The World I Imagine

A creative manual for ending poverty and building peace. The essays in this collection introduce creative ideas for ending poverty everywhere, in the hope that humans can finally build a truly peaceful society where everyone enjoys at least the basic benefits of prosperity, for the first time in history.

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Lion's Pride

The mystery set in 1911 Arizona, features murder, adultery, polygamy, and a marauding mountain lion threatening territorial residents! This exciting adventure novel was published by Outskirts Press in 2007.

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night owl books

All articles originally appeared in the Night Owl's Newsletter and/or Arizona City Independent Edition. www.trivalleycentral.com

During the years I published Night Owl's Newsletter, I had occasion to read and review several books related to the subject of Night people. It was a joy to do, especially because of the growing amount of literature that supports the contention that Owls are not an aberration from the "normal" condition known as Larks (Day people), but we are and have always been a vital part of 24-hour society.

Unfortunately, all the books I reviewed, even those published as late as the 1990s, are now out of print. But if you're persistent, you can find used copies of most of these books through many online bookstores. And over time, more people are writing about and publishing books about the subject--including me, one of these days. At least, that's the plan!

For now, I hope you enjoy some of the things I wrote as I reviewed the following books:


To read an article, just click on the title below:

 
NIGHT AS FRONTIER

by Murray Melbin
Professor Emeritus, Boston University
Free Press, 1987

(Originally featured in Night Owl's Newsletter, Volume 1, Number 1)

Certain factors in the nature of Owls make us different from the norm. Separate from the majority. Outsiders in any crowd of Larks. While most people toddle off to bed at a "decent" hour, we stay awake: thinking, learning, creating, exploring dimensions which Larks can only dream about--or through.

The dimension of time is the subject of Professor Murray Melbin's scholarly--but delightful--treatise, Night as Frontier. After identifying both space and time as finite resources, Melbin compares Night hours to the Old West. He likens Owls to those hardy souls who bucked tradition and the establishment by leaving the luxury of the east for the challenge of the frontier.

While most of us live in comfortable homes that in no way resemble the rugged environs of our pioneer ancestors, we Owls are still the rebels and misfits who don't belong in the restricted "east" of Lark "civilization" and search for our fortunes in the wide open spaces of "western" Night.

Melbin spices his text with fascinating details on the uses of Night, from ancient times to the present. Did you know, for instance, that in the first century A.D. chariot traffic in the city of Rome was restricted to the Night hours to relieve congestion? That modern Singapore is the most active city in the world 24 hours a day? And that in Hong Kong people often rent out use of their beds to workers on different shifts?

Just as the Pacific region eventually became an important part of the society its early explorers had escaped, Professor Melbin predicts that more efficient use of the Night for business now done during the Day is inevitable.

As a professor (emeritus) of sociology at Boston University, Murray Melbin is an expert on the uses of time. In Night as Frontier, he argues that we have only begun to use the riches of Night available to us all.

 

TWENTY-FOUR HOUR SOCIETY

by Martin Moore-Ede
Addison-Wesley, 1993

(Originally featured in Night Owl's Newsletter, Volume 2, Number 12)

We are delighted to find more and more experts speaking up for the value and rights of Night Owls, from sleep researchers to industrial consultants. Leading the latter pack is Dr. Martin Moore-Ede, Director of the Institute for Circadian Physiology (ICP), which is connected with Harvard Medical School. Working from his Cambridge, Massachusetts, laboratory, Moore-Ede advises federal agencies and billion-dollar corporations on how to take best advantage of their least-considered and most-abused technology, the human machine.

Moore-Ede's statement on page 43 of The Twenty-Four-Hour Society beautifully explains the value of Night people in our round-the-clock world: "For each of us to know our clock type if we are to work in the 24-hour society will be just as important as it is for us to know our blood type if we are planning to have a major surgical operation. And it is equally vital for our society, if we are to avail ourselves of the best talent, to make sure that we build a world compatible with all human clock types."

In The Twenty-Four-Hour Society, Moore-Ede overwhelms us with information on the high cost--in money and lives--of the misuse of people in our 24-hour industrial society. He cites the "fatigue factor" as the single worst industrial crime.
Moore-Ede discusses the FAA's policy of blaming an increasing number of aviation accidents on "pilot error," suggesting that pilots are personally culpable in these crashes. The real cause--according to Moore-Ede and other experts cited in the book--is pilot fatigue caused by inhumane airline policies and FAA regulations that fail to take into account human limitations, particularly the need for proper rest. Until recently, pilots who fell asleep at the controls were more legally acceptable than those who got enough inflight rest to be alert during landing operations. Moore-Ede reports small progress: It is no longer illegal for pilots to take controlled naps during long flights.

The "culprit" in this scenario, according to Moore-Ede, is the concrete (our word) mind-set of traditionally inclined managers and engineers who fail to acknowledge that human needs and limitations play any role in the operation of the multimillion-dollar technology of which the engineers are so proud. But, he says, "Do not blame the . . . engineers and managers. They are merely part of a culture locked in an outdated paradigm--the same culture that has doctors working thirty-six-hour shifts and bans catnaps by airline pilots; a culture that fails to understand the essence of human-centered design."

This failure to understand human limitations has caused such catastrophic incidents as the grounding of the Exxon Valdez, the nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the deadly chemical leak at Bhopal, India, the shooting down of an Iranian A300 airbus by the USS Vincennes (which proved to be a causative factor in the later bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland), numerous vehicle accidents--including the truck-bus accident in which pop singer Gloria Estefan was so badly injured--a majority of plane crashes--and thousands of near crashes that were averted only because someone was able to rouse flight crews who were literally "caught napping."

According to Moore-Ede, even the fateful decision to launch the space shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986, was made because the Mission Control crew were too exhausted to make the correct decision and delay the flight. The shuttle exploded 70 seconds after takeoff, killing all seven astronauts aboard, including the first civilian teacher/astronaut, Sharon Christa McAuliffe.

One would think that with all this evidence demonstrating the importance of the human factor in technology, scientists and government agencies would be eager to modernize archaic and dangerous practices. After all, human "error," including the "fatigue factor," costs American business 77+ billion dollars, conservatively speaking; worldwide the figure surpasses 377 billion dollars. Wouldn't it be cost effective to design equipment and work environments in which people were not prone to fall asleep on the job, on the highway, or in the air? Of course it would be. But changing the way things have always been done is not high on the list of most engineers or managers.

However, many industrial leaders are enlightened enough not only to listen to Moore-Ede's counsel but to apply it diligently. In his chapter entitled "The Power of Our Society" Moore explains: "In our experience, a greater proportion of nuclear power plants than any other type of around-the-clock facility have adopted strategies to improve shift scheduling and human alertness."

Some American hospitals no longer make interns and residents work thirty-six-hour shifts then hope they can make life-and-death decisions without literally killing their patients. They look to the example of New Zealand's medical system, in which doctors work a humane schedule by regulation, then by choice dedicate extra time to individual patients who need it, offering better patient care than is available in many American hospitals.

Federal Express was the first airline to factor ICP algorithms into scheduling flight-crew assignments. In spite of the fact that their "overnight" service requires that they have a higher ratio of planes in the air during the night than passenger airlines, FedEx holds one of the highest aviation safety records in the world, with no fatal crashes in their history. The reason the company jumped on ICP's bandwagon so early is that FedEx founder and CEO, Fred Smith, was a young man whose paper describing his basic "hub-and-phone system" delivery plan earned only a "C" in a business class. The instructor claimed the plan "wouldn't work"; the idea was too revolutionary for him.

Our work on the subject of Night Owls is revolutionary as well, and we claim Martin Moore-Ede as one of our "champions." Our goal is to raise the collective consciousness of millions of Larks and Owls. We teach Larks about the important role of Owls in our 24-hour society, and we educate Owls about themselves so they will no longer feel shame over their own Owlhood, in the hope that they can make the adjustments necessary to claim their rightful place in this fast-paced 24-hour society.

Martin Moore-Ede says it best: "The approaches we have used to improve human alertness and attentiveness . . . have been broad in scope because of the systemic nature of the problems. There is still much to do."

 

SLEEP, THE GENTLE TYRANT

by Wilse B. Webb
Anker Publishing, 1992

(Originally featured in Night Owl's Newsletter, Volume 2, Number 14)

Sleep. Everybody does it, at least for a few hours in each 24. But many people have trouble falling asleep "on time" and must force themselves to get up earlier than they would like. Others wake earlier than they think they should and can't get back to sleep. And too many people work rotating shifts and have trouble adjusting to the new schedules they're routinely forced into.

In Sleep, The Gentle Tyrant, world-renowned sleep researcher Dr. Wilse B. Webb of the University of Florida sheds light on the subject and leads some readers to the few solutions to sleep problems now known to medical science. However, in his preface Webb acknowledges that "even with these masses of data the answers to all the questions about sleep are by no means in, or even yet asked." As in other fields of medicine, we don't know more than we do know, in spite of the burgeoning mass of scientific data now available.

In Sleep, The Gentle Tyrant, Webb provides an overview of the knowledge emerging from sleep research laboratories, from information on the stages of sleep to the use of drugs to aid sleep. Indeed, the popularity of this relatively young area of health science has mushroomed in the last decade alone. While everybody sleeps sometime, a large percentage of people don't get enough of the quality sleep they want--or think they need.

Webb explains that "short sleepers" might be getting enough sleep, even though they think they need more. "Long sleepers" actually do need more sleep than the average person (sleeper). In fact, Webb states, there is no such thing as a "normal" sleep requirement, but the "average" sleep period is around 7 1/2 hours.

Some people must be in bed before 10 p.m., while others simply can't fall asleep until the wee hours, and wake-up times for each variation might be similarly early and late, though the overall pattern differs with individuals. These early and late sleepers are called, respectively, "Larks" and "Owls." Problems arise when people fail to understand their natural sleep needs and attempt to go against their very natures. Thus, they fall victim to Sleep, The Gentle Tyrant.

I was delighted to read that Webb does not advocate the use of drugs to promote or prolong sleep. While newer pills are being touted as "safer" than older prescription drugs, he warns that long-term use of any medication is dangerous. (I might add that most drugs are presented as "safe" when they first come out. Only after long-term use do many side effects show up, and this becomes clear only when many users report these problems to the drug companies. If you ever have any unusual side effect to any medication, ask your pharmacist how to report that reaction to the company that manufactures that drug.--DJ)

Webb explains that easily obtainable over-the-counter sleep preparations actually treat other conditions, such as allergies, but are sold as sleep aids because drowsiness is a side effect for most people. Even the benefits of so-called "health" preparations are unclear, in light of limited research into these substances, as well as dosage and strength variations.

The book is well organized, taking us from the basics of sleep such as structure and stages, from light sleep to REM sleep (the so-called "dream" stage), to such personal factors as how age and lifestyle affect the quality of sleep. A bibliography offers one-sentence reviews of more books on the subject. Though he claims dreams are the least important factor in sleep research, Webb devotes his longest chapter to the history of and various theories about dream interpretation. Since he reads a great deal about this least scientific aspect of his field of expertise, I suspect the skeptical scientist has a streak of romanticism.

Webb's book can be read on two levels, the technical and the practical. He provides enough data to explain conclusions about sleep now generally accepted by the scientific community, yet he writes so that the lay reader can easily understand it. He doesn't bog down the reader in technical language, and he is careful to point out when he interjects his own beliefs on questions still being tested by sleep researchers.

While Webb states eternal verities in the past tense. I prefer "sleep (still) is . . . ," a minor point. A bigger sticking point comes from his statement about people who find it hard to go to sleep early, Night Owls: "It is more likely to be a maintained social pattern of behavior." (page 73) Compare this with information on "Owls" on page 101: " . . . they now must, or wish to, go to sleep earlier, say at 11:00 p.m., in order to get up at 7:00 a.m. Because of the nature of biological rhythms underlying the sleep process, this is very difficult to accomplish. They must try to go to sleep when their temperature and body rhythms are working against them. This is the equivalent of the jet lag problem of a person traveling to the east."

Webb does explain some of the newest techniques, especially light therapy, now used to readjust circadian rhythms for people who simply cannot accommodate their body clocks to the pressures of the "real [Lark] world." He also admits there is much more to learn in this and other areas of the subject of sleep.

I've found Dr. Wilse B. Webb to be a truly open-minded scientist, ready to learn new things about the branch of science to which he has dedicated his life. And I find Sleep, The Gentle Tyrant to be an informative handbook for anyone who wants to learn more about the way they spend an "average" of one-third of their lives.

 

TWO QUICK REVIEWS

(Originally featured in Night Owl's Newsletter, Volume 2, Number 13)

Journalist Kevin Coyne interviewed night workers across the U.S., recording his impressions in A Day in the Night of America (Random House, 1993). The result will convince the most skeptical Lark that a vast Owl community exists beyond the cloak of Midnight.

A self-admitted Lark, Coyne claims in his Introduction that we go against our natures by staying up late. That ignorance, as well as a lack of reference notations, table of contents, and index, disappointed me. I also wish he had written his report in the present tense. Using the past tense gives the impression that Night is a country Coyne once visited, and now he's safe and comfortable back in his Home country--the good ol' Daytime. (If a tree falls in the Night and Coyne isn't there to hear it, does it fall on an Owl? Not!)

On the other hand, I preferred After Midnight by Michael Grumley (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1977, 1978). I feel this book is better than Coyne's, for several reasons. Coyne reports slices of Night life. Grumley tells the reader what it's really like to be an Owl in a Lark world. Even better, Grumley's book is written in the present tense. We ARE Owl!

 

 

© 2007 Debbie Jordan