Forensic Did You Know?

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Precautionary acts involving physical evidence are behaviors committed by an offender before, during, or after an offense that are consciously intended to confuse, hamper, or defeat investigative or forensic efforts for the purposes of concealing the identity of the perpetrator and/or his connection to the crime, or even the crime itself. They include disposal of the body, clipping victim’s fingernails or removing their teeth or fingers to prevent identification, cleaning up the blood at the scene, picking up shell casings—essentially anything that changes the visibility, location, or nature of the evidence.

And now you and I have both learned something new today!

 

(Fact above attributed to the textbook, ‘Criminal Profiling, Fourth Edition’)

What Can Anthropology Teach Authors?

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Cultural Anthropology is the study of human cultures, beliefs, practices, values, ideas, technologies, economies and other domains of social and cognitive organization, and it has a lot to teach authors. This occurred to me the other day while I was knitting. To understand, you need a little background.

I, along with a friend, manage a group of crafters that have wonderful imaginations. We imagine that we are all students at Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, a la Harry Potter and Hogwarts. Hogwarts creator, J.K Rowling, invented Ilvermorny, but she’s never said much about it, leaving us free to take our version of the school in wonderful new directions. On Ravelry (an enormous crafting-oriented website), there are other “schools” that are magic and crafting related, but we’ve taken our Ilvermorny in a direction that none of them have. We’re injecting a lot of realist education theories and practises into Ilvermorny. The one that concerns us today is the concept of “Majors”.

For those who may not know, a Major is simply a specific subject that students can specialize in while aspiring to a degree. At Ilvermorny, one of the five degrees that our students can pursue is a ‘Cultural Anthropologist Specialty’. The Majors program is a pet project of mine, so I’ve spent a lot of time putting it together. As I worked, anthropology began to look more and more interesting. So naturally, I fell down the internet rabbit hole, as we sometimes do. When I came up for air and coffee, I was struck with the realization that this field was what I could see myself doing in an alternate universe, you know if family dynamics, money, education and all kinds of other barriers weren’t in play. Friends, I honestly got chills.

So what does this have to do with my opening statement? I’m a writer, one stuck in countless edits and rewrites, but a writer all the same. So after I emerged from that rabbit hole, I got to wondering…what does the field have to offer writers? Further, can one study anthropology without the cost? The answer to my first question is easier than to the second. Writers, most especially in speculative fiction, create entire cultures. Those that are more easily visualized are the ones more developed in the writer’s mind, the ones with an economy, religion, social structure, and so on. Instead of relying on twenty or a hundred questions, we writers could learn a lot from anthropological studies already done. In my case, that means that my characters on New Olympus are currently in need of some more culture. Like, a lot more. It’s not really fair to compare a culture only developed within a few hundred years to an indigenous culture thousands of years in the making, but in a side by side comparison, I can see where my New Olympians are lacking. So I begin to get an idea of what I need to study in anthropology to bring my New Olympians more fully to life. To begin to bring them to the level of Tolkien’s ancient races of Elves and Hobbits. And isn’t that what many speculative fiction writers quest for? To create characters that will be remembered a hundred years from now alongside Tolkien’s? Well…it is for me.

 

Next time, what can I learn from comparison? Quite a lot apparently!

Your One Wild & Precious Life

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Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean –
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down –
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

– Mary Oliver

How To Be A Badass

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I have been a Grey’s Anatomy fan since its third year. A former co-worker (my boss at the time) got me hooked on the show (Thanks, Tammy!) and I’ve been impossibly addicted to the show ever since. There have been nights I’ve had to miss an episode or two, but overall, I’ve been a die-hard fan.

Grey’s led me to Shonda Rhimes.

I am a fan of Shonda. Many shake their heads at her and say she is egotistical. Many say she is too loud-mouthed and opinionated.

I say she’s brave. I’d like to have 1/18th of her talent and bravery, and remake my life like she made hers. I’m not sure if that’ll ever happen, but I want to share just a bit of what makes Shonda great, in my humble opinion.

We all spend our lives kicking the crap out of ourselves for not being this way or that way, not having this thing or that thing, not being like this person or that person. For not living up to some standard we think applies across the board to all of us. We all spend our lives trying to follow the same path, live by the same rules. I think we believe that happiness lies in following the same list of rules. In being more like everyone else. That? Is wrong. There is no list of rules. There is one rule. The rule is: there are no rules. Happiness comes from living as you need to, as you want to. As your inner voice tells you to. Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be. Being traditional is not traditional anymore. It’s funny that we still think of it that way. Normalize your lives, people. You don’t want a baby? Don’t have one. I don’t want to get married? I won’t. You want to live alone? Enjoy it. You want to love someone? Love someone. Don’t apologize. Don’t explain. Don’t ever feel less than. When you feel the need to apologize or explain who you are, it means the voice in your head is telling you the wrong story. Wipe the slate clean. And rewrite it. No fairy tales. Be your own narrator. And go for a happy ending. One foot in front of the other. You will make it.”

From her acceptance speech for the Elle Luminary Award, advice on how to begin to be a badass.

There are women out there struggling alone. Who do not have other women on their set,  may be the only person of color in their company. Who may be older than you are used to or younger or browner or less abled. Women who you have forgotten to include in your conversations and your world. Be a person who pulls other women, new women, different women into your circle. Widen your circle to hold more people. Lose your judgements of who someone is based on what you’ve heard or what you assume.

Make some friends, find some new sisters.

Come together. Work together. Brag together. Be powerful together. And whenever you can, lift one another up. Because lifting someone else is what lifts you.”

And these words make me want to have that kind of confidence. Her kind of confidence.

Badassery, I’m discovering, is a new level of confidence—in both yourself and those around you.

And finally,

Have some fire. Be unstoppable. Be a force of nature. Be better than anyone here. And don’t give a damn what anyone thinks.”

Can I be Shonda when I grow up?