Knives Episode 25 Published

keIr8jbMXxmru4jF8SmZgLewEQsJqeLDjbPX7mnqvHXuQ641S02V6HFty34Ricip_large_2This episode took a while to get out; there were several things working against it. November was a big one, but this episode resisted me every step of the way all on its own. Then in the middle of the night I figured out what was missing, tied things up, deferred a chunk of exposition to a later date, and here we are!

A couple of important things happen in this episode; Martin makes a decision about Elena and Bags has a couple of surprises. Happily, those surprises also allow me to release the rest of Bags’ backstory for my valued patrons. If I can remember how to do that.

I think it would be more fair to my patrons to commit to a regular release schedule, but I’m not sure yet what frequency I can commit to. We’ll figure that out in January; December is filled with house guests and general wassailing. I hope to get some good writing time in, but, well, the new year is all about resolutions, right?

NaNoWriMo Success!

In the last couple of days I’ve thundered past the 50,000-word line, and earned myself a sixteenth NaNoWriMo victory. The primary objective, Glass Archipelago is by no means a complete story, but I did put the words to use fleshing out a setting with three very different cultures. I could have kept going, as I as having a lot of fun, but it’s time to turn my attention back to Knives. The first few days of the NaNoWrimo effort were in fact Knives-related; I banged out the rest of Kat’s backstory, which I will be releasing in the coming week. As with Bags, the amount of backstory you can read depends on your patronage.

Also, the after the next episode of the main story, I’ll be able to reveal the rest of Bags’ backstory. So, lots to look forward to, if you are a fan of hastily-written exploratory prose. Woo!

Meanwhile, I’ll be having a sip of the good stuff this afternoon, and reviewing the plan for the next few episodes of Knives. It’s going to be tough to go to work tomorrow.

Thoughts on the Electoral College

We were taught in school that the Electoral College was an institution designed to protect the American public from themselves. That some rational group of men would stand between the public and the presidency so that candidates with foreign ties or who openly spoke against the principles of our republic would not be able to charm their way into office. Alexander Hamilton actually wrote about that at length.

Now there are people who say that our current President-elect is precisely the kind of guy the electoral college is supposed to protect us from. He covers all the checkboxes: shady foreign ties, a long record of unethical behavior, conflicts of interest, and that fascism thing. But the electors are not going to protect us from Trump. In fact, they can’t. They are bound by the laws of the states they represent.

So why does the electoral college really exist? For the same reason it’s never going away: less-populous states don’t want to get railroaded every election by the more-populous states. The electoral college was an invention to get the constitution ratified in the first place. In this country, citizens of the more populous states are less powerful by design. It was the only way to get the little states to sign up in the first place.

Personally, I think if you believe in one person/one vote, then all the votes should count equally. That, or we should go ahead and split up a few states. California becomes three states, New York two. Texas, I’m not sure about. Three? West Texas, East Texas, and Austin?

It doesn’t seem right that simply drawing lines on the map differently should change the outcome of an election that covers all that territory, but if that’s what it takes to get equal representation, then why not? Honestly, I think California would function better if it were three separate states.

Though I have to note that if the polar ice caps keep melting, a lot of people are going to be moving in the next few decades. The imbalance may just take care of itself.

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Friday Afternoon, Way Behind

This has not been a good week for my writing mojo. This weekend I want to poop out a few thousand words of Glass Archipelago and also get a draft of the next episode of Knives to near-ready status. That’s a lot of writing.

To improve things and give myself a shot at a moderately productive weekend, I’m going to continue what has been very relaxing tactic for the last two days: no Facebook. Although it might appear that I’m over there, rest assured that my presence is really that of a robotic doppelgänger, taking my words from here and gluing them into my feed over there. Jerry the human will not be appearing until he has caught up a bit. If Jerry the human finds himself happier as a result of the exercise, he may continue it.

Keep in mind, then, that at least for now comments you make to my posts on Facebook WILL NOT BE READ BY ME. If you click “like”, I’ll never know. If you want to comment on my words, do it here on the blog. If you think they’re sweet, there’s a button for that, too.

Now, back to the task at hand.

1

That Can Never Happen Here

A long time ago I was in an intense conversation with a co-worker. I was speaking in defense of the right of the citizenry of this country to own guns. My friend disagreed. My friend is Jewish, and to further my argument I posited the dubious assertion, “If the Jews in 1920’s Germany were well-armed, things would have been different.” Honestly, it might not have made a difference, with the steady, insidious erosion of Jew’s rights across Europe at that time. But it makes a good argument.

My friend scoffed at my assertion. Not at the idea that well-armed Jews might have turned aside the oppression of their people in Nazi Germany, he scoffed at the very thought that a national socialist scapegoater would ever rise to prominence in this nation.

And here we are. I have never been a stronger proponent of the loose-ass interpretation of the 2nd amendment.

Knives Episode 24 Published

Sorry for the delay; it’s not that the episode hasn’t been in the chute for some time, it’s that I got so caught up in writing Kat’s backstory as a “special treat” for patrons (be careful what you ask for) that I let the actual story moulder for a bit. This episode is compact, but I like it for two reasons: Something important happens, and as a bonus we catch a glimpse of Captain Baldwin’s humanity.

Speaking of the backstory, I took the last week off my day job to bang out a sloppily-written long-short explaining why Kat is such a hard-ass, and perhaps to provide clues to unlocking her tightly-wound soul. Alas, it took a few days to gain any traction, and the story is not finished yet. There are two big events I still need to write, and a third I need to finish or jettison. I do have the first chunk ready to publish, however, and I will be trying to remember how to post patron-only content on the Knives site.

NaNoWriMo is coming, and I will be spending a lot of time on a different story, but I hope to keep moving Knives forward at the same time. That would be easy, were it not for the aforementioned day job. Where oh where is that $5000 per episode patron?

While we all work to find my sugar-person, please enjoy Episode 24: Conscripted.

My Time on a Jury: Justice and Law

Many years ago I was called up for jury duty. To this day I’d like to go back and do it better.

I found myself one Monday morning milling with a bunch of other regular folk in the courthouse lobby, until someone herded us into a courtroom for the process of voire dire, which means the lawyers fight within the rules to stack the jury in their favor.

It goes like this: a juror candidate steps up, the lawyers from both sides ask potentially-revealing questions, and based on the answers one side or the other throws them out. As I sat, waiting my turn, I heard questions like, “do you trust the police?” and equally leading questions from the other side. I was pretty sure my honest answers were going to disqualify me.

Finally it was my turn to step up and face the music. You know what they asked me? Nothing. Not one damn thing. Both sides profiled me; the prosecution saw a white guy, the defense saw the only non-retired-military white guy they were going to get, and just like that I was to be one of twelve deciding a man’s fate.

Short story: two guys got in a fight. Unfortunately, one was a cop. The other was a deaf hispanic man who thought he was fighting for his life and knew enough martial arts to prolong the struggle. In the end there were several police, three paramedics, a few firemen, and two dogs on the scene.

After three days of testimony, we were sent to our room to discuss. Another dude nominated himself as foreman; no one else gave a shit, so he was the guy. “Let’s start with the easy one,” he said. The gray-haired man to my right nodded. “Guilty,” he said. The foreman nodded in agreement, then read the actual charge. “Guilty?” he asked the room. There was an uncomfortable pause. Some of the members of the jury didn’t see things so clearly.

Sitting in front of each of us, ignored in the rush for power by the guilty-as-charged crowd, was a thick packet of instructions. The instructions went through the charges, count by count, with rules of evidence spelled out. “If you find A, then you must conclude B.” I pointed out that the process was spelled out in front of us. At that time I was happy for the instructions.

Most of the charges seemed clear-cut, but there were problems. For example, during the wrestling match the defendant had put his hand on the policeman’s gun. That’s a big no-no, as you might imagine. But there was a lot of reason to believe that he had no idea he was doing that. He was just grabbing, holding, trying not to be buried. And the cop? An obvious liar. I hadn’t heard the term ‘testlying’, at the time, a phrase used by the San Diego police, but cops get training in saying what’s necessary to get the conviction. At the time I thought his testimony was too clean, too perfect, and we were hearing what the textbook said to do, rather than what he actually did.

There was a pretty sharp divide between retired men and younger women. One spanish-speaking woman said that the defendant’s translator hadn’t done him any favors.

I looked through the instructions. There was nothing about how to judge the act in the absence of intent. I asked, asked again, and finally we were brought out before the judge in the presence of counsel for both sides to be told that we could split the charges and only find the guy guilty of what he actually did.

Back we went, for more discussion. “Guilty as hell” from the white-hair contingent, “It was all a misunderstanding with an asshole cop” from the female side. The jury might have hung, but for one thing I said. One thing I know to be untrue now. I said, “we are here to decide the law, not right and wrong.” The woman across the table from me nodded and cried, a compromise was reached, and we found the defendant guilty of reduced charges.

I apologize to Mr. Cervantes. Deciding right and wrong is exactly why juries exist. Juries deciding what is right has changed the course of this nation. Those packets of instructions focussed my jury early, but the word “must” was all over the place. Those instructions were carefully written to prevent the jury from thinking in terms of right and wrong. Most of the time, that’s probably helpful. Some of the time, like in the case of Mr. Cervantes, it discourages a higher ethical sense that makes us a better people.

Those packets are powerful. They give a paint-by-numbers view of the law. And sure, when a jury decides to stray from the script you get the acquittal of the cops that beat Rodney King, but you also get juries that kick racist laws in the balls. Eventually, over time, juries who believe in right and wrong make this country greater. Juries are the most powerful institution of government in this nation. As a juror, I feel like I failed my country, and I brought half a jury with me.

Sure you should vote. But you really want to serve your country? Step up when jury duty calls. Listen, think. Defend the law, but don’t forget what’s right. That’s why you’re there.