The Musings of

Something full of magic, religion, bullsh*t.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Mea culpa

I apologize for the dearth of new material here, but I have been neck-deep in work over the past week, and after a series of 16-hour days, I just don't have anything to blog about. However, there appears to finally be a break in my clouds, and I hope to return with scintillating posts in the next few days. Of course, they'll actually be like my previous posts, so I wouldn't hold my breath on them being "scintillating."

Until then, just be grateful that you don't live in some socialized-medicine-practicing, backwater country. Like England.

Update: Actually, the lack of posting is because I'm moving servers. Or something like that. Maybe I'm just having problems with my router. Or my firewall. OK, here's the official notice: The lack of posting is due to badgers living in my hard drive.
Centinel 1:33 PM # | |

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The value of editing

Although this will certainly qualify as the pot ridiculing the kettle, those wacky animal worshippers over at PETA have recently demonstrated why you can look like a moron if you don't do some basic editing. Of course, who has time for editing when you're saving "intelligent" fish from feeling the pain of being served with a nice dill sauce.
Centinel 3:29 PM # | |

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Centinel's Field Guide to Irony

An Italian journalist for a Communist newspaper, Giuliana Sgrena, was kidnapped in Iraq while working to document American atrocities. The Italian government has speculated that she is still being held because she cannot afford the ransom.

One of the wealthiest men in Turkey, shipping magnate Kahraman Sadikoglu, was kidnapped in Iraq while working on establishing a business deal with the new Iraqi government. He was freed this week because his wife was able to pay his ransom.

Centinel 8:47 AM # | |

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

That's just a straight shooter with "upper management" written all over him.

In case you're wondering, the answer is, yes, I do get all of my ideas for posting from BTQ. I have no original thoughts/ideas of my own and must therefore pillage them from my betters. That said . . . Fitz-Hume has a hell of a post on what is undoubtedly the worst job interview story I have ever heard. I wish I could match it, but I can't. However, I did have one adventure in interviewing hell.

I was so concerned about finding the right place to clerk that I took interviews with a wide variety of firms in terms of background, size, and location. One of those firms, I'll call it Abbott & Costello, L.P., had given me a callback (for you non-law speaking types, most law firms begin their interview process by having short interviews on campus with a number of students and then narrow their list and offer those people a callback, or chance to visit the firm and go through a battery of interviews). My original interviewer had obviously been chosen for her ability to make an impression; she was about 5'11", blonde, and built like a Barbie doll, and I was looking forward to the trip for that reason alone. This firm was across the country from my law school, so, as I had never been to this city and wanted to look around, I asked them to put me up for the weekend after my interview on Friday, October 30.

The fact that the interview was on Oct. 30 is key to my story in that the Saturday I stayed over was Halloween night. I love Halloween. Other than Arbor Day, it is my favorite holiday. So, while I was miffed that I wasn't going to get to enjoy Halloween festivities at home, I realized that this was all for the best in the long run.

After classes on Thursday, I flew all the way to the city and cabbed late to the hotel - everything is fine. I went to the firm and generally had a great day - only one odd event, as I remember it. One of the interviewers, a senior associate, was listening to the radio because she was waiting for some random piece of information, and he left the radio on the entire interview. Odd. I had lunch with another associate and one of the partners, and we had a blast telling war stories about politics and law. At the end of the interview day - about 4 p.m. - the associate I had lunch with caught me at the elevator and asked if I wanted to get a beer, and then proceeded to lead me to a corner room in the firm that had a pool table, entertainment center, and a refrigerator filled with Sierra Nevada, Newcastle, and several other bottled reasons that I see as proof of a divine hand guiding human events. In short, I was feeling pretty good about this place.

My new drinking buddy also told me that I would be going to dinner with Barbie and a male second-year associate. He warned me the guy was Barbie's man-thing on the down-lo so that I wouldn't say anything, well, male. We ended up going to a very nice jazz club and having a fantastic dinner. The only blip was that the third associate who joined us looked like she was dressed more for McDonald's than a nice place, but whatever. After dinner they took me to a bar loaded with the cream of the city's crop. Unfortunately, my stomach wasn't with the drinking program, so I had to bail early. On the way to the hotel, Barbie informs me that she and her roommates were having an early Halloween get together and were then doing a warehouse party the next night, and asked if I wanted to come. Oh, yeah. She tells me that she will pick me up at 11:00 a.m. the next morning and we'll look around, do lunch, get a costume, and then party like it's 1999. By now, I friggin' love this place.

Saturday morning I got up, showered, and eagerly awaiting the day. About 10:45, I sit down to watch a little TV while I waited for Barbie. 11:00 . . . 11:30 . . . 12:00 . . . 12:30 . . .I get a call from Barbie at 12:50 - a mere 2 hours after I was supposed to be picked up - telling me that she had "some emergency thing at the office" and that she was really sorry. I was a bit pissed, but what are you going to do? Work comes first, right? Anyway, she says that her roommate will be picking me up around 4:30 to take me to get a costume, and I agreed to wait. I realized that this really gave me no time to see the town, but it seemed like a fair tradeoff to attend the warehouse party. So, I walked over to the frou-frou shopping center across the street and had a nice lunch and walk before getting back to the hotel to meet the roommate. 4:30 . . . 5:00 . . . 5:30 . . . 6:00 . . . .9:00 and I am steaming. I've tried calling Barbie's cell phone all evening, but no luck. By 9:30 I accept the fact that I've been stood up, that the day is blown, and that all I want is some beer and some food. Resigned, I walk down to a Mexican place about a half-mile away from the hotel, drink several Dos Equis, and return to my hotel room. I flew back home the next morning without ever hearing from her.

I'm an easy-going guy. I can put up with a lot of crap, but getting stood up really started wearing on me as I mulled it during my long flight. By the time I got home, I had officially stricken Abbott & Costello off my summer list, and decided not to go there even if I got an offer. And I did, of course. The funny thing was, Barbie had been my contact person at A&C and the only person I'd talked to on the phone, but the partner I had lunch with called me to make the offer. I'm guessing that was done for a reason. Ironically, if Barbie had let me fend for myself on Saturday, there's a good chance I would have gone there for the summer and might be working there as you read this.

Eventually, the wheel turned. I ended up choosing to work that summer Dallas, and I didn't think that much about it. Months after my trip, I received a letter in the mail from A&C. It seems that they wanted to have me fill out a written interview regarding my callback . . .

How in the world you gonna see,
Laughing at fools like me?
Who in the hell do you think you are,
A super star?
Well, right you are.
Centinel 2:46 PM # | |

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Last one out, turn out the lights

I've said for years that certain urban areas are beginning to price themselves out of the market, and it looks like that is becoming true. Business Week (link is to summary due to subscription requirements) is reporting that residents are fleeing over-priced and over-taxed areas, like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York, for the very Red State cities of Las Vegas, Dallas/Ft. Worth, and Atlanta. One of the mind boggling facts presented is that, during the second quarter of 2004, 42% of California home sellers were moving out of state -- a rate twice as high as it was a year before. The bleeding is so severe that some must wait a month for moving vans.

BW attributes this trend to the general tax and price climate of the coastal cities, combined with the standardization of information availability across the country. With a cable line, computer and cell phone, many people can perform their jobs in Boise as easily as they can in San Diego. Prices are generally a product of supply and demand, but it appears much of the complaint can be traced either to high taxes or cost increases in heavily regulated areas, such as education and health care.

While it wasn't difficult to see this backlash coming, and it is tempting to smirk at the continuing problems of these hubs of Blue State progressivism, I am more interested in what these trends mean in the long term. Clearly, we are reaching a time where smaller cities in flyover country are become a more attractive alternative to the big "cool" cities on the coast. As the article noted, while retirees have long flooded the Sun Belt, it's something new to see Yuppies (is that word still in use?) moving there in droves. I would like to think of cities as the "laboratories of democracy" that the states are supposed to be -- that is, most else being neutral, I would like to have a true choice between low-tax "Red" cites and bustling, expensive "Blue" cities. I would never live in the latter, but clearly there are many who would. My concern is an age-old one, that as coastal urbanites move into these cheaper cultural havens, they will bring the same ideas and politics that screwed up their old home, homogenizing all areas, and eventually turning Atlanta into a blander version of Washington, D.C.

Oh, wait, that last thing already happened.
Centinel 10:37 PM # | |

Monday, February 07, 2005

Earth-bound misfit

I probably average 4 or 5 round-trip flights a year, so I would hardly call myself an "expert" on air travel, but I am an expert on things that irritate the hell out of me and air travel has definitely fallen into that category. When I lived on the East Coast, I was much more inclined to drive than fly because my destination was rarely more than 6 or 7 hours away, and there was never a justification in my mind to submit myself to the rigid schedule and expense of flying when I could make a nice drive whenever I wanted and avoid having to rent a car when I got there.

Unfortunately, living in Texas makes it damn near impossible to drive anywhere. The state is huge and remote in the sense that there isn't really anything within driving distance worth visiting that isn't in Texas (sorry Shreveport). Therefore, to go anywhere requires resorting to the horrors of sky travel. You know the ones I'm talking about: parking hassles, check-in hassles, security hassles, wait hassles, delay hassles, boarding hassles, screaming-babies-in-the-seat behind you hassles, disembarking hassles, layover hassles, baggage-claim hassles, etc., ad friggin infinitum. Is there any other common practice or ritual that is so balled up as the simple act of flying from one city to another? Even with my limited experience I can regale you with stories so tiring that you will need a bourbon and a nap to continue with your day. I can't even imagine the painful lives led by the frequent flyers among us.

I, of course, am wading into this lake of despair because Mrs. C and I were forced by time constraints to fly this weekend. I won't bore with the trivial details beyond saying that 1) I am now willing to pay a million pesos to avoid having a layover and 2) that Mrs. C attempted to bring a knife aboard the plane but countless lives where saved when she was busted at the security checkpoint and forced to throw away the knife and give the TSA her name, which means all of my concerns about future flying is probably moot as she is now likely on a no-fly terrorist watchlist. [Several months after 9/11, one of my law school classmates took a flight for a job interview and was nailed at Checkpoint Charlie for carrying a lighter, which he was forced to hand over. Imagine his surprise, as he walked into the next newsstand -- inside the security zone -- to find lighters on sale for a mere $3.50. He figured the whole thing was a scam to sell lighters and that the TSA was getting a kickback.]

What caught my attention this weekend concerns the age-old yearnings that stretch Americans between their support of good ol' fashioned Capitalism (with the accompanying inequality of wealth) and their belief in equality before the law. Lemme 'splain. Anyone who has flown has no doubt noticed the deference given to first class passengers. They usually have their own line at the ticket counter, they are always allowed to board first, and they have their own damn bathroom that the flight attendant will point out before reminding you, coach-class schlub that you are, that it is reserved for the "forward" passengers.

I am here to say that I have no problem with this. These people have paid a lot of money for these perks. Had I wanted to, I could have sold my truck and joined them in their leather-bound chair of privilege, but I decided to forgo that pleasure for the choice of limited beverage service, annoying seatmates (not Mrs. C), and the ability to afford food when the trip was over. This is what America is all about: If you work hard and are successful at the game, you can afford to be not covered in shit, as it were. Your first-classiness inspires the rest of us to put in the extra hours necessary to grow our economy so that we, too, may have a cocktail in hand while the masses file by on their way to the back of the bus.

HOWEVER, while I recognize the right of wealthy Americans to pay more for disparate treatment from private actors, such deference is rightly expected to be lacking when dealing with the government. At some level, we stand as equals before the law. While a rich person may be able to buy a better lawyer, he cannot buy a better courtroom, a friendlier judge, etc.

All of this brings me to the whole point of this useless ramble: Why the hell is there a "first class" lane at the TSA security checkpoint in some airports? The government in it's wisdom has decided that we all, young and old, rich and poor, must go through a security checkpoint to get from the ticket counter to our gate. Such checkpoints are manned by Transportation Security Agency employees who work for the federal government and who will let first class passengers jump to the head of the line to get through. From the level allowed by my limited intellect, it appears that this is state action and, as such, is a violation of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. And from the level allowed by my prodigious gut, I am tempted to raise Holy Cain every time some first-classhole is allowed to slide past the rest of us with his US stamp of approval. Am I alone on this?
Centinel 11:33 AM # | |

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Do I have to give up my Strict Constructionist decoder ring?

Which Canon of Statutory Construction are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

You are the Golden Rule! You presume that the
legislature would not want to apply the statute
to achieve an unreasonable or absurd result
inconsistent with its purpose. It's not what's
on the surface that matters for you, and you
try to do what's best in any given situation.
You're a bit unpredictable, but you don't mind.

(Courtesy of uber-drunk geek Law & Alcoholism)
Centinel 4:27 PM # | |

New Cons on the Block

I just got turned on to a new blog that looks like it's going to be a must read. I encourage everyone to go check out The Conservative Philosopher. They've got some big brains over there.

(Thanks to Dylan for the tip.)
Centinel 9:32 AM # | |