Homicidal squirrel

I blogged recently about rats that have appeared in toilets in the UK. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there is this video of a squirrel that launched what looked like an entirely unprovoked attack on a man who was working in his garage. (Warning: When attacked, the man utters a homophobic slur.)

Are we witnessing the beginning of some kind of concerted effort by the rodent population to terrorize humans?

That was quick

My jury service ended very quickly. We were asked to report to the jury room at 8:15 am. The room was full with about 70 people, with others seated on long benches in the hallway outside. We were given forms that we had to fill in saying that if we had been fully vaccinated, then masks were optional but if we were not or did not wish to disclose our vaccination status, we had to wear masks. But no one asked to see our vaccination cards. Almost all the people were masked. I could see only five people without one.

Compared to the jury waiting room in Cleveland, this was less well-appointed, perhaps because Salinas is a smaller city. The Cleveland room was very large, with comfortable chairs, tables, and racks of magazines and even jigsaw puzzles for people to pass the time while waiting. The best part of it was that inside that room there was a smaller room that was called the Quiet Room with no talking. I would usually sit in there. The building also had a cafeteria.

The room in Salinas was smaller with straight-backed chairs spaced apart, all facing forward.. They said that it used to have 200 such chairs close together but that covid precautions had reduced it to just one third the number.

At 8:30 am, the presiding judge came and gave us a little talk for about 10 minutes about how important we were to the legal system because everyone is entitled to have their case heard by a jury of their peers.

At 9:15 am, the administrator told us that the parties had settled their case and that therefor we were dismissed and our service completed. I was surprised that there was only one jury trial scheduled since there are many courtrooms in the building but perhaps most people prefer a bench trial to a jury.

I was home before 10:00 am.

Called for jury duty

It looks like I been truly accepted as a Californian. I have been called for jury duty for a week starting tomorrow. The system is a one-day or one trial one which means that I report on Monday and if I am not empaneled on a jury that same day, then I am done. If I am placed on a jury, then I am required for the whole trial which they tell me usually lasts for three or four days. However, if it turns out to be a rare complicated case, then I could be on a panel for weeks.

So basically, I am saying that blogging will be light starting tomorrow until my jury service is done. If there is good wifi in the courthouse building and I am just sitting around waiting to be called, I may be able to blog.

Please don’t try this

There is dramatic video of a Florida man who encountered an alligator that had wandered onto his front yard and managed to force it into a trash can, close the lid, and later release it into the wild. A wildlife expert who watched the video said that this was a very bad idea that could have gone terribly wrong in any number of ways with tragic results. He said the best thing to do is get the hell out of there and into your house and call the authorities to take care of the problem.

There are so many news stories and videos of people in Florida encountering alligators that I am beginning to wonder if people who actually live in that state take it in their stride when they see one in their neighborhood, like us with turkeys here in Monterey, giving them a wide berth but not really shocked.

A sign of the apocalypse

As if the pandemic had not already given us enough to worry about, we now have rats coming up through toilets via the waste pipes. This is apparently because, due to the pandemic, there is less rubbish around to provide them with food so they are going farther afield in search of it. This is apparently being reported all over the UK but they will surely come here too.

Forget the Four Horsemen. This is far more terrifying.

What kind of marketing strategy is this?

I noticed that used copies of my latest book The Great Paradox of Science are available on eBay at about $10 higher than the list price set by the publisher and about $15 higher that the discounted price set by major retailers.

Since my book is readily available, why would anyone try to sell a used copy at a higher price than a new one?

I have never used eBay. Is there some weird marketing strategy that people use on that platform that I am unaware of?

Things that annoy me

I try not to let trivialities get under my skin but some things just do. A few days ago one of those things got past my defenses again. It happened when I drove into a gas station just behind another car. As is often the case, there are two pumps next to each other. If you are the first to arrive, it makes sense to pull up to the further one so that the person behind you can pull up to the rear one and both can fill up at the same time.

But this person seemed oblivious to this basic point. He pulled up to the first one and stopped. I was annoyed at that person for this demonstration of a lack of awareness of the impact of one’s actions on others. One sees examples of such obliviousness all the time in different situations and these tend to trigger my annoyance. I am not one to explode with anger at such things (like the women who attacked a flight attendant) so I did not blow my horn and urge the person to move forward nor did I glare at him to indicate my displeasure nor yell at him. I just looped around to get to another pump island which had the nozzle on the same side as my gas tank.

While he was filling up, I noticed that he did something else annoying, and that was to wait until his tank had finished filling to then do some extended shopping inside the store, thus blocking the two pumps for even longer than necessary.

I was also a little annoyed at myself for feeling irritated by such a small thing, since it indicates a lack of maturity on my part.

When allusions fail

I recently posted about how cartoons depend so much on shared knowledge for their humor. But the increasingly fragmented nature of our information sources means that we can no longer take anything for granted. I recall a colleague of mine who had been teaching English for a long time saying that he could no longer depend upon his students having a shared background anymore that he could build upon. One positive reason for this lack of commonality is that the student bodies are now more diverse and the different backgrounds can add richness to the classroom experience.
[Read more…]

The desire for fleeting fame can lead to unnecessary and dangerous risk taking

When the Guinness Book of Records initially came out, it consisted of information that could settle the kinds of debates that one has with friends about some bit of trivia, like how old was the oldest person who ever lived. But then people started doing feats of endurance (like “How long can you dance?”) or pointless (like “How many people can be on a single bicycle?) just to get themselves mentioned in the Guinness book. I shudder to think how much energy and time people have spent over the years just in the effort to get the moment of fleeting fame of getting mentioned in the book.

But with the internet, this has been cranked up to 11, because now you don’t have to go through the tedium of getting approved judges and the like to ratify your claim. Now you can simply do something bizarre, post it on social media, and hope to become a viral sensation. This has taken off with so-called ‘challenges’ where people duplicate the same stunt. We saw before the ice-bucket challenge (where people filmed themselves having a bucket of ice water poured on their heads) and now we have the milk crate challenge. But this one carries risks that doctors are warning about.
[Read more…]