June 21st, 2009

Venezuelan (Caracas) Neighborhoods

I'm working on a story in which the MC is an European businessman working temporarily in Venezuela, primarily Caracas. I'm trying to figure out where he lives. A neighborhood where the wealthy would live, of course. I envision a  house rather than a highrise apartment. I also see something with a yard (surrounded by land) and gates. He's safety conscious (read: paranoid) so he has his own security. I also see something on or near the beach, though that's not a requirement. I've read about Altamira, but I didn't get the impression that it offered house on large lots of land. There was also Isla Margarita. It seems to have the kind of residences I'm looking for, but it seemed too far outside of Caracas to do business in the city.

 It doesn't have to be Caracas itself. I'd consider a neighboring city within realistic commuting distance. For example, Maiquetia is on the coast, but it's also home to the airport. How about La Guaira?

Anyone have any ideas?

Also, I'm looking for the home of the businessman my MC is partnering with. He's local Venezuelan. Also, very wealthy, flashy even. Flaunts his wealth. I'd rather that he and the MC NOT be neighbors. So I'd need a second neighborhood.
misc - cake - strawberry cake

A Hamburger's toppings.

Time: April 2009
Place: Alberta

Thanks to the wiki page on hamburgers, I've learned a lot about the zillion regional variations, but it seems factual evidence eludes me on this one, so I'm looking for anecdotal evidence.

Rumour has it that American visitors to Canada are weirded out by the fact that we put mayonaise on our burgers (something which I was not aware of until I actually looked in one the other day, actually.) I think that's a pretty good base for a scene where a bunch of Americans (and one lonely Canadian,) stop at a small local burger joint for lunch and someone happens to notice that there's a little something extra on his burger.

But, is it realistic? In your local-burger-joint experience (I'm ommiting McDonald's and Burger King on this one,) do your run-of-the-mill American hamburgers never have mayo on them? Do Canadian burgers always have mayo?

ETA: Holy guacamole everyone! I left for work for only a few hours and wasn't expecting to come back to a gold mine! Thanks so much for your answers!
Books hazy

Pun consultants needed!

As someone un-punnish, maybe I shouldn't be writing about punsters... but I am, and now I need help! I'm badly in need of puns for five situations. I really don't know how to research this, although I have (in my desperation) googled for "pun" combined with various of the possible key terms. Unsurprisingly, this did not meet with any success at all.

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all you need is chocolate

overseas adoption by US citizen; US citizen born overseas

setting: California, early 2000's

situation: I have two linked scenarios, so I'll detail them both here.

1) A US native witnesses a shooting at the diner she works at in the mid-1990's. It's drug-related, and she's the only one who can put the child of a drug lord in prison. Said drug lord objects to this, but the LAPD don't have the resources to protect her, and the feds don't see it as a high prority case.
The point being, that the witness runs for her life, moving to Central America. She's not wanted on any legal charges, besides being listed as a person of interest/witness in the above shooting. She gives birth in Central America, and when her son is about ten they move back to the US.
(If it matters, the father of her child is an Army officer, sent OCONUS and KIA overseas. But his former CO has a letter that the witness writes to tell him he's going to be a father, and the CO later writes to the witness to tell her about the officers' death.)
Q1 - she has a US driver's license (expired, but it's still unmistakeably hers. She could find someone to pay the fees to keep it up to date if necessary), and a birth certificate (Mexico or Peru, maybe?) proving the boy is her son. Would there be any hassles getting him into the US, and them both staying there? Would they have to slip in illegally?
Q2 - assuming they could get in legally, how long would it take for her son to get his own US citizenship?
Q3 - which department/office would handle this procedure? Do they have an office in LA?

2) A special forces soldier (late 20's) gets tapped for a secret and highly sensitive assignment in Thailand, involving several organized crime branches AND several intelligence organisations, including the CIA, MI5, and possibly the Mossad. While on the mission, he is 'persuaded' to adopt a 12 year old girl by the hitwoman she's apprenticed to, and take her back to the US once the mission is over.
I realise that this adoption would be very unlikely normally, considering that the man is single, and the girl is 12.

Q4) I'm wondering if this could be changed by several factors;
a) The girl is a former street child, and has no papers - no birth certificate, no citizenship ID, nothing. There's no way to trace her origins, either (her appearance is of Eurasian breeding). No overseas government is the slightest bit interested in worrying about her.
b) the girl's history means that she'd be a major disaster in any conventional foster home or orphanage. (she's actually been treated as his dependent for several weeks already, while he undergoes extensive debriefing.)
c) since his honorable dischage and pension is already in the works (and he can prove it), he can both support and stay home with the girl for as long as she needs to get acclimated to the US. He's also willing to undergo the psychiatric evaluation and other testing that would be required normally (he'd probably be denied a conventional adoption on grounds of past combat trauma, but in this case the girl's more damaged than he is. But there's already a strong bond of trust evident between them).
d) the soldier has picked up an absolute goldmine of potentially useful information about the crime syndicates, AND potentially damaging information about certain US intelligence operations (including an undercover CIA operative directly supplying guns to the Russian Mob and the Chinese Triads). He's made it clear that he's not afraid to use the info, and will if he doesn't get what he wants toot-sweet. All he wants is a honorable discharge from the Army with an appropriate pension, and full immediate custody of the girl, with her legal adoption following. Several high-level government officers who perfom under the table deals as a matter of course, and possibly a senator or two, are willing to pull strings to make this happen, as it's by far the easiest and least risky solution.

Q5) how long would it take for the adoption to go through, if strings were being pulled to make it happen as soon as practically possible without raising any flags?
Q6) what department would handle this, and do they have an LA office?

Emotional shock in children

I'm working on an AU where a seven year old boy experiences an emotional shock and stops speaking. This happened in canon but it was a different sort of emotional shock caused him to stop speaking. In the AU the event is way more violent. He isn't hurt, but he does see the aftermath of a messy murder in his home.

I looked up symptoms of emotional shock, but losing the ability to speak wasn't listed, but I'm not going to count it out especially since it did happen in canon. And a child that young might just be freaked enough to stop speaking. (I'm trying to stay close to while making key changes here and there.)

My question is this: Would they take the child to the hospital for some sort of treatment? And, if they did, how long would he be kept if at all? Under what circumstances would he be allowed to return home to his brother? How would the medical staff deal with him? Some of the treatments I came upon were home remedy stuff like herbal teas and essential oils. Nice to know, sure, but not very dramatic, you know?

If it makes any difference, the story takes place around 1997 in the US, specifically, Los Angeles.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.
writer's block
  • debikm

British citizen working and living in the US

I have a character who is a British national working as an airline captain. He has lived in the US for 12 years. During this time, his wife has died and his daughter has gone back to England to go to college. He starts the story with the intent of settling things and moving back to England but he meets someone and decides to stay after he falls in love. I have in mind a situation where the two of them go to visit his family in London and he is retained at the airport for his visa expiring.

Is this at all a plausible sitation? If he'd worked that long in the US, I'm guessing he'd have to have had a green card. As a pilot with an international route, he would be very aware of the laws (unlike myself). If he had a passport, would they be able to detain him?

I've searched variations of British citizen working in US, work visa, foreign national employment in US. What information I've found is difficult to understand, being written in legalese. I'd love personal experience or a good interpreter of legal statements.
SW Leia tarp
  • argosy

Background for female US Navy helicopter or fighter pilot

While there's a lot of information out there about pilots, I'm having trouble finding the kind of stuff I need, and I know the members of this community have a lot of personal experience, so I come to you once again.

Terms I've searched: navy pilots, naval aviators, female navy helicopter pilot, female combat pilots and many more along these lines.

I have a present-day character in her early to mid-forties who is about to retire from the United States Navy. I would like for her to be a helicopter pilot, but she could be a fighter pilot if the requirements I have fit a fighter pilot better.

I need her to have spent much--or even most--of the last ten years deployed away from her family, and in active combat as much as possible. She doesn't have to be doing the fighting. She could be a medevac pilot or some such but I'd like her to have done multiple long tours. She also doesn't need to have been at sea on a carrier--she can be stationed anywhere she might see combat.

She's basically a star pilot--best in her unit (squadron?) and always has been. She's married with one teenage son, and one teenage stepson. When she is not deployed she lives with them somewhere in the greater Washington D.C. area.

My questions are these: What is her background? I'm thinking she went to the Naval Academy and served in Desert Storm. Is this likely? What is her probable rank? Commander? Lt. Commander? And what kind of typical missions might she be flying? How long would her typical deployments be, and how many can I realistically give her? If she's a helicopter pilot is she still based on an aircraft carrier? What kinds of aircraft might she be flying? When she's in the United States would she be working out of a Naval base? Any ideas which one (since she's in the D.C. area)? What is her command structure like overseas and at home?

My pilot can have any kind of background at all, as long as she's in the Navy, has seen a lot of military action, and has spent a great deal of time deployed overseas away from her family. I'd really appreciate any background details you can help me fill in--especially about what her military resume might look like. Any personal stories you have would be wonderful.

And since information on *female* pilots is somewhat hard to find, do the experiences of male pilots overlap these days? At least in terms of length of deployment, types of missions, rank, and craft flown?

Thank you so much! You guys are amazing.

UK Police Procedure: Rescuing a Kidnap Victim

The story is set in a fictional mid-sized seaside town in England, present day. A sixteen-year-old boy has been abducted by a group responsible for the ritual murder of two other teens. He was only grabbed a few hours ago, but a witness tipped off the police to where he was taken and they believe his life is in imminent danger. I'm trying to confirm the details of how they'd go about rescuing him and what happens after.

The story is told from the boy's point of view, so the technicalities of the police side are not hugely important, but I'm trying to get a realistic idea of how the rescue would unfold. A few particular things I'm trying to clarify:

1. There are no firearms involved, but the abductors are armed with bladed weapons and known to be dangerous: would the police send an armed response unit to tackle them?

2. Given that they believe it's an attempted murder in progress, will the police just burst in rather than attempt to announce themselves or negotiate first? I'm assuming so, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

3. The boy is rescued, apparently unhurt, though he's been given an unknown drug. I'm assuming he'll be checked out by paramedics on-scene and then taken to hospital for a more thorough assessment. It's about 10 o'clock at night by now: would the hospital be likely to keep him in overnight or send him home after a few hours? (The drug is supernatural in origin and has left no trace in his system, and he shows no symptoms now though he was hallucinating earlier.)

4. How soon will the police attempt to get a statement out of him? Would they do it at the hospital that same night if he's up to it? As a 16-year-old, does he need to have a parent/guardian present?

Any help with these details or other info on how this kind of operation would go down would be fantastically useful. I've Googled "UK police" and "UK police procedure" combined with things like "armed response criteria", "enter premises imminent danger", "kidnap victim", "witness statements victims of crime", "witness statements children" and similar.

Thanks for any help you can give!
King, Writers, Meyer, Rowling, Tepper

How to sound like a hustler, and what does love look like?

So, I'm writing about  a con artist, and I'm having trouble with his dialogue.  My problem is, he's effortlessly charming, and could sell snow in the middle of a Canadian winter - and I'm not, and couldn't sell ice lollies in August.

To research this so far, I've read several books on cons and con artists, specifically things like How to Cheat at Everything, The Con Artist's Handbook, Catch Me if You Can, and Other People's Money (an autobiography of Elliot Castro).

What I'm looking for is books or films with similar characters or people, just so I can kind of see how they speak, and how they work - analyse what makes them so charming.

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So, yeah, forgive the rambling.  I'm trying to pin the character down in my head, and that's one aspect I'm having a lot of trouble with.  Any ideas?  A few characters I've come across so far who I've used for inspiration are Charlie Barkin, of All Dogs Go to Heaven, and JD of Heathers.  And a little bit of Frank Abagnale.

One last request - can anyone think of any scenes, in books or films, that show a loving, supportive relationship?  I'm thinking of that bit in Road to El Dorado, when they still manage to act in unison and hit the guy watching, even while they're really angry at each other, and trying to hurt one another.  Or like Jim and Silver's relationship in Treasure Island - some vision of love other than the cliched ones, that's based on something more than just being soul mates, or eyes meeting across a crowded room.


Nonparental Custody Of A Minor

Setting: Modern-day Seattle, Washington

I have a teenage girl (fifteen years old, to be exact) whose father passes away from morphine overdose and whose mother committed suicide about ten years before. Now, she doesn’t have any living grandparents or siblings. The only accessible relatives she has are her aunt and cousin, and while it was her father’s wish that she be left to her aunt if anything were to happen, she’s bedridden from arthritis most of the time and can’t take care of the girl in question.

Her cousin is twenty-six years old, single, and makes a decent living. This said, would it be plausible for the girl to be placed under her cousin’s care? What level of involvement would the law have with this?

Search terms used: “nonparental custody” “custody laws in washington” “third party custody” “custody of children when both parents are dead” (Needless to say, they provided vague information and not the type I'm looking for)

ETA: I can't believe I forgot to add this, but the fact that the father wanted the girl to stay with her aunt was explicitly written in his will.
Genetic diversity

Police in West Virginia (or small rural towns)

In a story I'm writing, a cop moves from New York and starts working for a police station in a small West Virginia town, populated 2,000.  Does anyone know the treatment for cops in this situation?  Or any details concerning the average day for a cop in a small town?  For example, starting shifts, the work schedule, even how many other cops would probably work at such a station.

Thank you for any help!