ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the October 7, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] janetmiles[personal profile] chordatesrock, and [personal profile] siliconshaman.  It also fills the "eccentric" square in my 9-29-14 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo  fest.  This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles.  It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

"Better Living Through Gizmology"

Megan Argall grew up
in a college town with
a professor father and
a librarian mother.

She was smart
but not super-smart,
good at gizmology
but not super-gizmology.

Megan had a problem --
sometimes she had
far too much energy,
and other times she could
barely drag herself out of bed.

That made it hard to do science.

She persevered, though,
getting a diagnosis --
bipolar disorder -- along with
counseling and medication
which helped somewhat.

But people talked.

"Eccentric," they whispered,
"Lunatic," "Crazy woman,"
and worst of all, "Mad scientist."

The names always hurt, but 
the slight to her professionalism
cut even deeper.

Was she less of a scientist
for having a mental illness?

Was that supposed to put her
automatically  into the same category
with people who built death rays
and tried to take over the world?

Was there something wrong with her
for working in a calm state of mind or
for wanting to make things that helped people?

Megan refused to let them stop her,
sticking with her care regimen and
her research project, taking up
mental health as a social cause.

She was determined to make a difference.

It took years to develop a device
that would buffer brain activity,
nudging it up out of a depressive state
and down out of a manic state,
maintaining the delicate equilibrium.

It took more years to reduce the thing
from the size of a large filing cabinet
to a pair of ear cuffs, two dainty curves
of electronics covered by a row of pearls.

One to push the mood up,
one to push the mood down,
and Megan had produced a treatment
for depression and for mania as well
as her own dual problem.

The money from selling those gizmos
enabled her to expand her lab
and begin work on new projects.

It was a lot easier to concentrate
when she could wear ear cuffs
that sent a constant signal
to steady her brain, instead of
relying on pills that changed the results
as they took effect or wore off.

People still whispered "Eccentric,"
and "Mad scientist," and it still hurt --

but they were drowned out by
the ones who said things like,
"Angel," and "My hero."

* * *


The title is a riff on an ad campaign, now often used in reference to psychotropic medications used to promote a healthy mindstate.

Mad scientists appear both in entertainment and in real life.  Studies show a correspondence between creativity and mental illness.  What they rarely mention is that some people find an unusual mindstate beneficial or necessary  to their creation, while others find that it makes their work difficult or impossible.  Mental illness is when your brain causes problems  for you; if it's not doing that, then you don't have a mental illness even if you think very differently than the usual.

Women are often called crazy as a means of control and oppression, whether they actually have a mental illness or they don't.  Picking on people in either regard is not okay.

Bipolar disorder is marked by high/low mood swings which disrupt everyday life.  People often find it helpful to track their moods.

Taking over the world and death rays are two tropes commonly associated with mad scientists.  Now imagine being a scientist, having a mental illness, and living in a world where a few supervillains keep trying to do those things.

The Gadgeteer Genius trope appears in Terramagne as Gizmology (cutting-edge technology) or Super-Gizmology (putting superpowers into object form).  Gizmos often take the form of electronics embedded in metal and studded with stones; jewelry is a convenient way to wear something that's meant to work for or on a person for an extended length of time.  Here we have a pair of ear cuffs set with pearls.  It's not a cure for bipolar disorder, but it definitely helps.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-11 11:59 pm (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
I have several exes from my dating days, an ex-husband, the Ex-Roommate From Hell, and the roommate who went crazy. And with that last, I'm talking about going down the list of symptoms for "paranoid schizophrenia" in a medical textbook saying "check... check... check...". It's because of this that I don't fling the word "crazy" around carelessly -- I've seen the difference, and it scared the shit out of me.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-12 12:14 am (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
I'll take two pairs of those please...

Id buy several sets!

Date: 2014-10-12 02:09 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
The message about "crazy" in the context of a genuine illness (rather than someone else's perception) is a very, very important one.

Re: Id buy several sets!

Date: 2014-10-12 02:29 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
It's a very short step from moderating manic depression to actually helping manage something like ADD or ADHD in adults. It's more intricate in some ways, but it's also something which can be /fine tuned/ for the individual's needs, making it easier to broaden the applications.

Hell, if it's ajdusting the dopamine receptors (one theory of how depression works, generally debunked and then reaffirmed in a yearly cycle)-- there's not much distance from that to ameliorating some of the effects of Parkinson's Disease.

THIS, one thing, would make it SO MUCH DIFFERENT in T-America that I can barely imagine it.

Re: Id buy several sets!

Date: 2014-10-12 01:24 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Of course it's not going to be mass-produced. But, say you're a brilliant engineer working for a company (that makes software packages) on a midlevel engineer's salary. You're NEVER going to be able to afford a custom gizmo, when diagnosed with Parkinson's. But the company buys and fine-tunes a pair of clips (probably set into something much less feminine, like a bluetooth hands-free phone headset? )

The company invests what, 1.5-2 million in /you/ and your work, and in return you get 3-5 (or more) years of active, full-tilt productivity. IF it's Parkinson's without dementia, the problem is a permanent adaptation FOR the engineer, like a leg brace. He doesn't own it, so it /would/ be returned to the company if he's one of the with-dementia patients who eventually cannot continue to work, but that's no creepier to me than having to return a Wacom tablet he's been using at home, with the company's knowledge.

The company holds the insurance on the object, which would make it less attractive to kidnap the engineer just to get the gizmo. They're paying for maintenance and tweaks periodically, which gives them /insight/ into the functionality without active espionage. Quite literally, just observing how it works, how long it takes to wear down a "fitting" until one is needed again, et cetera, would help them figure out which approaches to use on their own copycat team.

There's very little in the way of public PR for this, in part because the problem is a medical one (privacy) and because of the perception of Parkinon's-- here, I had someone tell me to my face that my father-in-law's Parkinson's disease was "a fate worse than death!" You can imagine the rest of that conversation. Shudder.

What does the company get out of this 3-5 million investment (given the maintenance and re-adjusting needed)?

Employee loyalty and dedication. They're going to stick with a company that /is/ helping one of their own, without making it into the PR stunt of the year. They're going to stick by the engineer, too, rather than marking days until they leave (and their job slot opens up). Some of them are going to be /active/ in raising awareness of the issue... every single bit of which the Big Software Company can use to /show/ the biometrics of working there are better than everywhere else, which gives them not permission to cherry-pick the best and brightest graduates, but the /expectation/ that they should.

In the meantime, the company's separate engineering team, looking at ways to retro-engineer the device, will be approached by HUNDREDS of other employees who are interested in it for "x"-whatever that might be. That's a wealth of free marketing right there! How many people on meds for adult ADD would also be willing to field test their new version? Another bonus.

Re: Id buy several sets!

Date: 2014-10-13 12:36 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
>>The drawback is that the human brain parses adaptive equipment as part of the body. As long as you have it, no problem. Taking it away becomes a problem. Even tools like a tablet are temporarily parsed that way, but the brain distinguishes them as temporary. Something like glasses or a wheelchair tends to feel like part of who you are, and those are body aids, not mental ones. Taking off the mental aid, especially all at once, would probably be like going off meds. I'd estimate a disturbingly high risk of suicide there.<<

If they're that tightly bound into the sense of identity, then yes, the likelier route with a dementia problem would be that the engineer keeps the tech while safely in a top-notch care facility, where at least one person is his bodyguard, likely without his knowledge, but with his family's full knowledge and consent. Returning the tech after death seems maudlin, but I consider it practical, like dropping my old eyeglasses into the charity box to be re-ground. (Nice for them, as my vision is so messed up that 2/3 of it (the usual loss for re-grinding) is still a hefty value.

Re: Id buy several sets!

Date: 2014-10-13 11:04 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Even if it cannot be passed down, the company gets a great deal of insight into super-gizmology, and by the time the gizmo is /returned/ it is not in the first year of development, or likely even the first five years. That'll change the perceptions of those who think they're just "harvesting" gizmos to reverse engineer them.

Re: Id buy several sets!

Date: 2014-10-14 12:58 am (UTC)
zeeth_kyrah: A glowing white and blue anthropomorphic horse stands before a pink and blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah
Ah, I was wondering about whifflers. I suspect they're only first-generation zetetics, rather than properly debugged and refactored. The mechanics of them shouldn't be too difficult: single spinning mop-heads (or paired for balance), path determined by speed and direction of rotation (and possible other factors), vacuum pickup or blower fan in the underbelly somewhere. The software for basic movement shouldn't be too hard. So then you have the sensors and reaction system to deal with so the machines don't wreck the place, as well as controlling multiple whifflers to clean a large space. Both of these are AI problems.

Oh. AI. Now there's where a gizmologist would start to shine, while a basic mechanic could take care of the rest of it.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-13 07:42 am (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
<3 That is beautiful. <3

(Sorry. It's a bad social day today. *offers good thoughts?*)

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-10-13 08:24 am (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
*grateful for the offer of hugs. perks up a bit at the mention of spaghetti* Sounds good. What else is in it? Bolognese is my predictable favourite. Of the sauces I've tried, anyway, but I like ground beef.

Do you think the gizmo in this poem would work on anxiety-related things too? Gizmos for those would be nice.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-10-13 09:08 am (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
<3 *very tempted to go back to sleep*

I'll probably write up the recipe later, I made notes.

Ooooooooh. That would be awesome! It sounds absolutely delicious. <3 I hope you'll enjoy it massively!

If the glitch is in the electrical system of the brain, then this device could probably be adapted -- eventually -- to address that.

Neat! Makes you wonder if someone in Terramagne saw/heard about these cuffs and had similar thoughts and what such gizmos for other problems would look like. Well, makes me wonder anyway. It sounds like a hopeful new tool that could inspire a lot of different kinds of research as people realise the worth of it. Would probably still take a long while, but still. There's a lot of hope in it. ^_^

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-07 11:55 pm (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Just stumbled across this. Better living through gizmology? Tres cool! And, yes, a helluva lot better than pills....

How are Gizmos powered? supercaps, or piconukes? If the former, you gotta charge'em; if the latter, you gotta shield'em, which is interesting for a pair of ear cuffs....

The pearl ear cuffs remind me of Diamond Mask, the Julian May character... (Dorothea McDonald, if memory serves? Jack the Bodiless' wife... )

My one thing about direct brain interfaces? OPEN SOURCE CODE, and verifiable firmware. If something's going to f*** with my brain, I want to know EXACTLY what it's doing. No Orwellian mind control gadgetry masquerading as do-gooder tech...

Sadly, the difference between "belongs in Arkham" and "superhera" is often bucks and/or Buck Rogers... :P

But then, history seems to follow fiction these days rather than the other way around. Keep writing happy stories!


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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