Monthly Archives: January 2011

Mark Your Calendars for CSI Exhibit!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Get ready! CSI is coming! I found out about a great new interactive exhibit that’s making its way around the country called CSI: The Experience, based on the TV show. Follow this link for the exhibit’s website:

http://www.csitheexperience.org/
The site is great and gives you a thrilling preview of the exhibit.

In the exhibit you have the opportunity to walk through three different crime scenes, following and collecting, and then examining evidence that you find. You will be guided by cast members from the TV show, along with their real life counterparts (including one whom I’ve met on a few occasions, Dr. Jason Byrd, a forensic entomologist and real life Grissom!) and really, what could be better than studying maggots with Grissom?? The exhibit helps you learn about and collect bloodstain, trace, DNA, fingerprints, and other types of evidence as you walk through the three completely different crime scenes. You will use computers as well as good old standard collection techniques, and the CSI guides will help you make sense of everything. In a briefing room you will meet the creator of the show and find out what inspired it. You will watch as a true forensic investigator shows you the tricks of the trade. And you will be introduced to your supervisor, Gil Grissom (I think I just fainted already). Want to take part in an autopsy with Doc Robbins? Well, guess what? You can poke around in a dead body along side him (well, maybe not a REAL dead body…). Want to check out a toxicology lab with Greg Sanders? You can do that too. Collect trace and footprint evidence with Catherine or Sara? Have fun! Analyze DNA with Nick and Hodges? Yep! You will even be able to visit an evidence lab and an autopsy suite. And when it’s all over and you think you’ve solved the cases, you get to meet with Grissom and find out if you were right.

How cool is that?? Yes, I am a nerd and a huge fan of the show, and I’m not afraid to admit it even though some of my colleagues may be (more about this later). I need to give credit where credit is due, and the show got me interested enough in the science to spawn my graduate career. This exhibit sounds like a ton of fun, and seems great for kids especially. I have no doubt it will be exciting and may even spur some young minds into scientific endeavors. In any case, I can’t wait for this to make its way closer to me. The schedule is as follows:
Jan. 29-May 1, 2011: US Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, Alabama
May 28-Sept. 5, 2011: Exploration Place, Wichita, Kansas
Oct. 1-Jan. 1, 2012: The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
It just finished up a run at the Rochester, NY Museum and Science Center, and I had been thinking about making the trek up there, braving piles of snow and icy roads just to see it. But then I came to my senses and decided to be patient.

Another great site to check out:
http://forensics.rice.edu/
This is an online game site where you can do similar things – I have been poking around on it and it’s highly educational for kids and just a lot of fun!

Rest assured I will be beating little children out of the way to get my ticket to CSI: The Experience. I mean, really, what beats crime scene investigating with the CSI Las Vegas cast? Maybe I can convince Grissom to marry me.

When Life Kicks You in the Ass

So, it’s funny that two of my last posts, especially the one on January 6th, involved thoughts on my goals for the new year ahead. I was looking forward to a lot of great things. But yesterday, seemingly as a smack back into reality, I was laid off. Slam, went the door in my face.

All that remains of my career for the last 4 years

That sad-looking box of stuff is what I carried out of my company for the last time. It constitutes a huge portion of my life for the past four years. That stuffed elephant stared at me from the top of my computer every day. Those pictures reminded me of family and my dog and of good times. I even have a sports bra stuffed in there from when I would go running on my lunch break. It’s all I have to physically show for many years of a three-hour-per-day commute, many headaches and stress, and much learning and growing. And I haven’t been able to bring myself to empty it yet.

Sounds strange to listen to myself say that overused, cliche statement “I never thought it would happen to me” but I really didn’t. As much as I disliked my job and even said that I sometimes wished this would happen, it really SUCKS when it does. It’s a huge loss – a loss of not only a paycheck and a title, but a loss of confidence, security, and self-respect. A loss of a lot of freedoms and things I took for granted.

I have been rather aimless today as the reality sinks in. I am now an unemployed graduate student. That is my new title. But it’s only temporary, and I realized last night as the phone calls and text messages came in that through it all I was able to leave a legacy, however small. I made some good friends who care and who are sad to see my empty cubicle, or “hamster cage”, as I used to call it. That means the world to me. Over the past few years I have begun to realize the importance of those relationships. They will sustain you when the well seems like it’s run dry.

It’s not the end of the world. End of an era, yes. But not the end of who I am. I even mentioned in my post on January 1 that I was going to attempt to venture into new realms this year. At the time I had no idea this would happen (a bit of foreshadowing, perhaps?) and I had no idea the concept may be forced upon me. But this could prove to be a true turning point. Who knows. For sure it is a learning experience. NEVER take anything for granted. I’m glad that I was somewhat ready in case it happened, although it was still a bit jarring. It’s like I’ve been taught in all of my forensics courses, when you think you’ve found all the evidence, think again. Don’t be over-confident, because just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, i’s dotted and t’s crossed, you can accidentally turn over a chair on your way out the door and find a bullet casing you missed. Okay, maybe a silly analogy, but you get the point. Your great ride can end in a New York minute, and you can find yourself staring at a tiny box that holds the last few years of your life.

Let the new journey begin. This brings about a lot of changes that I wasn’t completely expecting (although I did have a sneaking suspicion it may happen), but it will be okay. Perhaps this wasn’t a giant slap in the face or kick in the ass, but merely a tap on the rump in the direction of a new beginning.

For any of you out there going through a rough time, keep this in mind….

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Read the rest here.

Onward and upward, my friends.

Resolutions?

It’s already six days into the new year. The days are flying by. The month of December and the beginning of January always have me thinking about changes and possibilities and how I’d like to see the brand new year progress. Recently there have been a ton of articles and news reports about New Year’s Resolutions, or more to the point, how likely (or UNLIKELY) we are to keep them. So many of us make the same ones year after year, obviously indicating our inability to hold ourselves accountable for them. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I have EVER kept a New Year’s resolution to myself. I have every intention of following through with the promises I make this time every year, but for one reason or another my focus wanes as the days go by, and over time those promises lose their prominence on my mental “to do” list. For this reason I have decided not to make any this year.

That being said, there are things I’m making priorities in my life, like paying off debt or concentrating on finishing grad school. But I’m not going to set myself up for the inevitable disappointment of not meeting those vague, often realistically unattainable resolutions. I know that I will not miraculously transform my body into Cindy Crawford’s over the course of a year. I will not surpass Oprah Winfrey on Forbes’ list of the most powerful women. I’m being slightly more realistic. For the most part, I just want to keep on the same path, and see where life takes me over the next 12 months. I am facing some major milestone accomplishments this year, and already have several conferences and exciting travels in the planning stages as well, so why not just revel in the moment as each one of them arrives? When I have a clearer idea of exactly where my career and personal life are headed I will make some hard and fast, “stick-to-’em” goals. But for now I’m going to get out of my own way and go easy on myself.

Maybe the only thing I have “resolved” to do this year is to keep SAVING LIVES. As many lives as I can, actually. But even if it’s only one, it will have been worth any hard work or frustration. Never forget: We Are Their Voice.

What about you? What resolutions have you (or have you not) made?

Ace’s Full Moon

He was barking his little gray head off at me. I was crouched on my hands and knees on the sidewalk, peering through the tiny screened basement window that allowed me a partially-obscured view of the abandoned pit bull inside. The owner of the house had called to say that the former tenant had disappeared a couple of months before, leaving piles of junk and his dog behind. The homeowner wanted to clean out the house in order to rent to someone else and the dog had to go – he thought that the owner would be back for the dog, but he had never even returned phone calls. I wondered how the dog had survived for so long abandoned in a basement. And how anyone could leave their dog without so much as a thought.

The sky was darkening and the shadows were stretching longer across the street. I could see the moon begin to peek from behind the run-down rowhomes. The homeowner let us in with a single warning: “He’s mean.”

He didn’t seem mean when I was peering at him through the window. Scared, yes. Protective of his home, for sure. But mean?

The neighbors came out to see what was going on. One of them knew the dog’s name: Ace.

The officer and I made our way inside, past piles of junk left by the previous tenant. We opened the door to the basement, and there was Ace, standing at the bottom of the stairs in remarkably good condition (for a dog left stranded in a basement), and bigger than I had thought, barking. But not just barking, as I had seen him do when I peeked at him from outside, but snarling. Gums pulled back exposing teeth. Low growls coming from some place inside him – some angry place with hurt and fear. The officer tried to calmly talk to him, to no avail. Ace was having none of it. Finally, the officer went to the truck to get a long pole with what looks like a metal loop on the end. It would keep the dog away from people and fairly immobilized. Looking at Ace from the top of the stairs, I suddenly understood “mean”.

Somehow, someway, we managed to get him out of the house. He growled the whole way. He was by far the most vicious dog I had ever seen. But I knew that his viciousness came from fear.

The officer and I struggled to get him into the cage in the back of the truck. He kicked and twisted and snarled and bit at the air and seemed like he would have torn our faces off if he could have. The more he twisted and fought the tighter the loop became. Blood dripped from his mouth when he bit his tongue. The whites of his eyes glowed in the light of the huge moon that was now high enough to see by; they were wide with fear. Finally in the cage, the officer released the loop and he lay there, panting, not moving, his own blood covering his face.

I felt rage. I looked at the neighbors, standing around watching the “show” and snarled myself. I knew I should have kept my mouth shut, but I heard the words escaping: “What a horrible life this dog has had”. I looked each person in the eye, accusingly. I hated them all for letting this happen. Hated his “owner”. Hated society.

One woman was crying. “Y’all are going to put him to sleep…”. I hated her too. Why hadn’t someone helped sooner? But I knew why. It’s the city. You mind your business. Keep your head down. Don’t interfere.

Driving back to the shelter, the officer and I breathed a sigh of relief. We both agreed that Ace was one frightening dog. He had scared us both. “You’d have to be crazy to do this job”, the officer said, shaking his head. I wasn’t sure if he was referring to himself, to me, or to no one in particular. We saw the moon at the same time. It was enormous, high in the sky, glowing bright and taunting us with its wide smile. A full moon. I turned and looked at Ace in the cage behind me. No longer growling or barking, he huddled in a heap, still panting, eyes sad, exhausted from his struggle. He looked at me and didn’t make a sound. He suddenly seemed very small. I felt like crying. What had made him this way? What atrocities had he seen and been forced to endure? I watched the moon as we drove. There would be no help for Ace. No chance for rehabilitation in an already over-crowded, over-burdened, cash-strapped system. No hope for a happy life, or more bright moons. Perhaps it was just my imagination but the moon seemed to shine extra bright that night. For Ace.

Welcome 2011!

Happy New Year readers!

I hope that 2011 brings you all that you hope for and more. For me, I am looking forward to finishing my master’s degree, continuing my shelter and rescue work, and possibly venturing into new realms… we shall see. I hope that you continue to follow along with me and share in my craziness. I also hope that I will, in some small way, inspire you to pursue a dream or goal you’ve been contemplating, fight for something you believe in, or take up a cause you support. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right- for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

I welcome the new year. On to greater things. I will continue to do my best to help those who cannot speak. We are their voice. Let’s hope that 2011 brings progress on their behalf – more laws to work in their favor, more adoptions and less buying/breeding, more outspoken opposition to cruelty and neglect. We can do it! And maybe one of these years, I won’t have to wish for it… it will have already happened.