Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Gmail Math Test

A long time ago, probably when I was in law school and drinking every night, I implemented on my gmail account the "test" which is there to prevent you from sending e-mails late at night when you are drunk.  I'm a person who drunk e-mails, texts, all that.  I like to communicate when I am drunk, so what can I say? 

The Gmail test pops up when you try to send an e-mail late at night.  It is straight math, and kicks in with five problems to solve in a certain amount of time after a certain point in the night.  I think it's set at 11 p.m. or 12 a.m.  The problems are adding and subtracting, usually.  I put this in to prevent me from drunk e-mailing, which I'm prone to do.  Now, I just blog.  Ha. 

I forgot that I had even set this, until tonight when I tried to send an e-mail to my mom and had to solve five math problems to do so.  LOL.  But the truth is, this little "test" has never prevented me from sending an e-mail.  Being a person who has taken advanced multivariate calculus and two solid years of college advanced math to get my engineering degree...the Gmail math test is kind of ridiculous.  It's either adding or subtracting.  This is like second or third grade stuff.  And you have an entire minute to do it.  You can count on your fingers to figure it out.  I have honestly been able to answer these problems when I was blacked out.  (In the past, I promise.)  And then I got utterly pissed off because this whole test was supposed to help my situation, but it didn't.  If I can solve math when I don't even remember doing it, then you need a different test, right?

The Gmail test is simply not prevention for math people.  I think they need to implement some other kind of test for drunks who are good at math, about...jeez, this may be an impossible task because people who are good at math are generally good at everything.  In my opinion.  :)  

Friday, August 26, 2011

My Secretary - D Day Next Friday

I'm told she's been bothering the office manager about her raise. As I said, end of August is the end of her six months "formal evaluation" period, that she requested. She must believe she is going to get a raise. As the partner (way, way up the totem pole from me) who is in charge of this kind of thing told me, "At this point it isn't about a raise -- it's about whether she keeps her job." I honestly don't like that this is kind of up to me, but it is. I'm a partner, and I really can fire her if I want.

I'm unable to deal with it by Wednesday, due to various other responsibilities related to my job (you know, to make sure the firm is making money so we can pay people like her and that sort of nonsense), so we are doing the formal evaluation next Friday. Also, I'm worried it could go badly, and if it does, I will not be able to focus on things enough to get my work out and meet my Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday deadlines. So, I requested a Friday afternoon evaluation. It could be upsetting for many of us -- I really don't know. As I've said, I like her. I would like nothing more than for her to be able to do this job. Unfortunately, she doesn't seem capable of doing it, after five-six years. (I truly can't remember exactly when she started, but I think it's been six years.) Yet, despite informal criticism from me and the senior associate she works for, she's not getting it. The fact that she thinks she deserves a raise tells me she isn't getting it.

It will be the office manager, me, the senior associate she works for (who apparently turned in an evaluation that was basically identical to mine, which is a relief for me, since it makes clear that I'm not expecting too much or being overly hard on her), and her. The newer associate she works for is not included, because he's new. However, he also said many of the same things. I've let this go on for too long, although, to be fair, as I said, she was supposed to be laid off a couple years ago, but we didn't do it due to extreme personal issues, because despite that we are lawyers, we are all nice, compassionate people.

But, it's D-Day now. This is what happened today:

Last evening after she left (she leaves at 5), I sent her two emails with things to do.

The first requires a bit of background. We have a folder on the network that contains three Word docs with all the attorneys' information. One has bar admissions, so when other secretaries put together pro hac vice motions, they can just copy and paste it in, because you always have to include courts admitted. Another document has CM/ECF logins and passwords, which is what you need to file documents with the court online. Once you pro hac into a court, you have a login and password and don't have to reapply each time, so it is important to have these on file, since we regularly end up in the same jurisdictions. I have about fifteen of these. These are needed if something needs to be filed. The other document is everyone's Illinois bar admission number. Three documents in the folder, all very clearly named.

At around 5:30 last night, one of the secretaries called me, because we were filing a Complaint and she needed my CM/ECF password to file my appearance. She said "It isn't in the folder." So, I hunted it down and sent it on to her. I then immediately sent my secretary an e-mail and said "Please update my CM/ECF in the [] folder. It looks like it has never been updated." That's e-mail number one.

E-mail number two dealt with a new case we just took over from some other attorneys. As such, we've gotten files from them, our local counsel (who has been on the case for awhile), and our client. I'm talking thousands of documents. So, me and the paralegal have been trying to get it all organized so we can see what we have, and have split it all out into the relevant discovery folders. However, the naming conventions are all over the place, so it's a mess. In e-mail number two, I asked her to go through the requests for admission, interrogatories (and responses), and requests for documents (and responses) and rename them with dates so they are all consistent so I can see what is there. Easy enough.

At around 10 a.m., she came into my office with the printout of the "bar admissions" Word document from the folder. "I don't know what you're talking about." Let me be clear -- there are three documents in this folder. One is named "CM-ECF" or something like that. It couldn't be more obvious. I informed her she was looking at the wrong document. She said "Oh, I have that information in your [] folder." I said "Great, just copy and paste it into that document then, so it's there, so the other secretaries can file appearances for me if need be." We then briefly discussed e-mail number two, and she seemed like she had a grip on what I wanted her to do. However, she said "Well, who named them all like that, because I'll go talk to them and set them straight." I've told her we took this case over from other attorneys about ten times in the past week. And frankly, I usually name the discovery files created internally because I'm creating them, so if she wants to give me a talking to, I'm all ears. I explained -- again -- that we had a glut of files from various sources and that was why I needed this done, because it's a PITA for me to try to figure out what are duplicates and what we are missing. I figured the CM/ECF deal would be about a two minute task.


At 12:30 p.m., one of the other secretaries, X, sent me an e-mail with a pdf document and asked me if the naming convention she had gone with was what I wanted. This was e-mail number two's task, which I had assigned to my secretary. I called this other secretary and asked her why she was working on this. She said that my secretary told her she was busy, and needed help. Now, that might normally be a fair excuse, except that today was my firm's golf outing (which I couldn't go to because I had a client meeting and really didn't want to go anyway, so that worked out well for me), so the other two attorneys my secretary works for were out golfing. I thought, well, maybe one of them gave her something to do yesterday or the day before, and she's working on it. But then, odd that she wouldn't mention that to me in the morning when we talked about the email number two task. I mean, wouldn't that be a prime time to say "Gee, I've got this other thing to do for Mike or Steve, so how fast do you need this done?" Right? So, I printed out a random document on the printer behind her, so I could see what she was working on.

As I walked behind her to pick up my bullshit printout, she said "I just finished updating your CM/ECF" and "We are almost done with the naming. X is helping."

I said "Okay," but then I had to walk away. Fast. I was about to explode. This is par for the course these days. And she thinks she deserves a raise?

It took two and a half hours to copy and paste what she said she had (which I know she has because I've seen the printout and used it last night to pass on my info to the other secretary)? What? And she can't figure out that this is a lower priority than renaming the files? Honestly, do I have to spell it all out? Shouldn't a secretary with six (I can't remember) years of litigation experience be able to figure this out? I swear, if every detail isn't spelled out, craziness ensues.

And...I honestly wanted to see how she would name the files and how she would do. That's why I gave her the task. Instead, she passed it on to another secretary. X had nothing to do anyway, since all the attorneys she worked for were out golfing, but that's not the point. The point is that I gave my secretary something to do, and she had nothing else to do today, and she passed the buck. Again. She does this all the time. I think she did something related to this task, but who knows?

And she spent a hell of a lot of time -- as she does on most days -- talking to the maintenance guy in our building, who has a huge crush on her, and regularly distracts her for hours. He just comes up and hangs out by her desk. (Although, at least he's cute. The doorman who keeps giving me paintings -- who has another one for me, by the way -- is not cute.) Wouldn't you think that someone who asked for a formal evaluation and knew she was under review would try to be doing her best to appear to be working hard? Apparently not. This is not a person who is working hard eight hours a day. Hell, she comes in late every single day. I didn't mention that in my review, because I'm not perfect either, but the senior associate who she works for did, because he is an early bird, and has gotten really irritated about her rolling in at 9:20 or so every day. I'm not an early bird at all, and even I beat her in most days. I wouldn't mind if she stayed late to make it up, but she doesn't. She leaves at 5, the same time the other secretaries who show up at 8:30-9 leave. And many days, she's gone for over an hour for "lunch" or whatever she does.

I honestly feel that next Friday is going to be a disaster. I'm a very nice person, and I like her as a person, so it is going to all be hugely uncomfortable, but if she gives me any lip, which she might because she's gotten a little cocky, she is going to hear it. I can be a bitch, although I don't like to be. I'm going to try to lay it out for her in a nice way. I just have to remind myself to remain professional...breathe in...breathe out....It's never easy to give a bad review to someone. I had to do it in my previous life in consulting, and I even had to fire a guy, which was not pleasant. But, it's been awhile. I have to just not get emotional about it.

Regardless, I want a new secretary. I'm done. I have to shut my door every day because I can't stand her voice. I can't stand the blank look I get on everything I ask her to do. It's nonsense. One of our clerks just got her paralegal degree and she is super motivated. I think I'm going to try to rein her in and see if she is willing to do some secretary/paralegal work for me. I would understand if she doesn't want the secretarial, but since I am so used to not having a secretary, the administrative crap work is fairly minimal - limited to opening files for me, serving things via mail when necessary, pdfing documents, nothing too time consuming, and things our paralegals actually do as well. I am fully wanting to have a secretary that can do paralegal work, so I think it could be a good mix to give her some experience. I know she would be up for it -- I just have to sell it to the other partners, because we would have to give her a raise.

Update Number Two on Furniture: Pottery Barn Explosion

Yes, Pottery Barn.  What can I say?  I love their stuff.  And while there, I learned that they recently started manufacturing in North Carolina as opposed to overseas, so...go USA!   This is for the basement and my master bedroom.  I always thought I'd be the kind of person who would shop around and pick out pieces and try to put together a cool, unique, eclectic room, but the fact is...I need furniture and I don't feel like dealing with living empty for months or years while I try to pick out the perfect mix.  Pottery Barn is a nice place to go for that, and it is tons cheaper than Ethan Allen.

Since I had the closets torn out in a corner of the basement, I now have a nice office area.  (And my awesome contractor put in an outlet for me midway up the wall, so I don't have to deal with climbing behind the desk to plug in my fabulous.)  So, I went straight to the Printer's modular pieces in Artisan Black.  (Eh, I have brown upstairs, let's do some black down here.  The walls here are again Benjamin Moore Classic Gray and Plymouth Rock.)  Since I have kind of a tight turn on my basement stairs, the modular pieces are great for no worries about a wall unit getting down there:

The office is the corner desk, cabinet pedistal, file pedestal, two bookcase pedestals, and two single bookcase hutches (on either side).   

The entertainment center is the same deal, but I got the double glass pedestal, two single glass door pedestals on either side of that (for the TV), four single bookcase pedestals (two on each side - oddly, although they have a double bookcase for the top, they don't have one for the bottom), and two double bookcase hutches for atop the singles.  

In case you haven't guessed, I have a ton of books and DVDs.  I needed storage!

Then, the couch.  I got the PB Comfort Square sectional, down cushions, box cushions, with wedge, in metal gray basketweave fabric.  Apparently I am the first person on the planet to order this configuration and fabric (and you can't even get it online), so I had to wait a few days for the sku.  Anyway, here it is (this is the slipcovered version; mine is upholstered):

I always used to hate sectionals, but now I kind of like all the seating and convenience.  And this thing is so comfortable with the down cushions it is unbelievable.  It will make a nice "woman cave" for me, in which to watch NFL on the new flatscreen that I have yet to buy.  Also, it will make a nice comfy place for guests, when I have numbers exceeding my spare bedroom.

I still need to get a coffee table and end tables of some sort, some new lamps, as well as another chair or chaise or something for the area that is "bay like" on the back wall (same configuration as upstairs), but that can come later.  I obviously also need to figure out the wall decor situation.  I've decided that my accent color down here is going to be lime green.  So, it'll be gray, black, and lime green.  I like it!  (Also, big upsell fail to the gal at Pottery Barn who helped me order all this, because...duh...I forgot to get a chair for the desk.  She should've pointed that out to me, right?  I would've bought something then and there.) 

And the bedroom!  My very first actual bought at the same time bedroom set that all matches since the one my parents bought me when I was eight.  I got the Hudson set.  Headboard, dresser, and two nightstands:

It's all very exciting. 

And the best part is that I opened a Pottery Barn credit card to put this on because in your first 30 days, you get 10% back on all purchases in the form of gift certificates.  They only approved me for $10K, which I blew through very fast, but that means I get $1,000 back in which to buy some pillows for the basement, lamps, and other whatnot.  Maybe a coffee table or chair.  Or a rug for upstairs.  At any rate, I haven't opened a new credit card in years, but it was so worth it to do on a big purchase like this.  Normally I would've just put it on my AMEX.  So, keep that in mind if you need to make a big purchase at Pottery Barn! 

In case you haven't guessed, I am spewing money out of my pores this year.  The good thing is, I'm doing fine with my income (which is always a question mark), and next year I will probably spend next to nothing, since I chose to do it all in one year.  (I'm kind of like that...I just deal with things all at once, and then I'm done for awhile.  If I still write on this blog 7-10 years from now, you will see me redoing all the furniture again....maybe.  Maybe not.) 

And at least by November I'll have what I want and I can settle in and start to hoard.  (Ha ha, just kidding.)

Update Number One on Furniture: Living Room

My color palette in here is gray (Classic Gray and Plymouth Rock Benjamin Moore on the walls), brown, and turquoise.  And white, somewhat, because my crown molding is white, but it isn't really a color I am pulling in.  Also, my main floor is a complete open layout, so my kitchen flows into my dining area which flows into my seating area.  I'm trying to divide the living room area and dining room area somewhat, without actual dividers, based on color.  Because the seats on my dining room chairs are a light beige, that area will, I think, lean toward more beige, gray, and turquoise, while the actual seating area will lean toward darker brown, gray, and turquoise.  It's tough with an open layout, especially when there is a huge, long wall down one side that needs to be broken up into areas so the wall decor doesn't look dumb.

All of my wood furniture on this floor is done.  It's Ethan Allen, a dark cherry (but not particularly "red") dining room set, two bookcases that are on either side of my fireplace, a coffee table, buffet, and side table.  Those are staying -- I bought it all in 2004 and they still look great, although my coffee table could use a refurbishing.  I'm going to try Restor A Finish, but if that fails, I'll send it out.  It's a great table, but I haven't been particularly kind to it.  The rest of it looks like new.  My floor is a medium dark brown hardwood.

Here is the furniture I ordered from Ethan Allen.  (I figured since the whole floor is Ethan Allen, why break it up?) 

The Monterey sofa in a medium brown leather.  I've always wanted a leather sofa for some reason, but I hate black leather sofas.  They remind me of fraternity houses.  Plus, after years of stains on a fabric couch, I kind of wanted something different:

Two Emerson chairs, this fabric in a hard to explain white and black very, very thin plaidish pattern that makes it look gray.  It may sound ugly, but trust me, it's very cool.

These two chairs will go in my bay window.  I had a very hard time trying to decide what to do with that area.  I wanted more seating, but it isn't a huge area, so I couldn't go with two super comfy big chairs, although the Emerson chair is very comfortable.  (At least from what I surmised by sitting in it at Ethan Allen.)  I also got one Emerson ottoman:

Actually, the fabric shown on the ottoman looks a lot like the fabric I picked, and may very well be it.  It's hard to tell online. 

The pillows for the couch are a dark brown and turquoise heavy cotton (I think...can't remember the exact fabric) pattern.  The pillows for the chairs are turquoise with a dark brown trim, and velvet.  It all goes together very well.  Well, at least I think it will, but so far my picks haven't failed me other than I wish the Classic Gray paint was one shade darker.  However, I did hit the right color of gray that I wanted, as opposed to one that looked blue or purple, so to that end, the paint pick was a win.

Then I've been thinking about wall art.  I like having paintings in my house, or at least photographs, or art.  I like somewhat unique pieces usually.  I've bought a lot of cool pieces in the past at art shows and on eBay, believe it or not.  For some reason I'm very averse to buying something for my walls at a place like Bed, Bath, and Beyond or Pottery Barn, even though they have some very cool stuff for walls.

As I said, I have a lot of art, be quite honest, I'm a little sick of it.  Except for my Robert Deyber fish picture, which will go back to its home on the perfectly sized wall and place for it across from my dining room table.  Some of my other pieces will go into the hallways maybe or the spare bedroom, or maybe even my master bedroom.  I haven't quite decided yet what I'm going to do in there. 

What I do know is that I want new art for my main floor, for the most part, which doesn't come cheap and will take some time to acquire.  It has to be just right.  I'm not a waffler on things like this.  Either I like it or I don't, and I buy it or I don't.  If I'm iffy, that means I don't like it enough.    

Anyway, I've been flailing a bit about what to do on the main floor.  I've been collecting cards from artists at the various art street fairs here this summer so I can order from them, and this weekend is the Bucktown Art Fair.  There were a few artists who I really like that I've seen this summer, but I just wasn't really ready to buy yet because I had to think about what to do. 

Then, I checked Gilt Groupe the other day.  And yes, it is one of those mass produced things that I usually don't like very much, but...I wanted it.  The artist is Parvez Taj, who is described as:
Canadian Parvez Taj uses photography, water-based paints, and ultraviolet inks to create works that blur the line between traditional and contemporary. From the beautifully distorted urban scene in NY Moving, to abstract naturalistic images like Lake Muskoka, the images speak to both the eye and the heart. Also check out the light boxes, covered in everything from abstracted subway signs, to an ink print in a wood-bark pattern.

I fell in love with this one, and I think it is going to look amazing above my couch.  I didn't buy it right away.  I thought about it for two days, only because he is a bit mass produced, and usually I like paintings, but...then I just broke down.  It's called "Elements" and is really what I wanted, colorwise, and I think it looks very cool.  (I just linked from Gilt, so if it goes away, I will repost a better picture once I receive it...which will apparently be in early November.)  I ordered the 48x32.  It was so much cheaper, over 50% off than his work usually goes for, at $175:
Then, I thought what the hell, right?  I might as well order a couple more, because I think I might be able to stack a couple along side of this one, or I have a few other spots on the main floor where these could go.  These two were only $79 each, because I got the 18x12.  Little paintings are fun because you can put them almost anywhere.  The left is "Hummingbird" and the right is "Indian Wells."  (Sorry for all the space around the photos...that's what you get when you are too lazy to download and upload and link.)  These are a little more blue than turquoise, but that is okay with me.
So, we'll see how this all turns out.  I still have to get rugs.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Random Thoughts on August 22

1.  Over the weekend, for the first time in my adult life, I bought a bedroom set.  I haven't had a complete, matching bedroom set of furniture since I was a kid.  I haven't had a headboard since I moved out of my parents' house.  I've bought mattresses, dressers, nightstands, but never a complete set all at once.  And what I've got as far as furniture right now is IKEA.  This is exciting, yet odd, when I think about it.  Why have I never bought a bedroom set of furniture before this?  Maybe I just don't care about it that much.  At any rate, I got the Hudson set from Pottery Barn.  Bed, dresser, and two nightstands.  This should solidify my journey into adulthood.

2.  I'm kind of addicted to the wasabi mayonnaise at Trader Joe's.  I like mayonnaise anyway, but the hint of wasabi makes it really great on sandwiches for someone like me who likes the spicy touch.  You do have to be careful with it, though, because it is strong.

3.  I'm dreading putting my house back together after this remodel is done.  To get ready for the painting, I basically cleared things out and put things anywhere I could find.  My buffet is empty, but its usual contents are all over the place.  Same with my bedroom.  I'm sure I will never be able to find anything ever again.  And my books are still in boxes, because I hate to put them on the shelves given the dust that is going to be throughout once they start cutting the tile for the basement bath.  It's much easier to clean shelves of dust when there are not books on them.  Yes, that is my excuse for not reshelving all of these books.

4.  I wish I would've gone a shade darker than Classic Gray (Benjamin Moore) for my main paint color.  It looks almost white on some walls when the sunlight hits, and that was not what I wanted.  Oh, well.  It was actually surprising to me how much lighter the paint I picked looked once it was up on the walls.  I was prepared for it to look darker.  Live and learn.  It's totally fine, though.  I think it will look better once I actually put some things up on the walls.

5.  I want evil Eric back on True Blood.  I'm tired of this little boy, Sookie loving, lameass.

6.  You would never know this season of Jersey Shore is in Florence, Italy.  All they ever show is the apartment and the clubs.  Boring.  Is their fifteen minutes up yet?

7.  No one on Project Runway is getting my attention at all yet.  That's worrisome.  And I am so sick of Tim Gunn's Expedia commercial.  "See what Anandra did?"  Ugh.   

8.  I am buried at work, all of a sudden.  This always happens at this time of year, and it sucks.  All the lawyers get all riled up to actually do something at the end of summer. 

9.  My mom is so indecisive about our trip that I'm ready to cancel it, and now I'm at a point with work that I might need to.  I told her three months ago to plan it out and pick the dates because I need notice.  She cannot make a decision, and it is infuriating me.  I've made it easy for her on our past trips, because I've always done all of the planning.  It's amazing to me that she is incapable of doing the same.  She's retired and has all the time in the world.  I told her just to figure out the trip so we can book our flights.  I'm not spending a fortune to book a flight to San Francisco at the last minute.  And she is still waffling.  She always does this and it drives me insane.  Just make a decision.  I don't want to have to take this planning over, because I'm so sick of always having to do the planning.  I've told her that I'm up for anything, just decide.  Ugh.  I'm so sick of having to always do everything when it comes to my family.

West Memphis Three - Cause for Celebration?

The West Memphis Three are free. People are jubilant. Justice and all that.

About six months ago, I read Devil’s Knot by Mara Leveritt. Prior to that, I had never even heard of the West Memphis Three. While reading the book, I noticed that it seemed to pick and choose which trial testimony it presented (without saying that it was excluding a number of witnesses from the narrative), and then moved on without talking about what happened on cross examination or redirect. (Any lawyer knows that a perfectly good direct examination can be quickly torn apart by a decent attorney on cross-examination.) This seemed strange to me, so after finishing the book, I looked on the Internet for more information and came across the Callahan site, which has all of the case documents; the wm3blackboard, a not guilty site; WM3 Hoax, a guilty site; and various other information sites, such as The Truth About the West Memphis Three and Jive Puppi, the discussions over at Find a Death, and the Paradise Lost documentaries. Reading through (and watching) the various viewpoints made clear that both Devil’s Knot and Paradise Lost I and II left out a lot of information. Reading through the viewpoints also made clear that there was a huge group of people who believed the WM3 were innocent, as well as a fair amount who believed fully in their guilt.

One look at the Callahan site reveals the sheer breadth of this case. It is not a simple case. There are thousands of pages of documents, transcripts, trial testimony, witness statements, and reports. It’s overwhelming. I wanted to read a summary from the “guilty” supporters, since I had just received what I assumed was an accepted summary of the “innocence” supporters in Devil’s Knot. The Truth About the West Memphis Three summarizes some of the bigger issues (i.e. alibis, confessions), and provides links to Callahan. However, in going through the numerous West Memphis Three sites on the Internet, it is very difficult to find a non-biased, objective source summarizing information on the case. Every site is one or the other.  It’s also a difficult case to summarize due to the sheer quantity of testimony, witness statements, and hearings. Even a perusal of any of the sites makes it clear that you can’t take anything at face value that is said about this case because so much misinformation is floating around – and I say that as a person who has read few of the Callahan documents. I can’t imagine what I would see if I read every document on the entire site.

For example, people say that Jesse Misskelley Jr. was interrogated for 12 hours before he gave his confession to police on June 3, 1993 without his father’s permission, and without being read his rights. They then ignore his many other confessions. In fact, the police timeline shows that his father picked him up, and then Jesse went to the police department. The police read him his rights, then they took him with them and went out and got his father’s written consent for a polygraph, after which they returned to the police station and he was Mirandized again. According to this timeline, the interview began at 10:00 a.m., and at approximately 2:44 p.m. Jesse began confessing. In between 10:00 a.m. and 2:44 p.m., they drove Jesse to get his father’s permission to take the polygraph and administered the polygraph (which he failed). This isn’t twelve hours of interrogation without permission. His father knew exactly where he was and what was happening. At most it began after three or four hours of interrogation in the middle of the day.

That’s confession number one. Jesse also admitted to his lawyers in the summer of 1993 that he was there when the boys were murdered. On February 4, 1994, he again described his involvement to police officers who were transporting him back to prison. On February 8, 1994, three days after he was found guilty by the jury, he confessed again to his own attorneys. On February 17, 1994, he again confessed, over the objections of and against the advice of his attorneys, who were sitting in the room with him.

This is just one example. There are further examples concerning Jesse’s intelligence and whether he was “mentally retarded,” as those who support innocence claim, and examples concerning Damien’s mental health (and lengthy psychiatric record), as well as the three’s ever changing alibis. Coerced confessions no doubt exist.  But did that happen here?  Did it happen five times, two times after conviction, once when his attorneys were sitting right next to him, pleading with him not to make the statement?  And this doesn’t even cover witness statements by other people in town and other prisoners who claimed that Jesse, Damien, and Jason all admitted to being involved in the crime. Could those people be lying? Sure, maybe. But maybe they aren’t. There are a lot of unanswered questions about this case. I, for one, don’t know if the West Memphis Three are guilty or innocent. I haven’t fully read the case files.

Without reading all the underlying documents, it is difficult to conclude whether anyone’s online analysis (or documentary) covers everything and portrays all of the relevant facts. Saying something enough times doesn’t make it true. It’s not hard to twist facts when you ignore the ones that don’t support your position, which is where Devil’s Knot and Paradise Lost fail. The only place that offers an unbiased look is Callahan, where there are thousands upon thousands of documents, investigative reports, and transcripts posted. If you have the time to read through all of them, maybe you can determine how you feel.

When I came to the conclusion that there was no way I could decide one way or the other whether the WM3 are guilty or not without reading all of the documents on Callahan (which I doubt I will ever have time to do), it made it all the more surprising to me to see the number of people out there who are jumping up and down for joy at the release of these three men, and the sheer number of celebrities who are behind this cause. Lots of teenagers were shown on television with signs “Free the WM3!” outside the courthouse. People all over the blogosphere and news discussion forums are proclaiming innocence and “justice.” Many argue that there is absolutely no physical evidence (there doesn’t have to be) and that they were convicted based on Jesse’s twelve hour, mentally retarded, coerced confession. (Ignoring that Jesse’s confession was not admissible in Damien and Jason’s trial. Also ignoring that Jesse confessed four more times after that.) It’s difficult to take the “innocence” people seriously when they obviously haven’t read many of the documents from the case itself, and instead rely upon what other people have (wrongly) told them or what Paradise Lost showed, which wasn’t the full story. They seemed to have merely jumped on the bandwagon, rather than investigated what happened. Maybe they're right; I don’t know. All I know is based on what little I’ve read on Callahan some are basing their premise of innocence on incorrect facts.

I have no doubt that there are people out there who have devoted thousands of hours to reviewing all of the case information on Callahan and have come to the conclusion that the three men were unfairly convicted. I also have no doubt that there are people out there who did the same thing and came to the opposite conclusion. I also believe that there were probably mistakes made in the investigation, and that perhaps the men deserved a new trial. But how many of the people out there who are celebrating have read the entire case file? Has Natalie Maines? I saw on one site that she admitted in a related deposition (one of the fathers of the murdered boys sued her for defamation after she accused him of murder) that she didn’t have much knowledge of the case. I’ve been unable to find a copy of her deposition to confirm, but that wouldn’t surprise me. Has Johnny Depp or Eddie Vedder spent hours on Callahan? Maybe they have. Or maybe they just watched Paradise Lost and assumed it contained the full story.  

The recent coverage by the mainstream media would lead one to believe that it is open and shut that the three men are innocent -- ignoring that they just plead guilty, and are legally guilty in the eyes of the law. I would love to actually see an objective view of the evidence presented by Dateline or 20/20 or in a documentary, as opposed to the biased viewpoint that is pervading this case. It’s pretty amazing that a few celebrities and a lot of money can get a man off death row. It feels like such a whitewash.

And worse, forgotten in all this “celebration” is that three little boys were brutally murdered 18 years ago.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

How Do People Find Me? Tom Sawyer Naked.

I get such a kick out of this.  And, honestly, if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't include the word "Naked" in my blog name.  Because oh, my.  Yeah, I'm sort of innocent enough that I took a fairly well known quote and turned it into my blog name, because I felt like it applied to me, and unfortunately, it included the word "Naked," and it didn't occur to me that a lot of people might find me looking for...weird shit.

What amuses me the most, and has gotten me a lot of hits is this one: 
tom sawyer naked
You wouldn't believe how many people have landed on my blog searching for these terms.  I posted in the past about the whole Huckleberry Finn censorship debacle, and probably mentioned Tom Sawyer, who is, as we well know, a fictional character. 

And now I get people who are apparently searching for pictures of a fictional character naked.  Do you think they know that Tom Sawyer was made up by Mark Twain?  Do you think they know that he is fictional? 

Oh my.

Bathroom Remodel - Small Master Bath and Second Bath

All right.  I can't find my "before" pictures.  I know I took them on this new camera, but they are nowhere to be found, so maybe I accidentally deleted them, or else they are hiding in a folder somewhere.  I'm incredibly irritated about this, because I can't show you how far I've come! 

At any rate, let me try to set the scene in words:

Both my master bath and second upstairs bath are very small.  Think single vanity, tub, toilet.  The master bath is a little bigger because it has a small closet.  But, they are small and I can't do anything about that.  I'm in Chicago, in a townhouse with a total square footage on three floors of about 1800 sq ft.  So, I didn't have much to work with as far as doing something completely awesome, nor do I want to over improve for the kind of place I'm in.   

When I moved in two years ago (holy crap, has it really been two years since I bought this place?), both bathrooms still had their original 1985 decor.  It wasn't as terrible as you would think.  The tile (floor and tub walls) was 2"x2" white, the vanity was white, tub was white, sink was white.  It was just very dull.  And due to the age, the tubs had scuffs and chips, and the floor tiles had a lot of cracks as well.  It really, really could have been worse.  But of course, I knew I would remodel them at some point.  And 2011 was the time!

I have no experience with anything remodeling related.  I watch HGTV, but I never actually had to do any of this myself.  Let me tell you -- it is overwhelming to pick out tile, fixtures, vanities, tubs, toilets, paint, etc.  I mean, you have to design a bathroom even if you are someone (like me) who has no designing bathroom experience.  So, I just went with what I liked.  I hired an awesome, awesome contractor.  (Who I still love even though he is nearing on a month over the time when he said all of this work would be done.  The tile work is really amazing.)  He directed me to some great folks at Community Home Supply, Home Carpet One, and Stone City.  And, my new bathrooms were born.  (Bathroom number three should be finished in a week or two, I hope!)

At any rate, I promised I'd post pictures of my bathrooms, so here goes.  I wasn't sure how it was all going to come together, but I am very happy with them both.  They don't photograph as well as I would like, particularly the master bathroom, but it's the best I can do.

This is the second bathroom, which was the cheapest (but still not terribly cheap):

This is 12x24 porcelain tile, the cheapest tile I got.  It looks almost like brushed concrete.  The porcelain options are really amazing now.  The color in the above photo isn't accurate.  The one below is what it looks like.  The dark brown glass trim around the shower was the most expensive at around $50 a square foot.  Luckily I didn't need that much of it!  I should've taken a closer picture of it, but it is basically very thin slivers of brownish glass.   

It looks very awesome, and feels almost spa like.

I went with a white porcelain sink/vanity and dark brown base.  I went back and forth about going with a stone vanity top in here, but then decided that since I did stone in the other two, I'd do something different in this one.  I didn't want to do the same thing in all three bathrooms, so as you will see, they are all totally different.  I don't know if this was the wrong thing to do or not, but I like a lot of different things, so I like having different bathrooms, you know?  Benjamin Moore Winter Wheat is on the walls:

Sink fixture (chrome in here):

Tub fixture:

Lights, where I went with round:

I don't know what that big white glare on the wall is to the right of the mirror, other than maybe a reflection.  It's just a plain wall.  The mirror is inset into the wall and is a huge medicine cabinet.  I should've taken a picture of how awesome it is.

And the dual flush toilet, which went in all three bathrooms (and my foot):

Obviously I haven't really decorated yet!  I will be getting some nice towels and some stuff for the walls.

And now, on to the master bath.  This one doesn't photograph as good as it looks in person.  The tile is silver travertine, which is basically mixtures of beige and gray.  It looks more beige in photographs than it looks in person.  In person, it is more gray looking.  I'm not sure what the deal with that is and I took a bunch of pictures but couldn't capture how it looks in person, but it'll give you an idea anyway.  There is mosaic glass on the tub front and as an accent in the tub:

Same vanity as the other bathroom, but with a gray quartz counter and square white sink.  Also, the same freaking amazing inset medicine cabinet/mirror.  Benjamin Moore Gray Tint is on the walls (it looks very blue in the photos, but it isn't in person, and is just a light gray):

And the lights, where I went with square (along with some of my crap, and the same weird reflection as in the other bathroom, and I don't know why the one wall appears so much darker because it is the same color as the others, and again, not blue at all):

And the tub fixture (nickel in here):

And my favorite -- and a splurge -- the sink faucet:

All in all, I am very happy with how everything turned out, and very relieved.  I was like an idiot trying to pick all this stuff out, and it really wasn't something I enjoyed doing.  I didn't post a pic of the shower heads, but they are both the rain kind.  I like them a lot!

So...the basement bathroom, which is still in progress, is the one where I went a little more funky, with a vessel sink.  I'll post pics of that one if it ever gets finished.....

Friday, August 19, 2011

The IDPPA - Thoughts on Copyrights for Fashion Design

The Innovative Design Protection and Privacy Prevention Act (H.R. 2511) is back in the news, after more testimony.  (It's somewhat hilarious to me that they are also using this bill to amend copyright laws for vessel hulls.)  This is the famed "copyright for fashion designs" bill, and is only about 10 pages long.  I love fashion, but this bill makes me a little nervous.  Sure, it would be great if Forever 21 couldn't run out and rip off Prada, or if Steve Madden couldn't run out and rip off Gucci. in the hell do you even determine whether a fashion is copyrightable in the first place, and what effect will this have on smaller designers?

Let's look at the definition:
(7) A ‘fashion design’—

(A) is the appearance as a whole of an article of apparel, including its ornamentation; and

(B) includes original elements of the article of apparel or the original arrangement or placement of original or non-original elements as incorporated in the overall appearance of the article of apparel that—

(i) are the result of a designer’s own creative endeavor; and

(ii) provide a unique, distinguishable, non-trivial and non-utilitarian variation over prior designs for similar types of articles.
It looks like colors are also out:
The presence or absence of a particular color or colors or of a pictorial or graphic work imprinted on fabric shall not be considered in determining the protection of a fashion design under section 1301 or 1302 or in determining infringement under section 1309.

This is what is not protected:
(B) in the case of a fashion design, embodied in a useful article that was made public by the designer or owner in the United States or a foreign country before the date of enactment of this chapter or more than 3 years before the date upon which protection of the design is asserted under this chapter.
Where do you even begin with this? Words like "original elements," "original arrangement," "non-trivial," "distinguishable," "unique," and "non-utilitarian" sound great in theory, but what does this actually mean in real life in terms of fashion, and how do you apply these terms?  How do you determine whether your fashion design is one of these things?  Presumably most designers probably believe that what they are doing is non-trivial, unique, and distinguishable.  But how do you prove that?  Plus, fashions are recycled all the time.  We're still somewhat in the mix of the resurgenc of 80s fashion now.  Can you show that your design is unique when someone else did something just like it 20 years ago?  Or is that just homage?  Do the placement of nonusable buckles on a purse make it unique?  Can you stop everyone else from putting a nonusable buckle there for the next three years?  There is not a neverending amount of things you can do with a skirt, dress, sweater, or pair of gloves.  Would non-usable buttons sewn randomly on a pair of gloves get copyright protection?  What about random lace panels on a dress?  Or how about a lopsided collar on a shirt?  Maybe an upside down pointed triangle type hem on a skirt?         

I fully understand why fashion designers want a law like this.  It must be unbelievably frustrating to create a garment, purse, or pair of shoes and then see ABS, Steve Madden, or Forever 21 come out with a near exact duplicate two weeks later and not be able to do anything about it.  I absolutely hate that.  I think the fashion houses will register for copyright protection on every single design they release every season.  (There is no examination per se in the Copyright Office; you just register, and if it is not valid that will come out during litigation.)  And I foresee a lot of litigation over this among the various fashion houses as the statute works out its kinks and a body of law further interpreting the statute is developed.  (Which is, by the way, great for me.  I'd love to do more copyright litigation work.) 

This, however, is not a good thing for smaller designers and fashion companies who can't afford litigation.  You know the folks who sell on Etsy or at art fairs and places like that and become contestants on Project Runway?  Well, if they are selling their wares on Etsy and one of the big fashion houses thinks there might be copyright infringement and files a lawsuit, guess what happens?  Generally that person can't afford the million or so dollars it will cost to litigate the case, so they will settle and stop selling, regardless of whether or not they are liable.  Remember that anyone can file a lawsuit for anything, but until you can convince the judge that the case has no merit, you are stuck in litigation hell paying people like me to try to get you out of it.  The bigger companies will fight things out between them, but the smaller companies are who I am truly worried about here, and the affect a bill like this will have on them.  This really could put a dent in innovative new designers and what they are allowed to do.  We've seen this happen in patent law, where the smaller fish get put out of business trying to litigate patents with the bigger fish.   

I guess we can also look forward to seeing a copyright notice on the tags of our clothes.  It will interesting to see whether or not this bill passes.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Current Addictive Song: Nelly Just A Dream

I can't stop listening to this song!  Nelly was my man back in the day, but oh, he's still on it....

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Christian Louboutin Red Soles Trademark Lawsuit - Crazy Order on Preliminary Injunction

All right.  I've been dying to read the Order from Judge Marrero in the Christian Louboutin v Yves Saint Laurent "red soles" lawsuit.  Here it is in it's entirety from Scribd, if you are so inclined.  (It's actually very interesting.)

Louboutin filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, which would prevent Yves Saint Laurent from selling any shoes with red soles until the case is finished.  As part of this, they had to prove "likelihood of success on the merits," which in layman's speech means "do you have a shot at winning this thing?"  The Judge essentially feels that red soles are ornamental and aesthetic, and thus not protectable by trademark, and that Louboutin will not be able to prove success on the merits of the claim.  Essentially, he fully decided the case at a very early point in the process. 

Of course the Judge is a dude.  He's probably never even heard of Christian Louboutin.

Single colors can be trademarked, but it is kind of rare.  One of the most famous color trademarks is pink insulation for Owens-Corning.  However, the Judge is very disinclined to offer trademark protection on a color for anything fashion related.  He uses a somewhat bizarre analogy to Monet using a certain color of indigo in a painting for water, and then attempting to prevent Picasso from using it for water.  He points out that attorneys will quibble with his analogy.  Yes, that's right.  But then he goes on full steam ahead to compare a painting to the color of soles on a shoe.  The biggest issue I have with the analogy is that the Judge focuses on the color red, as opposed to the color red on soles of shoes, which is what the trademark is about.  Louboutin isn't trying to prevent other designers from using the color red on the tops of shoes or on anything else.  He is trying to prevent them from using red on the bottoms of shoes.  There is no shortage of other colors that designers can use on the bottoms of shoes, other than red.  No one cared about red soles until Louboutin came along and established a name for himself by doing it.

But here's the real kicker for me.  The Judge quotes Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Products Co., a Supreme Court case which is the big "is a color trademark functional" case, and describes a functional trademark as follows:
This Court consequently has explained that, "[i]n general terms, a product feature is functional," and cannot serve as a trademark, "if it is essential to the use or purpose of the article or if it affects the cost or quality of the article," that is, if exclusive use of the feature would put competitors at a significant non reputation related disadvantage. 
He then goes on to talk about all the contexts where a single color has been held functional because aesthetic appeal can be functional, in completely unrelated contexts.  Like, green for farm equipment.  His conclusion is that because the red soles exemplify sexiness, standing out, and other things like that, those are nontrademark functions.  (I would argue that all of that is only true because Louboutin made it true.)  He also concludes that the red soles are more expensive to make, thus highly desirable to such high end brands like Louboutin and Yves St. Laurent, and thus serve as more than a source identifier.  (I would argue that red, pink, blue, purple, green, beige, yellow, orange, and any other color you can think of would be equally expensive to make and Yves St Laurent is free to use any of those colors on their soles.)  In short, red soles have non trademark functions.

He then leaps to the conclusion that Louboutin's use of red soles puts everyone else at a significant competitive disadvantage.  Really?  No one ever cared about using red soles on a regular basis until he came along.  As I discussed above, there are hundreds of other colors they could use.  Why red?  Could it be because everyone associates red with Louboutin now?  There is no other logical reason why they would want to use red other than to ride on Louboutin's coattails.  Much of the reasoning here by the Judge is also muddied in that it seems focused not on the soles of the shoes (which no one can see unless you are walking), but on the tops of the shoes or the entire shoe itself, and the inability of designers to match their fashions (including hats and gloves!) to the shoes.  (Do people match their clothes to the soles of their shoes?  Um...)  Basically he decides that every designer should have the ability to design a completely monochromatic shoe, including soles, in red, or they will be placed at a "significant disadvantage."  He misses the point entirely.  Louboutin is not preventing anyone from designing a red shoe.  Just red soles. 

(In case you can't tell, I hate this opinion.)

Grudgingly, I will admit that the Judge makes a good point in that Louboutin does not sufficiently describe what color red he is claiming as the trademark for the soles in the trademark registration.  This will undoubtedly come back to bite them in the ass.  There are a million shades of red out there, right?  Registered trademarks are there to offer notice to others about what you can and can't do.  Without sufficient description....hosed.  Someone's IP attorneys fell asleep at the wheel, is all I have to say.  You would think with the importance of the red soles they would have this covered up, down, backwards, and forwards until Sunday.  There is some additional discussion on the parade of terribles that might occur if Louboutin is able to trademark red soles, but eh.

The Judge, in the end concludes that the trademark is not protectable, so he never gets to the issue of "is there likelihood of confusion" which is the next issue for trademarks.  (I give that a resounding yes.)  He then - astonishingly to me at this stage of the case -- tells Yves St. Laurent that if they file summary judgment on this issue of whether it is a protectable trademark (which would completely decide the case) he will grant their motion and find that Louboutin's red soles are not valid trademarks.  He then tells Louboutin that they will be able to appeal that decision immediately.  (Usually you have to wait until final judgment on all claims to appeal.)  Expect a summary judgment motion from Yves St Laurent very soon.  And then expect an appeal to the 2nd Circuit from Louboutin.  And then, in my opinion, expect a reversal from the 2nd Circuit. 

The Judge did not address secondary meaning (I admit I kind of skimmed the opinion), and I personally think that Christian Louboutin will and should carry the day on secondary meaning for the red soles.  Secondary meaning basically means that "hey, your mark may not be something that is usually protectable, but you've been doing it for awhile and everyone associates it with you, so we'll give it to you anyway."  I mean, have you ever seen a red sole on a shoe and not thought Christian Louboutin?  My mom knows nothing about Christian Louboutin shoes, but even she knows that Oprah always wears "those fancy shoes with the red soles."  The red soles completely identify source, which is the whole point of trademark law.  There is also a "famous mark" doctrine they can rely on, although it is a bit harder to show that a mark is famous.  McDonald's is famous.  Is Christian Louboutin's red soles?  Maybe, depending on what market of people they have to look at to establish that it's famous.   

I'm beginning to think I need to read the briefs that were submitted on this because I have to say, this decision is utterly baffling to me, and I can't understand how Louboutin lost it in such a big way.  Granted, there are Judges who aren't great and decide against you even on a great argument, and preliminary injunctions can be difficult to get, but the fact that the Judge basically decided the case on the merits and said that in his order at this stage of the case is astonishing to me.  I mean, he told Yves St. Laurent to go ahead and file their summary judgment, and then told Louboutin they'd be able to appeal it immediately.  That's really....interesting.         

And wow, if this trademark goes down every Payless shoe store in the country is going to have hoards of high heels with red soles.  I shudder to think about it. 

Update on the Situation with My Secretary

About six months ago she asked for a raise. I don't remember if I knew this or not. It's possible someone told me. At any rate, it arose after she was assigned to a third attorney, one of our new associates. So, she works for me and two associates. She thought that since she would have more work she should make more money. This doesn't entirely make sense to me because previously she didn't even have enough work to fill her day, and now she still doesn't have enough work to fill her day. It's not like she's showing up at 7 a.m. and staying past 5 to get things done. At least I'm assuming she doesn't have enough work to fill her day, given the hour long personal phone calls and constant surfing of the Internet that goes on over there. (Not really judging, since I surf the Internet at work too at times, but I work a lot longer hours than she does.)

Anyway, at my firm, we pay our secretaries very well. I know this because I am on the compensation committee. Believe me, she is not getting shafted in the pay department. Usually someone would not be given a raise in the middle of the year (we do all that at the end of the year), and our office manager told my secretary this. The office manager wasn't necessarily opposed to the idea of giving her a raise if she deserved it, but she wasn't sure if it was warranted in the middle of the year. My secretary then asked if she could have a formal review after six months (which would be end of August), and would they then consider upping her salary if the review goes well.

Needless to say, the office manager's jaw dropped that she asked for a formal review. We're a firm of about 30 attorneys, so we don't really engage in things like formal reviews. Basically, if you are still working there, you can assume you are doing okay, with a few exceptions. (There are always exceptions to the rule.) My secretary was supposed to get fired about two years ago, but then she had some really bad things happen in her personal life, so we did not fire her then. Thus, she is still here. And apparently thinks she is doing a great job (which is frankly baffling to me given the informal feedback I've given her.) Year end reviews go like this:

Partner: You're doing a great job, keep it up.
Associate: Thanks.
Partner: Your salary next year is X and your bonus for this year is X. You will see your bonus in your next paycheck.
Associate: Great.

The office manager does a similar thing with the secretaries and clerks. To be honest, I have no idea what anyone other than me has told my secretary about her work from year to year. It really doesn't matter -- if she's not making me happy, there is a problem.

Now, I have been keeping track of things my secretary does since about March in great detail because I had planned on sitting down with her to address her many deficiencies, but I wanted hard examples that I could talk her through. I didn't even know this evaluation period was going on until yesterday. So, it works out very well that our office manager came to me yesterday with an evaluation form.

Screw the form. I've got a lot to say with dates, cases, and specific examples to back me up. I had raised issues before with the office manager and other partners about my secretary's performance, so when the office manager came to me she said "Can you believe she asked for a formal evaluation?" she was in shock. Hey, she asked for it -- she's going to get it. At least one of the associates who shares her with me is also fed up. I've given her feedback along the way during all of this, and I'll admit gotten short with her at times because I'm so frustrated. I tell her things over and over again, yet it seems like she doesn't hear me. She doesn't read my e-mails. She doesn't even listen to my voice messages. (Yes, she told me this.) She's a good hearted person and means well, but this is not the job for her, and she is simply not that smart. I'm not trying to be a bitch by saying that, either, because I do like her as a person. She just cannot figure anything out on her own and retains absolutely nothing. You would never guess she's been a legal secretary for over five years. She still needs help filing 90% of the filings I do, and she's probably filed over a hundred documents with me.

Ugh! But I'm not going to get myself all worked up over it. I wrote out a very detailed eight page document to give to the office manager. I told her I would sit in with her for the review if she wants me to. I'm not looking forward to that, but hell, I was planning on doing it anyway. She just beat me to the punch. My secretary does not take criticism well, and she is going to get defensive. This will not be fun, but....she asked for it, right?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Random Thought on August 11

1. My big 37th is Saturday! But, boo, I have an all day client meeting. I was supposed to go out of town with my best friend this weekend but had to cancel on her. I'm so pissed, but that's the price I pay for the money I make. We are going to reschedule. I haven't been with her on my birthday since my 21st, so it's kind of a bummer.

2. I haven't been blogging much because construction is still going on around here and my laptop is hidden. These guys are totally trustworthy, but I still don't like leaving my laptop out, and the packing up and plugging in is annoying. I'm doing this on my IPad tonight, which is slow. I can't be as witty because it's such an effort to type on this keyboard. I need an external keyboard. But, the slate tile is here, and the final bathroom will be done soon!

3. I haven't bought new furniture since 2004, when I bought my dining set, two bookcases, coffee table, and end table from Ethan Allen. They all still look great, but the main floor needs new seating. So, I just dropped $7000 on a leather couch, two chairs, pillows, and an ottoman at Ethan Allen. Might as well make the whole main floor consistent. I'll go cheaper in the basement with Pottery Barn. And I need rugs...this is the bad thing about spending money on clothes and shoes rather than house stuff. You end up dropping a boatload of money all at once because you suddenly realize everything is really old and worn out. And having to wait 8-12 weeks for the new stuff to arrive.

4. I can't wait until this remodel is done. It looks awesome, and the paint is great, and my bedroom is finally a normal color, but I'm done with cardboard all over my floor and a lockbox on my doorknob.

5. My mom and I are planning our almost, sometimes yearly trip. We thought Mt Rushmore, but my mom decided San Fran, northern Cali, and Yosemite. I'm game for anything, so I told her to figure out the route. It will be fun, and I do like to get away from the city. She likes the national parks. This is the only vacation I will take this year, other than a few 3 day weekend trips.

6. The Bimmer is doing great, in case you were wondering.

7. There is chaos at my condo association. I will do a full post on this later. I love everything about my place except dealing with the condo association, and the chaos is caused by one person. Everyone else is cool. I want him to move badly.

8. I can't type on this IPad anymore.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How Long Does It Take To Update a Web Site? Michele Smith, Alderman

The 43rd ward (where I live) got a new alderman back in May – Michele Smith. Since then, she’s kept a pretty low profile. She spoke out immediately after the election about the mega controversy that is what to do with the old Children’s Hospital site, but that’s about all I’ve heard. I can’t find anything online that she’s done or said regarding the Hospital site since around May. In fact, it seems as though she rolled over.

Chicago Public Schools is looking to increase property taxes to the maximum allowed by law – this despite plummeting property values in Chicago. After reading this article from the Sun Times where a number of alderman provided their viewpoint, I wondered what my alderman thought. So, I went to her web site.

It says this:
On Tuesday, May 17 at 9:00 am, we will open our Ward Service Office in the same location as our predecessor, Alderman Vi Daley. Our main consideration in this decision is a smooth transition and convenience for Ward residents. We intend to hit the ground running, and we want there to be no confusion about where we are. We want to be as available as possible to all residents of the Ward.
There is also some contact information – address, phone, and e-mail. That is the extent of the main page – which obviously hasn’t been updated since early May.

The Events page isn’t much better:
Keep an eye on this page for all the upcoming events in the 43rd Ward!
We'll have details on community events, informational meetings, and all related ward happenings.
Then there is also a “Contact” page.

That’s it.

In nearly three months, nothing is on her web site. How long does it take to update a web site? Or to provide news to the community in the form of the promised community events and informational meetings? Alderman are paid a $110,000 salary, get $176,484 a year to pay for three employees, and have a $73,280 expense account. (I’m linking to a web site with this information. Try as I might, I could not find this information from the city of Chicago. Of course.)

It’s not like she isn’t doing anything. For example, here’s a press release about a Summer Safety Festival she was involved in last weekend – on the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce web site.

Why wouldn’t this be on her web site? Why is the 43rd web site outdated and devoid of any information after almost three months? I assume she's been doing things, but you sure wouldn't know it.  Even a Google search of her name turns up mostly information from prior to the election.  I find it hard to believe that with the proximity of DePaul University to her office that she couldn’t pay a college computer whiz to keep her web site updated.  It doesn’t have to be fancy at this point, but some information would be nice.   

One of the articles linked above had this to say:
Smith said she talked to residents and believes they will accept new one [hospital plan], which still requires Plan Commission and council approval.
When? Who? Was there an event held? If so, why wouldn’t she put it on her web site?

I swear, every day I get more disgruntled with the government in Chicago, particularly highly paid government officials who should be intelligent enough to realize how important things like web sites, Facebook, and Twitter are in this day and age.  And I still have no idea how my alderman feels about this proposed property tax hike.  I guess I'll just have to call her. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

An Update on Parkside of Old Town, Just Because

A few months ago I blogged about mixed income housing in Chicago, particularly with respect to the Parkside of Old Town development, which had slashed prices considerably on its market rate units.

I wondered then how many of the 177 market rate units were still available. The answer now is 27 market rate and 2 affordable, out of 279 total units. Better than I thought, actually. Well, guess what? Prices have been slashed again, and you can get a brand new market rate one, two, three bedroom or a townhouse for around 50% of the original asking price:
In the market-rate units, one-bedroom, one-bath condos start at $160,140; two-bedroom, two-bath units start at $229,500; and three-bedroom, two-bath units are priced from $295,800. The town homes are priced from $306,000 to $331,500. Condos include one garage parking space, and town homes include attached parking.

The two affordable condo units are for buyers earning 80 percent or less of median area income. The one-bedroom floor plan is $115,000, and the two-bedroom, one-bath unit is $125,000.
This is a steal – provided you don't mind living in mixed income housing. I honestly can’t believe how cheap this is for a brand new unit with parking that is close to the el and the Old Town neighborhood. I remember when the townhouses first went up for sale and they were asking in the 500s and 600s. Is the lure there yet? I still haven’t heard much about the living conditions other than anecdotal stories. I suppose time will tell.

Monday, August 1, 2011

I Love STFU Parents -- And I Probably Hate Your Kid

I have recently been introduced to one of my new favorite time wasting blogs: STFU Parents.

This blog accurately captures and mocks the majority of my Facebook newsfeed -- from the Mommyjackers (moms who feel the need to post some tidbit about their child on a completely unrelated status post), to the people who post every single allegedly adorable thing their child does or says, to the people who get all huffy and puffy when strangers don’t acknowledge how adorable their screaming child is, to the people who must post a constant stream of pictures of their child, to the people who must inform everyone how brilliant and gifted their child is, to the people who think you don’t know exhaustion unless you’ve had a kid, to the people who automatically assume you are jealous because you don’t have a kid. Luckily for me, my friends do not post pictures of poop messes and placentas. Well, at least not yet. While I don’t mind occasional posts and pictures of kids, as I am interested in seeing how people’s kids are growing up, some people take it way too far.

Reading this blog makes me feel like less of a jerk for not being interested in 90% of the “kid” posts that cover my Newsfeed. In fact, while at certain points over the past year I thought about having one or two children of my own, over the past few months I’ve fallen into the very nice pattern that is my life without children, and come to the realization that I really don’t think I want any. I mean, sure, they can be adorable in small doses, but to actually have to raise one? Hmm….I don’t think it’s for me. I really don’t have a lot of motherly instincts, even though kids do seem to love me, and generally I get annoyed with their constant need for entertainment. If I need a kid fix, I can go visit my nieces and nephews or babysit my friends’ kids.

And truthfully, I’m tired. I don’t think I have the energy anymore to run after a screaming kid, or to deal with the nonsense or the poop (yuck, right?) or the worry or cleaning up after a kid. It’s kind of nice to just be able to do whatever I want every day and go where I want and not have to worry about babysitters or strollers or allergies. My other fear is that I would end up hating my kid as a teenager, because I almost hate teenagers worse than babies these days. Hell, my eight year old niece, who I saw over the 4th of July, has turned into the rudest, meanest child I’ve ever seen. While some of that is raising (my brother spoils her to death to the point that she gets insanely jealous if anyone wants to spend time with him, hence her complete rudeness to me for two days), I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that you could do everything right and still end up with a complete asshole for a kid. I don’t remember being rude to adults when I was a kid, but maybe I’m misremembering. It just feels like kids and teens have gotten ruder and more entitled, to the point that I want to punch them in the face. And I think…what if that was my kid?

Because you see, I am that person who gives moms dirty looks when their kid is pitching a fit at the table next to me at a restaurant, or running up and down the aisles on the airplane, or standing in the middle of the aisle in the store, or hiding under the racks in a department store. I am that person who gives moms dirty looks when they change their kid’s diaper on a bench in the middle of the mall or on a seat in a restaurant. Occasionally, depending on how the mom handles the situation, I feel a little pity. But it’s hard to feel too much pity when they made the choice to have the kid. I don’t feel that kids should be given free reign to do whatever they want just because they are kids, and I don’t feel that my enjoyment should have to be impacted just because they are kids. It’s not extreme to expect a kid to sit in their chair at a restaurant and behave themselves. If they aren’t capable of doing that….don’t take them to the restaurant. Don’t take them on a plane. Don’t take them shopping. Don’t glare at me when the kid is running down the aisle at Nordstrom and faceplants, and I keep right on walking. Some of these mothers seem to feel like I should care. I don’t. I don’t care about your kid. And believe me, I’m not “just jealous.”