Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ah, Jury Duty

Notes from the Jury Assembly Room
Stuck in a room with a large number of people you don't know enduring a task that is both mind-numbing and publicly important. No, I'm not talking about going to a sporting event for losing team, which I did once...or twice...several times actually, for several hours (because the tickets were free). That and waiting patiently for my BBQ ribs. Both are public and civic duties. 'Murica! No, I'm talking about a real duty of the public, ala Jury Duty, where it turns out we actually are the peers who are going to get to judge somebody. It is so not the drama. 

Monday was Jury Duty, that vast public service that holds us all in the grip of fear. A missed day of work. A day sitting in a room waiting to be called for...something. I had hoped that next to my name would pop up a little symbol that said "Not him, anyone but him" in the county computer. Actually, I should have been happy to serve, as I'd deferred my previous Jury Appointment which had luckily been penciled in as the day prior to the summer bar exam. The people from Juror Services had understood for some reason. Go figure.

I've actually only gone down for Jury Duty once before, as opposed to ringing up the juror contact phone line to check my standby status and being thanked for my willingness to serve. I've done some work at the courthouse, so I knew it's the same room from all those years ago. And last time I was in that room, there were little tables along one wall for laptop users. Think about, it's Jury Assembly, not the jury room! They know you're going to waiting, so they try to make it nice. Nice-ish. All those years ago I had been upset because I didn't have my laptop, so this time expecting to get a little work done I took it. AND damned if the little tables are gone, and not even some chairs.  Oh, the outlets are still there, but the tables are vamoose! Genius! But, they've got what looks like some old library tables on the other side - you know, the old long wooden ones that look like unimaginative dinner tables - and some cheap four seat cafe tables. And one outlet. No, I lie, if you look over by the kitchenette, there are two more behind the stacked stuff. And the room seems smaller too.  I realize things are tough...but oh my.

For that transgression, I had hoped that if they had called me I would have walked into the courtroom and recognized one of the attorneys. Or the judge. Or the person on trial. And there would have been a momentary situation where we just look at each other like in the movies,  I kinda half smile and give them the thumbs up on the low, which in turn would lead to some hilarious TV hijinks that require an ancient laugh track and where in the end we strike a blow for justice that somehow involves banana creme pies in evidence. In reality, any of those situations would immediately get me struck from the pool. But ah, a man can dream. Okay, what I actually hoped was that my house didn't get broken into (the first time I'm out of it for more than a few hours in a while), and that I would get to spend an uneventful day of not getting picked and playing the occasional video game. Okay, the recognize the lawyer thing and getting removed might have been a gas too. Either or.

We got the floor show, as a judge came out and answered all our questions for like a solid hour. Then they started the calls, which got to be annoying as each time they started you would begin to pack up...and then she'd finish at which point you'd have to unpack again. Just so you know, in Atlanta proper, if you're called to Jury Duty you're name is already been picked to be on a jury. We had five or six trials that day, and they called enough for folks for five or six trials. They may randomize once you check in, but you start the day pretty much on a jury. Where the drop offs come is when the cases settle on the eve of trial, one way or another. After they'd called three groups (roughly 145 people) they called a list of names and told those people to be back after lunch. The remainder, of which I was a part, was thanked for their service.

So I went and got me a nice salad. Went home and put in some online applications. Stared at the walls for while. Thought about stuff. And things. Not a bad day. 

I have done my part. I have served. AND I got my voter registration card the same day!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Odd Quotes

There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who, when presented a glass that is exactly half full, say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!
~ Terry Pratchett, The Truth

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sometimes Batman Only Works in the Shadows

This is a political post. 

I have avoided talking about the government shutdown because there was too much information, from too many angles, coming too fast. The wheels that turned Washington were spinning in every direction as the board continually shifted, the final prize transformed by the hour, the pieces and parts flew together at odd angles daily and new surprises kept popping up as you watched people who wouldn't acknowledge the audience's disgust put on plastic performance to a crowd only standing around to ogle the inevitable train wreck.

As I read through the posts from my "No, I'm a Libertarian" FB friend, who seems to only posts links from staunchly conservative sites, it became increasingly clear that the a large number of the people in this country really don't know how this country works. She just found out today that Boehner and the Republicans changed the House rules so that only Majority Leader Cantor could bring a vote to the floor to avoid a pure majority vote undermining the Republican position. My FB friend and her fellow "whatever they ares now" cries to not to raise the debt limit have echoed through the internet, as though raising the debt limit somehow issued the First Lady a fresh credit line at Macy's. Claims that it would be fiscally irresponsible considering how much debt we already have showed a disconnect, because it reasoned that somehow not paying those debts we have now is fiscally responsible. As I've pointed out before, the debt limit only authorizes borrowing for bills Congress has already told the President he has to pay. America, like most large corporations, operates on a credit line...not a cash basis. We're just expanding that line like any growing business does.

And further undermining the "don't raise it" argument from the other direction, all the people we actually owe money to - China, Wall Street, etc., - were giving Congress the stink-eye for even thinking about not raising it. You see, its not a well known fact, but pretty much all current financial markets around the world are built on the bedrock idea of US debt never defaulting. Troubled market? US Treasury bills please! Worldwide. A default would reverberate throughout the world markets, slowing further an already slow global recovery. So how would defaulting be a good thing? Why were the pundits with no finance background were so sure of what would happen when the people who did this everyday were terrified of the possibility?

Another reason I didn't really talk about the shutdown is the affects real people. Sporty works for the Federal government. Spanky is a contractor for a government contract. Other friends of mine as well.  The suggestions by Senators that they and their co-workers take out loans exposed the callousness of the those who scream for our "freedom." You need to go into debt so I can hold out to make sure you also can't afford health insurance! Yeah, real catchy.

Looking back, I keep wondering if this was all planned to some degree. I was pretty sure I knew how it would turn out, but since politics turned into a zero sum game in the past few years, someone still might have closed their eyes and jumped. In the trenches, Reid did a lot of the dirty work to get it all set up, the President in sync with him this time. I want to think maybe planned because here we are, roughly a year removed from the next midterms and the Batman President's quiet methods are systemically dismantling his opponents, this time outfoxing the Tea Party rebels by not negotiating with himself as they expected, a sort of political rope-a-dope if you will. While they danced in front of the cameras, outraged at the results of their own actions, he waited. While they demanded he lead, he waited at their destination. The Chicago came out. "You want to burn it down? Let me get you some gas and some matches. Oh, you've changed your mind? I thought you would."

Not a lot of press conferences. Few statements. Boom. 

Game. Set. Match.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Odd Quotes

Intimacy is not entirely physical. In fact, it can have no physical interaction at all. For an intimate relationship to take place, allow someone into your thoughts. Let them hold and caress your feelings. Let them be intimate with your mind. Allow for the emotional intimacy to be the reason for passion to be bred. Now that is intimacy that is long lasting.
~ Somewhere on the Internet...

Friday, October 11, 2013

The New-ish Atlanta Classic

Ramblings Post #242
Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. Which might explain why most of my wishes seem to focus on large sums of cash, the problems of which I am already familiar via classic rap, bad movies and the occasional piece of literature I can't believe got printed. They say money can't buy everything, but you know what? I'll take one for the team to find out if it's true. I'm really doing this....for you.

Normally around now, or sometime in the last week, I would been regaling you, both of my readers, about the previous weekend at the Georgia Dome amongst my old classmates as we would have gathered together to tell old lies, embellish some alcohol soaked memories and pretend we were all five sizes smaller than we are now. Or will be five sizes smaller by next year when we see them again, because we're going on a diet next week...I swear. But alas, last year without the venerable Hundred (my alma mater's marching band) the attendance at the dome was spotty. Well, sad is probably a better term. "Not good" as a phrase comes to mind.

So this year they invited some other schools.

I had people call and tell me they were coming a week in advance. They eventually had to back out because of work. I kept getting the email invites to the various functions - a Pre-Game Brunch, a Cocktail Drop-In, an After Party or two. It appeared for all intents and circumstances that the city wouldn't miss my old classmates and I at all. I was a wee bit bummed.

On game day I stayed home. No big, I've become a bit of a homebody anyway. I'd slip down later after the parking vendors lowered their prices I said. Then I looked at a few of the pictures that some of my more entrepreneurial classmates took as they ventured out anyway. After all a buck is a buck, you can rent out the same spots, charge the same event prices and it's not like they even have to change the DJ, so you get a flyer, you get flyer, everybody gets a flyer! But, looking at the crowd...or lack thereof...I hope they didn't put up too much money behind that thing.

That ain't my school. No sir.
Because even if I thought the stadium looked empty last year, and it least there was a bustling and moving crowd on the concourses, eating the overpriced vendor food and seeing all those old classmates to lie to. And if they weren't inside, then there was the crowd outside, enjoying the impromptu vendor mall, the free concerts, the grilling and chilling and planning on a evening of, enjoying the Atlanta nightlife. But the vendors looked lonely on the concourses. And this year there was no outside crowd. None. I understand that at some point they started giving tickets away. I know things are rough all over...but oh my.

Maybe it's not their fault. After all, it may have taken a while for our crowd to build back in our day. But then I asked myself, who takes time to let things develop in this day and age?

I think that next year we'll be invited back.

Barkeep, let me get that Gin and Tang. Yes, I know what I said, and yes, I realize that it doesn't make sense.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Odd Quotes

Went out for a walk and found myself.

Find meaning. Distinguish melancholy from sadness. Go out for a walk. It doesn’t have to be a romantic walk in the park, spring at its most spectacular moment, flowers and smells and outstanding poetical imagery smoothly transferring you into another world. It doesn’t have to be a walk during which you’ll have multiple life epiphanies and discover meanings no other brain ever managed to encounter. Do not be afraid of spending quality time by yourself. Find meaning or don’t find meaning but “steal” some time and give it freely and exclusively to your own self. Opt for privacy and solitude. That doesn’t make you antisocial or cause you to reject the rest of the world. But you need to breathe. And you need to be.
~ Albert Camus

Monday, October 7, 2013

And Yet So Far.....

Ramblings Post #241 
When people ask why sports are celebrated, athletes revered, one has to realize who they are in the larger sense. Athletes allow us to feel success, as part of a team, a larger group, that might elude us in other parts of lives. You might not have the greatest job, or enjoy the best things in life, but YOUR team won! We tend to embrace victory as ours, and make the losses less personal. Or at least we try to.

He had a near record 500 plus yard night, scrambling early and making plays when needed. He racks up five touchdowns on the way to leading his team to a 48-point game. He arguably outduels one of the best in the game for fifty eight minutes. 

And that all goes away, all will be completely forgotten, due to an interception on his own half of the field in those last two minutes.

With the game tied, my only mental request was that Tony Romo NOT make a mistake. Take the sack. Throw it away. Scramble for the sidelines. Just don't give them the ball back right here, in this spot. He'd had a fine day, his team playing this years already anointed Super Bowl victor and gridiron wreaking ball the Denver Broncos to the their tightest game of the season. Where others are blown away, Dallas had hung in there scrapping for every inch of turf. They'd exposed the Broncos suspect secondary. The 'Boys had even managed to pick off a pass from the formerly perfect on the season Peyton.  In a season chock full of close games, this was the first time it had been necessary for the older Manning brother to play to tie the score with the end of the game looming.

Two more minutes!

I said out loud to my TV, as though they could hear it in Dallas, "All I need is for Tony to not throw and interception. Don't force it. Somebody remind him that we can go to overtime."


Later I had me a drink of the good bourbon I keep in my pantry for solace. With a few cubes of ice.  So close but yet so far. It's like...I can't even put it into words.

And they'll scream that Romo is a bum for the next three years behind this. The commentary already makes it sound like Dallas got stomped into the turf and Romo is responsible for not playing defense  good enough. MOST quarterbacks who'd scored that much would be celebrated.

Barkeep. Some chips, I already have my drink.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Thank You Mr. Clancy

Tom Clancy wasn't my favorite author. But with just one glance at my bookshelf I spot Red Storm Rising, his 1986 tale of a fictional skirmish at the at the front rim of a World War III scenario. It's intricate, showing how the small parts effect the whole and a pretty good read. His collaboration Op-Center Sea of Fire sits right next to it. I remember reading the Hunt for Red October and Sum of all Fears before they movies, but I can't find my copies. And although everyone remembers Jack Ryan as personified by a remarkable Alec Baldwin my favorite character was the "man in black", operative John Clark.

Even now, although I want my writing to be light and airy, just glancing at a Tom Clancy novel reminds me how good a story can be even when it's density is thick with detail. He made heavy lifting to read enjoyable. The loss of an author, the loss of imagination, is always a tragedy.

Thank you Mr. Clancy, for a good read.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Republikans Strike Back...

This is a political post.

com·pro·mise  /ˈkämprəˌmīz/
1.  An agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.

The Republican argument is they're willing to compromise their demand of the complete repeal to just delaying the implementation of law until next year. They seem to believe they can purchase enough elections by then (they hope) to completely repeal the bill. But they are willing to "compromise."

Only, the "compromise" they're asking for makes no sense. The offer hardly qualifies as a "compromise". The Affordable Care Act passed in both the House and the Senate, was signed into law in 2010 and upheld as Constitutional by the Supreme Court. The only way to un-make it a law is to repeal it, which the Republicans have tried to do more than forty times. They cannot. So how can delaying the implementation of a duly constitutional law - in effect temporarily repealing the law in a way they cannot themselves do - in exchange for, doing your job...qualify as a compromise?

Even worse, the "compromise" the Republicans are offering is just enough financing to keep the lights on until which point we get to do this all over again. That is Government by hostage, and a success here will only encourage a repeat of such a proposition. That's not good governance by any estimation. This time they asked to repeal Obamacare, what next time? Will Boehner ask the President to step down and name Ted Cruz Grand Exalted Super Cool Leader? It could happen. Because then the argument will be just accepting Ryan's budget sounds "reasonable."

I'm fairly certain that having a faction of one part of one third of government dictate the actions of the whole violates at the very least the spirit of the constitution. The real question here is how long will this go on, how long before the effects begin to trickle down to the man on the street? That's when the real action will begin. Now, to clear, my conservative FB friend is just ecstatic that the government is shutdown. Because according to the people she listens to, we don't need any government! So let me tell you a little story (I wish I had written this, but I didn't):

This morning you were awoken by your alarm clock, powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy. Then you took a shower in the clean water provided by the municipal water utility. After that, to make sure you were ready for what the day might bring, you might have turned on your TV to one of the Federal Communications Committee regulated channels to see what the National Weather Service of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration determined the weather was going to be, using satellites designed, built and launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. You watched this while eating breakfast of U.S. Department of Agriculture inspected food and possibly taking a drug or two which have been determined to be safe by the Food and Drug Administration.

At the appropriate time, as regulated by the U.S. Congress and kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology at the U.S. Naval Observatory, you got into your National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration approved adequately safe automobile and set out to work on roads built by the Local, State and Federal Departments of Transportation. Along the way you might have stopped to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, using legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve Bank. You might have even dropped off some mail to have delivered via the U.S. Postal Service. It's not even 9am.

After work, where you didn't lose a digit or inhale toxic chemicals due to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, at a company whose patents and trademarks are protected by the local, state and Federal Court Systems, you drove back on the same roads built by the Department of Transportation and returned to a house which had not burned down in your absence due to state and local building codes and the fire marshal's inspection, and which wasn't plundered of all you consider valuable thanks to the local police department. Then after watching some more of the FCC regulated television, and speaking to your mother by phone, who has retired and receives monthly checks from the Social Security Administration about her trip to the doctor which was paid for Medicare, you get onto the internet, which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration, to read this blog.

And yet some people believe that the Government can't get anything, anything at all, right.

I wonder why they think something like that.