Monday, June 30, 2008

I Guess That's What I Get

Last week I spent a day of work in Charlottesville learning about the foreclosure crisis. A group of us drove down together. On the trip back up we stopped at a gas station, and I decided to buy a Gatorade.

I paid in cash, and I knew I had exact change, so I dumped the coins from my wallet (there's a coin compartment in my billfold) into my hand, set them on the counter and quickly sorted out the right ones. I then slid them rest of the way across the counter to the teller, who, apparently, was having a bad day.

"How do you like it when people throw money at you?" he asked.

Slightly confused, I jokingly responded that it would probably make me happy.

"You should not throw money at people! That is very rude," came the teller's stern reprimand.

Still confused, I stood there with a puzzled look, going over my movements in my mind. At no point did I throw money at him, or treat him rudely in any way. All the same, I decided the best policy was just to apologize. "I'm sorry," I said.

"No! You are not sorry. You are rude!" was his retort.

At this point I realized there was no point in standing there, since I had my drink and the cashier had his money. I just walked away, but he kept yelling at me the entire time until I was out of the door.

Crazy stuff.

I walked on up to the guy behind the counter and he says,
"Yeah, whaddaya want?"

Friday, June 27, 2008

Bad Trade

I really liked that the Timberwolves had Marko Jaric on their team, because he's romantically linked with Victoria's Secret supermodel Adriana Lima (my favorite). That gave her a connection to Minnesota, which I always thought was cool.

But now that Jaric has been traded to Memphis I guess I'll just have to ogle from afarther.

Triple points if you get the song quote and why it's relevant.

Asked her what she like the most
She said she liked to talk to Jimmy's ghost

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Phickle Thoughts

First off, go vote for Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau for the All-Star game. They're the best players in the A.L. at their position, and both deserve to start. And they certainly deserve to start over the options from the Yankees and Red Sox. Both are within striking distance (and Mauer has a small lead) of starting, and a little push should help. 25 votes per e-mail account. Help 'em out.
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Speaking of the Twins, they've been playing really well lately, and it's been a lot of fun to follow them this season. They're not the greatest team around right now, but they're building for a great future. And they're a lot of fun along the way.
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On the sports theme, it was terrific to see KG win a championship. I've never really been a fan of the NBA, but I've always loved KG. I got to see him up close in Minnesota, and very very close when the Wolves worked out at St. John's University. Among sports stars, and specifically in the NBA, KG is one of the most deserving athletes.

And I loved that his post-game shout out include 'sota. He's still one of ours.
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On a totally different note, my little sister had a baby! He's a cute baby too. I was lucky enough to be home when he was born, so I was able to visit my sister and new nephew in the hospital, which was a big treat.

For my sister that is...

I'd forgotten how tiny and precious little babies are. I know, I'm gushing like a... a... a General Mills Fruit Gusher that's been bitten into. Yup. Gushing like a gusher.
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Work today ought to be a picnic. Because that's what we're doing. We're having a picnic. Yay!

It's not a day for work
It's a day for catching tan

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Obanka

I honestly didn't see this coming. Initially I was excited because I figured between McCain and Clinton/Obama I'd have two decent choices. But the things both McCain and Obama have done and said in recent weeks (like McCain being upset with the Supreme Court decision on Gitmo) have made it harder and harder for me to like either candidate. Now with Obama backing out of his earlier commitment and not wanting to do joint town halls, I'm starting to think that we can't believe a word he says. Ugh.

They showed the money to you
You showed them what you can do
Showed them your money

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Interns!

One of my favorite parts of my job is the interns. We almost always have at least one intern, and over the summer we get several.

Whenever we've got more than one, I like to play a little game. I walk into the intern room, throw out a random debate topic, and pit them against each other by arbitrarily assigning sides.

"Gay marriage! Intern 1 for it, Intern 2 agin' it. Go!"
"The best Muppet 'sidekick': Intern 1, Fozzie, Intern 2, Gonzo. Go!"
"Popcorn. Intern 1, popped kernels, Intern 2, unpopped kernels. Go!"

It so warms my heart to listen to them debate each other for my affection.

Every girl that I've seen since
Looks just like you when I squint

Monday, June 16, 2008

Will Power [Updated]

Once upon a time I used to think of myself as an incredibly strong-willed person. I don't know that I actually was, but I certainly thought of myself that way. One thing has become abundently clear though: I'm no longer nearly as strong-willed as I once was.

College, law school, and life in general have made me soft. Both literally and figuratively. I've put on pounds, lost muscle, and, most troubling, have lost self-discipline. Over the past however-many-years I've been able to appease so many of my desires that I've essentially never had to do without anything I've wanted. I don't have very expensive tastes, so even on limited student budgets I've been able to satisfy just about anything I've wanted.

Not only have I been able to give in to most of the things I've wanted, I also haven't really worked to balance that out. I haven't worked out to offset the eating, I haven't given as much to church, I haven't volunteered like I used to, and I'm just all-around disappointed in myself. Yes, I do work at Legal Aid, and that counts for something, and I do give some to church, and I certainly don't think only about myself. But the point here is that all of the stuff I do do certainly wouldn't have been enough for me back in the day.

I guess this is just a big confession, and for that, I am sorry (Hehe).

The point here, I suppose, is that I'm trying to turn some of these things around. I'm trying to lose some weight and get healthy. I'm trying to do more at work. I'm trying to cut back on my spending and eat out less and give more to charity.

It's a lot to take on all at once, and I'm sure I'll trip up enough times (heck, tonight I went to Chipotle!), but hopefully I'm able to build up some more self-discipline. Someday, it might come in helpful.

UPDATE: Ah, Pastis, you say it so well.
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Also, typing "Will Power" made me think of that episode of The Simpsons where Homer changes his name to "Max Power". It's the name, the name that you'd love to touch.

Well there's so much you have to learn and I would gladly teach you
If I could only reach you and get your lovin' in return

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Shorter Than Your Average Bear

What Does He Do?

I rock. That's what I do.

They got little baby legs
And they stand so low
You got to pick 'em up
Just to say hello

Monday, June 09, 2008

Unripe

Over the past months (years?) I've spent a good deal of time thinking a lot about the libertarian position. This is largely a function of some of the blogs I frequently read. Anyone who has followed my conversations on those (and sometimes this) blogs, or who has discussed the issue with me, knows that generally speaking I'm not a big fan of libertarian ideals.

Of course, there's really two types of libertarians out there, and it's important to make a distinction between the two. The first, the "classic" libertarian is the gun-toting, western rancher, who is deathly afraid that the government is going to interfere in his ability to make a living, will take away his guns, and restrict his land usage. This is a person who just wants the freedom to do as they please on their own land, and for the government to just stay away. I find it's best to just leave these folks alone.

It's the other type of libertarian, the "urban" libertarian, who concerns me. I think this is a relatively new breed of libertarian, though I may be mistaken about that. Generally speaking the urban libertarian is a white guy who majored in some type of social science. Their primary concern isn't with their land or their guns, but rather with the market and "efficiency". The urban libertarian took enough econ classes that they've learned how to assume away reality and thus they're generally deluded into thinking the market is an efficient being. I could say a lot more here, particularly about how even if that were true no one should be drawing normative conclusions from economic analysis, but in the interests of brevity I'm going to jump right to my focus.

For quite some time, I've conceded that the market is efficient at delivering goods and services. It might not always deliver what people actually want, but it effectively keeps the shelves stocked for consumers, however, after reading about the delivery of fruit, I may have to reconsider my position.

From Jeffery Steingarten's The Man Who Ate Everything:

To save on labor costs, growers use machines to pick, sort, and pack their fruit. Ripe fruit cannon survive a run-in with these machines. And when mechanical harvesters are used, they pick everything in sight - hard green, barely mature, and nearly ripe. Growers know that early fruit commands a higher price; all growers would like to recover their investment as soon in the season as possible; and most would like to sell whatever has not ripened by season's end. Citrus growers pick early when they fear a frost.
Growers complain that fruit brokers and retailers make them compete on the basis of price alone, not with texture or flavor. Brokers contend that retailers refuse to accept delivery of produce too ripe to have a long and happy shelf life. Retailers say that brokers buy only the easiest fruit to handle; they blame consumers for the unwillingness to pay more for more delicious fruit. The magic of the marketplace has somehow failed us when inferior fruit forces out produce of higher quality.

Steingarten has put his finger on something that has troubled me for some time: the consumer has little-to-no control over the options that are available to purchase. If a customer thinks to themselves, "I want some ripe-picked fruit (because ripe-picked fruit is the best fruit)" they are hard pressed to find it for sale. Generally speaking, they have to circumvent the normal market delivery system and go directly to the farmers and/or find some alternative delivery system. Even worse, given how hard it is to get outside of the normal distribution system, people frequently don't have any idea that alternatives exist, or that they even want an alternative.

Steingarten writes about how much better ripe-picked fruit is than non-ripe-picked fruit, explaining the science and taste experience. I had no idea. I though fruit could really ripen off the plant just fine. Generally speaking, that's not true. So then I thought, "I'll just make sure to buy riper fruit at the store". But then I discovered that buying ripe-picked fruit at the store is a near impossibility. Now I'm gonna have to look into alternative distribution options. Because, long story short, as a result of the marketplace, consumers are routinely sold an inferior product, even though a superior product is readily available.

How do you like them unripened apples, urban libertarians?

Well I never been to England
But I kinda like the Beatles

Friday, June 06, 2008

And You Thought The WWE Was Fake

Hmm, what do you know, the Lakers and Celtics are playing each other in the NBA finals.

Anyone want to bet the series doesn't go 7 games?

Do you have the time to listen to me whine
About nothing and everything all at once

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

If I Were A Scientist

I would write a paper about how things worked in a vacuum, and then call it Stranger than Friction.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Phickle Thoughts

It's been a while, I know. I'll try to step up the frequency of my posts. Things have been crazy busy lately, with guests visiting, two trips back to Minnesota and one to NY, and a Virginia Supreme Court appeal all in the last month. Plus, as I write this, I'm in Richmond for a week of training. Plus Mario Kart Wii, which, I confess, is taking up a good chunk of my time. But in all fairness, it's a very good chunk.
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Speaking of Kart, if any reader has it, shoot me an e-mail with your friend codes and we can hook up and play online.
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So this trip to New York. Wow. The wedding we went to was amazing. The Greek Orthodox ceremony was fascinating. I spent some time in Greek Orthodox churches when I was living in Greece, so I was somewhat familiar with the style, but the wedding was still an awesome cultural experience.

After the wedding we hung out at a law school friend's parent's place. I just kept telling myself that the inside of their house must not have been nice, because that made me feel better about how amazingly sick the outside was. Wow. Gorgeous place, and wonderfully generous folks to welcome us over.

Then there was the reception. Again, completely sick. There were like 8 or 9 stations covered in amazing food, with an oyster bar, a shrimp bar, a pasta bar, a tremendous selection of meats (oh, the lamb! Melted in my mouth like I've never had! Ugh.) and veggies and cheeses and I don't even know what else. Throw in the servers walking around with trays of other foods and you can begin to imagine just how awesome this wedding was. We didn't even get to stay around for the dinner (yes! Dinner immediately following the massive, meal-like reception!) because we had to drive back down to D.C., but it was a terrific experience. Congrats to the couple, and thanks to them for their generosity!
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So driving to and from New York, I discovered that what I've been saying as a joke all these years is really much less of a joke than I thought.

New Jersey stinks.
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So I guess Obama is officially the guy now. Thank God that's over. Let's hope he and McCain each run a civil campaign and limit their spending and all of that stuff. I guess it'll be interesting to watch, and I'm sure I'll have more thoughts on it in the future.
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Does anyone out there know what exactly is being sampled in the song "Multi-Family Garage Sale" by Land of the Loops? I cannot for the life of me figure it out.
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As I mentioned, I'm at a training this week. The focus is on foreclosure prevention/mitigation/rescue scams, etc. Obviously this is a pretty pressing issue, and because mortgages are such a complex issue, there aren't that many people who really understand what's going on in these foreclosure cases. Hopefully by the end of this week I'll be one of them. It's shocking how terribly consumers are being victimized in this market. The people who sell the loans ultimately bear little or no risk, which means that we've pretty much got a market failure; there is no incentive for mortgage sellers to avoid making risky loans because they don't ever have to bear the risk. And this just leads to all sorts of other abusive selling tactics, like reverse red-lining. I'm developing some pretty strong feelings on the issue, and if anyone has any questions, I'm happy to do my best to tackle them.
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Nevermind. In looking up the exact lyrics, I found out that the "Multi-Family Garage Sale" samples come from Land of the Lost.

Bill don't leave me