Fatalities caused by cattle:Also no surprise -- dairy bulls were the most dangerous, although in one case a cow killed a woman who entered a pasture to remove the body of a dead newborn calf.
During 2003--2007, deaths occurring in the production of crops and animals in the United States totaled 2,334; of these, 108 (5%) involved cattle as either the primary or secondary cause.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Blogging's an odd hobby -- it's both intensely personal and incredibly exhibitionistic (not to mention egoistic). A person is simultaneously venting, using the space for therapy, and playing to an audience. No doubt there are bloggers who maintain totally private blogs, no readers other than invited ones allowed, but the ones I'm most familiar with are all public. And there's nothing quite like playing to an audience to start shaping what and how a person writes.
Maybe you started off thinking, well, I'll just do this as a way for friends and family to keep up with what's happening with me and the S.O., or I'm going to just vent because I'm the only liberal in an office full of conservatives (or vice versa) . . . but then someone comments. And it's someone you don't know. Holy shit! Someone's actually reading what I wrote!! And the comment was complimentary!! I wonder what I can do to attract more readers. . . and so it goes. Sometimes you get lucky (I think I have) and end up being read by (and reading in turn) smart, funny people with similar interests or ideologies (the principle of homophily applies in cyberspace as much as it does in the meat world); sometimes you're cursed with trolls.
And sometimes it hits you that an activity you meant to do occasionally on the side as a hobby is suddenly taking up way too much of your time -- and you take a break. Because one other thing you eventually figure out is that you're being influenced by stuff you never thought you'd be influenced by -- and that's not always a happy thought.
Does that mean I'm taking a break? No. But that doesn't mean I never will.
(A better question might be "Is there anybody out there who has managed to watch The Wall without being stoned at the time?")
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
In April I started at the journal and discovered that, unlike my regular work group, there didn't seem to be any aversion to people teleworking. Three of the other copy editors telework. One's in Virginia, one's in Pennsylvania, and one's right here in Atlanta but works from home -- they never come near the office. This definitely contradicted what I'd been told was the official position: anyone who teleworks has to report to an actual office, too, on a regular basis, like one day a week or some equally ridiculous requirement. That come in occasionally b.s. had kind of negated the whole purpose of teleworking as far as I was concerned. I saw no point in maintaining two separate offices and having to schlep files back and forth between the two.
Then I attended a preretirement workshop, which prompted some deep thinking about the Before and After incomes. I know that once I retire our household income is going to drop to maybe 30% of what it is now. It'll be adequate for life on the tundra, but there's not going to be much slop in the budget.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Me vs the roaches. Boric acid. Soy oil. Roach traps. Raid in various forms. Roach bait. You name it, it's been (or still is) part of the arsenal.
Today the war continues. Deep, deep cleaning of the kitchen (for the umpteenth time) and another deployment of weapons of mass roach destruction under and behind the refrigerator and into every visible crevice.
Still, I fear that as long as we live in Georgia and have cats we'll also have roaches. The cats' water dish is for the roaches* what a waterhole on the Serengeti is for wildebeest. When I flip on the light switch late in the evening that's where the little scuttling bastards scatter from. I zap as many as I can with the soy oil, but in my mind I keep seeing the cockroach general in the Fabulously Furry Freak Brothers comics reacting to a loss of troops: "No problem. I've got a million more."
*Roaches can go a long, long time without food, but they die in 7 days without water. If roaches have a religion, they probably worship large furry gods who generously share an unending supply of both manna (aka Meow Mix) and water.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Item 1. Noted scholar Henry Louis Gates being treated like a criminal in his own home. Lots and lots of blathering on and on by (what a surprise) white people about how Gates should have behaved. You know, done a little shuck and jive and maybe a Bojangles soft shoe shuffle, just let the man in the uniform know that Gates recognized both their places in society, and all would have been well. Shades of "Yassuh, Massa, just let me fetch you a mint julep, maybe shine your boots, and we'll pretend none of that uppity stuff ever happened." Hey, I know there are a lot of good law enforcement officers out there, but I also know there are some power-tripping jerks in uniforms -- and it sounds like Professor Gates had a run-in with the latter. Would Gates have been treated the same way if he was a middle-aged white guy? I doubt it. Even moronic cops tend to recognize white guys living in a good neighborhood might have some influence with local politicians. And would the typical middle-aged white guy have meekly allowed himself to be treated like a criminal even after producing proof he was in his own house? I doubt that, too.
Still, I think I'd be disturbed in any case by the immediate assumption of so many people that if the police say or do something, it's automatically right. This isn't some third world banana republic. The last time I checked we still had the right in this country to question authority, and even to be obnoxious in the way we do so (especially when standing in our own kitchens). Any cop who hasn't mastered the art of placating angry citizens (i.e., defusing a situation) instead of bullying them into getting even more ticked off probably needs to look for a different line of work. But that's a subject for a separate post.
2. The birth certificate. When are the tinfoil hat types going to give it a rest? We get it. You're all annoyed that someone who, in your warped world, is the wrong color is now in the White House. You can't come right out (unless you're so far over the edge you're openly a Klan member) and admit that's why you're ticked off. Even hard-core bigots have learned that it doesn't pay to openly admit to being a bigot. You can't bitch about his qualifications -- the man is educated, erudite, and obviously a heck of a lot smarter than most of us. So you obsess about the birth certificate. Which, incidentally, has been produced multiple times, starting back during the campaign, which is yet another reason why every time this subject comes up the people obsessing about it look more and more like morons. The birthers have actually progressed to suggesting the birth announcements in the Hawaiian newspapers were faked, too (hard to do when back then birth announcements in newspapers came from either the hospital or the county clerk's office, not the parents or grandparents). As a commenter elsewhere noted, "What's next? Demanding the US Geological Survey produce official certificates that the earth is round?"
Oh well, there is a bright side to the lunacy: Lou Dobbs has climbed on to the bus to crazyville. Maybe that's going to get him a fast ticket over to Faux News, and I'll never have to hear his voice again. (I watch CNN because the S.O. is a Jack Cafferty fan, which means that every so often we're treated to Dobbs doing a promo for his show.)
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
I've been seeing advertising brochures for the Camp Five Logging Museum and Lumberjack Special train in Laona, Wisconsin, for years. Every summer for, I swear, the last 15 years we've talked about taking the grandson(s) there. This year we finally did it.
Camp Five is a logging museum operated by the The Camp Five Museum Foundation, Inc., and is located on the site of a Connor Lumber Company camp and farm. The only way to get to the museum is on the train, which runs from a site right next to U.S.8 on the outskirts of Laona to the camp. It doesn't take long -- the track is probably not much more than a mile in length, if that -- but there are a few curves, and the train moves slow enough that I imagine it does feel longer than it is to little kids. The coolest part, of course, is that it's powered by a steam locomotive (Vulcan Ironworks, 1916)(there was a time when I was enough of a foamer that I'd be able to rattle off the Whyte notation [2-6-2], too, without having to resort to looking at the photo. Not anymore.) so there's the classic "choo choo" noises -- and the occasional humongous plume of black coal smoke. When it's parked at the depot next to the highway the engineer encourages small fry to come pull the cord for the whistle.
Options for passengers include this open air rehabilitated Soo Line boxcar. The outside-braced box car was built in 1920 by Haskell-Barker (Michigan City, Indiana), sold to the Laona & Northern RR in 1955, and rehabilitated into an open car in 2007.
We opted for the padded seats in a regular passenger car. (I shouldn't say this, but as the S.O. ages he's looking more and more like an oversized garden gnome. It must be that Finnish nose.)
Once the train arrives at the "camp," there are a number of interesting exhibits. A diesel locomotive named after a former Conner Lumber Company employee:
A Holt logging tractor with a full sledge of logs.
A big wheel. (The grandson and the S.O. rode in the caboose back to the depot. The grandson said the view from the cupola was a good one. I'm old. I stuck with the padded seats in the passenger car.)
(Small digression: Big wheels suddenly appeared on the logging scene in the late 1860s, early 1870s. Never really thought about the timing, and then when we toured Fort Pulaski earlier this year and I saw the gun carriages. . . bingo. Civil War veterans taking an application they'd seen used to move artillery pieces and transferring the technology to the lumbering industry.)
So what was the grandson most interested in? The petting zoo.
Camp Five is one of those attractions that's perfect for a day trip with kids. Very low-key, the type of place where the adults can sit back and be amused by watching kids attempt to feed sheep who obviously have absolutely no interest in letting anything human near them. The goats, of course, were shameless beggars, total gluttons. Camp Five is still a working farm -- back when Connor Lumber had to worry about feeding hundreds of lumberjacks, Camp Five is where they raised the beef -- and they were making hay the day we were there. There was something incredibly soothing about watching the tractor circle the field, first to rake the windrows of hay and then to bale it.
I had a good time admiring the logging artifacts, the S.O. waxed nostalgic over the display of 1940s and 1950s man-killer chain saws (it's amazing enough sawyers survived using the early models to make it worth manufacturing more) -- apparently the first chain saw he remembers was some gigantic Lombard that to me looked like it could be used to fell redwoods (it had an engine that looked big enough to power a car and one of the longest bars I've ever seen), but he claims his father and brothers used one like it for making firewood. And Logan had fun with a few of the interactive displays, like one that demonstrates how a pulley allows a person to lift a heavy weight without much effort. He thought the blacksmith shop was neat, too. At 8 years old, he wasn't going to be critical about how crude the "horseshoes" were that the smith was creating; he was just fascinated by the process. (Available for sale for a mere $2 each; I asked if he wanted one, he said no.) Signage overall was good -- enough information to explain what you were looking at, but not such much it's overkill.
We also did the "Green Treasure Forest Tour," a leisurely drive through the woods. The forest around Camp Five has been intensively managed for over 100 years and selectively harvested at least 9 times but doesn't look it (at least not to the uninitiated eye, based on comments I heard from fellow tourists. Personally, I'd have taken the number of stumps visible as fairly strong evidence this woodlot was not a pristine wilderness tract). It was pretty with lots of big trees despite being second (third? fourth? fifth? sixth?) growth. The nice young man leading the tour kept throwing out factoids about how much timber the average American uses each year in the form of lumber, toilet paper, plastics, and various food products and reminding us it's got to come from somewhere. They also do a boat tour, a cruise along the river on a pontoon boat, but we decided not to do it. We'd spent enough time sitting already, and knew we'd be sitting again for several hours when we got back to the car. Next time we will.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Below: The Visitor Center. It's definitely a Mission 66 structure and has seen better days. It felt rather sad and tired. Park staff told me the park's current General Management Plan calls for construction of a new Visitor Center with groundbreaking set for FY2010.
I've also posted a few photos from Fort Donelson National Cemetery on I See Dead People.
Friday, July 17, 2009
As it was, the cell phone records (Metro PCS) convicted him because they contradicted his claim of having left the scene 6 hours prior to the murders happening. Atlanta is full of cell phone towers, but between 11:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. he made multiple calls, and they all hit the same tower, one located very close to the victims' home. Although we all recognized that the fact the tower site did not in itself prove he was in the house, it did make it clear he had lied about where he really was when the calls were made -- which was about ten miles away with a whole lot of other cell towers between him and the one his calls went to. Everyone knows that being right next to a cell tower doesn't guarantee that's the one your call is routed through -- but call after call after call passing through the same tower definitely suggested he'd been in the same general location all night. And if the friend whose house he claimed he was actually at had had lived four blocks away instead of those ten miles, the phone records wouldn't have meant a damn thing.
Some background: this was a double homicide, two women shot at approximately 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning a year ago. A neighbor heard the gunshots, and saw a man fleeing the house on foot, but that neighbor did not see the suspect clearly enough to make a visual identification from a photo lineup, nor did he recognize the suspect when he saw him in the courtroom. He did, however, say the man was carrying a gun as he ran. He called 911.
When the police arrived 7 minutes later they found the house totally empty of people except for the bodies of the victims, one in her bedroom and the other on a living room sofa. Within minutes of the police arriving, a friend of the victims showed up to accuse the estranged husband of one of the dead women of being the shooter. This was at approximately 5:30, 5:45 a.m. And, remember this was a double homicide.
When does DeKalb's finest decide to go looking for the prime suspect? Three hours later, around 9:30 a.m., they call his cell phone to ask him where he is. He gives them the address of the friend he's staying with. One hour later, around 10:30 a.m., they actually go to that apartment to talk to him. My fellow jury members didn't seem to have a problem with DeKalb's finest taking four fucking hours to get around to going after "a person of interest" who quite possibly was armed and dangerous. For sure I do. Calling up a possible murder suspect and giving him an hour's head start in which to flee? If this is acceptable policing in Georgia, it's yet another reason to look forward to seeing this state in the rearview mirror next year.
Anyway, when they did finally make contact and bring him to the police station, they park him in an interview room for 7 hours before they finally get around to doing a gun shot residue test kit, which, of course, was pretty much wasted effort by that point.
In short, at the time they arrested him for the murders they had no evidence: no murder weapon, no definitive identification (two of the kids later said they'd seen him fleeing the house, but they weren't interviewed until almost a full week later, and neither one saw him with a gun), nothing other than the suspect's own admission he had been at the house Saturday evening to watch movies with his estranged wife and his kids. It wasn't until the GSR tests came back negative from the GBI that they finally got around to getting a court order for phone records -- and by that time it was no doubt the prosecutor's office that had brains enough to go looking for them.
The trial itself was pretty much of a clusterfuck, too, on the state's part. Example: a duffel bag of odds and ends of men's clothing was introduced into evidence, but it seemed totally irrelevant. What did six pairs of men's boxer briefs have to do with anything? No clue. The detectives seized them when they searched the room where the defendant was staying at a friend's apartment (the defendant and his wife had been estranged and living separately for approximately 8 months prior to the murders; nonetheless, testimony by several witnesses indicated they had an amicable relationship and were seeing each other again and talking about a reconciliation) but it was a truly odd assortment of clothing, and none of it was ever tied in any way to the crime scene. So what was the point?
And then they introduced a witness for the prosecution who was quite obviously mentally challenged. The prosecution kept asking her about the statement she had given to the police and the way she seemed to be contradicting it in court. The assistant prosecutor (one of them) placed the statement in front of her and told her to read it to refresh her memory. The poor woman was staring and staring and looking like a frightened rabbit -- and then on cross examination it comes out that she's functionally illiterate. The detectives had asked her questions, written a statement for her, and asked her to sign it. She could not read cursive writing. If those of us in the jury box could spot in 30 seconds that this lady was retarded, quite possibly an adult with Down syndrome, how could the police be so fucking stupid as to question her without insisting on having someone there (e.g., a social worker) to make sure she truly understood what they were asking her and why? And how could they believe that anything she said was credible? Not to mention how could the prosecution be so stupid as to place her on the stand and then speak to her in polysyllables? It was bizarre. Not that it actually mattered much in the end -- but it could have.
And that's what really pisses me off. The police being lazy and sloppy meant that there were a lot of instances where something that could have helped the case if the investigation had been thorough resulted instead in making things murkier and more confusing -- and the DeKalb PD came really close to causing jury nullification because so many of us were so disgusted with their incompetence. If they had done their job right to begin with, the case might have been a slam dunk with a quick plea bargain. As it was, only the phone records saved them, and that was sheer luck. I think half the jury took the time to go up to the prosecutors after the trial (the judge encouraged us to do so if we had any suggestions to offer to the attorneys, both prosecution and defense) to complain about the DeKalb PD.
Bottom line: the defendant was found guilty of 2 counts of malice murder, 2 counts of felony murder, 2 counts of aggravated assault, and 1 count of child cruelty. (In Georgia commiting a felony in the presence of children is legally a form of child abuse.) This being Georgia, I'm going to assume he'll be a guest of the state for the rest of his life. Now I think I'm going to do some self-medication and try to unwind.
I do have some real strong philosophical problems with that bullshit of doing multiple charges all for the same crime -- it's a tool prosecutors came up with to help them plea bargain (i.e., we'll drop two if you plead to one) -- but that's a subject for another time.