Wednesday, February 28, 2007

On the road again

I'll be in New Jersey for work for the rest of the week.

And yes, I'll be wearing a suit, not a dress.



Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Time management

In case you didn't know, I read a lot. Books, newspapers, magazines, the back of cereal boxes . . . I read whatever I can find, whenever it's in front of me.

When I was stuck on the plane, I polished off As I Lay Dying and started reading Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father.

More often, lately, I've been reading websites. I try to keep up with everything -- and on the blogs, I try to leave comments! -- but there's just so many. I read too many websites, plain and simple. And even though bloglines makes it easier, it's still too much.

I think I should spend less time reading and more time sleeping.

Or maybe, I just need to improve my time management. Like by setting a time limit for non-work related website browsing. That way, I can get back to reading books -- and maybe, someday, finish that list.



Monday, February 26, 2007

Another reason I hate the snow

This is what it looks like when I'm trying to catch an earlier-than-necessary shuttle flight to New York City on a Sunday so that I can go to lunch with my 93-year-old grandmother before getting back to work prepping for a deposition -- and instead, wind up stuck on a plane in the snow for 5 hours before takeoff:



Of course, all that is irrelevant now that I'm back home and about to go to sleep in my own bed.

Right?



Saturday, February 24, 2007

Jewish Buddhism

A coworker sent this to me, presumably because of the "new zen Dara":

Sayings of the Jewish Buddhists
  • If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?
  • Be here now. Be someplace else later. Is that so complicated?
  • Drink tea and nourish life. With the first sip, joy. With the second sip, satisfaction. With the third sip, peace. With the fourth, a Danish.
  • Wherever you go, there you are. Your luggage is another story.
  • Accept misfortune as a blessing. Do not wish for perfect health, or a life without problems. What would you talk about?
  • The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single Oy.
  • There is no escaping karma. In a previous life, you never called, you never wrote, you never visited. And whose fault was that?
  • Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.
  • The Tao does not speak. The Tao does not blame. The Tao does not take sides. The Tao has no expectations. The Tao demands nothing of others. The Tao is not Jewish.
  • Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Forget this and attaining Enlightenment will be the least of your problems.
  • Let your mind be as a floating cloud. Let your stillness be as a wooded glen. And sit up straight. You'll never meet the Buddha with such rounded shoulders.
  • Deep inside you are ten thousand flowers. Each flower blossoms ten thousand times. Each blossom has ten thousand petals. You might want to see a specialist.
  • Be aware of your body. Be aware of your perceptions. Keep in mind that not every physical sensation is a symptom of a terminal illness.
  • The Torah says, Love your neighbor As yourself. The Buddha says, There is no self. So, maybe we're off the hook.




Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sometimes, people can surprise you

I didn't think it was actually possible for me to have a favorite member of the Bush family. (Even Billy Bush gets on my nerves.)

I was wrong.

Lauren Bush is making organic handbags and donating the proceeds to charity.

I can support that, even if I can't stand the rest of her family.



Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Stupid lawyer stories

These are probably of limited interest to anyone other than me, but here are two things of note to all of the lawyers* who read this:

  1. Kentucky trial lawyers are in a tizzy over this cartoon:



    Personally, I think it's funny. Funny -- not clever.


  2. More importantly, it's apparently okay to commit legal malpractice in Nebraska -- as long as you're addicted to drugs and alcohol.

    I am planning my next bender as I type this.


* There are three that I know of. Maybe four.



Today's liberal guilt, sponsored by Snapple™

This nugget of information came to my attention, courtesy of today's bottle of diet Snapple:

"Americans spend more than $630 million a year on golf balls."


At first, this struck me as sad. You know -- my typical knee-jerk-liberal reaction of "Imagine if that $630 million was spent on schools, or health care for the poor. . . ."

But then I realized that, over the past several years, I have spent hundreds of dollars on baseball and concert tickets, cds, movies, fancy dinners and various other leisure pursuits. (Not to mention the clothes and shoes. . . .) So, even if I don't like golf, who am I to judge?

Still -- not to get all preachy or anything -- maybe as Toni Morrison advised, we should endeavor to "Make a difference about something other than yourselves." So maybe the world would be a better place if we all took a little bit of the money that we use for our silly luxuries and tried to do something good with it. Like Dining Out For Life, or Project Red, or something of that ilk.



Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Musings on babies, quarterbacks, and supermodels

I don't know why, but I'm completely captivated by the whole Bridget Moynahan-Tom Brady story. The breakup, the pregnancy, the supermodel, the accusations, and the Catholicism -- but now, mostly, the war of the publicists.

This has all the makings of a great movie. Let's see: You have a Superbowl winning conservative Catholic (and Republican) star quarterback, his older, pregnant, C-list actress ex-girlfriend (whose most recent career move was a bad TV show that mysteriously disappeared off the fall schedule), and the 10-years-younger supermodel.

Then again, the story would be way better if one of them killed the others.* I should start writing the screenplay now.

In all seriousness, though, I officially agree with Salon:

What I do have an issue with is that the editorial judges Moynahan for being pregnant with a man she had a three-year relationship with, while not questioning or judging Brady for frolicking around Europe with a lingerie model on his arm while his pregnant ex announces their upcoming child to the press. There's nothing inherently wrong with heading to Paris with Gisele B√ľndchen -- I know plenty of people who would welcome that opportunity. I'm just tired of insinuations that if a couple conceives and then breaks up, the woman must have been using her uterus to try to keep her man.





*Disclaimer: I am not advocating murder. I'm just saying that vengeful pregnant ex-girlfriends killing supermodels makes a good story.




Monday, February 19, 2007

Illogical conclusion

According to this article (and the research it discusses), on average, people lie twice every ten minutes. Therefore, the article concludes that putting Scooter Libby on trial for perjury "is somewhat like putting them on trial for breathing."

Wow. That's a mighty big leap, don't you think?



Two in one day?

Forget about the $1,000,000 lottery -- this deal is even better:


Reply-To: jeff_collins1@myway.com
From: "jeff collins" (jeff_collins154@hotmail.com)
Bcc:
Subject: BANK OF AFRICA
Date: Sat, 17 Feb 2007 16:47:24 +0000


From: MR JEFF COLLINS
Bills & Exchange Manager
BANK OF AFRICA(BOA)
TEL+226 70 33 56 53
BURKINA-FASO WEST AFRICA.

I am contacting you in regards to a business transfer of a huge sum of money from a deceased account. Though I know that a transaction of this magnitude will make anyone apprehensive and worried, but I am assuring you that all will be well at the end of the day. We decided to contact you due to the urgency of this transaction.

PROPOSITION;
We discovered an abandoned sum of $7.2M(Seven Million Two Hundred Thousand United states Dollars) in an account that belongs to one of our foreign customers who died along with his entire family. Since his death, none of his next-of-kin or relations has come forward to lay claims to this money as the heir. We cannot release the fund from his account unless someone applies for claim as the next-of-kin to the deceased as indicated in our banking guidelines. Upon this discovery, we now seek your permission to have you stand as a next of kin to the deceased as all documentations will be carefully worked out by us for the funds $7.2M(Seven Million Two Hundred Thousand United states Dollars) to be released in your favour as the beneficiary's next of kin.It may interest you to note that we have secured from the probate an order of madamus to locate any of deceased beneficiaries. Please acknowledge receipt of this message in acceptance of our mutual business endeavour by furnishing me with the following;

1. Your Full Names and Address.
2. Direct Telephone and Fax numbers.

These requirements will enable us file a letter of claim to the appropriate departments for necessary approvals in your favour before the transfer can be made. We shall be compensating you with 30% on final conclusion of this project, while the rest shall be for us. Your share stays with you while the rest shall be for us for investment purposes in your country.

If this proposal is acceptable by you, do not take undue advantage of the trust we have bestowed in you, I await your urgent email.

Regards,
MR JEFF COLLINS


This sounds vaguely familiar.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I won the lottery!

At least according to this e-mail:

Date: Sat, 17 Feb 2007 09:35:54 -0500 (EST)
Message-Id: <200702171435.l1hezsrl018017@uemedia3.webair.com>
To:
Subject: CONSOLATION PRIZE WINNING NOTICE
From: PRIZE AWARD DEPT (info@prizeaward.nl)
Reply-To: info@prizeaward.nl

FROM THE DESK OF THE DIRECTOR INTERNATIONAL PRIZE AWARD DEPT LOTTO NL

Attn Lucky Winner,

WINNING NOTIFICATION FOR CATEGORY "A" WINNER ONLY

We are pleased to inform you of the result of the last final annual draw of our Lottery International Programs.The online cyber lotto draws was conducted from an exclusive list of 942,000,000 e-mail addresses of individual and corporate bodies picked by an advanced automated random computer search from the internet. No tickets were sold.

CONGRATULATIONS!!!

After this automated computer ballot, your e-mail address emerged as a winner in the category "A" with the following numbers attached RefNumber:PTK/727-GL4U/07,Batch Number: 573881545-NL/2007,Ticket Number:44278199663 and Lucky Nr:8-66-97-22-65-55. You are therefore to receive a cash prize of $1,000,000.00. (One Million United States Dollars)from the total payout CONGRATULATIONS!!!.

Your prize award has been insured with your e-mail address and will be transferred to you upon meeting our requirements, statutory obligations, verifications, validations and satisfactory report.

To file in for the processing of your prize winnings, you are advised to contact our Certified and Accredited claims agent for category "A" winners with the information below:

*************************************
Name: Mr. J Dobrowolski
Email: intremittancedpt@aim.com
phone: +31-626-164-175
Fax:+31-847-581-688
*************************************
You are advice to provide him with the following information:


Names:
Telephone/Fax number:
Nationality:
Age:
Occupation:

NOTE: All winnings must be claimed not later than 14 days, there after unclaimed funds would be included in the next stake. Remember to quote your reference information in all correspondence.You are to keep all lotto information confidential, especially your reference and ticket numbers. This is important as a case of double claims will not be entertained. Members of the affiliate agencies are automatically not allowed to participate in this program.

Furthermore, should there be any change of address do inform our agent as soon as possible. Congratulations once more from our members of staff and thank you for being part of our promotional program.

Yours Faithfully,

Susan Jones.
Lottery Coordinator.
Thank you and congratulations!!!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Forget about Valentine's Day . . .

. . . . It's random acts of kindness week.

And even better -- Tuesday is National Pancake Day. Now THAT's a holiday I can definitely get behind. Especially if it means free pancakes at IHOP.

Mmmm, pancakes.



Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sick of the Saccharine

I didn't always hate Valentine's Day. When I was younger -- even after some real crappy Valentine's Days -- I still managed to like the holiday. I have fond memories of the time my ex filled my dorm room with balloons. I even have fond memories of the time we got into a fight because he bought me a book that he wanted as a gift.

And today, I didn't start off hating the day -- despite the fact that it started with all sorts of crappy sentimental music on the radio. And I wasn't really bothered by it being all over the media. But then I started reading.

I hate how The Post used Valentine's Day as excuse to run an article about how young women are averse to love and an essay purportedly about appropriate online dating behavior, all in a "special section" that they called "Love Week."

Ick, ick, ick.

And finally, now I hate the fact that I took the silly candy heart quiz that Needtsza posted:

Your Candy Heart Says "Cutie Pie"

You always seem to have a hot date, even though you never try to meet anyone.
A total charmer, you have a natural appeal that keeps you in high demand.

Your ideal Valentine's Day date: multiple dates with multiple people

Your flirting style: 100% natural

What turns you off: serious relationship talks

Why you're hot: you're totally addicting


I'm so glad the world goes back to normal tomorrow.



Today's picture


Courtesy of The Post.



Tuesday, February 13, 2007

For your Valentine's Day amusement

The romantic, the scientific, and the cynical:

  1. Romeo and Juliet have nothing on this:



  2. You've heard it before, but now science proves it: Love really is just a chemical reaction in your brain.
    "Love is a drug," says Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University and author of "Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love." "The ventral tegmental area is a clump of cells that make dopamine, a natural stimulant, and sends it out to many brain regions" when one is in love. "It's the same region affected when you feel the rush of cocaine."


    Actually, it's two different reactions:
    Scientists then wondered: Does a brain in love look much like a sexually stimulated brain? After all, we associate love and sex and sometimes confuse them.

    The answer is: Brains in love and brains in lust don't look too much alike.

    In studies when researchers showed erotic photos to people as they underwent brain scans, they found activity in the hypothalamus and amygdala areas of the brain. The hypothalamus controls drives like hunger and thirst and the amygdala handles arousal, among other things.

    In the studies of people in love, "we didn't find activity in either," according to Dr. Fisher, an anthropologist and author of "Why We Love -- the Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love."

    "We now have physiological data that suggests there are different brain systems for sex and love," says Dr. Fisher.

    At some point, the two do become linked. People in love have elevated levels of dopamine. Lots of dopamine, in turn, triggers the production of testosterone, which is responsible for the sex drive in both men and women.

    This helps explain why falling in love can make someone all of a sudden seem sexy.


  3. And finally, an inspirational quote from The Bachelorette:
    I'd rather be happily single forever than in an unhappy relationship.

    Of course, if she really feels that way, then why she did she bother going on a dating show two dating shows?




Morocco pictures

Thanks to the weather, I got home early enough to finally finish uploading my Morocco pictures. If you're interested in such things, you can check out the slideshow here, or read about traveling to Fez and Marrakech here and here.

If not, I'll leave you with this:






Monday, February 12, 2007

School of Pepperidge Farm goldfish

I hadn't taken a food picture in a really long time, but at lunch today, I couldn't help myself:





Sunday, February 11, 2007

Grammy review

The Police were good, not great. So were the Chili Peppers and Gnarls Barkley.

The Dixie Chicks and Justin Timberlake was fantastic. But, personally, I thought that the best performance of the night was by Shakira and Wyclef Jean.

Although, I might have really liked the performance with Corinne Bailey Ray, John Legend, and John Mayer -- except for the fact that John Mayer makes a funny face when he plays. It's hard to take that seriously.

I really liked Carrie Underwood's version of Desperado.

Most importantly: I was right on half of my predictions.



The Police

I was really looking forward to this:



And heck, even though this looked a little more sedate, I was still sort-of looking forward to this:



But this scares me:


Maybe a Police reunion isn't such a great thing after all. I mean, Stewart looks so . . . old. And, if Sting insists on wearing his hair like that, someone really should punch him.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

News breaks, and I pretty much ignore it

I was planning to remain completely silent on the subject of Anna Nicole Smith -- and let everyone else talk about it ad infinitum, but then the Post ran this eloquent essay.

In the minds of most people, she was the most famous gold digger in America. . . .

***
She had gotten under our skin, and taken on a role we didn't quite realize was so big in the history of marriage, money and sex.

***

"Courtesan," which in a different age is probably what she would have been labeled (even though she was married), is a category we don't have much use for anymore. The woman who makes sexual alliances for money, who was less than a blushing bride but not so fallen as a prostitute, was once a vigorous cultural type, at least through the 19th century. Courtesans were the essential heroines of our greatest operas.

***

But the idea of the courtesan has all but disappeared, and with it much of the nuance about our analysis of sex and marriage.

***

It's difficult to believe in such a mechanistic model of marriage -- two biological entities with very different agendas, looking for the best deal they can find -- without bringing back a lot of cynicism about marriage. That cynicism is nothing new. The 19th century had a far more trenchant view of the very contractual nature of most marriages. Tolstoy, in his novella "The Kreutzer Sonata," condemned marriage wholesale, as a societally sanctioned form of sexual servitude. In "Dombey and Son," Dickens analyzed the marriage of a beautiful, accomplished, independent woman who marries (at about the last moment before she will no longer be sexually marketable) a man of great wealth and no personal charm. To the outside world it seems a brilliant marriage, an alliance of grace and beauty with wealth and power. But she has contempt not just for her husband, but for herself and the whole system of marriage. That contempt cleaves her soul.

We never really knew what motivated Anna Nicole Smith's marriage. Perhaps it wasn't so crass and calculating as it seemed from the outside. But she was clearly unhappy. Now she seems merely a sad and pathetic creature, rather like her forebears in the world of courtesans, Manon (Abbe Prevost's doomed courtesan) and Violetta (Verdi's hooker with a heart of gold) and Proust's Odette. We are at the end of the opera, the wandering woman is dead, and now the clown is the victim. Neither category really does her justice, and so the false tears and moral clucking will sound together -- a reminder that we have eliminated yet another sexual category that allowed for contradiction and ambiguity.


It goes a little too far in romanticizing the whole thing, but I thought I should at least bring it to your attention. I mean, who'd have thought her death could sound so . . . literary.



Thursday, February 08, 2007

If you're bored

. . . check out the karaoke videos. (And yes, one of them is, indeed, yours truly.)



Short People & Metro

I'm glad Metro's finally addressing the prior complaints by short people. Now if they'd only figure out a way stop the trains more carefully so that the short girls in high heels holding on to the handles don't go flying every time a train pulls into a station, they'd really be on to something.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

More on the AMT

Here's a bit from Ruth Marcus's interesting article about one of my favorite topics: The AMT:

. . . The AMT, as you may have had the misfortune of discovering, is hitting growing numbers of taxpayers who are further down the income scale. That's because (1) the level at which it takes effect isn't adjusted for inflation, so more taxpayers find themselves covered over time and (2) the Bush tax cuts lowered regular income tax rates, sweeping additional taxpayers into the alternative system.

Figures compiled by the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center demonstrate the AMT's dramatic effect. If nothing is done to fix the AMT and the Bush tax cuts are extended as he wants, 89 percent of married families with two or more children and incomes between $75,000 and $100,000 will be hit by the AMT by 2010 -- compared with less than 1 percent in 2006. By 2017, almost half of all taxpayers -- 53 million -- will owe the AMT. The tax will hit two-thirds of those making between $75,000 and $100,000 and 90 percent of those making $100,000 or more.

Looked at another way, what the Bush tax cuts give to taxpayers, the AMT grabs back. By 2012, if it isn't changed, the AMT would take back almost one-third of the Bush tax cuts. As the accompanying chart shows, it would take back more than half of the tax cut for people making between $100,000 and $200,000.

In fact, in an irony that only a tax geek could love, the AMT has been transformed from its original purpose, a means of assuring that the wealthiest pay at least some taxes, into a way of underwriting tax cuts for the wealthiest. Because the AMT hits fewer of those with the highest incomes, the rather comfortable end up subsidizing Bush's tax cuts for the super-rich. . . .




Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Zen? Crazy? Maybe both.

I've been sort-of joking for weeks that I'm becoming the new Zen Dara. It's sort-of a joke, because anyone that knows me knows that I am so not Zen. Still, despite 31 years of being a certain way, I'm making a conscious effort to be more relaxed, more grateful, and -- most importantly -- less stressed.

In other words, I'm trying to not let things get to me.

For the record: It's not easy.

I have to say, though, I think it's working a little. I mean, last week I heard some news that would have ordinarily sent me into a complete tailspin, wondering about how my life has gotten so off track from what I had always planned for myself, and how I thought I wanted things to be -- and stressing out over how to fix it. Instead, on the most part, I find myself not really caring, and instead being thankful for the choices that I did make -- which have led me to where I am now -- which is pretty good.

I'm starting to scare myself. Perhaps enlightenment isn't that far off.



Monday, February 05, 2007

The first step is admitting you have a problem

In some cultures, giving birth inside a casino might be considered a sign of a gambling problem:

A woman playing the penny slots Saturday morning left the Resorts Atlantic City casino with her own little jackpot - a new baby boy.
***
Thompson said she mistook labor pains for gas at first, but after going to the restroom told a security guard that she might be giving birth.


In Atlantic City, however, it's a step in the right direction:

Callender, who has worked at Resorts since it opened in 1978, said the birth was a first for the casino as far as he knew. "We've had people die here," he said, "but we've never had people born here."




Cool link

I found this link on Mad's site and thought it was cool.

Check it out.



Friday, February 02, 2007

Important milestones

Not only is it Groundhog Day -- and a Friday! -- but today is the blog's first birthday.

Singing is not necessary, but presents are always appreciated.

And for the record, today is also the first time I ever had a court appearance in a jurisdiction in which I am a member of the bar. (Yes, you read that right.)




Thursday, February 01, 2007

And, speaking of free time . . .

. . . has anyone else seen this yet?



Time on my hands

Over the past year or so, I had completely forgotten that most people get out of work at a reasonable hour and then -- here's the important part -- go do other things.

It's like Daylight Savings Time, only without all of the controversy.