Jury Duty: The Short Version. Really.

shutterstock_94093495I Mean This When I Say: Sometimes Democracy Needs More Upraised Middle Fingers That Clean Up Nice.

I often like to argue that I am more of a patriot than most, because I am the first person to jump at the possibility that the entire system is broken, and needs to be rebuilt in a decentralized way, run by women and minorities, preferably.  The right combination of influences, friends, drugs, music, and intellectual journeys I made as a late teen / 20 something bred in me this notion that most systems are flawed by default, and to tear them down in favor of something else – sometime, anything else – is always preferable in the end.  As time went on, I started to see the folly in much of that thinking, and more pointedly, exposure to other ideas and systems of thought – filtered through this hypercritical bullshit punk rock perspective – only led to me to having a much more well rounded point of view by the time I graduated from college.

That being said, I have come to believe that most systems are still flawed, yes, but that by asking questions, and trying to understand these broken systems, you can interject into them the kind of meta-analysis that might cause others to think.  This does not mean that I have often been successful or right when I’ve had to navigate local government or bureaucracies.  At least I feel as if I’m not compromising my own principles when I behave that way, as artificial and arbitrary as my ever-evolving principles might be.

All of this is a long was of saying that I’m absolutely in support of attending and participating in Jury Duty when you get called.  I would only hope that there would be a skeptical ex-weirdo who can put on a shirt and tie on my own jury if, for whatever reason, I wound up in some sort of trial. That’s not to suggest that I’m the kind of guy who would end up in a trial on a regular basis, just that I would want someone to be “of my peers” if I were in their shoes, so it only stands to reason the opposite would be true.  I feel it is my responsibility to be the agent of question-asking and curious weirdos in public, and that applies to Jury Duty, too.

 

Flashback.  Portland.  2002.  

I was called for Jury Duty one other time in life, over 10 years ago.  What I remember most was a lot of waiting and reading, an eventually I was sent home, and I never heard from Multnomah County again.  I was single at the time, and my job paid for me to go, so why not participate in the world of law in a meaningful way?  And, so what if I wasn’t called for a case?  It would all happen again, and I was happy to be a cog in that wheel.  Eventually I would actually participate, the next time I was called, and that would be fine.

As the years went on, it became clear that not only was I not going to get called again, I just got sadder about how this vestige of democracy was within my reach, and yet so far away.  I was convinced that I was a perfect candidate, but I was just never called into action, and never given a chance to give my particular assets a chance to shine.  Another case of the super-hero who could have saved the day, save for the world’s inability to recognize the power he could wield, if they would only let him.  This seemed to be so symbolic of my relationship with so many things, and it just made me feel bad to think about what that might mean for how broken the system really might be.  Or legal fate is not through carefully reasoned measurements of truth, but given over to random chance.

 

49af8f8eb7c25f21cdb0bb12caf942a5Now, In Present Day Salem, OR.

My wife got a jury summons a while back, and I was immediately jealous, until I got my own summons a couple weeks later, in late November.  It made sense.  We moved to a new county, then got married, and our names were now in the system, anew.  We have heard, through the grapevine, that Marion County has a system that usually turns over every two years, without fail.  My wife went in for her chance to serve, and was not picked, and came home quickly.  It did not bode well for my own chances.

As instructed in my letter, I checked in for duty online, and as further instructed, returned to check on the website if I would be needed for the summons in the morning of the day I was supposed to attend.  I didn’t think much of anything, as I was kind of excited about going, and skimmed the site.  I didn’t see anything that overtly read “don’t come in,” so I took it as read that I was to do as instructed in the letter, and show up before 8 AM.

So, prepped with a lunch and fortified with a few cups of coffee, I arrived on time, filled out the paperwork, and was happy to go to the front desk only to find that, as part of the trial jury, since it was so close to the holiday, my services would not be needed.  “Unless you want to volunteer to be a part of the Grand Jury,” he said.

I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, but I eagerly jumped at the chance to do it, having already gotten myself down to the courthouse dressed in respectable clothing before 8 AM.  (No easy feat, mind you.)  He explained that it was a two week commitment if I was selected, and I could be in the courtroom for up to six days during that period.  The more he explained, the more I got excited about it.  While never seen in the movies or on Perry Mason, a Grand Jury gets to decide if there’s even a reason for the case to go to trial, which is itself a very important function that is unglamorous and little known, on top of all of that.

While I won’t drag out the climax for too much longer, in less than two hours I was sent home, being thanked for my service in spite on not getting selected to do anything.  While I did see that it was absolutely random that I was not selected, I was disappointed to get to a courtroom finally only to be sent home because they were not going to need my help.  (The bailiff and Judge chose jurors from a fanned-out set of papers that represented all of us.)  Fortunately, the city of Salem provides you with a bus ticket good for the day that you are serving Jury Duty, so I was home so early that I didn’t even get a chance to want to snack on my lunch early, as I could have prepared myself an entire meal at home and still have time to spare, considering how early I was out.  It was such a whirlwind, I barely even noticed the inconvenience it might have been.

 

Some Quick Observations

Everyone I met at the courthouse was not only friendly and kind, but seemed a little desperate for levity and a smile.  It was a Monday morning, and it was close to Christmas, so I’m sure there was a little lightness in the air that was not there normally.  But whatever the case, I had positive interactions with everyone, and a smile really went a long way in terms of getting a nice laugh or exchange out of them.  On the other side of this, the people who had all been called for Grand Jury seemed like a huge group of sourpusses.  No one looked like they wanted to be there, and I could understand, in a way.  I have no idea what their personal lives are like, and I don’t know what they are leaving behind at home.  But no one looked happy to be there.

The process is pretty quick.  There is certainly some down time, but I’ve waited longer for instructors to show up for appointments, so I felt pretty good about those intervals.  The Judge was nice a friendly, and once he got started, the courtroom ran efficiently while I was there.  I was sort of shocked, but then again, they do this five days a week, every week, so they have it down.  Even the security check at the entrance of the building seemed far too simple and easy to get through to be that much of a problem or hassle.  As with a lot of public places like this, they ask you to turn off your phone, and remove your hats, which I thought was an interest request.  (Probably to avoid having hidden recording devices.

jury-dutyI did find it a bit weird that most of the people I was in Jury Duty with were women.  The men were outnumbered by a factor of three.  While not completely hard to explain – that’s just the way the random number thingy worked that day – I did find it odd.  There was one other guy who was in his 20s, but I was still the second youngest man in the room.

I should also add, while I’m at it: I’m surprised at how understanding The Judge is with regard to people who just don’t feel like doing it.  Now, I’m not here to be judgmental about the way other people spend their time.  I probably don’t have the greatest management of my own time.  But I barely believe in systems of any kind, and would rather see bullshit from the past be burned down than reinforced by bureaucracy at this late date, Twenty Fifteen.  But I was a little astounded at how bad the excuses could be for people to be let off the hook for serving.  I understand that missing even a day of work can be a hardship for a lot of people, and it is not my place to judge anyone who is in that situation.  It just seemed strange to hear excuses like, “I would be tired to try and fit it in,” and, “It’s hard to get here,” as legitimate excuses that the Judge will accept.  Yes, I’m tired early in the morning too, and now that you mention it, compared to my bathroom, this was very hard for me to get to.  Where’s my parade?

Regardless, I don’t believe anyone was really trying to take advantage of a gullible system, but again, they did not need all of us, and I guess the system is designed to include a padding that will account for lazy jurors.  They could easily afford let a few people go because they don’t “feel like it,” and still have plenty of people leftover.  I just want it on record that I did not try to pull out any kind of excuse, but instead, decided to throw my lot in with chance, and was randomly not picked.  So much for taking a shower and putting on shoes.

 

Conclusions

Having only devoted six hours total to the task of Jury Duty over the last 40 years, I can only say that I have yet to have an experience other than feeling like I wasted everyone’s time, since most of those six hours were spent waiting, filling out forms, and being told that I wasn’t needed (somehow being rejected three times in the two I’ve been called).  However, I’m probably being a little dramatic to think that this system must be broken in some way, only because I haven’t had a chance to be involved in a Murder 1 Trial.

It makes total sense that the people who want nothing to do with it are all sighing and making excuses, and the guy who wants to people involved can’t get a sideways look to save his life.  But, who am I to Judge?  This must be the system in place because it works, right?

I Have A Computer Problem That No One Seems To Be Able To Solve. Maybe You Can?

imgresI Did This To Myself.

The problem goes back to 2007 or so, in the final days of my dedication to file sharing and downloading, but even my history with that goes back to 2000, when I started having a continuous Inter-Web-A-Tron connection.  As soon a it was possible, I got into Audiogalaxy, and spent ages collecting albums and tunes that I could not find anywhere else.  This continued through Limewire and, finally, Soulseek, but when school began to ramp up and I needed to focus more on other projects, the time spent downloading was not worth the time trade-off.  Before long I had given up, and had moved on to actually listening to my music, which was quite nice.  Without an external drive to help me out, I burned off everything I had collected up to that point, put the discs in the basement, and forgot about them entirely.

Flash-forward, and I’m getting rid of the rotting discs in my basement.  These days, I do have a few external drives offloading files, and I decide it is better to consolidate these CDRs into a massive, digital archive, and toss the discs.  And the process has been fun.  I’m rediscovering music I’d forgotten about.  But I finally came across my .mp3 discs, and therein lies the problem.

When I was collecting music via downloading, I got very systematic about things I was searching for, and largely pursued things I couldn’t find in stores.  (I was at the tail end of my $200 a month record store habit in these days, so spending money on music was never the problem.)  To that end, I went after the Killed By Death series, which follows in the Nuggets tradition, and collects rare punk 45s of every variety.  Some of the Killed By Death records are really amazing, and it was incredible to hear this music that I had only read about.  Of course, getting these songs from various users, a number of files came from a variety of sources, too.  A few files contained the “␀” character, as the source of these files was from a Windows machine.  In 2007, iTunes seemed to have no issue reading those, playing them for me, and letting me load them on various devices.  I was even able to burn all the .mp3s to a disc.

Now, the state of Mac products in 2015 is fairly stable, and fairly high-end.  I rarely run into a problem I can’t easily troubleshoot, and furthermore, anything that is really complicated is easily Google-able.  And, Mac systems are pretty intuitive, for me.  So, imagine my confusion when I tried to load the files on this .mp3 disc into iTunes, only to find that they wouldn’t copy.  I opened the disc in Finder, and could not only preview the files, but could copy them to the Desktop.  But they still wouldn’t load into iTunes.  I did notice that I could open the files in Audacity, and decided that I would attempt to convert the files to another audio format that iTunes could also read.  And, while I was at it, I’ll save these new files with a better name.

So far, so good.  These newly converted files read and load just fine, and iTunes likes them great.  So, I put everything where it goes, and get ready to delete the files I had copied to my Desktop, the ones with the “␀” character at the end of each name.  These, for some reason, would not delete.  As a consequence, this has sent me down a rabbit hole of problems that I still have not resolved.  And not being able to delete things is only the beginning.

 

9599059_75eb70edf3_bWhat I Think Is Happening.

Let me be clear: I have no real idea why these files won’t delete.  I’m not an expert, I didn’t get a CS Degree, and I have focused my energies into other areas outside of computing.  I just don’t have the background to full understand exactly what is happening.  As I have pieced together from random Googling is:

There is a different range of characters that are available for use in many Windows-based file systems, and because of that, Mac OS systems have trouble interpreting those characters, and rendering them in a way that makes sense.  This results in a problem with the way the file is created: the “␀” isn’t really there in the eyes of a Mac, and yet because it can’t render that character, it can’t sufficiently name the problem in order to get rid of it.

This makes sense to me in a sort of 19th Century Psychiatry sort of way, but it is merely speculation on my part when it comes to what the real problem might actually be.  I would love to understand why this is happening on a more granular level, and what causes this, but now I would also just like it to be solved so I can move on.  If there is anyone with a more technical background who knows why a file like this won’t delete, please contact me.  I would love to chat.

 

The Thick Plottens

If you have stuck with me this far, then you must really want the gory details, and for that I thank you for going on what is has to be a techno-slog through a music hoarding problem.  Here’s what keeps happening:

I am running El Capitan.  (Perhaps this is relevant?)  I put the files in the Trash.  These files are originally located on the Desktop, having originated from an .mp3 CDR I made on my Mac laptop in 2007.  I empty the trash.  And I get the following message:

“The operation can’t be completed because an unexpected error occurred (error code -50).”  

Being a diligent user, I Googled the error code, and found a lot of message board posts that relate to errors involving saving to (or deleting from) an External Hard Drive.  I guess that might track – perhaps the system thinks the files are still “on” the disc, and not the Desktop?  Regardless, I had such a hard time finding a single other user who experienced a similar error code when the files went from the Desktop to the Trash.

At this point I decided it was time to use the Terminal, which I’m quite rusty at, but again, can use Google fairly well.  I found a number of pages that suggested I try to use “sudo rm -f” to force the file to delete, which was unsuccessful, returning “invalid argument” in response.  I found a number of people online who did encounter files that would not delete because of a character out of place, and in all the cases I found online, using the Terminal and this command worked.  However, after trying a number of variants and hitting dead ends on forums, I only ever got “invalid argument.”  Just to make sure I wasn’t going crazy, I decided to test other files, to make sure it wasn’t my entire system.  But I could easily remove, delete and copy other files with normal characters in their name.  Just not these “␀” files.

I found a few pages (like that one) that were dedicated to utilities that claimed they could rename files, and force documents to remove these characters that are causing the error.  However, none of them have worked for me yet.  Name Mangler and OnyX were ineffective.  I’m sure there are others I can try, but I’m starting to think that I have a fairly unique problem that 3rd party apps might not be able to fix.  I suspect it may take something bespoke.  Using the Terminal, and using some basic commands to force the Trash to empty, should work.  And yet it does not on my machine.

 

As If That Weren’t Enough.broken_computer

The problem has also developed in Audacity, in another way.  I have been a strong supporter of Audacity since the early 2000s, and it is an incredible audio editing / mixing / producing utility that continues to impress me with how simple it is.  One feature that has saved my ass a number of times is the Project Recovery utility.  If Audacity crashes, it captures everything as best as it could from the temp files, and keeps them until you try to load the program again, when it will ask you if you would like to restore the Project.  Much of the time Audacity can save almost everything, and most things are not lost when using that program.

Since I used Audacity (ver. 2.1.1) to load the pernicious .mp3s (to convert them), Audacity has developed a hiccup whenever I try to load the program.  Because of this “␀” character, Audacity was unable to close properly when I was done converting those files, and crashed.  I didn’t think of it at the time, but now when I try to reload Audacity, I get the Recovery Screen, asking to recover all these files with “␀” characters.  And, of course, I can’t.  So it churns through all eight of these non-existent files, trying to load them, and failing, before it finally gives up, and sputters to life.  There eight open files with no recovered data, all of which need to be closed.  And, when I’m done using Audacity, it cannot “close,” but merely “crashes,” causing this recovery screen to pop up again every time I load Audacity.  This adds at least 60 seconds to the loading process, as it cycles through these eight files that can’t be recovered.

At first I thought I could just delete, reboot, and reinstall Audacity to fix the problem, but even after that, Audacity would go through the same cycle.  Naively, I thought I could navigate to a temp directory and find a file that Audacity was trying to restore, but there was no such file, anywhere that I could find.  (I did have to use the Terminal to turn on hidden files to do this, and even then, I imagine I’m not seeing everything.  But I gave up after an hour of searching directories and trying to Spotlight something.)  As a last resort, I rolled back a few versions of Audacity, hoping that an older one would point to a different tempt folder, and not try to restore these files.  But every version I can get successfully loaded onto this machine keeps trying to restore.

When Audacity is loaded onto a computer, it is clearly putting meta-data somewhere, that it then refers to with nearly every version of the software, that contains the information about restoring projects during a crash scenario.  But how I can clear that cache, and where that meta-data is stored, is beyond this user to figure out at this stage in the game.  I should add that Audacity is not entirely useless to me.  If I am willing to wait through the process of it trying to recover everything, a cycle that takes a good minute, I can use Audacity – eventually – provided I’m willing to put up with it being more unstable and crash-prone while using it.

In other words: I can’t get attached to my editing on this machine anymore.  Half the time, I don’t get very far.

 

Now.  Deep Breath.  

I have not yet exhausted the possibilities.  There is, very likely, a solution out there somewhere, and with enough patience and Googling I could get to the bottom of that.  Part of the problem is how to define it.  Searching for the error code brings up problems that are like mine, but not the same.  Searching for “␀” characters issues gets at some of the problem, but not entirely.  Searching for files that won’t delete gets me part of the way there again, but these “invalid arguments” that I keep encountering are driving me up the wall.  There is a taxonomy to this problem I have yet to learn, and because of that, I have a “␀” character in my own understanding of the issue.  I can’t even get at it until I learn what that is, and that is not going to come with a few minutes Googling here and there when I have free time, but with a deep-dive into how these things work on a very granular level.

I’m not computer illiterate.  If I have a set of instructions I can follow them, and I usually have no problems fixing basic problems with easily understood symptoms.  But this problem very quickly escalated to well outside of my expertise.  I would love to be able to spend a few years learning this stuff in and out, and I have some ideas for Apps and software that I could make if I were to ever go down that road, and I could leverage that into an item I could offer in conjunction with my writing and radio projects.  But that’s not the hobby I signed up for.  I want to write, not learn computer science, as interesting as it is.

My hope is that someone out there reads this, knows the solution, and would be able to get in touch with me.  I would like to have Audacity back, and I’d like to be rid of these files (short of a Nuke & Repave, which I am considering).  I don’t have much to offer as a way of saying thanks, but I would gladly send you some home made granola if you could fix my problem, and I would immortalize you in a blog post as a means of thanks.

Yma Súmac

enlargementChicken Talk * Yma Súmac * Mambo!

After a while, all the stories people tell about the music world start to sound the same.  This white guy started working at this studio and the artists they found were great.  This guy started writing songs with his friends and they became famous.  It’s all so formulaic that it starts to get a little boring, and you start to mix all those white guys into one amorphous nerd who is hunched over some guitar or studio for way too long.  So even the existence of Yma Súmac, the Peruvian Princess descended from the last sovereign ruler of the Incan Empire, Atahualpa, is a joy to discover in a world of white sameness.  

Born in 1922, when she was 20, Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chávarri del Castillo took the name Yma Súmac, and began performing with her incredible five octave range to stunned audiences.  Recording a grip of songs in Argentina at a radio station in 1942, she parlayed these recordings into a deal with a local label, which garnered her popularity locally, making her the most in-demand act around.  But Yma had bigger plans: America.  

She married a composer, and together they set out for NYC in 1946, performing around town in local clubs as a trio, with her cousin rounding out the group.  Four years of gigging started to build their reputation, and the reputation of her incredible range was enough to make Yma an important act to be seen in the early ’50’s for anyone hip.  Capitol Records finally came calling and signed her, thinking that she would make a good pair with this other kook they had, Les Baxter.  And, in a rare turn of events, someone at a Record Label was right.  Together they made her first album, Voice of the Xtabay, which not only introduced America to a new form of music, referred to as Exotica, but introduced the World to her incredible talents.  

yma-460_1106885aHer fame was instantaneous.  She performed at incredible venues: The Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, The Royal Albert Hall, The Roxy Theater, Las Vegas nightclubs, The Mikado Theater in Japan.  She landed roles in film and on broadway.  She toured South America, Europe and Africa, performed for The Queen of England, and did shows with Frank Sinatra, Danny Kaye and Marlene Dietrich, where they opened for her.  

She was, after all, an Incan Princess, a fact that was supported by the Peruvian government in press releases, no less!  Her record contract was immediately lengthened, and she continued to belt out records that spoke to the Tiki zeitgeist that was moving through the country at the time, during the golden age of velvet paintings and mixology.  She was the perfect combination of sex and chanteuse, a beautiful and delicate bird that would sing songs that were so fantastic that it would send chills down your spine, and make you couldn’t help but dance.  

While her husband was always there for her, initially Capital didn’t want him composing the work Yma released, which was a pity because when he was finally given that chance in 1954, it was clear that the resulting record – Mambo! – was one of the high water marks of her career.  It was the perfect balance of traditional music with a US perspective, and embraced the current fads of mambo and exotica in a way other, whiter artists were unable to grasp.  “Chicken Talk,” while not being particularly about chickens, is like much of the music on that album: Yma sings using her incredible range, with incredibly hip and danceable music backing her along the way.  

This lifestyle worked perfectly for Yma, and straight through to 1961 she toured extensively, and released seven fantastic records.  The years were not great to her career in the end.  As the sixties began to be dominated by rock music, exotica lost sway among music fans, and she spent much of the rest of her life in and out of vogue, depending on the trend of the moment.  She would perform here and there, and even put out a couple of albums when nostalgia began to grip the culture, but it was clear that The Princess was ready to retire, letting new divas take the stage and the throne, for better or for worse.  

In a way, she had conquered the world for a brief period of time, had traveled through most of it and had surveyed her people and their customs, and having ruled it as well as she could, it was time for her to retire to her mansion in LA, always a princess, and to this day, the woman with the biggest range in history.  

When’s THAT movie coming out? 

It’s Our Holiday Bundle, From WTBC Radio!

The Gift Everyone Wants: More Music

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