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Monday, July 31

Do they even want customers?

For the most part, planning a wedding is fun. The amount of time it takes up can get a bit tiresome at times, but considering that the 'work' mostly consists of choosing nice things for our friends and family to enjoy with us on a day we're both looking forward to... yeah, it's not that bad.

There is, however, one thing that's driving me insane. It's that so many businesses completely ignore email and voicemail from potential customers. If only I could do everything by email (which I can with the photographer, making me like him very much) I wouldn't have to stop work during the day to phone around. If only a phone message would guarantee a reply, I wouldn't have to keep phoning; I could keep the interruptions to work brief. But no. It's just impossible to get anything done without phone call after phone call after phone call. If it were just the odd supplier I'd say screw them and go to competitors who actually respond to sales leads, but when it's entire industries I have no choice.

Come on people. It's not like we're the first couple ever to both have day jobs while engaged.
posted @ 11:38 AM -

Saturday, July 29

The past 8 days in brief

last Saturday: Power Tool Races followed by a football local derby. The Power Tool Races were highly entertaining for a while, but once the novelty wore off the oppressive heat and lack of either shade or places to sit became gradually more annoying. They did generate some good pictures though, which I'm hoping to put up soon. The football was great; I'm glad we've recently started going to Sounders games, because I do enjoy proper football a lot more than the American game that inappropriately uses that name, and even though turnouts are pretty dismal it's still fun being at a sport that gets genuine crowd atmosphere, rather than the choreographed cheering-for-the-announcements that for me somewhat mars the experience of hockey and basketball.

Monday: Flew out to Indiana to meet with my lab. It was a wonderfully clear day and I could see more stratovolcanoes than ever before (I recognised Rainier, St.Helen's and Hood, and I'm guessing the other was Mount Adams).

Tuesday & Wednesday: Long days of meetings and discussions in the lab; very productive and very tiring. While not being the sort of place I'd like to live in (it's just too small for my taste), Bloomington is a lovely town to visit, and especially nice as a contrast with Seattle. It helps that eating well is considerably cheaper than in a big city, and that the BBC (no, not THAT BBC) is across the street from the lab. The only disappointments were that I didn't get to see Chad & Amanda, and barely saw Stu, my exceptionally generous host. Next time I should have a day or two longer, with less to do, Stu should be less busy and Chad & Amanda won't be in the process of moving house, so that should be better. A lot of the problem this time was that the visit was awkwardly short as a compromise because I didn't want to disappear out of town this close to the wedding, but there are a couple of people in Bloomington for the summer only, one of whom does work particularly closely related to mine, so I didn't want to miss the chance to talk to them.

Thursday: Flew home. Saw this very clearly through the window. It's pretty frightening really - South Dakota and/or Nebraska look exactly how I imagine the antecedents of the dust bowl would have done. There are also several big forest fires in Washington, the largest of which looks to be generating a smoke plume over 100 miles long (from the Cascades to the Columbia Gorge).

Friday 4pm: A man forced entry into the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle's offices and shot six people in what seems to be being appropriately described as a hate crime (as opposed to terrorism). This is very close to my house; the first I knew about it was when I could hear at least two helicopters through the window.

Friday 5:30pm: I showed up at Westlake Plaza for Critical Mass. Meanwhile there was an anti-Israel demonstration going on at the Plaza, and the police were obviously both overstretched and concerned about possible interference between the three things that were going on. Pleasingly, everyone conducted themselves in an exemplary way: the police were pleasant to everyone present, the protesters avoided the annoyingly common conflation of "Israeli Army" with "Jews in general", and the cyclists complied with police requests to stay well clear of the shooting site.

Friday 8pm: Having left Critical Mass before the end so I could get home, wash, change and head out again, I picked Melinda up from work, joined John, Joanie and Ken for some delicious curry and to watch Clerks II. To my great surprise, Clerks II is just as good as the first one was.

this morning: Melinda & I rode our bikes to Golden Gardens Park, for a half day of volunteer work clearing up. I got to play in a marsh with hip-waders (which actually went up to my armpits, because they were apparently made for a giant) and fight the latest skirmish in my war on invasive European plants, while Melinda and various other volunteers sorted out some drainage and planted native species to hold the banks together. Like the Lake Union cleanup a couple of months ago, this was a fun way to do good. This one was even better because clearing litter necessitates spreading out and working mostly alone, whereas today's work was more co-operative and suited a bigger group.
posted @ 7:32 PM -

Friday, July 28

PSA

Six people were shot near where I live. I was not among them. I will write more tomorrow - I've just got back from riding with Critical Mass, and need to be back out the door in 10 minutes.
posted @ 7:24 PM -

Tuesday, July 18

The Encyclopedia Spuria

I can think of at least a few people who might appreciate the rampant nonsense-fest that is Spuripedia. It contains quality articles about such important and true matters as the oldest joke in the world, pih-rah-tees and the Not-Very-Dangerous-Sports Club of Great Britain. Based on that last article, which is my favourite, I think it's probably fair to say that as well as being a talented England defender, Rio Ferdinand must practice the sport of extreme lounging.
posted @ 12:23 PM -

Thursday, July 13

Dear thief,

Thankyou for being such a pathetic, dignity-devoid specimen of humanity that you did not turn your nose up at my bike gloves, in spite of them being oil-stained, having holes in them, and smelling bad. Otherwise, you might have noticed that my lights were also not locked down, and the rear one doesn't even need any tools to remove it, and taken something with a non-negative cash value and which I wasn't about to replace anyway. As it is, you've provided me with at least as much entertainment as real irritation.

Yours,

Bemused of Seattle.
posted @ 1:56 PM -

Ask a silly question...

If a vegetarian is a person who eats vegetables, and a pescatarian is one who eats fish, what does that make a libertarian?
posted @ 10:20 AM -

Tuesday, July 11

What football teaches us about the world

In some circles, these two things are equivalent:
Materazzi has denied calling Zidane a "terrorist" or insulting his mother. (BBC)
posted @ 11:06 AM -

Friday, July 7

Charges dropped

The trumped-up charges that the police were pressing against a cyclist have been dropped. It sounds like they realised they had no case. I have a feeling this will be the end of the story, though actually I hope it won't - having learned that this incident fit an established pattern of police abuses it seems worth using the one that happened to have a large number of witnesses to show the Sheriff's Department that there are consequences for failing to clean out the bad deputies and for trying to circle the wagons when two of their number have done wrong.
posted @ 11:29 PM -

Wednesday, July 5

Apparently, the rot is institutional

Some interesting news regarding the King County Sheriff's [as a result of this incident, I have had to learn how to spell 'Sheriff' at last] Office: they are under investigation for a whole series of abuses by undercover deputies. The Seattle PI has been investigating since last August, in a way that I wish the national papers would do for bigger stories than this. A few links:What strikes me from a [admittedly haphazard] sampling of the stories in that set is that the abuses tend to have taken place outside the King County Sheriffs' primary jurisdiction area. It's risky to draw too much of a conclusion from this—after all, the nature of King County is that more than half of its population lives in cities big enough to have their own police force—but it does remind me of a parallel in Britain. Almost without fail, if there is excessive use of force by police at a political demonstration in Britain, it involves out-of-area police that were called in because the local force wanted reinforcements. The local police just tend to be better at handling situations without escalating them.

Back to the specifics of the case at hand: there will be a hearing tomorrow (Thursday) at 2:30, and friends of the cyclist who at present stands accused of assaulting a police officer will be holding a rally by the courthouse. I'll be there, probably just to stand quietly and be counted.

Update (Thursday): The PI has another article today, suggesting that this incident has added fuel to a long-simmering tension between the city and county police. It's funny, because I'm not the biggest fan of the Seattle Police Department, but at least the things I've been annoyed with them over have been minor compared to an assault where it's all too easy to put myself in the victim's shoes and the revelation that this is part of an ongoing pattern, consisting mostly of incidents with much more serious consequences than this one.
posted @ 10:58 PM -

Last night's fireworks

nature chipped in.

It didn't look anywhere near that dramatic from where we were - I thought there had been a piddly little thunderstorm which blew over before the fireworks started.
posted @ 11:05 AM -

More on the cyclists assaulted by police

First of all, Barry was right that the King County police were within their jurisdiction. It's not an area they're normally expected to provide traffic policing services to, but it is one they are legally allowed to do so in. Reports have moved from describing them as off-duty cops to undercover cops; this seems to be based on the King County Sherriff's statement, but I don't know whether it changes the legality of anything. It's been getting some news coverage:I'm quite pleased with the news coverage - most local outlets are carrying the story, and all that chose to have presented both sides without declaring either guilty before the trial. This is as it should be.

I don't believe a word of the Sherriff's statement. Now I must admit to being biased: I don't trust the police, particularly out-of-area police who don't even bother contacting the local police, and for all my reservations about Critical Mass I do feel a certain allegiance to activist cyclists. However, I have better reasons than that for disbelieving the police statement in the particular case. The first is the sheer number of witness statements from the Critical Mass group, though again I realise that all of these statements are open to accusations of in-group bias. The second is that once the full details came out, I realised quite how close Melinda & I were to the incident. The buildings in the background of the photos clearly identify the location as the intersection of Western Avenue & Wall Street, and the fracas was on the northwestern side of it. Meanwhile, we were waiting in the Belltown P-Patch to meet someone. Here's a map; the green arrow is where the assaults happened, the P-Patch is the ¼-block of garden with 3 small cottages in it, due west of that.

This is significant, because there was only one 2-storey building between us and where the Sherriff's statement claims the undercover cops sounded their siren twice. We heard nothing. Normally (like yesterday), we hear emergency services coming from 3 or 4 blocks away, even when we're at home, where we're surrounded by much larger buildings than this. This is important for two reasons: it undermines the credibility of the Sherriff's statement as a whole, and particularly it undermines the claim that the cyclists must have known their assailants were the police. I think that if this case actually goes to court, it will hinge on whether the judge and/or jury believes that the police officers identified themselves as such, because that will make the determination between two cyclists defended themselves reasonably against an assault by unknown assailants and two cyclists fought police officers and resisted arrest. Here's a little quote from the Critical Mass statement that sums up what I believe in this story:
Treisman's lawyer, David Speikers, labels this incident as ridiculous and said that Treisman was well within the law when he acted because the attackers didn't announce themselves as law enforcement officers.

"Unless law enforcement officers identify themselves as law enforcement, reasonable force to defend another person who is in danger is legal in this state," he said. There is no way Zack could have known they were law enforcement officers because they did not announce themselves as such until they were well into the attack. “The officers appeared to have started the fight as citizens and ended the fight as law enforcement.”
And finally, there will be news on this issue in the next day or two. From the .83 forum: the defence attorney is hoping to persuade the Sherriff's attorney to drop charges today, and if that doesn't happen the first hearing will be tomorrow. I think the police have been counting on the defendants being intimidated out of fighting this, but conversely I'm hoping that there's a video somewhere showing enough of the incident to persuade the cops to drop the case.
posted @ 10:07 AM -

In other news

This has been an unusually busy week for strange emergency services incidents within earshot of home. Yesterday afternoon we heard a lot of megaphone-modulated speech out in front of the building, so after checking Seattle911.com to make sure it wasn't a hostage situation or bomb threat or anything else we should avoid going near, we went out to take a look. Unfortunately the police decided they wanted the street cleared before I could take any pictures, but the grapevine told us that a man had climbed a crane at a nearby building site, intending to fly the Stars and Stripes from it. This morning's PI confirms the story.

I kind of wish they'd just let him stay up there at his own risk, but I guess there's always a worry that if he falls or drops something a person at ground level would be hit.
posted @ 10:01 AM -

Sunday, July 2

What the police should and should not be allowed to do

My response to a comment got rather long, so I decided to make it a new post. So here's Barry's comment to my previous post:
The response by the sheriff's deputies did seem a bit over the top from the author's description.

On the other hand, those bicyclists need to keep in mind that "corking" is just as illegal as cutting off the bicyclists is in the first place, and when done to an on-duty cop, could actually be an arrestable offense rather than a traffic violation, depending on jurisdiction/laws/etc. (and it's unclear what the two guys that got arrested are being charged with, since the people posting about it are all over the bail hearing and such, but haven't bothered to post what the charges are).

When you consider that a person on a bike has a pretty easy time of getting away, a police officer will probably have to seize the moment and take the person to the ground if they have the opportunity in order to make the arrest. Nobody was accused of using batons, tasers, fists, or anything of that nature in this case, and if you also take away the ability for officers to take someone to the ground and restrain them there, then the police are rendered completely ineffective.

That said, probably the worst thing that happened in this case was that the police officer didn't identify himself immediately, which (hopefully) would have saved everyone a lot of trouble.
And my response:

Unsurprisingly, I disagree.

The main issue, as I said, is not the arrest itself but the way it was conducted.

Quoting from the Stranger's description*, first we have "[the first cop] caught the bike rider and threw him to the ground". I think your last sentence applies to this - had the cop identified himself as such at the outset, then he might have a defence here, on the grounds that someone was trying to evade arrest. But assailed by an apparently random angry driver, the cyclist was absolutely right to try and escape. It's like the Jean Charles de Menezes story, but fortunately didn't end as badly.

Then we have "I started pulling the rider up by his backpack in order to get him away from the nut attacking him who kept grabbing him and throwing him to the ground". I don't know about you, but to me this is far more serious than "a bit over the top". It's only after this that the police apparently identified themselves, and by all accounts the crowd's behaviour changed once a badge came out.

Then we have "They pinned the first guy who was attacked down, pretty fiercely, and sat on his back and legs, they roughly pulled him up and dragged him away. I pointed my camera in the face of the [second] cop while his knee was on the biker’s back and got a picture of it. then" This is after the cops identified themselves, when apparently the crowd were no longer trying to free the arrestees, so I don't see how this can possibly be a justifiable level of force. I can hold someone still by twisting their arm; I don't see why the police feel they have to sit on them.

To me, this is blatant abuse of police powers, and as such the officers should lose their badges. The reason I want them tried and imprisoned is that until the point when they identified themselves, this was just common assault by two blokes in a van, and should be tried as such. I also realise this isn't going to happen, because this country has too much respect for authority, and too little willingness to question the police.

Now on to the matter of the arrests themselves. First a new development since I wrote the post: No-one's being charged with a traffic offence. The cyclist who was initially attacked (Jace) is being charged with possession of alcohol as a minor, while the one who helped him and who sent the account to the Stranger (Zack) is being charged with assaulting a police officer. I don't see how that charge can be made to stick if the defendant has a reasonable claim that he couldn't know his friend's assailant was a police officer.

As an aside—because I'm not sure about this and it's not really the point, but just one more thing against these two police officers—I don't think they were even within their jurisdiction. They seem to have been King County deputies, which means that their jurisdiction is unincorporated King County and a few other cities. [note for non-Americans, to whom this terminology may be as confusing as it was to me when I first moved here: unincorporated areas of a county are the parts that don't have their own city council, and in this case the KCPD's jurisdiction is basically the areas of the county that don't have their own, more localised police like, say, Seattle]

But back to the idea of arresting someone for corking, because I think this is an important general point regardless of the specifics of this incident. Corking is almost certainly illegal, because it involves deliberately obstructing traffic. It's one of the reasons I'm rather ambivalent about Critical Mass, because the combination of deliberately obstructing drivers and being as self-rigteous about it as CM cyclists often are understandably annoys drivers, and I think that neither flouting traffic laws nor annoying drivers are in the cycling community's interests (though I will definitely show up at the next Seattle Critical Mass, because of Friday's incident). But X is illegal, the law against X is worth enforcing, X is an arrestable offence, and X warrants throwing someone to the ground, grinding their face in the road and sitting on them are all quite different things. The traffic offence should have been dealt with by writing a ticket, just like when a motorist commits a traffic offence. Saying that the police were right to arrest someone for this is tantamount to saying that every driver who stops in an intersection or [my personal bugbear] across a pedestrian crossing should be arrested. Arguing that what the police did on Friday was acceptable is tantamount to arguing that it would be OK if the same drivers were dragged out of their cars (after all, they also have the means to escape) and subjected to the same brutality.

If there were a systematic policy difference, it would be discriminatory, but I don't even think that's what happened here. I think an off-duty cop did something incredibly stupid, for which he should be tried and punished as a private citizen, and then retrospectively reached for his badge to get himself out of trouble, for which he should be discharged from the police force.

* I'm not quoting from the message board thread because it's rather fragmented and the Stranger seems to have picked up the clearest account I can find. However, everyone there corroborates the story in all but minor details, there's apparently a lot of photographic evidence and at least one video, and I have as yet to find an account that differs on the points I'm talking about here.
posted @ 11:09 AM -

They must not be allowed to get away with this

I've been rather annoyed with the local police force for a while, because they are detrimental to bike safety. Ironically, my main complaint is about the bike cops, who do everything wrong (riding on the sidewalk, ignoring signals, stop signs and one way streets, jumping into the road from the sidewalk without warning, etc.), but then there was also an incident a couple of weeks ago with a police van blocking the bike lane, with the driver responding to my sarcastic thanks with it's a cop car, I can park where I like. Clearly symptomatic of a rather large attitude problem, but at least in itself it was a minor incident with no real consequences.

Apparently, I've just been lucky.

According to the Stranger's blog (and a message board thread that seems to be staying sane and factual), Friday's critical mass ride was marred by a couple of arrests. At issue is not the fact that people were arrested (though I'm not convinced the arrests were even justified in themselves), but the utterly gratuitous level of violence involved. I hope the deputies involved rot in jail.
posted @ 1:09 AM -
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