January 20, 2006

Hello Friends

I'm back! Happy Very Belated New Year, everybody ...

Blogging Software: I upgraded our happybeagle blogs to Movable Type 3.2 earlier this week — because after a day of working with software, there's nothing like kicking back with even more software! The upgrade will mean little to all of you on the outside looking in, but it should hopefully provide Shelby and me with a better blog-producing experience (indeed, the facility it's already shown for dealing with Viagra comment spam is worth the upgrade alone).

Jury Duty: Yesterday, I did my duty to the state by reporting at 8 AM for jury duty. In contrast to my previous jury duty experience (in Palo Alto, where we sat around all day doing nothing), we were whisked off to a courtroom by nine o'clock for jury selection. The case seemed pretty straightforward — The People Of The State Of California were accusing some schlub of possession of paraphenalia for the consumption of 'opiates' (heroin, I'm guessing; opium or morphine would seem so ... Victorian). We were obviously working at the bottom end of the justice system: rather than the regal wood-panelled palaces of TV dramas, our courtroom was teeny-tiny and modern; the defendant's lawyer wore an ill-fitting suit and looked like he'd just started shaving earlier this year. Through the luck of the draw, I wasn't selected — which is too bad, because I had a perfect crotchety-curmudgeon answer to one of the prosecution's litmus-test jury-screening questions. And what's more, I actually believed in my answer, unlike one woman who was selected and chose to give both the prosecution and defense lawyers bizarre answers to their questions in a transparent attempt to get one of them to kick her off of the jury. (It worked!) The question was something like this:

"Most of you have probably watched one of those CSI shows on TV, where they run all kinds of sophisticated tests all the time — checking items for DNA, fingerprints, and things like that. Well, you can guess that real detective work isn't like that. Money is tight, and there are so many cases, that the police can't always run tests. If we were to submit a piece of evidence that, for budgetary reasons, had not been checked for fingerprints, would you assign less weight to that piece of evidence?"

It seemed to me that the only acceptable answer was "hell, yes!" If there were extenuating circumstances — if the piece of evidence was a very distinctive-looking hash pipe, and they had surveillance pictures of Suspect X smoking out with that pipe — that's a different thing. If the police tried to dust for prints, but didn't get any — the object had been wiped clean, or left out in the rain, or whatever — that's a different thing. But for budgetary reasons? That just seems like a great all-purpose excuse for railroading someone into a conviction. "Well, he claims that he spent the entire night of the murder with his priest and an old college roommate, but we couldn't get around to interviewing them to confirm his alibi — it was the 'ol budget, dontcha know. Not enough money to gas up the cruiser until next month!" "Well, you're supposed to take photos of the crime scene, but we haven't got any — do you know how much a pack of Polaroid film costs??!?"

The prosecutor wasn't having any of that, though; she exercised her perogative and kicked anyone who showed the slightest amount of skepticism to her gee-we-just-haven't-got-the-money question off the jury.

I was hoping that I'd end up on the jury for the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" naming trial, but no such luck — the case is in Santa Ana (I was in Fullerton), and jury selection was last week.

The Vicissitudes Of The Market: I sold off a big chunk of Adobe stock earlier this week in anticipation of the coming of our Prius. After that, of course, it went up another dollar and change. I should publish some kind of newsletter, so that subscribers can follow me around and make their trades the day after I made mine. But today ADBE has gone back through the floor with the rest of the market, so now I don't feel so bad. (And the magnitude of the difference isn't as great as last month's noteworthy trade, when I sold Apple stock at $73-ish, only to watch it climb thirteen bucks more in the following few weeks. But still, I bought it in 2000 for about $7.50 a share, so again, I'm not feeling that bad.)

Miscellaneous: And here are some of the links that I collected while I was busy not-blogging:

  • Germans behaving badly in IKEA: It's not only a source of inexpensive furniture, it's great for cheap meals, childcare, and free baby supplies! I might have passed up this article from Spiegel, except for the fact that I've shopped in the Hamburg-Schnelsen store!

  • A German writes (in German) for Stern about living in Los Angeles.

  • Rounding out the German-related links, I never got around to linking to this blog entry by Andrew Hammel back in October on the 'glories of do-it-yourself marketing' — the wierd little indepedent stores that seem to make up the streetscape of most German cities. He's found a particularly jarring example, but our street in Hamburg had a couple of little shops that could've entered into the running. Why aren't mom-and-pop stores in the average American strip mall this offbeat? Perhaps because they're increasingly a part of one franchise or another ...

  • A quiz forwarded by Marc (of Marc's Graduation fame): Arial or Helvetica? Can you spot the difference? (I got 8 out of 10.)

  • And why didn't we see this kind of Al Gore back say, when he was running for President? Fearlessly speaking fighting words seems to be a skill that (former) Democratic candidates can muster only after it's far too late. But maybe this speech was the first step towards, oh, a Gore/Obama ticket in 2008. I can only hope!

Posted by Kevin at January 20, 2006 12:30 PM
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