Friday, December 24, 2010

Donors Choose - Teachers Need Help

Through Money magazine, as well as one of my friends who is a teacher, I have recently been introduced to http://www.donorschoose.org/.  This is a website where teachers from school districts around the country can post what they need for their classrooms, and how much money they need.  Then, people can donate to whatever teachers and/or projects they want to donate.  It's pretty cool.  To be frank, I am donating a lot to this, not only because I think it is for a very good cause, but also to get some tax deductions. 

I tend to donate to the math and science category, and more toward teachers who really need the basics, in the high poverty areas.  I think maybe I'm old school, but the "need" for graphing calculators to learn fractions, the "need" for laptops and other advanced technology, the "need" for various "activities" to make math interesting, and all this stuff to learn math and science....seems strange to me.  I learned it all on a chalkboard.  And I was interested.  It was what it was.  (We weren't even allowed to use graphing calculators on exams when I was in college!)  I get that kids need to understand and learn computers in this day and age, but, I don't know, it seems like kind of a cop out to turn it all over toward technology.  This is something that worries me a lot about this generation of kids.  They need fancy graphics and computers and such to even stay interested.  Is that not a problem?  So anyway, I tend toward the old school type requests, or toward the requests that seem really cool to me, as far as science experiments and such.  There is no lack of those requests.  But, to each their own!  At any rate, it is a great site, and a way to give a little to some kids who may not have much, to help out their teachers, and to give them a better educational experience. 

No teachers from my high school are on this site yet, so I went to my high school web site and sent a message to them to get on, because hello, alumni, would like to help out my own old school.  I also hooked up one of my friends who is a teacher in Michigan.  Someday I will get my karma....

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fantasy Football Playoffs Update - Crash

For anyone who is on the edge of their seat, wondering how my fantasy football team is doing, this post is for you.  As predicted, my team crashed and burned.  First off, Adrian Peterson didn't play.  That completely and utterly hosed me, since he was my number one draft pick, as well as a guy who regularly scores lots of points for me.  Since he wasn't playing until Monday night, I basically had to bank on him playing, since I really couldn't pick up anyone else unless I dropped him, which wasn't going to happen.  When he didn't play, I got a big fat zero for one runningback, a runningback who usually nets me a lot of points.

I found out Adrian Peterson wasn't playing after I landed in Los Angeles, got my rental car, searched for about ten minutes for the radio station that was broadcasting the Monday night game, listened for about fifteen minutes, and after no mention of Peterson, got a text from my teammate with the doomsday statement that "he isn't playing! shit!"  Also, I stupidly (and I should know better by now) started Chad Ochocinco, who is a bust, and I know that.  I should've started Sims Walker, who is also a bust, but did get two touchdowns.  Regardless, none of it would have mattered, because without AP, and with the lack of points from my other runningback Ahmad Bradshaw, who also usually scores high, and a whole bunch of other things, I lost.

So, now I'm fighting for third place.  At this point, I've covered the entry fee, so it is only bragging rights.  Ben Rothlisberger had an awesome game tonight.  In fact, he scored 32 fantasy points tonight.  Too bad he's on my bench.  I'm hoping Philip Rivers pulls something off against the Bengals on Sunday.  I'm sure he won't.  That's the way the luck is going.  Also, while it looks like Addai may play, I'm doubtful Peterson will play, and Sims Walker is not practicing, Ochocinco is not practicing, so I may be doing some fast pickups on Sunday in my attempt to win third place. 

All of the other teams want us to lose, and lose badly.  I think I've mentioned before, but we are the only female team in the league, and the men get angry when the female team does well.  There are guys who I would never have expected who are extremely pissed off that we made the playoffs in the first place.  They were openly rooting against us not to win last week because "we can't have a girl team win the league."  For a moment I thought I was back in 1910.  But no, it is still 2010.  So, I was disappointed we lost last week, because that would've really made them shake in their boots.  Still, though, since we scored so low last week, I'm getting the "we would've beat you, too."  None of them want to acknowledge that I lost my number one draft pick last week, so that was a huge factor.

Anyway, third place would be nice.  I have no problem with that.  Actually, I have no problem with fourth either, since we beat out eight guy teams to get there.  Maybe next year, maybe next year...   

Thank God for the Revolutionary War

So, Prince William and Kate Middleton got engaged finally.  Good for them.  All of the talk about what her title will be, and the wedding, and all of that got me thinking...

How strange is it that the United Kingdom still has a Queen?  (And for that matter, Canada and Australia.)  I read a lot of historical fiction books, like Alison Weir's books about Henry V, and books about other monarchs and dukes and such from the past.  European history fascinates me, and I love reading about all the crazy things the monarchs did in the 1500s through around the 1800s.  But after the 1800s, I kind of lose interest in the monarchy, because it all seems so absurd. 

Now, granted, Elizabeth II doesn't have the power that monarchs used to have, and is basically just a figurehead now, and many other countries in Europe also still have monarchs.  But still, by virtue only of her birth, she is Queen.  And someday Prince Charles will be King, and then Prince William will be King, and on and on.  Oh, you happened to be born into this family, so guess what?  You get to live in castles and wear crowns and be supported by and spend taxpayer money and be revered for no reason other than that you lineage says you should be. 

Back in the olden days, when monarchs were viewed as the next thing to God, it's understandable that people were fine with this.  But now?  In this day and age?  I don't view the UK or Canada or Australia as being that much different than the United States.  The people are pretty much the same, and people do stupid things over there they way they do stupid things over here, and we all like many of the same singers and movies and books and fashion designers, and we all go into the same types of careers, and we all speak English.  It's kind of surprising -- especially given economy issues in the UK nowadays, similar to what we have going on here -- that the people are fine with the taxpayers supporting this kind of thing in addition to supporting the actual government.

Can you imagine if President Obama wore a crown, or if we were stuck with some figurehead who might be a complete imbecile just because they happened to be born into the right family?  I mean, regardless of what you think of the President, at least we get to vote for our leader, and we don't have to support some additional figurehead and all of their expenses on top of our actual leader.   

Thank God for the Revolutionary War, and all of the men who died to make sure we didn't have to deal with this monarchy business.     

I'm Really Bad at Family Feud

I always liked watching Family Feud.  There was something about Richard Dawson and the way the contestants were so corny, and the stage so orange.  So, when I saw there was a Family Feud game for the iPad, I had to get it.  I played it last night for quite awhile on my flight, since I didn't feel like reading and didn't have anything else to do, and they were playing this awful movie called The Switch starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman.  (Seriously, full of every cliche you can imagine, including the witty kid.  I hate kids that are too smart for their own good in movies.  Why Jason Bateman, why?) 

Well, let me tell you something.  I am not good at this game.  My number one answer is either not even on the board or is around the last answer on the board.  Maybe this makes me unique.  I think my problem is that I think too literally about things.  Once I hit on the answer I like, I can't open my mind to the obvious answer, or I can't think about the question in a different way.  I am an engineer at heart, you know.  That or some of the answers are just absurd in the context of the question, and you wonder about the 100 people who were surveyed.

Here's an example:

Name a place you would find ice.

Antartica?  It's on there.  Number one answer?  A freezer.  Other answers included a supermarket, Alaska, and Chicago.  You know what isn't on there?  The North Pole.  The Arctic.  Siberia.  I'm not kidding about Chicago being on the list.  Who thinks of Chicago when you think of a place to find ice?  I mean, granted we have it in the dead of winter on the ground, but it isn't that extreme.  I have to imagine there is more ice in the Arctic. 

Here's another example:

Tell me something people think needs saving.

You know what isn't on there?  The environment.  The answers were as follows:  money, life, animals, souls, world, childhood, economy, bills.  Childhood?  People think childhood needs saving?  What does that even mean?  It seems like such a bizarre answer in the context. 

And one more:

Name something you can bet happens every Fourth of July.

The answers:  fireworks, barbecue, fire, picnic.  Really, you can bet a fire happens every Fourth of July?  Two brainiacs gave that answer.  Every single person should've answered either fireworks or barbecue, right?

I'm so tired of seeing the screen flash "YOU LOSE" at me.

The Rules Don’t Apply To Some People, I Guess

On my return flight from Los Angeles last night (three straight days of pouring rain, awesome), I was once again reminded of how completely obtuse some people are.

I think – without fail – every single flight I’ve ever been on has had the following situation happen at least once, and usually multiple times.

Flight Attendant: "The captain has turned on the fasten seatbelt sign, so please remain in your seats while the light is on."

Immediately after – and sometimes even during – this announcement, some bonehead gets up and starts fishing around in the overhead bins, and/or gets up to go to the bathroom.

Flight Attendant: "Please remain in your seats with your seatbelts fastened."

Said bonehead continues to stand, outside of their seat, without their seatbelt fastened, rummaging around for God knows what in their bag that is in the overhead bin, which obviously must be found at that very instant and not a few minutes later when the fasten seatbelt sign goes off. Either that or said bonehead continues on their way to the bathroom.

I appreciate the Southwest Airlines flight attendants, who will yell things out like “Sir, I am talking to you. Please return to your seat and fasten your seatbelt.” But most of the time, people get away with this. What is so hard about following a simple instruction? Who doesn’t understand by now that when the seatbelt light is on, you remain in your seat? Why do some people think this doesn’t apply to them?

Also on last night’s flight, while we were taxiing to take off and the flight attendants had completed their “walk the aisles” inspection of the plane, the two people in front of me reclined their seats. Hello? Your seats are supposed to be in an upright position when we taxi and take off. The flight attendant just got finished telling everyone that. But no, again, it doesn’t apply to them.

God, flying annoys me so much. On another note, at none of Las Vegas airport, LAX, Midway, or O’Hare, all of which I’ve flown in and out of over the past week, were they using the AIT radiation look at you naked screening machines. It was left to the standard metal detectors to keep us safe, which was fine with me. What a waste of money those AIT machines turned out to be.  But weren't they necessary to keep us saaaafe

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fantasy Football Update - Playoff Bound

My team made the playoffs!

My team made the playoffs!

This means three things:  (1) I don't have to pay the $350 entry fee, and am guaranteed at least some winnings, since I can't do worse than fourth place; (2)  the girl team beat eight boy teams, and could potentially beat all eleven boy teams; and (3) my team is going to crash and burn this week.

You know it's a bad Sunday when there is a first aid sign next to over half of your players.  Let's see:  Adrian Peterson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Mike Sims-Walker, Zach Miller, Joseph Addai.  All given "questionable" status at some point over the past week.  What does that even mean?  Why don't they just tell us?  I can't stand the anticipation and anxiety involved with trying to figure out if I need to just call it a day with these jokers and pick up someone else.  Hell, Addai has been hanging out on my bench since week 6.  If Bradshaw or Peterson don't play, I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and drop him.  At this point, it doesn't even matter, since there are only two weeks left in fantasy.  Seems like everyone is getting injured left and right this year.  All I need is for everyone to stay healthy for just two more weeks.  Oh, and to score some TDs.

I am holding out hope, but as they say, you never know what might happen on any given Sunday in the NFL.

I Was Wrong About the iPad

Yesterday I received a package with my mom's distinct handwriting on the outside.  I didn't open it, because I figured it was a Christmas present and she would want me to wait.  Not so.  I called her this evening to determine whether she thought I should send a Christmas gift (money) to my brother's stepdaughter, who turned 18 this year.  My viewpoint was that she is 18, so she is done getting gifts, but I wanted to make sure I wasn't unnecessarily being an ass.  Turns out, my mom thinks I am right.  (I mean, when does it stop otherwise?  Do I just buy her gifts forever?) 

At any rate, she asked if I got the package, and I said I did, but hadn't opened it yet.  She ordered me to open it immediately, telling me it was from her and H, so I did.  I pulled out a mediumish, square shape box, covered with Post-it notes.  (My mom always includes notes like this in nearly everything she sends, covered with smiley faces and lots of underlining.)  These notes said "64GB" in four different places, underlined.  Peeking out around the edges of the Post-its was a photograph on the top of the box that looked like a gigantic iPhone.

My brain went like this:   This looks like an iPad!  But no, those are so expensive!  There's no way they bought me an iPad!  Did they buy me an iPad?  Holy shit, it's an iPad!  Sweet!

And I blurted out:  "YOU BOUGHT ME AN IPAD????"

And mom said:  "We did!  H wanted to get you something nice since you gave her your car, and we both decided this would be good, since you don't have one."

And I said:  "YOU BOUGHT ME AN IPAD????"  This was in a tone of pure joy, by the way.

And mom said:  "We got the 65GB Wi-Fi version, because the salesman said that was all you needed.  But if you want the 3G version, you can take it back to Best Buy and exchange it, but that one does cost more and you have to buy some kind of data plan which runs around $100 a month."

And I said:  "YOU BOUGHT ME AN IPAD????"

And mom said:  "Yes, we bought you an iPad!"

After I yelled at her for spending so much money, she told me what a life savior I was for giving H my car because she needed it so badly, and they wanted to get me something nice for Christmas.  Well, holy hell, mission accomplished.

So, I am the proud new owner of an iPad, which I have been playing around with for the past three hours.  The iPad is a product that I wanted, but I didn't really know why I wanted it or what I would do with it, since I already have a laptop, an iPhone, and an iPod.  Given that, plus the cost, I never bought one.  Big mistake.  This thing is freaking sweet, as Peter Griffin would say.  I love my iPhone to death, but the screen is so small, and this is like a gigantic iPhone on steroids.  I will probably use the Kindle, iBook, and Nook apps the most, rather than cluttering my condo with more paper books.  (I've been wanting a Kindle, but never bought one, and now I don't have to!)  And there are so many other cool apps, and the basics of Internet and e-mail.  I haven't even scratched the surface of this thing yet.  And it's so light and the screen is so pretty, and somehow it seems like so much less trouble than booting up a laptop.  Another perk is that it uses the same charger as my phone and iPod, because I hate having to cart around numerous extension cords when I hit the road.

At any rate, I was wrong.  I did need an iPad. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Random Thoughts on December 4/December 5

1.  On The Fashion Show this season (Bravo's substitute Project Runway) is a guy named Calvin Tran, who happens to have a boutique on Halsted just south of Webster, which I have walked past about a million times.  I never went in because his designs never looked very interesting to me.  I can't say my impression has changed much after seeing him on the show.

2.  I think I'm going to get a bottle of Chateau Grand Traverse cherry wine for the other attorneys at my firm for Christmas.  My sister lives up in that region (Traverse City is known for their cherries) and bought me a bottle last year, and it was so delicious.  I couldn't stop drinking it.  My only hesitation is that each bottle is only $8, so it's pretty cheap.  Yet it's delicious.  I don't want to be seen as buying a cheapass bottle of wine, but when I'm buying for like 20 people (or so...I have to figure out who I want to give a bottle to and do the final count), it adds up.  And it is really good, and different from the vast quantities of Merlot or Cab I get from everyone else, so it's not like I'd be buying something awful.  And of course, it is the thought, right?

3.  I'm opening 529 college accounts for my nieces and nephews.  Well, one nephew.  My other nephew, who has Asperger's, is going to get his share in the form of a Special Needs Trust, which means I have to find an estates attorney who knows how to set this up, because it is apparently kind of tricky.  (It makes sure that he doesn't lose his government benefits, since he will never be able to live on his own, yet a trustee will have access to the money for needs of his that aren't covered by the government.  So, it's complicated and has to be set up very specifically.)  The 529 accounts give me tax advantages with the added bonus of money for the kids for college.  I wouldn't be where I am without my education, so God knows I want to make sure they get theirs.  The challenge is going to be getting the kids' social security numbers out of my brother, since he's so flighty.  I think I'm just going to contact his ex-wife directly, because she will be all over this idea and will give me whatever I want immediately.

4.  I'm praying that Adrian Peterson plays tomorrow.  My opponent this week had three players play in Thursday night's game (damn you, Arian Foster!), which means he's up 30 points on me already.  (Although, I've had zero players play, so it's not as bad as it sounds.)  I really, really, really need Adrian Peterson tomorrow.  I know I shouldn't waste prayers on a running back's ankle, but I am.  I want to make the playoffs!

5.  I still need to go buy a car.  I know exactly what I want, so I am just dreading the bartering and bullshit involved.  Car salespeople are so annoying.  I mean, give me the bottom line immediately.  Let's not play games.  This is the same thing I hate about settlement negotiations.  Everyone knows where you are going to end up, yet you have to do the dance.  I hate the dance.  I would do badly in any society where bartering is heavily involved.  I'd rather just pay the listed price and be done, but of course I can't do that when it comes to a car.   

6.  I really love Ancient Aliens on the History Channel.  I know a lot of it is probably bullshit, but I still find it pretty fascinating.  I've never made it through an entire show, though, because usually they show repeats of it later on at night, and I watch it as I fall asleep. 

7.  I'm living on the edge regarding my furnace.  It's about 26 years old.  I meant to have someone come over to check it out before winter hit, but never got around to it.  So, let's see if this old furnace can manage to hang for one more winter.  It's working great so far.  I just need to figure out how to change the filter, which could be a challenge.  I prefer to pay a professional to do that kind of thing, ha ha. 

8.  I'm so tired of hearing about little kids who go missing and/or are murdered.  Infuriated by it.  How can people be so evil?  I think they should be executed immediately upon being found guilty or confessing.  Forget all this appeals bullshit and sitting on death row for years.  Anyone who kills a child deserves to die. 

9.  Charles Manson got caught with a cell phone in prison.  What the hell?  How does this happen?  I can't help but feel that a lot of people must not be doing their jobs very well.  I wonder who he was calling, though.  I also wonder if he was amazed about the cell phone.  I mean, he has been in prison since 1969 or so.  (I don't feel like looking up the specific date right now -- can't remember if it was the same year or if it went over into 1970 before they all got arrested.)  He should be dead.  Damn California changing their death penalty laws, just in time for the Manson killers to get life without parole.  Sometimes I feel like California is on another planet from the rest of the country.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Characters I Hate on Television Right Now

It never fails.  In any show I watch and somewhat enjoy, there is always one character that drives me insane.  It might be their cadence, their acting, their storyline, their mannerisms, their appearance, or something else.  Whatever it is, it drives me crazy, and I wish and wish and wish that the character would be written out of the show.  That never seems to happen because usually the character I can't stand is loved by all.  Oh well.  One of the most annoying characters to me ever was Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Alison Hannigan's acting, mannerisms, and mouthbreathing drives me insane, and still does on How I Met Your Mother.  (She's basically a straight Willow who has given up the witchcraft and is now a schoolteacher.)  Also, as I've previously posted about more than once, I hate Sookie on True Blood, and now I also hate Tara, but since True Blood is currently on hiatus I will refrain from posting more about them for now.

So, let's talk about current shows on television:

1.  Leila on The Event.  Dumbest character ever written, who constantly does the most inane things ever.  She's just stupid, which is all the more ridiculous since she went to MIT.  I refuse to believe that someone this stupid got into and graduated from MIT.  Also, the actress is terrible.  I don't even want to take the time to look up her name.  The sad part is, I somewhat like the storyline now about the little girls being given a shot to make them older, but that storyline unfortunately involves Leila, so I can't just fast forward through her storyline.  Please, just kill her off.

2.  Jane on Survivor.  Jane is a real person, so I just want her voted off.  I do not in any way, shape, or form want her to win a million dollars or fan favorite.  She's the kind of person I would normally be rooting for, since she is the oldest woman in the game and can hold her own in the physical challenges.  Unfortunately, she's utterly delusional, a huge conspiracy theorist, and way too impressed with herself.  Also, she always looks dirty.  I realize this is Survivor so they are on an island and without the usual luxuries, but no one else ever looks as dirty as Jane.  At tribal council each week her face literally looks caked with dirt.  I'm going to cheering when Probst puts out her torch.

3.  Temperance Brennan, a.k.a. Bones on Bones.  Yeah, I can't stand the lead character on the show anymore.  I used to like Brennan.  She was brilliant and quirky.  Now she acts like a person who is mentally deficient when placed in any sort of social position.  She doesn't understand jokes that she would've in the past understood, and has basically taken a sled ride to the bottom of the hill in terms of character.  And I don't know, but Emily Deschanel's acting is so wooden that it makes it all the worse.  I'm actually thrilled that Bones and Booth didn't get together, and love Booth's new girlfriend, Hannah.  Sorry, Bones.

4.  Jaden on Nikita.  She's supposed to be the foil to Alex, but Alex always outsmarts her.  So...basically she's useless.  (Although, that could be said for the entire show, since Nikita always seems to outsmart the entire Division week after week, even though they are supposed to be so smart and powerful.)  But what the point is an enemy when the alleged good guy always wins out?  That's no fun. 

5.  Charlie on It's Always Sunny in Philadephia.  Three words:  Tone It Down.  Charlie used to be the loveable idiot on the show.  He was amusing and goofy.  Now every line is a hugely overacted shriek.  Not entertaining or funny. 

6.  Emily on Criminal Minds.  She does nothing, other than an occasional interview of a female victim.  Paget Brewster stands around looking bored.  I hear they are writing her off this season.  Good, get on with it. 

That's all I can think of right now, but those are the main ones.  I used to hate Deb on Dexter, but she hasn't quite risen to the level of truly annoying this season yet.  I don't know why I even continue to watch some of these shows, other than that my DVR keeps recording them.  If I didn't have DVR, I would never watch them.                                        

Why Does David E. Kelley Hate Patent Attorneys? Harry's Law.

NBC has a new show starting in January called Harry's Law, starring Kathy Bates.  The first thing I heard about this show was that Kathy Bates played a patent attorney.

Be still my beating heart!  A female patent attorney!  On television!  I rushed to You Tube to find a trailer:



Of course.  After being a "successful patent attorney" for 32 years, she realizes patent law is boring....and from the looks of the trailer ends up defending a kid in a criminal case.  This is about as realistic as a neurosurgeon deciding to wake up one morning and practice cardiology. 

Let me explain:  patent law is very niche.  You spend all of your time in federal court, and engrossed in 35 U.S.C., the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Federal Rules of Evidence.  Nothing else matters in patent law.  (It's not clear from the preview whether she was a patent litigator or a patent prosecutor, but I'm going to assume a litigator because a patent prosecutor (patent attorneys who write patents) would be even more absurd given the scenario of the show, because they never go to court unless its to testify as a witness in a patent litigation trial.)  Therefore, you have absolutely no knowledge at all of criminal law, criminal procedure, or criminal law in state court.  I've been to state court exactly twice in my career so far.  Patent attorneys have no reason to go there.  State court is very different from federal court.  Now, maybe the kid is up on federal charges.  That remains to be seen.  My point is that the last time most patent attorneys had anything to do with anything criminally law related was in a law school class.  You can't just wake up one morning and decide to be a criminal defense attorney other than in David E. Kelley's brain.  Now, I can appreciate wanting a change, and lawyers do switch areas of specialty in real life, so a lot of how this goes down and the believability of it is going to be in the writing. 

But, why couldn't he do a legal show about a patent attorney?  Why are we always stuck with family law and criminal law on television shows?  Why does the patent attorney have to switch over to the apparently much more exciting field of criminal law?  Why does she have to leave patent law because it's "boring"?  Why does a "successful patent attorney" have to work as a lawyer anymore anyway?  Why is an attorney with 32 years of experience getting fired?  Shouldn't she be a partner by now?

Oh, I have so many questions.  I will watch, of course, because even a show about an ex patent attorney is better than a show about a run of the mill criminal attorney, I'm a sucker for law shows, and it does look like kind of a good show.  (I mean, shoes and law?  Right up my alley.)  I also love Kathy Bates in pretty much anything.  And maybe I'll be wrong, and maybe she'll be fumbling around during the first few episodes, screwing up the rules of criminal procedure and making an ass of herself, and maybe we'll get to see some crazy inventors show up in her office for some patent help at some point.  But God, please don't let her be standing up in court within the span of a few days of departing patent law and citing criminal case law and criminal rules of procedure like she's been doing that for the past 32 years instead of what can only be described as the exact opposite.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Ruxin Post to Philip Rivers

I'm obsessed now with the show The League on FX right after It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia on Thursday nights.  The League is set in Chicago and it's about a group of guys (and one of the guy's wives) who have a fantasy football league.  The show goes from there, and even if you don't like fantasy football, it is hilarious because a lot of other content is covered.

So, on one of the episodes of the show, the character Ruxin did a video monologue about how Antonio Gates screwed him over in his fantasy league by scoring a boatload of points and all this.  At the end of the episode, Antonio Gates showed up, and Ruxin chewed him out for scoring and looked like a complete doofus because Antonio Gates was like "dude, I did my job."  (This is the best part of the show, is all these NFL players show up in cameos.  Hilarious.)  Well, Philip Rivers, who has never let me down before, screwed me this week.       

I only needed 2 points to win going into Sunday night's game.  I thought I had it in the bag, as Rivers was my quarterback, and my final player to play.  Rivers has scored EIGHT touchdowns over the past two games.  Like 40 points per game in the past two weeks.  He's phenomenal.  All I needed was one touchdown or for him to pass for 200 yards.  That's it.  I win.

Rivers threw no touchdown passes and threw for 185 yards.  Big fat goose egg.

So what does that mean?  I lost.  I lost.  By two points.

What the hell just happened?  Seriously, everyone in the league came by my office and said "What the hell?" 

I know, right.  How does Philip Rivers score zero points?  How does that happen? 

The worst part about the entire thing is that Ben Roethlisberger (my reserve QB) scored three points, and after Pittsburgh was done I thought "wow, thank God I didn't start him."  (My opponent was up by four until Monday, when apparently one of the Bears sacks got withdrawn (he had the Bears D), so in the end he was up by two.  At the time, I thought I needed five to get it.)  Ha on me.  If I would've started Ben, I would've won, even with his gimpy 3 points.

So now we have a three way tie for the playoffs in my division.

And ADRIAN PETERSON left the game early, is injured, and is questionable for this week.  (This hurt me, too.  If he hadn't left the game early, he would've totally gotten me another three points.)  And my fucking opponent this week picked up his backup.  I have Bradshaw, who I'm not dropping, and my only other option is Joseph Addai, who is also injured and hasn't played since week 6.  I can't drop Peterson.  I can't drop Addai in case he comes back.  Do I run it alone on one running back if Peterson doesn't play?  Do I just drop Addai and take a chance, even though someone else will quickly grab Addai if I drop him?  ARGH. 

God, fantasy football is so stressful.  Philip Rivers, why?

Wait For It...Taxes

My Milk Glass Heart alerted me to this great article that provides facts that "a one-parent family of three making $14,500 a year (minimum wage) has more disposable income than a family making $60,000 a year."

I don't find this shocking at all, given all the tax benefits and assistance the government provides to the poor.  The median household income in this country is I believe around $50,000 a year.  If you are making $60,000 a year, you are either (1) someone who went to college and got a degree in an area that at some point pays $60,000 or up a year; (2) someone who did not go to college yet has a skill or skills either through experience or inate smarts that led you to your current position; or (3) someone who has been working your way up in your job for a number of years, possibly as a result of (1) or (2), or possibly not.  If middle class is $50,000 a year, you, at $60,000 may not be it anymore.  Or are you?  I don't know what middle class is.  I can't really find a definition for it, income based or not.  Our politicians scream about the "middle class," but no one can define what that is.  Wikipedia (always a font of knowledge) puts middle class at below $100,000, and upper middle class at above $100,000.  But where does that stop and become "rich"?  Apparently at the $200,000 for singles, and the $250,000 for marrieds. 

I have a random question here.  If it is $200,000 for singles, why should it not be $400,000 for marrieds?  That makes no sense to me.  Is it because they assume that the woman in the marriage is making less, or that she is staying home with kids and not working, or something along those lines?  Because my married lawyer friends with no kids are getting more screwed over than I am as a single person, I'll just say that.  You put together two J.D.s who have been out of school for six years, and it's not too hard to blast past that $250,000 income number for marrieds.  I just do not understand where these cut offs came from. 

At any rate, if you are middle class, forget about getting any assistance or help.  Instead, you get to pay taxes, while the one parent family of three who makes minimum wage gets all kinds of help.  There are exceptions to every rule, and some people end up in situations through no fault of their own and I realize that, but if you are a person whose skills are only minimum wage level and that is all you can ever hope to or have ambition to earn, why do you continue to have children you can't support on your own?  Does it make me a horrible person to ask that question?  Maybe it does.  If so, I'm going to hell anyway, so I'll just ask the next question.  Why should the government support your children?  I don't understand where this is in the Constitution or anywhere else.  I feel for the children, I do, and I give to children's charities, and all that, but I can't help but think that our government is somewhat encouraging this kind of behavior through all of these entitlement programs.  Our government is almost too nice.  No one wants to see kids go hungry, so we make sure there are food stamps.  No one wants to see a kid without a roof over their head, so we have Section 8.  But isn't all of that, in a way, encouraging people to not support their own children?

I know people who make around $60K a year for a family (husband, wife, and at least one kid), and because they make too much money they get no help.  I get nothing either, although I don't need it.  It just kind of burns me that whenever any tax credits or anything are introduced lately there is an income max.  Yeah, I exceed that.  By far.  Is it any wonder that people like me are sick of it and don't want to pay more taxes?  I pay and pay and pay and I get nothing back.  I don't get the $250 check, I don't get the EITC, I don't get child credits, I don't get food or housing assistance.  I get the cops in my neighborhood being reassigned to "more crime ridden areas" due to the shortage of police in my city, which will ultimately make my safe neighborhood a freaking haven for robbers and thugs, since the police aren't paying attention up here anymore.  I know that isn't a federal issue, but it still burns me.

Well, you know I don't consider myself "rich" but since I am the top 2% this year (what can I say, I had a good year and I am pretty happy about it!), I am going to post my federal withholdings when I get my final check on Dec. 28.  And trust me, you will shit your pants, because I did when I looked at my check from yesterday.  An entire month from now will yield even more.  And you can't hide income.  I have no loopholes here.  It is what it is, I pay on my income.  All these people talking about "the rich" hiding their income in offshore accounts...are you kidding me?  How do I do that with my paycheck?  Please, someone tell me if that is an option, because I don't think it is.  All my earnings are reported, and thus, taxed.  I will also update after I do my taxes to see what the true outcome was, since I do at least get my mortgage tax witholding, at least for now.  Stay tuned.....      

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I Think a Personal Shopper is The Way to Go

I had a very eye opening experience over the weekend when it came to shopping.  I consider myself to be a professional shopper, but apparently even I have flaws, and am not as good at it as I thought I was.  My main flaw is that I'm stuck in a semi-rut about what looks good on me, and what I like to wear, so I never really consider certain items of clothing when I see them on the racks, because I quickly write them off as "not me."  What I needed was someone else to force me into clothing I would never even dream of trying on in the first place, to show me how good I can really look in them.  I should say for the record that I am constantly complimented on my clothes by people at work and people I don't even know on the street, so don't think I am some What Not To Wear "before" person or anything like that.  I mean, I know certain things I look good in.  I just needed a bit of an awakening for new things that also look good on me.

This angel came in the form of a salesman at Benetton named T.

I went over there on Saturday, since it is pretty close to my house, with the intent of shopping along Armitage and Halsted at all the various boutiques.  I like to support my local businesses around here, and buy at the shops around here as much as possible so they stay here.  It's very nice, although a bit dangerous, to be able to shop very easily without battling the crowds on Michigan Avenue or State Street.  I know that BCBG, Benetton, and a lot of the other shops aren't "small businesses" so to speak, but I like that they have stores around me, so I would rather buy at these locations than their Michigan Avenue locations if given the choice. 

At any rate, I walked into Benetton, which always has very cute and fairly reasonably priced (cheaper than BCBG at any rate) stuff, and the store was fairly empty other than a couple of other shoppers.  They had a number of cute sweater dresses, and I stared at them, and then remembered that I don't look very good in sweater dresses because I'm kind of hippy.  My weight goes to my hips, and I have a fairly small waist in comparison, and in a sweater dress that clings the wrong way, wow that is a big fashion don't.  I just look very odd.  As I was looking longingly at this one sweater dress, T started to talk to me, and I spilled my guts about my hips and sweater dresses and how the two shall never meet, and he said "I think you should at least try it on."  I tried to insist that it would not work, yet somehow he convinced me.  And I was in that kind of a mood, so I told him I was in somewhat of a rut, and I needed some help.  I said "I will put myself in your hands.  Pick out some things for me to try on, and let's give it a go."  I never do this.  In fact, I don't like it when salespeople talk to me too much or force things on me, usually.  But I don't know, I was kind of in the mood for it, so I just went with it.

Let me say, T pulled through.  He brought me about eight outfits to try on, and boots and heels and coats to try them on with.  (Benetton has amazing winter coats.)  I'm convinced that having the right shoe is huge in trying on outfits, because it really helps you to picture the entire look, as opposed to standing there in your bare feet trying to picture something with heels or boots.

So, T made me try on leggings (gasp!) with a longer shirt that you kind of pull up a little so it sits on the hips.  (Does that make sense?)  Let me be clear:  I wore leggings with long shirts and belts when I was 11, and I vowed not to do it at 36.  Why should I redo trends I already did?  But somehow, T convinced me to do this, and he gave me boots to put on with it, and....well, the result was quite astonishing.  I looked very good, and I questioned fellow patrons as well as the entire staff to find out if the look was "too young."  They all said it was not and that I looked great.  So, I bought that outfit.  And I intend to wear it when I go to Vegas in a few weeks, or possibly before.  (This is not a work look.  This is also an outfit I would have never, ever on my own tried on.)

It went like this through a series of outfits.  He made me try on all kinds of crazy shit.  Jeggings?  I did not like them, but only because the rise was way too low for me.  One of the other salesgirls agreed with me that she didn't like the rise on them either.  Three sweater dresses!  Three!  Which all looked quite fantastic on me.  (Does Benetton have skinny mirrors?  I think they might.)  I was stunned, floored, and wondered how much I have been missing over the years due to my rut.  I also got a pencil skirt and silk shirt that I can wear to work, and two coats (justified since they are in colors I don't currently own in coats).  There were some other things I didn't like, like a sweater coat thing that had a really crazy collar that I felt weird in, and a top that was way too much work, but I was glad I tried them on.  The big prize was the last "surprise" outfit he had for me.  This is another thing I would've never, ever tried on.  They were black stretchy but thicker pants (very form fitting) with a turtleneck top that has sort of triangle designs going in toward the waist.  The pants fit me like a glove, and the outfit was super hot.  He dragged me out to the floor to show the other salesgirls, because "I just put this outfit together and I have to show them because this is so great!"  The pants were pretty much made for my figure.

In short, the entire experience was unbelievable.  I spent about an hour and a half, spent about $1,000 (but saved $500 since everything was 30% off), and came out with a pretty solid winter wardrobe.  (And I seriously want to go back and buy this one coat in every single color.  I love it and it is so warm.  I will probably wait for another sale and hope they still have my size.)  I also didn't buy the boots, and am kind of regretting it.  Maybe I should get them, they were only $250 and were amazing.  At the time, I just couldn't really justify it since I have brown knee boots, but then again, they were the brown knee riding boots, which I don't have and totally love.

At any rate, I think this is the way to go for me.  What is so nice is that T put the outfits together for me, which is what I am too lazy to try to figure out at the stores.  I like to buy outfits, not separates.  When I buy separates, I end up wondering what to wear with them when I am fumbling around for clothes in the morning.  All I had to do was try the outfits on and say go or no go.  And it really forced me out of my comfort zone, which was also very nice.  I am going to have J do this for me at BCBG (I don't know why I haven't made him do this yet, other than that I usually hate it), and I may book an appointment at Banana Republic for it also, since they do it by appointment, and their stuff fits me really well.  Apparently you can do this at Macy's and other department stores as well.  I like this.  I like it a lot.  It is way less work for me, and I reap all of the rewards in fantastic clothing. 

Of course, this will be for spring clothes, since I am pretty well set for winter now.                     

A Day in The Life of a New Law Partner

Well, folks, it's not all glamorous.  People go to law school so they can make partner at a law firm.  I did the same thing.  And now I'm positive that it's not all it's cracked up to be.  I mean, sure, you make a lot of money, but at the end of the day, is it really worth it?  At times, it's just exhausting, and every day is a repeat of the last. 

This December, much like last December, much like the past year, we are crazy busy.  I'm not sure why it is, but cases always seem to be either settling or in full throttle fact discovery during the holidays.  While settling cases is good, there is still a lot of back and forth over the terms and language, and you end up fighting over totally stupid things just because you can, or because the other side wants to bill a few more hours.  Fact discovery is pure hell.  Both sides always wait until the very end to schedule depositions, so inevitably you are trying to take and defend 10 depositions over the course of a month, which involves a lot of travel and prep time.  And that's only one case.  At my firm, most of us have a workload of around 6-10 cases at any given time.  So, multiply all that by six or ten and it's a total clusterfuck of work compounded by a constant feeling in the pit of your stomach that you are forgetting something really important.

This was my day today:

I got in the office at around 7:30 a.m., which is fairly early for me.  Usually I get in by around 8:30.  The reason I got in so early was because I knew I had so much to do in the day ahead that when I naturally woke up at 6 a.m. I couldn't fall back asleep.  So, I got up, got ready, and went in to the office.  When I got there, the receptionist wasn't in yet, so I had to use the entry code to get in through the back door.  Now, I use this entry code probably 20 times a day, so it is second nature to me.  It's so much second nature, in fact, that I don't even know what the numbers are.  I just walk up, punch it in, and go without even thinking about it.  Not this morning.  I made a colossal mistake by walking up to the pinpad and thinking "what are the numbers?"  I overthought it so much that I couldn't make myself just punch it in.  And once I started trying to remember the numbers, I was screwed.  So then I went into the bathroom and tried to think about something else, fix my lipstick, brush my hair, clear my head.  I did that about three times.  Finally I had to text one of my co-workers and embarrassingly ask him for the code.  The day was not off to a good start.

From 7:45 a.m. until around 10:00 a.m., I continued the massive project of determining the best evidence we have to prove our inducement and contributory infringement claims in the trial we have in January.  ("Case 1").  This involves reviewing document production, interrogatory responses, and request for admission responses, reading deposition transcripts, and researching the case law to make sure we aren't about to make a colossal blunder that gets flipped or JMOL'd at trial because we didn't prove up everything we needed to prove.  Inducement law and the proofs involved has been  like shooting fish in a barrel lately, and becoming progressively harder to prove, so I wanted to make sure I was on the up and up on where it stands.  For now.  The Supreme Court is taking on inducement in the near future, so that should make things more clear -- except, not.  The Supreme Court usually only succeeds in making patent issues less clear.  This is a project I could've given to an associate, but since I wasn't working on this case during fact discovery, I need to familiarize myself with all the evidence anyway, so I'm doing it myself.

From 10:00 until 10:30 I reviewed a draft patent owner's statement for a reexamination proceeding in another case ("Case 2") because from 10:30 until around 11:30 we had a call with the attorney who is prosecuting the reexamination, and had to give him feedback on the patent owner's statement.  This ended up being tabled, somewhat, because the statement isn't due in the USPTO until sometime in January, and all of us involved felt we needed to review it and think about it some more once the discussion got going.  I was also given the job of drafting the motion to stay in the pending litigation, based on the reexamination that was filed. 

From 11:30 until around noon I ended up discussing another case ("Case 3") with one of the other partners, and somehow got myself roped into addressing discovery deficiencies (which means I will ultimately need to write a motion to compel), taking two depositions during the week before Christmas, and calling two people the other side wants to depose to find out if they want us to represent them at their depositions, and to try and get dates from them for those depositions. 

At around noon I ran out and grabbed a sandwich at Au Bon Pain.  I brought it back to my desk and ate it there, while reviewing a draft license agreement for one of the other defendants in Case 3.  I then wrote a letter about the discovery deficiencies to opposing counsel in Case 3 and sent that off.

By now, it was around 12:45 p.m.  Oh, and by the way, throughout the day the paralegal from Case 1 has been ringing my phone off the hook about a variety of minute issues relating to our Exhibit List and technology for the courtroom at trial.  She is also my paralegal on Case 4, and has been asking about various document production issues therein.  She's very thorough and good, but almost to the point of annoyance.  Our client is considering selling the patents at issue in Case 4, so I gathered up and slightly modified the latest claim charts for those patents for one of the other partners, and reviewed the letter he was sending to the interested party.

At around 1:00 p.m., one of the other partners asked me what I wanted to do about Case 5, which I had prepared and distributed claim charts for last week.  He told me the changes he thought needed to be made, and I followed up with the client to find out any changes he had to the claim charts.  I made the changes to the claim charts, and we all decided that we would send out notice letters by the end of the week to the accused infringers, once we (meaning = me) finalize the list of accused products.

I then called the two deponents from Case 3, wherein one agreed to let us represent him and was generally very friendly to me, and the other told me he would get back to me.  What can I say?  No one is excited to have their deposition taken, particularly around Christmas.   

From around 1:30 to 2:30, I returned to the inducement/contributory infringement issues for Case 1, fairly uninterrupted, except for an e-mail from the managing partner asking me what was going on with Case 5, to which I promptly responded with an update.  I also got an e-mail from one of my law school professors, who wanted me to help out with an IP trial advocacy course in January, but I can't, since I have trial at that time.  Oh well, maybe next time.  That is really something I would like to do in the future. 

At 2:30, we had a trial team strategy meeting for Case 1.  I did not have my inducement/contributory infringement plan finished, and told them I would get it to them by end of day tomorrow.  I also got roped into figuring out how we can either file a surreply or a notice of new authority for a motion to compel that was filed against us about a month and a half ago, that has been fully briefed.  The information we want to add is not technically new authority, but there is some new information that has come to light that we want to tell the Judge about.  This kind of thing is never easy to slip in, and the last thing you want to do is piss off the Judge, so I'm about to get creative.  This meeting went on for two hours.  There is a lot involved with going to trial.

At 4:30 I got to my desk and looked at the local rules in the district where Case 1 is pending, to see if there was an easy answer.  There, of course, was not.  I decided to table it until tomorrow, and continued to work on the inducement/contributory infringement solutions. 

At around 6:30, I got an e-mail response from the opposing attorneys on Case 3, telling me they were available for a meet and confer in two weeks about my discovery deficiencies issues.  I "politely" responded that I wanted to do it this week or early next week if possible.  These guys like to have two hour meet and confers, when that is just not necessary.  I need to know two things:  (1) are you going to respond; and (2) if not, what is your basis.  This is a five minute phone call that they insist upon making into a drama filled ordeal.  This is because they normally don't do litigation, I suspect.  One thing I've learned about litigation is that you aren't going to convince me, and I'm not going to convince you, so let's not waste our time.  We do what the local rule requires, which is to have a call, and we agree to disagree.   

By this point in the evening, I was kind of beat.  I worked late Monday and Tuesday night, and had been in the office for 11 hours pretty much without a break other than a trip down to Au Bon Pain and a couple quick smoke breaks throughout the day.  There were also minor calls, e-mails, and issues that came up (as always), but this was the main thrust of my day, which is a fairly typical day, other than that the cases change.  There are always fires to put out, research to do, discovery to answer, claim charts to review, and settlement agreements to finalize.   

So, I decided to leave and go shopping.  I bought a pair of plaid Hue tights at Macy's on State Street, and a skirt at Nordstrom Rack.  When I got off the el at North and Clybourn, Uncle Julio's Hacienda was calling me, so I pulled up a seat at the bar and got some enchiladas and a Corona with a lime.  And I got home at around 8:30 p.m.  Sometimes you just need a break.

The sad part is, it's all waiting for me again tomorrow morning.  That's life in litigation, and it is not at all what you see on television.   

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fantasy Football Thanksgiving Weekend: Need Huge Result

Here's the situation.

We have three divisions.  Top team in each division makes the playoffs, and there is one wild card.  Wild card is next best ranking among the divisions.  The next three games are all division games.

My division goes like this.  We and one other team are 7-4, and the next best team is 6-5.  Only one game back.  The last place team is 3-8.  Not good, but they are a spoiler type of team.  They beat us the first time we played.  We beat the other two teams.  Thus, there is a huge race in my division to make the playoffs.  So, we are playing the 6-5 team this week, and the other 7-4 team is playing the 3-8 team.  We need to win this.  We can, if at least half of our players show up.  You can really never depend on that in fantasy.

However, since my team has done well so far this season, I would like to throw out a thanks and a keep it up to some of my starters this week, and others....well....here's what I think: 

1.  Philip Rivers.  I heart you.  You, for some reason, are not put among the Mannings, Brees, and Bradys.  You should be.  You toss out four touchdowns a game, throw for four hundred yards, and make it happen on a regular basis.  I am so happy I drafted you.  You are totally underrated, give me massive points every week, and you rock.  I don't care if you are unpleasant in person, you play the game.

2.   Marques Colsten:  You started out slow, but you hit it!  Glad I kept you around. 

3.  Adrian Peterson:  All right, you've been stopped lately and there are all kinds of coaching issues going on there, but I have not given up on you.  Any week you can rush for 100 yards.  I'm willing to overlook the past two games, just give me something this week, please?

4.  Santonio Homes:  This is why I drafted you, even though you were suspended at the beginning of the season.  It took you a couple of games, but you found your groove.  We love you!  Keep it up, baby!

5.  Chad Ochocinco:  You have been a total fucking bust.  Maybe you should spend more time on football and less time proposing to women and worrying about your pigeons.  Oh, and how did that pick up of Terrell Owens affect you?  Big.  Every week I have to consider whether to bench you, but when Mike Sims Walker is my other WR, it's a hard choice.  You both blow.  I'm only starting you this week because Sims Walker is injured and there are no decent WR on the waiver. 

6.  Ahmad Bradshaw:  I still love you even though you aren't starting this week due to your fumbles.  You have performed week after week for me, and I'm willing to cut you some slack.  I think you will still get me some points this week.  Also, because Joseph Addai likely is still out this week and he's my only other running back to choose from.

7.  Zach Miller:  (OAK)  All right, you had your off week last week.  Let's see another touchdown.  When my only other option is Carlson, you can't do much worse than zero.  You were good initially this season, let's see it again.

8.  Olindo Mare:  I chose you to start over my usual starter Mason Crosby because your name rocks.  Also because you have been kicking a lot of field goals lately.  I need a team that is good enough to get in field goal range, but not good enough to get a touchdown.  Green Bay, no.  Seattle, yes.  Also, I like saying your name.

9.  Oakland, DST:  Well, my other option is the Lions vs. the Patriots, so don't think you are anything special this week.  Just please, give me a couple of sacks or maybe an interception?

Can this crew pull it off for me?  We shall see. 

Movie Quality is Awful These Days

I'm not sure if movies are getting worse, or if my attention span is getting worse.

I used to be a huge movie fan.  I went to the movies all the time, and when I lived in L.A. I used to go and see practically every independent movie that was released.  Through those years of viewing movies, there were always movies that stood out to me, that I thought:  "I have to own this."  Thus, I ended up with a pretty big VHS and DVD collection.  (First DVD I ever bought?  Fight Club.  Love that movie.  In fact, I bought a DVD player solely so I could view all the extras and commentary.)  There were always movies I wanted to own so I could watch them over and over again.  I can't tell you how many times I've watched Reservoir Dogs, American History X, Chasing Amy, Clerks, Magnolia, Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas, and many others. 

I don't go to the movies at all anymore.  I just wait for them to show up on cable or On Demand, or I stream them online through Netflix.  While I miss the experience of being at the movies, it's hard to justify the ticket prices these days for a movie that might be garbage.  I buy stuff for $5 on demand and get disappointed regularly.  Hell, I get disappointed by movies on cable on a regular basis.  So, why should I pay $10 or more to go see it in a theater, because if I pay that I'll be a hundred times more pissed off.  Also, I watch a lot of movies on cable that I would never, ever even dream of paying $10 to see in a theater.  For example, I watched Julia & Julia and I actually quite liked it.  Not enough to buy the DVD, but it was entertaining.  I also watched Everybody's Okay recently, and quite liked it, and cried at the end, but not enough to buy it on DVD.  (And seriously, what a terrible movie title, equivalent to It's Complicated, which is currently sitting on my DVR.  Who comes up with this shit?)

Maybe I'm just out of it, but the quality of movies these days is just awful.  I watched Inglorious Basterds, and it was fine, but come on Quentin Tarantino.  (I say this as a person who thinks Reservoir Dogs is one of the best movies ever made.)  I feel like every movie I see is just "fine" or "entertaining" but nothing special.  I mean, that's the bottom line expectation for a movie:  that it be entertaining for a couple of hours.  So, when a movie meets that expectation, it isn't that impressive.  Where are the really good movies, the ones you want to watch over and over again? 

I haven't bought a movie on DVD in probably two years.  I've seen no movie that makes me want to own it or find out more about it through commentary or extras.  I watch Sundance Channel and IFC, but nothing is anything special.  So seriously, what the hell is going on?  We get remakes and special effects these days.  I miss dialogue and story.  Tell me a story; don't give me ten minutes of a chase where I know the hero is going to come out of it alive.  Don't show me a fifteen minute fight scene.  What a waste of time.  It doesn't move the story forward, and I just get bored.  Special effects and CG don't impress me.  And for God's sakes, don't replace John Candy and Steve Martin with Robert Downy Jr. and Zach Galifianakis and tell me it's a new movie.  (I haven't seen Due Date, but the ads make it look like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles to me.)   What really impresses me is good storytelling and writing.  And right now, I'm struggling to think of a recent movie that I've watched where I thought both were there -- enough for me to want to own it.  I mean, come on.  Are there any decent writers left in Hollywood, or are they just not able to get their foot in the door?  I say let them in!       

Happy Thanksgiving, and About Spending it Alone

I'm not sure why it's such a tragedy that I actually kind of want to stay home (my "staycation") and spend Thanksgiving long weekend on my own this year.  People I worked with were kind of shocked, and about ten of them invited me out to their place in the suburbs to eat with them.  I thanked them profusely, then declined.  It was very nice of them, but frankly, I'm fucking thrilled I don't have to go anywhere this weekend or deal with any family.  And the last thing I want to do is take a train out to the suburbs to be friendly to people I don't know and look amused by other people's children, since I still haven't bought a new car.  Maybe I'll do that this weekend.  Oh, and unfortunately, all of my good friends (or as I prefer to call them, the people I would want to spend Thanksgiving with) are out of town doing family stuff.  Damn them. 

We aren't big Thanksgiving people in my family.  Oh, let's get together and eat!  No, we don't really care that much about food.  Never have been that into it, since we are pretty much thankful for each other all year long.  Any focus on Thanksgiving got exponentially worse once three out of four of us kids moved approximately 3-6 hours away from mom's house.  Only H still lives in the vicinity of mom.  After I moved to Chicago in 2001, I made an effort and drove to the D for about six Thanksgivings in a row.  On around three of the six, it was a miserable drive due to the snow in western Michigan.  Once it took me ten hours to get there.  This is normally about a four and a half to five hour drive, depending on how long it takes to get out of Chicago.  Let me tell you, that got old real fast, especially since I do the drive again at Christmas.  I know...fly, right?  But then I have to rent a car, or else I am trapped at my mom's house.  Most of my high school friends live 30-45 minutes from my mom, since my mom no longer lives where I grew up, so not having a car of my own in which to escape and see people is not an option.  I fly enough and rent enough cars for work, and I kind of hate the whole ordeal now.  It's just such a huge pain in the ass.  Usually it's easier to drive, with exceptions.  It occurred to me a few years ago that it just wasn't worth it, since I always go for Christmas, a mere four weeks later.  Why do it twice in such a short timespan for a holiday we don't even really care about?   

As for my siblings, my brother W pretty much abandoned all of us for holidays once he got married, both the first and second time.  Occasionally he shows up for Christmas.  It's always a shock when he does, because he never thinks to tell us in advance that he's coming.  He's kind of an odd duck.  My sister M and her husband used to alternate Thanksgiving and Christmas each year with his family and ours, so she is occasionally around for Thanksgiving.  I'm not quite sure how that whole deal is going to work now that they will have two kids who need Christmas morning at home.  H is around for Thanksgiving, but since the bar she works at is open on Thanksgiving, she usually works.  So, generally it was me, my mom, my grandma, M and J sitting around eating turkey and being kind of bored.  (My mom doesn't let us watch football at her house, so this is a major, major detriment to any of us wanting to be there on Thanksgiving day.)

So, this year H is working, W is incommunicado, and M is eight months pregnant, so not coming.  My option was to go to the D and sit around with my grandma and mom for the weekend, which really wasn't that appealing.  I love my mom and all, and we have fun shopping, but it's kind of boring, and I can't watch football, and this is a huge week for my fantasy league.  (God, how shallow is that?  Let me rephrase...I also have to work.  No, I really do.)  Oh, and I'd have to spend a fortune to rent a car to get there, or take the train or a plane, and that wasn't happening.  I mean, I was just there two weeks ago, and I saw my mom, grandma, H and M.  (Ha...do you see what I did there?  H&M?)  So, I opted to stay here.  My mom was going to come out here so we could shop, but then she kind of felt bad about leaving my grandma alone, since she is leaving her alone at Christmas due to M's upcoming daughter, and I shared that guilt, so we decided she would come out in the spring when the weather is better. 

I have no problem with this.  We have very small immediate family and a practically non-existent extended family in the Detroit area.  (My dad's side of the family we see at Christmas.  Now Christmas, we all make an effort.  But Thanksgiving?  Eh.)  I will be going to my mom's or M's for Christmas (since M's baby is due December 26), and I have a trial in the D in January.  So, it's not like I'm not going to see these people over the next two months. 

What was surprising to me was how many people cared that I was spending Thanksgiving alone, when I was really just looking forward to watching the Thanksgiving Day parade, followed by three football games, and cooking up some mashed potatos, stuffing, and turkey all for myself (ha!), and not having to deal with anyone else.  I also bought a pumpkin pie at Trader Joe's, so I'll be snacking on that.  I happen to like my alone time.  And I will probably talk on the phone to my mom, H, and M tomorrow, so I won't really be alone.  Maybe W will even call me.  Sometimes, randomly, he does.  Or maybe I'll call him.  I never feel alone when I'm physically alone.  I've got peeps, as they say, or used to say.  We are all thankful for each other all year long, so why does it matter that we aren't physically together on this one particular day?  It doesn't.  That's what I've realized.             

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Enjoy the Cold Black Friday Campers!

Winter has finally hit Chicago. That first blast of cold air shouldn’t be so shocking, particularly since it’s nearly the end of November, but for whatever reason when I stepped outside of my townhouse this morning it caught my breath. And I promptly turned around, dug out my bag o’ scarves and gloves and better prepared myself for the elements. I wanted to wear my big North Face ski jacket, but it didn’t go so well with my outfit. This year I may invest in one of their big, puffy, floor length black, down filled coats, even though they aren’t particularly fashionable. The older I get, the less I care about being fashionable – I just want to be warm. I shouldn’t complain about the cold – after all, I live in Chicago. We get snow, bone-chilling cold, and bone-chilling cold wind on top of that. It is what it is.

With winter comes the holiday season. And with the holiday season comes the insane people who camp outside stores so they can be first in line for the Black Friday deals. As far as crazies, I rank these people somewhere below those who camp outside of movie theatres, who are by far the craziest, since the movie isn’t going anywhere, and about even with those who camp outside for concert or game tickets, since obviously there is a limited supply there also. I’m already seeing stories in the news about people who have claimed their spot in line – some as long as a week ago. Those are some big bragging rights, I guess: “I was first in line for the Black Friday sale at Best Buy last year, and all I had to do what sit out in the cold for six days! Beat that, suckers!” Maybe the perspective is different if you live in a place like Florida.

The camping out for Black Friday phenomenon is one I don’t understand in the least. In fact, it scares the hell out of me. Maybe it’s just my old age crabbiness, but the last place I would want to be is among the throngs clustered outside the doors of a Best Buy when they open on Black Friday. Every year we hear about people getting trampled, hit, screamed at, etc. Why would anyone intentionally participate in this? Some people consider it a tradition, and do it every year. Further, while there are sometimes a few really, really good deals, there are only a few, which means you have to be first, second, or third in line. This means that since people are crazy enough to camp out a week in advance, you are sacrificing an entire week of your life in order to save maybe $500. I don’t know, but my time is worth a lot more than that. I can’t imagine how that works out evenly on any planet, much less this one. Even a few hours of camping out would be unbearable to me, for the chance to possibly save $100, assuming the product I want is still in stock by the time I get in the store. Lord, and having to deal with all those people? Ugh. I mean, with the sheer amount of products now available, no one is going to be left without something to buy no matter what time you arrive. And isn’t it a little bizarre to be waiting in line for days on end to buy electronics? It’s not like these people are waiting in the breadlines.

Also, in reading about people determined to be at the front of the line, the thought that always strikes me is: “Don’t they work?” How do you manage to get a week off work to camp out at Best Buy? Or are they using precious vacation time to do so? Don’t their co-workers laugh at them? (I can’t even imagine the barrage of ridicule I would get if I pulled such a stunt.) Even assuming people take turns holding the spot, who is holding down the “day shift” when most people are at work? And how many people are you allowed to “hold a spot” for? I can easily imagine a situation where person 1’s entire family shows up ten minutes before store opening, and person 2 goes ballistic. The dynamics are also interesting. Any other time of the year, these people would likely be kicked off the property; yet during the week before Thanksgiving it’s perfectly fine to set up a tent, sleeping bag, and grill.

Needless to say, I will not be sitting outside of any store on Thanksgiving. Nor will I be getting up at 3 a.m. on Friday to run over to Target or Macy’s or anywhere else for a doorbuster deal. No, I will be sleeping in, lounging around, and then maybe around noon I will wander over to Michigan Avenue to take in the chaos. Unless, of course, it is too cold out. Then I will just stay home and shop from the comfort of my computer.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Have You Ever Looked At Your iTunes Top 25 Played List?

It's pretty humiliating.  You think "Did I really listen to that song that many times?"  Apparently, yes.  The iTunes top songs calculator does not lie.  Here's my list, and yes, I'm apparently a Blink-182 fanatic and I really had no idea.  How many Mark, Tom, and Travis bands make up this list?  Jesus.  Oh yeah, and Nick Lachey made the list.  How did that happen?  I must've been really drunk or something.

1. I Miss You – Blink-182 (#1 by a landslide, by the way and I haven't listened to it in about two years)

2. 155 -- +44

3. Heaven – Angels & Airwaves

4. True Love – Angels & Airwaves

5. Feeling This – Blink-182

6. Ultraviolet (Light My Way) -- U2

7.  Adam's Song -- Blink-182

8.  I Can't Forget -- Evan Olsen

9. Landed – Ben Folds

10. Mr. Brightside – The Killers

11. Forever Young -- Alphaville

12. Down – Blink-182

13. All The Wine – The National

14. Lifeline – Angels & Airwaves

15. This Woman’s Work – Kate Bush

16. Breakaway – Kelly Clarkson

17. Weapon – Matthew Good

18. Brick – Ben Folds Five

18. Ring the Bells -- James

19. Paper Planes -- MIA

20. What's Left of Me -- Nick Lachey

21. How to Save a Life – The Fray

22. Poker Face -- Lady Gaga

23. Show Me What I'm Looking For -- Carolina Liar

24. When You Were Young – The Killers

25. Sway – The Perishers

Judge me as you will.  I'm still in shock myself at this list.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Memories...and Songs That Remind Me of My Parents

Last weekend I embarked on a mini road trip with my mother to visit my sister, who lives in northern Michigan.  We ate at Cracker Barrel both on the way there and on the way back.  I don't think I've ever eaten at Cracker Barrel before this, and to be honest, it wasn't that great.  I'll take Denny's or Bob Evans breakfast instead.  But my mom has made the trip enough that she knew which exit had the good Cracker Barrel versus the other two that had not so good Cracker Barrels.  It was pretty amusing, particularly when she asked me if I could wait 20 miles to eat so we could go to the good one.   

While we were driving back to the D, we found a radio station that was playing an old Casey Kasem Top 40  broadcast from the late seventies.  I was born in 1974, so this was probably broadcast when I was maybe three or four years old.  What was odd about it is that he played "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" by Crystal Gayle and I had this moment where all of a sudden I was about three years old and my dad was singing that song, and dancing with me.  I was standing on his feet.  It was like a whoosh of a memory.  I remembered my dad singing that song around the house.  (My dad had brown eyes, my mom has blue, and all of us kids have either blue or green.  The green is the recessive from both our grandpas.)  That song was big in 1977, which means I was three.  So how do I remember this?  I don't know.

Anyway, I told my mom that song reminded me of dad, and it took her about five seconds, but then it came back to her, too.  "Your dad always used to sing this song.  How do you remember that?"  I don't know.  I just did.  And if it was 1977, my dad was 30 years old when that was happening.  Jesus.  My dad died in 1993, by the way.  I don't know if I've ever mentioned that.

This got me to thinking about the songs that remind me of my parents, because there are quite a few, and they are all tied to a specific memory, if vague.  It's strange the way a song can do that.  So, here they are:

1.  Promises, Promises by Naked Eyes.  No idea, but recall this video on MTV and both of my parents singing along to this song.

2.  Karma Chameleon, by Culture Club.  We had this album on tape, and I recall us listening to it while driving to Jenny Wiley state park.  Or possibly Hartwick Pines.  At any rate, some state park.  And we listened to this tape over and over again.

3.  Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi.  This is my mom all the way.  She loved this song and sang along to it whenever it came on the radio.  I thought she was the biggest dork ever.  She was 37 years old.  See the irony?

4.  Night Moves by Bob Seger.  My dad loved Bob Seger.  He even bought a '60 Chevy and fixed it up.  I chose this song, because I remember him singing this one, but any Bob Seger song makes me think of him.  I also remember his orange Bob Seger t-shirt.

5.  Summer Nights from Grease.  Oh how I loved Grease.  There is a picture of a four year old me next to a Barbie record player with the Grease album on it.  I didn't catch all the dirty jokes or anything like that.  I just wanted to be Sandy.  Or even Olivia Newton John.  Either one would've been fine with me.  So, my dad and I used to sing Summer Nights together.  I was Sandy and he was Danny.  Now that I think about it, the lyrics make that sound a little creepy, but it wasn't.  I always used to make him sing it with me. 

6.  Kashmir, Led Zeppelin.  This is dad.  He bought the Led Zeppelin box CD set off one of those TV ads.  And I took ownership it from him when I was in high school.  He knew I took it, and didn't really mind.  But I can't hear the opening notes of Kashmir without feeling a little guilty about that.

7.  When Doves Cry and Purple Rain, by Prince.  This is mom.  She took some class (she was always taking classes), and they watched Purple Rain.  From that moment on, she was obsessed with Purple Rain.  She still thinks it is one of the best movies ever made.

8.  Every Breath You Take by The Police.  Again, mom.  She listened to this song so much that I am still sick of it twenty years later.

9.  Isn't She Lovely by Stevie Wonder.  I wasn't there for this, but when my parents were on the way to the hospital when my mom was in labor with H this song came on and my dad looked at my mom and said "It's another girl."  At least that's the story.  This was back before you could find out the sex of the baby beforehand.  At any rate, whenever I hear this song I always think of that.  It's H's song.

10.  Cat's In The Cradle, cover by Ugly Kid Joe.  This one is my issue, and reminds me of my dad.  I was only 19 when I lost him, so I was at an age where I was only beginning to get to know him as a person as opposed to a parent.  The line "What I'd really like Dad is to borrow the car keys, see you later can I have them please?" basically epitomized by high school relationship with him, so as I had just gotten to college our relationship had changed.  And it got cut short.  I don't feel guilt over it, but it still makes me sad.  I wish every day he was here now, and every time I hear this song it makes me sad.                              

Please Don't Remake The Wizard of Oz

Word on the street is that a remake of The Wizard of Oz is in the works. 

Why?  This movie is a classic.  What's next?  CasablancaCitizen KaneGone With the Wind?

There is no need to do this, not when we've got movie perfection as it is.  The only reason I can imagine is that someone wants to show how great they are with CG and other special effects.  I mean, sure, the flying monkeys are a bit lame, and the melting of the Wicked Witch could've been better, but why do we need anything better as far as special effects?  What are they going to do, dress up Taylor Momsen in a plaid hoody and send her down a specially enhanced 3D brick road with an iPod in her ear and a tiny dog in her Louis Vuitton bag?  (God, can you imagine the things they could do to ruin and/or update this movie?)

Remakes only lead me to believe that no one in Hollywood can come up with an original idea.  I mean, send in the freaking clowns.  Or, for that matter, have the sense to adapt a different book that is already written.  Although Return to Oz, starring Fairuza Balk, didn't do very well, L. Frank Baum wrote twelve other books about the land of Oz, including Ozma of Oz, my personal favorite.  (I read all of these when I was a kid.)  Rather than remaking The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which doesn't need remaking, why not adapt one of his other Oz books?  They're good, I swear!  Have at it!  I might even go see it.   

Time to Start the Christmas Shopping!

Yes, I start my Christmas shopping insanely early.  This works out better for me because then I don't end up in a complete frenzy at the last minute trying to find "the perfect gift."  Some years there is a "perfect gift," but some years there just isn't.  I've learned to accept that.

My buying list keeps getting larger, because my siblings keep having children.  I'm happy to be an aunt, but it's one more person to buy for.  Thus, I start early.  These are the people I buy for:

1.  My brother's four kids (3 girls and a boy) and his step daughter.
2.  My sister's son (and after December, her daughter).
3.  My mom
4.  My grandma (only grandparent left)
5.  My other sister, H, sometimes, if we agree to it.  (just something small, usually)
6.  My secretary
7.  A few other secretaries at work, with whom I've worked with a lot over the past year
8.  Some of the attorneys and associates I work with

Here's where I am in the process:

1.  Three of my brother's kids are done.  My one niece wanted stuff from Justice, so I got her an outfit, a purse, and a sequined scarf.  They had 40% off everything the day I did it, so I kept it around $50, which is what I spend on each of them.  (It slowly gets out of control if I spend more than that, and I spend around the same for their birthdays each year, so I think they are good.)  My other niece got an outfit from Aeropostale, and a scarf and mitten/gloves.  My nephew (who has Asperger's) got a electrical funky flashlight and a Chicago Bears sweatshirt (he loves lights and orange.)  So, that leaves his other daughter and his step daughter.  Step daughter is 18, so she will probably just get cash.  I'm not sure yet what I'll get his other daughter, since his wife can never give me any ideas.  Maybe a Wii game or something.  By contrast, his ex-wife, the mother of the other three, quickly gave me all their sizes and wants.  She rocks. 

2.  My sister's son is partially done or possibly done.  I got him Toy Story 3 and Toy Story on DVD.  He is two and can't take his eyes off those movies.  (My sister took him to see Toy Story 3 at the theatre -- he was about 1 2/3, and he sat there and watched the entire thing!)  I got him clothes for his birthday that just passed, and he has a ton of toys.  I may pick up an extra set of Lincoln Logs for him, since my mom got him one of their sets, and she thinks he might need some more logs.  Man, are those things ever expensive.  My mom tells me it is because they are real wood.  Huh.  The baby already got her clothes, so she is done.

3.  My grandma is done.  She gets a renewal to her National Enquirer subscription.  (Don't laugh, that costs like $100 for the year!)  And she loves it.  Frankly, it makes it very easy for me because I have no idea what else I would get her.

4.  My sister H got my old car.  So, she is good for the next three or four years on gifts! 

So, that leaves all the rest.  I might just give my secretary cash, at the risk of looking tacky.  I usually spend about $500 on her, in the form of a small gift and gift cards.  Maybe I'll just get her a small gift (so she has something to open) and then $500 cash.  I don't suspect you can go wrong with cash.  The other secretaries I usually do one of Lush's gift sets or something like that, so I can pick those up anytime over the next month.  Or maybe I'll just give them gift cards this year.  It seems lazy, but I'd rather get them something they can use.  If they are like me, they have a ton of that body crap laying around already.  The attorneys are a little harder, but I may do a bottle of wine or something like that.  There are a few who I have some specific jokey stuff in mind.  But hey, I've got some time!  My mom, I have no idea.  I'll think of something. 

Oh, and I also do a "letters to Santa" type drive every year, so I have a kid to buy for in that area, which I also already ordered his gifts off Amazon.  So, also done with that one.

At any rate, the process is at least begun.

These are the people I will get a gift from:  (1) my mom; (2) my secretary; (3) a few of the secretaries; and (4) some of the attorneys at my office.  Despite that I spend quite a bit of money on their kids year after year, my brother and sister never think to send me a little gift.  (I mean, seriously, get me a $10 gift card from iTunes or something, that would be fine.  Just acknowledge that I don't have a family of my own to buy me gifts.)  My grandma is the cheapest woman on earth, so she might send me a pair of socks or $5 or something.  (Not kidding about the $5.  It's so comical.)  But she is what she is, and I don't really care when it comes to her.  For me, it really is about the giving, but it kind of baffles me that neither of my siblings ever gives any thought to getting me something when I am spending quite a bit on their kids each year and they don't ever have to reciprocate in any way.  After my sister finally had her son two years ago, it occurred to her that maybe she should buy presents for my brother's kids.  I mean, duh, they are your nieces and nephews!           

Decision Points is Worth Reading

Earlier this week I finished reading Decision Points, George W. Bush's book.

Two things struck me while reading this book:

1.  President of the U.S. is a full-time, nonstop job.  You don't get a vacation, even when you are purportedly "on vacation."  Every day there are briefings, phone calls, and decisions to make.  This goes on all day long.  It's mind boggling, and one wonders if it is a job one person can even handle anymore, given the state of the world.  In fact, Newsweek has an article on that topic in this week's issue.  (The one with the ridiculous picture on the cover of Obama as a Hindu god.)

2.  Hindsight is always 20/20, and it's easy to criticize when you aren't the one who has to make the decision.  However, the fact is that the President has to make the hard decisions, and thus the President gets blamed when his decision turns out to be wrong.  I think we all have to take a leap of faith at times and accept that the President is privy to more information than we are, and that the President is doing what he thinks is the best thing to do.  That's why he (or hopefully someday, she) got elected in the first place.  I'll try not to be a hypocrite on this point going forward.

The book is a good read, and Bush explains pretty clearly why he did the things he did, to the extent that he can without releasing classified information.  He covers most of the major issues of his Presidency -- 9/11, Katrina, Iraq, Afghanistan, stem cell research, etc.  I feel like I have better knowledge of him and why he did the things he did after reading it.  I also think he was a pretty good leader and an intelligent man, despite what the polls say.

There were some things I learned that impressed me:

1.  He personally wrote a letter to every family who lost a child/spouse/parent in Afganistan/Iraq while he was in office.  This amounted to over 5,000 letters.

2.  In Thanksgiving 2003, he made a surprise trip to visit the troops in Afghanistan that was so secret many of the secret service agents at his ranch in Texas didn't even know he'd left.  It was a dangerous trip for him to take at that time, given what was going on with the war, but he wanted to go. 

3.  I hadn't realized the true extent of his work in treating and eliminating AIDS in Africa.  He is an extremely compassionate and caring person.  In some ways this explains why he was so utterly offended with Kanye West's statements about him being a racist in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. 

4.  He accepted the blame for a lot of things that weren't really his fault because he recognized that he should.  (Again, for example, Hurricane Katrina and Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin's failings in that department.)

5.  He did make a lot of efforts to reach across the aisle, but on some things he just wasn't going to fold.  I do have respect for that.

All in all, it was a good read, and I highly recommend it, particularly if you are a person who hated Bush. 

I also recently read In the President's Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect which was pretty fascinating.  A lot of good tidbits and gossip about some of the Presidents and their families, as well as an inside look into the Secret Service organization.  (Apparently I'm now in my "political book phase.")