4.30.2009

GOJIRA!


Gojira is coming! Gojira is coming! AAAIIIiiiii . . . iiiiii . . . iii.

Agenda:

Friday: arrival, Ben's Chili Bowl for some chili cheeseboigahs and fries, home
Saturday: Breakfast (either force TP to make spanish tortilla or get brunch somewhere or both); lunch with LB and KG followed by birthday party for Maggie Jane (ain't no party like a two-year-old party); Kotobuki sushi for dinner
Sunday: [radio edit]
Monday: Breakfast at Tryst or the Diner or Open City; return to Union Station and grab some of Vaccaro's cannoli to go.

Hmmm. It appears that your entire visit will be based up and revolve around food. That okay with you? Yeah. Thought so.

4.23.2009

Tourist In My Own Backyard

I spent most of yesterday playing hooky. Work was annoying me and with my flexible schedule and stellar history, I decided to take the day off and meet up with a friend. I walked from Adams Morgan to Georgetown's harbor and appreciated the flowers and trees still in bloom, the crowdless sidewalks, and the streaming sunshine on the way. I stopped at the recently renovated Second Story Books in Dupont Circle to peruse the latest arrivals and see if I could find copies of books I am interested in reading but for which I am not interested in paying full price. I ended up buying two books for my friend.



I treated myself to a lovely cup of mocha at Illy Cafe that I enjoyed all the way to Georgetown.



After visiting the Old Stone House and sitting in the wisteria-blooming garden for a while to soak up some rays, I headed over to the C & O canal. I watched two horses pull a boat through the canal until they reached the lock gates and then watched the Amishly-dressed folks go about heaving and hoing to get the boat down to the next level.



I walked to the Potomac River to enjoy the nearly empty waterfront where. I loitered in the stacks of yet another bookstore until my friend finally called to let me know she was ready for lunch.

We strolled over to the LEED certified Founding Farmers where we had the popcorn of the day (what was it sprinked on there? chipotle? bbq? chaat?) as an appetizer followed by perfectly made crab cakes, whipped yukon gold potatoes, and limeade.



We caught up, made fun of each other, and exchanged prezzies. We fought over the bill (par for the course), promised to visit Tunisia next summer when her beach house was complete, and said our goodbyes. I haven't had a day off in D.C. where it didn't involve going grocery shopping, getting someone's hairS cut, or running errands in what seems like forever. It was a gorgeous day and completely recharged me. As DCist put it so nicely:

D.C. can be a wondrous place for tourists. It's got magnificent architecture, history, museums, and bustling streets and sidewalks. There are people from all over the world, homeless people, military folks in uniform, police, politicians, black squirrels, and lots of well-scrubbed young people. There's the Metro, the Mall, and more. And it's tourist season, so maybe those fanny-pack wearing throngs standing in front of the escalators are just awe struck, rather than annoying. The greater D.C. metropolitan area can be too much to grasp sometimes. It can be amazing.

4.22.2009

Happy Earth Day

When I started law school, I was often asked, "what kind of lawyer do you want to be?" As a first year, I had no idea. None of us really did. We took courses in contracts, property, and torts but we had no definite goal of "I'm going to be a criminal litigator" or "I'm going to be a tax attorney." Unlike college, you don't proclaim a major or a focus in law school. You aren't even permitted to take anything but the required courses for the first year and a half (with, perhaps, one or two electives). So it wasn't until nearly my third year that I dabbled in Environmental Law with Professor Richard Lazarus. Unlike the stodgy, dusty, boring case law and historical treatises we were inundated with in classes such as Civil Procedure (just watch My Cousin Vinny and you'll know enough to get by) or UCC, the facts, issues, and impacts we studied in Environmental Law caught and held my attention. It didn't hurt that the professor was engaging and enthusiastic about the subject too. It was around then that I first really learned about Earth Day. Previously, it was just another day to hold some sort of celebration or have an excuse to party in the quad. I took several other environment-themed courses and by the time I graduated, I decided that this was the field in which I wanted to practice.

After graduation and passing the bar exam, I came bright-eyed and bushy-haired to Washington, D.C. for several reasons (including the fact that I wouldn't have to take another bar exam to practice here and that I had free housing for 6 months), one of which was that there were more opportunities to find a legal position in environmental law here than most places. Here is where the acronym-frenzied organizations such as the DOJ's ENRD, the EPA, the ELI, the EDF, the WWF (not to be confused with the previously a.k.a. WWF) resided. I tried my luck with government agencies, private law firms, non-profit organizations and papered the city with my resumes and writing samples. I volunteered at the National Audubon Society. I wanted to use my shiny new legal skills to save natural resources, to protect cute and fluffy critters (the ugly, slimy ones could go to hell), to do something worthwhile and noble and good. I loved environmental law; but it did not love me back. I worked at a small law firm for a few years in which one partner focused on money-paying, steady, cut-and-dry contracts and corporate law while the other partner dabbled in pro-bonoish, erratic, but passionate environmental law. It was the field of the latter that pulled me into the firm, but it was the reality and solidity of the former that kept me there. Eventually, the firm needed to pay the bills by taking on more of litigation and negotiation cases and less of the altruistic but penniless clients. I still wrote briefs on behalf of organizations seeking to protect nature and strengthen standing environmental laws, but, by necessity, I began to gain more experience in contracts, intellectual property, and employment laws. By the time I became a partner myself, the environmental-focused part of the firm was all but gone.

I am pretty happily employed in the field of intellectual property. The pay is decent, the research is interesting, and I can work from home where the hours are flexible and the dress-code even more so. I can assist well-meaning but helpless entrepreneurs seeking protection for their goods and services. I can lay the smack down on arrogant know-it-alls who try to weasel or bully their way into getting their unacceptable trademarks through. But on days like today, Earth Day, I do wonder what my life would be like if it took me down the emission-trading, brownfields, smart growth path.

4.14.2009

System D

"Ahh ... Le System D!" he said with a smirk, and a warm expression of recognition. For a moment, I thought I'd stumbled across a secret society-a coven of warlocks, a subculture within our subculture of chefs and cooks and restaurant lifers. I was annoyed that what I had thought to be an ancient term from kitchens past, a little bit of culinary arcanum, was in fact still in use, and I felt suddenly threatened-as if my kitchen, my crew, my team of talented throat slitters, fire starters, mercenaries, and hooligans was secretly a hotbed of Trilateralists, Illuminati, Snake Handlers, or Satan Worshippers. I felt left out. I asked, "Did you say `System D'? What is `System D'?"

"Tu connais ... you know MacGyver?" replied my sous-chef thoughtfully.

I nodded, flashing onto the idiotic detective series of years back where the hero would regularly bust out of maximum-security prisons and perform emergency neurosurgery using nothing more than a paper clip and a gum wrapper.

"MacGyver!" pronounced my sous-chef, "CA ... ca c'est System D."

From The Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain

Okay, maybe I am not as creative or crafty or clever as Bourdain and his ilk, but I like to consider myself as having a mommy version of resourcefulness or d├ębrouillard.

One kid claims to have to use the bathroom while the other is screaming her head off from teething pains and doesn't want you out of her sight? Sprint up the stairs, lugging both of them, and use one hand to situate one on the plastic frog to do his business and the other to steady the baby in the baby tub to chew on a rubber ducky that has been nicely chilled from sitting on the tiles.

Trying to bake some bread while simultaneously watching both bored children? Give one child her choice of a dozen kitchen utensils to bang around and gnaw on and give the other the very important, very big boy task of measuring out the flour and sugar, of picking out the pre-cut cubes of butter, of whisking everything together all while ensuring that the kitchen doesn't end up completely shrouded in ingredients.

Baby's hair getting in her eyes and LB refuses to let you cut it (but doesn't understand that it completely impairs her vision) and baby is getting frustrated by it but you can't find her cute little butterfly hair clip? Binder clip will work in a pinch.

Mommy's little helpers getting extremely demanding in the offer to help with the laundry but they keep unfolding the folded stuff as quickly as its folded? Toss all the underwear and socks in their direction and instruct one to match up whatever he can while the other plays peek-a-boo with the unmentionables that end up on her head.

I've yet to achieve the status of Grandmaster D├ębrouillard of my parents who have considered using airplane's headrest cloth as an emergency diaper or who fashion wagons out of box lids and rope; but, I'm getting there.





4.10.2009

Reuse, Recycle, Repost

I was trying to tell ZP about God the other day. Have you ever tried to talk to a nearly-three-year-old about any topic, let alone something like this? You have to put aside your impressive vocabulary and explain things in the most basic terms and with the simplest of words. The result was that I ended up with a choppy concept about someone living in the sky and making a bunch of stuff like flowers and clouds and him. It reminded me of David Sedaris's attempt to explain the traditions of Easter in another language. With that religious holiday right around the corner, I thought it would be nice to revisit this old friend:


Jesus Shaves by David Sedaris from "Me Talk Pretty One Day"

"And what does one do on the fourteenth of July? Does one celebrate Bastille Day?"

It was my second month of French class, and the teacher was leading us in an exercise designed to promote the use of one, our latest personal pronoun.

"Might one sing on Bastille Day?" she asked. "Might one dance in the street? Somebody give me an answer."

Printed in our textbooks was a list of major holidays alongside a scattered arrangement of photos depicting French people in the act of celebration. The object was to match the holiday with the corresponding picture. It was simple enough but seemed an exercise better suited to the use of the word they. I didn't know about the rest of the class, but when Bastille Day eventually rolled around, I planned to stay home and clean my oven.

Normally, when working from the book, it was my habit to tune out my fellow students and scout ahead, concentrating on the question I'd calculated might fall to me, but this afternoon, we were veering from the usual format. Questions were answered on a volunteer basis, and I was able to sit back, confident that the same few students would do the talking. Today's discussion was dominated by an Italian nanny, two chatty Poles, and a pouty, plump Moroccan woman who had grown up speaking French and had enrolled in the class to improve her spelling. She'd covered these lessons back in the third grade and took every opportunity to demonstrate her superiority. A question would be asked and she'd give the answer, behaving as though this were a game show and, if quick enough, she might go home with a tropical vacation or a side-by-side refrigerator-freezer. By the end of her first day, she'd raised her hand so many times, her shoulder had given out. Now she just leaned back in her seat and shouted the answers, her bronzed arms folded across her chest like some great grammar genie.

We finished discussing Bastille Day, and the teacher moved on to Easter, which was represented in our textbook by a black-and-white photograph of a chocolate bell lying upon a bed of palm fronds.

"And what does one do on Easter? Would anyone like to tell us?"

The Italian nanny was attempting to answer the question when the Moroccan student interrupted, shouting, "Excuse me, but what's an Easter?"

Despite her having grown up in a Muslim country, it seemed she might have heard it mentioned once or twice, but no. "I mean it," she said. "I have no idea what you people are talking about."

The teacher then called upon the rest of us to explain.

The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability. "It is," said one, "a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus and . . . oh, shit."

She faltered, and her fellow countryman came to her aid.

"He call his self Jesus, and then he be die one day on two . . . morsels of . . . lumber."

The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the pope an aneurysm.

"He die one day, and then he go above of my head to live with your father."

"He weared the long hair, and after he died, the first day he come back here for to say hello to the peoples."

"He nice, the Jesus."

"He make the good things, and on the Easter we be sad because somebody makes him dead today."

Part of the problem had to do with grammar. Simple nouns such as cross and resurrection were beyond our grasp, let alone such complicated reflexive phrases as "To give of yourself your only begotten son." Faced with the challenge of explaining the cornerstone of Christianity, we did what any self-respecting group of people might do. We talked about food instead.

"Easter is a party for to eat of the lamb," the Italian nanny explained. "One, too, may eat of the chocolate."

"And who brings the chocolate?" the teacher asked.

I knew the word, and so I raised my hand, saying, "The Rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate."

My classmates reacted as though I'd attributed the delivery to the Antichrist. They were mortified.

"A rabbit?" The teacher, assuming I'd used the wrong word, positioned her index fingers on top of her head, wiggling them as though they were ears. "You mean one of these? A rabbit rabbit?"

"Well, sure," I said. "He come in the night when one sleep on a bed. With a hand he have the basket and foods."

The teacher sadly shook her head, as if this explained everything that was wrong with my country. "No, no," she said. "Here in France the chocolate is brought by the big bell that flies in from Rome."

I called for a time-out. "But how do the bell know where you live?"

"Well," she said, "how does a rabbit?"

It was a decent point, but at least a rabbit has eyes. That's a start. Rabbits move from place to place, while most bells can only go back and forth--and they can't even do that on their own power. On top of that, the Easter Bunny has character; he's someone you'd like to meet and shake hands with. A bell has all the personality of a cast-iron skillet. It's like saying that come Christmas, a magic dustpan flies in from the North Pole, led by eight flying cinder blocks. Who wants to stay up all night so they can see a bell? And why fly one in from Rome when they've got more bells than they know what to do with right here in Paris? That's the most implausible aspect of the whole story, as there's no way the bells of France would allow a foreign worker to fly in and take their jobs. That Roman bell would be lucky to get work cleaning up after a French bell's dog -and even then he'd need papers. It just didn't add up.

Nothing we said was of any help to the Moroccan student. A dead man with long hair supposedly living with her father, a leg of lamb served with palm fronds and chocolate. Confused and disgusted, she shrugged her massive shoulders and turned her attention back to the comic book she kept hidden beneath her binder. I wondered then if, without the language barrier, my classmates and I could have done a better job making sense of Christianity, an idea that sounds pretty far-fetched to begin with.

In communicating any religious belief, the operative word is faith, a concept illustrated by our very presence in that classroom. Why bother struggling with the grammar lessons of a six-year-old if each of us didn't believe that, against all reason, we might eventually improve? If I could hope to one day carry on a fluent conversation, it was a relatively short leap to believing that a rabbit might visit my home in the middle of the night, leaving behind a handful of chocolate kisses and a carton of menthol cigarettes. So why stop there? If I could believe in myself, why not give other improbabilities the benefit of the doubt? I accepted the idea that an omniscient God had cast me in his own image and that he watched over me and guided me from one place to the next. The virgin birth, the resurrection, and the countless miracles -my heart expanded to encompass all the wonders and possibilities of the universe.

A bell, though, that's f***ed up.

4.07.2009

I always feel like somebody's watching me. Who's playing tricks on me? I always feel like somebody's watching me. I can't enjoy my tea!

Today, I was investigated by the U.S. Government. Granted, living in D.C. and having watched way to many spy thrillers, I suspect that I'm always under surveillance, that my phones are tapped, and that my mail is pre-read. I've already been fingerprinted on several occasions, had to fill out lengthy and personal questionnaires, and have had my turn at the super special VIP treatment at the airport. However, today's investigation was live and in person. I was asked about my loyalty to the country ("would you be willing to bear arms for a foreign government?") , about my proclivity for travel ("you have traveled quite a lot!"), and about my sex ("are you a male born after 1960?").

I had to explain that although I listed "Wales" as my place of birth on one form, the drop down menu on another form did not include "Wales" and so I chose "United Kingdom" and apologized for any confusion that may have caused (apparently it caused a lot of confusion because I was asked about it on three separate occasions). I was asked if anyone I knew would say that I was NOT reliable, trustworthy, of good conduct and character, or capable of holding a position of public trust (I answered with a hesitant "no?"). I was asked if anyone had any blackmail material they could use against me (well, do you?). I was asked if that was a regular coffee I was drinking (it was a mocha).

So, just as a heads up, if some white dudes with sunglasses and dark suits show up at your door and start asking you questions about me, just don't tell them about my blog. Or my facebook page. Or my flickr account. 'Kay? Great.

4.06.2009

By The Power of Attorney! I Have THE POWER!

My mother needs to have a Power of Attorney attested to by the Pakistani Embassy. After getting zero help from the Pakistani Embassy (whose enviable hours are 09:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. M-F) on instructions, I called the U.S. State Department and here are the following steps to take to have the Power of Attorney attested by everyone under the sun:

1. Fill out and notarize a Power of Attorney (POA).

2. Send the notarized copy of the POA, a cover letter, and a self-addressed stamped envelope to your state's Office of Secretary of State, Authentications Department. The cover letter should include: your name, address, phone number, email address, indication that the notarized Power of Attorney is enclosed and that you require attestation in order to have the document attested for use in Pakistan. If there is a fee, be sure to include it as well.

3. When that comes back to you, send the notarized and attested copy of the POA, a cover letter (can be the same as above), and a self-addressed stamped envelope to:
US Department of State
Authentications Office
518 23rd Street, N.W.
SA-1
Washington, DC 20520
Also include the $8 fee by check or by money order made out to "Department of State". Turnaround time is 5 to 7 business days. Phone# 800.688.9889

4. When THAT comes back to you, send the notarized and double attested copy of the POA, a cover letter (can be the same as above), your National Identity Card or Pakistani passport and $8 (see below) to:

Consular Office, Embassy of Pakistan,

3517 International Court NW

Washington, DC 20008.



Also include the $8 fee by cashier's check or by money order payable to the Embassy of Pakistan. Send one extra copy of the Power of attorney for the embassy's record if you like. Turnaround time is 7 business days. The application must only be accompanied by US Post Office self addressed pre-paid express mail envelope. Please use the flat rate envelope (current cost : $ 16.50). Do not use Metered stamps. We do not accept any other form of return mail. PH. 202-243-6500, FAX: 202-686-1534

There. I've done my pro bono work for the day.

4.03.2009

"Everybody, MOVE!"

I have been attending the American Bar Assocation Intellectual Property Law Conference for the last few days and have learned/had forgotten several things:

  • Hotel coffee often tastes burnt and is undrinkable but if you add a packet of hot chocolate mix to create a home-made mocha, it is not half bad.
  • Although knowledgable and articulate, Patricia E. Hong, Partner, Plumsea Law Group, LLC, does not know how to pronounce the word "skirmish" and perpetually pronounced the word as "squirmish" which made me squirm each time she did so.
  • Susan Scafidi, Visiting Professor of Law, Fordham University Law School is a great speaker who had interesting things to say and has a sense of humor that is rarely seen at these kinds of events.
  • No matter how fast I walk, how busy I look, or how studiously I ignore people around me, I can't walk down the street free of suggestion.
  • I have become very spoiled working from home and had a low threshold of tolerance for the thunderstorm I had to run through during my commute today. The intensely bright, sunny day that followed the thunderstorm made up for it.
  • I had forgotten how much I could read on the Metro with no distractions or errands or other matters to occupy my time.