Archive for May, 2011

Sweat Dreams: Why Are You Here?

Yesterday a woman walked up to a lovely machine called an abductor.  It’s sort of a chair with stirrup-like pedals.  You can dial the resistance up or down to give your abductors the right amount of exercise.   Then the idea is to open and close your legs to stretch some muscles “down there.”

Abductor Machine

The woman carefully put towels on the machine for her back and butt.  I figure this woman is really going to work it.   She then sat down.  And sat there.   I think she probably sat for about ten minutes.   Then she moved her legs about an inch, back and forth for about two minutes.

Then she left.  Hard to figure exactly what she accomplished but I’m sure she told her friends later that she had a tough workout.   After burning a half calorie that glass of wine must have felt great.

Useless College Majors

The Daily Beast thoughtfully prepared a list of the college majors that “offer the fewest job opportunities and those that tend to pay the least.”  20 Most Useless College Majors.

If you or your kids are considering one of these you might reconsider.  Of course, if they are about to graduate from college it’s a bit late.  If you don’t want to click through, the top ten are below.

I was crushed to see Advertising at number four.  I spent 40+ years in this industry and made a decent living and had a lot of fun.  We used to always say, “It’s just advertising.”  That was to remind ourselves that this really wasn’t very important and if the industry went away tomorrow it would have no effect on the GNP.  Nor were there any Fortune 500 board members asking about the ads or the account planning strategy statement.  I traveled all over the country and a few times abroad all in the pursuit of great communications and awards.

A lot of important companies paid us a lot of money to develop brands, do ads, write memos and make cool Power Point presentations.   Too often clients blamed the agency when business was off.   When business was good clients credited their own awesome business acumen.   It was always troubling to note that when the economy was bad clients opted to reduce their spending with the agency first.  That seemed to say a lot about the value they perceived.  Yet,  I got to meet some smart, fascinating and unique people during  my career.  So even though it is now apparently a lousy degree with a crappy future, it sure was good to me. 

But I digress.  It would seem that journalism has really suffered with the demise of newspapers.  And trust me, a blogger, tweeter, news reader or anybody on Fox is not a journalist.   I’m not quite sure what horticulture is but I think it has to do with plants and flowers.  That seems to dovetail with Agriculture … not a lot of people going into farming.

1. Journalism

2.  Horticulture

3.  Agriculture

4.  Advertising

5.  Fashion Design

6.  Child and Family Studies

7.  Music

8.  Mechanical Engineering Technology

9.  Chemistry

10.  Nutrition

I would add Philosophy as a useless major.  Not a lot of money in that.  Add Latin to that.  You will also find Art History and English among the second ten.   There might be four jobs in the world related to the history of art.  And I never understood the point of English as a major.  Especially when I interviewed so many English major graduates who were lousy spellers and worse grammatically.  There are probably a few thousand English teaching jobs available in the U.S.  After that, what exactly do you do with that major?  Oh, wait — I think those people are all on reality shows.

 Forensics is now a hot major.   Thank you CSI for that.  I certainly hope this does not mean there is going to be an explosion in violent deaths to justify all these new graduates.  Or maybe they can be on the next iteration of CSI: CSI Topeka.

Given the rising cost of college and the commensurate difficulty in getting into college you would hope that the colleges would drop some of these useless majors.  It’s time to offer more relevant majors like television personality, talk show host, pundit and my personal favorite:  Social Media Expert.

Words To Live By

I got older today … it’s my birthday.  I won’t tell you how old I am but I will tell you that you should hope to feel as good as I do as I roll through my sixth decade on earth.  I’ve had a blast and I’m looking forward to many more years.

I just read an article about Jeff Bridges, who I think is one of the coolest guys on the planet, even though he is younger than me.  In talking about life he said: 

 “We’re here for such a short period of time.  Live like you’re already dead, man.  Have a good time.  Do your best.  Let it all come ripping right through you.”

Amen.

Jury Duty: The Verdict

The testimony should end today.  The prosecution has only two witnesses today and the defense hasn’t said.  I’m guessing the defendant is it, and he may not testify.  I’m hoping we get the case early enough to arrive at a verdict so we can be done by 4:30.  The rules are that jury duty is one week or one trial.  If we can be done on Tuesday that would be sweet.  But I will miss the $10 a day plus mileage.  

Of course I’m more interested in justice being served, no matter how long it takes.  I have pretty much decided but will keep an open mind until the end.  I wonder if this is how all jurors feel.

Speaking of the jurors … there are seven men and six women.  Ten of us are wearing jeans.  I’d put the average age in the mid- to late 40s.  Myself and one other guy are retired.  Another has been an attorney for 38 years.  He’s my choice for jury foreman.  There is a young Indian guy who works at Google wearing jeans and flip-flops.  Nice.  I immediately like him. He’s outgoing, funny and thoughtful.

The trial resumes with brief testimony from two state patrolmen.  They pretty much duplicate yesterday’s witnesses by saying the defendant eluded the police and that when questioned after being stopped, he’d admitted that he made a mistake. At that, the prosecution rests.  Funny term.  I mean the guy didn’t go anywhere or take a nap so exactly how is he resting?

The defense attorney is a young woman who immediately calls the defendant to testify.  As he begins answering questions it is apparent he needs to get close to his microphone and talk louder.  He speaks just above a whisper and he mumbles. 

Basically the defense attorney takes him through his version of the incident.  His story is that just as he got on I-5 he realized he was about to run out of gas.  He did see a light blue sedan with a guy standing in back of it on the shoulder … but did not realize it was a cop or that he was being signaled.  His attention was totally on getting to the next exit.  When he got to the off-ramp he passed cars on the right — on the  shoulder — to save time and somehow lost control of the bike.   He vaguely remembers talking to police but can’t remember anything specific.  He had no idea he was being chased.

The prosecutor reminded him that he had noticed he was running out of gas the night before and asked why he didn’t fill up before getting on the freeway.  The defendant said he forgot. 

Closing arguments are quick.  The prosecutor says he proved his case beyond a reasonable doubt and takes us through the key witness testimony as well as that of the defendant to prove his points.  The defense attorney starts with another analogy.  This has to do with rock climbing.  She is holding a rope of someone climbing a rock face.  She knows beyond a reasonable doubt that she can save the climber should he fall because of her training and experience.  Somehow she tries to connect that to our task of believing that the defendant is guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt.  My thought was:  “What the f**k is she talking about?”

That’s really the essence of the case.  It is a “he said, they said” story.  The judge reads our instructions from a typed 12-page instruction document.  We each have a copy and read along with him.  The key instruction components are:

  • That the defendant willfully failed or refused to immediately bring the vehicle to a stop after being signaled to stop;
  • That while attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle, the defendant drove his vehicle in a reckless manner.

The judge picks one juror’s number out of a hat who will become an alternate and be on call.  He is dismissed.  It is the attorney and he’s pretty happy about leaving.  There goes my choice for jury foreman.  It’s now about 2:30 and we are sent to the jury room to deliberate.  I’m thinking we can decide this by 4:30. 

We first pick a Seattle firefighter as our foreman, mainly because he was sitting at the head of the table.  He looks pretty pleased and I’m afraid he’s going to launch into an acceptance speech.  Instead he says we should all re-read instruction number 7 which contains the crime elements which must be “proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Most of the elements are pretty mundane, like the date it happened and where it happened.  We quickly agree on those and a couple of similar minor points through a hand vote. 

Then we discuss the two key elements described above.  The discussion revolves around credibility of the witnesses and the defendant.  In short, most of us agree that the four cops are more believable than the defendant.   His testimony that he didn’t notice the cop didn’t hold water.  Most of us have seen cops on the side of the road and most of us can tell a long way away, especially when we are in the HOV lane next to the shoulder — which is where the defendant was riding.

One woman holds out for a while because she “doesn’t want to spend the next 30 years regretting her decision.”  She want to be completely fair and not dismiss the defendant’s story out of hand.  She “just needs time.”  The Google guy calmly takes her through the key points while I do a crossword puzzle on my iPod, and others read magazines and check their phones.  Then I remind her that the day prior to the incident the defendant said he was at a gas station filling his tires with air.  It stands to reason that he would have filled his tank then, since he had testified that he first realized he was running out that day. 

That decided it.  We all vote guilty.  It is 4:15.  We buzz the clerk in and tell her we’ve reached a verdict.  A few minutes later we return to the jury box and the judge asks the foreman if we have reached a verdict.  He says yes.  The jury verdict is handed to the judge who reads it silently and then passes it to the clerk to be read aloud.  (Just like on television.)  I stare at the defendant for a reaction and he just blinks and that’s it.  His mother, who was there throughout the trial, was in tears.  We are dismissed and told to return to the jury room for a few minutes.

The clerk comes in and says we are free to go.  We are told that the judge and two attorneys are willing to take questions from any of us if we choose.  Sentencing is set for sometime in June.  Most of us leave but a couple of guys want to stay and tell the judge they would hope for leniency on the sentence for this kid.  We all feel kinda sorry for him and don’t want this to mess up his life right at the beginning of adulthood.

Jury duty was a good experience.  I wish it had been a more exciting or interesting case but I’m happy I did it and feel we made the right decision.  It’s interesting how important that became.  Myself and the other jurors all agreed that when it came time to vote we felt the importance of what we were about to decide.  It’s someone’s life and you can’t take that lightly. 

I would do it again especially if they raise the per diem and provide more comfortable seats.

Barack and Seth Rock The House

The Daily Beast selected the best bits from Saturday’s Correspondents’ Dinner.  The Prez and Seth Myers both took some well-deserved shots at the Donald. And Trump proved he can dish it but he can’t take it. 

9 Best Moments From the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

Jury Duty: Testimony

We return after lunch and hear opening remarks by the attorneys.  The prosecutor lays out the state’s case by saying they will prove that the defendant willfully eluded police and drove in a reckless manner, which is a felony.  He says they will have lots of witnesses and charts and photos and maps and stuff to prove their case.

The defense attorney says this case is all about perspective.  She talks about how we have all experienced times when we may have heard something entirely different from a friend in relating a story.  Two people hearing the same thing … hear something entirely different.  Perspective.  Then she launches into an analogy about two groups of people rafting down a river.  They both see some markings on a cliff.  One group believes the markings to be the result of eons of weather.  The other group says it is the result of a recent flood.  I’m like:  “What the hell is she talking about?” Now I’m really thirsty.  All about perspective.

I notice the defendant is twitching and constantly moving around in his chair.  His attorney says he has a bad back and not to be distracted by his obvious discomfort.  The defendant is a little guy who appears to be in his early twenties.  He is pretty stoic throughout the trial.

The prosecution’s case revolves around the testimony of four different state patrolmen and one “civilian” witness.  In varying degrees they all talk about how the defendant ignored the pull over signal from the cop and then crashed his bike driving on the shoulder of the off ramp.   Two officers say they asked the defendant:  “Why did you run?”  They both say that the defendant responded:  “I made a bad decision” and “I was scared.”  In neither case did the defendant say he was unaware of being chased which is the crux of his defense.

They show lots of overhead photos of the I-5 stretch where the “chase” occurred and the crash site of the off ramp.  There are also photos of the wrecked bike and the damage to a car that the bike hit.

The defense questioning of the officers is mostly about where they were standing on the shoulder when waving down the defendant.  Also, she asked a lot about the specific hand signal that was given to pull over.  And how far away the biker was when the cop got in his car and began to pursue him.  Finally, she asked where the nearest gas station was to the   off ramp where the crash occurred.

We are now at the end of the day for court.  The judge tells us to return to the jury room at 9:45 the next morning.  He cautions us to not talk about the case to anybody including family or other jury members.  Damn.  I was gonna have my peers over for some beers and nachos and watch 12 Angry Men and see if we can’t get some deliberation ideas.  Besides, we should get to know each other before we start arguing, right?  We are also told that we should not loiter in the hallway if the jury room is not open. 

Speaking of the jury room … it is about the size of a walk-in closet.  There is a table with 13 chairs, a microwave, some old magazines and two bathrooms.  Oh, and a mini-refrigerator.  We are told we can bring food and warm it in the microwave.  The room is so small that I have to walk sideways to get around the table.  No windows, either.  I’m thinking it is designed for fast decisions.  You really don’t want to spend any more time in there than necessary.

When I get home I immediately tell my wife about the case.  She doesn’t render a decision but seems to be leaning toward guilty.  Mostly she was happy to have me gone for the whole day.

Next:  Guilty or Not Guilty