Saturday, March 24, 2007

Live From New York

One of the things about Saturday Night Live is that they've got all those fake commercials, and sometimes you can't tell at first what's an ad and what's the show. Tonight it's made even more difficult since, well, Peyton Manning is hosting.

It's easy to do, just follow these steps
One, cut a hole in a box

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Phickle Thoughts

My little sister was in town all last week, which helps explain the dearth of posts. She saw pretty much all of the sites in D.C., including, but not limited to: Ben's Chili Bowl, Five Guys, This Awesome Thai Restaurant Just Down The Street From Our Apartment, a Hot Dog Vendor, and My Very Yummy Fajitas. Oh, and most of the Smithsonian Museums, all the major monuments and memorials (though none of them currently had water in them, severely reducing the appeal of the FDR, the WWII, and the Reflecting Pool), the art museums, Archives, Arlington Cemetery, the Holocaust Museum, and the Zoo. I was able to go with her to a good number of them, including the zoo, where we saw a hippo!

Laura and I love having guests out, and seeing the sights with them. After I came back from my study abroad trip I really missed the grandeur and history of Athens and Rome,
with all of their famous landmarks and cultural destinations. A big reason for my choosing to come to D.C. was the fact that it has some of that same feel as those great cities. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean I always get out to experience that. Having guests provides a wonderful opportunity for reacquainting myself with what brought me here in the first place.

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You haven't seen a movie review on here in a long, long time. Hopefully that'll change starting about May 4th. Because this summer there are so many freaking movies that I cannot wait to see.

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Work has been going quite well. I haven't had any more trials lately, but that's largely because over the past 3 weeks, whenever one is approaching I've been able to convince the adverse parties to non-suit (voluntarily dismiss the case). Usually that doesn't take too much work, since the attorneys here are, for the most part, extremely genial, and once you're able to flesh out the facts in your client's favor they can see the writing on the wall. A good part of that is because landlord/tenant law is relatively cut and dry. Of course, there are those attorneys who are more than happy to make your life difficult, and the occasional grey area of law comes up from time to time, which keeps things from getting too dull.

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Finally, today I read a tragic
news item. It seems the President of Uganda follows the "George W. Bush" school of thought when it comes to the environment. Under President Yoweri Museveni the government of Uganda has approved - or is in the process of finalizing approval - of tearing down 7,000 hectares of a specially designated rainforest preserve and turning it into fields for sugar cane farming. Of course, pretty much every civilized country is guilty of forsaking the the environment for corporate greed, so this isn't particularly surprising. That doesn't reduce the tragedy though. The decision to prize a few extra sugar cane plants/drums of oil over an entire ecosystem demonstrates a serious intellectual - and moral - shortcoming. Which helps explain this quote from Museveni: "It is easier to relocate the forest by planting trees elsewhere than to relocate a factory."

I don't even know where to start...

Triple points for the song.

And the island of Tangiers,
I've dreamed about for years

Monday, March 19, 2007

Schmarmony

It occurs to me that God must like dissonance. Is there any other way to explain all the people with horrible singing voices?

Momentum for the sake of momentum

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Even A Blind Squirrel...

It turns out that my employer does not have an actual policy regarding employees blogging about work. And when discussing this with our executive director he agreed that we should establish some sort of rules, but that he also felt it would be acceptable if I wrote about work from time-to-time, so long as it was in non-specific ways that clearly avoided endangering attorney-client confidentiality.

And so that's what this blog is all about.

Work has been going really well. Most days I love my job. Other days I'm way to busy to have time to love my job. It was a strange thing, one day it seemed I was comfortably handling all of my cases, and the next I was suddenly at a full case load, frantically trying to get to all of the different clients I need to serve.

There's something quite rewarding about working at a legal aid service. Our clients causes aren't necessarily any more noble or meritorious just because they're poor. However, there are a lot of people who are poor because they've been victimized by the system, or that, because they're poor, are vulnerable to victimization by the system. Being there for these clients can really help level the playing field much of the time. Usually we're behind the 8-ball, since the laws are generally set up to protect the "haves" of society, but we can always take some comfort in the fact that our clients are no worse off than they would have been without us.

And, speaking of that....

I have officially won my first trial! The law was on our side. The facts were on our side. Really, my client won in spite of my lawyering, rather than because of it. [Which reminds me of a joke... "How to win a case in court: If the law is on your side, pound on the law. If the facts are on your side, pound on the facts; if neither is on your side, pound on the table."]

It felt pretty good to win the case, and it was great because our client got a big fat judgment. Even the other attorney told me candidly that he thought we should win (though he was certainly a zealous advocate for his own client). Ultimately the court got the right result and that was the best part of it all.

This was, in a way, my first trial. I've had some motions that were pretty perfunctory. And I've negotiated a few settlements prior to litigation. I also had another trail scheduled, back in January, but for some reason the judge decided to rule against us (we were the defendant) without ever requiring the plaintiff to put on any evidence. There really was no trial in that case (though we did argue a motion, but that's certainly not a trial). Anyways, that case is being appealed. So on those facts, that pretty much makes this past week's case my first real trial. It was the first time I called a witness, had exhibits entered into evidence, had my questions objected to by opposing counsel, etc. It was amazing how fast it all moved, and how difficult it was to keep on top of every little point I wanted to make/refute/object to. God bless legal aid and our "learn-by-doing" approach!

P.S. I don't expect anyone from outside of Minnesota to get the song quote.

Great for lunch
Great for dinner

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

It's Time For Another Good Idea, Bad Idea

Good Idea: Having Christopher Guest (Best in Show, A Might Wind) direct the pilot episode of Mitchell Hurwitz's (Arrested Development) new TV show, an American adaptation of a the most successful British comedy since The Office.

Bad Idea: A TV show about those stupid Geico Cavemen.

Got a curse i cannot lift
Shines when the sunset shifts

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Old New Friends and New Old Friends

[Some of these thoughts might have come out in previous posts. I don't remember. Sorry if they did, but they're on my mind again, and you're a captive audience so deal with i- what's that? You're not a captive audience? Wait! Please don't go! I'm begging! See? On my knees! Please... stay... just, for a few paragraphs? Please? Wait! No! Don't slam the! ... door. Crap.]

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It's been an active week in the reminiscing department. See, they've got this new thing, it's called the "internet". Apparently people can use it to send electronic messages, or "e-mail", or they can post these things called web logs, or "blogs" for short. And a whole bunch of people have pages on this deally called "MySpace". It's all well beyond me.

But through this fantabulous new invention I've set up my very own "MySpace" page. I'm not really a huge fan of MySpace (or Facebook, or Friendster or any of those gizmos), so I've kept it minimalistic. I'm not really the type to post messages on people's walls (comment on blog posts, sure; post on walls, no. Strange, huh?). And I'm not all about finding a song or spiffy background for my page, or building up enormous friend lists. I'm not knocking it for those who do enjoy it, it's just not my thing. I have set up a page though, and I do use it from time to time.

I realize I'm a little behind the curve here, but what I've discovered in just a short time is that these things are marvelous for finding people. This week, I was both finder and findee (foundee?).

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First off, I was found by a gal I knew back in high school. I never knew her well, though we had a lot of classes in common. Actually, thinking about that a little more, I realize she was probably in about a quarter of all of my high school classes (which would be equal to a third of my classes that weren't band). All the same, we pretty much ran in different crowds.

She sent me a message out of the blue the other day, and it was really just a wonderful surprise. I got a chance to send her a message back, and she responded again, and one of these days I'll get around to returning the favor. I checked out her page, and it's wonderful to see how well her life has turned out.

This recent connection has reinforced for me a thought that I've been nursing for a few years now: that it's really a shame I didn't get to know more people, especially in high school. Calvin Trillin once said, (or rather, he probably wrote), "Everybody is who he was in high school." I'm not sure how true that is, but if it is, then I missed out on knowing some good people back then. It's an exciting thing to think that at this point in our lives - almost 8 years after getting our diplomas - we have grown just enough that we can start - or restart - friendships which didn't really get the chance to develop in that environment.

It is as if the seeds were planted back then, and they've only now begun to germinate. I'm not so naive as to think each of these seedlings will grow into a BFF, but I am hopeful that at least some will turn out as rewarding friendships. I've already seen it happen; Laura and I are becoming good friends with Stephanie Randall, a person who I knew in high school, but would never have counted as more than an acquaintance. By some chance she lives in our neighborhood now, and we've had the chance to find out how cool she really is. And how much I missed out on back in high school.

And even for those that don't really turn into a lasting friendship, at least it's nice to reminisce. Strange how that can be it's own reward. And nothing jogs those memories like contact from people you used to know. Except, I suppose, watching old home movies, or possibly reading your own biography.

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I also played the role of the finder via MySpace. I was just sort of clicking through the profiles of people I recognized, and whenever I found a new one I followed that link. Eventually, through those links, I located the profiles of two of my old friends - Nick and Cullen. Both of these were guys who graduated a year before me, and both of them were indescribably good guys. Throughout high school I looked up to both of them. In fact, during our spirit week one year we even had a "dress like your hero" day, and I chose one of them to emulate.

Beyond being two of my idols, they were also good friends. I was always closer to Nick, and we hung out all the time. I sent him a quick message, and he responded with a wonderful, detailed update. I still have to respond to him again too.

I have a ton of stories from our misadventures together. From the kick-that-started-a-car, to the restroom blackout, to our short-lived entry into the free air market. Nick's e-mail really jogged a bunch of those memories, including the free air business, which I'd almost forgotten about.

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I might not be remembering this quite right, but here's how it's coming back to me:

Just down the road from our high school was a Super America, your typical gas station, complete with a place to gauge the pressure in your tires and fill them up for free. Despite the fact that there were other gas stations on the same corner as the SA, none of them had an air hose you could use to fill up your tires.

For some reason or other, we decided we were opposed to Super America's monopoly on air. Maybe we were concerned that they'd inflate (get it?) the price. Maybe our distaste for monopoly stemmed from our proletarian roots. Maybe we were just dumb kids who got it into our heads that we could compete with a regional chain of gas stations.

Whatever the case, we decided that we too would enter the free air market. We made a large sign - much larger than Super America's - and positioned ourselves on a corner just down the road from the gas station. The sign proclaimed in big black letters, "Free Air", and we had placed arrows all around, pointing in nearly every direction, so that our customers knew that all the air was free, and that they could help themselves to as much as they could possibly handle.

Business was booming. We had a prime location with plenty of traffic, a nearly limitless supply of wares, and we'd been able to keep our fixed costs low. But then, realizing the threat we posed, Super America declared war. They'd worked too long and too hard to let some upstart punks threaten the good thing they had going. Also, marching band practice started in like 5 minutes, and we didn't want to be late.

Yes, a piece of me died that day. The day I realized the little guy can never compete with the big chain supplier.

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If not for Nick reminding me of that day, I don't know how long I would have gone until I thought of it again. Maybe never.

There's a line in Mary Schmich's essay "Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young" (you probably know it as Baz Luhrman's song Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)) that says "the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young."

It's true.

I think one of the biggest reasons for that is because those people help you re-live those glory days. Getting together with old friends and reminiscing isn't just a way to remember what you did when you were younger; it's a way to re-live, and in a very important way it's a way of creating a new glorious day. Memory in a group is so much more than memory.

Another reason it's so important to keep in touch with those from your past is because these are people who have accepted you for such a long time. And here I find myself getting a little nervous about reconnecting with old friends. Because I was never completely sure how good a friend I was with most people.

You see, in high school (and a little bit of this remains, but as I've grown it has shrunk) I was always more concerned with the content of what I said and did than with who I was. Of course, the two are related, but they're also different things. You can be right and a jerk. You can be the most pleasant person and dead wrong. And you can try your best to be right and nice. But that can be tough, and my first priority was being right. I often couldn't see around what I was saying to the way I was saying it or the effect it was having. If someone didn't like what was being said I thought the problem was with them, and didn't always realize that I could be so acerbic.

The good news is, I've grown. I'm still growing. And I know that pretty much everyone else has changed too, in their own ways. Maybe that means we're not still the same people we were in high school (In your face Calvin Trillin!). That complicates things though. After all, if we've all changed, and we used to get along great, then would we still now?

So it's a bit of a catch-22. If we're still the same people and I managed to offend and/or annoy, then would I still do so? And if we've changed and were close, wouldn't we no longer be so?

Ultimately, those are probably some silly questions. Because the truth is probably somewhere in the middle between those extremes. We've all grown. But at the same time, we are still ourselves. A big part of that is who we were back then. Maybe we've mellowed out since high school. Maybe we've become bolder. Maybe we needed to become less self-involved, maybe more so. Whatever our particular growth, we're probably better people than we were back then.
And I think that bodes well. For both reconnecting with old friends, and developing new friendships with people you never got a chance to really know.

Back with my high school friends
Meeting where the train tracks end

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Squeekin' A

Anyone with any interested in the idea of web comics, or anyone who reads comics online, or anyone who's ever read Freaks N Squeeks, should check out this interview.

I've been a big advocate of this comic for quite some time now. Sure, I know the writer, but that's just how I came to the strip. It's really quite excellent work; the comic is funny, it's timely, and it's free! Despite the fact that the strip is about mice, with Freaks N Squeeks, Patric Lewandowski has staked himself a piece of land from which there is a brilliant and humorously askew view of humanity.

Oh, and Patric, if you ever want to use that quote on a jacket cover, you can.

See how they run
See how they run