January 2007 Archives

Wed Jan 24 06:54:31 CST 2007

The year is off to a weird start...

...and not really the "good" sort of weird.

I found out in late December that i'd be called for Jury duty in early January. On the morning of the 8th, i discovered i was to be called for the Jury panel for the Colton Pitonyak murder trial. If you're lucky enough not to know the details of the case, suffice to say that a young women was found dead in a West Campus (area of Austin next to UT Austin, with lots of student housing) apartment that belonged to a young man named Colton Pitonyak, and he is being tried for her murder. The gruesome details that have brought the case to the attention a national can be found by googling "Colton Pitonyak".

Luckily, i was not selected as one of the 14 (12 jurors and two alternates). Because of all of the pre-trial publicity, there were over 100 people initially called. Over 90 were screened Monday (22nd) morning, and ~63 of us were essentially the "final" panel.

I've encountered one or two people who think it would be kind of interesting or exciting to be on such a jury, and all i can say is that they really probably ought to seek therapy. The details of the case are gruesome, and even my very limited involvement has been fairly disturbing. Tuesday, i left work after lunch to take Beal to the vet for a checkup yesterday, drank a very large, very dark, and very strong beer, and got in bed at about 4:30pm.

I've always had a misanthropic streak, and it has been a lifelong struggle to not "give up" and just accept what often seems to be the most likely conclusion: that the human animal dominates so many aspects of life on our Fair Planet because it is the most callous, cruel, and effective predatory of the larger species. Yes, we are intelligent tool users, but our "success" sometimes seems less determined by those skills than our penchant to use these skills for purely selfish and short-sighted gain. In Star Wars terminology one could call this not "giving into the Dark Side." I tend to think of it as not following in the footsteps of Ted Kaczynski.

A lot of people reading this might be wondering "Do i think he's guilty?"

It's a strange thing to be sitting 20 ft. from an accused murderer. I didn't actually hear any evidence, and since 8 January when i knew i might be on the Jury i was under court order to avoid the subject entirely, which i dutifully obeyed. So i only know what i've read in the media since i was dismissed, Monday night.

And I'm not a Columbo or DCS Foyle, and cannot tell from simply looking at a man if he is guilty or innocent. Pitonyak's lawyers have admitted he shot Cave. They will argue it was an accident, and therefore not murder. (Legally in the State of Texas, murder requires the accused to have acted "knowingly" or with the intent to cause the death of the victim. Killing a person without intent can be either "manslaughter" or "negligent homicide.")

Pitonyak's actions after he shot Jennifer Cave (in the torso) and she died, definitely suggest he thought he had done something "wrong" and was acting to avoid discovery, capture, and punishment. But he was a drug addict and fairly messed up at the time, so i would imagine his attorneys will argue that he freaked out and didn't think clearly, or something of that nature.

A disturbing thought i've had is that he may not even know what happened. Pitonyak's acquaintances have described him as such a heavy drinker and drug user that he sometimes blacked out and could not remember things that had happened.

Perhaps some facts of the case may make that more clear. All i can say is i'm glad not to have been selected for the jury of a high-profile murder case that's being actively covered by CourtTV and all of the local media.

In other less-than-ideal news, as previously reported here, Beal Fierste had pneumonia, though she has recovered. Apparently she previously had pneumonia when she was very young, after she inhaled and then swallowed a bolo tie. (Could i make this up?) So the recent case may be somehow related. (The bolo tie was removed, but it might have left some weakness that predisposed her to the the bacterial infection that seems to have caused the pneumonia.)

And all of the pretty ice proved to be too much for the poor Cedar Elm in my front yard who lost some large limbs last May. Last May, my kind neighbor Bill helped me cut the fallen limbs up. This time, because a large limb was still hanging over my house, i called The Might Be Monkeys. They had some good referrals from people in my neighborhood, and how can one not like the name?

They've done a good job removing the dangerous limbs, and will cut the poor tree down later this week. In their opinion, the tree wasn't "structurally sound" and i think it would just keep dropping limbs. I'd really rather they not crush my house, pets, myself, or visitors' cars, so the poor tree must go. I will plant another.

Allstate will pay me a flat $250 to remove a fallen tree or limb, which will help a very small amount with the $1,500 cost to cut the tree down. But if i make a claim on damage to the roof, i have a $1,900 deductible. I'm going to get at least one roofer to look at the roof. So far, i haven't noticed any leaks, so maybe i just got "lucky." Ah the joys of home ownership. More and more, i think i should have instead rented a 1 BR apt. to store my crap, colocated my servers, and spent all of my free waking hours in Austin's copious coffee shops, restaurants, and bars. Maybe i'll feel differently later, though that i think my opinion continues to trend in the other direction. :)

The grey, wet, Pacific-Northwest-style winter continues with little relief here; it's currently 41F and raining.

I think that's enough bad news for this entry. Perhaps i should reinaugurate the New Year with the Chinese. Emacs tells me it will be 18 February 2006, and will be called "Ding Hai," AKA Year of the Fire Pig. Let's see what google finds for that:

Tao Bums forecast: "DIFFICULT year for: Monkeys, Snakes" (I'm a monkey.) and then:

Refrain from all impulsiveness and request help from qualified people. A brief period of insomnia convinces you to turn financial concerns over to an expert. Tackle only essential projects this year and lay low for right now.

Sri Lanka's Sunday Times:

In 2007, the elements combine to form what is known as "fire sitting on top of water" and this as per Feng Shui element analysis is symbolic of clash and conflict giving rise to disharmony, unrest, regional warfare and even change of government in certain parts of the world. The clash of elements also signifies natural disasters like explosions, nuclear threats, torrential floods and soil erosion.

Hmm... or maybe i just started early.

Posted by johan | Permanent link

Wed Jan 17 07:02:30 CST 2007

It's easy to forget things.

I had forgotten how peacefully beautiful snowy winter nights are. I've been back in Austin about four years; apparently the preceding seven years i lived in Chicago and D.C. are somewhat forgotten. The friends i have i still remember well, but the sights, sounds and feel of those places have faded to a surprising degree. I suppose the lack of day to day (or rather yearly) familiarity with the "winter wonderland" has caused my mind to file those things away in a dusty drawer.

And it's been a difficult past week, especially regarding the wolfhounds. Dubhlinn has shown some disturbing indications that he probably does have lumbosacral stenosis. He's always been a bit unsteady in his hindquarters: he drags his feet or shuffles, and his legs don't seem to be as strong as they ought to be. But the most recent unpleasant symptom is a lack of fecal continence. (Pardon the imagery, i hope you weren't eating.) I'm sure some of this he just can't control. I think some of it is that it's tough and somewhat painful for him to rise from a prone position. But i'm trying to encourage him to go outside to poo by giving him a treat when he comes in, which seems to have helped the last two nights.

And then Monday Afternoon, Beal Fierste was acting oddly: she wouldn't eat, and she seemed like she wasn't feeling right. So i called Dr. Culp, and decided to take her in. I was worried it was "bloat" (AKA gastric torsion), but when i took her in to the Emergency Vet Clinic on 183 Monday evening (which was somewhat exciting giving the icy roads and inexperienced ice drivers), it turned out she had pneumonia. I was very glad i brought her in, but surprised how quickly it seems to have progressed. After spending the evening at the Emergency Vet and the Tuesday with Dr. Culp at HiWay 620 Animal Hospital (amazingly, they were open) she's already seems back to her normal self.

But all of this animal care can be tiring. And then it can be strangely rewarding. About an hour ago, Dubhlinn got up and stood around. This often means he wants to go outside to the bathroom, so i took him outside, and was quite pleased when he did relieve himself. I'm sure parents of small kids are no less happy when they get a break from diaper changing. And in this case, the kid weighs 142 lbs, with appropriately sized poop.

So the really cool thing was, i got to see -- and be reminded of -- just how serenely beautiful a snowy winter night can be. True, our snow is mostly icy crust. But it's white, and the night was still, and i got to see Dubhlinn standing in a big field of that white crunchy snow, which made me oddly happy. (I think i imagine him back in his native Irish climate or something.) I fetched my camera from inside, and took some pictures. The little bits of falling snow or ice caught the flash and made the pictures kind of magical. I didn't get a picture of Dubh in the yard, but i did snap some pictures of icicles and one good one of Dubhlinn standing on the driveway. He seemed slightly amused by the icy snow.

I do miss these sorts of winter nights. I also recall that Winter in colder climes can also be cold, relentlessly oppressive, and brutally depressing. And then it can become surprisingly beautiful, which reminds me that i have to savor those brief, magical moments to help with the day to day drudgery and unpleasantness.

Posted by johan | Permanent link | File under: randomweirdness