Saturday, July 30, 2011

Thank you for the baby nose, mothershucker!

So ... Food Network geniuses decided one of the competitors for the Next, Etc. Star was being too juvenile and/or too risque in promoting balls (e.g. meatballs) as his food truck theme.  And yet the geniuses over at sister network Cooking Channel are yucking it up over the advertisement recorded by Mo Rocca for his show Food(ography).  You know, the vignette where some dude tells Mo he can shuck 12 dozen oysters (okay, maybe I've got the number wrong) in 45 seconds and Mo, seemingly impressed beyond all reason, expostulates, "mother shucker!"

Hey, I love "Bitchin' Kitchen" but there is a reason it is broadcast at 10 PM.  In the meantime, Mo's ad is shown all hours of the day and night. Go figure.

BANNED IN BRITAIN:  Julia Roberts' airbrushed picture advertising L'Oreal cosmetics.  "Too perfect," says the British Advertising Standards Agency.  Damn straight. 

THANK YOU FOR THE BABY NOSE:  I had a cute little nose for about four minutes during the waning moments of the Truman Administration.  Immediately thereafter, my nose bloomed into it's present incarnation.  In other words, I have a stereotypical Jewish nose.  Turns out I was absolutely sane to decide against radical rhinoplasty, at least those are the findings from a Belgian study which asserts that people who get nose jobs may be mentally ill.  The Five Towns was a veritable hot bed of holiday surgical alterations.  All us little Jewish American Princesses, yearning to look like the WASP shiksas at the Lawrence Country Club.  How exactly does Barbra Streisand turn into Doris Day?  I don't even want to think about it.  Perfection is highly overrated.

I have come to realize that within the context of my family, I was as close to nasal perfection as anyone could get.  I may have a Jewish nose, but it is not a caricature of a Jewish nose, like my brother, or his equally large-honkered wife.  My father used to say he would take my brother's nose full of nickles for his next week's allowance.  (My father also used to say my tuchis could be used as a table for 6 pinochle players plus two kibbitzers.  I told you I didn't have an easy childhood.)  I had not, fortunately, inherited the nose from the Albert side of my family, and thus escaped the fate of my Uncles Irving (Red) and Max.  As best I can tell, I got either the Nathan nose or the Sarif nose (even noses keep secrets in my family).  I can live with that.  Heck, I have lived with that.  I wouldn't be me without the nose, and now as I approach my twilight years, I am damn glad I never even thought about tinkering with it.

As promised, a progress picture on my pi shawl.  I am thinking of naming it "Pine Island", but we'll see how that works out.  Right now, there isn't all that much of the pine tree pattern in there, not that you can see it anyway because of the colors.  But all will be revealed in the truth of time ...

At the top of the news - it's all about the budget.  Quite a lot of drama in Washington, and I don't pretend to understand financial matters.  I do know that spending more than you have is a bad idea, and that while it is okay to have a few credit cards and debts such as a mortgage on your home, you must be able to pay those bills when they come through.  I'm not sure why we are borrowing money from China, or why we give away money to countries like Brazil to do offshore drilling so we can buy oil from them.  I am a simple soul, and none of that makes sense to me.  John Stossel, who must have a portrait in a closet somewhere because I think I've been watching him for 40 years and he never gets any older, has put together a list of suggested cuts to the budget designed not only to balance that sucker, but to render us a surplus.  Read it and make up your own minds.  Mine is reeling.

One thing I would like to do, which is not mentioned on Stossel's Chainsaw Massacre List, is gut Congressional expenses.

The current salary (2011) for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year.  And then for the Big Bosses:

Senate Leadership
Majority Party Leader - $193,400
Minority Party Leader - $193,400

House Leadership
Speakier of the House - $223,500
Majority Leader - $193,400
Minority Leader - $193,400

A cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase takes effect annually unless Congress votes to not accept it.

Apparently there has been no raise in Congressional salaries since 2009, which is a damn fine thing.  Now, let's do some cutting, as was done to the salaries of Florida state employees, who haven't received a raise in over seven years, and then saw salaries virtually cut another 3 percent to pay for benefits.  Let's start cutting some of the benefits and retirement expectations of members of Congress.  Health insurance, what can I say?  I am sure that somewhere on the Internet, someone a lot smarter than me has worked up those numbers.  I'm betting we can save a boatload of money by simply treating members of Congress as (badly as) other public employees have been treated.  Either that or allow us to vote on whether or not we want to accept an annual COLA.  A fair exchange is no robbery.  Let's do it!

AND LEST WE FORGET, THIS IS STILL A BLOG ABOUT FOOD ... Rob and I have some shopping to do, both at Publix and BJ's warehouse.  I'll be seeking inspiration in those two meccas, although both of my refrigerators are well-stocked with cooked foods.   Which I may tuck into the freezer to clear the way for brand new cooking frenzies.  One thing I know I want is chicken, and I have been leaning heavily towards chicken paprikas.  And then, because it has been so brutally hot the last few days, even for Florida, a nice cool salad.  Maybe a chopped salad.

This was not High Noon ... this was at 5:30 pm as I was leaving the office.  It was so hot that my interior rear view mirror fell from it's glued-on perch.

Definitely, a salad.

I am disappointed, but understanding, that the Yarn Harlot has not been blogging during Sock Summit 2011, which is held in Portland, Oregon.  And I am trying not to take this personally, but they could not have chosen a spot further from my home unless they left the continental United States.  Something else to put on my bucket list ...

Friday, July 29, 2011

I don't know why I swallowed a pi ... perhaps I'll die

I've been off my feed lately.  No cooking to speak of, and no inspiration to spark my activity.  Instead, I've been knitting a pi shawl, and while my family can't eat that kind of pi, they are hardly going to starve.  In this household, leftovers are not just an occasional treat, they are a cottage industry.

The last few days have been rough.  Yesterday we saw the never-ending docket, pretrials and judicial reviews and shelter reviews and new shelters and independent living reviews all on the same day.  A brilliant act of scheduling that will live in infamy.  I got my 15 minutes seconds of fame, and thank goodness that is over.  I noticed that I no longer cringe when listening to my own recorded voice.  Twenty years in Florida has taken the edge off of my Brooklyn-Jewish-Five Towns accent.  My speech is regularly peppered with "y'all" and my seventh grade Spanish, drilled into my head 45 years ago by the slightly scary Senora Lydia de Stier.  Senora Stier, wherever you are, you would be proud of me, as I am sometimes able to actually think in Spanish, and my pronunciation is not too shabby.  The advantage to speaking Florida Southern Spanglish is that I no longer sound like the punchline of a joke or Fran Drescher.

Despite the fact that yesterday's docket was conceived in the depths of Hell, while today's was a lot lighter, I would do yesterday all over again.  This morning's Court was like watching the Titanic crash into that iceberg.  Without getting into detail, someone - actually several someones - has stepped on my last good nerve.  I'm generally quite mellow in court, so on those rare occasions when steam begins to rise from my head, it is not a good sign.  That's not a hot flash, folks - this little old lady is very ticked off at you.  You treated me like dreck, so don't expect me to turn the other cheek yet one more time.  No one likes being blindsided, ambushed, or steam-rollered, and you managed all three in an incredibly short period of time.  You are on my List.  You know which one.

Can you believe I still love my job?  Because I do, truly.  There is still "nowhere else on earth that I would rather be", unless it is a cruise ship to Alaska.

One example of a pi shawl

The pi shawl is a circular lace shawl, knit according to the mathematical epiphany of the late, great Elizabeth Zimmermann.  I hate math, which is one of the reasons why I am a lawyer instead of a doctor - one of many reasons, ha ha - but even I can remember that the circumference of a circle is equal to diameter times the value of pi.   I don't like to think of math and knitting in the same sentence, much less the same project, but this works without too much pain.  And there is a lot of pain associated with mathematics, especially calculus.  Fortunately, there is no understanding of calculus needed to knit.  Or I'm screwed.  My pi shawl is a work in progress, pictures to follow.  The Antimony shawl is safely tucked away in the spare room, along with Julia's shawl, a pattern by Alison Jeppson Hyde of Wrapped in Comfort fame, which was completed and set aside for blocking an embarrassingly long time ago.  Blocking a knit garment sucks, and I usually avoid it, but one cannot ignore the inevitable when it comes to a circular lace shawl.  Block I must.

Congratulations to Master Fidel Casco on the presentation of his newest black belt, reflecting his achieving seventh degree rank.  You may remember we watched Master Casco test for seventh while we were in Little Rock last month.  Awesome!

Seventh Degree Master with his Fourth Degree Padewon Sidekick

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I enjoyed a whirlwind tour of Atlanta this weekend.  While Robert competed at the Cobb Galleria, I made it to the Farmer's Market on E. Ponce de Leon in Decatur.  It had been recommended to me a number of times by friends, former Atlantians, who know well my love of cooking.

It was . . . a religious experience.  Oh my God, I have never been to a place like that.  Think Whole Foods on steroids with good prices.  There were items I was able to buy to bring home, but a whole lot of stuff I simply could not, due to perishability.  Even with the cooler, and access to a refrigerator in our little suite, the trip home from Atlanta would have been too long, too hot, and too perilous for the quail, the blue crabs, and the goat.  But with what I did manage to bring home, I have planned on kasha cholent with those big, gorgeous lima beans, and chicken paprikas because I found, for the first time since Paprikas Weiss closed it's doors, real Hungarian sweet paprika.  Lemon poppy pound cake ... Swedish meatballs with lingonberries ... devilled eggs made with a spicy mayonnaise rich in Tabasco sauce and pepper pulp.

On our way up, we stopped at Adcock Pecans.  There is a pecan-crusted catfish dinner in somebody's future, and a small box of GooGoo Clusters in the candy locker.  On the way home, we stopped, as always, at Lane Orchards for Elberta peaches, preserves, dips, and sauces.  Finally, we stopped at Ellis Pecan Farm and found pecans used in every imaginable way.  The samples alone were worth the stop.

And, I have finally finished the Antimony Shawl.  It just needs to be blocked, and that's  a whole other project, but the knitting is done, and I am quite proud of the final result.  The yarn, which is Paton's "Lace", worked up to a soft, warm, and truly lovely shawl.  Started another circular shawl ... yes, I'm bad.  Still have socks to finish knitting, and other items in various stages of completion.  But when a process knitters gets a bug, the only thing to do is swat it.

In the news - the Norwegian attacks.  The US debt ceiling battles. Murdoch is going down.  Amy Winehouse is gone.  Football is back.  Basketball is up in the air.  There's more, and some of it has to do with Casey Anthony, but I'm going to skip that except to say that the air has been cleaner since she hightailed it out of Florida.

Oh, and while I was wandering starry eyed around the Farmer's Market?  My husband was kickin' butt at Cobb Galleria.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Just Do It

There is something I have been thinking about doing for seven years.  Every year I think about it, and then I reject the idea.  But I've been doing a little checking and some thinking, and well, it's on my bucket list so why don't I just do it?

Maybe I will.

The news is all over the place, and there doesn't seem to be one single article that captures my attention.  I guess I could pick on Casey Anthony, but really, she's old news.  At least until the civil suits start.  Everybody is suing everybody else, which should be a lot of fun to watch. 

Candidates for the 2012 Presidential election are coming out of the woodwork.  I doubt I will be voting this time, first time I will have missed voting for President since 1972.  I voted for Nixon.  Let's not even talk about that. 

I have always voted in the past, not wanting to waste my precious vote by failing to exercise that very important right.  The problem is, each year I ended up feeling like a fool, because no matter which candidate or party I supported, it was a waste.  We haven't had a real choice since ... well, 1972.  Ha, just kidding.  But the last time I felt good about voting for President was the vote I cast for Bill Clinton.  I would vote for him again today if the Constitutional Amendments permitted it, but since that's not going to happen, and Hillary has said she will not run, we're done.

I felt that way when the gubernatorial election took place here in Florida.  And so I stayed home from the polls.  I suppose Alex Sink would have been better than Governor Voldemort, but that's not saying much.  I have no regrets about staying home with my vote clutched tightly to my chest.  I just don't have the heart to throw it away on a loser, and both major parties have done nothing but produce losers for candidates for the past 12 or more years.

<li> STS-107 -- Columbia mission No. 28 (113th shuttle program mission overall)
<li> Jan. 16-Feb 1, 2003 
<li> Landing site: Planned: Kennedy Space Center
<li> Crew:  Rick D. Husband (2), Commander; William C. McCool (1), Pilot; Michael P. Anderson (2), Payload Commander; Kalpana Chawla (2), Mission Specialist; David M. Brown (1), Mission Specialist; Laurel B. Clark (1), Mission Specialist; Ilan Ramon (1), (ISA) Payload Specialist 
<li> Of interest: The 16-day flight was a dedicated science and research mission. Working 24 hours a day, in two alternating shifts, the crew successfully conducted approximately 80 experiments. The STS-107 mission ended abruptly on Feb. 1, 2003 when Space Shuttle Columbia and her crew perished during entry, 16 minutes before scheduled landing. Ramon was the 1st Israeli to fly in space.
<li> <a target="new" href="">More info from NASA</a>

Early this morning, the Space Shuttle Atlantis landed at Kennedy Space Center for the last time.  I know because it's wheels hit the roof of my house twice.  You call it sonic boom, I call it wheels.  I will miss levitating from my bed when the shuttles land and break the sound barrier.  Like the airplanes over my house when I lived near Kennedy Airport, I have come to treasure the sound of the shuttles arriving safely home.  I hope we do not come to regret closing down our manned space program, but I fear we will, and not too far down the road.  (Those are the last mission patches for Columbia and Challenger.)

I have posted a recipe for Little Calzones on the "All About Food" blog.  I hope you check it out and try it sometime this weekend.  Tomorrow afternoon, Rob and I are cutting out and heading up to Atlanta for a taekwando tournament, and I won't have internet access until I return home on Sunday.  Any barbecue joint jaunts will be duly recorded and shared with you.  And that's a promise.
<li> 51-L -- Challenger mission No. 10 (25th shuttle program mission overall)
<li> January 28, 1986
<li> Crew: Francis R. Scobee (2), Commander; Michael J. Smith (1), Pilot; Judith A. Resnik (2), Mission Specialist 1; Ellison S. Onizuka (2), Mission Specialist 2; Ronald E. McNair (2), Mission Specialist 3; Gregory B. Jarvis (1), Payload Specialist 1;
Sharon Christa McAuliffe (1), Payload Specialist 2 (TISP) 
<li> Of interest: Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff, killing all seven crew aboard. The cause of explosion was determined to be an O-ring failure in right solid rocket booster. The shuttle fleet was grounded after the incident. The next launch didn't occur for more than 2 1/2 years after the explosion. McAuliffe was chosen as the first representative in the Teacher in Space Program.
<li> <a target="new" href="">More info from NASA</a>

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Yiddish is one of the most expressive languages in the world.  I could discuss the relative merits of Ladino, Yevanic, Zarphatic, and Bukhori, but here in the United States, when one thinks of Jews, one thinks of Yiddish.  I grew up in a home where the adults switched over to Yiddish when they wished to speak about something, "but not in front of the kids."  So of course I silently listened and learned and tried to pick up as many Yiddish words and phrases as I could.  Like most Jewish adults of my generation, I can cuss in Yiddish.  Yiddish is the language of Jewish comedians from the vaudeville era until modern times (watch a Mel Brooks movie if you don't believe me) which makes it the perfect language for insults and complaints.  A single word, spoken in Yiddish, can convey an entire sentence, which is a good thing since I am unable to speak in sentences when I am cussing complaining in Yiddish.  If you've ever called someone a yutz, or complained about shlepping your files to the courthouse, you are speaking Yiddish.  Cool, huh?  When I write the word "feh!", as I have at different times on this blog, I am speaking the language of my ancestors.

ORLANDO, Fla.  — With the exception of a few moments when she walked out of jail early Sunday, Casey Anthony has not appeared in public as a free woman. Her whereabouts is a mystery.

Defense lawyer Jose Baez wanted to use Anthony's parents, George and Cindy Anthony
, as a decoy during her release, their lawyer, Mark Lippman, told a television station.

Now THAT'S chutzpah.  And there are a lot of things I could say about Jose Baez, but let me sum it up in one perfect Yiddish word:  schmuck.

I almost wish I was a personal injury or civil suit lawyer, because now is the time I could cash in on this whole Casey Anthony mishegas.  Everybody is suing everybody else, and they are all suing Casey. 

Yesterday I unexpectedly discovered that fresh blue crabs are a gift from God.  Our legal intern, Dustin, is a whiz at catching shrimp and other denizens of the deep, but this was the first time I learned he was an accomplished crabber.  When I got into the office and stopped to chat, Dustin advised me he had caught the crabs and brought them in for whoever would like them.

I am all about Alaskan king crab and snow crab, but blue crab - not so much.  The only type that has been available in the markets is a refrigerated, pasteurized product that is merely okay.  Because crab spoils so very rapidly, this is the very best way to sell it.  It is not, however, the very best way to eat it.  Fried soft shelled crabs is a great way to eat them, but I digress.  Besides, this wasn't soft shell season.

Dustin had frozen the whole, uncooked crabs, bagged them and placed them in the freezer at the office.  Come the end of the day, I snag one of the bags and head out to Publix to get the rest of the ingredients for a small, intimate crab boil.  A dozen littleneck clams, half a pound of fresh mussels, andouille sausage, corn on the cob, and red potatoes.  I constructed a Monolith de Mer with the help of Old Bay seasoning and garlic and all I can tell you is it was AWESOME.  The blue crab is actually pretty easy to open with your hands (it somes with a pull tab to start the process) and the meat is deliciously sweet.  One of the best things I've ever eaten.  Thank you, Dustin.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Vengeance is Mine"

Today, even atheists are believing in a Higher Power.

For anyone who has watched the Greek tragedy we call "the case against Casey", there is nothing left to believe in but the wrath of the Almighty.  I call the Almighty "God", but your mileage may vary.  Because this is neither the Wild West nor the Roman Colisseum,  we live by the rule of law, and even when the Law seems to fail us, it is not our place to show our displeasure by breaking some of it's most fundamental rules.  We are not, for the most part, vigilantes.  We are not part of a mindless, murdering mob, nor terrorists, nor stone-cold killers.

Today, in the wee hours of the morning, Casey Anthony was released from jail to go free in a world that does not welcome her or even want her.  Aside from the threats against her, there is no place she can go to call her home.  Despite the uncomfortable interviews of her parent's attorney, Mark Lippman - and how that poor man squirmed! - Casey cannot go home to her family.  She burned that bridge in the most public way possible.  She accused her father of the most heinous crimes imaginable, and willfully exposed her entire family to searing public scrutiny, to save her own scrawny neck.  Her mother may forgive her, because that is what mothers do, but as long as Cindy and George Anthony remain together, their only daughter cannot come to live with them.

There are no loyal friends who will take her in.  There are no employers to give her a job; even Hugh Hefner said she won't get a topless photo shoot in Playboy because "we don't reward that kind of behavior."  She walked out of jail with just over $500 in her pocket, hardly enough to support her for more than a week or two.  She cannot go into a restaurant or even buy a cheap hamburger at McDonald's without some kind of public outrage being thrown at her.  And even assuming that the majority of this country's population are good people at heart who would not actually raise a hand to this woman, despite the consuming anger, grief, and disappointment, there are any number of severely disturbed individuals, the Jared Loughners of this world, who have no such self-control, and whose internal demons may demand the most terrible action.

There is no one to give her shelter except her own defense team, the hired guns.  I do not think she would ever be welcome in the home of Jose' Baez, unless his wife has rocks where her brains ought to be.  Cheney Mason, that old fool with the bird-flipping middle finger, might allow her to stay with him and his wife, as he has publicly announced that he thinks of her as a granddaughter.  My advice in that situation is "Cavaet Emptor", and lock up your checks and credit cards, Cheney.  She stole from her best friend, from her mother, and from her grandpa ... don't think you are immune from her larceny.

I would hate to think that there are people out there who are seriously impressed by the courtroom theatrics of Jose' Baez.  Before you run out to hire him, remember that he has no compunctions about ignoring court orders, about making promises he can't keep, and about throwing your loved ones under the bus.  He was neither brilliant nor effective in the courtroom, and the end did not justify the means.  As an attorney for close to 20 years, I can tell you that I cringed at his performance, as did so many others. 

The members of the jury, fools that they were, have spoken, and a baby-killer has walked free.  But this isn't the Bella Vita you envisioned, is it, Casey?

For nearly three years, she fantasised about a life beyond prison bars, dreaming about taking long road trips in a camper van, going shopping and renting movies.

''When are we going to sit on the beach, drinking cocktails and planning our future business?'' the accused child killer Casey Anthony wrote to a fellow inmate at Orange County Jail in Orlando. She expressed a longing to go for manicures, get her hair done and ''be a part of society''.

Never, baby, never.

Casey Anthony Released From Jail

Happy Sunday, everyone.  I did not have any shelter hearings this morning, which was good for me and good for the children of Orange and Osceola Counties.  I like to think it indicative of the children having a good weekend, unmarred by any abuse or neglect.

I have started preparations for the mousstitsio, which I will record in faithful detail and share with you on my recipe blog.  I can assure you the final result is derived from three separate recipes for two different dishes and is delightfully fussy to make.  Your friends and family will love it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Recently I drifted back into playing FarmVille, after a hiatus of almost two years. I probably would not have done so, but for the availability of an app for the iPad. My farm, which apparently remained in cyber-limbo, looked so charming and colorful that I could not resist planting a few crops and petting the kitties - all 47 of them.  I also could not help but notice that my avatar needed some serious updating.

Gone is the Big Red Hair and the purple overalls ...

Meet the new, older but wiser weekend farmer.  No more Sarah Palin upsweep,  no more chemical assault to achieve a haircolor I wasn't even born with.  She really does look like me, except none of the available avatars had a bustline to speak of. 

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go harvest some eggplants.  Or at the very least, head on down to my local supermarket.  I've got pastitsio on the brain, and for some reason I visualize a layer of eggplant added to the already sturdy structure. 

This brings up the unfortunate image of Jeff Goldblum in "The Fly", except in my movie version, someone places a dish of pastitsio and a dish of moussaka into the transport chamber, and the result is a huge casserole of "Mousstitsio",  a glorious concoction representing everything good about Greek cuisine.  The celebrity chefs from every network all come together to praise the Mousstitsio.  World Peace is achieved as everyone, everywhere, chows down.  I am awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, an audience with the Pope, lunch with the President and Mrs. Obama, where I recreate my masterpiece using handpicked eggplants from the White House garden, and the challenge of a throwdown with Bobby Flay.  Everyone is ecstatic, except possibly Jeff Goldblum's hapless character, who is still storing extra parts in his medicine cabinet.  Ick.

For those of you who were concerned, or outraged, or even amused by my "Hazard Pay" post, please be assured that all is well.  I spoke with the detective at Kissimmee Police Department, and reported the incident.  We don't know if the state attorney will choose to prosecute, but that is entirely at his or her discretion.  I was really more interested in making a proper record of the incident, "just in case."  I also finished gathering information and documentation regarding the identity theft, and provided that to my other detective at KPD, who kindly offered to transfer it over to Polk County, where the majority of the theft took place, and where there is some hope of identifying the person responsible.  And I have been assured that my new office will be on the fourth or fifth floor at the new location, and any windows I might have will be inaccessible except by a high-power rifle-wielding sniper.  Since the only other building in Kissimmee high enough to shoot from would be the courthouse, and to enter it one must pass by a metal detector and four suspicious deputies, I think it will all be okay.

This is my on-call duty weekend, and by 10:00 this morning I had already been to the juvenile courthouse, finished my hearing, and returned home.  Getting up at 6:30 on a Saturday is hard on this old body, so I think I'll take a nap.  A nap before frying.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Hazard Pay

I wonder if I'm eligible for hazard pay.

In the 19 years I have worked in the child welfare legal system, I've met a whole bunch of interesting people.  Some of those people have what we social work types euphemistically refer to as "issues."  Often those issues interfere with the individual's ability to care for their children in a prudent, socially acceptable manner.  So with the power vested in us by the State of Florida pursuant to Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes, we remove the children from their custody.  Sometimes the removal is temporary and sometimes it is permanent.  Nobody is ever happy about this, but the majority of parents do their best to try to correct the issues so their children can come home. 

Then there are those who - how shall I put this delicately? - react badly.  Very badly.  During my first tour of duty with The Agency Formerly Known as HRS, my office windows were shot out - twice.  Even earlier, my supervising attorney and I had to be escorted by court deputies through some secret back exit of the courthouse because a disgruntled parent rose up like Charleton Heston in the "Ten Commandments", waving her arms in a manner that can only be called imperious, and declaring my supervisor to be a blasphemer.  It was unusual, to say the least.

Today was one of those days when I wonder if I shouldn't have looked just a little bit harder for a job with an insurance defense firm.  Having finished a contentious trial very late in the day, and the Court having granted our petition, I left the courtroom expeditiously to avoid contact with the parents because they have made it very clear that they don't like me.  As I headed out to my car, I realized they must have hurried to catch up with me.  And if I had any doubts about their intentions, a rather kind driver pulled up to warn me that someone was following me.  Sure enough, one of the disgruntled parents was hot on my trail.

Now that's all I'm going to say about that, except to assure my fellow travelers at The Agency Formerly Known as HRS that I did not raise my voice, much less my hands.  Tomorrow I will make proper reports to the proper authorities. 

Governor Voldemort has gleefully gouged big chunks out of the paychecks and benefits of state employees just like me, claiming it is the right thing to do to balance the budget.  So I guess I should forget about that hazard pay.  And thank you very much, but I'll pass on that office with a window.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Better Living Through Chemistry

Monday -
I am so tired I could scream ... if screaming was my style, which it is not.  I had a massive burst of energy during the day which allowed me to charge through a bunch of stuff and still able to make it to court where I functioned in a reasonably coherent, professional manner.  Earlier in the day I was feeling positively chipper, so much so that I felt like I was in a State of Yo.  Mellow and motivated.  Everything was so green.  Life was beautiful.  Even the orchestra was beautiful.

Came home and crashed, and in retrospect I must admit that the burst of Yo was the result of my daily dose of Cymbalta, chased with a side of Inderal and two large cups of black coffee.  Late last night I realized I had not taken my daily dose for at least two days, and I was starting to feel the effects of what was essentially withdrawal, and it did not feel good.  So I took my meds like a good little girl this morning, and all was well with the world.

I am the last person in the world to abuse drugs, including legally prescribed medication.  I don't like taking medication anymore than I like horse racing, and I have whittled down the list to the absolute bare minimum.  In 1998, when the medical community finally realized what I needed was an antidepressant, I was given Effexor.  After a few weeks, I started to feel human again.  Drugs had given me my life back, which was pretty ironic since drugs also altered my life in the most terrible way possible.  I lost my mother to drugs, specifically to alcohol and heroin.  She was 29 and I was just short of my eighth birthday.  I lost my father to drugs, as he could not deal with what was happening to my mother and took off.  Even before her death, I had lost my mother because she had become one with the drug culture of that time and place, and from the time I was four and my brother not quite three years old, we went to live with our maternal grandmother and grandfather.  And we all know how that turned out.

Before the Dark Times ...

Effexor was a wonder drug.  Up until that point, there was no real medical treatment for depression and anxiety.  There were some pretty heavy duty psychotropic medications out there, but those were for the seriously mentally ill, people who rarely touched base in the real world.  The side effects were hellacious.  For us neurotic types, there were tranquilizers like Valium and Librium.  Neither was effective at addressing long term depression, and both were addictive.  But the new wave of antidepressants and antianxiety drugs like Effexor and Prozac and Buspar recognized what I had learned through long years of talk therapy - there had to be a genetic, biochemical component to what I continued to experience.  The ideal combination of treatment involves talk therapy and the right medication.  For starters, Effexor was the right medication. 

The problem with medication is that there are bound to be side effects.  Sometimes these do not became apparent until several years have passed.  Eventually I came off the Effexor and moved on to other kinder, gentler medications.  Anyway, because I've been off Effexor for such a long time, I'd forgotten one of it's most annoying side effects:  brain shivers.  Yeah, they are as freaky as they sound.  If I was to miss a dose, I would shortly thereafter start to experience physical withdrawal, the most obvious symptom being the feeling my brain and my head were in constant motion, but at two entirely different rates.  At some point I thought I must be having petechial hemorrhaging in my eyes from the violent shivers.  One does not experience that type of withdrawal from Cymbalta.  One also does not gain 80 pounds while leaking memory out one's left ear.  I told you those side effects can be rough.

But, if one fails to take Cymbalta over a period of several days, one will start to feel a bit dysphoric, and the brain, while not in full metal shiver mode, will engage in small shudders.  Withdrawal at a much slower, milder level, but withdrawal nonetheless.

All I can say is, crap, I did it again.  Feeling much better now, though.

The single most painful experience in my life was chicken pox.  So I have never been comfortable in facing the fact that I might someday experience shingles.  I fear shingles almost as much as I fear Alzheimer's.  So it was with some concern that I read an article in the Times (the New York Times - is there any other?) regarding pervasive shortages of the vaccine Zostavax, which has been approved for old aging mature folks like me, who have been carrying around that chicken pox virus, like an unwanted boarder, for fifty years. Not that I would ever take the damn vaccine - I don't take flu shots either - but it bothers me to be reminded that having to take drugs is for all of us, at any age, the terrible norm.  I don't have to like it, and I don't have to play nice with it, but there it is.  Better living through chemistry.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Share This Blog!

Due to the Casey-fication of the media, it seems I missed the running of the bulls at Pamplona.  I have yet to understand why people would deliberately put themselves in harm's way by running alongside a herd of pissed-off bovines with long sharp horns.  There are better ways to party, people!

I am at an almost complete loss as what to do with that bone-in pork loin.  Something amorphous is swirling about in my head, but I haven't imbibed enough caffeine to clear the cobwebs.  Chorizo keeps intruding into my thoughts, along with an old recipe I've always favored, from Betty Crocker's Good and Easy Cookbook.  Don't scoff, faceless reader.  I have garnered some pretty terrific recipes from that imaginary lady-of-the-kitchen.

Speaking of caffeine - after a lifetime of drinking too much coffee, I stand before you, vindicated.  One of my greatest fears is Alzheimer's disease, and research is now showing that there is a mystery ingredient in coffee that, along with caffeine, boosts protection against that mind-robbing disease.  Better than Aricept.  I've been drinking coffee since I was four years old, and I've never resorted to drinking that decaffeinated drek that taste like brewed used cat litter.  Feh.

Got the cooking straight in my head:  stuffing-topped pork chops with chorizo and pepper jack cheese; chicken with peaches; and my version of kraut sveckle, which includes green onions, and a cole slaw blend of cabbage, red cabbage, and carrots in place of the all-cabbage version.  Please do not tell any of my relatives about this; tampering with family recipes is tantamount to heresy.  I am also using up the sweet Italian sausages leftover from the soup I prepared yesterday, but that's not a recipe, that's what my mother used to call a cockapitsie.  I couldn't begin to translate it, as I have no idea what language she was speaking.  But this cockapitsie is basically the sausage with peppers, onions, black olives, marinated mushrooms, some seasoning, a little EVOO, a jar of Barilla's Calabrese sauce, a little red wine, all topped with a dollop of ricotta leftover from last week's seafood manicotti cooking frenzy.

Let's see, more noodling around de interwebz, which reminds me I still have to cook the noodles for the heretical kraut sveckle - the headline in the Wall Street Journal reads "The Story of Dick Cheney's Heart" - which got me to thinking, does he actually have one?  Then there was another article discussing the upcoming November vote in which San Franciscans will decide whether or not to outlaw circumcision.  The idea that civil law could delegitimize the most fundamental of all Jewish practices is disturbing.  I have seen very few peppies in my life, but in my opinion, the uncircumcised ones look ... well, weird. 

Still just peeking ...

The report from the kitchen:  the stuffing-topped pork chops are in the oven for their last half hour.  The chicken and peaches is done and I will be posting all about that over at the recipe blog.  The water is boiling to cook the noodles for the kraut sveckle.  And the cockapitsie sausage with peppers is also done, sorry, no recipe.  One of these days I will prepare and post a proper recipe for my sausage and peppers, which I make two totally different ways, depending on my mood and what else I happen to be serving.

Chicken and Peaches, my way

Incidentally, I do appreciate all of the regular readers I have here, and I hope that number continues to grow.  If you wouldn't mind, you can spread the word by hitting the "share" button on your Facebook page, or through whatever social network you like.  Please don't forget that the recipes are on a separate blog, so if you don't check over here (and that same link is permanently located in the upper left hand corner of this blog) you will only have yourself to blame for missing some pretty good recipes, like today's chicken and peaches.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

"Our long national soap opera is over"

There are other headlines now creeping quietly to the top of my home page.  Thankfully, it is no longer all about Casey Anthony; unfortunately, much of it is tragic.

Betty Ford passed away on Friday at the age of 93.  Rest in peace, dear lady.

Space Shuttle Atlantis lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on Friday, the last flight of the 30 year shuttle program.  We need our space exploration program for so many reasons.  In my view, the end of manned flights is a terrible, short-sighted mistake.

The drought in East Africa is only getting worse.  10 million people are at risk as a result.  The pictures of the affected children are devastating. They are dying from dehydration and malnutrition.  People who were caught up in Caylee's story should now turn their love of children to Africa.  Please click on this link for one story.

To say humanitarian efforts are needed is a gross understatement, but there is a very peculiar barrier to rendering this aid:

"Al-Shabab, which controls most of Somalia’s territory and is listed by the United States as a terrorist organization, has until now barred outside humanitarian aid groups from areas it dominates."  Read the entire article.

I don't have a good answer for this, except to feel sick to my stomach.  I am not surprised that terrorist organizations and corrupt governments put their own wealth and welfare above that of their most vulnerable citizens.  Heck, we do that right here in the good old USA.  But children are dying ... 

I think I am depressing myself with the news.  Let me move on to food for a little while, as that always cheers me up.  Rob and I made a quick trip to Publix late this afternoon, and found a few good ingredients for the cooking frenzy.  It will probably be a small frenzy, as I made the Italian Sausage and Vegetable Soup tonight, and posted the recipe.  There are still plans for chicken with peaches, something with pork chops (haven't decided on the exact recipe yet), and kraut sveckle, a Hungarian cabbage and noodle dish.

I still haven't finished Antimony.  My knitting time seemed to evaporate upon our return home.  Either I am too tired, or too busy at the office to take a real lunch break, or too involved playing Angry Birds.  No, I meant Scrabble.  Heh heh.  But I'm getting there.  Which has not stopped me from peeking over at the Ravelry site for more shawl patterns.

Just peeking, you understand.

One small step back into Casey-Land ... there has been a tidal wave of public opinion regarding the state-by-state creation of "Caylee's Law", which would make it a criminal offense to fail to report a missing child or an accidental death within certain prescribed periods of time. Knee jerk reaction, perhaps, but I am still in favor of it.  Look, if all parents were loving and caring, we wouldn't need it.  We also wouldn't need Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes, or it's counterpart in every one of our states.  But the fact is, there are an awful lot of awful parents in this world, and if the rest of us don't do what we can to protect children, who will?  A society is known by how it cares for it's most vulnerable citizens, and the fact that so many of us were riveted by the short, tragic life of Caylee Marie Anthony gives me hope that other children may not have to suffer her fate.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gil Grissom doesn't work here anymore

Is it my imagination or did gas prices go up fifteen cents overnight?

Is this economic cluster f**k never going to end? I see a message in my email from my supervising attorney advising all of us that effective July 1, 2011, the Minnesota ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) office is closed due to that state's budget crisis. And that is just part of one state agency . . . for all intents and purposes, the entire state of Minnesota is shut down. If this was a business, it would have shuttered it's windows, locked the doors, and put up "Closed" signs.

Oh, Casey, if you decide to birth more babies, I suggest you do it outside of the state of Florida. I can only imagine that delivery room nurses and hospital social workers will have DCF's abuse hotline on speed dial ...

Am I the only one who has noticed that Casey has always been perfectly coiffed, made up, and dressed throughout this ordeal? When she deigned to shed a few well-planned tears, she was very careful to pat under her eyes so as not to smear her mascara and perfectly applied eyeliner. She constantly pats her hair so no stray strands mar her appearance. And even when standing to hear the verdict, she straightened her blouse so that she looked perfect for the cameras. Every time she has sat down or stood up throughout this trial, she has engaged in what Trekkies will recognize as "the Picard Maneuver". Oh yes, this is a woman who has been grieving for her dead child. And I'm the Queen of Romania.

Ah well, that's all I have to say about that. By now the entire English speaking world knows that Casey is waltzing out of jail on July 13, 2011  July 17, 2011. Stay tuned.

The day after the verdict, one of the HLN hosts had as it's guest Kathy Reichs.  I seem to remember that she had been approached by the defense early on, but did not actually consult on the case.  Or did she?  Lost among the detritus of Jose Bozo's numerous discovery violations, it is unclear to me who he spoke to and to what extent.

For those of you who are not hopelessly addicted to mysteries, thrillers, and police procedurals, Kathy Reich is the author of a series of books featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, as well as executive producer of the TV series "Bones."  She is by profession a forensic anthropologist, and her books, which I started reading many years before the show hit the airwaves, provided a considerable education to this former biology major.  Even as entertainment, her books are not for the undereducated.  The same can be said for the books written by Patricia Cornwell and Jefferson Bass.  To appreciate these books at all levels, one needs to take the time to carefully read the forensic material being presented.  I had never given it a thought before, but surely there are many people who are disinterested or bored or simply unable to understand the scientific stuff, so they skim it to get to what they consider the good parts, whether it is character development and relationships, courtroom drama, or the police procedurals. 

And I am guessing that these are the same people who might watch any of the number of television dramas such as CSI or NCIS, and simply zone out during the autopsy scenes, or treat big chunks of the dialogue as so much technobabble.  And you know what - that's okay.  For the sake of personal entertainment, people should get whatever it is they want from any show, and if your focus has always been the relationship between Gil Grissom and Sara Sidle, then put your feet up and enjoy.  I admit I wept a few happy tears when Gil tracked Sara down in the jungles of Costa Rica and took her into his arms.

But despite the circus atmosphere which pervaded the case, this was not entertainment.  It might have been, in the words of Steve Buscemi's mad scientist character from "Armageddon", a "goddam Greek tragedy", but it wasn't entertainment.  A responsible jury would not simply pick and choose what evidence to pay attention to, while seemingly ignoring big chunks of information.  A responsible jury would also not overlook almost an hour of jury instructions, patiently read to them by the Judge.
Dr. G  kathy_lab  
 Dr. Jan Garavaglia, Dr. Kathy Reichs, Dr. Gil Grissom

Back to Kathy Reichs - one of the things she discussed was that some of the state's forensic evidence was derived from very new types of procedures and therefore not as reliable as some of the other evidence.  This fascinated me, and if I was on the jury, I would have wanted the nitty gritty details as to why some experts felt the method of obtaining the evidence was or was not scientifically reliable.  That would have certainly required that I reexamine certain physical evidence and testimony.  That would have taken time, and thought, and consideration.  I would have wanted to know more about why the Chief Medical Examiner was able to classify the death as a homicide, even though she could not determine a cause of death (incidentally, I do know the answer to this, as I have had to depose Dr. G in the past, and she was extremely patient and gracious in answering my questions.  However, to the best of my knowledge, none of those jurors has been in my position, and therefore it would have behooved them to take a moment to review her testimony.)  I would have wanted to pore over those jury instructions until I knew them like I know the words to the Pledge of Allegiance, and if I had any questions about the meaning of any words or phrases, I would want to discuss it with my co-jurors and if necessary, ask for clarification from the bench.  And all of this would have taken time. 

Having invested six weeks of my time sequestered in an anonymous hotel, spending all my daytime hours listening to soporific testimony from lay persons and experts from all over the country, I would not short change the court by hurrying the deliberation process.  I would not suffer a sudden attack of Adult Deficit Disorder, and lose interest because CSI didn't present it to me in a neat little package.  (Maybe if Dr. G's television show was on network TV instead of Discovery Channel, these jurors might have caught a few episodes; especially if it was sandwiched between "Two and a Half Men" and "Survivor".  I bet that would have impressed them enough to vote her way.)  

I would not base the verdict on any unreasonable expectations I might have acquired from watching too many episodes of CSI, CSI: Miami, and CSI: New York.  (Which I suppose could have rendered me the perfect victim of  the"CSI Effect" - something that Kathy Reichs said she would be lecturing about to a roomful of lawyers at the upcoming ABA convention.)  I guess this problem is becoming endemic.  Certainly the Casey Anthony jury was not immune.

And even if I did none of the above, I would do my damndest to get straight in my head the meaning of the phrase "REASONABLE DOUBT" and how it applied to the facts of my case.

Hmmm ... since the CDC is now warning people to be prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse, I wonder if they would be willing to recommend all future jurors be innoculated against the CSI Effect?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. - George Santayana

More than thirty-five years since President Richard Nixon brought our troops home from Vietnam, and our government still hasn't learned.  In an attempt to show our pride and support for American troops, we have forgotten that we never wanted them in harm's way in the first place.

I wonder if the only reason why the government keeps getting away with it, without the huge protests and demonstrations of my youth, is because there is no draft.  If everybody's children were subject to conscription, would we scream a little louder?

Because I know a few people are curious, my reaction to the verdict in the Casey Anthony case:

O.J. Simpson
Michael Jackson
Robert Blake
Casey Anthony?  Yes, Casey Anthony.

This country, especially here in Central Florida, is suffering from a single massive stomach ache, caused by the verdict in the Casey Anthony. On my Facebook page, so many of my friends have posted the same thing: "I am sick to my stomach over this!"

I am not sick to my stomach. I lost faith in the jury system when O.J. was acquitted, and in the intervening 20 years I have seen nothing to change my bitter, cynical attitude.

Commentators are screaming on TV. The Anthonys have been receiving death threats. And Casey should be a free woman by Thursday. As Nancy Grace said after hearing the verdict, "the Devil is dancing tonight."

We will never know exactly why the jury found her not guilty on all charges related to the baby's death. No one could have done more than the prosecution did to present every bit of evidence, with testimony from well-qualified experts to back it up. But juries, as a group, are not comprised of rocket scientists, and I suspect, based on the speed with which they reached a decision, and the reports of minimal note taking, they were incapable of understanding the tough stuff, so they ignored it. I hope they are happy with themselves as they watch Casey reap the rewards of celebrity, unencumbered by the young child who sleeps with the angels.

Today, one juror finally came out of hiding, and stated that the jurors cried, and were sick to their stomachs over the verdict. The juror stated "I didn't say she was innocent." No kidding.

I don't believe in death threats or any form of mob justice. Those people who indulge in such behavior are doing it for themselves, not for Caylee or for her memory. My wish for Casey is that she never have another happy day, and that her life become one long litany of civil lawsuits, IRS liens, and a social cold shoulder that will leave her friendless, without a loving husband or another child. She should always have to be on the move, rootless, without family to love her or support her.

Casey Marie Anthony, a spoiled sociopath, is the symbol of everything that is wrong with this country. She is, and should forever be a pariah. Outcast. We have no place in our society for mothers who murder their children. And since this jury was too chicken to do their civic duty and at least pay attention to the evidence before rendering a verdict that will live in infamy, she gets to walk. Just keep walking, Casey, and don't look back.

And the last day of the road blog-a-logue:

June 28, 2011

My name is Cindy and I'm a food blogger . . .

Yeah, right. I haven't cooked a thing in ten days. Let me tell you, ten days is too long to be away from my son, my pets, and my stove. I've got a LOT of making up to do. On the positive side, we did a lot of eating, and I have pictures of everything.

We are now on the last leg of our journey. I am not speaking to Mandy at this point. Yesterday we needed a detour after being routed off I-65 by the police because of a fatal accident further down the road. She got us to the hotel by way of the Ninth Circle of Hell, which I now know runs through northern Alabama. I will never ride on US-278 again. Especially at night, in the pitch black dark.
The very best part of northern Alabama

The Casey Anthony trial drags on . . . her attorneys filed some creative motions during the past few days, on of which resulted in her submitting to three competency evaluations in less than two days. One of the psychologists doing the eval was my favorite forensic psychologist in the world. He has helped me so much, both as a defense and a state's attorney, and I trust his opinions and him completely. Anyway, the trial shall go on . . . and on.

The food at Big Bob Gibson's.  Awesome.

We hit the Peach Farm in a big way, on our way home. I did the smart thing, and bought a beautiful peach bread, which I will slice and present on a tray to my coworkers tomorrow, along with an amaretto peach preserve, also purchased, and some butter. You may not remember my two week crusade to make the perfect peach bread, but I finally threw up my hands. Some things are simply not meant to be.

I realized that as much as I enjoy tradition, there were certain things we did not do this trip. Not one visit to the Starbucks on Financial Centre Parkway. As Rob pointed out, no stops at the Barnes and Noble. I did not browse in the Clinton Library Store. We did not walk into the H.U. Lee Memorial Garden. This is magnificent, totally authentic Korean garden with gates identical to those we saw in Korea. No lunch at The Varsity in Atlanta. No dinner at Kobe's or Benihana's. Places we always go. Either our vistas are expanding, or I'm getting too old to gallivant around Little Rock.

I did not finish Antimony. That was my knitting goal for this trip, and I was completely disciplined about trying to accomplish it. I did not get off track even once, despite the siren song of new yarn I purchased at Hobby Lobby. Still, I am very pleased with both the project and the progress and I intend to finish it as soon as I can, forsaking all other projects until the final cast-off.
Now and then ...

My son has informed me we are coming home to a clean house. Life is good.

And you will be happy to know - at least I hope you will - that I have a headful of ideas. A whole bunch of recipes with which to tinker and tweak.

Check out today's recipe for Spinach - Shrimp Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing on the recipe blog by clicking on this link.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fanfare for the Common Man

Happy Independence Day, America.  And congratulations to all the new citizens of this wonderful country.  Much nicer having your naturalization ceremony held at Sea World instead of inside some stuffy courtroom.

Speaking of stuffy courtrooms ... well, the jury is still out.  And probably will be at least another few days.  I did really enjoy Judge Perry's jury instructions, including that point when he warned the jury against communicating with the outside through Twitter or Facebook or other social network media.  Who could have imagined that would ever become necessary?  As a lawyer who does not do adult criminal law, I learned quite a lot from watching this trial.  Yes, I am trying to make excuses for my obsession.

Well, let's talk about that for just a moment.  Why are so many of us obsessed with this trial?  How is it that I am watching Nancy Grace every night, when I have openly mocked her in the past?  Why are all of you doing the same thing?

  1. There's nothing else to watch on TV except reruns of "Ghosthunters".
  2. Forget Casey Anthony.  That Jose' Baez is HOT!
  3. Casey Anthony trial?  I thought this was an episode of CSI ... 

But seriously - and this is a serious matter, dead serious - I am blown away by the fact that this accused murderer is less than a year older than my own child.  I am horrified that this has happened practically in my back yard, in Orlando, "The City Beautiful."  I am amazed that this family never came to the attention of DCF (but believe, as ASA Linda Drane Burdick remarked, that Caylee was healthy, well-fed, and well-cared for because she was living with her grandparents.)  I am personally, morally challenged by the idea that if convicted, this mother could be put to death.  I am regretting never having pursued a career with the State Attorney's Office.  And, having never done a jury trial in my almost 20 year career, I treated it as the ultimate post-J.D. law school experience. 

In a few days, it will be all over.  And there will be another victim, another cause, another symbol of human depravity.  Speaking of depravity, did you all know that Michele Bachmann's husband runs a clinic that utilizes therapy that seeks to convert gays into straights?  Faster than you can spell "political liability", huh?  I didn't think there was anyone around stupid enough to claim that homosexuality could be "cured", and this dimbulb, wannabe "First Husband" is running a damn clinic.  Not only do a lot of politicians suffer from low grade antisocial personality disorder, their spouses are not too firmly anchored either.

My spouse, on the other hand, is very well-anchored ...

While watching the rebuttal closing and listening to the "Verdict Watch", I have worked my way through the recipes for Seafood Manicotti and Smoked Salmon Alfredo Sauce.  They are fussy and time-consuming and worth every second.  Really delicious.  A terrific casserole dish for a big crowd, and a nice alternative for those who don't always like red sauce or sausage in their manicotti.  Me, I like both, but I'm an omnivore.

June 26, 2011

"Let the whacking begin!"

Seriously, that is what the dude announced over the loud speaker when the combat weapons competition began. And whack they did - those guys were vicious. Worse than when they spar, and that's pretty vicious, let me tell you. The crowd was wild . . . I finally plugged in my iPod and tuned it all out. There is something funny about watching two middle aged guys whacking at each other with big blue bats, all to the beat of Lady GaGa singing "Bad Romance."

"Let the whacking begin!"

I have never been a fan of crowds, and while I am a lot better than I used to be, I am officially on my last good nerve. While watching the Inauguration last evening, there were moments that I felt the overwhelming need to practice a ridge hand strike . . . on the bitch lady sitting in back of me. I controlled myself, but the mood carried over to today, which has resulted in some really critical people watching.

A few complaints - there are some high ranking ATA members who have no excuse to have to wear a uniform that was made by Omar the Tentmaker. Try to set a better example, people. If you have been doing taekwando as long as your rank indicates, you should be taking the lessons of Songahm to heart. Dignity, control, respect . . . lose the fifty pounds.  Seriously.

Women who dress inappropriately - well, what can I say that I haven't said before? Kids who run wild while their parents sit in a nearby stupor. Yes sir or ma'am, get that child another high sugar drink. Swell idea.

I think I will not be finishing Antimony before the end of this trip, although I have been making my very best effort. I do love the feel of the mohair blend, and I haven't tired of the pattern. Starting tomorrow morning, we will be back in the car for long hours, which should translate to primo knitting time. If I don't fall asleep on the way to Big Bob Gibson's for his special white barbecue sauce.

Most importantly, today is my little girl's fourteenth birthday. My precious Teena, all seven-something pounds of her. Cory tells me she has picked out a spot in his room and when he wakes up, she is sleeping there. My sweet puppy never likes to sleep alone. Well, who can blame her?

A young Cory with a very young Teena and an even younger Ira

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Finally, you cry

The closing arguments are ongoing in the case of the State of Florida v. Casey Marie Anthony.  I have only watched a few minutes of Jeff Ashton's masterful recounting of the evidence, split-screen with a shot of the defendant.  Of course, everyone is waiting to hear what Jose Baez has to say, especially as Judge Perry has ruled that he may not discuss those sexual abuse allegations against Lee and George.

While waiting for the recess to end, I was reading on my Facebook page and learned with the greatest sadness that one of my coworkers lost her husband in a terrible accident yesterday.  He was only 30 years old.  The phrase "I am sorry for your loss" says nothing and everything.  My personal pain at the thought of a young adult - practically a child by my time line - having to deal with death and widowhood is profound.  At the same time, it is not my place to express that and add to her pain.  And thus that shopworn phrase.  As a mother, as a human being, it hurts to watch others in the worst pain imaginable.  It is also a selfish indulgence to express that to the bereaved.  My sadness is nothing; her sadness is everything.  May a gracious God watch over her and give her the strength she will need.

I was planning on watching Attorney Baez do his closing, but after he fumphfed a few dozen times, I gave up and came back to the computer.  Yes, he did try to pull another fast one, using a photo of his client at the age of 15 as part of a chart entitled "Casey's Imaginary Friends" but the state and Judge Perry shut him down before the jury ever got to see it.  It was, I think, the final example of a certain disingenuousness from this attorney that has pervaded the proceedings.  For when Judge Perry asked when the photo had been taken, and then how old Ms. Anthony had been in 2001, Jose Baez pled ignorance.  In addition to an almost complete absence of knowledge of the law and court procedure, Mr. Baez is apparently unable to perform simple arithmetic computations.  Jose, you disingenuous dork, ASA Linda Burdick was absolutely correct when she said your client was 15 years old in that picture.  Like you didn't know.

During the state's closing argument, Casey cried.  And cried.  And cried.  But not so much that she messed up her mascara.  She has been very careful throughout the trial, during those few times she shed tears, to pat her eyes so as not to smear her mascara, and today was no different.

LATER:  Cheney Mason's part of the closing argument sounded like a generic speech he wrote during his first few years out of law school.  The old country lawyer invoking the Constitution.  Sound and fury, signifying nothing.  State's rebuttal tomorrow.

I still have a family to feed, and managed to fit a trip to Publix in among the legal proceedings.  There are plans afoot for cooking, and I finally settled on a spinach-shrimp salad with hot bacon dressing, seafood manicotti with a smoked salmon alfredo sauce, and an Italian sausage and vegetable soup.  Once I got there, I also found a really nice piece of chuck pot roast, and although the rest of the cooking will be done tomorrow, I threw together a few things and came out with a pretty simple but really tasty dish.  Yeah, I do share recipes.  Check the sister blog for the details.

One more thing about the court proceedings - Judge Perry had another opportunity to admonish the attorneys in this case; this time it had to do with ASA Jeff Ashton having a hard time keeping a straight face while Jose Baez wailed the blues.  Dear God in Heaven, I thought Jose was going to start to cry as his voice shook and quavered through his closing remarks.  That rated as one of the worst closing arguments I've ever seen.  His Trial Practice professor should be chastised for failing to explain to Jose that there is a big difference between expressing righteous indignation and lapsing into uncontrolled hysteria during a closing.  I realize that Judge Perry is determined to maintain the decorum of a courtroom, but smiling or smirking behind my hands would have been my least reaction, assuming I was the state attorney, if I'd been forced to listen to Baez's drivel.  When he called Ashton "that laughing man" and everybody objected, it was the best comic relief since Ashton's pig in blanket quip a few weeks back.

More road-blog-a-logue - from mostly sunny Little Rock:

June 24, 2011
We are at the Statehouse Convention Center to watch Master Casco test for 7th degree black belt. Rob's brother Charles arrived here last night, and both he and Rob will be testing for top ten in their respective groups later this afternoon. Walking around the convention center, I spied one of the screens broadcasting the daily events at the precise moment it flashed the date.

Friday, June 24.

Never mind the year. June 24 is always an important day for me, because it is my father's yahrzeit - the memorial day of his death. When June 24 falls on a Friday, it is particularly poignant for me, as he died on a Friday, just as the setting sun signaled the beginning of Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath.

My Pop, sometime between 1973 and 1978

Twenty eight years and I still miss him.  I wish I could talk to him one more time.  I have so many questions, and I want so much to tell him about his grandson.  It would be a long conversation.

It is freezing here in the convention center. While it is true that I am making good progress on the Antimony shawl, there is no way I am going to get it done in time to stay warm today.

Master Fidel Casco preparing to test for seventh degree

What an exciting day! Rob won third place, and Charles won second place in their respective rings for sparring. We had barbecue at Whole Hog for dinner. And the New York State Senate has just passed a law legalizing same sex marriage.

My brother in law Charles takes second place

Rob takes third place - don't mess with this group of guys, they've got mad skills!

Don't forget to stop by the recipe blog for the Italian pot roast recipe.  Hey, it was cheaper than the brisket!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Liars figure, but figures don't lie

In my opinion -

Yeah, George Anthony did have an affair with that floozy.  Which means he lied on the stand.  Which doesn't mean he lied about anything else.  By the way, am I the only one who noticed that the $4000 that River Cruz (what a name!) aka Krystal Holloway got for her interview with the National Inquirer is the same amount of money she claims she gave George?

And yeah, Cindy Anthony lied about making those internet searches and about the ladder being left up on the pool.  Big deal.  Any mother would lie to keep her child from facing the death penalty.  Even for a child who was an ungrateful psychopath like Casey.  Of course, with the State calling her former employers as rebuttal witnesses today, and the mood Judge Perry is in, she may just be facing some major perjury charges.  Maybe Cindy and Casey can share a cell in the Orange County Jail, before Casey is shipped off to Lowell Women's Correctional.

Lee Anthony is a pathetic whiner who was pathologically jealous of the attention his sister and niece were getting from his parents.  Grow up, Lee.  Could he have tried to get frisky with his own sister?  I guess we'll never know since everyone forgot to ask him while he was under oath.

Juries are very strange animals.  Don't be so sure you know what their verdict will be.  And remember, guilty people get away with murder all the time, while innocent people serve unwarranted prison terms. 

If there was an Olympics category for lying, Team Anthony would win it, no question about it.  Watching them in action brings to mind my mother railing against lies and liars.  It was a good lesson to teach us, a lesson all parents should teach their children.  "Liars are the worst," she would remind us.  In my house, that fell into the "do as I say, not as I do" category of childhood lessons, because, well ... my mother was a liar.  An accomplished liar, I might add.  She just could not tolerate anyone lying TO HER.  Certainly she did not present that as part of her lesson, and she worked long and hard to protect and perpetuate her lies.  Lying is wrong, lying is damaging, lying can be evil.  Being forced to lie is toxic to the soul, painful to the psyche.  This I know from personal experience.  But I feel compelled to mention that I have never murdered anyone as a result of the deficits in my upbringing.

Friday evening I swooped into Publix yet again to garner the ingredients for a chicken wing recipe that had caught my eye.  It was so ridiculously easy it couldn't work, right?  And with Coca Cola as a main ingredient, it had to be awful, right?  All reviewers except for one gave it high marks.  That one said it was the worst thing she had ever tasted and she wouldn't feed it to her dog.  Well, with a single dissenting post like that, I had to try it, didn't I?

These are not like any chicken wing you have ever eaten in your favorite sports bar.  They are neither grilled nor deep-fried.  You wouldn't top a waffle with them.  You would sit all alone in the middle of the night when the rest of your family was sleeping upstairs and scarf down a whole pound by yourself.  Of course I'll post the ingredients and directions on the recipe blog.

I have been back in the office for three days and I'm ready for another vacation.  Since I can't do that, I'll relive my last trip instead:


June 22 and June 23, 2011
The day did not go the way I had planned. Got as far as breakfast and then crashed back to bed for another few hours. The sky was threatening more rain, and we decided to get on the road to Little Rock without the anticipated side trip to Beale Street. And that was more than okay with me, as I was over Tennessee. Not sure why . . . Glad to be back in Arkansas. Back at last year's hotel. And it was Pizza Night!


LATER: the worst time we ever had during a Little Rock trip was in 2006. The reasons for this were actually external, non repeatable, and irrelevant to this story. Still, I remember it well. This is our fourth trip since then, with last year being the best of all years. I remember that very well, and have tried to repeat the things that I thought made it so excellent, but it's not exactly working, so while this is nowhere as traumatic as 2006, it will never be another 2010. I wonder if it is time for me to rethink the whole turn-the-ATA-competition-into-a family-vacation routine that we have followed the past seven years.

Maybe it's the weather, which has been overcast and rainy most days. Maybe it is the fact that Rob and I are both missing Cory on this trip. Maybe it was the disappointing lunch at Central BBQ, or the fact that I am still fighting the same UTI I have been dealing with since the cruise. Besides the obvious discomfort, it is leaving me more tired than usual. Perhaps it is the fact that the Marriott hotels we have stopped at - all of them repeat stops - seem tired themselves, and not quite as spiffy as in years past. With the exception of our trip to Panama City Beach, I have booked Marriott exclusively, and now I am wondering if I should not broaden my horizons. Funky smell emanating from, of all things, the air conditioner unit in Memphis. A nasty bug in Little Rock, and this really bothers me as this is a relatively new hotel, and the difference between this year and last year is noticeable. A little rundown, a little shabby. In both Memphis and Little Rock, the free in room wifi is notional - sometimes it's there, and sometimes it is not. Neither Kodak nor Atlanta had in room wifi, and while there was supposed to be wifi in at least one of the lobbies, I could never gain access. All of the free breakfasts have been cut back to something barely utilitarian. Maybe it is the fact that Hobby Lobby has cut back it's yarn department to a mere shadow of it's former glory. Every year I check with the hope it is in a period of regrowth, and every year all I see is the Incredible Shrinking Yarn Department. Are we back to the days when I am the only person knitting within a 20 mile radius? I admit it was worse in Korea - no yarn, no needles, and no chocolate - but I am part of an online knitting community which makes it seem as though there are millions of us, so where is everybody? Has the Yarn Harlot lived in vain? And I suppose it doesn't help my mood that this is the first year I will be unable to go to Knitch in Atlanta, because the store is gone. Oh, I can order online, but nothing beats perusing yarn, petting yarn, drinking in the colors of the yarn, treating oneself to a set of smooth, warm, ridiculously expensive rosewood needles, chatting with the yarn-crazy staff, and admiring their handiwork in the form of gorgeously draped sample shawls, scarves, and sweaters.

Maybe I am just getting old.

Lunch at On the Border

There are good things happening, such as our lovely afternoon with Vickie, Brieanna, and Brandon. The dinner at the Chop House in Kodak and the lunch at On the Border were quite nice. And there are some really good restaurants here in Little Rock, at least they were really good last year. The event itself is entirely enjoyable from the Top Ten to the Opening Ceremony at Verizon Arena, to the regular tournament on Sunday. This year is special, as our Chief Instructor, Master Fidel Casco, is testing for his 7th Degree Black Belt. We were here in 2005 when he became a Master instead of a Mister. That was a terrific ceremony. This year the Opening Ceremony is being done on Saturday rather than Friday night, and it is being called the Inauguration of Songahm's 3rd Grand Master. Should be magnificent.

With all that said, the World Championships ain't what they used to be. Most noticeably missing are our friends, Betty and Frank Curatolo, and Elaine Jandersit. Part of the enjoyment of this event was meeting up with them here, cheering at their rings and having them cheer at Rob's and Cory's, sneering them for our last night dinner at Benihana's, and all the while, much laughter. This is the second year they were unable to attend due to medical restrictions, and I miss them keenly.

The economy has cast a pall over everything, and I think that is to blame for a great number of the things I have crabbed about. The number of vendors at these events gets smaller every year. The little niceties we took for granted at the hotels have been cut back. The staff, while not rude or unhelpful, are not as cheerful as they used to be and who can blame them?

Enter the Purple Cow.

The Purple Cow's version of Cobb Salad

Rob and I had driven to downtown L.R., to the Statehouse Convention Center so he could take care of registration matters. On the way back, we decided on the important stuff - lunch and dinner. Corky's for dinner, and for lunch ... a restaurant that has been right there in our neighborhood, in our faces, since the first year we came here. The Purple Cow is directly across from the IHOP, the Starbucks, and the Kobe's that we frequent, and we still don't know why we ignored it. But we won't be ignoring it in the future.

Rob signs up for Top 10 Competition at the Statehouse Convention Center

UPDATE: never made it to Corky's. Too much food leftover, plus it was Sliders Night at the hotel.


What happened today at the Casey Anthony trial is why I have little faith in the jury system. Grandmother Cindy Anthony must have suddenly realized she might be directly responsible for sending her daughter to the lethal injection table, so she did what any mother would do - she got up on the stand again, this time as a witness for the defense, and lied. The big question is, does her lie create sufficient reasonable doubt to derail the jury from a conviction? I'm not talking death penalty here - I have never expected any jury to give Casey the death penalty - but could she walk out of the courtroom a free woman? All it takes is one juror to fail to recognize what Cindy Anthony's testimony was all about. I will stick with bench trials, thank you very much. But if Casey Anthony walks without so much as an aggravated child abuse conviction, Nancy Grace's head is going to explode.