William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Friday, 21, January, 2011

Forgotten Victims

Filed under: Forensics,In Memoriam — williamthecoroner @ 19:11

One of the things that has always bothered me about my job is that the victims get forgotten. Even in ordinary cases, when lawyers or journalists call me up, it’s always about “The Smith Case” or “The James matter.” The names are always the names of the person on trial. Maybe if the person is famous enough the name of the victim remains. “The Kennedy Shooting” for example.

Now, I can understand this, the defendant is the person who has hired the lawyer after all, and is the one on trial. I always get a niggling feeling that the victim gets lost. Even with the shooting in Tuscon the other day, it’s all about Loughner, or “The Giffords shooting”. The other folks are lost. What is even worse, the victims are lost while political opportunists use their sufferings to get elected, or get influence, or get money.

Judge John M. Roll is becoming one of the forgotten victims. There is evidence that in his last moments, he attempted to shield another victim from Loughner’s bullets.

* And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.

– Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5; Babylonian Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 37a

Sappy Cat Blogging

Filed under: Cat Blogging — williamthecoroner @ 05:40

Today’s cat is Sal Esposito, a Boston cat who recently got called to jury duty. His owners asked that he be excused, because he cannot speak English. The jury commissioner denied the request, but I don’t know how Sal will get past voir dire.

Thursday, 20, January, 2011

What Is Cancer

Filed under: Medicine — williamthecoroner @ 12:04

Cancer is not one single disease. It was the height of silliness for the United States to talk about a “War on Cancer”. That’s like declaring war on mammals. There are so many kinds and types, that statement is meaningless. It is always amusing to hear people talk about cancer as a single entity, because it is obvious that they don’t know what they are talking about.

OK. So, what are we talking about? Let us start by defining out terms, so we are all on the same page. A tumor is a swelling or growth. A neoplasm is a new growth. A malignant tumor grows faster, and will invade, a benign tumor is relatively slow-growing, and does not invade. Malignant growths of epithelial tissues are carcinomas, malignant growths of connective tissues are called sarcomas. Finally, it is silly to say, as I saw in one bad TV show, that a person has “adenocarcinoma”. OK. we know that carcinomas are malignant growths of epithelial tissue, adeno is the prefix describing glandular tissue. So an adenocarcinoma is a malignant growth of epithelial glands.

But cancers are transformed tissue. They don’t arise spontaneously. They arise in some source tissue, and retain some characteristics of that source tissue. So, malignant tumor that arises in the glandular epithelium of the breast, is an adenocarcinoma of the breast. A malignant tumor that arises in the bronchi of the lung of a smoker is probably a squamous bronchogenic carcinoma. There are some hold overs, the adenocarcinoma of the liver used to be referred to as a hepatoma. The AFIP has books covering every tumor from every anatomic location, and a significant part of those books deals with the old nomenclature, so everyone can be on the same page.

What makes a cancer malignant? We don’t really know, and people have been asking that question since the 1890s. Breast cancer tends to go to liver and bone. Lung cancers tend to go to the brain. Cancers that make mucin have a tendency to be more invasive than those that don’t. The mucin pushes apart the tissues and helps make a channel.

I do know that if a person speaks of a tumor that was “invasive but not malignant.” that person does not know what they are talking about.


Filed under: Haterade,People who need pianos dropped on them — williamthecoroner @ 11:06

The quote, “I despise what you say, but will defend your right to say it,” has been miss-attributed to Voltaire, but I am a strong believer in free speech. Speech should be as free as possible, even if it annoys people. You cannot put forward good ideas (or even lousy ideas, but lousy idea can inspire a good idea). A secondary goal of free speech is it makes it easier to figure out who is a bozo. Exercising your First Amendment rights should not be an excuse for losing one’s Second Amendment rights.

Sunday, 16, January, 2011

Treasures of Heaven

Filed under: Cleveland,History — williamthecoroner @ 13:17

I went to see Treasures of Heaven at the Cleveland Museum of Art yesterday, I had to move quickly, as the exhibit is closing today. It was very well done-and my minor in undergrad was Medieval and Roman History, so it was a pleasure to re-visit the stuff.

When I go to an exhibit such as this one, I play the Bryson game. As Bill Bryson put it in his Notes from a Small Island:

I play a game…it helps me focus. The for being such a splendid fellow, the authorities will allow me to take one thing from an exhibit for my very own. The only catch is I must select it on the basis of esthetics, and not mere value.

For me, I selected this ninth-century ivory pyxis with the carvings of St. Menas. It was obviously made from an elephant tusk, and I really liked the carvings. I also just happen to like carved ivory, there is something about it, perhaps the grain, but it has a much finer character than wood. I like it.

I also liked the head of one of the companions of St. Ursula, there was some spectacular specimens of rock crystal. Two things struck me. One was the little display of pilgrimage badges, that reminded me strongly of the little souvenir teaspoons or shot glasses that you see in tourist traps and in turnpike service plaza shops. But instead of Philadelphia (or Flint Ridge) they were of a saint or shrine. People really haven’t changed much in a thousand years.

The other thing that struck me as strange was the enshrinement and exhibit of. well, the bits of saints and martyrs. There was a tooth of Mary Magdalene (supposedly) in a piece of rock crystal. Arm bones of saints and parts of the true cross. This is where my XXI century logic and knowledge trip me up. I know that the gospels were written decades after the events they describe. That no one at the time would think of saving a bit of the true cross, or would even been allowed to. The tooth of Mary Magdalene was a human tooth, sure. But more likely than not it was a tooth the artists had lying around. The objects and artistry were gorgeous, but I found myself unable to fully suspend my disbelief.

Saturday, 15, January, 2011

He Has A Point

Filed under: Forensics — williamthecoroner @ 16:06

I was noodling through the archives of Mark Bennett’s Blog Defending People, and I came across this little gem.

To put it into context, prison is not inexpensive. Incarceration costs, I believe, $48,000/year in Ohio. Now, there are some folks who surely need to be in prison. Those folks who need to be in prison are those that pose an immediate danger to other folks. Mr. Bennett suggests:

A first-time offender should not go to prison if he couldn’t legally have been shot and killed if caught in the act


Friday, 14, January, 2011

Hate-Filled Political Rhetoric?

Filed under: Haterade,Politics — williamthecoroner @ 17:57

Yes, let’s tone it down. After you, Gaston.

H/t Hecate. Reference HERE.

Sappy Cat Blogging

Filed under: Cat Blogging — williamthecoroner @ 07:40

It’s Friday, so it’s time for SAPPY CAT BLOGGING!

Via ICanHazCheezburger, a chart of cat colour permutations, here. It’s huge. I’d like to see if the author has done any other cat stuff, but I can’t find anything. She seems to be an illustrator from Lebanon, with other material here.

And, as a bonus, here is Old Spice Cat.

Thursday, 13, January, 2011

You’re Not Helping

Filed under: Boomstick — williamthecoroner @ 22:05

I have been working on a research project on ammunition and stopping power. The prevailing wisdom amongst the self-defense community is the larger caliber, the higher the speed, and the more fancy the bullet the better. Some people dislike 1911 pistols, because they feed very well with 230 grain ball, but may be finicky about 185 grain hollow points. From the autopsy perspective, I have personally observed that actually hitting the target is much more important than bullet type, or even bullet size. If I had to rank them, it would go hit, size, type.

But a lot of ink has been spilled on the topic, and my observations are just that, observations. They aren’t data. So, this semester I have put my minions(TM) to work, and we will be pulling autopsy charts and looking at recovered projectiles and getting some numbers that we can analyze. As I intend to publish, and there is no free lunch, I am getting in touch with several ammunition manufacturers, so see if they might be interested in sponsoring this research. Hornaday were very nice, and their voice mail system actually made me laugh out loud. Remington, on the other hand, kept me on hold for over half an hour. Not totally unexpected when you’re asking for a favour, but the Remington representatives said they usually only offered support in kind. That is, they’re willing to send me lots of ammunition (or firearms) for my study, but I then have to go shoot it myself.

As I only have three graduate students at the moment, the numbers of that study might be a too low to be really rigorous. Also, I happen to like my students very much, and even if they were willing to let me shoot them multiple times with various kinds of bullets, I don’t really want to do that. I also think my department chair, and the Dean would not approve of the study–among other folks.

Wednesday, 12, January, 2011

That Was Nice

Filed under: Teaching — williamthecoroner @ 17:56

From an old student:

From one gimp to another.. Need any help, errands, around the house, etc?

I appreciate the offer. I really get quality students.

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