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February 28, 2005

The Oscars

I thought the Oscars were pretty good, but I made good use of my DVR to fast forward over most of the slow spots. The songs didn't seem that good. It's a pathetic year when you have to pick two foreign movies to come up with five decent songs. I don't see why they couldn't get the original singers. Certainly Antonio Banderas didn't sing that song in the movie and I know Beyonce couldn't have been booked for three movie songs. If you're not going to have the original singers do their songs, then what's the point?

Chris Rock was pretty funny. Not really funny but he was seriously handicapped by the organization to use clean language and avoid politics or whatever. I kind of agree with Sean Penn that it wasn't appropriate to belittle just about everyone in the auditorium by saying there were only 4 real actors, but I still thought he was funny and took shots at himself too.

Robin Williams was kind of lame. And why was Adam Sandler there?

I can't complain about who won. I didn't see Ray so I'll take people's word on it. However I don't think just imitating someone is really great acting and two imitators got Oscars (Cate Blanchett's take on Hepburn was the other). I was glad Clint won director instead of giving it to Scorcese for his past work. I liked Aviator (Susan hated it), but it wasn't his crowning achievement. I thought Hillary Swank was great in Million Dollar Baby so I'm okay with that. And Morgan Freeman was an okay choice for Supporting Actor since he hadn't won before for doing the same role in other movies. Most of my picks didn't pan out but I did get the two screenplay awards right and would have been disappointed if they'd gone other ways.

I didn't like them having nominees up on stage for the minor awards. It would be awful to have to stand up there in front of everyone and then lose and go walk empty-handed back to your seat. Bringing the camera to where the nominees were sitting wasn't much better. Especially for animated shorts I always like seeing a little snippet of whatever piece they are talking about as they mention it, but we just saw the people and the titles. That's meaningless since I haven't seen any of them. Were they black and white? Computer animated? With animals? It seems like whoever carries the Oscars could show all the short pieces the night before or something. I can't imagine they saved that much time by not having people walk up to the stage. If they are really serious about cutting the speeches down, they should just cut the mike when they go 10 seconds over. And for major winners, why even try to limit their speeches? If people have stayed with the program for the first three hours, they don't mind hearing what Clint Eastwood has to say.

When there were about 30 minutes left, I caught up to real time and started watching the broadcast live in HDTV instead of crappy DVR satellite resolution. Wow! It looked absolutely fantastic. It almost made me wish I'd watched the whole thing live, but I saw the important part live anyway. There were just great colors and you could make out a lot of the people in the audience when they would pan the crowd.

February 26, 2005

Day in Court

The day before Thanksgiving I passed a slow-moving car on a two lane road in a passing zone and was given a ticket by a Dekalb County policeman. He wasn't real interested in hearing my side of the story and wound up giving me a ticket for driving on the wrong side of the road. He set a court date in January and told me I could explain things to the judge. In January I went to court. Not only was my case not entered, forcing me to come back, but this first court appearance was just an arraignment where you pled guilty or not guilty and then would come back for a trial.

Friday was the day of my rescheduled arraignment. The court time was 2:00. At that time a guy in a sheriff uniform told everyone to remove their hats and to scoot in on the pews we were in to make room so everyone could sit down. The man next to me did not scoot and stayed at the end.

Next a woman explained that due to the high number of cases an expedited process was available and you could receive a reduced sentence. For instance some charges would be reduced to a county ordinance and would not appear on your record. For speeding tickets 10 mph would be taken off your speed. If the result brought you to less than 14 mph over the speed limit you would not be assessed points on your driving record. If you were ticketed for driving without insurance but had proof of insurance now for that time the ticket would be reduced to a warning. But you had to pay any fines that day and checks and credit cards were not accepted (an ATM was available in the lobby; I'm guessing it has some of the highest fees in the world). Anyone who wanted to participate was asked to stand in line. Their tickets were taken back to the judge "in quarters" and then returned.

At about 2:50 that process wound up. Everyone else would enter a plea of not guilty, nolo, reset, or guilty. ("Nolo" meaning you don't admit guilt but agree to pay a fine, "reset" meaning you want a later court date I guess because you can't pay the fine right now). The judge came in at about 3:00. She explained that if you pled not guilty the fines and punishments could be much higher, but you would have a chance to present evidence, have a lawyer, and call witnesses. She left. Then they read through all the names and you called out your plea. I concentrated to make sure I didn't say something like "not innocent" or just plain "guilty". About half the people pled not guilty. Most of the rest pled guilty and few pled nolo with a couple of resets. Anyone who pled guilty or nolo had their ticket placed on the judge's desk.

Next, the clerk started calling people up for their court dates. If you wanted you could ask for your trial to be heard by a jury in state court or you could go to this court (recorders court) and have your case decided by a judge. They offered no advice on why you would want one or the other. The judge came back in and started calling people who had pled guilty or nolo. About that time the clerk called my name. In a separate conversation from the judge talking to someone, I asked if I could still appeal the judge's ruling if I chose recorders court and they said yes. I figured that was easier. My court date was set for April 5 at 5:00. I didn't know courts even worked that late, but at least I won't miss as much work.

February 14, 2005

The Price of Water

I got my water bill today from Dekalb County. They announced that, effective January 1, the price of water was going up to $5.41 per 1,000 gallons. Of course they don't tell you what the old price was, so I figured it out and got $4.30. That's an increase of 26%.

Then I wondered when the last time they went up was. I keep a spreadsheet of past utility costs and discovered that prior to January 1, 2003 the price was only $3.50 per 1,000 gallons. That means water has increased in price 54% in only two years!

February 13, 2005

Grant's Picture

There's a picture of Grant that shows up on the main blog page every now and then where he is smoking a cigar on the porch down in Bradenton. That's one of the funniest pictures I've ever seen.

Here's a link.

February 6, 2005

The iPod Has Arrived

Today I realized that the iPod has really become a mass marketed device. I was standing in line at the register at Walgreen's buying $2 t-shirts and among the impulse-buy items like batteries, lighters, and tic tacs, they had iPod accessories: a case, a belt clip, and ear buds.