Friday, December 21, 2007


Quick quiz, folks.

Who can tell me what happened on October 10, 1582 in Rome?

Hint #1: Shakespeare and Cervantes died on the same day. Though it was obviously not this day.

Update: Congratulations to all of you who got it right, and complete boo to those of you who did not. It turns out that Oct. 10, 1582 did not exist, along with about 10 other days. This was caused by a switch from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian one. Because of this, certain areas of the world went from Thursday, October 4 directly to Friday, October 15.

The crazy thing is that this didn't happen everywhere. England, for example, did not recognize this switch. This means that, though both Shakespeare (who lived in England) and Cervantes (who lived in Spain) died on April 23, 1616, one actually died about 10 days earlier!

Monday, December 10, 2007

It's late. Also, what am I missing?

I need to wake up in about 4 and 1/2 hours for my last final, so naturally I pick tonight to be unable to go to sleep.

When my mind does its racing thing and it's late, I naturally go to my old standby. You know, "Boo hoo, and whoa is me."

Anyway, I was in that mindset when a question occurred to me. How do other people perceive me? Especially upon first viewing? If you haven't read this blog and have not had the opportunity to delve into my hopes, dreams, self-doubts, and self-directed personal aspersions, how would you perceive me?

I'm afraid, at this point, I have no idea. I'm too close to the subject. Do I come off as self-centered? Uppity? Vague? What about childish?

I'm sure I also come across as generally pleasant, but that's not really what I'm interested in. I'm more curious about the negative traits that immediately come to mind.

The seed for this question appeared several months ago, after a traffic court session. The other two judges and I (plus one other girl) all went to a local brewery for dinner. For those of you counting, the judges included a male, a female, and a me. That means sitting at the table were two guys and two gals.

And as the conversation flowed, I noticed something. I talked to the two girls like they were two regular folk (i.e. guys). If they had an opinion that I disagreed with, I let it be known. I was as abrupt and abrasive as I would be with anyone. That is to say, I wasn't a real asshole or anything. I just didn't go out of my way to be conciliatory.

Which is what the other guy did. It was almost bizarre to watch. Instead of treating them like people, he treated the girls in a deferential manner. Instead of disagreeing, he listened and said some nothing, like, "Oh, that's very interesting" or "there you go."

It was strange, to say the least, to compare our styles. Then it occurred to me that maybe that was part of my problem. Let's face it: I'm not going to be getting a ton of ladies with my looks. We can just automatically put that to one side.

So what are other qualities that do the same job? Personality. But what does that mean? And the answer to that is, "I don't know."

I really don't. I have no freaking clue. Based on my experiences at Triangle, I always assumed it meant being willing to talk to women at all. Clearly, that is not the case. I have no trouble talking to women. I do it all the time. In fact, if I had to select 15 top friends of the past 6 years, I'd guess at least 9 of them would be female.

So what the hell is the problem? Ans: Ida Know. THIRD BASE!

Opps. Wrong sketch.

But seriously, women-folk, I need some advice based not upon what "everyone knows," but rather based on experience. In your experience, do the guys with whom you are interested talk to you in any way that is different than par for the course? Is there some kind of magical manner of being that I am completely missing?

Or are looks really the only thing, and I'm just totally screwed?

Man. That would suck.

Note: If you are going to respond to this one with advice, PLEASE don't speak in generalities. I don't want to hear, "I like guys who are self-confident." I have no freaking idea what that statement means. If you like guys who are self-confident, tell me the little clues you perceive that make him that way.

If, instead, you are going to respond by suggesting some category other than communication and looks, feel free to speak in more broad terms.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Answers to every stupid question

I found the following list of supposedly "thoughtful" questions, decided they were stupid and irritating, so now I am taking the time to answer as many of them as I can. If I don't have an answer now, I offer to let anyone else take a question and figure it out, or I'll try to come back to it when I can.

Where did hamsters live before we put them in cages as a pet?

They came from the Syrian desert, brought over by a man named Aharoni in 1930.

Why do people say "no offense" when they're about to offend someone?

Usually, because they are incorrectly using the phrase. "No offense" was originally "no offense intended." It was said when a statement could be construed in one of two ways or when possible offense could be taken from a statement. I really did mean that the speaker did not intend to give offense. Frequently, these days, it is used because idiot assholes like to use phrases in their daily speech.

Why do they have the back pain medicine on the bottom shelf at the pharmacy?

I don't use backpain medicine. Before answering this question, can anyone verify it? I would have guessed that they only keep the cheap medicine on the bottom shelf and keep the high dollar medicine (including expensive back pain medication) on the eye level shelf.

They have a show called "Unsolved Mysteries." What other kind of
[1]mysteries are there?

Solved ones? Alternately, the use of the term "unsolved" might be meant to indicate that the mysteries indicated could be solvable at some point, unlike, for example, religious mysteries, which are more philosophical in nature.

Do they make coffins wider for dead fat people or is it a 1 size fits all kind of thing?

Coffins are multiple sizes. Don't you remember old west movies where the undertaker would measure both participants in a showdown?

If Santa lives at the North Pole... where does the Easter bunny live?

Up your ass?

Does Jell-o EVER go bad? There usually isn’t an expiration date on it?

No. Gelatin is a protein produced by partial hydrolysis of collagen extracted from the bones and connective tissues of animals. There is nothing available to go bad.

Edit: Audrie has pointed out that Jello has "best by: " dates, thus negating the original question. My further theory goes that this has something to do with jello already being packaged with sugar. Unlike gelatin, sugar is not a simple protein and may have alternate properties.

When the person who writes the obituaries dies, who writes their obituary?

This might be the stupidest question of all. It would make sense if we were running out of people on earth, and not making new ones. For the sake of consistency I will answer it: New obituary writers.

Why do old men have hair in their ears?

I don't know the answer to this one. Genetics?

Why are buttons on guys' shirts on a different side than girls' shirts?

In researching, I have two different possible answers. One is that men just wanted to be sure they weren't buying women's clothing.

The other is that male dressing cues come from military clothing. For example, the first button jackets for men were modeled after the latching designs of armor, which were designed to stop a right-handed opponent from jamming a pike through the seam. (link) Meanwhile, from the same link, women may have draw their cues from nursing and housework concerns.

If bunnies don't lay eggs why is it on Easter that we hide eggs from the Easter Bunny?

We don't hide eggs from the easter bunny. We just hide eggs for kids to find.

For a more thorough discussion, look here. But here is the useful phrase: In Medieval Europe, eggs were forbidden during Lent. Eggs laid during that time were often boiled or otherwise preserved. Eggs were thus a mainstay of Easter meals, and a prized Easter gift for children and servants.

Why are things typed up but written down?

My guess is that it is due to paper going up on typewriters. Meanwhile, handwriting goes from the top of the page to the bottom. Alternately, I'd guess it could come from putting "down" the pen and ink to the page.

How come u can kill a deer and put it on your wall but it’s illegal to keep them as a pet?

First off, is it actually illegal? Second, deer can be dangerous, are wild, and carry disease.

Why does caregiver and caretaker mean the same thing?

They don't. A caregiver is one exclusively relegated to the medical profession or the giving of care to other people. A caretaker can do that, but may also be in charge of overseeing the operations of buildings, or being janitors, etc.

In some books, why do they have blank pages at the very end?

From wikipedia's "Intentionally blank page" entry:

Intentionally blank pages are usually the result of printing techniques. Book pages are often printed on large sheets because of technical and financial considerations. Thus, a group of eight, sixteen, or thirty-two consecutive pages will be printed on a single sheet in such a way that when the sheet is mechanically folded and cut, the pages will be in the correct order for binding. Such a group is called a section or signature. Books printed in this manner will always have as many pages as a multiple of the large sheets they were printed on, such as a multiple of eight, sixteen, or thirty-two. As a result, these books will usually have pages left blank.

For example, if a book with 318 pages of content is printed using 32-page signatures, it will require 10 signatures, 320 pages in total. At the very end of the book — that is, at the end of the last signature — there will be 2 unused (blank) pages.

If you were on a plane going the speed of sound and walked from the back of the plane to the front, would you be walking faster than the speed of sound?

While I don't have a technical background, I believe this is where a small portion of the theory of relatively comes into play. Specifically, we are all ALWAYS moving at such great velocities, as the earth revolves, rotates around the sun, and goes speeding through the universe. "Moving at the speed of sound" really only means moving at the speed at which sound waves may travel in a given field of liquid, solid, and/or gas (i.e. a non-vacuum).

Therefore, the plane we are in is moving at the speed of sound against the field of gas around it (the air outside), and if you compare us inside to that outside air, we are, indeed, moving faster than the plane. However, it would be more appropriate to compare the people within the plane to the bubble of air also within the plane (our own gaseous field). In that comparison we are, in fact, only moving as fast as we are walking.

If the universe is expanding, what is it expanding into?

The vacuum.

What does OK actually mean?

Old Kinderhook. It actually means "All Correct," and comes from intentional misspelling that occurred along the east coast in stupid newspapers. During Martin Van Buren's presidential run (Van Buren was a native of Kinderhook, NY), it was popularly used to refer to Van Buren. Since that initial popularization, it has, of course, taken on a world of its own.

What does the K in K-mart actually stand for?

Kresge, the last name of its founder.

Why do we feel blue? and what color does a smurf feel when they are down?

A smurf is an animated drawing. Drawings don't feel. From the wikipedia entry on blue: In the English language, blue may refer to the feeling of sadness. "He was feeling blue". This is because blue was related to rain, or storms, and in Greek mythology, the god Zeus would make rain when he was sad (crying), and a storm when he was angry. Kyanos was a name used in Ancient Greek to refer to dark blue tile (in English it means blue-green)

Why can't you eat pancakes for dinner?

I can and do.

Why do donuts have holes?

From Wikipeda's entry on dougnuts: Hanson Crockett Gregory, an American, claimed to have invented the ring-shaped doughnut in 1847 aboard a lime-trading ship when he was only sixteen years old. Gregory was dissatisfied with the greasiness of doughnuts twisted into various shapes and with the raw center of regular doughnuts. He claimed to have punched a hole in the center of dough with the ship's tin pepper box and later taught the technique to his mother. [2]

If this isn't right, we may never know who came up with the center-free doughnut.


Why do the numbers on a phone go one way and the numbers on the calculator go the other?
Why don't you hear thunder with heat lightning?
Is light still faster than sound when it's going through your TV, and if so, when you get a live broadcast from China or something shouldn't all the sounds come after the actions?
Do the different "M&M's"® colors taste different?
If you’re born at exactly midnight is your birthday on both those days?
If you're caught "between a rock and a hard place", is the rock not hard?
If one man says, "it was an uphill battle," and another says, "it went downhill from there," how could they both be having troubles?
Why is it you can walk down a road, even if it goes uphill?
Why do we say "bye bye" but not "hi hi"?
Can blind people be dyslexic when they read Braille?
How do you handcuff a one-armed man?
Why is the abbreviation for pound lb. when l or b isn't in the word pound?
Why do they call the angel of death an angel if all it does is bring pain and suffering?
Why doesn't the glue in the bottle dry up?
If Luke took a bath, would the water be lukewarm?
If an anarchist group attained political power, would they by principle have to dissolve their own government?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Funny phrases

Alright, I feel bad. I was having a bad couple of days, and I, in a sense, took it out on all my faithful blog readers.

Today I feel pretty good. It really doesn't take much. For one thing, it's sunny out. For another, people who don't ordinarily come up and talk to me came up and talked to me. Much like everyone else in the world, I like a little affirmation. Also, I did some good old-fashioned studying last night, and that further made me feel better.

With that in mind, I'd now like to steal from someone else (this is called "creativity") a list of funny statements made by law school professors.

Poke it into the equation.

Now we have no where to poke it!

Piercing the corporate veil.

Let's flesh this out.

GOOD MORNING!!! Good morning.

Get your ticket punched.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A new leaf

It has just been pointed out to me that my blog is pretty depressing. To this, I am forced to respond. What do you expect? It's November. Finals are next week. I'm about to turn 27, and, as they say in Jane Austen books, I have no prospects (this is a marriage reference, not a job reference). The girl I'm most interested in is dating another guy (wow, sounds like junior year of college). I feel like I have a right to be a depressy.

That said, it's probably not a bad idea to lighten it up on here. If nothing else, internally imagining one's self as happy is a nice way to get out of a funk.

So what should I talk about?

My tax professor has lately been a big fan of poking things into equations. Today he showed an example where there was a number that he couldn't poke into anything.

Inadvertent sexual comments are ALWAYS the best.

Yesterday I ate a random piece of cake to celebrate a professor's first semester down. This was very exciting.

Today I sat at the far end of ambassadors table. We were having a free lunch. As I sat there, it suddenly occurred to me to wonder if there was a cool kids side and a not cool kids side. This was a very worrying prospect, as I was sitting far away from the two co-presidents and very near one of the biggest 2L gunners.

Then I realized that we're talking about the law school AMBASSADORS. These were all people specifically chosen for their ability to be friendly and accessible. To make a cool kids and a non-cool kids distinction would be crazy.

That said, I do enjoy being put upon, so if anyone could tell me that I WAS on the not-cool kids side, I'd probably be pretty pleased.

I could see it now. "O blog," I would say. "Whoa is me. Having arrived too late at the ambassadors' lunch, I was forced to sit by the slightly less awesome people. Obviously, my showing up late was only incidental to this. Clearly, the world is against me, and all those I respect and admire look down upon me as some sort of social pariah. Also, my feet smell bad and people don't like me because I'm lazy!"

Ah, the joy such a post would bring me. Like a canoe over a waterfall, these are the sands of time. Wait. That doesn't fit. In fact, I'm pretty sure that's also not the correct sentence.

Alright, dinner time. Ciao, baby.

Law School Doubt

It's almost 2:30 pm. On a Wednesday. November the 28th, if you must know. That means I'll be closing up shop in 1/2 hour. My first final is in about 5 days. All of the reading, listening, understanding, frustration, and anger of the past several months comes down to about 13 hours total over a two week span.

I'm not saying I'm nervous. I'm just asking, wouldn't you be?

Beyond that, nothing much is going on. Worrying about finals is really my all consuming reason at the moment. Mind you, that's distinct from STUDYING for finals. I still manage to put that off. But I definitely do my fair share of worrying.

Today I forgot I had a class at 9:30. Luckily, I had a class at 8:30, so no harm was done. I'm constantly losing track of names, people, and places. I watch people walk by, and I wonder how it is that I know so few of them.

Never before in my life, prior to law school, has the end of each semester been this frightening. Always before there has been some other grade to bolster my GPA, or, at the least, to give me a fair idea of how I was doing. Half the fear of these tests is going in blind. Not knowing how I would do in comparison with everyone else.

All odds point to my getting a B+ across the board, because that's just how I do on upper level tests. As you should know, that doesn't cut it, your 2L year. If I get across the board B+'s, I'll actually probably drop out of the top 1/3. But am I in position to avoid that? Am I in position to get any A's at all? Hell, am I currently in a position to get some B's?

I have no idea. I know that I'm in classes with people who already have positions with firms, but I get the impression that even THEY might be trying harder than I am.

Maybe I'm not cut out to be a lawyer. Maybe I should just join the ranks of the fallen, who have accepted that they just aren't good enough, competitive enough, or driven enough to succeed in this business.

But then how would I pay my loans? On the other hand, if I can't get a job as a lawyer to begin with, that question is a moot point.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My problem in about 17 sentences

Hi everyone,

It's 12:20 AM. Do you know where your child/dog is?

So as we move down the icy, slippery concourse that is the November offramp and stumble our way into December, the dark pit of sadness that wells up from within casts its self-torturous aspersions upon my hopes, dreams, and any other bits of self-confidence that are easily pliable.

In other words, it's late; it's cold out; and my post tonight will not be very heavily focused upon happy things.

(Sometimes I like to look back on these posts, just out of curiosity's sake, months and years down the road. For the most part, I find them boring, narrow-minded, and lacking in the depth of human understanding. Even back in the pre-blog days, when I'd write my unhappy thoughts exclusively to K [or Mr. Henshaw, as I liked to joke at the time], I generally wrote some pretty boring stuff. It all seemed to important at the time.

Then again, that's probably how most of life is, isn't it?)

Anyway, tonight I have decided to bemoan the fact that I'm probably going to end up alone and childless. That's probably not a huge loss. I mean, I like kids, but I'm really more of the uncle type, anyway.

Now calm down! Don't go getting all argumentative on me. I feel reasonably grounded in the facts on this one.

Consider: My uncle, the person I am most like, is unmarried and childless at 45. My father is even more introverted than I am and pretty much ran into my mom by accident. I've only had one honest to goodness girlfriend in my entire life, and, the way that went down, it was at least as much of a fluke as anything else in my life. I have ridiculously high standards, but don't personally meet any comparable standards that any potential girlfriends might hold. I'm messy. I don't have very many matchmaker friends, and the ones I do have always think I'd best fit with quiet, ugly girls. I'm not particularly tall, not overly attractive, and - pink elephant in the room - I'm obese. I have low self-esteem and no ability to recognize when others are attracted to me, mostly because I don't believe that's possible (unless the person is already significantly less attractive than I am willing to go). I am shallow. I'm lazy. I'm unlikely to get a well-paying job to compensate for my faults, and my writing will probably never be publishable, because I'll never have to will-power to go back and edit and re-edit like all good authors have to do. In other words, I'm going to be middle-income at best. I'm not good at connecting with people. I'm friendly enough to smile and wave at people, but shy enough and introverted enough to not go very far past that. I've spent so much time holding my physical impulses back that I wouldn't know how to outwardly show interest in a girl if I wanted to. When people make jokes about stalkers, I find myself growing defensive. I don't find excessive freckles attractive, but am relatively freckly myself.

Alright, that last one was a stretch, but the rest is pretty accurate. Actually, that last one is also accurate, it just doesn't cover as many broad categories as everything else.

Wow. That's a good list. Honestly, I'm not sure if I've brought all my fears and doubts together as succinctly and accurately as this, before. As far as I can tell, that covers almost all of my major issues. Neat.

You want to know what brought this on? It's a combo of a few things, most of them pretty embarrassing. I'm not sure what I did exactly, but I think I messed things up with that girl. There was this two week "honeymoon" span where she was friendly and talkative and responsive, and all those good things. And now that seems to have all gone down the toilet. It isn't that she's openly rejected me. It's that she's begun ignoring me, or at least not responding to me. I take this as a bad sign.

The other thing, which is even more embarrassing, has to do with an odd bit of internet surfing. At some point, I was reminded that Marvel Comics has placed the first 100 episodes of a number of old comics online to be read for free. Naturally, I checked out the first few X-Men comics, then decided to fast-forward a little and see where Jean Grey and Cyclops were in the current xmen universe.

Much like in any other superhero-based soap opera, it isn't looking good. As far as I can tell, Jean's dead; Scott (Cyclops) has been dating some chick named Emma Frost; and at the moment he appears to be drifting in space, potentially dying.

For some reason the futility of their relationship, coupled with the recent string of sad, personal events, led me to ponder my future.

I don't imagine I'll be having the same problems Scott and Jean face, namely, mutual death, but this is most likely because I'm not a comic superhero.

No, my problems are of a far less epic and literary nature. I'm just a sad, lonely guy, bemoaning my lot in life.

BTW, if you get a chance, check out the trailer for "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With." Sounds pretty good.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ruled by Chemicals

Hiya, everyone! It's 11:30. I'm tired, and I managed to studiously avoid studying for a good portion of the night, and now I'm tired! Yes, it was hard work, and I couldn't have done it without my TV and the internet, but it is done now.

At the moment I'm feeling antsy. I have that window-shopper feeling. I have that sense that everything would be better, if only X would happen. The crazy thing is, I'm not particularly focused on anything at the moment, so I don't have anything for X to be.

The funny thing about the human mind is how ridiculously chemically it is driven. We are constantly having these automatic responses to our environment, the sugars and other chemicals dancing around in our bodies, and just about everything else in the world. Yet we have this need to rationalize these emotions, rather than accept the fact that we are mostly just chemical machines whose primary form of programming comes from observation.

For example, earlier today I was feeling sad. At first, I thought it was because no one had showed up for my walk (long, uninteresting story), but the more I thought about it, the more I was certain that my response to being let down was WAY overblown.

Even if I were unhappy that no one showed up, I shouldn't have been taking it as hard as I was. That's when it struck me: I was tired. I hadn't been eating much fruit and was probably suffering from some sort of vitamin deficiency. The world was, in fact, probably not against me.

Did I have a right to be angry? Who cares! I likely would have been upset about anything. I would have been upset if one person had shown up, and I probably would have been upset if 20 people had shown up. I was chemically prepared to be angry. It didn't matter which stimulus brought it on.

But the crazy thing about it all was how quickly I associated my emotional state with the situation, rather than with what was going on inside my own head.

I think that's a common issue we all face. Right now I'm bizarrely focused on a 1L girl who is really cute. It took another individual to point out that this attention only really started to develop with the onset of finals fear and an increase in Facebook time.

(Facebook, Sara, is a social networking website that may be used to report gossip, display pictures, establish groups, and bring together events.)

My thing for this girl was directly connected with my brain going into "do anything but studying and homework" mode. If I had to guess, I'd say that even these things were probably related to Daylight Savings Time and my yearly case of Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka winter depression), which I just self-diagnosed.

I don't have a point in this rant. Not really. I guess, if I had to come up with a point, I would say that it's odd we all wish we were driven by logic, when it's clear that practically none of us is.

Oh. And someone should buy me the Uplift Technologies DL930 Day-Light or some other 10,000 lux light therapy lamp for seasonal affective disorder.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Here I am, sitting in an Evidence review, and I'm all of a sudden realizing that the hearsay rules aren't as bad or as long as I originally thought they were.

Memorization is a funny thing. It's a bit like a mental block issue. The more you think there is to memorize, the harder it is to memorize. This is why I'm such a believer in tables of contents. If nothing else, they take a LONG, LONG set of facts and condense them into manageable parts. Each part is short and easy, and easily memorized.

It's a bit like acting in a play. When you first get your 70 page script, you feel overwhelmed, not believing you'll ever be able to memorize it all.

And then, inexplicably, it gets smaller, until the whole thing seems to fit in your head.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Regrets: the 2007 Edition

I was driving to Lawrence yesterday for the basketball game, listening to some rock solid Scrubs music, when I had a moment of realization. I never wrote my annual October Regrets post.

This could be because I'm currently living in a world of no regrets (unlikely); however, I think it has a bit more to do with the weather. The cold part of the fall only recently started to strike. When the temp drops into the 20s, the leaves start really falling, and bundling up becomes more of a necessity and less of an option... That's the time for a person to take stock of his life and realize that it isn't as awesome as it could be.

Last year, on another blog, I believe, I took this time to write about the Bosnian Babe. Since then, she got engaged; and, perhaps more importantly, distance, time, and life have gotten in the way.

I just realized that I've run into two old wish-they-were flames in the past six months. One is getting married. The other is married. And here I am. Weird, but not entirely shocking.

As I was saying, last year I devoted this space to the Babe. This year I don't really have anything like that. The thing about regrets is the zero-sum nature of them. It's foolish to regret something that blows over easily or that can simply be replaced. There is very little reason to regret losing a reproduction of a Monet, but all kinds of reasons to regret losing your kid's first painting.

So now I'm in an odd place. I don't have a ridiculously well paying job, but I have a theory that, assuming I am a good lawyer, I'll make that up in the long run.

What's that leave? I don't have a girlfriend; I'm not married; I don't have kids. These are all eventually correctable. Theoretically, of course.

I could lament my lack of a hard body, but I've almost gotten to a point in life where that seems pointless.

I guess the only thing left is to over-value some girl or another and lament the fact that we aren't together, and we probably never will be. Even that I've made my peace with. So what if she is pretty and sunny and not afraid to dance at inappropriate times? Dime a dozen, let me tell you.

We just chatted. Then she chatted with two other guys, both of which are more attractive than I, one of which actually lent her money for lunch. Am I really going to compete with that? Wait, more importantly, am I really going to bother competing with that?

Um, if you don't know me yet, the answer to that question is no. Actually, often the verbally spoken answer is yes, but the physically realized answer is no.

Back on point: So I think I have lots of regrets. I can feel them bubbling somewhere underneath. I just don't know what they are. All of the obvious ones aren't relevant.

Well, I give up for now.

WAIT!!! I've got it! A regret, above all other things, is something we aren't sure if we can fix. I was discussing this with my Jewish friend recently. I have one personality trait that - for want of a better term - I regret.

I regret being more attracted to outgoing girls than shy ones. And I really only regret that because I don't have the necessary tools to deal with the issue.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Law School Exam

Sometimes I forget that I have this public persona that I hold so far out there that others often know me more than I know them. It's an odd experience.

Anyway, here I am, sitting at the bookstore a little before 3pm on a Tuesday. Much like most days, I have a lot of things on my mind. I'm trying to find people to go to the basketball game tonight, but failing, not because people hate going to ball games with me, but rather because people want to STUDY!

Naturally, this puts me in a tricky position. I've made it a goal this year to do better than I did last year, but how can I honestly do that, when I find myself falling into the same traps that so effectively caught me last year?

Right now, I have two crutches holding myself in place. First, I have ridiculous belief that I understand better how the rules work, so the amount of studying necessary ought to be significantly less. Second, the curve is nice this year.

The problem is, none of that matters! EVERYONE is that way. The curve is good to all. Each of us has a better understanding of the law than we did last year. The plan behind each test remains the same. Memorize, memorize, memorize, then spit out everything you can possibly think of for each exam question, because the law school exam isn't about getting things right and wrong, it's about saying the most things correct in the amount of time given.

That's really what a person who is good at the law does. He or she doesn't look for the right answer, because there ISN'T one. Instead, he or she looks for all the possible ways you might go with an answer, back each and every one of them up with some rule or rules, then cross your fingers and pray you wrote down more than everyone else.

More later.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Day After... The Party!

So this past weekend was Halloween, right? Aside from being a great time where women dress in next to nothing, it's also a time to come back to class/work on Monday morning and look at all the people you did inappropriate things with over the weekend and feel embarrassed.

That statement, of course, assumes that your job/school had a Halloween party involving a great deal of alcohol.

Now that the weekend is passed (like a kidney stone), I shall enumerate some of the more embarrassing events.

First, thanks to the magic of facebook, you can clearly see me destroying a very cute picture of a Couple by standing in the background and cheesing it up.

Actually, I still haven't decided how I feel about that picture. On the one hand, if the girl of the couple were only able to take the stick out of her a§§ for about 3 seconds, she'd think the picture was funny, so I'm irritated at her for being such a stick in the mud who gets pissed off when you disrupt her world. There's another word for that, but I'll refrain.

On the other hand, I hate to piss people off, and I'm sure she spent half an hour crying because such an important moment was ruined forever.

Second, when I get in a "state," (meaning drunk) I find myself getting very handsy. I believe this results from several factors. A) I naturally like people. B) I'm a lonely guy. C) Due to the dearth of ass in my life, I have to find other ways to get me some.

The wild thing about this is drunk people tend to react pretty positively to handsiness. At least, in the short term. Oh, nothing serious ever comes of it - at least for me - but the overwhelming negative reactions of sober people just don't exist.

Then Monday rolls around. Ah, Monday. The nervous grin. The ridiculously uncomfortable wave. The fleeting thought that probably passes through the girl's mind, "Well, at least I didn't wake up in his bed...."

Yes, no one likes Mondays.

Or maybe I'm just in a bad mood, because I've managed to convince myself that what's-her-name is not, in fact, interested, when I had myself all certain that maybe she was. That's also possible.

Of course, if I go down that thought process, I'll start to get all depressed and start crying about how fat I am.

And no one wants to hear that.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Social Rejects

A funny thing that is often pushed home while wandering the pilloried halls of the law school is the fact that law students, as a whole, are introverted people. We aren't really flashy. We aren't out to make a million friends like MBA people. We simply do our best to fit in and try not to be too socially retarded at the same time.

(At least two words in the previous paragraph have multiple meanings, depending on my intent. Can you name them?)

This comes out in any number of ways. There are those who don't like going out. There are those who always go out, because they want to learn about this "being accepted" thing. There are those who say WILDLY inappropriate things, because they haven't mastered the art of social situations. There tends to be an overall lack of communication that can come out in the most unexpected of moments (like all good lacks of communication do).

You often hear, when people talk about law school, that it's like going back to high school. I really can't think of a more appropriate idea. The thing about high school is the uncertainty. People don't know what they are supposed to do and who they are supposed to be.

Law school, as far as I can tell, consists of those people who still haven't really figured that out.

But then, maybe I'm being a little too harsh on law students. Maybe this uncertainty goes beyond law students. Maybe the world is filled with those who have it figured out (dumb, unimaginative people) and those who don't (smart, creative people, who realize just how tricky the world can be).

Or maybe the fact that this post is written by a law student makes it wholly unobjective and one sided.

Or maybe you need to suck it, reasonable side of my brain!

Monday, October 15, 2007

a tough break

Hey! I just wrote something. Now I'm back.

The hour break just now was unexpectedly difficult for me. If I haven't mentioned this before, I have three car pool buddies. All of them have jobs for the summer. I don't. All of them have GPAs better than mine. And all of their jobs are with high paying firms that practically guarantee, no matter which firm I work for, I will probably start around at least $30k/yr lower on the pay scale.

That all sucks, but I've been dealing with it.

The break brought a new thought that really drove home the disparity between myself and my friends. One of them had applied with the IRS. He got an interview; he got a call-back; and he got an almost immediate job offer. Unfortunately for the IRS, he had decided to go with another firm.

So today, as we were studying income tax law, funnily enough, the IRS called him back, said they were sad that he couldn't work for them, but further said that, if he wanted a job next year, just about all he had to do was ask.

I also applied to the IRS. I did not got an initial interview.

In retrospect, it's almost painful to see how important one year of law school is. The career services guy thinks that I shouldn't have a problem getting a job in the small to midsize firms over the summer. Probably not at a place where they tend to make offers out of the summer program, but I'll at least get experience.

To get this job, I'll need to write about 100 letters, identify 100 firms, pray to whatever god I believe in, and wait.

The crazy thing about all of this is that I'm in the top third of the class. Not the top quarter, just the top third. I don't have any idea what people with worse GPAs are thinking right now.

In retrospect, this may be a hard life I've chosen.

But what else am I going to do?

What is a blog? and other law organization questions

Today I learned that blogs consist primarily of people with a specific background providing context to world events using their own experience. Now, if that means blogs are basically a bunch of people yelling about how pissed off they are and/or showing pictures of their cats, then I completely agree.

This is not my cat, nor it is my family's cat.

Anyway, an odd part of law school is the way real things are going on that actually affect peoples' lives, but at the same time there's such a strong high school aura that permeates everything. So, for example, today we had a meeting of the leaders of all the organizations. We all knew each other. We were all good buddies. And yet our discussions and actions are likely to move thousands, possibly even tens of thousands of dollars in various directions.

I think there's something reassuring about working with strangers in that regard. The threat of GroupThink shrinks, because assigned roles are not as easily fallen into. At least, I think that might be the case. That said, it's not like there's a crazy amount of money being tossed around in the first place. We're certainly not NASA.

I don't know. I don't really have a point today, just a random set of thoughts.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Background

It seems that if I take too long to write a new post, crickets begin to chirp. Or else anonymous is making some other kind of statement that I am misinterpreting.

And so, you might ask, what shall I talk about? Should I talk about how KU is ranked for the first time in over 10 years? Nah, that's pretty adequately covered elsewhere. What about the fact that I'm watching Bride and Prejudice, just going to prove that I really, really want to be Mr. Darcy? Definitely not. In fact, I should probably delete that last sentence.

Actually, I will say this: Jane Austen simply did not get self-effacing humor. This ruins my personality for generations of women who read her novels. Truly a tragedy.

Back on point, what should I talk about? Only two things of interest come to mind. I'm currently doing a small to mid-size firm job search, and I like background characters in movies who have few lines but say a whole lot with their eyes.

Case in point, if you've been watching the Harry Potter movies, you should have been noticing Ginny. She's cute. She's tiny. She doesn't say much. Yet she's always in the background. Somehow, the camera always manages to pick her up and catch her unreadable expressions.

I totally dig that. Even better than that, I like two characters to sit in the background, one clearly hurting because of what is going on in the foreground and the other empathizing wordlessly. In my opinion, that is the most magical of storytelling moments. The thing that tugs at my heart strings is rarely the main plot. It's the side characters. The people who sit in the background and open the world of the story up for the audience. For those of you who enjoy Harry Potter, that character is Looney Lovegood. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, its Xander.

These are the people we know. Who really identifies with Harry Potter? Who identifies with Ender? Who sees Edmund Dantes in themselves? No one. None of us sees within himself the hero. We are those other people. Looney. Bean. Jacopo. We are everyone else.

I fear that this entry is a little too random and probably overly repetitive, so I suppose I'll end for now, but don't think I'm letting you all off the hook on this one. I definitely feel an important point coming out of this. I just need more time to think it through.

Have a good fall break.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Why unofficial law blogs rock

I'm sitting at the bookstore right now, helping no one, doing nothing, and watching the 1Ls all vote for their SBA reps, class presidents, etc. Way to go, those guys.

Anyway, the next thing I'd like to talk about is the difference between official and unofficial law school blogs. I just spent an hour checking out the official Harvard recruiting blog and the official Chicago recruiting blog, and I can tell you one thing right now, for all that they might offer some interesting content, none of them can compare with this.

That's right. Some law student out there wrote a blog entry all about Pandas not be copyright-able because they aren't a fixed medium of expression.

THAT is why I wanted to go to law school. Actually, THIS is why I wanted to go law school, but surely that is a close second.

Now compare those with the Harvard Admissions blog.

One word:


I mean, really? Newspaper-style blogging with quotes from other people? And properly done quotes, at that? That's not seat-of-your pants blogging. That's not the random thoughts of a guy writing stream of consciousness.

Worst of all, the writing is done is big, block paragraphs. Who wants to read a paragraph longer than three sentences? Tools, that's who. Tools.

I don't claim that my blog is actually funny. It is, but I don't make that claim. I am, however, happy to claim that it doesn't sound like an infomercial wrapped in a news item.

Am I happy about having gone to KU for law school? Yes. Do I plan on pulling any punches about KU? Only to the extent than I don't get yelled at.

A person buys a product because of the sizzle. And for something to sizzle, it has to be interesting, original, jagged, different, scary, exciting, and, most of all, real.

The Harvard that I read about in the aforementioned blog isn't real. It's a veneer. It's law school behind a silk screen. It provides no additional reason to want to go to Harvard.

Mind you, we are talking about Harvard, so it isn't like there needs to be any additional reason.

But my point stands. A good blog wouldn't talk about the school in a general, generic way like that. A good blog would say:

Today, Prater got down on his knees, put on a paper hat, and yelled, "Vive La France!"


This week, S won in Gunner Bingo. It was a close race. The gunner who won it for him probably didn't notice all the groans in the room, because he is a gunner, but if he had, he probably wouldn't have known what was going on.


T seems to be listening to World Music at the 1L voting booth. Now he is dancing. It's official. Law School cracked T, and I don't care.

Speaking of which, they really are listening to World Music at the voting booth. One person is trying to form a one man drumming circle. Kansas Law: We have fewer hippies than the undergrads do!

The First of Many Things: KU v UK

Well, it's time for my friday entry, and I just have too many things that I want to write at length about.

too many things = two

The first thing that I was considering on my way in to school was the nature of the difference between a P and a J personality, according to the Myers-Briggs test, and how those personality differences can have an interesting effect on a person's type of law school success.

The other thing I'd like to discuss is an array of oddities. Namely, a recent court decision in favor of the RIAA, the difference between Official and Unofficial law school blogging, why Terry Pratchett is awesome, NJ gets rejected, KU-KSU, and the origin of the letter flip regarding KU rather than UK.

Alright, so "two" is a bit of intellectual dishonesty.

Let's start with that last one and work our way up.

Recently, as a result of this KU-K State game, an awful lot of people have been arguing back and forth about why KU isn't called UK. I think this is mostly because stupid people come up with stupid reasons to fight.

Anyway, when I walked away from the din of that ridiculous verbal battle, it occurred to me to actually try to find out why the University of Kansas is called KU, rather than the more obvious UK.

My first step was to dispel the myth that KU is called KU, because Kentucky already uses UK.

If we turn to the wikipedia entry on the Univ. of Kentucky, we find that UK first came into being in 1865. Curiously, this is the same year that KU came into being, though students didn't begin attending KU until 1866. Since then, UK has gone through a diverse array of name changes, including the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky, State University Lexington Kentucky, and, of course, the University of Kentucky. In that time it has splintered in a few different directions and did not exist in its modern form until 1916.

Regrettably, the wiki page dedicated to KU focuses more on the present than the past, though a few things are notable. First, KU football dates from 1890, and basketball dates from 1898, when James Naismith agreed to coach here. UK football dates from sometime in the 1890s, and basketball dates from 1902, when it was originally a girls sport.

The man who put UK basketball on the map was Adolph Rupp, a Halstead, KS native who was a reserve on the KU basketball team under Phog Allen and who was mentored by James Naismith.

All of this indicates, at least to me, that neither team was particularly first out the gate athletically, or as a University in general. And, if we were to try to find the "first out the gate," I'd probably have to tip in favor of KU with the University name going through fewer perturbations and the athletic achievement settled first by dint of having coached the UK coach.

Which means we should look elsewhere for the reason KU is called KU.

Regrettably, from this point forward all I have is conjecture. Notable is the fact that former Big 8 schools that don't have a "State" in their name go by a similar naming scheme (e.g. Univ. of Missouri is MU, Univ. of Colorado is CU, Univ. of Oklahoma is OU).

This might mean that something about these specific schools lent to this change. Two possible theories exist. One is that these schools wanted to not be confused with their more populated coast-hugging name brethren. The other is that each of these schools have changed their name in the past.

KU, I know, may fall within this category. Old, old pictures in the law school refer to the university as Kansas University. This would fit with certain other midwestern schools, such as Indiana University and Ohio University. It may well be that the abbreviation was associated with the school (and especially the school athletic programs) LONG ago when sports were big, then the school changed its name, but kept the old nomenclature.

In fact, this theory helps to understand why UK is called UK, rather than some other crazy name. Sports programs at Kentucky did not become big until well after it had ultimately adopted its modern name.

Now that we have our preferred hypothesis established (KU was called Kansas University by sports fans, who don't go changing abbreviations simply because the school changed its name), we need only find, as the archaeologists do, one or two pieces of evidence that KU was still called Kansas University during the heyday of early university athletics.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

We are who we are

It's been enough time between entries that I figure it's time to discuss something new. The problem is, I'm having trouble picking a topic. I mean, there's so much to discuss. I could talk about my constant battle with my weight. Or my inability at getting a job. Or the inexplicable ability of the women in my class TO get a job. (I'm not saying that retaining women in the law firm isn't an issue that needs to be addressed. I just think throwing more and more new women associates at the problem isn't going to fix it.)

The problem is that I hate coming off as whiny or pissy or any other word that ends in 'y' and means I'm not acting manly enough. (Sexual stereotypes exist for both sexes, of course. It's just unmanly to talk about stereotypes against men.... Ironic.)

Anyway, this dilemma leaves me in a bit of a bind. What can I talk about, if I can't complain?

One interesting topic, at least in passing, is my recent realization that practically no one in law school was "cool" in high school. This is surprising for any number of reasons, but first and foremost is the fact that an awful lot of these people are INCREDIBLY athletic now. They've got the looks, the stature, the physique. How is it, I am left to wonder, that they were in the unpopular crowd at one time?

Ultimately, I am forced to conclude that, once we've recast ourselves, we can be whoever we want to be. Easily the nerdiest guy in our class, the guy who anxiously awaited the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the guy who spends his off time play World of Warcraft and other ultra-geeky activities, this guy probably the most ripped dude I know.

Another guy who swears to having been a bookworm in high school spent the summer going from hippy festival to hippy festival.

Cute girls have degrees in hard science. Even cuter girls have spent time heavily involved in local and national politics.

EVERYONE unabashedly discusses Harry Potter.

This is law school. Hell, this is adulthood. Popularity is no longer measured by the loudest, or the scariest, or the meanest. It isn't measured by sports, but by the earning potential that comes out of sports.

As far as I can tell, adulthood popularity revolves around three major traits:

1. Attractiveness
2. Ability to Earn (and current earnings)[Perhaps Ability to Provide would be more accurate]
3. Ability to Connect [or possibly Get Along. This last one needs some tweeking]

I think that's it. Everything else is really an offshoot from these three categories. Some might argue Confidence as a major factor, but I really think confidence is just a contruct created to define a person who fulfills all three major traits.

Consider: From the perspective of a 3rd party (because who else is measuring popularity?), there is no way to know who is and is not confident. As such, it is necessary to look at the clues. I think it is a natural presumption for people to assume that attractive people are more likely to be confident. Furthermore, we assume that those people who have no trouble talking to everyone around them must be confident. And, lastly, don't we naturally feel more comfortable, perhaps more provided for, by those who are confident (or who we assume are confident)?

In response you might say, "But NJ! Sure, those three traits are all good indicators of confidence, so why don't we just ASSUME that the trait that leads to popularity IS confidence, rather than those three traits?"

That's a great question, You. The reason I would be hesitant to equate confidence with popularity is two-fold.

First, popularity does not result magically from a state of mind. As much as we would all like to pretend to have telepathy, we don't. What we do have is our own automatic reactions to the behavior of other people. And popularity, if nothing else, is not so much a measure of the person who is popular, as it is a measure of the way people around that person behave and respond to specific traits exhibited by the person.

To analogize: if the brightness of reflections of the sun were like popularity, then the explosions of the sun would be one component, but the light that came out of those explosions would be the much more major component.

To put it another way, it's all about what is being measured.

The second reason I hesitate to equate popularity and confidence has to do with the idea that maybe they don't fit together. It's entirely possible (and even likely) that women who are not confident at all exhibit all of the traits listed and are very popular; meanwhile women who are confident would not see the point of exhibiting these traits and would, consequently, be characterized as unpopular.

Ditto, but less confidently so, on men.

Anyway, bringing this all the way back around to the beginning, I am forced to conclude that many people took a hold of their own destinies after high school and made their lives as they would have them be. Fat kids became thin. Nerdy girls got cute. The unathletic kids got big-ass muscles. Steve became less of an asshole, and Jay, who was voted most-likely to become a child rapist, went on to lead a Fortune 500 company.

And then was convicted of child rape, because some things never change.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rejection? Really?

It's 11pm. Do you know where your kids are?

So today I had another interview, and I walked away incredibly excited about the job. Seriously, I need to stop that. As far back as I can remember, the place I've ended up has been somewhere unexpected, where I've had my reservations. Often these reservations were well founded, and I hated life until I adopted, adapted, and improved.

Which is why I'm starting to get a little worried. I've had all kinds of interviews, and I've totally blown it on the ones I wasn't interested in, which means I'm not getting those jobs. Then, on the flip side, I've done very well with the interviews that really excited me, but I don't GET jobs that really excite me. I get the job that makes me feel lukewarm or even tepid.

Which necessarily means that I'm not going to get any of the jobs for which I've so far interviewed. Instead I'm going to end up working for a 3 person firm in Hutchinson that is heavily involved in local (not international) cattle and grain trade. Or maybe divorce work.

That'll be great. Fond memories there.

I believe a philosopher of logic would tell me that I'm currently operating on a fallacy. To which I would respond, "Ha ha! Fallacy!"


Nothing? Doesn't anyone get penis jokes anymore?

Now, for a meta-moment: I'm sorry for writing such a series of downer entries, but such is law school during hiring season. Law students exist in four different categories of emotion at this time.

1. Relieved but nervous, because we got a job, but we're terrified of it.

2. Frustrated, because we've had a thousand (or 3, 4, 5, or 6) interviews, and none of them seem to be panning out. Kind of like dates in my life. Only my number is smaller. And I'm about 300 miles past frustrated.

3. Terrified, because we don't have a job; we don't have prospects; and we don't have a clue.

4. Married and going to law school because we are bored. This is only for established couples, where one person is already married and making a decent enough wage that the other isn't too stressed out.

At times like these, its kind of hard to believe that things are going to get better. And yet the suicide rate of lawyers is WAY lower than one might expect.

So that's nice.

OK, OK. I'm just kidding! For all I know, the suicide rate might be way higher than we expect. Sheesh! It's called creative license, people!

Anyway, taking all of this into consideration, I was especially interested and surprised by the letter I received today from Polsinelli. It appears that they were very impressed by me and were glad that I had taken time out of my day to interview with them, but there were so many great candidates that, even though it was a very difficult decision, they simply could not offer me a "call back" interview.

Now, I appreciate rejection couched in kindness as much as the next guy, but have a heart! Posinelli was rejecting me after an interview THAT NEVER HAPPENED!!!!

That's right. They had two full rooms of interviews, as I understand it. That means 40 full people. Unquestionably a long, arduous, honest day's work. But I was in no way involved! None. Not even a little.

When I got the letter, I was confused. At first I was relieved. I hadn't gotten a single rejection letter, and I was beginning to worry that I'd written my address down incorrectly or something.

Clearly that was not the case.

Anyway, I was relieved, but then I thought, "Wait a tick! The first KC firm I interviewed with was Swanson Midgley. They were very nice. I don't think I've ever interviewed with... who is this? ... Oh yeah, Posinelli."

So I get online, check with easelaw, and sure enough: No interview. I had been wrongly rejected.

Not that I'm complaining. I mean, if I can be wrongly rejected, couldn't I also be wrongly accepted.


"N. J.?"


"This is Latham Watkins in Chicago. We were very impressed with your resume and your interview with us at the Chicago U. Career Fair. We'd like to invite you to a call back interview at our firm."

"Huh? But I didn't even app... Did you say call back? Will I be paying for my flight?"

"Oh, no, sir. The firm handles the costs for call back interviews."

"Where do I sign?"


Oh, how wonderful would life be, if mistakes like that worked both ways? Sadly, in my experience, they don't. The world is filled with incorrect rejection letters. You have to be rich and friends with 5 of the 9 supreme court justices to get incorrect acceptance letters.

Sorry, I'm not very good at political humor.

That's my story tonight. Now it's almost midnight. Do you still have no idea where your child is? Have you considered adoption? Seriously, once he puts down the gun, your kid will realize you're doing him a favor.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Who to blame?

I'm painfully bored at the bookstore. I've finished my high protein and fiber breakfast bar. I don't have any books handy to do homework with. And I've checked facebook about 25 times. No, zero cute girls have posted on my wall in the last five minutes.

Which leads me to all y'all! Happy wednesday and merry hump day. Have you eaten your apple?

I don't really have many things to say today. I had my interview. It went well. I get the impression that they aren't interested, but if they could hire everyone, they would, yadda yadda yadda.

It's crazy how only a few GPA points up or down can completely change your interview status. If I were .2 or evey .05 gpa points higher, I'd probably have gotten about 10 more interviews, instead of my five or six. On the other hand, if I were down by an equal amount, I'd have gotten zero interviews.

I guess that's a luck thing.

Or potentially not. It may well be that I am to be in that unhappy group that interviews exclusively to round-out the pool. At the end of the day, I'm not going to get a call-back, much less a job offer, and I'll have ultimately wasted my time and possibly my money buying a new suit for nothing.

Wow. That was bleak.

Law school is a funny place, because everyone spends so much time absorbed in their own problems. They may show this in different ways. For example, one person might never talk about their problems, but be constantly thinking of them. Another might speak out long and loud. Either way, the self-absorption is undeniable.

Consider myself. Here I am, complaining about wasting my time on interviews when I never get called back. For all intents and purposes, I'm in the upper echelon! The vast majority of 2Ls are getting zero interviews and have no idea what they are going to do over the coming months....

A hottie just walked by. "How you doin?"

And I'm back. What was I saying? Oh yes, self-absorption. So all of these people are getting no interviews and no job offers, and all I can think about is how lucky those people are who've already gone on call-backs. The fact of the matter is, until an offer has been placed at our table, we're all in this big, jobless boat together.

This would naturally suggest that we ought to single out those who've gotten offers and whine about them, right? Well, I'd often agree with that, but even that really isn't an option at the moment, because those people all seem to be really nice, hard-working individuals who deserve jobs at least as much as the rest of us.

Which leaves only one group. That's right. I'm talking to you, law students whose spouses either are or are going to be doctors!!! Way to leave some of the money for other people!

That, of course, was a little joke, if only because they also seem to fall into the category of nice and hardworking. No, the only people left to blame are the hirers of the world. Law firms seemingly have no conception of what would or would not make a good candidate, so they hire as tradition dictates.

This means they look for people like themselves; they hire under-represented groups; and they rely upon the completely useless 20 minute interview.

Oh how I hate them.

I should change professions. I should become a mime, move to New Orleans, have zero dollars resulting in forced weight-loss, and eventually become a vigilante, patrolling the streets to ensure that Metropolis is safe for another day.

That would be awesome.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

To Rise

At least at KU, no one really knows why one person might get a job offer or call-back where another person will be totally ignored. The prevailing myth is that law firms run a numbers game. There is an unspoken rule that large firms need X number of people of color, Y number of women, Z number of students returning from their 1L summer, and, once those slots have been filled, the remainder may go to the nearly 65% white, male population.

I'm willing to believe that this equation is at least somewhat true. In fact, were I in the shoes of the casual observer or the firm, I'd think such an equation was eminently reasonable.

It's only when I happen to be a white male who is getting so few interviews, call-backs, and job offers that I start to get antsy.

A second theory is that women as a group aren't being hired. Rather, small, pretty, (possibly) blonde women are being hired, because juries like to vote for attractive women. This also does not lie outside the realm of possibility. Honestly, can one fault a firm for trying to stack the cards in its favor?

I mention all of this because I have a very major interview tomorrow. More than having any kind of desire to practice in one particular field, I want to practice on a national level. I don't want to be a small town or local lawyer. I want to feel a connection with the world and the nation. I want to feel that my efforts affect not two or three people, but hundreds or thousands.

Tomorrow I interview with my first multi-office, multi-state firm. Because of my GPA, because of my standing, because of my lack of inherent multi-culturalness, and because of my lack of a hard science undergraduate degree, I have found myself relegated to small firms in small towns.
I say all of this, not to sound snide or snotty or uppity to my roots, but rather to shout out that I want to be someone on a grand stage. I am too young. I am unoccupied and unmarried. My dreams remain vast and have not yet been shot down, deflated, degraded, or sundered.

And yet all of these hopes rest in slingshotting myself into the stratosphere now.

As Americans, we pride ourselves as being individuals, men and women, who can be born in 90 year old, cobweb ridden farmhouses, born not in barns, but close enough that the smell of manure is a comfort, and yet who rise up to be President or Sam Walton or the "Can you hear me now" guy.

Tomorrow I have been granted one of the many lucky shots of my life. If I mess it up, if I totally fall apart, or even if I never had a shot and they selected me because they needed to fill all of their slots, I don't imagine that I'll feel crushed in any way. Trees don't die after a little bit of hail.

But getting this shot sure would be nice.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Superbad Halloween


In a bit of random searching that started with a look-up of no-hitters and perfect games, I came across reviews for Superbad. Roger Ebert liked it. Peter Travers liked it. liked it.

It is without question hilarious. I'm willing to dress up as Seth, if anyone else is willing to be McLovin.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

If Only....

It's going to be past two by the time I post this blog, which means nothing good can come of it.

Oh well.


If only I were about four inches taller and thin/ripped, the women would be lining up.

This is what I think on what I would probably call a fairly frequent basis. Sometimes, when I'm trying to be more realistic, I'm willing to drop the 4 inches taller thing, since that, at least, is out of my control.

My thought is this: I have an incredible personality. Everyone, I mean EVERYONE, likes me. I'm pleasant. I'm outgoing. I network because I enjoy networking. If you put my personality inside the body of some greek god, that man would be could probably be king of the world.

Anyway, I found myself challenging that thought today. It was an odd experience. Not an incredibly odd experience, as I tend to spend my off time challenging my own notions, trying to perfect the imperfect beast that is NJ. No, I'd say it was only an odd experience.

By the way, if you haven't already guessed, this is going to be an introspective blog entry. Sign in next week for more comedy.

Autumn started today. Not officially, of course. Officially autumn doesn't start for a while. It's just that in my mind autumn begins with the first college football game of the year. That's one of those rules of the universe that may not be denied.

With autumn comes a special season. A friend once had the theory that couples get together in autumn, because people don't like being cold and lonely. The theory was slightly deeper than that, but only barely. The thing is, I actually like the theory. The world changes in autumn. Sure, there's the leaf thing, but that's only one visual cue.

The air changes. Everything becomes crisp. New possibilities intrude themselves upon our senses. And for some reason we all finding ourselves getting lonely. As much as I enjoy the strong emotions that I associate with autumn, I do envy the married and the coupled of the world.

Today I went to a football. We won. That's not the interesting part. The interesting part is all about what happened before and after the game. Have you ever seen The Family Man with Nicolas Cage? No? Yes? It doesn't matter, except you might catch the following reference.

I got a Glimpse today. I saw what my life might have been like, had I not chosen to live in Lenexa, and had I not decided to start school in the summer. It was a strange experience. I felt like I was living the life of some alternate dimension Nathan. I felt a Sliding Doors moment. I would not have been overwhelmed had someone said, "It's like what those Monty Python boys said." "What, always look on the brighter side of life?" "No, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition."

Tonight I ran with a crew that fit my sensibilities. They were all nerds, but, at the same time, were friendly and chatty and had no problem talking to girls. They were the kind of people that I always wished Triangle had been. And I got the sense that, if things had been different, these would have been my law school friends.

If I haven't said this before, I'll say it now, Law School is like high school. Each class consists of about 150 people. Everyone knows each other. Everyone runs in their own cliques. There is this sense that talk among cliques is welcome and even encouraged, but breaking down each clique to form new ones is practically impossible.

Like I said, high school.

Over the past two days, I've run with several of these cliques. I've hung with the laid back B-schoolers. I spent time with the party crowd. I've seen the cheerleader crew, the quiet girl crew, and even the Iowan girls. Yeah, that's a group too. And, finally, as mentioned, I spent time with the party nerd clan. I imagine one day they'll be better known as the local politicians.

In each group I knew I didn't belong. Each one was happy to have me along, because I really am a nice guy, but that was the trick. It was each group including me as an outsider.

I've come to realize, after this whirlwind two days, that that is really who I am right now. I'm the outsider. My closest law school friends are all married and don't need me in their social support group, because they all have significant others who perform the job of support group quite admirably.

It was with this realization that I came to challenge my supposition. "Getting the girl" takes patience and effort and a single-minded drive to exclude your friends.

I'm an outsider because I don't behave that way. I'm all inclusive, all the time.

But it's a little bit more than that. Underneath it all, behind that guy who is friendly and smiles and is well liked because he likes everyone, lies a nervous, introverted kid who is afraid to open up and let everyone see... what? Not my flaws. I proudly display those, often humorously and to great effect. Not my smarts and not my opinions. Those I also wave about.

I have to think that everyone has one quality that they are afraid to bring into the open. They hide it behind an impenetrable door, and, when another person sees it, they feel naked.

As dumb as this will sound, for me that thing I so desperately hide is emotion. That's it. I'm afraid to let people see that part of me that I can't control, so I mask it under steel and hide it in twinkling eyes and an open mouthed grin.

I'm afraid to say I love you. I'm afraid to show anger or sadness. At times it comes out, if rarely, and in those moments I'm dreadfully embarrassed and ashamed. Then I worry that people will see it and not like me, or feel uncomfortable around me.

So I put it back away. I put up my wall. I show the game face and don't let people in.

Eventually, over enough time, I let some of these defenses slip on purpose. When I feel comfortable enough around another person, I start to let them in, a little at a time. But, being such a nervous guy, I practically always need for the other person to make the first move.

Which is why I guess I'm wrong about women. Even if I were six foot four with a body sculpted like a male model I'd still have problems. Men are supposed to make the first move and be adventuresome and always elevate the relationship to the next level, both physically and emotionally, and that just isn't what I do.

I'm nervous. I'm interverted. I hide behind my wall. I flit from group to group.

It's been about an hour since I started writing, and I guess I've gotten my point across. If you've managed to make it to this point, I congratulate you. Listening to people belly-ache about their problems can really grow dull after enough time, and I'm sure I've taken more than enough from all of you loyal readers.

next time: why talking about money is sexy

note: You'll find I rarely keep my "next time" promises.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ho bags and equity

In my continuing quest to be casual, you may have noted my recent lack of posting. To that I say, "DAMN STRAIGHT, HO BAG!"

In related news, Ho Bag is one of my favorite curses, because it can have so many meanings. I mean, what is a ho bag? Is it a bag that hoes carry around? Or is it a bag full of hoes? Or, if you are of the dark comedy bent, is it actually bang composed of hoes?

All are possibilities.

Anyway, in school news I successful explained the difference between a court of law and a court of equity to a bunch of 1Ls. For those of you who don't know (like me, 12 months ago) a court of equity is a court where everyone is already guilty, it's just that we're supposed to feel sorry for the guilty, to the point that it would seem unfair to hold them to the penalty they've earned.

So, for example, if a person overstays a parking meter because he or she broke a leg, there is no question that he or she is guilty of having committed the infraction of having parked overlong. That is not in dispute. A court of law, which focuses primarily on that kind of thing, would immediately say, "Oh, you're goin' down. You KNOW you're goin down."

Meanwhile, a court of equity would look at the situation and say, "Is it really fair for Susy Bootsy to pay this ticket? I mean, sure, she overstayed the limit, but she was detained by the broken leg, which was caused by a KU vehicle, which was driven by a KU employee, who was busily doing work for the university at the time of the accident."


... Baby!

Anyway, that's my job. No, not running over beautiful women! Silly! I am supposed to look at the circumstances and determine whether upholding various tickets is in any way fair. And now we've got a whole bunch of 1Ls who are going to try to argue one way or the other about it.

Of course, every once in a long while, even the original ticket is in dispute, and suddenly we shift gears to court of law, but those are rare and often stupid situations that I hate. F them. And F their situational mom too.

Any other news? Nah, not really. Tomorrow I have to give an hour long tour that I've never given in 20 minutes. How? you ask. Well, if I was a betting man, I'd say I'd probably induce a coma, then implant a memory into the potential student that not only explains the law school, but also provides for a better understanding the culture and the world in which it is situated, as well as the people and the meaningful lives they lead. Then, when the student wakes up, I'd hand her the flute she had learned how to play and send her off to contracts class.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A conservative liberal?

In constitutional law we discussed the fact that the supreme court's ability to check the constitutionality of something (called "judicial review") is undemocratic, since they are not elected and cannot be held accountable for most actions. The response to this is: good.

It sees that the more democratic a governmental official is, by which I mean the more accountable he or she is to his or her constituents, the less reason is involved in decisions and votes. People become slaves to the mob and popular opinion.

Mind you, this is a great thing in many (if not most) situations. The problem is that popular opinion, especially in this world of 30 second commercials but probably since the dawn of time, has never been the most logical and reasonable thing to work with. A lynch mob isn't interested in philosophical discussion.

And so, while it is important to listen to the crowd, it is also crucial to consider centuries of logic, reason, and learning. Whether that background can save us from ourselves is never assured (e.g. Dred Scot, slavery, the rights of nonpropertied individuals, etc.), it remains our last, best hope.

So I've decided that I do actually have some conservative values. I think, for all that I'm a huge fan of swinging wildly liberal, I'm equally afraid of swinging wildly conservative. As this is the case, I'd rather be stuck in some unmoving middle ground than in a nation where rapid shifts result in instability. I believe that living at either extreme is dangerous and unhealthy for a population and a civilization. Consider communism in Russia and facism in Germany. Not the best of things.

Therefore, I'm going to revise my liberal opinion. Rather than being a straight progressive, I think I choose to be a gradual progressive. This means I can now call myself a moderate lib and mean it, rather than just saying it to pay lip service. I believe that I have tendencies to want to drift in the land of communism, and I'm going to guess that at least a few of those tendencies are improper.

All of this leaves me in a strange position that (surprise, surprise) works entirely to my advantage. I believe that the nation should remain in a state of gradual, start-and-stop progress. Yet I also believe it is my duty to speak for the more liberal side of the liberal party, because if I espouse moving toward the middle and both sides don't, then movement will shift to one direction or the other, which goes against my beliefs.

In other words, I should behave the way my gut wants me to behave, because my polar opposite (whoever that bastard is) almost certainly will do the same, and we need to offset each other.

Weird, huh? It's a little like state vote swapping, but on an individual level.

Luckily, my gut mostly doesn't want me to do very much and tends to suggest doing studies to make sure my opinion is right and is otherwise whiny and reactionary.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Day in the Life

Sunday. Ah, what a terrible, terrible, wonderful day. It marks the beginning. And in this case it marks a number of beginnings. That's right, today is the first Sunday for the first full week of classes. Tomorrow I will learn just how well I'll be able to handle Tax (ah!), Con Law (eeh!) and Commercial Secured Transactions (oh MY!).

I'm actually less horrified than one might expect. Call me a lover of pain and mundane, but I actually think I might like all three classes. Constitutional Law has an interesting historical background that I really kind of dig. And both my other classes are heavily based in statutes with which I feel highly comfortable, after spending an entire summer working the KSAs.

Ooh. Also I have my interview tomorrow. See? EXCITING day!

note: I think I'll spend all of tomorrow updating this post, so we can see my state of emotions as the day progresses. Present state: Chachi.


Monday - 1:15pm

Two classes down, one GIANT one to go. That's Con Law for all you looky-loos. Two hours of AWESOME. The rest of the day has been suprisingly unhorrible. I've enjoyed both classes, am kind of interested in this "no computer" thing, and didn't do painfully bad in my interview.

Now: Constitutional Law.

Present State: Opie.

Monday - 9:01pm

Well, I finished several hours ago and absolutely failed to update. Luckily the world didn't end. Or at least the parts that I've been paying attention to. Overall, I have to say that the first day was a good one. I exchanged many emails. I believe I'm back in the good graces of my carpool associates.

Oh yeah. Did I fail to mention that earlier? Yes, it seems that I will always and forever have a problem waking up on time. It's going to be a failing until I get old enough that I simply don't have the will power to stay asleep. This morning I awoke about 1 minute after I was supposed to have met my car pool buddies. That's right. I woke UP then.

Naturally, the first thing I did was mind-numbedly attempt to get ready as fast as humanly possible, until it struck me that trying to do the carpool thing was just going to slow everyone down. Also, people were waiting for me. So I called a carpool denizen and explained that it would probably be best if they left without me. Then the hurricane of NJ-getting-ready struck.

It's safe to say that no one was killed in the process, but it is equally safe to say that no one was in my way.

Anyway, I eventually got in the car, flew down the road to i-35, flew around i-35 to 435 and from there to k-10. This usually takes me about 15 minutes. Today it took me 6.

In the end I managed to get to work and school in time without breaking the 10 mile-over-the-speedlimit speed limit, but I still ended up at work 2 minutes late. How, you ask? My pants.

More accurately, my suit pants. More specifically and accurately, the suspenders of those pants. And more accurately specifically and accurately, the lack of them.

Got it? No? Let me put it another way: My hands were full and my pants kept falling down as I walked to work.

That's right. I got my suit, and I got it altered by Sunday. The only thing I forgot was to actually BUY the suspenders. Oh what a world is this, where pants meant to be worn with suspenders can be purchased without suspenders!!!?

Note: I recently read in GQ that heavier men look better with the floating waist created by suspenders, thus my newfound interest in them... Endnote.

Yeah, so the rest of the day went well. I didn't embarrass myself at my first job interview. I did forget to put in lottery cards for future interview positions, but I wasn't totally sold on doing that, anyway. I mean, seriously, how many people actually WANT to work for the IRS?

Aside from myself.

And all the people I talked it up to.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The First Day

Alright, enough people have complained about my lack of updating, so I've decided now is the time to rock! (WE SALUTE YOU!)

Today I've begun a quest to do something new. I'm going to try to pay attention in every class. The only internet I'm going to allow myself is the internet of love (i.e. email). How long this plan lasts, and how much I'm really interested in following it remains to be seen.

Already my causal approach to law school is showing in myriad ways. I got zero interviews on the first week. I missed the very first class on the very first day. I spent hours and hours doing what amounted to one hour's worth of work.

Really, I'm on the ball with not being on the ball. I'm almost excited to see what other things I can not do well.

Alright, that's it for now. OH WAIT! One other thing. I just remembered. I got my paper back from my summer internship. I should preface this with the fact that it is a credit/no-credit course. Anyway, I got my revised paper back. Prof. Keller tore it apart. She explained how it was shoddily researched and not particularly clear. She pointed out how frequently I used unnecessary words. She all but damned me to the 5 depths of hell (or however many there are).

And then she said, "But it is worth credit."


That was the positive thing. Have you ever heard of a complement sandwich? She gave me something akin to a complement open-faced sandwich, where the gravy is so heavy that there may as well not have ever been bread. Also, the bread is crappy bread. And thinly sliced. And had to be toasted because it was so old.

Alright, I may be employing a little hyperbole. So sue me.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Here's a thought. I just read a study that said quality of life for obese people (particularly children) is similar to quality of life for folks with cancer, due to the stress of stigmatism as a result of the actions of peers. As we all know, heart disease is often related to obesity. What if a part of (obviously not all), but a part of ill-health due to obesity is a result of stress, rather than cholesterol buildup?

Monday, July 9, 2007

Mock my words

I don't often post, and that's not likely to change. I just wanted to toss a little tidbit out there. I was just reading a game message board. Some kid wrote that the Xbox 360 would go down in price by $100. Then he wrote, "Mock my words."

This made me extremely happy. He didn't write "Mark my words." Oh no, he wanted us to mock those words for all we were worth.

Regrettably, I am not signed up to this message board, so I'll just do it write here.

Dude, your words suck.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Grades are in

Good news.  Our final grade came in for this semester.  It was the first and only grade in which I performed better than the average.  This means my overall GPA is exactly .01 higher than it was last semester!  Hoorah!!!  Or something to that effect!

Seriously, though, my goal was to raise my GPA and, failing that, to at least remain constant.  Assuming the rest of the class holds steady, I should remain in the top 1/3 or so.  With my .01 increase, I might even jump up 2 or 3 people!  Or not.  You know, depending on how these things work themselves out.

What this means in terms of job searching remains mildly unknown.  A quick scan of the big local firms suggests that I need to be in the top 10% if I want to have any kind of shot.  As that seems unlikely, I guess I'm going to have to start looking at mid-sized firms.  I'm certain that I'll still try throwing my hat in the ring, particularly with firms I feel I might have a vague in with (e.g. Foulston, Ogletree, and Lathrope), but I don't have high hopes at the moment.

Anyway, I'll keep you posted on how that works out, once rankings are released.

In other news, we appear not to have a boss at work anymore.  The head student clerk is now, for all practical purposes, in charge.  I'm not really sure how to handle or define that, but I think I'm ok with it.  Hopefully this won't lead to my spending all of my time playing spider solitaire.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

politically correct

So I'm having a good time with both of my jobs. I can't get into many specifics with either one, because I think I swore that I'd keep private matters private at some point, but I won't mind talking in generalities.

In both of my jobs, I'm actually writing opinions. I take whatever case is being appealed or argued or discussed, I research all of the claims of whatever parties there are, then I write however I think the case ought to turn out.

With traffic court, I have 1/3 of the ultimate say. With the clerkship, I have zero of the ultimate say. My power is more like that of the president when he proposes the national budget. He makes the proposal, but the congress is the one to actually decide on it.

On the other hand, the president has veto power, so I guess my power is even less than the president's in this case. Regardless, it feels like I have an awful lot of power for a guy who just finished his first year of law school. I guess they think I'm some kind of "adult" now, who will actually try his best at things.


I've had a few moments lately to think about how poor a public figure I'd be. I can imagine that various members of the media who might not like me could twist my words, because I tend to make little sardonic jokes that would play pretty horribly out of context.

It makes me wonder a little bit. That guy in Texas who screwed over the various Native American tribes in the area. I forget his name. I'm sure he was not a great guy, but I wonder if some of the things he wrote weren't nearly as bad as they sounded.

I could see a few conversation between myself and my old ndn roommate coming out REALLY poorly.

Anyhow, I guess that's a random collection of thoughts. Maybe I'll come up with something more focused next time.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

two grades can do a lot

Well, so far my outlook for this semester is pretty grim/frustrated. The crazy thing is that I haven't really moved up or down very much in my overall GPA. Also, I only have two grades left, and if - by some miracle - both turned out to be A's, then all the down stuff I've been saying lately would no longer be applicable.

It's nice that they're the two classes that I left feeling the best about the final, but that never usually means much.

Friday, May 25, 2007


I harp on this problem every now and again. It's something that I hate about myself, but I've come to accept without question. I am, for all intents and purposes, a mediocre student. Mind you, when I say "mediocre" I don't mean "bad" as that term seems to mean these days.

No, I do alright as a student, but I've seemed to give any one subject my all. I never go the extra mile. I'm that classic example of a guy who always manages to do just enough without going a step beyond that point.

Take, for example, the grades I seem to have coming out of this semester. So far, I've got two Bs and a B+. Now, those aren't terrible scores. If I catch a little bit of luck, I'll end up a bit beyond the 50% mark, a lot of luck a bit beyond the 33% mark. The thing is, that's about all I've got going for me. I'm never going to be like Erin or Kristi. I'm never going to be a person who works hard, because people are supposed to work hard. I'm going to be a guy who does what is necessary, then devotes the rest of his life to whatever other pursuits he finds interesting.

Man, I hate that. Actually, I really enjoy that most of the time. I just hate it when I consider how my future will pan out because of it. We exist in a world and a nation that rewards people who are substantially gifted in one particular area. For example, high school kids these days often only participate in one sport, because their scholarship chances increase dramatically if, for example, they are really gifted in basketball.

The same thing goes for lawyers. The lawyers who are most monetarily rewarded are the lawyers who have devoted their entire lives to the law and law school.


Ah well. I guess it's something to strive for. And maybe next year will be better. I tend to work better if I'm involved in other things in the same area, and I plan to be working in the Traffic Court all year.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A reminder

No time to write anything good tonight. This is just a reminder that I'd like to write something a little less dark tomorrow.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Town

Good stories start small and get bigger. This is an unending truth that is passed down from generation to generation among the great story telling families. I'm sure they teach it in creative writing classes. All the best authors are certain to pick it up in some way or another.

This story begins very small. With a simple penny in the middle of the road.

It was a dull penny that had been run over many times. The boy could see this on the sidewalk, five yards away. It was dull, but if he shifted his head just right, the bright, 11am sunlight would glint off it, like the halo of an angel, dancing on its ridge.

Most days, the boy would not have noticed the tiny piece, much less stopped to admire it from so far away, but he had been put in a quiet, sad mood. Much like so many other days, he had been picked on in his new school. Usually he was able to shrug it off. This was a small town. His mom told him that. In small towns all the small town people stick together. They do not like outsiders. Even their worst is better than the world's best, as far as the town is concerned. The town only protects those who protect the town. He just had to work to become part of the town too.

But today he could not shrug those kids off. Today the words gnawed at him. They were simple words: unimaginative, unoriginal. The kind of words with which every fourth grader who is not an asshole is forced to deal.

The boy blinked in spite of himself. He tried so hard to be good. Bad words were for other kids, even bad words that you didn't say, but only thought. This was really a very strange day.

He wanted to move on. He did not know why the world had picked this day to push him down. His father's company made the family move every few months. He was used to dealing with this kind of torment. They had never moved to a small town before, but the words had been repeated in enough places to make it so none of that should matter.

It did, though. Today, it mattered a lot.

And the penny was worn and calling to him.

He had been so focused on the penny that he did not notice the old man walk up to the corner and stop beside him.

"That's a real dull penny, boy," the old man commented.

On another day, the boy might have jumped out of his skin in surprise, but not today. Today he was down. He was stooped. He was dull like the penny in the street.

"You reckon you're gonna grab it?" the man asked.

The boy tore his gaze from the penny to look at the old man. He was shabby with a thin, button-down sweater that had threads sticking out from the edges, and he had a gray beard and white hair.

The boy had not considered taking the penny until now. Somehow, he thought, no, he felt deep in his bones that taking the penny was the wrong thing to do. The penny was supposed to be there.

He turned back to look at the dull coin, shook his head, and said, "Guess not. Pennies aren't really worth anything anymore, are they? Wouldn't do me much good."

The old man replied, "But look at it, boy. That's no ordinary penny. See? See how it shines if you look at it just right? Why don't you take the penny?"

The boy had made up his mind, though. "No. I'll let someone else grab it, I think."

The could not see the old man frowning; he seemed, instead, to feel it. "Maybe you didn't notice. It's not just a shiny penny! It's heads-up too! Why, if you just grab it, you'll have good luck all the rest of the day. Now isn't that worth it?"

The boy definitely did not want the penny now. He had convinced himself that it was not worth the trouble. Even so, he was tired of talking to this old man. If he just grabbed the thing, he could head home and the awful part of the day would be finished.

He took a step forward and stopped. No. This was crazy. The penny was where it was. He wanted to leave it alone. The penny, he thought, had it's own story, and he was not part of that story.

The boy turned to the old man and said, "I don't think I want it, sir. I'll probably just head home. I'm sure you can get it, if you like!" His mom had taught him to be respectful.

The man had been frowning, just as the boy thought, but that frown changed now. It got darker. It got mean. It got wild.

"Boy," and now the man's words were slurred, "you'll do what I say. Kids need to know respect. You don't look like you respect me boy."

The man undid his belt, pulled it from his faded pants, and cracked it around his knuckles. "Parents these days don't teach their kids RESPECT." Spat the man. "You, boy, will take that penny now."

The boy backed up a pace. He did not know what was happening. His eyes were opened wide. He did not move from that spot. Now, he did not know why. He wanted to. The penny was not worth whatever this was. If he could just run and grab it, the man would let him go.

The boys feet would not move. He tried moving his legs. He tried bending his knees. He tried jerking up. Nothing. He was bound fast, and he did not know why.

"You're not gonna do it now, are ya,' boy?" And now the boy could smell the Scotch on the man's breath. "You're wanting a little obedience?" The man took a step toward the boy, and the boy's feet broke their hold with the ground.

He turned and started running, but stopped short when the man growled two, short words.

"Steven Barns," he whispered.

The boy started at the sidewalk in front of him. The man knew his name. He did not know the old man, but the old man knew his name.

"You'll want to turn around now, Steven," the old man spat. "I know where you live. I know what your house looks like. If you just come back and grab that penny, you'll never see me again. Just like all the other new little boys."

Steve stood very still. He knew only one thing. There were no other new boys. His was the only family that had moved into that town in five years.

Steve realized something else. It was a thing that most kids his age might not have considered, and it may have been what saved him, ultimately.

Steve was the only new boy right now. All the students in all the other classes had started kindergarten together. He knew that.

What he realized he did not know was whether there had been any other new boys.

A tear leaked down his left cheek. He knew the answer. Kids are good at that. Kids can make the leaps that cops and scientists spend their whole lives trying to make, and they can do it in an instant.

Of course there had been other boys. Probably those other boys had stood at this very same intersection. Maybe they had even been given the same choice: the penny or the run. His mom had told him. Anyone in the town was better than anyone of the town.

These folk protect their own.

All of these thoughts passed through Steve's head in only a moment or two. Now he snapped back to reality and could feel him standing behind his left shoulder. Steve could hear the heavy breathing and smell the alcohol.

Now Steve could feel something new coming from the man. Steve did not know how he knew, but he could feel pleasure coming off the man in waves. The old man was smiling. Steve did not even need to turn around to feel it. The old man thought he had won, whatever there was too win.

Steve stilled his breathing and listened for the next words to come out of the old man's mouth. He knew, whatever the man said would guide him to life or somewhere else. Somewhere dark. Somewhere unclean, where everything smelled like scotch and mothballs.

"Go on, boy. Grab the penny. You know I hate it when boys act so nervous."

Without need another word, Steve was off, running, sprinting, blazing down the street, as fast as his feet could take him. The old man shouted after him, "Come back, boy! You'll regret this! Your mom will regret this! I know her name too! You come back, boy!"

But the boy would not stop moving. He got home, locked the door, ran to his mother, and cried.

Steve's mother was bewildered and asked him what was wrong. After a few minutes, Steve calmed down and looked at his mother, very seriously. Then he lied, because, he knew, the town would only protect him, if he protected the town.

A few weeks and then a few months passed, and nothing happened. Steve never saw the old man again, and he never walked by the intersection to see if the penny remained. Eventually, as Steve knew he would, his father packed them up and moved them to another town.

This town also was small, but it did not have that stain, that smell, that threat that leaked all over the land, screaming for blood and honor, souls and that unquenchable need for protection.

There were pennies in this town as well, but none of them seemed quite as worn.

Eventually, after many more moves, Steve grew up and forgot about the old man, or else put the old man in a corner of his mind where he did not often look.

Some days, though, after taking his own children to the park, he would have nightmares and wake up, screaming in guilt, in fear, in rage, "Just like all the other new little boys!"

He would cry then, and when his wife asked him what was the matter, he would lie.

Even then, in the fog of waking, he knew. The town - he could not even remember its name - would only protect him, if he protected the town.