Wednesday, December 28, 2011

See you in 2012!

Have to make a trip to la belle France, be back in the new year. It's partly to see family, partly research for the new book. This is where I'll be:

See you soon!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fingerprints and a great blog for you

I wanted to point you to a blog I read regularly, by one of those genius science types. But she's also a writer, so even I have no trouble following along. Anyway, she currently has a fascinating post about fingerprints, read it here. Full disclosure, it does include a brief interview with me, but it's much more than that.

I've also added her to my blogroll (why didn't I do that before?!). Check it out, she really knows her stuff.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fathers and Sons

I was recently directed to a great blog post that addressed 50 Rules for Dads and Daughters. Check it out. It got me thinking about a (related) pet concern of my own: fathers and sons.

Working here in the the juvenile court system it never ceases to disturb me that so many of the kids who come through the door have no good father-figure in their lives. Many have no contact with their fathers at all, some have abusive or neglectful fathers, and way too many have no idea who their father is.

And it pains me to see those kids with no man to look up to. I have a huge role in my son's daily life, from waking him up in the mornings with a kiss, to taking him to school and playing with him when we're done with school and work, to the final kiss at night, the last thing I do before going to bed, and when he's already asleep.

I can't imagine life without him, and I can't imagine what his life would be without a loving father. Yet so many kids grow up just that way, I truly hate to see it. In fact, while I was writing this I saw first-hand in court how important that bond is, and I immediately posted about it.

So here's my Christmas list, not for presents but a humble offering to go alongside the one for fathers and daughters. (They aren't rules, I get enough of those at work.)

If you have a son, if you're planning on having a son, here are a few suggestions:

1. Treat his mother with respect, no matter what. He watches everything you do and he'll learn from you how women are to be treated. Never forget that.

2. Fight with him. Regularly. Use swords or just tussle and tumble on the bed (though not right after it's been made, see #1.) because he loves to see how strong his daddy is, and to show you how tough he is.
3. Tell him he's your favorite child, no matter how many children you have. I have three, and I tell each of them he or she is my favorite. I do it when they're together and they roll their eyes and groan and sometimes say, "Hey, that's not fair." I hope I'm teaching them they're all special, teaching them not to take things too seriously, and teaching them that their siblings are special, too.

4. Get him superhero underpants. That's what he wants to be when he grows up.

5. Get yourself matching superhero underpants. That's what you are to him.

6. Sit down and shut up. With him. With a book. No need to talk, with the exception of the occasional whisper from him about the volcano he's reading about, just sit in silence and read. Trust me, it will be a moment of sublime happiness for you both. (A hammock will do nicely.)

7. Watch Indiana Jones with him. You'll earn more points than you could ever spend.

8. Take his sister to a dance, and let him help you dress in your tuxedo. (Why? See #1.)

9. When you're in the car, give him a dollar to pass on to a pan-handler. He's too young to understand the larger problem or more complex solutions, but he's old enough to give to others in need. And believe me when I tell you that a dollar from a small boy brings a brighter smile than a dollar offered by you.

10. Buy him a whoopee cushion and help him slip it onto his mother's chair. Fart noises will always be funny, and the three of you will laugh for an hour at his first fart-related prank.

11. Take him to gather flowers for the rest of the family and, if you know what they are, teach him. Also, if they're from your neighbor's yard, gather them at night.

12. Tell him you love him, even when you're angry or disappointed in him. Ask him, "Do I still love you?" because you both know the answer is "Yes" and him saying it will make you both feel a little better and bring that hug a little closer and tighter.

13. Combine his name and the name of his favorite stuffed toy as the password for your work computer. That's a guaranteed smile every weekday morning. I know it sounds cheesy but it's true, I promise.

14. Tell him what you do for a living, and why its important. (If what you do is mundane and soul-sapping, either skip this advice or lie.) How cool for him to be proud of how you make a living and maybe want to be like you.
15. Don't let him win. Okay, sometimes let him win. But you should see the look on my son's face when he beats me at Uno or nutmegs me for real in the front yard. They are real achievements.

16. Send him emails. Oh, I know, I could encourage you to write him letters and keep them but let's be realistic here, would you do it? Nope, didn't think so. Me neither, which is why we created email accounts for each child and every so often send them updates about stuff we did, things they achieved. And it's great for pics. I send them a lot of pictures that might otherwise disappear over the years.

17. Teach him to swim. It'll give you peace of mind at the pool and ocean, open up a whole new type of playground to enjoy with him, and the chance to take very cool photos. That you can then email to him. (See how this works?!)
18. Kiss him while he's sleeping, every single night. One day, probably soon, he won't want you to kiss him any more. But the little sucker can't stop you when he's asleep! As I've said, it's the last thing I do every night, and I just love looking at his beautiful face thinking, "Wow, I made that." That's a nice thought to take to bed with you.

And with that, a very Merry Christmas to you and yours, from me and mine.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Now that's more like it

Just wanted to share a nice moment from court. Kid in for attempted burglary of someone's home, been working with probation since his arrest and in court today, with his father by his side, to figure out what to do with his case.

The resolution was good for him, keeps a conviction off his record if he turns it around, which is the point of all we do here, pretty much. Anyway, the probation officer just finished giving an update to the judge, who approved the resolution, and then the kid himself pipes up (now, remember what happened when the last kid piped up, not pretty).

So this fourteen-year-old tells the judge that he wants his dad to know how grateful he is for everything he'd done for him, how he's sorry he disappointed him, and how with his dad's support he'll never come our way (i.e. juvie court) again. A very rare, surprising, and touching moment. After they left, the judge, defense counsel and I just sat there for a moment, soaking up the good moment, enjoying it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The case of the Getaway Horse

Coming to the Juvenile Division has been quite an adjustment, and also a learning experience. There are quiet days and crazy days, and very very sad days. I haven't written much about what I do, I'm sort of petrified to violate any confidences, but I think it's time I let you in on a few tidbits.

The following two incidents (and I'll post more in the future) are intended to give you a flavor of the interesting times, maybe a taste of what it's like here generally.

Even the hardest criminals, in my experience, show respect to the judge. That's true here, too. Mostly. There's the kid (aged 14) who rolled his eyes while the judge was talking to him, slouched, and then when he was detained shouted, "F&*k you, ni#@er!" The judge, to his great credit, reacted by smiling at the young man and saying nothing.

Same day, different case: 15 year old selling dope at school, and when caught and searched his pocket revealed a pill I'd not heard of. When I Wikipediaed it, I learned it's been used to prevent thoroughbred horses "from bleeding through the nose during races." I can only assume he intended to feed the pill to his getaway horse before they fled into the sunset....

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Set your DVRs for Discovery (alas, no horse this time)

For those of you who missed the 48 Hours episode about my cold case, or simply can't get enough of me on television, the Discovery Channel is going to air their own show about it next week.

Here's the preview (words, no clip). It's Discovery ID, their Cold Blood series.

And as the title says, no horse, no footie, nor other elaborations for this one. I know, I know, but enjoy it just the same.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas - it's about the presents!

On the way home last night I was listening to NPR, and I heard some lefty, liberal, tree-hugging boffin waffle on about the same garbage someone always waffles on about at this time of year: it's a boon time for meany big-box stores and the true spirit of Christmas has been forgotten.

Okay, here's the news: Christmas is about presents. It's about giving stuff and getting stuff. Some crappy stuff, sure, but even that is a delight to open (until you find out it's crappy).

This NPR dude was on about how we should buy half the number of gifts and make them more "connected to the earth." Well, let me tell you that the packaging around the junk I give and receive is indestructible and will be connected to the earth for ever. The hemp-based tea kettle or whatever you suggested won't last a week, my friend.

Every year I hear about how we should all just be nice to each other at this time of year, exchange sincere words and big hugs. Ever tried unwrapping a hug? Land you in jail and labeled a sex offender, so I'd recommend against.

Look, the truth is that Christmas is about the children. Sorry, The Children. It is. The best memories I have as a kid come from Christmas mornings, my brother and sister and me poking at the mound of gifts under the tree, fizzing with the excitement of what was to come. And before that, the wonderful feeling of anticipation as I tried to stay awake and catch Santa doing his thing (even when I knew Santa didn't exist). Priceless.

But Mr. NPR says, instead of giving a commercially-bought and carefully wrapped gift, we mail a farm animal to someone who needs it. Which, I promise you, will result in this Christmas morning conversation:

Kids: "Err, Dad, why is there a big empty space under the tree?"
Me: "Sorry, kids, no presents this year. But I did donate a heifer to some guy in Afghanistan."
Kids: "What?!"
Me: "In your name!"
Kids: "What's a heifer? Why can't we have one? No fair."
Me: "A baby cow. So they can get milk or eat it."
Kids: "But a drone will probably kill it first."
Me: "You watch too much news."

And years later, when they're comforting me on my death bed:

Me: "Remember Christmases, how special they always were?"
Kids: "Yeah, every year you donated a heifer to the same dude in Afghanistan."
Me: "Wasn't that awesome?"
Kids: "No. Now hold still while we adjust your pillows. . . It's okay, Dad, it's supposed to go over your face."

So, for the sake of the children, my Christmas tree will once more be surrounded by boxes and bags, flowing across the living room floor like economy-saving lava.

Just look at these cuties. Can you really blame me?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hey, look at me!

Seems to me, with the election coming up next year, you'd all like some practice voting. And you don't even have to get up out of your seat!

Yep, for the second year in a row, this blog has earned a spot in the American Bar Journal's Fifth annual list of the best 100 blogs about lawyers and the law.

(Sadly, they still refer to those as "blawgs," which is a little reminiscent of the conference-speak I just escaped.)

But still, pretty cool.

So, what does it all mean? Not satisfied with being one of the best 100, I can actually be voted as (one of) the best in a particular category. Yep, Criminal Justice, how did you guess?

Last year I think I was. . . don't remember. But I did well because my faithful readers voted for me and, if you have the time and energy, I'd be grateful if you would do it again this year.

All you have to do is click here. Now, it does ask you to register, but it's very quick and it's so people can't sit there clicking their own blogs to the top. Fair enough, and not that I would, of course. . . !

Go me!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Kansas City Conference

Just the word "conference" gives me chills. Large and windowless rooms with tables covered in white tablecloths, cheap pens and 'informational agendas' at each setting.

And the smiling goon at the door who injects every conferencee when they're not looking with a biological agent that changes the make-up of the brain such that phrases like "evidence-based practices" and "goal-oriented modalities" seem like drops of genius.

Yep, I'm in KC at a conference. It's about drug courts for juveniles and, despite the incessant and infuriating games of buzzword catch, some of it is pretty informative. For example, the myths about drugs testing (do you know how long marijuana takes to clear the system?) and the talks about how to properly use sanctions and incentives to change juvenile behavior.

But it's cold here, and I didn't bring a jacket. Plus, I miss my family, had to watch them in pictures putting up some Christmas decorations and the first opening of the advent calendar.

Or, put another way, the temperature is on a negative-accustomed gradient, I'm non-proactively attired, and my central thumping device is adversely affected by the remote observation of my biologically- and maritally-acquired counterparts erecting seasonal displays of jollity.

On the bright side, my day will terminate with an avionically-assisted reintegration to said familial flock. Marvelous.