Matter of Perspective Dos

A story for you: Last time I was in Chicago I visited L’s sister, M. She works in a big law firm on a very high floor of a very tall building and her office has one wall that is all windows. As we entered the building she waved her building pass over the scanner as usual, but otherwise we somehow managed to avoid the attention of security—they were occupied w/other people and didn’t seem to even notice us. M. remarked how unusual that was. “They’re usually very careful about checking IDs and issuing guest passes to the building,” she said. We shouldn’t worry about it, she added; we’d only be there a few minutes so it would just be a waste of time to make sure we were properly checked in.

So to the elevator we go and up up up to the big office with all the windows. It was pretty cool and I was obviously fascinated with the view. While I was busy picking out landmarks I recognized, M. said she had to go down the hall for a minute and that she’d be right back. I was so absorbed in the view I hardly noticed. So there I am, alone in her office w/my face nearly pressed against the windows when this gruff voice behind me nearly makes me jump out of my skin. “Excuse me!” it says. “Can I help you?”

I turn to find this guy about my age but much better dressed. He’s fit and looks like he works out and he doesn’t look very happy. “I’m just waiting for M.” I explain. He still doesn’t look happy. “This is her office.” Still not happy. “She just stepped out for a minute. She’ll be right back.” You guessed it: Still not happy.

“I’m sorry,” the guy says sternly, “but who are you? What the hell are you doing here?”

I try to explain. “I’m a friend of M.’s. She just brought me up here to see her office and…”

“So you say,” the guy interrupts, “but why should I believe that? Where is your guest pass?” Damn! I knew I should have checked in properly downstairs! “I find some strange guy alone in this office with no identification,” the guy continues, “and what do you expect me to think? You expect me to just take you at your word?”

I’m baffled and getting a little worried. Who is this guy? What kind of freaked out place is this? So I try to explain and placate some more. “Well, like I said, I’m just a friend and M. had to go down the hall to the bathroom or something but I’m sure she’ll be right back and she can explain everything.” He’s just not buying it. “Look, I’d be happy to wait out in the reception area or down in the lobby…”

“Well what good would that do?” the guy responds w/disgust. “You’ve been alone in this office for god knows how long—the damage has already been done.”

Wha!? Damage? Crap. This guy thinks I’m trying to steal super-secrets from the big firm! Now I’m seriously worried. Nightmare scenarios of all my worst stereotypes of “BigLaw” start ricocheting around my brain and I’m wondering if they’re going to try to press charges against me for trespassing or theft or god knows what and I’m just thinking, ‘Dammit, I should have just waited downstairs!’ when suddenly M. walks back in.

And she’s laughing.

It was all a joke. On me and my fears of BigLaw. Turns out the guy is her friend (another associate) and when she bumped into him in the hall she asked him to come in and give me a hard time. So he did, and he did it really well. We all had a great laugh about it b/c I had been genuinely worried. So it was a good joke. And in some ways I guess it was payback for a similar “psych!” I played on M. a few years ago, so I guess I had it coming. Still, you can bet the next time I see a chance to up the ante, I’m going to take it. Oh yeah, M., you’ve been warned. The damage has already been done. ;-) [tags]travel, stories, practical jokes, biglaw[/tags]

Matter of Perspective Uno

The final hill at the end of the Marine Corps Marathon.My friends and I had fun being tourists yesterday. The day included a visit to the Iwo Jima Memorial and the Arlington Cemetery. The access road to both is also the final few hundred yards of the Marine Corps Marathon. In the pic at right you can see the little hill that all runners must climb right at the very end of their 26 miles. Before I “ran” the marathon last fall everyone told me to be ready for this huge hill. And, of course, when I saw it after run/walking 26 miles and nearly 5 hours (yes, I was very very slow!), this little hill did, indeed, look like a wall. Yesterday was the first time I’d seen it since the marathon and it’s kind of funny to think how hard I worked to get up that hill back in October. That aside, the cemetery was actually much nicer to visit than I’d expected. It’s huge and full of places for quiet contemplation and also great views of the river and the city beyond. Plus, it’s a sobering reminder of the role of the military and others who have served their country over the last 200 years. ((It’s not just soldiers who are buried there—anyone who has “served the nation” can be buried there, theoretically. There’s even a section for Supreme Court Justices!))

Those two big sites were followed by lunch in Crystal City at a dive bar (what’s up w/no free refills, people!?), a long, long walk around Georgetown and Washington Harbor, and finally dinner at Rakku in Dupont Circle. Good stuff.

You all wanted this blow-by-blow of my tourist experiences, didn’t you? No? Whoops. Sorry. [tags]tourism, dc, monuments[/tags]

Moving madness: Let’s get it started

We’re moving out of this city in just five days. We have only four days before we pick up the moving truck. One of those days is a holiday and the other two are weekend days, so anything we need to buy or do with a business needs to be done today. We are not packed yet and I have friends visiting from Colorado so I’ll be spending at least today and tomorrow doing some last-minute sightseeing. I’m looking forward to that but, holy cow! where did the time go?

Oh, and that whole roof imbroglio? It remains completely unresolved except that we have an estimate for a new roof at $5,000-$6,000 (which is what I thought), and confirmation from a professional roofer that roofs made of this strange “woodruf” stuff are nothing but trouble. So we’re still waiting to hear whether the seller will deal on that. If not, we’ll have to start our home search over again. Awesome.

Moving is always like this, isn’t it? Such big changes can never be simple. Oh, speaking of which, does anyone want to come over Tuesday and help get the big stuff in the truck? I’ll buy you lunch! Huh? Oh, come on! You know you want to!

An evening with the ladies

Last night I had the pleasure of having dinner with Denise of Life, Law, Gender, and the blogger known as Unblague. I have been reading Denise’s blog regularly for a couple of years and after having the chance to talk w/her on her birthday last year it was great to finally meet her in person. She’s every bit as fun, funny, and wise as she sounds on her blog.

That’s also true of Unblague, with whom I also had coffee on Monday. She, too, is witty and fun with just a bit of a sarcastic side reserved primarily for those of a Republican persuasion (so we obviously get along very well)—again, just as you’d guess from reading her blog. I only regret that it took us this long to finally meet, but I’ll have to take comfort for that lost opportunity in the fact that she’s been so busy through the last year that we probably wouldn’t have been able to spend much time together, anyway. Yeah, that’s it.

At any rate, we had a terrific time joking about trees falling on Prii (Priuses? Denise’s car may be cursed) and whether we ought to be posting pictures of shoes on our websites. (The consensus was clearly “yes.”) We also discussed more serious things, such as how hate begins, who benefits from it, and how to reduce its presence and effect in society; Laramie, Matthew Shepard, and hate crimes legislation; and whether it’s better to support a politician who agrees w/you 65% of the time and gets elected, or to support a politician who agrees w/you 100% of the time but is not elected. Along the way Unblague learned that I have three shirts that are identical except for their color, ((If you find something you like at a good price, why get only one?)) we both learned that Denise has had so many different experiences she must have lived a dozen lives, and I learned that they are not big fans of my footnotes. ((This I do not understand. Footnotes are so much fun! Ok, I admit: footnotes are often an indulgence for a writer and are not always user-friendly or beneficial to the reader. But they’re easy to ignore, aren’t they? Hmph. Perhaps this will be the next poll…))

So thanks to both Denise and Unblague for a great evening! I hope we will meet again someday soon. Montana really isn’t as far away as you think…. [tags]friends, blogging[/tags]

A roof over our heads?

We just got the report from our home inspector for the place we’re supposedly buying and it’s not exactly great news. Overall, the place is in great shape considering it was built in 1930 or thereabouts. However, sometime between 1980 and 1999 (probably w/in the last 10 years) someone thought it would be a good idea to cover the roof w/a fancy synthetic material called “Woodruf” that’s supposed to look like cedar shakes. Unfortunately, the stuff was crap and has since been the subject of a class action lawsuit. The inspector said the roof has several bad shingles and the ridge cap is cracked. There are currently no obvious leaks, but when the leaks do come our only option will be to rip off the entire roof and replace it—after the lawsuit there’s no way to get replacement shingles or anything like that to make repairs. ((Although, it seems you could probably just use the real cedar shakes these synthetic pieces were designed to simulate. I wonder if that would work…))

So now we’re waiting on an estimate for the cost of a new roof so we can negotiate w/the seller for some resolution to this problem. At least one online calculator says that if we did the roof ourselves it would cost roughly $3,000 (and a couple of weeks of hard labor, of course). I bet if we paid someone to do it the cost would nearly double. I also bet the seller isn’t going to want to negotiate over this, but I could be wrong. I’ll update when I learn more. [tags]homebuying, real estate, roofing[/tags]

Comparison shopping

The other day I picked up an info sheet from a box on a “for sale” sign in front of a townhouse in our neighborhood here in D.C. It offers the following bits of information about this place:

  • Built in 1900.
  • It has four floors, five bedrooms, three full baths, and two half baths.
  • Amenities include: fixed attic stairs, automatic garage door opener, fireplace mantels, granite counters, Italian marble floor opening to flagstone patio, and a renovated lower level in-law suite (an apartment you can rent to suckers like me).
  • Total taxes in 2005 were $11,411.
  • List Price: $1,575,000.

This place has been for sale for more than a month now—maybe two—so perhaps they’re asking too much. Or maybe they’ve dropped the asking price. Whatever the case, it’s less than I thought something like that would cost around here, but a full 15 times what we’re paying for our humble abode in the back of beyond.

I wish I could find a more fair comparison; I really don’t know what a small (1,250 sq. ft.), two bedroom, one-bath with large fenced yard and one-car garage would cost around here because I’ve honestly never seen such a thing. To live in this neighborhood you either have a huge house like the one mentioned above, or you rent a small apartment (often in the basement of one of the townhouses).

Here’s a sort of near comparison: A friend of mine bought a 1,200 sq. ft. duplex (nice fenced yard but no garage) in Arlington, VA about two years ago and I think he paid about $250k. His commute to work is now about an hour each way by bus and train; it wouldn’t be any faster by car.

There are definitely tradeoffs in moving from a metropolis like D.C. to a much smaller place like Billings, MT, but I’m optimistic that the benefits (such as the lower cost of living) will outweigh the drawbacks. I guess we’ll know soon enough whether my optimism is misplaced… [tags]real estate, montana, D.C., moving[/tags]


Yesterday Apple introduced the MacBook, the successor to the very successful iBook. ((The iBook has vanished from Apple’s website; links to iBook pages are now automatically redirected to MacBook pages or simply produce a 404.)) I was so intrigued I made my way to a local Apple store for a firsthand looksee. My thoughts: ((MacWorld has a real review you should read, too. I’m just some guy; they’re professionals.))

  1. The name is awful awful awful. This is almost the antithesis of a “mcproduct,” yet people are bound to make a connection between the MacBook and the garbage peddled by a certain junk food conglomerate.
  2. The MacBook comes in black and white. The black one is out of the ballpark cool.
  3. You can see it in real life (as opposed to in studio shots) here and here, and here.
  4. The black plastic has a matte finish w/a tiny bit of texture to it. This gives it a slightly smoky/charcoal black color, a satisfying feel, and will (I expect) reduce its propensity to scratch. In comparison, the white unit is very much like the iBooks it replaced—high gloss, very smooth, and incredibly scratchable. ((If you have a recent iPod, the white MacBook case is very similar to the clear/gloss finish of your iPod. Both the black and white iPods have this high-gloss finish and it’s so easily scratched that users have sued Apple for violation of “state consumer protection statutes, as well as express and implied warranties.” The black MacBook’s matte finish will certainly scratch, but I predict it will be less of a problem than if it had the same high-gloss finish as the black iPods.))
  5. Maybe it’s just the newness of it, but the black one just kept drawing my attention much more than the white one.
  6. Some people don’t like the black because it reminds them of Thinkpads or Dells. I thought I’d get that feeling, too, but nope—not when I saw it in person. Its construction and finish are so superior there’s just no comparison, and the color is just not the same black as you’re used to seeing in laptops. Plus, if anyone sees it from the back that white glowing Apple logo really identifies it as a Mac.
  7. When closed, the new MacBook looks incredibly thin and sleek. The lid/screen lays nearly flush with the base, leaving only the slightest crack around the unit and giving it a very solid feel when you pick it up.
  8. It feels lighter than it looks like it would. It’s got such a solid look that you expect it to feel like a brick. It doesn’t. ((The MacBook weighs 5.2 lbs., compared to the iBook at 4.9 lbs. and the now discontinued 12″ PowerBook at 4.6 lbs.))
  9. That solid look and feel comes from the seamlessness of the whole unit. There are no holes in either lid or base for a latch (it closes magnetically), the keyboard looks more solid b/c of the plastic bezels around each key, ((The Macworld review features a good closeup of the keyboard.)) and the seams where the different parts come together are so tight as to be almost invisible. Compare this to the old iBook (the computer I’m typing this on) whose two-colored base and lid draw a lot of attention to its seams. Compare also to the new MacBook Pro which looks like a clunky snap-together tinker toy compared to the solid sleekness of the new MacBook. ((And wow does that thing get hot! I played w/one at the Apple store and picked it up to feel the bottom—so hot you probably couldn’t keep your hand on the hottest part for a full minute w/out being seriously uncomfortable. That’s not a machine for people who like to actually use their laptop on their lap!))
  10. The new MacBooks have a “glossy” screen. You might worry that this would be annoying, but in my 5 minutes of fun it was only noticeable in that it made colors more vivid. The screen is very bright w/great color saturation.
  11. Did I mention it comes in black?
  12. If you’re thinking about getting a new laptop, you should really look at the MacBook. It’s very cool.
  13. You can compare all of Apple’s laptop offerings to see which one would be bestest for you.
  14. If you’re excited about the new Intel Macs b/c you want to be able to boot into Windows sometimes and play games (or b/c you want to play games w/in OS X), you might not want the MacBook b/c it doesn’t have a dedicated video card or memory and that might hurt its performance on video-intensive games.
  15. If you decide to visit an Apple store to see a MacBook for yourself, leave your credit card at home unless you want to come home with one. Of course, if the store is anything like the one I visited, all the black MacBooks will already be sold out and the white one isn’t nearly as compelling (IMHO) so you might be ok.

I’m not going to get a new MacBook, but I’m jealous of those, like Asian Provacateur, who found themselves in need of a laptop at exactly this moment. On a related note, I will miss being able to pop into any of the many Apple Stores in the D.C. area (I’ve been to at least four different locations during my three years here). The closest Apple Store to Billings is nearly 10 hours away in Denver. That’s a bummer, but I’m sure it won’t hurt my already empty wallet. [tags]mac, macbook, geek[/tags]

Prison Break: The best show on Fox

While E. Spat was watching the season finale of “Grey’s Anatomy” last night, ((I have never seen this show. Why all the fuss?)) all eyes around here were glued to the season cliffhanger ((Caution! Spoilers!)) of “Prison Break,” which is easily the best new show on network tv since The Amazing Race. ((Note: None of us were watching the big presidential address. I wonder why…))

What makes this show so great? It’s very simple: It’s that rare show in which the heros are wrongly convicted felons and defense attorneys, and where the villians are corporations, politicians, and law enforcement. The premise alone is enough to warm the cockles of a criminal defender’s heart. ((Who talks like that? What is a cockle, anyway?)) Sure, the premise may be a leetle far-fetched, ((Midway through the first season we learned that Link had been framed to get back at his absent father who, it turns out, was a bigshot spook for some corporate conglomerate (think: corporate mafia) which has been pulling the strings of the Vice POTUS so that it can install her as its puppet POTUS in the next election. So to buy the show you have to be able to believe that such a powerful corporate conspiracy could exist and that the Vice President could be so very corrupt and that normal law enforcement would be so easily and thoroughly fooled by the machinations of this conspiracy. In other words, a paranoid, anti-corporate, defense-minded law student or lawyer (e.g., me) is the show’s ideal audience.)) but if you don’t get too hung up on that, every episode is an edge-of-your seat thriller in which the show deploys all its tricks on the side of the criminal defense team and the wrongly convicted killer (and his almost equally innocent brother). I’m telling you, this is good tv.

Now that the first season is over it seems production is moving to Dallas. That pretty much ruins the cliffhanger aspect, but it doesn’t make Season Two any less appealing. If you liked The Fugitive, I’ll bet you’re going to like this. At least I hope so. Or maybe it would be ok if the show takes a turn for the worse in Season Two. L. and I don’t plan to have cable after we’ve moved so it’s probably just as well if the second season ends up being disappointing — I probably won’t see it anyway. ;-)[tags]tv, prison break, wrongly accused[/tags]

Flights of fancy

I spent a half-hour yesterday morning searching Last Minute Travel and Travelocity Last Minute Deals for a crazy, harebrained escape to . . . anywhere. Why? I don’t know. L.’s brother (who also just finished law school) reports that he’s kind of at loose ends waiting for graduation[1], so I thought, “hey, we should take a trip somewhere.” My first choice was London just because I’ve always wanted to go there. I could spend next week there for a mere $1700 for airfare alone. Cool! If I’d like to spend less than, oh, say $500, my options are pretty much limited to . . . Nashville, TN.
So I won’t be going on any totally unnecessary impulse adventures next week. It was just a thought. I’m still trying to get used to the idea that law school is over and I know I have plenty to do to prepare to move and get ready for the bar exam and find a job. Yeah, plenty to do. And I’m going to do all that, but sometimes it’s nice to give your mind a little breathing room, a little exercise in “what if?” escapism. Thanks to the speed and magic of the internets, such flights of fancy can be quickly grounded in harsh reality[2], but it’s still nice to dream…

fn1. I know the feeling. For the first few days after finishing my last final I was working on this site and just playing around w/things and the free time was great. But there are only so many hours a person can spend goofing around before getting a bit uneasy. Life isn’t supposed to be all play, right?

fn2. My reality is actually not that harsh at the moment. I mean, I have a lot to do, but I’m feeling pretty lucky right now that things are falling into place as well as they are—knock wood. [tags]travel, fantasies[/tags]

Holy Insufficient Postage, Batman!

In a stunning reminder of my own ineptness, I returned home today from an afternoon of museum-visiting and hair-cutting to find a veritable bomb in my mailbox: My application for a job with the Montana Office of the Public Defender was returned to me for insufficient postage—a day after it was “due.”

Let me put that another way: After finishing my last final just over a week ago, I had basically one big thing I had to accomplish last week and I failed to accomplish it. Pretty good start to my “professional” career, wouldn’t you say?

But ok, if we go a little lighter on the melodrama, it’s not that big a deal. As I explain here, the deadline wasn’t hard and fast so my application will definitely still be considered. It’s disappointing and doesn’t make exactly the first impression I was hoping to make, but I don’t think it will have serious impact in the long run. It’s not good, but not awful, either.

Still, I can’t get over the fact that mailing something like six sheets of regular copier paper requires more than two first-class stamps. Lesson for the future: When it’s really important, go to the post office and get it metered. Better yet, send it certified! Sure you pay more, but at least your mail will arrive at its destination and the recipient will know you mean business! [tags]montana, public defender, job search, mail, postage, deadlines[/tags]