Sunday, December 31, 2006

12 Angry Men

Nate at work recently recommended the movie 12 Angry Men. Em and I recently watched it on the free movies section of Comcast On Demand. Other than the opening and closing scenes the movie takes place entirely in a jury deliberation room. The story line involves a jury that must decide whether or not an 18 year old is guilty of murder. The group is made up of a diverse cross section of society and personal histories. As the group struggles to come to a verdict the individuals tackle lots of issues including personal bias, what is beyond a reasonable doubt, and the place in society for those who are likely to cause it problems.

The movie left me with a few observations that afford further thought. If juries really think about/discuss cases put in front of them it should be hard to be sure beyond reasonable doubt that someone is guilty. Can our legal system operate if it is this hard to convict someone? even if it can’t operate, how much are we as a society willing to give up before we convict an innocent person?
One of the more interesting topics touched on during the discussions was that the young man may have been doomed to commit a heinous crime during his life because of his upbringing. One juror pushes farther and states that because he is doomed to this fate he and those who were not Nurtured properly in their youth should just be locked up before committing any crime. This statement scared me quite a bit as researchers have a profiling computer program that assigns a murder score to an individual that indicates how likely they are to murder. This program may be used by law enforcement initially in probation risk assessment, but I suspect will creep into other aspects of law enforcement as well, possibly becoming a thoughtcrime like detection system. In a similar vein the UK is looking at legislation that will allow the detaining of those who fail to pass minimum mental health standards (Nature, previous was Nurture). I don’t think that the society that we know and enjoy can exist if these ideas are promugulated and basic liberties are attacked.

In short, watch the move.

Continuous play for Podcasts on Ipod

I just spent a while trying to figure out how to get multiple podcasts to play sequentially on my Ipod without kicking back out to the main menu. I found lots of people with this same problem but no solution. This behavior is caused by the random setting on the Ipod being enabled. If the Ipod is set to random song or random album then only one podcast will be played and then it will return to the main menu. If random is set to off then if you put the podcasts in a playlist or smart playlist it will play them one after another with no intervention.

Friday, December 29, 2006

House hunting again

Since the Gemcraft home fell through Em and I get to start house hunting again. Em contacted our realtor already and she has a tone of houses that look like they will be good options at closer to reasonable prices. Lucky for us the market is now much more of a buyers market. Having the Gemcraft deal fall through is turning out to be a good thing.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Gemcraft Homes — Avoid!

Em and I have been trying to work with Gemcraft Homes for the last several months to get a townhouse in Perryville, MD built. This has been nothing but painful! We encountered multiple major issues while dealing with them.

The first issue is they were estimating $17,000 in closing costs (using their preferred mortgage company). Given that we had received estimates on similar loans of $4000 closing costs this threw up a red flag. The only thing I can figure is that they are getting a kick back from the mortgage company for requiring the use of that company in order to get the good price on upgrades. We required that they drop the price of the home several thousand dollars before we continued with the contract. They played around trying to avoid it but eventually gave in. On the way home from contract signing I saw a special on CNN Money about closing cost scandals. From this point I felt that Gemcraft is not trustworthy.

Next they changed the window well model from the one that they had shown us at the contract signing, a nice terraced thing that allows lots of light and some plants, for a standard ugly aluminum window well. When we brought this to their attention they tried to tell us that the new one was ‘better’, so they were within the guidelines of the contract.

The real killer is that they have a line in the contract that says that the closing date is up to the sole discretion of the builder. We live over 2000 miles away from the home site. Knowing this they scheduled the walk through for the day after Christmas! That means we would have to fly on Christmas day to meet their schedule! When asked about changing this to the first week in January they said it would cost us over $4,000 in penalties to do so!

Instead of trying to make things right, they just offered to send us back our earnest money and call off the contract. That isn’t what we want, but Gemcraft is not willing to hold good to their own contract and be reasonable about closing dates. This has allowed them to build the property using our credit reference for the last several months, now they are ditching us and going to turn around and sell the property for the increased price over what we had paid. In hindsight, I should have stuck to my initial feeling that something is wrong with this company and that we should not be doing business with them.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Em’s Tree in SLTrib

Em and her Grandma put together a tree for the Festival of Trees in memory of her cousin Chase who died of Cancer last year. They were selected by the Festival to have a story written about their tree by the SL Tribune. Pictures of the tree are available here


As a few of you may know, Em is pregnant, her Due date is June 22nd 2007 :) We went into for our first appointment last week and have some ultrasound pictures from the visit. Kinda scary, another little Josh running around ;) Em has been having some severe morning (and daytime, and nighttime) sickness. Other than that everything looks good!