Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Too-Short Life

My Aunt will start the new year by burying her youngest child.  Suddenly my problems seem insignificant.

I got word yesterday morning that my Cousin - my Dad's youngest sister's child (the youngest of her three daughters) - died suddenly.  Her live-in boyfriend returned home from work on Friday and found her on the couch, dead.

There was no sign of forced entry into her home and there were no marks on her body, nor alcohol / pills lying around that would indicate any sort of violence or suicide.  According to the coroner, she looked "peaceful."

I am ashamed to admit that I did not know this particular cousin well, and so I don't even know exactly how old she is.  (I mean, "was.")  (God, that's hard to write).  She is (was) quite a few years younger than I am, and I have always lived hundreds or thousands of miles away from her.  My Dad was not particularly close to his youngest sister, either, and so we did not visit with her often as my cousins and I were growing up.  There is no anger or estrangement, just not a particularly close relationship.

But I do remember visiting my Aunt when I was about 35, and this particular Cousin of mine was in college at the time.  I was driving through the town my Aunt lived in, and stopped to visit for a while.  My Cousin was at my Aunt's house with a few of her friends that day, and we all had dinner together.  I am guessing she is (was) now in her early 30's.

I remember that she was beautiful, vivacious, and friendly.  I remember that she laughed a lot with her friends and family, that day that I visited.  I remember the obvious love between her and my Aunt.

As a Mom, I cannot even imagine the sadness and despair my Aunt must now be feeling.  To lose her youngest child, at a too-young age...  It hurts just to think about it.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Reminder: Eat Your Black-Eyed Peas for New Year's


My yearly reminder to all of my blogger friends:  For good luck and prosperity, you simply MUST eat black eyed peas first thing on New Year's Day (which, in my world, means they must be eaten at 12:01 a.m., along with your champagne toast to the New Year!)

For a more detailed explanation of  the reasons why you must eat black eyed peas[footnote 1] first thing on New Year's Day, please see this prior post.

For a recap of the bad luck I experienced the one and only year that I forgot to eat the darned peas, please see this prior post.

Here are some links to recipes that will make them delicious for you:

1.  Healthy and Delicious: Southern-Style Black-Eyed Peas with Bacon

I'm not sure how the word "healthy" got included in the title for a recipe that includes bacon but I can vouch for the fact that the bacon will make it delicious!

2.  Crockpot Black-Eyed Peas With Ham

Ham is good, too, and perhaps more traditional than the bacon.  In fact, real Southerners use ham hocks.  Yum!

3.  Spicy Black-Eyed Peas With Tomatoes

And in Louisiana, they like their food spicy.  (See, e.g., Jambalaya).   These are a nice change from the salty, slightly sweet versions above.


Note that the first two recipes call for dried or frozen peas, which taste better than canned, but take longer to prepare than the kind out of the can. No procrastinating if you want them ready on time!

Then again, you could probably substitute the canned peas.  They wouldn't be as delicious, of course, but it would be easier.

Or, if you actually like the canned peas (like I do), and/or if you won't be home but want to be sure you get your good-luck-peas, you can just pop open a can, dump them into a bowl, heat them in the microwave, and you are ready to go within two minutes on New Year's Eve!  Definitely lacks the gourmet flair, but it's quick and practical and will keep you from suffering horrible bad luck all year!

I wish you all the best for the coming year.  May you all be healthy, happy, and prosperous.

* * * *
Footnote 1:  That would be a good name for a punk rock band, wouldn't it?  "The Black Eyed Peas". . .

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012

My kids made a gingerbread house.


My daughter ate the gingerbread tree already.  She said it was delicious.  It looks delicious, doesn't it?  (Good thing I got a picture first.)

We also decorated our tree.  And put the train around the base.  And bought presents and wrapped them and put them under the tree....


And I put a couple of decorations out front, to cheer up our house for the neighbors...



Check out the refurbished newspaper vending machine that my husband converted to use as our mailbox.  The plastic light-up snowman is a nice touch, don't you think?

I sent Christmas cards to a few folks.

I decorated the mantel and our green m&m...



I was hoping that if I gave her my duster, she'd use it.  (So far, not working...)

We've been to a holiday party or two.  And had lots of fun, too, actually.

But something is missing this year.  Our pal Sparky.



This is a photo of him from last winter, when we visited the snow.  He was notoriously hard to photograph -- as soon as he saw the camera, he'd come toward you trying to sniff and lick the camera.  But here he is in all his fluffy glory.

He always loved the snow.  And damp grass in the springtime.  And the mountains.  Life just isn't the same without him.

But life does go on, and it's Christmas, and I love it as always.  The decorations, the baking, the once-a-year Christmas music, the lights, the gifts, the festive atmosphere, the celebrations with friends and family, the love in the air ... I look forward to it every year, no matter what.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Update, just in case I have any readers left...

Since the last time I posted, here is a quick summary of what has happened in my life:

Work:

* Lots of depositions have been taken, of witnesses and experts.

* Lots of disclosures and discovery documents have been drafted and updated.

* Numerous emails, letters, motions, and other litigation-related written volleys have flown across my desk and the desks of opposing counsel.

* Numerous telehone calls, with clients and with opposing counsel.

* A couple of court hearings.

* One (unsuccessful) settlement conference - it is hard to settle when the other side refuses to budge from their "$0" number.

* One (unsuccessful) attempt to submit an official bid in response to an RFP from the State for mediators.  I didn't receive the required insurance documents in time.  It didn't help that my insurer promised them weeks before, then did not timely deliver.  But the bottom line is that I should have followed up sometime before the day before the bid was due.

* Numerous job applications and a couple of interviews.  No bites so far.

Family:

* My daughter finished her first swim team season, having improved her "personal best" times substantially, and started her first-ever high school basketball season.  Turns out high school basketball is a lot more intense than junior high.  She is exhausted after every practice.  Her first game is this weekend. I am supposed to run the time clock and I am terrified of making that damn (LOUD) buzzer go off at the wrong times.

* My son got off to a good start in school this year, with his teacher saying he is a great kid and diligent worker in class (first time ever!!).  However, yesterday he complained the teacher was mean to him -- which means he probably did something annoying and got called out for it.

* Our dog, Sparky, died.  He had been losing weight over the summer, and we took him to the vet.  After several expensive vet visits, they figured out he had "tick fever."  They put him on a lengthy regimen of antibiotics and steroids, but he continued to lose weight initially.  He was skin and bones for a while, but by October he had recovered from the tick fever and was feeling happy again, and he had regained most of the weight.  Then he died suddenly, in the space of hours on October 21, from "bloat."  I had never heard of it before my poor dog died of it, but according to at least one web site, it is the second leading killer of dogs.  We are all so devastated by Sparky's death...  He was such a good friend...  I can't believe we didn't know to take him to the vet right away; we thought he just had gas and that it would pass, as it does with people.  It doesn't.  If you own a dog and don't know what bloat is, you need to learn about it RIGHT NOW.  Click on the link.

* My husband got placed on administrative leave from his job just before Thanksgiving. So far, they haven't even told him exactly why. They are "investigating." So now he is hanging around the house all day every day and I love him dearly but, being the somewhat introverted person that I am, I really crave my "personal time" that I used to have. So now I stay up until the wee hours of the morning just so I can have some quiet time in the house after everyone is asleep. And then I don't get enough sleep and I'm tired and cranky all the time. And my husband is (understandably) stressed. And so our household is a little less than fun right now.

* We had Thanksgiving dinner at our wonderful friend Sheri's house because our oven is currently not working.  We just got the stupid thing in 2003, and it's a brand that is supposed to be good, and although it wasn't the fanciest model, it wasn't the bottom of the barrel model either.  It should last longer than 9 years!  So we either need to get it repaired or replaced.  Meanwhile, we gave thanks that our friend's oven was working so that we had a wonderful home in which to cook Turkey and other Thanksgiving deliciousness and share a good meal with friends and family.

* I listened to "Alice's Restaurant" on the radio on the way to Sheri's house on Thanksgiving day and laughed for the first time since learning that my husband was on "administrative leave."  Here is a link to a video of Arlo playing the song live (the embedding feature is disabled, sorry!):

http://youtu.be/5_7C0QGkiVo

-----
There's more.  These are just the "highlights" (or "lowlights, in some cases).

-----
None of this explains why I haven't posted.  I just haven't felt up to writing anything that wasn't necessary for work.   I also got an iPad for my birthday.  It sucks up a lot of my time playing stupid games and writing email and surfing around on Facebook while I watch TV in the evenings.  Time I used to spend writing blog posts.  So blame Apple, if you miss me.  :)

Friday, September 14, 2012

If you look up "Obtuse" in the dictionary, her picture is there...

Here is two minute snippet of how my deposition went on Wednesday.  (The facts have been changed to protect the guilty.)

If the witness would have simply answered "yes," "no," or "I don't know" to my questions, we could have been finished in about 3 hours.  Instead, she acted like this, and it took 6 hours:

* * * *

Me:  While Mr. X worked for you, did Mr. X receive training in Y?

Witness:  I have no personal knowledge of that.

Me:  Do you have any kind of knowledge, other than personal knowledge, regarding whether Mr. X received training regarding Y?

Witness:  No.

Me:  So would it be fair to say that you do not know whether Mr. X received training in Y while he worked for you?

Witness:  Well, I have no personal knowledge about that.  
[Editor's note:  her emphasis, not mine!]

Me:  Is there some kind of knowledge other than personal knowledge that you do have regarding whether Mr. X received training in Y while he worked for you?

Witness:  No.

Me:   So then, if you have no personal knowledge and no other kind of knowledge, do you have any knowledge about it at all?

Witness:  Well, I have no personal knowledge about it.

Me:  When I asked you whether Mr. X received training in Y while he worked for you, is there some reason that you could not simply respond "I don't know" or "I don't have any knowledge about it"?

Witness:  I'm just trying to make things clear.

Me:  It would make things very clear if you could simply answer "yes," "no," or "I don't know" to my questions.  Do you think you can do that, so that things will be more clear and so that we can finish this deposition in a reasonable amount of time?

Witness:   OK.
[Editor's note -- she's already not complying...]


Me:  Did Mr. X receive training in Y while he worked for you?

Witness:  I have no personal knowledge about that.


* * * *

Holy crap.  

Can you spell   "I-N-T-E-N-T-I-O-N-A-L-L-Y   O-B-T-U-S-E"  ?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Liberal's Prayer (more email fun)


Dear Lord,

I know that I don't talk to you that much, but this year you have 
 taken away:

 my favorite  screenwriter, Nora Ephron,
 my favorite visionary, Steve Jobs,
 my favorite Science Fiction author, Ray Bradbury,
 my favorite childrens' author, Maurice Sendak,
 my favorite oldies disk Jockey, Dick Clark,
 my favorite hairdresser, Vidal Sassoon,
 my favorite Bluegrass Musician, Earl Scruggs,
 my favorite Monkee, Davy Jones,
 my favorite 60 Minutes guy, Mike Wallace,
 my favorite pop singer, Whitney Houston,
 and my favorite TV Sheriff, Andy Griffith,

 I just wanted to let you know that my favorite radio announcer is 
 Rush Limbaugh.

 Amen.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Funny - from my inbox...

A bus station is where a bus stops.

A train station is where a train stops.


On my desk, I have a work station.


What more can I say?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sometimes I'm just not that bright...

I picked up my car at the shop after hours on Friday, after having some minor repairs done.  They had locked the keys in it, and left them under the mat for me.  It was dark and I didn't find the keys easily, so I used my spare set to drive it home, leaving the keys under the mat, temporarily.

Got home, parked, opened the car door, gathered my things, hit the "door lock" button on the door of the car, shut the door, went inside the house...  Remembered the spare set of keys under the mat as I walked into the house, but  I was tired, so I figured I'd just get them next time I went out.

Saturday, I needed to go to the store, but I couldn't find my keys.  I looked everywhere for them, without success.  Finally, in desperation, I called AAA - I figured they could unlock the car and open it, and then I could get the spare set from under the mat, and I'd just find the regular set later when I had more time to search.

AAA arrived very quickly (fewer than 10 minutes!), and the man used his "breaking into cars" tool and opened the door in about 15 seconds flat.

(I must say, I'm not encouraged about my chances if a car thief decides he wants my car... !)

So I opened the car door and what did I find?  Both sets of keys under the mat.  I guess I must have put the regular set under the mat instead of getting the spare set out from under it when I parked Friday night.  And no, I had *not* been drinking!

I don't know what I was thinking with that one...  Sometimes, I'm just not that bright...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pulitzer Project Book Review - The Road - Cormac McCarthy

I promised this review a long time ago. Some of you may have forgotten (or never have known) about it, it's been so long.

Click here for the run-down on the Pulitzer Project.

Click here for the "rules" for participation on this blog (they basically boil down to, "criticize all you like, but be respectful," and here for the Spoiler Alert.

I've taken way too long to try to write this review.  And I've put off reading other Pulitzer books while waiting to post the review of this one.  I just kept putting it off.  And ignoring it.  And avoiding it.  And putting it off some more.  At first, I thought it was because I was trying to come up with something "new" or creative to say about the book.  Then I thought it was because I was busy.  But really, no one is *that* busy.  Then I thought it was because I needed to refresh my memory about the book to make sure I didn't leave out anything important in reviewing it.

None of those reasons was the real reason. In the end, I've concluded that I put off writing about it for so long because I didn't really like it.

While I was reading it, it drew me in.  I read it in just a couple of days on a vacation.  Despite the lack of much of a plot (just a father and son walking, walking, walking through a post-apocalyptic, completely destroyed world, seeking food, shelter, and safety from roving mobs of armed and dangerous cannabilistic thugs), I kept turning the pages, wanting to see "what comes next."

McCarthy writes well, and certainly raises (without really answering) some interesting questions about the meaning of existence and why it is that we keep on keeping on even when the deck is stacked against us and life just sucks. And also I kept thinking, heck, the book won a Pulitzer, so there must be *something* good about it that merited the prize.  (Then again, maybe the Pulitzer award givers enjoy this post-apocalyptic depressing crap...)

But when all was said and done, I heartily disliked the repetitive, bleak scenes and the disutopian outlook.  I felt drained and sad after reading it, and no more "enlightened" than before I started.  And so I'm done.  I'm moving on.  I'm not going to write any more about this book.  And it may be a while before I'm motivated to read anything else by McCarthy.  Too damn depressing.

If someone out there actually liked it, please tell me what redeeming qualities it has.  Maybe I'll learn to appreciate it.  But as it stands now, I'm writing off this Pulitzer winner as a dud.

And suddenly I feel a weight lifted from my shoulders.  I am now free to move on to (hopefully) better prize-winners in my quest to read them all.  To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (I hope, without offending anyone who thinks it is trite to compare my feelings about moving on from this depressingly awful book to Dr. King's feelings about ending racism -- I admit there is no comparison but I swear I just feel so exuberant!):

Free at last, free at last, Thank God Almighty, I am free at last!!

Monday, May 7, 2012

PARTY!!! .... or not.....

Here is a copy of the invitation my daughter received from her friend at school (redacted to protect the guilty), about 10 days ago:


Here is the text of an email I received Friday afternoon (with identifying information removed, to protect the innocent):


I sincerely apologize for this note, but my daughter, as well as a few of her friends, took it upon themselves to creatively plan a party WITHOUT parental approval.

They got so far as to produce and hand out invitations to most, maybe all, of the 8th grade. Some of you may have received the invitation (I have yet to see it myself) inviting you or your children to our home this Sunday evening.

While we certainly enjoy hosting a party, unfortunately, it is not going to happen this time because of the manner in which it was conceived (the times, the date, the cover charge- LOL), AND, last but not least, the fact that I didn't hear about it myself until I was sent a text from another parent offering to help.

I guess there is something to laugh about and something to learn from this situation. Cheers to parenting, and I apologize again - but there is no party Sunday!

* * * * * 

First thought upon reading this email:  My daughter attends a school that is rated one of the best in the State, and yet her classmates apparently are not smart enough to wait until their parents are *out of town* to plan a party without parental approval?!?

(I am thinking Arizona is correctly ranked 41st in education nationally....)

Second thought:  "Judge not, LegalMist, lest ye be judged...."   I am *so very glad* it wasn't my kid planning the "unauthorized" party!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Forget Depression.... Telecheck SUCKS!

Thanks to everyone for your kind words on my "Depression sucks" post. Nothing quite like anger and frustration to get me past depression, though, and onto the next phase.

So today I made copies for two clients at Office Max. I wanted to write a check to pay for the copies, using my business checking account.

The check was declined.

Confused, I called my bank. The bank verified the amount of funds in my account, which exactly matched the amount I had written in my checkbook register, and far exceeded the amount of the check I was writing to Office Max (a pretty measly $156, actually).

So, Office Max ran the check again.

Declined again.

Office Max uses a company called "Telecheck" to determine whether they should accept a particular check. Apparently, if Telecheck allows them to accept a check, Telecheck will guarantee payment of it.

So they called Telecheck, who said, essentially, "try it again." So, they ran it two more times, still declined.

Telecheck would not give Office Max any reason why it was declined, so Office Max gave me the number to call.

After a lengthy menu tree and entering all sorts of data, I was finally connected with a live person, who told me the check was declined because that check number had been "used too many times."

"Well, that's because Office Max ran it through the system 4 times," I said -- "and two of those times were after you advised them to 'try again.'"

"Oh," she replied, "and also because you don't have a history of using any checks on that account through a Telecheck merchant."

"Um... let me get this straight.... you're not going to let Office Max accept my check because you've never accepted a check from me before? Do you ever accept checks from anyone?!? How does anyone get that first check accepted?"

"Well, you have to write smaller checks at Telecheck merchants first, and build up a credit history with us."

(WTF?!?!? I thought) "Let me speak with a manager, please."

I explained that I have had this particular business checking account for over a year, and have never bounced a check. I never bounced a check on my account at my prior bank, either.

Plus, it's a BUSINESS account! And my law license can be jeopardized if I bounce checks! Heck, at the Post Office (I LOVE the Post Office) they never even ask for ID with my checks because they reasonably assume that most lawyers won't bounce their checks!

And I'm trying to run a business, here. The amount of goods or services I purchase isn't dictated by some whim, but by what items my business needs to run and/or the number of copies I NEED to make for my clients. In other words, I'm not "pleasure shopping" for fun, I'm writing checks for necessary amounts.

The Telecheck manager informed me there was no way to override it. They can't call my bank and verify the funds and recommend that Office Max accept the check. They can't look at my history with other accounts or other businesses and recommend that Office Max accept the check. They can't use common sense and figure out that a law office might need to write reasonably large checks (This one was actually only $156) rather than a bunch of little checks, and that a law office is pretty unlikely to bounce a check, and recommend that Office Max accept the check. No... if I want to write checks at Office Max, I have to waste my time trying to write a series of checks for smaller amounts, and then Telecheck will think about whether they should accept any of those checks.

So, Telecheck may be nice for the merchant, but is a nightmare for the average person or business owner.

So I called Office Max and asked if there is any way they can simply accept the check and take it straight to their bank and deposit it -- skip Telecheck, in effect. Answer: no. It's corporate policy and they have armored trucks that pick up their checks and deposit them. There is nothing they can do.

So I will have to make a trip to the bank to take out cash, and take the cash to Office Max to pay for the copies. That's an hour out of my day on Monday that I really don't have time for.

And then, after telling me there was nothing she could do to help me, the Office Max manager had the gall to ask me for free advice on her divorce!! I wanted to tell her I'd help her exactly as much as she helped me, but instead I referred her to a useful website.

I am now annoyed with both Telecheck and Office Max. If Office Max won't accept my check and simply take it to their bank (skip Telecheck for God's sake!!), even after they personally spoke with my banker who verified the funds in the account, then I will simply have to go to Staples for my business copies and supplies from now on.

Like the Post Office, Staples accepts my checks with no questions asked.

Yay for Staples!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

AWOL

Depression sucks.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Feature -- The Chubby Chatterbox

Just wanted to share my newest blog "discovery." Stephen Hayes writes wonderfully entertaining tales over at The Chubby Chatterbox.

Get yourself a fresh cup of coffee, then click on the link to drop in, make yourself comfortable, and stay awhile. I think you'll like it there!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Most Extreme State? - Arizona Trivia Tuesdays

It will have to be a quick fact this week. I'm out of town for a couple days, and this wireless internet connection is iffy at best. Lasts about 3 minutes, tops, before it times out....

* * * *

According to wikipedia.com, the highest temperature ever recorded in Arizona was 128 degrees Fahrenheit, at Lake Havasu City on June 29, 1994.

The lowest temperature ever recorded in Arizona was -40 degrees Fahrenheit, at Hawley Lake on January 7, 1971.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Navajo Code Talker Monument - Arizona Trivia (Just Barely Still) Tuesday

Another hectic week and hectic day. On the bright side, my daughter's basketball team won their game today against a tough team, despite the fact that a couple of teammates were out sick, and several of the ones who were at the game were also sick. She even scored a basket - unusual for her, because although she handles the ball very well and plays great defense, she is the smallest kid on the team and usually can't get a shot off over all the tall kids on the other team. This time, she dribbled quickly around and past all of them and made the lay-up!

So here it is Tuesday, almost midnight, and I've written nothing so far today... quick, what can I write about that's interesting and informative...?

* * * * *

On the corner of Thomas Road and Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, is a statute of a seated Native American. Here is a photo of it, which I got from a collection of photos by "tceng" on panoramio.com.



The statue is a monument to the Navajo Code Talkers who served in the marines and helped win World War II. Here's the scoop, from a website devoted to Naval history and heritage:

During World War II, the Navy was seeking an undecipherable code for use in the Pacific. A fellow named Philip Johnston, who was the son of a missionary to the Navajo, had been raised on the Navajo reservation, and was one of only a few non-Navajos who could speak the language fluently, believed he had a solution.

Navajo is an unwritten language -- it has no alphabet or symbols, and is spoken only on the Navajo lands. It is also extremely complex. The syntax, tonal qualities, and various dialects make it unintelligible to anyone who has not had extensive exposure and/or training.

So, in May 1942, the military recruited 29 native Navajos, who attended boot camp, just like any other recruits. Then, this special group was tasked with developing numerous words for military terms, and a dictionary. The dictionary and code words had to be memorized during training.

Once a Navajo code talker was trained, he was deployed to the Pacific, where he could talk with other Navajo code talkers to transmit information regarding tactics, troop movements, orders, or any other secret information.

Although the Japanese were very skilled code breakers, they were unable to decipher the code based upon the Navajo language.

Approximately 375 to 420 Navajos served as code talkers during World War II. Because their code remained valuable even after the war, they went unrecognized for decades, until September 17, 1992, when they were acknowledged and honored for their contributions, at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

World's Oldest Rodeo - Arizona Trivia

Did you know that Prescott, Arizona, lays claim to the "World's Oldest Rodeo"? First held on July 4, 1888, the Rodeo has been a part of Prescott "doings" every year since then.

In fact, the World's Oldest Rodeo (celebrating its 125th year this summer) is 25 years older than the State of Arizona (which just turned 100).

This year's rodeo in Prescott will be held June 28 to July 4, 2012, and will feature all the usual events - roping, bronc riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, and barrel racing - and the Town of Prescott also hosts a parade, an arts and crafts festival, and a fireworks show, to boot.

Personally, I can't imagine wanting to ride one of those broncos or bulls. I cringe in pain just watching it! Have any of you ever been to a rodeo? Or ridden in one?




* * * * *
Click here for more information about the World's Oldest Rodeo.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Totally Awkward Tuesday

Back in the day, before she went AWOL, Tova Darling of the blog "Secret Life of Tova Darling" used to run a weekly feature entitled Totally Awkward Tuesdays, in which she would tell a tale of something totally awkward that had happened to her, and would invite readers to post links to their blogs in which they wrote about something totally awkward that had happened to them. It was totally awkward hilarity all around.

Well, I'm busy with Arizona Trivia Tuesdays all year, so I can't revive Totally Awkward Tuesdays on my own blog. However, something totally awkward happened on Tuesday and I just can't resist telling you all about it. And so even though I'm posting it on a Thursday, I'm entitling it "Totally Awkward Tuesday," as a tip o' the hat to dear Tova, who I miss very much now that she is no longer blogging (or if she is blogging somewhere, I haven't found her and she has apparently abandoned her "Secret Life..." blog).

Here is my tale:

I have a friend, we'll call him "Jim" since that's his name, who I have known since law school, which we both attended back in the early 1990's. He used to rent a room from us, and then he moved out, but he kept his key and he is such a good friend, almost family really, so he drops by often. If he drops by and we're here (as evidenced by a car or two in front of the house), he knocks. If he drops by and no one is home, he uses the key and lets himself in. Sometimes we come home to find him kicking back by the TV. Other times, he's cooking us dinner. Either way, we're always happy to see him.

Jim's parents visit him from the northern climes at least once, sometimes twice a year, generally when the weather is nice here and it's butt-freezing cold there. Generally, we go to dinner with them at least once while they are here.

Jim's parents are extremely kind people. We love them. But Jim's dad often mumbles and talks in a very low voice. Many times we have to ask him to repeat what he has said. But sometimes that gets awkward so if the context makes it pretty clear, we just nod and smile even if we're not 100% sure what he said. My dad does this mumbly, low-talking thing, too (and wasn't there a "Seinfeld" episode about that, as well?), the difference being that I'm better at guessing and/or reading lips with my own dad than I am with Jim's dad.

So Tuesday night, we went to dinner with Jim and his parents. We went to an awesome middle eastern restaurant nearby. Jim's dad ordered a platter that came with tabouli as a side dish.

When our food was served, Jim's dad leaned toward me and said (at least I thought he said) that he doesn't really like tabouli, and asked if I would like to have it. I said, "You don't like it at all?" He said (I thought) that he doesn't like it and wasn't planning to eat any of it, and that I could have it if I wanted it. So I said, "Sure, I love tabouli. If you don't want it, I'll be happy to have it." The waiter brought an extra plate, and Jim's dad held his plate up over the plate the waiter brought, as if for me to scrape the tabouli onto my plate.

About halfway through the scraping process, he abruptly moved his plate away. So I stopped scraping even though I was a bit confused because about a fourth of the tabouli was still on his plate and I thought he had stated that he didn't like it and wasn't planning to eat any of it.

He then proceeded to eat every last bite of food that was on his plate, including all of the tabouli that remained there.

I offered him some of my salad, which I had not yet touched. He declined. I pushed the side order of hummus, which we had ordered as a shared appetizer for all of us, in his direction, but he didn't eat any of it. Just kept scraping up random bits of tabouli that were still on his plate, until it was completely bare.

He literally scraped every last little couscous and parsley morsel onto his fork. For a man who (I thought) had stated he did not like tabouli, he was acting like it was his favorite dish! His plate was practically licked clean, and he looked like he wanted more tabouli.... but I had already eaten from the portion I had taken from his plate, so it didn't seem appropriate to offer to give it back.

When Jim's mom seemed like she was done, and had some tabouli left, he even ate some of her tabouli....

So then I felt like I had taken this kind man's food and made a complete pig of myself.

It was all very weird. And awkward.

* * * * *

If you want to join the awkward hilarity, please feel welcome to either tell your tale, or post a link to your own blog with your tale, in the comments section. I'm too lazy to set up "Mr. Linky" the way Tova always did!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Honorable Lorna E. Lockwood - A Trailblazing Western Woman -- Arizona Trivia

Lorna Elizabeth Lockwood was born on March 24, 1903 in Douglas, Arizona -- which at the time was a Territory, not a State (as explained last week, Arizona was admitted to the Union on February 14, 1912).

Her family moved to Tombstone, Arizona in 1913 (yes, that Tombstone - adopted home of the Earp brothers, site of the infamous gunfight at the OK Corral, subject of several movies), and she graduated from high school there in 1920.

She was an amazing woman. As you read this brief summary of her life, remember that during most of her formative years, women did not even have the right to vote in most of this country. Did she let that stop her from dreaming big? No, she did not!

According to the Women's Legal History Biography Project at Stanford University, Lorna E. Lockwood chalked up a number of "firsts" during her long career as an Arizona attorney and judge.

Ms. Lockwood was the first woman to receive a Juris Doctor (law) degree from the University of Arizona College of Law, in 1925. According to the Arizona Women's Hall of Fame, she was the only woman in her class of 13, and was elected president of the Student Bar Association.

She was the first woman in Arizona appointed as an Assistant Attorney General, in 1948.

She was the first woman to sit on the bench of the Arizona Superior Court, appointed in 1951.

And, most amazingly, she was the first woman to become Chief Justice of any State Supreme Court in the U.S., in 1965. (However, according to Wikipedia, we must give credit to Ohio for being the first to elect a woman to serve as Associate Justice on its Supreme Court - a position held by the Honorable Florence Ellinwood Allen from 1922 until her appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in 1934.)

The Honorable Lorna Lockwood served on the Arizona Supreme Court from 1961 to 1975, and was Chief Justice twice, from 1965-66 and from 1970-71. (Interestingly, Lorna's father, the Honorable Alfred C. Lockwood, served on the Arizona Supreme Court from 1925 to 1943; she used the same office and desk he had used.)

In the 1960's, the Honorable Lorna Lockwood was a candidate and was almost nominated to be the first female justice on the United States Supreme Court. However, President Johnson appointed Thurgood Marshall, the first African American U.S. Supreme Court Justice, instead.

Sadly, the Honorable Lorna Lockwood died in 1977 at the age of 74 due to complications of pneumonia (an awful disease, as I know from personal experience).


* * * * *

As a law student, I can remember reading Arizona cases authored by Ms. Lockwood and being impressed that Arizona was progressive enough to have a woman supreme court justice sooner than many other states. Our State may come across as reactionary and ultra-conservative on a lot of issues (see generally Arizona politics), but women's participation in public life isn't one of them (see Wikipedia's biography of the Honorable Sandra Day O'Connor, another famous jurist from Arizona).

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Birthday, Arizona



On this day, 100 years ago, the Territory of Arizona became the State of Arizona.

Yes, on Valentine's Day, 1912. Can't you just feel the love?

This year, the anniversary of the year Arizona became our 48th State, I am learning and/or sharing a lot of trivial, but interesting, facts about my adopted home State. Thus, my new "Arizona Trivia Tuesdays" feature.

For today, just a few facts about Arizona's admission to the Union:

* Arizona was the last of the continental States to be admitted to the Union. It was another 47 years before we admitted any other states to the Union, with Alaska and Hawaii being admitted in 1959.

* President William Howard Taft signed the bill admitting Arizona to the Union.

* The Arizona Constitution includes provisions allowing people to propose and enact laws by initiative and referendum.

* Immediately after Arizona achieved statehood, Arizona women's suffrage supporters put those initiative and referendum powers to good use: they began an initiative campaign to place women's suffrage on the ballot. They were successful, and in the 1912 elections, Arizona (along with Oregon and Kansas) joined the 6 other Western States that allowed women to vote. This was 8 years before the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote nationwide.

That's it for today. I'll continue sharing much more Arizona trivia every Tuesday all year long. Hope you enjoy it!

* * * *
Legal Mumbo Jumbo:

Photo by Graceful Cake Creations, found on flickr, and used under a creative commons license. Use of photo does not imply endorsement by copyright holder. Isn't it a lovely cake?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Worst. Illness. Ever.

Lately I've been writing some of my best stuff in the comments on other blogs. So I'm recycling this one from a comment I left on Janie Junebug's blog, in response to her question, "What is the worst illness you ever suffered?" (Or words to that effect).

Since Janie's blog is invitation only (due to some privacy violations and other stalker-ish issues she was having with some commenters), you can't all go there to answer her question (well, some of you can, if you've joined her blog). But you can answer her question here, if you like. Feel free to share your worst illness ever in the comments section below. Note to the squeamish: You might want to avoid reading the comments for today.

Here is my story:

When I was a kid, maybe 8 years old, living in Florida, I caught pneumonia during the Christmas break. I think it was after Christmas, though. My parents later told me I almost died from it.

It came on very suddenly. I was feeling absolutely fine, and I went to a sleepover at a friend's house, woke up in the middle of the night feeling awful, and my Dad had to come pick me up at something like 2:00 a.m. I think he was angry about it until he saw how awful I looked and felt. I actually watched his expression go from frustration to "holy crap I've never seen her look so bad," and then he carried me gently to the car.

I was sick for weeks and weeks and had to take penicillin. The doctor had prescribed these horse pills but I hadn't learned to swallow pills yet and sure wasn't going to learn on those giant things, so my mom had to crush them up and mix them in with a dixie cup full of soda, usually Pepsi but sometimes Sprite, and it was soooo bitter and awful tasting but I had to drink all of it, every time. She'd even pour more soda in the little dixie cup and swish it around so we wouldn't miss any. Ugh. I still don't like soda all that much.

And at least twice a day, every day, my dad had to come in and hold me over his lap with my head hanging down over the trash can by the bed and hit me on the back between the shoulder blades at just the right angle (as demonstrated by the doctor) until I coughed up a bunch of the goo that was in my lungs. He later told me it was all he could do not to puke every time... poor guy...

I was in a fog for ... ? days? weeks? ... I don't know.

I only know that finally, after missing whatever was left of Christmas vacation plus a bit of school, I started to come out of the fog and then I was lucid for longer and longer times each day and then one day I felt well enough to sit up and it was a beautiful bright sunny Florida winter day, and I begged my mom to let me go outside. I wanted to run in the sunshine. My legs were weak, though, so I settled for sitting on the edge of the driveway in a spot of warm sunshine and enjoying the cool air and gentle breeze.

It was the most beautiful day God ever made. I felt alive again.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Puns In My Email

Pun fun for the educated mind...and maybe even you!

1. The fattest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.

2. I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

3. She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.

4. A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class, because it was a weapon of math disruption.

5. No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

6. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

7. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.

8. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

9. A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

10. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

11. Atheism is a nonprophet organization.

12. Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: "You stay here; I'll go on a head."

13. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.

14. A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: "Keep off the Grass."

15. The midget fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.

16. The soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

17. A backward poet writes inverse.

18. In a democracy it's your vote that counts. In feudalism it's your count that votes.

19. When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.

20. If you jumped off the bridge in Paris, you'd be in Seine.

21. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, "I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger."

22. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says, "Dam!"

23. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.

24. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One said, "I've lost my electron." The other said "Are you sure?" The first replied, "Yes, I'm positive."

25. There was the person who sent ten puns to friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dwarf Planet Pluto - Arizona Trivia Tuesdays

Did you know that the object formerly known as a planet called Pluto (demoted, in 2006, to "dwarf planet" status) was discovered in 1930 at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona?

The following is summarized from Wikipedia.org:

Neptune's existence was predicted in the early 1840's, before its first observation in 1846, because of disturbances in Uranus's orbit. Disturbances in Uranus' orbit that were not explained by Neptune led astronomers to predict the existence of yet another planet in our solar system, out beyond Uranus' orbit.

Percival Lowell searched until his death in 1916 for the planet, and in 1915, his observatory captured two faint images of Pluto, but no one recognized them at the time.

In 1929, Clyde Tombaugh, who at 23 years old was new to the Lowell Observatory, was appointed to conduct a systematic search for the planet, and he succeeded in February 1930.

The planet was officially named on March 24, 1930. It was not named after the Disney character, but after the god of the underworld in classical mythology. It is possible that the Disney character was named after the planet.

Over the years, estimates of Pluto's mass were repeatedly revised downward, until 2006 when it was finally demoted to "dwarf planet" status. [See footnote 1]

Additional interesting facts about Pluto:

* It takes 248 Earth years for Pluto to complete its orbit (i.e., for one "Pluto year"). That must be one heckuva long winter, right? Then again, it's so far from the sun that it is, for us, impossibly cold (approximately -230C) all the time anyway!

* It takes 6.39 Earth days for Pluto to revolve (i.e., for one "Pluto day").

* A portion of its orbit brings it closer to the sun than Neptune for approximately 20 years out of each 248. This occurred most recently between February 7, 1979 and February 11, 1999. (I am amazed that they can figure this out down to the very day, for an object so far away....). Fortunately, because of the different "angles" of their orbits from the plane of the Earth's orbit, their orbits do not intersect, so we do not risk a planet / dwarf planet collision at some point in the future that might destroy both celestial objects. [See footnote 2]

* Pluto is approximately 2/3 as big as our moon.

* Pluto has one large moon, Charon, and at least three smaller ones. Some astronomers consider Charon and Pluto to be more like a binary planet system (a "dwarf double planet") rather than planet and moon.


* * * *

Footnote 1: Interestingly, in 1992 new data from Voyager 2 indicated that Neptune's mass was sufficient to account for the gravitational effects on Uranus, and that no other planet was needed to account for the disturbances in Uranus' orbit. So, even though the wobbles in Uranus' orbit, combined with the mis-estimation of Neptune's mass, predicted the existence of a planet at a certain place in space, and even though Pluto was discovered to exist there, it was all just a big coincidence.

Footnote 2: When I was in elementary school, we were taught that the planets went, in order, like this: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto. We even built a paper mache model of the solar system and hung the planets from the ceiling in my 2nd grade classroom.

For about 20 years, I guess they had to hang Pluto closer to the sun than Neptune.

And nowadays, I guess there'd be no Pluto hanging from the ceiling. I confess to a certain sense of nostalgic loss.

Although, to argue the other side, I suppose if we did continue to recognize Pluto as a planet, we'd have to learn the names of a whole legion of other similarly sized orbital objects that fall into that "dwarf planet" category that we otherwise get to freely ignore while learning about planets. So I'm guessing elementary school kids all over the world are grateful for Pluto's demotion.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Fine Parenting Moment #3897

Legal Mist's Son: (While jumping up and down) Can I have a jawbreaker? Can I? Can I? Please? Can I have a jawbreaker?

LegalMist's Husband: If I give you one, will you go away?

Son: Yes!!

Husband: If I give you two, will you go away faster?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Lawyers. Ugh.

How can you tell if a lawyer is telling a lie? His lips are moving....

Normally I hate those kinds of lawyer jokes. I try so hard to be decent, trustworthy, honest... I don't like to be made fun of in that way... but sometimes I totally see where these things come from.

I'm currently dealing with a case in which the attorneys on the other side are untrustworthy. They literally lie and cheat. It is despicable. They are the type who give rise to "jokes" like the one above.

Example: Case is pending in a forum which allows for electronic filing of documents and service by email or U.S. Mail. You get 5 days to respond, but you get extra time added to that if service is by U.S. Mail. Attorneys for the other side e-filed a motion. The service certificate attached to the motion states that they emailed it to me on the date it was filed. It does not state that it was snail-mailed. I received a copy via U.S. Mail 5 days after it was filed. Remember: the response time was 5 days, if served by email. So now I am receiving a motion and the response is due later that same day.

So I called and told them I did not receive the emailed copy and had just received the mailed copy, and asked if they would stipulate to extend the response time. They refused. They forwarded me a copy of an email confirmation from the Court allegedly proving that they emailed a copy to me on the day they filed it. I emailed back, explaining that their mistake was now clear -- they had entered the email address improperly, and so it did not get to me. They still refused to stipulate to an extension.

So I filed a motion to extend time, explaining to the judge that I had not received the motion until 5 days after it was filed, via U.S. Mail, and asking for more time to respond.

They had the nerve to file a response to my motion, attaching the email confirmation from the Court, and claiming that it "proved" they had served me by email on the day they e-filed the motion. A flat-out lie, given that I had already explained to them their error and that, even if they tried, they did not in fact email me a copy.

So then I had to file a reply, explaining the whole incorrect email thing. I attached a copy of the email I had sent them explaining about the incorrect email entry -- which was sent well before the time they filed their response alleging proper service.

The judge granted my motion for extra time to respond to their motion. I hope he also realizes they are lying scumbags at this point, and will be skeptical of any other "facts" they allege.

-----
Sidenote (because, for now, I'm tired of footnotes): Typically in this forum, if you think you have properly served someone by email, you would not send another copy via U.S. Mail. So, the fact that they sent a copy by mail makes me think they actually knew, before I told them, that they had not in fact properly emailed their motion. Lying rats.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Arizona Trivia Tuesdays - You Have the Right to Remain Silent...

.... and you are aware of this right thanks to a challenge to the State of Arizona's Gestapo-like police tactics by dedicated attorneys for 4 criminal defendants, among them Ernesto Miranda, whose famous name we all know.

In 1963, Mr. Miranda was arrested by Phoenix police and taken into custody, where he was interrogated and confessed to a crime, without having been told that he could refuse to answer questions or have an attorney. The confession was used at trial and he was convicted, and sentenced to 20-30 years imprisonment.

His dedicated attorneys pursued appeals through the Arizona and federal court systems, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in what would, these days, be a record-short time. In 1965, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the confession was inadmissible because of the inherently coercive nature of custodial interrogation, and overturned his conviction. [see footnote 1]

The Court went further, though, and held that without a requirement to provide defendants with a warning about their rights, the U.S. Constitution's Fifth and Sixth Amendment protections (right against self-incrimination and right to have a lawyer) would be rendered essentially useless.

So, thanks to Arizona and the attorneys for Mr. Miranda, we now have the ubiquitous "Miranda Warnings" recited on every cop show on television, approximately 18,642 times per week! Yay, Arizona!




* * * *

footnotes (because I'm a lawyer and lawyers love footnotes):

1. Although Mr. Miranda's initial conviction was reversed, he was retried and convicted again in 1967, even without the use of the illegally obtained confession. He was again sentenced to a 20-30 year term of imprisonment. However, he was paroled in 1972. (This was before Arizona adopted some of the most stringent sentencing laws in the nation, and virtually eliminated early release credits.) According to Wikipedia, Mr. Miranda made a living for a while by autographing police officers' "Miranda warning cards," and was later stabbed to death during a bar fight on January 31, 1976.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mountains and Deserts and Trees, Oh, My! - Part III, Trees

Did you know that Arizona is home to the largest stand of Ponderosa Pines in the world? The pines are in the Coconino National Forest, which covers 1.8 million acres -- and includes the Mogollon Rim [footnote 1].

You can also drive on "Cactus Forest Road" in the Saguaro National Park near Tucson. Although Cactuses technically are not "trees," when there are thousands upon thousands of them all together, it does begin to resemble a forest.

(Barely made it on Tuesday this week! Busy lately...)

* * * * *

Footnote (because I'm a lawyer and lawyers love footnotes):

1. The Mogollon Rim is an approximately 1000 foot high cliff that runs at about a 7000 foot elevation (i.e., it is 1000 feet to the top of it from the 6000 foot elevation area below) for approximately 200 miles across central Arizona at the edge of the Coconino National Forest. (I know, I probably should have put that "Rim" thing in with the "Mountains" portion of this series).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Arizona Trivia Tuesday - Mountains and Deserts and Trees, Oh My! (Part II - Deserts)

According to the Arizona Fish and Game Department, there are 21 deserts in the world, and parts of 4 of them can be found in Arizona -- all four of the major deserts found in the continental United States.

Here is a map that shows the approximate boundaries of the four deserts with portions in Arizona:



Each of these deserts is slightly different in character.

The Sonoran Desert is probably the one most people think of when (if?) they think of an Arizona desert. It is the green one on the map above, and is in southwestern and central Arizona, as well as Southeastern California and its namesake, the State of Sonora in Mexico.

The Sonoran desert is one of the wettest deserts in North America and averages from 5 to 17 inches of rain per year, depending on where you are and varying from year to year. For example, the Phoenix area averages about 8 inches per year. Most of the rain falls during the summer monsoon season (about a month of intermittent intense but short storms) and the winter "rainy" season (gentler, longer lasting but still intermittent rainy spells).

It is also the largest of the desert areas in Arizona, surrounding cities you've probably heard of like Phoenix, Tucson, and Yuma, and ones you may not have heard of, like Gila Bend, Casa Grande, and Ajo.

The key Sonoran Desert plant is the iconic saguaro cactus, like the one Snoopy's brother, Spike, lived in near Needles, California. When there are lots of them together, I sometimes think they look a little like people standing around at a cocktail party, waving to their friends across the room with one hand and holding their drink in the other:



Other times I think they look a little like Spongebob's pal Patrick - kind of goofy. Of course there are other cactuses, too, such as the prickly pear and the ocotillo. And let's not forget tumbleweeds. Yes, they really do exist, and they are quite prickly.

Critters in the Sonoran desert include coyotes, roadrunners, mountain lions, bobcats, gila monsters, and the Sonoran desert tortoise (not to be confused with the Giant tortoises found in places like the Galapagos Islands). The Desert tortoise is generally 10 to 15 inches long, and can live for up to 100 years.

The Mojave Desert is found primarily in California, but stretches into parts of northern and western Arizona, Nevada, and (according to some but not all maps) possibly Utah, as well. It is the blue one on the map above.

Death Valley, California, is in the Mojave Desert. The Mojave Desert is slightly higher in elevation than the Sonoran, and averages only about 5" of rain per year. The key plant is the Joshua tree, also known as the Yucca palm, a very strange looking plant indeed:



You'll also find Mohave desert tortoises here, which are similar to the Sonoran desert tortoises but are considered a different species.

The Great Basin Desert is often called the largest U.S. desert, covering approximately 190,000 square miles (most of those are not, of course, in Arizona). It is the brown one on the map above, and it stretches from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Rocky Mountains, and from the Columbia Plateau in the North to the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts in the South. In Arizona, it is found primarily along the north rim of the Grand Canyon, with some scattered portions south of the Canyon; some experts disagree that this area is part of the Great Basin Desert would call it the Colorado Plateau instead, and consider it a separate region.

Regardless where you think the borders lie, the Great Basin Desert is considered a "cold desert," with its generally higher elevations (at least 3000 feet, generally 4000 to 6500 feet) and northern latitude. It also receives more regularly spaced rainfall, approximately 7 to 12 inches per year.

With its higher elevation, cooler climate, and more regular rainfall, the plants and animals differ substantially from the Saguaros and Joshua trees and heat-adapted critters found at lower elevations. Typical plants in the Arizona portion of this desert include sagebrush, blackbrush, saltbush, and greasewood, with occasional yuccas and very few cactuses. A single blackbrush plant can live to be 400 years old!

Here is a photo of a sagebrush plant:



Animals in the Great Basin Desert include mule deer, with their huge ears, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn antelope (along with the usual desert species such as lizards and snakes). Ranches in the Arizona portion of the Great Basin desert also host two introduced buffalo herds.

A baby Mule Deer:



The Chihuahuan Desert is the one in orange on the map above. Many consider it to be the largest North American desert (as opposed to U.S. desert); others (including the Wikipedia writers and the drawers of the map above, apparently) consider it to be the second largest North American desert, after the Great Basin Desert. It is found in portions of southeastern Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, as well as large portions of Northern Mexico, including the Northern half of the Mexican State of Chihuahua, its namesake (and also the namesake of a certain small dog).

The elevation is typically higher than the Sonoran Desert, ranging from 1000 to 10,000 feet. Additionally, although total rainfall is similar to the Sonoran desert (ranging from 6 to 16 inches, and averaging around 9 inches per year), most of its rain falls in the summer rainy season; it lacks a winter rainy season.

Thus, the plants and animals are a bit different from the Sonoran desert. Instead of desert tortoises, you'll find hawks and prairie dogs. Javelina, coyotes, and jackrabbits are also common. Jaguars have been reported, too, but extremely rarely, as they are endangered and there aren't many of them.

Agave plants are common in this region. Agave plants are not cactuses - they are actually members of the lily family! - and are also commonly known as "century plants." They grow and accumulate nutrients for many years, usually about 30 years, then they grow a tall flower stalk, flower once, and then die. Flower stalks on some varieties can reach up to 30 feet tall! Some varieties of agave plants are used to make tequila and mezcal.

The agave lecheguilla, a very small agave species, is found only in this desert and is considered an "indicator plant" for the desert. Here are two photos, one flowering, one not:




Although the plant is small, the flower stalks range from 6 to 15 feet.

The Chihuahuan desert is one of the most biologically diverse desert regions; I haven't even scratched the surface of the cool plants and animals that can be found there.

Join me next week for part III - Trees!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ten Years

On this day in 2002, three people I loved died. It wasn't this date, though -- It was January 20. But it was the Sunday of the MLK day weekend.

Teri was one of my best friends. We originally met because she was a teacher at the school where my husband taught. She invited us for dinner with her and her husband, and it took off from there.

Teri had an upbeat, positive outlook on life, but in a practical sort of way, without being sappy or annoying about it. When I was in a good mood, she was fun to share it with. When I was in a bad mood, she knew just how to help. She was not one to say, "There, there, it will all be fine!" without further analysis. Instead, she would listen carefully, understand, and then encourage positive action to make things better.

She would call me often, sometimes to ask for advice or a favor; other times just to talk and "catch up."

Sometimes, she would call me at a "bad" time when I was feeling stressed out and overwhelmed and frazzled and, well, just not in the mood for a telephone call. It was almost as if she knew I needed her. Because I loved her, I would push away my impulse to say, "I can't talk now. I have to go." And we would talk. And I would feel better as we talked. And by the end of the telephone call, I would feel calmer, happier, more ready to face whatever problems the day had thrown my way.

She invited my husband and me to the "Magic Castle" in California -- a members-only club for magicians, to give them a venue to practice their new tricks. Somehow she had a connection who could get us all in, so we went. It was fantastic and amazing. We went from room to room seeing different acts, from card tricks to pulling doves out of a hat to vanishing objects and floating assistants -- all incredible -- and enjoying delicious food and good wine.

We started a book club, and read a lot of great books and talked about them while enjoying more good wine and great food.

We hosted baby showers for each other, and she asked me to be a part of the baby-naming ceremony at her synagogue after her first child, a girl, was born. The ceremony was fascinating. I'm not Jewish, so it was the first time I'd ever been to synagogue, and the first baby-naming ceremony I'd ever seen. I loved it. She named the baby "Maya."

As our babies grew into toddlers, we would get together and let the kids play - they would paint or color or play with toddler toys. My daughter was about a year and a half older than hers, but they got along reasonably well and seemed to enjoy seeing each other. Maya was a bright baby, with wise and beautiful big brown eyes. She was friendly and outgoing and happy.

Teri's husband, Efrain, was a soft-spoken, somewhat shy person around adults, but he could entertain a child for hours with nothing more than a ball or a stick and his incredible imagination and sense of fun. Perhaps because he grew up without much in the way of material goods in Mexico, he had learned to make the most of what he did have, and to make it fun.

He had such patience with babies and toddlers. When my daughter was learning to walk, he'd walk with her all over the house, stooped over so she could reach his hand, never complaining that his back hurt or that he wanted to sit down. She'd smile and smile at her accomplishment: walking with Efrain, showing him treasures in every room.

We loved this family, almost as if they were a part of our own.

And then it all came to an end. Too suddenly. Too soon.

On Friday, January 18, 2002, I arrived home after pulling an all-nighter at work to complete a project, and I faced a weekend of work, too, to finish the next project. I was tired, and overwhelmed, and stressed out, and resenting the fact that work was going to ruin what should have been a three-day holiday weekend.

Teri called, wanting to get together over the weekend, and I had to say I couldn't. We talked a while, but probably a shorter time that we should have. I felt calmer and happier when we hung up, but not quite ready to face the day. So I skipped our daughters' class that day. We had both signed our kids up for a community "play" class, so we could talk while our kids played. I took a nap instead.

I may never forgive myself for skipping that class, and for rejecting her offer to see each other that weekend, because I never saw my friend again.

I worked all day Saturday, and all day Sunday. I worked all Sunday night, and got home Monday morning.

On Monday, I learned that Teri, her husband Efrain, and their daughter Maya had been killed in a car crash on Sunday evening. I cried a lot and kept repeating "Nooooo, no, no, no, no, no, no, noooo" over and over. I wanted to make it un-happen, but I couldn't.

I wanted to turn back the clock to a time when life was good, and beautiful, and happy... to a time when the only petty thing I had to complain about was work. I wanted to turn back the clock and un-hear the death story (surely this couldn't be reality, could it?), turn back the clock still further, and accept Teri's offer to get together over the weekend, or at least call her on the phone on Sunday to delay her departure from home.... anything so that she would not have been where she was at the death-time, so that death, in the form of a drunk driver, would not have taken her, and her beautiful family, from me.... from all of us.

A drunk driver, Francisco Romero, had been driving his BMW SUV southbound at a speed of more than 100 miles per hour on Pima Road (speed limit 55) near its intersection with the ironically named Happy Valley Road, in Scottsdale, Arizona. He hit a dip in the road at the intersection and his SUV literally sailed through the air and across the yellow middle line, and hit Teri's little Subaru car, which was northbound nearing the same intersection, head on. The SUV bounced off my friends' Subaru, and hit the pickup truck driving behind them.

Teri and her daughter, Maya, were pronounced dead at the scene. Teri's husband, Efrain, died at the hospital a short while later.

The couple in the pickup truck behind Teri's car were also severely injured. A passenger in the drunk's SUV was killed, and another severely injured. The drunk caused a lot of heartache in one blast of stupidity - four dead and three injured, in less than one minute. He was later sentenced to 31 years in prison for those crimes.

Maya would have turned two that week. She was scheduled for a big birthday party with chocolate cake and ice cream. She had not yet tasted chocolate. She never would.

Maya and Teri had visited me at home a week or two before. Maya and my daughter had painted and I had admired their art work. Before leaving, Maya handed me her painting and said firmly, "You keep." I did. I still have it. She'll never paint me another one.

She was such a bright little girl, friendly and enthusiastic and beautiful. Words like "tragic" or "awful" don't even begin to capture it...

The worst thing about losing three dear friends at once was that grieving was ... still is ... so difficult. You start to recover your breath from the shock of losing one friend, and then the memory of the loss of another punches you right in the gut. I couldn't breathe properly for weeks.... and it still takes my breath away today if I'm not careful.

I'd start to dry my tears about Maya and then, Efrain.... sweet, kind, creative, fun-loving Efrain. He was from Mexico, had come to this country on a green card, worked hard, studied hard, earned his citizenship, and then married Teri. His beautiful daughter was the light of his life. When the paramedics arrived at the accident scene, his first thought, despite the pain he must surely have been suffering, was his baby girl in the back seat. "Take care of Maya first," he told them. They didn't have the heart to tell him she was already dead.

I'd start to breathe again and then I'd remember... Teri... she's gone, too... and the wind would be sucked out of me once more. My book club buddy. My confidant. My fun friend. My fellow mom. My massage therapist. A few weeks before Teri died, I had been in a very minor car accident, and had pulled some muscles in my back. She was a certified massage therapist, and she insisted I let her use her healing skills. She was good; the sessions helped a lot.

At the last session, a week before she died, something prompted her to tell me how much she valued our friendship, enjoyed the fact that our families got along so well together, our kids could play together, but that she really loved how we could just talk... Thank God for Teri's openness. I was able to tell her that I loved her, too, was so thankful for her presence in my life... I wouldn't have another chance to do that.

Some memories brought a tiny bit of comfort, a sense that at least my friends had achieved some measure of happiness and contentment before the terrible loss.

His whole life, Efrain had always wanted a yellow VW Bug, like the toy car he had played with as a child. Teri and Efrain had shared one car for as long as I'd known them, but shortly before the accident, she had managed to save enough money, and had bought him his dream car as a birthday gift.

Teri had wanted nothing more than to have a child. She had struggled for years to get pregnant. Maya was her dream child, and I'm so thankful she had the chance to have her baby....

They had recently purchased a home with a pool, and adopted a dog.

And Teri and Efrain were so much in love, with each other and with their baby girl. They were grateful each day for the good life they were able to live.

And as I daydream about the happiness they had found it hits me again, the horrible, awful, unnecessary, and completely unfair loss of such good lives ...

I went to the funeral, in California. The funeral parlor was packed with mourners, each with his or her own special sense of loss, yet I could not imagine a loss more profound than the loss Teri and Efrain's parents faced: not only the loss of their child and daughter- or son-in-law, but also of their dear sweet Maya, their darling and long-awaited grandchild, before she even turned two. Parents should not have to bury their children, much less their granddaughter... How does one even begin to accept that such a travesty is true?

Seeing the coffins was another punch in the gut. Two regular sized plain wooden boxes, and one tiny one for Maya. It was just so wrong. It felt like we were burying them alive; they couldn't really be dead, could they?

I stood in the rain with tears streaming down my face. I was glad for the rain, for the vast gray, gloomy clouds and the cold, damp day. Sunshine and singing birds would have been unbearable.

The cemetery was beautiful. Grassy rolling hills, trees, simple flat grave markers on the ground ... unobtrusive, simple ... one could look around and maybe begin to feel a small bit of peace.

Words were spoken over the coffins. People stood, numb and stone-faced or teary-eyed ... or cried and hugged each other ... or sat in limp helplessness in the mud against a tree .... while others - mothers and aunts and grandmothers - wailed and screamed "NO!" and flung themselves on the coffin. Your choice. So many ways to feel grief....

There was an awful racket as the giant machines were revved up and brought over for the task of lifting each of the coffins and lowering them into the giant hole.

The three coffins were lowered into the gaping pit. Two large ones, and the smaller one between.

The pit was not beautiful. It was breathtakingly awful. Too big. Too deep. Too dark for my friends to endure.

And then, as is apparently the tradition at a Jewish funeral, each of the attendees was handed the shovel in turn to begin the process, which the machines would later finish, of filling the giant grave. I almost couldn't bear it, putting that heavy, rain-soaked earth on top of my dear friends (surely they're not really dead, are they?) but I did and once again the breath was sucked out of me as I realized the finality of it all. They are not coming back.

Someone poured a jar of beach sand in with the mud. Teri had always loved the beach... The thought, unwelcome, "as if it matters now."

No one knew quite what to say or do. Nothing could make any of it any more bearable. So I stood, and cried. Someone came to me for a hug, but I felt no comfort. There is no comfort at such a time for such a loss. Not from humans, nor from God.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Two, Please

Do you remember the moment your daughter became a teen instead of a child?

I remember the moment it happened to me -- when I moved irrevocably from childhood to teenager in my stepmom's eyes.

We were shopping, and I held up an awesome[see footnote 1] shirt and said, "Wow, I love this! Will you get it for me?"

Her eyes widened as she looked at the shirt, and she replied, with just the smallest hint of a sarcastic tone, "Oh, absolutely, but you'll need two of them!"

"Two? ...Why?" I asked.

"Well, so you'll have one to shit on, and one to cover it up with."



See how she did that so masterfully? She said yes, but I knew she meant no, and she even cursed! Every kid knows that parents don't curse in front of their kids, so even while she was insulting the crap out of me (or at least, my taste in clothing), she was also complimenting me by letting me know she now considered me an adult - someone she could curse in front of.

She was (still is, really) a master of contradictions and subtlety and using humor to defuse otherwise potentially tense situations.


* * * * *

Footnote 1 (because I'm a lawyer and lawyers love footnotes): Translation of the word "awesome," as applied to clothing, for those without teenage girls: "hideously ugly and horribly trashy, and even if you are laughing at this post you are secretly hoping your beloved innocent daughter or granddaughter never wants to wear anything remotely resembling it."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Arizona Trivia Tuesday - Mountains and Deserts and Trees, Oh, My! (Part I - Mountains)

The highest point in Arizona is Humphrey's Peak, elevation 12,637 feet. It is 128th on Wikipedia's list of the 180 highest mountain peaks in the U.S. Humphrey's Peak is part of the San Francisco Peaks range, just north of Flagstaff, Arizona. The peaks were named after St. Francis of Assisi, not after the city of the same name.

Humphreys Peak was named after Brigadier General Andrew Atkinson Humprheys, a Civil War hero who led Union troops at Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, and others. He later became the U.S. Chief of Engineers and directed the famous "Wheeler Surveys," the U.S. Geological Survey that explored and surveyed the Southwestern U.S. in the 1870's.*

The Arizona Snowbowl, which is Flagstaff's ski resort and not a college football game, lies on the Western slope of Humphrey's Peak. Yes, you can go skiing in Arizona!


*****

Semi-interesting (for geography nuts, anyway) sidenote related to Humphrey's work with the U.S. Geological Survey: "Baseline Road" in the Phoenix metropolitan area is so named because it is sited along the "baseline" of the Gila and Salt River Baseline and Meridian.

What the heck is that, you ask? (Or maybe you didn't ask, but I'm going to tell you anyway).

The U.S. Public Land Survey System was established in 1785 to survey and parcel land so that portions of it could be released for sale to (or homesteading and eventual ownership by) private owners.

The surveying system was used to subdivide the land for sale to private owners in most of the United States, excluding the original thirteen colonies and a few other states in which the land already had been divided and sold before the survey system was established. The system selected points of origin for surveying land which would include both a true north-south meridian of longitude (called a "principal meridian") and a true east-west parallel of latitude (called a "baseline").

Baseline Road runs along the true east-west baseline that was established to serve as the basis for the land survey for most of Arizona. The entire Phoenix metropolitan area, and indeed most of Arizona, is laid out in a grid emanating from Baseline Road.

A part of Apache County in Arizona is laid out in a grid emanating from the Navajo Baseline and Meridian, which originates in New Mexico, and a very small portion of land near Yuma, Arizona (on the California/Arizona border) is measured from the San Bernardino Baseline and Meridian, in California.

Fascinating stuff, right?

Monday, January 9, 2012

More Email Fun

Received in my email inbox recently -- a look at the ridiculousness that is our beloved American Standard English language:


We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and there would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;
Neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren't invented in England.

Boxing rings are square,
And a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
And why is it that writers write, but fingers don't fing,
Grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham?

You can make amends but not one amend?
If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them,
What do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?

We ship by truck but send cargo by ship...
We have noses that run and feet that smell.
We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,
While a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

Your house can burn up as it burns down,
You fill in a form by filling it out,
and an alarm goes off by going on.

In closing..........

If Father is Pa and/or Pop, how come Mother is Ma but not Mop???

*******

If anyone knows the original author, please advise -- I'd be happy to give credit where it is due, but I have no idea who originally wrote this piece.