William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Wednesday, 28, September, 2011

Did I Miss Anything?

Filed under: People who need pianos dropped on them,Poetry,Social Commentary — williamthecoroner @ 10:18

Did I Miss Anything?

Tom Wayman
From: The Astonishing Weight of the Dead. Vancouver: Polestar, 1994.

Question frequently asked by
students after missing a class

Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours

Everything. I gave an exam worth
40 per cent of the grade for this term
and assigned some reading due today
on which I’m about to hand out a quiz
worth 50 per cent

Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose

Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
a shaft of light descended and an angel
or other heavenly being appeared
and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
to attain divine wisdom in this life and
the hereafter
This is the last time the class will meet
before we disperse to bring this good news to all people
on earth

Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?

Everything. Contained in this classroom
is a microcosm of human existence
assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
This is not the only place such an opportunity has been

but it was one place

And you weren’t here

Sunday, 11, September, 2011

Hijacking in the Good Old Days

Filed under: Social Commentary — williamthecoroner @ 11:10

The story is HERE. Somehow, I don’t feel safer now when I get on a plane…

Big Round Number

Filed under: Links to Greatness,Social Commentary — williamthecoroner @ 00:01

I’m annoyed. Humans, with ten digits, are interested in big round numbers. Tenth, fiftieth, all sorts of anniversaries that divide neatly by 10 (or 25) for that matter. It’s arbitrary, it’s capricious, and it’s really useless.

The kerfuffle over 9/11 is really pretty disgusting. Matt G said it best, in his post Just Stop It. I quote the key grafs: You want to wave our flag? Push to bring back most of our troops from the errands we’ve sent them on. Push to sunset the Patriot Act for good. Push to fire the TSA. Push to strengthen our borders (still as porous as they were 10 years ago, from what I see.).

But don’t use some arbitrary tenth anniversary of the death of our countrymen as a day to be entertained. Do something GOOD for your country for a change, would you, please? We’ve spent the last 3,652 days dismantling it.

Yeah, what he said. Too often, as a society, we opt to do “consciousness raising” and theater instead of actually, you know, DOING something that will work. We choose cheap sentiment and emotion over testing hypotheses and doing what works. Well, screw that noise. Do something useful, or shut up.

Several thousand people died that day, ten years ago. The guy who planned it is now fish food. His minions are cowering, hiding from missiles fired by drones. Good. But we’ve got a long way to go. Fix the border. Get rid of the TSA security theater. Don’t put up with cops who are afraid to be photographed doing their jobs. Get rid of stupid drug laws that fund terrorism.

Use tragedy to make sure those folks didn’t die in vain.

Wednesday, 31, August, 2011

The Holy Shit Rule

Filed under: Social Commentary — williamthecoroner @ 12:20

Stolen from Ken at Popehat, but I think it’s well worth remembering. RTWT

Wednesday, 17, August, 2011

Putting Out Fires

Filed under: Forensics,Social Commentary — williamthecoroner @ 19:58

I’m back. Working on putting out fires, and getting everything ready for the next semester. There’s a lot of things to take care of, ordering stuff for a new class, administrative stuff, things for continuous quality improvement.

And trying to take care of old students. I know the economy is bad, and I’ve got several individuals, current and former students who are desperate and begging for tutoring hours. It’s really not that kind of job, I have a cadre of people and I try my best to distribute the work fairly for all of them. I keep a referrals list, so I don’t overload anyone and everybody gets a fair chance at the wheel. It’s sad, I have more than one person asking for as many hours as possible, and I just can’t give them the time they need, the Uni would go broke if I did that.

What I’d like to do is have a big enough forensic consulting business to hire these folks and help them make a living. I don’t. I have a big enough forensic consulting business to take four people out to dinner. Once or twice. They can do the work, I don’t have enough work to give them.

Wednesday, 20, July, 2011

Gods of the Copybook Headings

Filed under: Poetry,Social Commentary — williamthecoroner @ 15:00

AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

R Kipling. Seemed appropos, somehow.

Wednesday, 22, June, 2011


Filed under: Social Commentary,Teaching — williamthecoroner @ 11:11

From the Uni’s Faculty Development folks, comes this seminar:

After observing how adult wolves teach pups within the pack to recognize and respect their authority, some dog trainers suggest that one way to establish authority over new dogs is to gently, but firmly, flip them onto their side on the ground, hold them steadily until the dogs are completely calm, and then let them go. Following this exercise (so the theory goes), the dog will remain devotedly obedient to the person who did the flipping.

This suggests the interesting question as to whether adults (unintentionally or deliberately) do the verbal equivalent of flipping to establish dominance in conversations. It has been observed that within many a discussion on campuses, some voices are drowned out, while stronger ones command. This can happen in many ways such as interrupting, louder volume, physical gestures, invoking seniority, etc. Some people are just more adept in controlling a conversation, it would seem.

I am not sure how generalizable wolf behaviour is to humans, particularly because most of what we think we know about wolf pack hierarchy is baloney.  But this question seems to be biased against the STEM disciplines.  If content matters, an important part of pedagogy, indeed the most important part of it, is imparting that knowledge.  If I don’t know how to get an aircraft out of a spin, say, what I as a tyro THINK the answer should be is a whole lot less important than actually knowing the procedure.   Free flowing academic discussion is great when we’re talking about Julius Caesar, or the categorical imperative, or analyzing Monarch of the Glen.  When it comes to keeping a bridge from falling down, or when you should do a spinal tap, or the difference between 400 milligrams of magnesium and 400 millequivalents of magnesium, less so.

Sunday, 12, June, 2011

Do It, Already.

Filed under: Links to Greatness,Social Commentary — williamthecoroner @ 22:14

Humans like charismatic leaders.  One like John F. Kennedy can inspire us to literally shoot for the moon.  Others, like Jim Jones can lead to horrible disasters.  It is not a good idea to look for a leader to inspire and take us to the promised land.  I frankly wish for more personal responsibility, and believe with all my heart that people should not use the power of the state to tell others what they should or should not do, be that smoke cigarettes or marry their beloved.

Over at Sharp As A Marble, Robb said it very well.

We need to stop letting these idiots who can’t even keep their privates off of the Internet run our country into the ground. We need to stop bending over with each new unconstitutional law they pass and start ignoring them. The key word there is WE, not some politician (and make no bones about it, Sarah Palin is still a politician) who will come in with a magic wand and make all the bad things go away. It’s that false belief in ‘Hope & Change’ that got us here today, and I’m not just talking about Obama.

YOU do it. Don’t want for someone else. That’s the problem.

Yeah. There is no savior, there is no justice, there is just us. I want personal responsibility, patriotism, civil liberties, and to be left alone. No-one is going to do it for me, and the first rule of organizations is to retain power.

Sunday, 15, May, 2011

Door-To-Door Doctoring

Filed under: Forensics,Social Commentary,WTF? — williamthecoroner @ 15:22

According to this story, people in Turkey are dressing up as doctors and doing door-to-door hypertension screenings.  They discover high blood pressure, give the people pills to treat the high blood pressure, but they are powerful sedatives and the criminals ransack the house while their victims are passed out.  The police replicated the experiment with placebos, and 86% of the people took the pills.

The moral of the story is, don’t take candy from strangers, and don’t take drugs from doctors going door to door.  Do you really need to be told this?

Tuesday, 15, March, 2011

I Hadn’t Thought of That

Filed under: Boomstick,Links to Greatness,Social Commentary — williamthecoroner @ 11:18

From Blunt Object, I get pointed to Bleeding Heart Libertarians. Specifically THIS ESSAY on how symbolic behaviour gets in the way of actually doing something that works.

I think this is generalizable. Wu is a good friend from college is very opposed to firearms. Only frightening people have firearms (except for the ones he knows who do) and he realizes how people with firearms keep him safe. But he doesn’t want to hurt folks, and he wants to live in a world where people don’t need guns, and for him, eschewing firearms is a step to getting to the world where people don’t need guns. Now, he has just outsourced the people who protect him, and the world is a place where people need guns. But still, the symbolism of his position is important to him. THIS ARTICLE swayed him a little, but he’s still not convinced.

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