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Self-Assessment, and Surprises.....

I got my final grades today: a B+ on the Investigative Research unit, resulting in an overall grade of A- (GPA of 3.7, CEU of 10.4). Not too shabby, really--I thought I would have scored a B to a B+. I cede my doubts to the judgement of the professionals.

I've been busy trying to tweak my resume ( I don't mean to gush, but the Resume Builder at LinkedIn Labs rocks--I am very happy with the results), and I when added the "Skills" feature, I found myself amazed at what is considered a skill (Objectivity is a skill? Really??), and just how many I actually have (my resume lists 19). I never thought I possessed so many--and these are just the ones that come to immediate attention.

All this time, I thought myself without marketable skills; now, I discover that I've had many skills all along.

It makes me wonder--what else about myself am I taking for granted?

The Fat Man Speaks...

First off, the breaking news is that Usama Bin Ladin is wormfood. Whether true or not, I cannot say, but CBS apparently thinks that US Forces in Afghanistan have the body. The President is supposed to be giving a press conference shortly. We'll see.

I've started a new blog/journal: The Fat Man Speaks... is to be my "Professional Investigator" journal, where I intend to post on what will (hopefully) be work-related issues. I will probably still be keeping Pretensions and Delusions for more personal issues (such as ranting over "Dilbert Moments"); I want to keep my personal life separate from my (hopefully) future professional life. I also hope to use the new journal as a networking tool, and an advertizing platform. We'll see how this works out.

23:15--It's official: UBL has run up the curtain, and is singing soprano with the sinners.

First, they came for Asimov's...

...and then they took down Analog...

I used to post frequently on both the Analog and Asimov's fora, back when I had the crazy idea of becoming a writer. A troll posting child porn has taken down both. These are the days that try men's souls...
Saturday was our on-foot surveillance exercise; the class was broken into 3-man teams, given the description of the target, a recent photo, and the location the surveillance was to start from. Follow the target for two hours, record their movements, and report back for debriefing. Get a photo for extra credit. Sounds simple, doesn't it?

I picked up my target the moment she arrived-- she was wearing a maroon sweater that stood out rather well. Arrived at the CambridgeSide Galleria Foodcourt at 13:02hrs, three year-old daughter in tow, and proceeded to sit down to eat lunch. At 13:20hrs, she and her daughter left the food court and entered the H&M department store on the first floor. At 13:25hrs, the target left H&M, and proceeded towards the escalator bank; I waited for them to round the corner, then moved to follow...

...and promptly lost them. They were out of sight no more than 10 seconds, and *poof*!--Gone.

The next two hours was a fun-filled thrill ride of locating the target, losing the target, re-acquiring the target, and worrying that my ham-handed actions had gotten me burned.

I don't care what Hollywood says--this shadowing/surveillance stuff is &^%$#@! hard!
Still alive, for those of you who read my Journal-- it's been about 5 months since I last updated.

Since I'm half-way through the course, I thought I might fill in one-and-all as to my mad scheme; I've made no secret of it, having shared the info with my immediate social circle and family, but I think it's about time to spread the word around to all my acquaintances. After all, some of you might be future clients.

I am currently studying at Boston University's Metropolitan College, in the Center for Professional Education. It's a certificate program, as opposed to a degree, and the course I am studying is Certification in Professional Investigation. In short, I'm studying to be a PI.

Now, I know most of you are saying to yourselves the same thing one of my friends said to me when I told her what I was doing: "But Dennis--you look nothing like a private detective!" Well, that's mostly true--I look nothing like the stereotype of private detective, which is what most think of when "PI" is mentioned; I look nothing like Phillip Marlowe or Mike Hammer, or like most of the characters that have graced the pages of detective novels down through the years.

I do bear an unfortunate similarity to the circumference of Nero Wolfe; on the other hand, I have a better mustache than Thomas Magnum.

The truth of the matter is the modern professional investigator looks nothing like the stereotypes we're all familiar with--it's more important for a PI to be smart and skilled than tough and physically aggressive. Smarts I have, and I'm working on the skills.

Mind you, it's not quite as easy as taking a class--in Massachusetts, you must either work for a licensed PI, or for an attorney (or legal firm) that employs PIs for at least 3 years before you can apply for your own license (that's the broad outline of the license requirement; there's a slightly different set of requirements if you come from a law enforcement background). After that, it's another set of hurdles before I reach my long term goal, of becoming a Certified Criminal Defense Investigator (CCDI). Along the way, it's constantly keeping up with new techniques and new laws, new practices and new information. You can't sit on your ass on this kind of job--well, maybe during surveillance...

So, why am I doing this? A lot of reasons--some practical, some emotional/psychological, and at least one spiritual.

The practical reason is the easiest to explain: our economy has taken a severe hit, and I'm worried about layoffs. I wanted a skill-set that made me "untouchable"-- that is, gave me employment that can't be outsourced, digitized, or automated. I'm a little old (and a bit too clumsy) to become a plumber's apprentice, so when I saw the add for this course, I jumped at it.

The emotional/psychological reason...well, I think anyone who has read any of my journal knows about the mid-life crisis I've been experiencing. Some guys deal with it by buying a car--I chose a change in career.

The spiritual reason I'm not really sure I'm ready to discuss yet. Maybe in a later post.

And now, you know. I'll be writing more later--including a post about an ethical right hook the chief instructor threw the class about two weeks back. It's a nail-chewer.

The return of an unwanted aquaintence.

I decided to sit on this until after two important family functions passed (I didn't want to upstage my cousin, my brother, his wife or my nephew), and until after I had consulted with a specialist as two what course of action I should take. All this has taken place, so, time to spill the beans:

About a month and a half ago, something odd was detected during one of my regular CT scans; after several more scans and an extremely painful biopsy, the conclusion was pretty inevitable.

Igor is back; my cancer has returned.

The good news is that Igor hasn't returned as quite as pervasively as before--there is one 2cm by 1cn tumor in my liver, as opposed to the eight large tumors that I originally had. There are a few tiny cells that do fluoresce under PET scan, but are too small to see with CT or MRI scans, so the one "large" tumor is the only one of real concern.

The bad news is that the tumor is deep within my tumor, and after consulting a liver specialist today, the risks of surgery far outweigh any benefit. So, it's another six months of chemotherapy.

In addition, it turns out that I have an "artifact" on my spleen (early I had been that it was on my liver, but the specialist reviewed the MRI, and concluded that it was, in fact, on my spleen). It does not fluoresce under PET scan, so it is currently considered benign. Currently.

So, it's back to the grind: chemo on every other Monday, carry around a diffusion pump until Wednesday, and then wait for the symptoms to wear down. For six months.

So it goes.
...a thin layer of rich aristocracy, and a large population of subsistence-level poor.

It would appear that we are headed back to that historical model:


In case that doesn't work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akVL7QY0S8A&feature=player_embedded

Now, *this* is poetry

Creed
by Steve Turner



We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin

We believe everything is OK

as long as you don't hurt anyone

to the best of your definition of hurt,

and to the best of your knowledge.



We believe in sex before, during, and

after marriage.

We believe in the therapy of sin.

We believe that adultery is fun.

We believe that sodomy’s OK.

We believe that taboos are taboo.



We believe that everything's getting better

despite evidence to the contrary.

The evidence must be investigated

And you can prove anything with evidence.



We believe there's something in horoscopes

UFO's and bent spoons.

Jesus was a good man just like Buddha,

Mohammed, and ourselves.

He was a good moral teacher though we think

His good morals were bad.



We believe that all religions are basically the same-

at least the one that we read was.

They all believe in love and goodness.

They only differ on matters of creation,

sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.



We believe that after death comes the Nothing

Because when you ask the dead what happens

they say nothing.

If death is not the end, if the dead have lied, then its

compulsory heaven for all

excepting perhaps

Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Kahn



We believe in Masters and Johnson

What's selected is average.

What's average is normal.

What's normal is good.



We believe in total disarmament.

We believe there are direct links between warfare and

bloodshed.

Americans should beat their guns into tractors .

And the Russians would be sure to follow.



We believe that man is essentially good.

It's only his behavior that lets him down.

This is the fault of society.

Society is the fault of conditions.

Conditions are the fault of society.



We believe that each man must find the truth that

is right for him.

Reality will adapt accordingly.

The universe will readjust.

History will alter.

We believe that there is no absolute truth

excepting the truth

that there is no absolute truth.



We believe in the rejection of creeds,

And the flowering of individual thought.



If chance be

the Father of all flesh,

disaster is his rainbow in the sky

and when you hear



State of Emergency!

Sniper Kills Ten!

Troops on Rampage!

Whites go Looting!

Bomb Blasts School!

It is but the sound of man

worshiping his maker.

A fundamental failure of the law...

...that's how Newt Gingrich described the Arizona illegal immigration law.

Yes--that Newt Gingrich.



For those who can't see the embed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bV3HHloJxSo&playnext_from=TL&videos=sAUek3W-UD0&feature=sub

I'm not too thrilled to pick up 12% of the debt of Greece.
...and today was one of those days.

I've been a bad boy.

I was down at the front door, picking up the mail, when this really cute blond came up to the door, and waved to me through the glass. I didn't recognize her as one of the other tenants, so I opened the door and asked, "Can I help you?"

"Hi, I'm Cathy. I'm going door-to-door talking to people about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Would you like a free copy of the Book of Mormon?"

Ah, a Mormon. "Nah. I already have a copy from the last missionary I scared off."

She didn't even blink at that. "Oh, that's great! Have you ever considered coming to one of our meetings?"

I looked her over as she ran through her speech; early twenties, slim, about 5'6" or so. Nice figure, and her hair color looked natural. Typical conservative blouse and skirt combo, with white sneakers. I figured she had just started her missionary work, and had come from the Midwest rather than Southwest--her skin tone was almost as pale as mine, which would be murder in Nevada or Utah.

It's been a while since I had a run-in with a Mormon missionary, so I was mentally digging through the back of my head looking for one of my old standbys to throw them off, and I was having some difficulty remembering the name of the conman who snookered their church back in the 1980's, when...

Look, this was entirely out of character for me--ask anyone who knows me, and they'll tell you: my biggest problem is that I'm entirely too passive--especially when it comes to women. I actually have difficulty asking women for their names, for Christ's sake!

So, what happened next, well...maybe it was the combination of the meds I took for my hypertension & hypothyroidism and the heparin they used at the doctor's office, or maybe because the doctor's visit had gone so well (the blockage at the end of my catheter seems to have dissolved--they were able to get a positive blood return when they flushed the port), or maybe it was just plain old hormones getting the upper hand....

"You know, that's a nice outfit you're wearing."

That stopped her dead in her tracks. "Oh. Umm...thank you." I saw her hand go up to brush her hair back.

"Would you like to come upstairs and see how it looks on my living room floor?"

Her hand stopped in mid-stroke, and I thought her eyes were going to pop right out of her head. Myself, I could feel a blush racing up my face, and my jaw drop open over what I had just said. Part of me was bracing for a slap, but there was another part of me saying C'mon--say yes.

Well, there was no slap--she spun on her heel and speed-walked away, looking over her shoulder at me a couple of times to see if I was following her. She did stop at the end of the block and give me a long look, but she was too far for me to see what kind of expression she had. I sort of half waved at her, and she vanished around the corner. I assume that her partner (Mormon missionaries usually travel in pairs) was around the bend, because I didn't see her nearby.

I doubt she'll be back.