I've started composing my thoughts on books I've read in the past few weeks, but none of these "thoughts" is finished enough to share yet. Soon...
I'm a little behind on my Opus strips, but I should be be caught up soon. I just need to scan them (I haven't missed a strip in over a year - woo-hoo!). I sometimes wonder if anybody is even reading them.
Update: March, 14, 2008
I've added some super-exciting fish tank news and anti-government rhetoric to the bottom of the post. Read it!!
Finally, something worth mentioning!
Gene Wilder signing
I went to the local Borders book emporium tonight for a Gene Wilder book signing. Before last week, I wasn't even aware that he had ever written a book, so imagine my surprise when I saw a flyer last week and a display with his two novels prominently displayed: The Woman Who Wouldn't and My French Whore.
I decided to pick up both books.
The signing was one of those deals where you buy the book and then go get a ticket to wait in line to get them signed, so I immediately set about not buying the book and then proceeded to stand in the wrong line. By the time I arrived at the front of the wrong line, gaining new insight into my unerring ability to get into the wrong line, bought the books and then returned for my ticket, the ticket number was up to 419, so I expected to be in for a long wait.
Ever impatient, I wandered over to the Petco nextdoor to pick up some stuff for the fish tank I just started (it's currently 100% fish-free, but is theoretically becoming more fish-habitable by the day, if the experts know what they're talking about). Around twenty minutes later, I returned to Borders (about ten minutes before the signing was scheduled to begin).
As I made my way through the thick crowd, a kind soul took pity on me and offered me her ticket (which was number 120 and already queuing up). I don't know why she wasn't using it (or maybe she already had), but I did know that I had just shaved at least an hour from my wait time. It took about fifteen minutes to reach the front of the line (I tried to snap photos along the way, but I suspect the flourescent lighting was my undoing). When I reached the front of the line, I handed my camera to the publisher dude who was taking photos and crouched down beside Gene as he signed my books. Once again the weird lighting (or some random setting on my camera that was mis-set) foiled my attempts to be immortalized at the side of Gene Wilder. Curses, foiled again!
Gene is old. I'm sure part of me realized that he would be, but he was really, really old. And it surprised me. When I first saw him, he reminded me of my 85 year old grandma (Gene is 73, this year). I suspect I was fooled by the photo used by Borders for their flyer.
Being the doofus that I am, I asked, as I was crouched beside him, if his books were worth reading. Huh? What's that, you say? Did I make a condescending remark to the very author who I was prepared to wait for hours to have sign a book that I hadn't even realized existed two weeks ago? Yep, I did. I'm just that special.
I'm sure Gene has heard equally moronic utterances many times in the past from even bigger tools than me, because he answered (in a voice that belied the little-old-man-appearance and could have issued forth from the young Gene who lives on in my mind's eye), "I think so." That was it. I collected my books, thanked Gene profusely and headed for the exit (berating myself for a complete idiot all the way out).
I'm sure I'll have more to say about these books and Gene Wilder once I've read them. For now, that's all you get.
I do have more to blather on about, but I've run out of steam for the night.
My New Fish tank
...and now, about a week later, I'm back.
Here's the fish tank I mentioned shopping for while waiting for the Gene Wilder signing to begin.
Many moons ago, I had a marine tank with an anemone, a yellow clown fish, a couple of different kinds of damsels, a cleaner shrimp and all kinds of other living rock, plants and assorted critters, but I had to give it up when we moved to San Diego. I really miss that tank. It was a lot of fun to watch.
I suspect this freshwater tank is going to be much less entertaining...with its plastic plants & props and blue gravel. It is pretty colorful, though.
Tell it to the Judge
As if the whole "recently becoming unemployed and having to start over at the bottom of the food-chain" scenario wasn't bad enough (yes, I'm still employed by the same company, but I'm still a contractor with no guarantee of employment beyond January 2009), there was also another annoying new development to liven things up.
In mid-january, an FBI agent delivered a Federal subpoena to my home. But not in a nice "leave it at the doorstep" way. Oh no, this FBI agent rang the doorbell repeatedly, and then proceeded to pound on the door until my wife managed to put something on before angrily throeing the door wide (this all happened just after I had left for work, sometime around 7AM). She snippily asked what he wanted and - oozing in attitude - he flashed his badge and served her with my subpoena.
The funny thing about subpoenas - they don't tell you much. I knew I was being called as a Grand Jury witness, but there was no indication of whose trial I would be testifying for or why I specifically was being ORDERED TO APPEAR. If the behavior of the FBI agent wasn't enough to totally cheese me off (and I wasn't even there), the attitude oozing from the language of the subpoena surely would have done it for me.
Though completely in the dark about what the FBI/IRS/US Attorney (all were named on the subpoena) wanted from me, I was ORDERED TO APPEAR at the Federal courthouse downtown on the following Tuesday morning. I've heard firsthand horror stories about the trickery and the devious tactics used by US Attorneys to bolster their cases, so I wasn't feeling very enthusiastic about my appearance. From what I've learned, it seems that establishing the truth seems to be secondary to winning cases and witnesses are no less "innocent" than the targets of the prosecution. At the advice of family, I sought legal counsel.
Obtaining legal advice wasn't as easy as I'd hoped it would be and the deadline was quickly approaching. Mr. Not-so-subtle FBI agent called my home three times (maybe four, I don't really remember) to make sure that I was planning to appear in court and to remind me that I would be arrested, should I not appear. Yet legal advice eluded me and I was reluctant to speak with these people before talking to a lawyer.
I've done some reading up on the travesty of Grand Juries, Subpoenas and limited-immunity, so I suspected that without a lawyer getting me full immunity, I could be in for tough a rough ride if they had plans to turn me into their stooge. And it does happen. If you don't believe me, I can introduce you to stooge of all stooges, my very own cousin.
With less than an hour to spare before the time I was scheduled to appear, I finally received received a lead on legal counsel and a promise of assistance, if needed, from a lawyer. I was advised to show up on time and inform the inquisition that I wasn't ready to testify and wouldn't be ready until I had the opportunity to speak with a lawyer for more than just a few minutes on the telephone. Armed with this reassurance, I headed downtown to the Federal Building.
I was metal-detected (including removal of my shoes which seemed to be entirely metal-free, but still set off the metal detector) as I entered and then I proceeded to the Grand Jury room, where I waited for about 20 minutes until my good friend, the angry FBI agent, an IRS agent and 2 US attorneys appeared. I was armed with my arguments for postponing my appearance before the Grand Jury until I had spoken with legal counsel, but didn't have a chance to use them.
The first question I was asked was, "have you sought legal counsel?" When I answered that I hadn't really had a chance I was asked if I wanted to. I responded that I did want to. So they postponed my appearance for another week.
The angry FBI agent snidely added that if I had just called, I could have saved myself a trip downtown. I wanted to mention that I had called and explained the situation in a message on his voicemail - and his responding calls failed to mention the fact that I had this option. I think he was just taking another opportunity to practice his "intimidation" skills. An FBI agent has to keep his skills sharp, after all.
Have I mentioned that I only get 5 paid "vacation" days a year? I also receive no sick time or pay for jury duty/witness duty, so those 5 days are guarded for emergencies. Yeah, that makes this whole adventure just that much more fun.
Later, I went to see the lawyer who had spoken to me on the phone. The attorney (who is a really nice guy and reminded me a lot of Lex Luthor on Smallville) asked me what my previous work responsibilities had been what my relationship was with my family, explained my options and asked me how I would like to proceed. I agreed that, despite lacking anything any information that the FBI or prosecution team could use, I would invoke my fifth amendment rights if called to testify.
A quick phone call to the prosecutors alerted them to to my intentions and my desire for full immunity (not the letter immunity that only protects you from the machinations of ambitious US Attorneys in a single jurisdiction).
I haven't heard a word from either the US attorneys or the FBI since then. I've been expecting a new round of threatening calls, but none have come yet. The lawyer did mention the likelihood that dealing with obtaining immunity for me would be more of a burden than the value of my testimony, so after asking for it, I would likely be stricken from their witness list.