Category Archives: Science

Fan Coolness….

Long ago, I wrote a blog answering the question, “If I mail you a book, will you sign it?”

It that blog (which included a flow chart that I’m still pretty proud of) I explained the truth of the situation. Specifically, that I’d be happy to sign your books, but there are complications. Books get lost in the mail. Books get damaged. It takes time for me to sign a book, time to package and unpackage it, time to go to the post office, money to ship it, etc.

Generally speaking, it’s easier, safer, and faster to just buy a signed book in our online store: The Tinker’s Packs. Plus the money you spend there goes to charity, so it’s a double win.

Still, I know what it’s like to become attached to a book, and to want to have that particular book signed. So in that blog I told people if they *really* wanted to send me a book, I’d sign it, provided they followed certain rules. Most important among these is that they include return postage and send me something cool.

I expected the requests to kinda die down after that. But I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

In the years since I posted that blog, I’ve received hundreds and hundreds of gifts. So many that I can’t even begin to put an accurate number on it.

And for years, as I’ve opened the packages, I’ve thought to myself, “This is so cool. I’ve got to show this to people on the blog….”

Unfortunately, with rare exception, I never get around to it. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

But a couple weeks ago, I got something I really want to tell you about.

The package showed up, late in the afternoon, and I dug through it looking for the toy surprise. A lot of times, getting a package or a letter from a fan can be the high point of my day.

At the bottom of the box I found something heavy wrapped in cloth. When I picked it up, my first thought was, “It’s a knife.”

Now this isn’t a first for me. Folks have sent me knives before. Someone sent me a knife they’d carved themselves out of wood. Someone else sent me a skinning knife from Alaska once.

But this was *really* heavy. So heavy that I almost thought it couldn’t be a knife. I have a knife made from a railroad tie, and this was heavier than that.

When I unwrapped it, I found this:

The entire knife was metal. Everything. Blade, guard, handle. Everything out of solid metal.

I looked at it and thought: Did someone make me a copper knife?

Then I thought: No. Nobody would do that.

Then I thought: This really looks like a copper knife.

Then I thought: Seriously?

So I brought out the letter and read it. It was from a guy named Tait and his friend Loren (no relation). Who run a little site called Esoteric Garage. They explained that they they liked to goof around with forging things as a hobby. And when they were talking about my books they came to the conclusion that, “a copper knife could be really useful if you wanted to kill a namer.”

Then I thought, These guys have been reading the books really closely.

I geeked out pretty hard. I called Tait and told him that this was the coolest thing I’d seen in months. He confirmed that the entire thing was copper. Even the rods that hold the handle together. Clever stuff.

After I got off the phone, I was still all excited about my knife. And I started to think, “I think I’ve been wrong about copper weapons. I think you could probably really fuck somebody up with this.”

So there I was, at the work house, holding a knife. And you know what it’s like when you’re holding something like that. When you pick up a nice  baseball bat, you want to swing it around. You pick up a hatchet, you want to cut some wood. Some things yearn toward their purpose. Some things are the embodiment of a purpose. Some objects are practically crystallized verbs.

What I’m getting at, is that I was filled with a powerful urge to stab something.

This is not my best expression ever. Apparently, this is what I look like when I’m trying hard to repress the urge to stab.

I should stress that this urge was, first and foremost, scientific. You see, this sort of thing is research for me. The more experiences I gather, the more effective I am as a writer.

Luckily, I’m able to control my scientific urges to a certain degree. This is especially fortunate, considering Amanda, one of my assistants, was in the workhouse with me.

So, in the interest of science, I stepped back and stabbed the nearby doorframe as hard as I could. Because, y’know, it’s my house, and I can do whatever the hell I want.

What did I learn from the experiment?

1. I made a good choice in hiring Amanda. As I stood there, looking at the knife sticking out of the wall, she said. “I kinda figured you were going to do that.”

2. You can definitely fuck somebody up with a copper knife.

3. Copper’s more durable than I suspected.

Also, I was reminded that my readers are very cool. Because not only did Tait send me a knife as a present, but he mentioned he might have something to donate to worldbuilders in a couple of months….

Thanks so much, Tait. Rest assured that I’m pretty sure you’re not legally responsible for anything I do with this. At worst, you’re accessory-before-the-fact.

Have a good weekend everybody,

pat

Also posted in boding, cool things, fan coolness, geeking out | By Pat72 Responses

Fanmail Q & A: Coolness

It’s been a while since I answered an e-mail from a reader. How about we do that?

Pat,

I just wanted to say I’ve loved The Name of the Wind for over a year now, but I just recently found your website. Your blog has kept me laughing for almost two solid weeks as I go back and read the archives. That’s something I’ve never done with a blog before.

Even better, your fundraiser was seriously amazing this year.

Seriously, how cool are you?

Jake

Jake,

You strike on a topic I’ve been curious about for some time. How cool am I?

As I’ve mentioned before in the blog, growing up, I wasn’t one of the cool kids. But things change, and these days geek is chic. I’m willing to admit to the fact that these days, I might actually be a little cool.

Your letter poses an interesting problem though. If you’d simply asked, “Are you cool?” I could have gotten away with answering “maybe” or “kinda.” But you’ve asked for a _degree_ of coolness. What’s more, you’ve requested that I *seriously* consider the problem.

That means we need to use science and shit. We need quantifiable units of coolness that we can plug into formulas. We need to be rigorous.

Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, the BIPM hasn’t established a standard unit by which we can measure coolness. I can’t just tell you that I’m say, 85 pascals of cool. Or 158 newtons. Or whatever.

That means if we want to determine how cool I am, we have to measure me against some sort of universally accepted standard of cool. We need to develop our own yardstick, as it were.

So, let’s pick two people who are undeniably cool. The king and queen of geek cool: Felicia Day and Neil Gaiman.

Now we need some numbers. While popularity isn’t quite the same thing as cool, you have to admit they’re closely related. Since I don’t have access to things like book sales or website hits, we’ll have to go to the lowest common denominator: Facebook.

(Yes, I know. Technically, Myspace would be the lowest common denominator. But there’s only so low I’m willing to go, even for science.)

A quick search of fan pages reveals the following stats.

Felicia: 192,000 fans.

Neil: 90,000 fans.

Me: 10,000 fans.

Now we could stop here and say, that I’m about .05 as cool as Felicia. Or that I’m roughly .11 of a Gaiman. Or something like that.

But drawing data from only one source strikes me as slipshod. To round things out, why don’t we take a look at Goodreads rankings?

Here’s a screenshot of their list of most-followed people.

[Edit: Yes, I know these numbers have changed since I took the screenshot. I'm not redoing the math.]

(Click to Embiggen)

As a side note, you can see that according to Goodreads, I’m ever-so slightly cooler than Wil Wheaton. I like how it looks like his little Lego man is pissed at me for being above him.

“Curse you, Rothfuss,” Lego-Wheaton says. “How dare you get between me and Felicia day?”

“Takest not that tone with me,” Russian-dictator-looking-Rothfuss glowers from above. “Lest I crush you with my manly, blue-lit beard.”

“Bring it Hagrid,” he replies. “I’ll beat you like a redheaded stepchild.”

“What are you going to use?” I say. “Your kung-fu grip? Hell, you don’t even have any elbows!”

Wait… Sorry, what was I talking about again?

Oh. Right. Coolness. I guess I lost a few points just there.

Anyway, as you can see things stand like this:

Me: 383 friends, 308 people following my reviews.

Felicia: 2,710 friends, 380 people following her reviews.

Not pictured above, Neil Gaiman sits at #1 on this list. Topping the chart on a mountain of cool with 5,175 friends and 3,133 people following his reviews.

Let’s just combine these for simplicity’s sake:

Gaiman: 8308

Felicia: 3090

Me: 691

Because the Facebook numbers are really high compared to Goodreads, we have to normalize them by multiplying by .045. (Don’t ask how I got there. It’s boring. If you understand statistics, you know how it works.) That gives us:

Gaiman: 4050

Felicia: 8550

Me: 450

So we add these together and apply the bonus multipliers.

Gaimain:
Medium Bonus – Novels, Comics, Movies, Audiobooks: *1.4

Association Bonus – Engaged to Amanda Palmer *1.5

Flair Bonus – Accent *1.4

Appearance Bonus: Sexy *1.5

12358 *1.4 *1.5 *1.4 *1.5 = 54499

Felicia:
Medium Bonus – Television, Webisodes, Comics: *1.3
(The Guild comic is coming out soon, in case you didn’t know.)

Association Bonus – Works with Joss Whedon *1.6

Flair Bonus – Smells like flowers and PS3 *1.3

Appearance Bonus: Sexy *1.5

11640 *1.3 *1.6 *1.2 *1.5 = 47212

Me:
Flair Bonus: Beard *1.2

Penalty: Engaging in imaginary smack talk with Lego-Wheaton. *.09

1141 *1.2 *0.9 = 1232

You still with me? Now we have to create our yardstick for the measurement of geek-coolness. Imagine if Neil Gaiman and Felicia Day were somehow alchemically combined into one creature. Some ubercool, sexy, hermaphroditic, webisode-creating, rockstar, gamer, author thing.

I think it’s safe to say that godlike creature would be the ultimate amalgam of geek cool.

So if we add together the scores of Neil Gaiman and Felicia Day, we get roughly 100,000 units. These I hereby term Gaiman-Day units. They will hereafter be used to determine how cool someone is. 100,000 Gaiman-Day units is the coolest you can be without collapsing into some manner of singularity.

So there we go. Now we have a way to quantify how cool I am, Jake. I am exactly 1232 Gaiman-Day units of cool. Only about one percent as cool as it’s possible to be.

I hope this answers your question, Jake.

pat

Also posted in facebook, Fanmail Q + A, Felicia Day, Goodreads, Neil Gaiman, Wil Wheaton | By Pat113 Responses

Science.

Experiment # 34:

Question: What happens when you mix a caffeine with vanilla extract and drink it?

Hypothesis: A stimulant may prove helpful in assisting with my novel revisions.

Procedures: In an attempt to gain relatively accurate and repeatable dosage information. 2 grams of caffeine were dissolved into 25 ml volumetric flask. This means that every ml of mixture will contain 80 mg of caffeine. Roughly the equivalent of a strong cup of coffee.

Notable statistics:

ORL-RAT LD50 192 mg kg-1ORL-HMN LDLO 192 mg kg-1

According to this, my minimum lethal dosage of caffeine would be in excess of 17 grams.

Therefore I should be well under tolerance, no matter how much of the mixture I consume. (Unless I bunged up the math.)

Findings:

1. Caffeine seems to be rather insoluble. Heat must be applied to supersaturate the solution.

2. Volumetric flasks get hot when you hold them over the gas burner of your stove.

Observations:

Mixture is a pleasant amber color.

Mixture is intensely bitter, causes burning sensation in mouth and throat.

Stage one: Consume 5 mg of mixture.

Short term effects:

0-30 seconds: Intense urge to gag.

1-3 minutes: Nausea. Extremely unpleasant aftertaste. Some coughing.

4-5 minutes: Coughing fades. Aftertaste remains. Nausea subsides with direct application of skim milk and cinnamon bread sticks.

Mid-term effects.

10 minutes: Desire to watch Invader Zim. (May be coincidental.)

20 minutes: Mild excitability. Belief that I could, perhaps, lift up the front end of a car, if one were available, or if I could be bothered to go outside.

30 minutes: Continued desire for Invader Zim. No appreciable increase in the desire to work on novel.

Stage two: Consume additional 5 mg of mixture.

Short-term effects:

0-30 seconds: Bitter taste. Burning sensation. Intense urge to gag.

1-3 minutes: Nausea. Extremely unpleasant aftertaste. More coughing.

4-5 minutes: Coughing fades. Aftertaste remains. Nausea subsides with direct application of Southwestern Chicken Grinder from Toppers.

Mid-term effects:

10 minutes. Feelings of doubt. Uncertainty. Tendency to question my own sanity. Depression. Further desire for Southwestern Chicken Grinder.

15 minutes: Moderate excitation. Sensation of bloating. (May be unrelated.) Desire to check e-mail.

20 minutes: Moderate desire to write.

30 minutes: Strong desire to write.

Long term effects:

1-5 hours: Productive revisions on book two. Mild Nausea. Mild elation. Urination. Some jittering. Weird pains in large muscle groups, most notably quadriceps and triceps. Tightness in chest. Tunnel of light. Mild dementia and/or conversation with God. Continued desire for Invader Zim. Twinkie.

Conclusions:

While this a marked success over Experiment 15, as it involved no prolonged vomiting, the discomfort-to-revision ratio still seems rather high. Also, the small N prevents determination of statistical significance.

And now, sweet, jittery sleep.

pat

Also posted in hodgelany, my rockstar life | By Pat22 Responses
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