Friday, June 18, 2010

Chatting - About me

This article is a collection of things about me, for use as a conversation starter when talking to strangers.

Things I like:
  • Genealogy (family history research)
  • MUSIC: I am very selective, I like strong-yet-unique melodies, preferably songs that would be pop hits, if they had been marketed enough. For example: April Smith and the Great Picture Show, fol chen, Tegan And Sara, Las Ketchup, Peter Schilling, Nena, Anjulie, Amanda Jenssen, The Wailin' Jennys, Bitter:Sweet, Kristen Andreassen, Lenka, Melody Gardot, Metric, Panic Ensemble, Nobody Likes Kenny Some of the traditional commercial music that I like: David Bowie (Ziggy Stardust album), 10cc, Seals and Crofts, Gwen Stefani's Sweet Escape, Gorillaz's Clint Eastwood, The Waitresses, Lilly Allen, Donna Lewis,The Motels, Joe Walsh, Colin Hay, Ben Folds, Heart, Don McLean, Elvin Bishop, Bad Company, Foreigner, George Winston, P. D. Q. Bach, Helen Reddy, Styx, Pink Floyd, Sway by the Pussycat Dolls, The Moody Blues, Fleetwood Mac, Keith Green, Pomplamoose, Craig Nuttycombe, Jim Croce
  • MOVIES: How to Train Your Dragon, Mary and Max, The Princess Bride, Field of Dreams, The Fifth Element, Cold Comfort Farm, Shawshank Redemption, Waterworld, Emélie, Chocolat, Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind, Office Space, Real Genius, Big Man on Campus, The Royal Tenenbaums, 1944, Die Laughing, The Keep, UHF, The Man with One Red Shoe, Lies and Videotape, Lady Jane, Diva, Bull Durham, The Natural, The Sting, Con Air, Repo Man, Wallace and Gromit, Howl's Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Last Unicorn, The Full Monty, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Blues Brothers
  • TV: Modern Family, House, Glee, Community, Parks and Recreation, Coupling, Picking Daisies, Dollhouse, Men Of A Certain Age, Who Do You Think You Are?, Posh Nosh, Faces of America
  • Projects: I have a geneology website, and am currently building a different, massive-scale website.
When I was in sixth grade, I sat in the "green room" of the Tonight Show. I saw Mickey Rooney and sat next to Susan St. James.

My wife is a fan of Donny Osmond and the Korean "boy band" DBSK/TVXQ. She is working to finish college online. She wants to teach ESL in Korea.

When I was in high school, I was a yearbook photographer. We brewed beer in the darkroom, right next to the vice-principal's office.

I have loved twice and lost once.

My ex-girl friend is a lesbian.

I had head and neck cancer (squamous cell) 5 yrs ago.

My brother-in-law has built his own 747 flight simulator. He's flown around the world to help others build them, including the king of an Arab nation.

My family has volunteered at a tiger sanctuary.

Our family eats lutefisk for Christmas dinner.

When I was young, I could play tennis for hours.

I've slept in a Cheyenne Indian teepee.

I had a small part in a local performance of the play "Lil Abner".

What I've done:
  • cleaned a butcher shop after school
  • cleaned a body shop after school
  • owned a landscaping business
  • lumberjack (posts and poles)
  • computer store sales
  • custom software programmer
  • desktop publisher (subcontracted for one of Mel Gibson's businesses)
  • printer
  • semiconductor manufacturing
  • IT dept
  • facilities technician (eg air conditioning and building automation)

Places I've been:
  • most of the western US
  • Toronto
  • London
  • western and southern Germany, plus parts of Switzerland and Austria
I am married, and have a 20 yr old daughter, three cats and a dog (cockapoo).

About these photos: my dog Peanut playing with a squirrel; snow doesn't fall often in Texas - a snowman my daughter and I made, my wife and daughter walking in "the Woods"; a mourning dove nested in our porch light, had three babies; installing an Italian epitaxial reactor at a former workplace; jumping a pile of sawdust on a trail bike in the Big Horn mountains; Lil Abner play; some critters found at my work place.

Click on the globe to see who I've chatted with, so far.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

'Daddy Killed Mommy': the Joel Munt story

Sunday, March 28, 2010, a woman was driving with her childern in a park on the outskirts of Mankato, MN when she was hit by another vehicle and rammed against a tree. A man got out of the Suburban, pulled out a gun and shot her through the windshield seven times, including a fatal head shot. This is the story of the events that led up to this tragic event.

Disclaimer: This article assumes that Joel is guilty of the murder, and contains considerable conjecture. Some of the information presented may be inaccurate and will be corrected when, and if, a more correct version becomes known to me.

The woman was 32-year-old Russian immigrant Svetlana (Boudniaia and/or Vladimirovna) Munt, the man was her former husband Joel Marvin Munt. They had been divorced for some time and there was a bitter child custody battle. Joel was convinced that Svetlana was mentally unstable and felt powerless to stop the mental and physical abuse to which he was certain his children were subject.

His story is somewhat well documented on his website, which is still online.

Reports differ on which happened first: Joel's decision to divorce or Svetlana's flight with the children to a shelter and claims of abuse. Attempts by outsiders to determine the real nature of the situation hinge greatly on this question.

A news video provides a summary of the event and the situation.

Reading between the lines, here is some speculation about the event.

In April 2009, a Nicollet County judge found that Svetlana was the more mentally capable of the two and awarded her sole custody of the couple's three young children.

Joel was allowed one supervised visit per week with the children, ages 4, 5, and 7. This Sunday at about ten minutes to noon (two hours before his normal visitation time), he was driving in the Rasmussen Woods park near the battered woman's shelter in southwestern Mankato where he was permitted his weekly supervised visit.

His ex wife Svetlana was also driving in the park, with their three children. Joel rammed Svetlana's car pinning it against the woods, his Suburban SUV still in gear, tires smoking. Joel got out and walked around and shot Svetlana as described above. Three shots landed in Svetlana's chest. A man who was walking his dog approached was told to leave by Joel as he brandished his 45 pistol. This person left and called 911.

Moments later, a family in an SUV pulled up to offer help. The driver and his wife got out. When the woman went to check on Munt's children, who were outside the car at that point, Munt pointed his gun at the woman, who later told police she believed Munt was going to kill her in front of her family.

Munt ordered the couple to get their kids out of their SUV. They complied, and the mother told two of her older children to run to the woods and, "Don't look back." After getting the other kids out, Munt loaded his own kids into their SUV and left.

A nearby sheriff's deputy spotted Joel in the stolen vehicle and gave a short chase that ended in a driveway on a dead-end road. Joel made at least one cell phone call before stopping and giving up. He called Traci, his fiance of two years and told her that he loved her and that he was sorry. He said he had another call to make. (perhaps to his parents?)

Munt surrendered peacefully, telling a deputy, "Sorry for causing you this trouble."

One boy in the vehicle had a bloody face with glass embedded in it — Munt told a witness the child was cut when a car window exploded. A pistol and an empty magazine where found on the driver's side floor.

Munt told the officers who arrested him, while they searched for additional weapons, "If you people had done your job protecting my daughter from her mother, she wouldn't have to go through this." With the children crying in the background, Munt told them several times, "Everything is fine now. You will be safe."

Joel was booked into the Blue Earth County Jail and has been arraigned on several charges, including 2nd degree murder, but a grand jury may choose to up that to 1st degree. The children are in protective custody.

Joel Munt made his first court appearance March 30 on charges of second degree homicide. According to the criminal complaint, Munt is charged with six counts, including aggravated robbery and assault in the second degree.

Bail was set at $600,000, with conditions (be on GPS monitoring) and twice that without.although an attorney representing Munt indicated he probably could not afford to post bail.

Prosecutor Patrick McDermott also requested a domestic abuse no-contact order for the children. McDermott and Judge Kurt Johnson agreed Munt’s mother and fiancé were not included in that order.

April 12.

Distraught and depressed, Munt, made his second appearance in Blue Earth County District Court. The only official actions taken during Monday's hearing was Cutcher waiving a reading of the criminal complaint and one addition to Munt's release conditions.

That addition, approved by District Court Judge Norbert Smith, was that Munt be required to be on GPS monitoring if he is released from jail. Smith did not change Munt's bail, which was set at $ 600,000 when the charges were filed March 30.

Cutcher requested another hearing within 28 days, but he said he expected that request to be meaningless.

Pat McDermott, assistant Blue Earth County attorney, will convene a grand jury April 21 to decide whether Munt should be charged with first-degree murder. If Munt is indicted, a new criminal complaint will be filed and the process will start over, Cutcher said.

Munt will not attend the grand jury proceedings, which are secret.

McDermott will be presenting evidence and grand jurors can call their own witnesses. A defense attorney will not have a role in the process, which is expected to last three days.

At least five investigators are still gathering information and preparing evidence to be considered by the grand jury, McDermott said. Defense attorneys are trying to determine if there are grounds to claim Munt is either incompetent to stand trial or if he has an insanity defense. Munt is " very distraught" and " very depressed," but he has been communicating with his attorneys, Cutcher said.

"Up until this event, there had been no history of violence," Cutcher said while discussing a possible insanity defense. " That's one thing we're going to be looking at."

MANKATO — A grandmother whose daughter was shot to death in a Mankato park took her first step Monday toward getting custody of her grandchildren.

The children — 8-year-old Joan Munt, 6-year-old Marvin Munt and 4-year-old Mathew Munt — were placed in foster care after witnessing the March 28 murder of their mother, 32-year-old Svetlana Munt. Their father Joel Marvin Munt, 34, of Burnsville, is accused of shooting Svetlana to death after using his SUV to pin her car against a tree in the parking lot of Rasmussen Woods.

Using an interpreter to translate English into Russian, Liudmila Budnyaya listened while the status of her grandchildren was reviewed Monday by Judge Bradley Walker in Blue Earth County District Court. The children were moved to a new foster home July 1 and Walker said the county will be considering what school they will attend this fall.

On the other side of the courtroom, Joel Munt’s parents, Marvin and Joan Munt of Littlefork, were sitting directly behind their son. They have an attorney representing them in the child custody case, which was put in motion to determine whether Joel Munt’s parental rights should be terminated permanently.

Marvin and Joan Munt’s attorney, Molly French of International Falls, would only say they are requesting to be included in any filings in the case. French would not say if the Munts also plan to request custody of the children.

“It’s a pretty sensitive case,” French said.

Budnyaya and the Munts have been able to visit their grandchildren while they’ve been in foster care. Budnyaya said she visits the children twice a month, and that they’re doing fine considering the situation. Through an interpreter, she said she has moved from her home in Russia to Mankato and plans to request custody of the children.

Her plan would be to stay in the area with the children and her husband, who will be traveling back to Mankato in August.

“The children don’t speak Russian,” she said through her interpreter. “So it would be better for the children to stay here.”

Budnyaya made a request for a court-appointed attorney Monday. She also has sent a letter to President Obama requesting help with the case. She received notice from the White House that the letter was received about a week ago, but there hasn’t been a response.

Bundnyaya also said she does not want to see the children in the custody of Munt’s parents.

Ray Knaak, who attended the hearing with Budnyaya, attempted to translate his friend’s feelings about that possibility. After the hearing, Budnyaya was in tears as she explained that her grandchildren were the only thing she had left to remind her of her daughter’s short life.

“We hope, whatever they do, will be in the best interest of the children,” Knaak said. “What would be the sense of his parents having the children if the court ends his parental rights.”

Mark Lindahl, the assistant Blue Earth County attorney who filed the request to terminate Munt’s parental rights, said he didn’t object to having both grandparents being included as parties in the case.

The future of Munt’s parental rights won’t be decided until after he is tried for his wife’s murder and the kidnapping of his children. He’s also facing several other felonies for threatening onlookers and stealing an SUV from a good Samaritan who stopped to help. A trial date has not yet been set.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A heartwarming story played out in the pages of a hometown online forum.

A truck driver's pet dog is attacked by a pit bull at a truck stop on the road and flees and cannot be found. The owner looks for a week before having to return to driving trucks. For almost 3 months, the local townspeople try to find her. The owner flies back once to look again. Several possible sightings, but no one can get close enough, and the dog runs away from all people.

It starts with a classified ad

and then continues with a forum posting.

Among other things, this shows the potential (good and bad) of an online hometown forum.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I just found myself

It took 51 years, but I think I finally figured out who I am.

The first clue that I can remember, was the delight that I had at about 5 years old, in finding a pile of color prints, each one had an image of a domesticated chicken (probably the rooster, or maybe both sexes) with its name. I remember rifling through them with the greatest pleasure. The differences in plumage and shapes was so interesting, surely every possible variant was in my hands and everything one could know about the appearance of chickens was there if one wanted to know.

Over the years, my greatest pleasures have been my "projects". Somewhere I have a book full of notes, gleaned from encyclopedia articles about the members of the noble families of Europe. This was spawned after several years of reading material that referred to so-and-so, queen of one place was the cousin of the prince of such-and-such. Nowhere, however, could I find a very complete description of all these interrelationships, and I wondered what interesting connections/relationships one might see, if only they could see them. Like most of my projects, I lost interest when the scope became unmanageable.

My years have been a string of these projects. The rest of the world exists around me in a detached manner, I participate in it just enough to sustain me for my inner life.

The truth then is that I am an information organization addict. I thrive inside when I'm busy collecting and arranging information in a way that doesn't yet exist (AFAIK) to create something useful or at least interesting.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Recent music discoveries

Check out some of my recent favorite music discoveries with this player...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Red Meat - webcomic

This makes the second webcomic that I've read every single strip.

It *almost* seems that the artist is only recycling vintage cartoon images, which often do not change from frame to frame (only the dialog). The dialog is well thought out and usually pretty clever, if by "clever" you mean "slightly macabre". I'm particuarily fond of Earl the strange pyschopath who rides the bus a lot and rarely appears in public with clothes. This might be what King of the Hill would be like if Tim Burton wrote the dialog.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A daily dose of ... NOOB

Another recent discovery is NOOB, a collection of funny or interesting videos, several added each day. Checking out the latest has been added to my daily regime.

Questionable Content - webcomic

I recently became addicted to the webcomic "Questionable Content" ( a title that doesn't really describe the comic). I spent two days, non-stop, reading the entire archive. *

It gets better with time, in both in art and in humor. It's kind of a soap opera for male dorks (I guess, since I am one and I like it). The initial premise is a young male geek that befriends an interesting but troubled young coffee shop barrista. Everyone is into "indie" music, but if (like me) you don't care for indie music, you can ignore most of the references. What holds one's interest in this strip, is the interesting characters, presented in such a way that you develop a caring relationship with them and can't wait to see what will happen with them next.

Not as good as Doonebury, Bloom County, etc, but not far off from them either. A bit of a comic version of Friends or Coupling.

*There is a number gap about 2/3 of the way through the archives and a little manipulation of the URL is required to continue through the gap.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Playing with KNOL

Google's website is barely a month old. I discovered it about a week ago and have created five articles so far. Check them out and write a review! Please?

Music you haven't heard (but should)

Computer virus removal (Quick & dirty)

Learning Japanese (how to get started)

Posen (Province of Prussia)

Omelets, the easy way

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Feist: 1-2-3-4

If you haven't seen the video, here's a rare one that is actually as good as the song.

Wrong reaction to terrorism

We blew it.

I know this won't be popular, but it's what I know to be true. Our response to terrorism, should have been to suck it up and not step over the line and compromise what we have always claimed our values to be.

While I wouldn't advocate *no* reaction, we have wasted trillions of dollars on homeland security. If the US population had the guts to accept an occasional terror strike, we could take all the money that we've spent on homeland security and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and build the Palastinians their own country with income-producing industries. They could eventually grow rich and compete with Israel with wealth instead of bombs.

No longer can we be self-righteous about human rights, etc. We've proven in the last decade, that if we had a Hitler, we'd be Nazis. Politicians have no choice but to react to terror threats in the most extreme measures, to reassure the sheep that they are safe from the wolf. Even if those short term measures have no other possible outcome than to make the long-term situation worse.

UPDATE: Bill Moyer echos these thoughts (see video clip).

Saturday, July 5, 2008

New music discoveries (10cc and The Wailin' Jennys)

I've just discoverd 10cc.

I know they've come and gone, but I hadn't heard the non-hits. They're chock-full of what I like (unique, pleasing melodies). The remind me of Flash In The Pan and Sniff 'n the Tears, as well as Queen. It has been suggested that Bohemian Rhapsody was influenced by the 10cc song Une Nuit A Paris, even though they came out about the same time. One of my favorites is "I Wanna Rule the World".

I found the The Wailin' Jennys on a recent Prairie Home Companion. In fact the songs they did on the show were some of their best (for me) work. I prefer their a cappella work is best. Their version of "The Parting Glass" is what I want played at my funeral, "Paint a Picture" is my favorite, and the "Summertime" cover plus "Bring Me a Lil' Water, Sylvy" have all made my playlists.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A great mp3 tag editor (Kid3)

Finally, I've found one that has the features/interface that is useful to me.

I don't really need lookups, I prefer to research the music myself for the non-critical tags. And I don't want to sort out all the compilation album data. I want to tag the file with the info from the first album it appeared on.

But that's what what's wrong with some other taggers. (Actually, Kid3 has some lookup features, but I think they are best used if you can put all the mp3 from a certain album in their own directory. I need to quick edit the Song and Artist tags for a bunch that are in the same directory as other files that don't need editing.

Kid3 allows you to scroll down a list of all mp3s in a directory, and when you spot one that's missing some desired tag info, you can stop and extract it from the filename, or from the other tag set. It displays both ID3v1.1 and ID3v2.3.0 (or ID3v2.4.0 if you config it to do so) tags for each file, allowing you to push the data from one tag to the other. This *should* avoid the problems of some tags not showing up in some players.

You can also select a group of files and set all their Artist tags to the same spelling, for example.

The editor is free and lots of other features, but these are the ones that I need. The only way it could be significantly better, is if it would just present files that are missing v2 tags, v3 tags, both, and those whose tags don't match the filenameing template. That would save *so* much time.