Friday, April 29, 2011

Stretching out The Louboutins!

So, I just bought my first pair of Louboutins, and while I got the right size, they need a little breaking in before I wear them out for the night. While they felt fine at Nordstrom's, they are somewhat uncomfortable for the real world and a four to six hour span on my feet. However, I know once I stretch out the leather a bit, they will be perfectly fine.

So, as I'm sitting here around my house, wearing sweatsocks and the shoes, and walking around in them for hours in my sweats, and/or putting a wet pair of gym socks in the toe, I have to wonder the following:

Does Victoria Beckham stretch out her Louboutins like htis?

Does Oprah stretch out her Louboutins like this?

I mean, to wear these things comfortably, like many other shoes, you gotta stretch them out a bit and make them fit to your foot, and this takes some effort. Am I alone in this? I can't be. Or do all these celebrities just deal with the pain?

They are about 3/4 of the way there, I'm happy to report! I think I can even wear them on Saturday night...

Scamming Cabbies in Chicago

Many cab drivers in Chicago want to take you all over town before they take you to your destination.

The scammers will ask you "Which way do you want to go?"

Most tourists have no idea.  They say "Take me the fastest way!"  Trust me, many cabbies will take them all over before their destination. 

If you live here and know the way, you tell them the way. 

Then they try to tell you that it will be faster to go another way.

Stick to your route.

They try to make you feel like an idiot, like your route is bad.  But, if you live here and know the traffic, you know your route is good.

I just had a jackass taxi driver, who got no tip by the way, because he took me all over town and ignored the route I told him to go.  Fuck him.  I told him exactly how to get to my place, and he went another way.  So, no tip.  It took a long time, and when I said "You didn't follow my route" he said "my route was faster" and I said "I don't think so."  And, no tip.  His route was not faster.  If he would've taken me the route I told him, he would've gotten a huge tip.  Dumbass. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sometimes a Husband Would Be Nice...

Because then I could send him out to replace the lightbulb in my garage door opener.

When I got home Sunday, I noticed two things:  one, that my garage door opener light was no longer working, and two, that my neighbors had installed a new light in their garage door.  Let me explain.  In my townhouse complex of twelve units, I share what is essentially a four car garage with two garage doors.  Four units have one spot each in this garage.  We enter (walking) through one door.  There are two lights, one above my garage area (one double garage door), and one above my neighbor's garage area (another double garage door).  I also have a light on my garage door opener.  This comes in handy when I pull into the garage in the dead of night, because the light stays on for five or so minutes after opening the garage door, and then it goes out on its own.  I also have a light switch by the walking door entrance that I can turn on a lightbulb in the general vicinity of my garage door.  Does this make sense?

So, the lightbulb is still working, but the garage door opener light has gone out.  It's odd that the neighbors have this new great light, and mine is now not working.  Is there a connection?  Hmmm....  My hope is that it is just the bulb.  Anything more than that and I will have to call for reinforcements.  Anyway, this means that when I pull into the garage and shut the garage door, I am sitting in pitch black other than my headlights.  Now, clearly I can get out of my car, leave the headlights on, walk past two cars, and flick the switch, then go back to my car, shut off the headlights, and unload.  That's fine, but it's a huge pain.

So, the garage door opener light needs to be replaced.  My neighbor who I share my half of the garage with never uses their spot (which is fine with me), so this is all on me.  In any normal suburban world, this would be easy.  This is not easy in Chicago.  My garage is off an alley, and the garage door opener light is nearly right above where I park my car.  So, I must do the following:  (1) get my car out of the garage and drive it around to the street and park it; (2) walk around to the garage, get a ladder and try to figure out how to get the plastic thing off the garage door opener; (3) figure out what kind of bulb I need; (4) go to the store and get the bulb; (5) park my car in the street again; (6) get a ladder and replace the bulb; (7) drive my car around the block to place my car back in the garage.  This sounds like a massive, massive pain in the ass to me.  If I had a husband, all of this nonsense would be his job.

Eventually I will take care of this.  Oh, the joys of owning a home as a single woman.    

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Well, I Went Through The AIT Radiation Machine

I know, I know.  I've ranted and raved about how I wasn't going to go through this thing, the AIT device at the airport.  I was flying home from LaGuardia, and ended up in a line that was mainly AIT, randomly splitting into the metal detector when the AIT got backed up, which was often.  (These things are so freaking slow.  They are unusable alone.  Both of the last times I've flown the airports have had to open up the metal detector just to keep the line moving.)  I've been lucky up until this point in that I've been able to slip into the metal detector line.  Well, that didn't happen on April 18.

Ugh.  So, here's what happened.  I was tired after a weekend in New York.  My flight was delayed, so I was annoyed.  I had three bins of stuff -- one contained my iPad, one with my shoes and quart sized baggie, one with my coat.  I also had my Louis Vuitton bag and my carry on on the conveyor.  Five things on the conveyer.  The line for the AIT wasn't that long, maybe three people, but it was slow.  The metal detector was roped off for the moment.  I was worried about my iPad, even though I bought a flourescent pink case for it, so I could spot it if someone tried to grab it.  I was also somewhat worried about the Louis Vuitton.  All of the luggage was going through the conveyer, and got backed up.  It was all just sitting there, out in the open.  Meanwhile, I'm waiting in line way back away from it, and I couldn't even see any of my stuff, which had made its way through the conveyor.  I don't trust anyone anymore.  If someone grabbed my purse or iPad, what are they going to do?  I'm sure the answer is nothing.  And I'm screwed. 

Anyway, the last time I "opted out" and requested a pat down, I got led off to the side and I couldn't see my bags at all.  I didn't know at the time that I should demand that they be brought over to me.  It worried me that I might be taken God knows where to be patted down, and have to wait God knows how long to be patted down, and then have to deal with some moron putting her hands in the waistband of my jeans and all that with the new patdown rules, and then maybe have to get into an argument about someone bringing my bags and bins over, and possibly get into an argument over the groping.  I mean, the fact is, neither option is particularly appealing when it comes to the patdown or the radiation.  They have you trapped -- do you want to fly home or not?  I just wanted to get back to Chicago.

So, I just sucked it up and went through it.  I don't fly much anymore, so one blast of radiation won't kill me.  It's more the privacy issue that bothers me given the employees hired, but the hassle and the fear that you might say the wrong thing or get uber pissed off about the whole thing...this is how they get you. 

But, this doesn't mean I am always going to walk like a sheep through that machine in the future.  I'm not.  I will opt out in the future.  I just wasn't in the mood for a battle or a groping on that particular day.

101 Things About Me

My Milk Glass Heart did hers, and I thought it was cool, so I'm doing mine.  This was very hard and took awhile to think of things.  It may be self indulgent, but maybe you'll learn a little more about me.

1. My favorite movie of all time is Reservoir Dogs.

2. My favorite book of all time is Catcher in the Rye.

3. One of my favorite albums from front to back is Alice in Chains, Dirt.

4. One of the only foods I truly hate is bananas.

5. Once during a deposition an opposing attorney started eating a banana and I gagged on the video record. It was embarrassing.

6. The first premier designer purse I ever bought was a Louis Vuitton Batignolles – when I was 30.

7. My first job, at age 13, was cleaning locker rooms at a gym – showers, sinks, vacuuming, I did it all. I got paid $1.75 an hour to do it.

8. My second job, during most of high school, was working at Wendy’s. I worked the drive thru register because I was the only one who could do the math in my head to make change during rush hours. (This was before computers were popular in that business.) I often worked three or four weeknights a week from 4 until close, which was 1 or 2 a.m.

9. The only job at Wendy’s I wouldn’t do was clean the bathrooms, because I vomited when I tried to do it.

10. I graduated #5 in my high school class.

11. I was voted “Most Likely To Succeed” by my high school class, and in the yearbook picture for that, I swiped a $100 bill from my dad and wore Z-Cavaricci black pants and an IOU sweatshirt. This was in style at the time.

12. I worked at a foot doctor for awhile also during high school, doing receptionist and aid type work. I used to have to bathe old people’s feet in this weird tub, and then clean all the dead skin out of the tub. I hated that job.

13. I hate attending any type of shower -- baby or wedding. I find them incredibly boring, no matter how much I adore the friend who is the guest of honor at the shower.

14. Another favorite front to back album is U2, Joshua Tree.

15. One of my favorite bands to see live is Metallica.

16. My first car was a 1979 Mustang that my dad bought from a friend for $250. It only had an a.m. radio, so I had a jam box in the front seat from which to play cassette tapes. We put 5.0 stickers on the side of it, even though it was not a 5.0

17. My first semester in college I got a C in Calculus and thought my life was over. I had never gotten a C in my entire life. My mom talked me off the cliff.

18. My dad died when I was 19.

19. My grandfather started a manufacturing business in the 1960s, even though he only had a ninth grade education. It’s still in business, and they make nuts and fasteners, and supply to many huge companies. Despite my engineering degree and manufacturing focus in that degree, I have never been offered a job there by my uncle, who runs the business now. All three of my cousins (his kids) work there. None of them have the qualifications that I do. My brother works there, and he is the same type of manufacturing genius that my grandfather was. If he leaves, the business will not succeed.

20. I really don’t have any interest in working in the family business anyway.

21. I was a coxswain at my high school my sophomore year for the boys rowing team, and the only girl on the team.

22. I sometimes had to stay with the opposing girls’ teams when we travelled because they had nowhere for me to sleep or shower with my team.

23. My junior year in high school, I started a girls rowing team.

24. I rowed “stroke” position in the girls varsity eight, lightweight eight, and lightweight four, and was voted MVP. I also still coxswained for the boys when they needed me.

25. Rowing was one of the greatest joys of my life, and I would love to get back into it. I still have all my medals.

26. I’m the slowest runner ever, and I hate running. When we used to have to run a “city,” during rowing practice days, which was 11 miles, and I always came in last. Half the team have gone home by the time I finished.

27. The first new car I bought was a 1993 Plymouth Laser. It was dark green with gold rims.

28. When I was 24 years old, I packed everything I could fit into my 1996 Celica and moved from Detroit to Los Angeles, driving it cross country alone.

29. When I was 27 years old, I hired a moving company for my stuff, and drove my 2001 Jetta from Los Angeles to Chicago, and moved there, again driving cross country alone.

30. The moving company arrived in Chicago with my things late in the evening the day of the Gay Pride Parade. I was hammered after partying all day and had to call my ex-boyfriend to come over and help me deal with the movers while I threw up in the bathroom. (Not a proud moment…)

31. I worked as a management consultant at Andersen Consulting/Accenture from 1996 through 2001, and then quit my job and dropped everything to move to Chicago to go to law school. My mother thought I was insane.

32. The first Stephen King book I ever read was Thinner. I was ten. The librarian called my mom to make sure it was okay for me to check out Stephen King. My mom said okay because she had no idea who Stephen King was and what he wrote. She didn’t care as long as I was reading.

33. When I was a kid, I used to ride my bike to the library with an enormous backpack. I would check out ten books at a time. The library had to get my mom’s permission for me to check out so many books at once. I read really fast.

34. I’ve never had any interest in getting married.

35. I am a complete true crime book fanatic. I will read anything about serial killers or mass murderers.

36. My college graduation present to myself was a 1996 25th anniversary edition black Toyota Celica. I couldn’t believe they gave me financing based only on my job offer letter from Accenture (then Andersen Consulting.)

37. I paid off my Celica in three years, due to the overtime I worked at Andersen.

38. While working at Andersen, I lived (had an apartment in) Toronto, Minneapolis, San Diego, and San Francisco. I also travelled to Paris, Denver, La Crosse, WI, New Orleans, Boston, Washington D.C., and Kansas City. It was a fun job for awhile.

39. When I worked in Toronto, the first night I got there, I was staying at the Marriott near the Dundas subway stop. I had just spent hours at the airport getting my work visa approved. The fire alarm went off in the hotel at around three in the morning. I grabbed my passport with my work visa and ran down 20 flights of stairs. It was a false alarm. My coworkers the next day informed me that they all stayed in bed.

40. My favorite pop is Mountain Dew in a glass bottle, which I can’t find anywhere anymore.

41. One of the things I miss most about California is Rubio’s fish tacos. When I go there now for work, the first thing I do is go to Rubio’s.

42. I rarely read fiction anymore. Historical non-fiction is way more interesting than anything anyone can make up.

43. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel are two of my favorite television shows of all time.

44. I think The Golden Girls is one of the funniest sitcoms ever.

45. I was a huge fan of Edward Norton for awhile; now I kind of think he seems like a douche.

46. I have a weird obsession with Blink-182 and all of their spin-off bands like +44 and Angels and Airwaves.

47. I do not like being underwater; hence I will never snorkel or scuba dive.

48. I’m half Polish.

49. I don’t drink hard liquor at all, due to some bad experiences with it in the past. (See No. 30).

50. I have a twin brother.

51. I’ve been to the Bahamas once, when I was a junior in high school, and have no desire to go back to the Caribbean.

52. I’ve been to Cancun once, and have no desire to go back to Mexico.

53. I really prefer to travel in the United States. There is a lot to see here.

54. I’ve been all around England, France, and Spain. It was beautiful and I enjoyed it.  I would go back there.  I would also go to Italy and Germany.  Maybe Poland someday, but since many people there don't speak English, I'm not sure how I feel about it.

55. The best thing I can say about one of my ex boyfriends is that he introduced me to The National.

56. I didn’t have a microwave from the time I moved out of my mom’s house until I bought my own house – from 1996 until 2009. I never missed it.

57. I’ve had a four year relationship, a two and a half year relationship, a nine month relationship, and a six month relationship.  Other than that, I've been on a lot of first, second, and third dates.

58. I’m much too practical.

59. Even though I’m a Republican, I think Sarah Palin is an idiot. I hate her folksy way of speaking because it feels incredibly pandering to me.

60. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving is one of my favorite books.

61. I’m afraid of heights.

62. And the Band Played On is one of the most interesting and amazing books I’ve ever read.

63. I’ve found that when I stay at home rather than go out, I don’t miss much.

64. I inherited terribly frizzy hair from my mom. Both of my sisters have it also, and we found that to resolve the problem we can use a straightener made for black people’s hair, which gets much hotter than your average straightener.

65. I hate getting my hair cut.

66. I hate getting massages or anything spa related.

67. I really enjoy smoking, even though I know it will kill me.

68. I don’t understand why actors and athletes are given such god-like status in our society.

69. I’ve been on medication for high blood pressure since I was 26.

70. I have a really hard time finding pants that fit me properly, since I have a relatively thin waist and carry any excess weight in my hips. Curvy fit jeans are my best friend. Therefore, I wear a lot of dresses and skirts.

71. I’ve finally had to accept that I can no longer wear heels higher than 3 inches.

72. My favorite color is green.

73. I own eight Louis Vuitton purses, 1 Fendi, 2 Gucci, 1 Versace, and 2 Dior.

74. Gladstone’s in Malibu is one of my favorite restaurants.

75. My two week old niece dying is the worst thing that has ever happened to me.

76. I’m still friends with one of my ex boyfriends, and see him and his wife and kids regularly.

77. Blue cheese is my favorite cheese.

78. My favorite sub is Italian sub.

79. My favorite fast food restaurant is Taco Bell. I could eat there every meal, every day for the rest of my life.

80. I prefer a divey bar to a fancy restaurant, all things considered.

81. I’m obsessed with NFL football. Sundays during football season I am either at Soldier Field or camped out on my couch in front of Direct TV Sunday Ticket.

82. David Duvall is one of my favorite golfers, and I wish he would make a comeback.

83. I graduated from law school with “High Honors.” I barely missed Order of the Coif. If one B had been an A, I would’ve been there.

84. I worked for a summer at a personal injury law firm and considered quitting law school because I hated it so much.

85. I had an externship with a Judge in the Northern District of Illinois while in law school.

86. I love Family Guy and South Park. Cartman is my favorite character.

87. I don’t like cooking because it makes a mess and I don’t have the patience.  My mom thinks this means I don't know how to cook.  It doesn't.  I can cook, I just don't like to do it.

88. Whenever I go into a public restroom, the smell makes me gag.

89. I never drank coffee until I started working at a law firm. Now I drink multiple cups every day.

90. My vision is -5.75 in my left eye and -5.25 in my right. I wear contacts.

91. I thought I would stop getting zits at some point, but at the age of 36, I still get them. I worry that I will someday be 80 years old with a huge zit on my chin.

92. I don’t have any tattoos.

93. I DVR Judge Judy every day. Love her.

94. I am 5’6”.

95. I wear a size 8 shoe.

96. I’m not sure what my natural hair color is. I’ve been dyeing it since I was 14.

97. I watch way too much reality TV, and as much as I hate the entire concept of it and the fame it creates for its participants, I keep watching it.

98. I’m not sure if I believe in God.

99. I worked at Honda in East Liberty, OH for a summer during college.  I wore a white polyester shirt with my my name embroidered on it in red, horribly stiff white polyster pants, steel toed shoes, and safety goggles, which is what everyone who works at the plant wears.  When I left I stole one of the five uniforms that was assigned to me, and I still have it. 

100. I think the last ten minutes of the series finale of Six Feet Under is quite possibly the best TV I’ve ever seen.

101. I can't keep straight many of the young actors today; they all look the same to me.  This officially means I'm old.

My First Louboutins

Yes, I broke down and took the plunge.  I feel as though I have crossed a major fashion milestone. 




And yes, I'm wearing them right now with my sweats.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Things that Are Generally Not Mentioned By Politicians

1. You can have any health insurance plan or medical care you want if you pay for it.

2. You can live wherever you want if you pay for it.

3. Your kids can attend any school you want them to attend if you pay for it, either through tuition at private school or property taxes where you choose to live.

4. Many people in this country do not have health insurance by their own choosing. Children in low income families can get health insurance through Medicaid or SCHIP (or the state equivalent) in every state.

5. On average, lower income workers receive back more benefits than they pay into Social Security.

6. Individuals bear some responsibility for loans they take out, be it mortgage or student.

7. Illegal immigration costs taxpayers $113 billion per year.

8. If you feel you aren’t paying your fair share, and want to pay more taxes, you can do so voluntarily here as a gift to the government: http://www.fms.treas.gov/faq/moretopics_gifts.html, or if you specifically want your money to go to paying down the debt, go here: https://www.pay.gov/paygov/forms/formInstance.html?agencyFormId=23779454

9. Around half the members of Congress are millionaires, yet less than one percent of Americans are millionaires. Is this truly representation? Are they really voting for their constituents’ benefit or their own?

10. Of those defined by the Census Bureau as “poor” in America, nearly 40% own their own homes, 84% have air conditioning, nearly 2/3 have cable or satellite television, 2/3 have more than two rooms per person in their homes, nearly 3/4 own a car, and 31% own two cars, 98% have a color television, 2/3 own two or more color televisions, 82% have a microwave, 67% have a DVD player, 73% have a VCR, and 47% have a computer. Third world America? I don’t think so.

Just Keep Ignoring the Crime, Chicago

This article made me laugh out loud:
North Side detectives are warning businesses in the city’s Near North Police District about burglaries that resulted in many “expensive items” being stolen from three high-end retailers in the last two weeks.

However, while police are asking for the public's help in the investigations, police would not release locations, exact dates or times of the burglaries.
This is the Magnificent Mile area.  (The article goes on to say that one of the locations was the 0-99 block of Oak Street, which is where a lot of high end stores are located.)  The police want the public's help, but they won't release any information about the crimes -- least of all a description of the perpetrators.  Don't want to scare off the tourists or offend anyone!  It's really getting unbelievable.  I haven't been down to that area since around Christmas.  Maybe I'll wander over there some night this week to see what the vibe is like, with what seems to be a big uptick in crime over there.  Sweet Home, Chicago.

Annoying Things At Fast Food Restaurants

The introduction of the value meal has caused great confusion among fast food restaurant employees.  They simply cannot seem to grasp that you may just want a burger and a fry, but no drink.  Or a burger and a drink with no fry.  Yes, sometimes it costs an extra quarter to subtract the fry or the drink, but I don't care about the quarter.  If I don't want a drink or a fry, I don't want it, so please stop trying to force it on me.

This is what happened to me at Wendy's a few weeks ago, when I was going through the drive thru:

Me:  I'd like a single cheeseburger and a small fry.
Speaker:  What would you like to drink?
Me:  Nothing.  Just a single cheeseburger and a small fry.
Speaker:  Sprite?
Me:  No, no drink!
Speaker:  I have a single cheeseburger value meal with a Sprite.  (Note:  this is what the monitor said also.)
Me (yelling):  No!  No drink!  A single cheeseburger and a small fry!  That's it!
Speaker:  Please pull up.

Was my order complicated?  I don't think so.  So, I pull up, really annoyed.  The manager was at the window.

Manager:  You want a single value meal with a Sprite?
Me:  No, I just want a single cheeseburger and a small fry.  That's it.
Manager:  You'll save money if you get the drink.
Me:  I don't want the drink and I don't want the medium fry that comes with the meal.  I just want a single cheeseburger and a small fry.
Manager:  It's cheaper to get the meal.
Me:  I don't care!

The manager looked at me like I was a crazy person.  Maybe I am a crazy person. 

Then there's Arby's.  If you order a value meal there, they ask you "medium or large"?  It's a little known fact that "small" is also an option -- they just don't offer it to you.  The "small" is in fact about the size of what a "medium" used to be.  The "medium" is now a "large" and the "large" is enormous.  No wonder so many people are obese in this country.

Then there's Burger King.  While driving home from my sister's yesterday, I stopped at a Burger King to get some lunch.  I ordered a junior cheeseburger and a medium onion ring.  Everywhere I've ever been -- including Burger King in the past -- a junior cheeseburger comes with ketchup, mustard, and pickle.  Sometimes onions.  That's it.  It took around fifteen minutes to get my food even though there were eight workers lingering around the food stations in the back, and virtually no other customers.  (I went inside to order.)  Once I was in my car speeding down the highway, I opened my supposed junior cheeseburger, and it was a junior whopper with cheese.  I didn't order a junior whopper with cheese, nor did I want a junior whopper with cheese due to the mess factor of the mayonnaise and lettuce.  I ate it anyway, because what was I supposed to do at that point?  But is it really that hard to get it right?      

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Coyotes In Chicago

This is craziness:
A coyote was struck and killed by a car in Lincoln Park this morning -- and officials say they are seeing more of the predatory animals roaming city streets in search of rabbits, rats and other prey.

The coyote ran out into traffic on Fullerton Parkway north of the Lincoln Park Conservatory and Lincoln Park Zoo just before 7:30 a.m. today, according to Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Robert Perez.

The coyote was dead when Chicago Animal Care and Control officers arrived on scene, according to Cherie Travis, executive director of animal control.
So, not only do I have to worry about getting robbed at a CTA platform, having my car broken into, or being assaulted, I also have to worry about running into a coyote?  You have got to be kidding me.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Random Thoughts on April 15 (early a.m.)

1.  I would like to start a blog that just shows a screen shot of the Huffington Post's front page on a daily basis, just to mock it.  It is seriously always DOOMSDAY.  Right now it says PEDDLING JUNK.  Their headlines are so fucking ridiculous.  Talk about trying to inflict fear in the masses.

2.  I'm heading to NYC this weekend to meet my cousin from Poland for the first time!  We've been e-mailing for years, so it will be awesome to meet him in person -- and this is his first time in the U.S.  I haven't been to NYC in about five years, so I'm really excited.  H (my sis) is coming with me, so it will be great to spend some time with her as well!  She told me she's excited to go to NYC with me because I know my way around.  Well, I used to go there at least a few times a year when I was in my twenties (I love New York!), but like I said, it's been awhile.  I even considered moving there at one point.  But really, I probably still know my way around at least a bit.   

3.  One of my early fifties male co-workers this evening could not stop expressing his shock that I am single, because I am so "stunning and smart."  I tried to explain to him that I was perfectly happy, but he wasn't buying it.  I told him that if he knew a guy around my age, who is good looking, smart, and has some money, we'd be in business.  No one I know knows that guy.  Neither did he.  They are all either married by now or have serious baggage.  Even he couldn't respond to that, but the social pressure to be a couple has hit even the best of us, and apparently, him.  He kept going on and on tonight, and despite the booze, I got a bit annoyed.  Why can't I just be single?  Meanwhile, a few of the other guys who are trapped in unhappy marriages and stand to lose millions if they get divorced are telling me "You are right to be single!"  Hilarious.

4.  Obama is campaigning in Chicago tonight.  Yay.  He's pretty lucky I didn't get caught in a traffic jam, because that would've pissed me right off.

5.  Speaking of Obama, I'm hiring a company who did work on Obama's house to remodel my bathrooms.  Can't ask for better references than that, right?

6.  Speaking of Obama again, and in support of the "rich," apparently Obama paid around $1.8 million in taxes for tax year 2009.   (His 2010 returns aren't out yet.)  So, for all the folks who think "the rich" pay nothing, think again.  He made around $5 million, mainly from book sales.  The President's tax returns are the only public ones, so I can't speak for the many other "millionaires and billionaires" and what they paid.  Seems like he paid his "fair share" doesn't is?  I suspect other "millionaires and billionaires" also paid quite a bit.

7.  I'm pretty sure "Minnie the Moocher" is one of my favorite songs ever.

8.  In about four months my house will be exactly as I want it -- bathrooms done, paint, carpet, furniture, etc.  If I could snap my fingers and pay double to have it done tomorrow, I would do so.  Why can't someone invent that?

9.  It occurred to me today that I have not received the title to my new car.  I left a message at the dealership, since I paid for "tax, title, license" and I've received the plates, paid the tax, but no title.  Someone tried to call me back, but I was out of my office both times they called, and they didn't leave a message.  (Kind of weird, eh?  Luckily I have caller ID.)  I have to say Perillo BMW kind of sucks when it comes to this; it's like once they sell you the car, they aren't real interested in the other details like plates and title.  The title is a bit important, isn't it?  And I had to bother them about my plates (10 days turned into three weeks), and now, where is my title?  It's odd.  But I do love the car. 

Maybe Chicago Is Looking Out for Me

When I bought my townhouse in August 2009, I had numerous people telling me to remember to claim the homeowner's exemption.  I know, I know.  I tried, once, and it was already claimed, from the previous owner.  Then I forgot about it for awhile, and apparently lapsed the time to do it online.  I had to call or go in to claim it

Really.  Like I'm going to call or go somewhere.  Are you crazy?  This is the Internet Age!

Yes, I'm an idiot.  I never did it.  I was way too lazy.

I've tried, since, but I always get the "you need to call us or come in" response, and I've never really gathered up enough energy to do it.  I'm incredibly lazy when it comes to calling up the government.  I tried to call once, but I got put on hold for about twenty minutes, so I hung up.  That did not really make me want to call again.

These are all just excuses.  I just never did it.

So, imagine my surprise when I got a letter today that basically said this:

"Hey, idiot!  You can claim the Homeowner's Exemption, but you never bothered to apply!  Fill out this form or go to this website, and you are set."

Homeowner's exemption, here I come.  Apparently the web is open for business.  And thanks, Chicago, for pointing out my stupidity, for once.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

More Flash Mobbing and Wilding in Chicago Ignored By the Media

This letter sent out this week to Loyola students by Campus Safety is scary:
This past weekend, a serious incident took place at the McDonald’s located on the corner of Chicago and State. Due to the establishment’s proximity to the Water Tower Campus, we want to be sure you are aware of the situation.

On Sunday, a group of about 70 youths stormed the restaurant and created a disturbance. Approximately 10 Chicago Police Department (CPD) units responded and ultimately closed the restaurant for nearly three hours until peace was restored. Both CPD and Campus Safety believe this activity is related to the same group of individuals who have attempted to create havoc in the area before.
SEVENTY kids stampede McDonald's, closing it down for almost three hours, and not a single word is reported about it in the Chicago Sun Times or the Chicago Tribune.  This McDonald's is right by the Chicago red line stop, and within a few blocks of the Magnificent Mile.  It's reportedly a "gathering place" for the teenagers who want to flash mob and rob the nearby businesses and shoppers, due to its vicinity to the el.   

Grumblings on  local blogs indicate that the flash mobbing on Michigan Avenue stores hasn't stopped -- it just isn't being reported anymore.  Chicago News Report and Second City Cop pick them up, but to the mainstream its as if everything is just fine and dandy.  If past incidents and arrests for this kind of activity are any indication, this group of 70 youths are black teenagers from the south side.  But of course, no one will say that out loud (even though it is a fact), because it would sound terribly racist to point out who is actually causing this havoc.  They are taking a 20-30 minute train ride to the north side in order to steal and cause chaos.

The media doesn't report on this because it might hurt the tourist business.  You know what else hurts the tourist business?  Gangs of teenagers running at full speed down Michigan Avenue clutching stolen items.  Gangs of teenagers taunting and yelling at shoppers on Michigan Avenue.  I can attest that the atmosphere on Michigan Avenue has changed.  When are CPD and the Mayor going to do something about this?  When is the media going to demand some action?

Edit:  Apparently one reporter at the Sun Times did pick up on the story yesterday.  Yet he seems quite bewildered about what happened, and is even seeking information from any witnesses:
Chicago Police say Sunday was no big deal.
"There was a large crowd,” said a CPD spokesman. “Officers of the 18th District went and dispersed them. There were no arrests.”
And the restaurant closing for three hours?

“They voluntarily closed.”
Right, because businesses regularly "voluntarily close" for three hours on a weekend.  McDonald's wouldn't comment on the situation either.    

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Abortion is the Only Issue for Some Feminists

There is an article in the Huffington Post titled Planned Parenthood's Almost Demise, Michele Bachmann's Presidential Exploration and Geraldine Ferraro's Death Mark New Chapter in American History, and written by a "women's issues strategist, writer, speaker, organizer," that utterly pisses me off.  I've been thinking about it ever since I read it on the train on my way home tonight.  Views like these are one of the main reasons why the more mainstream feminist movement annoys me, and why in general I try to avoid articles written by self described "women's issues strategists."  Why am I so bothered?  Because articles and statements like this one reduce everything about women to one thing:  how they feel about abortion.  If you are a woman, you must be pro-choice.  If you are pro-life, you are not pro-woman.  How completely absurd. 

She states:
Tragically for the women of this country, in the years since Ferraro's nomination, the nation's view on the requisite qualifications for a woman presidential or vice-presidential candidate has radically shifted.


Now, the prevalent notion is that any woman might well be sufficient to the need (the need for more women to hold high political office), just because she's a woman. No matter her views, on anything.
Tragically!  It's tragic!  What she's really saying is that she would rather see a male President who is pro-choice than a female President who is pro-life, no matter what other views that female might hold on other issues.  (Notice, Hilary Clinton is obviously fine, because she is pro-choice and goes unmentioned in the article.  It's that damn radical right who are bringing down the women.)  I'm admittedly more pro-choice than pro-life, but I can certainly understand why some people might be pro-life.  Although, I don't think the government should have any say on the issue under any circumstances, but that bridge has been crossed years ago, thanks to Justice Blackmunn's ham-fisted "right to privacy".  But that's an issue for another day.
As a consequence of this tragically flawed strategy, the door opened -- wide -- to women politicians of a whole new kind, e.g., Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, who could be perceived, and now have been, as legitimate political leaders of women, despite being opposed to the most fundamental right of women, the right to control their reproductive destiny.
A fundamental right.  Says who?  Where?  (Doesn't it feel like everything is a "right" lately?)  You  have the right to control your reproductive destiny -- the Supreme Court has seen to that.   Any talk of overturning Roe v Wade/Planned Parenthood v Casey is Chicken Little running around like a fool.  It's not going to happen.  Abortion has been legal for over thirty years in this country, yet still it's the top issue on the agenda when it comes to women's rights and women's talking points for the Democrats.  I don't think much about abortion anymore.  I'm more concerned with the deficit, the economy, jobs, and the slow creep of the federal government into issues that aren't any of their business.  I've never based my choice of representative or President on their views about abortion.  I hardly think I'm alone in this.    

It gets better:
Now, all that is left of the Ferraro-era message is the simplistic notion that women can do anything men can do, including running for office -- a message that any woman with political ambitions could appropriate, whether she is for women, or not.
Yes, it's so simplistic that anything men can do, women can also do.  Is she serious with this?  I actually think it's pretty great.  One would think that a so-called feminist might also grudgingly admit that as crazy as Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann may be, it's nice to see women out there.  Obviously if you are not pro-choice, you are against women.  That is quite a leap in logic.  It's akin to the outcry that the Republicans hate women because they wanted to cut 1/3 of Planned Parenthood's funding.  Ignore the deficit crisis, ignore the out of control spending -- just make sure women are getting their free medical care at Planned Parenthood.   
In the 27 years since Geraldine Ferraro was nominated, three generations of women have entered the American political arena, hearing and assimilating this simplistic and useless to the women of America message: just because I'm a woman, you should vote for me.

Was that Sarah Palin's message?  Michelle Bachmann's?  Hilary Clinton's?  Nancy Pelosi's?  I don't know.  It seems to me that is probably only the message the liberals like to latch on to when a conservative woman is running for office.  She makes this statement despite that a 2009 Gallup poll showed that 49% of women identify themselves as pro-life, while 44% identify themselves as pro-choice.  Guess what?  You are in the minority.
And so we come to the prospect of a presidential run by Michele Bachmann: the prospect of a serious presidential run by a woman whose candidacy would have nothing to do with advancing the rights and security of American women. How far we have fallen.

Why does a woman who runs for president have to "advance the rights and security of American women?"  Can't she be president of the entire country, men and women?  Can't she "advance the rights and security of American women" without being pro-choice?  Why is that one, single, issue the end all and be all to women like this writer?  Can't we all just be happy about the leaps and bounds that women have made over the past thirty years and allow those women the right to their opinion? 

Obama's Speech on the Budget: Very Vague, and Not a Lot of Cutting

It was with great anticipation that I listened to Obama’s speech today. Although I don’t care for him much in general, I did want to hear his point of view on all of this deficit/budget/taxing/spending. In the end, I’m confused about what he plans to do. As per usual with any speech by a politician, it was incredibly vague. However, it was a fairly good speech, I'll give him that.

The punchline is that he wants to "achieve 4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next twelve years."

How?  Four things:
The first step in our approach is to keep annual domestic spending low by building on the savings that both parties agreed to last week – a step that will save us about $750 billion over twelve years. We will make the tough cuts necessary to achieve these savings, including in programs I care about, but I will not sacrifice the core investments we need to grow and create jobs.
Great!  What do you plan to cut?  What are the "tough cuts" here?  You would expect that to come next, wouldn't you?  But he continues with this:
We’ll invest in medical research and clean energy technology. We’ll invest in new roads and airports and broadband access. We will invest in education and job training. We will do what we need to compete and we will win the future.
"Invest" sounds suspiciously like another word for "spending."  There is nothing to see here except more spending and some TBD "tough cuts."  What's step two?
The second step in our approach is to find additional savings in our defense budget... Just as we must find more savings in domestic programs, we must do the same in defense. Over the last two years, Secretary Gates has courageously taken on wasteful spending, saving $400 billion in current and future spending. I believe we can do that again. We need to not only eliminate waste and improve efficiency and effectiveness, but conduct a fundamental review of America’s missions, capabilities, and our role in a changing world. I intend to work with Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs on this review, and I will make specific decisions about spending after it’s complete. 
It's nice to see that Secretary Gates is taking some responsibility in trying to reduce spending.  Is Congress going to do the same?  All right, so $400 billion (at least) from defense.  That's fair.  What's step 3?
The third step in our approach is to further reduce health care spending in our budget.
A very hot topic.
Already, the reforms we passed in the health care law will reduce our deficit by $1 trillion.
That's a slight exaggeration according to the Congressional Budget Office.  So, I guess that accounts for $1 trillion of the $4 trillion, which doesn't amount to any kind of a cut at all, and is in fact a funny number.
My approach would build on these reforms. We will reduce wasteful subsidies and erroneous payments.
Raise your hand if you think the government is capable of reducing wasteful subsidies and erroneous payments.  They've done such a great job at it in the past, haven't they?
We will cut spending on prescription drugs by using Medicare’s purchasing power to drive greater efficiency and speed generic brands of medicine onto the market. We will work with governors of both parties to demand more efficiency and accountability from Medicaid.
Right, the government is the very paragon of efficiency, speed, and accountability. 
We will change the way we pay for health care – not by procedure or the number of days spent in a hospital, but with new incentives for doctors and hospitals to prevent injuries and improve results.
Incentives to doctors and hospitals to prevent injuries?  Um...does not compute.  What kind of incentives is he talking about?
And we will slow the growth of Medicare costs by strengthening an independent commission of doctors, nurses, medical experts and consumers who will look at all the evidence and recommend the best ways to reduce unnecessary spending while protecting access to the services seniors need.
Sweet, another commission.  Are they going to work for free?  Does anyone ever even listen to anything any of the commissions say?  The Government Accountability Office has done a ton of great studies on ways we can cut spending, but no one ever talks about any of their suggestions.

Then he touches on Social Security:
As I said in the State of the Union, both parties should work together now to strengthen Social Security for future generations. But we must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market. 
So, nothing is changing for current retirees, the disabled, or the "vulnerable."  Benefits for future generations won't be slashed.  And no privatization.  So what exactly is his plan to strengthen Social Security?  He doesn't tell us, instead he just moves on to step 4, my favorite:
The fourth step in our approach is to reduce spending in the tax code. In December, I agreed to extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans because it was the only way I could prevent a tax hike on middle-class Americans. But we cannot afford $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire in our society. And I refuse to renew them again.
Here's where the real class warfare enters the speech.  The "wealthiest Americans" here start at those making $200,000 a year -- not just a bunch of millionaires and billionaires.  I also love it that the government cannot "afford" to let people keep the money they earn. 
Beyond that, the tax code is also loaded up with spending on things like itemized deductions. And while I agree with the goals of many of these deductions, like homeownership or charitable giving, we cannot ignore the fact that they provide millionaires an average tax break of $75,000 while doing nothing for the typical middleclass family that doesn’t itemize.
Itemizing isn't hard.  You can do it yourself with Turbo Tax and it takes no time at all.  And if a millionaire is getting a tax break of $75,000, he's probably paying upwards of $300,000.  No one ever says that -- the impression left by the media and these kinds of speeches is that the rich pay nothing in taxes.  We all know that's not true at all.  I would also suspect that your typical middleclass family is certainly claiming the mortgate interest deduction if they own a home, and also claiming for their trashbags full of junk they drag over to the Salvation Army. 
My budget calls for limiting itemized deductions for the wealthiest 2% of Americans – a reform that would reduce the deficit by $320 billion over ten years.
Awesome. The only real deductions I get -- mortage interest and charity -- are going to be limited.  Let's watch charitable contributions drop if he succeeds in putting this into place.  I also sense there will be a huge public uproar if he tries to cut the mortage interest deduction, although it may be slightly less if he only targets the top 2%.  Who cares about them, right?
But to reduce the deficit, I believe we should go further. That’s why I’m calling on Congress to reform our individual tax code so that it is fair and simple – so that the amount of taxes you pay isn’t determined by what kind of accountant you can afford. I believe reform should protect the middle class, promote economic growth, and build on the Fiscal Commission’s model of reducing tax expenditures so that there is enough savings to both lower rates and lower the deficit. And as I called for in the State of the Union, we should reform our corporate tax code as well, to make our businesses and our economy more competitive. 
I can get on board with most of this.  Taxes should be easier.  Hey, how about a flat tax for everyone?

So, that's about it.  Doesn't it seem vague?  Other than the defense and the increased revenue from higher taxes for the wealthy, I don't see where any real "sacrifices" are being made.  But, maybe I'm just crazy.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Splendor In the Grass -- Best Movie Scene/Ending Ever

Tonight Splendor in the Grass was on Turner Classic Movies.  If you haven't seen this movie, you must watch it, if only to see Warren Beatty in his first movie role.  This has always been one of my favorite movies.  We watched it in English class when I was in high school -- I can't remember why -- but it was one of the few movies we watched in high school that I actually really loved.  I watch it every time I catch it on cable. 

The title is based upon a poem by William Wordsworth, called Ode: Intimations on Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood.  It is a long poem, but the pertinent section goes like this:

What thought the radiance which was once so bright
Be now forever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind...

There is a scene fairly early on in the movie where Deanie (played by Natalie Wood) has to discuss the poem in class, to set the stage.

My favorite scene, and I think one of the best scenes in any movie, occurs at the very end.  (I'm about to spoil the end, so you are warned.)  A little background:  Deanie used to date Bud (Warren Beatty) in high school.  Bud was from a wealthy family, was supposed to go to Yale and be a successful guy.  Then a whole bunch of stuff happened to both of them, so their relationship ended.  At the end of the movie, several years later, she goes to see him, driven by her friend June.  He is living on a farm with his wife, Angie, working as a farmer.  Deanie is dressed in white, looking very classy.  Angie is attractive, but looks like a typical farmer's wife.  Deanie sees him with his wife and child, and Angie is also pregnant again, and well aware of how frumpy she looks compared to Deanie.  Then, Deanie leaves, and Bud walks Deanie out to the car, where June is waiting: 

B:  I married Angie when I left New Haven.  You know I didn't even finish my first year in school there.

D:  That's real nice.

B:  She was wonderful for me when things started to go wrong.

D:  You're happy, Bud.

B:  I guess so.  I don't ask myself that question very often now.  How about you?

D:  I'm getting married next month.

B:  Are you?

D:  A boy from Cincinnati.  I think you might like him

B:  See, things work out awful funny sometimes, don't they Deanie?

D:  Yes, they do.

B:  I hope you're going to be awful happy.

D:  Like you, Bud.  I don't think too much about happiness, either.

B  What's the point?  You gotta take what comes.

D:  Yes.  Well...

B:  Deanie?  I'm awful glad to see you again.

D:  Thanks, Bud.  Goodbye.

B:  Bye.  June?

J:  Hello, Bud.

B:  Hello.  You girls have to come out again sometime.

J:  You might ask us.

B:  Oh I will, I promise.  Angie and I got a little more money coming in now so well have a big party.

(The girls pull away).

(Angie is watching him out the door.  He walks over to her.) 

B:  Want to go eat?

(Angie looks sad; he kisses her)

(Back to the car)

J:  Deanie, honey, do you think you still love him?

D:  (voice over) (though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass of glory in the flower; We will grieve not, rather find Strengh in what remains behind....) 

The words alone simply don't do this scene justice.  You have to see it, after watching the entire movie, and their relationship, and everything that happened.  Just bar none, one of my favorite movie scenes/movie endings of all time, because it is actually more like real life than the ending of most movies.  Most people don't end up with "that person."  Shit happens, and they move on, and that's that.  Yet the way Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty act out this scene, they are both looking at each other and wondering "what if?"  And you just know he's never going to invite them back.  It's amazing. 

Glenn Beck - Arguing With Idiots

I just finished reading this:

Arguing with Idiots: How to Stop Small Minds and Big Government


Now, before you judge me, know that I only paid $4 for it at Border's.  I've never watched his show, and I think I've only listened to him on the radio once or twice, and it wasn't on purpose.  I listen to a lot of talk radio when I drive, and I think I've stumbled across his show occasionally.  All I've ever heard about him is what an asshole he is, and all of that business, although I personally never really had any opinion of him. 
 
Part of the reason I bought the book was because a few weeks ago they had a bunch of them, and some Border's employee (who is soon to be out of a job) had posted on the sign below the books "He's the idiot!"  When I saw that comment at the time, it annoyed the hell out of me, but the book wasn't cheap enough yet.  Over the past week, the book is now cheap enough -- and there were only three left.  So, I bought it.  
 
I have to say, it wasn't a bad read, and I read it really fast.  He disparages both the Democrats and the Republicans fairly equally, and I kind of agreed with a lot of what he has to say.  (He claims to be a Libertarian -- I'm probably a Republican/Libertarian, so that wasn't too surprising.)  The best part of the book is the very last chapter, where he goes through the entire Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  I hadn't read either since I was in Constitutional Law class, and it was a nice reminder about how limited our federal government should really be, and how many lines have been crossed.  Obviously I don't know if everything he said is true, although there is a thick citations section at the end of the book.  I don't take anything on face value from anyone in the media, so I will do some of my own research.  But, I have to say that I was quite pleasantly surprised by this book.  And I don't think he seems like an asshole.  

Friday, April 8, 2011

Louboutin's Red Soles

Christian Louboutin has filed a lawsuit against Yves St. Laurent for trademark infringement, because Yves St. Laurent is selling shoes with red soles:
Louboutin, based in Paris, said Yves Saint Laurent is selling shoes with red soles that are “virtually identical” to its own, according to a suit filed today in federal court in Manhattan. It seeks a court injunction against the sale of the shoes and damages of at least $1 million.

Saint Laurent has been selling red-sole shoes under brand names such as Tribute, Palais and Woodstock at high-end fashion stores that also sell Louboutin footwear, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman, according to the complaint.
What's interesting about this to me is that I never realized Christian Louboutin had trademarked the red soles.  Here is the registration for it, and the mark is described as "The color(s) red is/are claimed as a feature of the mark. The color red appears in the design representing a stylized red sole." 

Very cool.  I don't see how Yves St. Laurent gets out of this one, but this sounds pretty bold:
Louboutin was informed by Yves Saint Laurent executives by letter in January that they planned to “continue to sell the infringing footwear,” the lawsuit states.
Louboutin shouldn't have any trouble; even without the trademark the red soles are their thing.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Why Do I Feel So Old?

I am not that old. I know that. My closest college roommate is still partying it up over in Cleveland, and I see her bar pics every day on Facebook. She's an engineering major also, in case you were wondering. We don't all wear pocket protectors. She also looks exactly like Courtney Cox. It's freaky. Anyway. That's not me, but seeing her reminds me that I am not that old. However, at times I feel very old. I will be turning 37 in August. And yet...things have changed.

I was in Au Bon Pain the other morning buying a coffee before work, and the piped in music was "Man on the Moon" by REM. This was the main song from the movie Man on the Moon, starring Jim Carey, which was about the life of Andy Kaufman, which was released in 1999. I know this because in 1999 I was living in Los Angeles, and I went to see that movie, and I loved it. I was 25. That seems like a long time ago now. Standing in line to buy my coffee, I remembered going to see that movie, and I remembered how full of life I was at 25, and how I felt as if I could do anything. The world was my oyster, so to speak. Everything seemed possible. I remember feeling so full of hope at that time, wondering what the future would hold for me. Anything was possible.

And now, twelve years later, nothing seems possible. If that sounds like a drag, well, sorry. Yeah, I make great money. And sometimes I like my job. But...you ever have that feeling that there must be more to life than this? I have that a lot lately. I had that when I was younger, too, and to remedy that question, I went to law school. Ha. Of course I know that I could do all kinds of things. I have skills, I have degrees....but I feel as if I no longer have the energy to pursue something else. When I was 27, it was easy to leave my $72,000 a year job in consulting to jump to three years without pay in law school to whatever job I could find. My mom thought I was nuts. I was making great money. But I wasn't scared at all. I knew I'd find a job. I knew I'd make way more money than I had ever made, and I knew I'd be happier in whatever job I got versus the consulting world. I had energy and drive. And I did and I am. I put my mind to something and I do it. That's just how I am.

But now...it's hard to leave a job where you make a lot of money, even though it is about 50% unfulfilling. I do get fulfillment out of my job at times, but most of the time I think it is a waste of court resources. I love most of my co-workers, and here and there I get a lot of happiness out of it. But somehow I don't really see myself doing this for the next thirty something years.

The problem is, I make a lot of money doing this. I can't make this much money doing anything else at this point, and I'm pretty good at it. Not awesome or anything, but good. This is my skill -- litigation. If I start out at something else, I have to start at the bottom again, as I did when I got into law. Can I start a third career? I'm not sure if I'm up for that. I could, of course, teach law. And maybe I will, once I bank enough in my retirement account. In a lot of ways, I think I would love to teach law. I love working with new associates and guiding them. That may be my calling. I have yet to work in a job that is my calling, even though I have done very well at the two jobs I've had since college graduation. But a calling? I've always followed the money. Is that bad? Maybe. But I always wanted to be able to support myself. I can do that now, in spades, as they say. Hell, I could support about eight other people, if not more.

I want to retire as soon as possible from this life. I'm banking as much as I can right now. My financial advisor is even like "you really want to throw that much into your account?" and I'm like, yes. Look, I have no kids, no husband, very little expenses. In fact, this year will be my biggest year of expenses with the car and the remodeling work on my house that I have planned. After this year probably 70% of what I earn over the next five or six years will head straight into my investment account -- so I can retire early.

And you would think that the money would make me happy, but it really doesn't that much. Yes, it's nice to write a check for a new BMW, but really, it isn't all that fulfilling. At the end of the day, you just don't have a loan. It's cool to own the car outright, but, whatever. And I have a lot of friends, and I'm close to my family, so it's not really that either. I have people, so I'm not lonely. And I don't think it's that I wish I was married or had a kid, because I really don't think I want that. I've just kind of been in a weird funk lately. Maybe my niece's death has something to do with it. I don't really know. But to get back to the beginning of this post, the mindset of what is available to do with your life is so different at 27 than it is at 37.

Ten years ago, I moved across the country from L.A. to Chicago, and started law school. At the time, it was no big deal to me. I mean, I just moved. (I had already moved to L.A. from Detroit three years before. Moving cross country is not a big issue for me. You can always go home.) And now, here I am, ten years later, still in Chicago, having a job that many would envy, and I'm thinking how in the hell did I end up here? I can't complain about it, yet I'm really not completely happy anymore. What's funny is that I was 100% happy in my job as an associate. It's only been since I made partner that my happiness level has dwindled. I've thought about it a lot, and I think, for me, it is because I am a very goal oriented person. As an associate, I worked my ass off and really enjoyed it a lot because it was all new, in order to make partner. I desperately wanted to prove that I was good enough to make partner. And then I did. I was told there was no discussion -- every partner agreed I should be made partner. Well, duh. I did a great job.

And now that I've made partner, I have nothing else to "reach" for. I think I need something to "reach" for. I mean, I'm at the top. I'm a low level partner, true, but still, I'm a partner. So what? There are honestly no other levels to reach for now at my firm, so why bother? I can half ass work and do better than many of the other partners, so that makes me want to half ass it. Who cares? I don't thrive in an environment like this. I thrive when I'm competing, working, and reaching for a goal. I don't have that now. I go through the drill of litigation, go through the drill with opposing counsel, and it is all the same damn thing day after day.

Clearly I can figure this out. I have to make a jump, but I know I won't anytime soon because I do like the money I make. You can get trapped by the money. Maybe I will play my out, and in about ten years, I can make the jump. Until then, I am stuck. But, I'm not complaining, even though this might sound like it. I've got it good. It's just funny how making the change changes when you get older...

People Who Lift and People Who Lean

Not much has changed in the world.  Here is a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox that I really like, that was published in around 1896:

Which Are You?

THERE are two kinds of people on earth to-day;
Just two kinds of people, no more, I say.

Not the sinner and saint, for it's well understood,
The good are half bad, and the bad are half good.

Not the rich and the poor, for to rate a man's wealth,
You must first know the state of his conscience and health.

Not the humble and proud, for in life's little span,
Who puts on vain airs, is not counted a man.

Not the happy and sad, for the swift flying years
Bring each man his laughter and each man his tears.

No; the two kinds of people on earth I mean,
Are the people who lift, and the people who lean.

Wherever you go, you will find the earth's masses,
Are always divided in just these two classes.

And oddly enough, you will find too, I ween,
There's only one lifter to twenty who lean.

In which class are you? Are you easing the load,
Of overtaxed lifters, who toil down the road?

Or are you a leaner, who lets others share
Your portion of labor, and worry and care?

Things I Have Enough of To Last Me Forever

Well, pretty much, anyway.

When you really start gung ho spring cleaning every room, every drawer, and everything else, it can quickly become apparent that there are things you buy that add up and add up and add up...and you don't really notice.  Such as:

1.  Eyeshadow.  I haven't counted the number exactly, but I have probably over 100 jars of loose eyeshadow in my bathroom, in many varying brands.  How did it come to this?  Thank God eyeshadow lasts for a very long time.  And usually I wear the same three or four colors.  I need to start branching out in the morning.

2.  Books.  Dear God, I have so many books.  And the Border's near me is closing, so I've been taking advantage of that.  I've bought about twenty more in the past two weeks, for a total of around $100.  (And I might go back again, since they are closing in a little over a week, and when I was there Monday they still had a ton of great books.)  I just love books.  I've always loved books.  Reading on my iPad is nice, but there is nothing like a book.  People come to my house, and would almost rather peruse my books than talk to me.  It's okay, I understand. 

3.  Coats.  I have eight coats set aside for donation, yet I still have a ridiculous amount in my closet.  Why is it so hard to get rid of coats?  Why must I have short coats, mid coats, long coats, wool coats, ski coats, spring coats, rain coats, topcoats, dusters, leather coats....ugh.  And I bought a new super cute hot pink raincoat last week.  Oops. 

4.  Batteries.  It wasn't until I went through my kitchen and buffet "junk drawers" that I realized I have so many packs of AA and AAA batteries.  I buy them whenever I see them because I'm so afraid of running out.  Now I have way, way too many. 

5.  Lotion.  Why do I keep buying lotion?  I have so much lotion.  But it smells so good, and The Body Shop or Bath and Bodyworks puts them on sale and I buy more.  And I get a ton of this kind of stuff as gifts.  So, a crazy amount of lotion.  I will never in my entire life need this much lotion.

6.  Lipstick.  I'm a sucker for lipstick.  I love lipstick and I keep buying it.  When I get my Ulta "you spent this much so you get a Level 1 free gift" coupon, I buy lipstick.  Also, one of my friends works for Mary Kay, so she is always giving me lipstick.  I have too many lipsticks.

7.  Perfume samples.  I always choose perfume when I get free samples from Ulta or Sephora.  I like the sample size for travel and to try out new scents.  However.  I have about 50 of them now, and some of them probably stink because they are old.  It's totally out of control.

8.  Electronics cables/cords/chargers.  I have cable TV cables, laptop cables/chargers, phone cords, ethernet cables, cell phone cables/chargers...an entire medium sized moving box FULL.  I don't know where these came from.  It's like every single cable that has ever come with any electronic device I have ever bought in my entire life is still in my house.  But what if I need it is the barrier here.  Trust me, a lot of this is going to go.  Soon.  I don't need the Blackberry phone cables or the old laptop cables, that much I know for sure.  I'm also pretty sure I don't need any more than one ethernet cable.  It did come in handy once when my sister was here, though, because she forgot her phone charger, and I actually had one that worked with her phone.

9.  Turtlenecks.  I've decided that my predominant winter wardrobe cannot consist of turtlenecks and skirts/pants/jeans.  So, a bunch of these are on their way out the door.

10.  Instruction manuals.  I've kept every instruction manual that I've ever gotten with any device I've ever bought.  There's quite a collection.  I have never used any of them, other than a quick flip through the first time using the device.  So, I think it is probably okay to throw them away.  Or at least throw the ones away for things I no longer own.  Right?

It's truly amazing how easy you can accumulate stuff.  My car is going to see a lot of the Salvation Army parking lot in the near future.

Congress Still Gets Paid, No Matter What

As we all sit on the edge of our seats, wondering whether or not members of Congress will act like adults and come to a compromise on the 2011 budget, which should have been agreed upon six months ago in October 2010, let's take a moment and reflect.

Federal employees, even those deemed "essential" who will still have to work, will not get paid during the shutdown.  These "essential" employees will have to work for free for however long the shutdown lasts.  They will likely get back pay once the shutdown ends.  It's up in the air whether the furloughed federal employees will get back pay.

Members of the military, including soldiers, will not get paid during the shutdown.  They'll get back pay.

Members of Congress DO get paid during the shutdown.  Although legislation has been proposed that would prevent Congress from receiving pay during a shutdown, it shouldn't be surprising that they haven't voted to pass it.

The President also gets paid during the shutdown.

Federal Judges get paid during the shutdown.  Jurors and other court personnel don't.

Let's think about this logically.  The very people who are bringing about the shutdown -- Congress -- still get paid in the event of a shutdown.  This doesn't create a whole lot of incentive to prevent a shutdown, now does it?  I really wish we had some grown-ups in Congress, because this is getting absurd.  Rather than simply attempting to invoke fear among the masses, it would be nice if our representatives could propose alternatives and land on a compromise.    

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Don't Offend Anyone in Your Jury Questionnaire

I stumbled across this article today, and I find it kind of infuriating.  For some cases (usually the more infamous ones), jurors are given questionnaires prior to voir dire, which can aid the attorneys and Judge in quickly weeding out jurors who may be biased or otherwise incapable of being impartial or serving.  These questionnaires nearly always say something in the Instructions along the lines of "no answer is right or wrong" or "answer truthfully" or "you are under oath to answer truthfully" or "answer as honestly as you can."  You get the drill.  They don't want you to lie.  So, one woman -- Juror No. 799 did answer truthfully:
Juror No. 799, an Asian woman in her 20s who said she works in the garment industry, was up for jury duty in the death penalty trial of Bonanno crime boss Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano.
It didn't take long for her to start looking worse than the defendant.

Asked to name three people she least admired, she wrote on her questionnaire: "African-Americans, Hispanics and Haitians."

When the judge asked why she answered the question that way, she replied, "You always hear about them in the news doing something."

She also declared that cops are all lazy, claiming that they sound their sirens to bypass traffic jams.
These -- truthful -- answers pissed off the Judge. 
"She's coming back [today], Thursday and Friday - and until the future, when I am ready to dismiss her," Garaufis said.
What is wrong with this picture?  She answered truthfully -- which is what the attorneys and Judges want and is exactly what she was probably told to do at the beginning of the questionnaire.  (I haven't seen the questionnaire.)  The purpose is to avoid ending up with a biased or otherwise tained jury.  Maybe she's racist, maybe she hates cops.  Isn't this exactly the kind of thing they would want to try and weed out?  And because the Judge didn't like her (truthful) viewpoint he's going to punish her? 

What is the message this Judge is trying to send?  That people should lie on their juror questionnaires in case someone might be offended by their point of view?  If you are the slightest bit racist you should lie about it?  Many criminal trial juror questionnaires involve questions about race in some shape or form, particularly when there are black defendants and white victims.  Should you lie if you have feelings about that one way or the other?  Many questionnaires also have questions about feelings toward law enforcement.  Should you lie?  As much as Judge Garaufis might like to believe we live in a perfect world where everyone loves everyone else, that is not the case -- which is clear from the very need for juror questionnaires on these topics.  This really doesn't make any sense to me.  I find it hard to believe that this woman is the first person in history to display any racism or disdain for law enforcement on one of these questionnaires.  What's the big deal?  Why did the Judge get so offended?  I really hope there is more to this story...     

So Sick of Celebrity Abuse Stories

I feel like every time I turn around another celebrity is coming forward with some story of abuse. They were molested, they were beaten, they were bullied, they suffered domestic violence, they were abandoned, there was Some Huge Tragedy that occurred.

Usually it’s right around the time they are trying to convince people to buy their memoir or go see their latest movie.

This week it’s Ashley Judd. In the past it’s been Meredith Baxter Birney, Oprah, Roseanne, Mo’Nique, Mackenzie Phillips, Tatum O’Neal, Tyler Perry, Teri Hatcher, Missy Elliott, Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, Queen Latifah, Anne Heche, Rosie O’Donnell, Charlize Theron, Catherine Oxenberg, Alison Arngrim (Nellie on Little House), and the list goes on and on and on.

These “I’m going to tell my story to help others” interviews really irritate me for some reason. If you were really trying to help others who might be in your position, there are other ways to do it. Why wait to come forward until you want people to buy your book? I guess I don’t disagree that hearing that someone else (particularly a successful celebrity) went through what you went through might be helpful to some people. But…it feels like every single celebrity these days throws out some sort of personal tragedy the first chance they get. Hell, even Lady Gaga had to inform us that she had to (gasp!) live among cockroaches.  I mean, realisitically haven't most people gone through something tragic throughout the course of their lives?  It's probably a rare life where everything goes 100% your way.  But that doesn't mean it all has to be a life changing event.  (I don't dispute that some tragedies are worse than others by any means, and am not trying to make light of claims of abuse, but the way these stories become public seems awfully planned out and suspicious most of the time.) 

Are there any celebrities who had a fairly normal childhood, or is abuse a prerequisite to being successful? You know, someone who just grew up a regular middle class kid, then made their way to Hollywood and struck it big? I would really love to hear a celebrity say "You know what?  I've had an awesome life.  Sure, I got bullied occassionally as a kid, but who doesn't?  And yes, my parents spanked me a few times when I misbehaved, but I deserved it.  Oh, and now I make millions to film a movie.  Nothing to complain about here."  I'm sure there are celebrities out there who have said such things -- they can't all have major issues, right?    

The Blue Book is Out of Control

In law, we use something called the Bluebook for proper citation format.  I was in one of the newer associate's offices yesterday, and noticed that his Bluebook was a lot thicker than mine.

Mine is the one I bought when I started law school back in 2001.  The Seventeenth Edition, which was already a whopping 391 pages.  The current version, which this associate has, is the Nineteenth Edition, which is over 500 pages.  Yes, in ten years enough has changed that they have added 100 more pages to this book.  And yet...somehow over the past ten years, I've survived.  Everything I needed to cite was in the Seventeenth Edition.  No Judge or anyone else has ever scolded me for providing a faulty citation.  In short, there is obviously a lot of nonsense in the Bluebook.  And yet it keeps getting bigger and bigger.

I absolutely hate the Bluebook.  It's incredibly confusing sometimes due to its level of detail, and many of the citation formats don't make any logical sense.  Imagine my joy to come across this article written by Judge Posner (who I kind of adore) discussing his hatred of the Bluebook:
The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation exemplifies hypertrophy in the anthropological sense. It is a monstrous growth, remote from the functional need for legal citation forms, that serves obscure needs of the legal culture and its student subculture.
***

I don’t use The Bluebook or any other form book in either my judicial opinions or my academic writings. Journals, and not only law journals, do sometimes impose citation forms on me. But the Federal Reporter does not; nor do the publishers of most of my books. My judicial and academic writings receive their share of criticism, but no one to my knowledge has criticized them for citation form.  The reason is that readers are not interested in citation form. Unless the form is outlandish, it is invisible.     
He's very right.  As long as you can look at the citation and know what it is referring to, that is all you really need.  It doesn't matter if the title should go before the author or the court name is abbreviated.  Outside of law school legal writing classes, no one pays any attention to citation format in "the real world."  

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How Is Mixed Income Housing Doing in Chicago?

Last week the last of the Cabrini Green highrises started to come down.  It's strange to drive by that intersection and not see the white towers, but it is a good thing.  I hear Target may be putting a store in that spot, which would be pretty great.  (What I would really love there, though, is an Ikea!)

Under Chicago's 2000 Plan for Transformation, nearly all of the projects around the city came down, and in their place (or around their place or in new areas) came mixed income housing.  These are developments -- some mid-rises, some duplexes, some townhouses -- where a percentage are Section 8 or otherwise government subsidized, a percentage are "affordable," and a percentage are "market rate."  The "affordable" units allow people like teachers, cops, etc. who are working but may not make a lot of income to be able to live in the developments.  Around the Cabrini Green area is a development called Parkside of Old Town. 

You find very little in the news about how the mixed income developments are actually faring.  Are the "market rate" units being sold?  What about the "affordable" units?  The subsidized units there appear to be full.  How many vacancies are there?  Are they having problems selling the "market rate" units?  How is everyone getting along?  Any issues?  Here and there are some articles, where the prevailing theme seems to want to be "oh, it's all wonderful," but underlying there appears to be more to it than that.  One of my friends for a short time rented a "market rate" unit in another nearby mixed income development called North Town Village.  He couldn't wait to leave.  His car got broken into repeatedly, his bike got stolen, he had to deal with trash strewn all over the place, and neighbors who camped out on his shared porch all hours of the day and night partying.  Not a good experience.  You don't hear about experiences like his in the news.  This was happening just last year.

I've been wondering about the vacancy rates at Parkside of Old Town.  It is in a great location -- a few blocks from the Red Line el, a couple of blocks from the main Old Town drag of bars and shops which is one of the best in the city, close to the grocery store, and brand new.  One would think people would be dying to buy in such a place.  That would be wrong, from the little I've been able to find in the news.

Let's start with a little over a year ago, in January 2010:
Parkside was supposed to receive its final $3.4 million in promised TIF dollars after selling 85 percent of its 194 market-rate homes. It’s nowhere near that mark, so the city lowered the threshold to 43 percent and cut the number of Parkside’s market-rate homes down to 177. The project’s 85 sales represent — you guessed it — 43 percent of those 177 units, so Parkside’s getting its cash.

So, as of January 2010, only 85 market rate units had been sold, out of what was supposed to be 194.  Even with the lowering the number of market rate units (wonder if they were lowered to affordable units or subsidized units?), that is only 43% market rate sold.  I've been able to find no information on whether the affordable units are sold out.

This article, dated in May 2010, indicates that from 4Q 2009 until end of 1Q 2010, ten additional units were sold.  It doesn't specify whether they were market rate or affordable.  Assuming they are market rate, that takes us to 95 market rate units sold out of 177.

In June of 2010, prices were slashed:
One-bedroom condominiums are now being offered from $175,000, two-bedroom condominiums start in the $240,000s, and three-bedroom condominiums are priced from the $320,000s. Two and three-bedroom townhomes are priced from the $330,000s. All condominiums include garage parking, and townhomes come with either a one- or two-car attached garage. A variety of condominium and townhome floor plans are available for immediate delivery.

These are amazing prices.

And in March 2011, the prices are still coming down, along with some free grant money.  The Parkside web site urges people to "get off the couch" and buy.  It appears from the web site that a lot of units are still available.  I haven't found a single news story reporting on how many are still available.  Even looking at the real estate listings only turns up one or two units, but that seems to be inconsistent with the Parkside web site.  Obviously a lot of the housing industry is having problems, so that may be somewhat to blame for the slow sales.  (A lot of high rise condo developments are having problems.)  However, condos are still selling around the city, many in locations much worse than this, and with finishes much worse than this.  Could it be -- and could people be afraid to admit -- that market rate buyers simply don't want to live right next door to government subsidized renters?  I imagine at some point there is going to be a comprehensive study about mixed income developments, much like there have been extensive studies about the projects.  It will be extremely interesting to see the long term effects of such developments, and what happens to the market rate units.  At some point, the developers are going to have to do something with them.