A Long Time Coming

Things have been very quiet here on the blog for the last several months. It’s been a conscious choice on my part. There were things I wanted to write about but it just wasn’t the right time to share them. Events are finally pushing forward now and the time has come for me to be able to share them.

Scot and I are divorcing.

This has been building for many years and it has finally come to a head. We are broken. We cannot continue on this course; we cannot continue to be married. For the sake of our children, we must divorce.

I never thought I would have to say the words, “I want a divorce.” I never thought we would be a statistic. I never thought that we would be That Couple in our circle of friends that didn’t last. Everyone who knew us when we got married said we would be the kind of couple that would last.

And yet, here we are.

We still have a lot of details to work out. For the moment, we are still all living in the same house; a circumstance that is not very comfortable for anyone involved but it’s what it has to be at this point. We are working with the appropriate parties to figure out how to separate our lives after 15 years of them being entwined. We are trying to do this very difficult thing as peaceably as possible for the sake of the children we both love so much. I don’t know exactly what the future holds for the kids and I, but I know that it HAS to be better than where we are now.

I only hope that I can manage to walk this path with dignity and grace. I know there are times when I’m so angry it’s awfully hard to find any grace much less dignity. But I continue to pick myself up and put one foot in front of the other because I don’t know what else to do. I try to remind myself that the definition of grace is not that we never stumble and fall but that we get back up, we keep trying, we work to make each day a little better than the last. Breakdowns will come but I can’t let that mean that I give up.

A new life will rise from the disaster of this year and I can only hope that when I get there, it’s better than where I am now.

And so all of this is why I haven’t been blogging. There was too much to say and too much chance I’d say the wrong thing. I still won’t be sharing too much about the details of all this in this space (I’m sure you understand why) but I hope to not be such a stranger.

Becoming A Medical Coder

As I near the completion (finally!) of my certification in medical coding, I’ve had some people ask me about my schooling and how I got here. It made me ruminate on the ways in which all the disparate things I’ve done before now have neatly come together into this one profession.

To start, I grew up the daughter of two veterinarians. My Dad owned a vet clinic and my Mom worked first as the vet on staff for their county animal control and then as a relief vet in private practice. (Mom and Dad practiced together before my sister and I came along.) So, medical jargon was the norm in my house. Mom and Dad discussed surgery over the dinner table at night; we listened to Dad take emergency calls from clients; I helped at the clinic every now and then; I watched and assisted as my Mom or Dad spayed/neutered various pets of mine.

My Dad even put stitches in my toe once. But that’s another story entirely.

When I went to college, I studied Archaeology. I have a BS in Anthropology from Michigan State University. I concentrated on Classical Archaeology – Rome and Greece – so I took two years of college Latin. (I graduated before I could start taking Greek.) I also enjoyed Physical Anthropology, in particular Human Origins, which includes a fair amount of anatomy knowledge. The summer between my junior and senior year of college, I completed an archaeological field school that taught me the process of how a dig works.

During the summers of my college years, I worked for the local urgent care in the billing office. I wasn’t a coder or biller then, I was just a general office grunt but one picks up more than just one’s own job if one pays attention. And I did. I gained knowledge in the workings of insurance companies, how claims are filed, medical records keeping, etc. This was in the days before the electronic medical record so it was A LOT of paper management.

When I graduated from college, I made the decision not to go to graduate school. It’s a long story that is partially bound up with the guy I was supposed to marry and didn’t, but suffice it to say that the world of academia wasn’t really something I thought I could successfully navigate. I still think that – the required political maneuverings would have me eating my foot in about 2 seconds flat. That’s assuming I didn’t tell my advisor to stuff it somewhere in the Ph.D. process.

Instead, I worked a series of clerical/administrative assistant type jobs. One of those jobs was as a legal secretary for a law firm that did largely subrogation law. That’s insurance law. Before motherhood, that was the hardest 40 hours a week I ever worked. (Motherhood, however, is the real butt kicker.) The work was incredibly detail-oriented and fast paced to boot. I had no experience as a legal secretary at the time so I had a steep learning curve. But I learned A LOT from that job, not just about the law, and I’m glad I did it.

When I left that job, it was to move cities, come to Pittsburgh, and get married to Scot. I worked for Carnegie Mellon for 4 years as a faculty assistant. I supported 10 professors, all of whom had a claim on 20% of my time. You do the math.

I lost that job in a layoff when I was newly pregnant with Liam – just 7 weeks along. I worked a temp job or two while pregnant but ultimately decided to just be a stay at home parent a few months before I was actually a parent.

That snowballed into a decade at home, at the tail end of which I decided to go back to school to become a medical coder.

I did my program entirely online through AHIMA – it was entirely self-directed and self-paced. I had intended to be done with school by October 2015 – when the ICD-10 code change became effective – but life circumstances prevented that and I’m about 9 months late to the party. Code change was a big deal, with many places scrambling to find coders certified in the new code set in time for implementation. I knew the job market would be open to me, even as a newly minted coder, because I focused my efforts on learning the new coding system just as it was about to be implemented.

I also picked up a part time job that allowed me to gain some experience while I was finishing school.

So how does this all fit together?

  • I grew up in a medical household. That meant that when it came time to learn anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, and pharmacology I started with more that just the basic working knowledge of “the heart has 4 chambers.”
  • Between growing up as I did and taking two years of Latin, learning medical terminology came easy to me.
  • Archaeology taught me analytical thinking. An archaeological dig is nothing more than a large puzzle in three dimensions. You have to be able to take disparate elements and piece them together to form a larger picture. Abstracting medical records to code them out is no different. You look at the full record, extract the relevant information, and turn that into codes that report the full picture of a patient’s illness.
  • Working in a medical billing office is pretty clearly relevant here. I saw HCFA forms and how they were filled out. I learned how to keep medical records. I learned the convoluted ways in which insurance companies work.
  • Working at the law office and at Carnegie Mellon taught me time management and attention to detail. There is nothing so important in coding as the details. The biggest improvement in ICD-10 is that it includes expanded specificity. Oh? The patient is a diabetic? Type I or Type II? Insulin dependent? Any neuropathy? All of those questions affect the code chosen. You have to pay attention.
  • Then there’s my current job. It gives me experience I wouldn’t otherwise have had. I code, I bill, I call insurance companies, I maintain medical records, I stay aware of HIPAA compliance.
  • Last, motherhood. There is nothing so hard, so stressful, so exhausting as being a mother (or a father, but I’m a mother so that’s my experience). There are a thousand skills I use in raising my kids that translate to the workplace.

I’ve done so many different things in my life but it seems they were all leading me here. Finally, at the age of 40, I am on the cusp of having a REAL career. It took me a long time to get here.

My parents have always said that no education is ever wasted and they never made me feel like I wasted mine (or their money) for getting a college degree in a field I don’t work in. It turns out they were right; it wasn’t wasted. It was just one more step leading me here.

Lessons From My Father

Growing up, my father had a large extended family of Italian relatives. They were like all Italians – boisterous, loving, wanted to feed you – but they had their own notions of how one moves through the world and the ways in which you act in service to others.

My father internalized those lessons and he lived them out every day for my sister and I to see. From him we learned about Love, Respect, Courtesy, and Obligation. We learned from his example how those four words make the world turn and can make it a better place in the process.

My Dad once wrote about these lessons and, with his permission, I’d like to share his words with you.

When I was growing up, my Italian uncles used to talk to my cousins and me about “things.” Life.  How to live it.   How to get along in it.  How to make things work for yourself and others.  I didn’t pay much attention at the time, I thought it was just the ramblings of “old men.”   But as I’ve gotten older and hopefully wiser, I remember the things they said and have come to realize that I could have made my life much easier and made myself a more effective person had I listened more carefully.   

They talked about Love, Respect, Courtesy and Obligation.  Four very different but related and intertwined concepts; concepts I only understood superficially until recent years.

Love is what we feel for those closest to us.  Parents, spouse, children, close friends and relatives. Because we love them, we will (or should) naturally respect them, treat them with courtesy and always, always discharge our obligations faithfully.

Respect without love is what we have for those who we find admirable or even those who we don’t find admirable but who can affect our lives with their power.   By respecting them we will learn from those who we admire and we will not underestimate those we look upon as adversaries.  If we make that respect open and public, we can even curry favor and maybe turn situations to our advantage. Remember, these were Italians.

Finding advantage is second nature, even a bit Machiavellian.  By respecting those around us (and respect for self came into this as well, because by respecting others, we command their respect), we won’t allow ourselves to be taken advantage of nor will we take advantage of others, especially when it isn’t in our own best interests in the long run.

Self-respect also means we learn from what we see and avoid those who repeatedly treat us with obvious lack of respect or courtesy.  

Courtesy is the outward sign of respect.  It doesn’t mean you actually do love or respect someone, but it does lubricate the day to day friction of normal human interaction.  It can also put an adversary at ease and give you an advantage.  But mostly, it makes life work better because there is less conflict if one can find a way to be courteous to even the least important people we come in contact with.  My Uncle Tony used to say “Never do business with a man who treats a waitress rudely.  If courtesy in small ways isn’t in his nature, he will never show respect or courtesy when it comes time for him to meet his obligations. He will have no honor.”

Obligation is the last and, maybe in some ways, the driving force of everything.   If we commit ourselves to others, be it through marriage, friendship, business or social contact, we automatically take on obligation.  We may not like the persons involved, we may even look upon them as adversaries, but if we are to be honorable, we must always keep our obligations in mind and discharge them without fail. The world judges us more by how we handle our obligations than any other aspect of our behavior.  A person we’ve met for the first time will think less of us (we will have earned less of their respect) if we are not a person of our word.  If we accept responsibility, we must meet the demands of that responsibility.   It is upon us to make sure that all aspects of the situation at hand are covered and that anyone who is affected by the decisions or actions we take are informed and prepared for the action that will be taken and any potential consequences that can be anticipated. Just simple courtesy.   If we cannot fulfill our obligations, then it is incumbent upon us to inform those who will be affected, and to find ways to delegate or offer the power of decision making to someone else who may be able to do a better job, even if that means we lose the respect of those around us.  Never let your own failings or weaknesses spill onto others because you were too proud to admit that you were in too deep.  In the long run, they will respect you more for making sure your obligations were met and by admitting your own failings. You may also have created an opportunity to learn from someone else so that next time you’ll know better how to deal with the situation.  Once again, self-respect comes into play here both by taking advantage of the chance to grow and learn, but also in the positive feedback we give ourselves in having done the right things.  Uncle John said that we even diminish ourselves in our own eyes when we fail to meet obligations and that it becomes habit and self-feeding.  Eventually we are incapable of meeting any challenge.

Love. Respect. Courtesy. Obligation.   I’m sure that what I’ve written here only serves to scratch the surface. Maybe all I’ve done is make it obvious how little I understand of what my uncles tried to tell us.  I do know that when I look back on situations that have gone well and interactions that occur smoothly, it seems that these concepts have been applied, consciously or unconsciously.  

“It’s a simple thing,” they used to say.  Well, however true, I’m sure that as hard I may have tried, there are elements of these “simple things” that I have failed to live up to.  Failed miserably…any number of times.  As my very Catholic Uncle Louie used to say, that’s why we have confession and why we try to forgive others.  Forgive is part of respect and courtesy. All I ask from those around me (even those who don’t really love me) is the degree of respect that allows me simple dignity, the courtesy that would be afforded a waitress, and that those who have obligations that affect me discharge them with some measure of reliability, and in the end maybe a little forgiveness for my own failings. The rest is up to me.

Love. Respect. Courtesy. Obligation.

I hope that as I move through the world, I honor the ways in which my Dad taught me these lessons, that I live up to the ideals those words espouse. Just like Dad, I know I fail sometimes. Maybe too many times. What I do know is that I try. And tomorrow is always another day to get it just right.

Spectacular Seven

Last Friday (I’m a week late!) Jamie turned seven.

He is still the most challenging of the two of them but what he takes from me in frustration he gives right back in love and snuggles.

This last year has seen Jamie grow so much in so many ways. He’s finally learning how to express his anxieties so we can work through them. He’s is more willing to listen to us when we try to help him and his frustration level is much lower as a result. That’s not to say that he doesn’t get frustrated. He does. YES, HE DOES. But it’s less often and less intense than it used to be. He’s learning to deescalate.

He’s doing so well with school. Full day school was the answer we all needed. He has an amazing teacher who is kind and understanding and with all that he’s learning, he’s not bored.

He is his own self at all times; Jamie will be Jamie will be Jamie and I just love that about him. It can be frustrating, yes, when we clash, but in the end, knowing that my kid isn’t going to change to please others makes me happy. I know it will serve him well.

I just love having older kids and the more that Jamie leaves those early, dependent years behind him, the more delight I take in him (and Liam!). Babies are great but kids are AWESOME.

So, Happy Birthday, my dear Jamie! You brighten my days with your bear hugs and your snuggles. Never stop being you because you’re pretty great.

Yes, that's a pink cake. That's what he requested so that's what he got.
Yes, that’s a pink cake. That’s what he requested so that’s what he got.

The Graceling Realm Books: A Review

Over the last few days I’ve spent some time with Kristin Cashore’s Graceling Realm novels. I had previously read both Graceling and Fire but never managed to get to the third book, Bitterblue. I reread the first two novels and finally plowed through the third. Now, I can finally blog about them.

First up, Graceling.


Katsa lives in the seven kingdoms, a niece to the king of the Middluns, and she is a Graceling. Gracelings are known by their eyes – which are two different colors. Every Graceling has a Grace – an ability that transcends both training and talent. Katsa’s Grace is killing and she works as the king’s bully. Graceling is the story of how Katsa frees herself from the chains of the king’s employment, learns the true nature of her Grace, and – along the way – falls in love.

This book is amazing. I devoured it the first time. I devoured it the second time. You want a book with a strong female character? THIS IS ONE. These books are technically YA but they don’t shy away from sex in the same way that most YA does. Yes, there is a love story here but Katsa is not a character who simply stops being a strong person because she falls in love. Instead, SHE decides what it means for her to love someone, what form that relationship should take, and how she wants to live her life.

This is a theme that runs throughout Cashore’s books. Women are strong. Women are capable. Women can CHOOSE how they want to live and who they want to love and what they do with their lives. This is true not just of her main characters but many of her ancillary characters as well.

What I find most gratifying about it is that Cashore doesn’t bash these themes at you with a jackhammer. They’re a simple fact of the world she built. It just is. The main characters may be slightly different than the average bear but they are not thought strange or unwomanly or off their rockers for being who they are. She doesn’t chose the trope of “women are like this, but my character is different.

The next book is Fire.


Fire lives in The Dells. She is what’s known as a monster. She is marked as one by her hair, her beauty, and her powers of thought manipulation. She is the last living human monster and her life is dangerous and difficult. Fire is the story of how Fire finds a place for herself in a world that largely despises her. It is also the origin story for a character in Graceling.

Again, Fire is her own person, choosing to live her life in whatever way she sees fit, no matter the number of men who tell her not to. As the story moves, she learns how she believes her powers should be used and she takes action to use them in justifiable ways. The same themes that permeate Graceling are the underpinning of Fire but with a new cast of characters and a very different story.

I also devoured Fire both times that I read it. It may be my favorite book of the three.

Last, Bitterblue


Bitterblue is the Queen of Monsea, one of the seven kingdoms. She is the daughter of the psychopathic King Leck and her kingdom is still recovering from the ravages of 35 years of King Leck’s rule. Bitterblue is young and sheltered, not truly allowed to see what her kingdom holds, so she begins to sneak out of her castle at night to learn about her people and the history of her father’s reign. Bitterblue is this story; it is the story of how Leck warped a nation and how Bitterblue must fix it.

I liked this book. I did. But it is the weakest of the three. A friend of mine on twitter called this book, “A slow burn with payoff.” She was right. It is a slow burn. And there is payoff. But it was almost hard to get through. The plot didn’t really start picking up until the last third of the book – which was very different from Graceling and Fire.  Cashore could have easily dispensed with 200 pages of text and lost nothing of the plot.

Having only read Bitterblue once, it may improve upon rereading, as many of the threads that took forever to come together may be easier to take when one knows what’s coming. In that sense, Cashore does a good job of conveying Bitterblue’s own confusion – because the reader is pretty confused as well, for long stretches of the book.

This book is also the darkest of the three. There is torture, rape, murder, and suicide in Bitterblue. It is the least YA of the three. I don’t know that I would necessarily keep my kid from reading the book but I’d want them to be a bit older before they do.

While I have my problems with the pacing of the book, the story is good and the themes that ran through the first two novels are also present here. It was a satisfying way to tie all the books together. They are not a trilogy in the traditional sense but they are companions to one another, each building on the last. As much as Bitterblue took a good while to get moving, it is still a necessary piece of the whole. I don’t think the series would be complete without it.

If you’re looking for good YA fiction, something with strong characters, strong women, and good stories, check these out. Both Graceling and Fire can stand alone – they are full and complete stories in and of themselves. Bitterblue is much less so. Without reading the first two, Bitterblue would make no sense at all. So, if you’re hesitant about having a younger reader try these books, it’s possible to hold off on Bitterblue without leaving the story hanging off a precipice.

Listen To Your Mother: Mattie’s House of Wangs

Back when I set my goals for 2016, I said that the easiest goal for me to meet would be auditioning for Listen To Your Mother. And audition I did, on January 24th. It went really well, I thought. The ladies who run the Pittsburgh show liked my piece and laughed in all the right places.

Having met my goal, I was satisfied; getting cast would be a bonus. I had to wait a few weeks to find out if I would be cast in this year’s show. It turns how that I did not get cast – and that’s okay! They can only choose so many essays and I know they had a lot of people audition. It’s possible that my essay just wasn’t the right tone for what they were looking for or was too similar to something else they wanted to put in the show.

Whatever their reasons, it’s okay with me. I will still be at this year’s show to hear all the stories they do cast – and probably laugh and cry and laugh-cry.

So, without further ado, here is the piece that I wrote for my audition. I give you, Mattie’s House of Wangs.


I was born the second of two daughters.  This line of daughters in my family goes back generations. My great-grandmother, Nana, had a daughter, my Mormor. My Mormor had two daughters, my Mom and my Aunt. My Aunt has two daughters. My mother has two daughters. My sister has two daughters.

And then there is me: the mother of two sons. Always bucking trends – that’s me.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I imagined – no, I assumed – that I was having a girl. After all, that’s just what the women in my family did; we carried on the Matriarchy. It came as something of a shock when I learned at my ultrasound that I was gestating a boy.

I was growing a penis inside me. How weird was that?

But when that boy, my son Liam, was finally born, I knew it was perfect. It was just how it was supposed to be. My son.

We waited four years before expanding our family. In those years I had plenty of people tell me “Oh, a girl comes next!”

But I knew better. I knew what was coming.

So when I was pregnant with my second child, it was merely confirmation when the ultrasound tech told me I was growing a second penis.

Two boys. Brothers. “What could be better?” I thought.

There were some who assumed I would be upset or somehow unfulfilled to raise another boy. While in the hospital after delivering Jamie, my second son, I had a nurse on the maternity ward say in a very perky fashion, “Next time, you’ll try for a girl!”

People. I still had stitches in my lady business.  The very last thing I wanted  was to have my husband “try” for a girl.

And I knew we wouldn’t. Two was always what we planned and always what we wanted. Two was it. We were done. We made sure of that. *snip snip*

I was a stay at home mother for a decade. It was the right choice for our family and I’m grateful I was able to do it. But it can be an isolating experience when the only conversation you get for most of the day is in regards to which mouseketool Toodles should hand over to Mickey. Social media was my sanity’s savior and Twitter my chosen platform – where I go by the handle @mattieflap – a short form of the nonsense name Matilda Flapweezer.

In my decade at home, I found that raising boys is so, so different from raising girls. And while I know I would have loved any potential daughters I had and raised them to be strong, smart, independent women – just like their ancestors – there is something special about being a mother to sons.

Sometimes, though, sometimes I realize that I live in a house surrounded by wangs, the lone vagina in a sea of penises. And when I have those realizations I inevitably take to Twitter and use my favorite hashtag:

Mattie’s House of Wangs.

“Jamie just proclaimed his penis to be a pee gun,” I tweeted. “Welcome to Mattie’s House of Wangs.” And so the hashtag was born.

On another day I tweeted: “Thing I just said: Jamie did you just put your penis in your brother’s face?”

“Woke up from a nap. Greeted by toy fart gun.”


Overheard from the next room: “Jamie, I’d appreciate it if you kept your penis off my knee.”

“Liam got a stuffed dachsund the other day, complete with puppy. He named them both ‘wiener’ because they are wiener dogs. This has led to sentences like the following escaping my mouth: ‘So, did you play with Wieners at school today?’”

During the potty training phase, when Jamie was without pants most of the time, I once tweeted “Thing I just had to tell my son: We do not sit on Mommy’s lap and play with our penis. We just don’t.”

“Me: Jamie, start putting your clothes on. Jamie: start putting my penis on! *plays with junk*’”

On another day, “Jamie caught his penis in his zipper. He wants me to kiss it and make it better.”

Perhaps my crowning achievement to date was the day I tweeted “Because of Jamie’s speech problems, trying to get him to pronounce the ‘c’s’ in ‘chocolate’ means I’m basically teaching my kid to say ‘clit.’”

I wouldn’t trade my boys for anything, if only because of the hilarity they bring to my life. I was meant to be a boy mama. Maybe it’s really because I come from that long line of matriarchs; my job is to raise my boys to respect and honor women – or else.

When I tuck Liam in at night, I tell him “I love you” and he responds “I love you more” and I say “Just not possible, kiddo.”  It happens almost every night. When I’m hanging out at home with Jamie, he will inevitably run into the room I’m in just to claim a hug and a kiss. It is at these moments that I know that Mattie’s House of Wangs is my favorite place to be.

Dear Sarah Koenig

Disclaimer: If you haven’t listened to the first season of Serial, this is going to make no sense to you. If you have, read on.

Like millions of others around the world, I was fascinated with the case of Adnan Syed presented via the podcast Serial. I found Sarah Koenig’s investigation compelling and Adnan’s story even more so. When Serial ended, I was in the “innocent” camp and felt that, even if you thought Adnan was guilty, it was clear he did not receive a fair trial.

So, this week, Adnan has been in court for a Post Conviction Relief hearing. He’s been presenting witnesses that cover two topics: 1) Ineffective assistance of counsel, as evidenced by the failure of his lawyer to contact an alibi witness; and 2) the fact that cell data used to place Syed at the crime was interpreted incorrectly. The aim is to have his previous conviction vacated and be given a new trial.

Sarah has been attending this hearing and then releasing short updates of the podcast after each day’s testimony. And I have to say…

Sarah Koenig is a terrible reporter.

In the year since Serial debuted, there have been huge developments in the case. The Undisclosed podcast spent hours on the nitty-gritty of the case, uncovering misconduct from the cops to the prosecutor. I don’t know if Sarah has her nose out of joint that someone picked up the story where she left off, but it’s clear she hasn’t listened to that information or done even cursory research into what the actual issues are at this hearing. So, she’s been putting out these updates and focusing on tiny bullshit things that don’t matter right now and then being all “I don’t know, man! This could be bad for Adnan!”

Every other story on the case is covering the fact that the defense is destroying the state’s case, one witness at a time.

Asia McClain

Asia saw Adnan at the time the State claims the murder was committed. She said this 17 years ago. She says this today. Her story hasn’t changed. The defense attempted to have her testify at the original PCR hearing and the prosecutor persuaded her not to. Not so, this time.

But what does Sarah focus on? She focuses on the fact that Asia says it snowed on 1/13/99 and that cancelled school for the next two days thus fixing in Asia’s memory which day it was that she saw Adnan. But the weather records say it was an ICE storm that blew in that night, not snow. So maybe Asia is lying?

This is what Sarah gets stuck on. Really? What a fucking nitwit. Whether there was snow or ice that day has no bearing on the issue at hand which is whether Cristina Gutierrez ever contacted Asia regarding this alibi. Gutierrez didn’t. She categorically did not. No one, not even the State, disputes that. What the State is arguing is that it was a strategic decision on Gutierrez’s part to exclude Asia. Except that strategy can’t be formed without facts and you can’t make those decisions without talking to witnesses – and Gutierrez never talked to Asia.

That’s the whole ballgame, right there. Other defendants in other cases have been granted new trials on that basis alone.

But Sarah is hung up on the word snow?

Asia was 17 years old in 1999. She is not going to give a shit if it was ice or snow. What she’s going to give a shit about is the fact that school was cancelled for two days due to bad weather. On this point, she has never wavered. School was indeed closed on 1/14/99 and 1/15/99 because of bad weather. So Asia has her memory on straight. And quibbling about the weather conditions can happen at a new trial, the PCR hearing is for establishing the fact that Gutierrez never spoke to Asia.

The good news is that, according to all reports, Asia did well on the stand. The defense put on several other witnesses that supported Asia’s testimony and all attempts by the State to impeach Asia’s testimony fell completely flat.

The Cell Phone Evidence

This part is dry and so, so boring. In short, two calls supposedly place Adnan at the burial site when Jay Wilds claims they were burying the body. This is based on which cell towers were “pinged” when the calls came in.

There’s a problem though. All of the cell records came with a fax cover sheet that stated clearly that incoming calls were unreliable for location data. Only OUTGOING calls could be use to place someone in a general area. The two calls in question here were INCOMING calls and thus, according to AT&T in 1999, unreliable indicators of phone location.

Except that’s not how the state expert testified at trial. Because the State HID this information from the expert before he did his analysis of the cell data. When made aware of this cover sheet, the cell expert wrote an affidavit RECANTING key parts of his trial testimony.

Now, first of all, Sarah Koenig COMPLETELY MISSED this piece of key information whilst doing her so-called in-depth investigation of the case. She has always found those two calls pretty damning for Adnan. And when this started to come to light – months and months ago – she said NOTHING. It was like she was embarrassed for missing such an important piece of the puzzle. (As she should be.) So now, she really doesn’t want to admit that she was wrong.

The defense put on a witness that basically laid all of this out, laid out how the records SHOULD have been interpreted, and why. After that expert’s testimony, Sarah’s update was still very clearly “I don’t know, man. The State has something up its sleeve.”

So the State brings on its expert on this – a guy in the FBI. And he says the opposite of the defense expert. Says, nope, you’re supposed to interpret the data this way, not that way. The original expert at trial was right. It all worked out okay in the end, no harm, no foul with the cover sheet.

And Sarah buys it, hook, line, and sinker. Swallows it like a goddamn guppy. Sends out her podcast update that basically says, “Yep, State expert says the records are accurate.”

Drop mic.

Except totally not. Because the defense began their cross examination of this witness on Friday and made mincemeat of the guy. Without getting too technical, the defense lawyer basically said, “Ok, if we interpret the records the way you say we should, look at these two calls on 1/16/99. One pings in Baltimore. The other in Washington, DC. The calls are 27 min apart. So, if the data is accurate for location, did the defendant have a helicopter in order to get between those two places in 27 minutes?”

And here’s the thing – back in ’99 cell phones didn’t have GPS in them. So, in order to locate someone geographically on a cell phone you had to triangulate them. That is NOT was cell data records do. All they do is show what tower was pinged where for a particular call. And what THAT does is say “Okay, that person is on the East Coast, not Hawaii.” It doesn’t give you any real specificity on location because calls can switch between towers based on 100 different factors.

And that’s for outgoing call only. For incoming calls, sometimes the tower pinged as listed on the cell data is the tower the CALLER’S phone used, not the receiver. And so, Adnan receiving two calls that pinged off the Leakin Park tower is a giant load of BIG WHOOP because that could have been the caller’s phone. It doesn’t prove anything. (There is a lot of other evidence that makes it clear that Hae Min Lee was not buried in the 7:00 pm hour, which also makes these calls immaterial. But that’s evidence for a new trial.)

The defense didn’t get to finish its cross of the State’s expert because they ran out of time on Friday and the hearing will continue into next week. And Sarah, poor lamb, can’t be there. AND THANK GOD FOR THAT. Because she’s done a terrible job of representing what’s really happening in the courtroom.

What’s really happening is essentially a mini-trial. The judge is giving the prosecutor a shit-ton of leeway in his cross-examination questions – far more than is typical – and the defense is taking apart the State’s argument brick by brick. I am hoping that when the hearing is concluded and the judge makes his ruling (the ruling could take weeks to appear), Adnan will get a new trial. And at that time, I’m hoping the State realizes they don’t have any evidence with which to actually convict again.

You would never know it if you listened to Sarah Koenig.

So, Sarah? Stick to your dry, factual, boring exploration of Bowe Bergdahl and stay out of this case. It is fucking bullshit that you would podcast about this when it’s clear you don’t have any real idea of what is going on in the case.