Jury Duty

I don’t mind the idea of jury duty. I’ve served whenever I’m in the US and I get summoned. Still it was a bummer to be summoned on my birthday and to have to go all the way out to Maywood. I didn’t even know Maywood was in Cook County. If you asked me where Maywood was before yesterday, I would have tentatively said, “South? South and a bit west?”

Now I know. It was a long drive and the courthouse is quite dilapidated compared to the others. I didn’t get called and would have done my best if I were, but I am happy that I don’t have to get myself down there for a long trial.

I will say it’s high time Cook County raised the money they give jurors. Since at least the 1980s it’s been $17.20. If you adjust for inflation, that $17.20 should now be $55.28. If you’re employed, the money isn’t an issue as most companies continue your pay. If you’re not employed, The amount most likely, doesn’t cover your transportation and lunch unless you live close to the courthouse or can use public transportation. This fee should be increased. In 2015 all the other counties in Illinois increased jury pay to $25 for the first day and $50 for each day thereafter. It’s not exactly what it should be, but I’d take it. Cook County has the most crime and perhaps the most civil cases. Still why should jurors be the only people who’s rate of compensation hasn’t changed at all? Other counties have worse transportation, i.e. no trains and fewer buses so jurors probably spend more on transportation. Still the fee should increase over the years.

Today they didn’t need any new jurors so after three hours at the courthouse, we all got to leave. I hope next time I’m called, I can go to the courthouse that’s just 20 minutes from me. I wonder if anyone who lives near Maywood was sent there today.

On Liberty

Here’s a short video I made introducing the ideas of John Stuart Mill culled from his work “On Liberty.” Mill was a big champion of free speech.

I think more people should read this book. You can get it for free here.

Education Bubble

I do think tuition rates are ridiculously high. Even though I went to a state school and paid for my second graduate degree as I went and thus have zero debt, I still think I paid too much because it’ll be a long time till I make up for that investment.

I think it’s high time people rethink all the money spent on college in America. All the extra services, many of which most students don’t use, and administrators seem unfair. If you can’t write at the college level, why should the students who can pay for your writing center sessions? Do we need all these extracurricular activities and facilities? Why wouldn’t those who need or use these things pay for them?

The idea that cost of education has quadrupled, as Peter Thiel states in these videos, yet many still graduate but are unable to write a paragraph, should be examined.

Accepting the idea that you can take out a loan and everything’s okey-dokey is unwise. Most people, parents and children alike don’t realize how long it’ll take to pay off that loan.

I also think it may be wiser for people to send their children to community college for two years and then transfer to the pricier university. Ten or twenty thousand dollars extra for a particular social experience, (e.g. dorm life, parties, status) seems like a bad choice. If you’re in a certain income bracket, all the other parents are sending their kids to schools with status. You don’t want to “deprive” your kids. That’s understandable.

Now it seems like it’d be better to put that money aside and give it to a child when he or she needs to buy a car, furnishing for an apartment or a condo. Of course, this is a personal choice for each family.

I’d like to see more colleges offering low-cost options. Think a Southwest Airlines version of higher education and more parents considering different paths to attaining education.

Virgin Atlantic

From the creative safety video to the actually yummy food, Virgin Atlantic was a joy to fly. I don’t know how I’ll manage with lesser airlines. The crew was genuinely polite and at the end of the flight they thanked us for letting them take care of us.

Amazing. I’ve never felt that American crews enjoyed that. I’ve felt that they put up with the passengers and I cringe when they sharply direct non-English speakers to “Stow your bags!” They don’t seem to realize the problem might be that they use uncommon words like “stow.”

The entertainment selection was vast and there was something for everyone to enjoy. The food, especially the mini strawberry popsicles were tasty.

I definitely aim to be a regular on Virgin.

Ibis Hotel, Harbin China

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With a great location that’s walking distance to St. Sophia’s Russian Orthodox Church, Zhaop Park and Zhangyang Street with all its European style architecture, Ibis Hotel is a good choice in Harbin. For about $30 a night I got a spic and span room with wifi and a TV (not many Western channels though). I could easily get from the airport bus stop to the hotel following the well marked streets and my Lonely Planet map.

The room’s are basic, but that’s all I wanted. They offer breakfast, but no other meals. I opted for a nearby Starbucks as I wanted the music and a place to work in the morning on my homework before I did my afternoon sightseeing.

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If you insist on kind, polite staff, this isn’t the hotel for you. In fact, the Harbin-ites I encountered just didn’t smile. At the hotel and elsewhere staff was gruff and unhappy about doing more than the minimum. Maybe they wanted people to feel they really were in Russia ;-). They do their job and they fixed my problem and put me in a non-smoking room when the first room was for smokers, but they’re not able to be cheerful.

Since the hostel just had a 57% satisfaction rate, I’m glad I opted for Ibis.

Review: Club Lucky

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Club Lucky has a retro 1950s look and feel. It’s an Italian restaurant in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood. On Friday and Saturday it’s crowded and reservations are a must. We went on Sunday and getting a table is a breeze. (We did have reservations.) The menu features loads of appetizers, salads, pastas, seafood, steaks and poultry. My sister suggested we share a meatball salad, which sounded weird to me. Everyone liked it and it’s a new favorite for some. I’m not big on meatballs so I just had the salad and was satisfied.

I liked my chicken tortellini with English peas and vodka sauce. The serving could easily serve two. Other tempting dishes were the steak sandwich, roast chicken and fettucini with chicken, asparagus and roasted cherry tomatoes. We finished by sharing tiramisu, which was good, though not out of this world.

The service sufficed. Our waiter was polite, but missed the boat taking dessert orders. He later apologized explaining that he was detained giving people directions. We’d finished eating the birthday slice of tiramisu for my sister. While I probably would have ordered some dessert, that moment had passed and we were ready to go.

All in all, a fine place for Italian. Valet parking is $8. Good for groups or dates.