"I talk about the gods, I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth."

--Ursula K. Leguin

November 2009



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Jun. 25th, 2017


Police officer from Los Angeles working in Pasadena?

As part of a long fanfic series I've written over several years I want an LAPD officer to visit the home of someone who I've previously said lives in Pasedena. This isn't a search or anything, I just need her to visit the house and notice something.

What I've come up with as the reason for the visit is that there's been a jury-tampering case in Pasadena and the character's name has been mysteriously removed from a couple of lists of eligible jurors (There's an explanation for this - someone else rigging the system to keep the character from getting tied up in long trials, not related to the other jury-tampering - but it isn't important).

What I need is a plausible reason for an LAPD officer to be working in Pasadena and assigned to this case. I don't want the police officer to transfer to the Pasadena police department permanently - it isn't incredibly important, but it would be against the canon of this particular character. My original explanation for this was that the Pasadena PD wanted the jury-tampering investigated by outsiders who were not involved in any of the relevant trials, but that feels a bit weak. Another possibility is that the police officer is assigned to a task force investigating similar jury tampering in Los Angeles, Pasedena, and other cities in the area, but it feels like that would be the US Department of Justice, not local police departments.

Can anyone suggest a better reason?

Searches I've tried so far:

pasadena police officer working for LAPD
lateral officer pasadena
LAPD and Pasadena PD cooperation


Jun. 24th, 2017


Self-inflicted vs accidental stab wound

I have a relatively healthy 45 year old male in pretty good physical shape who stabs himself in the lower left abdomen with a butcher knife. He's not trying to kill himself, but the reason he does this is related to the supernatural. Therefore, no one can really tell the truth about why he did it since no one will believe them. His friend concocts a story that he was coming down the stairs and stumbled and fell on the knife. My question is would the medical personnel involved in patching him up be able to tell they (the guy and his friends) were lying?

Research terms: self inflicted stab wound, accidental vs self inflicted wound/injury

Everything that came up in my search was self-inflicted vs assault-inflicted stab wound. I couldn't find anything that detailed the characteristics of accidental stab wounds vs self-inflicted, except that someone who stabs himself in the gut usually moves his shirt aside before he does it. This guy will not be doing that; he stabs right through his shirt.

A couple of things that could muddy the waters: One of the friends who is there when this all goes down will have some red irritation marks on his wrists because he has spent the last 2-3 days handcuffed to a piece of furniture. Also, this is a Real Person Fic; the 45 year old had a heroin problem in the late '90s and overdosed in 2001. As far as anyone knows, he hasn't touched heroin since then, but because he's famous, the medical personnel would be able to find out this happened with a few simple Google searches. Would these factors make the doctors and nurses suspicious that something hinky went on here?

Basically, I want to know if there's something about accidental vs self-inflicted stab wounds that would give away their lie.

Jun. 21st, 2017


Proper form of address?

So I'm reading a lot of Harry Potter fanfiction, and have recently come across something (again) that's been bothering me for a while.

In a lot of fics, mostly those where Harry is more independent/escapes the Dursleys/is raised by someone else etc., he gets to interact with "new" adults, either canon or non-canon characters. Very often, he is initially addressed as "Mr. Potter" by them and he then immediately asks to be called simply "Harry", which is perfectly fine as far as it goes. After all, a lot of the time he's still quite young in those fics; I get that a child -- especially one not yet exposed to the customary form of address at Hogwarts -- might be more comfortable with the use of his first name.

However, the thing that bothers me is that almost invariably, the adults in question immediately reply with "Very well. Please call me Jack/Jill". No matter who and what those characters are, other parent/guardian, Ministry official, hired professional, it's always the same reaction.

My question now is -- would an adult British person, especially in a professional situation and/or position of authority, someone who most often is a virtual stranger to Harry, respond like this to a child/young teenager who asks them to use his first name? On a first encounter? (Also bearing in mind that we're talking about a period of close to thirty years ago when the plot is set pre-Hogwarts?)

I understand that offering to use one's first name is supposed to put people at ease, but ... would an elderly lady like Augusta Longbottom, someone like Amelia Bones (the head of Magical Law Enforcement), or any other person Harry either hires (most often a lawyer of sorts) or meets socially, really do that? After all, in the books Harry still thinks of Arthur and Molly, people he's come to consider his surrogate family, as Mr./Mrs. Weasley even after seven years of knowing and interacting with them.

Sorry, I'm not buying it. It seems ... well, inappropriate, I guess. Other words that come to mind are "unprofessional" and/or "disrespectful".

Now, it might simply be a cultural thing; I'm German, and we just aren't as free with such easy familiarity. I mean, I'm still calling (mainly older) neighbors Mr./Mrs. X even though we've lived just three houses apart for close to forty years because we're just not that close. In fact, it strikes me as a rather American thing to do to offer the use of one's first name so quickly. (Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Americans and love the general openness and friendliness I've encountered in the country!)

My gut feeling is that this scenario seems a bit off. Am I on the right track or simply out of tune, if you will, because of cultural differences? Or because I'm just too old and stodgy? ;-)

Any help/comments would be appreciated.

Crossposted to fanficrants

Jun. 20th, 2017


hiding places in/around american hospitals


When: Modern day, realistic
Where: Non-specified major American city

Characters A and B are nurses in a large hospital. Character A has to hide a small, physical object (a jump drive about the size of a lipstick) quickly in or around the hospital where they work, and she decides to entrust it to Character B, but she does not have time to meet him in person for the transfer, or even to contact him to tell him to look for it. She needs to be reasonably sure that it will reach him relatively quickly and not be intercepted by someone else (staff, patient, police, etc.). I need him to get/find it days to weeks after she hides/sends it, and while there can exist the possibility that someone else would have come across it before he gets to it, I need her to be sure that what she's doing is safe. I thought about some sort of internal mail system, but (a) that's not going to cause the delay I need, and (b) I think she would consider that too risky re: interception. I thought about her hiding it in some sort of machine/monitor in a patient's room, but I think (a) that does not seem very safe, and she has to think it's safe, and (b) there's only a small chance that he'll come across it quickly.

I went through the usa: health care and hospitals tag in this community, and did Internet searches on variations of hospital hiding places, hospital internal mail, hospital internal mailboxes, hospital nurse communication, hiding something in a hospital, etc., and there's nothing even close to what I'm looking for. (Most of the results are about either email or person-to-person verbal communication.)

I very much appreciate your help.

Jun. 17th, 2017


A deceased tenant's property

Hello! I need some information for a mystery novel. It's set in Europe, modern time, but it's an AU, so I only need to be convincing, without any specifics related to a particular country.

The question is: who takes charge of the property of a deceased tenant if the house he rented is a part of a big commercial residential complex? It's more or less clear what a landlord of a single apartment does in this case (and the process is almost the same in different countries). When I google "deceased tenant's property", I get a lot of instructions for individual landlords. But what about a large housing corporation? Who, among the staff, will take care of all the formalities, notify the dead man's relatives, store his property, etc? Will it be one person, or will different people take care of different stages of the process? Will they be in contact with the relatives directly, or will they need lawyers? On the whole, how will everything be organized in a big company?

Jun. 13th, 2017


Finding what (if any) stars are BETWEEN two given stars.

I'm writing a story set about five hundred years into the future. If a specific date is needed then let's say it starts on March 20th, 2549. The means of FTL I'm using in the story requires plotting between your target stars and the pilots would need to take into consideration any significant gravity effects on the route. The problem I'm running into is that I can't seem to find a way to figure out which stars have other stars between them.

I did a number of searches for everything from "Stellar Cartography" to "3d star maps" to "stellar navigation" (this last one mostly provided info on using the stars to navigate on the ocean's surface). I've found some things, like this, that list the nearest stars and have a general plot of the nearest ones but the way that these maps are laid out I really can't tell which stars are between which. I found Nasa's "Eyes on the Solar System" program (which is really cool looking but not really all that usable), this list of 3d star maps, and this stellar database (which is really useful for other things but can't tell me which star routes have navigational hazards).

For reference, the seven stars that humans would be traveling between most often would be Sol, Proxima Centauri, Epsilon Eridani, Tau Ceti, Wolf 1061, Fomalhaut, and Wolf 922. There would be other stars in the story but those are the most important ones, and the most important trip in the story would be a longer one that leads some 500 light years away via multiple jumps. Is there an easy place to find this kind of information?