Iggy's Bloog


Jury Duty is Weird
March 28, 2017, 1:31 am
Filed under: Generally Ridiculous, Is it raining in Portland?

Fun fact: I’ve always wanted to be on a jury.

Reality check: jury duty pays $10/day.

Fun fact: the Multnomah County Courthouse features a series of five murals made by a local artist (Arvie Smith) along with pre-trial detained youth and features this gem located in the juror waiting room:

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Reality check: the mural is called “There are no impossible dreams” and features a wagon of clowns. (Is that a metaphor for jury duty? The court house? Justice….?) You will not spend much time admiring this art if you are called in the first pool of jurors to be maybe selected for a trial.

Fun fact: once you and 74 friends are randomly selected for a possible trial you get another lecture from a judge (you get a lecture and video just for showing up at all) and told that you could be excused if you have an extreme situation like a surgery planned or a one-way ticket out of the country. Having a job is not an extreme situation and if anyone at your work gives you some guff about jury duty the judge will personally put the smackdown on them.

Reality check: about 30 out of the 75 people will have a an extreme situation and have to talk to the judge personally about it and manage to get let off the hook.

Fun fact: the lawyers get to choose the jurors in state cases (the judge picks the jury in federal cases).

Reality check: the method of picking jurors entails a multi page set of questions for you to answer and later the judge will tell you he was pissed because some of the questions were inappropriate and so he shredded some of them before giving them to the lawyers.

Fun fact: the questionnaire can ask you all about people you admire and what you know about gangs.

Reality check: even if you say the last movie about gangs you watched was West Side Story you could still be chosen for the jury and then gangs may never be mentioned in the entire case.

Fun fact: after the questionnaire, a few days later, you might get called back for voir dire where the lawyers get to quiz groups of potential jurors about things they think would make them good jurors or not.

Reality check: during this process you may discover several people in your group with whom you would not want to spend several days to weeks in a confined space. Also, it is not easy to define circumstantial evidence when there is a public audience on hand.

Fun fact: if you do actually get selected for the jury (one of 14 out of 75!) you may feel lucky.

Reality check: as your potential juror friends of the day depart they will tell you they feel lucky that they are not you.

Fun fact: a trial is just opening statements by lawyers, witnesses, instructions for the jury, closing statements and jury deliberation.

Reality check: when questioning 30+ witnesses lawyers go and check their notes or confer between questions and it is not a speedy or zippy or even consistently conversation paced affair. This probably contributes to why a trial can take over a week for testimony.

Fun fact: even jurors hanging out in the jury room can not talk about the trial.

Reality check: if the jury room has a whiteboard you may only use it to make a list consisting of two good places to go for lunch. You have to provide your own lunch and you may later regret not using the popcorn machine in the jury room even though there appeared to be no oil so it may have been a disaster had you tried.

Fun fact: if a witness gives a statement to detectives at the scene then later at trial says they never said that statement the witness can be contradicted when the detectives give their testimony and the evidence provided is called impeachment evidence and is to be used only to assess the credibility of the witness.

Reality check: there can be witnesses who do NOT want to be testifying at trial and they can be very clear in telling the jury they do NOT want to be there.

Fun fact: people in the audience might occasionally jump up and yell things as they’re leaving the courtroom and then you might hear them still yelling in the hallway.

Reality check: it is super uncomfortable when this happens.

Fun fact: alternate jurors sit through the whole trial then are set free once deliberation starts.

Reality check: you will never see those people again even though you spent a week with them and yet never spoke about anything or learned their names.

Fun fact: as a juror, you get to choose for yourself what “beyond reasonable doubt” means.

Reality check: it may take almost two days for twelve people to agree on whether that threshold has been met.

Fun fact: you can be called for jury duty again after two years.

Reality check: after three weeks of jury duty you’re probably ok with that… as a minimum.



Conspiracy Peaches, Conspiracy Pants
October 30, 2016, 6:14 pm
Filed under: Generally Ridiculous

For the past few years I’ve participated in a fund raiser for a high school Nordic ski team by buying a box of the fabulous fresh peaches they sell. The peaches come direct from Colorado. They are so fresh that the delivery date depends on when the peaches are ripe and picked before they are immediately trucked over. They are really good peaches.

I had noticed there was wording all over the box but had not really paid attention to it because I was so focused on how I was going to possibly consume 35 peaches (again) before they went weird. For some reason this notice on the box caught my eye this year:

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Always curious about truth and justice, I looked at the bottom of the box and found this:

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I find conspiracies kind of amusing with their heavy handed rhetoric and willful and intentional interpretation of “facts.” This one was no exception – there is a significant amount of drama in those few sentences. Suspicious findings, government cover up, terrorism and a call to action – after 15 years! Well done, peach box. So now I had on my hands a box of conspiracy peaches (they still tasted just as sweet) and additional pressure (for no good reason) to eat them before the evil rot over took them (under suspicious circumstances… in my refrigerator). One clear solution was to make several conspiracy cobblers – and I make a pretty good conspiracy cobbler, probably because of all the truthiness in it.

I was feeling all clever about the conspiracy cobbler and when I shared it with friends I made sure to have them read the info on the box. There was some resulting puzzlement and a bit of questioning of the “facts” of the case, but not enough concern to consult the interwebs or any other source of wisdom. Overall, the conspiracy was fairly quickly forgotten when the cobbler came out of the oven. Did it taste so great because of all the suppressed facts inside? In any event, all the peaches were successfully eaten and there was justice for all.

Slightly later, probably due to my heightened awareness for conspiracies or maybe due to karma I soon noticed something suspicious about my pants:

pants

Very, very suspicious….

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I’ve been wearing conspiracy pants!

 

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The real question is why a terrorist organization would take the name of an outdoor clothing company for women that was started in Vermont in 1998? Then again, why wouldn’t they? It seems a little too convenient to be a coincidence. There are a few options for how to deal with this shocking discovery/revelation: get outraged, consult some like minds on the interwebs or just start yelling – at everyone, all the time. Or, alternatively, put on your conspiracy pants (they fit so great) and go do something radical: unplug, go outside and take a hike amid the changing leaves. You’ll feel better about the world in no time at all. Truth.



How Awesome is Peanut Butter and Jelly?
February 24, 2016, 3:17 am
Filed under: Generally Ridiculous, Is it raining in Portland?

Due to a brother with a peanut allergy, my life has been predominantly peanut butter and jelly sandwich free. Somehow, however, a few years ago the PB&J sandwich came back into my life. It was not a subtle introduction. The number of permutations of this classic was at first nearly overwhelming – which one is the best? If there are at least two kinds of peanut butter, maybe 10 reasonable kinds of jelly and at least 8 pretty good bread choices then the toasted or not and other additions like honey and the recent suggestion of bananas (no, grody) that gives somewhere between 640 and 50,000 possible combinations that are necessary to try to get the optimal sandwich. Progress has been somewhat slow on this project but it is happening….well was, until about 2 weeks ago.

It was an average evening and time for a sandwich (really, when is it not?). Some great bread was on hand because the tall guy standing next to me when loaves of bread were thrown into the crowd at an epic sporting event caught two loaves and gave me one. If you have not been to an epic sporting event where organic multi-grain bread from a local bakery is thrown into the crowd then you should  question your definition of epic sporting events (and visit Portland more often).

Anyhoo, the peanut butter half of the sandwich was prepared and laying there almost oozing onto the counter and the jelly side was resting in my hand while applying the perhaps excessive jelly layer. Because of my lack of practice, my sandwiches resemble those made by a five year old in terms of way too much stuff on them. At this point though, with the bread in my hand and the jelly being piled on, there was a tickle on my wrist and a spider of significant size crawled into my palm under the piece of bread with jelly. The jelly bread dropped out of my hand (and landed jelly side up on the counter -lucky day!) and the spider was spazmatically flung from my hand onto the floor. The spider was big enough (maybe the size of a quarter) to make a distinct sound when it landed. Next was getting a jar to trap the spider and take it outside. But returning to the spider landing zone with jar in hand revealed no spider. It was gone.

Disappointed with the spider’s ability to hide, there was nothing left to do but eat my sandwich. While assembling the sandwich there was the more perplexing question: where had the spider come from? Was it in the bread? Somehow lurking in the jelly? Just hanging out in my sleeve? It seemed somehow illogical that it would be in the peanut butter. But should there be a spider inspection of all these items? Were the crunches in the crunchy peanut butter, you know, spiders? It was not the most leisurely PB&J eating ever.

The next day there was a pretty big spider on the floor that may or may not have been the same one that disrupted my sandwich the day before. It got scooped up into a jar where it was examined for peanut butter and jelly. There wasn’t any PB&J to be seen on it. Maybe the next pretty good size spider that gets scooped up into a jar will have a smell test. Maybe.



I May Have Joined the Modern Era
February 1, 2016, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Generally Ridiculous

There comes a time when the monthly bill for a flip phone from 2006 is actually more expensive than the bill for a smartypants phone. When that time comes, you get your hands on a phone (aka inherit a few-year-old one from your brother – thanks, Broski!) and save some money on your phone bill. It just might take until 2016 for this to happen – but when it does, you roll with it. Welcome to the modern era.

People have been telling and showing me all about how great smartypants phones are for quite some time. And it is fun to share an pair of ear buds and watch a movie on a tiny screen, or, catch some live events when you’re at a wedding reception that happens to fall on a day that is important for an alternate entertainment value. However, you can actually navigate the world, do simple math and talk to people who are at a great distance with only a flip phone. The thing that was really missing though, besides emojis, was the ability to talk to my phone. It is likely this is the only reason people have smartypants phones.

Direct product placement is not really my thing but it is vital to note that my new phone is the type that allows one to program its wake word. This is the most amazing thing in the entire universe. Perhaps. The process of programming the wake word is easy and phone will walk even a noob through repeating it a few times then typing it in. However, do note that what you type in, phone takes to be how it should be pronounced – phonetic typing is recommended and much more reliable for phone waking. Luckily my phone is not grafted on to my physical body and generally lives slightly out of reach at all times (you know, as if it were a 10-year-old flip phone) so don’t expect exceptionally speedier responding from me via the modern era of phone communications. Also, do not get too worried if you hear me talking to Skynet. And Skynet responds.



My Class Project
January 28, 2015, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Generally Ridiculous

For the past four weeks I’ve been taking an online class focused on learning. The class is actually titled “Learning how to Learn”. And that’s what I did – despite modeling many of the bad learning methods the class advised us to avoid (maybe this just means I’m more aware of my poor study habits, which is a fine step on the way to learning). I like learning and even though I’m not in school in any structured/intentional sense at the moment I really enjoyed the class.

Oh, also for the class I was instructed to do a final project that encapsulates and teaches others about some of the things I learned, so, here it is:

One of my favorite parts of class was the discussion of focused and diffuse modes of thinking. I had read about this before in Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and the focus in this class was very much directed toward how to use these modes to your advantage. First of all, the focused mode is what we often think of as concentrating or working really, really hard on something. We are dedicating all our attention and energy to the topic at hand. This can be great and it also can leave us feeling drained and lead to diminishing returns if we over do it. To maximize the focused mode set yourself up free from all distractions and set a timer for maybe 25 minutes or so. During the time you’re actually working on carving new patterns into your brain. It is hard work. Setting the timer is called the pomodoro method. Yes, that translates to the “tomato method” in reference to Italian cooking timers that are designed to look like tomatoes. So you work hard for a little bit then, ding!, take a break and relax. The sneaky part of the pomodoro tactic is that when you are taking a break you’re actually just switching to the diffuse mode of thinking.

The diffuse mode is when your brain unconsciously processes new and existing information and works on making connections or finding patterns. Sometimes you’re hit with a bolt of understanding or you’re shocked to realize a new aspect of something you hadn’t thought of – typically at some inconvenient time when you’re trying to have fun or do something else. That’s the diffuse mode in action. So, when I was pondering what to write for this project first I finished my class work then went to wash the dishes while hoping some brilliant plan for the project would come to me. It did not work. I turned on the radio to give my brain more distractions from thinking about the project. It seems that, for me, thinking about using the diffuse mode and putting pressure on yourself to operate in that way really counteracts the free flowing nature of diffuse thinking. I did, however, get the dishes done and listened to the radio, which was nice, but did not have a inspired lightning bolt. Sorry people, maybe next time. So here I am, back at the computer focusing my attention.

Another cool part of the class was the attention to mindset as a factor for learning. One of my favorite books I’ve read recently is called, you guessed it, Mindset. It’s by Carol Dweck and talks about the mental approach you take to learning/life and how that can either really help you out or kind of make everyone around you annoyed (maybe that’s just me). If you’ve ever said something like, “I’m just not good at________” and filled in the blank with: math, languages, drawing, science, car stuff, money management, playing an instrument, calculating the tip at a restaurant, swimming, debate, tooting my own horn….or anything else, ever, you’ve exhibited a prime example of the fixed mindset (and how annoying that is). The opposite of a fixed mindset is a growth mindset. This means a willingness to try new things despite the very likely possibility of an imperfect result. A growth mindset is needed for new and challenging things – if you keep doing things you’ve already done and are good at then you are still in the grips of the fixed mindset. A growth mindset is a willingness to do challenging things where you don’t already know the outcome and the determination to work through the challenges or hard times along the way.

The way mindset played out in my class was around how your brain cells actually grown when you are trying new things. By learning new things your are  broadening your perspective and actually expanding your brain. Mindset also helps you set new habits. The class zeroed in on using an intentional belief mindset to help overcome the habit of procrastination (along with recognizing the cue, and your response and reward). The class actually frequently mentioned believing you could do things as a way to reap the benefits of a growth mindset. Things are hard but without a growth mindset things are impossible. So if you want to be limited forever and ever and ever by your thought that “I’m just not good at…whatever” then have at it (maybe someday you’ll annoy yourself enough to take action). In the meantime, I’ll be the one rolling my eyes (hopefully only internally) and suggesting you read Mindset or take this class – or both – to learn that your brain can actually grow and you can improve at anything. (PS – this exact same fixed mindset is at work when your reason for not doing something new or challenging involves saying things like “but I’m not a….”, type,  or “I am a ….” person.)

Let’s round this project out with a list of the learning habits and tactics my class mentioned that I did the worst at actually doing during the class:

  1. memory tactics – making a mnemonic or creating a memory palace visualization to remember ideas
  2. chunking – intentionally condensing ideas into manageable organized sections or groups
  3. deliberate practice – being intentional about practicing or reviewing ideas a little bit over time – the opposite of cramming
  4. interleaving – returning to ideas after time (probably what you’re doing by alternating topics during sequential deliberate practice times)
  5. working with others in learning – taking part in discussion groups or forums

Instead of doing these things I watched a week’s worth of videos all alone in one sitting then immediately took the tests so I didn’t have to remember anything for long. Some of the ideas were pre-chunked for me and the curriculum did interleave things at times so maybe I didn’t do super badly at those things (not like I tried though).

What I will take away from the class is more attention to maximizing my diffuse thinking – giving myself a structure to make this happen, using recall – which means doing something then looking away/closing the book and trying to immediately recall the most important points (there was a bonus class reading on doing this for 30 seconds after meetings or things so you have a mental hook on what just happened) and the importance of sleep and exercise. Sleep will wash toxins out of your brain and make it work better and exercise (along with doing new things) will help your brain grow more cells.

Overall it was a good class. It was fairly focused on people in intentional focused learning environments like school but also had interesting ideas for those of us who are in a more unintentional learning environment. I’ll let you know if I discover any other startling things about learning while I leisurely go through more of the bonus readings. You can find the class at Coursera.org and the full title is: Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects – by Dr Barbara Oakley and Dr. Terrance Sejnowski. The ten point checklist on how to study well and all the things you’re doing to study poorly is worth the effort of sighing up for the class. Wouldn’t it be great if it was easy to learn new things so they’re always at hand for witty conversation tidbits (if nothing else)? It is possible, people.

 



How to tell you don’t speak Minnesotan
November 20, 2014, 7:00 pm
Filed under: Generally Ridiculous

Here is an actual conversation I had at a frozen custard shop in a small northern Minnesota town. The back story is that I like custard. This conversation starts with me ordering a confection made with the special “flavor of the day” custard.

Me: Can I get a peanut butter cup Snowstorm with the peanut butter custard?

Kid Behind the Counter: I don’t know if I can do that. (She looks up at me, motionless. Blinks.)

Me: (Perplexed by both the answer and complete lack of visual clues about what might happen next) What do you mean?

KBC: I don’t know if I can do that for you. (She is still like a lake at sunset.)

Me: So you don’t want to sell it to me? (Fishing for any useful information – is the problem me? Or your abilities? Or…?)

KBC: I’m not sure if I can. (How does this comment move the conversation along? It doesn’t.)

Me: So you don’t want my money? (Wait a minute, would she take someone else’s money?)

KBC: I’m not sure if I can do that because we’re running low. (Oh, I see….maybe.)

Me: I’m confused. Does that mean you’re going to sell it to me or not? (“Running low” is not sold out, right?)

KBC: We might run out. (Is my confusion making the pitch of her voice go up?)

Me: Isn’t that why you sell it? (Crushing logic.)

KBC: Fine. I’ll make it for you. (She throws down her pen and stomps off.)

I’m not used to seeing such a dramatic display of, well, drama so I’m chuckling to myself while I stand at an angle to see if I catch her spitting in my custard. A friend of mine is in line behind me and I ask if I was being a jerk. “You were confused, ” she tells me in a tight whisper. So true. Maybe all the pen throwing could have been avoided if I just spoke Minnesotan.

My custard, by the way, was awesome.



When old ladies give you the boot
July 18, 2014, 5:12 pm
Filed under: Generally Ridiculous

Just so we’re all on the same page, I love living on the edge of the wilderness in the summer. From my cabin I could plop a canoe in the lake and paddle three miles of lovely river through an uninhabited forest and be in a federal wilderness area (the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to be precise). In another 15 miles or of paddling so I could be at the Canadian border. It is remote. When companies have maps of coverage areas for media services like cable, or high speed internet or the most modern phone service there’s a blank section in northeastern Minnesota – no coverage. That’s where I am. It’s a great place.

Today I had a spare moment to enjoy the amenity of internet at the local community college (we do have town and even a community college here, FYI). I was interwebbing away when a guy with a vase of flowers appeared along with two sprightly ladies wearing more make-up than I generally see. They started milling around the lobby where I was talking about where the lady was who was bringing all the important stuff they needed, like table cloths. And everytime they called, her phone was busy and where was she and when would she be here?

More people filtered in. At first it was a few nicely dressed older ladies with trays of food talking about potica. I actually thought they were saying pizzitsa – like a mini pizza, they were not. More very gussied up people arrived and started making coffee in industrial sized brewpots. I overheard one fella sitting near me talking about how his bum knee and bum back were keeping him from helping – while he ate some salami. There was a computer they set up that was playing a loud anthem. Then they got a projector and a screen for showing a video of the anthem lyrics so all could sing along, and a podium and microphone.

I was unintentionally squatting on their party.

More people started buzzing around talking, greeting, chatting, bringing in more and more trays of food, discussing who had the table cloths, if those were the right size coffee filters, who else was bringing more poticia, who was going to introduce the mayor. A big deal was about to happen. They started hanging up a flag not from the United States, but don’t worry they had a US flag on a stand there too. And more food. I think three tables were full of food and someone said 3 deli trays were coming so yes they needed that other table. More and more older people in nice outfits with their hair done filed in.

I kept computering on, because the interweb is free there and I generally like how quiet it is every day except today and I was curious what this event was about.

I saw the younger guy who brought the vase of flowers hang a sign over one of the food tables: “Welcome Ambassador Dr. Cerar.” The interweb handily clarified that Dr. Bozo Cerar is the US Ambassador from Slovenia. Holy crap – a real international Ambassador was coming to my little end of the road town. All the nice up-dos made sense now.

I continued to mostly ignore the bustle around me until a white haired lady walked up to the  tall table that was littered with my candy, water bottle and other various accessories.

“How long are you staying here?” She asked, looking up to make eye contact.

“Fifteen minutes…?”

“Ok, we’re not really starting until 4. I suppose no one told you we were having an event.”

She was nice. And that’s how I was uninvited from the reception for the Slovenian Ambassador. I suspect it was because I was under-dressed for the occasion in boardshorts and flipflops. Maybe next time.