William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Saturday, 31, May, 2008

Arms And Armour of Imperial Austria

Filed under: History — williamthecoroner @ 23:13

I went to see the Arms of Imperial Austria exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art recently. Some exhibits are just so big, you lose focus. The Met or the Boston Museum of Fine Arts are too bloody big, it’s just too much to process all in one day, it needs to be broken down into smaller chunks. Or, sometimes, I follow the Bryson protocol.

Developed by Bill Bryson, it helps me focus. Some person in authority, I don’t know who*, has decided that because I am such a splendid fellow and for my all around magnificence, I get to go through an exhibit and pick the one thing that I want to take home with me. The only caveat is I have to justify my choice, and my reason has to be more than “it’s the most valuable thing I can carry away.” If I really need help narrowing things down, the piece in question has to fit in my house.

Well, in this exhibit, there were some things I could discard right away. I wasn’t interested in 15th century portraiture. I wasn’t interested in the armour with the iconography that emphasized the Church Militant, and that recurrent motif of the Knight being bled on by the crucified Christ was a bit much.

I really like Maximillian armour, with the curves and the flutes that mimic drapery in steel. That’s kind of cool. The horse garniture was also really rather nice, particularly with the little chimneys for the horse’s ears. I thought that was a nice touch.

The exhibit with multiple suits of armour arrayed together, as if in battle or on parade really made the exhibit.

The term “armoury” is tossed around a lot, but usually the words “National Guard” are in front of it. This exhibit brought home that an armoury is the place where suits of armour and other munitions were made, repaired, and stored until times of need. I liked the contrast between the black-and-white garnitures, with alternating rows of highly polished steel. Again, that display would take up most of my living room and would be too tall for my basement. I could, in a pinch, dry my clothes on the pikes, halberds, and other spiky things—but that wouldn’t be good for the metal or the wood, and might lead to rust stains on my clothes.

The 1500-1600’s were a time of great technological change as well as the age of discovery. I was quite taken with the wheel-lock firearms. The rich materials and inlay work on some of those on display were really quite fine. Some of the animal motifs reminded me of Celtic designs, though the Celtic tribes had not been in the area of Graz for over a thousand years.

So, the piece that I would take home would be one of the fine, inlaid, wheellock firearms, particularly the one with the ivory inlays. The pair of pistols with the deep, dark, ebony veneer was also particularly attractive.

*Gratuitous Gilbert and Sullivan reference. Sorry.

Is it Physical or Biological?

Filed under: Uncategorized — williamthecoroner @ 16:34

Look HERE and tell. I have the advantage, I could tell most of the biological at a glance. Frankly, I used the decision technique “If it looks wet, it’s biological.” I got 11/12 with this method.

The Arms Race Continues

Filed under: Forensics — williamthecoroner @ 14:56

Not the military arms race, a race to avoid speed traps.  Hey, I’ve got an idea.  Don’t be a jerk, and keep it within five miles of the posted limit.  As a forensic pathologist, let me assure you that one many folks who become my patients are 1. speeding and 2. drunk.  And it’s not just DWI.  I’ve had BWI (boating while intoxicated) SWI (Swimming while intoxicated) BWI (Biking while intoxicated) and WWI, (Walking While Intoxicated).  The common thread is the WHILE INTOXICATED.  Alcohol leads to poor judgement. 

The most dramatic example of this is the fellow who lost his lisence for DWI, so he was coming home from the bar WWI, and he thought it was a good idea to stop and answer the call of nature in the middle of the highway.  The other drunk guy who klobbered him with the Caddy was just the icing on the cake, but he wouldn’t have been hit if he had gone before he left the bar.  So, when your father told you to hit the head before starting on the trip, he was wiser than you gave him credit for, wasn’t he?

Friday, 30, May, 2008

Harvey Korman R.I.P.

Filed under: In Memoriam — williamthecoroner @ 22:38

The Dentist sketch.


Filed under: Group blogging — williamthecoroner @ 22:32

Folks are blogging on a theme today.  Astrology.  Well, Zeusie see, Zeusie, do.  I wasn’t asked but, heck, I’ll just jump in anyway.  My take is this: Astrology is used for predictions to make Economics look like a hard science.

When you get right down to it, science, actual science, that can be used to predict things is so bloody interesting.  Find yourself a copy of Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything.  For one thing you’ll be fascinated.  If you’re not fascinated, why are you reading my blog?  For another, you will have enough cocktail party trivia that will allow you to avoid politics, sports, and golf for the rest of your born days.

I am a science geek.  I like to find out why (and how) things work.  I firmly believe that people, on the individual level as well as the relationship level and the public policy level should find out what freakin’ works and, just as importantly, what doesn’t work, and use that as their guide instead of dogma, tradition, superstition, or ideology.

Though I’d like to learn more about cold reading.  I don’t know if I could pull it off with a straight face.

Sappy Cat Blogging

Filed under: Cat Blogging — williamthecoroner @ 15:48

Murphy asleep.

Thursday, 29, May, 2008

Forensic Entomology

Filed under: Forensics — williamthecoroner @ 13:13

I was asked, recently, by someone who watches too many crime shows on T.V., how one would go about being a forensic entomologist.  I’ve also gotten requests from my students, though usually those folks want to forensic odontology. The ones that are applying or into dental school have the edge, of course.  For the forensic entomologists, my response would be “Think again.”  There are fifteen forensic entomologists in the United States, and 15:300,000,000 is one heck of a ratio.  Most forensic entomologists did the entomology first, and are in academia somewhere.  They start consulting, and go from there.  I think only the guy at the F.B.I. does it full time for a living.

The same thing with forensic dentistry, dentists with a strong stomach get involved with their local ME’s or coroner’s office, in addition to their practice.  Forensic anthropologists as well, they’re working day jobs at a university or museum, and doing forensic work as it happens.  Thankfully, except for forensic pathologists, toxicologists, and trace evidence people, there is not enough demand for full time positions, except in very rare instances.  I’m glad there aren’t maggot cases every day of the week.  Eeew.

Be that as it may, if you’re interested in being a forensic scientist, get a good science education, in either biology or chemistry.  Biology for DNA work, chemistry for other criminalistics, but that’s not a hard and fast rule.  The DNA lab at the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office has two folks with PhDs in genetics.    Medical Technologist certification wouldn’t go amiss, either.  Then you’d have a wide variety of forensic and non-forensic jobs to pick from.

Cook your food and wash your hands

Filed under: Medicine — williamthecoroner @ 12:04

I’ve seen several alarmist articles on infectious diseases lately, this one, and this one. I’m not particularly germ-phobic (considering what I do, that’s a good thing.) Working in the forensic setting, you do get exposed to things that other folks don’t. In some cases, you take obvious precautions. Someone with an open surgical wound has no business being in an autopsy suite. I had a colleague in residency with eighteen inches of GI tract total, from her Crohn’s disease. She was on IV feedings–but never in the cutting room or the morgue. Don’t drink coffee while you’re doing a post (a simple rule, but one I’ve seen routinely violated)

A lot of this is common sense. Go to the toilet? Wash your hands. See a patient? Wash your hands. Going to eat something? Wash your hands. Soap and water are health miracles. Cook your food. Don’t leave mayo-based stuff out in the sun (duh). Don’t eat old food. Use your fridge. This was a big point on my last microbiology test. I don’t see the point with anti-bacterial cleansing products and hand sanitizers. Wash your hands frequently.

And here’s a good pointer I stole from my friend, Heather. No need to re-invent the wheel, she has a good way with words. (My words are bolded)

With most hand-washing it isn’t just the soap or the disinfectant that kills bacteria and viruses. It’s also the action of washing, and most people don’t know or can’t be arsed to properly wash their hands. Here’s a refresher:

  • Use lots of soap and warm-to-hot water. (I know. I get hand dermatitis, and I hate this, but I’d rather put on lotion a lot than get a bug from feces.) (The water temp is important, you don’t want to scald yourself, but the heat helps)
  • Don’t bother with antibacterial soap. Lots of bugs are immune to triclosan (the active ingredient), and it can cause dermatitis from repeated use. If you’re scrubbing in for surgery, you’ll know what to use (and why are you reading this, anyway?).
  • Lather your entire hand. All of it, not just the palms. Fingers, between fingers, thumbs, wrists — all these areas get lathered and briskly rubbed.
  • Lock your fingers together and rub them against each other. Ditto around thumbs.
  • If you have acrylic nails or visible dirt under your nails, FFS, clean them with a nail brush. (You wouldn’t believe the germs found under most acrylic nails. Use the nail brush.) (I don’t get the tribal warpaint, myself, and Eeeeeeew.)
  • Thirty seconds is a good amount of time to spend soaping up. I mentally sing “Happy Birthday” with a blues beat if I’m feeling OCD. (I was taught two verses of “Alphabet song”, but whatever works)
  • Rinse well — pointing hands down towards sink — and wipe dry with a paper towel.
  • Turn off water with another paper towel or your elbow.
  • Open the exit door with the paper towel. (Or your elbow. Or your shoe)

If you don’t properly wash your hands, you spread E. coli and all kinds of fecal-based bacteria around to everything you touch. Including your keyboard and phone.

I might add that wiping the earpiece of your phone with an alcohol wipe can keep you from getting really annoying ear pimples. I got them when I worked dispatch.

Sunday, 25, May, 2008

Having Cleaned Out the Garage

Filed under: Uncategorized — williamthecoroner @ 23:13

Fully, for the first time in 33 years, I’m firmly applying the rule “If you haven’t touched it in 12 months, you don’t need it. It’s been an interesting bit of suburban archaeology, and I think I know where the possum’s been living, as well as where Murphy first sought shelter from the elements.

But, I do wish to know, in the name of all that is good and holy, why I own five, count’em five pickaxes? Granted, it’s my favourite tool for planting, and can take care of weeding, the blade can extirpate the worst-rooted plant up to a young sapling.

But FIVE???

Memorial Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — williamthecoroner @ 23:12

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

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