July 26th, 2008


Fire extinguishers

What does it feel like to get sprayed with a fire extinguisher?

Cold? Tingly? Numbing?

How long do the effects last? Is the residue hard to get out of clothes? How about hair?

Any other details to keep in mind?

Edit: The scene takes place in a house; the extinguisher in my house is ABC dry chemical, so that's probably what I want. but it looks like that's more annoying than funny. This is for a comedy scene, so ideally it should be non-toxic but very messy.

Medical reality check

Hi guys. I need some feedback on this specific situation--does it sound realistic?

A man is in his hot tub. He has just had 3 bottles of Grand Marnier. He is about forty-five, very slightly overweight, and has smoked cigarettes since the age of seventeen. He needs to die. It would be good for the symbolism of my story if he died from drowning. So I had him have a heart attack, pass out from the resulting lack of oxygen, slide below the surface of the water, and drown. Feasible?

Thank you everybody--I think I know where I'm heading with this now!

Resource: Everyday life in the late 1800s and early 1900s

For anyone who is working on a story set in the United States sometime between 1880 and 1930, I highly recommend Cornell's HEARTH archive as a source of background information.

HEARTH is a compilation of scanned books and journals on home economics and related topics. "Related topics" include:

- architecture, engineering and household sanitation;
- budgeting and money management;
- career planning, especially for women and girls;
- child development and education, including what we would now call "special education";
- cooking and nutrition, including recommendations for specific diseases such as diabetes and heart problems;
- dressmaking, tailoring, and recommendations for suitable wardrobes;
- etiquette for specific situations, usually focused on women who worked outside the home;
- housing adequacy as a social problem;
- marriage advice, including selection of a prospective spouse;
- old psychology and social work texts;
- personal hygiene and care of sick family members;
- etc.

I find the books in the HEARTH collection useful not only for their content but also for the writing style. It really does help with understanding the mindset of the time period.
  • ckret2

Physical appearances of mixed-race children: Caucasian/Japanese

You'd think this would be a very basic easily-researched thing but apparently not. I've googled various combinations of the following terms: looks, mixed, race, children, japanese, appearances, culture, cultures, offspring, human, genetic, mixes. I've gotten scientific articles about gene mixing and I've gotten social support for mixed race people, none of which I really need.

I'm setting a story in a sorta-fantasy sorta-real world, and I'd like my main character and his sister to be blond, but they've also probably got Japanese heritage somewhere in their family. His father is most likely white. So, I don't know what kind of weird gene mixes that would involve (quarter Japanese, maybe?), or if perhaps I could end up giving the kids some other lightish-colored hair that isn't necessarily blond, but I really would like them to have a light-haired look.

And if anyone has some examples of what a white/Japanese child would look like--photographs or basic description or something, regarding eye colors, facial features, body type, anything--that'd be nice.

As for what the white half of his family's ethnic origins are, I dunno. I'd like to be lazy and say "American!!" so I can pull the "melting pot" card and say his father is a Generic White Guy, if such a thing exists. But his family name is Tulving, and I cannot find out the origin to that (Google fails me again), so if anyone happens to know...

Thank you for your help!

Snakes in high school english

I've googled around various things (snake classics, snake symbolism, serpent books, etc.) but I can't find what I need and apparently my memory of high school English is not as good as I'd hoped.

Does anyone know a book (or poem or short story) that might be taught in a fairly generic American, modern day high school English class in which, at some point, snakes are used to symbolize evil? If I have to, I'll go with the Bible, but honestly that has a lot more cultural baggage than I'd prefer using.
Aki and Black Rose


I have a character who's been whipped all his life. I want his back, from the shoulders down to his knees to be covered in scars from the whipping. But I don't know how to phrase it so I can find the answer. I just need to know how it would look on a body (The whippings carried on from about age 5 until 15). The whip would be typical for flogging, and the master who did it was a bit of a sadist in what he did.

Thank you.

Building collapse during earthquake

Hi everyone,

this is my first time posting here. I've been reading lots of your entries for a while and even though so far I haven't been able to help out with a reply, I love that you always have lots of answers.

Here's my question for the day: There is this hotel in my story. It's built upon lots of underground tunnels (that people don't really know about for certain reasons that have to do with the story). An earthquake happens and I want the hotel - with a few people in it - to collapse into those tunnels when the ground just gives in. Does that make sense? I'm not always very clear when I try to explain something in english.

Here's my question: Despite the fact that the above scenario is probably not very likely to happen in real life, for the sake of the story, what magnitude would the earthquake have to have to make something like that happen? I googled quiet a lot about earthquakes and I found many, many great information (including that Richter Scale, the one I knew about, isn't even being used anymore). But no side could tell me what magnitude would make a building collapse like that.

Does anyone of you have an idea?

ETA: Thank you all. Your replies have all been very helpful!