Sunday, October 23, 2011

Down to the Nitty Gritty

Ramblings Post #166
When you start a journey, you dream about how great it will be when you get to the end. The problem is, if the journey takes too long, the journey becomes the the purpose in and of itself, instead of the destination. With the journey you have purpose, you have direction. When you get to the destination, all that's left to do is it hit the buffet or find out if the activity fee is included. Wait, wrong journey. What you really have to do is figure out the new destination. So, I might need a new destination soon. Or a buffet ticket. Either or. 

If all goes well, and all the stars line up, less than 12 months from now I will have a doctorate degree...it's called a Juris Doctor, so technically yes, ... and I will have taken the bar exam and be days away from receiving notification of triumph or ....lining up to do it all over again. Now is when I need that trade mark trait that used to irk Sporty to raise it's head...and get a little too into my work.

I enjoy work. The structure, the purpose, the doing something. Given purpose A, it makes me realize how precious time is and then I can figure out a way to carve out a few minutes for purpose B, and purpose C and so on. Given too much time, like I have now, I have a tendency to either procrastinate or tinker to much with the finished project, such that I occasionally end up taking it apart and starting over for no reason other than...what if I did some other way?

Right now, while I don't have acres of free time, I also don't have a day job taking up 8 or so hours, and three of my five classes this semester don't have finals I have to start prepping for. My former squeezing it all in is getting a little indulgent. I'm a little frightened I'm going to rewrite myself into oblivion.

This is normally the Nitty Gritty. With a month or so until finals, you hit the books hard, beef up the outlines, and I don't even contemplate going out. Which really isn't a big change, since I just realized I've practically stopped going out anyway - except on special occasions - in the past few years. Once I realized that an hour out never was an hour, and when I did get back in a reasonable time, I wouldn't be of the proper mindset. Better to just focus until it was done. The actual imposition of the Nitty Gritty is just a formality.

I do have a paper to finish, and a group project but with the proper preperation and timing, they should be doable. I think I'll feel better once I start to get nervous. Getting nervous makes me prepare more, which usually means better outcomes.  We'll see.

Right now. Barkeep. A vanilla milkshake. Ooooh, put some Oreos in it too.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fill out form G-2012-Gotcha!

Ramblings Post #165
A few years ago, when I moved to Atlanta, I was great success. On paper. I've found that on paper, a person can appear to be someone that they're not. Or maybe that's a mischaracterization, but the image that can be projected by what exists on paper can shape the viewpoint of reality. But what if what is on the paper doesn't quite correlate to reality? And for the record, even though the bank might have believed it, I could NOT afford 20K for that couch. But I will.



Well, as full time law student, I'm supposed to be taking advantage of more opportunity to meet and connect with my fellow students, as well as avenues in which to get my new legal career ignited. To that end, last week I filled out the application for an externship - basically working at a place in a just less than legal capacity during school hours for credit - in effort to get some degree of legal experience before I wander out into the world.

I did not even get the interview.

But then, I'm at a place where my competing law students can list a summer they spent working as an intern at a firm like Impressive, Prestigious and Clout, LLC, or at least watched the lawyers work at Scrappy, Small and Tenacious. Right now, my resume isn't going to get me many looks, because all my previous experience is non-legal. Standing in front of someone I can demonstrate a fairly decent grasp of the law but currently on paper I am a lightweight. The bulk of my current non school related legal experience comes from conversations with Police officers trying to explain that "No, we did not realize the music was that loud". 

So the resume thing is probably not gonna work for me right away.

I'm singing up for a seminar in a week or so to speak with an expert on "career transitioning" which is what I'm doing going back to school so late in life. That, and I'm going to get my resume redone professionally, not just cobble something together from the legal resume samples on the internet. I'd planned on having it done by a pro a few years back, but got derailed keeping house and "replacing stuff", but this revamping is become more imperative with each passing day. My path to the Career Services Office is about to get even more well worn.

And then finally : The bar fitness application.

It is in eight sections, had to be downloaded in parts, and will be as my brother described the most invasive examination of my life I will ever experience. Your average law student is a decade or so younger than I am, and if you're living the optimal experience, almost two decades, so the examination of their lives usually involves the seven or eight years they've living since they reached the age of the majority. A simple kept your nose clean keep it moving sort of thing. My application and subsequent and probably necessary attachments...I'm figuring the package I'm going to give them might qualify as a short novel. They're going to want everything I've ever done legally, financially, possibly morally, and they expect me to remember and report it all. To say I'm certain there are going to be things I will have forgotten is a basic. Which credit cards I had in college due a free T-shirt? Um. I had an account with who? Er. I'm wanted in Bolivia? I'm not even allowed in Bolivia. The rep claims she doesn't expect perfect recall, but I'm almost certain that I'm going to be a special case. I can feel it in my bones.

This is where I see if it's all worth it. Oddly, some of the women in my class (older chicks) are suddenly talking about things you can do WITHOUT passing the bar, making me wonder if there are other folks with bones in their closets. You know what they say - It's always the quiet ones.

Barkeep. They haven't asked about my drinking yet. But just in case, I'll have Sprite, with a splash of rum.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Yet another game I have no business playing...

Ramblings Post #164
You can't make your focus singular. Even when I was working out strong...it happened...even then I had those little things that let you take your mind off how much your feet hurt, or how much your arms ached, or if that popping sound was your spine suddenly saying "no mas"! Now that I'm honing my mind, or something like that, I need little ways to let me mind relax, but not so much that sink into the couch and fall asleep with the TV watching me. I need something I can pause or turn off at whim, so I can get back to business. Instead....


Because if I concentrate solely on tax law and the mental gymnastics needed to tame the various codes and regulations, and other stuff you should just know, my mind would turn to grey tapioca. Cheap grey tapioca. And because I'm on a budget. Well, I was always on a budget, now I'm on a tighter budget. My goal was to find something inexpensive as an occasional mental diversion, because given too much free time, I'd be mentally contemplating answers for questions my first year law professors asked. No seriously, I have done that.

Well, I did find something just like that. Free in fact. And now I have to figure out a way to stop.

It's a compter game called Dwarf Fortress. It's free to download, free to play, a product of one of those online labors of love that most users tinker with to while away a few hours and the builder uses as part of their resume to show somebody who writes paychecks they know what they're doing. I looked around online, and read in the NY Times that the creator of Dwarf Fortress has refused to sell the rights and gets by on donations from dedicated game players. Doing just this he only makes around $50,000 a year. But then he lives in a two bedroom apartment and enjoys a geek's paradise - waking at dark, living on chips and Mountain Dew and coding his masterwork until he decides he's done, then going back to sleep. Not a bad gig if that's what you like. And what's he's created....

I'm playing it, and it's scarily intricate.

It took me a while to make a fortress last longer than building a basic setup. I'd usually get killed early due to something - run out of water (or buckets) and everyone die of thirst, run out of food, we'd get attacked and every one gets slaughtered or they'd just go insane one by one due to something I failed to address. In any case, as my little settlers...er, dwarves, would start to check out, I would quit, like apparently most people who start. Until a wee bit frustrated, and and tired of going over whatever case I was reading, I went online for a few tips and to check out what the game was all about.

Sometimes, you're better off not knowing what is possible.

Online there is a whole community. A dedicated, hardcore, talking in terms of which I have no understanding while looking at the same thing I'm looking at type community. I am mystified. But then, a write up in the NY Times should have been a clue that something big was going on. Some of the fortress constructions are unbelievable. I get at best a few minutes a day trying to layout something that looks reasonable, you know, get my little dwarves arranged with a little atheistic appeal. But I look at some of the layouts, the designs, the constructions and it's obvious some of these guys spend months...real MONTHS... building structures that look like something out of Lord of the Rings. No, wait, they put the stuff Tolkein and the movie magic makers invented to shame.

My newly found and realized ego says you too must build a construct of great and ridiculous stature. My reasonableness says this ain't the time to pretend like you're not in law school. I read through some of the notes, and look at the depth of the message boards, and wonder if some of these people have sun sunlight lately. But then again, I haven't been getting out much myself, so I probably need to check myself.

So this is me? I do need to get out. Just as soon as build this meeting hall....

Barkeep. Something to get me out of the house. In a large glass. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Maybe something new...

Ramblings Post #163
Things can't stay the same. The sun rises and sets, the wind blows, and the Cowboys continue to pin their hopes on the erratic Tony Romo. But most other things change, and as they do we must rise and meet them or be left in the dust of tomorrow.

I am apparently getting new neighbors. I say this because there have workmen, in teams, going over the house across the street from mine. I may not have ever mentioned it, but my house is kinda secluded, with only a single house sort of catty-corner to mine on my end of the block. Which partially accounts for the lovely target my home makes to the local miscreant. When I bought it, the separation was supposed to be a selling point when the area started it's transformation. One man's trash....

That house has been empty since that morning I wandered out to street full of police, people in handcuffs, and screaming babies. As I related here, I decided it was easier to be late that Friday. They were a, um, lively group and I'm sure they found other lodgings that made things...well, whatever. At least there was always somebody there and after I did a favor or two, the matriarch was willing to keep an eye on my place. I didn't even mind the late night traffic.

Okay, I tolerated the late night traffic, considering they were willing to ask people in my yard why they were there. 

And because of the new work being done, I'm certain someone will be renting soon. It's sat vacant, with windows covered for months now. I know the hands are over there, working hard putting down new carpet, fixing windows, painting and all that, because I was awoken at 2am because they were making so much noise I thought they were on my front porch. Standing in my sleep pants peering out my window, ready to dial up the cops on my cell phone holding a makeshift weapon was not fun. But it does mean whoever is renting it is serious, because I can't figure out any other reason they pull the normal contractor shuffle and get work done like ninjas.

Does it mean that life is changing for your friendly neighborhood middle-aged fellow? Who knows, but it's just another cog in the wheel.

Here's hoping they don't have a restless dog.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Goodbye Mr. Jobs

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

Steve Jobs death was one of those events that rouses people. He had in life's terms, pulled something out of a hat so many times before we were halfway certain that although his condition was serious, he'd get past this as well. So when Sporty hit me with with news, the idea of death catching up to a man who literally had the world by it's tail was a bit of a shock.

But let me be clear: I've never really been a Steve Jobs fan.

Now don't get me wrong, he was smart guy, and true driving force behind a company that designed some really snazzy products. I played some of my first sophisticated computer games on a Mac. And history should properly record that his company really perfected the windows graphical user interface and Microsoft really did copy it, so he and not Gates is the father of modern domestic computing. We should also note that he was a man who lost his kingdom, then
came and took back, something few titans past or present can attest to, taking a side trip to reinvent animation by re-fashioning Pixar Animation Studios along the way.

But I didn't really like his business model. Primarily because I didn't think of it first.

The idea of building the gate to the new media with the iPod, then charging everyone to get through that gate and keeping the tech in house was in a word - genius. And once he got a hold of you, to get out was nigh impossible. Because buying into item A meant to get the full effect you needed item B. And in some cases item little B. Or B squared. And then the domino effect got you and before long you end up like my old co-worker with an Apple logo tattoo'ed on his forearm.

He had a way of just making it all work. A true showman, as well as mogul among moguls.

Full disclosure: I don't own an iPod, iPad, or really any Apple product. And yet, I too will miss his eye for the future.

Barkeep. One for Mr. Jobs. The good stuff.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Everybody wants a piece of the pie

Ramblings Post #162
It seems that nobody with any power wants to take a loss. On anything. A lot of things in this country would be better, if as I found out in in law class on corporations, greed hadn't been actually legally codified. It's a baffling mental concept, one that actually isn't new, just brought with more focus as of late. But like survivors on a life raft, chances of survival increase if you share what you have instead of hoarding. On unless the idea of everyman for himself catches on. Then we're all in trouble.

I'm being gaffled. By my mortgage servicing company. Let me explain.

I haven't written a check in ages. Because everybody takes Visa, and nearly everybody allows you to pay online. Once a month I pull out a slip of paper, write down my stock bills and pay them in order. At the end of the month I pay the mortgage. In less than 48 hours every month, every bill is paid and whatever is left I'm free to spend on gas, groceries, or the occasional drink as I see fit. Simple easy, and up until last month only the power company would tack on a three dollar fee for online processing, because a third party handled it and folks wanted to get their slice.

Then a month or so ago, my mortgage service provider changed. I had formerly been handled by Bank of America, who for reasons unbeknownst to me, moved my mortgage to a subsidiary servicing firm. Nothing changed except who I had to go online to pay.  Or so I thought, until the first payment was due.

I log on, pull up the old account information, hit the button twice because all the info is already in, then pause.

There is a $12.00 service fee to pay online.

Because I bought my house in the days of creative financing, when the phrase "You can always refinance!" was popular, so I have first and second. So in reality, it's a $24.00 service fee to pay. Online.

To process Visa costs about $0.01. To electronically move money from your account might cost $0.50. What in the hell is the other $23.00 for, exactly? Then I heard that Bank of America, the owner of this company, wants to charge you $5.00 a month for access to your own money. This would be on top of the checking account fee they already charge. So suddenly I'm not surprised.

Now, I'm good customer. I've never been late with a payment. So what gives?

That will be the subject of my call to them, because after all, for $24.00 a month from the thousands of accounts that got transferred, they're not open on weekends.

Barkeep. I need something get my nerves back to right.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I got a target on my back

Ramblings Post #161
The funny thing about learning from your mistakes is you actually have to make the mistake first to figure out what you did wrong. Which is cool when it's something you can fix, or problem you can leave behind after a reasonable amount of time. But if the problem is huge, and your middle aged, and the economy is bad, and you are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Well, let's just say some mistakes create larger learning opportunities than others.

My new alarm system, post my last alarm system's horrible failure, has revealed to me a disturbing truth. My new alarm has an exterior motion sensor, placed in an area where the only way to trigger it is to stand precisely where one would stand if one were say...examining the window into which one would break if one was so inclined. Not looking at the window, examining the window. Like from less than five feet.

It's gone off four times in the last four weeks.

I realized sometime ago that the individuals who broke into my house sometime ago were probably the guys who broke in years ago, and just kept coming back time after time, knowing I would replace stuff, mad they didn't get the TV. What I didn't realize is how often your casual criminal wanders past and says "Hey, nobody's home, let's check it out!" The little bit of seclusion that would have made my house a touch more desirable after the neighborhood changed is working against me in this case. It's more than a little unnerving. And it only spurs on my need to finish up this law school trip, and find a gig that will let me slip up out of this piece.

I know that things are rough all over, but damn.

I'll be visiting the local constabulary to let them know of this change to my alarm routine, so that they don't start marking me down for excessive alarms. 

They say that hindsight is twenty twenty, and I guess their right. I should have chosen one of the other many spots available, including a house that if I drove by today I wouldn't be able to look at because I still remember my boy looking at me as we finished walking around it saying, "you need to buy this house" and me standing there trying to come up with a reason not to. I'm stupid that way sometimes. I know they say don't dwell on the past and things you can't change, but we still need to learn from our mistakes.

Bacon & Egg Scrambler with Goat’s Cheese, Spinach, Puff Pastry and B├ęchamel Sauce
By the way, this would have been a post about my Sunday afternoon, but this last alarm when off I was on the terrace at Canoe celebrating Shade's birthday. She's a girl in transition, having just gone through med school in Georgia, then more med school at Harvard, then more med school at Howard, and is now doing a fellowship in Philly. One of her girls asked her why she keeps coming back, as we've had her birthday brunch there at least six or seven times,  and she told them that with life always in transition you need to keep some traditions to keep you grounded. That was what I was going to write about before all this happened.

So as they chat I'm standing in the garden, talking to the dispatch trying to figure out if the cops pulled up in time. Yes, really.

Then the Cowboys, er, let me correct myself, then Romo choked again. It is rough being a Cowboy fan.

I just need to get on with the getting on. And finish my Tax homework. And find some food.

Barkeep. I need in this order: Glass, Ice, Bourbon, coke.