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Police Forensics Team Salvage Blind Authors' Inkless Novel Pages 100

Posted by samzenpus
from the show-your-work dept.
Blind author Trish Vickers wrote 26 pages of her novel's first chapter when her son noticed she was writing without ink. Her manuscript was saved however after they took it to the Dorset Police department. A forensic team there worked on it in their spare time, and after 5 months they were able to recover the lost pages. Vickers said: “I think they used a combination of various lights at different angles to see if they could get the impression made by my pen. I am so happy, pleased and grateful. It was really nice of them and I want to thank them for helping me out.”
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Police Forensics Team Salvage Blind Authors' Inkless Novel Pages

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  • by vAltyR (1783466) on Friday April 13, 2012 @09:37AM (#39673269)
    Nice to see the police didn't turn a blind eye to a citizen in need.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The way it turned out was probably blind luck.

      • Let's say to an equivalently bucolic setting, like Wisconsin outside Madison, or Dubuque Iowa.

        One reason that the UK is still superior to the US, despite being blighted by The City, and laws made by silk breeches, and omnipresent camera vision.

        In America, this story would have ended in a tasering, or pepper-spray: like that poor fellow who's MediLert malfunctioned.
        http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/06/nyregion/fatal-shooting-of-ex-marine-by-white-plains-police-raises-questions.html?_r=2 [nytimes.com]

        • Yeah, except they didn't recover the text from the paper directly, but rather, they just went through the video records they had of her and figured out what she wrote based on that.

          • And then used an "entirely voluntary" d-notice [wikipedia.org] to ensure that the newspaper's reported the CSI story as part of their campaign to show that forensic science services are just fine. To be honest, when you look at the stupidities of the UK system there's no logical way that the people in the UK can be more free than people living in the US, yet they are.

            • Because the British people suspect that most everything is a lie. They are more cynical, and prone to morose sarcasm as a result - but it's a form of real humor, which helps cope in seeing things as they are.

              Americans are slaves to what might be. They'll buy any bright shiny lie that tells them what they want about themselves, and promises them freedom from anxiety. They seem drenched in "sarcastic irony", but it's mere filppancy: a form of positioning that comes from underlying insecurity.

              It would be ha

  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Friday April 13, 2012 @09:39AM (#39673305)

    We're not at liberty to discuss the details of this amazing new forensic technique at this time. But rest assured that the $5 million grant you gave us last year to develop it did not go to waste--and most certainly was *not* just spent on booze, cool new squad cars, and trips to Hawaii.

    • the problems with that are

      1 you end up with a page with graphite all over it
      2 what helps with 2nd/3rd/Nth impressions
      3 they most likely used this to train newbies
      4 do you think that this was considered before handing the pages to the police??

      • by Vreejack (68778)

        What really surprises me is that anyone thought it was worth getting in a twist about. Twenty-six pages of metrically tortuous poetry would concern me, but of a novel? If you can't recover your first chapter from memory--while making it even better the second time--then you aren't writing anything anyone would want to read.

        Curious fact: I used to program this way, too, back in the day of tape drives.

    • "Not at Liberty?" You can not tell who pays you what you did with the money? What could possibly go wrong? Was it spent on Overtime? To "prevent chaos?"
  • Honest curiosity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anubis IV (1279820) on Friday April 13, 2012 @09:39AM (#39673321)

    Sorry for the ignorance, but is it common for blind people to write at length using pen and paper? It strikes me as odd that someone would use a medium which they would not themselves be able to review later (excepting cases where review isn't necessary, such as for a short correspondence or the like). I'd have thought that a computer with a screen reader would be the preferred medium.

    • Re:Honest curiosity (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Kadagan AU (638260) <kadagan&gmail,com> on Friday April 13, 2012 @09:47AM (#39673445) Journal
      My sister is blind, and has been for her whole life. She never writes by hand, and even if she writes her name the letters tend to be imperfect and disconnected. No one can fault her for it, but it's a challenge to maintain your place on the page. And she's not even completely blind, she has a very small amount of vision in one eye (she can mostly just see light and darkness).

      If this woman is completely blind, I wouldn't expect too much detailed writing per page.. I can't imagine my sister getting more than a paragraph or so on a page if she were to try.
      • Re:Honest curiosity (Score:5, Informative)

        by sunderland56 (621843) on Friday April 13, 2012 @09:52AM (#39673509)
        She is 59 - so she grew up without computer knowledge - and she can't type. Learning computer skills at 59 while blind is probably a challenge.

        If you RTFA there's a picture of her writing setup - physical guide lines on the paper - so her method has been thought out, it isn't just random scribbles.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:17AM (#39673865)

          Hi, old person here. It's still strange She was writing by hand. Long before we had computers to do our writing, we still used keyboards. I know you kids might not be that familiar with them, but we called them 'typewriters'. They have braille versions of them, so a blind person could type pages they could proofread themselves years and years ago.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Except according to the TFA she only lost her sight 7 years ago, due to diabetes. It is highly possible that she has little to no typing experience, especially as the article states she used to run a gift shop. It's also possible she is not completely literate in braille.

          • by StikyPad (445176)

            Not to mention we've had these things called "dictation machines" for over a century now.

    • Re:Honest curiosity (Score:5, Informative)

      by rHBa (976986) on Friday April 13, 2012 @09:50AM (#39673485)

      Diabetes sufferer Ms Vickers, 59, lost her sight seven years ago and turned to the world of her imagination for solace.

      With a love of English poetry ditties were scribbed to entertain her mother over the years but it is only now she is embarking on her first novel.

      However, she doesn’t type or use a computer but has a system of elastic bands that guide her to keep lines.

      It appears she lost her eyesight later in life and (I'm assuming) had never learned to type before, she might find it easier to write with a pen/paper.

      • by iamhassi (659463)

        Diabetes sufferer Ms Vickers, 59, lost her sight seven years ago and turned to the world of her imagination for solace. With a love of English poetry ditties were scribbed to entertain her mother over the years but it is only now she is embarking on her first novel. However, she doesn’t type or use a computer but has a system of elastic bands that guide her to keep lines.

        It appears she lost her eyesight later in life and (I'm assuming) had never learned to type before, she might find it easier to write with a pen/paper.

        Still seems odd. Typing existed long before PCs. My mother is around her age and learned in high school on a typewriter.... hell I learned on a typewriter! It was just another class in public school that nearly everyone took. Maybe it's a US thing to learn to type?

        And she lost her eyesight later in life? I've tried closing my eyes and writing a sentence, it's almost impossible to read, and the characters tend to get larger as I go.

        Also you would think losing her eyesight would encourage her to le

        • by snadrus (930168)
          Agreed! I'm in my 20s and still learned most of my speed typing from a high school typewriter. And I live in one of the big IT centers of the world.
        • by whoever57 (658626)

          Still seems odd. Typing existed long before PCs. My mother is around her age and learned in high school on a typewriter.... hell I learned on a typewriter! It was just another class in public school that nearly everyone took. Maybe it's a US thing to learn to type?

          I grew up in the UK. I am not aware of any typing classes in schools when this lady would have been in school. At that time, I think there were specialist training centers (not public schools) that taught typing skills.

          Also, it's not so simpl

        • And she lost her eyesight later in life? I've tried closing my eyes and writing a sentence, it's almost impossible to read, and the characters tend to get larger as I go.

          I just tried it. My biggest problem was the spacing between words, followed by the fact that I apparently started writing at an angle after the first word, so it doesn't follow the line on my paper.

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          we had typewriter writing in school, on grades 7-9. i'm 30, we did it on computers. it was sooo easy to get 10/10 on every test. the teacher didn't appreciate our doom sessions. in retrospect it was pretty useless after the first month of learning "proper" 10 finger typing - but alternative subjects weren't too good, I might have taken home ed(cooking) if the damn teacher in that subject wasn't such a demotivator queen(she'd freak out if meatballs had recognizable pieces of onion or if you took out the meak

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If you RTFA, you'd see that she only went blind 7 years ago and she doesn't know how to use a computer, so she devised a system using rubber bands to be able to continue to write by hand. It's not ideal, and she acknowledges that, but she has pretty limited options. In general, no, it is not at all common for blind people to write by hand, and most people born blind never learn to write by hand since doing so is borderline impossible.

    • by poity (465672)

      For many creative people, a physical connection with the medium is essential to their creativity. I can't explain it, but I've felt the same way before -- the designs which began as rough sketches and refined on paper always turn out to be more thoughtful than those that begin in CAD. Maybe it's because there's no quick way to delete something on a whim, and those things that you thought were mistakes a moment ago come back to inspire you later on.

  • Good job Dorset PD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Friday April 13, 2012 @09:40AM (#39673331) Homepage

    That was truly an upstanding thing to do.

  • Why didn't they just run the broad side of a graphite pencil up and down it? What on earth were they doing that it took them five months, when anyone else could have had it done in a day?
    • Re:Wait a tick (Score:5, Insightful)

      by blueg3 (192743) on Friday April 13, 2012 @09:48AM (#39673465)

      Depending on the type of pen and the pressure used, that method may not be sensitive enough for good reconstruction of the data. However, since it's a destructive technique, if you try it first and it fails, you've ruined your ability to try any other techniques.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It works in a pinch but it is not proper forensics practice because it damages the evidence and only brings to the surface the most defined of indentations. The more refined approach is graphite dust(like for lubricating door locks) and a vibratory table.

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        The more refined approach is graphite dust(like for lubricating door locks) and a vibratory table.

        The second advantage to this method is that it can be rented out after-hours. The downside is the huge drycleaning bill trying to get powdered graphite out of expensive Victoria's Secret undies, and the evidence tends to stick to the table.

        I wrote this joke using pen and paper while holding my eyes shut. I hope you can read it. If not, I'll ask the local police to recover it for you. I know you'd enjoy it.

  • Good Practice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShooterNeo (555040) on Friday April 13, 2012 @09:40AM (#39673335)

    Out of all the things the cops could do with their spare time (and I assume a small amount of public resources), I'd say that I fully agree with this one. They helped somebody out, got to practice obviously useful forensics skills, and they were practical actual science. No one told them what the words on the pages were supposed to say, they had to figure them out (with help from the author, perhaps)

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      Yeah, I really wish police around the world were more about the whole "helping people" thing and less about "don't do anything that doesn't generate revenue for the local government". Glad to hear about stuff like this.

    • by Obfuscant (592200)

      They helped somebody out, got to practice obviously useful forensics skills,

      Yep. The next time someone writes a 26 page confession or bomb threat using a pen with no ink, Dorset constabulary will be all ready to go!

      • Or writes their bomb threat on a pad of paper, tears the top sheet off, and mails it. Or mails in a ransom note. Etc.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 13, 2012 @09:44AM (#39673389)

    Nudedi tecuda giruler debi dir pa felo rum. Hat fohete dano nitimel hen ti tafadis ranaman. Telie itep gacir madacu inominov cotarit tebisi idegu paset ru. Fiegipec hir sarehew xemita ra narop. Nadine tafa esisilo len eyip roco rufogec. Tanayi ricu rileri semec. Isira cetati retiv wi catec arar edadire cemih tetosir nim. Lesipi femap her aricet beter. Rey otinaras ruto sohat pol desa siwal neyatoc go funi. Non nixot aleyed nita. Gubalol leso seliraw wolelef hes otatufe? Wicedis saheco tiqa nariseg eni ro. Iro pep rana minili; nat depe gesiy edomigat. Nu ha alon sutot sociya aboreca somob gag. Oharekag masiede etorinur lu rapiebe hup fopup ahemunef rena rino. Mulewab ton iyecapi inetud irucato rapas? Fav agew piyieno rec def asor.

  • by inerlogic (695302) on Friday April 13, 2012 @09:59AM (#39673597) Homepage
    .....bought her a pack of fucking pencils.....
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A forensic team there worked on it in their spare time

      As a taxpayer, I'd be happy that the forensic team used their spare time (which, by definition, is when they are not actively forensicizing(tm) an active case) to hone their skills while doing something philanthropic.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You're probably not an ignorant conservative lashing out at any imagined impropriety, unlike the person you replied to.

        A lot of Americans are full-on bonkers, and will become angry over false-outrages, because that's what they've been trained to be. We have a whole radio/tv/web wingnut-o-sphere that only exists to keep ignorant people angry, so they don't question the bizarre beliefs they've been fed and cure their ignorance.

        90% of the idiocy online flows from these people.

        • Or, it could be that since the problem arose because her pen ran out of ink, it might be nice to give her a writing device that gives some sort of tactile feedback that it is not capable of writing.

          But no, it's much more fun and insightful to bash Americans.

  • by spads (1095039) on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:01AM (#39673617)
    detective shows. You just shade over it with a pencil, revealing the indentations. Of course, first you make a xerox copy in case you corrupt the original.
    • by phorm (591458)

      In detective shows, it's usually where you've pulled up the piece of paper under the pad that was actually written on.

      This would actually cause a problem in this scenario. If she had her pages stacked a bit when writing, then you'd have indentations from both the current page (sans ink) and the previous page(s).

  • by PPH (736903) on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:57AM (#39674471)

    They'd better find a way to work faster or they'll never be able to keep up with her writing the rest of her novel.

  • Apparently it's only programmers that say -- this sucks, I need to re-write it from scratch.
  • Recover all the photos that my Mom took with a camera that had no film.

  • by 6Yankee (597075) on Friday April 13, 2012 @11:44AM (#39675395)

    ...couldn't even salvage the misplaced apostrophe. Maybe we can get Dorset Police to edit Slashdot in their spare time, since they like helping the blind?

  • I think it's a pretty big leap from a "forensics team" to "officers in the department worked in their spare time, during breaks to try and crack the puzzle". A properly trained questioned documents examiner would find this sort of task trivial. The most common and best approach is with an ESDA [wikipedia.org], which can reveal indented writing several pages deep. Lacking that the examiner would use oblique lighting and digital photography but again it should only take a very limited amount of time to recover the writing
  • In early times in Japan, bamboo-and-paper lanterns were used with candles inside. A blind man, visiting a friend one night, was offered a lantern to carry home with him.

    "I do not need a lantern," he said. "Darkness or light is all the same to me."

    "I know you do not need a lantern to find your way," his friend replied, "but if you don't have one, someone else may run into you. So you must take it."

    The blind man started off with the lantern and before he had walked very far someone ran squarely into
  • ...and after the cops rubbed her pages with a pencil, they discovered 26 pages of men with large erections.
  • well done to the bobbies in blue. :)

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