Friday, July 1st, 2011

How to improve a government form (part 3)

A new version of the Request for Foreclosure Mediation form, now with fillable fields
Our latest government form that can be improved comes not from the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (read about a JFS form in part 1 and part 2 of this series) but rather from the Snapshot of the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court forms page claiming all the forms are fillable
Put a claim like this on a web page and you might want to make sure to follow it
General Division of the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court, which has a rather interesting forms page.

What’s interesting about the Court’s forms page is that they grok an important feature of a good form, having fillable fields. We know they understand this because they make the claim that their “PDF forms are interactive and may be filled out electronically.” However, the very first three forms on the page of forms make this claim a lie.

The reason I discovered this is that a paralegal with whom I work asked me if I could fix one of the Court’s forms that she uses a lot, and of course I could and did, in about 5 minutes.

The Court deserves kudos for recognizing that their forms should be fillable and for the fact that all but three (unfortunately the very first three) of the forms they’ve posted are in fact fillable, but come on, whoever posted those three forms was really slacking. It takes very little time to make the forms fillable, and why would you post forms to a page that points out that all the forms are fillable without making sure that in fact is true?

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Olive, an urban dive

Olive, an urban dive, is a great new restaurant in the historic Wympee building downtown at Third and Wayne
I’ve been following the saga over the past several months of the hurdles Kim Collett has faced getting Olive, an urban dive, her new restaurant, up and running, but it wasn’t until today that I was able to make it over to check things out for myself. They had a very successful sold out “Dive into Olive” preview week, and David Esrati, in his review of Olive, warned that it might be difficult to get in for lunch given how good the food is and how small the restaurant is, but Kim posted on Facebook yesterday that people shouldn’t “worry that we’re too packed,” and so my best friend and I headed A view of the historic Wympee building, spruced up a bit A view of the historic Wympee building, spruced up over for lunch today, a bit after 1:00. They were doing a good business but still had a couple tables available inside, and we were seated right away.

The outside of the building looks pretty much like it always has, with the historic Wympee signs, but it’s been spruced up a bit with plants and benches in front and an inviting patio in back with outdoor seating and with herbs growing that Olive uses in items such as the scrumptious patio herb salad dressing.

Looking at the inside of the building, you’d be hard pressed to know it once was Wympee’s because everything’s been completely redone, with amenities ranging from fabulous handmade wooden ceiling tiles to a new cork floor to custom lights and other great decor. Head over to Olive’s Facebook page (you can read there about some of the hurdles they faced getting started), in particular their photo gallery which has tons of photos documenting all the hard work they put into their business and building. A view of Olive's fashionable dining room A view of Olive’s
fashionable dining room
Keeping the historic facade of the Wympee building honors its past, but the totally redone interior, suitable for a first class restaurant, hardly goes along with Olive’s so-called “urban dive” moniker.

The wait staff, in addition to being very friendly, is also very knowledgeable about Olive’s unique mission to strive to use local ingredients. Not only did our server explain how Olive’s grows their own herbs out back (and invite us to be sure to check out the patio), but she also told us about what, if I’m remembering correctly (which I may not be), are young herbs—for example, radishes that are cut before they bloom so they impart hints of radish flavor. As you can see from Olive’s soft open “lunchish fare” menu, they have a lot of choices for a small restaurant that makes everything from scratch, and our server was good about explaining all the options.

My friend and I both got the same thing, tuscan grilled cheese sandwiches served with the house salad (of course with the famous patio herb dressing) and cups of tomato bisque. This is not your traditional grilled cheese and tomato soup, although it was delicious and comforting. Our meals were served very stylishly on long rectangular white plates that you wouldn’t expect to find at Wympee’s or an urban dive. Tasting the tomatoes in the sandwiches makes one appreciate fresh, local produce, and the house pesto on the sandwiches was also a tasty addition. Topping it all off was the patio made sun tea, lightly sweetened with agave (our server brought us sugar cubes, but the tea was perfect without any added sugar).

Olive has a very relaxing atmosphere. At our corner table my friend and I had a pleasant conversation as we enjoyed our meal, but near us were some single people eating alone, one reading a book and another just taking in the scene. I’m glad Olive is finally open and glad that I was able finally to visit. I plan on going back often, and you should check Olive out too—you won’t be disappointed!

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Something from 1993 I once had in my office

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, or actually 18 years ago in this same fair city, I used to be a fairly recently out young queer professional, and I had a bulletin board on my office wall on which I posted things that made me smile and things that made others cringe, two categories that often overlapped. Looking through some stuff today I came across one such item that once hung on my office bulletin board and that, given recent events in the news, seems apropos to share with you today, namely a cartoon from 1993 by Mike Peters, the Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist at the Dayton Daily News*.

In case you don’t remember what was going on in 1993, and for the reference of future web surfers who may be sceptical that this ever happened in our country, here’s the scoop: we had a popular Democratic president, in his first term of office, who’d made some promises—expedient during his campaign but troublesome during his administration—to teh gayz,
A clipping from the Dayton Daily News
that once hung on the bulletin board in my office
causing all sorts of consternation amongst conservatives who, whether they really believed it or not, claimed that allowing openly queer soldiers would lead to the demise of our once proud nation. Yes, I’m talking about 1993 and not 2010.

Mike Peters, bless his heart, was very astute in his criticism in this cartoon showing some of the popular canards about what gays in the military would cause and also showing that OMG we have already have gays in the military, even in high places.

Who’d’ve thought it would take our nation 20 years to begin to accept that queers can be good soldiers, even after numerous examples from other countries with fine militaries including queer soldiers?

Maybe 20 years from now Americans will finally look back at 2010 and at 1993 and realize how stupid we’d been.

* Yes, boys and girls, this was back when people actually still read the Dayton Daily News. Yours truly even had a subscription and read the paper in black and white on actual newsprint delivered to his home, which is why the cartoon featured on this page was not saved from an image on a website but was scanned from a physical clipping (and then Photoshopped to remove its yellowed appearance).

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

A mystery about Inspector Lewis

At the top of my Netflix queue right now are the episodes of the ITV series Lewis, featuring an Oxfordshire detective inspector, Robbie Lewis (who originated as a detective sergeant in Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse novels and their subsequent TV series). I like British murder mysteries, both novels and TV programs/films and am enjoying Lewis. One thing in particular I like about Lewis is Laurence Fox, the actor who plays James Hathaway, Lewis’s detective sergeant—Fox is a nice tall drink of water, but he’s not what prompted me to blog about Lewis.

No, what made me decide to write about Lewis and specifically about a particular episode of Lewis is something that I noticed in a rather nerdy moment. The episode I just finished watching was “The Great and the Good,” and what’s nerdy is that I watched it on my computer and whenever an interesting note or letter or webpage or newspaper article appeared on screen, I paused the program so that I could have a closer look. This episode was full of such stuff—without giving away any spoilers to this episode I can tell you that among the items worth pausing for was a website, a newspaper article, and some handwritten letters sent by a murder victim, all related to various plot points. However, what really caught my eye and the mystery about Inspector Lewis that prompted me to blog was a typed letter that doesn’t seem related to the episode’s plot at all.

At one point in this episode (33:20 if you have the American PBS Mystery DVD of the episode), Inspector Lewis is in his office at the Oxfordshire Police Station sorting through his mail. Now you won’t be surprised that there’s no such thing as the Oxfordshire Police—in 1968 the Thames Valley Police was formed from local police agencies including the Oxfordshire Constabulary and the Oxford City Police. Inspector Lewis is a fictional character, and just as phone numbers in American TV shows and films start with the fictional exchange 555, it’s no surprise that Lewis’s police agency is fictional too. But it’s not the handwritten letter, integral to the episode’s plot and addressed to D.I. Robert Lewis, Oxfordshire Police Station, Isis Bank, Riverside, Oxford, OX1 6SJ, that is the mystery about Inspector Lewis.

No, the mystery that prompts me to write is what Inspector Lewis glances at just moments beforehand and tosses aside, a typed letter, the screenshot of which you can see to the right.
A letter, unrelated to the plot of
“The Great and the Good,” that is nonetheless a mystery (click to embiggen)
What makes this typed letter interesting, despite Lewis’s lack of interest in it, is that, unlike the fictional name and address of Lewis’s employer, this letter contains real life information.

This letter is addressed to a Mrs. Anthea Hill at Wethered House, 11, The Avenue, Clifton, Bristol, is dated 24th March 2004 (as opposed to 2007, the year in which this episode is set), and contains a job offer at the rate of £21,325 per annum for the position of E-grade Staff Nurse working for the Hospice at Home Team of St Peter’s Hospice, reporting to Community Team Leader Graham Stubbs, whose phone number is 0117-915-9241. Wethered House is a real place, the seat of the Bishop of Bristol. St Peter’s Hospice is a real institution, and Graham Stubbs really works there as Community Services Manager (and he’s hiring a Clinical Nurse Specialist now). Moreover, Anthea Hill is a real person who really does live at Wethered House—she’s the wife of the Bishop of Bristol (read about a car accident in 2006 in which she broke her neck).

So here’s the mystery about Inspector Lewis that I’d like to see solved. Why does he have a letter addressed to the Bishop of Bristol’s wife? Why would he be reading it three years after it was written? Why would the crew of the Lewis TV series include such a letter, that appears to be real or at least that contains names of real people, in their program? I tried googling “Anthea Hill” “Inspector Lewis” to no avail.

And thus the unsolved mystery about Inspector Lewis and my reason for writing this blog post. Perhaps Derek Roberts, the prop master for the “Great and the Good” episode, can answer these questions. By putting this post on my website, there’s a chance that someone else will google for this particular mystery or for one of the parties involved. If ever I learn the answer, I’ll let you know in an update here.

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