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Rob Verlander
Working to tame the telecommunication monopolies and duopolies one household (mine) at a time!
Working to tame the telecommunication monopolies and duopolies one household (mine) at a time!

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Consider the grand jury as a cow with a nose ring.  The prosecutor holds the rope that is tied to the ring and that cow, inevitably, goes wherever the prosecutor leads it. 
Some explanatory context about the lack of an indictment in Ferguson: while grand juries are nominally one of the checks on executive power, with the prosecutors only able to indict someone if they can convince a grand jury, this hasn't really been the case in decades, if ever. In the famous words of Sol Wachtler, former chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, district attornies have so much influence over grand juries that they could get them to "indict a ham sandwich" if they wanted.

This is because grand jury proceedings are rather one-sided: there is generally no judge involved, nor any defense, but rather the prosecutor simply presents whatever evidence he or she chooses, and has to convince the grand jury that there is "probable cause" that the person committed a crime, i.e. that a reasonable (ordinary) jury could conceivably convict. If this seems like a rather low bar to you, you're right: quite a few people have argued that grand juries are a complete waste of time, and only half of US states still use them. (The federal government is required to by the fifth amendment; no common-law jurisdiction outside the US still bothers)

In those places which still use them, their main remaining function is to provide plausible deniability to prosecutors who don't wish to pursue a case: just like you could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich by only showing one story, you could get a grand jury to refuse to indict Freddy Krueger by showing them enough evidence to make the legitimacy of the state's case unclear.

That's not a common use for grand juries -- prosecutors generally have better things to do with their time than look for plausible deniability. (In the federal courts in 2010, for example, grand juries refused to indict 11 times, out of about 162,000 cases. Given that a prosecutor can generally guess when they don't even have a good enough case to indict, you can assume that those eleven each decided to have the grand jury be the one to say no, instead of them, for a reason)

What this means is that when you're trying to interpret the news and understand what a grand jury verdict means, you can basically take it to be a summary of the prosecutor's decision to prosecute or not to prosecute the case, rather than the verdict of an independent panel. 

(The analysis below notes that, in high-profile cases, there's another important reason that a grand jury may not indict, which is that the prosecutor feels that the case isn't strong enough to actually push through, but nonetheless feels political pressure to try anyway. That's not likely to be the case with today's news, as county prosecutor Bob McCulloch took the rather unusual step of having Darren Wilson, the prospective defendant, testify before the grand jury for several hours. Prosecutors who actually want an indictment generally don't invite the defendant to give their side of the story at length, as this is not considered conducive to getting the desired variety of ham sandwich. So it's fairly safe to read today's headline as "McCulloch decides not to prosecute Wilson," and interpret that as you will.)

If you want to read about the grand jury system in the US, as good a place to start as any is

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This is another trip "story" automatically told by Google+ based on my photos from an October 2014 vacation in New Mexico.  This auto-awesome feature works really well except that I was not able to change the cover or add additional photos. The editing tool never loaded.

I have three invites to share - less than 2 days left to use.  Will somewhat (want them used not sold...) randomly choose from comments, with email addresses, to this post.

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Another auto-awesome story.  Not bad.  I should have take  pictures of the little ones mutton bustin', the draft horse driviers, REO Speedwagon and Chicago were highlight of the day.

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Blueberry-Mint Frozen Gimlet
#cocktailrecipe   #blueberrycocktail  

This recipe came out of the July 2014 Cooking Light.  Made at special request by my wife, I found this to be the best slushie that has ever given me a brain freeze.  The drink is assembled into a Magic Bullet style smoothie 8 oz. cup.

  * 1/2 cup rinsed Bluberries
  * 2 oz. Hendricks Gin
  * 3/4 oz. Simple syrup
  * 6 Mint leaves
  * 1 oz. fresh Lime juice

Assemble ingredients into 8 oz. blender cup, fill to top with ice.  Blast away. 

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Google+ Stories.  This is a automated story of our trip to Santa Rosa and Timber Cove.  Okay, so Fort Ross gets tagged as Bodega Bay - a good 20 miles away - but it is a good compilation of the pix and very limited video that I took during the trip.   Very cool.

Replacing Google Voice for Home Phone Service
#googlevoice #obihai #voip

For the last 2 and a half years, I've had free home phone service by using the Obi100 and Google Voice (GV).  The Obi100 piggy-backed on Google Voices use of Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP).  Using GVs XMPP, Obihai was able to route GV calls to the Obi100.  A call to my GV number rang on land line phones that were plugged into the Obi100. Free routing of GV calls to a $40 mini-box was awesome.  As of May 15, 2014, GV no longer supports XMPP.

My wife and I both have pre-paid phone service with unlimited minutes, so routing calls to land lines is convenient, not a necessity. But.... there are inexpensive services that can provide the same service for about $3 per month.  I cut over to PowerPhone ( for VOIP services via Obihai for $34.95 pre-paid for a year of service.  The switch was relatively painless. Early on - the fidelity of the calls has been very good. 

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La Paloma
#cocktailrecipe  #cincodemayo #margaritaalternative

My wife brought home a bottle of Jarrotos grapefruit soda and the recipe for a La Paloma.  This is a faithful version, published by Esquire.  This is a delicious alternative to a margarita for Cino de Mayo.

    > 2 ounces tequila
    > 1/2 ounce lime juice
    > pinch of salt
    > grapefruit soda
Glass Type: Collins glass

Combine the tequila (reposado, preferably), lime juice, and salt in a tall glass. Add ice, top off with grapefruit soda, and stir. The soda can be hard to find; we prefer the Mexican Jarritos brand, but anything will do, even, at last resort, lemon-lime soda with a splash of grapefruit juice. Some prefer the salt on the rim of the glass, but we say just throw it in. Others omit it entirely. Don't.

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My Cord Cutting Home Theater - Version 2

#cordcutter #hometheater #eatitcomcast

For years, every 6 months, I would call Comcast and demand that they lower my $150 monthly bill under $100.  Three and a half years ago, they called my “bluff”.  My wife, Michelle, hated overpaying for cable every bit as much as I did, and agreed to cut the cord.

Version one was put together with as little expense as possible - we weren’t sure that this would work. We started with rabbit ears, a cheap HTPC (home theater PC) and a first gen Roku. The setup mostly worked and was far better than paying a Comcast tax, but reception could get spotty, pointing the remote at the right spot (and holding it) was tricky and, more than anyone would like, we had to drop into Windows and use a web browser to navigate to content. 

To supplement OTA (over-the-air) content, we subscribe to Pandora ($3/mo), Hulu+ ($8/mo) and Netflix ($8/mo).  I debate whether we should include the cost of our Centurylink 20 Mbs internet connection, since it is required for my works, but I will go-ahead throw in the $31/mo. The result is a flexible, rock solid OTA DVR setup that is supplemented with an array of streaming options that gives us 99% of the content that we want for less than $50 a month.

And then, after saving $100 a month for 30 months, I got approval from the finance committee (Michelle) to upgrade our home theater.  The rabbit ears became a top-of-the-line outdoor antenna; the under powered HTPC became a snappy Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing), we added a Chromecast and upgraded the Roku,the wireless router and the Logitech universal remote. The cost of the upgrades was about $750.  Given our monthly our rate of savings, this upgrade was paid for in that first eight months of cutting the cord.

Ease of use has gotten significantly better. The new generation of Harmony Smart Controller remotes really irons out the kinks of controlling 5 different devices.  And the Chromecast has made my phone my preferred way to sort through content in Netflix, Hulu and YouTube.  

Here's an updated diagram of how we are doing it.

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Proud to have Ting as my carrier! There aren't many telcos that support the EEF.

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