Monday, August 30, 2010

In the Courtroom

I was summoned to court by a letter in the mail a few weeks ago.   The letter told me I had been selected for jury duty.  I hear some people complain about jury duty, but not me, I was EXCITED.  I love stuff like this. I couldn't wait to get there and be a part of this process.  Why would anyone complain about this?

I arrived thirty minutes early.  This was my first time in the courthouse.  I sat down and took in the atmosphere of this place.

The ceiling in the courtroom was two stories tall.  Tall windows lined one wall.  Benches where the public sits were like church pews.  In fact one juror mentioned that it wouldn't take much to convert the court into a church.  A knee high wall separates the public pews from the rest of the court.  On the other side of that short wall were two tables.  Each smaller than your dining table.  Left side (facing judge) is the plantiff and his lawyer and the right table is the defendant and lawyer.  There is a center aisle between the tables and the lawyers sit closest to the aisle.  It's very much like you have seen on TV.

Before the judge enters, the room is mostly quiet.  The lawyers move around the courtroom talking to each other and some of the officials of the court.  There are several Bailiffs in the room.   Two doors behind the judges bench lead to a hallway.  Once in a while the lawyers and other officials duck into that hallway.   Just before the judge enters the room he is announced by a Bailiff asking everyone to please stand.  As soon as you stand up, the judge enters the room and asks you to please be seated.   Now the room is silent as the judge shuffles some papers.  He has his law clerk sitting on his left.  In front of them on a lower tier is the court reporter and the court clerk.

I was loving it.

Role call for the jurors took place after some short instructions from the judge.  There were roughly sixty of us in the jury pool.  The judge thanked us for our service and explained that we would be hearing civil cases this week.  There were already lawyers and their clients seated at the tables and in the jury box there were three or four more lawyers.  These were the lawyers for the cases later in the week.

During roll call of the jurors, the judge asked that we stand and announce where we work and where our spouse works.  As this was done, lawyers were taking notes.

The judge also announced several reasons that a person can be exempt from jury service.  He read them and asked if it applied to anyone.  Nobody stood.  Then he read several qualification rules and asked if we met those requirements.  He read them one rule at a time, pausing between for us to respond.  These qualifications were very basic things like being able to understand the English language and being a citizen of the County we were serving in.

The entire process of roll call and rules took almost an hour.  At that point the judge gave us a summary of the case.  He introduced the names of the parties involved and asked if any of us were related to these parties.  He asked if we had close business, personal, or social ties to these parties.  If someone stood, he would qualify what the relationship was and ask the juror if they felt they could be fair to both sides in this situation.  In all cases, the juror was allowed to make that decision for themselves.

Next, the lawyers introduced themselves and we were asked if any of us had relationships with the lawyers in any way or had previous cases involving these lawyers.

That process had taken another thirty minutes and we were given a break.  The computer would produce a random list of twenty of our names.  The lawyers would each be allowed to strike four from the list, leaving twelve jurors.  We were allowed a thirty minute break while the lawyers reviewed the list of jurors.

After the break, the twelve names were called.  As our name was called we walked over to the jury box and were seated by a bailiff.  The chairs were as I had seen on TV.  Swivel chairs with short wooden backs on them lined in two rows.  The jurors not called were dismissed.  I was sitting in a wooden swivel chair.

In a blog coming up I will write about my experience as a juror!  If this topic really bores you it should only take one more post.  I found the whole process very interesting.  I loved every bit of it.  Even the slow and boring parts.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Camping on the Art Loeb (Pt 1)

More summer videos coming your way!

This was Randy's first backpacking adventure with me.  The two of us hit the Art Loeb trail on the Blue Ridge Pkwy.  I broke up the videos from that weekend into three parts so that you wouldn't have to stare at your screen for too long at one time.

This video shows a couple of the great views we enjoyed up there.  It also shows some of the great spot we found to set up camp.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Starved to DEATH! (almost)

It was lunch time on a work day.  Ninety percent of the time, I bring my lunch to work.  This day was one of those other ten percent of work lunches.  I had some cash and just had to decide where to spend it.  My recent favorite spot to buy a lunch has been going to Publix grocery store and getting a sandwich in their deli.

This day I wanted something a bit different so I decided to drive across town and stop at Schlotsky's Deli.  I used the navigation on my phone to get me there and found the place empty and the doors locked.

I was already starting my lunch an hour late and my stomach was rumbling.  I decided I'd check out the Main Street Deli while I was downtown.  I've had their food before and it is great.  Three more minutes of my lunch time later, I was looking at the locked doors of the Main Street Deli.  The place had been cleaned out and looks to have been closed for a while.  My stomach rumbled.

I had already spent almost half of my lunch driving to closed restaurants.  Apparently I don't get out much.  I started heading back toward work, which I passed on my way to Publix.

Nearly starved to death, I crawled my way through the store and found the deli counter.  I ate my sandwich quickly as my lunch hour was coming to an end.

After spending half of my time driving around town,  half of my money buying gas, and nearly starving to death, I learned a lesson.  From now on, the ten percent of the time I buy a lunch, I need to stick to places I've been to within the past month.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Balloon Fight!

I'm just getting through some of the videos I have shot over the summer.

Here's one from the first week of summer break.  A water balloon fight to celebrate the beginning of summer.  I think you'll agree that I won this battle.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


She turned nine this past week.  I'm two for two so far on getting a good kid to the age of nine.

Friday, August 20, 2010


I've started using Google to translate my voice mail and then email the results to me.  Now I never have to dial in and key my password, and sit and listen to the recorded voice for options, and THEN listen to my voice mail.

This is dependent on how clearly my mumble mouth friends annunciate.  Sometimes the translation makes no sense at all.  Sometimes one wrong word completely changes the meaning.  Vonage also translates our voice mails on the home phone with similar results.  Here's a few samples:

"Hey this is Leslie. I was just wondering if Randy could sleep over tonight and if to call me back. So please call me back. Thanks, bye "
--- Brought to you by Vonage ---

No "Leslie",  you will not have my eleven year old boy spend the night at your house.


"Hello Mr. Mr. Williams, this is mama. I'm calling from Master Tech on the installation company for direct TV. Just following up with you like to have a service call scheduled this morning. They well verifying that you technician has contacted to you. If need CAO or on site the technician's name. Today is gonna be like yeah, this contact number is XXX-XXX-XXXX. Thank you Mr. basically I have a good day. Goodbye be on this list to see you "
--- Brought to you by Vonage ---

I don't know what to say after a message like that.  "Mr. Mr. Williams, this is mama."   Really?  Is that code for I'm coming to fix your Direct TV?  Are we on a CB radio here?  "Come in mama, this is Mr. Mr. Williams".

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

50 / 50 Decision

I got a haircut and the barber went a bit crazy.   I was the only one in the shop and he was taking his time as he told me stories.  Then I made a mistake.  I asked him a question about being in the air force.   My barber is somewhere around 85 years old and an Air Force Vet.  He was now prepared to keep me in the chair as he answered my question.

The longer he talked, the shorter my hair got.  Finally, he handed me the mirror.  "Do you want it shorter?", he asked.  I looked at what little hair was left and told him it was short enough.

After I got home I quite liked it. Then I decided that I had held onto my half beard / half shaved look long enough.  I knew I wouldn't be able to keep the 50 / 50 look forever.  I had to choose one.
Short hair and clean shaved.  I was transformed. I chose clean shaved over mountain man beard.  I'm sure Cari appreciates my decision. She was supportive when I didn't shave, but I was always afraid she'd stop shaving her legs and expect me to be supportive of it.  I thought it would be better if I didn't push my luck.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Blog-ey topic

Everyone reading this knows some degree of English.  It's a formal language.  One that is taught in schools around the world and not made up by some people around a table eating BBQ sandwiches.  I don't think that a person should be allowed to randomly place a bunch of letters together and call it a word, unless your name is Webster.  On the day that this story took place, I wasn't eating lunch with Webster.  I was eating lunch with my family.

While we were eating BBQ at the Whistling Pig restaurant I asked Cari how her sandwich was.  She replied, "Barbequey".

"That's not a word.", I argued.  In fact, spell check agrees with that statement as I type this now.

Others were joining our conversation at this point.  Becky said the sauce she used was mustardey.   The girls argued that adding "-ey" to your word as a descriptive modifier was perfectly acceptable.

Perhaps it was acceptable to each other, but not to me.  They asked me if I understood what they meant by saying something was "potatoey".  I had to admit that I understood the context but that didn't make it correct.  I can understand a lot of gibberish people throw at me, but being understood is not a sign of being correct.

The discussion turned to acceptable words that use "-ey".
The weather could be sunny, cloudy, or even stormy.   "Yep," I argued, "those are real words".  Unlike warmy weather or telling someone that it is a bit "coldy".

Your shirt is pink in the English language.  In this argument your shirt is pinkey.
Look at her... isn't she cheerleaderey?  Huh?

I believe this modification to make all words descriptive is laziness.  You have eliminated three or four words to get your point across in one.  Maybe you spend too much time on Twitter.   These words seem very Twitterey.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Portrait of Work

It was near 150 degrees outside so I thought it would be a good time to get the lawn cut.  When I was nearly done I thought it was a great setting for a portrait.

I went into the air-conditioned (63 degrees) house to ask Cari to assist me.  I set up my camera and gave her a description of my idea.  She took the camera, and started taking some shots.
After pushing the shutter button four or five times, Cari declared the job complete.  She handed me my camera and retreated to the frozen tundra she calls home.

When I was able to come in and look at the photos I was thrilled with what she captured.  This is exactly what I had in mind.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I'm not BP!

On our last night at Calaway Gardens we headed over to the Country Store restaurant.  This was one of the nicest places we ate at during the weekend.  It was on the side of the highway and had a great view into the valley below.  Think of Cracker Barrel but smaller and cuter.

We sat down, all twelve of us, and within a few minutes the waitress brought our drinks.  It didn't feel like much more time had passed before they were bringing our dinner to us.  I was bragging about my gnome that came to dinner with us and we were having a great time.

That's when all the dinner manners I had ever known in my life left me.  I reached across the table and as I brought a plate toward me, I knocked my tea (sweet) into my lap.  OH MAN that was some cold tea!

Immediately, my family came to the rescue.  I had four cloth napkins in my lap trying to soak up the fluid. Then I looked up and realized I had became entertainment for everyone.

Everyone pointed out that it looked like I had just peed myself, and they were right.  It was like I had peed myself, but colder.

As they laughed, I thought back to December of 2007.  It wasn't that long ago really.  I'm sure the people involved still remember it. Here's the blog I posted that day:

Last night we went to dinner with my group from work. We had all decided to get our spouses and go out for a nice dinner.
I admit, this is not a comfort setting for me. I was on my best behavior. Our salads were brought out and I didn't take a bite until everyone had been served. I was really watching the details to keep my manners.
As the dinner went on I began to relax a bit. As I took a sip of my sweet tea through the little black straw, someone asked one of my coworkers a question about work. It was a simple question about something that happened only an hour earlier. The coworker shrugged her shoulders like she didn't know.
That's when I spit sweet tea on the guy across the table from me.
Not on purpose. It's just what happens when you try and take me out.
I didn't think that the girl shrugging her shoulders was that funny. I think I just had a small cough that I couldn't suppress fast enough. With tea in mouth, and hands down by my plate, I started to turn my head. I wasn't fast enough. The tea sprayed out between my lips as if I was a sprinkler.
Everyone started chuckling. Everyone except for the guy across from me. I apologized and explained that it's hard taking me anywhere nice. That's a good way to make an impression on my coworkers' families.\
"So who was the freak spitting tea?" That's what they were saying as they drove home.
"MAN! That was stupid!" That's what I was saying on the way home.

At least nobody got spit on this time.  Nobody was affected by my spill but myself.  It's not like I'm BP.

Midway through dinner my nephew was looking for his napkin.  He looked to his dad and asked where it might have gone.  My brother replied, "I had to give it to your uncle".   Ok.  So one person was affected.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Win the Gnome!

My sister-in-law decided to start something during our family gathering.  No, she didn't start a fight.  She started a tradition.  During game night, the winner would take home a garden Gnome.  That family would decorate the Gnome and bring it back to the next family gathering where it would be back up for grabs.  As time goes on this Gnome will hopefully have more layers of paint than the Berlin wall and a bucket full of accessories.

She already had my attention when she mentioned a competition, but one with a prize?  Having a trophy takes competition to the next level.

Winning is everything.

The game was dominoes.  I was confident.  Becky polled everyone around the table to see how we wanted to pair up.  None of my kids wanted to be on my team.  After giving them a second chance to pair up with me, and after a second rejection from my kids, I put my game face on.  I'll show you to hang out with your uncles!  Who do you think taught them how to play anyway?
Winning is everything.

We played through several rounds and Becky kept score.  I was leading and gaining over second.  My confidence was growing with every round.  We sat in the corner of the lounge and I felt like telling everyone in the room how great I was, but I resisted.

The next round didn't go as good and my lead would soon be threatened.  That's when the bartender came over to tell us that nobody under 18 was allowed in the room after eleven.  I looked at my watch and it was eleven.  This would be the last round.  A winner would be declared and the Gnome would be hoisted in that persons arms.

I didn't win that round.  In fact I racked up a lot of points.  I was a bit nervous as Becky read the final results from last place to first.  It came down to Cari and myself for the win.  After a dramatic pause, it was announced that I beat Cari by a handful of points.  The Gnome was placed into my hands and I held him up high.  I smiled at my children whom had rejected me.  "In your face!", I bragged.
Winning is everything.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Family Photo

For the first time in X years, where X is an unknown number, we took a short vacation with my parents and both of my brothers and their families.

We met up at Calaway Gardens in Georgia.  The gardens are a great place to visit.  I was most impressed with the butterfly house.  It looks like a giant greenhouse and is filled with thousands of butterflies that you can walk among.

There are many other beautiful areas scattered around the large park.  There is a stone chapel on a lake, a vegetable garden, and an amazing greenhouse / garden area.

We all met up one morning before the heat got into the triple digits and drove over to the chapel.  I set up a few tripods and got set for a group shot in front of the lake.  There are really endless locations for a shot like this at Calaway.  I chose this one because that's where we ended up when it was time to do the shoot.

After a few test shots and moving the light around a bit, Here's the shot we ended up with.

During the next few blogs I'll share a few stories that developed while on this trip.  

Friday, August 06, 2010

Extra Pieces

It turns out that we carry around a lot of extra stuff every day.  I'm not talking about the three keys in your pocket that you have no idea what they unlock.  I'm talking about stuff like your gal bladder. What's that thing doing taking up resources in there?

After living with a bit of pain for a while Cari decided she was done carrying around her gal bladder.  So on Thursday I took her to the hospital for a quick surgery.

Everyone was ready to go at 1pm.  The problem is that there was no available operating room available.  It turns out that a lot of people are trying to remove these extra parts and it created an overbooking of the O.R.

Two more hours of waiting and Cari was making her body more efficient.

Me?  I was sitting in a waiting room.  A very loud waiting room.  This was making it hard for me to read.  I spent an hour switching between watching Ellen and listening to other people's conversations.  I quickly became bored with both of those options, even though Justin Beiber was on Ellen, and went back to my book.

We had left our house at 11am for a one hour procedure but I didn't arrive back home until seven.  After all that time in the hospital, I'm still carrying around all the extra parts.

And yes, Cari is doing very well.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Shadow Play

It's time for another photo experiment.  This time I hung a sheet in the living room, I placed my flash behind it and pointed it through the sheet.  With my camera on a tripod, I placed myself between the sheet and the flash with the camera on the other side of the sheet to capture my shadow.
This was my first attempt at doing this and there was some trial and error involved.  I tried moving the light around to see how that effected the shadow.  I also found that you can alter the image by how close you stand to the sheet.  It was fun to play with it and try something different.  You should be able to do this with any camera.  If you can't remotely fire a flash, try putting some bright light sources between you and the sheet. 

Here's a collection of some of my favorites:

Monday, August 02, 2010

Sweet Home Alabama. . . er. . . Georgia

We were only twenty minutes from Alabama as we drove South on 85.  Cari suggested we drive past our Georgia exit and head into Alabama for lunch because we've never been there before.  Amazingly, the kids were all behaving, so I agreed that it sounded like a great idea.

Since we were heading into a new area for the purpose of lunch we ruled out any chain restaurant.  We wanted to drive just over the border, find a small town on the map, and get lunch at a local place.  Lunch in Alabama.

At Randy's suggestion, I loaded up Sweet Home Alabama on the MP3 player and played it as we crossed the state line.  Dorky?  Probably.  Most likely.  Yeah, a bit.  But we did it

We stopped off at the welcome center and looked at a map, went pee, and took a photo.  Our next stop was two exits into the state headed toward the town of Huguley, which I pronounced HUGE-ly.

There was no suitable place for lunch on the main road so we continued our journey into Lanett, Al.  We found a few chain restaurants but still didn't see anything that jumped out at us besides the huge textile mill.

Continuing down the highway we entered West Point and found a small downtown with several restaurants.  We parked and entered the Downtown Diner.  This place was great.  They had many items on the walls supporting their high school football and other sports paraphernalia.
As we sat at the table waiting for our food, I picked up a business card and studied it.  After a moment, I slammed it onto the table and pushed it toward Cari.  Here's the card:
Although we crossed the river to enter Alabama and had not re-crossed that river, the boundary between these states had jumped out of the water and across West Point.  We were having lunch in Georgia!  In fact, the owner of Downtown Diner pointed across the street and told us that Alabama was two blocks away.

While the food was good, eating in Georgia certainly took some of the excitement out of the meal.  I've eaten in Georgia dozens of times.  How plain.

Why oh why did that border jump the river?  Did Alabama lose that land betting on a football game?  Check this map and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Don't worry Alabama, we'll be back to try again.  Next time I'll be checking the address BEFORE ordering.