Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Christmas recipe

1 uptight, rigid, fundamentalist Christian daughter, politically and culturally at odds with the rest of her family who, at 40, has failed to fulfill her only life goal of becoming wife and mother and is prone to pitching fits

2 70 year-old parents who have spent 40 years trying to avoid pitched fits

1 loner daughter who would rather avoid her family than deal with the conflict that ensues when Republican Christian sister is around Liberal Atheist sister

2 dogs: one whiny and clingy, one sweet and lovable and perfect in all ways (that's mine - maybe my description of this ingredient is biased)

1 "outsider" being allowed to share Christmas for the first time

Put the above in a room together and wait for the mixture to spontaneously combust.  (Combustion usually occurs only after the "outsider" has been removed, like a bay leaf.)

Ingredient prep actually began about a week before Christmas, when plans were finalized for the "outsider" (hereafter known as SO) to attend Christmas Eve and morning.  Mom informed me that SO would have to sleep in the basement to avoid Sis pitching a fit.  Keep in mind that SO and I have been together for 4 years and have been on many trips together.  Also that he has spent the night at my parents' house before, sleeping with me in my room with its double bed.  I don't think anyone, even my sister, can truly be naive enough to think that we've never slept in the same bed before.  (Really, they can't think we've never had sex, can they?  But, I assure you, I am in no hurry to have sex in that house with my parents just down the hall.  I'm not a 19 year-old on winter break from college.) 

My parents are both pretty progressive folks, and they certainly don't get their ideas on morality from the Bible, and I'm pretty sure that having been married for 45 years, they understand that sharing a bed with your significant other isn't about sex at all, so I'm confident they were only imposing the SO-sleeps-in-the-basement rule to mollify Sis.  Oh, and they also both told me they were only imposing the rule for her benefit and that he would otherwise be allowed to sleep in my room.  Like he did before.

So for the week before Christmas, I was already simmering.  Why does my sister's tendency to be rigid, intolerant, and judgmental have to dictate the rules in my parents' house?  Why should I have to modify my behavior so she won't be offended?  And why do my parents always expect that they can keep her from pitching fits at my expense without expecting me to pitch a fit in response?  (Well, because they know I won't pitch a fit.  It's just not in me.)  Of course, SO wasn't going to complain about sleeping in the basement, but it sure ticked me off.

Cut to Christmas Eve.  I've made the bed in the basement before SO arrives.  When he gets there,  I bring him downstairs to deposit his stuff.  Both dogs follow us.  One gets a tad more attention from the new arrival by virtue of being his dog.  The other one apparently doesn't like the lack of attention, being whiny and needy and all.  So my sister's dog gets up on the bed and squats. 

I spotted her and yelled her name, but not before a good puddle of urine spread out on the bed.  Ick.  Sis steadfastly maintains that it was an accident, but I know dogs.  Dogs don't jump up onto the bed and squat when they have accidents. 

As my sister took off the bedding, she said, "The ONLY [heavy emphasis on this word] other option is for you to sleep in the extra bed in my room and SO can have your room."  Really?  That, in fact, was not the only other option.  For starters, SO could just sleep in my room with me like a grown-up.  Or she could sleep in the basement on the pee bed and then she would never have to know if SO slept in my room with me like a grown-up.

I would like to be able to tell you that I told her she should sleep on the pee bed.  Or that I slept in the basement with SO.  Or that I told my parents I resented being treated as the less important daughter and that they shouldn't let my sister's religious views dictate the rules in their house.  Or that I told my sister that her dog intentionally peeing on the basement bed was a clear sign from her god that he didn't want SO to sleep in the basement.  Or that I told my sister that I have no belief whatsoever in her god and don't think her belief should dictate how all the rest of us behave.  Or that my dog went up and peed on her bed.

But none of those things happened.  We washed the sheets and blankets.  We remade the bed.  SO slept down there, without complaint.  I didn't because the basement is creepy and cold.  And because a dog had peed on the bed.  And my parents have no idea how ticked I am about the whole thing.  I avoided confirming for my sister that I'm an atheist, which would undoubtedly set her off on trying to save my soul.  And my dog is too well-behaved to pee on a bed.  So that whole combustion thing never really happened except in my head.  But if I had spoken up, I'm sure the ensuing fight would have been very, very fiery. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Another day, another exoneration

Do you think that when the Florida legislature passed a statute authorizing the reopening of cases for DNA testing that they intended for courts to deny a guy's handwritten four times and dither for 8 years before finally getting around to the testing?  Maybe the delay between this defendant's first motion and the eventual results only seems so outrageously long in this case because the test revealed the defendant wasn't a match. 

In 1974, someone kidnapped a 9 year-old boy and raped him.  Fortunately, the bad guy left the child alive.  And he left behind a sample.  Unfortunately, James Bain was wrongly picked out as the bad guy and languished in Florida prisons for 35 years.  While they were all wrong, the last 8 seem particularly unnecessary.  If a court had just treated his first motion with respect or his second or maybe even his third, he could have been released while still in his 40s (he's 54 now).  But as it stands, he had to wait those extra 8 years.  And now the court and the prosecutors are all working to make sure he's out in time for Christmas.  Boy, then that judge and those prosecutors can feel all warm and fuzzy about doing justice.  I wonder if they can totally shut out that nagging voice reminding them that by opposing and denying his earlier motions, they cost him an extra 8 Christmases behind bars.

Mr. Bain is actually lucky that he did prevail on his fifth motion.  A successive motion like that could  have been considered an abuse of process that should be sent straight to the circular file.  Just like week, my state supreme court considered the question of when, if ever, a district court can simply ban a litigant from filing any further motions.  Well, here we have evidence that sometimes defendants are persistent not because they're annoying but because they have a meritorious claim that the courts are ignoring.  It's pretty hard to argue that Mr. Bain's motions were properly denied now that we know the results of the test. 

I am very happy to know that James Bain will get to spend Christmas with his mother, who was beginning to worry she would die before her son ever got justice.  But I wish I could have been offering him my well-wishes 8 years ago.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

$75 and a bus ticket to Ohio

Is that what 28 years of your life is worth?  That's what Donald Gates walked out of prison with today.  He was released after DNA testing showed he wasn't responsible for the rape and murder he'd been convicted of in 1981.  So now at 58, he gets out and got a free ride to his home state.  Doesn't really seem like his release really got the fanfare he deserved.  I always liked the movie "In the Name of the Father" when the judge declares Gerry Conlon a free man and he refuses to go back out through the door inmates are brought through.  He proclaims that he's walking out the front door and then climbs over the backs of the pews in the packed courtroom.  That's a much less anti-climactic exit for an exoneree than a quiet slip out the prison gate and onto a bus home.  Exonerations should be public.  And expensive.

He hasn't been officially exonerated yet, though, as the prosecution wanted confirmatory testing to be done first.  If that second round of testing confirms Gates is not a match, a federal judge will most likely officially exonerate him next week.  The good news is if Gates is officially exonerated, he will be eligible for compensation (how much is complicated by the fact that the crime occurred in D.C., so he could get money either under the federal statute or the D.C. provision).  That $75 is just seed money.

Radio Silent

I have had precious little to say of late. Well, I've had things to say, like about lawless sheriffs in Maricopa County and the CSI effect and eyewitness identifications, but I have not had the energy to write. It's been cold, though no colder than any of my winters in Minnesota or Wisconsin. But cold enough to make me lose all interest in doing anything other than curling up with my dog, a blanket, and bad tv. And I foolishly decided to knit Christmas gifts for my mom and my sister, a task which has been occupying my hands a lot lately.

But the real kicker is another looming deadline. That's right, it's round 2 of the soul-crushing workload. This one isn't quite as soul-crushing in terms of volume, but it takes the wind out of me for other reasons. Maybe I'll be able to tell you about it someday.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thank you, furnace motor

You picked the absolute perfect day to crap out with no prior warning.  One hardly needs warm air circulating throughout one's house when the overnight low is a balmy -1!  That's what I have blankets and socks and hats for, after all.  And that's what I was thinking about when I bought that nice sleeping bag which is rated down to 20 degrees.

Looking on the bright side, the mice will hardly have wanted to come into my house last night to escape the cold.

No, I did not actually sleep at the cold, cold house last night.  Madison and I took refuge at SO's house, where Maddie will have a fine day watching all the traffic on SO's busy street.  And, yes, the furnace guy is already on the job.  He's one of SO's very best friends, so he came over last night when the blower started making strange noises.  After about 5 minutes, he declared that the blower motor was irrevocably damaged and needed to be replaced, which he would do in the morning.  He was proven far too right about 20 mnutes later when the blower stopped doing anything at all.  The nice thing about being friends with a heating and air guy is that I can trust him, both with keys to my house so I don't have to be there today when he comes to fix the furnace and with fair pricing.  In fact, I'll probably have to add something to pay him for his labor.  (I did feed him dinner last night and let him watch the KU game at my house.)

So this morning I am left to wonder just how cold my house got overnight and how long it will take to warm back up once the motor is replaced this morning.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A crappy day

It's been a crappy, crappy day for the Madison household.  First, we had to watch the ick-fest that was the Chiefs game.  I didn't think things could get worse than last week's pathetic outing against San Diego.  But the Chiefs proved me wrong.  Turnovers and stupid play-calling and porous defense added up to a 30-point loss to Denver.  Prior to today, Denver had been 1-15 in Arrowhead in December.  Boo.

As that game was concluding, we noticed a smell.  I assumed it was coming from the t.v. until I saw the shaking, sad-eyed doggy.  (When they're sick, they're not dogs, they're doggies.)  Then we found the spot.  She had tried to make it to the kitchen tile, but she didn't get there.  From the look of it, you would have thought it was vomit, but the smell made it clear that it came out the other end.  SO went to work cleaning up the carpet while I took charge of cleaning and comforting the dog.  But I should have known we weren't done because she was still so very shaky and sad.

As I came back into the house from taking the trash out from diarrhea bout #1, I spotted bout #2.  At least this time, she'd made it to the kitchen.  (Side note: this was not the best day to realize I was out of paper towels.)  Poor SO set out to clean once again.  Meanwhile, poor little pup went into the bathtub to wait it out in case there was a bout #3. 

In the 3 1/2 hours since, there has not been another bout.  (She has been released from bathtub confinement.)  Now we're just in treatment mode.  Poor thing had her food bowl taken away.  Then mean mommy forced some nasty pink gunk (Pepto Bismol is apparently safe for dogs, though in very small doses.) into Maddie's mouth.  (If anyone has any tips for how to accomplish that, let me know.  She certainly wasn't volunteering to lick it up.)  She's also had a little yogurt to help deal with any bacteria that may be in her tummy.  That went down much more easily than the Pepto.  And now I'm going to make her some boiled hamburger and rice to feed her tomorrow.  (On the upside, I'm going to use a lot of that to make lunch for myself for tomorrow.)

I hope that is the end of the crap-fest Chez Moi.  The Jayhawks looked a little shaky at times, but there was really never any danger they would add to the day's crap-pile.  It's not too much to hope that Maddie will be just fine from here on out, is it?

Friday, December 4, 2009

No Linus for you

The mayor of Arlington, TN thinks President Obama scheduled his Tuesday speech intentionally to preempt The Charlie Brown Christmas Special.  You see, our Muslim president wanted to block the Christian message of the Peanuts special.  I kid you not.  I don't think I could have made that one up if I'd tried.

He posted this on his Facebook page and received about 70 comments.  Then the Memphis paper picked it up.  The mayor said some other awesome things, too,  suggesting there's something wrong with anyone who answers the question, "Do you believe Jesus Christ is the son of god?" with anything other than a quick, "Yes!" is unworthy.  Oh, and he thinks perhaps "things would be different" if  we hadn't altered our Constitution to take out that whole only property-owners can vote thing.  You must be so proud, Arlington.

Here's my question, Mr. Mayor.  Do you really think the president knows what's scheduled to play on Channel 7 at 8 p.m. on a Tuesday?  Really?

h/t to Kerfuffle for informing me of this, well, kerfuffle. 

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A sickening travesty

The Cameron Todd Willingham case just won't go away quite yet.  I found an article yesterday from the AP in which the reporter spoke to four jurors from the original trial.  Not surprisingly, those jurors don't want to re-examine their verdict.  They stand by their votes of guilty.  Fine, they don't want to face the possibility that they contributed to the death of a man for an accidental fire.  They're now focusing on things not related to the fire itself, but things like Willingham not acting the way they think he should and the fact that he moved his car during the fire (umm, maybe because it was really close to the house and was filled with gasoline that could explode, making the situation even worse and maybe because he couldn't get back into the house so he could feel like he was doing something?).  But, whatever, I can live with their head-in-the-sand attitude towards the new scientific evidence because I wouldn't want to have to question my vote to kill someone, either.

But in this article, my favoritest defense attorney also makes a new appearance.  You all remember just what I think of Willingham's attorney, David Martin, don't you?  Evidently, David Martin has no interest in improving my opinion of him.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  This guy just can't shut up about how awful he thinks it is that we're all questioning whether Willingham should have been executed.  According to the AP writer, it "sickens" him.

David Martin never spares a thought for his client, but he does think about those poor babies.  He thinks Willingham was guilty and got exactly what he deserved.  He thinks it's a "travesty" that we're trying to make this case something other than what it is.

No, the real travesty here is that Todd Willingham was forced to trust his life to this clown of a lawyer who thought he deserved death.  The travesty is that this schmuck got paid for his "efforts" to defend a guy he thinks is so obviously guilty and for whom he now spares no thought.  It's a travesty that the trial court and appellate courts involved in Willingham's case allowed him to be executed even though his defense attorney served only to endorse the state's theory of the case and supported the state's sentence.  I would also call it a travesty if any other criminal defendants are being given this guy as their state-appointed defense attorney.  I will think it a travesty if the Texas attorney disciplinary authority doesn't have something to say to this loser.  Basically, I think David Martin is one giant travesty.

David Martin sickens me.  He is an embarrassment to the profession I hold so dear.  And every time he opens his stupid trap, he convinces me even more that Todd Willingham did not get anything approaching a fair trial.  With an advocate like David Martin by his side, he didn't even need a prosecutor.

This is why I don't bring the dog to work

Today is the day.  My office is being transformed into my own, personal Plummy paradise.  So I will be working from home today and possibly tomorrow.  This is good as I can work in  my pajamas from bed.  I can watch a marathon of one of my t.v. shows on dvd.  Plus, I'd been feeling a little stuck on my current case, so a new environment can only  help get the juices flowing.

Yesterday, I packed up all the things I could need for my home office.  I had a plan for which issues I would focus on.  I feared  I might wind up sleeping in too late this morning, but instead, clearly, I'm up by 9.  I can read my news and blogs and digest my coffee before beginning work at 10, which is really the ideal time for my natural biorhythms.  (How much better things would be for me if the rest of the world would just adjust to me starting work at 10 and ending around 6 or 6:30!)

And then, it happened.  A dog bone intruded into my images of a highly productive day of work.  Little Miss Madison flung her bone at me, as  if it were her shot across the bow.  "You will get no work done today, Mommy!  Not on my watch."  Evidently, she thinks my proper activities when home for a day include things like playing with her, petting her, throwing her the orange squeaky ball, and taking her for 7 walks.

Tune in later to find out who wins: productivity or the dog.  The dog's a lot cuter, but productivity buys the kibble.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Starting the holiday season

Every Tuesday night, I get together with a couple of friends and drink wine.  I mean knit.  We knit.  Usually with a bottle of wine.  They saw me through my first, aborted blanket attempt.  They saw how much better my second attempt at that blanket came out.  We've knitted hats and mittens and cowls and scarves and even, albeit unintentionally, one lovely pair of granny panties.  We also once made a blanket all together, each of us knitting one strip.  I think we all enjoyed the idea of working together on a single project. 

Behold the project we came together on for Christmas:

Our (almost) entirely knitted Christmas tree!  It was the brainchild of Meryl, craft project comer-upper-with extraordinaire.  She wanted to enter a tree into our town's annual Festival of Trees, a charity auction that is so popular, groups wanting to enter a tree have to win a spot.  When Meryl won herself a spot, the rest of us gamely joined in.  We took a cheap plastic tree and knitted limb covers for it.  Then we knitted lots of little scarves, mittens, socks, and sweaters for ornaments.  And one little hat for the top.

It wasn't the fanciest tree at the festival.  It certainly wasn't the most glamorous or the most sought-after tree.  But it was our little tree and we had a lot of fun (and wine!) putting it together.  (Well, ok, knitting the teeny, tiny thumbs on the teeny, tiny mittens wasn't all that much fun, but the wine and girl time was.)

At the festival last night, we got several compliments on our little tree, some from people who didn't realize they were speaking in front of the tree's makers.  I was still nervous, though.  What if people thought it was cute and sweet, but only in a Charlie Brown "aren't the little knitter girls cute" kind of way?  What if no one wanted to take our tree home?  What if no one bid??  All three of us who attended last night, I think, shared this nervousness.  We knew we weren't going to draw the $1400 the spectacular Santa tree did, but we didn't want to be like the sad tree that only got one pity bid of $150.  Good thing we had free wine to get us through our nerves.

But we had nothing to worry about.  We had bidders, real ones, not pity ones.  And in the end, our tree went for a very respectable $300.  Then the nice woman who bought our tree came over to us to let us know how much she appreciated our work.  Talk about warm fuzzies.  We got to hang with friends, drink wine, get compliments, and raise $300 for a worthy cause.  All in all, a pretty good way to start the Christmas season.
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