Sunday, August 30, 2009

Juror No. 9

I served on a jury last week. Not the most comfortable experience due to the type of trial, although I did like each of the other jurors and enjoyed my conversations with them. There were three teachers, a journalist, a student, and me. This was my third time as a juror. The previous two experiences were a business dispute and a theft case. In the former dispute, there was a suit and a countersuit, and we didn't give either party anything. Case closed. In the second case, it was quite obvious that the guy was guilty and we convicted (after a lot of discussion convincing one holdout in the jury - she probably felt better afterward when we learned that he had done this sort of thing before). Some idiot went into a convenience store and left his keys in his car, and some kid took off with it.

This case last week was a DUI. Well, damn. There but for the grace of God, you know. DUI laws are really strict these days, and punishment is severe. I really did not want them to pick me. I answered the lawyers questions accurately, and was very surprised that they did not eliminate me based on one answer in particular. But there it was. I was on that jury. Trapped.

We sat through the lone witness's testimony (the officer who made the arrest) and saw the videotape. It was a long afternoon. We all took notes and paid careful attention to detail.

The trial stretched into a second day. I awoke that second day with dread. It really seemed that we would have to convict that young man. But after the conclusion of the trial and with careful consideration of the judge's instructions on both the law and the meaning of "reasonable doubt" we ended up with a not guilty verdict on the charge that counted the most. We discussed the details for a long time in the jury room. We tried the "field sobriety exercises" ourselves, with sometimes comical effect. We asked to watch the video a second time, and did - with extensive note taking. It was a razor thin margin, and could easily have gone the other way. There was just enough lacking in the state's case that failed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. We all agreed the kid should not have been driving. But that was not what we were asked to decide.

The prosecutor was no doubt disappointed in the outcome of this case. But if she was serious about her motivation to make the county a safer place, then she did accomplish something this week. After my experience with this trial, I will definitely alter my behavior regarding drinking and driving. I don't want to be the one in that defendant's chair. There but for the grace of God...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Guest CatBlogging - Doughnut

Doughnut is a very large cat, although it is not so obvious from this photo. He is a Maine Coon cat, with a long body and a weight of about fifteen pounds. He has the long fur, and tufted paws, solid build and friendly personality typical of the breed. When we arrived at our friends' house and I first glanced at him, I thought he was a dog because of his size. He was pretty curious about us and our stuff. We had a fun time playing with him, and laughing about how he kept methodically licking the nylon bag we had with us.

Real life has been happening and that hasn't allowed much time for thinking, much less posting (not counting all the fluff and catblogging). I do have some ideas rolling around in my head and hope to get thoughts on disk in the very near future.

Friday, August 21, 2009


hoary marmot
The cats are taking the week off.

Saw this hoary marmot on the Rockpile Trail at Moraine Lake. Cool, eh?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Working In Exile

A few weeks ago, my boss told me that my work location would be changing two days a week. I was not thrilled about this news.

Today was the first day. My new assignment is in our grittiest, most urban location. (Dave, I am sure you can put two and two together and figure out where I am spending my Mondays and Tuesdays now, although I am not going to come right out and say it on the blog.) The day got off to a rough start.

I left the house earlier than usual in an attempt to avoid rush hour traffic on the new, longer commute to downtown. Didn't work. The drive in was an adrenaline-laced, white knuckled, profanity-inducing experience that I am not looking forward to repeating this afternoon. Parking? Hassle. Neighborhood? Not the greatest. I won't be working after dark. Ever.

It turns out that a procedure I had been told I only needed to be physically present for was something I was expected to handle on my own. I've never used this equipment before, so I ended up calling for someone to come over from main campus to show me how to use it. Less than ideal.

And now I am sitting in a very cold, austere office at lunchtime. I'm staring at blank white walls and a tiny monitor. I cannot play music because there are no speakers. This is unfortunate, because the office seems to share a wall with the staff restroom and I can hear pretty much everything that goes on in there. As well as every conversation at the front desk and waiting area right outside my door.

The good news is that it cannot possibly get much worse, so it has to get better. Right? I'll repeat the often-used mantra of unhappy employees everywhere in these troubled times: "At least I have a job."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Meanwhile, closer to home...

Stone Mountain Walk Up Trail

It isn't often that you return from vacation in better physical shape than when you left. We spent most of our week in Canada hiking and eating trail mix all day. Didn't matter what we ordered for supper -- we'd already burned all of those calories and then some. We came back home and found that we had a little more energy than normal, and we liked it. Neither of us wants to lose that.

Since we both work for a living, hiking all day every day is not an option. But getting out on the weekends is doable, especially if we could go somewhere close to home. There just happens to be a mountain very close to us: Stone Mountain. Sure, it is basically just a huge rock, but it is nearby and has hiking trails. We could get there, hike to the top and back, and be home in less than an hour and a half. Plus, it would be a good place for us to take our bikes for some riding. So we bought ourselves an annual parking pass and went there this morning to hike.

We did the walk-up trail, and then walked the 5.5 mile loop around the base of the mountain. And it was so friggin' humid it felt like we were walking in a sauna. The loop trail may have to wait for cooler weather before we try it again. But the walk-up trail will be seeing us again very soon, early in the mornings before sunrise and heat and crowds.

Friday, August 14, 2009

For Dr. Jenn

I wasn't going to do a catblogging post today, but what the hell? I've had a request. LL, you can blame Jenn for this one.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lake Louise

Click here for the embiggened version (which is much prettier!).

Reliving vacation, one area at a time. Like I said earlier, it will take some time for me to sort through all the photos and clean the best ones up for posting on Flickr. I adjusted only exposure -- NOT color. The lake really is that bright and blue. We got there early in the morning and successfully avoided the crowd at this very popular destination.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Invisible Meteors

It never fails... Now that it is peak time for the Perseid Meteor Shower, the clouds have rolled in and covered up the sky here in Atlanta. It seems like this happens every year. I envy those of you with clear, dark skies and a good view of the action. A good meteor shower is unforgettable.

UPDATE: Well, whaddaya know? It has cleared up a lot since lunchtime. Last night we couldn't see a thing but tonight might be better. One of the perils of working in the basement is that I have no idea when the weather changes. We sat outside for lunch and got rained on a little bit. I assumed that since the forecast called for more of the same that we'd be getting more of the same. Looks like we might see a meteor or two after all.

ANOTHER DAMN UPDATE: Well, we tried. Although the skies appear clear, there is a lot of light pollution in our little cul-de-sac. In particular, our streetlamp is in a very poor spot - right in the northeasterly direction we'd need to see the radiant source for the meteors. Our beautiful grove of trees is also blocking most of the view. We could see maybe 4-5 stars total in the visible sky, and I am pretty sure that at least one of them was a planet because it was so big and bright. Less than ideal. :-(

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Oh, Canada!

Lake Louise
Photograph: Victoria Glacier and reflection from Lake Louise early in the morning, August 2, 2009.

We're back.

The Canadian Rockies are incredibly beautiful in August. Photographs do not do it justice - you have to take in the entire vista with your own eyes. Even the money is pretty. We had a very good time and might even have lost a bit of weight with all of the hiking we did. I took over 850 photographs, which will take a little time to sort out. I will no doubt share them one area at a time.

If any of you are contemplating a trip to the Canadian Rockies - do it! And get this book, which was an indispensable guide: Parkways of the Canadian Rockies. I have the third edition, copyright 1988 that I purchased during my 1994 visit, but there is a spiffy new 5th edition that I saw in a bookstore at Lake Louise Village that looked great.

We were sorry to have to leave it all behind to go back home (and to a heat wave, no less). We both have a lot of bullshit to "look forward to" at work. But it was a great week off - no TV, no news, no internet (except trail reports, weather, and checking in with Mom once a day), no phones, no nothing except boots on the trail and some good chow when we got back to our temporary home base of Lake Louise Village.