J.P.

Happy War.

It’s way too early for Christmas decorations to be overtaking the retail spaces. I am not in the mood to hear Barbra warble about Kids Wearing Curtains During A Thunderstorm. But yet, my husband must fling us through the Merry Trim-A-Tree department every time we come within 100 miles of said frivolity.

I noticed a new feature this year: super festively gay Christmas trees. The pink tree is sort of a throwback to the 1960s (though it’s not a lead painted aluminum tree). But the rainbow tree? I don’t know what’s happening there. But I’m sure it brings joy to someone in the season shopping audience.

I’m sure we’ll hear something about the War on Christmas, with this tree front and center, some time before the end of this year.

Jury 2, Day 2.

As I mentioned in last nightís blog entry, I finished the latest round of jury duty yesterday afternoon. After all was said and done, the judge reminded us we could talk about the case so here we are.

The case was a criminal case involving three charges: reckless driving, driving with the slightest impairment, and a blood alcohol level exceeding .08. Unfortunately for the prosecution, there were a lot of gaps or loop holes in the police procedures. For the reckless driving, it was demonstrated the defendant maintained proper lane changing, turn signals, etc. for the entire time. The police maintained the defendant was speeding but at no time was RADAR, LIDAR, or other speed measuring devices used.

For the impairment charge, the police conducted the usual tests for these sorts of things, heel to toe walking, the one leg standing test, and eye acuity tests. The officer conducting the tests reported his body cam was broken and he had not received a replacement, so we watched video taken from a body cam on another officer across the parking lot from the tests. From what we could see, the defendant did well but not perfectly on the tests. There were no reports of stumbling or staggering or slurring. Why the officer conducting the tests didnít ask for a peer to come over with his body cam is beyond me, but he didnít. What we could see on the video was that the defendant was not turned away from the flashing lights nor were the flashing lights turned off, which would seem to negate the accuracy of the visual test.

When it came to the blood alcohol levels, there were some ďblipsĒ in the data. A third party expert purported this could be alcohol from a previous run in the machine, the technician said it could be electrical noise.

The defendant selected a great lawyer and she was relentless. If Iím ever in a similar situation I will be calling her. The prosecuting attorney was calm and rational.

Deliberations last about 70 minutes. The jury decided not guilty on all three charges, all because of reasonable doubt. There were just too many variables to make a concrete decision and in America, innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and we had reasonable doubt.

It was an interesting case and of course the experience made me do a complete 180 on my feelings about doing jury duty again. Of course I got selected as jury foreman, and everyone on the jury was pleasant to work with.

All in all a rewarding experience. Iím off the hook for two years for doing it again.

Legally 11.

We celebrated 11 years of legal marriage this evening. I was happy to finish my jury duty this afternoon and maintain our plans for the evening.

We decided to try our hands at a local casino a little bit, losing a lot but then gaining a bit to just lose a little. I still donít like losing at the casino but at least we were able to keep it reasonable. We went to the casino because 11 years ago tonight, we were legally married at the casino near our home at the time. Marriage is a gamble, weíd snicker, so a casino seemed like a natural choice.

Afterwards we went to a locally owned steakhouse known for their prime rib. I donít eat as much meat as I used to and every once in a while I get in the mood for a steak, so we went to El Corral. The service excellent, we had a couple of enjoyable cocktails, and the food was very good. I definitely look forward to going back for another visit.

We decided to splurge on dessert and I casually mentioned to the server we were celebrating our legal anniversary when I asked her to take our photo. Because of our celebration she gave us the desserts for free and that was very nice. The manager then came over and congratulated us on our legal anniversary.

It was a very nice evening.

Jury 2, Day 1.

Iím sitting in the Jury Assembly Room. Iím checked in, weíve watched the mandatory video and now weíre waiting for the judge.

Iím not as cranky about my civic duty as I was yesterday when my number came up. Might as well be interested in our judicial process. Not everyone in the world has this right.

The folks here seem less cynical than the folks in the same situation based when I was summoned in New York in 2010. The video was much better, too.

Here We Go Again.

A couple of weeks ago I received a summons for jury duty in the mail. “Check the website after 3:30 PM the day before to see if your number comes up!”

Today is the day, my group number came up, and I am not pleased.

First of all, the letter’s composition, design, and general aesthetic makes me feel like I’ve done something wrong. I haven’t done anything wrong and I’m certainly not ready to be herded through some public building with a bunch of people I don’t know at the tail end of a worldwide pandemic. Especially in these uncertain times where people like blowing up public buildings and the like.

Second of all, with all the crap going on in the world, I really don’t want to hear a bunch of bloviating from lawyers as to why person X is guilty or not guilty. I don’t need any more bad news, I certainly don’t need to hear about something criminal, and I’m really doing my best to be a good member of society by not getting involved with the law. Why are you dragging me in?

I know, the American court system is amazing because of juries of my peers that can dole out of a fair sentence and I should feel honored to do my civic duty. Blah blah blah.

Honestly, I’d rather be drafted. At least then I’d get to shoot at something.

Roadrunner.

A roadrunner stopped by for a bit to make sure I was working on a Monday morning. Once I snapped his photo he beep beeped out of here and went on to his next destination.

Move For Me.

I’ve shared this song before. It’s still one of my favorites from my club days and I find the video somewhat entrancing. Sometimes simple is better.

From 2009, here’s “Move for Me” by Kaskade and Deadmau5 featuring Haley.

Caturday.

It’s a quiet Caturday in the desert. Truman is chilling out on his family room catch tree for the first time in a long while. He’s looking quite adorable.

Rated.

I’ve mentioned before that I am a third generation private pilot. Both Grandpa Country and my Dad were private pilots, and I can vividly remember my first flight with the both of them. It was at a very young age, I sat in the backseat of a Cessna 172 while Grandpa was in the left seat and Dad was in the right seat. He had not began his private pilot lessons yet. I always remember this all occurring at age four. I was wearing a checkered patterned shirt and I remember getting sick during the flight, the only time I’ve ever gotten sick in an airplane. Dad and Grandpa cleaned up the airplane but brought me home to Mom and Grandma Country to be cleaned up. Aside from the vomit, I remember enjoying that flight. I flew with my Grandfather a couple of times since then, but did most of my flying with Dad after he got his Private Pilot’s certificate. After they both passed it was up to me to get my certificate to fly if I wanted to keep on flying, which I did.

Today I earned my Instrument Rating as a private pilot. This is one step beyond the basic Private Pilot’s Certificate, and I have proven my skills at successfully planning, flying, and navigating through IMC, or Instrument Meteorological Conditions. I can fly in the clouds now. I started training for this rating when we lived in Upstate New York but didn’t get to finish it before we moved to Chicago. General Aviation in Chicago proved to be a bigger hit on the budget than original anticipated, so it wasn’t until we moved to Tucson that I was able to resume this training. There’s three parts to the certification: a written exam (I passed in June), an oral discussion/exam, and a proficiency checkride. The latter two happen on the same day unless something happens with the weather during the oral discussion and then you can defer the flight to another date, but otherwise you do both on the same day. I took the day off from work.

I’ve been studying like crazy for the past several weeks, and on Wednesday I flew with a different instructor to make sure I was ready for what today’s adventure would entail. I walked away from the flight on Wednesday feeling good about things. I contacted the FAA Designated Examiner on Thursday and he had me plan a flight from Tucson to El Paso, Texas, which would be the basis of our discussion. As I was finishing up my flight plan last night, I noticed a NOTAM, or a Notice To AirMen (actually now Notice To Air Mission) that the main runway and the instrument landing system at my home airport would be closed. All of the approaches I had practiced for the checkride were no longer available.

When meeting with the examiner, he suggested we try approaches at nearby Tucson Airport. I’d never flown these approaches before, my instructor had a look of surprise on his face, especially when I said, “OK, let’s go ahead and do that instead”. It took a few moments of discussion with the examiner to build the scenario and then he said something to me that struck a chord, “you’re not going to be flying the same approaches every flight”. So instead of using muscle memory and acquired skills through repetition, I’d be flying like an airline pilot onto the main runways. Tucson Air Traffic Control normally doesn’t allow general aviation pilots to practice approaches to the main runway, but I told them I was on my FAA Checkride and they sequenced me in between Boeing 737s and Airbuses as I made my way down the approaches to minimums. Overall the flight went very well, I received my “satisfactory” blessing from the FAA Designated Pilot Examiner (who was very, very pleasant to fly with) and I am now an Instrument Rated pilot.

I am going to continue my aviation training and career and will be starting my Commercial Rating training in a couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to the challenges, and I have a feeling the two previous pilots in the family are smiling down as I progress through this adventure.