Friday, February 27, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
mummble ... is only Gregor and me, and that’s just not doing much. A grown up needs to stay with us.
20 minutes later, since Gregor has gotten out of bed for the 5,962.5 time
“Mama, both of my giraffes are allergic to the dark. They need a grown up to stay with them.”
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
It also said that the UK and the US have "actively undermined" international law by their actions. It concluded that many measures introduced to fight terrorism were illegal and counter-productive.The only news here is that someone bothered to sit down and write a report which will sit on someone's shelf, letting them thing happy thoughts that they somehow have improved the situation by vicarious approval.
Monday, February 16, 2009
On to another series of detective/murder mystery books. This one by Martin Cruz Smith (presumably no relation). You've no doubt heard of either the book or the movie Gorky Park. I just can't see William Hurt as the detective, Renko. He might have totally nailed the part, but I was just a bit taken aback when I checked out who played him in the movie (which I haven't seen). Apparently Smith caught political flak from the Soviet government after publishing the book. Perhaps that's incentive enough ...? If not, perhaps my opinion might be? It's a good book. It's gripping, the further it gets, the more you wonder about this Renko fellow. Yet I found him rather sympathetic: neither hero nor vilian, just horribly normal.
On to Polar Star:
This is not a movie (and if they make one, they need a younger actor), though it has the substance to make a rather good one, if they could find a director like Peter Weir, who can take a small, isolated environment and make it seem both huge and claustrophobic at the same time.
Renko, the Investigator for the Moscow police, is no longer an Investigator, nor a Party member, and definitely not above suspicion by those from the previous book. He's drifted across Siberia to avoid political problems, arriving on the Polar Star, a fish-processing ship in the Bering Sea. Operating the fishing boats are Americans in a joint-venture with the Soviets (it's now 1989), with the Soviets operating the gigantic processing operation, where Arkady is working on the 'slime line'.
Interest picks up early with (of course) a dead body, one of the crew of the Polar Star, who falls out of the fishing nets one morning. Someone discovers Renko has experience with making little inquiries, and puts him on a one-day task of helping the 3rd mate find out what happened. He sees this as a pleasant respite from gutting fish in a freezing hold. Yet, he points out to the Capitain it would be much simpler if they just told him what the desired result for the investigation; it will increase the probability of them getting it.
Here is a man who is completely aware of the way life in the USSR works, of Justice's frequent sabbatical, and yet who is himself relentless in his pursuit of that ideal.
The story revolves around a man thawing out of his professional funk when he starts pursuing the job he's really good at, in this case, investigating. It's quite interesting to see the gradual change throughout the story of him emerging from his cocoon, the rust sloughing off his police skills.
I'm never quite sure how to take the personality of this Arkady Renko. Is he really the epitome of the Straight Man? Because he assuredly is delivering the straight lines throughout the story. Is it a total lack of humor? Or a completely refined sense of the ridiculous & self-preservation?
As one review put it: [police procedurals] are a way to study human nature under stress, to see how a society worksfrom the inside out and the bottom up. Smith paints a lucid picture of Soviet society at the time (he wrote this in '89, it's not 'retrospective', but a contemporary view). It provides a picture of the USSR struggling with being socialist / communist, and yet seduced to the Dark Side of Sony Walkmans, jogging suits, and Swatch Watches.
Since any browse through a book store will tell you there's another book, it's difficult to avoid the fact that he must live through the book. I still found myself anxiously wondering if he'd live. I find it intriguing that Smith has kept pace with history. There's been 6 books over 26 years:
Gorky Park; Polar Star; Red Square; Havana Bay; Wolves Eat Dogs, and most recently Stalin's Ghost.
2 - sure, go buy it, you'll definitely read it more than once
Review of Gorky Park the movie:
Some of the more intriguing records are from the not-so-famous. If you're interested, however, the NPR archive has 2-4 min. essays from Pres. Harry Truman, Martha Graham, Margaret Meade, Sen. Margaret Chase-Smith, Justice William Douglas, and Jackie Robinson.
I particularly enjoyed one on a Doubting, Questioning Mind.
The page will lead you to the modern essays produced for NPR (rather than the originals for Edward R. Murrow/).
From someone I can honestly say I admire a great deal: Health is Human Right, by Paul Farmer.
Out of the mouths of babes: Thirty Things I Believe In.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
... he shifts the film's focus from the subject of German guilt about the Holocaust and turns it on the human race in general. The film intends his decision as the key to its meaning, but most viewers may conclude that "The Reader" is only about the Nazis' crimes and the response to them by post-war German generations.
Bitter, self-righteous, racist Jew:
[summarized by me] Every single German in the entire country is morally repugnant and complicit in the Holocaust because they could have read an article in a dinky little Munich newspaper in 1931. Any German alive between 1926 and 1945 really did know about the extermination of the Jews and is currently lying if s/he says otherwise. The movie is therefore without value pandering to revisionist (secretly Holocaust-denying) history.
Maybe I should go see it. Ebert's review wouldn't have encouraged me given my limited time and money these days. Cinda's opinion did encourage me, but not enough to run out and see it. But this socio-political rant posing as a movie review? Oooo! Controversy! Editorials written in a piss-poor style with exclamation points! And flat faux satire!
Saturday, February 14, 2009
The Animal Humane Society doesn't want people to get their hopes up about adopting any of about 120 cats removed from a St. Anthony mobile home Tuesday.
Of course, "Not adoptable" is just a euphemism for "kill them all".
... three hours for about 15 masked workers and police officers to remove 118 cats from a couple's reeking home ... yet ... In 2002 workers removed 72 cats from the same couple's residence ... the tenants' group for the park has a rule limiting residents to one cat.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
U.C. Irvine won't be charging tuition when their new law school opens its doors in September. While the article offers the advice:
How to Spend the Money Saved on Tuition: In-N-Out burgers. Lots and lots of In-N-Out burgers.
They fail to mention that you'll be eating In-N-Out because you can't afford anything else in California, even without paying tuition.
U. Minnesota isn't free, in fact I've heard it's pretty pricey for a big state school, "churning out the nation’s fifth-highest average debt loads".
Although, thanks to the Fates - who kept the last Bush from gutting the Dept. Health & Human Services, and kept him from abolishing (among other occupational offices) NIOSH - I am getting a tuition-free ride ($14,432/yr).
Thank you, my fellow taxpayers.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
I want to love you on 2/14
I want to love you 24/7
"Valentine's Day" is just another Hallmark Holiday. Some highlights from the commentary:
It is nothing more than a commercial holiday created by rabid retailers who needed a major shopping day between Christmas and Easter in order to give people a reason to spend money.
Why should I be inundated with mailings, e-mails and commercials to show her that I love her by buying jewelry or clothing? .If we went shopping in June or September or last month, can I get some kind of waiver or "Get out of Valentine's Day" card?
... isn't even a two-way street. Men are utterly irrelevant except to serve as pawns in this commercial game, emptying their wallets in order to satisfy their lovers or those around them ...
The people who plan their lives around Valentine's are like those who spend more time planning their wedding day rather than planning their marriage.
I guess I'm just stuck with a man who randomly throughout the year gives me flowers, who changes our children's diapers, who cooks dinner for these children when I'm at night classes, who busts his ass to provide for all 4 of us. Yup, I'm screwed come Saturday, lonely in a flower-less, candy-less, materialistic mercantile wasteland.
Monday, February 9, 2009
There's a video from a NASA astronaut, explaining where problems in innovation occur. Where good ideas go to die. This is fantastic - if you don't recognize any of these scenarios, it's because you're self employed.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
What is the difference between a road and a street?
A road usually runs between two more distant points, such as between two towns. A street is described as being a paved road or highway - in a city, town, or village, especially one lined with houses, shops, or other buildings. The implication is that if a street does not have these things, it will probably be called a road. When a town expands, sometimes what was formerly a road will become a street. The word road is the more general term, though, and can be applied to a street. Street is the narrower term.
from dictionary.com faq ... really really cool
Friday, February 6, 2009
Jr.Gopher #1 has informed me that Jr. Gopher #2 "gave me too many germs". He's also informed us that his back hurts and he needs an ice pack like papa.
Jr.Gopher #2 is not sick.
I'm not sick, although I'm tired.
Hopefully this finds all of you hale & hearty
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Mom told me about the legal trials & tribulations for one of her co-workers this week ....
I was inspired to recall my own brush with the law ... it's long, but it makes a great party story ...
Long ago (1994) and far away (Kalkaska, Michigan), there lived a young woman (28) who was born with the burden of being named Smith. Not her first name, obviously, but her last. One day she got married and foolishly didn’t bother to legally change her name. This is a story about her.
One day, I went to Kalamazoo to teach a class; the former resident of my house went south to Cincinnati to teach a different class. I had made plans to go skiing at Lake Charlevoix with my friend Sean Patrick, not to be confused with my brother Sean Robert. Unfortunately, the Fates had not placed this into my life’s weave on their loom.
I left the lovely city of Kalamazoo later than I had planned, and drove northwards into the darkness of night, into the hinterlands of western Michigan. I drove and drove. I drove further and further. The night got later and later. Eventually, I realized I would need to stop for gas. I needed sleep, too; in lieu of sleep, I figured any gas station would have coffee of some sort. I hoped.
I saw the blinking yellow light first. Then my brain kicked in with the slow-motion-time-lapse memory of having just passed the sign “Reduce Speed Head 45 mph” while going waaaay more than 45. A split second later, my brain was catching up to realize the 2nd blinking yellow light was ahead of me, immediately followed by another sign: “Reduce Speed Ahead 35 mph”.
I hadn’t even slowed down at the first light. Hell, I hadn't even seen it. I hadn't gotten to the 2nd light. There wasn’t another car in sight. What to do?
Quick, look in the rear-view mirror. No one there. Slam on the brakes. Look both ways as I slowed down going through the 2nd light. At the far side of the 2nd intersection I was doing a nice, sedate 35 mph.
So was the police car immediately behind me. With its lights on.
“License, registration and proof of insurance”. A caricature of a rural sheriff, a big belly, brown uniform, and a flat-brim Smokey the Bear hat, he was also presenting the caricature of a big-time bad-ass police officer. Oh, god, I thought. At least my license plates were valid. I hand over the required documents.
At this point, I should mention, the soiree in Kalamazoo was for the Society for Creative Anachronism. This tale underscores the necessity to wear normal clothes when driving away from their events.
Deputy came back, looked confused, and asked “Did you know your license was suspended?” Suspended?
“Miss, If you lie to me now, it’ll just go worse for you later.” A very patronizing warning in his voice. Now is when I panicked. I did manage to refrain from waving my gold ring in his face.
“Sir, I’m not lying. You asked if I knew it was suspended. No, I don’t know - If you say it’s suspended, I believe you. But I didn’t know!”
“How could you not know? The Secretary of State mails out notices when they do this.”
“I moved twice in the past 6 months. They probably did send me a notice. If I'd gotten it, I would have fixed it!”
He looked confused and went back to his car.
He eventually walked back. Do you know there are those moments in life where, in retrospect, you recall the strangest things? His holster was open.
“Step out of the car.” Um, perhaps now is when I actually panicked. “Take your purse,” was said in the most patronizingly offensive tone of voice, where I expected him to add “or whatever girly things you’ve got.” I remained calm enough to a) make sure my epilepsy medication was in my purse, b) make sure my wallet was put back into my purse, and c) grab the piece of paper with Sean Patrick’s phone number.
I stepped out of the car; he took my purse without asking, put it on the roof of my car, and told me to “turn around, put your hands on the car, feet apart.” Panic not only arrived, it set up housekeeping. I’m in the middle of Nowhere, Michigan, and there is not a single soul on the face of God’s Green Earth who even knows where I am.
I get handcuffed. I get escorted to the back of the sheriff’s car, and put in the back seat. Did you know the back seats of police cars aren’t flat? They’re tipped back, so that when you sit down, your bottom is lower than your knees. Making it practically impossible to get out. It also leaves you leaning against the handcuffs, which is rather uncomfortable.
We finally get to the police station. They take my personal belongings. I get photographed. I get fingerprinted. I get escorted back to the counter. There were 3 or 4 people standing about 20 feet away from me, looking at some papers. It was a rather long print-out from an old dot-matrix printer - the kind with the running holes on the sides for the paper feeder. They looked at it; they looked at me; they looked at it; they looked at me.
They asked me the basic information one would expect the police to have: Where were you born? Date of Birth? Mother’s maiden name? How tall are you? 5’7” Color of eyes? Green How much do you weigh? .... um ... “Do you want to know how much I actually weigh, or do you want to know what my driver’s license says?” The three men looked completely unamused; the one woman rather quickly smothered a grin. “160, I think, I don’t know how much I weigh!” The questions went on.
I always figured getting interrogated by the police would involve some sterile room with straight-backed 1960s government surplus chairs and a battered linoleum table with cigarette burns. Nope, I was standing in the foyer of the police station, leaning on a counter top, staring across their office area, across at least 2 desks, at a little cluster of police officers. Eventually, I begged them, “What is it? Can you tell me what you want to know? What is wrong?” Aside from it being after midnight in a police station desperately wanting some coffee, rather than sitting in front of Sean’s fireplace drinking whiskey. One of them finally walked over, placed the print-out on the counter, and said, “this is your criminal record.” My what?
It started in 1982 or so, maybe earlier. I looked at it in stunned disbelief. DUI. DUI. Wanted - Felony. Speeding. Something else. Expired plates. Expired plates. Speeding, Wanted - Felony. The list was rather extensive. Of course, I thought, this can’t possibly be me. I looked at the top of the page, where it had the name, address, etc. etc. Only this one listed my name, my married name, and 3 others I’d never seen before.
I must have had a totally panicked look on my face. I pointed at the list of crimes (both vehicular and criminal), ran my finger down the first 4 or 5 and said “these aren’t mine. I didn’t live in Michigan until 1987, I lived in West Virginia; I didn’t even have a license until 1986; I didn’t have a Michigan license until 1989, ... umm ... this is mine, this is mine, this is mine (several invalid plates, a speeding ticket, another problem, followed by the newest, the suspended license which apparently grabbed all this attention)." I figured it might make my case more believable if I fessed up to the things that were actually mine. "Please, you’ve got to believe me, these aren’t mine! These names aren’t mine! - I didn’t change my name after getting married, but I’ve used it, that’s it, but not these others! Please believe me!”
The middle-aged sheriff’s deputy looked at me with pitiful eyes. He said, “Yes, we think these are two different people,” my mind briefly relaxed, “but we’re not sure which one you are.”
I finally got them to let me call my poor friend Sean Patrick. Who else would I call? No one knew where I was ... everyone I knew was in either Kalamazoo or Cincinnati. Of course, the phone is out-going collect calls only. “I’d like to place a collect call to 616-555-1234,” and the operator cuts in, says “Please hold” and leaves me on hold. About 1 minute later, she comes on and says, “I’m sorry, but they’ve refused the charges.”
Finally someone I can be mad at! “Of course they did! You didn’t tell them who’s calling. You need to give them my name!” ‘Please hold’ ... beee beee beee ...
“Elizabeth, what are you doing in a correctional facility?”
Rarely has a man’s voice sounded so sweet.
I finally broke down. ... there’s some problem with my license ... they think I’m a wanted felon ... can you please come bail me out of jail in the morning? Please? We discussed what to do, if the police wouldn’t let me go. I was still in panic mode. Sean, not being in jail and not being a potential felon, was much calmer. Fate might be a Grade A Bitch at times, but she’s got a nasty sense of humor. If there was one person in the whole state I would have called in that hypothetical situation, it would have been Sean. Or rather, Sean’s father, the successful criminal attorney.
I got to spend the night in jail, watching the drunks roll in and roll out. It was cold. It was really psychologically uncomfortable having no control over who went in or out. At least the women seemed to be more resigned than some of the men in the other cell.
The morning came. Eventually someone told me I’m being released. Ah, sweet hosannas and hallelujahs!
I find myself standing at the same counter again, only this time there’s much more activity than at 12 or 1 a.m. I wait for them to finish doing whatever it is they were doing. On the countertop, there sat a 2” thick pile of paper, the top sheet of which was an 8.5x11” photocopy of a head-shot photograph of a woman, with her description hand-written below it. Female, white, brown hair, brown eyes, 5’6”, 150 lb., .... this was her.
I was terrified. She looked just like me.
If that cop had had that photograph in his hand, he would have arrested me.
I signed whatever they put in front of me, nodded when instructed to get my tickets paid (you didn't think I'd get out of being ticketed for driving through a light without a license?), grabbed my purse, and managed to refrain from throwing myself into Sean’s arms in sheer relief.
No. Are you kidding?
Did I have my car? No! My license was suspended! My poor little car was left in Kalkaska. Sean took me up to his family’s ‘cabin’. Skiing did not occur.
What had happened? How did I wind up in the Twilight Zone? One of the policemen offered as a suggestion: the State Police Records Unit had decided to digitize its records. So, they transferred everyone’s record into a computer. Given that my name was Smith, and one of the names used by the Other Woman was Smith, perhaps the computer merged our two records? What Kalkaska Co.'s Sheriff’s office did was to have the records office look up all of the names listed on the aliases. Voila! Two women: yours truly and her. Ms. Heidi Rochelle Jenkins, your ass is truly grass if I ever meet you.
but, wait you think: The State Police had some record of me already? Yup.
... 6 months earlier ...
I had a party. Eric had been drinking. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk, right? Hell, yes they do! I offered to drive him home, we’d get his car back the next day. Sure, he probably didn’t really need a ride, but what the hell, that’s what friends are for.
I got off 127 at Trowbridge and waited at the light at Harrison. Right where that big Dairy Mart it. right where MSU Campus starts. Right where an East Lansing police car pulled up behind me. Shit. “What’s wrong?” Eric quite reasonably asks. “My plates are expired.” (I did mention that a few of those ‘citations’ were actually mine ... this is one of them.)
The light turned green, I turned left, the cop turned on his lights. I’m thinking oh, well, the plates are expired. At least I'm not speeding. Ta da! This is why I gave Eric a ride home, right? Still, we were only 3 blocks from Eric’s house!
License, registration, proof of insurance. It would be de ja vu in 6 months.
When asked what I was doing, I stated I was driving my friend home (no mention was made about why I was). The policeman come back and states in a very regretful voice, you’ll need to step out of the car, ma’am. “What’s wrong?” police don't ask you to step our of the car to chat about the weather.
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to arrest you.”
“What!” I screeched at full volume.
“There’s a bench warrant out for your arrest.” Eric looks stunned. I assume I look totally freaked out. The policeman looks really regretful.
“Really, I am sorry.” I get out of the car, and ask if Eric can take it home. I think the cop must have realized why I was driving him, and then said no.
This night's event I will use later as my benchmark experience of “how to get arrested”, being completely unrealistic: this just isn't how people get arrested. Yes, I got handcuffed: with my hands in front of me; the policeman let me sit in the front seat of his car, and was polite and chatted with me on the way to the station, he apologized for arresting me.
I get there, I get photographed & fingerprinted. I call home to get bailed out of jail. I discover the reason for the bench warrant: 6 unpaid parking tickets from the MSU police.
Yup, parking tickets. You’d think that the $250 in parking fines would be an incentive to never repeat this. Yup - it was. But, then again, it was a $250 insurance policy for that Autumn, since the primary reason the Kalkaska cops let me go is that there was proof that I was actually me. A simple absence of any evidence of my identity would have resulted in me staying in jail longer.
No. Are you kidding?
Where was my car? Back in hock in Kalkaska.
Kalkaska lies on US-131, which runs north-south along the western side of Michigan. Conveniently, it’s the “major highway” (which is sort of a euhpemism) in the area - more like the only 4 lane road for miles and miles.
I need my car. I can’t get my car, because my license is suspended pending trial in the same damn city, which won’t be for a couple weeks. I make tons of phone calls, rack up my long distance bill, and finally get straightened out: a friend of mine can pick up my car for me. Graham came down to Lansing 2 or 3 times per month with her boss. They were willing to swing by, pick up my car, and bring it. I was horrified at having to impose upon her boss, an important woman who probably doesn't particularly want to spend an extra hour getting my car out of hock.
They show up at the impound lot at the designated time (before 5, which had required them to leave early). No one’s there. They finally find someone. There’s a snafu about releasing the car to them. Now, mind you, requesting my car was a very tall, very large blonde 30ish woman and a short, salt-and-pepper haired 60ish woman who looked really unprepossessing. There ensues a discussion about the legality of letting them have my car, despite all assurances to me previously.
Did I mention the two women getting my car having this little discussion of legality? Graham Bateman, clerk, and Elizabeth Weaver , Chief Justice of the Michigan State Supreme Court. God, was I embarrassed when I got my car.
Almost. Really, almost.
I still had to get my license back. Did I get behind the wheel of a car in this interlude? Hell, no!
Back to Kalkaska I go, a couple weeks later, to go to traffic court due to the “driving on a suspended license” ticket. But ... I can’t drive myself there. Well, I could, but what would happen if someone wanted to know how I’d gotten there ... um.
“Connell, will you be willing to take a drive up to lovely Traverse City and points north” Connell being the only person I knew at the time who was unemployed and acceptable to a) drive my car and b) occupy my car for the 3 hour drive it would take. For a change, all of my good friends were actually employed. We went up on one day, spent the night with my friend Graham the Lawyer.
I asked for her advice on dealing with the court case the following morning. She & a colleague (not the Justice) offer some really practical bits:
“Did you bring something else to wear to court?” with a look at my blue jeans, sweat shirt and sneakers. “Yes, my business suit is in the car.”
“How did you get up here?” with a look at Connell. “He drove me.”
“Leave him in the hallway outside of court.” with a look at Connell and Connell’s fashion: long hair, battered leather jacket, really ratty jeans, well, sort of like an Irish hooligan, but short and cute.
"If he puts you on parole, ask for ..." I got some very specific phrases to use to make a good impression. I got some very specific things to avoid saying, to make a good impression.
Off to court ...
The docket posted outside the room had everyone’s name and the reason they were there: DUI, DUI, suspended license, suspended ... suspended, Smith Suspended license.
Heeding my lawyers’ advice, I left Connell kicking his heels in the hall. I went in to hear the magistrate’s dispensation of Justice, since I was the last person in the group. I wanted to get an idea of how deep I was in. I had looked up the maximum penalty (which included jail time). Other than the magistrate, the prosecutor, and one attorney, I was the only one in the room wearing a suit. Well, make that a business suit. One fellow looked like he’d just departed work at a automobile workshop. Probably did. But, I would have at least taken the oily coveralls off. Different strokes ...
As an example of my competition in the “criminals are stupid” competition (I'm not even making this one up):
You were arrested for driving on a suspended license, right?
I’m getting nervous at this point - the judge is passing out pretty steep fines, and a few people got jail time.
You were arrested for driving on a suspended license, right?
Sentence: the least amount of money possible with the adjuration: don’t let it happen again.
After returning from the Tour of Kalkaska County Jail, Monday 8 a.m. found me standing on the door of the Sec.State with my marriage license to get my name changed.
an amusing side note ...
I was spending Summer vacation with my elder cousins a few years after this escapade. One evening we were chatting, catching up with each other’s lives - due to the usual insanity of life, we haven’t been a particularly close-knit group. I said, in passing something about getting arrested. They were shocked, shocked I tell you. Jay laughs and asks oh, so, slyly: “yeah, but how many times have you been arrested?” My hand rose, holding up 2 fingers.” Everyone looked even more shocked. Except Jay, who looked disappointed; he couldn’t on-up me.