William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Friday, 29, January, 2010

Sappy Cat Blogging

Filed under: Cat Blogging — williamthecoroner @ 08:24

Quebecois cat vs. black bear.  The bear did leave, albeit with the garbage.  But the cat is still in one piece.  That’s a win.

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Thursday, 28, January, 2010

Bird Watching

Filed under: Links to Greatness — williamthecoroner @ 12:06

The RAF has changed a bit since 1940, eh what?

Tuesday, 26, January, 2010

Why Is A Locomotive Like A Cell Phone

Filed under: Haterade — williamthecoroner @ 12:59

Both knit the country together, and both are owned by the railroads.  For most of human history, people stayed fairly close to home.  Noon was whenever the sun was directly overhead, and when the fastest thing was a galloping horse, you didn’t have to worry about things like time zones and schedules.  The trains came in the 1830s, and things really began to change.  Oh, factory workers were called to in and dismissed by a whistle, but really, on time was a pretty nebulous concept.

But the rails spread, from Baltimore in the east, with a heavy concentration in the northeast and in 1869 linking the east and west coasts at Promontory Point.  With trains come schedules.  Tighter schedules than the canal boats needed.  Trains run both ways on the tracks.  Either you do what the Pennsylvania and New York Central did, putting in four tracks, high and low speed for each direction OR you put in passing sidings and allow the trains to go both directions on one track.  In the long run, that’s cheaper, but you have to have enough sidings and good enough control to keep the trains from running into one another.

Although there is Centralized Traffic Control, the dispatcher will still allow a train crew to have “track and time”.  The switches are manually controlled and the guys on the ground shuffle the cars onto and off of the sidings.  Again, time and communication are essential.  The main has to be shut down while this is going on, and the main has to be cleared as soon as possible.  The orders and changes need to be communicated.

When time was, it was done via telegraph wires.  If you look at old tracks there are still lots and lots of communication wires along the right of way.  Now, it’s radio communication.  But the railroads still have the rights of way and the wires.  This explains why Sprint, for example, was owned by the Southern Pacific.

Sprint is the mobile carrier for my uni.  They have package deals, and I recently took my five-year-old phone and tried to upgrade it, one with Wi-Fi capability and music, so I only have to carry one thing around.  I first got a Blackberry 8310, which was quite nice, but the phone will not work with the University’s servers.  So I called the Sprint rep, and he sent me a PalmPre.  Again a nice thing, I like the look, but the phone will not work with the University’s servers.  Not only will it not activate, the automated system told me I was a shmuck and my mother dressed me funny.  I feel like I’m trapped in a Rodney Dangerfield movie.

Why Try?

Filed under: Life, the universe, & everything. — williamthecoroner @ 09:55

Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. I am not afraid.

Marcus Aurelius

Monday, 25, January, 2010

Rabbie Burns

Filed under: In Memoriam,Poetry,Politics — williamthecoroner @ 20:56

It is Burns Night.  Celebrating the birth of the Bard of Ayrshire, classic liberal, a man whose literary influence is felt in Scotland, Britain, and where ever the Scots go (which is darn near everywhere).  It is a night for the Selkirk Grace–but I think A Man’s A Man For All That.

Is there for honest poverty
That hangs his head, an' a' that
The coward slave, we pass him by
We dare be poor for a' that
For a' that, an' a' that
Our toil's obscure and a' that
The rank is but the guinea's stamp
The man's the gowd for a' that

What though on hamely fare we dine
Wear hoddin grey, an' a' that
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine
A man's a man, for a' that
For a' that, an' a' that
Their tinsel show an' a' that
The honest man, though e'er sae poor
Is king o' men for a' that

Ye see yon birkie ca'd a lord
Wha struts an' stares an' a' that
Tho' hundreds worship at his word
He's but a coof for a' that
For a' that, an' a' that
His ribband, star and a' that
The man o' independent mind
He looks an' laughs at a' that

A prince can mak' a belted knight
A marquise, duke, an' a' that
But an honest man's aboon his might
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that
For a' that an' a' that
Their dignities an' a' that
The pith o' sense an' pride o' worth
Are higher rank that a' that

Then let us pray that come it may
(as come it will for a' that)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth
Shall bear the gree an' a' that
For a' that an' a' that
It's coming yet for a' that
That man to man, the world o'er
Shall brithers be for a' that

Friday, 22, January, 2010

Sappy Cat Blogging

Filed under: Cat Blogging — williamthecoroner @ 09:48

Kitteh can haz cheezburger.  A catnip-filled one, too.  From Moderncat.

Thursday, 21, January, 2010

How Stuff Gets Done.

Filed under: Science,Self mockery,Teaching — williamthecoroner @ 14:45

I’ve had a couple of research papers sitting on the back burner for too darn long.  Again, the problem is I have too many pies and not enough phalanges.  And people who just insist on having me do things when they pay me money.  Yeah, I know, I know.

I am pleased that I have reached the point in my career where I now have minions.  Not full time minions.  They are not full time minions, and I’m supposed to call them “graduate students” instead of “Igor”.  But you can’t have everything.  On the bright side none of them look like Marty Feldman.  Which is something, I assure you.  The good thing about having min, er, graduate students, is they sometimes come up to you and ask you if you have any projects that you want them to do.  Now, of course, the answer is a resounding “YES!”   And you then hand them a packet of papers and research material, and tell them to go off and read it and come back and discuss it.

They do this, and come up with ideas of their own (if they’re any good) and bring you stuff you never new existed (you hope) and they discuss that with you, and you go through several iterations of this cycle.  Till one day you say.  “Good.  Now, here’s a copy of a review article for the orange journal.  Write me a review article of so many words on what we’ve been discussing.  The student then goes and does it, and then you read it, and go through some more cycles of “where the heck should we go with this?  We’re writing an article, not a bloody book.”

Then the advisor gets a copy of it in electronic form and tweaks it till it is in the format the journal wants and mails it off to them.  I’m in the middle of that process right now.  But it is quite helpful.  I’ve managed to make my problems my student’s problems.  This is brilliant.  Everyone should have graduate students.  (And they’re terribly grateful if you buy them a pizza, particularly if it is from here.  The Bombay and Greek pizzas are pretty darn good.)

More Body Modification and Thoughts on Colours

Filed under: Forensics,Medicine,Social Commentary,WTF? — williamthecoroner @ 09:53

Longtime William the Coroner readers know that one of my interests in forensics is body modification. I have whole lectures about it–ones that really, really pissed off the photography department of the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office when I worked there. (Bloody dismembered bodies, OK, a scientific talk on body modification? No go.) I am interested in what people do to themselves and why. And how this stuff can bring them to the attention of a coroner. (more…)

Wednesday, 20, January, 2010

Well, That’s Nice.

Filed under: Circle Game — williamthecoroner @ 15:47

Lately, I’ve been running into folks from the past.  I was halfway through my plate of chicken wings and salad when my old PD preceptor came up and said ‘hello’.  Hadn’t seen the man in eighteen years, he’s slowing down now, but still doing some teaching.  Then I ran into an old graduate student–who now is a second year resident.

Time.  Keeps moving on, and people insist on growing older.

Tuesday, 19, January, 2010

Aw Crap! I wasn’t Finished.

Filed under: Bleg,Books,Circle Game,Links to Greatness,Social Commentary — williamthecoroner @ 22:52

Robert B. Parker is dead. 1932-2010. According to reports, he died peacefully at work at his desk at the age of 77, today. According to the author’s site:

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Parker attended Colby College in Maine, served with the Army in Korea, and then completed a Ph.D. in English at Boston University. He married his wife Joan in 1956; they raised two sons, David and Daniel. Together the Parkers founded Pearl Productions, a Boston-based independent film company named after their short-haired pointer, Pearl, who has also been featured in many of Parker’s novels. He and Joan live in the Boston area.

I first became familiar with his work when I worked dispatch, and Josie and Kathy and I would watch the short-lived A Man Called Hawk while working security. The first book of his I read was Crimson Joy, that year at college, and then I worked my way through them. Of his Spenser novels, some are classics that can be read and re-read, like Early Autumn, Ceremony, or Cold Service. Some, like Pale Kings and Princes are only worth reading once. I’ve gotten good receipts from his books, and some good restaurant recommendations.

In his later years, Parker branched out, with new characters, and new genres, like novels and westerns. They’re all worth a read, at least once. I own most of what he wrote after Ceremony in hardcover, and I’ve got a copy of The Godwulf Manuscript. I just need the early ones in hardcover, and those are hard to get*.

I like Parker. I like his philosophy of autonomy, of self-reliance, of doing right in a world that is cynical and uncaring. Of being pure of heart, and having ideals, and knowing you’ll fall short and trying anyway. I always wanted to write a Spenser cookbook, well, now there’s an end to the canon. If I don’t do it, someone else will.

*The Judas Goat, A Savage Place, Early Autumn, Looking for Rachel Wallace, Promised Land, Mortal Stakes, God Save the Child. If anyone knows of where I can get them in hardback, drop me a line, please.

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