30 May 2006

My day on the Jury

I was summoned to jury duty here in Alachua County, and reported as directed last Monday, May 22nd. After a relatively speedy orientation, we were separated into groups and assigned to trials. A portion of us were then selected for an 18 person panel and questioned by the attorneys. All of the questions were pretty inocuous, mostly referring to potential juror's relationships with law enforcement and employment. I happened to see an acquaintance from High School who is now an elementary school teacher. She was later excused (you'll see why later).

The final questions had to do with the subject of the case, Child Pornography, which I was surprised to learn must depict some kind of sexual conduct. Images of naked children do not qualify as child porn and are therefore legal to possess. This makes sense in the case of a parent that takes a cute picture of a baby in a bathtub, but there are other areas that are, to use a non-legal term, creepy. We were asked if we would be uncomfortable dealing with the issue. The sentiment was almost unanimous in the affirmative, but everyone on the panel felt that they could carry out their duty to decide matters of fact in the case. Of the 18 panel members, 7 were selected for the jury, and I was among them.

The case began the next Friday and we arrived at the Courthouse ready to go: a professor, a full-time volunteer/business owner, 2 students, a waitress, an art dealer, and me. I was impressed with the diversity of the group and also with the determination of each juror to abide by the rules. This meant that we were not permitted to discuss any aspect of the trial until deliberations began later that day. As you can imagine, the content of the trial made it difficult to avoid conversation, but we did so. It was interesting to return to the jury room during recesses and shoot the breeze, which was exactly what we were expected to do. There were times where the mood was a bit more somber, owing to what we saw.

We were required to look at 7 images entered as evidence. It would be up to us to decide if the images depicted both children and sexual conduct. I was excited to be on a jury, but not excited by the charges and to have to see any photos. Initially the defendant was arrested for possessing 29 images. I don't know why the charge was reduced to 7, but 7 was quite enough for me. I found out later that each count carries a possible term of 5 years.

In the end the case was pretty straightforward. After the sides rested their case I was actually excused having been randomly selected as the alternate. It was disappointing as deliberation would have been the reward for sitting through an entire day. The case itself was somewhat mundane, as different things have to be substantiated that don't ever make it into a one hour episode of Law & Order. A fellow juror called me afterward to let me know that there was not much to decide. He was found guilty on 6 of 7 counts (there was one ambiguous photo).

All in all, I was glad to participate in the experience. I would do it again. I was impressed by the responsibility of providing a just verdict. I think we did that.

We also had an excellent lunch at Big Lou's New York Style Pizzeria.

29 May 2006

Memorial Day

It's a good day to remember- See Right Wing Pundit for more.

Job for Jeb

Michael Barone continues to be my favorite commentator for the depth of his insight and his objective opinions. It helps that he is a conservative too.

He forwards a suggestion that Jeb Bush be named the U.S. special envoy to the Americas. Latin American politics have always been very important to the U.S. and will continue to be an increasingly critical element in our foreign relations.

23 May 2006

Buenas noticias de Colombia

I was very pleased to read what Michael Barone learned about the upcoming Colombian presidential election. From pollster John Zogby:

"Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is leading his closest competitor by more than a 4-to-1 margin heading into the May 28 vote there, and appears headed for a victory large enough to avoid a June 18 runoff election, a new University of Miami School of Communication/Zogby International survey shows.
"Uribe would win 67 percent of the vote, the poll shows, compared with 15 percent for Carlos Gaviria, the second-place candidate, who represents the leftist Polo Democrá´©co Independiente, or PDI, party. Gaviria has gained attention by calling for an end to heavy Colombian dependence on the United States, which has directed more than $750 million to Colombia, making it the fourth-largest recipient of U.S. aid. Most of that aid has gone for drug interdiction. Uribe has fostered that closer relationship with the United States, which has also included an expanded trade pact.

Uribe's apparent electoral success may be the harbinger that Latin leftism is on the wane. Upcoming elections in Peru and Mexico will indicate whether Uribe's success is an isolated trend or part of a larger movement.

While at BYU I took an excellent course in Latin American comparitive politics, and studied Colombia in particular. I am far from an expert on Colombia, but its rich history and long experience with democracy made it a perfect example of missed opportunity. I am glad to see that the situation appears to be changing.

21 May 2006


One of my favorite albums of the past 2 years is Hopes and Fears by Keane. When Lacy and I were in Vancouver for a family trip in May 2005 we went to a concert and it was at least as good as the album, with no letdown at all. It capped an awesome day in a city that we loved and made me a fan for life.

I was glad to be on iTunes the other day and see that they had released a new single, Is It Any Wonder, in preparation for their new album Under the Iron Sea which comes out June 20th. I don't have any doubt that it will be a worthy follow-up.

Au Revoir Elliot

I've written before about how Lacy and I enjoy watching American Idol. We were particularly disappointed that Elliot Yamin was eliminated on last Wednesday's program. In addition to being a great singer, he seems to be a great guy and I hope he does very well. He hopes to do an R&B album, and I'd buy it.

For more on Elliot, see this day-after interview on Entertainment Weekly's website.

Much ado about Da Vinci

I went to see The Da Vinci Code the other night, and I was very pleased with it. I usually read the movie reviews for the films that I want to see. They will often influence my decision to see a movie. This time the opposite occurred. I got a sense from the reviews that their problems with the film were more snobbery than good criticism, with a few exceptions. Eric Snider's review was very fair, and although I enjoyed the movie more than he did, and didn't think it felt that long, I can see where he is coming from. I also agreed with Ebert's review. Ebert gives it 3 stars, and I think that it probably is the best 'grade' for a movie like this. This review by commentator Michael Novak is an example of a poor review based on prejudgements. I thought it downright dishonest and took a very different impression of the message the movie wanted to provide.

The religious uproar over the film is a total overreaction. The latest Box Office indicators also indicated that it has been counter-productive to that cause. Parts of the story definitely don't jive with my beliefs, but the adaptation definitely is sensitive to that, in my humble opinion.

17 May 2006

Why Not to be a Hippie, Reason #237

Wearing a bra could save you from a gunshot wound, as explained by this story out of Tampa:

Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies said a .38-caliber bullet smashed through the windshield then bounced off Key's shoulder — thanks to a seat belt and a thick bra strap. The copper-jacketed slug landed in her lap.
"It's a big bullet, but you had all those forces acting against it," Hillsborough sheriff's spokesman J.D. Callaway told the St. Petersburg Times. "It's very rare that something like that occurs. She's very lucky. You know, we're just glad she came out OK."

Don't burn it, hippies- it might just save your life!

12 May 2006


It is very difficult for people in the United States to understand what it is like in a communist state, particularly one as oppressive as North Korea. I read this story from today's Wall Street Journal and felt two things: gratitude for my country and disgust for those that would compare it to Stalinist Russia or present-day North Korea. As the refugees interviewed in the piece can attest, America is nothing like that. They were separated from their families and have the following to say:

Our interview over, the women relax and begin to talk about their first few days in America. "It's completely different from what we learned. It is difficult to accept that there is a world like this," Hannah says. "They [the North Korean government] teach us that America is a country that shouldn't be allowed to exist." "When we were in China," Naomi says, "we always had to hide. Now we don't feel that way anymore."
"We still do feel lonely," says Hannah, "but my heart feels free."

Cuba's situation may not be as severe as North Korea's, but the people there are still not free. Liberty is a fundamental right, and man hungers for it. Read this, and see the price people are willing to pay for freedom.

09 May 2006

The More You Know

The Office is one of the best shows on TV. One day Lacy and I were watching it and they had a public service announcement, one of those "The More You Know" segments, and Lacy and I thought it seemed like a joke. Sure enough, they have a series of fake PSA's, and I think they're pretty funny.

Check them out.

08 May 2006

5 Best Business Books...of a sort

Stanley Bing writes a column for Fortune magazine, usually a humorous one about various business issues. On Saturday's Opinion Journal he provided this week's entry of 5 Best, this time about business books. The list:

  1. The Art of War
  2. The Prince
  3. The Godfather
  4. Emily Post's the Etiquette Advantage in Business
  5. The Cat in the Hat

I thought it was a good little read.

03 May 2006

The Return

There is a new Superman Returns trailer. I found it to be... excellent. Check it out.