November 2005 Archives

Give Him The Chair

It's always an unnerving experience to receive post from a courtroom, because you have to scan the entire thing really quickly looking for words like "felony" and "warrant" and "federal pound me in the ass prison."

Luckily for me, I saw none of these words on my postcard. What I received was just a summons to appear for jury duty. Having dodged that bullet once again, I decided to do my civic duty and appear on the requested date. The alternative, of course, is a contempt of court citation which carries a fine of $100 to $1000 per day. I wonder why such a large range is given for the fine amount; is the penalty heavier if you're found to be out committing a crime at the time of your summons ?

So I arrived at the entrance of the Central Jury Room in plenty of time to go through the metal detectors and find my way. This should have been a quick ordeal, except the screener in front was none too happy with my sinister attempt to smuggle my one-inch keychain pocketknife into the courtroom. I was given the option of surrendering the lethal weapon or returning it to my car, the latter of which I did because I was half an hour early and had time to kill.

Upon returning (clean of sharp, pointy things) I sat in the Central Jury Room waiting for my case assignment. But we weren't about to jump into our roles uninitiated. They had, back in 1962, prepared a motion picture (now colorized) that would serve as our instructional and behavioral video for the courtroom. It apparently is doing a fine job still, so they see no reason to replace it with anything more modern.

The video was actually quite entertaining. It was primarily a list of disqualifications that would prevent you from being an acceptable member of a jury panel. On this list were things like the following:

1. Not a United States citizen
2. Wearing more than 25 gold chains (Mr. T wouldn't make an effective juror--he would pity the fool)
3. Felony conviction on your record (or cassette tape)
4. Can't read or write

I'm serious about that last one. If you're illiterate, you apparently can't possibly comprehend the law or understand what might have happened at a crime scene. Strangely enough though, IQ never enters the picture.

With each of these disqualifications, they helpfully provided an enactment of someone approaching the bench and stating the nature of their problem. For the illiteracy skit, we see a middle-aged white woman introduce herself to the judge and say "I have a problem ... I can't read or wriiiiiiite" in a strong Southern drawl. I couldn't help but laugh out loud. The people sitting around me all turned to look, prompting me to apologize for my insensitivity. Seconds later, the woman in the seat beside me got up and spoke to the judge about something and then left the jury room.

I had a lot of time waiting around the Central Jury Room, waiting on my case assignment, to think about the legal system and what I would let influence my decision while deliberating with the other jurors. I basically decided that I was going to judge the book by the cover. If the defendant is wearing a suit, not guilty. If the defendant is wearing shorts so low they look like manpri pants, guilty. I know it's a simplistic and inaccurate system, but it really streamlines the process for me and might help to reduce my exposure to other mens' under-britches.

I also wished we could specify the sentence too, instead of just the guilty or not guilty status. I would be creative. Say the guy is convicted of larceny--his sentence would be to hand out presents on Christmas (the presents would be the property of the felon). Or if the felon is convicted of rape--I'd make him watch 24 consecutive hours of Bukkake videos and Ben Affleck movies, Clockwork Orange style. Cruel I know, but you have to be tough with these criminal types or they'll never learn their lesson.

My Halloween Costume

I know Halloween was like three weeks ago, but I wanted to write something about it and there were two things holding me up: I wanted a picture of us, which now I have; and I've been terribly busy with work, drinking, and training for the 2008 Olympic Games. *

The night I was handing out candy was Monday--Halloween proper. But that left us with the weekend open to dress up ourselves and either go Trick or Treating (turns out, bad idea) or go out on the town.

Let me describe what we did before I link to any pictures. This year's theme was Dukes of Hazzard, almost but not entirely because of the theatrical release earlier in the year. Dave was Bo Duke, Terry was Luke Duke, and I was ...

Well, with the main characters already taken I had my choice of the lesser stars. Despite recommendations that I wear the Daisy Duke costume that was up for grabs, I decided to be the mechanic Cooter Davenport, if for no other reason than I could go around saying I was dressed up like Cooter.

Store bought costumes are cool, but it's more fun to make your own. So another last-minute idea turns into a laughable costume.

Here's the bill of materials for the Cooter costume :

1. Old pair of jeans, disposable
2. Cowboy-ish shirt, very disposable
3. Boots
4. Belt + buckle
5. Trucker hat
6. Oil / grease / lube / spray paint / Vegemite
7. Iron-on transfer paper
8. Continuous grin while in production

Start by taking the jeans and rubbing them all over the underside of the Jeep. Attack with camo spray paint in random locations. Tear holes in jeans. Cut the sleeves off the shirt, because Cooter rarely wore a shirt with sleeves. Fill a bucket with water and pour in any kind of oil and grease we can find in the garage. Soak the shirt in there for a while. Drop both in the washing machine filled up with water, no detergent, so it looks a little worn and I don't have too much grease on me all night. After drying, print an iron-on transfer of the character's name and apply for a work-shirt look.

We're left with this.

And all of us together.

By the way, I had to take a picture of this wig because it was seriously creeping me out. Every time I walked past it on the dining room table, I got a little nervous. I mean, it looks like a severed head may be underneath it, waiting to spin around and somehow launch at me and eat my brain. I know I could have just moved it or covered it up, but that would have been admitting my phobia of disembodied heads with curly hair.

* My sport is competitive staring. I'm training alternately with the neighbor's cat and one of those pictures with a hidden sailboat. I still can't see the damn sailboat.

Another Halloween Comes And Goes

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I didn't get home from work until about 7:30 on Monday night, after I stopped at Walgreens to get a few large bags of candy. I decided on the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and some bags of assorted miniatures like Twix, Snickers, Milky Way, and other favorites. I turned the porch light on, got the candles in the carved pumpkins lit, and played on the Internet while I awaited the visits from the little ghouls and ghosts and goblins.

Things started out somewhat slow with the Trick or Treaters. A lone kid, about 12 years old, shows up at the door first without a costume. The extent of his effort was smearing a few streaks of black paint on his face. He stood there when I opened the door and held out his basket--no "Trick or Treat" or nothing. He looked in my candy bowl and stubbornly proclaimed, "I don't like Reese's peanut butter cups!" and took something else. Brat. I wanted to ask him for the candy back.

Within minutes the flow picked up considerably. I hardly had time to sit down before another group of kids came ringing the doorbell. Some were shy and didn't want to help themselves to the candy, some studied their choices carefully, and still others indiscriminately grabbed a big handful and ran.

The highlight of the night was a couple of kids, a boy and a girl, both about 6 years old I would guess. The little boy took his pick of the candy first, the last Peanut Butter Cup in my bowl. The girl, upon noticing this herself, sadly said "Oh, you got the last one." Without a moment of consideration, the boy took the candy and put it in her basket, saying "Here you can have mine." Awwwwwwwww! They walked away while the girl said "He's my brother, we're twins !" Too cute, I wanted to just give them all the candy I had.

By 9:00 the kid-flow had slowed to a trickle, which was good because I was almost completely out of anything to give them. If many more had shown up, I would have had to raid the fridge and pantry for more things to offer. Somehow I don't think cans of Tecate or tortilla chips would have gone over too well, so it was best that things wound down when they did.

Still No Cure For Cancer

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Just a few weeks ago, a couple drug companies announced they had formulated vaccines for cervical cancer that are virtually 100% effective against a responsible virus. I thought this was fantastic news, because how often do we really find a way to just about eliminate an ailment, let alone a cancerous one ?

All we need to do is give the vaccine to girls before they start middle school, as part of schoolkids' regular regiment of shots, and this particular form of cancer can practically be eradicated in a generation. What's not to like ?

Plenty, it seems.

You can never bring forth news, even wonderfully good news, without opposition from someone. Excuse me, that's to say, opposition from some religious group. Most likely fundamentalist Christians. It seems the problem is that this particular form of cancer is often caused by HPV, which can be (and often is) sexually transmitted.

"Some people have raised the issue of whether this vaccine may be sending an overall message to teen-agers that, 'We expect you to be sexually active,' " said Reginald Finger.

Yes, that's the message I'm hearing. And whenever we give kids Tetanus shots, we're telling them we expect them to go out and play with rusty nails. I wonder what they would say if a vaccine for AIDS was discovered.

"I've talked to some who have said, 'This is going to sabotage our abstinence message,' " said Gene Rudd

So, in order to promote abstinence, they would deny people a vaccine for cancer. That's sick.

No one is going to decide to have premarital sex based on having received this shot. There's not one kid on the planet that's teetering on the edge, a thousand considerations in her head, that would remember a shot she received years before and allow that to tip the scale.

Abstinence teaching is done wrong anyway. The scare tactics obviously aren't working, nor do many people buy into the virtues of waiting until marriage. I propose a different plan. We should get all the teenage boys interested in "Magic: The Gathering" and "Dungeons & Dragons." When I was in school, none of the kids that played these games were getting any. It's foolproof.

If we still insist on making this an issue, we can stem most of the concern by just not telling the kids what the vaccination is for. I got a number of shots when I was growing up, and I never recall being told why I was receiving the vaccines I did. I just got them and didn't ask questions, and was grateful when our teachers told us we should be, so we wouldn't "die like kids in other countries."

While I'm on the religion subject, I got a chuckle out of this headline in the BBC today: Texas preacher killed by baptism. Wow dude, God must think you're doing it wrong.

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