March 31, 2005

Ruthless, personified

That's me. I move through the house with nary a care for the usefulness or emotional attachment we have to the object. If my house will show better without the object, then that object is already halfway out the door. Today is bulk pickup garbage day. Things like, say, broken chairs in the basement which were waiting for me to fix, are no longer in the basement and no longer waiting for me to fix them. To the curb. Old vacuum cleaner we (well, I) were keeping in anticipation of having it fixed to keep upstairs as a second vacuum, to the curb. I admit a small pang as I looked at it on the grass. We bought it a long time ago when we had different lives and were living in a different town. It brought back some nice memories.

That's the thing about objects. The reason you've kept half of this garbage is because it reminds you of things, of times past, of when you were a different person. When you were young and married and had no real responsibilities. The vacuum, by way of example, reminded me of all of the apartments I used it in. Vacuuming was always my chore. My wife hated it but did not mind cleaning the bathroom, something I hated. So I used that vacuum in a house in New Orleans (where we bought it at Sears) and in an apartment on the Upper West Side and another apartment on the Upper East Side and then the house, where it quit after some 12 years of faithful service.

So, just because I was ruthless does not mean that I was not reflective and maybe a little bit sad. I liked the people my wife and I were when that vacuum was young. I miss them, sometimes. Life was simpler then and our options seemed without limit. Now, our lives are much more complicated and our options more constrained. That comes just with growing older and having kids. I love my kids and I wouldn't trade them for anything but I miss the feeling that the possibility of the future as this limitless adventure is, if not gone, waving bye-bye.

That feeling has not been moved to the curb, but it may just be a matter of time.

Geez, I never would have suspected that old vacuum cleaner had so much life left in it.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:45 AM | Comments (3)

Second Interview: Hannah

Hannah is our second interview and I think ought to be very interesting, considering she lives in the Netherlands but hails from New York. Some herring with attitude, it strikes me.

I will ask her five questions below and she will respond on her blog, let me know, and I will link to her answers. Actually, though, I'm posing six questions in case she doesn't want to answer any one question. So, Hannah, you can pick and choose or answer them all. I leave it up to you, entirely.

Anyway, here are the questions and a link to the rules, which Hannah has to include on her page:

1. How many magazines do you subscribe to? Which one is your favorite and why? Which one is your guilty pleasure?

2. How old were you when you moved to the Netherlands and what was the process of cultural adjustment like for you? The biggest shock?

3. If you went skydiving, would you jump or would they have to push you and why?

4. Why do you blog? What do you get out of it?

5. What is the biggest risk you've ever taken and how did it turn out?

6. What piece of literature has had the greatest impact on your life and why? Should I read it, too?

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:52 AM | Comments (2)

March 30, 2005

Indigo's Interview Answers

Indigo has answered her interview questions and I highly recommend going to read them. At a minimum, you will learn something really cool about traditional Indian dance.

Thanks, Indigo!

Tune in tomorrow for the next subject.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:52 PM | Comments (1)

Pack rat? Me?

In a panic, last night, I realized that if we are well and truly going to be putting our house on the market next week *GULP*, this might be the last recycling day between now and that date. Therefore, it was incumbent upon me to race around the house and ruthlessly reduce the old magazines which were cluttering up the whole house, stashed in lopsided piles in odd corners and in each bathroom and the guest room and next to my bed and, well, you get the idea. In a burst of energy, I rounded up something like 9 shopping bags full of old Sports Illustrated, Architectural Digest, Consumer Reports, Westchester and NY Magazines, and various other random publications and conveyed them to the curb for disposal.

I have barely scratched the surface, I realize, of what needs to be done to make the house ready to show, but it felt good to get started.

Tomorrow, I'm afraid (and I really mean afraid), may be the last bulk garbage disposal opportunity before the house lists. Thus, tonight may be a really late night as I attempt to make some snap decisions about what stays, what goes, and what gets run to the curb tonight.

All the fun and drama of packing up an entire house but compressed into 2 nights.

In the back of my mind, I hear my late grandmother's voice, passing along the words she used to tell my mother when my mother was sent off to clean up her room: Be ruthless.

Wish me luck, for it is against everything holy for a pack rat to be ruthless.

By the way, how come nobody is ever told to be "ruth" anymore? How come ruth fell out of the language except as a first name?

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:42 AM | Comments (8)

First Interview: Indigo

Indigo boldly stepped up to the plate for the first interview. I will ask her five questions below and she will respond on her blog, let me know, and I will link to her answers. Actually, though, I'm posing six questions in case she doesn't want to answer any one question. So, Indigo, you can pick and choose or answer them all. I leave it up to you, entirely.

The Questions:

1. What was the biggest surprise to you about coming to NY? What do you miss most about Hawaii?

2. You are a dancer in a particular field I am only a tiny bit aware of and that’s only because of you. Can you explain the field and what you derive from it?

3. Have your politics changed since Sept. 11? If so, how?

4. Has the internet brought people closer together or made it easier to maintain isolation?

5. Why do you blog? What do you get out of it?

6. What bad habit do you have that you wish you didn't?

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:59 AM | Comments (0)


So, this should be fun. Our interviewees have been (self)selected and include, in the order they responded:

1. Indigo

2. Hannah

3. Dee

4. Angie

5. Helen

and because he asked so nicely to be included

6. John.

These people represent a really interesting cross section and I think it will be great fun to interview them. Stay tuned as I invent some questions for their amusement.

The rules are that you answer the questions on your site, include the rules as I did in my link, and I will link to your responses here on my blog.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:20 AM | Comments (2)

March 29, 2005

My Interview

Kathy, at Cake Eater Chronicles, has kindly consented to interview me and even more kindly did not impose any time limits on my answers. So, a day later than I would have liked, I herewith reply below the jump. Here are the questions:

1. You're a corporate litigator. The lawyers I used to work with would occasionally become tired of cleaning up other people's messes---and would whine about it. If you could, what would you say to a particularly idiotic client if you didn't have to fear the loss of their billable hours?

2. You live and work in the NYC metropolitan area. For those of us who have never been, explain the pros and cons of living and working in that city.

3. If you could become a cat burglar, and were able to access (albeit illegally) any musuem in the world, knowing that a. what you're choosing to steal is for your personal pleasure and b. you wouldn't be caught, what piece of art would you choose to steal and why?

4. You're an anonymous blogger. Why did you choose to blog anonymously? Do you feel it gives you more leeway to write certain things than if you attached your name to your work? Do you ever feel the compulsion to fib to your readers, knowing full well that they'd have no idea if you were telling the truth or not?

5. Name your all-time favorite book. Why do you love it so?

By the way, this is part of a meme (a concept I find fascinating, like the way a bad virus takes over the body) and here are the rules:

Leave me a comment saying “interview me”. The first five commenters will be the participants. I will respond by asking you five questions. You will update your blog/site with the answers to the questions. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions. (Write your own questions or borrow some.)

If you're interested in my answers to Kathy's excellent questions, read on in extended entry below:

1. You're a corporate litigator. The lawyers I used to work with would occasionally become tired of cleaning up other people's messes---and would whine about it. If you could, what would you say to a particularly idiotic client if you didn't have to fear the loss of their billable hours?

Well, I have to say that no one likes to clean up all the time. Sometimes, it is downright annoying. And, in fact, I have come very close to saying: "You are a cheap asshole who tried to do this deal yourself and now you are solely responsible for the mess you've made and are screaming for me to get you out of. Stop being so damn cheap and call me before you sign something, not after." In other words, don't be penny wise and pound foolish, something I actually have told clients before.

2. You live and work in the NYC metropolitan area. For those of us who have never been, explain the pros and cons of living and working in that city.

The pros and the cons are sometimes the same. It is an energetic, always fast moving, hard working, exciting place to work and live. These factors each cut both ways. Sometimes, you really just want to hang a "gone fishin'" sign on your door, turn off the world and take a break. This can be hard to do in NY and impossible to do when you have children.

Other pros to actually living in NYC, though, include: Chinese food delivered to your door in under seven minutes (no exaggeration); something cool and cultural happening every single evening; having within a two block radius of our old apartment on the Upper East Side a plethora of different kinds of ethnic food (Turkish, Chinese, Burmese, Thai, Japanese, Italian, Greek, Pizza, Persian, and more Turkish); having your value systems being challanged on an almost daily basis by close proximity to other languages and other ways of doing things (keeps you from being complacent); and the sheer beauty of the architecture.

Pros to working in NYC: the feeling that you are running with the thouroughbreds; the knowledge that NYC attracts some of the best and brightest and most ambitious people in the world.

Cons include: the thought that at some point your city may be a target, again, for mass terrorism; the price of housing (extraordinary); the way wealth can distort people's values and how you raise children when you don't have a hedge fund and you don't want your kids to think it is normal for everyone else to have one.

3. If you could become a cat burglar, and were able to access (albeit illegally) any musuem in the world, knowing that a. what you're choosing to steal is for your personal pleasure and b. you wouldn't be caught, what piece of art would you choose to steal and why?

First, what makes you think that I am not hiding the Scream in my closet already, having written about it enough?

Second, piece of art? The broadness of this question almost made my head explode. I have so many favorites that I don't know how to choose. Seriously. I was thinking about this one for awhile because I enjoyed thinking about it, kicking various museums around in my head, the Frick, the Wallace, the Met, the Gulbenkian, etc. And then it hit me, I would probably want to redistribute some of the cultural wealth in the Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art and re-hang, in my own home, "The Architect's Dream".


This is one I would take because I had a poster of it in college. I used to love looking at it, thinking about how the architect could lie there and contemplate all the broad strokes of history and borrow or be inspired by whatever he saw. It was a painting made at the height of historical ecclecticism when architects were building almost exclusively from historical memory. And besides, it is full of great detail.

If it was sculpture, probably the Gates of Hell by Rodin. Or maybe something by Vigeland from Frogner Park in Oslo.

4. You're an anonymous blogger. Why did you choose to blog anonymously? Do you feel it gives you more leeway to write certain things than if you attached your name to your work? Do you ever feel the compulsion to fib to your readers, knowing full well that they'd have no idea if you were telling the truth or not?

I chose to blog anonymously because I had no idea what I was going to be writing about. Actually, I still have no real clear idea what the hell my blog is. But I knew that I might be talking about work or family and I did not want to breach the privacy of my clients or my family. So I knew that if I was going to do this, I had to do it behind a screen. It totally gives me more leeway. In fact, if my name was attached to this I would never, ever mention a single thing that was happening in my professional life. As it is, I rarely do more than allude to my professional life.

Fib? Nope. Never. Why bother? The truth is often odd enough. Besides, at some point, I will give my children a copy of this whole blog and if I have fibbed, I have distorted their past. I have no desire whatsoever to do that. In part, my blog is an extended love letter to my children. No fibbing required. Actually, anonymity is a way to give myself greater freedom to tell the truth. I have no fear that, say, my mother in law will happen upon my blog and read my unfiltered thoughts. No, there is too much watching my tongue in the real world. Here, I don't have to do that.

5. Name your all-time favorite book. Why do you love it so?

All time favorite book? I have to choose just one? That's cruel, Kathy. Well, how about I choose two and if you don't like the answer you can just yell at me.

One would be Kim, by Kipling. It may be the only book that as soon as I finish, I have to pick it back up and begin reading all over again. It is exotic, an adventure story, filled with great travels, conflicting religions, clashes of culture, hints of the Great Game between Russia and England, love, friendship, food, and happiness. All it lacks, I realize now, is sex. It is, barring that omission, a complete thing in and of itself and I have loved it since I was a child.

Another would be the Three Musketeers, by Dumas. Another cracking good adventure tale, set among the politics and conflict between France and England. Has great sword fights, wonderful dialogue, and love and friendship. And the langauge is beautiful, especially in the French. And I get a kick out of the depictions of the country nobility come to Paris since I knew people like that when I lived in France.

Here endeth my answers.

Thank you, Kathy, for taking the time to come up with such good questions. I enjoyed the experience very much.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:38 AM | Comments (9)

March 28, 2005

The Boy Child blew me away

The Boy Child has plenty of words, but he never uses them in combination, never forms a sentence. I have not really formed a view as to his intellect. I mean, he seems to be all there but who can tell? This weekend changed that. By way of background, his maternal grandmother, (mor mor, in Norwegian), lives in Central America right now and speaks perfect Spanish. When the Boy Child, who is just barely two years old, says her name, he pronounces it as "moo moo". Not uncommon for little Norwegian children to say that, I'm told. By way of comparison, he now calls my father, "dude". My father loves that.

So, we were all sitting around the dinner table, playing around, singing the Sesame Street song, when I turned to the Boy Child and we had the following exchange:

Me: Donde esta Plaza Sesamo?

BC: Moo Moo. [as if to say, go ask Moo Moo].

Me: [stunned silence as my wife and I look at each other and I say to my wife] Was that an accident? Do you think he did that on purpose?

Wife: I have no idea.

Me: [to boy child] Hvem er det som snakker Spansk? [translation from Norwegian: who is it who speaks Spanish?]

BC: [confidently, shaking his head for emphasis] Moo moo.

If I had any doubts about him, they are gone as of now. Da Boy is all there.

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:47 PM | Comments (5)

Buy/Sell and Sell/Buy: The difference?

The difference is the amount of stress and the sheer terror that sometimes accompanies the purchase of a new house and the immediate, and chilling, obligation to get your current house in shape and on the market. I have spent the day alternating between stressed out, temple throbbing, chest pounding anxiety and fatalistic acceptance that I am slowly pushing down a major commitment which will absolutely, no question about it, be a big mistake. Why a big mistake? Because at least right now, in my current house, I understand and appreciate what I don't like and what is not suitable. In a new house, in a new town, and in the state next door, all that is unforeseen and unappreciated. Besides, I think that deep down I really loathe change. Also, I pretty much hate debt and debt is a new best buddy.

Hence my silence today. Too much time being freaked out and unhappy. I have also done no work today of any kind professionally speaking.

Did I mention that we found a house that we really loved this weekend and can't quite afford but are planning to buy anyway? I may have left that out.

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:31 PM | Comments (7)

March 25, 2005


Religious holidays are odd things. They are so many different things to so many different people. I have no idea if anyone reading this will be celebrating Easter this year, or if they are, whether they will sit awhile and think about the deeper significance of the holy day (where do you think the word holiday comes from, hmmn?) but I hope they do. We'll be watching our kids run around picking up eggs. I'll be the guy with the Bloody Mary in his hand.

So, that said, if you are celebrating Easter this weekend, I wish you a happy, peaceful and meaningful holy day.

And maybe, just maybe, you'll spare a thought for Terry Schiavo. Mark at Irish Elk has provided very thought provoking coverage.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:04 PM | Comments (3)

March 24, 2005

When an update is not an update

Like now. I owe you all an update on the visit to England and dinner with Helen, etc. I can't do it right now, I fear. I was in Atlanta all day yesterday and returned on a very, very delayed flight. I walked in to find my wife telling me how much our daughter was looking forward to seeing us all at her school for her Purim party. *gulp* I am bad parent. I forgot about the Purim party. I did not go to work this morning. Instead, I went to Purim party, more on that later, as well. I have been playing catch up at work ever since.

I will leave you with the words that the Girl Child dictated as she pretended to write a letter and she closed it out:

Gratefully yours,

Love you,


She assures me that is how she ends all her letters.

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:49 PM | Comments (2)

March 22, 2005

Oggi, oggi, oggi, oggi, oi, oi oi (spelling guessed at)


Yay, Wales! I am informed that the title of this post is a cheer at Welsh rugby matches (if informed incorrectly, please let me know). Among the things I did in London was spend two hours in a pub on a beautiful day drinking with friends and watching as Wales beat up on Ireland in the finals of the Six Nations Rugby Tournament (also caught the end of France/Italy). It used to be the Five Nations. In fact, the Five Celtic Nations. Now Italy's joined. Let's just say the Italian Rugby Team has a ways to go.

This is the first time since 1978 that Wales has won the tournament with a grand slam (all the matches). The first time in 22 years that they have managed to beat Ireland at home in Wales. Wales exploded in joy after the match.


And it was a very exciting match, too.


Rugby is an excellent sport to watch. You cannot believe, if you’ve never seen it, how fast and strong the top players are. And how they fling themselves about with almost no regard for their personal safety. There was quite a bit of blood on the field. Oh, and injury care? That seemed mostly to involve a 30 second application of an ice pack. That's it.

My favorite anecdote about 6 Nations? The Welsh team is sponsored by Brains beer and wear, on their shirts, the name: Brains.


The French prohibit advertising on the pitch so the Welsh replaced the word Brains on their jerseys with the word: Brawn. Excellent, no?

So, join me and lift a glass to the 2005 Six Nations Rugby Champions!

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:55 PM | Comments (2)

I have returned, with a theory, no less

I am back from England where I had a wonderful time (more on that later) and trying to prepare for a meeting in a far off city tomorrow. I am working very hard to pretend that jet lag is a theoretical malady that afflicts others, not me. And I have a theory. For the first time, I actually have concocted a theory about jet lag and the is it worse here (US) or there (Europe) debate. My theory is that jet lag is simply worse wherever you are returning to. When you go to a place, you suffer less from jet lag because of the excitement about the travel, especially if the travel is holiday (vacation) related. You arrive and are up early and are out the door, buzzed to get going and do stuff. You ignore the jet lag, pretend it isn't there.

But then you get home. And you don't pretend the jet lag isn't there. You can't. In fact, your mind keeps returning to vacation and you think to yourself that, gee, its noon here but its five o'clock back in London. And since your mind keeps going back that way, and you keep imagining yourself back in London (or wherever), you magnify and intensify the jet lag.

That's my theory, in a nutshell.

I tried to put it into practice. I set my watch as soon as I got on the plane to come home. I dragged myself out of bed at the usual time and went to the gym and did the usual hard workout. I came to work. I have thought nothing about what time it might be in London.

And you know what? I'm pretty wrecked actually. But it has nothing to do with jet lag. Nope, according to my theory, I'm totally over that.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:28 PM | Comments (5)

March 16, 2005

Like a good ol' country lawyer, I'm hanging a sign on my door


Well, not really. At least, not fishing.

Nope, off to merry old England as of tomorrow morning. Just me, no wife, no kids, no car seats, no strollers, no diaper bags. Just me and a new book on the history of the Late Roman Empire I picked up last night in the bookstore. I will have 6 (or so) glorious economy class hours all to myself to read without interruption. I guarantee that this is the part of the trip my wife envies me the most for. I know that I have envied her that part when she has gone on business trips. Solitude. *sigh* I cannot wait for some solitude. Not too much, mind you, just a couple of hours.

Expected highlights of the trip to come:

*Dinner with Helen and Angus on Friday night! I am looking forward to this tremendously and am only sorry my wife cannot join us.

*A moment to pay my respects to the Laughing Cavalier (Franz Hals) at the Wallace Collection, where he lives. He is one of my all time favorite portraits:


I'm sure you can see why. Actually, permit me a slight digression. Among the things I love about this painting are the twinkle in his eye, like he is sharing a joke with us, not laughing at us and the gorgeous clothes he is wearing. I have read that Flemish painters in the 1600's, when this was painted, used to get their commissions from rich Flemish wool merchants and they were famous for providing stunning and luxurious fabrics to the rest of Europe. Such that, Flemish painters used their portraits, in part, as an advertisement for the Flemish fabric trade and painted these stunning clothes in these fabulous textures and colors -- rich brocade, deep velvets, heavy silks, etc. Next time you see a Flemish painted portrait of a well off woman, take a close look at the clothes. That depiction will knock you out. I promise.

*Lunch with my old fencing master! A very dear man, in his 70's now.

*Hanging out time with some of my bestest friends from law school, people who rented the other half of the house we lived in for 2 years.

*A visit to the National Portrait Gallery.

*A trip to the British Museum to see some treasured old pals: The Elgin Marbles; the Assyrian collection; the Magna Carta; and any other damn thing I want to see!

*A wedding on Sunday!

*Some time in the bookstores, getting my wife her perfume, maybe picking up a new tie or two if the exchange rate doesn't absolutely frighten me away first.

*and finally, walking around to my heart's content, taking pictures of the splendid buildings and just being happy about being in London.

When a man grows tired of London, etc.

Wish me a safe trip, if you would be so kind, and look for my reports next week.

Pax tibi!

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:21 AM | Comments (18)

March 15, 2005

Very quiet, hunting for a break

I need it to be yesterday. I need for the partner who had the other half of the brief in opposition to which we were preparing a reply brief, to have come to me yesterday to say that he needed me to pick up an extra point to write on, not today. I need to have him be responsible, like I was, and have gotten his shit done three days in advance, like I did. I loathe the last minute brief. Especially when we had over two weeks and dick all else to do but this critically important brief. I'm just hunting for a break.

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:28 PM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2005

Hey, bloom, give the rose a kiss on your way out

Yes, that's right. The bloom is off the rose. I will illustrate by relating the following conversation this morning:

Girl Child: [throws her socks up in the air in the kitchen while I have my coffee and NY Times]

Me: Don't throw things around in the kitchen.

GC: Why not?

Me: Because the kitchen is probably the most dangerous room in the house.

GC: Why?

Me: Because there are things that could burn you here, things that could cut you, things that you could knock over and . . . [GC walks out]

Wife in dining room: What was Pappa saying to you?

GC to wife: I don't know, something about the kitchen. [tone, according to my wife, like a 13 year old]

Remember, she just turned four. I am so screwed.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:14 AM | Comments (7)

March 10, 2005

I, Primary Caregiver

The nanny is gone for most of the week. Yesterday, my mother hosted the kids and will again on Friday. Today, however, I stayed home from work to be primary caregiver. It was like playing house, it was/is that much fun. The kids are napping right now, that's why I can write for a minute.

It has also been a huge tease -- showing me what my life could be like if I was independently wealthy and I didn’t have to work outside the house. Showing me how much fun my kids are, even if it is hard work.

I got them both up, gave them breakfast, played, loaded them into the car and took the Girl Child off to school. On the way, I changed the radio station from the crap pop that the nanny listens to and found some very nice jazz. I asked the Girl Child if she liked it and she said she did so we played a game trying to name the instruments. She claimed that one of them was a “Flutootle”. Clearly a flute, in her mind. It was a bass, actually, but that’s ok. We dropped her off where I, the only dad there that day, was absolutely snubbed by all the stay at home moms. That was ok, too. Sort of. I mean, I knew some of them from various birthday parties even if I was not a part of their daily school routine. But I expected more of a hello and maybe that was expecting too much. Whatever. My kids were cuter (damn, that was petty).

Then the Boy Child and I, after he gave his sister something like 6 kisses, headed off to a really good liquor store in Scarsdale in search, still, of white port for my wife. No success there but picked up a half a case of some really yummy looking assorted Italian and Spanish reds. And a bottle of Fino Sherry for my wife as an attempt at a substitute. The Boy Child got to stand the whole time in the shopping cart and was just happy to be there. We went home with our booze, changed diapers, and headed off to music class!

Yay, music class! That was the first one I got to take him to. One nice thing, though, was that everyone said that we had a lovely nanny. Music class was great. I don’t know how to describe it particularly, but can say that I was again the only daddy. This time, at least, people talked to me. The Boy Child seemed to like having me there. He was regularly running across the room to me and launching himself at me. He enjoyed going to get the instruments and then putting them away. He didn’t sing, but that’s not a shock since he doesn’t really talk. The tambourines were a big hit, so to speak, and ring around the rosy was also quite a favorite. Let me say that for me, the whole experience was sublime. I think I was just glowing, watching him, cuddling with him on the floor, pushing my face into his hair when he threw himself into my lap. There was no part of this class I did not love.

After class, we ran over to the library for a bit, but didn’t find the book I was looking for, the new Charles Todd mystery. Already checked out. Ah, well.

Then, lunch. We belong to a little club out here and went there since there was a buffet on Thursdays and that is always good with young ones, no waiting for food. He ate all the salmon I took for myself, some fruit, and was thus rewarded with cookies, again. This time without trickery, Tuning Spork! Although, I did get to watch him prove that every cookie, no matter what the dimensions, is actually a single serving, bite size cookie. Crumbs were flying out of his mouth with every bite since his mouth was so full he couldn’t actually close it! That brought out the flying, diving napkin. We ate, we played hide and seek at the table, he shared the fish stickers he got at music class by pasting them on my shirt, too. Everyone in the dining room, mostly older woman, smiled at him. He does look like an angel and a good mood is infectious.

After lunch, a little shopping and then off to fetch his sister. He was so anxious to see her that he disrupted the class departure routine where a teacher sends each child out, one by one, into the hands of the appointed caregiver. Nope, not this time. This time, the Boy Child pushed past the teacher in the doorway, shouting his sister’s name until he found her and got his hug and kiss. Then, hand in hand, the two of them exited the class room and off we came home for naps. Their naps, not mine.

Anyway, I’m off to prepare dinner for them so that they can eat when they get up. I am Mr. Domestic Guy today and loving it.

Tomorrow comes too soon and brings with it a return to the office life, the brief writing, the telephone, and the rude letters. Except, this time I’ll know how much better I could be having it if I was home with my kids.

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:14 PM | Comments (5)

Hey, buddy, you got a light?

I am a reformed smoker. I quit the day after I took the NY Bar exam, some 12 years ago. Sometimes I miss it, sometimes I hate even walking behind someone smoking. Sometimes, though, the feelings I associate with tobacco go from mild missing, to nostalgia, to craving to being really sorry I gave it up. Those feelings usually sneak up on me. Like today.

There was this nasty, beat up van waiting to pull into the street from a gas station as I passed by. I took it all in -- the dents, the multihued exterior from original paint to bondo to rust, the driver with the predictable lit cigarette. And then, whoosh. Damn, I wanted one. I am not going to have one, clearly. But I am going to write about it.

At its best, a cigarette was a sensuous experience. Every part of it.

First, you'd pack the pack. The smack as you slapped the top of the pack against the palm of your hand and the little sting you'd feel. You'd do this several times until all the loose tobacco was packed firmly into the cigarette. Then the crinkle as you took the plastic off and the smell as you opened the pack and pulled the silvery paper out of the top.

You'd take the cigarette out of the pack then and put it in your mouth. You'd hold it loosely with your lips as you pulled out the fire. Loosely so you wouldn't get it wet.

Then, fire. Flame came from several possible sources. First, matches. The scriiitch of the match head against the strike paper, the quick attempt to cup the match if you were outside so it wouldn't go out, or the even faster attempt to light the smoke right off the flare as the match ignited. This was the least satisfying but had some appeal anyway. No, I really liked the zippo lighter, the heft of the brass. I had my initials engraved on mine. The sound of the top as you popped it open, that metal snick. The roughness of the wheel as you engaged the flint. The smell of the lighter fluid that just seemed to make the Camel Lights (my preferred brand) taste better. The solid thunk like the door of a Mercedes as you closed it. It always stayed lit in the wind, too.

Then there was the sound of the cigarette as it took the flame. The crinkle noise of the paper as it caught at the end. The change it made as the tobacco started to burn.

Then the smoke as it finally hit your lungs. That part was really quite excellent. Quite excellent.

Of course, I also liked the holding of the cigarette, the gesturing with it for emphasis, the flicking away the butt when I was finished, the quick tap or flick to knock the ashes off the end. All of this I liked.

I liked a slow smoke. I also liked a fast smoke. Like one of my classmates said in law school, in con law, when asked by a professor whether the cigarette boxes still had the Surgeon General's warnings on them: "I don't know, Professor, I just rip 'em open and smoke 'em."

I also liked pipes and still take, maybe a couple of times a year, a good cigar. But this post isn't about that. It is about missing my little pack of smokes and my snazzy zippo.

As I've said often to my wife, the thing I regret the most about ever starting to smoke seriously is that I can now no longer have the social cigarette if at a bar with friends. Nope. I'm done.

But I can still miss them from time to time. And I do.

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:48 PM | Comments (9)

March 09, 2005

A Boy Child Story

I don't have much here about my son. He's only two and he doesn't really talk, certainly not like his sister. But he did something so funny to me the other night that I wanted to make sure I wrote it down and didn't forget it. As I said earlier, we took my mother out for dinner for her birthday. After dinner, there was a dessert table. The Boy Child may not speak much, but he is clear on his like for all things dessert. So, I carried him over there and we selected some cookies for his plate. Happiness reigned. His word for cookies is the Norwegian word: Kake. Pronounced with equal emphasis on each syllable. Ka-Ke.

We go back to the table and he just gazes at his plate for a moment. Then, very methodically, he picks up each cookie, one by one, and takes a bite from each, putting the tasted cookie back on the plate before moving on to the next one. Then, having ranked them in his own mind in order of tastiness (I presume), he stuffs them into his mouth. The plate is now empty. He looks at me and pleads: Kake? As if to say, all gone, get more. One of his hands, however, is closed. So I say, show me your hand. He holds out his left hand, quite empty. I say, no, show me your other hand. He takes his left hand back and looks down at his hands, brow furrowed in concentration, and, slowly, uncurls the fingers of his right hand and then carefully transfers the two cookies from his right hand to his left hand. Transfer finished, he proudly displayed the now cookie-less right hand for my inspection.

All I could do was laugh. And yes, I gave him another cookie.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:44 AM | Comments (10)

March 08, 2005

Welsh Hip Hop, reprise

Back in December of last year, I put up an entry on Welsh hip hop. Would you believe it still attracts the occasional comment from the Welsh hip hop afficionados and partisans? This is why comments should not be closed. It may have something to do with the fact that when you run the Google search, my little blog is the second search result on the list.

The BBC put up a nice review of the album released last Summer: Miwsig I'ch Traed A Miwsig I'ch Meddwl. I cannot pronounce it, honestly, but I like the way all of the letters look together. This album was put out by Boobytrap Records, which also puts out Welch Hip Hop albums by Kentucky AFC. If you want to hear a snippet from MC Mabon's hit single, go iawn wir yr click on the song title and hopefully that will work. If not, click here, because I don't want you to miss your chance at hearing the "chanting song of acid-guzzling choir goers".

Here is a great set of resources for Welsh Hip Hop from BBC Wales: Adam Walton's Magical Mystery Tour. Here is an informative looking website from another record company: Angst.

Finally, the BBC Wales does have a nice looking set of links to Welsh music sites generally, with some hip hop mixed in.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to check out The Martini Henry Rifles new video. Not hip hop, mind you, but quite interesting and in English.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:56 AM | Comments (5)

My lions

These are my lions. My grandfather gave them to me when he moved. They were among the only things I wanted from his house because of the big sentimental value. I spent many happy hours playing on them when I was a child. They looked quite nice with their little snow caps on and I snapped their picture. It seemed like a long time since I put anything new up in the Architectural Elements category. The lions are Persian and quite, quite old.




Posted by Random Penseur at 08:34 AM | Comments (6)

March 07, 2005

Munch stolen, again!

I have written a number of posts about the initial theft of the Scream and the Madonna from the Munch Museum in Norway. I have written follow ups here, here, here, and here. I have been very critical of the police since they have not come even at all close to catching the thief or thieves or recovering the art since they were stolen last August.

Now, these over worked art detectives have a new theft to contend with.

Be on the look out for:


The Telegraph reports:

Three works by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch have been stolen from a hotel in southern Norway - the second major theft of his paintings in seven months.

The art works were taken from the Refnes Hotel near the city of Moss, about 30 miles south of Oslo, last night.

Vidar Salbuvik, the hotel owner, said two of the stolen works were lithographic portrait prints, including one of the artist himself. He said the third was a watercolour titled The Blue Dress from 1915.

They were taken from the hotel restaurant after closing hours.

A hotel worker had surprised two people who had removed the pictures from the wall.

Art experts guessed the value could be in the millions of kroner (hundreds of thousands of dollars or euros). The watercolour was a one of kind, and would account for the bulk of the value.

"It seems to be a fashion among criminals to steal Munch," said Mr Salbuvik.

"There are no grounds for assuming any connection between the thefts, but we will be talking to the Oslo police about it," Jan Pedersen, of the local police, said.

The hotel is on the island of Jeloey, where Munch lived and worked from 1913 until 1916, when he moved to Oslo.

Wish Mr. Pederson, the local policeman, luck in his dealings with the Oslo police about links to the Munch Museum theft and luck in recovering the paintings.

However, if history is any guide, I trust you will keep your hopes for a speedy resolution in check so as to avoid the disappointment.


I spoke too soon. Grammer Queen has happily alerted me that the paintings have been recovered and are in good shape! YAY!

I hope Inspector Pederson is transfered to Oslo, pdq, and given responsibility for the Munch Museum thefts.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:52 AM | Comments (1)

Holding hands through life, a picture

You may recall a small post I did not too long ago about how the Girl Child and the Boy Child hold hands in the car where ever they go. Well, last night, the nanny gave us a picture she took. You can't see their faces in the picture, but I think it is a very powerful image notwithstanding.


Posted by Random Penseur at 08:41 AM | Comments (6)

A voice from the back seat

We were returning home last night from taking my parents out to dinner to celebrate my mother's birthday and my daughter and I had the following conversation (remember, she's only four):

GC: What are you doing, Pappa?

Me: [thinking it was pretty darn obvious what I was doing behind the wheel of the car, responded with small sarcasm] Just hanging out. What are you doing?

GC: I'm just sitting back here watching you drive.

Me: How am I doing?

GC: Better. [small pause] That's all I can really say. Better.

Thus proving what every trial lawyer already knows: never ask an open ended question you don't know the answer to.

My wife almost went into convulsions next to me, muttering to herself, "its NY, everyone's a critic."

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:23 AM | Comments (3)

March 04, 2005

Just a thought

You know that you need a quick break when, in the middle of working on a $40 million dispute, you realize that Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious has fewer syllables than tortious interference with prospective economic advantage and that you want, in your reply brief, to define T.I.W.P.E.A as Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious because you think that it might be quicker to type.

Such that, your sentence, "[t]he proposed amended verified answer with counterclaims states a good claim for tortious interference with prospective economic advantage", might read instead as, "[t]he proposed amended verified answer with counterclaims states a good claim for Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". What do you think? Think the judge'd like it?

More coffee? check.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:56 AM | Comments (5)

Report from the home front last night

My wife was late at the dentist last night so I had the kids all to myself. I got home, inquired into the behavior of the children, determined that they had been good, and gave them a small bag of University Alumni M&M's that I had picked up at a University Alumni function the night before (blue and white colored with a University crest on the bag). Predictably, the children were delighted. The Girl Child sat down at the table with them and shared them with her brother, very evenly and without any prompting from me.

Than she taught him how to eat them. She placed a couple, quite carefully, on the kitchen table, then suctioned them right up, one at a time. The Boy Child was charmed by this new trick and decided he had to do it to. He put his down, he likes to have one in each hand generally, lowered his little head to the table, got his mouth as close as he could, then picked it up with his hand and popped it into his mouth. The Girl Child patiently corrected him and they sat there, two happy little clams, sucking M&M's into their mouths. At the end, the Girl Child's mouth was pristine. The Boy Child, on the other hand, looked as if he had carefully crushed all of his M&M's, wet them down, and rolled his face over them. He was covered in blue and white dye and chocolate. The Girl Child wanted to wash him but took one closer look and handed the wet paper towel back to me. After I finished cleaning him up, he held out his arms to show me where he had been wiping his mouth when I wasn't looking. We washed those, too.

Then we went upstairs, where the Girl Child promptly spotted a spider on the wall in the Boy Child's room. I instructed her to go fetch some tissue while I watched the spider to make sure it didn't get away. She ran off and I heard her calling to the Boy Child, who by that time had gone into my room, "Boy Child, come here and watch Pappa kill a spider!" Back they came, with tissue. Did you know that spiders can jump? This one could and he did, right onto the floor where I could not find him. I looked for a bit and gave up. Not the Girl Child, however, who spotted him lurking behind the garbage pail. I moved the pail, killed the spider and disposed of the remains. After announcing the spider's position, by the way, the Girl Child made a hasty advance in another direction (points given for anyone who knows what this is a reference to) and climbed up onto the couch. I turned to her after the deed was done to congratulate her for locating the spider and we had the following exchange:

Me: Good job! Give me a high five!

GC: [stops bouncing on couch, gives me high five, goes back to bouncing]

Me: You sure are one mean old spider killing girl.

GC: [abruptly stops bouncing to look at me squarely in the eye] I'm not mean. [pause for emphasis] I'm nice. Also, I don't kill the spiders. I just tell you where they are and you kill them. I'm a nice spider finding girl.

All she left out at the end of that sentence was: So there.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:45 AM | Comments (1)

March 03, 2005

Color Photographs from World War I

Color photographs exist from World War I. The French took many of them and I came across this link to a small collection. They are spell binding. Especially, to me, the scenes of the semi-destroyed buildings.

Hat tip: Secular Blasphemy

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:11 AM | Comments (2)

Education never hurt me none

I dislike riding the bicycle at the gym. It is boring, it never feels like a workout, and did I mention its boring? The only good thing about riding the bike is that you can do it in place of a real workout if you have a cold (guilty) and if you are too tired to run (again, guilty). Besides, you can read on the bike. That is another grand redeeming virtue. So, I was pedaling away yesterday morning on the recumbent bicycle at the gym and catching up on last week's issue of the Economist when a particular sentence in an otherwise forgettable article on British educational reforms captured my attention so completely that a friend had to touch me on the shoulder to bring me out of my reverie long enough to acknowledge his hello.

Context: Certain people want higher standards , more choice and more competition in the British educational system (hereinafter "BES"). The offending sentence:

That sort of thinking is anathema to people who think the country's main educational task is to use taxpayers' money to eradicate class privilege.

At first, I thought if that is what the BES is concentrating on, no one should invest in the British economy because it will lack trained and educated workers. But that seemed like a very short sighted response on my part and I blame that on the fact that I was reading the Economist at the time and that may have colored my reaction.

But I moved beyond it and, after my first blush reaction that the BES is beyond help, wondered, what is the purpose generally of an educational system?

Is it really to create a class less society and break down class barriers? I'm doubtful.

I think, and here is where I step gingerly out onto the limb, that very broadly the purpose of an educational system is to generally equip a person with: the skills they need to navigate the working world after they are on their own (Commerce); the ability to enrich their own lives after school through the appreciation of literature, music, art, etc. (Art); the tools required to take an active part in the body politic, even if that only means voting (Polis); and, the ability to conduct and participate in civilized discourse with their neighbors (Discourse). Please note the absence of the need to teach children to pull down the structure of beliefs their parents may have. Let me expand on my thinking about the need for education to be about Commerce, Art, Polis and Discourse and what I mean by that.

First, Commerce. You need to live after school is over. You need to be able to pay your bills and earn money, inherited wealth to one side. You need enough education to figure out who to, hopefully, invest what remains after you’ve paid your bills. You need skills and I don’t mean technical skills. I mean analytical skills. An education ought to equip you with the analytical skills to get a job, hold a job, and perform to the best of your abilities in the world of Commerce.

Art. You need not only to feed your body by the money you earn, you need to feed your soul. You need to be educated enough to appreciate art and music, etc. You need this for a lot of reasons, actually, more than I could possibly come up with in the short amount of time I am stealing from my Commerce. So, let’s take it as a given, ok? If not, you know where the comment board is.

Polis. You need to be equipped with the skills and education necessary to be involved in the life of the body politic, to participate in making informed decisions in your community, your state, and your country. You need an education to do that. You don’t need to be taught how to eradicate class differences to get there. Again, a given, in my book.

Discourse. You need to be able to speak to others, to build relationships, to interact. Freedom is constructed from a web of interlocking relationships formed by people sharing a similar commitment to upholding certain traditions and values. I know values is a loaded word, but I’m using it anyway, even though I hesitated. But, if you have not been educated so that you share these common values (e.g., freedom of expression), you can’t have discourse, you just have screaming. Some of this, by the way, is where Art comes in.

Indeed, all of my distinctions are artificial constructs created for my own purposes. In the end, all of these things are interrelated.

Part of me can see why the Brits, or some of them, may feel the need to eradicate their class system. It has been much more static and resistant to change than ours. In our system, people can rise, or fall, on their own merits and the country is full of self made men and women. After all, where you start from in the United States is not guarantee of where you are going to end up. In England, I'm not so sure that is true. Social mobility is still higher in the United States than in England, I think.

The part of me that wanted to laugh at this sentence was quickly sobered when I remembered that we have the same problem in the United States under the name of diversity. King Banion (a great read, by the way) found the following job posting. Tell me this doesn’t smack of the same thing as the British one:

The Campus Climate Coordinator is responsible for facilitating programs that will improve the campus climate and diversity awareness. The candidate will be required to communicate and provide education programs for multiple constituencies. ...The Campus Climate Coordinator will: * Conduct needs assessments and make programmatic recommendations to the University units for campus climate improvements; * Coordinate ongoing diversity efforts generated by the comprehensive plan for faculty, staff, and students in the area of cultural competency and nondiscrimination; * Assist in the creation and development of a Diversity Resource & Curriculum Infusion Center which will focus on diversity training and research for the UW-La Crosse campus; * Develop, promote, and deliver educational programs and training in areas related to diversity awareness (race, gender, disability, homophobia, sexual harassment, etc.) for an increasingly diverse workforce (building individual and team skills)

Once again, not education. Instead, it strikes me as re-education. Welcome to the re-education camp where we eradicate class distinction, which will be important later in life when you are homeless because you have no skills. None at all.

In the end, it strikes me that if you really want to eradicate class distinctions, give somebody the best education you can and watch them ascend to the heights of success so rapidly that it will make class distinctions relevant only to those who can’t profit from their education.

Teach someone to read, write, and think analytically. That is the ultimate in subversion.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:26 AM | Comments (6)

March 01, 2005

Somewhere, someone has today off

That someone is not me. I am not snowed in at home, I regret to report. Deeply regret to report, I should say. Instead, I am sitting at my desk and ignoring anything that doesn't bear a label: Caution, contents under extreme pressure and may explode, you dumbass, thus causing malpractice, if you don't attend to said contents, you understand? In other words, I am sort of catching up on long neglected matters which need tending to, prodding, or kicking.

Part of that tending to will be that big ass brief I have to put a reply in on. I don't really like big firm litigation tactics. They kind of suck, for the most part. They throw bodies at issues and attempt to overwhelm with the shotgun, scattershot approach instead of the rifle. I prefer the rifle. I prefer a targeted argument, the most effective argument, not every argument I can possibly think of thrown up without discrimination.

One thing I do find useful from big firms, though? Their legal research and citation. Yeah, pretty much I can rely every time on the big firm litigator to cite cases that are more helpful to me than they are to him/her. With some firms, I can begin my research from their cases.

Let me explain a little about computerized legal research. Cases are summarized by the West Group into headnotes. Headnotes describe the legal proposition advanced by the case. Before computers, you really used to research by headnote. I am of the generation of lawyers who learned to do legal research pre-computers. Let's say you want to find a case that says that to allege a particular kind of business tort, interference with pre-contractual relations, you have to allege that you would have gotten the contract with a certainty. Now, with computers, you can do the following search for the proposition: "certainty" /s "contract" /p interference. That brings up any case that uses certainty and contract in the same sentence and has interference in the same paragraph. Easy, right?

Well, no. You see, American jurisprudence is really based on the facts of each case. The facts decide what legal principles are applied to each situation. So, if all you do is the search and you find your quote and you cite it to the Court and move on as happy as a clam (although why clams are reputed to be happy is beyond me), then you have not really done your job. Big firm lawyers do this all the time. They cite the little bit and move on to the next point.

Then I come along and I read the whole case. And I get to find that in the following paragraph, the court goes on to say that despite the fact that you need certainty, no where in the history of American jurisprudence was a plaintiff required to establish that he could prove his cause of action in his complaint. Kind of an important, maybe even critical, distinction, no?

There was all sorts of other really useful stuff in this case. When I cite a case to the Court, I tend to read the entire case first and only cite it if the whole case is good for me. Takes a little more time in terms of legal research, but really makes all the difference and you are left knowing that your brief and your legal citation is bullet proof. That is peace of mind when you are in front of the Court on oral argument.

I am looking forward to seeing what other useful gems await me in this big firm brief.

But I still wish I had my snow day.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:47 PM | Comments (5)