A coincidence

8:20 am: I leave my house to get my hair cut. A neighbor has an RV-esque trailer attached to their large truck parked nearby, but otherwise all is right in the world.

9:00 am: I return from my haircut. The truck and trailer are gone. The stop sign (including pole) closest to my house now lies on the sidewalk, the street signs attached at the top twisted and bent.

Where do you go (my lovely)

It’s late enough and I’m tired enough that I think a not-timely song reference makes for a good title, so hold on to your butts.

Where do I go, when I neglect this blog for weeks months at a time? I can’t account for my time as well as I ought to be able to, so expect some gaping holes.

I’ve been taking two dance classes—ballroom and west coast swing technique—for the last four terms or so, which takes a good chunk out of my Tuesday and Thursday evenings. After eight or nine years of trying to not forget absolutely everything I know about ballroom dance, it’s been wonderful to actually have some instruction again—to feel like I’m actually making progress, rather than trying to minimize how much progress I lose.

Wednesday night is the traditional night of ballroom dance practice. I get grumpy if I don’t attend.

Starting with the new year (though it wasn’t a resolution or anything</tsun>) I began trying to exercise in earnest again. That’s an hour on most nights when I’m not dancing, and pretty much the only time I watch anime these days. (Sidenote: Though I’ve only seen five-ish episodes, Aldnoah.Zero is seriously good. The last show I enjoyed as much was Chihayafuru.)

I’ve been listening to a mess of podcasts, to the detriment of actually doing things. (I now make a conscious effort to listen only when doing menial tasks…) My favorites of the moment are the Bombcast, Accidental Tech Podcast, 8-4 Play, and IRL Talk. I’m shedding a silent tear that IRL Talk is ending, as Jason and Faith’s banter always brought a smile to my face… I’ll especially miss Jason’s terrible ideas on how to troll people and create awkward situations, even though (fear not, Faith!) I’d never actually enact any of them.

My job has been a constant source of above-average stress for the last couple years, which has extended far beyond the hours I actually put in. Previously that stress was due to performance issues (of the office as a whole, not of me personally); currently it’s from the company being acquired (!). I meet my probably-new boss, who lives in a different state, on Monday. They claim they intend to keep my office open, but I’m deeply suspicious and/or untrusting.

I’ve also had two larger—or, at least, productive—coding projects that I’ve worked on, but I’ll save those for another post at a more reasonable hour. Fear not: I still have more to say about grand jury duty, too.

Grand Jury Duty: The Scene

The grand jury room I served in featured a vaulted ceiling and a large rectangular conference room table in the center. The chairs were rather nice—well-padded leather—but the arms had suffered from rubbing on the underside of the table. The foreperson sat at one end, the testifying witness sat at the other, and the rest of the jurors sat three to a side. The DA would either sit on one side next to the witness and unbalance the entire table, or would wander around the room while asking questions.

The alternate foreperson and recorder both had fixed seats, as well, to the immediate right and left of the foreperson (respectively). I suspect the rest of us could have moved around from day to day, but once we had a spot we stuck with it for the entire term. I sat in the center of the side that the DA would sit on, with my back to the window. Good for focusing on cases; bad for enjoying the day.

In one corner was a TV, used for displaying photos and for teleconferencing with witnesses that live goodly distances away. In another corner was a coffeepot that had obviously been neglected for years, as well as a water cooler that actually saw some action. There was also a locked cabinet where the official recorder’s notes for each case (as well as documentation of the jurors’ final overall vote) were stored. I’m not sure how long notes are held, but the one time I got a glimpse inside it looked like there were a lot of them.

In the center of the table were binders with basic instructions to the jurors, a pile of notepads and pens, and bound copies of the Oregon Revised Statutes criminal code. The binders were written in plain English, save for the amazingly-cryptic Oregon Sentencing Guidelines Grid included as the very last page.

This paragraph contains the sum total knowledge I have of that sentencing grid. The letters across the top classify how much of a bad-ass you have been in the past; the numbers along the side classify how much bad-assery you are accused of presently. The resulting grid, along with some tea leaves and chicken bones, give you an idea of how long a sentence you’ll face if convicted.

The ORS criminal code is surprisingly readable, much moreso than most legal text (or the sentencing guidelines grid). Take, say, Assault IV. The required elements are clearly spelled out, as are the ways that it might turn from a misdemeanor into a felony. Any definitional questions you have are addressed in the general definitions and definitions with respect to culpability.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t any nuance to the law. In the general definitions, a “dangerous weapon” is “any weapon, device, instrument, material or substance which under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used or threatened to be used, is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury” (emphasis mine). As one DA explained it, a pool of water could be considered a “dangerous weapon” if one person is holding another person’s face down in that water; a wall could be one if one person is bashing another person’s head into it.

The DA did clarify, however, that one’s fists—regardless of whatever kung-fu training you’ve received—cannot be classified as dangerous weapons.

Naze Nani Grand Jury Duty

The purpose of the grand jury is to act as a check on prosecutorial overreach. An assistant district attorney (ADA, though I’m going to be lazy and type “DA” from here on out) will present their case, and the grand jury is supposed to decide if, in the absence of any defense, they would find the defendant guilty. The entire argument is biased and one-sided—and it’s meant to be. If the DA cannot make their case in even the most favorable light, then they have no business taking it to a courtroom.

I know that a certain recent national story has suggested that grand juries weigh “all” the evidence, or other nonsense. That’s completely against everything I was told.

Note that the DA doesn’t necessarily present their entire case. They can (as you might expect) omit details that aren’t favorable to them, but what I didn’t expect is that they can also omit details that further condemn an individual, if they think the facts they’ve presented are sufficient.

Only felonies have to be presented to the grand jury, though the DA has the option of presenting misdemeanors if they want to do a test-run of their case. I’ve heard that this is because, historically, felonies were offenses where the defendant could potentially face death as a punishment. (Not all felonies are presented to the grand jury, either, though I’m not entirely certain about which ones are not—plea deals, maybe more? In those situations, the DA files an information.)

Historically, grand juries were independent investigative bodies that could open their own inquiries into potential crimes. The modern grand jury I sat on now just has an annual duty to visit the Children’s Farm Home and verify that all seems to be well there. My term did not coincide with that annual visit, thankfully.

Intro to Grand Jury Duty

A grand jury summons looks almost identical to a petit jury (the type of jury you would see on TV) summons. The experience, however, is just a little different. I imagine the details will differ from place to place, so assume that everything I write about my jury duty experience is prefaced with “in my county” or “in my experience.”

I can’t discuss the particulars of any case I heard, so don’t expect any saucy details.

When you show up, you’ll eventually be shepherded into a courtroom, where seven jurors and two alternates will be selected at random. Those people will then furiously try to convince the judge that the burden of serving is too great for them: “I am the sole caretaker for my deathly ill mother,” “I am the lynchpin preventing the complete destruction of a small business,” etc., etc. The judge will excuse people who have convincing reasons, and otherwise take into account any specific days that you know you will be unavailable. (So long as an alternate will be available on those days, all is well.)

HOLY CRAP will a lot of people have excuses. I was the three-thousandth* person called to replace an excused juror. [*underestimation] When your name is called and you stand up to walk to the jury box, those who remain will shy away from you as if you’ve spontaneously developed a contagious disease.

Aside from being a convicted felon, I don’t know that there’s much else you can do to not be put on the grand jury. There is no qualification test, or any questioning about how you feel about the police, the law, or what-have-you.

Once a jury is selected, two names are drawn at random from the seven jurors: the first will be the foreperson, and the second is the alternate foreperson. (One other juror is later selected to be the official recorder, but that’s determined among the jurors themselves.) The judge then swears you in, and that is the last time you will step foot in a courtroom. The grand jury actually meets in the District Attorney’s office, which in my case is the third floor of the county courthouse. My term of service was two months, meeting every Tuesday and Friday.

It was a long two months.

Another Goodbye

My parents had to put their dog to sleep yesterday morning. My parents had to put my dog to sleep yesterday morning.

Yoshi was diagnosed with lymphoma on December 23rd, which kinda put a damper on Christmas. Treating with Prednisone, he was supposed to have six-ish reasonable months. Even with that (apparently optimistic) timeline, this last month has felt like a deathwatch; the lumps on his chest that first indicated something was wrong grew horrifically large in the first week, and other signs just kept cropping up to indicate that the end was going to be sooner rather than later.

At least my folks fed him well for his last month. Like all dogs, Yoshi loved food.

Yoshi was a bright, gentle, socially awkward boy. He loved my folks, and my sister and me to a lesser extent (we moved out three years after my folks adopted him), but was never terribly comfortable around most other people. He wanted to play with other dogs, but never really seemed to know how (the result of his backyard-breeder early years?); he liked to chase bikes—at least until he actually caught one, the way my dad tells it.

He fit my family extraordinarily well.


Yoshi’s distinguishing feature was that underbite. His eyes were brown, and did not glow like a vampire. I’ll miss him.

True story

My sister and I had some Chinese food late last week. After eating, she informed me of a rule one of her former coworkers had: you should not pick your own fortune cookie–instead, you must let someone else pick it for you.

The next night I ate leftover Chinese food. After eating, I thought of Marin’s story–and then figured “ef it, I determine my own fortune!”

The fortune cookie I selected was empty.

One more day

Under penalty of perjury, do you swear that the testimony you shall give on the issue now pending before this grand jury is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

Death of a PS3

Brian has, in a fashion, been around to see the entire life of my 60GB “fat” PS3. He joined me on Launch Day when I picked it up from an EB Games in Salem, witnessed me opening it up and (per Andy) “letting all the ducats out,” and then joined me in frustration at how insanely the Ridge Racer 7 cars handled. (Once we got the hang of it, that game became a whole heck of a lot more fun.)

A week ago Tuesday, we were playing Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker online together, when my console suddenly decided to turn off and beep three times. Attempts to reboot it resulted in a power light that went quickly from green to yellow to blinking red, again accompanied by three beeps.

This, apparently, is the YLOD, or “yellow light of death.” Whoever came up with that name (obviously a play on the 360’s RROD/red ring of death) should be ashamed of themselves.

All launch PS3s appear to be doomed to this fate. It’s a damn shame, and just as bullshit (albeit not as immediate) as the 360’s overheating issues. My (…mentally counting…) twenty-seven-year-old NES still works just fine, which makes the lack of reliability of these recent consoles that much more galling to me.

Apple Watch

I didn’t care for the first iPod. If memory serves, my primary beef was that it cost too much for what it did (5GB for $400?). I did buy the second generation model, though, which was still in the same class (10GB for $400), and it did make my time sorting papers at work much more bearable.

The iPhone was obviously a game-changer; I don’t think anyone who saw that launch would disagree. (That said, I’ve never owned an iPhone; the associated cell contract is just too expensive for how little I use a cell phone.)

I was excited for the iPad, and knew that it would sell well… though I had no idea what the heck I would use it for. That’s still mostly true to this day: I use my iPad for reading PDFs of books and comics (tasks where it easily beats the pants off of any other device), but I feel like it’s a product that barely fits into my life.

And this Apple Watch? It does nothing for me. I stopped wearing a watch when I graduated from college—keep in mind that there was no iPhone/iPod touch back then, otherwise I might not have even worn one during college—and this gives me absolutely no reason to start up again. (And this is overlooking the fact that it needs an iPhone to work.)

I’m definitely not very good at predicting marketplace success, and I am admittedly not a typical person, but it’s rather strange to me that the most important technological things in my life are a five-and-a-half-year-old Mac Pro and a two-year-old iPod touch. (Both are getting closer to the end of their useful lives, but neither are there yet.)

Perhaps I’m taking the first (next?) steps down the road to being an old curmudgeon, but it seems like Apple’s gotten worse at answering the question “why?”… and the actual utility of their products, to me, has suffered accordingly.

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