Friday, March 21, 2008

If a bird can do it.

I previously reported on a trend in Japan where men purchase and prefer the company of blow up sex dolls to real women. I offer the following news story as inspiration to these poor fellows.

Apparently, a swan at a German zoo has been enamored with a swan-shaped boat for a long time. In case you don’t know, swans are monogamous creatures that stay with their partners for life. So, you can see what a big deal it is that this swan is willing to forgo the love of his life, a boat, for the real thing.

C’mon fellas, if a bird can do it, you can too. Be brave, give up your latex companion and go for a real woman who might just peck you back.

Continuing its descent.

I’m not surprised it comes from a Brit.

Advertising gone wild.

  • Each time you opened a box of Lucky Charms, a leprechaun would leap out and shout, “They’re magically delicious!” With frosted flakes, you hear, “They’re gggrrreeaaatttt!” Eating Wheaties and you’re reassured that you’re eating, “The breakfast of champions.”
  • Whenever you turned on your Chevy truck, you’d hear Bob Seger sing, “Like a rock.”
  • When you tore open a package of baloney, you’d hear, “My baloney has a first name – O-S-C-A-R. My baloney has a second name. It’s M-A-Y-E-R.”
  • Every time you shut your car door, you’d hear your insurance company’s (complete hooey) tag line – “You’re in good hands.” (Allstate); “Like a good neighbor.” (State Farm); “Have you met life today?” (Metropolitan); “Farmers gets you back to where you belong.” (Farmers); “Amica, we keep our promises to you.” (Amica).
  • You’re about to leave home, forgetting your wallet, and your American Express card plays a loud, “Don’t leave home without it!”
  • You’re hung-over and open the medicine cabinet to hear, “Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz, Oh! What a relief it is!”
  • Your generic trash bag fails and you hear, “Don’t get mad, get GLAD.”
  • You crash your car and when your airbags deploy you hear, “You could have saved fifteen percent or more in 15 minutes with Progressive.”
  • You’re googling drug treatment facilities for your wayward teen and hear, “The few, the proud, the marines” or “Be all you can be.”
  • You open your fridge to cook dinner for your family and you hear, “You deserve a break today.”

Same title, different job.

When I graduated from high school, my friends were getting cars and trips from their parents as celebratory presents. My grandma Lela gave me a ring, and my parents gave me a card (I think). I asked my dad about the discrepancy in treatment that my friends were getting compared to my twin sister and me. Dad’s response was, “I’m not going to reward you for something that you were supposed to do anyway.” It made such sense that I couldn’t even maintain the pretense of righteous indignation, something teenage girls are pro at.

Marlo graduates from high school next year and I am sorry to say that my response will probably not be the same as my father’s. That isn’t to say that Marlo isn’t a good girl, because she is. I would respond differently because it is just a whole different world today for teenagers.

  • When I was a teenager, MTV was relatively new. I still remember where I was when it débuted – babysitting two little kids named Toby and Mandy. It actually played, gasp!, music videos. Now, MTV is a 24-hour infomercial for the consumerism and the stupidity of today’s youth. It features such fascinating shows as “My Sweet 16,” which shows parents throwing their obnoxiously rude teenager girls lavish Sweet 16 parties on the scale of a big wedding. The teenagers are rude and the parents whip out their checkbooks. Interesting take on the Pavlov’s dogs phenomenon. So, as a parent, you have to try to raise a considerate, respectful and sane child among 24-hour-a-day advertising and celebrities that tell them that being an ass is cool and desirable.[1]
  • When I was a teenager, HIV/AIDS was still (supposedly) confined to the homosexual community and hemophiliacs (from problems with the nation’s blood supply). Recently, the newspaper reported that more than one in four American teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease (3 million girls). In the study, only half of the girls surveyed admitted to being sexually active. Of those that did admit to sexual activity, the rate of infection was startling – 40 percent! Now, personally, I’d like to give the same sort of sex talk my parents gave me, which consisted solely of admonitions not to engage in sex, without any real information about birth control or safe sex. It certainly would be a lot more comfortable for me. However, the luxury of just telling your kids not to engage in premarital sex is over. Any parent who doesn’t discuss these very real risks of STDs, which are probably higher than getting hit by a car crossing the street, is negligent.[2]
  • Car crashes are the leading cause of death for tweens and teens. Of those killed, 54% were riding with a teen driver. The risk of dying in a car crash doubles when riding with a driver less than 25 years old. My problem is compounded by the fact that Marlo thinks that all of my concern stems from over-exposure to mangled bodies in my prior career as a personal injury paralegal. No matter now many news articles I email her, she just thinks that I’m overreacting. Finally, when her boyfriend got his license and a Mustang (in the same week, damn his parents), I had to tell her point blank that I couldn’t stand it if she died. I’m not prone to such open displays of feeling.
  • My father would probably disagree, but it seems that today’s teenagers are prone to more risky bone-headed moves than in my youth. I was the “responsible one” in high school who made sure that my friends didn’t drink and drive, didn’t trash their parent’s house during a party, didn’t shoplift, and comforted them after they were sick from drinking. (Not the most glamorous job, but someone had to do it). I don’t recall my friends doing many stupid things that could have gotten them killed. I remember we used to make little rockets with firecrackers, a small apple juice can and a bigger coffee can. We probably could have lost a few fingers, but no one was at risk of dying, in my opinion. However, these days, one hears about all sorts of stupid things that teens do that could seriously harm them – things illustrated on that aptly-named television show, “Jackass.” Just this week in the paper was a story about a teenage boy who suspended himself from a freeway overpass with the help of a friend so he could paint, “Matthew loves [girlfriend’s name].” Sweet, but stupid.
  • I used to think that my job would be done when I got Marlo safely off to college. Turns out I was wrong. College appears as dangerous as being a high school student. First of all, in the Rape of America study, over 80% of all women who reported being raped were less than 25 years old. On college campuses, there is an average of 35.3 rapes per 1,000 female students. Those odds are frightening enough to want my child to forego college for a minimum wage job (although I suspect that her odds of being shot while a convenience store clerk are probably similar). Secondly, there is this new-fangled version of spring break. Instead of coming home to visit one’s parents and hometown friends, college students head south to Florida or Mexico, etc. to get drunk and party. Sort of a week-long version of Mardi Gras. Last week, the paper reported a story about an eighteen year old girl who was raped and then thrown off a sixth floor balcony by the hotel guard hired to provide security during spring break.

Dad may think I’m lowering my standards too much, but if Marlo graduates without being harmed as a result of massive teenage stupidity, without an STD or having gotten pregnant, without being maimed or killed in a car crash with a driver under the age of 25 (including herself), and without being raped by an acquaintance or stranger, I’m throwing a great big party and taking her on a tour of Europe. If she can survive the odds and succeed, it is far beyond “what [she] was supposed to do anyway.”

[1] One example of this is a 15 year old Alaskan teenager who is seemingly proud to have won the “most rotten sneaker” contest. Since when is stinking like a pig something to boast about?

[2] Not to mention the fact that comprehensive sex education cuts teen pregnancies while abstinence-only education raises the risks. I have no problems teaching abstinence – it’s the “only” part that I’ve got an issue with.

Denny’s Making History

In early January, I wrote a story about the Seattle Landmark Commission considering designating a former Denny’s Restaurant building in Ballard as a historical landmark. Nope, really, I am not kidding. See, “Remember the Hat ‘n Boots?

Well, as a testament to the death of common sense in the modern era, the commission did it. They actually designated a former Denny’s building as a historical landmark, precluding the owner from selling the land to developers for another use.

Now, the property owners are suing to have the historical landmark designation removed. I hope they win.

I am certain that there are people out there who disagree with me and would argue that it is necessary for us to preserve our history, which includes unusual architecture. I do not necessarily disagree. However, I just spent 2-1/2 months in Europe looking at architecture that goes back hundreds of years. Something that was created in 1960 would still be considered new by those standards. So, unless something historical actually occurred in that Denny’s, I fail to see the need to preserve the actual building (which will likely just fall into disrepair as did the Hat ‘n Boots) when photographs of the architecture would serve the same purpose. That is what archives and libraries are for. Now, if a treaty or something of historical significance had occurred in that Denny’s over a grand slam breakfast, I’d have a different opinion.

But it didn’t. And I don’t.

The Blog’s Purpose

As most of you know, I began this blog to chronicle my study abroad in Europe and so that my friends and family could follow my adventures. Obviously, the blog’s focus has shifted quite a bit since last summer. If I were to characterize its purpose, I would say that I now write blog entries for three reasons:

  • The first is to have a forum to express my thoughts, political outrage, happiness or angst.
  • The second is so that Marlo can one day go back and read the entries (it is ok if they are no longer online, I’ve got them saved locally) and remember who I was as a person and also share me with her children if I am no longer around – who I was, what I stood for, what I liked and disliked, and what sort of things I found interesting or noteworthy.
  • Finally, I would say that I write in the blog to chronicle my little piece of history. My dad often tells stories about his childhood or about the time before he was married, but sometimes is sketchy on the details. Same goes with my mom. In case I can’t remember the interesting things that happened to me in my “youth,” I want to document them now.

Of course, side benefits of the blog include my friends’ ability to connect with me and what is happening in my life in moments when I am too busy with law school to talk to them (yes, I am aware this is unhealthy) and, potentially, for the man of my dreams to come across, read and decide he can’t live without someone with my particular mixture of intelligence, sarcasm, wit and feeling.

A little different than, “Let them eat cake.”

I have been meaning to write this story for a while and it seems a good follow up to my recent consumerism posts (see here and here).

About a month ago, there was a story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about Haitians resorting to eating dirt cookies, made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening, because they have nothing else. The situation in Haiti is arguably complicated. I remember watching a film as an undergraduate on the environmental disaster in Haiti. Haitians cut down trees to make charcoal, both to burn for fuel and to sell for money. Topsoil then washed away into the island’s harbors and coastal waters, destroying the available fishing industry, which in turn led to further food shortages. Add political upheaval to the humanitarian crisis and you’ve got a whole population of people resorting to eating dirt to survive.

The reason I relate this to my consumerism posts is because you’ve got a whole segment of the American people who feel that their life isn’t complete if they are not living in a 5,000 square foot house. Pardon me for expressing my disdain for those Americans, but people who think that their biggest problem in life is that their car is a few years old need to learn how to read at an eighth grade level so they can read the paper on occasion and get some perspective. As much as I bitch and moan about law school, I am well aware that I’m blessed to have the problems I do.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Valuing your Support Staff

(I drafted the following as an email to the Women of WSTLA (WOW) listserve.)

I had an experience on Friday that compelled me to draft this email. I attended the Goldmark Awards Luncheon honoring John and Mike McKay. I arrived at my assigned table before my tablemates, all whom I did not know save a fellow law student. Eventually a partner from the firm sponsoring the table arrived. He and I introduced ourselves. Then, the rest of the people from his firm arrived so he introduced us. He introduced the male attorneys first, then the one female attorney – all by name. Then he said, “And here’s the people who keep us ticking” and swept his arm to indicate the three remaining tablemates, who were his support staff, but didn’t bother to introduce them by name.

Before attending law school, I was a personal injury paralegal for over 13 years. Therefore, I can say this with some authority. Please don’t ever do this to your staff. As much as that partner said, “Here’s the people who keep us ticking,” he clearly had no idea who these women were for him. When I was a paralegal (this applies to all my positions, not one particular firm):

  • I made sure that your clients felt special and attended to when you were in depositions or trial and couldn’t return their calls. I remembered their birthdays, sent cards congratulating them for the triumphs in their lives, and consoled them when they were upset about their case or were just flat-out in pain. I explained the litigation process to them when their case was taking forever to resolve and they didn’t understand why.
  • I woke up in the middle of the night to leave myself voicemails to make sure we double checked a deadline or statute date (even though these were calendared meticulously).
  • I made sure you remembered your spouse’s birthday or your anniversary because a happy spouse makes a happy attorney and a happy attorney makes a happy office.
  • I stayed late and came in on weekends whenever you asked me to get a project done and didn’t charge you overtime. (I figured it all evened out in the wash for when you’d let me go to my daughter’s school functions, which I appreciated.) I never said, "No" - not even once.
  • I answered your computer questions without making you feel like an idiot.
  • I added the family car doctrine or respondeat superior paragraphs to draft complaints when you forgot. I drafted initial pleadings and letters without being asked to save you time. You didn’t have to tell me what to do with every single piece of paper that I pushed. I was competent and skilled.
  • I made sure your trust account balanced perfectly and that your bills were paid.
  • I brought problems to your attention before they turned into a crisis that could have gotten you disbarred.
  • I let you use me as an excuse to other counsel when you forgot to do something or were late.
  • I brought in enough business myself over the years to pay my own salary, bonuses and health insurance, plus make you a profit.
  • I helped you competently and professionally manage a large litigation practice, at a fraction of what you earned.

The very least an attorney can do is introduce staff by name.

J.D. expected Dec. 2008