“Turns out a bear had dragged it across the street and into our back yard.”
Call yourself a Reublocrat or a Democlan, I think when pressed you would have to agree that the presence of hungry children in this prosperous nation is preposterous. It’s mind-boggling to me that we even have to have fundraisers to make sure kids in this country have enough to eat.
But here’s a fundraiser so that at least a few kids can get a meal at least once a day, for a while. Structural change is needed, but for now, let’s just make sure the kids get enough to eat.
In this case, you can get a signed photo of Harlean (taken by me). I am sometimes surprised at the results our shoots. Even better, there are books by the most awesome William Taylor Jr., a writer of words that make you think.
On top of all that, there’s the painting based on the photo I took of Harlean.
But if you don’t want any of that stuff, you can just throw cash, and let my employer match magnify your contribution.
It starts at https://poeticpinup.com/nkhfundraiser/
It ends when we don’t have to do shit like this.
I have been jonesing to get some writing done, so rather than go straight home, I went to one of my favorite local taverns. I ordered a beer, and while I was rearing to send a message to my sweetie informing her of my decision, I lifted my beer off the table.
Only, it was just the to half of my beer that lifted; the bottom half remained rooted on the coaster, and a full mugs-worth of beer gushed forth, cascading over the table, over my clothes, and over my lato.
Immediately I hoisted my comuter over the flood, shaking it to rid the keyboard of moisture. Waitstaff resonded quickly, with towels and aologies, but it seemed no lasting harm had been done.
I came home, still determined to get some writing done. But, it seems, there is a catch.
One key doesn’t work. I’d tell you what that key is, but I can’t tye it. erhas you can guess which key it is.
Addendum: I took the laptop to my company’s repair depot. “We get a lot like this on Mondays.”
I heard back this evening: All systems show signs of liquid damage. Recommendation: replace the computer. Just for the p key? And maybe the sound, but I never have the sound turned on anyway. (Seriously, never.) But… all systems.
I’m typing on a loaner right now, a machine that will probably become my new portable. No biggie, I really don’t need massive specs or super-duper whatnot, except for one thing. The other screen had a lot more pixels. That means a lot more lines of code. I’m feeling constricted.
I spent the day with baseball in the background while I cursed at computers (cursing at computers is my day job). At first it was a forgettable contest that the A’s found a way to lose, then a really good game between the Dodgers and the Cubs.
You know it’s a good baseball game when two players are described as “hockey players” because of the way they play. There’s not much of a better compliment you can give a player of any sport than to compare them to hockey players. “That guy plays like a soccer player,” would not be flattering. Even an American football player would be flattered to be compared to a hockey player.
That there was enough grit in this game to invite the hockey comparison was a good start. Then there were two strong pitchers, and two managers with a lot to do. It was a National League game, and would not have been nearly as intricate with the designated hitter rule. (No! Nay! Never! to the DH in the National League!)
In contrast, The San Diego Padres were visiting their pals in Denver, for the conclusion of a pitching-optional statfest in which we were reminded that the “modern era” in baseball starts in the year 1900. Because there were numbers coming out of this matchup that transcended time. Any one of the games in this series would have raised eyebrows with ridiculous scoring, but what stood out was the sustained, continuous ridiculousness that happened over the last four days in Denver. Records were broken, but neither team should feel proud.
The games were downright silly, resembling NBA back-and-forth over baseball’s rare-burst scoring.
Aside: In Soccer, scoring is rare, and most of the time not likely. In hockey, scoring is rare but almost always possible. In baseball, scoring is rare, but points come in batches — the winning team is the one that gets the most out of each batch, and there are players whose specific skill is stopping the other team’s run. In the NBA, if you defense succeeds half the time, you will go down in history.
Even though the fuckin’ Dodgers won, it was a great game, the outcome uncertain up to the last diving catch of a dying flare. If that ball had hit the grass, the game would have gone the other way. And that’s sports.
Any time a user laments, “I just want to…” you have encountered a software failure. The failure might be in the design, it might be in the implementation, it might just be in an overloaded server somewhere.
But “I just want to” is real, and if UI designers and the engineers that support them heard every “I just want to” out there — millions every day, I’d bet — then the software we use every day would be a lot better.
Because here’s the thing: “I just want to” is followed almost always with a well-defined use case, often with a very realistic expectation.
As a software guy I can tell you that often the requirements we get for making the things we make are horribly vague. We make those applications to spec (as far as we can tell) and feel good until actual humans start to use the system.
During testing of a system, you get fairly convoluted feedback. But that frustrated voice saying “I just want to” is almost always followed by a very specific and reproducible case. Tonight, I just want to add a link in WordPress 5 that has a description that is not identical to the URL.
That’s a REALLY DAMN BASIC THING. But I don’t see how to do it. I’m sure it’s possible; WordPress 5 block editor couldn’t possibly be that impaired.
Less-ethical companies might just keep the mikes on and listen for “I just want to…”. But if I could say “Hey Siri, I just want to put a link in WordPress 5 with a different description,” and Siri said, “Well, have you tried…” and when I say “Yeah, that doesn’t work,” Siri would say, “I will tell WordPress that all you want to do is…” and the bug report would be filed.
I just want to tell Siri my problem and have it be handled.
Today on the way to work I saw three brand-new Teslas, and an Audi R8 (Audi’s V-10 powered street-legal race car) with temporary plates. On the way home I saw another new R8, and a bright yellow McLaren fresh from the dealership. Did you know that Maserati has an SUV (SuV)? I didn’t until this afternoon. And of course there were more new Teslas.
At one point on the way to work I was peering through the windows of the Tesla Model M in front of me to see if the Tesla Model X in front of it was also brand-new.
The sales team up the highway at Tesla Central must salivate over April 16th.
In mid-April and in mid-October, employee stock grants at Apple vest. I assume Google has a similar schedule, along with all the other large tech companies in the area. Including, I imagine, Tesla. (Note: I couldn’t come up with the right Facebook wisecrack to put here.)
Twice a year, there is a gush of cash from the tech companies, and with it a surge in spending on real estate and fancy cars. It’s probably good to be in sales here; you can go on vacation during the months of May, June, November, and December, and still be around to glut when that mighty money heart pumps once more.
I am now part of this heartbeat as well, but not to the frivolous-quarter-million-dollar-car level. For me the stock vesting is a windfall to invest, so that I might one day not have to work at all. This year the investment also helps family members, which makes it double-cool. Alas, for me there will be no Audi R8 Spyder. It’s a mid-engine convertible that can do 150 as easily as I can sneeze, but it looks a little butt-heavy to me anyway.
Spring is here, a new baseball season is starting, and I find myself oddly excited for this year. I really haven’t paid much attention to baseball the last few years. I’m not excited because of the teams nearby, but because of the perennially-awful San Diego Padres, who were once, long ago, my home team. It’s even possible they’ll be good this year.
Already they’ve won two in a row to start the year. You wouldn’t think much of that if you rooted for any other team, but the Padres haven’t managed that feat since 2011.
They also signed a big-name free agent, Manny Machado, who will be making gobs and gobs of money for the next ten years. This sort of move is not characteristic for them. But while there is plenty of conversation about Machado, it’s Fernando Tatís, who has now played in exactly two major league games, that is getting all the buzz.
Part of that buzz is because Padres management is managing his contract incorrectly. “Incorrect” in this case means not dicking over the player by keeping him in the minors an extra year, to squeeze an extra prime year out of his contract. Essentially The Padres are giving up a year of 27-year-old Tatís for a year of 22-year-old Tatís (numbers may not be exact, but the idea is there)*. Tatís will have another peak-years season to offer when he’s negotiating his next contract. The decision could cost the Padres tens of millions of dollars, and reap the player a similar amount, if he lives up to his potential.
From a bean-counting standpoint, the Padres are being dumb, and bean-counters run baseball. Yet the Padres, with some encouragement from veteran players like Machado, have decided to forego the contract shenanigans and start trying to be good NOW. As a side effect, the players sound pretty happy down there, as do the fans.
On a side note, with a potential lockout or player strike looming, this is a gesture by Padres management that other teams are probably not going to be happy about. But the Padres seem to be intent on making the pie bigger, rather than squabbling over who gets which slice. I have to say I like that.
One reason for the decision to bring up the rookies may be that the Padres are the only major-sport team still in San Diego. Now that there is no football team, the Padres may be making a play for the hearts and minds of sports fans looking for a new team to pull for. They may have a chance to make the pie quite a bit larger down there.
I say rookies, plural, because tonight another kid will make his major-league debut on the mound. If he looks sharp, my optimism will be compounded.
Anyway, I feel pretty good about this year. Right now they are playing the San Francisco Giants —a pretty bad team (they pinch-hit for a corner outfielder on opening day) — and it’s a long year, so the real test will come later. The Giants have an exciting prospect of their own, but it has been explained to the fans here that it would be crazy to bring him up now, and lose a prime year at the end of his contract. Because that’s how baseball works.
Except, right now, in San Diego.
* this is wrong. My point is quintuplufied by the actual math. See the comments.
This is a kind of geeky episode, but I think there is a lesson here that goes far beyond computer science. You might want to give it a go, even if programming is not your thing.
I am slowly updating a body of code made by other people. They optimized for the oddest things. For instance, when you get the profile of a person, you also get the profiles of the people who work for that person, including their pictures.
Sometimes, you see, in some application I’ve never worked on, that information is useful. But rather than make a way for our apps to ask, “hey, who is this guy the boss of?” and subsequently, “what do they look like?”, the system returns all that information whether you want it or not. Which makes all requests for a profile dramatically slower whether they need that information or not, and chews up bandwidth sending pictures that will never be used, and generally makes the world worse.
The people that wrote that code were carefully optimizing to reduce the number of round trips to the server. One app saves a couple of milliseconds while all other apps pay the price. While I disagree with that optimization in our case, I understand it. It comes, ultimately, from programmers who remember a different Internet. I guess. When requests took up that much extra time, wasted bandwidth was an even bigger problem.
Now there’s a new sheriff in town, and I’m applying my own optimizations. And while you might guess that I’m making services that very quickly return only the data you asked for, there is another optimization I find far more important. I am optimizing for clarity.
Right now I am maintaining a service with methods ‘getProfile’, ‘getFullProfile’, and (God help me) ‘getFullProfile2’. The well-intentioned architects of this system created a standard of providing structured comments for each method; but the doc block for two of the three methods mentioned above were copied from somewhere else and were just wrong.
Other methods in the system return partial data from a person’s profile, but often the names given to the data fields don’t match anything else. ‘prefName’ in one so-called profile might be ‘ub_emp_preferred_name’ in another. It’s madness.
Optimizing for clarity begins with recognizing that a person’s profile is a thing that can be clearly defined. “This is what a profile is,” one could declare. When you ask for a profile, there is no mystery what you are going to get. If you need more, you know how to ask.
There are times when such a rigid structure will cost you an extra server request or two, and it might make your server work a little extra. But here’s the secret: Engineer-days are worth more than processor-milliseconds. That’s true even if the processor-milliseconds add up to more than a day. A core running in a data center costs maybe a buck a day (though I suspect it’s much less). I’m embarrassed to tell you what I make for a day’s work, but it’s a bit more than a buck.
Design for clarity. I think this principle extends far past the software world. It certainly applies in industrial design, where even the simple objects we use every day benefit from a design that does not cause question marks to float over our heads. Simplicity is achieved; it does not happen on its own.
I am working on code that accepted complexity rather than working for simplicity, and in the end made more work for everyone. Perhaps, even if you are not a programmer, there is a lesson here: Work for simplicity. Work for clarity. Work less later, because your task is simple and clear.
I do it too. I use Google’s “free” services. But they’re not free. Google makes a shit-ton of money off me. Consider this list of things The Goog knows about me:
name, age, blah blah blah – tragically that is already forfeit
thousands of web sites I’ve visited
thousands of searches I’ve done (yeah, those searches)
the full content of thousands of emails I’ve sent or received. I don’t use my gmail account, but any time I send a letter to a gmail address my words are duly noted. Every word that goes through gmail is archived.
Almost every purchase I’ve made online
Every purchase I’ve made in stores using Google wallet (which are none, because that is my pathetic line in the sand.)
Google, along with all tech companies, has to reveal what they collect about you if they want to do business in Europe. But here’s the thing: While I can get a full accounting of activity on my Google account, I can find no way to see, and delete, the data collected about me while I’m not actively logged into g-whatever. Which is most of my life.
I use Duck-Duck-Go for searching now, which is better anyway if you want to refine your search with + or -. I have not put a full embargo on gmail addresses, but it’s tempting. Somehow they have the right to read the communications of someone who has never entered into any sort of agreement with them. (I am not such a person, but they must exist.)
Google must hate Facebook for getting caught harvesting shit that is none of their business so often. If it weren’t for Facebook’s ineptitude, Google might still live in an unregulated world. As it is, they are doing their damndest to obey the letter of the law while still collecting “anonymous” data they are not responsible for revealing. It is not anonymous. If it were, it would have no value.
Screw those guys.
I was poking around in the musty, poorly-lit tunnels beneath the smooth and glitzy blog you are reading, and I discovered a rather unsettling fact: I have 51 episodes I started but didn’t finish, yet still haven’t deleted. For the next week or three, I’ll be pulling up the ones that deserve to see the blinding light of the public eye.
So if you see some references that are clearly dated, welp, that’s why. If you see episodes that start to develop but then suddenly stop, it’s because I liked the episode, but at this stage I’m not gong to finish it (in all likelihood because I can’t remember the incidents described any longer). Some episodes might still have cobwebs, or spots of rust. Some might be full zombie now, shambling out of the past, hoping to find relevance by eating your brain.
We will start with a marketing campaign by McDonalds that ended a while back. I had meant to explore the idea a little more, but I stopped mid-sentence. Probably scrabbling for the right word. Or just distracted by something shiny.
I will mark the episodes from the archives with the tag “bottle of beer”.
Note that actual current episodes might appear as well, like the one that just landed in the Jury Life series. Crazy times at MR&HBI!
I’m at a bar that plays its music loud. I haven’t found a place like this since Tiki House down San Diego way. That bar is gone now, lamented by many. Tiki Dave was looking to hang up his spurs many years ago.
Anyway, I’m in a place called The Office in San Jose, and they keep the tunes cranked up. When I came in, there was some pretty serious hip-hop playing, confirming I’m an old white guy and I don’t really get it. But if I tuned out just enough to let the music happen to me, it worked out all right.
While I’ve been here the playlist has evolved, through some pretty sweet rock that I heard without hearing, until someone asked, loudly but in a sweet voice, “Can you hear the guns, Fernando?”
I could hear the fuckin’ guns. BOOM! When I was a kid I turned ABBA up loud. Especially this song. When was the last time you cranked up a purportedly easy-listening band like this, to make the listening not-so-easy? I was not the only person in this place singing along.
On a side note, this is a song an American could not write.
During the typing of this episode, I’ve heard John Denver loud and now it’s Bay City Rollers! S! A! T-U-R! D-A-Y! Night!
This is the overdue installment about my experience as a Juror. In particular, you might want to read Voir Dire Day 1.
Overnight I stewed on the things potential jurors had said on the first day. I found myself hoping my name would be called just so I could say my piece about the things people had said. Domestic abuse is a mess.
After another round of attrition my name was called, and I occupied seat 13. First alternate, if nothing changed. Logistically, the closest seat to the lawyers. I would be a juror, unless I said something to get me booted. As an honest and thoughtful human being, I knew I was a juror.
The attorneys found me well-defined enough that I had to volunteer to bless the assemblage with my thoughts. They would interrogate the others, then ask, does anyone else want to comment on that? I always had something to say, and I occasionally raised my hand. I tried to choose my spots.
There was the guy now in seat sixteen, and man, that dude was a domestic violence magnet. Two cases going on right now. Back in the day he spent a fortune to bring in experts to bust his sister, who was making false domestic violence charges and almost got a guy sent to jail for a long time. Sixteen used to live next to a shelter, and they would ask him to come over and convince angry men to walk away. I’m not sure I’ll have space in the Muddleverse to tell his story well, but damg, that cat has a story.
Sixteen disqualified himself when he mentioned that he had discussed abuse with his wife last night. “I kept it abstract!” he insisted, but his wife (who, I learned in conversation during a break, once played basketball at Stanford) surely could put two and two together, and even if she didn’t, things she said were sure to influence him. But Sixteen was the first to use the word “bully”.
The defense lawyer was working hard on the theme that women commit domestic abuse, and there was a growing consensus that women abuse men as often as men abuse women in this country, but in different ways.
I don’t think that’s true, and I volunteered to say so. I believe we strive to be a nation where abuse is 50-50, but we are not there yet. The word I used that day was “leverage”. Leverage can come from many sources, but without leverage there is no serial abuse. For men, leverage is often physical strength or money, for women the leverage is (in my uneducated world) more often emotional. But nothing stops a man from using emotional leverage, too.
These days, men still have more leverage. Maybe things are evening out, but that’s how it is right now.
Later I pointed out that all the data any of the jury had to work with came from the media, and so we only hear about the most interesting (salacious) stories. “So you are saying you are willing to overlook the biased information you have received and judge this case impartially?” I was asked.
My response was not nearly as pithy as “If you want to distill my observation on social injustice down to a salient fact relevant to jury selection, then yes.” My actual response was only the last word of that.
But my big speech came after at-that-time Juror 12 was interviewed. I might have mentioned him before. His father physically abused his mother and him. They didn’t call the police, instead they “handled it in the family.” They handled it by getting rid of the bum. All’s well that end’s well, right?
“How would you feel if your mother started dating him again?” one of the lawyers asked. But that was not the big question.
When I had my chance, I asked, rhetorically, “How would Twelve feel if his dad started dating a complete stranger? Does he have a responsibility, having not reported his father’s behavior, if someone else gets hurt or killed?”
“What do you mean?” Miss Hawkins, assistant district attorney, asked.
“I keep hearing these people say they handled the situation, but what the really did was pass the problem on to some new unsuspecting victim.” I was getting a little riled up. “If you don’t bring in outsiders, then you are complicit in his next violence.” I wondered how people would react to my accusation of Twelve being guilty of assault. If anyone took my statements that far, they didn’t respond.
Another question to a different juror, got my volunteer spirit on high alert again. “Did you call the police?” The lawyer asked a witness to abuse. “No,” was the answer, as it ALWAYS IS.
I’m getting riled up again, just thinking about it.
Here’s the thing about involving the authorities in cases of domestic abuse: there is no positive outcome. Remember leverage? When the authorities come in, that power is realized. Loss of income, loss of home, loss of access to children. Sure if the system works right some of that can be restored, eventually. But eventually is not a choice for a lot of abuse victims.
This is why abused families don’t call the cops until it’s life and death. No good outcome. You just survive and maybe hope to push the monster onto a new victim.
There was another culling and suddenly I was Juror Three, the position I would hold for the trial.
Sixteen was gone, of course, but Twelve sat tight.
For the next and final batch of potential jurors the defense lawyer Miss Li proposed a hypothetical, seemingly to test us against sexism but actually, I suspect, to introduce bias into those selected. “If you saw a man head-slap a woman, would you call the police?” And to follow, “What if the woman head-slapped the man?”
Her goal at this stage of the voir dire was not to learn about the jurors as much as to remind those already comfortably seated that abuse goes both ways. But interviewee after interviewee answered that they would call the police no matter the gender. The jurors answered with what they now knew they should do, rather than what they would actually do.
I was no longer being interviewed, but I wanted to raise my hand, and maybe I should have.
Here’s the thing: None of the people in that room, judge included, would have called the police if any human had head-slapped any other human, unless the slapped was an infant or (maybe) if the slapped was knocked down. Yet juror after juror said they would call the cops. Bullshit. Our society has a built-in tolerance for some kinds of violence. And head-slaps are often affectionate.
There was a time, a long time ago, when I was at the beach with my friends. Maybe Cardiff, back when it had sand. A party just down the beach turned ugly, shouting and whatnot, and eventually a buff kid was sitting on top of a girl, fist drawn back, ready to do harm. I started walking that way, covering the space between our parties, hoping to be seen. I am not an imposing physical specimen, but in cases like this that’s not important.
He rose off her, and things calmed. I returned to our party, and no police were involved. If he hurt someone later, am I complicit? My choice was to intervene personally, in that moment. Granted, when that happened we did not have phones you could carry around, but even if we had phones I’m pretty sure we would not have dialed 911. We would have done exactly what we did that night: Present a witness and breathe a sigh of relief when violence didn’t happen. And enjoy the beach.
So now, as the actual trial is about to begin, I’m fizzing with an urge to call out many of my fellow jurors as liars, if well-intentioned. I did not. The fate of a kid was at stake.
I spent too much time playing the latest game in the series known as Civilization. It is the flagship of a game genre known as 4X: eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate. You play the leader of a civilization and you must raise your civilization to be the greatest one in the world.
At the start of each game, you choose which historic culture to base your civilization on. This has been eye-opening for me, because I discovered I was much more familiar with Philip of Spain and Peter of Russia than I was with Poundmaker, a great leader indigenous to my own continent.
So as I adopt the cultures of these great leaders in the game, I take a little time to read up on the actual historical figures. I recently totally crushed the world as Tamar of Georgia. I had not heard of her before, but she was king of that country and presided over a golden age, after a perilous political dance in part because no one had ever ruled that country who didn’t also have a penis.
Her timing was good; when the fourth western crusade smashed itself against the muslim states to her south, Tamar was able to expand her nation significantly. Her second husband was a capable and savvy guy, and went out to kick ass while Tamar kept things running at home. (The Official Sweetie of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas and I are a very similar team.)
Tamar’s first husband, was, apparently, a pretty-boy asshole, and her shucking him marked a major turning point in Tamar’s independence from the families that meant to control her.
Here is Tamar’s signature:
If I hadn’t already been convinced that she was awesome, that would have done it. Just even try to follow the pen strokes. And the dots! The dots! It’s not so much a signature as abstract art. Even when we write letters with our hands anymore, they don’t look like that.
We have that document, but we’re not exactly when she died or where she was buried. But in Georgia, they remember her. And now I do, too.
We were gathered, the citizens of group 45A, filling the gallery of a courtroom. In front of us there were three people — two lawyers and the defendant.
The prosecuting attorney, who I would soon learn was an Assistant District Attorney, was a tall woman, brown-skinned, with short, tightly-curled hair parted on the left side. Ms Hawkins wore a businesslike skirt and jacket in neutral browns and grays. The skirt stopped short of her knees, which I expect was intentional, but the sleeves of her suit were too short for her long arms. Her hands were also long, with long, expressive fingers. If she plays basketball, I bet she’s pretty good at it. Or piano. She mentioned later (in one of those calculated asides to make her likable to the jury) that she was almost 40 years old. I would not have guessed that.
To her right the defense attorney stood with the defendant. Ms Li also wore a skirt and suit, but was much more willing to embrace color, coming to court in blue with colorful accents. She didn’t have any physical traits that jumped out at me on that first impression; it wasn’t until she spoke that we learned her true superpower.
The defendant. Shit, just a kid. Brown-skinned, short, skinny, close-cropped black hair. Clearly coached by Ms Li to be respectful and friendly. Nice smile, shirt and tie over slacks.
The courtroom was laid out much like any other; there was the gallery occupying half the space, then the tables for the defense and the prosecution, and the jury box to the left. Some time after the original design of the courtroom half of the space between the counsel and the judge’s bench had been usurped by a large clerical area. The loss of this space to the demands of rigor and documentation led to some awkward logistics during testimony.
There was a small stuffed pig overlooking the clerical zone. It was a human touch I found encouraging.
We rose, except the defense, who made a habit of standing long before the call to rise came. Enter the judge, Nahal Iravani-Sani. “You may be seated, thank you for the courtesy,” she said. Her voice was gentle and friendly. Her wavy dark hair and olive complexion confirmed what I had assumed she would look like, based only on her name. She wore long black robes, of course.
From the first words she spoke, I could tell she appreciated the potential jurors packed into her courtroom. She recognized that the most annoying part of the process is the waiting. But before we could go any farther, we would all have to leave the room while she heard members of 45A ask to be released for reasons of hardship. “Hardship to your employer is not adequate,” she admonished.
We all left. The jury waiting room was fairly empty now; I found a seat and read some terrible space opera on my phone. That first day I didn’t want to bring anything extra — I had the nightmare scenario of having a backpack of stuff an no place to put it. Which was silly, in retrospect, but I’d rather not assume. So on my phone I was scrolling through a story that put sailing ships in space, while I and the rest of 45A that were not asking for hardship excuses cooled our heels.
Finally we were called back and there were several empty chairs in the gallery. Now it was time to get down to business. Eighteen names were called. I was not one of them. Those called filled the seats in the jury box, then a row of six chairs in front. From here on, jurors in those seats were not referred to by name, but rather by the number of the seat they occupied. Judge Iravani-Sani apologized for the impersonal nature of that policy, but told us that it was to protect the anonymity of the jurors.
Judge Iravani-Sani addressed all of us. “This case involves domestic violence,” she informed us. “While we all have strong feelings about that — of course we do — what we’re asking of you is to judge this case impartially, and to presume the defendant is innocent until proven guilty.” *
Each juror found a list of eleven questions to answer waiting on their chair. “Juror number one,” the judge said, “Please read each question out loud for the record, then your answer. The rest of the jurors need only give their answers.”
The first few questions were ordinary. “Do you have friends or family in law enforcement?” would lead to extra follow-up by the judge if the juror answered “yes”, to establish whether that relationship would lead to the juror giving automatic preference to the testimony of cops. Through this process the judge was carefully and skillfully preventing people from disqualifying themselves. “Knowing you feel that way, do you think you can still listen to the facts of the case?”
But then there was the question that asked, (something like) “have you ever been witness to, or a victim of domestic abuse?”
“No,” said Juror one. There were follow-up questions about a couple of his answers, but then it was on to the next juror. “Yes,” said Juror two when he reached the Big Question. He had seen domestic abuse. Discussion with the judge followed. It was Dad, maybe, the stories have all blurred. Can he remain impartial in this case? He said he thought he could.
On we went “No,” said juror three to the Big Question. “No,” said juror four. “Yes,” said juror five. The judge followed up as before. “Yes,” said Juror six.
I looked over to the person sitting closest to me in the gallery. He looked back at me, also wide-eyed. Six random people, three of them have directly experienced domestic abuse. By the time we got through all eighteen jury candidates, there were probably ten who had direct experience with domestic abuse.
Think about that. Remember that this courthouse is in one of the most prosperous cities in the world.
After the judge took them through the questionnaire, it was time for the lawyers to interview the initial eighteen. Whereas before it had simply been disturbing, now it got both fascinating and even more disturbing.
The prosecutor wanted to make sure that jurors didn’t hold it against the people that a domestic issue was being decided in the courts. Ms Hawkins asked each juror whether domestic violence should be reported to the police, or whether it should be handled by the family.
Holy crap. I don’t have hard numbers, but almost every person who had witnessed domestic abuse, when asked, “did you call the police?” said “No.”
The answers to that were universally tentative.
Why not? There was a camp that said that domestic abuse should be handled inside the family, and that there was no cause to involve outside authority. Then there were others who said that domestic abuse was obviously a crime but even they didn’t call the cops. People who know their friends are getting beat up don’t call the cops.
It’s understandable at one level; your friend’s life is shitty enough already, and if they want the cops they’ll call for them, right? Who are you to escalate someone else’s issues?
She was sitting somewhere around seat 16 when she was first interviewed. In her fifties, or perhaps a hard forties, or even a brutal thirties. She has not had a soft life. “Oh, I have a lot to say about this,” she said. And she did. Family members on the giving and receiving end of domestic abuse, including a sister who has a tongue as sharp as shark’s teeth, and uses it to hurt. Plenty of interaction with law enforcement in her family, but none of that (as far as I could tell) was related to the domestic abuse.
The woman in seat seven, an older woman, thought that the family should handle things unless it got really serious. How serious? her questioners persisted. “Cuts and bruises, that’s OK,” she said. “Maybe broken bones? Definitely if she dies.”
Another guy, both he and his mother were beaten by his father. “But it’s OK now, they’re divorced.”
It was somewhere around then that the lawyers and the judge met to eliminate some of the first eighteen. Several were dismissed with cause; the jurors in the lower seats were shifted to fill the holes.
Soon after that, the day was over and I found a crowded bus home. I found myself with a lot to say about the events of the day, and a fierce desire to talk about what I had heard and learned with my sweetie. Alas, my lips were sealed.
The next day, I had my chance to speak.
Tune in next time for Voir Dire: Jerry Speaks his Mind!
* Not all quotes here are exact.