Would you believe that I forgot I even started this blog?

I stumbled across a link to a post from this blog on my own facebook wall earlier and it struck me that I’d forgotten it even existed.

Out of curiosity, I re-read most of the old posts and it struck me that a huge amount of change has taken place since my last post two years ago.

Maybe I’ll start posting again … I kinda miss it.

Then again, maybe I’ll forget it exists all over again.  Who knows.

Here’s the Thing, Episode 1: “Vegetarian Fed” Poultry

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I’ll admit I’m on the organic train.  GMO feed scares me.  Insecticides, born of the chemical weapons industry, scare me.  People dying of things like bladder infections that have developed resistance to antibiotics because of the antibiotics in meat, scares me.  Organic makes sense.  I’m less thrilled about, but “okay” with, free-range, antibiotic and hormone free, and grass-fed meats.  They are all steps in the right direction.

But vegetarian fed poultry is not only grammatically uncomfortable (those poor vegetarians being fed to chickens!), it’s dumb.  Birds aren’t vegetarians.  They love bugs and bugs are not vegetables.  Bugs are a healthy and important part of their diet and, in fact, a bird’s entire role in the life cycle is to regulate the bug and vermin population, pollinate, distribute seeds, and for some species, sing pretty songs.

Do you know what the diet of a vegetarian fed bird looks like? It’s corn.  Yep.  The same GMO, insecticide filled corn that started this whole “special” meat movement to begin with.  Vegetarian fed poultry is just a cleverly branded version of what organic eaters refer to as a “conventional” poultry, but now people are paying more for it than they used to because they are too far removed from the food cycle to understand why it’s dumb.

And here’s the thing: If you think it’s gross to eat something that eats bugs, we need to have a talk about shrimp, lobster, kissing your dog, and the Easter Bunny.

My Father’s Day Cards

This year, for Father’s Day, my oldest four kids made me cards, three of them using a questionnaire template that I assume my wife found. The cards themselves were sweet – they all wrote a different message or drew a picture. Alex, my oldest, drew us running together and just being guys:

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Jackson, drew a very detailed picture of me and his older brother at the movies …

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Izzy, my oldest daughter, drew a simple picture of us holding hands …

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and Autumn filled a card with words…

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It was their answers to the questionnaire that I loved the most though. They really showed their age and how they look at things.

1. My Dad’s name is: James (they all got it right). My oldest even threw the middle initial on there the way I use it at work.

2. He is ___ years old.   37. They all go this one too.

3. My Dad’s Favorite Food is: “that for the soul” – Alex (eye-roll .. the kid reads too much); steak – Jackson; soup – Izzy

4. His favorite treat is: chocolate cake with vanilla icing – Alex; mint ice-cream – Jackson; pie – Izzy.

5. He is really good at: running – Alex; teaching – Jackson; teaching – Izzy

6. He always makes me laugh when: He cracks a joke – Alex; when he tickles me – Jack; when he tickles me – Izzy.

7. When my Dad goes to work he usually spends his day: wishing he could spend more time with us (oh, how right you are my son) – Alex; teaching – Jackson; with librarians – Izzy (made me laugh out loud because it’s absolutely true, but I had no idea she knew that).

8. One thing my dad taught me was: work smarter, not harder – Alex; ballista – Jack (attaboy); not cry or steal – Izzy.

9. Before he had kids, my Dad was: much less stressed out – Alex (this one made my heart hurt, clearly I’m sending the wrong message); was lonely – Jack; was in school – Izzy.

10. My favorite thing to do with him is: just spend time with him – Alex (me too buddy); go to movies – Jack; read stories – Izzy.

11. When I grow up, I hope I can ___ like my Dad: be a human lie detector – Alex; be – Jackson (made me choke up a little); get a job – Izzy.

12. I know my Dad loves me because: he goes the extra mile – Alex; he told us 100 jokes – Jackson; he gives me lots of kisses – Izzy.

All of Alex’s answers showed me how much he is paying attention. It was really good to see and also a little eye-opening.

With Jack, his answers plus the fact that he made breakfast in bed for me as well tells me what I’ve been suspecting with him for awhile – actions are everything for him.

Izzy mostly watches Jack right now and tries to do what he does but she’s got her own little mind in there and she’s very smart.

Thoughts on a 3 mile run …

ImageI took special care this afternoon to pay attention to the thoughts going through my mind during my run. Mainly because a co-worker asked me “What do you think about when you run? I get so bored on long runs.” I told her the truth – not much. I’m very aware of what’s going on around me and I have quick observational thoughts about that, but mostly I’m just trying to focus on a spot on the horizon and go and I repeat my mantra: focus … breathe … glide.

This is more or less what a 30 minute run looks like … for context, this route starts in a parking lot and then follows a 3 mile paved trail. At the beginning of the trail there is a pond, then the trail does a loop through the woods, comes back to the pond and feeds me back into the parking lot. The first half of the loop is pretty much uphill. The last half is mostly downhill.

Go! … back straight … breathe … glide … head up. Ugh … next song. I forgot to update my playlist again. No pain. Wait … pain. Injury? No. Old. Feel tired today. Relax. Nice car. Geese. Move geese. Move geese! GOSLINGS!! Ugly and cute. Ew. Goose grease. Fly fisherman. So much fun. Miss that. He’s not paying attention to what’s behind him. I’m gonna lose an eye. Jackass. Focus … breathe … glide. Pick a spot in the distance. Focus. Focus … breathe … glide. Love this song. First hill, lean into it. Tired. Pace myself. What is my pace? Whoa! Slow down. Easy day dummy. Focus … breathe … glide.

That’s about the first 5 minutes. It’s the busiest time of the run because I’m navigating my way to the woods where there are far less people. After that first hill, I’ll see maybe 6 people over the next half hour. I don’t have many thoughts. I’m just running. When I do have a thought, it’s usually in response to something nearby. I’m not pondering life’s mysteries. I’m just in the moment. I’m just trying to be. I’m more or less meditating.

People. Is he smoking? On a fitness trail? Doing it wrong! Jackass. Smoke going to make me puke. Focus … breathe … glide. Pace? Good. Form? Back, feet slapping. Bad. Focus … breathe … glide. Smells like rotting fish. Cool flower. Focus … breathe … glide. Don’t bounce … glide. Lungs getting tight. Feeling asthmatic. Distance? 1.5 miles. Typical. Inhaler? Pocket. Relax. Focus … breathe … glide. Why can’t shuffle only pick songs that it hasn’t already played!? Bike. Expensive hobby. Bike. Helmet. Gear. Just run. Focus … breathe … glide. Cruising. Love this hill. Flying. 2.5. Finish strong. Focus … breathe … glide.

I then more or less repeated focus … breathe … glide to myself for the next 1/2 mile. That’s almost always the fastest part of my run.

When I’m finished I usually feel balanced, calm, and clear-headed. Lately, the asthma from allergies has been having a pretty serious negative impact on that though. I joke that running is what keeps me from killing folks. It helps me work out my stress. It is meditation.

A Word on Jury Duty (or How to Get Out of Jury Duty Even When You Don’t Want To)

2226745248_0b873b3b3fI overheard someone saying today that they look forward to jury duty because it gives them “a chance to see justice served” and had they stopped right there, I wouldn’t have anything to say right now.  The entire sentence, however, was “It gives me a chance to see justice served and help the police put a bad person behind bars.”

And THAT is the subject of today’s post: The role of the criminal juror.  Read all the way to the end of the post and you will get a free gift guaranteed to be worth more than whatever they’re going to pay you for jury duty.  The only catch is that you’ll probably have to go to work instead.

Here’s what I wish everyone who reported to jury duty for criminal court was required to swear to when they walked in:

I understand that I am not here to help the police.  I understand that I am not here to help the court system.  I understand that I am not here to help the judge.  I understand that I am not here to put a bad person behind bars.  I believe I am, in fact, here to do exactly the opposite.  I am here to be an obstacle to a conviction – and I understand that unless I am, an innocent person will go to jail.  At the outset of the trial, I will favor the accused, no matter what the charges and force the Prosecutor to present evidence to sway my opinion.  I will view all of that evidence with a skeptical eye and listen to the rebuttal of the evidence by the Defense with an open mind.  If I can find any reasonable doubt, I will not convict.

Here’s why every juror should adopt that creed:  It’s how our system is designed to work.  Almost everything about a criminal trial, in theory, is designed to put the Prosecutor at a disadvantage.  The burden of proof?  “Beyond a reasonable doubt.”  Think about that.  It’s huge.  If there is ANY reasonable doubt, the jury should acquit.  The composition of the jury? Peers of the accused (at least in theory, but that’s another rant entirely).  Have you ever thought about why we’re supposed to have a jury of our peers?  There are a lot of theories about what that concept means, but here’s my opinion: the jury is supposed to be able to see the circumstances of the case from the same perspective the accused would have.  They should be able to understand the state of mind and surroundings involved.  That level of understanding is almost never going to favor the Prosecutor.

There’s a part of us that assumes that someone would not be charged unless they were guilty.  That’s crap.  People get arrested for being in the wrong place at the wrong time every single day.  When someone is charged with a particularly heinous crime like child molest, rape, or murder – it’s tough to even start on their side.  Guess what – no one ever said jury duty was supposed to be easy and it shouldn’t be.  Someone’s life is at stake.  Leave the moral outrage and the emotional pain to the parties, the victims and their families where it belongs.  Jury duty should be tedious, boring, morally difficult work.  If it’s not, you’re doing it wrong.  In the horrible cases, more than in any others, jurors should be hyper-vigilant in their role to protect the accused until convinced by the evidence to do otherwise – with a case like child molest, even a person accused and proven innocent is going to have a tough time going back to work, to church, to home, to their neighborhood, and to a normal life.

The Prosecutor is trying to take away someone’s freedom, reputation, and money.  Not to mention, potentially, their spouse, children, job, house, car and everything else they may have.  If they’re guilty, fine, there are circumstances to crime.  But it’s not supposed to be easy for the Prosecutor; it should be incredibly hard.  There are a lot of people in jail or prison right now because they feared how easy it has become to convict and they took a deal.  Guess what? At least some of those people are innocent.  I’ve met people who served more than a decade in prison for a crime they didn’t commit and were only released because of dumb luck and DNA that proved their innocence.

I’m not saying a jury should never rule against the accused.  Of course I’m not saying that.  Many of the people charged with a crime, maybe even most, are guilty of that crime.  I’m saying that at the outset of the trial jurors should be very skeptical of the charges and completely on the side of the accused – if not in their heart, at least in their state of mind.  Jurors should force the Prosecutor and Police to do the work to convict.  If they don’t do the job, they should acquit.

By the way, I’m not trying to belittle Prosecutors or imply that they’re evil.  They’re doing what they’re supposed to do at a criminal trial – they are seeking convictions.  That’s their job and most of them work diligently to accomplish their goal.  The problem isn’t with the Prosecution, the Defense, the Police, the Judge or even the system.  Our system is an adversarial one and if it seems to outsiders at times as if everyone is working against everyone else, then that’s proof that our system is working is designed.  The problem is with the jurors and the laws.  You’ve always had the power to affect the laws with your vote.  Now you know how to affect the jurors as well.

So if you made it through this whole post, I’ll give you a little bonus prize: The next time you get called to jury duty, come back to this blog and print out the part in bold above.  Take that statement with you to jury selection.  The first time either side asks you a question, calmly take out your paper and read it verbatim.  I guarantee you will be excused.  In fact, if the Prosecutor can manage it, most likely everyone else in the room who heard what you read will be excused as well.  Why is that so? After all, it’s true, fair and encapsulates the way our system is designed to work and every lawyer in that room will know as much.

You will be excused because by reading that statement you’ll have demonstrated that you not only know your role, but that you’re capable of “infecting” others with that knowledge and the very last thing any Prosecutor wants is a juror who knows what he or she is supposed to do … and that is probably the best argument I can make in favor of my position.