October 29, 2004

Why Universities Scare Me

This article at Front Page Mag. details the adventures of a journalist who infiltrated the "no press allowed" workshop sessions at the recent Duke University sponsored hate fest known as the Palestinian Solidarity Movement and smuggled in a tape recorder. Go and read it. It is, well, horrifying. It is also very long and very detailed.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:56 AM | Comments (8)

An Update / a Ramble

Herewith a rambling, stream of consciousness, not totally filtered catching up post.

I have not written much this past week or so. I hate that. I have come to enjoy the act of writing non-legal things. I love the comments I get, pro or con, and the dialogues that result. But really, I miss the writing. Sometimes when I write, I want a cigarette. Well, not really want so much as remember times past when I would write late into the night with coffee cooling next to me and an ashtray with a burning cigarette in it on the desk. I miss that part of smoking, the part that I associate with those nights and that kind of creativity. I quit smoking some ten and a half years ago, in the days after I sat for the NY Bar Exam. I figured that would be the most stressful moment and once I got past it, I could and should quit. And so I did. Now, of course, I hate smoking. I hate being behind people on the street when they smoke and I hate bars or restaurants filled with smoke. But it is a special kind of hate because I know that I miss it, like I miss that 21 year old kid smoking "Peter Rouge" in Paris in 1988-89. Paris memories involve smoking. Damn I miss that.

I had no intention of writing about smoking, by the way, so I suppose my lead in that this would be stream of consciousness was correct. I will stop here on the smoking and the callow youth I once was. Although, I suppose it is natural to reflect back on what seemed to be simpler times and the person I once was since I am staring my birthday right in the face. Monday, in fact. Another year passed in which I once again managed to dodge the sabre toothed tiger (that's how I cheerfully think of it). But that's not quite what I intended to write about either.

No, I was going to write about: thinking. I have enough time these days to write, but not enough time to think and to organize my thoughts enough to draft a coherent paragraph with a natural and orderly progression of point to point to conclusion. That's why my posts have been so short of late. More in the nature of random observations or remarks than anything I am particularly proud of. No, the problem is I am too busy to think. This is the luxury I crave. Time to step back from the rushed and harried existence. Time to reflect on my observations, to organize them, to see if I can learn anything from them. Time to record these observations as engraved images on my brain, like a print maker makes an impression. Otherwise, the observations are fleeting and they leave with a sort of, "gosh, I have to remember this so I can write about it later" sigh, but they do leave. Like yesterday, I have a half formed impression from seeing two young woman facing each other on the subway, one playing a game boy, the other clutching a text book on international financial management. I had thoughts about the value of education and the soul destroying nature of video games, but they have not fully crystalized and may never.

I also took some time away from the office yesterday to go renew my driver licence which is set to expire on Monday. I walked guided only by a need to go South and West and a desire to keep moving, so I went where the traffic lights sent me and I ended up wandering through the West 30's, a part of town not greatly frequented by tourists. It is the heart, still, of what we in NY call the shmatta trade. The rag trade. The fashion business. Full of wholesale only clothing and all the fabric stores. It is kind of seedy and dingy and full of men pushing expensive clothing through the streets on rolling racks. Clothing you might expect to see next season in the department stores. I think that's fun. It made me want to buy a small, pocket sized digital camera for my birthday to be able to carry with me and take pictures of interesting things on the street so I can post them here. There was one old fashioned barber shop that I would have liked to take a picture of, for sure. Otherwise, renewing my licence was painless and quick. I was, to quote an English friend, gobsmacked at how easy it was. Something has changed drastically at the DMV. I distrust it but I like it.

I am going to be working all weekend, again. I suspect that this might just be the case through Thanksgiving. This is the part of my job I sometimes hate, but not really. I mean, yes, I hate that I will not be seeing my kids or my wife very much but I enjoy working hard. I think that there is a reward unto itself when you stretch your capacity and work hard. Especially if the work is interesting. That's one nice thing about practicing law, the work is usually interesting and requires me to become a quick expert on whatever my client's business is. Right now, its high stakes real estate development and the financing and construction aspects specifically.

That said, I think I grow a little weary of this professional life, weary of the conflict, weary of trying to separate the truth from the untruth. You know what? Truth is inherently malleable. It really is a matter of perception when trying to establish the truth between two competing versions of events. I used to think that truth was TRUTH -- simple and inviolate. It isn't really. There are concepts that cannot be distinguished away and their may be scientific, unarguable truths, but to say that one person swears one thing is true and the other swears the other is true and therefore one is lying is not necessarily the case. They may both be convinced they are each telling the truth. And then the fact finder, judge or jury, decides which version is more credible and thus which is the truth. This is tiring. Especially when you begin to think that your own client may have a more casual relationship with the truth than you are comfortable with. Enough said, I think. Except, perhaps, a word of caution: don't lie to your own lawyer. I hope I don't need to explain why this is a bad idea, do I? One other thing, even if I may be experiencing enough burn out with my current profession to be looking up MBA programs on the web, I am old enough to know that I should not be making any long term decisions under the over worked / under rested circumstances. I'm just thinking about other options without allowing myself to take a position I may have problems retreating from. I think that counts as wisdom and not timidity. But I may just be inclined to self-generosity here.

In the midst of all of this, I had a win yesterday. A motion I filed back in February and which was submitted to the Court in May was finally decided in October. The Court favored my clients with a 10 page decision, which is unusually long for State Court. I moved to dismiss 8 counts of a complaint and I won on 6 of them, have a good argument to renew my motion on the seventh after we serve an answer to the complaint, and know for a fact that the plaintiff cannot prove the eighth count. We'll spend a little time in discovery, which is expensive, but the big threats have been removed. My clients are thrilled. Now they just have to pay their outstanding bills which I think and hope they'll be able to do.

Well, back to work now. Here endeth the ramble. I hope you enjoyed it. And if not, that's ok, too. I am not re-reading it or editing it before posting, by the way. It is truly unfiltered.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:49 AM | Comments (6)

October 28, 2004

Happy news update: Yay, Jim!

Jim is now joining the ranks of the previously unemployed.


Yay, Jim!

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:28 AM | Comments (2)

The End of Personal Responsibility

The time of personal responsibility has passed. No longer will you have to admit fault or recognize that the error or mistake lies within you, and not within the stars or some other silly excuse. In a development in Norway which I am sure will be reproduced as soon as possible in the United States, it has become impossible to imprison the "mentally ill", whatever that means.

A Stavanger man convicted 25 times and with 70 offences on the books since his last conviction may be able to sue for damages thanks to new laws. The man has now been diagnosed as 'extremely mentally handicapped' since 1992, and should have received treatment rather than prison time. The man's defense counsel, John Christian Elden, has filed to reopen cases involving 19 convictions since 1992.

District attorney Tormod Haugnes told newspaper Stavanger Aftenbladet that authorities have little choice but to acquit since it is not possible to imprison the mentally handicapped.

"New rules give him the right to commit crimes for the rest of his life, without punishment," Haugnes told the paper. "This is the most extreme result of the new penal code, where preventive detention is replaced with custody and compulsory treatment."

Elden told Aftenbladet that his client could demand compensation for the unjustified imprisonment for the seven to eight years he served for the convictions, and said the damages could likely amount to millions of crowns.

Please tell me that I am not the only one who thinks that this is outrageous, especially considering how easy it can be to manipulate the mental health system.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:53 AM | Comments (5)

October 26, 2004

Munch Museum Robbery Update

The update is, well, there is still no news, no leads, and the museum itself remains closed. As we previously discussed here and here, Aftenposten reports:

"We ain't got squat", said the police. Ok, they didn't really say that, but it amounts to the same thing. They are no closer to solving the robbery or returning the paintings now then they were back in August when the robbery took place.

I am not filled with hope or optimism, at this point.

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:58 PM | Comments (2)

October 25, 2004

Quick report

I have a moment to make a quick report, in case anyone was wondering where I've been. I have, since Friday morning, now billed 30 hours in preparing my emergency application. I smell bad, my glasses are filthy, I am out of emergency chocolate, and my desk is a wreck of old torn up drafts, empty coffee cups, lost pens, files, folders, documents -- both originals and copies, statute and form books, and transcripts. I have a notice of motion, a memorandum of law, and, most importantly, an affidavit for my client to sign. I will serve it all tomorrow morning and then see about digging out. I believe it will hit the plaintiff right between the eyes.

This is not the fun and romantic career I thought I was getting into when I used to watch L.A. Law.

I hope I have not missed much fun stuff on all the other blogs.

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:27 PM | Comments (16)

Another reason to love New York

This from the Metropolitan Diary today (a beautiful moment of perfect NY co-existence):

As Jay Jennings was walking to work on 34th Street during the recent Jewish holidays, he waited while a line of Orthodox men entered a synagogue in front of him.

A hip-hop kid, in basketball jersey and baggy jeans, stopped beside him, looked over the line of men in black hats and suits and nodded.

"Yeah," he said to no one in particular, "kicking it old school."

This fits perfectly with this moment which I blogged about some time ago.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:12 AM | Comments (2)

October 22, 2004

Norwegian Law Enforcement: Strippers and Help to Find Drugs

Story #1

According to this article:

a Norwegian prisoner secretly hired an exotic dancer to spice up the prison's monthly culture night. The woman got all her clothes off, to the cheers of the male inmates, before guards could react on Wednesday night at the Hof minimum security prison in southern Norway.

When they come for me, and they will, remind me that I want to serve my time in Norway, will you?

Story #2

From Jan, at Secular Blasphemy (which I recommend checking out in general), we have the story of a drug courier who forgot where he buried his stash and, concerned that the dealer would get to him, called the police to ask them to help him find it!

My guess is that the guy might have heard about stripper night at the local prison.


At least the drug idiot in Norway knew what he was doing. Here in the US, our drug idiots appear to be much stupider. Here we have the heartwarming story of Vicki Lynn Nunnery, 43, of Callaway, Florida who dialed 911 by mistake, hung up the phone, and was later arrested when the police came to investigate the disconnected call (as they do in case someone was hurt) and discovered "one the largest methamphetamine laboratories ever found in Bay County". D'oh!

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:14 PM | Comments (1)

Red Sox Win, Boston Loses

All over the blog-o-sphere yesterday, you could find Red Sox fans gloating. Most of them, at the least the two I like the most (Irish Elk and SCSU Scholars), were doing so tastefully and amusingly and I suggest you go check out their take on the internet victory dance.

But here's the thing, the Red Sox won, and I take my hat off to them for a fantastic performance (and it really was stunningly fabulous), but Boston lost. Why? They set cars on fire and rioted. It reminds me of some old football coach who said when one of his players danced in the end zone, "try to act like you've been there before" (Bear Bryant, maybe?).

Why is it that you never see NY set on fire by sports fans?


According to the NY Post, a young woman was shot in the head and killed during a clash with Boston cops. According to the article:

Moments after the Red Sox' 10-3 ALCS win early Thursday, some 80,000 delirious Boston faithful poured out from bars and clubs. Fans went out of control, burning a car, hurling bottles and clashing with riot cops, resulting in 16 injuries and eight arrests.

One cop's nose was broken by a flying bottle and officials are considering banning alcohol sales during the World Series games.

The chaos reached its fiery climax on Boylston Street, a block from Fenway, when a few hundred drunken hooligans attacked a parked Nissan Xterra that bore New York plates.

The crowd smashed its windows and set it on fire.

My condolences to her family. What a waste.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:49 AM | Comments (3)

Yesterday Sucked, with like 3 capital S's

I rank yesterday up there in the top 5 worst professional days I have ever had the joy to experience. I cannot, for reasons obvious to at least me, go into great detail about this, so you may not get the full flavor of why, for instance, I actually wanted to throw up at one point. But I will try to summarize just a little bit, if only to help myself move past it.

1. That motion to take discovery? Lost. All of it. Every bit of the relief requested. Why? The Judge loathes my client. Also, it was a totally cold bench (she didn't read one single word of the papers my firm charged my client thousands of dollars to prepare). I get spoiled by appearing mostly in the Commercial Division when I'm in State Court. Ivan Chonkin (if he stops by today) will understand about this since he's had the experience. Then, the judge simply fucked me. No other way to describe it. She is withholding the decision on the motion and refusing to issue a stay. When I said to her that by doing so she would prevent me from going to the Appellate Division to seek a stay, she told me that she would not issue an order just to permit me to "run up huge costs and expense and generate a lot of paper". This was at the end of the appearance. I became so angry here my hands started to shake. I put my finger in front of her, told her that I do not practice law to bring meritless motions or do anything just to run up the costs, I resented the implication that I did, that I had done nothing in front of her that could have ever given her that impression, and that she was out of line. I have never yelled at a judge before and I guarantee my voice was raised. And you know what? She said that she was sorry and that she didn't mean to give that impression. Fuck her.

2. The judge has withheld the decision, as I said above. I am now preparing a motion to by brought by notice of motion (because denial of an ex parte application brought by emergency order to show cause is not an appealable paper in NY) that will request relief in something like 6 parts, with many subparts, and it has to be served by no later than Tuesday. I will be here all weekend. This motion is pure damage control because there ain't no way she's granting it. I will be writing for the appellate panel here.

3. I lost an appeal in another case. A decision came down on an appeal and the appellate court didn't even address the arguments we made. Also, and much much much worse, the client is devastated, both personally and financially. His marriage has broken up over the stress. I'm glad I did not have to make the call to tell him, coward that I am.

I met my wife for dinner afterwards because it was date night and we hadn't been alone for about 2 weeks. It was not joyous but just being with her can sometimes make things a lot better.

But the best part of all? Coming home to find my daughter was still awake, letting her get out of bed while I took my tie and suit off, and then sitting with her in her rocking chair and rocking, chatting, and rubbing her back until it was time to put her back to bed. That did more to salvage my day than I think anything could have.

Finally, I will leave you with a funny Girl Child story, to reward you for getting this far. The nanny told us about it when we got home. She and the GC had the following conversation:

GC: I know, let's switch listening skills. I'll take yours and you take mine.

N: Ok. Hey, GC, let's go, its time for your bath.


N: Hey, you have to listen to me because you have my listening skills and I always listen.

GC: [looks up at her] Fine. I want mine back.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:38 AM | Comments (6)

October 20, 2004

Sorry about the quiet today

I wanted to blog a lot today. There were a number of things that interested me and I wanted to write about them. Instead, I have been preparing for oral argument for tomorrow to defeat, I hope, a $30 million or so claim. Or at least get the Court to give me discovery on damages and I have a novel theory that I am hoping the Court will allow me at least to pursue. If not, off to the Appellate Division. But I write instead to tell you that at 4:08 p.m. I just finished the last of the black coffee I bought at 7:15 this morning. That tells you all that you need to know about my day today, I bet.

At least I am feeling better physically. Thanks again for all your good wishes!

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:12 PM | Comments (3)

October 19, 2004

Spiced Ham Email

I got the following email from someone who's name looked vaguely familiar and so I opened it. The subject line was simply "hey". It had a link to a website which I shall not reproduce here and above the link, the following suggestion:

"drop the hammer on the next bitch you lay it to. . ."

I have no idea what it really means, and I'm too chicken to click on the link, but it sounds so tough. Maybe the author is overcompensating for latent homosexual feelings?

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:42 PM | Comments (13)

Weapon of Mass Destruction: Conference Room Version

Beware the Eradicator the next time you pontificate at a meeting. There is no way corporate security can keep this one out. None of us are safe.

You've been warned.

Posted by Random Penseur at 12:45 PM | Comments (4)

Back at work today

Well, I was back yesterday, too, just not for more than the morning. Then I left, fell deeply asleep on the train home, woke up two stops before mine (its a gift), and went home to pick my nap back up from where I left it on the train. I was feeling so sick and so drained and tired yesterday. Today marks a marginal improvement. I am cautiously optimistic, but not much more. Which is rough, considering that I lack the motivation or power to deal with some fairly complex issues today. I know that they are complex because I read the words in the cases and I don't understand them at all. That's ok. There's no real rush. Except that I have a crucial oral argument on Thursday morning and I really have to prepare for it. Tons of reading, synthesizing and outlining to do. Oh, joy.

I see three possible outcomes on Thursday. One, she denies the motion and I work all weekend to run to the Appellate Division on Monday to humbly beg for a stay of the case pending disposition of the appeal. Two, she grants my motion and then I work all weekend to get the benefits of her decision. Three, she grants my motion and she adjourns the upcoming proceedings and I don't have to work all weekend. I, of course, am holding out hope for #3.

Many thanks to everyone who sent their kind wishes for a speedy recovery. They were a very pleasant surprise and I was touched.

I did spend much of Sunday making home made chicken soup. My wife has remarked that she likes it when I get sick because then I cook a lot. Chicken soup is really an all day thing, especially if you start from scratch. But it makes the house smell soooo good.

Posted by Random Penseur at 12:35 PM | Comments (3)

The Slurpee Machine was Broken

I was so amused by this story in Aftenposten about a murderer and rapist escaping from jail and then turning himself in so I had to supply my own answer to the question of why the convict turned himself in. Clearly, he could not get a slurpee.

Seriously, how soft must life be in a Norwegian jail if a convict calls the police from a 7-11 to come get him after a successful escape? As some of you may know, there was a point in 1999 when the Norwegian Supreme Court government refused to extradite a convicted drug smuggler from Norway to the US because it was felt that the US prisons were too harsh.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:43 AM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2004

Goodbye week (and good riddance!)

I have tried not to whine too much this week about the nasty week this has been -- work; long car trip; business trip to Philly; other deadlines, etc. I have probably failed in that. Oh, well. It's my party and I'll whine if I want to, whine if I want to, whine if I want to; you would whine to if it happened to you, du du du du, du.

Seriously, I greeted the day with sharp pains in my ears at 4:00. Not good. Suspecting ear infections, I called the doctor at 4:15 and left a message begging to be seen this morning because of the pain. Also, every time I swallowed, it felt like I was trying to take down a tennis ball. So, I had tea and read Wednesday's NY Times which was still hanging around the house and which arrived after I had already left on Wednesday. That was an interesting news day. Did you know that Frank Ghery and Snohetta are going to be designing buildings at Ground Zero? I didn't. There was also a great article on a subject I've long had an interest in: economic and political inequality and disparity in China where, once again, the peasants are getting the shaft.

My wife kindly drove me over to the Doctor to be there at 8:30. On the way, I tried to reach them again by cell phone, only to be told by the officious receptionist that the Doctor couldn't possibly see me before 11:00. Not acceptable. I was kind of steamed. So, my wife pulled in, parked, and we went in to the office to suggest that maybe the Doctor could find a moment to see me now. The receptionist repeated that there was nothing she could do. I said to her, "I called you at 4:15 this morning because of the pain, it is now four hours past that and you are seriously suggesting that I patiently wait for another two and half hours?" She looked at me and said she'd go check with the Doctor. Which she did and said that the Doctor would squeeze me in. I think it is a lot easier to say no to people on the phone than in person. A lesson there for us all.

So, here I am at work, surrounded by mounds of shite I have no interest in getting through, dreaming instead of the golden hued chicken soup I intend to make this weekend, and whining on my blog.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:30 PM | Comments (12)

October 14, 2004

Goodbye, Lisa

I was on the train coming back from Philly late yesterday afternoon when my office called me on my cell to tell me that I had received a phone call from an unnamed woman who wanted me to know that my friend Lisa had succumbed to breast cancer the day before and was going to be buried that day. Jews bury their dead within 24 hours, you know. It was a foul up from my office that I only got the message so late, but it didn't matter, I was not able to go anyway. I shut my phone off and tried to think about what I was going to say to her husband or her two young children. This is what I've decided to do. I'm going to send her husband a codolence card but I'm also going to send her kids a letter telling them what kind of special woman their mother was. I hope that by doing that, I can help her kids when they get older and their memories of her have dimmed.

I'm very sad today. Lisa was a remarkable woman.

Lisa. October 12, 2004.

The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation will get money to those who can spend it best. I'm just saying.

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:02 AM | Comments (9)

Comments Replies!

Hi, all, thanks so much for all the great comments over the last week and I'm sorry if I was not as responsive as I'd like to have been. So, let me address some of the comments here, in a post:

First, thanks to all sending me good wishes on feeling better. It hasn't worked at all, of course, but I appreciate it. I think putting in a 15 hour day yesterday was not conducive to feeling better. I actually feel a lot worse. The Boy Child was not helpful in getting up crying at 2:45 this morning. I jumped out of bed to get him so as to leave my wife undisturbed since she has a job interview this morning. He just wanted to be picked up for, tops, 30 seconds. Then I put him back in his crib, at his insistence, rubbed his back for another couple of seconds, and he was back asleep. It took me a lot longer. Good thing for him that he's so cute.

Second, as for soup. Rachel Anne, you could make it with any good vegetable broth and then you don't have to skimp on the all important dairy. Phillipe, when I have a sore throat or am congested, I want as much spice as I can stand. It makes my throat feel better, oddly, and it helps me breathe. Simon, other than poaching chicken breasts, it is really hard to make a good quality home made chicken soup during the week. I'd have needed to have been home for hours for that. See, I take kosher chicken legs and simmer them with celery, carrots, onions, leeks, parsley, etc. for a long time. I remove the chicken and strain the broth, throwing out the useless vegetables. Then, I add to the broth, more aromatics (carrots, etc.) and cook them while I shred the meat from the legs. I add the meat back in at the end, et voila, chicken soup. But it ain't a weekday kind of thing to make. And I usually make a whacking big vat of it so I can freeze some.

Third, as for D.C. Next time I'm down there, I will certainly give Ivan and Wicked some advance notice and perhaps they can show me a more hospitable bar. Margi, I'm glad you liked the toast. Mick, thanks for your good wishes. Mark, thanks for the recommendation about Clyde's!

Finally, Jim, thanks for the gentle nudge. I have actually been working on another "behind the curtain" post but have not had enough time to finish it up. Maybe soon, I promise!

By the way, if your comment went unaddressed above (Amber, Helen, etc.), please know that I am not ignoring you. The commnents part of the blog is really the best part and I appreciate all of them.

Thanks again, y'all!

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:26 AM | Comments (2)

Change the Rhetoric, Please

This has been bugging me for a long time and I thought I'd drop a little line about it. I am tired of the use of combat rhetoric by sports writers, athletes, and owners. So, I request here, as follows:

*Stop using the word "war" to describe a sporting event, unless the sporting event is figure skating 'cause they actually come the closest, what with the use of hit men and all;

*Stop describing men who travel with their own chefs and massage therapists as "warriors", they are not. They are paid obscene amounts of money to whack balls or put on pads and hit each other. They are NOT warriors. The closest thing to a warrior, other than a service man or woman, is (usually) the woman left at home who holds a family together under stresses you and I cannot conceive of. These woman deserve our respect. Athletes are not warriors.

*Stop using the word "battle" or "battle tested" to describe a football player. Sports Illustrated described some LSU grad as "battle tested" because he played for the Tigers. The closest he has come to battle was the co-ed who probably successfully (this is Louisiana, after all) fought him off. He may have developed great athletic ability and tremendous powers of focus and concentration, but he is not a battle tested anything. He is the most coddled of creatures, a big time college football player.

There are other examples, I'm certain, but these are the ones which come to mind and piss me off the most of late.

Here endeth this morning's rant.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:11 AM | Comments (1)

October 13, 2004

Forecast: No Blogging Today

I'm off in a couple of minutes to catch the 7:30 train to Philly where I will spend the day reviewing 30 boxes of documents. I anticipate no access to computers.

I'd rather be blogging!

Posted by Random Penseur at 06:40 AM | Comments (2)

October 12, 2004

Soup is Good Food

I am bad at being sick. Some people are good at it. My wife, for example, is a great sick person. She doesn't let it slow her down at all. I, on the other hand, generally will wallow in my sickitude. I am miserable. I moan. I like to be both left alone and taken care of. Mostly, I want soup. I also mostly prefer my own cooking. I am sick, right now. It is inconvenient to be sick now. I have to be in Philadelphia tomorrow and in Court later in the week. Happily, I had soup I made last week. I am going to reproduce the little recipe here both because I think others might like it and because I don't want to forget how to make it.

It was simple. I took a bag of broccoli flowerets (the pre cut up stuff you normally cook by throwing the bag in the microwave), one red pepper (I cut up), 1 hot, green chili pepper (they said it was serrano but I thought it may have been jalapeno and mis-labeled), and one really big can of low fat and low sodium chicken broth and brought it all to a boil. I added some cumin, maybe a teaspoon, some sea salt and some fresh ground pepper. I let it cook away for at least 10 minutes, which was enough time to cook the vegetables. I took it off the heat and stuck the puree wand in and zapped it. Then back on the heat for the flavors to come together. Then back off the heat for some heavy cream.

It was very yummy and the chili pepper gave it a great kick. This was a perfect weekday soup to make since, start to finish, it was a half an hour.

There are some things I might do differently, next time or if I had more time. I might have sauteed some onions and all of the vegetables first. I also might have thrown in some fresh ginger and a smashed garlic clove or two. I also might have used sour cream or yogurt instead of the heavy cream. Or even maybe buttermilk.

If I have time tonight, there will be more soup. Because we all know, soup is good food.

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:49 AM | Comments (6)

The weekend report

We drove to D.C., about 250 miles, with two kids under the age of four, one nanny, and six cd's. It took about 5 hours. The kids were great, no complaints and no naps.

Friday was uneventful and passed quickly, other than my discussion with the bartender, as set forth in the post before this one.

However, one amusing thing did happen. I fell into conversation with a fellow wearing a Norwegian flag on his shirt. I held a real, grown up conversation in Norwegian with someone not related to me. That was very cool. He even asked if I was Norwegian, but maybe he was just being kind. In the, “it’s a small world” category, we had mutual acquaintances. Odd.

The rest is below, in the extended entry:


All four of us were in one room at the Hilton. The Boy Child and the Girl Child awakened us on Saturday morning with a sort of pillow fight. He would throw all his blankets out of his crib and she would throw them back in. They would both laugh delightedly. It was a charming way to wake up.

After breakfast, we marched them, along with my father, down to the Museum of Natural History, where we saw the Hope Diamond, the Stabiano exhibit, some dinosaur fossils (where my daughter kept telling my father he didn’t have to be scared because all of the dinosaurs were gone), and the insect collection. My brave little daughter icked us all out by holding several different large and yucky looking bugs.

We then walked out onto the Mall where they were having the National Book Festival. It was huge and they were giving away all sorts of free stuff– books, cd’s, slinky’s, puzzles and other fun kid things. Happily, since it was getting hot, they also had free bottles of water which we gratefully accepted.

After lunch back at the hotel, my father and the kids all went off to take naps and my wife and I hit the trail once more. This time we took a taxi, however. We went to the Freer Gallery to see Whistler’s Peacock Room, which was an exceptional experience. I had studied this room in art history some 15 years ago and was very excited to see it. Here is a a picture of part of the room:


If you go here, you can read about the room and see some other pictures.

Then we walked further down and paid a visit to the Air and Space Museum. We checked out the WWI and WWII era fighter planes on display (my choice) and then went to see the space exhibits - landers, rockets, capsules and so on (my wife’s choice). It was all exceptionally cool. I still marvel at the courage demonstrated by the men who stepped into these fragile little machines and launched themselves into the sky.

We then all trooped off to have a glass of Champagne and some cake to celebrate my grandfather’s 90th birthday. The Boy Child, who did not nap at all, was challenging. Eventually, we took him back and handed him off to the nanny so he could go to sleep early. The Girl Child came up to the wedding rehearsal, which she enjoyed. After it was over, she took her little cousin’s hand and declared that they were going to play “practicing getting married”. The Girl Child would be the boy and her little cousin, the girl. They mostly just walked around a lot holding hands. Good enough.

Eventually, after a rather long wait, we all went off the rehearsal dinner which was held in the basement function room of a local restaurant. It was crowded, buffet style with almost no seats, loud, and just plain too much. In other words, we escaped. We took the Girl Child and ran to a nearby restaurant where we had dinner and kept the Girl Child out waaaay past her bedtime. It was really nice to just have one child for a little while, especially one as mature as the Girl Child. That was probably the best part of the dinner. I had to send my wine back because they gave me a glass with lipstick smears all over it. I explained to the Girl Child that I didn’t feel like kissing a stranger. The second glass was just as dirty. At that point I gave up on the wine entirely.


We spent the morning packing up. You know the drill, finding all the things that the kids stashed under the beds and hid behind the couch. We checked out and I packed the car before I put on my nice suit and tie. I hate doing physical labor of any kind when I am wearing expensive clothes.

I walked over to the Hay Adams at 11:30, to be there early because I was asked to sign the ketubah as a witness. A ketubah is actually kind of interesting. It is a wedding contract, written in Aramaic, and it sets forth the rights and obligations of each of the parties to the contract. Most of them are quite beautiful and they are often framed and hung in the new couple’s house. You can see some examples of them here, if you like. I was honored to be asked.

At the signing, the rabbi did something I thought was very cool. He told the bride and groom to look into each other’s eyes and remember that moment when they had decided that this person was the one for them. Reflect on that moment, he told them, keep it close to you and treasure it. When things get difficult, as they sometimes do, remember back to that moment when you picked this person and know that you made the right decision. I liked that and I think everyone in the room liked it. As we filed out, the rabbi told me I was responsible for getting the ketubah after the ceremony and delivering it to the bridal suite.

The ceremony was nice. We were seated across the aisle from Sam Donaldson. There were other media celebs there, too – George Stephanapolous and Cokie Roberts, for example.

After the ceremony, I slipped out with the ketubah and took it upstairs. To my surprise, the bride and groom and the bride’s sister were in the room. I took that opportunity to give them my toast, the one I should have given at the rehearsal dinner and I made the bride and her sister cry. Here’s what I said (and no, it wasn’t anything about the triumph of hope over experience):

Back in 1986, I went to lunch with our grandfather. It was near or on the anniversary of the death of our grandmother. I asked him if he still missed her and he said something I’ve never forgotten. He said that he’d had 37 years with her and if I wanted he could give me the number of months, weeks, days and hours and it was not enough time. As I stand here with you, my wish for you both is that you have found in each other the kind of love and devotion that our grandfather, and I, have been lucky enough to find.

And we had a little Champagne and away we went.

The reception was held on the roof of the hotel. This is easily the best view in Washington. Here’s a picture from the hotel website:


The food was great, the speeches were fun, and I ended up sitting next to a law school contemporary who has gone on to do great things at one of the regulatory agencies. It can be a very small world.

The kids were happy downstairs in the kiddy suite, although the Boy Child fell and scratched his face a bit. He has the complexion that shows every little mark. The neurosurgeon we were chatting with told me not to worry about it, but what does he know?

We slipped away at 3:30 and managed to get on the road at 4:30. It then took 6 hours to get home. I drank coffee almost the entire way home, which meant that I got no sleep last night. I also picked up a cold or something down there so I was pretty rough yesterday and not feeling so great today.

Still, all in all, it was a darn nice weekend.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:51 AM | Comments (3)

October 11, 2004

Random Observations from Washington D.C.

As you know, the family and I spent the weekend down in the nation's capital. I have some random, disconnected (seemingly) observations from my stay there and I thought I might burden you all with them. So, in no particular order:

* There are a surprisingly large amount of homeless people inhabiting the streets around the White House.

* It is, architecturally, a humane city. The buildings are all low, the streets are wide. It does not make you feel closed in.

* As for those wide streets, whoever designed the street crossing system may have been on crack. There is ample time given to cross the smaller streets but the wider avenues require a good start out of the blocks when the light changes and a strong kick at the end in order to make it across the street safely.

* There is great irony to be found. While walking past the imposing headquarters of the AFL-CIO (I could not find a picture of it at their website, I wonder why), you notice the huge banner suspended from the front. It reads: "America Needs Good Jobs". It hangs over the nine off-street parking spaces in front of the building. Parked in those nine spots were: three Volvos; one Mercedes; 4 various Japanese cars; and, one lonely American pickup. I don't need to spell it out any further do I? I was so struck by this that even though I was a tiny bit late to get to the wedding, I stopped to count and then fix the numbers and makes of the cars in my mind for later.

* You can still smoke in bars and restaurants in D.C.? Are you kidding?

* It is a young place. A lot of kids right out of college are clearly trying to make their way. A lot of energy. And they all seem to run on the weekends. Some of them are very cute. Some are not.

* It is a one industry town. I had an argument with the bartender at the Hay Adams about this. The Yankees and Twins were playing on Friday night and we were in the bar for drinks. At one point, the sole tv suddenly stops showing the game. I move over to inquire, gently, and we had the following exchange:

Me: Excuse me. Is there a reason that the tv is no longer showing the game but instead is showing fat people holding up signs showing how much weight they've lost, not that that isn't commendable?

Him: This is Washington. We're going to show the debates.

Me: Sure, but even in Washington you have to admit that when the debate doesn't start until 9 and it is now 8:40 we could still probably have another 15 minutes or so of baseball, right?

Him: [grumpily changes channel back to game]

Me: [continue conversation with friends while casting glance over to game]

Him: [shouts across bar, stopping conversations] Hey, Yankee fan, we're going to change the tv now, since you ain't even watching!

Me: [shouts back] Not watching, huh? How about this, I can't see the tv at all and, let me think, top of the 3rd, 2 outs, Yankees up 3-1, runner on third, and a 2-1 count on the hitter. Am I right?

Him: [silence, of course I was right]

Me: Asshole. [And we leave, as my cousin compliments me on making friends wherever I go]

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:04 AM | Comments (8)

October 07, 2004

Forecast: Spotty to Light Blogging

I expect very little blogging over the next couple of days. I leave, with wife and children in car, to drive down to Washington D.C. tomorrow morning to watch my cousin publically demonstrate the triumph of hope over experience as he weds, again. I am expected to give a toast and I don't think that the preceding sentence is going to be it!

Thanks to Jester, however, I am going to try to go see:

In Stabiano: Exploring the Ancient Seaside Villas of the Roman Elite. National Museum of Natural History (202) 633-1000 Through 10/24/04 Exhibited for the first time outside of Italy are 72 objects from the wealthy Roman sea-side resort of Stabiae, not far from Pompeii. These marble statues, wall stuccoes and ceiling frescoes were excavated 50 years ago from the volcanic ash that buried the ancient city during the 79 A.D. eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

I hope you all have a great weekend and, if time permits while I'm down there, I may sneak a post in.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:19 AM | Comments (7)

Lawyer Humor

Margi had the link to this legal humor site.

I found particulary funny this lease provision:

47. END OF THE WORLD. The occurrence of the end of the world prior to the complete performance by Tenant of the terms, covenants and conditions of this Lease ... shall permit Landlord to accelerate and demand payment for all charges which remain as an obligation of Tenant under this Lease, and Landlord's collection of monies due from Tenant may be pursued by an immediately available procedure. For all purposes hereunder ... such notice [shall] be given to Tenant by the then prevailing medium of communication. Landlord shall be deemed aligned with the Forces of Light and Tenant shall be deemed allied with the Powers of Darkness notwithstanding either party's final ordered placement.

Lawyer humor for lawyers.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:08 AM | Comments (1)

Spain and Columbus Day

The Spaniards have disinvited the United States to their Columbus Day celebration, according to the guys at Diplomad, in favor instead of inviting French troops to take part. Their take on it was pretty damn funny.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:51 AM | Comments (1)

Uganda -- pity the children

I write, from time to time, about Africa. Indeed, I ought to give it its very own category, I suppose. From a safe distance removed, it is impossible not to find Africa compelling and fascinating, scary and sad.

The NY Times has written this morning about Uganda and the boy king. This is a far from gripping article about the 12 year old boy who sits the throne in Uganda. His name is King Oyo. It is a typical puff piece about young royalty thrust onto the throne at 3 1/2 and how he wishes he could be just like every other normal kid. He runs with his dogs and goes to school and his mother tries to resist the attempts of Parliament to remove him as king. *Yawn* The piece does note that Uganda is very poor but after we make our expected obesiance to that inconvenient fact, we move on the the leopard covered chairs and the business class plane trips.

Now, if you are the typical American reader (whatever that means) you will have turned the page in your NY Times, secure in the fact that Uganda, while poor, is a happy place where everyone loves their boy king. You can now turn your attention to the more interesting sports section.

But wait a second. What if you happened to read the NY Sun last night on the train home? Maybe you'd have a different take on Uganda. Maybe you'd be forced to ask yourself if the NY Times has even the barest beginnings of a glimmer of a clue about Uganda.

Uganda is a basket case. The Sun reproduced an article from the Telegraph, entitled, Broken Lives of the Twlight Children. Don't follow this link unless you need a good cry, ok? This is seriously horrible stuff.

Uganda's children are not all playing with dogs and running around with leopard skins. Some of them, over 20,000 children, have been kidnapped, tortured, raped, and forced to become soldiers in the "Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), Africa's most brutal rebel group led by a self-styled prophet called Joseph Kony." Here is some information about the LRA.

Since the onset of his campaign 18 years ago, the LRA has kidnapped 20,000 children, brainwashing and enslaving them for use as soldiers and sexual playthings. More than 10,000 have disappeared in the last two years.

Kony targets children, devoting his messianic energies towards the abduction, indoctrination and often murder of as many as possible.

The catastrophe inflicted is almost without parallel. At least 1.6 million people - virtually the entire rural population - have fled their villages for squalid refugee camps. The number of refugees has trebled since 2002 and exceeds the 1.2 million in Sudan's war-torn Darfur.

The conflict has being going on for 18 years. Where is the much vaunted United Nations in this? More people have been displaced here than in Darfur, which is getting a lot of press and attention. The UN is nowhere, instead suggesting that other NGO's do a little more.

[T]he UN has passed five resolutions in as many years on the protection of children in armed conflicts, including specific calls for action in Uganda, but the rate of abductions is higher than ever. "While the extreme abuses of children in northern Uganda are well documented and widely known, the international community has failed to find an effective way to protect them," it adds.

It says the 18-year conflict has cost the country ÂŁ725 million. More than 20,000 children have been abducted by the LRA, made to kill their parents and forced into bondage as child soldiers, sex slaves and weapons porters.

Two million people are living in squalid and cramped camps for the homeless and malnutrition among displaced children is up to 21 per cent in some areas. "Many international appeals were made to the UN and world leaders, Ugandan children addressed the UN. "Each time their stories shocked audiences, each time they went home with hope. Their hopes turned to despair," the report says.

Denis McNamara, the UN special adviser on displacement, rejected charges that the UN has offered "too little, too late" suggesting instead that groups such as World Vision should increase their own staff in the countryside.

Once again, the UN rides to the rescue. By the way, I've left out a lot of the gruesome details, like about the boy who was forced to kill his own family by setting fire to their hut. It pains me to even write that last sentence. Go see for yourself, if you can.

The article in the Telegraph starts by telling you about a child named Simple who walks six miles into town to sleep on the concrete outside by the hospital to avoid being taken by Kony's army. The little girl is 12 years old. Can you imagine what it must be like to have to send your child out of your house for her own protection? And then not know if she was safe until she came back the next day?

And King Oyo wants to be just like a normal kid. He doesn't mean the kids who have to sneak into town to sleep, does he?

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:42 AM | Comments (2)

October 06, 2004

A small milestone reached

Hey, y'all. I've been writing here since July 13 and in that short time, I have hit 1000 comments! Well, actually, 1003. Thanks for all of the great comments (and not so great ones, for that matter) that you all leave. It certainly makes it interesting for me.

Writer of the 1000th Comment is: [drum roll, please] Amber!

Thanks, Amber!

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:58 PM | Comments (2)

I lost one

I am pretty sure I came out the loser on the following exchange with the Girl Child, aged 3 3/4. I think that by conceding her logic system, I may have really erred. I'll let you all decide.

Me: I hear that you were a real pill today. Why was that?

GC: Well, I can't listen every day. [Pause, then earnest explanation with hands waving for emphasis] I'd get bored.

Me: Oh. Well, you didn't listen today so that means you have to listen tomorrow, ok?

GC: Yes, Pappa.

By the way, before I got home, the nanny told her that she was going to tell us that the Girl Child was not to have any dessert that night because of the way she had been behaving and the Girl Child said to the nanny: "Don't tell Mamma and Pappa, ok? It can be our little secret."

I'm doomed, aren't I?

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:41 PM | Comments (2)

Canadian Submarine in Distress

From Jan, apparently a Canadian submarine, non-nuclear, off the coast of Ireland is in big trouble with 9 injuries and drifting with no power.

I did not know that the Canadian navy had submarines but actually, they have four diesel subs they bought from England in 1998. Here's the press release from the Canadian Navy. The press release gives the rationale for buying them and the specifications of the boats.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:27 AM | Comments (2)

Today in History: Birthday Celebration Edition

It's been a long while since I've done one of these but today is a good day to do it.

Birthdays today, October 6:

*1820 Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale and the most popular female vocalist of the mid to late 1800's. Probably the inspiration for the Teutonic Titwillow of Blazing Saddles, one of my favorite movies. First brought to NY to sing by P.T. Barnum.

*1846 George Westinghouse responsible for alternating current in US and thus the Age of Electricity. Also created the air brake for the trains.

*1887 Le Corbusier (beware the popups, but a great source of links) Switzerland, architect/city planner/artist (Urbanisme). I always hated the fact that he wanted to tear down the center of Paris and replace it with high rises. His only building in the United States is the Carpenter Center at Harvard (picture). This building was designed as the graduate school for architects at Harvard and the architect, as I recall from my studies, threw every decorative element he possessed in his bag of tricks into the building, including the tropical sun shades he had created for Brazil, in order to give the budding architects the chance to experience all of him and his vernacular. Not the best building but fun to visit should you be in Cambridge.

*1909 Carole Lombard actress (My Man Godfrey, In Name Only)

*1914 MY (maternal) GRANDFATHER!!! My grandfather was born twelve years after his father came to this country. My great-grandfather came with no money and no English but got a job very quickly. The street car conductor would tell him where to get off to go to work, at first. My grandfather was born in a lower east side tenement, with gas lights flickering on the walls, no electricity. My grandfather, born to immigrants with no money, graduated from Harvard University on a full scholarship and Columbia University School of Law. He went into real estate and eventually became one of the first corporate raiders, albeit without the kind of capital those fellows enjoy today. He is civic minded to the nth degree, serving on boards of educational institutions, symphonies, and historical societies. He has written books and published articles. He is, to my mind, the living embodiment of the American Dream. In short, my grandfather is my personal hero and I strive to model myself after him and live up to the very hard example he has set. I come up short, I think, but I do try. Knowing him has enriched my life and I look forward to having dinner with him tonight to celebrate. 90 years old and 100% there. Happy birthday!

*1914 Thor Heyerdahl Norway, anthropologist/explorer, sailed the Kon Tiki raft from Peru to Polynesia to prove his theory that American Indians could have been the ancestors of the Polynesians. His many expeditions are chronicled here

*1942 former Bond-girl and ex-wife to Peter Sellers, Britt Ekland, (IMDB bio) and pictures.

Deaths occuring today

* 1891 Charles Stewart Parnell leader of the Irish party and nationalist who gave the concept of the boycott by telling people to shun those who bought foreclosed farms. He was brought down by a sensational divorce case involving Kitty O'Shea, who you may have heard of.

*1981 Anwar Sadat assassinated Hosnai Mubarak becomes Egytian president

*1983 Terence Cardinal Cooke, age 62. He was a great Cardinal for the City of New York.

*1989 Bette Davis, 81.

*2004 Rodney Dangerfield, age 82.


*1520 German reformer Martin Luther, 36, published "Prelude on the Babylonian Captivity of the Church," his famous writing which attacked the entire sacramental system of the Catholic Church.

*1781 Americans & French begin siege of Cornwallis at Yorktown; last battle of the Revolutionary War. The rumor is that when the British marched out of the garrison, after surrendering, their band played, "The World Turned Upside Down".

*1889 Thomas Edison shows his 1st motion picture, . Go check out some of the clips from other Edison films.

*1927 "Jazz Singer," (beware popups) first full length movie with a sound track, premieres in NYC. It is the story of a Cantor's son who doesn't want to be a Cantor. Al Jolson (born Asa Yoelson) starred.

*1973 Yom Kippur War begins as Syria & Egypt attack Israel. Here, I want to send you to Michael Oren's book, the best book I've read on the subject. It is an enthralling read: Six Days of War : June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Oren thinks, and I agree, that you cannot understand the current situation in the Middle East without understanding this conflict. Even then, the aim of the invading Arabs was nothing less than the complete destruction of the Jewish people, as Oren demonstrates by, inter alia, quoting from Arab government documents and newspapers articles.

Whew, this was a long one, wasn't it? Maybe that's why it's been a while, it takes a bit of time to create these.


Thanks to Mick for noting my mistake on the dates above. I corrected it.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:49 AM | Comments (8)

The Debates: V.P. Edition

Well, I am keeping with my practice of giving my views on this before looking at any newspaper or other blog. My view is that Cheney won last night and I'm not sure that it was particularly close. Remember, if I'm changing presidents in the middle of a war, I need a good reason. Edwards did not give me a good reason last night, although I really liked what he had to say about Israel. To my surprise, I thought Cheney was a stronger supporter of gay marriage than Edwards was. Cheney seemed to have a better handle on the facts and figures and if he was wrong, well, he at least sounded confident and in command. Who would I like to see one heart beat away from the oval office? Last night, it would have to be Cheney.

By the way, I am going to go check out the factcheck.org or .com site he spoke about in relation to Haliburton.

Advantage: Cheney.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:45 AM | Comments (4)

October 05, 2004

This may strike you as stupid, but . . .

How crushed do you feel when you open the desk drawer where you keep that little bar of dark chocolate (Break Glass for Emergency Use Only) and you discover that you finished it already and you forgot all about having done so? You've opened that drawer and are just shocked, and not in a good way, to find that there ain't no emergency chocolate in there.

I know I'm not alone on this one. Am I?

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:13 PM | Comments (11)

Australian Politics

Before I got involved with blogging -- both reading and writing -- I knew next to nothing about Australian politics. Now I am just slightly farther along on the continuim after reading people like Yobbo, Simon, Michael, and Chrenkoff. First of all, what the hell do they feed these people in Australia in order to produce such articulate political commentators? Where can I get some of that and it better not be Vegemite?

Now, you may think to yourself, "Self, why should I care?" You should care because Australia is a critical ally and partner in Iraq and in the WoT (War on Terror) generally. It is headed, at the moment, by John Howard and he is in quite a fight with Mark Latham, head of the Labour Party. I'd turn here for more of an explanation: Decision Time, an excellent piece.

I admit that I am finding the Australian campaigns to be much more interesting, or at least more entertaining, than the American one. The reason? We're not getting quotes like this one in our campaign (Mark Latham on John Howard):

Mr Howard and his government are just yes-men to the United States. There they are, a conga line of suckholes on the conservative side of Australian politics. The backbench sucks up to the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister sucks up to George W. [...] In my book they are not Australian at all. They are just the little tories—the little tory suckholes.

I am not informed enough to have an opinion, unlike the blogger I took the above quote from, but I must admit I wish we had a more colorful campaign going on over here.

Posted by Random Penseur at 12:02 PM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2004

Cold calls

I just got another cold call my secretary did not weed out. I love these.

Woman: This is Dee from R__ K___'s office and he'd like to drop you some information in the mail.

Me: That's nice. Who's R___ K___?

Dee: Well, he works with Wall Street. [Delivered in slightly reverential tone as if I am lucky to be getting a call from the flunky of a man as busy as this]

Me: What? The whole Street? Really?

Dee: Well, he works for Almond (actually another nut) Securities.

Me: Them? Pass. [Hang up]

Closing thought: Perhaps he pushes a broom on Wall Street.

Actually, I did an internet search on the real name of the firm and came up with a suspended license story. Ah, well.

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:12 PM | Comments (6)

Some interesting book recommendations

I have lately been meaning to update my list of "Daily (practically) Reads" to include some new ones. One of them, the Diplomad is a blog by a bunch of conservative U.S. State Dept. Foreign Service Officers. It has a list of books they liked and I thought it looked pretty great. Here's the link to the list and here's one or two of their selections I want to run out and pick up:

Holy Madness, Romantics, Patriots, and Revolutionaries, 1776-1871, Adam Zamoyski: A great book, well-written, insightful and funny. You will never think of the French Revolution in quite the same way again after reading this tome. Zamoyski analyzes the European and other revolutionaries who were inspired by the American Revolution and tried to make some of their own -- generally with disastrous results. A definite must-read.

Thunder Below! The USS Barb Revolutionizes Submarine Warfare in World War II, Admiral Eugene B. Fluckey: A rollicking good read! You'll tear through this one. A superb account, published in 1992 (we re-read it this weekend), of the US Navy's submarine campaign against the Japanese Empire. It focuses on the remarkable achievements of the USS Barb under Fluckey -- it "sank" an enemy train, among other accomplishments. We don't want to give any of it away, so go read it. You won't be sorry. The most stunning thing to us was how incredibly young these American submariners were and the almost suicidal missions they went on without hesitation. A real testimony to the American fighting man and his will to win.

Happy reading!

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:55 AM | Comments (3)

Munch Theft: An Update

You all recall, I'm sure, that in late August, two famous paintings were stolen from the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway. Well, now almost six weeks later, we have an update from the Police: They don't have a f**king clue who took the damn things.

"We have not had any good, concrete tips about where the pictures are. We are still optimistic but we need some time," said police inspector Iver Stensrud, head of the Organized Crime division of the Oslo police district. "There are no concrete leads or groups that are more interesting than others in the investigation. A reward is one of the things that is under continuous assessment," Stensrud said.

Translation? We have no idea what happened to the damn things and are so totally useless that we can't even agree on whether, 40 days later, it might make some sense to offer a reward to shake loose some information. We need some time because if we get fired now, our pensions may not have vested so you really need to wait to decide if we're incompetent.

I will eat my words with the greatest pleasure if these clowns turn these paintings up again. I fear I will not have to do that. I'm sure you know how this all makes me feel right?


Posted by Random Penseur at 08:46 AM | Comments (0)

A Wholesome Weekend

If you're looking for a post about the latest political kerfuffle, this isn't the one today. If you're looking for a throw back, 1950's kind of family values weekend, look no further than this report. It was, as my wife said, about as G-rated as a girl can get.


After breakfast, I read a Roald Dahl story, the Enormous Crocodile, to the Girl Child while my wife put the Boy Child down for his morning nap. Shortly after reading that, I passed out. I moved to the couch, lay down, and was completely unable to move, even as the Girl Child played the role of the enormous croc and came over from time to time to growl and try to eat my face. I think I just collapsed basically from exhaustion brought about by last week. I lay there, somewhat suspended between sleep and consiousness for anywhere between a half hour and an hour. When I got up, I took a shower, revived myself, and off we went.

We set off to go to one of the local church run pre-school fairs. It is their biggest fund raiser and is well attended. The weather cooperated with the rain holding off. There was a silent auction (we bid and lost) and rides and games. One of the rides was a great big slide. The kids climbed to the top and slid down in a bag and hit a huge puffy pillow at the bottom. The Girl Child wanted to give it a try. She had major problems getting to the top, though. One of the steps was broken and the way up was both steep and constructed from a slick industrial nylon. She did not give up, though, she kept trying until, with a little help from the guy at the top, she made it. She was quite triumpant and didn't even wait for the guy to help her get into position to slide down. She just put herself into her little bag and away she went. She loved it.

When we left, we drove by another church that was having a pumpkin patch benefit to raise money for their school. So we stopped and bought a couple of pumpkins to carve up for later.

We took the kids home for naps at that point and I went out to the gorcery store to buy all the necessaries to create a pot of chili. Well, almost all. There was no chipotle in adobo, which was a great disappointment to me and left the chili a little lacking somehow. Fall is here for sure and with it comes the need to cook things that simmer on the stove for a long time. Besides, I adore chili. While poking around in the freezer, just before beginning the chili making, I found that we had some Trader Joe's frozen dumplings, at least two different kinds.

So, when the kids awoke, they were very happy to be given dumplings for dinner. The Girl Child ate more than I would have ever expected a child of her age to eat and then came back after dinner and asked for more. The Boy Child was less enthralled.

Sunday dawned beautifully, although I admit to grumpiness. It passed. We loaded children into cars and headed up county about 40 minutes away to go to an apple orchard. At least, that's what we thought we were going to be doing, spending the day drifting from tree to tree and picking apples. No. Instead, the place was organized like a miniature county fair. It was great fun. There was a pumpkin patch and pony rides. We took a hay ride through one of the orchards and sang songs and just had a great time. We ended up buying some apples (Macoun, if you care) and pears and taking them home with us because we had exceeded the allotted time.

Then, driving back to the highway, we saw a sign for the Casafina warehouse sale. Casafina is an importer of Italian and Portugese hand painted ceramics. We are bad about these kinds of things and acknowledge that we possess little or no restraint. That said, we were pretty well behaved here and only bought a couple of things, including a wedding present for a friend.

After we got home and put the kids to bed, I worked for an hour and a half (got to remember to bill this), cleaned out the freezer, washed the kitchen down, unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, took the recycling out to the garage, and washed all the new pottery stuff. A whirlwind of activity.

While I was doing this, the wife was out exercising outside where she reported a most unlikely sighting -- a Subaru sporting a Bush/Cheney sticker. A rare almost unprecedented occurrence.

When the kids awoke, we shoveled them back into the car to take over to my parents for dinner. My dad made Osso Bucco. It was the perfect end to the weekend. The kids put a silly cd on and danced with my dad while I cleaned up a little (after all, he did the cooking).

And to top it all off, the kids went straight to sleep. I should have bought a lottery ticket, you know?

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:38 AM | Comments (6)

October 01, 2004

The Pink Panther Strikes, Again!

Did any you see the news that there was a daring jewel heist in Paris at the National Syndicate of Antique Dealers 22nd Biennial? Protected by four security guards and several salespeople, two huge diamonds, worth $14 million, were lifted into thin air.

According to the reporter:

The French news media were quick to draw analogies with the country's famous fictional gentleman burglar, Arsène Lupin, and the caper might make Americans think of Cary Grant's dapper character in "To Catch a Thief." But the police say the real thieves, though skilled, are probably far less refined.

That's the French news media, you see, making those comparisons. That's probably why the most natural one did not occur to them. No, not the dashing Cary Grant, but the bumbling Peter Sellers from the Pink Panter movies is the one who comes immediately to mind. You wonder how they could have missed that film reference. Or, maybe you don't.

Detectives at France's Brigade de RĂ©pression du Banditisme say there is little chance of recovering the diamonds. They say the gems are probably somewhere in Eastern Europe or Russia by now. While it will be nearly impossible to sell such easily recognizable stones on the open market, they say, the diamonds can be recut and then sold. The police say there are also plenty of private buyers in Russia and the Arab world willing to accept a discount in return for leaving difficult questions unanswered.

I'm telling you, if the internationally famous detectives at the Brigade de RĂ©pression du Banditisme (or, Brigade for the Repression of Banditism) have already given up, then only Inspector Clouseau can crack this case!

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:38 AM | Comments (2)

Ghurkas: An Update

I saw this misleading little blurb, buried in the middle of the NY Times this morning and wanted to highlight it:

BRITAIN: GURKHAS GAIN CITIZENSHIP Gurkhas, who have served with the British Army for nearly 200 years, won a court battle to settle in Britain and become citizens. The soldiers, recruited in Nepal, are continuing to demand equality in pay and conditions with their British Army counterparts. The right to settle in Britain is restricted to those who left the army after July 1, 1997, when the Gurkhas were rebased from Hong Kong to Britain. The Home Office estimates 230 soldiers and about 800 dependants will settle in Britain each year. Gurkhas have served in the army since 1815 when a peace agreement was reached by the British East India Company after it suffered heavy casualties during an invasion of Nepal. From a peak of 112,000 in World War II, their numbers have dwindled to about 3,400.

Why is it misleading? Because the Ghurkas who served in Hong Kong, while they may be permitted to settle in Great Britain, are excluded from citizenship (link has lots of pop ups so I reproduce relevant bits below).

Former Nepalese-born Gurkha soldiers who helped defend Hong Kong under British rule are fuming at London's decision to exclude them from a new law giving the crack fighters British citizenship, a spokesman said Thursday. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Thursday that serving and retired fighters of the army's famous Ghurka Brigade would be allowed to settle in Britain.

But the law applies only to those demobilised after July 1, 1997, the day Britain disbanded its Hong Kong regiment and returned the city to Chinese control.

"The law has been stacked against Hong Kong's Gurkhas, they have been deliberately left out," said Hem Thapa, an agent at Gurkha International, an employment agency that finds work for former Gurkhas who still live here.

"Those who went back to Nepal will definitely be making some noise about this -- many were definitely counting on Britain offering them citizenship."

Why can't the Brits treat these men properly?

UPDATE: Predictably, and I should have looked before posting the above, Simon has a great post on this subject.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:28 AM | Comments (3)

The Debates

I stayed up past my bedtime last night with my wife to watch the debate. I was not impressed overly much although, on the whole, I liked Bush better. I am keeping in open mind, despite the oft quoted danger of having my brain fall out, but I know that I am going to need a reason to change presidents in the middle of a war and I was anxious for John Kerry to give me that reason. He didn't. You see, I'm still not really sure what he stands for. I know what he's against -- Bush. But what is he for? Lehrer asked him several times to give specifics about how he would handle things differently from Bush. I actually moved physically to the edge of my seat when he was asked this question because I didn't want to miss a single word. I sat back disappointed when he concluded his answer. There was no substance to the reply, it was just another attack on Bush. Kerry referred us to his website for the "details". Go see it yourself. I did, last night. I looked up the homeland security platform and walked away with no greater understanding than I had after the debate. Basically, it says on the website that they'll identify sensitive targets and do a better job guarding them. That doesn't make me feel safer.

Advantage last night: Bush.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:20 AM | Comments (1)