Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Random Thoughts on November 29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10.   Oh yeah, I also bought him:

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

10.  I need to call an electrician out.  My electric bill has been outrageously high.  I called and got it put down briefly, thinking it was a meter misread, but it does not seem to be, based on my last bill.  My usage appears to be at least double what it normally is this time of year, and I haven't changed anything.  The a/c is what puts my electric bill up (my furnace is gas) and I haven't had the a/c on since early September.  Except, of course, the work done on my house this summer.  But the outrageousness of usage didn't start until after they were done, when my October bill showed up.  Seems to me that it would've showed up sooner if they would've done anything to suck the electricity out of my house.  So, something in my house (probably my fridge or hot water heater) is sucking electricity out of my home.  I have to figure this out.  My electric bill is usually nonsensically small in the winter, and I'll be damned if I'm paying $150+ a month when it should be around $50.  Did I mention how fun it is to be a home owner?  What the hell?  What changed?  All these people online are like, unplug everything in the house (what?  really?) then shut off your fuses and look at the meter and see if it is still running and then do this and this and this.  Um...no.  I'm just going to call out an expert, thanks.  I'll let them deal with it, and then I will gladly pay them their hourly rate.  I'm going to call the guy who did the electric on my remodel, since he should have some insider knowledge of my wiring.  I really don't think he did anything wrong, though.  I just think my fridge or hot water heater has gone haywire.    

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

Monday, November 28, 2011

Great Christmas Gifts for Patent Lawyers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Theyare available at QVC, two pairs for $20.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chicago Extends School Day -- For Useless Gym Class

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

Daily physical education.

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

You Must Read The Fiddler on the Subway

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

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

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

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

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

Allegations Won't Sink Herman Cain

Oh, Herman Cain. I knew they would find a way to dig up some dirt.

I just have to make a few comments about these sexual harassment allegations.

Yes, allegations. That is all they are. It’s incredibly easy to accuse someone of sexual harassment. You can accuse anyone of anything. Just yesterday a woman accused Justin Bieber of fathering her child. I know people who have been accused of sexual harassment, and I know they did not commit sexual harassment. Most people don’t know what sexual harassment means. It isn’t sexual harassment to make an off color or sexual joke in front of a woman. While it may be unprofessional and in bad taste, it isn’t illegal. It may not even be sexual harassment to flirt with someone or invite them to your hotel room. But, if you do it often enough (this is where the “harassment” aspect of it comes in), you could create a hostile work environment, which is illegal. It is unclear whether that is the case here.

At any rate, no sexual harassment was ever proven. That’s important to remember, especially considering that whether behavior is inappropriate or appropriate can be largely subjective. We all know people who get offended by every little thing, and people who get offended by nothing. 

I’d like to give my spin on some of the comments and questions I’ve seen floating around Internetland.

How could he not remember this?

Easy. It was fifteen years ago and he was the CEO of the National Restaurant Association. In other words, he was a very busy man, and probably wasn’t involved in the day to day dealings of the lawyers of the NRA. Likely the way it went down was the women went and complained, the NRA got their side of the story, the NRA got Herman Cain’s side of the story, and then the NRA lawyers decided what they were going to do about it. I highly doubt he was even involved in that decision, and may have never even followed up on it. If indeed Herman Cain felt he didn’t do anything wrong, I don’t find it strange at all that he doesn’t remember this, or didn’t follow up on it. In fact, I’d find it more likely that he did something wrong if he did remember, because he would have been worried about it.

But they paid the women off!  He must be guilty!

All we know so far about the settlements is that one woman got $35,000 – the equivalent of a year’s salary, and the other woman’s was also the five figure range. As a lawyer, I almost laughed when I saw that number. $35,000 is chump change in lawsuit land, and almost bordering on nuisance value. If they had paid her millions, I might think differently about the allegations. It would likely have cost the NRA at least $35,000 to answer a Complaint and to brief and file a motion to dismiss. It is not uncommon at all for companies to balance settling the case with how much money it will cost them to defend the case. Settling and paying money is not an admission of guilt. Often it is simply good business.

The woman isn’t allowed to tell her side of the story!  It's all a big secret!

Confidentiality provisions are common in settlements where money is handed over. I don’t think I’ve ever written a settlement agreement without a confidentiality provision. This is normal course of business stuff.

I frankly find it disgusting that someone’s name can be spread through the dirt based on unproven allegations. Given the huge spurt of donations to Cain’s campaign, it would seem that a lot of people agree with me.