Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jury Duty Sucks . . .

Monday I went in for jury duty, thinking that if I were selected to serve, it would be a few hours of my time over something like traffic tickets. Instead, I found myself doing something that I sincerely hope that none of you or I will EVER have to do again - serve on a jury in the trial of a 41 year old man that molested a 4 year old girl. 
In five minutes, Jose Arturo Alvarado destroyed so many lives, including his own.
The little girl is now five, cute as a button, and was so very brave, bold, and cheerful when she testified. She seems fine, but of course the scars are most likely on the inside (in her mind and soul) and will become more evident as she grows older.
The little girls mother is of course a basket case. The one and only time that she was forced by her work schedule to leave her daughter with her fiancĂ© of two years, he molested her. Can you just imagine the guilt and anguish that this woman will have for the rest of her life? It's only human - as irrational as it is, she will always think that she should have magically known, that her ESP should have some how warned her. There will always be a voice in that mothers mind that whispers to her late at night "It was my fault".
Jose's children are model students, well on their way to scholarships. When his 16 or 17 year old son entered to testify, more or less as a character witness, the man broke down in tears and I damn near did too. Could you imagine having to look your son in the eyes after having just been found guilty of molesting a four year old? Can you imagine walking past your father to testify on his behalf, knowing that he had done this? Still, the young man did take the stand, did say that his father was a good man who had always been a kind and loving father.
His 14 year old daughter entering the courtroom carrying a stuffed animal and giggling for a solid five minutes from the shear nerves and mental anguish of it all. . .
His invalid mother sobbing that she had brought her son to the United States when he was ten to give him a better life. "He had always been such a good and decent man, how can this happen?"
Several life long friends of his came to testify as to his character, and even after learning what he had done, they were willing to stand with him and call him a good man that should not spend his entire life in prison for one horrendous act.
All of those people who's lives are shattered.
All of those families destroyed.
One thing I am SO thankful for - while he tried to recant it when the lawyers got involved, the man confessed on video and gave details making it clear it was a true and honest confession. At least I don't have to live with the fear and terror that I may have made a mistake and helped to send an innocent man to prison.
Sorry, time to go! I need to go hug my daughter . . .

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Karaoke in Denver

Well let’s see, did anything really interesting happen on this trip? No, but I’ll write about it anyway.

I went to Colorado Springs via Salt Lake City and Denver. I would have liked to have gone “pretty” but my wife has been unhappy about things like this, and I have been kind of bummed for a host of reasons, and so I spent yet another 14 hour day traveling ugly and bored out of my mind, in airports, airplanes, and then rental cars.

The following day I worked with my customer on a system that I don’t work with often. My confidence and competence when working on equipment is in direct proportion to how often and how recently I have worked with it. Since I only see this type of system once every three years or so, I was a bit nervous starting out but was soon up to my elbows in the thing and got the job done.
I made one serious mistake while swapping out a component – I trusted my customer. The system I was working on creates Ozone and then mixes it with water. Since ozone attacks organics, this highly ozonated water is then used to clean semiconductor wafers. Well, the process of purging the system and depressurizing it is automated and several hours long, and so to save time I would be billing them for, we agreed that the customer would complete this process before I arrived. When I arrived, the customer assured me that they had performed the purge and drain, and I accepted his word for it – that was DUMB! I pulled a hose off of the component I was to replace and almost had a heart attack when ozonated water started to jet out of it! Fortunately I am the paranoid type and had a tub there to catch the water with, but that didn’t do anything at all for all of the ozone that I was letting loose into their factory. I sat there with my eyes bouncing back and forth between the water jetting in to the tub while being damn sure I didn’t get it on me or my customer, and reading the ozone safety monitor of the system that would evacuate their entire factory if the ozone levels went too high. After about two minutes, the water pressure started to drop and then fell off to a trickle, so now I was just staring at the safety monitor and watching it continue to climb toward the “Kim just evacuated the factory” alarm level. I was literally holding my breath to keep from burning my lungs with the ozone, and so it was with great relief that I started to breath again when the ozone level started to drop before it reached the alarm level.
“Umm, you told me that you purged and drained the system. What happened?” I asked the customer, trying to remain polite despite being deeply angry.
“Oh we did! We let it purge for at least twenty minutes before we shut it down.” He said with a smile, having no idea why I was upset.
The problem with that is that the automated process takes well over an hour and then shuts itself down after it drains the system. Ugh . . .

To avoid having to make a two hour drive to the airport at 3AM, I drove up to the Denver area and stayed the night there. After I arrived, I sat there in my hotel looking around at the walls, listening to the window air conditioner cycling off and on with a loud “clunk” every cycle, and decided I was going to go nuts if I stayed there. A short look on the internet and I found that there was a place called “BJ’s” in Denver that was doing karaoke tonight and so I started getting cleaned up, dressed up, and out the door.

Denver 2010 10 06 004

It was still a bit early for karaoke when I was ready and so I decided to raid the mall. You see my wife and daughter-in-law both took a look at a retro dark blue with white polka dot dress I bought recently and both told me that I needed a red belt and red shoes to go with it. The more I thought about it, the more I thought they were right. The problem is, I don’t have any red shoes. I started off in Macy’s raiding their sales rack where I have often found killer shoes in the past. I didn’t find any red shoes on the sales rack that I liked, but I did find a red pair of Mary Janes that I really liked on the display floor and took them up to the counter. As I stood there waiting for the clerk to come back, I noticed a woman standing behind me and she keeps glancing up at me. With my heels on, I am a good foot or more taller than her and I felt like Big Foot by comparison. Finally the clerk returns.
“Do you have these in size nine and a half and size tens?” I asked her.
“Sure, hold on a moment and I’ll go take a look.” She gave me a smile and then looked at the woman behind me who was also holding a pair of shoes in her hands. “What size were you looking for?”
“Size eight and a half please.” The lady replied, handing the clerk the shoes. We waited and waited after the clerk left us, and given the rather long wait, I finally decided to start a conversation.
“You are SO lucky! I’d kill to be able to wear eight and a halfs.” I told her with a grin.
“Actually, I normally wear size eights, this brand just runs small.” She said with a smile of her own.
“Well then I’m even more jealous! Quite often shoes that are adorable in size 5 and 6 aren’t so cute when they get up to the size 9 and 10 areas.” I told her with a laugh.
“I know what you mean! I envy those who wear size 5 and 6 too!” she said.
“Well, at least you have the satisfaction of knowing that some of us envy you!” I told her and we both laughed.
Right about then the clerk returned and handed the other lady her shoes first. Then she informed me that her computer was wrong! They were supposed to have these shoes in the sizes I asked for, but she couldn’t find them anywhere.
“You know, I can look to see if one of other stores has them if you like?” she offered.
Long story short, she found another Macys not more than six miles away that had them, and so I made my way there and am now the owner of a cute pair of red mary janes. Bad news though, while they are red, they are suede and have multiple shades – they are not going to work with the dress I wanted them for.

At “BJ’s” I got settled in and was going through the song book when I noticed a couple of guys sitting at the bar and they keep glancing at me. After a couple of minutes I started a conversation up with them.
“Girl, we were just checking out your shoes!” the tall blond one tells me with an attitude and demeanor making it fairly clear that he is probably a cross dresser too. “They look great! Where did you get them?”
“Awe thanks! Would you believe I got them at JC Penny on the close out rack for about $10?!”
“No way!” he said, and then after a pause. “That IS your real hair isn’t it?”
“I’m afraid not. I have less hair than the gentleman at the end of the bar there.” I told him with a wave after I stopped laughing.
“Oh my God, that hair looks flawless. We were talking about you when you came in and we were just sure you were a woman.”
They had generously decided that I was female, but I was still trying to figure one of them out. The tall blond doing all of the talking had made it clear that he was a cross dresser, but the shorter Hispanic one he was sitting with was not as clear. He had the beginnings of a beard, but some fairly female features including the hint of breasts. Thinking that this was probably also a cross dresser that just wasn’t dressed at the moment, I settled on using the female pronouns to be safe – and was wrong. It turns out that he was a female to male cross dresser! I felt terrible that I had blown it and probably offended him, but my intentions had been the best if that counts for anything. . .

Oh, and the karaoke? It was freaking awesome! Most of the people that got up and sang were really, really good, and not one of them was bad. Way cool . . .

Here are a few video clips I made with my phone. Terribly sorry about the sound quality but I think it’s good enough that you can tell some of these folks were VERY good. The gentleman in this first video deeply impressed me. The quality of the recording doesn’t do him justice, because he literally left me speechless: