How does your brain idle?
June 22, 2005 2:50 PM   Subscribe

What does your brain do in the background while it's idling?

If I'm doing something half-brained and repetitive, I can notice my brain going through its background routines:

-- I mentally pace out rooms in groups of five steps, with a set routine matching inside/outside steps to convex/concave articulations of furniture, etc.
-- If I'm driving, I count off car length in groups of (again) five, matching them to roadside features (reflectors, or guardrail posts).
-- I assign notes in a melody to different positions of my lower and upper teeth meeting, then click out the melodies on my teeth. If the melody has more than 9 notes, I can't do this.
-- If I'm away from home (let's say at a restaurant), I rehearse driving home, especially the details of getting out of the parking lot.

I had a friend who compulsively spelled words backwards. Other than that, no one has shared their mental screen-savers with me. Consequently, I wonder if I'm normal or if I ought to be lining up to be profiled by Oliver Sacks.
posted by argybarg to Grab Bag (53 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I'm constantly rehearsing for vocal performances, so if left on idle, my brain plays the songs I'm currently working on. In great detail, harmonies and background instruments and everything. (I've found that I have relative pitch because of this: my brain remembers the notes of the song in key.)
posted by Specklet at 2:57 PM on June 22, 2005

Physically, I would assume your brain repairs itself when not busy.

Otherwise, mentally, I tend to "replay" music in my head, sometimes, if alone (like when I drive! :-) I'll sing the lyrics too.
posted by shepd at 3:06 PM on June 22, 2005

I always have some song or another stuck in my head. It gets really annoying when I'm doing repetitive work, because often it's only 3 or 4 bars of the song, or it's out of order, or it's 2 songs that keep merging back and forth into one another. On the somewhat dubious plus side, I have amazing memory capacity for music - I can remember jingles and TV show theme songs from before I could remember every day activities.
posted by muddgirl at 3:10 PM on June 22, 2005

Oh, and there's also this particular minor melody that I learned back in middle school that we played on violin and tapped out on drums, so I drum that out with my fingers a lot when I'm not really thinking.
posted by muddgirl at 3:11 PM on June 22, 2005

No matter what I'm doing, one layer of my brain is always playing music.

Another layer of my brain is always pulling and tugging at whatever book or story I happen to be working on at the time.

Another layer is consumed by low-level anxiety, on par with "did I forget to turn off the stove?" Not all the time, but often.

There are other layers as well: The Memory Layer, The Hopes & Dreams Layer, The Sex Layer... etc.

If left on idle, my brain will shuffle through these layers like a deck of cards. Often I won't even know I've been thinking about something all day until that layer surfaces and my conscious mind can see it clearly.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 3:15 PM on June 22, 2005 [7 favorites]

I've been telling myself a story for the last 10 years, new characters come and go, people live, people die, it's the longest book I've ever read. Although to be honest, it's really starting to show that it takes it's roots in my teenage years, every once in a while I try to change "books", but I always come back to the core one...
posted by KirTakat at 3:18 PM on June 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

There's always music.

Somewhere there's music
How faint the tune
Somewhere there's heaven
How high the moon...

posted by ikkyu2 at 3:29 PM on June 22, 2005

Wow, you all are weird. I usually end up thinking about what's going on in my life and how best to deal with any current problems. Sort of stepping back and getting ahold of things. I suppose my brain is also telling my fingers to tap repetitively on whatever is nearby. But that's about it.
posted by trevyn at 3:48 PM on June 22, 2005

Music. Right now it's "If You're Happy and You Know It", because my son's got a toy that plays it and it (the song) is lodged in my head. If I'm driving, I calculate the distance (in car lengths or seconds) between the cars in front of/behind me and my car. I've also been idly planning and visualising how to decorate my kids' room for the last week in quiet moments.

I also go through phases where I mentally see a keyboard and I'm typing the words that run through my head. Usually that was after I'd written a paper for college.
posted by tracicle at 3:52 PM on June 22, 2005

when I'm driving, I look at license tags and try to form connections between the the numbers and letters upon them.

the rest of the time, I'm making up songs.
posted by mcsweetie at 3:55 PM on June 22, 2005

Words and language stuff. (Big surprise, right?) My mother told me that when I was a baby I used to recite all the words I knew before I fell asleep. But also music.

ikkyu2, that's one of my all-time favorite tunes.
posted by languagehat at 3:55 PM on June 22, 2005

When driving (or more typically as a passenger), I start pretending that the usual road bumps are the car making flying leaps, and attempt to coerce my mind into perceptively "landing" the car such that road lines end up between the tires. Also I move my head about in order to weave a selected spot or fleck on the windshield back and forth between the dotted lines without touching them as the car moves forward.

It's a good strategy for getting some very weird looks from fellow passengers.
posted by j.edwards at 4:24 PM on June 22, 2005

Think about sex?

Actually, when I drive, I play an odd game with mileage markers making the digits add up in a certain way.

Other oddness: I occasionally find myself moving two related parts of my body (thinking of my waist as an x-axis, and imagining a y-axis bisecting my body, and relating parts of my body as coordinates) no jokes about the z-axis, please
posted by ArcAm at 4:32 PM on June 22, 2005

Best answer: When I was young, I had an OCD regarding symmetry (thought I was a freak until undergrad psych, when I learned that it was the second most common, right behind hand-washing) so regardless of what I might be thinking about, I was counting things out, matching them up -- my right hand accidentally touches a hallway wall, I'd match it with my left, but that's not symmetrical, because I did right-then-left, so I'd do left-then-right, but of course that's RL,LR so next would come LR,RL, and so on. But with lines, numbers, anything. After awhile it became mean symmetries, then for awhile asymmetries, but always it played out in the back of my mind. Enormous number strings sometimes. Took a long time to kill.

These days I tend to do count-downs... I idly estimate a certain number counted-down until some event occurs, and then see if I'm close. Works especially well, incidentally, as a discipline tool ("only a 70-count till I can make that bathroom").

But most of the time, it's all about music. A mental soundtrack. And I've discovered that my subconscious has a sense of humour. If I pay attention to the song currently in my head, the title or predominant lyrics usually involve my current situation in a joke or pun. I've had to resist telling my sig other this, because sometimes what I'm humming is too telling.

Overall exception: in the morning on (far) too little sleep. Then it's all friggin nonsense, and a whole lot of it. Like a crowded party in my head.
posted by dreamsign at 4:38 PM on June 22, 2005

I remember reading at one point that having a song stuck in your head stimulates part of your lower brain, and that the dumber and simpler the song is, the more the lower part of your brain likes it. It's like having an inner moron.
Anyway, I sing to myself or work through stories that I'm writing.
posted by klangklangston at 4:40 PM on June 22, 2005 [4 favorites]

What trevyn and Fuzzy Monster said. My brain tries to do a lot of things at once, with varying levels of success. The main focus depends on my environment, most often I'm imagining potential consequences of future actions (as if my life is one big Choose Your Own Adventure book), or trying to anticipate the plot of the book I'm reading or the sequel to a movie I just saw. Sometimes I'm composing blog posts, other times just fantasizing or lingering on a memory or listening to the music in my head. Nothing abstract, in other words.
posted by cali at 4:52 PM on June 22, 2005

Bits of music for me, too: melodies moreso than harmonies, for whatever reason. If not that, then scenes from movies (it can be very vivid, to the point that remembering something from e.g. Tootsie or The Big Lebowski can make me laugh, prompting raised eyebrows and sidelong glances).

If not either of those, my brain runs off on flights of fancy (not a bad trait for writers, less useful for everyone else).
posted by Tuwa at 5:09 PM on June 22, 2005

Tall and tan an young and lovely
the girl from Ipenema goes walking
and when she's walking each one she passes
goes Aaaaaah

posted by Capn at 5:10 PM on June 22, 2005

Best answer: OT, but
When I was young, I had an OCD regarding symmetry (thought I was a freak until undergrad psych, when I learned that it was the second most common, right behind hand-washing) so regardless of what I might be thinking about, I was counting things out, matching them up -- my right hand accidentally touches a hallway wall, I'd match it with my left, but that's not symmetrical, because I did right-then-left, so I'd do left-then-right, but of course that's RL,LR so next would come LR,RL, and so on. But with lines, numbers, anything. After awhile it became mean symmetries, then for awhile asymmetries, but always it played out in the back of my mind. Enormous number strings sometimes. Took a long time to kill.

posted by dreamsign at 4:38 PM PST on June 22 [!]

Wow, it's really amazing to hear you say that. I had no idea the L/R thing was so common. I grew up Catholic, unfortunately, and very stressed due to different family health issues. I clearly remember early on, when the seed was planted. I took 'the right hand of thy father' to mean right was right and left was bad. I couldn't touch anything with my left had, without my right hand 'correcting' the situation by touching it last. This eventually led to my having to see things through my right eye last. This became a complex game of squinting and head tilting. I'd pray nightly. I was absolutely compelled to. The prayers became more and more difficult to complete (even though there would only be two or three prayers), as a crazy priest gave me the impression that one had to pray 'correctly' or else the prayers wouldn't work. This led to endless repitition of the same prayer over and over, sometimes for hours. This was incredibly odd, and yet somehow it all made sense to me at the time. Then I somehow became obsessed with the number 13, or more specifically avoiding it. 13 was bad. As was 4 (because it was a 1 and a 3 together(!)). 8 was bad (it's twice 4, ya see). 24, 26, 31, 39, 49, 52...bad bad bad. This number obsession combined with the endless prayer repitition made for some long nights, as even if my prayer was enunciated perfectly, in perfect timing, at a steady volume, it may have been prayer 13 or 104...etc, which called for a do-over.
I can remember seeing an Oprah or some similar talkshow on OCD. I had never heard the term before that. I can clearly remember absolutely and totally relating to the guests. I could both see how they were, well, freaks, but I also understood where they were coming from, because I seemed to be one of them.

Fortunately, my OCD seemed to have subsided over the last 10 years (haven't had any real symptoms for 8 or 9 or so, somehow. Anyway, thanks dreamsign. I'm off to google OCD stuff.

Sorry to derail!
posted by jikel_morten at 5:25 PM on June 22, 2005

counting (upwards), and tracing out the numbers as i do so with tiny movements of a finger.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:39 PM on June 22, 2005

Music. Always with a foreground part and backing stuff. Used to be band music, but since I've stopped playing sax it's usually vocals, either stuff I've been working on or whatever earworm I've picked up. Sometimes it's composing letters, or trying to solve a problem with a project in the workroom, or figure out the logistics of getting three people to three different places at the same time. When I'm driving long distance, it's usually messing with the mile markers or exit signs; but when I'm driving locally, it's music. I sometimes ask it to do something useful - figure out how I feel about something/someone, write a difficult letter, that kind of stuff.
posted by jlkr at 5:45 PM on June 22, 2005

dreamsign, I had that too. Still do, actually, though it comes and goes a little. While thing going on in the background of my head is always, always music, there's generally also a part devoted to doing things equally to both sides of my body. For example, when walking, both feet have to touch even numbers of sidewalk cracks, or crosswalk markings, or whatever. Makes my gait rather odd sometimes. When eating, I tend to try to make sure both sides of my mouth chew the same amount of food... This gets really annoying with things like Skittles or M&Ms, because then I have to worry about whether each side of my mouth is getting the same amount of each color, and whether I need to bite any in half to make things even, and so on. There are a few other behavioural patterns affected, but eating and walking seem to be the biggest.

There are other things that go on, of course - vague and useless thoughts about current problems, little non-sequiturs, quotes from books and articles that appear spontaneously. Sometimes I describe to myself the situation that I'm in at the moment, as explained by a narrator.

Mostly, however, it's music.
posted by ubersturm at 6:05 PM on June 22, 2005

Anxiety. But I take meds for that.

Sometimes music.
posted by sugarfish at 6:13 PM on June 22, 2005

Best answer: Wow, here I was thinking you were all weirdos since I didn't do anything anybody's mentioned (other than the spontaneous/involuntary song that won't go away thing), until ubersturm mentioned that narrator bit, and then I realized that I spend a lot of my idle time 'interviewing' myself (as on a talk show) or imagining (all too often argumentative) conversations, typically with a persuasive angle, where I try to speculate what someone would say and how I'd react to that. This sometimes leads to my changing my mind about an issue. My predilection for this might explain why I hit the blue and the green multiple times a day.

As part of this, some years ago that I tended to spend far too much of my mental life imagining hostile situations with the result of getting myself stressed out. I have reduced that drastically, but not completely, and have thus reduced the amount of stress in my life quite a bit. Maybe that insight will help someone....
posted by kimota at 6:38 PM on June 22, 2005 [4 favorites]



Well, boobies and other soft bits.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 7:01 PM on June 22, 2005

Figuring out what I should blog next. It's a rather good crutch to prevent me from obsessing about other more unhealthy topics.

On preview:
kimota: I realized that I spend a lot of my idle time 'interviewing' myself (as on a talk show) or imagining (all too often argumentative) conversations

I do that as well! Only I have to vocalize it, so it's not too convenient.
posted by of strange foe at 7:52 PM on June 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

If my brain is active and I'm not doing anything else, I read. I can't even pee without something to read.

If I want to silence my brain, I braid. Obsessively. Little braids, over and over, but they're never just right and I have to keep on going.

I'm probably undiagnosed OCD, considering the my symmetry and hand washing (until they bled!) of my youth. Someone once told me that you don't get an OCD diagnosis unless it inteferes with your life, though. It doesn't, these days.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:11 PM on June 22, 2005

I daydream. A lot. I have various fantasies I play out over and over. Or if I'm working on something I daydream about how it will be to have it finished i.e., if I'm knitting or sewing I often daydream about wearing it, how nice it will look on me, different things that might happen to me while I wear it.

The novel I'm currently writing plays in my head like a movie.

I make plans and try to figure out how to solve problems.

I also mull over the past (all too often reliving wrongs someone has done to me).

I don't have a lot of control over my mental processes. Basically, it's like herding cats and my mind will not leave certain thoughts alone no matter how much I want it to.
posted by orange swan at 8:25 PM on June 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

imagining (all too often argumentative) conversations

Argh. This has let off a bit since I left litigation, but the used to be, each night before court, I was incapable of not pacing and rehearsing. Still happens whenever I anticipate conflict (have to take back defective product, complain about bad service, etc.). I get completely wrapped up in these arguments, like full-on daydreaming. Stresses me OUT.
posted by dreamsign at 8:34 PM on June 22, 2005

I second (eleventh) music. What wierds me out is the insane "audiographic" memory I seem to have, to hear it back perfectly during these unfocused moments... but if I were to TRY, I couldn't remember song XYZ for shit.
posted by SpookyFish at 8:35 PM on June 22, 2005

Best answer: I make patterns by grinding my teeth, up and down, left and right. I tend to stick with one pattern for a few weeks until it evolves into something else; for the longest time I traced the Mac "Command" symbol.

A couple of years ago my brain would idle by envisioning objects in terms of nodes and Bezier curves, the component parts of the glyphs of a font.
posted by tepidmonkey at 8:42 PM on June 22, 2005

I've done a lot of these over the years. Music's always there - I have a good memory for music, even if I can't reproduce it well vocally. When I'm stressed, it's accompanied by teeth grinding/clicking. For about a year, I had one melody that would basically reset whatever was in my head, which was great until I found the full song, which broke that effect.

In my teens, I had the symmetry thing going on, but that's gone away. When I was younger still, I'd get/make mental feedback loops - have a word or phrase rattling around in my head, repeating faster until it was static. That wasn't very pleasant, though. Otherwise, I'll replay conversations that I've had or from shows that I've watched.
posted by sysinfo at 8:55 PM on June 22, 2005

Heh, croutonsupafreak sounds like me with regards to reading as well. I suppose I don't even notice it - it's like breathing. If there's text around me, I'll read it. Not quite sure if that counts as "what I do when my brain is idling", though, since I do tend to try to get engaged with whatever I'm reading, even if it's some awful magazine someone else left in the bathroom.
posted by ubersturm at 9:03 PM on June 22, 2005

I tend to watch scenes from movies I like and rewrite movies that I don't. I couldn't get episode III out of my mind for weeks because I was trying to work away all of the flaws. I tend to fix things in general in my head. For example, I will mentally change the clothes someone is wearing if they don't match or I will redecorate a room or redesign a poorly thought out appliance. I also look at people and try to imagine what animal they most look like.

When I hit a wall with software I'm designing I tend to leave it alone for a few days and my brain will work on it in the background. Usually within hours or days by brain will bing like a toaster and a solution will pop out.
posted by Alison at 9:16 PM on June 22, 2005

Best answer: I also click out melodies on my teeth. If I'm walking, I count my steps in groups of one hundred while "saying" left or right inside my mouth without moving my lips (that is, I'm moving my tongue to say the words without actually making a noise).

Sometimes when I going back to the house after being gone for a few hours, I imagine there will be a message on the phone when I return. The message will tell me my boyfriend/mother/sister/father has been hit by a car/run away/killed herself/had a heart attack. I don't try to think these things, they just sneak in. It makes me so anxious that I end up almost running home so I can check the messages. I usually can't sit still for almost an hour after these thoughts. It's really morbid, and I've never told anyone about it. I don't want them to think I am imagining their demise, but really, I guess I am.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 9:34 PM on June 22, 2005

Counting, usually in sets of anything from 3 to 7, occasionally 8 (but rarely, as that's just 2x4).

Arguing, all too often with parents. I'm 48, it still happens. I call it 'haunting'. It gets bad sometimes.

Remembering and associating those memories with others. I have very good recall of my past, I think this association is a good bit why.

Music. I grew up in music. Always sang, play keyboards. Sometimes my own music, sometimes other.

Sex. Duh? I'm male.

A story I want to write occupies my time now and then. The damn thing has grown HUGE and out of control. But its a huge premise (sci-fi).
posted by Goofyy at 10:34 PM on June 22, 2005

I replay pattern-based games in my head, if I've been playing one recently. Chess, Go, and Tetris in particular.

And of course the music. Lately I've been trying to figure out if I actually have music in my head at all times. It's certainly there whenever I'm thinking about it...

Sometimes when I'm working on something really incredibly mind-numbing and repetitive, my brain will rebel and start focusing intently on some topic I find fascinating, like cybernetics or genetic algorithms. I'll explore various facets of the topic with a sort of giddy fascination and not be able to change the subject for several hours. I wish I could invoke this mindstate at more opportune times.
posted by squidlarkin at 11:26 PM on June 22, 2005

tracicle, it's odd that you mention "If You're Happy and you Know It". I've had that song running through my head all evening and haven't been able to figure out where it came from.

Most of the time I just have noise running through my head, or snippets of songs, or stress about how much stuff I have left to do that day/week/month/etc. Occasionally I could swear my brain's background noise picks up signs of things that are about to happen (yes, I know, selective perception and all tha ). I'll idly think of an old friend, that instance, and that person will call out of the blue a few hours later.
posted by rhiannon at 11:34 PM on June 22, 2005

Wow! Am I the only Walter Mitty in the group? I lapse off into daydreams all the time. I have a lot of conversations with imaginary friends, but those are usually more serious and can be turned into something productive.

If I just close my eyes and let my mind go blank I usually see wonderful, colorful artistic images which always amazes me since I am so not artistic.

Do your night-time dreams resemble what you do when your are zoning out?
posted by phewbertie at 2:20 AM on June 23, 2005

I make mental lists of things that need to be dealt with. Bore-ring. When I'm trying to quiet my brain, when I'm going to sleep, I imagine my dream home, go through it detail by detail, what would be the perfect lighting, carpets, furniture, etcetera.
Oh also, the girl from Impanema (if I'm walking)
posted by slimslowslider at 2:34 AM on June 23, 2005

Often, when mowing the lawn or performing some other mundane activity, a name from the past will pop in my head. A person's name that I haven't though of for years or decades, and my brain will just keep repeating it over and over for a while, then just go away, and soon another name will pop into my head. Sometimes it's spooky because the person was seemingly insignificant in my life, a name I thought I had long forgotten. Very strange, the human mind.
posted by cincidog at 5:00 AM on June 23, 2005

phewbertie, no, not at all. I've wondered about that and, working from the belief that dreams are a matter of purging useless memories and 'burning in' useful ones, have tentatively concluded that my daydreaming about the same things all the time has basically burned in those 'experiences.'

Also, I've had that instantaneous, colorful, fully detailed artistic image thing happen to me a number of times (landscapes, architecture, even designs for women's clothing!), but almost always right before bed. It was most common for me when I started taking sublingual melatonin.

cincidog, I've done that, too, only it's usually slightly peculiar sounding names that my mind will seize upon like a jingle: Bruno Bettelheim, Reese Witherspoon.
posted by kimota at 5:34 AM on June 23, 2005

Oh, and the song incessantly replaying in my mind this fine morning is Good Charlotte's "Girls and Boys," only the chorus has morphed from "Girls don't like boys, girls like cars and money" to "Girls don't like boys, girls like Carson Daly."
posted by kimota at 5:36 AM on June 23, 2005

Best answer: i spend an absurd amount of time almost talking to myself, interveiewing myself, imagining conversations, as was mentioned, and even at times vocalising things as how i would say them in that situation.

dreamsign hit the nail on the head with the symmetry thing. it ends up being this endless game of half-assed "symmetry" that's really difficult to break. I remember when I first learned about symmetry--probably the catalyst for my OCD; in 4th grade, i remember in Art classes, learning about symmetry. seeing the line down the center of the paper was key.

and i'm not a neat guy at all. i'm totally, batshit-insane fucking lazy and messy. but certain things i need to do a certain way. when im around people it's kind of easy to hide it. i'm not ashamed, and i'll tell people if they ask, but it's just not really necesssary to get into.

i also have to do a lot of head-bobbing and body things, to music. it's kind of hard to mask but I make it look like just going crazy to songs and stuff, but of course I do it with things in nature, too--all the world's playing some form of music. I guess because of this and my brother I really like experimental and avante garde.

Otherwise, the music thing is very common. I love music and I hate myself for not having an mp3 player. I realised how much happier I would be if I had my absurd amounts of music on a portable beast. And I look at peoples' iPods...and I try not to be condescending...but it fails! I weep, and I weep. I want to rob them all of their iPods and make them my own.

my problem is i often have too many thoughts going on at once, and they all connect in some way. When I talk to certain people, my closest friend in particular, we always have conversation based on our similar rapid and related thought processes like this.

and i day dream...incessantly. I'm starting to write novels like Kilgore Trout...
posted by Lockeownzj00 at 5:50 AM on June 23, 2005

Fascinating. Great post.

I've usually either got the internal monologue or the internal jukebox going. I do the narrating my life thing, sometimes just words, sometimes in frames with pictures like a comic book. I get a random person's name every now and again, like cincidog. I get a random word and can't rest til I find out what it means. I have imaginary conversations with real people, usually my boyfriend, which scares him. And I always have a song, or riff, or melody in the background. Currently it's the opening riff from Children of the Revolution, because there's a fan in here making a noise with that sort of rhythm.

I'm a lucid dreamer, but my mental screensavers (love that!) don't really figure in my dreams.
posted by corvine at 6:02 AM on June 23, 2005

Arguing, all too often with parents. I'm 48, it still happens. I call it 'haunting'. It gets bad sometimes.

I get the same thing. I just keep playing the worst case scenario.

Also, I tend to replay anything upsetting or embarrassing moments over and over again. It gets to the point where I am so afraid of my thoughts that I have to be constantly stimulated (thought music, movies, etc.) just so I can avoid them.
posted by Alison at 6:06 AM on June 23, 2005

If you're talking when it's really idling, not active thinking or daydreaming, it's play music.

But it's always this: Powerhouse (especially the second part - you'll know it when you hear it)

And no, I'm not kidding.
posted by cptnrandy at 7:13 AM on June 23, 2005

Another day-dreamer here: things I hope will happen, things I fear will happen, things that have happened (I'm really good at picking at old wounds), things I know will never happen but are fun to think about. I always have some sort of internal dialogue going on. Sometimes I wish she would just shut up.
posted by deborah at 9:42 AM on June 23, 2005

Music. This morning it's Spirit in the Sky & God Bless the Child - because I heard them on the radio, and, damn you Capn, the girl from Ipanema. Then there's a layer of narration, a constant narration as my life turns into a novel (hopefully a slightly better class of novel than the pulp fiction it used to be.) Than there are the daydreams, full color, total plot, very exciting. Under that layer is the anxiety layer, which occasionally pushes itself forward; that's unpleasant, and under that is imagery, colors & maps & pictures & art. Under that is math, counting away & calculating, and under that, oddly enough, is a layer that constantly makes some kind of verbal sense out of what I'm hearing - birdsongs that go HEC-tor! HEC-tor! or a pile driver thwapping out I am Ozy-man-di-as King of KINGS. This is how I memorize numbers too, by their rhythm - PINs & phone numbers. And when I'm on the verge of sleep, my brain is either immersed as a character in one of several potential novel beginnings or it's designing things, like chicken houses and wings and fences - solid useful things with complicated carpentry joints that I probably couldn't actually do, but for some reason my brain finds pleasant to contemplate in detail.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:57 AM on June 23, 2005

Best answer: imagining (all too often argumentative) conversations

This happens to me a lot, too. If I'm alone, it'll be out loud and then someone will inevitably walk in and I'm embarrassed.

Also, tapping out rhythms of songs I learned in band in high school, particularly a certain 7/4 rhythm by Dave Brubeck (ONE two THREE four FIVE six seven). Trying to figure out the logistics of the next thing I'll sew or crochet, continuing the plots of TV shows or movies I didn't finish (or just arguing with the characters)... I had that symmetry thing for a while, especially the "must make sure each side of my mouth gets the same amount of food" thing, but I had forgotten about it until this post.

Oh yes, and worship songs. Damn that evangelical upbringing!
posted by heatherann at 12:37 PM on June 23, 2005

Music, narrating or imagining my life (past, present and future), typing in mid air the last thing I heard, read or wrote.

klangklangston: It's like having an inner moron.

(Enormous smile of recognition)

So that's who's hanging around in the back of my head. I was worried that I was really that stupid, but having an inner moron makes perfect sense.

I *heart* my inner moron...!
posted by penguin pie at 1:18 PM on June 23, 2005

(types) inner moron inner moron inner moron...
posted by penguin pie at 1:23 PM on June 23, 2005

Fantasy land. music, stories, crazy thoughts about things you'd like to do but you know are just, well, not good to do. e.g. walking up to your boss and just making a completely stupid face and seeing what happens.
posted by eljuanbobo at 3:22 PM on June 23, 2005

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