The most magical place on Earth, my ass... the straight to video sequel*

"Excuse me, ma'am."

Surely they aren't ma'aming my friend K____. I mean, K____ is older than me, but she looks seriously young. Of course, this means, I'm going to get sir'ed in the near future.

"Yes. Ma'am. Wrapped packages aren't allowed in to the Wedding Pavilion or the parks."

"Uh...this is a wedding gift. You know. For the wedding."

"Yes. Well, someone will have to take that for you. Security and all." And just when I think, finally, a Fucking Mouse employee is going to do something useful (even if it is in the name of security), one of the bridesmaids comes up to us to take the gift. "Just give the package to her."

You're shitting me. Fucking Mouse.

One of the ushers comes up to K____ and I and takes K____'s arm to escort us into the Wedding Pavilion. The Pavilion really is quite nice. Beautiful high ceilings. Nice architecture. And glass windows at the front looking out over the water separating us from Epcot and that fucked up ball. But we're far enough away that you really can't see the park and there's no sign of the Mouse anywhere.

As we get to our seats, K___ and I must have been thinking the same thing, because we both stopped and looked at each other. Then K____ said to me, "So, you think they can pack in the benches a little tighter?"


The benches could not have been five inches from the back of one bench to the front of the bench behind it. Doing out best impression of sardines, K____ and I sucked in and wedged ourselves into our seats.

When the ceremony began, K___ and I were still sitting at attention (as it was the only way we could sit in the pews), but could not help but go into catty-mode. While the navy blue bridesmaid's dresses were actually nice, it became clear that there was no uniform "dress code" for bridesmaid shoes. When the youngest bridesmaid pulled up her skirt slightly to roll the white carpet down the aisle for the bride, not only was it apparent she was wearing open-toed, platform-soled sandals that were too small for her feet, but that she hadn't considered get a pedicure to get rid of the green nail polish on her toes (which, of course, didn't match her finger nails).

The bride, however, looked fantastic. And the groom looked good as well. After everyone made it to the end of the aisle, the ceremony began. The reverend welcomed us all, opened his book, and then something became apparent to everyone in the room. Well, if not everyone, certainly to K___ and I, who turned to each other with the same "what-the-fuck" look.

The reverend hadn't looked over the service before he started.

Now, I'm well aware of the fact that a lot of people can read something aloud just fine without having read it beforehand. And, hell, I certainly expect that a reverend, particularly one like this who has a few years on him, has probably conducted a wedding or two before. So, there are circumstances where reviewing something you read before a gathering of people isn't necessary before you actually do it.

This wasn't one of those situations.

The reverend stuttered and stammered through the entire service, often mispronouncing any polysyllabic word. Of course, these were complex words that never appear in a wedding ceremony, like "matrimony" and "dedication." It was so painful to watch, I was tempted to get up, yell at him to shut the fuck up and sit down and take over the ceremony myself.

Eventually, the reverend went off script, proving that he wasn't actually retarded, to discuss how he had come to know the bride and groom, how close he had grown to them, and how they had become like family to him. Of course, when he went back to reading, the stuttering and stammering began anew. Finally, as though the Lord had taken mercy upon us, he stated, "You may kiss the bride."

The groom leaned in, and almost like it were scripted, fireworks began shooting off across the water in Epcot, right behind them. As I learned later, the firework show had been early and, although paying to have fireworks in the background is certainly an option (isn't everything with the Fucking Mouse), this show purely was coincidental.

The reverend, not to have his incompetence outdone by a mere fireworks show, then announced, "ladies and Gentlemen, I now introduce for the first time, F____ and D____ D____!"

One problem.

The groom's name wasn't F____.

The bride owns a dog named F____.

But the groom...not F___.

The groom, who now had a look of panic on his face as if he were thinking, "Is this thing legal if they guy said the wrong name?," attempted to lean toward the reverend to have him correct the mistake. The reverend though, apparently so taken up with emotion by having married two young people who are like his family (whose names he may also not be able to remember), simply shooed the couple down the aisle.

And even if the reverend could have corrected it, it was too late, the music was blaring, streamers were falling.

Then, just as I had forgotten that I was at a Fucking Mouse wedding, once the bride and misnamed groom were out the door, , one of the Fucking Mouse employees yells out, "Everyone please proceed to the buses! You cannot take your cars to the reception! Buses will return you to the Wedding Pavilion after the reception!"

Nice. Good way to keep the mood.

Couldn't that have been included in the program or softly mentioned to guests as they left the ceremony?

Fucking Mouse.

After getting a crowbar and wedging ourselves out of the pews, everyone proceeded outside and, at the direction of the bridesmaids, stood by the limousine to greet the bride and groom as they left for the reception. Then the Fucking Mouse employees came over to the limousine and shouted, "There's no greeting the bride and groom. You all need to get on the buses."

Patented Fucking Mouse.

As it turns out, the Fucking Mouse employees were wrong. The guests were supposed to greet the couple as they left.

Nevertheless, K___ and I piled into the buses with the rest of the guests and took a lovely trip through the bowels of the Fucking Mouse property where we had majestic views of multiple port-a-potties to a "behind-the-scenes" entrance to Epcot's Hall of the Americas.

Along the way, K___ and I bet on whether the Fucking Mouse would serve real alcohol. I guessed they wouldn't, being too concerned about their image. K___ thought they would, but that the Fucking Mouse would insist on a cash bar at exorbitant Fucking Mouse prices.

As we got off the buses, we were directed into the park by Fucking Mouse employees waving lighted flashlight cones used by airport traffic controllers. As we walked into the park in our formal attire, Fucking Mouse guests looked at us like we were insane.

These are the same people who paid $120 a ticket to get into this place for the day.

Yeah. We're insane.

We walked by a group of vendors and I couldn't help myself but turn to K____ and ask, "Dare me to buy a turkey leg?"

When we entered the reception, K___ and I were both exceedingly thankful we were both wrong and there was an open bar. Granted, the bartender diluted the alcohol more then he should of, but there was an open bar nonetheless.

So, K___ and I made a b-line for the bar, followed by a trip to the ever popular hors d'oeuvres table. Figuring that we would let the older guests take the tables with seats, K___ and I went to a "stand-up" table. Soon enough we were making small chat with people we really didn't want to talk to, an older man and his wife, who by the size of her hat apparently thought the reception was at the Kentucky Derby. As they were telling us about their vacation, I began looking at the four very full plates of appetizer they had between them. I kept thinking to myself a) you know that you can always go back and get more, don't you, and b) we are still having dinner at some point, right? Maybe the lady needed the extra energy to keep her head up with that hat on.

After suffering through the exceedingly painful conversation, I saw that both K___ and my drinks were getting low. When I returned from refilling them, the other two guests were gone and I was the recipient of quite a nasty gaze.

"I can't believe you left me alone with them."

"Oh. Sorry, but after listening to that I really needed a drink."

"Don't do it again. Seriously."


At dinner we sat with some more "interesting" people. There was also a bridesmaid who wore more makeup than Tammy Faye Baker and Katherine Harris combined, with her companion (who I believe she introduced as her "fiancee"). However, K___ and I couldn't tell the companion's sex, so we nicknamed it "Pat." And Pat wasn't exactly the most attentive fiancee. When Tammy Faye mentioned she was cold, Pat just responded, "Oh yeah?" After watching this ordeal, I asked K___ if it would be too obnoxious if I gave Tammy Faye my jacket. K___ said, "While I would like to see that, probably better if you don't." It wasn't until Tammy Faye explicitly requested Pat's jacket that s/he bothered to give it to her. Apparently chivalry among the androgynous is dead.

K___ and I spent much of the evening on the dance floor. We also spent some time with the newly married couple, where I introduced myself to "F____." And then we were ready to make it an evening, so we thanked the parents for having us and congratulated the new bride and groom.

We left the reception, only to be stopped by a Fucking Mouse employee.

"Excuse me, sir..."

See, I knew that "sir" was coming.

"Sir, you can't leave."

Marcel, in his Fucking Mouse uniform, was rushing toward us.

"Excuse me?"

"Well, sir, the buses are going to leave in a little more than a half an hour and the park is closed, so we can't let you leave without an escort."

I have a feeling that "escort" isn't the good kind, the kind with a name like "Bubbles" or "Candi."
"How long will it take to get an escort?"

"A little more than a half hour."

Fucking figures.

"So, we have to sit here and wait for a half hour before we can leave?"

"Yes sir."


Then Marcel plops a nice crap cherry on top of his shit sundae.

"Thanks sir. And have a magical evening."

Fuck you too, Marcel.

So, K___ and I wait, falling asleep, for forty-five minutes before we can leave the wedding. Finally, the bride and groom leave and we return to the bowels of the park and get on our buses. After a tour around the "resorts," where K___ passed the time by napping and I passed the time by flirting with a cute girl, we are finally returned to the "Pop Century" and again walked halfway through the property to get back to our room.

After chanting "Fucking Mouse" a few more times, K___ decided to dare me to have a little fun with the Fucking Mouse employees at 1 am. And that's a dare I just can't pass up.

"Front desk."

"Hi. Um...I just got back to my room and...um...have been looking everywhere...and um...I can't seem to find my minibar. Is it under the bed or something?"


"Uh...no sir. [pause] You don't have a minibar in your room."

"Are you sure? I mean, I'm really starting to lose my buzz."


"Yes sir. I'm sure."

"Shit. Okay. Thanks."

"Have a magical..." [click]

"So K____, dare me to call back and ask what the pay-per-view porn channel is?"

*This title makes reference to the fact that the Fucking Mouse releases a straight to video sequel to every animated film it makes, whether successful or not. Yet another effort to suck dry parents who have no choice but to appease their children by buying them everything with a Fucking Mouse logo.


We interrupt this regularly scheduled post for a news bulletin

See. Told you so. The cab thing is true too.

And, to demonstrate the accuracy of the rest of that post, this was posted on PostSecret this week:

(back of card) "I work at Disney World. I always act really super-nice but in my head , when a guest is being annoying, I imagine myself SMASHING THEIR FACE IN!!"

Fucking Mouse, indeed.

I plan to post part two soon...


The most magical place on Earth, my ass... a tragedy in two parts

The other week, I went to a wedding in Orlando. While with some exceptions, weddings are usually not much to write about, this one was different. It was at Walt Disney World. While when I was younger, I always looked forward to going to Disney World, as I have matured I have come to discover Disney for what it truly is: a marketing and capitalistic scheme gone awry where image is given dominance over substance in an effort to create a demand in children to get their parents to fork over large amounts of money for a quasi-"magical" experience. So, I guess you could say, I'm not exactly a fan of the Fucking Mouse.

I picked up a friend on my way to Orlando and she, who also hates the Fucking Mouse, and I were off to the world of the commercialized Tinkerbell. Because the wedding was an evening wedding we stayed on Disney property and, since I didn't realize we were actually staying on Disney property, I did not make suggestions of which hotel to stay in, such as the stunning Grand Floridian or the luxurious Yacht Club. Rather, my friend made reservations at one of the hotels the bride's mother had suggested, the Pop Century Resort.

After an almost unsuccessful attempt to find the "resort," (which is never a good sign) we finally drove into the parking lot of the hotel which a friend later described to me as the "Motel 6 of Disney property." I personally think that description fails to give Motel 6 the respect it deserves. Nevertheless, as we drove up we were greeted with a series of five large buildings, each with huge illuminated "architecture." Additionally, each building had phrases on the top such as "Groovy" or "Don't have a cow man!" Upon discovering the outside of the main lobby building, I realized that the "Pop Century" meant each building had a different decade theme, so the "architecture" I saw were enormous "Rubik's cubes" for the 80's and giant "cell phones" for the 90's (complete with Disney's main number on the cell phone screen.) The phrases on the top of the building were sayings that found their origin in the particular decade. My friend and I looked at each other and said, almost in unison, "I fucking hate the Fucking Mouse."

Oh yes. I was in the most magical hell on the face of the Earth.

Because of holiday weekend traffic, my friend and I were in a bit of a rush to get changed and get to the Fucking Mouse Wedding Pavilion. So we make our way into the Fucking Mouse Pop Century lobby with a desire to get to our room as quickly as possible. We rush to the registration and get in the line. Of course, in Fucking Mouse fashion, there's a 90-foot empty maze to get to the part of the line that matters and, I must admit I was surprised (and even commented to my friend) that the line didn't include signs that said, "15 minute wait from this point."

And that's when I first discovered that the Fucking Mouse is about as efficient as chewing your way through a lead pipe.

Although we have only two people in front of us, we waited over twenty-five minutes for someone to help up. In true Fucking Mouse efficiency, although there were seven employees behind the registration counter, only three were actually registering guests. And I use the phrase "registering guests" in a rather loose sense of the term. One of the Fucking Mouse employees was chatting with the guest and dancing to the disco music that was causing my ears to rupture and bleed. Another was showing a guest where different places were on a Disney property map (how about directing that to the Concierge who doesn't have anyone in line?!?!). While I can't be sure, I think the third employee was picking her nose and showing it to a guest, claiming it was going to magically grow into a carriage to take her to the royal ball.

Fucking Mouse.

We finally get to the registration desk and my friend says, "We want to be the fastest registration you've had all day!" Yeah, right. Like that's a real accomplishment with Speedy Gonzalez over here. "Here's the credit card, here's the reservation number." Move Fucking Mouse boy, move! To his credit, he did actually attempt to check us in quicker than the people before us. But then, despite the fact that the line actually grew in the twenty-five minutes we were in it, Fucking Mouse employee number two (dancing boy) actually stops checking in people to talk to us! First of all, we really had no desire to talk to another Fucking Mouse employee. These people are Stepford Wife freakish enough. Second, uh dipshit, don't you have something more important to do than talk with us, like clear the line growing behind us by the minute?

My friend and I finally make our way to our room, which has to be one on the edge of the "resort" and we undertake a mad dash to get there so we can change for the wedding. After having a personal freak-out session when we thought the Fucking Mouse employee failed to properly scan our cards, we tried a few more times to open the door and eventually successfully made our way into our room. Besides the truly horrid decor, Fucking Mouse commercialism couldn't even escape the room. Smack dab in the middle of the room was a framed Fucking Mouse poster.

I quickly changed into my suit and, while I was waiting for my friend to change, I turned on the television and sorted through the Fucking Mouse-Viacom owned stations. At least they own ESPN. As I always do, I then began to search around the room for little things like the mini-bar. Yeah. Right. Not in this craphole.

My friend then called the front desk for directions to the Fucking Mouse Wedding Pavilion, which, by the way, we were due at in around forty-five minutes. She and the Fucking Mouse employees had the following conversation:

"Hi. I need to get to the Disney Wedding Pavilion pretty quickly. How do I get there?"

"Go to the front of the resort. Take a bus to the Magic Kingdom. When you get to the Magic Kingdom, get on the monorail. Take that to the Wedding Pavilion area. Then walk a mile and a half to the pavilion and you're there."

"Uh...that seems like a long way. How long will that take?"

"The estimated time is about an hour and a half to an hour and forty-five minutes."

"Like I said, we need to be there sooner than that. Is there anything quicker?"

"Well, that's the directions."


"Thanks for calling the front desk and have a magical evening!"

Have a magical evening. Seriously, take that magical phrase and substitute "Go fuck yourself." That's what these Fucking Mouse employees are really thinking.

It was then that I suggested we call a cab so if our plan to get considerably inebriated comes to fruition, neither my friend nor I have to drive back to the "resort." After all, nothing spoils a trip to the Fucking Mouse than going to Fucking Mouse jail.

My friend responded, "Fine. You call."

"Hi. I have to get to the Wedding Pavilion. Quickly. And the directions we were given won't get us there in time. Can you call me a cab?"

"Hold on sir. I'll connect you with a taxi company."

They won't call the cab for you? Even the Miami International Airport calls the cab for you and there people shoot at you. What a fucking joke.

"Thanks for calling the front desk and have a magical evening."

Yeah, go fuck yourself too.

"Yeah. This is [such and such] cab company."

It was then that I was able to explain that I needed a taxi and where I was going. Of course, in order to get the taxi, we (including my friend in high heels) had to walk all the way back to the lobby from our remote room. And while I adore my friend, her decision not to send her rather large and fragile gift ahead of time wasn't exactly her most brilliant moment. Less than ten minutes later and after some chatting with the taxi driver (a skill I developed in D.C.), we were at the Fucking Mouse Wedding Pavilion.

Hour and a half my ass.


Only the good...

When people, particularly college students, find out what I do for a living, I usually receive a series of questions about law school. Every once in a while, I'll get a question about One L or The Paper Chase. "Is law school really like that? Is it that cut throat?"

For me, the answer was no.

That's not to say that many people didn't find their law school experience to be exceedingly competitive or that if I had started in the class before mine or in the class after mine, that I wouldn't feel the same way. But that just wasn't my experience. For the most part, there was a sense of collegiality and mutual respect that permeated my section. And I firmly believe that the reason my section had this sense of collegiality was because of the people in it.

The top of my class set the standard. The top two graduates in my class were so nice that you couldn't feel bad that they just kicked your ass all over the classroom. And there were the friends with whom I spent most of my time. We relied on each other when we were frustrated and congratulated each other when we succeeded.

And then, there was Dan. Dan was unique. Dan was the guy in my section who always made things better. When I was called on in class and thought I made a complete idiot of myself, Dan was the guy who would come up to me and say, "You made some good points. Good job." When I was so stressed I could feel beads of stress dripping from my head, Dan was the guy who would say, "Hey man, relax. You're a smart guy. You've got this." When I was so concerned about the difference between a C+ and a B I couldn't see straight, Dan was the guy who would remind me, that grades were important, but not as important as being a good person.

Dan always seemed to have perspective. It didn't matter if we just suffered the worst academic hazing in our lives, Dan had a smile on his face. In three years of law school, I don't think I ever saw Dan without a smile. Dan was the first guy to crack a joke. Dan was the guy who, if you looked a little (or a lot) unhappy, he would sit down next to you, put his hand on your back and tell you that it was all going to work out. In three years of constant self-doubt, Dan always let you know that you were important, wanted, appreciated.

And Dan was one of those perfect guys. He had it all. He was good-looking, wicked smart, funny, charismatic, compassionate, and so many other adjectives that even if I could list, wouldn't even begin to do him justice.

Simply, Dan was the kind of guy that you'd hate if you didn't like him so damn much.

There's a Yiddish word to describe someone like Dan. Mensch.

Like many people in law school, once Dan and I walked the stage at graduation, we didn't really keep in touch. I think we anticipated the usual. That we would run into each other later in our careers or at our alma mater's football games and we'd laugh about old times, catch up and tell our legal war stories. But that didn't happen.

Earlier this week, I received an email from an old friend from law school.

Unbenownst to me, on December 23, 2004, Dan was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia called AML or Acute Mylogenous Leukemia. Over the past year, Dan had been struggling with this disease. Dan was in hospitals from Miami Beach to Seattle. Dan underwent radiation therapy and received an engraftment of his sister's blood cells to hopefully fight his own cancerous blood cells and send his cancer into remission. And through it all, from what I was able to tell from his website, Dan kept that picturesque, patented smile that I remember perfectly from law school.

In August 2005, things apparently looked better for Dan. His website indicates that his cancer went into remission. But, unfortunately for all of us, that didn't last long.

At 1:40 p.m. on November 5, 2005, Dan lost his struggle with AML. And on November 8, 2005, at almost the exact time I learned all of this, Dan was being laid to rest.

If I could talk to Dan, I'd tell him that I'm so sorry I didn't know. That I'm sorry I didn't call or send an email or ask friends who may have known what was happening to him. That I'm sorry I didn't have the opportunity to see him and smile or crack a joke or pat him on the back and comfort him. That I wish I would have taken time from the trivial things I dealt with on a daily basis and been there for him.

Of course, I know exactly what Dan would say. "No problem buddy."

Like I said, Dan was unique. I will miss him dearly.

And, even though it was only for a short period of time, I am a better person for having known him.

I've included some pictures of Dan below from his website:


The road less traveled by...

I know I've been gone for a while, but I have a feeling this post will more than make up for lost time for the quantity perspective. I don't make any promises about quality. Oh yeah, it will probably also explain where I've been...

I believe in destiny. I also believe in free will. How can I believe in these two seemingly contradictory principles? Well, it goes a little like this. I believe each of us have things we were meant to do, things that fulfill us and make us genuinely, truly happy. But I also think we have the freedom to choose those things or other, sometimes seemingly better, alternatives. When we choose an alternative, we have turned away from our destiny and picked an option that will make us unhappy, no matter how hard we try.

For example, I believe that each of us has someone that is our destiny. And when someone meets his or her destiny, spending the rest of life in love is, in a word, easy...or at least easier. So, why do around half of marriages end in divorce? Because people choose the wrong person. They take the wrong path. They either have jumped the gun and married someone who isn't their destiny or they just let them out of their lives and ignored destiny when it looked them in the face. Free will overrode destiny, so no matter how hard they tried, their relationship simply was not going to succeed.

Which brings me to my point. I've been thinking lately about my path in life. In fact, I've been thinking about it a lot. When I wake up, when I come home from work, when I get ready for bed (which is disturbingly close to when I come home from work). And recently, I've come to have doubts. A lot of them.

When I was a young, my parents' friends would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I would answer immediately. "I want to be a paleontologist." The response was almost standard. First, the adult would say how impressed they were that I knew such a big word and then inevitably ask, "What's a paleontologist?" My response, which was just as standard, was, "A scientist that studies dinosaurs." Then I would inevitably get the condescending, "Oh..."

My parents, however, were never surprised by my bookwormish pre-adolescent career choice. They always emphasized their love of books, knowledge, and self-improvement. And I think they also expected I wouldn't want to be a cowboy or fireman after I said my first words to my grandmother at six months and read them one of my bedtime stories when I was one.

Nevertheless, I always retained my love of all things scientific, but it, like me, evolved. While I continued to enjoy the physical sciences (and, as you will learn, social sciences), I became distracted by other things. In elementary and middle school, I fell into drama. I was quite outgoing when I was little. It was a function of moving around the country every two to five years. I learned, quickly, that other kids didn't introduce themselves to the new kid, so I took it upon myself to let people know who I was. Believe it or not, being outgoing, sometimes exceptionally so, would not only attract friends, but often kept bullies at bay.

But drama seemed to find me. One of my parents friends was an agent and, after indicating to my parents that she would like to get me work, she began to find me jobs. For a kid, there's nothing better than an acting job. You get out of school of the day, eat free food, stand were someone tells you to, smile, say some stuff that you don't always understand but have memorized, and get more money then you could ever conceive of. Granted, two to four hundred dollars isn't a lot now, but then, geez, that was a fortune.

When I moved to California, once again, I fell back into drama. I went to one of the main drama feeder schools into the Hollywood actor pipeline, a magnet program in a less than totally desirable area of Los Angeles. I took drama courses because...well...they were fun. Again, I got to get on a stage, be someone else for a little while, say some stuff I memorized, and classmates or an audience would clap. It's a lot better than taking some other electives where I would just sit at a desk all the time.

I wasn't the best student in California. I wasn't bad, I just wasn't good at what I wasn't interested in because I...well...wasn't interested. But in fifth grade, I had a teacher that changed that. While Mr. Johnson deserves a post all to his own, I will say briefly that he had a profound impact on me in an subject I never thought I was good at. And although I didn't know it, on parent-teacher night, Mr. Johnson informed my mother and father that I had scored higher on the required standardized math exam than any of the other twenty-five kids in my class. My parents, bewildered, responded with, "Are you sure that was him?"

That's when I learned I was actually good at math.

But eventually, I left California, albeit as a much better math student, and, at the ripe old age of twelve, I realized that leaving California really meant leaving drama behind. I still did some things in theatre. I took chorus classes in middle school, since in addition to acting I was also into singing both in California and many years before. But I quickly learned, in my new school, chorus classes were really for the kids that didn't want to do anything for an hour. And, shocked by the considerably more restrictive life my new school offered to its students than the one to which I had become accustomed, I became disenchanted and kept more to myself than I had in the past. But something strange happened. I began paying attention in my classes. And for some strange reason, I found the tests easy. Hey, how hard is an exam when you actually know the information you're being asked? Without studying, I started coming home with all or almost all A's. Once that happens, I couldn't let it slide. Now there's a bar. I began to expect it from myself.

So here I was. In seventh grade. High personal academic expectations, drama skills I wanted to retain and continue to develop, and beginning to think about what the hell I wanted to do for the rest of my life. That's when I started thinking about the law.

But what does a middle school student know about the law? I know what I saw on LA Law and on Night Court. They both looked like fun. You get to stand up, talk, and even resolve some problems. I knew you had to go to school for a while to be a lawyer, but I liked school now, so that's wasn't a problem.

Then I started looking for something to do that would get me ready for law. I learned that to be a lawyer, you have to be good at arguing, so I got into debate. However, my love of drama kept me into the speech side of "speech and debate," rather than the nitty-gritty, research-heavy, flow-sheet-crazy, argue-until-you're-blue-in-the-face debate side of "speech and debate." Oh yeah...and the girls in the speech events were much cuter.

When I got to college, I immediately sought out speech. My university had a speech and debate program that offered me the opportunity to compete in a way I had never before and, in time, my new team became my family away from my family. And even to this day, my coach remains my other mother. But, I spent nearly every weekend with my team, whether it was competing or partying on a bye week. But speech and communication (because, of course, I picked a major I thought would benefit me in law school) introduced me to a new love: Rhetoric.

Rhetoric was incredible. It had great thoughts from great minds and so much of it started with Aristotle. How cool is that? It's got to be cool if it's based on Aristotle! In this new and exciting world of rhetoric, I looked at communication events and determine why they were successful or unsuccessful by looking at communication models and offered my own thoughts and opinions on why the communication events successfully or unsuccessfully met the models and produced an expected or unexpected result. And every once in a while, I would suggest improvements to the communication models as well.

Yeah, I loved it. But I had planned to go to law school and, while I loved rhetoric, it was only a step in the chain to being an attorney.

And, after a major and a thesis in the subject, I said goodbye to rhetoric when I left undergrad. After all, thanks to my interest in rhetoric and my strict attention to my other college grades, I had law school in front of me. And I was elated with law school. Because I loved it.

In law school, I discovered the rules that made everything work. Suddenly, phrases I thought I understood, like "corporation" or "option" or "property" or "contract" or "crime" or "enumerated powers" had different meanings. I learned this amazing and wonderful historical process by which we have govered ourselves. And I can still remember the day in law school when I had the epiphany that these grandiose governmental institutions, Congress, the President, the Judiciary, the State Legislatures, the Governor, are all really the same thing: People. People who, despite their many differences, are all committed to the same values. Freedom. Justice. The Rule of Law. And I realized that these words, concepts I simply accepted my entire life, were both newly mysterious and exceedingly precious. They offer so much and can be lost so quickly. To hear someone say that is one thing. To truly, actually, realize it for yourself....well, that's another.

But when I left law school, I began to realize that the beautiful, raw, unadulterated body of law that I loved in law school was gone. I was dealing with problems, lots of them. And no one cared about these grandiose legal concepts that I had loved to discuss with my classmates in law school. People only cared about a legal concept if that concept got them to where they wanted to be. And the development of the law wasn't a concern, it was an argument to give to a judge for the benefit of a client paying in six-minute increments. I discovered, in practice, the law was something entirely different.

So, I've been trying to learn how to practice this profession and trying to determine if I enjoy it. So far, I can't say I do. I don't like the gamesmanship, the emphasis on speed rather than thoughtful deliberation, the information overload, and the lies. Especially the lies. The lies are a spit-in-the-face of the honorable profession that I signed up for. Add that to the fact that even in public practice, "the law is a jealous mistress" and, yeah, I've got doubts. In fact, I think, right now, doubts are about all I have. Well, doubts and stress.

I thought moving to the public sector would give me a little more time, but it hasn't. I'm working the same hours and sometimes more hours...ten to eleven a day, and most weekends. But the stakes are higher and the salary is lower. And I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss my blog.

But above all, I wonder. I wonder if the first answer was the right answer and my childhood love of dinosaurs would have been a source of lifelong fulfillment. I wonder if my affinity for math was a guide to a profession I gave short shrift. I wonder if I should have gone for a Ph.D. in Rhetoric. I wonder if I should have looked for other passions that I may not have recognized before. I wonder if I put something into my head in seventh grade and ignored anything that may have told me different. But most of all, I wonder whether I let my free will turn me away from my destiny. Whatever that destiny may be.


Good help is so hard to find...

Ms. Patricia Harrison
President and CEO
Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Dear Ms. Harrison:

As you know, in today's political environment, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has come under fire. PBS has been criticized as unfair and lacking balance, typically by conservatives. Indeed, this past year has seen efforts to eliminate funding for PBS as a result of the content of its broadcasting. However, a bipartisan response ensured that PBS will continue to offer quality investigative programming, excellent documentaries, and insightful news programming.

I have been a loyal PBS viewer for some time. I often tell friends about the variety of programs I enjoy on PBS. From the intellectual diversity of Nova, to the varying perspectives of POV, to the thorough investigative reporting of Frontline, I remain a dedicated PBS viewer. And when I hear criticism of how television serves no purpose other than instant communication of news, I cite PBS as evidence of how wrong that criticism is.

It is with this background that I ask you about the following. This evening, I sat down to watch what I hoped would be an interesting documentary program, Elusive Peace, a two-and-a-half hour analysis of the Middle East peace process. After the first forty-five minutes drew me into the program (although I would point out some factual omissions in the program, but we'll save that letter for another day), your PBS station interrupted the program and put on an episode of Antiques Roadshow already in progress. Do you have any idea how mentally scaring it is to instantly go from shuttle diplomacy to the price of an 18th century highboy?

Being the second time this problem has occurred, I felt the need to inform you of it. Don't get me wrong, I realize that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is on a limited governmentally supplemented budget, but I must ask, how hard is it to find someone who can put the tape into the machine and press "play" while also looking at a monitor to make sure they are not interrupting another program? When I was in elementary school, there was a kid who ate glue while operating a projector. If you would like his name, I think he might still be available.

So, Ms. Harrison, it is hard enough for PBS to gain viewership. Please don't dissuade more people from tuning in. By the grace of all that is Jim Leher, please, please, please encourage your stations to hire A/V people who know what they are doing.


Blundering American


And by popular (okay, singular) demand...

A good friend and blog mentor (what exactly is that? blogentor? mentog?) aptly recognized here that blogs are like peep shows. You get to see a little story of someone else's life. However, while the writer often reveals thoughts and experiences that he or she may not tell people personally, they often retain the story in its entirety for themselves. Until I began this little endeavor, I don't think I recognized the truth behind that observation. Now I do.

After I posted this, my friend, S____, commented about the "Dentistry Wedding." Evidently, one reason was because he was able to break the not-so-subtle-first-letter code of names and determine about whom I was writing. He then asked me for more stories from that evening and, I must admit, there were plenty. Typically, I probably would resist the temptation to revisit an event for a number of reasons, but in this case I tend to agree with S___. There were some other experiences that are worth mentioning, such as:

-When I was walking from the ceremony to the elevator to go to the cocktail party, two dentists behind me began discussing how easy it was to fleece the system that I prosecute people for fleecing. After they both all-but-admitted to criminal activity, I turned around, introduced myself using my official title and suggested that they may want to discuss their fraudulent activities in a somewhat more private environment. They introduced themselves and Jon Smith and Joe Smith and promptly excused themselves. I was tempted to ask for their professional identification numbers, but that would have been so unsporting.

-At the cocktail party, S___ tried to convince me that, despite the copious amounts of alcohol that he had consumed, he "reeeaaalllyyy wuuzznn'tt thaaaat drrruunnkk" because his stupor was psychologically induced.

-S___ then attempted to further justify his inebriated state by pointing out how his wife, M____, had been "ssssooooo" drunk at B___ and J____'s wedding that she engaged in a tear-included chorus of That's What Friends Are For the weekend before. When I asked if M____ took the microphone to ensure that she was heard by all who attended the wedding, M____ assured me she had not. S____ later indicated that, it wouldn't have mattered because, microphone or not, everyone at the wedding saw M____'s drunken accompaniment of Dionne Warwick. Perhaps a call to Dionne and her Psychic Friends Network could have avoided that scene (I was tempted to provide a link, but just couldn't justify it to myself).

-When I indicated to S___ that his wife's previous drunken state did not explain his, S___ indicated that he only drinks like this when he is at a wedding. I then asked the all-important question, "And how many weddings have you been to lately?" S____'s response, "About one each week."

-I spent time on the dance floor with H___ and R____ who thoroughly impressed me with their ability to cut a rug on the dance floor. Recognizing my surprise, A___ told me I shouldn't be too impressed, because when H___ and R____ were engaged to be married, they took dance lessons so that people would have my exact reaction. Even with that caveat, I was still impressed.

-I was also impressed that one of my friends hit the dance floor, because I had never seen him do so. When he got onto the dance floor, I finally understood why.

-After refusing to take part in picking the bride up on a chair during the Hora for fear of dropping her, I watched as four other guys tried to pick her up, only to drop her. Who knew that a dentist would have such catlike reflexes in a wedding gown?

-Newlywed, J____, proposed to me because her new husband, B____, could not be found at the time. Apparently, she thought I was the best of what was available. In case you're wondering, the room was pretty much empty at that point.

-Witnessing (although, thankfully, not directly) the groom's brother taking a bubble bath in the post-wedding hospitality suite.

Of course, there were other events as well, but may of them would require a painfully detailed introduction about how many of my friends and I were politicos at our alma mater. Recognizing how excruciating non-politicos find that type of discussion, I'll just leave those stories out and spare you from a detailed rendition of university politics.

There was one other story that doesn't require such background information. One that I initially hesitated to write. But in considering exactly how to approach this post, I figured the catharsis would be worthwhile.

My friend, A____, has taken it upon herself as a personal mission to find me a girlfriend. However, recognizing the importance of finding someone of a similar background, A____ has been searching for a girl that she has dubbed as "100% Kosher." I'm not exactly getting fantastic results on my own, so I've become a willing participant in this little endeavor of A___ playing shadchen (Yiddish, transl. "matchmaker").

Some time ago, A____ suggested that I meet her friend, C___. (No. C___ is not C___ from this post.) After A___ has talked C___ up for some time, I ended up meeting her on my own. I approached her, we talked a bit on a few occasions, and eventually I asked if she wanted to grab lunch sometime. C___ was visibly taken aback (which even I recognize is a bad sign), but gave me her email address. I emailed. She tersely responded. I replied. She responded again. But what was lacking in these messages was any reciprocal interest.

Let me explain what I mean by that statement. I don't expect women to throw themselves at me (although, I must admit, the thought has some appeal). It's just not the way the little dance works. However, I have come to expect that if someone is interested in knowing something about me that when I ask that person questions about themselves, they answer and then ask some questions about me. When someone only answers my questions, but asks me nothing in return, I take it as, "Thanks for coming on the show. We have some lovely consolation prizes."

Well, that was the situation here. I got the message. Loud and clear. And I never pursued anything further. I'd always attempt to be polite though. Say hello. Talk to C___ when no one else was. But I'd be lying if I didn't say that the situation was a little embarrassing for me. And running into C___ wasn't exactly something I looked forward to for that reason.

After I invited A___ to the dentist wedding, she told me how excited she was to see C___, who would also be in attendance. I, however, was less than thrilled.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against C___ at all. And it's not like I haven't been rejected before. I mean, please, I've gotten to the point that I admire the technique. But for some reason, since I approached C___ it has been awkward and, well, as much as I hate this word in this circumstance, weird. I have an inability to speak to her and, even when I do, she's, whether intentionally or not, rather cold with me. Ultimately, I've resigned myself to "It is what it is."

When we arrived at the wedding cocktail party and reception, it was what it was. As expected, I told C___ "hello," to receive a "hi" in return. While I pretty much knew the program, the limited efforts that I took to strike up any conversation went unreciprocated. So, in that regard, the evening was pretty much status quo.

The reason this whole little ordeal bothers me though, really doesn't have anything to do with C___. That seems to be the only part of the circumstances that I'm comfortable with. As I said before, "it is what it is." What bothers me is how, despite being at an event with so many of my friends and watching two of my friends get married, I felt so isolated.

Don't get me wrong, I love spending time with B____ and J____, and H____ and R____, and B____ and his girlfriend, and most certainly with M____ and S____. They make me feel funny and fun and, most importantly, wanted. And I was so happy for the groom when I spoke to him and all he could do was rave about his beautiful bride.

But when I looked around and realized I was the "single one" among so many married friends, it was a bit depressing. In so many ways, my life is the antithesis of theirs. To put it bluntly, while they've found their one and only good night kiss, I'm still just setting the alarm and going to bed.
And that, I think, is what bothered me about the situation. It predisposed me to look around the room with this jaded view. And once I did, I realized, no matter how many people are in the room, right now, there's one very important one, that I have yet to meet, who is absent. That unique and special one. My one and only good night kiss.


Two dentists and two rabbis were standing under a chupa...*

Last week I went to the wedding of a friend of mine. He's a dentist. He married a dentist. So a prerequisite to going to this wedding was having good teeth. The wedding was black tie and, rather than throw away money on a rental tuxedo, I finally resigned myself to purchasing one and having it for any future formal occassions I may have. And I must say, it's a damn nice tux.

My invitation also included my name "and Guest." so rather find someone in whom I had romantic interest who would actually be willing to be seen in public with me, I called my friend, A____, who indicated that she was not invited, but who was friends with everyone there. So, I invited her as my date, she accepted and we were ready for a fabulous formal evening on the town.

Because the wedding was on the other side of the state, I was staying at my parents house. A____ showed up at around 5:15 or so, and we spent time talking to my parents. In case you're wondering, my parents are totally friend-compatible, so that presented no issues. However, the wedding, which was scheduled at 6:45, was quickly approaching. Nevertheless, A___ and I did not want to be the first people at the wedding, so we decided to burn some time by watching our alma mater kick the crap out of whoever they were playing that week.

When we got to the hotel, we couldn't find anyone we knew. We approached the room we were supposed to enter and the doors were closed. A___ and I looked to the right, and there was the bride, getting ready to walk down the aisle. Apparently, A____ and I misjudged the time it would take for us to get there. And our fashionably late, became a horribly unfashionably tacky interruption.

Nevertheless, we persisted to open the door, and everyone in the audience looked at us as we realized that the door was not oriented so we could enter the back of the room, but rather at the side of the room. I looked at A___ and A___ looked at me and the only thing I could think to say was, "Go ahead."

So A____ walked in (looking fabulous in her fire engine red dress), and made a b-line for the back; I followed immediately behind her (Who would blame me for following a hot blonde in a red dress?). We looked around for a few seconds and realized something. Something petrifying. Sometime that you never want to realize when you are late to a wedding. No seats.

Yes, apparently there were only the exact number of seats that there were guests and, because A____ and I showed up late, the two seats that we were supposed to sit in were now hidden amongst the morass of people watching the front of the room (with the exception of those who were looking at us in the back of the room). As the panic of standing uncomfortably in the back of the room set in, I looked for someone, anyone, to help us. I turned my head to the left and saw two familiar faces. My friend, M____, and her husband, S_____, were gesturing to A____ and I and wording quietly, "Stay there! Don't move!"

Taking M____ and S___'s suggestion, A___ and I froze like deer in headlights, doing our best to blend into the drapes. Although A____'s red dress looked fabulous on her, it made our efforts to make ourselves inconspicuous a bit of a challenge. Basically, it was like trying to hide Shaquille O'Neal at a dwarf convention, or trying to hide Courtney Love....well....anywhere.

Then everyone stood. The bride came out and walked down the aisle, I was thanking all that was holy that when everyone looked at the back, it wasn't just us standing. After the bride made her way to the chupa, everyone sat down and A___ and I reengaged in the drape-hiding activity that was previously so unsuccessful.

After the bride walked down the aisle, the wedding planner/hotel manager/quasi-authority figure approached A____ and I and whispered, "If you walk to the front there are seats up there." Okay, let me get this straight. You just saw us make the embarassing walk-of-shame in to the ceremony within thirty seconds of the bride walking down the aisle. We're standing in the back pretending we are badly designed window dressings and you want us to walk to the front of the wedding, looking for seats? Hmm, let me think about that...yeah, no fucking way.

"Can you get us something back here?," I whispered hoping this woman would take pity on us and retrieve us chairs, but it didn't matter. Wedding planner/hotel manager/quasi-authority figure had walked away. Apparently she was more interested in telling us what to do than actually helping us avoid the obviously embarassing situation. I turned to A___ and said, "I don't know about you, but I'm thinking we stay back here and call as little attention to ourselves as possible. I'm not walking to the front." A____ seemed to be working out of the same playbook: "Damn right."

So A___ and I stood in the back, with unobstructed views of the lovely ceremony, watching two of our friends tie the knot under a chupah brought together by teeth. We saw our friend looking quite dapper and his new bride looking as lovely as could be. We listened intently to their two rabbis as they spoke throughout the ceremony. And when it was done, we blended in with the crowd as they left.

All in all, it wasn't too bad. But I couldn't help but feel bad for A___. After all, I wasn't wearing heels.

Of course, if I was I'm sure we would have attracted a lot more attention.

*As an inside joke for A___, the alternative title to this story was, Hangin' with the Shiksa in the Red Dress. However, in the interest of keeping the appeal of the post broader (i.e. for the two other people that read what I write), the more universal title appears above.


Another season, another reason...

With premiere week just about coming to a close, I think I can say that as I am now without HBO, the new season is going to seriously suck. Granted, I haven't seen the season premiere of the West Wing, but even with an exciting and actually undecided election on the way, I'm inclined to believe that the show should start winding down. Mind you, I am an official West Wing addict. I have every season that has been published to DVD, have watched every episode (except two) when they originally aired, and even purchased a DVR just in case I wasn't able to watch the show when it came on. Yet, as addicted as I am, and while I'm impressed with the show's ability to stay interesting with the defection of Tommy Schlame and Aaron Sorkin, I'm starting to think it's about time to call President Bartlett a lame duck and pass along the reigns of power to someone else. (Not to mention, with everything that's going on in the real world, what drama could the West Wing create that we haven't seen already: A war, a sagging economy, a terrorist leader on the prowl, presidential approval ratings that are going down quicker than some sorority girls I know, two simultaneous Supreme Court vacancies (yeah, yeah, O'Conner's staying on the Court until she has a replacement) including one created by the death of the Chief Justice, and not one, but two killer hurricanes in less than a month. Even with the finest mushrooms in all the land Sorkin couldn't have come up with that story line.)

NBC seems to have not only stuck with what it thinks worked, but tried to double up on the idea. Not only did NBC bring back Donny Trump's Apprentice, but it started a series for Martha Stewart's Apprentice too. I have to admit, Trump's Apprentice seems to bring back the sass of the first two seasons. The contestants are interesting, diverse and impressive. DT is in full snake-strike "you're fired" mode and sponsors have gotten in line to get their product placement on the show.

Martha's show, on the other hand, is weak. Really weak. While I could only stomach 2/3 of the program, I can say I saw enough to know I saw too much. First of all, Martha had the chutzpah to actually claim that she went to jail for her business. Now, I'm no expert on her case, but I'm pretty sure that she went to jail for lying to the federal government. So, unless she's claiming that she lied to the government to protect her business, rather than attempting to keep the profits from the possible insider/swing trading she likely engaged in, she's either a profound idiot or completely full of crap. And what was up with house arrest? I mean, is it actually some type of punishment when you have house arrest and you live in what she's got?

Rather than having two trusted business advisors, Martha has one advisor and her daughter. I mean, seriously, what does Martha's daughter know about the cutthroat world of business? How many times has she been concerned that Martha is going to fire her? And it's not like the girl is even a decent judge. While Martha a/k/a "Pushover" is wavering, her daughter spits out a "golly gee wilikers, this sure is a tough decision." The other advisor, who is the only person with any balls on the entire show (although like every male on the show, I have doubts that he will ever use them for more than really bad decoration) retorts back with, "I don't think so. This one is easy." He then proceeds to tell Martha what to do, which she follows to the letter. Yeah, this is exactly the business acumen that I look up to. But then again, I think anyone who looks up to this mass media marketing criminal seriously needs to reexamine their priorities.

However, the firing (if you can even call it that) was the worst part by far. Rather than Trump's aggressive, deliberate, and determined "You're fired." Martha goes into a discussion with her prospective firee that sounds like she's breaking up with him: "I just don't think you fit in [apparently conformity is a good thing at Martha Stewart Living]. I don't think this is going to work out." I thought she was going to finish with, "It's not you, it's me." Then she stands up, walks around the table, and shakes the firee's hand before sending him out the door. I was hoping I'd hear her yell, "Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out!" But I guess that wouldn't be "Martha." Of course, if Martha were a man when she was sent to prison, she'd have bigger ass-protection concerns.

Well, as if this whole dragged out firing scene wasn't lame enough, Martha then returns to her seat and (I shit you not) pulls out a piece of Martha Stewart Living letterhead and writes the firee a handwritten note to console him on his departure. Am I the only person who sees the irony in this? I mean, where, oh where, could Martha have gotten the habit of writing people handwritten letters? In fact, I'm sure she still has the Danbury Federal Correction Institute letterhead.

So, yes, the Apprentice: Martha Stewart is lame. Incredibly lame. The only value to the show would be to watch it with a lot of alcohol and drink every time you see Martha's house arrest ankle bracelet disguised by wardrobe. After all, she was still on house arrest during the filming of the show.

However, what agitates me the most about new crap like The Apprentice: Martha Stewart (other than that I wasted 38 minutes of my life watching part of it) is that innovative, unique, well-written shows that just have not found their audience are given the ax, while reality crap is left on the air. One example is Jack and Bobby which was on WB last season.

Jack and Bobby, created by Tommy Schlame, one of the great minds behind the West Wing, was about two brothers, one of whom would eventually become President of the United States. In essence, the show was a cross between the West Wing and Dawson's Creek. The show was well-written, excellently acted, and brilliantly cast. It dealt with teenage angst and serious contemporary issues. One of the most unique parts of the show was that you knew the beginning and the end, but discovered a piece of the line between the two in every episode.

In a moment of the "profound brilliance" for which television executives are known, some idiot at WB decided it would be smart to run a show that would appeal to West Wing fans against the West Wing. Well, unless people have a two-channel DVR, you can imagine what happened. That's right, West Wing fans wouldn't defect, even in a sub-par season. However, rather than try the show in a better time slot for a second season, WB just pulled the plug, taking an excellent show and throwing it on the scrap heap.

Of course, with the programming choices that WB considers worthwhile, I couldn't help but write to the company. That letter stated:

To whom it may concern:

I write to express my profound disappointment with your decision not to renew Jack and Bobby for another season. The show, one of the best written and most innovative since The West Wing was, quite simply, brilliant. Yet, despite it's superb concept, writing, and acting, you ran it against another political show with incredibly loyal watchers and, when those people didn't leave, you just dropped the show.

What is perhaps most disappointing is that you remain to run garbage like "Charmed" and "Reba" while canceling quality programming like "Jack and Bobby." In the future, when you have a fantastic television program, please give it a chance.


As evidence of my point, Seinfeld originally had dismal ratings in its first times slot, but NBC saw promise in the show, moved it to Thursday at 9 and it flourished into the most successful series of all time (possibly with the exception of MASH).

So a new season has begun. Unfortunately, it looks like it has begun with disappointment. At least we still have PBS...until the Corporation for Public Broadcasting goes under the knife.

Update: I have not heard back from WB regarding my letter. Shocker.


Another date which will live in infamy...

For the past four years of September 11th anniversaries, I have generally avoided the emotional stories. The touching personal dramas on television that recount that clear Tuesday morning. I think it's because the experience was so emotionally difficult the first time around that I don't want to force myself to deal with those emotions a second time around.

Instead, I watch the History Channel or the Discovery Channel and learn about any number of different things about the events of that day: How the architecture of the towers absorbed the power of passenger planes slamming into them, how the fuel from the planes ultimately caused the towers to collapse, how the New York subway system avoided flooding when the retaining walls of the towers began to fail. I think, by concentrating on those events from the left side of the brain, it helps me to avoid all the emotional baggage on the right side.

Today, I watched a special on the 9/11 Commission Report on the History Channel. And it highlighted portions of the report (which you can read more about by clicking on the link to the left). But there are some portions of the report and the documentaries I saw that bear noting, some of which were interesting, but most of which were quite disturbing:

  • The plane that went into the Pentagon was initially intended for the White House. Bin Laudin himself wanted to hit the White House, but when the hijackers couldn't locate the White House from the air, they directed the plane into the Pentagon on the other side of the Potomac in Arlington, Virginia.
  • The plane that went down in Pennsylvania was intended to hit the Capitol. While the loss of life would have been horrible, and the idea of not having that beautiful rotunda there would have been hard to comprehend, also disturbing is that Congress was in session on September 11th, 2001. So those brave passengers not only saved countless lives by sacrificing themselves, but, in a very real way, they saved our government, our democracy, and our way of life.
  • The Twin Towers actually resisted the impact of the two planes that slammed into them, as they were originally intended to do (although the largest plane at the time of the towers' construction was considerably smaller). However, the speed of the impact literally blew the fire resistance material off the metal in the towers and the burning fuel became so hot that it ultimately melted the metal of the buildings, causing them to collapse.
  • The impact of Flight 11 into tower 1 took out the elevator shafts and stairwells. So while many of the responders were focused on saving the people at the impact site and above, there was no way for those people to be saved in tower 1, so response would have been better focused on saving people in tower 1 below the crash site.
  • The impact of the plane into tower 2, however, did not take out all of the elevator shafts and stairwells, because the impact was in the corner of the building, not the center. However, information could not be communicated effectively and many people did not know that Stairwell Shaft A was available, leaving it considerably unused.
  • Firedrills in the WTC only required people to leave their offices and move towards the center of the building, so many people in the towers had never actually used the stairs before. While this may not initially seem to be a problem, the stairs were not uniform throughout and when the shafts were black with soot and smoke and electricity was out, the failure to practice leaving the building through the stairwells likely cost a number of people their lives.
  • Police and fire radios did not work properly in the WTC and there were so many different communication systems among first responders that it was entirely futile to attempt to communicate a single order because there was no way for all first responders to receive it.
  • The 19 hijackers entered the airport security system with little, if any, resistance. Although some of them actually set off metal detectors, some security officials allowed them onto the planes without assessing the reason the hijackers set off the detectors. Basically, to paraphrase one member of the 9/11 Commission, the hijacker could have had an AK-47 in his pants and security would have still let him through.
  • The planes scrambled to defend Washington, DC went over water into the Atlantic Ocean to defend the city. Because no one told the pilots that the threat was from civilian aircraft being used as missiles, the pilots assumed that they were defending the country from a Russian missile attack and went into the ocean to intercept the missiles. However, even if the planes were over Washington, it would have made little difference. The pilots were not made aware that Vice President Cheney had issued an order (from a secured bunker under ground) to down any civilian aircraft approaching Washington. Of course, the Vice President asserted that this order was made as a result of discussions with President Bush. However, President Bush, who was then on Air Force One was having difficulty communicating with anyone because Air Force One's communications systems were not working properly. (Whether the Vice President was acting without authority, because only the President can issue such an order, remains a debatable question, but there is little doubt that on September 11, 2001 the United States Government was acting after being decapitated.)
  • CIA translators provided severely flawed translations of classified documents from Arabic on regular occasions, and when an employee raised issue with the inaccurate translations, she was disciplined. When she raised issue with her discipline to those higher up the chain, she was fired. Her complaints may not have mattered because many CIA translators told her statements to the effect that, "America is getting what they deserve" or "Now America is going to see a little of what it dished out." Remember, the accuracy of a CIA translation can make the difference between actionable intelligence and an innocuous statement.

As a result of the failures of the communication, the failures in our security apparatus, and widespread systemic problems, the 9/11 Commission offered a series of recommendations to better prepare us for another terrorist attack, including, among many others, a centralized intelligence apparatus under a single Cabinet authority Intelligence Director, increased intelligence and counterterrorism Congressional oversight, disclosure of the amount of national security funding, and an information age revolution for intelligence and counterterrorism agencies. The vast majority of the recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission remain unaddressed to this day.

We should remember September 11, 2001, always.

But it's long past time for us to fix the problems that were exploited on September 11, 2001.


Fleecing of America...and a few other countries...

And now, the post I mentioned yesterday...

The other day I checked the traffic on my site and discovered, to my surprise, I was getting a lot of hits. Well, as you might have guessed from my many statements to that effect, I don't expect mounds of readership on this little corner of the internet. But, to my surprise, there were considerably more hits than expected over the last few months.

So I looked over the source sites of these hits and discovered a relatively consistent pattern. Apparently, I've garnered a little bit of internet fame. Well, maybe not me, just one of my experiences, Gone Phishing. Yes, it appears that what I will dub as the "kutiekylie scam" has hit the internet with full force.

Apparently, this little site has served readers, and some anonymous commenters (thanks ya'll...love the comments!!! And wow, from the UK!) as a bit of an internet consumer report. Well, I'm quite happy to help people from falling into scams. Entertaining a bit is nice too, but stopping people from falling into scams is also a plus. So, with one exception, the comments are open. Feel free to share your "BackSideBabe" stories. The more entertaining the better.

The exception you ask? No spamming. If you spam the comments, the comment will be deleted. Normally, I would never delete a bona fide comment. Good, bad, whatever. Spam, as with the lunchmeat, well, it's a different category altogether. Spam gets roundfiled.

With that caveat, comment away!

P.S. For you other Blogger bloggers, Blogger has added a word verification option that will, hopefully, reduce spam commenting (spamenting? commam? spamments?). Check it out here. Recent spam comments have led me to turn the feature on (freaks...). Hopefully, this little step won't stop readers (both of them) from making bona fide comments.


The best damn four cents an acre we ever spent...

I put together another post a little while ago about some recent increases in traffic I've seen (and after writing it I recieved another link here from PostModern Sass...Sass, you're the best!), but it just didn't seem right to post it. I'm sure I'll put up that post sometime soon, but there's something I needed to write that was more urgent.

Here's the thing. I was born in New Orleans. While my initial exposure to the city was less than two weeks (my father was actually flying to work in Baton Rouge waiting for me to be born so we could move), it's a city that is very near to my heart. My grandparents immigrated to New Orleans to flee the oncoming Holocaust in Europe. They had my mother and my aunt and both of them grew up on New Orleans. In fact, my mother didn't know that bars weren't open twenty-four hours a day until she moved away from the city.

We would go back often. I used to play on the steps of my grandfather's old New Orleans home. My grandfather was orthodox, so he would leave the television on during the Sabbath, because turning it on or off would violate the prohibition from working. So I would lie on my stomach on the carpet, my feet dangling in the air, my face propped up on the palms of my hands, annoying the crap out of my mother to let me change the channel.

I remember walking around the French Quarter with my grandfather. He would take me to his store in the Quarter where I had my pick of anything I wanted. My grandfather loved nothing more than to see his grandchildren smile.

I also remember one time when my parents came home to Baton Rouge from Mardi Gras. Usually, when beads are thrown from a parade float, they are thrown in groups and the beads seperate in the air. However, this time, the beads didn't seperate and my father caught the entire group of Mardi Gras beads and brought them home to me and my little brother. We still have pictures of my little brother and I wearing at least thirty sets of beads each, many of which extended from our little necks to the floor.

I spent hours looking at my mother's Mardi Gras albums. Not of pictures, but of dabloons, the coins that are thrown from the floats at Mardi Gras. My mother collected all the dabloons from Mardi Gras since she was a teenager. In those albums, I saw so many colors and so many themes of parades past.

I remember trips to the Fudge factory, where the men would take a cauldron of chocolate and pour it into a huge metal frame. They would exclaim, "TIME FOR FUDGE!!!" I think that fudge was what turned me into a chocolate addict.

And I remember going back to New Orleans years later, to visit my grandfather in a nursing home after his years of smoking finally caught up with him in as emphasema and stroke. And even though I knew then that he wouldn't be with us much longer, in the back of my mind, I knew that much of him died years before, in a New Orleans hospital, when my grandmother succumbed to a life with diabetes eight days before their only granddaughter was born.

Yeah, New Orleans is an important city to me.

So when Katrina hit South Florida, I was relieved that it was only a Category 1, and when it was forcast to go to New Orleans, and kept picking up power in the Gulf, becoming a Category 4, then a Category 5, then just barely a Category 4, I got worried. Really worried. It was like watching Andrew happen again, but to someone else. But Katrina wasn't Andrew. Katrina was worse. Much worse.

I was somewhat relieved this week when my cousin e-mailed me with a rundown of all my relatives from New Orleans and their whereabouts. I was relieved that they were out of the Lord of the Flies anarchy that has engulfed the city I've always seen as home. After thinking that Sass was a psychic, I started emailing my relatives to let them know that my family's houses and apartments were open to them for as long as they needed. Of course, with I-10 out of commission into the foreseeable future, who knows whether they could come if they wanted to. But whether they take advantage of the offer or not, I know how lucky they were and how lucky I am for still having them.

There are so many families and so many people with so many other memories of that bizarre and wonderful city. And so many of them are in need, of food, of water, of a place to sleep. And then there are those who have lost so much more.

Earlier today, I was spoke with a girl who was also from New Orleans, but who had spent her life there before moving to Florida for school. She explained that after calling her relatives and finding out they were fine, she started getting trickles of calls from friends. One of her friends called and she said, "I'm so happy you're ok. How's your family?" He responded, "We lost my dad." All she could muster in reply was, "I'm so sorry."

So, while I hope New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf coast, cities like Biloxi and Waveland and so many others, will rebuild. For some people, too many people, "rebuilding" will never be possible. "Reconstructing" would be all they could hope to do.

To do the right thing, go here or here or here or here . If you would like to help animals affected by Katrina you can go here or here.


Some are satin, some are steel, some are silk, and some are leather...

I'm a big Billy Joel fan. Huge actually. By that I mean that I know the lyrics to almost every song that he's written and, in the days of tapes, had every one (except Cold Spring Harbour) that he released. So, yeah, I love Billy Joel's stuff.

Well, today I've started thinking of the song "The Stranger." The album, which is also called The Stranger, shows a picture of Billy, lying on a bed gazing at a porcelin mask on the pillow next to him. The premise of the song is, well, perhaps I should just quote the master: "We all have a face that we hide away forever, then we take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone; some are satin, some are steel, some are silk, and some are leather; they're the faces of the stranger, but we love to try them on." Yeah, Billy rules. Anyway, while the song laments about the hidden faces of a lover, that isn't the reason I'm thinking about it.

As I mentioned earlier, I've recently relocated. For a property owner, part of relocating is, well, selling your property or thinking of something else to do with it. I sold my house. And I made the biggest mistake in the process: I didn't meet my buyer, leaving it, instead, to my realtor to handle everything with her.

For most people, this may not be a big problem. I, however, have a pretty good ability to read people. Usually, when I meet someone, I can get a sense of one pretty important thing: whether they are putting up a front. However, because it is apparently industry practice, I trusted realtor's impressions of the buyer. Big. Mistake.

That's not to say my realtor isn't a nice person. She's fabulous. My biggest regret is that in my new city I can't have her look for a house for me here. But when conducting a large financial transaction, I think it's important to know whether the person you are dealing with is a normal, reasonable, cordial human being or an insane and deluded maniac trying to make it appear that they are a normal, reasonable, cordial human being. Here, my realtor thought the buyer was the former. The buyer was the latter. Needless to say, thanks to my buyer, this entire transaction has been a completly and totally miserable experience since I signed the contract.

Let me make this clear: I do not blame my realtor in any way for her assessment of my buyer. It's not her fault. Some people are good at seeing people who put up fronts and others aren't. Everyone's different and each of us have different strengths. That's what makes us individuals. And wouldn't life be boring if that weren't the case?

No, I don't blame my realtor. I blame myself. I absolutely should have met the prospective buyer before I signed the contract and, if I had (which I did later), I absolutely would have decided not to sell to this person. When I later had a conversation about the property with the buyer (who came to the property during her inspection), I couldn't stand her. I knew, almost immediately and for a number of reasons, that this was not the person to whom I wanted to sell this house I loved.

You have to understand, this house was my baby. It was the first home that I ever bought. The location was great, the neighborhood was plesant, and it was just a fun little house. Certainly, every house has its share of frustrations from time to time. Sometimes you have to replace an appliance, etc. But all in all, I loved this little house. So, I wanted to sell it to someone that I genuinely liked. That's not what happened.

I'm not going to bore you with all the tedious bullshit that accompanied the sales process, but needless to say, it sucked. Big. And so much of the reason it sucked was my incredibly horrible buyer. So you may think that the reason that I referenced the Stranger is the buyer: that this buyer because a face from under a mask that was unexpected. But my buyer isn't what made me think of "The Stranger." I am.

Now, let me be clear, it is not because of anything that happened in the sales transaction that I make this reference. Rather, it's because, after dealing with problem after problem with this buyer, I did something I rarely do. I lost my temper. And I lost it on my realtor.

While the details of how that happened are somewhat through, they aren't really for public consumption (as if the public actually reads this...), so I will only say this: I finally felt like I was getting screwed beyond the point that I could tolerate and laid into my realtor. Now, I don't do it often, but when I lose my temper, I mean really lose my temper, its ugly. Like really ugly. I become a verbal pit bull that will orally attack anything or anyone that comes within twenty yards of me. All forms of reason are pushed aside and I just become an vicously aggressive ass. So I pretty much had a Napoleanic tirade on the phone with her. And after I was done, this incredibly sweet woman could only mutter a soft, "Okay."

Yeah. I was a prick.

Ultimately, I called back (after cooling down) and apologized. And all was resolved. I'm still getting screwed, but I told her I know it isn't her fault.

So that little pit bull is my stranger, my mask of steel and leather that sits in the back of my closet, behind my sweaters and ties, that most people will never see. And no matter how rarely it happens, I hate showing that mask to someone who doesn't deserve to see it.


Are you sure this is really chocolate?

I know that I have done a poor job of blog maintenance over the past few weeks, but I have a decent excuse: I had no internet access. While some people may not see this as a significant problem, I'm compelled to believe that most of the people who will read this (or rather both of the people who will read this) will consider this akin to not being able to breathe for the past few weeks. Honestly, I think I fall somewhere closer to being able to breathe (after all, I did have a few really good books to finish) and being able to eat, but not being able to find a bathroom anywhere. I know how that sounds, but stick with me. For me, this little corner of the internet is where I get to have my little weekly (ok, maybe not weekly) catharsis. So when all that stuff gets stored up in whatever the intellectual analogy for a colon is, I feel, well, stuffed up. But now, after a very long few weeks and a little battle with the local cable internet monopoly (special thanks to the SCOTUS for that one), I'm cleared up my intellectual constipation and am back to spouting my usual mindless banter. Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is...

In case you're wondering what would happen if you didn't have the internet for a few weeks, although I checked my personal email messages with my cell phone, when I finally did get internet access, I had approximately 82 e-mail messages to run though (I have got to get off some of those lists) and weeks of blogging to catch up on, which resulted in about 2 very entertaining hours of reading (limited only by the fact that two of my favorite bloggers are apparently too busy lately to post).

Nevertheless, here are a few highlights from the past week of moving:

-made the 300-plus mile back and forth trip (for a total of 600+ from my old city to my new city), not once, not twice, but three times in the past three weeks. It was a great week for oil to top $67/barrel. Oh, how I long for a bio-diesel engine;

-spent time with my adopted little sister, L____, who explained, in all seriousness, that if she had not gone to law school, she would have been a doctor because she was always very good at Operation when she was a kid;

-was baptized by fire to the text messaging feature of my new Motorola Razr in an AIM forwarding conversation with Alecia (whose blog is definitely worth checking out);

-spent a week sleeping on the floor in my soon-to-be-sold house (oh please, oh please, oh please close) so I wouldn't have to spend my per diem on a hotel in the city I used to live in (and still own a house) for training for the job in the new city I now live in (follow that one? I'm not sure I did...);

-spent two days trapped in my soon-to-be-sold house because an indicator light on my car came on and led to me being raped by a mechanic when I had to have my brakes replaced;

-saw the immediate aftermath of two car accidents on the highway and thanked all that was holy that I had my brakes replaced;

-had dinner with my cousins L___ and A___ who insisted that we go for sushi and, only after sitting down and deciding what to order, informed me that L____ does not eat sushi;

-found a Squibnocket card with the following outstanding caption:
Hypothetical situation: I call you up and ask you out. Do you (A) laugh uncontrollably as you kindly inform me you would rather nude-wrestle a large peasant woman in front of your entire office while a cable television superstation broadcasts it to the entire free world? Or do you (B) say yes, wherein I come over to your place, dim the lights, and visit upon your body an apocalypse of love?
-had an awesome lunch with my adorable friend G___, as I introduced her to some of the best restaurants in the city I used to live in. G___ has the cutest Southern accent. I tell you, when you have that accent, I don't care if you read me a dictionary, just don't ever stop talking;

-allowed G___ to raid my refrigerator after lunch, during which she informed me that she was going to take my soy milk, pour it into her regular milk container, and not tell her boyfriend that it's not actually real milk. Considering the soy milk was vanilla flavored, not regular flavored, I'm somewhat curious to find out how successful this little plan turned out to be.

All in all, it was quite an interesting few weeks. Wish me luck in navigating through these cardboard boxes...


Jack of all trades, expert of one...

If there's one thing I'm an expert on it's moving. In order to stay ahead of the law (ok, maybe that's not the exact reason), I've lived in five states and in nine cities. While this certainly doesn't compare to the life of a career military brat, it definitely has gotten me used to packing up my bunch-o-crap and settling down somewhere new. However, this time I have a wrinkle that I've never dealt with before: a house.

As a child, I never dealt with selling or buying a house. I mean, seriously, I didn't even know if the houses I lived in before I was in seventh grade were owned by my parents or rentals. Then, once I hit college and made a number of moves after that, I always rented. Always. The beauty of renting is, of course, you can pick up and go whenever you want. That and if you have any problems you call the owner/apartment company and they fix it. They trot some guy in a little outfit with a name tag to your apartment at your convenience, cure the problem, and you go on about your merry way. Of course, the disadvantage is that you are basically throwing your money into some other guy's pocket.

Well, after I moved to this city a little less than two years ago, I was renting from an apartment company and one of my very good friends decided to get married. It was a mutual thing and all. It's not like she just decided to get married unilaterally. Only Dennis Rodman, Carrie Bradshaw, and Jennifer Lopez make that decision unilaterally. However, my friend had an awesome two bedroom/two bath condo about a mile from where I worked. Surprisingly enough, she actually had a difficult time selling the place. One day I said to her that, if I could afford it, I would buy the place from her. She said, "So, why don't you?" Within an hour, I was on the phone with a mortgage broker and we determined that not only would I be able to afford the place, but that I would actually be able to live there and be able to buy food. It was settled. I bought the house from her.

Of course, extracting myself from my lease was a different challenge. But that's a story, and quite an entertaining one, for another day.

So now, I must bid my cute little condo adieu. I must admit, I do love the place. I like the neighborhood. I like the proximity to downtown. And I like that it's mine. Most of the time.

However, the real estate gods hate me. No, not because I didn't make a profit on my house when I finally sold it (it was on the market for 10 days, but it felt like a lifetime-and yes, I did just fine), but because once I put the place on the market, I've had a litany of problems, ranging from large to small. And, of course, because I am a person of good conscience (and because this is a litigation crazy state), I have not only disclosed those problems, but fixed every one.

But that doesn't mean fixing things doesn't suck. Really suck.

First, about a month before I was going to sell my house, there was the fact that the air conditioner didn't seem to be producing cool air. Well, in the South, no air conditioning makes summer just slightly warmer than the steamiest part of hell. At the end of the day, that was a replaced air handler. Those are...well, they aren't cheap. They also take around 8 hours to install. Quite a combo. But then again, when the inside of a working oven is cooler than the status quo, I suck it up.

Then, the day after I decided to sell, which was a Saturday, I noticed a damp area in the corner of my second bedroom. I immediately notified the condo association, because, after all, they are responsible for the roof. They come out, look at the corner and say, "Oh, we've seen these before." My immediate thought is, "Well asshole, don't you think that would inspire you to invest in a proactive roof examination?" After chuckling about the leak, the guy tells me, "OK, we'll get the roofer out here on Monday."

Of course, Monday became Tuesday, Tuesday became Thursday, and Thursday became Friday. And, since this is a coastal Southern city, it rains in the summer. Well, that doesn't accurately describe it. Let's try that again. During the summer, sometime between two and six in the afternoon, a tempist of winds attack at gale force, the heavens open, and ungodly quantities of water are dumped onto the city. Yeah, that's a bit closer to the experience.

Now, knowing this, you'd think that someone who was aware of a roof leak would take some type of a step to protect additional water infiltration, right? Maybe put up a tarp or, geez, even a Ziploc baggie or something. No, not my condo association employees. They just decide that they'll deal with it when it's "sunny." Meanwhile, water continues to drip through the leak into my second bedroom. In case you're wondering, I'm restricted by the condo association rules from putting anything on the outside of my unit. Not to mention, my unit is on the second floor, so I'm not exactly able to get on the roof without the help of a fire truck. And I left mine in my office parking spot.

Finally, on Friday, the Keystone Kondo Association employees finally get the roofer out. He repairs the roof and, when I indicate that the condo association should pay for repairing any drywall damage and repainting my guest room because of the negligence of the employees to take any steps to avoid water infiltration, the response is "Oh, well, you're responsible for the inside of your unit." To make a very long story, much shorter, when a professional determined that the drywall was not damaged and that fighting over the $150 to repaint the condo with the condo board was just, well, not worth it. It's not often I back down from one of these types of fights and, more often than not, I win them. But honestly, I was just interested in getting out of Dodge. And at least the cost comes out of the taxable value of the house...I think. Damn, I need to get an accountant.

Just when I thought everything was set with the house and I was packing my boxes of move, the real estate gods once again reared their ugly heads. I have three ceiling fans in my house and each of them operates solely by remote control. In other words, the fan and the light are entirely operated by a remote control and have no switches, pullstrings, or any other device that makes them operate independently. So, today, I go to turn off the light on the fan in my bedroom and nothing happens. I press the light button and the little LED on the remote is lighting up, but the light isn't turning off on the fan.

So, I think, maybe there's something wrong with the remote. So, I turn off the fan. It shuts off. I turn on the fan. It turns on. I turn off the light. Nothing. Well, that's not true; light. Apparently, the wires are working, because the light is on.

After I have a few friends come over to help me out, I finally get someone on the phone from the fan company. The conversation went something like this:

"Hi, I'm having a problem with my ceiling fan. The fan only operates by remote control and the remote causes the fan to turn on and off, but the button on the remote control for the light doesn't turn the lights off. The lights are stuck in the on position."

"OK. Sounds like there's a problem with the receiver."

"Great. What's that?"

"The receiver is in the canopy. It's what the remote communicates with."

"In the canopy? You mean in the ceiling?"

"Yes. It's in the ceiling. What model is the fan?"

"Uh...it's silver with four lights..."

"No. What's the UPC number?"

"Is there a place where I should look for the UPC number?"

"Yes. There should be a sticker on the top of the fan."

"On the top?"


"Of a ceiling fan?"


"Well, that doesn't seem like a very logical place to put a sticker on a ceiling fan."

At this point, I explain to my friends that we need to look on top of the ceiling fan for a UPC number. Since there is no ladder around, in a scene that can only be seen to be believed, my friends stand on my bed and one of my friends gets on the other's shoulders to look for stickers above the ceiling fan's base. After they've called "no joy," I report my (well, their) findings to the guy from the fan company.

"Oh, well, that's too bad because we would have sent you out another receiver, but now you either need to track down the UPC number or go buy a universal remote."

Great. Another expense. Of couse, I'm just happy I didn't have to buy a new fan. But then again, I haven't installed the new receiver yet, so who knows.

I guess I'll just chalk it up to developing my expertise...