Thursday, June 23, 2011

Every Day In My Job, I See Something New

I'm dealing with the most crazy situation ever right now.

We filed a lawsuit, defendants filed the usual counterclaims, blah, blah, blah....after a whole lot of time (years) and nonsense (special master stuff), the defendants threw out a Rule 68 offer of judgment for a certain amount of money, and our client decided he wanted to accept, for various reasons.  I believe this totally threw the defendants for a loop.  They were not expecting this acceptance.  So, we filed it with the Judge, Judge closed the case, etc.

A few weeks later, defendants file a motion to reopen the case, arguing that some of their counterclaims were still in play.  I can't share the details about why, but they left themselves somewhat open, but not really.  We've offered covenants not to sue, but it's not enough for them.  They want to reopen the case, declare the patents invalid, after all has been said and done, and they've paid our client.  They want a superbroad covenant not to sue, which they aren't going to get, nor do we have to under Super Sack.  They offered what they offered, our client took it, and what's done is done.  They never thought our client would accept their offer of judgment, but surprise, surprise, our client did.  So they are arguing this ridiculous -- absurd and ludicrous -- theory on one of their counterclaims (not a DJ invalidity), and I'm briefing the issue right now and having some trouble articulating how absolutely insane their theory is without possibly getting myself sanctioned and calling them complete idiots in the process.  I truly wish I could talk freely about what their claim is, but I don't feel like I can, even though it is all public in the dockets. 

My sole goal in this briefing is to get across -- very professionally -- that these lawyers tried to pull a fast one on us, we trumped them, and now they are running fast to try and cover themselves with their client.  Luckily, we have a smart judge, who will hear this argument in early July.  I hope he rips them a new one, because if those goes on much further, I am going to file a motion for sanctions for my time and expenses on their reopening the case like this.  Frankly, their client should fire them.  They filed four motions for summary judgment and lost them all.  They are a big firm who is billing, billing, billing, always on crazy ass theories, and their client has seen nothing good out of it.  We have won every single motion they have filed over the past three years.  Big companies are so dumb the way they immediately go for the big firm to cover themselves with the shareholders.  Meanwhile, my medium sized firm is kicking the shit out of them, and has been for years.  I can't even convey how absurd the theory they are arguing is.  It's so absurd I can't even find a case that is remotely close.  No good lawyers make this argument.  None.  I'm going to have to have someone less angry about it than me read my brief to make sure I'm not being too sarcastic and snarky about their position before I file it.  Jesus, I hate lawyers.       

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Medicaid Recipients Who Used to Go to Planned Parenthood Have Other Options

I just have to vent about this whole Planned Parenthood in Indiana is not accepting Medicaid patients anymore issue, due to no more federal funding.

Oh, what a drama!  The GOP hates women!  How can the government do this to us!  The sky is falling!

The big argument is that Planned Parenthood provides pap smears and mammograms and STD tests, and such a small part of their business is abortions, and that is not covered by federal funding, so all of these low income women are being denied their paps and mammograms because now they don't have the funding to accept Medicaid patients.

But is it really about paps and mammograms and STD tests?

You can run a search in Indiana to find out how many OB/GYNs accept Medicaid, and there are quite a lot.  Hundreds across the state.  There are also free health clinics in Indiana that offer OB/GYN services.  There are, in fact, a lot of places that Medicaid and other low income women can go to get their pap or mammogram.  They also, I suspect, can get STD tests and other typical OB/GYN services.   In short, these women aren't without options.  Maybe they would rather go to PP.  Hell, my healthcare plan -- that I pay for -- doesn't allow me to go anywhere I want.  My doctor has to be within the network.  Well, for Medicaid patients, PP is now out of network, so you have to find another doctor.

Am I missing something, or why is this such a big deal if it is truly all about paps, mammograms, and STD testing?  Just find a new doctor, right?  There are apparently plenty of them across the state.

The news articles make it seem as though all of these women are going to be completely without any options, but that is not the case at all.  I personally don't think the federal government should be funding PP at all.  Where in the hell is that in the Constitution?  Cut it off.  We are in an economic crisis.  Cut. It. Off.  There are other options.

Lots of Cops in Chicago Near Rush and Division Tonight

It's been awhile since I've been to the bars at Rush and Division, which is really Division and State or Division and Dearborn.  But that's what this touristy strip is called, so that's what I will call it for tonight.  I used to live at LaSalle and Division, so occasionally (well, okay, more than occasionally) I would wander down to these bars.  Actually, The Lodge and Butch McGuire's aren't bad places to go, provided you go on a weeknight.  Avoid Mothers and Mothers II at all costs.  And on the weekends, forget it.  This strip is loaded with tourists.  However, tonight it was all locals, and maybe just a few tourists.

We started out the night at the Union League Club bar (where I always have to stop on the second floor to view the Monet), and then headed to PJ Clark's at State and Dearborn.  The only reason PJ Clark's is awesome is because the bartenders are very nice, and because they serve pints in a truly frosty pint glass.  It makes the pint of beer so much better to get that frosty "mug."  The ice is still on it when you get the beer!  Amazing.  They also play pretty good music, have sports on the TV, and generally isn't super packed.  I cannot deal with wall to wall people anymore.  PJ Clark's is off Dearborn, so it isn't on the main drag, but is in the general area.  Then, because it was only a Wednesday night, we made the two block walk over to The Lodge, just for the hell of it.

Now, The Lodge -- despite where it is located -- is a pretty cool bar, and on the weekends it is packed to the extreme.  However, on a Wednesday, not bad.  Had a couple of drinks there, enjoyed the experience, and now I am home, blogging to you. 

But, and I'll admit it's been awhile since I've been to that area, there were cops everywhere.  Numerous cops in groups of 3-6.  I went out for a smoke, and talked for a minute with a cop who was also having a smoke next to his cop car parked right on Division.  Groups of cops wandering and stopping and standing on Division Street.  What is amazing about this is that the bars were empty, and there weren't many people even on the streets other than the smokers like myself.  Shenanigan's had about 10 people, Mother's II maybe 5, The Lodge about 30, Butch McGuire's, again maybe 30.  Very few people wandering the streets, and most appearing to be heading to the train at Clark and Division.  There was no one out, yet there were cops everywhere watching. 

It was interesting.  I wonder if it has anything to do with all of the flashmobs and wildings?  Still, I'm not complaining.  I like to see the Chicago cops out in full force!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Victoria’s Secret Is Like Walking Into an Acid Trip

Until yesterday, I haven’t gone into a Victoria’s Secret store in quite awhile. I still buy their products, but I do it online, and I don’t browse around online very much. So it wasn’t until yesterday that I realized how far they have fallen. I remember going to Victoria’s Secret twenty years ago, when I was in high school. Back then, the store had a hushed atmosphere, subdued lighting, paint, and carpet, and an upscale ambience. Even the salespeople were classy. Buying lingerie was an experience. It was relaxing, easy, and seemed appropriate to spend $40 on a bra.

At some point, that all changed. At the Victoria’s Secret on Michigan Avenue, you enter a room with black and white tile, hot pink walls, and flashing neon signs. The underwear and pajamas lining the walls and on the tables are in bright fluorescent shades of pink, yellow, and blue. Dance music blares from the speakers. The sale tables near the door are covered with bras and underwear from “Pink” line, which is supposed to draw in the younger crowd. Brightly colored panties with “take a bite” and other crass sayings on the butt are in piles. The pajamas , rather than being subdued and cute, have huge lettering down the legs, on the butt, and across the chest. The other rooms aren’t much better, especially the perfume/body lotion room, which is also excruciatingly bright and tacky. The d├ęcor is like the Rave clothing stores from the 1990s, bright lighting, bright floors, neon lights, and everything indicative of a cheap store. You might as well be at Kmart.

It honestly made me dizzy. There was just so much going on. My 2 ½ year old nephew loved all the colors and action, but I couldn’t wait to leave, which should be the opposite reaction of what they want. Could it be that I’m just getting old? Do I just not “get it” anymore? Am I not cool? True, I’m probably not their target audience anymore. (Which never makes sense to me anyway, since when I was in my late teens and early twenties, maybe if I saved up for weeks I could afford to buy a bra or two, whereas now I have plenty of money to buy $40 bras.) The schizophrenic atmosphere in the store isn’t one that makes me want to pay full price for anything. Maybe I’ll spend $10 or $20 on a few pairs of underwear (minus the sayings in the rear end), but any exclusivity or classiness is completely gone. I mean, when I’m dying to get out of the store, chances are slim that I’m going to drop any serious money.

Obviously people are still spending money there, though, since Victoria’s Secret seems to be doing better than ever, and even I will probably continue to buy online occasionally. But the stores themselves – ugh. I will not be going into a store again anytime soon.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Bathroom(s) Remodeling Project

I think I've mentioned that I am remodeling all three of my bathrooms.  The term might be "remaking," but I am basically pulling everything out (tile, vanity, toilet, tub, shower in the basement), and replacing it all.  This is a huge job, but the bathrooms are 1980s original to the building of this joint, and it needs to be done.  I've hired a great, well reviewed, contractor (who did work on Obama's house here in Chicago), so, hopefully it won't be too much of a pain, other than for the three to four weeks that this will be happening.  They are also painting practically my entire townhouse (I have some super high ceilings, so I can't do a lot of it myself without scaffolding and stuff) and tearing out a couple of closets in the basement.  (Can you believe I am removing closets?  Yes, I am.  One is oddly shaped, so basically useless, and there are a ridiculous amount of closets and storage in this place anyway, so I'd rather have the extra square footage down there for an office area.)

What this means is I've had to design my new bathrooms.  I am not a designer.  I know what I like and what I don't like as far as looks go.  Generally, I think I have good taste -- at least when I've had people over they've complimented things such as my furniture, rugs, paintings, etc.  Or at least decent taste.  I'm not a person who has to think about it a lot or mull over faucets and tile and stuff.  However, this is really hard.  I've never done this before, and I've never given much thought to it, nor did I even realize how many different kinds of faucets, tubs, and toilets exist.  What kind of shower head is best?  What kind of faucet, the separate for left and right, or the single spigot that swings back and forth?  What kind of tile, trim, glass?  (The tile choices are utterly overwhelming these days -- stone, porcelain, glass, in all different colors and designs.)  What kind of toilet?  I mean, seriously?  I have to decide all of this?

So, I did.  Quickly.  I work fast.  I'm not planning on moving anytime soon, so I'm doing this more for myself than for any sort of resale type thing, but I still have to consider that.  Luckily I lean toward more neutral things for bathrooms.

Here's what I'm doing:

Master Bath:  Silver travertine 12" x 12" tile (it has some beige in it and also some blue, along with the silver, which is more of a kind of metallic gray) floor and wall surrounding tub; 3" glass tile trim around the 3/4 high point of the tub and covering the front of the tub (I got a tub with the tile on the front) that is clear, dark gray, light gray, and dark blue long staggered strips; dual flush white toilet (same for all baths).  I have to pick out the vanity finish on Saturday, but I'm thinking either dark brown or maybe dark cherry, depending on the options.  I also have to pick the vanity top, which will be stone of some kind, and probably a light gray.  Sink will be white undermount.  The medicine cabinet will be the main mirror, inset with shelves, and it folds out and there is a mirror on the inside also.  (Very cool).  Nickel faucet with two thinner square handles (this was a splurge, but it is so cool!).  The bath faucets and shower head is also nickel.  I was told that most shower/bath controls now are the circle single control, as opposed to the old dual faucet, so I went with that design for all three baths.  I went with the rain shower.  Towel bars also to match the faucets.   

Second Upstairs Bath:  Porcelain cement look light beige finish 12" x 18" tile floor and wall surrounding the tub (the porcelain options these days are amazing and very cheap); 3" dark brown glass trim around the 3/4 high point of the tub (this was $49.99 a sq ft -- ridiculous, but awesome, and okay since I didn't need much); dark brown vanity with white ceramic sink/counter that is all in one.  (It looks cool).   Silver single handle thick faucet, silver faucets and stuff for the tub.  Same medicine cabinet as the master.  Silver towel holders that match the faucets.  I went with the rain shower.

Basement:  This was my place to get crazy, and is also my main bath used when people come over since I don't have a bath on the main floor.  I went with autumn slate 12"x12" for the floor and shower walls, a subway tile size for the shower base.  Going with slate might be a dated move, but I love slate.  Every time I see a bathroom all done up with slate I squeal.  So, I'm going to have one in my house!  It's a lighter slate (since it's a small space), but has the different colors of your standard slate.  I also got a square, glass vessel sink in that turquoise color (slight splurge), and a sort of spouting silver faucet that will be either centered or off to the side.  (Maybe off to the side for something different?  This faucet was the other splurge.  It's awesome.)  I have to pick out the vanity color Saturday, and the color of the vanity top, which will be some kind of stone.  Probably light gray or beige.  Here I went with one of the showers with the rubber handle that you can swing around.  I felt like at least one bathroom needed one of those.  All silver, as are the towel bars and toilet paper holders and such.

I still need to pick lights and paint, but that shouldn't be too difficult.  I hope.  Ugh, I just hope it all looks good.  I think it will.  I'll post pics when it is all done, hopefully by late July.  I'm super excited, but just crossing my fingers that nothing goes terribly wrong.  

More Stupidity From Me as a Fairly New Homeowner

My thermostat has always been hard to read.  It's old -- like 1990s old -- and it has a touch screen that requires a stylus, that amazingly is still with it, even though it is not attached by a string like the pens at banks.  Ever since I moved in, back in August of 2009, I've always found it difficult to read.  The light has to be right, you have to be looking at it at the right angle, etc.  Somehow, though, I figured out what I need to push at the beginning of winter and the beginning of summer to keep this place at my optimal temperature.  Although it allows programming for certain hours of the day, I couldn't see the screen well enough to try to accomplish that, especially without an instruction manual, and although there is a brand name on this thermostat, there is no model number, and it is so old I can't find anything like it online.  (This is the best part about buying a house -- you have no idea what previous owners installed.)

Recently, it's gotten even harder to read.  I could barely see it, but luckily I knew generally what area of the touchscreen to press to get my a/c on, and it's all been good.  Yet, still annoying.  Why couldn't I read my thermostat?  Did I need a new one?  Could I install a new one myself if I bought one at Home Depot?  All of these thoughts kept running through my mind.  Then, out of the blue (and I don't know why, an act from a sympathetic God maybe?), something occurred to me.

Could it possibly need a new battery?  Could this thermostat, that looks adhered to the wall, possibly come off, and have a battery inside?

I decided to find out on Sunday.  Upon closer inspection, I realized there were slots on the outside, which indicated that it was possibly capable of popping off the wall.  I pushed them in, and it popped up, showing a whole lot of circuit boards inside.  I won't lie, I panicked when I saw this initially, because I was afraid it was broken.  Circuit boards are scary.  I hated EE201 in college.  But then, there they were -- two double A batteries.  Since I have practically a lifetime supply of batteries, I popped in some new batteries, and somehow managed to align the thermostat to the wall, perfectly into the slots.  Best of all, the a/c continued to crank, so I didn't break that.  (If it's even possible to break it by doing this, which is unlikely.)

And?  I can read the screen perfectly now.  This is amazing stuff, and I can't even believe I didn't think of this before.  Honestly, I never thought it might have batteries in it.  Maybe that's dumb -- I don't know -- but I have had no experience with thermostats prior to this.  When you are renting, you just call the landlord about this kind of stuff.  (And everywhere I rented in the past had either highrise controlled heating/cooling, or a really old dial type thermostat.  This is my first experience with a touchscreen.)  So, maybe now I can actually figure out how to program it, since I can actually see the screen!

I'm very proud of myself for figuring this out.  I also successfully changed the lightbulbs in my garage door opener over Memorial Day weekend (I got up on a ladder and everything), so that's another success.  You have to understand -- I just don't do this kind of thing usually.  It's funny because I'm in an amazingly technical field and have an engineering degree, and can spar with the best of the experts at a technical deposition, but anything actually hands on technical related to my house terrifies me.  I'm always afraid I'm going to break something.  Yet, I never have.  Maybe I should have more faith in my abilities.  (LOL, like changing a couple of lightbulbs and a battery is a technical ability!  But hey, it works now!) 

And Suddenly, An Explosion of Coverage on Chicago’s Wildings/Flash Mobs

I’m not complaining. This is out of control, and it’s nice to see the media stepping up to the plate. It's kind of funny, though, how quickly after Mayor Daley stepped down that the media started doing their job.  Makes you wonder what kind of dirt he had on some of these news organizations.  Anyway, these stories have also been all over Drudge (yay, national news!), so I won’t extensively repeat what happened. Rest assured, it is more of the same things that have been going on for the past year, only now it’s actually being reported, and the CPD is actually arresting some of these thugs.

On Saturday in the Streeterville neighborhood (basically just east of the Mag Mile), four (or five, depending on the news source) robberies occurred in a ten minute span at around 8:30 in the evening. It was light out, and there were a lot of people in the vicinity:
In the first case, a man was beaten about 8:25 p.m. when a group of 15 to 20 males approached him near Northwestern University’s Streeterville campus.
The second incident happened a few minutes later, law enforcement officials said. A man was knocked off his bicycle in the 700 block of North Lake Shore Drive and punched by a group of teens who stole his cellphone and camera, law enforcement officials said.

In two other incidents, two men — ages 68 and 42 — were robbed of iPod and other electric devices in the Streeterville area.
The 68 year old was a doctor who was in town for a medical conference. The 42 year old man was a Japanese tourist, and also a doctor. The first victim tells his story here, along with details of the other incidents.  (By the way, can you imagine sitting on a bench, enjoying the day, and suddenly being surrounded by a swarm of teenagers?  Scary.) 

At least five black male teens from the south side were arrested in connection with these robberies, which is good news, except that probably nothing serious will happen to them. Some are juveniles, so I’m sure they will be back out on the streets almost immediately. That's the real problem -- there are no consequences for this type of behavior.  It doesn't scare anyone off to be arrested.  (I was watching Judge Judy the other day and she asked one of the parties if he had ever been arrested before, and he said "Obviously."  The Judge Judy death glare to that response was a sight to see.  It's like being arrested is no big deal anymore.)  Anyway, I'm sure the teens arrested are all “good boys” who got straight As and were on the path to college.  I’m still waiting for their mothers to show up on the news clutching their school pictures and talking about how they have been wrongly accused and were turning their lives around.  At least that's how these events usually go down.

The Mayor and Police Superintendent (both new to their jobs) have addressed the incidents, but have almost brushed them off, stating that there is nothing to worry about. They have it under control. Right. In fact, the Police Superintendent had this to say:
Asked whether tourists and people wanting to enjoy the lakefront should be concerned, McCarthy said, “No. No. But, what we do have to do is have awareness. You don’t want to walk in dark areas by yourself after having a fight at a bar with a friend and you’re going home. We still have to pay attention to common-sense things to do. We have to be aware. That’s the nature of the world today. But, nobody should be afraid of this.”
Here we have four (or five, depending on the news source) people who were out enjoying the day, minding their own business, in a nice neighborhood in a well populated area, in broad daylight who got jumped by a group of black teens. And McCarthy is talking about people walking home in the dark by themselves after a bar fight? Is he serious? What connection does that have with anything that happened?  This has expanded well beyond drunk college kids getting their iPhones stolen at 3 a.m. during their walk home from the bar, which many people could at least acknowledge isn’t the smartest thing to do in the city. No, this is happening in broad daylight in well populated parts of town that – at least until now – have been considered the “safe” and “nice” parts of town.  The "common-sense" part of his statement irks me, too.  I guess it's using no common sense these days to expect to be able to walk around in downtown Chicago during the day without being rushed by a mob of thugs.  What an idiot.

So sorry, Mayor Emmanuel and Superintendent McCarthy, but it isn’t over yet:
Charges are pending against three people arrested after a group of 10 men attacked at least one person Tuesday night in a “flash mob incident” downtown.
Same general area, same thing, three days later.  Mobs of black teenagers from the south side coming north to commit crimes.  Here’s more on that, including the news report.

There has also been a rash of robberies in the Lakeview neighborhood – again, committed by black males – who use pepper spray on their victims and then steal their phones and money.  Once Lakeview issued a community report on June 3, they moved south to Lincoln Park on June 5.  Oh, and the Lincoln Park incident happened at 7 a.m.  So much for people getting into fights at bars and walking home in the dark as being the cause.  Also, the American Apparel off the Belmont stop in Lakeview was flash mobbed on June 3.  That's what's really interesting about all this.  If the cops step up on the Mag Mile, will the criminals move north to Lincoln Park, west to Old Town, further north to Lakeview?  Because you know they will be going somewhere.  

Edited to add:  This just popped up on the Tribune, and it annoyed me even further:
A 17-year-old Chicago boy has been arrested in Wilmette after allegedly breaking a woman’s hand during an attempted purse-snatching.
 Wilmette police arrested James Myer, 17, of the 6800 block of South Dorchester Avenue at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
So, we have a 17 year old who is nearly 30 miles from home (Wilmette is a northern suburb) at 2 p.m. on a school day.  Nice.

Edited again:  Jesus, there's been another attack.  From the Sun Times:
A man was hospitalized after being attacked by four others and robbed of an iPhone and wallet while riding a CTA train on the Near North Side on Wednesday afternoon.
Four males attacked a man as he rode the Brown Line about 3:40 p.m. in the 300 block of West Chicago Avenue, police said. The man’s iPhone and wallet were taken.
This one is west of the Mag Mile area just north of the Loop.  Another person attacked who obviously wasn't stumbling home wasted drunk at 3 in the morning after getting into a bar fight.  Nope, middle of the afternoon on a very busy el route (in fact, my el route to and from work) an hour and a half before rush hour officially starts.  At 3:40 p.m., this guy wasn't sitting on that train alone, I can assure you.  I can't even believe how brazen this is getting.   

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Chicago Shuts Down the Beach, Votes for Casinos, and Wants to Drug Test

Oh, there has been so much juicy Chicago news over the past couple of days.

Wilding and Gang Stuff

On Monday it was in the 90s here and unbearably hot and humid.  Predictably, many people went to the beach.  Many, many people.  I wasn't one of them; I went to Benchmark for lunch and drinks and then to the Lincoln Park Zoo.  The North Avenue beach is one of the nicest in the city, and the nearest to the Magnificent Mile, Lincoln Park, Old Town, and the Gold Coast.  So, usually it is covered with college students, families, tourists, and people from the suburbs.

Apparently they decided to shut down the North Avenue beach on Monday because it was too hot.  Yes, you heard that right.  They shut down the beach because it was too hot.  I guess some people were passing out and getting sick.  (I don't know, could alcohol be involved maybe?)  Have you ever heard of a beach being shut down because it was too hot?  Isn't that the point of the beach?  At least, that was the story the Chicago Police Department and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel were telling.

Word on the street, and reported by WGN, was that the thugs were out and the CPD got nervous about being able to control the crowds.  Various bloggers and commenters who were there have said that it was very crowded and a, shall we say, bad element, was making their usual appearance and starting to cause a commotion.  Obviously such reports have been vehemently denied.  It was refreshing to see WGN questioning why the beach got shut down, but the Sun Times and the Tribune just took the CPD's word for it that it was too hot so the beach had to close early.  Ridiculous.

Drug Testing CHA Residents

I also missed the protest by CHA residents downtown today about potentially having to be drug tested.  If you have time to protest, you have time to work.  Go to work so you can pay your own rent.  I wish I would've known about this before, or I would've made my own sign and wandered over there for a few minutes.  If the hearing tonight wasn't way far away on the south side, I would probably go.  I don't think this will ever pass, but it is good to dream.  Florida's governor just signed an executive mandate to do this, but predictably, the ACLU has already filed a lawsuit to stop a similar law down there against drug testing state employees, so a lawsuit on the welfare recipients can't be too far off.   

Casinos in Chicago!

The Illinois Senate passed legislation to allow casinos downtown, at O'Hare and Midway, and in other locations in Illinois.  I'm all for this.  Casinos have infused a ton of money into Detroit, and we can definitely use the money here in Chicago.  Plus, I'd like to be able to go downtown and play blackjack every now and then.  And frankly, if the choice is between raising my taxes more or building a few casinos, I vote for the casinos.  But of course Governor Quinn calls the plan "excessive."  He's such a jackass.  The first thing he did when he got into office was raise taxes, while he continues to spend, spend, spend.  Even our state Treasurer is saying that Illinois is on the verge of financial disaster.