Context

Early last month, the Mrs. got an email from our youngest son's school.

Little boy qualifies for extra services, so part of his day is spent working on specific skills with graduate students. The email was from a Masters-level student who had just started working with our son, Luca, the previous week.

GRAD STUDENT EMAIL TO MRS. SLAMDUNK

Your son did well on all of his assigned tasks today, but I did want to let you to know about one concerning exchange.

I asked him: If a stranger offered you candy Luca, what would you do?

He said that he would take the candy.

We then talked about never accepting things from strangers and to immediately tell a parent, teacher, or other authority figure.

I wanted you to know so that you could reinforce this lesson at home.

MRS. SLAMDUNK's REPLY TO GRAD STUDENT

I appreciate your concern and for working with Luca, as he always has good things to say about his time there.

In his defense, I do want to remind you that on October 31, Luca dressed like a cowboy and then walked for more than an hour around the neighborhood accepting candy from dozens of strangers.

It was a Happy Halloween…

GRAD STUDENT's REPLY

Oh my gosh! I totally forgot! Sorry.

----------

Writing papers and taking tests can be beneficial, but learning via a practical situation (especially getting bonked in the head with a teaching moment on the importance of context) is a lesson not easily forgotten.


Losing a Twenty

Nothing like learning first-hand about theft and virtual currency as Bloomberg TV's Matt Miller did last Friday
...While on air, Miller surprised Bloomberg anchors Adam Johnson and Trish Regan each with $20 worth of Bitcoin. 
But as Johnson received the paper gift, he briefly exposed the QR code. 
This act was effectively like sharing a bank account and PIN number.
Immediately, someone lifted the QR code and stole the $20...
I haven't seen $20 disappear that fast since the last time I took the little kids to the county fair and we walked down the midway.

I remember my father saying "A gullible dad and his money are soon parted."

He was obviously a fan of old proverbs that he could reshape--and I guess gullible runs in the family.
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Enjoy your weekend.



Never Grow Up

A frequently cited message from Taylor Swift's Never Grow Up, used in this well done Walmart commercial, is to grab and hold youth as growing up is difficult.

But when advertising execs combined the song with home videos of Christmas morning, other pearls of wisdom are offered.

Like this one...
_____________________________________________________

Wherever you are in life in 2013.

Never pass on the opportunity to bring joy someone else.



It will likely be an act of kindness that the recipient will never forget, and hopefully inspire them to do the same (for more see Acts 20:35).
___________________________________________________

Note: When I hear a popular song, I usually get distracted on YouTube looking at aspiring performers covering the hit. Some are nice tries, others are good, but a few are fantastic. As such, I vote NYU student, Claire Bufalino, as having the best cover version of Never Grow Up. Great voice and creative. It is worth a watch.



Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone.

Playing Private Detective

What is the best thing about search engines?

Playing private detective so that I don't embarrass myself.

Recently, I was asked by the Mrs. to contact David's stepdad about some car shopping we have on the horizon--David is a player on my older son's basketball team.

Sadly, I have talked to him a couple of times, but do not know his name.

And that is all I had to go on: "David's Stepdad."

Of course, older boy is no help--can't even verify if David's last name is that of his birth father or his stepfather.

Good thing Google allows me to be a personal data miner.

After some initial searching returned little, I took a detour on the way to pick-up the kids at school and wrote down the mysterious stepdad's house number (as I know where the family lives).

With that information, I was able to get an address history through Google, and his mother's name--which eventually allowed me to uncover the identity of stepdad.

All so I can call him by his first name instead of "hello David's stepdad."

I was relieved, but a little exhausted.

Wow, things were so much easier before when I just had to swallow my pride and confess to my lack of attention.

Wardrobe Decisions: Flash or a Habit?

Before he left to rob a bank, do you think the guy below held up two possible outfits and said to his significant other:

What do you think, doll?

Should I go with a red and yellow Flash superhero look and emphasize my slender waistline? 

Or, maybe this habit is a better choice as it contrasts my blue eyes--right?  



Unfortunately for the accused armed robber, Kyle Robert Richard, he was arrested a short time later after a witness recorded the license tag of his get-away car.

Perhaps, Mr. Richard should have gone as the Flash and then used elite running skills to flee the scene.

-------------------

Have a good weekend everyone.

Clue

When not shoveling snow or being pelted by snowballs, the cold weather has given me more time for indoor family fun.

"Indoor family fun" is an umbrella term I use to describe any activity that keeps those kiddos busy and not fighting.

So, we have lots of board games available.

My only restrictions are no Monopoly (boring and even shortened versions involve too much time) or Risk (same complaint as Monopoly).

As such the classic crime game of Clue is a popular choice.




The other day during a contested match of Clue, little girl announced she was ready to solve the case.

"It was Professor Plum in the Conservatory with the candlestick!"

Annoyed that his sister had just won, older brother said:

"No, no, no, no. It was Colonel Mustard in the garden tub with oversized rolls of toilet paper. Mustard then fled on foot into the Library, and was able to hide there for days because no one reads books anymore. He finally turned himself in after his iPhone lost charge and he could no longer check his Facebook and Twitter accounts."

Nothing like frigid temperatures and quality time with the siblings to spark a teen's creative mind, eh?

What Not to Do in the Winter

What is this blogging thing and how does it work?

Ok, I offer another apology from me and my poor blogging habits.

And now, I'll start anew...
______________________

So what is one thing a parent living in the Northeastern US should not do?

I mean after a couple of weeks of juggling adult work schedules with kiddo school hours modified by weather delays, early dismissals, and cancelations?

In between making huge snowmen?

Getting pummeled by snowballs?

Shoveling seemingly endless driveways and then watching the local government snow plow neatly stack the snow from the road until it blocks your driveway?

Well, I recommend not doing one thing for sure.

Refrain from clicking on the television and tuning it to HGTV's House Hunters International or you might hear this:

Barb and Brock Detwiler are saying goodbye to the frigid New Hampshire winters and relocating to the tropical climate of  Belize. Watch as they look for their dream home...

Ouch!

or

David, Luisa, and the Cefalo family are moving from Buffalo to picturesque Norfolk Island. How will they adjust to the "cold weather" months of the island when average temps hover at 64 degrees? Will they miss the January average of 23 inches of snow that Buffalo offers? Let's find out...

Nooooo!

Do you hear me screaming uncle yet?

Ok, no television for me for awhile. Maybe around April...

Side-note: I am fascinated with the history of Norfolk Island anyway. That penal colony they had there was horrific.

Fantasy Football Opportunity and Last Summer Trip

Two things for today.

First...

What do Chuck from Incessant Ramblings, Mommy Lisa at  the Mommy's Nest, and  Pat Hatt of It's Rhyme Time all have in common?

They and a host of others are all playing NFL fantasy football with me this season in year three of my for fun league.

I have one other opening for a person if you are interested.

We play for free and of course bragging rights.

If you want to join us, just email me at theslamdunktrove@gmail.com and I'll send you the details.

--------------------------------------

Second...

Just like that annoying guy at your job who always seems to be on special assignment or otherwise out of the office.

Or like the neighbor who is always traveling.

Or one of those politicians with the questionable work ethic.

I will again be away from the blog.

So that means silence from me next week and no posts.

Which might be celebrated by some.

My excuse?

My "Summer's Last Hurrah" vacation to the beaches of South Texas.

Take care while I am gone, ok?

Alexis Murphy, Missing

NoteBlogger Suzicate from the Water Witch's Daughter asked if I would publicize the following case of a missing teen in Virginia.

Also, I am preparing to travel to Padre Island, TX for a week at the beach so I won't be around too much. My apologies.

--------------------------------

Missing: Alexis Murphy

Seventeen-year-old Alexis Murphy was last seen last Saturday night (August 3) when she indicated to family that she was going shopping in Lynchburg, VA.

She has not been seen by her family since.

Authorities publicized her vehicle and license plate, and the car was found late Tuesday night abandoned in an old Carmike movie theater parking lot in Charlottsville, VA.

Alexis' family is concerned since she has no history of previous disappearances, appeared to be excited about starting her senior year of school later this month, and was scheduled to play in a volleyball tournaments this week.

The Nelson County Sheriff's Office (VA) is being assisted by the Virginia State Police and the FBI with the investigation.

The missing girl was last seen "wearing a pink blouse, floral-print spandex pants and brown boots. She was also carrying a dark and light colored grey purse."

She is described as being a black female with black hair and brown eyes. She stands about five feet, seven inches tall and weighs about 156 pounds.

My prayers are with Alexis and her family during this trying time.

Misdemeanor Physical at the Grocer

In these trying times, even grocery shoppers need to remain ever vigilant:

(FAIRBANKS, AK) 63-year-old Fairbanks resident Merrill Moses was reported to the Fairbanks police department on Wednesday night for operating a shopping cart while under the influence of alcohol after trying to drive the cart into the traffic in the Fred Meyers parking lot.

Police arrived at Fred Meyers to find an employee of Fred Meyers detaining the inebriated Moses by holding the handle bars of the motorized cart. It was reported that he was being held back for fear he would be injured by another vehicle. When police attempted field sobriety tests on Moses, he failed.

Police said he could not stand without assistance. A breathalyzer test showed an alcohol level well in excess of the .08 that is the legal limit for driving a motorized vehicle. Moses measured a .310 according to police.

Fred Meyer reported that this is not the first time that Moses has operated a cart in the store while under the influence and has attempted to run over store employees when he was contacted in the past...
Glad everyone involved was ok.

It reminded me of a similar situation that I was dispatched to years ago when I worked patrol.

I arrived on scene at the mall, and a suspect tried to flee from me.

Fortunately, my courage and supreme training kicked-in and I was able to apprehend the driver after a short pursuit.

Here is a shot from that chase:


Wait.

Maybe that is a scene from Paul Blart Mall Cop.

Come to think of it, on some days while policing, I sure felt like Officer Blart.

Happy Monday everyone.

Let It Go

I am not a poet, but certainly respect how they can weave together a powerful yet terse message.

Like this by Eugene Peterson:

A beech tree in winter, white

Intricacies unconcealed

Against sky blue and billowed

Clouds, carries in his emptiness

 Ripeness: sap ready to rise

On signal, buds alert to burst

To leaf. And then after a season

Of summer a lean ring to remember

The lush fulfilled promises.

Empty again in wise poverty

That lets the reaching branches stretch

A millimeter more towards heaven,

The bole expand ever so slightly

 And push roots into the firm

Foundation, lucky to be leafless:

Deciduous reminder to let it go.

-----------------

Lots of things that I wish would hurry and get resolved.

I need more faith.

Meanwhile, the beech tree shouts an important message.

"...A deciduous reminder to let it go."

________________________________________________________

Have a good weekend everyone.

Do Not Blame Me

As the husband/father here, I deserve more than my share of the blame for things.

Blame me for making the non-refundable hotel reservation for son's soccer tournament when there is a chance his team could be eliminated on Day 1 and we would have no need to stay for Day 2.

Blame me for the pile of papers and football magazines hidden under the living room chair. I don't feel like walking upstairs every time I "need" them.

Blame me for the mustard stain on my t-shirt; as well as the mustard stains on 5 or 6 other shirts in the Dad closet.

Blame me for the milk stain on the ceiling in the kitchen. Who knew that liquid from a gallon jug could explode so high when simply dropped at waist-high?

Blame me for the foot odor. I don't need to add anything to this one.

But there is one household problem that Dad cannot be held responsible for.

An ick that needs to be remedied every 4-6 weeks.

In what situation could Dad be totally innocent?

Clogged shower drains.

Specifically, clogged shower drains due to hair.

This "follicly challenged" guy knows the cause of the clog since I am the one summoned every time to fix it.

Nope, that problem is attributed to the two females with long straight hair that reside here.

All their fault.

Now after reviewing the first part of this post, I just need to think of some more problems that I can be removed of as the prime suspect to better balance my scorecard.

Hmm.

This will require some prolonged brain exercises.

I'll go get my Mountain Dew. The one with the screw-on cap to prevent spills.

Isaac Lee Roberts

For my Missing Person Monday post, the following is on a man who disappeared from Oregon last year.
--------------------------------------------------

On July 27, 2012, 40-year old Isaac Lee Roberts of Coeur d'Alene (OR) traveled to the Chief Joseph Days celebration in Joseph, OR. He planned to spend that Friday at event, and then go back home late the following day.

After he failed to return, his wife, Shawna Roberts, contacted police.

Initially, law enforcement looked at Isaac's disappearance as a missing person, but then changed the investigation to that of a homicide.



What made authorities suspicious that a crime had been committed?

Because it is an ongoing criminal investigation, the public never gets the full story, but here is what can be pieced together from multiple sources.

Oregon State Police Detective Greg Retherford told the press that he believes that Isaac and an unnamed man had left Joseph to purchase meth in a nearby town.

Police interviewed the unidentified man who was reportedly with Isaac, and he stated that the pair had run out of gas on Saturday. He said he left Isaac with the vehicle while he went to get fuel. When the man returned, he said Isaac did not want to travel any further and began to walk.

Allegedly, the missing person had asked this individual to take care of his motorcycle and belongings (he had left those with a friend in town).

Strangely, Roberts' brother Shiloh said that Isaac was not in the best of health and had respiratory problems that would have prevented him from walking very far.

It was also reported that Isaac had recently sold a truck and was carrying several thousand dollars prior to his disappearance.
----------
So an adult male disappears who may have been trying to purchase meth, the person he was with tells a story that makes little sense, and the missing man was carrying a large amount of cash?

It is understandable why police are thinking homicide.

With police dissatisfied with the quality of the information from the unnamed man and finding a body in that rugged area where Washington, Idaho, and Oregon meet is difficult, authorities needed another approach.

So this weekend, police tried this--talking to people and distributing flyers about the missing man at the 2013 Chief Joseph Days.

Time will tell if their efforts are rewarded and I hope the find a new lead; the missing man's family deserves at least for the case to be solved.
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For more of my missing persons posts, you can go here.

Dad Rule: Hide and Go Seek

DAD RULE:

When playing outdoor or indoor hide-and-go-seek, all kiddo participants are required to take a pre-game bathroom break.

This rule is not mandatory for adults playing, but only suggested.
---------------------------------------------------

I was reminded of the need for the above precaution recently while playing a game of hide-and-seek with my crew of kids and my young nephew and niece.

The silence of me searching for some clever hiders was pierced by a nearby yelp, the pitter-patter sound of running feet, and then a little 4-year-old boy screaming "I GOTTA PEE!" as he bolted toward nearest the bathroom.

So today as well as life in general, make sure that you take care of all your bodily functions before becoming fully engaged in fun.
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Enjoy your weekend.



Funding a Trip to Dollywood?

I am usually supportive of a performance-based pay for employees, but not in every instance:
NEWPORT (TN) - Leaders in Cocke County are considering reexamining the county's constable system.

Constables are elected law enforcement officers. They don't draw a salary.

Instead they're paid based on the number of tickets they write or warrants they serve.

The scrutiny comes after at least one complaint to the Cocke County Legislative Body.

Harold Cates owns a gas station at the Hartford exit on I-40 in Cocke County. Cates says constables Derek Wright and Jimmy Roach have set up speed traps and issued citations on a stretch of the interstate between the Exit 443 and the North Carolina border.

"That's where the speed limit is 55 miles per hour and there is no car that goes 55. Every car that goes on this interstate will exceed 55 miles per hour, and they can catch them as fast as they can write tickets," said Cates.

By law, constables get a partial kickback for issuing citations, making arrests, and serving court summons. A constable in Tennessee gets $27.50 for writing a speeding ticket...

Now, I think it makes sense for constables to receive compensation for warrants served.

Prosecutors and/or judges are waiting for criminal and civil warrants to be delivered so that the court cases can be moved forward.

But for traffic citations?

Do citizens really want Constable Bubba high-fiving himself at the end of a long day of ticket writing because he now can afford that Ranger Z522 Comanche bass boat and a trip to Dollywood with his sweetie?

Paying officers per traffic citation makes about as much sense as compensating college professors for each "A" grade earned by a student in his/her class.

Wait..

Maybe, that might work for those teaching in college.

Just give everyone an "A" and collect the big check.

I wonder if the Mrs. would like the Wild Eagle coaster at Dollywood?

Hmm.

On Morgan Harrington

In the past, I have used my first post of the week to publicize missing persons or other crime cases.

The following started as the search for a missing person, but ended tragically--with authorities determining that the victim was murdered.

I have been reading about the case and hope to offer my perspective in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, here is a summary.
_______________________________________________________________

Morgan Harrington

On October 17, 2009, 20-year-old VA Tech student Morgan Dana Harrington attended a Metallica concert with friends in Charlottesville, VA.

During the opening act, she reportedly told friends that she was going to the restroom. A short time later when she had not returned to her seat, one friend called Morgan's cell phone. Morgan answered and told the friend that she had inadvertently walked out of the concert venue and security would not let her return.

Camera footage at the concert viewed later by police showed her unsuccessfully trying to get back into the seating area.

She told her her friend not to worry and that she would find her way home.

They never saw her again.

The following day, Morgan's purse was found in an overflow parking area near the concert arena. Her cell phone was with the purse, but the battery had been removed.

Massive searches were organized, and authorities evaluated several possible sightings of the missing woman.

Morgan was not located.

On January 26, 2010, a property owner checking fencing at the Anchorage Farm found Morgan's body. The recovery site is described as rural (700+ acre farm), is about 10 miles from where the woman vanished, and is over 1.5 miles from the closest road.

In April of that same year, police confirmed that a shirt found a mile from the arena had been matched to the missing woman.

This missing person case sadly became a sexual assault and murder investigation.

The case remains unsolved, but authorities still hope to find new information.

Evidently, forensics tests in this case match to another unsolved crime--a kidnapping and rape in Northern Virginia. The released person of interest information is that he is described as a black male, 25 to 35 years old, approximately 6 feet tall with a medium build, with black hair, a beard and a mustache.

A sketch of the individual can be seen here.

In memory of their daughter, the Morgan Dana Harrington Educational Wing was constructed at a facility for orphans in Zambia, Africa and a memorial scholarship was established at VA Tech.

You can read more about Morgan and the good work being done by her family by going here to the Find Morgan website.

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My prayers are with the victim's family, and I'll have more on this case soon.

For more of my posts on those missing, you can go here

Senseless Home Repair Violence

I am not Mr. Fix-it, but I do my best and am making headway on my summer home improvement to-do list.

After wrestling with a toilet flush valve replacement and installing some new parts so a bathtub faucet would stop leaking, I am on project #3: sanding the wood around our garage doors as well as the post on our porch so that I can repaint them.

For the past month. the temperature has been mild here, so leave it to me to save the outdoor project for this week's heat wave.

Anyway, coming in the front door after I had been sanding on the porch post, I noticed little boy giving me the evil eye. He was sitting at the computer desk in front of a bay window overlooking the porch where I was working.

"Are you being good over there?" I asked.

Little boy frowned.

"Dad, why are you hurting my house?"

Not exactly a vote of confidence for dad's work on the home improvement list.

I'll have to tell him how I tried not to "hurt" the toilet only to realize while testing it, that if the adjustable pin is not firmly locked into place, lots of unwanted water sprays into the air.

In essence, being soft was repaid with "yuck."

Good thing this "appliance and building materials torturer" always carries towels with him.
_______________________________________

Have a good weekend everyone.



On Being a Good Neighbor

And from the crime blotter:

Police in Crossville (TN) are still searching for the woman who skinny dipped in a neighbor's pool to distract him while her husband stole from the man's home. ..The incident occurred on the afternoon of June 27 at the victim's home on Canterbury Lane in the Camelot subdivision in Crossville, about 100 miles east of Nashville.


The 54-year-old victim told police he was approached by the couple, who live nearby, and the 30-something-year-old woman asked if she could swim in his pool. According to police, the husband left after his wife asked him to retrieve her cigarettes.

She then asked the victim if it would bother him if she swam naked. He said it would not.

While the woman's husband was gone, he burglarized the home, stealing a handgun, jewelry and medication. The stolen items amounted to $1,195.

During the theft, the woman kept the neighbor distracted for 20 minutes by skinning dipping in his pool. "I went and got her a towel, she dried off and all of a sudden she was soaking wet again.

I escorted her outside and invited her to church, but she said she didn't have time for that, she wasn't ready for that," victim Stephen Amaral told Nashville's News 2...
And where do I go with this story?

Investigative insights?

Burglary prevention tips?

Skin care suggestions for over-exposed swimmers?

Not even.

After reading the end of the story where the alleged accomplice was wrapped in a towel, Chevy Chase's line to a toweled Dana Wheeler-Nicholson when she answers the door in the old movie Fletch pops into my brain:

"Can I borrow your towel for a sec? My car just hit a water buffalo."

Whoa, I think I need more sleep.

I'll work on something more substantive to say regarding these crime stories, and I hope Mr. Amaral doesn't allow any more naked residents of his subdivision in his pool--that activity is not included in the accepted informal "good neighbor" agreement.

In the meantime here is the video clip from Fletch quote described above...


Alien Abduction

So this weekend the news was diverse, but I want to focus on one of the themes that you may have missed.

Alien Abduction.

Former professional basketball player Baron Davis revealed in an interview that he was the victim of an alien abduction. The incident allegedly occurred two weeks ago while driving in Nevada, but when he awoke, he was magically in California.

Then I read a story from across the pond about a politician from North Yorkshire named Simon Parkes who states that he is romantically involved four times per year with his alien kidnappers.

Naturally, these stories got me thinking.

Is this the sign of something? How should I prepare?

But my most important question is this:  Why haven't I been a victim of an alien abduction?

After some honest self-reflection, here is my list of "Top 6" reasons in quasi-David Letterman fashion:

6) Introvert: Since I enjoy solitude (and certainly like all parents lack such opportunities), I am less appealing. Why not grab Perky Paul or Paula and study why he/she is attractive and appealing to other humans?

5) Smelly Feet: If I am visiting your residence and you have a "guests remove shoes when entering rule," you really should give me an exemption. There is little chance that what I may track in your house will be worse than the scent my sock/bare feet will leave behind.

4) Projecting Voice: I regularly startle the Mrs. when I enter a quiet room and initiate a conversation. She insists I need to master voice modulation. I am going to Google that term sometime so that I know what it means.

3) Lack of Fashion Sense: When visitors from outer space look at my wardrobe choices and know that, well, mistakes are repeatedly being made, my appeal to them for additional study plummets.

2) Lousy Dancer: How can a civilization expect to advance if the examined subject lacks rhythm?

And drum roll please...

1) Bald: Need I say more? I mean the spaceship may have tried an abduction 2 or 3 times on me when they had to abort the mission due to the sunlight or other lights reflecting off my shiny noggin and blinding the poor creatures.



Beyond the Sunset

After listening to friends discuss an unusually vivid sunset over Winona Lake, Indiana in 1936, a blind man named Horace Burr remarked that he had never seen a more beautiful sunset.

There was a pause in the conversation when one of the others in the group addressed Horace: "People are always amazed when you talk about seeing."

"I can see," Horace replied. "I see through other people's eyes, and often I think I see more; I see beyond the sunset." *



Photo Credit: The Mrs. (near the beaches of Corolla, North Carolina 2013)

Have a good weekend everyone.
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*Source: Author Kenneth Osbeck in the book Amazing Grace recounting the story behind Virgil Brock's hymn  "Beyond the Sunset."

What I am a Sucker For

I admit it.

I am a sucker for an inspiring story.

I can't read enough of them.

Tell me about the individual who everyone gave up on. The overlooked competitor. The one that was a sure thing to fail. 

And then a funny thing happened along the way. The person wins. He or she achieves greatness. 

Everyone stands in awe and cheers--even the opposition and the vocal critics. 

Like this story. 

----------------------------------------

Yeremiah Bell is not a familiar name to most, but his story is worth hearing.

Bell played high school sports, but went unnoticed by recruiters at the next level.

While many of his friends lacked direction after high school, Bell was driven to succeed.

With no funding for higher education, he worked for a local steel mill near Winchester, Kentucky. He started on the night shift and then eventually moved to daytime hours.

The hours were long and required physical strength--making guardrails is certainly no easy task.

When not working, Bell would spend time with his family.

After he saw a friend on a weekly talk show with Eastern Kentucky University's head football, he became inspired and told his mom that he would play there some day.

That moment his journey began.

He combined the physically demanding job with his own training to get into shape.

Two years later he had saved enough money to enroll at the university and began calling the football office inquiring when open tryouts would be.

He admits to "bugging" the coaches "to death" for an opportunity, but his persistence paid off and Bell and 24 other students were given a chance.

In borrowed shoes that were two sizes too large and competing against 18 year-old graduates whose skills were sharp from playing football, Bell wowed the coaches with his strength and running speed.  He was invited to join the team as a non-scholarship player--not bad for a young man who was diagnosed with clubfeet as a child and told he would not be able to run.

Despite multiple injuries and hospital stays during his athletic career, Bell excelled in college and was eventually drafted by the Miami Dolphins. A decade later, Bell is still playing professional football.

An unknown working in a factory who would become an NFL veteran.

I admire folks like Yeremiah Bell, and certainly have much to learn from his story.

What dream is waiting there for you to make a reality?
_____________________________________________________

You can read the Bell's full story by going here.

Connecting Despite the Xbox

Oldest son is entering the middle school years. As such, he is becoming adept at tuning mom and dad out to focus on what is more important to a teenager.

Like raiding the fridge, Xbox, television, bickering with his little sister, etc.

After dropping the little crew off at their every-other-day-summer camp last week, I returned home and failed to engage older boy in a traditional conversation. The fruits of my labor being several "uhuhs" and a couple of unintelligible grunts.

So, I changed my approach:

"Son, a battalion of Pharaoh ants has breached the interior of the garage compound again. I just acquired airborne weaponry so that we can repulse the invaders and launch a counter offensive. 

Now, this situation requires the utmost in discretion as the Commandant of our humble abode needs not to be informed or concerned about this development--creepy crawlies that close to living areas are definitely not her thing.

So what do you say soldier, can you be locked and loaded; ready to implement the attack at 0930?"

My son gave me the just-embarrassed-my-classmate-by-thumping-him-at-Call-of-Duty smile, laughed, and said: "Sure dad, I'm in."

Too bad that since I used this approach on a simple task and eliminated it's unique appeal, I am sure it won't work next time.

One day at a time as a parent, right?

Happy Monday.



Happy March

Glad to be back blogging here on the first week of March just as I promised.

Wow, it sure is hot for March.

JULY? JULY WHAT?

Dude!  So my hiatus was longer than intended.

In any event, I'll try to remember how to blog, and I hope your spring was enjoyable and that your summer is relaxing.

Holiday Hiatus

Well the to-do list has become unmanageable again, and as usual that means I'll have to stop recreational activities like blogging for a couple of weeks.

My plan is to return to posting the first week of March as I have a couple of crime cases that I was asked to write about.

In the meantime, I hope to continue reading the blogs of others--so keep up the good work.

Happy Presidents Day.

Messin with Doughnuts

What is a guaranteed way to get the attention of police officers?

Mess with the doughnuts.
...Gwinnett authorities said a Lawrenceville man boosted a Krispy Kreme truck from a Dacula gas station last week, making off with untold quantities of glazed goodness and leading a sheriff's deputy on a high-speed chase across the county.

Police said a Krispy Kreme delivery man was dropping off his wares at an Exxon gas station in Dacula at about 10:45 p.m. Thursday. That's when James Freddy Major, 45-year-old alleged doughnut fiend, showed up and fled in the box truck...

Within about five minutes, a sheriff's office K9 unit (and later a few police officers) had located the truck headed toward Interstate 85 on Ga. Highway 316. They tried to pull Major over, but he wasn't having it.

"The vehicle then sped up on the interstate and failed to yield to our visual and audibles signals to pull over," one responding officer wrote. "The suspect vehicle then exited the interstate on the Beaver Ruin Road exit and made a left turn, while running the red light on the top of the exit."

...Driving erratically and leaving the roadway several times, the Krispy Kreme truck eventually made it to Ferrite Loop, a dead-end cul-de-sac near Cruse Road in Lawrenceville.

Major hit a mailbox before trying to flee on foot.

"The suspect ... was apprehended by K9 dog bite and officers on scene placed the suspect under arrest," the incident report said...

I picture the conclusion of this crime scene featuring a dozen uniformed officers volunteering to "inventory" the sugary contents of the doughnut truck--you know just to make certain that none were damaged.

I bet no one even noticed the Starbucks delivery vehicle that had to be sent to the crash scene to offer respite to those poor thirsty officers engaged in doughnut consumption counting.

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Snow days, early school dismissals, sick kids, injured kids, after-school activities, lots of work, etc.--it has been a full week.

Life of a parent, huh?

I hope to get back on track next week with blogging.

I mean after Monday since the kids have that day off from school as well.

Yeehaw!

Have a super weekend everyone.

Kid Revenge

So you say your father has made you pick-up the toys one too many times from the play room?

Or, has dad refused your persistent requests of "just five more minutes" on the computer before having to go to bed?

Maybe, he demands that you eat all most of the vegetables on your plate; even the green-leafy ones.

Well, long-suffering kids of the world, do I have a suggestion for you.

A can't-miss strategy that will take a father's mind off messy rooms and/or Vitamin A consumption.

Simply find your dad's car keys and drop them in the basket of crayons alongside the art supplies.

We guarantee that after an hour of intensive searching, his frustration level will be so high that kids will have free reign of the household; a perfect opportunity for large doses of video games or scoops of ice cream for anyone around.

Well except for the father, he will be sweating profusely and in no mood for tasty snacks.
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Ok I confess, those kids here got me good with the inadvertent key relocation.  

Imprisoning Ryan Ferguson

Thank you to Kay over at Georgia Girl with an English Heart (you'll enjoy her travel and photography posts) for sending me information on the following case. 
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In 2005, a Missouri jury convicted then college-aged Ryan Ferguson for his role in the death of the sports editor for the Columbia Daily Tribune, Keith Heitholt.



Ferguson was sentenced to 40 years.

An alleged co-conspirator, Chuck Erickson, had gone to authorities, struck a deal, and testified against Ferguson.

Erickson stated that Heithold's murder was a the result of a robbery gone bad, and that Ferguson had delivered the fatal blows.

The jury also heard testimony from one of the Tribune's custodians, Jerry Trump,  who positively identified Ferguson as one of the men he saw in the newspaper's parking lot when the murder took place.

The case may have ended there with the two young men serving long prison sentences.

But Bill and Leslie Ferguson have never given-up the fight to prove their son's innocence.

After years of failed attempts, the family finally caught a break.

Chuck Erickson (the alleged other robber) contacted authorities and admitted to lying under oath about Ryan Ferguson.

He said that Ryan did not kill the victim.

What is his current story about how Keith Heitholt died?

He says that he had been drinking heavily and doesn't remember much about the night or morning.

Ok, so the prosecution's star witness admits to deceiving the jury.

He likely has mentally problems, right?

Why should anyone believe this inmate?

After hearing Erickson testify again at a special judicial hearing, something strange then happened.

The prosecution's second witness, Jerry Trump (the janitor), recanted his testimony as well.

Trump admitted that he was not sure that Ryan Ferguson was the young man he saw in the parking lot that morning.

From the courtroom stand, Trump fought back tears as he apologized to Ryan--saying that he felt pressured by prosecutors to positively identify him and has been fighting a guilty conscience for years.

Without the two witnesses, what was left of the prosecution's case against Ferguson?

Nothing.

The physical evidence recovered from the parking lot (fingerprints, etc.) could not be linked to either men.

There were no other witnesses placing Ferguson at the scene.

Actually, there were several other witnesses who placed Ferguson away from where the murder happened.

Ryan had no previous criminal record, and seemed to have a bright future ahead.

Prosecutors were left with nothing.

But, judges are very cautious in over-turning jury decisions, so Ferguson's review did not go in his favor. The judge felt that Erickson was lying with his current version and that Trump's original testimony was only a minor factor in conviction.

Kathleen Zellner is Ryan's current attorney and she has not given up hope.

Zellner is a respected attorney; known for her work with serial killer Larry Eyler (also known as the Highway Killer) in which she convinced him to confess to 21 murders prior to his death.

So, Ryan Ferguson sits in prison while his legal team tries to get him a new trial.
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As the justice effort for the young man continues, Ryan's father, Bill, is asking people to consider signing an online petition--the goal being to persuade officials to grant his son a new trial and show that Ryan is not-guilty.

If you are interested, you can go here to review Bill's petition or you can go here and watch Dateline's video story on this case.

On Christopher Dorner

I read a few articles about "California's Most Wanted" Christopher Dorner, a former Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer who is suspected of three murders in apparent retaliation for his 2008 termination from the LAPD.



He is described as having "declared war" on the police department for allegedly ruining his reputation--relating back to 2007 when Dorner reported an incident accusing a fellow officer of abuse.

From the transcript posted online about his departmental hearing (sorry no link--I read it yesterday, but it has since been buried on search engines by 1,000s of other stories on Dorner) to his "manifesto," I have to question how long agency supervisors believed that the guy had serious mental problems before he was dismissed.

You wonder how he slipped through with passing scores on all of the psychological evaluations and tests that are required of anyone hired as a police officer.

Unfortunately, I don't see this situation ending without further violence.

Anyway, this was reported by several news outlets and bothers me as well:
...A shuttle bus driver turns in a wallet with an LAPD badge and a picture ID of Dorner to San Diego police. The wallet is found less than five miles from the boat, near San Diego International Airport...

When an individual leaves policing (as I did), you are mandated to turn-in all of your departmental issued equipment. Obviously, your firearm, badge(s), and police identification cards would be at the top of the list.

Dorner was dismissed in 2008.

It is now 2013.

Why is he still running around sunny Cali with a badge and police ID card?

If accurate, that should never happen.

There were multiple "balls dropped" in Dorner's case, and I hope when this over, LAPD's long after-action report includes recommendations for improvement--including assurances that fired police officers never slip through the cracks in keeping what identifies one as a sworn officer.
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I hope everyone has a good weekend.

Guest Posting and Thanks

Me, Mr. Anonymous, being interviewed by Christian blogger Diane Estrella today (2/6/2013) over at her place?

I wonder if I said anything worth reading?

I better go check it out.

Oh yes, I remember telling her about an interesting entry that I read from the blog of recent Philadelphia murder victim Dr. Melissa Ketunuti.

If you are interested, you can go here and read about our conversation.
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Also, I wanted to thank the bloggers who participated with my crew of regulars/irregulars in the SlamDunk fantasy football league this season: Chuck at Chuck Mullis, Lisa at MommysNest, and Rachel at Rachelsjunkinthetrunk.

Congrats to Lisa for winning the regular season title, and to my older son for winning the overall league via the playoffs and our Super Bowl.

Now I have an entire off-season to hear my brother describe in detail how his team stomped mine, and listen to accusations from my old friend the Police Commander who believes I cheated to help older boy win the competition.

Hehe.

Friends and family: you can't live with 'em, you can' live without 'em.


Deceased: Part III

This is my third post in the series on deceased career criminal Victor Wonyetye Jr. and his ties to several missing persons cases.
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About 6 months before Tammy Belanger disappeared in Exeter, New Hampshire, police in Greenacres, Florida were also investigating a missing child.

On May 27, 1984,  eight-year-old Majorie "Christy" Luna walked from her residence to the Greenacres Grocery to buy her family's cats, Boo-Boo and Skeeter, some food.

She made her purchase around 3 pm and left the store.

She has not been seen since.

Christy lived less than 500 yards from the grocery store, and is described as having a slight speech impediment and is hearing impaired.




Over the years, authorities had been interested in at least three suspects related to the girl's disappearance; one being Victor Wonyetye, Jr.

Why was Wonyetye associated with the case?

As well as being a convicted sex offender, here are some of the reasons:

  • Just Relocated to Area: He was someone with a long criminal history and evidently an interest in children who was new to Florida. The scene of Christy's disappearance is about 6 miles from where Wonyetye was living. 

  • Arrested Weeks Before: Twenty days prior to Christy's disappearance, he was spotted hiding in the bushes near windows of a Lake Worth, FL home by an off-duty police officer. He told the officer he was looking for a lost cat, but that was unconvincing.  Considered a "peeping-tom," Wonyetye was charged with prowling. Unfortunately, local authorities did not realize he was still on parole in New Hampshire at the time of the arrest. As such, they allowed him to post bond and he was released the next day. 

  • Fled the State: Investigators had not identified Wonyetye as a person of interest in the Luna disappearance, and again, not realizing that he was on parole in another state, he was sentenced to 30 days in jail for prowling (time-served was performed weeks after Luna went missing). Not long after his release, Wonyetye would leave Florida and return to New Hampshire. It was then that Tammy Belanger vanished and authorities focused on Wonyetye in relation to both cases. 

  • Unconvincing Alibi: He told authorities that he had gone to church and went bowling with relatives when Luna went missing. Police evidently were able to confirm part of the story.

  • Witness Statements: A man fitting Wonyetye's description was seen at the Greenacre Grocery around the time of the disappearance. Also, authorities learned that after church on the day of the girl's disappearance, he had attended a party;  a party that happened to be in the same neighborhood where Christy Luna went missing. 

  • His Statements: Several years later after Wonyetye had been arrested on more burglary and peeping-related charges, authorities produced tapes of several inmates who gave statements that the man had said he had killed both Christy Luna and Tammy Belanger.  

Regarding the "His Statements" above, I tend to place little credence on "jail house snitches;" as there is just too much self-interest involved (e.g. inmate receives a reduction in punishment for providing vague information on high profile cases).

But the statements supposed to be from Wonyetye included an interesting detail.

One offender said Wonyetye boasted of knowing how chemicals could be used to dispose of a body.

Sounds familiar; like when he confidently told his coworkers in New Hampshire that he could effectively hide a corpse in such a manner that it would never be found.

And the chemicals?

Perhaps he was referring to chemicals like those used by employees to remove paint.

Chemical used in auto body work.

The kind of work that Wonyetye did and knew well.
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I'll continue next week with what authorities caught Victor Wonyetye Jr. doing six years after the disappearances of these two young girls. 

You can read my other posts in this series by going here.

Because Life Is Unfair...

I don't usually post on weekends, but I thought Matthew Jeffers' message is inspiring enough to make an exception.

And how could a 21-year-old college student from Towson State University (Maryland) motivate members of the Baltimore Ravens as that professional football team prepares to play in Super Bowl, by far the biggest US sporting event?

Watch and see.

I think it was four minutes of time well spent.



Dream.

Overcome self-doubt and self-pity.

Take risks.

Achieve.

Put others before yourself.

Never stop trying.

Thanks for inspiring us Matthew Jeffers.
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If the embedded video is not working, you can to here to see it on YouTube.

You can also read more about Matthew and his experience with the team by clicking here

Finish in Ten Days?

I am trying to figure out what I would have done as a college student with all the additional free time if I could have taken courses like this:

ALTUS — Western Oklahoma State College will no longer offer a type of controversial online course reportedly favored by college athletes looking for quick credits, school officials announced Wednesday.

The college's announcement came hours after the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education released a report recommending the college immediately discontinue its 10-day online intersession courses.

The State Regents office released a compliance report Wednesday on those courses. According to the report, the office didn't find sufficient evidence that the so-called quick-credit courses are appropriate for a college-level curriculum... 

According to the report, the college offered 256 course sections via 10-day online courses during the 2011-12 academic year. During the spring, summer and fall semesters, a combined total of 7,501 students enrolled in those courses...students came from across the country.
Learning "higher ed" style in only 10 days?

Really?

Wow.

I am convinced that if I could have knocked out a college course in less than two weeks back in the day, I would have become a much better video game player.

Fast fast forward many years, my traditional education left me a mediocre "gamer" whose older son thrashes him on the X-Box, and whose little daughter whoops him on the Wii.

Looks like I might have a late night tonight, long after the kids have gone to sleep: practicing Wii Bowling with a goal of respectability.

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Enjoy your weekend everyone.

Love Stinks

Our youngest needs special help at kindergarten.

He can do the work.

He can read.

But because of his condition, he is easily distracted.

He may spontaneously break into song and dance; which would be ok if it was prompted by the music teacher, but obviously less appreciated during circle story time or math.

As such, we have a helper assigned to him for most of his day, and the school fills-in with an assistant when necessary.

To help us understand issues that he has during a school day, we receive a daily written log describing his performance for each morning and afternoon activity.

A typical day would feature positives such as "played well during inside recess with two peers" or "client was asked to speak quietly which he did." The report also may include a description of problems that occurred like "refused to follow directions."

But occasionally, an unexpected comment needs more clarification.

Like this one:

During afternoon snack today, client was using a large pretzel stick as a microphone to sing "Love Stinks."

I mean how can they leave a dad hanging like this?

I need more information.

Did he sing all the words correctly?

Do we need to work on his octaves?

Is he making effective use of air guitar when appropriate?

The Mrs.' response was to laugh.

I'll do some more research and determine how I can better support little guy's snack time singing gigs.

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Confession: Unfortunately, I am to blame for the Love Stinks inspiration. Last year, I was showing someone the following clip  from The Wedding Singer movie where Adam Sandler offers his version of the 1980s J. Geils Band "Love Stinks" and the little guy thought it was the funniest thing ever. 

Sorry but if the embedded video is not working, you can go here to see it.



Deceased: Part II

This is my second post in the series on deceased career criminal Victor Wonyetye Jr., and his ties to several missing persons cases.

For today, I'll focus on Wonyetye as a named suspect in the case of a missing third grader.
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On November 13, 1984 at around 8 am, then eight-year-old Tammy Belanger was seen walking through town to Lincoln Street School in Exeter, NH.

She never arrived.



Unfortunately, no one realized she was missing until the end of the school day.

More than 200 volunteers then helped authorities search extensively for the missing girl, but she was not located.

Tammy Belanger has never been found.

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Last week, I posted about the death of Victor Wonyetye Jr.,  who was formerly employed in Exeter and had served prison sentences in New Hampshire (for aggravated sexual assault involving a child) as well as Florida (for multiple counts of peeping into the bedroom windows of children and burglary-related offenses).

Police still consider Wontyetye Jr. a suspect in Tammy Belanger's disappearance, despite that he was never charged.

Why?

Obviously, not everything known by police will ever be released to the public, but here are a few details that attracted law enforcement attention:

  • Convicted Sex Offender: Wonyetye was on parole in New Hampshire after serving 5 years for the aggravated sexual assault involving a child. 

  • Just Relocated to Area: A couple of months after being arrested and serving 30 days for a prowling charge in Florida (he had been living with his parents there but had not notified the New Hampshire Department of Corrections), he moved back to New Hampshire and reestablished contact with his parole officer. 

  • Employed near the Scene: Eleven days prior to Tammy's disappearance, he began working at Brad's Custom Auto Body in Exeter, NH. The business was located within blocks from where the young girl went missing.

  • Took a Sick Day: On the day of Tammy's disappearance, Wonyetye called in sick to work. His shift started that day at 7 am, but he did not speak to his boss, Brad Bissell, until around noon.  Bissell told authorities that he assumed Wonyetye had overslept after a wild night on the town and told his employee, "Well I hope she was worth it." He remembers Wonyetye not saying a word and responding only with silence. 

  • Vehicle Search: Six days after Tammy's disappearance, authorities searched Wonyetye's car and found a sex toy, a chainsaw, a patch of carpet, stolen stereo equipment, and other items that were collected.

  • Room Search: A search of Wonyetye's motel room uncovered a scrapbook of magazine advertisements and photos of children around the age of 10 wearing underwear. 

  • Manager Statement: The manager of Wonyetye's motel, Marge Leathe, said that he wanted her to tell others that she saw his car in the parking lot for the entire morning when Tammy had disappeared. Leathe evidently refused saying that she didn't have a view of his space and that she thought he might have left the motel that morning, but she was not sure.  

  • Coworker Statements: Some of his coworkers (from a previous job in New Hampshire) had started calling him "Chester the Molester" due to the number of underage girls that he was seen with. 

  • Another Statement: A coworker said that Wonyetye previously talked about knowing how to dispose a body. 

Strangely, this will not be the last time that investigators recorded a witness statement involving Wonyetye and boasts that he could discreetly dispose of a corpse without being detected.

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I'll continue next week with why Victor Wonyetye Jr. was considered a suspect in another unsolved case involving a missing 8-year-old: Christy Luna of Florida.

You can read my first post in this series by going here.

NOTE: Police had previously reported to the media that they believed they had recovered a photo of Tammy Belanger in the possessions of Wonyetye (during a search later in Florida).  This was widely reported as fact by several Internet sites, but authorities later clarified that the photo in question was not of Tammy, but someone who looked similar.

Also, since this is a blog and to save space, I don't list references, but would be happy to share those with anyone via email.

Teacher Arrested

Yesterday in Los Angeles, Robert Pimentel was arrested on suspicion of sexual abuse.

The activities allegedly occurred between 2011 and 2012 when Pimentel was a 4th grade teacher at George De La Torre, Jr. Elementary school.

Police began investigating in March of 2012, and school officials removed Pimentel from campus and began the dismissal process.

Instead, Pimentel retired.

Administrators are being applauded for taking swift action.

That may be justified, but it does not eliminate all concerns, some of which are described in the linked article from NPR:

...More than 70 interviews were conducted during the police investigation, and 20 female students were found to have been victimized, Los Angeles police Capt. Fabian Lizarraga said.

Another victim was a female teacher who complained that Pimentel had inappropriately touched her, police said. The alleged abuse occurred in Pimentel's fourth-grade classroom during school hours and in some cases was witnessed by other students...

Ok, so law enforcement identified 20 potential underage victims, and another teacher who may have been victimized?

Wow.

Wait, there's more:

...A previous report of sexual misconduct against Pimentel occurred four years ago at the school, and another complaint was made eight years ago at another elementary school where both a female principal and Pimentel had worked...
Really?

This accused teacher had two previous accusations of sexual misconduct in his file?

And there was a third one (via the teacher found by police) that was either not reported or reported and not documented in his file?

If I was an administrator in that district, I don't think I'd be seen high-fiving my colleagues.

Three sexual misconduct allegations against an educator would seem like a pretty loud warning sign for officials.

And sadly, the lives of so many young victims have been impacted.
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Note: LAPD officers used a different spelling of the accused's name "Robert Pimental," and sorry for ending the week on a down note.

Facebook Problem

You know you have a problem with social media when...
JACKSON, Miss. - This is one of those stories with a moral: When you're in the middle of robbing a business, don't stop to log onto facebook on the office computer.

Prosecutors say that's what Mississippi man Jason Smith did last summer, and that's why he got caught.

Authorities say Smith was rummaging around a U-Haul truck and rental service in Jackson in the early morning hours, when he took a moment to sign into the social networking site. Then, realizing he probably needed to cover his tracks, police say he came back days later and stole the computer he'd used.

The Carion-Ledger reports that after the apparent break-in, a company official told police a computer had been used and that Smith's facebook page was left on the screen. Five days later came word that the computer in question had disappeared.

Smith is charged with two counts of business burglary...
If Mr. Smith was convicted, I hope that he received the treatment that he needed for his problems; especially his apparent Facebook addiction.
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Note: Just a clarification. There is a difference between a "robbery" and a "burglary."

In the above story, Mr. Smith is accused of breaking into a closed business with the intent of committing a felony therein; this is a burglary. In general, a robbery is taking something from someone through force or the threat of force. Robberies involve confrontations between people, burglaries do not.

Next time, I hope an editor for the CBS NEWS' Crimesider site (where this story was found) catches this type of mistake and uses the experience as a "teaching moment."  

Deceased

Monday has always been Missing Person Monday on my blog. 

As such, I'll lead with this story from Florida.
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A few weeks ago, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement made a seemingly innocuous update to the online record of former Department of Corrections inmate #621378.

The offender, Victor G. Wonyetye, Jr. who appears on the Florida Sex Offender Registry, is now listed as "Deceased."

Wonyetye was 69 years old, and had been paroled in 2012 after serving more than two decades in Florida prisons for a string of burglary-related charges.

Just prior to his death in December, he evidently violated the terms of his parole and was rearrested in Marion County (FL).


Why is an elderly offender's death significant?

Police considered Wonyetye a lead suspect in two unsolved child abductions from the 1980s: 1) then eight-year-old Tammy Belanger disappeared while walking to school in Exeter, NH; and 2) another eight-year-old girl named Christy Luna vanished while walking to a grocery store to buy cat food in Greenacres City, FL.

Unfortunately, authorities were never able to gather enough evidence to charge this man (or anyone else for that matter) for either incident.

Followers of the cases always held onto hope that eventually Wonyetye would share information about these two missing girls, and that the victims' families would someday learn the truth about their loved ones.

Sadly, this suspect will now forever remain silent.

But, what if Victor Wonyetye, Jr. was linked to another active missing person case?

I have been researching him and hope to offer something useful in the near future.  

In several upcoming posts, I'll discuss how this man became a person of interest in the Belanger and Luna cases, and offer a previously undisclosed yet possible connection of this career criminal to another unsolved crime.  
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For more of my posts on missing persons, you can click here.

Active Shooter

If a parent has concerns about the safety of a school, there are many ways to wisely address those issues.

The following incident from Texas is not one of those ways:

Just as students were arriving to Celina Elementary School yesterday morning, one father made his way into the front office telling staff members they were dead because he was a gunman.

Officials say Ron Miller conducted his own "active-shooter" drill to test a school's security.

Officials said Ron Miller, who did not have a weapon, told staff he was testing the district’s security at his child’s school and wanted to expose weaknesses.


Miller, 44, was arrested Wednesday evening on third-degree felony charges of making terroristic threats and held in lieu of a $75,000 bond.

Superintendent Donny O’Dell said school staffers were shaken and upset.

“He went up to one particular greeter — and of course he is someone they know and have seen — and he basically said, ‘I’m a gunman and my target is on the inside, and you’re not going to stop me.’ Then he went to the main office and told the ladies there that each one of them was dead because he was a shooter.”

O’Dell said Miller explained to them that he was trying to see how safe the school’s security was...

I remember flying cross-country after 911, and every time someone got out of their seat to stretch or go to the bathroom, many of the other passengers nervously watched them; waiting to intervene.

On other flights at that time, more than one tipsy traveler joking about safety and sauntering around a plane found themselves tackled by other passengers and being restrained to their seat.

Understandably and in the same light, people around schools are on edge.

I am just surprised, after Mr. Miller allegedly acted in this manner, that he was not greeted with a brachial stun; an effective technique that can be viewed here.

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I hope everyone has a super weekend.

Reading Bible Girl... and Relating It to the Brianna Maitland Case

I am almost done with E.C. Stilson's book Bible Girl and The Bad Boy (her work The Golden Sky was fantastic). The book is an excellent read--characters are unique and interesting, and the story kept me guessing.

It is about a traumatic time in the the author's life when she was 17 years-old, graduating high school early, juggling three part-time jobs, and trying to find herself.

In one part of the story, she had just finished her waitressing job at midnight.  Exhausted, she focused on getting home and going to bed--as school started in a few hours.

As she went to her car, a guy friend suddenly appeared and invited her to go sand jumping.

He had brought her a large coffee (her favorite blend) and was charmingly persistent.

Eventually, she decided against sleep, and joined the boy and several others for sand skiing at an old gravel pit.  It was the kind of thing that young people do--make quick and sometimes irrational decisions and find themselves playing under the stars.

She had told no one about her change in plans.

Anyway, this scene from Elisa's book reminded me of an aspect of the Brianna Maitland missing person case. Between guest blogger BobKat and I, we have probably written more than anyone on the Internet about Brianna's disappearance.

In sum about the case, the 17-year-old Maitland was seen leaving her job at a Vermont bed breakfast around midnight.

Early the next morning, she was scheduled to work at a second job, but did not show. Unknown that anything was wrong, her vehicle had been found abandoned less than a mile from the bed-and breakfast. It had been backed into a deserted farm house (depicted in the image below).


  Brianna Maitland's Abandoned Vehicle (as photographed by a citizen)

Brianna has never been found.

So what does the excerpt from Bible Girl... have to do with a missing woman from Vermont?

Spontaneity.

Logically, one would think that Brianna would go straight home and get some sleep before starting her second job a few hours later; that she would contact her roommate or someone else if there was a change in plans.

I would--that is me thinking like an old guy.

But, perhaps a friend suddenly appeared with an appealing offer. Something that would not take long.

Brianna had lots of friends.

What is a few hours of lost sleep for a young person?

E.C. Stilson changed her mind and her plans. It is certainly possible that a spontaneous Brianna Maitland did the same.

Unfortunately, Brianna's case remains unsolved.
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You can read more about the Brianna Maitland case by clicking here, or visit Elisa's blog, The Crazy Life of a Writing Mom,  by going here

NOTE: Just a reminder to readers regarding any of the books that I mention in my posts--I only review or discuss books that I have purchased and have read (or am reading).


On Aaron Swartz

A few days ago, twenty-six year old Aaron Swartz committed suicide.

Described as a technology prodigy, at age 14, Swartz developed RSS--which quickly became used worldwide for Internet transactions.

Evidently, he had also struggled with depression for years.

In 2007, he delivered a conference address that included the following advice for those wanting to succeed:

  1. Be curious. Read widely. Try new things. I think a lot of what people call intelligence just boils down to curiosity.


  2. Say yes to everything. I have a lot of trouble saying no, to an pathological degree -- whether to projects or to interviews or to friends. As a result, I attempt a lot and even if most of it fails, I've still done something.


  3. Assume nobody else has any idea what they're doing either. A lot of people refuse to try something because they feel they don't know enough about it or they assume other people must have already tried everything they could have thought of. Well, few people really have any idea how to do things right and even fewer are to try new things, so usually if you give your best shot at something you'll do pretty well.

Good sense advice, but I disagree with his #2.

From personal experience, learning to say "no" is essential to long-term success.

We have to learn selectivity in how our precious time is invested.

Prior to closing his conference address, Swartz described the immense stress in his life.

I can imagine always saying "yes" was a prime contributor.

 My condolences to the young man's family.



Tuber of the Week #48: Concert for a Painted Audience

Carlos Vamos of Amsterdam is a little-known guitar master.

I still believe that his improvised acoustic version of Satriani's Always with Me, Always with You is one of the most amazing guitar videos online.

He is a talented painter as well.

I'd also describe Carlos Vamos as a creative marketer.

For interested clients, they send him photographs, and he paints portraits.

He then uses the resulting art as an "audience"--a background for his guitar performance videos that he posts to YouTube.





This concert is a clever approach to promoting one's talent--both the listening and the visual kind.

Well done.

Enjoy your weekend everyone.
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Note: The video above is a short version. Carlos Vamos has done four of these video concerts, and you can see more by going here

Just Doing Her Job

In 1957, George Metesky was arrested and accused of being the most wanted man of his day--New York City's Mad Bomber.

George Metesky after His Arrest

During his interrogation, Metesky confessed to planting 33 homemade explosive devices in public places.

Obviously with the panic caused by bombs exploding at movie theaters and such, police officials declared The Mad Bomber "Public Enemy Number One" and dedicated all possible resources to apprehending the offender.

The tip that solved the case and implicated Metesky was provided by a file clerk named Alice G. Kelly who worked at Consolidated Edison.

Either on her own initiative or after being asked by her superiors to review employee files for anyone that might have motivation to harm others due to a conflict with the company (historical accounts vary), Ms. Kelly identified George Metesky as a person of interest.

Metesky had previously made threats against the company after becoming dissatisfied with a worker's compensation claim (he had been employed with the firm until being injured in 1931).

Once police had Metesky's name, they were able to gather enough evidence for an arrest--which led to a confession.

With the case's publicity, the reward money for helping to catch Metesky was enormous.

Multiple parties including one of the newspapers (The New York Journal American), applied for a portion of the reward.

One person who did not seek the reward money?

Alice G. Kelly.

When asked why not, she stated that she was just doing her job.

She was certain that it was something anyone else would have done.

Now, I am not sure what a file clerk's salary was in the 1950s, but I assume that the reward for assisting to apprehend the Mad Bomber would have allowed Ms. Kelly a life of luxury. New house. New car. Lots of vacation time. Lots of media attention.

Certainly, no more filing.

But she didn't take the money.

She did something good and refused all accolades.

Personally, I would rather read about and be inspired by more of the Alice G. Kelly's of the world.

I know they are out there.

I just need to push aside much of the other gossip news to find them.



Dad and His Pajamas

"Hey buddy, five minutes until we leave for school," I told the laughing kindergartener as he bounced on the mini-trampoline and watched television.

Diverting his attention to me from Little Einsteins and their use of the melodic Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Minor, Luca replied "Ok."

Suddenly, he stopped jumping.

Looking at me, his head moved up and down and his eyes focused on the grid-pattern of my shirt.

"Dad...umm... Dad...ummm, you're wearing your pajamas!"

Oblivious as to how I was dressed, I glanced down at my buttoned-down 100% cotton long-sleeve shirt and said, "Ha, no man. This is a work shirt. Nana gave it to me for Christmas."

Unfazed. The little guy responded,"Pajamas! You are wearing pajamas!"

He paused, sucked in a full breath of air, and in a projecting voice, continued:

"...But the front door was open and his father's footprints went out into the snow--and it was 50 below zero that night. 'Yikes,' said Jason, 'my father is outside in just his pajamas. He will freeze like an ice cube'..."

I laughed.

And so, five minutes later we departed for school. Luca brought his backpack and lunch, and I wore my "pajamas."

In sum and just a warning for all of you parents out there: encouraging your children to read may have unexpected consequences. You may be subjected to the judgment of a young fashion critic--one who effectively incorporates children's literature into a conversation. 

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Luca enjoys several of Robert Munsch's books.



With the story referenced above (50 Below Zero), he has memorized the whole book; obviously waiting for an opportune time to zing dad.  

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Note: With this or with any of my posts, I don't receive any compensation for the books that I mention. 


Showing a Gun

Unlike most sites on the Internet, I have a different perspective on a Denny's restaurant in the news:


The chief of the Belleville, Illinois Police Department has reportedly ordered his employees to stay out of a Denny’s restaurant there.  The decision came after a group of detectives were reportedly asked by a Denny’s manager to leave the restaurant New Year’s Day.

The detectives were on-duty but not in uniform when a customer told a manager at the restaurant that at least one of the officers was carrying a gun... the manager continued to insist the detective either leave or secure the gun in her car, even after being shown badges and being told they were police.

Belleville Police Captain Don Sax said the badges were in plain view and that there were portable police radios on the table where the detectives were seated...


In the end, the officers left.

Some police agencies wisely avoid situations like this by mandating officers in plain-clothes cover their weapons by wearing jackets or something similar.

I worked plain-clothes for several years and my employer had that simple policy--if you were in public and not wearing your uniform, you were required (with some exceptions) to hide your gun and holster.

From a practical perspective, such a policy addresses the situation as a safety issue since non-uniform officers are not likely equipped with all of the usual tools of the trade, and therefore should try to avoid being readily identified.

Second, the residents of different areas of the US have varying tolerances for posessession of firearms.

In Alaska, everyone is assumed to be armed; while in Washington D.C., city laws prohibit owning and carrying guns.

Since Illinois sides with States that more actively restrict firearms, it would make sense for the chief of the Belleville (IL) Police Department to review and revise the agency's "carry" policy for non-uniformed officers--as with no jacket, the gun worn by an individual in "street clothes" may be much more visible than a badge clipped to a belt.

Wearing a jacket in Illinois in January is not too much to ask; especially in the name of officer safety and the agency's public image.