Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Lawyerly cliches

For the first time in my 18 years as a lawyer, I am quoting
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in a formal legal writing. I did once work in the old movie cliche, "meanwhile, back at the ranch," in an appropriate context, and a coworker once opened with "It was a dark and stormy night." Somehow, I need to get the following famous first lines into legal memoranda: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" (Tolstoy, Anna Karenina ) and "One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a giant cockroach." (Kafka, The Metamorphosis). Well, that last one might present a real challenge.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Raising Money

Our St. Mary's Parents Group had a very successful fundraiser yesterday. We sold bowls painted by our children. Prominent chef John Folse kindly brought some members of his restaurant staff up from Baton Rouge and prepared gumbo to be eaten from the bowls. Actually, we gave folks plastic bowls to eat from after thinking through the hygeinics of the situation. Also, several businesses and individuals donated some very nice auction items; DW purchased a beautiful little necklace donated by a nun from Bangladesh.

I spent about two hours on Saturday afternoon rooting through almost all of the bowls, trying to find the three of our kids' eight that weren't in our reserved stack. I was able to find them by going through all of the unsigned bowls and examining the painting styles very closely. Once I assured myself beyond a reasonable doubt, I put three of the unsigned bowls in our stack. Because I became rather familiar with the bowls, DW and I were put in charge of distributing them.

Here I am in a white shirt and a green apron. Moving right along . . .

Bad-ass Texan

I picked up these two University of Texas ball caps at a truck stop on the way to Alexandria, LA, the other day, and placed them atop the table for A to choose the color he preferred.

As his mother predicted, A picked the black one.

We had very nice visits with our boys this past weekend. T got to swim in his very favorite outdoor pool, and he said his first whole sentence--"Look at the train!" A spent about two hours in the hotel's indoor swimming pool. We all had a lot of fun.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I'm becoming Tim Taylor

I've spent the last couple of weeks immersed in a gargantuan home improvement project that involves our bathrooms, our living and dining rooms, and our rotting back door. We've lived here almost 10 years and hadn't done a thing to the house except rip the carpet from the bathrooms (about 8 years ago), which left us with more functional but arguably less attractive concrete floors. I took this past week off of work when it became clear that our flooring project wasn't the picnic in the park I had thought it would be. We did our dining room a couple of weeks ago. This week it was the living room, which is rather large and full of little engineering challenges. We've got some finishing work to do, but the hard part is finally done. I spent as much time figuring out how to solve those engineering challenges as I did putting down flooring planks. Also, cutting moulding is way more difficult and time-consuming than I imagined it would be. Fortunately, it all worked out nicely. I started off rather lax, but became obsessive about craftsmanship towards the end. Shouldn't that work the other way around? What scares me is that I actually enjoy doing this. Now that I have dozens of new tools, I may become a (gasp) homeowner. It's a good thing that I only rented the nail gun that I used last night. It's pneumatic, but uses a tiny gas cartridge and a rechargeable battery instead of a clunky compressor. It is so cool that I would be nailing stuff just for fun if I actually owned that particular model. Hmmm. Pneumatic tools. I said in the title line that I'm becoming Tim Taylor. Perhaps Anton Chighur is a more apt comparison.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A big "pet peeve" and "congratulations"

I'm both annoyed and amused by the proliferation of "unnecessary quotation marks" in current English usage. I'm no purist on language issues, and it's likely that my participles sometimes dangle dangerously, but quotation mark usage has gotten hilariously out of control.

Oh, and congratulations to "gentle reader" Bill, who just received his "J.D." from the "University" of Utah--with very good "grades," I might add--and who will be attending New York University this next academic year to obtain his LL.M. in tax law. Dammit, that boy is going to be more "educated" than I am.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Of Baptisms and Beaches

I had a moment of panic a few days ago when I was told that T. is scheduled to take first communion on Mothers' Day, something that evidently is a tradition in the U.S. Catholic Church. As a lapsed non-Catholic Christian, this is a tradition I previously knew nothing about, and, no, my panic had nothing to do with anti-papism. We agreed to his Catholic religious education generally when we enrolled him at St. Mary's, and to his more active participation in the ceremonies a few months ago when we discovered that he actually enjoys the formal aspects of the Catholic service. I pointed out then that he hasn't been baptised, and that this might need to be remedied. I thought that maybe someone had forgotten or assumed that some church or other had baptised T. at birth, so I pointed it out again and asked whether we could arrange something. Such a panic is not unreasonable in a New Orleans area resident; in New Orleans, you are presumed Catholic until proven otherwise. However, T's baptism will occur on Mothers' Day also. On reflection, I told myself, "duh. Well, of course. They don't recognize any other church's baptisms, and they have it on record that our family is LDS. And with Benedict reiterating the stance that all other Christian faiths are heresies, they sure as shootin' ain't gonna have no heretic takin' no communion." So soon we will have three faith/spiritual traditions in our little family, with A. left to suggest whether he will follow any particular tradition. Seeing as how he has bit people during mass and has refused to kneel when we've attended the service there, I still regard him as a small-"p" protestant.

A.'s mother is very happy to know that I let him play on only the cleanest parts of the beach.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Dante Scholars Tout Discovery of New Level of the Inferno in Suburban America

DW and I are in the midst of a series of home-improvement projects. We've re-painted most of the interior of the house, put glass doors on the bathtubs to minimize our kids' water damage (why didn't we think of that years ago?), and right now we're re-doing our flooring. I had expected to be far along in our laminate flooring installation by now. However, yesterday proved otherwise.

I chipped a piece of baseboard molding while I was removing it, so I went to the Home Depot to get a replacement piece. After about an hour, another customer saw me looking through every piece of trim in the store, and he asked whether I was trying to match a piece of molding. He told me that he did the same thing last year, only to find that they change the millwork every couple of years. We discussed possible solutions, and I agreed that I would have to do what he did--replace all of the molding in the room. I thought a while about what to do--could I have one room too far off from the rest of the house?--then looked through everything again. I found something that came close enough that we can replace the baseboards in the one room where I goofed, and I added some waterproof baseboards to my cart for the bathrooms. Don't tell gentle reader Bill, but the Lord's name was taken in vain several times during my Home Depot visit, and a few other choice words may have popped out of my mouth.

I got home and used the old molding pieces as patterns to cut my new molding. That turned out to be a mistake, as the builders had made bad measurements and bad cuts, then evidently used big globs of caulk or wallboard putty--or, in a couple of instances, a massive number of nails--to cover their mistakes. Don't get me wrong, personal experience led me to recognize how they went about covering their boo-boos--I'm a fan of using jillions of nails to connect objects that should have connected per the instructions but somehow don't--but I would expect a little more from a homebuilder. Also, the homebuilder's tricks made the baseboards damn difficult to remove. A task that should have taken 10 or 20 minutes took a couple of hours. So now the new molding doesn't quite fit either. I recognized the mistakes soon enough that the last few pieces are cut much better, but now I will need to resort to the putty/wallboard compound trick.

After several hours of removing baseboards, cutting and painting new baseboards, and doing some other prep. work, we were ready to put down the new floor. Oops, I forgot that I needed to cut back to the doorjamb underneath the framing on the kitchen door. Well, the jamb saw didn't seem to work, so I took out my old hack saw and made a mess of things. I went back to Home Depot to seek out a better tool. Well, the jamb saw was the right tool, so I went home and decided to make do. I took the jamb saw and put medium pressure on it as I sawed. It bounced around, scraping off a little paint here and there. Then I bore down on it hard and cussed a blue streak the likes of which have never been heard on any HBO show, save Deadwood. DW thought something must have gone very wrong, but I told her no, I'm cussing like this to make this work. It did work, actually. Oh, and we discovered that our walls don't go all the way down to the concrete--there's an inconvenient little indentation into the casing right at the bottom. So at 11:00 p.m., we had one row of flooring down.