Thursday, February 28, 2008

Validation

I had a frustrating appointment at the doctor today, that helped me realize something about my own professional practice: it's important for professionals to validate their clients/patients.

For more than a week I have had an immensely sore throat. The pain was bad enough that I even made an appointment to have my throat examined by a specialist. I never go to the doctor, so this says something about the intensity of the pain; I honestly thought I would need my tonsils removed.

The doctor examined quite quickly (I suppose it doesn't take long to look at someone's throat) and quite summarily concluded that there wasn't anything wrong. She figured I probably just had a cold, and that the sore throat was a combination of things steming from whatever bug was going around. She explained that taking my tonsils out probably wasn't a palatable option since I hadn't established a track record of sore throats (just because I don't usually go to the doctor for them), and she felt it was better to play it safe. She suggested a couple of medications to try, and that's the plan. I can totally respect that treatment plan, and I don't object to her caution.

But I was disturbed by how quickly she dismissed my accounts of pain and suffering. I'm not making this up. I am in no way a hypochondriac. My throat hurts. I have a problem that I don't have the ability to address on my own. I sought out professional help. The professional didn't seem to care about my problem.

That's a problem.

In my legal practice people come to me with problems that they can't address on their own. These problems are frequently things without a legal resolution; plain and simple, a lot of times people just don't have a good case or defense that we could present. That doesn't mean they don't have a problem, it just means I'm not the person who can help them.

In these cases, my goal is to let the person off as gently as possible. If I have some idea about who might be able to help them, I give them that contact information. If I don't think they have a good case, I'll frequently walk them through some basic problem solving ("It doesn't look like we'll be able to keep you from getting evicted, so lets focus instead on finding you a new home."). And if they're simply out of luck, I try to empathize with situation, and give them a shoulder to cry on. I try to make sure that I always acknowledge their problems, even when I can't do anything to help.

Of course, it doesn't always work. I'm not always on my game when it comes to hearing out the problems of my potential clients. And maybe that was the case with the doctor today. Maybe she just had an off-patient. But I know I left her office feeling like I'd wasted my time (and a co-pay) and hers. I almost felt as if she were accusing me of making up my pain, because she didn't do anything to validate my visit. I know she didn't mean to do it, but the doctor ultimately made me feel bad for seeking out help. At least I learned something I can put to use in my own practice.

If I told you things I did before
Told you how I used to be
Would you go along with someone like me

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Question:

What's the best song on your favorite album? And what is the best song on the best album? (Or best albums, if you can't settle on a single one).

Not to put too fine a point on it
Say I'm the only bee in your bonnet

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I'm A Traveling Man

[If anyone knows how to fix my formatting issues here, I'd much appreciate that. Also, why can't you click on my pictures to get to the bigger versions? Help? Anyone?]
One of the unique benefits of living and working in D.C. is that almost everyone gets all of the national holidays off. Since my wife and I are included in "almost everyone", this past weekend we got to take advantage of an extra day off.

Since we've been living in Virginia for the past couple years and we don't have any definite plans to stay (and some far from definite plans to leave. Eventually.) we decided to experience a little more of Virginia. We set our sites on Jamestown and Williamsburg. Jamestown is, of course, the oldest permanent settlement in the U.S. of A. Williamsburg is the slightly more successful younger brother of Jamestown, where they've recreated much of the 18th century colonial experience.
The Fife and Drum Corp. "Fife" is a fancy way of saying "flute, but played by a man".

Being the eldest sibling, I tending to prefer Jamestown. I found that Williamsburg had an unfair advantage in life, living off of the great reputation its older sibling had established, and really, those younger kids don't show enough respect to their older counterparts. Durn kids these days. No respect I tells ya.
They were really both amazing experiences. At Jamestown they had a recreation of the fort and lots of people in period dress giving presentations about colonial life. There were also reconstructed versions of the boats that the colonists used to sail across the Atlantic. I was surprised how small they were. We learned about the weaponry and the way they made tobacco and how they hollowed out giant canoes and all sorts of fun stuff. It was like being on an elementary school field trip. Good times.
The first colonists had little dinghys.

In Williamsburg we went to an old fashioned tavern and had a couple of root beers while we listened to someone play a lute. Or something. I don't really know what kind of weird instrument it was, but it sounded pretty authentic. We also visited some cool shops and had an excellent meal at a local seafood restaurant.

We also spent a day at that outlet mall in Williamsburg; nothing says vaction like spending more money! We actually ended up with some good stuff, including a fondue set that we'll be putting to good use this next Sunday.

It was an excellent break from our usual routine. I still consider Minnesota home, but it's probably now fair to say Virginia is a second home. It's tough for me to accept that reality, since I never planned to be out here this long. At least I'm getting a better feel for the Commonwealth (not a state!) of Virginia. I miss Minnesota now, but odds are good that when we leave here, I'll probably miss Virginia too.
We didn't get too far in this canoe. I blame the fact that we were both paddling on the same side of the boat
She never compromises, loves babies and surprises
Wears high heels when she exercises

Friday, February 15, 2008

Overstating Obama

Following up on the earlier post about Obama, I'm gonna link to this op ed at The Washington Post. It's obviously coming from someone who isn't an Obama supporter, and I think it probably overstates the case against Obama, however, there are certainly some valid points in the article. To some extent, it reflects some of my fears about Obama. I'd be interested in what others think.

Startin' soft and slow, like a small earthquake
And when he lets go, half the valley shakes

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Phickle Thoughts

I saw the movie Stardust. On Emily's recommendation. Loved it. It's like The Princess Bride, only not, you know, for eight year-olds.
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Pitchers and catchers report! Baseball is here! Grown men and 8-year-olds alike turn their attention to Florida and Arizona, full of anticipation. I'm looking forward to a fun season (though it'll be with a sadly Santana-less Twins.) Does the Santana trade mean that Nathan gets promoted to President?
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I was able to catch a little bit of the Roger Clemens hearings. They were somewhat fascinating theater. For about 10 minutes. After that it felt like two eight-year-olds who'd gotten in a fight, each telling exaggerated stories, trying to tip the judgment in their favor. I say we just give 'em both (McNamee and Clemens) a time out (small slap on the wrist) and then put in The Princess Bride. That oughtta shut 'em up.
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Once upon a time I had a rare level of contempt for Valentine's day. Long story short, my position was that you shouldn't need Valentine's day to be romantic, and that, because it was cliche and conformist, being romantic on Valentine's day was decidedly unromantic.

My position has shifted slightly towards conformity. I now acknowledge that Valentine's day has a place. There was something I missed before, that I've since come to realize: the more regular days you have together, the harder it is to keep up with being romantic. When we were dating, I didn't see my (then) girlfriend with the frequency that I see my (now) wife. And, I worked especially hard at being romantic, and I tried to do sweet things for her with some frequency.

We can express these days as a ratio, X:Y, with X being romantic days, and Y being total days. Given the relatively low number of days (Y), I didn't necessarily have to do a ton of sweet things (X) to maintain a healthy balance to the "romance ratio". Upon getting married, Y increased signficantly, meaning that in order to keep speed, X also needed to increase. At first, this wasn't such a problem, given such and such and I'llsaynomoreIthankyoutokeepyourmindoutofthegutter. I've now come to realize that having a scheduled day of "romance" is a great way to help increase X. Valentine's day still isn't real romance, but it is a great excuse to go out of your way to be sweet to one another. So without having to waste any of my good romance ideas, I still get credit for another X day. In that way, Valentines is like a freebie. Keeping the romance ratio can be a difficult task, and the extra X helps maintain the balance.

And there you have it, a somewhat mathematical reason for not condeming Valentines.

Overall though, like an eight-year-old, I still like it most for the candy.
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Once upon a time, I made a movie. Well, I've made a couple movies. But the first one that I wrote and directed all by myself* was a short film that I made my senior year of college. A copy or two have been floating around for some time, and I have to thank Joel for having the great idea of actually putting it online so that people can access it. And I have to thank him for actually executing that idea too. Anyway, here it is for your enjoyment. If you'd like, there's also a link, and you can watch it there too. It's a bit rough around the edges. And at the top and bottom. And pretty much throughout. But it's also a fun little flick. I hope you enjoy it! (Heck, I'll be happy if you just pretend to watch it).

*I've got nothing about 8-year-olds here, but I will say that even though the premise was mine, in the execution I got a ton of help from everyone listed in the credits, and more. Thanks again to all those folks.




I never made love by lantern shine
I never saw rainbows in my wine

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Question for Obama Backers

So I'm currently trying to figure out the Obama phenomena. I'm not on board yet. I may well be in the future. I'm just not convinced yet.

Obama has talked a lot about change, and moving past partisian politics, yet he's been firmly entrenched on the left for quite some time. I'm not opposed to that at all, but I'm curious why/how he seems to have so successfully identified himself as non-partisian. I'm also curious about his idealism. Until this campaign, I never had the impression Obama was an idealist. He always seemed to be a pragmatist, determining what his priorities were and what he needed to sacrifice in order to get to them. Again, I'm completely ok with this approach; it's what works in politics.

I just don't get why, despite Obama's history, he's being portrayed as a new kind of politician, an idealist who's largely non-partisian, and who wants to change "politics as usual". In the past, he's been a solid leftist, a pragmatist, and he's relied on traditional politicking to get results.

Personally, I'm ok with that. I think those are good traits. So why are people convinced that Obama is something other than what he's been in the past, and why do they want so badly to be convinced of that?

And if Obama gets elected, really, what would change? I guess that's the big question. I've heard the word, but I want to know the substance.

Pull the blindfold down so your eyes can't see
Now run as fast as you can through this field of trees

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Wrecknology

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. Er, I mean, buying the service plan on a laptop would be it.

Just before I went off to law school, back in the summer of 'aught three, I went down to the local general store/Best Buy and bought me ah one ah them fancy computin' machines. And not just a regular computin' machine, but ah one that sat right in mah lap. Along with the laptop I decided it might be wise to purchase the service plan they offered. It was a three year plan that covered a whole slew of troubles. And thank goodness I went with the service plan, because of troubles I had a whole slew.

I don't quite recall what all went wrong with that laptop. All I know is that it didn't really work when finals came around at the end of my first semester. That was a problem, since the tests were ideally taken on our laptops. And it didn't really work when finals came around at the end of my second semester. Or when finals came around at the end of my third semester.

About a year and a half after I had purchased my first laptop it broke for what was at least the fourth time. Under the Best Buy service plan, a device that breaks four times can be considered a lemon, and the customer can get a free exchange. The exchange is supposed to be for the same or most similiar computer that they have. Given the rapid advances in computer technology the most similiar computer turned out to be a substantial upgrade. So after a year and a half, under the service plan, I got myself new computer number 2. For free. Well, I did have to purchase a new service plan, since the old one expired with the previous laptop. But they discounted the price on it, and I didn't pay much at all. Essentially a free new computer.

Not long after I got my first replacement I started to have troubles with it. It didn't last very long before I had to take it into Best Buy to have it repaired. Come to think of it, it broke just in time for finals again! It kept breaking throughout the next year, and in February of '06 I brought it in for a fourth time in just less than a year. Being the fourth time, they told me I was eligible for a replacement computer. This again turned out to be a substantial upgrade from my previous laptop. Plus this time, because the other computer had broken so many times within the first year, they didn't make me even pay for a new service plan; I just got to keep the old one.

That replacement laptop was quite sturdy. I didn't have any problems with it at all for quite some time. Unfortunately it started to wear down over the past year, and just last week I brought it into Best Buy for the fourth time. Sure enough, I'm typing this post on my very nice, very upgraded, very new, very free laptop. I had to buy another service plan, but it was well worth it. After all, I'm currently on my third free laptop.

Making the situation even sweeter is that my service plan was set to expire on February 18th. If my computer had broken just three weeks later, I would have been SOL. Instead I've got a beautiful new machine that I'm extremely happy with.

Oh, and a new three-year service plan.

But trust me on the sunscreen

Saturday, February 02, 2008

So Long, Johan

I've waited until the deal was final, all the physicals passed and the contracts signed, before commenting on the Johan Santana trade. A part of me was holding out hope that he and the Mets wouldn't get an extension done, or somehow the trade would fall through; that probably wouldn't have been good for the Twins, but at least Johan would have been ours for another year.

Ultimately, I never expected him to be a Twin forever. Some players I do - Puckett, Radke, Mauer - and losing those players to another team would be crushing. Losing Santana is hard in a different way. The career Twins are hard to lose because they are Twins; Santana is hard to lose because he's the best pitcher in baseball. Hands down, no questions asked, best pitcher in baseball. And among the greatest of all time. He's already better than Pedro was at his best. He's put up Koufax-like numbers in an era that doesn't favor pitchers. He's won two Cy Youngs despite minimal coverage in major markets. And despite all of this, if anything, he's been underappreciated.

That's right. Take it from someone who has watched him for 8 seasons. Everytime Johan steps onto the mound you have the chance to witness something magical. Everytime he starts a game you have reason to believe you'll be watching a masterpiece. And almost always, that's exactly what you'll get. He's exciting to watch in a way that no other pitcher today even approaches. He's fun. He's amazing. He's passionate. He's just so darn cute.

New York is going to love Santana. And he deserves to pitch on the biggest stage. I'm happy that he's going to get that chance, because I want him to go out and confirm for everyone what Minnesotans already know: that Johan Santana is the best pitcher of this generation, and one of the greatest of all time. Because then - at least for a time - the Twins had the greatest pitcher. That isn't something that comes around too often in Minnesota. I want Johan to convince the world.

And then, I want him to go into the Hall of Fame wearing a Twins cap. If he wins a World Series with the Mets or someone else, that probably won't happen. But he put in 8 years in Minnesota, 4 and half as the most dominant starter in baseball. He learned his devastating changeup from our coaches. He became the greatest pitcher in baseball because of what the Twins were able to do for him, and hopefully in the end he rewards them for that.

At the same time I'm sad about losing Johan, I'm cautiously optimistic about the players we got back. Gomez stands a chance of being an excellent outfielder, particularly defensively. His offense needs to improve, but maybe Mauer and Morneau will have an effect on him. An outfield of Cuddyer, Gomez, and Young could be baseball's best in two years' time. The pitchers are ok. Guerra is too young and too far away to project with any certainty, but we know the Twins minor league teams are excellent at developing young arms. Hopefully there's a collective positive effect on Humber and Mulvey too, such that they also improve beyond their back-of-the-rotation projections. There's certainly some potential in what the Twins got back, and maybe we'll someday say that this trade worked out for the Twins.

But no matter what we've lost Johan Santana. And losing the best pitcher in baseball isn't something you get over easily.

I don't know why you say goodbye