Saturday, December 27, 2008

Blog filler

Some people have complained that I haven't been posting frequently enough. If you insist on quantity, you will be sacrificing quality. You'll get useless filler posts like this one.

This blog entry has no nutritional value at all. You will get absolutely nothing from reading it. Nothing in your life will change and this will have zero impact on your physical, mental or emotional well-being. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

December yard

The rain, rain has gone away
This is the yard today

Monday, December 15, 2008

dreary monday

It is a dreary, rainy morning.

It's a Monday.

It's cold.

Today I don't want to leave the house.
Today I'm jealous of the cat.
He's napping on the couch.
That is the extent of his To Do list.

I don't have my camera back yet. I don't have any pictures of the cat napping.

So here are pictures of the dog.

I want to put on a fur suit and do what he's doing.

All day.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Blast from the past

Doesn't it make you want to jump on a swing set?
(Some of you will have no idea what I'm talking about.)

Santa's going to get me one of those jumpsuits for Christmas.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Who are the police officers in your neighborhood?

I really have to get better at asking follow up questions.

This morning I walk out my door. There are no less than ten unmarked police cars parked up and down the street in front of my house. Identical white sedans, each with a spotlight mounted near the driver’s side door.

There is a man with an orange reflector vest that says Police standing near one of those devices that surveyors use – like a mini-telescope on a tripod. There is one other guy in a camouflage outfit that also says Police. He is putting something in the trunk of one of the white cars. I hear other male voices in the distance. Possibly up the stairway that runs next to our house or maybe a little further up the street where I can’t see them.

I am puzzled. I look at the camouflage cop.
Me: Can I ask what is going on?

Camouflage cop: Sure, we are just trying to locate some evidence.

Me: Wow. That’s a lot of cars.

Camouflage cop: Yea.

I get into my car and drive away heading to work. And then it hits me. WHAT?!?!?

There is a small army of police officers practically in my backyard and I don’t ask more questions? What evidence are they looking for? What crime occurred? Why does it take 20 of them? Why is he dressed in camouflage in the middle of a city? Where can I get one of those nifty spotlights for my car? many unanswered questions...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

View Larger Map

We've all seen them. The people on the street corner holding signs. Signs for New Condos! Big Sale! Big BIG Sale!

I have always wondered about the success of this marketing strategy and I've been curious if there is any evidence to show that it works. Or is everyone doing it, just because everyone's doing it? (I'm too lazy to actually try to look it up.)

This morning on my way to work I saw one as I hit my first stoplight. Keep in mind that it was 9:30 AM. On a Tuesday. Guy on the street corner holding an arrow-shaped sign. The sign was for a place called Jolar's. This is the name of the friendly, neighborhood strip club. Open 24 hours! Within walking distance from our house.

And I thought to myself, "Oh, that's right! I did want to go watch naked woman degrade themselves for money today. Gosh, I am so glad that guy with the sign is there or I would have completely forgotten!"

See. These signs do work.

The saddest sign holder I have ever seen was a little further down the street from our house.

It was the same man each time I happened to drive by this spot. He didn't look like the usual sign holders - a teenager with his Ipod strapped to his head or a person who looks just inches away from homelessness. He was mid-forties with dark hair and neatly dressed.

The sign he was holding was for a shoe repair place. It was a homemade sign. They had gone to the store, bought a big, white poster board and some markers and made their own sign. No hidden artistic talent emerged during this sign making process. The sign was pitiful.

I see this guy and his pathetic sign and I instantly imagine the whole story of his life. His 80-year-old father has owned the shoe repair place for 60 years and he's worked in the shop his whole life. Times have gotten tough. Who gets shoes repaired anymore? They see these other sign holders all over the place. Maybe it was his Father's idea. Maybe it was his. There's no money to buy a real sign, so they make their own.

Every afternoon, he stands in the same place, holding that sign with hope in his heart. Trying to look friendly, even as the desperation builds a little every day. The shop has been his life for so long. If they don't get more customers, if business doesn't improve - what then?

Next time I see him, I'm going to have to stop and ask what the real story is. Maybe offer to build him a website, if it is anywhere close to my made up story.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jury Duty - Almost

Well, I pretty much just told you how this story ends, but the whole thing was fascinating so I am going to talk about it.

I report for jury duty at 7:45 AM. I sit around for a while. I get called into a courtroom with 59 other potential jurors. I am assigned the number 45. No names are used. I am now Juror #45. The Judge, prosecutor, defense attorney and defendant are all there.

The first process is called Voir Dire, which I think is French for "Weeding out the Crazies." This is when the Judge talks to us about how the law works and the prosecutor and defense attorney get to ask us questions to find out if we have any biases.

They tell us that the defendant is charged with Attempted Murder. They tell us handguns are involved. They tell us that maybe someone might happen to mention Gangs. They tell us that maybe someone who might have been convicted of a felony could possibly be testifying. They tell us that the defendant might or might not invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to testify.

Some people have immediate and strong reactions to the mention of guns and gangs. The Judge, in a very calm and respectful tone, asks them if they can put aside these biases. The Judge has to ask this over and over again as people talk about what they think about guns and gangs.

One older woman - let's call her Mrs. Crank - says that when she hears the words guns and gangs, she thinks of another G-word - Guilty. Guess who's probably not going to be asked to sit on this jury?

There were a number of people who said that they would not be able to put aside their biases. These people are either really deceitful or really honest. I can't decide how many of each there might have been.

The deceitful ones are just willing to say anything to get out of jury duty. The honest ones are perhaps more sincere than the rest of us. They are willing to acknowledge their limitations and risk looking like narrow-minded jackasses. It is more acceptable to tell ourselves that we are open-minded and that we don't judge people and situations according to our tiny little pinhole view of the world. But we all do.

I made judgements about every single person in that courtroom the minute I saw them. The defendant looked like the sweet 20-year-old kid who used to work for us before layoffs. So I immediately like him and feel bad that he is in this situation. (Yes, "this situation" is him being charged with attempted murder. But, come on! He looks like a nice kid!)

The defense attorney had too much over processed, blond hair on her head, so I thought she looked like a cheap floozy. (Is floozy really a word?) The prosecutor was a wiry, early thirties man with a shaved head. He reminded me of one of those guys in high school who hung out with the cool kids and pretended to be nice to everyone but was really the meanest SOB in the group.

The stenographer! Oh the stenographer! I'd swear she had been whisked straight from the set of the film Working Girl. Her hair wasn't as teased, but it was big and flowing with feathery waves. She also had this air of defeat and resignation about her. Like she has been pummelled into submission by the tedium of her job or her exposure to the worst elements of human nature, day in and day out in that courtroom.

If I had been more honest with myself, I would have raised my hand and said, "Your Honor, I think you should probably excuse me. The defendant is just so adorable, the stenographer makes me want to have a Long Island Iced Tea and I'm afraid the prosecutor is going to give me a wedgie any minute now. I should probably go."


After they have asked all of their questions, we leave the courtroom and wait outside in the hall. The clerk comes out and reads off about twelve juror numbers. These are the people who said they didn't think that they could be fair and impartial. They are excused. Mrs. Crank hurries down the hall with a smile on her face.

The rest of us go back into the courtroom and now it is mostly about the numbers. In this round, the defense or prosecution can dismiss you for any reason and they do not tell you why. Starting with Juror #1, they seat 12 people in the jury box. The prosecutor looks them over and then says, "Your Honor, please excuse Number 4." Number 4 leaves the courtroom and the next number in line takes her seat. The defense attorney looks them over and picks out one more to excuse. Next number in line fills the empty seat. This goes on and on.

This was the part that I found the most fascinating. I couldn't quite figure out what they were going for. It seemed to me that both the prosecutor and the defense attorney were getting rid of the same kinds of people. They both excused men over 40 and almost any woman. They weren't just looking us over; they were also referring to an elaborate set of post-it notes they each kept. The post-its were arranged like a seating chart and had their tiny scribbles with multiple colors of ink. I was dying to know what they had written on those notes.

I also wonder what they did before post-its. And why no one has invented a computer version of that yet. And if there is some kind of chart or computer program where they plug in the variables - one 20-something Latino defendant - one charge of attempted murder - one female victim = what kind of juror? As you can see, I spent a lot of time wondering.


My juror number is 45. Juror number 43 gets up to fill the next vacant seat in the jury box. I am thinking, "Wow. I can't believe they have gone up this high. I might actually end up on this jury." Feeling nervous and excited. What an experience it would be to sit on this jury.

Number 43 takes a seat in the jury box. Both the prosecutor and the defense attorney decide that they are satisfied with this jury. They make the twelve jurors stand, raise their right hands and swear to uphold the law, etc.

But it ain't over yet! They need two alternate jurors. That would be the worst, most thankless job to have. You have to sit, listen to everything, pay attention throughout the whole trial and then your opinion doesn't mean squat. I would hate to be in that position.

Number 44 and I get called to sit in the two empty seats in the jury box. Suddenly the prosecutor asks the Judge if he can have a word privately. The Judge, defense attorney and prosecutor go off into a back room. I am wondering if there is going to be some last minute plea deal or something like that. They'll come back out and tell us all to go home.

They come back into the courtroom. The Judge says to the juror sitting in seat number 11, "Miss, are you okay?" The woman is sitting in the jury box, quietly crying. She explains through tears that she is getting married in January and she had saved up her vacation days for that and she knows that this is her duty and she wants to serve but... The Judge very nicely asks her if she wants to be excused. She says yes. The prosecutor and defense attorney have no objections.

And so we continue with the musical chairs. Juror #44 has to go sit in the vacant seat #11 in the jury box. I have to take the seat that was vacated by Juror #44. And the next in line, juror #46, has to come sit in my empty seat. So now the prosecution and defense get to decide if they want to keep #44 on the regular jury. They both do. He stands up and gets sworn in.

So the final jury consists of 10 white men between the ages of 20 and 35, one white woman in her 50's and one Asian woman in her 30's. I am fascinated by this. Is this really the jury that both the prosecutor and defense think will be able to fairly weigh all the evidence and pass judgement on this 20-year-old Latino gang kid?

Of course, I can only look on the surface of things. Maybe race or age have nothing to do with it. Those are just the traits that I can easily identify. Maybe what matters is education level, type of job or if they are married or single. I didn't have that information, but the attorneys did. (When you do a search on Amazon for Jury Selection you get over 5,000 books. I am definitely going to do a little reading about this.)

Now the attorneys can turn their attention to the alternates and decide if they want to keep #46 and me. The prosecutor looks us up and down and then gives me the boot. Too many X chromosomes for him perhaps. I stand up and shout "I will not go! You can't handle the truth! This whole courtroom's out of order!" The court bailiff hits me with a taser and I black out.

Yea. Okay. It wasn't that dramatic. I just left the courtroom quietly, bought a sandwich and drove back to work. And that is the end of this story.

UPDATE on the trial here.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Mad Max Kitty

Oh, how I wish we hadn't left our camera at Josh's Dad's house over Thanksgiving.

Kitty got an abscess on the side of his jaw. It was because he got into a fight with another cat. We try to get him to resolve his conflicts in more constructive ways (Use your words!) but he won't listen.

If we know he has tangled with another cat, he gets the full-body pat down as we try to see if he has any injuries. He doesn't enjoy this at all. His hair is so long and fluffy that it is really hard to tell if he has been hurt.

There was a cut on the side of his jaw that we missed. It turned into an abscess that burst. We brought him to the vet and got it all cleaned out and antibiotics to give him. The vet shaved the side of his head in order to treat the abscess.

Kitty now looks like some freaky, post-apocalyptic Mad Max character with one side of his head fluffy and full of fur, and the other side shaved down so that you see the shape of his skull. Poor Kitty. Josh and I laugh at him. I'll try to get a picture with my cell phone.

And, yes there is a more serious side to this story. There are many, many good reasons to keep cats indoors all the time. The Humane Society of US recommends it for all cats. We might be thought of as terrible pet owners to expose our cat to this danger, especially since we KNOW that he fights with other cats. But we really struggled with this decision.

Kitty was the neighborhood cat at our old place in La Jolla. He lived outdoors and no one knew who he belonged to. He started to come around our house. We started to feed him. He kept coming around and would even come inside and sit on our laps. After a while, we decided he was ours and we had to be responsible for his care. We took him to the vet to make sure he was healthy AND neutered.

It seems like he grew up outdoors. We have had to keep him inside for up to a week after some vet procedures and he HATES IT. We think it would be cruel to try to turn him into an indoor cat. We know that it is dangerous out there and there is the possibility that someday he might not come home. We just think he's much happier living out his cat life indoors and out.