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Storytellers' Interactive Research Initiative

Sir Jerric

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Kobold's Creation Daily thread is quite impressive, given its simple starting point. I find myself interested in a similar, but tangential matter. As a storyteller, one needs to research a large range of topics to maintain a high quality suspension of disbelief. And researching by oneself gets dull. And sometimes you have a hard time figuring out where to start.


So I am starting SIRI, named for a character who did historical research by asking a storyteller in some novel or another that you may have read ;), and nothing to do with a oddly named piece of smartphone software <_<.


Feel free to share the cool things you've been researching, or questions that you're still trying to answer, or what ever you like. Then have some fun with the research process by chatting with other people about their subjects-of-interest.



Kicking things off, after concocting a magic power that had some interesting limitations, I thought that said magic would be interesting to use in gem cutting and other jewelry making. Turns out that faceting a gem by hand in a dark ages milieu is a tricky business, since "by hand" still involves grinding wheels and possibly a stabilizing mechanism to avoid spoiling the project with a finger fumble. Chisels hardly come in after the first steps of splitting along fault lines.

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  • 2 months later...

Seven reputation just for that? I guess I'll take that to mean that people like the thread concept (Jokes never gather rep :rolleyes:), even if no one else thought of anything to share or ask about.



Sometimes I find that modern archeology sets me up with some serious biases. There are a number of technologies that are much older than I often assume.


For example, glassblowing dates back to around 100 BC in the Roman Empire, and cast glass is quite a bit older. Most seem to believe that glass production tends to be inspired in regions where natural glasses can be found. Primarily, volcanos. The thing that is important to note is that clear glass is very rare and expensive until you get closer to the middle ages or later. And smooth window glass is more recent still.


Also interesting is that an example of movable type printing was found in the Mediterranian region that pre-dates the Chinese design. people believe the object was made with hand-pressed type rather than anything involving a pre-assembled grid of type, but it is still interesting to think about the fellow who was so far ahead of his time.

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Love this idea. Well, let's see. Given my NaNoWriMo's been set on a container ship (of all things!), I'm current looking up things like cargo-handling procedures, which somehow ballooned into learning about twistlocks and the more automatic types and lashing rods.


Some of the interesting things that never quite occurred to me:


-Statistics say that about 90% of everything travels by ship.


-Correct stowing of cargo is extremely important because improperly stowed cargo will lead to a list and the ship taking on water and possibly sinking once it gets into the open seas.


-Twistlocks are really, really essential and generally have to be accounted for.


-Cargo holding is generally the responsibility of the Chief Mate/First Officer, and seems to be more or less eyeballed; they have to keep going out and checking the draft and then using that to determine exactly how much cargo has been loaded. Draft also matters because if you load too much and the ship is too low in the water, you may have difficulty entering some ports.


-Another reason why loading matters is that the more heavily you load a ship, the lower your freeboard is. (Freeboard = the distance between the upper deck and the water.) A low freeboard is problematic because it facilitates boarding by pirates.


-In a number of accounts, there's often a bit of tension between the Deck and Engineering departments.


-Typically, there are three Departments: Deck, Engineering, and Catering. On a merchant cargo ship, Catering's likely to be made of just 2-3 people.


-Loading used to take up to about a week, but can now be done within 24 hours due to the use of machinery (cranes). Longshoremen are the people who do the loading, and the Chief Mate's often scuttling between the cargo holds and the foreman to make sure everything's done just right.


More research required into exact procedures.

Edited by Kasimir
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So twistlocks are very important, but I don't know what they are. ;) My best guess is that it has something to do with straps or whatever tied to a long pole and wrapped around the bundle to be secured. By turning the pole about 210 degrees, the straps can be pulled tight, and the tension becomes self-sustaining.


How did I do? :)


So in most stories, we tend to want to know what can go wrong. Can someone sabotage a cargo ship by unsecuring the cargo, thereby causing the ship to list at an inopportune time? Since catering is the smallest staff, could someone convince the Catering crew to help them stowaway?

Edited by Sir Jerric
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So twistlocks are very important, but I don't know what they are. ;) My best guess is that it has something to do with straps or whatever tied to a long poleand wrapped around the bundle to be secured. By turning the pole about 210 degrees, the straps can be pulled tight, and the tension becomes self-sustaining.

Haha, whoops. I've been looking up diagrams, myself, trying to find out how they work, but they're not very informative. It depends on the version of twist-lock, for one. They're more or less like clamps, rather than anything: so you have to align the holes at the corner of containers with the twist-lock and then clamp. This causes the knob of the twist-lock to 'twist'/turn about, so what you get is that the knob is *now* no longer perfectly aligned with the container hole. So now it's secured. I've seen one that involves just pulling and pushing on a protuding cable, and another which has a lever you need to shift from LOCKED position to UNLOCKED position. Similarly, I've also seen automatic ones, which have to somehow be disengaged by the use of a special wire tool--that one, I also have to do more research on.

I actually have already plotted out this story, so I know what's going to go wrong anyway :P But in pure theoretical speculation:

In theory, it's easier to stowaway, even given crew complicity, because cargo ship crews are small. But because the Captain (and company) bear liability for any stowaways and have to pay fines if they accidentally bring any in, you can imagine that if crew complicity is discovered, they'd be in big, big crem. Normally, stowaways simply try to hide in compartments of the ship (although sometimes they're smuggled in cargo containers, which instead requires foreman/longshoreman complicity, because the crew don't have the time to open containers and generally will not do so, so all you have is a list of what the container is 'Said To Contain'. So ships have had cases where they go out to sea, and only when they smell this huge stink, realise that someone's been living in a container for days/weeks.) In the compartments case, it's not always easy to avoid the people standing watch, but since there's more or less just two of them, and with longshoremen and everyone going up and down the ship, these things do happen. But for this reason, before heading off, most ships try to run a compartments search to get rid of stowaways: when you discover them when at sea, you're in trouble already. If you discover them and shoo them off at port, you're not liable to be fined. So you can see the clear incentive.


With regard to cargo, possibly, I'd say. It's one of those things that already happens: improperly secured/stowed cargo causing more problems. And then again, the listing would only happen once cargo started slipping/tumbling, and lots of it, and that could already kill/be a problem. Of course, you'd have to deal with the fact that it's a good way for everyone to die, as well. And that I'm assuming that a lot of people would be checking on that cargo, particularly the moment listing happens, meaning someone would order a bunch of AB down to resecure...Seems to me to be one of those 'theoretically yes, but there's procedures and people who would have to fail for this to happen'-type cases.

Edited by Kasimir
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Regarding glass, you might already have heard this, but the 'glass always flows' thing - the idea that it's still liquid and it flows over the course of centuries until the lower half of a pane of glass is thicker - is bunk.  The lower half of the pane is thicker in multiple-century-old glass windows because the techniques used to make the glass couldn't regularly produce a perfectly flat pane, and the fact that it'd be more stable and durable if the thicker part of the glass was put on the bottom.


Also, it's theorized that Roman glassmaking might - just might - have gotten a jump start because of a particularly hot campfire on a beach.  An anthropologist demonstrated that a lump of glass could result from such a thing, potentially putting the people involved on the right track.  Without any ancient reference to such an event, though, it's just an idea.


Similar lumps can result from lightning strikes in sand.  It's called fulgurite and it's some strange-looking stuff.

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@Kasimir: Oh well, I figured my system was a longshot anyway. ;) The "said to contain" part reminds me of a character I plan to write about someday. He works for the port authority checking cargos against the manifests. He gets to call people out when their goods don't match the declared weight, which is one of the potential signs of smuggling.


@Talanic: I'd heard of the first part before, but the other two paragraphs are new to me. I particularly like the campfire bit, since that provides a simple justification for almost any secondary world culture to have a glass production option.

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