Long

Long.

Often a word with a negative connotation.

Long day at work.

Long line.

Long trip.

But can the term ever be welcoming?

My Australian blogging friend, Sean Fraser, is currently busy doing good work.

He is helping an old friend with a terminal illness.

Last week, he posted a photo with a brief description of a visit that he and the friend had made.

It is entitled: The Road Home.

They went to this farm property pictured below.


After I commented, Sean emailed me some additional details.

The farm was owned by Sean's friend; a place that the friend treasures.

But life brought changes and now the sale of the farm has been finalized.

Sean noted the following while pushing his friend's wheelchair on the grounds:

...I wheeled him around what was once the fulfillment of his long dream to have a farm. We pushed the hills, looked up at the blue sky and felt the cold winter wind wrap around us. It was a great day but I know neither he nor I will ever be there together again. 

In reflecting on Sean's post, I thought about his reference to "the long road home."

How most of us, depending on our beliefs, are either blessed or lucky to walk a long road home.

From birth to death.

I envisioned how Sean's friend would want that last farm visit to be a long one.

To be able to fully absorb the sights, the sounds, the smells; to remember what made that dream a reality.

I equated it to how we wouldn't mind a long lunch with a beloved family member or friend.

Or to close our eyes and savor for the longest time a spoonful of homemade ice cream.

A long moment to see our childhood home or our grandparents house just as we remember it, for the last time.

In this context, long transforms.

That word with the "baggage" becomes a gift that cannot be valued.

One to cherish.

Long is welcomed with open arms.
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Thank you to Sean for allowing me to use his insights, and my prayers are with him, his friend, and their families during this difficult time.

Note: Hopefully, you have experienced that blogging can mean so much more than casually dropping a comment on another writer's page and hoping for a returned favor. That there are people out there like Sean, who genuinely care and make connecting with others around the world very much a blessed experience.

Several years ago, Sean visited New Zealand and thought to stop by the shop of author and jewelry maker Judith Sleavin--whom I admire. He thought of me and I wrote about his gracious gesture here.

To visit Sean's blog, The Dolls Point Blogger, you can go here.   

Fruitland Park Police and the KKK

A policing story getting lots of national attention involves the Fruitland Park Police Department in Florida and alleged connections with the white supremacist group: The Ku Klux Klan.

Here is a summary of what is being reported:
  • In 2009, Fruitland Park Officer James Elkins resigned after his estranged wife, Pamela Elkins (now Pamela Ellingsworth), made his Klan ties public. 

  • Last week, Officer George Hunnewell was fired and deputy chief David Borst resigned from the Fruitland Park Police Department after accusations were made that they had connections to the Klan as well

  • George Hunnewell's ex-wife, Ann Hunnewell, stated to investigators with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that in 2010 she and George had been working undercover to infiltrate a local chapter of the KKK. She said that the undercover operation had been commissioned by then Fruitland Park Police Chief James Isom to learn more about now fired officer James Elkins' activities. Ms. Hunnewell stated that she and George joined the KKK only as part of the investigation and reported all information to Isom. She said that she and her then husband never participated in any function or activity beyond their initiation, but added she has no documentation to verify the undercover work.

  • Former Chief James Isom, who is no longer permitted to be a police officer in Florida after he pled guilty to a criminal charge in 2010 that is unrelated to this issue, provided a sworn statement to authorities to the effect that he never organized an undercover operation of the KKK involving George or Ann Hunnewell. 

  • The allegations against former deputy chief David Borst appear to be hearsay. He vehemently denies the accusations against him, and told authorities that he resigned his position to protect his family from embarrassment.
Who is lying?

How integrated is/was the KKK into this small 13-member Florida police department?

Confused?

I sure am.

I am not sure the Fruitland Park Police Department will be able to regain the trust of the people. It sounds like they may need to shut the place down--as the agency will now likely be bombarded by challenges to past criminal investigations and new civil litigation.

As to the story--rather than depending on media translations of official reports, I always try to find the originals so that I can examine them myself.

For those interested, I did find the released report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement about their investigation. In it, the testimony provided by Pamela Ellingsworth and Ann Hunnewell (or Ann Garner) is detailed.

You can access that report by clicking on this link and being redirected to a television station's site.

Investigating the Ellington Case as a Suicide

Part III of the Vickie Ellington missing person case…
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Case Summary
On the afternoon of Thursday, January 27, 2011, Vickie Ellington pulled her Chevrolet Suburban into the Wal-Mart parking lot in Louisville, MS. Reportedly, the fifty-three year old business owner and grandmother was going to meet someone there. Video cameras from several stores show Ms. Ellington park in the front lot and exit her vehicle, but walk away from Walmart--towards a McDonalds and Taco Bell across the street. She then walks out of range from all the cameras and vanishes.



Vickie Ellington has not been seen since.
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Investigating Suicide as a Theory

Last time I discussed how authorities would want to learn as much as possible about the potential stressors in Ms. Ellington's life at the time of her disappearance.

Were there factors that would support a suicide theory?

Here are some aspects that investigators would explore:

Raising her Grandchild
As mentioned above, Ms. Ellington was fifty-three years old and a grandmother at the time of her disappearance. In the information that I found, she had four grandchildren, but had primary custody of one of them--an elementary school-aged boy. Raising children is certainly hard work. Raising children the second time around as a grandparent certainly requires a special person.

Death of a Spouse
In December of 2008, Ms. Ellington's husband, Drury "Denver" Ellington, passed away. He was under hospice care at time of death, and was only 51 years old.  I have a friend, also a grandmother, who is currently raising two grandchildren--taking over for her daughter who has substance abuse problems. This grandmother's husband recently died as well. She calls being a parent again (and this time alone) the most challenging experience that she has ever faced.

Employment Changes
Sometime between 2009 and 2011, Ms. Ellington sold part of her business "Attala Discount Drugs," and then closed the gift shop portion of that operation. She remained owner and operator of another store in Kosciusko: Attala Fitness and Tanning--which held a "grand reopening" ceremony in March of 2010. Also, in her husband's obituary, he was listed as an owner of both businesses.

With her husband and business partner gone, did she have to make a decision as to what she could handle herself? How were the pharmacy and gift shop performing in terms of profitability? What about the fitness center?

It is unclear what drove Ms. Ellington's business decisions, but certainly entrepreneurs can have very stressful lives.
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Now, Ms. Ellington had possible sources of stress like these, but seemed to be handling the responsibilities well. Authorities have not released any information that would indicate suicide as a possible reason for the disappearance.

And again, the area where she disappeared was searched thoroughly and no body was found.

So, is there anything that authorities would want to know more about in evaluating a suicide theory?

A few days after the disappearance, a local television reporter interviewed Ms. Ellington's adult son, Adam.

As a disclaimer, I realize that editing and comfort level of the individual in front of a camera should be taken into account in judging every interview.

But still, his comments are odd.

On the video, the reporter's question to Adam was edited out, but it was something like: "What do you think happened?"

You can watch her son's response by clicking here (specifically: 046-057) or I typed his response below:

"I know she had a bunch of plans for the next, at least the first half of this year, and stuff that she wanted to get done, so I doubt she would do anything to herself. Umm. So, I mean I don't know what happened to her, but I certainly wasn't expecting her to disappear."

Not the answer I was expecting from a son about his mom's disappearance.

He seems to deflect the question about suicide.

And, what does he mean that she had plans for the "first half" of the year and that he did not think she would do something to herself?

Is there more that he wanted to say?

Strange and worthy of some follow-up work by detectives.

In sum, nothing released by authorities would indicate that this missing person case is suicide.

So, I'll move on.

Next time, I'll examine what investigators would do to explore a second possible theory: Vickie Ellington chose to disappear.

And, remember this peculiar interview with her son,  I will use it again in discussing another potential explanation in this missing persons case.
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For all of my posts on the Ellington case you can click here, or for more Missing Person Monday posts, go here.

Using MMA to Combat Drowsy Driving?

The following post will likely doom any hope that I had of becoming a famous spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration…
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Recently, researchers asked drivers how they combat fatigue when behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Understandably, the most common answer was to drink a caffeinated beverage.

Other popular remedies when tired were: roll down a window, sing, eat, slap yourself, and splash water on your face.

Hmm.

A very vanilla list.

I think their recommendations need some spice.

Having worked a 3rd shift for many years and driven lots of long car trips, I feel qualified in offering my two-cents to make their list better resonate with the average driver:

1) Roll Down a Window
I advocate not only rolling down a window, but hanging as many body parts as possible out the window while driving and still safely operating the vehicle: hand, arm, elbow, ear, and nose to name a few. Nothing like a blast of cold air to the noggin to refresh.

2) Splash Water on Your Face
Don't just use a a couple of drops, I recommend a water sprayer. A big one. I mean a few blasts from one of those kid super soakers and you are drenched and downright uncomfortable. Sleep is no longer on your mind. Note: This tip works better if the vehicle being operated is a rental--the soaked interior will be someone else's problem.

3) Drink Caffeine
Researchers recommend consuming your favorite caffeinated drink. But why stop at one? Heck, bring a 12 pack of soda, iced tea, or get multiple coffees that can be chugged. After a few drinks, I am not only wired, but I am focused on finding a convenient bathroom. Drink and pee. Drink and pee. The cycle will go on for hours with no time for fatigue.

4) Slap Yourself
I take this one up a notch as well. Slap yourself to start with. Move to punches and then start pinching--squeezing yourself to the point of self-mutilation. You'll arrive at your destination in one piece, but you may need to have a comprehensive story concocted that explains why you look like the losing contestant in a Mixed Martial Arts or MMA fight.

5) Eat
Don't eat a full meal or something filling. Candy, gum or snacks are better, but for the best results, stuff a wad of salted sunflower seeds (still in the shell) in your cheek. This will keep you busy for hours as you work the mechanics of shelling the seeds in your mouth and then (neatly? hahaha) disposing of the outer shells. Warning: You will want to brush your teeth thoroughly and dispose of the cup full of sucked on shells so as not to see yourself drop several rungs on society's social ladder.

So, on your next long trip, don't let drowsiness ruin your adventure.  Use one or more of my tips so that you arrive safely at your destination.

Don't follow my suggestions?

Tsk-tsk.

You may end up like the participants featured on this video:



Note: for a comprehensive list of tips to combat drowsy driving, go to the National Safety Council's  site here.
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A special thanks to the funniest sleepy dogs for being the star of this post. 

Enjoy your weekend everyone.

Change the Facebook Status to Dork

With some help from me, my teenage son broke Author Clarissa Draper's Dancing Men cypher challenge--a concept that she based on an idea by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. She was promoting her new book The Electrician's Code at Carol Kilgore's place. Both authors are worth a look for sure. 

It is impressive what teens can accomplish when they put their minds to it; I mean as long as it does not involve waking them before 10 am on a summer's day.

Anyway, here is a crime fail in the news…
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I have not featured a crime story from "The Gopher State" since discussing "Diaper Thieves" awhile back. Fortunately, this St. Paul felon delivers with an extra helping of humor:
SOUTH ST. PAUL, Minn -- Police didn't have to work hard to catch a man who broke into a Minnesota house.

First the burglar failed to log out of Facebook after checking his profile on the homeowner's computer. Then he agreed to meet up with homeowner James Wood in an effort to get back wet clothes he'd left behind…South St. Paul police said the burglar took credit cards, cash and a watch...

Wood posted his phone number on the burglar's Facebook page, hoping someone would call. The burglar himself texted Wood and agreed to meet with the homeowner, thinking he could negotiate for his clothes. 

When Wood spotted the burglar, he recognized him from Facebook and called police... 
And who says that we Americans import everything and rarely have anything worthy to export?

This crime tale ran in newspapers from India to Great Britain.

Yes my friends, we Americans can still manufacture our own excellent stupid criminal stories--products that put smiles on faces and are otherwise enjoyed by news readers from around the globe.

U….S…..A...!!!

U….S…..A...!!!!!

More on Vickie Ellington, Missing

Part II of the Vickie Ellington missing person case…
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Case Summary

On the afternoon of Thursday, January 27, 2011, Vickie Ellington pulled her Chevrolet Suburban into the Wal-Mart parking lot in Louisville, MS. Reportedly, the fifty-three year old business owner and grandmother was going to meet someone there. Video cameras from several stores show Ms. Ellington park in the front lot and exit her vehicle, but walk away from Walmart--towards a McDonalds and Taco Bell across the street. She then walks out of range from all the cameras and vanishes.


Vickie Ellington has not been seen since.

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Exploring Theories

With missing persons, multiple theories will be evaluated in an attempt to explain the disappearance. In Ms. Ellington's case, it did not appear that she was suffering from a medical issue that required immediate assistance and she was not lost, so at least three explanations would be explored:

  1. She left on her own volition to start a new life somewhere else;

  2. She was the victim of a crime; or,

  3. She took her own life.

Today, I will examine #3 or the possibility of suicide.

Initially, authorities would want to know as much about the person's mental health as possible.

Had the individual been depressed or discussed suicide?

Were there any previous attempts and/or was he or she under the care of a psychiatric professional?

Were purchases made (tools, medications, etc.) that could indicate planning?

In death cases when the cause is unknown and being investigated, some agencies will use an approach called the "psychological autopsy."

A psychological autopsy is an organized and analytical approach used to evaluate the likelihood that a decedent took his/her own life.

The process involves trying to reconstruct the person's life and mental state prior to the incident.

For missing person cases, I think the thoroughness gleaned via psychological autopsies are beneficial in examining a suicide theory.

The process would include in-depth interviews with friends, family members, and business associates, subpoenaing medical records, and using digital forensics on the person's electronic devices.

Also, searches of the person's residence would be imperative. Specifically, establishing if a person's room looked as to be expected (e.g. clean people maintain tidy rooms), household chores had been planned, efforts had/had not been made to care for pets if something happened, etc.

Now, the most persuasive argument against suicide in this case is: there is no body.

Authorities have video of Ms. Ellington walking from her truck and then disappearing from cameras.

Professionals and dogs thoroughly searched the area within days after the woman was last seen.

In addition, remember that this was January, so foliage would have been minimal; making it easier for search teams to access the woods and fields adjacent to the Walmart.

But they found nothing.

Then…

With no body, are there other aspects that would also seem to further refute the notion that she took her own life?

Or…

Was there anything revealed about this case that would at least make someone explore a suicide argument?

I say "yes" to both questions; and with the latter, most puzzling is a comment made by one of Ms. Ellington's family members.

I'll provide specifics next time.

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For all of my posts on the Ellington case you can click here, or for more Missing Person Monday posts, go here.

Ashanti Floyd Converts a Musical Curmudgeon

I think my children would describe me as a musical curmudgeon.

I mean once I defined curmudgeon for them.

The elementary school kiddos ask me to listen to this or that contemporary tune, along with the question: "Dad, do you like it?"

My answer is almost always. "No. I like OLD stuff. I listen to sports talk and news when I get a chance, what do you expect?"

"But, dad this is great!"

"Blah!" I reply with a smile.

But they never give up.

And recently, they found a modern song that I did not poopoo: Wake Me Up by Sweedish music producer Avicii which is sung by Aloe Blacc.

In the song, I hear soulful vocals, a pleasant melody, and dashes of bluegrass.

Though I enjoy the song with vocals, I my favorite version of it is done by Ashanti Floyd--also known as the Mad Violinist.

Floyd was inspired by his mother to try violin at age three. Now considered a top violinist, he also plays over 30 other instruments. This musician has performed live with legend B.B. King, toured, and appeared countless times on television and stage.

Floyd is also one of the first alumni of the Javacya Arts Conservatory in Florida; a nonprofit that teaches music and life skills to children and teens.

And when Floyd's schedule permits, you'll also find him volunteering at the Conservatory as the Artist in Residence to help kids develop a passion for music.

Here is the Mad Violinist performing Wake Me Up (if the video below does not load, click here):



So thanks to Ashanti Floyd and Aloe Blacc for preventing me from permanently being labeled a "musical curmudgeon."

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Have a super weekend everyone.

Controversy: Jill White vs. Facebook

I don't usually publish posts on consecutive days, but I wanted to comment on this…

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Recently, photographer Jill White from North Carolina posted a picture to Facebook of her daughter on the beach.

In the photo, Ms. White's two-year-old daughter is standing in front of a very young friend. The friend is pulling the bottom portion of the daughter's bathing suit and the young girl's buttocks are exposed.

Ms. White thought the photo was "cute." She stated that it reminded her of a famous 1953 Coppertone sunscreen advertisement featuring a dog pulling down the swimsuit of a young girl similarly exposing her bottom.

She posted the image to Coppertone's Facebook page, but someone complained and Facebook representatives investigated.

In an email, Facebook officials gave Ms. White two options: delete the photo or change her account status to private so that only people that she had approved could see her postings and photos.

She ignored the email and she was banned from the site for 24 hours.

After the ban, Ms. White modified the bare-bottom in the photo by putting an emoticon over it. She then reposted the image of her daughter on the beach.

In several news stories, Ms. White argues that the first image is not a violation of Facebook's terms of service, is not even indecent, and that she is "outraged" at the actions levied against her.

My take?
  1. Ms. White's posted picture showing her daughter's exposed butt is a clear violation of Facebook's Terms of Service (Yes, I did read it).

  2. Facebook's demands were reasonable: remove it immediately or set your account to private. If private, she could then moderate who was able to view the photo. 

  3. I am sure that this national notoriety will be beneficial for Ms. White's photography business (any publicity is good publicity), but the more she argues "outrage" the less informed she appears. 
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What am I trying to say specifically with #3?

From a policing perspective, Ms. White's posted photo could be very appealing to those interested in pornography.

This seemingly innocent image of her 2-year old daughter's exposed bottom and the young friend could be very easily manipulated, even just a little, and promoted as child porn.

The altered image could then be exchanged worldwide for decades.

When users post photos of children (especially images involving compromising positions) to Facebook/Instagram/blogs or whatever social media, they have to understand that those pictures could be used for the unthinkable--pornography or cyberstalking to name two.

Realizing this and wanting no part of it, Facebook has a clearly defined policy about nudity.

And though Facebook's actions are to protect the organization legally, they are at the same time deterring predators that sadly stalk the Internet looking for children.

Facebook made the right call here, and Ms. White would be wise to end the debate.

Note: You can view the images described in the this controversy, by clicking this news article.