Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Circular reasoning - it's easy!

We have a fairly new roundabout near our house, in a shopping center that we use frequently.  Now, I'm well aware that I grew up using roundabouts in England and Europe, and that they're not so common here.

But bloody hell.

Here's what it looks like:
-- O --

It's really pretty easy.  You drive up to the damn thing, see if the road is clear, and then enter slowly, missing the concrete curb and not driving over the grass.  Like I do.

Serious question: do they not put these on the tests over here?  Three times I've almost been whacked by some idiot sailing right into the roundabout as I'm going around it.  And what chaps my grits the most, is that when I honk and look horrified (the latter being automatic and unintentional) I either get blank "WTF did I do?" looks, or straight outrage at being in their way.

Look, I know they are new to your culture.  But don't you think, if you come across some traffic furniture you are unfamiliar with, the prudent option is to slow down?  Maybe even stop while you figure it out?

 I'll even help:

I mean, if roundabouts help (and I think they do) then we'll only be seeing more of them.

And that means, they'll be getting more complicated.

So unless you want to kill or be killed, I respectfully suggest, dear drivers of Austin, that you acquaint yourselves with the roundabout.

Because this beast might be headed our way....

(Thanks to the town of Swindon, England, for providing this monster so that I can make my point.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Kids on a Plane

I've been reading news stories about an airline policy that forbids men from sitting next to unaccompanied kids on flights. A couple of times, men have been asked to swap seats with women because their neighbor is a child (or two) traveling alone. One story here, another here.

One of the men (a nurse, the other was a fireman) says the experience was humiliating because the whole cabin was watching, no doubt wondering why this chap was being asked to move away from a child.

Now, I have kids and I'm usually in the "better safe than sorry" camp. But this is a bridge too far. As the fireman put it later:

"[The attitude of the airline] is 'we respect you but as soon as you board a Virgin airline you are a potential paedophile', and that strips away all the good that any male does regardless of his standing in society, his profession or his moral attitudes," he said. Remember, fireman. Saves kids from burning buildings.

I like London mayor Boris Johnson's remarks on the issue: "Even as I write, I can imagine the lip-pursing of some of my lovely high-minded readers. How would you like it, they will say, if some weird chap was plonked next to your kids? And they are right that I would worry about some strange adult sitting next to my children, chiefly because I wouldn't want the poor fellow to come to any harm."

(My wife and I were on a plane with my three kids, getting them to stay seated was like Whack-a-mole. A nightmare for those around us, I'm betting.)

Anyway, how likely is molestation on a plane? According to this 2009 story it does happen, but the examples it gives involve men asking to switch seats so they can be next to kids. How about we just ban that practice? In fact, if a single guy asks to be seated next to an unaccompanied kid, just chuck him off the plane.

"Here's a parachute, now get lost."
"Well, at least I get a parachute. One, two, three... wheeee!"
"Sucker. It' was a backpack, not a parachute."

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Stop picking on the 'tutes!

We have all manner of discrimination in the U.S., based on race, color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation. . . and while you might think we have enough to argue about right there, how about a new target?


Okay, so it's not happening here in America, but check this out: in Australia, a prostitute sued a hotel because they refused to let her rent one of their rooms for work purposes.  She didn't just sue for access to the room, either, but for the equivalent of $30,000.

You see, prostitution is legal in that part of the world.  As the Guardian reports, " discrimination based on lawful sexual activity is outlawed. Prostitutes have been heading to towns such as Moranbah, where they base themselves for short periods to cash in on an Australian mining boom fuelled by Chinese demand for raw materials."

'Raw materials,' is that what we're calling it now?

Smutty jokes aside (don't worry, I'll come back to them) this is a fascinating case.  I can see how someone might sue for not being allowed a room when they are doing something lawful, you know, like having sex.  But here she's essentially forcing the hotel to rent her office space.  And presumably, other guests aren't too happy about her customer base, or perhaps the grunts and groans of business-in-progress.

Be interesting to see if the decision is appealed, after all I assume it being in Australia the original ruling came from a kangaroo court. But what do you think?  Should the poor young lady (or old hag, who knows?) be put out of her legal business because hotel owners and guests disapprove?  I mean, what next?  Hotels banning sex altogether?

Australia.  They're upside down.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

DWI eradicated

Almost completely.  And yes, I'm serious.

Oh, wait, I'm not being clear: DWI has not been stopped in Austin, oh no, it's alive and well in our fair city.  But it has been eradicated from my docket of cases.

You see, I was having lunch with a friend yesterday and he was asking about the kinds of mischief kids get up to.  I told him there's a lot of vehicle burglaries, some home burglaries, and a whole heck of a lot of pot smoking.

And that got me thinking about the kinds of crimes I used to handle in adult court, that I don't see much here. You would expect there to be less rape, robbery, and murder simply because kids don't get into that stuff as much, and so it is.  But the biggest change is DWI.  Now, you may think that this would be normal - after all, kids can't even get licenses until they are, what, fifteen? But consider:
  • most kids we see are aged fifteen and older
  • juvenile delinquents just loooove getting their hands on (and in) other people cars
  • most of the kids we see drink, and many are there for substance abuse

So in the nine months I've been in juvie, how many have I had?  One.  Not even one conviction, just one kid charged with it.  There was no conviction in that case because the blood test came back a big fat zero for alcohol, and while he was found with MJ on his person, there was no way to prove he was intoxicated while driving.

Care to explain this to me?   (Although don't get me wrong, I'm delighted we seem to have very few intoxicated children driving on our roads.)  Could it even be the one area where kids are more sensible, more mature, than adults/  Doesn't seem likely, but who knows. . .

And while we're on the subject, I came across an article about the different penalties for DWI across the world.  South Africa gets the award for cracking down hardest:
  • In South Africa, drinking and driving results in a ten-year prison sentence or the equivalent of a $10,000 fine and, in some cases, both.  (Compare to Texas, where this is the potential penalty for a third DWI conviction, and even then prison time is rare.)
 The Scandinavians, who I always think of as a little soft on crime, come in next:
  • Finland and Sweden automatically sentence drunk drivers to one-year jail sentences including hard labor. In Norway, a drunk driver is jailed for three weeks with hard labor and loses their license for a year. If they do it again, they lose their license forever.
 Less harsh, and more amusing:
  • Turkey: punishes drunk drivers by taking them 20 miles from their town and making them walk back with a police escort. 
  • Poland: drunk drivers are subject to jail, fine, mandatory attendance at political lectures. (Evil bastards.)
  • Malaya: if a man is caught driving drunk he is jailed. If he is married, his wife is jailed, too.