January 17th, 2009

Instant coffee in 1951?

Hello.
I'm writing a story, set in London in 1951. I know that instant coffee was being produced commercially for decades by that time, but I'm not really sure that it being an initially Japanese invention was accepted so soon after the war... On the other hand, with post-war economy, wouldn't drinking real coffee be too unreasonable for a random policeman?
I'm really at a loss...

Thank you in advance.

Gun accidents

My MC is a contemporary Texan rancher, and ends up in hospital after an accident with both eyes injurded enough thatthey are covered and he's not sure that he will keep his sight.  The accident happens on the ranch and involves another character trying to shoot something and the MC attempts to stop him, with no regard for his own safety.  The other character can be injured in some small way, but I need my MC to be temporarily blinded and in need of hospital treatment.  The gun could be a rifle or hand gun, which ever is best for the accident.

Any ideas?

I've looked up about gun explosions but not finding much and am wondering it a gun explosion would be common enough.  Other alternatives are
- forcing the gun to point down to the ground and the ricochett or dust or something coming back and hitting MC in the face. 
- the shot hitting something like a concrete/brick wall and the schrapnel causing the damage to his face.
- the shot hitting something that explodes.

Any other suggestions?

Or any insights/

Thanks in advance.

Deafness and muteness caused by head injuries, school admission in Surrey without birth certificate

I'm rewriting one of my old fics. The first time round I just threw things that I thought would be cool, without thinking about the plausibility of the scenarios. Now I know better, and I also know about the existence of this community.

1) One of the characters, H, has been repeatedly and severely beaten, with quite a few blows landing on his head. What I want to know is if this could possibly result in permanent hearing loss. If not, how long does head injury related hearing loss usually last?

2) H is also choked with a belt on several occasions. Would it be plausible for permanent loss of voice to occur from this? If not, what sort of injuries could cause permanent voice loss?

3) Because of the above reasons, H needs to learn sign language in order to communicate. How long would it take a reasonably intelligent 15/16 year old to learn sign language?

4) Is it possible to enter a Surrey primary school without a birth certificate? I found the website for that local authority, but the file was a PDF, which isn't supported by either my FireFox or my Vista so I can't read it.

Search terms: "head injuries" + deafness, "head injuries" + muteness, school admissions + surrey, learning sign language

Engine Failure in a 1967 Dodge Charger

I'm working on an urban fantasy set in a post apocalyptic America, where gasoline is available (for a hefty price) but where regular engine tune-ups aren't exactly the first thing on everyone's mind. One of my characters drives a 1967 Dodge Charger muscle car with a 426 Street Hemi engine. The car was extremely well maintained from 1967 to about 2000, but from 2000 to 2008 it's been maintained negligently or not at all. Its current owner, who acquired the car in about 2003 and has spent the last five years drifting across the country, can't remember when he last had the oil changed.

As you'd expect, this eventually results in engine failure. However, I've been unable to determine what parts would have failed and need to be repaired or replaced. (Although I assume there would be a lot of problems.) Fortunately we have access to a garage and a good mechanic who can cannibalize replacement parts from abandoned cars, but I need to know specifically what parts would need to be replaced or repaired, as well as approximately how long the labor itself would take (not accounting for the time needed to find or create the parts).

The mechanic is young, skilled, and largely self-taught. He can identify a Charger but has never worked on one before. I imagine he'll need to do some trial and error to figure out exactly what's wrong; what sort of tests would he run and how would he figure out what the problems are? He doesn't have access to incredibly high-tech tools; basically, he's got whatever a run-down rural garage would have circa 1999. What sort of problems would he need to deal with other than the engine failure in order to get the car running smoothly again?

I've googled "engine failure" and "engine maintenance", as well as the Dodge Charger itself and the 426 Hemi. I'm afraid I don't know enough about cars to get more specific than that. (I've also considered wandering into the nearest garage and bothering the mechanics, but I'd like to get your help before I get that drastic.)
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