Photos from the Dallas Arboretum

Flowers Along an Arboretum Pathway

Michelle and I went down to the Dallas Arboretum over Chocolate Rabbit Day for their recent Dallas Blooms event. During the event (which runs March 8 – April 13 this year), the Arboretum plants a whole heapful of flowers:

Dallas Blooms will feature more than 400,000 spring-blooming bulbs, over 3,000 azaleas and thousands of another annuals and perennials spread throughout the 66-acre garden. The 2008 festival is a fun-filled five-week, six-weekend event and is the largest outdoor floral festival in the Southwest.

I had a hard time getting shots, in part because the only lens I had at the time was Canon’s 50mm f/1.4. (I now also have Canon’s 85mm f/1.8, but as it would happen, that isn’t exactly great for landscapes either.) It’s a great lens in general, don’t get me wrong, but with the 40D’s 1.6x crop factor, that 50mm lens had an equivalent focal length of an 80mm lens on a traditional full-frame SLR.

So, while it may have been a normal lens on a full-frame camera (that is, a lens with a magnification roughly equal to that of the human eye), I was dealing with a somewhat telephoto lens. And, for landscape photography (where wide-angle lenses are often the lens of choice), it felt a bit like trying to hit balls into the outfield with a Wiffle bat. All things considered, I’m pleased with how these shots came out.

Dallas Camera Club Scavenger Hunt Photos

Looking up at a traffic light at Griffin Street

The Dallas Camera Club holds a photo scavenger hunt each year — sometimes it’s in downtown Dallas while other times it’s elsewhere in the metroplex. (It’s confined to a general geographic area each year to help level the playing field.) Indeed, this year’s scavenger hunt was held downtown on a Sunday morning a few weeks ago. Here’s what was on this year’s list:

  • Reflections — it hadn’t rained recently, so street-reflections weren’t really in the cards, but there were other reflective things to find.
  • Geometric or Repeating Patterns — this was pretty tough, but I think I found a shot for this.
  • Looking Up — we just had to find a shot that looked upward, which might seem easy, but doing so artistically took some figuring.
  • Humanity — this one covered people, which might seem like a slam-dunk, but was actually tough since downtown Dallas is a bit deserted on a Sunday morning.
  • Texas or US Icons — I guess this primarily encompassed Texas or US flags, though I would imagine that other Texas- or US-themed items would qualify as well.

Anyhow, I’ve posted my scavenger hunt photos. I was pleased to be able to get a shot in each category, but that doesn't mean that I've “won” — the club hands out awards for the scavenger hunt based on the number of categories completed and the quality of those shots. The awards haven’t been announced yet, so I’m looking forward to seeing how those turn out.

Jury Duty — Almost Fun

As I mentioned earlier, I received a summons for jury duty for today. And, it was almost fun (well, as fun as jury duty can be, I suppose). Before even getting there, my first decision was how to get there. Mike mentioned that I could make use of the free DART pass included with my summons and that was tempting. As I saw it, if I didn’t have to pay for parking, that meant I’d have more money left over from the jury check (all of six dollars, I know).

So, last night I went to the Trip Planner on DART’s site and typed in both my address and the address of the courthouse. The trip-planning software worked fine; it told me a valid route which would get me from my apartment to the courthouse in time for jury duty. Unfortunately, that trip would have taken just over an hour (yikes). I then checked MapQuest to see how long that would take to drive — and that reported about ”11 minutes”. Since I really didn’t feel like getting up in the middle of the night just to make it to court by 8:30am, I opted to drive.

I did leave a little early, knowing that rush hour would probably add to that “11 minutes”. But, I found the garage easily and got there in plenty of time. I went in through the main doors and, after passing through the metal detectors — which involved taking off my watch and emptying my pockets of my iPod, my Palm and my car keys — I headed to the central court room (or some room with a similar name). I handed in my information slip to someone at the door and walked in to the auditorium-like room. There were rows of movie theater-style collapsing seats and I sat down as they lowered a screen to play an informational video.

After the video, an official stepped up to the podium at the front of the room and explained the basic process for the day: they'd call out groups of numbers, corresponding to our juror numbers, and they'd send each group to a courtroom elsewhere in the building. Within the first few minutes, the group containing my number was called and we were sent to one of the courtrooms on the third floor. Once my group got there, a bailiff called role to make sure that we were all there; and, after that, we were asked to wait outside the courtroom. I deduced later that we were waiting for the lawyers to arrive and prepare.

After about half an hour of waiting, the bailiff took role again and called us into the courtroom by name (to ensure that we’d have a specific seating order). Once we filed in, the judge explained that we were here for a DWI case. He introduced the prosecuting and defense lawyers and explained that both the prosecution and the defense would each have a set of time to ask us questions.

From there, the prosecuting lawyer stood up and started by explaining the conditions which define DWI within the state of Texas. And, after that, she went around the room and asked us questions such as whether we trusted Breathalyzers and on what level we trusted police officers (on a 1-5 scale).

She finished her questions and the defense attorney began. Not surprisingly, he asked questions about whether we would feel comfortable finding someone guilty based on a single person’s testimony (which Texas law allows and, in this case, would most likely refer to the police officer). He also asked if any of us had been personally affected by a drunk driver in the past which would prevent an impartial perspective if we were to serve on the jury. He finished his questions within maybe 20 minutes and the judge dismissed us for a short break while the lawyers made their strike list. (A “strike list”, I presume, is the process where each side crossed of jurors which they would not like to appear on the jury.)

After our fifteen minute break, we found our seats again and, as it turns out, the lawyers were still making up their lists. But, within a few minutes, the bailiff (I think) read off the names of those chosen to serve on the jury; I wasn’t one of those names. Those of us not selected were dismissed and allowed to go home. So, that was my adventure with jury duty — I was expecting government’s usual red tape and bureaucracy but it actually went fairly smoothly.

Sure, there was some waiting involved — I got through a third of The Tipping Point — but we were always treated respectfully by the officials and they made sure to let us know how long each waiting period would be. I don’t know if I’d say it was a ton of fun, but it went a lot better than I expected.

Jury Duty Next Tuesday

I’m flying off to England tomorrow as my cousin Jenny is getting married. I’ll be flying into London (Heathrow) but the wedding itself is in Beaconsfield (map). As it turns out, I’m flying there by way of Miami (yeah, I didn’t expect that one either) and after the layover plus the time change, I end up getting there on Thursday morning. Yeah, I’m sure I’ll be wiiide awake after that one ;).

Fortunately, my flight back is only on Sunday — the wedding is on Saturday — and so I have at least a few days to get acclimated to the time change. On the other hand, I get back Sunday evening and (surprise, surprise), I have work on Monday. But, I’m not going to look forward to spilled milk (or something). I'm just determined to relax and have a fun time. My whole family will be there and I’m looking forward to seeing all of them and spending some time with my extended family as well.

Then, on Tuesday, I have jury duty. I received notice for this a couple weeks ago and I counted my lucky stars that it didn’t coincide with this wedding. For any Dallasites reading, it’s at the Frank Crowley Courts Building which I believe is kinda in the West End. And while I'd normally reserve such trite commentary for its title attribute, that page for the Frank Crowley Courts Building has some truly hideous web design. What, are we still living in 1995?

I’ve never been to jury duty, so I don’t have much of an idea about what to expect. Interestingly enough, the jury summons includes a tear-off form asking for various information about me. Much of it is ordinary and expected — “name”, “date of birth” and so on — but why do they care about my “religious preference”? And, for that matter, my race? The form does appear mandatory, but it does make me a bit uneasy that they’d have any use for some of those tidbits.

From what I gather, there’ll be a lot of waiting around, so I’ll be sure to bring a book (perhaps my copy of The Tipping Point, unless I bring it on my trip to England and finish reading it there). And, I was about ask about whether I’d be allowed to bring my iPod (filled with NPR, natch) but I just ran across this D Magazine blog entry on jury duty which says that it’s apparently ok. And besides what I should or shouldn’t bring along, I’m also curious about how long it lasts — assuming for a moment that I’m not selected for the jury, I’m guessing this would this be an all-day thing? Anyway, if you’ve already been to jury duty, I’m open to any suggestions on what to expect or other tips.