May 31, 2006


The end of another school year is upon us, rather suddenly. The Girl Child graduates from pre-school tomorrow. I plan to attend. I will try not to cry too much. I will probably fail in that. But that's tomorrow. Yesterday was the last day of school for the Boy Child. He's finished his 2's program, his first year of school. I'm not sure that he grasps the idea that he won't have "Toni Class" any more. I am told that Toni, his teacher, was a mess yesterday, crying all over the place. The Boy Child was her favorite, or so she told us when she told us that, "you know, we're are not allowed to have favorites, ahem."

I had the kids on my bed last night for story reading, just the three of us. We often do that. After we finished reading, I gathered the Boy Child into my arms and spoke to him. I told him that I was so proud of him for finishing his first year of school. He asked me why so I elaborated. I told him that he learned so much, that he came to school barely speaking and now he speaks so beautifully, that he went to school in diapers and now wears underpants, that he learned how to play with others, how to do arts and crafts, how to sit for story time, how to celebrate Shabbot, and how to be his own little guy. The Girl Child then said that I would be prouder of her when she graduates and I gently told her that right now we were talking about the Boy Child and how much we loved him and how we were proud of him and she agreed that she was proud of him, too. Tomorrow, I told her, would be her day, and she was ok with that.

I then told him that he learned to be more independent. That when he started, he used to get so sad and cry and have to go out on the playground so the Girl Child could give him a hug and I asked him if he remembered this? He did and so did the Girl Child. And now, I told him, he doesn't have to do that and that in and of itself was a nice big change. He liked hearing about that and he and I and the Girl Child talked about it for a little bit.

He is such a beautiful little boy and when I told him that I loved him and that I was so proud of him, he glowed so bright he was practically incandescent. The Girl Child and I sat there and cuddled with him and basked in his happiness.

I still feel it now, so I decided to write about it.

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The elegance of English

I think that we've probably lost something in terms of the elegance of expression as English has grown to include alternate forms of the language. As Rap has crossed over from sub-culture to main stream, as the language of the street is heard practically everywhere.

We were listening a lot to Kiss me Kate this weekend. One line from one song has been repeating itself over and over again. First, remember, Cole Porter wrote this in the 1940's. Let me give it to you here to illustrate my point.

"He may have hair upon his chest but, sister, so ___ Lassie."

What do you think goes in the blank?

I suspect you would put "does". Am I right?

Cole wrote it as "has". Sister, so has Lassie.

Do you see? The have takes has later in the sentence, not does. The two verbs repeat, correctly. And the effect is rather elegant. More so than if we slotted "does" in that blank.

When did we lose that elegance of expression? When did we start dumbing down the language?

How do we get it back?

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Lives of quiet desperation

I may be reading too much into this, but, with that caveat at the forefront, let me jump right in.

I have often thought commuting by train from the suburbs of NYC to Manhattan was, for a certain type of person, a kind of death. It is a suspension from reality, it is time away from work, fun, family. It is a time spent, for most, in avoiding human contact as they pretend no one is sitting next to them and they nurse their silent resentment of the inch or so extra that their seatmate requires. These kinds of commuters, let's call them ghouls, shall we? These ghouls have sold their souls to live where they live. Well, since we all have mortgages out there, I suppose we all have to a certain extent. But it weighs more heavily on some than on others.

For instance, last night, I had a chance to observe one such ghoul. He was dressed in some kind of dockers-like pants, old ones or ones that had missed the last wash day, a button down shirt against which his paunch strained and in the chest pocket of which he had a pack of smokes and some pens. He wore metal framed glasses of no discernable style. They did not flatter the planes of his face. His skin was grayish in tone -- probably because of the cigarette smoking. At his feet, 3 empty Coors light tall boys -- the equivalent of 4 beers in an hour. One beer every 15 minutes. That's a lot of beer, it seems to me. I hope he wasn't driving home. I hope someone was picking him up. But a beer every 15 minutes, by yourself, that is not an expression of joy and happiness. It smacks of desperation and sadness -- like he was trying to dull the pain of his day or even his life.

I hope not to become one of these people. I worry sometimes that I could be well on my way to doing so. There are days I hate my job and days I worry that my daily life (read: work life) is so crushing that I could easily find myself destroyed by it. And then I too would be one of those gray people, sucking hard on a beer. Well, I hope I would at least have the good taste to make it a Scotch. I mean, a girl has to have her standards, you know.

What is it about people that they allow themselves to get caught up entirely in prisons of their own making? This is a serious question. I have been applying it to myself and not in a very coherent manner so this may not make sense. I sometimes look at these other people on the train and wonder if they are tied down by lines only they can see. Maybe its a failure of imagination, that they cannot articulate a solution so they cannot envision a path to accomplish it. Maybe its all about me, there. But the ties that hold you down, I think, are self imposed limits. Maybe you can do whatever you want, if you are prepared to take a risk.

Maybe not.

Maybe this makes no sense and I will cut it off here.

If this made any sense at all, or if you think I am totally full of it, feel free to say so.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:18 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 30, 2006

Log jam

It really does feel like an old fashioned log jam. I've had soooo many things I've been wanting to write about, to record, to memorialize, to sound off on, but have had absolutely no time. So, the pressure builds. And I deal with the pressure, I think, by forgetting about some of the things I wanted to write about. So I am left with the pressure, the memory of the urgency, but not really the reason for the urgency. Odd, no?

Example of time pressure. The annoying partner, he who I have sometimes referred to as "Stinky", in times past, came into my office on Friday morning demanding to see my research file and draft complaint on a new case. I had a very sketchy 5 page draft and no real research to speak of. I was still trying to wrap my mind around the facts. After I understand the facts, I do my research. He made me print out my draft, over strenuous objection from me, read it and then excoriated me for it. I love that kind of shit. Really. So, I buckled down for the next 6.5 hours and gave him a new draft, now some 20 pages, with 7 well pleaded causes of action, and a thick pile of research to support my efforts. My reward? I was told he felt a lot better now and did understand why I didn't want to print out what I had earlier. Well, since I'm all about making him feel better, I'd say my reward more than compensated me for his being a total putz. No, really.


Anyway, that's kind of where things have been lately. No time for anything fun.

Hope you all, anyone still reading me, that is, are doing better!

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May 25, 2006

Don't rush me

The Boy Child does not like to be stampeded into a decision. He has begun to request information. He wants to gather all the facts before he's pushed into making a choice and the more important the choice, the more facts he wants. When asked what he wants for dinner, he now responds, in the spirit of diligent inquiry: "What mine options are?"

Imagine what he's like when the stakes are raised on a dessert question.

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The Girl Child cracks

She can't take it anymore, that much is clear. The baby is having gas pains and it makes him cry very hard and with great gusto, a lot. Of course, we all feel for the little guy. Sometimes, say, at 2:30 a.m., it is more of a struggle to winch up a little water from the well of sympathy.

Normally, the Girl Child sleeps like a rock. Impossible to wake and, if woken before her self appointed hour, not the most gracious human I have ever seen. Falling asleep for her can take hours, but once asleep, she's good for a very long stretch.

Last night, I bathed the kids and put them to bed. The Viking Bride was feeding the baby in his room. All was quiet, all was calm. Then the crying started. That's when the Girl Child registered the following complaint with the management:

[arms up, hands out in front of her waving around for emphasis through the whole speech] Mamma, you know I can't sleep when the baby's crying. It keeps me up and I wake up in the morning exhausted. I don't know what you were thinking when you decided to have another baby. The first I knew of it was when you were in the hospital and Pappa told me. I am perfectly good with the brother I have. I don't need another brother on the other side. I knew I was going to be exhausted in the morning. I don't know what you were thinking having another baby. And his crying keeps me up all night.

Clearly, the pressure is getting to her and she just cracked.

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May 22, 2006

An important read: The Islamic Imagery Project: Visual Motifs in Jihadi Internet Propaganda

The West Point Combatting Terrorism Center has a fascinating publication out on the web: The Islamic Imagery Project: Visual Motifs in Jihadi Internet Propaganda. It is an analysis of over one hundred of the images the terrorists use to make their case and build support. It is an important and fascinating study.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:39 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Through the haze

I feel a little as if I were underwater, moving just a bit more languidly than the rest of you. It is the result of sleep deprivation. The baby was up at around 3 this morning and I could not get back to sleep. So I move more slowly than the rest of you today. The lethargy creeps up on me and takes me unaware. This post will thus be yet another in my long series of disconnected thoughts and random observations. I simply lack the mental acuity to tune it up into anything else.

* * *

Why does Darien, CT, need a store called Bob's Unfinished Furniture and Gun Exchange? Do people come in looking for a little pine night table and go out with a shotgun? I mean, can you picture the impulse buying?

* * *

The Fugees do nothing for my five year old daughter. Or so she told me in the car yesterday: "Pappa, this song does nothing for me, can you change it?" I hastened to oblige. Besides, it wasn't doing anything for me, either.

* * *

Scurvy, the scourge of the fleet, will not be a problem in my house. Fresh limes, squeezed into a pitcher and combined with copious amounts of to-kill-ya and triple sec, have put paid to that problem. I have perfected the recipe. Simplicity. Eliminate the ice and blender part, quadruple the liquor called for, and you still get the same number of servings as the original recipe -- 6.

* * *

A good read: Cities of Gold: A Journey Across the American Southwest, by Douglas Preston. Enjoyed it very much, even if I did not really agree with all of his political views. The man, a total greenhorn, rode a horse through the desert for over a thousand miles, trying to follow the trail of Coronado as he searched for the mythical cities of gold. A very well written book, indeed.

* * *

I am happy to put this weekend behind me. I have been way too much on edge of late -- for reasons I am not inclined to rehash right here, right now (too darn tired, frankly) -- and not been good company. Too quick to anger, too slow on the patience thing. Not that there weren't some very nice moments. Just, on balance, I'd prefer to not have had the low moments. I need a break and some quality sleep.

* * *

We lost a beautiful apple tree. Sad. It just missed taking out part of the house. Happy. Very happy. Deliriously happy. I have to call the insurance agent and see if we can make a claim.

* * *

You know that the appellate opinion has already been written when you answer the calendar call for oral argument and are allotted only 2 minutes by the panel. 2 minutes. I thought I mis-heard and actually had to ask the presiding justice to repeat himself. I guess, after argument, that the panel wasn't too pleased that we had convinced the trial court to impose a $200,000 sanction on opposing counsel and his client, jointly and severally.

* * *

I was pulled out, unexpectedly, last week to attend a funeral for the grandmother of my college room-mate's wife. She was a lovley woman. When my grandfather died, my friend and his wife took the day off from work and attended my grandfather's funeral and their support was wonderful. It was the least I could do to drop everything and get out there to New Jersey and do the same, offer whatever comfort I could. And so I did.

Standing in the cemetery, I let my attention wander at one point and I looked at the surrounding tombstones. At that point, I realized, yet again, that America has been a wonderful place for Jews. So many of these tombstones were of people who died in advanced old age -- mostly their 90's. I reflected that it was a wonderful thing that they lived in a place where they were able to live so long. Yes, America has been very good for the Jews. I think we have been good for America. It was gratifying to see so many American flags next to so many other tombstones.

* * *

The Viking Bride and I attended a cocktail party on Saturday night. It was our first night out without the baby. It was awfully nice to be a grownup again. Mostly we were seeing people from our old building in Manhattan. I was on the Board of the building and have remained friendly with a number of people. So often, conversation among Manhattanites turns to real estate. I had forgotten. Still, less controversial than politics, I suppose. We didn't get home until very late.

* * *

The Boy Child and I dropped the Girl Child off at a birthday party on Sunday morning and headed off to do what boys do -- we went shopping for sports equipment. We bought 4 mini lacrosse sticks. It was such a great pleasure to hold a lacrosse stick in my hands again, even such a little one as the kid sized ones we bought. I had somehow forgotten how much fun it is. We all spent about half an hour in the bright sunlight on the front lawn trying to learn how to catch and throw and how to scoop the ball up off the ground. My one disappointment is my continued failure to find a left handed throwing baseball glove for the Boy Child. The kid needs a glove.

* * *

I shopped at Walmart for the first time. I was hoping they would have the baseball glove I was looking for. Instead, I bought some whole wheat fig newtons for the kids. What a horrible place. I hope never to return.

* * *

Well, that wraps it up here. I have people to sue and really ought to be off doing that.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:32 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 16, 2006

A void?

Not really a void. When I go home tonight, I expect that my quality of life will have improved dramatically. Why? Because by the time I arrive home, SAS will be winging my mother in law back to Norway.

The visit is over and, really, not a moment too soon. She was a big help to my wife but a difficult woman to be around. I am a little overdrawn at the nice bank, having pulled out a lot of my emotional reserves to make sure that I was welcoming, pleasant, accommodating, and making her feel comfortable.

I cannot wait to go home today.

And I go home, as we say in my office, with my shield and not on it. I had a huge victory today, after arguing for 75 minutes, I convinced a judge to award judgment to my client today on default in the face of strong opposition. It was a great day for my client. Of course, it may have screwed up vacation plans for the month of June -- going to Norway -- since the judge has scheduled the inquest for damages for then, but, still, when the judge gives you everything you've been asking for you don't tell her that the date she picked is not convenient. You just can't do that, especially when you've been urging speed. Next move, a motion to hold the defendant in contempt. I would not be shocked to see this play out so that the defendant spends a night or two in jail at the end of the case. A civil case, mind you. I bet he's sorry that he (the defendant) called me an asshole. Nothing like a little motivation, you know?

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May 15, 2006

Teach your children well

You have to instill certain values in your children. I subscribe to the unpopular view that children are essentially savages, people who have no self control, no ability to separate desire from action, people who will take the shortest distance between wish and fulfillment, even if that means trampling all over someone else. I know that conflicts with the widely held belief that children are innocents, fuzzy little creatures of inherent goodness as glimpsed from afar through a pastel, impressionist like lens. Phooey. Because I believe the Lord of the Flies was probably a lot closer to truth than to fiction, I have (as I believe I have mentioned before) tried to raise my little ones to hit back and to hit in defense of each other. Simplicity itself, really.

If someone hits the Girl Child, she hits back. If she sees someone hit her brother, her obligation is to get her butt over there and defend her brother with her fists. These two concepts are so very useful. First, they are simple to understand. Second, it makes the Girl Child empowered -- she is responsible for defending her little brother (who, of course, is supposed to do the same thing for his sister) and there is no "I'm a girl" garbage and I can't hit. My little girl will learn to defend herself, will learn how to solve her own problems, and not rely on the kindness of strangers to either defend or protect her. In essence, I am trying to make her self-reliant.

It may be working.

We were at brunch with my parents and my mother in law yesterday for Mothers' Day. We took them to our little beach club and after lunch the kids played on the lawn with some of their Summer friends, the kids they only see at the beach during the Summer. The Boy Child was amusing himself with a purple frisbee when some older child tried to snatch it out of his hands. The older child did not take no for an answer and hit my son. The Girl Child practically flew across the lawn, after witnessing the altercation, and smacked the kid. The kid then hit my daughter who, immediately, smacked him back much harder and the kid retreated from the field.

Telling you that I was bursting with pride would understate my feelings. She stood up for herself, she made it clear that she would not accept being hit or being a target, and she protected her brother.

They both came running over to tell me about it, not knowing, I suppose, that I had seen the whole thing. My son was all for saddling up and heading off in hot pursuit of "that stupid boy", but I gently dissuaded him, trying to let him down gently that the moment for hitting back in his own defense had passed now that the "stupid boy" had run away.

They acted just the way I had hoped they would. Without hesitation, to protect each other.

I guess they do listen.

On a different topic, I thought that the Boy Child said something very charmingly profound this weekend.

Boy Child: Pappa, are you an grownup?

Me: Yes, I am. Are you a grownup?

BC: No, I are not an grownup. I are an someone.


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May 12, 2006

I really am stealing time for this

My daughter has discovered that she can use the phone by herself now if someone reads her the number off the wall. Life is over.

She wished to have a playdate with friend A. She called friend A, I'm told, spoke to the mother, took our home calendar down, and proposed a free date to friend's mother. Mother said she'd call her back. The Girl Child did not wait patiently and at 5 minute intervals proposed calling back. I demurred. So, flushed with the joy of success from her first solo phone venture, she requested a playdate with friend B. I consented and handed her the phone. This time I got to listen and even take part.

Girl Child: Hello, this is Girl Child. I'm calling to arrange a play date with Friend. I'm free on Friday, is that good for her? [pause] Ok, I'll put my father on.

[Now, just so you know, I really like this woman]

Mother: Hi, she did that so nicely but Friday's not going to work, how about next week?

Me: That would be fine. Yeah, I was really pleased with her phone manners, actually.

Mother: How's your wife?

Me: My wife? She's a good wife. No, really. I mean, no, she's a really good wife. Why? What have you heard? What are people saying?


Mother: I meant, I mean, didn't she just have a baby?

Me: Oh yeah. That. Yeah, she's a little whiny but otherwise doing great. Thanks for asking!

See why my daughter wants to cut me out of the play date making process?

I'm going to be such an embarrassment to her when she's older. No question about it.

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May 10, 2006

Quite a lot on my plate of late

Hence the silence. No shortage of things to say, mind you, just a huge shortage of time to do write them all up. So, let me memorialize one very sweet moment before I forget about it entirely.

Monday night, I was sitting at the kitchen table, waiting for dinner to finish cooking. The Boy Child came over to me and, without a word, climbed up onto my lap. He sat himself down on my right leg and leaned across my body to snuggle his blond little head into my left chest and collar bone. Into his mouth went his thumb and my head came down against his back and neck and I closed my eyes. And we sat there. Just the two of us for what seemed like a really long time. If any of you have direct experience with three year old boys, you know that getting them to sit still for anything is worthy of comment in and of itself but to be gifted with a cuddle was lovely beyond compare.

And then it got better.

His sister came over and they exchanged the following words:

Girl Child: Why are you two sitting there and cuddling?

Boy Child: [Removes thumb from mouth with audible pop] Because Pappa loves me.


Which does not mean under the lime, you know. Because if it did, we'd also probably have to have a word like sublemon and we don't, ok?

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:34 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 03, 2006


Just clearing my throat a little. Seems like it has been a long time since I last wrote anything on my blog. Dear Diary, so much has happened! She looked at me today! No, that doesn't feel quite like my style, whatever style that may be. So, perhaps I will just talk a little bit.

I've been running a bit on empty of late. Burning the candle at both ends and sometimes in the middle, too. Lots of work, little of which jazzes me, although I am preparing for an appellate oral argument for a very important client of the firm. That's kind of fun. You read the briefs, especially the reply brief, and you try to find that logical flaw, the one the other attorney has spent a lot of time glossing over or pretending doesn't exist. You look for this thing like it was a loose thread on a cotton shirt because you know that when you find it, you can start asking questions: well, does A really follow from B or can you get to C without having had to pass through B? And when you tug on it, you can watch the whole thing unravel. There is always something; you just have to look hard enough, ask the right questions, and be creative enough to construct the right argument when you've finished. It is intellectually satisfying, in a good way.

One of my non-profit boards is in a huge uproar over a very significant governance issue. I can't say more other than it has become a huge time suck, taking up hours every day with phone calls, consultations with our attorney, lunches with disgruntled directors, etc. If it wasn't so important, I'd resign, too. Actually, I may resign anyway as soon as the issue is resolved. It wouldn't be fair to step down now.

My mother in law is staying with us. This means that there really isn't any private time, any quiet time, any time I can just veg for a half an hour after the kids go to bed and before I go to bed. 30 minutes. Not very much time but I am a little bit taken aback by the void it leaves.

Don't go into business with a family member, if you can avoid it. It is kind of hard to tell your uncle he's an idiot, no matter how stupid he's being. Like, for instance, unilaterally changing the law that applies to the shareholders' agreement to a state in which the attorneys who drafted said agreement are neither admitted nor competent to advise on. Little things, like that.

This post is turning whiny. Or has already turned whiny. Maybe I should go back to the Dear Diary thing. No, on second thought, I shall slog on and see what transpires.

The newest little one has his days and nights mixed up. Otherwise he is gorgeous and I suspect has a lot going on. When awake, he looks around very intently, very much in deep concentration. I am beginning to suspect he will be bright and potentially even more of a pain in the butt than the other two put together.

The Girl Child, if she behaves, will receive her first baseball glove tonight. I went into the sporting goods store next to Grand Central to replace my weight lifting gloves and found gloves for kids on sale. A no-brainer. I just wish they had gloves for left handed kids -- I'm pretty sure that the Boy Child is a lefty. I can't wait to give it to her. I sure hope she was good enough to merit a present.

What else made me happy recently? Ah, yes. Shopping for new suits. Getting into shape can be expensive. When you in-grow (what else could the opposite of out-grow be?) your suits because you have been so assiduous in your fitness center attendance and you need to wear suits to go to court, you have to buy new ones. My wife is very understanding, which is nice.

Spring is making me deliriously happy. I cannot wait for the beach weather to be upon us but I am enjoying seeing every tree in my yard burst into glorious flower.

Well, my logic games are calling so return to the salt mine I must.

Thanks for reading. Nice to stretch the fingers again.

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