Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Christian Louboutin Book! Merry Christmas to Me!

Look at what one of the secretaries got me for Christmas:

It is the Christian Louboutin book

And it is pure Heaven.  It appears to include photographs of every single shoe he has ever designed.

She knows me so well. 

I have the perfect place for it in my house, right next to this book, which is also amazing:

I love fashion books.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Gnomes on the Stairs

I'm not sure what is going on, but the resident condo gardener did not collect his accoutrements yet.  I was a little worried that some of them might crack or get ruined with the cold weather kicking in, so this happened:

I'm not really a gnome person, but they do look really cute out in the garden.  And now they are going to spend the winter inside my house.

(Yes, my steps need dusting.  I swear, my wood floors collect dust like nothing I've ever seen.  Would it have been smart to do it before I took the picture?  Yes, but I never professed to be smart about things like this.  At least I'm not trying to sell this picture on Etsy or something.)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Random Thoughts on December 16

1. I looked back and cannot believe I haven't mentioned the fabulousness that is my new couch from Pottery Barn. But first, the delivery. The guy walked in, looked at the clearance for my basement stairs and shook his head. Panic set in. I measured. I gave the measurements to the salesgirl at Pottery Barn. So, I was about to explode if it didn't fit. Of course, it did after a bit of effort and wall scuffing. I joked with the guy that I guess I can never move, and he just kind of nodded. (Why does my humor go unacknowledged like this?). Anyway, the couch. Actually, it is THE COUCH. Pottery Barn comfort square sectional with wedge. Down cushions. RIDICULOUS. I would lay on this couch every day for the rest of my life if I could. It is that comfortable. Get the down cushions, people! So worth the extra cost. I will have this couch forever. It's also very big and roomy--great for lounging around.

2. My sister's baby's heart ultrasound is next week at Mott. Not a regular ultrasound, but a very special one. We'll know by next week if the new baby's heart is in good shape, which, frankly it should be if you are an odds person. What happened with L was so rare. L would be turning 1 on the 20th, so this is all very hard on my sister. I really hope this ultrasound goes smoothly.

3. I got a whole bunch of deadlines put off until next year. Yes. Opposing counsel was surprisingly agreeable to letting us all celebrate Christmas and New Year's.

4. I got nothing unique for my mom this Christmas, wrecking my streak of thinking of random stuff. She got a zebra robe and zebra slippers and some other stuff. She loves animal print, and wears a robe around her house all the time over her clothes because she sets her thermostat at around 63 to save money. And her robes are so crappy, ugly, and old that I thought I would get her a robe that is more her, if you know what I mean. I know she will like it, even though I feel lame getting her a robe.

5. Lots of positive Facebook posts from H about class and finals, and a "one semester left" thing, so as I suspected, it's possible she overreacted about her clinical instructor. I'm afraid to ask, but it seems like she is confident about passing, so that's great.

6. I don't talk much about my brother, but as much as I love him, he is so weird. He sent me a panicked text last night asking me to retrieve him an American Girl Doll from the store here for his daughter for Christmas. I texted him back that he could just buy it online, because you could not pay me enough money to set foot in that store this close to Christmas. He was amazed that you could buy them online. I was like, dude, you can buy everything online nowadays. Love him, but duh.

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Can I Ask You a Question About Your Hair?

You're walking down the street, usually shopping bags in hand near State Street or Michigan Avenue, minding your own business, intently heading for the train or looking for a taxi, and BAM!

A seemingly friendly man stops you and asks "Can I ask you a question about your hair?"

The first time this happens, you might fall for it.  Your mind races,  you think "Oh, does my hair look good today?  Maybe he likes it!"  So, you say "Okay."

That's when he launches into a whole spiel about some salon and tries to hand you a coupon book.  In short, he is a panhandler or promoter of the worst kind and does not want to ask a question about your hair.  He just wants your money and wants you to buy coupons to a salon. 

Sometimes they will try to trick you and ask for directions like a clueless tourist before moving on to "Can I ask you a question about your hair?"  When they do this, it's easier to fall for, because you think "Oh, this person wants to know who my stylist is."  No, they don't.  They still want you to buy salon coupons.

At any rate, my response to the question now, after being tricked a couple of times into answering "Yes" and getting cornered by a book of coupons is a simple "No," and I keep right on walking. 

I don't know if these people exist anywhere but here, but beware if you visit Chicago.  If anyone wants to ask you a question about your hair, keep right on walking.

The Part Where Occupy Wall Street Demands Use of Private Property

After being unceremoniously kicked out of Zuccotti Park a month ago, the Occupy Wall Streeters have been sleeping in churches and other shelters throughout the city.

That just won’t do.

Trinity Wall Street, one of the churches who has provided facilities for the Occupiers in the fallout has now found themselves in the middle of OWS’s crosshairs. You see, Trinity owns a piece of land near Duarte Square Park, and OWS feels it is there right to camp out on that land. In fact, three OWSers launched a hunger strike in an attempt to force Trinity to allow them to set up an encampment. Needless to say, Trinity has declined. The hunger strikers have been arrested more than once for trespassing on Trinity’s land.

Trinity has offered a very well reasoned statement about why they don’t want to allow this:
There are no facilities at the Canal Street lot. Demanding access and vandalizing the property by a determined few OWS protesters won't alter the fact that there are no basic elements to sustain an encampment. The health, safety and security problems posed by an encampment here, compounded by winter weather, would dwarf those experienced at Zuccotti Park.

Calling this an issue of "political sanctuary" is manipulative and blind to reality. Equating the desire to seize this property with uprisings against tyranny is misguided, at best. Hyperbolic distortion drives up petition signatures, but doesn't make it right. Those arrested were not seeking sanctuary; they were seeking to be arrested. Trinity will continue our responsible outreach and pastoral services for all. We appreciate the many expressions of support we have received from so many in the community.
Call me crazy, but obviously Trinity doesn't want to deal with the potential liabilities or the filth.  If they did allow OWS to camp on their property, and someone got frostbite, hypothermia, or injured in some other way, who do you think would be held respondible?  Trinity.  It's their property, and it's their right to decide who they want to allow on the property.  OWS has for weeks been trying to convince Trinity otherwise, but Trinity has remained firm.

Now, OWS is talking about Occupy 2.0, where they intend to occupy Trinity's land tomorrow.

Here’s what one guy said:
“We need a space for assembly and a space for free speech,” protester Amin Husain, 36, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, told the Rev. Matt Heyd of Trinity. “We’re coming to you for sanctuary.”
Trinity gave them sanctuary.  They want more than that.  They want a campground.  Remember, this is a church who has provided them shelter, meeting rooms, bathrooms, and other facilities following the eviction from Zuccotti Park.  If this is how they treat an organization that has been -- for all intents and purposes -- sympathetic to their cause, I would hate to see what they would do to an unsympathetic organization.  And since when does any private party have to provide a space for assembly and free speech?

More importantly, why doesn't OWS use the hundreds of thousands of dollars they've raised to rent their own plot of land somewhere for an encampment?  If they do that, no one can evict them, no one can arrest them, and no one can stop them from doing whatever they want on their own property. 

Of course, that would mean paying for something rather than stealing from another person.

A number of other churches have gotten behind OWS in their demand for Trinity’s land, which seems pretty weak to me.  Why don't one of those other churches cough up some land for an OWS encampment.  It's easy to disparage one church from afar when you don't own the land at issue, won't be liable if anything goes wrong, and don't have to deal with the clean-up.

It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow.  I suspect a lot of arrests.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Value of Mistakes

I'm a big believer in learning by making mistakes. In my experience, you learn a hell of a lot more by screwing up. When you screw up, you never make the same mistake again.

So let me set up the scene. I've got a couple of cases with one young associate, who I will call C. About a month ago, I noticed that we had a whole bunch of stuff due in these cases starting around December 1 and going through the end of the month. C is crazy motivated and a good worker, by the way. I informed him then to let me or others on the case know what he wanted us to do as far as everything due. Yes, I'll take assignments from an associate. What does it matter? We are a team. We give motivated associates responsibility around my firm. At that time, C told me he would go through it and let me know.

I asked him a couple more times over the past few weeks, and sort of warned him that I didn't appreciate last minute dumping on. He assured me he had it under control. For a couple of things, he did, the work was good, and all was served smoothly.

However, when it came to our infringement contentions, due tomorrow (all right, it's after midnight, so now today), he did not. He sent them to me this morning, and after I finished the brief I was working on, I looked at them at around noon for the first time.

Infringement contentions are used to lay out our entire case. They are Very Important. I don't like getting a first draft of them from a newer associate the day before they are due. Partially my bad for not asking for it sooner, I'll admit. To be honest, I have so much other stuff going on, I kind of forgot about these. His work was not bad. In fact, many other partners I work with would've given him clearance to serve.

I am not those people. I am a crazy perfectionist. I'm ridiculous, I'll admit. But, don't put a hyperlink in a claim chart you are serving by PDF. Attach an exhibit. Make sure you aren't just putting in bullshit. You have to prove the contentions. Every single claim element. If you are unsure, ask the client. I want detail!

God. I spent about 7 hours redoing them while he was at a deposition. Then I gave them to him and told him, "I don't know what anyone else around here has told you, but this is how you do infringement contentions."

I was nice about it, and he felt horrible. He wanted to prove himself and show us he could do it on his own and totally misjudged the amount of work he had to do. This was like 60 pages of serious technical crap. I don't blame him, and I'm not mad at him at all. He's new, mistakes happen. No big deal. But I told him "This is why I asked you three weeks ago to tell me what you needed me to do. Doing infringement contentions properly is a ton of work." Lesson learned, young associate. He sent me an apology email tonight. I will reassure him tomorrow that I'm not mad, because I'm really not. I saw this coming, but I figured I'd let him sink and learn from it. He will never make this mistake again.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Breaking Down Obama's Speech in Kansas

President Obama gave a campaign speech yesterday in Kansas.  By listening to it, you wouldn't know that he's been President for the past three years.  Once again, he continues to raise the "class warfare" rhetoric.  But wait, I thought he was supposed to be the great uniter?  I thought he was going to bring both sides of the aisle together?  So much for that, I guess.  What did he say?  The full speech can be found here.  Let's break down parts of his speech:
[My grandparents] believed in an America where hard work paid off, and responsibility was rewarded, and anyone could make it if they tried -- no matter who you were, no matter where you came from, no matter how you started out. 
We still have that America, Mr. President.  Example #1:  Oprah Winfrey.
So you could [back then] have some confidence that if you gave it your all, you'd take enough home to raise your family and send your kids to school and have your health care covered, put a little away for retirement.
We still have that confidence, Mr. President.  The problem is that people feel they need more to simply raise their family.  They need big flatscreen televisions and iPhones and computers and designer clothes and a new car every three years.  They prioritize these types of items over things like retirement and health insurance.  Luxuries have become necessities in this day and age.
But for most Americans, the basic bargain that made this country great has eroded. Long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying off for too many people. Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefited from that success. Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and their investments -- wealthier than ever before. But everybody else struggled with costs that were growing and paychecks that weren't -- and too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt just to keep up.
Most Americans?  Really?  I don't believe that hard work has stopped paying off for "most" or "too many" people.  This is a dangerous road for the President to be traveling down, in my opinion.  Yes, those at the top made higher incomes.  That's the way life works.  The CEO of McDonalds and the franchise owners make more money than the guy flipping burgers at each franchise.  Should they be paid the same?  This isn't a fight about who works harder anymore.  Both may work hard, but in very different ways.  And those investments?  A risk.  The top could lose money on investments.  Also, regarding racking up debt, see my comment above about necessities versus luxuries. 
We all know the story by now:  Mortgages sold to people who couldn't afford them, or even sometimes understand them.
Whose fault is that?  Why were people taking out mortgages they couldn't afford or couldn't understand?  Is this all the bank's fault?  Remember, it was the federal government who decided that everyone should have the right to own a home, and forced the banks to give mortgages to people who probably shouldn't have had mortgages.  Shouldn't the people who were getting the mortgages have thought to themselves "Gee, I don't know if I can afford this?"  If they didn't understand what they were signing, shouldn't they have stopped and not signed it until they did understand?  Of course not, according to the President.  It was all the Big, Bad Banks fault.
Banks and investors allowed to keep packaging the risk and selling it off.  Huge bets -- and huge bonuses -- made with other people's money on the line.
Many of these people had no money on the line, since they were allowed to take out mortgages with little to no money down.  What money did they have on the line?
Regulators who were supposed to warn us about the dangers of all this, but looked the other way or didn't have the authority to look at all.

In fact, the Republicans warned about this happening back in the Clinton days, but the Democrats ignored them in their zeal to make life "fair" for everyone. 
It was wrong.  It combined the breathtaking greed of a few with irresponsibility all across the system. 
I'll raise him "a few."  Anyone who took out a home loan with 0 down was also being greedy.  They wanted a home, but they didn't have to work for it or save up any money to buy it.  Isn't that a little greedy?  And then when the market tanked and their home values dropped, and they wanted to sell, they turned it around and blamed the banks.  Greedy.
It claimed the jobs and the homes and the basic security of millions of people -- innocent, hardworking Americans who had met their responsibilities but were still left holding the bag.
This seems like a vast generalization to me.  Have all of those "innocent, hardworking Americans" met their responsibilities?  Wait a second...didn't he just say they took out mortgages they couldn't afford or understand?  Is that meeting their basic responsibility?  I think not.  I have no doubt that there are certainly innocent, hardworking Americans out there who got screwed by the system or screwed by vast medical bills or unexpected job losses, but let's not pretend that those are the majority.
[The debate over how to restore growth and prosperity has] left Washington in a near-constant state of gridlock. 
You mean the debate between tax the hell out of a subset of people versus cutting federal spending?  That debate?
Because what's at stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, secure their retirement.
In this country you can do all of those things still, provided you act responsibly and draw a line between necessities and luxuries.  What is a "modest" savings?  What does "secure their retirement" mean?  How much money?  
Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who seem to be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that's happened, after the worst economic crisis, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for way too many years. And their philosophy is simple: We are better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.
Earth to President Obama:  The government got us into this mess in the first place.  The party you keep criticizing wants to make the federal government smaller.  It wants the federal government out of businesses (like the auto industry) that it has no business being in and no Constitutional authority to be involved in.  Did you see the million dollars that some broadband Internet show was given as part of the stimulus package?  I mean, what?  Why is the government involved in the entertainment industry?  Every day there are news articles about the millions or billions of dollars that are simply wasted by the government.  Yes, Mr. President, we want to go back to when the government wasn't a bloated, wasteful, spending mess with no accountability.  We want a government that doesn't allow Congress to go for nearly three years without passing a budget.  We want our government to do their jobs and nothing more.
I'm here in Kansas to reaffirm my deep conviction that we're greater together than we are on our own. 
Code language for:  I'm going to take away from the producers and give to those who don't produce.
I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules. 
Oh, good gravy.  I'd like definitions on "fair shot," "fair share," and "same rules."  This actually is a country where anyone can do anything.  While someone was majoring in Art History and pontificating in a cafe about Van Gogh, Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook.  Do some people start out more disadvantaged?  Yes.  Blame their parents.  The government simply cannot afford to take care of everyone.  Regarding "fair share," no one who says it will ever define what that means.  To me, it means equal.  I pay the same taxes as anyone else, or at least the same percentage.  Doesn't that sound fair?  Shouldn't we all have some skin in the game?  Regarding everyone doing their fair share, how about this -- I agree to not vandalize anything, commit any crimes, and abide by the laws of society.  You do the same.  Sound good?  Also, last I checked, we are all playing by the same rules, aren't we?  Isn't that why we have laws?  If someone is breaking the laws, have them arrested.  (Unless of course, it is Occupy Wall Street, who seems to be able to get away with not getting permits like every other organization who wants to protest has to do.) 
But today, we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what [Teddy Roosevelt] fought for in his last campaign:  an eight-hour work day and a minimum wage for women -- (applause) -- insurance for the unemployed and for the elderly, and those with disabilities; political reform and a progressive income tax. 
What is this eight hour work day of which he speaks?  Oh, right, that only applies to unions.
Over the last few decades, huge advances in technology have allowed businesses to do more with less, and it's made it easier for them to set up shop and hire workers anywhere they want in the world. 
What's next, banning technology?  Banning the Internet?  Oh, and I think some of these government regulations and tax rates have also had a big hand in helping businesses move to other places in the world.  And let's not forget that the majority of the "hardworking Americans" don't seem to want to go to college for STEM majors because they are too hard, leaving a lot of companies left with no other choice but to go elsewhere.
And if you're somebody whose job can be done cheaper by a computer or someone in another country, you don't have a lot of leverage with your employer when it comes to asking for better wages or better benefits, especially since fewer Americans today are part of a union. 
Now he's courting the unions.  I'm sorry, but if your job can be done cheaper by a computer or a person somewhere else, should you have great negotiation leverage?  This is a huge part of the reason why the U.S. automakers have gotten screwed by the unions.  And why is this any of the government's business?
If we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes -- especially for the wealthy -- our economy will grow stronger.  Sure, they say, there will be winners and losers.
Ooh -- especially for the wealthy!  He's going all in.
Remember in those years, in 2001 and 2003, Congress passed two of the most expensive tax cuts for the wealthy in history. 
I guess he's not going to talk about the excessive spending the Democratic controlled Congress has forced on us since 2007, or about how they are incapable of passing a budget.  Oh no, it's all the GOP's fault.
Remember that in those same years, thanks to some of the same folks who are now running Congress, we had weak regulation, we had little oversight, and what did it get us? Insurance companies that jacked up people's premiums with impunity and denied care to patients who were sick, mortgage lenders that tricked families into buying homes they couldn't afford, a financial sector where irresponsibility and lack of basic oversight nearly destroyed our entire economy.
I wonder if he's including the Democrats who are still running Congress.  Ooh and those poor people were tricked into buying homes!  Tricked!  Those are fighting words.  Then again, why make anyone take responsibility for anything?
We simply cannot return to this brand of “you're on your own” economics if we're serious about rebuilding the middle class in this country. 
No, we are going to rebrand it as "the government will take care of your every need and you don't have to take any responsibility for your life."  Is that really the direction we want to go?
Now, this kind of inequality -- a level that we haven't seen since the Great Depression -- hurts us all.  When middle-class families can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that businesses are selling, when people are slipping out of the middle class, it drags down the entire economy from top to bottom. 
He must have missed the part where we just had the biggest Black Friday in history.  Or about how well Apple is doing.  It seems to me that middle-class famiiles are having no trouble affording the goods and services they want.  Whether they need them is a different story entirely.
Inequality also distorts our democracy.  It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and it runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder. 
So, he's saying that both he and Congress are incapable of turning down campaign contributions or ignoring the high-priced lobbyists?  Of course people are going to game the system -- we depend on our government to be above that, which he is clearly admitting they aren't.  Is he selling out our democracy to the highest bidder when he goes to these $30,000 a plate fundraisers for the elite?  Maybe he should cancel those and show us that he actually supports not distorting our democracy in this way.
This kind of gaping inequality gives lie to the promise that's at the very heart of America:  that this is a place where you can make it if you try.
 I think it actually gives more proof to that promise.  You can be in the 1% if you try.  You can't do that in China.
We tell people -- we tell our kids -- that in this country, even if you're born with nothing, work hard and you can get into the middle class. We tell them that your children will have a chance to do even better than you do. That's why immigrants from around the world historically have flocked to our shores.
I guess things have gotten so awful here that the immigrants have stopped coming.
It's heartbreaking enough that there are millions of working families in this country who are now forced to take their children to food banks for a decent meal.  But the idea that those children might not have a chance to climb out of that situation and back into the middle class, no matter how hard they work? 
Show me a kid in poverty who worked hard, had a part time job, got straight As in school, participated in school activities, and did not get into any trouble who could not fight their way into the middle class.  I'm serious.  Show me one. 
We need to remember that we can only do that together.  It starts by making education a national mission -- a national mission.
Tell me again where education is in the Constitution, because I can't remember.  Oh, right, it's supposed to be a state issue.  Guess the Constitutional law professor forgot that one.
In this economy, a higher education is the surest route to the middle class. 
Actually, you can get there quite well through trades such as electricians, plumbers, auto mechanics, etc. also.  But that doesn't help the colleges get more tuition money, now does it?  Oh, and you might have to get dirty if you do those jobs.
We shouldn't be making it harder to afford college -- we should be a country where everyone has a chance to go and doesn't rack up $100,000 of debt just because they went. 
The debt isn't a problem provided you have the foresight to use your $100,000 wisely, in a major that is employable at a decent salary.  Also, living on the high hog during college with your loan money and taking semesters abroad probably isn't very smart either.  Isn't it amazing that you can get a student loan and the bank doesn't investigate at all whether you will ever be able to pay the loan back?
And by the way, if we don't have an economy that's built on bubbles and financial speculation, our best and brightest won't all gravitate towards careers in banking and finance.  (Applause.)   Because if we want an economy that's built to last, we need more of those young people in science and engineering. 
Good on him for mentioning science and engineering.  Boo for insulting those who are in banking and finance.  We do need them, too.
And that's why the over 1 million construction workers who lost their jobs when the housing market collapsed, they shouldn't be sitting at home with nothing to do. They should be rebuilding our roads and our bridges, laying down faster railroads and broadband, modernizing our schools -- (applause) -- all the things other countries are already doing to attract good jobs and businesses to their shores.
Yes, so why aren't we spending money on this instead of on all the earmarks, waste, and nonsense Congress keeps approving?  I'm happy to spend tax money on fixing roads and bridges and railroads.  Why don't we do that? 
Of course, those productive investments cost money.  They're not free.  And so we've also paid for these investments by asking everybody to do their fair share. 
And here we go...back to this vague "fair share" business.
Today that choice is very clear.  To reduce our deficit, I've already signed nearly $1 trillion of spending cuts into law and I've proposed trillions more, including reforms that would lower the cost of Medicare and Medicaid.
Too bad spending isn't up to him.  Too bad he can't even get the Democrats in Congress to get on board with what he wants to do.  Too bad a lot of these "cuts" aren't really cuts at all, but funny accounting tricks.
In the long term, we have to rethink our tax system more fundamentally.  We have to ask ourselves:  Do we want to make the investments we need in things like education and research and high-tech manufacturing -- all those things that helped make us an economic superpower?  Or do we want to keep in place the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans in our country?  Because we can't afford to do both.  That is not politics.  That's just math.
Yes, because the only option is to tax the wealthy!  That's it.  Forget about cutting spending.  Cutting spending wouldn't be math, I guess. 
Under President Clinton, the top rate was only about 39 percent.  Today, thanks to loopholes and shelters, a quarter of all millionaires now pay lower tax rates than millions of you, millions of middle-class families.  Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1 percent.  One percent.  
Only 39%!  And that doesn't even include your state taxes.  Why don't we stop looking at tax rates and start looking at the amount of taxes paid?  1 percent of a billion is $10,000,000.  God, those cheapass billionaires, only paying ten million dollars in federal taxes.  Jeez.  Let's compare that guy to the guy who pays no federal income taxes.  Is that fair? 
That is the height of unfairness. 
Oh, but he's saying this in the context that the billionaire should pay more than ten million dollars.  It wouldn't be fair otherwise.  I mean, what the hell?
It's wrong that in the United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker, maybe earns $50,000 a year, should pay a higher tax rate than somebody raking in $50 million.  (Applause.)  It's wrong for Warren Buffett's secretary to pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. 
Something tells me Warren Buffet paid a lot more in taxes than his secretary.  This story Obama keeps throwing out there is such a freaking red herring.  Whether or not Warren Buffet's tax rate is lower due to capital gains, he is paying a shit ton of money in taxes.  Way more than his secretary.
And I know that many of our wealthiest citizens would agree to contribute a little more if it meant reducing the deficit and strengthening the economy that made their success possible. allows anyone who wants to contribute as much as they want to the government.  Have at it, wealthiest citizens.  Put your money where your mouth is.  Oh, but it wouldn't be "fair" if they voluntarily did it.  It's only "fair" when everyone is forced to do it.
This isn't about class warfare.
Bullshit.  How about some thanks to all those wealthy citizens who are running businesses that give people jobs?  How can this guy with a straight face continue to castigate the wealthy, when at the same time he is going to fundraisers for the wealthy few nearly every night?  You want to talk about distorting the democracy?  Look in the mirror, Mr. President.
It's about making choices that benefit not just the people who've done fantastically well over the last few decades, but that benefits the middle class, and those fighting to get into the middle class, and the economy as a whole. 
How about forcing everyone to make responsible choices instead?
Does anybody here think that the problem that led to our financial crisis was too much oversight of mortgage lenders or debt collectors?
It was the federal government sticking its nose where it didn't belong.
Every day we go without a consumer watchdog is another day when a student, or a senior citizen, or a member of our Armed Forces -- because they are very vulnerable to some of this stuff -- could be tricked into a loan that they can't afford -- something that happens all the time. 
He's using that word again -- "tricked!"  It's amazing to me how he completely writes off any responsibility by the person who took on the loan.  They weren't all tricked. 
Consumers deserve to have someone whose job it is to look out for them. 
This is the President telling us we are all too stupid to survive without the government.
I'll be calling for legislation that makes those penalties count so that firms don't see punishment for breaking the law as just the price of doing business. 
Does anyone believe him anymore when he says he's going to do something?
The big banks should increase access to refinancing opportunities to borrowers who haven't yet benefited from historically low interest rates.  And the big banks should recognize that precisely because these steps are in the interest of middle-class families and the broader economy, it will also be in the banks' own long-term financial interest.  What will be good for consumers over the long term will be good for the banks. 
Here he is, sticking his nose into the banking industry, which is what got us into trouble in the first place.  So, I assume when the interest rates go up, he won't have a problem if the banks force people to refinance to the higher rates?  When you sign your mortgage, you agree to the interest rate.  Maybe you can refinance later to lower it, maybe you can't.  So now that it's gone down, he wants to force the banks to change the mortgage contract, possibly to their own detriment. 
A tax code that makes sure everybody pays their fair share.
Sweet, I'm all for a flat tax.
It will require parents to get more involved in their children's education.  It will require students to study harder.  (Applause.)  It will require some workers to start studying all over again.  It will require greater responsibility from homeowners not to take out mortgages they can't afford.  They need to remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.    
This is good, but everyone had probably tuned out by now.
It will require those of us in public service to make government more efficient and more effective, more consumer-friendly, more responsive to people's needs.  That's why we're cutting programs that we don't need to pay for those we do.
We are?  What are we cutting?  He's always so vague.

Eh, that's about it.  At the end he gets into his usual platitudes and the feel good hope and change stuff that got him elected in the first place.  He must be thrilled to be able to campaign again, because that is something he is good at.  He's incredibly focused on being Teddy Roosevelt right now, and I'm not sure that's a good thing. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Things I'm Annoyed About Today

1.  That Herman Cain got forced out of the race due to unproven, uninvestigated accusations.  It infuriates me that a person can hire a Gloria Allred type, get on national television, say whatever they want, and then disappear.  (See, also, Nicky Diaz Santillian, the illegal immigrant who took down Meg Whitman.)  To make matters worse, our wonderful media runs away with it in their usual dramatic manner, doesn't ask for any form of proof, and automatically believes the victim versus the accused.  No, the media was happy to just let Cain flounder, and insinuiate that he might just be guilty of all of these horrible things, without any proof.  Jesus, anyone can say anything they want about anyone else.  It doesn't make it true.  I'm not saying he was my top choice for President, but he deserved a chance to run.  We can only look forward to more of the same going forward.  It's really disgusting.  I truly hate the media in this country.  It used to be that they actually fact checked things prior to airing them for the entire country, but I guess that is a thing of the past.

2.  The Occupy tent cities are starting to grate on me.  Don't get me wrong; it's entertaining to watch the raids go down nearly every night, but every time I watch all I can think about is the cost to the cities, and how absurd they all sound.  Don't the occupiers realize they are only hurting the 99% with their mayhem and antics?  All they really seem to be doing at this point is causing trouble as they flitter from one "cause" to the next.  And the ordeal at Washington D.C. the other night with the wooden house was preposterous.  I heard the holdout occupier who wouldn't get in the occupicker ended up peeing off the roof of the structure, right at the police.  When he got down, he was arrested in part for indecent exposure and public urination.  Enjoy the sex offender list, buddy.  Hope it was worth it.  I still simply do not see what these occupations are accomplishing, nor do I understand why anyone would want to be a part of it.  It will be interesting to see what happens with this whole port shutdown that is planned for December 12. 

3.  Our Campaigner in Chief is back at it again, comparing himself to Teddy Roosevelt (!) and imploring all of us lazy people to pay our fair share.  Oh, yeah, but he and his family are going on a 17 day vacation to Hawaii.  (Yes, I understand that his job never stops and that he will be doing work from there, but still...)  Does anyone else find it strange that he never goes on vacation in Chicago?  After all, he lived here for many years.  You'd think he had a life here and people to visit and might miss his old city.  I guess you can't blame him for Hawaii over Chicago in December, but the cost of that trip must be astounding.  I'd have a hell of a lot more respect for him if he simply said "You know what?  This year we are going to tighten our bootstraps also and stay in Washington D.C. for the holidays."  Of course, that would never happen.  I swear, you would never know from his speech today that he has been President for the past three years.  Everything is always someone else's fault.  Hey, maybe he should go join the occupiers!  They seem to have the same viewpoint.  

4.  Ashton Kutcher's Twitter account had better grammar and syntax when he was running it himself.  Seriously, whoever he hired to Twitter for him now is terrible.  (I have no idea why I'm following him, so don't even ask.  I also don't know why this annoys me, but it does.)

5. I'm already so tired of Christmas music and the month has only begun.  It's all so sappy happy and I hear it everywhere I go.  I'm incapable of getting into the Christmas spirit this year, because I have so much work to do.  It's making me hugely depressed.  Don't worry, I'll live, but I can already tell it is going to be an insanely crabby December for me. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Random Thoughts on December 1

Just because I realized I have a few additional things to share:

1.  I'm co-teaching a class in January at my law school alma mater!  Oh, these poor law school students who are going to have to deal with me.  I'm very excited about it, because it's a foot in the door for me.  I would love, love to teach Patent Litigation there.  I've been told I will get a modest stipend. 

2.  On the negative side, I have -- honestly -- the worst caseload I have ever had for the month of December.  I have four sets of infringement contentions due, an appellate response brief, and multiple discovery responses.  I'm obviously leaning on the associates to help out, but some of them are rather new, so I'm still going to have to do quite a bit of work in reviewing their work and teaching them the right way to do this stuff.  At this point, I'm not even sure I can leave Chicago for Christmas.  UGH!

3.  I also might have jury duty on December 12, for the first time ever.  (Yay!  My first summons!)  I'm officially a "standby juror" which means I have to call in on December 9 (Friday) after 4:30 p.m. to find out if I need to show up on Monday.  I will be in Las Vegas on December 9, for a weekend including the Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil show, so...I will make that call, but I might be a bit inebriated when I make it.  Even if I have to go, I'm 99% positive no lawyer in their right mind will pick me, but you never know.  Normally lawyers aren't chosen, but, if it is a criminal trial, my chances go up since I know nothing about criminal law except my 1L Criminal Law class and my studying for the bar.  But still, they don't want me.  I know what a high standard reasonable doubt it, and I'm a leader.  I desperately want to not get picked, given my case load, as described above, but as a lawyer, I cannot claim hardship due to my job, given that as a trial attorney, I regularly ask people to do the same.  Some lawyers disagree with my view and will do anything to get out of jury duty, but I don't abide by that viewpoint.  If I'm going to ask people to make sacrifices to serve on my jury, I will do the same for someone else, if they want me.  

4.    I have two trials scheduled for next year, in April and June, and I think they will both go.  Exciting, but stressful.  Maybe I'll survive.   

5.    I hate the Philadephia Eagles.  Drafting Michael Vick and the Eagles defense in my fantasy football league are easily two of the worst choices I've made this year.  Heh, I guess that means I've had a pretty good year.

Welcome to the Real World

I'm feeling so badly for my sister H tonight, but also a little bothered.  As a reminder, she is seven years younger than me, and is in her last year of nursing school.  She's one of those people who it took her awhile to see the benefits of a college education, and as a result she's been waitressing since she was 18, and is finally (hopefully) on track to get her Bachelor's degree in May.

When I saw her about a month ago, she confessed to me that one of her clinicals this semester was not going well.  According to her, the professor took an immediate dislike to her on Day 1 when she showed up with all of her arm tattoos showing.  (She must have 20 tattoos on her body in total.  It's absurd.)  The professor told her to cover them up in the future.  I can't say I blame the professor.  She then neglected to turn in an assignment on time, and the professor wrote her up, and she started crying and turned around and walked off, and the professor didn't take that well, and things started snowballing.  The professor doesn't like her.  I got a message from H today -- a warning, in fact -- that she thinks this professor is going to fail her.  She assured me that she has tried to talk to the professor privately, etc., but that is going nowhere.

Here's what I want to say:  "Welcome to the Real World!"

Here's what I said:  "Hang in there.  I'm thinking of you."  (Well, more than that, but you get the idea.)

H has never had to grow up.  I love her dearly, and I'm not posting all of this so you'll think I'm a complete bitch or unsympathetic, but....she's 30 years old and her life has been all about fun.  She's been waitressing, which she is very good at, getting tattoos, going on vacations, partying with her friends, and being helped along a lot along the way by my mom.  Oh, and me.  I'm not blameless.  Three weeks ago I "loaned" her $3,000 because her gas had been turned off and she had no money but still had tuition payments to make.  I can't help it -- she's my baby sister.  My mom has always bailed her out in the past, paid her medical insurance, paid her medical copays, given her cheap deals on her old cars (oops, I did that, too), given her money when she needed extra, etc.  Dealing with her in this way hasn't helped her.  In fact, I think it has hurt her.  It's very hard when you have the extra money or you don't need the old car, to just help her out.  I don't like to see her struggle, and neither does my mom.  As a result, H has been able to float along in life, and to never really have to deal with reality or acting like an adult.  Someone always bails her out if she gets in trouble or spends too much money vacationing and having fun and as a result can't pay her mortgage.   

She doesn't understand adult things that are very obvious to me.  Like, if you have a bunch of tattoos on your arms, wear long sleeves for your first day of clinical.  Make a good impression.  Like, hey, you should be looking for a job by now for when you graduate in May.  All of your classmates were doing this a year ago, and had a summer internship in nursing.  What were you doing?  I think she thinks hospitals are going to come looking for her once she has her degree.  It's bizarre.  Like, when you have an assignment, turn it in on time.  Like, if you are ready to burst into tears, politely say "Can I take a minute, please," to go off and gather youself and don't just storm off.  You know, adult, responsible things.  Adult ways of handling things.   

I've expressed some of this to her before, but I don't like to give her unsolicited opinions like my mom does, because it really irritates H when my mom does that.  I'd prefer to let her figure it out on her own, unless she asks for my advice.  (After all, I did.  My other sister did.  My brother did.)  However, in her little utopian world, everyone is nice.  That isn't the real world, though.  I've had to work with and for some complete assholes.  I'm regularly dealing with complete asshole opposing counsel.  At least two new associates at my firm likely think I am a complete bitch, although if they talk to the older associates they will find out they will learn a lot from me.  I expect a lot.  Maybe this professor does also.  I deal with Judges who I think are idiots and who threaten to sanction me for stupid things.  I also deal with Judges who are smarter than me, and I've gotten slammed and embarrassed in court.  People yell at me at work.  I yell at them back.  Personality conflicts are not uncommon.  That's life.  Not everyone is going to like you.  However, as a professional, you deal with it.  Even if you are a crying type of person (which I am, too), you hold it back and excuse yourself to get yourself together, and then you deal with the problem.

I can't help her with this.  In some ways, it might be good for her to fail the class and have to retake it to get her degree.  I worry, though, that if she does fail it, she won't finish.  It's odd, because she is completely gorgeous and has a body I would kill for and was constantly praised and coddled as a kid, yet she has the lowest self esteem.  Part of the reason she didn't go to college for so long was because she didn't think she was smart.  Well, she is smart.  She's gotten all As and Bs so far in nursing school.  But this is the class that is the challenge.  Most people I know had that one class that was a nightmare.  I know I did.  I about died when I studied my ass off and got a D, but que sera sera, right?  Did it affect me in the long term?  No.  And now I can talk about that stupid class I failed my senior year in college.  Failing this class could do her in, though, as far as motivation to finish.  She's that type of person.  She thinks everyone is conspiring against her success and will just give up.  I guess I'm not like that.      

I really hope the professor is just pushing her, and will end up passing her in the end.  At minimum, this is a good experience for her to go through.  I don't think she quite gets that when she starts working somewhere other than a bar that she may have to deal with some condescending doctors and nurses.  She might have to deal with a boss who dislikes her for no reason.  That happens.  Maybe this will open her eyes.  At worst, she retakes the class.  I've realized as I've gotten older that sometimes things aren't as big of a deal as you think.  So what if she has to retake the class and she graduates a little later?  Who cares?  That will be a huge disappointment to her, since she is looking forward to graduating in May, and I know she will be horribly embarrassed, but...I don't know.  I feel awful for her, but at the same time, I want to just say "Welcome to reality."   

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Random Thoughts on November 29

Well, it's 12:01 a.m., so I guess it's November 29.  You know I'm a night owl, but even more so tonight because my couch from Pottery Barn is finally getting delivered tomorrow between 9:30 and 11:30, so that means I get to sleep in a bit.  Yay!  (Says she who slept in for the past four days...)  Anyway, it's been awhile since I've updated on much, so here we go!

1.  My two favorite new shows are Revenge and Ringer.  Both are deliciously soapy and moving along at a quick pace.  I'm entertained, not bored, not too cheesed out, and not bothered by the flaws, so thumbs up.  Also, as a huge Buffy fan, it's great to see Sarah Michelle Gellar back on my TV.  Honorable mention to Once Upon a Time.  Honorable honorable mention to Grimm

2.  Shows I've canceled from my DVR?  Pan Am (eh, I tried), Harry's Law (sick of it), Blue Bloods (boring), Law and Order SVU (no Elliott, so no).

3.  I have the worst fantasy football team on the planet.  Don't try to convince me I don't, because I do.  Even Jordy Nelson can't save me from the rest of the team.  Michael Vick SUCKS.

4.  My sister M is pregnant again!  She is due in April.  So far, so good.  Keep your fingers crossed.  She will be going to Mott for an ultrasound of the baby's heart in December, and likely at some point after that as well.  The new baby coming will hopefully get us through what will sure to be a tough Christmas and New Year's as we remember my niece L and the horribleness of last New Year's.

5.  One of my best friends who has battled cancer, then discovered she had a heart defect so she couldn't carry a baby, then decided with her husband to get a surrogate because they really wanted a baby of their own, then went through a whole, long ordeal to get healthy eggs from her, and a whole bunch of other crap....are expecting twins through their surrogate in March.  I've been doing the happy dance for them!!!   

6.  But don't be fooled.  I still don't like kids.  I'm just happy for other people who want them, when they can have them.  And I like them in small doses, as long as I can go home at the end of the day to a quiet house.

7.  My Secret Santa kid (I do a gift thing for low income kids) is named Zebediah, which I love.  He is the same age as my nephew, and likes Cars stuff like my nephew, so Zebediah is going to get some great stuff from me!  (It's easy, because I can just buy two of whatever I get for my nephew!)

8.  I'm going to the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis this weekend to cheer very loudly for MSU.  I hate Wisconsin.  Go right through for MSU..... 

9.   I bought owl mugs from West Elm:
I looked at these mugs like eight times, and debated spending $10 on a mug.  (Yeah, I can be a little cheap.)  But then I realized that I've only bought four mugs in my entire life, the four I bought with my whole 4 plate, bowl, etc. set at Pier One in around 1998.  Yet I have a ton of mugs.  More than enough.  People just buy you mugs when they don't know what else to get you.  I have a cupboard full of mugs that I didn't buy.  So dammit, I wanted to buy mugs I liked that I picked rather than the cornucopia of mugs that litter my cupboard, so I bought two of these owl mugs.  They are so cool!  They are rather huge, though.

10.   Oh yeah, I also bought him:

He's sitting in the middle of my dining room table right now.  (I need a centerpiece!  But, he looks kind of cool there.)  And he's mercury glass and half of the proceeds go to St. Jude's.  Good God, I don't have to justify this, do I?  Isn't he cute?  I didn't even know I liked owls until I saw all of these owls at West Elm.

10.  I need to call an electrician out.  My electric bill has been outrageously high.  I called and got it put down briefly, thinking it was a meter misread, but it does not seem to be, based on my last bill.  My usage appears to be at least double what it normally is this time of year, and I haven't changed anything.  The a/c is what puts my electric bill up (my furnace is gas) and I haven't had the a/c on since early September.  Except, of course, the work done on my house this summer.  But the outrageousness of usage didn't start until after they were done, when my October bill showed up.  Seems to me that it would've showed up sooner if they would've done anything to suck the electricity out of my house.  So, something in my house (probably my fridge or hot water heater) is sucking electricity out of my home.  I have to figure this out.  My electric bill is usually nonsensically small in the winter, and I'll be damned if I'm paying $150+ a month when it should be around $50.  Did I mention how fun it is to be a home owner?  What the hell?  What changed?  All these people online are like, unplug everything in the house (what?  really?) then shut off your fuses and look at the meter and see if it is still running and then do this and this and this.  I'm just going to call out an expert, thanks.  I'll let them deal with it, and then I will gladly pay them their hourly rate.  I'm going to call the guy who did the electric on my remodel, since he should have some insider knowledge of my wiring.  I really don't think he did anything wrong, though.  I just think my fridge or hot water heater has gone haywire.    

11.  And, I forgot to post my new table, also from West Elm:
Sorry for the small pic.  West Elm does not make it easy to do a direct link, and I'm too lazy to deal with other nonsense to get a bigger picture.  (This direct linking is not copyright infringement!)  However, this little table fits perfectly and beautifully in between my two side chairs.  I needed a small size, so my options were limited.  I had about 14" of space.  This one is 12.5" square.  It's mirrored, but it doesn't look cheesy, and the mirror is not glaring.  I really love it.  It looks so sharp.  And, I got 20% off, so it was only $160.  My living room is almost complete! 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Great Christmas Gifts for Patent Lawyers

Yes, this is an incredibly specific list.  But hey, patent lawyers get gifts, too.  If you have a patent lawyer in your life, maybe you are wondering what to get them for Christmas this year.  I’m going to assume they already have things like phones, iPads, computers, and all the other usual gadgetry, and try to get a little creative.  I'm a big fan of buying unique gifts -- something useful or not obvious.  (Heh.)  If you wanted to get the person a sweater, you probably wouldn't be Googling for ideas.  I'm going to make a lot of generalizations, but the fact is that most patent attorneys I know are a little nerdy and really enjoy invention.  Hence, what they do for a living.  I've tried to find reasonably priced items, for the most part.  If you are looking to spend thousands on your patent attorney, go to Tiffany.  So, here we go:

1.  An original (or replica) patent model.  Between 1836 and 1880, when a person applied for a patent they also had to submit a miniaturized working model to the Patent and Trademark Office.  For example, this is Abraham Lincoln's patent model for an Improvement for Buoying Vessels Over Shoals:

(You can read more about it here.)  While many of these went to the Smithsonian and others went to private collectors, some are still floating around.  These are a piece of history and I happen to think they are pretty cool for an office.  Definitely a unique gift.  Although you likely won't find one from someone as famous as Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. Patent Model Foundation has some originals for sale on eBay, and they vary in price from around a hundred bucks to much more than that.  Here is a link to their store. 

2.  A rare and old newspaper with some invention, inventor or patent significance. Frame it for them, if you are so inclined. Go to, punch in “patent” or “invention” or an inventor name your patent attorney is obsessed with in the search box, and see what you find. You can often find official news articles of the adoption of earlier Patent Acts, patent notices that used to be published for people like Thomas Edison, articles about the Wright Brothers, and other neat stuff.  Most of them run around $40. There are also many other web sites with old newspapers you can peruse.

3.   Framed patents.  No, I’m not kidding.  These can look incredibly nice in the office of a patent attorney.  I have a few and my coworkers went crazy over them.  If you are really creative, you can go to and try to dig up a good patent yourself, and get it framed on your own.  Alternatively, and with much less work on your part, you can get it done for you at Prior Art DesignInventerrific, or Patents As Art.  Yes, believe it or not that are companies that do this.  There are many things that are or used to be covered by patents, which everyone is very familiar with, like the Statue of Liberty, Lincoln Logs, and the Slinky.  Is there a product your patent attorney loves?  See if it is covered by a patent and get the patent framed for them.  Or just frame a famous patent.  We patent attorneys are always looking for interesting, work related things for our offices.

4.  Telefingers.  I'm crazy about "why didn't I think of that" type inventions.  These are gloves that you can use with a touch screen (i.e., phone or iPad), and are a must have for winter for those long mornings on the train platform. 

Theyare available at QVC, two pairs for $20.

5.  I love these hard drive and circuit board clocks sold by TECOART on Etsy:

They come in a range of styles and sizes, and start at around $30.  Here is a link to TECOART's Etsy Store. Etsy also offers a whole bunch of other items made out of circuit boards.  Just run a search on "circuit board" and you'll see earrings, ties, rings, lamps, and other goodies.

6.  Whiskey stones.  Maybe I've been living under a rock, but I didn't know about these until recently.  If your patent attorney is a whiskey or scotch drinker straight up, these keep their drink cold without the watering down that happens with ice cubes:
You can get them at Uncommon Goods for $19.50.  

7.  Golf Club Drink Dispenser.  Many attorneys golf, even though I don't.  However, this drink dispenser (for your favorite adult beverage while out on the course) from the Sharper Image seems like a good bet to me.  It's $89.99.
8.  Travel sized beauty products.  By beauty, I also mean stuff for men like shaving cream and cologne.  Obviously this would be a gift to a friend or spouse, rather than, say, your boss.  But the fact is, I travel a lot.  If you buy me a full sized lotion and body spray gift set, I can't take it with me anywhere unless I want to check a bag.  I love travel sized stuff that I can put into my 1 quart sized bag!  This goes for teeny eyeshadows, hand lotions, face lotions, facial cleansers, shampoo, and soap, too.  You can collect things from the bins at Sephora or Ulta, get a cute (or manly) bag and make your own, or buy a premade travel sized or sample sized set.  We won't think you are cheap.  We will appreciate that you recognize how nice it is to have less than 3 oz size of cool stuff to take with us when we travel to depositions and hearings.  Here are a few I like:
L'Occitane Hand Cream Confections, at Sephora for $40:
Clinique Essentials of Shaving, at Sephora for $47.50.
Urban Decay Naked Pallette, at Sephora for $48.
Sephora and Ulta offer about a million other small, travel sized options individually and as sets.  Just search "travel sized."  (Trust me, you never think about travel sized things until you are packing for your trip and realize you don't want to check a bag.)
9.  Stock car ride along experience.  This is a little more expensive, starting at around $109 and up, depending on where you are.  But you get to ride in a stock car with a professional driver.  Totally awesome.  Every patent attorney I know likes to drive fast and ride in fast, sweet car.  (Well, not every one, but most.)  Here's a picture:
Cloud 9 Living offers this, and it is available in most metro areas.  There are also a lot of other great gift options at Cloud 9.

10.  If all else fails, books.  I don't know an attorney who doesn't like to read.  For a patent attorney, how about some books on inventions and inventors?  I know I like reading them.  Here are ten suggestions, some of which I've read, and some which just look good to me, provided your patent attorney still likes a real book and isn't hooked on their Kindle or iPad.  (All links are to Amazon.)  (1)  Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World by Richard Rhodes; (2) Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (duh); (3) Tesla:  Man Out of Time by Margaret Cheney; (4) For God, Country, and Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company That Makes It by Mark Pendergrast; (5) Leonardo’s Notebooks by H. Anna Suh; (6) The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World by Randall E. Stross; (7) The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Graham Bell's Secret by Seth Shulman; (8) Copies in Seconds: How a Lone Inventor and an Unknown Company Created the Biggest Communication Breakthrough Since Gutenberg--Chester Carlson and the Birth of Xerox by David Owen; (9) The Chip : How Two Americans Invented the Microchip and Launched a Revolution by T.R. Reid; and (10) Polio: An American Story by David M. Oshinsky.

I feel like I'm forgetting something cool that I saw recently, but can't remember it now.  Hopefully this sparked some ideas for you!  If I think of anything else, I'll do another post.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Will November 17 Be The Death Knell For Occupy Wall Street?

If you follow me on Twitter at all, you know I’m kind of obsessed with the Occupy movement. Not because I agree with it, but because I don’t get it. (I get fascinated with things I don’t understand. It’s also why I like to read books about serial killers.) I’ve tried to keep an open mind – I promise you, I have – but with all that has gone on over the past few weeks, I can’t do it anymore. They lost me when they carried a Palestinian flag into Rahm Emmanuel’s office. They lost me when they shut down the Port of Oakland and wouldn’t let people simply trying to do their jobs in and out. They lost me when I saw pictures of the trashed park in Portland. They lost me with their signs supporting Communism and Anarchism. They lost me when they started vandalizing businesses and disrupting small businesses.  And, of course, they lost me even more given today's turn of events.

I can’t relate at all to the type of people who vagabond around, march down the center of the street chanting with a sign, sit down in the middle of the street blocking traffic, and scream and yell at other people with no apparent purpose. This is doubly so when the things they are screaming and yelling are not legally or economically correct. Protests against a war I can understand because people are dying and the end goal is clear. Stop the war. But protesting without any real demands or any end goal is bizarre. I still don’t understand what the Occupy group hopes to accomplish.

I’m much too logical minded. Drop everything and go live in a park for two months? Why? I could never do something like that because my thoughts would be overwhelmed with questions like “Where will I sleep? What will I eat? Will I be cold? What if I get arrested and ruin my chance to get a job somewhere ten years from now? How will I pay my rent? What about my job? Will I be safe? Where will I pee? Where will I shower? What if someone steals my stuff?” You see, I can’t let all of the realities of life drop away to go off and have fun protesting for some unspecified amount of time for some vague reason. I’m just not the type.

It’s not that I object to people who are that type to do such a thing. Good for them. Different people make the world go around, and maybe we need the dedicated protestor types among us to make change happen. My problem is that if you are going to do it, at least be able to articulate why you are doing it and what you hope to accomplish by doing it. I’m not sure why it is, but nearly everyone I’ve seen interviewed by the media who are involved with Occupy can’t even explain why they are there or what they want. It’s all just a big party. (I like a party as much as anyone else, but have a party at your own house.) It appears that the Occupiers simply want to be able to set up a commune wherever they’d like, to the detriment of the rest of the public. Setting up a mini society in the middle of a park that others would like to use in NYC, Portland, SLC, Denver, and the rest of the cities dealing with this problem is a bit….hypocritical, no?

Hear me out. The overriding problem, according to the Occupiers is the still undefined 1%. Top 1% of income or wealth? Who knows, who cares? They are all evil, just like every single person who happens to work in the Wall Street general area is evil, including the secretaries, the guy who runs the coffee cart, and the guy running the newsstand. The Occupiers argue that they have been treated unfairly by the 1%, even though they refuse to identify any of these people or to explain how or why they have been treated unfairly, how or why these people broke the law, and why they themselves are not at least partially responsible. (Did someone hold a gun to their head, forcing them to sign student loan papers? I doubt it.) The Occupiers argue that the 1% has trampled on their rights, yet they claim they have the unfettered First Amendment right to pitch a tent or march wherever they want, thus trampling on the rest of the (99%) public’s rights. Oh, and they should be able to camp there forever. And ever. Or until they decide to leave. Hell, just leave it open ended. (Yes, camping out in front of TJ Maxx for a night or a few hours waiting for the grand opening is very different.) The Occupiers argue that the 1% don’t play by the rules, yet they refuse to get the proper permits for their marches, refuse to purchase something at a restaurant where they want to use the bathroom there, and think it is their right to block the streets.

So…what about the rest of the 99% who don’t want them pitching tents and marching and disrupting traffic and disrupting subways and disrupting small business and disrupting Wall Street and the ports and ruining beautiful parks and urinating and defecating on the street? (Oh, and Occupy Chicago? Your graffiti all over west Lincoln Park has not gone unnoticed.) Saying you represent the 99% doesn’t make it so. In fact, according to some recent polling, the popularity of this movement has substantially decreased. Announcing that you (and by “you” I mean the 100-1,000 people who turned out to march) “own” the streets is a little presumptive. I would argue that the streets are more likely “owned” by the other millions of (99%) people in your city who aren’t out marching and are simply trying to get from Point A to Point B. All you really succeed in doing is pissing those people off.

The point of this so-called movement has been completely lost, obliterated by the fight to redefine 200 years of interpretation of the First Amendment. (Although to be fair, most don’t seem to realize that the Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment at length, and that it goes far beyond the words on the paper.) And for what? So they can build a commune? Live in the middle of NYC without paying property taxes? Why not find a 1%er who is sympathetic to your cause who will donate some land and allow you to live there? Better yet, buy your own land or apartment with the hundreds of thousands of dollars donated to your “cause.” Why does it have to be in a park or location in the middle of the city that other people want to use? In Chicago, they are trying to demand that the city provide them with a place to protest. There are plenty of places to protest, provided you don’t want to spend the night.

What is so goddamn important about being able to spend the night? I don’t understand. What does spending the night have to do with this movement? I get that it’s called “Occupy” but why? In my opinion, the “Occupy” is the fun part, while actually getting things done (which is what they would be forced to do if they can’t stay overnight and continue the charade) is the hard part, and no one seems to have any idea how to proceed with the hard part. The Tea Party took a lot of ribbing in the media, but they sure got things done by electing representatives into Congress. I’m wondering why Occupy isn’t trying to do the same. After all, if they represent what the 99% want, it shouldn’t be hard to get all their people voted in. (Unfortunately for them, it is becoming very clear that they don’t represent much of the 99% who they claim to represent.)

The level of entitlement is also really astounding. When complaints arise about the number and cost of police to enforce the law, they claim they are “nonviolent” and the police don’t need to be there. Welcome to the real world. If hundreds or thousands of people are gathering, you need police around to make sure things don’t get out of hand. And these protests have been anything but “nonviolent.” I don’t care if it is a few bad seeds. Don’t blame the cops if you get banged up a little bit when you don’t listen to what they are telling you to do. (Maybe I was raised differently, but when a cop tells me to do something, I do it.) Forcing your way through barricades, sitting down in the street and refusing to move, throwing things at and taunting the police are anything but “nonviolent.” And let’s not even talk about the crime happening in these Occupy camps. You want to complain about taxes? Just wait until the bill comes due for cities handling the Occupiers. I’m sure we’ll all be thanking you in the coming months. (If “this is what democracy looks like,” then no thanks.) How is anything they are doing really helping the 99%? Sure they got some media attention, but as far as I can tell, that’s about it. They are deluded enough to think that “the whole world is watching,” yet a lot of people in this country don’t even know they exist, and I suspect a lot of people around the world aren’t too concerned that some people in the United States are sad because they have to pay back student loans or took out a home loan they couldn’t afford or can't find a job paying $100,000 a year.

Which leads me to the big, fat elephant in the room, which is….people in the United States don’t have it so bad. Do any of the kids out there protesting how awful things are here realize that? Do they know anything about what it is like to live in other countries? Is their world view that small? Do they know how lucky they were not to be born in a hut in Africa? We have plenty of social nets and government services for people who have fallen upon hard times or lost their job. You never hear about anyone starving to death in the United States. Most utility companies have heating and cooling assistance for those who can’t afford it. We have shelters for the homeless, and plenty of welfare and foodstamps. We have wonderful laws on free speech, and the government does give a lot of leeway. You can blog about, Tweet about, or talk about whatever you want. The Occupiers like to yell about a “police state” or trampling on their “freedom of speech?” Move to North Korea – then you’ll find out about a “police state.” They won’t even let you leave the country. You’ll also be enlightened what true lack of freedom of speech is when you realize you only have three television channels to choose from, most spewing North Korean government propaganda.  Or hey, move to a village in Africa where many people have HIV and no medical care, and on top of that, no food to eat. People die of starvation on a daily basis.  Or move to China where you can get arrested for blogging the wrong thing. Or go to certain countries in the Middle East, wherer women can't even go in public without a male escort. 

It’s hard to take any of these protestors seriously, with their Eddie Bauer backpacks, iPhones, iPads, Macs, Internet livestream, Facebook accounts, Twitter accounts, Abercrombie & Fitch hats, fancy camping tents and sleeping bags, lawyers, $500k+ in donations, and gourmet vegan food from the community kitchen. (I doubt many starving people in Africa are vegan.)  You want to complain about an 84 year old woman getting pepper sprayed or a person in a wheelchair getting arrested? Thank the ADA, and age discrimination laws for that. Shouldn’t they be treated equally if they are breaking the law? Why the outrage? Isn’t that what equality is all about? 

At any rate, we’ll see what happens now with this movement. In my opinion today’s events will be the death knell. I can’t see how average people in this country will continue to support this nonsense. And if I never have to hear “Whose street? Our street!”, “This is what democracy looks like” or “The whole world is watching” again, I will be a very happy person.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chicago Extends School Day -- For Useless Gym Class

Recently in Chicago there has been a lot of hoopla over extending the length of the school day. Someone took a look around and realized that the Chicago Public Schools have the shortest school day of any other urban school district in the country. Bad news. So, there has been a lot of bickering back and forth, and it appears that for the most part the longer school day is going to happen. This is what they said:
A longer school day is a richer school day … one that provides for 90 additional minutes of instruction. That means more time for reading, math and science -- and also for enrichment programs like art, music and physical education, which are proven to boost student achievement. And it provides time for a longer lunch and a real recess.
So what are they doing in the high schools with all this extra time?

Daily physical education.

I read a lot of absurd things on the Internet, but this has to be a topper. I would have been furious as a junior or senior if my school day got extended and then I was forced to take physical education in addition to the sports practices I was regularly going to before and after school. I was the kind of kid who would’ve rather had an extra science, computer, or English class where I might actually learn something useful.

Physical education – or gym, as we called it – was a total joke when I was in high school. We had to take one year of it, during freshman year. After that it was optional, and I never took it again. All we did was play dodgeball, kickball, softball, basketball, speedwalk, and swim. (The swimming part was really awesome considering I had gym first hour and the gym teacher forced us all to go underwater and get our hair wet.) I hated gym with every fiber of my being. To be fair, I hated it because I’m not very good at sports and I don’t enjoy most sports. I was good at rowing and tennis, so I played on the school team for those in the spring and fall, respectively, but that was by far enough “sport” for me. Forget anything like basketball or softball or running. I hate running and I hate throwing a ball around and I hate swimming because I hate being wet unless it’s 100 degrees out. And what is more embarrassing than getting picked last for the dodgeball team or having to run around like an idiot in front of everyone else when you have no idea what is going on or who you are supposed to throw the ball to? It was always prime time for bullying, if I recall correctly.

We were also forced to take showers. The gym teacher would stand near the entrance of the showers and watch and make sure we all got wet. We had to show her our leg or some body part, to prove to her that it had water on it. It was part of our grade, showering after gym. Can you imagine anything more ridiculous than that? Forcing a kid to take a shower in front of everyone else? (Oh yes, the showers were just a bunch of spigots in a big room – no privacy at all.) The same was true of gym in junior high. I’m not sure if a gym teacher could get away with that nowadays.

Anyway, gym was truly the most useless class I have ever taken in my entire life. I can’t believe after all the uproar about the longer school day they are wasting it on a class like that, and wanting to raise my property taxes to do so.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

You Must Read The Fiddler on the Subway

I recently read The Fiddler on the Subway, by Gene Weingarten.  He's a reporter for the Washington Post, and the book is a collection of the articles he's written over the years.  I can't imagine how I never heard of this book, even though it has been out since July 2010 and won two Pulitzer Prizes. 

I love reading nonfiction.  I used to be a big fiction reader when I was younger, but as I've gotten older I've found that sometimes things that really happened are more interesting than things that someone made up.  Also, I like to learn.  Generally I lean toward historical fiction, but practically anything nonfiction is usually fair game.  Due to my obsessive nature, once I hit on a topic and like a book, I seek out other books on similar topics.  For example, after reading And The Band Played On (THE absolutely most fascinating book about the beginnings of the AIDS crisis), I read The Great Influenza (1918 influenza pandemic), Polio: An American Story (finding the cure!), and The American Plague (yellow fever).  After I read The Great Deluge (Hurrican Katrina), I read A Crack in the Edge of the World (1906 San Francisco earthquake), Krakatoa (Krakatoa eruption), and The Johnstown Flood (self explanatory).  And when I get into a queens and kings kind of mood, there are a million books on all the monarchs. 

Needless to say, I'm always looking for good nonfiction.  I picked this one up during one of the Borders blow out sales, right before the one on State Street went out of business.  It's not a very long book, and as I mentioned above, consists of investigative articles written by the author for the Washington Post, which means you can read them out of order, or whenever you want.  Every story in the book is fascinating. 

I enjoy it when reporters think of somewhat strange and different things to write about, and then follow that path, and do it well.  For example, the titular story is based upon the question of "Would anyone notice if a world renowned musician played his music in the subways of D.C.?"  Weingarten recruited Joshua Bell, a violin virtuoso to find out the answer.  Another story, The Great Zucchini, describes the life and job of one of Washington D.C.'s foremost child party performers, a man who shows up in jeans and a t-shirt, without all the usual props, and manages to keep kids enthralled for hours.  Another of my favorites was Snowbound, where Weingarten goes to a nearly isolated, snowy place, and learns about the people there.  The Ghost of the Hardy Boys discusses the life of the man behind Franklin W. Dixon, and his hatred of the Hardy Boys.  In The Armpit of America, Weingarten attempts to find just that.  And in Fatal Distraction, he masterfully deals with parents who have accidentally left their children in the backseat of the car to die.  These are only some of the articles contained within the book. 

As you can see, he covers a range of subjects, and his investigative reporting and writing are amazing.  I cannot even express how much I enjoyed this book.  I'm thinking about buying it for my mom and sisters for Christmas.  It's simply fascinating.  And now, I'm on to read Steve Jobs....