Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I don't give a fuck if it's racist. It's funny.

The Bloggess has a post worrying if something is racist, and she spends so much time detailing her worry, I almost stopped reading. I'm glad I finished, though; it was worth getting to the punchline.

She introduced Gizoogle, a website that kindly translates Google into ghettotrash lingo. After a bit of fun surfing about, I had it translate one of my recent posts. Fo' sho'.

I hook up a guy.


I have some leadz work wise, so I celebrated.

My fuckin expenses fo' tha day:
3.05 - Lunch
2.50 - Dinner
3.50 - Spliff
5.95 - Some homeless playa I met

Lunch was a pasta salad wit tomatoes n' mozzarella n' a piece of ciabata dat I picked up from a supamarket. Da salad was dirty yo, but small. Bread, yummy.

Dinna was French fries. I bought some yesterdizzle from some fry stand, n' they was pimped out, n' a fair bargain. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch. I wanted em again. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch. Fat fries dat is fried twice. That way, tha playa can cook em quickly n' serve em hot.
 I couldn't find tha place though. I tramped all up in tha RLD n' gotz thoroughly lost. My fuckin professionizzle pride is beginnin ta git hurt. I spent ten muthafuckin years as a cabbie, n' I pride mah dirty ass on mah sense of direction. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch. Walkin all up in Barcelona n' Messina, I could always knew where home was. In dis town, I be always lost. Every street looks tha same. Da canals follow some weird horseshoe pattern, wit tha streetz goin sort of parallel ta tha canals. Right back up in yo muthafuckin ass. Sort of. Every dizzle I have managed ta git straight-up n' straight-up lost a few times. Probably don't help dat I've been stoned whenever I git lost.

A homeless playa came up ta me. "You're lookin fo' some shit." I stopped, n' he went tha fuck into his spiel yo. Dude started givin mah crazy ass tha rough layout of tha area, spittin some lyrics ta mah crazy ass where tha phat hoes are, where tha trannies are, which dealaz ta avoid. Y'all KNOW dat shit, muthafucka! I interrupted his muthafuckin ass. "I be lookin fo' tha French fries."

Da playa laughed n' took mah crazy ass muthafuckin right there. "I've been bustin dis fo' twenty-eight months, n' yo ass is tha straight-up original gangsta playa ta ask bout tha fries." 
Our thugged-out asses gotz a rappin' yo. Dude straight from Boston, moved there when he was six yo. Dude gotz deported, n' was given a twelve year probation before he could return. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch. Three mo' months he holla'd, n' he could go back.

At tha fry place, he axed fo' a donation. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch. I gave his ass tha chizzle up in mah pocket. I offered his ass some fries yo. Dude holla'd he would prefer tha chedda. I gave his ass tha chizzle from mah fries yo. Dude gave mah crazy ass a brief tour. Thatz what tha fuck he do yo. Dude findz gangstas whoz ass look lost, n' helps em find what tha fuck they need. Y'all KNOW dat shit, muthafucka! Hoes, sticky-icky-ickys, whatever they need. Y'all KNOW dat shit, muthafucka! Dude knows tha dopest coffeeshops yo. Dude knows which hoes will cheat they hustas yo. Dude knows cabdrivers that'll let they passengers smoke yo. Dude gives tourz of tha underbelly.

I axed his ass if he knew of a coffeeshop on a houseboat dat I saw a picture of yo. Dude was stumped, n' embarrassed ta admit dat shit. I gave props ta his ass anyway yo. Dude gave mah crazy ass a phat conversation.

I went lookin fo' tha coffeeshop. I had done some research n' found tha name of tha canal it was chillin in. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch. It wasn't there. I went from one end ta tha other n' looked at every last muthafuckin houseboat yo, but no dice. Maybe it closed, maybe it moved, maybe it sunk. No wonder tha playa never heard of dat shit. 
 Guess what, muthafucka! So, I wandered around n' checked tha straight-up original gangsta three coffeeshops I came ta if they had wifi. Da third playa holla'd he had a computa wit internizzle, so I bought fo' realz. Afta tokin I checked up tha computa ta find dat it cost extra ta use. I was annoyed.

It is straight-up hard as fuck ta find a coffeeshop dat has free wifi. I haven't done it yet. I be beginnin ta suspec' dat they don't want stoned gangstas cloggin up tha coffeeshop all dizzle like a Starbucks up in NYC. But they could give our asses a time limit like tha Starbucks up in Barcelona. That works.

On leaving, I paused ta roll a blunt. Then I kicked it wit tha homeless playa again. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch yo. Dude spotted mah crazy ass first yo. Dude started on a freshly smoked up spiel yo. Dude needed just a buck fifty more, n' he could git a supply of some shiznit ta have up in case a tourist needed some shiznit yo ass know, nahmeean, biatch? I gave his ass tha chizzle from mah spliff yo. Dude gave mah crazy ass his thugged-out lil' phone number. Now I gotz a playa ta call if I need anythang. I can't imagine what tha fuck I might ever need from his ass yo, but itz always phat ta know a guy. 
 I axed his ass why he gotz deported. Y'all KNOW dat shit, muthafucka! "I capped a playa up in prison. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch yo. Dude raped a child. Y'all KNOW dat shit, muthafucka! If yo ass rape a child, yo ass git capped."

Okay.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

AVfM Nullification Debate Part IV - Elam Quits

After I was two days late in my last response, Paul Elam quit in a huff, but not before he got in a parting shot. I confess that I was tardy in my response, and I have no excuse. Regardless, I suspect that his real reason for quitting was not my tardiness, but rather that I compared him to a Times Square nutter and hurt his feelings.

My error was accepting his challenge in the first place. It is rather pointless to debate one who so desperrately clings to their dogma that reasonable discourse is impossible.

Anywho, I figured that I really ought to get around to posting his final post.

Note to readers: At the outset of this debate there was to be three exchanges between myself and Johann the Cabbie. We agreed in advance that there was to be a 72 hour turnaround limit between responses. I insisted on the commitment to honoring the deadline in advance and explained to Johann that it was important to me that AVfM readers be able to depend on our timeliness.

On his first opportunity to respond, Johann failed to meet the deadline and made no effort to contact me about it. I posted a comment to his site pointing this out to which he responded, in part “I am in breach of our agreement. I offer no apologies our excuses, but I do offer a shamefully belated response.”

His response, if you can consider it that, is posted here below, along with my final rebuttal. This has allowed him equal time in the exchange. But this is where I terminate our “debate.” I can take Johann’s youthful arrogance, but his lack of integrity crosses the line. As he has clearly expressed that he has no regard for being trustworthy or credible, this exchange will conclude this debate with Johann the Cabbie, but I also take this as an opportunity to extend the invitation to anyone with an opposing view, and a commitment to their own word, to have this debate at a later time.

Given that this debate is coming to an abrupt and unscheduled end I will respond to what little substance was offered by Cabbie and move on to other points I would have made in future installments of this debate.

After we shave off all the name calling and other distractions, and take a look at the one point that Cabbie even attempts in this “rebuttal,” we find that he still fundamentally fails to understand the Constitutional and rational imperatives that undermine his position.

His one and only assertion here is that there is no justification for nullification without empirical proof of an “endemic problem” with the misapplication of rape shield laws. In fact, he is saying that without that evidence, the predisposition to nullify amounts to something equitable to chanting about End of Days on the street corner.

This, of course, is neither applicable nor logical. All we must do in the case of criminal trials is prove that the problem is prevalent enough that there is reasonable concern about tainting the presumption of innocence and the ability to ascertain guilt beyond reasonable doubt, broadly speaking. I think the arguments following do that with more than sufficiency.

To begin with, the trouble over rape shield statutes did not originate with me or with the MRM, generally speaking. There have been repeated concerns expressed about the impact of rape shield laws on due process and fair trials long predating anything I have published on the matter.
Columnist Cathy Young wrote an article at reason.com titled, Excluded Evidence, the Dark Side of Rape Shield Laws. In it, she writes the following about the courts excluding evidence of previous false rape accusations from trial:

Most of the time, however, the burden is on the defendant to show that the value of this evidence to his case outweighs its “prejudicial effect” on the complainant. In several states (including Alabama, Iowa, and Washington), courts have held that excluding evidence of an earlier false or dubious rape complaint by the accuser does not deny the accused a fair trial — even, perhaps, if the evidence is relevant to the question of his innocence.
As far back as 1976, David S. Rudstein wrote, in the William and Mary Law Review, Vol. 18, Issue 1:

…those statutes that absolutely prohibit a defendant from introducing evidence of a rape complainant’s bad reputation for chastity, opinion evidence of her bad character for chastity, and evidence of specific acts of sexual intercourse between the complainant and men other than the defendant on the issue of consent may unconstitutionally deprive the defendant of his rights to a fair trial and to confront the witnesses against him.

In Courting Disaster: Re-Evaluating Rape Shields in Light of People v. Bryant, Josh Maggard wrote:

Under the most stringent of the rape shield statutes, a defendant charged with murder has more protections and greater leeway with introducing evidence in his defense than a defendant charged with rape. More compellingly, a defendant who rapes and murders a victim enjoys a lesser standard of evidentiary exclusion for the murder than he does for the rape. This should give pause to even the most vocal of rape victims’ rights proponents: a legal structure which rewards a crime ending in death with more substantive and procedural protections must, by necessity, be flawed. As Susan Jacoby noted, “the most important change brought about by the women’s movement is abandonment of the antediluvian notion that rape is ‘a fate worse than death.’ Nothing is worse than death.
These and other legal and common opinions have not gone without some reaction in actual courts. As Clare Dyer reported in The Guardian in May, 2001, a British House of Lords ruling challenged rape shield laws there:

A law that bans juries in rape trials from hearing evidence that the accused had a previous sexual relationship with his accuser breaches his right to a fair trial, five law lords ruled yesterday in a landmark judgment.
“Good sense suggests that it may be relevant to an issue of consent whether the complainant and the accused were ongoing lovers or strangers,” said Lord Steyn.
“To exclude such material creates the risk of disembodying the case before the jury. It also increases the danger of miscarriages of justice.”
And it is that risk that speaks directly to the issue of nullification. These legal rulings, opinions and layman interpretations of rape shield laws also do not serve to provide Johann the Cabbie with the “endemic problem” neatly cited and referenced, so that he may quiet his personal derision and see merit in the nullification argument. Nor will the anecdotes of those concerns being realized sway an individual so predisposed to look only at the concerns of alleged female victims.

What they do provide, however, is sufficient information for reasonable citizens to look at rape shield statutes and determine they are an endemic threat to due process and presumed innocence, by their very existence. Rational thinkers can view this information and conclude there is a problem not addressed by the state that can be addressed through the wisdom and power of the juror, and that it can be done with complete moral certitude.

But here is the kicker, and it is a grand one. If, by some measure of miracle, rape shield laws were suddenly overturned and wiped clean of the statutes, there would still be just cause for nullification. This is a point we would have come to naturally had the Cabbie assisted us with taking this debate to its scheduled conclusion. His failure to contribute notwithstanding, we can get there anyway.

As it stands right now in many, rather most jurisdictions, the only evidence needed to convict a person of rape is the alleged victims word that it happened. We saw this in the case of Vladek Filler, before his conviction was overturned. It was overturned not on a lack of evidence, but on misconduct by prosecutor Mary Kellett. Had she not been caught misleading the jury, the conviction would have stood, because all the jury was required to hear was the complaint of Ligia Filler in order to convict. Given that Ligia Filler’s propensity to lie was withheld from the jury, it left Mr. Filler wide open to false conviction.

The same was true more recently, in July of this year, for Darrell Williams, an Oklahoma State basketball player, who was convicted of sexual battery and rape by instrumentation solely on the word of his accusers. The Sun Times article title, Conviction but no tangible evidence, tacitly conveyed the injustice, but it did not do the young man any good.

As it stands now, the standard of evidence required to convict a man of rape in a criminal court is utterly indistinguishable from the standard of evidence required to lynch a Black man for rape 50 years ago in Mississippi. It requires only the word of the alleged victim, and the willingness of others to commit violence on her behalf in retribution.

There is no shortage of accusations, and the state has set itself up as the instrument for that violence by proxy, as surly as if it were a legislated lynch mob.

That lack of standards, combined with the effect of rape shield laws to protect the credibility of the alleged victim from falling under direct scrutiny, is the combination of forces that form the perfect storm of unchecked injustice. This is addressed by Bruce Gross, Ph. D., JD, MBA in The Forensic Examiner, in his article False Rape Allegations: An Assault on Justice:


Although it may not be “politically correct” to question the veracity of a women’s complaint of rape, failing to consider the accuser may be intentionally lying effectively eradicates the presumption of innocence. This Constitutional right is especially significant when dealing with allegations of rape as in most jurisdictions, sex offenses are the only crimes that do not require corroborating evidence for conviction. Because there are often no witnesses and no physical evidence (especially if the victim delays in filing a report), the case may come down to the credibility of the accused versus the credibility of the accuser.
The realm of false allegations is intimately tied to the need for nullification, but I will pass on including it as a part of this particular argument.

The fact that sex offenses stand alone as the only crime for which corroborating evidence is not needed for conviction makes them, in my opinion, as a slam dunk for the legitimacy of nullification.
We have another word for “corroborating evidence.” We call it proof; the kind we like to have for convicting under the standard of reasonable doubt. As difficult as it is to be the victim of any crime, including rape, are we really going down the path of elevating the victims trauma to the point it supplants the need for evidence and due process in the course of obtaining a conviction?

Indeed we are. We are, in fact, very far down that road, even with the blessings of supposedly rational thinkers like Johann the Cabbie.

Were there another way to address this problem, I would enjoy entertaining it. The system is far too broken, too corrupt and too politicized for conventional redress. Extreme injustice calls for extreme retaliation. Luckily, nullification by jurors remains available as a legal, moral answer to the states failure to contain its power and to abide by the mandates of the Constitution.

Friday, October 5, 2012

AVfM Nullification Debate Part III

Times Square attracts the crazies. Nutters pick their spot of sidewalk and spend hours shouting and waving their arms, trying to convince any who pass by that their particular brand of crazy ain't so crazy. After awhile, one gets to recognize the regulars - the science of sin guy, the Black Israelites, even some dude playing a guitar whilst claiming to be naked, but really, he's wearing hat, boots, and tighty whities.

Reading Paul Elam's writing reminds me of those nutters. So much so that I wonder how he can get any typing done with all the arm waving and shouting. The man can type at length, but like the Times Square nutters, he produces no evidence to back up his assertions. And just like the nutters, his rants can get rather tedious.

Elam's main contention is that rape shield laws prevent the jury from hearing relevant evidence, so guilt beyond a reasonable doubt cannot possibly be ascertained. And lacking any evidence beyond mere anecdotes, he resorts to making one unfounded assertion after another.

His best attempt at providing some evidence or logic is quoting some federal evidence rules to show that rape shield laws have always been unnecessary. He fails to mention that rape shield laws are designed to instruct judges what is and what isn't relevant in rape trials.

Here, I'll give a list of his evidenceless assertions:
The entire nullification argument hinges completely on the idea that obvious guilt is unattainable under the current system, specifically where “rape shield laws,” are concerned.To ascertain guilt, relevant evidence must be weighed. If the accurate weighing of that evidence is not possible because relevant facts have been intentionally omitted, it amounts to nothing more than a magic show; smoke and mirrors from which no true picture can be gleaned. In that scenario, a fair trial is not possible. It is as easy to understand as it is logical.

There is no logical reason, in the face of the evidence, to lump all other criminal court proceedings in with rape trials. They are conducted differently, which is the point of this debate.

All Johann has done here is to momentarily pretend that the rape shield laws he was already minimizing now don’t exist at all.

One, the lack of reason (though unreasonable they are) in these politically motivated laws is not so much the issue as is their impact on due process. The moment we  systematically deny a defendant the right to include evidence casting legitimate concern on the veracity of an accuser, or on possible motive to fabricate, we have not only denied them a Constitutionally guaranteed fair trial, but we have also eviscerated any opportunity to hold credible the evidence required to conclude guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

...why is he [JtC] not advocating for rape shield laws, for the accused? I will tell you why. It is because he is affected by the same one dimensional, irrational and lopsided thinking that afflicts Matt Dillahunty, just to a slightly lesser degree. He has surrendered reason for rote protective instinct that has no place in our criminal justice system where life and liberty depend on thoughtful analysis and an unfettered pursuit of the facts.

He sees women as primarily victims, in need of special treatment, yet he offers not one shred of evidence of why that special treatment is necessary, effective, reasonable or consistent with Constitutional demands. And he does not even speculate what the real impact of those special rules might be on the people they most affect.
I'll ignore his arrogance of attempting to place thoughts in my mind and just worry about his complaints about rape shield laws.

Anecdotes are not evidence. In a country of over 300 million people, some will be screwed by society. Some innocents will suffer in the criminal injustice system. Every travesty is a tragedy, but Elam's listing of a few of those travesties is not evidence of an endemic problem. Elam needs to provide some actual data to prove that rape shield laws are a systemic, endemic problem.

Until then, I will continue to view him as one of the Times Square nutters.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

AVfM Nullification Debate Part II

Elam Responds

First, a public thank you to Johann the Cabbie for contributing to this debate, and for his willingness to stand up to “gender” ideologues who have tainted the rational thought community with dogma of late, treating legitimate debate as an anathema — while surrendering all pretense of objectivity to feminist ideology.

I think we will see, however, during the course of this debate, that it is not just feminism that is the problem here. While Johann rejects the irrational and convoluted sycophancy of individuals like Matt Dillahunty, and even seems to understand the etiology of the problem, he also engages in a similarly robotic mentality when making his critique of jury nullification in the case of rape.

This is most plainly obvious in his concluding statement: 
But, if a defendant is obviously guilty, a refusal to convict is morally unjustifiable.
The entire nullification argument hinges completely on the idea that obvious guilt is unattainable under the current system, specifically where “rape shield laws,” are concerned.

To ascertain guilt, relevant evidence must be weighed. If the accurate weighing of that evidence is not possible because relevant facts have been intentionally omitted, it amounts to nothing more than a magic show; smoke and mirrors from which no true picture can be gleaned. In that scenario, a fair trial is not possible. It is as easy to understand as it is logical.

Translation of Johann’s concluding remark: Yes, I just watched Mr. Teller saw Mr. Penn in half, with my own eyes. Mr. Teller is obviously guilty of people sawing. To say otherwise would be immoral.

Another part of his rebuttal depends on the implied fallacy that the problems with rape trials are essentially indistinguishable from the problems with other criminal prosecutions:
The endemic problems with our criminal justice system do not pertain to rape cases only, but are problems in any type of case, whether it be murder, drugs, robbery, or whatnot.
This is just one of many non sequiturs in his argument, and it reveals a glaring failure to understand what rape shield laws are and what they actually do. There is no logical reason, in the face of the evidence, to lump all other criminal court proceedings in with rape trials. They are conducted differently, which is the point of this debate.

All Johann has done here is to momentarily pretend that the rape shield laws he was already minimizing now don’t exist at all. Rape trials are just like all other trials, and I am heartbroken over the horrific death of Mr. Penn.

When Johann does take on the rape shield issue more directly, he mounts an unsupported, somewhat emotional defense for the existence of those laws, but fails to rigorously examine, and indeed summarily dismisses, their deleterious effects on the rights of the defendant.  Said the Cabbie: 
His [Elam’s] approach is to list two instances where rape shield laws were misapplied. That’s all. He makes no attempt to argue against the value or use of the laws.
First, whether laws are “misapplied” is only a matter of legal opinion at the moment, usually of one person. If the defendant is too poor to mount a challenge to the application of the law, then he is screwed. We will never know how many men are in prison right now because of “misapplied” laws that should not have been written in the first place.

If a bad law does not exist, it cannot be misapplied. I am sure that Johann would consider a marijuana case in the same light, as would I.

Johann was unsurprisingly critical of my position that rape shield laws were unreasonable, and asserts that “he [Elam] makes a poor attempt to disprove their reasonableness.”

There are two important things here. One, the lack of reason (though unreasonable they are) in these politically motivated laws is not so much the issue as is their impact on due process. The moment we  systematically deny a defendant the right to include evidence casting legitimate concern on the veracity of an accuser, or on possible motive to fabricate, we have not only denied them a Constitutionally guaranteed fair trial, but we have also eviscerated any opportunity to hold credible the evidence required to conclude guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

More on that in a moment (as if I have not said it enough), but the other fact here is that rape shield laws are not necessary to address the concerns proffered by Johann to begin with. That is right. Even if you take the protection of alleged female victims to be more important than due process, it was still never necessary. Johann states in his rebuttal: 
Such an attempt [to argue against rape shield laws] would be doomed to failure, for rape shield laws are important and necessary. Sadly, we still live in a time where many potential jurors could be biased against a sexually promiscuous victim, and those biases could easily lead to the conclusion in the mind of a juror that “the slut deserved it.”
Let me take the more obvious point first, and this also directly applies to Johann’s assertion that the problem is not rape shield laws, but their proper application. Trials, at least those previous to rape shield laws, involve the examination of all relevant evidence. Federal Rule of Evidence 402 declares that irrelevant evidence is inadmissible.  Federal Rule of Evidence 401 defines relevant evidence as “evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence more probable or less probable than without the evidence.”

Information that is not relevant, as in the scenario presented by Johann, does not require rape shield laws to be excluded from a case. Let me repeat that.Information that is not relevant does not require rape shield laws to be excluded from a case.

Parts of a woman’s sexual history may or may not be relevant to a case. If a woman who was allegedly raped also happened to have 80 or 90 previous sexual partners, then that would be subject to being excluded from evidence on the basis of relevance. Being promiscuous is not evidence having any tendency to make any fact of consequence more or less probable.

If however, she had a long pattern of making false accusations against lovers she was angry with, as we saw in the Marv Albert case, then that is relevant as it goes to credibility. Had there been no rape shield law there to prompt that judge to rule against that evidence, Albert would very likely have been exonerated, as most everyone involved in the case thought he should have been.

As we saw with both the cases of Marv Albert and Oliver Jovanovic, relevant, exculpatory evidence was deemed inadmissible directly due to rape shield laws, and it cost both of those men severely, while protecting and enabling two known false accusers.

Simply allowing judges to do their jobs in the same way they do all other criminal matters is the reasonable solution to that problem in a world where no perfect solutions exist. But reasonable solutions have had little chance in an arena now governed by sexual politics. Forcing judges to play political football with court rulings does not help facilitate fair trials.

There is a larger, and I would say fatal problem here with Johann’s argument. His insistence on the legitimacy and need for rape shield laws is contingent on the fear that promiscuous women, or women who are portrayed as promiscuous will be penalized due to sexual bias in the jury.

But what of the prejudices that affect men in rape trials?

Take a look at the public reaction in the early days of the Duke Rape case, and Hofstra, and the endless string of men like Kobe Bryant and Dominique Strauss-Kahn who have been demonized and subjected to virtual public lynching by false accusations — because the prevailing public sentiment is to summarily convict men before a trial even happens.

You want to talk bias?

Let’s do, and first by stating flatly that sexual bias, which largely favors perceived female victims, does not suddenly evaporate with a jury summons.

If Johann the Cabbie is concerned with the impact on rape cases caused by sexual bias, why is he not advocating for rape shield laws, for the accused?

I will tell you why. It is because he is affected by the same one dimensional, irrational and lopsided thinking that afflicts Matt Dillahunty, just to a slightly lesser degree. He has surrendered reason for rote protective instinct that has no place in our criminal justice system where life and liberty depend on thoughtful analysis and an unfettered pursuit of the facts.

He sees women as primarily victims, in need of special treatment, yet he offers not one shred of evidence of why that special treatment is necessary, effective, reasonable or consistent with Constitutional demands. And he does not even speculate what the real impact of those special rules might be on the people they most affect.

Sound familiar?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

AVfM Nullification Debate Part I

With the possible exception of the sexual molestation of a child, rape is a crime that evokes the most visceral of responses from the average person. And for good reason. Sex that is physically forced or obtained by threat of harm sadistically reduces victims to their most helpless state, and leaves lingering damage that may well last the remainder of a person's life.
So says Paul Elam in the opening of his article on jury nullification and rape. This quote, from a man who has publicly stated that it he ever found himself on a jury a rape case that he would vote to acquit no matter the evidence.

He has his reasons, but first, an introduction to jury nullification. Juries in America have the right to disregard the evidence presented and still vote to acquit an obviously guilty defendant. In the 1850's, many juries used nullification to disregard the Fugitive Slave Act. During Prohibition, juries frequently let bootleggers free.

Nullification also has had immoral applications, such as Southern juries refusing to convict white defendants for murders of black victims.

I could consider nullification myself in certain situations. For example, if I ever serve on a jury for any marijuana case, I'd vote to acquit despite the evidence. The government's prohibition of marijuana is wrong and immoral, so a vote for not guilty is necessary and proper.

Elam calls for nullification in rape cases, and he has pledged to vote to acquit on any case no mater the evidence. His reasons are twofold - America's corrupt criminal justice system and rape shield laws.

In his article, he lists the several processes in a rape case, from the police report to the trial, and details all the possible areas that mistakes can be made. He makes a compelling case, but he misses an important and obvious point.

The endemic problems with our criminal justice system do not pertain to rape cases only, but are problems in any type of case, whether it be murder, drugs, robbery, or whatnot. With the highest per capita prison population in the world, sloppy police work, over-zealous prosecutors, over-worked and under-paid public defenders, mandatory minimums, three strikes and you're out laws, a reliance on fallible eyewitness reports, coerced confessions, and a disgraceful class imbalance, America's justice system is woefully broken.

If Elam is to use America's broken system as a reason to call for nullification in rape cases, then why not at any criminal trial? Why not set murderers and robbers free along with the rapists?

And, that query brings us to Elam's second bit of reasoning - rape shield laws.

Elam defines rape shield laws well.
Ostensibly, rape shield laws were enacted to limit a defendants ability to cross examine a plaintiff regarding her past sexual conduct, the logic being that such information is notonly irrelevant, but might prejudice jurors. For instance, if it were brought out that a married woman alleging rape had engaged in extramarital affairs, it might cause a bias in some jurors that strongly disapprove of such behavior and prompt them to acquit her alleged assailant.
He goes on to say that such laws "seem reasonable," and he makes a poor attempt to disprove their reasonableness. His approach is to list two instances where rape shield laws were misapplied. That's all. He makes no attempt to argue against the value or use of the laws.

Such an attempt would be doomed to failure, for rape shield laws are important and necessary. Sadly, we still live in a time where many potential jurors could be biased against a sexually promiscuous victim, and those biases could easily lead to the conclusion in the mind of a juror that "the slut deserved it."

Back to my earlier query: why not vote to acquit in any and all criminal cases? Elam's reasoning is just as applicable in murder trials as it is in rape trials. But, no reasonable person would wish to set any and all defendants free.

Jury duty is an important and difficult task. If called to serve, one must look at the evidence carefully, disregard emotion and visceral reactions, and determine the facts as best as possible. If reasonable doubt exists, then by all means, acquit.

But, if a defendant is obviously guilty, a refusal to convict is morally unjustifiable.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Announcing a debate with Paul Elam of A Voice for Men

Back in February, I wrote a post criticizing Matt Dillahunty. In it, I referred to A Voice for Men, a website dedicated to men's rights.
Now, A Voice for Men is a truly sick, disgusting site. The shit in charge once publicly promised to vote to acquit if he was ever on a jury for a rape trial. Sick, MRA bullshit.
Paul Elam, the guy I called "the shit in charge," has recently seen the post, and he didn't care for my characterization of him or his website. He left a comment.
@ Johann the Cabbie. Neither one of you show any ability to be rational where it concerns AVfM, at all. Neither one of you have any support for your claims. However, either one orboth of you are invited to debate me publicly on the subject of jury nullification or any other matter you think is "sick" about me, or AVfM generally speaking. 

It just amazes me what passes for rational thought these days.

The good news is that you can always tell the intellectual cowards when they hide from their ideas being publicly vetted. Oh do, let the excuses fly. Tell me how you won't stoop todebating me, or some other disguised bullshit.

But in case you want to ante up I will provide you a moderated debate platform, live at BTR, with a significant audience and equal time in a fair venue.  paul@avoiceformen.com
I don't do public speaking, having stage fright and a bit of a stutter, so I told Paul that I would be willing to debate him in writing. He agreed. We will have three exchanges, with me going first.

My first post will be up this weekend. In the meantime, you might want to check out this article Paul wrote on jury nullification in rape trials.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Dirt roads, Dutch style.

The Dutch love their bicycles. It seems like everybody has a bike and rides regularly. Bike lanes are everywhere; even the dirt roads have a paved bike lane running alongside the rutted dirt.

Also notice that there are no power lines. This part of Holland is almost entirely flat and the earth is mostly sand, meters deep. So, burying power lines is relatively cheap as the bedrock is too deep to worry about. Power outages are relatively rare.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

The food sucks here.

Living in New York, I've eaten at a variety of ethnic restaurants. Japanese, French, Italian, Chinese, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Mexican, Irish, Thai, Polish, Greek, kosher, halal, and the good old fashioned American diner. There's even a chain of Mexican restaurants owned, operated, and staffed entirely by Chinese.

I've never heard of a Dutch restaurant.

Now I know why. The Dutch are not known for their cuisine. I once ordered a cheeseburger in a little kitchenette and saw the cook take a frozen patty from the freezer and drop it in the deep fryer. I tried a croquette in a café and it was a deep fried stick filled with some kind of meatish paste. The only decent food I've eaten in Holland came from either an ethnic place or Burger King.

When I landed my WWOOFing position with an organic farmer, I envision thick slabs of ham, juicy steak, lots of potatoes, and fresh veggies. I imagined food like a farmer eats, and a lot of it.

It should be understandable that I think that farmers eat good, hearty meals. That's the stereotype. But, sadly, stereotypes are only generalizations. Not every member of a group shares the group's stereotypes. Not all Germans are meticulous. Not all Asians are studious. Not all Irish are drunk.

And not all farmers eat good, hearty meals.

My deal at this farm is simple. I work thirty hours a week in exchange for room and board. My room is an old camper parked behind a storage shed. Board is bread with cheese and peanut butter for breakfast and lunch. Sometimes I get fruit, either apples or bananas. Lunch is the same. Sometimes there's meat. Processed meat. Dinner is usually rice, boiled to mush, vegetables of some sort, boiled to mush, and some kind of meat. Processed meat. Usually a sausage thingy, either link or patty, always small. Mondays we have smoked mackerel that is mushed into a baseball sized lump. Saturdays are the best. A big piece of deep fried fish bought early in the day and warmed up in a frying pan. On rare occasions, we get potatoes boiled to mush instead of rice boiled to a mush. Boiled to a mush potatoes with plenty of salt and butter are delicious. At least compared to rice boiled to mush.

Only once have I been served a piece of meat that was the actual unprocessed flesh of an actual animal. Just last week, we had chicken breast. Boiled, not to mush, but still way overcooked. It was fucking delicious. Give me an overcooked chicken breast and boiled to mush potatoes everyday, and I can be a happy man.

A week or so ago, the farmer's son was discussing his disappointment in a ham he had bought (and eaten elsewhere), and his discovery that it was only 80% ham. The rest was water. He expressed the opinion that if one buys meat, they should receive meat, and nothing else. Except hamburgers, "because they're hamburgers." I thought of the cheeseburger I once attempted and told him that in America, the definition of a hamburger is 100% beef. He was skeptical.

Yesterday, we were served a small round patty…something. The farmer's son informed me that it was a hamburger and asked if it would be called a hamburger in America. I said that hamburgers are always 100% beef. Anything else isn't a hamburger. The farmer asked what we would call this…something that we were eating. I paused, wondering if an honest answer might offend, then decided fuck it. I said, "Mystery meat." The farmer laughed and said that that is a good name.

A while back I found a package of cookies in the grocery store called American Style Brownie Cookies. I've never heard of a brownie cookie before, despite being from America, but I thought I'd give them a try, for they were half off. They were cookies in the shape of brownies. They tasted just like Chips Ahoy. Absolutely fucking delicious.

In related news, I've finally lost that twenty pounds or so that I've been trying to get rid of.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Squeezing tits and shoveling shit.

Those are the basics of dairy farming. That, and the cows need to be fed.

I came to this place with minimal expectations, and little idea who I would be working for. We never spoke on the phone or had much in the line of in depth emailing. I saw their ad online, responded, they replied with a detailed attachment of how they work, asked when I can arrive, and I said I'd be there Monday.

Their email gave me the basics. Thirty hours of work per week, I can help with milking if I want, but that's on my time, they'll give me a place to stay and feed me. They also promised to provide work boots. I was sold.

They also stressed that the farm was drug free. I was still sold. I had just spent a week smoking weed daily, so I don't mind taking a break from it. I have two days off a week anyways, and it's only an hour and a half to Amsterdam.

I arrived. The boss lady showed me my room, a caravan (what Americans would call a camper) out behind one of the barns. It's tiny, and gets hot as hell during the day, but it's all mine. It hasn't a toilet, but the barn has been partially converted, and has a kitchen and large bathroom.

I started work the next morning. I cleaned windows all day. Day two was more cleaning and some raking. Day three I spent weed whacking. The farmer loved that phrase. He's never heard it. Days four and five were spent cleaning the milking room and part of the barn.

Sunday and Monday are my days off. Sunday I borrowed a bicycle, and pedaled to the town of Amersfoort. A small but lovely little village. Nothing too exciting. Today, I'm finally catching up on my blogging.

The farm has forty-five cows, one bull, eleven calves, two goats, two cats, one dog, and an elderly chicken. The chicken only lays one or two eggs a week, and will probably become a stew soon. Such is the life of a farm animal. Most eventually become dinner.

This is an organic farm. No hormones for these cows, and the hay fields get no chemical fertilizer or pesticides. The farmer only spreads the cows own shit onto the fields. The rules are different in the Netherlands to qualify for organic. Antibiotics are still allowed, but they are being phased out. This farmer only uses a topical antibiotic that he sprays on an infected hoof or the such. He has a cow with an infected udder, and he gives her a homeopathic remedy, which is the same as no remedy. I don't think cows even have the ability to experience a placebo effect, which is the only hope one can get from homeopathic remedies. I do question whether it is humane or wise to not treat an ill animal. But, I am not an expert on antibiotics or organic farming. I need to do some research. And, don't worry. The milk from the infected cow is dumped down the drain. It isn't sent to the tank.

I can enjoy this life for awhile. I'll stay here for a month or two, and then go off to another, similar type of situation. As long as I have a place to stay, and am fed, I can live quite cheaply. My biggest expense will be traveling from one gig to the next. Maybe I should try hitchhiking.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

That extra post I've been promising.

I spent Saturday as an extra on a Dutch TV show called "Divorce."

The wife of the artist couple that I interviewed with last week gave me the lead. She sent me an email with an email address to send an inquiry. I sent them an email. It said, "Greetings, I heard a rumor that you are looking for extras on Saturday. Photo attached." Simplest damn cover letter I've ever written. It worked. They hired me.

I've never done this kind of thing before. In college I acted onstage for a friend's play. I only did it because he begged me and badgered me relentlessly. After seeing me act, he regretted his begging and badgering. I can't act. All the time that I lived in New York, I never considered trying to pick up extra work. That's what actors do. All of the struggling actors spend their days trying to get work as am extra, then hopefully get a line our two. They hope to eventually be given a role with at least three lines, cause that's the cutoff for membership in SAG. In New York, there's competition for extra work. I never tried it, and never even thought about trying.

But, I knew rule one for being an extra. Don't look at the fucking camera. Simple.

I was the first to arrive. The shoot was at a hospital in Amsterdam. I was supposed to ask reception for Daycare. They pointed me in the right direction. I met an obvious techie in the hall. I told him I was an extra, and he started rambling on in Dutch, as the Dutch are wont to do. I told him I only spoke English, and he rolled his eyes. He told me to wait in some room. I did, wondering if it was the room for extras, or if he decided to get rid of the funny talking American. It didn't look like a daycare. There were no toys.

Turns out it wasn't daycare daycare, but what the Dutch call daycare, but we call outpatient. The second extra to arrive clued me into that. He was an older gent, been doing the extra thing for a few years now. He told me that on his first job that he got in trouble for looking at the camera. He told me to don't do that. I didn't tell him that I already knew rule one. I just chuckled at his story.

He and I were the only two to show on time. The others filtered in ten, fifteen, twenty, eighty-two minutes late. One didn't show at all. They were an older lady, two women wise enough to bring nurses uniforms, a younger guy missing a tooth, a middle aged guy, a woman who was eighty-two minutes late, and a family of three, mom, dad, and daughter. The daughter was about thirteen and spent her off time reading magazines. The mom appeared to be a stage mom, and she spent most of her downtime talking about her daughter. I could tell because she kept pointing to her with her thumb. Daughter never looked up from her magazines.

Extras provide their own costumes, unless it's a period piece or a zombie movie. Police and nurse uniforms are provided by extras, as are construction workers gear and formal wear. For this shoot, I was told to bring three different casual outfits. Good. All I own is casual. Some lady came in and looked at everybody's clothes. She told us what to wear for our first and second scenes.

Eventually some guy, I think the assistant director, came in, selected a few extras, and left with them. I waited. I looked at pictures in Dutch magazines. I waited some more. I got bored. I looked at more magazines. I waited even more. The chosen extras came back. I kept waiting.

The AD returned, and selected me and the woman who was eighty-two minutes late. He led us down a hall to the set. He pointed some while jibberjabbing in Dutch. I apologized and told him I only spoke English. Dutch murmurs all around as the AD explained my chore. Just walk down the hall with the woman, past the star and another actor doing a scene. He asked if I've done this before. I told him I hadn't. "Oh, okay. Whatever you do, don't look at the camera." I didn't tell him I already knew rule one.

It was easy enough. On "Action," we took our stroll. No one told us where to stop, so I just followed the woman who was eighty-two minutes late, and we walked right back to the extraa room. We were called back to do it again. And again. Six or seven times altogether. At one point, the star gave me a thumbs up and said, "Don't worry, American. It's not you. You're doing fine."

Apparently he's a big star in Holland, doing TV and film. He seemed rather decent and not the least bit diva-ish. He even had his picture taken with the woman who was eighty-two minutes late.

I was in a total of four scenes, slight costume change for each. Since no one really sees the extras, that's common. In one, I sat on a bench talking to the older lady while the star walked by. The next, I left the lobby just after the star entered. Finally, I pushed the older lady around in a wheelchair.

I hope the show is available on the internet at some point. I know my mom will want to see it.

I was paid €40 for a ten hour day. They provided lunch and snacks throughout the day. The woman who was eighty-two minutes late got the same pay.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Betty, TOO!, or the best damn coffeeshop in all of Amsterdam.


They have wifi. You can tell because I'm writing this here right now.

I haven't done any research into the best coffeeshops in town. I wanted to discover them. I wanted to wander into places I like the look of and find my favorite. I have been beginning to wish I had done some basic googling. Almost all coffeeshops have unfriendly, inattentive staff. A few have been decent, but on the whole, customer service is lacking in Amsterdam. None have wifi.

But today, I've found my spot.

I have a spot I can return to whenever I visit again. I'm leaving town tomorrow, but I'm only going an hour away. I'll be able to take regular day trips, and when I do, I'll have a place to smoke, where I'll know there will be a friendly hashman.

I happened upon Betty, TOO!, at Reguliersdwarsstraat 29, by chance. I had started to stroll down a canal that was filled with flower shops. It was crowded, and I got bored quickly, so I took the next side street as an exit. At the corner I discovered a great spot for a wake and bake.

The owners are a Japanese couple, in business for six years. They offer the usual variety of different buds, hash, and pre-rolled joints, along with a selection of beverages. The hot chocolate was excellent. The prices are average. I tried their cheapest spliff, a medium strength weed mixed with tobacco for €3.50. Perfect for a breakfast buzz.

The ambiance of the place is top notch. It's not overly dark like so many coffeeshops. I can actually see what I'm smoking. The owner has English papers to borrow (try to read before the weed sets in). One can sit upstairs, outside under an awning, or at the little counter. They do not sell cooked food, but there is a selection of snacks if you get the munchies. The hot chocolate comes with a cookie. It was tasty.

The customer service makes this place stand out. The was the first coffeeshop I've been to where the person behind the counter seemed genuinely pleased that I stopped by. That makes a difference in my book. It helps if the people I'm giving my money to appreciate me as much as they do my money.

---

It's Monday now. The above was written yesterday as I was sitting in the place. But, being that Sunday was my last day to really enjoy Amsterdam, I ordered another spliff, this time the Betty Haze, a stronger buzz at €6.00. It did the trick. I stopped blogging for the day and wandered about.

I had asked the proprietor where I could find decent yakitori, which I hadn't had since I left New York around Labor Day. He told me of a place not too far, and I ambled in that direction. It only took about 45 minutes to find the place, plus the time I spent lost because I was supposed to cross a traffic circle and I only went a quarter of the way around instead of half.

Eventually I found the place and they weren't open yet. I had time to kill. I found a bench and sat. An old lady joined me, and we got to chit-chatting. Eighty-four years old. Four daughters. Husband died last year after fifty-nine years of marriage. Two daughters also lost their husbands last year. Sad. She and husband owned a store for fifty years. She's retired now.

She was waiting for friends to join her for dinner. I told her that I was waiting for a Japanese restaurant to open. She told me if they was Japanese, I'd be better off going to McDonald's. "At least then you can trust the meat." What a bitch.

The restaurant had looked expensive, but I really wanted to try it. So, I walked down the street and had a sandwich at a Jewish deli. A just like New York Jewish deli. I had hot sausage. Cost €4.

Then I went back to the yakitori place and had an appetizer instead of dinner. I had two skewers, one steak and one cheese wrapped with bacon and seaweed. Delicious. I also had one drink, an oolong hai, my favorite Japanese beverage which I hadn't had in awhile. I figure that I saved about €8 by eating the sandwich beforehand.

---

But, I'm supposed to be writing a coffeeshop review, not recounting my day.

I went back to Betty, TOO and had another spliff. It was my last day before heading off to Dairyland, and I meant to enjoy it. I did. I went back this morning for another breakfast buzz. Dairyland is a drug-free zone, so I'll be abstaining for the near future. I bid the owner farewell and asked for a photo of him. He said no, but welcomed me to take a photo of the place. He doesn't want his family back in Japan finding out that he peddles weed. They think he runs a regular café.


Off to give dairy farming a try.

I have a dream. I want to be a nomad. I want to travel somewhere, spend a month or two or twelve, travel off to some place else, and repeat. Such a life can be expensive. Establishing oneself in a new city it's not easy, especially since I'm a bit on the poor side. Travel to foreign countries becomes more complicated with visa requirements. My dream seems somewhat impractical. One reason I was a cab driver for ten years. I was too scared to give it at try.

David's offer of a trip to Europe took me by surprise. He offered to pay my way, and I accepted happily. He originally planned to fly me back to Bellingham after the trip, and I asked for the cash instead. I am in Europe. I want to stay. I want to so something completely different. I want too live my dream.

The cash from David was enough to live for a week and a half staying at a hostel. I didn't have much time, but I had a plan. Go door to door, asking for work at every bar, restaurant, café, and coffeeshop I come upon. I figured someone would hire me eventually. I was wrong.

I first seriously considered moving to Amsterdam seven or eight years ago. I checked with the Dutch that hopped in my cab. They all agreed. Go, have fun, finding work will be easy. I checked with the Consulate's office about work and residency visas. I was told to just go, find a job, then apply.

I hadn't done any new research since then. I should have been a touch more proactive, but I also wasn't expecting the tour with David to end quite so suddenly. I came here blind, with eight year old research, a foolish dream, and absolutely no exit strategy. But, being in Europe, no idea when I'll be able to return, I needed to stay and find a way to make something happen. I was terrified coming to Amsterdam. I knew I was taking a gamble. But, I have no wife, no kids, and no job. If I'm going to be penniless and homeless, it might as well be in Amsterdam.

Things have changed here. The conservatives are trying to take over. They have had some success. The Netherlands have passed strict new laws to discourage illegal immigration. The possibility of arriving, finding work, then applying to stay is no more.

I checked so many places. I asked so many proprietors, and they all turned me down. "You have to be Dutch." "You need a Sofi number." "We only hire students."

I was getting discouraged. I needed a new plan. I googled communes in Amsterdam. The only one I found is some new age yoga meditation religious place. I skipped them. I wasn't that desperate yet. I did more research. I discovered that communes are now called intentional communities. I know, that sounds silly.

In my googling for an answer, a way out, a roof over my head, I found two websites that gave me hope. WWOOF and workaway. WWOOF, or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is a group that brings volunteer workers to farms and gives the workers room and board. Workers volunteer to work on an organic farm, learn something about farming, and are given room and board in exchange. Workaway is similar, but does not limit itself to farming. Bed and breakfasts, hostels, farmers, artists, and people needing pet sitters all advertise for volunteers. It's the same deal. Work in exchange for room, and maybe board.

I checked every host in the Netherlands. I applied for a dogwalking position. I applied at a couple of communes, sorry, intentional communities. I applied at a number of farms. I applied with one group that wish to convert a twelfth century monastery into a peace and meditation center. I applied with an artist couple looking for help finishing their home.

I have skills, and I have some experience in this type of position. I recently spent six months living with my sister and her wife and helping them renovate their home. I can do carpentry, plumbing, and electrical. I have a technical theater background. I used to build scenery and hang lighting for a living. I've replaced sills, put in toilets, wired this, and rewired that. I paint. I do windows. I'm a jack of all trades, and a master of none, or a very useful volunteer for an organic farmer or someone renovating an old monastery.

On the afternoon I found these websites, I sent out a dozen inquiries. I received responses from all except the lady looking for a dogwalker. The artist couple responded first, and they were my main choice. They live in Amsterdam, and they need some help finishing their home and on various art projects. We met for breakfast and had a delightful conversation. Unfortunately, they are not yet ready to host someone. They responded to me because I mentioned in my email that I'm already in town, and looking to start immediately. I was in a bit too much of a rush for them. Perhaps a later date.

The lady did give me the tip that led to the extra gig with the TV show. Details in a later post, I promise.

In the end, I had two farmers and a commune, er intentional community, discussing a position for me. I chose an organic dairy farm only about an hour away from Amsterdam. I will have the freedom to come back to town to party or try another extra gig (I applied for second), they seem like decent people, travel there is only €15.30, and they were the first to give me a definite yes. I'm going there as soon as I finish this post and get some breakfast.

I'm hopeful that WWOOF and workaway will give me the chance to travel all over Europe, meet a lot of interesting folk, and help others with their dreams. It will be a good way to live for a year or two or twelve. We'll see what happens.

Volunteering won't provide an income though. Tobacco costs about €2 or 3 a day. Not all hosts provide full meals. Some provide one or two a day. Some provide none. Travel from place to place will be on me. I have some cash still, enough to last me a month or two at the farm I'm heading to. But, I'll run out eventually. Depending on the distance to the next gig, I might not have enough to get there.

I'll try to pick up side gigs here and there. A local farmer will need help with haying. I can mow lawns. Someone will need a bookcase built. Something will present itself.

I'm on track to have one hell of an adventure.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tired

I got up early to go do that extra thing. It was fun. I made €40.

I left there and took the train and wandered in search of that talkative hashman I mentioned earlier. My plan was to smoke a joint, come back to the hostel, and write a blog post. I hadn't decided yet if I was to write about the extra gig or my plan for the next year or two or twelve. The hashman wasn't talkative this time. He was took busy.

I left the coffeeshop and wandered home. An hour later I was back at the same coffeeshop. I tried again and eventually said fuck it and went into another coffeeshop. I was hoping to get a strawberry-banana milkshake to go with my spliff, but service was so wretchedly slow, I gave up and just smoked my weed. I have yet to find a coffeeshop I truly, or even remotely, like.

I headed home and got lost again. By luck I stumbled upon the French fry place, and from there it was easy to find the Old Church and the Old Church is the center off it all and from there it would be easy to get home.

An hour later I was standing in front of the Old Church again.

An hour later I am finally back at the hostel. I'm tired. I'm going to bed. Let me know what post I should write next.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I just got a job as an extra on a Dutch TV show.

Now, who  woulda would thunk?

Vondelpark's lost and found department

Vondelpark has a found fence. If you find something in the park, clip it to the fence. I did an inventory.

2 pieces of candy in wrappers
1 rock
1 pacifier
3 coins
1 note from tourists saying they love Amsterdam
3 sets of keys
1 piece of cardboard approx 1"x4"
1 thing you put around your neck to hold ID
2 businesses cards
1 hotel swipe key
1 fluffy red thingy
1 blue plastic wearable thing


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I meet a guy.

I have some leads work wise, so I celebrated.

My expenses for the day:
3.05 - Lunch
2.50 - Dinner
3.50 - Spliff
5.95 - Some homeless guy I met

Lunch was a pasta salad with tomatoes and mozzarella and a piece of ciabata that I picked up from a supermarket. The salad was tasty, but small. Bread, yummy.

Dinner was French fries. I bought some yesterday from some fry stand, and they were great, and a fair bargain. I wanted them again. Fat fries that are fried twice. That way, the guy can cook them quickly and serve them hot.

I couldn't find the place though. I tramped through the RLD and got thoroughly lost. My professional pride is beginning to get hurt. I spent ten years as a cabbie, and I pride myself on my sense of direction. Walking through Barcelona and Messina, I could always knew where home was. In this town, I'm always lost. Every street looks the same. The canals follow some weird horseshoe pattern, with the streets going sort of parallel to the canals. Sort of. Every day I have managed to get completely and totally lost a few times. Probably doesn't help that I've been stoned whenever I get lost.

A homeless guy came up to me. "You're looking for something." I stopped, and he went into his spiel. He started giving me the rough layout of the area, telling me where the good girls are, where the trannies are, which dealers to avoid. I interrupted him. "I'm looking for the French fries."

The guy laughed and took me right there. "I've been doing this for twenty-eight months, and you're the first guy to ask about the fries." 

We got a talking. He's from Boston, moved there when he was six. He got deported, and was given a twelve year probation before he could return. Three more months he said, and he could go back.

At the fry place, he asked for a donation. I gave him the change in my pocket. I offered him some fries. He said he would prefer the cash. I gave him the change from my fries. He gave me a brief tour. That's what he does. He finds people who look lost, and helps them find what they need. Girls, drugs, whatever they need. He knows the best coffeeshops. He knows which girls will cheat their customers. He knows cabdrivers that'll let their passengers smoke. He gives tours of the underbelly.

I asked him if he knew of a coffeeshop on a  houseboat that I saw a picture of. He was stumped, and embarrassed to admit it. I thanked him anyway. He gave me a good conversation.

I went looking for the coffeeshop. I had done some research and found the name of the canal it was sitting in. It wasn't there. I went from one end to the other and looked at every houseboat, but no dice. Maybe it closed, maybe it moved, maybe it sunk. No wonder the guy never heard of it.

So, I wandered around and checked the first three coffeeshops I came to if they had wifi. The third guy said he had a computer with internet, so I bought. After smoking I checked out the computer to find that it cost extra to use. I was annoyed.

It is very difficult to find a coffeeshop that has free wifi. I haven't done it yet. I'm beginning to suspect that they don't want stoned people clogging up the coffeeshop all day like a Starbucks in NYC. But they could give us a time limit like the Starbucks in Barcelona. That works.

On leaving, I paused to roll a cigarette. Then I met the homeless guy again. He spotted me first. He started on a new spiel. He needed just a buck fifty more, and he could get a supply of something to have in case a tourist needed something you know. I gave him the change from my spliff. He gave me his phone number. Now I got a guy to call if I need anything. I can't imagine what I might ever need from him, but it's always good to know a guy.

I asked him why he got deported. "I killed a guy in prison. He raped a child. If you rape a child, you get killed."

Okay.

Amsterdam

A beautiful city. The canals and bridges and narrow streets and tilting houses all make Amsterdam a picturesque city. Main streets are asphalt, while the smaller ones are paved in brick or cobblestone. The city is entirely flat except for the arching of the many bridges.

---

The canals are lined with boats. Some old, some new. I saw a duck nesting in one abandoned boat. I went to take a photo, but she started squawking, so I left her in peace.

Ducks are everywhere. I've seen a few swans and another type of water fowl that I couldn't recognize. Someone has built little floating islands covered with sparse greenery, presumably to support the wildlife.

---

The canals are incredibly filthy. I watched a man clean his boat. When finished, he just tossed his rag overboard. All canals have litter floating here and there. I found it rather disappointing. I'm glad the ducks are able to adapt, but wish they didn't have to.

---

I'm surprised by the truck traffic. With all of the canals, I thought that they would be utilized more for commercial use. But, the canals don't reach every building, so perhaps they are not that efficient. So far, I've only seen one tiny tugboat, a few construction barges, and several sightseeing boats. That's it for commercial activity. The canals are used almost entirely by pleasure craft.

I've seen dozens of cargo boats, all converted to houseboats.
---

The center of Amsterdam is a party town. No surprise, that's why the tourists come. But, with drunkenness comes a need to pee, which can lead to drunken men and boys peeing in the streets and alleyways. The city in their wisdom has built dozens of open air urinals. They have a steel spiral wall encircling them, enough privacy to pee, but not enough to have sex or move in. I haven't noticed if women use them, and I don't even know how possible it is (I haven't investigated them in detail.) But, women aren't known for peeing in the streets as often as men.

New York should take note.

---

Bicycles are everywhere, and chained everywhere. Despite the traffic, accidents are rare. The only person I saw take a tumble was a tourist. The bikes are mostly old and beat up. They rattle and squeak. They only have one gear. That's to deter thieves. A thief is more likely to steal newer and shinier bikes. Regardless, I've been told that there are a hundred thousand bicycle thefts a year here. Another twenty thousand end up in canals.

People lock their bikes anywhere they can. They choke there narrow sidewalks. I've seen them chained to the railings of wheelchair ramps, which pissed me off. How callous must one be, able-bodied enough to ride a bicycle, and to just block the access of someone who doesn't have the same luck of health. I confess that I wondered if I could get away with cutting the locks and just moving the bikes to another area. But, I can't afford bolt cutters or a battery operated disk grinder at this point in life.

---

Cyclists in general respect most traffic laws except the ones about pedestrians and right of way. I've learned that even when I have the light,  crossing in a crosswalk, that I should beware. A bicycle can still whiz by at high speed. I've had three or four close calls at this point. I'm more aware now.

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The hostel provides free breakfast. It consists of bread and jars of peanut butter, jelly, butter, and Nutella. And coffee. There's a toaster in the kitchen if I prefer my bread toasted. It's not much of a breakfast, but four or five slices of bread coated liberally with Nutella can fill me up for some time. It's tasty and free, so I'm not complaining.

---

The kids staying at the hostel do not seem particularly friendly. Every getting that I give is returned with silence or a mumble. I suspect that they look at me with suspicion. I am twenty years older than the average age here, staying in a ten person dorm room.

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Everyone speaks English. Everyone.

American TV shows are not dubbed, but subtitled. In Italy they were dubbed. I prefer subtitles.

---

The prostitution seems just so normal here. It's just out in the open, with no shame or stigma. The women stand behind glass doors, wearing lingerie, and smile and wave at the passer-byes. If you take a second look, they open the door and call you over. It's common, and somewhat disconcerting, to be walking from point A to B, and happen upon a window. Or twenty in a row.

I confess that they are tempting, but I have two problems preventing me from indulging. One, I'm broke. Two, I cannot tell the difference between the slaves and the willing participants. I've read that Amsterdam has a major problem with organized crime, forced prostitution, and slavery. I have no moral hangups when it comes to hiring a willing prostitute, but I don't want to have sex with a slave. I have seen social workers going from window to window talking to the women. I'm not sure what kind of help  they provide.

Also, it's a good thing that weed is tolerated. If I've been walking around the Red Light District drunk, I might very well have spent all my money by now. Alcohol does lower the inhibitions. Another reason why weed should be legal.

---

Oh, the weed, the weed!

This is truly glorious. I can wall to the closet coffeeshop and buy a spliff of generic, cheap weed mixed with tobacco, and get a high that would last me for hours. And for only €3.50.

The Dutch like their weed mixed with tobacco, which is fine by me. They also like the tapered spliffs. About for inches long narrow at the filter end and fat at the business end. The filters are made of a piece of paperboard rolled tightly. They come in these little plastic tubes.

But, that's the cheap stuff. Coffeeshops vary by quality, and their product varies greatly. All the shops sell bags of straight weed of various strengths and prices. I could experiment and get the real good shit, but I'm happy with the cheap joints. They are plenty strong enough for me, and they are already rolled. Glorious.

Coffeeshops should be allowed in America. They really are quite civilized.

---

The job search is not hitting yet. The bars all want to hire college students. I've heard that line from a number of places so far. I am too old, and not hip enough.

I have a few more ideas to try out. I'm not conceding failure yet.

Monday, May 14, 2012

First day.

Today started frustrating. The hostel is clean enough. But, a little cramped. I'll be able to handle it, but hopefully not for long.

The job search started  poorly; I had started with a faulty game plan.* But, some people I spoke to have some good advice, so I'll have better chances tomorrow. This city is not New York. Amsterdam follows some rules that New York does not. And versa vice. Amsterdam has some rules that I've never heard. Some rules need to be gotten around, and I understand it can be done. I need to gather more details. I met one hashman (I know it's not gender neutral, but I can't think of a better one yet. I don't even know what the proper term is yet.) who was chatty, and he gave me some good advice. I'll stop back in the place tomorrow and have another chat with him.

My gameplan:

Start the day by doing some internet research. I have a few details that need filling in, and Google should be able to help. This includes planning a beat, which I'll use to be thorough.

Start hitting businesses around three or four.* Work my planned beat for four or five hours.

Go back to the hashman I mentioned earlier, and hit an expat hangout or two.

Get stoned and take a leisurely stroll.

Perhaps try busking again.

I'll bring four or five signs this time, and try to be a little more engaging.  Now, being in Amsterdam, a thought has naturally occurred. Should I busk sober or stoned? I haven't decided yet. Maybe both? Any thoughts, those of you who might know me both ways?

Tonight, before going to bed I'll place this add on craigslist.

Newly arrived American seeks position.

Thirty-nine year old American male, new in town. Looking for any type of gainful employment. I'm willing and able to wash dishes, tend bar, tend plants, bus tables, wait tables, milk goats, be a handy man, anything legal and maybe a few that aren't. Experienced in carpentry, electrical, plumbing, painting, washing dishes, prep cook, storytelling, building scenery, hanging lights, rigging, managing the stage, and ten year NYC cab driver. 

Willing to learn anything new.

New in town, just arrived this morning. Not sure if you've noticed, but America has gone a little nuts over the last twenty or so years. I wish to experience residing in a place a little more, well, civilized.

If you have a position that needs to be filled, give me a chance to live out a dream. I'll accept any reasonable offer, and perhaps some things not.

Thank you for your attention.

I'm going to try a few different techniques, and see what hits.

Any advice or good ideaa that any of you have, please leave a comment. Thanks.

*I have no papers, so I'll be vague while describing my job search and any job I find. I suspect that discretion is advised.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Some random notes I can write while killing time on a twenty-two and a half hour train journey.

No wifi on these trains. Even Greyhound has wifi in the States. Frankly, I expected better from these Europeans, and as an American I expect instant gratification.

---

One can eat cheaply in Firenze. Yesterday I had a delicious sandwich and a cup of cappuccino for a mere €3.20. What a deal. I hope I can find similar deals in Amsterdam, for I'll need to be able to live on a tight budget until I get settled.

---

I don't recall paying any VAT in Italy. I don't know if it was always included in the price, or if most businesses just avoid it. I do know that most hostels only take cash, so I suspect that a lot of taxes are avoided.

That is Greece's problem. They don't need austerity measures. They need to get people, especially the rich, to actually pay the taxes that they owe. That would solve their problems.

---

I did see art while on the cruise. I swear, it wasn't a museum. I often heard announcements for the daily Free Champagne Art Auction. I always ignored them, because a free glass of champagne isn't worth subjecting myself to art.  But, I went once out of boredom and for a free glass of champagne. Well, what do you know, the champagne was unlimited. I had six or seven glasses, and got quite happily drunk. I went back again the next day and did the same. Sadly, that was the final day at sea, and my last opportunity. To think, I could have been taking advantage of this the whole damn cruise. Bummer.

---

While watching TV on the cruise, I kept coming across a reality show about some pretentious artist with hideously pretentious hair. It was all about how difficult it was to get taken seriously as an artist, and how hard it was, and yadda, yadda, yadda. It bored me, but his art did seem kind of cool. He airbrushes on steel plates. He does good work. But, he was on this one channel all day, everyday. Him and his pretentious hair.

At the auction, they had a number of his pieces available. One even sold. I guess that was why he was on TV everyday. Just a commercial for Royal Caribbean.

---

Firenze has been unbearably hot the last few days, so on leaving, I wrote shorts and candles like I've been since I got off the damn boat. Northern Italy is rainy and cold, and I began to get the chills. I had to change in the train's restroom. It wasn't as small as an airplane's, but it was tight enough. I feel comfortable now.

---

Damn, another hour twenty before we get to a stop long enough for me to hop off and grab a smoke. I have some nicotine gum in my suitcase, and I'm kicking myself for not putting it in my pocket. I suppose I could rummage through my suitcase again, but it's somewhere near the bottom. I don't want to unpack entirely.

---

We are in Austria now. I just hoped off the train for a smoke. I consider that enough to say that I've visited Austria. Before the cruise, I had been three countries on two continents -US, Canada, and Japan. As of now, I've visited nine countries on four continents. By the time I get to Amsterdam, I'll be up to eleven countries. Yay.

---

In Munich now for a four hour plus layover. I wandered a bit and ate at McDonald's for dinner. I'm enjoying McDonald's in different countries. In Cittivecchio I had a NYCrispy. It had bacon bits baked into the crust of the bun. Now that's a sandwich. I wonder why I can't find one in NYC. Do Citvivechians go to NYC expecting to find their favorite burger? I hope not.

Today I had a Big Tasty Bacon. That was the name. It was huge and tasty and it had bacon, so I guess the name is apt, if lame. I had fries with that.

---

I checked for wifi in the train station. I clicked an open network and was shunted to their website. I had to register. They said it would be free and easy. It was. Then I was sent to the next page which said that I had to pay money to get online. It was only free to register. Assholes.

---

My next train is the overnight to Amsterdam. My ticket says that I'm in Car 184, Bed 104. I'm curious to see what the beds look like. It's a second class ticket, so it can't be too fancy. I'm guessing something like those business class airplane seats that folds flat and a pretty blonde stewardess will fetch me a pillow just like the commercials.

---

Drinking in public is legal in Italy. How's that for civilized? In NYC, you'll get a ticket or, if you're black, arrested for doing something so outrageous.

Last night I bought two 66cl bottles of beer for €2.80. I got quite happily buzzed for less that three bucks. And I drank them sitting on a park bench and people watching.

---

I'm sitting in the Munich Station ticket area. They don't have lines. People take a number and sit on a comfy, upholstered bench. Civilized.

---

During my brief stroll through Munich, I happened across a group of people trying out circus equipment. Some were trying the stilts, some were playing with, and dropping, devil sticks, some were balancing on a board on a piece of pipe, and some were attempting a little right rope setup. All of these people were random pedestrians, who happened across this scene, just like I. I saw two folks in blue coveralls standing next to a blue cart with some happy looking German writing on the side. I figured they brought the stuff.

I saw one guy make it across the tight rope setup. Everybody else fell.

---

David found his garlic bread. We went to an Indian restaurant in Firenze. He ordered garlic nan. It was tasty. I had the lamb tikka. It was delicious.

Leaving, I noticed a wooden box full of bidis, little Indian cigarettes made out of a leaf of tobacco rolled tight and tied with a string. I asked how much and the proprietor said they were complimentary. I hadn't  smoked one since college, back when a classmate used to bring them from home.

---

Just got kicked out of the ticket office; they were closing. I wandered around the station and found a waiting area, and, damn, they have free wifi, compliments of T-Mobile. Now I can check up on Facebook.

---

I found an awesome head shop in Messina. The shop was tiny, but the variety was huge. Most American shops that I have seen, have the same basic types of pipes in dozens of slight variations. This shop had dozens of different type of pipes, some I have never seen before. The prices were also rock bottom. I didn't buy any; I'll wait until Amsterdam.

---

The train is here, and I've found my car and my bed. This really sucks. It is a small cabin with six bunks, three on a side. They are incredibly uncomfortable. I'd much rather be sitting in a regular train seat. It's softer and I can sleep sitting up. I don't sleep well on buses, planes, trains anyways, so I'd rather be sitting. I asked a conductor if I could switch  to a sitzwagen, but he said the train is almost full and that I should take my bed. If I ever travel on a night train again, I'll request a sitzwagen.

I don't even see a pretty blonde stewardess offering pillows.
---

Awake. They have alarms to wake people at the stops, or one of my cabin mates had her own alarm. I don't know which. We stopped at Dusseldorf for two minutes, and were off again. A little under three hours before Amsterdam. I've found a window seat on the sitzwagen. I have a view of the  Dusseldorfian suburbs now.

---

Here, at the hostel. The place is relatively clean, but nothing to brag about. Five bunk beds in my room. They are even more uncomfortable than the train. But, they are clean.

---

The train was about a half an hour late. I'm not impressed. I expected better from the Germans. My morning stroll thru the Red Light District was pleasant. The streets are narrow, as are the canals. Every building has a stout iron hook jutting out from the top. They are for housing up furniture on moving day. These houses apparently have narrow staircases. I did see two men, construction workers, using one to hoist lumber, so they are still in use. I also saw a small tugboat, only term or twelve feet in length, pushing another boat.

Even at 9:30, some coffee shops were open, and the smell of marijuana was evident. I didn't stop in; I should find a job before I start smoking weed before noon. A few of the window ladies were also open. Again, I didn't partake. If I could afford to hire one, I wouldn't be stating in a hostel.

Now, time to try and find a job.

---

I did finally find a spectacular view. On the fifth floor terrace of our hotel, I spotted a number of hills in the distance. I headed for one, and after a couple of hours of walking, I found a spot to take a photo.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Drink like man!

I was running low on cigarettes, and I decided to switch to roll-your-own in order to save money. I spotted a tobacco and shop and wandered in. The old man behind the counter spoke broken English, but far better than my seven words of Italian. He knew enough to get me what I want and to tell me how much. €5.20. Not bad seeing that I roll them thin and can get at least fifty smokes from the pouch.

Leaving, I saw a shelf full of small bottles of grappa and sambuca. Not airplane size, but slightly larger at 5cl, whatever that is. I was tempted, but not enough to spend €5, so I kept walking.

Not long afterwards, looking for lunch, David called and informed me that our grand tour is coming to end. I've been expecting as much; David doesn't seem to like traveling by train from city to city, hotel to hotel. He likes cruise ships, and he's looking for one that will take him back west. Me, I like trains.

When David originally proposed this trip, he promised to fly me back to Bellingham at it's conclusion, and I've asked for the cash instead. I've decided to head to Amsterdam, a city that I've wanted to live in for years. I figure that I'm almost there, I might as well go. I have no job, wife, or kids expecting me back, so I'm relatively free. After ten years driving cab, I'm ready to put that freedom to good use. Also, I want to give socialism a try. Maybe I'll even get health care.

So, we met at the train station, and he got me a ticket and some cash. I leave Sunday morning. The trip is nearly twenty-three hours with a four hour layover in Munich. I wonder if I'll still like trains afterwards.

We parted for the afternoon; him to research cruise ships, me to climb the dome. A Facebook friend clued me into the Doumo di Firenze, a big assed dome on a cathedral that tourists can climb up for free and get a spectacular view of the city. I found it and waited in a long line, respectfully removed my hat and went inside. It was a church, and a big one, but most of my readers know my opinion of churches, so I won't rant. I looked in vain for the line to the dome and finally got around to asking a security guard. He pointed across the way and said, "At that door, outside." I had gotten into the wrong line, and to see a church! Dammit.

I went outside and found another, not quite as long, and the correct line. I waited, and eventually got to the front and discovered that things have changed since my Facebook friend climbed the dome. Instead of free, it's now €8. I considered for a bit and decided that €8 could be better spent on a panini and a 5cl bottle of grappa. What money I have must be spent carefully and wisely until I get a job and an apartment.

I wandered the streets, found a panini (prosciutto and mozzarella, €2.50, I saved!), and set out for the tobacco shop. When he saw me, the old man said, "So soon? You smoke fast. Go slow. Live old, like me."

I told him I wanted to try grappa and he got me a bottle. I asked if I should mix it with water or Coke, and he said, "No! Drink like man!" and pantomimed drinking from the bottle. I did. It was nasty. I should have gotten the sambuca.

And, I finally got around to googling something. A 5cl bottle is an airplane size bottle. Just a different shape that looks a little bigger. I think I overpaid, but no harm. I'm in Italy. How could I not try grappa?


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Firenze

I like to walk. I love entering a new town and walking for hours. Down random streets, discovering something new around every corner, watching people pass by, pausing at shop windows.

And, that was my first day in Firenze. I walked.

I walked across a bridge with a view of a dam. Sun worshipers were sprawled upon the concrete, hastening the onset of skin cancer. I strolled up and down narrow streets, most just wide enough for one car to pass, with sidewalks only a foot and a half wide. I saw tourists galore, Indians, Japanese, German, American, young, old, awed, bored.

I stumbled upon a mazey nest of streets filled with artisan shops. I watched as a sculptor took hammer and chisel to a block of wood. I saw a book binder examine an old and battered tome with the owner standing over his shoulder. She left the shop with the book in his care, looking relieved. Furniture repairers, a chandelier maker, a shop filled with wooden boxes, a man welding an ornate patio table. I bought postcards at an printmaker's. Window after window of artists at work. I spent hours just watching them.

I climbed a hill. It looked steep and long, but I didn't care. There must be a view to behold at the top. I climbed up two dead end streets and had to double back. But, I made it to the top, and I saw nothing. Massive stone walls on both sides of the streets, no view to speak of. I chose a different street on the way down. It was narrow of course, but no sidewalks. It had gutters of flat stone laid in a concave shape. Whenever a car drove by, I had to gingerly step in, holding onto the wall for balance. Downhill was even steeper, and I'm still feeling it in my ankles.

I came across a square tower with large arches on every floor. I could see the staircase winding up inside, and I wondered, are tourists allowed up. I checked - locked. But, a friend has told me where to go for a view. I'll try it today.

I walked down a flight of steps onto yet another twisting, narrow street. There I found a tiny park with a low stone wall. A perfect spot for a rest, so I sat. The view was just another stone wall, and few pedestrians passed by, but it was peaceful.

The sun was blazing hot, far too miserable to enjoy a stroll. But, with the combination of tall buildings and narrow streets, I spent most of my time in the shade.

Almost all buildings are light earth tones with roofs of reddish orange tiles. Even the satellite dishes are painted a dull red to match. Most streets are rectangular stone blocks, much larger than cobblestone. Footing is treacherous. Drainage grates are stone, as are many manhole covers. Unlike those in Rome, these are round.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Leaving Roma.

And now we are off to Florence, with a change of trains in Pisa. We haven't yet decided if we're going to see that tower we've heard about. It's just a fucking tower, and a poorly built one at that. We'll stay in Florence for a few nights. David has found a hotel with a pool, which makes him happy, and free wifi, which makes me happy.

---

The drivers in Italy do drive fast, with seeming little regard to traffic laws, but they don't strike me as crazy as their reputation. But, I was a NYC cab driver for ten years, so maybe my perspective is slightly skewed.

Drivers will only very rarely stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk. The technique is to wait for a wee break in traffic, hope for the best, and go for it. Neither David or myself ever got runned over, so I guess we done well.

---

We took a taxi at one point. The driver raced around, weaving in and out of traffic, all the while being passed by scooters on the right and left. It is a touch insane, but copable. The congestion was no where near as bad as I expected. Traffic flowed.

---

I did manage to see a few drivers get pulled over while sitting in my busking spot. The police's technique is entertaining. They give chase on scooters, pull up alongside, blow whistles, and start waving. If I was the one pulled over, I would have probably  laughed and waved back, amused by their antics. Good thing I keep my law breaking to busking.

---

Wifi is easy to find, but one must be wiling to pay for it. Many cafés and restaurants offer wifi, but a purchase must be made. Establishments do not allow wifiers to idle away all day long and only buying one cup of coffee. You will be thrown out. Considering the near impossibility of finding a seat in any NY Starbucks, I think that's a reasonable policy.

It does make staying connected a bit of a pain. I got blogging, email, and the Facebook to keep up on.

---

Floors are numbered differently here. The ground floor is 0, and the second floor is 1, or the first floor above ground. The basement is -1. We are staying on the second (third in America) floor, and the first morning I took the stairs down one flight and wandered around wondering why I couldn't find the lobby.

---

David has found his favorite restaurant, and we have eaten there often. This being a tourist town, the menu is in both Italian and English. The English they have for a calzone is "folded-over pizza."

They don't serve garlic bread. We haven't found a restaurant yet that does. Perhaps an American invention?

---

Rome must be a hot place in the summertime. It's been in the mid to high seventies the last few days, but the Romans all wear long pants, long sleeved shirts, and often a light jacket. David and I have been perspiring in shorts and T-shirts.

---

I have a phone now, with a phone number even. It's a cheap pre-paid thing, not smart or anything. It works, allows family to call me and me to call family. And to keep in contact with David when we wander separately.

Europe is a continent of many small countries, and one would presume (at least I did) that a phone in one part of Europe would work in any other. Or at least  within the EU. But, a call from Italy to France is an international call, even though one can spit from one to the other. It is cheaper and easier calling Canada from America than calling Spain from Portugal.

Using a German phone with a German number in Switzerland will cause massive international roaming charges. Customers must change SIM cards and phone numbers whenever they travel From one country to the next. To make life easier, many phones in Europe, including my cut rate piece, are dual SIM. A user can keep their home SIM card in and add a local card when they travel. Very handy.

I wonder why some enterprising corporation or entrepreneur hasn't come up with plan allowing customers to get one phone with one SIM and use it anywhere in Europe with no international charges. Any company that went with such a plan would corner the market in Europe. I suspect that corporate interests, individual regulations, and varied protected monopolies prevent such an enterprise from getting off the ground. I'm surprised that the always riot ready Europeans haven't thrown an almighty shit fit yet.

The one cool bit about European phones is that they don't charge for incoming calls, only outgoing. That's handy. So, call if you want, but keep in mind that Italy is six hours ahead of New York. Don't wake me; I'll become grumpy.

My number with country code:
0039 331 391 6875

---

There are large paper signs announcing all of the arrivals and departures at Roma Termini. Do not trust them. I almost missed the train to Civitivecchia yesterday because I was standing on the right platform. The train left from two platforms over. I guessed something was wrong because the tracks were still empty three minutes before my train was to depart. I asked some official looking dude. He straightened me out.

---

I never did see Caesar's house. Rome had a rare snow storm this year, and the place was badly damaged. So, it is now open only sporadically while workers try to keep it from collapsing. Maybe next time.

---

Rome has rectangular manholes. For some reason they have yet to realize that only the round ones cannot possibly fall down the hole. Or, perhaps they just like tempting fate.

The SPQR stands for a Latin phase I haven't learned that means "The Senate and People of Rome." Government property has been stamped thus for 2000 some odd years. Maybe longer. I haven't bothered to look it up yet.