Monday, July 04, 2016

Freedom

There is a man sitting in the county jail right who has lost his freedom and I have ensured that he will not regain it for many years. As this country celebrates its freedom, my mind dwells on his loss and it has tainted my mood. 

I was ordered to report to the courthouse up in St. Joe for jury duty a couple weeks ago. The selection was for a murder trial. I had thought that the odds were small that I would make it on the jury but make it I did. Will not go into the specifics of the case but there are a few things that I would like to note.

After going through the trial, I found that the prosecutor had done her job and I was was convinced of most of the charges that were laid on him. I was in sync with most of the jurors for most of the charges except for two. While I was ready to pronounce the defendant guilty on those two charges, the rest of them were not. I could understand where they were coming from and there conclusion was valid given the evidence. What I realized is that I have a higher expectation of people and the actions they take and their responsibility to face the consequences of those actions.

There really are two sides to a story. After the trial was concluded, I came home and started looking up all the media I could find about the story. What I read coming from both camps saddened me. Having to weigh testimony and evidence highlighted the nuances of a series of unfortunate events. My perspective on what happened seems to be totally different than those in the two camps. I can’t even say that there are points that I can agree with any of them.


The man sitting in the jail tonight was guilty of the crime he committed but he wasn’t completely at fault. Misperception, escalation, and overzealousness is deadly combo but in the end, a bad decision ended, in different ways, two mens’ lives.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Brexit - A Decision to Live With?

Brits went to the polls yesterday to vote on a referendum on whether to leave or remain in the European Union. Then polls had just closed when I was getting ready for bed and only a few locations had reported their results. With the vote expected to be close, I went to bed as I figured that the result would be known by the time I woke up.

It came to 51.9% to 48.1% in favor of leaving.

Much like what happened in the Scottish Independence referendum, I had expected people who were dissatisfied with the system to do a last minute realization and vote to stay. Again the lessons are that all votes count and never underestimate the electorate.

Now that Leave has won, PM Cameron will be leaving. Perhaps the government will fall as well? Also, the UK will have to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to start the exit process which will probably take a couple of years. This is going to give the Brits some time think about what they have done and until Article 50 is triggered, they still have time to walk back from the cliff.

Most of the powers in Westminster and London will want to stay in the EU but now the will of the people has spoken. They can either live with this decision or find a way to get what they want. Parliament is supreme and they could refuse to accept the result. Not very democratic, though, is it? 
Personally, I think they should dissolve parliament and call for new elections, campaigning on whether to elect a government to affirm the exit or to not or perhaps on a second referendum.

Considering that the pound had taken a plunge in value, markets are being volatile, Scotland is talking about another independence referendum, and uncertainty about their own government, I wonder if the Brits are waking up with a hangover.  

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Florida and Michigan Bound

I got up in the morning and started to make a breakfast of pancakes and eggs before we headed out for the beach. First we needed to get some swim shorts for Casey. Originally, Casey wasn't supposed to have come down to Florida but Kevin sweet talked him into calling off of work.
With shopping done we headed for the beach. Here we are next to the Pensacola Beach Pier. I soaked up some sun while the rest of them went into the water. I was uncomfortable leaving all our cellphones and wallets in one bag which would have been easy to steal. Then when they came back, I went in. The water was so nice but I still prefer Great Lakes water any day. To Casey's disappointment, we weren't there for more than two hours before Kevin decided that we needed to get to the fish market and pick up some food for dinner.
I felt dread when i was told that we were going to fish market. The wet market in San Fernando, La Union, was enough to turn me off forever from the smell of raw fish. Surprisingly it seemed more like a glorified meat counter that I am familiar with at my local Meijer. Kevin and William graciously sprung for some fish, shrimp, and flank steak. It was a delicious meal.

Towards the end of the evening we went to the bar. I am tempted to write more however, I don't think that I should. What I will say is that a fight broke out which necessitated an immediate drive back home to Michigan in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Aside from the last hours on the last day, it was a really enjoyable trip. I would love to do something similar again.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Kentucky Day 3 & Florida Bound

I figured that everyone would be sleeping in like they did the previous morning. Heck even I didn't feel like getting up either. Still I managed to be the first one up. It was decided that since we were down a hill, if the rains came, it would be difficult to get all the gear out and that we should just head out a day early and go to Pensacola, Florida. We broke camp and were out of there just after noon.

The first order of business was to get some food and then start the real drive down south. There was some mix ups and the two cars got separated as our respective GPS units were taking us on different routs. Eventually, we got ourselves back together at a gas station in Corbin, Kentucky--the home of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

William and I switched cars and I rode with Casey. I had never met Casey before this trip and it was a little awkward. I'm not good with strangers. Being bone tired and dozing off all the time didn't help matters but we managed to get some bouts of talking in and I began to like him all the more. Let me tell you, this guy has some mad driving skills!

Our next pit stop was in Chattanooga. I considered it the last bastion of civilization before we headed in to Alabama.

Finally we arrived in Pensacola and to the home of one of Kevin's friends from when he used to live in that city. She has a ton of cats. Casey and I are both allergic so we both popped some Benadryl and passed out. 

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Kentucky Day 2

I woke up around 0630 and watched as the sunlight reached into the lower parts of the ravine. I went ahead and started a fire and prepped for breakfast. After putting in a third log into the fire, I figured that the rest of the guys weren't getting up any time soon. I took my foam mat and soaked up some sun. After a while I started to hear them stirring and breaking out the food.
After breakfast we began to check out some trails and views. Here we are on Chimney Top Rock. Great view.
Kevin had one particular goal for this trip and that was to see a waterfall. We made our way to the far eastern side of the park and on to Rock Bridge Trail. This was the first time we would be going into the ravine and it was quite a lovely descent. It was nice that there were steps and bridges to help.
I was hot and tired and sticky and when we finally got to the waterfall, I knew what I was going to do. Without even consulting the other guys, I hoped on down into the banks and started stripping. "Are you really going in there," Someone asked. I replied, "Hell yeah!" The rest followed and soon we were enjoying a nice cool down in the water. It was actually energizing.
Just around a bend from the waterfall is the Rock Bridge. Casey and William decided to get up there. I opted not to climb things. One broken leg is enough to last me a lifetime.

After that, we headed out of the park to get some lunch and firewood. While we were out, it started to rain pretty well and checking the weather forecast didn't give us much good news. The rain that we were watching come down, was only a taste of the thunderstorms that would be rolling in the next day.

After a delicious "hobo dinner," I turned in rather early. All that walking was exhausting. That didn't work for Casey who had a hard time falling asleep with me snoring up a fright.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Kentucky Day 1

In order to camp at the park, we needed to obtain 3 Day passes. We arrived at the Gladie Visitor Center before they opened so we walked over to a nearby homestead dating back sometime in the 19th century. The main features were two barns and a cabin.
The park is known to have an abundance of wildlife. While it would have been awesome to sight a bear or scare Kevin with a copperhead snake, this turtle was the biggest wild thing I got to see.
After getting our passes, we went on some short trails to see some sights on the upper parts of the gorge. The limestone cliffs were fantastic.
Poor Casey had to give his car a hard time going up and down the hills. The engine on a Ford Fiesta is not that powerful. To top it off, he got run off the road by a truck and bottomed out and got stuck in the mud. Fortunately a couple came along and kindly got the car out by dragging it over with a tow strap. Casey is looking into buying AAA membership.
We ran into a number of people on the trails but it wasn't nearly as crowded as I feared it would be with it being a holiday week. There was a group of college guys who climbed this rock feature to set up camp at the top. It was claimed to be the best. They can have it!

After a couple of trails we thought it would be best to setup camp and then spend the rest of the day doing things. I used my phone and looked at a satellite map of where were were and saw what looked like to be an extensive camping area. We went to that area and I spied a trail going the opposite direction from where we saw some campers. I didn't consult the group I just made a beeline for it and they followed. We found two cleared camps and I was satisfied but the trail continued on and we made our way down to a campsite that was more difficult to get to but had one helluva view:

It was decide that this was the place but now we had to get a crap ton of stuff down. Fortunately, I was asked to pick up firewood and didn't have to go up and down to the car with stuff. Still, trying to find dry burnable wood is no easy task. We ended up having to buy firewood.

Lugging all that stuff left the guys exhausted and I wasn't in the mood for any more hiking so we made the fire, and cooked burgers. Those burgers were damn delicious too!