In my prior post, I poked fun at Swedes. I thought that there would be a newspaper article (“Blogger rants against Swedish people!”). I thought a saintly contingent of woke snowflakes would demonstrate (“Outrage!”). Maybe the ASPCA would give backlash because I made fun of skunks. But not a whisper. Not a word. Silence. What’s wrong with those doing the cancelling? Do they give a wink to some speech and not others?     

Confession: I have said and done some dumb things that I’d like to call back. I would wager you have too.  But in the words of the poet Omar Khayyam:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

Our futures lie to a great extent within our own hands.  The “moving finger” business is probably a good reason to think twice before we act — or speak.  We forgive those leaving prison and help to get them a new start. We forgive family members. But for some stranger’s ill-chosen words? Comments? In the words of Donnie Brasco – “fuhgeddaboutit.” I continue to scratch my head as to why.

Knowing of our own fallibility – and frailty – it may be a good reason to consider granting forgiveness to others when there is contrition and apology.  How would you like to be treated? Would you want your child cancelled and fired from her job for saying something stupid?

What’s wrong with – I forgive you.  Please don’t do it again. Let’s move on. . . . .  

Lutefisk and Pickled Herring

[Some ancient wisdom – from February 27, 2012]

A man had a problem with a family of skunks that lived under his porch.   He tried everything to get rid of them but nothing worked.   He went to the local hardware store and asked if they had any ideas. 

A grizzled old clerk looked at him and said put lutefisk and pickled herring under your porch,” the clerk said.  “That should clear up the problem.” 

So the guy went to the market, bought a few pounds of lutefisk and pickled herring and threw it all under the porch.  The next morning, the guy ran downstairs and looked under the porch.  The skunks were gone.  But a family of Swedes had moved in. . . . .

Walleyed Pike

[An ancient post – from June 28, 2012] I used to go fishing once a year or so.  Up near Minocqua, Wisconsin, with my friend Dan.  We’d get a guide – always Jim W. who is best in the North Woods – and head out onto the deep waters in the gray fingers of dawn.  Looking for walleye.   It was so early that the loons were still sleeping (“what are they doing here?”).  

To catch walleyes, you need big worms and a small jig with a medium-sized hook.  You string the worm onto the hook so most of the worm trails behind.  Then you cast and reel in slowly waiting for a little tug.   There are times when I’ve not had so much as a nibble.   And then there are times when the fish are biting so fast and furious that you have to bait your hook behind a tree.  

At the end of the day, Jim would clean the fish and portion them into filets.  As with tilapia, not much needs to be done.  A quick roll in some olive oil, Italian seasoning and bread crumbs and saute over a medium heat until the fish is flaky.  I swear there isn’t a better-tasting fish on the planet when it’s fresh out of the lake.  Add some homemade hash browns (I cut organic potatoes thin and saute in a squidge of olive oil, some butter, salt and pepper and finely-chopped Vidalia onion), steamed broccoli and wagon wheel chocolate chip cookies for dessert.   Oh yes and some Caymus cabernet.   You’ll have a North Woods meal fit for Paul Bunyan.     

The Quran

[A repeat from June 21, 2015]

I previously described my journeys through the Old Testament (6/11/12) and New Testament (11/10/13).   Given our trip to the Middle East, I read the Quran.  All 114 suras (chapters).  The Quran is intended to be read in Arabic (26:195) but my copy was in English.  Whew. . . .  

The Quran has an Old Testament attitude (some is pretty dark) with frequent repetition of theme.  Yet there are numerous theological similarities with Judeo-Christian texts.  The cast of characters, the prophets and the stories are similar.  The commands (believe, do good works, charity, pray) are comparable.  There are parallels in God’s (or Allah’s) warning to his people (re heaven/hell).  Jesus (Isa) plays a prominent role as a Messiah.  Mary (Maryam) is the only woman mentioned by name in the Quran (she has her own sura – 19).  At the risk of oversimplification, I discerned three fundamental areas of disagreement between Islam and Christianity.  First, the Quran denies that God had a son (Jesus).  Hence the repudiation of the Trinity.  He simply said “Be” and Jesus was conceived (19:35).   Second, there is the overarching theme that Mohammed wrote the Quran over 23 years after receiving the Word of God through the Archangel Gabriel (see 1/30/12 and 3/26/12).  Third, the Quran – and thus Muslims – consider Islam to be a “perfection” of Judaism and Christianity.  Islam is deemed the true religion . . . .   

Notwithstanding, Jews, Christians and Sabians are considered “People of the Book” — and thus related in the Faith.  Whether you call Him God, Jehovah or Allah; whether you worship on Friday, Saturday or Sunday; whether you say “Pax vobiscum”Peace be with you“Shalom” or “As-Salamu alaikum” the three Abrahamic religions have similar roots and much in common.  So I have to wonder — why all the misunderstanding, strife, violence and hatred?      

My Biggest Case

A repeat from July 17, 2014

When I was a young(er) lawyer, my father got a speeding ticket. “I wasn’t speeding” he protested. “I wanna fight this thing. You wanna be my lawyer?” he asked me.  I’d never handled a speeding ticket but I said “sure, Dad.”

So on the appointed day of the court hearing for my father’s speeding ticket, we showed up and sat toward the back of the courtroom. The room was crowded and people milled around. The judge entered. Everyone rose. And the judge got down to business – “anyone who wants to plead guilty, I’m willing to give you supervision – which means you pay a fine but if you get no ticket in the next six months, the conviction is wiped out.” The judge directed those interested toward a window where they would pay a fine but get their “supervision.” My father – who had been deaf since World War Two – didn’t hear but I knew he wasn’t interested (“I wanna fight this thing“).

After a while, my father’s case was called and I took my father’s arm, stood – and we walked to the front.  And stepped before the judge. “Good morning, your Honor” I said. “My name is Scott Petersen and I’m here representing the defendant Peter Petersen.” The judge got a glint in his eye and looked at me.  Smiling. “Is he your father?” “Yes Your Honor” I replied seriously. The judge chuckled. Looked at the ticket and said “case dismissed.” I thanked the judge for this amazing gift – and started to lead my father away.  He pulled back – “wait I wanna say . . . ” “DAD” I hissed – and put a finger to my lips.  

I’ve had a few cases in my career but none that gave me the satisfaction of that one.  Once outside the courtroom, I explained that the case had been dismissed.  He smiled.  “You’re pretty good,” he said.   Yep.

The Tray

Weight’s never been a problem for me. I weigh pretty much what I did in college (true) though gravity for whatever reason has caused a downward “shifting” of my body mass. If I gain a few pounds after a big dinner, the next day I will have one less cookie and – voila! – I’m back to my usual weight.

When we go out to a restaurant, Donna and I will often share a salad and a dessert. Lately though Donna has suggested that we forego dessert. I’m okay with that since I can usually rummage up something in the pantry when we get home. There is only one – giant – impediment to a pre-dinner pledge to have “no dessert.” That obstacle is – The Tray. . . .

Last night, Donna and I went out for dinner – to a new place in downtown Wilmette. Before going, we did the “pinky swear” thing that we would have no dessert. Good enough. Donna ordered the linguini with clams and I had shrimp risotto. And we shared a beet salad before the main course.

I had just wiped my mouth for the 142d time, set the napkin on the table and was about to ask the server for the bill. When it happened. . . . The server burst out of the double doors to the kitchen with a large, copiously-filled tray. Full of desserts. Our eyes were transfixed. I began to perspire. Donna shook her head “no no!” And the server plopped the tray down on our table – and with a big smile said “may I offer you some dessert?” And she rattled off detail on the ten plates cozied together on the tray. I did not try to stop her – or hold my palm in the air saying “no dessert!” Instead, after she finished, I shrugged. “We’ll have the chocolate covered cannoli please. Two forks.”

Groundhog Day

In my post of March 20, 2014, I talked about testifying in parole hearings on murder cases that I tried when I was a States Attorney (prosecutor) at 26th & California.  Every three years, I was asked to testify in the 1976 case referenced in that post.  What’s left of the family would show up.  Very emotional. 

Ernie S. stabbed Susan H. to death in the fifty hundred block of South Ellis.  She was stabbed in a kitchen.  Ernie S. ran out.  Susan sat down at the kitchen table.  Bleeding out.  Her screams brought two friends who were upstairs.  Beat cops arrived and scooped her up and raced her in the squadrol to the hospital.   No time for an ambulance.  But Susan was DOA.   Ernie S. got 100 to 300 years after a 2-1/2 week jury trial.  The  U.S. moratorium on the death penalty (for which he would have been eligible) did not end until June 1977.  Interestingly, Ernie had done the same thing the week before to Jasmin G – a nursing student (Jasmin lived).  Some years later, he escaped from a prison van and ran into Joliet West High School and dragged a 14 year girl – Kristine D. – out of a classroom.  He did stuff to her in a stairwell.  He was recaptured.  But Ernie has wanted out.  

Sooooo, because the sentence was “indeterminate,” every two or three years I went back to testify that Ernie S. should never see the light of day again.  Some folks will say “ohhh – just let him goHe’s a victim.”  Just wait.  Until it’s their child.  Grandchild. Susan’s grief-stricken parents both died – within months of each other – a few years after Susan’s murder.

On March 24, 2016, the Parole Board voted 12-0 to deny parole.  They agreed on a 3 year “set.”  Ernie went before the Parole Board in 2019. And they let him go. . . . . Under Illinois wonderful “No Cash Bail” statute, I’m sure Ernie would get a slap on the wrist, a stern “don’t do that again” – and released. Again. And again. And again. . . . . .

Freshness Dates

[A repeat from May 5, 2019] How did my generation (and those before) ever survive without freshness dates.  Those dates that counsel that food is “best by” or a store must “sell by” or you have to “use by” — a certain date.  How did I live?   I will tell you how . . . .

My father would take a sniff of the carton of milk that had been in the refrigerator since before I was born – and say “it’s okay. Drink it.” And I would.  I remember going to my grandmother’s apartment once.  She made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.   I took a bite and started chewing.  I looked at the sandwich and then at my grandmother.  Mouth open.  About to heave the whole thing onto the table.  She picked up the peanut butter.  Waved it under her nose.  And made a face.  “It’s rancid” she said [I swear those were her words].  “Okay – spit it out.”  And I did. My cousin Wayne came over to our house one day.  I was perhaps seven or eight.  He went into the frig and pulled out the orange juice.  Poured a glass.  “Ouch!” he said.  “This stuff is baaaadddd.”  My father took a whiff and said “it’s just a little over the hill.”  “Over the hill” as in enough botulism to wipe out the entire State of Pennsylvania.   I’d been drinking it sporadically for the last few weeks.  Or months. 

I’m sure my experience is not unlike many of those reading this post.  We’ve become a nation of wimps.  Allowing the “freshness date” to dictate whether a food is good.  Or not.   What about letting the old sniffer make that determination?  But for the fact that I have granddaughters (who will never know the meaning of the word “rancid” or “over the hill” except as it applies to me), I might be using the “sniff test” to determine what’s good.  And what is. . . . yuck.  Then again . .

Frames of Mind

[A repeat from March 18, 2018] Most individuals have varied levels of competence with different skill sets.  I have reasonable eye/hand coordination which allows me to play a passable game of golf.  And perform magic.  I play the guitar, speak Spanish and express myself with some clarity.  But don’t ask me for directions.  And do not ask me about algebra.  I have the mathematical I.Q. of a chipmunk (I’m sure I’m insulting some very nice chipmunks).

Howard Gardner in his classic book Frames of Mind spoke of seven basic intelligences that all people share:  linguistic; musical; logical/mathematical; spatial; bodily/kinesthetic; interpersonal; and intrapersonal.   While everyone has a modicum of each of these seven intelligences, some folks are more heavily endowed with one or more of these capabilities (a la Mozart, Michael Jordan or Einstein).  It thus becomes important for parents to recognize – and nurture – the natural abilities of children rather than skew development with subjective expectation. “My boy will play football” “My daughter will be a lawyer.”  “My child will go to [XYZ] college.”    It’s one thing to encourage a natural athlete to study physics or a math whiz to take speech classes.  But it is quite another to discourage a young person’s natural gifts.  Or skills.  In such cases, it seems that everyone loses . . . . . 

Put Your Head on my Shoulder*

[A repeat from September 19, 2015]  The first time I ever danced with a girl was in my 6th grade classroom. Our teacher, Mrs. Speerschneider, put on some music and drafted Marilyn W. to dance with me.  Poor girl.  To say I had two left feet would be a compliment.  They felt like two left flippers.  I was scared to death. And I remember stepping on Marilyn’s feet in my pathetic effort to “dance.” I’m sure the experience soured poor Marilyn on the male of the species.

By 7th grade, I had danced maybe three or four times.  So I was an old hand.  7th and 8th graders in Mt. Prospect were invited to “Rec” as it was called on Friday nights.  At the park district.  It was a dance. . . .  Few of the guys I knew ever danced. They just stood on the sidelines. Joshing.  Joking. Snorting.  And acting like immature boys. Me too. That is until Sharon E. walked over to me during one “slow” dance and asked me out on the floor. My friends were stunned. They stared.  I was nearly apoplectic inside. But that was only a taste of what was to come. . . .We went out on the dance floor and began dancing.  And Sharon promptly pressed her head against my head.  I remember immediately beginning to perspire.   Heavily.  Notwithstanding her head remained glued to mine.  Sweat dripping down the both of us.  And the music ended and she walked back to the line of girls. And I sheepishly went back to the line of boys feeling like I’d just emerged from a swimming pool.  And got glares. And snickers. And when the slow music began again, I saw her moving in my direction. Uh oh.   And we danced.  Her head pressed against mine.    

I don’t think we exchanged a single word.  Ever.  But after a few times, dancing with Sharon wasn’t so bad . . . . 

*Title of the 1958 song by Paul Anka (check out )