Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Snubbed at the Blogger Bash

So, last night was the blogger bash. It was the second since I entered the world of blogging and the second I have attended. A good time was had by all, although there was this weird junior-high type divide between the men and women. Except for Diane, who managed to break the barrier. Before I left, I did manage to sit at the boys' table for a few minutes.

As mentioned on several other blogs, there were a few "special guests." One of them was so special that he could not be bothered to talk to the women's table at the bash. Matt Bisbee, a member of Jim McConoughey's campaign, showed up shortly after the bash started. Frankly, when he entered, I thought he was lost. He was dressed like your classic young Republican - very clean cut, not a hair out of place, very straight teeth. He walked in and talked to the men's table for awhile and left without even glancing at the women's table. Before I knew who he was, I thought, well . . . whatever, maybe he just isn't into women.

But as he was leaving, someone said who he was and that he was from McConoughey's campaign. Well, I am certainly not going to vote for McConoughey now. Admittedly, I am as likely to vote for McConoughey as Howard Dean would be, but still . . . it was just not good form. A good life lesson (an even better lesson for pols, or their wannabes) is - talk to every one in a room when you are representing a candidate. You never know who you may snub.

And for those of you who are wondering, I did vote for a Republican once. He was a friend of the family running for the House and he was pro-choice. Well, he won the election, but it didn't turn out well after that. I learned my lesson.

Actually, the best part of the bash was that several people at our table thought Matt Jones was the manager from Bar Louie. Matt's great (well . . . for a Republican) but thank god his chosen profession is law.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Black Electrical Tape Solution

I am not the best car-maintainer. Maintenance on my car is one of the last things on my list of things to do at any given time. I blame this on my parents because they were not the best examples of car-maintainers in my formative years. There were no discussions about when to change the oil, when you might need new tires, why a car might need servicing, and how much this all might cost.

Of course, now that I think about it, my paternal grandfather discussed these things. He was the car-maintainer king. Of course, he bought a new car every five years for as long as I can remember. I think I didn't pay attention to his car interest because I got the feeling my parents thought it was a little obsessive-compulsive. I got the idea that they thought his car talk could be filed along with his "mow the lawn in different directions every time you mow" lecture or his "check your roof every fall and spring for problems" lecture.

Anyway, my check engine light came on this weekend. Wait, that sounded wrong. My car's check engine light came on this weekend. My check engine light is an entirely different thing and probably shouldn't be discussed in public.

What to do, what to do? It came on on Saturday evening and I had this thought that it might just go off if I let the car "rest" for awhile. So, the car rested overnight and I checked it Sunday morning. Then I thought it might go off if I filled the car with gas and re-tightened the gas cap (this is not crazy - my car has had this problem before). Nope. Well, the car needs servicing anyway (so the dealership schedule tells me) so I called the dealer.

This is probably one of those things that is going to cost me hundreds of dollars to "investigate" and turn out to be a short in the light that illuminates the check engine light. I think I might follow the advice of the guys on Car Talk and just fix it with a small piece of black electrical tape. You know, to cover the light.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Easier Said Than Done

Every once and awhile, I read my horoscope. For fun, mostly. Sometimes, it is good advice in the same way fortune cookies reading "Practice the Golden Rule" are good advice. Here is my horoscope for today:

Sometimes, if you're in need of an easy day, you can just make it happen. Who's to say you have to accomplish everything that's been laid out for you today? You have more control over what you do, how you do it and when you do it than you realize. It's time to wise up to your power and flex your muscles a little bit more aggressively. Do not feel intimidated by the authority figures around you. Just talk to them like normal people, and they will respond favorably.

Yeah, right. I am sure the Court of Appeals will understand if I just need "an easy day" and my brief will be just a little late. The Court of Appeals does not want to be talked to like normal people and I can guarantee they will not respond favorably.

So, sorry, I do kind of have to accomplish everything that's been laid out for me today.

Why Is It?

Why is it that children always puke in the middle of the night, all over their beds, blankets, teddy bears, and walls?

Why is it that children are always able to rub vomit into their hair before you make it to their bedroom after hearing the vomiting in the middle of the night?

Why is it that children can easily and peacefully fall back to sleep after puking while parents lie in bed awake for two hours surging with the adrenaline of having just stripped a puke-covered child naked, given him a bath, cleaned the crib, floor, and walls, desparately searched for clean pajamas, mattress pad, and sheets, taken dirty items to the basement and started a load of laundry, then taken a shower because you feel like there is vomit all over you, and changed your pajamas?


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Not That I'm a Big Fan of Governor Ryan's . . .

But I strenuously object to the shoddy reporting that has occurred today after the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit denied his petition for rehearing en banc. Hey, media people - perhaps you should try actually reading the opinion before reporting on it. For your convenience, I have linked to the actual opinion here.*

The Associated Press couldn't get it right:

The AP article stated: "'We agree that the evidence of the defendant's guilt was overwhelming,' the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 15-page opinion." Try again. The majority opinion is the opinion of the Court. This quote is from the dissenting opinion, which is not the opinion of the Court and should not be stated as such. Of course, later in the article, the AP stated the opinion was "just one paragraph long and contained no explanation." Right, except that the AP reported just two paragraphs earlier that the Court did have an explanation - there was overwhelming evidence. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

"The court refused to grant the "so-called" en banc hearing." I want to know exactly what a "so-called" en banc hearing is. If it is granted, it is an en banc rehearing. Nothing so-called about that. Ryan didn't make up this thing called an en banc hearing. Perhaps a review of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure would help. I think that's where the Court came up with this "so-called" en banc thing. Just like every other circuit court in the country.

"Not clear whether Ryan will be now be required to report to prison." Get a clue. This opinion was not about whether he will report to prison. It was about whether he will be granted a rehearing. Insinuating the Court of Appeals was remiss in someway by not mentioning when he will go to prison is ridiculous.

In addition, over the lunch hour, WCBU got it wrong. First, use the correct name for the Court. It is the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Not the Seventh United States Appellate Court. It's not that hard - it's the first thing on the first page of the opinion.

Second, WCBU reported that the "full court" considered the case. Untrue. In fact, Judges Joel Flaum and Ilana Rovner took no part in the decision, as noted on the first page.

But what really gets under my skin is that no one even mentioned the 14 page dissenting opinion (aside from the mistake mentioned above). The dissent carefully lays out the argument for granting the petition for rehearing en banc in painstaking detail. That is the interesting part of this decision. True, Ryan has not prevailed in the Court of Appeals.

However, what the dissent has done is sent a 14 page direct message to the Supreme Court. That is the news today.

Of course, since the media can't the basics right, why would they care about the actual issues?

* The link doesn't seem to be working. Try this:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Huge Parental Responsibility

I have been obsessing for many months about one of the huge parental responsibilities - choosing my son's first Halloween costume. Literally, I have been thinking about it since early June. And I am not that "into" Halloween as a general rule. Frankly, Halloween still kind of freaks me out and I get more than a little spooked when scarily-dressed children come to my house Trick-or-Treating.

Oh, but the responsibility of choosing that first Halloween costume. Really, it will probably be the only time I can choose for him. Next year, he will be almost 2 years old and (if he takes after me) he will be hell-bent on choosing for himself. Of course, we will probably have a small battle over his choice because of my dislike of the commercialism of childhood (with certain exceptions as previously noted on this blog for Star Wars, Snoopy Sno-Cone Machines, and Hello Kitty).

I think it is difficult mostly because he has very few tangible "things" he is into at this age. He likes food and bottles, but it seems a little silly to dress him as a baby bottle full of soy formula. He loves his pacifiers, but that also seems a little silly (and a very complex costume that might look more like a condom than a pacifier, I might add). He sleeps well, but dressing him as a sleeping baby is redundant.

His only real obsession, aside from getting control of the remote, is anything with wheels. Trucks, cars, chairs, buses, vans, strollers, wagons . . . I mean anything. He nearly flips himself out of his stroller trying to watch the wheels turn when we are walking. But, he can't really be a wheel for Halloween, can he? It would be pretty hard to fit a wheel costume into a car seat or the stroller. And I am pretty sure he couldn't crawl in it.

So, then I thought about the "average" baby costumes. Animals are always good for this age, but boring. I thought about making him a little devil but, despite my best efforts and training, he is actually a pretty good little kid and devil doesn't really fit him.

I also thought about doing a duet of a costume with him and the dog. Like maybe he could be a cowboy and the dog could be a horse. Or he could be Han Solo and the dog could be Chewbacca. Or the dog could be melted Popsicle and he could be the Popsicle stick. But this poses two problems: (1) I would have to buy or make two costumes and (2) I would have to bring the dog Trick-or-Treating. Not appealing.

I have actually purchased a costume because I didn't want to leave it to the last minute. Even though I have technically made the decision, I am still obsessing about it. What if it is not the best costume for his first costume? What if he doesn't like it when he looks at the pictures years from now? I think I may need mental help. Seriously - I have gone off the deep end of obsession with this.

He is going to be Shrek. Mostly because he sort of looks like Shrek, in a really cute way. I mean, he has normal-shaped ears and he's not green, but he kind of looks like Shrek. So much so that some of his teachers started calling him Baby Shrek. It stuck. And he looks really damn cute in the costume.

Of course, now I may have to find a donkey costume for the dog . . . the cat's already in his puss-n-boots costume . . . but maybe I could find a hat somewhere . . . . OK, I need to stop.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I Still Want One for Christmas

Over the weekend, I got a toy catalog featuring old toys, like original-looking Slinkies (including a Slinky-Dog). There were several toys in the catalog that brought back fond memories. But one toy sent me way back into a preteen fit. The Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine.

Flashback. . . .

It is 1979. I am 8 years old and all I want for Christmas is a Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine. I can't picture my life without one. You throw in some ice cubes, the Machine grinds them into frost, you scoop them into a paper cup with the Woodstock Sno Shovel and then Squirt some Snoopy-flavor-juice on the ice. Heaven in a paper cup.

I begged and begged and begged and begged. Every time the commercial came on, I forced my parents to watch it. Every time, they looked at me like I was crazy. Finally, my dad looked at me and said, "We already have something just like that."


Had they been holding out on me? Was Christmas coming early this year? Would I finally get something I actually wanted for Christmas?

I followed my dad into the kitchen. He said, "Close your eyes." I shut them tight. I couldn't contain myself. I heard him opening cabinet doors and shutting drawers. Then he said, "Ta-da!!" I opened my eyes. My father had carefully arranged the following items on the counter:

A large shot glass
A silver ice tea spoon
A tray of ice cubes
An old metal ice crusher - the one he still uses to crush ice for making martinis - the one with a handle you have to crank yourself.

My face fell. I was nearly in tears. My dad was suppressing a giggle. He said, "Well . . . make me a snow cone!" I looked down and said, "I can't. There's no syrup. The Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine comes with syrup."

He handed me a bottle of Creme de Menthe.

I didn't get a Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine for Christmas that year. But here's the thing I realized. I would probably do the exact same thing if my kid begged for a ridiculous toy with no real purpose. On the other hand, I might just give in and let a kid be a kid. All kids need a few useless toys in their lives. Think of all the useless adult toys we all have.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Star Wars TV Show

It may be time to upgrade my television. I read a story on E! News today that George Lucas is finally developing a real Star Wars TV series. I can barely contain myself. I love the Star Wars movies and the characters. I hope the TV show can live up to its predecessors.

For those of you who are wondering, I am not one of those Star Wars geeks who goes to conventions and still has Luke Skywalker sheets. I never collected the action figures and kept them in their shiny boxes. I just love the movies. Star Wars (and The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) defines my generation in the same way Harry Potter defines the current generation. Star Wars was huge in my life as a child and a cultural phenomenon.

Of course, it helped that my mother was a big fan of Star Wars when it first came out. In May of 1977, my mother pulled me out of school (I was five years old) to stand in line to see the movie. In May of 1980, she did the same thing, but this time we had been discussing The Empire Strikes Back for months. Finally, in 1983, we went as a whole family to see the Return of the Jedi. Every Christmas Day, my family still watches the original trilogy. Those days are some of my fondest memories. I still get chills when I hear the music.

I didn't get into the toys as much, although one of my friends had all of the action figures and the Death Star play set (which was like a four-story Death Star playhouse). I had several books, but my favorite toys were my two Barbie-sized dolls. I had a Han Solo doll and a Princess Leia doll. Leia came in the white robe costume she wore during most of the first movie and her hair in two buns. (By the way, I took the hair out of the buns the first day I had her and it never went back the right way again. I also cut off her toes because she had wide, flat feet that wouldn't fit into Barbie shoes.) Han Solo looked just like Harrison Ford. He was HOT! (Incidentally, I also had a Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones doll. He came with a fedora, a gun, and a whip. They just don't make toys like that any more.)

It always surprises me when people say they have never seen Star Wars. I feel as if an essential understanding of the world is missing from their lives. How could you not have seen Star Wars? How could you not love it? The stories are universal - love, struggle, independence, evil, politics, patriotism, envy, back-stabbing, friendship, equality, and humanity.

And some of the best quotes from movies, ever, including:

C-3PO: We seem to be made to suffer. It's our lot in life.

Darth Vader: I'm altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further.

Han Solo: I'm out of it for a little while and everybody gets delusions of granduer.

Plus, there is nothing funnier than sitting around the dining room table and talking like Yoda.

Monday, October 15, 2007

I'm a Winner!!

After months of trying, I finally got the correct answer on Name This Peoria Landmark. I got this one right (the Methodist smokestack) probably because I stare at it every day from my office window.

This win came at a good time for me and NTPL - I was on the edge. I was about to give up. I only know about one out of every 20 photos posted. It is just no fun to play if you know you are not likely to win. (How's about that for some insight into my psyche?) But, I am back on good terms with NTPL. For now.

Anyway, I am on the edge of my seat wondering what my white elephant prize will be?? White elephants can vary widely. Once, I got a three-pack of plastic beehive wigs as a white elephant gift. On the other hand, I also got a bottle of rum once. It wasn't a great bottle of rum, but it did the trick. Another time, I got a food dehydrator, which I was really excited about. However, I used it once and it wasn't so much a food dehydrator as a food rubberizor. It made really, really chewy dried tomatoes and bananas. My dentist wouldn't approve. I haven't used it since.

With my rediscovered zeal for NTPL, I encourage all of you to play. It is more fun that way. Except for Chef Kevin. He always beats me to the punch on the ones I actually know.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

When All Else Fails . . . Get Them Drunk

My parents and my grandfather and his wife are coming into town tomorrow. My grandfather, who is my only living grandparent, is 89 years old but still sharp as a tack. My parents are escorting him and his wife on a week long tour of various relatives in the Midwest, cutting a circle through Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

I am throwing a dinner party tomorrow night for him in Peoria. My mom and I are coordinating dinner and we spoke twice by phone yesterday. The last call ended with her saying, "I will call later tonight to finalize things." When she hadn't called by 9:45 pm, I called her.

It wasn't pretty.

When she answered the phone, she was clearly a little tipsy. Curious as to why she was tipsy on a Monday night, I said, "How is everything?" She replied, "Oooohhhhh . . . you know . . . hmmm." I said, "What's going on?" She said, "I will tell you later. Let's just say, we have almost finished the bottle of Chartreuse." I said, "Oh, my. Straight up?" She said, "Straight up. I'll talk to you in the morning."

When she called this morning, I heard the full story. Apparently, my grandfather is insisting on my mother writing a part of the family history she does not want to write. She said, "He is so rigid!! I got so frustrated, I just about blew. And he wouldn't give up. So, we decided we would just get him drunk. The problem is, I got sort of drunk in the process." I said, "Well, that is one of the pitfalls of trying to get someone drunk."

After finishing our dinner conversation, she said, "Promise me that if your dad and I ever get so rigid in our old age, you will just slap us or something." I said, "Well, how about I just get you drunk? That seems to work for you!"

Getting old people drunk. Just one of the coping skills brought to you by my well-adjusted parents.

Friday, October 5, 2007

These Guys Need a Life

Two physicists from the University of California, San Diego apparently get paid to play with their strings. The two men ran a series of experiments in which they dropped a string into a box and tumbled it for 10 seconds. And then they repeated the dropping/tumbling action 3,000 times. Then they developed a computer program to mimic their observations. The point? To observe and analyze the knotting properties of string.

What an exciting job - it makes me want to poke out my eyeballs. I wonder what these guys say at the annual physicists convention? I mean, the geek quotient must be pretty high among physicists, but these guys must be in the upper deviations of the bell curve of nerdiness.

"Yeah, I just spent the last 12 months dropping strings into boxes and tumbling them."

"No, there is no useful knowledge resulting from my work."

"My big plans for next year? Dropping paper clips into cups and discovering the fascinating world of paper clip chains."

Thursday, October 4, 2007

As It Turns Out . . .

I am not smarter than a freakishly gifted automaton fifth grader. Over the weekend, I watched a few minutes of "Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader?" Don't ask me why I did it, I just did. I had never seen the show before, so it took me a while to figure out how it worked. For example, I thought the show was about a competition between the fifth grader and the adult. I was wrong. Apparently, the fifth graders sometimes get to assist the adult by allowing the adult to peek at their papers, steal their answers, or copy their answers. OK . . . sounds like a good example for our children.

Anyway, I soon learned that either I went to an incredibly bad grade school or these kids are not real fifth graders. How many actual fifth graders know the answers to these questions? I am sure I didn't know the name of Zeus's wife when I was in fifth grade. I do now, but I proably didn't learn that until high school humanities class. I am also sure I did not know that a "fathom" was a unit of measurement for depth in fifth grade either. Or which country controls Easter Island.

But the question and answer that caused me to turn the channel was "Which century was the artist Pablo Picasso born in?" which was classified as a fourth grade art question. You know, when I was in fourth grade, I am pretty sure we were still working on the color wheel in art class. Anyway, back to Picasso. I knew he was born in the 19th century but I know I didn't know that when I was 9 years old. But what did the fifth grader on the show say? Her answer was, "1881 - 19th century."

Are you freaking kidding me?? What fifth grader knows the year of Picasso's birth? Seriously. I didn't even know the exact year he was born.

Maybe I will just switch over to NBC's "1 vs. 100." I mean, that is one dumbass mob. I saw 23 adults miss the question, "What color do you get when you mix yellow and blue?" While scary in its own respect, somehow I am much more comfortable with the idea that the average adult is not that bright than the idea that there are these mini-genuises making fairly intelligent adults feel like idiots.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

I Did Not Go to Law School So I Could Discuss My Clients' Underwear

In a recent article in the Washington Post, it was revealed that two men in detention at Guantanamo Bay were found to possess contraband in the form of Under Armour briefs, a specialized type of underwear commonly worn by the military. Concerned about this severe breach of policy, an attorney for the Navy contacted the detainees' attorneys, accusing the defense attorneys of smuggling in fancy underwear:

From: the Commander, JAGC, U.S. Navy,Staff Judge Advocate
To: Mr. Clive
Stafford-Smith, attorney
Date: Aug. 12, 2007
"Your client . . . was recently discovered to be wearing Under Armour briefs and a Speedo bathing suit. Neither item was issued to the detainee by JTF-Guantanamo personnel, nor did they enter the camp through regular mail . . . . We are investigating the matter to determine the origins of the above contraband and ensure that parties who may have been involved understand the seriousness of this transgression. . . . Such activities threaten the safety of the JTF-Guantanamo staff, the detainees, and visiting counsel. . . . We would like to know whether the contraband material, or any portion thereof, was provided by you, anyone else on your legal team . . . ."

And one defense attorney's response:

From: Mr. Clive Stafford Smith, attorney
To: the Commander, JAGC, U.S.
Navy, Staff Judge Advocate
Date: Aug. 29, 2007
"I will confess that I have never received such an extraordinary letter in my entire career. Knowing you as I do, I hope you understand that I do not attribute this allegation to you personally. Obviously, however, I take accusations that I may have committed a criminal act very seriously. . . . I also hope you understand my frustration at yet another unfounded accusation against lawyers who are simply trying to do their job - a job that involves legal briefs, not the other sort.

First, neither I, nor Mr. Katznelson [attorney for other detainee found with briefs], nor anyone else associated with us has had anything to do with smuggling ‘unmentionables’ into these men, nor would we ever do so.

Second, the idea that we could smuggle in underwear is farfetched. As you know, anything we take in is searched and there is a camera in the room when we visit the client. Does someone seriously suggest that Mr. Katznelson or I have been stripping off to deliver underpants to our clients?

I had never heard of ‘Under Armor briefs’ until you mentioned them, and my internet research has advanced my knowledge in two ways - first, Under Armour apparently sports a ‘U’ in its name, which is significant only because it helps with the research.

Second, and rather more important, this line of underpants are very popular among the military. . . . It would be worth checking whether this lingerie was purchased from the NEX [Navy Exchange store] there in GTMO, since the internet again leads one to suspect that the NEX would be purveyors of Under Armour . . . perhaps you might check the label to see whether these are ‘tactical’ underwear, as this is apparently something Under Armour has created specially for the military. . . . I don’t mean to say that it is an open and shut case proving that your military provided the underwear, as I understand that other people use Under Armour. One group I noticed on the web were the amateur weight lifters, who seem confused as to whether Under Armour give them a competitive advantage.

However, in the grand scheme of things, I would think we can all agree that the interrogators or military officers are more likely to have access to [the detainees]than the U.S. Amateur Power Lifting Association.

Ahh, yes. Years of advanced legal study and grueling law practice . . . put to good use researching millitary panties on the internet. Things like this make writing that student loan payment check every month totally worthwhile.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Remote Drama

Yesterday, I had a few friends over in the afternoon. So, in the morning, I did a quick pick-up-all-the-clutter-and-shove-it-somewhere session. Friends arrived, we had a wonderful time, and later, the kid went to bed. Ahhhh . . . free time to unwind and fold laundry. In my house, it is necessary to watch TV while folding the laundry - they just go hand-in-hand.

I walk over the TV and turn it on (yes, I actually turn my TV on by using the button on the television set). Then I look for the remote so I can surf digital cable to see what my viewing choices are this evening. Now that my child is mobile, I have to hide the remote in, shall we say, remote places to keep him from pressing all the buttons and probably selecting some inappropriate adult programs to watch. But after checking all of my remote hiding places, I still can't find the remote.

So, I take all of the cushions off the couch, look under the couch, look in all the drawers and shelves in the TV room. No remote. I then expand the search to the rest of the first floor. Living room couches? No. Front hall closet? No? Dining room shelves? No. Kitchen counters? No. Refrigerator? No. Freezer? No. (Believe me, these last two are not out of the realm of possibility - I have found weird things in the fridge and freezer before.)

Then I go to the second floor. I don't have a TV on the second floor, but stranger things have happened. Bathroom? No. My bedroom? No. Baby's room? No. Linen Closet? No. What the hell?? So, I start the search all over again, convinced I have missed it. Nearly exhausted and determined not to change the channel by actually pushing buttons on the TV (and seriously not sure if I know how to work digital cable without the remote), I sit down and think about this logically.

Where is the remote usually? On the sofa in the TV room.

What did I do to the sofa in the TV room today? Straighten it for company.

What was on it? Pillows, socks, blanket, and . . . the newspaper.

What did I do with the newspaper? Threw it in the kitchen garbage.

Where did the kitchen garbage go? To the curb because tomorrow is garbage day.


So, I am standing (in my pajamas) staring at the garbage can on the curb. I am seriously debating the desire to watch TV versus the desire to dig in the garbage can. I am thinking about the week's worth of garbage in that can (food, diapers, dog poop, paper products, cat litter). Then I think about how long it will take Insight to get a new remote to my house. Could be weeks. Then I think about Grey's Anatomy on Thursday night. I might have to miss it if I don't have a remote. I can't miss Grey's Anatomy. No way.

I found the remote. After a thorough spray with sanitizer, we are good to go.