Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Writers' Police Academy - a wrap up

I didn't get the names of all the participants of Sunday morning's debriefing panel, plus I had to leave before it was over to catch my shuttle to the airport, but here's some interesting info I picked up while I was there:

  • The Feds coming in and taking over investigations from local law enforcement is largely a myth, at least in the trenches. Might be an issue with higher-ups. In fact, the Feds have money and resources many local municipalities don't have, which makes them welcome.
  • Some mistakes newly-minted detectives often make that can cost them their jobs: So excited, they barge into a scene and can destroy evidence or rushing into an interview unprepared, and getting romantically involved with witnesses. 
  • Can take hours for the medical examiner to arrive on scene.
  • Facial recognition software is easy to beat with makeup, hats and sunglasses.
  • Arrests have been made because idiot criminals like to post pictures of themselves on social media, bragging about their actions. Apparently it happens a lot.
  • Cold cases: Once leads stop coming in, they have to close it down until something new comes in, however cases are never officially closed, but are considered "unsolved", unless the statute of limitations is reached.

This was WPA's first year at this facility, and we were told several times that the local voters had approved a $60 million dollar plan to build it. It's pretty new, so everything is very state of the art. And have I mentioned they have a plane?

Also, I'll be adding more pictures to Flickr (including a truckload of K-9 pics) over the next few days.

Here's a great post about how the new location/facility came about: The Making of the WPA. Kudos to the volunteers - it's amazing that so few people put this amazing event together. And we're going back to Appleton next year! Next WPA is August 11-14, 2016.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Writers' Police Academy - Day 3, Part 3 (Saturday)

Sorry for the delay, this one kind of got lost. Plus, I had to go through a couple million K-9 pics. He's really photogenic.

For me, one of the highlights of WPA is getting to see a K-9 unit in action.

K-9 (Instructors: Bob Zill and Franz)

Franz. Putting the "German" in German Shepherd.

  • Bill and Franz work for a a neighboring police force. There are three dogs in the department - one for each shift - and they aren't friendly. Three alpha males do not equal BFFs. Franz is also not interested in being friends with Officer Zill's wife's pug.
  • Bill and Franz have been together about a year. Franz is three years old and barring injury or illness should be able to work until he's nine or ten. He was imported from Germany.
  • Vests worn by K-9s offer the same level of protection as those worn by officers. They're expensive, but it's a show of the regard in which the dogs are held by the public that a local teenage girl staged a dance and raised the funds for Franz's vest in 45 minutes.
  • Franz is trained to search for a number of narcotics, apprehension by bite (the dogs are taught to grab the nearest body part available and hang on), tracking via scent and ground disturbance, building and area searches and handler protection.

We got to see two demonstrations, one in which Franz looked for and found drugs that had been planted in a vehicle, and apprehension/bite.

That pot never had a chance.

This did not turn out as bad as it could,
but once we knew the guy kept his balls,
it was funny.

A job well done.

Friday, September 18, 2015

It is to laugh

Assignments for the second challenge of the first round are up for NYC Midnight's Flash Fiction Challenge. And I think my group's assignment is hilarious:

My last few trips through LAX's baggage claim have not gone smoothly. Perhaps I can find the humor in them. And a tuna sandwich.

Update: Sorry to have to report that I came up empty on this one. That's only happened once before with this competition. Usually, I'll come up with something at the last minute, but not this time around.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

You know, I felt sorry for the Texas briefcase clock kid until facts

When I first heard about this story (and by heard about, I mean just the headline), I thought it was going to be another example of this kind of crap. You know, knee-jerk PC crap over a kid doing innocent, unintentional kid stuff. Then I actually read the story and saw a picture of the "clock" he built.

This is a picture of the clock in my dining room:

This is the clock on my stove:

And the clock on my microwave:

You get the idea.

Now, this next picture is not of a clock. It's a picture of a suitcase bomb:

Pic snicked from here.

And now, the "clock" made by that kid in Texas:

Pic snicked from here.

Go ahead, tell me what time it is according to that thing.

Yeah, suddenly this story takes on a whole new dimension. Like, it was completely understandable that they thought it might be something other than a clock. In fact, if my kid was at that school, I would be pissed that they didn't evacuate the school and call the cops and bomb squad immediately.

Then you know who had to weight in:

Maybe next time Mr. Science Genius decides to build a clock, he can make it actually look somewhat clock-like, as opposed to decidedly bomb-like. Maybe something that doesn't look like an item that would send the Secret Service into a panic.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Holy shit - 13 points = third place!!!

Psychological horror worked! This is the highest placing I've had in this competition.

I'm heartened by this for so many reasons. I want to advance in this competition, because I haven't been able to do it before; it's been a challenge. I didn't do a predictable slasher story. I thought it was actually a good, frightening story. I colored outside the lines and it didn't backfire on me. I'm really happy about this.

This weekend is part two of round one, and this score gives me a good chance to make it to the next round if I can score decently on my next story (top five combined scores in the group get to advance).

One, two three.

Wow. Just so boggled by this. All smiles.

Feedback should be available next week. Can't wait :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The adventures of Sophie at the vets office

Seriously. I mean, look at that. Adorbs.
In tonight's episode, we put a cat on a bland diet! Don't forget to set your DVRs!

Despite being as ridiculously adorable as ever - and not acting sick at all - in the past few weeks Sophie has been doing her best impression of a world-class barf machine. It seemed like every morning during the past several weeks, I awoke to a new pile of extremely unwelcome kitty barf on my carpet. Her range seemed to be limited to the hallway and part of the living room right off the dining room, but we're still talking a lot of kitty barf and a lot of cleaning up to do. It didn't help that I got sick myself last weekend. We were both hurling like champs, although I managed not to mess up the carpet. But cleaning up kitty barf on a good day is stomach churning, having to do it when my stomach was already churning on its own just added insult to injury.

Most of the kitty barfing appeared to be taking place during the night so that there would be a fresh deposit to greet me in the morning, but Sunday evening around 7pm Sophie started up with the heaving and I decided that enough was enough. She was due to go in for her annual checkup this month anyway, so as she furnished my carpet with a few new spots of bile, I got online and made an appointment with the vet.

I honestly thought her problem was just overeating. I switched her to Iams a few years ago on the vet's advice, and she seems to like it just fine. She gets two cans a day (am and pm) and sometimes she eats it all, sometimes she picks and leaves quite a bit of to be thrown out. She also has dry food out all the time, so no matter what, she's not going to go hungry, especially when you consider that she clocks in at around ten pounds and also gets more excited about dry food than any other animal I've ever seen. A few months back Iams came out with a new and apparently delish line of food, because next thing you know, she's polishing off every bit of it. And although the new food has been around for a few months and the puking didn't really start in earnest until the last few weeks, in my infinite wisdom I figured that was the cause - she was eating herself sick. Which is probably why I'm not a veterinarian.

So we scored a quick Monday afternoon appointment. Fun fact: Our vet always requests a fecal sample. First vet I've had that did that. So I raided the cat box, but who wants to carry around cat poop in a clear plastic bag? Not this girl. So I cleverly hid it in a festive Brighton bag:

The only time you'll ever find something
inexpensive in a Brighton bag. No kidding, 

there is actual cat shit in there.

Then Dr. Thatcher, who is awesome by the way, gave her a very groping abdominal exam but didn't find anything out of the ordinary. In fact, he told me that if I hadn't mentioned her recent barf factory activity, he wouldn't have noticed anything off about her.

Awesome Dr. Thatcher also didn't seem to put much stock in my overeating theory. Apparently excessive vomiting in cats can be caused by any number of issues, but since he didn't find any visible physical causes, he decided to start with her diet. Maybe the new line of food has an ingredient that not only makes it uber-tasty going down, but triggers it to come back up. So he started talking about putting her on a bland diet.

I had never heard of a bland diet for cats. And I wondered how, exactly, do you put a cat on a bland diet? Well, now I know:

That's right: Baby food. Meat flavored
baby food.

Turns out Sophie won't eat baby food straight, so I'm mixing it with the canned food. Also, I've been instructed to dole her food out to her in small, frequent meals, so Sophie is officially high maintenance. No simple twice-a-day feedings for her anymore!

The good news is, the first day has gone well. She hasn't barfed since Sunday night and Dr. Thatcher called this afternoon to let me know her blood, urine and Brighton kitty poop tests all came back clear. So we're going to see how the diet thing goes, but happily, it seems that despite the kitty vomit orgy of the past few weeks, Sophie is apparently good to go as she enters the second decade of her ridiculously photogenic life.

Resistance is futile.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Writers' Police Academy - Day 3, Part 2 (Saturday)

Saturday, continued.

Overview of Forensic Psychology (Dr. Katherine Ramsland)
Dr. Ramsland again, and if I had my life to live over, this is probably the field I'd think about going into, or at least giving it a shot over being an office drone. Some points from the session:
  • When the legal system and psychology intersect, you have forensic psychology.
  • To serve as an expert witness, one must be credible, competent, prepared, objective and know the procedures and expectations of the court.
  • Sanity is a legal term, not a medical one. Regardless of an individual's mental state, the only question legally is whether or not they know that their actions were wrong and would have consequences. She cited notorious Canadian killer Luka Magnotti as an example - despite the heinousness of his actions, he fled and used fake names, a sign he knew police would be after him and was trying to avoid detection.
  • Not guilty by reason of insanity = not responsible for actions, so the person is not held criminally accountable. Not used as often and doesn't work as often as the public perceives.

In a famous murder case, 15 year old Tim Masters was
wrongly convicted because of his violent drawings.
DNA evidence exonerated him after he served nine years. 

They actually use these. I see seahorses,
so I'm probably harmless.


Advanced Fingerprinting (Instructor: Dan Feucht)
Super Glue fuming is a real thing. It was discovered that one of the ingredients, cyanoachylate, when warmed, reacts to fingerprint residue, leaving a visible print that can not only be lifted, but can also provide DNA. However, you don't want to heat it above 270 degrees - it will produce cyanide.

Bottle fuming in progress.

Next up: The obligatory five thousand K-9 of the year pics.