Friday, May 30, 2003

So I am posting briefly from the Radisson room here in Myrtle Beach. The Radisson is attached to the convention center, so basically all the weekend's activities--quizbowl, sleep, NIFL--take place in just one building.

Oh, and Washington County, like many places, is of course trying to attract economic development. The latest effort, to my mind, is more like 100 steps backward. Let's just say if I could write the headline for this article, it would be:

"Economic Development in Washington County Covered, Smothered"

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Oh, yes, and among everything else the upcoming Myrtle Beach trip brings, right at the top of the list is the impending Houma Bayou Bucks vs. Myrtle Beach Sting Rays clash. As they say, you can throw out the record books when Houma and Myrtle meet. NIFL Fever--Catch It!

My connectivity and I are both briefly off of hiatus. I am back in Beallsville for about 18 hours or so after the five-day Long Beach Island trip. The weather was pretty crappy. For instance, I was a block and a half from the beach, and I went there once, for about ten minutes. The company was good, however, even if the Jersey Kosioreks are no relation to this guy. And the weekend's extensive drinking was highlighted by the awesome Hudson House bar and two semi-legitimate after-hours forays into the local yacht club with 12-packs of Natty Light, the second of which included my first game of speed quarters in I couldn't tell you how long.

Oh yeah, and in case you don't get Club Top Five, the history of the Internet link posted there today was excellent. If I ever talk at any length about Garfield here, please feel free to call shenanigans on me.

Finally, if you ever find yourseld on the east side of Lancaster, PA, around lunchtime and are not in the mood for the local cuisine of sauerbraten, shoo-fly pie, et al, you could do much worse than to eat at the Star Buffet on Route 30. I've eaten at many Chinese buffets across America, and this was one of my favorites.

Monday, May 26, 2003

Just a quick note from the Jersey Shore. Other than really lousy weather, the trip has been very nice so far. Thus not much beach frolicking, but lots of drinking way into the night.

Also, your multicultural moment for the week: I stopped at a Hardee's in Hancock, Maryland, on the way out here, and there were a number of Mennonites. This is and of itself did not strike me as odd, as I have come across groups of Mennonites in fast food restaurants while on a road trip before. What did strike me as odd was the one of the Mennonites was an approximately 13-year-old Asian girl. That'll make you look three times to make sure you aren't seeing things.

Friday, May 23, 2003

So I'm leaving town for about eight of the next ten days, so this is just a heads up that my recent run of prolificness (prolificity? prolificitude?) is at an end. I may have something in the middle of next week; otherwise, see y'all in about 10 days. And for those of you also headed to Myrtle and the NIFL, good times!

The reading list is starting to feel like an anchor and I'm deviating more from it, so I decided to try to work on my goal of 50 out of the 100 by picking off some of the shortest books on the list. Leonard Gardner's Fat City is a book about two boxers, one 18 and the other 30, each trying to make a go of it on the local circuit. Tully is a has-been and Ernie is a never-was, and these two Stockton, Californians both get fairly pummeled for their efforts--in the ring and out. Both also end up at various points doing agricultural day labor in the Central Valley. This is a grim social realist tale--strongly written but not high on the entertainment scale.

The same can be said for Joan Didion's Play It As It Lays. This novella is one of those first-person accounts (mostly--the perspective shifts a bit here) of someone in a deep funk. This is never fun, though it can produce some good literature. In this case the person is a low-level actress who starred in two of her director husband's films--one a minor hit and the other never released. She has a low level of fame but struggles to get more work; more importantly, though, her marriage is falling apart, she does not respond well to an on-the-sly abortion (it's 1970), and she is haunted by her parents' memory. Like The Bell Jar or Prozac Nation, this boils down to the story of someone so depressed that they pretty much cease to function. If you've read either of the others, don't bother with this one. If you haven't and want to try one, this has the virtue of being really short. The others have the virtue of being better.

Finally, my "right before bed" reading the last few weeks has been a book I bought as a trash prize, but which I had to check out myself. The Serial is a quasi-soap opera set in Marin County in the 1970s, or rather it's a satire of one. Or maybe it isn't a satire. I'm not sure. The humor comes from watching people try their damnedest to be trendy in any possible way--food, clothes, bars, lifestlyes, religion, sex, etc.--and in watching the ridiculousness abound. The funniest parts for me involved a minor character--a 10-year-old (who "still has time to get in touch with his inner child") whose parents are into allowing his full self-actualization, but mostly he just likes to hit, destroy, and kill things. It was a total diversionary guilty pleasure, and while it wasn't as good as I'd hoped, it sufficed.

If you disagree with my political premise yesterday and think that what the Democrats should do in 2004 is run a virtual Republican, then you should check out Joe Lieberman's campaign website. The rest of you should go to this excellent parody thereof.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

I can be a cynical person. I accept that. I am much more often against things than I am for them. For instance, I am against the power of the two major political parties in this country, because I do not believe democracy is well-served by large aggregating parties that water down all new ideas. And even within that statement, I am against the notion of democracy as a political end. I think democracy should be a means to the ends of good government and a good society, but if democracy is not the best means to get there then I am willing to sacrifice democracy. For instance, I have many problems with the Progressive Era ideal of social control by experts, but I would much rather my schools be run by experts than by local school boards.

But by and large, democracy is a good and valuable thing in the world, and is the best we can do in the absence of any other ideas. And for the foreseeable future, here in the U.S., we are stuck with the two-party system--so, given that fact, I would hope for the most active, vibrant two-party system we could have.

I believe that anyone who agrees with this sentiment, regardless of political belief or affiliation, should see Howard Dean's presidential candidacy as good for America, even if you would like to see him ultimately defeated. I think that what is truly distinctive about Dean is that, as he has proclaimed, he represents "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party". If you believe that voters should have legitimate, distinct options, then Dean is the only real choice out there for the Democratic nomination.

For that reason, even though I am skeptical of some of his ideas, I have decided that I am going to add Dean campaign links to the side of my blog. Peruse or not at your discretion, but this is my statement that for once I am actually for something and someone and not merely a naysayer.

Last night's Pirate game with DEK was surprisingly normal for the first 4-5 innings until, of course, the pierogi race. Before the contestants actually enter the park in left field and race to the finish line, the scoreboard shows some animated scenes of the pierogis racing around the city. Last night's clips included footage of pierogis racing through the Andy Warhol Museum*, including "Oliver Onion" staring at a silkscreen picture of himself. For the rest of the bit, Oliver was animated as a Warholesque silkscreen looking thing, very stylized. I turned to Dwight and simply said, "Somewhere post-modernism just exploded." I cannot even begin to tell you on how many levels this was disturbing.

Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure from yesterday, I walked through the plaza again today and noted that it was in fact a stegosaurus--not a diplodocus--eating the cookie. All the points, however, still stand.

*The Warhol is the perfect example of that ridiculous civic pride of Pittsburghers that I mentioned yesterday. Warhol was about as un-Pittsburgh as they come, and if you read between the lines of the biographical information presented at the museum, it quickly becomes obvious that his strategy was to get the hell out of here as soon as possible--in fact, if I recall correctly, immediately after his 18th birthday. But he's a native, so we embrace him and all of his fame, even though most Pittsburghers would be either simply confused or utterly horrified by most of what Warhol did and stood for, and vice versa.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

So I will warn you that this story may ramble with not much payoff, but then again regular Beallsvonian readers (both of you) have come to expect that by now.

As background, you need to know these things:

  1. Eat 'n' Park is a local Pittsburgh restaurant chain that I've previously described as "Like Denny's, except more Pittsburgh-y".
  2. Eat 'n' Park's bakery specialty is the smiley-face cookie, which is a fairly generic iced cookie whose icing is, of course, a smiley face.
  3. An Eat 'n' Park smiley-face cookie, used as a bouncing ball to help you follow the words to a song on a Jumbotron, has been accurately compared to Evil Otto.

...and these things:
  1. The dinosaur commonly misknown as the brontosaurus is actually the Diplodocus carnegii, the "carnegii" part being particularly relevant here.
  2. It is known as such because Andrew Carnegie took an extensive personal and financial interest in early dinosaur digs, including the one where the first full-sized Diplodocus was unearthed.
  3. In fact that Utah location, today's Dinosaur National Monument, was previously known as Carnegie Quarry.
  4. Many of the finds from that site are today stored at the Carnegie Natural History Museum here in Pittsburgh, which is not surpassed and is arguably unrivaled when it comes to featuring dinosaur and related artifacts.

...and finally these things:
  1. PPG Plaza, the big scary glass fortress looking building featured in Inspector Gadget (for those of you who have had the misfortune), is located in the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh, a two-minute walk from where I work.
  2. Pittsburgh tends to have a level of civic pride that borders on unhealthy when it comes to local institutions.
  3. Such as Eat 'N' Park, Andrew Carnegie and his museum, and PPG Plaza.

So where is this all going? Not much of anywhere, as you were warned above, except that I was walking through PPG Plaza today on a work errand, when I noticed an unusual new public art display in the big open section of the plaza. As I approached, I realized that the statues were actually shaped like different dinosaurs, and they were all decorated differently. They had been given to different local artists and local schools, and the artists or groups of students had painted (or silkscreened or whatever) them in the style of their choosing. I thought it was a nice display, and there was some minimal, unobtrusive signage about how this was being done to promote both art and science education among elementary schools--which I thought was a really good idea--in addition to arousing the local pride that is supposed to well up inside all of us when we think about our glorious dinosaur museum. Or something.
But the last statue I saw made me do a triple-take, and moved the whole idea from good idea to bad idea on my scorecard. Like several others, this last statue had a corporate sponsor listed. While other sponsors limited their involvement to funding and a mention
on the placard, this last one decided to take things about 100 steps too far.
It was a Diplodicus (carnegii).
Eating an Eat 'n' Park smiley-face cookie.

I don't have a whole lot to say about the last "Buffy" from last night. It was a functional last episode that wrapped up the recent storylines, left open the possibility for a movie franchise, and entertained about as much as any other recent episode. It doesn't go up there with "Newhart" or "MASH", but it also wasn't a Seinfeldian head-scratcher or anything. The only thing that makes me mad is this: I am not the type of person to glom on to key details in a show with a "mythology" knowing that they will come into play later, but several months ago I grabbed on to The First (in the guise of Buffy and Dawn's mother) telling Dawn, "In the end, she won't choose you," and have been going on the assumption that this statement would play a key role in the denouement. Instead, it never even came up again. I don't know whether to chalk that up to a dangling thread, a legitimate red herring, or just me reading too much into one of evil's lies. But I thought I was starting to get the hang of how to watch one of those shows with a mythology, and it turned out I was dead wrong.

The virtual stork delivered has delivered another new blog courtesy of regular Beallsvonian commenter and all-around good guy Tom, about whom I just learned way more than I wanted to know, if I'm reading the euphemism correctly.

Monday, May 19, 2003

God help me, I love the dot column...

  • "OK, Tom, try another one where he passes out on the golf course. We could always get Stone Philips to do it."
  • Here's my response to the whole Rick Santorum controversy: DUH! Some of us have known for 10 years that the man is evil--the rest of you are just starting to learn. I was more involved in partisan politics as an undergrad when Santorum first got House and then Senate seats, and I was a little closer to the action. I do have to give credit where credit is due to Pitt's Campus Republicans at the time. In 1992 the University Democrats got fully on board the local arm of the Clinton campaign, felt good about winning, and were able to celebrate in the short-term. The Campus Republicans ignored the Bush campaign to focus on getting this local ideologue elected to a first House term, they basically were the campaign staff, they got him elected by the slimmest of margins, and now they probably all have great jobs working for a powerful Senator. Jerks.
  • Still, that doesn't change the fact that he's evil. If the man could sing, he'd be Bob Roberts. I'd think that movie was a total rip-off of the 1994 Santorum-Wofford campaign, except the movie came out in 1992! That disturbs me to this day.
  • I don't know what to make of this Big East-ACC fight. I agree with Craig that Pitt joining the Big Ten would be a good thing for both the school and the conference, but I'm not sure if the interested parties see it that way. I'd miss Big East hoops, but Big Ten football would much more than make up for it, especially if we could still find a way to keep the Backyard Brawl. What I really wouldn't want to see is an expansion that would turn the Big East into an even crappier 12-team football conference than it has been as an 8-team football conference. Does the prospect of adding, say, Louisville, Army, Cincinnati, and East Carolina football really get anyone excited? It almost makes me long for the days of 5,000 fans showing up for a noon game at Pitt Stadium to battle Temple for the Big East basement. At least heckling Matt Lytle and John Ryan was fun.
  • Speaking of which, Tom informs me that he attempted to surf my blog from some high-tech pay phone but was told that it contained unsuitable material. Unsuitable for what is anyone's guess.
  • I'm not a particularly religious person, but I left out the one detail from last Thursday's Pirate adventure that I would use if I ever had to argue for the existence of miracles: I ate that entire order of Quaker Steak and Lube hot wings in a stadium seat, with blue cheese, without getting one drop of anything on my clothes. Physics and my personal history would have proclaimed this impossible, but I swear to you that it happened.
  • My happiest sports moment of the year was Pitt hoops winning the Big East tourney. #2? The Lakers not winning the NBA title.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Because of recursiveness and all, actually posting this screws up the count, but for what it's worth, The Beallsvonian (prior to this post) is now at 43,011 words since it was created.

Yesterday was my first day off in two weeks. I had been planning on going to the National Pike Festival, a celebration of one of America's great historic roads, which happens to be the one I've lived literally two good stone throws from for most of my life. But it was an icky day out, so I just went to Starbucks and the movies. By going to Starbucks in Bethel Park (the closest one to my house), I continued my streak whereby I have been to Allegheny County every day since Easter. Suffice it to say I have to go at least half an hour from home to get to any point in Allegheny County, so I've been on the road quite a bit, both for work and for leisure.

At the movies I saw Identity and A Mighty Wind. I would rate Mighty Wind better than Best in Show, not quite as good as Spinal Tap, and not nearly as good as Waiting for Guffman if I had to rank that whole Christopher Guest and company millieu. Kudos for casting the "I'm not comfortable with that" lawyer/therapist from "Ally McBeal", and it's also hard to go wrong by casting Parker Posey. Ever. But much of the humor is very understated, and there are not many laugh out loud moments--although I'll never think of the Supreme Court in quite the same way again.

As for Identity, I really enjoyed it. The framing device which plays into the resolution of the film is a bit distracting, but it makes sense if you think about it. Also, the true final surprise is not that much of a surprise if you're really paying attention. And since I'm discussing casting today, I can't imagine who thought it was a good idea to cast Jake Busey as a homicidal criminal and expect the audience to take him more or less seriously. Then again, unlike me, most people have never seen Tomcats or any episodes of "Shasta McNasty", so maybe this wasn't a problem for others.

At Starbucks I finished another book, Raymond Carver's Where I'm Calling From. Carver is a widely influential writer not well known to the general public because he stuck to the short story form. This volume is a collection that spans much of his career--a "best of", if you will. Carver's subject matter is consistent in two ways: almost all of the stories are set in the Pacific Northwest, and almost all of them deal with people from the lower to lower-middle class dealing with day-to-day tragedies and traumas. Occasionally, such as in "A Small, Good Thing", the tragedy is big: the death of a son, accompanied by a stalking baker who doesn't know the horrible reason why he has been stiffed on an expensive cake. Generally, though, these stories deal with the ways in which people--especially couples or other family members--slowly drift apart. Carver's stories are existential downers, because very little happens, and what does happen tends to be moderately depressing. Oh, and everybody tends to be either slightly drunk all the time, or a recovering alcoholic.

I have to say that I don't feel like I really get Carver, in part because I don't feel like I get the short story in the same way that I get the novel. The beginning and ending points of short stories often seem very arbitrary to me, and Carver's stories especially fall into that category. I'm sure Carver's reputation is deserved, and his influence is undeniable to hear other writers talk about their heroes, but I find it hard to believe that many people enjoy his stories per se, and I can't see myself seeking them out again.

So I'm back at work today, of course, and I'll work a regular week this week, but then next Saturday I'm driving out to the Jersey Shore for 4-5 days, and then the following Friday I'm flying to Myrtle Beach to help out with the NAQT high school championship tournament. That's my real vacation this summer, although my longest trip will of course be coming up about two months after I get back from South Carolina. Ever since I decided I was moving back to California I've felt like I was kind of an "in-between" person--physically here but mentally already half-gone. Now I'm almost starting to feel as if I'm coasting to the finish line of my year-long PA sojourn, and once I get back from the two trips the countdown will really be on...

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Thursday At The Park; or, Hey! That Kid Tried to Trip That Pierogi!
My boss called me up to her office this morning. Her other paraparalegal (who works on her other cases) was already there, and she said to us that she knew that she asked some hard and awful things of us and that we were really good about it and that there are few rewards. Then she announced that her boss, the head of litigation, had decided to reward her for the hard and awful things she does with his seats for this afternoon's Pirate game and, more importantly, with the free time to use them. So she decided to take us too, and as a bonus she said not to deduct it from our time. So for three hours today, I was paid to go to a Pirate game and watch. Yes, I was Pat Meares for a day.

I was trying to think of a way to convey just how good these seats were. I came up with several: Good enough to see the muscles move for the Astros' facial expressions. Good enough to see the Astros' space shuttle patch in enough detail that it was clear that it wasn't just a phallic symbol. The best one I came up with was this: We were close enough to read the logos on the Astros' batting gloves. We were seven rows back, right behind the center of the first-base dugout. Other than the road-team first-base dugout being a crime against nature ("and the Lord said the home team shall resideth along the first base line, dammit!" --made-up Bible verse 32:12), this was pretty much a perfect place to be. We were also in the last row before the break from the two-digit section numbers, so there was a wide aisle behind us for the stadium dork crew to walk through, for ushers, and of course where the famous pierogi racers walked through to get back behind the scenes after their race. On their way through, a six-year-old or so boy was hi-fiving the combatants, and my boss said something I missed. I asked her to repeat. She had pointed out that, "Hey! That kid tried to trip that pierogi! He hi-fived them, then put his foot out to trip him!"

I also got a free lunch of Quaker Steak and Lube wings out of the bargain.

It was a very good day at work.

The case that I'm working on here is big and complex and ugly, as described here. On Monday, we had some interrogatory answers due. Actually, they had been due 30 days earlier, but we got an extension. Interrogatories, as the name suggests, are questions asked by the parties during the discovery process. Imagine the final exam you have nightmares about, multiply it by 100, and that's what our interrogatories looked like. One question (out of about 40) had five subparts, one of which had 31 subparts. Not fun. Of course, unlike an actual final exam, you get to answer interrogatories in a very roundabout way, for instance by objecting to the scope or nature of the question, or by giving an answer along the lines of, "The answer to this question can be found in the documents in Bates number ranges 129808-129844, 125364-126003, and 145382-145887." In that case, of course, you don't actually give them the documents, but you wait until they ask for them, then you fight over whether you're sending them out or they're coming to look at them, then eventually someone actually sees the documents.

For the past four weeks the contract attorneys have been reviewing boxes that may or may not contain documents that answer these questions. They have coding sheets, and whenever they see a potentially relevant document, they take down basic information about the document and categorize it under about 15 topics with various subtopics. In theory, these coding sheets should be going right into a database, but one of our techies was off on vacation for a while, word processing has been uncooperative, and we've had to use the sheets for other processing purposes. So there's no database. On top of this, due to some strange breakdown in communication, we mis-Bates labeled our first 12,000 pages, and we only found this out last Monday. And, it was just the previous Friday that one of the firm's lawyers on the case actually let us know which of the categories on the coding sheet were relevant for answering these particular interrogatories. (You'd think our coding sheet would only contain categories we cared about. Unless you've worked in a law firm.)

So between May 2 and May 12 we had to hand sort every coding sheet to see if it contained categories we cared about, pull every document containing one or more of those categories from its box with a slipsheet showing where to put it back, get those documents to a lawyer upstairs, get them back, replace them in the box, renumber 12,000 pages, pull the relevant documents again for a second review, pull out some particularly interesting documents that we don't want to turn over just yet, re-review some of our early boxes where people weren't doing things right, and make sure through all of this that we didn't lose or misfile a single page. Also, we had to keep the attorneys going through boxes, check their boxes out and back in, try to do some of our regular ongoing work, fire Old Guy and Wacky Lady, and deal with the junior partner continuing to change his mind about every little thing every couple of hours.

That, my friends, is how The Beallsvonian ended up working the longest week of his life last week.

On Tuesday, after all this was done, I was a total zombie in the afternoon. I was practically catatonic in my chair. So I ended up leaving work two and a half hours early just to get some rest. I ended up on a crowded train where I couldn't get a seat for most of the trip. When I got to my car I couldn't face the 40-minute drive home yet, so I drove five minutes to a Starbucks and just crashed for a while instead.

The practical upshot of which was that I have now finished one more volume from The List. Ivan Doig's English Creek was another excellent read that snuck up on me--slow going for a bit, but about halfway in I became really transfixed. It's the story of Jick McCaskill, a 14-year-old Montana teen coming of age in the summer of 1939. His dad is a forest ranger in Northwest Montana, and he is surrounded by sheep and cow ranches. Jick feels out-of-touch with the adult world, but he's slowly coming into it, and he latches onto the idea that the more he can understand about history--not capital-H History, but a local understanding of where the people nearest to him have come from--the better he will come to understand the world into which he is growing. So it's a coming-of-age story and a Montana story, but it's also about family dynamics, as the central tension in the McCaskill clan is older son Alec's determination to lead his own life rather than the college future his parents have plotted for him.

What's so great about English Creek is the way Doig manages to anchor a strong personal story into a vivid setting that he understands with a historian's mind; the result is a grounded story that truly invokes how part of the rural West was taking baby steps out of the Great Depression, and how modern times slowly crept into a somewhat resistant countryside. I was really taken with this book, which is the middle novel of a trilogy, and I will definitely be picking up the third volume soon, and possibly more by Doig as well.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

It's a great day to be alive when The Onion drops in an obscure Dead Milkmen reference. Lloyd Schumner truly is the walrus. And only after I published this once did I look at the lyrics to the following song, Watching Scotty Die, and realize the numerical part of the reference, making it truly outstanding (or a helluva coincidence)!

OK, the lay of the land of the job is this. My basic schedule has been 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., which means that I start with the presumption of a 50-hour week. I also work a sixth day probably two weekends out of three. This past weekend I worked both days due to a nasty special project, and so I ended up putting in a 65-hour week, which was a personal record for me for paid employment. I may have worked some longer weeks in grad school, but that's a different animal.

So the set-up here is that I am a litigation assistant (I still think of myself as a para-paralegal) charged with overseeing the workroom, which is where we keep the 1100 boxes and all the other temps. Two other temps, Maria and Seson, are also litigation assistants. The other 8-to-11, currently 8, temps are lawyers whose job is to systematically review boxes for relevant and/or privileged information. Mari and Se's job is to process boxes that have been completed--photocopying key documents, Bates labeling (i.e. the horrible page numbering exercise I outlined here), removing and tracking privileged documents, etc. I deal with the logistics of all of this, plus my main side project has been to create an index with Bates numbers for the 133,336 pages we have already shared with the opposition.

We started with 11 lawyers on a Friday about three and a half weeks ago. One quit after the first day and was replaced. A second one was fired in the middle of the first full week because he spent most of the day on his cell phone and laptop, and he took a day off to deal with his other clients. He was also replaced. Then the fun really began.

One of the attorneys, let's call him "Bill" (his actual name is Bill, without the quotation marks), worked here for almost two weeks without ever putting in a full day. How, pray tell, did this happen? Well, on that first Friday he had to leave at 3 due to day care issues, which was understandable. On Monday he called in sick with a sunburn. On Tuesday he called off because his son was being held out of school due to a concussion. Ditto on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday he came in, spent about an hour on the phone, talked to our boss about his mistakes, said he'd go home and not bill us for that day, and asked if we could just start fresh on Monday. We had been debating all week whether to cut him loose, but he convinced her it would be OK. Also, since she had asked for 10 people but got 11, she figured she wasn't losing anything since he wasn't getting paid for calling off, and anything he produced was gravy. Also, his wife is the family breadwinner, but she is having some stark psychological problems apparently, and so she had some sympathy.

That Monday, he called off. He couldn't get a babysitter, but he assured us that he had someone lined up for the rest of the week, and it was a service and not just a flighty individual. On Tuesday he came in rarin' to go. That day saw some fairly substantial shifts in the project, and we had two big meetings that day with the attorneys who actuallly work here. During the first meeting, "Bill" took a cell phone call, walked out of the room, and didn't come back for 30 minutes. Crazy wife issues, apparently. But he got the key meeting info from someone else. Then he told us he was going to have to leave at three. The second big meeting was at 2, and he didn't show up. Apparently, he had left at 1:30 and had only informed one of the other litigation assistants. At this point our boss finally decided to pull the plug....but wait, there's more.

"Bill"'s agency was unable to contact him Tuesday evening, so he showed up to work on Wednesday morning, and everyone was walking on eggshells around him because we knew it was his last day, but he didn't. On Wednesday our boss was taking all of us litigation assistants to lunch, and she was meeting us at the restaurant because she was coming from court. Getting off the subway, she saw him getting on. It turns out that he left at 1, basically without telling anyone that he was going or why. He got the call from his agency that night, and he actually had the balls to bitch them out on the phone, after "working" for nine days and a grand total of about 14 hours.

After "Bill" we were down to ten lawyers and things settled down, except for the one I'll call Wacky Lady. Wacky Lady was a type my boss had warned us all about before we brought in the attorneys. She said some people will come in and instead of doing their job, they'll get the idea in their head that even though they are one person doing document review in one little corner, they can be the one who somehow solves the whole case, in the process getting noticed and maybe hired. This is an utter pipe dream--both the idea that someone in that position could solve even an element of the case, but also the idea that big law firms hire that way. Still, Wacky Lady apparently had that notion. She was consistently asking to photocopy documents for herself, get different colored paper so she could start charting things out, etc. What was her job? To determine whether documents might be relevant or might be privileged, so that an attorney upstairs who's actually familiar with all the trappings of this labyrithine case could make the final determination. That's it, that's the list. Charting, connecting, etc. were not on her agenda. In the meantime, she seemed bound and determined to overturn the "there are no stupid questions" hypothesis, she was scatter-brained as all get out, her actual document reviewing sucked, and she was working unauthorized overtime. This was like the Dilbert character who worked a lot of extra hours in order to make up for not being smart, only to have it explained that him working a lot of hours only made everyone else work even more still.

OTOH, we didn't want the bizarre drama that comes with an individual firing, so we decided that rather than get rid of one person, we would downsize to 7-to-8 people, with part of the rationale also being to extend the duration of the project for the people we actually like. We (being my boss and the litigation assistants) couldn't agree on an obvious third person to can, but we did determine that The Old Guy was second on everyone's hit list. The Old Guy said in our first-day introductory meeting that he had been internal counsel for his whole career, had taken a retirement, but now he was bored and wanted to go back to work. Riiiiight. Document review as a cure for boredom is like prescribing Wild Turkey to cure alcoholism. Speculation was rampant about whether "early retirement" was a euphemism for forced out, or whether investments had gone sour, or what. But he was here, he was weird, he spent a lot of time on the phone, he asked dumb questions, he was sexist, and his work was mediocre at best. So he is now gone.

The Wacky Lady and The Old Guy were fired on Monday by two different agencies. Old Guy's did it right--they called him after work, said not to go back, and they came and got his stuff yesterday. Wacky Lady's was supposed to do the same thing, but instead they called here asking for her, supposedly only wanting to say that they needed her to go and see them, but even she could see the writing on the wall, and when she asked if she needed to take her things, they said yes. Basically, this guy was as subtle as the Turk at training camp: "Coach wants to see you in his office, and bring your playbook." Since my boss was not around, I had to not-so-subtly hover in the area (though not too too close) and make sure there was no drama, which to her credit there was not. But that was the absolute low spot of my otherwise very happy time so far at this job.

So while that's certainly not all of my saved up work stories by any means (some other time I'll explain why I worked 65 hours last week), that should give you some sense of how The Beallsvonian is occupying his days.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Hopefully a work-related narrative is coming later, but until then, you know the drill...

  • Usually I'm about the biggest defender of popular and mass culture of anyone, but nothing makes me go all Adorno and Horkheimer (i.e.: hatin' the game, not the playa) quite as much as when I get a song stuck in my head, and that song happens to be a commercial jingle.
  • If there were a Craig Barker-style tournament of Songs That On the Surface Are Purely Innocent, But Scratch No Deeper Than You Would With a Penny On a Lottery Ticket And It's Just One Big Sexual Innuendo, I would hope that the finals would come down to "Brand New Key" by Melanie ("I've got a brand new pair of roller skates you've got a brand new key, I think that we should get together and try the match and see...") and "What's New Pussycat?" by Tom Jones ("Pussycat, pussycat you're delicious and if my wishes can all come true, I'll soon be kissing your sweet little pussycat lips...").
  • "Spill The Wine" by War might also figure prominently, but I just don't understand it.
  • Yes, I was listening to the Boogie Nights soundtrack on the way in to work this morning, thank you very much.
  • I was disappointed by Rob's demise in the Survivor finale, and by the fact that I was totally off-base in thinking that getting rid of Heidi over Jenna was a good way for the guys to keep immunity in the family. And shocked (SHOCKED!, I tell you) that in the 6-1 final vote Butch was on the side of the one, marking about the 12th consecutive time he was on the wrong side of a vote. But what I really really want to know is, is Bridgeville's own (OK, South Fayette Township's own) Jenna Morasco going to be appearing at a Trolls game anytime soon? Mr. Kidder, you need to get on this, so to speak. You bring the chocolate, I'll bring the peanut butter.
  • "Wingmaaaaaaan, you're takin' one for the team, so your buddy can live the dream..." AAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!!!
  • Yahoo mail still has little chance of actually reaching me at the moment.
  • Work stories will hopefully be following later today or at least later this week. As a special sneak preview, I got to oversee the firing of two people who probably averaged twice my age apiece yesterday. That's always fun. Sorry, kids, grandpa won't be putting a twenty in your birthday card this year.
  • In that Saturn Ion commercial with a big yard party going on as the car rides past, the very last house you see on the extreme left--the yellow and brown one that mostly appears in the only shot from a skew angle--is the boarding house I lived in for a year with a beautiful Austrian girl, an Indian family with ADD (including Naveen, who legally dropped his last name and was just "Naveen"), their incontinent dogs, an MBA student from Albany, and an automobile from the 1970s large enough to knock part of the house off its moorings (not in theory but in fact). Ah, memories...

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Since it's been a while as the technical problems at home continue, I'll go back to the dots...

  • Not that I want this to be the all Buffy and Survivor blog, but last Thursday was downright strange. For those of you who don't watch Survivor, the basic format is that the second half hour, in addition to the immunity challenge, tends to set you up for two possible voting scenarios by showing you who's thinking of voting for whom, and by showing the logic of those votes. For the first time in five seasons (I didn't watch the original), last week the editors were completely stumped by the vote. They pieced together a little bit of footage showing that there was talk of Christy going, but they weren't able to explain why that happened. Jenna and Heidi hate Rob, don't trust him at all, yet they end up voting with him again? Huh?! And two trends continue:
    1. Butch says nothing interesting, is on the wrong side of the voting, yet doesn't attract enough attention to go, and
    2. Someone proclaims that they are the pivotal vote/person in control and they promptly get ambushed.
    I had a long talk with the New Hampshire correspondent (still mourning this), and I like Rob's chances better than he does, but the game is about as wide open as it has ever been at this stage.
  • It's tragic and painful when the fantasy girls of our youth pass on. Besides Mikhail Gorbachev, did anyone ever do more to bring Super Powers together than Miss Elizabeth? But you don't have to be former Elizabeth brother-in-law The Genius to realize that living with a 40-something down-on-his-luck former professional wrestler with drug and domestic abuse problems is FRAUGHT, with a capital FRAUGHT.
  • I saw X-Men 2 on Saturday. If big flashy summer movies are your thing, you should enjoy it. I did to a point, but I have two quibbles. One is that knowledge of the X-Men mythology is more important this time around, and I have none. Two is that I felt as if plot lines were left dangling for way too long, and the editing didn't keep each of the separate plotlines moving forward very well. And if I notice problems with editing and direction, they're probably especially bad because I'm notoriously slow on the uptake when it comes to those things.
  • If you had 49 guesses as to which state would put a socialist on its state quarter, you might still not come up with the right answer: Alabama.
  • My latest read was Clancy Sigal's Going Away, recommended to me by my college mentor when I went to visit him last fall. It's the Communist On The Road. Written in the late fifties, it's about a former labor organizer and blacklisted Hollywood worker who takes a cross-country trip to try to find America's conscience, and his own. There aren't many answers, only questions, but it's quite a document of the collapse of America's extreme left wing, and also something of an indictment of those who left "The Cause" for a bourgeois life. It's not a great novel, but it's probably of more interest to historians than novel-readers anyway. It also has some appeal to drifters of all stripes who move around a lot and never quite seem to find a fitting place to settle down.
  • I listened to the Bill-suggested "Ebony Eyes", and while it's still not on my Final Four of Dead Teenager songs, I might put it in the Final Four of a theoretical Barker-style tournament of oldies with talking parts, along with "Little Darlin'" by the Diamonds, "Chantilly Lace" by the Big Bopper, and my champion, Elvis's "Are You Lonesome Tonight?"
  • I swear at some point I'll tell the million work stories I'm saving up...

Thursday, May 01, 2003

So, regarding Buffy--what the hell?! I mean what the freakin' hell?! Two weeks ago we get the most haunting scene I can remember ever seeing on TV, with Xander getting his eye put out by evil-preacher dude Caleb--and with a big ol' thumb, not some namby-pamby Red Ryder BB gun neither. (Note to self: Find out what the hell ever happened to Peter Billingsley anyway.) But this week it's just the Scooby Gang mutiny, where at the end everyone says no we're not going to go fight evil preacher/thumb man and get our asses kicked again, and Buffy is basically voted out of the tribe. What the freakin' hell?! There are THREE EPISODES LEFT, people--what are you going to do, sit around playing Parcheesi for two and a half weeks and then quietly acquiesce to fiery apocalypse?

The other thing this episode showed is that the spin-off should be the Andrew and Spike Variety Hour. For the uninitiated, Spike is Buffy's former-nemesis-turned-love-interest once evil now good but still a badass, and Andrew is also one of Buffy's former nemesiseses (how do you say that word?), but is basically a fey little 18-year-old whiny comic book geek. Anyway, this week Spike was sent on a mission, and to get rid of him for awhile Andrew was sent along too. Cut to a scene of Andrew riding behind Spike on a motorcycle. Andrew keeps saying that fighting evil makes you hungry, and that they should stop somewhere and get curly fries. Or one of those bloomin' onions. Spike agrees that those are good too. Andrew rhetorically asks how they can make them so yummy but still hold together all pretty like that. After a pause, Spike notes that they dip them in ice water for a while so that they'll hold their shape, and then explains the process for making them. Another pause, and then "Tell anyone we had this conversation and I'll bite you." Very good times. I will miss Buffy's strange sense of humor more than anything else.

On Survivor, tonight should be really good. Rob saved the ass of the ragtag coalition of deaf-girl Christy, creepy possibly psycho guy Matthew, and under-the-radar Butch. (Every season one person is pretty much under the radar for a while, but usually not by the time we're down to six people; the Stealth Bomber could take pointers from Butch; beige called and asked him for bland lessons.) If those three have any brains at all, they will immediately turn around and get rid of Rob, since he's gotten them a majority of three if they take it, vs. the majority of four that they are collectively with him. Heidi and Jenna would jump up and down at the chance to off Rob, because he screwed up their little singles party, and because if they don't it's their ass. They have to do it.

But Lord I hope I'm right, and they don't have a collective brain in their head. Because Rob is too fun for words, and I don't want him to go away. If they vote off one of the babes, I hope it's Heidi, because instead of focusing on hotness I can't stop watching her implant stretch marks grow each week. Seriously, when everything shrinks but the boobs, there is a point where it goes from pleasant to weirdly stretched out and approaching gross. Jenna can stay since she's the Pittsburgh girl and hotter anyway. Also, Jenna could make things more interesting the final two weeks, since I think she's more capable of winning immunity than Heidi is. All I really care about, though, is that Rob lives to scheme another day.

Much like TardBlog, I know that linking to T-Shirt Hell makes me a bad person. But, again, like TardBlog, it's just too funny not to.


OK, not funny, but it has to be done every year.

And speaking of holidays and humor, three separate times this April I heard of heard reference to someone making a marshmallow candy/Shaggy-related joke with the line, "Closer than my Peeps you are to me." It's still funny, but if people are saying it in two years it's at least rife if not full-on fraught.

If I get some free time later this afternoon I'll rant about Buffy from two nights ago and explain why I'm chomping at the bit for tonight's Survivor.