Search Engine Junkie

I love hearing from my fans, and a recent letter asked whether the facts in my books came from my personal experience, and/or how much research I generally do. That gave me a rueful giggle, because it revealed yet another variety of my kryptonite.

First the short answers: ‘Mostly’; and ‘Lots’.

The auto-mechanic and home-renovation details come from hands-on experience, and Aydan’s wild motorcycle ride in Book 2 commemorates a few butt-puckering moments from riding an unfamiliar bike many years ago. The fight scenes are loosely based on real life, but they’re exaggerated all to hell (and I’ve been luckier than Aydan with my outcomes).

I love shooting, but I only kill paper targets. Art and food and music and computer-geekery are big parts of my life, too. Aydan’s athletic exploits have been adapted from my various adventures, particularly the falling-on-my-butt parts. (No comment on her other ‘adventures’ – that would give a whole new meaning to ‘hands-on experience’.) 😉

But the rest of it? The internet is my best friend and worst addiction – I research everything down to the tiniest detail.  Just for laughs, here are about half of my search phrases from the last 7 days:

  • Slang for senior citizens1
  • Do bees defecate2
  • Muhammad Ali
  • Can a laser burn through glass or mirror3
  • Infrared frequency ranges
  • What does your favourite flavour of ice cream say about your personality4
  • Xylophone
  • Bohemian waxwing
  • Festival of Lights Diwali
  • Elements associated with zodiac signs
  • Extranet
  • Female fertility
  • Jack Paar
  • Sarongs
  • Kitten heels
  • Batik
  • Dwarf hardy hibiscus
  • Plural possessive form of elk5
  • Particle physics hadron
  • Is physics plural6
  • Do bears hunt at night7
  • How long after death can a cadaver dog find a body8
  • How long before decomposition starts9
  • Most common size of men’s shoes10
  • Plural of penis11
  • Baboon red bottom
  • Pheromones
  • Crowd control weapons
  • Flies sense of smell
  • Military slang Afghanistan
  • Surgery to replace missing fingers with toes
  • Do bears vomit12
  • Customs brokerage
  • Do people have unique electromagnetic fields13
  • Can getting hit in the testicles cause infertility14
  • Which substances are transparent to infrared
  • Walking with blade prosthetic legs
  • Hipster slang
  • Braking system on a Smart car
  • Lasers
  • Masers
  • DNA sequencing

For those of you who are speculating: Yes, it’s all related to Book 11, but don’t try to put it all together – I also use research to help me exclude ideas. (So don’t worry; none of the male characters are about to suffer a vicious blow to the nuts.)

And, because I know some of these search questions will stick like a brain-burr until you know the answers, here you go:

  1. Gerries seems to be the current favourite (short for geriatrics), but geezers is still a top choice.
  2. Yes, but they never dump inside the hive – they go on ‘cleansing flights’. If the weather has kept them inside for too long, it’s more like a strafing run with scatter bombs.
  3. Yes, but if you had a cutting laser and a perfect reflection you’d be in trouble.
  4. You’ll have to read Book 11 to find out.
  5. Both elk’s and elks’ are acceptable.
  6. Yes and no. It’s complicated. Kinda like physics.
  7. Bears hunt anytime.
  8. Cadaver dogs can even find bare bones.
  9. Immediately, but the stinky phase starts anywhere from a few hours to a few days after death, depending on the heat and humidity of the environment.
  10. 10. No, seriously; ten is the most common men’s shoe size.
  11. Both penises and penii are acceptable. (And that sentence just begs for a dirty joke.)
  12. Yes, but rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, horses, and Japanese quail can’t vomit.
  13. Unproven by science, but aura-readers say they can see the electromagnetic fields.
  14. Yes, but it’s unlikely unless you suffer a complication like internal bleeding or torsion.

What oddball questions have you researched lately?

68 Comments

Filed under Humour, Life, Writing

68 responses to “Search Engine Junkie

  1. Pingback: This Week’s Been A Gas! | Diane Henders

  2. How the hell I missed this post is beyond me. I mis-read Bohemian waxwing as Bohemian waxing and wondered what the devil you had Aydan doing…and what new waxing THAT would be…and of course by now I’m completely in the gutter.
    On a serious note, a great book for forensic science info is Death’s Acre by Jefferson Bass. He’s the founder of the Body Farm down in Tennessee, which is a forensic research facility. Don’t google the Body Farm unless you have a strong stomach. Just saying.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bohemian waxing?!? I don’t even want to imagine what that might entail, but I’m right there in the gutter with you… shuddering!

      Thanks for the research recommendation – I’ll check it out. (But I don’t know if I’ll google the Body Farm. There are some things I just don’t need to see up close and personal.) 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Customer: Hi. I came in to see about your Bohemian Waxing.
        Proprietor: Oh, sorry, madame. We don’t wax Bohemians anymore. We had to stop that as of the first of the year.
        Customer: Oh, really? Why is that?
        Proprietor: Health Department regulations, you know. Also, the Department of Sanitation.
        Customer: What? Why?
        Proprietor: Mostly it was about waste disposal. The sanitation people didn’t want to have to deal with getting rid of all that hair, and we couldn’t afford the permits from the Health Department. Their rep told us it actually looked suspicious for one small business this size to be buying more wax than most chain stores.
        Customer: Oh, right. Yeah, I can see how that would look…
        Proprietor: I’m sorry, ma’am. You’ll have to get your Bohemians waxed somewhere else. There’s still a couple of places you might try in Saskatchewan.

        Like

  3. I’ve never really thought about recording my search terms, Diane. Hmmm… lately, I’ve been out in the far reaches of outer space. I mean searching-wise. I haven’t *actually* been out there for a while! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Far out! 😉 And I didn’t actually record them myself – Firefox keeps track of them by default, so I only had to look them up in the browser history. Very convenient when you’ve forgotten the search terms that took you to a particular page you later decided to revisit!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My search history is pretty boring – all work related. Relearning stuff I knew 20 years ago. I tried to look up my Google Search History but came up with zip, nada, nothing. Suits me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I just looked up how long a penguin can hold its breath for today’s blog post (http://whenyoustopdigging.com/2016/01/22/i-wish-they-were-bigger-and-other-shallow-musings/).

    Answer: 20 minutes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Who knew? Penguins are amazing critters – I watched March of the Penguins with my mouth hanging open – talk about sheer tenacious survival! But I think my favourite penguin scene comes from the movie ‘Madagascar’: the penguins finally make it to Antarctica after their epic journey, get off the ship, look around, and go, “Well, this sucks.” 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Holly Ruiz

    Searches:
    Las Vegas, NV Doppler weather loop..
    Affluenza definition
    Top 10 R&B songs of 2015

    You had me giggling while I read your blog!!

    So, I wanted to tell you I just luv the way you explain the cluster phobia in the books..
    And have a question for ya… I’m sure your not one who takes requests..
    But I luv luv luv.. The detail you use when your “go into the network”…

    It’s brain food!! And my imagination was doing, “the happy dance”!!!

    So my question is.. Can you try to add more of the network GOODIES???
    More more more!! 😜😂

    Thanks, Holly

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Does it surprise you that the number one search term used to find by blog is…
    sex with animals.

    I wrote a post entitled According to Recent Studies which included a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine that stated that men who have had sex with animals were twice as likely to develop penile cancer as those who stick with their own kind. How could I have imagined that this post would generate the number one search term of my first year of blogging?

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s a sad commentary that it doesn’t surprise me at all. 😉 After all, the most popular search term that finds my blog (other than my name) is “we’re all free and naked”. But I guess if I want a bit more traffic I could always add “sex with animals” to the mix. (Let me clarify: blog traffic; and topic mix. Just sayin’.)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wait, there’s more search terms than answers here, I can’t pair them all up! Oh hang on, I just saw the numbers next to some of the search terms, phew! When you wrote “Slang for senior citizens” I thought you mean slang that senior citizens would use! Which also would be interesting I think, yes? Maybe?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow your computer has a much more fulfilling life than mine! Do bees defecate? Well now that is a fascinating tidbit in a spy thriller or as you pointed out perhaps not. You are hilarious. Have I mentioned that recently? 🙂

    Like

  10. jenny_o

    My searches are very ho-hum. Checking definitions and spelling, lyrics to songs (I can’t understand most songs when I hear them – is there a word for that kind of stupidity? off to Google it!), geography questions, things like that. Your list, and your commenters’ offerings, are highly interesting to me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. el Tea

    I once was working on illustrations for a series of stories about a girl who was eight years old in 1798. I had two photos of her as an old woman and I was trying to figure out what she might have looked like as an eight year old. It was with great fear that I entered “images of eight year old girl portraits” into my search engine. Lucky me. No sick stuff came back and I soon could see that the overwhelming similarity was proportionally oversized front teeth, and I could also note other proportions true of that stage of development of a child’s skull.

    Liked by 1 person

    • el Tea

      Around the same time I also requested images of a woman carrying a live chicken, a child sitting with a lamb on her lap, a woman sitting with crossed legs, a woman walking away with a shoulder bag, kids wearing hoodies.

      No porn yet. And in almost each case I got what I needed to illustrate those stories or help my students with missing details for their paintings.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, very cool! It’s fascinating to get a glimpse of things like that through an artist’s eyes. I have huge respect for anyone who can draw human faces and figures – any time I attempt it they look like they’ve been hanging around Chernobyl a little too long. (And I’d have been worried about entering those search terms, too – I can’t count the number of times I’ve typed something in, squeezed my eyes closed, and pressed the Search button holding my breath.) 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • el Tea

        One more search… Late 17th century British working class undergarments. Both men’s and women’s. Yup. All the essentials.

        For him, long shirttails. For her, a thickly woven chemise with short sleeves and a corset once you’re an adult. Nothing below the waist to get in the way when you squatted. No need for privies if you worked in the fields. Bloomers came in the next century but I’d lay bets that they weren’t worn by agricultural working women and girls.

        Yes, even artists must do research.

        Liked by 2 people

  12. Two penii walk into a bar. One turns to the other and says, “You come here often?”

    He looks flustered but replies, “Yeah, but I usually enter through the backdoor otherwise my partner will beat me later.”

    His friend looks shocked and says, “Wow he sounds like a wanker.”

    This is all your fault, Diane!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ha! Your search history is almost as odd as mine. I feel like I should engrave my computer with “Don’t worry–I’m a writer,” just in case there’s ever occasion for it to be searched by the authorities.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The fire-rate of an MG-42 German machine gun and the period of time required to change barrels when it became to hot to be fired might be odd to some.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Karen

    I can’t think of anything odd I’ve searched for online.

    I do love a well researched book, I think that’s my problem I have ideas but never enough to mould into a strong enough idea to work on

    I have had an odd week I found out yesterday for all the hard work and dedication and the last 13yrs of my life working there come September we are out of a job, BA oops yes I worked at theIT help desk for BA gave decided to send IT support to India
    I’m not bitter its there choice but I do think they are wrong and once they realise it will be hard to reverse the change but that’s not my problem.

    I have made an awesome discovery this week and its all popcorn. Caramel flavour, gingerbread flavour and green popcorn its is delish the world is so much better with popcorn oh and lemon ice cream

    Hugs to all xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Caramel popcorn – YUM! I just made a big batch of it and now it’s sitting here tempting me.

      I’m sorry to hear about your impending layoff – that sucks! I agree, outsourcing support to India is only good for India, but companies just keep buying into the false economy of ‘it’s cheaper over there’. Maybe it is initially, but they get what they pay for. And a lot of time the hidden costs are far steeper than they realize. Grrr. I hope you’re able to find another job easily.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Karen

        I have a bag of caramel popcorn next to me.

        I hope I find a new job soon too, thanks for the kind thoughts, I need to chat with my boss to see if its worth sticking it out to the end or do I start looking now.

        Liked by 2 people

      • el Tea

        I echo best wishes during your transition. Incredible how all those IT workers in India have names like Bob, Dave, Sam, and Chris.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Karen

          They have a room for each name so I’m told, though I find it hard to believe actually no I don’t. They also tend to follow a script and if you go off the expected path they find it hard to get back to what’s expected.
          Maybe that’s mean but it’s how I feel

          Liked by 1 person

  16. I was wondering the same thing when I read your second book recently–how much was from personal experience and how much was good research? Nice to see the answer. And also nice to see someone else’s search history looks as odd as mine. Writers. Such odd people we are.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Oddball research questions? Me? Certainly not. Well, not to me anyway. My wife, on the other hand, looks at the stuff I do and just shakes her head, rolls her eyes, and walks away. The stuff I research is perfectly logical, and the information I gain from it is absolutely aworthwhile. To me. 🙂

    Okay, here goes. It’s been a while since I used it, so I had to look it up again to make sure I remembered it right. The equation for determining the amount of electrical energy that can be generated with a wind turbine of a given size in wind of a given velocity. What’s oddball about that? And to save y’all the trouble of looking it up yourselves if you haven’t already, it’s this:

    P = 0.5 x rho x A x Cp x V(cubed) x Ng x Nb

    Where:

    P = Power
    0.5 = Constant
    rho = Air density at the selected location (thus, available power varies with altitude)
    A = Swept area of the turbine blade (just the simple area of the circle, not the actual square area of each blade)
    Cp = Coefficient of Performance (average is 0.35-ish, theoretical max is 0.56 which is called the Betz limit after the guy who formulated it)
    V = Wind velocity (a cubed function, so wind speed is lots more important than elevation; difference in sea level or mountain top is easily made up for with blade swept area which is a function of diameter)
    Ng = Efficiency of the generator (varies widely from about 50% – 80%, and there is still some snake oil out there, so buyer beware)
    Nb = Bearing or gearbox efficiency (wind energy sources usually call it 0.95, but good quality power transmission systems are upwards of 0.98 or a shade better on a per-gearset basis with fully synthetic lubricants of the proper viscosity profile for the duty cycle and temperature range)

    Now, see? What’s oddball about that? 🙂

    And theventy-eight per thent phinished? Already? Thatth highly ephishunt, too, thithter!! You tho rock!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thankth! And hey, thanks for the formula – nothing oddball about that at all! Wind power generation is a big interest of mine, and I was shocked at how inefficient the big turbines are, both in terms of mechanical efficiency and maintenance efficiency. They definitely haven’t fulfilled their cost/benefit predictions.

      Hubby and I play with theoretical models for home generation fairly regularly, though we haven’t set up any windmills yet (kinda tricky in the city). My latest brainteaser has been trying to figure out how to harness the innate energy of quaking aspens. Around here they grow 40 – 60 feet tall, and they have 4 to 6 feet of travel at the top in an average wind. I figure by using a linear generator instead of a rotary, there should be some way to make power out of that…

      Liked by 1 person

      • The loss of efficiency is very high on such things. Something like that exists on the vertical axis wind turbines. They make so much sense just looking at them, but the efficiency is poor because, and this is the biggie that other forms of seemingly good free energy suffer from, the turbine spends exactly half of its time pushing turbine blades back into the wind again. The horizontal axis ones are much more efficient because the wind is always pushing every blade away from it all the time. Nothing ‘upwind’ happens during a blade revolution. Swaying trees, would be the same thing. And hooking them all together at the top would just make it worse because of natural frequency interference.

        Sorry. I really do hate to burst bubbles. 😦

        Wind turbine tower maintenance technicians undergo a lengthy training course. They have to. The turbine systems are extremely complex, and no two companies do things exactly the same way. “Lifetime learning” really is a way of life for them.

        Wanna know what the maintenance techs are called who work on solar generation systems? Window washers. 🙂

        Most of what they do consists of cleaning dust, bugs, and bird poop off the PV cells or the mirrors at solar thermal plants. Very few moving parts with solar, a tiny fraction of the parts count in wind systems.

        Like

  18. el Tea

    Thanks for the research. I wish every author researched every book.

    No kidding, a moment before reading this post I just reviewed a very disappointing novel by my sister’s favorite novelist. She gave me four books by the same author for Christmas. I’ve read three of the four so far, and I enjoyed the first two books a lot, but the third was freakishly bad. It was a sequel to the second book I read. That author spent the first third of the book re-telling the story of the initial book without any effort to engage those who read that other book. The very thin plot dealt with four characters, one of whom suffered major brain trauma and is in a coma for about a year. The story is told through all four viewpoints, repeating the same incidents without adding depth or richness from the additional vantage points. The book ended like Sleeping Beauty arising from the coma with no mention of cognitive impairment, muscle loss nor contractures and no mention of a need for rehabilitation. What a mess that author made of my good will.

    Thanks for thinking through bee poop and all the rest to add veracity and richness to your wonderful cast of characters. I will just have to wait patiently for the rich reward of your diligence and hard, but happy work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, it sucks that your third-book experience was so disappointing! I’ve seen that happen, too, and I think I understand why – the third book in a series is actually more difficult to write than the first two (at least it was for me). And unfortunately, that’s the point where the editors seem to slack off with the attitude, “Oh, the first two were good; she must know what she’s doing by now”.

      Not so much. By the third book you have readers who are basically familiar with the characters and setting but may or may not remember the details. It’s hard to balance between writing too much backstory and boring everybody, or writing too little and making them wonder what the hell’s going on.

      Having a character rise from a long coma with no impairment is a mistake that gets repeated over and over (especially in TV shows), and it drives me nuts. But I understand how it happens – it’s hard to put aside what I think I know and research it anyway. I’ve slipped up in the past (cadmium blue, anyone?) 😉 and likely will again, but I’ll just keep trying to do better!

      Liked by 1 person

      • el Tea

        There’s a huge difference between missing a tiny detail like the wrong chemical name for blue versus lapsing into fairy tale plot lines when the author has previously drawn the world realistically.

        It was just so jarring a contrast to the other books by the same author I’d read previously that were well written.

        I’m happy to endorse your books as never being “phoned in”.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I feel your pain, el Tea. One of my favorite book series has pretty much turned to crap. It’s written by a famous military history fiction writer, and it started out extremely well. I was just blown away by the first five or so in the series, then much of the next one was copy-paste from the first three, and the last one I read had almost no new material at all in it; a total rehash. The reviews and comments about the last two books were absolutely hostile. Must’ve made him mad. He hasn’t added to the series in some years now. And if that’s all he’s going to do with it, I don’t particularly care. Great start. Lousy finish.

      I’ve stopped reading other authors in mid-series for similar reasons.

      That’s why I enjoy Diane’s work so much. Every new direction she takes her story is fun and entertaining. When a new book is available, I push the ‘buy it now’ button and know that I’m getting a killer deal. Her work is ‘way undervalued. I win every time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • el Tea

        Hi GLBRYANT,
        I absolutely agree. I think Diane is particularly adept at adding just enough background information to bring new readers up to speed without boring those who have read each book in order. She’s a master at sliding the back story gracefully into the new plot in such a natural way that I never mind its presence.

        I’m always pleasantly surprised in each book what new bit of wisdom or area of expertise is revealed in the latest book. I love learning new esoteric tidbits when reading (as others have named it) literary junkfood.

        I’m with you that Diane’s books are a killer deal and these books are really an organic smorgasbord disguised as junkfood.

        I believe that Diane has such a dedication to doing her very best every day and has surrounded herself with great editors and beta readers who she trusts to tell her if she’s gone off track. I can’t imagine buying a book from her that would disappoint me. It’s just not gonna happen.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I prefer the term literary comfort food, I think. Junk food, while tasty, lacks substance. Comfort food is still tasty, but it nourishes. If Diane’s work lacks anything at all, it certainly isn’t substance. We’re talking totally new premise here, after all. Plus I’m a sucker for a pretty, er, blog. That’s it, blog. 😉

          Like

      • Thanks to both of you – I’m blushing! I feel a lot of responsibility to my readers and my greatest fear is that I’ll write a dud and disappoint everyone. (Tends to make ‘release day’ just a teeny bit stressful.) 😉

        I’m thrilled (and humbled) by your endorsements!

        Liked by 1 person

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