Monthly Archives: September 2013

Medical Microfiction: Diaphragmatic Aponeurosis

Making New Friends

Nolan had friends. Nolan had loads of friends. 1,224, to be exact.

Whenever he threw parties, he invited all 1,224 of them and received 1,224 RSVPs.

Of course, this always meant one hell of a grocery run. It took Nolan three trips to schlep all the 2-liters of Shasta, cocktail wieners, and pizza bites home in his hatchback.

8PM came and went, but nobody showed.

Later, Nolan brooded over his Facebook list of 1,224 disappointments.

Oh, well. Time to make new friends.

He clicked the “new account” button and got to work on Friend# 1,225. Maybe this one wouldn’t disappoint.

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I’m very excited about today’s medical term, because it’s an anatomical feature I learned about in my Anatomy of Speech class fairly recently. The diaphragmatic aponeurosis, also known as the central tendon, is a strong band of material located in the center of the diaphragm muscle. Together with the rest of the diaphragm, it forms a floor upon which your lungs and heart sit inside your rib cage, and plays a major role in pumping air into and out of your lungs.

The diaphragm. Under surface. Quadratus lumbor...
The diaphragm. The white part’s the aponeurosis. Not pictured: Nolan’s 1,224 friends. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While most other tendons in the body connect muscle to bone, the diaphragmatic is unique in that it connects a muscle (the diaphragm) to itself, allowing it to form a roundish shape while still allowing for several large passageways through the middle, so that you can both eat and breathe without the two interfering with one another.

Have you figured out how Nolan factors into this picture?

Much like the diaphragmatic aponeurosis: he only connects with himself.

*Rimshot*

Get it? Get it…? Hey, why aren’t you laughing?!

I hope this finds you better connected than the central tendon, and without a car filled with Shasta. Later this week I’m hoping to have another “Anatomy of a Sentence” feature out, so keep your eyes peeled!

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Medical Microfiction: Pogonotrophy II

The Mo-Keepers

In the weeks following the conquest, politeness meant averting one’s eyes as we adapted to the new status quo. Tacitly we agreed to carry on with our iPhones and cappuccinos like we weren’t all infested with parasitic hair.

The luckiest acquired one parasite only, affixed above the lip according to custom. More commonly, two or three dotted one’s face.

But for others, it’s hellish. Yesterday, I passed a man writhing in a ditch, positively lousy with the things. Despite his swatting and shrieking, they skittered along his flesh until nothing showed but moustaches.

I averted my eyes and hurried past.

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Français : Général Emiliano Zapata - 1914 lice...
Why does this guy look so unhappy? It’s because the moustache is calling the shots! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you catch Pogonotrophy Part 1 a few weeks ago? Today’s piece comes from the same series that some friends and I have been writing on the Drabblecast forums under the heading of The Moustache Mythos. Eventually we plan to record the whole run and release them as a mini-podcast series, hopefully in time to commemorate Movember.

Today’s story gives a bird’s-eye view of what the world is like after the invasion of alien moustaches intent on world domination. I came up with the concept while thinking about Wookiees from Star Wars, and deciding it would be hilarious and a little disturbing if they got that way because they were colonized by evil moustaches.

The title “The Mo-Keepers” is an homage to Drabblecast episode # 39 – The Beekeepers, which is also about an invasive alien species. While I didn’t have this story in mind while writing today’s piece, after the fact I noticed the resemblance and decided to pay my tribute.

I realize my posts have been spotty this month. I much appreciate you guys bearing with me as I struggle to keep pace with school and work. This has been compounded by some other good news on the family side of things – my mother-in-law recently got a kidney transplant after spending years on the waiting list, which meant an emergency (and happy) day trip up to Atlanta to see her at the hospital.

What’s going on in your neck of the woods right now? What have you been writing about on your blogs? If you leave me a link in the comments, I promise to check it out during my study breaks!

Medical Microfiction: Terminologia Anatomica

Dr. Howell tapped twice on a white band of ligament, directing his students’ attention to the cadaver’s belly. “The abdominal aponeurosis. Covers the rectus abdominis and compresses the viscera.”

Pencils scribbled. Heads bobbed.

“Moving on… Larry, switch to a deep view, please.”

“Sure thing, Doc!” With both hands the cadaver wrenched back another layer of muscle, exposing his innards.

“Note the positions of the internal viscera,” Dr. Howell continued. “The large intestine is especially good eating on a live human. People make a big deal out of the brains, but I say go straight for the guts. Less competition.’

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Steaks on a grill
Your organs from a zombie’s perspective.

I think lots of people could benefit from learning more about human anatomy – I’m writing this blog, after all! – but no one could benefit more than our friends the zombies. I mean, if you’re going to spend your days hunting down tasty, tasty humans, you could save yourself a lot of time and effort on the eating if you know how to bypass that pesky ribcage to get to the tasty bits within.

Terminologia Anatomica, which literally means “Anatomical Terminology,” is the book that sets the international standards for medical terminology. It’s where many of the definitions on this blog came from. This illustrious volume was published in 1998, and has allowed countless students, medical professionals, and amateur writers to confuse the general public when we say things like, “Serratus anterior’s assisting the external intercostals in respiration by forcing air through the larynx and causing the vocal folds to oscillate, producing phonation.”

Yeah. We talk real good.

Happy Friday, wherever and whenever this finds you! It’s been a good week here in the Jones household, as my mother-in-law received a long-awaited kidney transplant just two days ago and is recovering nicely. Organ donation saves lives, folks, and if you’re not already a donor, I’d encourage you to join up.

Otherwise, the zombies’ll get you.

Motley Microfiction: Revision History

When Danny turned eight, reality warped. All the dinosaurs un-extincted, schools imploded, and broccoli went AWOL, preserved in our minds only as a sense of relief at its absence.

By 2018, the year of his surprise World Cup victory, Danny’s army of naked babes overran everything: Hogwarts, Asgard, Gondor, Irkutsk, Canada, and Narnia. Even the Jedi Council obeyed him.

As we hated him, so we loved our god-king.

We know how he did it, of course. The problem’s the anonymity. Without knowing which Wikipedia articles he edited, we can’t be sure what changed, or even who existed before his coming.

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Fifa world cup org
Don’t YOU remember when Danny won the World Cup? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love Wikipedia. It’s one of the best worldwide collaborations to arise from the internet. By allowing anyone to edit while simultaneously enforcing and rewarding proper research and adherence to an academic standard, the Wikipedia has put together a body of knowledge that covers a breadth and depth that no single encyclopedia to date has managed.

Of course, the downside to  Wikipedia is how much we come to rely upon it for quick answers. It’s only a problem when we read an article that’s not so rigorously put together, and come to accept things that are either untrue or biased. Such implicit trust is not a wise habit, but it’s hard to resist when Wikipedia is just so dang convenient.

In today’s story, Danny literally has the ability to bend reality by editing Wikipedia articles. What lazy teen wouldn’t love that superpower? Of course, the world would look much weirder if shaped by the whims of a child in this way. We’d definitely have more awesome dinosaurs, and I’d imagine the plots of several movies and books would come true. Oh, well! Best to pack our bags for Hogwarts and enjoy the ride!

So you tell me: what would the world look like if you could change it by editing Wikipedia? What fictions would become fact, and what facts fiction? How would the past and future change? And what role would you write for yourself?

Medical Microfiction: Ecdysis

Dear John

By the time you read this, you will have found my body.

Don’t grieve. I’m not dead. I’ve just moved out.

It’s not anything you did. It was the right time.

I’m worried about you, though. You don’t have many friends apart from me. So someday I’ll visit. I’ll knock, you’ll invite me in for coffee, and after a long chat, I’ll explain everything and we’ll laugh.

But you won’t recognize me in my new skin. I could be old or young, male or female, Greek or Israeli or Japanese. Better offer coffee to anyone who knocks. Just in case.

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molting (moulting) dragonfly
Is she dead, or has she just moved out? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ecdysis is a word to describe the molting of an exoskeleton in certain species, particularly insects. Usually this shedding of the old skin happens at a time of developmental transition, when you’re moving from one stage to the next.

People don’t molt, of course. Not like insects do. So it’s interesting to think what this process might look like to us if someone we loved underwent ecdysis. My heart is with poor John, who has found a note and a body and must make up his own mind what to believe. Is his loved one dead, or merely transformed?

This story came from a personal place, after several late-night talks with my husband following the sudden death of one of his young students last week.

What might happen to us after we die? Is death a final end, or is it a sort of ecdysis, a shedding of one body as we move to a new stage of development? Like John, we have no way of knowing. We can only make a choice on how to live, given the possibilities. John can live in hope, and treat strangers with the utmost love, or he can live in despair, and ignore the door.

And if he’s wrong? I guess he’ll hand out a lot of free coffee for no reason other than human kindness. But I can think of worse ways to spend my life.

I’ve shared this video before, but it is such a great illustration of ecdysis that I hope you won’t mind me resharing it: the incredible life cycle of cicadas! Set the video to HD and make it big for best results!

I hope your weekend is wonderful, and full of coffee shared with friends and strangers alike, my friends!

Motley Microfiction: Truth in Avatar-zing

They met on the forum as Stasis17 and ScaryBearyGurl. In time, they found common ground: their corporate wage-slave jobs, their bad luck with relationships, an irrational proclivity for Nic Cage movies.

Let’s meet, ScaryBearyGurl wrote one day. I’m Kiley.

Name’s Bruce, he replied. I hope you’re not disappointed. I haven’t been completely honest with you. His tour in Iraq, he explained, had taken both legs.

The next day, she spotted his wheelchair in the coffee shop. He was handsome. “Bruce,” she called, but when he saw her, he screamed.

Kiley looked exactly like her avatar: a monstrous zombie Care Bear.

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Scary bear wear
And sometimes, you make friends with one very scary bear. (Photo credit: wili_hybrid)

I’m crawling out of study-hibernation this afternoon to bring you this little story, my own send-up to that wonderful and strange phenomenon I like to call “internet friendships”.

The first real friendships I formed with people on the ‘net came about during my MMO phase years and years ago. I remember fondly the novelty of talking with people from around the world and gradually to share in each other’s daily struggles and triumphs, all mediated through a common hobby. While internet friends will never replace face-to-face friendships, this special category of relationship made possible through technological advances is still worth celebrating.

The thing I love most about the friends I’ve made on the internet is how geographical location doesn’t matter. As a person who’s moved quite a bit in my short life, it’s amazing to live in an age where distance doesn’t have to be a factor anymore. If you move lots, you don’t have to say goodbye to everyone. When you arrive in a new town, your social circle may even precede you.

How about you? Do you enjoy friendships with people you meet online? Have any of ’em resembled their avatars in unfortunate ways?

Anatomy of a Sentence: Countingducks

Anatomy of a human being
Put on your gloves and goggles: we’re going in! (Photo credit: PureBlackLove)

Anatomy: A Greek word meaning, “Cut ’em up!” In the spirit of this delightful medical word, I am happy to introduce a new feature on my blog: Anatomy of a Sentence. From time to time I will showcase beautiful writing I run across in books, podcasts, and around the blogosphere.

Why am I doing this, you ask?

Because I want to become a better writer, and I believe dissecting lovely sentences to see what makes them tick will help me become a more thoughtful wordsmith in my own right.

I also think these fine writers deserve to be noticed and appreciated. Given that, I will be using this feature as an excuse to read more of your blogs. If you’ve posted a piece of fiction on your blog that you’re particularly proud of, don’t hesitate to leave me a link so I can enjoy it and consider featuring a sentence from it in the future. (If you are shy, you can email me a link directly using the form on my “About” page).

Today we’re looking at a sentence from a favorite blogger of mine, Countingducks. It comes from a piece of flash fiction entitled, “A Flight of Fancy Beyond the Normal:”

One of those delicate messages from the stomach department, brought to my attention from some new bod in Tastbuds, informed me that a small snack involving a couple of sausages with a polite egg or two, a hint of beans, one or two mushrooms with a small supply of toast might just avert a full-blown attack of Hunger Pangs: the worst affliction known to sedentary man.

I love this sentence for many reasons. Firstly, I love the personification of the taste bud as a polite worker, the new guy who’s been tasked with the unfortunate job of informing the boss of an impending disaster. There’s a sense of hesitance to to voice. I can practically hear the polite little cough before he launches into the full catalogue of the “small” snack. It’s an example of a masterfully executed extended metaphor.

Which brings me to my second observation. This sentence makes fine use of escalation. Starting with the “small snack”, the list gets comically longer and longer until it’s clear that the snack’s anything but minuscule. And to cap off the hilarity, the “delicate” message which begins the sentence ends on a crescendo of melodrama when these Hunger Pangs are described as the “worst affliction known to man.” It’s a double-whammy of escalation that adds layers of drama to the situation.

Masterful! Hilarious! This kind of thing brings me surging to my feet in applause.

And now to the dissecting table for a closer look at the guts:

Sentence diagram. Click to embiggen me!
Sentence diagram. Click to embiggen me!

Oh boy, diagramming this one was a headache. The subordinate clauses! The detailed little prepositional phrases! Once you cut into this sentence, the organs just spill out all over the place. You can see the unsightly scribbling where I dropped my watch inside the patient and had to dig around to find it.

But take a moment to admire the complexity of this organism that Countingducks has bestowed upon us.

At its heart, the sentence says something like this: “One informed me that a snack might avert an attack of hunger pangs.” In the diagram, you can see how for Countingducks, this basic sentence serves as a skeleton on which to hang layer upon layer of detail. I think it succeeds for the reasons I pointed out before: a sense of escalation that does more to communicate the urgency of food cravings than the basic statement would do on its own.

For me, “escalation” is the big takeaway lesson. I resolve to keep this device in mind as I’m writing this week and see if I can’t bring a little of this brilliance into my own fiction. Perhaps you’ll give it a shot as well. Experiment with adding a sense of drama (or melodrama) using this technique. And hop on over to Countingducks’s blog to read this story in full – it’s delightful!