An Unappealing Part of Parenting

Note: I was working on a list of New Year's resolutions for the blog, but decided to go with this post instead.

After a being slow to post here and comment on other blogs due to the holidays, I am looking forward to a return to normal next week.

Happy New Year and best wishes to everyone in 2010.

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One lousy yet official duty of being a parent is having to tell your children when one of their beloved pets has died.

This will be my second my time.

Though our friend has not passed away yet, it will happen soon.

A few years ago, I had to tell the oldest boy that my springer spaniel pal for so many years (I have to admit that we grew up together), was no more.

Soon, I'll have to tell the same boy and now his younger sister (as the youngest boy would not understand) that their family cat has passed.

At 16 or so, the gray-tabby is a great underdog story. She was a stray in the South for the first portion of her life.

I was walking my dog at my girlfriend/future wife's apartment complex when this skinny little fluff trotted from the woods and followed us up the stairs to the Mrs.' door. Preoccupied with trying to keep the dog from jumping the brave feline, I went inside the apartment and thought nothing more of the encounter.

Fifteen minutes later, the Mrs. heard loud meowing from the stairwell. She opened her door and in strolls this cat.

Evidently, we had been selected by "Emmy."

I still remember my father, a career Marine holding back his tears, informing my brother and I each time that one of our family canines had died. Telling children news like that does not get any easier through the years.

Last January, Bill Simmons, a fantastic writer known for his perspective on sports, authored a moving tribute to his family dog: Daisy or "The Dooze."

The entire article is worth the read, but his closing perceptively captures what bothers parents the most when family pets are no longer:

...The day after The Dooze left us, our little boy woke up and my wife carried him downstairs to feed him like she always does.

I was still half asleep and could hear her footsteps. Then I heard this: "Day-zee. Day-zee."

That part didn't make me sad.

The part that made me sad happened three mornings later ... when my wife was carrying him downstairs again and he didn't say anything.


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Update: Our family pet passed away this morning (1/10/09), and the message was delivered to our kids. Thanks for your kind words.

An Alternative to Dorm Life


Ok, so the cost of a college degree has been increasing steadily, resulting in students being creative to make ends meet.

In the extreme, Duke University graduate student Ken Ilgunas scores one for innovation:


Even by starving grad student standards, Duke student Ken Ilgunas’ campus housing is humble. It is, however, mobile.

Ilgunas, 26, is shacking up in a 1994 Ford Econoline as a means of getting through his liberal studies graduate program without debt.

His vehicle parked in a lot on the edge of campus, he cooks with camping equipment and subsists largely on peanut butter.

Ilgunas, who grew up in Niagara Falls, N.Y., doesn’t think he’s really roughing it. He showers and exercises in the campus gym and knows all the 24-hour buildings where he can keep warm, dry and connected to the Internet.

“I’m rarely in the van. Just to eat and sleep,” he said. “Generally it’s not the most convenient place. The closest bathroom is a quarter mile away, and there’s no source of water nearby. But with that said, I live pretty comfortably. I bring a water jug to campus and fill it up.”

Ilgunas isn’t doing this out of necessity. Rather, it’s a self-test of sorts prompted by the $32,000 in debt he was left with after getting his undergraduate degree from the University at Buffalo, a state university in New York.

He paid that debt off working full time for 2½ years, and he swore never to be similarly saddled again...
It is not clear from the article if Ilgunas' van is parked on university property or not.

If he is parked on city or private property, I doubt that persons responsible would be very excited about having a permanent resident of that nature.

From the university's perspective, though there's not a rule forbidding a "house on wheels" on Duke property yet, I am quite sure the administration will pass something applicable soon.

Once officials realize that they are missing out on revenue (he is residing there), there are sanitary issues (no housing inspections and I am sure the guy does not walk ten minutes round trip to use a restroom at 3 am), as well as the added complexity of providing safety to a student sleeping in the backseat of a vehicle, they will want to ban such a practice on campus.

I do admire the guy's sacrifice to avoid debt.

At least, when he invites a friend over for an evening of pizza and a movie, he does not have to waste time in asking: "Your place or mine?"

Instead he can just offer: "Why don't we make it your dorm and I'll bring the peanut butter sandwiches..."

Note: Photo was used from here.

Reading Between the Lines

Read Between the Lines Story #1

Last week, I skimmed a few stories on the sad missing person case of Utah mother Susan Powell.

Josh Powell, her husband, reportedly last saw her at home on December 7, 2009, after he left with his young sons (ages 4 and 2) to go camping.

At 12:30 am.

With the weather below freezing.

This related Associate Press story caught my attention:

SALT LAKE CITY — Police said Tuesday that they want to question the husband of a missing Utah woman about a car he allegedly rented that was driven hundreds of miles after his wife's disappearance.

"It was rented in Joshua Powell's name, and there were several hundred miles put on it," West Valley City police Capt. Tom McLachlan said. "The company that rents the car has said there is no stored GPS data that would indicate where it was taken..."

McLachlan said Joshua Powell rented the car during the 24-hour period that his van was in police custody, about two days after his wife was reported missing...
Here is my translation of what the Captain wanted to say:

"The chief sent me here to make statements to the press because he is busy punching holes in walls. He is trying to determine how the surveillance system we had to monitor Mr. Powell, as a person of great interest in the case of his missing wife, failed so miserably--since we now realize that he traveled hundreds of miles unmonitored while our crime scene geeks were tearing apart the family van looking for clues."

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Read Between the Lines Story #2

The following crime item resides in a password-protected news database, so I am unable to link it:

An alert Department of Transportation manager noticed suspicious activity at Green's Market early Sunday, so he decided to follow three young men he spotted hurrying out of the store, he says.

Police eventually met up with the three suspects, and the trio is now accused of burglary.

The witness said he would have regretted not taking action if he had read in the newspaper the next day the store had been broken into.

He was driving while supervising snow-removal work for the county just after 2 a.m. Sunday when he noticed people leaving the store.

Here's his account of what happened:

The people leaving the market were moving quickly and carrying something.

"It just didn't seem right" for 2 a.m., he said.

He realized he may have stumbled onto a burglary, and he considered what he should do.

The witness thought he could turn around to try and get a license-plate number, or just keep going.

But if he kept going and he read the next day that the store had been burglarized, he'd feel bad about missing a chance to help catch the culprits.

As he turned around, three people got into a Jeep and pulled away without the lights on, which confirmed his suspicions

As the Jeep turned onto a local road, the civilian was on his cell phone with a State Police dispatcher who said there were no troopers available at that moment.

The civilian kept following, trying to keep up with the fast-moving Jeep in snowy conditions and get close enough to at least get the plate number.

The Jeep then turned onto the Interstate.

In the meantime, a State Police unit cleared a call near the incident and the dispatcher said troopers would wait at the next exit for the Jeep.

The Jeep took the exit and police pulled it over, taking the three occupants into custody.

Troopers asked the witness to check Green's for signs of a break-in.

He returned and found the front door smashed in and broken glass on the sidewalk and inside the store...
My translation:

The call-taker who initially spoke to the transportation manager at the 911 Center coded the incident as a suspicious vehicle instead of a burglary-in-progress. Upon seeing the non-emergency 'suspicious vehicle' call pending, the dispatcher decided to hold the call because their were no police units in service.*

It was not until the witness continued to chase the suspects and informing the operator by phone of their location, and the burglars continue to flee at a high rate of speed with no headlights, that the dispatcher realized that this needed a higher priority code.

He/she then appealed for an officer to become available or the dispatcher would find another agency to take the hot call.

An A+ to the witness who single-handedly made this felony case for authorities (even having to return to the market to verify that there was entry).

As a citizen, there is nothing wrong with being persistent. Even when someone on the phone tells you there are no police units available to help.

*Note: I am not blaming anyone for the way this scenario played out. Police officers get busy at scenes. Call-takers make judgments on how to code calls. Dispatchers send units to priority incidents first. Just glad the citizen following the burglars refused to give-up.

Christmas Carols and Hymns: All 'Merican

During the Advent season and on Christmas, I enjoy the American tradition of listening to and singing our wonderful home-grown holiday carols and hymns.

Hearing Silent Night, is a moving experience.

Wait, that one is of Austrian origin?

Well, Good Christian Men Rejoice is excellent.

Oh, that is a mix of German vernacular and 14th Century Latin?

We still can claim Angels We Have Heard on High, right?

No? An 18th Century French tune, you say? Hmm.

Don't tell me Joy to the World.. written by Isaac Watts... You mean Isaac was English?

Ok, so we Americans have borrowed from the fine talents of those around the world to musically celebrate the holiday of Jesus Christ's birth--though we did contribute Oh Little Town of Bethlehem and It Came Upon a Midnight Clear among other tunes to the mix.

A little known children's carol, another from outside the US, has become a favorite of mine. Curoo Curoo or Carol of the Birds traces its history back to 18th century Ireland:

Full many a bird did wake and fly
Curoo, curoo, curoo
Full many a bird did wake and fly
To the manger bed with a wandering cry
On Christmas day in the morning
Curoo, curoo, curoo
Curoo, curoo, curoo

The lark, the dove, the red bird came
Curoo, curoo, curoo
The lark, the dove, the red bird came
And they did sing in sweet Jesus' name
On Christmas day in the morning
Curoo, curoo, curoo
Curoo, curoo, curoo...
Merry Christmas everyone and safe travels to those on the road over the next few days. I hope you get a chance to sing some of those 'Merican carols...

*Note: This is verses one and two of the carol, the full lyrics can be found here.

Tuber of the Week #24: Sand Animation

Give me a thousand dollars in art studio equipment, materials, and paints and I'll produce something of little value (likely described as "a mess").

Provide Ilana Yahav a light, a glass table, and sand and she will give you this:



In researching sand animation, I saw that actor Ashton Kutcher recently promoted it via his social media tools.

Glad to see that I am not far behind the Hollywood trend setters with information.

Also, if you like this form of art and have 8 minutes, the Ukraine's Kseniya Simonova offers a moving sand animation telling the story of her homeland's occupation by the Nazis during WWII.

Part VII: Kathleen McBroom Missing Person

Sheila Kathleen “Beany” McBroom has not been seen since October 27, 2008 in Anchorage, Alaska. She was reported missing by her family the next day.

Four days after Ms. McBroom's disappearance, her truck was discovered abandoned by family members on a highway south of Anchorage. The vehicle contained her cell phone and other personal items.

Ms. McBroom was an avid writer and her online journal can be viewed here.
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In my last two posts, I presented four questions that I believe should be pursued by the family regarding Ms. McBroom's investigation:

1) Were Kathleen’s medical records subpoenaed?

2) Was her encounter with police (on the morning she vanished) videoed?

3) Was a traffic collision/accident report completed concerning Ms. McBroom’s truck striking the guardrail that morning?

4) Was her cell phone active beyond 9 am that morning?
To complete the list, I offer one more question.

5) Why has the McBroom case not received more publicity?

Back on November 4th, I talked about how Kathleen's online friends and blog readers had pushed Anchorage area media outlets for coverage of her disappearance. The prodding was marginally successful as a few television and newspaper stories were aired.

Unfortunately, most were just one time stories and little follow-up was done.

It seems the intial disappearance received some cursory attention, the woman's family was interviewed once or twice, and then the story was forgotten.

In November, I also discussed how surprised I was to find that Kathleen's information had not been listed on the investigating agency's website or the Alaska's State Troopers website dedicated to missing persons cases.

How can authorities find a missing woman if the public is not aware of the details of her disappearance?

Curious, I contacted the lead agency for Kathleen's investigation.

The contact person confirmed that the McBroom case is still active, but that there was not a missing persons bulletin/summary sheet/poster immediately available. The represetentative stated that she would try to locate the document and pass it along.

I also contacted representatives at the state who explained that Ms. McBroom's information could be posted to their site if the case details came from the investigating agency; and evidently it had not.

Now, a month later and I see that there still has been no addition of the Kathleen McBroom case to local or state missing persons websites.

Last week, I received notice from the US Department of Justice that their new missing persons database was online.

NAMUS or the National Missing and Unidentified Persons Database is the federal government's attempt to catalog the wealth of information on active missing persons and found remains so that law enforcement, medical professionals, and the general public can help close some of these cases.

Exploring the website, I was quickly able to read the posted summaries of three of the four cases that I have profiled on this blog: Ray Gricar, Brianna Maitland, and Morgan Nick.

Which missing person case is absent from the NAMUS database?

Sadly, its Sheila Kathleen McBroom.

Of these questions that I believe the family should be receiving answers, no response is more important than why authorties are not involving the public in their search for her.

Police owe this much to Ms. McBroom's loved ones. As well as to Kathleen.

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Previous posts in this series can be accessed by clicking "Kathleen McBroom" on the right margin of the home page or a list of historical posts is here

*Note: The photo was taken from Ms. McBroom's blog.

One Courageous Teen

If have not added Jessica Watson's blog to your daily reading, it is worth a look.

Jessica is trying to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world non-stop.

Despite having a few years on her, the young woman's journey is something I won't be trying anytime soon.

Well, there is some fear of the open ocean and one other little issue: that I barely have the water-faring skills to navigate a paddleboat around a duck pond.

In stark contrast, this 16-year old Australian has been at sea for two months and has traveled about 7,000 miles. She is in daily contact with her family and others assisting her with the technical portion of the voyage.

But Jessica is still alone on her thirty-three-and-a-half foot yacht, The Pink Lady.

Below is an image from her post today.

In summary of that entry: she had scurried up the yacht's mast to make some adjustments when the wind velocity increased. She was smart enough to bring the ship's remote control steering with her to adjust the vessel's heading and make going back down a more pleasant journey.



I am thinking: the view from up there, with the wind bouncing you around, in the middle of the open ocean, by yourself; now that must equal courage.

Tuber of the Week #23: Involvement


Recently in Alton, TX, an officer arrived at the scene of a fight call, intervened, but was overwhelmed by several juveniles who began assaulting him on a residential street.

Who comes to his aid?

A pregnant woman heroically came to the rescue of an Alton police officer earlier this week and the incident was captured by a dashboard camera...

Angela Gutierrez -- who is nine months pregnant -- was driving with her husband and child, when she witnesses a group of teens attack the officer...

The dash cam video shows Gutierrez swoop in and pull one of the teens off of the officer and eventually the rest of them relent and flee the scene.

"Something felt like I had to help," she told the news station. "I told the guys to leave him alone."
Three cheers for Ms. Gutierrez, and I hope the agency gives her a medal, but if I was her husband, I would be shaken--thinking that I hope she and the little-one-on-the-way never want to jump into a fracas like that again.

I was able to imbed the video of the incident from the officer's dashboard camera (below), but the audio is poor.



For the local news version with better audio, you can go here.

This Guy Found What in a Tree?


We have a metal detector that the kids and I like to take outdoors and try to find buried treasure.

Unfortunately, we have yet to recover any “treasure”, and have mostly found discarded junk.

My status with the in-laws is still in recovery mode after I took the detector out for a hike near their house last year.

Following a forgotten path to a copse of trees, the metal detector started beeping like crazy. After a half-hour of digging to remove a couple of feet of earth, I located the hidden metallic objects—-beer cans. Lots of old beer cans.

Yes, I had found a teenage crew’s private beer drinking spot likely from the 1970s.

To add insult to injury, in the old railroad parking area where we had stashed the car, my father-in-law found $1.12 cents in loose change on the ground.

Final score for the outing was: Grandpa’s Wisdom = 1 and Slam’s Metal Detector = 0.

I still have high hopes that someday, we will follow in the footsteps of Maxx Martel:



Maxx Martel, from Glendive, Montana, is known as a man who finds things.

“When I’m out, I look around everywhere. Just yesterday, I found a .45-70 bullet, and an 1857 penny, the kind with an eagle on it.”

Martel’s country is the wide open grasslands and huge cottonwood bottoms of the Yellowstone River. He was born there, a descendant of the Assiniboine and Oglala people that have called it home for centuries. The place is dense with stories of raids and fights, fur trappers and voyagers.

Martel began his life as a finder in 1996, “just trying to find arrowheads,” he said. In 2000, that search led him to discover an entire battle site, the Battle of Whoop-Up Creek, where Sitting Bull and his chiefs led 400 warriors against the 22nd Infantry of Lt. Colonel Elwell C. Otis.

Now recognized by historians, the site near Glendive had been forgotten for over 130 years…

But he had never found anything like what he encountered a couple of weeks ago.

“I was walking in the riverbottom, just looking around,” he said. “I saw part of the butt of the rifle sticking out of a tree, up off the ground.”

Martel had to climb up to where the rifle was hidden, and he found it encased in tightly packed leaves. When he dug it out, he says, it was preserved with what he believes is bear grease. The rifle was in a remarkable state of preservation.

“It really made my day,” Martel said, with his trademark quiet understatement. He took his treasure back to Glendive with him, to the home of Pat Brophy, a gun expert who runs a local rifle and pistol range and is a licensed firearms dealer.

Brophy examined the rifle. “It fits the description of a Springfield Armory rifle, made sometime between 1847 and 1852,” Brophy said.

“The barrel bands and all that are identical to the photos I have in my books.” But the rifle has no maker’s mark at all.

Brophy says that this is not necessarily unusual. “That rifle design was mass produced by just about everybody at the time. It was a very common rifle, the main rifle of the Civil War.”

Asked if he was surprised at Martel’s find, Brophy said, “I’ve hunted artifacts with him before. He is the luckiest person at finding things that I have ever known...”
Any guy that can reach into the hollow of a tree in the middle of nowhere and find an 19th Century musket has my respect.

Now, can he be on call later in the week when I misplace my car keys in the house?

Note: Photo was used from this article in the Billings Gazette.

Part VI: Kathleen McBroom Missing Person


Sheila Kathleen “Beany” McBroom has not been seen since October 27, 2008 in Anchorage, Alaska. She was reported missing by her family the next day.

Three days later, her truck was discovered abandoned by family members on a highway south of Anchorage. The vehicle contained her cell phone and other personal items.

Mrs. McBroom was an avid writer and her online journal can be viewed here.
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In the previous post, I presented two questions that I would want to know if Ms. McBroom was a missing relative of mine:

1) Were Kathleen’s medical records subpoenaed?
2) Was her encounter with police (on the morning she vanished) videoed?


Here are two additional issues I would want addressed by authorities:

3) Was a traffic collision/accident report completed concerning Ms. McBroom’s truck striking the guardrail that morning?

In addition to wanting to know if the missing woman’s field sobriety test was recorded, it may also be important to review any police reports that were completed-—since the trooper who spoke with Ms. McBroom that morning was evidently the last person to see her.

I would want to know if the accident report contained any statements made my Ms. McBroom. Did she say that she was falling asleep at the wheel or provide another reason for driving erratically?

Why?

For instance, say that Ms. McBroom stated that she swerved her car because she was talking on her cell phone and was distracted. That excuse would seem reasonable to an officer investigating the incident.

However, maybe her family would characterize such a statement as odd if Ms. McBroom was firmly against distracted drivers talking on the phone. It would seem to indicate that the conversation Kathleen was having was very important and/or she was acting out of character by speaking on her cell while driving.

In any event, the report may reveal clues as to the reasonableness of Ms. McBroom’s thoughts and actions on that morning.

Note: Depending on the policies of the Alaska State Troopers, a traffic accident report may not have been required of the minor collision; thereby, no report may exist. If the guardrail was damaged and another state agency needed to be notified, then one would expect such a report to have been completed.

4) Was her cell phone active beyond 9 am that morning?

From examining the case, Ms. McBroom was not a person to be stopped by police on a regular basis. Whatever the reason that Ms. McBroom was driving poorly and was not close to her office that morning, an encounter with police could have certainly had a negative effect on her.

As noted previously, Ms. McBroom was wearing her walking shoes that morning and not her work shoes. Despite my thoughts and some of the commenters that this may not be important, her friends and family described this out of character.

Kathleen wanted to portray a professional image at work and would not have worn walking shoes--one family member commented previously that she did not believe that Kathleen intended to go to work that morning at all.

The embarrassment of being detained by police and "caught" not going to work, performing field sobriety tasks, and being interviewed on the side of the road, in full few of the public for more than 30 minutes, may have turned what was a bad morning into a world-is-crashing-in-on-me dreadful experience.

I understand the privacy issues involved with releasing specifics about Ms. McBroom’s cell phone activity, but the family should be able to confirm whether it was in use beyond 9 am.

If it was being used until late in the afternoon that day (as was rumored), then the location of her truck may be less important as a focus area for searches.

Next time, I’ll complete my list of questions.
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Previous posts in this series can be accessed by clicking "Kathleen McBroom" on the right margin of the home page or a list of historical posts is here.

Energy Conservation: A Family Affair

Exuberant Third Grade Boy: Dad, I have great news.

Me: What is that?

Exuberant Third Grade Boy: Well, with my new night-vision goggles, I can now help you save electricity.

Me: Really?

Exuberant Third Grade Boy: I wear these goggles in the bathroom, and they work so well that I don’t need to turn on the light anymore while using the toilet.

I flip on the light switch and peer into the tiny half-bath.

Me: Son, I commend you on the innovative strategy to reduce household power usage, but I am guessing that there is a positive correlation between your goggle-tinkles and the volume of yellow splatter present in this restroom.

Me: Perhaps, the colored residue now visible on the sides of the bowl, the floor, and the laws-of-physics-defying side of the sink is an unintended consequence of your new energy conservation effort.

Exuberant Third Grade Boy moves into the room and inspects the evidence.

Exuberant Third Grade Boy: Oh...

Haunted Houses, Guns, and a Questionable Policy



It is mid-December, time for a Halloween post right?

Ok, so I am a bit tardy on this one, but I think the issue raised is important:

A Baltimore city police officer delivered the fright of a lifetime to a haunted house employee, pulling a gun on the chain-saw-wielding man at the end of his act, authorities said Monday.

Sgt. Eric Janik, 37, was charged with assault and reckless endangerment for pointing his service handgun at the worker, who was dressed as Leatherface, the killer from "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," Baltimore County police said.

The employee, Mike Morrison, followed Janik and several other people up a staircase Sunday night at the end of the haunted house tour in a bid to get "one last scream" out of them, police said.

When the group exited into a parking lot, Janik pulled his gun and pointed it at Morrison from less than 10 feet away, according to police and Morrison, who said he dropped the chain saw, put his hands up and backed away.

Only then did Janik identify himself as a police officer, said Morrison, who retreated into the building.

"I started shaking pretty bad," he told The Associated Press.

Another employee of the House of Screams called police.

According to charging documents, Janik smelled of alcohol and told police two different stories about what he did with the gun. First, he denied drawing the weapon, but later he said he pointed it at the ground.

Morrison and two other witnesses told police that Janik pointed the gun at Morrison's chest...
In my opinion, the most interesting part of the article is here:

...City police officers are required to carry their service weapons while off duty within city limits and can carry them at their own discretion outside the city, Guglielmi (a police spokesman) said...
What?

Mandating off-duty personnel be armed at all times is not in the public's best interest and is simply ludicrous.

Does the agency really want the liability associated with non-uniformed officers being armed and facing split-second decisions after just consuming multiple adult beverages?

What about being armed while swimming?

Or, does the department's leadership prefer that the officer's gun be kept in his gym bag, wrapped in a towel, under a lounge chair while he/she indulges in a few cannonballs from the high dive?

If an agency does its due diligence and hires good people, there is no need to remove discretion concerning off-duty officers carrying guns.

A police department should mandate that officers be armed while wearing uniforms, acting in official capacity, or using departmental vehicles, but leave the other off-duty instances to their people's best judgment.

Part V: Kathleen McBroom Missing Person

This is a continuation in my series on missing person Kathleen “Beanie” McBroom.

Ms. McBroom has not been seen since October 27, 2008 in Anchorage, Alaska. Four days later, her truck was discovered abandoned by family members on a highway south of Anchorage. The vehicle contained her cell phone and other personal items.

Mrs. McBroom was an avid writer and her online journal can be viewed here.
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If I was a member of Kathleen’s family, and my loved one had disappeared, there are several questions that I would want answers from authorities including:

1) Were Kathleen’s medical records subpoenaed?

From her journal, Kathleen had several troublesome health issues. She had previously fallen down a flight of stairs and the injury had been causing her serious back pain. She was a victim of previous abuse.

The missing woman wrote that her relationship with her supervisor was causing her great stress, and that she disliked her job. Also, she stated that her medications were making her loopy and tired—-seemingly a change from being a driven worker who had difficulty sleeping.

With these health issues and since accidental death and suicide are still possible explanations for the disappearance,, determining what medications she was taking as well as in what quantities is important.

It could also be used to compare medications with those, if any, that were found in her truck.

Further, it may be important to understand any other undisclosed serious health problems that Kathleen may have been dealing with. The subpoenaed records certainly could provide insights into Ms. McBroom’s actions and behavior on the day she went missing.

2)Was Kathleen’s encounter with the Alaska State trooper videoed?

If so, I would want to see the recording of the police officer’s administration of the field sobriety test. If there is no video, I would want an explanation as to why.

Just a little background on Ms. McBroom's police incident: At around 8 am on the morning she went missing, Kathleen was evidently seen driving her green truck (the truck depicted above) erratically well south of her workplace in Anchorage.

Reportedly, she was observed by several motorists including a trucker--who saw her swerve into oncoming traffic, strike a guardrail, and continue driving. The truck driver then contacted police, but was dismissed by the trooper after the officer arrived on the scene.

According to news accounts, the trooper’s call involving Ms. McBroom lasted for more than 30 minutes. During that time, Kathleen was questioned, a field sobriety test was conducted, and she was run through warrants. The trooper’s agency stated later that Ms. McBroom passed the field sobriety test and there was no other legal reason to detain her at the scene. The trooper then advised her to take a nap if she was tired. He then left.

In many police departments and just about every large agency, field sobriety tests conducted by officers are recorded using video. It is reasonable then to assume that at least part of Kathleen's encounter with the state trooper was recorded-—maybe there was also audio of the contact.

If video and/or audio exists, I would want to see the tape. I think viewing the video (especially if it had audio) could provide clues to people who knew her well; especially as to her state of mind and the potential effects of any medication.

Perhaps one of Kathleen's responses to the trooper on that morning would mean something to a loved one, while the value would not be perceived by the law enforcement "stranger."

I'll continue next time with more questions regarding Ms. McBroom's disappearance.
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Previous posts in this series can be accessed by clicking "Kathleen McBroom" on the right margin of the home page or a list of historical posts is here.

The photo was used from here.

Dude, My Luggage!

Note: I need another day for my next missing person post on Kathleen McBroom.

In the meantime...
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If it is not the threat of H1N1 to dissuade one from flying, perhaps it is the fear that you and your luggage will not arrive at the same destination:

Authorities say a Waddell couple has been indicted in the theft of nearly 1,000 pieces of luggage from baggage claim carousels at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Maricopa County prosecutors say the 45-count indictment was handed up by a grand jury on Nov. 12 and announced Thursday. It charges 61-year-old Keith King and his 38-year-old wife Stacy Legg King with theft, burglary and trafficking in stolen property.

Phoenix police arrested the couple on Nov. 2. They believe the Kings had been taking luggage from the airport for at least a year.

Police say the Kings' house northwest of Phoenix contained 14 rooms and had stolen luggage and personal belongings piled from floor to ceiling. Many of the bags had been stripped of any identifying information...
I bet airline execs took deep and loud breaths while singing in harmony, "see we did not lose all of those bags on our own."

Fourteen rooms piled to the ceiling with over 1,000 stolen items?

Let's all mark our calendars for December 2010, when the Phoenix PD and Maricopa County officials host one humdinger of a yard sale/auction to purge their inventory of all this unclaimed property.

Are You Sleeping Soundly?


I wanted send a message wishing a "good" night's sleep to the third defendant who fled the scene after this grisly crash in Indianapolis:

Police have arrested two men in connection with a robbery that led to crash that critically injured a young boy and tore a hole in the side of a north side day care.

While pictures of the suspects have yet to be released, officers have identified the men as 21-year-old Darron Crowe and 19-year-old Theo Sanford.

Crowe and Sanford have been preliminary charged with armed robbery, carrying a handgun without a license and fleeing the police. Officers said additional charges may be added as the investigation continues.

The 1997 red, Jeep Cherokee that crashed into the day care belonged to Sanford, police said. Detectives found a handgun, cash and clothing in the Jeep that they believe was used in the robbery.

Police believe a third suspect may have fled the scene after the crash...
Let me understand this.

You and your pals rob a store at gunpoint. Roar away from the scene in your sport utility on busy city streets, and a short time later crash into a child care facility.

The impact injures one adult and four small children (a five-year old boy remains in critical condition).

Surrounded by the screams of children scared and in pain, you smash the window out of your vehicle, jump out, and step on and over the little bodies laying on the floor as you abscond the scene.

You don't offer to help any of the injured kids. You push anything and anyone out of your way in an effort to save yourself.

I think your actions provide a glimpse of the desperate people that police deal with on a daily basis. It is a disturbing world that few others see.

I'm not sure how third suspect, the man that is free, could ever sleep again. Or, maybe he is resting comfortably, and therein lies the problem.

Note: The photo is from WIBC's site .

Time Stand Still

Setting: This story involves our family's recent visit to the home of my wife's grandfather in New York.
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“We’ll back in a couple of hours,” the Mrs. stated as she escorted the elderly man out the front door.

The diner they were going was not far, but her grandfather’s pace at 93-years old while walking with a cane after a hip surgery would make for a long lunch.

With the sound of the front door closing, the three-year old boy knew he had the run of the place. He darted from the living room to the kitchen to the dining room driven by the stimulating sights and sounds of a strange house.

Grandpa built this home himself on Long Island in the 1950s. He dreamed big, worked hard, and had raised a family within these walls. But now, he lived alone. The empty rooms made the small home much too big for the man.

Hearing giggles and footsteps, I realized the little boy was climbing the short-flight of stairs nearby. I followed as he raced to the end of the hallway and stopped to face a closed door. Driven by curiosity, the youngster pushed open the interior door. The old metal hinge responded with a squeak.

Inside the room and immediately to the left of my son was a bed. A down comforter was folded neatly at the foot.

Impulsiveness reigned supreme, and within a moment, the boy was on the bed and rolling around.

Just to the left of the entry-way, pegged to a cork board on the wall, was a calendar displaying September 1994.

I recognized the pictures on the wall as folks from my wife’s family. Well, at least it was what they looked like in the early 1990s.

A dresser was covered with personal hygiene items: a toothbrush, a hair brush, a container of skin lotion, among other things. A small sewing machine was set on an adjacent table.

A dozen books were stacked on a shelf near the bed; mostly historical biographies. Grandpa’s wife loved to read about the presidents.

I flipped through several of the books wanting to test the theory that survivors of the great depression were apt to hide cash in old books rather than lose their assets to a bank failure.*

In each of the hardcovers, I did not find any twenty-dollar bills, but rather plain red or blue bookmarks that designated the last page read. The books seemed to indicate that the owner would return soon, and was just away shopping or traveling.

The dark-colored drapes covering the window were pulled shut; though some of November’s sunlight slipped into the room anyway. His wife's clothes still lined the closet. The room was dusty and cold, but seemed to have a purpose.

After awhile the little boy wandered into another area of grandpa’s house. As I closed the door to the bedroom, I looked at the calendar again. The page for September 1994 was fastened to the board by five thumbtacks and three push pins—clearly fixed not to move. Permanent.

Throughout the day, the little boy’s favorite spot to spend time was this room.

Later, the Mrs. told me that her grandmother had passed away in September of 1994 in that bedroom.

Each of us deals differently with the death of a loved one.

Recently, I saw a touching interview of Patti Canady-—the mother of television newscaster and murder victim Ann Pressly. Ms. Pressly was beaten to death by an intruder who burglarized her Little Rock, Arkansas home.

Ms. Canady stated to the interviewer that after learning of her daughter’s horrific death she immediately gave all of her personal items away. Canady argued that she would always treasure the memories of her daughter, but that her possessions could only be useful to others now.

After my mother’s death, my father gave away most everything of mom’s-—he did save a few items that were special to her, but did not want clothes or other items that reminded him of such pain.

In contrast, the Mrs.' grandpa had preserved his wife’s room. Things are just as they were in September 1994. Time stand still.

...I'm not looking back
But I want to look around me now
(Time stand still)
See more of the people and the places that surround me now
Time Stands still
Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each sensation a little bit stronger

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*Note: If I ever do find money in an old book I really am not interested in keeping it, but be happy to prove that such a financial tactic was used in the 1930s and 40s.

On the Police Shootings: Clemency

The murder of four police officers in Washington state is disturbing, sad, and senseless. I'll let more eloquent writers discuss the specifics of the case and the grief that loved ones are suffering.

One aspect of the story that I did want to mention was the role of former governor Mike Huckabee. The governor is not usually considered a component of the criminal justice system, but when a state's top official uses the power of clemency, that leader becomes an integral part of the system.

In 2000, Governor Huckabee commuted the sentence of accused Washington police shooter Maurice Clemmons, thereby reducing his time to serve on several felony charges and making him eligible for parole.

During his tenure as governor, it is being reported that Huckabee provided clemency to three times as many prisoners has his three predecessors combined.

In essence, the diligent work of police officers, prosecutors, jurors, and judges was flushed down the toilet as one individual used his own judgment in an attempt to assign fairness.

Huckabee's press release is troubling to me as well.

Here is an excerpt (emphasis added):

"...The senseless and savage execution of police officers in Washington State has saddened the nation, and early reports indicate that a person of interest is a repeat offender who once lived in Arkansas and was wanted on outstanding warrants here and Washington State.

The murder of any individual is a profound tragedy, but the murder of a police officer is the worst of all murders in that it is an assault on every citizen and the laws we live within.

Should he be found to be responsible for this horrible tragedy, it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington State..."
Not included in the Huckabee's official statement is any acknowledgement that HE was part of the failed system. When a leader inserts himself/herself into a working system, that leader should admit failures as quickly as they seem to trumpet successes.

Taking responsibility for mistakes shows character.

Obviously, I am not an advocate for any of the presidential pardon or governor clemency systems that exist. I think it provides too many opportunities for corruption, and allows for one powerful individual to overturn decisions made by a system (thought an imperfect system I'll admit)--one with the multiple checks and balances.

My prayers are with the families.
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Update: Reader "Grannye" commented and the Mrs. told me that former Governor Huckabee has been on several talk shows accepting responsibility for his decision to use clemency with Maurice Clemmons.

Though I commend Mr. Huckabee for these current actions, I stand by post regarding his initial statement about the situation. The former governor cannot insert himself into the criminal justice system to commute sentences, and then extricate himself when it is convenient to place blame on such system.
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Note: The photo was used from here.

Part XXVI: Brianna Maitland Missing Person




Guest Blogger Bob continues his insights on the Brianna Maitland Missing Person case.
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Since Brianna’s case is currently active, it’s best I think, to just summarize... a conclusion of sorts. Some things I haven't covered, some more about Brianna, and Theory Two - the Serial Stalker, the Stranger Abduction, the Ring of White Slavery.

Anything is possible, truthfully, but there is no indication from what I learned that such was the case. Someone stalking her, very possible. A stranger, in my opinion unlikely. I believe there are those who know what happened... but of course, of course there are those who know.

Just who are they is the question I have. Is it CB, who posted recently knowing where Brianna was buried, or the person who did know? Or the guy in prison, known as Joker, who claimed he had Brianna killed? For a drug debt!

Doubtful as Brianna was frugal, and only bought a joint now and then according to her friends. The trouble is, there are too many stories about what happened to Brianna. Which surprises me, frankly. What was it about Brianna that inspired so many stories?

I was asked again, about the things Brianna liked, what sorts of things did she do, what did she read, what was she like? I didn't ever know her, but I was told:

Brianna did like to read, a lot, and she liked vampires. Seriously; she told her aunt how much she enjoyed reading Anne Rice’s vampire novels; and she’d read most of Anne Rice's other novels too, those “romance novels” written as A. N. RoQuelaure, as well as Anne Rice's own version of Lolita, called Belinda. She liked reading everything.

She liked to dream. She liked gardening, she loved animals, especially her pet cat (I’m so bad with names, I forgot her cat's name, Shadow, Sundown, something like that!), but she loved her cat. She was a happy child, and grew up getting along well with her parents, brother and others.

She was independent in nature, smart, attractive, her friends listened to her and liked her company. When she became a teenager I guess the rules changed...

I don’t know what else to tell you other than she was a normal teenager, not much different than her peers, except in her own unique way that she was aspiring to be someone. Things weren’t always great at home… she eventually hated living there – so far from her friends.

At 17 she got her parent’s permission to move out, and she did. She didn’t dislike school, school got to her. She adapted.

Brianna pretty much started partying around age 15, if not earlier. This is NW Vermont, and that’s not unusual… my own sister was partying at 13 (NY).
Around about 1999, Brianna probably could have gotten alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and coke. Other unexpected exotic drugs might have appeared from time to time.

How do I know this? Speculation, I admit.

I worked for years in schools, colleges, universities. I learned things. The important thing to understand is Brianna stood out no more than her peers, in what they did, if anything.

What is known, is that shortly after the terrorist attack on NYC, things in the NW Kingdom of VT started to change. According to an inside source, monitoring traffic in the area, for an official entity, an influx of visitors from NYC began showing up. And with them, drugs like crack and crystal meth.

I don't know how this affected Brianna personally. She pretty much went with the flow... but also pretty much made up her own mind about things.

So, by the time Brianna turned 17… all sorts of stuff was out there, and the world has changed.

Brianna knew how to take care of herself. Her friends admit she could be naive. She was also sophisticated, for example, a story began circulating after her disappearance, about a possible wedding engagement, “Brianna was getting married”… She was seen wearing a diamond ring.

This story, like most of the others I tracked down, was simply interesting. Her best friend Shauna admitted they bought the ring out of a gum-ball machine, so that when she and Brianna went to Montreal, Brianna could pretend she was married. She got rather annoyed with getting hit on as much as she did. So the ring would be a good excuse.

Given Brianna's unique nature, it appears likely that someone she knew is involved in at least knowing what happened with/to her, and where she is now. We welcome comments, and ideas... this case is not closed.

Future posts will be subject to the weather…
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Previous posts in this series can be accessed by clicking "Brianna Maitland" on the right margin of the home page or a list of historical posts is here.

Inequality and the Titanic





After a couple of days chasing little ones through the nooks and crannies of a relative's home built in the 19th Century, I did not imagine I would find today's blog post in a magazine* long-forgotten on a basement shelf:

..Miss Hart, who was seven at the time of the sinking, lost her father but rode a lifeboat to safety with her mother...Of the Titanic's final moments she says simply: "I saw that ship sink. I saw all the horror of it sinking. And I heard even more dreadful, the cries of drowning people..."

The relief of the rescue was tempered with a grim statistic: While all children in the first and second class were saved, two-thirds of the children in the third class perished...
In all the history about the Titanic that I remember hearing and reading, I don't recall anything as troubling as that 66% of the children in the cheap seats suffered such a horrific death.

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*Source: National Geographic, December 1985, "How We Found the Titanic" by Robert Ballard

Hate Crimes on the Rise? Maybe or Maybe Not


The criminologists over at the General Blog of Crime linked to a keen observation in what I like to think of as the media's "Annual Misuse of the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)."

Note: I realize that others call it the misuse of hate crime stats, but with all of the "most dangerous states/cities" lists based on the UCRs that appear in print, I think the more general title is applicable.

Perhaps you saw a news story this week about "Hate Crimes Increasing" or something like this deceptive bit from CBS News:

Hate crimes rose slightly in 2008, with bias-motivated attacks based on race, religion and sexual orientation all increasing, according to new data released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Overall, there were 7,783 criminal incidents reported last year. Those incidents involved 9,168 offenses. In 2007, there were 7,624 criminal incidents involving 9,006 offenses reported...
Why is this article misleading?

Mark Thompson at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen offers this:

The problem is that these particular FBI statistics are virtually useless for evaluating year-to-year trends – always have been, always will be.

This year, the FBI itself went out of its way to warn against such readings, stating “our Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program doesn’t report trends in hate crime stats—yearly increases or decreases often occur because the number of agencies who report to us varies from year to year...”
Thompson also lists other reasons why current offense counts in the UCRs should not be compared to the data of previous years including differences in state laws and/or prosecutorial attitudes and priorities, as well differing rates of individual agency participation by state.

In sum, the Uniform Crime Reports can be a useful tool in examining frequency and dispersion of crime in the US, but understanding the initiative's limitations are essential in detecting the false assumptions used to generate mainstream media articles.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuber of the Week #22: Self-Control


Super blogger Erin over at the Fierce Beagle sent me this humorous video awhile back.

After laughing at some of the kid test subjects trying to resist the temptation of marshmallows, it dawned on me that many adults would struggle as well with the researchers' "deal."



The depicted study is also discussed in this New Yorker magazine article.

Note: Erin saw this originally on the blog A Cup of Jo.

Taken and Never Returned: An Update


In the summer, I posted about the case of a missing child named Morgan Nick who was kidnapped from a baseball field in Alma, Arkansas in 1995.

I have two updates regarding Morgan's investigation.

First, as with other families suffering through horror of a missing loved one, the recent return of Jaycee Dugard (now a young adult) who was kidnapped as a child in California has offered Morgan's family renewed hope.

On August 27, 2009, Morgan’s mother Colleen Nick said this:

Our hope has never wavered. Our hope has been resolute that we would find Morgan. But when you find a child that has been stranger abducted, missing for many years, it really reinforces that we are on the right path. We are doing the right thing, that our fight is worth fighting.

And it really encourages and strengthens all those people around our family that are fighting with us.
After working with representatives of the Nick Foundation and the victim’s family, establishing email contact and receiving replies from the Director of Morgan's foundation, and Morgan's mom (Colleen), "Jashrema" developed this list of known information pertaining to Morgan’s disappearance:

1. She was abducted from a ballpark in Alma, Arkansas, a very small town, and very mountainous region. The ballpark itself is surrounded by mountains.

2. To this day, there have been NO viable suspects.

3. The suspicious vehicle was a Red Ford pickup with a white camper. The camper is possibly damaged at the right rear, and was described as four or five inches too short for the truck, which has a short wheel base and paint dulled by age. The truck is believed to have Arkansas license plates.

4. Yes, there was a witness that saw a man talking to the children, but there were NO witnesses to the abduction itself. This description is based on the man who was observed talking to the children as they played. The description is the same as the composite shown. The only composite that is considered VIABLE is the one currently on Morgan's missing poster at the site: missingkids.com.

The man was described as white, 6 feet tall, with a medium to solid build, a mustache and a 1-inch beard. At the time, he was believed to be 23-38 years old. The information about curly, salt pepper hair, slicked back, hillbilly accent, is NOT VERIFIED as correct by Morgan’s mom or the Director.

5. There were NO attempted abductions around the time of Morgan’s abduction, or for that matter, no stranger abductions in the state of Arkansas before or since Morgan. The only other "attempted abduction" that was reported was the child in a nearby laundromat. This was followed up on and found to be a custody dispute between separated parents where the father took the child while the mother was in the laundromat.

6. Alma is a city in Crawford County in the western part of the U.S. state of Arkansas, along I-40 about 13 miles from the Oklahoma border (So, could be looking for Oklahoma predator). The city has a total area of 5.0 square miles. Interstates 40 and 540, as well as U.S. Routes 64 and 71, pass through the city. Also, as of the census of 2000, there were 4,160 people

7. It is unknown to the Director of her foundation that there may be a person in custody (as suggested by a poster on the WebSleuth's site), so that has not been confirmed.
Jashrema reports that the family does not consider their daughter's investigation as a "cold case" in that leads are still be received and investigated. She also stated that some of the information listed on the Charley Project's site appears to be outdated or in some way inaccurate.

Anyone with tips or questions about the case should contact authorities at the Alma Police Department (the lead investigating agency) at 479-632-3333.

Anyone with questions for Jashrema, or who would like to know more about this case or other missing persons are invited to go to the WebSleuth Forum.

Thank you to Jashrema for the great work she has done in compiling accurate information on Morgan’s disappearance, and allowing me to share on this blog.

The Yuppie 911


Here is an example of how technology can make the lives of public safety officials much more difficult:

Emergency responders around the U.S. are concerned about a growing trend, a practice they've dubbed "yuppie 9-1-1." It's when someone with limited survival skills goes out into the wilderness and then relies on technology as a safety net.

Locator beacons that hit global positioning satellites are increasingly being taken into the remote back country. And while the devices have saved lives, there have also been a number of false alarms and calls for help where there really was no emergency at all. Search and rescue leaders say hikers who cry wolf cost taxpayers money and put other lives in real danger.

The typical misuse involves inexperienced hikers who get cold or caught by some bad weather. Instead of waiting out the storm, they hit the 9-1-1 button.

But one case in Arizona was an extreme abuse. A father was camping with his son. He hit the S.O.S. on his GPS locator three times in three days. The last time was because he was dehydrated and drank from a stream. He panicked because the water tasted salty. Search teams did find the pair and after the third 'rescue' they order the two out of the wilderness.
And urban police officers thought they had the market cornered on job frustration.

Part IV: Kathleen McBroom Missing Person


Here are more of my thoughts on the Kathleen McBroom missing person case.

Ms. McBroom has not been seen since October 27, 2008 in Anchorage, Alaska. Four days later, her truck was discovered abandoned by family members on a highway south of Anchorage. The vehicle contained her cell phone and other personal items.
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In the previous post, I talked about Ms. McBroom's journal writings that appear to reveal a very stressful time at home (a teen daughter returning from a Utah rehabilitation center and forgoing some of her favorite foods in favor of dieting) as well as at work (problems with her supervisor, feeling overworked, and concerns about her professional future).

Note: I selected items from Kathleen’s blog that seem to fit within a plausible theory of her disappearance (accidental fall, left her present life to start over somewhere else, crime victim, etc.).

The case remains open, and my posts should not be considered conclusive proof of anything, but rather highlights of her writings.


And now more from the journal:

A) She enjoyed Alaska, but the limited federal career opportunities (for her to find another equivalent position) in the state added to her stress level.

For instance, in April of 2008, when asked where she would like to retire, Ms. McBroom responded that she never wanted to leave Alaska. She said that she moved to Anchorage 20 years ago and “fell in love with it instantly.”

Four months later, she reiterates her refusal to move from Alaska, and adds that she would outlast her current boss. She had 21 years in at the federal level and did not want to surrender that by leaving her position.
B) She had written at least two blog posts about abuses that she had suffered in her teen years (I don't see a need to provide the direct links from her journal).

C) She was attached to and seemed to crave the attention of friends that she had met through blogging.

D) In the months prior to her disappearance, back problems caused by a fall down a flight of stairs were affecting her physically and mentally.

--Despite wanting to attend, she stated that back pain kept her from her grandmother’s funeral.

--In at least two posts, she describes “zooming” and “being wasted” on her pain medications.

--Though she describes herself as an insomniac who needed little sleep, she admitted that her pain medications were making her drowsy. In this post, she discusses how her husband found her asleep in her truck which was parked in the driveway. Ms. McBroom wrote that she had intended to go mail some letters in the early evening, but obviously did not make it.
E) In previous posts, she provides some insight into life and death.

--She discusses death, and how you should not wait to tell your loved ones how you feel.

--In a series of personal questions and answers, she states:

“(If you were to die tomorrow…Would you tell anyone you were going to die?) probably not.”

--In another response she writes:

“(Where do you see yourself in 5 years)…not here. but wherever i am, i hope i will strive to be find the joy in the moments and those in my life.”

--Finally, when asked about suicide she offers this two-word response:

“an itch.”
I am going to stop here with this post. I apologize for not getting into some of the case issues raised by readers in the comments section, but hope to address that next time.

Previous posts in this series can be accessed by clicking "Kathleen McBroom" on the left margin of the home page or a list of historical posts is here.

Blowing 50 Grand in 48 Hours


There is a lesson to be learned from this:

NEWARK -- After just two days of operation, a gun buyback program in Newark was shut down today because it ran out of money.

"I didn’t expect this quick turnaround," Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow said.

Newark police at a news conference today said they collected 339 weapons during a two-day gun buyback program held this week.

The 339 firearms collected in the 48 hours depleted the $50,000 in funds that were available for the program. The last time Newark held this program, in 2005, it collected 489 weapons over a 2 1/2-month period...
In the past two years, leaders in large US cities including Miami, Oakland, and San Francisco have become smitten with the idea of buying guns from citizens to make communities safer. Gun buyback programs offer residents cash (and in some amnesty) for pistols, rifles, and shotguns turned into police.

These events offer some politicians and police executives the chance to host a feel-good show and reassure others that their community is much safer now that dangerous firearms have been removed from the street.

So, what is wrong with gun buyback initiatives?

Repeated empirical studies have shown that this approach has little if any effect on violent crime rates.

In his seminal work entitled PREVENTING CRIME: WHAT WORKS, WHAT DOESN'T, WHAT'S PROMISING, criminologist Dr. Lawrence Sherman said this:

…Gun buyback programs are based on two hypotheses. One is that the more guns in a community, the more gun violence there is. There is substantial evidence to support that claim (Reiss and Roth, 1993).

The second hypothesis, however, is not supported by the evidence. That hypothesis is that offering cash for guns in a city will reduce the number of incidents in which guns are used in crime in that city....

There are several reasons why buyback programs may fail to reduce gun violence:

• they often attract guns from areas far from the program city

• they may attract guns that are kept locked up at home, rather than being carried on the street

• potential gun offenders may use the cash from the buyback program to buy a new and potentially more lethal firearm; the buyback cash value for their old gun may exceed market value substantially.

The enormous expense of these programs is instructive.

When St. Louis invested $250,000 in gun buybacks in 1994, the same funds could have been used to match 250 children with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Those 250 children would then have enjoyed about half the risk of becoming drug users, at least for the first year (Tierney and Grossman with Resch, 1995). But the opportunity cost of the programs never entered into the debate.

Given their high cost and weak theoretical rationale, however, there seems little reason to invest in further testing of the idea...
The issue is not whether one opposes or supports gun control, but rather recognizing that funds are being spent on flawed initiatives.

Hey officials in Newark: please do some research into what works in reducing violent crime, invest your federal and local funds in strategies and programs with proven track records, and let your officers go back to policing.

If you do this, I am certain you'll be able to better invest the $50,000 spent in 48 hours instead of being concerned with grandma’s 1861 .58 caliber Enfield muzzleloader mounted above her fireplace.

Help I'm Alone Today: A Dad's Survival Guide


Note: I am still finishing a few of my missing persons posts (a topic that I like to start with on Monday), and hope to have at least one ready later in the week.

Until then, I offer this...

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You’re a dad. Your wife is spending a well-deserved day away from home—shopping, visiting with friends or family, or just enjoying some child-free time.

Unfortunately for Dad, it is a cold and rainy day. There will be no outside activities. No park visits and your non-urban area offers little to assist fathers with kid-friendly entertainment (no mall, amusement parks, arcade, etc.).

How is a father supposed to entertain three children and still negotiate a stop at a hardware store to purchase a few odds and ends?

With a little creativity and patience, the information in this post may just turn you into a hero playmate in the eyes of your youngsters and perhaps even be considered a clever and responsible parent with respect to the Mrs.

I propose taking the kids to the giant box hardware store near you, Lowes or Home Depot, for a couple hours of directed fun for all.

How can a store containing treated lumber and hex bolts be interesting to children?

Well, here are my top 5 ways to kill 90 minutes with the family at this type of retailer:

Number 5: Cleaning Supplies
Kids can’t get enough of cleaning. I am not sure what age that this interest in scrubbing vanishes, but I say take advantage of it now. At the hardware place, the cleaning aisle is a hands-on playhouse for kids. Mops, brooms, scrub brushes, car washing accessories, and even a variety of different colored toilet brushes will keep those little ones busy for awhile.

Eventually, when the broom sword fighting becomes dangerous to innocent pedestrians, you can still buy a few additional minutes by grabbing a large yellow car wash sponge and doing your best Sponge Bob Square Pants impersonation.
Advantage: Home Depot—All this good stuff is in one place and in an area not frequented by paying customers.

Number 4: Carpets, Flooring, and Rugs
Carpet patches displayed in book-like setups at little kid eye level are a big hit. After watching them flip through 4 books of 30 carpet styles, I am even weary. Feeling the different textures on the flooring and the rug displays are also a big hit.
Advantage: Home Depot—Their rugs are hung on a vertically display and the kids can hide somewhat from their siblings.

Number 3: Toilets and Bathrooms
What can be more fun than trying a few commodes on for size? And why are children always interested in bathtubs until it is time to actually take a bath?
Advantage: Lowes—Their stylish sink displays including the metallic looks hold the children’s attention for more than a few minutes.

Number 2: Faucets
This is the favorite regular aisle for the little people. Numerous faucets, shower fixtures, and kitchen hoses, hanging at lower levels are irresistible for kids wanting to turn, push, and pull. Even displays of plumbers tape with different colored containers like red, green, and yellow have made for improvised games of matching.
Advantage: Home Depot—Lowe’s displays are all out of reach for the little ones, while HD has faucets at just the right height for a three-year old.

Number 1: Outdoor Sheds
Nothing is as close to a kid’s clubhouse as an outdoor shed on display at one of these stores. The kids take advantage of the variety of sheds and go in and out numerous times before eventually identifying a favorite.

Many of these wooden and metal structures contain display cases that always need to be rearranged according to a kid’s needs and desires. A few models even have front and side doors that allow for a guessing game of which door will the child enter through next?
Advantage: Home Depot—The sheds are lined up against a curb which means I don’t have to worry about cars on any road behind.

Seasonable Honorable Mention: Holiday Displays
If you are fortunate enough to have access to the Halloween or Christmas displays at these stores, your kids can be in for a real treat. The giant snowmen, Santa Claus on a teeter-totter, or Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer always bring a smile (pumpkins or whatever for Halloween is neat as well).

And what is better than watching little kids push the demo buttons on 26 (yes, I counted) large display snow globes so that they are all playing holiday music simultaneously?
This is not a comprehensive list of ways to play at a hardware store, and with a little creativity, I am sure you will develop other ideas for entertainment.

In sum, follow this tour guide the next time you visit your favorite box hardware store with young sons and daughters, and you’ll leave the store’s parking lot with tired children as well as the few needed parts for that home project.

Most importantly, upon her return, the Mrs. will receive glowing reports from the children regarding how great of a host Dad can be.

Homeless Man Speaks


People start online journals for a variety of reasons.

Some connect with their friends and family. Others want a pulpit to speak from on specific topics. For some, blogging is simply a good way to practice writing.

Still other journals were started with a greater purpose. They contain poignant and unique messages that bolster a reader’s understanding of an issue or the world.

One such journal is Homeless Man Speaks; a blog that features citizen "Philip’s" regular exchanges with a homeless man named "Tony" in Toronto, Canada:

...I’ve known Tony for about 5 years. I estimate that he’s about 55 yrs old. Tony spends most days coaxing a dime or a quarter or a dollar or a fiver from folks walking by, familiar and not.

From what I can tell, Tony finances his life one meal at a time, plus the cost of a bed for the evening when he can collect enough money. Most mornings, I find him perched on a stack of milk crates, near my favourite coffee shop.

Tony’s cap acts as a nest for loose change, and his small cardboard signs attempt to catch your eye and your heart. I see him most days at around 8am when he’s generally “working on” breakfast...
Philip has detailed Tony’s experience (including jail, illnesses, and hospital visits) for about four years now.

One post of Tony and Philip that caught my eye dovetails well with a story that Cst. Sandra Glendinning (Vancouver Police Department) told about a homeless man who helped her during a fight with an arrestee. Tony's post is entitled "Just Doing Their Job":

TONY
“You hear about the old guy who got jumped down Ronces earlier?”

PHILIP
“What happened?”

TONY
“I don’t know but next thing you know, there’s six cop cars right there. You can say what you want about our cops but they sure can do their job when they need to.”
Very few of us citizens will experience life as a police officer or as a homeless person, but the wealth of information available through blogs like these will certainly give us a better understanding of the world around us.

Part III: Kathleen McBroom Missing Person


This is my third post on the disappearance of Kathleen McBroom.

On October 27, 2008, Ms. McBroom did not arrive at her workplace, a federal government facility in Anchorage, Alaska, and was reported missing by her family the next day. Her truck was found abandoned on a highway south of Anchorage along with her cell phone and other personal items (recovered inside the vehicle).

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3) In my novice opinion, what aspects of the case are odd and/or important?

In General

--I am not familiar with the area, but believe that Ms. McBroom lived in Anchorage and the news articles list her employer as the US Army Corps of Engineers in Anchorage. I mapped the approximate location her vehicle was recovered, and that section of the Seward Highway near Girdwood is well south of her employer (and I assume her residence as well).

--Assuming that she started work at 0800 or 0830 like most federal jobs, if she was encountered by police at 0830 on a road well south of her job, she had either changed her mind about work or something happened to cause her to detour from her planned route.

--In the news article, it states that she was wearing walking shoes and not shoes typically worn to work.

--The land surrounding the Seward Highway near Girdwood is described as rugged. The specific area where Ms. McBroom's truck was recovered includes cliffs, drop-offs, and an estimated 30 foot surf in the waters below the highway on the day she went missing.

--Another article states that she had struggled in the past with bipolar disorder.

From Her Journal

--Her 16 year old daughter had just returned home from a residential treatment center in Utah for a week’s visit. Ms. McBroom was concerned how her daughters would get along, but stated things were going well with her family.

--Her professional life was very important to her. She indicates several times in the journal that she was unable to be proactive due to the volume of her workload, and it bothered her. She was concerned about the future of her career:

...i think i am bored and wanting to move on, to step outside of my comfort zone. and i think the thought of staying in my present career field until i retire at age 55 (that’s 15 more years) sounds stifling. i feel this urge that i want to explore something else and staying another 15 years in the same field feels depressing to me. i’m not sure what to do...

--She felt her career was missing something:

…but i crave something career wise that i can’t quite put my finger on yet. and i think i am kind of afraid to do something about it right now. but i feel this some kind of itch that i can’t quite reach yet. and i think i likely will keep feeling this itch until i find what it is. i’m not done looking.

--The federal fiscal year ends on September 30, and Ms. McBroom makes mention that her workload had become almost unbearable-—but she reported it getting better due to less overtime as noted on September 24.

--She was aggressively dieting. Ms. McBroom reported losing over 33 lbs. since JAN of 2008, had changed her eating habits, and increased her physical activity (e.g. climbing stairs).

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I'll continue next time with several surprising entries from Ms. McBroom's journal.

Previous posts in this series can be accessed by clicking "Kathleen McBroom" on the left margin of the home page or a list of historical posts is here.

Note: Image was used from this site.

Questionable Safety Tips


The Mrs. handed me a sheet of paper that she had received at work. A co-worker had been passing them out to others, and felt it offered priceless advice to prevent abductions and attacks.

The title of the handout is: Safety Tips from Abduction or Attack.

Listed were 10 “…things to do in an emergency situation.”

I read the recommendations and the explanations. Some made sense, others were questionable. The list is a bit long so I won’t reprint it, but you can see the handout here.

Perhaps, you may have seen these recommendations previously or received a similar email.

As the historian in me took charge, I quickly Googled some of the handout’s contents to determine its origin—and Snopes provided the answer.

Versions of the list have been around for eight years and are believed to be derived from notes of an attendee of safety consultant Pat Malone’s workshops.

There are good common sense points included like: 1) avoid taking the stairs in large buildings, 2) be aware of your surroundings, and 3) if you are thrown into the trunk of a car, try to kick the back tail lights out as an option (looking to see if there is a trunk release lever is also wise).

As with many of these Internet lists, there is also questionable advice such as:

The elbow is the strongest point on your body. If you are close enough to your attacker to use it, do!
Using your elbow may be a good tactic, but chemical spray, stun guns, eye gouging, kicks to the lower lower mid section, or running and screaming may be more viable depending on the situation and the victim.

Advising folks to start swinging elbows in an incident as the best choice could certainly be counterproductive.

Some of the directive’s content is also concerning:
If the predator has a gun and you are not under his control, Always run! The predator will only hit you (a running target) 4 in 100 times; and even then it most likely will not be a vital organ…
Different situations may require different responses—telling a victim to “always run” does not recognize the diversity that exists in criminal encounters (I have never seen the 4% chance of being hit stat before).

Also, the "don’t worry, you are not likely to be shot in an appendage that you need" comment reminded me of the Old Western movie where the hero is pointing a two-shot derringer gun at a group of four bad guys. One of the bad guys says: "come on boys he can only take out a couple of us before we get him."

The hero then responds with: "Which two of you are going to take the bullets?" To which none of the four assailants advance.

Now which four of us "running victims" are going to take the bullets?

Finally, the last two recommendations relate to alleged ploys by criminals to get you to open your front door at night—one involving turning on all of the water faucets and another using recorded cries of a baby.

Being careful about opening your front door at night, regardless of the reason, is simply good advice, but the specific scare reference in the document to a serial killer using the latter tactic in Louisiana has been shown to be unfounded.

In sum, the document contains items to think about regarding personal safety, but falls short as an appropriate guide to prevent/escape from abductions and attacks.

What is the most surprising thing about the list?

That it is posted to the Carrington (ND) Police Department’s website as a form available for citizens. I hope this is an oversight, and they are not portraying this flawed document as the gospel on safety.

Now that would be a serious gaffe...

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Note: The photo is of the Stun Master 200.