Saturday, December 31, 2005

The late-night call...

It was late when my phone rang.

“Hello?” I mumbled.

“You up?” the voice asked.

“I am now. What’s up?”

“You’d better get over here.”

“Why?”

“He’s taken a turn for the worse. I don’t think it’ll be long now.”

I struggled with what I should do. Sure, there’d been good times, but there’d also been the bad times. And in thinking things over, I was beginning to believe that the bad outweighed the good.

But could I be so cruel? Could I just let him go, without so much as a ‘fare-thee-well’? This is what I was struggling with, trying somehow to find a reason to make the trip. I sat on the edge of the bed, rubbing my eyes, trying to clear the fog from my brain and decide what to do.

Some things are better left in the past, left to slowly wither away, forgotten in the mist of years. Some things are best kept with us, brought out when needed to cheer us up, or give us hope. It was with this that I struggled – to find reason to keep him around, for just a little while longer.

In the end, I decided to go back to bed. I knew the voice was right – he wasn’t long for the world – and I didn’t care. Because for all the good he brought me, he didn’t do anything spectacular that made it worth the effort to keep him around. In the end, after all the early promise, he disappointed me by the end.

So goodbye, 2005. You started out with so much promise, so much that you didn’t deliver on. And even though you brought some good memories – passing the bar, the White Sox winning the World Series – in the end, you were just a disappointment.

You’re not long for the world – in a few hours, you’ll be gone, replaced by your youngest sibling, 2006. Let’s hope he does a better job than you.

Happy New Year! May the new year fulfill the promises the old year left undone.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Dave v. Oprah


Ever since the 'Uma-Oprah' comment at the Acdemy Awards ten years or so ago, they've been intertwined in TV history.

For the last few years, she's famously refused to come on his show, no matter how he's begged. It's become a running joke, and among the most talked about celebrity feuds in memory.

The feud is over. Oprah, as I write this, is talking to David Letterman!!!

I'm wondering: is anyone watching Leno?

The irony is that at one point in time, when Letterman came to Chicago, Winfrey went to L.A. and guested on Leno. Now, Winfrey's on Letterman, and Leno's got...Ebert & Roeper. Well, they are from Chicago, even if Roeper is a gadfly and a tool.

We now go live to the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York:

Dave opens with an uncharacteristically short, Oprah-centric monologue. As the crowd cheers his entrance, he attempts to quiet the audience: "Shh. You'll scare Oprah."

The Top 10 list is centered around tonights famous guest: 10 Messages on Oprah's answering machine:
  1. Oprah, This is Nick. Have you seen Jessica?
  2. He thinks you're coming. This is going to be the best Punk'd yet!
  3. Regis here. Letterman's all hands during the commercial breaks.
  4. Julia Roberts here. Letterman's all hands during the commercial breaks.
  5. This is Dubya. If you need a pardon...
  6. Paul Shaeffer here. Letterman's had a lot of work done since you've last seen him.
  7. Martha Stewart here. I left a pair of box cutters in the guest chair if you need them.


A couple more Oprah-related (self-deprecating) jokes, and out she comes, to huge applause.

Oprah just gave Dave a double-autographed photo of her and Uma Thurman. According to Oprah, the Uma-Oprah reference on the Academy Awards a few years ago wasn't "a problem" to her: "I thought it was funny." Dave's reply? "Not for me."

Now she's talking about old Marcus Welby episodes about amensia, in reference to a time when she broke her glasses and went to the hospital. Oprah feigned amnesia, claiming she was hit on the head and couldn't remember what happened. Mom, of course, wasn't fooled. With usual motherly aplomb, she asked the doctor to leave, then began the interrogation. Oprah caved.

And now, a word from our sponsors....

Dave's now asking Oprah about the Tom Cruise Incident. Oprah seemed a little surprised, calling Tom an interesting guy. Dave followed up by asking if she was sick of anyone comeing on her show, to which she said "I pretty much get to do what I want". (Yep, she does.)

Dave follows this by asking Oprah about her start - "you knew what you wanted...it's gotten to be more than just a television show; it's a goal, a pursuit, a mission..."

This leads to Oprah's rehashing the story of Christmas when she was 12, when her mother told her "Santa's not coming". Oprah wondered, "you have to pay Santa?" "Yes," replied her mother, "and I don't have money, so he's not coming." The day was saved by three nuns, who came over, bearing gifts. This incident inspired her to give back, so she's going to Africa to do the same for poor children there after she leaves New York.

Another sponsor break

(Note: on Eric & Kathy [mornings, WTMX 101.9FM] the producer of Dave's show indicated that Oprah would get the bulk of the time on the show. She's been on for about 20 minutes so far.)

The topic, after the first break? How a station in Baltimore wanted to change her name to 'Susie'. Dave, fawning and trying hard to suck up to Oprah, compliments her on the name Oprah, saying it's "beautiful, and she shouldn't have changed it."

They move on to Oprah's work in Africa. "I think of my take on Africa...is it in dire shape?" Dave asks. "I think there are enough people on the planet who could change Africa...but we sit back and have another cappucino," replies Oprah. Oprah, taken aback, says "I can't believe you're being this serious. Do you want to really know?" Dave says yes, and Oprah outlines her plan for a girls academy in Africa. She's heading there to interview principles and build the school - she believes 'education is freedom' (to audience applause). After another comment about how serious Dave is being, it's time for a commercial break. We're up to 25 minutes now. Bonnie Raitt won't get much time at this rate.

Commercial, in which Craig Ferguson quips while sitting next to Dennis Quaid, "Tonight on the Late Late Show, Oprah Winfrey."

After the break, Dave thanked Oprah for coming on, and said "I guess we'll pencil you in for another 16 years." "No, it was time, I was across the street, and we were practically neighbors."

With that, Dave offered to escort her to the theatre, which she accepted. And thus, the most anticpated meeting on TV in the last ten years came to an end.

Poor Bonnie Raitt. She barely gets enough time to do one song as her reward for forever being half of an answer to a trivia question (the other half being Tony Danza. The question? Name the other guests when Oprah Winfrey settled her long-standing feud with David Letterman.

Oddly enough, the Oprah love-fest continues on the other side of the country, as Craig Ferguson's entire opening monologue is also dedicated to Oprah. She may be on ABC, but today CBS loves Oprah.

photo by Dima Gavrysh for AP. Used without direct permission, but with credit.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I'm signed up for the California Bar. No, I'm not. Yes, I am...

Right before I left for SoCal, I got a letter from the State Bar of California, indicating that 1) I hadn't paid the proper fee (I paid the 'general' fee of $464, not the 'attorney' fee of $674), and 2) I should call the eligibility department.

When I called the eligibility department, they informed me that they hadn't gotten my certificate of good standing. You're right, I said, because when I'd applied, I hadn't yet been admitted, and you can't get a certificate of good standing unless you've been admitted.

"Listen," I attempted to explain, "I'm in California right now. I'll be back in Chicago next week. Can I send them to you then?"

"No. By then your registration will be terminated for being incomplete."
"So when do they need to be in?"
"Well, yesterday. You had 10 days from the day you submitted."
"But that was the day I was admitted. There wouldn't have been any way I could have gotten such a letter. I wasn't entered on the roll of attorneys for a week. I just checked. They only put me on there on Friday."
"Well, that's the rule. 10 days. And you need to get that letter here ASAP."

I hung up the phone and began to wonder how the heck I was going to get this letter. First stop: the ARDC website. They register & discipline attorneys, so they'd be the logical place to go, right? Wrong. One phone call later, I'm getting the phone for the Clerk of the Supreme Court. Soon, I've got someone on the line, telling me that they'd be happy to send the certificate. All I needed to do was send a letter requesting the certificate, and enclose the fee - one dollar (so Blues Brother-ish). Once they got the letter and the fee, they'd happily send the certificate - in a couple of weeks. That wasn't going to help me, I said, I need it sooner. My only choice was to send the request FedEx, and enclose a pre-addressed FedEx label.

So I told Joanie that we needed to go to Kinko's before we did anything. Ten minutes later, and my package was on its way. Problem solved.

Except it wasn't.

On Monday, I got three letters from the State Bar of California: one was a receipt for the additional funds, the authorization for which I'd sent out a while I was in California. the other two were letters. One, dated November 22nd (the day after the conversation above) said they still needed my certificate of good standing. The other, dated November 23rd, said....my application was being terminated. Because the registration was incomplete. Because the certificate hadn't arrived.

In a panic, I called the State Bar. No certificate had been received, even today, Monday. I sifted through the pile of numbers in my cell phone, and found the Clerk's number.

"Yes, well, I was on vacation last week, and although we did get your request, no one did antyhing with it, " she explained.

Deep breath. Remain calm...

The woman at the State Bar of California had told me that there was still a chance to save tehe application, provided we got the certificate and the $50 late fee in by close of business on Wednesday.

"...but," the Clerk continued, "I see your letter here. I sent that one out this morning."

Partial relief. If it gets there tomorrow, I'm OK.

The next morning brought no news. Nothing would be opened until 11 a.m. PST - 2 p.m. in Chicago. Call back then, she said. I called at 3. No answer - away from her desk, probably still at lunch. Finally, at almost 5, good news: they'd gotten the certificate. Now all I needed to do was send a letter authorizing an additional $50 on my credit card.

I sent the fax first thing Wednesday, with a request to call me if I left something off. I got no such call.

So I guess I really am taking the California Bar Exam in February. Wish me luck.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Doctor, doctor, give me the news....

"I know that I'd never have given it back to you with it running like this," my friend Joe admonishes me from a chair three feet behind me. He's attempting to fix my laptop, which not only has been running slow, but doesn't like showing video lately. Which made for a fun plane ride as I attempted to watch The American President and Ronin. So here I am, at the 'computer doctor's' home, hoping he can solve whatever it is making my computer run funky.

Could it be the damn Spy Sweeper? The Study Smart Bar Review? Or is it something else? Hey, that's what I have him for. But the early call is that my computer is definitely hosed...


Au Revoir, Mr. Miyagi

Pat Morita, who played Kesuke Miyagi in The Karate Kid, has died at 73. Although most people will remember him more for that role than any other, I can still recall his portrayal of Arnold in Happy Days. When he left, the show didn't seem the same.

And let's face it; The Karate Kid did wonders for Morita's career (he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, but lost to Dr. Haing S. Ngor for The Killing Fields. Talk about insults; Ngor had never acted before, and only did 16 more forgettable films in the next 12 years before he was murdered, while Morita's career spanned 40 years plus), but it tarnished Ralph Macchio for life. Not that he was any threat to be a great actor, but outside of My Cousin Vinny, Macchio really didn't get many roles (or much respect) after TKK. It's ironic, that if you look at the cast of The Outsiders, many of them have gone on to considerable success. Some, like Tom Cruise, are leading actors, while others, like Matt Dillon, have made decent careers as character actors.

And now, back to our program....

Dr. Joe has confirmed that he can't find the cause. The only solution: reformatting. That means backing up. That means work. Yuck. He did get the computer to operate faster, but the video is still hosed, so something is hosed and finding it has proven more difficult than anticpated.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Back home....well, sort of....

The flight back to Chicago touched down at 3:57, two minutes ahead of schedule. But like everywhere else in Chicago, there was traffic. So we didn't arrive at the gate for another 15 minutes.

I'd planned on having my parents (who picked me up at the airport, and saved me $40 in cab fare) just drive me to their house, where I could spend the weekend. I'd even told the secretary at BigLaw that I'd see her on Monday.

"But we've got stuff for the apartment," my Mom argued.

So we decided to drive into the city. At 5:00. The height of rush hour. We stopped briefly to use the bathroom, check voicemail and get my mail from my neighbor (note to self: buy case of Sam Adams as thank-you), and then it was back on the road. The trip had taken an hour and twenty minutes.

"Well, at least it's late enough, we shouldn't hit much traffic," Mom chimed in.

Funny thing, traffic. People who hear I'm thinking about moving to SoCal tell me about how bad the traffic is. Indeed, I got to experience it firsthand last Friday, when it took over an hour to get to Rancho Bernardo from Miramar MCAS on I-15/163. And that's just a five or six mile drive.

But Chicago's gotten bad as well. The Eisenhower Expressway (I-290 for nonlocals), is essentially a parking lot no matter when you're on it. And the Kennedy (I-90 - or what you take to get to O'Hare from Downtown) is often just as bad - witness our 80-minute ride. So it was no surprise that we sailed down Lake Shore Drive and down the Dan Ryan Expressway (I-94) past the now-quiet U.S. Cellular Field at Comiskey Park, only to stop dead at 55th. We crept along until 95th Street, when the Dan Ryan splits into I-57 and I-94. Only then did the road open up. By the time we got home, it was well past 8:00. Needless to say, it was a long day.

But the nice part about coming to my parents a few days early was spending an afternoon today with my dad and some ex-coworkers bowling. Now, if I could only bowl as well as I used to.

Here's hoping you and yours has a very enjoyable holiday with your family and friends this weekend. In other words, Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Last night blues...

I hate when fun trips end. Even with the interview, the past week has been pretty enjoyable. Today was no exception.

I woke up and headed out for a run, th third since I've been here. Unfortunately, I'm in no better shape than I was a week ago, and my legs felt like butter after just 15 minutes of running. I plodded through a full 30-minute run, still following the 15-3-15 strategy. But the crux of that strategy is to run further in the first 15 minutes than the last time. Technically, I did that. But on the way back, I forgot that I'd turned up Rancho Bernardo Drive on Thursday to avoid waiting for the light. Oh well. I still think I got in a full 3 miles if not more.

After coming back, I took a quick shower, then headed out for breakfast. When I got back from breakfast, Joanie had finally woken up. She got ready, and I called the California Bar to make sure everything was in order. It wasn't, so before we could head out for the day I had to stop at Kinko's. The nice thing was checking the ARDC website, and seeing my name listed as an attorney "authorized to practice law". Now if only I could actually do that.

We headed downtown to the Balboa Park area (named, apparently, for an explorer, not for the Sylvester Stallone character) and dropped in on the San Diego Airspace Museum. It's an interesting place, filled with plenty of aircraft from WWI and WWII. The chance to see an F86 Sabre Jet, among other well-known aircraft, up close was worth it.

Afterward, we headed over to the San Diego Automotive Museum. It's a small museum, with about 50 cars in total, more than a few of which were race cars. There was a Tucker, though, and a DeLorean. And the museum has quite the collection of motorcycles. Still, it was small enough that we were able to go through it in about an hour.

We walked out, and the sunset was increadible. Joanie said we needed to head down to the waterfront and try to get some pictures. I was able to, but I've had no luck emailing them to myself, probably because I'd decided to change the resolution to high versus lower resolution, which emails better. Too bad, because they are some incredible photos.

After it had gotten dark, we joined Lt. Smash and his wife for dinner in the Old Town area. I was happy, because we hadn't gotten the chance to spend time with them the night before, having gotten placed at the opposite end of the table. So it was nice to chat abot current events, acting, and whatever else came up. After dinner, I suggested that we get some ice cream, so we headed over to Cold Stone Creamery. One ice cream dish later, Joanie and I made the long drive home. One last night before I head back to Chicago. But I'll be back.

After all, the Bar Exam is in February.

Suddenly there's a lot more stuff here....

Yes, there is. I've been writing in my laptop for a few days (having brought it with to watch movies) and I've copied over the loose thoughts into coherent posts. Of course, the plan was to watch movies on the flight here and back, but the drivers don't want to cooperate, so that wasn't much fun. Unless, of course, you like watching a movie where the dialogue and the film aren't in sync.

Today, Joanie and I went to see Mrs. Smash in Birthday Suite, a British comedy which they are performing in Chua Vista through the end of the month (ok, December 4th, but who's counting?) . I may be a little biased, but Mrs. Smash was excellent as Kate, and Joanie and I laughed heartily at the hijinks of four people caught in embarrassing situations.

It all starts when a recently separated man checks into a hotel room rented for him by a friend, who promises to send him a girl to celebrate his birthday with him. Next door, a woman (Mrs. Smash) checks in, expecting to meet a blind date for dinner. When she walks through a supposedly locked door into the adjoining room, the man thinks she's the hooker hired for the night, and things spiral from there.

After the play, Joanie, the Smashes and I met up with the other cast members for dinner at Marie Callendars. Dinner was average, the service was incredibly slow, and the apple pie was boring, but the company was interesting, and I did enjoy talking to the cast members, even if one was a little overbearing.

Tomorrow's the last full day here. The week seemed to fly by, and even though the weather was hot, I didn't suffer as much as I thought I would with long sleeves. On Friday, I submitted resumes on several other positions out here. I don't know what will come of that, but I may wind up out west again soon - and maybe permanently. I have several friends who'd be disappointed, but then, when the weather turned cold there, they'd probably come out here in a heartbeat.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Another busy day...

Joanie is a member of BLUESD, San Diego's blues society, and this weekend was the regional finals of the International Blues Competition. The winner of the best group and best solo/duo categories would head to Memphis in January for the final competition.

Since Joanie is a board member, we headed down to spend the day at the House of Blues (who had generously donated the venue) to watch. I saw some great acts, such as Aunt Kizzy'z Boys (who went on first, and who I thought was the best group right off) and Ben Hernandez and Nathan James, who shone as best duo. Anna Troy was also very impressive, and had several people, including Joanie, believing that she might still make it to Memphis, despite not winning (the competition is not mandatory; it merely determines who gets a sponsored trip. One can still go if one has the money or finds a sponsor).

After the event, Joanie and I were supposed to head to SDSU for the Aztecs-Wyoming game. But things got hosed up, tickets were never acquired, and we were hungry. So instead we called Lt. Smash, and he met us up at Outback Steakhouse, where we enjoyed a very nice dinner while we solved all of the problems facing San Diego County, including the ubitquitous transportation woes.

After dinner, Joanie asked if I wanted to do anything. "See a movie," I answered, not having seen one in about a month. We decided to head over to the theaters in Poway. Unfortunately, we arrived about 30 minutes too late or two hours too early, however you look at it. After having a couple of beers, however, Joanie had to go to the bathroom, so we headed over to a local Irish pub down the road. Lo and behold, who should walk in but Ben and Nathan (Joanie had mentioned seeing them as an option, but I'd decided against that). I accused - tongue firmly in cheek - Joanie of planning things as they'd turned out, but we decided to stay and listen to the first set.

Turns out that was a better decision than leaving to see Derailed. Set in Chicago, I immediately spotted at least five or six errors (for example, there's no red line Metra train - the Red Line is a CTA train; the cars used for the interior scenes on the train were of the wrong type; even though it was supposed to be November in one scene, no one was wearing a coat, just to name three) in the movie. Even worse, I figured out the plot fairly quickly, so the last two thirds of the movie were predictible. Too bad, too, because I wanted it to be much better than it was.

Combine the mediocre reviews for The Weatherman and the disappointment of Derailed, and you've got Chicago going 0-for-2 in movies this year. Hopefully, The Break-Up (featuring the film debut of yours truly) and The Lake House will do better next February.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Striking out on my own

Joanie wasn't feeling very festive today, and Little Dude wasn't feeling very good. He'd first complained last night, before he had to go to Scouts. But it was the annual Turkey Day skit, and Joanie thought he was just feeling a little nervous.

By this morning, he wasn't feeling any better, and Joanie decided he should stay home. So I was on my own for the day. Fortunately, I'd decided to keep the Envoy for the week instead of turning it in, so I hopped into the car and headed downtown.

First, of course, came the run. I decided to go running for a second day in a row, something I haven't done in years. I soon found out why. I tried to take a different, more flat route, but I learned that there isn't one within two thousand miles. So I was reduced to more of a run/walk than yesterday, and felt it much more. My feet were sore, my calves were sore, my thighs were sore, and odly, so was my butt. "Keep this up," I thought, "and you'll have one tight butt."

After a shower, I headed out to breakfast, and a conference call. Back home, we were still trying to line up a real estate agent to represent a property of ours, and I didn't want to lose the opportunity. So while I waited for my French Toast, I sat on a long-distance conversation that involved me listening to other people talking. Fun.

After breakfast (at noon), I hopped on the 15 and headed south. I headed west on the 8, then got off at SDSU. Turning right at El Cajon, I headed toward downtown. Eventually, I wound up at Seaport Village, where I spent as much time walking around (ninety minutes) as I did sitting in traffic on the way back to Joanie's. By the time I walked in the door, I was hungry and grouchy. Thank heaven that Joanie had beer in the fridge that she offered; I needed one.

Running on empty

With Joanie sleeping in (according to her, she sleeps fitfully at night, and never all the way through) I decided to put the running shoes and clothes to good use and go for a jog first thing Thursday morning.

Bad idea.

You have no idea how out of shape you are until you try to run the hills around San Diego. I started on a downhill, so it seemed easy. But then came the uphill. And the burn. And the heavy breathing. And the realization that I was nowhere near in shape. I soon settled on the 15-3-15 method I'd used a few years back. That's 15 minutes of running, followed by a three-minute walk to catch my breath, and then another 15 minutes of running. It worked pretty well, and I almost - almost - made it back to Joanie's. No, I didn't collapse, but I was pretty tired. And sore.

It's a good thing today's plans don't include doing much of anything other than dinner with Joanie and Little Dude, and hanging around. It's much cheaper that way, too.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Decompressing

After a greuling two-hour interview, I needed to decompress. I walked out of the building, only to find the car gone. Funny since I'd left Joanie inside napping. One quick phone call later, and she was driving back from the little ride she'd taken.

She announced that she'd talked to her friend Clark, and he would be glad to join us for lunch. She called Clark, and let him and I work out the directions to his home in the Hollywood Hils. And a very nice home it was. As soon as we arrived (after navigating one very twisty Laurel Canyon road), I saw the yellow Goldwing in the garage. I hopped on and checked it out, very much wanting to take it for a ride. Instead, we wint inside where Clark gave us the grand tour.

Although we'd planned to go out for lunch (Clark said it would be his breakfast), the plans changed when his wife came home. Pretty soon, we were agreeing to a homemade lunch of pasta, and watching a back episode of Judge Judy, all the while talking about law. To her credit, Joanie didn't fall asleep while Clark and I talked shop.

After a very enjoyable lunch, Joanie and I raced down to CBS, where she'd snagged tickets for The Late Late Show. I saw a rather attractive blond sitting behind us, and amazingly enough, managed to strike up a conversation with her and her friends. They were there to see Maya Angelou, only to learn that she'd be cancelled at the last minute in favor of Anne Heche. (Guess insipid holiday Hallmark Hall-of-Fame movies carry more weight than intellectual writing.) We had a very nice discussion, and I found out her name (Marie), that she was originally from Detroit, but now lived in Pasedena, and that she had, until recently, worked for GM. So we chatted until we were called by Craig's warm-up guy, Chunky B, and told to head off to the studio.

Since Joanie's back was still not 100 percent, we had to decide whether to chance the stairs, or take the elevator. The PA, upon hearing about Joanie's surgery, told us not to take the stairs. She promised to hold seats for us, but when the page showed us to the end of the line, I feared that our seats would be in back. True to her word, though, the PA had kept seats in mind for us. She moved a couple to the third row and seated u right up front. We had a bird's-eye view of the show (and the studio is very small, so we were about 20 feet from Craigs desk, and right next to the executive producer's seat. It was choice. Even better, during the monologue, we somehow managed to get Craig's attention, and at the first break he asked us what we thought of Jackson Pollock's work.

After the show, my phone rang, as if on cue. It was Marty Stark, seeing if we were still on for dinner. We agreed to meet at Lolas, just down the street from CBS. Although nondescript on the outside, inside we found a very nice place. Since Marty wasn't as close as we were, we had to hold off one very cute waitress, and order only drinks. Of course, by the time he arrived, we were feeling very good. Dinnner was enjoyable, and it was nice to see Marty again. Too quickly it was over, and Joanie and I were faced with the long 90-minute drive back to San Diego. She slept, and I wanted to. By the time we got back, I was thoroughly exhausted.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Walking in LA

The purpose of y trip to San Diego wasn't so much as a vacation (which my dad seems to think it's more of) than a way to keep things from being prohibitively expensive. I can't even begin to imagine trying to do a one-day trip to LA, including transportation, hotel, and a meal or two and not having it cost me the same as a trip out here for a week, including car rental. So I took the opportunity to drop in on Joanie.

And Joanie took the opportunity to hook us up with tickets to The Late Late Show starring Craig Ferguson. More on that later. First, the interview details.

This interview had come about a bit unusually. In the midst of all the emails from headhunters/recruiters, hucksters, insurance salespeople and firms who didn't bother to read my resume, I got one that intrigued me. Yet when I went to the website, all that I found in the 'careers' section were openings for insurance sales and real estate brokers. My first instinct was to blow it off; just another insurance company spamming me with ads promising big commissions.

After a bit of thought, I decided to call the person who emailed me and see what was up. Turns out that while they were looking for those positions, that wasn't why they'd contacted me. Seems my accounting and legal background were just what they wanted. Their business was growing, and they wanted someone in-house to handle the day-to-day affairs. Enter yours truly.

Still, I was cautious. I couldn't find much on the web about the firm, so I had no idea what they were like as a business, which was a concern. I knew that they were a privately-held, one-owner company, and I'd worked for one of those before, long ago. What I've found (and what I've since learned is not unusual) is that owners of small businesses which begin to grow at a good pace find themselves overwhelmed. The problem isn't finding people to help; the problem is letting go. These owners can often hold on too tightly, undermining managers as they nitpick, micromanage and change orders at whims. Employees soon learn that the manager has no real authority and begin to circumvent him or her and go directly to the owner/entrepreneur. This defeats the intended purpose of lightening the load, and things tend to get worse as the manager struggles to assert his supposed authority, only to be cut off at every turn.

The interview lasted two hours, during which I asked questions galore. At one point, the owner commented that this was less like an interview and more like a discussion on business - and then he said it made him feel very confident. We'll see how things turn out.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Heading out west

With the unseasonably warm November weather in Chicago starting to turn toward the more seasonable frigid, I climbed aboard a plane bound for San Diego.

No sooner did I land than I immediately realized that Robert Burns' poem ("The best laid plans of mice and men...") still holds true nearly 400 years later. I'd watched the weather reports, and the unseasonably warm weather in Chicago had roughly been like the weather in San Diego - in the 60s and 70s. So I'd packed long-sleeved shirts. Except that a Santa Ana had blown in, bringing with it hot, dry weather and 'red flag' (high fire risk) days. So as I sat at Lindberg Airport waiting for Joanie to pick me up, I began to wonder just what possessed me to pass up the opportunity to pack cooler shirts (they were buried back in the closet) and if this was a one-day deal, or if I'd be sweating all week.

Joanie finally arrived, and we headed back toward Casa Goddess. But first we had to pick up a vehicle for the trip up to LA tomorrow. I had reserved a smaller car, but because we were delayed by events, I got stuck with an Envoy. They agreed to give it to me at a cut rate (and since Joanie isn't pain-free, even after back surgery, I figured she might be a little more comfortable) and we drove off.

We really didn't do a whole lot after that, just kind of hung out, which was a good thing since I'm fighting to stay awake. Leave it to my friend Joe to remind me that I was trying to slog through a 26-hour day (adding in the 2 hour time difference). Besides, I have to be rested for the interview, which got moved up from 1:00p.m. to 11:00a.m.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The fun of a job search, or why I hate Monster.com

Ever since I updated my resume on Monster, I've been inundated with calls and emails.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, they haven't been for anything i've wanted to do. Here are some examples:

  1. The Clueless. These are the idiots who just don't get it. They're headhunters/recruiters who are merely looking for warm bodies to fill positions, and not good matches. Worse yet, they use robots to pull keywords out of resumes and send out mass emails. The worst transgressor of this was the idiot from two or three weeks ago. You remember her, the one who thought law and accounting was an unusual combination. Not only did she never send me contact info for the legal recruiter she supposedly knew, she called me earlier this week and left me a message. "Hi, this is J--- H---- from -----. We talked a couple of weeks ago, and I just wanted to catch up and tell you about some of the things I'm working on..."

  2. The Hucksters. These are the mass emails, akin to work-at-home scams, which promise impossibly high commissions (you, too could earn up to $100K!) for merely processing their overseas transactions. You see, they had a guy who did this for them, but he can't anymore, so they're sending out a mass, blind email looking for someone who could help them clear these cash transactions through their personal bank account. You don't have to do anything, just make a wire transfer every now and then. Right.

  3. The Insurance Salesmen. "We're interviewing in your area, and only for a limited time. Join us and make thousands in commissions in your first year. We're looking for enthusiastic individuals like you...."

  4. The Mass Ad. These guys are like the Clueless. However, they're different, because they send you the actual position description, then say "If you meet the qualifications, please send your resume..." Too bad that if they'd read that resume, they'd realize that I either a) wasn't qualified, or b) was overqualified. Either way, I won't be contacting them.


To combat this, I've changed my resume a bit, and it seems to have worked. At least its eliminated recruiters who want to put me into staff accountant positions. Of course, I did get one email from a recruiter looking to fill a temporary position - at my old company. I passed.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Shot through the heart....


...and you're to blame...

Ok, so it wasn't the first song that Bon Jovi sang last night, it was the second. But it was immensely satisfying to hear.

About a month-and-a-half ago, my friend Cheri called me up and asked if I'd be interested in seeing the band. Sure, I'd said. And why not? Sure, Bon Jovi has a reputation of being a 'girls band,' but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy their music. Plus, there'd be tons of single women there. It could be fun.

So we planned the evening; Cheri would come in on the train, Cara & Rich would drive into Casa Greg. We'd head out to dinner, then to the concert. We chose, initially, a restaurant called Reza, which someone thought sounded good. I'd never been there, and was kind of excited to be going somewhere new. Until I realized that eating there would result in our venerable drivers having to pay twice for parking. Not a good idea in a city where parking is often advertised as "$5 for the first 12 minutes."

So we opted to go to a place called D'Agostino's instead. No problem, as it was only a short walk from the apartment, and we had nearly two hours to kill. Imagine our surprise, then, when we used the full two hours and then some. Not only did Cara's order get screwed up (she got stuffed shells instead of stuffed peppers), but the waitress appeared so infrequently at our table that we put her picture on milk cartons in order to get service. At one point a very frustrated Cara said that "we should tip the busboy instead of the waitress; he's come around more often, and at least I know what he looks like."

As we left, someone commented that we would not make it in time for the scheduled 7:30 start.
"Oh, who cares, " Cara retorted, "we'll only miss the opening act, and I don't even know who they are."

Made me think that being selected to be an opening act was definitely a double-edged sword; you get to travel with a well-known band, and get much-needed 'exposure', but what did it matter if no one saw you?

I realized that my thoughts were even more right when we walked in. Most of the people were milling about outside; inside, the seats were about half full. It wasn't until a local deejay came out onto stage and made a half-hearted plug for her station that people began to file into their seats.

But once the show got started, it was well worth the wait. Jon Bon Jovi is a man who has been making music since he was a teen; he's well beyond the point of needing to make money. He can do this because he enjoys it, and not have to worry about impressing critics. And the show showed that. The members of the band regularly mugged for the camera, and otherwise enjoyed interacting with each other and the crowd, who couldn't get enough. We spent most of the night like yo-yos bouncing up for hits like "Living On A Prayer" and "It's My Life" and sitting down for the ballads. One guy behind me complained, saing "I'm too old to keep doing this." And he was about my age. Sheesh.

So all in all, the evening was very enjoyable, and a lot of fun. At the end of the evening, I told Cara, "I've seen a lot of cleavage here tonight." And I did, not all of it good. Some of the women looked very...uh, how do I say this...bad, while others were wearing clothes that fit three sizes ago. And then there were the three moms who brought their pre-teen children, which left me wondering why they would subject them to music that I doubted they liked. Hasn't anyone heard of babysitters anymore? Sure enough, one couple's daughter sat in her seat, head in her hand, while the crowd sang along with "Living on a Prayer"."

Oh, and as far as the women went? Plenty of women, most of them married. The rest were with their boyfriends - or their kids. Oh, well. I hear John Mayer's coming soon.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Things are never quiet around here....

Oh, so much is going on around here….and there’s even some entertainment, as well.

Would you care to join the rest of us here in November?

On the entertainment side, TV Guide has taken to advertising heavily at the end of the “Fox Comedy Block” which runs here from 5-7pm. The ad promotes the new, bigger, TV Guide, mentions the feature story (this week: Grey’s Anatomy). This is followed by a plug for the Fox network shows that evening.

On Monday, the TV Guide ad said, “Tonight on FOX: NLCS Game 6: Houston at St. Louis…”

Uh, guys, I hate to tell you this, but….the NLCS ended two weeks ago. Houston won. Sorry if I spoiled things for you. I know, I know, you taped it, right? Right.

-----

Stupidity Happens – even at the best schools in the country

So someone – a white guy – had a great idea.

“Let’s have a ‘thuggin’ party!” he said.
“Yeah!” his classmates – nineteen of them – shouted in agreement.

And so it was on – the Straight Thuggin’ Party. Unfortunately, it seems that the weak attempt to ‘lampoon hip-hop culture’ wasn’t found to be too funny by African-American students. Or a lot of other students for that matter.

One girl, who attended the party tried to defend it. “We weren’t making fun of anyone, or trying to insult anyone. We were trying to make fun of the whole ghetto culture. I don’t see why people are so upset.”

Oh, I don’t know, either. Maybe because a couple of guys went out onto the street and invited blacks in, asking them if they’d like to have their picture taken and be part of the ‘ghetto’. Maybe it’s because your idea for a party was stupid and, in a way, the na├»ve type of party that rich, entitled kids throw, trying to be part of a culture they haven’t ever come close to joining.

What’s even funnier – in an ironic way – is that this little event happened at one of the country’s elite universities, in a neighborhood long known for its diversity: The University of Chicago, in the Hyde Park neighborhood, long a melting pot for upper-middle class blacks, whites and asians. Sadly, it’s also a neighborhood besieged by a rash of muggings of both students and residents.

It seems in a time when students should be coming together to protect each other from a very real threat, some take acts which only serve to divide even more.

-----

There is no East Coast media bias....

There really isn't. Or so the media tells us. "We report on an unbiased basis," they say. They report on how Chicagoans feel slighted by ESPN and others, who report ad nauseum on the Yankees and teh Red Sox, but generally ignore the White Sox.

The first indication that Chicago was going to be ignored or minimized was after the Sox beat Boston in three straight. Chris Berman, instead of discussing how the White Sox had shut down the vaunted Red Sox sluggers, chose to wax poetic about the Bosox and lament that they wouldn't get to repeat as champs.

The latest? Oh, that's easy. Somehow, when the Bosox break their 86-year curse, they are featured both weeks on the cover of Sports Illustrated. And the White Sox, who broke an even longer 88-year curse? They're relegated to a small picture in the upper right corner. Seems that this weeks Monday Night Football matchup is much more important. Seems one Peyton Manning is playing against one Tom Brady who happens to play for a team called the Patriots - who happen to play in Boston.

No East Coast bias indeed.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Welcome to Titletown...


Supposedly, Green Bay, Wisconsin calls itself Titletown. No doubt that Green Bay's thirteen NFL titles (1929, 1930, 1931, 1936, 1939, 1944, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1997) give it that name, but Chicago is no slouch. In fact, the Bears are second in the NFL in championships, with nine - 1921, 1932, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1946, 1963 and 1986.

In basketball, the Bulls, with six NBA titles (1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1998) are the only Chicago-based NBA franchise (there have been three - the Chicago Stags folded in 1950 after 4 seasons, and the Chicago Packers/Zephyrs lasted two years, then moved to Baltimore, and then to Washington) to win a title.

Although this is considered a hockey town, the Blackhawks have won only three Stanley Cups - 1934, 1938 and 1961 - though they've played for seven others (1931, 1944, 1962, 1965, 1971, 1973 and 1992).

In baseball, the Cubs have won two World Series - in 1907 and 1908 - but also played for eight others (1906, 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938 and 1945). That doesn't include the two series - one win, one loss - that the Cubs played in 1885 and 1886 when they were known by their original name: The White Stockings. Of course, those games were all between NL teams, since the AL didn't exist before 1901.

By comparison, the White Sox have been the weak sisters: they've only played in four World Series in their entire history - 1906, 1917, 1919 and 1959 - and they threw one of those (in 1919). Of those four, they've only won twice - in 1906, when they beat the Cubs (and spawned the lasting Sox/Cubs debate in this town) and in 1917, when they beat the New York (now San Francisco) Giants.

It's been 7 years since the Bulls won the last title for the city. People have speculated since what team might be next - the Sox made the playoffs in 2000, only to be swept out by Seattle; the Cubs made it all the way to the NLCS in 2003, coming within six outs of the World Series before falling to the eventual champion Florida Marlins; the Bears had a winning record in 2001, but lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Even though this town lives and dies for its sports teams, those teams haven't done much to repay that loyalty in recent years. But from the get-go, the 2005 baseball season was different. The Sox started in first place, and never looked back. Through the All-Star break, through a horrible August/September (when many sportswriters were writing them off), and right up to the playoffs, where they started with the favored Red Sox. Only one sportswriter on ESPN.com picked the Sox to go to the Series (correctly forecasting that they would not only beat Boston and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but that they would face the Astros). All the others had the Sox either losing in the NLDS or NLCS.

And, to be honest, Sox fans were holding their breath. We remembered all too vividly the Cubs brush in 2003, and how that turned out, and we hoped our guys wouldn't disappoint us in that way. Turns out, we were the only ones worried.

And now, as we spend the last three days celebrating, we look ahead to next year, and hope we can do it again. In the meantime, we can savor the memories.

Friday, October 21, 2005

An exciting time to live here...

Tomorrow is Game 1 of the World Series - Chicago White Sox versus the Houston Astros. The Sox haven't been to the World Series since 1959, and haven't won one since 1917. Their crosstown rivals, the Cubs, haven't been to the World Series since 1945, and last won one in 1908. Needless to say, this town has gone ga-ga in anticipation of the first pitch.

Half the people can't believe that, after 46 years, we're finally playing for a championship. Heck, thousands of people - myself and my sister included - weren't even born the last time the Sox played in the Series (they lost to the Dodgers, 4-2). And with a pitching staff that dominated the ALCS, the excitement level has built to colossal proportions. This city is about to burst.

The last championship here was the Bulls' sixth title in 1998. We got close in 2003, but the Cubs let fan interference on a fly ball get to them, and blew a shot at the World Series with six outs to go. Seeing that tickets for the White Sox' Series appearance are going for up to $10,000 or more (you read that right - ten thousand dollars for a single ticket), one can only imagine how astronomical the prices would be for a Cubs Series appearance.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world goes on with their business. Saddam Hussein is on trial in Iraq (and a lawyer defending one of his co-defendants is murdered). The Harriet Meirs debacle continues in Washington, with the President taking flak for his choice. In California, it rains (perhaps real Angels crying over the baseball Angels losing the ALCS?).

But here in Chicago, it's all-baseball, all the time. And no matter what happens in the rest of the world, everything here in Chi-town is perfect. Right up until the first pitch tomorrow night. Pass the Pepto-Bismol.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Things on my mind....

Oh, brother, I can’t, I can’t get through
I’ve been trying hard to reach you
Cause I don’t know what to do
Oh, brother, I can’t believe it’s true
I’m so scared about the future
And I want to talk to you
Oh, I want to talk to you

You could take a picture of something you see
In the future where will I be
You could climb a ladder up to the sun
Or write a song nobody had sung
Or do something that’s never been done

Are you lost or incomplete
Do you feel like a puzzle
You can’t find your missing piece
Tell me how you feel
Well, I feel like they’re talking in a language I don’t speak
And they’re talking it to me

So you take a picture of something you see
In the future where will I be
You could climb a ladder up to the sun
Or write a song nobody had sung
Or do something that’s never been done
Or do something that’s never been done

So you don’t know where you’re going
And you want to talk
And you feel like you’re going where you’ve been before
You'll tell anyone who’ll listen but you feel ignored
And nothing’s really making any sense at all
Let’s talk, let’s talk
Let’s talk, let’s talk

- Coldplay
Talk
from the CD X&Y


I'm finding the job search to be slow going. Actually, all I've done so far is search websites to get a feel for the firms that are out there. I updated my resume on Monster.com, which lead to a flurry of headhunters calling me - all for accounting jobs, and all for nothing better than a simple financial analyst position.

This is the annoying thing about headhunters: they don't go beyond what's on your resume. If you say you're an accountant, you'll get accounting jobs thrown at you. Financial analyst? Yep, you guessed it. Oh, and forget about trying to get a bump in salary - most headhunters are hogtied to what you're currently earning.

The fun part of having a law degree is treating the headhunters like crap. Today, one called me, and admitted she didn't have my resume in front of her. "You wouldn't believe the number of resumes I have in front of me from Monster," she said. "Let me just ask you some basic questions. Do you see yourself as an accountant or a financial analyst?"

"Well," I said, "I've done both in my career."
"Ok, well, what are you looking for in a position? Do you like the nuts and bolts, or are you more abstract?"
"I like challenges, which is why I went to law school."

Suddenly, she remembered me. And the funny thing is that she went so far as to ask me to send her a resume. I told her if she'd send me an email, I'd be happy to send one back as a Word attachment. I haven't gotten that email yet, and I don't think I will anytime soon.

-----

Taking a moment to vent...

It's nice to see Bravo (finally!) rerun the entire 6th season of the West Wing. Now, I can catch up on episodes I.....well, no I can't, because those episodes seem to be airing when I'm not home.

And what's with those new commercials NBC is running? You know, the ones where a group of friends is supposedly sitting around talking about the NBC shows. "I hear Joey's even better this year!" one woman bubbles. Blah, I say. I hate this kind of 'water cooler' advertising. It's a sad attempt to pump up ratings for shows that suck, and portray it as if people really a) talked that way, b) talked about TV shows in that manner, and c) cared about anything on network TV, save for about 2 or 3 shows, none of which are on NBC.

Speaking of NBC, it was nice Toral got the hook on The Apprentice. Then she has the gall to say that she wouldn't hire some of the women to be her secretary. Nice, hon, considering you didn't do anything, and then when you had the opportunity to step up, you didn't make an effort. Methinks that you thought if you faded in the background, you'd hang around for a while. Kudos to your teammates for calling you out for being a lazy, arrogant person who thought way too highly of herself.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The search begins...

So now that I've officially passed the Bar Exam, I have to find a job. Toward that end, I've updated the resume on Monster.com (stagnant for four years). I don't expect much from Monster, but it's a start.

Next up is reviewing firms here in Illinois, and also trying to get a line on firms in California. The early results aren't promising; in looking at several websites, the firms here aren't looking to hire someone who didn't work in their office as a summer associate. I think that if there's anything that Loyola fell down on, it was providing a wealth of summer opportunities to students. Without a summer position, I'm afraid that getting hired is going to prove very difficult.

Of course, I can't blame Loyola entirely. Some of this is my fault, but I think it's driven by the fact that I was never a 'law school junkie'. You know the type - always at school, in the career services office. They know about openings in North Butte, Montana, six seconds after they're posted. They have the inside track on what's going on in firms, and leave you scratching your head, wondering how they find these things out. On the other hand, you know that the 'stros just dumped the Braves in 18 innings, and will fact the Cards in the NLDS. And the Yankees (known in Bahston as the Yankmees) have stretched the Halos (a/k/a the Angels) to a five-game series.

I have no real idea how to go about a job search, so I'm thinking this will wind up a scattergun approach. I gave BigLaw my resume, thinking that two years of affiliated work could maybe qualify me for a pity interview, but any hope of that had ice water dumped on it Friday. I wasn't a summer associate; they weren't really all that interested.

This is going to be fun.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Two down, one to go....

So here I am, at work, waiting for a tax return to show up so I can turn around and mail it overseas. In the meantime, I'm nerve-racked waiting for the start of the only playoff game that matters, White Sox v. Red Sox.

Before this series started, all the experts were picking Boston, saying the Chisox didn't have a hope in hell, that their lack of offense would kill them. The experts said that Boston's offense was 'explosive' and that 'good pitching beats good hitting. Except now.'

And then came Game 1. Chicago 14, Boston 2. Five homers, two of which were three-run dings, drove a knife into the Bosox, and sounded the death knell for them by the sixth inning. By the time Scott Podsednik homered late in the came, Boston was going from Medium-well to Well-done.

No worries, Red Sox Nation faithful said. We'll get 'em in Game 2. And the pundits agreed, pointing out that Boston had been clobbered like that five times previously, and came back to win the next game every time. So by the time the Bosox headed back to Beantown, the series would be 1-1.

And for four-and-a-half innings, they were right. But then ex-White Sox Tony Graffanino let an easy double-play ball go between his legs, and David Wells served up a three-run homer to Tadahito Iguchi, and Boston was down 5-4. That was enough for Buehrle and Jenks, who combined to shut down Boston the rest of the way.

So here we are, awaiting Game 3. The pundits have been at it again, pointing out that Boston was down 0-3 in last year's ALCS, and 0-2 in the 2003 ALDS, before coming back to win both series. They point out Boston's record in elimination games, (something like 8-2), and that they are playing at home, where they have the league's best record.

But the White Sox have the league's best road record. And Garcia's a tough daytime pitcher, once he settles down (the first few innings are always nailbiters).

The anticipation is killing me. If only that package would get here, I could go watch the game.

Go White Sox!!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

How it went down

Wednesday was my birthday. I and several friends went out to dinner to celebrate, and afterward, only my friend Blake (who also happens to be the only non-suburbanite in the group) came back to my apartment for a cocktail.

While he was there, I pulled out a letter I'd gotten from the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar. "We are pleased to advise that your applications has been recommended for certification by the Committee on Character and Fitness.." it began. I asked Blake if he'd gotten the letter. He said no, he hadn't, only one that said the Committee had received all the infomation it needed, and would be in touch.

I found it odd that the Committee would send such a letter; after all, hadn't I already been recommended for certification my first year? Blake poo-poohed my question. Where I clung to the hope that this might be an early indication I'd passed (and with the results due out soon, it would be a relief), Blake dismissed it as nothing more than procedure.

Fast forward to Saturday, 9a.m. The bar results were supposed to have been posted at 12:01 a.m., and they hadn't. But in my inbox is an email from Blake, entitled "That frickin' letter". Poor Blake had finally gotten the letter I did - on the day the results were due out. He'd nearly had a heart attack.

I told Blake that I'd looked at the IBABY website, and nothing was there yet. I also said I wasn't going to look anymore, then gave him my applicant number. He could look, but I had a nice weekend with the family planned, and I wasn't going to ruin it by being in a bad mood (my nephew Ryan took care of that, but that's a different post).

Then around noon, while I was in a cab on the way to the LaSalle Metra Station, my cell phone rang. It was Blake, calling to tell me the results had finally been posted, and his parents had called to tell him he'd passed (obviously, he'd done the same thing I had).

Blake was cautiously happy; his roommate's friend had given his parents his number, and they'd called to tell him he'd passed - except he'd given them the wrong number, and he'd actually failed. He'd be happy when he saw his number for himself.

I was racked with nerves. I was certain I'd failed, and didn't know how I'd explain this to all of my friends, relatives and coworkers. More importantly, what would I do for income? I need a job, and soon. And I wasn't sure I wanted to go through another bar exam again (well, except for the California bar, but I didn't want to do that having already failed one Bar exam). For the entire night, my stomach did flips and spins. I didn't want to look, but I knew I'd have to, sooner or later.

The next morning, I got up and turned on the cell phone. I had a voicemail. Barely awake, and not thinking about who the hell called at 1 a.m. (but guessing it was a call from Switzerland), I was shocked to hear Blake's voice:

"Hey, it's Blake. It's really early on Sunday morning, but I just wanted to call and tell you that the number you gave me is a passing number, so if you gave me the right number, congratulations, you passed."

You passed.

I closed the cell phone and looked across the table at my mom, drinking her morning cup of coffee.

"Was it good news?" she asked.
"I passed," I said.
"You passed?!" she cried, tears welling up in her eyes. "Oh, my gosh! Oh son, I'm so happy for you!"

She called to my father and told him to come upstairs. Surprisingly, he came up quickly.

"Greg passed!"
"I'd better make sure I gave Blake the right number," I said, even though I knew I'd double-checked the number before I'd sent the email. There was no doubt. Blake had the right number.

And so did my friend Cheri, who I found out later had looked around the same time I'd found out I'd passed, and called me at home. All that was left was to tell everyone I knew, everyone who knew what I was doing, that I'd passed. Hugs and tears abounded.

Today I got the official letter congratulating me on passing. It joins the letter congratulating me on passing the CPA exam.

And on November 10th, I will officially be able to call myself a lawyer.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Another year older...but not necessarily better

So I’m still kind of recovering from my birthday. Had a nice dinner with friends, got some nice gifts; the family celebration is this weekend.

The Bar results were – if you believed the rumor – supposed to have been posted at midnight. They weren’t, predictably. I have a feeling that the rumor was started by one of my classmates who reveled in starting false rumors to freak people out. He was sadistic that way, which, in a stereotypical way, made him perfect for law school. Of course, if you believed him, he was highly ranked in the class as well. Funny how, at graduation, his name wasn’t on the list of those graduating with honors. My guess is that the other rumor – the one that said his grades weren’t all that good – was more likely true.

So this week has turned out to be a busy one. And next week promises to be as well. If the weather holds, I’ll be golfing with Dad on Monday, one last time to get out and have some guy fun. I’m looking forward to spending time with him. There was a point where he and I had an antagonistic relationship, but I was sixteen, and that’s typical. Now, we get along swimmingly, and I enjoy spending time with him. Which is good, I think. It’s nice that my family is close-knit; the only disappointment is that my cousins are lame-o’s who don’t call, write or email. My friends see their cousins, I don’t. My relatives are the most self-centered bunch I’ve ever met, which explains why I am to an extent as well.

In other news this week, John Roberts got confirmed. I’d love to go on about that, but I have a train to catch. So you’ll just have to wait until Tuesday.

Monday, September 26, 2005

My birthday demands, uh, list

“So what do you want for your birthday?”

Ugh. THAT question again. The annual reminder that I’m getting older, and closer to retirement. Well, not that close.

Anyway, I hate that question, because the last thing I do is sit around and think of things that I want for my birthday. Oh, occasionally I drop hints, but often they get ignored. Or maybe my taste is just too expensive. I mean, is it too much to ask for a Ferrari for my birthday? After all, aren’t I special?

So this year, my mom asked “the question”, and I didn’t have an answer at the ready. Truth is, I’ve been off in mental la-la land and not paying attention to the calendar. That, of course, got a rude jolt last week. But overall, I really hadn’t gone through the mental list-making that I normally go through at this time of year, anticipating that inevitable question.

So, without further ado, (and two days beforehand) here’s my list:

  1. A new blender. Mine sucks, and I like to make frozen drinks – like mudslides.
  2. Movies:
    1. The Blues Brothers
    2. Dead Poets Society
    3. Batman Returns
    4. Lord of the Rings Trilogy
    5. Any Harry Potter movie (sorry, but I like them, even if you don’t)
  3. Music
    1. Blue Merle
    2. Stereophonics
    3. Electronica – I have Future Lounge, so something along those lines
  4. Dockers™, Haines, or similar pants – mine keep wearing out
  5. Suits – at least one or two more, say a black and a neutral
  6. Shirts – dress shirts, though friends who’ve seen my closets will ask “where will you put them?
  7. A new car – a Ferrari would be nice, but not practical. How ‘bout a Saab 9-5?
  8. A speaking role in Clint Eastwood’s movie – because all I’ve got now is a role as an extra, and since my grandfather served in WWII, it would be a nice tribute.
  9. A nice Bible. I’m not overly religious, but mine is old, tattered, and from when I was in junior high. I should have a nicer one at this point in my life.
  10. A hot girlfriend. Hey, it’s my list; make up your own if you don’t like it.
  11. A nice, new residence. Preferably in San Diego. See #10.
  12. A job.

So there it is. I doubt if I’ll get any of that in the next two days, but if you’d like to wish me a happy b-day, feel free. I’ll take what I can get.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

A sense of impending doom

“Hi, long time no talk. How have you been?”

The email began innocuously enough. Standard how’ve-you-been stuff. But I should have seen the next sentence coming, since she works for a law firm here in Chi-town.

“Are you anxious to get the results this week?”

That’s right. The Results. The scores/results I’ve tried not to think about the last eight weeks. The ones which determine just what the hell I’m going to do with my life.

Oh, it wasn’t unexpected. I’d heard on Thursday that the results were supposed to be posted on the web within a week. And that started a rumbling in my stomach – the rumbling of nausea and nerves. I began to shake.

“I’m not going to think about that,” I told my friend on Thursday. “I’m going to just put it out of my mind, or else I’ll think about it all week. And what if the rumors aren’t true? What if the results aren’t posted? What then?”

“I don’t want to know,” she said. “I know I failed.”

“Neither do I,” the third member of our party chimed in. “I kind of like the not knowing.”

“I like ignorance,” I replied. “Not knowing means I haven’t failed. I haven’t passed, but I haven’t failed, either. I can’t be judged, because the jury is out. Until those results come out, I’m a lawyer. If I failed, I’m nothing. I’m back to square one, running from a clock, and trying to figure out what to do.”

What’s worse? The pressure of knowing the end is near? Or the thought of how will I break it to people if I fail? I can see it now:

Friend/Relative/Network Contact (with hopeful look in their eye): “Did you get your bar results? How did you do?”

Me: “Uhhh…..I did. I didn’t pass.”

Friend/Relative/Network Contact (casting their eyes away from my gaze): “Oh.”

And at that point, I’ll get asked if I’m going to take it again, or what I plan to do now that I failed one of the most important tests of my life. Either way, I’ll be a little lower in their eyes. After all, my friend Mark is convinced that the Bar Exam is easier than the CPA exam, and since I passed that, I should be able to pass the bar. Right?

So here I sit, waiting out the days until the results are posted. I won’t go there and look but I’m sure some ex-classmate will call, excited that they passed, and ask the dreaded question: “Did you pass?”

And then I’ll have to know. And I’m afraid I won’t be happy.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Ok, so I haven't posted much while I took a week off. So here's a bit of whimsy from an old prof of mine to entertain you while I beat the cold I've caught..

AP--The White House announced today plans to make a tactical nuclearstrike against Hurricane Rita, and likely all future storms Category 2and upthat threaten the United States as well.

In a press conference, President Bush declared a no-tolerance policyregarding terrorist attacks by Mother Nature. "From now on we will makepre-emptive strikes against this swirlinessof evil," Bush stated. The White House Press secretary elaborated that they believe strategically-placed nuclear blasts will be sufficient todisperse even a Category 5 storm before it reaches America's shores. When questioned about the negative environmental impact, including radiation clouds sweeping over the U.S., Bush paused and squinted for a moment, before chuckling,"We will prevail." Bush was careful to clarify that Mother Nature was a good religion, and that the "insurfency" would be "wiped out." Bush went onto describe the new Axis of Evil as hurricanes, global warming, and Cindy Sheehan.

In a Democratic response, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) proposed a plan to negotiate with the hurricane. Kerry reminisced about how he once fought a hurricane in a speedboat and was wounded, for which he received a purple bruise.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who was once held prisoner by a hurricane, supported the President's initiative and yet somehow still retained his likeability.

Governor Schwarzenegger (R-CA) challenged Hurricane Rita to a weight-lifting contest, referring to the hurricane as a "sissy storm."

Vice-President Dick Cheney (R-Halliburton) said the Bush administration has clear evidence linking both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. "It's the ultimate WMD, or "Wave of Massive Distribution," he declared. Operation "Storm Storm" is already underway despite protests by the United Nations.

France's President Chirac argued that the new U.S. storm policy would cost his nation several lucrative arms and oil deals, not to mention its sacred two hour lunches. "Uh, I mean, this is immoral," he added.


Hollywood celebrities will hold a series of concerts and benefits to"Save the Hurricanes." On Comedy Central's The Daily Show, John Stewart played clips of hurricanes that were only somewhat out of context before expressing his humorous incredulity. South Park satirized hurricanes in their episode titled "The Passion of Katrina," but could not resist its own balanced-but-with-a-tinge-of-preachiness message at the end of the episode.

Fox News made a fair and balanced report about how hurricanes are condoned and created by Muslims while Geraldo wept salty ocean water tears for the humanity of it all. CNN's Lou Dobbs, with all the authority appointed him by his American flag pin, pointed out that hurricanes are technically illegal immigrants and questioned whether or not they are stealing our American jobs. Nancy Grace expressed righteous indignation that these "mass murderers" have never been prosecuted in a court of law.

The CIA has been concerned about hurricane proliferation ever since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s when suitcase hurricanes were being distributed on the black market. Meanwhile, the Department of HomelandSecurity is researching whether or not terrorists may try to sneak hurricanes onto public transportation.

In an apparent incident of theological contradiction, Jesus of Nazareth forgave the hurricanes, saying "They know not who they swoosh," and,"If you pluck out your hurricane's eye, then the hurricane will totally drown your ass (donkey)." However, Christian leaders insisted that the hurricanes will "steam in hell."

Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, while touring theGulf region, noted that hurricane debris made it almost impossible toplay a proper round of golf. When inquired about their campaign for Gulf hurricane relief, they were forced to clarify that their efforts only extended as far as "golf" relief

.Osama Bin Laden, speaking from his plush resort in the Florida Keys, said, "I'm just really glad it wasn't a Category 5 when it hit us. Oh yes,and the American infidels will drown in their own blood. Praise Allah." Followers of a Los Angeles hurricane cult committed mass suicide inorder to "disperse with the hurricane." Meanwhile, a guru in Sedona, Arizona,was arrested after committing vandalism. She claimed she was only "channelling the hurricane." In a related story, 200 years after the Louisiana Purchase, the U.S. has offered Louisiana back to France.

--Daniel J. Sanders, reporter for V.I.P. (Vox Idiota Press)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Confirming John Roberts

So far, John Roberts has done an admirable & deft job of avoiding the tough questions. Watching CSPAN last night, I saw Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) ask Roberts about using international law to interpret the Constitution. Kyl's comments were directed at the Roper case, which cited international law in reaching a decision against executing juveniles.

Senator Kyl, in his eagerness to denounce the decision, totally misread it. Or maybe he didn't even read it. For if he had, he'd have noticed that the court did not rely on international law as precedent (as he claimed), but merely as additional support for the argument that the execution of juveniles had no place in American jurisprudence. In the opinion, Justice Kennedy points out "that only seven countries other than the United States have executed juvenile offenders since 1990: Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and China. Since then each of these countries has either abolished capital punishment for juveniles or made public disavowal of the practice. Brief for Respondent 49-50. In sum, it is fair to say that the United States now stands alone in a world that has turned its face against the juvenile death penalty." Roper v. Simmons, 125 S. Ct. 1183, 1199 (U.S. 2005).

In looking at that list, one can see that the other seven countries aren't very high on the list of human rights supporters. Moreover, Justice Kennedy spends considerable time in his opinion discussing such cases as Trop v. Dulles, 78 S. Ct. 590 (1958) (discussing the interpretation of "cruel and unusual", and stating (at 598) that "The Amendment must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society"), Stanford v. Kentucky, 109 S.Ct. 2969 (1989) (which discussed 'contemporary standards of decency' in the US in a case concerning the execution of a minor, and found no consensus sufficient to label a particular punishment 'cruel & unusual'), Thompson v. Oklahoma 108 S.Ct. 2867 (1988) (dealing with the prohibition of minors under the age of 16), Enmund v. Florida, 102 S. Ct. 3368 (1982) (discussing whether the death penalty should apply in a felony murder case where defendant did not, kill, attempt to kill, or intend to kill) and Coker v. Georgia, 97 S. Ct. 2861 (1977) (discussing execution as a method of punishment for the rape of an adult woman, and finding that out of 60 countries surveyed, only 3 countries worldwide still held death as punishment for this crime), as well as Atkins v. Virginia, 122 S.Ct. 2242 (2002), which discussed the execution of the mentally retarded.

While Kennedy does refer to international law, he also states "[o]ur determination that the death penalty is disproportionate punishment for offenders under 18 finds confirmation in the stark reality that the United States is the only country in the world that continues to give official sanction to the juvenile death penalty. This reality does not become controlling, for the task of interpreting the Eighth Amendment remains our responsibility. Yet at least from the time of the Court's decision in Trop, the Court has referred to the laws of other countries and to international authorities as instructive for its interpretation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishments." Roper v. Simmons, 125 S. Ct. 1183, 1198 (U.S. 2005). So the court acknowledges that international law should only serve as guidance, and not as precedent.

Justice Scalia took issue with the approach of looking to what other countries were doing in regard to the juvenile death penalty, not because he disagreed with the practice, but because he disagreed with the court using international law in a haphazard manner ("The Court should either profess its willingness to reconsider all these matters (abortion, establishment/separation of religion, mandatory/discretionary death penalties and the exclusionary rule) in light of the views of foreigners, or else it should cease putting forth foreigners' views as part of the reasoned basis of its decisions. To invoke alien law when it agrees with one's own thinking, and ignore it otherwise, is not reasoned decisionmaking, but sophistry. Roper v. Simmons, 125 S. Ct. 1183, 1228 (U.S. 2005)). So, though he was vilified for claiming that 'foreign and international law have no place in our Eighth Amendment jurisprudence,' he never actually made such a claim (those words are from O'Connor's dissent, in an attempt to sum up Scalia's arguments). Scalia's arguments, I dare say, have a valid point, and make perfect sense.

Senator Kyl took umbrage with the Court's use of international law as precedent, implying that we have our own 'American law' and it should be decided with 'American principles'. (To his credit, Roberts refused to bite on this, saying that international law could provide guidance, but that it was easy to pick & choose from international laws which favored the outcome one wanted, and ignored those which did not.) Unfortunately there are many ignorant people such as Senator Kyl who wish to ignore what the rest of the world is doing, then wonder why there is Anti-American sentiment . Too often, this country sets rules others should follow (for example, by participating in the International Criminal Court) but then refuses to follow those same rules itself (as we have done by failing to ratify the treaty establishing the ICC). To argue that international law has no place in American jurisprudence is to engage in an obvious form of hubris - we're better than everyone else - and will ultimately cost our country. Not today, and not tomorrow, but over time, as the rest of the world moves in one direction while we move in another. If we are truly to be a superpower, we cannot forge our own path and ignore everyone else; we must work with other countries to help them improve, and to improve ourselves.

Only time will tell if Roberts will follow Scalia's lead, and push the court to be more consistent in its use of international law, or if he'll subscribe to Senator Kyl's misguided theory that American courts should ignore international laws and decide cases on 'American principles'.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Serendipity...it's not just a Cusak movie...

A few months back - not long before finals - I ran a personal ad in Craigslist. Being a law student can crimp one's dating opportunities, so I thought I'd give CL a shot. I got only a couple of responses, probably because I didn’t put a photo up with my ad. There was a good reason for that – at the time, I was still dating Volvo Girl, who I’d met on CL as well. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in love with VG, and she was pushing for more of a relationship. So things were slowly winding down to the inevitable ugly end that would come a couple of weeks later.

Of the women that responded, I met up with one – a woman who lived near me, and worked as an accountant. We went out for dinner, and things went fine, but afterward she sent a ‘dear G’ email, saying she didn’t feel a spark, and though she enjoyed dinner, she wasn’t that attracted.

Fast forward to last Friday. Actually, you’d have to go back before that, when I’d been set up on the blind date I had on Friday. Although I had been told her name, what she did, and what she looked like, nothing clicked until last Friday, when I walked into the restaurant to see….the girl from four months ago. Truthfully, she recognized & remembered me first. I thought she looked familiar, but I’ve met so many people in the past few months, I wasn’t about to remember.

That left us in an uncomfortable position – two people who’d been out before, and she’d already blown me off. I had a dilemma: do I say ‘thanks for coming’ and leave? Stick it out, and see what happened? I tossed the ball into her court, and asked her what she wanted to do. Surprisingly, she opted to have drinks. We decided that we were hungry, but didn’t want to eat there, so we left and went elsewhere. After three hours, it was time to go, and she offered to give me a ride home, which I took her up on. When we got to my place, I whipped out a newly-minted business card I had made up, and she in turn gave me hers.

I looked at her and asked, “Ok, so you gave me this card. IF I call you, do you REALLY want to go out again?” I wasn’t about to waste my time again. But, to my surprise, she said she wanted to go out again. So, we’ll see.

At the very least, I hope to get my sunglasses back. I left them in her car.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

And the wheel in the sky keeps turning..

Life is about change - and sometimes, those changes happen without us knowing that they've occurred, or without us being able to say good bye.

Yesterday morning, two thugs attempted to rob a Jewel food store before it opened in south suburban Dolton, IL (for the record, Jewel is part of Albertson's). They were unsuccessful, and fled as police arrived. One employee was severely beaten, and many others freightened by the experience. Although the police did not chase them, the thugs still drove recklessly away from the scene, and shortly afterward collided with five other cars, one of which was a Buick Rendezvous. Inside was a soon-to-be married couple, on their way to pick up her mother before the three of them headed off to work. The collision was fatal; the couple, one month before their wedding, was killed.

The mother is the HR rep here at the BigLaw firm where I work. The boyfriend was in charge of the supply room, and the daughter/girlfriend worked at the reception desk and in the call center. I know, or knew, all three of them. In fact, the supply room is in the lobby of my floor; when I'd forget my keycard, I could count on Alen to let me in. And if I saw him outside of the building, he'd always say hello. Katie was the person I'd seek out when a fax didn't get to me; she once chided me in front of classmates for calling her by the wrong name (I had a brain fart). They were two of the nicest people here. Alen & I shared a laugh last month when the firm gave away free ice cream, and he walked around each floor with a mini cart and a hat, acting as a vendor.

"Do you want some ice cream?" He asked as he passed the file room where I was.
"Is it free?" I asked.
"Yes, it's free. The firm's treat."
"Well then, of course I want some. If you saw my paycheck, you'd know I'm all about the free stuff."

We laughed and ripped on the firm's cheapness. I picked out a frozen Snickers ("my favorite, too," Alen said), and he went on his way.

The sad thing is that I had heard the story on the news last night, but didn't realize that the victims were friends of mine. Two very nice people who I shall miss around here.

To top things off, my 'unofficial secretary' (she actually works for the partner I report to) has announced she's leaving in two weeks to take up full time her side business. While I wish her well, I'll miss having someone who can share the inside scoop, and with whom I can commiserate when things get nuts.

What a fun day to go into the office. And yet, life goes on...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

So, if you're one of the three or four people who regularly read the old site - the one over at crimeny.net, which now becomes the old site as this returns to being my regular hang out - you probably wondered what the hell happened to my blog. Get in line, because I'm wondering too.

One day, it was there. The next, it was gone. Suspended at first, then gone entirely. Nearly two years of work shot to hell, as my archives and all disappeared without a word or a trace. Kelly had graciously volunteered to host my blog, then she dropped off the planet without so much as offering to transfer my blog elsewhere or sell me the domain name. Go there now, and you'll find it's status is 'expired'. I tried to contact the people in the 'why am I seeing this' link, only to get no response. Even if I had, I have nowhere to host the domain.

So I'm back to square one. In my absence, Blogger has improved, so things are better than when I fled to MT format. And I get to start all over. I toyed with that idea, trying to come up with a new perspective, or format or name. I'll keep it in mind.

In the meantime, I've been going through a kind of malaise since the Bar Exam - I have lacked any real motivation to do anything at all. I'm starting to come out of that funk, though, so things will look up from here. Expect me to post here regularly, and I'll be in touch with anyone that linked to me in the past to update their link.

Ahhh. Feels good to be back....

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Testing....testing....


Wow. It's still here. Amazing.

Hmm...dust everywhere. Looks like I have some cleaning to do....