A Day Without Electricity (sort of)

Last week Edison Electric decided that they would shut off our power.  Apparently, there was a neighborhood in our town that was scheduled to be shut down and were sent letters, but ours was not one of those.  So when the power went out, we didn’t know what was going on.  After some time went by, Leah called the power company and they weren’t aware of our outage.

After awhile, we called back and they said that our power would be out with the rest of the planned outage, which was scheduled to come back on at 8pm.  they said it accidentally was turned off, but I don’t know why they couldn’t accidentally turn it back on.

That evening, Leah went out with some of the pregnant ladies at church to get pedicures and go out to eat.  so Micah and I had the afternoon and evening together.  The lazy bum slept most of the time.  With the electricity being out, it was a nice time to open up the windows, open up a book, and read.  When Micah was awake, I got out a radio with batteries and listened to a baseball game and played with Micah on the floor.

The whole afternoon felt very old fashioned.  The window and door was open, the lights were off, and you could see your neighbors walking around outside.  We found ourselves going outside, talking to neighbors about the outage, finding out what they knew, and playing with the kids in the driveway.  It was amazing how without electricity, people naturally started acting like neighbors.

Normally, we’d be shut out to the outside, having our AC running and TV’s on.  I never really noticed how much we segregate ourselves, tune in to TV, and tune out to the world immediately around us.  This has driven me to think more about doing a cultural cookout with our neighbors.  We have Italians, Asians, Lebonese, African-American, and muts like me.  It would be nice to have something where people could bring their culture and share it with others.  And it would be nice to get to know people in our building.

The evening wasn’t all fun, though.  I was sitting with Micah, who was getting tired, and 8pm was approaching.  I was sort of just sitting there waiting for the electricity to come on.  As 8pm got closer i began to think about what I’d do if the electricity didn’t come on.  Then 8pm came and went and I was still sitting in the increasing darkness, thinking I better go look for a flashlight before it gets too dark.

I made my way outside, and was told by a neighbor that our electricity wouldn’t come on until 3am!  how do you go from an accidental outage, to 8pm, to 3am?!  “Oh, lets just ad 8 more hours to this outage.”  So I hustled and got a flashlight, and lit some candles.  I was expecting Leah to be back before 8, but they decided to take more time with dinner.

When she did come home, I was just sitting down after getting the candles lit.  Our neighbors told us that the time was now moved to 4am.  We decided that our frozen foods and some refridgerated foods had to be moved.  I packed them up and made a night run to church to put them in the fridge there.

When 4am came and went, I tried turning the light by my bed on to check, and sure enough, nothing…  The electricity didn’t end up coming on until 7:30am.  And no explanation of why, or even a good explanation of how long.

While it was nice having the electricity off for the afternoon, it was hard dealing with the large enterprise that Edison is.  They don’t care about the individual customer.  They don’t care that they turn off the electricity for 23 hours without any notification.  They don’t care that we had an infant and it was getting to be very hot outside.  They never bothered sending people out to talk to people, or even contacting customers to let them know of the changing plans.   They were actually supposed to send someone to talk to our landlords, and they ended up sitting around waiting for someone who never came.

And what can we do to make our voice heard?  We have no options for electric companies.  It’s not like I can take my business elsewhere.  But we’re just the little guy and we don’t matter to the big conglomerate.

Reflections on Jury Duty

I know I have been pretty sporadic with my posting lately, but I have a good reason.  I was told last week that I was going to be in a jury pool for a trial that would take 5 weeks.  So the first three days this week were spent doing things at the office in case I did get on.  Jury duty is something that is very common in L.A. County, as they can only call you once every year.  They call something like 3,000,000 people a year, and only have a pool of a little over 6,000,000 people that actually qualify.  And it is not known how many of those speak fluent English.

Yesterday I had to report for the narrowing down of the jury, and was pleased to find about 50 people there.  I liked my chances of not being one of the twelve chosen.   So we went into the courtroom, met the judge and the legal teams, the plaintiff, and the defendant.  The judge read the case description for everyone, and it was a doozy!

The Case

This guy was fired from the MTA, and is suing for being improperly fired.  he claims that his supervisor conspired to get him fired because he had made a complaint that he had sexually harassed him.  From what I could tell, this seemed to have been a ragging and joking, but he had complained.  The supervisor supposedly got the guy fired over time card fraud, which the man claims is a lie.

So the plaintiff was suing for lost wages and future wages as well as the emotional distress that it brought to him.  He was suing the supervisor and the MTA.

The Process

The jury box was filled with 12 jurors who were questioned at length about their experience with the MTA, with time cards and overtime.  They were questioned about their view of sexual harassment and if it could happen between two men, as well as whether they saw that a supervisor could work to get someone fired with false accusations.  They were asked about whether they could give money for emotional distress and whether they thought that they could condemn a man based on the information.  They were also asked seemingly inane questions like favorite book, tv show, music, and if they had seen the movie “Sixth Sense”.  The defense even asked a USC grad if they could be indifferent, since the  plaintiff was also a USC grad.  (I don’t know how anyone was going to find that out, since it seemingly would have nothing to do with the case at hand)

So the rest of the jurors had to sit there and watch this for hours, and we couldn’t do anything other than sit and listen.  We couldn’t read, talk, eat, or drink.  It was interesting to see how the prosecution kept asking questions that basically were seeing if they would vote against the defense.  The judge kept telling the lawyer that he couldn’t ask certain types of questions, and then kept telling him not to explain the law to the jurors.  They got a little snippy and it helped the time go by quicker.

Observations

– People don’t read- before I left for jury duty, I saw a story linked by Tim Challies about how people don’t read anymore. The story says that 58% of U.S. adults do not read a book after high school.  That includes those who go to the college!   The US Censure Bureau says that 27% of people over 25 have a college degree.  So you would think that those graduating from college would most likely have to read a book, so part of the 42% are those college graduates.

I say this because one of the questions asked to the 12 was what was their favorite book.  Only three had an answer, one was “The Devil Wears Prada” another seemed to be a self-help/leadership book, and I can’t remember the other.  No one read books to really deepen themselves!  No one read to learn, other than an IT guy who read computer manuals (hardly counts).  This, combined with the next observations equals sadness.

– everyone’s hero is God.  They had to say who their hero was, and a few said their dad, a cousin, or a couple soldiers in Iraq, but the rest said “God” or “the Lord”.  That lead me to a couple of observations.

1. None of the people who said that their hero was “God” said that they read.  They all said, to a number, that they didn’t really read.  If God was your ‘hero’, wouldn’t you want to read books about him?  People don’t read about their hero?!

2. Can God be your hero?  I know what they were saying, but he doesn’t really seem to be ‘hero’ status.  I don’t know, but when I think of hero’s, I don’t think of people I worship, but admire.  You worship the Lord, you admire role models.

3. For those that did claim God as their hero, it is sad that they couldn’t point to Christians throughout the ages as their hero.  There is just so much inspiration there.  I happen to be reading through Piper’s fourth book in the “Swans are not Silent” series about Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen.  There are some worthy heroes.  Too bad i didn’t have a chance to answer that question.

– Real lawyers aren’t as good as the ones on TV.  Neither lawyer really spoke that well.  They both stumbled for words and had quite the difficulty forming clear, neat questions.  The prosecution had two minute questions to get a yes or no answer.  Then he had other questions that were so short and general that the judge yelled at him to narrow it down.

– People are very open minded.  Almost everyone on the initial jury assembled were very open minded and willing to hear out the evidence.  Even when there was a question about prostitution, one man said he didn’t really think it was wrong.  I don’t know if they were all bending over backwards to get on the jury, but they were very eager to convince people that they came in with no biases.

This leads to a question: are biases wrong?  I’m not so sure they are.  It is a very post-modern thing to say that you  have no biases or convictions.  You are a clean palette ready to be painted on.  If you came in to the room with any preconceived notion of what is right and what is wrong, then that is a bad thing?

– Everyone seems very willing to dole out a heck of a lot of money for ’emotional distress’.  I almost wanted to get into the box just so I could get asked this question. How do you decide what emotional damage deserves what amount of money?  At what point has money ever been shown to heal a deep emotional wound?

In fact, you could argue that money has often made the situation worse!  You see countless stories of people who have suddenly received a lot more money then they had and their worries and struggles only increased.

And how do you prove that someone is greatly abused emotionally?  I know enough about the court system to know that you can get a doctor to say almost anything that you want for the right price.  One doctor could say he was greatly damaged, while another could say it didn’t effect him too much, but is more of a personal issue.  There is no hard way of measuring this.

So not only can you not say that this emotional damage is worth this amount of money, but large sums of money hardly serve to make the person better emotionally in the long run.  Money does not heal the emotional scars.  I’d almost be willing to say that they can get money for use in counseling to deal with emotional problems.  Obviously the counseling they receive wouldn’t be ultimately helpful if its not based on the Word of God.  But at least it would go towards dealing with the emotional damages incurred.

Settlement

This morning I drove in to hear more questioning, and the judge announced that the case was settled.  I’m very happy with this decision as it allows me to go to a rehearsal party for Geoff and Charities wedding today.  But I’m somewhat regretful that I don’t get to follow how this is all played out.  It seemed like there had to be something to it, since it had gone to this point, and that seems to be confirmed since they did settle.  I guess we’ll never know, but now I can go back to life and concentrate on work!

Jury Duty and the Will of God

This morning I reluctantly submitted myself to the civil responsibility of serving Jury Duty.  It had been something that I have always had some interest in, but hardly at this point in my life.  I initially was scheduled to go in on Micah’s due date, but was able to delay it until after graduation.  But today was the day to report for this privilege.

The day started with me finding my way in the jury assembly room, and low and behold, I bump into one of my friends i had just graduated with, Joe Young!  After hearing some of the introductory info, he filled out a paper to get his jury duty moved so he could go candidate at a church.  So then i was alone.

After all of the intro stuff, it was our job to just sit there and wait for them to randomly call our names.  One group gets called without my name getting read, so I continue to sit there, reading up on some of the movies being released this summer.  Then the ‘voice’ came over the room and said for everyone to put down their newspapers and listen to the requirements of this next case.

We were told that the group in the room had been narrowed down to those whose job covered at least 27 days.  I knew this narrowed it down quite a bit, as most are covered for around 10-15 days.  Mine? 30 days.  I’m think I’m toast.  The guy read through a bunch of reasons as to why you would be able to say no.  If you have children that are dependent upon you, are taking care of an elderly person, are self-employed, medical issues, or a paid vacation planned.  nope, none of that fits me.

So he’s reading through the names and gets through about 10, and then it comes… “Tim Costine.”  Arg.  So all I know at this point is that I have to report on June 21, the case will take 27 days.  Does that number include weekends?  i don’t know.  All I know is that it is a civil case, I have to report in less than a week, and we’ll see if I get put on the jury.

This got me thinking about what I should do.  My immediate reaction is to say that I will act up the crazy, fundamental Christian label and get myself thrown off.  But I’m immediately reminded of what I’ve challenged the kids with.  The fact that God has placed us in any situation that we find ourselves in should drive us to living for God’s glory wherever we are.  Can I say that God’s will is that I be at church, working in the youth group, or should I open my eyes and realize that this is the situation that God has placed me in.

I’ve also been challenging the kids to glorify God with all of their mind and their deep thinking. That definitely includes jury duty.  Maybe God wants me on that jury to bring Him glory in that jury box.  How, I don’t know at this point.  But i know that it is God’s will to approach this the best that I can, and if I get on the jury, then I get on.  If I’m tossed, I’m tossed.

Another thought was that it seems that for the last few years I have found myself in the frame of mind that I’m always looking forward to the next task.  I think that I’ll get going on something, once I’m done with school.  Or once I get that paper in.  Or once I get back from NH.  This habit is easy to find yourself addicted to, and I have had to break myself of it.  It is easy to say that I will concentrate on what I’m going to be doing when I’m done with whatever is going on now.  Instead of living for the glory of God in the moment, it is easy for us to say that God will use us when we get to what it is that we think is more important.  But this is where God has me.  God doesn’t have me in the office for the next month.  That means that wherever it is that God has placed me, then that is where He wants me.

Christ, The Demon-Possessed Man, and You

Last night I spoke on Mark 5:1-20 and was struck with the illustration that the demon-possessed man and the Christian.  The two things that jump out at me in the passage is, first, the power of Christ displayed in verses 1-13.  This was a man that no one could subdue.  No one could control this man.  No earthly power, neither man nor metal, could bind him.  But immediately when Christ showed up, the man and the demons inside automatically submit themselves to the power of Christ.

The second thing is the mercy of Christ that we see in verses 14-20. The people were more concerned with the livestock than with this man.  They cared more that they lost 2,000 swine than that this man was healed.  Christ had compassion upon the man.  He tells him to go back to proclaim the power and the mercy of the Lord.  Another thing jumped out at me here.  This man was called to return back to the place where they had just kicked Jesus out.  Imagine what may have gone through his head.  “ok, they just kicked Jesus out, the man who healed me…. why would they listen to me?!”  But the man returned, proclaimed the power and mercy of the Lord, and Mark says “everyone marveled.”  No other Gospel includes this, just one of the great little comments that Mark adds to the narratives.

So the great illustration is that Christ exercised His power upon the demons and not the man.  The power was casting the demons out and the mercy was sparing and delivering the man.  When Christ had power of the sin in our own lives, he did not condemn or destroy us, but showed mercy upon the sinner.  Obviously the breakdown comes when you realize that this man may have not voluntarily given himself over to these demons, but we voluntarily serve our own desires and sin. Besides that, it was powerful to see the mercy that Christ showed to the sinner, while still dealing severely with the demons within the man.

New Disney Movie Based on the Bible?

Saw this today. Not sure what to think. Obviously it’s a bit off, but I’m also quite confused…

Disney has made a preemptive six-figure purchase of “All About Adam,” a spec script by Alan Schoolcraft and Brent Simons. Scott Rudin will produce the project.
Spec follows the biblical Adam as he trails Eve to modern-day Gotham after they have a lover’s quarrel. Adam discovers Satan was behind the breakup.

Deal marks the second significant spec sale for the writers; DreamWorks Animation previously snatched up “Mastermind.” That project has Ben Stiller attached to produce, with Cameron Hood and Kyle Jefferson to direct. They helmed the DreamWorks Animation 3-D short “First Flight.”