Sample chapter from my “The Rossi Murder,” which MS is nearing completion and looking for a publisher




Redwood City California - 1887

Redwood City, California at the corner of Main and Broadway streets, 1887

More will be said about both Mr. Strode and Mr. Wilson and their affidavits in the chapter following this one, when we examine Rossi’s defense team’s vigorous responses to Hull’s change-of-venue request.  For the moment, however, I want to take a brief look at the question of whether Hull’s change of venue (COV) request raised the possibility of a constitutional challenge from Rossi’s defense team.  COV applications, after all, are usually associated with the defense, not the prosecution, in trials where considerable public attention has accumulated.  Such motions are typically sought when the defense worries that pre-trial publicity has biased the jury pool strongly against its prospects.  Hull’s COV application, sparked by his belief that Shoshone County’s jury pool was strongly and irrevocably biased in favor of the defendant, ran counter the customary polarity. 

The short answer is that Rossi’s defense team probably saw little possibility of success in a constitutional challenge.  The U.S. Constitution does not guarantee a defendant an absolute right to a trial held in the county in which the alleged crime occurred.  The Sixth Amendment in the Bill of Rights asserts only that the accused “…shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed…” (emphasis added).  The term “district” therein refers to federal court districts.  With the exception of two original states (Massachusetts and Virginia), which were divided into two districts each,[1] such districts at the time were co-extensive with state borders.[2]  Hence, the Sixth’s wording effectively guaranteed that the accused’s trial stayed within the broad confines of the same state only.[3]   Continue reading

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About That “150” Patch

by Ron Roizen

150 patch

NCAA football’s commemorative “150” patch

When does something “begin,” anyway?

NCAA football is celebrating its 150th anniversary this season, marking the occasion with a “150” patch worn, collarbone-high, on uniform jerseys.[1]  By implication, the patch recalls an inaugural contest and an exemplar of the sport – in this case a contest staged between teams representing Rutgers and Princeton on Saturday, November 6, 1869.  The game began at 3 p.m. at the commons between College Ave. and Sicard St. on the Rutgers’ campus in New Brunswick, NJ – now the site of a big gym and a big parking lot.  Yet the game shared very, very little with today’s American football.  Wikipedia’s page for the contest notes that it resembled soccer more than today’s sport.  Even the NCAA’s commemorative page for the game concedes that this contest, and the rematch that followed seven days later at Princeton, “looked nothing like what we see Saturdays these days.”[2]

About 100 supporters gathered around the field on that autumn afternoon.  Each team comprised 25 players.  The game’s spherical ball could not be carried or thrown, only forcefully kicked or “dribbled” forward by foot, soccer-style, or batted by the hand or by other means.  There were vertical goalposts at either end of the field but no crossbars.  The goal of play was to kick the ball through the goalposts, thus scoring a single point.  The first team to accumulate six points won.  Following a kickoff, the team with the ball formed a protective shield around the player footing the ball forward.  Defensive players tried to penetrate the shield and, on regaining the ball, formed their own defensive shield.  A score initiated a new “game” or “inning,” with a new kickoff.  Continue reading

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Watching Ken Burns’ “Country Music” Documentary on PBS, So Far

by Ron Roizen

Carter Family

The Carter Family

Mr. Burns’ new documentary, “Country Music,” has aired on PBS TV over the past three evenings, each installment running a full two hours.  Five more installments are still to air.  Last night’s (on Sept. 17th) dealt with a period up to the early 1950s, ending with the premature death of Hank Williams, at age 29, on January 1, 1953.  I’m thoroughly taken in by the program so far.  One of its little surprises for me has been the familiarity of many of the compositions the show recalls and celebrates.  I didn’t expect that because I’m not what you’d call a true devotee of country music, although over the years I’ve certainly put in my time listening to, say, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton.  Another surprise has been the poetry lodged in – like a secret in plain sight – the lyrics of many country songs.

My own modest familiarity with C&W music came down to me via two main routes.  The first was my father.  He used to love singing C&W favorites on the long weekend drives he’d take our family on.  Incidentally, watching the Burns’ series has newly acquainted me with how many of my father’s favorites were Hank Williams’ songs.  But he was an unlikely C&W fan.  He said he’d learned to love C&W while test-flying Helldiver planes fresh from the production line during World War Two.  Tests were flown out of Montreal but there was a C&W radio station in Virginia, he said, with a very powerful signal that could be used to zero the plane’s compass.  Once locked in, he just let the music play on. Continue reading

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Centennial of Mother’s, Grandmother’s, & Great Grandmother’s Birth, 9/9/1919

Mom - cropped

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Gisela “Doris” (Holl) Roizen, born September 9, 1919 at Cologne, Germany.  She passed away on May 5, 2006, here in North Idaho.  Her life left only the barest traces of documentation in the usual sources —,, etc.  One item I found just this morning is a manifest showing her travel by ship from Antwerp to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada — from the Old World to the New — in October, 1931.  She, age 12, sailed with her mother, Anna, 38; her brother, Hans Joachim (Fred), 9; sister, Susanne, 6; and brother, Manfred, 3.  Their ship was the S.S. Lapland, which, according to Wikipedia, was nearing the end of its oceanic service by 1931.  Tough times lay ahead for the family, of course, including the continuing Great Depression and World War II.  However slight her documentary record, she was responsible for the creation of a not inconsiderable flock of descendants.  We pause to note this anniversary of her birth today.

Holl Family leaves Europe - 1931 - cropped.jpg

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A Poem for the Late Judy Asplund


I have the most vivid memory of you, Judy.

I see you smiling, seemingly saturated with a kind of joy

the rest of us can only envy.

You’re seated, head cocked a little, replying silently with your eyes and smile,

to some passing, inconsequential thing.

I would have asked you out at some point.

I was a senior; you, a year below.

But, and in the hierarchy of high school dating’s possibilities,

I saw you as at least two or three rungs out of my range.

But I want to convey my feelings now,

albeit too late, of course.

Judy, you were a kind of beacon.

A light source. 

What I would imagine pure human spirit to feel like

were I in its presence.

So much so that when I heard you’d died

(by chance, I was driving down one of the depressing stretches of 101,

Between S.F. and Palo Alto)

I felt my own spirit suddenly dim.

The shock of it was

that it just seemed your spirit couldn’t be extinguished,

not, at least, before everyone else’s in our generation had flickered out.

Yours was too strong, too incandescent, too warm.

Even so many, many years after,

the feeling was palpable, visceral, and sad as can be. 


– Ron Roizen                                                     




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The Rejection of Omphalos: A Note on Shifts in the Intellectual Hierarchy of Mid-Nineteenth Century Britain

Note:  This old chestnut used to be available on the web.  But now I see that it’s disappeared there.  I’m hoping no one will mind that I re-present it here at my blog, on this bright Easter morning.  (Citation:  Ron Roizen, [title], Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 21:365-369, 1982).

Creation of Adam.jpg

Omphalos (which is Greek for navel) is the title of an ill-fated book published in Great Britain in 1857–in the period just preceding the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859.  The book presented Philip Henry Gosse’s attempt to resolve one of the great contradictions bedeviling naturalists of his day, namely, the apparent disagreement between the enormous age of the earth suggested by the geological record and the comparatively much shorter six-thousand-year age suggested by the book of Genesis.1  Gosse proposed an ingenious and thought-provoking theory, a theory that seemed (to him at least) to resolve the great contradiction and at the same time to leave geology and Genesis intact.  But Omphalos was very badly received, and Gosse’s theory mercilessly rejected.  Some years later, on the occasion of Gosse’s death, an obituary writer in Nature would suggest that “perhaps no work since Vestiges of Creation was received with a greater tempest of adverse criticism….Neither Gosse’s friends nor foes seemed to have any appreciation for it.”2  As might be guessed. the book has been almost completely ignored and forgotten in our own century.  In this brief essay I would like to consider some of the reasons for this rejection.  My hunch is that the rejection of Omphalos provides us with an intriguing window on the shifting intellectual priorities and matrix of values in the mid-nineteenth century.

First, it is necessary briefly to examine the essence of the theory Gosse advanced.  Fortunately, this is easily accomplished merely by considering a little thought experiment.  Suppose that Adam in the Garden of Eden, was sitting next to a big pine tree twenty minutes after his own creation.  Suppose he took a saw and cut the tree down, and then examined the stump:  Would it have tree rings?  Being a big tree, it would be expected to.  On the other hand, tree rings accumulate year by year as trees grow, and this tree had been created less than a week before.  Gosse pondered the problem and he came to the conclusion that, yes, the tree would have to have rings.  In fact, he argued that any and all living things show the marks of past development as a matter of course and in many different ways.  Martin Gardner wrote of Gosse’s case: Continue reading

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Notable WildWords Moment

WildWords record game 031419 Tahoe - cropped left

In one sense the third game of our three-game match was a disappointment.  I got almost all the good trays and Peter got garbage trays.  And yet that same luck-of-the-draw led to a personal best score for me — a remarkable total of 683 points.  This may be a WildWords family record.  The game was played on Thursday, March 14, 2019 at Peter & Sonja’s place at Tahoe Keys.  The combined score, if memory serves, was 1,162, which also may be a family record.  My own favorite play in the game was “EXTRATERRESTRIALS” (upper right, horizontal), which play used seven natural letters in my tray (i.e., I had no asterisk tiles and I did not use turn-to-wild squares in this play either).  The third-game win gave me the victory in the match of course.  But that win was more or less meaningless given the unfortunate distribution of good trays.  WildWords, even so, is and remains a great game.

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