Hi. I know I haven’t written anything here for a while, but I was so fired up by something I read, I felt compelled to write. I apologize in advance if this article is too long. Yesterday, I read this article:
For those of you who have never read my blog, I am a senior Mass Comm. major at Morningside College. I am an outspoken, unashamed advocate for people with disabilities, particularly people with autism. I hope that this will be my legacy. I have a form of autism, Asperger’s Syndrome. Whenever I see articles in the news about autism, I usually read them. I come with my personal bias, admittedly. I am very interested in reading about families dealing with the challenges of autism on a daily basis, as I find these stories most relatable.
The article is about a 21 year old young man with severe autism who lives in California. Under the federal Department of Education , public school districts are required to provide free appropriate public education, or FAPE, to students with disabilities until they age out of the system. His mother has filed a complaint with a local office of civil rights. She says that her son was mistreated by a teacher at the public school he attends. The student, David, has a nurse that assists him at school because he has diabetes. The nurse vouched for the mother’s complaints, saying that she has witnessed on more than one occasion a teacher mistreating him. The school offered the mother $86, 000 to keep David out of the school district.
Here are my thoughts on the story, based on my personal experience of spending my teen years in the special education system. I know many parents and educators who are passionately dedicated to creating a successful school environment for their children and students. I My first impression of the school district is that they are paying the mother hush money. They don’t want to have a lawsuit on their hands, and they don’t want to admit that one of their teachers, quite frankly, ought to be fired.
According to the article, David sounds very pleasant natured. In fact, he reminds me of a young teen I know from my local Area Education Agency (AEA) autism group. I will call him Steve. I used to be afraid of Steve, because he is tall and heavyset. He used to pick me up in the air and I would have to explain to him that “some people do not like to be picked up without any warning.” After I had known Steve for a little while longer, I got used to his autism. I am tearing up a little when I think about how much joy Steve brings to our group. He is an expert on being himself-silly, boisterous, playful, energetic and sweet. His mother is one of the most patient people I have ever met. She and the many parents in the group are tireless advocates for their children.
In a world that promotes itself as being tolerant and modern, it is amazing to me what kind of disgusting, hateful venom people spew at each other on the internet. The comment section in the article about David really brought out people’s true colors, and it was ugly. Really ugly. A lot of the commenters were very quick to judge the mother, calling her lazy, saying that she “wants the school to be a babysitter”. Another brilliant idea that was frequently voiced was, “Why does my NORMAL kid have to be in school with someone like him?” Here are some more: “Why can’t they put these kids in a separate school?” “He’s going to be a useless burden to taxpayers.” “Some people just feel entitled to things. When MY children were in school, I took some responsibility!”
There were many other comments that I felt were so horrendously awful, I wouldn’t dare put them here. People in the disability community have to deal with a lot of ignorance. People are quick to judge, they make assumptions, and sometimes they ask rude questions or make rude comments. It comes with the territory. But then the commenters said: “Keep abortion legal and this problem will occur less often.” “There is NO place for special children. Can you imagine what will happen if abortion was illegalized and the number of defective children increases exponentially?”
Those comments, the ones encouraging the killing of those who are different, remind me of someone. Hitler. I wonder how much worse WWII would have been if Nazis had been able to hide behind computer screens, spewing their anonymous hate for people whose only crime was being Jewish. The commenters need to remember, that one day, they will be judged by the way they have judged others.
To the commenters who have the nerve to criticize this mother: This woman cares about her son. She is going to bat for him, because he needs her to be his voice. Parents of children with special needs are some of the most compassionate, hard working people you will ever meet. I highly doubt that you would be able to survive one day in the shoes of this mother. Who is to say that you will never be affected by someone with a disability? You could get into a car accident and be in a wheelchair. Your loved ones or friends could someday have a disability. Maybe your own child might have a disability.
To the commenters and others who think that people with disabilities are useless and unimportant: We are important, and we do have a place and a purpose in this world. We are important to God, and to our friends and families. We are everywhere. We are deaf, blind, in wheelchairs, have autism and many other disabilities. We have different mental, developmental and physical challenges. We are not going away. Our voice is getting stronger, and we know we are not alone in our everyday struggles. We will continue to overcome our struggles, despite living in a world that says we can’t do it. We have changed this world, and we will continue to do so.
New International Version (NIV)
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
For I am not ashamed of the gospel ; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith…. -Romans 1:16
One reason I enjoy being a part of Oasis is that I get to play my violin, Ozgood. I get to play great songs that honor God. When I experience fellowship with my Oasis friends, God’s presence feels very near to me. It is so fun to be a part of something that has a positive effect on my fellow students’ lives.
For the past few years, we have gone to the Gospel Mission to perform a worship service for our last Sunday before Christmas break. It is quite a humbling experience to worship for and with people who have had difficult times, but still seek to fill their spiritual hunger.
I ask Cendejas how the Oasis group got started. “It’s been around for about three or four years. Jackie Lincoln and Alyssa Filipek, who have both since graduated, started the group. They felt there was a need for a new worship group on campus,” says Cendejas.
Since January of 2012, Cendejas has been the worship leader for Oasis. He took over after Filipek graduated. When asked about the goal of Oasis, he says, “The purpose of Oasis is to establish a place where people can worship Jesus Christ freely, where they can grow spiritually, and have a fellowship experience. We hope that the sense of community people feel at Oasis will go beyond the church walls and into other parts of their life, like school and home.” Oasis currently meets at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday evenings at Grace United Methodist Church, next to Morningside College’s science building.
Cendejas hopes to reach those who are spiritually confused or lost. “We want Oasis to encourage people in their relationship with Jesus Christ. When we come to worship together, we are the body of Christ. We hope to grow in our faith by using the talents God has given us. People want to serve, whether musically, technologically or by speaking at Oasis.” There are many musicians that contribute to Oasis: guitarists, a violinist, singers and even a beat box drummer.
Paige Potter attends Oasis frequently. She says it reminds her of growing up in the church. “I always went to church on Sunday. My parents dragged me even when I didn’t feel like going. I’m really glad they made me go, because of all the great music and message. Since Oasis is on Sunday nights, I don’t have to get up early in the morning.”
Director of Campus Ministries, Kathy Martin, says that Oasis has not always been at Grace Methodist. “We started out going from dorm to dorm every week. Then the church decided to let us open the church on Sunday nights. It was a great opportunity, because there was more space.”
Martin talks about how the name of the group came to be. “The word “oasis” means a place of refreshment in a dry place. It is a way to get revived in “the desert,” she says. “Oasis is intentionally spiritually refreshing. It is a time to focus on our relationship with God and experience fellowship with other people. For me personally, it’s been really good to have Oasis. I want to have a worship experience that is unique from a church setting. Oasis is a lot more laid back.”
Although Oasis has been successful in the past years, Martin and some members of the worship band believe there needs to be a change for next semester. There is not as many people attending Oasis as there used to be. “We’re going to have new hours and a new location. We plan to meet on Wednesdays at 11:35 in the Olson Student Center. It has been a wonderful experience, but we have new students and they need something different,” says Martin.
Hopefully, the changes will reach more students and Oasis will continue to change people’s hearts.
In the library, there is an abundance of student art, particularly photography. For this review, I chose to compare and contrast two photographs close to the periodicals section on the first floor.
Krystal Carlson’s piece shows the bright lights of a city, with an emphasis on traffic moving quickly through the night. The lights are able to show the speed of the nighttime drivers, the way the lights blur together as if they are all one long line of bright light. There are three different sections of traffic showing these speedy lines. One of them is thiner, and bright red. Unlike the other two sections, which are bright white, like a flashlight, the red lines appear to disappear in the night. The middle line is long enough that it seems to link itself to the small, faint lights of the big buildings. The shortest section ends abruptly with what appears to be from cars coming from the other direction. When I look at the piece closer, the long, white lines resemble spaghetti. Some of the spaghetti is short and splits at the end, and another noodle is very long and slightly wavy.
The bright lights and buildings behind them do not tell us their location. One of the buildings is amber and yellow brown in color. It is one of the tallest in the picture. Another building has a UFO looking shape at the top. It is white, silver white, with more cool tones than the lights on the the late night road.
Like Carlson’s photograph, the setting of Spencer Eiseman’s piece is nighttime. The object in the photograph is ambiguous, although to this reviewer, it looks like an amusement park ride at night. Carlson and Eiseman also share their use of bright light as the main focus of their pieces. Spaced like a spider web, the long lines stretch out and look like a strand of pearls. The pearls compete with the gold and dark yellow unclosed circles and lights in the piece. There is use of repetition with the yellow “C” shaped objects. Few other colors are present other than yellow and bright white. Another difference between Eiseman and Carlton is the direct the picture is going. Carlton’s is forward into an blurry distance, while Eiseman’s seems to be taken from the side view.
I think photography students and enthusiasts would appreciate these pieces. I think it would be interesting to have some background information about the photographs too, such as when the picture was taken, what was the artist’s idea or intent and in Eiseman’s case, what it is the audience is viewing. Students needing a break from a study marathon might enjoy perusing the small collection of pictures.
How can a book about something so grotesque be engaging and humorous as well? Jessica Snyder Sachs writes of maggots, rotting flesh and rigor mortis in her book Corpse: Nature, Forensics and the Struggle to Pinpoint Time of Death. The book explores the science of determining time of death. There are three traditional methods for determining time of death. Rigor mortis is the amount of stiffness in a corpse. Lividity is the amount of blood settling and pooling in the body. The third method, or “post-mortem clock,” is body temperature.
According to Sachs, movies and television have created the myth that determining time of death is an exact science. The stiffness of rigor mortis is caused by the biochemical adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The amount of ATP at the time of death depends on whether the person was physically active. For example, a person who died in a struggle would develop rigor mortis at a different rate from a person who died in their sleep. The stiffness gradually goes away, so using rigor mortis as an indicator of death would not be helpful. Lividity is very subjective, because it depends on describing the shade of a person’s skin color. It is also difficult to distinguish colors if the corpse’s skin is not white. Body temperature is a very inaccurate measure of time of death because it is affected by so many variables, such as weight of the person, material of clothing, and climate.
In the 20th century, three new areas of science began to develop additional tools for determining time of death. In anthropology, a scientist can estimate time of death from the way a skeleton becomes disconnected and bones lose their marrow and gradually break down. The area of entomology can measure time by the rate that insects swarm to a body. A biologist can find clues to the time of death in plant material under a body or accumulated on top of a body. Biology can reveal information through the way vegetation covers a body.
Jessica Sachs is an award-winning science writer. She has a degree from Columbia Journalism School and has taken graduate courses in immunology, microbiology and infectious disease. For many years, she was an editor of national science magazines.
Corpse is extensively researched. Sachs includes many historical details. For example, she explains the origin of the word “coroner”, the history of the acceptance of autopsy as a valid scientific technique, and tells the story of individuals who developed certain research methods. There are many case studies in the book, actual murder cases in which time of death was important to finding a defendant guilty or not guilty.
Despite the gruesome details in the book, Sachs successfully engages her audience. She gives character and relatability to the scientists in her story. She breaks up the morbid details with bits of humor. Sachs describes a study of how blowflies would reproduce on the clothing of a corpse. The research used pigs, so the researcher requested donations of underwear at her university. The story got out to the media and the researcher was afraid her project would be shut down. “There are some things you just can’t find at Goodwill.” Sachs comments, “But if pigs in black net stockings and spike heels would further crime science, so be it.”
Many parts of the book had wince-worthy descriptions of insects and maggots munching on dead bodies. This book is not for those with weak stomachs. However, the stories of the actual murder cases would probably be interesting to readers who enjoy true crime stories. The book could be a good resource for defense attorneys. Corpse did a good job of making science readable.
I am supposed to write about what frustrates me. So here it goes.
Getting into arguments with my parents is something that frustrates me. It’s like this: I love you guys, but sometimes you drive me crazy. Which is one of the reasons I don’t live with them anymore. So, now I am back in their house for Thanksgiving, and we are already not getting along. My parents were working on a home fixer-upper project when I came over, and my dad was annoyed that he couldn’t find one of his favorite sweatshirts. I tried to help, which ended up backfiring, because my mom wanted me to do something for her at the exact same time. I can’t be at two places at once. We all ended up bickering at each other. Why is it that the people you love the most seem to irritate you the most?
I am having an R.E.M. marathon. It is helping me to study. Listening to music can be a great escape from reality.
Anyway, my dad just went to his boat storage place so he can have his “mancave” time. He brought his favorite tools-wrenches, his brand new soddering gun, and a lot of other somewhat familiar but I-don’t-know-what-they-are-for type things. It’s a part of my dad’s life I still don’t quite get. He and I have talked about it. It’s been his life-long dream, for the past 40 years, to build a boat and sail it down the Mississippi River. He loves working on his boat, not having to deal with anyone interupting his solitude.
The thing about frustration is that, for me at least, it comes it small spurts. It doesn’t last forever, even when I feel like it does. I have to remember not to fixate on what is frustrating me at the time, not let it get ahold of me. I can’t pretend anymore, like I did when I was little, that life will and should go exactly the way I want it.
Cats make me happy. I don’t own any cats (my landlord doesn’t allow pets), but I am going to have a cat in the future. If and when I get married, my husband must love cats. When we are dating, if he thinks they’re just ok, or he detests them, we probably won’t have very many dates in the future. Yes, I’m obsessed with cats.
I have seen the musical Cats twice, the first time in Des Moines during a February blizzard. I love cats. I love it that they are everywhere, whether they are real cats, cats in books, cartoon cats, cats on slippers, cats on pajamas, cat calendars, cats on tv, cats in movies, cats in plays or in mewsicals. Meow! Here are some famous cats: Garfield, Hobbes, Tom Kitten, Moppet, Mittens, Mungojerrie and Rumpleteaser, Mooch (from the comic strip Mutts), Hello Kitty, the Cat in the Hat.
My love of cats began when I was in second grade. I drew them in the margins of my homework assignments. Today, when professors pass around the attendance sheet, I often sign my name with a cat next to it. It’s kind of like my trademark. I don’t mind standing out in this way; I think the cats add whimsy to an otherwise ho-hum list of signatures.
The reasons I love cats are many. I love it when they curl themselves into a ball on your lap, kneed their paws into wherever they are about to sit down, tuck in their paws underneath their fuzzy tummies. I love kittens and their playfulness.
When I was in fourth grade, my mom made me a cat Halloween costume. I had fuzzy, velvety black ears with pink inside, fuzzy black little paws and a long fuzzy black tail. I loved it so much, I wore it in fifth grade, too. My classmates made fun of me, but I didn’t care. My need to embrace my catness trumped any of their opinions.
As I was going into middle school, my parents became concerned that I was too obsessed with cats. They were afraid that people would make fun of me if pretended to be a cat at school. This idea was way over my head-being succeptible to others’ criticisms. I felt that I was in two worlds-my own, and everyone else’s. There were times when it was easier to be in my own world-lots of anthropomphic creatures, a utopia of sorts. I gave objects voices. I still do. Today, it is more accurate to say that feel like I am in two places at once, with my feet on either side of both worlds.
While still puzzled by my cat-loving behavior, my mom stumbled upon an article talking about a young person with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. She thought that the person seemed, “just like Emily”. Soon after that, I started to get pulled out of class to work with a speech therapist. We had a lot of fun-I got to talk about cats, and write about Harry Potter. She was so nice, but I was mystified as to why I was there.
After I was officially diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in May of 2000, we were given answers to questions that had so long been asked. My parents’ concerns for me changed. There was a scary, new world that we were about to explore-special education, iep’s, accommodations, AEA specialists. My teachers in middle school were not prepared to face this world either. They didn’t seem to know much about autism. The idea that a student could have an iep (individualized education plan) but still be in all regular education classes was completely foreign to them. I was the Martian among the Earthlings.
A few years ago, a book was written titled All Cats Have Asperger’s Syndrome. It was so cute! The book explains how many cat behaviors, such as prefering activities alone rather than in groups and having very particular eating habits, are similar to human behaviors in autism. I wonder if this is related to my love of cats. I’m not sure.
Well, it has been fun talking about cats and how it relates to my autism. Meow, purr! >”<
Larry Sensenig answers a student’s question about the Premack’s Principle. “I call it “Grandma’s rule: If you eat your broccoli, you get dessert. A subject is motivated to do something in order to get what they want. How does this relate to what your rats have been experiencing?”
It is a Friday afternoon, at precisely 2:10 p.m. Sensenig’s Learning and Memory psychology class of about 20 students is reviewing questions to prepare for their upcoming rat paper. The students participate in labs, where they have been given the responsibility to practice classical and operational conditioning techniques on white lab rats.
Surprisingly, very few students have their laptops open. Most of them take hand written notes. The few students who are using their computers are typing their notes. Sensenig has mastered the art of keeping his students captivated and not distracted by their computers and cell phones. One way he does this is in his use of humor. While giving examples of Hull’s Drive Reduction Theory, he lists basic drives that people have: food, water, shelter…..sex. “College students don’t have those, do they?” he asks with a chuckle. The class giggles in response.
Sensenig is quite tall, standing at about 6”2, with gray hair sprinkled with white. He has a white goatee, a gray moustache and very dark, thick eyebrows. In the pocket of his collared, button-plaid shirt is a pen. He wears glasses, khaki pants with a brown belt and dark brown shoes. If I didn’t already know who Larry was, I would assume he was a doctor rather than a professor.
When asked about the challenges he faces in teaching, Sensenig says that technology is a big one. “It’s been hard to keep up with advancements in technology. There are generational differences-I’m not as comfortable with technology like Powerpoint and Moodle as the younger professors or my students are. I don’t think that technology is not the secret to being a good teacher. I don’t like to confront students about inappropriate use of technology.”
“I’ve never come to work thinking, “Oh, I hate my job,” Sensenig tells me. He didn’t set out to become a teacher. When Sensenig was an undergraduate at Bradley University, he wanted to go to graduate school for psychology. “There were two different paths I could take: either do psychology research, or teach psychology. I was told that teaching was a lot more satisfying,” he says. Sensenig is in his 39th year of teaching; he began at Morningside in 1974. “I was very nervous on my first day of teaching, especially when I was meeting students,” he says. “My favorite part of my job is watching students grow in their knowledge and expertise, and to realize I’ve been a part of that.”
Sensenig’s love of psychology goes beyond the classroom. He has been the faculty advisor for Psy Chi, the national honors society for psychology since 1975. Morningside’s chapter began in 1939 and was the 34th in the nation. “It gets the students active and enthused. It’s the highest undergraduate association for psychology.” Psych Follies, a psychology group exclusive to Morningside, started in 1993. “Psych Follies is run by the students who are “movers and shakers”. It it sponsored by the psychology department. Students and faculty make light hearted fun of each other,” Sensenig says.
Jessica Pleuss, a 2002 Morningside graduate, is a psychology professor who is now a collegue of Sensenig’s. I ask her what the biggest difference is between being his advisee and being one of his fellow professors. “I call him “Larry” instead of “Dr. Sensenig,” she says. Pleuss recalls a time when she was a student. “It was his birthday. I found a picture of him when he had just started back in the 70’s. He had big hair-a fro! It was not flattering,” she says, laughing. She brought the picture to a Psych Follies event. Sensenig thought it was funny.
Another way Sensenig defies the stereotyped “professor” is that he avoids using a monotone voice. He speaks smoothly, with good pitch variations. His voice conveys the enthusiasm and passion he has for his students’ learning and the subject he teaches. After the class is done, I speak with Victoria Dentler, from Omaha, whose rat’s name is Cheesy. “He cares about us. He connects to his students,” she said. Kelsey Strohbehn, who named her rat “Ratatouille”, agrees. “He’s a pretty fun professor. You can tell he really loves the rats.”
I ask Sensenig about his plans for retirement. “I want to travel, especially in the fall. I want to go to Louisiana, London and go scuba diving. John Pinto and I go fishing in the boundary waters. Maybe we’ll go in September instead of June.” I ask him about what he will miss most about his job. “I’ll miss social interaction with collegues and students. I’ll miss coming to work every day. It’s an important part of one’s life.”
Sensenig will miss the joys of his work, but he looks forward to retirement with a positive attitude. “I see retirement as writing a new chapter in my life.”
It happened when I was 13; I was an 8th grader at Hoover Middle. I was wearing a green t-shirt and my black Nike shorts. I remember when the phone rang. I was in my room, listening to the top-40 radio station. My dad answered the phone. A few minutes later, he came into my room, clearly in distress. “That was the police. Mom was just in a car accident as she was coming from work,” my dad told me.
“Oh, my God! Is she okay?” I asked him.
“Yeah, they said the accident was on Douglas Street. Let’s go down there and see if she’s still there, or if she had to be taken to the hospital.” We jumped in the car. Thankfully, we weren’t too far away.
I knew we were at the scene when I saw the fire truck and a police car. My dad found a place nearby to park and he ran to the police car. An officer stepped out.
“What happened? Is she okay? Is my wife okay?”
“An elderly woman ran a red light. Your wife injured her neck, but other than that, she’s fine. They just sent her to St. Luke’s,” the officer told us.
We got back to the car and rushed to the hospital. When we walked in the crosswalk, my dad was holding my hand. “Dad, I’m okay. I don’t need you to hold my hand,” I told him. “You’re holding MY hand, honey. I’m worried about Mom,” my dad informed me.
Dad and I nervously went up to the desk and the receptionist told us where my mom was. We ran to the elevator.
The nurse told my mom that we had arrived. I wasn’t sure what to expect as we walked into the room. This was the first time my mom was ever in an accident.
She looked tired. Her neck was in a huge brace, and she looked like she was trying not to move her head. We hugged her. “Mom! I’m so glad you’re ok!” I said, relieved. “Thank God you’re all right! How do you feel? Does your neck hurt?” My dad asked.
“Hi, guys! My neck is kind of sore, but the rest of me is okay,” my mom said.
She told us about the accident. An old woman drove through a red light and hit mom’s car. The woman said that the sun was in her eyes, and she thought the light was green. Mom’s black Buick Regal was totaled.
“When she found out I was a lawyer, she had the nerve to ask me legal advice! Then she offered to bake me a pie,” my mom said, frustrated at the woman’s lack of taste.
The doctor came in and gave mom some medicine for her neck. Then we took her home.
I had Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. My mom called her boss and a few of her friends. Dad and I would go look at the car the next day to see what shape it was in.
We looked at the car. It was unrecognizable. “Oh, s**t! We only had this car for three months!” My dad was freaking out, which made me start to feel stressed.
“Dad, don’t worry. It’ll be okay. Mom is safe and that’s the most important thing, right?” I tried to help him put the situation in perspective.
“I just can’t believe it. This doesn’t even look like the same car!” He was in a state of shock. After he was a little calmer, we left.
When students first come to college, they are heavily encouraged to take part in activities outside of class. There are many benefits of these activities: making new friends and having a sense of belonging. However, there is a question students often ask themselves: Do I have enough time to participate in an extracurricular activity or campus event, or am I too swamped with homework?
Kristin Shaw looks up from her encyclopedia-sized biology textbook and smiles at me. She looks like she is studying intensely, so I am hesitant to ask her if she wants to be interviewed. She is really outgoing and friendly, so I introduce myself and explain the assignment. She tells me that she thinks she will be a good person to interview. “I’m taking 18 hours this semester,” she explains. “Wow,” I said, thinking that she must be stressed out all the time. However, after talking with her for a minute or two, she seems surprisingly calm and stress free for someone taking so many classes.
Shaw, a senior from Creston, Iowa, is double majoring in political science and biology and minoring in women’s studies, environmental sustainability and religion. “I didn’t know environmental sustainability was available for a minor,” I told her. In addition to all her classes, she is one of the founding members of TOES (Totally on Earth’s Side) and participates in Morningside Civic Union.
“So, how do you balance all everything? How do you deal with stress?” I ask her. “Well, on Sunday mornings I have what I call “me time”. I take a break and watch movies, go for a walk if it’s a nice day. During the week, I multitask. Like I’m doing right now,” she says. We both laugh. When I ask her if there are people in her life who help with the stress, such as family and friends, her answer surprises me. “Dr. McKinley, one of my advisors, encouraged me to get involved with student government activities when I was a freshman. He’s very much like a dad to me. I call and text him sometimes and I feel I can talk to him about a lot of things.”
For student athletes, there is a challenge to balance homework and going to practice. Chelsey Harvey, a sophomore psychology major plays volleyball. She says that she tries to schedule her classes around her volleyball schedule. “Teachers work around it well. They are usually understanding about scheduling,” she says. Harvey says the biggest challenge is when she has to travel for an away game. “It can be really hard to work on a paper when there is no internet access.”
Anna Hart, a freshman graphic design major from Shenandoah, takes part in cross country and sings in Bel Canto. “Cross country is only for two hours; it’s not super overwhelming,” she says. “I’m taking 13 credits, which hasn’t been too stressful of a load so far. But I struggle a lot with procrastination. I feel like I want to do anything but the homework.” I assured her that she is not alone in her battle with procrastination.
The balance between classes and extracurricular activities can be hard, but it can be achieved.
The Monster of Florence Book Review
The Monster of Florence tells the story of the search for a serial killer who murdered young lovers in the secluded hills around Florence, Italy between 1968 and 1985. Two journalists, one American, one Italian, team up to investigate the gruesome murders. Another aspect of the book is the exposure of the incompetence of the Italian government, and its “grabbing at straws” technique of finding potential suspects.
The two authors, Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi, are both journalists. Preston has written many suspense novels, some with fellow author Lincoln Child. As a teenager, Preston spent a summer in Italy. He decided, 30 years later, to move to Florence with his family. Preston came to Florence to write a murder mystery and met Mario Spezi, a well-known crime reporter for the Italian newspaper La Nazione. Preston found out he was living next to the scene of an old, unsolved murder. This crime is one of a series committed by the aptly named “Monster of Florence.” Spezi has been investigating the serial killings from the time they began in 1968. His fellow journalists at La Nazione nicknamed him the “Monstrologer”.
Spezi provided Preston with the history of the case and shared his information and documents. He also helped Preston understand the complicated Italian criminal justice system. They interviewed family members of the victims. They even interviewed the man they believe to be the Monster.
The authors divide the story of the gruesome killings into two parts. The first part is Spezi’s experience, and the second part is Preston’s experience.
The authors are not emotionally involved in most of the story, until they become suspects themselves. The Italian police put tracking devices in Spezi’s car. The writers were more objective than the government, who believed and tested every conspiracy theory thrown their way (like a dog being thrown a bone). At one point in the case, detectives relied on the outrageous testimony of a conspiracy theorist, Gabriella Carlizzi, who connected the killings with a satanic sect called the Red Rose. (She also blamed the September 11 attacks on the Red Rose.) A chief inspector was so convinced by this sect theory that he described a doorstop as a communication device, “a bridge between this world and Hell.”
While the topic itself is quite fascinating, the book does a poor job of engaging the reader. There are over 70 secondary characters, some of whom have similar names that could be easily confused. The story drags on for what seems like forever. I was so bored with it that I had trouble getting all the way through the book. It had a monotonous tone, especially the first half. Some of the murders described are disturbingly graphic. Preston’s half of the book was much more interesting. I think people who are interested in having a career in journalism might enjoy this book.