Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday Tirade ... And Justice For None

I had jury duty yesterday. I didn't want to go, but I did. I didn't meet any of the conditions for WHY they should excuse me, and, well, apparently getting people to show up for JD in Travis county is hard because they've started issuing arrest warrants for no-shows. So I went.

Don't get me wrong. I think jury duty is genuinely important, one of the responsibilities of liberty. It is one of the few opportunities for people who are not lawyers or politicians to be involved in the legal process in this country. I don't believe in summary judgment or that any one person has the right to determine the guilt or innocence of another--too easy to abuse such a system--think dictators and police states! The right to a trial by a jury of our peers is important. Or at least, it should be.

My father always says he would ask the court to decide were he ever in criminal trouble. I asked him why. He told me, "I don't want my fate in the hands of twelve people too stupid to get out of jury duty."

image shamelessly borrowed from potbust.com (one of the coolest I found googling "Justice images")

Yea, makes ya all warm and fuzzy inside, don't it?

It's sad, but that seems to be the attitude of many. In the weeks leading up to my jury duty I had people tell me all kinds of opinions about it. Things like (and I wish I was kidding):
  • Let people on welfare do jury duty, they're already getting paid by the state.
  • Lie and get out of it, that's what everyone else does.
  • What a waste of time!

Maybe it's the last vestige of the 8th-grader-who-wanted-to-be-a-lawyer-when-she-grew-up in me, but this response bugged the hell out of me. If I were wrongfully accused of a crime, I want a trial in front of intelligent, hard working people. The problem is intelligent hard-working people don't want to be on juries.

Let's address my number one reason for not wanting to go: If Mama don't go to work, Mama don't get paid.

In a short 2-4 day trial that is an inconvenience, for me, but not a tragedy--now that dh is working too. If mine were the only paycheck feeding the family it would be a different matter altogether. A long case, such as one that may involve the death penalty or life in prison, is a break in pay no one with a job can afford. I've always dreamed of working for one of those rare companies who understand that jury duty is a legal and moral obligation and not a get-out-of-work-free card and pays people while they are out. If more places did this, more responsible, intelligent, hard-working (emphasis on the working part) people would be willing to serve on juries.

I feel bad for the defendant in the case I came four people away from being on the jury for yesterday. The ADA told the jury pool that the jury would most likely come from the first three rows. By the time voir dire was over most of the first FIVE rows had been excused on a litany of thin reasons, like, (yes, someone said this!), "Well, it never happened to me, but my mother's best friend's sister's nephew had it happen to him and I just don't think I could be impartial in this case."

Maybe the decline in the justice system in America isn't all the lawyers' fault. Maybe, just maybe, it's our fault, too.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Good News!

After just over 6 months of unemployment, which is apparently about average for geek gigs in the Austin area, dh has found a job! Woo hoo!

We're excited. I've never had his earning power in the traditional workforce and we knew we couldn't live on my income alone without eventually joining the many people caught in the mortgage crunch. (Though I did have some nifty plans for decorating our refrigerator box backburnered!) So relieved; both relieved and immensely thankful in this economy, do not even begin to approach how we are feeling right now.

I'm also excited because he sounds really psyched about the job. He thinks it will be interesting and challenging, things he'd been longing for at mega-evil-laid-off-my-husband-corp and it's good to see him excited.

Now I just have to plan for how to survive if this happens again (have I mentioned the awesome economy?) to either of us since we are a two job family now. Three, if we count my sad little freelance biz.

Now that the big worry is gone, time to move on to the little things:
  • getting the small one adjusted to our new normal, one that includes things like after-school and summer care and fewer playdates since mom isn't home to chauffeur her around and helping her be happy with it.
  • paying attention to my writing again. I'm taking the rest of January off, but for a newsletter gig, and then I want to try to build a new routine around the new, new life that will let me build my biz back up to the point that I can talk about coming home again (maybe) when my contract is up in late 2009.
  • make plans for some badly needed home repair projects that were put off in the face of no income
  • and, maybe, the Good lord willing, a v-a-c-a-t-i-o-n sometime this calendar year. We've been married 14 years and have never truly been on vacation together. Okay, fine there was ONE, but we're trying to put that week we shared a beach house in Galveston with my family and waaay too much beer (neither dh nor I drink beer--draw your own pictures for this story!) behind us.
I get that this really doesn't matter to anyone but me, but I just needed to express my relief and hopes and worries for the future. That is all. Move along InterWebs, nothing to see here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tuesday Tirade: Do Ya Really Need a Truck?

I live in Texas. Home of trucks the size of egos, which is to say freakin' huge. I also live in ~urban~ Texas where such things are rarely more than some guy's ridiculously oversize compensatory device.

Yes, I said it.

If you live in town and drive a big truck--especially one jacked up even higher--women, or at least this woman, are going to think you are making up for some shortages south of the border, if ya know what I mean.

Even if you own a boat/trailer/off-road toy, most of the places you will drive to and park to use it are, ummm... paved.

The bulk of people who own these trucks ~never~ need a giant truck in their daily lives--my mother and brother both did this, so I know whereof I speak. My brother never used his truck (not jacked up--he lacked judgment, not taste) as anything other than point A to point B transportation. After a few years of feeding that sucker at the pump and paying the frequently higher-for-trucks insurance he traded in his truck for something still guy-like (the new Charger) but more practical in his daily life.

My mom? She ~loves~ her truck. And ends up helping everyone she knows move their furniture as a result. She also bought her truck when she was living out on an unpaved road and working at decidedly uncivilized construction sites--in other words, she actually needed a truck when she bought one. When she moved into town feeding it got tiresome and she bought herself a little VW that she uses for 90% of her driving.

You know why I really hate all these stupid urban trucks (and let's not even get me started on the Expeditions, Escalades, or, heaven forfend, the stupidest thing ever sold to people who don't need it, the frickin' Hummer!) though?

Because their owners seem to think that driving them gives them the right to be flaming nimrods on wheels, in parking lots, and pretty much anywhere else. You own a truck--it fits in one parking space, there is no good reason to spread it across three--especially somewhere that parking is already limited (like, oh, a school parking lot!)

Nothing pisses off a guy in a ginormous pickup as quick as me and my little Bug not being intimidated by him. Dude, I have friggin' awesome car insurance, a seat belt, and air bags--you don't scare me.

Petroleum is at a premium, exhaust is in excess--really, unless you have a career in a field that requires the blatant consumerism and (looking for another word for excess, gimme a sec) that is a Texas pickup, give it up and get a real car.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tuesday Tirade: No Butts About It

Woohoo! After a long hiatus to twiddle my thumbs & paint my nails, Tuesday Tirades are baaaack!

Today we're talking butts. No, not the one you sit, the ones you most likely walk on: cigarette butts.

I've been a smoker. Some of my good friends smoke. My parents have all, at one time or another, been smokers.

I don't want to talk about the health implications of tobacco use (it's bad for you, duh!) or the environmental impact of the tobacco industry (*shudder*) or even secondhand smoke. I just want to talk trash.

Smoking is not exactly the most publicly acceptable vice, and many places these days, especially in Austin, don't accommodate smokers. I happen to work someplace that does.

There are pretty color printed signs protected by plastic all down one side of the building that say "Designated Smoking Area." Said area is conveniently in a dead end that no one who does not want to suck nicotine has to walk through to enter or exit the building. Even with all the construction going on around my office they've made an effort to accommodate people's nic fits. There are several picnic tables, all of which are under cover--a rarity in Austin smoking areas.

And there are lots of trash cans. Three very large square bins, two of them the quaint kind with the sand pit in a tray on top--so people have a place to put out their smoke. So... Why the heck do I have to walk through a snowstorm of cigarette butts to exit and enter? How hard is it, really, to rub that puppy out and PUT IT IN THE TRASH!

I walked past a grounds guy one day between Thanksgiving and Christmas on my way into the office. He was on his hands and knees next to one of the previously mentioned trash cans, hand removing each and every butt people hadn't bothered to throw away. They litter the ground all around the smoking area, yet the giant ash trays are almost always empty.

What is wrong with you smokers? Have you just gotten so used to tossing your trash (which incidentally stays in landfills a really long time and requires the deaths of a heckuva lot of trees each year to make the paper that's wrapped around the tobacco) where ever you happen to be when you finish your cigarette that even when you have a place to toss it, you can't be bothered?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

This is Hard

No, really.

All you bloggers who have the time and energy to live life, work, and blog prolifically, I salute you. I don't know how you do it.

I'm guessing some of it is prioritizing. It's bad of me, but my blog is a low priority item in my life (how's that for social media sacrilege?!). I have work, I have J, I have home and a life to lead/live/build/survive. That takes time and effort and I am a slacker at heart.

Which means that the world is largely forced to live without the benefit of my occasional snarky insights. Woe is you. (roflmao!) Yea, right.

I'll try to be better, in honor of my three followers--I didn't put them in the sidebar so they wouldn't be embarrassed to be seen there. I will attempt to at least make my weekly tirades, k y'all?

Who knows, I may get better than that, but, for now, that's all I'm promising.

Monday, January 5, 2009

World's Worst Blogger

A-yup, that's me. I shall now enumerate all the endlessly entertaining things I've been doing instead...

  • Working a full day for someone else for the first time in 5 years--interesting developments on this front, we'll come back to this later.
  • I spent November writing my magnum opus--which I now need to finish! I hit 50k words on the night of November 30th & just stopped, heaving a bleary-eyed sigh of relief that I could take a break. It's been a little over a month and I need to haul it out again, finish the draft, then put it away again for a month or two so I can see if it has any merit sometime around June.
  • Christmas and all its attendant gory details (shopping, wrapping, travel, parties, etc). Still haven't looked at my Trail of Lights Pics from 08 and it is now 09--see, blogging isn't the only thing I've let fall by the wayside.
  • Painting my nails. Don't laugh! Somehow, without me noticing it, I actually managed to grow finger nails this Autumn. I've been a nail-biter since age 3, so this is uber weird for me! As a result, I have been painting them obsessively, changing them every week and picking some colors so weird even my 7yo looks at me like I'm crazy. Hey, I figure if my mid-life crisis never gets more extreme than a series of bizarre nail polish color choices, I'm doing all right. And it's cheaper than a sports car ;-)
  • Speaking of cars... I got a new one! Not new, new, but new to me. Her name is Serenity and she's a metallic charcoal grey 02 VW beetle. If you're a sci-fi fan you can probably follow the roundabout path to how she go her name.
  • Crocheting. I started numerous projects as gifts this year, most of which did not get done in time, BUT, I am still proud. I tried new things. Round things, things that were not just large straight lines, including my first hat and a Dalek. When the Dalek is done I'll post pics :-)
  • Struggling to keep my freelance biz alive. I am pretty much down to just one client these days, and that is more cuz she loves me and, even more likely, because she dreads having to dig up someone else to do what I do. I want to take on more, but I still genuinely don't feel settled into this new life.
  • Reading - I always read more in the last half of the year, probably due to the urge to curl up & hibernate, even if our winter weather thus far has consisted of mostly 60-80 degree days.
  • Life. Life happens and it is complicated and messy and tiring. Especially mine.
That's it, then in the world's largest nutshell - what I've been doing instead of blogging. Now you know.