Thursday, July 31, 2008

Painterly spider

I don't know anything about spiders, but this one seems content creating striking web patterns in our backyard shack, er, I mean detached garage.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tomato plant bug identification?

I’m new to this and have had good luck with my first-ever tomato experiment (still have over a dozen small tomatoes on each of three plants), but I noticed this bug on one of the Little Porters this morning. It was a little less than 1/8" long. Anyone know what it is?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I’m grateful for Thursday’s rain, really I am, but

it was too short a respite. Yesterday was back to its super sunny hot humid self, almost hitting 100 and today’s more of the same.

Thursday I put all my houseplants outside to get some rain but I must have stressed this one with the heat because back inside, it is adapting slowly. As am I.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Laura Hall: Third Court of Appeals oral arguments now set

Third Court of Appeals justices will hear arguments re Laura Hall’s September 2007 convictions of hindering apprehension and tampering with evidence in the murder of Jennifer Cave on September 24, 2008. Ken Mahaffey is the appellate attorney for Hall. Read short excerpted summaries of briefs submitted by the Appellant (filed 3/10/08) and the State (filed 5/14/08) below.









Monday, July 21, 2008

One tough lady

bug! Maybe because I’m making a point of watering them adequately, all three of my tomato plants (two Little Porters and one Juliet) are still slowly and steadily producing flowers and tomatoes. At first I thought I’d placed them in too much shade, but I think the shade has helped protect them a little against this spring and summer’s extended high heat and low rain. At 10:02 p.m., it's down to 93 degrees F (almost 34 degrees C) here. Sigh.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

First-ever homegrown tomato!

It’s small but a pretty Little Porter. I know it seems nerdy, but I’m still really excited that I managed to coax my first-ever tomato plant into producing a real tomato, especially considering our now 29th day of triple-digit temperatures! We’ll eat it tomorrow. I’ve also got Juliets, which are supposed to be rather small and oblong, and they’re still a little whitish-green but almost ready to eat.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Late July garden bloggers’ bloom day entry

I’m a day late posting (because, of course, yesterday I was busy attending a high-profile murder pretrial hearing) but I did take the photos yesterday. I confess I shot mostly close-ups to help me pretend I’m in a friendlier environment without endless days of triple-digit heat. Thank you again to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting.

Part of front yard xeriscaped garden, looking west by front curb

Part of front yard xeriscaped garden, looking west from corner curb


Spider flower, which I now have a name for thanks to Annie at The Transplantable Rose



Bicolor iris

Society garlic

Indigo spires salvia

Leadwort plumbago

Still blooming as well are the ubiquitous Turk's cap, lantana, and ruellia.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Yogurt Shop Murders: today’s pretrial hearing, more info

Thanks to much help from the Austin Chronicle's Jordan Smith, I think I finally have an adequate understanding of today’s defense motions. My understanding of their motion to prohibit the D.A. from ex parte communications and the joint motion to set aside protective order is as follows:

1. Defense contends that the state is trying to hide DNA results not favorable to their case.
2. Defense had a "loophole" to expose or exploit what they thought the state was hiding (re incoming DNA results) because previous protective orders only referenced the two cause numbers related to the death of Amy Ayers. So defense files writ revealing new DNA from Amy Ayers not matching any of original four defendants.
3. July 11, the state then tries to close "loophole" (because it’s receiving more DNA results presumably unfavorable to their case) by “re-filing” protective order adding cause numbers for all four victims, making it impossible for defense to speak on any of the cases, not just Ayers', without violating the order.
4. Defense claims improper ex parte communication by state in “re-filing” protective order with added cause numbers and contends that resulting new protective order should be thrown out. Judge Lynch disagrees.

In the defense's Joint Motion to show cause, contempt and appointment of special master, among other points, is their contention that the state allowed the impression stand at the 6/11/08 hearing, when Lynch specifically asked them, that there were no DNA results. However, according to the motion, the state has actually had some results since 4/11/08.

Yogurt Shop Murders: today’s joint pretrial hearing, Part 2

Scott’s attorney Carlos Garcia argued motions regarding their desire to inspect and/or acquire copies or transcripts of some photos, VHS-tapes (mostly of “snitches” that have "come out of the woodwork" since 1999 and are now included on the state’s witness list), and expert witness testimony.

Garcia also described his difficulty in getting Ron Lara, the APD commander of the Cold Case unit, to comply with two subpoenas to appear and one follow-up letter, claiming that they’re entitled to some of Lara’s materials now that the state has listed him as an expert witness.

Assistant DA Gail Van Winkle countered that Lara’s materials, particularly his PowerPoint presentation, are work product. She also said that “nothing is secret here.” Judge Lynch said he’d review the case law and make a ruling later but that “there will be no witnesses in these pretrial hearings” because these aren’t evidentiary hearings. So I don’t think we’ll see Ron Lara on the stand until trial time.

Garcia announced that the defense was now filing a Joint Motion to show cause, contempt and appointment of special master. He explained, “the state doesn’t comply, so we’ve filed a motion.” I only caught a quick glance at this redacted motion and can’t remember most of the specifics, but I know that one contention is this: the state left the impression at the 6/11/08 hearing that they had no DNA test results yet when, according to this defense motion, the state has had some results since 4/11/08.

Lynch, who hadn’t yet seen this new motion, recalled that the special master request had come up during the last trials but that he hadn’t been able to find any Texas law that would allow him to appoint one, although he would have liked to have done so. He told Garcia he’d entertain it if they could provide him some case law.

Towards the end, Garcia and Lynch got a little testy as Garcia was attempting to voice objections for the record after Lynch had ordered him to submit some of them in writing instead. Finally, Lynch set the next hearing for 8/05/08, said it would be a quick hearing and added, jokingly, that he was leaving town right afterwards and “might not come back.”

Yogurt Shop Murders: today’s joint pretrial hearing, Part 1

Judge Lynch set the tone as soon as he took the bench, saying that today’s hearing was “not going to be a freewheeling debate…” and would be narrowly focused on discovery issues. Robert Springsteen and Michael Scott were both present today. Lynch explained that Springsteen’s attorneys had filed a motion requesting his presence today and that he, Lynch, agreed to it because of the limited purpose of shared discovery issues.

Then things heated up. Responding to motions filed by the state on July 11th, defense attorneys had filed two motions: a Joint Motion to prohibit the D.A. from ex parte communications and (related to the first motion) a Joint Motion to set aside amended protective order.

The defense implied that the state engaged in an improper ex parte communication by having Lynch sign the state's new motions, in which all cause numbers related to all four victims had been added. The original 10/16/07 limiting and protective order and its amended 3/11/08 version (agreed to by all parties) contained only the cause numbers related to Amy Ayers' death. The defense claims this was done because the state has received new DNA test results it wants to make extra sure aren’t made public, presumably because they are not favorable to the state’s case.

Lynch did not buy the defense’s argument, saying it was clear his original order covered all the cases and that it only made sense that it applied to all four (original) cause numbers. He further explained that he had handwritten notes on the amended version and that the state had just cleaned up and typed a new copy identical to his handwritten version, which he signed.

“I just re-signed an already existing order,” Lynch said. He said he considered the defense’s motion “spurious,” that he did not believe the state had participated in improper ex parte communication and that the case law cited was “outrageous.” He said the joint motion to set aside the amended protective order was a separate issue that could be argued.

Moving on, Dexter Gilford, one of Scott’s attorneys, brought up their recently filed joint motion regarding Brady material. Lynch quickly warned that “we can discuss it in general but not actual results.” They argued about which DNA results are covered by Brady, and assistant district attorney Efrain De La Fuente said he’d given the defense a roster of names of people who have been tested and their results.

Gilford countered that they’d just been given some results yesterday and that he knew the state had received some results in mid-April that they’d not turned over until mid-June.

In the end, Lynch ruled that the state must turn over any and all oral reports they now have within 72 hours and that further reports must be turned over as they come in, whether or not they’ve been peer-reviewed, the lack of peer review being an excuse De La Fuente gave for not turning over some results in a more timely manner.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Yogurt Shop Murders: another pretrial hearing tomorrow

The docket lists tomorrow's hearing as joint for Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen, but I won't be surprised if Scott is the only defendant present. One of Springsteen's attorneys, Joe James Sawyer, has no concrete answer for why these hearings continue to be scheduled for both Scott and Springsteen but don't include his client and therefore Sawyer himself (on the record or really any more than a spectator) as a voice in court.

At the end of the last hearing, Sawyer told reporters that the judge has the ultimate say in determining which defendants actually appear at hearings: Sawyer can only participate in the hearing if his client is present.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Alien lily?

A neighbor gave me a few of these more than two years ago and I've never known what they were, but they've survived, blooming only once or twice a year. Why it would bloom right now in this heat with no supplemental watering is beyond me. Anyone know what it is?

Our huge green-leafed Texas sage has also decided to bloom now, instead of earlier in the week when it got some rain. Very strange. Our other more silvery-leafed Texas sage is more typical.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Point of view

Usually I only look at the fire-hydrant/street light corner of our front yard from my front porch and rarely remember to go check it out from the street, mostly because (fortunately) that patch requires almost no weeding or maintenance. This morning, however, I did a more thorough check because we’ve been out of town and discovered this happy lavender. I planted it last year sometime when it was just a 3-inch tall sprig and had totally forgotten about it.

Maybe I’ll stumble across some other forgotten plant tomorrow morning.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Rain and more tiny tomatoes welcome us home

Although our bodies and brains are still on France time--it now feels like 2 a.m.--the rain helped make today a nice first day home. The Juliet tomato plant (above) has a few babies, and the Little Porter (below), which had our first tomato ever, now has six more. That first tomato, the size of my pinky fingernail when we left June 16th, is now almost the size of a golfball.

Tomorrow morning I'll begin the glamorous task of digging up three weeks of nutgrass!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Respecting the lavender

Yesterday afternoon we walked around Paris' Bois de Boulogne, a huge wooded/garden/recreational park area twice as big as NYC's Central Park (although it's on the outer edge of Paris proper.)

One of its gardens included a bunch of stuff for kids--rides, animals, a small train--but it also had plenty of varied plants and flowers for us grown-up kids. All the garden sheds and little barn areas had thatched roof gardens. It cracked me up to see a guy working on a thatched roof, a bundle of straw in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

The type of lavender in my sunny front yard in Austin (Provence, I think) would hate living next to thirsty tomatoes, but this type seems to pair well!

Our gray santolina has never produced yellow buttons like this one! Maybe the buttons need more water and less intense heat?

This garden entrance seems a strange place to include kale (bottom left).

Are these really artichokes? Whatever, they must be related. Beautiful.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Weekend hydrangea friends

We're still in Paris and had the good fortune to spend the weekend with old friends at their house just outside Paris. They asked us for gardening advice for their small back yard, but I wasn't much help because their conditions are so moderate and opposite of ours in Austin: I just kept staring at their hydrangeas!

And, just when you're considering how bad Austin's traffic is, consider that you're not driving in this Paris traffic today.

We're not driving in it either, but I took this photo around 6:15 p.m. outside our hotel window in the 16th district. Later we found out that some nearby major avenues had been closed for a little while, but we were never quite sure why beyond guessing that this morning's trucking protest against high fuel costs--the big trucks stayed on the roads but purposely drove allot slower--had a trickle-down effect?