New(ish) McSweeney’s Column

mcsweeneys_imageI’ve been working on my next McSweeney’s column and realized I forgot to post the last one. Here it is: Control Freaks.

If, in discussing “appropriate” use of force, we reduce every violent police encounter to the moment the first blow is struck, we willfully ignore all the other what-if moments leading up to it, all of which offer much better opportunities for intervention and safe resolution. Shooting bad guys may sound more fun and exciting, but I don’t see why people should die just because our collective attention spans are too short to think about the problem in larger terms.

For the Eye Sees Not Itself

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I have a new post up over at McSweeney’s, wherein I share a little bit of what I’ve learned this summer in my EMT classes:

I’ve spent some happy evenings this summer learning about the zygomatic and sphenoid bones and the maxilla of the face, comparing their most common fracture patterns to the places where my own face has been forcibly reconfigured, and thinking about how I might adjust my own punching technique to increase or decrease damage. EMT training has given me a new way to think about my martial arts and self-defense skills. I feel like a humble Florentine statue cleaner who has finally taken an art appreciation class.

Breaking stuff!

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I took a great breaking class last weekend with MyTien Duong (currently of Edmonton, Alberta). This was at the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation summer training camp, PeaceWorks, in Naperville, IL. I was thrilled to finally break two boards at once with a hand technique–I’ve struggled with that for years and it had become a real mental barrier for me. MyTien made it easy. One thing she had me do that really helped was to come up on the balls of my feet when I was reaching up to load the strike. I’m so invested in being grounded at all times (one reason I like breaking from a sitting or lying position) that I wasn’t taking full advantage of gravity. Lesson learned!

MyTien also talked about why it’s important for women martial artists to break. Because it’s part of our art, of course, and our testing requirements, but also because people need to see what women are capable of. We are so accustomed to see women as nurturers and builders, and we rarely get to witness their power to destroy. We’re acculturated to see that kind of force as negative in women, whereas we value it in men. So, board breaking = paradigm smashing. As if we needed another reason to love it.

Small Heroes

smallheroesI’ve added a separate page for my fiction, but in case you missed it: My e-book of short stories, Small Heroes, is now available on Kindle. The collection features a couple of pieces that appeared previously in the Austin Chronicle and Austin Monthly plus four previously unpublished stories. And it’s attractively priced at $1.99–only 33 cents per story, and I’ll throw in the preface for a penny. The preface references Beowulf, so you know it’s good.

Don’t own a Kindle? Do what I did: download Amazon’s free e-reader app for your desktop computer. All your Kindle purchases will be available in The Cloud for you to read any time.

There’s also a Goodreads page for the book, if you care to voice an opinion about it.

Bonus insider trivia: I shot the book’s cover photo on my iPhone.

How to not freak out when you call 911

I recently did a clinical rotation at the Austin/Travis County emergency call center, and noticed a few things that would probably help the average person placing a 911 call:

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1. If you don’t know the address you’re calling from, give the operator a cross street, nearby business, or landmark. They need the most specific information possible, so be patient if they ask questions–sending an ambulance to the wrong place will not help you.
 
2. Expect to repeat things several times. Landlines are automatically linked to a physical address, but most people now call 911 on cell phones, so the only way they can determine where you are is to ask. When you state the address you’re calling from, the operator has to accurately hear what you’re saying (sometimes over a lot of background noise) and manually type it in to the system. That leaves plenty of room for error, so they usually verify at least once, to make sure the ambulance is heading the right way. Again, an ambulance driving fast in the wrong direction would make your problem worse, not better.
 
3. Likewise, don’t get upset when they ask for your name and phone number. They want this information in case the call is cut off (common with cell phones), so they can call you back. They only need your first name.
 
4. Relax–they are NOT delaying help in order to ask you all these questions. In most cases, fire, police, or EMS are dispatched within seconds of your first providing the location and nature of the incident. Everything else is being done while help heads toward you. The operator will feed corrections and additional information directly to the responding units as you answer questions–correcting the route they should take, letting them know more about the situation, and helping various responders coordinate with each other (if fire and EMS are both responding, for example).
 
5. If you don’t know the answer to a question, just say “I don’t know.”
 
6. If the operator gives you instructions for helping a patient, follow them as best you can, but don’t hesitate to ask questions or give more information if it seems warranted.
 
7. Stay calm. Really. You may feel totally overwhelmed, but wheels are already rolling in your direction and there is a lot of expertise coming to help deal with the problem.