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Trampling the Easter tradition 

Lawyers! You may think they're bottom-feeding scumbags, but we kinda like 'em. Especially this time of year when the Central Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers gives them a chance to bitch about local judges via the annual Judicial Poll. The results, which were faxed to our office last week, are both informative and humorous. Only through this anonymous poll can you get a feel for how local defense lawyers and prosecutors really feel about judges. So let the kvetching begin! (Bear in mind that a "one" means a judge stinks, a "five" means he or she is saintly.)

In Orange County Circuit Court, we'll be doggoned if judges John M. West and C. Alan Lawson didn't tie for the top spot, both coming in at a respectable 4.39. The low side went to Anthony H. Johnson, with a measly 2.67.

Over in federal court, George C. Young bagged a near-perfect 4.80. Rock on, George! Apparently, G. Kendall Sharp is the bitch of the building, ranking a mere 3.01.

But the fun part is not in the numbers; it's in the comments, where lawyers get to rant freely. There's a lot of ass-kissing, for sure, so we'll just skip that and get right to the nastiness. On Johnson: "It is unfortunate, but it still feels like litigants are dealing with two prosecutors when in Judge Johnson's courtroom; being a tough sentencer is one thing, but not first granting a fair trial is entirely again another." Ouch!

On Lawson: "Allen (sic) Lawson runs a tight ship. Maybe a little too tight. A continuance is not the worst thing in the world." Hmmm.

On county judge James E. Glass: "Great guy, but don't lose a trial because he is a little heavy-handed. And whatever you do, don't make him mad!" Words to the wise.

And finally, on Orange County senior judges James C. Dauksch and Frank N. Kaney: "Senior judges Dauksch and Kaney know they are essentially not accountable to anyone in that their rude, abusive and disrespectful conduct is probably something the JQC will just consider as sour grapes by some upset attorneys. Nevertheless, the way they treat people is absolutely terrible." And we thought people didn't like journalists.

We had a lot of questions for Susan Clary, the most glamorous candidate in the race for the Orange County Soil and Water Conservation District. Do they dye the water in Lake Eola to make it that creepy, artificial shade of blue? What is the correct potting-soil mix to ensure a healthy houseplant? And if you're standing right on the equator, does the water go straight down the drain?

But she wasn't there to answer any of our frivolous inquiries. The Rollins-educated Winter Parker and her hunky campaign manager/ treasurer, Lonnie Thompson, were at the Peacock Room Aug. 9 to strategize fund-raising for a race that's surprisingly crowded – Clary is running against six other candidates in a race most voters eeny-meeny-miney-moe, if they even get that far down the ballot. Clary, however, has something none of the other candidates have: an endorsement from the Sultan of Squawk, the Shah of Shriek, the Poobah of Yee-haw … OK, we'll stop now … from former presidential candidate Howard Dean. Democracy for America, the catch-all for disappointed Deaniacs, is capitalizing on Dean's momentum to support progressive candidates at all levels of government.

Clary promises to use her seat to educate the public about use of natural resources, and to act as a liaison between environmental groups and developers – a potentially touchy area. Clary is a tree-hugger through and through, but also a realist: "I'm not against development," the candidate says. "I'm against sprawl."

And just so the other `editor's note: six!` candidates for the Group 4 special election don't feel slighted, we hereby extend an invitation to Glenn Fuller, Miriam Lancaster, John Lieurance, Maria Maldonado, Lisa Pierce and David Rucker to meet us at a bar of your choosing to discuss soil and/or water. Or maybe you can answer that pesky equator question for us.

This week's installment of wacky election shenanigans comes to us courtesy of Rick Hartig, who reports that the John Kerry yard sign in the front lawn of his Briercliff Drive home was recently supplemented with a bag of dog shit. It seems that a person or persons unknown cleaned up after their pooch, deposited the excrement in a blue plastic bag, sealed the bag with yellow tape, wrote the word "Kerry" on the tape and attached the bag to the yard sign.

"It's kind of silly," says Hartig.

Indeed it is. But what should we make of the cryptic installation? Was the artist trying to convey that Kerry is a responsible steward of the environment? Or perhaps implying that Kerry, unlike some other candidates, always cleans up the messes he makes? That's the thing about art; it's so ambiguous.

Screw all this political stuff anyway – Twiggy the Water-Skiing Squirrel is in town! That's right, kids, the world-famous, Sanford-based Twiggy will be defying all natural instincts of Sciurus carolinensis by donning a tiny life vest, hopping on a pair of tiny skis and doing a few laps in a kiddie pool behind a tiny, radio-controlled ski boat. And if that doesn't sound like entertainment to you, you're probably a member of PETA.

Lou Ann Best is Twiggy's handler. She's been doing this since 1978 when she and her late husband, Chuck, adopted an orphaned squirrel blown out of its nest during a hurricane. The Bests nursed the animal back to health, and immediately set to work training it to water-ski. Chuck Best died in 1997, but Lou Ann carried on the family business with new generations of Twiggies. (The current performer, a female eastern grey, is Twiggy No. 5.)

Interviewed in The Washington Post in 2003, Lou Ann says she and the various rodentia have been all over the world entertaining audiences, which proves … something. See the water-skiing, nut-munching wonder for yourself at the Hot Summer Boat Show, Aug. 13-15 at the Orange County Convention Center.


Q: Why is it when I am watching television and I see a computer monitor on-screen, it always has those funky horizontal lines racing down the monitor?

click to enlarge ian-headjpg
A: Those funky horizontal lines are the visual results of interference patterns that result from differing refresh rates and phases in different parts of the signal. For instance, if you have a standard CRT monitor attached to your computer, your refresh rate is probably 70 or 75 hertz – meaning that the pixels on the screen are refreshed 70 or 75 times per second. On the other hand, the camera and television that is displaying the picture of the monitor is probably working at the National Standards Television Committee's baseline of 59.94 hertz, or 29.97 frames per second, broken into two interlaced fields. The result of this disparity is an interference pattern – some areas of the image will be brighter than they should be, and likewise, some will be dimmer. A device called a "genlock" can be used to synchronize the disparate sources and eliminate this kind of interference pattern, but honestly, if you're recording a bunch of video that's being displayed on computer monitors, the easier solution these days is just to record the images on an LCD display instead of a CRT. Because LCDs don't use phosphors, refresh rate does not pose a problem.

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