Sunday, November 25, 2007

This blog is five years old now. I took a look at some of the earliest posts, and I can't believe I wrote some of them five whole years ago, and can't believe that others were only five years ago. So that's about right.

I started this blog out of desperation at a time when I had a vague sense of where I wanted to get in the following five, but without much of a sense of how to do it. Five years later I've pretty much done it--I made it out of the house, got back to L.A., got to a really good law school, got through a really good law school, got a lucrative job, got back back to L.A., etc. etc. It hasn't all been peaches and cream, but typing this out is super-cathartic as I sit here in my beach apartment.

My biggest problem right now feels like a non-problem compared to all of this other stuff, but nonetheless it's what I'm wrestling with right now. For six years I've worked really hard to get to where I am at this moment; now that I'm here, what am I working for now?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I spent the last four days at a client's office in Hollywood. That's enough about that, except that Hollywood is pretty much just like anywhere else. For instance, I went out to the food court at lunch today and sat at the next table over from four guys who were also taking time off work to have some lunch.

Oh, there might be one slight difference--those four guys were Jack Sparrow, the Flash, Aladdin's genie, and a guy who I thought might be trying to do a John Popper, might be John Popper, or might just look like that. Fortunately, when The Flash and I simultaneously went for drink refills I asked him, and he said the guy wasn't in costume at all. So I got some closure, which was nice.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Yeah, so I haven't been here much. Work hasn't even been that busy--it's just that I'm getting up at 5 or 5:30 for the gym, working till between 6 and 7, and on a good day doing something after. On most days, I'm just vegging in front of the TV. But I'm holding out hope that this is just an adjustment phase, after which I'll get back to doing things like posting. Come to think of it, this is a decent start.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The following things happened yesterday:

  1. I had lunch at a salad bar place near my office, and the other two new associates who I went with tell me that some girl from something called The Hills was in line when we checked out. I barely know what this means, but they were furiously texting people from their Blackberries (Blackberrys? Because it's a proper name?) and generally freaking out.
  2. My new secretary offered to put me on the list for his upcoming show at the Key Club on the Sunset Strip.
  3. I met a very cool girl who may or may not be into me (links withheld at least until I figure this out, but I'm cautiously optimistic where digits are divulged, as they were here) who was in one of my favorite TV episodes of the past several seasons, which she hasn't seen but which I have.
So yeah, L.A. is pretty much like anyplace else.

You now have to upload a picture to a post to save it to your profile, or at least I do because it's the only way I can figure out. This is me on the roof of the Continental Park Hotel with the Hagia Sophia in the background.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

O, Dubrovnik. The pearl of the Adriatic, the gem of the bar trip. I don't know if I can do it justice, but I'll give it a shot.

Dubrovnik is cool for several reasons. Most notably, it's a very well-preserved 16th-century walled city unlike any other. This means you can get up on the walls of the city and walk the mile and a half length of them in 90 minutes, with amazing views of the city and the sea. It also means you can get lost in the alleys and avenues of the town.

Additionally, there's a nice peninsula just north of the walled city where most people (including us) stay, with terrific restaurants and a couple of decent beaches. Unlike the tiny room in Split, we had two full bedrooms with a double and two twins respectively, a big kitchen, a big living room, air-conditioning, and a patio where you could reach up overhead and pluck grapes from the overhanging vines.

Dubrovnik is also one of the jumping off points for many of Croatia's popular island destinations. We didn't go to any of the big ones but did do a half-day cruise to the 3 Elephiti Islands just off the coast. The first two were kinda lame 40-minute stops, and we were afraid that the highlight was going to be watching the boat crew member throw our lunch fish remains to seagulls off the back of the boat. But then we got to the third island of Lopud, which was supposed to be the good one, and where we had 2.5 hours.

When you approach Lopud, you quickly fear that you have been taken by inaccurate brochures, because instead of a beautiful sandy beach you simply get an ok mostly concrete beach near the port. But then you follow the signs to the sandy beach--literally up a small mountain and back down again--and you come to an incredible natural cove with incredibly blue water and an impeccable sandy beach. Lopud did not disappoint.

All of this, plus a very cool outdoor Internet park, was very cool, but I've left the singular highlight of Dubrovnik for last. A friend had told me about a hole in the city wall where you could walk halfway down a hill to a beer and ice cream vendor, and then go to the bottom of the hill and jump into the sea. Well, in the four years since he'd been there the vendor was replaced by a full service bar, but the bar seating still only went part of the way down.

As we descended the stairs, we found that we were the only people who had ventured past the bar area at that time. In that cool early evening about an hour before sunset, the four of us just sat quietly for a while, talking a little, two of us drinking beers, and all of us staring for a long time into the nearby sea.

Eventually I just said, "it was really hard to get here, and it makes it all the more worthwhile." At first I meant finding the little nook and getting down there, but when someone asked me what I meant, I realized I'd said so much more. It's hard to get to that spot, but it's also hard to get to Dubrovnik--there's no train service, bus service is just ok, and there are few flights. But it was also hard to get through law school. And to get to law school. Etc. etc. etc. Without getting too melodramatic, you could simply look to the earliest 2002 and 2003 sections of this blog's archives to find out just how hard it was to get there.

And that's a big part of why Dubrovnik was my favorite stop, and sitting on those rocks nursing an Ozujsko was one of my three favorite moments of the trip.

The other two will be covered later...

Thursday, September 06, 2007

After giving some more thought to the trip-reporting plan, I realized that part of the problem was that we went to four cities in the first five days, and that's why that part was kind of a blur. Basically, we flew into Prague, and we really wanted to get to Croatia at some point in the trip. It turned out that thanks to Sky Europe, we had exactly one chance to do that--flying from Bratislava to Split on Day 4, and flying from Dubrovnik to Budapest on Day 8. So that's what we did. But after some flight delays (four excruciating hours sitting on the plane at JFK waiting for a runway--grrrr!!!!!), we ended up with an evening, a day, and a morning in Prague.

Prague was the beginning of two recurring trends on the trip--sampling numerous Eastern European beers, and walking all the hell over the place. We really enjoyed a couple of the Prague beers in particular; Staropramen was probably the collective favorite of everything we tried, and the completely unrelated European version of Budweiser was also quite nice. We saw all the major sites, and two of them involved hellacious climbs--the tower of the Charles Bridge and the 280-something-step spiral staircase of the St. Vitus Cathedral tower.

Those two climbs were part of perhaps my favorite recurring theme of the trip: doing things that I could not have physically done as recently as a year ago. I lost count, but there were probably at least a dozen such instances on the trip.

After Prague we took the train to Bratislava, which we got into about 5 p.m., and we were only there for that night, having a 9 a.m. flight in the morning. So there's not much to explain about Bratislava, except that it's the only place where we were hassled by Roma (ever culturally sensitive Raman teased them a bit and got flipped off for his troubles) and that we stayed in the apartment of some random couple someone found on the Internet. The guy was so nice that he even came back to drive us to the airport the next morning in his Skoda. We saw lots of iiiiiiinteresting Eastern European cars on the trip, but that was the only one we actually got to ride in.

From there we went to Split, Croatia. In Split we again stayed in private accommodations, but this time it was not so nice. This apartment had two tiny twin beds and two folded up cots when we got there, and we had no idea of how to get the cots to fit in the one room. For some reason we took the place, and somehow we got the cots folded down. This solved the question of whether we were going to stay one or two nights in Split, so we headed to Dubrovnik on the afternoon bus the next day.

But I should give Split its due--it's a crazy old city built in the remnants of Diocletian's circa 305 A.D. retirement palace. He lived there for about 10 years, then died, and then the place was abandoned for 500 years. At that point some locals wanted to avoid one of the invading hordes (I've forgotten which one), so they decided to move inside the palace walls, and there's been a city there ever since. Split also started something that would continue in Dubrovnik too--absolute awesome pizza.

So that was the first bit of the trip. I'll report on the other cities (and my new adventures in Venice) a bit later.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

So, the rule for the future is: post or post not. There is no "planning to". Some form of trip synopsis will be forthcoming, but the ambitious town-by-town plan has been scuttled a bit because in all honesty when you go to 7 cities, it's kind of hard to remember the first 3 by the end.

Oh, and there's the slight matter that I'm taking off from Beallsville first thing tomorrow morning for the West Coast, via former regular commenter frank tanana's new gig in Oxford, Mississippi. I should be in Venice Beach sometime on Labor Day.

And, I'll be travelling in MY NEW CAR!!!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

There's no way to truly do justice to a 19-day vacation in blow-by-blow style, especially when I didn't keep a diary, journal, or anything of the sort. But over the next couple of days I'm going to try to encapsulate as much as I can with a series of "5 quick stories about" posts for each city of the trip in order. No ground rules, except that I may expand "quick" as needed and that some general stories about the trip may be shoehorned into the places we didn't stay very long. So watch this space.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

We've survived Prague, Bratislava, Split, Dubrovnik, and Budapest so far, and today we pulled into Varna (Жарна) on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. There is no water in Varna right now. I mean, there's the Black Sea and all, but there is no running water anywhere in the city. Fortunately, the Internet cafe is doing just fine, and everyone mysteriously seems to know that the water will be back on by 10 p.m., a mere hour away.

In the meantime, we take some solace in the fact that there's plenty of beer around. Boy howdy. Plus, we just had a two-course meal plus a half-liter of beer each, it was delicious, and the total bill with solid tip was 31 leva, which is about $25. Good times.

Friday, August 10, 2007

I can´t stress enough that you should all come to Dubrovnik. Right now. I´ll wait.

Also, Eastern European keyboards have 24 letters in the right place, but y and z are reversed and all the punctuation is in screwy places.

Budapest tomorrow; Varna, Bulgaria, on Tuesday, and generally more to come.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

An Open Letter to the Fleetwood Diner

Dear FD,

So, um, yeah, I just wanted to drop you this little note to say that I'm sorry about the unpleasantness. You see, I normally don't get that way, but it was my last night in town and I'd been moving all day and was pretty dehydrated, plus I had one or two more drinks than usual. Also, I haven't really drank much in July; July was bad--just take my word for it. So I was celebrating the end of that horrible, awful month too, and I accidentally overstepped my limits.

I'm honestly not even sure if you're the one I should be apologizing to, because I think that the garbage can in question might be municipal and not yours. But even so, it's right there in front of you, so you had to deal with the aroma of what I'd like to call "certified pre-owned gin" all night, and perhaps still even now. So yeah, totally sorry about that.

I'd also like to emphasize that this in no way reflects on the pancakes. I mean for starters, the first visit to the can in question happened before the flapjacks even arrived, and the return trip happened after just one bite. I don't think the one bite was a contributing factor at all. I mean, I've never had your pancakes before, but I've sat next to someone who was having them, and I remember being totally jealous because they smelled really good. In short, don't change the pancakes.

So I'm gone from Ann Arbor now and I won't get to stop by anymore, but please don't let this unfortunate incident scar the four or five other really good times we had together. I know it won't in my mind.



P.S.: I know that "hippie hash" is a big seller in a college town, but that doesn't change the fact that broccoli does not belong in breakfast food. Please consider dumping it.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Ontario, California in late-July is pure hot, and my first night in town the only restaurants I could find for dinner were a defrocked Sizzler and, eventually, a frocked Sizzler. My hotel turned out to be a motel (not a Holiday Inn), and I think my four-day stay was about 96 times that of its typical customer. The three-hour question in the last session was a wills contest about a father who had died in the last month, and I had to take five minutes to recover after reading it.

On the other hand, plenty of friends were out there too, and we had really nice dinners Tuesday and Wednesday night. The questions otherwise fell nicely, as my three most desired topics to avoid (Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, Corporations) based on what I short-shrifted in the last two weeks of studying all failed to come up. I think I slam-dunked three of the six essays, and I didn't flail about cluelessly on any question (or, at most, one). Also, I bought a hat before my head sunburn got out of control.

And yesterday I found that the Venice apartment was everything I had been told.

So, all in all, not a bad week.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I've gotten a couple of questions about donations, info that was accidentally omitted from the obituary. We are asking that donations be sent to the Donnell House and preferably to the Free Care Fund.

Everyone seems to be holding up ok so far.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

It ended last night, not with a bang but with a whimper. Not even a whimper really--he literally took a breath and then didn't take the next one, and there was no more fanfare than that. MASH was on the TV, and I was working on a sudoku, while Mom was occupied with something similarly banal. I looked up, as I did periodically, to wait for the next breath, and it never came. We called in the nurses, they checked some vitals, and that was it.

People have been incredibly kind, as they generally are in these situations, and which I should try to remember in my more cynical moments. Another lesson learned is that a generalized "anything I can do for you" is a wonderful and thoughtful response, a slightly longer personalized response is even more wonderful and thoughtful still, and the single best thing you can do if feasible is to forget the general and just do something that the grieving person needs and doesn't know they need. But it's not necessarily feasible to do that, so any kind words spared (especially from people you know are super-busy, e.g. because of the biggest test of their life being a week away) are more than sufficient.

My friends have been amazing. Just amazing. That's all I can say about that.

Also, I would have bet dollars to donuts against it, but somehow I've convinced my mother that it's a good idea (.......?) [ed. note: CA Bar humor] to play a Flaming Lips song at the funeral, in addition to two songs by Willie Nelson who was a favorite of dad's, and the family's in general.

Monday, July 16, 2007

No change.

Except, of course, for the fact that I start to go completely mental after about 4 days around here under the best of circumstances, which this is decidedly not. If this were one of those shows like Ally McBeal or Scrubs where you see comically distorted fantasies through the main character's eyes, you'd have a picture now of walking around a gigantic Walmart where everyone has a mullet halfway down their back, everyone is 450 pounds and 60 and wearing short shorts, there's always country music playing and not the good kind like Johnny or Willie but the kind that's just like pop music for 15-year-old girls except with a twang, everybody's munching on a gigantic bag of extra-salty chips and fried dough, and all rules of grammar have been permanently suspended.

That would be at least a 10-12% exaggeration of everything I see around me every day when I go running errands, or just get away for a while.

The Starbucks that has music pumped in from corporate so the locals can't play pop crap, country pop crap, hair metal, or the Steve Miller Band has been my one place of refuge. Actually, one of two--the messages I get on here and via email from my friends all over the place have been the biggest refuge of all, and I thank you sincerely for that.

Now I just want to get back to civilization, the gym, Weight Watchers, the bike--my life.

But for now, no change.

Friday, July 13, 2007

I've used one of these things at least 1,000 times. They fit perfectly in your hand and have a little thumb-depressor button, and are connected by a long wire to another machine. All the other times I've used them, I've been playing quiz-bowl, holding your standard issue buzzer.

The one I've been holding over the last three days is exactly the same, except that instead of operating a lockout system, it operates Dad's morphine pump. They installed the pump on Monday, and this is one of the last precursors to what I'll euphemistically call "endgame". We can press the button as often as every 15 minutes if we interpret his mostly involuntary twitches and shudders as pain.

On Tuesday Mom called and didn't exactly tell me to come home, but didn't argue with me when I asked if that's what I should do. I was supposed to come home on Wednesday, but it looked like that might be too late.

Of course, my dad is one tough, stubborn sonofabitch, so he's still holding on tonight.

It is amazing to me what the human body (or at least his) can withstand. There is no way he weighs as much as 90 pounds right now; 30 months ago he was at 285. He has no muscle fiber left at all; his eyes are open all the time now, and when we asked why, the nurse explained to us that some patients get so weak that they can't exert the effort it takes to keep their eyes closed.

Ponder that for a moment--not having the physical strength to keep your eyelids closed, yet still being able to fight for extra hours and days of life.

He also hasn't been able to swallow since Monday. At some point in the next few days that will probably become the immediate cause of death, because he's getting no food or water now. Because it's hospice, they don't use IVs or anything of the sort. Literally the only fluid he's taking in right now is the morphine.

We are taking all of this about as well as can be expected. The long, boring hours at the hospice facility play into my needs, as I can slip off to the quiet room and practice multiple choice or essay questions for a while. I don't get in a lot of hours of study right now, but let me tell you those are some focused hours, because having anything else to think about is such a luxury.

Food habits always take a turn for the worse when I'm at home, but "fuck it" mode has totally gone into overdrive--Chinese buffet for lunch, milkshakes, baked goods that aunts and cousins send over, you name it. I'll sweat it off later, cursing every last calorie all the while. But for now, hey, whatever gets you through the night, as they say.

People have been super-thoughtful, and it is much appreciated.

Mostly, though, I just want it all to be over: I want to be able to grieve properly without being in this halfway-stage, I want dad's pain to be over, and I want to get back to my life. Yes, it's true, I have found something less enjoyable to do with my July than cramming for the bar.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Some interesting facts that you may not know about Batman:

  • The mayor of Batman is Hüseyin Kalkan, who is a member of the Democratic Society Party.
  • Until the 1950s, Batman was a small village with a mostly Kurdish population.
  • Presently Batman has a high unemployment level.
Also, apparently I'm nine years old. But someone else is eight.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Two recent consumer pet peeves:

  1. "Receipt in the bag or with you?" Now, I realize that a significant portion of Americans spend large portions of their day trying to find new, stupid, unlikely shit to worry about. I also realize that one of those people's favorite bugaboos is identity theft. But not only will I be taking with me anything that you put in my hand, but I'll also be carrying my bags. Also, it turns out that I don't need to have a lot of extra shit in my hands. So please, don't bother asking, just put the damn receipt in the bag. (This is closely related to the donut receipt phenomenon, but I don't have anything to add to Mitch Hedberg's excellent treatment here.)
  2. "Room for cream?" As a constant coffee shop patron, at first I loved this question, because it seemed thoughtful. Then I came to realize that if I said yes, I would get at most two-thirds of a cup of coffee. If I said no, I would still end up with plenty of room for cream, since I add what could best be described as a dollop. Even I say "just a little," I still end up short-changed. So I say no, and then add it anyway, and then I feel like the jerk. Also, who the hell puts cream in their coffee at a coffee shop?! "Room for skim" would be way more apropos, even if I approved of the question, which I don't.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Tickets have been purchased today, so I am officially headed to Eastern Europe after all of this bar exam rigamarole is over. We're (4 of us total) flying into Prague on August 4th (leaving JFK on the 3rd) and flying out of Istanbul on the 22nd. The rest is, for the most part, TBD. Obviously, we're definitely spending a few days each in Prague and Istanbul. In between, Eastern Europe is our oyster--most likely we'll go from Prague to Budapest, and then we're still deciding whether to go down Croatia way or head to Romania and Bulgaria. Croatia is supposed to be awesome, but it's a tad out of the way unless we want to head over the Balkans through areas where there are unexploded land mines and people who haven't been told the war is over. Romania has Dracula tourism, Bulgaria has Black Sea beaches, and both are sure to have lots of ugly looking Warsaw Pact-Era buildings. Either way, it promises to be a memorable 2.5 weeks.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I realize this is a very strong statement, but I think this might be the corniest music video ever created, at least if we don't count Youtube videos that the artist had nothing to do with. I had it on a VHS tape for a while from a VH1 one-hit wonders show, and then I forgot about it until I saw the song at record (actual vinyl) store this afternoon. I don't know if it's the red shades, the fire hose bit or (ok, I do know:) the air electric trombone, but I love it and can't get enough of it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I've been going to a particular bar every Tuesday night for the past several months for karaoke night, and I almost inevitably end up there until close. This is not particularly convenient, given bar study, given that I wake up at 6:30 every weekday morning (except Wednesday) to go to the gym before bar study, and given that it's a really random night. You might conclude that I have an insatiable desire for karaoke; that would be false. Ann Arbor has more karaoke per capita than any place in the world (from the Dept. of Made Up But Plausible Statistics), and I could get my fix any time. Don't get me wrong, I really like karaoke, to the point where I think some people have homed in on it as making me "The Karaoke Guy" (kind of a "Big Tuna" thing--Jim not Parcells--but closer to legitimate). But that's really not it.

The reason that Tuesday night karaoke night (and, last spring, Monday night karaoke night) has become non-negotiable in a crowded weekly schedule is that I've rediscovered the joy of being a regular. It turns out that I love the idea of going to the same place with basically the same crowd every week--knowing the bartender, knowing the other regulars, knowing the ebb and flow of the evening, etc.

I don't know if I'm going to be able to get that working a Big Law schedule, but I hope I can find a way to be at least a semi-regular somewhere.

Monday, June 25, 2007

If performance in practice is any predictor, when faced with the multiple choice sections of the Bar one month from today I will hold their head underwater and make them say "uncle!" in a most glorious fashion. I will then have to face the essay sections of the test, at which point I will whine, complain, delay, and find an excuse to just practice more multiple choice questions.

In related news, I received a letter from the California bar association congratulating me that my character is sketchy high enough to qualify to be lawyer in the state. You know, if I can make myself get around to practicing some essays.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I did something today that is a really stupid little thing that a lot of people wouldn't think twice about, but it was immense for me. For some reason on the spur of the moment, I decided that instead of hopping on the elliptical machine at the gym, today I would get on the treadmill. And instead of my usual treadmill activity--uphill walking--I would try some light jogging.

At first I thought I'd go for five minutes if I could, thinking back to the first time I hopped on an elliptical and thought I was going to die 3 minutes in. But 5 minutes came and went and I decided to shoot for a half-mile (going at 5 mph). Then I thought 10 minutes might be attainable. Ultimately, I ended up getting to a mile in just over 12 minutes, and then I stopped.

One mile. I ran one mile.

That's nothing, but it's everything, because I came to the jaw-dropping realization that never before in my life had I run an entire mile without stopping for a break.

But the best part is that I could have kept going.

Man, I am really going to miss this past week.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

No rats, no shouting matches, no more wondering about where I'm going to live come fall. Note two features: the red arrow pointing to the place, and the white scale bar in the bottom right corner that says "50 yards".

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

David the Future Roommate is going to the likely future apartment again tomorrow, and if he doesn't find a dozen rats (unlikely) or get in a shouting match with the landlord (less likely still), we will officially have our new apartment by the end of business (PDT) tomorrow. Suffice it to say that these were our criteria: 2+ bedrooms, 2+bath, 2+ parking, < 2 blocks to Venice Beach, good-sized kitchen, and within our price range; we've met or exceeded all of them!!

Jamarcus Russell could hit the beach from our place throwing from his knees.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Studying for the Bar is conducive to neither doing interesting things to write about nor to having time to write about the interesting things that you aren't doing. Still, I've managed to find some "me" time here and there, including the first in in two weeks yesterday that I didn't do a single practice question. That was nice.

One of the days of the exam is the Multistate, a.k.a. the MBE. The MBE is a multiple choice exam given in 48 of 50 states (damn you Louisiana and Washington!). In many ways the MBE is your friend, because if you do really well on it then you have a lot more wiggle-room on the state-specific essay portion. But the nationwide nature of the test also creates some anomalies. For instance, no one has common law property law or criminal law anymore, and in fact it's arguably unconstitutional to have common law criminal law, because you don't have notice of what the law is. But because every state has their own, it's hard to test on those areas unless you test traditional common law principles. So the entrance exam for the legal profession requires you to learn a whole lot of out-of-date information about those areas of law. Conversely, common law evidence was a mess, but the Federal Rules of Evidence are crystal clear. So we're tested on those, even though most attorneys (hell, most litigators) worry a whole lot more about state evidence law than federal. Other than that, the whole process makes a lot of sense.

In other news, there's a potential apartment in the offing, but I don't want to jinx it by saying much more. Suffice it to say that it's exactly the location I've been hoping for, in our price range, and big. Beyond that, watch this space...

Monday, June 04, 2007

You can go many years without doing certain things, and then when you do them again you haven't forgotten anything and it's as if you've been doing them all along. It's proverbially like riding a bicycle; it just so happens that literally riding a bicycle is like that too.

Certain other things you tend to forget after 15 or 20 years. For instance, you may forget that you can scrape up your elbow and knee pretty badly when you fall off your bicycle. You can also forget how a big ol' scab is kinda gross but also kind of a weird little badge of honor, proof that you are a physically active person. Most of all, you can totally forget just how unnervingly compelling it is to pick at your scabs after 5 or 6 days when they start healing, and also that you really shouldn't do that because it makes you heal really strangely and unevenly.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Here are some of the things that I have learned so far in preparing for the Bar:

  • Prodigious feats of memory do not correlate with charisma. Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, the pre-eminent Constitutional law scholar at least among law students who believe in study aids, gave the Con Law lecture in a very impressive fashion--two days, eight hours, no notes, following his outline to perfection. He was also as boring as shit. The professors with notes have been much more entertaining.
  • Professor Whitebread, for instance, rocks. The highlights of his two-day Crimes lecture were (a) finishing in three hours on the nose both days (some profs go up to 4), and (b) saying that if you chose the answer choice of "a gun with only one of six chambers loaded is not an inherently dangerous object" for a question about Russian roulette, then "you have problems, both for the Bar exam and for life; if you chose (b), you will never own your own home."
  • Under penalty of maybe failing the Bar, I can take notes in outline form. No other stimulus has ever been sufficient to cause me to do so, but it is possible.
  • Torts and potential torts are everywhere, but people not studying for the Bar don't necessarily want that pointed out to them every five minutes.
  • You will periodically be reminded that people, including really smart people from really good law schools, fail the Bar, especially the California Bar. Many people will react to that by studying all the harder. Meanwhile, other people will tell you to relax and not drive yourself crazy studying too much. I'm guessing that the latter group has it right, and that the fallacy the former engage in is thinking that the people who failed prepared a moderate amount and failed. My guess is that most people fail because they seriously under-prepare and don't do nearly what Barbri says to do, or they get into the exam and panic regardless of how much or how little they have prepared.
  • To be continued...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My default TV watching habit is to at least check out the NFL Network to see if anything interesting is on. Usually there isn't, sometimes there is (such as the America's Game series, which is unbelievably good). If you watch much NFL Network, you can't help but see a bunch of commercials for Fathead. Fatheads are life-sized posters of NFL players that stick to your wall, which would be truly awesome if I were 11.

The reason I bring up these commercials is a throwaway line that they slip in to let you know why you can only get a Fathead online: "Too big and real for stores." Haven't you always wandered around stores thinking, "Man, why hasn't store technology proceeded to the point where we can sell things in here that exceed a particular amount of bigness and/or realness?"

Friday, May 25, 2007

Yesterday should provide a nice nutshell of what I have in store for the summer:

  • 6:30 a.m.: alarm
  • 6:40: quick breakfast
  • 6:45-8:15: gym (including walking time, etc.)
  • 8:15-8:45: showering, morning routine, etc.
  • 9-12:45 p.m.: Bar review class
  • 1: home from lunch and a short break
  • 2-7: studying Torts, including an hour and a half of practice multiple choice questions
  • 7-8: bike ride along Huron River
  • 8-8:30: quick shower and microwaved dinner
  • 8:30-11: drinks with friends
  • 11:30: fall asleep to Scrubs on WGN
The main variations to this schedule will be that lots of evenings will have a DVD, TV, or more bar study instead of drinks; I won't always be studying Torts; I'll probably mix up the bike route a bit; and sometimes the Cubs or White Sox will be on the West Coast.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I had big plans to do a lot of blogging from home last week, but my parents' screwy emachine literally would not let me log in to Blogger to post. So it goes.

My mom called me home from Massachusetts a day and a half early because Dad had a fever and that was a problem, but it turned out to be largely a false alarm. So it was another week hanging out in hospice, reading, doing puzzles, and mostly just being bored.

Then on Friday and Saturday, I went to the University Honors College reunion at Pitt. This was a really cool event. The UHC turned 20 and invited alums from that whole time (and even its prior 10 years as an honors program) to come back and see its newish renovation project and to see how old everyone's gotten. I was thrilled to catch up with some people I hadn't seen in nine or 10 years, and to see some friends who I've only seen very intermittently lately. There was some talk of having this event every several years, and I hope those plans come off.

Friday, May 11, 2007

My lovely vacation continues here in Billerica. I should note that while most normal human beings would of course pronounce this bill-AIR-rick-uh, the locals say bəl-RICK-kuh. Then again, the woman in Dunkin Donuts this morning asked me a question that I couldn't comprehend in the slightest, and on the second try (plus context) I identified as "creme and sugar?" But I'd swear that the first time she said it, she didn't use a single phoneme that I normally associate with those words.

Yesterday I biked the nine-mile roundtrip on the Battle Road between Lexington and Concord, saw the Old North Bridge, and then went to Grindhouse, which was awesome. Today I got up ridiculously early to bike the Minuteman Bikeway, which is a 21-mile roundtrip from Bedford to Cambridge. That may have been a bit ambitious, but I can still walk, and I do have feeling back in my hands and wrists now.

Then I went to Lowell, which was kind of a history expatriate homecoming. You see, as a grad student in U.S. social history in the late '90s, there was no avoiding the Lowell mill girls--Yankee women who worked the Lowell textile mills in the 1830s and 1840s. Not only were they women working outside the house way before that tended to happen (especially for women from good families), but they were also proto-labor activists of sorts. Taking all these facts together, any good U.S. social historian gets their panties all in bunch and swoon at the mere thought of the Lowell mill girls. My complete and utter boredom in the face of phenomena such as the Lowell mill girls should have told me something early on in grad school, but I guess I was a bit thick about these things.

The biggest threat to my tranquility the last several days has happened every time I get into the driver's seat of my car. There are two distinct problems, and I'll treat them separately.

One is that I hate Massachusetts drivers. Now, I'll admit that every place has bad drivers, and every place thinks it has the best drivers or the worst drivers. Michigan is no slouch here--this probably has to do with the state-wide delusion that the state legislature has banned the use of the turn signal. It hasn't. I looked it up. I'll also note that as I believe Anna Karenina said, all good drivers are the same while all bad drivers are bad in their own way. The Massachusetts version is that drivers turning left here have the right of way. And by "have" I mean "aggressively assert". They'll put up with 25 mph meandering country roads, but they'll be damned if they'll wait until no one is bearing down upon them before taking their God-given right to turn left RIGHT NOW.

Two is 25 mph meandering country roads. The roads here are a mess. If you want to drive around here, you should know that all roads are required to change names every mile or so, and you usually won't be informed. Any numbered road is required to move to a different road periodically, and you may or may not be informed. You know how most state roads will reassure you every so often that you're on that road? Not here. If you assume you're on the correct road just because you were on the correct road and have continued to drive straight, you will probably end up at least 10 miles in the wrong direction. Mapquest and Google Maps will not help you. Sure you can print them out, but every time the directions say "Continue on x", add 10 minutes to your expected travel time for you to figure out what that should mean, then figure out the hard way what it actually means, then struggle to find a place to turn around. Oh, and despite that struggle, I've decided that Massachusetts is no longer the Bay State, but from here on out will instead be the U-Turn State.

For all that, don't feel too sorry for me, because I'm still having a heaping helping of relax-y goodness.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I think I could live in North Billerica, Massachusetts, forever if it were always May. If anyone ever hears about them cancelling winter in New England, please let me know and I'll act accordingly. I'm here visiting Tim (USC roommate, not Michigan roommate), but mostly I'm here to unwind. You see, I graduated on Saturday, and then I have to face another week at home starting on Monday and bar prep starting the following Wednesday. So 13 hours on the road yesterday and 11 more on Monday seemed like a small price to pay to find somewhere where I could hide from life for a little bit. Tim is very busy with school stuff this week (being both a teacher and an M.F.A. candidate), so I'm largely on my own.

So far so good. Despite not seeing any other bikes anywhere at all, the town is very bikeable and I put in about three miles going to the Post Office, Starbucks, lunch, and a little bit of exploring. I also spent several hours in Starbucks reading the first half of a book that I've been meaning to get around to for years. Now I'm back at Tim's fabulous new townhouse, on the deck overlooking the Concord River. I can hear a few birds, one distant lawnmower, and the natural river flow back here, and that's about it. In fact, I should wrap this up and get back to that shortly.

As I mentioned, I graduated on Saturday--hooray!! I still have some independent study obligations that will carry into the summer, but unlike most of my slacker classmates (I don't mean they're all slackers; I mean of the ones who are) it's not my fault because the work I'm supposed to be doing is just now becoming available. Other than that, the tests are done, the papers are in, and now I just have to pass the dreaded California bar.

But in the meantime, I'm off to Lexington and Concord tomorrow, and hopefully Newport and Pawtucket on Sunday, and a whole lot of relaxation in between.

Oh, and I should mention, finally, that it's been a good couple of weeks for the Wright men in generally--last Wednesday my brother became the junior planner for Lancaster County. I suspect that life among the Amish will never be the same again.

Friday, April 27, 2007

So last weekend I went to College Park, Maryland (nice campus, sketchy town, really sketchy "Fundome" which appeared to be neither fun nor a dome) to TRASHionals, which is the national championship of popular culture quizbowl. Despite a slow personal start, I came on later in the event, and I had the good fortune of attaching myself to one of the best established teams out there. The bottom line is that after 17 years of organized quizbowl on the high school, collegiate, and open levels, I finally found myself on a national championship team. W00t!! How great is that--Ray Bourque, Jerome Bettis, and yours truly. OK that's ridiculous, but still.

In other news, we're in the middle of finals period right now. Tax was Wednesday and I'm in the middle of my Bankruptcy takehome. That should be over by the end of the weekend at the latest, and that will leave Copyright. Next Saturday is graduation. It's a busy time.

And yet somehow in the midst of all that, I've been concentrating more on the NFL draft than anything else. Seriously, I think I need help. I've been reading everything I can find on it for weeks. Thank God the thing is over by the end of the weekend or else I might never get anything done again.

My draft thoughts? The Steelers draft at #15, and the guys I would really like to see fall to that spot are Patrick Willis and Alan Branch. Because I don't think that's going to happen, I assume like the rest of the world that the pick is a CB, an OLB, or a trade down. But with a new coach (although the personnel department hasn't changed), I have much less of a feel for what the Steelers might do than in any other recent year. Of course, I had no idea we'd get Santonio Holmes last year, so who knows. I do know that I'd love to see Brian Leonard come in and be a Mike Alstott type--playing some FB, some TB especially at the goal line, and being a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield. Every mock draft I've seen has him going to Philly--usually in the second round, but occasionally in the first. So my one actual draft prediction is that Brian Leonard will not be an Eagle next year.

As for other teams, I'm most fascinated with the Lions, who should have a real sunk costs problem on their hands. Do you take the best prospect in the draft, Calvin Johnson, despite spending 3 of 4 first-rounders on WRs, or do they avoid it? I say they should do it unless they can extract as king's ransom for it, which is a possibility. If they can trade down with Tampa or Atlanta and pick up two additional second-rounders, they should be able to fill a lot of holes in a hurry. Since this is what logic dictates, I'm curious to see how Matt Millen screws it up. The Redskins, Broncos, Ravens, Colts, Bills, and Patriots should also be fun to watch, because they are teams that draft either particularly well or particularly interestingly. The one thing I do know is that I'll be planted tomorrow, way more interested than anyone should be.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Some extremely brief reviews of the Netflix I have watched relatively recently:

This Film Is Not Yet Rated: Snarky documentary, a bit full of itself, but makes a good point about censorship and the movies.
Boyz N The Hood: Don't quote me boy, I ain't said shit. Long overdue viewing.
The Weather Underground: Shadowy film, hard to get ahold of, just like its subject. Watch it only if you're particularly interested in the subject. I was.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: Most entertaining movie I've watched in a long time. Kilmer's best work, and possibly Downey's too, and that's saying something.
Control Room: al-Jazeera documentary. Probably one too many documentaries in a short time, but I was bored.
Thank You For Smoking: Very funny, and treated the lead character with more humanity than I expected.
Shaun of the Dead: Closest competitor to Kiss Bang squared. Can't wait to see their new movie.
Mean Streets: Exactly what you'd expect from early Scorcese/Keitel/DeNiro, except maybe 10% less fun. Still solid.
Black Sunday: The Super Bowl X footage was probably the most entertaining part. But I'm a Steeler fan.
Bottle Rocket: My favorite Wes Anderson film, which is to say 2.5 stars out of 5.
Beyond the Sea: Before this movie I didn't know much about Bobby Darin; now I know way more than I needed to.
Ray: I'll take the Johnny Cash movie of the two, but that's probably more of a musical preference since they're almost exactly the same movie.
Wake Up Ron Burgundy: They had about 1.5 funny movies worth of material when they made Anchorman; still, if you like those characters and that humor, you could do way worse.
Avalanche: I'm clearly out of good '70s disaster movies and am scraping the bottom of the barrel. If they get any worse, I quit. Note: If you ever make a disaster movie, establish the physical space and where everything is, or people won't understand what's happening when the disaster hits.
The Fall of Fujimori: Really interesting and even-handed documentary about a country (Peru) and a leader I didn't know much about; also notable is that it's the first movie I've watched Netflix's new streaming "Watch It Now" feature, which is particularly good for documentaries, comedy concerts, and anything where the appeal is not particularly visual, since you're watching on a computer screen.
Reality Bites: Irony (n.): a movie soaked in pop culture retro kitsch becoming retro and kitsch itself; doesn't hold up particularly well; Winona still chooses the wrong guy.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

So it goes.

I had been thinking I'd write something about what I'd been reading lately (short answer: not much), but instead I find myself writing about something I read a long time ago.

I was in 10th grade when I picked up Cat's Cradle. I had read a lot as a kid, but it was mostly young children's books, sports books, Stephen King, and a little bit of Robert Heinlein. Vonnegut was one of the first "serious authors" I ever picked up just for fun.

You know how the things you experience at a young age will always stay with you in a way that things you experience as an adult tend to come and go without leaving quite as deep a mark, because you're already in some sense fully-formed? Because of that feeling, I know that no book will ever be as influential in my life as Cat's Cradle has been.

I can't adequately summarize the reasons why that's true, but I know that it has something to do with cynicism, absurdity, and learning (as the bumper stickers tell us) to "question authority". By reading about Bokononism, ice-nine, and all of the wampeters and granfalloons and foma out there, I learned how ugly and ridiculous the world could be--but also how full and rich and complex the world could be if you started looking behind the happy bullshit. I still think about granfalloons every time someone talks about patriotism and loving one's country, and I constantly go back and forth about whether foma are harmful, useful, or both.

I have re-read Cat's Cradle more than any other novel, and I expect to continue re-reading it every few years for the rest of my life. I've read many of Vonnegut's other novels, and they have all mattered to me to some extent (except, strangely, Slaughterhouse-Five, about which I never understood all the fuss), but those first 150 pages that I read will be the ones that stick with me always.

Also, the line "Whoever did write this doesn't know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut," from Back to School kills me every time, even if it's totally ripped off from the Marshall MacLuhan bit in Annie Hall.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

When I was growing up, Easter was a major day on the family calendar. Along with Christmas Eve, it was the day we knew there was no wrangling out of church. Plus there was candy. In fact, there was candy well beyond the time when it was age-appropriate, because Mom has always been a sucker for holiday traditions. At some point, though, Easter became that random Sunday in April or occasionally March where everything is closed and it takes me way to long to remember why. The past few years I've been much more aware of Passover observers around me than I have of Easter.

While that's still true (prepare for groaner), I still had a really good Friday. I woke up with the idea that there were 5 or 6 discrete tasks that I had to accomplish, and I set out to do them and got them done with plenty of day to spare. That was remarkably satisfying, putting together a mental list and checking them off one by one. I even had time left over to read for one of my classes and to watch two of the three Netflix that had been laying around for a couple of weeks without turnover. It's funny how some of your best days are the ones where nothing earth-shattering happens, but you just mow through tasks that had been accumulating for a while.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I sometimes wonder if the people who named Red Delicious Apples were delusional or if they were just being ironic. But in neither case was it total, because they are definitely red and they are totally apples.

You know that great quote from one of the Godfather movies about how every time he thinks he's out they pull him right back in? Ann Arbor is the exact opposite of that. I was riding my bike around all last week and then again on Monday and thinking, "hey, this place isn't so bad." Upon hearing me think that, the weather gods decided that what we really needed over the following 72 hours was severe thunderstorms, a 60-degree temperature drop in 36 hours, snow, hail, and winds in excess of 50 miles per hour. Tomorrow's forecast calls for a 70% chance of frogs, with intermittent locusts and death of firstborns toward evening.

I drove home again last weekend. Still no change with Dad, which is amazing in and of itself. One moment left me wondering whether to laugh or cry, though. The nurse had brought in lunch and then left, and Dad just stared at it for a couple of minutes without moving. He does that a lot nowadays, blankly vacantly staring off into space until something gets his attention. I asked him if I could give him a hand with anything, and he instantly shot back, "Suicide." That could have simply been quick wry gallows humor; at least I hope it was.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I went for an even longer bike ride today, even though it was a little chilly. I rode out to the Huron Parkway, then turned south. I "parked" my bike at Whole Foods in an effort to live up to my New Year's resolution to be more cliche. I went inside and undid all the good I was doing with one of their big-ass brownie cookies. For a place known for healthy stuff, Whole Foods has some of the best junk food you'll ever eat in your life if you check out the bakery section.

I also discovered that my helmet has some great warning labels, including one that pretty much says that in even a very low-speed crash you will probably die even if you're wearing it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I did two glorious things today.

The glory of the first one can only be understood by a graduate or professional student: I turned in a seminar paper to complete a year-old imcomplete. The paper is not great and probably not even good, but it's done. From my USC days I knew that an incomplete seminar paper is like a terrible Sword of Damocles hanging over your head (that ain't no crime). The only prospect more horrifying than having it continue to weigh you down is the prospect of actually finishing the damn thing. On the other hand, finishing one and turning it in is an amazing high like few I've ever felt.

The second thing I did was to buy my first adult bicycle and to ride it around town for almost an hour. I've been on a bike about a half-dozen times in the last decade, and I've always had a blast. So I had decided that I might as well get one at the end of last summer, but the weather quickly turned inhospitable and I put it off. Yesterday the weather was great, so I went to a bike shop here in town and put down a deposit. I went back today, and after a bunch of rigamarole with helmets, reflectors, license, pants clips, etc., I walked out after 50 minutes with a brand-new Schwinn Frontier. I'll probably be pissed off when it's inevitably stole in 10 days, but right now I love it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The most surprising thing about Dayton was that tucked into a little residential neighborhood on the east side of town was probably the best Vietnamese food I've ever had. Everything else about Dayton was pretty much what you'd expect.

Yes, five of us trekked three hours southward last night for that most inexplicable of March Madness rituals, the play-in Opening Round game. It was a fun trip that left us with a greater appreciation for the Steak 'n' Shake side-by-side--especially if you find yourself in Findlay, Ohio at midnight on a Tuesday with another hour to drive--and a strong sense that Kansas is going to beat the shit out of the play-in winner, yooooooour Niagara Purple Eagles.

Other high-and-low-lights:

  • I had been told I should cheer for FAMU due to their famous band and certain personal proclivities that I may or may not concede are true. Unfortunately, FAMU did not bring a band, cheerleaders, or any noticeable cheering section. So much for that.
  • Your "that's why they're playing off for the #64 spot" sequence of the night: FAMU gets fouled, misses both free throws, gets the rebound, gets fouled, misses the front end of the one-and-one, gets the rebound, gets fouled in the act of shooting, makes one free throw, misses the second, gets the rebound, gets fouled for the double bonus, misses the first free throw, and makes the second so that possession finally changes. If you're counting, that's 2 of 6 from the charity stripe and three horrendous box-outs. Niagara may not get a single rebound on Friday.
  • Erin Andrews in person. Believe the hype.
  • I went back and forth for two days on whether I could, in good conscience, complete one of my goals of the trip: buying Wright State University T-shirts for myself and some family members. I had a WSU T-shirt I loved for years that finally got too worn out to keep, and I was hoping to replace it. Then this gets announced. I was completely torn on whether I could follow through, or whether it would be a horrible jinx to do so. Luckily I didn't have to make the decision, as we didn't have time to stop anywhere, and none were available at U. of Dayton's arena.
  • Niagara's band kept playing Our Director, which you probably don't know better as the fight song of Beth-Center High School. Hadn't heard that one in a long, long time.
Speaking of that, here's my take: I think Pitt is properly seeded and is getting a bad rap nationally. They went 27-7, including 12-4 in the Big East, and six of their losses were to tournament teams seeded #8 or higher. The seventh was to an Oklahoma State team that looked like gangbusters at the time but fell apart later, and that game was on a "neutral court" in Oklahoma City. Yes, they did not do quite as well late, but only had two ugly losses all year--at Wisconsin and the G-Town debacle in the Big East tourney--and they didn't lose to anyone in conference who they didn't also beat, Hoyas included.

This team is better primed for tournament success than previous Pitt teams in a couple of ways. One is that Levance Fields is a better pure point than Carl Krauser, especially in assist-turnover ratio. Another is that they have a much more fluid offense--they can pound down to Aaron Gray, go inside-out, penetrate from the wings (Cook and Young), and hit open threes. They only get in trouble when Gray starts missing a lot of chippies, which he will do at times, but he will dominate against much smaller opposition and go straight to the basket without having to worry about whether he's hitting lay-ups and jump hooks.

The weakness compared to previous Pitt squads is that there's no guard who will just take a game over when he has to, as Brandon Knight and Krauser could do at times (but never seemed to in the NCAAs). But they do have guys who can carry the scoring for stretches--Cook, Ramon, Graves, and occasionally Fields. The other big weakness is the one consistent bugaboo of the entire Howland/Dixon era--mediocre free-throw shooting. I hope they get an assistant who can help out in that regard one of these decades.

What do I see happening? I see another run to the Sweet Sixteen but not beyond. UCLA is a tough draw in the regional semi, and I can't see anyone knocking them off early. I think Pitt is well-built to stave off Wright State, VCU and even Duke, but my hunch is that UCLA is just like Pitt but 10% better in every way. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that the student can outduel his teacher, but it's not usually the way to bet.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

One of law school's stranger rituals is the MPRE. The Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam is required by almost every state in order to be admitted to the Bar. This may hearten those of you who are cynical about lawyers and ethics until you understand the methodology and scaling of the test. The test consists of 60 multiple-choice questions, 10 of which are experimental and ungraded, as is common on standardized tests. The score is scaled from 50-150, kind of like the 200-800 of the SAT verbal or math, the 120-180 LSAT, etc. Note that the key feature of this kind of test is that your score doesn't represent a particular number right and wrong, but rather a test-taker's place on a real or hypothetical bell curve. The middle of the range (e.g.: 500 SAT section) in theory represents the median test-taker, and on a well-calibrated test it in fact measures the median test-taker. So, of course, the median score on the MPRE is 100, the midpoint of the 50-150 range. The median MPRE examinee gets a 100.

What score, then, is required for admission to the Bar? Well, it varies from state to state, but this year the highest score required is 86, and the lowest is 75. Yes, in a number of states, the amount of ethics you need to be admitted is akin to the amount of verbal knowledge you need to get a 350 on the SAT. No state requires more ethics than the equivalent of a 420.

If that's not disheartening enough, consider that most MPRE questions are designed with a scenario and four answer choices asking whether or not the scenario is ethical. Two answers will begin "yes, because..." and two will being "no, because..." Almost inevitably, one yes and one no will be patently wrong, but the remaining two choices will be very difficult to choose between. So for most questions on the test, the test-taker can't even be really sure about whether or not something is ethical, let alone why.

So yesterday I had to show up at 9 a.m. at Concordia University--a local school that doesn't take any federal funds so that it can legally discriminate--to take the only ethics exam I will ever be required to take in order be a lawyer. I was picking up a few people, so I got down to my car at about 8:05.

As it has been for a few weeks, my parking lot was a sheet of ice over an inch thick. The melting and unmelting over the last month combined with horrible drainage has led to this joyous condition. I have figured out that if I can't get my car to reverse because I can't get any traction, I can usually put it into drive, go forward a foot or so, and then back out. Unfortunately, even this trick didn't work, and I was stuck.

This was where a wave of the type of inspiration that is so narrowly brilliant and so fundamentally flawed in retrospect came over me. Obviously, the solution was simple: I should put my car into reverse, push it back a couple of feet out of the spot where it was spinning its wheels, and then try again. A problem occurred to me--can I actually push hard enough to move the car? But I decided the only way to find out was to give it a try.

It worked! For a glorious instant, I was extremely proud of myself.

Then I realized that the car was not stopping. I tried to run after it, but that was a losing proposition. I was powerless to stop it. The Toyota parallel parked on our street, however, was not powerless to stop it. Not even a little bit.

Our parking lot has a narrow entry and then widens out, so by the time you get over to where I park, you are not lined up with the driveway opening, but with the curb and with a big tree. The tree is way off to the side, right up against a fence. Then you've got the curb, and cars can parallel park. The road itself is a small, one-lane, one-way street, and on the other side are other houses and other parking lots.

I'm still not entirely sure how the car missed the tree. I really don't know how the open driver's door missed the tree, but I'm really thankful about that part. I'm also really glad the Toyota was there, because otherwise my unoccupied car would have gone right out into the street where it could have hit anything--a car driving down the street, the interminable parade of athletes and band members who use our street as a short-cut to the athletic fields at the bottom of the hill, poorly constructed student housing across the street, etc.

I can't imagine that the Toyota's owner will share my perspective that hitting his or her car was the best that could have been hoped for in the situation; we'll find that out when he or she eventually finds and responds to the note under the windshield wiper.

It's also worth noting that the Toyota is a bit of a junker that had a lot of dings and dents already (the new one, it's true, being the granddaddy of them all), so I didn't destroy some pristine vehicle. In fact it was beat up enough that I had brief thoughts of playing dumb, that maybe they wouldn't notice the new damage amidst all the old, or that even if they did they would have no idea how they got there. Then I realized two things: (1) that you'd be hard-pressed not to figure out where damage came from when it happened while you were parallel parked next to a parking lot, especially when you saw the Honda with rear body damage parked there later on, and (2) I was on the way to an ethics and professional responsibility exam. I left the note.

It's worth mentioning that the Toyota owner would be making the incorrect assumption that the rear body damage on my Civic came from hitting their car--actually my car was unscathed except maybe slightly exacerbating the existing body damage. Not that that's relevant, but it was kind of cool.

It was somewhere in all of that thinking that I moved my car forward away from the accident, realized that my car was fine, hopped out with a combination of anger and relief, and promptly forgot about the inch of ice and fell on my ass, hard. I've been hobbling ever since, but my curling adventure a few weeks ago taught me that this will probably go away in another day or so.

I did make it to the MPRE with plenty of time to spare. Even though every 10 questions or so I drifted off into thinking about the accident and my hip and cursing my landlord and all ice everywhere, I finished with 45 minutes to spare and will be moderately surprised if I get below a 120. California requires a 79. They also don't have icy driveways there.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The offers have been pouring in, so I should report that an older, used, but working plenty well enough laptop is on the way to Dad as we speak. You guys rule. A lot.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

I don't know who had bed #3 at the Donnell House before my father, but I will forever think of that unknown person as "Wally Pipp". Yes, Dad is the Lou Gehrig of hospice. The place has 8 beds, and an average of about a person day has passed away there since he's been there--and that's with an average of about 50% capacity. I read the local obituaries every day I was home, and only one day did none of them indicate that the decedent had passed away at the Donnell House. One day there were 4.

But Dad perseveres. I talked to the doctor yesterday and he said that they do have longer-term residents, and they knew Dad would be one of those when he got there. He said that it's hard to provide any timetable becasue there's no medical reason why he's alive right now--but because he's basically stable, it's probably a matter of weeks, not days or hours. So I'm back in Ann Arbor.

My Dad has what you might consider a dying wish. He wants a notebook computer, because he wants to write a book about this stage of his life, to give his late days meaning. Of course his neuropathy means his control over his hands is (literally) shaky at best, he has no energy or ability to focus for more than five minutes at a time, and he's only intermittently aware of his surroundings. But the one thing he's consistently focused on and insistent on is that laptop. At one point I told him I'd be leaving town yesterday and that we might not have another chance to talk one-on-one, and he said ok, gathering himself for what I assumed was something serious. He asked me if I had any ideas about getting him that laptop.

At least he's lowered his expectations a bit--my brother tells me that when he first got this idea, he was saying that he doesn't want any of these low-end laptops but is looking to spend about $1200.

It is worth noting at this point that my dad will die insolvent, with no assets other than crappy old cars and his latest social security check, which my mom will use to attack the stack of bills that's gone unpaid for the last few months. So it's not as if we're denying him something that we could easily provide.

So I spent my last hour in town scouring local thrift stores for whatever crappy computer of any kind I could find. To no avail. But at least I get to relive that failure every time I post something on my own Inspiron. So I got that going for me.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I tried two things today that really should be experienced before leaving this corner of the Midwest--curling and Tony Packo's. Mike has a group of Michigan alumni band friends who get together annually for this outing, and he invited me along. I had my doubts, but curling turned out to be about 100 times more fun than it looks. The thigh and tailbone bruises (oh, you'll get some falling) will soon heal, but the memories will last a lifetime. As for Packo's, well, how can you go wrong with Max Klinger's favorite Hungarian-style hot dog? The answer: you can't.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I'm on hour 28 more or less at the hospice center. I got in Monday night, stopped by for a while, had dinner and went home and collapsed. Yesterday I dropped mom off at work about a mile away from this place, then picked her up later and brought her back. I've also been out for several meals. But we're basically snowed in, so we slept here last night. I had the third-most comfortable recliner in the room, if you count the hospital bed itself; I estimate that it was about the fifth-most uncomfortable recliner in the world for sleeping, but that could be off a little in either direction. So I'm running on not a lot of sleep and am a bit loopy.

This place is called Donnell House. Unfortunately that seems to be (dun-ELL) rather than (DONN-nul), but I still imagine Dylan McDermott walking in at any time and saying emphatically "But is it possible?" The facility has eight patient rooms and plenty of side rooms where visiting family can unwind. They also have some bookshelves that are almost entirely filled with books on death, grieving, and/or Jesus. I have instead opted for my own copy of Running With Scissors and my character fitness application for the California bar exam, a slightly less depressing option.

Dad is doped up but stable, and since there are plenty of people here and more coming, I'll be headed back to school as soon as the weather breaks or at least bends. I should be on the road tomorrow morning, and hopefully I won't end up off the road somewhere on the Ohio Turnpike. Then I get to come back next weekend for a whole lot more of the same--hopefully minus the freezing rain followed by half a foot of snow.

No weigh-in this week for obvious reasons, and for the less-obvious reason that accessible food at the moment consists of gas station hot dogs, the Eat 'n' Park breakfast buffet, a Whitman sampler someone brought in, and the Texas Roadhouse.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

I celebrated my 32nd birthday last night with a small group of friends at a place in town with private karaoke rooms. I was going to say celebrated "quietly," but I guess that's not apt. Quiet in the sense of no huge blowout bash, even if not quiet in decibel terms.

An hour before I left home to start drinking getting ready to sing, my mom called. My dad was transferred to hospice as planned, but she told me that it's probably best if I don't wait the two weeks until spring break to come home. So I'm heading down Tuesday morning, possibly to stay a day and possibly to be there until early March. In other words, possibly for a quick visit, and possibly to be there until the end.

Mom also told me to try to have a happy birthday and not to think about it too much, but she didn't have a lot in the way of suggestions for how to go about doing that. But at least I had a tremendous Birthday Eve.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

For the first several weeks of Copyright, I thought it was fun and a little bit tricky. Then last weekend the professor gave us a problem set and a memorandum opinion from the Copyright Office. I spent a little bit of time on it and realized that this stuff was actually a good bit harder and more abstract than I originally thought. It occurred to me that it was hard enough that not too many people can do it well, which led to two possibilities--either it's worth putting in the effort to become one of those people because you'll be in demand, or it's hard enough that it's just not worth it to worry about learning it real well.

Then we went over the problems in class this week, and now I don't know how anyone can do copyright well. It's absurdly abstract, with different time limits, deadlines, and contingencies coming into play depending on the circumstances of creation and the date of creation and publication of the work. It's a morass, and the reason is the bundle of sticks.

First-year law students here repeatedly that "property is a bundle of sticks." So often do we hear this that we may want to beat people with a bundle of sticks if they say it to us again. What does it mean? Well, it means that having a "property right" means having all or some of the bundle. You could have a right, for instance, to possess something but not to sell it (think: your dry cleaner holding your shirt). The right to sell and the right to possess are separate sticks, and you can have none, either or both. In copyrights there are a whole lot of sticks, old trees are different from new trees, filmed sticks have different rules from written or recorded sticks, and someone might be able to come along and reclaim your tree 56 years after you bought it. That barely scratches the surface of the issues involved, and we're four weeks in.

Bottom line: If I ever become a copyright lawyer, I'm either pretty smart or totally faking my way through.

Monday, February 05, 2007

I know that there's nothing more boring and insipid than talking (especially complaining) about the weather. That said, when I walked to class this morning, it was minus-9. That's just not cool. You know what I mean.

I did make it to the gym the last two days, which made me realize that if I can make it in sub-zero weather, then excuse that I ever come up with in L.A. will have the slightest bit of credibility. At all.

Occasionally I listen to old Loveline episodes at the gym. I was listening to an episode from 2003 today, and some caller used the word "hella" completely unironically. This got me to thinking: why do some slang words catch on for a time then fade away, while others become a permanent part of the vernacular? Of those that fade, some of them truly die out while others stick around but only as signifiers of a bygone time. For instance, "groovy" can't really be used ironically, but always carries some suggestion of cheesy '70s-ness; "awesome" on the other hand has a little bit of that for the '80s, but I think by now it can be used in its own right unironically.

So whither hella? My hunch is that it's fallen off, but then again I've only spent 3 of the last 30 months in California and only 3 days of that in Northern California, which I think is the epicenter of hella. If I had to guess, hella will always be associated with about 1999 and/or being slightly stoned. I have mixed feelings about this. I feel that hella filled a bizarre void or lacuna in the language--a simple, one-word slang term for "very"--that no other word adequately fills. But then it's just such a stupid-sounding word out of anyone over the age of 15 and/or not carrying a surfboard at all, that I would much prefer that some other term step in to fill that void.

But just for old times sake: it's hella fuckin' freezing out there.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

As of tomorrow morning, Dad will have been in the hospital for two weeks. This, in and of itself, is an accomplishment--just try to get a fortnight stay in an American hospital in 2007 and you'll see what a challenge it is. This is not a criticism, mind you, but simply a comment on the actual state of things. People go to the hospital, they're treated, and they're sent home or to some ancillary facility.

In case you would like to follow in his footsteps, here is the winning formula. Start with a serious underlying condition such as prostate cancer metastasized into the bone. Then add a triggering event that puts you into the hospital, such as nasty ass bedsores. I don't mean, mind you, nasty-ass bedsores. Oh no. Next, for some reason, make sure that you can't get the surgery to deal with the infected bedsores for a couple of days. Then, once you've had the surgery, you should develop some sort of additional complication--a blood clot would be an excellent choice. This will mean that you need to go on blood thinners, in addition to the 180 mg of morphine per day, and will make you all the more fragile since bleeding is now a really bad idea. It couldn't hurt if you require an additional clean-up procedure on the surgery (while needing not to bleed). Finally, once all of this is done and you're actually getting through all of it ok, you should live in a rural area where it's hard to find a facility that can take care of all your various needs at the same time, because the few such facilities are completely full.

Things are looking up, a little. Dad himself told me that a week ago he didn't think he was going to be around much longer, but now he thinks he'll be around a while. Mom was on the verge of calling everyone home on Monday, but now that moment has passed. The primary doctor on the case (the oncologist, I think) is now saying "a matter of months"; I find this a little bit amusing, because all of us having been independently thinking "a matter of months" for about a year and a half now, so the phrase is empty of all meaning.

Here's the thing. I love my Dad so much; I mean everyone loves their dad, but everyone loves my dad, he's just one of those people. I want him around, but I don't want him to be in a tremendous amount of pain. Thanks to the morphine, though, he's not. I've decided that I'm happy for him as long as he's still lucid and getting some enjoyment out of life, even if it's interspersed with a lot of inconvenience, embarrassment, and pain. And fortunately, right now he is still getting that. But the really horrible part is, I don't know how long I can take having him that sick. It means constantly living on the edge, never being able to make any plans that you can't cancel suddenly, never being able to fully concentrate on anything else. And of course, it means feeling horrible that you're even thinking these thoughts because the implication is that you just want to get on with it. And of course you really don't. But if you're really honest, a very little bit of you actually does. And that really is the worst of it.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I could just keep hitting refresh ad infinitum on this thing. Thanks Craig.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The San Francisco Chronicle had the brilliant idea of publishing the strangest phone calls they get to their office as podcasts/mp3s. The first one is under two minutes and is unbelievably funny as the guy, ironically, drones on. It's also ever so slightly NSFW, in its one reference to urination.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The latest foray into my Netflix queue was a Friday viewing of Idiocracy. Like Mike Judge's previous feature Office Space, this movie was dumped by its studio with little fanfare to a tiny contractually obligated release, and will find its audience (if at all) only on DVD. Critical opinion is pretty split--was it dumped because it's lousy, or was it dumped because they can't handle the truth? It barely crossed the Rotten Tomatoes "fresh" threshold, but if you look closely a lot of the good reviews can't be distinguished very much from the bad reviews.

I think this is the one that got it right. The movie is kind of moronic, and not just because it's satirizing moronicness. But a lot of the gags are great, and the concept behind the film was better than the execution. As that review pointed out, a lot of poorly executed movies that didn't even start with a good concept get released, so why not this one? I guess the message is that you can be bad and stupid, or good and cutting, but you can't get away with mediocre and cutting.

Still, I thought there were enough laughs to sustain the movie, especially since it's under an hour and a half. It's not like you're wasting a day or anything.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

In keeping with the recent template change, I finally got around to giving the blogroll a thorough update. I got rid of sites that appeared to be dormant and a few that I just don't read anymore, and added a bunch of new favorites. Given that at least one site I linked to had moved to a new location in 2005, I was due.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I decided to try out a new template. The old one is saved in case I don't like this one, but I'll see how it goes. The biggest problem is that I can't figure out how to import the old comments, which were from backblog and not blogger itself. That bothers me, but I wanted to see what kind of newfangled features blogger is offering with its new templates. No one likes a good fangle like I do.

In other news, the raise news came down today, so I'm back off of the horrible message boards. And it was the maximum--which is to say that for doing nothing, I got a raise today that is on par with the highest income I have ever grossed in a calendar year. Drinks are on me tonight.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

First a quick non-sequitur: My bounceback week, as chronicled on the right sidebar, has left me all the more confused about whether I got a faulty scale reading at some point, and if so, which point. Bottom line is that I trust today's number now that I'm using flat tile floor rather than inconsistent, tilty hardwood. Also, I'm hopefully a week or two away from celebrating breaking through the 300-lb. floor (no "breaking through the floor" fat jokes please) for the first time in 14-15 years. Excellent times.

* * *

What I really wanted to post about is that this is the season for a grubby, sad, and yet exhilarating annual ritual in the big law firm world: the annual salary memo. This week the ritual got kicked off on Monday when one of the big New York firms announced a $15K raise in their salary structure, including starting salary. Once one firm does this, a few things start happening:

  1. Some other firms will immediately match to prove that they are top tier firms
  2. Some other firms will immediately match the New York raise but leave offices in other cities in limbo until someone announces in those cities
  3. Still other firms will wait around for a few days or even a week to make up their minds
  4. Some firms will not raise or will raise less
This will spur the following counter-reactions:
  1. Some law students and associates will be giddy because they just got a huge raise
  2. Some law students will sit around stressing unnecessarily about whether their firm has finally chosen to hold steady, even though it's patently obvious that they're just days (or even hours) slow in their announcement
  3. Certain message boards that are filled with hatred, vitriol and some of the worst people in the world (or, at least, worst on-line personas) get a serious uptick in traffic because they keep the closest track of who's getting (and not getting) what
So as of now, all of us working in non-NYC offices of New York firms are waiting for the 2 critical pieces of info--what is the NYC office doing, and how does it apply to the rest of the firm? Last year ours was one of many such firms that raised salaries in New York and raised the other big cities less. That's fine, I get it, cost-of-living and whatnot. But right now I'm spending a lot of time sitting around wonder if I'm going to get anywhere from a $5-25 K raise without actually doing any work. That would certainly help cut through the Midwest winter gloom. I hope they hurry, though, because I don't know how much more I can take of these stupid message boards.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I had scheduled its Netflix arrival to coincide with Christmas break, but I never got around to watching it then, and so it sat here for a couple of weeks while I looked for a four-hour time bloc. Today I finally got it, so I took the plunge. I watched Heaven's Gate.

A whole lot has been said and written about this movie, and I found it hard to watch without all that baggage. But I tried.

In case you didn't know, Heaven's Gate is a Western from 1980. It was Michael Cimino's first movie after he was annointed the next big thing when The Deer Hunter swept through the 1978 Oscars. United Artists gave Cimino a lot of leeway in developing his next project, and the production hemorraged money. Then he turned in a first draft to the studio that came in at five hours long. It was cut to 220 minutes for the New York critics' screening, where it was met with stunned silence and a slew of horrific reviews. The studio recut the movie to below three hours and ultimately to a 90-minute version, both of which were incomprehensible. The movie only grossed a couple million dollars, and bankrupted United Artists in the process. (UA continued only as a brand owned by other companies.)

The version I watched was the New York critics screening cut, which has been continuously available on video and now DVD for a while. Looking across the Internet reviews from 1980 and from more recently, the original set is abysmal while the newer ones tend to say that it wasn't nearly as bad those reviews suggested, and some even suggest that critics were out to get the prima donna-ish Cimino. (It worked; his subsequent career is slim pickin's.)

I'm hear to tell you that the newer critics are right that the 1980 critics were too harsh, but they weren't too harsh by very much. That is to say, there are a few things to like about this movie. The underlying story (not the way it's told, mind you) is compelling. The cinematography can be kinda cool at times, with differing levels of sepia-tone and other color effects. It's fun to see Christopher Walken in an understated role, and to repeatedly see Isabelle Huppert naked. There's one belly laugh at about the two-hour mark.

And that's about it. The movie plods. Every scene is a minute too long, some are 5 minutes too long, and some are just pointless. I don't know whether to blame the editing, the cinematography, the directing or the script, but you often can't tell who you're looking at. The dialogue is poorly rendered, often difficult to hear, and often in untranslated Eastern Europe languages that I don't speak. The epilogue is even more pointless than the famously pointless prologue. The climactic battle scene is in two acts, and while the second act is well done, the first is just hopeless chaos. And for some reason people go around calling each other "citizen," and no one ever explains why.

The Heaven's Gate debacle was so bad that it made people re-examine The Deer Hunter and question whether it was really that good in the first place. I've never been a huge fan of that movie to begin with, and I should have anticipated all of the problems in the later movie, because I'd already recognized them in the earlier one. If the debate over Cimino has three positions (1. Unrecognized genius screwed by critics; 2. Mixed bag--Deer Hunter really was that good and Heaven's Gate really was that bad; or 3. He was never that good to begin with), I'd have to lean toward the third choice.

Friday, January 19, 2007

I went down to the Detroit auto show today. It's not something I would have enjoyed at most points in my life, but now that I can actually picture myself in nice cars in the not-too-distant duture, it's a lot more fun. Also, I didn't realize you can actually sit in the cars, which certainly helps the imagination.

My single favorite by far was a concept car, the Lincoln MKR. I loved the features, there's a real conservation ethic behind the interior components, and it's just a sweet-looking car to boot. Unfortuantely, the spokesdude suggested that it will probably never be built and sold as-is, but was simply designed to show off a bunch of different features that will be used across the Lincoln product line. I hope he's wrong.

Also enjoyable: the concept of spokesmodels in general. At the Jaguar display, in particular, most people were not focused on the car per se.

The wackiest display came from Changfeng Motors, which became the first Chinese company to have a full-fledged display at a major American car show. Most of their cars looked fairly normal, but the Rhombus stood out for its angular front end and it's unique wheel position--one in front, one in back, and two in the middle. Coming in a close second was the Smart Fortwo, which looks like it could actually be eaten by even a midsized SUV.

As for me, I still have 9-12 months before I replace the Civic, but the auto show certainly gave me some useful information. I still like the Saabs, and I'll consider a wide variety of cars at the "entry-level luxury" level. There's a new contender, though, because I was pleasantly surprised to fit very nicely in the Mini Cooper. It's not like I fell head over heels in love with it, but it definitely showed me something.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

My Christmas miracle turned out to be a fraud. The floor in our house is very uneven (classic student ghetto housing issue), and I've noticed that if I put the scale down in the wrong place I can get a crazy reading. So I've decided to move all future weigh-ins to the bathroom, which has a hard-tile floor and thus is a bit less prone to wackiness than the hardwood. I think last week's reading is the bad one and that this week actually went fine. Still, grrrr.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Over the last two days we've had something here in Ann Arbor that apparently goes by the name "wintry mix." I always thought that wintry mix was, like, broccoli and cauliflower with maybe some pieces of some sort of gourd. But no. Wintry mix actually means that water is falling from the sky in all sorts of different ways--sleet, snow, ice, rain, possibly even some ice-nine--and then freezing on impact. This makes certain things suck; among them are walking around outside, driving, having left anything under anything else that can normally support itself but when covered with ice not so much, and living in Ann Arbor.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I know this is a philistine thing to say, but I've been saying it for a long time and I stand by it: I hate reading movies. Some people just don't like subtitles because they're work; while that can be true especially if you're tired, that's not my main objection. My main objection is that most non-English movies that become one of the foreign films that you're supposed to see become that way not due to their plot or characters, but because of their visuals. But instead of watching the cool-ass visuals, you have to spend half the film reading the bottom of the screen instead of looking at the cool stuff.

I bring this up because I saw a couple of foreign films when I was in L.A. I saw the apparent flavor of the moment, Pans Labyrinth, and there's no question it's a pretty film. The actors are good and it's undoubtedly beautifully filmed. I liked it OK, but I didn't love it. Part of it was the distraction of the reading. The other part was my annoyance at the general idea--it's a hyper-violent, R-rated film about war and revolution, but it's also a fairy tale. So it's a fairy tale for adults. Ridiculous concept that bothers me to no end.

The other one I saw, on DVD, was City of God. This one doesn't fit my standard objection--even though it is a visually impressive film, it's also heavily plot and character-driven and the sound and music is excellent as well. I can't add much beyond what Peter Travers said here. Along with Chungking Express, it's one of my two favorite non-English language movies, and I couldn't think of a third that's close.