William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Friday, 25, June, 2010

It’s Friday, So It’s Time For SAPPY CAT BLOGGING!

Filed under: Cat Blogging — williamthecoroner @ 17:34

Here’s Noodle.

Wednesday, 23, June, 2010

I Feel The Earth Move Under My Feet

Filed under: Natural History — williamthecoroner @ 22:35

or not, as the case may be. At 1345, there was an earthquake around Ottawa. Supposedly, Cleveland shook but I did not notice anything. The last earthquake I recall I was in Geology class in grade 8. I LOVE irony like that.

Tuesday, 22, June, 2010

Capital Punishment

Filed under: Haterade,People who need pianos dropped on them,Politics — williamthecoroner @ 22:52

With the death of Ronnie Lee Gardner in Utah last week, much ink has been spilled on the subject of capital punishment. I am profoundly ambivalent about capital punishment. One the one hand, as a firearms owner, I have no problem with violence recoiling upon the violent. On the other hand, I trust no institution of men to be able to administer justice perfectly. Frankly, with some governments I have lived under I don’t trust them to investigate building violations properly, let alone take someone’s life.

As a forensic pathologist, I have long been interested in the pathology of capital punishment. I keep meaning to write an article about it. I’ve been meaning to write the damn article for the past twelve years. I don’t think it’s gonna happen any time soon. But Robb Allen’s post caught my eye recently, and that stimulated my thinking.

To the best of my knowledge, 36 governments in the United States (34 states, the military, and the federal government) have the death penalty on the books. In Victorian Britain, there are 222 capital offenses, which was reduced to three (murder, treason, arson in the Royal Dockyards–i.e. sabotage of the Navy) by the 1960’s. The United States has held that only murder and treason are worth taking another person’s life in the late XX century. There are five different methods of execution on the books in the United States, shooting, hanging, gassing, electrocution, and lethal injection.

The history of execution methods is interesting. Many doctors have been involved, and many methods have been employed to make the deaths 1. swift, 2. painless, and 3. clean. Unfortunately, the human body is quite tough. And, like the old joke, you can pick any two. The ones that are swift and painless tend to be, well, oogie. Shooting in the head with a shotgun is swift and painless. It splatters, though. Decapitation, swift, painless, and bloody. Hanging, now, that is hit or miss. Too long a drop, and there is a decapitation. To short a drop, and the person lives on the rope for minutes.

All the other, “modern”, “scientific” methods of killing, well are clean, but are neither swift nor painless. Just ask Caryl Chessman or Jesse Joseph Tafero. The more modern methods also give deniability to the people who carry out the execution. No one knows exactly who flips the switch or has the blank charge. This is a separate issue. If you don’t want perform an execution, don’t be the headsman. If one is unwilling to own one’s actions, they probably shouldn’t be done. Certainly if one desires a clean kill, make a clean kill, and mop up the mess.

And if the mess is enough to keep you from performing an execution, then don’t do them. LWOP is a perfectly good deterrent. But then, again, mean what you say. In Europe, Life in Prison means parole eligibility in fifteen years. . For reasons of squeamishness, for concerns about justice, for mercy in general, I can understand the desire to avoid capital punishment. Don’t forget about the victim years later, though.

You Can’t Ever Go Back

Filed under: Circle Game,Social Commentary — williamthecoroner @ 17:48

I had lunch to-day with the VPAA from Bates College. Bates is a good place, I swing through every year as I pass through Maine on my way to the Colby Conference. And though I would like to preserve the place, as if in amber, they do have to move with the times. There are a lot of building projects now underway, two of the old, landmark buildings were Roger Williams and Hedge–two beautiful Victorian piles that are undergoing modernization. Hedge is of particular interest to me, it was originally the chemistry laboratory, and I lived there for two years.

As it turns out, if you spend more than $100 K on a building, you have to bring it up to full ADA compliance. And ADA compliance for dorms are more extensive than most–corridors need to be widened, bathrooms modified (and Hedge surely needed it) elevators installed, the whole bit. With large buildings, you reach that threshold with more than a paint job.

Fortunately, the buildings are good and solid, and only need new windows to be insulated–single glazing doesn’t cut it during Maine winters. The old dorms are being transformed into faculty offices, because they would loose too much space to be dorms. That is kind of a pity, they had a lot of character, and it was fun to live there. It is also kind of amusing, Roger Bill was also the place where the folks who smoked a lot of pot lived. I wonder what faculty offices will be going in there…

The Bates website talks a lot about climate-neutrality. I wish they wouldn’t use those buzzwords, though I realize that they are popular. It just makes good sense to use double-glazing. That’s just good stewardship. I really wish the environmental movement would promote an ethic of stewardship instead of climate change. Though, stewardship isn’t sexy and self-loathing surely is.

Sunday, 20, June, 2010

Miss Saigon

Filed under: Boomstick — williamthecoroner @ 10:49

I went to see Miss Saigon at the Pittsburgh CLO yesterday. My cousin was in it, and we needed to deliver his car to him, and it’s always nice to see him on stage–I don’t too much, he usually work in Manhattan or L.A. He also has tremendous stage presence.

As an old theater tech guy from way back–I tend to get a little distracted, I don’t notice the spectacle so much as “OK, How did they do that?” or “Is the helicopter made out of styrofoam” (It was plywood, BTW). I did also wonder why the NVA were carrying the same M-16s as the US Marines were. Probably because the prop guys only bought one set of long arms. I realize, I’m the only one that would notice this stuff.

I’d never seen the show before, and I had no idea of the plot, though I was aware it was a modernization of M Butterfly. The ending was emotional, and made me forget all about the technical stuff.

Friday, 18, June, 2010


Filed under: Natural History — williamthecoroner @ 10:51

The other day, I saw my first Cooper’s Hawk. Of course, it could have been a sharp-shinned hawk, but it was about the same size as the crows it was hassling, so I think it was a Cooper’s. I’ve never actually identified this before, so it’s going on the life list. Raptors tend to be divided up into red-tails, buzzards, eagles and kestrels. Though I’m sure I’m using red-tail as a wastebasket diagnosis, I now there are broad-winged, and red-shouldered hawks around here.

Thursday, 17, June, 2010

Bugger This

Filed under: Self mockery — williamthecoroner @ 02:15

It’s 0300, I’m WIDE awake, and I’m hungry. At least, I have the internet and some challa and gouda, so that can be remedied while I kill time, but sheesh, I’d really rather be asleep, thanks.

Wednesday, 16, June, 2010

It Took Me Long Enough

Filed under: Blogania — williamthecoroner @ 21:15

But this evening, I finally managed to meet the World’s Most Dangerous Librarian. I’ve been to that library scores of times, and even did an evening presentation there once–but I never have spoken to her until today. Blogging has introduced me to many interesting people, in Cleveland and all up and down the eastern seaboard. It was nice to meet up in meatspace.

Tuesday, 15, June, 2010

Respect My Authoritah!!!

Filed under: Links to Greatness — williamthecoroner @ 08:53

As Matt G points out, and Blunt Object expounds on, the whole Bob Etheridge kerfuffle is being misinterpreted. It matters not whether Mr. Etheridge has a golden donkey on his altar, or a golden elephant, or a golden calf.

There is a whole lot of sucking up in politics, irrespective of party. When I worked for big county office, the elected official was described in glowing terms, she was the most intelligent, her jokes were the funniest, and she had a beautiful singing voice. On more than one occasion, she was called an angel. On one memorable occasion, a local power broker called her the angel of death.

Now, power attracts people sucking up. When the people in power begin to demand sucking up, things start to dribble off the court. If Mr Etheridge had kept his cool, been polite, “Excuse me, I can’t talk right now.” or even been brusque-“gotta go”, no reasonable person could say anything. Congressman Etheridge, by demanding to know who the kid was and laying hands on him, those actions showed that he was angered by not getting the deference that he felt was his due.

There’s an old phrase “Hey, pick on someone you’re own size.” I think it applies here. The Congressman is a bully in a suit.

Monday, 14, June, 2010

Who Works for Whom?

Filed under: Haterade,People who need pianos dropped on them — williamthecoroner @ 18:42

Congressman Bob Etheridge D-NC doesn’t seem to remember. Look here.

His office addresses are:

Washington, DC
1533 Longworth House Office Bldg Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-4531

Raleigh District Office
333 Fayetteville Street, Suite 505 Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 829-9122

I think I might let him know what I think. Join me if you wish.

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