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Monday, 3 March 2008


There's nothing I love more than a really good laugh, and being a generally happy person, I laugh quite often. The only problem is that I suffer from narcolepsy with cataplexy, and so "falling about laughing" is absolutely literal in my case. My favourite television programme is "You've Been Framed", and for half an hour a week I am completely incapacitated by home video funnies.

It's only because of the brilliant support of Mr. Kizzy that I'm able to fully appreciate the show, though. In our house, it's Mr. Kizzy who looks after the video recorder, and always makes sure we get You've Been Framed on tape, even though he doesn't like it himself at all. The problem is that, once a particular clip has got me going, my head drops and my eyelids droop, so I don't get to see the next couple of clips, even though I can hear the soundtrack. By having a copy on tape, I can watch it again to see the bits I missed the first time.

Sometimes, I've thought that what I need is a soft neck brace, so that I can keep my head upright when I know that I'm going to laugh, but that still leaves the problem of trying to keep my eyelids open.
Then I found this device. It's called the "Lundie Loop", and I actually found it through the website of the Myasthenia Gravis Association.

Myasthenia gravis is a much more serious and debilitating condition than narcolepsy, and is characterised by - as the phrase translates from the Latin - excessive muscular fatigue. Its cause is entirely different to cataplexy, and affects a much greater range of muscular groups.
As with cataplexy, though, one of the signs is involuntary drooping of the eyelids. The Lundie Loop is designed to help sufferers to keep their eyes open, even when the muscles are too weak to lift the lids themselves. Whether it works or not, I don't know. I just found it rather intriguing and highly ingenius. I might try to get hold of one, and see how it works for me.

I am, of course, only being semi-serious, although I'd genuinely be prepared to wear almost anything that works - Lundie Loop included, if for example I'd paid for tickets to see a favourite comedian perfom live. I'd love to have the joy of laughing uninterrupted through the whole show, and without missing any of it.

There is a line that I'd draw, though. I cannot tell you how wonderful this "Pillowig" concept by Joon Youn Park looks to me, but I'd never wear it. Even for a person like me who is relatively unconcerned about what other people think, it's a step too far.

Even so, it just looks so wonderful - whenever I get one of my sudden, crushing, sleep attacks (and I'm talking about sleep now, not cataplexy) this photograph has the same effect on me as I think a picture of Willy Wonka's factory would have on a chocoholic. It is genuinely only a concept design, anyway.

This Sleeping Jacket, on the other hand, is just brilliant, and be ideal for both sleep and cataplectic attacks. As far as I can tell, it's genuine, too, from a designer called Matthew Gale. Finally, it brings me to my wonderful, newly discovered Latin word of the day...

...Excubo. I sleep outside.


Here's a really nice, easy way to make a bit of money online if you live in the UK. Some time ago, I came across YouGov, a survey and opinions website run by the UK government. Once you've signed up and completed a simple profile about yourself and your household, you start receiving email notifications of surveys that you can complete. Some surveys are paid, at 50p each, and others give entry to a prize draw for a much larger amount, perhaps £20,000. You don't have to do them, and can still stay registered as long as you want. It costs you nothing, and you don't get any spam.

Unlike other "Get paid for surveys" sites I've used, the software works well, even though I use Firefox. I also don't find myself going through the frustrating process of answering half the questions, only to be told that I don't fit their required profile. When I'm notified of a YouGov survey, it is always possible to complete it, and the payment is always credited.

I don't get notifications very often, perhaps about two or three a month. The questions range from what kinds of technology products I have or might consider buying, to my opinions on particular household brands, to my political views and preferences for certain politicians. They're quite interesting to do, and only take about ten minutes each. The money you earn is credited to your account, and you can view your survey and payment history by logging in to your account. When you get to £50, they send you a cheque.

One of the best things about it, though, is a relatively new introduction. If you have friends and family who'd like to sign up, you can download a personalised link, like the one that I'm using here and in the sidebar. For each new member that signs up via your personalised registration link, you receive equivalent amounts in survey credit for each survey they complete during their first three months of membership. If you can recruit a few people, that's actually pretty impressive, as it's not just a percentage commission, but the whole survey fee, per referral.

Okay, I won't be retiring on my YouGov income anytime soon, but it's quick and easy. The referral bit has a lot of potential. I'm actually worried that it might be so generous that it costs them more than they thought, and they might withdraw it. I think it's worth getting in there now and referring a load of friends, and enjoying the benefits while they last.