Matthew's Foray into Blogging

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Country Ham

The Smithfield country ham was... salty. It tasted like ham-flavored salt. It was slightly tough, also. The instructions on the burlap sack stated that the cooked ham should be sliced very thinly. I don’t know whether thin slicing is necessary is because of the saltiness of the ham, or because country hams are just tough. Additionally, was the ham tough because it was difficult to simmer it – the “preferred” cooking method – at 190°, rather than at the 212° the water wanted to maintain? I was pleased, though, that this super-salty porcine cut did not meet with sounding disapproval. Country hams really are not intended to be served as a main course. Rather, they are appetizers, accents, an element in a buffet, or flavorings. A bit of the country ham will go nicely in the black-eyed peas tomorrow. I am trying to convince myself that I liked it, since I spent $30 on it.

“Our Records Indicate That You Missed Your Last Payment”

Is there anyone that people pay as begrudgingly as they pay their attorneys, excluding mafia loan sharks and extortionists?

Friday, December 30, 2005

Happy New Year!

What will I be doing to ring in the New Year? I will probably not even stay up until midnight. Rather, I will greet the New Year the next morning, rested, refreshed, and sober. I generally enjoy a mimosa. However, this year we might finally open a bottle of something special we have been holding. My parents received as a gift a bottle of Moet & Chandon Cuvee Dom Perignon 1995. I probably will not mix it with orange juice, if we open it.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Is That Like a Sno-Cone Machine?

What is a “margarita machine”? Margaritas don’t come from a machine. They are made in a cocktail shaker, with 100% blue agave Tequila, triple sec, and lime juice.

Divisive Barriers

Will the metal and concrete fence proposed to be erected along the U.S.-Mexico protect the United States, cut crime, and reduce the threat of terrorism? Is this measure “xenophobic” and “disgraceful,” as the Mexican government alleges? When I think of such barriers, the Berlin Wall or the DMZ between North and South Korea comes to mind.

Moving Day

I think he did it! Thomas up and moved to Seattle yesterday! Houston feels strangely empty, now.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Just What They Wanted

This is the “bike” my brother made for my sister, using cardboard tubing, pipe insulation, and duct tape. I don’t know why she wasn’t riding it all day Sunday.



Here are the Hella Supertones Santa brought for my brother. Some assembly was required, as Santa did not install them. Hal announces his coming and going with them, now.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Less Blogging, More Reading

I used to be an avid reader. I would read fiction and nonfiction literature for leisure. When I started law school, though, I suddenly had no time for leisure. Since I have finished school – about a year ago – I have not returned to leisure reading. (The newspaper does not count.) This is unfortunate, because the benefits of reading are myriad. I feel as though I am doing nothing to improve literacy rates. I should spend less time on the Internet and in the Blogosphere, and more time with a good book.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Marketing Strategy or Science?

“Germs” are just a myth created by the soap manufacturers, I’m convinced. “Microorganisms” that are invisible to the naked eye? I think you mean evil spirits that cannot be washed away by lathering one’s hands.

OK, I admit. I’m a germaphobe. I wash my hands so frequently and so thoroughly that my hands are constantly chapped. If I stop washing my hands, will I and those around me fall ill more frequently?

Christmas Tamales

Generally, I am reluctant to eat tamales. This primarily is due to the high fat content from the liberal use of lard that is mixed into the masa. The fact that the meat from a boiled pig’s head is sometimes used in the filling does not bother me. Although tamales are eaten year-round, it is traditional to eat them on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, a tradition we like to observe. This year, we ordered a few dozen tamales from Hugo’s.

I had no problem making an exception to my tamal avoidance. I will gladly eat pretty much anything from Hugo’s. While tamales typically exude an orange-hued grease, there was no oil to be found about these tamales. Hugo’s offered pork, chicken, seafood, wild mushroom, and black bean and hoja santa tamales. The employee with whom my mom spoke on the phone said that only the chicken, wild mushroom, and seafood tamales remained. We ordered pollo and wild mushroom tamales. These were by far the best tamales I have ever eaten. The masa dough was white and softer than other tamales, which are orange-ish and firmer textured. The fillings, as are all things at Hugo’s, were exquisite. The chicken tamales contained tender pieces of shredded chicken in delectable mole poblano. The wild mushroom filling was quite exquisite; the filling did not consist of pieces of sliced mushrooms, but was more akin to mushroom duxelles. The additional mole poblano and the pipian verde to accompany the tamales were quite delicious, also.


Feliz Navidad, Happy Christmas, Hanukkah, Newtonmas, or whatever your preference may be.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

No Holiday Well Wishes from Me, This Year

Well, I’m thinking there will be no holiday greetings from me this year. I bought the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Children’s Art Project cards last weekend, but I have been too busy (or have procrastinated too skillfully) to sign them, address them, and deposit them in the mailbox. I hated not to send the cards, because the intended recipients – all twelve of them – would not have the pleasure of hearing from me this holiday season (pity them). Additionally, I spent a considerable amount of money on those cards. I actually bought two dozen cards, because there were two pictures, one by Hazim and David, and one by Carlo, that I liked so much and between which I could not make a decision. At least it is essentially a donation to a worthy cause. I have justified not sending cards this year by telling myself that no one ever sends cards to me, even the people who regularly receive my holiday greetings. They don’t even mention the cards. I still need to wrap the gifts I am giving. I may still yet address those cards, but don’t hold your breath.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Domestic Spying

It has become known that the Commander in Chief has authorized spying on people within the United States without first obtaining a court order. The administration’s position is that the president can order domestic spying without judicial oversight, under the President’s power as commander in chief. However, President Bush’s actions are contrary to the Constitution and laws passed by Congress. the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requires the attorney general to obtain prior authorization from a judge, in a secret expedited proceeding, before engaging in domestic spying or wiretapping.

This is disconcerting by virtue of the fact that the President, who took an oath of office, to ‘‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” is flouting the Constitution. It also holds the potential to discourage free speech. It implicates the Fourth Amendment right of the people “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

My initial reaction upon learning of the President’s approval of domestic spying was not one of shock. I did not fear that National Security Agency agents might have my phones tapped, or that they might be monitoring my library reading habits. It does not seem likely to me that people on the fringes of society will be whisked away and held in secret prisons because of their unorthodox views. I would imagine that people of whom the government is suspicious would be those who would potentially pose a legitimate threat to the United States, such as the September 11 bombers, who the government completely missed.

In part, the negative reaction is a result of President Bush’s unpopularity; this is one more reason to harp on the President. My lack of dismay probably results from the fact that it does not surprise me that this president would show such disregard for the Constitution and the laws.

However, what the President did was wrong in principle, and that is enough.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Would You Put These Chemicals in Your Body?

• Psuedoephedrine, the active ingredient in Sudafed
• Iodine crystals
• Red Phosphorus, from the strike pad on a matchbook
• Coleman’s Fuel
• Muriatic Acid (HCl)
• Acetone
• Methanol
• Ammonia
• Paint thinner
• Ether
• Drano
• Lithium, from batteries

These are the ingredients used in the production of crystal meth. Talk about a glamorous drug.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

An Alternative to the Shopping Season

Last year, near the holiday season, I informed my brother and sister, via e-mail,

“Mom and Dad are giving [Aunt] Paula a goat for Christmas. Haha!”

Katherine replied, “a goat? huh?” Hal’s response was, “Wha?”

My dad comes from a family of seven children, and he has a sizeable extended family. The unenviable task of purchasing and mailing gifts for this group often falls upon my mom. As an alternative to the frenzied gift buying that retailers promote, and to spare my mom the labor of seeking out gifts that are generally unappreciated, my parents decided last year to make donations, in the names of the gift recipients, to a charitable organization. They selected Heifer International. Heifer is an organization that “promotes sustainable solutions to global hunger, poverty and environmental degradation.” It achieves this goal by providing domestic animals to agrarian peoples, who rely on the animals to support themselves. A donation of $120 will purchase a goat; $30 will provide a gift of honeybees There are numerous other animals Heifer supplies.

I thought a donation to a charity was a splendid idea. It goes to a worthy cause; the person in whose name to donation is made does not receive cookies or chocolate that will ruin his or her diet; my mom does not have to spend her time in the mall selecting gifts that the recipients do not want; Aunt Paula cannot complain to my mom that the bulbs arrived frozen.

Katherine was disappointed when there was not a goat or a flock of chicks for her on Christmas morning.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Four Day Weekend, Please

I hope, I hope, I hope I have to work at most four days this week. It would be really nice to have to work only four days next week, also.

Belated Happy Holidays

I hope the recipients of the greeting cards don’t mind if my cards arrive sometime after the new year, and I hope the recipients of my gifts don’t object to the presents not being wrapped, because I did not accomplish much of what I intended to do this weekend. Fortunately, the M.D. Anderson cards I bought don’t say things such as, “Merry Christmas,” or Happy Chanukah, but have messages such as “Wishing you a holiday that glows with family and friends!” and “May the light of the season shine on you throughout the New Year!” so timeliness is not of the essence.

Blanton

If a person whose middle name is “Blanton” applies for admission to Harvard Law School, the oldest university in the United States has no option but to accept him or her. There is a young assistant district attorney in Montgomery County with the middle name of Blanton and on whose office wall hangs a Harvard Law School diploma that bears his name.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Guest of Note

I am hosting the illustrious Thomas for lunch today. In about a week-and-a-half, Thomas will be relocating to Seattle, as you most likely are aware. I am glad that we will have the opportunity to visit one last time before he departs Houston. I don’t know when I will be able to make my way up to the Pacific Northwest to do lunch.

Country Ham

I have never eaten country ham before, much less cooked one. Country hams are supposed to be quite exquisite, with a more intense flavor than brined city hams. A product of the American South, country hams are dry-cured in salt, rinsed of the salt, smoked over hardwood fires, and then aged for 6 to 12 months. After aging, there may be some mold on the ham, which can be brushed off. Because of the high salt content, country hams require a one- to two-day soak before cooking. Simmering is the preferred cooking method, but they can also be baked, as in this recipe by Alton Brown.

I purchased one of the Smithfield hams in the burlap bag yesterday. We will eat it on New Year’s Eve. As it weighs over twelve pounds, we will also eat it on New Year’s Day, with our black-eyed peas, and for the first few weeks of the New Year.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Rejected?

Was it something I said? Was it something I did? Was it something I didn’t say or didn’t do? I have not been able to reach Thomas today to plan for lunch this weekend and he has not called. He will be leaving for Seattle soon, and any opportunity to do lunch will not soon arise again.

Am I reading into this too much?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Happy Happy!

My sister made it through her first semester of law school! She doesn’t know how she feels about her exams. At least she is not in tears, or doesn’t feel totally blown away. Not that one’s impression is any indication of one’s performance, as the grading is totally arbitrary and subjective. Congratulations, Katherine!

Well Connected

“I know the judge. She should dismiss my charges, right?”

I’m sure you do. I’m sure she will.

That’s not quite how it works.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

We have a parliament, now?

Bush Defends Iraq Strategy on Eve of Parliamentary Elections

News to me.

“I’m Missing Work to Be Here”

Have our legislatures criminalized too many acts, or are too many people just unable to stay out of trouble?

I am of the opinion that criminal offenders have no grounds to complain about being required to make court appearances. If you think you are being inconvenienced because you are missing work to be in court, you should have considered that before you started drinking and then got behind the wheel.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Macs Get No Respect

I am going to be without my beloved Dell notebook computer for about a week. My sister is going to have the use of the Dell notebook until Thursday. My sister owns an Apple Mac. However, the software my sister’s institution of higher learning uses for administering exams on computers is not compatible with Macs. Typing exams, if one is proficient at typing, is much preferable to handwriting exams. Many people can type faster and more legibly than they can handwrite, and the ability to cut and paste and to insert is a lifesaver. Thus, she and I installed ExamSoft on the Dell, and she will be using it to take her two remaining exams this week.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Movin’ on Up

In one more month, I am due for a pay raise. With the increased pay, I should be able to work more than my scheduled fifty hours a week without my pay slipping below the hourly minimum.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Resting on My Laurels ’Til after the New Year

I accomplished a fair amount of gift shopping today. What gift purchasing I did not do at BarnesandNoble.com, I did at Spec’s. I was like a kid in a candy store! There should be plenty of holiday cheer this season. I forgot to buy holiday cards, though. I hope the recipients don’t mind homemade cards, consisting of construction paper, glitter, pipe cleaner, and glue.

Roadway Obstructions

I only achieved about 28 miles to the gallon in the Si this last week. Do you know what it was? People kept getting in my way, making it necessary for me to decelerate and accelerate! That uses more gasoline.

It would be the person with the Jesus fish on his or her car who was weaving in and out of traffic and cutting people off.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Difference between Family Law and Criminal Law

One distinction between family law and criminal law is that, typically, no one goes to jail in family law matters. I am going to Houston today for an uncontested divorce. Another attorney in the office has done all the work, but she has a conflict, so I am appearing with the client before the judge. We just have to show that the client has resided in Harris County for the last ninety days, that the client has resided in Texas for the previous six months, and that “the marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marital relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.” The judge will then grant the divorce. No one will go to jail.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

If Life Were Fair…

Would I look like this, and you look like that? That is how a high school professor would respond to students’ complaints of unfairness.

I am upset because the Si has to spend the night outside in the cold (24°F, according to some forecasts), while cars that do not have to be out the door first thing in the morning are able to overnight in the nice warm garage.

The Texas Two-Party System

For an independent candidate to make the ballot in the Texas gubernatorial race, it is necessary for him or her to collect the signatures of voters who would like to see that candidate’s name on the ballot. I am interested in seeing Kinky Friedman on the ballot for Texas governor in 2006, so I will definitely be signing the petition. Texas has an unreasonable law, though. People who vote in either the Republican or Democratic primaries are ineligible to sign a petition to place an independent on the ballot. The following is a reply from Kinky’s campaign to my query as to how I can lend my signature.

We need about 50,000 valid signatures to put Kinky on the ballot as candidate for Governor of Texas. We can’t collect those signatures until after the Republican and Democratic Primaries March 7, 2006, and anybody who votes in either primary is ineligible to sign by Texas law – the only state in the union with such a law. After the primaries, basically we have a month to collect the signatures. IF there’s a runoff (and there usually is), we can’t start collecting signatures till after THAT voting day, which falls on April 8 – and then we have a month – the deadline becomes early May. Obviously that effectively cuts a month off our campaigning time, so you can see the system in Texas is geared to keep the two parties partying.

I do not vote in the party primaries, since I have no affinity for either of the major parties, and really do not care who their candidates are. There is a county judge position that will be on the ballot in March, though, and three local lawyers are vying for the bench. I am quite certain that is not a party primary, but I am not going to risk rendering myself ineligible to sign for Kinky, so I will abstain from voting in the primaries altogether.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I Wish the Si Were Equipped with Seat Warmers

According to the KUHF weather forecast,
A strong Canadian front barrels southward across the region this evening, sending temperatures into the mid 30s Thursday morning. On Thursday, rain continues, possibly mixed with sleet and freezing rain from Conroe northward during the morning. Precipitation tapers off Thursday evening with temperatures remaining well below normal to end out the week.
I had better put the snow chains on my tires.

Lived to Tell about It

My sister completed her first ever law school final exam yesterday. I am pleased to report that she was not in tears afterwards. She says that she actually did not feel too badly about the Torts exam. Afterwards, she joined some classmates for a drink. She has come a long way in this respect, as at the beginning of the semester, she did not seem too keen on the other students. I hope her two remaining exams will not be any more unpleasant than she found the first exam. Good luck, Katherine!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

“Not White People Food”

Yesterday, I ate menudo for the first time, the Mexican soup with tripe and hominy. I had joined the boss for lunch at one of those little taquerias. Not having eaten menudo before, I do not know how good this taquerias’ rendition of menudo was. I did not detect any hominy in the soup. The tripe had the texture of pieces of fat – it was soft and almost melted in the mouth. The Anglo wife of a friend who is of Mexican descent said that I was adventurous for being willing to try menudo; she described it as “not white people food.”

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Some People Are Bound to Take Issue…

But text messaging strikes me as being for high-schoolers. (If I can’t express my opinions on my online journal, what is the point of maintaining a web log?)

The people with whom I work don’t use e-mail. I use e-mail quite extensively. My coworkers do communicate via text messaging, though. Instead of talking on the cell phone while in the courtroom, which is forbidden, or stepping outside to make a phone call, they will fire off text messages on their cell phones. Dude, just get BlackBerries [1]or the new Palm Treos. You wouldn’t have to hit every button on your phone 36 times just to type a single character. What annoys me is that I incur charges for doing nothing more than receiving text messages.



[1] The BlackBerry might not be around for much longer, due to a patent dispute between the maker of the BlackBerry, Research In Motion, and the company that holds the patent for the technology, NTP.

These Are Our Clients

My employer’s business bank account was the subject of theft by check. Unauthorized checks for large amounts of money were being presented to the bank for payment. My employer stopped payment on all outstanding checks and closed the account. Three of the checks on which payment was stopped were my paychecks and a mileage reimbursement; they cut new checks to me.

The individual who committed this check fraud is the kind of person we represent, as a law firm primarily practicing criminal defense. Is there a bit of irony here? In fact, there is a “repeat client” who is essentially a professional hot-check writer. That is why he is currently residing in the Montgomery Count Jail.

Friday, December 02, 2005

If You Ever Intend to Marry…

I think I am the only person at the place where I am employed who is not married. My employer recently spoke to me about getting married. “If you ever come to me and tell me you are getting married,” he said, “I’ll knee you in your nuts and steal your wallet.” He continued, “The next day, I’ll knee you in your nuts and steal your wallet again.” “After about a week of this, you’ll decide that maybe you don’t want to get married. That’s what it’s like being married.” I think he and his wife had some issues regarding their finances.

Neckties

Neckties are funny. What purpose do they serve? I should not remark on it, lest I jinx myself, but my skill at tying ties is improving.

John Lienhard (pronounced “Lean-hard”), of the University of Houston, in his fascinating radio program, The Engines of Our Ingenuity, episode No. 1107, remarked on the air of formality that surrounds the engineering field. “I’m probably the last dinosaur who still wears a necktie to teach classes. I do it to honor the process – like going to church. That necktie doesn’t make me a better teacher or a more devout worshiper. It merely says I’m doing something I value.”

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Galveston County

I’m going to the beach today! OK, not really, but I associate Galveston with the beach, because that is why we would go to the Island back when I was a wee lad.

True to form, they do not inform me until after nine o’clock the night before that I will be going out of county. Only, this time, I am driving a bit further than the thirty miles in to Houston. I am driving eighty miles to Galveston County. I was informed that the client is pretty much screwed. I was probably tapped to go to Galveston because no one else wanted to go and because I could not make matters any worse. I just need to remember to reset the trip odometer, so I can be reimbursed for the mileage.