Sunday, January 30, 2011

SDSU is #4???

Obviously I haven't been paying close attention to college basketball lately.

I was watching the UNC-NCSU game this afternoon while copying some notes from my IP class. At the corner of my eye I caught the ticker scrolling through the Top 25. I saw San Diego State University at number 4. "Surely my eyes deceive me," I thought, maybe I was looking at the women's Top 25. I looked again to make sure the subject was men's college basketball. There have been times when I mistakenly confused the women's scores with the men's. My eyes are not as sharp as they used to be. I didn't misread anything. I did see that SDSU was ranked number 4 in the nation.

My next thought was "This can't be right. What the shiddilywho is going on here?" SDSU can't be ranked in the Top 5. In any other year, they would be lucky to be the fourth best team in California, let alone fourth in the nation. Yet , now they sit at number four. They'll drop some after their loss to BYU last week, but they still have a respectable record. They seem to be cruising to the Big Dance.

The superstitious among us will say that I have jinxed SDSU.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse Nominated For Razzie!

I feel vindicated and relieved knowing I'm not the only person in the world that hates these teenage vampire movies. Sometimes when one sees an apparently popular movie that you think sucks, it leads you to believe "Am I the crazy one here? Is something wrong with me?"

Who came up with this cockamamie notion that vampires should be teenagers, go to high school, fall in love and have teenage angst? Who decided to fuse Emos with monsters?

I've never watched one of the Twilight movies. Just watching the commercials for these movies makes me want to shove a fork in my eye.

Some of you may have never heard of The Golden Raspberry Award, otherwise known as The Razzie. It's sort of like the Oscar but turned upside down. Instead of awarding the best picture or actor, for example, the Razzie awards the worst picture or actor along with other categories. It's an ignoble, toungue-in-cheek award, but a brilliant concept that I'm jealous I would not have been able to think of.

The first picture to win a Razzie was Can't Stop the Music, a film starring Bruce Jenner and the Village People. I actually saw that movie, and was it a turkey. It makes Keeping Up with the Kardashians look like Masterpiece Theater by comparison.

Sylvester Stallone won 4 Razzies and was nominated for several others. I can't imagine an actor that sucks more than him, but the Razzie academy thought otherwise.

Halle Berry and Laurence Olivier have the dubious honor of winning both a Razzie and an Academy Award. At least Olivier had a half-ass decent excuse. He was old . Not many films were coming his way so he had to take what he could get. I did find it funny that Halle Berry accepted her Razzie in person. She was a good sport about it. I think most 'winners' would want these things shipped off to a landfill in Staten Island to never be seen or heard from again.

So, movie lovers, keep your fingers crossed. If the stars align just right, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse will win a Razzie in a landslide!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hot Damn!

I have a three day weekend this weekend! Our conlaw professor hinted to us on Monday he may have to cancel Friday's class. On Wednesday, he did cancel Friday's class. I felt like screaming like a little girl at a Justin Bieber concert because I was so happy. The stars aligned just right. Normally, I have two classes on Friday, but the other class was rescheduled for Wednesday night. Now that our conlaw class was cancelled, I have Friday all to myself. That makes me very happy.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

If You're Reading a Case in Contracts
And see the words 'aunt' or 'uncle'

You can almost bet on a few things happening. The aunt or uncle will promise a gift to a nephew or niece, die, the gift will not have been made before that death, and the nephew or niece will be screwed out his/her money by the courts. (Or someone will try to screw the poor guy out of his money.) Some people would say they were not screwed because the money was never theirs to begin with.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I Should Buy a Lottery Ticket Today

I don't know what the odds are of getting called on in two classes in one day, but I was called on in both of my classes today. I had a quick and dirty question in crimlaw. It didn't matter if I got the right answer or not. The process of getting there mattered the most.

However in conlaw, I was under the gun for well over half the class. To make things worse, he wanted me to read from the text, and I didn't have my reading glasses. Six point font early in the morning is not kind to my middle-aged eyes.

The subject in conlaw was the Marbury Case.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Yet Another Comparison Between Law School & Grad School

Harris Hall

I've noted before the difficulty of comparing how hard law school is to grad school in the first year. In ways, yes, it is comparing apples to oranges. The format of the tests, substance between the courses, and teaching styles differ between law school and grad school making a valid comparison difficult. I think learning kinetics and thermodynamics is harder than learning the Erie Doctrine or covenants and easements. However, grad school softens the blow by giving students homework problems and answers so students can gauge how they are doing. In law school, there is rarely any homework making it quite easy to fool oneself into thinking one knows a subject without that crucial feedback that homework can give.

However, I had enrolled in a class that was remarkably similar to law school in the class format: minimal teaching and no homework. We didn't even have a textbook for Christ's sake! This class gives a good indication how difficult grad school can be compared to law school.

Notice I used the word 'enrolled' and not 'took.' For me to say I 'took' the course would imply that I finished the course and received credit for it. I did not. Within 6 weeks, I dropped that motherfucker as fast as I could.

The course I had enrolled in was inorganic chemistry. I didn't do that great in it in undergrad so I was hesitant taking it in grad school. All throughout the time I was in that class, I had an uneasy feeling. The professor was a newly hired faculty member. No one had any idea what his tests were like, and he sure as hell wasn't tipping his hand of what his tests would be like.

After I took a test in that class, I knew I had done poorly, but not a "28" bad! (Yes, that was a 28/100). I almost shit a brick. I was stunned. The whole class did poorly. We sat in quiet disbelief. I kept thinking "What happened? How could I have done better?" I had already taken tests in physical chemistry and physical organic chemistry. If one took the grades in my tests in those classes and divided by 3, I still would have done better than in inorganic chemistry.

I then thought "Is there a problem with me, or is there a problem with the professor?" At the risk of sounding self-centered and having an exaggerated sense of self-worth, I had to say it was the inorganic professor and his course and not me. This course was an elective for me, but there were others who had to take inorganic because they didn't do well on the competency tests during orientation. If someone didn't pass the competency test in a subject area, that person had to take a course in that subject area. Many students didn't pass the inorganic subject test and so had to take inorganic. They were stuck in that course, couldn't drop it and were shit out of luck.

I wasn't. The next day, I dropped that course. The graduate school director confronted me about dropping that class a couple of months later. He was mad, for what, I don't know. This was a tip-off of things to come in grad school. It was one of those warnings I didn't heed.

I still resent the shoddy, half-assed educational skills that inorganic professor had. His class was why over a third of my class ended up on academic probation. This guy is now a full professor at State. Universities often receive criticism for crappy emphasis they place on teaching at the expense of research. Professors at research universities have notorious reputations for their poor teaching abilities.

This inorganic professor ranks as one of the worst educators in my academic career.

So, the moral of the story is that if done poorly enough, a chemistry course in grad school can be much more difficult than a course in law school. A chemistry professor can play 'hide the ball' much better than a law school professor. Fortunately, most courses in grad school were not that awful.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Random Thought About Ghost

A Plot Hole

I remember watching Ghost one day. Patrick Swayze's ghost struggled mightily to move worldly objects early in the show without any success. He knew ghosts could move worldly objects which frustrated him even more since he was already a helpless bystander. Then he saw that ghost on the subway who yelled at him, pushed him around and man-handled him. The other ghost was able to move things around at will, even other ghosts. Swayze received some coaching from that ghost and was finally able to move things around. (The actor who played the angry ghost was a great character actor, Vincent Schiavelli.)

What confused me was how Swayze was  unable to move a penny a fraction of an inch but when the other ghost threw Swayze, Swayze hit the ground. If Swayze wasn't able to make physical contact with worldly objects, how come when he reached the ground he didn't keep falling through the earth , go straight down and keep going?

I think that is called a plot hole.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Land of Confusion

This entry is not targeting legal geniuses. No, this is meant for people who may or may not have eaten lead paint chips , the kids who licked windows or found infinite amusement in watching one's breath condense in the air on a cold winter's morning.

After reading some cases, you will have an overwhelming sense of confusion. It's not the kind of confusion such as "What is the difference between a gerund and a present participle?". It would be more like the person whose response to the previous question would be "What subject is that in?"

There will be cases where you will look back and say "I don't what the issue(s) was/were." And even worse is when you ask yourself " Who the hell won this case?" Cases in civpro and constitutional law can be especially tedious and as a result, boring. To make things worse, the resulting lack of concentration in these dull cases makes it even harder to comprehend the material.

This kind of confusion has made some publishers of hornbooks wealthy.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I Was Late!

I was late to class yesterday. Had things went normally, I would have made it to class 15 minutes early, instead I was 5 minutes late. Everything was going well until I tried to open my door. I couldn't. Hard as I tried, I couldn't open the door. I felt like a pansy, but I needed help, so I called maintenance. It took me longer to navigate through the property management's phone menu than it took the maintenance guy to respond to my call.

The guys made it upstairs and knocked on the door. I told them to come in. One guy said "Step to the side." I already was to the side. He tried pushing the door one time but without success. I could hear him back up and then he slammed into the door. This wasn't a dainty guy either. It turns out a screw was loose in the door jamming it.

I told the guys I was late , so they finished up their work without me. When I made it to class, someone was sitting in my chair.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Coporate "Un"-Matching Gifts Program
How GSK Didn't Match My Donation to the Humane Society

After the Hurricane Katrina disaster, I made a donations to a few charities: The Bush-Clinton Fund, The Red Cross and The Humane Society. Our company had a matching-donation program. After a GSK employee made a donation to a non-profit organization, GSK would match the employee's donation up to a certain amount. All the employee had to do was show proof of a donation, fill out some paper work and send the information to the proper department at the company.

I felt awful about the abandoned pets. One reason people will not evacuate their houses in a disaster is because shelters will not accept any pets. That is a tough decision to make. I know things would have to be pretty dire for me to leave my babies behind. Unfortunately, New Orleans' citizens had to do just that.

The Humane Society implemented a program to rescue these abandoned pets and advertised for donations for their efforts. I wanted to do my part, so I sent in a check and hoped to double-down on my effort by having GSK match my gift.

Several weeks later, I received a letter from the Matching-Donations program at GSK. GSK matched my donation at the Bush-Clinton Fund and The Red Cross, but the matching gift to the Humane Society was a big NO.

The attached note stated that not all non-profits are eligible for the Matching-Gifts Program, the Humane Society being one of them. Looking back, I guess I should have known that. I guess the Humane Society is not a friend of the pharmaceutical industry, since the pharmaceutical industry views an animal rights group as an 'enemy.'

Friday, January 14, 2011

Most Notable Case of the Week
A Tale of Cannibalism on the High Seas

The most notable case this week was in criminal law. We read a story about some British sailors in the 19th century who abandoned ship and were stranded at sea in a lifeboat. The guys got the bright idea that their chances of surviving would improve if they sacrificed one of their own and cannibalized him. Eventually they did carry out the plan, and a few days later, they were rescued by a passing ship.

The men blabbed about their experiences not thinking they would be charged with murder since this sort of conduct was a custom of sea. It was a revolting and nasty story. Eventually, two of the men were charged with murder, found guilty and sentenced to death. Luckily for them, the sentences were commuted to 6mos in prison.

The moral of the story was about morals, necessity and murder. The real moral of the story is to keep one's mouth shut should one ever be caught in such a predicament.

The case is Regina v. Dudley and Stephens.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


More people are sitting in the back row, I've noticed this week. I'm not alone anymore. Last semester, I almost had the whole back row to myself. Now I have to share it with quite a few people. I've always sat in the back row ever since my undergrad days. Who knows why I did it, but I did and continued to do so in grad school and now into law school.

I wonder what compelled all of these new backbenchers to sit there. I can only speculate. Maybe they want more privacy while surfing the net during class.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"I'm Yawning. I'm Yawning Some more."

Right now, I'm missing torts. Those cases were fun to read and were short and sweet. There were stories of neighbors slinging shit on each other's front porches. One case involved a little kid pulling a chair out from a little old lady. (I know it's warped.) We also read lewd and lascivious tales. These things were riveting and kept my attention.

In the last day, I felt like I was not in a law school class but in a philosophy course. Actually, there were things I read recently that I did indeed read in philosophy courses from my undergrad days. I've read Marxist theory on retribution, Hegel's view on property, Locke's view on property, Kant's views on punishment and Bentham's views on punishment. So far, these courses have been dry and the material cannot be described as "page-turners."

Hell, I'm starting to miss the animal stories in property about the foxes and whales.

Monday, January 10, 2011

"Hang in there, kiddos."

In the last month or so, we have been told several times that Justice Kagan made a B- in torts. I think the school's motive is twofold. First, it's their way of saying "keep your chin up , kid. If you hang in there, good things can happen to you, too." Well, I'm not a HYS law student. An B- there would be like an A here, better probably.

The second reason for telling us about her 'bad' grade is to try to tamp down any whining we may have when grades come back that isn't to our liking.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Jig Is Up

It's time to go back to school. Our semester starts tomorrow and I have some reading to do before class starts. In addition to my 'core courses', I am taking an elective, Intellectual Property. I hope the additional class doesn't break my back.

In the meantime, I’m going to be sad. I'll miss Raleigh and my babies. Andy is too old to live in an apartment. Going up and down the steps would be brutal on his arthritis. Even if I were to buy a one story place, Andy needs to go out five or six times a day. Because of his back problems, he has bladder problems. Andy also gets lonely now when he's alone. He'll cry and whine.

I'll miss Dodo, too. He would sleep in the living room with me and Andy. Dodo would climb on my chest after I turned out the lights and lay down. Eventually, Dodo would go to another piece of furniture to sleep out the night.

I worry about both of them. Dodo is FIV positive although he is healthy and strong. I have no idea when the virus will no longer lie dormant and attack his body. Andy is old and arthritic with back problems. Every time I leave Raleigh, I think this could be the last time I see him.

Grad School & Law School

The First Semester

A similarity in law school and grad school the first semester is what you actually do. For the most part, you go to class, study and take tests. And you study about the same amount of hours per day. Of course in grad school, you are given homework, although it's ungraded and one doesn't even turn it in. Also in grad school, there are at least one or two tests before the final. The tests amount to 1/4 to 2/3 of the grade with the final filling in the rest. In law school, the final is your class grade.

Unless one is lucky enough to have a grant or fellowship, a grad student (in chemistry anyways) has to teach 7 labs in a chronicle year. This averages out to 2 or 3 labs to teach per semester and one lab to teach in the summer. I didn't mind teaching labs. I had a few secondary benefits from it such as it helping my public speaking. I did hate proctoring exams on Saturday mornings. The profs would give those cockamamie things at 8am. It sucked the big one.

Some would say that law skills and writing the memos differs from grad school. Substance wise, yes it is different, but in our physical organic class, we had to write 3 essays on articles in a peer reviewed journal. We had to write a critical analysis of the paper and would be about three pages long. It was a royal pain in the ass.

I did like the legal research class in law school. I wish we had something similar in grad school. I wished we had been exposed to the ACS style elements early on rather than waiting until we wrote our thesis in grad school and have our prof royally screw us. It was a big shortcoming in grad school, that and the fact that each student should have been required to write his/her own paper for submission to a peer reviewed article. Sure, many of us co-authored papers, but the prof wrote it, not the student. It would have helped students develop their writing skills.

For the most part, you went to a few classes, studied and the rest of the day was yours. Next semester, things in grad school and law school will diverge, I think.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Andy Hit In His Eye

Joe Frazier After the Thrilla in Manilla
Andy with his bally
My mom often went to the beach leaving me to housesit for her. In my first summer back on one of her trips, I was playing with the babies in the front yard. Andy was still young and energetic, so I played fetch with him several times a day. During each session, I’d throw the ball thirty or forty yards at a time several times an outing. Andy would sprint to get it and come back. However, after throwing the ball a couple of dozen times in a session, my shoulder that I dislocated as a teen would start to hurt. On days when my throwing arm would hurt, I’d use a tennis racket to hit the ball across the yard. But the racket broke so I used a mini baseball bat. The bat worked well and I’d hit the ball most of the times. Let’s face it, I’m no Ted Williams.

On this particular weekend, I made a terrible mistake. Andy was standing a few feet from me when I hit a tennis ball and it went straight to his eye. He immediately yelped. I had never heard Andy cry in pain before nor would I ever again. He would be stricken with arthritis and a paralyzing back problem. He would have several operations. Not once did he cry unlike Abby who was a big damn crybaby. Thinking about the pain he felt when I hit him in the eye bothers me to this day.

I dropped the bat and immediately went to comfort him. I hugged him and petted him. He went to the back and sat in the pool. I made an ice pack and put it on Andy’s already swollen eye. He sat there for a couple of minutes, then he turned around and swam to the deep end, climbed out by the ladder and sat quietly by himself.

I knew Andy had neurotic tendencies, so I had to do some major damage control. I didn’t want him to think I was being malicious. If he associated me with that awful day, he could be emotionally scarred for life. For the rest of the weekend, I gave him as much attention as I could. I played with him, gave him his favorite treats and loved him. I focused all of my attention on him.

Andy seemed to accept my ‘apology’ well. He didn’t act scared or skittish around me or like a whipped dog. There was one main repercussion from this event. For a year or two later, he would never play fetch with a tennis ball again. When I would pick up a tennis ball, he would act excited at first, but then he would droop his ears down, sit and have a long face. He was scared and wouldn’t participate. This behavior started immediately that day and would continue for a year or two afterwards.

We didn’t stop playing fetch. Instead, Andy enjoyed playing fetch with the cloth squeaky toys. I couldn’t throw them as far or as hard but I couldn’t put his eye out with one of them either. Instinctively, Andy probably knew this too. Now I’d play with him using those toys instead. Andy still had fun and it was a great substitute.

Had I to do things over, I should have bought a cheapo racket. I knew I wasn’t a good baseball player. It was foreseeable that I could have hit a dog with a ball since I had little control over the bat. I made a poor judgment using a baseball bat to hit the ball.

Another long term consequence of that event was Andy’s behavior around me. I tried so hard to make-up with him that he thought I really loved him and he started to love me. Before that weekend, I was that guy who would play with him and nothing more to him. If I wasn’t playing with him, he didn’t pay me much attention. After the incident, he viewed me as a companion. I didn’t love him yet. I felt guilty and sorry for what I did. I needed to comfort him and did what I could to make things better. That weekend changed things in a way I never imagined. Andy began to think I belonged to him.

Cynical Thought of When We Receive Law School Grades

I realize grading law school exams takes a while. My best guess places the average number of pages per exam at 12 per student. Multiply that by 50 to 80, the average number of students per section, and that gives a professor over 500 pages of exams to grade.

I know these things take a finite amount of time; the students work in parallel while the prof works in sequence. The deck is stacked against the prof, time wise.

However, the cynical side of me says that the law school has ulterior motives and waits until we return for the spring semester until we can find out how we did in the previous fall semester. Imagine if someone who had sub-par grades were still at home and received his grades. He may not be as inclined to return to school and subsequently drop out. On the other hand, a person who has already travelled back to school may be more likely to stick around, even with sub-par grades.

OK, I normally don't partake in conspiracy theories. I'll now take off my tinfoil hat.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Second Semester Schedule

Here is my schedule this semester.

Constitutional Law: I'm worried about this course. I've heard it can be a gunner-fest. I'm also worried it will evoke heated political arguments. I've tried to avoid political debate and so far have done a good job of that. The nature of the course seems almost philosophical. It doesn't have the technical intricacies like civpro does.

Contracts: My cynical side says that our school put this in the second semester so people will have built up a base to absorb the hit we will take from contracts. This course seems like it will have quite a bit of technical detail to it which suits me fine, but it also seems to be 'squishy'. As a budding lawyer, I should welcome debates on issues having a bit of leeway in the discussion. In civpro, there were some areas where one was right or wrong. If one was wrong, all the debating and hand-waiving wasn't going to help.

Criminal Law: I really don't know what to expect from this course. From a personal perspective, this course has potential to be interesting despite the fact that I don't want to be a criminal lawyer.

Intellectual Property: This will be the crux of law school for me. I hope I like this course because this is why I came here. I read our syllabus the other day and found out that no laptops are allowed in class. I'll bite my tongue on this one, after all it's the professor's rodeo. I find a certain irony that a course heavily involved with technology does not allow us to use laptops.

Andy's Fears

Part I

In the three months I stayed with my mom before I got a condo, I was able to know Andy even better. I left Raleigh a couple of months after my mom bought him, so Andy grew up while I wasn't around, unlike Abby. Sure I was able to play with him and hang around him when I was down visiting on vacations, but now I was able to know him even better.

What I learned was just how crazy he is. He has so many fears and hang-ups that I can't list them in one entry. The most noticeable fears of his was his fear of the phone and the computer. For example, when my mom started talking on the phone, Andy would quietly skulk away from the den and lay in the foyer until the conversation was over. My mom had told me about this quirk of his, but I didn't believe until I saw it. Everything my mom said was right.

I wondered why he was scared of the phone. As far as I could tell, he didn't like how my mom showed inflection in her phone discussions or would spontaneously start laughing. Andy couldn't figure out why she was going through the emotions. Since Andy didn't understand, he grew confused and scared. Andy wasn't so scared when I got on the phone. His neck may crane up and his ears would perk, but he would settle down and go back to sleep.

I clearly understood Andy's fear of the computer. In the late 90s, my mom bought a computer at my dad's behest. Teaching her how to use the computer would be a monumental task. She had no computer or technology background and was in her late 50s. Teaching her to program the VCR was almost impossible. I dreaded having to teach her how to use a whole computer. She eventually learned how to use the computer, emails, and the internet, and I was privately proud of her. I think some of her relatives in her age group was jealous. She would also develop a slight internet shopping addiction to the point she knew the FedEx deliverer by first name.

However, teaching her to use the computer took time and work. There was a painful and emotional learning curve involved. My mom would raise her voice during the instruction sessions with me or my dad. She would get mad and sometimes curse. The occasional computer lock-up only aggravated things.

It didn't take long for Andy to associate the computer with my mom's mood swings. The moment she would go to the computer cabinet , Andy would leave the room like when the phone was in use. However, unlike when the phone was in use, Andy would not lay in the foyer but would go all the way back to my mom's bedroom and get on the bed. That bed was his sanctuary. When all else failed and Andy was scared out of his mind, he would go to my mom's bed and wait for things to pass.

Sometimes I would go back there and comfort him. He would be facing the door staring towards the hall and waiting for things to simmer down. He was so sweet. I know his mind was a whirlwind but these traits made him so endearing.

Like Taking Candy From a Baby

One habit the babies had that I had a hard time breaking was their taking food from kids. I blame myself mostly for this bad and embarrassing behavior. When I would give food to the babies, I would grab a morsel and place the food close to their mouths and at their eye level. I suppose over time, the babies associated any food placed at their eye level as a gift for them, fair game. The kids, being kids, would walk around with the food in their hands and did not think a dog would take it from them. In no way did the kids protect their food so since the food was at that low elevation, the babies would grab it from the kids and gobble it up.

I was so embarrassed. Normally, I found that the most effective way to discipline a dog was to catch them in the act. However, I had a dilemma. If I reprimanded the dog in front of the kids and guests, my forceful and harsh tone would scare them. I think we have all seen the authoritarian dad at a social function yells at and disciplines his kid in front of everyone making everyone feel quite uncomfortable. However, if I did nothing, the babies would keep doing the same shit over and over.

I would keep an eye on the babies when kids came around and would gently scold the babies whenever they tried to take a kid's food. But since I didn't yell at the dogs or put the fear of god in them, the dogs kept doing their mischief.

Looking back, I should not have trained them to take food directly from my hand. I should have placed the food in their bowl or on the ground. Of course, some would say that I shouldn't have given them any human food. This was something I couldn't do. They were so cute when they begged. That kind of cuteness made me weak.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Taco Maker

New Bern Ave. to the right

While my car was in the shop for an oil change and new brake pads, I went next door to a fast food restaurant to eat lunch and pass some time. The restaurant is called The Taco Maker, and like its name suggests, it serves Americanized Mexican fast food. The restaurant is a chain and may have some locations in the Midwest.

The building it is in used to be an Arby's. However, when a new Arby's opened up 5 miles east at a shopping center in Knightdale, this one closed down. The building lay empty for well over a year. During that dormant time, a taco truck would stop in that parking lot and the workers at the car shop would get their lunch. I even got some tacos from the taco truck and they were damned good. They were probably some of the best tacos I ever had. I especially loved the green sauce they put on it.

Now that the Taco Maker is here, the taco truck doesn't come around anymore. I've eaten at the Taco Maker a few times. It's not that great. It is an imitation Taco Bell. The menu and prices are about the same. The food tastes so-so. What I particularly don't like about the place is that they microwave their food. The cheese becomes mushy and gooey. I find the preparation method to be quite unappetizing. I don't go out of my way to eat there, but on days like today when I have time to kill, I'll pay The Taco Maker a visit.

Gang Signs at Home

Yesterday when I went to my mom's mailbox, I noticed a gang sign painted on a tree in her yard. The sign had the number "13". Could this be from the infamous MS13 gang or could it be from some posers or gangsta wannabes? I think one way to find out if they are for real is for me to get some neon yellow or orange spray paint. Right below the "13", I should spray in "sucks" or "pussies" and see what the reaction is. If swift and harsh retribution follows, then we know that the original marking was the real thing from a real gang.

Maybe they want us to join?

Maybe the real culprits are some punk-ass white teenagers playing a prank. It could stem from a compulsion white youths have in photos at parties to flash gang signs. Now the rascals are stepping up their game and making more permanent signs of their wannabe status.

One Way Abby Communicated
A Scatalogical Message

A month after I moved to back to NC, I took Abby on a shopping trip to Petsmart. The Petsmart I go to is located by the intersection of Capital Blvd. and Milbrook. The complex where it is located is a shrine to the big-box stores. I know a Lowe's is there but can't recall all of the stores in the complex. It takes me about 15-20min to get over there since I live a few miles away inside the Beltline.

I thought this would be a great opportunity to do some shopping for the babies, buy them some toys and tooties while spending time with my Baby Girl. Andy wasn't invited because at the time, I viewed him as my mom's dog. Andy wasn't that close to me at the time either so he often didn't care if I took Abby somewhere but left him behind. He was happy to hang around my mom, kick it by the pool or take a nap with her.

Abby enthusiastically climbed into my car since she loves going bye-bye so much. In the winter time when I shop, I'll often leave her in the car since the temperature isn't high and she won't overheat. On a trip like this in the middle of a hot late spring day, there was no way I'd leave her in the car. I was excited I could take my Baby Girl with me, and I thought she would be happy as well.

However, when I put the leash on Abby, led her out of the car and headed towards the store. We happened to see a Boxer leaving the store while we were still in the parking lot, but I didn't think much of it at the time. Abby sniffed around the grassy islands in the parking lot and lollygagged around. I didn't think much of her taking her time to go in. However, the closer to the door we got, the slower she went to the point that she was no longer in front of me as she usually is when walking but right beside me. When I crossed the threshold to the store, Abby outright balked at going in. I kept telling her to 'come on baby girl, Get in.' Finally, I had to tug on her leash to get her inside.

Abby did a hard left once we were inside towards the fish tanks. Again, this was odd behavior. I had taken her to this store a few years before and she loved the place. We walked down a few aisles when Abby did something completely out of character for her: she pointer her rear at me and let a few blobs of shit out. Abby knew going to the bathroom inside was a no-no. Abby also had excellent bowel/bladder control. I am speculating here, but she knew that going to the bathroom inside would lead to an immediate trip outside. She used the bathroom in that store so I would grow agitated with her and take her back out.

We didn't stay at the store long. We made a bee-line towards the exit, walked back to a grassy island so she could finish off what she had started. Nothing…. She didn't have to go. This was further evidence that her going to the bathroom inside was her way of communicating with me. Her message was : get me the hell out of here!

Later, I told my mom the whole story in even more detail described above. When I mentioned seeing the Boxer, my mom said 'Oh, the last time Abby was in that store, she saw a boxer in the check-out line. The boxer started growling and biting at her and Abby bit her back."

"I'll be damned," I thought "maybe she remembered that boxer from the previous time she was at Petsmart and was scared that she was going to have to get into another fight." I don't doubt Abby remembered that incident. I also think her using the bathroom inside in that manner was a message to me. She had her ways of communicating with me and was smart as a whip.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Boehner's Gavel

My god, look at the size of that thing! (Story here) It's almost phallic in its representation. Is the man 'compensating' or something? That gavel is almost the size of croquet mallet.

How different things are politically now compared to two years ago. I wonder how things will be in 2012.

Andy's Sissy Jump
Andy's Masculinity Problems

Compare Andy's sissy jump to the jump below.

Abby Jumping
Andy always had problems with masculinity. He started out manly enough. Before he was neutered, he tried to hump everything in site. It didn't last long. From then on, I had to admonish him to be a man about it. I wanted him to pee like a man and hike his leg up instead of squatting like a girl.

Strangers thought Andy was a girl to add insult to injury. I guess since he didn't have all of his manly parts and that since he was so pretty that people thought he was a girl. Even the spellchecker in Microsoft Outlook thought Andy had some masculinity issues. When I'd email someone about Pandy, an alternative spelling for "Pandy" was "Pansy." A computer insulted my poor little Baby Boy and he didn't even know it.

When Andy jumped in the pool, he didn't take a vigorous leap into the water like Abby did. Instead, Andy merely stepped off the edge of the pool into the water. I called that the 'sissy jump.' Andy wouldn't readily jump in the pool, either. It took quite a bit of encouragement and excitement to convince him to jump in the pool.

Even when Andy was being a sissy, he was still too cute for words to possibly describe.

It's the One You Least Suspect
Abby Bit Someone

They really were playing.

On one our downtown walks as part of Abby's exercise regimen, we were going down Glenwood South when we came across two Hispanic males. They showed some interest in the dogs and made some small talk with me. One guy asked me how much Abby weighed. Before I could give him an answer, the guy bent over, grabbed Abby and picked her up.

"What the hell is this idiot doing?" I thought. The guy didn't ask for permission or gave no indication of what he was going to do. The guy made some comment to the second guy. The second guy leaned over and petted Abby on her back. Abby turned her head around and snapped at the guy. The second guy jerked his hand away and both guys started laughing. I'm not sure if Abby made contact with her teeth to that guy's hand. For Abby , this was no joke. I've never seen her act hostilely towards a person in anger before.

I got the babies and got the hell out of there as fast we could. I didn't want these guys calling animal control to report my Baby Girl. I didn't want my Baby Girl to have a record.

Before this incident, if I had to guess which dog would most likely bite a person, Father would have been the odds on favorite by far. He was a tough dog that knew how to take care of himself and took no shit. Andy would have been my second guess. He was kind of squirrelly when he was younger. He was a sweet baby but he spooked easily. I've also seen him make teethies at some kids who got too close to him. I worried about Andy and any kids when Andy was around kids. I didn't like him snarling at kids.

Abby was a sweetheart and an angel. She seemed to be an anchor of stability and had a good temperament. I thought she would have been the last dog of mine to bite someone. This episode demonstrates how a seemingly nice dog can be pushed too far and resort to violence.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Andy's Vet Visit

Andy went to the vet today for a regular check-up. He weighed 73.5lbs, so his weight is holding steady. However, this is a quite a drop in his prime when he was 82lbs of muscle. The muscle loss is most notable in his upper thighs where bones protrude a little.

We didn't have to wait in the lobby long. Just a couple of minutes after we checked in, a vet tech took us to the back. After weighing Andy, we took him to an examination room. The vet tech administered a fecal test exam which involves sticking a long slender plastic stick up Andy's butt. I don't know if the exam upset Andy or prodded things along, but Andy poo-pood right there in the exam room. The vet tech cleaned it up. When the vet came in, he asked we move to the adjacent exam room to get away from the odor.

The vet inspected Andy and administered a bordatella booster which was given by spraying some liquid in Andy's nose. The vet asked how Andy has been or if anything new has arisen. I told him Andy has been slightly constipated the last few days. The vet said it could be to changes in his diet and that we should keep an eye on what we are feeding him as a way to address that problem.

I told the vet about how nervous Andy gets, particularly at dusk and for a couple of hours afterwards. Andy pants heavily, acts fidgety and can't stay settled down. Since Andy was a nervous wreck in the exam room, I didn't have to explain the details of Andy's nervous behavior since Andy was demonstrating it. Normally, Andy isn't nervous like that in the middle of the day.

The vet said that with Andy's age that he may have Sundowner's Syndrome. My dad had that in the last months of his life so I was intimately aware of the matter. My dad would turn into a complete loopty-loo at night. Maybe with Andy's age, he was developing something similar.

The vet said that with Andy's age and breed, he may have hypothyroidism. He asked if he had ever been tested for that, and I said I didn't think so. Maybe we'll test for that in a later visit.

The vet gave us a one week prescription for Xanax. He didn't want to give us too much since he wanted to see how the drug would work before a long term commitment was made. I had to go to Walgreen's to fill the prescription. Normally, the vet hands us the drugs from his stash in the back, but these drugs were not available.

By the way, the fecal exam test was negative. We bought some pill pockets in beef and chicken flavor. Andy won't take pills hidden in regular 'people food' anymore so we've had to step up our efforts to get these pills into Andy. We checked out and left. The bill was $128.

To the left, to the left

Everything you own in the box to the left

Yes, this was used a few posts ago.
This isn't about Beyonce's song, Irreplaceable. It came to mind when I was thinking about a quirk of Andy's described below.

I chose the picture above as an example of Andy's habit of walking on the left of me during our walks. Even when Abby wasn't on a walk with us, Andy would still stay to my left. However there were times on our walks when he was interested or distracted by something and would end up to the right of me.

If all Andy did was simply take a few steps to his left to return to his usual position, this entry wouldn't amount to much. There wouldn't have been an entry at all.

No, Andy would go in a clockwise circle around me. He went to my right, then behind me and walked forward to the left of me. I tried to make him take the shortest path to the left, but his OCD forced him to take the long way around the barn. I grew accustomed to this strange behavior and would even accommodate him on his little round-a-bout. I would raise the leash so it wouldn't tangle with Abby's and shift the leash around so the hand closest to him would have control over it.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Abby Loses Weight

When I moved to NC, I set a goal to help Abby lose weight. She weighed 95lbs when I moved away and now topped out at nearly 120lbs. She was a big-boned girl but 120 was way too much for her. She had the perfecta of problems for overweight people or dogs: laziness and gluttony. She loved to eat and to make things worse, she was a nervous eater. For example, if there was a little turmoil or a guest at the door, she would go straight to the bowl and eat. Abby also was greedy. She wanted her food, Andy's and Father's.

That wouldn't have been a problem except that Andy and Father ate defined parts of the day and if the food was not around, they would skip a meal. They would lose weight to the point where they were underweight while Abby was a pudgy as she could be.

Because of their conflicting eating behaviors, I couldn't simply take away Abby's food without harming Andy's and Father's health.

Then there was Abby's activity level. She was lazy and bored easily. Getting her to move around was a major challenge and my mom wasn't up to the task. However when I moved back home, I was able to take the dogs for walks 6 or 7 times a day. Also, since summer was around the corner, I could also have Abby play in the pool. When I played in the pool, Abby readily got in and played. All of this activity added up and burned off the calories.

We almost always took walks in the downtown area. The babies loved all of the new sites and they enjoyed the car ride to boot. By the end of the summer, Abby had lost quite a bit of weight which showed. One time when I took her to the vet, the vet commented that Abby had a waist line again. She made to just under 100lbs. Abby looked good and I was proud of her.

An Apple a Day

A routine I developed in NJ and continued in NC was eating an apple when I got home from work. When I moved back to NC, I would greet the babies, grab an apple and go out front with them. The babies did their usual routines. Andy would want to play fetch and Abby would sniff around the yard.

After Abby finished sniffing around she would stand by me and want to play tug of war. Normally by that time, I had finished the apple and chucked the core somewhere towards the edge of the yard. One day I noticed that Abby had picked up an apple core and ate the whole thing. Seeing how much she liked the cores, I started giving her the core directly. She readily snatched it from my hand and gobbled them up.

After a few weeks, Abby would sit right beside me anticipating the core give away. One day, Abby being the alpha that she was, she barked at me to give her the core even though I hadn't finished it. Believe me, that deep booming bark got my attention. I couldn't believe how bold and pushy she was, yet at the same time I thought she was so cute.

In time, Andy acted like he wanted the apple. I broke the core in half one day and gave him half and Abby half. Andy dropped the core and walked away. Abby finished her half and took Andy's. After a few episodes of this, Andy either developed a taste for the apple core or his greed compelled him to eat it so Abby couldn't, because Andy started eating the apple cores. So from then on, I had to break the core in half or else the babies would get jealous if one got the core and the other didn't.

Pandy Please still loves apples to this day and will beg while I am eating my apple. He'll crane his neck straight up and give me that cutey-pie face that makes me weak.

Back in NC

I moved back to Raleigh on a Friday. April 12, 2002 to be exact. There are some dates people are supposed to remember such as start dates and end dates at companies they have worked for. My trip down was slow. I took no chances of any speeding tickets so I wouldn't have to come back to some dipshit town up north to take care of some rinkydink moving violation. This would trip took me the longest of all my trips to NC from NJ.

I got home late, woke up Abby and lala'd her. After a long trip, I need a couple of hours to mellow out because I'm normally wound up and can't get to sleep for a while.

We had a warm spring and hot summer. Even though it was mid April, the pool was warm enough to swim in. I didn't start at GSK until the 22nd, so I had a week to lay around the pool and play with the babies.

Once I started working, I settled into a new routine. Even though my mom would let Abby and Andy out, I would go out front with them and play for 10 or so minutes, then I'd drive to work. When I returned from work, I'd play some more with the babies. We played in the same way we did when I would be vacationing but now I had more time to spend with them. I also had more time to spend with Andy. At this stage, he was still my mom's dog. Andy was quite attached to my mom, but things would change in a matter of months.

While Abby and Andy would play, I'd keep an eye out for Father. I still held out hope he would come bopping back to our house. Sometimes I'd hear 'phantom barks', that characteristic high-pitched bark of Father's. Especially at night I'd hear those phantom barks. I would go outside hoping to catch a glimpse of Father only to see nothing.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Grades in Law School and Grad School

Another difference in grad school and law school is that in grad school, we would have our grades by now. I'm not sure if the grades would have been mailed to us by now. What I do know is that we would have known them by now.

In the old days, our professors would post a list of the student's grades with their respective social security numbers beside those grades, but the actual names were not listed. Our professors would have these things out fairly quick, probably within week after the exam was given.

For some students or in some situations, the student could go the professor's office and ask the professor his/herself directly how he/she did if the grade list had not been posted. Normally, the professor was cordial about things and may even joke around with you. They may even show you your exam.

Compare this to law school where our grades don't come out till the second week in January. And forget about contacting the professor about how you did. I haven't tried it but I'm sure it would be frowned upon to contact the professor before the grades are posted.

Another big difference in grades between grad school and law school is the class average. Most law schools shoot for a class average of a B, some even shoot for a C. I couldn't imagine trying to stay above water in that kind of environment. With a class average of a C, it is almost built into the system that a quarter of the students per class will be academically ineligible after the first year.

In grad school, a student needs a 3.0 average or better to remain academically eligible. And believe me, the schools don't play. I saw about a quarter of my class in grad school get washed out in the first year. Most of those students were hurt by physical organic chemistry or inorganic chemistry.

A New Job, Part II

During my time in Raleigh while interviewing, other than my getting the job, nothing went well for me.

1) I had a gall bladder attack. The night before the interview, I had an interview dinner with some GSK people. I had foods with a lot of fat in it like fried calamari. Later that night, my stomach started hurting, felt distended and I threw up. I seriously thought about postponing the interview, but I came this far and felt the job was mine to lose. I went to a doctor a couple of days later, and he said it was gastroenteritis—fancy doctor talk for a stomach ache. It was more than that. A few months later, my stomach still hurt and I was still feverish. I fucking hate having to self-diagnose. Oh well, not all doctors made A’s.

2) A cousin of mine who was 44 died suddenly and unexpectedly.

3) I would see Father for the last time. My mom said he had been spending little time at home. He would stay away for days at a time. When I came to Raleigh, he came home for the first time in days. He was happy to see me. He was bouncing and hopping around when he saw me. Later the next night, he wanted to go out. I opened the side door and let him out. He walked out into the night and I never saw him again. Maybe he was hit by a car. Possibly he was shot. My mom said she heard gunfire a couple of nights later. This may sound like hyperbole but the crime rate in our side of town is somewhat high. It’s not out of the question that someone would shoot a dog; after all, people are shot around here.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Job

The stories on the “NJ Segment” of this blog are almost over. In March, 2002, I interviewed for a job in RTP at GSK. It was a job I wanted back in ’98 but I didn’t feel my resume was strong enough to gain a position there. That was one reason I didn’t apply in ’98 along with the fact that I wasn’t going to get a good recommendation from my research advisor. As a matter of fact, I didn’t get a good one from him in ’98. Some were tepid and others were almost career killers. For those wondering how I know, some of my interviewers brought up what my research advisor said about me. The point is a place as picky as GSK wouldn’t take onboard someone with that kind of baggage. Fortunately for me, in the late 90’s, the economy was red hot and the pharmaceutical industry had a shortage of scientists so I was able to find work somewhere.

What is note worthy about my job search in 2002 was that 1) I didn’t use my research advisor as a reference 2) GSK called him anyway and 3) my old research advisor had good things to say about me. I don’t know what led to my research advisor’s change of heart. I ended up receiving a job offer from GSK. I felt like I had redemption. My sole purpose at Aventis was to strengthen my resume so I could go to GSK. One time the manager of our department commented to my supervisor at Aventis that my work seemed like more than just a job to me. He was right. I was on a mission.

So, I was about to end a chapter in my life that ended on a good note—a rarity in my life. I had built up some goodwill and was making a lateral move to a company that I had heard some not so nice rumors about. I remember meeting about 12 or so people during the 7hrs I was interviewing out there. A little voice in my head said “Something doesn’t seem right.” Red flags popped up all around me but I chose to ignore them. I wanted to go back to NC so bad that against my better judgment, I accepted the offer made to me.

I would leave Aventis with mixed emotions. I really liked my coworkers and for the most part they liked me. I had made decent progress and at one point, the subject of the company sending me back to grad school so I could get a PhD was brought up by my department manager. In one of my many bad decisions in my adult life, I turned it down. Had I accepted the offer, I would have pretty much spent the rest of my career in NJ. I wanted to go back to NC even if it meant I would not go as far in my career as I otherwise could have gone. I would go to GSK.

How Hard Was First Semester Law School Compared to Grad School?

How hard were the classes in grad school compared to law school? Well, as I’ve mentioned earlier, no one concept in the first semester of law was terribly difficult to understand. However, since there was no homework in law school, it is easy to lull oneself into a false sense of security thinking one understands the material. A couple of concepts that I had to look over long and hard in civpro were the Erie Doctrine and if a case arose under a federal statute in a civil case (well-pleaded complaint), for example in Mottley or Smith v. Kansas City Title and Trust Co.

Property seemed to jump all over the place from one subject to another from gifts, adverse possession, estates & future interests, landlord/tenants, ownership in common to easements and covenants. The only common denominator was obviously these topics concerned property. Property lacked continuity. Civpro had continuity and a thread throughout the subject.

Civpro also had a structure and form that lends itself to better understanding for those who like to compartmentalize information. In some ways, it was like a math or science course, except in math or science we didn’t have essays on our exams. Estates and future interests in property had a mathematical precision and logic to it. Like a math course, that is not a topic one should cram for in exam preparation.

The sum total of all the info in law school first semester made things a little tougher compared to grad school. In law school, all of the classes were hard. In grad school, only one or two classes per semester were hard. In grad school, we had weed-out courses. It separated the men from the boys. It also cut short a few students’ time in grad school. Physical Organic Chemistry was one of those courses. Even for organic chemists, that class was hard, but for analytical or inorganic people that course was a ball-breaker. There were several topics that stopped me dead in my tracks, mainly electrocyclic reactions. Kinetics and thermodynamics came in a close second. I had to spend many long and lonely afternoons staring at the book trying to ‘get it.’ What was ironic about my first semester was how hard Physical Organic Chemistry was compared to plain ol’ Physical Chemistry!

Synthetic organic chemistry was probably the second hardest course I took. Our text was almost as thick as a casebook and we had to learn the whole damned thing. Yes, there is a lot of memorization. People who don’t like organic chemistry tend to poopoo organic by saying “Oh, it’s just a bunch of memorization.” However there is quite of bit of understanding. We have to understand mechanisms, biochemistry, physical chemistry and analytical chemistry to have a grasp at organic.

So, when someone asks me what is harder, law or grad school, a pat answer is not appropriate. There were topics in organic that are hard so hard to understand that one has to stare at the book for hours on end at just a few pages to get a grasp on it. But the volume of work in law school adds up and weighs you down.

Downtown Walks: A New Routine

In the last year I was in NJ, my visits to NC would be topped off with a walk with the babies in the downtown area. I could have walked them in our neighborhood, but considering my experiences with people trying to hit me with their cars, throwing things at me, threatening to shoot me or having dogs try to attack me, a Sunday walk seemed like a jaunt in a minefield rather than a relaxing moment with the babies. No, instead, I took them to the downtown Raleigh area. On Sundays, the north part is where much of the government offices and buildings are. The place is isolated and I had it essentially all to myself. I especially liked going by the Victorian homes by the Oakwood district. Many of those houses are over a hundred years old and are quaint and picturesque. A movie (part) was filmed in that neighborhood in the early 80’s, Brainstorm. That movie would be Natalie Woods last.

Anyway, the downtown area on Sunday isn’t completely desolate. There are churches seemingly on every block. I avoided those areas and besides, parking was terrible on Sunday mornings. At one of the downtown churches, Edenton Street Methodist Church, John Edwards is a member of the congregation. Elizabeth Edward’s funeral was held in that church. I’m glad I wasn’t living in Raleigh at the time because I would have been tempted to heckle those Westboro Baptist Church protestors who showed up at Edwards’ funeral.

I didn’t have to twist the babys’ arms to get them to go bye-bye. All I had to do was ask these words: Do you want to go bye-bye? Their heads would pop-up like a jack-in-the-box and head straight towards the door. I would put the seats down in the hatchback so Andy could sit while Abby would sit in the front seat. Andy would actually lie down the whole trip and watch me and Abby. Abby would sit up statuesque straight so she could see what was going on.

Parking is easy and free in downtown Raleigh on Sunday mornings for the most part. I’d roll into a spot on the street, put the leashes on the babies and head out to the sidewalk. The babies and I would go around a mile or two. I had to monitor their heat level so they wouldn’t get in trouble. They took in all the smells and sights. We had the place to ourselves. Needless to say, this was a good way to exercise Abby. She always had weight problems, bored easily and had tendencies for laziness. These walks always grabbed her interest and she never tired of them. She eagerly went bye-bye every time. Andy liked going bye-bye but he also liked being around us. He loved our company.

These jaunts to downtown Raleigh would affect where I lived when I moved back after living in NJ a few years. While I was taking the babies for these walks, I never thought about exactly where I’d live in Raleigh if I moved back. I didn’t even know they had condos there.