"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards." - Robert A. Heinlein

Monday, August 31, 2009

Jury Duty in the Land of Law & Disorder

Out here in California, the prison system is so bad that our Chief Entertainment Officer, Governator Schwarzenegger, has revisited the idea of letting thousands upon thousands of criminals back on the streets, simply because there is no room, not enough guards, and not enough money to keep them housed.

(I would make a comment about how it's great that His Astounding Muscularity chose to exercise his line-item veto to give ferocious tax breaks to Big Oil and another ridiculous enterprises over the wishes of state lawmakers, instead of continuing to fund other, lesser causes like education, disabled children, and the prison system - but I won't, since this isn't really a political commentary.)

Now, to be honest, I'm not really worried about having these "hardened criminals" (potheads) on the street. I refuse to live in fear. (I live in Chula Vista, which is too dull to know fear.) Most of those who would be released, would be released for drug offenses and other minor crimes. Yes, I do believe drug offenses to be minor crimes - unless, of course, you're committing violent acts in the course of using, selling, distributing, and/or acquiring.

California has a history of terrible criminal judicial decisions - Three Strikes, anyone? This is no big deal, it simply fits tidily into the mold of "What The Hell Were They Thinking?"

With the soon-to-be exodus of prisoners from the state's overcrowded youth hostels, imagine my surprise to be hit with my Summons for Jury Service. Yep, jury duty.

I've never shirked jury duty; I believe it to be one of the true responsibilities every American citizen has to accept. I feel disdain for those who try to get out of it, something I've never done. (Though I have been dismissed in the past - "You've done what? You write for who? Thanks, but you'll not be needed.")

I find it ironic that I might be sitting in judgment of those going to jail whilst His Peculiar Accentedness might be sending some right back out. It makes it seem a little worthless.

Apparently in California, one is given a group number and a reporting week. The lower your group number, the better chance you'll be called in to report. You call in the night before to see if you show up the next day. My group number is sort of middling, so I might get called in, I might not. My girl got hit with this just last month. She had a high number, and never had to report. She called in every afternoon to find out she didn't have to go in. This actually completed her service. (Jury duty is so commonplace out here, that a standard reason for disqualification from duty is that you were a prospective juror within the past year.)

I really want to get called in. I've decided that I'd like to record what goes on during this process and show it here. I find that, basically, everything here is backwards from the way it works in real life, so I'd like to see if civic duty is the same. I'm betting it is.

I'm going to update this daily by editing this post. It probably won't be anything more than, "Don't need to appear," but I find myself hoping that I'll get to sit there and take notes for the blog. Even though the state can't afford to keep them locked up, the local and county governments still love to try.

I picture myself telling some functionary, "I'll be writing notes on this for my blog," and I imagine he'll answer, "That's fine. You're still in."

MONDAY - Called in on Saturday - didn't have to report.
TUESDAY - Called in on Monday night. Didn't have to report. But they're about halfway to my number. If the pattern continues, I'll probably have to report Thursday or Friday.
[edit 2]
WEDNESDAY - Called in on Tuesday night. Didn't have to report. In fact, no one had to report. I don't know what's going on, but I'm oddly disappointed.
[edit 3]
THURSDAY - Called in on Wednesday night. This is two days in a row that they've said that no one is reporting. Unless things change spectacularly, this will have been a wash-out.
[edit 4]
FRIDAY - Looks like crime is down (or criminal court is down) in San Diego County. After only calling in 4 groups, they're done. My jury duty is...completed, at least for the next 12 months. I'm actually a bit disappointed, though I suspect everyone in the groups before mine are not.
So...anyone else completed their societal responsibility this week?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Give a Man a Fish...

I've seen this posted everywhere recently. It's a simpleminded, aphoristic take on Health Care Reform.

"Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you'll feed him for a lifetime."

How about this:

"Teach a man to fish, and you'll feed him for a lifetime. Unless, of course, you can stop him doing so by forcing him to pay huge fishing license fees, preventing him from dropping his hook in the best fishing grounds, taking away his fishing tackle if he develops an illness, and assaulting his self-worth and self-respect if he dares to comment that perhaps - perhaps! - just knowing how to fish might not be enough to get by and feed him and his family for a lifetime.

Health Care Reform isn't about learning to fish. It's about learning to share opportunities.

Give a man to fish, and you'll feed him for a day. Give a man the opportunity to fish, and you'll feed him for a lifetime. That's mine. You can quote me.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Vista Crash

I own a laptop with Microsoft Vista. It's never given me any real problem. I've heard people fuss and moan about it, but to be honest, most of the complaints came from people who have added Vista to an existing computer and found certain aspects simply didn't gel.

No, I've never had issues with it. I've also never had the slightest real interest in changing to a Mac, either. I used one while working for Planet Weekly newspaper and basically found everything about it annoying. And, no, I don't use Linux or anything else like that. For all that I am, I am also still basically a neo-Luddite; that much interest in technology makes me want to blow things up.

To use that appalling ad campaign: "I am PC." By choice, I have always been.

And do you know how Microsoft repaid me?

By taking over my laptop and tearing apart my work. Friday evening, while I was making dinner, I let my Toshiba idle. The screen had gone black (as it should), and I had a few windows open. As I sat down to shut it down for a while, the screen flashed on, and that annoying Microsoft message told me that it was restarting because of my updates. Then it began to shut itself down and restart.

Problem 1: I had restarted the thing a few hours early entirely to keep it from doing that. There's absolutely nothing I hate more than Microsoft telling me it's time for me to do when it wants to do because of the updates. There had been no updates in the few hours since I'd rebooted the computer, so there was no reason for this to be scheduled.

Problem 2: Open windows. I was working on three things at the time. The first was the rewrite of Heroes... Chapter 8 - "The Shining Way." Another was the first part of Conduit. The third was some notes and outlines for yet another project. I'd saved everything except the notes when I rebooted, but everything had had work done on it when this happened. As anyone familiar with Microsoft knows, when your computer decides to shut down, it doesn't save - it autosaves. Big difference.

I was ticked, but there was nothing to do be done. The screen darkened as it tried to reboot. I let it run for a bit. Suddenly, a new screen came up, informing me that it had shut down improperly and hadn't been able to restart. I hit the key it told me to. It again restarted. It took forever to bring up the desktop. When it did, naturally the first thing I went to do was recover my documents.

The Big Problem: None of the documents that came up were as I left them. Not only had Autosave failed to recover about 30 pages of notes that simply vanished *poof* into thin air (though it did leave me with some - just not all), it also "managed" to recover only older versions of Conduit and Heroes...

Yes, I'm saying that when I dug into the files, those two open, saved files had been replaced by the files that were existant as of Tuesday. I'd done all the Conduit work this week - a few dozen pages, finally getting some traction. It was all gone - every word. Heroes... was backsaved that the 20-odd pages of rewrites and edits that I'd sweated out were now 5 pages.

How many software problems is that? It shouldn't have rebooted itself in the first place. It shouldn't have had problems shutting down. It shouldn't have had problems starting up. It shouldn't have failed to autosave. It shouldn't have failed to recover those saves. Most importantly, it should not have reverted to older version of the open files when reopening. That saved data should be the one sacrosanct thing on one's computer.

All that time I was away, furiously, frantically writing, rewriting, editing? That work? Gone. I spent hours trying to find, search, and recover the lost data, but it's simply...gone.

I blame Microsoft; I don't blame Toshiba. I think the Satellite is a bad-ass laptop, and I'm happy with it. It's just the pissant engine running it that's got me angry now. Not that that will change a thing. Microsoft is notorious for not giving a damn what people think of them, or caring what they've done to others.

So until Bill Gates returns my four days and seventy-odd pages of very hard work, Microsoft can kiss my ass. Am I PC? Yeah, but not by choice anymore.