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Ep.2 D&D, Music, and Voodoo

20 January 2019

RR: If I get enough interviews I can make it into a podcast…k! Sitting here with Meg Schindler, who is going to describe something that she wants to do with her profession. Which is voodoo.

Nick: How did you get voodoo as a profession?

Megan: According to Rock Rat, it’s all voodoo and it’s really not.

Nick: What’s wrong with it?

RR: Nothing’s wrong with voodoo, but that’s what she does professionally. They have trained her in the art of poking my brain and it works. OK-

Shawn: It’s only voodoo if she pokes your brain and somebody else gets hurt.

Nick: Or if she pokes inanimate objects and it pokes your brain.

Katie: Mmhmm.

RR: This is the crowd I’m sitting with, for the record. We’ve got Meg, right here, we’ve got Shawn Tolley, we have Nick Pike, he’s a swing dancer. Shawn Tolley is a teacher. We’ve got Katie…Meraso? I swear to god..Mersaros?

Katie: Mersaros.

Shawn: Call her Katie The Butcher.

RR: That’s good too, Katie The Butcher, who is my friend and roommate and, uh..

Nick: And I’m just “the swing dancer” I’m not sure how I feel about that.

RR: He’s an engineer too! We’re here to talk about Dungeons & Dragons, this is Rock Rat-

Shawn: Oh, you’re an engineer too?

RR: -live…screw you guys. I love ‘em all very much. Meg, you’ve got an idea about Dungeons & Dragons.

Megan: So like, my background is in psychology and counseling. I have also studied subcultures, and Dungeons & Dragons like, it’s such an ornate activity and world and there’s like this really rich culture to it. That I don’t understand and have very little exposure to. And so as an outsider, it’s fascinating to me and I want like to see brains under FMRI. To see, like, what parts are stimulated during this activity. And also, like, where is the gratification and what does that do for people?

RR: What’s an FMRI?

Megan: FMRI is a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imagery. It shows in really great detail the blood flow in the brain, and so you can tell like which areas are active during activities. Um, and so I’m imagining Dudgeons & Dragons- Rock Rat is really intrigued in a D&D figurine right now…

RR: …that was 3D printed by Shawn.

Megan: Wow!

RR: Super cool! I’m literally drooling a little bit. Maybe that’s the pizza.

Megan: Yea, her jaw is like dropping.

RR: Oh my gawd, it’s so cool. Like where did you get this? This is incredible, Dudgeons and Dragons is dope. And so is brain flow and the….the blood in the brain…yea. Like holy shit.

Nick: So you buy the plans and print them yourself?

RR: Ugh! This one’s all cleaned up!

Shawn: This one’s Dana’s, be very careful with that.

RR: Right.

Megan: Anyway, so from my perspective, you have social interaction, you have decision making, which happens in like the frontal lobes of the brain, and you have imagination and creativity which is also, ya know, frontal lobes. But I’m also imagining, like, the mirror neurons, your expiator(sp?) lobes might be activated. I just wanna know what that experience is like for people…that’s quantifiable through brain imaging.

RR: Which would be super cool. I think.

Megan: I don’t know what else to say, like talking about, Rock Rat, your dad, like, 30 years on one character- that’s so much development, so much creativity, and you can also get into the psychology of the characters themselves.

RR: Yea, he has a stack…we’ll talk about it. Ok, Shawn, what do you want to do with this?

Shawn: Well I mean there’s a- I’m a music teacher. I have a history in composition and particularly use of technology and use of …I particularly have a background in, um, use of electronics for creation and performance. And so, um, there’s a piece that was written, I don’t even remember the guy who did it, but he attached electrodes to people’s heads and then read brain electrical activity during thought processes. And then transformed those into frequency ranges and then used those to perform an electrical instrument. And so if we took her magnetic resonance imaging, um, and then we used that incoming data as a way of making discrete changes to sound, then used electrical activity for, um, notes, we could produce music that way. Also combine that with a D20 system of dice music, that I’ve already generated, and we could have some really interesting stuff.

RR: I’m very invested in this idea. Wonderful things are happening around this pizza and mead. By the way, we are drinking mead. That’s also dope and very Dudgeons & Dragons-eques. Ok- Nick Pike is an engineer, who works for the government. Tell us what you want to do-

Shawn: Wait, do you currently work for the government?

Nick: I do.

Shawn: Wow. Do you get paid?

Nick: Yes.

Shawn: Right now?

Nick: Yes.

RR: He’s important.

Shawn: This is impressive. It must be military?

Nick: No. My contribution to this was going to be, uh, some additional ways of representing that music. And there’s a couple different ways you can do that. One of the cool ones at the moment is, uh, a tube with that you drill out holes every inch and then you use propane through. And then you light them and so you get this even wave. And then as you pump…as you push music through that, what it will do is create pressure changes within there. And you’ll get a visual representation of a wave of the music in the flame that’s produced.

Shawn: It would be interesting to take the-

RR: It’s freaking intense!

Shawn: -blood flow and run those through a color generator.

Nick: Yea, there’s a lot of ways to represent music in general. So.

Megan: Can I, like, geek out for another second? Like yes…so many of my colleagues do creative and expressive arts therapy. And like, we do stuff like this, right? Like there’s bibliothereapy and there’s so many lessons you can learn from popular literature, that you can apply, especially to adolescents. And so I’m thinking, like, through this culture, through this decision making process, like, you can have like corrective emotional experiences by creating a different outcome for your character. Or, ya know, going back and correcting decisions. I mean, it’s like…very fruitful.

RR: Yea.

Megan: It’s fertile soil for exploration. Plus, it’s so culturally relevant and accessible. That like, why not explore that as a means for…I don’t know, therapy. That’s …I don’t know.

RR: You’re so well spoken.

Megan: I don’t know.

RR: Um, what do you do, again?

Megan: I work on a voluntary crisis team. Which means that I..

Katie: -Get threatened with a knife once a month.

Megan: Sometimes I get threatened with knives. Sometimes I sit across the room people who have loaded weapons-

Shawn: That’s a weird spot to come back in on.

Megan: Most of the time, I get to hear people’s stories and then I help kind of connect them to resources in the hopes that we can reduce unnecessary hospitalizations for psychiatric reason. Like, just trying to swoop in and get people connected and get them what they need.

RR: Cool. Cool. We’ve been ignoring my wonderful roommate Katie until this point. Who is going to come back…in just a second. Does anyone else have more for this?

Shawn: I have a question for you.

RR: Yea.

Shawn: In your job, do you work with more animal biology or more animal ecology?

RR: Um, right now, I would say it’s more ecology. Because the only goal is restore the wetlands. And my data analysis right now is supposed to center over the population abundance, the timing of that abundance, and then the wetlands where they are most abundant. So it’s definitely a multi-tiered issue. And then the actual restoration is highly iterative, so we’re gonna do an initial site visit. Someone’s gonna contact us, we’re gonna do a site visit, we’re gonna come up with the plans, we’re gonna send, like, those aspirational plans to an engineer. Then we’re gonna have to go do another site visit, then those plans are gonna have to get approved, and then we’re gonna actually have to start, like, puling the funding and, like, doing things. So like, right now, it is more ecological. Historically, it has been more biology focused, because it was like one species at a time. “Where’s that bird?” Map it, move on- kind of deal. That quantify one species at a time. Like working with oven birds, working with Acadian flycatchers. Um, now it’s just a wider scope.

Megan: Can I ask you a follow-up question?

RR: Yes.

Megan: When looking at wetlands and sites that are attractive to waterfowl, right?

RR: Yea.

Megan: What factors are quantifiable?

RR: So, there’s lots of variation, um, in the past years about how we collect our data. But mostly it’s “What’s the species? Where are they along the track?” um, “How many of them are on what kind of wetland?” And that’s highly subjective, except unless you have like specific training as a biologist. So we’ve got small ponds, large lakes, small lakes, large lakes, potholes, creeks, um, agricultural sheetwater- which is like a flooded ag field which is highly ephemeral-

Nick: Did you say ‘potholes’?

Katie: Mmhmm.

Nick: Ok.

RR: Yea, we just quantify everything, we give it terrible names. That’s what we do as biologists.

Nick: Well, swing dancers do it too, if it makes you feel any better.

RR: And then native plant..sheetwater..Yea.

Katie: Are you not seeing the sign that says, “Native plant rehabilitation”?

Nick: I will pay attention a little more.