Research Is Never Wasted

I could’ve titled this post, “Why I Know How to Make A Potato Gun,” because I sort of do.  It’s silly, really, but basically you take a pvc pipe and a grill lighter to create some kind of fuse.  You cap one end, put the potato in the other, ignite the lighter…and WHAM-O, you’ve “shot your eye out” or more likely the bird-feeder right off the tree in your neighbor’s yard.  Look it up on youtube.  I swear it, red necks are making potato guns the world over.  Too lazy to even do a search?  Fine, I’ll include the mayhem for your amusement below.  But, you have to read this entire post to see the potato fly out of the gun, so to speak.


My point is, I know WAY too much about potato guns because I wanted to have a hilarious and ridiculous fight in a novel that I was writing.  I also didn’t want anyone to get “too” hurt.  So, I wrote this whole fight scene between one side and the other that involved potato guns and papusa-hurling.  This is a papusa…


It’s a delicious, Salvadorian, meat-filled treat.  I thought it would combust nicely on impact.  I thought it would both sting and be messy, which was great because I was trying to choreograph the biggest food fight ever seen in a novel.


I don’t think I need to tell you the novel sucked huge walnuts.


It really did.  There was about one solid chapter and the rest of it, 60,000 words of a steaming pile of turd.


But, I don’t regret the research.  I’m a big researcher and I love doing it because I find, from a writerly stand point, the best stuff is mined from the most obscure of places.


For example, I know, just know – unequivocally – that human beings don’t like to kill other human beings, for the most part.  You might think the opposite is true in light of the recent Sikh shooting and the horror in Aurora.


But, it’s not.  We don’t like to kill each other.


I know this because I researched it for a story idea and found some surprising revelations.  For one, in close combat quarters soldiers are unlikely to shoot at the enemy EVEN when their own lives are in danger.  “In WWII, only 15 to 20% of soldiers fired their weapons at enemy soldiers in view, even if their own lives were endangered.”  The data goes on to say…“In the U.S. Civil War, well-trained soldiers fired over the enemies heads or only pretended to fire…”  Then there is the Vietnam statistic – where a far greater percentage of soldiers DID fire and they fired an amazing quantity of bullets, however, very few hit their targets.  That’s because what the soldiers were doing was, “spraying and praying.”  Lighting up an area with their eyes closed, basically.  Because the truth is, unless you’re a total crackpot, when you look another human in the eyes, your own biology does NOT want you to kill them.  (I’ll include a link to one of my sources on this subject below.)


Fascinating stuff, isn’t it?  I don’t know where I’ll use it, but I know I’ll use it somewhere.


Then there’s the other completely unrelated, yet highly interesting statistic about America and our PERCEPTION of sexuality.  You see, under 2% of the U.S. population is actually gay.  And when I say actually gay, I mean out and proud, says it out loud, and would fill out a Census form indicating as such.  Less than 2% of the population!  And even this 2% number is very hard to pin down.  Why?  Because peoples’ sexuality can be all over the place.  One day they are gay, the next day they are not.  I mean, need we look any further than Ted Haggard to realize this is true?

“I’m a homosexual-feeling, heterosexual-acting, man.” What in the feck?


But, that’s not the fascinating part.  The real kernel of juicy is this…the population of gay Americans is calculated roughly under 2% and YET, most of America thinks the number is closer to 25%.  So, most Americans think 25% of our population is gay.  Why in the hell is our perception so vastly far off from the reality?  Who knows?  Maybe if you counted all the bisexuals and lesbians-until-graduation and homo-erotic holds in the UFC and locker room scenes gone wrong (or maybe right?) well, then, maybe the number is closer to 25%.  Maybe we just see more gay than there actually is and there’s nothing more to it than that.  The underlying cause doesn’t matter much for what I’m saying here today.  What does matter is that there’s something interesting in that tidbit.  There’s something there that could be something.  What?  A post?  A story?  A novel?  A video?  I don’t know, but there IS a something.


Maybe I’ll never use that potato gun research.  Who knows…


Wait a second, I just did…for this frickin’ post.  So, you see — in one way or another, EVERYTHING gets used and nothing gets wasted.


As such, I think I’ll always be a writer who researches because you never know where you’re going to find a gem.  Turn over a rock and if the story flows, you might end up with an Oscar.  Hey, a girl’s gotta dream…


And now, for your pleasure, SWEET MOTHER gives to you a potato gun extravaganza entitled, “WHAT IN THE HELL DID THIS CHAIR EVER DO TO YOU?”



If for some reason you’re having trouble seeing the vid in WordPress, you can go here — potatogunfun.



Sweet Mother is updated nearly everyday.  Want to be a part of the rock show?  Click subscribe at the top of the page and get an email every time new content is published.



You might also like:

How Oscar Pistorius Makes You Feel Inadequate



Photo creds and more:

war-stats, papusa, pot-gun-feature, tedh


32 thoughts on “Research Is Never Wasted

  1. It’s very heartening to hear confirmation that people (despite the media’s claims to the contrary) aren’t hell bent on destroying each other.

    1. true, isn’t it? i always hold those stats close when i hear about these horror shootings in the news. however, that all changes when you put a tank between a human and another human. then for the human shooting it becomes like a video game. the distance allows them to kill, which is against our biological nature, quite literally, but the industry that is war always finds a work around. unfortunately. xo, sm

  2. Knowledge is always a good thing. And thanks to the Internet, our research has become so much easier. Of course, that doesn’t mean what we read is true, but it sure is easier to access. 🙂

    1. that is so true, carrie. and probably worthy of an entirely different post…how to figure out if your internet research is actually correct. i swear, i don’t know how anyone did research before the internet? a library? the encyclopedia? a phone? i also think to myself, ‘how in the hell did women survive without tampons.’ i do, i truly think about that, i do. lol. xo, sm

  3. For some reason I feel the need to go make french fries to compensate for all the wasted potatoes in this video.

    On another note: It amazes me how often something will come up, some obscure fact or conversation and I know what they are talking about. Just last night I said to He-Who when he was explaining something to me, “I know, don’t ask me why I know, but I know”, and a few minutes later I realized that it was in my notes from the research I had done on a blog.

    1. i know! that so happens to me and then i have to go back and figure out where i got the info from. i feel like i’m always storing tidbits here and there like a weird little old lady who cuts articles out of newspapers and scrapbooks them… wait, that’s more like the unabomber. xoxo, sm

  4. I had a marshmallow gun once. Someone, probably a red neck, gave it to my son. I confiscated it and hid it in a kitchen drawer. Then one day, as my husband and son came into the kitchen, I whipped it out and let loose a full barrel of marshmallows, on their asses -pow pow!
    FUN! Mostly because they totally weren’t expecting it.

    1. that is about 12 gallons of awesome. i don’t know how you all didn’t die laughing! i love nerf guns. i’ve had dreams about spraying an audience with them. truly. xoxo, sm

  5. Hmmmm….not sure how I feel about the sexuality part of this post. Some people do have very fluid sexuality, others do not. It’s a slippery slope. Also, of course there are going to be a great number of people not willing to put their sexuality on a census. Some people are very scared about disclosing this information – even now in 2012. I’ve always heard the statistic of 10%, I’m more inclined to believe that than 2%….

    1. do a search, you’ll see, it’s 2%. that’s the closest you’ll come to anything that’s on record. i tend to believe it’s way higher too. and i’d believe your 10%, but 25% is hilarious. that would make us one of the biggest minorities in the u.s.. and i don’t think we are there yet, no matter how hard i try. 😉 xoxo, sm

      1. Ah yes, I agree with that! We are most definitely not at 25%. I just think that the 2% estimate is way low. Keep trying sweet mother! We can never have too many GLBT people!

  6. I can’t believe your suckie novel featured pupusas! I love those! I don’t eat meat, but the ones made with cheese and loroco (squash blossoms) are insane. mmmmm. And all that glowie pink pickled cabbage… who would not love?!

    1. the book was ALL over the place. i’m better at writing more true to life stuff. BUT, i’m going to try my hand at something completely fictional again at some point because it was such a good exercise. and i love me some papusas too! i even love the word! xoxo, sm

  7. Yee-haw nothing like a good potato gun fight. Although I like the food fight on Animal House way better. I believe you about the stats on people firing their guns. I read the same about policemen/women I think. The stats on the gay population did surprise me though. I did think it’s was far greater than that, but it matters not. We’re all in this together. Now I’m off to build a better potato gun.

  8. Sometimes the research is more fun than the writing. Shh, don’t tell other writers I said that! 😉 But I’ve never researched anything as fun as potato guns for my novels.

  9. While I was watching the video, at first I thought, “Wow, these dudes REALLY need to get a hobby.” And then I realized that they already had one. Shooting off potato guns is keeping these idiots off the streets. What a strange, strange world we live in.

  10. I’ve never been a gun person – bows and arrows, yes, swords, yes, guns no – BUT after seeing that video the temptation to try a potato gun is making my fingers itch! And I loved the child-like glee on the faces of those two guys too. 😀

    Definitely not wasted Mum!

  11. Are those potatoes cooked? Because if not, that looks like that would put out more than a mutherfeckin’ eye. That would cause your face to look like a giant pile of mashed potatoes filled with blood, bits of tissue and brain jelly. How can that novel not be genius if it has potatoes and papusa duking it out WWE-style?

  12. My mother used to say “Little children are starving in India”, then she’d feed us really poorly cooked food. I can only imagine what she’d say if she saw this blatant misuse of taters. I’d send her the link, but she’d never be able to open it, largely because those starving kids in India grew up and made the Interweb too complicated for old folks.

  13. I love random research! Hooray for documentaries and surfing on Wikipedia! And I imagine I will pass on your knowledge of humans not liking to kill each other – that one was a nice reminder, so thanks.

  14. You just said what I’ve been thinking a lot about recently (PS this is not the first time this has happened). Research is very important, and it never goes wasted. We can just tuck it in our noggin and it will come to use eventually. And real research (ie, not the kind conducted by biased lulu brains who try to substantiate that dinosaurs were on Noah’s ark) is delicious and always challenges us.

  15. My dad bought a marshmallow gun for my twin boys the day he found out there were twin boys on the way. He didn’t even wait for them to be born. The dog? Big fan of the marshmallow gun.

    I’ve always preferred a trebuchet, myself. I have a lot of things I would launch in a trebuchet. The pupusa would be good and messy!

  16. “homo-erotic holds in the UFC” made me nearly choke on my Snapea Crisp. You have no idea how much UFC I’ve unfortunately witnessed and I always think the same thing.
    That whole video was worth it just to see the unadulterated joy of a grown man jumping up and down because they’d just killed a chair. Those guys are definitely not part of the 2%. No self respecting gay community would take them.

  17. I love potatoes… now i want to have fries… 🙂
    you are right sweet mom..research does matter.. i have a story on my mind but because i cant find time to research i cant start… 😛

    and as per the percentage i think maybe 2% is less…there maybe many who aren’t in a position to come out..i mean i feel that..

  18. I’m playing catch-up on missed blog entries. Yes, research is a good thing. I remember watching Sleepy Hallow w/ an ex-boyfriend and Johnny Depp has just discovered the sigil the girl drew under his bed. Since we were in a living room watching this, I leaned over and said, I’m pretty sure that is a sigil of protection. I was correct. I had been researching sigils attributed to King Solomon and much annoyed because the book I wanted was out of print. But that was one the article had show.

    I would agree with the perception that when guessing the number of gay people, a lot of people of people just use two mental catagories. ‘Straight’ and ‘every other combination’. Those of us with lots of friends of every stripe and variety and combination tend not to think of it in terms of who is straight, gay, bi, transgendered, poly, and whatever. People who have issues with it tend to lump it all together. So when asked to make assessments like that, we just do it in terms they are more likely to understand.

    Or it comes from being a certain age and the concept of there being other combinations didn’t enter the world view (for some of us) until high school. And then it just made sense. As a song from my youth says, “People are people”. A person is his or her personality, interests, and life experience. A person is not a set of reproductive organs.

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