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Harris County

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FloodDoor

Jury Duty, Harris County

I had the fun and privilege of performing a civic service for Harris County last Monday, and headed down for jury duty. You can postpone jury duty twice and seems like I hit my limit on that every time. My wife and i had planned to go together on a previous Monday but work screwed that up.

Here’s a few tips on this every three year or so adventure.

TAKING THE BUS

You can ride Metro for free for jury duty, and it beats the heck out of sitting in traffic and looking for parking. My wife did this before me, so I pretty much knew which buses to take. From the Seton Lake park and ride (which is on SH 249 just south of the Beltway) bus 212 is the non-stop downtown. But be sure and let the driver know you want off at the corner of Milam and Congress, or they’ll blow right by it.

This 212 bus is also direct back to Seton Lake….but only after 4:16pm. If you get kicked out of jury duty before then, take bus 44…which stops a lot, but at least gets you there. You pick it up at Travis and Congress, and it makes a few stops.

The direct 212 bus was a nice clean, seemingly new bus. The local 44 was…dirty…just like you’d expect a local to be. There was only one crazy man on the local, talking loudly, constantly to no one in particular.

We looked at taking buses from the 290 Park and Ride (near Spring Cypress at Skinner Road) but those lines didn’t drop you off as close to the jury building as the ones from Seton Lake.

THE NEW JURY BUILDING

A few blocks down Congress is the Harris Country jury plaza. Last time I went down for Jury duty (must have been three or four years ago) it was in the building where people now park. Now there is a new, nice  glass building.

HarrisCountyJuryDuty

 

After entering the building, head downstairs, and then you get to go through the TSA-like security, complete with removing belts and shoes (if you forget about this part and wear your dress shoes instead of your airplane travel shoes…like I did). I got down there pretty early; my wife said the line spirals up the stair case the closer you get to 8:30am.

GEEK STUFF

The jury assembly rooms are still under ground. So cellular service is spotty at best; my T-mobile was non-existent. Therefore, I couldn’t rely on my personal hotspot, and its “known” security. I had to use the WiFi that Harris county was nice enough to put in place. There were a few limitations: I could not start our VPN or enter enter chat with my guys. Apparently the provided WiFi does block some ports.

THE PROCESS

Jurors are supposed to be in the room by 8:30. And, as is typical, after the welcome/this is what you are in for video, and the swearing in, jurors are basically waiting around…or working on the WiFi. They do allow food and drink in the rooms (and Here’s our timeline:

  • 1st group taken 2751-2900 at 9:30
  • 2nd group 2905-3153 at 10:08
  • my group (3rd), was only 24 folks. We got in line at 10:15

THE TUNNELS

Those of you who have been around remember tropical storms (Allison?) and hurricanes (Ike?) where the downtown tunnel system flooded. When we got called out, they line us up in the tunnels…right next to some pretty impressive flood doors. Nothing’s getting past those doors without some serious power.

FloodDoor

 

We headed over to the Criminal Justice Center, 10th Floor, Court 10. The 24 of us were brought in quickly, and Judge Sherman Ross told us they still had some work to do, for us to come back in 30 mins, at 11:10. After a quick coffee break (there is a cafe on the 2nd floor ), Judge Ross spent quite a bit of time walking us through what we were charged to do, and what the process would be. The next day was election day, and previous times I’d been at jury duty I felt like the Judges were campaigning. But Judge Ross is retiring at the end of this year, and his discussion on what the defense had to prove, on what “the truth” was, and other points, was interesting…almost enough to make me want to be on the jury. He also said each side got to remove 3 jurors from consideration. Choosing 6 our of 24 still have jurors better odds at going home than staying, even though it would only be a “rest of the day” jury. I was juror number one, which means I got all of the questions…but that doesn’t seem to change the odds of getting selected or not.

After that, the assistant D.A. actually walked us through the case with a Powerpoint presentation…which was actually pretty concise and efficient, but not something I expected.

Out of the 24, they grabbed their six…I grabbed my Metro bus pass and made for the bus stop. Since the bus wouldn’t come for another 30 minutes, I rewarded my execution of civic duty with a quick snack at the Niko Niko’s in Market Square. Civic Duty complete.

escapefromloki

Escape from Loki by Philip Jose Farmer (Doc Savage)

escapefromlokiPhilip Jose Farmer has long been one of my favorite authors, with his Riverworld and World of Tiers series ranking high on my list of enjoyable speculative fiction series. The Doc Savage series has also been a long time companion.

Escape from Loki is PJF’s take on Doc Savage at 16, a pilot in World War I, shot down behind enemy lines. He meets Monk and Ham (who are also hiding from the Germans) but is eventually captured, and meets the Baron Colonel von Hessel, who somehow knows Savage is being trained by his father into some kind of “superman” (interesting shades of the German “master race” in the next war). Young Savage escapes, steals a plane and is shot down. While being transported on a train to a secure prison he encounters Renny and Long Tom, who escape by knocking a hole in the side of the train. Doc escapes himself, but is again recaptured. A three-time escapee, he is sentenced to Loki, an “escape-proof” prison, which Doc and his united five companions, of course, escape from.

Farmer’s Doc has many differences from Lester Dent/Kenneth Robeson’s Doc: (more…)

questofthespider

Quest of the Spider (Doc Savage #68)

This is the third story originally published byquestofthespider Street and Smith (and the 3rd, 4th or 5th in the PJF chronology-there are three dated June, 1931).

Lester Dent wrote the majority of the Doc Savage novels starting in 1930′s, long before the Internet, before telephones and TV reached everywhere. I am consistently impressed by the amount of technical and geographical research that Mr. Dent put into these pulp novels. From what I understand, he would work on a skill or trade, master it, then move on to another; and he traveled extensively, earning him entry into the Explorer’s Club.

In this novel, a voodoo master known only as “The Gray Spider” is taking over by force the large lumber companies of Louisiana. Big Eric, a friend of Ham’s from Harvard Law School, owns a lumber company that is next in line, and he and his (of course) lovely daughter Edna fly to New York City to enlist Doc’s aid. The plane is sabotaged on the way, but they survive and Doc and Ham head back to New Orleans with them, with the other four members of Doc’s band of merry men to follow. (more…)

landofterrords8

The Land of Terror (Doc Savage #8)

This is the second story originally published by Street and Smith landofterrords8(and the 2nd in the PJF chronology) and it is a bit rough around the edges. A professor of chemistry, Jerome Coffern, one of Doc Savage’s early teachers and a friend, is brutally murdered, his body dissolved with a strange gas called “the Smoke of Eternity”. Only a forearm wearing a watch that was a gift from Savage remains. Doc follows the assailants, and determines that they work for a man named “Kar”, who is the one who knows had to build the dissolving potion. Doc finds a clue in Coffern’s apartment that he believed someone was trying to kill him, and that a year ago he went on an expidition with Oliver Wording Bittman, a taxidermist, and Gabe Yuder, to a place near New Zealand called Thunder Island. Doc looks up Bittman, and sees a picture of him with Doc’s father, and a letter from Clark Savage Sr. thanking Bittman for saving his life. Doc instantly promises to do whatever he can for Bittman, and Bittman eventually joins in the hunt for Kar (who Doc now believes is Bittman). (more…)

brandwerewolfdoc

Brand of the Werewolf (Doc Savage #5)

According to one source, Brand of the Werewolf brandwerewolfdocis the best selling Doc Savage Bantam reprint,selling over 185,000 copies. In the Bantam series, this book marks the first appearance of Pat Savage, Doc’s cousin, as Doc travels to Canada with his team for some R&R, only to learn of the death and possible murder of his uncle Alex. They encounter El Rabanos, Senor Oveja and his daughter, who believe Doc Savage attempted to kill them. A strange gas knocks some of Doc’s crew out, accompanied by the mark of a werewolf.

Doc and his team follow the trail, which leads to Alex Savage’s land on the coast in Western Canada. In the meantime his cousin Pat Savage and her servant have been captured, with one servant killed. The captors are looking for an ivory cube, that Pat’s father had found and hidden. The cube turns out to have a map of where an old Spanish Galleon, fleeing Panama with treasure and searching for the Northwest Passage, is buried. (more…)

redspiderdocsavage1

The Red Spider (Doc Savage #95)

The Red Spider stands out in the long list of Dog Savage books for several reasons:redspiderdocsavage1

  • It was purchased for Doc Savage magazine in 1948, but was not published until this Bantam book in 1979;
  • It depicts Savage and his team as working for the U.S. Government, a rarity in the collection of stories;
  • There is no clear villain, with the plot mainly being one of espionage and the U.S. vs. Soviet Russia, vs. the normal good vs. evil tone of the other books;
  • It contains an excellent Afterword by Doc Savage writer Will Murray, who was responsible for finding this manuscript; the afterword walks through each of the editors that oversaw the Doc Savage magazine, and their influence on the types of stories.

Doc Savage sneaks into Russia, where Monk and Ham have been for several months building their identity and gathering information. They are looking for “the Red Spider”, the one man in the Communist government who Stalin trusts with all of his secrets, and the only man who knows whether Soviet Russia has joined the US as the only power with an atomic bomb. They successfully get the information, but then get in between two different factions of the Soviet government – the one in power, and the one that wants to be by exposing the existence of the Red Spider and turning the rest of the Soviet leadership against Stalin for keeping this secret. Doc, Monk and Ham must escape Russia to get the information back to the United Nations. (more…)

Doc Savage 023 - Fortress of Solitude

Fortress of Solitude (Doc Savage #23)

Superman’s Arctic hideout of the same name may be more wellDoc Savage 023 - Fortress of Solitude-known; but The Man of Bronze, Doc Savage, has a similar blue domed research facility in the Arctic that predates Superman by 25 years.

In this 23rd book in the Bantam series (other numbering schemes below), John Sunlight (the only Savage nemesis to appear in two novels) stumbles across Doc’s Fortress after escaping from a Russian Siberian labor camp. The Fortress is where Doc Savage would disappear to for weeks, only to return with a new cure or invention. Once John Sunlight figures out how to get into it (by watching the Eskimos who live near it that are trying to protect it for Doc) he finds inside Doc’s labs, and many of the inventions Doc has captured from the villains around the world. (more…)

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Re-reading Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

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