Special Reports

What I Learned At Penn State

As I’ve indicated, I am a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University.  I’ve said that I learned four very important things at Penn State that I’ve been able to use in life:

1.  How to research things.

2.  How to understand statistics and probabilities.

3.  How to deal with bureaucracy (usually the school’s bureaucracy).

4.  How to tie a bow tie. 

Yes, after enough credits for a bachelor’s degree, and a minor, writing numerous term papers, reading at least forty books, spending a great deal of my father’s money, driving two very used cars, a badly implemented attempt at break-dancing, a religious conversion (not much of one, from Presbyterian to Episcopalian) and enough craziness to prompt an agreement with old friends to say “What happened in Altoona, stays in Altoona,” (I was Altoona Campus for a year), these four things are things I found most useful.  I don’t even want a refund!

The first three things, maybe the fourth someday, have come in handy in the Gricar case as well.  Some of it might be too apparent, but I have put all to use.

Research should be obvious.  I’ve mastered the search engine; that was, for the first year after I started posting on message boards, how I discovered so much about the case.  I’ve often posted links to sources in these blog entries.  Where are cell towers in the Brush Valley area located?  There is a website that maps them.  How much interest Mr. Gricar could have earned?  An online interest calculator.   The weather and sun set in Bellefonte?  Online archives that list them.

            One group of sources I’ve used, off line, is old copies of the Pennsylvania Manual.  If you want know how I could possibly know Mr. Gricar’s public salary in 1997, it is because I have a copy of the 1997 Pennsylvania Manual, where the data was published.   That Judge Grine was elected judge in 1981 and was a former police officer?  Pennsylvania Manual, again.  That most of how I do it; I look things up.

            Statistics and the odds of something happening have come into play in the Gricar case as well.  I tried to look at how likely it was for a few things to happen.  One was a very simple calculation, how likely was it randomly for Mr. Gricar, if he drove fifty miles in any direction, to be outside of the Central Pennsylvania Media Market?  The answer was that it would be one-third to one-quarter likely to occur randomly.  The various witness accounts were also subjected to that treatment (and I bet I’m using a higher standard that law enforcement would use).

            As I’ve indicated, I’m an ex-bureaucrat, but I’ve often described my major as training me to be a bureaucrat; I’ve also been fortunate enough to do some consulting where I work with attorneys.  Because of those things, I kind of understand how offices work.  Occasionally there will be suggestions that Mr. Gricar was murdered to get at records.  Ah, no, largely because most people keep paper files (hint:  computers crash).  I know that, even with really digital offices, and tech savvy employees, there is still paper.  Likewise, there was a suggestion on-line that Mr. Gricar would be having a secret meeting with a witness in a parking lot regarding a case.  Because of the necessity of keeping records, it would be very unlikely.  The situation would similar to the Rogers case.

            The bow tie still hasn’t come into play, though it has in life.  I don’t always wear one when I wear a suit, but it’s nice for a change and required for those few formal things I attend.  I doubt it there will be a black tie murder trial or a black tie “welcome home” dinner, or that I’d be invited to either.

            So Penn State helped me in life and in looking at the Gricar case. 

If you are a parent, writing that tuition check made out the “Pennsylvania

State University,” you can rest assured that one day your son or daughter

can grow up to become a blogger just like me.  :)