magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
On the topic of not-rocks, when I was growing up, I had a cassette tape that had a bunch of folk tales on it. One of them (if I remember correctly, which I very well may not) had to do with a king who was sick, and sent his three sons out looking for a magical cure. Two of the sons get bored of the quest and quit; the third actually found the cure and was bringing it back when his brothers found him, killed him, buried him, and took the cure home to claim the reward. But reeds grew where the good son had been buried, and someone cut the reeds and made a pan flute, and when the pan flute was played, it sang about the brother's death in his voice.

I mostly remember it because the song was creepy and got stuck in my head a lot.  I have never been able to successfully Google the story or its audio.  I really wish I could find it again, though, because nostalgia.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
So, Demonology! It's this universe I want to write in. Specifically, it's a universe I want to experiment with free fiction in. If you want to leave me prompts for the themes below, or questions which can be answered in prompts for the themes below, you go right ahead! The idea here is to get me writing.

I'll link the prompts below to their completed stories as I finish them, and add a (...) to ones whose fills I'm working on.

This is a table. It's a magical table. )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Trauma is a surgical disease. It is cured with bright lights and cold steel.

I can't remember where, when, or how I first came across a series of posts on Making Light called Trauma and You, but I am forever glad I did.

Trauma and You, despite its CYA-ish disclaimer (I am not a physician. I can neither diagnose nor prescribe. These posts are presented for entertainment purposes only. Nothing here is meant to be advice for your particular condition or situation.) does a pretty good job of walking you through a trauma scene – what you're going to see, what's going on behind the scenes (or under the skin), and what you should be doing about it. It provides mnemonics, statistics, and instructions, and if you're the kind of person who likes doing terrible things to your characters and having them patch themselves or each other up, it's a really great reference on how they should be going about that "patching up" thing.

But I think half the reason I keep coming back to it is that, even though some of the medical conditions described are enough to make your skin crawl (there was a meta-blog post elsewhere on the site, wherein one of the posters summed up the author's usual contributions as Long, bloodcurdlingly detailed advice from James D. Macdonald about what to do in event of some dire emergency (heart stops, house floods, leg falls off, children attacked by whale, etc.) Posters stunned into silence. Long, contemplative pause as commenters look thoughtfully at own houses, children, legs, etc. Timid, Piglet-like question. Terrifyingly learned and hope-destroying reply.), the post is often just fun, in a snappy, sardonic, and... occasionally hope-destroying way. Because you get advice like the ever-quotable [...]make sure the scene is safe. There is something over there that munches people. You are a people. Don’t get munched yourself. If you do get munched what you’ve accomplished is this: you’ve incremented the patient count by one and simultaneously you’ve decreased the responder count by one. On a scale from good to bad this is bad. Or the sheer pragmatism of When you’re dealing with trauma, your life is pretty easy. You have 1) Things that’ll kill your patient in the next five minutes, 2) Things that’ll kill your patient in the next hour, 3) Things that’ll kill your patient today, and 4) Things that you don’t really care about.

Trauma and You is broken up into five informative posts, with a couple of Final Exams at the end:

  1. The Basics. So, what’s trauma? It’s the physical world impinging on your tender body. Not to be confused with biology happening (in the form of bugs and germs), or chemicals (poisons, overdoses) happening, or your body breaking down and wearing out and going mysteriously wrong. No, this is more the Force of Gravity sort of stuff.

  2. Shock. Now it’s time to have our little chat about shock. Shock is what kills people. Shock, dear friends, is what will eventually kill you, personally. The only question will be how you got into shock to start with.

  3. Sticks and Stones. You can have a lot of fun memorizing bone names. (For example, the mnemonic for the bones in the wrist is “Some Lovers Try Positions That They Can’t Handle” for Scaphoid, Lunate, Triquetium, Pisiform, Trapezium, Trapezoid, Capitate, Hamate. (You can have even more fun memorizing the names and functions of the twelve cranial nerves, but that’s for another post.)

  4. The Squishy Bits. When crush injuries were first identified (in the trenches of WWI and the London Blitz of WWII) they ran around 90% fatal. Nowadays with fast and efficient EMS they’re down to 50% fatal.

  5. Burns. The amount of smoke inhaled is the number one predictor of mortality in burn injuries, way ahead of the age of the patient or the surface area of the burn. Continue to be suspicious with someone who has escaped from a fire. Sometimes the symptoms of smoke inhalation don’t appear for hours or days.

While I usually have to consult additional resources for various fictional traumas – like this shockingly relevant article on gunshot wounds to the chest, one of my major pieces of research for Misfire – and while I have no illusions that I get everything right when I do write about trauma, the Trauma and You series is almost always my first click, and I know there's a level of verisimilitude in my writing that wouldn't be there without it. Highly recommended.

Also highly recommended: a strong stomach when it comes to various traumatic medical things. Like amputation. And degloving.

Seriously, though, I could have gone my entire life without learning about degloving.

(Crossposted to my fandom journal.)
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Finally got around to making carrot soup tonight, which was a process which started quite some time ago when I came home with ~2 pounds of carrots and a white onion, which progressed through soaking some chickpeas and then simmering them with a sprig of rosemary, and which culminated in me staring at this recipe for a while, then going "Fuck it" and making something up as I went along.

FUCK YOU I'M A CAT, basically. Except I'm only metaphorically a cat. Because cats don't cook. They have people to do that for them. )

BART song

Jan. 7th, 2013 08:33 pm
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
1. I've made a routine out of my commutes in the morning and evening. I have the good fortune to be located along the BART line at stations where I can generally get a seat going both ways; even during the morning rush, when by Oakland the trains are packed full, standing-room-only, I'm generally tucked into a seat by a window where the morning light (when there is morning light, rather than drifting fog or steady rain) can pour in on me. These days, when I've managed my energy well enough that I'm not completely exhausted, too tired to think, I read. It's a 45-minute ride each way, which clears out a precious hour and a half for me to sit down and devour books. Which is an unparalleled luxury, given how little I was able to read before I came out here.

Little to do with reading. )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I had this post roughly sketched out in the back of my head, but then my week got all crazy, my basement flooded, and I got sidetracked by writing about space elevators and hydroponic roses, so here's the distilled essence of the Post That Never Was:

Anna Hazare is awesome. You should all take a look at "Escaping Poverty: The Ralegan Siddhi case," and then we should all get started on sensible watershed development here. And everywhere. Though possibly Iowa City needs a different sort of watershed development program than Ralegan Siddhi needed, given Iowa City's aggravating tendency to either flood the Arts Campus or flood my basement.


Oct. 5th, 2011 07:38 am
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
You know, I'm agnostic-skeptic when it comes to omens and signs. I think most of the weird coincidences we see are just coincidences, and not actually that weird. It's just that we notice them, and the billions of tiny co-occurrences that don't hold any special similarity go unnoticed because there's no reason to give them any attention. "I wrote a blog post about gluten-free desserts, and then I turned on the radio... and there was a story about an embassy bombing!" ...okay? That sort of stuff happens all the time, with overwhelming frequency, yet it's always the "I was thinking about quitting my job, and a copy of the newspaper classifieds blew onto the sidewalk in front of me!" events that get all the attention. "What are the odds!" As it turns out, just what it took for the event to happen, and all the dreg is still there in your peripheral vision.

But, you know, that doesn't stop me from going after the "signs" and "omens" that do crop up in my life. It's a magical-consciousness thing.

By which I mean: in my low-key, homegrown magical practice, a big central philosophy is bricolage: "to make creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are at hand (regardless of their original purpose)". So when I write a post about being afraid to move forward and then the next day I wake up to a Live Your Legend mailinglist email about how the biggest threat to your success is quitting, and once you get that under control, all the other risks are small potatoes, I still interpret it as basically a message from $god*.

*Here I'm using the PHP variable syntax – $variable_name – to indicate, basically, "god-of-choice". God is another thing I'm both faithful and agnostic on.

And that's because I've taught myself to glean meaning and inspiration from things. Meaning, motivation, inspiration, and direction are things I need in my life, and I know that I sometimes have to be creative in fulfilling those needs. So when I see a coincidence that I can use to feed into my motivation – in this case, it's a "sign from the universe not to give up" – the framework of my thinking goes something like this:

Something called itself to my attention. => Is there meaning I can ascribe to this? => Is the potential meaning helpful or harmful? Can I interpret it in a way that makes it helpful? => If it's helpful, DUDE! It's an OMEN! If it's harmful, whoo, look at that, it's another wacky coincidence, and I go on my way.

This is a pretty blatant logical fallacy, of course – it's the same sort of thinking that contextualizes a misfortune that happens to someone of $x_particular_faith as a "test of faith" and an identical misfortune that happens to anyone else as a sign of $god's displeasure. But I'd rather look at it as a mindhack. Yeah, it's spurious and completely arbitrary, but I'm aware of it and can watchdog it so its net effect on my life is positive and it doesn't harm anyone else. I can glean a spot of inspiration from my own coincidences, and if I ever come across an arrangement of rocks in a stream that seems to spell out KILL THEM ALL, I'll take a picture and share it on Twitter with a note about how wacky patterns in nature can be.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Every once in a while I realize how idiosyncratic the shapes and conventions of my world are to their particular points in time. The visual arrangement of the walls and ceiling and doors and decorations in my room are only available as I perceive them from the posture and position in which I sit to observe them, in the time when exigencies of finances and the social freedom of being a bachelor-type (if not in all regards a bachelor) drive me toward certain arrangements of housing. In my life, the things which were familiar to me will become foreign to the welling society. As a kid, I used to be fascinated with film canisters; I used to keep small keepsakes in them or fill them with some concoction or other to pretend that they were magical potions. It struck me as I was sitting here that fewer and fewer people are going to recognize them by sight, as time goes on. Fewer people will know what I'm talking about when I mention them. Film canisters.

I spend so much time in the back of my head or off in other worlds that I don't pay much attention to the granular detail of the world around me. As a result, even details of familiar environments seem novel and surprising when I turn my attention to them. I don't consciously process the arrangement of my room. I don't consider the makeup or implication of the clutter on my floor. I don't remember the tiny truths tucked away inside my memories. Except that sometimes I do, and the world gets this cast of realness to it, and it's strange, and frightening, and heartening. And foreign, and familiar, all the same.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Yesterday's xkcd had an interesting challenge in its mouseover-text.

Wikipedia trivia: if you take any article, click on the first link in the article text not in parentheses or italics, and then repeat, you will eventually end up at "Philosophy".

So far, I've tried it with Spark Plugs, Banana Slugs, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Chuck Palahniuk, Infantry, Carnarvon (Western Australia), and Fatal Hilarity. It all works. Usually inside of twenty-thirty clicks. After doing this long enough, you begin to see certain patterns and get a feel for when you're getting close to the Philosophy goal. For example, once you hit Natural Science or Social Science, you know there's no escape.

I think it has everything to do with the format of defining everything in more-general terms. So you can start with something that seems entirely unrelated to anything philosophical like Vilii, a "type of yoghurt (a mesophilic fermented milk) that originated in the Nordic countries," with a "ropey, gelatinous consistency and a sour taste resulting from lactic acid," but Viili is a kind of yoghurt, which sends you on through dairy product » food » plant » living (and here you start thinking, uh-oh, we're on the track for philosophy) » objects » physics (and here, the physics link is marked as already visited; you end up at physics in a lot of the paths) » natural science (remember how I said there was no escape?) » science » knowledge » facts » information, sequence, mathematics (admittedly, once you get onto the "information" leg, it does circle around a little), quantity, property, modern philosophy (uh-oh), and finally, philosophy.

There's already a significant amount of talk on the phenomenon on the Philosophy "Talk" page. People have found articles that put you into an infinite loop (as of this writing "understatement" was the first qualifying link in the Ernest Hemmingway article, and the first qualifying link in the understatement article was "Ernest Hemmingway"), but it seems to hold true for the majority of articles people have tested.

So, there's your random minor mindblow for the day.


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