Thursday, June 30, 2005

Gotta love people ... especially these people

1. When his 38-caliber revolver failed to fire at his intended victim during a hold-up in Long Beach, California, would-be robber James Elliot did something that can only inspire wonder. He peered down the barrel and tried the trigger again. This time it worked.

2. The chef at a hotel in Switzerland lost a finger in a meat cutting machine and, after a little hopping around, submitted a claim to his insurance company. The company —  expecting negligence — sent out one of its  men to have a look for himself. He tried the machine and lost a finger. The chef's claim was approved.

3. A man who shoveled snow for an hour to clear a space for his car during a blizzard in Chicago returned with his vehicle to find a woman had taken the space. Understandably, he shot her.

4. After stopping for drinks at an illegal bar, a Zimbabwean bus driver found that the 20 mental patients he was supposed to be transporting from Harare to Bulawayo had escaped. Not wanting to admit his incompetence, the driver went to a nearby bus stop and offered everyone waiting there a free ride. He then delivered the passengers to the mental hospital, telling the staff that the patients were very excitable and prone to bizarre fantasies. The deception wasn't discovered for three days.

5. An American teenager was in the hospital ecovering from serious head wounds received from an oncoming train. When asked how he received the injuries, the lad told police that he was simply trying to see how close he could get his head to a moving train before he was hit.   

6. A man walked into a Louisiana Circle-K, put a $20 bill on the counter, and asked for change. When the clerk opened the cash drawer, the man pulled a gun and asked for all the cash in the register, which the clerk promptly provided. The man took the cash from the clerk and fled, leaving the $20 bill on the counter. The total amount of cash he got from the drawer ... $15.

(If someone points a gun at you and gives you money, is a crime committed?)

7. Seems an Arkansas guy wanted some beer pretty badly. He decided that he'd just throw a cinderblock through a liquor store window, grab some booze, and run. So he lifted the cinderblock and heaved it over his head at the window. The cinderblock bounced back and hit the would-be thief on the head, knocking him unconscious. The liquor store window was made of Plexiglas. The whole event was caught on videotape.

8. As a female shopper exited a New York convenience store, a man grabbed her purse and ran. The clerk called 911 immediately, and the woman was able to give them a detailed description of the snatcher. Within minutes, the police apprehended the snatcher. They put him in the car and drove back to the store. The thief was then taken out of the car and told to stand there for a positive ID. To which he replied, "Yes, officer, that's her. That's the lady I stole the purse from."

9. The Ann Arbor News crime column reported that a man walked into a Burger King in Ypsilanti, Michigan, at 5 a.m., flashed a gun, and demanded cash. The clerk turned him down because he said he couldn't open the cash register without a food order. When the man ordered onion rings, the clerk said they weren't available for breakfast. The man, frustrated, walked away.

10. When a man attempted to siphon gasoline from a motor home parked on a Seattle street, he got much more than he bargained for. Police arrived at the scene to find a very sick man curled up next to a motor home near spilled sewage. A police spokesman said that the man admitted to trying to steal gasoline and plugged his siphon hose into the motor home's sewage tank by mistake. The owner of the vehicle declined to press charges, saying that it was the best laugh he'd ever had.

Monday, June 27, 2005

summer as a grownup

The thing about being a grownup is sometimes summer looses it's affect. I'm lucky enough to have a job that allows me get out and about pretty much as I please, so that helps from being completely trapped inside. (I was trying to explain this to my best friend, who is a teacher ... She forgets she gets the essense of summer in her life.)

Saturday was the epitome of summer in my world. (Well, true epitome will come July 9-16 when we're in Florida, but Saturday was as close as it gets in Murray.)

Peggy and I went to yard sales Saturday morning (The deal of the day was unused Rook cards for 10 cents.) and then at lunch at a quaint girly restaurant called Garden Gate. Then Greg and I went to his aunt and uncle's pool with Jaclyn and Bryan. I read magazines and got a really good start of my new book. (I finished it last night, but "The Second Summer of the Sisterhood" isn't exactly literature. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed it.) Later that night we grilled out with friends and played games until about midnight.

Passing Gas

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Two New Orleans radio stations apparently don’t think there’s anything funny about passing Gas.
Marketing folks for Shoney’s thought they had come up with a humorous radio spot promoting the restaurant’s breakfast buffet. A driver ticks off middle America towns with odd-sounding names — Two Egg, Fla., Weiner, Ark., and Sweet Lips, Tenn. — noting there are Shoney’s along the way.

“Pretty soon down the road when you’re passing Gas, you’ll be glad you stopped,” the announcer says before a brief pause. “What? Gas, Kansas, you sicko. I can’t believe you went there.”

Dan Burgess, public relations director at Doe Anderson, the Louisville, Ky., advertising firm that created the ad, said New Orleans stations OWLMG and WTKL chose not to run the spot.

“We thought the ad was a little cute, but we didn’t think it would get banned,” he said. “Especially in New Orleans, which is not the most conservative of places.”

Officials at the two stations, both owned by Entercom, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Dan Dahlen, senior vice president of marketing for Nashville-based Shoney’s, said restaurant officials think the ad is “hilarious.”

Even people in Gas — population 530 — aren’t put off.

“We’re actually so used to this kind of thing, it’s almost second nature,” city clerk Rozanne Hutton said.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Hmmm ... Part Two

From Newsweek's "Special Edition: The Future of Medicine":

While U.S. politicians have been bickering over embryonic-stem-cell research, doctors around the world have been staging a quiet revolution — regenerating jaws, restoring corneas, building bones, heartening heart patients — and they've complete circumvented the embryonic conundrum. Their secret weapon? Autologous stem cells, which come not from days-old human embryos but from the anatomical nooks and crannies (particularly the bone marrow and blood) of adults. Embryonic stem cells may be the most versatile in the lab, but they have yet to be tested in a single human being. Their autologous counterparts have the promise of transforming patients' lives now. ...

completely enjoying the weather


I'm apparently amused at something Greg did, and I apparently didn't use enough sunscreen. It's totally OK, though. The weather was beautiful (look at those picture-perfect clouds!) and there was a nice breeze with the sunshine. We rented a pontoon boat with friends and spent the afternoon, eating barbecue and swimming. And I laid out and caught up some quality magazine reading.  Posted by Hello

our own audience


Here Greg and I are posing for ourselves while we're swinging on the porch swing at his parents' house Sunday afternoon. Have I mentioned the weather was perfect this weekend? Again, evident by the red noses of ours.  Posted by Hello

a slower pace


This was the view from the porch swing. His parents' house is out in the country just across the state line in Tennesse. It's a log house they designed and a nice break from the hectic routine of life. The dogs -- Lando, Scooby and Scrappy -- think so too.  Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 16, 2005

ah, the life of a reporter ... or something like it

I just talked to a cop buddy of mine about a meth bust while he had the meth maker in custody in the back of his car. He asked the guy his address and everything so he could tell me. It's crazy the things I hear about, even as a reporter. This all after another source close to the investigation (I've always wanted to say that ...) called and told me about the meth bust. The cop also told me about another big arrest the other local police department made earlier in the day.

At least I'll go to work in the morning with some stories to write.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

blah, blah, blah ... (i say to myself)

I'm not going to rehash the my-expectations-are-too-high, I-react-too-quickly-and-don't-calm-my-heart, I-am-too-needy crap. There are many, many, many, many blogs that address such downfalls of myself. But I will say walking three and running two laps helped clear my head. Somehow I took the anger, frustration and sadness out on the pavement and the park. God, I hope I left the hurt feelings, double standards and neediness there.

(Yes, I really ran two laps. I never run ...)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

dreaming and writing ...

I'm in a writing funk.

I keep telling people I'm glad I'm not busy, but that's not true. The first few months of this year were especially busy. Really, the 21 months I have been at the newspaper in Murray have been generally busy. My work world slowed down the last month or so. Truth is, I wish I had a project. I thrive with projects, even if they take time. I like the focus and the mission, and the eventual sense of accomplishment.

I recently read a book called "The Needle and the Damage Done" by Scott Bowles, a USA Today reporter. The book is journal of Bowles' challenge with diabetes and subsequent kidney and pancreas transplant. His experience with diabetes was much longer and much different than mine. But I definitely related to his situation, and more than that, I appreciated his words. He was honest but focused, at least according to my interpretation.

So I e-mailed him last week, mainly because I was so intrigued with the "project" that I wanted him to know there was someone out there who appreciated the outcome. Now, I'm sure there were many others, but I still wanted to tell him. He's a film writer in Los Angeles and surely has better things to do than respond to an e-mail from a small-town reporter in Murray, Ky. At least that's what I thought. He e-mailed me back promptly, appreciating my appreciation.

Well, in reading about his book, I learned Bowles was one of 11 reporters who contributed to "Crime on Deadline: Police Reporters Tell Their Most Unforgetable Stories." It was published earlier than his other book, but it peaked my interest anyway. Among the many things I cover at the paper, police and courts is one of them. Plus, I like non-fiction stuff that offers a perspective on journalism.

So add those two books to my free time at work, and I'm reached this point of wanting to do more and being frustrated I can't put my finger on what doing more means. I want to make a difference in this community. Sometimes I gripe about how I'll live in Murray forever and that hinders my professional aspirations, even though deep down I know this is a good place to have a family, which will ultimately be more important than any "career." (Maybe I just wish Greg liked to travel to cities a little more...)

Still, I dream ...

Churning out stories for the next day's or that days's paper gets old because I know issues are deeper. Specifically, I think about all of the drug arrests, particularly dealing with methamphetamine, that I write about several times a week. Certain ones grab bigger headlines, but they all are rooted in an increasing problem that people in this town don't want to grasp. Methamphetamine and other drugs are finding their way into everyone's life. It's not just a low-income problem here and it's going to hurt this community if law enforcement doesn't find a way (and the money and people) to properly deal with it. Maybe that's my story.

Earlier today I e-mailed Bowles again the woes of small-town journalism because he implied such sentiments in his contribution to "Crime on Deadline." He was fortunate to have three months to devote to one story about a murder who killed 14 people, including his immediate family, and was getting ready to be executed. In the message today (I'm so thankful it took a few minutes to respond to the girl in Kentucky trying to learn!), he said not to let the time restrictions get me down; good stories will come to me.

I think he's right. I'm tying it all together in my head. Last week I talked to the assistant commonwealth attorney about the drug problem and how as a prosecutor he's trying to help law enforcement gather drug intelligence. Maybe that's my first step. I need to brainstorm some story ideas from that.

Sometimes just babbling makes it all come full circle.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Hmmm....

Stem-cell research always gets me thinking.

From the American Diabetes Association:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — South Korean scientists who cloned the first human embryo to use for research said on Thursday they have used the same technology to create batches of embryonic stem cells from nine patients.

Their study fulfills one of the basic promises of using cloning technology in stem cell research — that a piece of skin could be taken from a patient and used to grow the stem cells.

Researchers believe the cells could one day be trained to provide tailored tissue and organ transplants to treat juvenile diabetes, Parkinson's disease and repair severed spinal cords. Unlike so-called adult stem cells, embryonic stem cells have the potential from the beginning to form any cell or tissue in the body.

Woo Suk Hwang and colleagues at Seoul National University report their process is much more efficient than they hoped, and yielded 11 stem cell batches, called lines, from six adults and three children with spinal cord injuries, juvenile diabetes and a rare immune disorder.

"This study shows that embryonic stem cells can be derived using nuclear transfer from patients with illness ... regardless of sex or age," Hwang told reporters in a telephone briefing.

"I am amazed at how much they have accomplished in just a year and the amount, the quality and the rigorousness of their evidence," Dr. Gerald Schatten of the University of Pittsburgh, a stem cell expert who reviewed the study, said in a telephone interview.

While the patients whose cells were copied do not stand at this time to benefit, the researchers hope to study the cells to understand their conditions better.

They also say their method may be less controversial than other work with embryonic stem cells because, by their definition, a human embryo was never actually created.

The report, published in the journal Science, is certain to add to the growing U.S. political controversy over the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

Opponents say all such work is unethical and should be banned because human life begins at conception and should not be destroyed.

NO HUMAN EMBRYO

Hwang said his method differs from that first used to derive human embryonic stem cells in 1998 and he proposes using a new term for the cloned embryos - a "nuclear transfer construct."

"I think this construct is not an embryo," he said. "There is no fertilization in our process. We use nuclear transfer technology. I can say this result is not an embryo but a nuclear transfer construct."

The sheep Dolly, the first adult mammal cloned, was made using nuclear transfer, in which the nucleus is removed from an egg cell, replaced with the nucleus of the animal or person to be cloned, and then fused. The egg begins dividing as if it had been fertilized and sometimes becomes an embryo.

Cattle, pigs, sheep, cats and other animals have been cloned using this method.

Schatten said when scientists first got stem cells from human embryos in 1998, they broke open the little days-old ball of cells called a blastocyst.

In the current study, he said, they simply laid down the blastocyst in a lab dish filled with human "feeder cells."

David Magnus and Mildred Cho of the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics in California agreed.

"There is no reason ever to believe one of these things could ever become a human being," said Magnus, who with Cho wrote a commentary on the work.

"Even for people that believe that potentiality is the key to personhood, these things, whatever they are, they are not people. Somatic cell nuclear transfer is an ethically better way of producing stem cells than using excess IVF (in vitro fertilization or test-tube baby) embryos."

Schatten said the method could also eventually do away with the need for some animal experiments, which some people also find objectionable and which others say is not always a good way to predict human medical treatments.

Opponents of stem cell research had not had an opportunity to review the paper and could not immediately comment.

Here's a summary of stem cells from another article on the ADA site:

Stem cell research allows scientists to better explore how to control and direct stem cells so they can grow into other cells, such as insulin-producing beta cells found in the pancreas. Creating new beta cells could mean a cure for type 1 diabetes as they would serve as a replenishable source of cells for islet cell transplantation. They could also provide a powerful tool for controlling type 2 diabetes.

While embryonic stem cell research has only taken place in the last decade, researchers have made several advances to demonstrate its potential for scientific progress, and they now understand pieces of the framework for how this research could benefit diabetes. Already, many of the genes involved in pancreatic development have been identified, and recent discoveries have allowed scientists to overcome the difficult task of getting stem cells to produce the necessary proteins — in the correct sequence — that will allow them to become insulin-producing islet cells.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

"side"


Memorial Day weekend Milla was entertaining herself — and her Aunt Kristin — in the yard. We were out there after she told me what she wanted: "Side. Side." In Milla's world, that's "outside." Posted by Hello

"shoes"


Milla is 17 months old and she already loves shoes. Maybe she just loves them because she can say "shoes." Or maybe she can say the word because she loves them so much. Either way, here she is surrounded by three pairs of shoes, wanting to put any of them on here feet. She takes a break from her determined independence to smile for the camera. In addition to shoes, she loves an audience. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Let it go ...

Why can't I get it through my thick head that trying too hard just comes off as controlling? People, including myself, don't like controlling people, also including myself.

People say the dumbest things ...
but they sure make me laugh

These are from a book called "Disorder in the American Courts" and are things people actually said in court, word for word, taken down and now published by court reporters that had the torment of staying calm while these exchanges were actually taking place.

Q: Are you sexually active?
A: No, I just lie there.

Q: What is your date of birth?
A: July 15.
Q: What year?
A: Every year.

Q: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
A: Gucci sweats and Reeboks.

Q: This condition you have... does it affect your memory at all?
A: Yes.
Q: And in what ways does it affect your memory?
A: I forget.
Q: You forget? Can you give us an example of something that you've forgotten?

Q: How old is your son, the one living with you?
A: Thirty-eight or thirty-five, I can't remember which.
Q: How long has he lived with you?
A: Forty-five years.

Q: What was the first thing your husband said to you when he woke up that morning?
A: He said, "Where am I, Cathy?"
Q: And why did that upset you?
A: My name is Susan.

Q: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo or the occult?
A: We both do.
Q: Voodoo?
A: We do.
Q: You do?
A: Yes, voodoo.

Q: Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until the next morning?
A: Did you actually pass the bar exam?

Q: The youngest son, the twenty-year-old, how old is he?

Q: Were you present when your picture was taken?

Q: So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?
A: Yes.
Q: And what were you doing at that time?

Q: She had three children, right?
A: Yes.
Q: How many were boys?
A: None.
Q: Were there any girls?

Q: How was your first marriage terminated?
A: By death.
Q: And by whose death was it terminated?

Q: Can you describe the individual?
A: He was about medium height and had a beard.
Q: Was this a male, or a female?

Q: Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition
notice which I sent to your attorney?
A: No, this is how I dress when I   go to work.

Q: Doctor, how many autopsies have you performed on dead people?
A: All my autopsies are performed on dead people.

Q: ALL your responses MUST be oral, OK? What school did you go to?
A: Oral.

Q: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
A: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.
Q: And Mr. Dennington was dead at the time?
A: No, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy.

Q: Are you qualified to give a urine sample?

Q: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
A: No.
Q: Did you check for blood pressure?
A: No.
Q: Did you check for breathing?!
A: No.
Q: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
A: No.
Q: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
A: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
Q: But could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
A: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law somewhere.

... He's in love with me

On repeat in my headphones this morning at work, thanks to the "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" soundtrack:

Hey Kid... Your time has come to change
Though I need you more than I've needed anyone in any way tonight
Hey Kid... I know it won't be long
The Captain's calling...come to see you back where we belong

Something inside me is breaking
Something inside says there's somewhere better than this...

Sunset sailing on April skies
Bloodshot fire clouds in her eyes
I can't say what I might believe
But if God made you he's in love with me

Hey Kid...Do wishes count at all
Can you give me a sign...give me anything I won't tell a soul you told
Hey Kid...Will you hold me when I sleep
Will you find me when the tide decides that I got to leave

Something inside me is breaking
Something inside says there's somewhere better than this...

—Five For Fighting

Monday, June 6, 2005

expectations

I expected Nashville to be OK. But it ended up being better than OK.

Peggy and I had a great time shopping Saturday afternoon while Gary and Greg were at the second day of a real estate conference. We went to Cool Springs, which is south of Nashville near Brentwood and Franklin. The mall itself is great because it's has a lot of open space and windows, making it less confined than I usually feel in malls. Then there are a ton of great stores off the road that circles the mall. We had certain things we were looking for, mainly some gifts for upcoming showers. We were successful, although I didn't make it to some of my favorite stores (Target, Old Navy ...) that were sitting right there. I also discovered JoAnn's. That craft store has its on line of some scrapbooking supplies, making them cheaper than the name brands. After shopping, we met back up with Greg and Gary and we all went to dinner with Greg's good friend and a family friend in general, Jimmy, and his wife, Julie. I hadn't really ever hung out with them before, but I really enjoyed it. And my trout at O'Charley's was outstanding. Greg and I got in bed at the hotel at 8:30 and just talked, read and hung out. The bed was so comfortable, and I slept so well that night.

I expected the drive from Nashville to Louisville feel longer than it should have because I was by myself. But (Does two things make a trend?) the drive was actually peaceful and enjoyable.

I listened to Sugarland as I headed out of Nashville. Once that was finished. I listened to a sermon on a CD from a friend's church. I don't really like listening to such things while I drive, well, in general. I just have a hard time focusing if I don't have something to watch while I listen. I'm definitely a visual learner. Anyway, the sermon topic was "come as you," which is an intriguing thought to me. So I started listening. But I didn't like something at the beginning, and it sort of distracted me, so I turned the CD off. Not two miles later, I decided I should give it a chance. So I listened ... and the message ended up giving some things to think about, which is the point in my mind, so I give success a surprising check.

Jesus loved people they we they were. He let a prostitute wash his feet. He befriended a tax collector. He know his disciple would betray him. He loved them, and he showed them grace. The sermon talked about how defining grace -- "unmerited favor" -- isn't enough to give people. To really love people, we have to demonstrate grace. That made me think about the people who know me. I had to wonder if they expect me to show them grace. If not, I'm not doing my job loving them as they are.

The expectation of grace is thin line, whether considering God's grace or thinking about the grace we show to each other. Just because grace exists doesn't mean we should abuse it. Yet because grace exists we should be real.

It all reminds me of my favorite line from "The Chasing Song" by Andrew Peterson:

I know falling down ain't graceful, but I thank the Lord that falling is full of grace. (A search of my blog reveals this is the third time I've quoted that line...)

OK, so the drive to Louisville is filled with good thought time and good music. I heard Toby Keith's new song on a station that played two of his songs back-to-back. Maybe the station would have played more, but I lost it toward the end of the second one.

I expected to enjoy seeing old friends at Kelly's wedding shower. I met Jaclyn at my parents' house so we could go together. It wasn't a bad time, but it wasn't what I expected either.

Seeing Kelly was good, as usual. She was obviously distracted in the shower setting with random friends from her life -- now and then -- merging in the same room. It's nice but I remember some pressure making sure everyone is comfortable. I thought seeing Cara would be good and the hello hug when she got there didn't make me doubt that thought. Keep in mind, I hadn't seen her since last April -- almost 14 months ago, which is a long time for the girl I considered my best friend for so, so many years. In the 15 months before last April, I had only seen her twice. Anyway, I'm not drudging that up as much as I'm putting this into perspective. So I tried to chat with her, but it didn't seem to work very well. The shower proceeded like showers do, and then at the end I realized she left without saying bye to me. I guess she really didn't have anything to say to me and wasn't interested in hearing a sliver of my life. It's OK, just a little sad. It shook my heart a little. It's funny because the last time I saw her, last year, I thought it could be awkward, but it ended up not being. Then, we talked and laughed. So that's why this time I expected some "normalcy." Certain things hurt my heart regardless of the circumstances, but those pinches inside are exaggerated when expectations are shattered in the process and I'm caught off guard.

Throughout the day, I thanked God for Jaclyn. She rode back from Louisville with me, so that was a good time to just talk some about all sorts of things. This afternoon, she and I went to see "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants." Gotta love Monday afternoons off work for something. The movie was great. Likeable characters. Good story lines that helped all the girls face their fears. Friendships. Good music. Completely girly. And I expected all that from the movie. (Plus the character I most identified with — Lena — spent the summer on the Greek island of Santorini. We visited there last summer. In fact, that beautiful place is currently on my computer desktop at work.)

Morale of the blog: Expectations are the product of a perfect melancholy, but sometimes they just get in the way of enjoying life.

(Surely you expected the blog to come full circle?!)

Friday, June 3, 2005

Secrets in journalism

I've been trying to decide what to blog about Deep Throat being revealed. For me, the story about the story is the most interesting part. The Watergate scandal itself was interesting. But Woodward's secret source — the man whose shadow we saw in the parking garage — was the most intriguing part. To hear about who this man was and is has become the story from the story three decades ago. It's a mixture of this intrigue and disappointment that the myth is gone. No other secret will ever be kept for 30 years among journalists and politicians.

I've read a column by Bob Woodward and another by Ben Bradlee's wife, Sally Quinn. The Washington Post may have got scooped by Vanity Fair on their own secret, but they sure have a stockpile of stories nobody else can write.

Go read what Quinn has to say, but here's an excerpt that gives you an idea doesn't really do it justice:

No. I did not know who Deep Throat was. And no. I never asked my husband, Ben Bradlee. Why not? For several reasons. I have too much pride, to begin with. I knew perfectly well Ben wouldn't tell me and I didn't want to be refused. Secondly, I ... how shall I say this? ... have a big mouth. It would have been a huge responsibility to know. It was also clear that if somebody else spilled the beans, fingers would be pointed at me.

The most important reason, though, was that I really didn't want Ben to tell, not just me, but anybody. Deep Throat was Bob Woodward's source, not Ben's. And Ben had promised Woodward he would not reveal the source.

...

There is a saying in Washington that nothing is ever really off the record, and if a story is too good it will eventually get out. That's pretty much true. Which is what makes the Deep Throat story extraordinary and why it's become such a legend.

...

How do I feel about Deep Throat being revealed? Well, I had always suspected it was W. Mark Felt, so I wasn't surprised. Now I feel a mixture of relief that it's out, pleasure that it ended well and sadness that it's over. For Washington, Deep Throat has been part of the myth of the city. The good guys against the bad guys. Now, Deep Throat is no longer, but even so he was only a part of the Watergate legend, and that legend will always be there.

How is it that the identity of Deep Throat remained a secret for so long? Integrity. Mark Felt didn't leak to Woodward because of money or fame. He did it because he was a good citizen.

Ben and Bob and Carl Bernstein understood the importance of protecting a source and how damaging it would have been to journalism if they had revealed his identity. It's that simple.

Help Somebody

I love hearing great songs on the radio for the first time, especially on days when the sun decided to shine — if even for just a few minutes. I was OK squinting as I listened.

Well grandaddy was a hillbilly scholar,
blue collar of a man...
He came from the school of
"you don't need nothin' if you can't make it with your own two hands"
He was backwoods, backwards, used words like:
no sir, yes ma'am, by god, I'll be darned, hell yeah I'm American..
and all the years he walked this earth
I swear all he did was work.
He said the devil dreams on an idle horse
so you listen to me squirt...

Don't get too high on a bottle,
and get right with a man.
Fight your fights, find your grace
and all the things you two can't change, and help somebody if you can

Now Granny said sonny
stick to your gun if you believe in something
no matter what
cause it's better to be hated for who you are
Than loved for someone you're not.
She was 5 feet of concrete
New York born and raised on a slick city street.
She'll stare you down, stand her ground,
still kickin' and screamin' at 93
I remember how frail she looked
in that hospital bed
taking her last few breaths of life
and smiling as she said

Don't get too high on a bottle,
just a little syrup now and then,
fight your fights,
find your grace,
and all the things you two can't change
and help somebody if you can,
and get right with a man

I never let a cowboy make the coffee
yeah thats what Granny always said to my Grandad
and he'd say never tell a joke
that ain't that funny more than once
and if you wanna hear God laugh,
tell Him your plans

Don't get too high on a bottle,
get right with a man, son.
fight your fights,
find your grace,
and all the things you two can't change
and help somebody if you can
and get right with a man

— Van Zant

Thursday, June 2, 2005

Love Actually

In sweet, funny and sometimes twisted ways, "Love Actually" is a great movie about relationships. I've been thinking about the last couple of days after seeing the end of it at my mom's house this weekend.

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge -- they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around. -- Hugh Grant's Prime Minister character

stuyding the emotional economy

Off and on I've been reading "Everybody's Normal Till You Get To Know Them" John Ortberg. I've talked about it on here before, and I'm going to talk about it again. I love the book because it's about people and analyzing the relationships we -- people in general -- build with each other. Right up my perfect melancholy alley. Yes, I know, it all sounds extremely nerdy.

"When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." -- Proverbs 10:19

Ortberg spends some time discussing this proverb as he compares conversations to driving. There are signs, as we often run through the interesections of nonverbal signs of a conversation that might tell us enough is enough or slow down or keep listening or offer advice ... Paying attention is the key to loving people.

He says this:

When we practice the proverb, we begin to learn amazing things. We can live without getting the last word. We can live without trying ot make sure we control how other people are thinking about us. We can live without winning every argument, without powering up over every decision, without always drawing attention to ourselves.

Admitedly, I have a hard time living without most of those things. My heart tenses up when I think about how I try too hard to have people understand me and set my mind or having conversations finish just the way I prefer. I'll argue unfairfly with those I love because it seems easier than dealing with my frustrations. Basically, I dwell on the details, trying to control outcomes and interpretations. In all honesty, my heart would be lighter, freer to love if I'd let go ...

Then ironic thing is without attention relationships die. So the challenge -- or maybe the adventure on a good day -- is to tend to the relationship -- any and all relationships -- without enough attention they grow but don't drown among control and stubbornness.

If you are part of a family, friendship, club, organization, department, small group, or church, you are part of what Daniel Goleman calls an "emotional economy." Every single interaction we have with another person involves not simply exchanging information or performing tasks but also influencing each other's moods and attitudes. The emotional economy is "the sum total of exchanges of feeling among us." Emotions are more contagious than the flu. ... Every time two people make contact, they come away feeling either better or more energized or worse and more depleted. It is as if we carry our own little emotional ATMs around with us all of the time, and at each encounter we are either making deposits or withdrawals on the vitality of those around us.

Ortberg then quotes Anne Lamott about those certain people:

... whose company you love, whose mind you love to pick, whose running commentary totally holds your attention, who makes you laugh out loud. ... When you have a friend like this, she can say, "Hey, I've got to drive up to the dump in Petaluma -- wanna come along?" and you honestly can't think of anything in the world you'd rather do. By the same token, a boring or annoying person can offer to buy you an expensive dinner, followed by tickets to a great show, and in all honesty, you'd rather stay home and watch the Jello harden.

The whole thing gets me thinking about whether I'm relationally intelligent. And I think that's what Ortberg presses us, at least the readers of his book, to think about, as he says:

Being able to discern the state of an emotional economy is a great gift. No one ever mastered this the way Jesus did. Simply by walking with his friends, he was immediately aware of the presence of tension and would skillfully use questions to surface and learn from problems: "What were you arguing about?" You may wonder when the other people in your life will be mature enough, healthy enough, or normal enough to become a finely tuned machine and not have to work on relational skills anymore. It will never happen. People you know will never be that normal. Neither will you.

People want people to be there for them. I am no exception to that. I found my own heart in some of Ortberg's words:

Every human being you know is making a request of their friends, though it usually goes unspoken. Here's what they ask: "Motivate me. Call out the best in me. Believe in me. Encourage me when I'm tempted to quit. Speak truth to me and remind me of my deepest values. Help me achieve my greatest potential. Tell me again what God called me to be, what I might yet become. Inspire me." ... You are the guardian of the human spirit. YOu have the power to manipulate and coerce if you want to. You can avoid and ignore if you choose. But you can also ennoble and inspire.

Goodness, I feel like this man wrote this book for me. I sure hope I can use its wisdom to be more of the person I want to become.

Penalty phase aggravates jurors in Priddy case

I think about words everyday at work. I get ideas, but too often I run out of time, thanks to the constraints of community journalism. The following story is the exception. I'm actually proud of the way it turned out, which I have to admit is a rare feeling.

It's interesting because I worked on this as I was working on another lenghty feature story that is going to publish later this summer in a special magazine thing we do. A few people the last couple of weeks have asked me if I still wrote for the paper, jokingly, but understandably based on the fewer bylines I had lately. I've written some stories the last couple of weeks, but I was pouring my energy into two stories — the following being one of them.


By KRISTIN TAYLOR
Staff Writer
Many of the jurors who found Donald G. Priddy II guilty in the death of his ex-girlfriend are unsatisfied with the state’s criminal procedure that required them to decide guilt or innocence before recommending a punishment and left many jurors feeling they recommended a light sentence for the 23-year-old defendant.

Jurors heard 2 1/2 days of testimony and then considered whether Priddy was guilty of murder, second-degree manslaughter or reckless homicide. Initially, the 12 jurors were split on murder and one of the lesser offenses, according to interviews with six jurors. They said discussions quickly turned to debates between murder and manslaughter.
Six jurors — two women and four men — were interviewed by the Ledger & Times on the condition their names were withheld from publication. Telephone messages left with two others were not returned and one juror didn’t want to talk about the trial, saying she had a difficult time dealing with the process and outcome.

The body of 21-year-old Robin Delk was found naked in a sleeping bag beneath Priddy’s bed after Priddy told investigators he used a partial half-Nelson to calm Delk down when she reportedly became angry at him and the two fell to the floor in his Almo Road duplex on Valentine’s Day morning 2004. Reports said she died from asphyxiation. After her death, he went to Wal-Mart and bought cleaning supplies and the sleeping bag, according to testimony.

After five hours of deliberating, the six-man, six-woman jury found Priddy guilty of second-degree manslaughter, a Class C felony punishable by five to 10 years in prison, and tampering with physical evidence, a Class D felony that carries one to five years in prison. The jury returned from the sentencing phase within minutes, recommending the maximum on both offenses.

Because second-degree manslaughter is considered a non-violent offense, Priddy will be eligible for parole after serving three of the 15 years to which he’ll likely be sentenced. He’s been in Calloway County jail since Feb. 15, 2004, and will get credit for that time. Calloway Circuit Judge Dennis Foust will officially sentence Priddy on Friday.

At least five jurors interviewed said had they known the penalty ranges for the offenses they were considering, a murder conviction would have been a more likely outcome. During deliberations, several jurors maintained their stance that Priddy should be convicted of nothing more serious than manslaughter.

“There were some people in there that said they weren’t moving,” a 64-year-old male juror, who favored murder, said. “I don’t think anyone would have gone with manslaughter — even those who were holding out — if we had known the sentences.”

Not knowing was one of the most aggravating aspects for several jurors.

“We didn’t know what the dadgum sentences consisted of,” the same male juror said. “We should have known what those were. We were told it’s the law we aren’t supposed to know. But that’s not right.”
———
In felony cases, Kentucky law requires jurors to determine guilt or innocence on the evidence presented in their initial verdict. The commonwealth attorney can present information about parole eligibility and penalty ranges during the sentencing phase, but only after the jury has reached a verdict.

“The jury is to judge each case on its own merit and determine guilt or innocence,” Foust said. “They couldn’t consider the range of penalties. Their job is to determine whether he’s guilty of murder, and if not, then they could go with those other offenses — second-degree manslaughter or reckless homicide.”

The attorneys and judge have preliminary discussions about what offenses the jury should be allowed to consider in its deliberations. Once the evidence is presented, the judge decides on the final instructions — or specific crimes and the law that defines them — after hearing arguments from the defense and prosecution.

In Priddy’s case, Foust said defense attorney J.V. Kerley wanted first-degree manslaughter to be considered. The Class B felony is punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison and requires an offender to serve 85 percent of the sentence before being eligible for parole. Commonwealth Attorney Gale Cook argued against including first-degree manslaughter in the jury’s instructions. Foust said he agreed with her argument that there wasn’t enough evidence to show extreme emotional disturbance, which is necessary for the offense, according to the law.

Instead, Cook argued for wanton murder, meaning Priddy’s actions led to Delk’s death because he was aware of the risk and disregarded it.

“She had an ethical obligation to ask for the instructions she believed were supported with the evidence,” Foust said.
Kerley declined comment for this story.

Wanton murder carries with it a 20- to 50-year sentence or life in prison. If sentenced to 20 years, someone would have to serve 17 years before being eligible for parole. If sentenced to life, parole would not be possible for at least 20 years unless there is a “without the possibility of parole” clause added to the life sentence.

The law says the defense is entitled to the two lesser charges — second-degree manslaughter and reckless homicide — presented in Foust’s instructions when considering wanton murder. Reckless homicide is the least of the three, carrying one to five years in prison.

In the Priddy trial, the jury sent a note to the judge through the bailiff early on, asking about possible sentences for the outlined offenses. Foust had to respond that he couldn’t tell them. Foust has been the circuit judge for Marshall and Calloway counties since 1997 and was a district judge for eight years before that. In that time, he doesn’t remember a jury asking about penalty ranges, much less so immediate after beginning its deliberations.

“Sometimes a jury feels like they are flying blindly,” Foust said. “I think that was the case with this one.”
Juries are instructed to judge evidence based on definitions of crimes — not work backward. “A jury struggles with what to do,” he said. “Obviously, I don’t know what their mindset was, but my guess is they wanted to punish him but didn’t know how to get there.”

As the prosecutor, Cook said she respects these jurors’ deliberations. She said she understands their anguish over their perception of the way the system provides information during trials.

“Our criminal justice system serves to keep our society and victims from taking the law into their own hands. It also serves to protect those accused of a crime,” Cook said. “The foundation of this system is our juries. A circuit court jury has 12 people drawn from our community and, hopefully, reflecting a broad range of the residents of our county.

“In this trial, a true reflection of members of our community became all too apparent after the foreperson was arrested on charges involving methamphetamine. We trust, as we should, a jury’s verdict,” she added. “The use and abuse of methamphetamine had impacted one juror’s deliberation. ”

Five days after the verdict, the jury foreman was arrested for attempting to manufacture methamphetamine. He has since been indicted by a grand jury.

Calloway County Sheriff’s Department Detective Sgt. Jim Wright, the lead investigator in the case, spent 25 years as a detective in New Orleans before coming to Murray more than four years ago. He said Kentucky judicial procedure differs from other states in the way it restricts jurors from having penalty possibilities when considering guilt of crimes.

“How can 12 jurors make a decision on someone’s life that is so important without all of the information?” Wright said. “Police and the judicial system gauge everything by law. But lay men don’t know those laws. The difference to them is the years. If they don’t know the years that go with the laws of the crimes, they can’t make an intelligent decision.”
———
A 46-year-old juror said she thought the instructions were sparse considering the complexity of the case. Also, she said she and other jurors tended to look at the outlined instructions more like multiple choice options rather than starting with murder and either going with that or eliminating it and moving down to the lesser offense.

Maybe the outcome would have been different had the approach been different, she said.

“You think, had I to do it over, would I make the same decision?” the juror said. “I don’t know 100 percent that I would. Part of it was knowing we had to reach a unanimous verdict. ... But in the end, I felt like it came down to working with the definitions they gave us.”

Her personal opinion might have been different had some of her questions been answered. Specifically, she wanted to know more about how long would it take someone to die if oxygen and blood flow are cut off.

“At some level I thought it could have been an accident. So, at least in my case, it was a matter of intent. I would not have been comfortable with that intent,” that juror said of her favoring the manslaughter charge. “... I was convinced he was responsible for her death. If there was a gun, someone has to take the time to get out that gun. Even not knowing about guns, I would know I could hurt someone with a gun. I just wasn’t real convinced he knew he could do that kind of harm to someone.”

Any doubt, she said, was a benefit for Priddy.

“I know our legal system is set up so we err on the side of not sending someone away for something they didn’t so,” she said. “So in my mind, if there was a question, it was our job to give the benefit to him.”

But she understands more information might have made an already emotional case even more so. Delk’s family from Pulaski County sat in the courtroom throughout the trial. “For her family’s sake, I don’t know if more information is better or worse, but this wasn’t intended as a commentary on what we thought of her daughter,” she added.

Three men jurors wanted a murder conviction and held out for the five hours. They realized if they didn’t budge, the other nine jurors probably wouldn’t either. Then, rather than having a conviction, they’d have a hung jury. One man joined the other nine, then another did.

A 68-year-old juror realized he was the only one still advocating murder and many others were growing restless. “Nobody wanted to stay. It came down to I was the only one left,” that juror said. “One man said if we have a hung jury they could come in and give him a lesser charge next time. I thought, it’s 11 against one now; I haven’t got a chance.”

That juror said he knew a stiff penalty wouldn’t go with a manslaughter conviction, and warned his fellow jurors of that opinion during deliberations. He was the first one in the jury room when the judge sent them back to discuss the sentence.

“I told them, ‘Don’t you even expect me to give him any less than the maximum,’” he said. “They all said, ‘We feel cheated.’”
The second-to-last man to come down to manslaughter said he feels guilty for not hanging the jury, although at the time not reaching a verdict seemed not to be an option.

“We held out to the end and saw we weren’t going to get a murder conviction,” a 46-year-old juror said. “The reason we didn’t want a hung jury is all the evidence we looked at was sealed with crime tape. Another jury would get evidence that had been pilfered through.”

That juror, and probably others, wasn’t even sure how sentencing would be handled. But after more than 13 hours of testimony and five hours of deliberations, jurors took two minutes to recommend the maximum sentence possible.
Several jurors requested meeting with Cook and did so two weeks after the trial ended. At least four of the jurors interviewed specifically commented that the prosecution presented the case well enough for a stiffer conviction.

“How can you have doubts if he admits it? It wasn’t an accident. He had all kinds of time when her mouth started bleeding and her fingernails turned blue,” according to the male juror who was the last to compromise with manslaughter. “Then he could have called the police, and he didn’t.”
———
Jurors bring more than the evidence to the jury room. They come with their life experiences. A 75-year-old female juror who believes Priddy should serve more than three years said while considering the definitions she thought about her children and grandchildren. She still believes Priddy didn’t aim to kill Delk, but rather the situation progressed to her death because of his “jealous rage.”

“He seemed like a nice man. I have grown children and grown grandchildren. I couldn’t help to think about what if he was mine,” she said. “His parents (who testified for the defense) seemed like good people. All of that enters your mind.”

The parole eligibility was the most surprising part to the jurors interviewed. For that reason, several jurors committed to write the state parole board once Priddy is eligible, hoping the board will understand serving 15 years is more in line with their intentions.

“He took a life. I don’t know if you can say murder, but he killed a girl. I think he should serve more than three years,” a 75-year-old female juror said. “... Had we known he was going to be eligible for parole in three years, we would have gone with murder in a heartbeat.”

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

self-diagnosis

I think I have that psychological disease where my moods change with the weather. Today Murray is rainy and gloomy. Today Kristin's mind is overwhelmed, leaning toward gloomy. It's supposed to rain for a few days, so I better buck the tendency to go with the weather. I even dressed all cute and summery today in my pretty white skirt in an attempt to keep my perfectionism from turning too clouds. Sometimes I am too much of a perfecionist for my own good, and often for no good reason. Much like those random spring showers.

I see the sun coming out though ...
(figuratively, that is...)

John in Iraq

My brother-in-law started a blog from Iraq. Take a gander.