Sunday, February 03, 2013

I'm back to blogging

It has been a long time since I blogged.  This is a bad thing.  I have lots of excuses: work, moving, old age, distractions, football, reading, quality television, laundry, blah, blah, blah.  But in truth it has come down to only one thing—I am a lazy SOB who would rather push the buttons on the remote control than the keys on my keyboard.  So, blogging has taken a back seat to Homeland, the NFL, the MLB network and various and sundry shows which I am too embarrassed to list.  (Susan knows what they are but she is sworn to secrecy.
            Part of the reason I have not blogged is now that I am back to work I am somewhat constrained.  Not by the office, no one there has ever told me what I can blog about (with the exception of pending cases, of course), but I feel that now that I am, again, a deputy district attorney, I should not comment on aspects of criminal law that might be related to my work.  I do not speak for the office on any subject, so I think that I should perhaps leave alone issues directly pertaining to criminal law, and I should be circumspect (use of this word is a shout out to Pete, in writing about areas connected to criminal law.  So I feel I should no longer comment on the Holmes case or the Trayvon Martin killing, and I should be careful when writing about larger issues like gun control and the legalization of marijuana.
            What does that leave?  A lot, really, but often it seems like since I work so much, I don’t think about much else.  There is politics, which is always a ripe subject, especially because our system has become so dysfunctional that it is easy to take shots at our politicians.  However, aren’t we all so sick of politics that no one wants to read that?
            Sports is a subject that I am well familiar with, very interested in, and have experience writing about.  (Did you know I was a journalism major in college and was sports editor of the school newspaper?  Did you know I won an award in high school for best sports story in the nation? Do you care?  I didn’t think so.)  The only problem with writing about sports is that for any of us who like sports there is a deluge of inept journalism and illiterate blogging about the subject.  I doubt most of my blog readers (if there are any left) care to read my take on why the Rockies will lose 100 games or whether professional football has become to dangerous for its own good.
            I do love movies, and I would love to blog about movies, but there are no movies I want to see.  Really.  I mean can I handle the intense drama of The Impossible, the graphic depiction of torture in Zero Dark Thirty, or the less-than-stellar singing in the drawn out Les Miserables.  I have not wanted to answer those questions, so I have not gone to a movie in a while.  I can hardly wait for summer when I can sit back watch some smart-mouthed super hero engage in some big screen special effects.
            There are other issues which grab my interest from time to time.  For example, I read the other day that some bus driver left a local elementary school his life savings in his will, $34,000.  Now in the greater scheme of a school budge $34,000 is not a huge amount of money, but, still, you would think this could buy new computers, textbooks, part time teachers aides, field trips, even help for the school lunch program.  But no, what they actually did was buy a $20,000 sign.  I mean, really?  I can understand a few grand on a new sign, but $20,000?  This is why I am skeptical of spending more and more money on education.  It is not the money that is a problem, it is the educators.  (No, not all. Every time I criticize education I hear about some heroic teacher who does great work. I am sure there are thousands, but I think in general the problem is not sufficient funding.)
            What most of my loyal followers want are more funny blogs.  It seems that there is not enough humor in the world and when I can actually pull off one that makes people laugh those are the most well-received.  I will try to be funnier.  It is hard to be funny on demand, but I will give it a shot regularly.
            If there is anyone still reading, thanks for doing so.  I will try to keep writing regularly.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

Another horrific crime

            Now we turn the page.  The images of the massacre in Connecticut sear our emotions and plague our memories.  As least as much as we can stand.  Too many pictures, too many stories, too many journalists, cameras and talking heads.  At some point we all turn off the television, shake our heads and wonder how this can happen.  Then, soon, we turn the page. 

The memory of Newtown, Connecticut blurs into the images from Virginia Tech, or the Amish school, or Columbine.  Our initial shock folds into our outrage then finally into an uncomfortable resignation.  We live, apparently, in a violent society where thousands of people every year are killed with guns.  To keep ourselves sane we tell ourselves it can’t happen to me, to my family, to my friends.  We know, of course, that the people in Newtown probably thought the same thing.

But what else can we think?  Should we home school our children?  Avoid movie theaters?  Stay away from the mall?  We can’t and we won’t.  Life must go on.  I live perhaps equidistant from Columbine on the west and Aurora on the east.  Virtually all of us in Jeffco knew someone connected to Columbine.  I was privileged the other night to offer words of encouragement to the man who is inheriting the prosecution of the movie theater murders.  These events touch me.  I know it can happen here; it already has.

And yet, I, too will turn the page.  One might think that based on my job I am inured to horrific acts of violence, that my emotions are subsumed by my dedication to my job.  Perhaps in some ways they are.  But something like this, something so viscerally painful, wounds deep even to those whose career it is to seek justice.  Yes, we move on, too, but perhaps with a renewed sense of devotion to work that, just maybe, might prevent someone from being hurt.

It will be up to others to examine the causes of these tragedies.  Hopefully some national examination of these mass murders can come up with, if not answers, at least insight.  I fear, however, that will not be the case.  I don’t know whether solutions can be found in gun control, mental illness treatment resources, or enhanced security.  What I would hope is that those on every side of these issues will make a critical examination of all aspects and be willing to compromise.  Unfortunately, it seems compromise has become vilified as weakness.  Too many believe they carry the right answer, and acknowledgement that contrary opinions might possess some validity is incomprehensible.  So nothing is done.

Because nothing is done, nothing can change.  Which means the next mass murderer is out there.  He will have access to guns.  He will certainly be mentally ill.  He will plan his crimes in secret, then burst out in ways no one can imagine.  We will hear interviews of his friends, family, neighbors, coworkers.  They will tell us he was strange, not quite right, perhaps even creepy, but that no one suspected he was a killer.  No one ever does. For a time we again will feel the pain of the innocents victims and their loved ones. 

And then, once again, we will turn the page.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Back to normal

A lot has happened since I last blogged.  I have driven across the country from St. Augustine to Denver, by way of Milwaukee; a total of 2300 miles.  I would like to tell you it was fun, but driving nine hours a day is not my idea of a good time.
I did see a lot of very interesting parts of this country.  There were many times I wished I had the ability to snap a picture.  Georgia has some beautiful lakes and rivers; the hillsides of Kentucky were a riot of colors; the ground fog outside Milwaukee was fascinating, and the Mississippi River is imposing in its width.  I saw baseball in Tampa, modern dance in Milwaukee, and played pai gow poker in Council Bluffs, Iowa.  I drove on a highway full of trucks in Georgia, hit rush hour in Omaha, and spent long stretches in eastern Colorado seeing barely a car.
Fortunately, I had good weather most of the time.  I came to love my Garmin GPS and began feel like I can’t live without Sirius XM satellite radio.  I was thankful every time my car started, but the old Lexus (12 years old, 131,000 miles) was reliable.  I saw rest areas in 10 states on this last trip and have been in 20 states in the past 12 months.  I saw lots of road construction, RVs, and Romney bumper stickers.  I even went to another country (The Bahamas). 

During my year off, which we will call my sabbatical, I lived a life very different from what was normal before.  I saw lots of Broadway shows, New York Philharmonic concerts, and Megan dance twice.  I went to art museums, halls of fame, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.   I walked barefoot on the beach and through Grand Central during rush hour.  I went up to the Top of the Rock and the New York Transit Museum in an old subway station.  I lived in Connecticut where the people are rude and stayed in Florida where a lot of them are old.  I ate many different kinds of fish and searched for good barbeque. 

I did manage to write some, but not enough.  I failed to accomplish many of my goals, but I learned some valuable lessons.  I missed my friends (no surprise) and life in Colorado (very surprising). 

All in all I am not sorry I left, but I am glad to be back.  Tomorrow I return to the Jeffco DA’s office for my fourth stint.  Yes, this will be a record, and I fully expect that I will receive many comments about this unusual work history.  I need to develop a snappy answer.  I have been using “I am going to set a record that no one will ever break” which is certainly true, but not especially clever.  

I still need to find a place to live.  I have been imposing on the wonderful couple of Rob Buchan and Michele Wagner, but they are preparing for a more permanent roommate and don’t need me imposing on their hospitality.  I have been shocked at the rental prices.  I guess no one can get a mortgage so everyone is renting.  I do plan to buy a place sometime soon.

Anyway, life is going back to normal.  I am going to have to wake up early, shave every day, and actually do some work every day whether I want to or not.  No more long walks along the beach.  I plan to get this picture blown up and put in my office as a reminder of my sabbatical.  It was a nice break, but time to go back to doing what I do.

Friday, October 12, 2012


I stumbled across a website for the Jerry Lewis museum and I was surprised.  An entire museum for this guy?  In America?  (I might understand it in France.)  I know he has a fanbase and his movies are seen as comic masterpieces by some, by a whole museum for Jerry Lewis?  Sure he has raised a lot of money to cure muscular dystrophy (and really, why haven’t they cured that yet?), but a museum?

It turns out there is no physical museum, but merely a website devoted to Jerry Lewis.  That does not surprise me as there are websites devoted to all kinds of things and people.  Museums should be reserved for only the most important people of all time. Presidents, for example, all have their own presidential library and museums. (At least recent presidents do, even Gerald Ford.  The old guys didn’t have the benefit of legislation encouraging these sorts of things.  So Carter, Nixon, Clinton, all these guys have them, Teddy Roosevel just has his home preserved but no library.)

Babe Ruth has a museum dedicated to him, which is fitting for the greatest baseball player of all time, as does Yogi Berra.  Yogi is a hall of famer but not on the same level as the Babe, but he gets one for being the most quoted athlete, and perhaps the most quoted person, of the 20th century.  (Which of you has not said “it ain’t over till it’s over” or “déjà vu all over again.”  I mean presidents say that stuff.)

There is a Thomas Edison museum, and a Henry Ford museum, and one for Ray Charles.  Elvis, of course, has Graceland, but, strangely, there is a Beatles story museum in Liverpool. That is all fitting.

These sorts of things tend to be given more to entertainers than other contributors.  So there is a Buddy Holly Center, but no Jonas Salk museum.  I did find a Sigmund Freud museum in London, but also one for Glenn Miller.  Equivalent contributions?  It does seem to help if the person died an early and tragic death (see, Buddy Holly, above).  There is a Patsy Cline museum but not one, alas, for the Beach Boys (two of them did die young so they should get some credit for that).  The standards for these things is pretty low, as the Three Stooges have a museum dedicated to them called The Stoogeum.  (Really.)  I did notice that a few years ago they were trying to collect enough money to create a Marx Brother museum, but I guess they didn’t.  Too bad.

Margaret Mitchell has a museum dedicated to her and her masterpiece, Gone With The Wind.  Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and F. Scott Fitzgerald all have museums, but not Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett or Agatha Christie.

More and more of these things will probably crop up in the future.  Not only will future presidents get these things in their honor, but as society gets more trivial lesser and lesser figures with have them, along the lines of the Three Stooges.  I have no doubt there will be a Madonna museum, a J. K. Rowling library, and a John Belushi Animal House.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

My first cruise

I just went on my first cruise.  For most of my life I have always wanted to go on a cruise.  I had heard so much about the food, the entertainment, the service, and the exotic ports of call.  For reasons too numerous to mention, however, I just had never actually taken a cruise.  I had signed up for the website and had received hundreds of emails with discounts and last-minute deals.  A few weeks ago I decided that while I was in Florida anyway, this would be my best opportunity.

(Actually, this was my second cruise, having been on a small one when I was 15 years old, but that was not a pleasure-type cruise so I never considered that a cruise vacation.)
Susan and I spent hours online looking at cruises and comparing deals.  She has been on several cruises, and was my expert advisor.  We settled on a Royal Caribbean cruise from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas.  I watched as the price dropped to a very low lever, then watched again as that price disappeared.  Frustrated, we finally called the website, found the rate was still in effect and booked a trip.  I was initially shocked at how the fees, etc. raised our initial low rate.  Still, I thought this was a good deal.

Port Canaveral is about two hours from Susan’s house.  We got to the terminal about 1:30 or so, and joined thousands of others checking in.  The lines were long, but the process seemed pretty efficient, and in about half an hour we were on the boat.  I expected that when we boarded there would be people right there at the entrance with all kinds of useful information, like, for example, where your stateroom would be.  Surprisingly, however, while I heard a band playing and saw lots of tables with people selling excursions, and drink passes, and lots of stuff I did not want or need, there were no guest services people immediately available. 

We managed to find our cabin, which was roughly the size of a most people’s master bathroom, unless you live in a big house, in which case it was the size of your guest bathroom.  How small was it?  My side of the bed was up against the wall.   Had the bed been turned 90 degrees, both the head and foot of the bed would have been against the walls.  Still, how much time do you spend in your cabin on a cruise anyway?  There was a television.  (I will say “Yea” to that, while Susan would yawn.  To paraphrase Dire Straits: “I want my sports tv.”]

The first order of business was the lifeboat drill.  As a first-time cruiser, the federal requirement of a lifeboat drill did not inspire immediate confidence.  However, many people equated it to the safety announcements on an airplane that we have all heard a million times and have stopped listening to, realizing that if the plane experiences problems I will not be looking for the exit door pr the oxygen masks, I will need the defibrillator.  There did seem to be lots of lifeboats, and since I expected no icebergs in the Caribbean in October, I stopped worrying.

 The decks were lined with people as the boat set said at 4:30.  We stood on the top deck high above the ocean.  It was a great view and exhilarating to be underway.  I was concerned about seasickness, but I never felt the ship move the entire time.  Ocassionally, it would vibrate when turning around or something, but there was no feeling of rocking up and down at all.  If you closed your eyes you would never think you were on a boat at all. 
Cruises lines are selling escape.  Phones don’t work, internet is available but prohibitively expensive, all in an effort to make feel they are away.   Alcohol is likewise available and expensive, but not prohibitively so for most passengers.  Despite charges of $7-$8 a drink, liquor flows freely on a cruise ship.  The music is loud, the clothing is garishly-colored and often scant.  I saw lots of tattoos.  

Susan and I eschewed most of the party aspects of the cruise, spending hours just sitting on deck enjoying the nice weather and ocean breezes. 

Despite all I had heard about the food, it was somewhat disappointing in quality.  It was not bad, but fairly mediocre.  Quantity, however, was never a problem.  They served pizza almost 24 hours a day, I think.  Buffets, both daytime and midnight, offered wide variety in neverending amounts.  But the dinners in the dining room, although served with attentive service by a congenial waiter, were not terribly tasty.  Even the desserts left something to be desired.

The ship made two ports of call—Nassau in the Bahamas, and a small island owned by Royal Caribbean called Coco Kay.  We did not explore Nassau.  I was curious about the massive Atlantis hotel and casino complex, so we went directly there, rejected offers from all kinds of helpful drivers at the end of the pier offering guided tours for reasonable rates.  Royal Caribbean’s excursions ranged from merely expensive to eye-popping expensive.  We could have done all kinds of water activities and sightseeing adventures, with the most expensive costing more than our entire trip.   Susan had been to Atlantis before and had seen a great deal of the facility, including the aquarium.  Times have changed apparently, though.  Without purchasing a $40 tour, we were allowed to see only a small portion of the place, primarily a somewhat-dated but very large casino (of which I think we saw only part).  We left after a short time to make it back for the “formal” dinner.

Formal obviously means different things to different people.  Some were very dressed up, others no so much.  And what constitutes being nicely dressed is subject to a lot of interpretation.   It was a nice change of pace from the usual dinner attire, though.  After dinner we saw a magician/comedian, which sounds pretty bad, but actually was kind of funny.

On Sunday we got up early to watch the sunrise.  I took lots of pictures and some of them turned out very well.  (Unfortunately, my camera is broken, I think.)

Coco Kay was basically a beach.  There were lots of activities like parasailing, jet skis, snorkeling, and kayak rental, but we just relaxed and swam.  I wanted to try a jet ski, which I have never been on, but it was so expensive I decided to wait for another opportunity.  We enjoyed our time there, but when we went back to the boat we spent a really enjoyable time in the saltwater pool.  I forgot how much saltwater holds you up. 

After dinner on Sunday we went to about the cheesiest show I have ever seen.  Some singers of varying amounts of talent backed by rejects from “So You Think You Can Dance” performed some pretty uninteresting song and dance numbers in what is probably the epitome of shipboard entertainment.  No future Broadway stars there.  The best part of the evening was a mock “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” contest with a very funny comedian using a fake (I think fake) accent to ask standard questions with some very funny answers.
At any rate, we had a fun time.  We did manage to get away, and still keep track of the baseball and football scores.  Royal Caribbean is pretty efficient at most things, the entry onboard notwithstanding.  Exiting the ship was a dream.  Our bags met us as we disembarked and we were out of the in a flash.

I would definitely like to go on another cruise.  Now that I know seasickness is not a problem, I would like to try a longer cruise.  Susan has taken some seven-day cruises which she enjoyed very much.  Longer cruises allow the opportunity to see more ports which are further away.  Hopefully, I will be in a position to do that.  But for now, I can cross another thing off my bucket list.

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