April 10th, 2007

Zucchini as a semi-accurate simulation for human skin

Hey all, weird question here.

If one of my characters were to train with a sword using zucchini for point practice (i.e. fastening it to a wall and lunging at it), how accurate would that be to attacking a human? I apologize for not making the question very clear - I've never been good at explaining things.

Basically, I'm just wondering if the thickness/consistency of the skin is at all comparable to human flesh, or if there's some other obscure vegetable/fruit that might serve as a better model.

So far, I've Googled "human zucchini skin comparison" and "human zucchini skin thickness," and I've found one site that suggests vegetables were used as a substitute for human skin, but nothing specific.

Any help would be greatly appreciated! :)

ETA: Thank you all for your answers! I think I will reconsider how my character trains, and use dead carcasses instead of vegetables. I was hoping for a zucchini, but perhaps I'll fit that in elsewhere. Thanks again! :)

Fraternity/Sorority houses and college campuses

Setting is modern-day/recent past, United States, probably pacific northwest but exact location isn't terribly important (I don't think).

I'm working on a story in which my character visits a party at either a frat house or sorority house. Since my school didn't have either one, and I was never big on parties to begin with, I'm a bit at a loss to describe this, so I'm looking for some real-world details on things from people who have been there. (I tried Googling about frat houses and parties at, but ended up with mostly references to movies or news articles about binge-drinking deaths - useful-phrase suggestions appreciated.)

1) Would this likely be an actual house, like a family moved out and they moved in? Or is it a dorm/apartment-like building in which the fraternity is housed?

2) Are the houses more likely to be on or off campus?

3) How often do they have large parties at which non-student (but college age) types might show up? Do they need special occasions, or just "it's the weekend"?

and finally, 4) If you have been to a party like this, what was it like? Are they really massive drinking orgies like on TV? What are the other people likely to be doing?

EDIT: Thank you, everyone who commented and gave such helpful details! ^_^

artist/group with a Sitar!

ok, I wants some specific information, but I didnt know about how to google it, so I'm asking here, so I can get a more human response, from experience.

I wants to have my character able to reference something modern with a Sitar in it, when talking with another character. The key is the Sitar, as its going to be important later on in the plot. It's set in the US, in the present.

So, my real question is, does anyone know any rather modern artists/groups (can't be the Beatles, that messes up the storyline) that use a Sitar? It would be really helpful if one of the bands you like has some in it, cause I need something someone can vouch for as a decent band, I don't want my character referencing a crappy band.

It doesnt matter if it's mainstream/underground, indian/non-indian, as long as it is modern and has a Sitar (it would be nice if it was something on iTunes, so I can listen to a bit of it, to know what it's like)

UPDATE!: Awsome, guys! I got more than enough perfect choices, thanks a ton!
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The quality of alcoholic beverages

Setting: generic fantasy universe, medieval-ish.

One of my characters - of pretty high social status, and used to the finer things in life - visits a pretty seedy tavern (out of necessity: a meeting she needs to attend has been arranged there).

I'm assuming that at a normal medieval-type tavern, ale would be served (at least, that's what I've always found in narrative - if I'm mistaken, by all means correct me).

Given that I don't drink - at all - I haven't the faintest clue what would differentiate good, quality ale from bad ale. My research indicates that ale is sweet and fruity-tasting; would this mean terrible ale is extremely sour, or am I completely off the mark?

My Google-fu is failing me here, because all search tags I could think of (good ale, bad ale, quality of ale, and similar) have yielded absolutely nothing of use. Wikipedia wasn't much help, either.

Also, another drinking-related question. How long does it take a person (human male, 30 or so years old, pretty average in terms of physical fitness, if it makes any difference at all) to get completely and utterly drunk? (Assume - again, if it makes any difference - that he's drinking ale, most likely the cheapest, nastiest stuff he can get his hands on.) Also, what would it take for him to stay drunk? (Assume first deliberate action, then I'm guessing habit.) Would he be drinking pretty much constantly, or just when the effects start to wear off? (How long would the effects take to wear off?)

Googling "effects of drinking", "drunkenness" and such only turns up information on how fast the stuff eats up one's liver, brain cells etc, which doesn't help me much.

ETA: Got my answers - thanks to everybody :)

911 Dispatch protocol/what the dispatcher says

Setting: suburban town two towns away from a city (I am basing it on the town I live in, which is Lexington, MA, (USA) and two towns from Cambridge, so it's not a small town.

Genre: generic fiction, sort of (it's a short story and it's set in the real world)

Does anyone know exactly what the 911 operator is trained to say when you call them? I know it's not "911, may I take your order," (heh) but that's the first thing that came to mind.

I've googled combinations of "911 dispatch protocol," "911 dispatcher transcript," and "911 call procedure."

Edit: Thank you tons everyone! That was just what I was looking for.