Wednesday, January 31, 2007



Do you miss the law? I know you do. So here's some law for today, straight from the depths of my study hell, I mean, my study palace.

If you entrust an item to a seller who usually deals in such items as yours, that seller can pass good title to a bona fide purchaser who buys in the ordinary course of business. What the hell does that mean? I'll tell you with an example:

If your dear, dear grandfather, on his deathbed, gave you his favorite old pocket watch, the watch he has used for probably seventy years, a watch you have never seen him without, a watch you *love* -- and you take that watch to Bob's Watch Boutique to have a hairline crack in the watch crystal repaired, Bob can sell that watch to somebody and you can NEVER GET IT BACK!!

WHAT?? How can that be???

If Bob's Watch Boutique is a shop that repairs and sells watches and if Bob sells the watch in the ordinary course of business to someone who buys the watch in good faith and for value, you're screwed. Why would Bob do something so awful and backhanded?? Maybe by accident, maybe Bob put the watch on the counter and his assistant came along later and stuck it on the display rack unawares and next thing you know Carlos the Customer walks in and sees it and buys it. It could happen so easily!

But why can't you get your watch back from Carlos? It's your watch after all, you just brought it to Bob to REPAIR not to reSELL! Well... the answer to "why" is complicated and technical and not that satisfying. And also, I'm not really sure. Of course, in real life you can probably talk to Carlos (if you can find him) and explain what happened, and explain how much you loved your grandfather and how much that watch means to you, etc, etc, and maybe he'll be moved by your story and he'll let you buy the watch back from him. But the law won't help you get the watch back.

You're not totally SOL though. You can sue Bob the Watch Guy for damages. Because he did fuck up after all. You just can't sue Carlos to compell him to return your watch because if it all goes down like in this example, Carlos will have good title to the watch. So be careful whenever you take your stuff to a repair person if that repair person's shop also sells the type of stuff you're having repaired. You might wind up like this and that would suck.

out of the monkey's mouth

Gee-Dub gave a "State of the Economy" speech for some reason, during which he shamed CEOs for their exhorbitant salaries and bonus packages and called on them to tie pay to performance. I'm sorry, what?? The gilded Mr. Bush of the Bush Dynasty? When has his money ever matched his performace at *anything*?? Hasn't he more or less sucked at every endeavor? And what about Cheney? He wasn't exactly donating his salary as CEO of Halliburton to UNICEF every year. Was he just gagging and choking backstage as Dubya gave his little speech or snickering like the devil and rubbing his greedy little hands together?

Isn't this a bit like, say, the Godfather somehow becoming the president of the US and then giving a speech deriding the evil influences of organized crime? Isn't it, in fact, almost exactly the same thing? Oh jesus. What will the monkey say next?

You can read about it here:

And I swear to god, as soon as the bar is over and I have some free time, I'll really, really learn how to post an actual link. I promise.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

well *that* was awkward

I had an experience last night like something out a bad stalker movie. SK and I popped into a bus stop on our way back from a trip to the library, and I saw a guy sitting on the bench who I vaugely recognized as an annoying on-caller from my work. I nodded at him and was a little creeped out when he said hi and called me by my name. I hadn't seen him in a long time and knew I didn't really want to stand in the bus shelter chatting with him, but wasn't really sure why.

After a few moments of idle chatter he asked if I was still working at the Oasis (that's the pseudonym used for the homeless shelter where I work). I said yes and he said, "That's good," with this forlorn sort of air and I suddenly realized that he *didn't* still work there. He was asked not to come back and was taken off our on-call list. At that point I said something awkward like, "Oh, right... cuz you're *not* at the Oasis anymore..."

He said, "Uh, yeah..." then he spent a minute or two bemoaning his departure from the Oasis and expressing his disbelief that things hadn't worked out. Then he looked up at me and said, "I mean, when you were my supervisor, did *you* have any problems with me?" Hmm.

Then I understood just how uncomfortable all this really was. I am a "shift lead" at my job, mostly by default because I've been there so long, but with school as my primary focus, I have to admit that I am a poor shift lead and almost never consider myself anyone's supervisor, including this guy. I couldn't even remember this guy's fucking name, and yet here I was at the bus stop with him and he thought of me as one of his supervisors and he thought, furthermore, that I might know something about why he got fired or maybe even that I was the *reason* he got fired.

I was at a total loss. The truth was, as I said, I didn't even remember the guy's name, much less why we fired him. I don't remember having a lot of input in the decision and, really, I hadn't cared much one way or another. But I can't very well say that to this guy, who's sitting at the bus stop unshaven and sad, living on unemployment still, clearly hurting from the sacking. I can't say, "Yeah, bummer about that. What was your name again?"

I expressed sympathy, I tried to commiserate, I explained that I wasn't really sure what happened, etc, and I prayed that the bus would come soon. Once I was safely on the bus, the details started to return and I realized that there was no reason to feel bad for the guy, he'd been spoken to repeatedly about his performance and he simply failed to understand or take responsibility for his behavior. That he could sit at the bus stop and act like he had no idea why he'd been canned was pretty ridiculous. At the same time, however, it was really weird and not a situation I'd want to repeat.

Monday, January 29, 2007

little miss sunshine

I really should be sleeping, but instead, I just finished watching Little Miss Sunshine for the second night in a row. I watched it last night before I headed out to meet Chunk and I put it on again tonight after I'd had all the studying I could stand and oh my god. That movie is fucking brilliant.

Ok, maybe not brilliant, but really, really close to brilliant. Alan Arkin? Hilarious. Abigail Breslin? As cute as can fucking be. Toni Collette? Toni Collette is AUSSIELICIOUS!!! Can I be any more enthusiastic? Greg Kinnear? At first he's pretty unbearable but after you see him riding back to the motel on that tiny little scooter... somehow he's redeemed himself and by the time he winds up dancing with Olive at the end, you realize he's not so bad after all. And of course, Steve Carrell? Hilariously deadpan. Pushing the van, in the heat and the dust, when he says "I just want everyone to know, I am the preeminent Proust scholar in the country," he says it with just the right self-mocking tone and it's actually funny. Both times.

**Spoiler alert** Sometimes the movie asks you to suspend your disbelief a little more than is usually necessary. I mean, for chrissakes, do you really think they could smuggle a dead body out of a hospital window and into their van with nobody noticing? Nobody at all? In broad daylight?? And what about that super-long, extended-play remix of Superfreak? If you want the kid to quit dancing so bad, oh... I don't know... how 'bout pull the plug on the music?? Of course, it wouldn't have been nearly as funny (and excruciating) if it had ended a moment sooner. Awesome.

Watching Little Miss Sunshine, I couldn't help thinking back the mother of all fucked-up-family-roadtrip movies, National Lampoon's Vacation. Both have the clunky and unreliable vehicle, the quirky kids, the marital disharmony and even a dead relative. But where Vacation was crass and gross in it's hilarity, Little Miss Sunshine, despite all it's bizarre twists and stretches of the imagination, was deeply, sweetly human. Each character felt fully fleshed out and one-hundred percent alive. It was hilarious and fucked up and also really touching. I can't wait to make everyone I know watch it and then make them tell me all the parts they loved. :-) It was just that good.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

lean on me

Slogging through my property outline tonight, I ran across some law that made me remember something weird that happened in the tiny town where my family lives. The law is to do with land. If you own land, one of your rights is to the lateral and subjacent support of your land in its natural state by the land around it. That means, nobody can come along and excavate right up to the border of your land if that would cause your land to "subside" (aka: fall off). Ditto for people who have rights to the land underneath you, like for mining. They can't just come along and dig out everything underneath you so that your own land caves in. That's not ok and they're stricly liable for most damage they cause that way.

Reading about this reminded me of this property dispute in my dad's town. Years ago, a property devolper bought up a huge tract of land along the main road in between one part of town and another part of town with the intention of putting in a strip mall anchored by a huge grocery store. There was just one problem: one landowner wouldn't budge. This family had a house on top of a hill, right in the middle of the developers big plan and they would not be bought out. The developer tried and tried but to no avail. Eventually, he whipped out the big guns.

One day, driving through town during one of my visits, I was shocked to see that the entirety of the developers property had been excavated, totally leveled, except for the tiny square portion that held that house and a tiny strip of driveway left to accomodate them. The house stood on an unnatural mesa, like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. Where once was a gently rising hill, now was a flat waste-land interrupted by a weird, spindle of land with a house on top.

The property developer, playing hardball, hoped this would drive the family away, but they were tough and they held on. It took a few years, but the family finally gave in after someone fell off the side of the property and died. Yep, pretty rough. Apparently it was nighttime and people were drinking outside and, you know, one thing leads to another, cousin Jim walks off to take a piss and, woops, no more cousin Jim.

I don't know the details, but I hope somebody was able to get some money out of that developer for making their yard a fucking health hazard. But who knows. All I *do* know is that there was no compromise of lateral or subjacent stability. Regardless of falling people, the house and the land stayed put until the family finally sold and the bulldozers came along and finished things off.

** Weird epilogue** They eventually built a Bi-Lo grocery store in that spot and my brother Isaac got his one and only job bagging groceries there. He was a hugely popular bagger and some old ladies would specifically go to his line, although, whenever I was in there he acted shy and sulky which, I guess, is how young people act around family. Now I go in there and I doubt there's anybody left who even remembers him. It's been so long.

drinks with tragedy, breakfast with brits

I went out last night for a drink with my former coworker Chunk. I have written about Chunk here before, he's the hapless, hopeless guy with all the bad luck. The guy who always loses his cell phone and breaks his ipod. The guy who got hit by a car, who actually got a *ticket* for it while he was in the hospital, and who *then* went to a Halloween party a few days later and everyone thought his bandages were a costume.

Anyway, Chunk has really done it this time. I can't say what he did, but it was bad enough to get him fired and, dangling on the edge as he seemed to be, I wanted to hang out with him to lend some support. Wow. He's like some Dickensian character, all foibles and fuck-ups and golden heart. Tragic flaw: absolute lack of self-confidence to the point of self-sabatoge. Redeeming factors: naivete and that heart of gold I mentioned. A hugely stupid mistake coupled with disarming and unprecedented honesty. All he wants is redemption.

I had my two beers and listened to him talk for nearly 2 hours and then it was time to go home and go to sleep so I could get up early and go to breakfast with SK and her two very old friends from England who are in for the weekend. I woke up feeling crappy and thought it was the beers, but now I think it's that cold I've been fighting off. Those beers gave it a leg up last night and now it's reasserting itself. I'll have to redouble my efforts and see if I can't stamp it out. The last thing I need while I'm studying is a brain clouded by mucous and sinus pressure.

Breakfast was nice despite my fog. SK's friends, especially the girl-one, grilled me about my studies and my future plans which, coming from anybody else, would've been pretty annoying, but there was no judgment or expectation in the way she asked her questions so I didn't mind answering them. I think they were both a little taken aback by the unusual options on the menu (we took them to the Vita, a great spot if you're vegan and a probably confusing spot if you've never heard of tempeh or Bragg's Liquid Aminos). But all in all it was fun and I was sorry that I couldn't hang out longer. But alas, they were off to hike in the forest and I was off to my cave to keep hiking through my recently completed Property outline. Will the studies ever end? Eventually. But at least I had a nice break or two along the way.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

real estate agent: friend or foe?

Property Transactions

So you want to buy a house. You get online and find your way onto the listing service, a searchable database that lets you put in your parameters and then shows you all your options, usually with pictures and detailed descriptions of all the available properties. You find one you really like (you probably find, like, fifteen you only *sort* of like, but they're the only ones you can afford and they involve compromises you're willing to live with, but for the sake of simplicity, we'll pretend you find just one that you really like), so you write down the contact info for the agent representing that property and you give her a call.

Boy is she nice! She offers to pick you up and drive you to the house to look at it! When it turns out that your perfect house isn't so perfect after all, don't worry, she's got a list of ten other places in the same price range, near that neighborhood, with similar amenities. She drives you around for two hours and even offers to stop somewhere to get you some coffee. At the end of the day, you still haven't found the right house, but you had such a lovely time with that real estate agent! She gives you her card when she drops you off at your house and smiles warmly and commiserates about not finding the right place, but she assures you she'll keep be keeping her eye out for places you'd like.

You go inside, smiling, looking at the card, feeling comforted by the knowledge that you're in good hands. You've got your very own real estate agent, looking out for you.

Not so fast, there, buddy. She's nice and she's helpful and all that stuff, but let's get one thing straight. She is NOT "your" real estate agent. Yes, she said she'd help you, but it's not *you* she's really helping. It's the seller. That's right. Real estate brokers are agents of the SELLER, no matter what. It doesn't matter if you called her and you enlisted her to help you find a house. It doesn't even matter that she has never in her life met the seller of any given house before, she is still the agent of the seller.

I should back up and explain that "agent" is actually a term of art. Saying that the real estate broker is an "agent" of the seller is saying that she owes a financial duty to the seller, resulting from their principal/agent relationship. Even though she's nice and she drove you around all day, she is not your "agent" and she doesn't owe you any financial duties. At the end of the day, her only obligations are to the sellers of the houses, not to you. You have no agent, you're on your own.

What's that mean for you, practically speaking? It means that the agent is only looking out for you to the extent she is required by law. It means, she will not be negotiating good contract terms for you and you might even find yourself with contract terms that are specifically better for the seller. It means that you do not have an advocate, combing through the complicated documents and noticing where there are problems.

Want an example? Here's an example. Risk of loss. When a land sale contract is signed, even before the buyer gives up the money and the seller gives up possession of the property, something magical happens called "equitable conversion." Equitable conversion says that, as soon as the contract is signed, the money magically becomes the seller's and the property magically becomes the buyer's, even though they haven't actually changed hands yet. It might take days or weeks for the money and the land to change hands, but thanks to equitable conversion, the ownership has switched.

That's all fine and good, but what if lightening happened to strike the house after the contract was signed but before the seller moved out and the buyer moved in? The house burns to the ground, it was nobody's fault. Who bears the loss? According to equitable conversion, the BUYER does even though she wasn't in possession yet. Why? Because the property became hers as soon as the contract was signed.

Well that hardly seems fair. Can't that be stopped? Why yes, it can be stopped by adding language to the land sale contract that would allocate the risk of loss to the seller until actual possession changed hands. No biggie, it would probably just take up one line of the contract. But do you think that nice real estate lady is going to put that line in there for you? No ma'am she is not. Why? Because that line is in YOUR best interest and she is bound to do what is in the SELLER'S best interest.

So do you see now why the real estate lady isn't so great after all? And is there anything you can do to stop this inequity? Yes. You can get a lawyer. Your lawyer will be YOUR agent. Your lawyer will advocate for you and negotiate a contract to benefit YOU, not the seller. Your lawyer will also send you a bill (unlike that nice real estate lady whose bill will be sneakily tacked onto the fees that are paid by the seller, but with YOUR money after you pay for the house). If you don't want to bother with a lawyer, you would do well to educate yourself as much as possible so you don't have to rely just on the real estate lady to help you navigate through the process. And just remember, no matter how nice she is, she is NOT working for you. She is working for the other guy.

Friday, January 26, 2007

something more familiar

Assignments and Subleases

This will make so much more sense than the rule against perpetuities, I promise. Furthermore, this is actually useful to know.

The leasehold is an interest in property that we're all probably familiar with. You need a place to live, you find an apartment, you sign a lease, you live there. Sometimes, however, you need to leave before your lease is up, either permanently or temporarily.

If you need to leave permanently, one of your options is to assign your lease to someone else entirely. Let's say you've just been offered a job teaching English in Bulgaria, for example. You really want to go, but you've still got four months left on your year-long lease. You put an ad on Craigslist and find someone willing to take over your lease so you can leave without breaching. Good for you.

But wait, is it really that simple? Could there be trouble lurking? Of course! The assignee (that yahoo you found on Craigslist) is now in "privity of estate" with the landlord, which is a fancy way of saying that he's responsible for paying rent and the other covenants that run with the land. However, *you* my friend are not off the hook. You're still in privity of contract with the landlord, which is a fancy way of saying he can still sue you and you're still ultimately liable for payment of rent on the lease even though you're out of possession.

Scary, huh? You're lounging around in Bulgaria, teaching English and taking in the sights, when you get a call from your old landlord saying, "Hey, that deadbeat you found on Craigslist just sits around smoking weed all day and he hasn't paid a penny in two months! Pay up or I'll sue you." And you, my friend, are screwed. Sure, you can sue the deadbeat from Craigslist after you pay the landlord, but you might not be able to get anything out of him. He sounds like a total loser anyway and is probably what they call judgment proof, ie: he ain't got no money.

Ok, so that's what happens when you need to leave permanently. What about when you need to leave temporarily? What if, for example, you're invited to teach a summer Shakespeare workshop to children at a camp in southern Oregon? You're near the beginning of a year-long lease and you only need to be gone for three months. You can't afford to pay rent while you're not in town, so you decide to sublease. You hop on Craigslist and you find someone who needs a place to crash this summer. Good for you.

But this can't be any better than the first situation, can it? Nope. It can't. This time, the sublessee has even less actual responsibility than the assignee. The sublessee isn't even in privity of estate with the landlord. As far as the landlord is concerned, the sublessee doesn't even exist. The sublessee owes his duty to pay rent to you, the original tenant. It's up to you to pay the landlord. And if he doesn't pay you...? Well, once again, you're screwed. This time the landlord doesn't even have the option of trying to squeeze it out of him first. You're the only one the landlord can turn to for payment. It's all on you. Again, you can try and sue the sublessee, but again, that might not help.

One scary option the landlord has is to get a lien against the personal property on the premises and assert that lien to cover the unpaid rent. That means, most likely, the landlord could come busting in one day with a sherrif's deputy who would seize whatever in the apartment looked like it might earn enough at auction to cover rent. If you left your stuff there for three months, which you probably did, it'll be your stuff getting seized. But if the sublessee brought in, for example, his $1500 mountain bike and his $800 jazz guitar (neither of which would actually bring in that much at an auction), then the sublessee might be the one who feels the pain. Or, maybe it'll just be a bong and some dirty t-shirts of his. Who knows.

Either way, assignment and subleasing are potentially dangerous for the original tenant and, if you find yourself in the position of needing to do it, you might want to keep all this liability in mind. Nothing ruins a trip to a Shakespearean summer camp like a deadbeat sublessee and a seizure of all your cool stuff. No sirree.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

fertile octogenarians and unborn widows

The Rule Against Perpetuities

Property law is the most arcane, convoluted area of law still on the books, I believe. In school we read cases from 16th century England that are still good law in America today. The overall view of property law and it's evolution can be described like this: imagine a 600 year old house onto which each generation has built new wings, new stories, new turrets and gutters and porches and roofs and ornaments, never tearing anything down to make room for the new, just building right on top. It is monstrously enormous, maddeningly complicated, irretrievably cumbersome and totally impenetrable.

One of its weird diversions is the rule against perpetuities which, put simply, says that no interest in property is valid if it may vest later than 21 years after some life in being at the time of the creation of the interest.


This is so complicated, that after typing up several paragraphs with long examples and explanations, I just decided to drop it and grossly paraphrase. To paraphrase: it is possible to set up transfers of land that are really remote and might take a really long time to play out. The rule against perpetuities operates to try and keep things happening within a reasonable amount of time.

When you dig around in what is essentially abstract, theoretical territory, you come up with conundrums that boggle the mind and yet, if they somehow occurred, would cause problems. The fertile octogenarian is one. For the purposes of the rule against perpetuities, a woman is conclusively presumed to be able to bear children up until the moment she dies regardless of her age or health. If you create a devise that assumes that because granny is 78 she can't possibly have more kids, and therefore the interest in her kids won't take longer to vest than is allowed, you have just violated the rule against perpetuities. Even though it is unlikley nigh unto impossible that granny will make anymore babies, it doesn't matter. The rule against perpetuties doesn't wait and see, it just says no.

Same thing for the unborn widow. You might want to make a will that leaves land to your brother and after him to his widow and after her to her kids. Well, that would violate the rule because he could marry somebody who wasn't even born yet at the time you made the will. For reasons that are too complicated to explain, just the possibility of the as yet unborn widow violates the rule because it creates the possibility that the kids' interest in the land will vest after the appropriate period. Like with the fertile octogenarian, it doesn't matter what actually happens, it only matters what *might* happen. The rule says no.

As a writer, the concepts of fertile octogenarians and unborn widows are so poetically creepy, I love them and wanted to blog about them. As a human being, Property law is so tedious and awful and complicated and boring, I am afraid I was not able to translate these terms into anything interesting to read. And for that, I apologize. Next time, I will try to blog about some aspect of the law that's actually interesting, maybe even useful.

can natural selection, ironically, help with this?

According to Nancy Pelosi's daughter, who just made a documentary about evangelical christians, there are 50 million people in the US who don't believe in evolution. And, according to a recent New York Times article, 47 million people in the US now don't have health insurance...

If only those two similarly sized groups represented the same people...

You know...?

You do the math.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

notes on notes on a scandal

A couple weeks ago, SK and I went to see Notes on a Scandal at the theater (or the cinema, SK would say). We both loved it, but I found myself wishing there was *more.* I find that I am maybe pathologically curious about taboo relationships and I have always been especially intrigued by the phenomenon of female teachers taking up with their young, male students. I think of Mary Kay Latourno, with her bouncy blonde hair-do and her perfect family suddenly caught up with a kid who could barely grow a moustache.

I have tried to imagine what could motivate an otherwise established, succesful, settled (*grown*) woman to do something so foolish and, in my mind, bizarre. When SK and I went to see this movie, I was hoping to gain some insight, and even though I *loved* the movie, I was a little disappointed that it didn't dig deeper into the psychology behind the relationship Sheba (Cate Blanchet's character) has with her young, male student. As we left the theater, I found myself wishing the movie had been based on a book, so I could read more.

Well, turns out, it *was* based on a book. "What Was She Thinking (Notes on a Scandal)" by Zoe Heller. I just finished it last night and it was a really interesting read, but for reasons I wouldn't have imagined. Again, the book didn't delve too deeply into the psychological depths of the teacher -- the dark and murky depths I have imagined must lurk whenever a 40 year old woman decides to have sex with a 14 year old boy. And maybe I should just leave well enough alone. Maybe it is, after all, much simpler than I imagine. As the book tells it, their affair was simple and lusty and his appeal was pretty plain: he was young, sexy and full of testosterone. I am obviously not so moved by that clump of characteristics and that has perhaps blinded me from understanding what straight women could possibly see in teenage boys. Frankly, it stimulates my gag reflex a little. But whatever.

I abandoned that line of inquiry and found myself reading the book with pleasure, relishing the crisp bitchiness of the voice. The book is narrated by Barbara Covett (Judi Dench's character), the old spinster who takes a sinister, clingy interest in Sheba's life. Leaving the plot aside for a moment, I'll say I really enjoyed the consistency and pitch-perfect clarity of Barbara's voice in this book. Dench must have read it in preparation for the movie, because she embodied that character perfectly and, as I read, I could hear Dench's Barbara speaking each, clever, articulate line in my mind.

Unfortunately, the other reason I enjoyed reading the book so much doesn't speak well of the book. As a writer, I found it really fascinating to note the ways the film shifted and condensed the book, taking major liberties in some places, to make the story much more efficient and impactful. The subtle changes were most notable, slightly rearranging plot-points as though they were free-standing building blocks that could be placed into a better, shaplier order. The result is a film that's much tighter than the book, not because the book is sprawling, but because the book just isn't as well organized.

I was mildly disappointed to realize that the movie added extra-emphasis to Barbara's supposed lesbianism. In the novel, it's subtle to the point of nonexistance. You're left wondering if maybe it's so deeply suppressed that maybe it isn't there at all. In fact, the book paints her as much more a lonely spinster who is too bitter and clever to allow easy intimacy, yet who longs for it painfully and jealously. In the book you can see Barbara much more as the lonely schoolgirl who longed for emotional intimacy and intense bonds of friendship and who never quite graduated to concerns of physical love and romance.

The movie, however, implies something much more lurid and the scene in which Sheba confronts Barbara was more vulgar and explicit in the movie than the book. In the book, Sheba never even begins to accuse Barbara of having a lesbian crush on her and it makes me shudder just a little to realize that the filmmakers have once again used lesbianism to add an ick-factor to a circumstance where it otherwise wouldn't apply. Although, maybe I'm just being overly sensitive. Maybe the filmmakers were right to bring something out of the subtext and expose it more fully to the light. Who knows.

Anyway, when it's all said and done, if you're only going to experience one or the other of them, I recommend the movie. It's great.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

your little angel

As I listen to the lilting strains of a shrieking, squealing, moaning, pounding, wailing, bawling child in full tantrum mode, wafting down to me from upstairs, I am comforted by the news on Yahoo that a whole family was asked to get off an AirTran plane because their toddler was throwing a tantrum.

Can I just speak for the childless among us now and say "Thank you AirTran! You are my new hero!"

I usually don't enjoy children, especially more than one at a time and especially if they're no longer, officially, "babies." Babies are cute and blobby and their helpless cries are understandable and I feel nothing but empathy for them. But once they become verbal -- you know, *too* verbal -- they're just impossible to be around. I like quiet. I like peace. I don't like chaos or sudden loud noises or messes that aren't mine. Therefore, ergo, that is why: I don't have kids.

But anyway, my usual amount of "not enjoying" children is greatly augmented when kids are throwing tantrums. These fruity, pansy-ass parents these days will let their bratty little monsters get away with any kind of totally unacceptable behavior. It's one thing that I have a raving little maniac upstairs who is allowed to scream himself hoarse while his parents "calmly" wait for him to finally realize that he will not get any attention for his misbehavior. That's bad enough and it gives me vicious fantasies of going upstairs to throttle the little monster.

It's much worse, however, when people drag their little brats into public and let them torment the rest of the world with their tyrannical, screaming bullshit. I was not allowed to behave like that! All my mom had to do was give me one of her ominous "I'll jerk a knot in you!"s and that's all it took to shut me up. I don't know what jerking a knot in me would have looked like and I never found out.

What has happened to parents? First of all, just because a kid is mobile doesn't mean it's appropriate to take him everywhere. Maybe the screaming three year old is screaming because going to a fucking restaurant is beyond his current developmental capacity. Maybe it's just not his cup of tea. Maybe you uppity, yuppity parents need to rethink whatever entitlement process you have that makes you think the rest of the world wants to listen as you quietly try to cajole that shrieking monster of yours to shush a little and eat some of his yummy burrito. Maybe you gave up your right to a cush night out without a babysitter when you decided to make babies. Do us all a favor and hire some kid from the neighborhood to come watch that little monster for you, then you can go have your burrito and your adult conversation and the rest of us don't have to suffer from you terrible parenting.

I'm so happy to hear that AirTran had the nerve to do what I wish every proprieter of every business afflicted by tantrumming children could do: boot them out. If I could, I would go kiss AirTran on the cheek. And then I would go upstairs and throttle that little brat up there because he has been screaming NON STOP since I started writing this and the anger it's causing me is certain to give me an anuerysm or a heart attack or, possibly, just an ulcer. Where are my earplugs? Dear god, where are they???

Monday, January 22, 2007

long lost word of the day


Pronunciation: men-'dA-sh&s
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin mendac-, mendax -- more at AMEND
: given to or characterized by deception or falsehood or divergence from absolute truth (mendacious tales of his adventures)

synonym see DISHONEST

With new feature: I use it in a sentence!

The Bush administration is so mendacious, it is difficult to believe any statements they release.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

law of the day, thoughts on contracts


First I'd like to thank everyone (ok, mostly just SK and Roro) for your overwhelming support of law of the day. It's very exciting. And Roro, thanks for reminding me of Carbolic Smokeball. It's not just British, in fact, it's still good law here in America and we read it in law school. It's even mentioned in The Paper Chase in that Contracts class from hell.

The issue in Carbolic Smokeball was whether there was consideration, and that's my law of the day topic. But to explain consideration, I should say a few words about contracts. Before law school, I'm sure I thought I knew what a contract was. I'm sure I thought it was something (maybe some kind of agreement) written down and signed and I'm sure the writing and the signing would have seemed to be the most important part of all. Well, now I know that's mostly wrong.

Yes, a contract is an agreement, but whether it's in writing or signed is hardly important at all. Obviously, the terms of a written contract are much easier to prove in court than those of an oral contract, but the oral contract is no less valid. (Unless, of course, the Statute of Frauds applies, but that's beyond this little post so we'll leave it.)

No, a contract is really more like a bargained-for set of promises. The elements of a contract are 1.) offer, 2.) acceptance, and 3.) consideration. Well, who's ever heard of consideration? I had been a party to several contracts in my time, but had never heard of consideration until somewhere in the middle of my first year contracts class and, it turns out, consideration is probably the most important part of a contract, without which, there can *be* no binding contract.

So what is consideration? Good question. To me it always seems like a nebulous concept. Black's Law Dictionary says it's "Something of value (such as an act, a forbearance, or a return promise) received by a promissor from a promissee." It can also be described as the bargain part of the promise. It has to cause a benefit to the promisee and a detriment to the promisor. And it has to be legally valid, which, fortunately, doesn't take much.

For example, if I promise SK that I'll bring her a little bit of my new bubble bath so she can try it, that alone can hardly be considered a binding contract. (Which is good for me, because I forgot to bring her the bubble bath last night, sorry SK.) I wanted to bring her the bubblebath from my gratuitous desire to give her a gift, and I anticipated nothing in return.

If, however, I had offered to bring SK the bubblebath in exchange for her promise to do my laundry, then we'd have a different situation. My promise of bubblebath would be in consideration of her promise to do my laundry. Doing my laundry would be a detriment to her and a benefit to me. Legally, we could be said to have a contract because there is consideration. If I show up without the bubblebath (as I did) and find my laundry all done (which it was) -- I would be in a pickle (which, fortunately, I wasn't, but I swear I'll bring you the bubblebath tomorrow, SK. Thanks for the laundry.)

In Carbolic Smokeball, the company placed an ad in the paper claiming that proper use of the Carbolic Smokeball would fix what ails you and promising a money reward to anyone who used it for the prescribed period and in the prescribed manner and yet still caught "the influenza." Well, the plaintiff in this case bought the ball and used it and still caught "the influenza" so she asked for her reward. When she wasn't given the reward she sued, etc, etc, and the case turned on whether there had been consideration. Ultimately it was decided that yes, her "thrice daily" use of the smoke ball according to the directions of the advertisement was certainly a detriment to her. And she bought the smokeball in order to use it, which was a benefit to the company. They were ordered to pay up.

Now, the question remains, what the hell is a carbolic smoke ball and can you get high off of it?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

law of the day

Res Ipsa Loquitor

Legal study involves much less Latin than you might imagine, but this is my favorite bit of legal latin. It means "the thing speaks for itself" and concerns the tort of negligence. To show negligence itself, a plaintiff must show 1.) the existence of a duty on the part of the defendant, 2.) a breach of that duty, that 3.) was the actual and proximate cause of the 4.) damage to the plaintiff.

One of the handful of ways you can show a breach of a duty is through the principle of res ipsa loquitor. Sometimes something is so fucked up, just the existence of it is proof of negligence, whether or not you're able to pin down exactly what happened to cause it or who was responsible. My favorite example of this is when you wake up from surgery with a watch sown up inside your abdomen. Yeah, don't you hate it when that happens?

To show res ipsa loquitor, a plaintiff must show that 1.) the accident that caused the injury is of a type that wouldn't occur without negligence, and 2.) the negligence is attributable to the defendant, which can often be proved by showing the defendent was in exclusive control of the instrumentalities that caused the injury. In the bad surgery example, having a watch sown up inside you is certainly the type of injury that doesn't typically occur without negligence. And the defendants (who would probably be everyone present in the operating room during the surgery) could certainly be shown to have had exclusive control over the instrumentalities of the injury (you know, like, the slicing you open instruments and the sowing you back up instruments and, yes, of course, the watch).

Res ipsa loquitor represents an area of law that grapples with the absurdity of life, and that's why I like it. Similar to the "eggshell skull plaintiff" theory, which basically says, "you take your plaintiff as you find him, even if he does have some freakish condition that causes him to actually *die* from something that wouldn't have even hurt a normal person. Too bad for you." Torts can be brutal.

haunting me in my sleep

For the third night in a row, I dreamed I was explaining points of law to people and complaining about studying. Last night, I dreamed I was explaining the "attractive nuisance" doctrine to my grandmother in Georgia and the concept of nuisance in general to my aunt who had been standing in the kitchen listening. As she dried some dishes she said, "Hey, I was wondering, what *is* a nuisance anyway? I mean, legally."

I guess, at this point, I would *love* for someone in my life to exhibit the slightest interest in this stuff I'm cramming into my head so diligently. I would probably cry tears of joy if my aunt, or anybody else for that matter, asked me to explain what a nuisance was and I remember, as I explained it in my dream, I felt so happy to be able to answer her question so thoroughly.

Anyway, whether you like it or not, I'm going to start blogging about what I'm studying. Remember word of the day? And the somewhat defunct poem of the day? Now we're going to have law of the day. Not right now, I'll post one later. Consider this your warning. Maybe if I blog about it, I will relieve myself from having to *dream* about. I'd like sleep to be a nice, peaceful place full of *cool* stuff, like flying, not talking about the crap I spent all day studying. That's lame.

Friday, January 19, 2007

in recent news

In no particular order:

1.) I bought Peaceful Patchouli bubble bath today. I realize this means I'll be bathing in hippie juice, but I don't care. I already use patchouli soap, so why not go all out and get bubble bath too? A hot bath at night with a good book after a long day of studying is the most awesome thing going for me lately.

2.) I'm reading The Brother's Karamzov. I know, I know, I was all excited about my three library books (War of the World, Social Intelligence, and this book of essays by Jean Amery) but it was a case of book overload. The three-week library time-limit (none of them were renewable) put too much pressure on me. I cracked. I started all three, couldn't commit, panicked, and started reading something else. I mean, really, they weren't all three supposed to come in at the same time. I'd had them all on hold for varying lengths of time and I had hoped they would all trickle in one at a time. But no. I did, however, use the Barnes and Noble gift card my brother Alex gave me for X-mas to buy War of the Worlds online today. I love more than anything getting books in the mail. In a week or so, once I've totally forgotten I ordered it, I will be SO PSYCHED to see I have a box on the porch! I can't wait.

3.) I'm sleepy.

4.) You may or may not know this, but every week I facilitate a Writing Group at work. (You also may or may not know, I work in a transitional housing facility for the homeless mentally ill.) Anyway, Writing Group has been churning out some really cool stuff lately and you should go check it out at The In-Between Places. (It's in my links list.) Those folks are awesome.

5.) Speaking of awesome, we've had a spate of *actual* winter weather here in Portland the past two weeks, and so, for eight days, my little workplace operated a Severe Weather Emergency Overflow Shelter. That means we had 15+ strangers sleeping on the floor in our basement every night. It was a lot of extra work and was a bit of a drain on our program, but it came off without any major problems (one fist-fight inside and one knife-fight outside notwithstanding) and YAY FOR US we helped a lot of people not freeze to death. And that's a pretty good thing.

6.) SK and I sort of relaxed our obligations to and expectations from each other last weekend, which means I've got my weekend nights mostly free to study till late and take hot baths, etc. We're still talking a lot on the phone, though, which is good because otherwise I'd be really, really lonely. We had good conversations today. I can't remember what they were about anymore, but they were really interesting. Thanks, SK.

7.) I don't love coffee anymore. I don't know why for sure, but it started last month when I was sick for a long time. My whole digestive system went on strike for a week or so, and I eventually stopped eating solid food for awhile, etc, etc. Once I was otherwise feeling (and eating) much better, my body still hadn't recovered its ability to process (and furthermore *enjoy*) coffee. This is monumental. I love coffee. I am in love with coffee. I roast my own fucking green coffee beans in a hot air popcorn popper, for chrissakes, such is my love for coffee. And yet: it's gone.

I thought I'd just grown intolerant to caffeine, so I started drinking only decaf (I know, for shame) but while the jitteries and stomach-grumblies went away, the sheer *pleasure* of drinking coffee never returned. A few nights ago, while mourning the loss of my love for coffee, a radical idea struck me. My grandmother, the one who died last month, was like my patron saint of coffee. She gave me coffee when I was just a tiny toddler, mostly milk and sugar of course, but that was probably even worse because it made coffee so extra-appealing to my young little tastebuds. She may as well have dipped some crack in dark chocolate and rolled it in powdered sugar for me.

Anyway, I have always thanked her in my heart for turning me on to coffee and for loving it so much herself. She would brew up a pot of coffee at set intervals throughout the day and I always associate the deeply inviting smell of brewing coffee with her. So it suddenly struck me, there in the bath, that she died in December and she TOOK MY LOVE OF COFFEE TO THE GRAVE WITH HER!! As heartbreaking as this seems, initially, I guess I could look at it as a kind of a blessing. Maybe if I go off coffee for awhile, drinking coffee occasionally will start be like having a very special celebration of her. I can have infrequent ancestor worship sessions wherein I brew up a pot of foldgers and put in lots of milk and sugar and sit and reminesce about her. That wouldn't be so bad.

8.) Now I'm going to bed.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

as usual, they're way ahead of us

I just heard on the radio (thank god for the radio or I wouldn't know anything) that in Canada they're making a new sitcom called "Little Mosque on the Prairie."

At first I was worried, but soon I realized this wasn't some awful make-fun-of-the-muslims type show we might expect from, say, Comedy Central (or, uh, Fox News). Instead, it was created by a Muslim, presumeably will have Muslim writers, and will be about a small Muslim community in a Canadian town that decides to start a mosque in the basement of a local church.

The show will deal not only with the complications of life as a Muslim in the mostly non-Muslim West, but also with issues within Islam that are divisive and interesting to Muslims and, I imagine, to non-Muslims as well. Depending on the writing, this could be really awesome and I'm jealous that we don't (and probably won't) have something like this here.

Wonder how long it will take for DVDs of the first season to end up at the library...?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

white house correspondents' association dinner: 100% less awesome!

Remember how last year Steven Colbert headlined the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner and took his life in his own hands to rip Dubya a new a-hole in a tightly written, bitterly hilarious "roast," while Dubya looked on from his seat with a rueful smirk? Wasn't that so awesome?

Well, the awesome stops there. This year, to keep things cushy and comfortable, they've booked none other than Rich Little to do the headlining. What? He's still alive? Are you sure? Okay, whatever you say.

Anyway, I guess it would've just been cruel at this point to kick ol' George in the pants, since he got kicked in the pants in November, he had to fire his buddy Rummy, and the Dems are now rollicking all over Congress with their liberal agendas. I mean... Colbert's treatment would just seem... redundant this year.

dear lady at the coffeeshop

CC: to guy in the coffeeshop Sunday night.

I am so happy that you both have good jobs. I am also very impressed with your fancy telephone headsets and your laptops. That's great. Technology is obviously working for you! I'm also *really* happy to see that you've been unfettered from that prison of an office that you would otherwise be working in. Thank god for small miracles, right? Right.

But really, the reason I'm writing you is to ask you to shut the fuck up in the coffeeshop. Perhaps put a little faith in the technology you're using to communicate: your phone should transmit your voice just fine. You don't have to SHOUT. Believe it or not, nobody in the coffeeshop is all that interested in the mundane details of the business deals you're working out.

I'm sure you're proud of yourself and maybe your mom is proud of you too. That's good. I'd just like you to be a little quieter. I mean, look at me, I'm wearing earplugs and you're halfway across the room and I still feel like you're sitting in my lap and screaming in my ear. It's really not necessary. I know, I know: it's the risk I take trying to study in a public place. But whatever happened to common courtesy? Was there ever such a thing?

In closing, I implore you: lower your voice because you're making my head swim and my eyes water and, really, if you could see yourself right now (and the glares from the rest of the people in here) you'd probably be ashamed of yourself. Thanks,


true glee

Remember yesterday, when I said I was gleefull about the radio, then I said, you know, that glee was kind of a stretch? Well, that pretend glee was just a run-up to the *real* glee I felt this morning when I woke up and through my sleepy, bleary eyes, saw that it was SNOWING outside! I jumped out of bed, clapped my hands and ran across the room to the window, squealing "It's snowing! It's snowing! Just like I was a kid again.

I love snow. And it hardly ever snows here so this is a real treat as far as I'm concerned. Unfortunately, I had to go to a mandatory work training today, but I almost didn't mind because it meant I got to go clean two inches of snow off my car, two whole inches!! And then I got to drive in it! I love to drive in snow. I don't know what's wrong with me.

Otherwise the training was boring and I felt restless stuck in that stark room listening to a terrible presenter while the snow kept falling in dense drifts just outside. I could only see it through a narrow strip of glass on the far wall and I felt bad every time I looked over towards it because the girl across the aisle thought I was looking at her and every time I would look at the snow, she would look just for an instant at me, and it was awkward.

Among other things, I learned that it is sexual harrassment to give someone a shoulder rub at work, EVEN IF THEY REQUEST IT. Asked to explain why, one of the presenters could only explain that "it's a slippery slope." Not necessarilly. Only if you use massage oil. Ha ha. Anyway, I also learned that it is against our company policy to talk about or post information about or images relating to: race, religion or politics that others might find offensive. Including a "Jesus Saves" screen saver. Jesus might save your soul, but he can't be trying to save your screen at work. One woman specifically seemed pretty upset about the Jesus thing, but everybody else focused so heavilly on the massage thing that you'd think all we did all day was go around rubbing each other. And, as far as I can tell, that's not the case.

By far, the biggest highlight of the snow (besides the awesome and all consuming glory of that magical, glistening white blanket out there) is that my DENTIST'S APPOINTMENT IS CANCELLED!! Yay!!! I was supposed to get a few more fillings today at one o'clock but the dentist's office has closed because the roads are too trecherous. That means I get to eat solid food for two more days! Yay! Then we'll try it all again on Thursday. Oh well.

Now I'm gonna go play in the snow! I mean, no I'm gonna go walk in the snow up to the coffeeshop where I will diligently study for several hours, even though this was supposed to be my day off from studying. No dentist's appointment means no day off from studying. Oh well. But first, I'ma make a little snowman to stand at the top of my stairs! Yay!

frozen door update

This site has been getting hit after hit from people who have done google searches for some variant of "frozen car door won't shut." Wow. There was a need in the world, and I filled it.

I'm not sure what those folks are looking for exactly, maybe just an amusing story, a chance to commiserate, etc. However, if they're looking for practical advice as to how to fix the problem of the frozen *open* car door, I can't help. I can only say that I left the thing sitting until the temp got above freezing and then it worked.

I tried heating the car up from the inside while leaning my body (mostly the ass area) against the door lock, in hopes that my body heat would seep through the steel of my car door and thaw things out. That didn't work. I thought about trying to bring an extension cord plus hair dryer outside, but my extension cord isn't long enough. I guess I'm lucky to live in a place where the temp rose a smidge above freezing the next day, otherwise...? Hair dryer, maybe? Pouring on hot water? Though, that just sounds like trouble, I don't know.

To all those folks out there with their car doors frozen open, I say, good luck. It sucks. I wish I could help.

Monday, January 15, 2007

it's about time

I was gleeful (ok, maybe "gleeful" is a stretch...) when I woke up this morning and remembered that today is the day my local NPR station boots Performance Today in favor of two new talk shows. Yay! I hate Performance Today which, until today, used to run from 9am until 11am. That's two solid hours of classical music, no talk!

You know, I don't completely hate classical music, but I'm selective. First, the time and place have to be right. (Every day from 9am to 11am doesn't begin to match up to my minimal classical music needs.) And, of course, the selection is important. Nice piano nocturnes are ok. And thundering Beethoven strings are good too. But woodwinds make me a little cranky and, throw in some brass and some goddamn xylophones and I'm ready to slit my wrists. I guess it's a matter of taste (or -- I'm willing to admit -- the lack thereof).

So now they've farmed Performance Today out to the all-the-time classical station a few hitches down the dial and I say 'good riddance.' In it's place are two, hour-long talk shows that seem promising. One is called Here and Now and it sounds like your standard NPR talk show, I caught the last bit of a woman interviewing a man who is protesting "view tax" added to property tax when your house has a great view. He called it "the wow factor" and thought that wasn't good enough.

I didn't hear enough to form an opinion, but I felt gleeful again when, at the end of the broadcast, she welcomed Oregon to the fold and announced that we were the newest set of stations to start playing her show. Yay! We're here! We're listening! We're so relieved that we don't have to turn off the radio every day between 9 and 11, to be left only with the sound of our own pathetic thoughts!

The second show is called "World, Have Your Say" which is a BBC program that seems like it will be a global version of Talk of the Nation. So far, I've only listened to a few minutes of it, but... I'm not so sure about it. Maybe it's a cultural thing, but the announcer is loud and he sounds a little bit argumentative. In fact, he keeps interrupting his guest. That's annoying. How I long for the dulcet tones of Neal Conan who wouldn't *dream* of interrupting a guest, unless he really, really *had* to. Hmm. Well, as the theme song of my favorite childhood show says, "You take the good, you take the bad, you take 'em both and there you have: the facts of life. The facts of life."

Yeah. So. There you go.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Remember how I said I wasn't going to post about studying anymore? Well. I lied. I'm sorry, but it's all I do! I have to post about it or I won't be able to post about anything at all! Forgive me.

So, today while studying at the Black Cat Coffeeshop, I thought back wistfully on a little idea I had a year or so ago about bar study. I tried to convince my colleagues and classmates of the genius of this idea, but to no avail. My idea was this: rather than spend $2,000 on the bar-study prep course, why not take that $2000 and go to Mexico for two months to study??!! Brilliant, no?

I guess I concocted this idea sometime after returning from my trip to Mexico in the summer of 2004. It seemed perfect to me. I imagined myself in the little town of Tulum, south of Cancun and just north of Belize, in the Yucutan, where I stayed several days on my trip. I thought I could find myself a cheap room somewhere, study all day, and then lounge on the beach in the evenings. There might be distractions, but they'd all be in Spanish, so they wouldn't sink in nearly as much. And the over-all atmosphere would be really, really relaxing.

You know, it still sounds pretty perfect to me, and I'm not sure why I gave it up. Oh well. I guess it's too late to turn back now, but it feels nice to just imagine it for a few minutes. Ahhhhh, the lilting waves! Ahhhhh, the ocean breeze! Ahhhh, I just tipped my mojito over on my Multistate Drills and Released Questions book! Oh well. I'll just order another. Mojito, that is.

Ok, I guess that's why I stayed in town. Oh well.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

mea culpa

One hearty apology goes out to Shelley who I'm sure I mortified with the very public freak-out that I blamed on a comment she posted a couple days ago. Yes, that comment freaked me out, but all the fuel for the freak-out was already piled up inside me like dry tinder just waiting for a spark. So. I'm really sorry Shelley. You were being kind and offering an otherwise useful tip, and I flipped out. We've exchanged private emails, etc, etc, but I thought it was only fair to apologize publicly as well, since I flipped out publicly. And from now on I will try to do my flipping out in private.

Friday, January 12, 2007

maybe this will seem funny tomorrow...

My car door won't shut. It's been below freezing all week and I've let my car just sit there in the shade on the street without once getting in and cranking it up since Sunday. Why? Because I'm a good girl and I ride the bus to work. But when it's time to get over to SK's on the other side of the river, the bus is simply too inconvenient, out of the way and time consuming. Why waste an hour and one bus transfer to go all the way down to the damn Rose Quarter transit center when I can simply jet across the Fremont bridge in my own car in less than 15 minutes?

Well, that's all fine and good until mother nature renders your little golden chariot USELESS. I went out tonight after my long boring day studying, all packed up and ready to spend a nice, cushy evening with SK. My first sign of trouble was the frozen door lock. With a little shoving and wiggling it eventually gave way and then the sort of *puuuuuullll* and the sort of *craaaaaaackle* of the door as I wrenched it open from it's frozen state. I didn't bother to shut it as I cranked up the engine, adjusted the defrosters and looked around for the scraper.

Once I got out to scrape the windshield, however, I realized I was in trouble. I shut the door and it bounced right back open. WTF. So I shut it again and again it bounced open. So, after a volley of SLAM-SLAM-SLAMS and curses, I ran in for my flashlight so I could inspect the effing lock mechanism to see what effing heck was going on. In short: nothing was going on. When I pulled the handle, nothing happened when I know, for a fact, that SOMETHING is supposed to happen when you pull the door handle. Something mysterious but nonetheless significant.

I slammed and slammed the door a lot more, just to make myself feel better, then I called SK who suggested helpful things, none of which worked. So that was that. I would not be driving across the river tonight. Fine. I turned my car around so that gravity wasn't pulling the door open and I used a bungee cord to hold the thing relatively shut... shut enough to keep the open-door lights from coming on. Hopefully it will stay that way all night. And hopefully, tomorrow, it will warm up enough to thaw my g.d. car out enough to function for a frickin change. And maybe, also, I'll stop using all these fake cuss words because the fake cuss words are just weird.

plan b

First I want to say a hearty THANKS A LOT to Shelley for the midnight freakout caused by the comment she put on my last post. Don't study more than 8-10 hours a day? Thanks for the tip, I'm sure that won't be a problem. AUGH!!!!!!!!!!! The only thing I do 8-10 hours a day is WORK AT MY JOB.

So, I spent some time today in a full-on freak-out and realized that, while I know I don't have to study 8-10 hours a day to pass this goddamn exam, I do have to study more than I have been. So I'm streamlining. I'll take one day off per week (leaving me four entire days to study, instead of just three). And I'll cut down on the time I usually reserve for SK on my days off. Sorry sweetie. See you in March.

I will also immediately delete any information that enters my world and causes me to freak out for any reason, including but not limited to: unsolicited and unintentionally unnerving barstudy tips (sorry Shelley), and fights with my girlfriend (sorry SK). Anything that doesn't stroke me and support me (or at least leave me neutrally unaffected) will just have to take a number and get back to me in March. Ya hear that? March.

And I will stop blogging about barstudy b/c it is BORING. Sorry.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

when it rains, it pours

I'm speaking of books, not the frozen precipitation we're supposed to be getting here in P-Town. That hasn't been forthcoming. But books. Books are raining on me like crazy. And because reading books for pleasure is *ALL* I want to be doing right now (probably because barstudy is preventing me from doing that or anything else besides working and walking around like a zombie) I'll take this brief break to *write* about all the books I wish I could be reading.

I'll start with the one book I actually am reading (the benefit of my cushy job: I can read when it's slow). The book is called The Master and Margarita, by Russian novelist Mikhail Bulgakov. I read about Bulgakov a couple of weeks ago when someone destroyed most of a museum that was dedicated to him in Russia. And by "museum" I mean, a flat in an apartment building that was dedicated to his memory and artifacts. He was a controversial writer whose good stuff couldn't be published until after his death because of the Stalinist era in which he lived. The Master and Margarita is a really fun book to read -- a satire that is considered his masterpiece, very 'magical realism' -- Satan comes to earth and wreaks havoc in Moscow while the bureaucracy tries to sort it all out. There's a talking cat who walks on his hind legs and pours himself glasses of brandy. Women become witches and fly naked through the air. Etc, etc. I am almost through with it and it's great.

Meanwhile, just as I was lamenting that this great book was almost over, I got a notice from the library that no less than THREE books I've had on hold are now waiting for me, all at the same time! Two are books I've had on hold so long, I've forgotten about them, but they all look pretty interesting.

One is called Radical Humanism, collected essays by Jean Amery. Amery was an Austrian Jew who was raised Roman Catholic by his mother and who eventually fled (after liberation from Aushwitz) to France where he lived and wrote dark, philosophical stuff in the school of Sartre. He's so legit, not only did he write a philosophical book contemplating the value of suicide, but he actually, eventually KILLED HIMSELF. So, you know, he walks his talk. Or, I mean, he *did* walk his talk. Now he's just dead and he, presumeably, neither walks nor talks anymore. But who knows.

The other book waiting for me is Social Intelligence, the New Science of Human Relationships, by Daniel Goleman. This one looks pretty interesting. It uses new information about how our bodies and brains work to show that we are wired to be social and that our social interactions with people are much more complex and impactful than we might realize. I can't explain what seems so cool about it, it just seems cool. Trust me.

Finally, the last book for me to pick up from the ol' library is called War of the World, Twentieth Century Conflict and the Descent of the West, by Niall Ferguson. By focusing mostly on WWII and the Holocaust, Ferguson looks at war in the twentieth century and tries to explain why it was globally the bloodiest century yet. According to reviews, it's never entirely clear what he considers to be "the West" and how he thinks it is "declining" -- but it seems like an interesting history lesson nonetheless and I wish I had time to read it. Not to mention, it got a great review in the New York Times and that's why I put it on hold in the first place.

Unfortunately, I will probably not have time to read this 800 page tome. But hopefully I can cram in some of the other, easier books while lounging around at work or right before bed. Otherwise, it's all study study study and that, my friends, is making me feel crazy. And it's only been two weeks. I've got, like, six more weeks to go! Augh.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

absurd news of the day

"Yale barbershop singers recovering after ambush"

I love headlines. Apparently a "close-harmony" acapella singing group from Yale was beat-up after singing the Star Spangled Banner at a New Year's Eve party in California. I guess I'm a bad person because I think this is hilarious. I imagine them with their bowties all akimbo and their straw hats busted down over their heads with the tops popped out and the hat brims around their necks. Its like a Three Stooges routine.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Because I'm locked in my house with nothing but a stack of barstudy materials and some food and water (and, this gorgeous computer), I have little ability to amuse myself. Lucky for me, the bar prep books are filled with entertainment, ranging from the silly to the completely disturbing.

Examples: the Administrative Law portion of the workbook includes little songs to help remember things, like this one (sung to the tune of "That's Amore!"): "When agency fools act beyond statutory rules, that's ULTRA VIRES! ULTRA VIRES!" Or this one, to the tune of "Celebrate!": "Delegate! Delegate! Dance to that music!" (Because, you see, the legislature has to delegate, and the agency has to dance to the... oh nevermind.)

And then there's this creepy gem, used to illustrate that 'impossibility' is no defense to conspiracy, from the Criminal Law Outline: "A and B agree to rape a woman whom they believe is asleep. In fact, she is dead. A and B may be convicted of conspiracy to rape."

What. The. Fuck.

Was that the only example anyone could scrape up for this situation? My mind still reels with the over-all fucked-up-edness of this scenerio. And, of course, I wanted to share it with others. Enjoy.

Monday, January 08, 2007

welcome legislators

There is a man on my radio praying to the god of Abraham on behalf of the state of Oregon. OPB is broadcasting live from the opening of this year's state legislative session. In case you weren't aware, these kinds of things still kick-off with a prayer, which, because of it's traditional quality, has been found not to violate the so-called separation of church and state implied in the First Amendment of the constitution.

Before starting the prayer which was drawn from the Bible, the officiate (whoever he was) was kind enough to remind us that Jews, Christians and Muslims all consider the Bible to be a sacred book. True enough. As for the rest of us, those of us who have less of a relationship with the god of Abraham and that sacred book derived from his people... well... I guess it won't kill us to hear a little prayer. At least it was an inclusive prayer, he even mentioned 'sexual orientation' which, I think, is pretty impressive. If you've gotta hear a prayer, I guess it's good to hear a friendly one.

Anyway, I was more concerned with the woman who sang the anthem. What does it say about this country that we have an anthem that's so hard to sing? Whenever anyone starts, I notice I listen on eggshells, filled with anxiety that the singer's range won't stretch to accomodate those particularly high parts. Is it just me, or does almost everyone who attempts this song end up sounding pretty terrible? When this woman today managed to finish without totally wrecking the thing, I was relieved and proud of her. Unfortunately, something about the ceremony of the occasion precluded applause, which I thought was a real shame. After all that work, all those impossibly high notes, not to mention the pressure she was under, she deserved a hearty round of applause. Good for her.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

oh to be the bigger person

Funny what happens when you finally find yourself in the minority in Congress. The Republicans have given a couple of their junior members the job of proposing a "minority bill of rights" to guarantee fairness and bipartisan politics for themselves as the minority party. Hmm. Funny. Turns out it's exactly the same minority bill of rights that Pelosi floated in 2004 when the Democrats were in the minority. And did the Republicans adopt it? Uh, no. No they didn't. And do they want it now that *they're* in the minority? Uh, yes. Of course they do. When asked whether they felt they were being a tad hypocritical, they said (and I'm paraphrasing) "Dude, I just got elected, you can't blame me for whatever happened before I got here." Sure thing, chump. As much as I want the Dems to rise up and be the better people here, I want them to rub the faces of the Republicans in their bullshit hypocrisy a little longer before they do the right thing.

cocktail party

My retro friends threw a sort of retro cocktail party last night. They're a couple and I've known them since I moved here in 2001, making them some of my oldest friends in town. Sadly, I don't see much of them anymore, but that's as much my fault as anything. I learned last night that I don't have a single thing to wear to a cocktail party. I showed up in jeans and a black turtleneck and saw the people I used to drink Pabst in dive bars with, now wearing suits and ties and cocktail dresses. I looked more like I was coming to a beat poetry reading. At least SK had a black velvet shirt to wear, which looked slightly nicer than what I'd put together. Oh well. It was a decent break from studying and that's all I can think to say about it.

Friday, January 05, 2007


I started bar study on Monday and I realize now that bar study is going to be this breakneck sort of thing that sucks up all my attention and makes eight weeks fly by like nothing. It was actually fun at first, but I imagine it will get tedious pretty soon.

Today, I treated myself to the only treat you can afford when your life is devoted to studying and work: I studied somewhere besides my house. I took my stuff down to Daddy Mojo's on the corner of 15th and Alberta and sat in a big booth and ordered a Triple Decker club sandwich with a side of fried okra. Fried okra, I should mention, is my favorite food. I studied while I ate and got a lot done.

The best thing about my Daddy Mojo's experience was the photography. The wall next to me was literally covered to the ceiling in framed photographs of people of varying types of celebrity. For instance, a smiling Ted Kennedy hovered at eye level, presiding over my booth like a patron saint. The picture was autographed. A few up from him was JFK. A few to the right of JFK was Woodie Guthrie. A few to the left of JFK was a very young Dolly Parton, sitting on a stool with tall hair and a guitar. If I could've subtly stolen that picture off the wall and taken it home, I would have. That picture was lovely.

Tomorrow night I'm off work and, after my at least five hours of concentrated studying, I'm going to see "Notes on a Scandal" with SK at the real theater downtown, not any of the cheap theaters I usually go to. Then, on Saturday, we're going to a cocktail party and we have to dress up in "cocktail attire," whatever that means. I think I have a blue velvet blazer in my closet... if I only had an ascot... Anyway, all in all, things aren't too bad.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

word of the day


"The preterite are the non-elect of Puritan theology, those who are passed over, abandoned by God and history, and in the first pages of Gravity’s Rainbow the bombed population of London during World War Two is already discounting its chances: ‘Each has been hearing a voice, one he thought was talking only to him, say, “You didn’t really believe you’d be saved. Come, we all know who we are by now. No one was ever going to take the trouble to save *you*, old fellow.”"

I ran across this word in a London Review of Books article on Thomas Pynchon's latest opus, 'Against the Day.' (found at: Apparently preterism is a recurring theme in Pynchon's work. I thought the explanation of the word sounded really interesting and so I reproduce it here for your reading enjoyment. I wonder if this is the same concept that inspires the 'Left Behind' series of books? Although I imagine those books have a less philosophical quality and a more "holy shit, how can we redeem ourselves" outlook. Otherwise, I can't imagine my family would love them so much.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

something nice for a change

I just heard a great story on NPR about a couple in (I'm guessing b/c I missed the first seconds of the piece) Colorado who took in 44 people during the white-out. Unreal. They live on a ranch and became aware that several vehicles were stranded near their property via contact on the short-wave radios they normally use to communicate on the ranch. By their report, without hesitation, they gave directions and assisted all 44 of the people stranded nearby to get to their property where they all cohabitated for several days. And to make this more than just an awesome act of kindness and generosity, to make this something more like a Christmas Miracle, one of the stranded vehicles was an 18-wheeler loaded full of groceries! So they had food. The couple, interviewed just now, said they actually kind of missed their visitors now that they were all gone -- just like when family comes for Christmas and then leaves and the house feels strangely empty. And I thought that was pretty sweet.

Monday, January 01, 2007

down memery lane...

I hijacked this year-end meme from SK's blog (good on you, baby, you're a real blogger now, with your fancy meme!) and so, here it is. My 2006 year in meme-review:

1. What did you do in 2006 that you'd never done before?
Wrote a complete first draft of a very bad novel. Finished law school.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I can't remember if I made any last year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth or adopt?
My upstairs people had their baby in the spring.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yeah, my grandmother. In december. :-(

5. What countries did you visit?
Only this one...

6. What would you like to have in 2007 that you lacked in 2006?
A new identity.

7. What dates from 2006 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
January 15th anniversary with SK. December 13th, grandmother died. The rest is just an undifferentiated blur.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Finishing school.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I wasted my summer.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I was sick most of last week. Otherwise, no.

11. What was the best thing you bought?.
Keen hiking sandals this summer and some new Keen shoes just yesterday. They're awesome.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
SK's behavior frequently merited celebration. Waspy should be celebrated for passing the bar. My mom should be celebrated for settling a very old lawsuit. Fat Tony should be celebrated for having one of his one-act plays produced.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
I'm copying SK's answer to this one because it really sums things up: "Where to begin? The US government, credit card companies, HMO's, dictators globally, fascists, racists, homophobes, misogynists, fur-wearers, anti-semites, islamophobes, one sided attitudes…"

14. Where did most of your money go?
Rent. By far.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Yachats, becoming atheletic this summer with my Keen sandals and forest park with SK, seeing Adrienne Rich my favorite poet of all time this spring, SK coming back from Australia, writing a Nano novel, finishing school and, of course, Jack the Gripper.

16. What song will always remind you of 2006?
"There's so much water so close to home..." with SK singing.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? happier
b) thinner or fatter? thinner, especially after my recent sickness
c) richer or poorer? hard to say, really.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
I wish I'd been a better student. I wish I'd done pro bono work this summer. And I wish I'd written more.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Staring at the computer.

20. How did you spend New Years?
Watching movies in SK's bed. And eating burritos.

21. Did you fall in love in 2006?

22. How many one-night stands?
Zero. Those are gross.

23. What was your favorite TV program?.
I mostly don't watch tv, but at SK's I enjoyed The Daily Show, until she lost her free cable...

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Hate is harsh.

25. What was the best book you read?
Hard to name a "best" -- I just read a really important book about Islam called "No god but God" that I totally recommend. I also loved "For Whom the Bell Tolls" this summer -- it's what first made me want to go to Spain.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I don't follow the music much these days, though SK made me some great cds of girl singers whose names I can't remember.

27. What did you want and get?
I wanted a good place to live and I got it.

28. What did you want and not get?
Again, I must steal SK's answer: "Did not win the lottery. Yet."

29. What was your favorite film of this year?

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 32. I went to a bar with random people and realized my days of drinking in bars and enjoying it are almost totally over.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Not having to work until midnight 4 nights a week. Being able to see SK more.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2006?
I look homeless.

33. What kept you sane?
Sometimes meditation. Sometimes reading. Sometimes the blankness and availability of the internet.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Mostly nobody.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
The mini-war between Israel and Hezbollah.

36. Who did you miss?
Friends. Family.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
I met Adrienne Rich and that was pretty awesome (if getting an autograph counts as "meeting") -- I also really loved my professor Eagle Eye Goldberg this year, even though I didn't officially "meet" her this year, I felt like I did because my experience of her in the seminar I took was so different from my experience of her in the other class she taught. She moved me.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2006:
Sometimes you just have to suck it up, shut up, quit whining and don't expect a medal for anything.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
I can't quote a song lyric that sums up my year. Sorry.

i wish i'd known

Last night I watched the movie Paper Chase for the first time. If you don't know, Paper Chase is the famous movie from the '70s about first year students at Harvard Law School and one particular professor who scares the living hell out of them. I could say a whole lot about the movie and my reactions to it, but I won't. Why? Because I learned something very important from watching that movie, something I wish I'd known a long time ago. Law school is not that interesting to people who aren't in it. And when you're in it and you spend all your time whining about it, you suck. And you're lucky if anybody wants to be around you ever again.