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   Friday, February 27, 2004  
I promised to bake cookies for a bake sale this weekend and decided to use one of my grandmother’s recipes. My grandmother was a wonderful cook. It has been said that all she had to do was to touch food to make it delicious. As children, we loved to help her bake and as adults, we tried to get her to commit her recipes to writing. This was less than a complete success as her recipes were in her head and her execution of them was more art than science; the result was more Zen guide than assembly instruction. Through years of collaboration and experimentation, my sisters and I have managed to fill in the blanks on many of Gram’s recipes, including the one I am using today. Quantities remain a bit tricky as my grandmother always cooked in great quantities. Thinking strategically, I thought I would mix the dough last night and then do the actual baking tonight. I seemed to recall that the last time I made these cookies, the recipe yielded only a few dozen, clearly an inadequate amount. This time, I decided, I would double it. When I got to the part about 10 cups of flour, I remembered that, the last time I used this recipe, I cut it in half…or was it fourth? That’s okay, who doesn’t want a tidal wave of biscotti?
   posted by Andrea at 10:29 AM

   Thursday, February 26, 2004  
I spent the morning in court, the last case to be called on a day when the docket was full. I always enjoy finding myself in that position as I always learn something from listening to the arguments of other lawyers. One of the cases today was particularly notable. A law firm had brought a motion to be relieved as counsel in a plaintiff’s personal injury case. This is a fairly routine application, but this one had an unusual twist. Plaintiff, a man probably in his early thirties, appeared in his motorized wheelchair to oppose the motion. It seems that he had been represented by counsel and decided to get a second opinion from a local law firm, the faces of whose founders are locally as ubiquitous as beef on weck and chicken wings. We’ll call them the second firm. The second firm met with plaintiff, assessed his truly catastrophic injuries and had him sign a document that was then, without his knowledge, appended to a letter to his current counsel that threatened criminal prosecution unless he immediately turn over his file and never speak to plaintiff again. [you think I am kidding but alas, I am not]. Second firm, having settled with some defendants, was seeking to be relieved because there was, in their opinion, no other money out there from the remaining defendants. Here is the surprising part—plaintiff was very unhappy with the way his case was being handled but insisted that second firm be made to continue to represent him. Quote: “They promised me 10 million dollars and I want it.” The judge, to his credit, spent a long time talking to plaintiff, suggesting that this was a troubled relationship but it was of no avail. Plaintiff stood firm and the motion was denied. It seems that there is a lesson to be learned here for more than one of our players: Be careful what you wish for [and careful what you promise].
   posted by Andrea at 2:03 PM

   Wednesday, February 25, 2004  
Although I don’t often write about legal issues, the confluence of Ash Wednesday and The New York Law Journal has set my mind to work. This morning I read an interesting case out of the New York Court of Appeals held that tattoos were admissible evidence of motive in the trial of a white supremacist charged with hate crimes against Mexican day laborers. The court held that the evidence did not violate either the Fifth or Sixth Amendments as the tattoos constituted physical characteristics, not speech. Justice Read, writing for the majority of the court, stated “In sum, the tattoos may have been incriminating in the sense of potentially reflecting defendant's "subjective knowledge or thought processes" ( People v Hager, , 69 NY2d 141, 142 1987]), but defendant created this evidence of his own accord, without any compulsion from the People. Defendant was therefore not "compelled * * * to be a witness against himself" (US Const, 5th Am) within the meaning of the privilege.”

I am not sure that I agree with the entire analysis, although I absolutely agree with the outcome. I just find it hard to believe that Mr. Slavin did not intend the tattoos as “speech.” It is equally hard to believe they are not speech as, had he been denied the opportunity to obtain them in the first place, it would have been a violation of his First Amendment rights. Certainly there was no expectation of privacy as to the multiple tattoos and I agree with the court’s reasoning on that point. I guess in some way I am troubled by the implications of the court’s determination that the tattoos are physical characteristics rather than speech. The court noted that the tattoos were all at least five years old, a fact I find to be at most irrelevant, at least ambiguous. More significant is the court’s determination of the status of the tattoos as ‘this is what I am’ as opposed to ‘this is what I said.’ I am not defending this person, his beliefs or his actions but I guess I always like to think that redemption is possible and that people, no matter how filled with hate, no matter how violent or depraved, can be somehow salvaged, saved, rehabilitated or remade.
   posted by Andrea at 2:45 PM  
Mardi Gras is over and the next things on the horizon are taxes [ugh] and planning for summer vacation. Please do not misinterpret this to mean that I get one. What I mean is that it is time to send in summer camp registrations for Mona Lisa and The Sprite. There is something very pleasant about this annual event, thinking about long sunny days while the snow gets older, harder, dirtier and crustier, a last bleak hurrah of winter. It seems that the first mail of the new year, following hard on the heels of Christmas catalogs, is inevitably tax forms [boo] and garden catalogs [yay!], quickly followed by camp brochures. Although I never went to camp, Mona Lisa is a long time enthusiast and, as she is a person of taste and distinction, I share her anticipation. That is not to say that I look forward to her going, just to say that I know how she enjoys it. This will be The Sprite’s first sleep away camp adventure and expectations are high. Neon Moon will be home for the summer and seems to be forming plans of her own. The Flash, of course, is planning his summer in miles. As for myself, I am looking forward to cinema sotto le stelle and trying to concoct a scheme to get to Tuscany within the next 20 years.
   posted by Andrea at 9:59 AM

   Tuesday, February 24, 2004  
So one of the guys in the office went to law school in New Orleans and started the King cake tradition in the office. There is a small plastic baby in the cake and whoever gets that piece has to buy the cake the following year. Brilliant marketing. Keeps 'em coming back for more. Anyhoo, guess who got it last year? That's right. What a racket. Now I know better and, in the event that unfortunate event occurs again, I will just swallow it. Sometimes its easier to swallow a plastic doll than a [surprisingly whomping] bakery bill. So if I happen to choke to death on any given Mardi Gras, you will now know the reason. Damn, just checked my life insurance policy and it specifically excludes death by choking to avoid paying for the cake. Maybe I can just palm it.
   posted by Andrea at 1:48 PM

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