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.

Friday, July 1, 2011

My Heart is Full

June 30/July 1, 2011
I am so thrilled for my friend, co-counsel, and former student, Tony. His adoption of a young man presently in foster care is moving forward nicely. This weekend, the child will be moving into the home that Tony shares with his partner of many years. That this is able to happen in Florida, a state previously not known for treating it's gay citizens fairly, is breathtaking. Take THAT Anita Bryant!

I am also proud of my home state of New York, passing the law to legalize same-sex marriage, and I am deeply gratified by the positive reactions openly expressed by so many straights. With all it's problems and natural disasters, this is still a better world than the one in which I grew up. Every year, every generation, we get a little closer to Gene Roddenberry's vision of a world without racism or prejudice. Although I think the Great Bird of the Universe was beyond prophetic in his understanding that of all the evils, sexism would be the last to go. You Trekkies who remember the very last episode of the original series to be broadcast understand where I'm going with this ... I just hope we get to see a female President sooner than the Star Trek universe appointed the first female Starship Captain. Yeah, I'm still ticked off about Hillary. She would have been an awesome POTUS.

Let's talk about religion.

I guess the greatest bit of generation-shock to me comes from my observation that religion seems to matter very little between married couples. Although we baby boomers supposedly changed the world with our outspoken liberalism, that spirit did not seem to extend to my group of close friends. Almost all of us married "in." We all raised our children with some version of our birth religions. I wouldn't have even dated "out" of my religion; I was terrified of my parent's reaction, and besides, what did I have in common with a boy who had been raised in a different religion, and therefore a different ethnic and cultural environment?  And yet, the kids today have no such emotional constraints. All in one generation. While it feels weird to me, there are many people who would consider it progress. Oh, brave new world ...  incidentally, it has occurred to me that we need Aggressive Atheists just as we need the ACLU.  You may get annoyed at some of their tactics, but we need them to keep us honest.  Really. 

And the defense rests ...

Casey Anthony gestures to someone in the courtroom during a recess in her murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla. on Thursday.

I'm not sure what was bigger news in the Casey Anthony case - that the defense rested without putting the defendant on the stand, or that Judge Perry sentenced a 28 year old court spectator to 6 days in the Orange County Jail for flipping the bird at prosecutor Jeff Ashton in open court.

Matthew Bartlett is taken away by sheriff deputies on a contempt charge for his "obscene gesture toward assistant state attorney Jeff Ashton during the Casey Anthony trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla. on Thursday.

Since I would no more disrespect the court than I would have dated a non-Jewish boy back in the day, my vote goes to my very own Chief Judge, Belvin Perry.

Back to Tennessee by way of the Road Blog-a-logue ...

June 20, 2011
Eastern Tennessee is different from other parts of the country in which I have spent time. Despite attractions like Dollywood, the area has a depressed feeling. Some of this is no doubt attributable to the recent floods and tornados which created so much physical, financial, and emotional damage, but I can also see that there is a chronicity to the economic downturn which has this area in it's grip. The outlying areas, with their views of the mountains, is undeniably lovely. But we are spending a little time waiting in a place called Morristown, which despite having a mall and all sorts of government buildings, has a tired look to it that can't be explained away by the overcast skies.


But it is in this little town that we had the high spot of our trip so far, and that was our visit with very dear friends who moved here from Florida several years ago. Our history with Vickie and Chris and their grandkids is so very special and there is a lot I can't talk about because it involved the courts . . . anyway, we met them at the Little Dutch Restaurant for a long lunch, and caught up on everything and everybody, and Rob took pictures, and Vickie and I leaked tears and there was a lot of hugging. My heart is full.

More about the food - lunch at the Little Dutch was good, not great, but I have to say that the staff there was so very pleasant and I really enjoyed the soup and salad bar, so if you ever pass through Morristown you should stop there for lunch. Dinner was at the Chop House, right across from our hotel in Kodak, and it was delicious. I had lamb chops! Me lurves lamb chops, and the Parmesan creamed spinach, and the Cosmopolitan. Rob had a rib eye steak and sweet potato fries which I don't get but he loves.  


And then we caught up on the Casey Anthony trial. Holy cannoli, but my chief judge was madder than a wet hen. And then there was the defense witness, a certain Doctor Spitz, the best expert your money can buy. For $5,000 a day you can get him to accuse the Orange County Medical Examiner's Office, which is headed up by Dr. Jan Garavaglia, aka Dr. G, of staging the photos they took during the autopsy of Caylee Marie. "Old Fool" is the kindest thing I can say about him.

Tomorrow we head out to Memphis for Beale Street and barbecue. If we time it right, there will be Jack in the Box for one damn greasy, soul-satisfying lunch.

June 21, 2011
I am having a knitting crisis. Having made excellent progress on Antimony, my happy knitting came to an abrupt halt when the circular needles separated at the joining of needle and cable. It's not broken beyond repair, but up until this point I have never had the need to pack a tube of super glue along with the other important travel items like Hershey's kisses. I learned the hard way to never leave home without a backup supply of chocolate. Now I will add super glue to the list. For now, I am grateful I am driving through one of the lower 48, as I can expect to pass a Walmart before the day is done. Until then, I will work on the spiral galaxy socks.

If you are a reader of mystery books, then you probably heard of Dr. William Bass and the Body Farm long before the experts for the Casey Anthony trial started mentioning them. First time I learned about the Body Farm was while reading Patricia Cornwell's Scarpetta series. Driving past Knoxville, I got a cheap thrill of recognition seeing the signs for the University of Tennessee. Art resembles Life resembles Art . . .

Tennessee is an odd state, and I can't decide whether or not I like it. There are some states, like Mississippi and Alabama, that I actively avoid, and then there are other states, like Georgia, that I look forward to. Tennessee doesn't fit either category. And while driving cross state on Interstate 40, it occurred to me that it lacks a cohesiveness, and is really three states within one border.

Walmart came through as usual, and I am back working on Antimony.  But there was a Crisis in Nashville when we realized our Jack in the Box was out of business.  As it turned out, this was the harbinger of a Bad Food Day.

Driving past Nashville, and the remains of our Jack in the Box

LATER: we made it to Memphis, and headed for dinner to a barbecue joint we had picked out a while back. How could Memphis have bad barbecue? And I checked Trip Advisor, which has always given me an accurate sense of how good a restaurant really is. And this one had been rated really good by almost everyone. The place itself was fine, a little divey as you would expect, with a good menu full of choices. The only problem was the food itself. The ribs were oversmoked, although I never thought such a thing was possible. I love smoke, and I've done my share of home smoking, and I know low and slow is the way to go, but these baby backs had been left in the smoker way past the pulling point. The dry rub was too spicy for the general public - meaning me - and the sauces were mediocre. The side dishes were a huge disappointment. So if you are passing through Memphis, you may want to keep passing by Central BBQ. Try Jim Neely's Interstate Barbecue instead. We went there last year, and it was awesome.

Great sign, mediocre barbecue