wednesday:

There’s an alarm clock trick I recognise. After an early night (Well, a theoretically early night. Accidentally an entire book) I woke up about 30 seconds before the alarm clock detected a shallow point in my sleep cycle and set off the alarm. – Sleep score 77


It’s less great at two people, it seems. Looking at the spare Android I set up the app on for Fyr, it’s tracked “bed time” from whenever the first of us went to bed (me, normally. I do mornings), to whoever got up latest (Fyr. As I say, I do mornings) and correcting that assumption has no connection to how much sleep it thinks we got (It moves “Went to bed” down the timeline, but doesn’t change the clock). Additionally, it doesn’t appear to be able to tell who’s moving, since a lot of the time it registers as both of us, even when there was only one person asleep at the time. – Sleep Score 79


Sleeping on our own is one of the lost treasures from Martin Guerre the musical. It was cut from the rewrite, but the rewrite wasn’t enough to save the show. Not relevant, except that since Fyr’s wandered up to Empire, so I’m trying the sleep tracker on my own.

Saturday, Sunday, Monday:

Slept like a dead log, according to Sense. Inaccurate. Slept like legal information documents: Briefly, and in a specific field. I hate fucking camping.

Actually, Sense said “No Sleep Data Recorded” for these days. When I came back, it was complaining that it hadn’t heard from the sleep pills for three days. The troubleshooting advice says that you can shake them (like maracas) for three seconds to test they still work, which made the sense ball glow blue, but the phone app still didn’t register them as being connected. Eventually I deleted and re-paired the Sense itself to get it to pay attention again. Not a great experience.

This turned out to be partly my fault. The device paired to the Sense is my iPhone, but I generally check sleep scores on the iPad, because it’s on my bedside table, whereas my phone charges on my desk. The iPad can do most of everything, but there’s no indication that some things require the direct bluetooth connection instead of the via-wifi connection of the non-paired iPad. It’s confusing and not indicated on the UI or in help documents, but if I hadn’t been trying to use two devices it would probably have worked better.


…but all that meant I missed the data for Monday night too.


2015-05-28 08.58.35Early to bed and early to rise. I’ve caught something dreadful from the field while camping, which is knocking me out somewhat. It’s still failing at different sleep/wake times for us, though. Sleep score 68, 0.9 hours solid sleep

2015-05-28 09.07.02Thursday:

Called in sick again (Two days, two jobs). Fyr went to bed before me, which is unusual, but the Sense counted from her sleep time again, crediting me with an hour of solid sleep that’s just pure lies.

Changing my bedtime on the app doesn’t seem to affect what score I get, so I don’t think it’s properly taking that into account. I’m wondering if the stats would be better without the second sleep pill. Might try that over tonight and see how it changes.


2015-05-29 07.41.33_croppedHealthkit is Apple’s collection point for health data. In theory, it’s the central API where info from the Sense, from the Watch and even from my Pebble can come together and be tracked and analysed by good little data nerds. One of my central problems with using the Fitbit/Misfit sleep tracking was that it didn’t end up here in any way (Fitbit doesn’t use Healthkit at all, and Misfit – which can use the Pebble watch as a tracker – will put your walking and fitness stats in, but not sleep, which it does measure).  The Sense does integrate with Healthkit, but data is somewhat spotty – I’ve got four data points since I started – and there’s a conception leap (Sense’s app adds the data against the day you woke up on – like this article – whereas Healthkit tracks it as the day you fell asleep on. So changing your bedtime to be before or after midnight changes where the stats are).

2015-05-29 07.01.19_croppedLast night, however, I slept well for the first time in the last fortnight, and the Sense agrees with me, giving me a sleep score of 80. Its opinion on bedroom conditions hasn’t changed much – still thinks it’s too light in the mornings, still questions the humidity of the room – but those are things I think summer will bring changes to.

And So:

There are tests I’d still like to run. I need to find my fitbit and see how all three (Fitbit/Pebble/Sense) analyse the same night’s sleep. But on its own merits, it’s… nearly there.

The setup is smooth, but brittle. Everything worked fine for me, but I know some others who had massive problems, especially with the requirement for a low-power Bluetooth device per sleep pill which didn’t ever make it to the Kickstarter. The Support staff – post shipping, at any rate – are useful and helpful, though.

I think the tracking is a bit oversensitive – it doesn’t seem to be able to distinguish between me moving and Fyr moving, even when it has both sets of data – and the inability to detect getting out of bed as something other than restful sleep is a bit crap, but they’re aware of these issues and have indicated in Twitter replies or support requests that they’re working on the data. I’m interested in some of the features that didn’t quite make it to first release, like recording the noises that nearly woke you up, pollen counts and sleep aids (They talked of broadcasting low levels of white noise on request, which some people find help them sleep).

You probably can’t buy this. While they attempt to fulfill the Kickstarter completely, they’re not taking Preorders outside the US yet, which is absolutely the right decision. The hardware feels finished and polished, the software needs some work, and the back-end analysis needs rolling improvements. On the whole, though, if you’re going to get some bits that need improvement, that’s kind of the order you want them in.

I can’t in all honesty recommend you get a Sense, even if you could, right now. It’s very cool, and very shiny, but until they can track “not being in bed” as something other than “being very asleep”, it’s not actually tracking your sleep; and while it’s not tracking your sleep it’s a crap sleep-rhythm alarm clock. It’s just a very cool looking environmental monitor, which is a really nice thing of itself, but a couple of steps short of where it needs to be.

As they improve this, I’ll update.

dreams Personal

Sense sleep tracker: Perchance to Dream

Sense, by Hello Inc. is a sleep tracking thing, which I backed on Kickstarter last summer.

I’m a fan of Kickstarter. Enough to need to develop a spreadsheet tracking where projects I’ve backed are at, and then to turn it into a web-app that’ll get out of soft-release at some point.

For full disclosure: I kickstarted this project.
For full disclosure: I kickstarted this project.

Projects have many and variant qualities in communication. Some fall into the famed “silence trap” where the project stops sending out updates because they don’t have anything to say, and then feels they can’t send a small update after such a gap, and the gap grows in proportion to the desire for more information, so nothing ever gets said again. Some produce weekly updates, even if those are “We fell down a rabbit hole. It was dark, so we came back up. That was this week, sorry”

Hello Incorporated did fairly well at communicating until Christmas, when they announced a reasonable delay on a tight deadline project. Then they stopped communicating. Eventually we got the shipping notification, and then a short note about having some quality control issues, and then nothing again. This in addition to a late-stage decision to split delivery into “USA first, international later” after the originally announced “Backer Order” delivery stages did not make their community any happier. With a recent £25m investor round (Which – because of the laws of tech journalism – is possibly more likely 5m) the primary purpose of their Kickstarter was to create a community around their products, and by not communicating they’ve shot that in the foot somewhat. On the opposite end, you have people like Pebble, who despite a series of Grade-A fuckups, both avoidable and iceburgy in nature managed to keep an interested and dedicated community engaged enough to stay with them. There were malcontents – there always are – but Pebble handled their five month delay with greater aplomb than Hello has.

But that’s a dig at the process, and the process is only a part of the experience. In fact, what the world needs is to split Kickstarter product reviews into three parts, I think. First, the management of the campaign itself, for which I’m going to give Hello a fairly reasonable 5 out of 10. Good on the take-off, engaged on the landing, but a little shakey on the dismount.

The second score doesn’t apply here, because it would be for extras beyond the original product. A lot of Kickstarters go heavily into Stretch Goals, which split into Enhancements and Distractions. Both Order of the Stick and Doublefine got into trouble for having too many Distractions – T-Shirts and physical items took up a lot more of their time than expected – whereas project which have focused on a limited and planned set of possible Enhancements have done better, although that’s not without its own set of rabbit holes to fall down. Hello’s Sense campaign stuck with its offering, got 2.5 million of it’s 100k original request, no distractions or enhancements.

Which leaves us with the product itself.

The packaging displays an almost apple-like dedication to presentation
The packaging displays an almost apple-like dedication to presentation

The packaging for the sense is very much inspired by the Apple first-bite-with-the-eye method. A solid black cylinder opens up to a plinth display of the product, all of which lifts to reveal the cables and stuff underneath it. The object itself has a high attention to detail: The product glows with a soft green light when its happy, and a moderate red anger when less so.

Custom-moulded USB port
Custom-moulded USB port

Even the Micro-USB cable is custom moulded to sit flush against the case. A simple procedure via the app (for iOS and Android, both respecting their respective UI guidelines, and both well crafted) sets up the device over Bluetooth to connect to Wifi, and then over bluetooth with the sleep pill (Small bluetooth thing you connect to your pillow which does the actual measurement bit).


The glow is only animated while its trying to do something. In this case, it is booting
The glow is only animated while its trying to do something. In this case, it is booting

Though setup, the only problem I had was that the secondary pill for my partner (the packaging for which is the white disc under the black block above) requires a second install of the app on another device, which isn’t compatible with her iPad 2 (because it requires low-power bluetooth, which the iPad 2 & Mini don’t support). I ended up digging out an older Android device to set fyr’s account up on. For two-smartphone households, this wouldn’t be a problem, but it’s not ideal.

But then only sleep remains. It arrived this morning (I was, not without irony, woken up by my sleep tracker arriving. Thanks UPS), so apart from setting it all up I’ve no idea how the tracking does in real life. Right now it’s happily telling me the room is too bright to sleep in, slightly too humid, slightly too bright. None of which is a massive surprise to me. I’ll try it for a week or so (over a fortnight, because we’re out for Empire this weekend) and see how well it works.



Other People's Dreams


dreams Personal

Sleep Paralyisis

I am entirely normal.

I mean, apart from the hanging around on the internet, Larp, computer games, geekdom, occasional discussions on world domination, I’m a normal person. Straight white male, aged 18-35. I suffer from mild, annoying, middle class live problems, like not having enough olive oil left, or the terror of running out of asparagus before your party. I suffer from mild dyslexia, I need to wear glasses or else I may trip over things that would escape my unassisted vision. Like lorries, for example.

Pablo Picasso's Girl Asleep at a Table, Photo by wallyg on flickr (cc licenced)
However, I do actually suffer from one thing that is both cool and terrifying, and because I’ve run out of other things to say, I shall talk to you about it.

There doesn’t seem to be much of a pattern to it. It started just after I left home, then went away for years. It hardly ever happens unless I’m the only person in the house, except when it doesn’t. This is what happens: I am asleep, I am partway though a dream, I will have rescued the kitten from the flaming toaster house; swam away from the double-deckered carrot prancing down the River Medway; Crash landed my toffee bathtub; Won the grand prize for the inadvised application of Latin; Shot down the last specification clause with a final piece of badly formed XML; caught the breadmaker; something like that. My dream will have been happening…

And I’m awake. Hi, real world. Interesting. So, yes, this one doesn’t have those purple hydronic houses, does it? Pity, they were cool. And I suppose that means the liason I arranged with thingy from the whatsit film isn’t going to happen, is it? Oh, thingy. Who was it? Er… can see her face, but the name… no, where’d her face go. It was, er.. what colour were the hydronic houses? What’s hydronics? Something? about?

houses? with the filmstar?

And the dream fades into the bleak hole of subconcious and the details spiral into each other and thin out over the universe, tying my concious awareness of my subconcious into an impenetrable package which fades in the sunlight. I’m awake.

And I can’t move.

Sleep Paralysis, I discovered a few years later, is when your brain is out of REM sleep mode, but your body hasn’t recieved the code that means “we’ve stopped dreaming now, you should listen to what we’re saying again”. Usually I can move, open and focus my eyes. Sometimes I can just focus on things. Sometimes my eyes are closed.

I can’t move.

Not a finger on my hand will listen to the commands, no toe will retreat to the warmth of the duvet it was recently denied. Instructions sent to lift my arm, shift my weight, lift my head… none. Non responsive.

Now is the time when you must visualise with complete and total clarity the image of the cover of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Because the thing it is tempting to do now is panic. The first time this happened was, without doubt, the single scariest moment of my life, because there is no way to tell how long this will last. It only ever happens when I’m alone, so the thought begins with “Er. I hope this goes away before I starve” and spirals up from there. How many days until someone realises you’re dead? What if it’s sooner? If you can’t communicate will they realise you’re still there? How? does this go away?

What the fuck just happened?

Are you going to end today in a hospital as the doctors declare you a vegatable and turn off things keeping you alive?

But there’s a worse thing than being trapped inside a panicing mind.

Your body isn’t panicing.

It’s really eerie to have your brain circling itself in abject terror and you not being able to hyperventalate, no cold sweat, breathing steady and regular, even if you think about it as hard as you can.

And you calm down. You force yourself to calm down. This will be over. It will be fine. And you relax, you meditate, you roll onto your back and breathe a calming breath…

…and you moved. it’s gone, and you didn’t even see it go.

And you forget about it, and all the feelings it brings, until it comes back.

dreams Imported From Epistula


So last night I dreamt I was setting up a wiki.

Except I was doing it with about two hundred people in a warehouse, and I put Artela and Lalajia in charge of the magazine, which wasn’t going to be called Cogsworth after the clock in beauty and the beast. I set other people (afpers, afers, suds people and school-friends I haven’t seen for ever) doing other things.

The first rehearsal involved everyone sitting at exam desks, and Lalajia got number 001, and called it out, so I wrote it down, but then I had to go.

I got to where I needed to be, but when I was going back, I ran into the (government?) operatives we were hiding from. I refused to show them my ID card, so they shot at me with blue plasma cannons.

Fortunately I was super-fast and bulletproof.

dreams Imported From Epistula


I’ve just woken up.

Saved the world from a collective of comedians lead by Noel Coward (Played by Leslie Phillips) including Angus Deyton by joining a collective of “White Cheese” comedians lead by Milton Jones.

Presented a gameshow (That was to decide the fate of the world) which had two people I knew from school as well as Jester representing three Java Virtual Machines and had as a finale a contest of trivia between Murky and Corinne, which Corinne won using the power of Latin. This last bit was played out on the steps of some huge Incan temple.

Dreams are odd

dreams Imported From Epistula


I’m standing in nothing, in darkness, on a blue carpet, in a room, in a foyer, in A-Block Foyer – Mascalls School, on the dirty blue carpet that was put down in the summer holidays when I was sixteen.

I’m alone in the Foyer, there is a table, there is someone behind the table, she is selling tickets. Her name is… she doesn’t have a name. I recognise her, but I’ve no idea who she is or if we have never met, and the hall is empty, and the hall is full of chairs, and the hall is dark but I can hear people inside, and the hall is full of people listening to a show, and I’m in the show.

I’m in a corridor and in the green room and the stage is behind me and I can hear the sounds of an audience waiting for a show to start, and it crosses my mind that the show had started but the show hasn’t started and I can hear the audience coming in. I know my lines, but don’t know what they are, but I can see a hessian covered board in front of me, and behind that is the drama room, and in the drama room all will become clear, and I move the hessian board and.

I’m standing in a room, a small room, one of the music rooms in C-Block where I had the guitar lessons with the man who didn’t think I practiced enough who was right because I didn’t practice enough, and I knew I should have practiced more but every week we came into these rooms and he tried to teach me something new but I didn’t get it because I had not grasped and practiced the thing he told me to practice last week. I’m here in the room, the small music room, with a band of people I know very well but don’t recognise, and one has long black hair and I nearly recognise him but don’t.

I’m a singer in the band.

We are in the show and soon, they are waiting for us, and important people are in the audience. People whose names I know are in the audience and I can recognise them because I know who they are but have never (and may never) seen them in real life and some even in pictures. You might be in the crowd, if you read this then you probably are. We are standing on stage and the stage extends out near the audience in a long finger of accusation and I can see the front row waiting in the silence because it’s quiet and it’s silent and the music begins and the song begins.

And it isn’t me singing the song.

Singing the song is Neil Hannon, the lead singer for the Divine Comedy, because that is the right thing, because it’s a Divine Comedy song we are doing or they are doing because I’m sitting beside the stage, no, I’m sitting in the wings watching, except I’m in the audience watching and the song plays the full length but is over in seconds and it’s my turn.

And I’m standing on stage. This is right. The world is in blue and white, the lighting cues happen, the music begins and I can hear the opening bars of “National Express” and I begin to sing and it works, and I can hear and feel the audience reacting and getting caught up, and that lasts four words into the song because then I forget the lyrics. I know the lyrics, I can see them, but I can’t sing a single word, and I try to fill in the words where I can, and I sing when I know the words, and this is worse. The audience slip away from me, mumbling over the music, and the song ends in a shambles, Neil takes the microphone from my hand and says simply “Go Away”.

I go away.

I wake up.

For a moment, I am frozen in the state between dream and reality, before I know that I haven’t performed in that building in four years, I’ve never sang that song on stage, and it was a dream. And for a moment I thought I’d found my greatest dream, and then blown it.


dreams Imported From Epistula

I've always said there's nothing more interesting than…

“I’ve always said there’s nothing more interesting than people’s dreams” –
Alice, Dilbert TV.

I was sitting in a garden by a church revising, when someone asked my if they
could revise too. I picked up my sketch-pad, assuming I was studying Graphics,
when I realised I didn’t do graphics, and couldn’t draw, so I wandered off in
search of something else.

I found a person who looked suspisiously like Gav from Nukees and we talked about books, and I
introduced him to the Illuminus Trilogy. In return he showed me the
South-African page of an atlas, and told me that at the southen most tip was a
wooden sign called “The End”. Next thing I was looking at a mist-shouded
version of South Africa with moterways running down it, So I could clearly see
that the motorways going north were marked “The Start” and the ones pointing
south were marked “The End” Then I noticed that there was a tiny road just
south of the end of the motorway, so it *wasn’t* The End.

So I was sitting on a coastline with lots of people I knew but now can’t
remember, while Gav painted out the tiny road while we all sang something,
followed by “Santa Claus is coming to town”. For South Africa it was a nasty
murky-grey sky, like a British winter morning. Then, on the horizon, beyond the
docks, a chase was in progress, which circled the bay until I could see it was
a Police Car being pursued. I don’t know what it was being pursused by, because
I didn’t notice. What with it coming stright at us. And everything.

I stood up and tried to get away, but tripped, saw the car coming towards me,
and closed my eyes. I could hear the car roar above me, then a moderate presure
on my neak. I remember thinging it must have just missed me. I opened my

I was in a hospital, on the floor. There was still this presure on my neck. I
realised what had happened, It hadn’t just missed me. I heard a voice:
“If it hurts, hit it” said my (now) ex-flatmate Michelle
“Don’t tell him that, he’s dying” said a voice I didn’t recognise.
I closed my eyes and woke up.