Sunday, April 26, 2015

Dreaming of France -- Street Food

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

It's true that the French don't eat on the run like Americans do, but I've noticed more and more stalls that offer crepes or panini to go.
Just down the street from us in rue Mouffetarde were two popular crepe-to-go stands.
When we arrived in Paris, after four hours on the train, we stopped and shared a panini mid-afternoon. We knew we needed to eat something before our 8 or 9 p.m. dinner.

It was delicious, in spite of the pained look on my face.
As our trip continued, we realized that most days we were too full to eat a three-course meal for lunch and dinner. 
So on the last evening of our trip, our bellies still too full from our large lunch, we decided to share a crepe rather than to go out for another big dinner. 
The crepe, or technically a galette since it's a savory crepe, had ground beef and mushrooms, plus cheese and lettuce. 
Earl waited in line for it while I traipsed back to the hotel. And we shared our last meal in France, for that trip.

Have you ever eaten street food in France? 
Of course, I prefer a lovely three-course meal, but sometimes, a smaller meal is just as fulfilling.

Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Please leave a comment and visit each other's blogs too so you can get your fix of France dreams.

Will the NFL Live Up To Its Promises?

I'm a fervent football fan, and the NFL draft takes place this week.
That's where professional teams choose college players to join their teams.
Last fall, the NFL made the viewing public a promise, via a series of public service commercials. The NFL joined with, vowing "to say NO MORE to domestic violence and sexual assault."

The public service announcements were prompted by the behavior of players like Ray Rice, who was videotaped knocking out his fiance in an elevator, and Adrian Peterson, who was accused of child abuse after he whipped his child with a switch.
And now, as the draft begins, we wait to see if the NFL supports the No More program, along with these players and former players who stepped up to say there's no excuse for domestic violence or sexual assault. Treating family members or women with violence is not a normal part of growing up, something that drunk athletes should be allowed to do.
And we'll know pretty quickly into the draft whether the NFL stands by its principles because the number-one ranked draft pick is Jameis Winston, quarterback for Florida State University for two years and Heisman Trophy winner in the 2013 season.

Winston was accused of raping a drunk female FSU student in December 2012. The case wasn't vigorously investigated until November 2013 when the press found out about it.
The prosecutor determined not to go forward with charges, even though Winston's DNA was found when the woman underwent rape testing.

It just so happens that a Florida team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, have the first-round draft pick this year, and the prediction is that they'll choose Winston.
But whether he's picked first or in a later round, the NFL will have turned its back on the faux public service announcements by drafting a man who already has a murky past with rape.
The NFL could change the announcements to "No More... unless he's a really good football player."

But Winston wasn't found guilty of rape, so the teams can't hold that against him, right?
Well, they can feign ignorance if they want. But the evidence is strong, whether or not the state of Florida was willing to prosecute.

 In an extensive New York Times article, Walt Bogdanich breaks down the timeline of the rape and how it was investigated by both the police and the university. The article, "A Star Player Accused, and a Flawed Rape Investigation" points out that the 19-year-old rape victim called a friend within hours of the rape. The friend called 911 to report it (Bogdanich).
This wasn't a woman who saw a football star rise to fame who hoped to get in on some fame or money. She didn't know the man who raped her in December 2012, and Winston wasn't the starting quarterback at that point.
Part of the article is chilling:
After partially blacking out, the woman said, she found herself in an apartment with a man on top of her, sexually assaulting her. She said she tried unsuccessfully to push him away, but he pinned down her arms. Meanwhile, according to her account, another man walked in and told her assailant to stop. He did not. Instead, she said, he carried her into the bathroom, locked the door and continued his assault. (Bogdanich)
Those same roommates admitted that they taped part of the sexual assault, but later erased it.

Pretty strong evidence,  huh? I've heard commentators on ESPN say things like, "We all make mistakes when we're young." Rape is outside those parameters of boys will be boys. It's not okay. Ever.
And drafting Jameis Winston means that the NFL was just giving lip service to their vows of No More.
Well, only this time, they may argue, cause he's a really good football player.

If you love football, like I do, then urge your team to skip drafting Winston and send a message that no means no, whether she's drunk, whether she's dressed provocatively, whether she  admits she had sex with her boyfriend earlier... You can't rape her and now you face the consequences.
No More.

Friday, April 24, 2015

I Didn't Imagine It Would Be So Difficult -- Jury Duty

So I showed up at a court on Monday morning, and by lunch time, I'd been seated on a jury and the trial had begun. It soon became apparent that the trial was not a matter of life and death. It dealt with drugs. But within a few minutes of opening arguments, I got a sneaking suspicion that the government was trying the wrong guy. The man on trial was 29, worked two jobs, and had a baby just a few months old. He had been arrested for having cocaine at his house. How did the government know? A drug dealer for 13 years who had been arrested for having more than 1 kilo of cocaine, weed, thousands of dollars in money, and assault weapons, include a grenade launcher, had turned informant for the government.
That informant, who made my skin crawl, went to the defendant's house where his cousin, a drug dealer for five years, had come with a kilo of cocaine. He split the kilo into two and gave half of it to the informant. A tape from the informant included the defendant's voice to prove that he was there. Three drug dealers had made deals with the government and testified against the defendant. This was the defendant's first time taking part in a drug deal.
When his wife got on the stand across from the jury, her feet didn't touch the ground. I immediately felt empathy for her, because that happens to me too. As a matter of fact, sitting in the jury box, my feet didn't reach the floor.
The government did such a shoddy job on this case. In addition to relying on drug dealers as their main witnesses, they didn't find any cocaine paraphernalia in the defendant's house. The informant said there was a blender covered with coke. He said there was a scale. The cousin drug dealer said they used latex gloves to handle the cocaine. The search warrant turned up no scale, no blender, no gloves, no baggies even.
I held onto the idea that the cousin brought the cocaine to the defendant's house. The cousin was staying up in the loft of the house. And I believed that the cousin could have brought the cocaine without the defendant's knowledge. I held onto the belief that the defendant was not guilty.
I wouldn't go by the testimony of the three drug dealers who were still not on trial or in jail and who were making deals with the government. One of the drug dealers is now working for Rite Rug. Can you imagine having him in to clean your carpets? Another drug dealer is a subcontractor doing dry wall. Again, can you imagine wanting to have him in your house?
These guys were dealing with $38,000 worth of cocaine every week or so then selling it to distributors who sold it in smaller bags. The defendant, the government said, allowed his cousin to use his house to store the cocaine. This was the first time.
When we went to the jury room, I was the lone hold out. I needed the physical evidence. Then we requested the audio tape that the informant made when he went to buy the cocaine. (Although he didn't actually buy it because they just gave it to him and he would pay them for it later after he sold it.)
In the courtroom, the audio tape was just crackly and blaring. In the jury room, we could hear the voices more clearly. And we heard the defendant, and his voice was right next to the other men as the cocaine transaction happened. He had to have been there, to have been part of it.
I imagined his poor wife, her feet not reaching the floor in that big witness chair.
In the courtroom, I didn't look at either of them, but I couldn't avoid her wails as the verdict was read. She would be raising her child alone.
I had to remind myself that the defendant was the one who put his wife in this position. He shouldn't have allowed the cocaine in his house.
 He now faces a 5-year mandatory sentence. He's an immigrant, so he'll probably be deported after he does his prison sentence.
And the drug dealers who testified against him? They're still free. They might be in to clean your rugs.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jury Selection

I stood shoulder to shoulder with my right hand raised, repeating words as my mind raced with questions Wait a minute! This can't be happening already. No one asked me, well, anything. My husband's a reporter. My background is in journalism. They can't really want me on this jury. Afterwards, it turns out that nearly everyone standing there with their hands up felt the same way. I showed up that morning with my laptop and a book to read. I expected lots of down time to get some writing and reading done. But, after watching a video about the seriousness of jury duty, we all were motioned into the courtroom and we were questioned as a group about our interaction with the law and law enforcement. I had to raise my hand and admit that I'd been in a courtroom with my middle child last fall, but apparently that didn't prevent me from serving either. The judge asked questions. Both lawyers asked questions. No one got to the nitty gritty of our feelings about drugs or drug offenders or lawyers. The sheer truth is that I ended up sitting in a padded jury seat in the front row of the jury box because of my jury number, which was 32. There were probably 60 of us there, and only 13 would be chosen as the 12 jurors and an alternate. The odds seemed in my favor to be sent home. But after the juries let a few people go for upcoming doctor visits or bad backs or childcare issues, they called me to move to a seat in the jury box. And a few minutes later. I was stuck there for the next three days. I wasn't opposed to serving on a jury, but it was the final week before my students' final papers were due. I needed to go through so many last minute details. Plus I was supposed to have a book signing on Tuesday that I had to bail out of because of jury duty. The trial ended today, but I'm still too wrung out to write about it. I'll post tomorrow about the emotional rigors of jury duty. I will say that I had never noticed how much respect the court gives the jury. I didn't realize that everyone stood until the jury came in, even the judge.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Dreaming of France -- Dramatic Paris Evening

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

There is something magical about the evening in Paris.
Earl and I didn't do a lot of touristy things in Paris during our last visit, but we made it a point to head down to the Louvre and the Seine as the sun was setting.
Luckily for me, my little iPhone caught some lovely pictures.
Here's the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, which is just across the street from the Louvre pyramid.

I know that I posted a picture of the Louvre pyramid on Facebook, but I'm not sure if I posted it on my blog, so here's how it looked as the clouds gathered and the sun began to set that evening.

And we also have an evening shot of the Eiffel Tower in the distance with a tiny sickle of the moon above it. The photo may not show it, but Venus nestled close by to the moon too. A gorgeous sky that night. 

This picture must have definitely been taken during the blue hour. 

Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Please leave a comment and visit each other's blogs to see how others are Dreaming of France too.

My Spring Garden

I just love all the beauty that spontaneously arrives in my front garden in the spring. 
Hyacinths. These bloom in a couple different colors in my garden. 
Pointy-petaled tulips
Here's a shot of the plants snuggled under their new black mulch thanks to my husband. 
And here's the other side of the garden with it's creeping phlox. 
I didn't get any close ups of the daffodils, but most of them have orange centers against pale yellow petals. 

Hope beauty is flourishing in your life, as well.