Turkey Day Shopping


A friend recently posted this to Facebook:

For at least the past 29 years football has been played on Thanksgiving. In 29 years I have never heard a peep about all the people that had to work on Thanksgiving to make that happen. I’m not talking about the players. I’m talking about the poor guys who direct the traffic, take tickets, sell food and beverages, etc. Why is that considered tradition but shopping on Thanksgiving some sort of sacrilege? (I could also add that at least as early as 1997 I have eaten at a restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner yet never seen such a hullabaloo about the waitstaff who have to work on Thanksgiving).

That sparked some interesting discussion. Some of the response was “Everything should be closed on Thanksgiving that isn’t safety (police/fire) or health (hospital) related.” Some people are irritated at businesses that are open and said that the onus is on the business to respect Thanksgiving. Sure, other things are open, but let’s not make the problem worse.

If people aren’t going to respect Thanksgiving, why should the businesses? Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Michael’s – none of them exist to uphold the moral fiber of America. That’s not their job. They are in business to sell items and take our money. We have, by continuing to shop on Thanksgiving, told them that we want them to be open. They’re simply giving us what we want. Economics 101 – Supply and demand.

I don’t get why anyone in the United States is surprised that Thanksgiving has become a consumer holiday. Thanksgiving is supposed to be about recognizing the blessings in life and being grateful for what we have. The Pilgrims were celebrating, as a community, their first harvest (and probably the fact that they managed to survive in a land they weren’t used to). (Of course, they had some help. We repaid the Native Americans by making them sick, taking their land, and disrespecting the women. Nice.)

Let’s face it though, the United States isn’t exactly known for being thankful for what we have. If we were, society wouldn’t be overrun by rampant materialism and consumerism. We wouldn’t work the ridiculous hours we do. Television wouldn’t be saturated with ads and product placement. No, we are all about MORE, MORE, MORE.

We have sacrificed connection, relationships, and family for things. This is why Thanksgiving is such a big deal in the first place. We dump a year’s worth of thanks and family time into ONE FREAKIN’ DAY. We’re so busy consuming or working to consume that we don’t stop and reflect on the blessings in our lives.

What if, instead of doing it once a year, we were thankful ALL YEAR? What if we focused on what we have instead of what we don’t have? There will always be a new iPhone. There will always be a faster computer. There will be a bigger TV with a sharper image.

I know I’m guilty of this. I bought myself five new t-shirts a month ago when I already have a drawer full. I have probably forty pairs of underwear. FORTY. What exactly do I think is going to happen that I won’t be able to wash my underwear? I have arts and craft stuff I don’t use but *had* to have. I have totally grossed myself out.

I do shop on Thanksgiving – sometimes the deals are too good to pass up and they’re items I’ve been eyeing for a while. Our family sort of makes it a family event though – I go with my mom and/or other family and friends. I’m sure there are parents who take advantage of it to make sure their kids have great Christmases. For some people it may be the only time they can go because they happen to be off.

There are a lot of dynamics that go into Thanksgiving shopping. But the reality is that if we want to see any kind of change, it has to come from the people, not the businesses. If you truly believe people should be off for Thanksgiving, use your passion to make compelling arguments to your friends. Convince them that it’s wrong to do. Go back into your communities and bring them to life again. Actually live the conviction that community is what matters. That we all matter to each other.

Maybe then shopping on Thanksgiving won’t be such a big deal.


In which Rabia Chaudry tells me to fuck off and blocks me on Twitter

I got hooked on the Serial podcast not long after it started last year. I have a deep interest in criminal law and an even deeper interest in a case where a young man may have been wrongfully convicted. Given how much DNA has done for wrongful convictions, I was curious to see how this played out.

In case you didn’t know, Serial was delivered by Sarah Koenig, a reporter who was turned on to the case by a woman named Rabia Chaudry. The case involves a Baltimore-area high school senior named Adnan Syed who was convicted of kidnapping and strangling his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Syed was the best friend of Chaudry’s younger brother.

Koenig and her Serial crew were podcasting as they were investigating. Koenig said at the outset that she had no idea how things were going to turn out. And, in fact, at the end, she wasn’t really any closer to working out the truth. Serial did uncover things that made pretty much everyone wonder how it was that Syed managed to get convicted. The State’s star witness – Jay Wilds – was a disaster. He claimed that Syed had told him in advance he was going to kill his ex-girlfriend, showed him the body in the trunk afterwards, and then made him help bury her body in Leakin Park.

The problem with Wilds was that his stories were wildly inconsistent. Every time. In several statements to the police, at the two different trials, and even during interviews recently. Serial made it clear that the State’s version of the case, due in part to Wilds’ tales, and just that it was physically impossible for it to have happened the way it did. A lot of people, myself included, started wondering how it was that Syed ever got convicted. (Note that I am not saying that I do not think he did it, just that I don’t know how a jury didn’t have reasonable doubt.)

Serial generated a lot of attention to the case and support for Syed. So much so that his case was being investigated by The Innocence Project (responsible for freeing hundreds from death rows all over the United States), including one of the founders of The Innocence Project, Barry Scheck. As a result of the interest, his appeal has been somewhat successful and a Baltimore Circuit Court will be considering his post-conviction evidence again.

The appeal focuses on two things: His attorney’s failure to investigate and maybe call an alibi witness, Asia McClain, and the State’s failure to produce documents regarding the cell tower evidence that may indicate that the data from incoming calls could not be used to determine where he was at the time the calls were received by his phone.

To the first point, the question is whether his counsel was ineffective. Ineffective assistance of counsel is a legal term and it is a very high standard. There is case law where even an attorney who sleeps during the trial is not providing ineffective assistance. If an attorney decides not to pursue a particular witness or line of investigation, it can be considered a strategic decision, and is not considered ineffective assistance of counsel.

Syed is currently claiming that his attorney failed to speak to Asia McClain who can testify to Syed’s whereabouts until about 2:40pm on the day Hae Min Lee went missing. The State presented that she was murdered prior to 2:36pm.

Syed’s attorney, Christina Gutierrez, was gravely ill during his trials. Her staff has stated that her behavior was erratic and unreliable. They question her competence. Unfortunately, she passed away, and cannot explain why she chose not to contact Asia McClain and verify the alibi.

The question, of course, is whether McClain is really an alibi witness. A classmate of Syed’s stated that she saw Hae that day around 3:00pm as she was leaving school. Given that, McClain’s statement of seeing Syed in the library doesn’t make much of a difference. If Hae Min Lee was still alive at 3:00pm, then Adnan needs an alibi for after 3:00pm, not before.

The cell phone tower issue is a lot more complicated and maybe not as big an issue as Syed’s current attorneys are making it out to be. The State’s expert believed he was looking at one type of data, when he was maybe looking at another. AT&T says that the incoming calls cannot be reliably be used to determine location, but cell experts say that the call has to hit off a close tower, regardless if it’s an incoming or outgoing call.

Now, what does all of this have to do with Rabia Chaudry telling me to fuck off?

Serial ended without a conclusion. Others have taken up the mantel and there are now two more podcasts – Serial Dynasty (which is being renamed Truth & Justice) and Undisclosed. Rabia Chaudry is the driving force behind Undisclosed and she has two other attorneys working with her on the podcast. Chaudry admits right away that she’s biased. What they don’t bring up quite so clearly is that the other two attorneys are as well, in Adnan’s favor.

Colin Miller is an Associate Dean and Professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law and Susan Simpson is an attorney who focuses on white collar crime and blogs at View from LL2. Both are firmly in the #FreeAdnan camp.

A friend of mine asked me if I was still following the Syed case and pointed me in the direction of Undisclosed. I figured I would give it a listen and see if they could shed more light on the case. Serial was obviously only presenting what it found interesting and while that’s great for driving subscriptions, it’s not enough for me. I wanted more information.

Well, I get it. The problem with Undisclosed is that it’s not particularly well done. It jumps all over the place and their bias really shines through. They seem to be presenting things logically, but they jump from place to place and it’s hard to follow. None of them seems to have any experience with street crime criminal law, which impacts how they’re looking at the case.*

In trying to figure out how Syed was convicted, you can only focus on what happened at trial, which is what the juror’s saw. They focus mostly on the parts they feel look good for them, but that they jury wouldn’t have had access to. Wilds was questioned by defense counsel about his wildly inconsistent statements, but the jury didn’t find that convincing apparently.

Anyway, I followed the #Undisclosed hashtag and ended up clicking on Chadry’s twitter account. She retweeted something from the Serial twitter account, where they highlight the new affidavit regarding the cell phone evidence.

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I clicked through to see what Koenig had written about the evidence. It turns out, Serial wasn’t saying that they’d gotten it wrong, but rather that this *may* make a difference in the evidence. They weren’t sure whether it would really have an impact since they’d asked experts who said that it didn’t matter whether the call was incoming or outgoing.

So I tweeted back to Chaudry.

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She responded:

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So I responded:

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And she responded, so maturely:

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I have since been blocked from seeing anything related to her account.

I assume there are tons of trolls who inundate her account with bullshit all day long. I’m guessing a lot of it isn’t particularly intelligent and that a lot of it is rude. What I said to her was neither of those things. It probably has more to do with the fact that I was in any way defending Serial. Apparently Chaudry is pretty pissed at them for how they handled the case. I’m sure she wanted them to come out with a definitely response that Syed didn’t do it.

Koenig just couldn’t do that and I think she wanted to, very badly. The problem is that she’s a reporter with some ethics. And to me, it was very telling that she did not ultimately decide that she felt that Syed didn’t do it. She’d probably spent hundreds of hours with him on the phone, talking to witnesses, and examining documents. After all that, she just couldn’t get there. That was the risk she ran when she started the whole thing.

Chaudry’s belief in Syed’s innocence is not proof of it. I’d gotten through about 4 episodes and addenda on Undisclosed before this Twitter exchange and I didn’t see anything earth-shattering from them. At this point I’m not sure if I’m willing to participate in that crap any further.

There are a lot of things that happen before a trial that keeps evidence out. No one seems to have looked back to any of the pre-trial hearings to see what some of that information may have been. It could point the finger directly at Syed. One of Syed’s other points in his appeal is that he asked his attorney to explore a plea deal and he claims she didn’t do so. While it does happen that people who didn’t commit a crime ask for a plea deal, I don’t see that happening with Syed. There was no physical evidence that tied him to the murder. It was just Wilds’ testimony and as I discussed above, that was all over the place. I wonder what happened at trial that made Wilds look credible enough for a jury to convict him.

Something else that people don’t seem to be considering is that he may have confessed to his attorney. Some defense attorneys don’t ever want to hear the truth from their clients. If they know that the client did it, they cannot then put them on the stand to testify that they didn’t do it. Some defense attorneys want to know everything. Obviously if his attorney knew he did it, she would want to be very careful when selecting witnesses because one wrong word and Syed’s entire case goes to shit.

What I don’t understand is why Chaudry would tell me to fuck off and then block me. It’s immature. It also doesn’t help her cause at all. They are actively trying to raise money for Syed’s defense fund. they have over $150,000 so far. Regardless of whether Serial ended up on the #FreeAdnan team, it drove a lot of support and money his way. Why be bitter about that? Why spew nastiness over Twitter to someone she doesn’t know? She’s opened herself up by embroiling herself in something that has become so public. If you can’t take the heat, get your ass out the kitchen.

How she’s responded tells me a lot about her and how she’s probably handling her “investigation.” She’s been looking at the material for years. And this is the best she can do?

If you haven’t already listened to Serial, I encourage you to do so (even if I’ve spoiled the ending for you with this post). It is a fascinating story. Undisclosed does raise some good points about how the cops handled the investigation. But what it doesn’t seem to me that they’re trying to do is get to the truth.



*When I graduated from law school, my first stop was a prosecutor’s office where I was assigned to work with a senior prosecutor on a quadruple murder with arson. During my time there I also worked on several other homicide cases, including a no-body homicide.


To Tip or Not to Tip?

Big news in the New York dining scene as Danny Meyer has decided to eliminate tipping from Union Square Hospitality Group restaurants. Fox’s Outnumbered chimed in, but I generally found their comments useless, as per usual. In fact, it appears that Meyer is seeking to eliminate tips because of the ideas espoused by Fox’s Outnumbered crew. (Seriously, why is that a show?)

I currently live in a country where tipping is not the norm and I have traveled in Europe and South America where service is included in the bill. There are definitely differences – most notably people leave you alone while you’re eating. I’m not saying that they ignore your needs. Rather, we just have to indicate to someone we need assistance, and it’s dealt with promptly. It’s nice because it doesn’t have to be “our” server who assists. I have no complaints about it at all.

There are events going on in the background that make this move a seeming necessity, particularly in New York and other big cities. In Seattle, for example, the minimum wage is on its way up to $15 per hour. (Note that in Washington, there isn’t a separate minimum wage for tipping – everyone makes the minimum wage.) The minimum wage rise is going up in other cities as well. If I had a choice between a demanding waiting job subject to getting scheduled for slow shifts and assholes for customers and working at McDonald’s, I’d probably choose McDonald’s. No, it’s not glamorous, but I also wouldn’t be waiting on the same assholes for an hour or more, only to get stiffed at the end of the meal.

Meyer’s point about not leaving someone’s wage up to the customer is valid. People definitely use the tip as a means of power and control, servers get sexually harassed, and it contributes to a hostile work environment. I dated a guy who took his irritation of the day out on servers in their tips. That’s bullshit.

Of course, there have been times where I left nothing because the service was poor. Rather than suggest anything to the server about their service that occasion, I’m sure it just pissed them off. Comments to managers are more likely to yield a positive result, and it seems like that’s where Meyer intends to go once he removes tipping from his establishments.

The cost of dining out will have to go up when we switch to a hospitality/service included model. People balk at the idea of paying more for their food when they go out, whether it’s for fast food or in a sit-down environment. With minimum wage hikes and the skyrocketing costs of food, and goods and services that support restaurants, we’re all going to end up paying more. Of course, we could all just stay home and make the food ourselves. When it comes to fast food, that’s probably what we *should* be doing since most of what we make at home is going to be healthier for us anyway. Dining out is a luxury. With luxury comes cost. No one bitches about paying more for a Lexus than an Accord. Why should food be any different?

I’m all for switching to a service included model and I’m willing to pay for it. Are you?

Movie Review: The Intern

The Intern

Went to see this one yesterday with some friends of mine. With leads like Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway it’s pretty hard to go wrong. Nancy Meyers (It’s Complicated, The Holiday, Something’s Gotta Give) doesn’t veer too far from her norm, but why should she? What she does is working.

Ben (DeNiro) is a widowed retiree looking for something to do with his days. Jules (Hathaway) is the head of an online clothing company who is in a bit over her head. The company recruits senior-aged interns to bring experience to the very young company. Against Jules’ wishes, Ben is her intern.

The movie is a lot more complex and nuanced than the previews suggest. Jules has a lot going on in her life aside from her work. Like so many successful women these days, she’s trying to find balance. The movie highlights a lot of the double standards so prominent in American home life these days. It also contrasts the old way (Ben worked at a company that printed phone books for 40 years) and the new (an entirely online clothing store).

Will this movie win any awards? Probably not. It’s not a particularly novel concept, but it’s well-acted and heartwarming. The supporting cast turns in excellent performances as well. (It’s weird to see Adam DeVine – Bumper from Pitch Perfect – not busting into song but his character is pretty similar. The score and soundtrack are also quite good.

If you’re looking for a feel-good movie, this is definitely one to see.

Dose of Lyndsy: Approved


A Prescription for Change

Being sick for pretty much a whole month on top of the stress my body undergoes on a daily basis has sucked. A ton. I feel like I can probably add depression and anxiety to all of that. Physically and emotionally I am in a really fragile place right now.

In an attempt to try to get some control over some of my issues, I went to an endocrinologist on Sunday. He told me that I don’t have Hashimoto’s now, but it may become Hashimoto’s in the future. (I think he meant hypothyroid…) Accordingly, he won’t put me on medication unless my TSH, T3, or T4 readings come back out of normal range (they never have). The antibodies should come back positive, but he’s seen lab work like that already and doesn’t think it warrants medication. This is in spite of the fact that I present with all the symptoms. Based on my understanding, my numbers aren’t reliable since the thyroid hormones could just be in my blood after the thyroid gets attacked. Either way, it doesn’t look like I’ll be getting help from him.

What I’ve come to realize in the last few days is that my patience level is nowhere near what it usually is. Those who know me know that I don’t seem to suffer bullshit well normally. Imagine that what little you saw is now gone. Yeah, feel bad for the people around me who seem to want to try my patience. Or don’t, since they are trying my patience after all.

While I don’t like how I feel now at all, AT ALL, it’s given me a unique opportunity. I can take a look at my life, how I’m living it, who I involve in it, and what I do with my time and figure out what I just don’t fucking want in it anymore.

There are some obvious solutions – stop spending time with people who piss me off (harder to do than you would like when you’re involved in an organization) and start doing more of what you enjoy.

Social media is a good example. I enjoy using it. I like staying in touch with people, seeing what’s going on in their lives. However, social media is also full of a lot of bullshit. I’ve already posted about how I tend not to back down when I see something come across my screen that seems like it deserves my attention. Even if I didn’t engage, simply seeing something that needs a response is usually enough to get the response.

I think that because my energy has been down I haven’t been able to protect myself from a lot of the negativity that floats around in the ether. I have no defense against the onslaught of horror that comes at all of us every day from so many different angles. I can’t make myself not care.

At this point I think I need to start doing things I should have been doing for a while now.

I need to meditate.

I need to get back into journeying.

I need to focus on gratitude for what I do have.

I need to unclutter my life – people and things that just aren’t helping me be the best Lyndsy I can be.

I need to eat better to try to gain back some of what I lose every day.

I need to enjoy simple things again – reading, listening to music.

There’s probably more I could, and will, come up with but this seems like a good start. I hope it is anyway. The way I am now, I won’t last very long with what little sanity I have left.

Book Review: Mind’s Eye by Douglas E. Richards

Mind's Eye

This is the second time in three months that I’ve read a book that paints a disturbing picture of where our dependence on technology could (maybe will) take us.

Nick Hall wakes up in a dumpster with no memory of how he got there. What he quickly discovers is that people are trying to kill him. As he runs, he slowly discovers that he has abilities that help him stay alive – he can search the web inside his mind and he has ESP. With assistance he works to uncover who’s behind the plot to kill him, who he really is, and how got to be the way he is.

The story is exciting, the book is well-written, and the characters are relatable and likable (well, the ones you’re supposed to like anyway). It really is a fascinating exploration of whether technology can go too far, and how far humanity is wiling to go. It also shows how far some people are willing to go to bring about massive changes in how humans relate to the world.

I really enjoyed the author’s writing as well. You want to keep moving through the book, not because you just want it to be done, but because you really want to know what happens next. Do Nick and his crew of helpers make it? Who dies along the way? Will he ever learn who he is?

If you don’t mind feeling a little disturbed about the future, this is definitely an interesting book. I also think it would make a good book for a book club as well. Loads to think about and discuss.

In a similar vein, if you’re into this kind of book, check out a book by Dave Eggers called “The Circle.”

Dose of Lyndsy: Approved


(book image source)

Review: Hotel Transylvania 2

Hotel Transylvania Poster

I’m a big fan of animated movies. It helps that these days the people who write them are adding in content aimed at amusing adults since they generally aren’t just leaving kids at the movies by themselves.

If you’re not familiar with the first movie, Hotel Transylvania is about the vampire Dracula (Adam Sandler) who runs a hotel (clever title, no?) for monsters. A human, Jonny, (Andy Samberg) finds his way in and ends up falling in love with Dracula’s daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez). Obviously Dracula isn’t cool with this, but finds his way to acceptance by the end of the movie.

Hotel Transylvania 2 pretty much picks up where the first movie leaves off. The movie starts with Mavis and Jonny getting married and speeds through to them having a kid, Denisovitch, and focuses on Dracula’s obsession with whether his grandson is a vampire.

There weren’t a lot of people in the theater with me, which may have explained why I was the only person laughing most of the time. It could also just have been some cultural differences because there are a lot of American pop culture references. Either way, I thought the movie was hilarious.

The storyline is pretty classic so don’t expect anything surprising or particularly new. It’s basically “Can someone accept something they’re not familiar with?” But, I don’t think we’re always looking for something new and enlightening every time we go see a film. Sometimes you just want to be able to laugh at something silly for an hour and a half. If you’re in the mood for something light, with or without kids, check it out.

Dose of Lyndsy: Approved


30-Day Project: September Review and October

30-day Project

I’m going to call September a success. I did indulge in a couple Pepsis for my birthday dinner and while we were in Amsterdam I had soda a few times and fast food twice (I *always* try McDonald’s in new countries), but while I was home, I did really well. The point is really to get things back under control and September was a good reset for me.

I’ve been struggling to come up with something for October. I would have liked to have done something where I take a mile-long walk every day or go to the gym but my body is just not up for it right now. I have pretty much been sick since September 7th with a ridiculously sore throat and fatigue. It sort of feels like I’m trying to swallow glass. I went to the doctor the other day and got antibiotics, but I don’t seem to be feeling any less like I’ve got tiny knives in my throat.

A friend pointed out that I have been pretty much going, going, going for a while and this is clearly my body’s way of saying, SLOW THE FUCK DOWN. But how do I turn that into a 30-Day Project. I thought and thought and then realized that there is *something* I can do that would help me rest and also help with one of my 2015 goals!

I am behind on my reading for the year by about 3 books. I haven’t touched my 2015 Reading List in a while either. So, to promote restful behavior on my part and make sure I get through the 100 books I want to read this year, October’s 30-Day Project is to read for an hour a day.

I’m sure you’re wondering how it is that I planned to read 100 books this year without reading every day, but I usually do it in binges. I’ll go for a couple weeks without reading and then will spend 2-3 days binge reading. That usually nets me two to three books per binge.

I think making myself stop for a rest each day will be good for me. Less going, more relaxing. Since the antibiotics don’t seem to be working, I must have some sort of virus. The only thing I can do now is rest it out. Blergh.