April 4th, 2010

Nero Wolfe Mystery: ought to be asleep

possible methods of extremely rapid weight loss in 1950

This icon has never been so appropriate, since it's a fanfic in this fandom that's keeping me awake and staring at the ceiling.

Setting: 1950, New York City
Search Terms: rapid weight loss dangers, history of liposuction, history of weight loss surgery, Wikipedia articles on same

Ok, here's the canon facts.
1. Character starts out at about 285 pounds (129kg) and 5'11" (180cm), middle-aged, extremely sedentary, and eats a lot.
2. Character disappears April 9.
3. Character comes back August 22, and the main character doesn't initially recognize him because of his weird beard, nasal voice, and extreme weight loss. Character claims the weight loss is exactly 117 pounds.
4. Character says that when he left, he spent "the most painful month of my life", and spent the rest of the time before coming back getting into the criminal underworld of Los Angeles).

So I assume that at least the majority of his weight loss was in that first month. I'm trying to figure out how that would be humanly possible, since I'd like to write a fanfic about those months.

Liposuction dates to the late sixties. Gastric banding wouldn't work even if it were around, because when the story is over the character returns to his sedentary gourmet lifestyle and by the next novel is back to his old weight.

Part of my problem with researching this is that a lot of my search results assume that I want to quickly lose weight and either wish to dissuade me from this, or sell me something. Neither of which is helpful for my fanfic.

From what I understand, reducing caloric intake per day by 500 calories results in a two pound-ish loss per week; likewise, increasing calories burned per day by 500.

Even stretching "a month" to 5 weeks, and reducing 117 to a majority of that like 75, he would still have to be losing 15 pounds a week. So assuming he was eating 3000 calories per day before, he'd have to cut his intake to 1000 calories, and burn 2000 calories a day. This seems like it would kill him.

Should I just retcon the author here? Am I off-base in my ideas of what calorie restriction and exercise are capable of? Or is there some kind of surgical intervention that could have happened in 1950?

Magical Injury That Does Not Heal And Gets Progressively Worse

Setting: Medievalesque fantasy. Lots of magic and the unfortunate character in this question is an accomplished wizard.

Googled: things like "prolonged bleeding effects" and "blood loss" Turned up some helpful information, but I need more.

What happens: Character receives a few scrapes while slaying a dragon. Unfortunately for him, there was a magical poison in the dragon. This causes the cuts to extend, branch out, and deepen. Within a couple weeks, this will get pretty severe and affect the quest he and his buddies go on to find the cure.

My questions:
1. Medically, how would somebody treat injuries like this? I've got a fairy salve that will reduce bleeding, but what else can they do? The wizard who has these injuries can't work any magic himself (due to the nature of the poison), and his buddies are magically hopeless.

2. Since the injuries keep getting worse/bigger, I'm guessing the wounds will have trouble staying closed. How messy and painful is this likely to be? What is this going to look like?

3. The wounds are located on his knuckle, his upper arm, and the middle of his side. As these enlarge and deepen, what are the likely complications? What important organs, tendons, muscles, etc. are likely to be affected?

4. What are the symptoms of prolonged, worsening blood loss? How long is he likely to be able to continue the quest? At some point his friends have to leave him behind, but I'm not sure where that point will be.

5. How might he hide his worsening condition from his friends? They know it's bad, but for a while he can hide just HOW bad. I have a few ideas, but I could definitely use more.
bright star

Manor Life in the 1530s

Thank goodness for this community! I'm writing a story that is set on a manor in 1530s Europe*, and I have a few burning questions that my Google searches have been unable to resolve:

1) What was a typical day be like for a young female servant (around 9 or 10) working at a manor/castle for minor nobility? I'm well aware that children were expected to earn their keep as soon as they could, but were there certain chores that were more typically assigned to children?

2) Aside from a prudent marriage or going into the church, what were some other options for second sons of minor nobles? My character is roughly 19 or 20, and I'd like to give him some reasons to hang around the estate.

I've tried googling "servants in the 1530s' and 'children in the 16th century' and a couple of other terms. It's possible I'm overlooking something, so apologies if I'm being redundant.

* Specifically, my story takes place in Denmark right before the Reformation. I've had a hell of a time finding ANYTHING on Danish life during this time period, so for the moment, I'm making assumptions based on what I know about Tudor England and Germany at the time. If you know of any awesome (English language) websites that can tell me more about Danish life during this period, please feel free to share!

Anon post: Repercussions of victim skipping attacker's trial, Canada

It's a small town in modern-day BC, Canada. Someone tries to kill the protagonist, who escapes by the skin of his teeth and goes to the RCMP to file charges. The attacker was dumb enough to film everything and put it online, so there's no delay before he gets arrested. However, between then and the slated trial date--before the protagonist can even settle on a lawyer--he (the protagonist) is forced to skip town. (More people want to kill him and the only way to survive is to run away to Vancouver and blend into the crowd.) Being hotheaded and traumatized, the protagonist decides to wash his hands of the whole affair, not only not going back for the trial but not even phoning a lawyer, basically trying to pretend the whole thing never happened. My questions are: 1) What would happen to the protagonist? 2) What would happen to the attacker?

I presume that skipping a trial you called for has *some* legal repercussions, but Googling variations on "victim skipping attacker's trial" has gotten me a lot of contradictory answers: everything from the extreme-sounding "you can be forcibly brought to court to testify" to the mere "it bolsters the defence's case". Also, I've learned that the majority of victims who want to skip their attacker's trial are abused wives and girlfriends, which doesn't apply: protagonist and attacker are both male and they've barely spoken since high school. They weren't friends then, either, to say the least.

As a final note, the protagonist has... unsavoury... connections and could buy a favourable verdict, a new identity, or whatever else necessary if he felt forced to do so. However, despite being a hothead with unusual choice in friends, he's an idealist who would prefer to stay within the law if possible--especially since *he's* the one who got stabbed.