Black Hats

Right now, I’m a temp data entry monkey at a large bank. More basic than my previous job, which at least involved reconciling accounts and doing arithmetic–this one’s just, when someone asks for their check to be stopped, I send the messages to the proper places to get it stopped. The main complication is that absolutely nothing is written down (though that’s slowly being fixed)–so as soon as the requests go outside of the narrow fields I’ve been shown how to do, I’m helpless and need to be shown the new process, step-by-step.

(Also, one of the recurring aspects is that, when something’s going wrong, sometimes you need to email one bank over and over and over without getting a response, all the while assuring the bank who asked you to do the thing in the first place that you’re working on their request and will tell them as soon as you have the information. I’m really, really bad at that, in an “aspie meltdown” sort of way. It’s… not good.)

It’s been getting better, and I think I’ve got a shot at making perm. Which would be fantastic. I mean, it’s not my ideal workplace, but it doesn’t need to be to be a suitable place to grow old and die. Or even just have a permanent, non-contract job on my resume.

But anyway, recently… and actually, I think it’s still available… another path opened to me, and I think I’m crazy for not trying, but I’m also not sure I could have done otherwise.

When I was still trying to make a go at being a paralegal, I volunteered three days a week at a particular public-services law firm for experience. Which I got. The lawyer I was assigned to had way more cases than she could handle, and was the least organized person I’d ever met–so I found myself very quickly (and gladly) crafting most of her pleadings and briefs, as well as organizing her cases for her. A different lawyer had me ressearching the current status of an incredibly recent, developing law, which was really exciting. I got to use my office-fu to make their pro se divorce documents three times as efficient as they had been.

I also frequently felt… well, pretty dirty.

There’s a concept, in domestic violence services, where you can’t expect victims to be perfect angels, given everything they’re going through. There’s a concept that abuse is defined by the perception of being abused, and that it’s absolutely unconscionable to try to narrow it down further to specific actions by the perpetrator.

What this functionally meant was that we were hanging out a shingle saying “Free lawyer for your divorce if you’re willing to say you felt unsafe.” And in general, cases where you’d had two broke people trying to muddle through a split, you now had one person with the full power of legal representation behind her and the other guy, still pro se, generally ending up having to do exactly as the wife wants.

Except it’s worse than that, because there are many more comers than there are available slots, even with the wretched overbooking. So I think it’s pretty fair to say that the folks whose experiences didn’t meet a much-hated “quantum of abuse” were actively displacing the more straightforward cases.

So, anyway, they’re hiring.

Lawyer or paralegal–it’s for administrative law, which means you don’t have to have a license to practice. Under the supervision of a senior lawyer–which doesn’t mean much, given the case loads. Given my history–they really liked me and I did good work for them–I think it likely that I could get a job. It would come with a benefits package and things like that. It would give me experience, which all of the “corporate paralegal” jobs seem to require.

But it would totally be putting on a black hat, and forcing the state to pay my salary in doing so. For all the high-flying goals, I’m absolutely convinced that most of what this office does is actively evil, and my function would not be exempt.

Also, as much as I enjoyed my Associate’s Degree education, and still consider myself a law geek… I don’t think I even want to be a paralegal anymore. There’s just… no good in it, from anything I can tell, and not a lot of room for  your odd rabbits like me. (Outside of the public service law firms.)

Data entry seems far closer to my baliwick. I’ll keep trying to specialize here.

My husband is trying to sleep on me. I’m going to go.





There’s a particular romantic structure I’ve noticed in my real-world observations that I like to call “Aspie and Borderline.” Friendships, too, but it stood out stronger in romances.

Now, obviously, both Asperger’s Syndrome and Borderline Personality Disorder are medical terms, and I don’t really mean any diagnosis by using the concepts lightly. Fact is, though, that both disorders cut rather a gigantic swath through my family tree, so the terms jump fairly quickly to mind when considering the specific personality types in question. Hopefully I’ll be able to come up with better terms in the future, but for now, I’m running with it.

How it works is that you’ve got a bright, vivacious, loud and unapologetic person (frequently, but not always, a woman) and an awkward, retiring, quiet person (frequently, but not always, a man.) Alone, neither of them seems to do that well–he’s basically incapable of making friends and always manages to set his foot wrong in conversation, whereas she tends to run through incredibly mercurial friendships with equally bombastic people that leave her eventually having burned all of her connections.

Together, they… well, eventually they crash and burn like crazy. But for a while they work pretty well.

She’s one of the only people who’s managed to present herself strongly enough for him to realize that she’s interested. He’s one of fairly few willing to put up with her tumultuous personality. He’s grateful someone’s willing to hold up the conversation without needing him to input the proper shibboleths at the proper time, she’s glad to find someone who will just listen. He feels incredibly grateful that he’s managed to connect with such a lively, spirited woman; she feels glad that someone finally recognizes her obvious worth.

But… what goes wrong?

As many things as there are relationships, near as I can tell. But generally something along the lines of… realizing that the conversation is always, solely, exactly what she wants to talk about, regardless of whether there’s anything he might want to say instead. Realizing that he is never going to get up in a dander about the thing she’s spinning the entire universe about this week. He just doesn’t CARE about her the way she wants … and she doesn’t care about anything else.

Which is kind of a pity. It seems like it’s got so many elements of something that could work–that these people could perhaps eventually mediate the worst parts of each other–but it never seems to work out that way. In the end, Borderline doesn’t tolerate people who don’t play their parts in the play very well… and Aspie does not at all appreciate a part being scripted for him.

Just an observation? I hope I can use it for good eventually, other than avoiding friendships that I’ll regret in the future. (I’m casting myself-from-college as the Aspie in a female-female Aspie-Borderline friendship… and apparently everyone else in the world could see it was unhealthy but me? But I was so unused to people wanting to be my friend in the first place…)

*sigh* Anyway. Just something off the top of my head. Hang out in nerd circles long enough and you’ll probably see a lot of it.


Brain dumb

I’m totally at a loss for content–that is, I keep starting long, rambling posts that don’t go anywhere (briefly: If you’re going to do something illegal, do one illegal thing at a time; don’t view people as attractions at a theme park, everyone’s got their own life; If your article is about people using the state’s power of compulsion to stack people in forced-living communities and auction their property under them, you’re not describing a “capitalist dystopia”). And I don’t like any of them and I need to sleep.

Ergo, I’m just going to post a link to a video about a family exploring the Mustang Caves of Nepal that I was listening to during work today. If anyone has good educational content to recommend, I’m totally up for learning about a lot of things. (Though, um, I’m really squeamish, so probably not medical.)



Developing My Blood Magic System

So I’m going to give a shot to posting every weekday starting now, even though I did spend my whole weekend at the (absolutely fantastic) Dutchess County Sheep and Wool Festival and am a little fried.

Part of this is because I’m always going to have something, part of this is because blog posts don’t actually take that long, and part of this is that spending the weekend away from my normal concerns and worries (but with my lovely husband, who has been a fantastic bouncer-offer for story ideas for a long time) has been a great way to get everything flowing nicely.

I think I might be ready for my first edit.

But in any case, there are a few fundamental flaws with my first draft, and one of them is the magic system. It’s a placholder. I had no real concept while writing about how or why it worked, just that blood and human sacrifice and demons and wooooo.

So I figure I’ll take you through the process where I think I’ve worked out something that’s more interesting than that.

I’d previously been thinking in terms of power levels–about how much effect do I want my guy to be able to have? But that’s a really shallow way to think about it.

So I got to thinking… okay. The whole thing works on blood. Regardless of any other metaphysical aspects, it’s probably going to shift and change depending on… well, what blood is.

So what is blood?

I still haven’t looked into it extensively, but for a broad pass-over, it seems that blood is that thing that passes oxygen to all of the different areas of the body. When you don’t have enough blood, then you aren’t getting enough oxygen to all of your tissues.

In order for this to happen, there are about four-ish parts. (Again, this is broad my-husband-and-I-remembering-from-school–I was finding myself a little bit alienated by more technical explanations.) Hemoglobin–we’ll call this “active ingredient,” red blood cell, whatever, the thing that actually carries the oxygen. Plasma–this is the soup that lets it travel through your body. White blood cells–I don’t even know if this is technically blood or not, but I wanted it for my magic system, so screw it, this fights infections. Platelets–clotting factor.

(I’d also been curious what iron does, but it seems that iron is more an essential ingredient of blood rather than doing anything on its own. Blood won’t synthesize if it doesn’t have enough iron to draw from.)

Now, my world involves nobody really scientifically studying blood magic, just figuring out a couple of tricks that work. So nobody’s actually going to be thinking of it in these terms. But they start to give me a concept for… if this configuration were a source of magical power, what parts would be doing what?

I decided pretty immediately that hemoglobin is the “battery” for the magic; the source of power. If you’re using your own blood and you’re anemic, your spells are going to suck. So… there’s a pretty good built-in tool for not doing it too much. Easy to fall down a rabbit-hole where you need just a little more blood than last time, just a little bit more blood than last time, dead.

And on a similar note, I decided plasma was form and structure. This is also where I decided spells have to be written down, as a fun limitation. So yes, you write down your spells… in blood. You could theoretically write them down just in plasma, and power it with hemoglobin whenever you’re ready, but I don’t think the current state of the magic has discovered that.

White blood cells are antimagic. At least, anti-foreign magic. So they don’t mess up your own spells, but if you’re trying to negate someone else’s magic, this is the part of the blood that gets used. Which means, I guess, don’ t get into a wizard’s duel if your opponent has the flu.

And platelets gum up the works. Just terrible. Somewhere, there’s a ridiculously powerful hemophiliac blood magician who only managed to cast one spell before dying, but it was amazing.

So now, just by thinking into the physical characteristics of blood, I’ve managed to come up with a bunch of theoretical limitations (anemia, need to write, clotting is doom), room for more (do the plasma and hemoglobin have to come from the same person? Can leukocytes be encouraged to attack your own spell? Women tend to have a lower hemoglobin count than men, does this make them worse at magic?), and a better idea of how it slots into the world. I think that, even without mentioning a word of it in the text, by running magic use through this filter, I’ll be able to come up with something that hopefully screws up in ways that intuitively seem reasonable and predictable.

(Aside from the fact that demon magic is completely different. Human sacrifice and blood magic seem like they’d totally be part of the same system, but it turns out they’re not even talking. Weird. I wonder if that means you could ritually sacrifice someone (for demon power) but also use their blood for human magic?)

Anyway, I thought it was interesting, and a good thing to add to a system that had henceforth been kind of a boring and disappointing placeholder.

Hello, Computer

So, I’ve finally gone and got myself a non-phone internet-enabled device with its own actual keyboard! (Everything kind of fell apart for me once I lost access to my old work laptop. Blegh.)

Now, I’m an idiot for this having taken so long. Because the device is actually one I’ve had for five years–a tablet that my husband had gotten me during a time when we were travelling a bit more around the state and wanted something a bit lighter than my laptop. Okay, so for a large portion of my non-computational period it was lost–that is to say, it was thin and black and sitting on top of my husband’s desktop–but once I found it, there was really no excuse for forgetting that it was a charger and a keyboard away from functionality.

Is it perfect? No. The keyboard is small for my hands (I have a 100+ words per minute typing speed, but I’m sensitive to keyboard feel), and has non-zero bugginess. But. It’s a way to get all of the stuff flying around my head into files again!

What does this mean for the blog?

Well, I’m hoping to take it weekdaily again. Not immediately–I’m spending my whole weekend helping my mother-in-law out at a sheep and wool festival downstate, I’m barely going to have the brain capacity to go to work on Monday. But soon.

Also, I’ve gotten comfortable enough in my current position that I can listen to podcasts and interviews and stuff during the work day. (I’ve been listening to Buffy cast convention appearances. James Marsters can just make my whole day slide away–I think he takes being able to be engaging at cons as a serious day job and likely rehearses. I’m also growing to like Amber Benson a lot, who seems to immediately make the whole room her best friends.)

(There’s a lot of “doing guns right in fiction” panels I’ve seen from authors I like–I’m hoping to find one on knives eventually. Because… Michael’s a knife nut, and stabs a lot of people, and it would be nice to get some real information in there.)

Without a computer, work on my projects has come functionally to a standstill. But I’ve been doing a lot of worldbuilding discussions with my husband, so now that I’ve got a keyboard again, I have high, high hopes of being able to add a lot more world texture and stuff once I get to editing. (I still need to finish transcribing the last few chapters from notebooks, but that shouldn’t take that long after the show, particularly if I can convince myself to stop rewriting fight sccenes as I go.)

(I’m… definitely having to work for fight scenes.)


Anyway, that’s all for now! So glad to have a keyboard again. SO GLAD.


Okay, it’s been three weeks, not two, and I apologize for that. I also apologize that I don’t think I’m going to be able to keep this daily like it was, because in the Greater Heirarchy, maintaining the job that supports my family comes before basically any other consideration, and…

Hoo boy.

I don’t think it’ll be bad. Not forever. But beginning adjustments are really difficult in any case, every time, and…

I’m actually trying to brainstorm ideas for a new segment–thinking Aspie in the Office, since there’s so many times I could have *really used* practical advice for issues I was having in my workplace, and couldn’t find any. I’m sure there are other aspies in the same situation who could benefit from my experience, right? Right.

So anyway, I came home early today after a (thankfully delayed until I reached my car) outburst about a bagel of all things, and am trying hard to wind down and relax and be in fighting condition for tomorrow. Because I’m going to be ridiculously good at this job, and I’ve already started doing a great job at clearing out excess work. But that part at the beginning where you have to figure everything out because there’s no real training establishment or anything is… I’m holding it together mostly at work, and I have absolutely no spare spoons for when things go at all unexpectedly.

I also don’t have a sketch.

So just consider this an update and a statement of intent to do better.

Privilege and Ownership

Let’s talk privilege.

Oh, not the hot-button concept that’s got everybody a-twitter of late; something a little more specific, a little more easily-defined. I’m talking law of evidence privilege.

(Yeah, I feel like blathering on about various legal precepts I learned in school. I just started a new job today, and while everything went fine enough, I feel like going on about minutia might be a fine way of winding down without drinking. Everything here is US law, as I don’t know a damn thing about any other system. It’s also completely from memory, so take this even LESS as legal advice than usual–it’s just someone blowing off steam.)

So! What is privilege?

In a situation where you would otherwise be compelled to speak (or else rot in jail for refusing a judge’s order), privilege allows (or even requires) you, with the full backing of the law, to refuse.

And there’s a lot of them, and I’ll admit that in my schooling we only went over about five. But hey, this is my blather-session, and not inspired by something I really feel strongly everyone needs to know about. So. Let’s talk about those five-or-so types of privilege, and how they differ from each other.

(Please note that, because I’m tired, I’m only talking about subpoena-ability here. A lot of the things that can’t be subpoenaed also can’t be revealed to anyone else, ever, basically. But I don’t feel like thinking that far into where that applies or not.)


Attorney-client privilege. You know this one. Anything you said to your attorney cannot be revealed to the court by your attorney. This right can be waived–by you, not your attorney. You own the privilege.

Doctor-patient privilege. When you go to a doctor for the purposes of diagnosis of an illness (basically), what gets discussed between you can’t be revealed to court by the doctor. You own this privilege, too. But there’s exceptions big enough to drive a hole through–for instance, if the family judge orders everyone to talk to a family therapist so she can get a better idea of if the situation’s healthy (or whatever), then duh, the therapist can tell the judge.

In addition to that, there’s another big, huge, giant exception to both of these: When you confess that you’re going to hurt someone (or yourself? Not sure), they’re required to go to the authorities and tell every word. Pretty sure that those communications, so revealed, aren’t exactly held to be privileged thereafter, because everyone who reads the local crime blotter knows it. So, y’know, don’t trust this.

Work product privilege was one of the ones that I liked most. It basically means that the other attorney can’t subpoena the research and other work that your attorney has done for the case. If your lawyer went through twelve expert witnesses before they found someone who would actually back up your story, then what those twelve said stays in your law firm. The other attorney is going to have to do his own damn work. (There are exceptions to this–if you’ve managed to get  your hands on something important that can’t be recovered another way, for instance. But it’s not common.)

Priest-petitioner privilege. Because, basically, they had to keep arresting priests for not saying what had been confessed to them… and the priests, feeling they answered to a higher authority, didn’t budge. (OK, I don’t know if that’s how it really happened, but I figure it’s gotta be something like that. Either way, priests can’t be compelled.)

Marital privilege. Your wife can’t be compelled to say what you guys talked about. But if you can’t trust doctor-patient privilege, you really can’t trust this one–your wife’s the one who decides whether or not she wants to keep her mouth shut.

And self-incrimination privilege. You can’t be forced to testify against yourself. But… there are some interesting snags to this one. For instance, if you do decide to testify on your own behalf, you open yourself to cross–you can’t just say your piece and then clam up. (I think the IRS scandal actually involved this? I think one of the participants said a little, then invoked, and there was debate on whether she’d spoken enough to count as testimony. Am I remembering right?) I’ve also looked as to whether you can be compelled to testify against yourself if immunity has been offered. My snag is that none of the sources I looked at seemed to think that anybody in the world would refuse to testify if immunity were being offered, so didn’t explore it much. And yeah, I didn’t think about that ’til that Blacklist episode.

So, yeah. That’s… kind of a little bit of privilege in a nutshell, even though it’s a sufficiently loose and veering coverage of thing that I think my old legal professor would be ashamed.

But! But! We keep talking about whether or not people you talked to can testify as to the content of that conversation. Isn’t that the definition of hearsay?

Yep… but the hearsay exception does not apply to statements the defendant himself made. How’s that for a kick in the nuts?

Here’s a magic frog.