July 30, 2006

Anecdotes not welcome here

Ok, bearing in mind that my daughter is only 5 1/2 years old, I would like to point out that the following concept may not have been grasped even by adults.

We are driving back from the lovely Westport pool today and I had the following interchange with the Boy Child and the Girl Child.

BC: Pappa, are lifeguards nice?

Me: All the lifeguards I've met have been nice so I'd say that they are nice.

GC: But, Pappa, that doesn't mean anything. [I knew immediately what she was getting at here and I was blown away]

Me: Why not?

GC: Just because you've met some nice lifeguards doesn't mean that all the lifeguards in the whole world are nice.

I was really stunned. She's just 5 1/2 and here, it was clear, she was objecting to my generalizing about lifeguards as a class based on my limited personal experience. And she was certainly right to do so, I think.

I'm so proud of her.

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Money is power, ask the Boy Child

Yesterday, the Boy Child was flush, rich, comfortably well-off. He got some coins out of my uncle's pockets. He clutched the coins in his hot little hand, looked at the Viking Bride and said:

I are the money man! But the money man has to pee. Can you hold my money?

Nice to see that money hasn't altered his sense of trust.

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July 27, 2006

How to make a lawyer's heart stop


Have a senior partner call you and say: "Excuse me but I was reviewing this draft complaint and I noticed that these transactions go back to August of 1999. Do we have a statute of limitations problem?"

GULP. "Um, boss, er, uh. [pause to think for a second] What case are you talking about?"

"Oh, sorry. Rang the wrong guy"

Right. Thanks. Put heart back in chest.

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Well, it didn't please the court and it didn't please my client and it didn't please me

So, we get there for our inquest. Legal bags full of important legally looking documents with captions and pretty backers, folders full of urgently yellowed research with cryptic notes at the tops of pages [note to self: in about a month, try to remember that the notation "punis" refers to punitive damages and is not a word coined to describe a judge as being a small penis (wonder what kind of google searches this one is going to pick up!)]. All dressed up, polished up for the inquest.

The judge's courtroom deputy looks at us and says, "uh, you guys have witnesses to put on? Live testimony?" And we say, "well, yeah". "Oh", says he, and "I'm going to have to reschedule you until September". "Oh", says we. And then "shit".

The good news is that nice pre-judgment interest keeps acruing at 9%.

And the defendant, in the hallway, acted like such a jerk that when I got back to the office I wrote to the Court to request an emergency conference to discuss how to guarantee my and my client's personal safety.

Yup, a real interesting day.

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May it please the Court

I sit here finishing up my opening statement to the Court for an inquest on damages. An inquest is simply a trial where liability has already been proven and the Court is going to determine how much money it is going to cost the defendant. I am happy to be representing the plaintiff on this one. This inquest, this mini-trial, has been all me. I have had zero help from day one on this case, from the initial interview with the client through right now as I ready myself for the conclusion. No doubt, I will be opposing the appeal, too. I am feeling a little like how a sole practioner must feel. The only scary thing about it is that I worry that I am missing something big. Hence my taking a moment to write about it so as to either purge the feeling or prefigure the result.

Hopefully, I will return from this with a nice big judgment for my client. If not, well, it won't be because I didn't try hard enough.

This case, by the way, is responsible for the paucity of posting of late.

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July 24, 2006

How to improve your stress

You can, you know. It turns out that it is easy to improve your stress level.

I woke up this morning at 3:30 and got out of bed in order to send myself an email detailing all the things I need to do. There are many of them. The list was daunting. Just the same, I took care of at least trying to organize my thoughts for the week and break everything down into a manageable list of tasks. I tell you this not to exalt my own stress levels, since we are all stressed, to one extent or another, but because I wanted to give you a glimpse of my mindset going forward.

I toddled off to the gym at the appointed hour and lifted weights. I did not have it in me to do the cardio work out. Got to the office early, ready to tackle my list, when my cell phone went off. It was our alarm company. The glass break alarm in the kitchen went off at 8:29. The police had been dispatched.

I sat down and opened my coffee. It was now around 8:35 or so. I waited to hear something. I called my wife and I called the nanny to let them know something was going on. I waited some more.

I called the alarm company back to see if they had received any reports back from the police. They had. All was well. It was just the painters, you see.

Fine. The painters. Ok. But, small detail, we weren’t having any painting done.

Stress level shoots waaaaay up and I begin to perspire.

I call the police back. We have a pleasant chat and they confirm that they spoke to the painters who were there to re-do the upstairs wall paper. That’s nice. Our upstairs doesn’t even have any wall paper to re-do. The responding officer and I chat some more and it turns out that he had visited the house next door, not my house.

They re-dispatch officers to my house. By this time, about 50 minutes had elapsed since the alarm company first registered the alarm. Plenty of time to clean the place out. I sit here, drumming my fingers, hoping that if someone broke into the house, they did not take my grandmother’s ring, which I had just given to my wife and which I need to have appraised so I can schedule it on my insurance. Current status of ring, in other words, not scheduled, not insured.

A little while later, the Viking Bride calls to tell me that the police were there when she got home from some thing she had to attend at camp today. All is well, false alarm.

And that, in a nutshell, is how you improve your stress level. Mine went way up in a really very short time.

How’s your stress?

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When a desk is a life lesson

Very gently, tenderly, with some small confusion in her voice, the Girl Child tries to help me confront some of the inevitable facts of life.

I took the Girl Child and the Boy Child out for a drive on Sunday. We drove some of the back roads in Fairfield, CT, the next town over. Fairfield is lovely. Lots of old houses.

The Girl Child starts kindergarten come the autumn. She has been singing, “I’m going to kindergarten, kindergarten here I come. They’ve got a lot of higher education there and I’m gonna get me some”. Great excitement, you see. She knows that she is going to have homework. We were so informed and in turn we warned her. We told her that she would not need a desk yet because she would be doing her homework at the kitchen table where we could keep an eye on her. Really, what kind of homework do they give a kindergartner anyway?

So, back to Sunday and our ride. I spot a for sale sign on an old Federal style house along with a hot pink tag sale sign (link to real estate site, if you want to see what the house looked like). I should have a bumper sticker: “Warning, I brake for this kind of crap and I pull over and park on the side of the road as safely as I can but you should still be careful.” Long, but safety is job one, you know. Anyway, we pull through the gates and wander about. There it is. An old school room desk and chair. The chair has the initials bored school children carved on the seat with their pocket knives when you could still bring knives to school. The desk has a hole for the old ink well. It was perfectly sized for a small child. It was also only $25. I didn’t even try to negotiate. I just asked them to mark it sold while I dashed home to obtain a check. They were happy to hold it.

While driving back to the house, the kids and I had the following conversation:

Boy Child: Girl Child, I’m gonna be sad when you go to king-a-garden. You not gonna be there with me at home anymore.

Me: And I’m going to be sad, too.

GC: Why, pappa? You’re at work anyway.

Me: Because I’m not ready yet for you to grow up and it seems like you going to school is the first step in your growing up.

GC: [tone: puzzled, tentative, and gentle] Pappa, you know that time has to change, right? I mean, I have to go to school and grow up, right?

And there you have it. Even my daughter realizes this. Its just me who wants to hang on to the past. She was very sweet about it, though.

And she loves her new desk. It has a dark varnish on it that she notes will go well with her skin tone when she has a tan. We got it up to her room and she immediately put some paper in it.

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July 15, 2006

She's 5 1/2 going on 25

I used to think it was just that she was 5 going on 13. I was way too conservative in my estimate. She's past her teenage years already. Tonight, while having dinner with my parents who came up to help us do a couple of things around the house (I bribed them with beer, burgers, and unrestricted access to the kids), my mother asked which of the ice creams we were serving was sugar free. And the Girl Child spoke:

Girl Child: Grandpa? Nana is allergic to sugar. . .

Grandpa: I know.

GC: Which is unfortunate.

Silence reigned for a moment as we all processed that remark. The Girl Child quietly continued with her ice cream.

Then, later tonight, I threw her pj's to her. It was not a good throw but she caught them just fine.

Me: Good catch! It was not a good throw.

GC: Pappa, it wasn't about the throw; it was all about the catch. [pause] It really wasn't a very good throw but it was an excellent catch.

Like I said. 25, at least.

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July 14, 2006


This is an interesting concept and one I probably don't have to define, right? I was really first made aware of the concept of seasonality and its impact on financial statements by my father. I was in high school. My dad and I had formed the habit of going out to dinner, just the two of us, every week or every other week. We would often spend the conversation discussing a philosophical problem that he would pose. One time, he began to teach me how to read financial statements. First, he gave me a book and then we discussed it. So, what, you saying your parents were normal? Anyway, one example he gave me, while trying to teach me what kinds of questions you should ask while reading an income statement, was what impact seasonality might have on a business. For instance, his example, if you looked at a Christmas Tree business's income statement during the month of December, you would see huge income being generated and if you took that as your beginning point and made assumptions about their regular monthly sales based on that single month’s results, you'd be way off because you didn't take into account that it was a seasonal business. I really enjoyed these dinners with my dad.

Now, just to demonstrate now how a child can be warped by strong parental influence, I was walking down the street today to go to my tailor. As is my wont, I was observing all that was around me and I began to ponder the age old question of seasonality and the impact on income statements. What I was wondering was, quite simply, are sales of bras significantly down in the summer? Because it sure looked like no women were wearing them today.

I bet I was the only sicko on the streets of NY today staring at woman's breasts and wondering what the impact of their bra-less state was on the income statements of lingerie manufacturers and further wondering whether there was any play in the stock market because of that fact.

I think this is probably a cry for help, by the way.

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July 13, 2006

Like a sieve

Or maybe a colander.

Our little spot of paradise received an inch of water in a very short time yesterday, along with high winds and thunder and all the other bits that make inclement weather so interesting.

Of course, we lost power, too. But only, as it turned out, for about two hours.

In that two hour period, however, my house showed how it is different from a sieve or a colander. Want to know how? Well, a sieve or a colander, while it allows water to pass through it, also by design permits the water to drain away. My house, while it shares the function of allowing water to pass through it, wants instead to retain the water and not permit it to pass away.

We had 8 different leaks in 5 different areas of the house encompassing 3 different floors. 8 leaks. I am quite certain that my entire kitchen ceiling will need to be replaced. (In fact, that reminds me, I need to call my insurance company). Well, my insurance company will most likely disclaim coverage, as I have just found out. I am not shocked. I just called because I would have felt like an idiot for not investigating the possibility of making a claim.

The roofer is coming by today, this morning.

At present, I still don't hate my house. Yet. The time, however, may be coming soon.

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July 12, 2006

When bad things happen

Christina, at Justdotchristina has had a horrible thing happen -- her house was struck by lightening and burned down. She has also had a wonderful thing happen -- no one, no child, no person, no animal was injured.

God was looking out for you that day, my friend. And I'm so glad.

Please send her your prayers, your thoughts, and any good ideas you have for kitchen and bath remodeling.

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Thanks, Verizon

Thanks for nothing.

Verizon lost internet service yesterday in large parts of NYC. Our office lost internet connections and our email. All has been restored. Took about 24 hours but finally back.

In the meantime, I renew my desire never to go into a business venture with a family member, other than my father, I suppose.

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July 10, 2006

How I spent my summer vacation, installment 2

We are up to Tuesday, the day after I spirited the children away to the Oslo Fjord.

I have a very old, very dear friend who has a Norwegian father and an American mother. We have been close since we were two years old, throwing rocks in a pond together. His father is a retired Norwegian diplomat and his parents are living in Oslo. I have known them forever and I love them. So, going to see them was practically a requirement. Off we went, just me and the kids as, once again, the Viking Bride was laid low by the sleep problems of the littlest viking.

Our friends live near Frogner Park (link is to pictures of the Vigeland sculptures there). (more photos here). We didn't go to the park this time. It was raining, off and on and a bit chilly. The only bad day of weather we had the whole trip.

We had a lovely visit with our friends. This was the first time I had seen their apartment since they had renovated it. The apartment was lovely. Huge windows, full of light, generously proportioned with a fireplace in the dining room and the living room. The dining room was banquet sized with an elaborately painted ceiling, original to the building. The rooms all had stunning plaster moldings. High ceilings, hardwood floors, the works. It also had an interesting arrangement I've noticed in other Oslo apartments. The front hall is self contained and differently floored -- tile, I think. It is closed off by doors from the rest of the apartment, which makes sense when you consider the cold winters they endure in Norway.

The building is rather historic, built in 1889 by Henrik Bull (link is to a Norwegian language biography but it does have some nice pictures, partial English langauge bio here), a famous Norwegian architect. I think that this must have been one of Bull's first commissions since: "Henrik Bull etablerte sin egen arkitektpraksis i Kristiania i 1888. . ." Or, he established his own architectural practice in Oslo in 1888. Bull went on to build a lot of well known buildings in Oslo, including the National Theater and the Historical Museum.

It was quite cool to visit a building he designed.

Cool, by the way, being the operative word under the right conditions since the building lacked any central heating system.

After lunch, my sister in law spirited the kids away to see Ice Age II, in Norwegian, while I browsed my way back up the main shopping drag to take the train back to my in-law's house.

It was a lovely afternoon, spent in the company of dear old friends, in a beautiful apartment with an impressive historic pedigree. And they served beer. Really, how much more could you ask for? And before you do, let me note that my friend's mother served homemade lemon ice-cream that the children devoured.

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BatterBatterBatter, Swing, Batter

Saturday began without direction, without plans, without any ambition other than to have no plans, no direction and no ambition. We were planned out, the Viking Bride and her dashing consort (that'd be me, in case you weren't sure), and still somewhat tired from the trip. The children and I were enjoying a quiet breakfast together en trois when I happened to notice a small advertisement in the local paper for an event that evening. I seized on it as a sign from above, as inspiration striking, and so, in a move not necessarily calculated to endear me to my bride, I picked up the phone and invited my parents to come out with us that night. Then I bought me some tickets.

Now, before I get to the main event, taking this as it came that day, we first had to hit the pool/ beach, as the weather was gawgeous. So we did. And then came naps for the kinder. And then, why then we headed off to bring the children to their first ever minor league baseball game.

bluefish logo.gif

Go, Bluefish!

There is something magical about minor league baseball. It was a lovely summer night, not too hot, cooling breezes, cold beer, hot dogs, and splendid seats five rows behind home plate on the first base side. We also had a view of the train tracks so the Boy Child could continue to shout, with great excitement, TRAIN!, every time a train went by. We had hot peanuts and the kids sampled cracker jacks for the first time. It was also kid hat giveaway night, which both puzzled and delighted them. The mascot was not as big a hit -- the teeth on that fish were just a bit too long for the comfort of the Boy Child.

But just sitting there, teaching the kids to yell, batterbatterbatter, swing, batter, was worth it. Even my father had a good time.

There is something wonderful about minor league ball, with the potato sack races and spin around the bat until you're dizzy races, and the giveaway Ct. Light and Power t-shirts they fling into the stands. Something so downright delightfully hokey, such a fun combination of not too serious marketing with the national pastime. I don't know, just sitting there in the stands of this intimate little stadium was uplifting. I tell you, baseball is healing.

My wife wants to go back for our next date night.

By the way, I think I had the nicest compliment from the Girl Child as I tucked her into bed last night. I asked her if she had a nice weekend (we also went to the pool and then a local fair to ride the rides on Sunday -- that we me petrified of heights climbing up the huge slide stair case to ride down with the Boy Child -- he was fine, I was terrified) and she said: "Pappa, it was the best weekend ever!" Take that, working parent guilt! Hah!

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July 07, 2006

How I spent my summer vacation, installment 1

I suppose I feel a little like talking about how I spent my summer vacation. I do not intend this to be a blow by blow account. I am, as always, writing for my own pleasure, because I enjoy seeing the words dance across the screen, because I wish, by writing, to try to better fix the memory of what transpired. In fact, I lack the time to recount everything in this one entry so I will just get some of the beginning bits down. So, to the substance.

We arrived on Saturday after an all night flight. I recall almost nothing of that day at all. Not a shock, since I did not sleep on the flight, having occupied my time primarily with making sure the Boy Child, who was asleep on the floor of the plane, did not keep pushing his head out into the middle of the aisle for someone to accidently boot it as they passed. He was persistent, just the same. It was a long flight.

Monday was the first day I can recall particularly enjoying. The weather was beautiful. So beautiful, that I packed the Boy Child and the Girl Child into my mother-in-law’s car and she drove us down to the docks to take a boat out to Hovedøya Island, in the middle of the Oslo Fjord. The Viking Bride, exhausted, stayed behind with the baby. I try to get to the Oslo Fjord as soon as is practicable whenever I arrive in Norway. Especially in the summer. There is something magical and almost healing about being on the water. I suppose that goes for anywhere but it feels particularly powerful in Norway.

So, I bought the kids some candy and a bottle or two of water and off we went. Oslo maintains, much like city buses, a small fleet of city municipal transport boats that run on a regular schedule between the various islands in the fjord. We took one of these. We sat on the top of the boat, out in the sun, and got off at Hovedøya, a large island with a beautiful beach, ruins of an old (1100's) monastery, and left over fortifications from the time batteries of artillery were placed there to protect the harbor. We walked to the beach, over the island, to the other side. It was glorious weather and the beach was not at all crowded. The Girl Child immediately waded into the water and was soon helping a bunch of other girls make mudpies – all the while chattering away with them in Norwegian. The Boy Child stuck a bit closer to me and we sat quietly together on the rocks overlooking the water. We all later gathered some beautiful small sea shells. After a quick shower to take the worst of the mud and salt off, we adjourned for lunch at the café. Following lunch, we went off to explore the ruins. According to the kids, this may have been the high point of the day. The ruins were covered over with wild flowers and the sky was very blue. I let the kids clamber up and over whatever the felt comfortable climbing on and I let them explore to their heart’s content. I got some great pictures of them and when I download them from my camera I will consider posting one or two.

On the approach to the island by boat, I noticed a battery of old cannon and I sort of recalled being there one time before, about 10 years ago. So, after the monastery, I marched my little troop off to find the battery. We marched around half the island and failed to find it. We did, however, enjoy walks through forest, wild flower covered fields, wild raspberry patches, and along paths following the coastline of the island. It was, all of it, gorgeous, even if the Boy Child was concerned that his feet were getting “very busy”. I knew that meant he was tired so we took a candy break. Do not give a three year old boy a chocolate bar and not expect him to become a chocolate monster with brown smears all over face and hands. Fortunately, there were wipes. Plenty of them.

I hoisted the Boy Child on to my shoulders for the walk back to the dock and happily got on the wrong boat with the kids. We added 15 more minutes to our journey this way and got to see a couple of more islands. The islands are covered with small, what were once, summer cottages. I think that many of them have been winterized now. We ate the rest of the chocolate on the boat. However, this time, I held the Boy Child’s chocolate for him. The Girl Child, naturally fastidious, did not need any help.

It was a wonderful day.

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July 05, 2006

Home from the seas

I have, as we are fond of saying in my office, returned with my shield and not on it. Actually, as far as visits to in-laws go, this was among the best. I attribute that to my decision to strike out on my own a bit, to leave my kids with my in-laws, and to make my own way in Oslo. Since I have a number of friends and made some appointments for myself, it was not too terribly difficult. Just had to suffer through a number of interminable family dinner parties at night, really. The days, however, the days were mine.

A full report to follow. When the jet lag clears. The baby, unfortunately, senses weakness and was up three or four times last night. I am a bit tired.

Sunday I was swimming in the Oslo Fjord and today I am back at my desk. I feel like the arm of a record player dropping back into a well worn groove. I'm not sure I like it. I usually find some comfort in routine. Today I wonder whether routine, while often pleasurable, comes at the expense of imagination. You follow along, like the milkman's horse, and forget to lift your head, to look at the horizon.

In other words, were it not for kids, I feel the need to go on an adventure. Quit the job, move to Oslo, and see what happens. I bet I could find something. Certainly found some beautiful apartment listings on the web.

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