Sunday, October 31, 2010

Back In the High Life Memories

Don’t you love it when you a hear a song you haven’t heard in forever, and are reminded how much you used to like it?

I was watching Season 2 of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on DVD this weekend (love this show), and in the episode The Gang Buys a Boat, numerous references are made to the song “Back in the High Life Again” by Steve Winwood, then there is a montage toward the end of the episode to that song.

Steve Winwood! Remember him? “Roll With It,” “Higher Love,” “The Finer Things,” and of course, “Back in the High Life.” Which reached #13 on the Billboard Top 100 back in 1987. Holy crap, I was 13!  I remember how much I used to like this song, but I was almost embarrassed to like it because it wasn't as cool as Madonna or Bon Jovi. 

Anyway, here’s the video. I just had to watch it again on You Tube. Remember back when videos were this innocent?  God, does this take me back.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I Love My Little Townhouse

I waited a long time to buy a place, longer than most people.  I was 35 when I bought my little townhouse last year, which was my first homebuying experience.  I see people on Househunters who are 23 years old and buying homes, and I think "Why?"  Why tie yourself down to a home so soon?  I suppose some people are perfectly happy to stay where they are, and know exactly what they want to do.  I wasn't so sure.  I didn't really know where I wanted to live or what I wanted to do with my life for quite awhile.  I lived in the Detroit area for awhile after college (which is where I am from), then I upped and moved across the country to Los Angeles for a few years, then I moved to Chicago for law school.  It wasn't really until last year that I realized that I want to stay in Chicago (because I love this city and to be fair, I have a great job here) and put in that commitment.

A house is a huge commitment.  I read this book called The Wealthy Barber right after I graduated from college, and one of the points he made was that you aren't throwing money away on rent if you aren't sure what you want to be doing for the long term.  I agree with that.  Why go to all the trouble of buying a place and having to deal with selling it if you aren't sure?  To me, buying a place was a commitment that I would be staying for at least five years, and probably much longer.  I didn't want to buy a one bedroom condo just to be owning a place, because those are very hard to sell.  Plus, I'd have to move when I ran out of space or wanted bigger space.  One bedroom condos are depressing.  To me, it was a better investment to rent for awhile and save up my money so that I could skip the "starter" one bedroom condo and go straight to the townhouse or duplex up or down with three bedrooms and at least two baths.  (Single family homes in the area I want to live start at around a million for a place that needs work, so that is way out of my league, at least for now.) 

So, last year I embarked on my search.  I knew where I wanted to live.  Location is everything to me.  Some people don't care about that and would rather have a nicer, newer, or bigger place.  Not me.  I want to be close to the train, but not too close, and close to shopping, bars, and restaurants.  I want to be somewhere fairly safe.  (Nowhere is truly safe in the city.)  I like to walk everywhere, including the grocery store.  I need to be in a neighborhood where there is a lot going on.  Of course, I paid for that.  One of my friends said I paid probably $100,000 to be in my location.  (They all want to come to my place!)  That's probably true.  I am in an awesome location. 

But, that was my choice.  And I Love My Place!  I didn't know how much I wanted a townhouse until I saw this place.  There aren't many townhouses in the city, other than a bunch that were built in the 80s and 90s and then some new ones that are mixed income housing to replace Cabrini Green.  Mine is one that was built in the 80s, when this area was starting to gentrify.  Now this area is unbelievable.  It's amazing what 20 years can do.  My place needs some work, although the kitchen and main floor was redone by the previous owner and is amazing.  (People walk into my kitchen and gasp at all the granite and stainless steel.  I never thought I liked that stuff, but wow do I love my kitchen!)  I have three full baths that desperately need to come out of their 1980s styling.  The whole place could use a fresh paintjob and some new carpet.  But none of what is here currently is horrid or unliveable.  The bathrooms, while 80s, are pure white, so look fine, really.  The carpet is berber and light beige, so it's fine.  The paint colors are also neutral and fine.  Nothing horrendous or anything like that.   

I just want to make it "mine." 

I looked at a bunch of condos that were in duplex or triplex units.  They were okay, and some of them I really liked.  One place I saw was amazing, but the location was awful.  God, I would have bought that place in a minute, but the location was so questionable.  With the duplex and triplexes, my big issue was that I did not want to have to climb a flight of stairs to get into my unit.  If you get the duplex up with the roof deck, that's what you have to do.  The duplex down (first floor unit) means half of your unit is below ground level.  Unappealing.  And to live in a highrise is unthinkable, due to assessments of at least $500 a month.  And $500 is on the low side if you live in a highrise with a doorman, pool, etc.  So, there are some benefits there, but $500+ a month that doesn't even include your mortgage is kind of ridiculous, at least to me. 

And then, this place, my place, came on the market.  We ran right over, and the moment I walked in I Knew.  I knew it had to be mine.  You don't realize how nice it is to have a place that is three floors, no neighbors above or below, and with a door straight to the outside, unless you have lived in the city for years.  This was a dream for me.  A dream.  This is a bad thing when it comes to home buying, because you are too emotional about it.  What's worse is that the moment we walked in my realtor also knew that This Was The Place For Me.  (He knew me well by that point!)  So, I was trying to remain calm, and he was trying to remain calm, but in the end we made an offer that night (place had been on the market for only ten days) and the rest is history.  When you know, you know.

Looking back, I think maybe I paid too much, but not too too much.  I don't reget it.  I wanted this place and I got it.  I still scour real estate listings in a kind of effort to prove to myself that I didn't overpay, and most of the time I'm not sure I did.  This place has everything I wanted.  Everything.  And here we are a year later, and I still absolutely love this place.  I don't know how I could've done better.  I walk home every night from the train, and I have a gorgeous walk on a beautiful street.  When I walk in, I love my kitchen, and my patio and my bedroom.  I'm three block from the train (perfect), I have a deck and patio, a front door that leads to the outside, no neighbors above or below, three full baths which is great when guests come, two bedrooms, a finished basement, a ton of closet space, and a huge, huge laundry room.  I can walk two blocks and be shopping on one of the greatest shopping areas in the city.  There are also probably 20 or 30 restaurants within four blocks of my place.  I mean, what more could I want?  And even though the market has now gone down even more, so maybe I've lost some money by now if I were to try to sell right now, I don't think about that, because I didn't buy this as an investment.  I bought it as my place to live for however many years, and a place that I can remodel and do as I wish to, and a place that I plan to stick around in for awhile. 

And isn't that what buying a place is all about? 

How Do You Lose $8.7 BILLION dollars?

A report issued by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction states that the Department of Defense is unable to account for $8.7 billion dollars of the $9.1 billion it received for reconstruction activities in Iraq. The summary is that no one followed any guidelines, kept any records, or took any responsibility for the money.

$8.7 billion dollars gone.  Stop and think about how much money that is.  It's staggering to think that much money can simply vanish.

Imagine if the Marketing department at Walmart couldn’t account for $8 million dollars. Or if the R&D department at Apple couldn’t account for $20 million dollars. I don’t find it beyond the realm of belief that the people in charge would be fired immediately. Possibly even people below the person in charge. I also think it would never happen. Why? Because corporations are interested in profit, so they monitor money going in and coming out expeditiously. People working there know what guidelines they need to follow, and they know the repercussions. The bottom line is everything. So why is it that our government and the people who work there don’t seem to care what happens to our money? Oh, I know. Because it isn’t their money, so it can be spent and spent and spent. And obviously there is absolutely no oversight, so it’s allowed to happen over and over again.  We would be much better off if our government was run like a corporation.  But no, tax dollars come in and it's all free!

How can $8.7 billion dollars go missing? And how can it be that extremely large checks could be written, yet there is no record at all? Records in archives already? That will take a long time to find? This has all happened within the past 6 or so years.  Who was put in charge of the money? Someone was spending that money, so who was it? And what were they spending it on?

There needs to be a huge investigation into this, because it’s absolutely indefensible that this much money could simply vanish. It also makes you wonder – how much money is missing from other departments? If the Department of Defense is this screwed up, it’s not hard to think that other departments are probably just as, if not more, screwed up and lacking in guidelines.

Hey, Obama? I want change. I want change that addresses messes like this.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This Election Season is Worse Than Ever

I haven’t talked at all about the upcoming elections next week, not because I haven’t been following what is going on, but because they exhaust me.

Every time I turn around there is an attack ad on a candidate, or the media taking a remark out of context, or an article about how much money has been spent on campaigning this year, or another article about Obama campaigning for the Democrats, or another article about some offensive thing a candidate said about some group of people, or starting this week, articles about fraudulent votes, disenfranchised voters, and bribing.

Tuesday (or sometime later when full results are in) is going to be a debacle. If the Republicans win, the Democrats will cry cheating. If the Democrats win, the Republicans will cry cheating. Maybe there is cheating – or maybe the voting machine simply malfunctioned, with no conspiracy involved. One would think that after over 200 years this country would be able to hold an election that did not involve any fraud, or that the parties wouldn’t leap to that conclusion so readily. No one trusts each other anymore, and the polarization between the two parties is frightening. There’s not one news website that gives a fair and balanced view of the country or the elections. Huffington Post and CNN lean toward the Democrats, Drudge and Fox lean toward the Republicans. Viewing the top headlines on the different sites makes you wonder if they are even reporting on the same country. Sarah Palin (who isn’t even running for office) is all over the more liberal news sites, while she’s essentially ignored on the more conservative news sites. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to read one news website that provided equally negative information about both parties? Or how about a news website that told us more positive things that are going on in the government? Surely there’s something positive going on.

More troubling, and for some reason I never thought much about this, is that many of our incumbent Congressmen and our President have spent the past month campaigning rather than governing, even ending Congress’s second session early in order to do so. There is plenty that Congress needs to get done before the end of the year, most pressing to come to a decision on the Bush tax cuts and implement a budget for FY2011. While I get that they need time to campaign and spend time in their districts, when the general tenor of the campaign is that the country is in trouble, it’s hard for me to justify why they aren’t all doing their jobs to get us out of trouble, and even more when I hear the millions they are spending to get re-elected. Oh, but you want to take away our tax cuts? Every day I hear about Obama “stumping” for another Democratic candidate in another part of the country. Saturday he will be here in Chicago. I might even go, since it would be kind of cool to hear the President speak live, teleprompter and all. Most worrisome is whether Congress will be able to accomplish anything after the election. Will we even know who has been elected by end of evening Tuesday? I keep reading that the payroll companies need to know very soon what is going to happen with the Bush tax cuts so they can get their software updated by January 1, 2011. Will they have an answer in time? Will we have a 2011 budget by December 3, 2010?

I’m so sick of it all. It’s absurd that it costs millions of dollars to run for office in this country to have any shot at winning. It’s absurd that Congress is allowed to cut their session short to go out and campaign when they haven’t done the basics of what they were supposed to do. It’s absurd that they think we should reelect them when they haven’t done these basic things, and are afraid to do so because it might hurt their reelection hopes. (State elected officials up for reelection do it too. For example, our property tax bills here in Cook County are months late because they are waiting until after the election to send them out. Ridiculous.) It’s absurd that our President is out campaigning and discussing how bad things are rather than working to fix the bad. It’s absurd that our media is more interested in trashing a candidate or party than giving them the benefit of the doubt for misspeaking or investigating the entire story. It’s absurd that candidates can’t seem to find a way to win other than to attack their opponent. It’s absurd that people vote for candidates who are behind in their taxes or have been caught lying. It’s absurd that a candidate – in any race – can make it all the way through campaign season without specifically stating how they intend to accomplish their stated platform. Words are easy. Reduce spending! Great, where? Reduce the defecit! Great, how? More jobs! Great, how?

Most of all, it’s absurd that any of the candidates think we the people should be “fired up” for this election or care whether they get reelected. Is anything really going to change in Washington? Obama campaigned on “hope and change” and nothing changed. In fact, things got worse. Congress is more divided than ever. So, why is it that our elected officials can’t seem to find a way to meet in the middle to get things done? If they can’t do that, I don’t see why I should care whether they get reelected.

I will, of course, vote. However, I’m not excited about my options. (Mark Kirk or Alexi Giannoulias? Pat Quinn or Bill Brady?) I’m tired of having to mull over the choices and vote for the lesser of two evils or go third party. So I will go forth to the voting booth on Tuesday and do my civic duty, yet I will not be happy about it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Joe Biden Thinks the Government Invented Everything

At a fundraiser today, Joe Biden said the following:
“Every single great idea that has marked the 21st century, the 20th century and the 19th century has required government vision and government incentive,” he said. “In the middle of the Civil War you had a guy named Lincoln paying people $16,000 for every 40 miles of track they laid across the continental United States. … No private enterprise would have done that for another 35 years.”
Really?  Does he know anything about history?  He’s forgetting about a lot of great ideas, such as the assembly line, telephone, cotton gin, locomotive, steamboar, electric motor, tractor, photocopier, computer, skyscraper, calculator, cash register, lightbulb, record player, mp3 player, television, stove, microwave, revolving door, escalator, elevator, washing machine, automobile, airplane, cell phone, video game consoles and controllers, refrigerator, radio, camera, film, movie camera, barbed wire, barcode technology, integrated circuit, bicycle, pda, bra, camcorder, photography, cardiac pacemaker, air conditioning, typewriter, motion picture animation, credit card, ATM, dynamite, DVDs, paper bag, ballpoint pen, fax machine, fiberglass, adhesive bandages, fiber optic cables, blow dryer, Braille, metal cans for beverages, floppy disk, carbon 14 dating, flashlight, radar, sonar, DNA fingerprinting, Gore-Tex, GPS, laser, cellophane, roller coaster, microchip, revolver, compact disk, mouse, cat litter, drinking fountain, toaster, Post-It note, sewing machine, stethoscope, the match, chewing gum, food processor, dishwasher, the Pill, drip coffee, blue jeans, Geiger counter, contact lenses, TV remote control, donuts, EKG, EEG, LED, LCD, MRI, e-mail, vacuum cleaner, IVF, PVC, Teflon, rayon, nylon, silicone, paper towel, electric iron, engines, defibrillator, cement, respirator, coat hangers, electric guitar, jukebox, Velcro, Kevlar, periodic table, zipper, elastic, disposable diapers, supermarket, Richter scale, lawnmower, Laundromat, linoleum, satellite, Morse code, pasteurization, Scotch tape, tampon, steel plow, polygraph, long playing record (LP), rubber, stainless steel, toilet paper and facial tissue, and X-rays.

I don't believe any of the above required "government vision and government incentive." 

Rules Be Damned, I’m Wearing Miniskirts After Age 35

Who came up with this rule, and why should I follow it? I’ve heard it thrown around over the years in fashion articles and by Stacy and Clinton on “What Not to Wear,” and it doesn’t make any sense to me. Why should there be an age limit on skirt length?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t intend to wear a “mini” mini skirt that barely covers my butt and seems all the rage for the 20s crowd, but why can’t I wear a skirt that lands somewhere around mid thigh after the age of 35, provided it looks good on me? Why should I have to suddenly on my birthday get rid of all of my shorter skirts and start buying skirts that hit at the knee?

I’ve noticed that Jennifer Aniston, Victoria Beckham, Heidi Klum, and Sarah Jessica Parker do not follow this rule, yet they are all regularly recognized for their fashion prowess. So, if the most fashionable ladies out there haven’t given up their miniskirts, who are these people to say it’s wrong? These so-called “fashion rules” really crack me up.

There are all kinds of them, “Fashion Don’ts Past 30,” “Fashion Don’ts Past 40,” “Fashion Don’ts Past 50.” What you don’t see are “Fashion Don’ts at 21.” If anything, the younger set seems to need more guidance on what is appropriate than the older set, yet for some reason a lot of magazine writers believe that older women can’t be trusted to dress themselves in an appropriate manner past a certain age. Do some women dress inappropriately after age 35? Sure. But I suspect they also dressed inappropriately at age 21. They’ve likely been dressing inappropriately for years. You don’t wake up the morning of your 35th birthday and lose all sense of logic. More likely, by that point you know even better than you ever did what looks good on your body.

So, rules be damned. I’m wearing my minis with tights and boots this winter.

Monday, October 25, 2010

I Love My Street Around Halloween

The street I live on is wider than the average Chicago city street and lined with huge, old trees.  There is a mix of multimillion dollar single family homes, 2/3 unit condo walk-ups, 2/3 unit apartment walk-ups, and some townhouses.  Many are either vintage or made to look vintage.  When the leaves change, the sidewalks are covered with orange and yellow leaves.  I swear, it's like something out of a movie.

My neighbors go all out with respect to Halloween decoration.  I never knew people actually decorated their homes to this extent for Halloween, other than maybe a cardboard picture of a witch on the front door, or a random house or two.  What goes on here is above and beyond that, and is nearly every house in the two blocks I regularly walk to get to the main street on which the train is located.  Orange or purple lights cover the fences.  One house has these really cute ghost shaped white lights on their fence.  Fake spiderwebs, huge black or purple spiders, fake graveyards, a witch doll on a broom hanging from a tree, a skeleton near a front door, a cauldron with a witch doll in the front yard, jack-o-lanterns galore, and on and on. 

I absolutely love it, and it makes for such a fun walk home from the train at night.      

Girlfriends Who Are Entirely Focused on Men, Part II

As I suspected, M was more interested in spending time with her new guy, who I will refer to as Rebound, than me over the weekend. Rebound is an acquaintance from undergrad, who M has kept in touch with via Facebook. He's a nice guy and seems to have done well since I last saw him, eighteen years ago.  About three weeks ago M's relationship with S ended, and she began talking with Rebound, who lives in Chicago. Thus, her trip to visit me transformed into a trip to visit him. This should not have surprised me.

M arrived on Friday evening and went straight to Rebound’s condo. I texted her at around 6:45 p.m. to find out her plan for the evening. When she responded to my text nearly two hours later (despite that her phone is practically a third appendage, so I knew she was purposely ignoring me), she told me she had plans with Rebound and his friends, but invited me to come. This was not a true invite. It was the type of invitation a person gives out of obligation, not because the invitee is truly wanted or welcome. M wanted alone time with her “date” to be showered with attention. I’ve seen this side of her enough, so I opted out. I was tired anyway, and we had a big day of shopping planned for Saturday. I texted her back the lock code to my front door so she could let herself in at the end of the night. An hour later, I was informed that she planned to sleep over at Rebound’s. 

The next morning, she texted me at around 10 a.m. I had been up for two hours and told her to come on over. She arrived at around 11:30 a.m., looking exhausted and scarily thin. She confessed that she was hungover and tired, but that “nothing had happened” with Rebound. I highly doubted this, but let it slide. Then she filled me in for an hour on the demise of her relationship with S, and the events leading up to her visit with Rebound. Apparently S has been cheating on her for the past year, and she knew this because she hacked into his Facebook, Myspace, e-mail, and text messages. (Cue the crazy alert!)  She thus kept track of all the other women he was talking to and sleeping with, yet did not end the relationship with him, although she did confront him about it all. He denied it, and she let it slide.  For a year.  S also started disappearing for nights or days on end and wouldn’t respond to her messages. Then he'd show up and act like nothing had happened.  About three weeks ago, he moved all of his things out of M’s house (they’d been living together for the past two years) and hasn’t responded to any of her messages or contacted her since. It was this – not the cheating or disappearing acts – that propelled her into the breakup blues.  (None of this makes any sense to me, and when I asked her why she didn’t kick him out long ago, she told me that “time just went by really fast.”) Shortly thereafter, she started e-mailing with Rebound. The timing couldn’t have been better for her. Rebound provides a nice distraction from actually having to deal with the fallout of the breakup. And “since I was still hopeful that S and I could work it out, it gave me someone else to focus on for the time being.”  Yes, even after all of the cheating and crappy behavior from S, she still wanted him back.  I'm not convinced she still doesn't want him back.

She wanted to take a nap, so she camped out on my couch for around the next hour, until I complained that I was starving and ready for lunch. We grabbed some lunch, then took the train downtown. Our shopping trip consisted of visiting two stores, where she walked around in a fog and sat down in the chairs by the dressing room, before she admitted that she felt horrible and needed to go take a nap. (You can only take so much "I wish I felt like shopping" complaining until you give up.)  We went back to my place and she slept for two hours. So much for a day of shopping and some quality friend time. During this time, she also told me that “She wishes S knew what she was doing!” (This is not the sign of a person who is over the other person. And I seriously doubt he even cares what she is doing. He’s probably out banging his entire city and enjoying the freedom.)

When she woke up, she texted Rebound to find out what he wanted to do that evening. It was around this time that I noticed she hadn’t brought any bags with her. She had left them at Rebound’s, as she planned on spending the night with him again. Because all of her things were at his place, she left me in order to change clothes. This was kind of hurtful to me, since for the past two or three weeks she’s been texting me “Can’t wait to see you!” “I really need some girl time!” Etc… But, since we are both 36 years old, I guess she’s entitled to do what she wants and stay where she wants. And I’m used to it by now. However, I can’t help but think this is the wrong way to approach things with Rebound. After all, the point of the trip was to visit me, and instead he ended up with a house guest all weekend. I can’t imagine any normal person not seeing this as a huge, desperate red flag.  At minimum she should've stayed at my place on Saturday night.

The three of us went out to dinner and got some drinks. It was a fun evening, and I was home by 12:30 a.m. The next morning she called and asked if I wanted to go watch football at Rebound’s friend’s house, and I declined. Again, this felt like another non-invite kind of deal. (When you’ve known someone for 18 years, you can tell the difference.)  Plus, why would I go somewhere else when I have NFL Sunday Ticket all to myself?  At around 7 last night she called me on her drive home and talked about Rebound for an hour. All I said during the call was “Yes,” “I think you should take it slow,” "No," and “I don't know.” She just talked and talked and talked.  Like I said, she examines every word, facial expression, and gesture that the guys she dates make to the point of excrutiating detail.     

I found out that she did The Unthinkable. She had two “Where Is This Relationship Going” conversations with Rebound. Two! In three days! (She always does this. She must talk and mull over every detail of everything. If I were a guy, this would drive me crazy.) Rebound told her that (1) he wanted to take it very slow since she had just gotten out of a relationship; and (2) he did not want a long distance relationship. He very clearly said all of these things to her, and she acknowledged them, yet she is already attempting to twist what he said into something else. M has a remarkable ability to import what she thinks a man means rather than listening to exactly what he is saying.  You'd think she would know better than this by now, but she doesn't. 

So, M now wants to move to Chicago. Well, I shouldn’t really say “now,” because she has wanted to move to Chicago for the past 14 years. I’ve heard all this before, many times, and at length. But this time she’s serious. She claims it is because she wants to, not because of Rebound, but I have my doubts.  It's never a good idea to move somewhere for a man.  She also told me she might come to Chicago every weekend now, since “I’m planning on moving there anyway.” I don’t want a house guest every weekend, although it appears that she may stay with Rebound, which is fine with me. Until he gets tired of it, that is. And he will. And I will have to deal with the fallout, which will be ten times worse because it will be S + Rebound fallout, which could truly be astronomical.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hitting the Pay Ceiling

As a new partner, I am now part of the world of people who decides what other people should get paid.  In fact, I was made the newest member of the pay committee at my firm.  We decide what raises all of the associates, paralegals, clerks, secretaries, and other staff get, and what their end of year bonus should be.  (Everyone gets a bonus around Christmas.)  This is a much more difficult job than I thought.

It's difficult because many of the clerical jobs at a law firm eventually reach a sort of "pay ceiling," yet they still think they should get a huge raise and bonus each year.   

Take clerks.  These are the people who make copies, put together exhibits, run packages over to other law firms or the court, put together files, and get lunches.  It is not an intellectually demanding job in any sense, although it is a job that requires attention to detail and at least some responsibility.  (Like, don't stop in for a beer and forget to drop off that highly confidential filing at the court.)  It's a job that is mostly comprised of kids who are working their way through college.  Most leave when they graduate from college in order to get a job in their chosen field, or leave when they land a part time or summer position in their chosen field.  This works out well paywise and raisewise.  They work for us for one to four years, and then move on, and we give them a stellar letter of recommendation. 

The problem arises when these clerks decide to stay on for years after college graduation.  I'm always suspicious of these people.  Why would you keep a job like this rather than pursue your degree?  It's baffling, but all I can assume is that they tried to get a job in their chosen field and either (a) couldn't get one; or (b) could get one but the pay was much lower, so they stayed put.  Some of them are lucky enough to be promoted to another job (such as paralegal) if the opportunity arises.  But others are good clerks and would not make good paralegals, and the fact is that there are rarely openings for new paralegals at my firm (we have very low paralegal turnover).  There just are not a lot of positions to "move up," so to speak.  So, they remain clerks.  And at a certain point, you look at what they are doing and what they are getting paid, and have to say "This is enough for this job."  You can't pay these people $20 plus an hour.  It's not a job that requires a person worth $20 an hour.  They have reached their "pay ceiling" for the job, no matter how good of a job they are doing. 

We have similar problems with other staff positions.  How much is a receptionist worth in this day and age?  All they do is answer the phone, greet people, and divert calls to voicemail.  At least once a day I get a miscall from our receptionist.  ("Oops!  I meant to call so and so.  Sorry!")  Back before all the new technology, they had to write out messages by hand.  Now they just divert to voicemail and shop on eBay all day long.  What about secretaries with five years experience who think they should be getting paid the same as secretaries with twenty years experience?  (Why people are sharing their pay information is beyond me.)  Or a payroll clerk who essentially enters data all day long?  Everyone gets a small raise commensurate with cost of living (or we give it to them even when it doesn't go up), so pay does go up, but not massively on a year to year basis.  But eventually, after a number of years, it has gone up considerably, and we have to make the hard decisions, such as "Is this a job that really requires another pay increase, or is the pay already getting outrageously out of line with the market?"   

At any rate, these long term clerks (and some of the others, but they are salaried, so I will avoid talking about them, although they make some of the same arguments) like to complain about their pay.  They complain about it to me.  I'm not sure if this is because they (a) forget that I'm now a partner; or (b) remember that I'm a partner and think I will be on their side and give them a big raise because occasionally I go out for drinks with them after work.  People also gossip a lot, so I hear about the complaints through either third parties or unintentional eavesdropping.  (Some folks seem to think that if you are in your office you are deaf.) 

The primary arguments for higher pay (I'm talking $20 an hour and up) are these:

Argument:  I have an Associate's Degree or Bachelor's Degree.
Rebuttal:  Your degree is in Restaurant/Hotel Management, or Art, or History, or Elementary Education or Social Work.  None of these degrees have anything to do with working in a law firm.  Are we forced to give your a raise simply because you have a degree, even when it has nothing to do with what we do?  If you get a paralegal certificate, come back and talk to me then, but be aware that higher pay means more responsibility and more work.

Argument:  I've been working here for X years.
Rebuttal:  And you've gotten a raise for each year.  Do you think if you stay for the next twenty or thirty years doing this job that you would be entitled to $50,000 or $60,000 a year doing this job?

Argument:  I do a good job.
Rebuttal:  You also spend a lot of time on Facebook and Sporcle, or reading People magazine.  You also roll your eyes at me when I give you a big, pain in the ass job.  You also come in late quite often when you've been out drinking the night before, and cut out early without telling anyone.

I've done the research on Craig's List, and there are a lot of these types of clerk jobs out there.  What we pay (starting and otherwise) is either on par or higher than some of the many help wanted ads for clerks I found, so I don't feel we are being unreasonable.  What gets me is that they don't seem to realize that they are doing a job virtually anyone could do, and it is a job that does not demand huge pay.  Not every job out there is going to end up in a high five figure salary.  The job is what it is.  That's why it is a job that mostly students do on their way up in the world. 

The more people who are well compensated for what they are doing complain to me or others about their pay, the more I want to say this:  "If you are so unhappy here, then find another job."  It's really that simple.  If you think you are worth more, then go there.  I mean, isn't that what people do?  I don't mean to sound like a jerk, because I truly appreciate the job they do, it's just that it is not a $20 plus an hour job, and I resent the attempt to put a guilt trip on me to convince me otherwise.            

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I Want My Tuition Money Back!

Apparently some anonymous third year law school student from Boston College wrote a letter to the dean of the school asking for his money back if he drops out of law school now, without his law degree.

The letter is hilarious for a number of reasons.
As a 3L, my peers and I find ourselves in the midst of one of the worst job markets in the history of our profession.
The job market has been bad for lawyers since at least 2008, when Anonymous entered law school. In fact, here is but one of the many articles written during the 2008 timeframe which discussed how bad the market was. A simple Google search finds hundreds of similar articles written during 2007 and 2008 – exactly the point in time when Anonymous made the decision to enter law school.
To compound our difficulties, many of us are in an enormous amount of debt from our legal studies.
Yes, law school costs a lot of money.  This is no secret.  Also, that’s what happens when you go to a law school that costs $60,000 a year.
I write to you from a more desperate place than most: my wife is pregnant with our first child. She is due in April. With fatherhood impending, I go to bed every night terrified of the thought of trying to provide for my child AND paying off my J.D, and resentful at the thought that I was convinced to go to law school by empty promises of a fulfilling and remunerative career.
I love it that (a) despite knowing he didn’t have a job and had a mountain of student loan debt, he and his wife chose to have their first child right now; and (b) he was “convinced” to go to law school. Empty promises?  From who?  The news revealed that the economy was in the tank.  I can't imagine Boston College promised him they would find him a job when he graduated.  No school does that.  No one forced this decision, and if he wasn’t keeping up on the news about the job market for lawyers, that is his own fault. Additionally, this “remunerative career” is something most law students expect, but few get. There are only so many BigLaw jobs out there that pay $150,000 or more to start as a first year associate. Those numbers are dwindling, and the starting pay has even dropped. The truth is, most law students start out somewhere in the $60,000 or less range their first year out of law school, much to their chagrin. These statements make me wonder whether he is getting job offers, but they aren’t as much money as he believes himself to be worth. In my opinion, most first year lawyers (myself included back in the day) are worth maybe $30,000 a year. You know nothing!
In all of this, we have had very little help from career services, who all seem to be as confounded as we are by this job market.
Dude, everyone knows that career services are worthless. No one I know from law school got their job through career services. I sent out hundreds of resumes to every law firm in the entire city of Chicago (and other parts of the country) that practiced intellectual property litigation. A couple stuck, and I got a job. It takes a hell of a lot of work to find a job, even in a good economy, and even with great grades.
I’d like to propose a solution to this problem: I am willing to leave law school, without a degree, at the end of this semester. In return, I would like a full refund of the tuition I’ve paid over the last two and a half years.
Don't you love this?  The sense of entitlement is astounding.  He realizes now that he made a bad, unresearched decision, so he wants a take back.  It’s not like he woke up this very morning and the economy had tanked overnight.  Did he have a summer associate position? Any part time work anywhere, even if pro bono, over the past two and half years?  What has he been doing for the past two and a half years?
I would love to discuss this proposal with you further. I would also love to hear any other thoughts or solutions you may have.
Here is my solution to Anonymous:

1. Don’t even think about going to law school right now unless you get into a top tier school and rank at least top 20%; any lower tier, you must rank top 10%. You absolutely need stellar grades.  If your grades aren't top notch, do everything you can to get them up before you graduate.  That is essentially all employers have to go on when you are a first year associate.

2. Consider moving to somewhere else in the country. Open up your search to any and every city in the country that you could remotely see yourself living. If you don’t want to move, don’t complain that you can’t find a job.

3. Send resumes and personalized cover letters to any and every law firm (no matter what the size) that practices the type of law you want to practice. Be sure they actually practice what you want to do or their hiring committee will laugh at your letter. Do some research on the hiring partners or head partner in the firm and make a reference to a case or decision he or she recently won or participated in.  

4. Do a judicial externship next semester.

5. Participate in moot court next semester.

6. Get involved in your local bar association on the student committee.

7. Write articles for local bar association newsletters or other legal magazines in your desired field. They are always looking for people to write this stuff, and it looks great on your resume, and also gets your name out.

8. Don’t forget about opportunities that aren’t at law firms – such as in house counsel at companies or government jobs.

9. Apply for clerking positions for state and federal court judges. When you do this, research the Judge at length with whom you are applying for a position, and make reference to their likes and recent decisions in your cover letter. Make sure you have done your homework.

10. You are not too good for any job. At this point, you need to get your foot in the door and start working. Get rid of your dreams of a six figure salary and come back down to Earth.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Girl Friends Who Are Entirely Focused on Men

I have a friend from undergrad, who I will call M.  I've known M since day one of classes at undergrad, when we were both 18 years old.  So, I've known her for a very long time.  When we were in undergrad, she was a great deal of fun, and she was probably my best friend back then, as far as friends from college.  (My true number one best friend is C, who I have been friends with since I was ten years old, but I think you can have multiple best friends.)  M was it for me in college (C and I went to different schools), and M and I lived together for three years in college and ran around together, did a lot of ridiculous things, and generally had a blast from the ages of 18-22.   

As we've gotten older, M has lost her coolness and has become more and more unbearable.  She is not the same person I met at age 18, although I'm not sure why this surprises me.  M and I lived with two other girls during our junior and senior years in undergrad, and I still keep in touch with both of them, and we have all agreed that she has become annoying to the point of obnoxiousness over the past ten or so years.  (I figure if they feel the same way I do, then I am not being overly judgmental.)  Our other two roommates haven't changed a whole lot personalitywise, and I don't feel like I have either, so I'm not sure what happened to M along the way.  I wish she was like she was in college. 

M is, like me, single and childless.  She likes to claim (loudly) that she is very happy about this, but the truth is, she really isn't.  She is one of those women who has to have a boyfriend at all times or she feels old and worthless.  (I don't get this because I would rather be single and happy than attached and miserable, but what do I know?)  Further, I think she would like more than anything to be married, even though she will deny this vociferously.  So, M has gone through a few different boyfriends in the years since we graduated from college, none of whom were right for her (although to be honest, she is very hard to deal with now, so I don't know who would be right for her), and all of whom have ended up dumping her after years of dating.  This results in crying phone calls and visits to me. 

I wouldn't have a problem with this if she didn't ignore me completely when she was happy in the relationship.  After all, what are best girlfriends for if not to cry and share the ice cream over the phone, right?  But when M is happy and all is going great, she calls me, talks for an hour or two about herself, and then tells me she has to go.  She also does this with our other two roommates from college.  We have started placing bets on whether she will even ask us how we are doing or what is going on in our lives during these calls.  In recent years, I try to avoid talking to her on the phone as much as possible for this reason.  She's become so self absorbed that it is truly nauseating.  Like, I have called her after having horrendous breakups, and rather than listen to me whine (as I do with her), she turns the conversation around to herself and ends up talking about herself.

To be honest, I'm not sure why I'm still friends with her other than that we've been friends for so long.  That's truly the only reason.  I don't look forward to seeing her or talking to her anymore.  (In fact, I never call her, ever.)  She has changed so much since college, and is so into the drama of her life, and I am so not into drama in life, that I'm not sure what we even have in common anymore.  But, it is what it is, and it would break her if I ended this friendship, so I just put up with it.

Further, she is now borderline anorexic.  She was "normal sized" in college.  She is convinced she was morbidly obese.  She was not.  But over the past ten or so years, she has taken it to the extreme, and kind of looks unhealthy to me.  I can't say this to her anymore, because when I do, she tells me I'm crazy, and that she's fat.  (Trust me, she is not.)  She also takes eight million years to get ready and has to be in high heels and tight skirts and all this makeup and gel and crap whenever we go anywhere.  I hate this.  I like looking good, but she's become hugely high maintenance and I hate high maintenance. 

As I said, she must always have a man.  About a year ago, she came to visit me.  (She lives about a 6 hour drive away.)  During this visit, she found out that her boyfriend of about three years (who was a complete douchebag the one time I met him), cheated on her.  I will not go into the details about how she found out about this and all of the drama that ensued, but trust me when I say that it was seriously fucked up.  Like, crazy.  I openly questioned her sanity to her.  She blew me off.  So, all of this craziness ensued, she was here at my place, she spent most of the weekend on the phone with him fighting, fighting with the girl who had the sex with him, or crying, or whatever.  It was not a good weekend for me.  Not that it's all about me, but I hadn't seen her in awhile and I thought maybe we could have some fun like old times, but instead, the drama overwhelmed the visit.  When she left, I told her to end it with him pronto.  I had a long talk with her, given all the details I knew of their relationship, and told her to point blank end it and kick him out of her house.  (Yes, he fucking lives with her, in her house!)

Of course, she didn't.  She made up a ton of excuses why, none of which I bought, but whatever, it's her life.  I knew this was not going to end well.  So, here we are, a year later, and a few weeks ago at about one in the morning I get a teary voice message from her telling me that he "abandoned her."  (Please, they had no kids, weren't married, and she wasn't relying on him financially.  This is the drama that I'm talking about.  Truth be told, he probably pulled an invisible man because she is so dramafull now and he just wanted to get away.)  She wants to come see me.  Of course.  I'm too good a friend.  So, I told her to come out, whenever.  I have no set in stone plans coming up.  So, she tells me she'll come out for Halloween weekend, because she wants to give herself a few weeks to cry and all that before she comes out, so we can have fun.  Okay, great.  In fact, perfect.  I do not want to have to deal with phone calls to him all weekend again. 

Then, yesterday I get a message from her saying she wants to come next weekend instead.  Okay, fine, whatever.  Then she tells me that she "has a date" and that's why she wants to come this weekend.  Of course.  This is what I'm talking about.  It's not that she wants to see me, it's that she has a date with God knows who in Chicago and needs a place to crash.  She's done this before.  During the three years that I lived in Los Angeles and begged her to come out and visit, she "couldn't afford it," but she could afford to visit some dude in San Francisco who she met on vacation.  She also visited a guy in Boston during that time.  She regularly travels around the country to meet up with men she meets on vacation, but, she couldn't find the money to visit me when I lived in L.A.  (And I lived in Brentwood, so I was living it up and could've taken her out!)  She's still never been to L.A.

At any rate, she was like "you are invited to come."  What?  Um...I'd rather sit on my couch in a fleece pair of pajamas with a glass of wine than "accompany" you on your date.  If he's anything like the other guys she's made me meet when she's visited me over the years (yeah, she was also cheating) he is going to be (1) good looking; and (2) a complete douchebag.  That is her type.  I can't figure it out.  So, when I told her I'd pass, she threw me this text about "oh, it's just a couple of old friends from undergrad."  Okay, so (1) she won't tell me who it is; (2) she called it a date; and (3) what am I the placeholder for the friend who is married?  I'm not sure who this might be, since I keep in touch with most of our mutual friends from undergrad who live in Chicago, and the fact is, most of them are married.  So, I have no clue what she has going on, and why she wouldn't just tell me who it is.  Again, for the drama.  I swear to God, if it is with our friend D who just got engaged and was in love with her for years, I am going to fucking kill her.   

She told me to call her to find out all the details of the breakup and the "date."  Jesus, I'd rather kill myself.  I just told her to tell me when she is getting here on Friday, and that I get home from work around 7.

This will be interesting.   

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fantasy Football is so Stressful

Going into tonight's game, my team was up by nine points.

My opponent was playing Ladanian Tomlinson (Jets RB), we had Adrian Peterson (Minn RB) and Santonio Holmes (Jets WR).  I thought we pretty much had the game won, even though Tomlinson went out of control last week for over a hundred yards and two touchdowns.  After all, that was against the Bills, who are the worst team in the NFL, and we have All Day.  (Adrian Peterson.)  I wasn't sure how Santonio Holmes would do this week, since he is just coming off suspension, but we played him over Sims-Walker just because I thought he might blow it out of the water his first week back in the game.  (Yeah, we drafted him and Ben R, two guys on suspension.  I don't care, I just want playmakers.)

Tomlinson was pretty much on fire every time Sanchez gave him the ball from the getgo.  This made me very, very nervous throughout the first half.  I almost turned off the game.  The last thing I wanted was to see him hit the end zone and land six points.  He kept finding gaps that shouldn't have been there and ran, ran, ran.  Between him and Shonn Green, they are the running game for the Jets.  Stress.  To make matters worse, the Vikings offense was awful during the first half, and Peterson hadn't done much of anything, although he pretty much dominated what little offense the Vikings had.  And although Sanchez was targeting Holmes (which is good), he wasn't catching all of them, partly his fault, and partly Sanchez's fault for bad throws.  I need Holmes to catch the ball to get my points.  The Vikings came back in the second half, and luckily for me, All Day did also, so I racked up some points. But so did Tomlinson every time the Jets had the ball.

Although we never lost the lead, we could have easily lost it, so that stressed me out.  All that had to happen was for Tomlinson to find a gap and run it into the end zone, which he is fully capable of doing.  Every play I prayed for Sanchez to throw the ball (preferably to Holmes).  Or else I prayed for Shonn Green to be in instead of Tomlinson, since they alternate.  Luckily Green scored the rushing TD for the Jets, not Tomlinson.  We ended up winning by nine, exactly the lead we had coming into the game.  Both Peterson and Tomlinson got six points, so we evened each other out.  Holmes got 30 receiving yards, so no points in our league.  (Need fifty yards to get three points.)    At any rate, fantasy gets you so much more invested in these games.  It's bizarre to be praying for a rushing game or passing game and closely watching who gets the ball and what they do with it.  Nothing worse than seeing your wide receiver bobble a ball on a thirty something yard pass.

Best of all, we beat our boss, aka, founder of my firm.  Ha ha.  Although, our team beat him last year also.  Truth be told, I don't think he minds losing to the only female team in our league.  He roots us on, for the most part.  And he was without his Steelers defense this week and some of his other good Steelers players, so, he was at a disadvantage.  But, we all have bye weeks to deal with, is what it is.

So, we're 4-1, only one of two teams in the league to be 4-1 (we are the team that beat that other team), and the best record in the league.  Also, my team scored 78, so I am going to donate $390 to breast cancer, $5 a point.  Honestly I though my team would do better this week, so maybe I'll do it again next week.  God knows I need the tax deductions.  (I could of course just donate a chunk of money to breast cancer, but it's more fun this way, in determining the amount.  What can I say, I'm a gambler.)

Guess What I Got to See Today?

Lord Stanley's Cup, in person, at the United Center.  I even got to touch it and got my picture taken with it.  Pretty cool!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Twilight Obsessed on Facebook

I think I've mentioned before that I'm friends on Facebook with a number of people from high school.  There is one woman in particular, who I will call R, who I truly have no idea why I'm friends with her.  We graduated from high school at the same time, but weren't really friends in high school.  I think I accepted her friend request when I was fairly new to Facebook and not as picky about who I let into my little Facebook world. 

At any rate, R has proven to be a highly entertaining Facebook friend.  90% of her status updates (and there are at least a few a day) are centered around the Twilight books and movies.  She takes every quiz about Twilight (like Who is Your Boyfriend From Twilight?  Are you a Bella? What kind of Vampire are you?etc.), constantly posts mini love poems to Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson, and generally goes on and on about how wonderful Twilight is, how much she wants to marry Robert Pattinson or Edward, and how she wishes she was a vampire.  As a reminder, she and I graduated from high school together in 1992, so she is around 36 years old.  There is also nothing mentally wrong with her, unless something has happened since high school that I don't know about.  This has been going on for at least six months.  I know nothing else about her except that she is obviously obsessed with Twilight, because that's all she ever posts about.

This is today's status:
If you could live forever, what would you live for? -Twilight Saga
This made me laugh so hard.  Seriously?

Here's one from the other day:
I wanna be Mrs. Cullen or Mrs. Black so friggin bad.  Get all of the twilight stuff I've never had...
And another:
Wonders if the Twilight saga will become the new Romeo and Juliet and thousands of English classes will study it 20 years from now.
It's all just so entertaining, but really kind of bizarre.  I mean, my 11 year old niece posts this kind of stuff.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What to Do With "Expensive" Clothes You No Longer Want

I didn't grow up rich.  I grew up pretty much standard middle class.  I remember when Guess jeans first became popular.  I was in the 7th grade, and they were $40 a pair.  At the time, that was an absurd price for jeans.  My mom was shocked that I would want such expensive jeans, but I did, all for that upside down triangle with the question mark inside on the back pocket.  I had to have those jeans.  So, she bought them for me for Christmas, and I wore the same pair to school every single day.  I never wanted for food or shelter, and my mom wanted me to be "in," so she could usually be convinced to buy some latest fashion trend, but it wasn't out of control.  Like I said, I wore the same pair of jeans every day.

Anyway, it really wasn't until I became a lawyer that I could buy more "designer" brand clothing.  Not "premier designer," but designer.  Like, Marc by Marc Jacobs versus Marc Jacobs.  Michael by Michael Kors versus Michael Kors.  You know the drill.  The "lower end but still pretty expensive" brands from the premier designers.  And still, usually, I bought them on sale.  It was a long time before I could bring myself to spend more than $100 on a dress, unless it was a dress that was so me that I absolutely had to own it.  Luckily, that does not happen very often.

Over the past six years I've gotten over this, somewhat.  I still don't own any "premier designer" clothing, but I do own quite a collection of $300-400 dresses, some of which I got for half off, some of which I paid full price.  There's a barrier that you have to get over, and damn it's hard.  Looking at a pricetag on a dress that is in the four digits or even high three digits still makes me run away.  I haven't reached the level in shoes.  I see Christian Louboutin's and I think "oh, beautiful," but then I think "$800 for a pair of shoes, are you kidding me?"  I can now easily spend $250 on a pair of shoes, but I haven't reached the next level.  I'm not sure I ever will, no matter how badly I want a pair of shoes with red soles.  It just seems so absurd to spend that much on shoes....oh, but they are so pretty.  Ugh.  Note:  I do not have this problem with purses.  No clue why, other than that I can use the purse every single day.  I'll easily drop four figures on a purse!

At any rate, and the point of this post, is that in going through my closet, I have five or six dresses that are good brands that I paid pretty good money for, that I either don't wear anymore, or I ended up never wearing.  (The never wore ones were bought on sale, luckily for a lot off purchase price, but are still $300 or so dresses originally.)  Four of them still have the tags on.  (I guess I never went to that imaginary cocktail party where I dreamed I would wear it, or never lost the five pounds I needed to wear it.)  I don't want them anymore, but it's hard to toss these types of dresses into the Salvation Army garbage bag.  I know people do this, given eBay, but I just can't do it.  My brain screams "You can't throw a $300 new with tags dress in a garbage bag and leave it to the people at Salvation Army to figure out what to do with it!"  So, I think what I might do is bring them into work and see if any of the girls there want them.  (Like I said, some are new with tags and nice brands!)  I really don't think that would be weird, but maybe it would?  

NFL Breast Cancer Awareness Month - Donate Based on Fantasy Points, Inspired by Larry Fitzgerald

There's lots of pink going on in the NFL this month.  I find it totally amusing to see all the big, strong men wearing pink chinstraps, gloves, and shoes.  But it's all for a good cause -- breast cancer.

My aunt had breast cancer, a double masectomy, and made it through.  That was about fifteen years ago.  Doctors told her she had a year to live, and she believed them, so she quit her job (a few years short of full pension) and tried to live her life the best she could through what she thought would be her final days.  As I said, we are now fifteen years later and she is alive and kicking and doing great!

Also, one of my friends from law school got breast cancer at age 28.  She had a tough couple of years, but is now doing great, no sign of cancer for three years. 

I just can't imagine.  I've been blessed with health.

At any rate, Larry Fitzgerald, wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals is doing the following:
That is why, in honor of the NFL’s campaign, Fitzgerald will donate $1,000 for every catch and an additional $5,000 for every TD he makes in the month of October to breast cancer awareness. It began last week with his seven-catch outing in San Diego.
I can't match him, but I am going to donate $5 for each point my fantasy team scores this week.  I'm 3-1, so my team is pretty good.  Let's hope they all score out of the wazoo this week! 

Friday, October 8, 2010

My Clothes Are Talking to Me

The Big Closet Cleanout of Fall 2010 is finally happening...right now!  Ha ha.

I'm got two garbage bags for the Salvation Army so far, and I think at the end of the evening it will be three.  Not too bad.  All I have left to do is switch out my summer skirts for my winter skirts, and go through all of them.  I should also go through my workout clothes/pajamas (since many double for both!) and weed out some more there.  I'll leave The Great Shoe Weedout of Fall 2010 for another day.  

It's kind of amazing what a difficult task getting rid of clothing can be.  Why?  Because every single piece of clothing in my closet is attached to a memory.  It doesn't matter if the tags are still on it, I can remember buying it and why.  Bizarre.

This is what my clothing was saying to me tonight:

"I'm super cute...but not on you...anymore."  Donate.

"I was cute on you five years ago, but now you are too old for me."  Donate.

"I'm not faded, it's just the lighting in here!"  Donate.

"I would be super cute on you if you lost five pounds."  Hesitate and keep, for now.

"You wore me when you did X, Y, or Z.  Doesn't that count for anything?"  Sometimes.

"You've had me since at least 2001.  Doesn't that count for anything?"  No.  Donate.

"You could wear me to a club."  But...I don't really go to clubs anymore.  But what if I get forced to go to a club by my old college roommate who always makes me go to a club when she visits?  Hesitate and keep a few club options, just in case.

"If you get rid of me, you have to get rid of the top that goes with me."  Depends.

"Why haven't you worn me in three years?  Look at how cute I am!"  You're right, you are cute!  I forgot I had you!  Keep.

"Even though you wore me a few times, you never really liked me, did you?"  Donate.

"Even though you wore me a few times, I never quite fit right, did I?"  Donate.

"Even though you wear me constantly, I know you are tired of me."  Eh, keep.

"Don't you remember buying me when you were on vacation?  You can't get rid of me!"  Depends.

"You love me!  You look so hot in me!"  Yes I do!  Keep.

"You hate pantsuits, but you need at least a couple in your closet, just in case."  Yep, keep.

"You can't get rid of me!  I'm a St. John!"  Yep, keep.

"Do you even remember how much you paid for me and how much you loved me at the time?"  Of course.  Keep.

"But you have to have turtlenecks in black, gray, burgundy, and red, right?"  Absolutely.  Keep.

"You also need turtlenecks in green, blue, pink, and purple!"  Some of you can stay.

And on and on and on.

Fun task, this.  And now my bedroom smells like lemon scented garbage bags.  (I can't believe I accidentally bought the lemon scent.  Ugh!  Who likes these?)

The Thrill is Gone With Jersey Shore

It was bound to happen sooner or later, given the shelf life of most reality shows. I loved Jersey Shore the first season, and found it hilariously amusing, but the second season has fallen flat. Last night I think it officially jumped the shark.

The episodes in the second season have followed the same formula, which has gotten old and depressing. There is nothing new to see here, and the second a joke or line is found funny by the masses, it is overplayed to the point of annoyance. (“T-shirt time” anyone? Grenades, anyone? “Cabs are here!” anyone?) The fact is, what we are really watching each week is a bunch of people in their twenties getting wasted, going clubbing, picking up women and men, and grudgingly going to work at a gelato shop. While there have been some funny comments this season, mostly from the participants’ “talking heads,” last night’s episode really lost me, and may have lost me for good as a viewer.

It had all of the token scenes that have encompassed episodes of Season 2: Snooki shuffling around the house in dirty slippers with her ass hanging out of a too short dress, Snooki getting flat out wasted with her eyemakeup smeared down her face, Snooki emitting her dolphin pitched whine when she doesn’t get her way, Sammi picking at her eyelashes and eyebrows and patting her hair while displaying permanent bitchface, Ronnie acting like an ass to Sammi, and Sammi putting up with it, Vinny trying to pick up women, Pauly D yelling out “T-shirt time” or “Cabs are here” and popping his eyes out in horror at what is going on around him, The Situation lifting his shirt to show his abs, lowering his sunglasses inside the club to peer over them at the camera, acting like a legitimate jackass in front of throngs of women, cleaning the kitchen, cooking food for the rest of the house, and J-Wow trying to dance while wearing an outfit suitable for a hooker, patting her hair extensions, and acting tough. It also had the standard trip to the beach, gym, laundromat, and tanning salon, a friend from out of town visiting, a trip to the club, a fight between one or more of the roommates, and a quick scene of one or more of them serving gelato.

In short, it should have been nothing more than a typical Jersey Shore episode, but for some reason it was more than that. How many episodes of the exact same thing over and over again can viewers stand? What struck me for the first time last night is how depressing it all seems, and how depressed they all seemed to be there. They are stuck in a house with no television, no Internet, and one landline phone. The house is a mess and no one except The Situation seems to care. They are all sharing bedrooms with twin sized beds and disgusting bedding. The house just looks dirty. They all use one room to “smoosh.” Everyone is constantly crawling into bed in the middle of the day. They are likely forced to hang out together and come and go together, for the benefit of the show. I mean, do these people even like each other? A few of them seem to get along fine, but this is not the “family” from season 1 anymore, no matter how many times they try to tell us it is. There is a huge disconnect that was not there in season 1, and everything that made season 1 entertaining seems to have fallen by the wayside. It’s also possible I’m just getting tired of these people, or am too old to find the continual drama entertaining.

Or part of it may be my disbelief at the big picture. It’s hard to forget that they are all making thousands per episode to essentially sit around and act like idiots and stir up drama. Given MTV’s ratings for the show, that payment is tolerable to me. After all, if MTV is making a lot of money off them, they deserve to be compensated. What bothers me more as this season progresses are all of the other perks that have resulted from their appearance on the show. While watching Snooki stuff herself like a sausage into a minidress and emit high pitched squeals, I’m reminded in the back of my head that this idiot probably makes more money than I do. She’s admitted to reading only two books in her lifetime (one of them Twilight), yet she got a book deal to write a novel. While watching J-Wow push up her fake boobs in a dangerously low cut dress suitable for a streetwalker, I’m reminded that she is releasing her own line of fashions, Filthy Couture. Ronnie and J-Wow also got a book deal. The Situation ends up on Dancing With the Stars. Pauly D gets his own reality show, focusing on his DJing skills. Rumors are that Snooki and J-Wow are also getting other reality shows. Sammi reportedly wants to get into fashion design, and likely someone will give her the opportunity. All of them make thousands just to show up at a club or other event.

You stop and think about people who actually work hard for their money through brains, ambition, or talent and it’s hard to watch people like this get a free pass into the world of glamour. How many washed up “stars” would love to be on Dancing With the Stars? How many struggling fashion designers and writers would love to be given the opportunity that these clowns have been given? How many people would love to be able to attend the VMAs and other awards shows? I suppose good for them, right? But something about it really does rub me the wrong way, particularly since people like this have become “role models.”

If they were all still likeable to watch, it would be much easier to tolerate, and I probably wouldn't even mind.  But…as the season goes on, each of them has become more and more unlikeable. Hearing about Snooki getting arrested and going to the hospital for alcohol poisoning doesn’t help matters.  Watching Vinny act like an imbecile also doesn't help.  Nor does watching J-Wow constantly pick fights and act like a tough girl.  The Situation still can throw out a line or two here and there, but his actions on last night's show were abhorrent.   Ronnie and Sammi are possibly the most dysfunctional couple I've seen on television, and are uncomfortable to watch.  Maybe this show should have gotten a new cast for season 2, because the more I get to know these people, the less I like them, and the less funny their behavior seems. It's all just so…dare I say…pathetic and forced. It will be interesting to see how season 3 fares in the ratings, which I understand just finished shooting back in the Jersey Shore.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

At Long Last, Some Shopping

I complained a month or two ago that I needed to go shopping.  Today I got these:

Donna Morgan

Also Donna Morgan

Nanette Lepore

All of these can do double duty as work dresses and going out and having fun dresses, and are the first clothing type item I've bought (for myself) since April.  Can't believe I've gone this long without a shopping fix!

I love dresses!

I also intend to clean out my closet this weekend, finally.

Forbes' 100 Most Powerful Women List is Ridiculous

Forbes has published its “100 Most Powerful Women” in the world list.

At number 1 is Michelle Obama.

Excuse me for a moment while my jaw hits the ground. The most powerful woman in the entire world is a woman who has no job?  (First Lady is an unpaid title.) She has no ability to make or change law. Her biggest influence appears to be in the world of fashion, since 90% of the articles I see about her focus on what she is wearing. This woman, who is on the list because of the man she married, ranked ahead of Nancy Pelosi, Hilary Clinton, the CEO of Kraft, the Chancellor of Germany, three Supreme Court Justices, Queen Elizabeth II, the President of Argentina, the President of Iceland, the Queen of Jordan, the President of Costa Rica, and the President of Liberia. Hell, she ranked ahead of Oprah and Martha Stewart. What “power” can she possibly have, when by virtue of her position she has none? I can’t imagine how these “power ratings” could have been calculated.

The first definition of “power” in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary is “ability to act or produce an effect.” The second is “legal of official authority, capacity, or right.” How does Michelle Obama meet either of these definitions? Her big nutrition bill failed in the House of Representatives. Is that power? Is it because a bunch of people ran out and bought J. Crew coats for their daughters after seeing her daughters in them?

If the appearance of Michelle Obama at number 1 isn’t enough of a clue that this list is absurd (and heavily weighed in favor of women from the United States), women like Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Ellen Degeneres all rank higher than Nancy Pelosi. Love or her hate her, Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker of the House! I can ignore Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Ellen Degeneres (or any of the other celebrities on this list), but Nancy Pelosi does in fact have the power to directly affect my life. That is power, in my opinion. Of course, celebrities like Oprah, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Ellen can convince people to buy books, watch movies, and vote for certain candidates, but somehow that kind of power ranks lower to me than the people who can actually change the law, like Pelosi and the three female Supreme Court Justices on the list.

Of course, maybe that’s just because I’m a lawyer.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Nicky Diaz Santillan Only Seeks $6,000 in Back Wages

As you know, I’m all riled up over this Nicky Diaz Santillan/Meg Whitman/Gloria Allred drama. Last week I wondered What’s In It for Nicky Diaz Santillan?

Yesterday she, along with Gloria Allred, of course, gave yet another statement to the press. Apparently I wasn’t the only one wondering why she would come forward like this. Here is what she said:
“I knew the risk of speaking out and I was afraid for my family. Despite my fear, I decided to come out from the shadows, the shadows in which millions of people live every day,” she said. “It's not fair that we work hard and then get thrown away like garbage. We have families to support like you do. We are here. We need you just like you need us. Meg Whitman, don't say I was part of your family because you never treated me like I was."
All right, I am still confused.

Is she angry because she got fired for being illegal, even though she also appears to be arguing that she should have been fired much sooner?

Is she angry because Meg Whitman didn’t help her become legal, even though Meg Whitman had no duty to do so?

Is she angry that she made $23 an hour for nine years?

Is she angry she had to work hard for that $23 an hour for nine years?

Is she angry she’s illegal, even though she voluntarily put herself in that position?

Is she angry because life isn't fair sometimes?

Also from the linked article:
Diaz Santillan again refused to take questions from the media, and several questions remain about the woman’s emergence.
Of course she did.

And then this blog is reporting that the claim that was filed seeks $6,210 in back wages:
Allred seems to have arrived at this figure by estimating that Diaz Santillan worked 18 hours per week, but was only paid for 15 hours. She then took the balance of 3 hours per week, multiplied it by $23/hr., and and multiplied that by 21 months -- which is the total period that Diaz Santillan was employed by Whitman within the past three years.
Wow, I thought she was used and abused and horribly taken advantage of for years. Isn't that how the previous press conferences have made it sound?  But the claim is an extra three hours a week, that there is obviously no proof she even worked.  It's an estimate!  Three hours a week! Think about this for a second. She came forward and risked her status in this country for $6,210. It just makes no sense.

Oh, and she’s apparently also angry that Meg Whitman didn’t buy her a baby gift, send her a card, or check up on her during the eight months she was at home with the baby. Wait a second. Meg Whitman gave her eight months maternity leave and she’s complaining?  Isn't that a heck of a lot more than you are required to get under federal guidelines?  Also, it seems to me that Meg Whitman was probably pretty busy around that time…you know…running eBay.  Would it have been nice to send her a card or gift for the new baby?  Sure.  Was she obligated in any way, shape, or form to do so?  Of course not. 

So now I guess it's all about as clear as mud.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Random Thoughts on October 4

1.  I'm now 3-1 in my fantasy league.  My wide receivers SUCK.  thank God my running backs are making up for the slack.  Also, thank God Santonio Holmes is coming back in the game this week, because he will assuredly be starting in place of Mike Sims-Walker who is a big yawn this year.  For fantasy purposes, I don't care why Santonio Holmes was suspended.  I just care that he can play ball.  Ditto for Ben R, who is returning this week and is currently on my bench.  I just want the points and I want to win.  And I am now one of three teams who are 3-1.  Go girls!

2.  My aunt and uncle and their granddaughter (my cousin's daughter) make a yearly trip to Chicago in early December each year for Christmas shopping and American Girl store and all that.  Since I live here, we all meet up for dinner on Friday night and then go to a show.  It's fun and nice to see them.  However, I have to pick out the restaurant.  This is more difficult than you would think, because my aunt is the pickiest eater on earth.  She will send things back.  Also, they are from the Midwest, so they don't like sushi or anything weird like that.  So, I have to take a great deal of time to figure this out.  My aunt can't do any sort of fixed price menus because she might not like what they give her, so that rules out a lot of the really nice restaurants.  So, here is the scorecard since they have started this visiting of me every year:  Hugo's Frog Bar (my uncle loved it, she did not; Hugo's is awesome, in my opinion); Vivere (everyone loved it); Joe's Stone Crab (everyone loved it); Catch 35 (everyone loved it).  So basically, I am 3 out of 4 so far.  I have to keep this up.  The problem is that I like them to meet me at a restaurant somewhat near the theatre so we can walk over, and I'm starting to run out of restaurants in the Loop.  (We did Joe's when we went to a show out at the Rosemont.)  I'm also open to a restaurant near The Drake, where they stay.  So, I'm exploring what new nice restaurants I would like to go to!  Initially I was terrified to take them to a place I hadn't been, but now I don't care.  If it gets good reviews and sounds good to me, we're going!

3.  I never really watched How I Met Your Mother.  But now that the repeats are on Lifetime and I am DVRing them, wow, I love this show.  I'm even recording the first run episodes now over Dancing with the Stars with The Situation!  What I like about this show is Neil Patrick Harris and the guy who plays Ted.  They are just awesome actors.  I didn't initially watch this show because I hate, hate Allison Hannigan.  God, I hated her as Willow, and I still kind of hate her, but she is better as Lily on this show.  She's bearable, at least, but she still has that sort of dumb, vacant look about her.  But ultimately better than her portrayal as Willow.  This show has the conversations and issues that I have had with my friends, and the same kinds of fucked up contests and stuff that goes on in my life.  It's totally amazing, and I love it for it.  And I love that Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie!) is an out gay man playing a total womanizer, and playing it totally convincingly.  Go Barney!  Legend - dary.  This show seriously rocks.  I look forward to the reruns on my DVR when I get home at night.

4.  I also watched the first two eps of Detroit-187 on my DVR over the weekend, because I am intrigued since I am from the DRC.  (Detroit Rock City.)  Well, I'm from the 'burbs, of course, because I didn't grow up in the hood or anything like that.  But I worked downtown for awhile after college (and I saw George Clooney down there when he was shooting Out of Sight, sitting one table away from me at a restaurant, and let me just tell you, if you thought he was hot in a photo, he is a hundred million times more hot in person), off one of the big old buildings off Woodward.  I also worked in the Ren Cen when it was controlled by Ford.  Yeah, it's been awhile.  But I know my DRC downtown, and Greektown, and Mexican Village and all that.  So, it's cool to have a cop show -- finally -- in Detroit.  And the show is pretty decent.  I like it.  I think it's pretty on par with The Shield or Southland.  Or it has potential to be.  Just keep it on the air long enough, please!  Except that in the pilot they said "soda."  No one in Detroit says "soda."  We all say "pop."  We also say "party store" as opposed to "convenience store." 

5.  My niece sent me the sweetest thank you note for her (hugely late from me) birthday gift.  God, I love it that kids don't hate you for being late like I was.  She loved her gift and she loved the card (which was one of those cards that talked and the whole thing about it was about how late it was cute).  I don't mean to be an ass to my nieces and nephews, honestly.  I have their gifts, they just sometimes get them a little late.  And you know what (this is me rationalizing it) maybe it's a little more fun to get a gift two months after your birthday when you aren't expecting it, right?  Eh, I'll do better next year.  At least they are getting a gift, right?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Why People Fail the Bar Exam

Bar exam results came in on Friday in Illinois.  All three of our new associates passed, so hurray for them.  One of our clerks (who, for reasons beyond me, opted to remain a clerk rather than do actual lawyer work while he was in law school and working at our firm, but I won't get into my frustration about that), did not pass.  I like D a lot and think he is a great guy.  But I can tell you exactly why he didn't pass the bar.

The bar exam covers an obscene amount of material.  You have to know about criminal law, tort law, constitutional law, contract law, corporate law, agency law, partnership law, family law, estate law, property law, securities law, and on and on and on.  Within each of those areas of law are a number of different causes of action, crimes (criminal law), laws, rules, and other things to know.  For example, in criminal law alone you have to know the elements of the crime for at least the following:  first degree murder, second degree murder, felony murder, involuntary manslaughter, voluntary manslaughter, rape, larceny, larceny by trick, embezzlement, conspiracy, assault, battery, and all of the various iterations thereto.  You also have to know the various defenses, like self defense, insanity, intoxication (not a defense usually), consent, etc.  This is a highly summarized view of one area of law. 

There is just a lot to learn memorize. 

The learning process takes time.  This is why Barbri (the preeminent bar review course) starts in May, right after you graduate from law school.  It goes until the end of June, and then you are on your own for the month of July, up until you take the bar at the end of July.  You almost have to take Barbri, because Barbri tells you exactly what you need to know to pass the exam.  The amount of material is so great, that to do it on your own is absurd and wholly overwhelming. 

The vast amount of material covered on the bar exam will likely be useless to you in your career, but you have to plant yourself down and do it.  Review, review, review.  Memorize.  To do this takes a lot of time.  This isn't a test most people can cram for in two weeks.  There is just too much information.  (By the time you are taking the bar exam, most people are three years removed from contract law, constitutional law, tort law, and criminal law classes.)  From July 1 on, you should be spending 8-10 hours a day solely devoted to studying for the bar exam and doing practice tests.  This doesn't include the 4 hours a day you spent at Barbri during the end of May and all of June.  The bar exam is not a difficult test, but you have to know the material, and the only way to know the material is to take the time to study.  I probably spent at least 300 hours studying for the bar exam. 

D crammed for it in two weeks.  I know this because he worked at my firm up until two weeks before the bar exam, even though we all told him starting July 1 that he should be studying full time.  He also went out a lot.  I understand wanting to party after you get through law school, but he went out 3-4 times a week, went to a number of Cubs games, while working full time through May, June, and most of July.  That does not leave a lot of time to study for the bar exam.  I also hadn't realized this, but he didn't do Barbri because he "couldn't afford it."  (I think Barbri costs around $2000, but it is highly, highly worth it.  They tell you everything you need to know to pass.)  He got some Kaplan books (another bar review course) for free off someone else, and was using those to study.  I have no idea what the Kaplan course is like, and I'm sure it's fine, but....the "I can't afford it" excuse doesn't fly with me, and here's why.   

He could afford to go out many nights a week during the summer, before graduation, and over the past year.  I mean, this kid goes out a lot.  He's got a PDA, numerous video games, DVDs, etc.  He was going to Cubs games.  He was going out to eat.  None of that is free.  He made a choice, in my opinion.  Maybe that's why he was also working for so long, I don't know.  At minimum he could've bought a used set of Barbri books from February's exam off of eBay and worked off that.  (I mean, the content doesn't change a whole lot.)  He just made no effort.  None.  The sad part is that because he made the choice to spend his money on going out and other fun things, that he now is in a holding pattern until February, the next time he can take the bar.  One of the partners at my firm has graciously offered to pay for him to take Barbri, which is very nice of him.  But D could have found a way to pay for Barbri, if he had made some sacrifices in the personal realm over the last year. 

Don't think I and many other attorneys at my firm didn't explain all of this to D starting in May, because we did.  You have to put in the time.  It's boring and it sucks, but you have to do it.  This means you won't see the light of day for the month of July, but it's worth it, because without passing the bar, you have no license to practice law.  And isn't that what going to law school is all about?  I'm not trying to be a jerk, because I feel awful for D.  Just awful.  I mean, he cried when he told us on Friday.  It's devastating, not to mention embarrassing, to not pass this exam.  So, this post is my advice on how not to go through the devastation he went through.  Suck it up, pay for Barbri, make some personal sacrifices, and you'll be fine.  You only need a D to pass this thing.  I just hope he passes in February. 

The Blind Side

I read the book this movie is based on (also called The Blind Side) a few months ago and really enjoyed it.  The book, while discussing Michael Oher's story, also talks in depth about the development of the importance of the left tailback position in protecting the quarterback's blind side.  I find that kind of thing pretty fascinating.  In fact, I read a lot of sports nonfiction.  As a woman, it's kind of nice to dream.  Despite all of the advancements we've made as women, one thing I could never have done with my life, talented or not, was become a pro football player.  So, I live vicariously through books about football.  Another good one is John Feinstein's Next Man Up, where he followed the Baltimore Ravens around for a year.  And terrible or not, I have to admit that I would not watch a women's NFL league, just as I don't like watching the WNBA.    

At any rate, this was a movie I wanted to see in the theatre, but never got around to it, even though it was at the theatres for what felt like forever.  So, as I tend to do, I waited for it to show up on cable.  It wasn't surprising that I liked it a lot.  It was also very difficult to not get teary eyed.  Sandra Bullock was very good.  I'm not sure about Oscar-worthy good, but I was happy she won an Oscar, because I think she (like most actors who tend to do comedies over gut wrenching dramas) is underrated as an actress.  (I mean, Miss Congeniality has some of the most hilarious moments I've ever seen in a movie, all due to her comedic timing.)  Seriously, why don't good comedic actors ever get Oscars for appearing in a comedy?  Why does it always have to be a stupid drama?   

Anyway.  Michael Oher's story is very interesting when you stop to think about how his life should have turned out and the string of events that led him to the Touhys home, which in turn vaulted him into graduating from high school, getting a ton of college scholarship offers, and ultimately ended up in a first round draft pick by the Baltimore Ravens.  None of those things should have happened for him, given his situation.  And there are plenty of young, black, talented althletes who grew up in a similar project-ridden and crappy situation who don't end up where he did, even though their childhoods mirror his, because they didn't have what he ended up having.  But, there are also some who beat the odds and do.  (Michael Vick, anyone?)

What strikes me most about the movie (and the book) is how important it is for a kid to have (1) a consistent place to sleep every night; (2) an adult taking in interest in their education; and (3) an adult taking an interest in them period.  Michael Oher had none of these things before he moved in with the Touhys.  I give them a lot of credit.  Not many people would take in a 6'5" 300 pound black kid from the projects and essentially make him their son.       

It totally is the ultimate of "feel good" stories.  And it's true!  I hear Michael Oher is releasing his own book to tell his side of the story, and the Touhys are also releasing a book about their side of the story, and I will probably also read those.  (They were all interviewed for The Blind Side, but I guess they have more to say.)  I read that Michael Oher was kind of upset that the movie portrayed him as "dumb," even though I didn't think it did.  They clearly said in the movie that he was not dumb, that he just hadn't been given the tools to learn as a kid because he missed so much school.  Mostly, though, I would like to read his book to find out what he is doing with all of the millions he is now making, and to find out whether he is supporting his mother or his 12 brothers and sisters in any way.  I wonder.

I can't find anything on the Internet about that.