Thursday, March 31, 2011

Random Thoughts on March 31

1.  You know how you have that friend, that you've been friends with forever, that knows everything about you?  My friend, C, who I have been friends with since I was 10 years old, texted me on March 23, wishing me Happy Birthday to my dad.  (Who is no longer alive.)  I was really touched.  She is awesome.  But, she owed me, because when we were hanging out when I was in Detroit, I reminded her that her mom's birthday was That Very Day (February 4), and she had forgotten, and immediately called her, and called her husband and ordered him to have her son call Grandma and wish her Happy Birthday.  She was like, "Oh my God!  Thank God I saw you tonight!  You are the only one who would've remembered that!"  When you meet a friend as kids, you tend to learn their parents' birthdays!  I'm pretty sure she's my only friend that I know her parents' birthdays.  We will truly be friends forever.  Even when we go a month or so without talking, it's like not a day has gone by when we do talk.  I miss her, and wish we lived closer so I could see her more often.

2.  Gymboree sent me a 20% off coupon, so I went to buy some clothes for my nephew.  Unfortunately, I wasn't wild about their lines for spring -- or at least what they had in the store near me.  So, I left with only one outfit for him.  I'll see him over Easter, yay!  This was my first visit to Gymbo since I bought him stuff for his birthday in November.  At that time, I looked over with glee at all the girls' clothes, anticipating the damage I was going to do for my new niece.  This time it was really hard to see all those cute little pink and purple outfits on the right side of the store, that I should've been buying for my niece.  I was crying when I walked home, and probably looked like a lunatic.  Oh well, I couldn't help it.  I'm just angry now that she died. 

3.  Apparently Snooki, Pauly D, Situation, and J-Woww are holding out on signing their contracts for Season 4 of Jersey Shore in Italy.  They obviously want more money.  I would love to see MTV tell them to screw off and hire four new people to go to Italy.  Now, that would be interesting.  Maybe it makes me a bad person, but it makes me sick to see them making -- well, they made $30K per episode in Season 2 and 3, so that's $720,000 -- a ton of money for hanging out in a house for two months, getting drunk, hooking up, and partying.  And that doesn't even include appearance fees and all the other deals they've gotten.  I'm playing the violin for them right now, really.  Although MTV has made a ton of money off them, I'm of the opinion that MTV could hire an entirely new cast and still get the ratings.  It's boring at this point to watch how big their heads have all gotten with the fame, and watching girls/guys fall all over them to hook up, when that wasn't the case at all when they were unknown in Season 1.  A new cast of unknowns would be nice, and bring back what made the first season so hilarious.  At any rate, once their time on the show is done, you won't hear from any of them again, except possibly Pauly D, who seems to have the DJ thing going pretty well, given his contract with The Palms in Vegas.  God, why do I know so much about this show?

4.  I try to go on vacation with my mom at least every other year.  We didn't go last year because she had just retired and was figuring out her finances and was busy with all that.  (She refuses to let me pay.  It drives me insane, but I've found that if I book hotel rooms online they charge my card and we can't change the card, so OOPS!)  I go wherever she wants to go, usually.  I figure she's getting older, so let's see what she wants to see while she still can do it.  We've been to France, England, Spain, all around Colorado and Utah, Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, Los Angeles area, NYC, Cape Cod, and Boston.  (My mom likes it "out west.")  This year we are going to do the Badlands and Mt. Rushmore, where I have never been.  My mom hasn't been there since she was a kid.  We're going to jump into my new car and take a road trip!  My aunt (my mom's sister) will hopefully join us as well.  My sisters and cousins tell me I'm crazy, but I tell them "They won't be here forever, so as much as they drive me crazy, I don't want to ever regret not spending this time with them!"  Since my mom is retired, I have given her the task of planning out the trip.  (I have planned it all out in the past.)   

5.  I've recently realized that I don't like kids unless they are related to me.  They are either too slow or too fast.  Kids have no "regular" speed.  They are either purposely walking slow or running.  No in between.  They are also loud and their voices are squeaky.  I don't find them cute.  (Well, occasionally I see a kid who I think is cute, but for the most part, I'm just annoyed with them.)  I don't think this makes me a terrible person.         

Gathering the Evidence to Fire My Secretary

I've blogged before about the vast incompetence that is my secretary.  It's difficult because I like her a lot as a person, but she is just not cut out for this job, at least in my opinion.  Or at least to work for me.  If anyone wants to keep her on, I won't oppose, but I don't want her working for me anymore.  Someone else can take on this trainwreck.  I am not terribly demanding, either, as far as bosses go.  I just expect some level of proofreading, spelling and grammatical capabilities, learning and remembering things we have done in the past, and interest in the job.  Yes, law is boring sometimes.  It's even boring to me.  But still, you have to do your job.  She has displayed no interest in remembering things or learning about what she is doing. 

She's worked for me for I think around five years (I can't really remember exactly when she came into the mix), and probably done at least 100 court filings for me in that time, yet she still doesn't understand completely what it's about or how to do it.  This is a huge part of her job, filings.  For example, when you file a motion, there is usually a motion, a memorandum/brief in support of the motion, and exhibits.  Some jurisdictions require a Declaration from the attorney authenticating the Exhibits or other statements within the memorandum or motion.  Some jurisdictions require a Notice of Motion, where you set the date with the Judge to hear the motion, for example. the Northern District of Illinois, which is WHERE WE ARE.  This is pretty basic stuff.  You do it a few times, and you should get the program.  Oppositions/responses to motions are generally just a brief and exhibits.  A Declaration if necessary.  Easy peasy. 

The electronic filing system at the various federal district courts around the country is not consistent.  (I find this ridiculous, by the way.)  It's much more clear in some jurisdictions than in others under which category you need to file your document.  But still, it is not rocket science by any means.  And, if you screw it up the clerk of court calls and tells you to refile it.  No big deal.

My secretary is generally incapable of figuring out the category under which to file the document, even when I repeatedly tell her to READ THE TITLE OF THE DOCUMENT.  90% of the time, the title will tell you what it is, which leads to the category.  For reasons unknown to me, she has trouble just reading the title and figuring it out.  I have to deal with shit like this:

Example:  Document we are filing is an Opposition to Motion to Compel Documents on X.

This is how the conversation goes:

My Secretary ("MS"):  Is this a motion?
Me:  Does it say it's a motion?
MS:  It says motion.
Me:  You aren't reading the entire title.  It says Opposition to Motion.  When the other side files a motion, we file an opposition/response to the motion.  That is what this is.  (Note:  I have explained this to her probably 100 times since she has been working for me.)
MS:  Well, would it be filed under motions?
Me:  I don't know.  I don't know the electronic filing of this district by heart.  Why don't we click on "Motions" and see what we find.
MS:  (scrolling through the list at warp speed)
Me:  Wait.  Hold on.  Go slow and read through them.  No, I don't see any response or opposition selections.  Try Responses and Replies.  (Note:  I knew it would be in Responses and Replies, but I usually try to prove this point.  This happens every time.)
MS:  (scrolling through the responses and replies list at warp speed)
Me:  (silent, waiting for her to see the Opposition to Motion selection)
MS:  I don't see anything.
Me:  It's there.
MS:  Reply?
Me:  No, read the title and look for the one that looks like the title.
MS:  (after a few minutes)  Oh, Opposition to Motion?
Me:  Right.
(We go through add the exhibits and such, etc.)
MS:  Do we need to link to something?
Me:  Yes, we need to link to the motion we are opposing.
MS:  Which one is it?
Me:  Find the one that has the exact same title as the one we are filing.
MS:  It's not exactly the same.
Me:  Well, yes.  Their's says "Motion for....."  and ours says "Opposition to Motion for..."
MS:  That's the one?
Me:  Yes.  That is the motion we are opposing.  Per the title.  That's the one you link to.

I'm not going to continue with the madness because it is so incredibly frustrating to me.  Please be aware that I have gone through this with her probably 30 or 40 times in the past five years.  We've filed tons of Oppositions to Motions.  Tons!  Filing motions is just as ridiculous.  Honestly, nothing sinks in.  She is supposed to make my job easier, yet she makes it much more difficult.

So, in any event, beginning March 1, I started my "diary" of the daily screw ups, things she should know by now, instances where I have to explain things three or more times, instances where she gives me the wrong things, and log of the personal calls, which have gotten out of control.  (She sits right outside my office, and I am not deaf.)  I obviously remember things generally that are screwed up or taking too long or not meeting my standards, but I decided I needed solid examples of things before I have an informal job performance evaluation with her.  I need to be able to bring up a specific filing (which trust me, she won't even remember) and have a discussion, or a specific project (which again, she won't remember), and discuss where she went wrong.  So, I'm writing it all down.  It's been a month and I've got 10 pages. 

I am going to log two months worth of things (March and April), and then have a long talk with her in early May.  That will give her around six months to improve before we have our Compensation Committee meeting toward the end of the year to decide her fate.  I'm not even sure why she wants this job, since she clearly has so little interest in any of it.  I would prefer not to have to either fire her or get assigned to a new secretary.  Either is awkward for me.  (I'm a nice person at heart, and would really hate to have to fire her, but if she can't do the job I have no choice.)  However, even the other secretaries know she is incompetent, so they can't really blame me for being sick and tired of this.  She also this month filed the wrong brief for one of the associates I share her with, so that is definitely going into my evaluation.  That's just inexcusable, particularly since he e-mailed her the exact path of the brief he wanted to file.  She just wasn't paying attention.  She's done the same with me -- not read the e-mail I sent to her, which specifically laid out for her what to do.  I could, of course, demand that she be fired right now.  This employment is "at will," so we don't even have to give her a reason.

But, since I'm nice, I'm going to see if she responds to my self imposed performance review, since we really don't have hardcore performance reviews where I work.  (I have given her feedback as we are doing things, yelled at her at times, told her to proofread better, etc., but it's obviously not working AT ALL, so apparently I need to drag her into a conference room, shut the door, and tell her what's what.)  She's gotten a bit too comfortable, I think.  She needs the terror of me and her in a conference room where it might hit her that she could very well lose her job. 

Anyway, we'll see how it goes.  No matter how it ends, I'm a bad guy.  It's great being a partner.        

Things You Get Screwed on When You Are Single Without Kids

1.   Tickets for events where the cost of 2 tickets is less than double the cost of 1. (i.e. one ticket is $20, two tickets are $30 and that kind of thing. Sure you can bring a friend or a date, but why should you have to?)

2.   Work hours. You are expected to travel more, work later, and work holidays because you don’t have to run home to a kid and a spouse. You also don’t get the “easy” excuses of “I have to leave early to go to Little Johnny’s school play.” “I have to go shopping” or "meet my friends for dinner" doesn’t sound nearly as important to anyone, even if it is very important to you.

3.   You never get any wedding gifts or baby gifts, even though over the years you’ve spent hundreds or thousands on these types of gifts for friends and family.

4.   At Christmas, once everyone starts only “buying for the kids” you end up with no presents at all, since you have no spouse or kids who buy you presents. Your siblings forget about this, even though you spend hundreds on their kids each year on birthday and Christmas gifts.

5.   Your friends who have kids don’t realize how immensely boring it is to go on and on about diaper brands and baby clothes brands while you are having lunch or dinner.

6.   You are expected to find the antics of children “adorable,” even when they are misbehaving in public. You are considered bitchy and selfish if you don’t.

7.   Taxes. (Duh.) No marriage deductions, no children deductions, and if you die early, no one can claim your Social Security, even though you spent years and years paying into it. Also, if you die, your estate gets taxed a lot more because you can’t leave it to a spouse if you don’t have a spouse. You also only get half the capital gains exemption when you sell your house that a married couple gets. Nice.

8.   You can’t take advantage of “family discounts” for consumer products, club memberships, restaurants, or at stores.

9.   You pay more for auto insurance. I’m not sure how not being married makes me any more likely to run into a guard rail, but for some reason it does.

10.   It’s perfectly acceptable for other people to extensively question these personal choices, even though you would never dream of putting someone through the wringer because they voiced their desire to get married or have children. Also, get used to the look of horror when you explain that you don’t want to get married, you don’t want to have children, and you like your life the way it is. People think there must be something wrong with you. Also get used to people assuming you are a lesbian.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Members of Congress Don’t Pay Their Parking Tickets

We all hate parking or other tickets. I get a couple of them a year here in Chicago, for various things. But you know what I do when I get them? I go online and pay. It’s very easy nowadays. You don’t even need a stamp. Just go to the website, punch in your ticket number, and pay it with a credit card. Usually I do this within a day or two of receiving the ticket.

This process is apparently too difficult for some members of Congress.

According to this article, members of Congress were carrying $15,000 in outstanding unpaid tickets. It’s pretty unbelievable that things like doing taxes and paying parking tickets are too much for our elected representatives.
Three-quarters of those tickets, worth about $11,500, were in default at the time of the survey, having gone more than 60 days, and in some cases years, without payment.
Sure, just ignore it. It will go away.

Roll Call’s inquiry appears to have led some offenders to pay up.

Aides to Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said the lawmakers repaid their respective tickets after being contacted by Roll Call.

The District’s database showed Weiner received nearly $2,180 in tickets from 2007 to early March, including some instances in which he appears to have incurred multiple violations at the same time, such as failing to display current tags while parked in a taxi stand zone.

“All of the Congressman’s parking tickets have been paid. He is pleased to have helped decrease the D.C. budget deficit,” Weiner spokesman Dave Arnold said.
How ridiculous is this? The guy racks up over two grand in parking tickets, doesn’t pay them until he is called on it, yet is “pleased” to help decrease the budget deficit. What a buffoon. Why do we keep electing people who find it so hard to follow the law?

Church Deacon Dead Over an iPhone

This makes me sick:
A single mother of three, Katona-King was a dedicated church deacon. She led a volunteer effort to feed the homeless in Logan Square at First Evangelical Lutheran Church, where she became a member in 1985 after the congregation showed her so much compassion during her nephew’s funeral. She loved the church and lived in a small apartment next door.
On Monday, Katona-King’s life ended tragically at a CTA train station.
At about 4:20 p.m., the 68-year-old who always took public transportation was on her way home from work when a robber ripped an iPhone away from another woman at the Fullerton L stop. As the man fled — pushing his way through the rush hour crowd — he shoved Katona-King down a flight of metal stairs.
4:20 p.m. on a Monday.  In Lincoln Park, at the L stop that is right by DePaul University.  In other words, this is not the ghetto.

This woman is dead over an iPhone.  Let's hope it has the "Find My iPhone" app on it, because they still haven't caught this loser.  What the hell is wrong with people?  As a point of reference, there were no murders in Lincoln Park in 2010. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

One of The Coolest Streets In Chicago - West Menomonee

I love history, and I love old school streets in big cities.

Over the weekend I went for a long, long walk with one of my friends all around Lincoln Park.  We wanted some exercise, and the weather was great.  We wandered all over.  We even went to the zoo (which in my opinion is one of the most awesome zoos around, and it is free) and saw a leopard and kangaroos.  Most of the other animals weren't out yet, due to the weather, but still, the zoo was open!  I love the Lincoln Park Zoo so much.  If you are ever in Chicago around Christmas, go to the "zoo lights" at Lincoln Park Zoo.  It's great.  The entire zoo is Christmas decorated.  I don't even normally like cheesy crap like that and I think it is pretty great.   

At any rate, we were wandering around and we hit West Menomonee Street.  I had never been on this street before.  It is amazing.  Brick sidewalks, and the street itself is so narrow compared to most Chicago streets.  Totally old school.  Tons of historical type homes.  It's a short street -- about four long blocks, but it is really, really cool.  There's something about it, and I haven't seen a stretch of street like that in Chicago before.  I was all gawking at it all.  It kind of reminded me of Boston a little, because it seemed so historic.  I highly recommend a quick walk down this street if you are in Chicago if you are into this kind of thing.  It's pretty beautiful.  So, where is it?  Just west of Lincoln Park.  The actual park, not the neighborhood.  You can find it on Mapquest, just search on West Menomonee and zoom in far.  It's at the north side brink of Lincoln Park neighborhood and Old Town neighborhood. 

I love finding new things in the city where I live.   

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How I Met Your Mother -- The Gaps

I really like How I Met Your Mother, because the writers often come up with clever storylines that remind me of the stupid crap I talk about with my friends.  ("Drunk or Kid" is one of my favorite storylines.  You tell a story about something stupid you did, and your friends have to guess whether you were a kid or drunk when it happened.  Hilarious.)

Anyway, in this week's episode, the characters discussed each other's "gaps" in knowledge or ability.  For example, Ted had been pronouncing "chameleon" wrong for years.  Robin didn't know that the North Pole really existed.  These are stupid things that you should know, but you don't.

This led me to think about my own gaps.  You can only identify a gap once it has been pointed out to you.  I know there are more of these in my past, but I can't remember them now.  Here are the ones I remember:

1.  I cannot pronounce the word "peculiar."  I can say it in my head, but when I try to say it out loud, I cannot do it.  My tongue gets all tied up.  For obvious reasons, I avoid using this word.  I used to love the Peculiar Pub in New York City, but I could never recommend to any of my friends to go there and check it out because I couldn't pronounce the damn name.    

2.  Whenever I see the word "gauge" (which happens more often than you might think in my line of work), I pronounce it "gawge."   I did this in a deposition once, and felt like a complete ass.  It's pronounced "gayge."  I know this, but something in my brain will not allow me to pronounce it correctly.

3.  I didn't know people washed their sheets until I went away to college.  This sounds absurd, I know, but my mom never, ever washed our sheets when I was growing up.  (Hell, she still doesn't.)  We changed them occasionally (rarely), when we got new ones, or needed a change in color, but this was few and far between, and I had no idea people actually washed their sheets every week or month.  My mind was blown to find this out.  My friends in college thought it was hilarious.

4.  Whenever I used to see "nude" colored bras, I always wondered why anyone would buy a bra that is such an ugly color.  White, black, the colors of the rainbow, sure.  But nude?  Why?  Then when I was around 29 one of my friends explained to me that nude bras are great to wear under white and light colored shirts because then you can't see the bra through the shirt.  This was also mind blowing to me.  I had avoided wearing white shirts for years because I hated the look of a white bra showing through it.  I have no idea why I didn't know this, or why I never figured it out before.

I'm positive I have more of these, but I just haven't been able to think of any others.     

Jan Schakowsky's Fairness in Taxation Act Is Hardly "Fair"

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of (where else?) Illinois has introduced a bill for the Fairness in Taxation Act.  What does this wonderful bill do?  It introduces newer, and higher tax brackets for millionaires and billionaires:

•$1-10 million: 45%

•$10-20 million: 46%

•$20-100 million: 47%

•$100 million to $1 billion: 48%

•$1 billion and over: 49%
Here's what she said (from the above link), emphasis added by me:

It’s time for millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share, which is why I introduced the Fairness in Taxation Act. This isn’t about punishment or revenge. It’s about fairness. It’s about avoiding budget cuts that harm middle class families and those who aspire to it. We can choose to cut education, job creation and health care, or we can choose to ask those who can contribute more to do so.
Oh, really?  You have to have a lot of balls to single out one group of individuals (here, the rich) and then title a bill "Fairness."  Old reliable defines fair as "free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice."  This bill seems pretty biased to me.  Additionally, when you are introducing a bill and trying to make it into THE LAW, you cease to be "asking" people to do anything -- you are forcing them to do what you want them to do.  I would venture to guess that the millionaires and billionaires out there are contributing to the charities of their choice with their earned money.  Maybe encouraging them to do more of that would be "asking them to contribute more."  Why not just call a spade a spade?  Why call it the "Fairness in Taxation Act"?  It should be called "The People Who Earn More Money Who Are Capable of Contributing More Money Should Be Forced to Contribute More Money Act of 2011."

Even though this bill would not affect me -- yet -- I still do not understand this "fair share" the Democrats go on and on about.  Just because someone is able to pay more money in taxes doesn't mean it is "fair" to force them to do so.  I won't retread old ground with my opinion on that, though.

We could also choose to cut spending in other areas.  It would seem to me that rather than try to take more money from taxpayers, all members of Congress should be forced to read the GAO Report on Selected Federal Programs that Have Similar or Overlapping Objectives, Provide Similar Services, or Are Fragmented Across Government Missions.   The GAO found that billions could be saved annually by cleaning some of this up.  Considering that the preparation of this report probably cost us taxpayers millions, maybe it would be useful to consider putting some of these suggestions into practice?  Or would that be too difficult? 

Hello, Gorgeous! Look What I Finally Got...

After ten long years, I finally have a new car!  Here's my black sapphire metallic 2011 BMW 328xi with oyster and black interior: 

I'd forgotten how nice it is to drive a new car.  Oh, the smell!  This car is really swanky, too!  I don't know how I'm going to figure out all the cool electronic gadgets and features.  It has a hard drive that I can upload all of my music into, so I don't even have to use my iPod.  A heated steering wheel!  Navigation, traffic alerts, Sirius XM (which is pretty cool), and all kinds of other goodies.  Even better, for a car dunce like me, you can check your oil from inside the car.  Yes, no more popping the hood and pulling the dipstick out.  This amazing brain of a car keeps track of it for you.  It also tells you when you have a flat. 

I've been randomly driving around for the past week - although I'm still a little afraid I'm going to crash it immediately.  Everything you've heard about how awesome BMWs are to drive is completely true.  I feel like I'm driving a sports car compared to my old Jetta.

At any rate, it's very nice to have a car again.  This weekend I can finally take some more stuff over to Salvation Army, as I continue to try to pare down my clothing and other crap. 

I Forgot My Phone Today

Why does leaving my house without my cell phone send me into such a sense of panic?

I lived twenty five years of my life without a cell phone.  (Yes, I was a very late adopter.  I hate talking on the phone, and the very idea that anyone should be able to reach me at any time was alarming.)  Nothing horrible happened to me during my pre-cell phone years.  Of course, back then you could find a pay phone if you really needed to reach someone.  Also, back then I actually knew all of my friend's and family's phone numbers.  Now the only phone numbers I know by heart are my mom's home phone and my office phone number.  I don't even know what my own home phone number is, but it is written down on a Post-It somewhere in my house.

Anyway, today I accidentally left my cell phone at home, and despite that I am sitting right next to a phone in my office, it's kind of making me nervous.  Anyone who desperately needed to reach me could and would call my office if I didn't respond on my cell phone.  Still, this is making me very uncomfortable.  Let's hope I can make it home without any mishaps. 

Ear Gauging: A Great Way to Ruin Your Future Career

My brother's stepdaughter, G, who is eighteen, has decided to gauge her ears.  Last night on Facebook she announced that she was doing so, and there were a flurry of "Awesome!" type comments from her friends.  This sounds like a great way to get an infection to me.  I mean, if you are going to do it, at least go to a professional.

Did I miss the memo where this is the new "cool" thing to do?  Are kids tired of tattoos already?  Maybe I'm just getting old and fogey, but the whole ear gauging thing to me is (1) extremely ugly; and (2) extremely gross.  Whenever I see people who have done this, who are parading around with gigantic holes in their ears, I usually find it hard not to stare.  First I think "Ouch!" then I think "Why?"  Is there some advantage of which I am unaware that makes it a good thing to be able to see through your earlobes?  Obviously I'm a very conservative person, but it was surprising to me that all of G's friends were so gung ho about it.  Am I that out of it?    

I also can't help but think that she is severely limiting herself as far as future career prospects.  I don't know how large of a gauge she is ultimately going to go with (edit:  she told me 6 or 8, which is still pretty big, in my opinion), but this seems like the kind of thing where you could easily get addicted to going bigger.  Maybe she's going for the minimal size, which isn't that atrocious, but it's still not something you would expect to see from a professional.  At least not yet.  Who knows, maybe someday everyone will have ear gaugings and it won't seem like such an outlier thing to do.  At least I've never seen a teacher, cop, doctor, lawyer, accountant, salesperson at a nice store or car dealership, or most other "mainstream" jobs with this done.  Tattoos at least you can hide.  An ear gauge?  Not so much, unless you really pull your hair over it.  Also, this eliminates the ability to wear normal earrings, doesn't it?  That seems like a big downside to me.   

G wants to be a writer.  I suppose if she is able to succeed at that, it doesn't matter if she has her ears gauged.  Unfortunately, there's a lot of competition out there for writers, and if she wants to put food on her table she may also have to get a more mainstream job.  She's mentioned teaching English.  I'm not sure how she plans to accomplish that with ear gauges.  From what I've read, sometimes you can close them up, but it's a process, and it doesn't always work.  Why even take that risk?  It's one thing to have fun and do goofy things when you are young, it's another thing to do something to your body that you might really regret ten years down the line when you are sitting in a job interview.  We live in a society where you are judged by how you look.  Why put yourself at such a disadvantage out of the gate?  Is it all just to make a statement about how edgy you are?  Maybe the argument is that if you want ear gauges, you don't want a mainstream job.  But there can only be so many edge jobs out there at edgy bookstores and coffee shops, right?  I really just don't get it.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

High Blood Pressure When You Are Young

I'm not sure if I mentioned it before, but I have high blood pressure.  I've had it since I was 26.  Here's the story:

I was living in Los Angeles at the time, and went to my eye doctor for my yearly eye exam so I could get a year's worth of new contacts.  The eye doctor, to this day, is the only doctor I make it a point to see on a yearly basis, because without him/her, I have to wear my glasses, which doesn't work for me.  For some reason, this eye doctor checked my blood pressure.  I've never had an eye doctor do it before or since, but he did, and he told me my blood pressure was high, and it was strange, and I should see a doctor.  At the time, I weighed about 130, and at 5'6", there were no outwardly reasons why my blood pressure should be reading high.  I didn't have a doctor at the time, because I never went to the doctor, so I found one, and went to her.  She ran every test imaginable on me to determine why my blood pressure was high.  All tests came back that I was perfectly healthy.  In the end, she determined it must just be genetic.  My dad had outragouesly high blood pressure -- his upper number was regularly in the 200s.  Mine, unregulated goes around 140/100, to this day.  Obviously quitting smoking would help, but none of my doctors that I've seen attribute it solely to my smoking.  They want me to quit, but they don't blame it on that.  I just have high blood pressure.   Thanks, dad.

Since then, I've been on 20mg of Lotensin a day.  It works and brings me to the normal 120/80.  I check my blood pressure daily -- in the morning, after work, at varying times.  The Lotensin works.  Also, it gave me no side effects.

So, obviously, like an idiot, I didn't go see my doctor for a long time.  It's hard to make a yearly physical appointment when you are feeling fine, even when your doctor tells you to do so because you have high blood pressure and they want to monitor your situation.  Also, in 2009 I got the highest (smoker) health rating in my physical for my life insurance.  So, I thought I was all good.  The last time I saw my doctor was in March 2008.  I extended my one year Lotensin prescription for over a year without going in, but ultimately, I was told they would not extend it until I went in.  So, I stopped taking it.

This was a bad idea.  It wasn't apparent to me at first, but over the past few months I've been feeling sluggish, tightening in my chest, inability to concentrate, inability to remember things I just read, and a lot of other physical things that were frightening me.  So, I went to see her this week, got my Lotensin back, and within 24 hours, I felt like myself again. I was sharp.  I was me again.  Thank God.  People say high blood pressure is a "silent killer," but I can tell when my blood pressure is high, and I can tell when I'm not operating, and I attribute it to the high blood pressure.  It affects your brain.  And my high blood pressure isn't even that outrageously high!  It does affect you.  

What I've learned from this is that I will never go without my Lotensin again, and I will always see my doctor for my yearly checkup.  And also, everyone should have their blood pressure checked.  It's no big deal to take pill each day to keep your heart in check. 

The Great Garage Door Test of 2011

Until this past Sunday, I hadn't been in my garage since November, when I removed my Jetta and drove it off to my sister in Michigan.

So, since I am supposed to pick up my new car tomorrow or Thursday, it occurred to me that I should make sure my garage door opener and garage door was working, because if I ended up in a situation where I had to park my brand new BMW on the street, I would not be very happy, even though it is a fairly safe street.  My complex is twelve units, and my garage is shared with four cars, my garage door with one other car, who is never there because this is their "second home."  So, I was fairly confident my garage door had not been opened or closed in four months.

So, I went out, and used my handheld transmitter, and it opened fine.  Great, the battery is good, this is awesome.  Then I tried to put it down.  Not happening.  It went down about a foot, then stopped and went back up.  There were problems, it was getting stuck.  I get it, garage doors need care and I was a neglectful parent. So, I grabbed -- what else -- WD-40 and hosed down all of the hinges, rollers, tracks and everything.  I sprayed that shit so it was all lubricated and ready to go, because obviously it was getting stuck somewhere.  Tried the transmitter again and it went down without a problem.

Very pleased with myself about my problem solving skills, I made the mistake of Googling this issue to make sure I was right.  The word on the Internetz is about half and half -- some people say WD-40 is fine for this kind of repair; others say you need a better lubricant, like 3-in-1 or some lithium based thing.  They all say to not lubricate the tracks.  Oops.  All I know is the garage door worked after the WD-40.  I haven't tried it since, and I am going to try it again in the morning, to see what happens.  In the event that it doesn't work for whatever reason, or I ruined it with my liberal use of WD-40, at least that gives me the day to call an expert to fix the problem.  My worry is me trying to leave for somewhere, and the garage door won't go down.  My garage is off an alley.  I can't just pull into my driveway and fix the issue because I have no driveway.  I have to move my car, find a parking spot on the street or just pull it back into the garage, and deal with the garage door, all the while leaving the garage open to the alley.  City living can be a pain in the ass sometimes, let me tell you.  I think I will pick up some 3-in-1 from Home Depot once I get my car and can drive over there to buy it, and just spray the rollers with it.  

That's assuming my pre-test in the morning gives good results.  Fingers crossed.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Save It For A Special Occasion

I have a memory of being in around second grade, sitting in the school cafeteria. When I opened my lunch box, it contained a special treat my dad made for me. I remember that he got up extra early to make me this treat. What he had done was take an apple, and carved it up into the shape of a turkey. (It must’ve been around Thanksgiving.) He used peanut butter to hold the feathers in. (This was before every kid was allergic to peanuts.) It was unbelievably cute. In fact, I liked it so much that I “put it away for later.” It was so pretty, I didn’t want to eat it.

What happened to that apple peanut butter turkey? It went bad. I never ate it, because it was too pretty. I was saving it. Sometimes I still feel a bit guilty about wasting that food, and wonder, why didn’t I just eat it? I’ve done the same thing with the sugar flowers on cakes – saved them until they were a crumbled up mess rather than enjoying them. The reason I was like this as a kid is because my mom is a “save it for a special occasion” type. This is how I grew up. We never burned pretty candles, never wore our “good” clothes, coats, or shoes except for rare occasions, and saved everything for “later.” My mom still does these things. She has shelves full of candles covered in dust that are too pretty to burn. She won’t wear her new Burberry scarf when she’s just running to the grocery store because it’s “for nice occasions.”

Until about ten years ago, I still did this. It was so ingrained in me, I didn’t think twice about “saving things for later.” However, when I stopped and thought about it, it all seemed ridiculous. How many clothes did I outgrow after wearing them once, on a “special occasion” because I might “get them dirty” if I wore them otherwise? How many pretty things sat in my closet over the years waiting for a “special occasion”? How many cupcakes or Easter eggs didn’t get eaten because they were too pretty? It’s no fun to look at pretty clothes in the closet and never wear them. It’s no fun to be afraid to wear a white coat or white pants because you might get them dirty. It’s no fun to never burn that delicious smelling candle that is shaped like a dog. It’s no fun to be afraid of ruining a pair of shoes or a purse. It’s no fun to be so terrified of losing a bracelet that it never gets worn outside of the bedroom.

I mean, who cares if something gets ruined? Who cares if you have to buy a new candle? (In fact, using candles allows you to buy new candles without turning into a candle hoarder.) Who cares if something needs to be replaced?

I try to use everything I have now, and forget the “save it for a special occasion” mindset. I use my expensive perfumes and lotions whenever I feel like it – sometimes when I’m not even going out. I burn every candle I buy down to the nub. I carry whatever purse I want to carry, wear whatever shoes I want to wear, wear whatever clothes I want to wear, and don’t get upset if something gets scuffed or dirty. In fact, when I took one of my Louis Vuitton purses down into a gold mine in Colorado a few years back on vacation, some grease dripped on it. You know what? I didn’t care. I wasn’t devastated. Quite the opposite, in fact. Whenever I carry that bag now and see the spot of grease on the handle, it reminds me of the trip I took to Colorado with my mom.

It’s just stuff, after all. No need to save it for later.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Are You Ready for An Emergency? I'm Not.

The awful tragedy in Japan got me thinking. I am in no way prepared for an emergency. What if I had to go without electricity, power, or gas for a few days or a week? What if the stores were all out of goods, or the lines were too long, or the looting so prevalent that I was afraid to leave the house? (By the way…how about there being no looting in Japan? Amazing.  Chicago would not be like that.) What if for some reason I couldn't leave the house?  While I have some food and water in the house, it isn’t much. Usually I drink out of the tap and go to the grocery store once or twice a week. I have a few candles, but not enough. I don’t have a flashlight. Then, what if I had to leave my house quickly because of a fire or for some other reason? Would I even know what to grab? Could I make such a decision? 

Am I insane?  I've thought about doing this over the years, but for some reason I never actually did it.

My plan is to remedy this situation. Watching the Japanese people on the news in the aftermath of the tsunami/earthquake has really, really hit me how important it is to at least make an effort to be prepared for something like this, in the event that it takes time for relief to arrive.  (Obviously everything could be obliterated quickly, which would make the whole thing moot, but still.  There are a lot of people sitting at home in Tokyo with no power.)  So, I’m going to put together a survival kit. Here are some links with great checklists and ideas for things to put in it: from the government, Popular Mechanics, and FEMA.  I'll also stock up my basement with some additional cases of water.  Finally, I’m going to carefully think through the important things I need that are either not replaceable or would be useful in the situation if I lost my house – i.e. my passport, some heirloom jewelry, my dad's class ring and wedding ring, photographs, etc., and put those things in one location, in a small box or bag, so they are easy to grab should I have to run.  

It’s bizarre, because as I get older I think about dying and emergency type things all the time. I’ve been carefully organizing my paperwork (financial info, bank accounts, user ids/passwords, life insurance info, etc.) because it occurred to me that if I dropped dead my family would have no clue where I do my banking, who is in charge of my life insurance, what investments I have, my friends’ phone numbers, etc. I also need to write my will. Why am I thinking about this stuff so much? I’d like to just think I am well prepared.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Random Thoughts on March 9

1.  I just looked over and my Christmas wreath is still up on the inside of my front door.  Oops.

2.  I wore a coat to work today that I bought at Fashion Bug in around 1998.  I've always liked this coat (it's red and wool and cut nice), so it didn't occur to me how old it was until I really thought about it.  I think it's time for it to be given away.  I don't need to keep things this long.

3.  I'm ready to quit smoking.  I've hit that point.  I'm seeing my doctor Monday for my yearly physical, and am going to ask her for that drug (can't remember the name) that supposedly helps you quit.  I can go without and rely on Nicorette for about two days, but by day three I'm dying and always break down and have a cigarette.  This has happened multiple times over the past few months as I've tried to quit on my own.  I need something stronger, because I do not have the willpower on my own.  This is also why I've never tried cocaine, meth, LSD, heroin, or crack.  I'd be a mess within weeks.

4.  I cannot believe Rahm Emmanuel is going to be the Mayor of Chicago.  This is going to be interesting.

5.  I'm so glad the Oscars are over, because if I have to hear one more thing about Natalie Portman and her baby and her (womanizing, hope she knows what she got into) love, I will puke.  I certainly wish her the best, but enough is enough.

6.  Speaking of the Oscars, while I'm thrilled for Colin Firth, I was kind of hoping for a Jesse Eisenberg upset.  I know it would've never happened, but I thought he was amazing in The Social Network.  I watched it On Demand a few days before the Oscars, not expecting to like it, but I did.  And he was awesome.  I can't imagine anyone else pulling it off like he did.  I've liked him since Roger Dodger (with Cambell Scott, one of my favorite actors), and hope to see great things from him in the future.  Andrew Garfield was great as well.  All in all, great performances from everyone in that movie, even Justin Timberlake.  I still need to watch The King's Speech and Black Swan.

7.  Speaking of Justin Timberlake, I was thinking the other day about what a hat trick he's pulled.  Mickey Mouse Club to boy band to successful solo singing career to fairly successful already with a lot of potential in the future acting career.  Think about how many people have tried and failed from one step to the next of his career trail.  Bobby Brown and Ricky Martin are the only ex-boy band members I can think of who truly had a successful solo career -- or at least one really successful album.  None of the New Kids did it, none of the Backstreet Boys did it, etc.  And how many singers try to act and fail?  Good for him.  I always liked him for some reason -- maybe because of his ability to laugh at himself.  He's one of the best SNL hosts ever.

8.  Jersey Shore has been reduced to showing us their clogged toilet.  Seriously.  These kids are too famous to even go out normally or do anything normally, and every hookup they get (with maybe the exception of Pauly D) is solely due to their fame.  Get a new cast.  That way, the current cast will be over their fifteen minutes of fame within six months after the next season (which is taking place in Italy) has aired and we won't have to hear about them anymore.  Can you believe Rolling Stone put Snooki on the cover?  What a totally loser magazine that one has become. 

9.   Huffington Post had this story about Lady Gaga talking about living with roaches and doing cocaine and living this tragic life before she got famous.  I don't buy it.  She went to NYU.  She grew up middle/upper class.  Now she's milking her image, ignoring that when she was Stefanie trying to make it she failed, but once Lady Gaga and all of that craziness came out she succeeded.  This feels like rewriting history to me, to make her seem all the more edgy.  I don't think she's particularly edgy, just pathetic at this point.  Also, if she's publicly admitting to doing cocaine in interviews, why hasn't she been arrested?  It's still against the law, isn't it? 

10.  I never really understood the thrill about cashmere because I've never owned anything cashmere.  Too expensive.  When I was in Las Vegas in December, I bought a cashmere scarf from Burberry.  (Note to self:  use tax for Illinois.)  I've been wearing it  It is so soft and so warm.  I never want to take it off!  What's funny is that I bought my mom one, too, and she told me the same thing out of the blue.  (We never had cashmere when I was growing up.)  I guess I get it now.          

Closing the Loop on Taxes and the Illinois Use Tax

So, let's just close the loop on taxes.  Particularly, my taxes.  Don't you hate it when you follow a news story and then it gets dropped so there is no resolution?  Like Nicky Diaz Santillian.  I wonder what happened to her and Meg Whitman and Gloria Allred, and is she going to get deported?  No idea, because no one reported on it much after the big press conference and election was over.  I can't find anything about this online.

Anyway, I finished my taxes.  I actually did them myself this year, because even though I make a lot of money, my taxes are not complicated at all.  I don't own a business, I don't own multiple homes, I don't have a ton of personal deductions or business deductions, so, it's cheaper and easier for me to just gather the documents, enter the numbers into the software, and do it on my own.

At the end of the day, I paid...drumroll...$195,046 to the Feds and $20,161 to Illinois, for a grand total of $215,207.  This means I am getting a refund -- thanks mostly in part to my mortgage interest and property tax deductions.  If I didn't have those, I would've had to pay a lot more, because, due to my income and single childless status, I don't qualify for many other deductions.  Seriously, I don't.  I've got 529 account deductions for my nieces and nephews and charitable deductions and things like that, but a lot of the good deductions go away when you make too much money.

Illinois has also started to get serious about the "use tax."  It's now a line on the Illinois tax return that has to be filled in with something.  This means if you buy anything out of state or country or online and don't pay Illinois sales tax and use that item in the state of Illinois, you must either (a) pay Illinois sales tax on it; or (b) make up the difference if the sales tax you paid in the other state (like if you were on vacation or something) if it is less than the sales tax to Illinois.  Apparently this is something we've been supposed to do for years, but no one ever knew about it, so no one did it.  And now they want to ex post facto us all into it. 

No one keeps track of this crap.  I mean, seriously.  There's been a lot of talk about it at my firm.  Am I supposed to go back through all of my Internet and out of state purchases over the past seven years to figure this out?  I buy a ton of stuff from Amazon, eBay, random Internet sites, while on vacation, while visiting my mom in Michigan, etc.  That could take hours, or even days.  Hell, I don't remember what I bought three months ago much less six years ago.  I don't have that kind of time.  So what they offer instead is that you can pay 0.06% of your AGI.  I did that for 2010 because I was lazy and it came to around $400.  Fine, whatever.  It's on my tax return, and I did it to comply.  But the kicker is, they want you to do this for 2004 to the present and file it prior to October 2011.  (They are granting "amnesty" if you do this.  What that means, I have no idea.  You can still be penalized if you screw it up.  And you have to file it by mail for each of the six years.  Way to make it easy for people.)  Obviously Illinois is pushing this now because the state is completely broke.  I do not want to pay 0.06% of my AGI for 2004-2009 for this, because I think it will amount to much less.  But how do I figure it out without wasting hours and days of time?  It's a conundrum and it's bullshit.

So that's that for taxes this year...we'll see how next year pans out now that Illinois income tax has been raised.  Thanks Governor Quinn!     

Friday, March 4, 2011

CLE Is A Total Scam

A few years ago, Illinois (and a bunch of other states) decided to make all of the attorneys who wish to practice law in the state attend a certain number of "Continuing Legal Education" courses.  Basically, as of now -- although it is going up -- you have two years to do 24 hours of CLE, of which four hours has to be "professional responsibility."  My CLE credits are due at the end of June, since I am the N-Z class, and of course, I waited until pretty late in the game to even worry about it.

Why?  Because I practice law on a daily basis.  My CLE happens every single day.  I get the disposition sheets from the Federal Circuit each week, so I read what travesty they are creating in patent law, I get the updates from the courts on their local rules changes, I read the law blogs in my area, and I research the law regularly.  If you are actively practicing law, you are unintentionally doing your continuing legal education.

But that's not enough.  You have to sign up for and pay for a class or multiple classes in order to meet your credit hours.  This is what the majority of the lawyers at my firm do:  they pay the cheap $300 or whatever for the "DVD pack" that ICLE (Illinois Continuing Legal Education) offers that meets the 24 hour requirement, which contains all areas of law, the vast majority of which they don't practice at all on a daily basis.  This is things like estates law or family law.  Patent attorneys are taking this CLE.  Yeah, there's some real continuing legal education that is going to keep them up to speed.  Yep.  Anyway, they set it up on their computer, and while they are working on other things they click through the course when prompted.  They don't pay attention to it, they don't use it, they don't bother.  I do that, too, for part of my credits, but I also actually pay more to go out and take some classes.  It's a nice excuse to get out of the office, and honestly I haven't yet attended a class that I didn't learn something from.

However.  I don't feel I should be forced to do this.  If I want to take a course, I'll take a course.  The courses cost around $295 usually for about 6 credits.  To a new lawyer who has to do this, that's a lot of money for 24 credits if you want to do it the "right" way.  And no one I've met takes this CLE seriously.  It's a joke.  It's a way for someone to make money off all the lawyers who have to pay to take the classes to meet their CLE requirement to keep their license.  And the worst is that all you do is sign a declaration saying you did it and send it in, but you are supposed to keep your attendance records in case you get "audited."  Please.  I'd like to know if they've ever audited anyone on this.          

The Next Winter Fashion Shopping Extravaganza

I like a deal.  It doesn't matter to me that I have the money now to buy pretty much any fashion I want to buy (within some reason).  I still like a deal, and it still makes me shudder a bit to spend $500 on a pair of shoes or a coat.

So, this is the time of year where I stock up for next winter. 

I desperately needed new winter snow boots this year.  I have three pairs -- a pair of Uggs that I bought in 2005, a pair of Coach boots that I bought in 2008, and another random pair of black/sheepskin boots that I bought in around 2007.  They are all shot.  In the winter, I wear boots every single day walking to and from the train, and bring my heels in a bag with me to work.  All winter I kept thinking about how I desperately needed new boots, but I never bought any.  I don't know why.  I just didn't.  And although my boots don't look so great anymore, they do the job.

So, a couple of weeks ago I "accidentally" stumbled upon the Tory Burch website, and low and behold, all of her winter boots were at least 50% off.  Some as much as 60% off.  This is a good deal for Tory Burch, which is one of my favorite shoe brands these days.  I bought two pairs of black snow winter boots for next year for around $300.  I can't link to them here, but they are black, one with sherling lining, one with rabbit fur, and super cute.  I'm all set for next year, and I can thankfully toss the Uggs and the other pair.  (The Coach ones still have some time left in them...)  And in November, when the snow hits, I won't have to look at those crappy boots and think "Ugh!  I need new boots!"  I'll just pull out my brand new Tory Burch boots and be on my way and stylish to boot.  (Hardy har har.) 

This is what I do.  I stock up on things I know I need for next year at the end of the season when everything is super cheap and on sale.  I do this for summer and spring, too.  But it has to be a classic/not trendy type of thing in order for this to work.  It may not be as much fun, but what do I care about wearing the "right this season" design?  I mean, I live in Chicago.  No one here cares.  No one here knows -- least of all most of the people I see at work or standing on the el platform.  I also could use a new black wool coat, because I'm not wild anymore about the two I have anymore (one is a 60s vintage coat, and the other is a Calvin Klein I bought a couple of years ago), so I've got my eye out for something cute in that department as black turtlenecks.  Cheap.  I wear them all winter, so they will be used. 

I Hate the IT Guys

The IT guys at my firm regularly fuck everything up.  I know their job is hard and all that, but it is just constant.  This or that is down, we're out of network space, you can't connect to this or that.  Ugh.  We -- like most firms -- have the ability to load up our laptops with the appropriate "stuff" to access e-mail and the network from home or on the road.  I avoided doing this because I didn't want to give the tech guys my laptop so they could mess around with it.  When I do work from home, it's quick and dirty to copy what I need onto a thumb drive, take it home, and then bring it back to work on the thumb drive.  Obviously using the network is better, but this works fine.  Usually I'm just drafting a brief or reviewing transcripts or documents anyway.  If I need to send an e-mail, I can do it from my phone.  No big deal. 

However, when I went to trial, I had to get my laptop set up to access the network in our war room, which meant I had to get the whole shebang.  I thought no big deal, most of the other attorneys have done it, so whatever.  How bad can it be?

Let me tell you.

First of all, they deleted my McAfee anti-virus and loaded me up with a whole bunch of other stuff, like Avast, Malwarebytes, and I don't even know what else.  But it doesn't appear that I have the full versions of these -- I've got the free versions.  Why would I want that when I am paying for the full version of McAfee?  McAfee has treated me fine, and I've had no issues.  Why would they delete it?  What's bad about this is that I have no idea how these various anti-virus software work, how they work together, why I need all of them, and how to change the settings.  This is important because...

When I try to access certain Internet sites, and to comment on certain blogs (ahem), I get a "Internet Explorer cannot display this site" message box, then it "blings!" then it shuts the window.  This is either an Internet Explorer issue or a firewall issue.  And there is no rhyme or reason to it, at least that I can see. 

All I know is that I didn't have these problems before they messed around with my computer, and from what I can tell based on my vast research of the Internet, this shouldn't be happening with Internet Explorer 8, which I have.  What pisses me off the most is that I don't even know what all they loaded on my computer or why.  Back in the day, I used to be quite adept at computer stuff.  Hell, I even used to go into regedit and change shit.  However, now that is all but a faint memory, so if I devoted a whole bunch of time to this I could probably fix it myself, but why should I have to do that?  My solution is going to have to be handing my laptop back over to them.  This is how the conversation usually goes with them:

Anyone at the Firm:  I'm having X problem with my computer.

Them:  That shouldn't be happening.  I have no idea why that's happening.  Are you sure?

It is happening!  And you did it!  ARGH!  I'm so mad.  Maybe I should just skip over them and get a new laptop.  This one is a few years old anyway.        

The Story of Buying My Car

I was dreading having to go car shopping.  Because I spend a lot of time negotiating settlement agreements, I dislike having to do any kind of back and forth when it comes to shopping and doing something that is supposed to be fun.  I would rather just know the price and either buy or not buy without all the back and forth.  "Is this really your final offer?" etc...just reminds me too much of work.

So, I did all my research.  I narrowed down to three cars:  the Audi A4 or A5, the Mercedes C300, and the BMW 328.  I figured out what options I had to have, which I kind of wanted, and which I could live without.  I looked up the dealer invoice prices for all of the above so I could make an offer.  I determined my first choice and alternate color choices for interior and exterior.  Decided (somewhat hesitantly) that I probably wanted a four door if I went with the BMW since I'm used to having a four door and it is pretty convenient.  Etc.  I learned that 3-5% above dealer invoice is reasonable.  In short, I was well prepared because that's how I roll.

After work last Friday I went to the Audi dealership.  I walked in, and there was no one in sight.  It's a huge showroom, and all the salespeople sit on the opposite side of the room.  A bunch of them were clustered around a computer, laughing and talking.  I was the only customer there.  The dealership was open until 8; it was probably around 6:30.  I wandered over to the A4 on the floor, which was a light shit brown exterior.  Really ugly color.  Why would they have such a non-sharp color on the floor?  No idea, but I scoped it out, sat inside it for awhile, inspected the interior, stared at the outside for a long while.  Meanwhile, no one came over to help me.  Then I spotted the A5, which was red and extremely sharp looking and did the same.  I liked the A5 much better.  No one even looked my way.  I mean, it was barren in the showroom and the four salespeople milling around apparently had better things to do than try to sell me a car.  Finally, I got annoyed and decided I wanted a brochure.  Of course there were none that I could just grab.  So, I walked over to where all the salespeople were clustered and stood there, to see if any of them would look my way.  They did not.  Then I went over to the cashier (for when people are in for service) to see if she would give me a brochure.  She was able to get a salesman's attention, and I told him I wanted an A4 and an A5 brochure.   

"You want both?" he asked, looking a little surprised. 

"Yes," I said, somewhat sharply.  (The price difference between the two isn't that hugely extreme, and I hadn't completely decided which one I preferred.) 

It took him a solid fifteen minutes to gather the brochures for me, while I stood there.  No one offered me water or coffee.  No one spoke to me.  When he came back, he stapled his card to the outside and handed them to me, and told me to call him if I had any questions. 

I thought "Yeah, how about right now?  Are you a fucking idiot?  Why don't you offer to show the cars to me that are sitting here on your showroom floor that I just spent twenty minutes looking at by myself?"

Needless to say, I took the brochures, but the Audi was out of the running.

The next morning, bright and early, I went over to Mercedes.  When I walked in the door, I was immediately greeted by a receptionist, and a salesman was right next to me within seconds.  This was more like it.  He offered me coffee, cappucino, water, espresso, whatever.  This was also nice.  He showed me the car in great detail, pointing out every neato detail, and I liked it a lot.  It has an amazing front end with a huge grill with the Mercedes symbol right in the middle.  Very cool.  The engine is also impressive, and the interior quite luxurious.  However, the back end of the car looked a lot like my Jetta.  This was not so good, but the car was very nice.  I liked it and it was definitely in the running.  Then it went downhill.

We went back to his office to let him search to see if they had a car with the colors and options I wanted, and to discuss price.  It took him a great deal of time to find the car, but he finally did.  I then informed him that I had to go over to BMW to check out the 3 series so I did my due diligence, and to give me his best offer.  Again, he was gone for awhile, and came back with a price that was about $200 below MSRP.  (I knew it wasn't far from MSRP, but did the calculation after I left with my researched pricing.)  Looking at the price, I knew it was high.  He mumbled something about being able to come down somewhat and maybe "throw in a maintenance package" (BMWs come with 4 years/50,000 of maintenance and Mercedes does not, so you have to add it if you want it).

Really?  I'm informing you that I'm going to your competitor to look at the car that is the biggest competition for what you just showed me and to give me your best price, and this is what you come back with?  $200 below MSRP?  Are you kidding me?  I said none of this to him, but boy, was I thinking it. 

So, I left and went to BMW.  To be fair, I was biased toward the BMW anyway, although I did like the Mercedes a lot.  If he had come back with a great price, my decision might have been more difficult.  In the end, it wasn't.  On walking into BMW, I was immediately approached by a salesman, who showed me every detail of the 328.  The exterior of the BMW is sleeker and more sporty, although the interior of the Mercedes was better.  Overall they are pretty equivalent, but I just liked the BMW better. 

Also, I got a very good price, and since I told him I didn't want to dicker back and forth, he came back with it first run through.  I was glad I did my research on the dealer invoice prices, because I added it all up and what he offered was around 3% over deal invoice.  I knew that was pretty fair.  I might've been able to get him down further if I felt like putting forth the effort, but I appreciated that he got right down to business, so I let it slide.  I'm happy to give him a little commission, because he was pleasant and a good salesman.  I got quite a few bells and whistles, like the navigation, heated seats, AWD, moonroof, etc.  He searched far and wide for one with the options and color choice (black sapphire metallic exterior with oyster/black interior) I wanted, and managed to find one on a boat on its way over here, which was headed for another dealer.  He worked his magic and arranged to trade the other dealer to get my car.  So, I don't have it yet, but I should have it within the next 10 days or maybe even less.

All in all, I'm very excited!  It's cool to be getting a new car after so long....hopefully this time I won't wait ten years to replace this one.  I really can't believe I'm going to be a BMW owner!  

Oh, and fuck Chicago and your 9.2% sales tax I have to pay on this car.  Jesus.           

Perhaps a Little Motivation and Justification...

The managing partner at my firm and I both currently have a new car on order. 

This is what he ordered:

(It's a Ferrari 458 Italia.)

This is what I ordered:

(It's a BMW 328i).

Somehow mine doesn't seem quite so impressive anymore.  (Although honestly, I think I would be afraid to even drive a $230,000 car.)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Flash Mobs on the Magnificient Mile

Have you heard about these flash mobs? I’d seen the “everyone gets up and sings a Christmas carol” one on You Tube, which seemed sweet, but of course people have found ways to use the flash mob for more nefarious purposes.

Specifically, teenagers, and specifically on Michigan Avenue. If you are unfamiliar with Chicago, Michigan Avenue is the tourist/shopping drag of the city. It is Chicago’s Fifth Avenue.  Apparently a number of stores on Michigan Avenue – Filene’s Basement, North Face, Armani Exchange, Express, Walgreens, 7-11, and The Gap have been “flash mobbed” recently. “Flash mobbing” for theft involves a group of teenagers (anywhere from 10 on up, but enough to overwhelm) who run into a store, cause a ruckus in the manner of yelling or destruction, then grab merchandise and run out the door. Can you imagine? Thankfully, at least some of the teens involved in these incidents were captured and charged:
The arrests follow a spate of similar shoplifting incidents over the last two weeks on Michigan Avenue in which large groups of youths use their sheer numbers to overwhelm and confuse store employees, staff at all three stores said.
"More than 15 of them came in the store, and then one of the boy’s shouted ‘Snatch!,’ and all you could hear was hangers being ripped off rails,” said a worker at Filene’s Basement, who asked not to be named because she is not authorized to speak with the press.
As the thieves ran from the store, one yelled out “Meet you on the Red Line!” she said.

At least $280 worth of merchandise was stolen from Filene’s, while goods worth $2,720 were stolen from North Face and $2,247 from Armani Exchange.

The girls, aged between 14 and 16, and the boys, aged between 15 and 17, were arrested within three minutes of each other and were charged as juveniles with retail theft, police said.
I don’t know why I’m so surprised by this, but I am. I’ve heard about this happening in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Philadelphia also. Where does such a complete lack of respect for other people’s property come from? I couldn’t have even fathomed doing something like this when I was a teenager. More importantly, what can a store really do about it? I imagine it happens to fast they barely have time to react and respond. Even if the store had a security guard, isn’t one security guard useless against a mob? Even if they get caught there is likely still damage to the store, and the fright it probably put into the shoppers and employees. It really just makes me sick.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Galliano and Sheen Ranting and Raving

Probably the two big stories in the entertainment world this week (other than the boring Oscar ceremony) are John Galliano and Charlie Sheen, both on the basis of some ranting and raving.

I have to admit that I’m kind of ambivalent about the John Galliano thing. Who cares if he used some disparaging words when yelling at someone? Who cares if he might be a racist? He’s a fashion designer, not the King of England. He might as well be a comedian or a rapper – two groups who are allowed to say whatever they want about anyone. Yet John Galliano flips out and the fashion world (well, mainly Natalie Portman, but he did get fired from Dior) is in an uproar. I’ll be honest here. I didn’t care when Mel Gibson went off, and I don’t care that John Galliano went off on the same topic. He didn’t physically hurt anyone. Emotionally, maybe, but speech is purportedly still free. It’s unfortunate he feels that way, but isn’t he entitled to feel that way? Have we all become so PC that having any feeling other than what is morally appropriate can be career ending? Who hasn’t been called a bad name at some point in their life? (I just heard one of my opposing counsels in a prior case referred to me as a bitch. Do I care? No.) I believe a lot of people are racists, or think unpolitically correct names about other people, even though on the surface they appear quite open minded, and would never dream of saying such a thing out loud. It’s nice to know Galliano might be an ass, because now you can decide whether or not to buy his fashion with that knowledge in hand, but at the end of the day is it really a big deal? By contrast to this, the Supreme Court ruled today that the idiots over at Westboro Baptist Church are allowed to picket at funerals and say whatever the hell they want. (Now, granted, Galliano is in Europe, but…) So Galliano gets raked over the coals, and the Westboro Baptist Church gets the seal of approval, when in my opinion what they do is far worse. Total craziness.

Speaking of Charlie Sheen, he seems to be having a great deal of fun. Here’s a guy who could have been a truly A+ List star (although arguably maybe he is given his salary, even though he is on TV instead of in films) given his start in Platoon and Wall Street, but kind of threw it all away with the drugs and hookers. Here’s the thing, though. He seems to be having a hell of a time doing it. What guy wouldn’t want to be a multi-millionaire, living with two porn stars, getting high, telling off his boss, and basically doing whatever the hell he wants? Sounds like fun to me. People keep talking about whether he’s mentally ill, and while his actions seem to indicate that it might be true, I guess there's nothing anyone can do to stop him from making an ass of himself on every talk show in the nation.  What’s extremely interesting about the whole thing is that none of his bosses have ever said that he showed up late for work, showed up high at work, or didn’t do his job. In fact, I heard the exact opposite – he showed up early and nailed his lines. So if he’s acting a little crazy in his personal life yet getting the job done, does it really matter? (although, to the extent that any of the domestic violence stuff is true, I don't condone that at all, and that's a whole different issue). I think his behavior will do nothing but bring more viewers to Two and a Half Men. What he’s doing is publicity money can’t buy.