Matthew's Foray into Blogging

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Homemade French onion soup

When you put your bowl of French onion soup under the broiler, don't become distracted. The cheese will burn in no time.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Long time, no blog.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Will they really be missed, though?

Remember those holiday greeting cards I bought last year, but never mailed out? Looks like they won't be sent out this year, either.

Monday, November 27, 2006

I’ll Tell You What You Can Do with Your Brine!

I’m tired of the “brining” fad. Every chef and person who can have him or herself associated with food says we have to brine our Thanksgiving turkey. Scott Tycer, formerly of Aries, currently of Pic, even suggests using a brining needle, to inject the brine into the joints! If turkey is so dry and bland that it requires brining, why bother eating it? We dry age beef to intensify the flavor. But we’re supposed to water down our turkeys with flavorful liquids. Just start with a good turkey, like an organic or a heritage bird, and don’t overcook it.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Carrot Cake Is a Vegetable, Right?

A family member celebrated a birthday this last weekend. For this occasion, we had lunch at Grotto. I went into it with the lowest expectations. Alison Cook panned it. Tilman Fertitta, the showman whom I hesitate to call a restaurateur and who owns the aquarium restaurant and the miserable landry’s chain, lays claim to Grotto. Besides trying to make a profit from crappy restaurants, Fertitta started out peddling porn mags. I am reluctant to patronize any restaurant associated with Fertitta. Nonetheless, the servers and buspersons were polite, they kept the water glasses topped off, they did not try to push expensive items to run up the bill, and the salad I had was impeccably fresh! Unlike the salads that I have eaten at a number of restaurants, there were no greens that were past their prime. I thought our wait staff was deserving of a generous tip.

The member of our party who was paying has a reputation as being an ungenerous tipper. Not only do servers earn a wage below the legal minimum, which is supposed to be augmented by tips, but also they share a percentage of tips with the bus persons. Many of these people so employed are immigrants, just trying to get by in this country, and hoping to send some back to their relatives south of the border. The servers frequently hope just to make ends meet. So, when the individual who was picking up the tab tipped a mere ten percent, I was dismayed. Never mind that the restaurateur is reaping a profit off his marked-up offerings. The servers are doing all they can to scrape by on minimum wage. If you stiff anyone on the tip, you’re not hurting the smut-peddling Fertitta. I formerly was a lousy tipper. However, I have been making an effort to remedy this. I was the last of our party to depart the table. As I was rising, I placed some cash on the table to bring the tip to twenty percent.

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For the birthday cake, the guest of honor had requested one of two cakes. I had not previously made a carrot cake, so I selected that one of the two suggested desserts to prepare. Not only do carrot cakes – which are more akin to quick breads and muffins – require assembly of the wet ingredients and the dry ingredients, but also there is the added step of finely grating six or seven carrots. I was pleased with my first-ever carrot cake, with a delectable cream cheese frosting. Since it has carrot in it, it does qualify as a vegetable serving, doesn’t it?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Madeleines

I had not previously eaten a madeleine, the little French cakes baked in pans with scallop-shaped indentions. I had not even seen a madeleine before. I had always wanted a pair of madeleine pans, though, so I could bake the diminutive French cakes. The birthday bunny, or Santa Claus, or whoever leaves the gifts underneath my pillow on the anniversary of my birth every year brought me a pair of nonstick madeleine pans this year!

Madeleines are probably best known in America because of their role in Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, or Remembrance of Things Past, where the narrator’s memories of his childhood are brought back to him when he dips a madeleine into a cup of tea.

Marcel Proust’s madeleine was allegedly dry. The madeleines produced during my first attempt at baking them were delicate, cake like, and moist. I was quite pleased with the resulting scallop-shaped little sponge cakes.

Next, I want some canelé molds!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Participating in the Political Process

I early voted in the midterm elections. From an economist’s perspective, voting is irrational. An individual’s single vote is most likely not going to alter the outcome of an election. Thus, the benefits outweigh the costs of going to the polling place. This is particularly true if one lives in a solidly “red” or “blue” state, or a district that will invariably go to Republican or Democrat candidates. If one is inclined to support an independent or a third party candidate, one is really throwing away his or her vote. Nonetheless, I enjoy participating in the political process. I particularly enjoy voting for independent and third party candidates. Although Richard “Kinky” Friedman, running as an independent, won only 12.6% of the gubernatorial votes, my vote was among those. Quanah Parker, the son of the Native American leader of the same name, running as a Libertarian, garnered 24.1% of the vote in his attempt to win a seat on the Republican Court of Criminal Appeal. My vote was among that 24.1%. I am under the delusion that casting a ballot for an independent candidate counts for more than a vote for a major party candidate would, because my vote is not lost among the votes of the masses. Rather, my voice stands apart from the crowd. My expression of my dissatisfaction with the two major parties is more apparent.

If no one voted, why bother to have a democracy?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Happy Birthday, to Me

My sister did a fabulous job baking my birthday cake. Everything was homemade - from scratch. I was particularly impressed by the chocolate mousse frosting.


Making pizza, one of which my sister captured on film, is always fun, also.



Monday, October 30, 2006

Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

Weekends are short enough as it is, and I already try to pack too much into them, but when I go to the grocery store on Saturday mornings, often times, some food item will jump out at me. For instance, this weekend, I saw tomatillos that were as fresh and verdant as any I had ever seen. I could not pass them up, so, in addition to cooking the beef brisket that I had planned, I was going to have to find something to do with a pound of tomatillos. Then, in the meat department, I saw some bone-in, “natural” pork loin chops. HEB has been offering a broader selection of “natural” beef and pork. “Natural” need not mean anything more than that artificial colors have not been added, but the people at HEB promise that it means that the animal was raised without the use of antibiotics, hormones, animal byproducts, industrial waste, etc. As I could not pass up these nice looking pork chops, I also had to incorporate them into a meal. Some of those organic collard greens I saw in the produce department would accompany the pork chops well. Before I know it, I have spent a good part of my weekend in the kitchen, preparing all of this tempting-looking food that caught my eye at the grocery store.

Daylight Saving Time Ended

I found that hour I lost back in the spring.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Something Different

I cooked baby back ribs this last weekend. Since I am the only Texas resident who does not own a barbecue pit, I braised them in the oven, using an Alton Brown recipe. I selected the “natural” pork from HEB, which – the good folks in the meat department promise – means it wasn’t fed any animal byproducts. I don’t cook baby back ribs too often (this might have been the second time), so it’s fun to try something different. They turned out quite well.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Great Flood

As soon as I finish constructing my ark and loading the animals two-by-two, the rain stops! Doh!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Free Panty!

I get a kick out of the offer that arrives in the mail occasionally, addressed to my Dad, from Victoria’s Secret, for a “Free Panty!”

Monday, October 09, 2006

Multi-Headed Beast

An analogy that aptly describes the firm for which I work likens it to a monster with multiple heads, none of which knows what the other is doing.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

CROCS® at Work

If I bought a pair of black CROCS, I wonder if I could wear them to work with a suit. CROCS are super comfortable. Stylish, too.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

$2.00 a Gallon Gasoline!

$2.00 a Gallon Gasoline at HEB! Now I can buy that 11 gallon per mile SUV I have been wanting.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Learn Something New Every Day

In law school criminal procedure courses, students learn that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution requires that police have “probable cause” to arrest, that is, facts that support that a person committed a particular crime. Law students also learn that police can make an “investigative detention” based on a lesser standard – “reasonable suspicion,” that is, facts and inferences that would lead a reasonable officer to believe that a crime is afoot. Additionally, all arrests must be reasonable, per the Fourth Amendment. If an arrest is made pursuant to a warrant, it is reasonable, but there are numerous exceptions to the warrant requirement.

Applied to a real-life scenario, this means that the police cannot randomly pull people over on the roads to determine whether they are Driving while Intoxicated. The authorities cannot even wait outside bars to pull over the patrons as they depart the drinking establishments. Rather, reasonable suspicion to stop must exist. Reasonable suspicion to stop amounts to a violation of a traffic law, such as speeding, or a license plate light being out. When the officer approaches the vehicle, and smells the strong odor of alcoholic beverage, notices the slurred speech, and the glassy, bloodshot eyes, the officer can administer standardized field sobriety tests, and ask the suspect to submit to a breath test (all of which the citizen can and should refuse). If the officer determines that the person is operating a motor vehicle in a public place while not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol or any other substance into the body, or the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, probable cause to arrest exists.

A useful statute for providing the reasonable suspicion is Texas Transportation Code § 545.060, entitled “Driving on Roadway Laned for Traffic,” which provides, in part, “(a) An operator on a roadway divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic: (1) shall drive as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane; and (2) may not move from the lane unless that movement can be made safely.” The officers will cite this variously as “Fail to drive in single lane,” “Fail to maintain lane,” “Changes lanes when unsafe,” or some variation thereof. Essentially, this is a means to make a traffic stop because a driver is weaving on the road. However, a Texas case that is a great boon to lawyers whose clients who are charged with Driving while Intoxicated exists: State v. Huddleston, 164 S.W.3d 711 (Tex. App.–Austin 2005). Huddleston holds that, essentially, weaving, by itself, is not sufficient. Rather there are two parts to the statute: (1) there must be a lane change, and (2) the lane change must be unsafe. At a suppression hearing n Huddleston, the officer testified that Ms. Huddleston never crossed the fog line (that solid stripe on the right side of the road) in an unsafe manner. The court held that witnessing Ms. Huddleston safely cross the fog line five times over a stretch of six miles did not give the officer a reason to suspect that she was unsafely failing to remain in a single lane in violation of § 545.060.

Following is what I learned most recently. We had a client who was charged with DWI. A Motion to Suppress was filed because the reason for the stop was nothing more than crossing the fog line. A suppression hearing was set. At a suppression hearing, the defense has the burden of proving that an arrest was made without a warrant. Thus, the defense has the first go at whatever witness it wishes to call, usually the arresting officer, in a DWI case. At the outset, the prosecution will offer to stipulate that the arrest was made without a warrant. Many defense attorneys will agree to stipulate that a warrantless arrest was made. At this point, the defense has met its burden. The burden shifts to the prosecution to prove that, although there was no warrant, the arrest was reasonable. The State now has the opportunity to call its witnesses of choice, without the defense having conducted direct examination of the arresting officer. Now, the prosecution calls the arresting officer to the stand, and essentially says, “Officer, tell me how recklessly the defendant was driving!”

Cleverly, at this suppression hearing, my employer refused to stipulate that the arrest was made without a warrant. This caught the prosecutors off guard. Thus, the defense still had the burden of proving that the arresting officer did not have a warrant, as a result of which, my employer had the opportunity to have the first shot at questioning the arresting officer. It was elicited that our client’s crossing of the fog line was hardly unsafe. There was no violation of § 245.060, and thus no reasonable suspicion to stop. Good bye, DWI.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Representation the Constitution Guarantees?

If an attorney is not going to devote the same attention to his or her appointed clients as the attorney devotes to his or her retained clients, why bother being on the appointment list? I have heard numerous clients who are represented by court appointed attorneys remark that they are not satisfied with their court appointed attorneys’ representation. I have also heard a number of attorneys remark that they do not invest the same amount of time in their court appointed clients’ cases as they invest in their retained clients’ cases.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Work on Weekends

I don’t mind working on weekends, provided I don’t have to go into the office. Since I am not paid by the hour, it does not benefit me to clock in to surf the Internet. I am not suggesting that anyone does this, but I can take my work home with me, and save the gallon of gas that I would use in driving the thirty-mile roundtrip. Of course, I lose out on making an appearance at the office on weekends, but that is a small price to pay.

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Special Place

There is a special place in hell reserved for judges and prosecutors.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Infrequent Blogger

My mind and my time have been too preoccupied with work as of late for me to devote attention to blogging. Alas.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Screw the Environment!

It may take “many years and tens of billions of dollars” to bring it to market, but the discovery of oil and gas reserves in the Gulf of Mexico could increase reserves by more than 50 percent! Now I can buy that .12 mpg Hummer 6 I have been wanting, and without suffering from a guilty conscience!

Monday, September 04, 2006

What? Where?

Where did my three-day weekend go? Looking ahead, I don't think we have another extended weekend until the end of November.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

My mom suggested that I might exhibit obsessive-compulsive behavior. It might not bother me, she said, but it does disturb other people. She recommended that I consult a doctor, who could then prescribe medication to treat this alleged obsessive-compulsive disorder. Shouldn’t I see a specialist who could diagnose me as OCD, rather than just getting some GP to medicate me?

Would this medication be a mood altering substance?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

490 Miles for Barbecue

I drove 490 miles roundtrip for barbecue. Luling City Market sells some storied offerings from the barbecue pit. Actually, I did not make the drive just to buy barbecue. I happened to be in Bexar County, and I stopped off on my way back to Houston. City Market does not provided utensils for dining, and they serve the barbecue wrapped in sheets of butcher paper. I skirted this lack of forks by purchasing some beef brisket for carryout.

The beef was seared on the outside, with a flavorful, crunchy crust, and it was moist and tender on the inside. It had an intensely smoky flavor. I hope using a fork and knife is not considered cheating.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Homebody

I am traveling to Mason, Texas this weekend. I am looking forward to visiting this quaint, historic town. I would much prefer to have a three- or even four-day weekend, though. I like to take it easy on the weekends. Driving five hundred-plus miles roundtrip, and staying in unfamiliar accommodations, does not make for the most relaxing weekend, for me. Well, I can just look forward to the next weekend.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

I Pity the Fool!

…who has to fly from Gatwick Airport, London, to Intercontinental Airport, Houston, in the wake of the failed terrorist attacks. My sister happened to be returning from a two-month European tour at a rather inopportune time. Days before she was to fly back, British authorities thwarted a terrorist plot to blow up airliners from the U.K. bound for the U.S. Fortunately, the terrorists’ nefarious plot was foiled. However, the discovery of the planned attack prompted heightened security and, consequently, significant delays at airports. My sister’s flight was only delayed for a bit shy of three hours. Unfortunately for me, she was unable to carry back any Scotch or Irish whiskys. Carryon luggage was severely restricted, and the transport of liquids, such as water, fragrances, hair styling aids, and liquor, was prohibited, as bombs consisting of liquid materials were among the weapons the terrorists planned to use. I was so looking forward to a bottle of Laphroaig. I am glad that my sister is safe at home.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Classics (Tie Knots, That Is)

I am fairly please with myself! I tied a decent looking full Windsor tie knot today. My proficiency in tying ties is improving. I had started with a four-in-hand, and then I ventured into the tying of a half Windsor. I may have progressed to a full Windsor. I still rely on the four-in-hand and the half-Windsor, but it is quite useful to have an additional knot in my repertoire. No matter how expertly my ties are tied, though, I’m sure no one other than me notices.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

“Those are topless club prices!”

The Saint Arnold Divine Reserve No. 2 has been released. I was a bit put off by the price of $13.00 for a six-pack. That’s over twice as much as I am generally willing to pay for beer. A coworker remarked, “Those are topless club prices!” According to the description on the Saint Arnold website, “Divine Reserve is a series of single batch beers, each brewed with a completely different recipe.” The Divine Reserve is produced in extremely limited quantities, as in fewer than 500 cases. Is this a clever marketing gimmick, designed to allow the Saint Arnold Brewery to charge outrageous amounts for beer? Or is the Divine Reserve worth over $2.00 per twelve-ounces?

The more I read about it and the more I contemplated it, the more convinced I became that I had to try the exorbitantly priced Divine Reserve No. 2. If “it is best described as an Abbey American quadruppel,” two dollars for a 12-ounce might not be unreasonable, I supposed, considering that similar style beers, like Chimay or Maredsous (the production of which has been entrusted to Duvel Moortgat), cost around $6.00 to $9.00, respectively, for 750 mL bottles. Additionally, I justified purchasing a $13.00 six-pack when I considered that even a domestic brew purchased in a restaurant or bar would likely cost more than $2.00.

I found the Divine Reserve No. 2 to be sickly sweet, syrupy. It might better be consumed during the colder months. If the objective of drinking beer is to become intoxicated, this is a good pick, at 9% alcohol. If this beer “should develop well in the bottle over time,” maybe I will let it continue to take up room in the fridge. Maybe it will improve with age, or perhaps its flavor will be more agreeable with the arrival of cooler weather.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Grin and Bear It, or, Choke It Down!

Rancho Grande – that is what I get for being too lazy to make my lunch for just one day. Could I have told my coworkers that their choice of restaurants did not meet with my approval and that I would therefore not be joining them?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Outstanding Coffee Beverages, without the Syrup

My new Aeropress is awesome! It even produces crema on the top of the espresso (which is a sign of a good cup of joe). I made a fine cappuccino last weekend. No one else seems to get as big a kick out of it as I do, though.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Can the Government Put My Money to Better Use Than I Can?

I wonder why my “accountant” structured the transfer of title of the Si from my brother to me such that I ended up paying $540 for tax, title, and license. This wasn’t an arm’s length transaction between unrelated parties. When I mentioned to my “accountant” that the transaction could be labeled a gift, thus avoiding incurring tax, my “accountant” asked, “You want to do the right thing, don’t you?” If “doing the right thing” means saving me money at the expense of the wealthy, wasteful, greedy government, then, yes.

One would think this CPA would be looking out for my bottom line, particularly since my “accountant” also happens to be my dad.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

It was another one of those weeks.

I think I will start working on my two-week notice this weekend.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Defenders of the Constitution

To be a district attorney or an assistant district attorney, one must be willing to screw with other people’s lives. DA’s have to be vindictive and obstinate. DA’s are typically lazy, too. Criminal defense attorneys have to be smarter than prosecutors need be. I mean, the laws are written in the favor of the State. The criminal defenders must work with laws that are drafted against their clients.

Criminal law is not “good guys” versus “bad guys.” Criminal defense attorneys are defenders of the Constitution.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Even Pickier Than Me?

I had lunch yesterday with a friend who is on a “raw food” diet. Apparently, the theory of such a diet is that heating food beyond 110° or so renders it incapable of being metabolized by the body, or something. My friend says she has benefited immensely from this diet. She has so much more energy, and she is free from many of the health maladies that plagued her before.

I don’t know that I will ask her out for lunch, again. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy visiting with her, or that her food preferences caused her to be anything less than the most pleasurable dining companion. She does not adhere unwaveringly to her diet. If someone invites her out to eat, or to dine at one’s house, she will eat what is available.

Rather, I know how, um, finicky I am about dining in restaurants. It would be even more difficult to deviate from one’s eating regimen if one were on such a restrictive diet. Out of consideration for my friend, I will not “impose” on her again.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Living for the Weekends

The much anticipated, long awaited weekend finally arrived. And now it is over. Just five more days until the next one. Is it not good that I spend my weeks looking forward to my weekends?