Weekend Edition 2d: 11-7

Interesting Reading in the Interweb Tubez

  • Books are dangerous (“It is not for nothing that reading was always feared throughout history. It is indeed a risky activity: reading possesses the power to capture the imagination, create emotional upheaval and force people towards an existential crisis.”)
  • An Open Letter to Those Who Give Kids Banned Books (“Teachers, librarians, and other adults getting books into the hands of teenagers can never know which might be the one that changes a life, but they — we — can accept that every single time we partake in the magical act of pressing a book into the hands of teens, we impact their lives.”)
  • What’s the Best Way to Die? (“…a painless death is a pretty American way to think about dying.”)

Cheapest Criminal of the Week

Bookish Linkage

Nonbookish Linkage

If you only read the books everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.

Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

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Weekend Edition 2d: 10-30

Interesting Reading in the Interweb Tubez

Crime of the Week

Asshole of the Week Year

  • This asshat is undoubtedly leading the most despised list among hockey (and non-hopckey) fans

Irony of the Week

Bookish Linkage

Nonbookish Linkage

Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired.

Jules Renard

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Weekend Edition 2d: 10-23

After a lengthy absence, Weekend Edition returns. The title is a bit different to account for the gap, Otherwise, the format remains the same.

Interesting Reading in the Interweb Tubes

  • Stop the Madness (“Right now, for every dollar that the federal government spends on medical research through the National Institutes of Health, 15 cents goes to HIV/ AIDS, 10 cents goes to cancer, 2 cents go to heart disease and less than one penny goes to all mental illnesses combined.”)
  • Out of the Darkness (“Once detainees were abused to the point of learned helplessness, resistance would crumble, and the detainees would divulge information that they might otherwise withhold.”)

Bookish Linkage

Nonbookish Linkage

The world is a wobbly place and so is my mind.

Jim Harrison, The English Major

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A huge honor

All things considered, leaving the full-time practice of law this week was perhaps easier than I expected. Surprisingly, it was less taxing emotionally than mentally, which reinforces that it was the right thing to do. Mentally, it was just a long day, what with a project to get done, people coming in to say goodbye or dropping off gifts, lunch with some of my partners, and drinks after works with some attorneys and staff.

The simplest thing to do now would be to look back and say I won these important cases, accomplished this or that, or received such and such professional recognition. Yet that’s not what I’ve been thinking about. Something else stands out for me. It’s the number of staff people who, in saying goodbye, also said things like, “You always treated me with respect” and “You acted like you considered us equals.”

Perhaps by necessity, lawyers tend to have egos. That can make it too easy to be unpleasantly demanding or quick to criticize and to forget that any success is not yours alone. From my perspective, the lawyer is basically the head of a team. Although ultimately in charge and responsible, you would accomplish nothing without the people who help carry out the necessary tasks. Encouraging and listening to them can actually make you a better lawyer. More important, it is not that hard to remember and say two words: “Thank you.”

Sure, I may have accomplished quite a bit as a lawyer. But that is far less meaningful to me than knowing I earned the respect of those people behind the scenes who, day in and day out, contributed to me practicing law successfully for so long.

It is well to remember that the entire population of the universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.

Andrew J. Holmes, Wisdom in Small Doses

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Following Yogi’s advice about those forks

When Yogi Berra died last week, the media was full of Yogiisms, his oft-quoted malapropisms. One that can actually be attributed to him struck me as perfect for this post: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

I’m taking a major fork. At the end of today, I will no longer be a full-time attorney or partner in the state’s largest law firm. I’ve spent the entirety of my 29 years, 3 months and 29 days practicing law there. Tomorrow, I will be “of counsel,” doing some work for a particular client for several months but I’m leaving the full-time practice of law forever.

At the risk of or actually sounding like the old fart talking about “the good old days,” the practice of law has changed over the years — and not for the better. Due in part to the growing number of lawyers, I believe professional courtesy and competency have declined. I am at times dumbstruck by the shoddy product I see and the contentious assertion of what are truly asinine arguments. Yet these problems face everyone who practices law, so it isn’t the main reason for the fork. How law firms operate also has changed. While it’s always been there, I’ve seen a significant increase in the focus on individual gain as opposed to who we are as professionals. There’s still some altruism, naivete and egalitarianism that haven’t been crushed by my cynicism. Combine all four and it’s difficult to accept “what’s in it for me?” trumping skill, ability and similar intangible assets and contributions. Practicing law isn’t easy, it’s often stressful and even more frequently frustrating. Focusing on its pecuniary aspects makes it more difficult and needlessly consumes energy and time.

This latter change also has been gradual. In fact, I’d decided a couple years ago that I was going to retire on my 30th work anniversary, in part because I would also be 59½ (some will recognize the significance of that age). But events over the last year or so made me realize that it wasn’t worth continuing to practice solely for that reason. In fact, I would have been done this at the end of last year but for the influence of a handful of my partners. And if a 30th anniversary rationale was artificial, the timing now is probably more so. It’s my present for myself for my 59th birthday this month.

This prompted my education binge. And there seems to be a trend in my “going away” presents so far: three books from my assistant of 27 years, a $50 Amazon gift certificate from my kids and four books from one of my partners. That’s great because I told my wife that one of my goals this winter is to get up in the morning, read until my eyes get tired, take a nap, read until my eyes get tired, take a nap, and repeat throughout the day.

What am I going to do? I have no clue and no plans. Basically, I’m going to kick back for a while and maybe what I want to be when I grow up will sneak up on me. All I know for sure is that I intend to enjoy the hell out of this fork.

I enjoy waking up and not having to go to work. So I do it three or four times a day.

Gene Perret

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Birthday to me

We have a video of my oldest daughter’s birthday 20+ years ago where my middle daughter insisted on loudly performing “Happy Birthday” as simply “Birthday to you!!”. The phrase has been used in our family probably since then. Since today is “Birthday to me” and I’m 366 days (thank you Leap Year) from the big 6-0, I’m giving myself a big birthday present — edification.

Today is the first of three classes I start this week through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (“OLLI”). The courses are on “War, Politics and Morality in Today’s Conflicts,” African literature and “ISIS and the Arab Spring II.” And Wednesday I start a twice a week, six-week online writing class through the School District’s ed2go program. And if I weren’t glutton enough, over the weekend I started an 11-week, self-paced online University of Virginia class on historical fiction through Coursera. Then, on October 1 (two of my OLLI courses end around then), I’m slated to start another online class through Coursea, an eight-week University of Zurich course called “Spacebooks. An Introduction To Extraterrestrial Literature.”

Each is a new experience for me. I’ve never taken an OLLI class, participated in so-called “distance education” where you have assignments to turn in or a MOOC (“massive open online course”). My total investment (aside from a couple books) is $245, $95 for the online writing course and $150 for an OLLI annual membership. And the latter allows me to take avy of the additional classes it will offer this winter and coming spring for no additional charge.

I’m hoping I’ve not overdone it. But after a couple weeks time shouldn’t be a big issue, something that is the subject of a future post.

Learning is not compulsory; it’s voluntary. Improvement is not compulsory; it’s voluntary. But to survive, we must learn.

W. Edwards Deming, February 1986

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