June 29, 2005

Who says the U.S. is the most litigious nation?

We don't even have an astrologist suing for damages resulting from space exploration.

Gotta admire the astrologist's gumption though...

June 28, 2005

The gift that keeps on giving

Tonight, we went through another two cans of the garbonzo beans (the Channa Masala was an excellent addition to the recipe file) from the stockpile I inherited from D when she ditched Norcal for Socal. Traitor.

Anyways, tonight's offering was falafel with harissa and a simple greek salad of whole milk yogurt, tomatoes, cucumbers and dill. It was quite a bit of work to make the falafel and harissa all in one night, but it was worth it. So yeah, another big thanks to D. If she's gonna abandon me, at least she left me with the ingredients to force me to make cowboy caviar, channa masala, and now falafel. I guess there is a silver lining in every cloud.

On a totally unrelated note, anyone who is a warm person have an opinion about the value of a visor while running vis-a-vis a mesh hat? The full material hat is not cutting it in the heat and I'm out for a replacement but I can't decide if the exposure to the direct sun is worth the evaporation.

June 27, 2005

Books 9, 10, almost 11, and 11

So, it's been since March that I've posted an installment in my approximately 25 book challenge list. Again, I'm glad I didn't join the overachievers in the 50 book challenge, because clearly, by now, I'd be beaten. But instead, at 11 books down and 14 to go, I've got a reasonable chance of meeting my goal. Hip hip hooray for mediocrity, moderation, and mmmm.... mmm.... something that starts with m.

Book 9 was way back in puerto rico: The House on the Lagoon, by Rosario Ferre. It may be the best book I've read so far this year. It had a little bit of everything, historical tidbits about a place I was visiting that I wouldn't otherwise know, a convoluted plot with a surprise twist at the end, complicated characters that the reader is forced to simulataneously love and hate, and, of course, gorgeous language. If you liked Love in the time of Cholera or 100 years of solitude you will also like The House on the Lagoon. All three books have a similar vein of genetic faultlines and humanity running through drama against a gorgeous backdrop. I know people who find this type of writing annoying. But, thankfully, I'm one of the appreciators who also happened to be in the setting of the book at the time I read it, so I thorougly enjoyed it and heartily recommend it.

Book #10: In keeping with the Raggaeton theme, book #10 was also a Puerto Rico read, also way back in April. I decided I needed to know more about the political writings of the Puerto Ricans because although I knew little about them as a people, I knew they were conflicted, particularly on the issue of their relationship with the U.S. So, I read Boricuas: Influential Puerto Rican Writings -- An Anthology. It was full of firey texts from revolutionaries, painful expository writings of those caught between cultures, and pragmatic but less passionate pleas for moderation from others. This book probably wins the award for the most educational non school text I've read this year. I started it with only The House on the Lagoon as my Puerto Rican cultural background. I finished it confused and impressed by the complex issues this culture faces. I was very glad to have read it during my stay in Puerto Rico and wholeheartedly recommend it to travelers who like to have an idea of the politics of the places they visit.

Book Almost #11: This is an embarrassment. As early as the beginning of March, I ordered and promised myself I'd read Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August. I finished half of it in the last few days of our Puerto Rico trip and the flights back. But then, I stalled. It's an amazing book because it chronicles the beginning of World War I in astounding detail. But, if you become too busy and put it down for two weeks, I dare you to pick it up and have any clue who the generals are, which armies they command, and why it matters that they just decided to retreat instead of charge forth. Perhaps when I'm older and less distracted I will have the fortitude to get through this (and the half-finished copy of Ulysses that stays by my bed).

Book #11 (for reals): D stopped by with one of her rats the other day. She also brought books, and in particular, she brought Dancing Naked in the Mind Field by Kary Mullis. I'd refrained from starting any books for quite some time because I was still struggling with the falsehood that I would finish The Guns of August (I try to force myself to finish one book before I start another unless they are in completely different genres and the time spent reading one could not, in any estimation, be detracting from the time spent finishing the other--yeah, I'm a control freak). BHM is a huge fan of Kary Mullis, so when I found myself with a free weekend and a book by none other than the man himself, well, I figured the time had come to cut the cord on The Guns of August and face the facts. Good thing, too. I raced through the book in approximately 4 hours total reading time. I wasn't trying to read quickly, it's just an easy, entertaining read with large print (another reason to go for it over TGOA). The basic take home is this: Kary Mullis is brilliant, egotistical, oh, and totally completely insane. This is probably largely because he admits that he started using drugs at the age of 6 (phenobarbs from mom...) and moved up from there. I found it odd that this book simultaneously reminded me of Feynman's similar work as well as The Illuminatus Trilogy. So basically, reading Mullis is like reading Feynman on Acid. But seriously, if you're interested in the history behind the invention of PCR and the crazy mind of someone who could see the simple solution to a very important problem, read the book. If you have trouble believing that people who believe in aliens, astrology, and halucinogens as mind-enhancing drugs could be intelligent, then this book is a good one for you to read and open your mind. Or, it may just annoy you. The whole four hours my nose was buried, I was simultaneously entertained and astounded or annoyed. But the entertainment was the constant, hence the 4-hour read time. So I recommend it on that alone.

June 26, 2005

Lazy Weekend

Sometimes, flaking on established plans is exactly what you should do. I've been trying very hard to enjoy the copious spare time of being a summer associate. But, in perhaps the coolest move of the summer, I bailed on the scheduled 10K because I didn't feel like dealing with the crowds who'd be in the city for Gay Pride Weekend. Nothing against gay pride. Just something against crowds. And 40 mile drives to get to a 7:30 start time. And $30 registration fees to deal with all of it.

So, E2 and I agreed to abstain. And, on Friday night, after a dinner with the firm, for the first time since January 22nd, I found myself with a weekend approaching and no plans. Not a single one. I knew it had been a while, but I was surprised to find that my calendar had plans for every weekend since January 22nd. As E said, "no wonder this weekend feels like a vacation."

Clearly, the first thing to fill the void was sleeping in. And I did, getting slightly more than 9 hours of sleep on top of the roughly 7.5 to 8 I've been averaging all week (ahhh).

Then, I woke to find the weather cloudy and cooler than normal, so the impromptu short run with E2 extended to 6.06 miles at a 9:41 pace, which is slightly less distance and slightly slower than what we would have done at the race, but nothing to complain about. In keeping with the lazy theme, we walked a leisurely mile before the run and we strolled another 1.3 after. We talked about everything there is to discuss in our lives, showered, and went with E to our favorite mexican joint for a leisurely lunch. The rest of the day was a blissful compilation of laying in the sun in my new bathing suit, pedicures, reading, shopping for food, and cooking a spur of the moment dinner for local friends.

Today, there may be some shopping. There may be some bills paid. Or maybe I'll lay on the couch and play mario golf all day. Like I said, sometimes, it's good to be a flake.
Focus on Fun

Every day, I try to remind myself that my life isn't going to be this good again for a while, if ever. In all honesty, the summer associate gig is ridiculous.

Money? They pay us a lawyer's salary. We aren't lawyers. We aren't licensed to act as lawyers and as far as I can tell, we've done nothing else to deserve a lawyer's salary. From here, it looks like the young lawyer's salary is where it is because it's the amount necessary to convince a young attorney to do hard work and accept the decrease in quality of life related to the various evils of firms, which can include the pressure to bill, grumpy clients, lack of a social life and negative interactions with coworkers. But, during my summer associate gigs this year, both firms have explicitly asked me not to work too hard and insulated me from all of the other evils.

Events? Both firms I've been at this summer have a virtual "summers never pay for their lunch" policy. So each afternoon, as part of this job, I spend an hour to two hours of socializing with my future coworkers. Additionally, every week, there's getting to know the summers events, where the firm picks up the tab on entertainment, food, and often, alcohol (which often leads to great stories). So, I've spent quite a few hours this summer collecting a salary for the work of socializing with attorneys, but I'm not too interested in being a great story and I like to drive within the legal drinking limits, so I'm rarely the source of much entertainment. And yes, the sponsored fun isn't as great as hanging out with my own friends, but, it's free, and at least a quarter of the time during 9-5, which means that even if I would prefer hanging out with my own peeps, the majority of 'em wouldn't be available anyways.

Billing? "Oh, don't worry about it. You're a summer associate. Just do good work, finish the projects you accept, and only do as much as you can fit in between the social events, the training sessions, and the lunches." At both of my summer firms, the summers are encouraged to do between 20 and 30 hours of billable work per week. That translates into roughly 1,000 to 1,500 billable hours per year, assuming none of it is written off. As far as I know, there isn't a law firm in the country that would let you bill those hours for the standard 1st year associate salary. And yet, for 15 weeks this summer, I am encouraged to do just that.

Stress? Other than the knowledge that 1) every associate sees me as a ticket to a free multi-course meal and 2) I've got to fit into a wedding dress sometime this year, I can honestly say that nothing about the job stresses me out. Okay, there's a slight stress related to whether I'll get an offer, but everyone continuously reassures us that it's a good year for the firm, and they need all of the summers to come back. So, we're told, as long as we don't puke at a partner's house, or sexually harass a fellow employee, we're probably in the clear. Redardless of whether it's true, I believe they do want to hire us. I just can't fathom why they'd go to all the trouble of spoiling us rotten for a summer if they didn't really want to lure us back.

Gifts? As if the list above weren't enough. Both firms hand out logoed schwag to the summers on a regular basis. It started with "thanks for accepting our offer, we're excited to have you" gifts in the fall, then Winer Holiday gifts, followed by "sorry you have to take spring finals" gifts, and finally "welcome to the firm" gifts. I've heard people complain about how lame the gifts their firms give are, but that just seems rude to me. All of the gifts have clearly been thoughtful. Yes, I may already own some of the items in un-logoed form, but for the few that I didn't, I was happy to not have to buy my own.

Obviously, on a regular basis my logical voice kicks in with some observation about how this is too good to be true. The cynical/pragmatic voice then quickly shouts back that the firms see it as an investment. It's not as if the summer associate gluttony and sloth is unique to my firms. So, says the cynical/pragmatic voice, I can either question the wisdom of the entire system or just enjoy it.

When it means I'll be happier, I try to listen to my cynical/pragmatic voice over the incessantly questioning logical one. So, I'm going to enjoy it this summer precisely because I know it won't last. Next summer, I'll be studying for the bar. For several summers after that, if all goes well, I'll be excited for my one free lunch when I have time to take a summer associate out on the firm. In the crystal ball, I can't see the next time in my future when I'm going to have every weekend and evening free for 15 consecutive weeks. That's fine with me, because much like law school, a privilege for which I was willing to pay money, I'm willing to sacrifice a good portion of my evenings and weekends for my career, where at least they'll pay me.

The difficult thing is to avoid taking the royal treatment for granted and being disappointed when it disappears. Instead, I'd like suck the nectar from each free minute this summer and fully appreciate its rare beauty so that when it's gone, I'm not bitter, I'm thankful. So far, I've crammed our free weekends full of parties, visits with friends, travel, and camping. In the evenings, in addition to nights out, I've renewed my commitment to cooking, with a focus on trying the more complicated recipes that I've been putting off because there's never going to be a better time.

June 22, 2005

Things that come in threes

I just finished my third day at the third law firm I managed to convince that I'm somewhat employable.

There are three hundred thirty-three days 'til I graduate after finishing my third year of law school. Then, I get to take an exam that is three days long. At midnight, the night after the exam is over, I turn thirty.

There are at least three times three hundred thirty-three ripe and falling apricots on our tree. I will be spending lots of time picking up fruit this weekend. Just like last weekend. And probably the weekend after that, to go with the three theme.

June 20, 2005


I'm now at law firm #2. My final week at firm #1 was predictable -- lots of social events, less work, an all around good feeling to leave on. They are clearly professionals at this thing.

Firm #2 is bigger than firm #1 or the firm I worked at last year. In fact, it's a larger organization than all but one of my previous employers, including my consulting clients. This results in some very predictable big-firm cultural differences between firm #1 and firm #0. It's also interesting to note that some of the stereotypes about big, small, and medium-sized firms do not apply.

For example, I've seen the following choices when it comes to office space and can honestly say that each has its benefits and drawbacks:

  • A clear hierarchy from partner through senior associate and down to secretaries with the typical extremes of corner offices and gorgeous views as well as partial cubicals and all the in betweens.

  • An egalitarian system whereby most attorneys have identical offices and those with "nicer" ones are only there by accident, not seniority. Additionally, many paralegals and support staff end up in offices that are very similar to the attorneys.

  • A mediocre mixture of the two, where no one who isn't an attorney has a certain type of office, but beyond that, it's kind of hard to know the pecking order without doing your research. Similar stories for support staff, only they have a glass office ceiling, so to speak.

But, what I've noticed more, (much to my furniture/architecture-focused sister's content, no doubt) is that the distribution of offices has way less of an effect on my perception of the layout and culture than the choice of walls. I've seen the following three types of walls to divide attorneys from the rest of the office and one another, and I've found that it has a much larger effect on the overall culture than the orientation of the offices:

  • Real Walls. Real doors. Open door policy. Walk down the hall, look in, see the person and wave. If the door is closed, you know it's serious.

  • Glass Walls. Real doors. No need for an open door policy. If people want your attention, they stand in front of the glass and gesticulate wildly. If you are on a call or deep in thought, you stop, motion back, and people get the message, whether it's 5 more minutes, go away, or something in between. Also, depending upon your computer orientation, each person who walks by can see what you are reading at all times.

  • Glass walls with blinds. People choose the blind orientation that they like. Those who like the blinds drawn usually have an open door policy. Those who like the blinds open often close their doors when they were busy. Occasionally, people close both their blinds and their doors. You know not even to knock at that point -- just send an email.

I have noticed these various degrees of differences for so many things: expense coverage, printers, secretary coverage, furniture (obviously expensive, trying hard to be simultaneously expensive but not overbearing, and alternatively worn down and brand-spanking new), artwork, free/vending drink policies, free/vending snack policies, in-office services, library services, and more. It's amazing to me how much these things define what the office feels like long before you get to know the people. Career services and all successful attorneys I know say you should decide where you want to work based on the people, but I'm noticing that the environment says a ton to me about the people that the people themselves don't even know. And when I try to get to know the people, I can't help but notice that on some level they are busy, at least vaguely aware that they need to be covering their butts, and, in general, not my "friends." This is not to say that they will not grow to be so. But, to pretend otherwise and choose a future career based on the "friends" I've made this summer seems odd to me. I'd rather decide by the environment, how I feel overall, and the work. But that's just me.

June 15, 2005

A two hour tour

Today, I spent two hours looking over some agreements for a partner for whom I've done quite a bit of work. At the end, the documents were almost completely covered with highlighter. I know she'd sent them to me in hopes I'd review them, catch a few things worth noting, point them out, and, you know, actually make her life easier. I'd done this on a few other assignments this summer and she seemed to like my feedback.

Today, instead of making her life easier, I walked into her office and had to admit that I had no idea where to start, what to highlight, whether the general structure of the agreements was something worth getting worked up about or not, etc. She grimaced, told me that wasn't what she was hoping for, and added it to her to do list.

I'm serious, guys, I was fascinated by this agreement because I'd never heard of anything like it. And I had no clue what kind of opinion I was supposed to have about any of it. It was all building blocks I'd seen before, but put together in a configuration beyond my wildest imagination. It took me almost two hours to confirm that I really was completely clueless on this one and had no value to add. I knew the partner was too busy to walk me through it, so I just sucked it up, walked in, explained that I didn't know how to handle it, and walked out. At least she was nice about it.

It's good to know that there's plenty of room to learn new stuff at firm #1 -- I was concerned that I might get bored with my future career, but if the last few weeks are any indication, I'm going to be thrilled. So while my efforts were a waste of the firm's money in the short term, it was probably one of the best investments they've made thus far, in terms of getting the talons in.

Ready to drink the kool-aid and sell my soul. Sign me up.

June 14, 2005

The bummer of silence

I've got lots to say about my summer associate experience thus far. But most of it just isn't appropriate for blogging.

It sucks, because my thoughts on the law firm experience at this firm, how I fit, how I don't and the industry generally are most likely way more entertaining than my what I did this weekend posts.

But, enough people know who I am, and many more could figure it out if I gave details, so I have to exercise discretion.

Right about now, I'd love to vent and figure out how I feel about this stuff by writing and re-writing and finding exactly what it is that I want to say to the world who reads my blog (who, for the most part, or at least 50%, are strangers to me). But, that option isn't available to me because at the end of the day, I really like practicing law. And that whole attorney-client privilege thing, plus the importance of showing that you are trustworthy and understand the importance of taking actions to prove that point keep my lips sewn shut.

Suffice it to say that no matter how much I thought I had it figured out, I was wrong. I've got more information now and I'm confused. Things I thought would be major issues to contend with just don't exist. Major issues have arisen that I hadn't previously considered. I can't believe how lucky I am to be exposed to all of this.

Oh, and I'm tired. In that good way that you get tired while traveling in a country where you don't speak the language. That alone tells me I like this stuff because I'm struggling each day to understand and learn in a foreign environment that is becoming less foreign with each passing day, but still is nothing close to home.

June 12, 2005


In case you were wondering, Angelina Jolie is hotter than ever in Mr. And Mrs. Smith. The movie is pretty good if you're an Angelina fan and decent if you're not. The dialogue is amusing in many places because the screenwriters realized it needed some comedy to relieve the cheese factor of the unbelievable violence, sexual tension, and general ridiculousness.

In short, if you like to look at pretty people, it's got both brad and angie and it's WAY easier to sit through than either of the tomb raiders.
Summertime Socializing

This weekend, we'd scheduled a relaxing weekend at home. We picked a bad weekend to attempt to relax and do nothing, however, because we are blessed with much to celebrate:

P got her masters in Mechanical Engineering. In one of those true acts of loyalty, I actually sat through the entire ceremony so that I could cheer for her. Then E joined me and P's family for a very late, oh-too-filling dinner of singaporean specialties. I went out on a limb and ordered chili crab for the first time. It was good stuff and I was about to explode when we left. I don't care if the chili sauce originated to mask the lack of freshness of the crab, it's a brilliant innovation in food and I was excited to enjoy it.

MH got his bachelors after a 10-plus-year twisting path through his secondary education. I never doubted he'd finish if that was his goal, but it was still an excellent excuse to go visit with his family and hang out with old family friends, so E and I drove across the bay and spent saturday afternoon at the H's.

Today, T & B had a "yeah-it's twins" baby shower, again, across the bay, only farther north. Additionally, unlike your ordinary baby shower, which is just for the ladies and uncomfortable for the others, this one was a barbeque for families and friends of all sexes and included a keg and a DJ. We arrived to learn that they'd also gotten married this weekend, so the celebration wasn't just double the fun, but triple. We were glad we'd made the drive to celebrate with them.

From T&B's, we headed to W's to check out his new house and to say congratulations on the house buying. The house is gorgeous, huge, with amazing views, and yet another thing well worth celebrating.

We made a quick stop home to change into nice clothes and then headed out to bear's graduation dinner. It was wonderful to see our mutual friends, his parents (it had been at least two years), his siblings, and to meet the extended family about whom we'd only heard stories. Go bear. Congrats.

And now, we're home. We're exhausted. The weekend is over and we could really use another one. Starting tomorrow night, we've got a week full of social activities lined up (some associated with the law firm, others chosen by ourselves).

This happens every year. I can't complain -- it's all fun. And no doubt, next summer, when I'm studying for the bar, I'll be wishing I could be going from party to party. But boy, it's always amazing to me when I realize that the idea of a relaxing summer weekend is a myth for us. Perhaps next weekend.... (right)

June 11, 2005

Two Words

Ugg Slippers

Yeah. I made fun 'til I tried 'em on too...

Now, I'm a happy sucker just like the rest. Thanks to E for the birthday present.

June 9, 2005

What will they discover next?

Turns out, oxytocin, that lovely hormone associated with female orgasm, birth contractions, and lactation is now also scientifically shown to increase the feeling of trust between those under its effects and those they encounter. No wonder so many of my women friends complain about being idiotic suckers for men who are good in bed.

Perhaps I need to snort some oxycontin and bask in the wonderfulness of my fellow planet dwellers. Oh, excuse me, I thought I was good old Rush Limbaugh for a second there.

I meant oxytocin. No really, I did.

Trust me.

June 6, 2005

Real Life

I visited my grandfather last weekend. It was a beautiful weekend in the San Luis Obispo valley where his ranch is nestled. It was hard to hug him and admit that his time is near, and yet, it was wonderful as well -- he's got an ailing heart and to the best of his cardiologist's guess it's probably going to stop ticking while he's still in control (albeit easily tired) of the rest of his body and mind. He's at peace. He's accepted his passing. It's us who have the trouble with acceptance.

After arriving home last night, I called R. We talked for a while and I managed to keep my emotions in decent check. But, I decided I needed to go for a drive. I put my phone in my purse (headset was already on) started the car, and drove away. Two houses down the block, the phone beeped. I looked down to realize that rather than calling from my cell phone, I'd left the house with the portable phone. [Rad]

Quickly, I backed up, thinking I could reconnect with the signal and tell R I'd call back on my cell phone. But, by the time the phone reconnected, I heard "If you'd like to make a call, please hang up and dial again..."

Right. I searched my purse for my real cell phone. No luck.

The portable phone rang again (as I was now in front of the house). I tried to answer. No luck.

Sheepishly, I walked back into the house to find E on the phone, talking with R and laughing. "Your cell phone is on your desk," E laughingly told me.

Right. So I do absent minded stuff like this all the time. But this one is pretty high up on the list. In fact, I don't know if this is worse or better than the time I hung the phone up by putting it in the freezer (where it was found by others, during a party...)

June 3, 2005

Faking it

Overall, I average somewhere near 50% introvert and 50% extrovert on the Myers Briggs scale. For a long time, people always told me I was an extrovert -- after all, I'm comfortable speaking in front of crowds, I enjoy performing, I like parties and new people. But then, I sat for a real personality exam once, and that person told me:

Introverts need to process what they think and feel by themselves before they share. Extroverts learn what they feel and think by sharing.

By that definition, I'm nothing but an introvert.

This whole summer full of events and multi-week long interviews: tiring. And I'm not even halfway done. Right now, I'd like to not be on. I'd like to not feel that I'm being judged by what comes out of my mouth every time I speak at work and every time I speak at social events. I'd like to relax. In particular, the social events weigh on me -- obviously, I've thought through the things I say related to work assignments before I speak, so that's not so tiring. But at "getting-to-know-you" events -- half the time, I haven't given much thought to the stuff being asked. I have opinions, but I'm not sure I'm ready to share them. Perhaps they're only half-baked. Perhaps they're too personal to share. Perhaps I'm better off being quiet. But rarely is it appropriate to be quiet. So, I find myself sharing my opinions and offending. Or worse yet, it is appropriate to be quiet. But I'm not, because I'm so confused.

If I was an extrovert, I wouldn't be tired by the effort of pre-processing everything and I wouldn't be so concerned about the impression I was giving as I sorted my thoughts when it was more appropriate to be quiet. So, I guess the long-ago analysis was correct: despite all evidence to the contrary, I must be an INTJ and not an ENTJ. Bummer. I'd like to pretend I'm a good natural leader... but apparently, I'm more of a behind-the-scenes mastermind.

I feel like I was going somewhere with this. But where... I'm just not sure. Wish me luck.

June 1, 2005

The uncomfortable place

I'm really questioning what I want to do with my life these days.

Specifically, I'm wondering whether I'd be happier pursuing a career that may consume me along the lines of my natural talents where I stand a chance (albeit miniscule, and totally unappreciated unless it's completely born out) of being a star or would I prefer a career where I like but don't love the work, find it interesting but not consuming, and find some of the day-to-day responsibilities difficult for me because they are contrary to my native state, oh, and where I know I'll never be a super star (but damn my non-work life would rock)?

E thinks I'll definitely choose one of my options over the other. E also refuses to tell me what that option is. So, I forced E to write down the choice and we put it in an envelope, dated and initialed by each of us. After I finally accept a job, the loser of the wager will take the winner out to dinner at the restaurant of the winner's choosing.

It's a much bigger decision than it sounds: destroying and fighting versus building and growing, delivering quick-clever blows versus constructing slow, dim-witted shields, interacting with people who choose their careers for comfort versus those who choose them for passion, and many other decisions. Each carries its own positives and negatives. Each is huge. And in the end, it's not up to me. It all depends on whether they want to hire me.

Regardless, I'll be sure to keep you in the loop about the eventual decision and more importantly, the restaurant (two words: french laundry. I hope E is wrong...)