Wednesday, February 22, 2017

I've been listening to way too many fan podcasts, where they go through a tv show episode by episode and analyze and enjoy and nerd out and I want to do that but not a podcast because I don't have podcasting equipment I just want to ramble about nerd stuff and I will I think I just have to pick a show but I want to do ALL THE THINGS

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Emotion or Vulcan Logic?

Can you ever make a decision completely devoid of emotion? An important one, I mean, one where you've been asked to set aside your instincts and emotions and base it solely on facts and evidence?

I've mentioned before that I listen to a lot of podcasts, and a great number of them are true crime, unsolved mysteries and the like. There's one called Breakdown, from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It's pretty well done, all in all, not sensationalist even though the second season has been covering what you might consider a pretty sensational crime.

Or accident.

One of those.

This season has been following the trial of Justin Ross Harris who was accused (and convicted) of deliberately leaving his nearly two year old son Cooper locked in his car all day in 2014. Cooper, tragically, died and his father was very obviously the responsible party.

That's not really in question.

Harris had his son and instead of taking Cooper to his daycare, he drove to his work and left his son to die in the car. Harris and his attorneys claim that it was an accident, that because he did things out of order that day, because he was distracted, he had a lapse of memory and forgot that he hadn't yet taken Cooper to the daycare.

That he forgot his son.

He was responsible for Cooper's death, and no two ways about it.

And this is a thing that happens. The number of infant car deaths is terrifying, to be honest, and I don't have kids! I occasionally have my god kids, and it's unusual enough for me to be driving them around that I am constantly aware of them and checking to make sure they're okay in their carseats. But I don't have them every day, I don't have those car seats in my back seat every day. I can kind of see how, especially with the rear facing seats, you get used to seeing them there, the seats themselves can become a part of your scenery.

I can see how you could accidentally forget a child in one of those seats, and I can't imagine how painful that would be for a parent, and I'm glad that there are people working to raise awareness and to make items that will help keep these sorts of tragedies from happening.

People forget things on a near constant basis! We forget things that are incredibly important because we're distracted or it's something so routine that the memory of us having done it is almost burned into our brains, making it occasionally hard to remember whether or not we really did the thing that day, or we're just remembering having done it a million times before.

Usually, this isn't a matter of life and death. But our brains can be slippery bastards even when the consequences are unthinkable.

However, this turned into a case that wasn't as horrifically simple as an accident. Harris was tried and convicted for the deliberate death of his son. According to the prosecution, Harris did not have a memory lapse but rather intentionally locked Cooper in the car to die because he wanted to be free to pursue a life that he felt his son was holding him back from.

The prosecution presented a lot of evidence toward the fact that Harris was, in fact, a pretty awful husband and generally less than stellar person. He'd been cheating on his wife for years, hooking up with women online - some of whom turned out to be under age at the time of the interactions. He was, in fact, sexting with an under age girl the day that he left Cooper in the car.

They brought out comments and threads that Harris had made or checked into about the 'child free' lifestyle and how he 'loved his son and all but we both need escapes'. Now, plenty of people want to live the 'child free' life and they are in no way thinking about or advocating murdering children. They just don't want to have them, and so they don't.

Of course the defense pointed out the thin connection between needing a break from your child and murdering that child, but all of these things about Harris' lifestyle and actions were presented in court. The podcast played pieces of testimony, people talking about how wrong Harris' affect seemed when he discovered Cooper's body in the back seat. They talked about how, essentially, deviant he is to be cheating on his wife and having these multiple affairs while pretending to be this great family man.

There was also evidence, of course, and not just the comments that he made online. There was the fact that Harris is seen on the parking lot security seeming to watch someone as he passes them - after he had just parked the car that morning with Cooper strapped in - to see if they were going close to his car. There's the video of him going to the car at lunch and throwing a pack of lightbulbs into the car - with the argument that he had to have been able to see Cooper at that point, that even if it was an accident, he 'discovered' the mistake hours before he admitted to it and there is one witness who claims that Cooper could have still been alive at that point.

But, at least from what was relayed through the podcast, a lot of the evidence was character driven.

He was a bad person, and bad people do bad things.

He cheated on his wife and he wanted to be free of the responsibilities of being a father. So he murdered his son.

They played parts of one of his interviews with the police on the podcast and the first time he sees his wife after Cooper's death.

I admit, up until the audio of the police interview, I was torn as to whether or not I personally thought he was guilty. There are, at least for me, degrees of badness? Of evil? Just because you're willing to cheat on your wife doesn't necessarily mean that you're willing to murder, let alone murder your own helpless child.

However, the audio of his interview with the police convinced me that he did it. His reaction to being told that they're going to charge him with...I believe they said it was neglect at that point, but I could be wrong about the specific word they used there. Basically, they said that because Cooper had been in his care and due to his negligence Cooper had died, they had to charge him with this. And I'm listening, thinking, okay, okay, that's reasonable. Harris was the adult, he was responsible for Cooper's safety and well being and it might have been an accident but he failed his responsibilities and Cooper died. He didn't just get hurt, he *died*.

And then Harris proceeds to calmly *argue* with them that he shouldn't be charged with anything, that it wasn't intentional. Let me say, there is something, in listening to him speak, so *off* about his tone and his concern and his reaction that makes me think he did it. It was that fast, I decided that he was guilty and I've been listening to the rest of the podcast with that mindset.

When I heard that he was convicted I thought, 'Good. He murdered that poor baby.'

Now, after this whole thing has had time to marinate in the back of my mind, though, I'm wondering.

I'm wondering if Justin Ross Harris wasn't a philanderer, a cheat, and a generally morally reprehensible person, if I would have taken his reaction as proof positive that he did it. Certainly he didn't react the way that I imagine I would in such a situation, but I've (thankfully) never been in that situation and you never really know what you'll do when faced with something like that. But is that enough to say that he is guilty of a deliberate crime? Or could it still have been a grossly horrific accident?

And I'm just getting the bits and pieces shared over the podcast. The jurors are seeing much, much worse than what I'm hearing.

Which brings me to my question.

Can you ever really totally objectively look at something like this?

Could you, as a juror, ignore your emotional reaction to seeing a dead child? To knowing that his father is the one who caused his death? To knowing that the man has been cheating on his wife, has been doing things that are illegal and/or morally corrupt?

Could you look dispassionately at what the facts are and decide innocence or guilt based only on that and not on the emotions that you feel?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Rambling + Wrong Things Being Wrong

I have edited this post three or four times. I start on it, then get distracted and then I come back and have to update All the Things. So if something makes no sense? Go me.

So a while back I said I wanted to do a post about inherent evils. I may have used the word intrinsic, but I think that's the wrong term now.

A lot of things have happened since then, work is always interesting and my sister is actually getting married in less than a month married. Much luck to her husband, he knew what he was getting into. I'm the maid of honor...matron of honor? Not sure what the right term is, actually. I'm unmarried (clearly), but not properly a 'maid'. *shrug* Whatever. I'm busy killing myself walking around breaking in cowboy boots because apparently my sister is a red neck of the highest caliber.

Let me tell you how miffed I was that I had to buy not one, but TWO pairs of boots because my sister approved the first pair of boots and then blamed her husband and said that they had to be BLACK boots because of reasons. *rolls eyes* And then I break in a second pair of boots and SHE DOESN'T EVEN GET ANY PICTURES OF THE BOOTS I COULD HAVE BEEN WEARING NORMAL SHOES LIKE A NORMAL HUMAN AND NO ONE WOULD HAVE KNOWN.

I took those boots off so fast.

So. Fast.

I just keep telling myself its her wedding, and she's hardly a bridezilla. And I've told her she only gets the one. I also told her fiancee husband he can't give her back. But seriously, he seems like a good guy and he's a cop, which, the irony is thick here. My sister is studying to be a nurse and he's a cop - I look the most like my maternal grandmother out of the rest of the family and we may...have had certain personality traits in common? Seeing as how we are both always right. ;) But my sister is literally recreating my grandparents' marriage, since my grandmother was a nurse and my grandfather was a cop.


There was also the election.

Which is a thing that happened. I don't really talk about politics, and I'm not planning on changing that now.

Moving on.

My boss, who is a great man, has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. It's not the treatable kind and I don't know if it's worse to know that you're going to die, here's a timeline or to know that you're not going to be yourself before the end.



Inherent/intrinsic evil.

I listen to a podcast called Catholic Answers Focus. It's related to the Catholic Answers radio show, which I also listen to, surprise surprise. It's more of a one on one interview kind of a thing. Back in August (OMG that was so long ago) they had an episode titled Natural Law and Civil Law. Which was an interesting listen.

While I was listening, I had a minor epiphany?

So, incest. We can all generally agree that it is terrible and wrong and should not happen. But is it because it is typically an abusive situation or is it because there is something so wrong with the act/concept itself that even if it happens in a 'healthy' way it is still evil?

I was thinking through it in my head, sort of like this.

Incest is wrong because

1) it is an abusive relationship. If it is between an older family member and a younger there is an inherent power differential and the pedophilia aspect just makes it that much worse. If it is between relatives of a more similar age, there is still typically a power imbalance where one party is manipulating or controlling the other due to a variety of factors;

2) step back and say that it is a relationship that is not abusive in that way. There are two people, related, who meet and decide to begin a romantic/sexual relationship. They've never met one another before this, they didn't grow up together, etc. There's no possibility of it being a situation like in the first step. Is it sill wrong?

Yes. But why?

My first thought was because they could possibly have children and those children's probability of being born with significant birth defects is higher than those of people suitably distantly related. I know it doesn't happen in every instance, and that inbreeding can take a long time of repeated occurrences to cause the worst sorts on a regular basis, but it's still an unnecessary risk factor to add to an already risky proposition.

So, 3) take it back another step and say that they will not have children. Better yet, they cannot. For whatever reason.

Is it still wrong?

My brain says yes.

But why?

I suppose one could argue that even a scenario such as this serves to normalize the incestuous relationship, thus perhaps making it an nth more likely that someone will abuse another member of their family in the way detailed in the first step. But that seems a stretch to me, and honestly, if someone is that wrongly wired, they're going to do it no matter what justifications they have to make to themselves.

Still wrong?



It just is. It's just wrong. At it's core, there is something wrong with the concept, let along the act itself that sets people's teeth on edge.

And yes, I am aware that incest has been practiced in other, ancient cultures. Doesn't make it less wrong. People have done a whole lot of things, collectively and individually and made themselves believe that it was okay. That never made these things actually okay.

Some things are wrong and no argument or justification can be made to change that. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tim Drake is a gift to humanity and I will fight you over this

Alright, so I was going to do a post about something important, like my realizations about how some things are intrinsically evil, but now I'm going to talk about comics.

Because there's a rumor going around that DC comics is going to kill off my favorite Robin and I'm bracing myself for it with tomorrow's comics delivery. And maybe they won't, and heck, the original Tim Drake has been gone for like...three reboots? But Tim is my favorite, I grew up with him as Robin and I may riot. I don't know.

And then there's this piece of goodness:

*grabs everyone and shakes them*



I know people complain about Robin not being a hero in his own right but these people are wrong in all their life choices and I will fight them.

Give me my small, genius child in live action. Give me Nightwing. Heck, give me Red Hood (though explaining all of that would probably be awkward). Give me Damian, though again, that would require a LOT of explanation and some reworking of the al Ghul's.

But most of all, GIVE ME TIM DRAKE. Give me THIS Tim Drake.

Also, bts video because I can:

And eventually I'll make the post about intrinsic evils.

Possibly after my period of mourning.

Wed ETA: Jesus, DC, what are you DOING?

You're going to make me buy comics on a regular basis again, aren't you? AREN'T YOU?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Locked Room Mysteries

I'm a big fan of murder mysteries as a genre.

My favorite set up for a murder mystery is the locked room.

In case you're not familiar, this is basically that the crime happens - generally it's a murder thought sometimes it's an abduction or a theft or something along those lines and it seems on the surface to be impossible.

The room is locked. There's seemingly no way for the perpetrator to get in or out, no sign of how the crime could have been committed and the criminal get away.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did this sort of a story several times in his Sherlock Holmes series. I'd say that Sherlock was my first detective, but really it was Encyclopedia Brown and then Nancy Drew. I wanted to be Nancy Drew for years, I swear. But I digress. Agatha Christie also has several stories with this (Poirot is my favorite of her characters, I never really got into Miss Marple) theme. I believe, however, that the earliest version of this trope would be by Edgar Allen Poe - Murder in the Rue Morgue.


Again, I digress.

But I love mysteries and there's something extra eerie about this sort of a mystery. You know, in most fiction, that there's going to be a sensible explanation for what happened. Still, there's always the thrill in the beginning that this should be impossible, that there couldn't have been anyone else in the room, so who stabbed the Earl?

These are almost the perfect intersection for my love of mystery and my love of the creepy, supernatural end of things.

There are not nearly enough of these being written, and written well, in my personal opinion.

I've stumbled across a sub-genre of it, recently, however.

Murders on cruise ships.

So, The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. This is a new novel and it was one of those, hey, you read The Girl on the Train, you might like this. And it sounded like I would so much so that I pre-ordered it in hard-copy.

And I did. I did enjoy it. So much.

Basic premise, Lo Blacklock is a writer for a travel magazine. She's sort of middle rung in her job at the beginning of the story, but looking to make her way up the ladder to be a feature writer. She gets the opportunity of a lifetime when the lead features writer is put on bed rest due to a complicated pregnancy.

So now Lo is sent, in her place, on a week long cruise on the brand new top of the line luxury cruise ship, Aurora Borealis. This is a make or break kind of moment for her career. So, in spite of the fact that she's still reeling from a home invasion (that we experience at the beginning of the book) and a fight with her long term boyfriend that she gets on the ship anyway.

She is nervous, on edge, and afraid for her safety even as she reminds herself that being on a cruise ship is possibly the safest she could be. After all, the ship is occupied by high profile men and women and there's no way for anyone to get to her on the ocean.

Then the eponymous woman in cabin 10 (next to Lo's cabin) vanishes. Lo is certain that she heard the woman being murdered, but when security shows her the cabin it's empty. Not as if the occupant is out somewhere else, but as if it was never occupied at all. Which is what everyone else on board insists to be the case.

Security and everyone else on board try to tell Lo that she imagined things, that the stress of her assault and the break in (the robber hit her, not her boyfriend, in case that was a thought you had) combined with the fact that she already suffers from depression (which she sees therapists for and takes medication to help with) made her unreliable. But Lo knows what she saw and what she heard. She knows there was a woman in that cabin and that she's no longer on board.

Which means that a murderer is.

And she's trapped with them.

While it's not a locked room, the book has the same feel. There should be no way for the crime to have happened. There's a highly controlled environment, with a limited number of people. There's the eerie paranoia of not knowing who (if anyone) can be trusted.

There's also a great deal of gas lighting attempted, and subverted by the fact that Lo will not put up with that bull.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Today has been a good day

A little over a month ago I had my yearly physical. This includes an ultrasound of my thyroid, since people with Hashimoto's (my specific diagnosis for the hypothyroidism) are at a higher risk for developing thyroid cancer or even just growths that eventually need to be removed.

The solution for this, obviously, is to have the thyroid entirely removed, but that's a surgery that's not really done lightly, given the position of the thyroid on your throat, etc. etc. It's not, from what I understand, a particularly risky or dangerous surgery, but I'm of the school that if you don't need to have a surgery you shouldn't have it. Any surgery carries risks. And there are other complications that follow, since your thyroid is actually rather important to your immune system and your emotional stability, and a bunch of other things you never think about until yours doesn't work right.

Anyway. On this years ultrasound they found a nodule that they decided was concerning. Concerning enough that they sent me for a biopsy.

I was supposed to have that biopsy today, and I have a follow-up with my endocrinologist next week. I've spent the past month quietly freaking out, to be honest. It doesn't matter how many times my doctor told me that the chances of it being anything serious are extremely low, or how even if it did turn out to be cancerous that thyroid cancer is extremely treatable.

I've lost a lot of people to cancer.

They always tell you it's treatable, in the beginning.

Sometimes that turns out to be a lie.

I went into the imaging offices today prepared to have needles stuck into my neck so I could find out what I needed to do.

Turns out I don't need to do anything.

The radiology student couldn't find the nodule that was on my initial ultrasound. The radiology tech couldn't find it.

The doctor himself couldn't find it.

It's gone.

Maybe it was never there in the first place. The tech who did the initial ultrasound where the nodule was found was a fill-in - the normal nurse had broken her arm. The imaging center has better equipment - this is what they do and they're the best place around to get this kind of work done. They had me stretch my neck out when the original tech didn't. The position of your neck can affect the shape of your thyroid (amongst other things) and it can make it look like there are things in places that there aren't.

But the tech, my primary physician and my endocrinologist all saw it on the initial ultrasound pictures.

So...I think it was there. Or something was.

And it's gone.

Today is the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

I'm thankful, today of all days, that I'm back in my faith. That I had somewhere to turn my fear and worry to and know that no matter what happened, I had that strength to lean on.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Book: Australia's Strangest Mysteries by John Pinkney

Amazon - $2.99 or free with Kindle Unlimited
Non-fiction - Paranormal/Disappearances/Unexplained Phenomena

"DRIVER FRANK CLEWER sparked panic in his rural hometown - when he began to leave trails of scorchmarks and flames wherever he walked. 

The Baffling Burning Man's brush with the impossible occurred in September 2005, and was chronicled by TV news crews and hundreds of witnesses. Astonished scientists at the University of New South Wales found that Frank was generating 30,000 volts of static electricity: a charge powerful enough to melt synthetic carpets. 

But somehow he survived the mysterious ''√≠nner fire'' without the slightest lesion on his skin - the only visible evidence of the colossal voltage he'd carried being a charred hole in the knee of his jeans. 
Many media outlets treated the Clewer case as a one-off event. But SHC [Spontaneous Human Combustion] has been inexplicably occurring for more than 2000 years,with one of the earliest recorded events dated 52 BC. 

In this unique book, bestselling author and journalist John Pinkney describes the mysterious history of the' flames from heaven'' -a phenomenon which obsessed even Charles Dickens, who described it in his novel Bleak House. 

Pinkney also presents a new selection of some of the most tantalizing cases he has investigated during a lifetime's research: 

UNEXPLAINED DISAPPEARANCES, from the enigma of the vanishing heiress to the saga of the 'jinxed' ship, which disappeared with 130 people aboard. OUTBACK RIDDLES The desert aboriginals whose astonishing song saved trhe life of a dying woman 4000 kilometres away... the uncanny invasion of Lake Eyre...the monster that guarded an abandoned potato farm...the startling UFO √≠ncursion in Queensland's Isla Gorge. 

MYSTERIOUS DEATHS, including the fate of John Friedrich, 'the man who never was''...;the horror in Sydney's dunes...and the American divers'' diaries of death. 

EERIE PHENOMENA Strange Case of the Shining Crosses...Magazine Foretells Death of JFK...Riddle of the Tiger that Rose from its Tomb...Lost, on a Road Without Shadows. And more.

These pages offer you intriguing insights into some of our planet's most perplexing mysteries."

I fairly recently subscribed to the whole Kindle Unlimited thing. A friend accidentally signed up for their month trial and I am a lemming so I jumped on board too.

It's basically fabulous for someone like me who reads a whole lot and occasionally has trashy tastes that she's not willing to spend real money on. So, for example, there's a whole bunch of books that kind of look interesting but are only 70 some odd pages for $2.99 or some ridiculous amount of money. That's not a good deal. But you pay $9.99 a month and you can read as many books as you can read if they're on the Kindle Unlimited library and there are a bunch of them.

And thus my trashy, trashy heart rejoices.

So many ridiculous books, so little time!

Okay, there's some legitimate books on there too, don't get me wrong. I, personally, am abusing the existence of this library in order to indulge myself.

I found Australia's Strangest Mysteries in the manner of all true book nerds who are on an insomniac bender: recommendations. The 'so you read this book, well you might like THESE FIFTY OTHER SIMILAR BOOKS THAT ARE ALSO INSANE' feature is dangerous. Pretty sure this one started at trucker ghost stories and ended in Australia. So.

This book actually turned out to be less ridiculous than you might suppose given the subject matter and the fact that it is most likely one of the self-published variety. Don't get me wrong, I have a deep and abiding love for the fact that people can basically get published now if they want it bad enough without ever having to go through a major publishing house. After all, this is how we got The Martian and that is a glorious piece of science-fiction. However, proof reading is somehow the first thing to go when people self publish and that...that can drag the whole thing down. '

ASM (it's too long to type the whole title out, I'm lazy, sue me) doesn't suffer from the worst of the sorts of errors that come through self publishing. It's not full of typos and misspellings and weird formatting. There are a couple of things here and there, but mistakes get through big name publishers sometimes, so I'm inclined to let a reasonable number of these sorts of things slide.

The stories are interesting, if you're into the weird fringes of reality, though some are less 'weird' than others. One of the later sections is about the possibility of the Tasmanian Tiger still being alive somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Australia, and given how many new species we discover every year, I find that less weird and more a really nice possibility since it would be one less species that humans have driven to extinction.

Lake monster stories definitely fall better into the weird and wonderful category, like UFOs and highways (or other stretches or road) that appear to take people on a really extreme detour into...another dimension, maybe? Most definitely more weird.

The man who was, briefly, slight on fire and leaving flames behind him where he walked? Weird. Very weird. I'm fascinated and horrified at the thought of spontaneous human combustion, because there's no way to prevent or predict it, assuming it's a real thing and not a series of conflated events that bear nothing in common with one another except for fiery death.

My favorite stories out of this book are the mysterious disappearances, though. There's the story of a heiress who lived in squalor in the last years of her life (due to being a spendthrift in her younger years) and apparently just wandered away one day to die. Or the young adventurer back in the late 1800s who went back to get water with which to save himself and the head of the expedition and was never seen again?

I think my absolute favorite story, though, is that of the SS Waratah, a luxury cruise ship that vanished in 1909 with something like 220 people aboard. There's the plain fact that clearly, the ship sank. That is, generally, what happens when a ship vanishes at sea. The fact that they've never found the wreck or any part of it is not even that odd, given the vastness of the ocean, the fact that no one is really sure where it was when it went down, and currents, etc. Recent tragedies have driven home how difficult it can be to find anything lost in the ocean, even when you have a pretty good idea of where it crashed/sank.

The eerie part comes in with the stories of how the ship was considered jinxed from the start (stories that were told even before the ship vanished, cutting off the possibility of this just being people wanting to say that they knew something was wrong). The captain, by all accounts an experienced sailor, urging the ship line to take the ship back to dry dock, that there was something wrong with it that made it unsafe to sail for long; or the prophetic dreams of an engineer that was berthed on the ship but chose to get off and make other arrangements as soon as he could, in spite of the extra cost of the lost fare. His concerns were recorded - he urged other passengers to get off as well, but in the end he was one of the few who survived having sailed on the SS Waratah because he listened to his fears.

What could have happened that the ship was unable to send out any sort of distress signal? Why did the captain choose to keep sailing even with his fears that there was something catastrophically wrong with the ship? In the larger sense of things, why do only some people get these warning premonitions of doom and death? Or do more people get them and we just don't know about it because they never tell anyone else and fail to listen to the warning and take the knowledge of it to their deaths?

Over all, I liked the book. It never goes too in depth to any one story, but gives a detailed over view and more information for some of them. There's never really any answer to any of it, which is why I guess the book isn't called 'Australia's Most Solved Mysteries'.

There's a sequel to this one, Australia's Strangest Mysteries 2, which I'll likely pick up some time in the future. It's also on Kindle Unlimited.

I'm giving this one a 3/5 because I enjoyed it quite a bit and it gave me new fodder for my Marie Celeste-esque obsession.
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