February 28, 2005

Snow Dance

I'm like a little kid today, anxiously peering out the window, waiting for the blizzard they've promised us to start. I'm calculating how much time I'll need to get to the liquor store to buy a bottle of Rioja (something spicy with a lot of fruit) and hit the bookstore for the new Charles Todd mystery before I flee the office. I'm burning a cd full of documents and caselaw so that if I get snowed in tonight and can't make it in tomorrow I can get some work done while the kids sleep. I'm going to light a fire tonight as the snow falls, and I'm going to open that bottle of wine, and I'm going to put on something other than Barney or Norwegian children's music on the stereo system and I'm gonna be a happy guy tonight. That's my plan.

As for bringing work home, I'm going to do it but the brief I'm working on is not due for another 16 days. I would dearly love to have it finished early but I think I need the feeling of impending deadlines to motivate me to get to work. At heart, I procrastinate. I vow to change that with each new task, but I can't really. I need the pressure to make the diamond, to get results. No pressure, no deadline, no work. I'd like to change this, but I can't quite seem to do it. Still, no time like the present, right? I think that, if I can get to work tomorrow, my goal will be to have a good, working first draft of this reply brief done by Friday. I think it can be done.

I love snow days. I hope, if we're going to get snow, that we get a whole lot of it.

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:34 PM | Comments (6)

February 27, 2005

Another Girl Child remark

This morning, she came bounding into the kitchen where once again I was reading the paper and having my coffee. She immediately noted the presence of the Pez dispensers I picked up at the store yesterday to include within the goody bags for the Boy Child's little birthday party today. She asked what they were and I told her. She picked it up for closer examination and sort of mused to herself:

These look very interesting to a little kid like myself.

I had to bury my face in my newspaper so that she did not see me struggling to contain my laughter.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:30 AM | Comments (2)

A Conversation

As most of you regular readers may know (all eight of you), this blog has grown to be an extended love letter to my children, among all the other things I write about. Here is a conversation I had with my daughter yesterday morning:

Girl Child comes into kitchen: Holy crap!

Me: What did you say?

GC: Holy crap.

Me: Where did you learn that?

GC: Sponge Bob.

Me: Well, Sponge Bob got it wrong. Its holy crackers.

GC: Holy crackup?

Me: You could say that, too. In any event, I'd be very careful and not listen to what Sponge Bob says.

GC: Why?

Me: Clearly, he is inherently unreliable. [Remember, she just turned 4]

GC: Why do you think that?

Me: Well, perhaps I don't exactly think it. It isn't quite a thought, more the merest shadow of a scintilla of the beginning of a thought concerning his reliability as a source for you.

Wife: How much coffee have you had this morning? Because I don't think you should have any more.

GC: What's a scintilla?

Me: Go look it up in the dictionnary and report back.

GC: [looking at her mother and speaking Norwegian] Pappa's a very silly man, isn't he?

No one else may find this amusing, but that's ok. Maybe you had to be there.

Posted by Random Penseur at 06:51 AM | Comments (9)

February 25, 2005

Pardon the dust, but renovate we must

Thank you, Margi, for taking my photographs and turning them into these snazzy looking banners. Indeed, if you hit refresh you will find a veritable rotating bonanza of banners, all thanks to the very kind technical and artistic intervention of Ms. Margi.

One of the best things about MuNu is the friendships I have made here. They are no less real because they take place in this medium instead of in a bar or at a cookout. Thank you, Margi, for your friendship.

While I am bubbling over with gratitude and nice things to say, I fear that they will sound insincere if they all come out at once. So instead let me say, on the theory that sometimes less is more, thank you for all your hard work and kindness. I am more touched than I can say and terribly appreciative.

Don't you all think the joint is looking better as a result?

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:55 AM | Comments (13)

Butts in the air, waving around

Curious title, no? Well, that's what you'd see if enough people joined me today in my first, Stick Your Head in the Sand Day. If you lean over and stick your hand in the sand, that would be your butt waving around in the air. And if enough people join in, no one will even be able to see your butt or remark on the fact that you might have sat on something that left a stain.

I am feeling entirely overwhelmed, today. What follow is not meant to be an extended whine, but an explanation, pure and simple, of why I want to stick my head in the sand today.

* I have a tension headache brought on by some work related matters that started in the back of my neck and, no kidding, just finished climbing over the top of my head and hit my nose. A new personal best for tension headaches. Pardon me for a moment while I interrupt this typing to take something.

* I hate the fact that this morning, after crawling into bed with the Girl Child in response to her summons, I had to answer her question about who was going to be taking care of her today with an answer different from, "me". I have guilt. Big time guilt.

* I am ground down by the war on terror. I can only hold firm to the belief that Bush is right and the only way to win this battle is to spread liberty and freedom, even as paradoxical as it sounds, if it has to be at the point of the bayonet.

* I am saddened and diminished by every serviceman's death.

* I am daunted by the task of getting my house ready to sell and finding a new house in a different community which we will have chosen based on too little research and too much salesmanship, no doubt.

* I am just feeling like too little butter spread too thinly over too little bread with too many committments between work, not for profit demands, and my preference to be home with my children as they bounce all over me.

I'd like to say just writing it all down makes me feel better, but it doesn't.

So, I'm trying something new today. I will stick my head in the sand. No newspaper at all, no current events, no thinking about the house, can't avoid the work obligations but I will try to leave them at work today, no reading anyone's tales of woe, and no focusing on anything negative. That's it. That's my solution.

If you see my butt in the air when you pass by today, and it looks as if I sat in some old chewing gum on the train this morning, I will trust that you will have the delicacy not to mention it. I wish to remain serenely untroubled by absolutely everything today. Tomorrow is soon enough to consider today’s old chewing gum.

Pax tibi.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:45 AM | Comments (8)

February 24, 2005

Out of office this morning

I don't think I will be around much today, blog-wise. I have been duly elected by my wife to accompany the Boy Child to his two year check up, oil change, and tune up at the doctor this morning. This should be fun. My guess is he's going to know exactly what the nurse wants to do with that sharp looking thing headed towards his . . . HEY!!!!! Crying to follow shortly with sobbing and attempting to catch breath thereafter. And that's only me.

I hate to watch these kinds of things. I could never watch when my wife would get blood taken, for instance.


I will fill the time up to the appointment by continuing my search through Southern Westchester's finer purveyors of alcohol to try to locate a particular bottle of white port for my wife. She often has a glass after the kids have gone to bed and we have been out for at least a week. Ever tried it? Its yummy. You serve it cold and generally it is an apperitif, not an after dinner drink.

In any event, the above blather generally is meant to serve as a place holder to explain that blogging will be very light today, although you may not be able to tell the difference between today and recent times anyway, come to think of it.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:51 AM | Comments (3)

February 23, 2005

You're never ready, no matter how prepared you think you are

My wife will be the first one to tell you this, but she sucks at being pregnant. I think I'm acutally quoting her here. No, she is an immensely talented woman and I am very proud that, in a moment of extreme weakness, she agreed to pledge her troth to me (isn't that a fun expression?) but she really isn't any good at being pregnant.

With the second pregnancy, she fell prey to pregnancy induced hypertension. This is an ugly condition, potentially fatal to her and potentially fatal to the pregnancy. More than once, we were confronted with the possibility of losing the baby. We made a couple of late night emergency trips to the hospital after a phone consultation with her doctor. Those drives were tense affairs even if they took on a certain regular occurance feel to them. I remember that I made arrangements with the snow plowing people who did our driveway to keep us at the top of their list all that winter because I was afraid that if something happened, I would not be able to get out of the garage and get her to help.

In any event, February 22, 2003 was a day much like every other in the pregnancy. Except that my wife's blood pressure shot up again for no reason that morning. We called the doctor and we followed the instructions to try to bring it down. She lay, on her right side (I think) for a half an hour, and it didn't come down. We grabbed a bag and went off to the hospital. On the way, my wife took a call from one of her underlings and went through what needed to be done that day. I then called a client for whom I convinced a court to enjoin a meeting of the shareholders of a co-op to prevent dissolution and explained I would be out of touch for awhile.

The hospital, NY Hospital at 68th and the East River, was bustling but they were expecting us. They took blood and ran tests and said, something is brewing. They said, at 37 weeks into the pregnancy, we can induce labor and we want to induce labor because we don't like what we are seeing. Preeclampsia kills, you see.

So, bang. The routine trip back to the hospital was not so routine, although I think we suspected that on the way in. They admitted my wife and began the induction.

It went very, very slowly. Nothing happened for the longest time. Eventually, they instructed me to go away and get some sleep. I went to a nearby club and crashed from about midnight to maybe 5 a.m. and then went back to the hospital. I was still in the same clothes I had been in the night before. On the way back, I stopped off and picked up a disposable camera.

The delivery, as it turned out, was quick. I think that she started pushing at 7:30 a.m. and the Boy Child arrived in the world at 7:40, a scant ten minutes later. He was so little.

The doctor assured us that he was beautiful, although, I doubt she'd really say otherwise. The doctor, who had also delivered the Girl Child, pumped her fist and exclaimed: "two for two!". She also asked us to have a third child so she could go three for three. In that, I'm afraid, we will disappoint her.

The Boy Child arrived to join our little family on February 23, 2003, today, two years ago. He arrived small, a little jaundiced, but that just gave him a lovely tan, and quite bald but with the most shockingingly blue eyes you've ever seen. Looks nothing like me. Today, he has hair, butter yellow blond, a peaches and cream complexion, and still has the blue eyes. He is, altogether, quite the most beautiful little boy I've ever seen and looks remarkably like my wife's baby pictures. He could be, with no evidence of my genetic contribution anywhere on his face, the official poster boy of Norway.

We brought him home and put him in my daughter's lap as she sat on the couch. He cried and she looked terribly perplexed. It didn't take long before she was telling us, while standing in her crib: "Baby brother is crying, get him for me."

I will end this birthday post with this thought that my daughter had one day while she and I were talking:

Me: You know, that the Boy Child is my son.

GC: He's my son, too.

Me: No, he's your brother. He's my son.

GC: Well, then if he's your sun, he's my moon. And my stars.

I've always liked that.

Welcome to the world, Boy Child! Happy birthday!

(after the jump, by the way, in extended entry, are some other famous birthdays and events today)

Born today:

*1633 Samuel Pepys, London England, famed for his memoirs and diary
*1685 George Frideric Händel, composer
*1734 Mayer Amschel Rothschild Frankfurt, founder (House of Rothschild)
*1868 William E. B. Du Bois Great Barrington MA
*1929 Elston Howard Yankee catcher (1st black New York Yankee/1963 AL MVP)
*1940 Peter Fonda actor (Easy Rider, Lilith, Wild Angels, Trip)

Deaths today:

*1468 John Gutenberg German inventor
*1554 Henry Grey Duke of Suffolk, Lady Jane Grey's father, executed
*1660 Charles X Gustaaf king of Sweden (1654-60), dies at 37
*1792 Joshua Reynolds English painter
*1821 John Keats, poet, dies of tuberculosis at 25 in Rome
*1848 John Quincy Adams 6th US President (1825-1829), dies of a stroke at 80
*1924 Thomas Woodrow Wilson 28th US President (1913-21)
*1942 Stefan Zweig, Austrian writer
*1965 Stan Laurel
*1995 James Herriot

Today in:

*1455 Johannes Gutenberg prints 1st book, the Bible (estimated date)
*1689 Dutch prince William III proclaimed king of England
*1778 Baron von Steuben joins the Continental Army at Valley Forge
*1792 Humane Society of Massachusetts incorporated (erected life-saving stations for distressed mariners)
*1792 Joseph Haydn's 94th Symphony in G, premieres
*1836 Alamo besieged by Santa Anna; entire garrison eventually killed
*1861 President-elect Lincoln arrives secretly in Washington DC to take office
*1874 Major Walter Winfield patents game called "sphairistike" (lawn tennis)
*1896 Tootsie Roll introduced by Leo Hirshfield
*1898 In France, Emile Zola is imprisoned for writing his "J'accuse" letter accusing government of anti-Semitism & wrongly jailing Alfred Dreyfus
*1940 Walt Disney's animated movie "Pinocchio", released
*1945 US Marines raise flag on Iwo Jima, famous photo & statue

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:53 AM | Comments (11)

February 22, 2005

AIDS & Africa: South African Mortality Rate Climbs

Anyone following the issue of AIDS and South Africa will know that Mbeki, the President of South Africa, has taken the position that AIDS is not a threat to South Africa, that the issues concerning AIDS have been overblown, that basically AIDS ain't a problem for South Africa and it is just racist for us to say it is. A recent report about mortality rates in South Africa renders this position much less tenable than it could have ever been. In other words, you have to now absolutely believe in the Tooth Fairy now to buy in to Mbeki's positions while before you could just sort of suspect that the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy were lovers in some alternate universe.

Here are some extracts:

South Africa's government reported Friday that annual deaths increased 57 percent from 1997 to 2003, with common AIDS-related diseases like tuberculosis and pneumonia fueling much of the rise.

The increase in mortality spanned all age groups, but was most pronounced among those between ages 15 and 49, where deaths more than doubled. Working-age adults are more sexually active than the rest of the population, and the opportunity for transmitting H.I.V. is greatest among members of this group.

The report states that 499,000 of South Africa's roughly 44 million people died in 2002, up sharply from 318,000 in 1997. Much of that increase appears to result from H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. Experts agree that there are at least five million H.I.V.-positive citizens here, the most of any country. Diagnosing AIDS as a cause of death can require advanced medical knowledge and equipment. Moreover, an unknown number of AIDS deaths go unreported because South African life insurance policies frequently do not cover AIDS-related deaths.

Nevertheless, the agency reported that the new figures "provide indirect evidence that H.I.V. may be contributing to the increase in the level of mortality for prime-aged adults, given the increasing number of deaths due to associated diseases."

Dr. Steve Andrews, an H.I.V. clinician and consultant in Cape Town, said the sobering figures in the report suggested that it had not been politically varnished. Given the improvement in medical care and living standards in South Africa, he said, "we should not be seeing this aggressive move in death rates - not at all."

The report concluded that the average number of deaths in South Africa rose to 1,370 per day in 2002 from 870 in 1997, an increase that could not be explained by the 10 percent increase in population during the same period.

The reported causes of death point to AIDS as the factor underlying much of the increase in mortality. Deaths from tuberculosis, influenza and pneumonia - all primary causes of AIDS-related deaths - more than doubled in the five years encompassing 1997 to 2001, while deaths from other AIDS-related diseases like gastrointestinal infections rose about 25 percent.

Deaths from some ailments unrelated to AIDS, like hypertension and cerebrovascular problems, also rose, but at lower rate. General heart disease, once by far the biggest killer of South Africans, fell during the period and was well behind tuberculosis and influenza in 2001.

Two aspects of the report were especially notable.

The death-certificate figures indicate the proportion of deaths among sexually active women is rising significantly compared with deaths among men - a ratio that strongly indicates a country's AIDS-related mortality rate. In 1997, 149 men ages 25 to 29 died for every 100 deaths among women; the comparable figure in 2003 was 77 male deaths for every 100 female deaths.

The report also suggested that AIDS was increasingly exacting a toll among the very youngest South Africans. In 1999, the report stated, disorders of the immune system emerged for the first time as one of the 10 leading causes of deaths of children under 15.

Let's do a little math together, to put some of this in perspective, ok? Just a little math, cause math is not my strong suit. But let's try. The numbers are: 499,000 of South Africa's roughly 44 million people died in 2002. 499,000 is roughly 1% of the total population of South Africa. Slightly more, but close enough for my purposes. Let's compare, then. The population of the United States, according to the Census Bureau is: 295,523,454. Let's just say 296 million. One percent of that would be just about 3 million people. Can you imagine now the scope of this disaster? If an equivalent percentage of Americans were dying of AIDS we would be loosing some three million people a year. Mind boggling, isn't it?

How can Mbeki assert AIDS is not a problem when it is killing 1% of his country a year, and rising?

And consider, briefly, those who are dying and maybe some of the implications associated with those deaths: More woman; more children under the age of 15; and more of working age.

What can we assume results from that?

More women: this would mean that more children will be born with HIV. Fewer women will be around to take care of children. Fewer women will be around to give birth to children. What does that imply about replacement rate? Beats me but I doubt it is anything good.

More children under 15: first, how are they getting this disease? Are they still being used by HIV infected men who think that sexual relations with a virgin will cure them? That belief exists and is acted upon, you know. If children are not surviving, who is going to lead their country into the future? Where will the next great innovators come from? Who will provide for parents as they age? Who will inherit family farms and property?

Working age: If these people get AIDS, who will provide the labor needed to fill government coffers with tax receipts as the economy slows because no one is alive to do the work? Does the country collapse entirely? Is this too far fetched in terms of speculation?

Go away from this post, assuming you got this far, and leave a comment if you disagree. The enormity of this problem and the implications are almost too great for me to wrap my mind around. I'd appreciate your thoughtful comments.

Posted by Random Penseur at 12:45 PM | Comments (3)

February 18, 2005

"Sod Off, Swampy"

That from a British oil trader to a Greenpeace volunteer after the oil traders kicked the shit out of a Greenpeace commando group who invaded the floor of the oil exchange.

If this wasn't reported in the Times of London I would have thought it was a joke.

one protester said, rubbing his bruised skull. “I’ve never seen anyone less amenable to listening to our point of view.”

Damn, I wish I had been there to see that one.

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:43 PM | Comments (2)

AIDS & Africa: Just when you think it can't, just can't, get any worse

You really can't understand any problem in its totality. You can't grasp the complexities and the shifting sands which hold up reality. All you can hope for is sometimes to get a glimpse of various aspects of a problem. AIDS in Africa is like that. For other writings I've done about it, go and click on the AIDS category on the sidebar.

Anyway, here's a wrinkle. Here's a new concern. After all the thought and writing about how AIDS is devastating sub-Saharan Africa, it never occurred to me that people would regard the widows and orphans as targets for theft. I extract from the article I read below:

Actually, the answer is simple: custom. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa the death of a father automatically entitles his side of the family to claim most, if not all, of the property he leaves behind, even if it leaves his survivors destitute.

In an era when AIDS is claiming about 2.3 million lives a year in sub-Saharan Africa - roughly 80,000 people last year in Malawi alone - disease and stubborn tradition have combined in a terrible synergy, robbing countless mothers and children not only of their loved ones but of everything they own.

The degree to which men control household property varies from country to country and tribe to tribe.

In matrilineal tribes, children are considered descendants of the mother, and the family typically lives in the mother's village. Should the husband die, the widow typically keeps the house and land, plus items judged to be women's essentials like pots, pans, kitchen utensils and buckets, according to studies by Women and Law in Southern Africa. Her in-laws collect the more valuable belongings, like bicycles, sewing machines, vehicles and furniture.

Many tribes are patrilineal, meaning children are considered the father's descendants and men are seen as the sole property owners in the family. If her husband dies, the wife may be allowed to stay in the couple's house - but, sometimes, only on condition that she marry one of her husband's relatives. If she wants to move, perhaps back to her own family, she typically leaves with nothing but the clothes on her back.

Or she may simply be driven out altogether. Increasingly, in-laws cite the possibility that a widow is infected with the AIDS virus as reason to confiscate her home.

There are laws on the books to protect widows from rapacious relatives, but they are rarely enforced, assuming even that the widow is aware of the legal protections:

Under Malawi law Mrs. Wyson was entitled to half or two-fifths of what her husband left behind. Her in-laws might even have been convicted of property grabbing under a 1998 amendment to the inheritance law that provides for a fine of up to $200 or five years in prison.

Legal centers and human rights advocates say such cases are ubiquitous in sub-Saharan Africa. In one 2001 study in Uganda financed by the United States Agency for International Development, 29 percent of widows said they had been victims of property grabbing. One in five teenage orphans said outsiders had seized their belonging after their parents had died.

Laws to protect the inheritance rights of widows and children are not enforced or are simply no match for the power of tradition, legal advocates say. Few widows know their rights, and fewer still are able to seek legal help, especially in countries like Malawi, where about 500 lawyers serve a population of 11 million.

"Even in families that are better off economically there is normally some sort of coercion or family pressure that forces women to give up their inheritance," said Ms. Scholz, of the housing rights center. Some in-laws threaten to invoke witchcraft if widows persist with their claims. Others simply make life unbearable.

When one widow in Zambia refused to marry her brother-in-law in order to keep her home, her in-laws turned her homestead into a cemetery, Ms. Scholz said in a telephone interview from Geneva. Sixteen graves now lace her property. A local judge recently ruled that the court had no jurisdiction to settle the dispute.

Still, more and more widows are putting up a fight. In Zambia, the police say they investigated 458 cases of property grabbing in 2003. In Malawi, the nonprofit Center for Advice, Education and Research counseled some 120 people on issues of inheritance, death benefits or property grabbing from last July to September, a 60 percent increase from the preceding three months.

I never suspected that even after death, the survivors would be cast out by their blood relatives. I reject the notion that mulitculturalism should prevent me from being judgmental about this. This is barbaric. It is corrupt. It is preying on the weak and the infirm and the children.

And I have to ask, why should we give any money to help people when their own families won't? In effect, we subsidize this practice if we pay for all new things for the survivors after their families denude them of everything, including the iron roof.

This has left me feeling very disheartened. And angry.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:34 AM | Comments (3)

February 17, 2005

Historical Artifact: The Mappa Mundi

Today, for history, we venture off to England to learn about the Mappa Mundi. The what, you ask? Well, it was news to me, too. The Mappa Mundi is a map, drawn in England in about 1290 a.d. It is a history of the world, writ as a map, and showing all of the world's wonders, including some fanciful creations and races that, I assume, never existed at all except in legend. It is a national treasure and if you wish to visit it and see it in person, it is at the Heresford Cathedral.

Superimposed on to the continents are drawings of the history of humankind and the marvels of the natural world. These 500 or so drawings include of around 420 cities and towns, 15 Biblical events, 33 plants, animals, birds and strange creatures, 32 images of the peoples of the world and 8 pictures from classical mythology.

Christopher de Hamel, a leading authority on medieval manuscripts, has said of the Mappa Mundi, '... it is without parallel the most important and most celebrated medieval map in any form, the most remarkable illustrated English manuscript of any kind, and certainly the greatest extant thirteenth-century pictorial manuscript.'

Sounds very cool to me.

By the way, while you're visiting, it sounds as if the Chained Library might also be worth a look. It dates from the 1600's.

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:45 PM | Comments (1)

U.S. Tax Code

Let me just observe, after breaking the tax code in the hot sun all day, and then reading the "Regs", that I am so glad that I did not elect to take an LLM in Tax and specialize in the area. I am only blogging now, in fact, because I feel like I've hit a wall and need a break.

I listened yesterday morning to a former treasury official say that the United States deserves a tax code that looks as if it was created on purpose. Hear, hear. Can we get any volunteers to re-write the Code? And the Regs?

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:54 PM | Comments (8)

February 16, 2005

A moment I would freeze if I could

My little post about the way my two children hold hands in the car received some really beautiful comments and seemed, for whatever reason, to resonate with people. So, as much for those nice people who left those comments, as for myself so I can fix this memory firmly in my mind, let me share with you a little vignette from last night.

I came home from work and I took the kids from the nanny. She had bathed them and put them in their pj's. They were running around up stairs. Playing and carrying on happily. I went into my room to take my suit and tie off. Generally, I like to get out of the work clothes as soon as I get home so I can get on the floor and roll around with the kids without worrying about the clothes. The Boy Child followed me in. As with everything else, all things being equal, he was moving at a speed just above what he can safely control. And, as is usually the case, he went sprawling on to my floor, face first. He caught himself on his hands and kind of lay there, crying.

I said to him, "you're ok", and "come on, get up and show me what hurts". I could see that there was nothing that could have been too serious about the fall and, as is my habit, I didn't want to make too big a deal out of it. He ignored me for a bit, continuing to cry, and then he got up and pointed to his hands.

At that point, his sister came in. The Girl Child is tall for her age and he is on the normal side. His head comes up to about the top of her rib cage. She asked what was wrong and I told her. And this is the bit I want to freeze forever in my mind.

She holds her arms out to him and says "kom til meg, lille venn" (meaning: come to me, little friend). He takes three steps, very quickly, and throws his arms around her and lays his head on her chest as he continues to cry. She enfolds him with her arms and alternates between rubbing his back and patting him gently on the back, all while telling him that it was ok. They just stood there, her giving comfort and him receiving it. His cries slowly faded away to little hiccups as his breath caught in little gasps as he tried to recover his poise and stop crying. All while she stood there with him. Their arms around each other, his around her waist and lower back and hers around his upper back. Her head inclined so that her cheek was resting on the top of his head. Bathed in the glow from the over head lights, their hair gleamingly damp from the water.

It was so beautiful that I thought my heart was going to break.

When they finished their hug, he leaned forward and kissed her on her chest.

It is moments like this that enrich my life.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:49 AM | Comments (12)

A conversation or two that I've had the past week

Did you form the impression yet that I'm what my grandmother used to call a smart aleck? Let me share with you two conversations I've had recently that amused me, at least, to no end.

Conversation 1:
Place: Walking up the train platform with a commuting buddy

Her: What was that language I heard you speaking to your children the other day? Was it French?

Me: No, it was Norwegian. We speak Norwegian to the children. We only speak French to the servants.

The look I got was priceless.

Conversation 2:
Place: Gym, this morning

Her: If you need to reach me tomorrow, I should tell you that I will be out of the office all day.

Me: What are you doing?

Her: It is my art and culture day. You know what I mean? I'm going to see Christo's installation in Central Park.

Me: Oh. Its good that you explained what you meant there because when you said culture, I assumed you meant yogurt.

Another incredulous look.

Its just sometimes, I forget to turn on the filter between my brain and my mouth. Fortunately, that doesn't happen too often, but still, it does happen.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:07 AM | Comments (9)

A small, if not confined, world

The world of law is a small, if not confined world. You practice, especially in big cities, among an ever changing cast of characters but often in front of the same judges. It feels closed and sometimes insular. The same names pop up, again and again. If you meet someone new, you can usually find a common point of reference, a school, a case, another lawyer, pretty quickly. In this regard, I doubt that the practice of law is really very different from, say, the world of high yield bonds. Especially at the higher end of things. But back to law.

In my world, reputation is everything. Again, I doubt that is a unique situation. For instance, diamond traders live by their reputation. And so do I. So, when I get a compliment from another attorney, a sincere compliment not a I'm blowing smoke up your ass so you'll drop your guard a bit and I can either slip one in or manipulate you, I'm pretty darn pleased.

I found one today in my email box as a lawyer I know from previous litigation sent me a referral. In this email, he described me as "wickedly smart" and possessed of a "mildly professorial demeanor", which he assures me and the potential new client he means as a compliment.

It is so nice to shine, just a little bit, even if no one outside of my insular little world really knows about it. Or cares. But I know and I can enjoy his little description. It is awful nice to be appreciated. Even nicer if the potential new client signs up, of course!

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:00 AM | Comments (3)

February 14, 2005

Holding hands through life

My children are not like my sister and me. They are close, already, in ways that my sister and I never experienced. I am a tad bit envious. The Girl Child's name is the first word that passes the Boy Child's lips every morning and, indeed, was the first word he even learned how to say. She was the recipient of his first real kiss. I got to see it. He put his lips to her cheek and actually made a kissing noise. She tells us that when they get older, she intends to marry him. My wife assumes that means we have to move way down South.

I've gotten some little boy kisses, too, now, and they are terribly sweet things. Even better then when he would simply press his open and very wet mouth against the side of your face and leave behind a huge slick of saliva.

But here's the really cute thing.

We put them in the car, each in their own car seats, and the same thing happens almost every single time. Her arm goes out, hand open, palm up. His hand goes into it. And they both sit back and relax into their seats. They hold hands most of the ride to wherever it is we are taking them. If he is too slow with his hand, then we hear the Girl Child say, "Boy Child, give me your hand" (usually in Norwegian). And he does.

I feel unusually blessed, almost all the time.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:02 AM | Comments (13)

February 11, 2005

Public Speaking

I love public speaking. I have no fear about getting up in front of a group of people and speaking. This is a useful thing for a trial lawyer. In fact, I don't know how I could be a trial lawyer if public speaking bothered me. But Wednesday night was a bit different. I had to give a small speech to a small group -- about 60 people -- in my new role as chairman of a committee that was sponsoring an event. As chairman, I was the master of ceremonies. The dinner ran for about 3 hours and my speech was very well received. The crowd laughed in the right places and were solemn in the right places. It was very satisfying.

There is something about good public speaking that is a combination of Aikido and seduction. Aikido, in part, is premised on the belief that you can take another person's energy, control it, redirect it and then throw the person. Seduction? Well, you know what it is even if you can't explain it. When it goes well, it goes like this. You stand in front of the group. You make eye contact with some and you speak. And as you speak, you sense the energy of the group. You change your tone and your rhythm and your cadence and your volume as you speak. You force them to pay attention. To be drawn in to your words. Then you pull them along with you and make them think that they are interacting with you, that you are speaking to them. It feels seductive and you know you succeed when people you've never met before come up to you afterwards to say how much they enjoyed your talk and you can tell that they want to just linger, just to chat. You've seduced them. You've taken them from cold, although mildly interested, to warm, to hot. You can feel the energy in the room as it changes and you wrap yourself up in it. I really like that.

And the corollary, of course, is that sometimes your speech goes over as well as a "come here often" line. Happily, that didn't happen this time. And if you have a decent sense of rhythm, you ought to be able to avoid that entirely.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:39 AM | Comments (4)

Making her laugh her way out of crying

I can make my daughter laugh her way out of crying. It is a gift, there is no question about it. I can take her right off the edge of the hysterical ledge to calm and laughing in under 5 seconds. I don't know how this came about, but as long as it works, I will continue to do it. Case in point, last night. As you know, from below, she has got pink eye. It makes her eyes hurt she says and she is very unhappy. When we put her into bed last night, she noticed that I switched out her little pillows for a big one from the guest room bed. Not happy, not happy. I had to explain that she could re-infect herself from her old pillows since she had her head on them. "Not my head", she corrected me, "my face". Right. She puts her golden little head on the pillow and consents to be covered up with the blanket. And then the tears come.

GC: I want my old pillows back! I don't like this [sob] pillow! Its [sob] too hard! [more sobbing as she begins to work herself up]

Me: Good! I want it to be hard! I want you to have the hardest, most uncomfortable pillow in the whole world!!

GC: [stops crying, starts to giggle] Huh? You do? For real?

Me: Yes! For real!

GC: No, you don't mean for real.

Me: [take pillow, fluff it up six different ways and put it back down] Try that.

GC: Ok. Still kind of hard [suspiciously], but better [grudgingly].

Kisses exchanged and off to the land of nod she goes, calmly and happily.

Thank goodness she enjoys the absurd. Absurdity, a parent's best weapon against tears.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:24 AM | Comments (9)

London trip

Remember when I said that I was going to London to see the Queen? Just for the record, that was not a sly reference to the upcoming wedding of Prince Charles and Ms. Parker Bowles.

Nope. I declined that invitation.

Why did I turn that invitation down? Because Helen, who lives in London, is free while I am there and we're going to get together for drinks! Yay! You can see how, faced with the choice of Prince Charles or Helen, the Prince just had to go. Besides, Helen met him at Ascot last year, I seem to recall, and she can fill me in on all the gossip.

I'm really looking forward to it. Helen is the one who sponsored me for MuNu and, as I've already promised, I've got first shout.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:47 AM | Comments (2)

R.I.P. National Hockey League

I think it is pretty much over. Hockey season this year died before it was born, taking with it some hundreds of millions of Canadian dollars out of the Canadian economy, I read in Sports Illustrated recently. The Union and the League have called off talks and I think that there is really no hope that we are going to see a zamboni again this year on the ice at Madison Square Garden.

The sad part is that I only now just really noticed. I mean, I was excited and all to take part in the Inter-Munuvian Hockey Bitch Slap (hence the Rangers image on my sidebar) even knowing that my local team was going to feel the bitch slap a lot. But I didn't miss it for more than a minute. I barely noticed that no one was playing. And why would I? I think that these greedy asswipes have effectively destroyed their league, their game, their place in the pantheon of professional sports. My bet is that no one is coming back when they turn the lights back on again. I wrote about hockey before, asking: when did hockey lose its relevance. I guess it happened when most of us were doing other things.

Sprint training for baseball begins really soon. That, I'm excited about.

Rest in Peace, Hockey. We hardly knew ya.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:39 AM | Comments (2)

February 10, 2005

Happy Birthday, Margi!

Go wish Margi a very, happy birthday!

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:38 AM | Comments (2)

Lock down: The Plague

The house is in lock down. We have been quarantined. Infectious disease specialists have been flown in all over the world to consult. Diagnosis: Pink Eye.

The Girl Child has come down with a case of the dreaded pink eye. No one is safe. She can't go to school and the Boy Child may not go to music class today, which is sad because I think he really enjoys it.

Prognosis: She'll be totally fine and can go to school tomorrow if she doesn't have any further discharge from the infected eye.

But, while looking on the web to see if I could find any information on precautions to take to prevent contagion, I came across this little bit of information which kind of icked me out:

Newborns are also susceptible to infectious conjunctivitis, which can be serious. The sexually transmitted bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae can pass from an infected mother's birth canal into her baby's eyes during delivery. These bacteria can cause symptoms of conjunctivitis in babies within the first 2 weeks of life, and both can lead to serious eye damage. Less commonly, the viruses that cause genital and oral herpes can similarly be passed to an infant at the time of delivery and may also damage the eyes.

My view is, if I'm gonna be icked out, you're gonna be icked out. Its that simple.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:43 AM | Comments (7)

February 09, 2005

Off to London to see the Queen

I have reserved my ticket to London for mid-March. I am off to see a friend get married. Frankly, I always assumed he was gay, so this is kind of a nice surprise. He may still be gay, of course, but he's getting married anyway. And I have to be there. Unfortunately, my wife is not coming, so I will be off in London by myself. Automatically, that makes it less fun. It will be a busy trip. I have old friends to see -- buddies from law school who are there, friends from back in the day when I lived in London, my old fencing master who I just love, and all the wedding insanity, of course.

There are also some museums I have missed and some, very small, shopping to do.

I also just want to wander about and see some old buildings/friends and retrace my steps on some favorite old streets. I always need some quiet alone time in cities I've lived in before. I can have that quiet alone time with my wife along and actually prefer to have her along for that but I have to have it. Something about revisiting the scene of youthful indiscretions, misdemeanors if not quite crimes. I like to totter along and see if I left any part of myself there, if I'm quick enough, I might just find myself in a favorite old pub, or cul-de-sac. A younger me, with less gray in my hair and more optimism about the future, dressed impeccably having embraced the English bright shirt and tie thing, hurrying along imbued with the joy of living in London and being 25. I'm going to be looking for that guy. I don't think I'll see him, but I'm going to look.

I also want to go to Simpson’s on the Strand for breakfast one morning, if I can get a moment. Oh, and the book store. And maybe buy a tie. And get more perfume for my wife (a top priority)!

I have way too much to do in London. I feel pressed for time already. Isn’t that ridiculous?

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:22 PM | Comments (5)

A tourist in my own life

Having a job interview for a job far, far away, doing something different, but not radically different from what I do now, makes me feel a bit like a tourist in my own life, a visitor to a distant, but familiar land. Am I just browsing in this store? No thank you, to the clerk, just looking, you say.

You have the interview and it allows you to imagine, to project, to take a tour in your life -- what would my life be like here? What would it be like to uproot my family and take them across the country? How would I live there? Before it gets serious, before you get the call back to come and fly out, you become the tourist. What would it be like to live there? You browse some real estate listings and are stunned by the palaces you could buy for half the amount your house is worth now. What would it be like? You picture yourself living there and doing the work and that is tourism in your own life.

It works that way for house hunting, too, because there you actually picture yourself, sort of, living in another house with someone else’s furnishings. We did that all last weekend and will continue for part of this upcoming weekend.

I feel like I'm not being clear, but I get this sense of other worldliness when I take an interview and contemplate moving. A feeling like I'm visiting my life in a parallel universe, where, maybe, we can afford for one parent to stay home and where work on weekends is the exception and not the rule. Maybe its just a fantasy, you never know until they make you an offer. And until they make you an offer, you never have to really ask yourself any of the tough questions, you can just sort of gloss over the inconveniences and the difficulties, not to mention the potential trauma in uprooting everyone.

That's why I'm a tourist. Its my life, but sometimes, I'm really just visiting.

Make any sense to anyone?

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:43 PM | Comments (5)

February 08, 2005

Throw me something, Mister!!!

Happy Mardi Gras, y'all!

Today, in New Orleans, Mardi Gras rushes to its conclusion as thousands of people take their clothes off and either simulate or actually have sex in public in the French Quarter. There are many Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans. They don't all revolve around the French Quarter madness. Some are more family based with small kids. Some are more old fashioned.

Most people have this notion that Mardi Gras exists only for one day, or perhaps the weekend before, and that's it, just a bacchanalia. But that's not true.

Mardi Gras begins on the Twelfth Night of Christmas in New Orleans with the Krewe of the Twelfth Night as they "parade" in a street car up St. Charles Avenue. And from then on, it gets serious and most outsiders have no idea.

I'm talking about balls. White tie and tails at least twice a week during the season. Black tie begins to feel like dressed down. Balls where women actually wear ball gowns and gloves and where the after parties are great, even if the majority of them are at the New Orleans Country Club or Yacht Club. I used to go to way too many of these things, usually with a Committee Man Invitation, which meant I wasn't a spectator up in the balcony of the ball and I wasn't masked for the ball in the Krewe (although I was a member of one Krewe) but I could dance after the first couple of songs and I could bring dates. I miss the balls.

I also miss the house parties. Picture these glorious ante bellum houses thrown open with bars and food and you would wander, in the Garden District, up and down St. Charles, ducking into various parties, eating a little, visiting a little, drinking a little, borrowing a bathroom (yay!), and visiting some more. And drinking some more. And maybe just a little bit more after that. The hosts were always gregarious and hospitable and you always knew them or the people you were with had known them for years. It was so comfortable and such a tremendous way to see Mardi Gras. Maybe the best way.

I also miss the Marching Krewes. They used to march from bar to bar Uptown where we lived. And there was a decrepit little bar across from our house where I think that the average age of the patrons may have been deceased or just shy of it. And the marchers used to come on by all morning. It was really very friendly.

Of course, actually, a lot of natives fled the City and today are probably on the beach in Florida or skiing in Colorado.

So, in honor of Mardi Gras, I gotta ask, as I used to do when I rode the floats myself, and women would ask for the really nice beads:

Hey! Show me your breasts!!!

And someone please get me a Hurricane. Damn, I miss New Orleans.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:07 AM | Comments (8)

February 07, 2005

Archeology Today: Erotic Frescoes Unveiled

Erotic frescoes from Pompeii have been unveiled today. Discovered in the 1950's, they are finally being put on public display, despite their strong sexual content. Go check it out. To skip the article and go straight to the pictures, like you would if it was a real life dirty magazine, click here.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:53 PM | Comments (4)

Be berry, berry, quiet!

We're hunting wabbits! We loaded our SUV with equipment, children and snacks for said children, picked up a trusty native guide, and set off in search of game. In short, we did some house hunting this weekend. It was both interesting and annoying.

First, to all you real estate brokers out there: Stop calling them homes. I supply the home, you supply the house. The house is what we are shopping, tentatively, for. We will put the home in the house. The house is merely the wrapper for the home.

Second, when asked a question about a negative aspect of the community. Don't over sell me. Don't say, "I can't deny that X is a problem", and then go right ahead and finesse it or deny it. That behavior just makes me suspicious. You see, I am trained to ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. That is a big part of what litigation is all about. Ask, listen, and test the answer against what you know or think you know or the common sense understanding you have of the rhythm of the transaction in order to pick up on discordant notes. So, when you elide an issue, Ms. Broker, it trips that spidey sense and makes me question your candor and listen more carefully. I don't particularly enjoy that.

Finally, house hunting is both exhilarating, mildly, and sobering, majorly. You can get more for your money if you move out of overpriced suburb close to NY City and move to overpriced suburb farther from NY City, but you need to spend more, too. It is kind of exhilarating to see all the new space and the greater amount of space and the amount of land and to imagine yourself living in it. It is sobering to realize how much money is required to do so. Other parts of the country have it better in this regard, there is no doubt. For instance, Fort Worth, Texas. I could buy a five bedroom house in Fort Worth for a lot less than what I am spending in the NY metropolitan area.

You know what? I think that someone, somewhere, knows I am thinking about selling my house. I've just spent the last 20 minutes on the phone and off the phone with the plumber, authorizing him to put in a new hot water heater in the house. The old one has just dumped a quarter inch of water in my basement. How come I couldn't get away with the old one for, say, another three or four months? Also, how come I never have a problem with this house under the four figure range? Huh? Why is that?

Frustration level with house: High.

I miss my apartment in the City. I really do. A nice superintendent. I was a more equal pig than others since I was the Vice President of the Co-op Board and always was attended to promptly. I sure do miss that. *sigh*

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:38 AM | Comments (6)

February 05, 2005

Bad things don't always happen in slow motion

People say that when something bad is happening, its like time slows down and they can see every aspect of the bad thing right down to the texture of the paint on the car or whatever. They say that, while they are powerless to change the outcome, it all goes so slowly.

Not always, I discovered.

Sometimes, it is almost over before you know it.

I fell today while carrying my son. I fell on some black ice while turning from the sidewalk into my driveway. I fell so fast that I didn't realize I was falling until I was already down. Nothing slowed down for me; it all sped up. The Boy Child fell from my arms, missing the concrete retaining wall by six or eight inches and went belly up onto the gravel driveway. He was just a little scared, not hurt at all. I was up to get him so fast that I didn't even realize I had cut my elbow or that I had even come down on my elbow. I just wanted to see if he was ok. Only later did I realize that I had hurt myself, my hip, my elbow, my back, and really given a wrench to my left shoulder and arm, the side I was carrying him on when I went down.

I expect I will be pretty darn sore tomorrow. But the Boy Child is ok and that was really all that mattered to me.

It was just so fast. Me on my side looking at him face down on the gravel. I've had better days. I just hope that, with respect to my boy, I don't have worse.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:37 PM | Comments (11)

February 04, 2005

Extraordinary Americans

For a number of reasons, none of which I have time to go into here, I have spent some precious minutes today reading Congressional Medal of Honor citations. These are extraordinary documents describing extraordinary Americans performing extraordinary deeds. I could never imagine myself, under the circumstances, performing as superlatively as these Americans have. The Medal of Honor is given to individual members of the United States armed forces who demonstrate conspicuous valor in action against an enemy force. The citations make for compelling reading and it is hard to tear yourself away from them, but they all have one thing in common: courage. Imagine, if you will, how you would have reacted if you were Navy Corpsman Donald E. Ballard:


Rank and organization: Hospital Corpsman Second Class, U.S. Navy, Company M, 3d Battalion, 4th Marines, 3d Marine Division. Place and date: Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam, 16 May 1968. Entered service at: Kansas City, Mo. Born: 5 December 1945, Kansas City, Mo. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life and beyond the call of duty while serving as a HC2c. with Company M, in connection with operations against enemy aggressor forces. During the afternoon hours, Company M was moving to join the remainder of the 3d Battalion in Quang Tri Province. After treating and evacuating 2 heat casualties, HC2c. Ballard was returning to his platoon from the evacuation landing zone when the company was ambushed by a North Vietnamese Army unit employing automatic weapons and mortars, and sustained numerous casualties. Observing a wounded marine, HC2c. Ballard unhesitatingly moved across the fire swept terrain to the injured man and swiftly rendered medical assistance to his comrade. HC2c. Ballard then directed 4 marines to carry the casualty to a position of relative safety. As the 4 men prepared to move the wounded marine, an enemy soldier suddenly left his concealed position and, after hurling a hand grenade which landed near the casualty, commenced firing upon the small group of men. Instantly shouting a warning to the marines, HC2c. Ballard fearlessly threw himself upon the lethal explosive device to protect his comrades from the deadly blast. When the grenade failed to detonate, he calmly arose from his dangerous position and resolutely continued his determined efforts in treating other marine casualties. HC2c. Ballard's heroic actions and selfless concern for the welfare of his companions served to inspire all who observed him and prevented possible injury or death to his fellow marines. His courage, daring initiative, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of extreme personal danger, sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Extraordinary, isn't it?

One problem with reading these is that you will be struck by how many of these men bear an asterisk next to their name, indicating that the award of posthumous.

Posted by Random Penseur at 12:49 PM | Comments (1)

Zimbabwe: Upcoming "Elections"

The main opposition party in Zimbabwe, the Movement for Democratic Change, has announced that, "with a heavy heart", it intends to take part in the upcoming "elections".

Mugabe has done his level best to corrupt this electoral process and the Telegraph has a good article about this, from which I extract the following:

[MDC Party Spokesman] Mr Nyathi said: "The media remains muzzled. Free assembly is proscribed. The shambolic voters' roll continues to be the principal vehicle for electoral fraud. Constituency boundaries have been subjectively gerrymandered, while militias and militia bases continue to multiply and international observers continue to be unwelcome."

The MDC fought its first election in 2000, only nine months after it was formed, and won nearly half of the 120 seats in parliament after a violent run-up to polling.

Even Zimbabwe's partisan judiciary found that Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF had won at least eight seats unfairly. More than 30 legal challenges to the results are outstanding.

In 2002 the leader of the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai, was cheated of victory in the presidential election secretly run and manipulated by scores of army officers. He has spent nearly half of his five years as opposition leader under virtual house arrest on treason charges. Although western observers condemned the election as unfair, South Africa's crucial voice prevailed after its observers declared the poll legitimate.

New laws for the March 31 election allow the military to run both the voting and the counting.

Most MDC MPs have been detained, tortured, beaten up or deprived of their possessions since the party became the first to mount a serious challenge to Mr Mugabe's iron grip on power.

One of its most popular MPs, Roy Bennett, who has been frequently tortured and is serving a year in jail for pushing over Patrick Chinamasa, the justice minister, in parliament, has been chosen by his supporters to represent them again from prison.

I rarely get comments on the Zimbabwe posts but I feel, just the same, a sense of moral urgency to keep writing about it.

Posted by Random Penseur at 12:35 PM | Comments (3)

Follow up to Time is Money Post

Yesterday, I posted my thoughts about time and it really isn't money and I received, thank you very much, some very thoughtful and interesting comments. By the way, I heart comments and especially the excellent comments y'all left yesterday.

But here is another way to look at time and its value: Through the eyes of the lawyer who bills by the hour (I am reproducing the contents of that page below the fold here just in case the link stops being live, for whatever reason):

The Truth about the Billable Hour

As you try to choose a path in the law, or choose among various law firms, you will often hear mention of the billable hours that are expected of the associates in a law firm. Most law firms make their money by billing their clients by the hour. If you do not bill a certain number of hours, you do not bring in enough money to cover your salary, not to mention the profit share for the partners and overhead. The more hours billed, the more profit for the firm. Government and public interest employers do not typically have any billable hour requirements because they do not bill their hours to a paying client.

Firms "average," "target" or "minimum" billables typically range between 1700 and 2300, although informal networks often quote much higher numbers. The NALP forms ask employers for their average associate billable hours, as do many interviewees, because of its enormous impact on associates' lives.

The purpose of this handout is to help you understand the billable hour expectations most law firms have for associates, and the impact of those expectations on your lifestyle. Keep in mind that not all law firms have the same emphasis on billable hours: public interest law firms, smaller law firms, and law firms outside of large metropolitan areas often require less billable hours and may place more emphasis on training, client development, community-related activities and the like. In addition, government and public interest employers typically do not have any billable hour requirements because they do not bill their hours to a paying client. Speak with a CDO counselor to discuss these options in more detail.

A. The Full Time Job:
Target 1800 Billable Hours

Assume you "work" from 8:00 am - 6:00 pm each day 10.0
Assume you take an hour for lunch -1.0
Assume you take two 15 minute coffee breaks -.5
Assume you spend a half-hour reading legal updates and reviewing general correspondence -.5
Assume you will need to attend department meetings, occasional conferences, and do CLE -.5
This means that you work 10 hours a day but may bill 7.5
If you work a 5 day week x 5
You have been at work 50 hours and billed 37.5
If you do this all year long, and we assume:
3 weeks vacation
2 weeks holiday
No sick days or personal days
You will work 47 weeks x 47
And have billed an annual average of 1762

To gain an extra 70 hours to be respectable you could:
(a). Add approximately 1 1/2 hours a week (approximately 20 minutes per day) 1 ½ x 47=70 1832
So come in at 8:00 am and work until 6:20 pm Monday - Friday
The Commute

With a half hour commute (to your desk and working) you are gone from home 7:30 am to 6:50 pm

With a one hour commute you will be gone from 7:00 am to 7:20 pm, Monday - Friday
(b) Work one Saturday a month (10:00 am to 5:00 pm with 1 nonbillable) 6 x 12 months = 72
You have now billed 1834
You have been "at work" 2434
This schedule does not account for any personal calls at work, training/observing, talking with co-workers, a longer lunch (to exercise? Christmas shop?), a family funeral, any pro bono work (if not treated as billable hours), serving on a Bar committee, writing an article for the bar journal, interviewing an applicant, etc.

B. The Overtime Job:
Target 2200 Billable Hours

Assume you "work" from 8:00 am - 8:00 pm each day 12.0
Assume you take an hour for lunch and an hour for dinner -2.0
Assume you take four 15 minute bathroom/coffee breaks -1.0
Assume you will need the same time for department meetings, conferences and CLE -.5
This means you "work" 12 hours a day but bill only 8.5
You do this 5 days a week x .5
You have "worked" 60 hours but have billed only 42.5
If you do this all year long, and we assume:
3 weeks vacation
2 weeks holiday
No sick days or personal days
You will work 47 weeks x 47
And have billed an annual average of 1997

To gain the needed 200+ hours you could add two Saturdays a month
If you work 10-5 on these Saturdays with 1 nonbillable hour you will have 6 billables per day x 2 = 12 x 12 months = 144
For a new total of… 2141

Still Short!

So add another Saturday a month for 10 months (take a break in Nov. & Dec. for the Holidays)

6 x 10 months =


You made it!

You have billed


However, you have been "at work"

The Commute
With a half hour commute you are gone from 7:30 am to 8:30 pm Monday - Friday
And 9:30 am - 5:30 pm three Saturdays a month
With a one hour commute you are gone from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm Monday - Friday
And 9:00 am to 6:00 pm three Saturdays a month
BUT once again this schedule does not account for any personal calls at work, training/observing, talking with coworkers, a longer lunch (to exercise? Christmas shop?), a family funeral, any pro bono work (if not treated as billable hours), serving on a Bar committee, writing an article for the bar journal, interviewing an applicant, etc.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:40 AM | Comments (4)

February 03, 2005

Time is money?

How often have you heard that? A lot, if you live in NY, I bet. But is it really true? I was kicking the thought around this morning and decided I'd write about it to see if I couldn't come up with a more disciplined result. As one old professor of mine once said, you don't know anything until you write it down.

First, you can save money but you can't save time. Saving money makes sense. Spend less, put more money in the bank or the market, and watch it, hopefully, grow and maybe even compound. Time, on the other hand, you can't save. You can rush around all you want, get stressed about making a deadline or catching an earlier train, all with the over riding goal of being more efficient and saving time. Well, what do you do with the time you save? You can't put it in a bottle (thank you, Mr. Croce), you can't store it up until a more convenient moment. It won't grow like money does in the bank. No, you can't really save time. Consequently, I suppose, you need to live more in the moment. You need to live fully and thoughtfully so that you can extract the maximum amount of value from the time you do have. It is a finite amount, after all, you just don't know how finite.

Second, if time were money, or at least a commodity, you'd have to be able to value it. How much money, I was wondering, would it be worth to me to buy time? Let's say I had a million dollars. How much of that million would I spend to buy an extra hour of life? An extra hour to say goodbye or visit with my loved ones. What is that worth? A lot? A little? Let's complicate things. What if, in making this calculation, you know that your heirs apparent need this money that you will be leaving behind. Does that factor into your calculations about how much your hour is worth to you? Is this too hard? What about buying an extra five minutes? Is that worth less? How do you assign a value to time?

Let's try something easier, something market driven. Travel costs. Travel costs are often a matter of assigning a monetary value to time. Flights at undesirable times often cost less, right? The reason seems clear, to entice you to fly when no one wants to. But what is it worth to you to fly at an inconvenient time? How much are you willing to spend in order to have more time at the office to prepare for a meeting, or to arrive at a more convenient time at your destination so that you are rested for the upcoming event? Hundreds? Maybe. A thousand? Who knows, right? Depends on the circumstances. But what if the timing of the flight may mean the difference between spending time with an aging relative who you may not get to see again. How much is that worth to you when you run your little balance sheet calculations? Can you put a value on the time? Sure. Its the difference in cost between the convenient ticket and the inconvenient ticket. The market set that price difference, but what is it worth to you to pay it?

Beats me. I don't have any answers. Well, maybe I have one answer. Time is precious, even if I can't set a price for it. And good health is beyond price. So, spend some time, time you can't save anyway, tending to your health. Go to the gym, get a physical (you know, the one you've been putting off), and eat smarter. This may turn out to be a big dividend paying investment as the years roll on.

Did this post make any sense to anyone?

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:54 AM | Comments (10)

Today in History

Seems like its been a long time since I did a good, annotated Today in History post, so:

Born Today:

*1368 Charles VI, also known as Charles the Mad, King of France (1380-1422)
*1809 Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Hamburg Germany, composer and grandson of Moses Mendelssohn, a famous philosopher
*1811 Horace Greeley editor of the Tribune and important Civil War era figure, also known for saying: "Go west, young man"
*1826 Walter Bagehot England, economist/sociologist. If you've ever read the Economist, you've wondered about who he was!
*1830 Robert Cecil Marquess of Salisbury, British PM (1885-1902), built Hatfield House
*1894 Norman Rockwell US, artist/illustrator. Click on this link to see "Marine Homecoming", one work that has special resonance right now, I think. I hope every Marine comes home soon.
*1898 Alvar Aalto Finland, architect, links to buildings
*1904 Charlie "Pretty Boy" Floyd (long bio at link) FBI Most Wanted criminal
*1909 Simone Weil Paris, mystic/social philosopher/all around odd ball
*1945 Bob Griese one of my favorite all time quarterbacks (Miami Dolphins, 1971 Player of Year)

Died today:

*1468 Johann Gensfleisch Gutenberg dies
*1889 Belle Starr legendary Bandit Queen, murdered at 40.
*1924 Woodrow Wilson 28th President (1913-21), dies at his home in Washington at 67
*1959 The Day the Music Died: The Big Bopper [Jiles Perry Richardson]; Buddy Holly; and, Richie Valens killed in plane crash in Iowa.

Interesting Events Today:

*1653 Cardinal Jules Mazarin returns to Paris from exile
*1660 General Moncks army reaches London after marching from Coldstream and thus puts Charles II on the throne and insures a return to civil liberty
*1690 1st paper money in America issued (colony of Massachusetts)
*1882 Circus owner PT Barnum buys his world famous elephant Jumbo from the London Zoo for $10,000, later killed by a train
*1917 US liner Housatonic sunk by German sub & diplomatic relations severed. This link is to the actual log of the German U-Boat commander who describes, under February 3, the sinking of the "steamer".

Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did researching it!

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:22 AM | Comments (2)

February 01, 2005

The Girl Child -- Love is a secret

We allowed the Girl Child to stay up late last night so she could hang out with her mother and me and because we've been thinking that we may actually be putting her to bed a little too early.

So, after she got an extra two stories read to her, and we're cuddling on the couch, she looks up at me and we have the following exchange:

GC: [tone: soft, slow, sweet] Pappa, I love you.

Me: [heart expands, threatens to choke me]

GC: [tone: quick and definite, commanding] But don't tell anyone!

Me: [trying not to laugh] Why not? Why can't I tell anyone?

GC: Because its a secret and we don't tell secrets.

What is is with little girls and secrets?

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:19 AM | Comments (2)