Sunday, September 23, 2018

Review - Hawkwind's "Road to Utopia"

Hawkwind - Road to Utopia

The weather has cooled off enough to use my big stereo just in time to listen to a brand new Hawkwind album on it first.

While I read Hawkwind’s initial posting about it a couple of months ago, and new it was going to be a mostly acoustic album, the sound of it still caught me by surprise once I put it on.

It’s a rehashing, mostly acoustic of a number of their songs spanning almost five decades.  What I didn’t expect were the horn and string arrangements, like a full-blown, light pop music album.  I don’t mean horns like Nik Turner’s “asthmatic water fowl” style of saxophone, but total pop music horns.

The two instrumental songs, Hymn to the Sun and Intro The Night are both pretty boring, and thankfully short.

The song, The Flying Doctor sounds like a far more rollicking tale in this version, with the vocals a lot clearer in more muddy, electric ones.  It’s a lot easier to hear the story of the drug addicted doctor.

My favorite on this album, the one that sounds the most like you’d expect from Hawkwind, is The Watcher with Eric Clapton playing electric guitar.

Overall, I like it.  But I have to wonder, would I enjoy this music if it was some other group and not Hawkwind.  I’m not so sure.  Maybe only because I thought they were playing Hawkwind songs.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Quora Question: What kind of guitar do you own, and which one do you want to own?

What kind of guitar do you own, and which one do you want to own?

This is my answer from a Quora question...

What Kind of Guitar Do You Own?

Late last year, 2017, I bought a brand new surf green made-in-Mexico Fender Stratocaster.

It’s the first time in my life I’ve touched a guitar. I’m 48 now. In 3rd grade I played the cello for a year, when my mother had a future planned out for me as a concert cellist (I think she was mostly attracted to the idea I’d have a job where I had to wear a tuxedo to work). Then we moved, wound up in a small town and there weren’t any cellos to borrow or rent for me to continue my lessons.

In 6th grade I played the saxophone for half a year when our whole class had half a year of band. I stunk at both instruments. Twinkle Twinkle Little Starwas always out of reach for me, and I minced the Little Lamb Mary Hadbeyond any reasonable form.

But I love music. It’s one of those things I spend an inordinate amount of my income on. And the last few summers I’ve been watching punk rock bands play concerts in Tompkins Square Park here in New York City. So I felt inspired to try and learn a little how to play, and I figured the first step was to actually get a guitar.

I’ve long liked the look of Stratocasters. They simply scream out “rock n roll!” (there’s others that do, too) and I figured since I never held a guitar before the contoured shape might be a little more comfortable to learn with. Since I’m obsessed with the color green, that was the obvious color. I debated whether I should spend more for a genuine branded Fender, or go for a cheaper Squier, but I read the Squier ones have less quality control, and I figured that with my complete inexperience paying a little more would ensure the godawful sound coming from it was my playing, rather than a defective instrument.

I bought a bunch of beginner books, and I signed up for Fender Playwhich has some good beginners’ lessons, that I’m struggling with.

I bought Rocksmith 2014 as well, so I could plug the guitar into the computer as a controller. I got started with that, but my desk chair isn't comfortable to sit on with the guitar and play. My wife is going to give me her old laptop, so I’ll install it on there when she goes overseas for a few months. Then I can put it on the coffee table and play sitting on the floor.

So, I’ve been practicing off and on for over half a year now. I still can’t play any songs. I can’t even play any chords that use more than two fingers on the frets. I can’t play many of them that use just two fingers.

With riffs that use just one string I can’t get my left hand’s fingers up and down the fretboard accurately to actually play note after note after note correctly.

One issue I’m having is I’ve gotten terribly fat the last few years, so the guitar hangs at a funny angle over my belly. That means I have to twist my wrist further around the neck to reach the strings further up on the neck.

Maybe what I need is a live tutor, someone who can start off by seeing how I’m holding the bloody thing to help me correct myself, and then start off with solutions to my obvious problems. I don’t know.

I haven’t been practicing as much since my wife returned from her previous four month trip home to India. I feel a bit foolish picking it up and fumbling around while she’s in hearing range. She’s not very patient with other people trying to learn things around her, either. And when she sees me with it, she assumes I’m free to do chores and run errands.

Maybe I shouldn’t have waiting so long in life to try and learn. Not when my fingers are stiff and achy, about the same age when arthritis started to get debilitating for my father.

And Which Guitar Do You Want to Own?

Well, there’s a few… From punk rock concerts I’ve been to lately, I’ve noticed the majority of the guitar players, especially the ones I liked, were playing various guitars with humbucker pickups rather than single-coil.

I want a Stratocaster with one (or more) humbucker pickups, as they produce more of the sound I’d like to get, if I could actually play it. They have a few green options, plus I could pay more for one from their Mod Shop that would be nicely customized for me. Now that they introduced the Player line, I’ll probably buy one of those.

I was thinking I’d like a green Gibson SG as well. There aren’t many green options out there, unless I look around on eBay. Most of those in any sort of affordable range have only one pickup, but I’m not such an advanced player that that should affect me. The few others are whoppingly expensive professional models.

And while not green, some of the 2018 SG models, the Standard HP 2018, are absolutely gorgeous… I could see myself getting the blood orange or even the hot pink fade. They’re a bit more than I’d like to spend, though, given that I can’t actually play the thing…

On the other hand, I’d long admired, but dismissed for myself, Gibson Les Pauls, despite a number of musicians whose work I like playing them. I remember a friend long ago who said they were extremely heavy, so as a raw beginner I didn’t want to find myself fighting the extra weight of one when I already can’t play. But I went to a couple of punk rock shows in June and some guitarists were playing Les Pauls, including several groups with two guitarists, a Les Paul player next to an SG player and I found myself drawn towards watching the Les Paul player quite a lot more. I mean a lot more.

Looking around online, I sure like the green Slash Anaconda Les Paulis beautiful (and green!). But its price is more than I should actually spend on a guitar I can’t play, no matter how good I think I’d feel holding it and failing to play (I suppose a less expensive Epiphone version is an option). Maybe I could hold it, pretend to play and put on a Guns & Roses CD or something…

Of course, no purchases until my wife goes on her three month trip home to India in a couple of months. I’ll buy whatever I buy on a credit card she doesn’t know about (I’m not talking about screwing around with credit cards, I’ll still pay it off once I get the bill) and my story is basically that I found it/them on Craigslist being sold by “Mrs. Jepsen”. Her husband had passed away and their adult kids weren’t interested in his guitars, so she was selling them… A little more practice and I’ll get the finer points of the story down convincingly…

And bearing in mind our teeny, tiny New York City apartment doesn’t have much space for “stuff” to accumulate… Although, I think if I get more I can buy wall mounts to get them up off the floor so my wife won’t get too mad.

Saturday, April 14, 2018



I am not a gun owner or gun enthusiast, and I’ve never shot a firearm (BB gun, yes, and my father seriously emphasized not pointing it anyone). I grew up in rural Oregon where guns abound, and at my high school lots of students kept guns in their vehicles for convenience shooting animals in the woods after school.

With all the controversy about guns, and especially the right wing folks wanting more and more guns, more guns in schools, everyone armed, etc. and how I'm appalled at how they treat teenagers who are speaking out after being shot at at their school in February.

I was thinking about how most of the right wing commentators have little right to speak, as they probably haven't been shot at.

And I realized I've been shot at twice, myself.  Maybe that does give me some qualification to open my mouth about the issue.

I went to a college that was a gun free zone, though as a new policy at that college, it wasn’t yet enforced very well, and I was shot at, twice (not hit either time). Both shooters were, in theory, responsible gun owners, military reservists, one a sergeant in the Air Force and the other a Marine. Yet both treated their guns like toys.

The first incident was the first day back our sophomore year. My buddy, the Air Force sergeant, brought a gun for the school year, intending to shoot small rodents around campus (not an uncommon sport there…)

We were hanging around, meeting up after our folks all dropped us off, and he took the gun out, waving it around to show it off. He pointed it at me. I told him not to, but he laughed and said it wasn’t loaded. I asked him again to point it away, then I got lucky.

Lucky that he lowered it just far enough between my thighs (and I was skinny then, had thigh gap) that his “see, it’s not loaded,” didn’t end up being the last words I ever heard. The look on his face, the shock, when he pulled the trigger on his “not loaded” gun, from the shot that came out of his own hand… All that came out of his mouth for the next few minutes, till our hearts stopped racing, was a combination of “oh fuck” and “I’m sorry.”

Much later that same year, me and him, tripping on LSD, were getting out of the concrete dormitory for a walk in the high desert scrub behind the campus, a popular spot for shooting and motor sports. But we didn’t go all that far out there. We heard laughing and then gunshots from a hill in the not too far distance. Bullets were hitting the ground around us.

We discussed it and decided that someone was shooting at us, and that it would behoove us to depart, back to campus.

Later, after the drugs had mostly worn off I was back in my room, and my roommate, a Marine reservist, returned. He said it was him and another gun enthusiast friend who’d been shooting at us. He explained they were bored, since Klamath Falls, Oregon has little youth entertainment, so they grabbed some of their guns to go out into the high desert scrub and disintegrate some lizards or other small animals.

Bored. Bored and armed. They happened to spot me and the other fellow and got it in mind to scare us, just for entertainment. Of course, they didn’t know about the LSD, so they kept shooting around us, unsure why we weren’t reacting with panic. They were afraid we might have been armed and angry so they didn’t want to let us know at the time who they were, hiding behind a low hill.

So, while I was shot at twice, neither time by anyone actually intending to hit me, both involved highly trained gun owners with a military background. But away from their military units with their discipline, structure, responsibility and accountability, both guys treated their deadly weapons as toys.

I don’t feel making schools a gun toting zone would increase safety. Sure, someone might, and there’s no guarantee of success, stop a malicious shooter, but just having guns around increases the odds of accidents and unintended shootings (“see, it’s not loaded…”).

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Bum

What an act!

For a few years I've regularly seen a beggar in a subway station in Brooklyn, sitting on the floor of a busy corridor asking passers-by for cash.  He's a large guy, looks pretty filthy, scruffy beard, hair and what not.  He always has what look like old, ragged jeans cut up and pinned to his pants, like chaps, that I assumed were for extra insulation.  And he has a large, dirty, black plastic garbage bag.

I've given him a dollar or two (which is something I rarely do). 

The past year or so he's often walked around, dragging his plastic garbage bag, talking seemingly nonsense aloud, on the 3 or 4 platforms to get a train going the same direction as me, at the early side of the morning rush hour. 

This morning it was on the 3 platform, there was another ragged guy sleeping on the ground, his backpack as a pillow.  The regular beggar walked by, asking "you alright man?" and the sleeper said he was.  As the regular beggar was right in front of me the other guy said "I'm hungry, I ain't got money, I'm hungry" and they had a conversation about whether he meant it or if it was just bullshit.  Then the regular beggar slid some packaged food along the floor to the sleeper, who sat up but didn't reach for the food.  I heard the regular beggar's voice different than when he's been on the floor begging.

The 3 train came, he got into the last car, I got into the second-to-last car and the train took off...

A couple of stops later, a guy whose face looked remarkably like his walked from the last car to the second-to-last car, continuing to a few seats away from me.  This guy had on nice jeans, carried a fashionable backpack, neat hair and beard.  He dug a large smartphone out of his backpack, and an iPad, and then took out a wad of cash that he counted.  And he was talking the same seemingly nonsense, with the same voice he used to talk to the sleeper on the platform...  I looked through the window to the car behind, and it was empty.

As we prepared to get off the train at Crown Heights - Utica Avenue, the cash counting guy was stuffing everything back into his backpack, and partially pulled out a black plastic garbage bag as he was arranging his stuff, then shoved it back in.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Review: Sleep's "Dopesmoker"

Sleep - Dopesmoker

I read a “letter of recommendation” in the New York Times a few months ago for this album and it reminded me that there was a second Sleep album I wanted, but wasn’t easy to get for a number of years, and I’d forgotten about it.

But now it’s easy to order, which I did a couple of months ago.  Amazon had it available as an “auto rip” to download when buying the CD, which was a good start, but after ripping it myself from the CD, the sound quality is so much better, with a lot more clarity throughout.

And it’s the only music I’ve been playing for well over a month now.  I can’t get enough of it.  It’s one song, just slightly over an hour long, with quite a few “movements” throughout it, so it’s not boringly repetitive.

Most of the song is fairly slow, plodding and heavy.  The guitar is tuned down a few notches, making the whole feel of the song very heavy, very deep.  Much of it sounds a bit like early Black Sabbath, especially live when they take off on tangents and improvisation, but this is a little slower and a little heavier.

The singing is mostly deep, heavy growls, with only some words here and there decipherable (I’ve read the lyrics online, but I can’t pick them all out when it’s actually playing).  But that’s ok.  Even where they’re incomprehensible the sound of the singer’s voice goes very well with the music.

So much of this song sticks in my head that even when I’m not listening to it, I’m still listening to it.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Eerie Subway Ride

Well, that was kind of eerie...  I was on the 4 express train, that as usual had stopped in the tunnel between the last two stops, probably while they wake up the sleeping or belligerent passengers from the previous train at the final stop. The wait time is usually 3 to 4 minutes, twenty at worst...

Only this time it was neither hot nor cold, so the noisy HVAC system cycled off, making it very quiet on the train.  Other than the faint buzz of the fluorescent lights, the silence was broken now and then by other passengers with music in their headphones, teachers grading papers on their laps, shifting in their coats, opening a briefcase, a quiet cough, and what-not.  There were about a dozen of us, mostly sleepy in the early morning, no one talking or interacting.

Then a rumbling sound from the distance behind us, quiet, faint, but soon building up like thunder rolling in as a bunch of people looked up towards the back of the train.  It became a steady boom Boom BOOM *BOOM* as the local 3 train flew by on the track beside us, then faded away in the opposite direction.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Slayer - "Repentless"

After not listening to much Slayer in the last couple of decades, except for their first album a few times a year, Show No Mercy I was seeing this one all over some online shopping sites as new and as i was buying new CDs from other bands I’ve liked for a long time, I was thinking about the Slayer songs I know.  Last month I first got into Reign in Blood for a while, then I ordered this one, Repentless.

And I like this one.

It’s their first new album after the untimely death of founder and guitarist Jeff Hanneman.  His replacement had covered for the ill Hanneman for a few years on tour, so by the time they were recording this he was well integrated into the band.  And they got another former drummer of theirs, Paul Bostaph back in.

For the first half of the album they play at lightning speed, without sounding too noisy and without Arraya’s singing getting too much into merely screaming.

The second half gets a bit noisier, with their playing sounding more random, frantic and less like songs they planned out.

Throughout it, in between furiously fast guitar solos there’s a second here, a second there of music that I’d actually really like to hear more of.  They come and go, like “hey! what was that?  I want to hear more of that!” but they’re too fleeting, gone as fast as a Kerry King guitar solo.

I’d have to say the title track, “Repentless” is my favorite song on it, the one I keep singing in my head the most when I’m not listening to any music.

Overall, it’s really good if you like this sort of thing.  And if you don’t, you’d probably hate it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Chanukah Chase in the Subway

I got literally chased in the subway station this evening.  By two young, ultra-Orthodox Jewish men from the Chabad sect, the same one all of my current coworkers and our biggest clients belong to.

I was minding my own business, listening to some Rob Zombie remixes in my headphones, walking fast across the mezzanine to the 4th Avenue line, when I saw them on top of the steps, with a large cardboard box on a luggage cart.  They looked lost and indicated they wanted my attention, so I lifted on earpiece away from my head, thinking they were going to ask directions.

“Are you Jewish?  Do you have a menorah at home?” one asked.  “I don’t want one, thank you,” I replied and with the earpiece off heard a train arriving on the platform below.  Halfway on my quick dash down the clear steps I saw it was the N train, the one I wanted, so I sped up even more.

Since I always ride this one at the very front of the train, standing right behind the driver’s cab, I practically ran along the platform to get to the front of the first car, waited for people to exit and got on, comfortably leaning against the bulkhead, facing backward.

Then I looked out the open door next to me to see those two guys looking straight at me, following the same path I took on the platform.

They got to the end of the platform, right outside the open train door a few inches away from me and one asked, “are you Jewish?”

I said, “I choose not to participate!” and the conductor played the announcement “Stand Clear of the Closing Doors Please!” 

One reached into the box and the other said “we have a gift for you.”  

But they weren’t quick enough, the train doors closed, me inside, them outside.  I grinned to them through the window and the train rolled out of the station.  I settled back to listen to my music in peace.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Slayer - "Reign in Blood" after decades...

I bought Reign in Blood on tape when it first came out in 1986, when I was 17, and while I tried to enjoy it, was definitely disappointed in it.  I’d really hoped it would be more like Show No Mercy which was and remains my favorite Slayer album.  I’ve bought a few of their albums in the intervening years, but not many of them, and none of them have excited me the way Show No Mercy does and I rarely listened to any of them.

But for some reason a couple of weeks ago I felt like listening to some Slayer again and just reading some of the song titles somewhere I heard the songs running through my head.  I don’t think i’d listened to Reign in Blood  in 20-25 years so I ordered the CD.  

Well, while it’s no Show No Mercy it’s not as bad as I remembered.  In fact, now I quite like it.

This album marks their departure from swords & sorcery, Satanic inspired lyrics into more of the morbid and evil stuff from the real world and history, serial killers, Nazis, war and so forth.

It’s fast.  The original ten songs (minus the two extras on this CD edition) clock in at slightly under half an hour, without feeling like it’s a short album.

Some of the songs feel like a bit of random playing, not like written songs, but most of it manages to work pretty well, and Tom Arraya’s singing is very much singing for most of it instead of screaming.

The mix could have used a bit more bass in it, though…  It sounds a bit tinny to my ears.

Overall, though, coming back to it somewhat fresh after close to a quarter century, I like it.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Crappy Week at Work

So, last week was literally a crappy week here at the office...  The morning of the first day of the week someone used the bathroom next to our work area and left a couple small piles of crap on the floor when they finished, I guess they couldn't get it all in the toilet.  And that person isn't one of the very small number who will take responsibility for cleaning their own messes in the common, shared parts of the office, and frequently leaves urine all over the floor near the toilet.

The other bathroom, on the other side of that one was out of order, and the only one that has a sink in the same room as the toilet, having gotten clogged a couple of weeks earlier and simply locked to keep people out of it (I don't have a key).  As the week progressed, people stepped in and smeared those little piles of crap around the floor of the working bathroom.  Wonderful.

With the window next to me open, as long as the fan was left on, the smell didn't really reach as far as my desk, but not everyone leaves the fan on when they exit the bathroom.

It was pretty gross.

I thought about cleaning it up myself, but I felt nauseous at the thought of bending down to clean up someone else's shit off the floor (I mean, someone who isn't my wife who I chose to share a life with) who should be a mature enough adult, who's raising half a dozen children, to clean up their own fucking mess like that.  Certainly, if I had an accident like that, I would have cleaned it up.

At least the cleaning woman came in some time Friday or Sunday and the office is now clean again.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Iron Maiden - "The Book of Souls"

I got the new Iron Maiden album late last week, "The Book of Souls" and I've been listening to it off and on since then.

It's got some true gems on it, but they're still a bit in the rough. The music is all good, much like you'd expect from Iron Maiden in their prime, but the main problem is there's too much and it's simply not arranged well.

With eleven songs, it's over 90 minutes long, coming on two CDs.  Bruce Dickinson has been quoted as saying, "we all agreed that each track was such an integral part of the whole body of work that if it needed to be a double album, then double it's going to be!"

Unfortunately while each song may be an integral part of it, most of the songs are simply too long.  One is over 13 minutes and the final one is 18 minutes. Sheer length isn't the issue, it's that many songs have minutes of passages that don't feel like they fit into the theme of the song, they feel like they should be separate songs.

On a few of them if I'm not paying attention I think a song is over and moved onto then next one, only to find a couple of minutes later it's back to the one I thought was done. It's a little jarring.  They could've trimmed passages out of many of them to create more cohesive songs.

The other problem is many of the songs have the vocals mixed kind of low, so it's difficult to actually hear what Dickinson is actually singing. He's got a powerful voice and musically it sounds ok, but I can't tell what the lyrics are from listening.

The first single from it, "Speed of Light" is the fastest paced one, reminiscent of earlier Iron Maiden and probably wouldn't have been out of place on "Piece of Mind" and doesn't sound like anything else on this album.

I quite like the first half of the 13 minute "The Red and the Black", especially the bits with a guitar going along with e vocals, but then the second half is like a different song.  And it's not a cover of the Blue Öyster Cult song of the same name.

"Death or Glory" is a bit of a rehash of "Aces High" but supposedly about WWI dogfighting triplanes. And it's not a cover of the Social Distortion song of the same name.

The album rounds out with the 18 minute "Empire of the Skies" about a 1920's British airship that crashed and burned on one of its earliest flights. The song starts with some piano music, not at all what I expected from Iron Maiden, but then after a few minute sounds more typical. The piano at the end of song nicely finished it. In between its got some good music, and some passages that feel misplaced.

Overall it's a decent album. The biggest improvement they could've made is to trim more from many of the sings. It sounds like they wanted to integrate all the musical ideas they all hadn't hour being able to cut any of it out. They should've saved some for this next album.

Since I wrote this I read online about the airship R101 that's the theme of "Empire of the Skies" and that helped a lot. With the vocals low in the mix the song itself doesn't tell the story as well as it could. But reading the story, then listening, the various musical passages that jarred me initially work better by imagining it as the soundtrack to a movie, visualizing the crew of the airship running around frantically when the ship loses altitude and crashes. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Motörhead- "Bad Magic"

Motörhead's new CD, Bad Magic arrived in the mail a few days ago and I've been listening to it off and on since then...

Overall I like it better than their last six or seven albums. This one is heavier and livelier, possible because it's the first after Lemmy's heart surgery last year, with him drink in quite a bit less.

Some of the songs are a bit dull, more random sounding noises from the guitar than music, but some of it is great.

I was quickly drawn to the song, The Devil with its deep, thundering baseline (not to mention lots of songs with subjects like that get my attention in a positive way....) following that I quite like Firestorm Hotel and Till the End.

Of course one of the absolute highlights has to be the album's closer, their cover of the Rolling Stones' Sympathy for the Devil.  It sounds great with Lemmy's gravel voice and much harder edged guitars than the original. Like the original, hey play around a lot with various sounds from differs sides of the stereo, totally unlike the usual Motörhead.

So, it's a pretty good album, probably now my favorite for this Motörhead line-up, Lemmy, Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Photo Processing Software - The End of iPhoto

So, after over a decade of using Apple’s iPhoto application for all of my photos, they’re forcing me to switch.  They’re discontinuing it in favor of their new app, named Photos.

I tried Photos a couple of times and it’s just bug-ridden garbage.  It’s slow, it crashes, it fails to import photos from my cameras, and it messes up the metadata on my photos (swapping east and west in geolocation data, making half my photos display as taken in Osh, Kyrgyzstan (as far east of the prime meridian as New York City is west)), and in the end, wouldn’t upload to any service it has plug-ins for.  No errors, it just failed to do it.

I tried using the free, open source app, Darktable, but it wasn’t very intuitive in terms of managing a large collection and breaking it down into albums and things like that.  And it didn’t let me fix the metadata that Photos screwed up on a batch of photos.  Still, if you want a laugh, go to the download page and read their instructions for setting it up under Windows…

Now, with a couple of recommendations from other photographers, I’m trying out Adobe Lightroom.  It’s not free, after the 30 day trial it’ll be $10 a month.  And, presumably I'd be at their mercy if they feel like raising the price.

So far it’s not too bad to use.  It takes more mouse clicks to do some tasks, like write titles and captions for photos, than iPhoto requires.  And deleting rejects is slow, requiring both keyboard and mouse, compared to iPhoto with just the keyboard.  Making adjustments to exposure settings in photos is a lot easier in Lightroom, or at least, a lot easier to get good results without being an expert.

The biggest issue I see so far with Lightroom is that it uploads the photo titles I type, and not the descriptions…  With iPhoto, it does both for Flickr.

So, I'll see how it goes...

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Office Space - Employees' Loss for Boss's Gain

Office Space - Employees' Loss for Boss's Gain

At work we've downsized slightly, so my company has been moved to a room in the basement and the upper floor of our offie rented out to another company.  Having downsized slightly again, the boss is looking to move us into a smaller room in the basement and rent out the room we're in now.

He's also the landlord, the owner of the building.  He bought it, a classic Brooklyn brownstone, and converted the bottom two floors into office space and rents out the top two floors as residential apartments.  His own private office is on the first floor, and he has his own private bathroom.  for the rest of us, including the company renting the upper floor space, we shared three small bathrooms, only one of which has a sink inside for washing in private.

As the owner of the building he decided to refinance it.  One of the conditions the bank had was that the bottom floor could be rentable as residential space.  So, to accomplish that he had the toilet removed from one of the three small bathrooms and converted into a shower, then locked so no one could go in there.

Now, as a career employee, I've never been under the illusion that my bosses would value me over money.  They're in business to make money, and I'm a resource that does work to help bring it in.  I've worked for companies that couldn't give out bonuses or raises because sales weren't good enough, yet the bosses and top managers kept getting raises and bonuses and all that.  I'm used to that.

But I've never had a boss so plainly demonstrate his value for money over employees as this.  I mean, he took an existing space that employees were using on a daily basis for their comfort, and changed it to one we can't use and doesn't in any way help us do our work better, which wasn't a resource he personally used in the office, and isn't going to use in its new capacity, all for his own person financial gain.

This sucks.  This is definitely the lowest I've ever felt my value to a company as an employee.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Book Review: A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin

Good, but overly long, with parts sort of dragging and the plots not moving forward in proportion to the length of the book.

A Dance with Dragons Review

(spoilers if you haven't read the first four)

I finally caught up with A Dance with Dragons the fifth book in the George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series while I was out sick for this past long weekend, spending most of the time reading and drinking cup after cup of hot herbal tea.  I was entranced by the book, and yet, by the end a little disappointed.

It had been six or seven years since I read the first four books of A Song of Ice and Fire and I debated for almost three years rereading them before starting this one or not, but ended up not spending the time on it.  With too many spoilers on social media from people watching HBO’s Game of Thrones I figured I’d better read it now before the TV series gets up to this part of the story. Fortunately there’s a good wiki online that I could reference for where the characters were and what they’d done in the first four books.

For the most part he goes between points of views of a small number of characters a lot, so once into this book’s stories for them, there isn’t too much going back to remember from years ago.  That mostly comes when switching to a new point of view, or for references to other characters.

Daenerys, Tyrion and Jon Snow make up most of the book, with a few chapters here and there from others, led by Theon Greyjoy and Bran Stark.

Daenerys’s chapters are kind of dull and repetitive till near the end.  Maybe Martin planned that, as it showed her dilemma, she loves her “children” the freed slaves, so much she’s stuck in complete inaction for most of the book.  She can’t leave them, and she can’t lead them, either, out of fear of hurting them.  One major downside of scenes in Meereen is that Martin built up an incredibly richly detailed world in Westeros, but much of the Slaver’s Bay part of Essos feels too cartoonish, not clear, with people having unfamiliar names that hold no meaning to most of us readers.

Jon Snow’s chapters also have a lot of nothing much happening up north at the Wall, and as a reader, I spent a lot of time waiting for some action.  They mostly laid the groundwork for upcoming conflicts, without doing much or going anywhere.

Tyrion’s chapters started slow, with him mostly struggling with father issues he just escaped in Westeros, but then moved things ahead, and had lots of unpredictability from one to the next.  He’s one of the most amusing characters in the series, and by far one of the brightest, so things from his point of view can be fun.  Even when he’s having a bad time he’s busy thinking of how to manipulate everyone around me.

With Theon Greyjoy, who we learned to hate for his earlier betrayal of the Starks, Martin sticks him in situations where we actually begin to feel sympathy for him.  In this book he’s actually not the worst guy in the group he’s with, as hard as it can be to believe…

With a few chapters of Bran Stark we explore magic farther.  He learns more about being a warg and dreaming.

In this book Martin seems to have copy pasted a little bit.  Not the single characters repeating phrases, “words are wind” or “wherever whores go” things, but actual narration and action, a few times.  Two of the young women characters make love to their men the exact same way, with the exact same thoughts while it’s happening, yet there’s no chance they’re friends who’ve exchanged talked or exchanged letters to think alike, and I don’t see that we, as readers, are supposed to see them as parallels for each other.  I think Martin got lazy and copied it.

Similarly, several times that high born characters have to pass for smallfolk, they make the same mistake saying “my lord” and are corrected by another high born character who tells them to slur the words into “m’lord” and “say it like your mouth is full of mud”.  The same wording in unrelated characters and incidents.

And how many times did he write that “they ate bread fried in bacon grease, while the lords and knights above the salt at the bacon”?

The end of the book had a few surprises and cliffhangers, for sure.  Now I’m eagerly awaiting the next one, “The Winds of Winter,” whenever that comes out.

Overall, it was hard to put down, individual chapters felt fast paced and fun.  But honestly, it could’ve been better.  At the end, “word are wind,” and it was a very long book, but the overall stories didn’t feel like they progressed in proportion to the length of the book.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

LeoDude's Passing

Just over a month ago I wrote a somewhat humorous rant to a college buddy, Leo Winters.  And now he's passed away.

He replied to my rant with his recent experiences becoming a middle-aged man, too, getting fat, and then cleaning up his diet to lose 50 pounds.  He said he mainly just started eating healthier, cutting out junk food, soda, chips and processed meats in favor of lighter stuff with more natural ingredients.

He offered me some advice on dietary supplements, lemon balm and red clover.  He said the lemon balm helped him sleep better and get closer to the required 7 hours a night.

Then a few weeks ago he went into the hospital himself with liver and kidney problems.  The first word was that he wasn't going to leave, then he started getting better, sending more emails, complaining about the medication and about the new PlayStation 4 games he'd gotten to keep from being bored there.

Then two weeks back he died in the hospital...

I guess it hits pretty hard because while a few of my old friends have passed away, not many, just a few, none of them were as close a friend to me as LeoDude was...

Sure, life had taken us different directions since we were going to Oregon Tech together, and sometimes we only emailed sporadically.  But the time at OIT we were such close friends that this is kind of hard.

And the last email exchange I'd initiated to complain about my own bad health, and he's the one who passes away.  

I mean, I don't feel guilt, it's not anything I did (except maybe encouraging a lot of unhealthy drinking back in our younger days), but I feel awfully bad about it.

Since then I've only been listening to music that he got me into, Skinny Puppy, A Split Second, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult and so forth.  And thinking of old conversations we had, some of which I wish I could clarify, but now it's too late.

Below is what I wrote on his Facebook wall after hearing the news that he passed away...
-- -- --

Aw shit, dude… 
I know I started us writing emails back and forth last month complaining about becoming middle-aged men, but I didn’t mean to skip it altogether! 
I guess now you’ve done exactly what you said that one night when we recorded you talking in your sleep, “I’m going to de-energize…. totally…” And now we’ll have no more opportunities to eat breakfast and listen to recordings of what you talk about when you dream. 
Anyway, those sure were fun times back at Oregon Tech… I felt a bit like a fish out of water for the first half of the year, until someone introduced us and I started to hang out with you. That was when I finally felt like I belonged there. 
I suppose now you never will answer that question I ask every few years about what song that was you used to play on a tape when driving your Plexipod car our freshman year at college… I keep buying CDs from the group I thought it was, but nothing sounds like it did when we were teenagers. 
This must now be the ultimate swim in the Shark Zone, huh… 
“Ch… Ch….” … … (after 25 years of this game, I guess this round goes unfinished.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

NYC Commuting 90 Minutes Later

After a trip to the emergency room two weeks ago, I followed some of the doctor’s advice about caffeine and “sleep hygiene,”  and now I’m going to work an hour and a half later every day than I had been for the last few years.

New York City is very, very different at 7:30am to 8:30am than it was at 6am to 7am…  So much busier.  So much noisier.  So much more chaos.

At 6am there was only one grocery store on my route with big trucks unloading, at 7:30am there’s business with deliveries all up and down the street between our apartment and the subway.

By 7:30am there are construction crews out blocking the roads and moving big equipment around, so no more just walking across the street once there’s a big enough break in traffic.  Not that there is a big enough break in traffic at 7:30am without a light or construction flagger to stop it, the cars are simply non-stop on the avenues.

Whereas I used to always get a seat on the subway, every time, often the only person on a bench, now I usually have to squeeze in to a crowded train and wait till a mass of people get off at Times Square to quickly grab a seat, feeling guilty because there’s still plenty of people standing up, and worried that I might be taking a seat someone who really needs it more than me could use.

On the 4 train in Brooklyn I used to sit with young 20-something school teachers who work at some schools near my office, a crowd that often grades papers or talks in nice, quiet conversational tones and has manners when we’re all heading to the same exits at the same time.  Now after 8am in Crown Heights, the trains are mostly full of rowdy school kids.

Fortunately, with the doctor-recommended change in sleeping habits, I don’t feel the desperate need to sleep on the train like I used to, so I can close my eyes to relax, but the noise and chaos isn't affecting me as much.

Middle Age Motherfucker!

While getting my life on track following some health issues last month, it dawned on me that I'm totally a middle-aged man now.  On Facebook I saw a post by a college buddy's wife and we swapped some messages and we're both in the same boat now.  So, I banged out a ranty email about this to another college buddy...

Middle Age Motherfucker!

It sure hit me last month, like a BB to the nuts(1).

I ended up in the emergency room two weeks ago because my blood pressure was through the fucking roof.  I had a headache like never before, and decided to go to the urgent care clinic up the street.  The doctor there checked my blood pressure and said the risk of a stroke was severe and sent me straight to the ER, no walking, either ambulance or taxi for the two blocks (we chose taxi).

He gave me a pill for it, and some notes to take to the ER...

The pill worked, so the ER doctors didn't "do" anything except monitor me for five hours, then prescribe some blood pressure medicine to take daily, pretty much for life (or until I make lifestyle changes that'll make me healthy enough I won't require it.)  The doctor there also gave me advice including following up with a primary care physician, especially since I'm now 45 and entering middle age and can expect upcoming age-related health issues.

Two days later, when the headache receded enough that I could look at the computer and phone screens without cringing in pain I began what I'd put off for twenty years, finding a primary care doctor.  You know small town life, well, Waldport only had one doctor (whose son was one of my classmates) and once I finished college and started working the big city, Portland, the choices were too overwhelming that I never got a doctor or went for visits.  Now in NYC, the choices are even more so. In our insurance company's listings there were hundreds of primary care doctors within 10 blocks of our apartment...  The hospital had a referral service so she started listing them and I stopped her after the second clinic, then called that clinic who had one doctor available that afternoon, and now she's "my doctor".

Actually, luckily, after the first visit we really like her.  Leena really, really liked her.  We told her about how I got to the ER and what was done since and she talked a bit about diet, said I was definitely overweight and needed to lose some pounds, and took some blood samples, and EKG and measured my blood pressure several times and we talked quite a bit...  Since the problem and medication were still new to me she didn't want to change much, except for me to avoid obviously bad foods...

Last week she called with results of the blood tests and said my cholesterol is very high and put me on the famous Lipitor (another nail in the end of youth coffin for me...)

We have a two week follow-up with her later this week and she gave me a preview on the phone, that she wants to talk a lot more about food...

I saw a Facebook post from Craig's wife, and he's going through the same shit.  Overweight, high blood pressure and all that.  And similar problems, he felt fat, but whenever he talked to people about eating better and shedding weight, they just said "what? you're not fat..."

I get that all the time, even now after the doctor's appointments my coworkers are telling me I'm not fat, I'm not overweight, the doctor is stupid.  Never mind that I knew I was fat ten years ago, when I bent down to put my socks on and couldn't breath because I suddenly had a gut in the way...  I was getting out of breath walking up steps and everyone's all "you're not overweight..."

So, yeah, I'm on three prescription medications now, my blood pressure is high and my cholesterol is very high.  I'm a middle-aged man.  What the fuck happened?

How about us all sucking down a bottle of Oregon Springs(2) and walking down to the Market Casket(3) to buy some junk food...

Anyway, Leena's sprung into action.  She has a mission now, get me back to health.  She was learning to cook in January, but with lots of oil and salt, so now she's researching online and learning to cook healthier foods to help lower my blood pressure and cholesterol.  She found out how to get to the nearest fish market to bake salmon for me instead of frying beef, and she's learned to cook some vegetables so they actually taste good (hint, lots of garlic).

The fresh salads are also a reminder of lost youth...  As a kid I always used massive amounts of French salad dressing to choke down a salad and the grown-ups used olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  This week I found myself looking at a salad and trying oil and vinegar so it wouldn't be plain old, boring vegetables....  And I kind of liked it...  Until I thought about that thing with the kids and grown-ups.

In two weeks I'm noticeably less chubby, my watch is loose on my wrist and my feet are slipping out of my sandals.  So, it's a start...

(1) the first day of our sophomore year he was showing his new BB gun, pointing it at me.  I said "hey, don't point it at me" and he said "it's not loaded" then preceded to pull the trigger, with a bunch of BBs shooting and bouncing off the door, just below my crotch (good thing he lowered it...)

(2) we drank a shit-ton of Oregon Springs vodka back then...  it was the cheapest liquor we know of at either of the Klamath Falls liquor stores.

(3) just a funny nickname for the grocery store near our college campus, the Market Basket.

Monday, July 7, 2014

N Train Performance

Well, that was impressive on the N train...  Going over the Manhattan Bridge a young teenage boy got on and loudly announced, "It's Showtime!" and "Last show of the day!" before turning on his boom box to some obnoxious music.

No, he wasn't that good, just clumsily repeating a few moves over and over, dancing and whirling his hat from his knee to his head, head to his toes, under his knee, and an occasional twirl around some of the bars in the train...  I've seen much better performers...

What was impressive is after he finished, he sat down on the bench, not far from where I was standing (I always stand on the train going home, so I don't sleep (yeah, sometimes I do, I doze and my knees buckle and I catch myself halfway down...), otherwise I risk missing my stop, and I'll get even less sleep at night), took the batteries out of his boom box, slid it under his seat, got out his headphones...

And then started counting his cash...

It was a lot of cash.  Several hundred dollars.  Mostly it was $1 bills, but no shortage of $5 bills scattered in there.  He'd reach into his backpack with his right hand, pull out a handful, straighten them out with the ones already in his left hand.  Over and over.  By the end he had a gigantic stack of bills in his left hand that he couldn't actually fold over lengthwise.  Then he curled it into a large, very wide cylinder and wrapped a band around it and stuck it back in his bag.

And the kid wasn't even that good, and the trains weren't even that busy...

Of course, I don't know how much of that he gets to keep, or if he has to pass on a chunk of it to someone else.  When he started his routine, dancing from one end of the car to the other, he stopped and fist-bumped a scruffy looking guy standing at one end, who didn't seem surprised, and in mid-town left his standing spot to sit on the bench one seat away from the kid.  That might well have been his supervisor or someone...

...Hmmm...  Maybe it's time I practice, make some extra cash while I'm already commuting and on the weekends...  :)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Microsoft Screws Up Scroll Bars

I finally figured out why despite years of using Windows (i.e. since version 1.0 in the mid-80's, and mouse-oriented apps going back earlier to my Apple //e) I'm having so much trouble using the scroll bars on my relatively new, fancy Windows 8.1 desktop machine at work. I click in the scroll bar and unexpected scrolling happens, or sometimes nothing at all happens.

In this photo with two windows, one is scrolled to the bottom, the other is scrolled to the top.

The problem is the Windows 8.1 default style is for the "thumb" of the scroll bar to be a dark grey, with the empty part to be a light grey, almost white. But one idiotic software vendor decided to override that with their own distinctive style, the "thumb" being white and the empty part of the scroll bar a dark grey.

No, wait...  They're both the same software vendor...  F*ckin' Microsoft!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sexual Inadequacy: Out of shape and overweight...

I’m feeling totally inadequate right this morning…  Last night, around 1am, we got woken up by a woman in a nearby apartment screaming in total ecstasy for about forty-five minutes…  It was almost constant “Oh yes!  Fuck Yes!  Oh Fuck, Oh Fuck, Yes, Yes!  Fuck Me Hard, Hard, Fuck Me! Fuck Me!” with a minute or two of wordless moaning here and there before building up into pleasurable screams again. There was the occasional grunting of a guy’s voice, a bit more towards the end as he was probably climaxing, then the two of them mumbling together for a bit…

Leena hates hearing it, saying that women having sex is a turn-off for her.  I’m sort of the opposite, I like it, like hearing a “live performance” and get totally turned on by it.  Granted, this woman isn’t as good as a former neighbor who lived across the hall, who didn’t last as long, but just sounded a bit “sweeter” and sexier...

Leena was nearly asleep a while after that, but I was totally awake, thinking solely about sex, of course.  I’d wanted us to make out earlier in the morning, but she wasn’t feeling too well, bad acid reflux, so we didn’t go beyond cuddling till she wanted to get up (despite her clear invitation for morning action the night before, before she could’ve anticipated that she’d not be feeling well in the morning…).

Not able to sleep, I joined her in her part of the bed and things went okay while I went down on her.  But then when it was time for the condom, I lost it…  Then after that, once my own member was lubricated from unrolling the condom on it as I was losing it, her messaging me made me lose control and come before I could get another rubber out…  A disappointing, though not unpleasurable end, but nowhere near as good as it could’ve been.

This sort of thing happens regularly and Leena is usually comforting and reassuring that I’m ok, but after hearing quite a performance from nearby, it just left me feeling pretty bad in the sexual department (especially after managing a condom twice last weekend and hoping for a repeat…).

Now it’s later in the morning and that neighbor has had two more sessions of the same thing, although each seems to be about ten minutes shorter than the last.  But still, I’m just thinking about how great in bed her guy must be.  And at this point in life, it’s unlikely I’ll ever be such a stud…

Rarely have I felt more like what I am turning into, an overweight, out-of-shape, middle-aged guy with erectile trouble.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ug, dreams while sick in India

Ug... Not well, headache, diarrhea, nausea and feverish, hot and cold, shivering and sweating....

But after being up in the middle of the night for relief of some, and a few hot showers to wash and relax I got a few hours of sleep.

Back in bed, wrapped tightly in a cozy, cotton blanket, if I was laying on my back I felt worse, necessitating at least one extra trip out to the bathroom.

Curled up on either side in a fetal position and I had science fiction dreams, space stations, bug-eyed monsters and me and the characters kept escaping, while sending texts via mobile to people outside the dream world. And then waking with feeling a bit improved.

Lying belly down, slightly more comfortable in the time between waking and sleeping, led to similar dreams, but the bug-eyed monsters winning and catching the made-up characters, followed by waking and feeling slightly worse.

Now the sun is up and while I don't feel good, the degree of wretchedness is less... I'll drink some water and try getting more sleep...

(Sorry about the font, it's just copy paste from another app and I don't feel like solving it now)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Grey Hair

No... Nope... No, no, no... No! The grocery store didn't just give me a senior discount... No, no can't be... I mean, my hair's a bit grey, but it can't be *that* grey, can it?

Surely "senior disc" next to the -2.30 is a code for something else, like "butt" is short for butter... Gotta be...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Jury Duty in Manhattan

So, I pulled jury duty this month.  I figured it was coming when earlier this year I got a form in the mail to fill out about my qualifications and any recent jury duty I'd served.  So it wasn't a surprise when I got the actual summons.

I was summoned for Thursday, May 16th.  It coincided with the second day of a two day Jewish holiday, Shavuot, for which my company was closed, so I didn't miss any work on Thursday.  Several people at work suggested I tell them it was a religious holiday to postpone it.  However, since I'm not religious and have never celebrated that particular holiday before, it just didn't feel like the right thing to do in my case, so I didn't ask for my one postponement.

Thursday, May 16th

Thursday morning I showed up at 71 Thomas Street at about 8:20am, a little early for my 9am reporting time.  The security guard at the entrance said "we open at 8:45" and when I repeated I was there for jury duty he just said "we open at 8:45".  (however, I'm now looking at the Jury Information Card the court gave us on Friday it says "Jury Assembly Rooms are open at 8:00 am")

I walked around the neighborhood a little, then got back there at about 8:40am to see a line of people standing outside waiting to get in.  After a few minutes they opened the door and we went through the bag x-ray and metal detector security.  The security guards were kind of rude to anyone who slightly slowed the line, yelling "take off your belt!" and "put your things in a tray!"  Then after retrieving stuff and asking directions the bored one at the end just said "read the signs..." like we were imbeciles...

Once inside I found the bathroom then found a seat in the jury assembly room to wait.

Around 9:15am a clerk, William Stevenson, came out to get things started, "I waited a little for the latecomers..."  He was a great clerk.  He said he'd been doing this clerk job since the 80's, but he never seemed to lose sight of the fact that while he knows the process and procedures inside and out, it's not daily work for the rest of us, a few who've had jury duty before and a lot who haven't, so most of us don't know the way around or the details or much about it.  He didn't make me feel stupid or anything for being unsure of what I was doing there or not knowing what to do with particular papers and things.

He started by having us go through parts of our summonses and make sure we were all in the right place on the right day, that our summonses said May 16th, and 71 Thomas Street.  For anyone whose said something different he told them to go to the main courthouse at 60 Center Street to get it cleared up, and that they should hurry over there so they wouldn't have to wait too much longer in line.

He then went over the requirements for jury duty at that court, being a citizen, being over 18 years old, living in Manhattan, Roosevelt Island and some other odd zip code, and not being a convicted felon.  He said if anyone didn't meet those requirements they should leave as quick as possible and go to the main courthouse to clear it up at the administration office.

He covered the jury duty hours, from 9am to 5pm, with a lunch break from 1pm to 2pm.  He said that for those jurors not involved in a trial, if we're in the assembly room he'll get us out at 4:30pm, but if a judge has us in something, then it's out of his hands.

He said the average trial length is seven days, some are longer, some are shorter, but in his experience, they average seven days.

Then he said it was time to get orientation started for everyone else...  He played a 25 minute video, featuring famous news stars going over a bit of the history of our justice system.  It began by showing middle ages style justice of "trial by ordeal" with actors portraying a trial of someone, where it was declared that if he was bound up and tossed in the lake, if he sank he was innocent (not caring if he drowned) and if he floated he was guilty...  Then it led to the changes in justice, including slightly later in England where they had juries, but the juries would be imprisoned if they didn't find those accused to be guilty...  Eventually getting up to our modern system.  It compared real life courtroom trials to TV and movie dramatized ones, explaining what about real trials makes them such compelling sources for drama.

After that he had us line up to give him portions of our jury summons and take a questionnaire to fill out to give to any lawyers who need to interview us in jury selection.  After long enough for most people to have filled those out, Mr. Stevenson picked up the microphone again and pointed some common errors people make, like reading "county" as "country" in one box, and not to write "Manhattan" as the neighborhood, but rather, which actual neighborhood within Manhattan where we live.

And then we waited.  And waited.  And waited...

Periodically Mr. Stevenson would get on the microphone and tell us there aren't yet any trials that need jurors in their building, but that he and another clerk were contacting other New York County courts in the same system.

The normal lunch break is from 1pm to 2pm, but since nothing was happening, he let us go for a longer lunch around 12:30pm and told us to be back by 2:15pm.

Having extra time, I took the A train from Chambers Street up to 42nd Street & 8th Avenue, where the front of the train was closer to 44th Street, so I dashed home.  I surprised Leena by showing up and then had a toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a small Coke for some caffeine.

I left the apartment around 1:35pm and just barely made it back to the jury assembly room by 2:15pm...

Then there was more waiting...

Finally, around 3:15pm one of the other clerks got on the microphone and asked for all the jurors to assemble in the main assembly room, for the ones scattered about, in the lunch room, in the bathrooms and in the side rooms.  And he asked for people to remove their headphones and listen.

He introduced his talk as "we're going to give you all a lesson in civics..."  Then announced that they'd talked to a number of judges and clerks throughout the system and there were no trials going to select juries that afternoon so we were free to leave for the day.  They announced that instead of 9am the next morning we should come at 10am.

Friday, May 17th

I got to the courthouse around 9:30am, a bit early, and went through the security checks to get into the jury assembly room and begin waiting.

Around 10:15am Mr. Stevenson got into the main room and took roll call, cheerfully welcoming every person who responded.  Then said there weren't any trials in that courthouse that yet needed jurors, but to bear with him while he contacted others to see.

Not much happened for about an hour or so, then he got back on the microphone and announced that there was a trial at the main courthouse at 60 Center Street that would need all of us.  He gave repeated directions how to get there, "go out the door, turn right, turn right again and walk forward four blocks," but said not to leave immediately.  He then took another roll call to make sure he knew everyone who was going there, and gave us a yellow card with addresses and details of the courthouses.  He repeated the directions and said that at the end of it he would lead over any of those who weren't familiar with it.

After he called my name I got my yellow card and figured I could follow his directions.  I wasn't alone, I saw others along the route I recognized from the jury room, so I knew I was going the right direction on the four block walk.

Many of us were together again at the security check point at the entrance to this courthouse and then got through and worked our way to the elevators and up to the 4th floor's jury assembly room.

There we waited some more...

After some time a clerk there told us all to follow an officer of the court down to a 3rd floor court room, but not to go inside until the officer said we could.  The officer led us down the steps, but said any could use the elevators if they wanted, and then to the hallway outside the courtroom where we had another wait.

Finally once the court room emptied of other jurors the officer said we could go in, and we filed in, filling up the seats...

The judge introduced the case as a lawsuit about asbestos and could be expected to take around 8 weeks, and then turned it over to the plaintiffs' lawyer to lead the proceedings for us.

In the introduction to the trial the lawyers said they understood it was a long trial and could be a financial hardship on many potential jurors and that neither side would want jurors who might quit part way through or spend their days worrying about finances instead of paying attention.  In addition they said they knew it was summer, when many people make vacation plans that could be affected.

He read off two pages of names of plaintiffs, families, and witnesses they expected to call and said if we knew any of those people we should let them know.  Then he had each of the defense attorneys introduce themselves and their law firms so if we knew of any of them we could let them know.  Then one of them read off two pages of names of companies involved so that if we owned stock in any of those we could let them know.

Then he said we'd take a lunch break.  He also made it clear that the lawyers would see us outside the courtroom but not to take it personally if they didn't greet us or smile at us or acknowledge us in passing.  He said that was part of maintaining the impartiality of the jury system.  They would not interact with us in any way unless lawyers from both sides were present, or the judge.

After lunch I got back inside, stopped by the jury assembly room for a drink of water then waited in the hallway outside the courtroom.  Others from my group of prospective jurors showed up in a steady stream, all waiting outside, most getting on their mobile phones or laptops to kill the time.

A little later the officer of the court opened up the courtroom and we filed in.

The plaintiffs' lawyer again lead the proceedings and said they'd interview us one by one in the judge's chamber that they'd set up.  He suggested just going along the first row starting at the left and working through the room, mostly leaving it up to us to manage.

He also asked that if they let us go we don't go back into the room and tell the crowd what we said to get out of the jury selection.  He said it really happened once that they let one person go because they'd already purchased plane tickets to Australia during the time period of the trial, and then "seven more people all said they had tickets to Australia."

I was in the second bench of the third row, so around #30, give or take a few...  It was a long wait, with some people taking longer for them to interview than others.  Several were sent back out into the courtroom to sit and wait for the judge.  But most were leaving through the stairwell by the judge's chamber.

So, when it was my turn they brought me into the room with a dozen lawyers and asked "what's your conflict?"  I said that I work for a very small company and would only get paid from work for the two weeks of vacation I get this year, and so missing eight weeks of work, getting only the $40 a day, six to eight weeks after the trial, would mean I would not be able to pay my rent and expenses for a month.  The lawyer joked, "you don't want to spend your vacation here with us?  Your next four vacations at that!"  Then he said "alright, you can go..."

Then he gave me my juror ballot to take back up to the jury assembly room to be processed by the clerk.  That took about twenty minutes before she gave me a printout of my proof of jury service.

So, that was that...

I feel a little guilty about getting out of jury duty instead of being eliminated by not meeting their needs. I mean, I know by having financial troubles with the length of the trial I don't meet their needs, but still, it feels to me like I failed to do my duty.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Spring Saturday in DUMBO & Manhattan

We got off to a bit of a late start today, but headed by subway over to DUMBO to enjoy the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

After it was getting closer to dark we got hungry but decided to head back to Manhattan by subway to get a bite to eat at Pier 17.

Then from there we walked all the way home, along the western side of Manhattan.

As always, no captions came through, but they're all in the original album...