Jury Duty 1: The responsibility of Jurors

I did jury duty last summer. For the first four days, I watched as the prosecution detailed its case against the defendant (it was a case of theft of a lot of money and some automobiles). The case was being built carefully, although delayed by other cases (some plea bargains and other paperwork from another judge).

At the end of day four, I was walking towards my car when the seriousness of what I was doing hit me.

Sure, I was judging whether the defendant, a fifty year old woman, was guilty of stealing money and cars. But I was also judging the people the prosecution were representing — a car dealership, and especially its owner.

Think of it this way: Obviously if the defendant was guilty, the company had spotted the problem and gotten it out. However, if the defendant was judged “not guilty,” than there was a major stain still on the car company. While I’m sure they would still think they got rid of the thief, there was still the possibility that the thief was in their company. And also: was their system so sloppy that they couldn’t catch the thief stealing their money?

As an example: look at the Michael Jackson trial. MJ was judged “Not Guilty,” despite some of the jurors believing he was a pedophile and a creep, because they judged the defendant’s mother worse. Indeed, had the prosecution ignored the mother and instead focused on the child accuser himself, maybe MJ would have been declared “Guilty.”

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Of course, I went through the next six days, outlasting one Juror (everyone else thought she was sick. I remembered she said she was once bulimic and figured she successfully used a bulimic’s trick to escape.). When the time came for the judgment, we judged the defendant guilty of stealing large amounts of money, and some of the cars she actually took. Reasonable doubt prevented guilty verdicts on some of the cars and kept the cash theft charge from being a bigger class felony than it was.


The Real Reason for Our Present Occupation of Iraq

Does anyone remember that we went to war with Iraq in 1991?

Does anyone remember that we fought and won a quick war then, with the rest of the world along for the ride?

Does anyone remember that we’ve since enforced no-fly rules and a blockade against Iraq from 1991 to 2003?

Does anyone remember that Saddam Hussein did marches and speeches that declared he won the war against America?

While it’s obvious that the president lied about Weapons of Mass Destruction to get us into a war, the fact was we had just spent twelve years holding down a country and its dictator. How much longer would we have had to do before we let up?

We would have had to do something when Hussein died anyway, and who says what’s happening there now would not have happened then? And who says it wouldn’t have been worse then? Especially with France and Germany having had greater profits and investment in the country after five, ten, maybe twenty years of investing in Saddam’s oil production in secret.

I don’t like the war as it’s presently fought, nor do I like how we were brought into it; but I fear this war was necessary given what had happened.

Met a soldier today at work.

Picked up a soldier in fatigues while working today. He was given two weeks off, and was heading home to surprise his family.

First comment I heard clearly over the din of the two-way radio and air conditioning was “It’s nice to ride in a vehicle without having to worry.”

I turned down the AC and the two-way.

Turns out he was deployed in the Sunni Triangle; the “only” (his words) dangerous place in Iraq. There, he said, the insurgents were making roadside bombs able to destroy fully armoured Humvees. He also told me the rest of Iraq was peaceful and being rebuilt.

I saluted him when he sat in the car, and felt my posture straighten in his presence.

When he left the van he asked me “How much?” “Ten bucks.” I replied. As he handed over the money, he said “This has been the best ten bucks I spent.”

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Definitely a different view from the mainstream news, or the Right Wing noise. Both the positive (the rebuilding of a nation) and the negative (the roadside bombs). He said more about the bombs, but I feel it wise to hold back the details.Wish I had asked him who was doing the roadside bombs. Were they mainly Iraqi Sunnis, or foreign desperadoes trying to earn their 72-virgin welcome into paradise?

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Thing is, I probably should have given him the ride for free and paid the fare myself.

Apple Goes Intel – My Thoughts

On June 6th Steve Jobs announced that Apple would be moving from Power PC chips to Intel chips. Since then I’ve been following the chatter over the boards.

I have a few thoughts on what this means:

  1. Obviously the Power PC chip has reached some limit to its evolution. Never mind the comments that “A few more bucks could have solved the problem,” it must have been a pain in the butt for Apple to talk about how well-ventilated their CPUs are. I remember trying out a 17 inch G5 iMac and noticing how hot the CD got after burning a few program updates.
  2. The Mac has gone form 680X0 to Power PC, and from the “Classic” environment to a Unix-based environment. Jumping from a chip that’s evolving towards gaming to a well-established CPU-based chip is nothing undoable. Besides, it’s not like you’ve never seen an oversized file made for two formats before — especially if you’ve followed the format for more than ten years.
  3. I’m curious how much of a hit the graphics portion of the CPU would take — and whether the average Mac User would notice. Macs have always been a bit better on the graphics (Windows has always had a strange tackiness to it, as if that final refinement was somehow missing). How much of that missing refinement was Windows, and how much of that was limitations because of the Intel chip? Will you see a hit in the Graphics and Layout programs after the move? Note that all the gaming companies (even Microsoft) are using Power PC chips for their game boxes.
  4. It’s about Powerbooks. And mini-Macs. And iMacs (see above). And the Tablet Mac (I lust after tablet computers. That would probably be the one thing that would make me switch, that would be if I had to turn in my present computer, of course). And the cost savings from not needing to encase the chip in a liquid cooling mechanism. And not needing a ton of fans to cool things down, or feeling the need to brag about it.
  5. Don’t believe that they’ll use Intel chips in the low-end and Power PC chips at the high end, except during the transition period. To have two separate chips that require two different programs to run would not make sense. I more expect to see AMD chips in the high-end Macs — they’re compatible with Intel, and have a proven record with Gamers and others who require high-end chips for graphics and other demanding applications.

Finally, remember that it’s two years before the high-end Macs go “Intel Inside.” Add on at least two years of “fat” apps and dual releases, and you’ve got enough time to run with what you got. You can even plan the transition by buying a table top Mac now, and an Intel-based PowerBook (or iBook) in a couple years. Eventually, when the time comes to buy the tabletop Mac, you should have all the software ready for shifting to a Mactel computer.

Why I Don’t Like the “Jack” Radio Format

Just this week a radio station changed from an “oldies” format to this so-called new format known as “Jack.”

Seems the radio stations are a bit scared by iPods. Scared enough, it seems, to affect some small changes to their formats: They now brag about having larger song collections and talk highly about moments when the songs “don’t quite mesh together,” whatever that means. And, of course, this talk about how they do “play whatever they want.”

Which is a bunch of bullshit. It is so for the following reasons:

  1. It’s an oldies format. Just because it includes songs that didn’t make it in the top five in Casey Casem’s pop charts doesn’t make it anything other than an oldie’s format.
  2. These stations condescend. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be attitude, but it’s so obviously canned that it comes off as condescension. If I wanted to be talked down to, I’d listen to extreme right-wing talk radio try to explain why I should commit Seppuku for not being right-wing enough to agree with them.
  3. It’s ingrained bias against the present. Sure, it has a wider selection of songs than your average present-day radio station, but as an oldies format it still denigrates the present. Worse yet, this format makes an attempt to deny that fact.

The sad thing is, every other station seems to feel the need to take on the “Jack attitude.” Even stations known for following their own muse have glommed onto this form of condescension.

It’s time this bullshit stopped. And here’s my thoughts on how it must stop:

Everyone knows (or should know) that there are three aspects about everyone’s musical tastes:

  1. What we know we like
  2. What we know we don’t like, and
  3. What we might like

The third one is crucial. If all we had were what we liked and what we didn’t like, there would be no need for radios; all we would need is MP3’s, CDs and Cassettes. However, there’s always the possibility for the true music fan that they’ll find a new song or genre they like, either by discovery or investigation.

And that’s where iPods come short. It’s good in playing the stuff you like (including that stuff you sort of remember you liked but had forgotten until a radio station played it during that drive to work) and without equal in not having the stuff you don’t like (since you can remove anything disliked from it); but there is no way for an iPod to know what you MIGHT like, or to even begin to search for songs you might like. The computer the iPod is hooked up to might, your favorite record store should be able to, and a good radio station will do so on a consistent basis; but the iPod CAN’T!

If these “Jack” stations want to be cool, they should try playing different artists and different songs. If you want to play Metallica, you should also be prepared to hunt down and play Fatal Order, or some other local band that plays metal. You want to play pop, find and play Saint Etienne or Over The Rhine. And while we’re at it, why not play deeper cuts from the CDs you got? Nothing bugs me more than hearing the same song or two every time I turn on the radio.

Indeed, these would make sense for ANY radio station that plays music. After all, why should only those people lucky enough to be near a college station have a local radio station that introduces them to new and local bands on a regular basis?

Yes, I know – we have the Internet with all its “riches.” The good of the radio is this: I don’t need to have a computer on to hear a new song on the radio. I can listen to the radio going to work, at work, and lying around at the end of the day. Plus I have a good chance of liking the new stuff that comes from the station because I like the station and many of the songs on it. And if I DON’T like the new song, that’s another piece of information I know.