Thursday, March 29, 2012

Movie Critic while on Pain Meds

After having knee surgery this past week, I had quite a bit of time on my hands lying around. What else was I to do besides watch some movies and write about them? I’ve never been the kind of movie guy to watch movies repeatedly. The only exceptions are classic sports films and comedies. So I threw a couple of them in the mix as well.

French Comedy subtitles (saw on pain meds and a sick stomach)

  • I wish I could remember the name of this movie. I remember certain scenes being quite funny, but my stomach hurt so bad that I didn’t laugh out loud once. I can remember this:

  • It didn’t have one word in English

  • It was a crook film like Snatch, or Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

  • There was this girl in there that could bend in crazy positions. Like she would hide in a fridge and come out with her feet first and unfold while doing a flip and never touch the ground with her hands. It was insane but not fake. She could really bend like this.

  • I’d like to see this movie again when not on pain meds. Can’t remember too much more.

  • Overall rating: 3.5 stars

  • House of Sand and Fog

  • Started watching this movie randomly and knew nothing about it. Shanna comes in 5 minutes in and says, “Oh this movie is sad.” Despite her warning I stubbornly keep watching. Sir Ben Kingsley is in this flick. He has a stellar performance as a Middle Eastern man trying to make an honest living in the US to support his wife and boy without having to work 80 hours a week. It really starts off as a great story of this country and how anyone can create a living for them with hard work. However, it turns into a train wreck that you can’t turn away from. It was horribly sad and I wish I didn’t watch it, but I’m glad I did. Makes sense? Doesn’t make sense to me either.

  • Overall Rating: 4 stars

  • Flight of the Phoenix

  • Watched the original with James Stewart. I remember seeing a trailer awhile back with Jude Law or Dennis Quaid or someone like that more recently but was pleasantly surprised by this version. This movie was made in 1965 and was done very well for its time. I think this might have been the best James Stewart flick I’ve ever seen. The props and makeup were a bit absurd but the acting was good and the story was good. Never seeing the newer version I can’t compare to that, but it was good and a heart warming story of perseverance. James Stewart played a stubborn know-it-all that liked to be in charge. However, the nerdy airplane designer knew more and it irritated him. Even in 1965 there was a reference to technology and computers and how nerds and geeks are going to take over the world one day. If I only would have watched and listened to this movie in the 80’s or 90’s I would have invested in Apple or Microsoft.

  • Overall Rating: 5 stars

  • Flippers (saw last 10 minutes)

  • Looked like a funny movie, but didn’t see much. Put it on the DVR and will watch it some other day. A kid movie about first loves and romance.

  • Overall Rating: NA until seen again.

  • Keeping up with the Steins

  • My funny bone came back for this one. It had Jeremy Piven in it, and that’s usually all it takes for me to laugh. But the kid was also funny and all the support cast was great. Totally recommend. Also cried in the scene with Jeremy Piven speaks to his son on his barmitzfa day about how proud he is to be his dad. Loved it.

  • Overall Rating: 5 stars

  • Bigger than the sky

  • Starred Aiden from Sex and the City (guy from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, can’t remember his name). Started off real slow. Never really picked up steam, but it was like the tortoise. Slow and steady win the race. It was decent overall. Good story, and a good ending. It also had the guy from Fire in the Sky.

  • Overall Rating: 2.5 stars

  • Bull Durham

  • At this time in the day, I was about ready to start a new movie again, but a classic was about to start, so I decided to settle in and watch one of the best baseball movies of all time.

  • Favorite quote: “It’s a simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains.”

  • Something that really irritated me watching this movie as a 31 year old, married man for 6 years, with two kids, recovering from a severe knee injury…Why when Crash and Annie have sex it’s always in the most uncomfortable places and they break things. He just throws his bowl in the sink, knocks over the milk and all the cereal on the table and goes at it. All I kept thinking to myself was “damn, who’s going to clean that up?” Next they are in bath tub barley big enough for one.

  • Overall Rating: 5 stars

  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

  • Johnny Depp is the best actor ever. He really is. I haven’t seen this movie in years, but I crack up at how Depp’s character narrates the whole thing and his internal monologue becomes external at times when he doesn’t realize it. He talks so easy about using heavy heavy drugs. Like it is no big deal. If you ever want to scare your kids to make sure they don’t use drugs, this would be the movie to do it in a comical way. There are other sad drug movies that would do the trick as well, but man this movie is hilarious.

  • Overall rating: 5 stars

  • I watched some other movies too but have not reviewed them due to lack of meat to discuss. 1 star movies:
    The Brothers McMullen, and Jet Lag

    Monday, March 23, 2009

    Japanese Maple Tree?

    What kind of tree is this? We saw several of them at the Botanical Gardens this weekend in the Japanese Garden. I googled Japanese Trees and the closest I could find was a Japanese Mapple Tree.

    I'm thinking that's what it is. Anyone see these before? I want one.

    Thursday, February 19, 2009

    Crying Co-workers Quiz

    Earlier this week, I was working away in my cube when my cube neighbor started crying after hanging up the phone with someone. At first she was crying pretty loudly. Then after awhile it was quiet sobs and sniffling.

    She is a Chinese lady that isn't in my group, but we have done business together and have interacted. I state this, because I want to stress that I wouldn't classify her as a friend, but just a colleague.

    So here is the pop quiz:
    What did I do?

    A) Went over there. Sat down next to her quietly. Asked her what's wrong and for her to let it all out. Then offered her a hug and let her cry on my shirt.

    B) Shouted from over the cube wall "Hey...quiet down!"

    C) Did Nothing

    D) Passed by hours later on the way out and asked her if she is ok. Then when she said she wasn't ok, I said "ummm...well I gotta go."

    E) Sent her an email asking if she wanted to talk.

    F) Notified security of a possible suicide watch.

    Sunday, January 25, 2009

    Court is now in session

    Court is now in session…

    I’m sitting there waiting my turn for trial. Everyone has entered their pleas at this point. Judge calls my name first.
    Judge: Mr. Brown.
    I stand up.
    Judge: The prosecutor would like to change the wording on the ticket. You will need to reenter your plea.
    Me: What does he want to change the wording to?
    Judge: *reads off the new wording*
    I still have the new letter they printed with the new wording, but not in front of me. It said something along the line that “I willingly maintained Inappropriate Materials TO WIT: Yard Waste and Styrofoam, in my recycle bin….”
    Me: Can you please repeat that?
    Judge: I know. This is a lot of law talk and gets confusing. I’ll repeat.

    He repeats the charge again.

    I thought about this for a second. I know what he was getting at. He wanted to say that I kept the illegal items in the bin after trash day after they placed the sticker on my cart saying what was deemed legal to be in there.

    Me: To those charges, I still plea not guilty your honor.
    Judge: Since he is requesting this, you don’t have to have your trial today. You can request for the trial to be re-set and have it at another time.
    Me: No, I am still prepared to have this trial today. I want to get this over with and not have to come back.

    Judge: Now, Mr. Brown. You have the right to a jury. You can waive that right and have me be your jury. You have the right to a lawyer, but for a misdemeanor you will not be provided one. You would have to obtain your own. Do you understand these rights?
    Me: Yes.
    Judge: Do you want to proceed with no jury, and representing yourself.

    The judge had this look on his face like he was impressed with my decision making, and questions. I sat back down.

    He ended up going through the other cases there first. Mine was the only one that went to trial, so he didn’t want to waste everyone else’s time by doing mine first. This was ok by me. I had time to think. I had to change my thinking about how I was going to argue my case. I originally thought I would say I didn’t know how the leaves got in there. But I saw now that I wasn’t being charged on Trash day, but several days after. I removed all the leaves and should be clean. Everything else in there should be ok. I looked over the print out from the website. Studied what was allowed. I was as ready as I would ever be.

    Judge: And then there was one.
    Me: Just us now. Let’s do this thing.

    He calls me into the front part of the court room in front of the swinging gate. I thought I would be standing in front of the judge, but this was not the case. He had me sit at the table right beside the Prosecutor. We both had computer monitors in front of us. Mine was on a blank desktop. His had my tax appraisal information up confirming I lived at that residence. I thought that he has a bit of an advantage on me at point. I mean, any research I want to do on this case can’t be done. But he is still browsing the web for information about me. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he looked up past tickets on me. You could tell by the prosecutor’s attitude that he was pissed he had to do this, but since he was going to have to go through with it he was going to win at all cost. He wasn’t prepared to lose to some kid that has no law experience.

    The bailiff closes both doors behind the judge. The only people in the room are me, the Judge, the Prosecutor, the Code of Compliance guy, and the clerk that hasn’t taken his eyes off of his computer screen the whole afternoon. It was a little intimidating to say the least.

    Baliff: Court is now in session.
    Judge: Mr. Brown. I know we went over this already, but we are on the record now. So I need to ask you again.
    You have the right to a jury. You can waive that right and have me be your jury. You have the right to a lawyer, but for a misdemeanor you will not be provided one. You would have to obtain your own. Do you understand these rights?
    Me: Yes.
    Judge: Do you want to proceed with no jury, and representing yourself.
    Me: Yes

    The Judge hands the bailiff a piece of paper for me to sign. I signed that I will represent myself and what not.
    I realize at this point that there is no turning back. I was on an oil paved hill with no brakes. What ever happened from this point on, I would go in with the attitude of “I am not a lawyer, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.”

    The judge gives the run down of what is going to happen. He sees that I have no idea what a proceeding like this will entail. He is right. All I know is from what I have seen on Matlock and Murder in the First.

    Judge: We will begin with opening statements. Normally the prosecutor will go first. However, if the prosecutor so chooses then he can pass and let you go first. After the opening statements, then the prosecutor will give his case. He will call his witnesses, and you will be allowed to question is witnesses when he is done. After the prosecutor is done, you will be allowed to make your case. You do not have to testify. If you do testify, then you will be subject to questioning by the prosecutor. After both sides have rested, you will both be given a chance for a closing statement. After those are completed, the trial is complete and I will make my decision.

    Judge: Prosecutor, do you have an opening statement?
    Prosecutor: * He stands up* No, Your honor.

    Judge: Mr. Brown, do you have an opening statement
    I copy what he did and stand.
    Me: No, Your honor.

    This might be easier than I think.

    Judge: Prosecutor. Please state your case.
    Prosecutor: We’d like to call our first witness. Officer Gagle.

    Office Gagle gets up and does the whole “You are under oath…do you swear to state the truth, and nothing but the truth.”
    He sits next to the Judge.

    Prosecutor: Office Gagle. Where were you on June 16th?

    Me thinking: As soon as he asked that question, a bell went off in my head. June 16th. June 16th? I pulled out my iPhone and looked at the Calendar. June 16th was a Monday. I knew at that point for sure that the ticket was not issued on trash day, and they never had the bag of leaves on me. So it didn’t matter in my mind if I put them in the trash can or not.

    Gagle: I was patrolling Meadows at Candleridge. I saw the recycle bin out on the curb at XXX Pampas. I took it upon my self to open it up to inspect it.
    Prosecutor: And what did you see?
    Gagle: I saw some yard waste, Styrofoam and hangers.
    Prosecutor: I would like to submit Exhibit A to the court.

    He gave a copy of the photos to Office Cagle, and another copy to the judge. I asked if I could see the photos. He shows me the photos.

    As I’m looking at the judge’s copy of the photos, the prosecutor continues to ask Cagle questions. I’m looking at the photos for the first time in detail. There were three separate photos taken. One was of the bin itself clearly showing it in front of my house. The second was of it opened and a picture of about 5 wire coat hangers. The third was of a bunch of stuff really. It showed a plastic square looking thing, something black that you couldn’t really tell what it was. Then underneath the black thing was something white. This “Something White” was what they were saying was Styrofoam. Then in the corner of the photos was a hand full of grass. It was more like a weed. And that was all the photos they had.

    Prosecutor continues questioning Gagle: What do you see in these pictures.
    Cagle: I see some coat hangers, Styrofoam, and some…

    The court room goes quiet.

    Me: I’m looking at the charges in front of me, and no where does it state anything about coat hangers. I ask that this be thrown out of the case.

    The Judge looks at me with a surprised look on his face.
    Judge: Sustained. I will…unheard anything said about the coat hangers.
    He looks at me with a wry smile. I looked back feeling very proud that my first objection was actually sustained! Things were going my way.

    The prosecutor looked perturbed, but he continued.
    Prosecutor: How sure are you that you see Styrofoam and yard waster in these photos?
    Gagle: I would say without a doubt.

    There was some other stuff asked, but I can’t remember it all. I was on a high still from my objection. I was also busy thinking of that photo of the “Styrofoam and yard waste”. I mean, I could honestly not tell that what they were looking at was in fact Styrofoam. I could have been anything.
    Prosecutor: No further questions, your honor.
    Judge: Mr. Brown, your witness.

    I sat there looking at the photos.
    Me: Office, Cagle. I’m interested in this last photo. Can you tell for sure that this is actually Styrofoam? I mean, looking at this, I can not tell what it is. It looks like plastic, or maybe a….
    Prosecutor: Objection your honor. This is opinion and not a question.
    Judge: Sustained.

    Great…my first question was sustained. I was having trouble finding questions that weren’t opinion. I continued asking questions that weren’t really questions. Like:
    Have you looked at your website? It states nothing about Styrofoam being prohibited.
    Objection. The witness is not a lawyer.
    This grass looks more like a weed than yard waste.
    Objection. Opinion.

    I left with only getting one question answered. “Can you say without a doubt this is Styrofoam?” Gagle said “in my opinion it is clearly Styrofoam.”

    Me: No further questions your honor.

    Prosecutor rest. He has no more witnesses or evidence.
    Judge: Mr. Brown, you can call any witnesses you may have.

    He knew I didn’t have any. We were the only ones in the room. I realized that I am going to have to testify in order to say what I wanted.
    Me: Judge, I would like to testify. What do I do?

    Judge: Please stand and come over here.

    I followed what Cagle did. I stand where he did and raise my right hand. Say the oath, and have a seat where Cagle did.

    I started talking:
    Me: I would like to share what I know about the charge. I came home on the 13th of June, and my trash can was moved up to my grass, and it was not emptied. There was a sticker on top stating what was allowable to be recyclable and what wasn’t. I opened up the bin, and noticed a bag of yard waste on top. I removed the bag of waste. Surveyed the bin for anything else illegal, and placed the bin back on the street. There was nothing illegal in the container that I could see, and so I left it.
    Looking at these photos, I can not tell what this picture is of. That could be anything. It looks more like plastic, or maybe a milk jug or something. There is no way I can tell from this picture what that is. As far as the “yard waste”. I didn’t even see that in there when I inspected the bin. This tells you how much or how little of “yard waste” it actually was.

    Note: I actually put up hand quotes in the air while saying “yard waste”.
    I continue…

    Me: I mean, this could have fallen out of the bag when I took it out. It honestly looks like 1 weed, and I definitely wouldn’t classify it as “yard waste”. This is all I have to say.

    Prosecutor: Are you saying that since there isn’t a lot of grass in this photo that it’s not that big of deal to have it in there?
    Me: Well…I don’t want the court to think that I don’t think this is a big deal.

    Prosecutor: Objection. He isn’t answering the question.
    Judge: Sustained. You have to answer the question.
    Prosecutor asks it again.
    Me: I have a hard time answering this question, because you are asking it in a condescending manner.
    Prosecutor: You are right, and I…
    Me: I don’t feel that just because this grass is a small amount that it’s not a big deal. Obviously it’s not thought of to be a small deal, or we wouldn’t all me here today. I do respect the environmental policies of Fort Worth, and follow what they have set forth.

    Prosecutor was running out of things to ask.
    Prosecutor: Who placed the bag of leaves in there?
    Me: I don’t remember.
    Prosecutor: You don’t remember?
    Me: No.
    Prosecutor: Who all lives in your home?
    Me: Me, my wife, and my 2 yard old boy.
    Prosecutor: Is it possible that your wife placed the Styrofoam in there?
    Me: I don’t think so.
    Prosecutor: Who placed the leaves in there?
    Me: I don’t remember.

    The Prosecutor is getting frustrated. He is obviously not that good of a lawyer.

    Prosecutor: Do you live at this address?
    Me: Yes.
    Prosecutor: No further questions your honor.

    I step down, and go back to my chair next to the jackass.

    Me: I rest your honor. No more witnesses.
    Prosecutor: I’d like to re-call Officer Cagle back to the stand.

    WTF? Why?

    Prosecutor: Can you tell for sure that is Styrofoam?
    Cagle: Well, I actually have a blown up picture of the bin right here.
    Prosecutor: Oh you do?

    WTF!? These f’ers are in cahoots. Why is this just coming out? Stop playing games with me you jackasses.

    Prosecutor: What is this in this blown up picture?
    Cagle: That looks like a metal crate there, and underneath that is Styrofoam food container.

    Blah blah blah….

    Prosecutor: No further questions.

    My turn to question. I get up at this point. Walk over to Cagle with the blown up picture.
    Me: I’m sorry, but I still can’t tell from this picture that this is Styrofoam.

    Prosecutor: Objection, that’s an opinion.
    Judge: Sustained.

    Me: No further questions.
    Me: I’d like to call myself back up to the stand.
    The judge reminds me that I’m still under oath. I sit down next to the judge.

    Me: I’m sorry, but looking at this photo, even with it being blown up, it looks the same. I can’t tell without a doubt what this is.

    Judge asks Prosecutor if he wants to question me. He doesn’t. I go back to my seat.

    Judge: Mr. Brown, do you rest?
    Me: yes.
    Judge: Ok. Now it’s time for closing arguments.

    I didn’t think the Prosecutor would have any closing arguments since he didn’t have an opening statement. Boy was I wrong. The dude goes on for about 5-10 minutes about how I don’t care about the system, and I throw whatever I want into the recycle bin.

    I wasn’t prepared for a trail like this, much less for a closing statement. I ended up reading the Mission statement of the Fort Worth Environmental department’s website. I had the print out on the table from earlier, so I read it off.

    Me: I respect the mission of the environmental management department which is to provide efficient, effective and compliant environmental and solid waste management services. I always have, do, and always will cherish this mission. I ask that the court see that I did nothing wrong and should be found not guilty of these charges.

    Judge: The court will now make its verdict. The court finds the defendant…..guilty. I can’t tell without reasonable that that’s Styrofoam. But that is grass. But it’s not a lot of grass, so I’ll adjust the fine accordingly. I’ll make the fine $169.

    And that was it. 2 hours after I arrived at the courthouse, I was found guilty.

    Before I left, I looked over to the Prosecutor and said “I bet you tried so hard because you didn’t want to lose to someone with a law degree, huh? Well I guess you got the W.”

    The Judge overheard me, and said, “Anytime you get the fine reduced, that’s a win in my book.”

    I said, “You hear that?” Looking right at the prosecutor. “I won! Even though that grass was so minimal that it could have blown in from the storm the night before.”

    I got up and started walking out. And the prosecutor couldn’t help but get the last word.
    Prosecutor: Yea, but it didn’t blow in from the night before, you put it there!

    I left the court room pissed that I had to spend the last 2 hours in that place, and that the prosecutor was such a jerk. I also knew that I probably had a ticket on my truck for the parking meter being expired.

    Sure enough, I had a parking ticket. Later I looked at the ticket more closely only to find that it was given 30 minutes after I arrived that. So I guess the question is…is it worth it to fight the parking ticket and possibly go through the same bullshit I just went through, or just pay the 25 bucks?

    One thing is for sure, my law career is over. If you ask me there are no winners in this ordeal. We all lose.

    Thursday, January 15, 2009

    Recycle Bin, Tickets, Municipal Court, Advanced Parking Meters, and Pompous Prosecutors

    June 12th – My family is coming into town for a family reunion. I’m expected 20 family members at the house. Of course I am trying to clean the yard, house, etc to get ready for my company. At the last minute, I decided to clean out the front flower bed that was filled with leaves. I grabbed a plastic bag and racked up the leaves, placed them in the bag. My trash can (which is undersized and will hold exactly a weeks worth of trash) was full. I decided to put the bag of leaves in the recycle bin and close the lid. Trash day was tomorrow, so I placed the bins on the curb. This is how it all started.

    June 13th – Friday. Trash Day. I go to work as normal. When I come home, the trash can is emptied, but the recycle bin is placed up on my grass. It is still full, and it has a sticker on top stating what is allowed in the recycle bin. This really sucks on several accounts, mainly because I can’t hold two weeks worth of recyclables in the bin. So since they didn’t take it I would have to wait until the following week before they picked it up. I decided to take the bag of leaves out of the bin, since I knew they wouldn’t take the leaves, and keep the recycle bin out on the curb. I called the Fort Worth Environmental department, and informed them that they didn’t pick up my recycle bin. I was informed that they might pick it up that Saturday, but can’t make any promises. They didn’t pick it up. I kept it out on the curb all week in hopes they would pick it up.

    Sometime in August – I get a letter in the mail from the City of Fort Worth. It was a ticket. I can’t remember exactly what the ticket stated, but I do remember it stating I had Styrofoam in my recycle bin and I was being charged with a misdemeanor. I was upset, but not totally surprised at the ticket. The thing that I didn’t understand was that it said Styrofoam. I knew about the bag of leaves, but Styrofoam!? First, I didn’t even know you couldn’t place Styrofoam in the bin. I would think that it is recyclable. Second, I didn’t remember placing any Styrofoam in the bin. They must be mistaken. The ticket didn’t have a fee on it. It just had a number to call. I called the number to see what the fine was for. The lady that took the call took my ticket #. Then after looking it up, just said “Wow”. I thought to myself, this isn’t good.
    Lady on the phone: “Um…the fine is for $319 dollar.”
    Me: Excuse me!?
    Lady on the phone: How do you want to take care of this?
    Me: I don’t! I’m not guilty!
    Lady on the phone: I’ll send this to the court and they will notify you for a trial.

    At this point, I’m thinking my case will be that I didn’t place the bag of leaves in there. It’s their word against mine. They can’t actually have the garbage man take time off work to come to court over this matter. If it was like any of the traffic tickets I’ve got dismissed, if the officer doesn’t show up, it’s dismissed. What evidence can they have? I’m golden. 319 bucks! I’m still floored, and irate at this point, but knew my day would come to set the record straight and get this dismissed.

    September – I get a letter from the court stating my court date is January 14, 2009. 3:00 PM.

    January 14th – The day is finally here. I’d been thinking about how I’m going to handle this for a while. Let me first state that I don’t know much about court rooms. I’ve been there to get my ticket for no insurance thrown out, and I’ve been there for a speeding ticket which I actually had an attorney represent me.

    That morning, I got on the FW website and looked for what it stated was actually allowable in the recycle bin and what wasn’t. To my surprise, it doesn’t state what is NOT allowed, but only states what IS allowed. Styrofoam isn’t listed, neither is Grass or Yard Waste. Of course one could assume that since they aren’t listed on the allowable list, that they aren’t allowable. Anyways, I printed this off and took it with me to the court house.

    Tangent that has nothing to do with the ticket:
    2:40 – I get to downtown Fort Worth. I knew I was going to have to park at a meter, so I brought change. There was a spot I was familiar with that is usually open. There are 4 parallel parking spots that are all metered spots. In the past when I parked there, each of these four spots had a meter. I’m not sure why they did this, but they replaced the 4 meters, with one meter in the middle. The four spots are labeled A, B, C, and D. C is the one I pulled in. It is clearly labeled “Parking Space C – See meter for instructions”. I go over to the meter. The meter has no instructions on how to use this, so I went off common sense. The meter has 4 buttons on it that are all labeled with a letter beside it for its corresponding parking space. I hit C. It brings up 0:12. Common sense told me that the person that was parked in C just left and that there were 12 minutes remaining. I hit C and Hold it down. Nothing happens. I put a quarter in the meter. Nothing happens. I hit C. It still says 0:12. WTF? I hit A. A States 45 minutes. So I hit C again. Now I’m at 0:11. I put another quarter in, and hit C again. Still 0:11. I hit A and it goes to 53 minutes. I ended up repeating this until I was out of change. What other choices did I have? I left the meter with 11 minutes on Parking Spot C (which I was in). I didn’t feel good about this, but didn’t have any other options really besides parking somewhere else. More on this later, but you can probably guess what happens.

    2:50 – I get to the court house. Court room #2, which I was supposed to be in was locked. I asked the officer standing outside, if I was in the right place, and he said they usually open the doors right at 3:00. Sure enough right at 3:00 they open up. There ended up being 3 other cases along with mine in this court room. I could write a whole other story about these 3 cases alone. I’ll spare you for now.

    The court room includes: me, the other 3 people for their cases, the judge, a clerk, a baliff, and then about 10-12 uniformed unarmed officers in white. I wasn’t really sure at first what they were all doing, but later realized that these officers were there to testify for the cases that day. I didn’t really expect someone to be there to testify against me. My thinking going in was “what, is the garbage man going to testify against me?”

    I hand my letter to the clerk, and sit down. After about 10 minutes, the Judge starts. He begins be explained that this is a municipal court. We will first enter our pleas. He explains what our options are.
    1- Guilty
    2 – Not Guilty
    3- No Contest.
    He goes on to explain that No Contest and Guilty are the same thing in this court. No Contest was created so that someone could plead no contest and then if they later on got sued by someone they could state that they never pleaded Guilty. But the fine is the same regardless. And since this is municipal court and no one got hurt or can sue, it’s the same thing.
    He then goes on to say that if you don’t know what you are being charged with, please ask and I’ll explain. Judge says, “I always thought it was smart to know what you were being charged with before you enter a plea.” I shook my head in agreement

    He calls me first. I stand.
    Judge – Mr. Brown, do you understand the charges against you?
    Me – No, I do not your honor. Can you please explain.
    Judge – I didn’t really understand it at first either. This is what it states…

    He goes on to describe the charges. I can’t remember exactly what it stated at this point. But I do remember him saying “I willingly placed or allowed Yard Waste and Styrofoam in my recycle bin…”

    Me – Not Guilty, Your Honor. I did not place those things in my bin.
    Judge – Wait a second. The language you used there is interesting. You said you didn’t place them there. But the charge states you allowed them to be placed there.
    Me – Everyone places their garbage out on the curb the same time each week. Once it’s out there, I have no way of telling…
    Judge – Stop right there…I don’t want an explanation. I just found it interesting on your language.
    Me – I understand, you don’t want to hear facts at this time. Not Guilty, Your Honor.
    Judge – Ok.

    The judge looks at me and the ticket with an interesting look. He is a cool cat. A black Judge, that doesn’t take crap from anyone, but looks like he will listen to reason. I have a good feeling about him.

    The others go through the same thing.

    15 minutes passed, and the prosecutor calls me.

    Prosecutor: Would you like to talk about this case? You don’t have to, but it might save us some time.
    Me: Sure
    Prosecutor: Let’s step outside for a minute.

    We go outside the court room followed by one of the white shirted officers.

    Prosecutor: This is office Cagle
    Me: How do you do?
    We shake hands. He seems polite. The Prosecutor on the other hand does not. He seems like he is in a hurry, not excited to be there at all, and irritated at me for pleading not guilty. I mean come on…his job is to prosecute people that have various fines for the city of Fort Worth. His life is pretty low as it is. Why take it out on me? Well I guess that’s his job. But it’s a sucky one if you ask me.

    Prosecutor shows me some photos of my trash cans. F! I didn’t ever think they would have photos. What where they, I thought. I didn’t get a great look at them at that time. I should of asked to see them closer.

    Prosecutor: We have pictures of your garbage with yard waste and Styrofoam in it. Can you please explain what happened.
    Me: Well, I didn’t place any Styrofoam in the container. I’m not sure about that. As for the yard waste, I got home on that Friday, and my recycle bin was not emptied. It was up on my grass with a sticker on it. There was a bag of leaves inside. I removed the bag of leaves and put the bin back on the curb.
    Prosecutor: You thought it was ok, to place the container back on the street with items that weren’t allowed? You just thought, “I don’t care, I’m going to leave this here”?
    Me: As I stated, I removed the bag of leaves. I didn’t see anything else in there but cardboard and other recyclables.
    Officer Gagle: Cardboard is legal.
    Me: I know.
    Prosecutor: Look, I just want to know if you still think you aren’t guilty and want to go to trial on this matter.

    Even though I didn’t get a good look at pictures, I didn’t see the bag of leaves in any of the glances I got. I thought to myself that this picture was taken after I removed them, and they have nothing on me.
    *Thinking for a second* I said “Yes, I’m still not guilty. “

    We start walking back in. I really didn’t want to go to trial, but I didn’t want to pay the 320 dollar fine either. I stopped them before we went back in.

    Me: What are my other options here besides paying the fine?
    Prosecutor: Look, I don’t want to go to trial on this matter, just as I’m sure you don’t either. I can offer to reduce the fine and have you pay 200 bucks.
    Me: 200? No. Not Guilty. Let’s do the trial.

    To be continued…

    Wednesday, August 1, 2007

    Shan and Alfred the Tumor

    June 20th - Shanna goes in for an MRI on her back. She has had back pain all her life, but it has gotten really bad the past 3 months.

    June 22nd - We get a call from the doctor that one of the films is showing a mass in her belly. It was blocking on of the camera angles to her spine. Doctor calls us in.

    June 25th - Schedule CT Scan on stomach to get a better picture of what the mass is. Our general practitioner refers us to a surgeon friend of his.

    July 9th - Talk to surgeon about the mass. It appears that it is touching her liver and he doesn't want to operate since he is not a liver expert. The mass is 17 cm in diameter. He doesn't know what it is.
    Surgeon Fikkert refers us to Dr. Stephenson (a liver expert that is supposedly the best in the area if not the country). Take lab test to determine if it's cancerous.

    July 13th - Found that it is not cancerous according to her blood levels.

    July 25th - After numerous cancellations, reschedules, and push backs we finally get in to see Dr. S. You can only imagine our irritation in this matter and frustration that the doctors aren't in more of a hurry to see us than they are.
    - Dr. S. has a med student that was about 25 years old to come in to see us first. Not impressed with him. Dr. S. was in his young 40's. Maybe later 30's. nice guy. Nicer than I expected. He says the mass is one of three different types of tumors. He believes it is benign. Wants to schedule surgery soon, but not tremendously in a hurry. Says it could rupture if hit hard enough. He is going on vacation Aug. 6th for two weeks so we have a one week window to get the surgery done. He schedules it for Monday at 11:45 am.

    July 29th (night before the surgery)- 6:00 PM to be exact. Shanna is having to drink clear liquids only all day. And clean her self out laxitaitivley ( i just made that word up). We get a call for Dr. S's nurse saying that Dr. S is out of town and his flight got canceled. The surgery has been canceled and she doesn't know when it will be rescheduled. *insert cuss words, extreme screaming at the nurse, bad name calling, bad name calling, telling the nurse that Dr. S better refund my moms plane ticket for coming up here for nothing, etc, etc.*
    7:00 PM Dr. S calls. Shanna answers. (side note: Shanna is a corporate travel agent and happens to have access to her work terminal from home.) Dr. S says he is stuck and can't get home. Shanna asks where he is and he tells her. Shanna says and I quote "that's bullshit". She types in some buttons and finds Dr. S a flight that leaves at 8:47 PM arriving at midnight. He says, "put me on it." she takes his cc number, and the whole time I sitting there not beliving what's going on. Flight booked. Surgeon is coming home.

    8:00 Get a call from Dr. S again saying that flight has been delayed. He tells us that the surgery will be Monday or Tuesday and he is going to try his best to get in.
    - Shanna decides not to eat anything still in hopes of having surgery tomorrow.

    5:00 AM. Dr. S . Calls. He is on his flight and coming home. Surgery is on for 9:00 am.


    email I sent out at midnight on Monday.
    Here is an update on Shanna: She made it through surgery just fine. The mass (Alfred is what we called it) was stuck to her gal bladder. So they removed Alfred, the gal bladder, and 3 cm of her liver too. The doctor said it was a benign tumor that was pre-cancerous. Meaning that it could have turned into cancer if left in her. Thank God it was detected when it was.

    Shanna is recovering in ICU tonight, and all her vitals look great. She has a great attitude about it and is just resting. They are keeping her abdomen numb with an epidural for three days to help with the pain. They say those first 3-4 days are the worst as you can imagine. So she has some aches and pains in her collar bone and chest area which are common with this surgery but all in all she is doing great!

    To add on to all the mess, Jonah was running a 102 degree fever the past 48 hours. Looks like he finally broke the fever, and he also got his first tooth in the meantime!

    Wednesday Aug 1st.
    Shanna is doing great. She has an epidural that is taking away most of the pain. I wish we could take it home with us and leave the hospital. May come home tomorrow.

    Post-op stories to be continued...

    Thursday, June 28, 2007

    Hoop-It-Up Dallas Part II

    Team Name: Vanilla
    No secret why we named ourselves vanilla. We were made up of four white guys in a heavy black population.

    Rusty – He has played in every HIU with me except one in which I played in San Antonio. Rusty was my college room mate when I attended Howard Payne. When he is in shape, there aren’t too many better players that I have played along. The problem – he hasn’t played basketball in 3 years (so he told me). He just started running months ago, so he was in a little bit of shape but as you know basketball shape it completely different from any other shape. The thing that makes Rusty so great is that he can shoot lights out. He has a shooting touch most people dream about having.

    Kevin – He was Rusty’s high school assistant coach. He is in his late 30’s and also a great shooter. I played along side Kevin in two other HIU’s and this was our third tour together. When Kevin catches fire from outside, you can pretty much write it up as a victory.

    Ryder – I met Ryder approx. 15 minutes before our first game. He is a friend of Kevin’s, and we needed a 4th guy. He was 6’2, a little lighter than me. Could jump pretty high. He knew his role on the team. He didn’t have to do much. He got rebounds, shot when he was open, didn’t force the issue. He was our Fabricio Oberto.

    Myself – In a normal gym game I would play the point forward. I can take up the ball if needed, but enjoy playing on the wing along side a good point guard and running the floor. I can shoot from outside, but it’s not my biggest strength. Passing, playing down low, and slashing to the basket are my biggest assets. Since we already had two great shooters, there was no need for me to play outside. I planned on playing on the low block all weekend long despite the size of my opponents.

    There were 24 teams in our division that were divided into 6 different pools. The top two seeds of each pool made it to the championship bracket on Sunday. They also made a consolation bracket so everyone had the opportunity to play on Sunday. The Sunday brackets were win or go home style. No double elimination or guarantees of a second game.

    Our first game was at 9:30 in the morning on Saturday. I personally always hate the first game. You get about 2 minutes of warming up between the game prior and the start of your game. This is with 7 or 8 guys trying to shoot at one basket with maybe two b-balls being used. This isn’t very practical when trying to get used to the elements (wind, sun, rim, backboard, etc). Speaking of elements…the three point line (or two point line in HIU talk) was about 12 feet from the basket. It was definitely not the whole 18 feet like a normal basket. This also took some getting used to…especially since we had two three point specialist all shooting with their legs making their shots go WAY long.
    Needless to say we didn’t shoot well that first game at all. We ended up ending the game in a tie. 14-14. The rule for a tie was OT going to 2. You play all your games by 1’s and 2’s, so a two pointer wins it right away. I scored a lay-up and then they missed a three. The proceeding play killed the game. We got the rebound, cleared the ball, and had a wide open shot in the middle of the court. Kevin went up for a little floater expecting to get fouled. The guy punches Kevin in the stomach so blantly that he actually apologizes to Kevin right after wards. The ref didn’t blow his whistle…The rest of us were shell shocked and watched as they cleared the ball and jacked up a three to win it.
    We lost by one.

    Our second game was against some Latino flava. They had one big boy that was probably 6’3 250. We were kinda scared at first and trying to figure out how to play him. We quickly found out that he was soft! I was able to post him up at will, and even get a couple blocks against him. We killed this team 20-10. Rusty and Kevin both found their range. And we hit at least 7 two pointers this game.

    Third and final game of the day. We found out earlier in the day that if we won we would be in a three way tie for first. All the teams beat the team that we beat 20-10, and the team we were about to play beat the team that beat us. So if we won, we would be in a three way tie with 2-1 records. When this happens that go to point difference. The Team we were about to play won their game against Team A by 4. So if we won and beat them by at least 4 we would get the 1st seed and get a bye the first round on Sunday. (meaning getting to sleep in an hour later and resting one more game.) Well this game was our toughest all day. They were physical, and had one good shooter. We were in a battle. Rusty started off hot. We went up 11-6. Then they came back and tied it up 11-11. Then I caught fire and made 5 straight post up moves around the basket. They battled back yet again and we were going back and forth. It was tied 18-18 with about 30 seconds left. We called a timeout and Kevin says, “if I get a look I’m shooting”. We proceeded to talk about setting a back pick on my guy which would make them collapse on me underneath leaving Kevin open outside. This worked to perfection. Kevin set a hard pick and I took both the defenders with me. Kevin got the ball at the top of the key and drained a two pointer to win it.

    So since we lost our one game by 1 point and the other team lost their one game by 4 points we got the second seed.

    *Stay Tuned for Sunday’s action.