27 May 2005

it's not just a fro, it's a nature preserve... Posted by Hello

I heard today on the radio that Beyonce entertained at a Bar Mitzvah for some really rich guy's 13 year old son, all for the bargain price of just $2.2 million.

Honestly, I know nothing about Bar Mitzvah, other than that they mark the passage into adulthood and that when it happens for a girl it's called a Bat Mitzvah. So I decided to look for some info on what exactly is done at one of these events, and found this:

"The meal is often accompanied by speeches from friends and relatives who encourage the bar or bat mitzvah to undertake their new role as a full-fledged Jewish adult with joy, and to strive to add spirituality to their lives."

Huh. I guess having 200 of your closest friends around and hearing Beyonce perform Bootylicious and Naughty Girrl fits the bill.

The same site describing Bar Mitzvahs (is that the proper plural) had some interesting stuff on becoming an adult, which goes well with what Jeremy was talking about on his blog:

"When boys and girls become bar and bat mitzvah, they reach a new stage of development in their lives and start thinking about the kind of people they want to be. At puberty a person no longer lives in the fantasy world of childhood and can begin to make a realistic appraisal of their world. This is the time when their moral awareness and sensitivity fully develops, enabling them to take complete responsibility for their actions. According to Jewish tradition, it is at this point that they are deemed ready to channel their inclination to do good and overcome their natural tendencies to put their own needs before those of others. On a deeper level, just as their bodies are growing and changing in a new way, so too their souls are growing and changing. The Kabbalistic tradition tells us that a person's spiritual being has several levels of soul. A new level of soul called neshamah comes into awareness at bar or bat mitzvah time. This level is what gives a person the ability to make conscious, rational decisions."

Interesting take on the whole adulthood thing. I'm not sure if I totally agree with it, but maybe I'll post some of my own thoughts about it later. But right now, I have to see about how to get my hands on $2.2 million dollars by my birthday. See you in two months, Ms. Knowles :)

Break open the champagne!

My sister has finally (re)started her blog. I think it's going to be awesome, of course. I have a permanent link to it on the right....no, your other right. Yeah, there -->

26 May 2005

Putting on my critic's hat for a moment...

After years of watching TV, I’ve realized that good season finales—the kind that actually live up to the word “finale”—are few and far between. Of course, I’m segregating here between scripted shows and reality shows. Most reality shows are designed to build toward a finish. Someone becomes the Survivor, or the Apprentice, or the next American Idol, or gets the final rose, or whatever. If you have a good editing team, compelling casting, and some creative minds at work behind the scenes, a reality show will naturally have a decent season finale (I’m thinking Amazing Race and Survivor in particular).

With a scripted drama, the task becomes much more difficult. At least, this is what I would guess based on what happens with most shows. There are great pilots everywhere—heck, even Eyes and Blind Justice were sort of catchy this season before dying a horribly boring death. But a lot of shows fall into a rut (or I guess a “groove,” if ratings are high) after a few episodes. The sad thing, however, is that there seems to be this trend in all media toward not caring so much about being formulaic. The CSI and Law & Order franchises are basically procedural dramas that, ironically, follow their own set procedure. They’re designed to be bite-sized. Everyone can be replaced, basically. Honestly, who would really miss William Peterson from CSI? I’m sure any number of character actors could handle that role.

Season finales, of course, also fall into the abyss. Writers try to do different things to ramp up ratings, which usually means someone will unexpectedly leave, return, have sex, get injured, or die. Or a guest actor is brought in (and we all know how successful that usually is). And this is all entertaining, but it’s so out of context that you couldn’t care if you tried. Besides, you know that any lingering problems will be conveniently fixed, more often than not, in the first five minutes of the next season’s premiere.

A great season finale has to have three things, in my opinion. First, it has to be consistent—whatever happens should feel like it fits in seamlessly with the characters’ motives and personalities. I’d say that this is where most season finales are most likely to fail. Second, it has to resolve something—a few lingering questions should be answered, to keep the audience satisfied that the people writing the show know exactly where it’s going. Viewers don’t like to be kept guessing on every front for more than about 15 episodes, or else it just doesn’t seem realistic. And, finally, it has to leave you hanging. I would also call this the “shock and awe” factor, to borrow a Bushism. Something unexpected needs to happen, something that makes you feel like you’ve been punched in the gut. Something that leaves you thinking, wondering what will happen to your beloved characters next season.

With that in mind, here is my take on four of the big ABC finales, in no particular order:

(1) Desperate Housewives
I’ll admit that I was not one of the faithful devotees of this show. Being a guy in his mid-twenties might have something to do with it, but I think it’s more fundamental than that. I found it sometimes entertaining, but at times a little too over the top and unbelievable. Too often, I think it used hyperbole where subtlety might have worked better. That being said, it was unique, well cast, and really had something for everyone (suspense! romance! scandal!). The writing also seemed to sharpen and become less soapy feeling as the season went along; usually the reverse is true. But the narration by Mary Ellis was consistently nauseating and stuck out like a sore thumb, right until the end. Overall, I’d give the show on the whole a solid B.

The season finale, I’d rate similarly, even though it obviously tried very hard to accomplish a lot. It just was not that fantastic. Revelations were made hastily, in a show where the pace was sometimes numbingly slow. And some of the big surprises were just not that surprising, even for someone, like me, who was not an avid viewer. I found myself having this “okay, so what?” feeling a lot, and that’s not something one should feel during a season finale. So, the episode didn’t feel like it fit the overall show—it felt like too much, like it was somewhat forced. Luckily, it redeemed itself by leaving you hanging not just on one or two threads, but leaving the fate of every major character genuinely up in the air. Because of that, and because I’ve heard that most fans were very satisfied and I feel the need to discount for this, I give the finale a B+.

(2) Grey’s Anatomy
I really enjoyed this mid-season replacement, when I thought I would hate it. The pilot didn’t overwhelm me, but it hooked me enough to make me want to watch more, and I’m glad I did. The regular episodes were surprisingly engaging, and managed to capture the wild vacillations between the good times and the tough times that everyone lives through. I liked the characters; a few of them, I even cared about. The chemistry seems authentic. Even the patients and medical subplots (which I usually find to be distracting in medical shows) fit in like nice puzzle pieces—they served a purpose, or taught a lesson, or just simply helped provide some transitions. Also, Desperate Housewives could take a lesson on how to do a decent voice-over from this show. For finally giving a voice and a setting to the stressful life of twentysomethings diving into the deep end of adulthood, I give this show an A-.

What kept it from earning a straight A were these weird, fluky moments when things just didn’t fit right. It typically happened in the first ten or last ten minutes. Either the music was wrong, or the dialogue felt really contrived, or there wasn’t even an attempt to segue between storylines. Unfortunately, the whole season finale was like this. A really lame running joke about syphilis, a patient with an ovary who it turns out is sterile, students doing an undercover autopsy, and then—gasp!!—the revelation that Mr. Perfect Mystery Man (the one that the main character is engaged in a serious love fest with) is married. Totally not consistent with the rest of the show, and didn’t really leave you feeling a sense of completion or a sense of wondering what might happen next. Ouch. Overall, and I’m being generous because of the shorter season, I give the episode a C+.

(3) Alias
This is the only veteran among the shows I’ve listed. I was definitely feeling it through the first two and a half seasons. All the goodness of the spy underworld (sweet gadgets and nifty get-ups), plus some major family and friends drama (“Francie doesn’t like coffee ice cream” still gives me chills to this day—if you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch the season two finale), and the undeniably likable Jennifer Garner (to be fair, others in the cast are great, too). But then this Rambaldi plot line started to bleed through more and more, and the show became increasingly inaccessible. I’ll admit that season three witnessed some growing pains, and that I kind of lost touch with my weekly viewing of it. And, despite a really fun season premiere, this season felt sort of uneven, too. Especially this one weird episode with a vampire undercurrent. O-kaaayyyy. But it improved toward the final episodes. Lena Olin returned (thank you!) as the imperious and enigmatic matriarch. More of the family drama stuff came back in, and there were fewer missions that left you really questioning what the point was of getting whatever device or serum was the flavor-of-the-week. Thankfully, Alias seemed to get most of that Rambaldi stuff out of its system, and I’m hopeful that next season will return more to the roots of the show. But still, this season felt for the most part like something only a loyal fan would be willing to get through, at least until the last few episodes, so I give the season (not the show) a B- with a prediction for a much-improved next season.

Now, the season finale presents a difficult problem. It was definitely consistent with the show, and it was definitely among the best two or three episodes of the season (maybe the best, I’ll have to wait for DVD to decide). However, the heart-pounding factor wasn’t quite as high as it could have been. I never bought into the giant red ball of death. But to the extent I could overlook the big conclusion of the Rambaldi prophecies, which was kind of “eh” after building over too many seasons, it was a fun, intriguing ride. And, a lot of stuff was satisfyingly resolved. In a lot of ways, it felt like the writers were trying to return us in a very natural progression to where we were midway through season two, with some juicy Mommy and Daddy issues firmly established and the partial redemption of an arch villain. But with fifty-eight minutes of the show elapsed, there was no big “wow” moment yet, and I was leaning toward giving the episode a satisfying B+. Then, the big “wow” finally arrived, at it was really, really well-done. Thank God that J.J. Abrams has figured out how to make our jaw drops. I refuse to do a spoiler here, but let’s just say that the “First of all, my name isn’t Michael Vaughn” line is right up there with the coffee ice cream comment, and that the last ten seconds provided as good a hook as any I’ve seen in years. Awesome. For the last scene alone, I bump up the finale to a solid A.

(4) Lost
So I lied earlier when I said that this list had no particular order—I clearly saved the best for last. At the outset, I should point out that I have never liked shipwreck or plane crash stories. Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, Lost in Space, and Cast Away just never hit me the way they did other people. But this show—this show is something special. I came really close to crying during one of the episodes (and I never do that). There’s the episode where Charlie gets over his drug addiction. There’s the episode where Boone dies. There’s the episode where we get the surprising back story on the Korean couple. The flashback technique doesn’t work often, but here it functioned perfectly and effortlessly. In fact, it made the show. That, along with good writing, solid acting, a clever understated soundtrack, and excellent pacing. Of course, this was J.J. Abrams, so there was plenty of mystery and suspense and oddity. Polar bears, unseen monsters, “the others,” a crazy French woman, this big white pod with a hatch that can’t be opened, a boy with potential psychic ability, etc. And even the staple of all trapped-on-an-island shows: raft building. But, miraculously, it all made sense, because there was such a strong, underlying current of humanity and emotion. Like I said, it almost made me cry a couple times. It wasn’t quite television perfection, but the first season of Lost ranks among the top three single seasons of any TV show in any genre that I’ve ever seen. Simply beautiful: A.

The season finale had a lot to live up to, therefore. My expectations were really high, especially since the last episode was a “Special Two Hour Event.” There were just a couple moments that I didn’t love. The flashback on Hurley’s attempts to catch the plane was a little overextended, despite providing needed levity. And the guy who literally blew up in the first ten minutes could have blown up a little sooner, in my opinion. But this is nitpicking. Overall, my expectations were met and surpassed. The last twenty minutes were especially sublime. A swell of hope followed immediately by a crushing defeat. The end of one mystery but the beginning of a potentially much bigger one. And my favorite moment: an extended montage—without words—that in a few minutes managed to bring an entire season of emotions full circle. A creative team that can make you care that much in one season about that many characters, especially in television, deserves high praise. As a stand-alone episode, I might give it just an A, but for being a true season finale to an already-outstanding show, it gets an A+.

Advice for your summer working at a law job

Just sent the following to a 1L who is a summer clerk right now and was seeking advice, and I thought it was worth sharing with anyone out there who happens to be spending the summer in a law-related job:


I spent my first summer being a teaching/research assistant and taking classes, so I can�t say that I�ve had the same experience you�re having. But after getting some insight into how judges think, and how professors think, and spending a lot of time talking with my friends who have been summer clerks and summer associates, I can definitely think of a few things that might help you maximize your summer experience. A lot of the time, you will feel off balance, but maybe keeping the five things below in mind as sort of general goals will help you get your footing. It�s the approach I�ve taken to anything career-related, and those among my friends who have read it�and who have been through the summer clerk experience�give it a thumbs-up. Here goes:


(1) Hone your writing skills. Sure, it sounds redundant at this point, but you�ll be doing a ton of memos, court documents, and, maybe, drafts of briefs over the next several weeks. Summers are probably the one time during law school that you churn out a lot of work product consistently, so take advantage of it. Your writing ability basically decides what kind of doors open up for you during and after law school. Honestly, the one complaint I�ve heard from Judges and professors and some of the better lawyers is that most lawyers are too verbose. They think in terms of quantity�probably part of the �more is better� mentality from doing billable hours�and forget how to use plain language because they�re surrounded by other lawyers. As a result, some judges are known to actually rip off the last 20 pages of briefs from lawyers who they know are wordy (seriously). My first year legal writing professor gave me some great advice that actually works (how often does that happen?): every time you write something, reduce it by about ten percent, while keeping the same quality of content. If it�s long, take off at least a page. If it�s short, reduce it by a half page. You get the idea. After just a couple months of doing this, you�ll be surprised by the results.


(2) Learn to live without Lexis and Westlaw. Yes, it is possible, and the withdrawal symptoms are minimal. Maybe you�re at one of the bigger firms that pay tens of thousands of dollars for a use-it-all-you-want plan. And maybe you�ll get to work at one of these in the future, too. But, honestly, relying on the electronic databases can render even the most skillful of researchers surprisingly inefficient. Learn to use them only when absolutely necessary. Libraries�the real kind, with neat things like books�are really useful, and even the smallest firms have the necessities (state statutes and case reporters, civil procedure guides, etc.). The free internet�Google, Findlaw, a lot of government sites, and law journal websites, for example�is also really useful. Most importantly, people are perhaps the best research tool around, and you get the added benefit of building connections, which leads to the next tip�.


(3) Make connections, but let it be natural. Some people I know would balk at this advice. They seem to think that getting (or giving) the most business cards is a sport, and a very competitive one. I think this is a really bad tactic. Firms have their own social structure and hierarchy that you will learn to navigate, but at the same time they�re basically comprised of lots of different types of people. Lawyers come in all shapes and sizes, and you simply can�t click with all of them. Trying to be friends with someone with whom you obviously will never have a great relationship is pointless, and it�s more beneficial (and more fun) to focus your energy on building something really solid with a handful of people. These are the connections that yield letters of recommendation that are actually sincere and useful. These are also the connections that help you figure out what kind of lawyer you want to be, both in terms of practice area and in terms of your quality of life. As for everyone else, just be nice and polite and make a good impression. Lawyers are in the business of reading people, and they can smell it from a mile away when a law student is trying too hard.


(4) Don�t be afraid to ask. Of course, I could talk for several sentences about the importance of asking questions and how to properly go about it (because while there are few dumb questions, there are a lot of dumb ways to ask questions�like catching an associate after he�s come out of a bad meeting with the partner from hell). But, I think that discerning who, when and how to ask questions is just something learned from work experience, and it gets built into your on-the-job instincts. What I mean, instead, is not being afraid to ask for what you want. Remember that this is your summer, too, and that you are supposed to be enjoying it. If you would really like to do more X and Y, and you�ve been stuck with A, B, and C for weeks, then ask if that�s possible. Of course, be very tactful about it. Don�t complain about what you�ve been doing, don�t try to get out of something you�ve been assigned already, and don�t wait until the busiest day of the week to mention it. Basically, approach it like a lesser version of asking for a raise. Lawyers are sometimes so busy that they simply forget about the summer workers, and you can get stuck in a routine of basically clerical tasks very quickly.


(5) Do not, under any circumstances, let yourself become a grunt. No one wants to be a grunt, but it�s very easy for this to happen. Your supervising associate wants an order drafted in two days, the head secretary wants you to work on filing, and another associate runs into you and drops a memo in your lap due by Friday. And then there�s that meeting you need to sit in on this afternoon. And that trial you get to attend tomorrow morning. And that client interview the next day that you haven�t prepared for. These are all great experiences, and if you can handle a really full plate and still produce quality work, then more power to you. The funny thing is that when you�re being given stuff to do, it seems like the different people in the office don�t know what anyone else has already given you. As a clerk, you feel obliged to jump at every opportunity and agree to do whatever is asked of you, regardless of how much you already have on your schedule. But as soon as you drop the ball on one task (the memo with �no conclusion, and no real analysis,� the botched interview where you called the client the wrong name, the missed deadline), instantly the whole office knows about it, and you have to now work to rebuild your reputation. Obviously, don�t simply say �no� to a partner or your supervisor, but don�t let yourself be bootstrapped to unrealistic deadlines. Sometimes, it�s as simple as saying �could that deadline be moved two days? I�m working on something for random attorney down the hall�� It shows you�re on top of things, that you know how to prioritize. And it�s a lot better than coming in the day before something is due and asking for an extension.



23 May 2005

The Job: Day Six

Savvy readers will notice I skipped Day Five. This is because the only thing to note from Day Five is that Fridays are Casual Fridays, which I didn't know. Luckily, I opted for dress khakis and--because I'm creative--a blue shirt.

Today started with me finally settling on the calculation I would use (there are just about a million conceivable ways to arrive at an answer and still technically be within the ambit of the doctrine being applied). The best analogy I can think of is to imagine a porterhouse steak, and imagine that the restaurant has always charged $25 for it (I'm doing some Midwestern lowballing here). Now, the resturant decides to sell the strip cut and the filet mignon separately. The filet costs $20. But the strip by itself still costs $25! So the restaurant is getting a lot more just by splitting up the original steak. Doesn't seem right, does it? Now, one of the patrons who ordered the strip cut wants a reduction. The restaurant's position is basically that the strip should still cost about $23.50, because the filet was really not worth that much to the porterhouse cut. After you get a shovel and some boots, you explain that this doesn't make sense, because you're valuing the filet at way more than $1.50 on your own menu! The restaurant says that it isn't the actual cut of meat that's worth $20, it's everything that comes with the filet, and the special preparations done when the filet is served solo. Of course, the restaurant has no record of what the filet was worth back when it was serving the whole porterhouse. Stupid restaurant. The only numbers it has are what it's charging after the porterhouse was split up into the filet and the strip. Fortunately, it does have a record of what the sides and special preparations are worth, too (even though it didn't reveal this until you asked). As it turns out, the filet itself is worth $15, and the strip itself without all the fixins' is worth $20. So, in total, they're worth $35 currently, with the strip part worth 4/7 of this ($20/$35). Naturally, then, we must conclude that the strip steak is actually worth $25 times 4/7, or about $14. And this is what the patron should have to pay, because losing the filet portion clearly should have reduced the value by something. Right? RIGHT?!

I'm sure I went mad at some point....

In that most excellent frame of mind, and after once more skimming over the record, making sure my calculations per the above technique were right (of course, with a lot of extra complications and hurdles--the above is a major oversimplification), and chewing on a lot of Bic pens (one would think that I'm knocking a smoking habit the way I chew on pens and pencils), I finally felt confident that I could hammer out ye olde decision. It was surreal actually writing it, realizing that with a few alterations (hopefully, the Judge will change some things, just to put my mind at ease), this would be the real deal. Yeesh! But in three short hours (the afternoon really flies when you're actually producing something as opposed to just reading and taking notes, imagine that), it was finished. Well, relatively finished.

The problem is, I just have this gut feeling that I'm doing something fundamentally wrong in my calculations. Maybe it's the pressure of knowing that a lot of real money is involved. Maybe it's that voice of insecurity in my head that's always saying stuff like "are you sure you turned off the burner?" Maybe it's that I really, really (really) want to be affirmed on the inevitable appeal. Whatever it is, the result is that I'm sitting here with the numbers running through my head, wondering....(and thinking about how much I could really go for a nice medium porterhouse right about now. Mmmmmm, porterhouse.....)

22 May 2005

Is it possible for a guy to have paternal instincts? I guess it makes sense, right? Women have maternal instincts, talk about their biological clocks all the time, make this huge thing about getting married in time to have kids. It's understandable. They're on a time clock; guys clearly are not--a septuagenarian can still father a child, even if it's not the most responsible thing to do. Then again, having children shouldn't be a totally pragmatic consideration.

Today, I think some kind of paternal instinct kicked in for me. I was at Mass at the Cathedral, and the couple in the pew ahead of me had this little boy, probably not even two years old, and he had strawberry-blonde hair. He was the very quiet and curious type, looking around at everything, pointing, trying to name things with words that probably made perfect sense to him, even if they came out sounding like some language that only another two year old would get. I mean, who says a stained glass window shouldn't be called a "dlingit"? You could tell that in a couple months or less, he'll start saying things like Mom and Dad and ball and juice. So, of course I was fascinated with watching this. But then he turns around and looks right at me, and reaches out his impossibly tiny hand for mine, which was only a couple inches away because I had my feet up on the kneeler and my hands were on my knees. A couple years ago, this probably would have made me feel totally awkward, like one of those "what am i supposed to do?" moments. But today, I let him grab my hand. And then he wanted to grab the other one, and then try it with his other hand. The whole time, he's just looking at me and smiling and completely quiet. And I'm smiling back, and raising my eyebrows, and probably looking really goofy, because I've seen when my Dad did that with other people's kids, and I always thought he looked goofy. But really happy at the same time, like he was remembering what it was like when he was a new father.

Now, I've been around babies and toddlers before, but for some reason the thought that kept running through my head this morning was that could be my son. It just kept popping back into my head, accompanied by this big "wow" feeling. I mean, technically I could have been a father since about the time I was 15. I have friends who have children. This isn't something that I'm only thinking about now. I have thought about it before, but it was usually with a feeling of vague apprehension--the feeling that having someone call you Dad and being completely reliant on you would be overwhelming. That, and seeing really poorly behaved kids and really inept parents was always discouraging. Believe me, at Mass you see a ton of that.

But as I was thinking that could be my son, and probably looking a little thunderstruck by the whole idea, I started to slowly think I would be a good father. Like it was the most certain, obvious thing in the world. The weird thing is that the idea of marriage doesn't thrill me. I know that sounds strange, and it even does to me because I consider myself kind of a romantic, and one of those rare people who naturally leans toward monogamy. I think that I will probably be the type who just falls irretrievably hard for one person, and then if that didn't work out, that would be basically it. So, marriage isn't so much this thing I've felt like I need. I just never viewed it as a necessity. Naturally, this always led me to figure that I wouldn't mind just being a bachelor. Today, though, I realized for the first time that being a bachelor didn't just mean being without a wife, it meant not having children. And today, for the first time, that kind of bothered me.

20 May 2005

The Job: Days Three and Four

Days three and four were rather uneventful, so I'll summarize quickly.

Day three was "blue shirt day," as I mentioned earlier. I'm really amazed at the sheer variety of blue out there. Denim-look blue, navy blue, royal blue, wild-n-crazy tons of different blue-colored stripes blue, powder blue, French blue (which someone probably tried to call Patriot blue last year, and which probably should just be called "bleu" (?)), and then whatever color blue you would call the blue shirt I'm wearing in the picture a little ways down the screen. I really don't know what to call it. Here's a fun game: give that color a name. Because I can't call it my blue shirt, since I have a shirt that is much closer to the abstract notion of "blueness" than the one in the picture ever will be. [That sounded like my freshman philosophy survey class: "But is there a form of "chair" apart from the chair itself? What is the essence of chairness?" Really fun stuff...]

We were told where the kitchen, cafeteria, and supply closet were, since no one bothered to inform us of this. You need to go through two secured doors into another office area to get to the kitchen. Now, most office kitchens have Rules and Regulations, but this was thrillingly bureaucratic, so I must share. We were told (I paraphrase, but most of it is accurate): "this is the refrigerator; the top part is the freezer. The microwave is here. These are the coffeemakers. Use four scoops only. The Judges might want five; DON'T DO FIVE [apparently the world could end!]. If you want ice, take how many cubes you need; empty the rest into the bin in the freezer. And then refill it (!!!!); if you don't refill it, someone will hunt you down and hurt you. If you want to store something in the refrigerator, mark it with your initials if it's something that someone might think is theirs. Because we had some mix-ups with people drinking out of each other's diet cokes. [ewww, backwash] If it's something unique, don't worry, we don't eat each other's lunches. That's only happened a couple times by accident. ["wait, that was your mint-and-garlic lamb shank pita sandwich? whoops, my bad..."]. Don't keep used lunch containers at your workspace. The cubicle trash isn't always emptied, and we had one "itty bitty" [foot long]cockroach a couple months back." [Yeah, because cockroaches always travel solo.]

"The cafeteria is on the same level as the upper parking garage." Um. Why? Is it drive thru? Is it so you can get to the hospital quickly? Is it how the cows are brought in? Do the cows drive themselves in? Why? Why would a cafeteria be there? Just so you all know, before I left the kitchen, I said "So, just to double check, this is the refrigerator, right?" Luckily, the woman showing us around has a good sense of humor (I omitted her detailed description of her feelings toward cockroahes and her zeal when stepping on one--it was on par with the quality of an oral creation myth, very dramatic and funny stuff). She just yanked on my tie and said "I knew I was gonna have trouble with you." I told her that was an assualt and battery. She said I assumed the risk.

"There's also a snack and magazine vendor on the first floor. He's the sweetest man. He's blind." One of the other guys said (and I love that he did): "If he's really blind, how does he know what cash he's getting?" Response: "Well, he's not actually blind, he is sight impaired, though. But he really is just the sweetest man." And then my favorite: "Sometimes he takes breaks. When he's not there, he puts down the metal gate so you can't get in. That way you know he's not there. He's usually not gone long. But sometimes he is. Not usually, though."

Day four was less eventful. A lot of doing stuff. Imagine that. Met the one co-worker I hadn't met. Steve is a very amiable, helpful type. That makes it 100% good co-workers. I'm very, very lucky. He's been there a while, so he's more than willing to show newbies (like me) the ropes.

I found out that there are no manilla folders left! For the next couple days, we will be without folders. Wow. I mean, our supply closet is just chock full of neat stuff, but someone forgot the manilla folders. Somehow, I was still able to function. It was really hard, but I moved on.

I got to use the Other Copier Machine [insert scary music and evil laugh] because "ours" (the one that's only ten steps away) is getting scheduled maintenance or something. Suspiciously, the printer was also "out for maintenance" today. Interesting. I think there's something going on there--perhaps a steamy intra-office equipment affair has developed. The janitor's closet smelled of hot ink and toner this morning. (Okay, that was corny.) Anyways, as soon as I started using the other copier, someone showed up at my side seemingly out of nowhere: "You know the double-sided couple rule is still in effect?" "Um, yes, but these need to be made as single sided copies." "Oh, okay....Just do them double-sided whenever you can."

Later, I returned to the copy machine, to make more single-sided copies (I have to copy the various important parts of the record because I don't think anyone would really appreciate me writing my scritch scratch all over the originals). This time, someone different (and again out of thin air): "You know about the double-sided copy rule?" "Um, yeah." "Oh, okay."

Later, more copies to be made. This time, a big sign "THE DOUBLE-SIDED COPY RULE IS STILL IN EFFECT." Subtle. Warmed the cockles of my heart.

[Day five coming tomorrow morning.]

To give credit where credit is due...

In case you hadn't heard, Revenge of the Sith exceeded all expectations and broke the single day and opening day box office all time records. I figure I should put something about it given the "poem" a few entries lower about how I won't see it (and I still won't :)). The film wasn't even released in as many theaters as Shrek 2 and Spider-Man or Spider-Man 2, and it opened on a Thursday, making its haul still more impressive. The four day weekend record held by Matrix Reloaded should fall (it was $134 million), but I think the three day Friday to Sunday record of Spider-Man ($115 million) will hold up. Just so all of you know, I love statistics on movies. Could you tell? I even have an account at this thing called Hollywood Stock Exchange (www.hsx.com); guess the name is pretty self-explanatory. No real money, but it was an interesting diversion last summer. (Remarkably, I still know next to nothing about the stock market. Anyone interested in pointing me to a good quick read about it?)

For anyone interested in all things box office related, the best site is linked to on your right (www.boxofficemojo.com).


19 May 2005

The Job: Some Basic Comments


That is the sound of someone who is very happy with his choice to not be a summer associate. I'm sure that the Big Firm experience is very formative (read: soul crushing) and unforgettable (read: scarred-for-life), but I knew it wasn't for me. Actually, I have a lot of admiration for anyone willing to endure OCI and spend his or her summer as a quasi-lawyer. And, I do think that with the right perspective--something this side of manically competitive--people can come back as 3Ls in August with a renewed sense of purpose and conviction. I'm definitely gunning for all my friends to have this result. They all are so desperate to succeed, and seem to feel that this and this alone will provide validation for pulling all-nighters and smiling throughout OCI. I hope they get what they're looking for, but more than that I hope they remember how to laugh about it all. I'm sure some of what happens in a world of six figures and 60th floor views must be funny, right?

As for what I'm doing. Well, I'm doing what you could basically call the anti-summer associate experience: I'm a government extern/clerk at the state Tax Tribunal. Big money? Nope. In fact, when you account for gas and parking, and the couple of dress shirts I bought, I'm actually losing money (guess I'll make up for it by double-punching the hours at my other job--now I'm thinking like a lawyer!). Instead, I get three credits, and since I'm on scholarship, I guess that the law school is technically paying itself to give me a work experience. Interesting. Big, luxurious high rise office? Well, the building has four floors, which is high by government office building standards, right? Luxurious? Hmmm...we do have a lot of cubicles. Actually, the big marble foyer with the elevators is okay. Oh, and you need your electronic security tag to get in and out of basically every door. Sort of James Bond feeling, but more, uh, bureaucratic. Power suits? Yeah, we've got that. Power lunches? That would be a no.

Obviously, very different from what most of my peers are doing, but even in this first week I'm finding it to be pretty cool. From what I've seen, government lawyer life isn't too shabby. Sure, you won't be owning three houses and a Jaguar anytime soon, and you won't be doing four course lunches at House of Small, Delicious Gourmet Things Beautifully Plated. But, you get normal hours (8 to 6 at worst, and honestly it looks like 9 to 5 is more typical). You get decent pay. At least, good enough for my standards. And in tax, you make about ninety cents on every dollar earned by your firm counterparts (at least, that's the way it is in Michigan). The atmosphere is fairly laid back, too. The other law students I work with are super-friendly (well, to be fair the one guy seems a little competitive, but it's obviously not a trait that's well-liked in that setting). The lawyers are friendly. Heck, the Judges are so friendly and human you wonder how you ever found them intimidating.

The best part, though, is the actual work. If you're a good enough student to have actually become a summer associate at one of the Big Firms, and instead decide to work for government, you seem to be put on a fast track to the best assignments. Sort of a little thank you for giving up a summer making $20,000. You get to work on a near-daily basis with a judge. You get to write decisions, draft motions, research complex issues, and meet with lawyers. It's a ton of work, but it feels like you're in the middle of the action without getting too caught up to forget just how cool it is to be doing that kind of stuff. You don't feel like you have to compete with your co-workers, because there will be no offers at the end of the summer. If you eventually want to work for a firm, the firm knows that you have an inside edge. And if you stay in the government ranks, then you have an advantage there too. Maybe this glowing review is because I'm still in the honeymoon period, or maybe miraculously I'll continue to get to do things I actually enjoy doing for the rest of the summer.

So, overall, you still get some of that whole "what shade of blue dress shirt do I wear today?" experience (yesterday all seven male externs wore blue; today, we all overcompensated in the other direction and wore white); it feels somewhat like a law office. You still get to hone your legal research and writing skills, and you still have a lot of work product to show for your effort. The pros are easy, flexible hours, a more laid-back atmosphere, good exposure to a different side of the law, and great contacts (getting a recommendation letter from a Judge is pretty much priceless). The cons are little or no money, no exposure to Big Firm life (obviously), and no job secured for after graduation. Also, no fab social events, no free lunches (not that there is such a thing...), and no chance to bed a partner. Unless you have a lot of extra time and energy on your hands (no euphemism intended). And, I'm sure some people are simply the aggressive, go-getter type, who thrive on Apprentice-style competition. I just don't, and I know that I probably would lose a little of myself if I worked in a firm. I know that I'd "take it home" every night, because that's the kind of person I am. For any 1Ls or soon-to-be law students out there, my advice would be to at least keep this option open.

17 May 2005

Sith Poem

(Just to keep my string of awful blog post titles going...)

With all the Revenge of the Sith talk going on, I wanted to write a quick Seussian poem on why I will not, under any circumstances, be doling out any cash to see it in any format. Low quality, but I'm trying:

I will not watch Revenge of the Sith
Even after drinking a fifth*
I would not watch it here or there,
I would not watch it with Britney Spears (-Federline),**
I could not, would not at AMC
I will not, will not at NCG
I will not watch it with THX
I will not watch it, despite special FX
I will not watch even the final coda
I will not, will not despite a mad cool Yoda
I will not watch for the rising of Vader,
I would not, could not, 'cause the better movies come later (earlier? whatever...)
I will not rent it on DVD
I won't watch in ten years when it comes on TV
I will not watch Revenge of the Sith,
Regardless of fun people I could go with.

Sorry George :)
*although, if I were the type to do that, it might make it more watchable...
**ok, so I wouldn’t watch anything with her, obviously

Regarding the job posts....

As my sister just pointed out, the job posts (and some of the other posts) have some typos. Sorry. I write them very, very quickly, and unfortunately I am not a superior typist. Nor do I desire to proofread my own blog. I'll try to be more careful in the future, really (yeah, sure I will).

[She also just informed me, 'cause she's nice like that, that posting something like this will only make me seem more neurotic than I already do on my blog. Gee, there goes my carefully maintained reputation for being a cool guy:) ]

The Job: Day Two

The first day at any job is kind of awkward. It's exciting, everything is sort of different, and time seems to pass very quickly as you absorb all the newness. The second day, though, is where you really get a feel for what the particular job will be like. I guess it's like dates or kisses--talk about a tenuous analogy, huh?

Anyways, that trend was bucked somewhat today. After learning about populating templates (see the Day One post, I refuse to describe it again), and drafting motions, and the other various quasi-clerical duties, I discover that I will only be doing that sparingly. So today was sort of like another first day. You see, I met my judge, and was given a ton of really interesting stuff to do. And, yes, I mean that with sincerity (for once :)).

He's a pretty cool guy, as I've found most judges are underneath all the seriousness. Very seasoned, very intellectual, but a little, I don't know, laid back. He seems to have this Zen perspective regarding his career and life almost--one of those people who commands instant respect, and around whom you're inclined to just sit and listen and occasionally nod, without feeling like an idiot. He actually was one of the three who interviewed me, so I guess he liked something.

After asking me if I was interested in working on any particular thing or in a certain area, and my response that I didn't really have a preference, given my lack of knowledge about property tax matters, he gave me my first assignment. And, I have to say, it's sort of intimidating, but in one of those "oh my God I can't believe I get to do that" kind of ways: he wants me to write his decision on a remand from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. He described the basics of the case to me (all a bit over my head, but I figure the learning curve is steep for everyone), then handed me THE FILE. The monstrosity deserves all caps, because it's about eight inches thick, give or take a yard. It's just chock full of stuff, and he says "skim it over the next couple days, get familiar with all of it, you know." I've mentioned on here before that I have basically no poker face most of the time, but I think I gave the perception of confidence. Maybe that's a typical file, I don't know. He wants the decision to him around next Tuesday, so that will be filling my waking hours for a while. And he was very direct that the final product be concise (four pages), so I'll have to get my legal writing chops (i.e. my non-verbose, non-blog-like skills) back in working order. If I write the decision according to the remand, and presumably it's appealed again, then I'll be able to put on my resume that I had a case opinion that I wrote affirmed by a federal court of appeals.

Needless to say, I'm still experiencing a little shell shock over the whole prospect, but I figure I'll be able to start feeling somewhat more comfortable at some point. Hopefully.

After that task is complete, I might get assigned to work on this huge agglomeration of cases related to a certain ginormous chemical company. I guess it depends on my performance with the first assignment. Overall, I'd grade today as: sweet.

[Days three and four might be a bit boring, since I'll be holed up in "the pit" basically the whole time working--it's one of my co-workers nickname for the tribunal's mini-library, and it stuck for me.]

16 May 2005

Quick Observation

Okay, maybe I'm alone in this, but why is it that about one week after changing my bed linens (yes, I did just use the phrase "bed linens"), the sheet is always shifted over to one side, while the two blankets are always shifted to the other side? The overall effect is that on the side I sleep on (I have a double bed), there is basically a ton of sheet, and no blanket. And so I squirm and shift and roll and flip, but nothing fixes it. Until half an hour later, I actually have to get up and pull the sheets and blankets out and then readjust them. Only to have the same problem crop up a week later. I don't get it. It's one of the great mysteries of my life, right up there with trying to figure out how to move my radio without having to unplug it and losing all the radio station presets.

This is probably more than you ever wanted to know....

The Job--Day One

There were no candy-apple red Swingline staplers in sight. But this most recent employment experience could definitely be called "Office Space-lite." The cubicle atmosphere is in full force: I'd have to leave my desk to see if a tornado were coming, for example. And if I brought a feng shui master in to see what could be done--well, let's just say he would probably have a nervous breakdown.

Physical imperfections aside, though, the people seem really nice. I'm not just saying that because I know people have been fired for making unkind comments on blogs about their places of employment and coworkers. They all were very friendly, both the group of law clerks (many of whom I know from law school already, like Andrew, Drew, Nick, and Nina), and the secretaries, and the "higher-ups" as I like to call them--i.e. the lawyers, judges, chief clerk, and chairman. Actually, I didn't really speak to anyone (beyond a simple "hello, I'm Tom, I'm here to be your slave" pleasantries) except the one secretary who was responsible for inducting (orientating, whatever the p.c. term is) the group starting in the afternoon, and the two guys who were in that group with me. Andrew was one of them, and he's one of the more quality people from my class, which is saying a lot. Always genuine and sincere, plus a hard worker, and he has a son who is learning piano, which means I have someone I can talk about music stuff with once in a while. The other guy--Beau--was from Cooley Law School, the other law school in Lansing. Smart guy, at least on first impression, and very easy to get along with, which is important considering we have adjoining cubicles on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the whole summer. I actually feel like I'm working down south, just based on the names: Marijo, Beau, Nina, Val, Valissa. I'm expecting a BethAnne to arrive soon.

As for what I actually did. Obviosuly, I won't get into heavy details, partly because that would be boring, and partly because that would be unprofessional. I mean, confidentiality is just presumed. But I can give the basics (kind of like talking about confession when you're Catholic, haha). Today, and most of this week, at least until I'm assigned a judge, I "populated templates." It sounds so sci-fi, doesn't it? A little dystopic, even. I can just hear some steely robot voice saying "prepare the specimens for template population." Ooooo. Creepy. Or biblical: "And God said 'Go forth, be fruitful and populate templates.' Oh, and eat the fishes of the sea, too." Anyways, what it amounts to is that we get an appeal from a party as to some kind of tax decision--property, agricultural, exemptions, etc.--and before a hearing is held, we have to fill in the proper template with all the requisite information. It looks just like any judgment order when finished, with docket number and all that. And then we describe all the evidence presented and the contentions made by both sides. It basically prepares every aspect of the judge's opinion except for the actual opinion and findings of fact and law made by the judge.

The other major task is drafting motions. There are more types of motions than there were tribes of Israel (which means at least 13, which isn't a lot, but I thought I'd throw another Old Testament reference in just for fun). Drafting motions, to be honest, is a lot of responsibility in certain situations. I mean, you're basically the first line of defense in deciding the disposition of a case. Will it be dismissed? Can it be amended? Doesn't sound too dramatic, but today Beau got to review and basically give his recommendation on a Motion for Dismissal. When you consider the value of the property underlying the motion, it's pretty intimidating stuff. Luckily, it's all reviewed by at least a couple people, but still--you just don't learn that in detail in law school. For any laypeople reading this and freaking out, don't worry. It's double and triple checked before a decision is made, and, besides, us students is all real smart folk. We ain't no dummies, ya know.

Those are the main things that I'll do in my down time. But once I get my judge (it seems wrong to use a possessive pronoun there, but oh well) I'll be getting to do memos and all sorts of wonderful what-not. The kind of stuff that makes resumes look pretty.

I also have a nifty ID tag with my mug on it that says "State Contractor." It's a horrible, horrible picture--I have the expression that a beaver probably has after getting laid or dropping acid or both, this weird sort of cross between sleepy and eager. Not that I've ever seen a real beaver, much less one in that condition, even on the National Geographic channel, but I can imagine. [On a tangent, I did see two deer about twenty feet from my bedroom window tonight, and I don't live in a rural area, so how freaky is that? And me without my carrots...]

I wish I could bring you some more funnies from work, but everyone is just too normal, at least on the first day. And we were all terribly productive. I guess that's why we each were hired, go figure. At my last cubicle-esque job, there were whole tracts of time spent talking about how the coffeepot needed cleaning, or learning new things about the copier (like why copiers--logically--don't allow double-sided overhead transparencies). I'm sure we'll all become a little less proactive over time, though, and all of our various idiosyncracies will bloom over the coming weeks. For your sake, I hope they do. Or I could just start making stuff up.

"Hello Angels" "Hello Charlie!"

in case you didn't know, I'm second from the right :) Posted by Hello

Yeah, it was a bad joke, but when I first got this picture on my email, that was my first thought. And it's my way of giving props to the lovely ladies in the picture, even though a Charlie's Angels reference is a little sexist, and not very gentlemanly. But I'm a lovable goof that way, and they would find it amusing, believe me. I won't put names to the faces, because they didn't give permission. The names begin, from left to right, with S, G, K, and R. If you can guess them, you'll earn a prize: impressing me, which is not easily achieved. Oh, aren't I funny...

I realize I don't post many blog pictures (goes along with the whole self-conscious thing), and I don't plan to all the time, but I don't have many pictures of me with friends. Either I forget my camera, or I forget to ask for a picture. And I'd like to have evidence somewhere that I do in fact have a social life, so this one seemed like a good one to post.

Not much else to say on this post. More tonight about my first day at the Tax Tribunal, and my Mortgages class, which is pretty fantastic. I know you're all waiting with baited breath (or whatever that expression is...)

I love my suit too much

The Michigan tourism bureau tries hard, they really do, even though being surrounded by natural beauty and tons of water doesn't require a lot of extra effort. I mean, they did come up with the unforgettable "Yes! Michigan! campaign--talk about a catchy slogan. And so wonderfully optimistic for the late '80s. After all, they could have gone with the simple "No! Wisconsin!" or "Maybe! But not so much! Ohio!"

But Michigan is missing out on a huge selling point: the reward of shopping in Canada (specifically Toronto). If you hit it at the right time of year, the exchange rates are favorable, the lines at the border are short or non-existent, and the lure of being able to trade in the GST rebate for hard liquor, cigars and stuffed animals at the duty free shop is inescapable. Okay, scratch that last one. I usually just get a souvenir shot glass or something.

What does this all have to do with my suit? You guessed it--I bought my beloved suit in Canada. It's a three-button, charcoal grayish Jones New York model (I can't really describe colors that well, but I know I like it). Fits like a glove, and it only needed to be hemmed. Just plain perfect in every way. And it only cost $350, which is a real steal. I know I'm gushing, but of the three suits I own, it's the only one that makes me feel confident when I wear it. Sad that clothes can buoy my self-esteem like that, but I don't think I'm unique in being that way. You can't exactly feel like a go-getter in jeans and a t-shirt. Unless you're a landscape architect perhaps. I probably sound unequivocally materialistic, too, but I really am not. I rarely go shopping, and I never go bargain hunting. I mean, who wants to take time for that. If I really like something, and I can afford it, and I think it's practical, I get it. Simple as that. (Canada was also where I found my favorite sandals, which have lasted six years.)

Before signing off on this post, I would like to point out that I've never actually been on a shopping trip to Canada. It just always seems to be a subsidiary thing. I'm not big into museums (I'm a guy who actually got bored at the Smithsonian--at least the Air and Space part--and the Field Museum in Chicago). And art galleries--well, they're just so hit and miss (I remember one painting of a grapefruit with an eye--I figure it was trying to say "Citrus. It's watching out for you...") But it's fun to just go to a department store, or even a grocery store. Not that things are all that different in Canada, but still....

13 May 2005


Man, after having my brain literally humming with activity during finals period, and then getting through the interview, and the post-exam parties....I'm going through a HUGE let down. I don't really want to do anything, but at the same time I know that I can't just laze around the apartment all day, dreaming up things to cook, drawing blueprints, working on Chopin Etude fingerings, playing solitaire. God, this sucks, this being stuck in the middle between boredom and just not having the gumption to pick myself up and accomplish anything.

I think it's because I know what's coming down the pipe. My classes (ack) start Monday morning. I'm taking Mortgages because it's the only class in which I'm interested that actually had seats open. So much for taking Advanced Real Estate Law (or whatever that class is called), which I would have liked to take, but oh well. I took Mortgage Banking Law last summer, so maybe this is the continuation of some sort of disturbing trend. "Spend your summer having a constant reminder of debt! Oh joy!" Well, the prof is supposed to be good. And a few friends are in the class with me. It shouldn't be too painful. The job starts Monday afternoon. I'll work Monday and Wednesday afternoons (the days I have Mortgages) from 2 to 5 (probably until 5:30, to avoid the traffic congestion), and then mornings from 9 to 12 the rest of the week. Overall, a decent schedule. And in my spare time, when I'm not grading briefs for my research assistant job, who knows. Probably stuff with the Journal will crop up.

It will officially be my busiest summer ever, and I'm hoping that being busy will mean I don't do what I'm doing this week, which is nothing. Honestly, I should be catching up on emailing, or blogging, or reading. I'm not the most well-read person, at least not by my standards, but upon perusing my collection I realized that I couldn't talk myself into reading anything. I haven't read a full book since finishing the Lord of the Rings trilogy last year--that's some dry spell. This, from a guy who likes to read. Obviously, that likely won't change this summer. I think I'll just be so occupied that I won't have a lot of downtime for growing as a person.

You know what I'm determined to do this summer, though? I'm determined to take the vacation out east that I've been planning to do for a couple summers now. I haven't told anyone of these plans, because I don't usually reveal my ambitions until I'm pretty sure something will come from them. I've only been to Washington, D.C. twice: once in eighth grade for the National Spelling Bee (which is its own story), and once in tenth grade for what was basically an international science consortium that had a really long acronym (and one that clearly is not memorable to me). Honestly, I just don't feel like D.C. counts. I want to see NYC and Boston, and this year my finances seem to be in order (i.e. I have some extra money--how did that happen?), and I should--should--have a couple weeks free in July/August. The Tribunal is flexible, or so they say, and classes end in early July. One of my better friends (hi Tanisha) from law school is working near NYC this summer at a prosecutor's office, so I could visit her (hopefully she'll not have become too aggressive by that point). I know another old undergrad friend (hi Amanda) getting married in Boston (despite being from Topeka, she'll fit the big city life quite well I think). And maybe I'll drop in on Jeremy, and see how life as a professional writer really is. Or his interpretation of it, at least. I was originally planning to go by way of Montreal, since that's where Dad went to school, and if this somehow worked out as a family trip (weird, the concept of a family trip at this age, but I'm big on family), he would be rightfully thrilled to see his old stomping grounds. Mom always enjoyed trips to St. Louis for that very reason. Plus, it's Montreal. Maybe I could test out those couple years of French I took in college....

Overall, a wonderful way to spend some money at least part of which is funded by the federal government. So, thank you federal government. Hopefully the Stafford Loan people have better things to do than read blogs (?).

I guess this blog post that started out as a paean to boredom ended on a positive note, so that's good. Surprising how often I can ramble myself out of an off mood.

11 May 2005

End-Of-The-Year Party!!

Who wouldn't want to blow off post-exam stress by going to a drunken orgy and just losing yourself in a pulsing, thobbing throng of careless, drunken humanity? Me, that's who. I'm not a tee-totaller (is that even spelled right?). I don't feel some moral superiority to the people who need to "lose themselves," who need to just "go out and get s&%^faced." Yes, I actually am quoting, because I don't know the lingo. The weird thing is, I thought I was going to the big law student party at The Dollar (named that because--I don't know, something to do with the price of longnecks maybe). It was on my mental agenda. And not to drink, not even to really watch people get drunk, but just to make my appearance, say "hey, wassup, how'd exams go blah blah blah yada yada" and then say my goodbyes. However, first on the agenda was a post-exams dinner/quasi-birthday party (quasi because the actual birthdays being celebrated are forthcoming) with some of my more temperate friends. It was very laid back, good conversation, and held at The Post, which was nicely vacant for a night like tonight, when each hot spot in town was hosting its own destressing festivities. And the best part, I think, was that no one put up a front. We all admitted to being tired. People yawned and rubbed eyes. Exams were tough, the semester was tough, life was tough. But we survived, and rather than wrack our physical selves with alcohol and noise and who knows what else, we all had enough sense to know that maybe, just this once, we could admit that we were a little beyond that. The fact that I was the only single guy there was a little disconcerting--the fact that I could actually become involved in most of the conversation was, too.

Overall, a very good time. Relaxing, nice, sincere. All those good things. Elvira came along, too, since she deserves the post-exam destressing as much as us law students (and she fits in remarkably well with all my friends--just that kind of person who fits in anywhere, except maybe an AARP convention, and even then she'd find something to talk about...). We were going to head to The Dollar afterwards, but I realized that I didn't need to, and that was very freeing, that realization that I didn't care about seeing any of the people there. They'd all be too out of it to remember anyways. Suddenly I didn't want to try to be something I'm not.

But for as good as everything was--and it was--when I first came home from the dinner, I couldn't help but think, however, that something was missing. And this bothers me. I guess I'm guilty of overanalyzing everything, but this time my feelings seem valid. I just--I don't know. I get along with G, S, R, and K just fine. Something changed in the dynamic, though. It's like the difference between a summer day in early June and one in late August. The latter has a hint of autumn in it--and you know something is coming to an end. All the data points to the fact that the temperature is the same, and the sun is shining just as bright, but something is different. Something. And it's real. Maybe it's just me. Maybe my perspective has changed, or maybe my friends are different. Can that much really change in a couple months, though? I don't know, but it bothers me. I walked away from the get-together tonight feeling a nagging sense of melancholy, of not-quite-rightness, and I just don't know why. A sense of things pulling apart somewhat. I guess all I can hope for is that they'll all change at the same time and we'll arrive back together at the same point in the end.

Making Good on My Promise

A random quote from SuperNanny, because I couldn’t find the remote and forced myself into watching it: “Putting Adam to sleep was really difficult.” I guess you know you’re having trouble with the kids when you have to resort to that.

As promised several days ago, the first of my “2L in a Nutshell” entries. I originally thought I’d devote each of these posts to a certain subset of things, like music, or people, or experiences, etc. But life is much more random than that, so I’ll be random, too.

(1) Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, and the overall renewed vitality of ABC—
I don’t get the premium channels, so I don’t know if The Sopranos is all it’s cracked up to be. I don’t know if Deadwood is just that good. What I do know, is that I like it when the regular old networks produce quality stuff. I won’t pretend that their full slate is good. I’m rather neutral about Desperate Housewives, for example. I guess it’s an inability to relate to any of the characters. The Bachelor is just a load of dead weight that should have been removed a while ago. And I’ve grown weary of Alias, even though I still watch, expecting something to match the excitement and interest of that season that ended with the big fight between Sydney and Francie. Here’s a tip: lose the whole Rambaldi subplot. Whenever I hear the guy’s name, I take a bathroom break. But I love Lost, so J.J. Abrams has redeemed himself somewhat. When it’s really on, it’s excellent and moving, and when it’s off, it’s still tolerable—which is more than can be said for many shows. And I’m impressed with Grey’s Anatomy. I can match each of the characters to friends I actually have, and until I write the first great law school drama, this provides an excellent proxy for how law school and being a twentysomething feel sometimes. Sometimes. Except for all the sex, in my case at least, but I’m sure for most people that is the reality. Again, it can be off at times, but even then it remains entertaining and highly watchable. Well-acted, decently-written, and fun escapism for a Sunday night.

(2) Professor Campbell and the Estates and Future Interests Drafting Seminar—
Every law student should have the good fortune to have a class like this. An enrollment of just twelve students, three hours once a week, and a wise, old professor who readily imparted not only his legal knowledge but his knowledge of the profession and, dare I say it, life. In the beginning, it was a pressure cooker—Socratic method applied in a class that small can be intimidating. But eventually the pressure became formative, even fun. I left that class feeling a little more confident, a little more—grown.

(3) Getting a 28 Hand in Cribbage—
I discussed this more in one of my early entries, but if you’ve ever played the game, you’d understand why it deserves the extra attention. So, I guess you can read that entry if you want the details. Simply outstanding.

(4) The Spartans’ Double Final Four—
Again, another reference to earlier stuff. But any basketball fan—any sport fan for that matter—can appreciate how cool it is to have two teams progress so far. It would have been nice to win the whole shebang, a la the UConn Huskies last year. In Spartan land, though, basketball is king, and any achievement in that arena is outstanding.

(5) The Elevated Train Scene in Spider-Man 2—
Yeah, I’m a glutton for mass media, right? Actually, if it’s good mass media, then yes. There was a ton of stuff packed into this movie, and I can’t really contemplate what could be done in the third to top it; not that movie sequels should be about “topping,” but generally it’s nice to have a consistent quality level across a series of movies. I felt the movie started unevenly, but the elevated train scene—if you need more description of it, then you probably didn’t see the movie—was the best scene hands down in a superhero movie that I’ve seen. And I’ve seen just about every mainstream superhero movie. Nothing offered in Batman, Superman, X-Men, and the like even came close. Spider-Man 2 raised the bar, and I sincerely doubt it will be topped, although I’m hopeful that bar can be met a few more times.

(6) Finding my Study Spot in the Law School—
I’m a study at home guy. I don’t like studying in the library, I don’t like studying in the “study lounge” (talk about an oxymoron). If you have the luxury of not living in a dorm, then you really don’t need to leave to study. And the apartment I live in is nice. But I’m still at the law school a lot, more than I’d like to be sometimes, and for the entire first year and a half I never found a good niche. Everyone else seemed to have his or her spot staked out, and if you were looking for that person, you knew where to go. A vacant third floor classroom here, a certain library carrel there. Well, I finally found mine. And I would divulge it, but I don’t want anyone else taking it. I will say that it’s nice and cold and by a set of windows, but there’s about a dozen places matching that description in the building, so my spot is still safe I think. Yes, I am just that possessive J.

(7) Getting Over (Somewhat) My Fear of Speaking in Class—
You wouldn’t think after knowing me a while that I’d have a problem with this. I mean, honestly, it seems so pathetic—like such an unnecessary crutch. I’ve played the piano in front of a thousand people, and yet I get more nervous briefing a case in front of a hundred people I know. Totally inexplicable, but anyone who has had to deal with this understands just how scary it can be. This year, I finally got over it a bit, and that makes me very happy. My heart still pounds some when my name is called by a professor, but the reaction is more biological now than mental, so that’s a relief.

(8) Madeleine Peyroux’s “Between the Bars” (from the album Careless Love)—
Whoa. This is the kind of song that just….haunts you. Not happy, not really sad, just haunting. It swirls and circles around your mind, long after playing it, and you won’t regret having it stuck there. I’m not even sure what it means, although I think it’s about alcoholism, and I’ve heard pieces of it in other songs. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts, though—the modulations, the instrumentation, and her voice (which is eerily reminiscent of Billie Holiday) combine into something unique. Many of the other songs on the CD are good, too, but that one is exceptional. If I ever am lucky enough to make the kind of movie that I imagine all the time, this song would have a place in it.

That’s all for now. It’s harder than I thought to write these kinds of entries. My memory isn’t as crisp as I had hoped, and some things that really meant a lot are things that I just don’t feel comfortable sharing on my blog. At least not yet. We’ll see…

09 May 2005

Life Is Great...

I'm riding a little wave of euphoria right now, even though it's been ten hours since the BEST INTERVIEW OF MY LIFE!!

I interviewed today at the Tax Tribunal, with two of the Judges and the Assistant Chairman, and I must have done something right. They really seemed to love me, and I had really good answers for everything even though I hadn't taken any time to prepare. It was like being in the zone or something. I was nervous, and still dead tired from my back-to-back exams (I take a while to bounce back), and I just couldn't make myself care enough to go online and research what they do, or prepare my answer to the "What are your three faults?" question that is always asked (it wasn't, amazingly).

Instead, I just donned my suit and winged it, and maybe that's why everything turned out so well. On my way out, as the Assistant Chairman was leading me through the maze of hallways (I expected to see a big hunk of swiss cheese at the end--the place is rather labyrinthine), I heard the one judge say to the Chairman, about fifteen feet in front of me in the hallway "I want him hired, now." Then, the Judge notices I'm down the hallways, points me out to the chairman, and the chairman simply says "You want the job?" And I say sure (that was easy). And he says "You're hired. Kathie will give you the paperwork."

That definitely goes down as record turnaround time from being interviewed to getting hired. It felt almost like a movie. It really did. I start Monday, and I'll probably still be riding a high by then.

The coolest part about the job is that I get to work directly with one of the judges (I'm guessing it will be one of my interviewees, which would be most excellent). Who would have thought I could be this stoked about working at a place called the Tax Tribunal :)

Happy Mother's Day

I doubt I could say anything about mothers that has not been said already. Besides, I don't know if I can generalize about mothers very well. They come in just about every conceivable variety, and I really only have experience with one type: mine. So, I'll just write a brief note for her, and hope that it bears some meaning for others:


Dear Mom, thank you--

For teaching me that goals are something to envision,

but that dreams are something to embrace;

For reminding me to treat myself well,

but to treat others better;

For letting me know that I could always come home,

but that I was strong enough to survive when away;

For introducing me not just to the wonder of the world,

but also to the wonder within myself;

For encouraging my true gifts and abilities,

but never discouraging even my most fanciful pursuits;

For guiding me through sadness when needed,

but toward happiness always;


For being a mother,

but most of all just for being Mom.


07 May 2005

"2L in a Nutshell"

School’s out for the summer. Even as an adult (or something very much like an adult, I hear the term twixter is being used now, whatever that means), I still love knowing that school is finished for another year. Summers are now filled with work and commitments and responsibilities, but everything still seems a little less severe during those three months. One could argue that this is the summer’s natural effect: it’s warm and the sun is shining and the beautiful people are unburdened by all that bulky winter clothing. These are good things, so naturally we feel good. But I think this seasonal euphoria is heightened because we’re conditioned from our youths to know that summer means vacations and endless cavorting with neighborhood friends. Summer means reading all those books we want to read (like that third grade summer spent reading fifty Hardy Boys’ mysteries), instead of what we have to read for classes (like that generic science book with the gecko on the front). Summer is barbecues and lemonade and trips to Lake Michigan and fireworks, but this is all made infinitely sweeter knowing that it is our time to not have to deal with school.

Why all this nostalgic rambling? Because as much as I love summer—as much as I have a ton of fond memories of early morning bike rides and grass between my toes, and as much as I love knowing that the worst of the school work is over—I think I’ve also grown to have a real fondness for school. When you grow up in a small town, most of your friends stay for the summer, and so the arrival of summer simply means the loss of responsibility. But in college, and even more in law school, summer means migration. It means that the little world you were so immersed in for nine months suddenly—poof!—vanishes.

So I decided that I would make an attempt to memorialize all the people and things that have been important to me in this past year, to pay tribute to my year as a 2L. It will probably span several entries, and last through the next few days, maybe even a week. And I’m not sure if it will be of any appeal to anybody. But I’ve always regretted not being better about this sort of thing—I have a load of journals at home in which just the first several pages are used. A few names here, a few experiences there. But the rest is all floating around in the ether of my memories, which are always subject to fading. Terrible, really.

**A caveat before I start: of course, I’m not going to put in the basic things, like family, God, etc. Obviously, some things are just important inherently. And if you read this and know me and wonder why something didn’t make the list, and feel it should have, then I guess I’m sorry, but this isn’t exactly People magazine J.

For want of a better title, I’m going to call this year’s list:

“2L in a Nutshell”

Because I'm a procrastinator, and a tired one to boot, it will start tomorrow....


That's right, I just finished my last exam. I think I did ok over all. I guess I'll know in a couple weeks. Aren't you all happy that you don't have to hear anymore about my exams? Honestly, I'm glad to be able to get back to having a life outside of academic pursuits, at least for a week :) Then summer classes and a summer job (if the interview on Monday goes well at the tax tribunal). I'll write much more tonight or tomorrow, depending on when my brain feels like staring at a computer for a couple hours would be a good thing. There's this great speech by Maya Angelou from my sister's graduation convocation that I'll have to remember to post.

One last quick thing, before this absolutely pointless post ends: thanks to the people who've sent me emails, including : tb (the lawyer), tb (my bud), js, mj, mr, ml, and se. I'm too tired to write full names, seriously. And thanks to those who have commented. Hopefully you'll stay faithful despite the lapse in quality material. To anyone contemplating dropping me a line: I do respond, especially now that exams are over.

Maybe I'll go do a snoopy dance in celebration. Would that be too juvenile??

02 May 2005

Exam Update + A Top Ten list

Because I can, and because it's all that is going on in my life right now, and I'm totally not kidding about that, here's a brief update on exams, followed (hopefully) by some lighter fare. Just finished Basic Income Taxation A, and I think I might have failed it. I'm not exaggerating here. I tend to underestimate my own abilities academically a lot of times; this is not one of those times. This is a new experience for me, and one I hope to never have again. Amazing, that I can walk out of my last exam feeling downright jubilant, and walk out of those one with a little defeatist cloud over my head. Totally underestimated Prof. Christian's ability to write a super hard exam for a 2 credit class. Totally. And now, I have another exam in a class she teaches: Estate and Gift Taxation. Joy. Again, all multiple choice. I hate multiple choice. Hate scantrons. Hate number two pencils. There, I'm done now.

Now, for some levity. Top ten ways to annoy your peers in the exam room:

(10) Heart attack.

(9) Scream "Yes" when you finally get that really tough multiple choice question. Better yet, do it like Meg Ryan did in the restaurant in "When Harry Met Sally..."

(8) Start softly crying...then move into laughter...then back into crying. See how many shifts you can make before angering the proctors.

(7) Shadow puppets. Flashlight optional. Noises encouraged.

(6) Start dancing in your chair like that girl in the Mitsubishi commercials did in the front seat (you know the one...)

(5) Finish in half an hour and look really optimistic about it.

(4) Write one sentence per bluebook to use up the limited supply given to the proctors.
(3) One quick phrase at any time "I think I'm gonna be sick!!....." [dry heaves] "False alarm, everyone." Repeat as necessary.
(2) Mumble the answers to yourself in your best impression of a Star Wars character, preferably Yoda or Chewie.

(1) When the proctor says "any questions?" actually ask questions. Lots of questions. Like:
>>>"What's a cell phone?"
>>>"Where are the restrooms exactly?"
>>>"When you say only one gender can go to the bathroom....define gender please?"
>>>"Are you married....you're soooo cute."
>>>"How much do they pay you for this? I'll double it if you leave...."
>>>"Is this a number two pencil?....What about this one?..., This one too?...."
>>>"What if we have a deathly allergy to paper that will kick in right about........?"
>>>"But I can use a regular phone, right? What about carrier pigeon?"

Not my best work, but good enough for a bit of post-exam relief.