Friday, June 16, 2006

Siena - Florence

We went to Siena, and it rained, which made the morning kind of downer, after the excellence of the previous day. The cathedral in Siena is quite a spectacle, but since the outside was mainly covered with scaffolding, the best pictures were taken inside. In particular, there was one room which we were told had been closed off for hundreds of years, and so the walls and the ceilings looked as though they were newly painted. And, it was true. We saw lots of fancy walls and ceilings, but none fancier than that library or whatever it was in the cathedral there in Siena.

Also, in Siena, we were told about the Palio, which is sort of like if the Hatfields and the McCoys had a horse race in the middle of town every year, only there are a bunch of different clans, called the contrade. When we were there, since it was rainy, the Piazza di Campo where the big horse race is held was mostly empty, except for pedestrians passing across, and it was difficult to imagine it hosting 50,000 Siennese for a horse race.

Here is a McDonalds in Siena. I had to go inside and see what was the price of an Big Mac extra value meal, and it appeared that the price was about six Euros, but I'm not sure whether that included the drink. Cokes were expensive, the .75 liter bottles cost between 2 and 3.50 Euros. We also drank a lot of bottled water, bottled water at every meal, usually frizzante (with bubbles). I don't know what it cost. A big gelato with three flavors cost 3.50 Euros, most places. The best gelato was probably in Florence, which is where we went next after Siena.

Florence was full of tourists, and full of interesting things to see. The first thing we did was go up to this overlook place, and everyone took too many pictures. You can see behind me on the left the Ponte Vecchio crossing the Arno River, and on the other side the dome of the Duomo. Florence is small enough to walk everywhere and it is hard to get lost because you can see the Duomo from almost everywhere. We didn't get very far from the middle of town, we went to one restaurant across the Arno overlooking the river, we went to the Uffizi which was just around the corner from our hotel, we went to the Academy to see the David (although there were Davids everywhere, it seemed), we went to market at San Lorenzo, we looked in the street markets everywhere, and twice we ate at this place called Leo's, a great place.

One day at breakfast in Florence, I said, "Look, we've got salt and pepper." They don't give away salt and pepper in restaurants in Italy as in the U.S. Regarding salt, we were told more than once that various towns had a tradition of unsalted bread, as sort of a tax protest going back to medieval times, when the Church imposed a tax on salt. The hotel where we stayed was sort of an odd place. The elevator had a button marked 3/4, which was where you got off for both the third and fourth floors. Most of the hotels had some kind of electricity conversation measure in place. In the more modern places, you had to insert your card key into a slot in the room to get the lights to come. In the Hotel Bernini, the lights came on and went off as you walked down the hall.

The hotel was a block from the Piazza Signorina. Florence was sort of like Gatlinburg, with all the shopping, but with fancy buildings and lots of really big nude sculptures in the squares. One exception was the statue of Cosimo of the Medicis, who was dressed and sitting on a horse. Also in the Piazza Signorina there was a wreath on the spot where Savonarola himself was burned. The Ponte Vecchio was full of jewelry shops. In this picture I am standing in the middle of the bridge, looking back toward the Duomo, and there was shopping and people everywhere. The only thing I bought of interest in Florence was four neckties for the total sum of 18 Euros.

One thing we did to get away from it all just a bit was to go to the Boboli Gardens, across the Arno and behind the Pitti Palace. I think the admission to the Boboli Gardens was about 8 Euros. The gardens were interesting and presented more great views of the city. The only bad part about it was that a lot of the walking we did was uphill. You can see the in-laws are still a ways down the hill in this picture, looking back down at the back of the palace.

At the top was a rooftop garden full of roses and peonies. In the middle of the rooftop garden was the fountain with monkeys. I have no idea what that's about, but I took pictures of it all from every angle, probably 50 pictures. The only other bad thing about the Boboli Gardens is that we never found a decent map, so we only saw whatever we stumbled onto, which wasn't all bad. There were many unexpected sights besides the fountain of monkeys. We didn't figure out until we were leaving that we had only seen maybe a third of the place.

But on the way out, we did see the Grotto, which I can't begin to explain, and enjoyed the views back across the river of the city.

We didn't go in any of the churches in Florence, but the churches and the towers and the piazzas pretty defined the map of the place, as in "You don't want to go back there, it's all the way on the other side of the Duomo," or "Look, we're almost there, that's Santa Croce up ahead." So, of course I took pictures of them. I could never got more than a bit of the Duomo in the pictures taken from the streets.

Finally, here is a sunset picture of Santa Croce.

Why you don't ever want to take the judge's parking space

The Memphis paper reports here that somebody vandalized the cars of judges parked at the Peabody Hotel for the summer meeting of the Tennessee Bar Association.

On historical markers in Virginia

This great article in the Hook on those historical markers on Virginia's highways has a link to this site which details 1,209 markers in Virginia - but not Southwest Virginia, apparently.

Remarks of President Bush on signing the MINER Act of 2006

Here is the text of what President Bush said on the occasion of his signing of the newly revised federal mine safety law, and here is the Act itself.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Gospel according to Ernie

Ernie Svenson offers a how-to on Organizing Cases Electronically.

He and Ray Ward seem to me pretty sane for having survived Katrina, etc., not so many months ago. Those New Orleans lawyers have tested all their systems in ways the rest of us never will.

Lawrence-based challenge to Virginia's sodomy laws overruled

In McDonald v. Com., the Virginia Court of Appeals in an opinion by Judge Haley, joined by Judge Clements and Senior Judge Overton, reject once again a constitutional challenge to Virginia's criminal statute outlawing sodomy, where the defendant relied on the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas, but the crime involved someone under the age of 18, which made Lawrence distinguishable.

This opinion brings to mind two points: (1) I read a Slate article the other day by Dahlia Lithwick about how Justice Kennedy drives conservatives insane, speaking of Lawrence; and (2) a while back the point was made to me that the Virginia Court of Appeals in its cases observes a wide variety of human behavior, which also seems to be true.

Howard Bashman has a link here.

Who wouldn't want to come to the VBA summer meeting?

Read all about the summer meeting of the Virginia Bar Association here.

It's got Allen v. Webb.

It's got Governor Kaine.

It's got John Marshall and Thomas Jefferson.

It's got CLE with updates on Virginia courts in the (not-so distant) past and the (not-so distant) future, what do after litigation starts and before litigation begins, matters civil and criminal, laws foreign (OK, international) and domestic (as in domestic relations).

It's at the Homestead.

I'll be there, why not you?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

This week's CCCC

We were picked as the winner of this week's Commonwealth Conservative Caption Contest.

This week's nonsense pertained to Will V., our last winner was about Hillary Clinton, so at least they have that much in common.

Texas hearsay

I loved this post, which said in part:

Steve was attempting to get into evidence a document when I objected because of hearsay. Steve pronounced boldly (and probably rightly) that this was not hearsay because it was not offered for the truth of the matter asserted. Immediately after saying this the J.P. scolded Steve and stated:

"listen here my court you may only introduce matters which are the truth and you better not be trying to introduce matters which are not for the truth of the matter asserted."

Monday, June 12, 2006

On lawyers looking to get paid

I'm told that justice was done in last week's decision by the Virginia Supreme Court in the case of Randall A. Eads v. David Clark, Guardian of the Person and Estate of Roy Dallas Johnson, Incompetent, et al, on appeal from the Circuit Court of Russell County.

It could be true. The facts brought to mind the case from Bleak House, in which Dickens wrote:

"Equity sends questions to law, law sends questions back to equity; law finds it can't do this, equity finds it can't do that; neither can so much as say it can't do anything, without this solicitor instructing and this counsel appearing for A, and that solicitor instructing and that counsel appearing for B; and so on through the whole alphabet, like the history of the apple pie. And thus, through years and years, and lives and lives, everything goes on, constantly beginning over and over again, and nothing ever ends. And we can't get out of the suit on any terms, for we are made parties to it, and MUST BE parties to it, whether we like it or not."

It's official - throw your hands in the air and wave them around

From the website of the Appalachian School of Law:

"We are very pleased to announce that Appalachian School of Law was granted full accreditation by the American Bar Association on June 12, 2006."

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Rome - Pienza - San Gimignano

Reviewing the photographs from our recent trip to Italy may take twice as long as the trip itself. I took hundreds of photographs, which gave me something to do, but there are few or no photographs of many of the best parts of the trip.

We drove from Abingdon to Richmond, got up early and flew to Newark and then on to Rome. Supposedly, one should sleep on the plane crossing the Atlantic. We didn't. I watched 5 and three-quarters movies during the two transatlantic flights. (I still don't know what happened at the end of Narnia.)

As we were waiting for the first of many bus rides at the airport, another bus full of what appeared to be Italia soccer fans came by, a bunch of beer drinkers and cigarette smokers jumped out, and they began singing. One song was the Ya-Ya-Ya song, of which the only discernible lyrics were "YA-YA-YA."

Plan B for travelers is to sleep once you get to Europe, but we didn't do that, either. In fact, we had no rooms, because it was 9:00 in the morning when we reached the hotel, so we took off for downtown Rome. And, we did go see the Colosseum.

There were many wild characters outside the Colosseum, mime, musicians, and one fellow who appeared to be the Gladiator from Chad's Caption Contest, and others like him, whose job it was to have their pictures taken with tourists. We saw another Gladiator between the Arch of Constantine and the Forum whose job was to have his picture taken while groping the teenaged, female tourists.

We slogged our way in the heat through the Forum to our first Roman street food. I would say that the street food in Rome is mostly lousy except for the gelato which was good everywhere. I tried about 15 different flavors of gelato over the course of 12 days, the weirdest being rose and kiwi and melon.

The next day we joined the Tuscany and Umbria tour, and the first stop was a rest area along the Autostrada. The weirdest thing there was a place where you could stash your dog for a few hours, sort of self-serve rent-a-kennel. The first real food we ate was at the Falco Ristorante in the first of many hilltop towns, called Pienza. That first lunch in Pienza set the tone for the rest of the trip - good plain food and lots of it. They kept bringing us food and we ate it. That was true in Pienza, in Monteriggioni, in Florence, in Cortona, and later in Rome.

After lunch, we had the run of the town, which is also what we did throughout the tour, scramble over these small towns with narrow streets, small piazzas, crumbling buildings, and great views of the surrounding countryside. We were told as we went into Pienza that Tuscany is sheep country and we would be able to smell the peccorino cheese in the streets, which was true in Pienza and elsewhere. I can't say that we ate a lot of Peccorino cheese or that I am sure when we were eating it, because it comes in many forms, so in some places the restaurants served grated Peccorino for sprinkling on some of the food. I ate pasta almost every lunch and dinner for 12 days, which could explain the width and breadth of my appearance in some of these photographs.

I was traveling with my wife and her parents and her sister and her sister's husband. Some of our fellow travellers were impressed that we all got along with each other, which I would not have thought to be a remarkable fact. One necessity for keeping the peace was having patience with the shoppers. Some of the shops like this one at the end of the lower lane in Pienza looked more like a hole-in-the-wall than a place to buy things.

Dana's dad is a retired dentist. In this photo from Pienza, it appears that he has brought with him an over-sized instrument from his old office.

We went on from Pienza to the hotel Il Piccolo Castello. This was a very strange building, the likes of which I had not seen before. It was of fairly recent construction, modeled after the architecture of the Middle Ages. And so, the rooms had ceilings with wood beams and very little light and not much in the way of places to stash your stuff.

At the hotel we began to learn more of our fellow travellers. Remarkably, one fellow was named Frank Sinatra and another George Harrison, fine fellows both.

The next day was probably the best day, even though the weather seemed questionable as we left for San Gimignano. The remarkable thing about San Gimignano are the towers, of which there are still something like 18 or 20 and there used to be many more.

Tourists can walk up in at least one of them, and by my count, the number of steps was approximately 190. There might have been more, but I ran out of breath and quit counting. The brother-in-law Dave Brooks and I went up to the top and I took too many pictures of the town and the view in every direction. On the way down, after we had gone down about 15 steps, Dave said to the people we met coming up the stairs, "Don't worry, you're halfway there."

From above, you can see how narrow is the main drag through the town, and how small is the old town. Indeed, Dana and I walked to the end of the main street and began wandering the alleys and at one point wandered through the fence out of the town, which seemed like a bad idea.

In San Gimignano, we ate and spent money and eventually went back to the hotel, where the next big activity was a bike ride through a stretch of the surrounding countryside. I haven't been on bike for some years, certainly not since we moved from downtown Abingdon, but I went and it was tiring but fun.

The biking was led by a gang of Italian guys, who were amused to tease Genevieve, our tour guide. In this last photo, you can see Genevieve and one of the Italian guys on bikes in the foreground. In the distance atop the hill is where we ate that night, in a restaurant also called Il Piccolo Castello, within Monteriggioni. It was a great meal.