Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sweet Charity

Tonight I went with my sister Amy to go see the musical Sweet Charity starring Molly Ringwald at the Paramount. I had no real expectations going into this musical, but figured if it was a touring production at the Paramount, it's bound to be good.

Boy was I wrong.

If there was a genre of "classical musicals" this would firmly fit in. In fact, the original musical opened on Broadway in 1966. I usually enjoy the classic musicals, just as I enjoy most of the more contemporary musicals. It includes several classic tunes such as "Hey, Big Spender" and "If They Could See Me Now", but even the music couldn't save this show. It's hard for me to dedicate even much time reminiscing of this musical, other than to express my extreme disappointment.

My first warning should have been that the theatre was probably 1/2 to 2/3 empty. The 3rd mezzanine was almost completely empty, and probably most of the people in the theatre were actually season ticket holders who had nothing better to do. I have never been to such an empty performance at the Paramount.

The show was plagued with 15-minute long song and dance numbers (which shouldn't be surprising considering the original production was choreographed by Bob Fosse). I nearly fell asleep a couple of times, which is very atypical for me as well.

At intermission I considered it a 2-star performance on my rating scale... I should have left at intermission, the second act was only worse... overall it rates as a lonely 1-star out of 5. I would not recommend it, nor voluntarily go see it again.

On a related rant, some would argue that there should not be courtesy applause after a poor performance. I actually believe that courtesy applause is only customary at the conclusion of a show. Good or bad, the actors who performed are doing a service and should be applauded for their performance. HOWEVER... there is NO such thing as a courtesy standing ovation. If the conclusion of the show doesn't make you want to spring to your feet and cheer, then don't. There are some people who rise to their feet with a standing ovation at the conclusion of nearly every performance, especially the bad ones. Tonight's show was no exception... though more annoying is the fact that most of those people seem to always sit in the 1st row. As a result, you have several other involuntary standing ovations:

1) standing because the person in front of you is standing and you can't see if you don't stand too.
2) standing because other people are standing, and if they're standing it probably means you should too.
3) standing because you're trying to get out as fast as you can

I REFUSE! It cheapens the impact of a standing ovation when it is overused. If you aren't compelled by the performance to leap to your feet, THEN DON'T! DO NOT BE TEMPTED!

Tonight was the perfect demonstration. At the conclusion of the show, a mild courtesy applause arose for the cast taking their bows, and of course, 4 people sitting in the row immediately in front of me stand in ovation. I refuse, but in a strange change of scenery, I glance to the sides and behind me, and most everyone else is refusing to stand as well. The result was basically everyone who was standing looked like idiots-- either idiots for standing at the end of a performance that obviously did not merit it, or idiots for believing that the performance actually did merit it.


Tra-cation Part 2

OK, nearly a week later and I need to finish my last saga... which will be short and to the point, I hope. :) Oh, by the way, pictures are online. Click the album link on the right side. -->

The conference I went to was actually far better than I expected. On Tuesday was an all-day tutorial on model-based testing. It was fascinating and actually very entertaining. My only complaint turned out to be a common trend among the entire week: the meeting rooms were a frigid 60 degrees most of the time. I must say, it's rare that I'm looking forward to the breaks so I can go outside and warm up in the sunshine. Regardless, after the day was over, I high-tailed it back to the room, to dump stuff off and headed to the park. Why not, eh?! Spent a fine couple of hours in the undercrowded park and then meandered back to the room for the evening. Slept much better the second night than the first... maybe I was more tired, or maybe it just wasn't a strange new place anymore.

Wednesday began the actual conference, which was basically a whole lot of 1-hour track sessions of which we usually had about 5 different sessions to choose from in any time slot. Various keynote sessions for the entire conference were at the beginning and end of the days, which usually ran from about 8:30am to 5:00pm. This proceeded most of Wednesday, Thursday and until Friday at noon. Some sessions were good, some were less good, some were worse.

That was the conference, or at least enough of it to care. On Friday I packed up and spent the afternoon and evening at the park, until I headed up to the airport to pick up Jonell who came down to spend the weekend with Heather. We went over to Heather's and spent the weekend hanging out with her. It was fun, we did a lot of driving around the LA area, getting lost and seeing where we ended up. Most of the time I didn't have my camera with me though, so no big picture festivity. But on Sunday we went to the Getty Museum in LA, which happens to be about 10 minutes from Heather's place. It was an amazing museum of lots of random artistic stuff. Pictures provided. Want to know more:

Sunday evening provided the setting for the celebrity sighting of the trip... we were at a burger place in Encino, and had just finished out dinner when who walks in to the restaurant? None other than American Idol celebrity judge Randy Jackson, along with his wife and son (we presume). And that's the best celebrity sighting I could come up with.

Sunday night came home, the plane touched down at midnight on Monday morning... and I came home and slept and did laundry to celebrate my birthday. Wahoo?

That's the story I've got for now. I'm sure there were things I was going to mention but forgot to... but oh well. You probably didn't care anyway. :)

Thursday, October 19, 2006


I've been spending this week down in the Happiest Place on Earth for work, which is oh so hard work if I do say. :) I have dubbed it "tra-cation" which is training + vacation. I've been attending the STARWEST Conference (which if you're curious, stands for Software Testing Analysis & Review... the West part is simply because this one's in Anaheim every fall, and there's a STAREAST in Orlando every spring). I've been here since Monday, but due to my own busy-/lazy-ness, I haven't blogged the stories yet. So I'll begin from Monday and write until I get tired, then continue when I feel like saying more. :)

So on Monday I headed to the airport to go to Ontario (the city in California, not the province in Canada, duh), and everything went pretty smoothly. It's been my first trip through the airport since the latest security changes regarding liquids and gels, and as a result I checked most everything (toothpaste, etc.) that I would normally keep with me in my carry on. Except I forgot to check some chapstick that I keep in my pocket. Well, here's a useful fact: the TSA couldn't care less about chapstick. I took it out and showed it to the TSA agent and he gave me the "whatever, don't worry about it" look. Nice to see things aren't totally ridiculous. Of course, our pilot for our plane is one of those essential things you "don't want to leave without"... and ours was late because he was stuck on a ferry. Only in Seattle will your pilot be late to the airport because a ferry was delayed.

After that thing were rather uneventful until we made it to Ontario. After making it to the airport and waiting for a surprisingly long time to get my luggage, I went to get my rental car. I ended up with a maroon Mazda 3 hatchback, which I must say I am thoroughly unimpressed with. Of course, as a rental car I don't mind too much, considering it was only $170 for the week. Then I navigated the LA freeway system to make it to the Disneyland Hotel. All I can say is thank goodness for GPS navigation devices. I brought mine and it was the best thing I ever could bring.

At around 5:30pm I finally made it to the hotel and checked in. Now, this is the first time I have ever stayed in the Disneyland Hotel, for one main reason... I'm cheap. But since the company is paying for it and this is where the convention is, it was a nice deal. Without even requesting it, I got a room on the 8th floor of the Sierra Tower (one of three towers), right across from the elevators, on the side of the building that faces towards Downtown Disney. I couldn't have requested a better room. The windows open up to a mini-balcony from which I could look down at the ESPN Zone and the Rainforest Cafe, among other things, and see the Matterhorn and Splash Mountain in the distance at Disneyland. I recommend to anyone who ever has the opportunity to stay in the Disneyland Hotel to request the Sierra tower facing that direction, unless you have a problem with noise.. because Downtown Disney stays hopping until late into the morning and even with the sliding glass doors to the balcony closed, it's still somewhat noisy. I didn't mind it.

After I hauled all my stuff in, I left and walked through to the other side of Downtown Disney where the parks are. Knowing that I'm going to come back down to California for a wedding in February, I bought an annual pass (which was an excellent choice, especially considering this week has been a lot of evenings where I'd head over to the parks for a few hours here and there). In yet another in the series of firsts, I went to Disneyland by myself. I've actually heard mixed reviews of this, some people claiming it's nice because you only have to please one person--yourself. Others have said that it's not as fun when you don't have others there to share it with. I'd have to put my opinion somewhere in the middle. There are definite advantages to going around the park by yourself. Certainly just the fact that I tend to move pretty quickly around when there's somewhere I want to get to, and not having to slow down for people I'm with who, shall we say, are not so fast, is a nice thing. Also, I do what I want to do, and don't have to worry about what anyone else wants to do... this isn't such a huge deal though because at Disneyland I pretty much will go on any ride and am pretty easy going in that regard. Perhaps one of the nicest things--which I have fully taken advantage of--is the relatively recent invention of the "Single Rider Line". This really only applies to a few rides around, most notably Splash Mountain, but the concept is simple. Some rides have very odd seating configurations, in the case of Splash Mountain 6 people to a log. Disney has two very simple rules that they live by when placing people in ride vehicles: 1) Never split up a group, unless they are larger than a single ride vehicle. 2) Never combine separate groups in close quarters unless they have their own seat. OK, so the 2nd one is hard to put into decent words, but I'll demonstrate by example. On Space Mountain, the ride vehicles are 6 rows of 2 across. Now if there is a group of 3 and single rider, they will put the group of 3 in two rows (2 and 1) and put the single rider in a third row (1 only). They won't mix strangers up and put the single rider in with the extra from the group of 3. Space Mountain does not have a single-rider line because they rarely have a use for needing someone to fill out a car. Splash Mountain's logs of 6 individual seats are different though. Disney will happily put people in their own seats, so if a group of 5 comes along, the only way they can fill out the log is if they have a single rider, or else they'll leave the seat empty. Same thing with a group of 3 and a group of 2, or occasionally if they have several large groups at once (say, two groups of 4, but no groups of 2 around). OK, so the logic of this may not fascinate others as much as it fascinates me, but suffice it to say, there's plenty of use for single-riders on Splash Mountain. As a result, single riders can actually go in the exit and get in a special line (which by my experience, never had anyone in it), and get on the ride usually within about a minute, even if the regular line for the ride is 30 minutes or more long. It's a wonderful thing! (A side note: groups could use the single-rider line too, if they don't mind being split up all over the place.) So yes, after digressing about the advantages of going to Disneyland by yourself, I now will advocate for the other side. Going to Disneyland with other people is just plain more fun. There's something about wandering around with people you know and just having fun with friends that going by yourself can't beat. So in summary, going by yourself is fine if you have to, but I wouldn't plan to do so just voluntarily (though I may end up doing so in February if I can't find anyone else around who wants to go. HA!).

More details about the conference itself will be coming next, but it's currently 11:30pm on Thursday and I need to sleep. Pictures are also coming once I get to an actually fast internet connection. :) Until then....

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Beyond a reasonable doubt

Well, as you may or may not have inferred from my abrupt lack of blogging, shortly after my previous blog I was summoned for a jury panel. The following will be a not-so-brief recap of my jury experience.

15 names were called, including my own. We followed the bailiff down to the courtroom where we were led in in order, I was juror #9. We were introduced to the judge, the prosecutor, and the defense attorney, then Voir Dire began. They needed to turn these 15 potential jurors into 6 that would be on the trial. The judge rattled off her series of simple, obviously well-recycled questions regarding if any jurors knew anyone in the courtroom, had any problems being on a jury, had ever served on a jury before, etc. Nothing too alarming there. Then the prosecutor began with his questions, which took a swift turn towards any jurors who were involved or had a close family member involved in domestic violence. Suddenly we knew where this case was headed... or so we thought. I tended not to have much of a reason to raise my hand for any of the questions, until the question came "who enjoys lawyer shows on TV?" Well now we're talking, several of us raised our hands, to which I was questioned
"Mr. Roberts, what's your favorite lawyer show?"
"I enjoy the original Law and Order."
"Why do you like it?"
I didn't have a really good answer for this, but said "I like it for the characters".

The questions moved on to other people, but several additional times, questions came back to me about Law and Order.

"Mr. Roberts, do you think Law and Order is an accurate portrayal?"
"Haha, absolutely not, I think it's highly exaggerated."
"How so?"
"I don't think there can possibly be that much drama in the real world."
"So you won't be dissapointed if during my closing arguments there's no thrilling music?"
"No, I don't think so."

The prosecutor looked like a nice guy, though from the way he was stumbling through things, I think he knew what he was doing, but couldn't have been with the city prosecutors office for a terribly long time. Then, however, we moved on to the defense attorney.

Now I have to admit, looking at this guy, he looked like a cross between a used-car salesman and Donald Trump. I thought to myself this guy looks like a slimy, sleazy defense attorney like you see on TV. Of course, this was all on first impression -- I later came to find out that my first impression was 100% on the button.

Despite this impression, it took me just a few moments to realize--after noticing that after receiving the list of potential juror names probably just 10 minutes prior he had already memorized the names of all 15 jurors and would proceed to call each of us by name--that he was astoundingly good at what he did, and that the prosecutor was sorely outmatched. The defender asked his barrage of questions to the juror panel, but it quickly became apparent that he was really targetting the women on the panel trying to determine exactly which ones would be sympathetic to the victim and thus he wanted to dismiss from the jury. You really do notice by the pattern of questions the attorneys ask what they are looking for (both in jurors they want, and in jurors they don't want). I guess that's the point, but I never realized it would be so obvious.

After the questioning was over, the judge asked for challenges for cause, of which there were none. Then the attorneys sidebarred with the judge to request their peremptory challenges, where they can eliminate any jurors they wish for no reason whatsoever. Now, the first 6 jurors would carryover to the trial, and I was juror #9. So presuming I was not eliminated, if any 3 jurors above me were eliminated I would be on the jury. Seeing the preponderance of women at the top and the line of questioning, I was fairly certain I would be bumped up, unless I said something one of the attorneys didn't like. Sure enough, the judge listed off the 6 jurors who would be on the case, jurors 1, 2, 5, 8, 9, 10.

Without much ado, the other jurors returned to the pool, and the 6 of us took our seats in the jury box and the case began. This was the first we would hear the actual details of what this case was all about... the bizarreness of which we never would have expected.

The finer details of the case I will spare you, mainly because they are vastly irrelevant. But in summary, this crime was "violation of a no-contact order". The scene of the crime: the very courtroom where we were sitting, 4 months earlier. Apparently the defendant was in court for a similar violation brought on by his ex-wife. Immediately following the judges determination of "not guilty", he allegedly turned around toward his ex-wife sitting in the gallery and mouthed some not-so-nice words to her. If true, this would be a violation of the no-contact order between he and his ex-wife, which indeed was the question we were asked to consider.

Witnesses came forth, the prosecution attempted to prove a case based around inconsistent witness accounts, and just a lack of anything that could substantially prove the charge. Throughout the defense really didn't add much information in defense, but obfuscation was the order of the day. In later discussions with my fellow jurors, none of us really were swayed by this mess of confusion the defense was trying to cause, but I think it made him feel like he was doing something right.

Ultimately, after hearing the evidence and the arguments by the attorneys, we proceeded to deliberation. As much as I made it sound like there was no evidence, it wasn't quite as cut and dry as that. I think all 6 of us were doubtful who to believe, but I know as for myself, I came to the conclusion that I was pretty sure the defendant did what he was accused of... but there was definite doubt in my mind, enough so I couldn't reasonably consider him guilty of said crime. The one thing that was for certain to me was that this case was a collossal waste of the court's time, that probably never should have gone to trial. It wasn't a blatant disregard for the no-contact order, even if he did do what he was accused of... though the law may have dictated otherwise.

Regardless, it was definitely an interesting experience. I actually enjoyed it, but quickly realized that it was far more work than actually being at work. That's probably the one thing I wasn't expecting. It didn't feel like a waste of my time--quite the opposite, in fact, all 6 of us on the jury left making similar comments: everyone should serve on a jury, it's a valuable experience. Too bad the system tends to pick the same people over and over.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Upholding the Constitution... again...

Yes, that's right, through the miracle of random selection, I have jury duty once again. It astounds me what the odds of such a thing happening to me just a year after the last time I did it, while other people seemingly never get selected... perhaps I'm just the lucky one.

In any event, this time I'm visiting the Seattle Municipal Court here in downtown Seattle. After my last jury service with King County down in Kent last year, I've been consistently claiming that jurors are treated like royalty because nobody wants to do it, and once they are here nobody wants to be here. Well in Seattle I must say it's no exception. I'm sitting here in the SMC Jury Assembly Room on the 12th floor (that's the top floor by the way, the jurors get the penthouse suite here) on 5th and Cherry. Huge floor to ceiling windows looking out South, West and North (not East, but really, who wants to look East from here anyway)-- some people would pay money to get a view this good. This building has to be one of the newer buildings around here, looking out the window I can see the much older King County jail and courthouse. We also have our own private outdoor terrace, and uh... well, we better enjoy it because for the next 3 days I'll be stuck here. :) Fortunately I have wireless internet access that does a splendid job of letting me pretend to be productive while away from work.

This morning has been so far uneventful... I haven't counted, nor are my powers of estimation very accurate, but I'd say there's probably 100 or so jurors serving this week. So far no jurors have been needed, so we're all still here waiting around. We can take a 15 minute break and leave whenever we want to... this building is right next to the Columbia Center (for those who aren't well versed, that would be the tallest building in Seattle, and the tallest building by number of floors [76] west of the Mississippi), so there should be plenty of interesting stuff around. Oops, I spoke too soon, they just called the first batch of 15... however I was not selected, so back to blogging. Lunch is from 12-1:30, I think I might take a walk down to Westlake Center (only 9 blocks or so), because the latch on my watch broke this morning and I need to get a new one. I know there's a Fossil store down there and hey, it's probably time to get a new watch anyway, I've only had this one for about 7 years or so.

I'm surprised they don't have a Starbucks stand in the jury room, that would be very Seattle of them. More updates later.