Clearing O’ The Links

It’s Friday, lunchtime, before a holiday weekend. You know what that means… time to clear out the links….

  • Fashion Sense. A surprising number of articles on women’s fashion have caught my eye. If there is a general theme, it is on how women (so much more then men) are apparently obsessed with body image and how others perceive their bodies. The first, from the NY Times, has to deal with the start of bikini season, and how the bikini has morphed from simple beachware to a badge of fitness. It notes that, when originally introduced, the bikini wasn’t a scary garment: there was little need to prepare for waring one, and no one worried about a few extra pounds or visible hair. That changed, and now the obsession is on having the perfect bikini body. Interesting article—I recommend reading it. By the way, did you know that there are age limits for things like bikinis? According to Style magazine, 47 is the cutoff for a bikini, 61 for swimsuits altogether, and 35 for a miniskirt.

    Clothes can be a significant problem for women, especially women athletes. Two stories highlight this. Dunbar High School in Washington DC has switched to skorts for girl’s track meets; the girls find less modesty concerns than with the short skirts that were required previously, or with what was visible with the short short shorts. In the other direction, the professional badminton dress code is being called sexist, because it requires female athletes at the elite level to wear skirts and show leg. Now, much as I enjoy watching these sports (OK, you caught me, I really don’t watch sports, but when I do, these are more enjoyable to watch), I don’t think that any athlete should be required to wear sports outfits that either cause them embarrasment or impact their performance.

  • Understanding the Law. Two articles that caught my eye, both related to understanding the laws. The first has to do with light bulbs. The NY Times has a good article on what the light bulb legislation really says. Hint: It doesn’t make incandscents unavailable, nor does it mean you need to stockpile them. The law does not ban the use or manufacture of all incandescent bulbs, nor does it mandate the use of compact fluorescent ones. It simply requires that companies make some of their incandescent bulbs work a bit better, meeting a series of rolling deadlines between 2012 and 2014. Furthermore, all sorts of exemptions are written into the law, which means that all sorts of bulbs are getting a free pass and can keep their energy-guzzling ways indefinitely, including “specialty bulbs”, as well as three-way bulbs, silver-bottomed bulbs, chandelier bulbs, refrigerator bulbs, plant lights and many, many others.

    Another interesting article deals with the requirement for underinsured motorist coverage in California. Did you know that when you purchase $100K of insurance, you won’t get paid $100K? The law only requires payment of your limit less the coverage the other motorist has. This means if you have $100K in coverage and they have $50K, your coverage only need pay up to $50K additional, for a total of $100K. AB1063, currently in development and supported by consumer groups, would correct this problem… but it is opposed by the insurance industry, who appear to be winning in delaying it.

  • Airplanes. A few articles on airplanes. The first concerns Boeing (or is that Boing!) and their plans regarding the 737. Right now they are deciding whether to build an all-new airframe, probably based on the composite approach used for the 787, or to just reworking the existing 737 airframe, tweaking it with new energy efficient engines. They are attempting to battle the competition of the A320 (and A319) in the smaller single-aisle aircraft market. The 737 has certainly been a workhorse and money-maker for Boing!, beginning design in 1964 and having its first flight in 1967! It is currently the only single-aise aircraft in production at Boeing (the passenger version of the 707 ended production in 1978; the 717 (which is really a 3rd generation DC-9) in 2006; the 727 in 1984; and the 757 in 2004).

    The other articles all focus on an Airbus airframe, in particular, the A330 that served as Air France 447. The black boxes are starting to yield details, such as the fact the captain was absent when the descent began, that the pilots seemed confused by all the alarms, that they didn’t follow standard procedures and were having trouble with stalling and icing, and that they were never trained for this type of emergency. The information gleaned from black boxes so far has corroborated the original hypothesis that suggested that the plane plummeted to the ocean surface on its belly. In addition to the pitot tube findings, this is sure to create a bunch of lawsuits for Air France, given that it looks more and more like pilot error was involved.

  • Paying the Bills. The NY Times has an interesting article on how many people are using blogs to pay the bills. I’ve been doing this journal at LJ since 2004, but I’ve always wondered (a) how many folks are reading it, and (b) whether advertising would be worth the hassle of changing platforms. My blog is more general interest, so I would think advertising would be of less interest. Still, in these economic times, … So I’m curious: are you an active reader of this journal? Do you think I should explore moving to a platform where I could advertise? [LJ and FB users: don’t worry—I would still feed any RSS feeds of the site to both LJ and FB].

Improving Jury Duty

As I read the papers today at lunch, I noted that the Los Angeles Times is highlighting an interesting article today related to Jury Duty, and how jurors are becoming disgrutled, according to the article, by the low pay (in Los Angeles County, $15/day, except for the first day, up from $5/day). They are blaming this on the fact that many companies no longer pay for jury duty pay, and with the economic times, this creates financial hardship for people. There are some who believe that raising the pay to $40/day will help. I don’t believe that’s wholly the problem, but first, a minor rant….

(rant on)
I firmly believe that employers with legal requirements to employ US citizens should be legally required to cover some minimum number of days of jury duty for those employees. Jury duty is a vital requirement of being a citizen, just as voting is. For those without the US citizen employment requirement, there should be some tax incentive for covering jury duty for citizen employees. In such cases, the employee should be paid by the employer, and the city/county only required to pay mileage. That said, I can see some of the financial hardship argument, especially for those self-employed or those with more day-by-day non-guaranteed employement (such as substitute teachers). It is those people that would be addressed with better juror pay (and municipal entities might be able to afford it if the idea in that rant was implemented).
(rant off)

However, I think the real problem is that the courts demand respect from jurors for the process, but they don’t respect the time of those jurors. Court schedules rarely use juror time efficiently. The schedules rarely permit jurors to work around pre-scheduled events (such as standing work meetings) that might be critical, or to have an accurate prediction of when they will be completed with Jury service. They often leave the jurors waiting around doing crossword puzzles (if you’re lucky, you can review documents in the juror room). Even improvements to the system don’t help: LA County’s call in system (you call in the night before to see if you need to report) creates a problem with schedule planning, as you don’t know if you will be called in that week, and if you are called in on Friday, it is highly likely the next week is impacted, and perhaps the week after that. As such, all jurors want is to get the process done with quickly, to not get on a case. However, if the tables were turned (i.e., if you or I were on trial), we would likely want the most intelligent and rational jurors.

I remember the old days, when you actually had to sit in the jury room for your full service term. Yes, it was a pain, but you knew the time and could block it off for reviewing documents. There were certainly tricks (such as getting transferred to municipal court, where you could get short traffic cases). But it was predictable.

Nowadays? Everyone I talk to seems to get called in more frequently. When they do get called in, the thought process turns to what to say during voir dire to get one side or the other to kick you off. Do you exploit your favoritism for law enforcement? Do you exploit that recent burglery you had? Do you emphasize your objective scientific nature, because lawyers don’t like rational thinking jurors? Do you couch your answers to get you on the jury? Actually, scratch that last one: I can rarely recall any friends that wanted to get on a trial.

Speaking of the trial, how much does your behavior change based on the estimated length of the trial. If it is early in your call-in week, and it’s a 2-day trial, do you treat the voir dire process differently than if the judge tells you it will be a 6-month trial? Is this because of the inconvenience a long trial will bring to your life and livelihood?

Lastly, I wonder how much the media is to blame for the jury problem. For most jurors, their image of a trial is from television programs such as Law and Order (which focus more on the law enforcement and the lawyers, not the trial). There’s precious little on the jury experience — for most of us, it is the image of “12 Angry Men” (not familiar with it? REP East is doing it April 23 – May 2.). Would jury participation be improved if we had a good TV drama presenting the view of the juror? Presenting the voir dire process, demonstrating all the different types of people and stories out there? Presenting the trial as the juror sees it, including the subsequent deliberation? Might that change the notions of participation?

So what’s your solution to the problem of getting high quality juries?


Where There’s A Will… There’s A Dispute

Another post about religion and the government’s involvement therewith.

Today’s Chicago Tribune brought an interesting story about an inheritance dispute. It appears there was this man, Max Feinberg, who was (a) a Chicago dentist who made a lot of money, and (b) someone devoted to Judaism. So devoted, in fact that he expressed in his will his wish to disinherit any descendant “who married outside the Jewish faith.”

The problem? Two of Feinberg’s five grandchildren accused his daughter, who was administering his estate, of tapping prematurely into the funds Feinberg left to his wife, Erla. These two just happen to be married to non-Jews. Therefore, under the clause it could be argued they are not heirs and have no standing to bring suit.

The case has gone to the Illinois Appellate Court, where Judge Patrick Quinn feared that allowing the Jewish clause to stand could form a legal slippery slope. Suppose Max Feinberg had reservations about his descendants’ marrying a black person. The judge asked: Do we really want courts “to enforce the worst bigotry imaginable?” He also noted that beyond smacking of religious prejudice, the Jewish clause posed a Solomonic technical problem. Using boilerplate legal language, Max Feinberg’s will defined offspring who married non-Jews as “deceased.” But what if one divorced and remarried within the faith? Would the grandchild be ‘resurrected’ upon marrying the Jewish spouse?

The charges are nasty. Max Feinberg’s daughter asked a judge to proclaim her children and their cousins legally “deceased” for purposes of doling out trust funds. His granddaughter Trull accused her father of looting his mother’s bank account for unauthorized purposes—such as paying for Trull’s wedding. Another grandchild told a court that Max Feinberg’s widow had attended his wedding but did not warn him that marrying a gentile could cost him his inheritance. According to Michael Feinberg, Max’s son, this tangled affair began when his father discovered that a grandson was taking a gentile (non-Jewish person) to the junior prom at Niles West High School in Skokie.

In the end, the court ruled 2-1 that it would be “contrary to public policy” to honor Max Feinberg’s wish. The losing party is appealing to the Illinois Supreme Court


Thursday News Chum

Because I’ve been so quiet all week, some news chum especially for you:

  • From the “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” Department: Lawyers in the UK are very reluctant to give up their horsehair white wigs and robes with wing collars. After all, it has worked for hundreds of years. But come October, the wigs are out, at least for civil cases. Lord Chief Justice Nicholas Phillips has unveiled the modern new robe that judges in the civil courts of England and Wales are expected to wear beginning in October — minus the traditional wing collar and the venerable white horsehair wig. Judges, barristers and solicitors will continue to sport traditional attire in criminal courts, where lawyers say it’s important for defendants not to be judged by their advocates’ suits (an argument I never actually thought of). The new continental-style outfit, featuring such innovations as pockets, snap fasteners and color-coded bands depending on the court. The lawyers complain they look like Star Trek uniforms.
  • From the “If it’s not broke, fix it” Department: General Electric, feeling the squeeze from the credit crunch (not to mention NBC), is planning to sell its appliance division. This could fetch at least $5 Billion. As part of a potential sale, G.E. is likely to hand over a license to use the G.E. brand for a short period of time, the people briefed on the proposal said. After the initial license for using the General Electric brand expires, the buyer of the appliance unit would be allowed to continue to use the Monogram and Profile badges.
  • From the “If it’s broke, don’t fix it” Department: It’s really odd when doing poor comes across as doing good. Freddie Mac lost $151 Million in the quarter, but that was less than they thought they would lose, so it was good news. Macy’s loss of $59 Million was less than expected, so people were happy. But Jack in the Box tumbled on a bad forecast.
  • From the “If it’s broke, fix it” Department: The California Supreme Court overturned the gay marriage ban. But I wonder how quickly some self-righteous (insert noun) will break it again.

As for why I’ve been quiet? I’ve been busy busy busy at work, with loads of documents to review and comments to enter. I’ve been busy, busy, busy at home, completing the painting of the media room, hosting visiting cousins (my uncle is in the hospital), and getting ready for the bathroom remodel to finally be completed (I’ll post pictures when it is done).


The Power of Symbols

Cymbals are very powerful, nay, loud, if played properly. But today, I’m talking about symbols, not cymbals, and they they have power too, as witnessed by the following news stories:

  • From the “Birds-Eye View” Department: The Los Angeles Times is reporting about a big “oops” by the Navy in their 1960-era buildings used to house SeeBees in Coronado, California. It seems that when you view the buildings from Google Earth, they form a swastika. Now, this wasn’t intentional (although I’m surprised no one noticed it on the plans), and isn’t visible at ground level. However, now that the Navy knows about this, they have budgeted up to $600,000 (in FY07-08) for changes in walkways, “camouflage” landscaping and rooftop photovoltaic cells to change the top-level view. Now only if they could do something about the pentagon…
  • From the “Dancin’ at the Cocoanut Grove” Department: One long time abandoned symbol of the the classy days of Wilshire Blvd has been the Cocoanut Grove nightclub at the Ambassador Hotel. This is where Robert F Kennedy was shot in 1968. The grounds are now being turned into a high-school, and the LAUSD was going to try to save the historical nightclub for the auditorium. But according to the LA Times, that’s not going to happen. LAUSD Officials have indicated that testing determined that the structure was too weak to withstand an earthquake, and so, the Board of Education decided Tuesday to tear down most of the structure of the Cocoanut Grove nightclub, as part of the $341-million plan to build an elementary, middle and high school that will house 4,240 students on the 24-acre property. Demolition of three-quarters of the Cocoanut Grove is slated for next month. Current plans call for completion of the K-3 building in 2009 and the remainder in 2010. Under the current plans, only the east wall, the circular entry and a portion of the glass west wall of the nightclub and historic Paul Williams cafeteria will not be destroyed, along with some interior features that were removed and will be incorporated into the design. The historic pantry (where Kennedy was shot) could not be saved; LAUSD decided in 2005 that the district would collect 29 items from it — mostly doors, electrical items and an ice machine — put them in storage, and tear down the rest of it.
  • From the “A Penny for Your Thoughts” Department: The Lincoln penny. Worthless to some, nonetheless we all know its back: a sheaf of wheat (pre-1960) or the Lincoln Memorial (post 1960). But that’s about to change. Starting in 2009, according to the SF Chronicle, the back of the penny will be changing. To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth and the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the Lincoln penny, the U.S. Mint, at the direction of Congress, will introduce four rotating designs on the back of the penny for that year depicting different aspects of Lincoln’s life. As for the images, we hit the power of symbols again. The first two designs were easy: a log cabin depicting where Lincoln was born in 1809 for the first image, Lincoln as a young man reading a book and taking notes with a quill pen as the symbole of Lincoln’s early years, and Lincoln on the floor of the Illinois legislature for Lincoln in early adulthood. Ah, but for Lincoln’s presidency… what symbol. The committee picking the designs didn’t like the choice: a half-completed Capitol dome, evoking Lincoln’s famous order that construction of the Capitol should continue during the Civil War as a symbol that the Union would continue. They want images of Lincoln as a war president, perhaps visiting the troops. But some panel members instead want the image to portry Lincoln as the “Great Emancipator” who signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves. Still others thought it was more important to emphasize Lincoln’s role as commander in chief during the Civil War, a viewpoint that prevailed on an 8-2 vote.
  • From the “Read the Footnotes” Department: It appears that Barry Bond’s famous ball (he only has one) will be going to Cooperstown, after it has been branded with a suitable symbol for Mr. Bonds, an *. The symbol is meant to remind people that Bonds’ record is tainted by alleged steroid use, although Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs (someone just slipped them into his Big Mac). But then again, I don’t know from baseball living (as Tom Paxton once noted about Chicago) in a city that doesn’t have a professional baseball team (the Angels, no matter what they say, are in Anaheim).

The Lawyer Game

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and dawn
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the lawyer game.

(Joni Mitchell, “The Circle Game”, paraphrased)

I may have found a lawyer… and it might just be the lawyer I started with: My dad’s lawyer. Today, I had the opportunity to talk to him briefly. It turns out that his hourly rate is about the same as every lawyer I spoke to earlier ($275), and his flat fee for doing the wills and trust is at the lower end of the spectrum I was quoted. To top it off, he is evidently one of the experts in the field. Who knew?

So, I’ve asked him the questions I had on the trust, and we’ll see how that goes. I’ll do a short telecon with him and my wife, to see if we hit it off, to determine if he’ll be the right guy for the wills and the trusts. He also has email, but has been so swamped he hasn’t answered it.

Plus, I’m about to schedule the personal trainer, and my wife is talking about getting me tickets to Pippin (warning: link has audio of “Magic to Do”) for my birthday. Things may be coming together.