Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ninety-Four: Part Twenty-Six: Wherein The Younger Me Gets To Tell You Stuff The Older Me Forgot, Continued.

Everyone has one year in their life that has a greater impact on them than any other year. Mine was 1994. From time to time, I'll recap that year. This is part 26. Click here for a table of contents.

I'm still working my way through the letters I wrote from Morocco -- reviewing the younger version of me's view on life, and realizing that it was pretty shallow and superficial and kind of dumb, which makes me pretty certain that, after all, I made the right decision throwing out that red notebook, because who wants to constantly be reminded of just how dumb they used to be?

Then again, I wonder if I will, in 17 years, look back on these blog posts (probably from my home in Hawaii) and think Man, I was dumb, then?

I'm pretty certain that won't happen. Just because I was certain, at age 25, that I knew everything and was smart and charming and successful and heading places but turned out to be wrong about most of that doesn't mean that, at 42, when I'm certain that I'm smart and charming and successful and also pretty good looking despite having put on a few pounds and still heading places, that I'll be wrong now.

Or, at least, I'm pretty sure that at 59, when I'm all those things, I'll finally be right then. And I'll look back at 42-year-old me the way 42-year-old me looks back at 25-year-old me, and the way 25-year-old me looked at everything.

Which is to say, sneeringly, without knowing enough to realize how dumb I was being. Back to where I was, which was midway through the first letter I wrote from home, which I'll recount verbatim and occasionally interject to point some things out.

[When I last left off, I had just finished talking about how I'd been served various parts of a sheep's head for a dinner that was meant to honor me.]

I've seen some of the city; it's actually 2 cities, Rabat and Sale, divided by a river. (No one calls the river anything; it's just "the river.")

[Note: That's not even kind of close to being true. I just googled it and the river is called "Oued Bou Regreg", which is probably Arabic for "Just because you don't speak the language well enough to ask what the river is called doesn't mean they don't have a name for it, idiot."]

[Page 4 of the handwritten letter starts, as all my letters did, with a quote from a song at the top. The quote on this page was Shireme don't like it, thinks it's not kosher, from "Rock the Casbah" by The Clash.]

Rabat is westernized in that people drive cars and can buy Nikes. Sale is "traditional" and poorer. In Sale, the streets are about 4 feet wide, which doesn't stop people from driving. It's like a maze there. In Rabat, streets are paved & only a little narrower than ours, which lets people go tearing around them like Mario Andretti. Traffic is amazing. It's all on-way streets with no traffic lights, only a few signs, very few cops. People drive little tiny cars or mopeds, and pay no attention to little things like lane-dividing lines. I saw 2 accidents in 1 day. They park pretty much anywhere they want, usually bumping other cars.

[Note: This would seem like the usual views of an ignorant American making fun of other countries, a la oh, look they're terrible drivers. But it's not ethnicist; at that time, I'd only lived in Milwaukee and Washington D.C. and had owned a car for a few months, so I wasn't actually familiar with big-city driving in any way. I'd have said the same thing about any city where there were lots of people and cars.].

I haven't seen a new car yet, and only 1 American car. ("Too big," Hamid told me.) They use the horn like crazy, and seem to think brakes don't exist.

So far, I've seen the Palais Royale, where King Hassan II lives. It's huge-- about 2 blocks long. You can only go so close to it; there's a little "x" and if you get to close to the x the guards and the Twellga (Hassan's personal servants) get real alert.

It's very clean there (the only unlittered area in Rabat) and the flower gardens are beautiful. They have a lot of flower gardens here; in the Kasbah des Oudaiyah (Kasbah's Fort), an old monument at Chellah (Roman ruins) and near the Mausolee Mohammed V, where Hassn's dad is buried.

[NOTE: That's three. Three flower gardens. Which isn't a lot by any means. Madison, Wisconsin, has, like, seven.]

I've seen all of those -- they're mostly old temples. The roman ruins looked pretty much like every other building here.

[NOTE: That's not meant to be mean. They did.]

The architecture is very Spanish: small buildings, open spaces, terraces, they're mostly white or brown and all look pretty rundown. The whole city needs a good coat of paint.

[NOTE: I have no formal training in architecture.]

I've also been to the Medina, the old city, inside the walls that once surrounded all of Rabat. It's mostly a marketplace, where you can buy anything from a walkman to dried figs.

[NOTE: So, you know, completely unlike any other market. Or mall. Or modern SuperTarget.]

It's very cool.

[NOTE: Even then, I styled myself as a writer. Hence my brilliant use of language.]

It's really crowded and the shops and stalls are all crammed together. There's spice stands, and fruit stands, and musical instruments, and jewelers, etc.,

[NOTE: Again, look at how I use English like a fine instrument.]

They have open-air butchers, which is really sick. (The smell gags me; they don't refrigerate the meat. Have you ever walked by a row of 200 newly-killed chickens just hanging there all day.)

[NOTE: This is why I could not have been Indiana Jones. When you're watching those movies, you don't think about the fact that any food not in McNugget form makes you barf.]

and bakers with huge mounds of bread, etc.

[NOTE: I'm like if Hemingway had a kid with Emily Bronte and that kid invented a thesaurus.]

Then there's kids running all over, and beggars (some are really badly disabled) and guys chanting the Quran for money. (To people asking for stuff, you say La Shukran -- "no thank you" or asif -- "sorry" -- and keep walking. Never stop. If you pick up something, or even pause more than a moment, you're done for. They assume you're ready to buy.) The Medina is where you haggle. You look at something, ask chi halleh? (How much?) They name a price, you chop it in 1/2 ,then go up a little. But once you start haggling, you almost have to buy it, or they accuse you of wasting their time.

[NOTE: It might seem odd to have to explain how to haggle, but it had to be explained to me: The first time I tried to buy something, the guy named a price, I paid it, and everyone was shocked; my host student, Nadia, told me that I must be rich because I hadn't haggled, and then showed me how to do it after I said that in the US, we didn't haggle.]

There's also guys called Gerbeds in the Medina. They carry around water in a big skin, and lots of cups hanging on bandoliers. Nadia insisted that I try some; it was real cold, and kid of weird-tasting. She explained that the cold and the taste come from this black paste smeared on the inside of the water skin just for those reasons. They also use the paste in their hair. So apparently I drank some kind of Moroccan shampoo.


That's it for this time. But as a teaser, next time, I discuss the money, and how hilarious I found it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Governor Patsy Walker: Pro-Choice, so long as you choose to give him your money. (Publicus Proventus)

Governor Scott "Patsy" Walker defended his union-busting bill by saying that it

give[s] those workers the right to choose whether or not they want to be in a union, and the right to choose whether or not they want up to $1,000 out of their paycheck, to come out of their paycheck and instead of going back into their own pockets where they can pay for health care and pension and other contributions, make the same sorts of contributions that middle class taxpayers do all across the state.

(Source.) So can we expect Walker to introduce a bill -- and the Senate to pass in less than two hours -- relieving realtors of the obligation of paying $550 a year to the Wisconsin Realtors Association (WRA)?

The WRA, as noted in this week's Isthmus, is not a mandatory association for realtors, except that really, it is: the WRA controls the MLS, or "Multiple Listing Service," which the Isthmus describes as "a critical industry tool." So if realtors don't pony up, they can't get access to the one thing they need to do their job. And

The WRA, though, supported Walker, giving him $43,000 or so last year; the Isthmus story notes that the money came not directly from the WRA but from its PAC, and dutifully quotes WRA officials as noting that contributions to the PAC are voluntary. But the Isthmus story didn't note that the WRA was Walker's number one contributor overall going back to 1993, or that the RPAC (as the WRA's PAC is called) is listed on the WRA website, or that the WRA Board of Directors is also the body that decided to endorse Gov. Patsy-- making the RPAC's independence from WRA somewhat questionable.

On the issue of whether the donations are voluntary and what they're used for, RPAC says funds are distributed on a "nonpartisan" basis across the state. I couldn't find much proof of that on the state level, where RPAC gave $43,000 or so to Governor Patsy and endorsed him, but I wasn't able to find any record of contributions to Kloppenburg (the RPAC endorsed Prosser) or Tom Barrett. Nationally, a report from the last election cycle showed the national arm of RPAC supported 20 Republican candidates to 16 Democrats (and Joe Lieberman), suggesting that the organization leans right.

As for the so-called "voluntary dues," I don't know that they seem voluntary to members: when the scheme first started, WRA set it up so that members would be issued a statement that would include a "voluntary" dues payment they had to make towards the RPAC -- which would then be forwarded by WRA to the RPAC. It's not clear how clearly that "voluntary" basis was explained or how many people felt coerced into making the payment, but the system was questionable enough that the RPAC felt it necessary to get preapproval from the Elections Board. I don't know if that still goes on, but I found no record it had been changed.

So can we expect the GOP -- which would like you to die in the street if you disagree with it, and which wants to provide health care to rapists but not crippled children -- to introduce a bill to free realtors from making any contributions to WRA but still giving access to the MLS? Wouldn't such a bill encourage healthy competition, and maybe get some realtors from other states to move here?

I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

It's going to be hard to figure out how to bill this... but I'm up to the challenge. (I Get Paid For Doing This)

This is how lazy I'm getting:

I need to file a motion in a case today, and I know that I previously filed an almost-identical motion in a previous case about a year ago.

(Lawyers being lawyers, we never actually do new stuff; we just copy from other lawyers.)("Other lawyers" including "ourselves in the past.")

So I went looking through my computer directory to try to remember the name of the client where I did that other motion, in order to copy it for this motion, but I couldn't remember the name of the client.

I did, though, remember the name of the opposing lawyer. Which led me to briefly consider emailing her to see if she could remember the case where I moved to dismiss her claim and she opposed that, and if so, could she tell me what my client's name was?

As of this moment, I haven't done that, but I also haven't found the copy of the earlier motion, so I'm kind of at an impasse. An impasse I'll probably break by going to watch old episodes of Archer at Netflix.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bad Republican: John Kyl (Publicus Proventus)

Republicans, who will let you die in the streets if you disagree with their political views, also do not mind simply making up lies to tell on the floor of Congress, as Republican Senator John Kyl (Liar; AZ), claiming -- falsely-- that abortions make up "90%" of what Planned Parenthood does.

That statement was a lie, and Kyl -- a liar - - knew it; his staff later said that Kyl's speech wasn't intended to be factual.

All things considered, lying isn't as bad as allowing convicted rapists to get health care while denying it to children (as Republicans do), but it's still bad. So John Kyl, welcome to the ranks of Bad Republicans.

You can contact Kyl and tell him to stop lying by clicking here.

Or you can click here to see a list of statements Stephen Colbert has made about Kyl -- all of them fair game because they're not intended to be factual.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I'm going to send them all a gift basket of candy. (This Is Why I Hate People.)

I started bringing candy into my office, leaving it in coffee cups on my desk for people to take, when I bought the wrong kind of suckers for at home -- Mr Bunches (who calls them "ice cream" because you lick both a sucker and an ice cream cone) wanted suckers, but not the kind I got.

Other people in my office bring in Gummi Snacks, kringles, bagels, cookies... you get the point. Most of them (including the candy on my own desk) I rarely eat, because despite appearances I'm actually trying to watch my weight and get in shape.

So I'm able to walk by a basket of Butterfingers, or a box of doughnuts, or what have you -- and be just fine. But not some people:

Some people believe that setting out little bowls of chocolates and mints builds esprit de corps in the office. It creates an opportunity to chat with co-workers who drop by. Then there are the folks who haul in cookies, birthday cakes, leftover holiday desserts and goodies from their kids' school fund-raisers. Bosses, too, often keep the office candy dish stocked to pump up the staff. ....
There is research to show how irresistible the candy dish can be. A four-week study of 40 secretaries found that when candy was visible in a clear, covered dish, participants ate 2.5 pieces of chocolate on top of the 3.1 candies they would have eaten had the chocolates been in an opaque container, according to the 2006 study in the International Journal of Obesity. Moving the dish closer, so the subjects could reach the candy while seated at their desks, added another 2.1 candies a day to their intake. ....
"The proximity and visibility of a food can consistently increase an adult's consumption," says the study, led by Brian Wansink, a professor of marketing and human behavior at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

(Source.) It's not bad enough that there is a study that actually proved people will eat 5.6 candies per day as opposed to 3.1 -- junk science that's almost as bad as Morgan Spurlock's spurious studies -- but people are actually banning candy from offices.

Just ignore it! Have some willpower, will you? I've managed -- since my heart attack -- to lose 10 pounds and cut my cholesterol in half even though I have two candy dishes sitting right on my desk. You don't need to force co-workers not to bring in candy and have big studies or be like the one girl in the story who apparently went on some sort of sugar-induced office rampage.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chicago, You're My Kind Of Town. (I Get Paid For Doing This)

Last week Tuesday, I had to travel to Chicago to argue a case before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. It's one of my favorite things to do, despite the seeming ridiculousness of traveling nearly four hours, one way, to speak for 10 minutes in front of three federal appellate judges... (but in this case it was a little more cost-effective because I got 12 minutes.)

And, since I had my camera with me, I did more than just sneak into the courtroom and take pictures before the session began; I also took pictures of a bunch of other stuff, and these are those pictures.

(Also, it wasn't really sneaking in; the doors were open and the courtroom was empty. I don't know if pictures are allowed or not, though, and it sounded more exciting to say sneaking.)

The last time I had to go to Chicago for a case like this, Sweetie came with me, we got stuck in traffic, and I was late for court -- a stressful experience that still ranks up there on the worst days of our married life. So this time, I allowed plenty of extra time. I had to be there by 9:30, so I left at 4:15 a.m., and that meant that about one-half my drive was done in the dark.

But it also meant that as I drove through the wilderness of Illinois, I got to see what I'm 100% sure was Venus, low on the horizon, which made me excited that I was using my college education (I took Astronomy my senior year) and I managed to take a picture of it while driving along, something that's probably not against the law:

You can't really see Venus. I took four pictures, and that was the best one. Early morning planetary photography probably requires more than a smart phone and a Saturn Vue.

I hit the outskirts of Chicago about 6:50 a.m. I consider it the "outskirts" when I can see the Sears Tower, which I know isn't the Sears Tower anymore but I don't know what it is called, and it was the Sears Tower for most of my life, so I just call it that because if I call it what it's really named I have to go through this conversation:

Me: I saw the [whatever it's called now] tower.

Other Person Who Is Hanging On My Every Word: The what now?

Me: You know... the Sears Tower.

OPWIHOMEW: Oh. Why didn't you say so?

This was my first view of the Sears Tower:

From that point until I got to the next picture, traffic was so bad it took forty-five minutes to get downtown, where I got off at Jackson street:

And that was only about 1/10 as bad as the traffic that practically wrecked my marriage to Sweetie that time, so I was justified in leaving early.

I parked in the parking lot nearest to the building I actually had to go to, which turned out to be both good and bad. It was bad because I paid $33 to park there, and pretty much every other parking lot in the city had a deal that would have cost me only $14 to park there. Even though I get reimbursed for it (because I'm a big shot) I didn't want to spend the money.

On the other hand, the building I parked in had a cool statue in the lobby, and I took this even cooler picture of that statue just outside the building, through the window:

Then I had to stretch my legs a little and kill some time before checking in -- don't worry, I went off the clock for this, as walking around isn't billable -- and I noticed, at one point, this interesting-looking sign in a window, just about the also-interesting sign for a doughnut shop:

You'll never guess what that sign is advertising, so I'll just tell you: A divorce law firm:

It says "Take Control. Get Divorced." And I wasn't able to figure out what the significance of the people pictured is. Has divorce become the newest fitness craze? Because that's a pretty old joke:

Man 1: I lost two hundred pounds of ugly fat recently?

Man 2: How'd you do that?

Man 1: I got divorced!

(This joke brought to you by 1950s-era comedians.)

Chicago is full of sculptures, including this one, which Sweetie pronounced ugly, without even bothering to consider the sculptor's feelings:

It kind of is ugly, though. If truth is beauty and beauty truth, then that sculpture is one big lie.

I walked past the Chicago Board Of Trade, forever known to people my age as "one of the places Ferris Bueller went on his day off":

And a block later I walked past this bank, which I saw the name of and thought "I've never heard of that bank," and immediately thought "Well, I guess the name is right."

When I turned the corner to head towards the courthouse, I saw not only a reflection of a building in a building, which is one of my favorite sights anywhere, but also a large sculpture at the end of the street that I resolved to walk to:

Only to first get distracted by some fountains:

And then by some statuary on the side of the County building:

And then by what I decided was the best building in Chicago, because it looked like a spaceship had set down in the middle of the city:

The Spaceship Building got me off course, and I veered over to it, stopping to focus in on the sculpture in front:

Before going inside and finding out it was even better inside than out:

Sadly, they would not let you go up to the higher levels without showing an ID and a reason to go there. Thanks a lot, terrorists.

Even the floor was great:

I went back outside and stood inside that front sculpture.

Because I could.

Then I headed back to the large sculpture, pausing to take a shot of the sign for the Chicago Theater, because I once saw David Letterman's show filmed there, and Penn & Teller did the "Water Tank Trick," which I loved, and which is actually online:

So you should watch this:

It isn't a picture I took, but it's amazing anyway.

I had to cut through the theater district, where I saw a Puppet Theater On A Bike:

And then finally reached the sculpture, which was this:

And then it was on to arguing the case, and afterwards, stopping to pick up some t-shirts for Sweetie and the Babies!, during which I walked down State Street and liked the planters: