Honest, Mr NSA Guy, I’m a writer…

Or, what’s in your search history lately?

Mine’s pretty tame right now – through-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, mostly. Well, except for that long search into finding out if different types of explosives leave different smells at the blast site, and if so, what they are. Um. Hey, if you think that’s a deep rabbit hole, you should see the time I lost three days into researching various impact craters in the solar system (There are some much bigger ones than we’ve found on earth!)

By the way, don’t be like the mystery writer who called her local PD and asked what the best places to hide a body would be. Please. Or, at least, introduce yourself as a writer well in advance before you ask that kind of question….

Well, I’m off to go investigate lava tubes and hair braiding styles… what are you looking up?


  1. Places in Long Island to put a Catholic High School, ideas on the reaction of people to unusual events, PTSD, and how to make cross-cultural yuri relationships work.

  2. Hotels/ Air B&B’s around the Brisbane river. And S&W K Frame revolver parts/accessories.

    1. And the ever ongoing search on Reverb for bass guitars & amps I can’t afford and will never buy.

    1. Make something up. There’s no -real- knockout drops, just amazingly dangerous overdoses of narcotics. I suggest the ground-up seeds of the Snaffle Bush, picked during the full moon.

      NSA please note, there is no such thing as a Snaffle Bush.

      And yeah, I know you’re reading this at work. Lazy!

  3. The techtonics, stratigraphy, minerology, and biome of the Tibetan plateau, bird lungs, bat wings, and how flame thrower work. Also how bad WOULD a pig goat cross be for the world?

      1. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/

        This is a really good site, and the search function labels whether each article is ‘open access’ ‘free” or pay/membership. There’s several available ones on Tibet’s tectonics and stratigraphy which’ll get you at the minerology. I’m really tempted to drop the $50 to join them for more access. Between them and getting an annual membership at the university library, I should be able to actually start finding some of the non-industry articles I want. *rock geek squee*

        Mindat is a good one for what minerals are found in an area (though not always good at narrowing it down to very localized regions), as is Webmineral for decent information on the minerals themselves.

  4. Oh, good grief! Taking my search history yesterday, and selecting only every 5th entry:

    – Magazines for Ruger 10/22 rifle;
    – Security and anti-spam software for my forthcoming Web site;
    – Downloading human consciousness into computers, and using it to re-animate cloned bodies;
    – Theories of hyperspace travel, and whether interception of other spacecraft in hyperspace would be possible, and if so, how;
    – The interface between business and politics in a society run by downloaded humans and self-aware artificial intelligences;
    – Wildfires in Western history, and their effect on ranchers and horse breeders;
    – Murder as a crime when the victim can be re-animated – were they in fact dead, from a legal perspective, if they’re now alive again?
    – Obtaining vital industrial supplies from a blockaded, embargoed country or planet during a war;
    – Encephalitis as a possible factor in aberrant behavior;
    – The rescue of survivors from the MS Dunedin Star on Namibia’s Skeleton Coast in 1942;
    – the Great Dublin Whiskey Fire.

    That do?

    1. FYI, John Erickson (Hank the Cow Dog) will have a book about range fires coming out next year if all goes well. One of his arguments is that the fires of the 1880s-1900s in the Texas Panhandle and South Plains were so terrible because without the bison, a fuel load built up during the wet 1870s, with predictable results. Not certain how you’d quantify that, but it’s certainly plausible based on my own research.

      1. My dear late Dad was a research biologist, and a practicing ecologist before the term became so debased. He taught us how the cycle of fire and regrowth as built into the western ecosystem. Heck, some of the California native chaparral plants have seeds that do not properly germinate until they have been heated to a certain degree. The fire cycle – that the chaparral is set to burn off every twenty to thirty years is something that can’t be bargained with. The longer you put off the fire, the worse, and the hotter it will be when it does burn. And the greater the odds that it will leave more lasting damage.

        1. Heck, some of the California native chaparral plants have seeds that do not properly germinate until they have been heated to a certain degree.

          Every time I read something like that, I remember that eucalyptus trees count on brush fires to help them explode (and the damn explodey trees are everywhere in not just forests, but suburbs as well), and Australian raptor birds actively spread brush fires in order to flush out prey animals for easy pickings.

          Oh, another nickname for eucalypts is ‘widowmaker’ because of their propensity to suddenly break off branches (apparently, as another method of spreading) with so little warning that death by fallen branch caving in your cranium is still a thing. Also a common cause for car insurance payments.

          Conclusion: Most Australian flora and fauna survive by being gigantic assholes (for a particularly WTF example, the gympie gympie tree), because Australia. And yet somehow, the sugar glider came to be.

          1. and apparently the local tribes near L.A. that still retain some of their old stories talk about the entire valley being on fire….

            1. I recall a California friend of mine once telling me that apparently the state once had a drought that lasted 400 years. How did anything survive?

                1. Yep. One prone to occasional flash floods, though. It’s near enough to a desert; the only thing that makes the place viable is a) flood control, and b) water piped in from a long way away. It was an interesting place in the mid-19th century – even more violent than the worst of the gold camps in Northern California.

                  1. which is why the Los Angeles River has a concrete canyon to make sure it goes where its supposed to. in iirc the 20s a sudden flash flood made the river change its route and it wiped out an entire neighborhood.

            1. That is a serious asshole rat bastard of a tree, ain’t it?

              The thing that got me was finding out that the fruit of the damn thing is edible.


              And it’s an edible fruit that is bland – not worth the hazard, nor the chancing of a year+ worth of pain (and I read somewhere that some folks have gotten stung with stored, dried gympie gympie leaves that were in storage for half a century or more!)…

              Then I realized something even more horrible: In order to find out that the fruit was edible… someone was desperate enough to try it.

              I’m not sure that even starvation would make me want to try that fruit. Though… it does occur to me that perhaps the attempt may in fact have been an attempt at suicide.

          2. Ah yes. It’s unfortunate the eucalyptus trees are an invasive species in California. Most brittle wood I’ve ever encountered. Worse than willow or cottonwood.

              1. Pine trees will definitely do it, because pine tree sap is the natural source for turpentine.

    2. Murder as a crime when the victim can be re-animated – were they in fact dead, from a legal perspective, if they’re now alive again?

      I think in current legal perspectives, that’s only attempted murder; having been brought back, and not permanently killed, you’re not in violation of the Paypal License Agreement. * So you can still have a Paypal account!

      *This was in the news lately; someone had died, and Paypal sent the widower a notification that their deceased wife was in violation of the Paypal license agreement by being deceased. That’s some LOL-horrible AI generated automail.

  5. Poisons, Forensics (I have quite a list of sites!), questions related to physics/chemistry (specific to a crime, or to space travel/habitation on an alien world). Right now, I’m learning lots about epidemiology/bio-terrorism.

    1. I still remember the writer talking about how her husband decided to get her something she really wanted for Valentine’s Day. Went to the store, got some help, and part way through the search, the clerk learned WHY he wanted the Writer’s Digest Guide To Poisons.

      He said, “I consider it an expression of trust.”

  6. Video games. Last night I looked up a bunch of Sunrise Mecha anime. (I’d been meaning to track down the wiki for Valvrave, and my first spelling was wrong. Add in Cedar’s question and…)

    A certain geometry and condition of fluid mechanics. (This is a major push at the moment. But a very different area of fluid mechanics from what TXRed is doing.)

    I’ve just started reading Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer.

    I have some material I need to go back over.

    I have some things on a medical subject I’ve been meaning to find the time to track down, but for health reasons my time management has been worse than usual.

  7. Pinterest user demographics (for school), user demographics of my own social media platforms/pages (for school), and cowboy action shooting (for when I graduate and actually have money).

  8. Popular literary magazines in the late Victorian age. Mythological animals. Various real estate terminologies. I think I’m probably safe from the cops at the moment, even if I did weird out our real estate agent a little bit with all my questions.

  9. Mine’s pretty boring of late, but I’ve been doing more non-fiction writing than fiction (multiple stories bogged down, so I figured it was time to see if catching up on some non-fiction projects would get things moving again).

    Several different searches on joint pain.

    A bunch of mapping questions

    Ontological inertia

  10. Spanish land grants in early Texas. A good name for a made-up grant, checking a name through google translate. Origins and background of the first Spanish governor of Texas. Years of the Borgia papacy. And names of ancient towns in Israel. About the usual for me.

  11. bridges, pigs, human space flight risk. And, me too, on the lava tubes, although not recently.

  12. Reading in a hurry left me with lava tubes being braided and I thought I’d have to go look that up immediately!

    My history: drone laws, hit and run situations, sheep stealing, small colleges, diet food. (The last is not going into a book.)

  13. I tried to learn something about how beat cops would handle a riot situation at a cosplay/costumer convention (or any SF con I guess) with 15,000 members and reports of multiple shooters as well as ‘someone doped the place with hallucinogenic gas’.

    Can someone point me at a site that tells writers how real-world police handle these things?

    1. Your regular patrol officers would probably not handle such an event directly. Past a certain size, you do not want to be a single person against a mob. The mob will crush and never realize you are even there.

      There may be no such site. Why? Because if things don’t turn into a horrible mess, it will be because competent people at the city police department will have prepared for such a contingency. Which means nonlethal crowd control combined with a disciplined force that is lethally armed to deal with the shooters. It might be doable, see the situation with Black Lives Matter in Dallas. I don’t know how big that riot was. If a police department has a good plan, they probably would not advertise it beforehand in detail, because potential adversaries might be able to identify weaknesses, and be able to make things worse. If the police department’s plan is bad, they may not want the scrutiny either. Kratman did cover a hypothetical national riot police unit in his column at everyjoe. Most police departments are probably more concerned about bad PR of such discussion than Kratman is.

      It does matter whether the police in question are US or, say, Eastern Europe, or in Panama during the 1980s. 🙂

      Or are you looking at an answer like ‘radio HQ, maybe observe, maybe talk to people on the edges, or direct traffic away, but do not go in’? I’m at best a vaguely interested layman. A riot situation involving 15,000 might well get the national guard called in. And, long term, anime conventions shut down.

      1. Thanks for the response.

        Also, I should say that in this situation, you gave people being turned into whatever character they were costumed as, physically and often mentally as well (boy that killed this idea, didn’t it?). So you have people who are basically superhumans, monsters, Imperial Stormtroopers — the 501st fan organization was there in force — etc., many of whom are either packing now-working weapons that are incredibly dangerous or have personal abilities that are just as bad.

        And all of them are panicking because when the change hit, it hit everyone in the con center who was in costume all at once.

        I know, it’s a ludicrous idea but it’s sticking in my head.

        1. I don’t take “It’s absurd” as cause to stop analyzing and developing a story idea. “I’m bored” or “I can’t seem to find any plausible fixes for this contradiction that kills the story dead” will eventually stop me.

          You might want to look into the management of your nearest large enough convention center, and ask them if they have a plan for crowds getting wild. You may have better luck there.

          I’m very into fanfic, and this includes Buffy Halloween fic. So the mass transformation only causes me to wonder if there are better places to focus beyond what the police are doing, or going to do. Comes down to the cause and mechanism of the transformations, and to intent of the story.

          Why intent? Say you have a hundred characters to focus on in a story, and are picking five from that. Picking the five vilest of the hundred will present one image to the reader, and the five most admirable another, even if the same events occur, and each of the hundred makes the same choices in both scenarios. Those are extremes, and the choice of the hypothetical five is a philosophical one that makes a claim about society. Some authors say all men are vile, some say all are good, some say there are a mixture and that choice is important. The story you want to tell will set some of the assumptions that drive your story design.

          Are people transformed only into bad people, only into good people, or into a mixture depending on various factors? What is the distribution of that mixture? 1 in 4 in costume would give something like 3750 people being transformed. What’s the breakdown of that? My taste is for pockets of order and self-organization. Some fictional characters are unlikely to panic, and some have very good leadership skills in chaotic conditions. Saber Arturia is one common costume that might well be that way. What of the untransformed people? Out of thousands, there would be some who are disappointed that they weren’t wearing something awesome.

          And the distribution of transformations potentially says something about the society. The 501st. The people who dress up as that don’t imagine the 501st as being the worst and most hardbitten war criminals in the Imperial Stormtroopers. So picking that for the transformations would be an authorial thumb heavily on the scales. And so would an extremely powerful, destructive or infectious transformation that does not somehow have a combination of transformations that can counter it in the nick of time.

          Compared to what could be happening inside the convention, the police disaster response seems boring. Organized police organization response would seem more interesting if the convention problem was something like mythos terrorists, or something. If an outside police perspective is necessary, maybe have someone stupidly rush in? Someone near retirement and outside of the mainstream of the organization, a cowboy, or a rookie who missed the training. Or someone who happened to be in the area, in a cop costume independently of the convention. The latter would justify not being in contact with the city PD.

          The police organization can have people in place direct traffic, urge calm, and stay in radio contact. Anything else requires moving people, and while that happens, panic can calm. The transformees probably aren’t cohesive enough to panic as a mob, and the non-transformees might not not be dangerous enough to keep people scared. Sustaining the panic might require a continuing battle involving transformees. Who are maybe not in groups, hence don’t have as much ability to endure by sustaining causalities. I think by the time the National Guard can be called up, or whatever, there is a good chance that the convention situation may have run its course, unless things go very badly and get very unpleasant.

          1. Marion Harmon did a short of that in one of his Wearing the Cape stories. And I seem to remember both a Saturday morning cartoon, and one of the Disney afterschool shows sometime in the past 20 years that had episodes like that too.

        2. Sounds like Mr Harmon’s description of the Lucas Oil Stadium riot in Wearing the Cape: Young Sentinels.

    2. Here’s a white paper to give you the terms to search, and a lot of setup info: https://cdpsdocs.state.co.us/safeschools/Resources/COPS%20Community%20Oriented%20Policing%20Services/COPS%20Planning%20and%20Managing%20Security%20for%20Large%20Events.pdf

      But a quick note: there are two basic methods: dispersement, and containment. Los Angeles prefers dispersement, which directs the mob to move away from their focal point, until they’re split up into sufficiently small groups of human beings that they are no longer prey to the mob mentality.

      The major flaws with this: you have to have somewhere for the mob to go, and they’re going to cause a lot of property damage and grow as opportunistic looters join under cover of the original rioters. Also, you aren’t going to catch the majority of the rioters… which leads them to feel that they can do this with impunity, again and again and again…. including on the same night.

      Containment involves shutting down their access to anywhere else, and rolling them up from the sides/back. In third world nations, this involves herding them into a public square and then shooting them like fish in a barrel, and arresting the survivors. In the US, this means forcing them to fall back, while detaining all the ones that come up against you and handing them back to the paddy wagons, zip-tied and read their rights while they’re still screaming from the pepper spray and the “You can’t do this to me! You pig!”, shuttle them to the jail and back for another load, until you run out of mob.

      The major flaw with this: it takes massive manpower to arrest and process that many people, and the media hates you (especially if you arrest reporters who were gleefully rioting with the expectation that their press badges would give them total immunity.) On the other hand, one and done, and they don’t reform for riots elsewhere, and the property damage and rioting is far less.

      1. I don’t trust the LAPD’s techniques for anything after seeing how they handle barricaded suspects.

        1. If I may ask, how does the LAPD handle barricaded suspects? I’ve heard some bad things about them from friends of mine out there, but little specific.

          1. they throw in tear gas grenades. the grenades light a fire, the building burns down.

      2. Thank you for the link, Ms. Grant. The main problem with either of those options here is that the police would be dealing with many people who either have things like energy weapons or are physically capable of ripping you apart with their bare hands.

        1. Thing is, you’d have some of the powered folk helping the police, and working to regain control. Captain America types and Superman types as an example. Heck depending on how you handle the Storm troopers, they might help the police if they see them as other servants of their accepted authority, though some of that will depend on what scrambling the event does to your heads. Some would depend on how much is overwritten and how much is s blend of old and new.

          1. Yeah. If you lean on the scale, and get 4,000, say, Darkseids, game over, and not even a fun game over. 4,000 Sailor Moons would also be dull.

            4,000 evil supers that are still vulnerable to bullets? It is a contest, albeit an ugly one. Would not perfectly match any existing doctrine.

            A bunch of high tier but not bullet proof villains? Rorschach, Aquaman, Captain America, Batman, Iron Man, Wonder Woman and Thor might be a good combo against. There are situations where Raoh might be on team Good Guy. But if he is the major villain, you might want someone of Heihachi Edajima’s caliber against him.

            But if you make Cars from Jojo one of your villains, you’d better bring someone capable of taking him down, or making him go away.

            1. And while most conventions will have a fair number of people cosplaying the same person, it still tends to be very mixed, so there’s going to be a lot of good guys as well as a lot of bad guys.

  14. Heh. I’m innocent, I tell you!

    In other words, I’m on a self-imposed internet detox regimen at the moment. One hour of access a day doesn’t give me much time for mischief.

  15. V-280s, Naval Academy, Barrett rifles, Longhorn cattle genealogy, California fire maps, to name a few.

  16. Eric Frank Russell, Brazilian steakhouses, LED lighting power sources, hypopnea, Celia Hayes, JSON, Facebook replacements, how Latin became Italian, and God knows what else. (That’s just from my recent history.)

  17. “. . . don’t be like the mystery writer who called her local PD and asked what the best places to hide a body would be.”

    Well, if I ever wanted to write a fluffy romantic murder mystery, this would be the perfect way to get my ditzy writer introduced to the cop of her dreams.

      1. They told her “very nicely” that if she wanted to know, she just had to come down to the station and they’d be happy to help!

        …and when she actually came down, she reported that they seemed “a little surprised and awkward until they understood I was an author!”

        *sinal salute*

  18. Fiberglass insulation, natural arches, a variety of state parks (based upon the natural arches search results), Chrome autofill problems, early Airstream floorplans, restoring acrylic, planes and spacecraft of the 1950’s and 1960’s, SQL Server version numbers, Maasai, beef rouladen (nearest place where it is regularly on the menu is a hundred miles away at the Rathskeller in Indianapolis, darn it), OpenStreetMap, hammerforming….

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