Children and chickens

As you know, my daughter Lisa, and her husband Karel, have just had their third child, Zora. Petra, their oldest child (5), has some understanding that Zora came from her mother’s tummy. Milan (3) is pretty clueless.

A few weeks before Lisa was scheduled to give birth, Karel returned to his teaching duties. Among other things, he teaches biology. He decided that it would be a good learning experience for his students to incubate live chicken eggs, and watch the tiny little beings emerge from their individual eggs. Petra and Milan frequently went with Karel to school during the weekends to make sure the chicks were maturing properly in the eggs. They adjusted the incubator temperature and that sort of thing.

During this time, Zora came into the world and she is now home. Petra and Milan love to hold her. Coincidentally, the chicks hatched this week. Below, see the photo of Milan and Petra reacting to the brood of chicks that have made their startling appearance in Karel’s lab. Notice Milan’s facial expression.

photo (1)

Now, go back in time with me to 1980. My first wife, Verdella, is not feeling well and she has gained a little weight. Because she is tall, a bit of extra weight is not apparent on her long frame. Verdella goes to see the local doctor. He makes a referral to an OB/GYN in Lincoln because “your uterus just doesn’t feel right.”

Verdella decides to take Marne (about 8) and Lisa (about 5) with her to see the OB/GYN in Lincoln. After the visit, the three of them will do something fun in the big city. When they arrive at the doctor’s office, the children, who are all dressed up, sit quietly in the waiting room paging through books for children as Verdella sees the doctor. An ultrasound quickly shows why Verdella is not feeling well and has gained a little weight. She is pregnant with our son Keller.

Verdella is stunned and surprised. We had no plans to have a third child. Collecting herself, she walks into the waiting room and sits down with the children. The shock shows on her face. Marne asks her mom what is wrong. Verdella says she is “pregnant.” Marne asks Verdella to tell her what “pregnant” means. Verdella patiently explains and includes a passing reference to the “egg.” Lisa is silent. Both children seem perfectly satisfied with Verdella’s explanation and off everyone goes to the car.

As they are walking to the car, little Lisa asks Marne: “Is Mom going to have a chicken?” Marne looks down, and sternly informs Lisa, “If Mom has a chicken, we’ll love it anyway.” At that point, Verdella burst out laughing and crying at the same time.

Some things are more important than others.

RGK

Orwell lives

I adore Bette Midler.  She is so talented.  Intellectually, she is very bright.  And, she is funny in a wonderfully theatrical way.  Truly, she is the Divine Miss M.

Now, forgive the cognitive dissonance as I transition to George Orwell.  At the end, I’ll get back to the Divine Miss M.

In my legal writing post, a commentator (Matt) and I discussed George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language.”  Orwell’s essay dealt with abuses of the language in a political (and by extension legal) context.

He concluded his essay this way:

I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to claiming that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this as a pretext for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you don’t know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political [legal] language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase — some jackboot, Achilles’ heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse — into the dustbin, where it belongs.

(Emphasis added.)

I began thinking hard about Orwell’s essay after Matt reminded me of it.  How frequently do I violate Orwell’s admonitions in my daily judge-job?  As it turns out, I rely upon “verbal refuse” just about every day. Let me give you a prime example.

When I sentence someone in a criminal case, I must resolve objections to the probation officer’s detailed investigative report. Then, I must grant or deny any motions.  After that, I must calculate the applicable Guideline levels. Finally, the law requires that I make an oral statement giving the reasons for my sentence.  It is at this point that I want the reader to recall what Orwell wrote.

To comply with the requirement that I state my reasons for a sentence, I have a “song and dance” that I invariably follow.  It goes like this:

To reflect the seriousness of the offense, to promote respect for the law, to provide for just punishment and to afford deterrence, and further recognizing that the Guidelines are advisory, and considering all the statutory goals of sentencing, I impose the following sentence: [state sentence].

As part of my “song and dance,” I then make inquiry of the lawyers.  “Do counsel have any questions about my judgment and sentence?”  If so, I answer the questions. Then, and here is the trap, “Do counsel want any further elaboration of my statement of reasons?”  If counsel do not request any further elaboration, the reasons for my decision are bullet proof on appeal for plain error purposes.  If counsel do request some further elaboration, I give it to them in spades.  Either way they’re screwed.

As I think about it, I am probably doing what Orwell railed against.  But, never fear, I have all sorts of reasons (rationalizations) why I will continue to do what I do.

So, back to the Divine Miss M.  I have my own Divine Miss M. She is my oldest daughter Marne.  She is very bright, funny and wonderfully theatrical.   For example, my Divine Miss M. has flamboyantly taken me to task for forgetting that Orwell’s 110th birthday was last Tuesday, June 25, 2013.  She punctuated her point by emphasizing that the Dutch put little party hats on the CCTV cameras in Utrecht as an homage to Orwell.  She chastised me for failing to rise to the occasion.

My Divine Miss M. has a point.  So, since I am a serial abuser of the language in a manner that Orwell would have deplored, the least that I can do is say, “Happy belated 110th Birthday, George.  You’re a better man than I.”

RGK

Image credit:  This is the cover art for the album The Divine Miss M by the artist Bette Midler. The cover art copyright is believed to belong to the label, Atlantic Records, or the graphic artist(s). Fair use is claimed.

Image credit: This is the cover art for the album The Divine Miss M by the artist Bette Midler. The cover art copyright is believed to belong to the label, Atlantic Records, or the graphic artist(s). Fair use is claimed.

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