Diana Pharaoh Francis | Diana P. Francis | Diana Francis

Archive for the 'my life' Category

Friday, March 22nd, 2019
Spring is Springing

Usually this time of year I’m ready to dig into the garden and grow things. This year . . . not so much. Part of that is because I can’t do any garden things until we put up a dog fence around the garden beds. We also have a lot of cleanup and repair to do on various things in the yard. Even so, I usually can’t wait to get going. This year is weird.

It may be because of the funk I’ve been in. It’s been long and difficult. It may also be because I’ve got to get a lot of work done and decluttering and spring cleaning and little house projects I’ve needed to do and really make me feel itchy. So gardening seems to be a little bit on the back burner.

Speaking of itchy, I’ve been having some sort of skin rash for about five weeks now. It’s freaking itchy and I’m guessing it hives. Trouble is, allergy medicine doesn’t do much. I’ve got some topical cream from the doc, but it’s not doing that much either. It’s driving me freaking nuts. I’ve got to go to the doc again and see if there’s more to be done.

We’ve been walking the dogs a lot and that’s been fun. The weather’s been nice and everything’s starting to bloom. The air smells divine. Merlin likes to crash into me when he comes running back with the ball we throw, which is giving me bruises on my legs.

Planning on going to Miscon this year. Looking forward to it. I should have book coming out in April, but more on that later. And I’m working on wrapping up the second Mission: Magic series.

And now, back to work!

 

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019
Dog Battles

The battle to a) not get bitten by Merlin, b)teach him not to bite, c) keep him supremely occupied and entertained, is ongoing. He’s doing better in a lot of ways. We’re also giving him a calming treat with some CBD in it designed for dogs. That helps him with anxiety, which I think he has a little bit of. He seems to bite/snap when he’s relaxing and we start petting him. It’s odd. Yesterday he came and snuggled onto my lap and I went to pet his head and he snapped. He didn’t really get me (I’m learning to move quick) but it’s not just me, is it? That’s weird?

We’re still considering taking him to a veterinarian behaviorist. But first I have to get copy edits in on The WitchKin Murders and I have to get my taxes together and off to the accountant.

We’ve been taking the dogs out every day for their walk and then to throw the ball for Merlin who loves to chase it, even when he’s dead tired. It’s hard to find places where we can take him off leash, though. And we’ve discovered if one of us throws the ball and the other takes the other dogs off walking, he comes looking for the walkers. He gets really worried as soon as he can’t see the walkers. So we do the walk first and then the older dog rests and the younger corgi plays and sniffs while Merlin runs after the ball. I’ve also been making fleece tug toys that both puppies love. It’s a whole lot cheaper than buying them.

After three and a half weeks, I still have itchy hives and allergy medicine isn’t helping. Hoping to talk to the doctor today. She’s been out of the office the last few days.

I’ll post a snippet of The Witchkin Murders soon, so look for it!

Friday, January 11th, 2019
Cotton Picking

Did you ever hear that phrase? I heard it fairly frequently as a kid and not so much lately. I happened to read it today and got to thinking about how bigoted that phrase is. The phrase is always pejorative: Keep your cotton picking hands to yourself. Get your cotton picking hands off that.

Off the top, it clearly refers to those who picked cotton by hand, and specifically that would be African Americans. So it’s an incredibly racist statement. Keep your black hands off whatever or to yourself. Don’t use our bathrooms either. Or our drinking fountains. It’s truly foul and I’m really glad it’s fallen out of common usage. But isn’t it amazing how just looking at it without context there’s nothing particularly offensive about it. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be black and hear a phrase like that. I mean, I hear any kind of “like a girl” phrase and I get a little homicidal. Because there are no does things like a girl phrase that are complimentary to girls.

I’m trying to think of other phrases like Cotton Picking that I’ve heard that are racist and I didn’t realize. Anybody want to enlighten me?

Monday, November 19th, 2018
Movie Annoyance or Why Did They Have to Ruin a Movie That Way?

Actually they didn’t so much ruin the movie, because that would suggest it was good enough to ruin, so much as they built it upon a super crappy premise. The movie is a 2015 movie called Vice, starring Bruce Willis and Thomas Jayne. It’s got a West World vibe going on, with a sort of city-playground populated with “residents” who are cyborgs. These cyborgs are made of mostly human parts, but are fairly disposable and essentially props in the playing out of vices of whoever pays to play in this city-playground. At the end of the play-time, the cyborg’s memories are erased (ish) and the borg is reset with its base personality programming. So he or she repeats the same day–in the case of the focal cyborg, she is on her last night bartending before she moves on to another job.

Now when you think of the array of potential vices–fantasies people can live without repercussion, which do you think of? I can thing of a range of sexual fantasies people could play out, from orgies to swinging to just a super romantic encounter. I can see experiences like rescuing people or gambling with unreal money and winning all the time and living the luxurious life. I can see getting to boss people around on a job for once. I can see someone cutting lose in a variety of ways. Adultery, drugs, gluttony . . . I mean, there are so many possibilities.

But that’s not what happens in this vice-playground. It seems that it’s a playground where men beat/rape/kill women. That seems to be the predominant theme. IN fact one woman (our focal bartender), has been killed and tortured so much that she’s started having flashbacks. They are unable to fully erase the memories.

Why is killing, raping, and torture a vice? I guess I can see doing sword fighting in medieval style or in gamer style. Or swashbuckling maybe. But this? And it seems to be completely directed against women. They are dolls whose total purpose is to be victims of male violence.

What the fuck? I mean, really? Why would they make this movie? Don’t answer. Or rather, I already know. That’s typical of how our culture views women. Disposable. Objects.

So anyhow, I have no idea what happened beyond the point where I realized just what the movie was about. I couldn’t even watch for the sake of commentary without wanting to vomit.

Have you encountered these movies lately? This one was made in 2015. Shouldn’t film makers start getting a clue? Getting into this century? Hell, getting out of their misogyny?

 

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018
Puppy Outing

We had our first jaunt out to the park today. Crowley’s shots are finally fully active, so we can do that without worrying about Parvo. They boys had never been and were absolutely entranced. Trying to look at and smell everything, running back and forth like Tigger on speed. They made me run with them in sandals, which is not wise for me, given the enormous and horrible black eye I gave myself while running in Birkenstocks a few years back. I tripped and landed on my face and while I didn’t break my orbital bone, it was awful and I still have a bruise on the bone that hurts. Also, I never did get my foot surgery so the right foot is still unhappy with me walking on it, much less running.

So anyhow, the puppies wanted to run exuberantly. I ran with them. I stopped far sooner than they wanted, but they weren’t unhappy because there were other things to sniff and see and hear and nose and touch. They came home, ate dinner, and then fell into a coma. Once they were rested, they began the evening parkour/MMA event, which still proceeds apace. Pictures of the boys below, sans Voodoo, who is annoyed with them. He has taken to lying beside me on the couch and eyeing the shenanigans with great irritation. I can hear him saying, “Get off my lawn!”

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018
Murder Trial Parts 3 and 4

Previously I talked about attending a murder trial. If you haven’t read parts one and two, I’ll give you the links to those pages.

Part I

Part II

What follows are the next two parts.

Murder Trial Part III

In Part I and Part II, I talked about things I’d learned and the initial testimony of the coroner, first cops on the scene, and the investigating detective.

Now a cybernetics and forensic sound detective was called to the stand. A lot of time was spent establishing in credentials. He had degrees in his field and he’d trained with the FBI and CIA, plus taken a lot of post graduate classes. He knew his stuff.

The reason he was called was because of Sparky’s phone, that as I said before, was found on the counter. It was an iPhone, and at first the police couldn’t get into it. About a week after the murder (and I’m calling it that because he was convicted), a member of her family produced the code and unlocked it.

That’s when they discovered the recording.

Now, this was interesting for me because I hadn’t heard any of the opening statements earlier that day, and so I had no context for the recording. I’m fairly certain the prosecution laid out its narrative of what happened in the opening, as did the defense, and so I think the jury must have had some context.

The detective was questioned about how he worked with the phone and how he took the recording off it. He talked about putting it into a Faraday Box so that it couldn’t transmit or receive any transmissions, and then went into technical detail about how he processed the phone.

Eventually, they got to the recording, which they proceeded to play. I’ll tell you more about that soon. Then there was an attempt to present an “enhanced” recording, which the defense objected to (they didn’t object at all to the recording’s initial presentation). Their argument was essentially that the enhancement would prejudice the jury (the jury had been removed from the courtroom for this objection argument). The prosecution argued that this was no different from photographs with arrows and explanations provided by investigating detectives.

The reason that they wanted the enhanced recording was because certain things on the recording could not be heard on the courtroom’s sound system. What the detective said was that in his sound room, with high end speakers and no exterior sounds, things could be heard that couldn’t be heard on the court speakers without pushing the gain and things like that. Basically, he was amplifying certain sound waves to make them more audible.

The judge ruled in favor of the prosecution. The jury came back in and then the enhanced recording was played. I’ll admit I didn’t hear a lot of what had been enhanced, but here’s the sequence.
One thing that wasn’t clear at the beginning was how much of the beginning of the recording had been cut that we didn’t hear. We learned that later. But I’ll get to that soon.

So first we hear a knock on the door. No one answers. Then the door opens and we hear footsteps. Maybe six or seven. Then we hear two quick shots and a gasping sound, and then the body hits the floor along with the phone. Then six more shots.

Then there are sounds and the phone is picked up. There’s swearing and the sounds of numbers being punched into the phone and then the cabinet getting kicked or the counter getting hit. After that, there are several minutes of walking through the house and more sounds near the phone, and more muttering and swearing. And then finally he calls the police.

Jason sounds panicky, though when he’s walking through the house he seems very calm. He says he’s killed his wife, that she wasn’t supposed to be there, that she attacked him with a knife. The operator talks to him and he claims he’s checking her pulse and she’s not breathing. He says he shot her eight times. The operator tells him to go outside and wait for the police to arrive, and we can hear the sirens, and then voices signaling the arrival of the police. What’s interesting is that we can hear the operator talking to dispatch and the dispatch talking to the officers. It was kind of surreal.

So that was the recording and the main evidence. As I think I mentioned at the beginning of all this, the reason I was at the trial was because my husband had been called by the prosecution to testify. I couldn’t be there for that, as he wasn’t called that day, and I couldn’t come back the next day.

But he’d been talking to Jason about Sparky and the difficulties in their marriage, and then at one point Jason (my husband thought jokingly and still does), asked a fellow hispanic employee if he knew any gang members. This is what they prosecution wanted to ask about. The implication being that Jason was looking to hire a hitman.

Next time . . . The defense story and my problems with their narrative.

Murder Part IV

All right, so last time I talked about the recording and the murder. Now I want to talk about the defense story of what happened and why I had such issues with it.

I read this in the paper, so I don’t have the details I might have if I’d been there, and I wish I could have been.
So what the story of the defense is as follows . . . .

It was Valentine’s Day. Jason and his girlfriend (who, in soap opera style, was the maid-of-honor at their wedding, and in news that doesn’t matter, her boyfriend was Jason’s former best friend), had decided to take his young kids to a Valentine’s breakfast at McDonalds before he went to work. However he had a bout of IBS and sent them without him and then called into work and said he couldn’t go.

He says that Sparky shows up after his kids are gone and they get into a huge fight and she threatens him, grabbing the bread knife to do it, and then storms out with it. Fearing she’ll return, he goes to get his pistol out of the gun safe which is why he has it. He claims that she returns a short time later, comes in with the knife and attacks him, and then he shoots her.

I had a number of problems with his story. First, I found it very hard to believe that he and his girlfriend would be taking the kids to McDonalds before school and before Jason left for work. Here’s why. He began work at 7 a.m., so he had to leave an hour early to get there. That means he had to get his two kids, ages somewhere between 6-10, out of bed and to eat before that. As a parent, I found that very difficult to believe.

Then there was his timeline. He didn’t text in to say he wasn’t going to be at work until after 7 (something my husband’s boss was called to testify about). So he knew he wasn’t going to work as early as six when he’d have had to depart, but doesn’t text his boss until after he was supposed to be there. Incidentally, the murder happened around 7 a.m.

Then there was the recording. She walks in and goes a few steps and there’s gunshots. No talking of any kind, no fight, no sounds of her attacking him with a knife.

Why was her phone on the counter? She was holding it as she walked in from the sound of things on the recording. You could hear it hit the floor when she fell. And along the same lines, why was the knife so loose in her hand when the backpacks in the other were so tight they had to pry out of her hand?

But there were a few other things that I haven’t mentioned. She’d made a habit of coming to pick up the kids before school when he wasn’t home, even though she wasn’t supposed to. I don’t know if that was a legal agreement or not. Apparently this made Jason very angry.

He’d switched vehicles with his dad the night before, saying he needed his dad’s truck. He left his car at his dad’s house. That meant Sparky had no idea he was home because the car wasn’t there.

But the big kicker was that this wasn’t the only recording. She’d recorded 12 other visits prior to this and the prosecutor played the first minutes of each time. They were the same. She knocked on the door and either walked in, walked down the hallway and talked to her kids and their grandfather—Jason’s father—(who seemed to always be happy to see her), or he answered the door and let her in.

Twelve times. Then on number thirteen, she walks in and gets shot. If she was planning to attack him with a knife, why carry the backpacks? She expected obviously her kids to be there, which suggests she wasn’t planning on a fight. Second, why record if she was about to commit a major crime like assault or murder? Makes no sense.

I find it difficult to believe that this wasn’t a premeditated murder. He got his kids out of the house. He made sure his car wasn’t there to warn Sparky. He lay in wait with his gun in the kitchen behind the refrigerator so he could shoot her as soon as she came out of the hallway. From the recording, she didn’t see him. He shot her before she knew he was there.

Clearly he wasn’t expecting the recording. He wasn’t expecting that his several minutes before the call to 911 would be heard by anybody, nor that he’d only checked her vitals to see how she was when he called. And no, I don’t think he actually checked her vitals.

I do wonder if I’d actually heard the defense and heard him on the stand, if I would have believed him. But I don’t know how he would have explained away the problems I see.

So that’s it. The whole part of the trial I saw and what I learned about later from reading the paper about his testimony.

This is a link to one of the accounts that includes a summary of his testimony.

 

 

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018
Asking for Money

Hi Everybody. I’m here to ask for money. My daughter is starting High School and joining the Competitive Marching Band. They get to go do a lot of competitions and for the first time in the school’s history, they are going to the Grand Nationals in Indianapolis. This means each student has to raise $2000. We’re doing what we can to participate in fundraisers and do our own, but I’m reaching out to all of you to see if you’ve might be able to scrape some pocket change out of the couch. Any little thing helps and it’s tax deductible. If you’re part of a business that might want to sponsor her, we will give you a picture and thank you note to post in your business. And I thank anybody who contributes in advance (I won’t know who you are or if you do, so let me know if you want to and I will send you a picture and thank you as well).

If you are able to, send the money through Paypal to: westsalemband@gmail.com with a notation that it’s for Sydney Francis. If you’d prefer to send it in, I’m attaching a screenshot of the form with the address. And again, thanks so much if you can offer anything. This is really an amazing opportunity for her.

And if you’d rather send through snail mail:

This is a video of last year’s band performing:

 

Sunday, July 29th, 2018
Murder Trial Part II

If you haven’t read part one and you want to, click here

I left off last time having talked about the procedure of the courtroom and what I’d learned. Now I’ll move on to the evidence.

The first person on the stand that I got to see was the assistant coroner. She got asked a lot of questions about her experience and her qualifications to testify, and then the questions turned to the body. They showed pictures of the body on a monitor, which was facing the jury so I couldn’t see it that well.

It was already established that Jason had emptied the magazine of his automatic pistol into Sparky. I can’t tell you what caliber, but I believe it was probably a .9 mm or a .45. I believe he fired eight shots total.

According to the coroner’s testimony, the first bullet went into her left shoulder at an angle. That’s the shot that killed her, going to her heart. After that, she was shot seven more times in the back.

After discussing the wounds and the likely order of them and which killed Sparky, it was time to move on to the cops who first on the scene. Jason was waiting outside for them. They secured him, and went inside. They found Sparky facedown sort of slumped up against the back of the couch.

The prosecutor now had one of the detectives lay up against the Judge’s stand (I don’t really know what that’s called) to demonstrate to the jury. The cop adjusted the detective until the scene imitated how he’d found Sparky.

Next he was asked about her body. In one hand she was clutching two children’s backpacks so tight that they had to be pried from her hand, and her other hand she held the knife that Jason claimed she tried to kill him with. The knife released easily from her fingers, which were loose on the handle. Her phone was found on the counter.

Then the prosecutor asked about the brass ejected from the gun. My understanding of the layout is this: A short hallway led from the front door to a room that was open concept. On the left was the kitchen with an island and the refrigerator was on the left as you walked in, blocking the immediate view of the kitchen. On the right was a pony wall with a computer set up in front of it, and directly ahead was the living room area with the couch where Sparky’s body was found.

Brass was found on the keyboard, on top of the fridge, and then littered around the kitchen floor.

The defense then asked whether the officer had made a mistake by removing the knife from the scene before the detective arrived and whether he thought the officer thought he’d tampered with the scene (there were no pictures of the knife in her hand).

Next is was the investigating detective’s turn. He was sworn in and asked about his report being correct and all that stuff I mentioned in my first post. He was then asked what he saw when he came on scene. I don’t remember if the body had been removed by then or not. I want to say no.

But the prosector focused a lot on the knife. The knife block with all the knives was produced, and then the knife that Sparky was supposed to have attacked Jason with. The last was a serrated breadknife with a very sharp inch-long or more point. It was established that these knives belonged to Jason. The defense queried about the fact that the knife was dirty, and indicated that before Sparky was supposed to have grabbed it, it had been used for cutting bread and so was on the island, not in the block.

This last was important because to get to the block, she’d have had to cross the kitchen, reach under the cabinet to the back of the block to get the knife. On the island, it was much more accessible to her.

Next they showed a video of the house interior and exterior. This, apparently, is common protocol in a murder investigation. Everything is filmed to establish where things were and where they weren’t. The body had been removed by this time. As he walked through the house and filmed, the detective indicated where certain pieces of furniture were and where rooms were. One thing they made a point of was that the gun safe was in another room.

So at this point, they dismissed the detective and called another detective, specializing in forensic sound and cybernetics. This is where I learned that Sparky had recorded her murder.

Next time: The recording.

Monday, July 16th, 2018
Murder Trial Part 1

I had occasion to attend a portion of a murder trial a couple months ago. My husband had to testify, called by the prosecution. More on that later.

A man was on trial for murdering his estranged wife on February 14, 2017. I remember that date because my husband had his wisdom teeth out that day, and we got the news the next morning just before I headed out for the Rainforest Writers Village, a writing retreat.

Why did we get the news? The accused (now convicted), named Jason, was a former coworker of my husband’s and they’d been talking about his situation over the previous months. Jason was in the middle of a bitter divorce with two young children in the middle (both under 10, I believe). He was frequently upset with his wife who he claimed was abusing the kids. He talked to my husband fairly regularly about it. My husband told him to document everything, and to work with the police and his lawyer. Jason claimed that her parents were willing to testify on his behalf in a custodial hearing, and he claimed that his wife’s boyfriend’s ex-wife was also concerned that Sparky (the murder victim) was abusing her kid and was talking to the police.

So we were feeling pretty sympathetic to his situation, given this information.

And then he killed her. Read the rest of this entry »

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018
It’s been a hard few weeks

It’s been tough at the Francis house for the last month or so. First there was a situation with my daughter at school. That’s ongoing but hopefully working out. Then one of our corgi boys died. We took him to the vet because he wasn’t feeling so good, and turned out his entire stomach and chest were full of cancer. We had to put him to sleep and it was horrible. I did not take it very well, I can tell you. But then we got a miniature blue heeler puppy. My husband really wanted him and we hoped Voodoo would like him. Voodoo has never been alone in his life: Viggo was his littermate. But Voodoo hates him. I’m hoping he gets over that. We also plan to get another corgi puppy in a few weeks. A great nephew of Viggo and Voodoo. He may be good company for Merlin (mini-blue heeler). His name will be Crowley. (Sensing a theme?)

And then, just when we thought things were evening out . . . . A couple days ago my husband fell down the stairs in the house and broke five ribs in six places. He’s in a lot of pain, as you might guess. It will be four to six weeks at least before he heals.

So things have been difficult here, though I’ve tried to keep writing and doing my work. It’s slow going.

Sweet Viggo. I miss him so much.

Voodoo

But I will leave you with some dog pics because of course you want to see them.

Merlin