Matthew's Foray into Blogging

Friday, September 30, 2005

Sur La Table Free Cuisinart Freezer Bowl Scam

I have plans to make two different frozen desserts in rapid succession this weekend – a chocolate gelato and a lemon frozen yogurt. A second cylinder for the Cuisinart® Automatic Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker would be most useful right now. In fact, I should have in my possession a second Cuisinart freezer bowl, because I mailed in my rebate coupon, UPC, and original cash register receipt in accordance with the Sur La Table “Free”[1] Cuisinart Freezer Bowl offer. Delivery was to take eight to ten weeks. I placed my rebate materials in the mail on June 23, as noted on my Outlook calendar. Fifteen weeks later, the second ice cream cylinder has yet to arrive.

When I called to check the status of my Sur La Table “Free” Cuisinart Freezer Bowl, the Express Group employee informed me that I had qualified for the rebate on June 10, but that my rebate was still “processing.” She could not tell me when it would ship, but she did assure me that it would ship. I suspect that Sur La Table, Cuisinart, and Express Group, are running a swindle. They entice consumers to purchase the Cuisinart® Automatic Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker by offering an additional “free” freezer cylinder (that did not induce me to buy the ice cream maker, though). If the buyers bother to mail in the rebate, the retailers or manufacturers do not mail the freezer bowl, in hopes that the consumers will forget about it or not bother to pursue it. Maybe since I have inquired further, my “free” freezer bowl will be forthcoming.

Where is my promised second ice cream cylinder?

[1] Nothing is really “free.” There is always something one must do to receive something that is “free.” I had to buy the Cuisinart® Automatic Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker to receive the “free” second freezer bowl. If it were truly free, it would have arrived on my doorstep without me having done anything. Of course, it would have been largely useless to me, without a Cuisinart® Automatic Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker in which to use it.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Traveling Would Have Been Nice

It would have been nice had I been able to use some of the last seven-and-a-half months since completing the bar exam in February – seven-and-a-half months in which I have been unemployed – to have done some traveling. I could have lived in France, or any number of other countries in the developed world, and learned the language via immersion and classes.

The only problem is that, when one travels, not only is one spending money, but also one is not making any money.

I was surprised to learn that L. Paul Bremer is also a classically trained French chef.

Habit of Watching More Television

I need to develop the habit of watching more television. I nearly always miss Alton Brown’s Television Food Network program, Good Eats, because I forget to turn on the television at six o’clock. Mr. Brown’s program is informative and entertaining. In each episode, he focuses on a particular ingredient, and goes into considerable detail concerning the nature, origin, production, selection, and preparation of the featured ingredient. Good Eats, in my opinion, is one of the few remaining worthwhile shows on TVFN. Mario Batali’s Molto Mario is quality programming. David Rosengarten’s Taste was quite educational. However, there has been a shift away from edifying fare, toward quick fix solutions, like Rachel Ray’s drivel, and people of the ilk of Paula Dean and Giada De Laurentiis, who are just concerned with showing viewers shortcuts to put slop on the table and who settle for pudding mixes and biscuit mixes from a box.

At the six o’clock hour, I am typically at home preparing dinner. If I remember at all that there is a program that I desire to watch, I cannot turn on Television Food Network before 6:00, because the horribly annoying Rachel Ray is on for the entire hour of five o’clock. I frequently check the Food TV website to see what Alton Brown is doing on each episode of Good Eats, but it easily slips my mind when the time arrives that there is something on worth watching. If I were in the habit of watching television, I probably would not have this problem.

Why Not Rail?

I have thought before that some variety of rail system for moving people, such as commuter rail, light rail, or even maglev, connecting the major Texas cities would be ideal. During the Hurricane Rita evacuation, the possibility of rail in Texas came to mind again; it would have been a useful means of assisting in transporting people out of the hurricane’s path.

A passenger train between Houston, Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio, and maybe even to Lubbock and El Paso, would take a sizeable number of cars off the road, which is essential in these times of escalating oil and gas prices, possibly dwindling world oil supply, dependence on Middle East oil, and global warming (I’m with the camp that believes it’s happening). It would also be incredibly convenient not to have to make the tiresome three- and five-hour drives. College students could more easily make the occasional trip home on weekends, without exposing themselves to the risk of being involved in auto accidents (to which my sister can attest).

Gov. Rick Perry’s controversial Trans Texas Corridor, a network of new tollways, railways, and utility lines crisscrossing the State, with a price tag of at least $175 billion, includes a long-term projection of potential high-speed passenger rail. The commuter rail aspect would be nice, if it were to become a reality.

Such a rail system is probably not already in place due to the influence on government of the Big Three automakers, Ford, General Motors, and DaimlerChrysler, the airlines, and Big Oil . Anything that would result in fewer personal automobiles on the roads, less air travel, and reduced oil consumption would certainly meet stiff opposition from these industries.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Rolling Stones as Model for Major Metropolitan Area Evacuation Plan

In a Houston Chronicle article that suggests that Houston actually has a plan for responding to a major disaster, Paul Light, an expert on emergency response with New York University, is quoted as saying that the best model for disaster response agencies to emulate is the Rolling Stones’ traveling tour.

“They move two 747s and five truckloads of gear every day with the flexibility to change venues and add concerts,” Light said. “That is what is needed, the ability to hit the ground running and react to events.”

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Rita Wasn’t Going to Let Us Off That Easy

Well, after escaping Hurricane Rita unscathed, we got ours yesterday, so to speak. Our Internet service was spotty during the morning (Horror!). Then, around one o’clock, our power went out for about an hour. I suspected rolling blackouts. At 3:30, the power went out again. It wasn’t out for a mere hour, this time. We were without electricity until 8:40. Apparently, our worthless, price gouging electric company was performing repairs in other areas, which required that power be shut off to us. The power was supposed to be down for one-hour intervals. I guess we could not be let off so easy.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Beer or Church… Beer or Church

When I was doing my post-Hurricane Rita shopping Sunday morning, I tried to pick up one of the Saint Arnold six packs that are on sale for $5.50 at Kroger but, alas, I had forgotten that it is against State law for grocery stores to sell alcohol before noon on Sundays. Thwarted in my attempt to take advantage of that low, low price, I went to church, instead. Not really!

What is the purpose of the dumb “blue law” that prohibits the sale of beer and wine by grocery stores before noon on Sundays and that prohibits liquor stores from even being open at all on Sundays? These provisions of chapter 105 of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code are relics of our nation’s puritan roots. Is this law supposed to cause people to opt to attend church rather than to start drinking before noon? The “churchies” who wanted me to rest on their day of rest and worship still lost! I spent all Sunday afternoon in the offices in which my dad works, moving furniture and reconnecting computers that had been secured in anticipation of Hurricane Rita.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Getting in His Airtime

I saw Rep. Tom DeLay, (R) Sugarland, at a television news conference shortly before Hurricane Rita came ashore. Of course, he did not have anything to contribute, but he was racking up some serious brownie points by bestowing praise on the mayors and local politicians and officials for their efforts. Rep. DeLay did not look too terribly despicable.

That Was Draining

That was a hectic three days. Is Hurricane Rita going to batter us with 125 mph winds and 8” of rain? Do we have enough bottled water? Are we going to be without power? Will we manage without D cell batteries for the flashlight? Will the straggler make it home from downtown Houston before the wind and rain start?

Hurricane Rita spared us. Bottled water, anyone? Shall we have tuna salad or salade niçoise? At least we do not have plywood to remove from over our windows, as some of our neighbors do. I am particularly thankful we did not spend hours stuck in traffic.

Here is Eloise, ready for the storm and looking all cute in her little pink collar.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Hurricane Rita – As Bad as She Wants to Be?

As of 6:00 a.m. Saturday, we have not suffered any ill effects from Hurricane Rita. We have been receiving some rain and strong winds, but have not suffered any flooding, wind damage, or power loss. We seem to have escaped the worst of it. Rita made landfall at 2:30 a.m. this morning “in extreme southwest Louisiana between Sabine Pass and Johnson’s Bayou, Louisiana.” That put us on the drier, weaker side of the hurricane. We don’t have an anemometer, but I think we only experienced wind gusts into the low forties.

We live in close proximity to a non-naturally occurring body of water – I am reluctant to call it a “lake,” but it is referred to as such. Thus, we are insured against flooding; I hope that flood insurance will not be made necessary. In our favor in enduring this squall is The Woodlands’ practice of burying power lines underground. This primarily improves the aesthetics of The Woodlands, but it also prevents The Woodlands from suffering from power outages every time there is a gust of wind. Power lines strung about a city are terribly unsightly. Hanging electric wires all about the sky, though, is less expensive for the power companies than is burying them. Reliant Energy attempted to run an above-ground power line over The Woodlands a few years ago, but the residents put up strong resistance and prevailed against the evil power company. Nearly a million homes are without power in Houston and southeast Texas following Rita.

A member of my nuclear (nukular?) family stayed in Houston until nearly the last minute – yesterday morning. He delayed leaving because he did not want to sit in traffic for eleven hours. I thought he was going to be riding the storm out in a downtown high rise. However, he left at around 8:00 a.m., got on Hardy Toll Road, set the cruise control at 65 mph, and, about 45 minutes later, joined us at home, a safer 80 miles from the coast.

We are housing some “evacuees.” Relatives from Friendswood, which is 30 miles from Galveston, are staying with us. I suggested that they sleep on cots so they could receive the full “evacuee” experience. That idea did not enjoy much support, though.

If the situation does not worsen, we will have a supply of bottled water and disaster “rations” – nonperishables – to last us for a long time.

President Bush is visiting Texas today! Yesterday, “President Bush canceled plans to visit with emergency workers and officials in Texas, citing the storm’s shifting path and a desire not to impede preparations.” “President Bush, determined to show a vigorous role in hurricane response management, monitored Rita from a military command center” in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I am sure there is much President Bush can do here to assist in the relief efforts. We need him here in Texas much more than the American people need him in Washington. Never mind that the Commander in Chief is placing himself in harm’s way just to improve his tarnished image.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Optimistically Hoping for… the Worst

My sister is being optimistic about Hurricane Rita – she is optimistically hoping for the worst. “please God, let it take out UH law… and all of UH campus” When she implored god to “make the hurricane come my way and destroy the law building forever so I can quit,” I inquired, “What if they ship UH students to other schools, though, like they have done New Orleans students?” She replied, “yeah im hoping i can decline and get money back” “I don’t know,” I reminded her, “Universities and colleges are pretty stingy with their money.” At least she was being positive about something.

What Went Right and What Went Wrong

Everyone wants to know “what went right and what went wrong” with the response to Hurricane Katrina. President Bush intends to find out “what went right and what went wrong” with the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Rep. Tom Davis, (R) Virginia, plans “to investigate aggressively what went wrong and what went right” with federal emergency aid after Katrina. Charlie Melancon, (D) Louisiana, called for “a sober assessment of what went right and what went wrong.”

We all know that much went wrong in the way Hurricane Katrina was handled. Did anything go right?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Famous Last Words

One hundred twenty-five mile an hour winds from Hurricane Rita may reach as far inland as Brenham, concerned relatives warn. Rita is a “monster” Category 5 hurricane and could be one of the most powerful ever to hit U.S. The eye of the storm is going to pass right over Katy, someone told me.

I think people like to exaggerate the severity of storms. It is something out of the ordinary about which to become excited. The media especially love it, as it is an opportunity for them to shine. Following the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Katrina, we are particularly attuned to disastrous storms from the sea. I hope we will be safe 80 miles from the coast. It is the storm surge, rather than the winds that are most dangerous. I do not anticipate that Rita will be as bad as everyone is predicting.

How Does One Get to the Galleria from Here?

You get on South I-45, and drive until you hit Seawall Boulevard. Then, you take a right, and you keep driving. When the road runs out, keep going a little bit further.

One of my mom’s interior design clients insisted on keeping an appointment in Houston yesterday, despite the mass exodus from the City and the coastal areas. After their meeting, which went longer than it should have gone, the client inquired of my mom how she could reach the Galleria from where they were. This lady wanted to go shopping. Maybe she needed storm supplies from Neiman Marcus.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Next Best Thing

If the grocery stores have sold out of water, beer is the next best thing, right? Although the shelves at Kroger and two HEB’s I visited were devoid of water as Hurricane Rita bears down on the upper Gulf Coast, Kroger did have plenty of Saint Arnold six packs for the low, low price of $5.50 each. Those did not seem to be moving too fast, surprisingly. I bought a six pack of Amber Ale, and a six pack of Oktoberfest. I should be able to last for a few days without running water.

I Wasn’t Supposed to Tell?

For secrets are edged tools,
And must be kept from children and from fools.

– John Dryden, Sir Martin Mar-All.

Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

– Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack.

You don’t have to marry Judge Roberts, Senator Reid

Senator Harry Reid said that he will vote against the confirmation of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. Why would Senator Reid want to do a thing like that? Apparently, Senator Reid has “too many unanswered questions about the nominee to justify a vote confirming him to this enormously important lifetime position.” You don’t have to marry Judge Roberts, Senator Reid. Does the good Senator from Nevada think the nominees are going to get any better than Judge Roberts? Nonetheless, “confirmation seems very likely despite Mr. Reid’s opposition.” “Mr. Reid could be using his vote to send a message to the White House…. Democrats have insisted that Mr. Bush replace Justice O’Connor with a moderate.” I wonder how Mr. Reid’s constituents in his Republican-leaning State of Nevada feel about his decision to vote against Judge Roberts.

Vegan, No; Organic, Yes; or, They Feed Cattle What?

The FDA will be imposing stricter cattle feed rules. While at-risk tissues – brains, spinal cords, and other parts that can carry mad cow disease – are currently banned from cattle feed, these tissues can be used in feed for other animals, including chickens, pigs, and pets. Wait, it gets worse. In 1997, the FDA began prohibiting the cattle feed industry from using ground-up cattle remains – leftovers from slaughtering operations, which were used as protein – in cattle feed. These cattle remains could still be used in feed for other animals, such as chickens. “[Chicken] feed that spills from cages mixes with chicken waste on the ground, then is swept up for use in cattle feed.” Cattle are also fed “restaurant plate waste.” This poses a BSE risk, because the BSE prions can survive a chicken’s digestive tract.

Is it not disgusting and infuriating that the people in the feed industry were feeding chicken waste to cattle? I do not consume much beef as it is, because it is generally pricey, but his causes me to want to eat only organic beef, which is even pricier. We do eat the Laura’s Lean Beef, but only the ground round is available. What is wrong with allowing cattle to graze on grass for their entire lives? By foregoing fattening up the cattle in feed lots, the greedy cattle ranchers would not be able to make as much money.

I once held a position as a server in a Greek restaurant for a few months. A couple on whom I waited on one occasion were vegans. Some people may practice veganism because of a sincere desire to avoid harming animals or to make a statement about consumption, but I would advance that most vegans just want attention. If one is a vegan, why would he or she bother dining out in a restaurant? Who knows what restaurant chefs and cooks put in the food? Restaurant kitchens rely heavily on butter. Do you think that marinara is low-fat? It probably has several pounds of butter, to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. These vegans on whom I waited ordered briami, a Greek vegetable casserole. It had Parmesan cheese in it. They inquired whether there were any vegan-friendly desserts. Galaktaboureko, a custard baked in phyllo, was out of the question. Cheesecake and rice pudding were obviously not suitable for vegans. Even baklava has honey and butter in it. It is a good thing that those vegans are not contributing to the suffering of those poor honey bees.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

My Alumni Mentors

My alumni mentors were incredibly helpful while I was in law school and while I was preparing for the bar exam. They offered much sage advice on course selection and on studying for final exams and the bar exam; they made passing the bar exam seem very doable, among the other support the provided. They both made partner about a year-and-a-half ago. Both of my alumni mentors are excellent lawyers, despite the generally poor reputation of our alma mater, which is quite undeserved.

My alumni mentors seem to have forgotten about me. I suspect they are of the opinion that I am a loser, since I did not hold a clerkship during law school, and since I have been unable to find employment, despite having passed the bar exam four-and-a-half months ago. I do not fault them.

My alumni mentors are probably too busy for a little loser law school graduate, now that they are partners in a reputable law firm. A few months ago, we had arranged to meet for lunch. I drove the thirty miles into town, only to learn that one of them had a conflict, of which they had omitted to inform me.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Ayyyy, Matey!

Avast, me hearties! Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Forget North Korea's Nuclear Program! It's the Emmys!

I thought this was rather significant news: “North Korea Says It Will Abandon Nuclear Efforts.” It received top billing on The New York Times website. Apparently, the editors at The Houston Chronicle think “Lost, Raymond take top honors at Emmys,” is bigger news than “North Korea agrees to end its nuclear programs.” The Chronicle's story about the Emmys, which was accompanied by a picture of some loser-looking cast from some show with which I am not familiar, was second only to a story on the prematurity of allowing evacuees to return to New Orleans. A bunch of worthless celebrities giving recognition to themselves is more important than a breakthrough in international relations. Is this a reflection on the Chronicle’s readership, or is it a reflection on the caliber of newspaper the Chronicle is?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Which Came First?

Here is a “chicken or the egg” conundrum. Which came first, the insipid Woodlands dining scene, or the unsophisticated Woodlands area diners? I often lament the fact that the restaurants from which to choose in The Woodlands consist of chains that range from bad to worse. However, when I am drug to one of these hash houses against my will, they seem to have no trouble drawing droves of diners. Are these uninteresting restaurants here because that is all the residents of Montgomery County demand, or do people from The Woodlands and surrounding areas flock to these dives because there are no better dining alternatives?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Someone Just Open the Door!

Since she recently discovered what fun the out of doors can be, all my sister’s cat wants to do is play outside. Doesn’t Eloise appear to be in agony?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Hate Driving to Conroe

I strongly dislike – Hate? Yes – having to drive up I-45 to Conroe. Fortunately, it is not frequently necessary for me to visit the Montgomery County Courthouse, thus requiring that I make that trip. The road construction usually causes traffic delays, and the thirty mile roundtrip jaunt is particularly burdensome with regular gasoline currently costing $3.00 a gallon. It’s not as though there is even anything else to do while in Conroe to make the drive worthwhile. When I go into Houston, conversely, there are other places to visit, like Whole Foods, Central Market, or Serenitea, and there is no dearth of interesting restaurants at which to dine. (I do feel strangely compelled to try the hole-in-the-wall-looking Taqueria la Carreta in Conroe; despite its appearance, it seems to draw people.)

I have to go to the County Clerk’s office in Conroe today. Maybe I can at least claim the 48.5 cent per mile reimbursement on my tax return. I think I am procrastinating.

Ashamed for Texas

While the Massachusetts legislature defeated a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, the Texas legislature has approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which will be sent to the voters in November. Voter approval is likely. This legislation is the product of Neanderthals like Reps. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, and Robert Talton, R-Pasadena, and Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine.[1] They believe “that traditional marriage must be protected.” I think “traditional” marriage faces many worse threats than gay marriage, like the fifty percent failure rate of marriages.

It is absurd to write this variety of discrimination into the State Constitution. The instrumentalities of the State should not be used to restrict the rights of citizens, when the acts that are prohibited do not adversely affect other citizens. Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, equated the amendment to Jim Crow era laws that discriminated against blacks. “At least they had the good sense to never write their bigotry into the state Constitution,” Ellis said. “In some of our sister states, they did write that trash into their constitution, and they’ve had holy H getting it out.”

I recognize that it is important that the State recognize the institution of marriage and I agree that a marriage between a man and a woman is unique, but do these people’s marriages have so little intrinsic value that external influences diminish their worth? How does a union between two people of the same gender affect heterosexual marriage? I will be certain to vote against this amendment.

[1] These are the same anti-progressive politicians who, by proposing legislation that would criminalize cloning of human cells, are trying to ensure that any advances in the field of stem cell research will not be made in Texas.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

No Right Answer

Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. has frustrated Senators Biden, Schumer, and Feinstein with his refusal to answer questions on abortion. Judge Roberts has said that the Constitution provides for the right to privacy, but he will not say whether it includes the right to an abortion. Regarding Roe v. Wade, he has answered that judicial precedents are entitled to respect, and that people have expectations that they can rely on settled law. He said that the core ruling in Roe v. Wade is settled, and changing such precedents can jolt the legal system, but he would not reveal whether he thought the ruling was correct. Judge Roberts has answered, simply, “My faith and my religious beliefs do not play a role in my judging.”

If Judge Roberts were to state his beliefs on abortion, there would be no right answer. Whether he states that he does not like baby-killers, or, conversely, that people who oppose a woman’s right to choose are extremist abortion clinic-bombing nuts, he alienates one political party or the other, essentially ruining his chances of being confirmed. These senators should realize this, and not get in a snit because he is being “evasive.”

Lucky Building

I am pleased that the building in which my sister lives does not have a 13th floor. The floors sensibly go from 12 to 14, skipping 13. She needs to avoid as much bad luck as is possible.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Bush Visits the Gulf Coast

President Bush recently made another visit to New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast. It appears as though he found some time for some R&R.

I do not know to whom to credit this picture, but it’s a pretty good PhotoShop job.

Is Wal-Mart Just Evil?

Reuters News Service reports that 15 workers from six countries, including Bangladesh, Swaziland, Indonesia, China, and Nicaragua, filed a class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores, claiming the world’s largest retailer overlooks sweatshop conditions at toy and clothing factories. They allege that Wal-Mart’s “vast economic power” allows it to impose price and time requirements on supplier factories that result in sweatshop conditions. Wal-Mart has also been the subject of discrimination lawsuits.

Is Wal-Mart just a target for litigious plaintiffs because it is the world’s largest retailer? Are people inclined to sue Wal-Mart merely because it is highly visible, due to its success and its size? Or is Wal-Mart just Evil?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Scared of Beets No More

Notice: this entire post is about cooking beets, so it may not be a compelling read.

Prior to yesterday, I had never cooked beets, the firm, round root vegetable that is most commonly a garnet red, with the edible and highly nutritious leafy green tops. However, last week, at Whole Foods, I happened across organic beets for $2 a bunch. I decided to purchase a bunch. After bringing them home, I delayed cooking them for about a week. I was somewhat intimidated by them, truth be told. Everyone knows that beet juice stains; I had read that they will discolor your hands for hours. I could imagine my hands, the cutting board, my clothes the cabinets, the floor, the walls, and everything else in the kitchen being beet red. Finally, yesterday, I donned an apron and a pair of latex gloves, washed the beets, and set about cooking them.

Among the suitable methods for cooking beets are steaming and baking or roasting. I would have preferred to have cooked them in the oven, because roasting brings out the sweetness in root vegetables. However, there is a moratorium on the use of our oven during the summer – it heats up the house too much. That left steaming. However, beets contain more sugar than any other vegetable, I believe. Therefore, it is also possible to candy beets. Marcus Samuelsson, in his book, Aquavit, provides a recipe for candied beets, using orange juice, sugar, and honey. Since Marcus Samuelsson can pass costs along to the customers in his restaurant, cooking beets in orange juice and honey is fine. I settled for a syrup made from sugar and water.

The two steamed beets did not require any cutting. Scrubbing them did result in the leeching of some purple pigmentation, but neither my gloved hands nor the sink became stained! The single beet that I candied did require dicing. To my pleasant surprise, the white cutting board, the knife, and my hands did not become soiled with an indelible purple ink. My clothes and the cabinets were likewise spared. Everything washed up spotlessly, without the use of bleach!

The steamed beets were not intensely sweet. They had the slight sharpness characteristic of beets, but they tasted about like steamed vegetables. The candied beets, after ninety minute of simmering in syrup, were quite sweet, in addition to tasting like, um, beets. My introduction to cooking beets did not result in the beet red mess I had feared. Next time, I will not be so hesitant to experiment with them.

Strange, but (Un)True

I am debunking a commonly held misconception. I do not believe that there is any truth to the adage that one will draw more flies with honey or molasses than with vinegar. When I used to add tea to my honey – I mean, add honey to my tea – I consumed liberal amounts of honey. I was never beset by swarms of flies, though. However, when I pour vinegar into a bowl to make a salad dressing, where before there were no gnats, suddenly there are gnats. Apparently, one will draw more flies with vinegar than with honey.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Got Five Thousand Dollars!

Actually, I don’t have $5,000, but I feel like I do.[1] I just completed the Texas Supreme Court Mandated Guide to the Basics of Law Practice CLE course and earned four hours of CLE credit, all for the low, low price of $120. The Supreme Court of Texas has mandated that lawyers licensed in Texas take a professionalism course within twelve months of being licensed.

My brother inquired, “was it as exciting as it sounds?” It was not too unbearable. I viewed an hour-long video on each of four days. I could have attended a live course, on December 2, but I opted to do it online. It is a small accomplishment, but it is good to have it behind me.

[1] You may recall that, in Wayne’s World, Wayne and Garth gleefully chant, “Got five thousand dollars! Got five thousand dollars!” after they are given a $5,000 advance to put on a concert.

The Blind Leading the Blind

By requiring Michael Brown, director of FEMA, to step down, the Bush administration really went to the root of the problem. If government officials are being given the ax for their failures in preparing for and responding to Hurricane Katrina, there are going to be a number of local, state, and federal politicians and government employees being replaced.

Michael Brown, according to Maureen Dowd, “was a college buddy of Joe Allbaugh, who worked as [George W. Bush’s] chief of staff when he was Texas governor and as his 2000 presidential campaign manager.” Although Ms. Dowd generally leans a bit too far to the left for my liking, I agreed with her September 10, New York Times article in which she asserted that Bush has been unwise in appointing to important government positions unqualified individuals to whom he owes favors. When previous Commanders-in-Chief have favored friends by finding desirable jobs for them, the former presidents have at least placed them where they could do no harm, Ms. Dowd claims.

Michael Brown, Ms. Dowd states, was “a failed former lawyer with a degree from a semiaccredited law school,” and Michael Brown’s only experience in emergency management was as “assistant city manager” in Edmond, Oklahoma, she writes. Ms. Dowd accuses that President Bush’s “political decisions have been shaped more by loyalty than substance or competence.” On the subject of the competence, or incompetence, of President Bush’s appointees, what are President Bush’s qualifications? President Bush owned a baseball team and was elected to Texas Governor on his father’s name. Analogous to the blind leading the blind, it is the uncredentialed appointing the uncredentialed.

Who’s Been Drinking All My Tito’s?

I am a big fan of Tito’s Texas Handmade Vodka. Not only does Tito’s taste good, but also it is distilled right here in Texas![1] In fact, Tito’s operates Texas’s only distillery. Tito Beveridge (that’s his real name) claims that Tito’s “can go head to head with any of the worlds’ greats and not break a sweat.” I am inclined to believe him. Although it tastes great in cocktails, I don’t waste my Tito’s by diluting it with other spirits or mixers. I prefer to savor my Tito’s.

I purchased a 1.75 liter bottle of Tito’s Texas Handmade Vodka on August 20 (I have the dated receipt). It is already time to visit Spec’s, again.[2]

As an aside, why must I be of legal age to enter a brewer’s, distiller’s, or vintner’s website? I am not imbibing when I visit their webpages. Who is checking IDs?

[1] Apparently, not many people, including published authors, know that the grammatical construction “not only” must be followed by “but also.”
[2] Is this some sort of admission I should not be making? I am a member of a household of four, with a frequent visitor, I’ll have you know.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Mentor and Telemachus

In Homer’s Odyssey, Mentor was the friend whom Odysseus left in charge of Odysseus’ household while Odysseus was at Troy. Mentor was the teacher and protector of Telemachus, Odysseus’ son.

From this comes the meaning of mentor as an experienced adviser and supporter, who provides advice and support to, and watches over and fosters the progress of, a younger, less experienced person.

Rather than referring to the person who is the subject of a mentor’s tutelage as a “mentee,” could the recipient of the mentor’s instruction be termed a “telemachus”?

Obi-Wan, You’re Our Only Hope

I think I am hopeless. Even legal recruiting firms – headhunters – cannot assist me in my efforts to find employment.

The good people at Prescott Legal Search informed me, “it appears highly unlikely that we will be able to assist with your job search, based on our clients’ requirements.” BCG Attorney Search declined to take me on, as, based on my profile and the market in which I am located, I should experience no difficulty in securing employment, and therefore do not need their assistance, they claimed.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Biting My Tongue

I will refrain from expressing my disapproval of road trips taken during the semester, as it is not my place to comment on the imprudence of taking a weekend away from one’s studies.

A Fool and His Money

Since I was spending money left and right yesterday on nondiscretionary expenses, I decided I would spend even more money that I cannot afford to spend on an indiscretionary purchase. I recently unwillingly threw away $125 for bar association memberships that will not do me a bit of good. I also parted with $120 for a CLE course that is required of all new admittees to the Texas bar. This expenditure did not gall me as much because it was required by the state bar. In addition, who likes to pay auto insurance premiums? I was perusing my auto insurance policy, of which I recently received a copy, which the insurer periodically sends to me, and I could not help but think that I am not getting my money’s worth out of it. I suppose I would rather not be taking full advantage of the coverage, though.

Now we arrive at the indiscretionary purchase. I visited Ye Olde Village Beverage Shoppe and selected some wines. If the other outlays were frustrating, because I watched my bank balance become diminished, these purchases were imprudent, particularly because I do not have a steady income. However, this action was taken in a fit of pique. I had taken leave of my senses. It would also have been more sensible to go to Spec’s, because their prices are generally a few dollars cheaper than other alcohol purveyors’ prices. We will enjoy drinking the wines, though. At between $10 and $20, they are pricey, for us. We tend to be $10-and-under-wine type of folk.

It’s not actually called Ye Olde Village Beverage Shoppe, either. It is properly called “The Beverage Shoppe,” but I append the “Ye Olde Village,” because it sounds more Old English, in keeping with the double “p” and the “e” in “Shoppe.”

My Sister’s Cat

My sister’s cat, Eloise, must be the dirtiest cat. For all outward appearances, she is perfectly clean, as far as cats go, but Eloise likes to roll on the dog’s bed. I do not know what Eloise is attempting to do when she squirms around on Farley’s disgustingly dirty dog bed – whether she is trying to mark it with her scent, or whether she seeks to fragrant herself with Farley’s stench – but she is quite hilarious to observe. I am just reluctant to pet her after she has befouled herself, though. Nonetheless, I cannot resist petting her when she seeks affection, because she is incredibly cute. I just wash my hands with bleach afterwards.

Friday, September 09, 2005

More Money than Sense

The much anticipated all-new BMW M5 is now available. The M5 boasts a five liter V-10 capable of generating 500 hp. It also carries a $100,000 price tag. There is a cheesy amateur video of the M5 being put through the paces.

The M5 is for people who have more money than sense. With ten cylinders, it must achieve worse fuel economy than an M1 Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Just because one can afford a sinfully expensive car, it does not follow that the cost of fueling that vehicle should not to be a concern. The ability to afford $3 plus a gallon gasoline is not the point. Rather, the fact that oil is currently in short supply nationally, due to reduced refining capacity and other reasons, that the world supply of oil my be peaking, that worldwide demand is high, and that oil is the cause of America’s involvement in the Arab peninsula, which is the source of a plethora of problems, are reasons enough why we should not continue to use oil with reckless abandon.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

This Is Stupid!

I am watching my checking account (which is not being replenished) become diminished even further as I cut two checks for bar association memberships. I do not anticipate that this will pay dividends. Membership in these associations is for the purpose of “networking,” which is supposed to help me find a job; it is not required for licensure. Obviously, I am not forking out $125, with which I can ill afford to part, of my own free will.

Let the Voters Decide

The Associated Press reports that Governor Schwarzenegger will veto a bill that would allow gay marriages in California, because such legislation would conflict with the intent of voters, as evidenced by their approval of Proposition 22, which prevents California from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries. Nonetheless, the Governator “believes gay couples are entitled to full protection under the law and should not be discriminated against based upon their relationship.”

From this, I gather that, if it is the will of the people, then it is acceptable to discriminate. It probably would have been a close call had the abolition of slavery been put to a popular vote in 1863.

Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

There are numerous places where blame for the Hurricane Katrina disaster can be placed. State and local elected and appointed officials and federal government officials should have ensured that Louisiana and other coastal states were prepared for a category four or five storm. The levees containing Lake Pontchartrain should have been reinforced. New Orleans should have had in place an evacuation plan, and that plan should have been implemented.

However, some measure of damage is unavoidable when a city is situated on the coast, is a mere eleven feet above sea level, and is below the water level of Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River (as the graphic below illustrates). “Major portions of the city of New Orleans are actually below sea level.” New Orleans was simply in a bad place.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A Tough Read

Yesterday, I checked out from the public library James Joyce’s Ulysses. I have heard it is a tough read, but I will see how far I can make my way through it.

I became interested in reading Ulysses when I heard Garrison Keillor mention it on his radio program, The Writer’s Almanac, on June 16. In that particular episode, Garrison Keillor noted, “Today is Bloomsday, the day on which the action in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses takes place in 1904.” Garrison Keillor continued, “Leopold Bloom, the main character of Ulysses, does not have much work to do, so he spends most of his day wandering around Dublin doing some errands.”

Garrison Keillor observes that, on this day in 1936, Charles Hardin “Buddy” Holly was born in Lubbock, Texas. I have heard that, when he was alive, people in Lubbock were not overly fond of him, but, after he died, the town fell in love with Buddy Holly.

Quoting Mr. Keillor, “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”®

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Three Day Weekends

I always enjoy a three day weekend. Three day weekends are particularly nice because they are accompanied by four day weeks. Three day weekends, though, are too few and too far in between. We should be afforded one three day weekend every month. Imagine how it would increase the productivity of the American worker, or workers in other countries.

When I was in school, the three days off in observance of Labor Day were a tremendous boon. It provided an opportunity to catch up in my schoolwork and, sometimes, even to get ahead. That was it for extended weekends, then, until classes ended at the end of November for the Thanksgiving holiday, which was followed by those dreaded final exams.

My brother has told me, previously, that weekends don’t mean as much when you don’t have a job.

Monday, September 05, 2005

What Is a Consumer to Do?

Apparently, I have been consuming all the wrong organic foods, and not consuming the fruits and vegetables where organic is more important. In an August 31 New York Times article, “Clean, Green and Organic, in the Middle of the City,” about bringing “green” practices into the home kitchen, Julie Besonen and Andrea Kannapell write,

The top 12 fruits and vegetables most heavily sprayed with pesticides are peaches, strawberries, apples, nectarines, pears, cherries, red raspberries, imported grapes, bell peppers, celery, potatoes and spinach. Our feeling is that these are the most important to buy organic. Ranking lower in contaminants, and thus less crucial to buy organic, are asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn, kiwis, mangos, onions, papaya, pineapples and sweet peas.

I have been buying organic bananas, onions, sweet peas, broccoli, and avocados. These are readily available. I am also able to come by organic apples, celery, potatoes, and spinach. Who has seen organic peaches, nectarines, cherries, or raspberries, though? Whole Foods carries some of these items – Whole Foods carries organic everything. Whole Foods also carries expensive everything. As consumers, we do not know whether we are coming or going!

Observations and Thoughts from My Morning Walk

It was surprisingly cool the last two mornings when I went for a walk. How cool, exactly, I do not know, because we do not have an outdoor thermometer, and my convenient weather information source,, has not been accessible, because the website is under construction. would provide up-to-the-minute weather readings of conditions at various locations around the Houston area, several of which were within a few miles from my house. We did recently acquire a rain gauge, so we can measure how much rain does not fall.

The Woodlands is populated by a number of bird species; I frequently see varieties with which I am not familiar. This morning I saw a member of the class Aves that I have not been able to identify. It was perched beside a non-naturally occurring body of water (that is my gender-neutral term for a manmade pond or lake) and had a squat body, a pointed beak for seizing fish, and slate-gray plumage. If I were possessed of the artistic abilities of John James Audubon, I would have shot this specimen, brought it home, stuffed it, and created a life-size, hand-colored illustration of it.

A house that I pass has a rather realistic looking – realistic looking from a distance – artificial deer in the front yard. It prompted me to think that I would like to decorate the front yard with a small herd of artificial deer. To give them an even more life-like appearance, I could reposition them every night, to create the illusion that they move about.

Late this last week, the mowers were out in force in The Woodlands. They scalped the grass on the roadsides and the waterways, leaving the ground barren and the landscape unsightly. I do not know for what reason they chop down the lush ground cover. Perhaps they are defoliating so the insurgents cannot conceal themselves.

According to British psychologist Havelock Ellis, “The mathematician has reached the highest rung on the ladder of human thought.”

Justice William Hubbs Rehnquist

Among Supreme Court Justices, there are not any members of the Nation’s highest court whom I despise or whom I favor above the others. I regard with equally high esteem any individual who serves on the United States Supreme Court. I do enjoy reading Justice Benjamin Cardozo’s opinions, though. I likewise revered Justice Rehnquist merely because he was a Supreme Court Justice.

Justice William H. Rehnquist was rather conservative. “Conservative” in the case of Justice Rehnquist definitely meant reluctant to accept change. He was a strong defender of states’ rights, which, by itself, does not entail that one leans to the far right. However, Justice Rehnquist voted consistently against affirmative action; he opposed desegregation, dissenting in cases upholding the use of busing to integrate public schools, and was the sole dissenter in a case that upheld the federal government’s policy of denying a tax deduction for Bob Jones University because of its racist policies. Justice Rehnquist opposed increased rights for women and immigrants. He argued against the notion that the Constitution demands separation between church and state. These positions cannot have a sound basis in the Constitution. Rather, these views represented the status quo.

Justice Rehnquist is described as brilliant and as having possessed a superior intellect and an “iron grip on precedent and case law,” according to James Swanson, a legal scholar at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies. Justice Rehnquist was blessed with a “dazzling intellect,” said Herman Schwartz, an American University law professor. To people who knew him, Justice Rehnquist was “charming.”

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Big Business

Religion is a booming business. In The Woodlands, there already seems to be a church on every other street corner, and construction on new churches seems to be beginning all the time. There are two “megachurches,” Fellowship of The Woodlands and The Woodlands United Methodist Church, in this “real hometown.” These churches have enormous compounds, costing millions of dollars to build. United Methodist Church has outgrown its spacious new 165,000 square foot facility that is a mere four years old. They are breaking ground on a $17 million expansion. Lakewood Church in Houston recently celebrated the Grand Opening of its new “Central Campus,” which formerly was a sports arena known as the Summit; it has been transformed into a “house of worship.”

A preacher resides in a house down the street from me. I saw him leaving for church this morning, in his 740 iL BMW. His church is renting the million dollar plus home for him and his family while they construct a new home in a more upscale neighborhood. I suppose his parishioners tacitly approve this, when they contribute to the collection plate every Sunday and when they tithe. Perhaps they wish to attend a “wealthy” church, so it is important that their preacher appear affluent.

If these congregations have sufficient funds in their church coffers to enable them to construct these humongous places of worship, and to compensate their clergy so handsomely, there must be vast sums to be made through religion. This seems to me to be in contravention with what the Christian Bible teaches. I am of the impression that the accumulation of material wealth is not lauded in Christianity, or in other religions, for that matter. News of this $17 million expansion coincided with the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina. The displaced Louisianans could probably benefit from some of this money. The members of The Woodlands United Methodist Church could continue to squeeze into their existing church so the money could be applied to disaster relief.

It is commonly held that only three avocations can properly be called “professions”: the legal profession, the medical profession, and the clergy. I guess I entered the wrong profession. I should have attended seminary.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

You Snooze, You Lose Your Italian Sparkling Mineral Water

My sister had her wisdom teeth extracted on Friday. Friday also marked the conclusion of her second week of law school. The beginning of the semester, the beginning of law school, for that matter, seems a rather inopportune time to undergo such a procedure. In this preceding week, my sister was rather positive about school, which was something of a turnabout from the first week of law school. I am reluctant to state as much, though, lest I jinx her.

The dentist that performed the procedure suggested that my sister drink carbonated beverages following the surgery, as they would be easy for her to hold down; the anesthetic tends to upset the stomach. My mom requested that I have on hand some sparking water for my convalescing sister, so I purchased a liter bottle of Italian sparkling mineral water. Italian sparkling mineral water is not a staple item for us. Even the Central Market store brand, at $1 a bottle, 30¢ cheaper than Perrier, is something of a luxury item.

Alas, alack, my poor sister did not have the opportunity to enjoy the Italian sparkling mineral water that was purchased especially for her consumption. Other members of the household, whose identities shall remain confidential, upon seeing in the refrigerator a particularly refreshing looking libation in a fancy green glass bottle, partook of the naturally effervescent beverage intended for my recovering sister, leaving none for my sister to slake her thirst and calm her stomach. Nonetheless, at this time, she is well on the road to recovery. She has even been able to tend to some of her studies.

Road Trip!

This weekend, I am going to fill the car with $3 a gallon gasoline and set out on the road! Or not.

What is the deal with the gas station operators setting prices to nine-tenths of a cent? Do they think they can dupe us into paying an extra cent per gallon unwittingly? No other retailers set prices to the 9/10ths of a cent, to make the consumer think he or she is paying a whole penny less.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Saved $30 on My Haircut

I saved $30 on a haircut, today, by cutting my hair myself. It probably looks like I saved $30 on a haircut, too. For a lot of people who shave their hair, this would be no big deal. However, my parents seem to be big advocates of paying money for haircuts so one will look presentable. It is not as though I shaved it down to the skin. If it is too problematic, my hair will grow out soon.

Shielding My Sister

I have an aunt, whose identity shall remain secret, who graduated in 1995 from the law school I attended. No prospective or beginning law student or bar applicant who is preparing to take the bar exam should be exposed to this unnamed aunt. Before I began law school, this aunt had me expecting the worst. She repeatedly stressed how difficult law school was, and she had an extensive repertoire of law school horror stories that she enjoyed relating to me. Because of this aunt’s warnings, I was prepared for a traumatizing experience. Having braced myself, I did not find law school as terribly shocking or as difficult as I had anticipated. Again, when I was studying for the bar exam, this aunt chimed in, informing me that the bar exam was, in her opinion, “three days of hell,” and that it was “the most hellish experience of [her] life.” This is not exactly the type of inspirational speech I needed to hear as I was gearing up for the bar exam. However, because I was, again, expecting the worst, the bar exam did not turn out to be as “hellish” as my aunt had warned.

My sister, who is two weeks into law school, has not had the misfortune of being exposed to this cynic’s pessimistic drivel. We have made an effort to see that my aunt does not have the opportunity to visit with my sister. The discouraging words have continued, though. The naysayer wondered why my sister did not opt to take a nice, low-stress job, instead of attending law school. She had previously suggested that my sister go into publishing, even though she admitted it is difficult to support oneself with the jobs available in that field.

I wonder what could prompt such remarks. Is it animosity, bitterness, or jealousy, or is it just cluelessness?

A Hurricane: Who Would Have Guessed?

Our elected and appointed government officials dropped the ball in preparedness for a foreseeable, even inevitable, natural disaster. The possibility of a category four or five storm pummeling the Gulf Coast was not unfathomable. It was not even a matter of if it would happen, but when it would happen. Hurricane Camille devastated Mississippi’s Gulf Coast 35 years ago, and Hurricane Betsy swamped New Orleans 36 years ago. In 2001, FEMA ranked the potential damage to New Orleans should a hurricane strike as among the three likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing the country. Tropical Storm Allison caused serious problems for Houston in 2001, and prompted forecasts of the decimation that would result if a category five storm were to visit its wrath upon Houston.

What has been done to ready our coastal cities for such a storm? Any measures that have been taken are unapparent. New Orleans and Louisiana officials’ requests to the federal government to improve the levies and other protections against flooding went unanswered. The dikes that contained Lake Pontchartrain were laughably inadequate.

Yeah, the Governor of Louisiana issued orders to evacuate, if residents had cars or could afford to put gas in their tanks. At the very least, there should have been in place a plan for busing to safety those who lacked the means to leave. The infrastructure for evacuating people from the coastal cities in Louisiana was insufficient; the situation is the same in Houston. If millions of people were to take to their cars to flee an oncoming storm, the roadways would become clogged. Following the storm, Interstate 10 is currently impassable. If New Orleans was practically below sea level as it was, the decision to reside there seems imprudent.

FEMA was ill-prepared to mount a disaster relief effort. The Department of Homeland Security, which is charged with disaster preparation and relief, has proven itself inadequate for the job.

Now the politicians have the opportunity to go before the cameras to pontificate about the relief efforts and disaster recovery. They failed in the initial instance, but now they take advantage of the occasion for political gain.

“Notwithstanding, therefore, that we have not witnessed within the last three thousand years the devastation by deluge of a large continent, yet, as we may predict the future occurrence of such catastrophes, we are authorized to regard them as part of the present order of Nature.” Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology.

I Didn’t Come from No Monkey!

The Washington Post reported,

Scientists said… that they had determined the precise order of the 3 billion bits of genetic code that carry the instructions for making a chimpanzee, mankind’s closest cousin.

The fresh unraveling of chimpanzee DNA allows an unprecedented gene-to-gene comparison with the human genome, mapped in 2001, and makes plain the evolutionary processes through which chimps and humans arose from a common ancestor about 6 million years ago.

Ha ha! “Evolutionary processes…” “Chimps and humans…” “common ancestor…” I didn’t come from no monkey!

Oh, wait. I subscribe to the theory of evolution. I have just become so accustomed to hearing laughable alternative theories of the origin of species advanced by a bunch of nuts that I have begun to buy into their questioning of evolution.

“[S]everal scientists said the genome study offered elegant confirmation of Darwin’s vision of evolution.” “‘I can’t imagine Darwin hoping for a stronger confirmation of his ideas,’ said Robert H. Waterston, who led the Washington University team.”

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Support the Troops!

Is it just me, or do the automobiles that most frequently sport the “Support Our Troops” ribbons tend to be SUVs and pickup trucks? It makes sense that SUV owners would support the war in Iraq. Sport-ute owners want American soldiers and Marines to put their lives on the line to ensure that there is a steady supply of inexpensive gasoline to fuel those gas-guzzling vehicles.

It seems we could do more to support the troops by reducing our consumption of oil.

What Do the Media Do When There Are No Disasters?

What do the media do when there are no disasters on which to report? The destruction wreaked by Hurricane Katrina has received constant media coverage. Not all of the reporting is extremely informative. The talking heads on television and the voices on the radio seem able to devote scant attention to any other subject, but there is only so much that can be said about the flooding, the loss of lives, the economic damage, the looting, and the other tragic results. The media must love it when a tsunami or a catastrophic hurricane comes along, or when a space shuttle explodes, or when a terrorist flies a jetliner into a building. Such events provide easy media fodder, and the news anchors, correspondents, journalists, and others have the opportunity to place their images before viewers all day long.

Would They Rather Us Be a Bunch of Long-Hairs?

My parents are anti-short haircut. My dad does not approve of my brother’s practice of using clippers to shave his (my brother’s) hair. My brother does cut his hair quite close. I have not shaved my hair, but I am often tempted to do so. Close-cut hair is low-maintenance and cost effective. When my hair begins to look rough around the edges, my parents inform me that I am in need of a haircut. Haircuts cost money, and a better haircut costs more money, so I frequently go for extended periods without a haircut. I am only budgeted for four haircuts a year. I could do without the remarks about my hirsuteness.