Thursday, March 31, 2005

A Star is Born - Part II

Well, Maya's show wrapped up the weekend before last. She did a great job! And no, I'm not biased at all. The level of her performance increased with each passing show. Her cast photo is up on the web page here. You can also see some rehearsal photos here. So, why is this Part II? Well, there was another audition and casting...


That's right. I am returning to the stage after a too long absence. I auditioned for The Pajama Game and landed the role of Hineszie. For those not familiar with the show, let me give you the lowdown on my character. I am a time study executive who used to headline as a professional knife thrower. I get very jealous any time my girlfriend, Gladys, talk to or looks at another man. I also tend to drink when under stress. I open the show, have a duet ("I'll Never Be Jealous Again") and a solo ("Time Study Man").

Deborah, the director is going for an over the top cartoonish sort of performance. She wants slapstick and says my character has to be the most slapstick. For inspiration, she wants me to think Dick Van Dyke and Danny Kaye. I must say, I am quite looking forward to this.

If you happen to be out this way during the second half of May or any weekend in June, then you should come see it!

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Google Ads

Ok, so that's a weird thing to post about after going AWOL for two weeks. What can I say, I'm a weird guy. I'll have more to say soon. I just was cleaning up my inbox and saw the two month old reminder to finish the activation of my account. Moving at the speed, I sprang into action. I may not start to act quickly, but once I do act, ZAM! So, I added AdSense and there it is. I'm looking at it not so much as a money making ploy as a curiosity. I want to see what kind of ads my posts generate. So click on them or don't. But I do hope you are amused by them.

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

Is Camelot funnier the second time around?

We will find out soon enough. Actually, it's not soon enough for my tastes, but saying "we shall find out after an agonizing delay" isn't a very well known expression. In any event, Eric Idle has, with the blessing of his fellow Pythons, adapted "Monty Python and the Holy Grail to the stage. There were apparently a good many changes including making the Lady of the Lake a significant character and giving it a bit more of a plot, but from what I have read, the epic silliness is still present. Eric Idle has written some new songs for the project, titled Spamalot. And John Cleese will be performing as the voice of God. The initial cast sounds too good to miss. David Hyde-Pierce will be playing Brave Sir Robin. Hank Azaria is Lancelot. And, as Arthur, Tim Curry! I doubt they will be in the touring company, so if you want to see them, you may have to travel to New York. And I am considering just that.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Aforementioned Good Weekend

This weekend was quite satisfying. We had fun. The kids had fun. And we even accomplished some of our goals. How can you beat that? There was hardly any fighting between the children and only a little bit of whining. Add to that enough physical exertion and good eating to put my weight at its lowest since before Halloween and you are starting to get the picture...

Friday night was the Tiny Tots talent show. It's an annual event at Josh's preschool. Each of the four preschool classes had practiced songs. Additionally, any kid or group of kids could do a performance more or less of their own choosing. Josh and a few friends were going to lip-synch The Wiggles. Josh and I were also going to tell a story together. Josh also wanted to wear his Spiderman costume and sing the Spiderman theme song. Well, two of the Wiggles got stomach bugs, leaving a hole in the program. So, we decided we would use that slot for Joshua to sing Spiderman. Not that he couldn't have done it anyway at the end of the show. There were plenty of unscheduled performances and assistance from kids in the audience. Josh had fun singing with his class. He also went up with a couple of the other classes and sang with them. It was a pretty informal night. His first trip to the stage was because we told him to go with "his girlfriend" to sit in front where they could see better. Next thing you know, he was on stage.

Later in the show, Josh went up for his big singing debut and froze. He just stood there holding the microphone. So, I offered to sing with him. I sang the first half of a line into the mic and then held the microphone in front of his mouth. He whispered his part. He sang loud enough for the audience to hear on "Look out! Here comes the Spiderman!" So, we decided to stop there and let them applaud. He surprised my by being so shy. We practiced in the car and he seemed ready to go.

Several of the acts were really cute and most of the parents were were quiet even when their child was not on stage. There were two sisters in cute outfits who sang "Four Hugs a Day". One of Joshua's classmates had a very eclectic costume and did an interpretive dance to some drum heavy music. Her outfit included a grass skirt, African style face paints, a beaded head covering, and much more. My favorite act of the night was the group of kids who performed the fable "The Lion and the Mouse". The older brother was the lion and the younger brother was the mouse. I thought that lent a nice added level to the story.

Two hours later we were off for home and bed. The grownups caught up with some backlogged episodes of West Wing and Lost before turning in.

Saturday was yard work day. We continued our yard reclamation after all the rains. I mowed it twice to get it reasonably short for overseeding and fertilizing. I did a fair amount of raking, but I couldn't find a rake that did a thorough job of gathering up the grass. The tines were too far apart. I had left the bagger off for the first pass because the grass was apparently too heavy to be sucked into the bag. Therefore, I had to leave it off for the second pass because all the loose grass was clogging the mower on its low height setting. I raked as much as I could before we had to get ready for Maya's performance.

While I was doing this, my wife was working on the area that had been a vegetable garden before we moved in. It had gotten overgrown with grass and weeds after the vegetables had bought the farm. She started weeding, mulching, and planting shrubs. She made very good progress. Enough progress that she needed to go out for more wood chips and a couple more plants. Once I was far enough ahead on the lawn, she seeded and fertilized the front and side yards.

We showered and changed and got to the show. It's Winnie-the-Pooh in case you've forgotten. It was their best performance yet! Almost all of the kids had added touches to their performances, Maya included. You'd think that it would get old, as many times as we had seen it. And yet, I still laughed several times. The kids' energy was infectious. Maya's fight scene was very silly and she and Kathryn performed it with great gusto.

We returned home exhausted but satisfied. It's a good feeling to accomplish something with your hands, especially when it improves the environment around your house. The yard is really starting to shape up and become a place where we can play or the grownups can sit quietly basking in the tranquil beauty, though not at the same time.

We squeezed in a bit more yard work and one more Home Depot trip on Sunday morning. (As a side note, I'm not a fan of HD, but we don't have a local hardware store.) I did some more raking and snacked a bit. We didn't have much time as we had to drop Maya off early for the show. The rest of us were off for a special treat. I had bought tickets for Stomp back in July and had forgotten about them. Maya was upset at being left out, and rightly so. But it was just one of those things. I tried to console her by asking, "Would you rather see a show or be a show?" She grudgingly admitted that she'd rather perform. And I pointed out that I was going to take her to the Escondido Rennaisance Faire in a few weeks anyway. Just her, and not Josh. This made her feel a bit better.

The rest of us were stoked for Stomp. We just knew Josh would have a blast because he likes to drum and pound on almost anything and anyone. We were sure he would appreciate it. Five minutes into the show, he asked "Is it almost over?" He did warm to it. I did notice him bouncing to the rhythms on occasion. Some of it was just too loud for him. So, there were parts where we covered his ears. However, when we talked to him about it later, he said he enjoyed it. I, on the other hand, thought it was great. My wife liked it, but thought the Boston cast was better. More athletic. Still, the comic timing was excellent, and the rhythms were astounding.

We headed back home to wrap up the yard work. I finished raking with Josh's assistance. I was thrilled he wanted to help. I figured he would cut ten to fifteen minutes off my task. He put on his gardening gloves and wheeled his wheelbarrow over to one of the grass piles. He took out his mini trowel and began loading the grass. He was spreading the pile a bit, but that would be an easy fix. All he needed to do now, was to bring the grass to the compost heap and I could dump it for him. Here is where we ran into a snag. He dumped it on another pile. Then, while I was raking the first pile back together, he scopped grass from the second pile, spreading IT out, and returned it to the first pile. So, it ended up slowing me down instead, but we had fun, so who cares?

I wrapped up by mowing one more time to suck up the dead grass. It was more vacuuming than mowing as I had raised the mower up again. The day had been partially sunny and warm, so that the dead clippings had dried out. They were now very light once the rake had loosened them from the ground. I got a full bag of grass from this effort and the compost heap was back to its huge old self again.

From there, we had some dinner, read a little "Cat in the Hat" and proceeded with the bedtime ritual. Josh added a step or two. As I stripped him down for his shower, he ran off, naked, down the hall shouting "I'm Thing 1!" I had to catch him with a net, as in the book. I substituted and afghan which was all right by him. He was just glad I was joining in the game. We did that a few times. I hid behind something. He ran by. I netted him. I wanted to be annoyed because he was dawdling, but I couldn't be. He was just too cute.

Eventually, we got the kids settled in and unwound on our respective computers. We were tired, but we had managed a well balanced weekend with just the right amount of entertainment and accomplishment.

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Good Weekend - Bad Monday

Boy did we have a full weekend. I would have posted about it yesterday, but it was one of THOSE days. You know the kind. I had several things go wrong before lunchtime. I got Josh to preschool early and was feeling good about myself until I saw the other kids. They were all wearing costumes. "Why is everyone wearing a costume?" I asked, dreading the answer. The answer was obvious. "It's costume day." Doh! Fortunately we live close enough that I was able to get Josh home to get his Spiderman costume and get back only a few minutes into class. And the first part of class is free time at the various learning stations. So, no big loss, other than my rhythm for the day...

So, I ended up getting to work a little later than planned because of the detour. I arrived too late for the first safety makeup meeting. No problem. I would just go to the one at 10:30. I had other stuff to do, anyway. For instance, I needed to go through the cables I had sorted and divide them amongst the test carts. Yes. The cables. The ones that were still sitting on the floor of the office at home in my haste to make sure Joshua wasn't late for school. Crap. Well, there was no time to go get them now. I would just go home after I played basketball at lunch. In the meantime, I puttered with other things until the meeting.

As I headed over to the meeting, I got a bad feeling. The director of our department, who had to go to the meeting was walking back from the room in which it was to be held. A few other of the meeting delinquents headed back. "It was at 10:00!" they complained. I checked my schedule and they were right. The confusion arose when I sent a message to the safety coordinator to confirm the meetings. "We still on for Monday at 8:00 and 10:30?" I wrote. I don't think he read my message closely as he replied, "Still on for Monday." So, he held a special meeting for our department at 10:45. I explained the situation to the director and he was very gracious about the error. Still, I was 0-for-3 thus far in the day.

At lunch, I stunk at basketball. (Yes, Jay. Worse than usual.) I couldn't hit a shot and my passes were awful. Still my defense was good and my team ended up winning all but the last game. I thought maybe the day was turning around. I headed home, showered and grabbed my box of cables. I made it back to work and still had a good block of time before my laser was going to be available. Andnow there were two lasers that had the software and interface I needed. Even better! My day was turning around.

The fates can be cruel sometimes. They lull you. You think things are turned around. They are merely toying with you so that when the day does fall apart, it really catches you off guard. That was how it was yesterday. It was just about time for me to use the laser. Then a coworker came over and let me know that one of the two lasers had died and she was not done with her release testing. The release, being Tuesday, trumped my needs and I was bumped from laser access. She took the laser I was going to have and nobody was around to fix the other one. It's just as well. There were two RS-232 to RS-422 serial converters in the lab that were not port powered. I needed one of them for my testing. They are both missing. And nobody knows where there are any others. I can get one for a mere $95, but it will take a couple of weeks to come in. Thbbbt!

Today has been better, but just as I was about to get access again, I got bumped. The release was all set to go out and then they found a showstopper. Three more days of testing on the laser I was supposed to use. Bollix.

Well, this has gotten long. I think I'll save the good weekend for my next post.

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Monday, March 14, 2005

My First Quake!

After almost eight months here, I've felt an earthquake. There have been quakes since I moved here, but none that I have ever felt. At least, that is, until last night. There was a quake in Palomar, about 18 miles away. It measured 3.5 on the Richter scale. If you don't know what that feels like, I'll try to give you a rough idea. If you've ever felt dynamite blasting, it's like that, only FAR in the distance. I felt and heard a very brief rumble. And then it was over. It was quieter and more brief than a ten pound bowling ball rolling down the lane. And that's not even considering hitting the pins. I wasn't convinced it was a quake. So, my wife went to the Geological Survey web page and said, "See!" So, she was right. It was a quake.

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Friday, March 11, 2005

What's the Dizzle?

Want to see my site undergo a startling transformation? Click here. If you clikc that, my site will redisplay as translated through Gizoogle. I don't suggest doing it with kids around. I wouldn't be surprised if some harsh language popped in. It gets old fast, but for those first five minutes, you get a pretty good laugh.

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Lateral Thinking Puzzle #2

I think I'm going to make this a Friday feature. James has Shotgun. I'll have my puzzles. Anyway, violent, maladjusted Bob is back. He was the screen slasher in puzzle one. What's he up to today? Let's find out in this week's puzzle, entitled "Smashed Taillights".

Later, Bob picked up a tire wrench and smashed the taillights of a car he had never seen before. Police officers witnessed his act and arrested not him, but the owner of the car. Explain.

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Personalized Warning Labels

Here's another silly generator courtesy of chesuli.




It gives you the same one no matter how many times you press refresh, but it is case sensitive. So, "briwei" generated the one above, while "BriWei" generated the one below.

BriWei has fragile contents which may break!

It's about as scientific as those quizzes, but with more entertaining results!

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Ask Any Soldier

Just found this excellent website called Any Soldier. It was started by a soldier who served in Iraq this time around. If you are interested in supporting the troops, this is an excellent place to go. Stick the URL on any of those yellow ribbon magnets you see, as this is a better use of resources. It's another of those simple, elegant concepts that helps people. Soldiers volunteer as points of contact for care packages. When they receive a package that says "Attn: Any Soldier" they distribute it to someone in their area who doesn't get much mail or many packages. The site also gives ideas of what soldiers need or want. And if you don't feel like you have the time to shop, they have packages that you can order. I saw a snack pack, a cookie pack, male hygiene, and female hygiene. I'm sure there were others, but I was trying to get the gist. Then you just pay for it and they do the rest. Next time someone tells you they support our troops, tell them to put their money where their mouth is! ;-)

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My car can't do that

Not sure whether or not I want it to, but this certainly is pretty spiffy. Probably not all that useful, though. Now, if it had a rocket launcer...

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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

What's the past tense of "Coming Attractions"?

Around the beginning of the year, B.O.B. pointed out that I didn't do particularly well on delivering the posts that I said were upcoming in my now ancient Coming Attractions post. I believe he commented that I had listed a dozen and delivered 4. In baseball terms, I'm batting over three hundred. I should be getting paid millions! I don't suppose you'd believe that some of them got bad reviews and went direct to video? No, huh? Well, I got curious and decided to take a look back and see how I did...

Here is the original list of promised posts:
Slug gets married - I was waiting for some digital photos of the wedding to accompany the story. I've gotten a few recently, so I may revisit this. The event is no longer fresh in my mind, so it may be difficult. Or else I'll just make stuff up. 0-for-1

Go, Packers! - The story of our move. This still needs to be written, and now that our last dealings with the moving company are complete, I can write it. 0-for-2

First Aid for Rope Burns - Ah-hah! This is one I did. See, it's right here. 1-for-3

The House Buying Saga Continues - By now, you have all seen pictures of the house. Oooooh. 2-for-4

More adventures of Almost Puking Man - You know, I'm sure I didn't post about it. And, although I don't remember the occasion, I know I have put myself in a position to almost puke and resisted it since then. 2-for-5.

Safety Training - This was going to be about our mandatory safety training here. There was some funny stuff there, but the moment has passed. The cover of the laser refresher handout says "Do not look into laser with remaining eye". 2-for-6

Tell me a story - Been there done that. 3-for-7

Battleground, Ohio! - This was going to be a story about some ionterviews I heard with Ohio residents and how scary it was that they would be deciding the election. I say scary because very few of the interviewees had talked about any of the issues. Not very topical at this point. 3-for-8

How one lucky Massachusetts resident can win a free pair of shoes! - This happened. James won the shoes. But did he end up going to the store and getting them? 4-for-9

Pirates - Needs some research, but worth doing. 4-for-10

There's a new Sheriff in town - Didn't do it. Was waiting until I developed the film in the disposable camera. Procrastinated it by then. May do a general Ren Faire post. 4-for-11.

Blast! I started this post with the intent of gloating triumphantly at the end. The best I can come up with is: There were eleven, not twelve. Ha! Not much grounds for gloating.

I think I shall make and save drafts of all the ones I am still interested in writing. That way they will taunt me every time I log in. That'll work. Yeah.

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Monday, March 07, 2005

What is Beauty?

So, I have a friend here at work who is one of those people that things just seem to happen to. When we first started working together, she couldn't stand me. Once I understood her, I was able to get her to appreciate me. Now, I'm her confidante. Part of the reason she seems to always be at the center of chaos is her personality, part of it is her strong and sometimes outlandish points of view, and the rest seems to be bad karma. In fact, I think for blogging purposes, I'll call her Karma. This is one of her stories...

Karma really works too many hours. She is in almost every weekend. So it was no great surprise that she stopped in on a day she had scheduled as vacation time. She had planned to sneak and and sneak out without being seen as she had not made her normal preparations. Of course, she arrived in the middle of the afternoon and encountered several people near her cube. A couple of them noticed she was not wearing makeup, and commented that she looked good without it. She got extremely offended. She launched into a rant about how rude it was. Apparently, she spends a good deal of time getting ready each morning.

I should point out at this point that, to me, she uses too much makeup. Her excess is not in the Tammy Faye Baker mold. It's more that she uses too much base. It gives her skin a tone that does not match her neck and gives her face an unnatural quality. In fairness, I also need to point out that I am not a fan of makeup.

The next morning, she ranted to me about it in her cube. I didn't witness the events, so I had to settle for recaps from the various participants. One coworker went a little far in telling Karma that she looked better without the makeup. This may be what pushed her over the edge and caused her to feel that all the commenters were rude. She felt that they had no place to criticize her appearance as "all of them could use some help" as well. You can only criticize another's looks if you look perfect yourself. Or, if not perfect, at least better than they do. Now, I really didn't think any of them intended to imply that she looks bad normally. Her defensive and paranoid nature led down that path. Still, she felt compelled to tell one woman that she really ought to consider wearing makeup. Apparently, commenting is also allowed in retaliation. Either that, or Karma thinks she looks better than the peanut gallery.

I had hoped that venting about it to me would be the end of it, but she couldn't seem to let it go. "Women are supposed to wear makeup!" she informed me. She felt she needed to prove that to everyone else. She sent around a link to a court case where a casino bartender was fired for refusing to wear makeup. I though for sure it would be struck down by the courts, but an appeals court upheld it. "See!" she said, distorting the content of the article, "Women can get fired for not wearing makeup. So, it clearly is a requirement."

Nobody was particularly impressed by the article. It certainly didn't prove anything beyond that the court felt the bar's dress code was not discriminatory. It's a stretch from that to say that all women, everywhere, are supposed to wear makeup. Further, her persistence on the matter made it fun for them to keep harping on the issue.

She couldn't understand where they were coming from and why they wouldn't just admit she was right. She pulled me aside for an impromptu opinion poll. She would make a good pollster. Or maybe a lawyer. The question was framed in such a way that it was obvious how I was supposed to answer. "Wouldn't you say that more than 90% of women wear makeup?" I didn't hesitate in my answer. "Nope. Probably over 50%, but no way 90." She was shocked. "How can you say that? Until I came to work here, every woman I knew wore makeup. Well, except for one, but she was a lesbian!" It didn't seem worth it to me to point out her prejudice or the fact that it was unlikely that she knew a representative sample of the population.

"Well, most of the women I know don't don't wear makeup." She was stunned. "How can that be? Look at all the women when you go to that mall. They all have makeup on." This time, I did call her on it. "Women you encounter in the mall are not an accurate representation of the population." She was unconvinced. "Sure they are. Everyone goes to the mall." "Not really. There are many people who avoid malls for a variety of reasons. People who hate the crass commercialism of malls for example." She considered this for a moment but couldn't let go of her point of view. Wearing makeup makes women beatiful. "I talked to my male friends from Texas and I asked them if they thought women should wear makeup. They all said yes. One of them said he wouldn't look at a woman who didn't wear it." The problem everyone here was suffering from was that they were Californians. "They have only one standard of beauty out here, theirs. They need to learn that different parts of the country have different standards."

At this point I gave up and started nodding. There were plenty of responses to her point. Why should you expect them to respect your view of beauty when clearly you don't respect theirs? Are you really trying to tell me that Hollywood has the same standard of beauty as, say, Berkeley? What does it say about a man who expects women to alter their appearance to please them? What does it say about a woman who buys into that system? By that point, I realized that I was going to get nowhere and I had plenty of work to do. We wrapped up with her suggesting I poll my friends. So, in a separate post, I will have the first ever BriWise poll!

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Sunday, March 06, 2005

Quiz Time!

Don't worry. It's not a quiz about my blog. It's an opportunity for Patti to kick our butts like the English deity she is. My score was good, but I have a hunch that hers will be better. Here's my status:

English Genius
You scored 100% Beginner, 100% Intermediate, 100% Advanced, and 77% Expert!
You did so extremely well, even I can't find a word to describe your excellence! You have the uncommon intelligence necessary to understand things that most people don't. You have an extensive vocabulary, and you're not afraid to use it properly! Way to go!

Think you can do better? Go here to find out.

Thanks to Chesuli for the link!

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Friday, March 04, 2005

Jury Duty

Not too long ago, I received my first California Jury summons. Most people dread getting these things, but I was excited. I wanted to serve on a trial. Dispense some justice. Have a heated debate in the jury room with people who misinterpreted vital evidence. That was my vision. Having never had jury duty, I just had to use my imagination. Oh, sure. I'd been summoned before. I've received three calls to duty in the past. One I deferred because I was in Maryland but the duty was in Mass. They never re-summoned me. One I deferred because my grandfather had died and my duty was during the funeral. They never re-summoned me. The third, I had to call in the Friday before my date for instructions. I was instructed that they did not need me. But now, at last! My chance...

I wanted to be prepared, so I asked the admin for my department what I needed to know for jury duty. She told me that I needed to tell her when it was and that I had to get a timesheet from the court for each day I was there. These would be stapled to my time card here at work. I explained that I had no idea how long my duty would be. It could be for one day or it could be for more. She said that was fine. She's put me on the schedule for one day and we would go from there. Anything else I need to know? Nope. Good. Now, I'm prepared.

I showed up for duty bright and early on a Tuesday morning. Monday was President's Day, so court was closed. I made it with time to spare, which was good, because the security checkpoint is tough and slow. If you have a special ID of some sort, you can show it to the guard and bypass the screening. So, don't sass the court clerk. She doesn't have to go through a metal detector and could be packing. I was not special. I had to take off my shoes and empty my pockets and all that fun stuff. Not as stringent as the airport, but the staff was just as humorless.

I wandered through the door and was given one of those plastic pin-on sleeves that typically hold "Hello my name is..." cards. This, I was told, is for my juror badge. The badge is important. It allows me into the jury "lounge". I use quotes there because the word lounge conjures up images of comfort and this room did conjured up images of an RMV. There were rows of umcomfortable chairs that were attached to each other and the floor. There are a few tables with chairs around them, but those filled up well before I got there. There were bookshelves holding jigsaw puzzles and books and magazines. Then there was the quiet room. No talking in the quiet room. No cell phones in the quiet room. This was for people who wanted quiet. Of course, if you were in the quiet room and your name was called, you couldn't say "Here!" Well, you could, but the woman at the podium wouldn't hear it and so she'd call you again. Because of this, the door to the quiet room was kept propped open.

The badge also has another purpose. It is there to tell plaintiffs, defendants, lawyers, and judges to run away from you. Nobody wants you to overhear something that will compromise their case. And if you do overhear something, you need to tell the judge right away. Imagine a defendant going over strategy with his lawyer. You are sitting next to him and he doesn't see your badge. Then they go in for jury selection and you are in the box!

So, back to the lounge. The room claims a maximum capacity of five hundred and sixty-eight. We were pretty close to full by the time the juror coordinator stepped up to the podium. We then received thirty minutes of instruction on how to fill out our juror survey. There were lots of special codes and checkboxes. She went down the list of reasons why you would be allowed to skip checking the VLT box. I didn't meet any of them and had to check it. VLT stands for Very Long Trial. They were picking a jury that day for a two month trial! They needed a pool of sixty and ninety were eligible. I didn't like my odds.

After they collected the forms for data entry, we were given a pep talk by a judge. He gave us a bit of trivia, only part of which was true. Which founding father believed that the right to trial by jury was MORE important than the right to vote? It was Thomas Jefferson. That was the one he got right. He also perpetuated the Lee Marvin, Captain Kangaroo, Iwo Jima hoax. I'm guessing he got the email and liked the story, so he thought he would pass it on without fact checking. That happense all the time, but this is the judge who is supposed to determine whether or not a case is ready to go to trial. Shouldn't he be all about fact checking?

Then we got to watch a fifteen minute movie about how cool and fun jury duty is. It was a patchwork of simulated courtroom action, judges addressing jurors, and interviews with REAL jurors! I managed to stay awake for the whole thing. But I was getting antsy. When would I get to do my part? When would I get to uphold the Constitution? Not yet, it appeared. After the movie, we were give a forty-five minute break. They needed to get all the names into the system and code people according to allowed pools. They also needed to find out which courts needed jurors. Hurry up and wait.

When we returned from break, the called the sixty names for the mega trial. We were told it was a high profile civil suit. The names were read alphabetically. I lost count around the letter K. I wanted to count because I had hoped to gauge my chances as the number selected approached sixty. We made it to the letter W and I still had not been called. She called one W and then another. I tried to figure out how the second was spelled. While I was doing this, she said "Last, but not least, Brian Weissman." I called out "Here!" in a tone that was a little exasperated. This got a big laugh. Small consolation.

While I was intrigued at the possibility of a long an interesting civil trial, my boss was not. He hadn't really wanted me to miss any time at all. So, now I felt I had to ditch my civic duty. And naturally, I couldn't ditch it until the next day. Our case was convening for jury selection the next day at ten a.m. This was unfortunate as I was the scheduled parent helper for Josh's class the next day. I had to ditch on that which forced Lynnea to have to ditch on her volunteer work in Maya's class. So, basically, it screwed everyone up and was going to have my boss mad at me.

After I got home, we were discussing my options. My wife wanted me to just go to court late. Even though I was scheduled for ten a.m., there were sixty people to deal with. They could just deal with me last. She suggested telling them that I had car trouble. Maya said "So, it's OK to lie to the court?" Ouch. NO. No, it is not. It's not okay to lie and Daddy is not going to lie.

I worked the phones for a while and discovered from HR that I am only covered for ten days of duty. After that, any work I miss is unpaid. NOW they tell me. This is a detail I would have liked in response to my "anything else I need to know" inquiry. So, I called the court and told them my plight. They told me I still had to show up at ten and tell it to the judge. So, it looked like I was going to get out of jury duty, but not in enough time to help in Josh's class.

I showed up to court, went through security again, got my timesheet, and took a spot outside the courtroom. All the seats were taken. As I was walking from the lounge to the courtroom, I noticed something. Most of the faces inside the jury room were white. I counted five African Americans or so and about thirty Hispanics. Both these numbers were severly out of sync with the demographics of the area. There were a smattering of Asians, but they seemed to be in proportion to the population. The latest demographics for our area suggest seven percent for the African Americans and forty to fifty percent for the Hispanics. That translates to around thirty-five blacks and two hundred Hispanics. Even with statistical sampling errors, something seemed out of whack here. The observation got more interesting as I walked through the halls. Ninety percent or more of the people I encountered in the halls were black or Hispanic. Except for the lawyers. They were a mix.

I've tried to reason out a logical way where this could occur and the system still be racially unbiased. I didn't come up with anything. Jurors are selected from voter rolls and the pool of licensed drivers. At first I thought that perhaps the middle and upper class white people had more stable addresses. But there are plenty of middle and upper class Hispanics who have lived in the same place for a significant enough time that it shouldn't matter. Then I thought that perhaps a higher portion of minorities simply don't respond. I dismissed that notion though as I would imagine that spot checking would be bound to catch some of them statistically. I suppose to really draw any conclusions, I'd have to view multiple samples and collect several pieces of demographic data to do the analysis properly.

Anyway, I made it to the courtroom early and had to stand around. The bailiff came out to take roll call at about twenty past ten. First he came out to say he was going to come out to take roll call. It was the five minute warning. Roll call was alphabetical. One person was missing. We were told we couldn't start unless everybody was there. Glad I didn't show up late. The bailiff came out twice more to see if our missing juror had arrived. Then he had to report the delinquent to the judge. He arrived while this was going on. No apology. No explanation. I suspect he did what it was suggested I do. Then the clerk came out to assign numbers. If you got one of the first eighteen, you were to go inside and give the bailiff your number. You got to sit in the box. Everyone else had to find an empty seat. I didn't mind that I had not gotten a chance to present my excuse yet. I wanted to see as much of the process as possible before I was excused and had to return to work.

I didn't get into the top eighteen, so I found a seat in the courtroom. I wanted to be close to the end since I knew I was leaving, but my timing was bad and I ended up all the way on the inside end of a row. We rose for the judge and then got some preliminary information. We were told the title of the case, which I can't remember because it was so long. The plaintiff was legally incompetent and was suing an eye surgery center, its doctor, and all associated incorporated bodies. Actually, his guardian brought the suit on his behalf, but you get the idea. Most likely, the plaintiff had some elective eye surgery that didn't go as planned. I was looking forward to the question by all the attorneys so I could deduce more. Unfortunately, this was the part of the program where the judge asked if anyone needed to be excused.

To my surprise, about a dozen hands went up. I thought I would be one of the few as there were so many opportunities to get out of it the day before. I would have if I had known that my office only paid ten days. I expected a gew sheepish hand raises, as opposed to twenty percent of the pool. We each had to give our reason for dismissal to the judge one at a time. He asked questions and took notes. Then he invited the attorneys to his chambers to discuss how to proceed. He was followed out by about ten lawyers! Clearly this was going to be a battle for the ages.

The excuses were varied. Some of them were lame. Others didn't fit into any of the categories from the day before. For example, one of the categories was a pre-paid vacation. If you already had it scheduled and paid for, you didn't have to check VLT. But what if you have planned to drive across country over a two month span? Doesn't fit, but involves many of the same logistical issues. This was one I considered legit. Mine was legit and I apologized for not knowing the information previously. The employer ten day max qualifies as financial hardship for a case of this length.

There were a couple I didn't, amongst them a whiny woman who said her chiropractor wasn't sure she could sit for long periods of time. The judge said that they could make accomodations for that. Then she threw in that she was self-employed and this would represent a financial hardship. Self-employed was one of the categories from the previous day. She could have checked it then if it was true. There was also a woman who had an out of town court date. To me, this was the same thing as if she had a business trip already planned. She shouldn't have checked the box. The judge offered to accomodate her as well. As soon as this happened, her court hearing turned into an open ended ordeal. She didn't know how long she would be out of town.

Then there was the elderly man who had a lung condition. When he gets a cold, he typically ends up being hospitalized. He wanted the court to know because it was cold and flu season. He was concerned that he could get sick in the middle of the trial and have to drop out. My favorite excuse was the woman in front of me. She had just started a new job and missing that amount of time would have been detrimental to her career and unfair to her teammates. They would have to pick up the slack in her absence. The judge asked if she was told her advancement would suffer as punishing someone who has jury duty is not legal out here. She told him that she was not specifically told this, but it would happen as a matter of course, as she would not be completing any work while her peers, who were hired with her as a class, would. So, he was curious. "What is this position? Where do you work?" She was forced to come clean. "I'm a deputy District Attorney for the City of Vista." What a coincidence. We were in Superior Court IN Vista.

There was also a woman who had to cart her son's sports equipment to practice every Thursday. She could make other arrangements for a couple weeks, but not two months. The judge asked her if she did this Thursday afternoons. There was a hint in his voice that court might get out early on Thursdays. She told him that it was actually in the mornings. "If court didn't start until ten on Thursdays, I'd be fine." The judge smiled. "Boy is THIS your lucky day." Apparently, on Thursdays, his court addresses motions and other issues until ten.

The judge returned and dismissed everyone who asked except the sports equipment lady. We all returned to the jury room to have our cards scanned. I figured she was just checking us back in. No such luck. We were done. Clock out. Go back to work. While she was doing it she scolded us all for checking the VLT box. Some people defended themselves explaining that they didn't meet her instructions. Others blamed her and scolded right back saying that she screwed up. I just apologized, took my timesheet, and went to work. Hopefully they'll call again in a year and I can give it another go.

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Thursday, March 03, 2005

Lateral Thinking Puzzle #1

I have a book of these lateral thinking puzzles. You know the kind. You are given a setup that doesn't make sense on the surface, but once it is explained it works. I decided it would be fun to post some of them. You can ask questions that have a yes or no answer. I'll respond with yes, no, or doesn't matter. Based on the setup and the answers, you need to try to figure out what is going on. Here we go!

Bob, a fifteen year old boy with a record of violent crimes, approached a screened porch. Taking out a switchblade, he cut through every screen panel with large diagonal rips. A police officer drove by in a patrol car, saw what the boy was doing, and was pleased. Explain.

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Winnie the Pooh

For those who are interested, here is the home page for the production of Winnie the Pooh that Maya is in. It has candid shots of rehearsals, head shots of the characters next to their bios, and a cast and crew list. The show opens tomorrow and Maya can hardly contain herself. We're pretty excited, too!

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Mowing Wet Grass = Bad Idea

As you may have heard, we've had quite a bit of rain here recently. I realize that those of you currently getting a series of Nor'easters have no sympathy for my plight, but there are some unique issues with the duration of rain and moderate temperatures. For one thing, my grass really grew for a stretch of time. It was up to my knees in some parts of the yard. As of Saturday, we had been rain free for one whole day. Saturday was my only day to mow or else it would go at least another week...

So, I had to mow wet grass. But it wasn't just that the grass was wet. The ground was wet, too. In the back yard it was downright swampy. There were standing pools of water in places, leaving me to wonder about my drainage. I started out front with the mower set for its usual neat trim and the bagger in place. The first problem of mowing really wet, tall grass is that it doesn't chop into nice little pieces. It purees into something the consistency of cooked spinach. This is very good for clogging the blades so badly that they stop. It also sticks to every surface under the mower such that even if it doesn't clog, it reduces the physical air volume under the mower causing stalls. After about 30 minutes, I realized the solution to this problem. I had to raise the mower up to a higher setting.

The second problem with this activity is that the spinach is too heavy to be propelled into the rear bag by the forces created by the whirling blade. All the bag does is create extra surface area to be coated by mulch mucilage. It took another half hour to twig onto this. I started see loose clumps of grass on the front lawn and the bag was not filling up. It should have, given the length of the grass.

So, I took the bag off and used it as a receptacle as I attempted to rake wet, clumpy grass that has attached itself to wet stationary grass. Unfortunately, the tool I was using did not work as well as you would have thought. I had one of those wide, fiberglass rakes that the folks in New England use for their leaves in the fall. I found that the grass tended to do one of two things when confronted with this rake. Neither of these things involved accumulating in a neat pile. The grass stuck. It stuck to the rake. It stuck to the ground. Hell, it stuck to my shoes. It did not accumulate. I thought perhaps if I raked more briskly, I'd have more luck. The grass stuck to the ground less. In place of this activity, it took to the air. I tried to keep the clumps flying in one direction. I reasoned that the clumps would eventually encounter the fence, which would stop them, or the neighbor's yard, which would be outside my domain.

It only took me two hours to mow my three sections of grass. They combine to total a little under a quarter of an acre. And the worst part is, since I had the blades so high, it's already time to mow again!

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Wednesday, March 02, 2005


Zug claims to be "the internet's only comedy site". While I find that claim to be a little overstated, it is a funny site. I went to ZUG's pranks page and read a couple of the pranks he pulled. I'm not sure how many of these fall into what I would consider a prank. I haven't read enough of them yet to give a fair categorization...

In the first, he pretended to be a 10 year old boy doing a government project. He asked all 100 Senators for their favorite jokes to help him in his goal to become a comedian when he grows up. There was some amusing stuff in there as well as some commentary on who was not funny. He used false pretenses to get the information, but I wouldn't consider the results embarrassing to the Senators. So, I don't think it was a prank, per se.

The second I read was "The Viagra Prank". It was a multiphase project with a few goals. The first was to see how easy it was to get the drug. The second was to prank call customer support. And last was to test one of the medical claims of Viagra. So, this one was a combination of research project, prank, and stunt. I say stunt because the claim he chose to test was that V will only give you an erection when sexually aroused. So, he took it an hour before Church!

It was kind of reminiscent of Steve Don't Eat It! Not as side splittingly funny, mind you, but I plan to be a return visitor to Zug to see what he tries next.

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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

What Can I Do To Help

A Sudbury man named Barry Katz lost his wife to a four year fight with ovarian cancer. Throughout the ordeal, he and his family were bombarded with the question "What can I do to help?" They were often too shell shocked to figure out how to put all these helpers to use. Mr. Katz has used his family's loss and his knowledge of technology to create Lotsa Helping Hands. The site is simple, elegant, and brilliant. It's a low cost mechanism to organize a group of people to a common cause. Create a calendar that lets people know what meals are needed and when? No problem! The site allows for issues such as dietary restrictions and task reassignment to be handled. Spread the word if you can.

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