May 31, 2004

Small loss of patience

I lost my patience with the girl child tonight and told her that if she didn't start listening to her mother, I was going to be very angry with her and she was going to end up crying. She stopped screwing around immediately and followed her mother into the bathroom to brush her teeth, which is what her mother had been trying to get her to do with no success. When she got in the bathroom, I heard her say to her mother as follows: What's. His. Problem?

My wife was, of course, convulsed with laughter. I felt quite put in my place. I fear the coming teenage years.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:36 PM | Comments (0)

Thank you

I just wanted to drop a short note to thank all of you for your kind comments and encouraging and thoughtful words. I may not have been able this weekend to individually acknowledge or respond to all of them but I do want to thank you for taking the time to read, reflect, and respond. So many of them are so well written and carefully considered. This blog experience is still a fairly new thing for me and I doubt that I would have kept at it this long without the encouragement I have received from some writers for whom I have great respect. Thank you.

I have long subscribed to the belief that you are known by the company you keep. If I can be said to be keeping company with the likes of those who have been leaving comments, I'm doing just fine.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)

Sleep that knits, etc.

I totally crashed yesterday. I took two naps, just like my son. A shorter morning nap for about an hour and a longer afternoon nap for a solid 2.5 hours. I have no idea why. I think that I have been under a lot of stress lately and my body just needed, very badly, to rest and recuperate. And it did. I'm feeling better today but yesterday was totally lost in the haze of sleep. I'm hoping that it proves to have been the sleep that knits the ravelled sleeve of care, but there's no telling. Sleep aside, I'm actually shocked by how quickly this whole weekend has just slipped away. I conceived of this weekend as an oasis of infinite time and instead, it has quickly and quietly passed without notice. I should have learned by now that the weekend is never as long as a two day period during the week.

I hope everyone is taking a moment today to remember those who have made our leisure time possible.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:17 AM | Comments (0)

Odd turn of phrase

I came across this odd turn of phrase while reading the NY Times this morning. It was in an article about a hot new area in Korea where the US Army is supposed to withdraw from and turn it over to the Koreans. One Army officer said that he thought it was never going to happen because, while it had been considered before, the Korean government had never been able to find another suitable site for relocation. The officer said that he thought that it was politics as usual:

"It is a great political platform for some people. It's a self-licking ice cream cone."

Self-licking ice cream cone? No idea what it means but I like it just the same. Anyone ever see this little gem before?

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:13 AM | Comments (0)

May 30, 2004

So Proud of her

This is another story about my daughter. We, as a family, had a wonderful day yesterday. We spent a few hours at the beach -- we joined a beach club not far from where we live. In fact, it is only 1.9 miles from our driveway to the entrance of the beach club. The kids played on the beach all day and ran in and out of the waves and dug in the sand and ate a big lunch and took long naps. The weather was beautiful and it was really quite perfect.

After naps ended, we returned for dinner. You can have dinner very casually outside. When we finished dinner, we went for a walk along the shore and my daughter, who had picked up an old tennis ball, saw some kids playing a sort of baseball game on the big lawn with a tennis ball and tennis racquet. She got very excited and ran over to watch, about a hundred yards away. At that point, the boys hit their ball into a flower bed and couldn't find it. My daughter went over to the flower bed, too. I suppose she just wanted to see what the boys were doing. The boys, by the way, were probably about 10 or 11 years old and towered over my little 3 1/2 year old daughter. Two of the boys saw that she was carrying a ball and took her ball from her. I was too far away to do anything more than watch here but she told me what happened when I did arrive. The boys said to her that it was their ball. And she stood up for herself and said that, no, it was her ball and she brought it with her from dinner. And so the boys gave it back. This is what she told me when I got there. Then she said to me, in a very quiet voice, that she was too shy to say thank you to the boys for giving her the ball back. So I told the boys thank you for her.

I was so proud of her for standing up for herself to these older kids. I was also quite grateful that these were nice boys who let her stand up for herself. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I want to raise a strong woman who never lets anyone push her around. I have worried that she is too nice, that she lets other children take her toys and that she, in essence, won't push back when the world pushes her first. Well, she pushed back last night, when she was outnumbered, outsized, and all alone. And she did it calmly and didn't cry. I hope that she learned a lesson from this. I know I did.

Someone once wrote that when you have children, you have given hostages to fortune. I have felt that way all along. I want to protect her from everything and I know that I can't. So, instead, I concentrate on building character in small ways, so that the big ways will come naturally and more easily. I am trying to make a person here. I am trying, because I can't protect her always, to give her the tools to protect herself and to stand up for herself and, especially, to have the self confidence and to instill in her the belief that she is valuable, valued, and intrinsically worth standing up for. She made me so proud and, as I reread this post, I don't think that I managed to convey even a portion of what I was feeling and how I reacted, inside, to this little incident. I lack the skills and feel it too keenly.

Posted by Random Penseur at 06:42 AM | Comments (0)

May 28, 2004

Favorite Old Time New York

With the closing of Zito's Bakery (see below), I thought it might be interesting to do a partial list of some of the old time New York stores and restaurants which give NY its special character. I've talked about some of my favorite NY buildings, now maybe it's time to focus on the people and businesses inhabiting some of those structures. This is a hard list to create because it means sitting back and trying to visualize different parts and streets in NYC. It's a big city, folks.

*Keene's Chophouse or Steakhouse (1885)
*Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station (1913)
*The Ear Inn

*Macy's (the escalator)
*Zito's (thanks for the memories)
*Fraunces Tavern (1763)
*Pete's Tavern (O'Henry did a lot of writing here)
*Old Homestead
*Lexington Candy Shop (malteds)
*Ferrara (1892)
*White Horse Tavern (where Dylan Thomas drank himself to death)
*Elk Candy Company

*Schaller & Weber
*Yorkville Packing House

Like I said, a partial and quick list. I'll be back to this when I get some more time.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:19 AM | Comments (1)


Ever given a deposition? Or more accurately, ever had an attorney TAKE your deposition? It's a series of questions and answers recorded by a court reporter and done under oath. It's like testifying in court except there's no judge to rule on objections or to make sure everyone behaves. They can be a lot of fun for a lawyer to take. We did one once where the deponent later became a client of the firm and he refused to ever set foot back in the conference room where we took his deposition. That was an interesting day. I am out of the office for the majority of the day today where I will be taking a deposition of an incredible fraud artist. He regularly gets written up in the papers and never seems to pay the price. Without being melodramatic, the noose is tightening on him this time.

I love to wear the white hat.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:12 AM | Comments (0)

End of an era?

Zito's Bakery (scroll down to bottom for picture) is closing. I think that a lot of people don't realize that NYC is made up primarily of small businesses, many of them family owned. If you live your life in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where I visited once, you believe that chains are normal and natural and your needs will be met by the large corporations. Not in NYC. Here the real estate, with some exceptions, is too expensive to support the big chain business model. You can see those guys in their planning meetings wondering where they're going to put the parking lot, can't you? Also, it's tough to make deliveries here. So, when a landmark hangs it up, it's sad. I know change is part of life, especially in NYC where it seems to happen so quickly, it's just that these guys had a special place in the Village and when they lock the door that last time there will be a hole in the fabric of that society. Maybe not a big hole, but a hole nonetheless. And the bread was really something!

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:46 AM | Comments (2)

May 27, 2004

Something just hit me

When I was at the Memorial Day Ceremony today (see below), a fellow I know slightly came up to me and re-introduced himself and his friend and he introduced his friend as his "law partner". Now, I know the first guy is a lawyer and think that I would have understood what he meant if he just said, hi, here's my partner. But "partner" has taken on a meaning all of its own outside of the legal community and I guess you can't just go around calling someone your partner and leave it at that. Now, if he had said his legal partner. . .

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:14 PM | Comments (0)

Beverage blast from the past

Just had a Fresca. When was the last time you had one of those? It was actually just fine.

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:56 PM | Comments (0)

Memorial Day, continued

I just got back from the Memorial Day ceremony. We had some soldiers there and I wished the turnout was larger. Otherwise, we were reminded that our freedoms today were paid for in some soldier's blood or suffering. It is an important reminder. And we bowed our heads in prayer for those who died and those still in harm's way.

I came back to the office sad and then I got a phone call from my daughter at home. She wanted to tell me that she was having lunch and she missed me. She was using cookie cutters to cut shapes out of her sandwich for lunch. She was excited. It made me feel a whole lot better.

Posted by Random Penseur at 12:35 PM | Comments (0)

Annoying phone call of the day

Just took a call from Mary at Verizon. It rang through to me because it's too early for receptionist types to be in. It went like this:

Mary: Can I speak to Mr. A?

Me: No, he's not in yet.

Mary: Can I leave a message?

Me: Sure. Just let me get a pen [as she starts speaking quickly and stops].

Mary: Tell him Mary from Verizon called and said that a technician has been dispatched, to his house. That's d-i-s-p-. . .

Me. Wait a second. Are you actually spelling dispatched for me?

Mary: Yes.

Me: You know what? I have seven years of higher education. I think I can handle this big word on my own. Anything else?

Mary: No.

Me: I'll give him the message.

P.S. According to spell check, just so you know, I managed to spell dispatch here, too, without any assistance.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:35 AM | Comments (0)

Another story about the girl child

We have been having problems getting the girl to go bed and stay there once she's put there. I've been thinking that maybe we've been putting her to bed too early. So, we decided to keep her up extra late.

We put her in her pj's and brought her back downstairs to keep us company for dinner after we put the boy child in his crib for the night. She joined in with a little snack, just to be sociable.

Then, we retired to the living room to watch the Yankees and the Orioles play. I sat on the sofa and got to share a blanket with her as we cuddled and watched some of the game. It was Norman Rockwell, old fashioned sweet. She was interested in the game -- the noise of the crack of the bat, how fast the ball moved when pitched, and all the running and sliding. I told her that this was a special treat because she was such a good girl and then I also told her that it was also a treat for me, which was much more true. We watched for a little while, with the lights in the room on really dim.

Then we muted the game and read two night time stories. After story time, we went into the kitchen because she was hungry and she had a snack -- a couple of goldfish and a little smoked Gouda.

Then off to bed. And she stayed in bed, more or less, and went right to sleep. I label it a qualified success.

Oh, and one funny thing, I took a piece of cold steak (love the leftovers!), popped it in my mouth, and then ran my fingers through her hair as she sat at the kitchen table. She looked up at me and said: "Did you wipe you fingers? I hope you didn't wipe your greasy little hands on my hair". I'm still chuckling as I write this.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:31 AM | Comments (0)

It's like thunder. . .

That was a hell of a thunder and lightening storm last night that rocked my area. It woke me up out of a relatively sound sleep at 12:24, according to my trusty clock.

I lay awake in bed for a little while afterwards. I was warm and drowsy and I just lay there as the lightening lit up the room with these intense, and sometimes sustained, flashes of light. The thunder was shockingly loud, too. I kept waiting for the kids to wake but they slept through it.

It made me feel like a kid again. I used to love lying in bed during these kinds of storms. I would feel so safe as the fury of the storm broke on the walls of our house. I hadn't thought of those times for years and the feelings, and the memory of that little bed, all of it seemed to come back very vividly.

There's something magical about a good storm. It cleans the sidewalk but it can also clean your mind. Everything feels fresh the next day. For me, last night, it brought back old and almost forgotten memories of childhood. This memory was one of those special, private memories. The kind of thing that, as a child, you'd probably keep tucked away from other people's regard. The storm cleaned out the cluttered pathways behind which this memory remained, still tucked away.

It was nice to take it out and hold it again for a little bit. It's comforting to feel safe like a child again.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:12 AM | Comments (0)

Memorial Day

Memorial Day approaches this year with more poignancy than I can ever recall before. So many of our nation's soldiers have been killed or hurt. So many others have committed acts of bravery and self-sacrifice so stirring and exceptional that they seem almost unimaginable to me as I sit in the calm of my office. I ask that all of you take some time this weekend and reflect on the sacrifices made by those who came before us and those who are fighting today.

Today we will have a wreath laying ceremony at an organization I belong to in honor of these men and women. I co-chaired the committee arranging this ceremony and I invite you, at 11:45 A.M. (EST), to join in virtually and take a moment in silence, bow your head, and join us as we pay tribute and remember and honor.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:05 AM | Comments (0)

Adventures in Blind Dating, continued

Buddy and the girl are building on the stunning success that was the Australian wine tasting and are getting together tomorrow night for the classic American date: dinner and a movie. As details become available, I will share. Keep rooting for 'em!

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:03 AM | Comments (0)

May 26, 2004

Time Suck of the Day

I give you the Guess the Dictator/Sitcom Character Game. This one is insidious. Great time suckage potential here. Enjoy!

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:26 PM | Comments (0)

Quote of the day

From Belle de Jour, who has quite a way with words:

"Isn't the concept of sausage odd? Minced pig stuffed into part of a pig's digestive tract. With herbs. It's more like an anal necrophiliac bestial fetish than a foodstuff."

I happen to like sausage, actually. But this may cause me to re-evaluate. We'll see what happens next time I come across one.

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:39 AM | Comments (0)

Noticed something kind of interesting

I've been looking at job postings for in house counsel positions of late. It's part of my considering something new phase. Anyway, I've been noticing something kind of interesting about the requirements posted for some of these jobs. After they list the substantive legal experience they want you to have, and the academics, and the big firm, they go on to say that they want someone with "stable work history". Isn't that interesting? They put it out there right up front that if you've bounced around, they don't want to talk to you. I guess I always knew that was a red flag. When I've done interviews for my firm, I've noticed if people have had too many companies or firms on their CV, but I never saw it as an up front issue. The hiring company doesn't even want to discuss it. There could be plenty of good reasons. Spousal relocation comes to mind, for one. I suppose they don't want to take the chance that you either are flighty and likely to take off if the breeze from the ocean blows too hard or, and more seriously, that you have been found wanting by all of your previous employers. Interesting, no?

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:10 AM | Comments (0)

More on fountain pens

Jester left a comment on my post below concerning fountain pens in which he said that he forgets that he has them. And that got me to thinking that I bet that a lot of people not only forget that they have them but also may not know how to take care of them. Here are some suggestions I came across on the web:

*Always cap the pen when not in use.
*Hold it upright and place the cap on top of it to avoid ink in the cap.
*Always use fresh ink (less than one year old).
*We recommend you clean your fountain pen every two months. Use room temperature water, never hot water, alcohol or synthetic cleaners. If the pen is very dirty, use a solution of 2/3 cold water and 1/3 non-sudsing household ammonia. Shake out any excess water and dry the nib with a soft cloth.
*If you won?t be using your fountain pen for a while, flush it out with cold water and dry it before storing.
*If you are traveling on a plane, either fill the pen completely, or leave it empty. Remember to always remove the cap with the point of the pen upwards. These tips will help avoid problems that could occur due to sudden changes in cabin pressure.
*Always try to use a protective case (e.g. leather) for carrying your pen, to prevent any scratches or nicks.

This Parker Pen website has some good information. And Glen has an interesting site with a great page of links for all sorts of fountain pen websites. Borderline obsessive, but in a good way.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:10 AM | Comments (0)

Feeling blah today

It's a gray day today out there. And it feels kind of gray in here. There is so much work to do today and so time and then there is the motivation question. What motivation question? Well, I'm typing this aren't I instead of the Civil Appeal Pre-Argument Statement I should be knocking off, right? So, there must be a motivation issue somewhere. Maybe it's just overtired. Or overextended. It's just another day when I think that I am not doing as good a job as I should be anywhere, practically. Set phasers to whine! No, I'm not having a little self-pity party, I am just sort of recognizing a fact -- I am not performing anywhere at 100%. I hope what I am putting out in terms of effort and quality is good enough, but I'd be lying to myself if I said it was 100%. I don't like to lie and I especially won't tolerate my lying to me.

So, what to do? I've taken small steps this week. The creation of a to do list every morning with the most pressing items and a desire not to carry any of them over to the next day, although that has proven to be a tad over-ambitious.

I think that what I really need is a vacation. I'm putting a lot of hope into this coming weekend for some recharging. I hope, weather cooperating, to spend it playing with my kids at the beach. That should go a long way, and I need it to, because it is shaping up to be a crazy summer at work. Usually things slow down in the summer, right? Well, not this one. I think it's going to be real hot at the office with, probably, a lot of weekend work. My wife will hate that.

I will try to tune in later with something a little lighter. You can't be gray all the time, right?

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:43 AM | Comments (0)

May 25, 2004


What to believe about Iraq? Well, one thing that the war has done is thrown up into stark relief the fact that I am significantly less trusting of the major news organizations. None of them seem to report the news without attempting to score a point, one way or the other. For awhile, I was more comfortable with the Fox approach because it seemed that there was no conservative point of view being communicated and, while I might not automatically trust/distrust one point of view over another, I liked having the choice. Best is when I could compare points of view by getting both the Fox side and the NY Times side of the same issue. But that gets old and besides, who has time every day? 9/11 was a major turning point for me and the American news system. I started to turn more to the web as I think many others have. I still read the NY Times on a daily basis, but I find I trust it almost not at all. I tried to read the Christian Science Monitor every day for a three month period, but I perceived that they had a huge anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian point of view and the reporting was slanted. I cancelled that subscription. I tried the NY Post, more conservative with a better editorial page, but ultimately less interesting than the Times. So what do you do if all you see in the media are tales of defeat coming out of Iraq? You turn to primary sources, as you were taught to do in historiography classes in college. And you seek out letters from soldiers in Iraq to find that their view of what's happening in Iraq is very different from the editorials passed off as news articles you get in the press today here. I found that letter to be very interesting and much more hopeful than the "news" (as I borrow the scare quotes from Reuters).

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:49 AM | Comments (0)

Tribute to Fountain Pens

Who out there writes with fountain pens anymore? Besides me, I mean. I started writing with them in law school, which feels like it was a million years ago. In dog years, by the way. It's not so easy for a lefty to write with a fountain pen. You generally drag your hand across the page when you write with your left hand and you risk smearing the ink. So, I use fine point nibs and tend to prefer the Waterman ink as it dries relatively quickly.

I like fountain pens for two broad reasons. The first is practical. I write with a very bad hand. I always wanted nice handwriting and have always admired people who do have that. Fountain pens force me slow down and increase the chances that I will be able to read what I just wrote later when I need to refer back to it.

The second reason is aesthetics. First, generally, fountain pens are beautiful to look at. I have probably six or seven I've acquired over the last 15 years. They range from the expensive Montblanc type to the $2 plastic Waterman used by French school kids that I bought in Paris. They each have a different style and I like them all. They feel different in the hand, too. They are all heavy, with the exception of the $2 one. Second, writing with a fountain pen is a sensuous experience -- the rasp of the nib; the resistance on the page as your hand angle changes; seeing the ink flow from the nip; and seeing how much darker and more beautiful the fountain pen ink is. Even your daily to do list looks better with the fountain pen. And slowing down to write your list helps you concentrate and think better about what you're doing.

When's the last time any of you wrote with a fountain pen?

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:20 AM | Comments (1)

School ends today

Today is the last day of school for my daughter. It was her first year at school and she's grown there. My wife took the morning off from work to take our daughter to school and the little one was so excited that her mommy was taking her. My wife is going to stay for the little celebration picnic afterwards. I have court related obligations I could not get out of so I could not attend, much to my great disappointment.

It seems like her little school year has flown by. I was so sad when we took her to school and she was so excited. I remember that the school had social workers standing by in case there was separation anxiety and I went up to one to see what she could do about MY separation anxiety! I was only partly joking. I was not ready for my little girl to leave the house.

And now the year is over. I don't think that she understands what it means, that she won't see her friends or teachers anymore, if ever again. I wonder how she will process this change and how she will integrate it into her life. I believe that she was popular among her class mates because other mothers kept calling to say that their kid wanted to have a play date with our child.

She changed there, from parent teacher conference in the fall to the spring. In the fall, her teachers said she never spoke and was shy. That she preferred to play by herself. My wife and I were mystified because at home she was a chatterbox and very outgoing. By the Spring conference, it was totally different. She came out of herself and never looked back. She become talkative, voluble even. One story her teacher told us went something like this. She came over to the teachers to tell them that Jeffrey, a class mate, was throwing sand out of the sandbox again. The teachers asked my daughter to tell him to stop because they had tried and it didn't work and maybe if my daughter tried it would. My daughter then put her hands on her hips, looked at the teachers, looked at Jeffrey, looked back at the teachers and said, "well, I doubt it" and walked away.

So, another milestone is reached. It matters much more to me than to her, I think.

In some ways, this blog is turning out to be an extended love letter to my children. In other ways, it seems to be a way for me to mark and comment on the little and larger changes in my life. Either way, I'm comfortable with the direction this is taking. Are my readers?

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:11 AM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2004

A Small Disappointment

Got today rejected for a new job I had applied for. Of course, I only know that because I called the human resource idiot to follow up. I had a screening interview, was told that the hiring manager would definitely want to meet with me, and then was told today that there "were more qualified individuals" in the pool. I sort of doubt that but think that it was a shitty way to tell someone. I have been toying with a career change of late and this would have been interesting. So, I am a little disappointed.

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:03 PM | Comments (0)

Chuckle of the Morning

Why you should not put your picture on the internet.

Via Michael Darragh

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:04 AM | Comments (0)

Norwegian Speakers, Unite

This weekend, my daughter actually garnered an advantage from speaking Norwegian. We attended the third birthday party of one of her little friends. It was held at a place called "Art Farm" in New York City. By the way, we scored the holy of holies: a parking spot right in front of the door to the place on the street in NYC.

The party was cute. There was a guy with a guitar and then art projects and then, in the basement, a little petting zoo. I'm not sure how much I approved of the petting zoo in the basement thing -- how much natural light do any of these animals see? Be that as it may, the two people in charge downstairs were Swedes. And when they heard my wife and daughter speaking Norwegian, they were delighted to have fellow Scandos there. So, they kept letting my daughter hold all the cool animals first because they'd speak to her first, in Swedish, and she'd answer them in Norwegian. First time I've ever noticed her gain an advantage from Norwegian language skills.

I asked one the Swedes later if they had birthday parties like this in Sweden and he said no with a sort of funny, almost judgmental, tone in his voice. So, I remarked that these kinds of parties are common in NYC because people have very small apartments and don't have the space to have 16 children over to run around and play. He looked kind of surprised at that, as if a reasonable explanation other than American excess hadn't occurred to him. I just smiled and left it at that.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:45 AM | Comments (0)

Stray Observation while Driving

Perhaps this is a condition confined to the North-East, but, while driving around this weekend, it seemed to me that if I saw a car festooned with bumper stickers those bumper stickers conveyed a strictly liberal message. In fact, except for very seldom sighted Bush-Cheney 2000 sticker, I can't recall ever seeing a conservative bumper sticker. Why is that? How did the bumper become a platform for exclusively one point of view? Also, the cars most likely to carry the most bumper stickers here -- the Subaru or the old Volvo.

Still a big fan, by the way, of the "Nuke the Gay Whales for Christ" bumper sticker of the late 80's.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:39 AM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2004

Can't go home again

After work Friday night, and after calling the plumber, we all trooped off down the street to see a house that just came on the market. When we were looking to move out of the City, this was the first house we looked at and we had even made an offer that was accepted on it. Then the owners refused to go to contract since they could not find another house in town. So, it fell through and we bought our current house. We were always kind of bummed though. In our memories, house #1 was always bigger, with a mansion sized plot of land, an airplane hanger sized kitchen, and a bathroom around every corner.

Our memories were very strong, and like as not, probably distorted as memories always are. But they were hard to deny. So, when the agent called to tell me that the house was back on the market, I was happy to go and check it out, as was my wife.

I think, in part, that this house represented close to the iconic image of a house. For all Americans, the house plays an important role as something much greater than merely shelter. A house as a man's castle, and so on. Briefly, even if you don't aspire to own a house, you understand this because you have been inculcated with it and because it runs through all of our history. Some of our first bill of rights items concerns are ability to be free from government interference inside our homes --- no right to quarter troops. Then, we have always venerated great homes -- Monticello, for instance, was justly celebrated even at the time of its creation. It is a theme of many television programs and was the driving impulse behind our settlement of the West, which you may recall the great historian Turner viewed as the single greatest event that formed the special American character. But that impulse was really to get land and house.

By the way, one more digression, do you also hate it when a real estate agent talks about showing you or selling you a home? Bullshit. I have a home. You want to sell me a house where I can put the home. The home is my family and the house is the place that holds it.

So, in any event, we went and saw that first house. And it put memories to rest. Which is good because I think we were ready to put our house on the market to try and buy this first one. The rooms were smaller, the flow/plan of the house was less favorable, the garage was smaller, the street was not as nice, and, frankly, it would have required some real money in renovations. I walked out liking my house better than when I went off to see the first one again, plumbing problems included. So, we stay here for awhile longer, I think.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:22 AM | Comments (0)

My son, yesterday

My wife was off on an appointment all morning yesterday and I had the kids. One of the things we did was put on some music and we listened to music and danced and played for about an hour and a half. For 45 minutes of that, my son wanted to sit with me and be held. He had just gotten up from his morning nap and may have not been totally awake yet. Anyway, while his sister jumped around and continued to demand "Jump in the Line" by Harry Belafonte, he was content to sit in the crook of my arm and cuddle. It was terribly sweet. Cuddly babies are the best. It touches you in a way I can't really describe but is very elemental. We did that until required to dance by my daughter. I have to say that I really enjoyed having the kids all to myself. Sometimes I think that if we had to choose one of us to stay home with the kids, I might be the one who'd want to do it more.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:04 AM | Comments (0)

Stolen time

I stole some time this morning before the kids got up to write a little bit. Although, I could have done anything I wanted with it. Read the paper, drink coffee, and kick back is the usual choice. No one is up and I love being by myself before the house starts humming. I hope everyone has the chance to experience this kind of solitude and peace today. Pax tibi!

Posted by Random Penseur at 06:59 AM | Comments (0)


We have a plumbing problem. Got home on Friday to find the basement doing an imitation of a swimming pool, well, a wading pool, and a pipe making a noise like a faucet. If you have a problem picturing what that must sound like, take a handful of money and pour it from your hand to the floor. The plumber, a lovely guy by the way who lives just down the street, was over in about 45 minutes. We shut off the valve on that pipe which means that the only part of the house which gets cold water is the bathroom next to the master bedroom. And so it remains until Monday. If any of you thought lawyers were expensive, you've never had a plumbing emergency.

Posted by Random Penseur at 06:58 AM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2004

Time Suck of the Day

I give you Fund Race, a site where you can punch an address in and see who gave how much to which Presidential candidate, where these people live, and what they do for a living. Very interesting and huge time suck potential. Where did that last half an hour go?

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:26 PM | Comments (0)

If you are not reading this. . .

If you are all not reading this serial by John Bruce entitled, "Killer App", you ought to be. It is a riveting story about, inter alia, corporate greed, ineptitude, political machinations, frustration, and one man's integrity. It's a must read. I check it out every day.

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:35 AM | Comments (0)

Adventures in Blind Dating, Report from Last Night, 2d Edition

Just got the update from my wife. The girl "liked Buddy and would see him again". Success! This is what happens when you combine charm, unlimited amounts of wine, and social pressure to drink as much of that wine as possible. I have advised Buddy to contact her immediately because she is clearly still drunk and he needs to strike while her mind is still clouded!

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:27 AM | Comments (0)

Notes from the Wine Tasting

I made notes on the wines I tried last night and thought I'd share them for those who might care about these sorts of things. It was a tasting of Australian wines. I was not overwhelmingly impressed.

Preliminarily, I deplore the trend in wine making to amp up the alcohol content in wines. I blame the Wine Spectator and their ilk. When your wine is going to be tasted in a group of 200, you need it to pack more of a punch to have it stand out and one way to do that is to push the alcohol content higher. So, when I saw a Wine Spectator rating in the 90's on any of wines I tasted last night, I went back to check the alcohol percentages. I favor the French view, that reds should not exceed a range of 12.5% to 13.5% of alcohol. Otherwise, it seems to me, that first taste is akin to pure, raw alcohol and I find that to be unpleasant.

I tasted the wines by taking several glasses at a time within a style to make my own flights so that I could compare within styles and still try to evaluate them on their own merits. Except for the whites, where I just had one glass.

First remarks: Please note that each wine was fruity yet pretentious, they all pulled my pants down and mocked me. They made me feel like a little schoolgirl in the first full bloom of freshness. With that out of the way, on to the tastings.

(G# means Glass #).

Chardonnay, Stonehaven "Reserve", Padthaway, 1999 ($35): produced by Australia's biggest wine producer, the Wine Enthusiast said: "Peach and vanilla aromas and flavors take the lead, with buttered popcorn and alcoholic warmth. . ." My view: it was merely ok. That was all I wrote about it.


Cabernet Sauvignon:
G1: Barton Vale, "The Lazarus", Eden Valley, 2001 ($65)
G2: Yalumba, Clare Valley, 1999 ($32)

I tasted them in that order. G1 here, my notes say, was too fruity and had no depth. The overwhelming impression was berry fruit, mostly blackberry. It was intense and stayed throughout the finish, even overlaying the tannins at the end. It had no balance but a big mouth feel. G2 had better balance and less fruit but was thinner and had less of a big presence in the mouth. I tasted apples in this one. Overall, I liked neither very much.

Shiraz (or Syrah):
G1: Reilly's "Stolen Block, Clare Valley, 2001 ($40)
G2: Brown Brothers "Patricia" Reserve, Victoria, 2000 ($30)

G1 got a 92 from Robert Parker who called it "sensational and stunningly proportioned". I disagree. This was, not a surprise here, 15% alcohol. The first taste was raw alcohol and then the fruit comes through afterwards. The fruit was not worth waiting for. G2 had a 14.3% alcohol content and consequently, to me, had better balance with more fruit and was pleasingly dry. I give the nod to G2 here as the better tasting wine.

The Blends:
G1: Haan "Wilhelmus", Barossa Valley, 1999 (1.5L) ($40) (40% Cab, 28% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc with a bit of Malbec and Petit Verdot)
G2: Turkey Flat "Butchers Block", Barossa Valley 2001 ($30) (44% Mataro, 36% Shiraz, 20% Grenache)
G3: Keasler "Avignon", Barossa Valley, 2002 ($30) (58% Grenache, 31% Shiraz, 9% Mouvedre and 2% Viognier)

My favorites were here. Of course, by this time I'd had a fair amount to drink and probably had my taste dulled by the high alcohol content of some of the other wines. G1, at 13.5%, was spicy with a lively mouth feel. It had good fruit and was still dry. I liked it. G2, at 14.5%, was dense, thick and chewy. Parker gave this one a 91 and I'm inclined to agree. G3, at 15%, was surprisingly yummy to me, although I might have been numbed at this point by all the alcohol. It was supposed to be a Rhone style wine but it lacked the spiciness I associate with Rhone wines. Still, it was really jammy with a punch of fruit that tasted like sunshine in a bottle. I liked it a lot. I think that I choose G2 as my favorite here. It was interesting to try three wines, from the same valley, from different years, with different grape makeups and see if I could discern anything from the location. I was probably too drunk at this point to know, but I think that they all had a lot of body and great fruit.

I ordered a French Burgundy, 13.5%, to go with dinner ($55). I wanted to compare it to the Aussie wines generally and, in the opinion of everyone at the table, it was superior to everything we drank at the tasting. It was just a better wine with better balance.

I still prefer the French wines to the Australians I tried last night. All in all, though, it was a lot of fun.

Hope I didn't bore anyone who managed to get this far.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:52 AM | Comments (0)

Your sign that the apocalypse is upon us

The NY Times has run a story concerning the "sport" of extreme ironing. Words fail me but they may not fail you, gentle reader.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:50 AM | Comments (0)

Adventures in Blind Dating, Report from Last Night

We did the group date last night at the wine tasting, as I posted yesterday. I will post later about the wines. The date was successful. No one ran screaming from the room or tried to leave early to go home to "wash their hair" or "walk the cat". They seemed to like each other. I doubt it was love at first sight or that anyone swooned but I think that this was at least a qualified success.

The woman was easily as advertised. She was blond, athletic, tall, pretty, smart, and interesting to talk to. The total package. A lot like my wife, actually, except for the tall part.

We drank and compared wines and they all made fun of me for being a wine nerd and actually taking notes on the wines and trying to taste them in flights. I didn't mind since it immediately gave them something in common to share -- teasing me.

Once I was sure that conversation was flowing, I tried my best to flit off for long periods to give privacy and allow them the opportunity to get to know each other. Also, I had a bunch of friends at this thing who I wanted to catch up with.

My wife and her friend had arranged a signal in case the date was going poorly. So, when I felt that 9 glasses of wine constituted an elegant sufficiency, I asked whether people wanted to go have dinner. I know that I needed something to eat after 2 hours of drinking. The signal was not passed and we adjourned for dinner.

Dinner was fun. Buddy and the girl shared an appreciation for bad old television and movie trivia. The girl did her best Muppet imitation and Buddy replied with his best Muppet. It was just that kind of evening. Both of them have cats, did I mention that? It seemed significant to them that they each had a cat.

We broke up to catch a 10:00 train home with the girl joining us as she lived farther up the line from us.

I await a report from my wife as to whether her friend would welcome further contact from Buddy, at which point, I will bow out.

Sorry if this post lacked it's usual polish, but, I am feeling every syllable of the immortal advice of Dean Vernon Wormer, in Animal House: "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son". I'd have been ok if my daughter had not favored me with a 2:10 wake up call this morning to go to the bathroom and then a 3:00 request to fix her blankets, which were all twisted.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:59 AM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2004

Today in History -- Transporation Edition

Random interesting coincidences in world transportation history. Today in . . .

* 1506, Christopher Columbus died in poverty in Spain.

* 1927, Charles Lindbergh took off from Roosevelt Field in Long Island, N.Y., aboard the Spirit of St. Louis on his historic solo flight to France.

* 1932, Amelia Earhart took off from Newfoundland for Ireland to become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.

* 1939, regular transatlantic air service began as a Pan American Airways plane, the Yankee Clipper, took off from Port Washington, N.Y., bound for Europe.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:31 AM | Comments (0)

Adventures in Blind Dating, Continued

As you faithful readers may recall, my wife and I are in the process of trying to fix up one of co-workers -- Buddy. I have posted about this before, first here, then here, with the conclusion of the first fix up over here. The introduction to the newest date can be found here.

Tonight is the night for date #2, an attractive, blond, athletic, co-worker of my wife. Buddy has gotten himself ready by getting a hair cut yesterday. Looks good. As I mentioned before, the date will be more of a group thing at a wine tasting of Australian Wines. Actually, having been to wine tastings at this place before, you should know that they do not serve you just a thimble of wine which you are supposed to suck through your teeth while looking thoughtful and maybe moved by the experience. Nope, this place serves you a whole damn glass of wine "to taste". These evenings usually end with at least one guy putting another guy in a headlock, rubbing his head with his knuckles, and saying: "I luv you, you little fucker, I really luv you". I've never done that, of course. Nope, not me. Anyway, get the idea? If this event cannot break the ice and knock down social barriers, I don't know what will.

One memory I have of one of these evenings, before I became a responsible father (read: too tired to stay out drinking], was wandering over to the pool tables after to watch some guys shoot pool. One guy made a really terrible break and his friend looks at me and says, "he breaks like a woman". [Which, if you watch ESPN2 at all, you know is just ignorant]. I replied, "yes, but he cries like a little girl."

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:25 AM | Comments (0)

This made me Smile Today

From the NY Times today, a story about the son of the First Violinist of the NY Philharmonic in his conducting debut with the Philharmonic during the first rehearsal:

"Take a moment like the passage in Wilhelm Stenhammar's Serenade in F, when the four first violins have exposed solo lines, one after the other. One comes in a tiny bit late. What do you say?

"Mom!" Alan Gilbert said, when faced with this situation in rehearsals for his Philharmonic debut in 2001.

The orchestra musicians tittered. Then, as the remark sank in, they roared.

"I've been waiting to do that for years," Mr. Gilbert said with satisfaction when they had quieted down. The laughter then began all over again."

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:20 AM | Comments (0)

Giuliani heckled

Members of 9/11 families attending the commission hearings being held in NYC heckled Rudy Giuliani yesterday when he gave testimony. I understand their pain. I lost family in the Towers that day -- my cousin died there. I don't understand heckling Giuliani. He was the best thing that happened to the city that day. I watched every news conference he held during the days following 9/11 and he helped me a lot as I waited for news about my cousin and my friends and my neighbors, some of whom did not come home that night. Giuliani was a great man under exceptional circumstances. I wish he'd run for President.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:09 AM | Comments (0)

Fender Bender

My wife and I work full time so we have a live in nanny ("Nanny") for the children. She's a lovely 18 year old girl from Utah. Yesterday, while driving the children, she got into a little fender bender. Not a big deal and everybody is just fine. They did not even exchange insurance information, which is a relief. I certainly see no need to involve my insurance company, even if a new bumper for the car may well cost about $1,000. Parenthetically, not the greatest time for us to shell out a $1,000, but what are you going to do? Nanny offered to let us take it out of her salary but there is no way we're going to do that. It was an accident and these things happen.

All the above was background for what Nanny told me my daughter said. Right after they hit, Nanny turned to check on the kids and asked my daughter if she was ok and she said she was. My son, evidently, was not fussed in the slightest but since the power of speech, as we understand it, still eludes him, who knows what he was thinking? Then Nanny burst into tears. Indeed, she was still shaking when we got home some five hours later. As she was crying, my daughter said to her, emphatically, "Look at me!". When Nanny looked at her, my daughter leaned forward from her car seat and said more softly, "you're ok, it's ok, you don't have to cry."

Nothing like getting verbally slapped out of your hysterics by a three and a half year old.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:56 AM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2004

Random Observations on the Lexington Avenue Subway

I was going to/from Court this afternoon and made the following random observations I want to share:

* I am the only person on the subway without a knapsack/brief case on wheels;

* Carrying a band-aid for over ten years in your brief case pays off eventually when you slice your thumb open trying to close your piece of crap umbrella;

* People on either side of you, on the subway, seeing you are struggling with trying to get a band-aid open and applied to your thumb will actually offer to help and not be deterred by the fact that a stranger is bleeding and could have who-know's-what disease;

* New Yorkers will walk people to the correct subway stop even when it's out of their way;

* If you do drugs, don't buy a sundae at McDonald's and try to eat it on the train, people (read: me) will watch you as you try and try again to get the spoon into the container, then get the spoon into your mouth, and then watch as you zone out and let the hard won ice cream drip slowly out of your mouth and onto your shirt which will cause you, like on the shampoo container, to rinse and repeat;

* Attractive women ride the subway at 2:00 p.m. and hard core lesbians will ogle them; and, finally,

* What do some of these attractive young women see in the punks they're hanging out with?

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:08 PM | Comments (0)

9:00 and already running

It's going to be a busy day. I don't know how much time I'll have to blog today. I've been in since 7:30 and have already written one nasty letter, started another one, and begun yet a third. Settlement discussions in a case have broken down, mostly due to the other lawyer's stupidity. He told me that this litigation we're involved in is really threatening his client's ability to obtain new financing and he can't understand why we just won't settle. I actually had to remind him that if the litigation is a problem, he can just WITHDRAW HIS COMPLAINT! He started it, get it? There was silence on the other end of the line for awhile. Someone once told me that the winner in litigation is the one with the least incompetent counsel. Right now, that really feels like it's gotta be my client.

I also sent out a couple of letters in support of my candidacy for a new job. We'll see what happens but I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I was very close on this one 8 months ago when they had an opening. I hope this time's the charm. It would mean picking up sticks and moving, but, why not? Life should be an adventure. I mean a good adventure, not the kind where you're picking ticks off each other and saying, gee, isn't this fun? More on this later as the situation hopefully warrants.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2004

A quote for the evening

From the Wind in the Willows. This cynical little bit amused me:

"After all, the best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other fellows busy working."

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:56 PM | Comments (0)

Consider the source

While out procuring lunch, I overheard two women speaking. The first was complimenting the second on her new 'do ("I love it!!"). The problem, from my perspective [warning: inner queer eye approaching], the first women was dressed poorly, had nasty hair, and bad taste in makeup. Should you consider the source? I mean, if someone gives you a compliment on something about which they, according to all outward appearances, have no qualifications on which to base such compliment, does the compliment mean less?

In a similar vein, my wife does not understand when someone says something like this: "Normally I don't like XYZ, but this is terrific XYZ!" My wife thinks that if you normally don't like something, how are you qualified to critically evaluate it? In other words, what do you know about XYZ if you don't like it?

Posted by Random Penseur at 12:21 PM | Comments (0)

Stealing Gas

If you plan on stealing gas this summer, as gas prices climb and climb be careful where you put the hose before starting to suck.

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

And Jupiter aligns with Mars. . .

Very cool thing. On June 8, for the first time since 1882 Venus will be visible moving across the surface of the Sun. The article warns people not to look directly at it because you could suffer damage to your eyes. And if you look directly at it with a telescope? Instant damage or even blindness. I'm going to wait to look instead at the photographs of it. Except, I'm going to look at the pictures while wearing sunglasses!

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:14 AM | Comments (0)

Spring has sprung

Does it depress you? I've read about seasonal affective disorder and I seem to recall that it hits hard in the Spring. Do you think that feelings of mild depression or even just sadness are exacerbated by the season? Or is it just hooey?

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:28 AM | Comments (0)

Time Suck of the Day

New York edition: on line "walking" tour of NYC. Very cool. Go explore and waste some time.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:23 AM | Comments (0)

Wonderful Film

My wife and I got totally sucked into a wonderful film last night on cable. I was too tired to read anything serious and was all out of everything frivolous -- you need some attention to start that biography of Gustave the Great or continue reading Kagan's Peloponnisian War -- so on went the television. No Yankees game and no antique road show (shamefully, I am an ARS junkie). So, taking advantage of the fact that my wife was called upstairs by the girl child for a potty visit, I flipped like mad through the channels. Why is it that women seem to have little tolerance for what I regard as the essentially male trait of channel surfing? It's not just my wife.

Anyway, she was back downstairs in time for me to settle on Mostly Martha (or Bella Martha). Unusually for us, we were immediately sucked in. Maybe because first, we wanted to know what language they were speaking -- German. Second, because I am trying to lose some weight (low carb works pretty damn well) and the food looked splendid (the star is a chef). Third, it had the whole little kid goes to live with career obsessed aunt after mother dies angle. Seriously, we stayed up late and it absolutely plucked at the heart strings. We both got teary. It was a great film and I highly recommend it.

Also, unusually, we both felt more relaxed and rested after seeing it. The last time we went to the movies or even watched a decent film was back in January when we played hooky to see the final Lord of the Rings film on the big screen. I forgot what a good film can do for you.

Actually, I am leaving one out -- we saw, also in January, a great Norwegian film -- Kitchen Stories. Another film I'd highly recommend, if you have the chance to see it.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:58 AM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2004

Getting out of bed

I met today with a client for about an hour and a half. He is being sued for millions of dollars. He is freaked out. He sat in my conference room and said that the only thing that is keeping him from crying was the knowledge that I would defend him and protect him to the best of my abilities. That is one small reason I feel good about what I do. It is an awesome trust when a client puts his life into your hands. Knowing that I can inspire that trust and confidence, knowing that I can protect him, and knowing that I can stand between my client and the storm makes me feel good about being a lawyer. He walked out of my conference room understanding that he can mount a real defense, that he has options, and that he did not have to be scared. That was worth getting out of bed for today.

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:19 PM | Comments (0)

Gonna be one of those days

I have already finished a large coffee and feel as if I may need to seek emergency intervention from a licensed caffeine provider. I'll check with my insurance company first to see who, in may area, may be able under my plan to administer a large dose of espresso intravenously. Seriously, I feel nothing from the first cup. My wife was telling me that a doctor once told her that coffee is a toxin for the body because when you stop drinking it, you crave it like a drug. No one, she was told, ever craved broccoli when they stopped eating it. Seems reasonable to me, but what do I know? Besides the fact that I need more coffee.

I have already had two bad phone calls. One client has just been sued for $21 million dollars. I have not seen the complaint yet, but I suspect it's going to prove to be a load of bullshit. The second is concerned that he may have come to the attention of an important regulatory agency. That would be a matter for grave concern. I see that my to do list for the day is already out-dated before I even finished composing it. All the benefits derived from a whole weekend at home with the family, as opposed to being spent at work, have evaporated. Poof! Just like that.

And the phone rings again as I try to communicate with a client who is in a bad cell phone area.

I hate the phone.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:26 AM | Comments (0)

A generation passes

Ever read the obits? I do. Not every day, but fairly often. They are usually fascinating. First, at many papers, they are written by new journalists who are just learning their skill and you get the impression, sometimes, that these newbys try harder. Second, you get to read a mini-biography about someone who has usually accomplished something interesting.

Eventually, you begin to notice a pattern, though. The pattern I've been noticing for a very long time now is that the generation who fought in WW II is passing. I recognize that this is not a new observation and, in fact, I sort of doubt that there is such a thing as a new observation, but that is a topic for another time.

The WW II generation has been lauded in books and films and I distrust romantic appraisals even as I am persuaded that this generation exemplified virtues which we are in need of again and which I worry we may never see. Forget the films, though. The place to learn about the individual accomplishments is in the obituaries.

The obituary of Captain Charles Moore is a good example. Most of the best obituary writing, by the way, is English, not American. Captain Moore was an SAS officer dropped into France in 1944 and charged with providing WT (wireless transmitting) facilities to the other SAS groups occupied in sabotage and preventing German reinforcement in Normandy.

"The sound of machinegun and rifle fire reverberated in the woods as groups of Maquis engaged the Germans, and for several days they were involved in a series of running fights with the enemy before they were able to make contact with Squadron HQ.

For the next three months, Moore maintained wireless contact with base despite repeated enemy attacks; and, at great personal risk, he prevented the WT equipment, some of which was highly secret, from falling into the hands of the Germans."

The obituary makes clear that he was an ordinary guy who did some extraordinary things, went on to a career in food sales, and stayed married to the girl he married in 1939.

I wonder, as this generation passes, do we have what it takes to replace them?

Also,the fellow who wrote "Danny and the Dinosaur" died. The book grew out of his sketches for his daughter when she became very ill with a childhood disease.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:29 AM | Comments (0)

God 17 Mai

To all of you Norwegians and Norwegian-o-philes, I wish you all a god 17 Mai! Today is Norwegian Constitution Day. It is a day to spend with families, to wave the flag, and to have a cook out. My wife and I will be at work instead. I hope everyone has an excellent 17 Mai!

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:20 AM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2004


I have had, according to one of the site counters I put up, almost 500 unique visitors to my blog in the short time I've had this web site. Visitors from other countries, other continents, some who reached me because they were looking for "Le Penseur" and I can only assume they mean the Rodin sculpture. I wonder what those people made of my little essays, totaling almost 16,000 words (including quotations)? Well, either way, I am enjoying this so far. It's an interesting community, those people who blog. I suspect that everyone gets something different out of it. I think I started mine with the idea of exploring difficult life issues and moved quickly instead to writing for the joy of writing. I am enjoying the anonymous interaction with other people, those who leave comments here and other blogs where I leave comments. I have no idea where it's going to go, but I am looking forward to the trip.

As I mark this small milestone, I turn to the words of the great sage of the East (eastern division of the American League): "Thank you for making this day necessary." (Yogi Berra, 1947 on the occasion of Yogi Berra Day).

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:47 AM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2004

How you see your world

A very kind reader left an interesting comment:

"It seems to me that blogging about experiences is very much like wandering around with a camera at hand--when I have an eye out for a photo, I tend to see more along the way because I am really looking. I find that even knowing I have an outlet for my personal observations helps me to pay more attention to the things happening in my life, especially the little things I sometimes forget."

I have kept her words in mind over the past week or two and think that she's really on to something. I look at life differently now, since I've started to blog. I pay more attention to my own internal dialogue to see whether it contains anything interesting enough to write about. I take more mental snap shots.

Mental snap shots are something I've done for a long time. I remember sitting in Paris one night, about 10 years ago, with a very dear friend. He had his camera and took many, many pictures. I had a camera and took very few. We were sitting behind Saint Sulpice, it was night time, and he wanted to take another picture. I suggested instead that he take a mental one, something I was doing. I was worried that on this, his first trip to Paris, we wasn't taking the time to appreciate the details of what he was seeing. The camera, I felt, gave him the illusion of having seen something because he could put it to his eye, click, and turn away, secure in his belief that he had now seen the thing he took a picture of but never having actually seen it. So, we sat and I tried to show him to look instead closely, to live in that moment of observation, and to fix it in his memory. I still have a good recollection of that evening and how the building looked. I'll have to ask him if he does.

There, I think I may have just said the same thing she said but in many more words.

The one thing I'm concerned about with this, however, is that I don't become too detached, too much the observer and too little the participant. If you are always looking, you forget to play. Then, the blog makes you like my friend with the camera. Something to reflect on, perhaps.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:56 AM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2004

Last Frasier

Does everyone agree that the final episode of Frasier was something like 30 times better than the final episode of Friends? Better written and better acted.

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:24 PM | Comments (0)

Random Observations while walking in NY

I was out getting my lunch and running errands and I had the following random observations which I've decided to inflict on you:

*I hate walking behind people who are smoking;

*with respect to the newish fashion of low rise pants on women, without attention to personal grooming that borders on the obsessive, we're all going to know whether that woman is a natural blond;

*some conversations should not be held loudly on cell phones while walking down Madison Avenue at 1:00 ("I'm not doing hormone replacement for like the next 15 years just to have your fucking kids");

*"If you don't know me by now" is actually a nice song to hear coming out of some guy's box;

*Europeans need to stop complaining about the dress of American tourists based on the nasty examples of fashion faux-pas's attached to foreign accents; and, finally,

*three fire trucks pulling up to a building across from the NY Public Library are kind of impressive.

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:16 PM | Comments (0)

Learn a new/old language?

I once very much wanted to learn Latin. I've always loved classical history and took some Roman history classes in college. Amanda's post reawakened that dormant urge and I've been investigating self-study books. Wheelock's Latin seems to be the way to go. Any dissenting points of view? Amanda, if you pop by, do you have any suggestions? I am seriously considering it.

P.S. I went by the aptly named Coliseum books to check out the choices and was surprised by how many Latin course books were out there. Wheelock's looked pretty good in comparison but I'd like to get some advice.

Posted by Random Penseur at 12:22 PM | Comments (0)

Technical Issues

I am having technical issues getting my sidebar to look the way I want it to. I am going to have to take a lot of time, it would appear, to learn how to edit a CSS. Before this, I didn't even know what a CSS was. Live and learn!

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

A Happy Moment

This morning, as I tried to sneak out of the house to catch my train, my daughter heard me on the stairs and called out, "I'm awake, I'm awake". And then she started to cry when I did not come back up, or so I gather. My wife came out and then gave her permission to come down the stairs by herself, carefully, to give me a hug and a kiss goodbye. So, holding on to the railing, she came down about three steps and stopped. She sat down and took the hem of her shirt in both hands. She pulled her little pajama top up and wiped her eyes and her cheeks, oh, so delicately, got up, and continued her way down the stairs to give me my hug and kiss. It was terribly cute.

Last summer, when we had just moved in to the house, she came to the screen door as I was leaving for work and said: "Don't run on the stairs, papa, you might fall and get hurt, I love you!" And I replied, "I love you, too and I'll see you tonight". To which she said, "See ya, wouldn't want to be ya!" She was 2 1/2 at the time.

Little girls are the best.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:57 AM | Comments (0)

More Blind Dating

Well, my wife has introduced B, via email, to her colleague, who we shall call C, for cute. I am told that she is cute, blond, early thirties, and is looking for an introduction to a nice guy because her past experience, when following her own judgment, has not been satisfactory. B has responded and his response has been looked upon favorably and the Gods of the Blind Date have arranged another adventure. However, your keen observer will also be there. Why? Because, in order to ease the awkwardness, this will be a small group thing. We four will be attending, next week, a tasting of Australian wines. I know little about Australian wines and look forward to slugging back, er, I mean, sipping with appropriate decorum, the offerings from the land down under. I will not, however, spit (unless it is nasty).

I will report back. Perhaps B's luck is about to change? I hope so.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:51 AM | Comments (0)

Ever just want to . . .

keep going past your stop on the subway to work in the morning to get out at a totally different place just to see what's there?

spontaneously whistle or sing for no good reason?

get in the car, pick a compass point, and drive till you hit something interesting?

go to the movies in the middle of the day when you should be doing something else?

be totally and utterly irresponsible?

tell your boss you think his or her judgment sucks?

Tell me that it's not just me, ok?

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:23 AM | Comments (0)

Have I found my political niche?

This resonated with me (sorry, I forgot to get the link):

"Andrew Sullivan dubs the fans of all this cable-nurtured satire “South Park Republicans”—people who “believe we need a hard-ass foreign policy and are extremely skeptical of political correctness” but also are socially liberal on many issues, Sullivan explains. Such South Park Republicanism is a real trend among younger Americans, he observes: South Park’s typical viewer, for instance, is an advertiser-ideal 28."

I'm a bit older, but the rest may fit pretty well. By way of illustration, I support the rights of gays to marry and of women to choose freely concerning abortion. I also support a strong military and a foreign policy that does not depend on or require the permission of France or the United Nations before we take actions in our interest. So, clearly I would not be at home in either of our two tradtional political parties. But I do have a home in South Park, I suppose.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:21 AM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2004

Take me away!

If you could get away for a weekend, a week, or a month, where would you go?

Weekend: New Orleans (without children) to eat, drink and be merry.

Week: Trieste and the Adriatic coast in Italy

Month: Who am I kidding? Who gets a month to travel? But if I did, New Zealand is high on my list.

Can you tell that I am totally unmotivated to work today?

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:27 AM | Comments (0)

Far away visitors

I gather that this is an obligatory post for a new blogger. Still, it's kind of cool to see that I have been attracting visitors from the Netherlands, Japan, Australia, Canada, France and the U.K. Feel free to leave comments, y'all. I'm sure that you see the world differently from me.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:07 AM | Comments (0)

More thoughts on rights

I was thinking more about the concept that rights should, maybe, recognize limits and I read a very interesting article by Theodore Dalrymple in the Spectator last week. Dalrymple is a brilliant man and a great writer. He works as a shrink in a big, inner-city hospital in one of the large, decaying cities in England. His articles are always a treat to read and, among the topics which concern him, is the fraying fabric of British society. One of his points is that the concept of "it's my right" has not been met with growth in the concept of "it's my responsibility" with a deplorable result:

"Considerations of rights, which are deemed by much of the population to be inalienable, unconditional and metaphysically unassailable, drive out considerations of kindness, decency, tolerance, mutual obligation and so forth: all the considerations, in fact, that make civilised or dignified existence in a crowded society possible. Everyone becomes an atom of an inert gas in a vacuum, whose rights act as physical forces to prevent him from combining sociably with other such atoms.

Thus a man in a tower block believes he has a right to play his music at all hours of the day and night; his neighbour, on the other hand, believes he has a right to peace and quiet. How is this conflict between two absolute but opposite rights resolved? Trial by baseball bat, since the vaunted protections offered by the legal system do not exist in cases such as this. Hell hath no fury like a man who believes his rights are being violated.

The idea of human rights, then, when extended beyond a few very general and negative rights, does not liberate us; it turns us into feral egotists who are at the same time dependent. This effect can be seen in our schools, where children do as they please because, with the native cunning of youth, they have realised the permissive possibilities inherent in the notion of their rights. I can only say how relieved I am that I shall not be around to see the full flowering of the human-rights culture in the years to come."

A provocative thinker. I highly recommend his book, "Life at the Bottom: the Worldview that Makes the Underclass.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:42 AM | Comments (0)

Favorite Museums, a partial list

I have been struck by the itchy travel bug. You know it, the one that makes you want to head to the airport, step up to the ticket counter and say, "I'll take a seat on the next flight out, no matter where it's going". I've never actually done that, but I've wanted to. So, to try to stave off that urge, I'm thinking of reliving some of my favorite museums. Going to museums has always been a big part of travel for me. Here's an off the top of my head partial list of favorites (I'm sure I'm leaving out dozens), I'd be interested in hearing about yours:

Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner

New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York: The Frick Collection
New York: West Point Museum
London: The Wallace Collection
London: The National Portrait Gallery
Lisbon: Gulbenkian

Upstate NY: The Catskill Flyfishing Museum
Oslo: Norsk Folke Museum(Cobalt works museum is cool, too).
Paris: Rodin
Paris: Quai d'Orsay
Venice: Really, the whole city

Chicago: Field Museum
Midland, TX: Confederate Air Force Museum (name changed in 2001 to Commemerative Air Force, by the way) See also, main organization web page
Mexico City: El Museo Nacional de AntropologĂ­a

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:39 AM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2004

This guy should buy a lottery ticket

So, this contractor was renovating a building in North Carolina when he dug a civil war cannon ball up. He thought the cannon ball would make a grand gift to the Cape Fear Museum. Only problem, it still had a live fuse in it! How lucky was this guy -- can you picture him chucking the damn thing into the back of his pickup to drive over to the museum? It was live! And, as a colleague of mine points out, how many times do you think he hit it with his backhoe first? Definitely needs to buy a lottery ticket!

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:55 PM | Comments (0)

This made me laugh

Mimi Sheraton was the first female restaurant critic at the NY Times and she could really write. The following made me laugh and I wanted to share it:

"What finally prompted me to lose weight was a view of myself in a hairdresser's full-length mirror when I was seated and wearing one of the salon's floral print robes and realized that I looked like a slipcovered club chair."

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:28 PM | Comments (0)


I don't really know what else to call this one. I had a dear, old friend over the house last night. He was in from out of town. He stayed over and came into the city with me this morning for meetings. Then, he heads back home. We talked on the train out last night, after dinner when the kids were asleep, and this morning on the way in.

His life is falling apart -- work, marriage, kids. The whole thing.

Work: It stems from this, maybe. He lost his job. The fourth one in a row. He's a lawyer, from an Ivy League law school, who had jobs with two of the most prestigious law firms in NY, a big investment bank in NY, and a law firm in the Mid West where he and his family moved after he lost his third job. The fourth job he lost was in the Mid West where the firm had recruited him and had also been happy to employ his wife as a lawyer. She was working at a big firm in NY. She is now happily on her way to a lucrative partnership at this new firm, probably by next year.

So, effect? Well, succinctly, he feels like a failure and she wonders, he says, whether she married a bum who can't keep a job. That leads us to marriage.

Marriage: Their marriage has always been filled with tensions, any observer would agree. Too many, in fact, for me to go into here. Let it suffice that I note that even before the job issues, there were tensions. I think that she feels trapped. Trapped because of the kids, who, as a nurturer type, she'd like to stay home and take care of. Trapped into being the main bread winner because she not only can hold a job, she excels at the practice of law (she does real estate law). Clients love her and the firms she's worked at love her. She's scared. My friend is dealing with feelings of failure and loss and self-esteem issues. To cope, he's thrown himself into a start up venture to which, based on hearing the business plan he's going to present this morning to some investors, I ascribe a very low possibility of success. That means he works at night a lot, after the kids are in bed. What does she do? She watches television and drinks a little wine. Maybe, my friend worries, more than a little. What do they not do? Well, clearly talk. Forget about having sex, which I think you will agree, is an essential component of a good marriage. But they are not even talking. Or if they are, I wonder, are they listening to each other? Does he understand how she needs reassurance that this won't be forever and does she understand that he needs to be told that she does not think he's a shiftless bum (his words there, by the way). Do they remember that they are playing for the same team? Do they still love each other even? Did I mention, as a complicating factor, that her mother lives with them now? Like it couldn't get any worse, right?

It is naive to think that love is the answer or that all you need for a good marriage is love. No, a good marriage takes work. It is a partnership, it is constant compromise, it is giving of yourself and receiving from the other. Love is the reason you do it, but love is just the starting place. Sorry, here endeth my sermon on marriage and love.

Nevertheless, the tension in that house is apparently so thick that, forget the knife, you would need a skill saw to get through it. That brings us to the kids.

Their boy is not yet three and the girl is closing in on one. The boy is clearly troubled by the tension and, according to my friend, ungovernable and uncontrollable. The friend and the wife are not talking, so forget about coming up with a consistent plan to manage the boy, who after all, they should be able to handle and out think. And, if they do have a plan, it does not survive the guilt feelings the wife has from not being home more. Children are naturally manipulative and my friend says the boy plays on the guilt and that makes it nigh impossible for them to present a united front.

I despair of being able to help him or his wife, who I dearly love. By nature, I want to help my friends. I want to make everything right. No way I can do that here. I am watching him hold on with whatever he has left inside and I worry that it won't be enough.

We trooped off to bed on the early side because my friend has his meeting and my wife has another job interview this morning.

I got into bed with my wife after we said good night to our friend and I held her extra close, and I told her I loved her a little more emphatically than usual, and I told her how lucky I felt I was to have her, and I reflected on my comparative good fortune. As I drifted off to sleep, I realized that in many of the important ways, home, marriage, children, we are blessed. [Excuse me now while I spit three times to avert the evil eye.] Seriously, I think of my friend and I wonder if, there but for the grace. . .

I wonder how many of us are truly just one pay check away from watching our whole lives disintegrate. Too many of us confuse our identity and our self-esteem with our job. I hope I don't. My wife and I have talked about this before. When it seems like her career is going better than mine, we prioritize her career and I pick up the slack at home. Why? Because we are a team and I am as proud, prouder even, of her successes than I am of mine and because supporting each other is what we do. When mine is going better, the reverse. We simply do what's best for the team. I would not hesitate to quit my job and fly off to wherever with her if she was presented with an outstanding career opportunity and I know that she would do the same for me. Again, it's what's best for our team that matters. I worry that my friends don't see the world like that.

So, today, I start my day sad. Sorry for the long post, but I needed to write it. Can you think of a better title?

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:07 AM | Comments (0)

"Listening Skills", Cont.

I got home last night and asked my daughter if she had gotten her listening skills back from her friend Eli (see below for background). She told me, "no, he still has them". And so, I said, that was too bad because I had a present for her that I would only be able to give her if she had her listening skills back. She exclaimed, "Oh, he did give them back". No fool I, I asked, all of them? Only to be told, "yes, but a shark ate some of them so I don't have all of them". Well, I said, maybe you can go get the shark and make him give you back the rest and she said, "no, he's a nice shark, I don't have to make him". I said to her, well, he's in the living room so go ask him now so I can give you your present. And she ran into the living room, calling, "Hi, Mr. Shark, can I have the rest of listening skills back? Ok? Thanks!" Then she called back to me, "got 'em!" and so she received her new books and happiness reigned throughout.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:56 AM | Comments (0)

May 11, 2004

Time Suck of the Day

Whatever became of or Kozmo? Go check out the ghost site articles and find out. Guaranteed time suckage. Especially if you are foolish enough to go listen to the old mp3's of the psycho ex-girlfriend voice-mails. Not that I did that. Nope. Not me.

Posted by Random Penseur at 05:18 PM | Comments (0)

New books for the kiddies!

On my way back from the post office, I popped into Coliseum Books, a nice independent bookstore, and picked up a couple of old childhood favorites which are too old for my daughter, and way too old for my son, but which I'm going to try to read to her anyway. Anyone else have fond memories of "A Wind in the Willows" and the Paddington Bear stories (by Michael Bond)? I can't wait until story time tonight!

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:54 PM | Comments (0)

When did Hockey lose its relevance?

Assume with me that you are a sports fan and that hockey was relevant to your little sports world. When did that stop?

I was reading the sports section this morning and it reported on the progress being made in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's May 11 and it's gonna hit 80+ degrees today in NYC. And they are not only still playing hockey but they don't even know who's going to be in their championship.

Am I the only sports fan who just doesn't care about hockey anymore? Is it my fault or did the NHL blow their brand up?

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:28 PM | Comments (0)

The 80's Teen Movie

Anyone else out there go to high school or college during the 80's? There was a decent article in the NY Times this past weekend on John Hughes which included an interview with Molly Ringwald.

Molly had an interesting comment about 16 Candles and why it meant so much to so many kids: "It is part of their youth, and everyone (or most everyone) looks back at when they were a teenager with an incredible amount of nostalgia. The drama of youth (barring a horribly dysfunctional, abusive childhood) is preferable to the drama of adulthood."

I miss the 80's movies. How many people still have fond memories of the Breakfast Club? Or Caddyshack? Diner? Ferris Bueller's Day Off? Fletch? Top Gun? Real Genius? Or Repo Man ("A Repo Man is always intense")? I suspect that this line of movies marks a generational dividing point. I have not seen Road Trip, for instance. And those who have seen Road Trip probably have not seen History of the World, Part I.

And let me just say, as time marches on, there will always be a part of me who is 14 years old and carrying a torch for Ally Sheedy as Jennifer in War Games.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:52 AM | Comments (0)

Gemstones have the coolest names

Citrines, Peridots, Chalcedonies, Rubies, Garnets, Coral, Aquamarine, Beryl ,Chrysoberyl, Diamond, Emerald, Hiddenite, Kunzite, Opal, Sapphire, Spinel, Spodumene, Topaz, Tourmaline, Zircon. Go here for an extended list of names.

If you could be any gemstone, which one? Today, I feel like a peridot.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:26 AM | Comments (0)

And speaking of children. . .

Last night I told my daughter that her uncle was coming to visit. She had some very practical questions: do we have enough beds? Where will he sleep? Does he need two pillows? When will he arrive? I could only answer about half of her questions.

This discussion followed a little tiff we had about her, as my Southern friends might say, minding me. I got angry about her not minding me. Before she went to sleep, I told her that I was sorry that I got angry with her and I asked her to say she was sorry for not listening. I am a big believer in never, ever, going to bed angry or before you've said you're sorry and cleared up whatever problem you may have had. She told me that she couldn't say she was sorry. I asked her why not and she replied: "Eli (her friend) borrowed my listening skills and didn't give them back so that's why I didn't listen to you". Gold star for creative explanation. She said she was sorry later.

When I came upstairs to go to bed, she called me into her room. She should have been asleep. I went in and she said that she had a wet diaper. She is potty trained but wears a diaper at night to avoid, as the Army might say in connection with a training incident, accidental discharge. I asked her why didn't she call out to tell me that she needed to go to the bathroom. She has a giant Paddington Bear doll in her room, by the way. Her response: "Paddington Bear told me at night I should pee in my diaper". I changed her, gave her a kiss, and told her to stop listening to Paddington Bear who was clearly a bad influence.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:53 AM | Comments (0)

You need a license to own a dog, right?

At what point do advocacy groups lose sight of the forest? At what point do they become so myopically focused on their issue that they forget that or refuse to acknowledge that there may be limits on whatever right they feel requires a passionate defense?

I am talking here about women's reproductive rights advocates. To be clear, I am not talking about a woman's right to have an abortion or receive reproductive counseling (things which I support).

A Judge in upstate New York has ruled that a couple may not have any more children until they show that they are capable of doing so by regaining custody of the four children of theirs who are currently in the care of the state. Each child, all born since 1998, has tested positive for cocaine at birth. The Judge ruled that this was too much of a burden on the state to continue to care for the children this couple was having. I was surprised to note that the women's reproductive rights groups immediately denounced the decision and vowed to do something about it.

I think the Judge was right and the groups were wrong. One, I do think that the state has the power to regulate behavior. That concept is really beyond cavil. This behavior has an impact on the state, the other children in the state system, and sucks up resources (state and medical) that could be used elsewhere. The state, it seems to me, has a compelling interest in regulating this behavior. Two, what about the children? Studies have shown that children born to mothers who abuse cocaine face significant problems in their lives: lower birth weight; cognitive issues; and physical/health issues. Why don't these groups take into account the lives these future children will face if born to a cocaine abusing mother?

I think you can push the concept of rights just too far. If the judge can fine me for having a dog without a license . . .

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:24 AM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2004

Eastern Wisdom* -- Yogi Quote of the Day

As we search for wisdom and understanding, and further ponder the deeper metaphysical implications of change, we should contemplate the sayings of the greatest Yogi of them all, for in contemplation, lies the road to wisdom. In that spirit, I give you the Yogi quote of the day:

"If you come to a fork in the road, take it."

* By "Eastern", you should, of course, understand that to mean the Eastern Division of the American League.

Posted by Random Penseur at 05:09 PM | Comments (0)

Papers out!

Stinky was not nearly as bad as he usually is and the papers have gone out to the other side and to the judge. Woo hoo! And the best part is that no animals were harmed in the making of the opposition to this motion. I will blog more about Stinky tomorrow, when I've caught my breath.

Posted by Random Penseur at 05:05 PM | Comments (0)

Very Troubling

I only have one side of this story and am aware that there could easily be another explanation, but I will not let the fact that I am not in possession of all the facts stop me.

I have an acquaintance. He is dying from an incurable brain tumor. When another friend arrived at the hospital to visit him, he found the fellow's girl friend there with some "sleazy accountant". It transpires that the girl friend, a woman of uncertain character, is now the wife. It further appears as if this has taken place very quickly and the will has been changed with equal rapidity. All who are aware of this fellow's condition believe that, as a result of the effects of the tumor, he lacked the capacity to marry, to change his will, or to make practically any decision as all.

Maybe there is a reasonable explanation, but I am hard pressed to see it. To quote my little girl, I am, absolutely, so sad.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:03 AM | Comments (0)

Adventures in Blind Dating, Conclusion of this Adventure

Quick update: I was right, those crazy kids are not going to make it. I got an email this morning from L asking me to let B down gently, explaining (to the extent that what follows constitutes an explanation, not that she needed to provide one), that she didn't think it was going to go anywhere. The French say that when you meet someone, there has to be a "flash". No flash here, evidently.

And the dating goes on. . .

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:18 AM | Comments (0)

Ice Cream and Naps, although not in that order

This past weekend was the first weekend in a long time I did not have to work. It was delightful. I already wrote about Saturday.

Sunday was Mother's Day. Another in a long line of what my wife and I think of as Hallmark Holidays. We had lunch with my parents and my grand-parents. Not the high point of my day, at the risk of sounding like a less than dutiful son. My daughter collapsed in tears in the restaurant, and I had to carry her out, upon hearing the pronouncement that there would be in dessert. She was vastly overtired. In fact, she went to sleep almost as soon as we got her home. The boy child did as well. He actually was very well behaved at the restaurant.

So what, you may wonder, did I do with the two and a half hours of free time given to me by my children? Well, I wasted a half an hour doing I know not now. The other two hours I spent in serious nap on the sofa. Ah, the bliss that is the afternoon nap. Actually, I was not feeling too well which is why I crashed out for two hours. I felt a bit loggy when I awoke. The kids were up very shortly after I was. I cooked dinner for us all, which my daughter refused to eat, preferring toasted bread and cheese, which we made for her. The boy ate his, after a fashion, meaning that half made its way into his mouth directly, a quarter was waved about in the air for a time before being eaten, and the remaining quarter went straight on the floor, much to his mother's consternation.

We finished dinner early and it was a beautiful evening. So, we loaded the boy into the baby bjorn and the girl into the stroller and off we went into the village. It's about a 10-15 minute walk into the village and it was delightful. Many of the flowering trees and bushes are budding and some are fully flowered. It smelled delicious and every where we looked there were vivid pinks and purples. However, we did not take too much time to stop and smell the flowers. No, we were on a mission. Ice cream. There is a place in our little hamlet that makes its own ice cream. Our daughter wanted strawberry and our son, my wife decided, really wanted toasted almond, although how she got that from his babbling is beyond me.

In any event, ice cream was procured, tasted, pronounced perfect, and happiness pervaded our merry little band. And to top it off, on the way back, we got to watch a bunny rabbit for a couple of minutes before he (or maybe she) decided our attention was too much and hopped away.

It was a perfect, almost Norman Rockwell, evening. I'm trying hard to fix it in my memory to keep it to refer back to when we get the anti-Norman Rockwell moments. It's hard, though, isn't it? I mean, to keep hold of the good times when you are experiencing the bad times. The bad times, somehow, seem more vivid and immediate and long lasting than the good times. Speaking of which, I am off to get some papers out today. I am working with Stinky, the partner I love the least. Wish me luck and patience.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:48 AM | Comments (0)

May 09, 2004

Another Change

No more babies and booze. Yesterday was the last babies and booze event as we've known them in the past. What, you may ask is babies and booze? It was the last gasp of formerly very social adults who suddenly found themselves with child. We were four couples, all of whom were somewhere between friends and very good friends. All of whom reproduced at or about the same time, certainly within a year of each other. All of whom used to hang out and often drink a little too much. None of whom wanted to bring a baby to a smoky NYC bar and all of whom considered themselves to be responsible parents. Solution? Pick an apartment and all get together for a 5-6 hour, sometimes longer, visit. We'd divide the 8 into 2 teams of 4 and into 2 shifts. The first time, the guys went to see the first Lord of the Rings movie while the women watched the kids. The second shift involved the guys with the kids and the women imbibing at a local Mexican place. It was a huge success and for awhile there we were getting together like this every 4-6 weeks.

Last night was one of the last with the original 4 couples. We had it at their apartment in Greenwich Village. This couple is moving to Pennsylvania where he will be a professor at a law school there. They live in a very trendy building in the far West Village -- think J-Lo or Tony Soprano guy. They sold their apartment for an obscene amount of money, bought a house in rural Pennsylvania and are going, so the thinking goes, to bury themselves out there in the middle of nowhere. So, they hosted.

We broke with tradition by all staying together the whole time such that it was more like an extended play date with wine. We had all divided up food responsibilities and I took cheese. Shopping for cheese, with almost no constraints because you're buying for 6, is so much fun. I went to Murray's Cheese, one of the top cheese shops in the City, and told the nice woman behind the counter that I wanted 6 cheeses -- three stinky and three non-stinky -- and that she should dazzle me with her suggestions. Well, maybe she was new, but I was not dazzled. For instance, when I asked for the most unusual stinky cheese, she gave me a cheese with truffles in it but where the rind had been rubbed with cinnamon. Sort of yummy, not stinky at all and the cinnamon detracted from the earth richness of the truffles. So I intervened and ended up buying an: Epoisse (very stinky washed rind); two goats; a Tur (goat and sheep, creamy but stinky); a petit Muenster (stinky like old socks); an aged Gouda (almost crunchy); and, for a seventh, they had a cool Norwegian cheese with cloves in it.

We took the kids across the West Side Highway to a very cute playground and ran around with them until we decided it was time to go. We convinced the kids by saying the magic word, "snacks". Of course, they did not expect snacks to include boiled shrimp or smoked salmon, well, with the exception of my kid, maybe, who thinks smoked salmon is about as good as ice cream. No kidding. She used to make her ice cream noise for smoked salmon and nothing else. She did put away so much shrimp though that I sort of apologized to our host who, being inherently a kind person, told me not to worry about it.

We also drank some yummy wine. Our host covered the labels on 2 bottles and had us taste and compare. It turns out that they were both the same wine, a Chateau Talbot, but 10 years apart in vintage. Not to blow my own horn, but I got it immediately on the first sip of each, much to the surprise of my host. I like wine and, while it's hard to talk about wine without sounding pretentious, it's not a complicated subject. Taste, think, describe. Where's the great mystery?

Anyway, it was a lovely day with great cheese, great wine, good friends, adorable and well behaved children, and a perfect way to say good bye to a wonderful little tradition. I don't know if we are ever going to do it again and even if we do, with just the three couples or if we add another one, the dynamics will be different.

So that is another change. Another chapter ended. I'm still going to post about some other changes later. I just need to reflect on them some more, or maybe, I'll just use this to reflect out loud.

Sorry if this one ran rather long. Thanks for reading to the end.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:20 AM | Comments (0)

May 08, 2004

Eastern Wisdom -- Yogi Quote of the Day

As we search for wisdom and understanding, we should contemplate the sayings of the greatest Yogi of them all, for in contemplation, lies the road to wisdom. In that spirit, I give you the Yogi quote of the day:

"We may be lost, but we're making good time." -- Yogi Berra, 1972

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:51 AM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2004


My wife made me tape the final episode of Friends because we were going out to dinner last night and she wanted to watch it. So, we saw it tonight. Actually, it was pretty vapid. However, one scene resonated with me. That was the last one where the cast all put their keys on the table and shut the door to the apartment.

Every time we've moved, I've always insisted on being the last one out the door and I turn to the apartment, say good bye, and shut the door. Silly, maybe, but it helps me with the change. I am probably (my wife says, certainly) not good at change. I contend that I love change, as long as it doesn't interfere with any of my little daily routines. Changing living space is a tough one, because it changes all of your daily routines.

So I always say good bye. I feel as if I have a vivid recollection of the last three places we lived, of the front door closing, of the sound of the door and the clunk of the locks. Even the smell of the hallways and the quality of the light. I sort of miss all of these places. I have happy memories of all of them. But I always have to say good bye.

I am contemplating some other changes, future changes, life/career changes. I'll address them later. Remind me if I forget, ok?

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:24 PM | Comments (0)

Addition to Favorite Buildings (NYC Edition)

This will probably be the first of many, but, walking down Fifth Avenue last night I realized I had forgotten about the Cartier Store/Plant Townhouse. This is the last surviving example of golden age Fifth Avenue domestic architecture. Yes, at one point, Fifth Avenue in the 50's was residential and very, very expensive. Cartier recently restored the building and it looks pretty great.

Also, a kind reader wrote in about the Cunard Building downtown, which has the most kick ass ceiling. This reminded me of the Customs House at Bowling Green. The NYC harbors were where much of the nation's wealth landed from cross-Atlantic trade. All the duties paid on that trade were paid here. Specifically, the counting room in the rotunda, which you can sort of glimpse in one of the photographs at the link, has the most incredible murals and the original desks where merchants stepped up to pay the duty on their cargo.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:02 AM | Comments (0)

Adventures in Blind Dating, Update

Well, those two crazy kids may not make it after all. [Wipe tear away, here] B has reported in. He tells me that they stayed for another half and hour and chatted. B says she was cute and he enjoyed the set up. However, when he asked her for another drink or if she'd like to go get a bite to eat, she told him that she had to be up early tomorrow and would have to pass. So, B, ever the gentleman, walked her back to the train where she said, "this was fun, let's do it again sometime, email me". Sounds like the kiss of death, right? Time will tell, but, to paraphrase from old silent films, it doesn't look good for our hero!

However, another prospect has come out of nowhere. Well, not nowhere. My wife has a candidate from her job who just broke up with her boyfriend. Stay tuned and we'll see what develops in my quest to help B achieve couplehood.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:38 AM | Comments (0)

My brush with Fame, however faint

My wife and I had dinner last night in the City (NYC). All by ourselves, no kids, no other people. It was grand. The food was good, the wine was good, the conversation flowed (or at least did better than just dripping) and sparkled (there were moments, ok), and we felt for a brief and shining moment like adults again. She looked beautiful (and I'm not just saying that because I know that she tunes in from time to time).

After dinner, we were enjoying a post prandial stroll down Fifth Avenue to catch a train back home when, suddenly, who should I spy jumping out of a Town Car and ducking into the NBA Store but none other than Al Sharpton. Remember Al? Democratic Presidential candidate? Racial rabble rouser? Huckster?

He cut his hair, otherwise, he looked pretty good. I wonder if we'll see him at the Democratic National Convention, especially since I've been seeing articles concerning Kerry's failure to reach out to minorities and include more minorities in his campaign.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:33 AM | Comments (0)

Freedom of the Press in the EU

Journalist arrested for investigation into fraud. It appears that there is a vast scandal brewing in the European Union over fraudulently diverting Commission money into private hands. Classic corruption. Here, in the United States, a journalist who exposed such a scam would be heading for the Pulitzer Prize. In Europe, he's gone to jail, had his lap top seized, had his records taken, and had his bank statements reviewed. No such treatment has been meted out to those accused of the fraud. The crime this journalist has committed? Insufficient fervor in support of the EU and giving ammunition to the anti-Europeans (read: British). The thing that got me, among others, was the bit about the television station called Euronews. The author of the article, a British MEP (member of European Parliament) had this to say about Euronews:

"[W]hen it reports directly on the EU, impartiality goes out of the window and we are treated to Soviet-style items about millions of workers waking up to higher standards thanks to the Commission. I found the contrast suspicious, so I put down a written question asking Romano Prodi [EU President] whether he gave Euronews any money. His reply was beyond parody. Yes, he said, he did give it grants, but such grants 'in no way restrict the editorial freedom of the beneficiary, who must, however, respect the image of the European institutions and the raison d'etre and general objectives of the Union'." (emphasis added)

I have always had strong views about state funded media. This just confirms them. Remember Prodi's response, please, the next time you read a European newspaper attacking the United States press for being a tool of the administration. Remember that the journalist may have filed that attack while on his or her way to the bank to deposit his or her check from the EU administration.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:08 AM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2004

Time suck of the day -- a question

I saw this at another blog during my travels and thought it a very amusing question. So, with thanks to Jen, who came up with it:

"If you had a theme song that would play as you walk down the street or enter a room, what would it be?


For me: Either, "Hey, hey we're the Monkees" or "Sympathy for the Devil".

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:43 PM | Comments (0)

Some Favorite Buildings -- NYC Edition

The built environment fascinates me. If you enjoy architectural history, you can never be bored in a city. There is always too much to see, to react to, to think about, to consider, and to enjoy. Here are some of my personal favorite buildings in NYC, in no particular order:

Lever House (Gordon Bunshaft)
The University Club (Standford White) or this link
The Flatiron Building

Grand Central Station
The Chrysler Building (pick a photo)
Citibank Center (couldn't easily find a picture)
New York State Supreme Court (60 Centre Street) (scroll down for picture)
New York Yacht Club
New York Tenement Museum (when my family came to NY, they lived in something that looked very much like this, I'm told)
Seagram Building
Century Association
Woolworth Tower (a cathedral of commerce, said the architect)

Colannade in Greenwich Village

Also check out this resource for pictures.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:54 AM | Comments (0)

Remember the movie, Chariots of Fire?

Well, today in 1954, medical student Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile during a track meet in Oxford, England, in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds.

Cool, huh?

Also, while we are on a today in history review, today in 1889, the Paris Exposition formally opened, featuring the just-completed Eiffel Tower. I am working on a small architecture post in its honor.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:43 AM | Comments (0)

Taking himself too seriously?

From the NY Times this morning:

"I'm thinking about gardening as a radical political act," said Fritz Haeg, 34, an architect who teaches in the environmental design program at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. "It means completely questioning the way we live, the way we get our food, the way we use and abuse natural resources, the way we occupy public space."

I guess I should pay more attention to the flowers I plant. Or, maybe, I just mock what I do not understand. Still, I think he's taking himself way too seriously. He might want to try some of those decaffeinated brands.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:36 AM | Comments (0)

Adventures in Blind Dating, Chpt. 1

The Meeting.

Last night, I took B to meet with L at the Royalton Hotel bar. The Royalton is a very cool space. It was one of the first of the now ubiquitous boutique hotels in NYC. Designed by Phillipe Starck, the doors to the hotel entrance are unmarked and the space inside is low lit with low tables and chairs. Some of the chairs look like small animals with huge bases and small backs comprised of thick metal bars bent to provide some type of embrace. This is the lobby, by the way. You know, where you check in and say king size, no smoking, please. The check in desk is in the middle of the cocktail lounge and quite a bit smaller than the bar. There are these odd looking glass rhino-horn light fixtures jutting out from the wall every five feet or so. I did not like them. The bar is a great people watching place. Not to be too NYC bitchy, but you get the tourists who wandered in wearing matching sweat suits with bright new sneakers and very big hair (I think it was a mother/daughter team) and you get the Euro-trash types who have not been told that this bar is, to quote a friend, so two weeks ago. Interesting mix and they are all looking at each other trying to figure out what the other one is doing in their bar or hotel.

Then there was blind date table. B and I were in suits and ties. B looked quite dashing in a dark suit, pink shirt, and pink and purple tie. Not very lawyerly but certainly nice for a date. When we arrived, L was already there. She snagged a table for three and was drinking a light beer. She was as I remembered her and we quickly introduced each other and sat down.

Quick first impressions. What do you base these on? What a person orders from the waitress? Well, I did not expect her to be drinking a beer as she seemed more of a Cosmo type but a beer gives a good, honest, down to earth impression. B had a martini with a specified type of gin I had never heard of before. What does that make him? Fussy, perhaps? I just had a single malt scotch. I'm married so I don't care what it says about me particularly, except, I suppose, it says, hah, he's doing a low carb diet!

The conversation flowed easily and I'll be curious to hear B's reactions when he gets in to work today. I thought she was nice, but. . . . I have to admit, I was distracted some of the time by trying to figure out whether she was chewing gum while drinking her light beer. If so, turn off for me and I suspect for B who is really quite picky. Hmn, did I say fussy before based on the drink choice? Perhaps there is some truth to that.

In any event, I think that they got along. I stayed with them for a half an hour and then rushed to catch a train to see my children before they went off to bed.

B is usually in to work by this time. I will not read anything into the fact that he is late. I will wait for the report, which I will share with you, dear readers. Do the adventures continue? Tune in and find out!

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:20 AM | Comments (0)

May 05, 2004

Update on being banned

If you were to visit the blog which banned my comments (see below), you will find the blogger has now deleted all of her posts concerning the murder and her reactions to it. I wonder why. Almost.

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:39 PM | Comments (0)

Time Suck of the Day

South Park Scripts are the Time Suck of the Day. Go forth and waste time.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:38 AM | Comments (0)

I could not finish this article

Evidently, some sick, twisted excuse for a human being has been selling fake baby formula to people in China. The result? The babies received zero nutrition and starved to death. I couldn't get past the first two paragraphs of this article on the train this morning.

I'm not going to cry about this. Really, that's what I keep telling myself at least.

The saddest detail of all, if you are not crying yet, the parents' mistook the fat cheeks for a sign of growth and health as opposed to a sign of starvation.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:24 AM | Comments (0)

Germany following Israeli lead on terrorism?

I guess everyone who reads newspapers is aware of the typical European government reaction when Israel assassinates a terrorist leader. The Europeans freak out and say that such extra-judicial actions are illegitimate and threaten the peace process. So, how is this for hypocrisy then:

"The German interior minister, Otto Schily, has expressed strong support for new measures, saying in recent interviews that the German police needed ways to deal with people who present what he called "a massive threat" to Germany.

Mr. Schily caused a stir when he told a German magazine, Der Spiegel, last week that in cases in which there was a direct danger of terrorism it should be possible to take a suspect into preventive custody, or, under extreme circumstances, to carry out assassinations.

"Is there not a right of self-defense against terrorists who plan mass murder?" he asked. "That leads to the question whether in extreme cases it is justified to kill that person in self-defense."

So, it's ok when Germans do it but not Israelis? By contrast to the state of affairs in Israel, I can't recall a single major terrorist action on German soil since the 1972 Olympics.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:19 AM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2004

I got banned!

I actually got banned from leaving comments at a blog today. The woman who runs Sofiya the Grouch has decided, I guess, that I cannot post comments there anymore. She deleted the comments I left and banned my ass from ever darkening her comment boards again. I am sort of amused. She is, I gather, a graduate student in music school at U.T. Austin where one of her professors was allegedly killed by another student. I left a message of sympathy on her blog comments.

When next I tuned in, Sofiya posted the following concerning her reaction to the arrest. She said, if you don't want to follow the link, that she is sure the alleged killer is disturbed and she wants to interview all of his fellow students to present some sort of petition to show that the alleged wacko should not get the death penalty. Oh, and she wants to send him a care package.

Did you read the article above concerning the murder? The alleged killer used a meat cleaver to kill a woman with multiple sclerosis. That is absent from Sofiya's blog. Read her comment on this and you will be sure, as she is, that the alleged killer is being "vilified" and needs our help. So, I left a message on her comment board, as best as I can recall since she deleted it, to state that: one, the guy used a cleaver; two, she may not be in the best position to judge the guy's sanity; and, three, that she could easily muck up his defense by running around contaminating all of his witnesses and in doing so would be doing no favor for the guy.

She replied to my comment by noting that unless I know her personally I have no right to comment on her blog like this and she seriously doubts that she could do anything to gum up the system. That's as best as I can recall.

In any event, I replied to her that I had not been rude on my first comment but that contamination is an issue. Also, I figured that a blog is a public space and I could comment as I pleased. But, since she did not want to have anyone commenting who might disagree with her, I would refrain from doing so in the future. [Digression: I am a big believer that the remedy for speech with which you disagree is more speech, not banning the speech. It's a principal that has worked well for this country for a very long time].

So, I went back later to see if she had any reply and found that not only had my earlier comments been deleted, but I was now banned.

What have I learned from this? That if you consider yourself on the right side of an issue (here, death penalty), don't bother with facts (here, how the legal system works). It may be more important to do good (i.e., her investigation and petition), than to do right (refrain from f*cking things up for his attorneys). I gather that for Sofiya and her friends taking action is a comforting end in and of itself which will without question make them feel better about themselves. No room there for a messy discussion about whether it is the right thing to do. Nope.

How very odd. So much for civil discourse.

So, what are the rules for my comments' board? Well, I like lively discussions and hope to have some here. That said, I expect civil discourse. We're all adults here. Whatever happens, though, I highly doubt that I will ban someone for challenging my world view, however narrow my view may be.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:35 PM | Comments (0)

My wife has viewed my blog

I finally decided to tell my wife about my blog. I realized that I did not want to wall off a section of my life from her. Generally speaking, we (or at least I) don't keep secrets from each other. This was not a big secret but we've been married for 10 years and I decided I did not want to start now. So, last night, while we were getting ready to go to sleep, I told her about it. Her reaction surprised me. She was excited for me! She thought it was a great idea and she encouraged me.

Well, now she has actually read it. She said she liked it a lot and reminded me that the contraction of "its" takes an apostrophe when it is short for "it is". Duly noted.

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:37 PM | Comments (0)


I came across this article today and it put into words some of the amorphous feelings I have had lately after hearing about the shooting of the pregnant woman and her daughters in Israel. And the world remains silent Just why does it seem that no one is prepared to protest the shooting deaths of a pregnant woman and her four daughters? These people were shot, execution style, up close and personal. Some animal had to make a decision AFTER he saw them, to kill them. Where is the outrage in the European capitals? These great European humanists who fill the streets when Israel takes out the people who send these criminals to kill young women and children. Why does no one protest these deaths? Do you remember the young child who was shot in his bedroom, hiding under his bed after terrorists invaded his home? No one protested that death either. Instead, you see rallies in Gaza and the West Bank to celebrate this "triumph" and marches in Europe to press the Palestinian cause. Are we back to a place and time where Jewish lives count less? Is that the only conclusion we can reach? I think we all know that this is so in the Arab world in general where they want to push the Jews back into the sea. But is it the case once again in Europe, too? Sometimes, I just despair.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:00 AM | Comments (0)

Adventures in Blind Dating, Prelude

Well, its official. If I write about this, I cannot tell my friend, my co-worker, about this blog because it will chronicle one of his adventures in blind dating. Still, it may prove to be too delicious to keep to myself.

My friend, who I need to give a name to for this blog, shall be known herein as Buddy. Ever play Lacrosse? A buddy pass is something you don't throw to a buddy. It has a big looping arc which gives the other team time to arrive at your buddy's location at the same time the ball does and hammer your buddy. Having hooked my friend up once before with the dating equivalent of the buddy pass, I shall call him Buddy (or just B) for this adventure.

B is a clean cut, nice, funny, smart, well-dressed, conservative guy who works with me. I think a lot of him. I wish my sister had dated him instead of the dirt bags she seems to prefer.

B is single. Not that he doesn't try. He's just kind of a freak magnet. No, that's too strong. But, he generally gets the girl who, by way of example, has her mother as her best friend and tells her mother everything, including details of her sex life. Too much for B. And probably for most men. I mean, it sort of puts three in the bed with none of the advantages. B is in his early thirties and would like to meet a nice girl and settle down.

I have tried to help him by introducing him to some nice girls (one of whom turned out to be buddy pass girl, more on her later, perhaps). Why? I am happy in my marriage and would like to see B happy, too. Also, I probably have a small streak of yenta in me.

So, on to the new possibility. What to call her? How about Lass or L? She appears to be a sweet Irish lass. She may just be covering up her inner psycho, and don't we all, but time will tell. L is the same age as B. She is blond and I don't know much more about her. She seems very nice. She had a tattoo on her ankle. Normally, I don't care for that but on her it looked cute.

I met L on the train going home from work one night. We had a lovely conversation -- unusual but not unprecedented on the train -- occasioned by train problems and our relationship with the train service. During our chat, it came out that she was single and looking. So I asked whether she'd like to meet a nice young man and I described B to her. She replied, in words or substance, sure, why not? As she said, she had just told a complete stranger that she was single and had a less than fulfilling social life, so why wouldn't she be open to the possibility of a complete stranger introducing her to another complete stranger. So I gave her my email address and, to my surprise, she emailed me the next day.

At that point I asked B to join me in my office and to shut the door. I described the situation, the woman, and the setup. He did not think I was out of my mind for trying to pick up a girl for him on the train and was interested in having a drink with her.

We are getting together tomorrow night for drinks.

The stage is set.

Are you all interested in me reporting back on this as it develops? Or should I not bother?

(Spell check claims I got every word right, a first! Must be a mistake in the spell checker.)

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:02 AM | Comments (0)

My brush with corruption

There is a lot I cannot write about here concerning my job as an attorney. I am a repository for confidences and every time I mention anything to do with my work, I sanitize it the best I can. I make it more general to distill the point I'd like to make without compromising confidentiality. I'm going to be extra careful with this post. Yesterday someone suggested that if I was interested in taking on a fraud case, evidence could be found to support whatever proposition I needed to have supported to bring the lawsuit. I guess I'm naive. I was shocked. Still shocked, actually. Sure, I've had clients shade things in their favor every day. That's just a fact of life. Everybody shades things to put themselves in the best possible light. Indeed, there is an old legal truism that you never know the real story about what happened to your client until your client is being cross examined on the stand. But this was the first time anyone ever suggested to me that evidence could be, well, created or fabricated. I should note that I shut the conversation down immediately, told this person that I was not interested in their case, and that I'd return the documents they sent to me right away. I have very high moral standards and I am not about to compromise them by accepting a tainted representation. How the hell would I live with myself? I guess I had heard that stuff like this happens. You read about insurance frauds all the time. I just never thought it would come so close to me. And you know what the truly invidious thing is? The way it was put to me was so subtle and so nebulous that there isn't anything to report to anyone. Why? Because it was a matter of interpretation. I felt the message was clear but the person who made the statements to me could deny it. I feel as if I brushed up against something dirty. I need some fresh air.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:01 AM | Comments (0)

May 03, 2004

I owe the Judge and apology from yesterday's post

I said yesterday I expected to appear before a judge who had not read my papers or prepared for oral argument. I anticipated writing today a very cynical post about the failures of the judicial system in NY State Courts. Happily, it didn't turn out that way.

This morning I was before a judge who was prepared, courteous, focused on the issues, asked targeted questions, was polite to counsel (most of the time), and decisive. It was a pleasure. I have no idea how he will rule on the motion to dismiss I put before him, but I am certain he will give the motion his proper attention. This was an example of how a court room should be run. In part, this may have been because we were in the Commercial Division of New York State Supreme Court, which only hears commercial disputes above $150,000. So, he's accustomed to hearing and deciding the special kinds of issues complex corporate litigation presents.

Today was really one of the best parts of my job. I love being at the sharp end of the stick, facing a skeptical judge who's asking hard questions as you try the best you can to respond to his or her questions and make your points and arguments. You feel totally alive because you are completely engaged, both intellectually and emotionally. It is exhilarating and leaves you pretty spent afterwards. The thing is, not only do you have to listen and respond, you have to judge how best to respond. In that, you are an actor. You modulate and change your tone of voice to emphasize points and to capture the interest of the judge. By the way you change your tone, if you do it right, you can silence the entire room. I did that today. I had everyone's attention. I could feel it, almost physically, when I took pauses in my argument. No question, oral advocacy rocks.

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:19 PM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2004

Getting ready to behave

A quick note: I just called home to tell my wife what train I'd be taking and I spoke, briefly, to my daughter. I asked her if she was being a good girl for Mamma and she replied, "no, but I'm getting ready to be a good girl for the rest of the week."

I can't believe how well she already has me figured out. I think that kids are naturally manipulative.

Posted by Random Penseur at 12:43 PM | Comments (0)

Life's a beach, when you're three

I am at work today (Sunday) preparing to go to Court tomorrow morning and argue with a judge who probably has not read the papers I spent hours preparing -- more on that later, I think.

But yesterday, despite the hangover and because my wife's was much, much worse, I took my daughter out of the house for several hours in the afternoon so my wife could rest without interruption while the baby was napping.

We went to the beach, about 10 minutes drive from the house. There was practically no one there. When was the last time you were at an empty beach? It smelled of the sea. It was this iodine like decomposing rich smell. There were mussel shells all over the place. We came on a whim, so we were neither dressed for it nor in possession of toys. Still, I took off her shoes and rolled her jeans up to her knees and did the same with my pants and shoes. And off we marched. The sand was warm from the sun and went right between our toes. Then we hit the high water mark (and clearly the tide was out) and the sand there was wet and hard packed from the ocean rolling in and over it. That sand was a little cold. I stood there for about an hour watching my daughter run in and out of the waves as they rolled over her feet. She shrieked and shrieked with laughter. We threw sand at the water and I tried to show her how to skip rocks (doomed to failure, but still). The sun was strong on our heads -- it was over 80 f. It was a beautiful moment.

We sat on the steps leading down to the beach afterwards to let our feet dry so we could get the sand off and I picked her up and pulled her onto my lap. She was happy and I was happy.

Her hair smelled like sunshine and all was right with my world as we watched the waves roll in.

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:03 AM | Comments (0)

Appropriate Language

I use curse words all the time. Don't blame my mother. Partially, its a professional habit. All litagators swear and do so way too much. Partially, I spent a summer in China when I was 18 and when no one can understand what you saying on the street, the societal control over your language just disappears and you begin to express yourself in ways that are limited only by your imagination. That was a pretty salty time. Anyway, it took years before I could get over that kind of freedom. I'm better now.

Except when driving. Which leads me to the thought I've been kicking around. Maybe there is no such thing as bad language, maybe there is only language that is appropriate to a situation and inappropriate but no word is intrinsically bad. Even if I can't envision a situation in which certain racial epithets are ever appropriate doesn't mean I have it wrong here, since my imagination is limited. This, anyway, is what I am trying to teach my kids. Well, my daughter since the boy doesn't speak yet.

When we moved out to the suburbs, my daughter spent a lot of time with just me in the car because my wife was put on bed rest with the second pregnancy. So she heard a lot of language that maybe was not appropriate for her situation.

We were all in the car together, backing out of the driveway to take my daughter to the doctor for her two year check up when she said, "shit, fuck". Everyone in the car looked at me. Not her, me. So I told her, "Honey, those are daddy's car words and he only uses those while he's driving." "You can't use them until you are driving". Not bad words, just words that are inappropriate for a then 2 year old.

I'm told I also use those words when reading the NY Times and I've been asked to stop reading that paper around her.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:04 AM | Comments (0)

Victor Borge

Does anyone remember him? He died some years ago. Borge was a Danish Jew who, while a classically trained pianist and musician, made it big in the United States as a comedian and musician. He had impecable timing and was so funny without ever needing to joke about sex or use inappropriate langauge you had to explain to a child. I think that one of my favorite bits was the inflationnary language. To wit: you look wonderful tonight becomes you look two-derful three-night. Or, instead of I ate a tenderloin, I nined an elevenderloin. Or, he was a cap-eleven in the air five-ce. You kind of have to hear him to it but you get the idea.

Posted by Random Penseur at 06:52 AM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2004

Last Night

Too. Much. Red. Wine. Still hurts. In bed by 12:30 and child up by 6:00. Even after coffee and other fluids, still hurts.

But it was worth it. My wife and I had an adult evening out. Men in tie and jackets and women dressed up, too. Just getting dressed up for dinner changes the whole tenor of the evening. You want to act better, enjoy sparkling conversations, be witty. It starts with the cocktail -- the Sidecar. Ever have one? You feel like the star of a 1920's film, all dinner jacket and cigarette holderish. This is a serious cocktail that, in the words of PG Wodehouse, slips its hand trustingly into yours like a little sister and ends up with you trying to explain yourself to the Magistrate. You don't notice how lethal it is until it is too late.

We had cocktails for about an hour or more. Then dinner. More conversation. Two bottles of Burgundy (Pommard, for those who care). It was heaven. Like we didn't even have kids. I had the Asparagus Vinaigrette followed by Blue Cheese encrusted steak. And more wine. And espresso. Dinner lasted another 2 1/2 hours. More conversation. Home to bed for mildly drunken adult entertainment.

Then, 6:00, "Dada, I need to go to the potty". And the real world returns. Only, this time with a hangover.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:51 AM | Comments (0)