Thinning Blood and Saps

Kage Baker always maintained that her blood got thicker  in the winter – like maple syrup. In logical corollary, she insisted it got thin again in the spring.

This is a popular old bit of folk wisdom, of course, which has persisted for millennia. Liquids do change in the cold: tree sap gets thick and slow, water goes syrupy on its way to freezing, blood in a dead person – who is obviously cooling – clots. It clots in a wound, too, which has opened up the cozy warm insides of a person. It’s a belief hallowed by time and common sense observations, and like a lot of common sense observations, it’s WRONG.

Kage knew it was crap; she just insisted on it to make me crazy. Sisters have a lot of weird things like that – customs that are partly jokes, partly warfare, and partly OCD … it’s a special kind of game, with specific rules. It’s been played with skill and finesse in my family all our lives. This is one of the things that happens with your father can’t say NO to door to door salesmen, and you grow up with 7 sets of encyclopedias in the house.

Kage also maintained that raw potatoes gave you tularemia, a fiction she developed as a defensive maneuver when I convinced her that possums and opossums were two different species. The goal of the game here is to unsettle your victim’s convictions to the point where she gives in and actually looks the nonsense up – if she does, you win. And any winning weaponized “fact” can then be trotted out again and again to make your sister shriek. Thus, Kage speculated mordantly every time I ate crudites, reducing me to that ultimate retort, “Oh, screw you!”

The addition of the Internet to our lives has only made us worse. I have friends who look askance at any exotic fact I share with them, simply because I have so often fed them a line of total nonsense. They only listen because I do know lots of odd things, and I might be honest … this time. This is a very useful skill for a fiction writer, by the way, and Kage was not only the Queen of Search Engines but the Evil Empress of Insane Factoids …

The blood thinning/thickening thing was a frequent excuse for seasonal indulgences with Kage, too. Spicy foods would thin her winter-thickened blood, she maintained – therefore, she needed tacos. Or absinthe. Or rum, which is evidently the real universal solvent. In summer heat, ice cream could be invoked to give necessary body to her thinning blood. And chocolate just fixed everything, restoring all bodily humours to their most effective consistency.

There may be some truth to that last one. Chocolate is testing out as a panacea lately. I am quite sure, however, that hoodies with Jolly Rogers on them have no discernible effect on blood thickness. No matter what Kage insisted.

Here in Los Angeles, the weather has been quite lovely lately. And fairly odd. The days have been warm and clear – it’s 79 degrees here on the edge of Griffith Park today, and we’ll be barbecuing hamburgers for dinner. However, the last several nights have dipped into the 30’s  long enough for frost to form. The car windows have needed scraping every morning, and the bright new grass crackles underfoot. One hardly knows what to wear.

If Kage were here, her blood would be fizzing in her veins like a Christmas bubble light, frantically thinning and thickening. It would be just about to flash phase into an incandescent plasma, probably, and reflect off the backs of her corneas like candle flames.

It was all due to calcite crystals. Yep, calcite crystals. It’s why trilobites had laser eyes, you know.

(Caveat: I never lie to you, Dear Readers. Everything I tell you is the honest truth. The world is just a lot weirder than you ever suspected … )

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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5 Responses to Thinning Blood and Saps

  1. widdershins says:

    It all started not long before the fall of the House of Romanov, when the Cossacks couldn’t get their usual issue of warm clothes for the long cold Russian winter. Some twit of a royal favourite had the insane idea that the soldiers uniforms looked too bulky when on parade and by various means, both fair and foul, had them redesigned to be more aesthetically pleasing to the aristocratic eye.

    Even the generals protested but the uniforms had already been made and winter was upon them. There was nothing to be done but wear the flimsy things. This of course led to the poor freezing soldiers seeking out alternative means of keeping warm.

    One regiment, for reasons that have remained hidden from history to this very day, was sent to Iceland of all places. Because of the Gulf Stream, Iceland is known for its temperate climate so the regiment managed to draw out this assignment for many months beyond what was in their original orders.

    One bright officer of a scientific mind kept up with all the latest advances of the industrial revolution, and on a lazy, hazy afternoon had an idea. He had his men hike out to the Helgustadir farm on the northern shore of the Reydarfjord in the outer east of Iceland.

    All told the soldiers managed to mine about 50 tons of calcite from the site. These calcite crystals were renowned for their quality and often used by the optical industry. Which leads us to surmise that the officer knew about the scientific advances being made by a research team on the southwestern coast of Sweden near the border with Norway, because he promptly sold the crystals to the Swedes for a huge profit and immediately resigned his commission. The Russian regiment disappeared, but the contribution they made to the advancement of modern science cannot be underestimated.

    In a coastal archeological dig the Swedes had unearthed a colossal fossil field of Olenid trilobites. (so named because they existed during the late Cambrian to early Ordovician eras) The Olenid trilobites had one very unusual characteristic. Chemoautotrophic symbiosis, which enabled them to exist in an oxygen-poor sulfur- rich environment.

    The research team immersed their perfectly preserved fossils in a seawater tank that replicated (as far as they were able to determine) the conditions the trilobites lived in 450 million years ago. The scientists noted that when the ambient light shone through the gaps in the trilobite shells, it seemed to refract throughout the structure. They extrapolated the uses the trilobites might’ve put this ability to and used crude lenses to focus the light and produced a slightly diffuse beam of uni-directional light.

    This was the discovery our enterprising officer read about. To cut this part of the story short, his crystals were ground into superior lenses and fitted to the trilobites and the beam of light was focused so much more tightly and could be used for all sorts of military and industrial applications.
    The result of the combination of the calcite or limestone crystals and the sulfur laden trilobites was overlooked at the time, but years after the experiments disappeared into the vaults of the Kremlin after the October Revolution an unusual compound began to be used in natural healing treatments. It was called Calcium Sulphur (aka Calcarea Sulphurica, Calcarea Sulphur, Calcarea Sulph, Calc Sulpher, Calc Sulph, Calcium Sulfur, Calcarea Sulphuricum) and was used to treat aliments of the liver, sore throats and acne.

    With the advent of the 20th century and ‘modern’ medicine the use of such compounds fell out of favour, but because it was so universally used the residual effects show up quite frequently nowadays in folk with the slightest European genetic heritage about them. The primary effect being a thinning of the blood in the waxing of the year and a thickening as it waned as the liver responded to changing temperatures and activated or hibernated the compound correspondingly.

    And that is the truth gentle Kate…

    Would I lie to you?


  2. Of course after that discourse I had to run to my search engine and look it up as I had never heard of the crystals and thought a trilobite had to be a made-up alien from Star Trek. Thanks for the early morning education of “cool things I didn’t know” to add to the drawer in my memory of “Cool stuff I may never use but it’s cool to know anyway”.

    • Kate says:

      Deidre: Oh, trilobites are real, and their crystal eyes are real, too. Run an image search, and you will find some gorgeous photos – even in fossilized state, the mutlipartite crystals of their calcite eyes are obvious. How the seas must have glittered when they were one of the most common species! Some of them were as large as cats.

      Also, I think they are rather cute. And some evidence on their few remaining distant relatives indicates that these big, pretty, sparkling creatures were edible, as well. I have always fancied they must taste like shrimp.

      Besides: no knowledge is useless.

  3. katie says:

    your good

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