now clogging the internet elsewhere

31 January 2006

Rock Me Amadeus

Because we are cultural people, John and I decided to watch Amadeus this weekend to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. John apparently knew of this big 2-5-0 from listening to NPR; I only knew about it because google had all kinds of Mozart-y décor on its homepage that day so I had to investigate. I am forced by this to conclude that John is smarter than I am, and more well-informed. But at least I know how to search.

I have seen Amadeus probably 5 or 6 times, but each time I notice something new. No, not the subtleties of Milos’ direction, or the nuance of character- but a “whoa, I had no idea that person was in this movie” moment. (Like the principal from Ferris Beuller, who I can never quite take seriously as the emperor of Austria because I’m always imagining him losing his shoe in the mud outside of Ferris’s house- you know? In the last scene?) This time it was Cynthia Nixon, who had a lovely turn as a timid kind of nutcase maid working in the Mozart household.

I mostly love watching Amadeus for the music. It’s almost luxurious to spend 2 and a half hours listening to Mozart. You see, for a while, I took classical piano lessons. I suppose that it was more than a while- technically, I took classical piano lessons for a decade. I tend to downplay how long I played because I have literally no lasting proficiency from this ill-spent decade laboring over scales. No kidding: I sit down at a piano in front of, say, a piece of sheet music for a popular Christmas carol, and if I try to sight read it I sound like a 7 year-old. (Note to parents everywhere: if your kid shows talent, but it’s pretty clear that they don’t have enough talent to be a concert pianist, spare them the agony of classical music lessons and let them take lessons instead from a teacher who specializes in popular music, or jazz, or something involving solid instruction in sight reading and chord progressions. That way, they’ll be able to play for the rest of their lives. And not just random snippets of sonatas that are somehow still locked in the memory.) But despite my total lack of skill and the utter misery I felt every week when I had to go for another round of scolding over my droopy hand form from my scary teacher with orange hair, the time I spent in piano lessons inspired a real affinity for classical music, and symphonic music in particular.

So watching Amadeus, I was inspired to find and listen to some more classical music, to bring it into my daily listening rotation. But when I got on itunes, I hit a wall. Here’s the thing: there is WAY TOO MUCH classical music out there. Thousands of pieces, each with dozens of recordings by different ensembles. itunes guided me to a lot of lists like “100 classical music selections for beginners” and “essential classical.” I tried searching for something like “Mozart,” and was confronted with 732 choices. That’s when I started to panic. Because I’ve been sufficiently indoctrinated by the scoldings of indie music fans, I know that if something is too popular, I’m not supposed to like it. This is totally paralyzing. I don’t want to end up downloading the Matchbox 20 of the 1780s, do I? Is liking “Pachelbel’s Cannon” akin to buying a Nickelback cd? Is the Jupiter symphony popular because it’s actually good, or because it has a cool name?

Is there such a thing as classical music street cred? If there is, and if you have it, please tell me what to download. I’ll be a follower, but at least I’ll be following someone hip.

30 January 2006

Looks like Chicago has a case of the Mondays.

Things I observed on the drive to school today:

  • A well-heeled woman clearly on her way to work, walking out of the Dunkin’ Donuts where she has stopped to get coffee and discovering that her shiny new silver sport utility wagon ™ has been loaded onto a tow truck. The tow truck is still in front of the Dunkin’ Donuts, so she approaches him, tries to convince him to give her a break, but he’s having none of it, wants the revenue, hands her a business card and drives away as she loudly and repeatedly yells a word that rhymes with “duck”.
  • Not one but two cars pulled over on the 4 mile stretch of a particular street down which I drive to get to school. Happy Monday, here’s a speeding ticket!
  • A law student who shall remain nameless trying three (3) times, unsuccessfully, to park in front of the café so she can just get a freaking cup of coffee and a bagel already and honestly do the high school students on their way to school really need to be walking by right now to witness this astonishing display of parking mediocrity?
Of course, as soon as this unnamed law student got to school she executed a flawless parallel parking job with only an inch to spare in front and in back. Where were the high school witnesses THEN, I ask you?

27 January 2006

crazy delicious

I have joined a bowling league, which is not something I ever thought I'd say but which I did because my friend Glen was being kind of bossy about it and it turns out Glen was right- bowling is fun. This is a law school bowling league (league name: Motion to Strike,) so things are pretty low key because, as you might imagine, your average law student is a below-average bowler. I am ashamed to report that even among law students, I am a below-below-average bowler. I nearly peed my pants with excitement when I broke 100 on our second game last night. This is especially unfortunate because I am married to the son of a professional bowler (no, I'm not joking,) and this son of a pro seems to know things about bowling like "how to throw it straight down the lane" and "how to let go of the ball without wrenching your back in such a way that you'll be sore for days," both things that I'm hoping he'll be able to teach me in future weeks. Apparently, if you're the son of a professional bowler, you have high expectations for yourself and for your team, and you expect yourself to bowl "in the 170s," and despite your best efforts to keep a smile on your face you look a little chagrined each time your wife steps up to the lane and knocks down another 5 pins, bringing her grand total score to 48. But here's the real reason I was inspired to write about something as boring as bowling: I was totally and completely confused by this bowling alley. It was awash in contradiction. For example: it's a bowling alley, so it's a little smarmy and dirty looking (which we were excited about- you know, like a dive bar but with heavy objects being hurled about,) but they were selling blue moon beer in pitchers with orange slices and everything and had a substantial wine list. Or, it's a place you spend hours throwing heavy balls that have been touched by dozens of people, so you get pretty dirty and think with every throw how germy you must be getting (wait, you don't think in your head about how germy things are? You say that's just me? Hm. Well, it must be a carry over from the days when I worked with God's germiest creatures: Fifth Graders.) But then you take a break from the germy lanes for a moment to hit the potty and suddenly you enter: bionic clean bathroom. I'm being totally serious and not at all ironic when I say that this was the cleanest, most technologically advanced bathroom I've ever been in. Not only were the sinks auto-on, but the toilet was auto-flush and the soap was auto-dispense. There were no paper towels, only- you guessed it- an auto-dryer. It was like someone with a serious germ phobia designed the bathrooms while thinking about the germy, bowling ball dirt-encrusted, beer-stained, nacho-coated hands of the people who were going to use this bathroom and decided that bowlers should not be allowed to touch bathroom fixtures ever. Also, there appeared to be kind of a yuppie pickup scene taking place at the bar of this bowling alley, which I suppose is not surprising considering we were one of three sort of yuppie bowling leagues playing there that night. But what was a little surprising was watching the yuppie bowling pickup scene interact with the more traditional bar in a bowling alley pickup scene- I swear, there were mullets involved, and yuppie women in designer jeans with $350 handbags were talking to a man with a long, shady looking ponytail and a Naascar t-shirt. Who knew that bowling could be such a horizon-broadening experience?

26 January 2006

Let's not even talk about the $500 per hour part

I’m tired of thinking about the brief I’m supposed to be writing, so here are some interesting facts from the case:

  • Number of years this has been in litigation: 11
  • Number of courts that have been involved: 6 (TX probate, LA probate, CA bankruptcy, CA district, 9th Circuit, Supreme Court.)
  • Number of published decisions rendered by these courts: 13
  • Number of years since any of Anna Nicole’s lawyers have been paid: 10
  • Number of lawyers working on the Anna Nicole team nearly full-time: 3?
  • Average hourly rate for a partner in a law firm in CA: $500/hour
  • Number of hours a partner could spend working on a case like this in a year: 1500?
  • Extrapolating, amount Anna Nicole owes to her lawyers at these rates: $22.5 million
  • Amount of original bankruptcy judgment in Anna Nicole’s favor: $449 million
  • Amount of district court judgment in Anna Nicole’s favor: $44 million.
  • Amount of 9th Circuit court judgment in Anna Nicole’s favor: $0.

Is it just me, or should her lawyers be really worried right about now? After all, this case arose out of bankruptcy proceedings- if she doesn’t win in the Supreme Court, they’re going to be eating just a HUGE legal bill.

25 January 2006

Next up: self-defense training. Or a good long cry.

A while ago, I made a resolution to be more direct with people. This was not a new year’s resolution, or borne of any specific incident, so perhaps it wasn’t a resolution at all but more of a commitment to try, but there you have it.

When I say direct, I don’t mean aggressive. I specifically mean “not passive-aggressive.” I decided that I was going to opt out of passive-aggressive interactions in an effort to be more clear and straightforward. I was getting very tired of these conversations:

“You know, I’m so glad that we are friends, and I hope that you know that if there’s anything, really, anything, that’s ever bothering you, you can always come to me because our friendship is important to me and I hope it is to you, too.”

Translation: “You hurt my feelings and I want you to apologize.”

I decided to skip the crap and go straight for the apology. This seems like good practice, right?

So yesterday, someone suggested to me in an email that I had been less-than-honest in my dealings with a charity auction that is held at the law school. (Side note: who cheats a charity auction? I mean, seriously?) Following my new “cut the crap” model, I took the high road, responded directly, claimed the prize I believed was rightfully mine, and thought that was the end of it.

I was wrong. I got another email, this one even more thinly veiled, suggesting that there had been shady dealings and I had come by a prize that I won at this auction in a less than honest way. (Side note #2: remember the part where I said that this was a charity auction? Yeah, so I bid MORE MONEY than this person, and this person WORKS FOR THE CHARITY. As I see it, he should be more interested in the charity getting the money than in himself getting the prize. But I digress.) I responded with a very direct email, to this effect: “it sounds like you’re accusing me of cheating. I don’t like that. Let’s take this up with the auction board and both agree to be bound by their decision.”

Feeling kind of proud, I sent this second, even more direct email, silently congratulating myself on keeping my emotions out of it, not being passive aggressive, not allowing myself to be bullied into giving up something that I thought was rightfully mine, not apologizing when I wasn’t sorry, etc. I was pleased with this email.

Then I got a third email. It said: “sorry if I sounded accusatory, it’s yours. Take it.”

That should make me happy, right? My cut the crap model is working! I asserted myself, to good result! I wasn’t rude! What huge progress! I should be totally convinced of the wisdom of my new model for directness!

Instead, I felt bitchy for not having included any nice, soft, apologetic language in my email, and worried that I came off sounding like a bully, and spent an hour making John reassure me that no, I am not a bitch.

Baby steps, people.

23 January 2006

I am a nerd.

It’s not often that a magazine makes me laugh out loud:

From The Week, Jan 27, 2006: BAD WEEK FOR: fans of Ernest Hemingway, after fire destroyed a bar on the island of Bimini. The bar was called the Compleat Angler. It was a clean, well-lit place. Hemingway liked to drink there during fishing trips to the Bahamas. But then he died. And now the bar has burned down.

This, my friends, is why I love The Week. Seriously, would Newsweek make that joke? I think not.

20 January 2006

Wherein I start a hot new makeup trend. Or not.

I had an interview today with a place where I’m hoping to spend the second half of my summer working for free on post-conviction appellate work. Not as lucrative as selling my soul, but the hours are better (sometimes), and I can wear jeans.

Side note before beginning real story: Getting ready for this interview I was in a bit of a rush, so I pulled on a nicer pair of trousers, put on some kicky boots, and was ready to head out the door with no makeup, figuring that they were public interest types and thus they wouldn’t be horrified by my mascara-free normal self. I did, however, happen to glance in the mirror on my way out the door, and holy crap I am glad that I did. Apparently, while cutting pomegranates earlier to make pomegranate salsa, one of the seed pods exploded straight in my face without my noticing. There were little magenta spots ALL OVER my cheeks and forehead, creating an effect not unlike freckles drawn in highlighter by an enthusiastic but not terribly fine-motor-skilled 5 year old.

Washed off the accidental maquillage and headed to the interview, where I met just the nicest, most down-to-earth-yet-still-really-jazzed-by-their-jobs group of people I’ve had the good fortune to meet in a long time. I was nervous, see, because I’ve been having a spate of bad luck with public interest jobs:

  • First, the D.C. Public Defender Service said they wanted to interview me, then cancelled two interviews at the last minute, and while I was still playing phone tag trying to reschedule the interview a third time, sent me a letter sincerely regretting that they were unable to offer me a position this summer. Um, okay.
  • Then, a children’s advocacy group said they wanted to hire me, but then started getting all nervous about how long I was going to be able to commit to working for them. Six weeks, I said. Fret fret, worry worry, they said. Did I mention I am working for free? I asked. Fret fret worry worry we really prefer 12 weeks, they replied. 12 weeks working full time for no money in Manhattan? I wondered aloud. Well, you are actually coming from a really privileged position and let’s not forget that you are very fortunate to go to an excellent law school that will enable you to get a high paying job when you graduate, they noted. Suitably chastened. (I’m sorry, but am I supposed to be more willing to give it up for free for the WHOLE SUMMER because I go to a good law school? I hope I’m not turning into a libertarian, but that smells funny to me.)
  • Finally, in a fit of desperation, I called the wonderful recruiting director from a firm WHERE I AM NOT WORKING, hopefully asking him if he might help me find a public interest job that would let me split my summer and only work for free for 6 weeks. He was, understandably, a little puzzled at my request. You’re still not working for us, right? He asked. Um, yeah, that’s right. Sorry to bother you.

So it was a nice change to talk to a group of people who used words like “flexible” and “no problem” and “god knows there’s plenty of work to do, we’re so thrilled you’re willing to do it for free! I was so relieved to meet people who are low key about timing and schedules that I’m ready to work for them for free for the rest of my life, if they’ll have me.

19 January 2006

You would think that I would stop worrying about these babies eventually. You would be wrong.

On Thursdays, my friend DB and I go into a local high school classroom to teach the kids about the law. Ostensibly, it’s a class about the law when we’re not there, too. In reality, however, the poor head teacher, Mr. C., gets stuck with all the odds and ends of the curriculum, so it’s more like “social studies elective catch-all with some law mixed in.”

Thus, today, when we walked into the classroom the students were all bent over their desks, working diligently on….balancing fake checkbooks.

This was distressing for several reasons.

1) The fake checkbooks were, in fact, made up of photocopies of Mr. C’s unaltered checks. Routing number and all. Now I’m a trusting girl, but there are limits. 2) The “bills” being paid were all examples of actual student cell phone bills. And I thought I had problems managing my cell phone minutes. 3) This was, from the looks of it, a VERY CHALLENGING activity for far too many of these darlings. 4) Seriously? People still balance checkbooks?

After the check balancing was some tip-calculating. Mr. C wanted the kids to practice doing this in their heads so they can, (and I quote) “stop acting like fools like Andre did when he left the $25 tip on the $40 bill.” (Andre’s protest: “nah, man, that’s what I said I should have left. I didn’t have any extra money, so I didn’t leave her nothin’.” Deeply comforting, Andre.) The conversation went something like this:

Mr. C.: So, how could you calculate the tip in your head, without multiplying on a piece of paper? Class: (sound of crickets chirping.) Mr. C.: What’s a really easy percentage to calculate that I could use to get to 20%? Class: (still nothing. Seriously, I’ve been to funerals that were louder.) Mr. C: Remember? How 10% is the easiest percentage ever to calculate in your head? How do you calculate 10% in your head? Class: Mr. C.: For a bill of $45.00, you’d just move back the decimal point one place to get…. Whip smart girl in first row: $4.50! Mr. C: nice, Whip Smart. And how would you get to 20%? Whip Smart: double it. $9. Rest of Class: blink blink.

The kids then proceeded to do a worksheet of these kinds of problems. I asked Mr. C. about the exercises later, and he explained that the kids have their Consumer Ed Test, an Illinois graduation requirement, next week. These kids are mostly seniors. I took this test as a sophomore. It’s only offered once a year, and it’s a firm requirement: you pass it or you don’t graduate. We’re already in the second semester of school, and I can tell you right now that some of these kids are not going to pass this test. Translation: some of these kids, who have, frankly, beaten the odds to even make it to their senior year, will not be graduating this spring because they aren’t ready for a test that, had the school been paying attention, should have been a test that kids took starting in 9th grade so they had four years to practice and take the test again if necessary, so that their graduation isn’t held up by check balancing and tip calculating.

But I don’t offer this little anecdote because I want to bemoan the lousy education these kids are getting. I’m nothing if not sympathetic to teachers like Mr. C., for whom I have a lot of respect. What got to me was seeing the kids as they did the worksheets. Probably a third of the class was bored to tears because it was so easy for them (as it should be- basic percentages and decimals like this is a 4th grade learning standard, reviewed again in 5th grade, 7th grade, and every year in high school.) But two-thirds of the class was totally lost. And that kind of broke my heart. I taught this stuff to my kids, and I’d never really considered what their knowledge would look like by the time they got to high school until today. The scary thing is, by the time they’re working on this in high school, there is no longer a middle range. They’ve either gotten it or it’s gone. It makes me worry for every kid who was still struggling to get it when they left my class, who hadn’t mastered it yet. I fear that each of those kids will be among the two thirds who are lost when it’s their turn to take the consumer ed test. This is, at a personal level, deeply terrifying: my inability to explain decimels well, extrapolating forward several years, could mean that even though I taught 5th grade I will be responsible for some kids not passing high school. God.

I realize I'm being, perhaps, a little melodramatic, especially since I taught in California, which has no consumer ed. test. But you get my point.

But at least we don’t live in New York.

17 January 2006

If it weren't for bubble tea and good burritos, I might never fly to California again

Dear Woman in 24-D:

Hello! It’s me! The woman sitting next to you in 24-E? The one in the middle seat? With the long legs that are bent to fit into her seat at such a perverse angle that they cause back pain in MERE OBSERVERS because the position is so awful looking? Yeah, that's me! Hi!

First off, let me say that I am so sorry that things are not going well with Ian. When we pulled away from the gate thinking we were about to depart except then the pilot announced that we would be delayed for an hour while they fixed the emergency slide--- I was so glad that you were able to take that opportunity to talk to your sister about how you finally gave him The Ultimatum: propose or move out. Yes! Go sister! Take charge! And then? When he proposed on the spot? And you told him that he wasn’t allowed to propose right then? And so he got on a plane and went to Australia, as he had previously planned? Because you WOULDN’T LET HIM MEET THE CONDITIONS OF YOUR ULTIMATUM? Heart-wrenching. In fact, all of us sitting in rows 22-27 were so moved by hearing every word of this story that we're all ready to chip in and buy you a nice fondue set for a wedding gift! I mean, assuming you ever let him propose, that is. Keep us posted! I’m really pulling for you two crazy kids.

In fact, I’ve been really impressed with you on this whole flight. The Ian debacle understandably left you a little sniffly, and it was pretty cool how you resourceful you were to use your sleeve when you ran out of Kleenex. And that thing where you raised the armrest between us so that you could stretch your knees and legs toward me and into the little space beneath the seat in front of me (no, not the space beneath the seat in front of you, because that’s where your backpack with the cheery flags of countries you have visited sewn to it goes, silly!) to get into a better position for sleeping? Awesome! So many people these days find themselves bound by silly, Puritanical notions of “personal space,” and it’s so gratifying to see someone bust those norms wide open.

Anyway, I just wanted to tell you what a pleasure it was to sit next to you for the 5 hours that we were in the small, movie-less MD 80. It wouldn’t have been the same without you.



p.s. If you see Extremely Loud Talker from 23-F – the one who used the phrase “that shit is the shiz!” all. flight. long – give him my best, okay!

15 January 2006


Qeustions asked during the law school trivia contest to which I was mortified not to know the answer: - What is the formula for the surface area of a sphere? - Who is the main character in Farenheit 451? - What alcoholic beverage was invented by a French monk? Questions asked during the law school trivia contest to which I am even more mortified to admit I did know the answer: - What was the name of the African American member of the Babysitters Club? - What two words are the first two words of every "Friends" episode title? - What was the name of Corey's girlfriend on "Boy Meets World?"

12 January 2006

Fiery? Yeah, not so much.

My friend Mason is a law student, but she is taking an undergrad Spanish lit class because she wants to keep up her Spanish so that when she embarks on her career as an ass-kicking international human rights attorney specializing in Latin America she can, you know, talk to her clients.

Anyway, Mason came out of Spanish class yesterday feeling upset. Apparently, the topic of the discussion had been la diversidad, and the discussion had been lively. The undergrads were all riled up, bemoaning the distinct lack of diversidad on our particular campus, despite our location in the heart of a mostly non-white poor neighborhood. There was talk of racism, classicism, sexism, the CIA’s gross injustices perpetrated during the reign of Pinochet- you know, the biggies. Mason said, somewhat plaintively, “In the old days, I would have been right up in there, talking about how much Pinochet sucked and down with the CIA and we hate Bush and viva la diversidad! Law school has changed me! I am not fiery!”

Poor Mason. First of all, Mason definitely still is, by law school standards, fiery. It’s part of why we love her so- she’ll get all agitated and rail against the pervasive apathy that seems to plague the law school, the kind of carefully studied ennui that people cultivate. Plus, she’s never dull at a party.

But her point is well taken. Recently, I have become concerned that law school has changed me, too, in a fieriness-sapping kind of way. There’s an undergrad who is in a seminar I’m taking, and she’s kind of so classically liberal guilt ani di franco on her discman urban studies know it all that it’s almost trite. Sorry, but she is. She raises her hand all the time to say things like “but professor, didn’t the rest of that quote you just read say blah blah blah? And doesn’t that additional information change how we ought to interpret the passage?” As if to alert us all to the fact that she’s read all this before, and therefore is terribly well qualified to comment and my isn’t she impressive? I spent a solid third of our last class session writing internet notes to friends talking about how ridiculous this woman is. And then it hit me: in college, I was this woman. Except for the urban studies and finishing the professor’s sentences part. And then I wondered: what has happened to me?

Often, it seems good and right that I have developed a more even keel as I have gotten older. I’m no longer so quick to jump into a debate unprepared, no longer interested in making everyone in the world understand where I am coming from, no longer willing to sit up until four in the morning talking to a sincere but kind of dopey volleyball player, trying to convince him that he should live in a house with a passive solar design and drive a hydrogen car. (side note: when I was in college, the Prius had yet to become reality. I was sincere in my belief in hydrogen! It was the future!)

I look back on that version of myself and I wince a little. Was I really so sure I was right? Did I really need to always be IN the conversation? What was I trying to prove, exactly? But the next moment, the wincing is replaced by just the slightest sadness that I am now “too old” or “too mature” or just “too pragmatic” to get all caught up in the moment and allow myself to get in over my head.

The head of the Federalist Society at our school is a friend of mine. Recently, we were at a party together with a man I’ll call Activist. Activist was spoiling for a fight, and knowing there were lots of law students in the room figured at least a few conservatives would jump into a good ol’fashioned shouting match. With beer. He looked to me for help, wanting the two of us to band together against The Conservative Menace. But I was too tired, too careful, too disinterested, so I made some carefully qualified comments, a few lame attempts at wittiness, and moved to a different side of the room. My Federalist friend told me later that he was impressed by my unwillingness to take the bait, my impartiality. When he told me that, I was pleased, flattered even. I wonder if I should have been.

It’s important to note here that I still have opinions. Strong ones. Passionately held ones. I just can’t quite figure out why I’m less likely to rise up in protest, take to the streets, shout down the enemy at lecture events. Maybe I should start wearing this shirt, which I got at the SF dyke parade, more often. (Sadly, Samuel L Jackson was not there when I bought mine. Wouldn't that have been cool?) At the very least it would get people’s attention. At least I hope it would.

Confidential to my readers with pseudonym Mason: given that this post was inspired by you, now would be an excellent time for you to de-lurk and write a comment. That’s right, I’m calling you out.

11 January 2006

In truth, our kitchen is also starting to smell

I am sort of in love with Supreme Court nomination hearings.

Not because they present novel legal issues (because, let’s face it, they’re really more of an opportunity for posturing than anything else,) but because of the manner in which they are conducted:

Senator from East Dakota: Sir, in 1985, you presented what you have today said was then your “personal view” on the Constitutionally protected right to an abortion. Is that your personal view today?

Judge Scalito: If I were presented with a question like this on the court, I would first be bound by stare decisis, the previous decisions of the court.

SFED: Sir, I am not asking you what you would do if presented with this question on the court, I am asking for your personal view on the matter.

JS: I will approach any question on this matter with an open mind.

SFED: Once again, sir, we all respect your judicial prudence, but I am today asking you to state your current personal view on the matter.

JS: I am grateful for the opportunity to appear before this body today, and I am honored by my nomination, and if I were fortunate enough to be confirmed I would approach any question on this issue that faced the court with an open mind and a willingness to consider all of the issues.

This shit is hillarious! What they really want to say to each other, so clearly is, "ahem, you mean cold-hearted nitwit, do you still honestly think that there's no way a woman should be allowed to an abortion?" "Fuck you, it's none of your business." That Senate! So funny with their false civility! Love it! I’m seriously considering an attempt to conduct the next round of last evening’s, ahem, disagreement over division of labor in dishwashing in the manner of a Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Something like this:

Pseudostoops: Dear, in 2001, when we were in the early stages of our relationship, you expressed an encouraging willingness to set aside anachronistic gender divisions in housekeeping. Is that your personal view today?

Realstoops: Sweetpea, if I were today presented with a philosophical discussion of traditional gender notions in today’s modern society, I would have to seriously consider the question.

PS: Dear, in the context of a philosophical argument, your openmindedness is admirable, but I am today asking for your view on the gross, bean-encrusted chili pot that has been sitting in the sink for 3 days as evidence of the impasse we appear to have reached on the issue of dishes.

RS: I believe there is real room for interesting discussion on the modern division of household labor.

PS: Once again, dear, I am encouraged by your willingness to engage in debate, but the chili powder appears to be petrifying on the sides of the lovely, expensive, Le Creuset dutch oven we received as an incredibly generous wedding gift. I know we would both be disheartened if this lovely piece of cookware was somehow ruined.

RS: I am so glad that we are married, and thus have the opportunity to engage in these discussions on a nightly basis, and if I am fortunate enough to continue to live in this house, I look forward to conducing similar discussions frequently in the future.

09 January 2006

I have found my people. All 11 of them.

Today there was a meeting for participants in the criminal and juvenile justice clinic at the law school, the group with whom I've been doing work like this and this. Also this. Anyway, at this meeting, the director of the clinic made everyone stand up and make an awkward little speech introducing themselves and what they did last summer. Yes, it is January. Yes, I have mostly forgotten what I did last summer. No, that didn't seem to faze him. The second year students in the crowd talked about the research or clinical work or whatever they did this summer. Then the third year students started introducing themselves, and to my shock, many of them ALSO did public service work! Even though they could have worked for a firm and made a cool $20 k over the summer! And had free lunch every day! I'm stunned. There are almost a dozen people who go to this- the libertarian's favorite law school, where the market is king and people refuse to admit to having kind thoughts- who are actively engaged in public interest work even where they could be making gobs of money. Maybe I've misjudged this place. (Then again, according to the official materials of the law school's admissions and recordkeeping people, in the past three years, exactly two people have gone into public interest upon graduation.) Then one woman, when she introduced herself, said "and as for my summer, I'd rather not say." When pressed, she said "fine. I worked in a firm. Fine. Thanks for making me admit it. I'm not proud of it." And everyone sort of smirked at her. And that's when I got kind of mad. Because seriously? There are only a dozen people at this law school who are into this kind of work, into it to the point where they're considering it as a career. And the idea that we would factionalize this teeny tiny little community by separating ourselves into "truly committed because we didn't work for a firm" and "not so truly committed because we did work for a firm" makes me angry. I realize that I sometimes am guilty of a little of this myself, but I'd like to think that what I smirk at is the "I really like people, and public interest is cool, but I'm going to work at a firm, already know which firm, how long it's going to take to make partner, and I never planned on doing anything but firm work." And even those people don't get a smirk so much as a "you really don't need to justify yourself to me. Law school is expensive. So are shoes. You are free to make your own choices." This happens in the liberal crowd here, too. There are probably 13 liberal organizations on campus competing to meet the needs of the 60 liberals here. The question I find myself asking over and over is: why do we keep dividing and subdividing, classifying and subclassifying? We're making it way too easy to ignore what we have to say!

08 January 2006

May the Daily editors not smite me for this cliched topic

When I was in college, the post office on campus was so widely acknowledged to be craptastic that the campus paper had an official, on-the-books rule that no one was allowed to write any more stories about craptastic qualities of the post office because to do so would risk compromising the paper’s status as a “purveyor of news.”

I’m breaking the rule. I figure this is okay because I am no longer writing for the campus paper. But I still feel a little guilty about it, so this will be short.

Did everyone else know about the postage increase that happened today? Because I am just now hearing about it. Specifically, I’m wondering why it did not occur to the woman working AT THE POST OFFICE from whom I purchased approximately 732 thirty-seven cent stamps EIGHT DAYS AGO to tell me “sugar, you know we’re switching to thirty-nine cents in a week, right?” I would have been more than willing to buy the 732 stamps in the correct denomination had I known, but now I’m stuck with all these wrongly- valued stamps and a serious need for two centers. Which I assume are going to be ugly.

Also, I only just learned of the existence of these, which I think are the most lovely stamps ever, and now I can’t use them because they’re the wrong value. (Before you suggest that I just add the two cent ones, (a) Greta, icon that she is, does not deserve an ugly robin stamp crowding her, and (b) I am a firm believer in brevity in written correspondence, so all of my envelopes are smaller than an index card, making it difficult to smoosh two stamps on there.)

Finally, the post office lost not one, not two, but three of the Christmas parcels I sent out priority mail. This leaves me to wonder whether I have to buy new gifts for these people or whether “it’s the thought that counts” extends to “I thought enough of you to spend a carefully calculated amount of money on you once, but to spend the same amount again would effectively double the amount I’ve spent on you, which would destroy both my budget and my carefully constructed allotment of gift-buying resources, so I’m going to pass.” Coments welcome on whether I should buy new gifts, tell the unlucky recipients my sad story and apologize for the lack of gift, or do nothing and risk having the recipients think I've forgotten/slighted/insulted them, because I sure as heck can't figure out what to do.

06 January 2006

You might be able to guess from this little story that I was procrastinating

I was eating a grapefruit this morning, trying in the new year to take the advice of someone who suggested that a diet made up entirely of triscuits, hummus, and extra sharp cheddar might be lacking in some key nutrients.

As I was eating my grapefruit, thoroughly enjoying it (why, oh why, can’t pink grapefruits the size of beer league softballs be in season all year long?) I tried to remember why I haven’t always eaten grapefruit. Then it came to me: seldane!

For a few years in the early to mid 1990s, I was on a medication called Seldane to treat my constant, overwhelming, horrible allergies. I once walked into a doctor’s office and he told me “good god, you look like you have two black eyes!” That’s how messed up my sinuses were. Seeing as how I was 12 and horribly self-conscious at the time, this seemed a little callous, and I think I might even have welled up a little, thinking that even my doctor, a man paid to help me, was against me, but that might have just been the pre-teen hormones talking.

So anyway, he put me on Seldane, and Vancenase, and another medicine whose name I’ve forgotten. This was in the days before Claritin and Allegra, remember. You couldn’t have one pill that would block histamines and clear you up- each thing needed a separate medication.

Anyway, Seldane had some seriously wacked drug interaction problems, including the still-a-mystery-to-me total prohibition on grapefruit. Apparently, taking Seldane and eating grapefruit in too close proximity can cause you to sprout fur and bleat like a goat. Or die. Something serious. Seldane was eventually pulled from the market, as apparently it also gave people heart attacks or something.

So I was looking this up this morning, to confirm that my memory served and I had discontinued consumption of grapefruit because of Seldane, when I found this little nugget:

Seldane Question: I am a cardiac patient for whom Procardia has been prescribed. I have been reading that Seldane and grapefruit could be a deadly combination. Do you have any information of this?

Answer: Didn't used to think so, but recent information shows a major change in many drugs while taking grapefruit juice, particularly some calcium channel blockers. However, Seldane is no longer available so this is probably a mute point.

A mute point? As in, “well, the points about the value of regular ear cleaning and the miracle of banana smoothies when used as hangover cures are really talkative, maybe even a little bit pushy, but that point about not eating grapefruit while taking an allergy medicine whose side effects are CERTAINLY WORSE than a little sneezing? Yeah, we don’t hear much from that point. He’s shy.”

05 January 2006

Why Law School is Amazing (or, "I get to study America's favorite TrimSpa spokesperson for hours and hours- what are you doing with your day?)

Through a series of gross miscalculations on my part, I find myself in a moot court competition this quarter. Though this is, technically, a sought-after position that I find myself in, I am not particularly enthused, mostly because I have to write a brief. Any lawyers in the audience would probably start scratching their heads here, as brief-writing is one of the main tasks of lawyerdom. For non-lawyers, however, my aversion to brief-writing should be easy to understand. Briefs are long, dense, often boring, long, exhaustive, exhausting, overwrought (and did I mention long?) written arguments about a case that are presented to a court. Writing them involves lots and lots and lots of research on Westlaw. (Hey, maybe I'll finally earn enough Westlaw bonus points to buy those ipod speakers!) By far the worst part of writing a brief, however, is the Table of Authorities, which is the brief's version of a bibliography. It goes at the front of the document, and it requires all of this really formalistic formatting, and you have to mention EVERY SINGLE PAGE on which you mention a case or a rule or a statue. THIS IS A TOTAL PAIN IN THE ASS. Every time you edit the content of your brief, you have to check again and make sure that the citation that had been on page 8 hasn't slipped over to page 9, and if it has, you have to change your table of authorities. It's a big huge annoying carmels stuck in your teeth kind of pain. Anyway, so I'm not so hip to brief writing. That is, I wasn't. Until I received the topic of this brief. For this year's moot court, the board has chosen to have us argue the real, pertinent, timely, and totally non-pretend case of (drumroll please....): Anna Nicole Smith trying to get a ton of money from the estate of her ancient dear departed husband who was 89 when she married him at 26 v. Son of aforementioned dear departed husband who is still smarting a little over the fact that his stepmother is young enough to be his granddaughter and has decided that the best way to seek revenge is to (I am not making this language up) declare world war III on her. I've been assigned to argue the Anna Nicole side of this, which as I read the cases seems like a pretty good side to be on. Sonny boy is a class-A nitwit, having shredded key discovery, plotted with the lawyers to prevent her from getting any money, and generally told anyone who would listen that he doesn't care if it's illegal, that tramp isn't getting a penny of his $2 billion inheritance. This is not a terrific way to ingratiate yourself to a court. Since Anna Nicole Smith is always good for some trainwreck paparazzi photos, I was really hoping there'd be visuals attached to these cases. So far, no luck. In fact, so far the case seems to be about a largely boring question of jurisdiction and the probate exception. It's all okay, though, because when people ask me what I'm working on, I get to say "Anna Nicole Smith, obviously." I NEVER got to say stuff like that when I was teaching.

03 January 2006

you're at risk of losing our dollars, CTA!

Background: I am a big supporter of public transportation. While I love Penny, I see a lot of value in a robust public transportation system. I flatly refuse to live in LA at least in part because of the sheer insanity that driving everywhere on a freeway would cause me. (There are other reasons, too numerous to list, but car dependency is seriously one of them.) We even collect public transport maps and post them on our wall as monuments to places we have been! (After all, why buy a knick knack when you can get a cooler graphically designed momento for free?) So despite its recent fare hikes and its minor problems with cleanliness and the general distaste for public transport expressed by all other members of my immediate family, I frequently use the CTA. John, however, does not love public transportation. More specifically, he does not love Chicago's public transportation. In fact, he hates it. He refuses to take buses with me, will only take the el, and engages in a fair amount of whining even about that. So of course, all of my most horrific CTA experiences take place on those rare occasions that I transport publicly with John. Case in point: on the way home from our fabulous Atlanta adventure (we just jetted off on a moment's notice, didn't you hear? It was the social event of the season!) we spent the usual 45 minutes on the blue line, which takes us from the northwest side to the near south where we live. About 5 minutes into the ride, the man in front of us woke up from his nap. This was something I had feared would happen, as the man looked like he had serious potential to be not my favorite el seatmate ever, but ours were the last two forward-facing seats in the car and I get seasick riding backwards so we sat there. Sure enough, as soon as he woke up, he took notice of two pretty young women sitting opposite. And started talking to them. And gesturing. And leering. When someone sitting BEHIND you is able to perceive your leering, subtlety has gone out the window, buddy. Perhaps you should take it down a notch. Anyway, along with the leering there was the talking, which was limited to four phrases, repeated incessently in apparently random combinations: "I might be a pimp!" "I'll eat your pussy for dinner." "Juicy" "Ain't no shame in my game." I, being the rhythmically inclined person that I am, heard a cadence in these repetitions not unlike a DJ Shadow recording, albeit one with a pretty fucked up set of lyrics, and as I listened more to the rhythm than the words, he started to blend in to the background. John is, um, shall we say, less rhythmically inclined, and he seemed unable to block out the lilting slurs. He actually started clenching and releasing a fist, like in a bad movie where you're alerted to the lead character's anger not by any subtle facial expressions, which probably exceed the actor's talents, but by stupid tics like fist grasping. At one point he leaned over to me and said through clenched teeth "this. is. why. i. don't. take. the. el." After half a dozen stops, the women started to gather their things to leave the train, and our unfriendly neighbor stood up and stopped right in the middle of the aisle, as if to block their exit. At this point, in a gesture that positively warmed my heart, my brave, darling, skinny but scrappy husband handed me his bag and half stood up, poised to intervene and allow these ladies to exit. To our surprise, however, the man obligingly stepped aside and let them pass. I could actually feel the air in the car relax a little bit, as everyone had clearly been totally attuned to what was happening but also totally unwilling to put their necks out to do anything about it. Then, as the train doors were closing, the man slid out of the car and started pursuing the unsuspecting women at a good clip. Totally creepy, and those of us in the car were totally powerless to do anything about it. It took John the entire walk back to our building, the ride up the elevator, and two beers to decompress, the whole thing had him so worked up. I'm not sure which is worse: John's total anguish over a sucky situation that he really couldn't have done much about, or my relatively blase attitude about the whole episode. What I DO know for sure is that I'm never getting John to ride the damn CTA ever agian.

02 January 2006

Resolution: continue being cooler than Sally

There's this scene in "When Harry Met Sally" in which Sally, lamenting the demise of her relationship with Joe, says that they had said they didn't want children because children keep you from having sex on the kitchen floor and jetting of to Rome on a moment's notice. Then she sighs and says that, in fact, they never had sex on the kitchen floor and Rome was just a dream. Well, we haven't been to Europe, and our kitchen floor is frankly too gross for even walking barefoot, let alone copulating, but we have jetted off somewhere on a moment's notice. And now we're back. On Friday, the 30th, we decided that our New Year's plans lacked pizzaz. Or, more accurately, I decided to surf Hotwire while avoiding paper writing, and there I discovered a great deal to Atlanta, where our friends Frisbee and Blazer live. Four hours later (well, seven hours once you factor in the three hour delay,) we were on a plane. We drank a lot, slept little, got bruised hips from sleeping on the floor for two nights (mama is getting old!) and generally had a lovely time. Mostly, as John so aptly put it, "it was totally worth it for the value of the story that we get to tell: 'oh, yes, we just jetted off to Atlanta on a moment's notice!'" Next on list of New Year's Resolutions: wear flattering jeans, order sandwich with no special requests and nothing on the side, and fake double orgasm in diner.