Archive for August, 2013

Jury Duty

By
August 23rd, 2013



I recently completed a jury duty assignment, and the mention of it generated enough interest that I thought I'd write about it here.

I had always been curious what jurors go through. I covered court stories a fair amount over the course of my news career, and had wondered what the full courtroom experience was like.

What do the jurors see? What did it feel like to go from start to finish? What does the deliberation room look like? How difficult is it to come to a unanimous decision? What does it feel like to be the decider of someone's fate?

Now I know. It was an experience I was grateful for, and while it was frustrating at times, boring at others, the overall takeaway was enlightenment and education.

As you probably know, after you get your Summons in the mail, you show up at 8:15 in the morning for the orientation and selection process. This required a lot of us to get up earlier than usual to make sure we were downtown in time, because the court issues a bench warrant for your arrest if you skip.

It affected our family's daily schedule because Claus had to take Olivia to school, and when I came home from court, I was so mentally zapped I was too tired to make dinner.

First, a huge group of us were ushered into a big room and given directions by a court clerk as to what to expect, how the selection goes, how we would be reimbursed for mileage, and that we'd be paid $30 a day for our service.

After watching a 15 minute video and listening to directions from the clerk, we were then moved to another floor where we waited outside a courtroom for an hour.

The court hears all kinds of cases every day, and jury selections/ trials fit into that schedule. You just wait till they're ready for you.

At about 10 am we were taken into the courtroom and seated in the gallery. After more directions from the judge, a clerk rolled a big wheel with our names in it, and randomly picked 12. I was the 5th name called.

We were directed to a seat in the jury box. After 12 people were picked, the attorneys started to question us to see if they thought we had qualities that would make us a good juror for their trial.

They asked a bunch of seemingly random questions that I realized only tied together in the end during closing arguments. First the deputy prosecutor would go, then the public defender. When questioning the group of us, it lasted about 15 minutes each.

They were allowed to dismiss jurors a handful of times, and each time a new name was picked, they'd go over a shortened list of questions just aimed at that new person, for a couple minutes each. In all, I think they dismissed/replaced five jurors.

This whole thing took about an hour. After we had the 12 jurors, two randomly selected alternates were picked.

Then, we got an hour for lunch, and returned to start the trial. I can't talk about the trial. Before each and every recess the judge would remind us of that.

The trial lasted two days. One surprise to me was the kind of case I was hearing. In a way, I'm very familiar with court stories, but my exposure was to high-profile cases which held broader significance and public interest than the run-of-the-mill argument we heard, the likes of which remind me of Judge Judy.

I'm not going to lie. There were times when I was getting real sleepy. I did not fall asleep but I did wonder about the repetitiveness of the questions. The other jurors admitted same.

I noticed the bailiff looking over at the jury box every ten minutes. He told me it was to make sure we weren't sleeping.

After a bunch of witnesses and then closing arguments, the judge let us go for lunch again. When we returned, there was a very thick document on our seats.

The judge said it was the directions on how to deliberate this case, and then he actually read all 26 pages aloud to make sure we went through it. Legalese! Gotta love it!

He dismissed the two alternates but took their telephone number in case one of the primary jurors didn't make it through deliberations. (We all did.)

Then, we were taken into a Deliberation Room and told to act as one body. One person has to go to the bathroom, all have to take a break.

Honestly, the worst thing about jury duty was being hostage to someone else's schedule - driving in so super early, eating when they say eat, bathroom breaks when they say you can go.

The second worst thing was that in my job, nobody answers the emails if I don't get to it. So over three days, the emails just piled up.

The third worst thing about this was having to form the same opinion with 11 other people. It was very difficult to come to an agreement. We talked, talked, and talked some more.

It was very interesting to see how people's personalities come out in such a short but intense time together. One guy was very conciliatory and wanted to bridge the gap from all sides.

One guy was staunchly rooted in his position and then got impatient after many hours in which the group wouldn't move to his point of view. He would keep talking about giving up and calling it deadlocked, though most of us kept saying it was too early in the process and to let democracy work.

No matter what our feelings about the case, we all felt it important to give our full attention and consideration to the case because we realize people's lives are affected by our decision. Not something to take lightly.

The chatty ones would talk a lot. A few were quiet and hardly said a word. I was elected Jury Foreman. Nobody wanted to do it so I said I would, and then a few people admitted they were going to volunteer me if I didn't volunteer myself. Ha ha, thanks!

As the jury foreperson I had to guide the group to try to come to a conclusion. I tried many techniques. It was not easy. The people were all very nice, but it's so hard to get 12 people to see it all the same way.

If we had questions, I, acting as the spokesperson, would write it down on an official document, call for the bailiff, wait for him to be able to leave court, give him the folder with the questions, and then wait about 30 minutes for him to let the attorneys and judge answer the questions. He'd bring it back, I'd read the answer out loud.

Deliberations went into a second day, so we all brought food, because we were told we'd be trapped in the room from 8:30 a.m. - noon with only bathroom breaks. The court provided coffee and water, but no food.

I brought a vase with my beloved herbs to brighten the room. Several others brought food. We were a good group. People were really friendly with each other. They started joking a lot that we've spent so much time together we're a family now.

It was heartening to feel that every person in the room tried their hardest to give a just verdict - not just give in to the group because they want to go home sooner than later.

When we came to the end of the deliberations I had to call for the bailiff, give him the written decision concealed in a manila folder, and wait another 30 minutes for him to contact the attorneys.

When he did that, he returned and told us to get ready to return to court to provide an official answer on record. We waited another half hour until the court was freed up for this.

We all went into the courtroom. The lawyers, defendant, and judge were present. The judge asked the foreperson to stand. I stood.

He read our decision out loud and asked me to confirm it. I did. He then thanked us for our civic duty and dismissed us. We went back to the Deliberation Room for our purses and reimbursement forms.

He did say if we wanted to talk to him or the lawyers we could, so most of us waited in that room. We had a bunch of questions about the process, which he patiently answered.

Then, we went out into the hall, where the lawyers were. A smaller group of us did that, providing feedback to help new attorneys improve their questioning skills.

All in all, a really great experience that fulfilled all of my curiosity. I enjoyed it, and I was definitely ready to be done with it after three days. I will serve again without complaint, if my name's called - but would be fine if I don't have to return again ever!

Cockroach season?

By
August 21st, 2013



The humid, hot summer we've had has really exploded the cockroach population, in my humble observation. In particular, the big flying American cockroaches that we love to refer to as B-52's seem to be everywhere.

In the past week I've seen one a day. It is so disturbing.

Here is one of my first encounters, which I posted on Facebook to much sympathy:

OMG A HUGE COCKROACH JUST CRAWLED UP MY SHIRT I AM STILL FREAKING OUT EVEN THOUGH I SCREAMED SO LOUD IT WOKE UP MY FISH AND MY SICK HUSBAND WHO CAME UP TO KILL IT. SO GROSSED OUT. I AM WRITING IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE I'M YELLING THIS IN ADRENALINE FEAR.

I was sitting at the kitchen counter with a loose t shirt on that must have billowed out a little on my back. I felt this tickling feeling on my leg and brushed it off thinking it was thread, and then 5 seconds later a tickling feeling on my lower back which I absent mindedly scratched and then the tickling feeling went higher up my body.

Then I realized it was an insect so I screamed and danced off the chair and brushed at my back. And I looked down at the floor HOPING it was a gecko which I think are cute, and it was the most horrific insect I can think of, the big cockroach.

I feel so VIOLATED.

It was only 9:20 at night! It's not like the house was silent and shut down for the evening!

However, just about every night since, I've seen one in the house, in places I normally don't.

One night I got up to use the master bathroom at midnight, and when I went to dry my hands on the towel, there was a big, juicy, young roach staring at me. You know how the ones in their prime are fat and glossy, and when they're about to die they're flat and dull? Yes, I could see every firm and shiny hair on its legs.

I screamed. It woke up Claus. He came to kill it. We both missed.

It ran into the bedroom. We lost it behind the dresser. I slept elsewhere that night.

Another night I went into the garage to do laundry. It was only 8 pm. I knew that there would be a roach waiting since it was dark. I was right.

I flung a magazine at it hoping to literacy it to death. I missed. I suck terribly at swatting big bugs.

I do not know why but I'm irrationally afraid to come into even indirect contact. The magazine is an extension of my arm. It's also closer than I wish to be to it, even if I realize none of this is logical.

I end up messing myself up even worse if I don't kill it because it lives to torment me another night. I've got to get over this inability of big roaches.

Now I'm very jumpy at home because every little dark blob or tickle could be a bug.

Are you noticing more roaches this summer and do you have a suggestion to get over this cockroach phobia?

PS, I might as well be this guy:

[youtube Tsamn_jZ5E8&feature=youtu.be]

Decorated dog

By
August 19th, 2013



Inca is ready for Halloween. I recently came across a pet-oriented, non-toxic paint called (online only at www.petpaint.com) and decided to test it out on the dog. PetPaint is a dog-safe, veterinary tested hair spray for animals.

Inca

Inca

The PetPaint cans and stencils are sold individually. As of this writing, PetPaint cans are sold for $9.99, and stencil packs are sold for $4.99. I got a stencil kit because I'm artistically challenged, and two paints: red, with the intention of making our dog into a ladybug, and black, because my friend Jen has white dogs and might like to make them into cows or zebras.

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"Wow, just what any dog wants," sarcastically teased Claus upon hearing my grand plans.

Olivia was immediately excited, and nagged me every day to decorate Inca until I agreed to do a dry run one weekend.

It's very child-friendly, as Olivia was easily able to poke out the perforated stencils and separate the six sheets.

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Then, we went outside and, holding a reluctant Inca by a leash, sprayed her. It does take two, because one person has to hold the dog still and one has to hold the stencil down to the fur, and spray.

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Inca was less than excited but she cooperated. Such is the pleasant nature of a Labrador, which is why I'm such a devotee of that breed.

In just ten minutes she was all made over, including the canine tramp stamp above the base of her tail! Note the look of pleasure on her face!

It washes out with shampoo, and here's a tip if you're using it on a black or brown dog: prime the area with white first before spraying the intended color. It will show up better against dark fur.

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Next time, I'll actually have a comprehensive design plan. This time, we were just testing all the shapes out.

Inca can't wait for the real deal!

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Bus Routes Restored for Hawaii Students

By
August 14th, 2013



Public schools have been in session for a week now, and instead of walking more than 1-1/2 miles to school, Nicholas and Hayden Rice ride in the comfort of a school bus to Webling Elementary School in Aiea.

Anne Rice, the mother of the two children, sent her children off to school this year with a wave. Last year, she would walk 7-year-old Nicholas and 5-year-old Hayden to and from the school.

“We celebrate the restoration of these much-needed buses for some of these students,” said Hawaii State Rep. K. Mark Takai (D-Aiea). “I will continue to work to restore the other bus routes cut last year.”

For nearly 200 students in Aiea, this school year began with a ride aboard a school bus. Unlike the start of last school year, when students living in Aiea Height and Halawa Heights either needed to find another ride or walk to school.

“I applaud Mark Takai for tirelessly working to restore the bus route for Webling Elementary and the other schools in Aiea and Pearl City area. He has actively addressed the concerns of parents regarding the safety of our children walking along very dangerous routes to and from school,” Rice said.

“Students cannot learn without being in school and some of these students will not go to school without bus service,” Takai added.

Last year, Takai successfully urged the Hawaii Board of Education (BOE) to use $8 million in Impact Aid to restore bus service for public school students.

“The DOE reduced the cuts from 20,000 students to 2,380 students," said Takai, who called the final plans for last year “still totally unacceptable.”

The Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE) is rolling out the first phase of its “Get on Board” initiative, a multi-year, multi-faceted commitment to reform its public school student bus transportation system.

The initiative kicks off on the first day of school, Monday, August 5, and will serve as many as 1,000 students at 30 schools who use buses in the Aiea, Moanalua, Pearl City, Radford and Waipahu High complex areas.

“I applaud the new DOE Get on Board initiative. The DOE has listened to the concerns of cost and developed a system that is both responsive to the needs of our students, while tailored to efficiencies and cost containment,” Takai said.

“We are hoping the Department of Education's Get on Board initiative restores SAFE school bus service for all the children of Hawaii whose bus service was eliminated last year,” Rice added.

The first phase will reflect routes from last year and includes route restoration to Aiea Heights, Halawa Heights and Waikele Elementary School attendance areas.

One of the more significant features of the Get on Board initiative is the use of a technology solution that includes routing software, GPS tracking on the buses, and an updated and contemporary contracting and procurement process. The DOE is planning to implement Get on Board at all Oahu schools by 2014-2015, and then statewide the following school year.

Wax in, wax off

By
August 7th, 2013



This is a story about how I accidentally drank a candle. A part of candle, actually.

One weekend, I did a kid's craft project with Olivia, making scented candles. Some wax spilled out during the melting process and clung to the sides of the pot. I did not wash the pot very well.

The next time I went to use the pot, it was a weekday morning, which means a scramble to get everyone out of the house on time. I boiled water for tea and poured it into the mug.

I hadn't noticed the melted wax because it was clear, and the water was moving so I couldn't notice a waxy sheen on the surface.

I didn't notice the perfumey scent of the candle (pikake) because it was very light initially, and plus, pikake is a popular tea, so it smelled... like tea.

Yes, I was drinking green tea, but I was on auto-pilot and thought maybe it was some new flavor infusion from this new brand I'm trying. That's what I drink the tea for- the light caffeine jolt. Hence my brain wasn't fully firing on all cylinders.

I drink the tea a few sips at a time, put it down, and then rush around to complete another task like packing Olivia's lunch. I do not get to sit and savor my breakfast. Ha! What would that be like??

By the time I was on the last few sips, two things happened. The water cooled and had formed little white specks of wax across the sides of the cup. Two, the aroma really intensified (probably because it was steeping) and it then really smelled harsh and not like any tea I'd drank.

I finally stopped to look at the cup and wonder what the heck is going on. Then I realized what had happened. That's what I get for not paying attention.

Not the best breakfast side that I've ever had, but I figured wax is generally edible and in such a small amount, how bad could it be?

Shortly thereafter in the car, I felt the tiniest bit nauseous. That lasted for about 10 minutes. I can only think it might be from the chemical additive used to make the pikake scent? Or, could be just a coincidence unrelated to eating candle.

I made the mistake of telling this to my husband in the day, giving him ample time to make up puns to lob at me all evening. His little gems:

Did you have a light breakfast?

Did you drink a tea or tealight?

Are you burning the candle at both ends?

I light up when I see you.

Does your hotel's occupancy wax and wane?

I suffered his teasing all night, though this one was my favorite:

You are the light of my life.

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