In blogging about the disappearance of Centre County’s former district attorney, Ray Gricar, I tend to write a lot of serious blogs. There isn’t too much of chance to joke around. It is a serious subject. Over the past two months, that has been particularly true. I kind of needed a break from the seriousness and I thought you might as well.
A few weeks ago, I was “talking,” via instant message with a friend of mine, that I’ll call Bill. Bill and I were in college together. Though he was originally from eastern Pennsylvania, he now lives in Centre County. Bill knows that I do this blog and we occasionally will talk about the case, but generally we talk about other things (yes, I do have a life outside of the Gricar case). Last month, Bill asked me about another friend of mine from college, that I’ll call Mike. Mike and I didn’t know each other until we were in college, but we actually lived about three apart.
The conversation went something like this:
Bill: Do you remember the blond guy with short hair that was in ROTC? I can’t remember his name.
J. J.: You mean Mike?
Bill: Yes, Mike. Do you know what ever happened to him?
J. J.: I think he’s in the Army; let me check.
[About a 45 second pause]
Okay, he’s in [the name of the state]. It was updated about four months ago.
Bill: Where did you get that?
J. J.: Give me a minute. Okay, here is his Facebook page. [I posted the url] He married the girl he was dating in college.
Bill: How’d you do that?
J. J.: You’re questioning how the super-secret cyber sleuth J. J. in Phila found something on the Internet? :)
[I was quite surprised the sarcasm dripping from my fingertips didn’t short out my keyboard.]
Bill: You’re not going to tell me, are you?
Well, I quickly explained it to Bill. First, I knew when Mike graduated so I checked out the Penn State Alumni directory; Bill never joined the Alumni Association, so he possibly doesn’t have access to it. Then I searched Facebook for Mike in Colorado (I had the town). There was no great trick to it, just general research. It met his wife when they were dating in college and remembered her name.
I was happy to see my old friend Mike, too. The photos on his Facebook page showed he retired as a full colonel in the Army after 25 years, including serving in Afghanistan, and after receiving the Silver Star. I was quite impressed.
I have to admit that I’m always surprised when someone asks, “How’d you do that?” In this case, I knew the person I was looking for, had met his wife, knew his home town, where he went to college, and his career plans. It isn’t too hard, and we were both interested in connecting with old friends.
So the secret of most of how I do research is out; I look things up.
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E-mail J. J. in Phila at firstname.lastname@example.org