No cell phones allowed in Green Bank, WV

Can you imagine a place with no cell phones? It is harder and harder to find. You almost have to go to a remote island, or a place with no cell phone reception (see these seven locations where you can escape the Internet). Last week I was traveling for work, and while in the airport waiting for a flight, I saw on the news a mention of Green Bank, West Virginia, and that cell phones are not allowed. They are part of the “National Radio Quiet Zone.” See the picture in the link — the zone is enormous.

Intrigued? I was. It is often hard to imagine a place where cell phones do not exist. Green Bank has a population of 143. Why no cell phones? The Green Bank Telescope (GBT). The GBT is part of the reason that it is a law in Green Bank that you cannot have a cell phone. The GBT is the largest, fully steerable radio telescope in the world. This excerpt from a National Geographic article explains it a bit more:

“Because of its vast size and sophisticated design, the GBT is exquisitely sensitive to even the faintest radio pulses coming from space. For the same reason, it is also extremely susceptible to electronic interference. Any device that generates electromagnetic radiation—a cell phone, a television, a wireless Internet router—can skew its data. And so the people who live in these parts must, by law, forego some of the gadgets that most of us take for granted.”

Would you want that kind of life? Maybe for a vacation, but could you handle it 365 days a year? I am addicted to information and I am not sure how I could go without the Internet. A phone – yes, I could probably go without a phone, but not the Internet. Check out the National Geographic article for more details on all the discoveries that have been made due to the GBT. Oh, and they need another 9 million dollars if you are interested.

“Reach out and touch someone.”

I was talking to a colleague yesterday about “Orange is the New Black.” I had mentioned that scenes from the series kept coming back to my mind. She asked if there was a reason why, and I relayed a few ideas. One being that I NEVER want to ever go to prison. While you might have a simple response: “well then do not do anything stupid, Tami.” Easier said then done. We live in a culture that sues. You piss someone off, they sue you, and sometimes the law is not alway on your side. Maybe I have watched too much of “The Good Wife” but I am not optimistic about our legal system, and I do believe that innocent people often end of in prison. Sad but true.

I digress. One of the things I mentioned about Orange is the New Black that got me thinking was about being touched. They only subtly show you this in the show, but I picked up on it immediately. Inmates are not allowed to touch each other. When the main character gets her hair cut and is getting her hair washed (not sure how many real prisons have hair salons) she groans. Having her head touched by someone else is just so foreign, yet matters so much to her. They are starved and crave the human touch.

Yet, as the thought continued to spin around in my head yesterday I realized we ALL crave physical touch. Whether it is a gentle hand on our arm telling us we are going to be fine, or a hug, or maybe just a pat on the back. Touch grounds up in ways that words sometimes cannot. We are reminded that we are all right. We can make it through today, and tomorrow. So when I saw this  Chevrolet commercial “Maddie” (ugh I know another car company ad), the impact of this girl and her dog I thought to add that it is the snuggle of your pet, their sloppy, wet kiss, and the lifetime of comfort when we need it most. A dog always knows.

So not to jump back to the early ’80s but “reach out and touch someone.” [old AT&T slogan]

Human Microcosm: Jury Duty

I spent yesterday in Jury Duty. It is such an interesting human experiment to see the different types of individuals that live in your county. You witness a mixture of age ranges, ethnic backgrounds, socio-economic ranges, not to mention differing degrees of education. Somehow I have been to jury duty at least four times in the last ten years, yet my husband has been once. How is that even possible? They told us yesterday that selection is completely random, and that you can only serve every two years. I feel like they summon me the day after my two-year mark renews.

(c) ConklinJury Duty fascinates me for a few reasons. First, I love to people watch, and am always curious how individuals are going to react in different situations. During college I debated about going to law school, and while that never happened, jury duty is my closest connection to a courtroom. Lastly, I believe that as Americans there are very few things we are asked to do as citizens, and jury duty is one of them. If I was ever in a trial by jury, I would want to know that I was having a fair trial, and so I feel that it is my responsibility to do the same if I was ever selected for a jury panel.

The verdict from my day at jury duty? After many hours of sitting, plus a horrible video about the judicial system in my county, I was selected as the third individual on a panel for a criminal theft case. I was sitting front row, center. Each lawyer asked us quite a few questions, and based on the answers it showed clearly that many of us had a vague understanding of law, probable cause, etc. In the end, I was the third juror to be allowed to go home. We never find out why we are not selected, but my assumption is that my passionate answer to one of their questions threw me out of the running. Many times people try to get out of jury duty, but due to my increased curiosity that was not my intent.

The jury room coordinator was right when she told us that you start the day with the extreme desire to leave and go about your life, but that once you are in a courtroom that desire vanishes and you find that you want to know more. It was bittersweet for me. It was nice to know I would not have to stay late into the evening (they warned us this case would either go late, or resume again today), but once you are engaged in the process there is a craving to know more. In the end, I can only hope they found the right jurors for the case.

I am free of my civic duty for another two years, so if my streak continues I will be back at the courthouse on April 13, 2015.

Do you have any jury duty experiences to share?

To pee or not to pee…

On Saturday, at about 5 pm and dark out, we were getting out of our car at a store. I hear this strange sound and look over and see a large man peeing in the parking lot. Gross. Luckily, I saw him from behind instead of the front. Still I could not get it out of my mind as we went into the store. So much so that I wanted to make our purchase, leave, and come home. Why did it bother me so much?

I am not completely against the peeing in public thing. I have a friend that will drop and pee if needed, but she is discreet. This was far from discreet. There is also a big difference between a small woman crouching down and hiding behind a car door, and a man standing in the middle of the parking lot, with the sound of his spray similar to a fire hydrant.

What would you have done? I would love to have said something to the man, however, I was not in the safest of neighborhoods, and he was three times my size. I had a hard time finding out if it was against the law in Oregon or in Portland to publicly urinate. I found this, but I am not sure if it is legitimate:

“Any person who urinates upon any public sidewalk, street, parking lot or building, or in any public place, except in receptacles and recognized places provided for those purposes, commits a Class B violation.”

If it is that hard for me to find an answer online, then I wonder if most people know whether it is legal or not. I was thinking about the person that parks in that spot next. When they get out of the car, and they step into a pool of water they might think it is rain (it is Portland), or they might think someone emptied their beverage, not their bladder.