Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Three Things

1. Katze
2. Mau
3. [my first name]

1. katze
2. jennakatze
3. dgf92

1. My eyes
2. My skin color
3. My breasts

1. My stomach
2. My toes
3. My breasts

1. French
2. Swiss
3. Native American (possibly Cherokee, but we aren't sure)

1. Spiders
2. Heights
3. The Religious Right

1. Coffee
2. Something to read before bedtime
3. Email

1. ratty old khakis
2. A winter white cable knit short sleeved sweater
3. Very comfortable, yet very unattractive underwear

1. Patty Griffin
2. The Mosquitos
3. They Might Be Giants

1. Laughter
2. Mutual respect
3. loyalty

1. I am afraid of failure.
2. I've never had a boyfriend with blue eyes.
3. I can't wait to have children.

1. A warm and sincere smile
2. Height
3. Freckles

1. Knitting
2. Reading
3. Writing

1. Drop out of law school
2. Travel extensively
3. lose 15 more lbs

1. University Professor
2. Translator
3. Immigration lawyer

1. Iceland
2. Greenland
3. The Faroe Islands

1. Own a home
2. Host an exchange student
3. see the pyramids

1. Tend to be very direct in my communication
2. Don't really care about fashion or trends
3. Don't want a big frou frou wedding.

1. I cry at the drop of a hat. For lots of different reasons.
2. I fuss about my hair.
3. I never go out without lipstick.

1. John Cusack
2. Alan Rickman
3. Alton Brown

It's Not Like English Wasn't His Native Language

Today, I had to edit a "letter" (though I use the term very loosely, considering the poor quality of the writing involved) of recommendation written by a man with a Ph.D. who had held professorships at two different universities before moving to his current position in the leadership of a D.C. think tank. The letter was four pages long, but contained only 27 sentences, many of which were entirely missing verbs.

Try to write a four page letter using only twenty-seven sentences. I dare you. You can't do it, not even with the help of colons and semi-colons, not unless you severely abuse the English language.

This moron is making the big bucks working for a think tank. I'm struggling to pay rent on a cheap apartment and buy my clothes at secondhand stores. Why on Earth did I believe my English teachers when they told me that proper grammar and spelling were necessary to succeed in the business world and that effective written communication was highly prized in the workplace? There is no justice in the world.

Monday, May 30, 2005


Tonight, I am thankful...

...for good friends who make me laugh.
...for the cool overcast weather for my drive "home" (back to D.C.), which meant that I didn't have to drive with the windows down to compensate for my broken air conditioning.
...for the chance to spend a relaxing weekend with Finbar, who I miss terribly every single day.
...for the white sheep on the green hillside that I saw as I rounded a sharp bend in the highway.
...for the tulips planted in the median for miles on end, creating a blaze of red and white in the slanted light of a setting sun.
...for the children standing on the overpass, waving to the cars stuck in the traffic jam. The tallest boy was holding a large American flag and two of the girls were dressed all in red, white, and blue. It was such a little slice of Americana and made me smile in the middle of a stressful situation.
...for enthusiastic greetings by all the animals in the house, making me feel loved when I was so sad to be driving miles and miles down the highway in the opposite direction from Finbar, feeling like I should just turn the car around and head toward my "real" home-- wherever Finbar is.

God Bless the Public Defenders Office

I'm sure I could not do their job.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

No Wonder He Wasn't Feeling Well

The junior partner, Oscar, went home early yesterday. Today, when I came in, I found out that he'd been taken to the hospital overnight and had an emergency appendectomy. He's doing well and is likely to be back at work (at least for partial days) on Tuesday.

However, he keeps his own appointments. And that meant that all day today, we had people coming in to see him. Felix was trying to take care of everything and he's already a little on the high-strung side about this stuff, so he was completely manic all day.

Most people who called for him were understanding. However, there were a few people who got very upset that Oscar was not in the office taking care of their green card application/ travel documents/ visa renewal. They were not happy with having someone call them back or with waiting for Oscar to return on Tuesday (even though, realistically, there was nothing that couldn't wait the two additional business days, and if there was, then they really waited too late to call us for help anyway). It was one of the more hectic days I've spent in the office so far.

My big motion on that case that's probably headed to the Court of Appeals went in yesterday and that was a huge relief. I'd been having a recurring nightmare wherein Felix forced me to argue the case in front of the Court of Appeals. I kept saying "But I'm not allowed to argue in front of the court!" and he kept saying "Oh, you'll be fine. I've been practicing for 35 years and I have every confidence that you can do it." Hopefully, having the motion in and pending will give me a respite from that dream.

And in the meantime, I've picked up five more clients. One of them came in today. He was none too happy to have a mere law student handling his paperwork. I can understand to a certain extent, but at the same time, I was thinking All I'm doing is reviewing your file and editing your written statements to polish the English! It also didn't help that this wunderkind was younger than I am. Then I turned on my "Bossy Broad" mode and started telling him exactly what to do. Amazingly, he responded to it.

Thrilled with my success, I then spent the afternoon bossing Felix around, much to his delight. I think he thinks I'm cute-- not in the sense that I'm attractive physically, but in the way a precocious child is cute. I bullied him into defrosting the fridge and cleaning the kitchen. And told him his jokes were corny. He was eating it up-- what a strange man. While doing all of this, I worked on editing the wunderkind's writing.

I am consistently shocked and appalled by the poor writing that comes from some of these high-level scientists and researchers. Some of the documents I worked with today were written by a Ph.D. economist whose introduction bragged that he had published over 200 articles. I can't imagine how he got anything accepted for publication in anything other than a middle school newspaper.

And I couldn't get a job after college to save my life.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


I can no longer discern one day from the next.

This is a phenomenon that I normally experience around exams, when my normal schedule is thrown out the window and none of the normal markers that tell me "This is Tuesday" or "This is Saturday" exist. Now I'm experiencing it in a way I never did before: as a result of my 9-to-5 job.

You see, in school, every day is a different schedule. Although some classes meet M/T/W, others meet only on Tuesday or on M/T/H or whatever. But every day at work is just like the last day at work: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., give or take, always in the same seat, always with the same people, always the same general work. I'm not saying that it's boring-- I'm actually really enjoying the work, even though I'm frustrated at times by my lack of practical knowledge-- it's just that there's no difference in the days and I don't know what to navigate by.

I don't remember it being quite so bad when I worked between college and law school. I mean, yeah, sometimes I'd have one of those days where you wake up convinced that it's Thursday, when really it's only Wednesday, or I'd have a moment where I couldn't remember if it was Saturday or Sunday, but not very often. Perhaps it's because there were certain things that happened on certain days every week, so you had points of reference. For example, every Tuesday was a staff meeting. So, if yesterday was the staff meeting, today must be Wednesday. And every other Friday was a meeting for the work crews, so if the office was full of 30-odd men and women that you normally only saw at the beginning and the end of each day, and it wasn't the beginning or the end of the day, then it's probably Friday-- and payday! See how it works? The office here is nowhere near that structured.

Perhaps there are subtle differences in routine that I just don't pick up on yet. Let's hope so: today, I spent the entire day convinced that it was Monday (AGAIN!) and it was really quite depressing.

Monday, May 23, 2005

More Language Pedantry

If you say "I was literally scared to death", that means that you were so frightened that your heart stopped and all brain function ceased, you shuffled off the mortal coil and joined the choir invisible. "Literally" is not intended to simply add emphasis. It does not mean "Really, Really".

New Book On the Nightstand

I am currently reading That's Not What I Meant! by Deborah Tannen. I'd read some of her writings in college, first in an anthropology course and later in a linguistics course. And, as you know, I am very interested in language and non-verbal communication, especially in the context of cross-cultural communication.

So far, it's been a quick read and fairly interesting. I'm hoping that later in the book, she'll talk about how to avoid or resolve these sorts of miscommunications. I liked Tannen's writing style when I read her in my college classes, but in a work as long as the book, I'm finding it a little on the superficial side. Or maybe the problem is that I've just read too many law texts to be able to appreciate a simple, clear-cut text.


Sunday, May 22, 2005

Zoo Station

One of the cats has taken to scratching at the closed bedroom doors in the night, crying loudly to be let in. Then, when you open the door, he makes a circuit of the room and wants to be let back out-- usually just as you're starting to drift off again. Last Thursday night, I heard a great crash. Jumping up from my bed, I started toward the door so that I could investigate what mischief which animal had gotten into, only to realize that my door was open and that a fuzzy streak of black had just grazed my ankles on its way past.

So, a decision was made to break JoJo of this habit. Grace's fiancee was assigned watergun duty. All weekend, he slept with that watergun by his side, one ear cocked for the sound of feline misbehavior. Once, he nearly squirted Will by accident, when he heard him heading down the hallway to the bathroom.

Success has been limited. The crying has mostly stopped, but Sunday when I got up around 4 am to go to the bathroom, JoJo jumped up and ran into my room. I left the door cracked, figuring that he'd just make his usual circuit of the room and then leave. Instead, he jumped up on my bed and laid down. For about 2 minutes. Then he walked in a circle around the mattress before laying down in a different spot. For about two minutes. Repeat the last two sentences for about 20 minutes before he finally jumped down and ran out of the room. And apparently the kitty drag races at 3 a.m. continue unabated.

The Joy of High Speed Internet

Today, I discovered a website listing swedish radio stations broadcasting over the internet. I am so excited and have the volume up all the way, listening to it. Makes me wish I had high speed wireless back home so that I could crank it up and listen to it in my apartment and feel like I was back in Europe.

I Didn't Know Dogs Could Get That

Turbo has conjunctivitis. He's so pathetic looking right now, with his eye all crusted up with gunk. When he looks up or to the side, you get a glimpse of the pink inflamation surrounding his iris. This has led to much moping and looking for love. I, in turn, am washing my hands compulsively, as I do not have health coverage down here and do not relish the idea of forking over a chunk of change to see the doctor because I caught pink eye from the dog.

Zen Spam

One of the subject lines in my bulk mail folder on Yahoo! today was:

"Become a low rate"

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Mmmmm... Tapioca

Today, I tried bubble tea for the first time.

Ohhhhhhh my God. I think this might have been my food ecstasy

Pei, this is very bad. I'm afraid that I will go broke next year running to that little shop near Aladdins that sells bubble tea.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Emma Lazarus

Today, I was reviewing a client file dealing with an appeal of an order of deportation for failure to show a credible fear of persecution if the person is returned to their home country. On one of the forms you fill out when you request political asylum, it asks you why you came to America (as opposed to say, Canada or Belgium or New Zealand) to ask for asylum. This person had written his answer in large, careful capital letters that stood out in stark opposition to the scrawling script of the rest of his answers:


My heart wrenched. I've never been particularly Amero-centric. I don't think America is "God's Country" and I know how very imperfect a country it is. There are lots of other countries where freedom rings, and perhaps even rings louder than it now does across these fruited plains. But there is something so nakedly hopeful about this man's simple explanation for why he left behind family, friends, and the professional career that he cannot practice here without starting his education from scratch, hopped on a plane, and walked out into a scary new culture and language.

I love what I'm doing because I can make an enormous impact on someone's life. Hopefully, my work will help this man to stay here, in Freedom Country.

Why This Is Such a Great Job For Me

At one point today, one of the women with whom I share an office was sitting next to me speaking Japanese to someone on the phone while in the office next to mine, another woman was speaking Spanish to a client in her office.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Nature of Friendship

I finished Between Friends today. It was...okay. Some of the essays were deeply personal, while others felt like the author was trying so very hard to convince us that she's unconventional, dammit!, that I just couldn't get through to the underlying message.

However, the last essay in the book stopped me dead in my tracks. It's called "Ringing the Net" by Susan Kenney. In it, she tells of the friends who surrounded her as her husband fought and eventually died of cancer. I sat on the plaza in front of the office building I'm working in and cried. Would that we were all blessed enough to have friends such as the ones she describes!

Of course, I think I am so blessed. I would walk across hot coals for a certain handful of people, and I'm sure they would do the same for me. I'm a big believer in quality of friendships, not quantity.

Which is what made it all the more hurtful and puzzling for me when one of the people who I honestly believed was becoming one of those friends simply up and pulled away. Almost literally overnight, she stopped talking to me, stopped returning my phone calls, stopped answering my emails. I've searched and searched for the way in which I might have offended her, but I honestly don't know what I could have done to make her take her love and friendship and go away. At first, I wished fervently that she would break the silence and tell me what I had done to offend her so that I could make amends. Then I was angry and wanted her to hurt as much as I did. Luckily for my karma, I was too busy to do anything but steam in private. And now I'm just sad. Sad for what was, sad for what might have been, sad for what never will be.


Boy Howdy

Today just draaaaaagged on. Felix was out of the office, so I was uninterrupted and actually got to work for eight hours. I spent the entire day working on one Motion. It's for an NI visa and I had to wade through page after page of scientific jargon, trying to understand enough about what it *is* that this person does, exactly, to tell the USCIS why she should be given permanent residency.

Part of the application involves letters of recommendation from other scientists or researchers in the applicant's field. This particular person submitted five of them. Three are lovely letters and I've quoted extensively from them. The other two are masterpieces of self-congratulatory waffle. In fact, one of them is literally half about the person writing the letter. "I'm such a great scientist, look at all the stuff I published (see attached CV)"-- which actually was attached and was 32 pages long. Not the applicant's CV, mind you, the recommender's CV. The other one is so smug in tone that it makes me want to crumple it up and throw it away every time I see it.

I thought I would be finished with this Motion by 1 or 2 p.m., but it was unfinished when I left this evening. Tomorrow, in between meeting with a client and trying to track down some woman who has expertise of some sort in the law we're trying to base our appeal on, I'm going to finish it. Hopefully right in the morning, since I'm told that she's coming in tomorrow to discuss it. Then I get to start over with another one, this time for a scientist doing some sort of high-level stem cell research. Oh, and I still have to work on a Motion to Reopen a file for a client who was ordered deported years ago when his claim for political asylum failed. I don't understand why it failed (he had a clear and credible fear of persecution if returned to his home country, backed up by the fact that his family was persecuted after he escaped to the U.S.), but it doesn't matter because the guy won the Green Card lottery literally days before he was ordered deported. We just have to get the USCIS to understand that fact and re-open the proceedings so that they can be terminated so that he can file for adjustment of status on the basis of winning the lottery. Except I'm sure that USCIS will be less than cooperative.

After this summer, I'm certain my name will be on some Homeland Security list, if it isn't already there by virtue of being friends with War

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Close Your Office Door, Finbar

Then go look at Hot Dog Blog.

And remember, no Dackels out of wedlock!

This Will Be Punishable By Flogging

When I have my own country, common courtesy will be enforced by the law. The woman who, in the middle of morning rush hour this morning, sat on the outside seat of a pair of seats in the Metro, then positioned her SUV-stroller so that it blocked the other seat and part of the aisle, preventing anyone from sitting in the empty seat next to her, and had a very loud "conversation" with her toddler the whole way in ("Who's a big boy? You are! Yay!" "Did you sneeze? ACHOO! What a big sneeze! Wow! ACHOO!") while sitting in a short skirt with her legs spread wide open (mmmmm, that was... "hot") would be subject to immediate arrest and flogging. Can you imagine how pissy she would have been if she'd gotten on the train and someone refused to move their briefcase so that she could sit down?

Bring It On

Today, I felt semi-competent. I finished the preparatory work for two NI visas and started my first motion in support of the applicaiton. I also drew up the paper work to incorporate for one of our clients.

My research on the other topic is not going as well. It's very difficult to know where to go with it when there's no applicable precedent. Felix is very confident and keeps telling me not to worry about it. Oscar is very worried about it and keeps dropping into my office to see how things are going.

Tomorrow, I hope to finish the first draft of the motion and get some feedback, then start the second motion.

Friday, I am meeting with a client alone. I'm totally nervous about it. I don't have to do anything except get her to sign a couple of documents, get her business plan from her, and get her to cut a check to cover the registration fees. Even I can't screw that up, right?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Jump Off the Deep End

Today was both better and worse than yesterday. I feel less like a stranger in a strange land, but at the same time, I am even more overwhelmed-- or perhaps awed is more accurate-- by what I'm being asked to do, especially in light of the assignment that landed in my lap today.

I have been asked to draft a memorandum for an issue that is most likely headed for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. It is apparently an issue of first impression and I am being asked to argue by persuasion in a field where I've got only the vaguest lay of the land. Of course, my work will be heavily guided and reviewed by one of the partners, but still, it is my work to be done. And a man's fate-- and the fate of others like him-- hangs in the balance. I'm a second year law student and this was my second day of work.

I'm terrified because this is some heavy duty shiz-nit. And I am really excited for the exact same reason.

And I am heartened to find that my gut feeling is that I'm going to love this field of law. It just seems to fit. For the first time, I feel like I could face going to work for the next 30 years and doing this every day.

Questions You Never Want To Have To Ask

When using a public restroom, one never wants to ask oneself, "Why is the toilet paper wet?"

Monday, May 16, 2005

66.0000000001% lawyer

Just finished my first day at work.

Have you ever been to a country where you sort of understand the language? Your brain is chugging along in overdrive, trying to process everything at once, but you keep missing things because you get bogged down in some detail you don't understand. Then you go into panic mode because you don't know what's going on and your brain is scrambling to catch up.

That was my day.

But on the bright side, I think it's all terribly interesting, and I can honestly say that this is the first time since I started law school that I've really felt inspired by what I'm doing. I have several clients assigned to me already and I met with one of them this afternoon. I'm doing work on E, NI, and J visas, plus two IV problems. By the end of the summer, I expect to be able to breeze through Immigration Law in the fall.

And I am dead tired. Do I really have to go back and do it again tomorrow? I could use a day to recover first!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

What's REM Got Against Rockville?

I made it to Rockville and am getting settled in. My roommates,Will and Grace seem very nice so far and we definitely share a similar sense of humor. There is one greyhound (not two) and three kitties (not two). The greyhound's name is Turbo and he's all about the love. He sacked out on the floor last night laying on his back
with all four paws in the air and his mouth wide open (tongue hanging out!), just like a cat would. It was very funny. The cats are JoJo, Juana (pronounced like in Spanish), and Pancho. JoJo and Juana are solid black, Pancho is orange with a pink nose, which I think is funny looking. JoJo is constantly showing up in my room, but just for a look around; no touchie is his motto otherwise. Pancho occasionally deigns
to grant me a quick rub, and Juana has stayed hidden.

I'm pretty close to the Metro, so it's super convenient. I suspect that if I skipped my shower, I could sleep in until 8 and still make it to work by 9. I don't plan to test that theory too often, but it's nice to know.

The downside? One, the laptop stopped working again. And of course, I wasn't smart enough to bring the box of papers and discs to send it in for work. I'm going to ask Grace's fiancee to look at it for me, then decide what to do from there. Two, this is yuppieville USA and there seems to be far higher than the average percentage of bratty kids and entitlemoos everywhere you go, especially Target, which was a huge bummer, as this is a MASSIVE and brand new Target and it's like 5 minutes from my house. I might could walk there, but I think it would be a long walk.

That's it so far. I start work tomorrow morning. I'll try to go to bed early tonight, since I haven't slept well the last two nights and I can feel it. I'm dying for a nap right now, but am valiently fighting against it! I haven't seen any of the animals in the entire time I've been sitting here typing-- I wonder where they all are? I never get to type unmolested by my own cat.

Friday, May 13, 2005


I am issuing a fatwa against the drivers in this city. Sometimes, I get on the road here and within minutes, I am reduced to a quivering rage and convinced that every single person in the city took a stupid pill that morning. So, let's review a few basics of good driving/ traffic habits.

First, when the light turns green, traffic turning left MUST YIELD to traffic going straight. You do not have the right to turn left in front of me unless a)you have the left turn arrow or b)I have stopped and indicated to you (by flashing lights or waving, for example) that I am allowing you to turn left despite the fact that I have the right of way.

Second, don't tailgate. It doesn't make me go any faster. In fact, it probably has the opposite effect. Especially in a school zone. Maybe you have no problem with paying a $300 fine, but I like my clean driving record and don't have extra money to pay speeding tickets. Beyond that self-centered motivation, the fact is that children don't always pay attention to what's going on around them and I don't want to be responsible for killing some 8 year old who chases a ball out into the street.

Third, crosswalks are there for a reason. Vehicles MUST yield to pedestrians. Period. No exceptions. Don't fly up, squeal to a halt, then make rude gestures at the pedestrians to hurry up. Don't get pissy when I stop my car to allow the pedestrians to cross. Don't rev your engine like you might change your mind and plow right over the pedestrians. And you pedestrians have to do your part as well. Don't cross when the light says "Don't walk". Some of the intersections stop traffic in all directions for pedestrians to cross. That means that you don't also get to cross just because the traffic in your direction has the red light. Also, take the time and make the effort to walk the extra 50 yards to the crosswalk, especially on busy streets and areas with heavy traffic. If I have to slam my brakes and get hit by the moron tailgating me, you better bet your sweet bippy I'll be looking to include you in the suit for damages. I'm a law student, for Pete's sake, can you think of a more litigious demographic?

Fourth, turn signals are standard on ALL VEHICLES sold in this country. Use yours. They are very easy to operate and located on the column of your steering wheel for your convenience. Wondering when you should use your turn signals? Every time you change langes. Every time you *gasp* turn, whether left or right. Every time you intend to deviate from the current straight line you are traveling for any reason.

Fifth, learn how to park or else take the bus.

Sixth, if everyone just follows the traffic laws and exercises some common courtesy, traffic will flow more smoothly and everyone will get where they are going faster. Therefore, it is against your best interests, as well as mine, if you speed up to prevent me from making a lane change when I am patiently signalling to change lanes. Don't manuever to prevent me from merging onto the highway. Don't pull up and block the intersection just to ensure that you don't have to wait through a light change. Don't block the driveway-- and while we're talking about it, it wouldn't kill you to let the person trying to pull out of the driveway pull out in front of you.

Seventh, pay attention. Hang up your stupid cell phone.Quit trying to put makeup on. Quit gawking at the girls wearing short skirts. If you're behind the wheel, you need to be driving.

It's Been a Good Day

I woke up to a phone call from Finbar this morning, just because he wanted to say hello.

Then, I called my normal hairdresser to see if he'd happened to have a cancellation for today, and there were three open slots, so I was able to get my hair cut before I leave for D.C. That was a huge relief, because I was getting pretty shaggy and I hate having to find a new hairdresser. The guy I see here in Our Fair City is phenomenal and not too expensive, plus he's a super interesting guy.

Then, I went over to see what I could do about that last financial aid check that hadn't arrived. Normally, the checks are issued to the university AND the student. The student has to sign the check over to the university, it gets deposited to the student's account, and if there is an overpayment, a refund check is generated by the university. It's a huge PITA, and I was concerned because they will under NO circumstances release the check to the student for endorsement. When I asked if the check had arrived yet, the woman kind of chuckled and said she'd just processed it that morning. Then, it turned out that the check was in my name only. However, apparently, the rules say that a check over a certain amount can't just be released to the student. Instead of sticking firmly to the rule, the woman asked if I could come back a little later so that she could make some calls and see if she could get permission to release it anyway. This kind of service is practically unheard of at Our University.

Then, I went to the computer lab to print out Mapquest directions to all of the important places (Target, IKEA, H&M, Aldi) from my new D.C. digs. While there, I caught War on IM and we chatted for a short time. I miss her a lot. We are going to have so much fun when she comes back in the Fall.

Then, I went back to the Financial Aid office and the nice woman working handed me my check. I went straight to the bank and deposited it. Now I can pay my parents and Finbar back for the money they've floated me to keep a roof over my head and food in the cabinets in the last couple of months.

Then I beat the meter maid back to my car, where my meter had expired about 2 minutes earlier (the extra trip to the bank put be over).

Some days, things just go your way.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Paying Hulio Back For Annie the Cat

Snoopy Dance!

Why Bank One Sucks

Back in November 1998, I swerved to miss a dog than ran out on the highway in front of me, lost control of my car and crashed into the barrier. It totalled my car, though I walked away with only minor bruises. However, given that I was working about 50 hours a week at Avon Products ("mandatory" overtime, you know), plus carrying 15 credit hours at school, and the two locations were about 18 miles apart with no public transportation available, not having a functioning car was a major problem.

So, my parents and I went car shopping the very next weekend. After much discussion, it was decided that we would try to get a new car, albeit a cheap model, because we didn't have the time to search for a solid used car. We looked at every low-end car on the market and settled on a Toyota Corolla. However, I had no credit history, so the rate on a loan for a new car was ludicrous. Leasing, on the other hand, was managable, especially if my parents co-signed the lease, which they were glad to do, since I've always been so responsible and everything.

We didn't get to choose the bank, at least not that I can remember. The lease was administered through Bank One (or Banc One, as it was known at the time) and for a period of 50 months. I had no real problems during the lease period, with the exception of the annual stress over renewing my license plates. They had a horrible habit of not sending the limited power of attorney that I needed to have the plates issued (since they were actually the "owner" of the car) until the last minute, so that I had no opportunity to send the registration by mail and had to struggle to rearrange my already full-to-bursting schedule to get to the DMV.

When the lease expired, I wanted to buy the car and Bank One offered me a phenomenal rate with no cosigner. I figured, they'd been good in handling my lease, so why not?

Meanwhile, I had a credit card through another bank. Low interest rate, no annual fee, nice to have in the wallet. Around the same time as I bought my car, I got a notice in the mail that Bank One had bought out the account, but that nothing would change except the name and the mailing address for payments.

Fast forward to this past year. In August, I moved to the House of Horror, then moved again in November (after discovering that I had been living in the House of Horror and that Ali is a psycho). Both times, I filled out the little change of address form on the back of my monthly statement AND called the customer service number to let them know my new address and phone number. Both times, I was assured that the change had been made and given a confirmation number. Both times, it took several months and multiple phone calls to get the address changed. Both times, I got nasty calls and letters from Bank One, accusing me of "failing to provide them with valid contact information".

And that's not even mentioning the missing payments problem. You see, every few months, Bank One claims not to have received my payment, slaps a late fee on my account, and sets their shill on me, chiding me for "not sending my payment". They also call my parents, whose number was on my account from back when they co-signed my loan. I requested numerous times, first politely, then firmly, then infuriated that they change the contact information and call ONLY me, as to do otherwise violates my rights under the Fair Debt Collection Act.

And similar problems are occuring on that credit card account. After I made my payment one day late a couple of months ago, they hiked my interest rate to 27% (!). I called and requested that it be re-adjusted, in light of the fact that a)I've had my card with them since 1997 and never been delinquent and b)I was less than 24 hours late with the payment that triggered the hike. I was flat out refused, so I closed the account and transferred the balance to my other cards.

I wish I could transfer my car loan to another bank, too. In the last week, I've gotten no less than 5 phone calls. Every time, they start by lecturing me about not sending my payment. I counter by telling them that I sent the check on such and such a date, for such and such an amount. They scoff, I get pissed off. Then they ask me to confirm my address (soooo ironic) and whether I still work at My Old Company. Normally, I counter with the "news" that I am in law school and will not be working until I graduate next year, but I think I will simply start referring them to the notes on the account. Then they try to close with a little lecture about how important it is to make my payments.

I am so sick of the whole thing. I pay ALL of my bills on time every month. None of my other creditors have a problem processing my payments, none of them had any problem processing my (admittedly frequent) changes of address, none of them feel the need to accuse me of being a deadbeat, none of them jacked my credit card rates after missing a single payment by less than 24 hours.

Bank One sucks.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

It's Not Just Limited To English

In exercising my use of the "Next Blog" button, I have just discovered that people writing in other languages also use l33t-speak. The title of a blog post I just saw?

"Ke Mundo de Mierdo"

Congresswomen Are People, Too

In the NPR report on the evacuation at the White House and the U.S. Capitol, they mentioned that Nancy Pelozzi told reporters she had to evacuate her office so quickly that she didn't even have time to put her shoes back on. I love the fact that she apparently kicks her shoes off under her desk, just like I do.

Origin of the Species

I listened to an interesting program on NPR Tuesday afternoon about the controversy over teaching of evolution in Kansas. What bothers me about this debate-- and frankly, about political discourse in this country in general-- is the insistence by both sides that it's either black or white, that no shades of grey are possible. If you believe in evolution, you cannot admit to the possibility of a supreme being as the creator of the world. If you believe in the Creator, you cannot admit to the possibility of changing, evolving species.

Personally, I believe in God and I also believe that God created the universe. However, I also believe that the world (and the universe) is a living, dynamic place where the environment changes, species change, things evolve. In fact, to my way of thinking, to suggest that belief in evolution is immoral or "unchristian" is not only erroneous, it's insulting. If you believe that God is omnipotent, why would you believe that his creation would be simplistic and static? Why wouldn't it be an immensely complex system of action and reaction?

I also hate the argument that if the theory of evolution is true that there would be half-man, half-monkey creatures running around. That's like saying that because my cousin and I share common ancestors and some of the same genetic material, there should be little half-me, half-cousin creatures running around.

Of course, all of this begs the question of what should be taught in the public schools. Proponents of teaching evolution want to exclude discussion of where life began, relegating it to philosophy or religion class. Proponents of Creationism (or Intelligent Design, as they are now calling it) want to exclude all discussion of Darwinian evolution. I think both positions are disingenous. While it would be inappropriate for the schools to teach that the christian God is absolutely the creator of all life, it is equally disingenous to suggest, as the speaker on the program did, that you can simply tell your students that the question of why or how that first spark of life came to be can't be talked about.

I seem to recall in my biology class that we talked about some purely scientific possibilities and then spent a short time talking about creation myths in various cultures. It is telling, I think, that every culture has a creation myth and that many of them are very similar. I had no appreciation for that before we talked about it in class. I don't recall being asked to renounce my christian belief in a Creator, but I do recall being asked to learn what the current scientific thought on the subject was and why it was thought to be that way. That seems like a pretty solid plan for learning to me. I didn't just learn some facts and names of time periods, I learned critical thought and how to weigh my own beliefs.

New Book(s) On the Nightstand

I started re-reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix this weekend, in anticipation of the upcoming release of Book 6. I'm actually planning to take my Swedish versions to D.C. with me for a little practice over the summer, hence the early start on re-reading OOTP in English. Plus, it's pure enjoyment: no need to think about deep, hidden meanings, already familiar with the storyline, so no need to feel compelled to read past your bedtime...

For my more "serious" leisure reading, I'm starting a collection of essays and short stories on the nature of friendships between women (and girls), called "Between Women". All I've read so far is the introduction and part of the first story. I usually enjoy this type of compilation and it's a great topic. There definitely is a different quality to woman-to-women friendships than women-to-men or men-to-men. Friendship and rivalry sometimes seem to be two sides of the same coin, especially with young girls and teenagers. Women seem to be more intense in their friendships, but equally intense in the ability to betray and hurt each other. I'll be interested to see what the authors in the book have to say, to see if it opens some new insight for me.



I came in to school today for a scheduled meeting with a member of the administration about the Public Interest Society. She didn't show. I'm so happy that I wasted my entire afternoon on this.

La Injusticia

After 17 weeks of dialogues about La SeƱora Fernandez on trial for breaking and entering and armed robbery after stealing bonds and money orders from the corner store to support her drug addict niece, supplemented with one non-sequitur reading after another (The History of Colonial Argentina, The Maldive Islands, Forms of Government, etc), it was time for a review session. The professor tells us that there will be two sections to the exam: a text with questions and a matching section. As the hour is wrapping up, he starts spouting in Spanish (one of the few times he actually spoke Spanish directly to us) about the process of a civil action through the courts in a civil law country. We all start scribbling things down, trying to catch everything-- he was going along at a pretty good clip-- and he turns around, chuckling, and tells us that we don't need to write it down, it's just some information for us. So, we all put our pens down and the last few minutes of the class pass.

Friday morning, I show up with my Spanish-English, my German-English, and 501 Spanish Verbs. I'm feeling pretty good, pretty confident, as nothing we did this semester was even a passing challenge for me. The text wasn't too challenging-- a bit about a contract dispute-- and the first two pages of the questions were easy. Then I got to question number 16: What does one call the kind of contract Sr. B signed with Dr. C. What? How should I know, seeing as we never covered that? Oh, yeah, that's right: we covered it in the last 15 minutes of the semester. You know, the stuff he told us we didn't need to write down. The remaining questions on the text? All of a similar nature.


I literally paged through the text page-by-page and confirmed that it was not only not covered in the course, it wasn't even covered in the textbook, which had only dialogues on criminal matters. Then I took up my dictionaries and started making things up.

After the exam, I met up with some of my fellow classmates in the hall. Everyone was cursing the Professor's name over those last two pages of questions. So, at least I wasn't the only one who made stuff up for half of the exam. Thank God for the curve-- I think that's the first time I've ever said that.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Ahhhh, That's Better

I just got back from a long weekend in the City of Light. I feel like I went on a vacation.

I left as soon as I got back home after a stressful day of taking a poorly written Spanish exam and finishing my Copyright paper. I got halfway through the paper and realized that I was arguing both sides of the question and wasn't really sure which side I meant to be arguing. I turned it in approximately 30 seconds before the deadline and hightailed it out to the bus stop, then on to home, where I threw a bunch of clothes into a suitcase and hit the road.

Really, I would have liked to take a nap before setting out on the long drive, but it was already after 6 pm, so I took a big mug of coffee and resolved to take my time and be careful. The drive up was uneventful, except for the fact that I had to pull over several times to go to the bathroom, thanks to that large mug of coffee. I made it to Finbar's soon-to-be-old apartment without a problem and soon I was ensconced on the big blue couch with a big honking glass of cabernet and a greasy pizza (object of intense craving for the past two weeks) was on its way. Monsters Inc was on Disney Channel and much to my delight, I had arrived just minutes after it began. I love that movie and was soon giggling hysterically, prompting Finbar to remark, "It's not that funny, but I understand."

Aaaand then we spent Saturday looking at apartments. It was actually good and we found three really great options. You really could have flipped a (hypothetical, three-sided) coin and it would have been a good choice. This was a huge relief for Finbar, who's been understandably on edge since moving into the Horrible Terrible No-Good Very Bad Apartment. And a great load off my mind, as I worry about Finbar when he's on edge.

After finishing the bottle of wine and taking a good cabernet-induced nap, we went to the ballet. I'm saving that experience for it's own very special post. Suffice it to say that the Hammer of Thor was invoked numerous times.

Sunday, I got my IHOP fix (why, oh why, can't we get an IHOP or at least a Perkins here??). We took a long, meandering walk in my old neighborhood, soaking in the sun and talking about everything and nothing. I love those walks. When I lived in the City of Light, we took a long walk after dinner most nights starting as soon as the weather got warm, right up until Fall truly settled in and it got too dark to walk before dinner was over. Last summer, we were both here in Our Fair City, and we continued the habit, though the walks were somewhat abridged, limited by geography and the demands of law school. This is the first summer in four years that we won't be able to take our summer walks. That makes me so sad. Somehow, it just makes the ache of missing Finbar all the more acute. That night, we made nibblies and opened a bottle of chardonnay. It was good to have a baked Brie again-- too expensive and too many calories to make for just me, but just right to share for a decadent treat.

Monday, I had a nice leisurely morning, sleeping until 9 a.m., getting pastries from the local bakery across the street, taking a bath... Then I got dressed and headed out to Finbar's place of employment to meet him for lunch and meet his collegues. I was actually quite looking forward to it. Finbar is so happy there and talks about the people he works with all the time, so I was really interested to meet them and be able to picture a face and some part of a personality when he talks about work. And everyone was really nice and friendly. I ended up talking to his boss-boss about public interest and volunteer work for quite some time. She seems like a very articulate, opinionated, but nice person. After lunch, I trawled the huge Amvets store for work clothes. Monday night, we went to Sears to look at washers, which may not sound exciting, but actually is when you're as sick of renting as Finbar and I are, and when it symbolizes a concrete step toward becoming "real grown-ups". A good long snuggle on the couch capped it off. I miss that: being able to just lay my head on Finbar's chest and listen to the sound of his heart.

Today, I drove home and did the speed limit the entire way down (or at least 93% of it). It took more than half an hour longer than my normal speed, which is slightly slower than Finbar and a lot faster than my mom. It was kind of fun to set the cruise control and watch the drivers swing impatiently into the left lane to go around me-- how dare I do the speed limit?-- and even more fun to watch them all slam the brakes when we came over the crest of a hill and into the view of a state trooper with his radar gun pointed at us. Not fun enough to make me stop speeding on the trip in the future, but an amusing change of pace, anyway. I also got stuck in a massive traffic jam just north of the city, caused by a big wreck with at least four cars involved, one of which was flipped. The police kept having to stop the traffic entirely so that the emergency crews could pick up the things that had come flying out of the cars (laundry, books, etc) in the accident. I was so glad that I had left early enough to avoid the beginning of rush hour. Otherwise, I'd probably still be sitting on the highway, waiting for my turn to go.

I miss Finbar already. But I feel about 1000 times less stressed than I did this time last week.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Stellar Parenting Skills

So, I'm waiting for the bus into school this afternoon. I cringed when I first got to the top of the bus stop because the only other adult waiting was yelling into a walkie-talkie phone. Or at least I thought it was at first, but as the conversation stretched on and on, it became obvious that he was actually using a plain old regular cellphone set to speakerphone. Which is actually kind of sad, when you think about it. Anyway, it wasn't the pseudo-walkie-talkie phone that made me want to poke this guy right in the eye.

With him was a very young child, maybe three years old at the most. We were waiting at a bus stop on the side of the street and she was, as such small toddlers are wont to do, running around getting into everything and not paying much attention to what was going on around her. And in turn, the man was not paying much attention to what she was doing at all. She climbed up on the bench and was heading for the ledge-- beyond which was a three story drop to the parking lot. Luckily, she was distracted by the arrival of a bus. Unluckily, she started heading toward said bus. Luckily, the bus pulled away before she got there. She also tried to pry gum off the bottom of the bench, peeked in the garbage can, and pressed the "Emergency" call button, prompting a police dispatcher to start yelling into the speaker "HELLO?? CAN I HELP YOU?? IS EVERYTHING OK??".

Not much of this got a reaction at all from the man, except the call button, and that was probably only because the police would (eventually) have shown up if he'd ignored that. Every few minutes, he would interrupt his oh-so-important phone call (in which he was, ironically enough, arguing about how much child support he owed) to yell things toward the little girl like: "Why you gotta be so bad?" "You always bad. Why you can't stop bein' bad?" and (my personal favorite) "You so bad, I'm gonna let someone come and take you." Dear God, is that anyway to talk to a child? Especially a young child? And let me tell you something, if you don't pay attention, she's going to end up dead under the wheels of a bus. Poor child. What chance does she have of growing up happy and healthy?

Past the Midpoint

I just turned in the big stinking pile of fetid waste that is my family law exam. Rest assured that divorce and custody will form NO part of any of my future career plans. It was really, really bad. But it's over, so that's positive.

Now I just have to finish Copyright law (which is not going so well, either) and take my Spanish exam tomorrow morning. Then it's off to the City of Light for three fun-filled days of helping Finbar find a new apartment with no noisy, crazy neighbors. Then it's back here to finish my Swedish exam and I'm done with this year!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Happy Birthday, Hulio!

Lord, I just know that one day we'll be in jail together, all because I finally gave in and went along with one of your crazy schemes. The angels may be crying over so very, very many things, but I like to think that at least some of the time they're tears of laughter at the things we get up to together. I'm glad you're my friend ('though I'll never forgive Becky!), and I'm looking forward to annoying the other people in the nursing home together.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Hey, Lasoe!

Thought you'd get a kick out of this.


Fairy Boy just walked by very close to me and I swear to God, he smells like he's wearing Electric Youth.

New Book on the Nightstand

I am currently reading "Das Phantom" by Susan May. It's a "prequel" to "The Phantom of the Opera" by Gaston Leroux, and attempts to give an account of the life that Erik led before becoming the Phantom of the Opera, to show why and how he became the tragic figure of the classic Leroux novel.

So far, I am really enjoying it. It's written from multiple perspectives: Erik's mother, Erik, an italian stonemason who encounters Erik, and (I'm sure) more to come. The writing is also quite good, or at least the translation is-- I'm reading it in German, although the original language is English. I found this copy in a used bookstore clearance bin, and I'm always thrilled to have some leisure reading in German or Swedish. Death tells me that she read it in English and really liked it, so that's a positive sign. I am breaking one of my cardinal rules of in-semester reading (no fiction longer than a short story, otherwise I am prone to not being able to stop reading, driven by the need to know what comes next); time will tell whether I will regret this, since my Family Law and Copyright exams are due in just over 48 hours. However, I am BURNED OUT and need some sort of outlet besides channel surfing and internet, both of which tend to make me less relaxed and more prone to inertia.


A Pox On Your House

Whoever invented those stupid walkie takie cellphones should be placed in stocks and paraded about from city to city so that those of us with common sense can spit on him and riducule him mercilessly. In the time in which he is not on public display, he should be forced to listen to conversations being held on his devil's plaything.

Seriously, being subjected to loud cellphone conversations in public places was bad enough. Being subjected to both ends of it is worse. Add in the facts that a) the other end is good and static-y, and b)each switch in speaker is punctuated by that annoying little "BEEP", and you have a recipie for justifiable homicide. Please, someone tell me why this kind of a cellphone is necessary or even a good idea. I cannot come up with a single reason why anyone should own one of these. Unfortunately for me, this type of cellphone seems to be all the rage among the young "gangsta" types, at least judging by what I am subjected to on the bus on a regular basis.

One day, I swear, I'm going to hear that stupid "BEEP!" and I'll snap and start screaming like a banshee, frightening children and requiring the interference of armed police officers.

I Changed My Mind About Bill Bryson-- Now With Exact Quote!

So, I'm in the home stretch of "Neither Here Nor There" and I came across this little gem of "wisdom" from Mr. Bryson (and I use the term "Mr." loosely here).

Speaking of his waiter: "Well, if you're so hot, how come I'm sitting down and you're not? Let's be honest, if you career consists of nothing more demanding than conveying trays of food back and forth between a kitchen and dining room all day, there's not really much of anyone you are superior to, is there, except perhaps disk jockeys and lawyers." This from a man who just ordered in English from a waiter working in a German-speaking country and (I presume) whose native language is German.

Bryson is officially on the "Hate" list. And I'm selling his books.


Let's Not Exaggerate

MSNBC had a story on this morning (see, I'm trying to break my CNN habit) about a Girl Scout troop in Texas that started a program to send Girl Scout Cookies to soldiers stationed overseas. It's a really nice idea and I'm sure the soldiers who are the recipients of their generosity are thrilled to receive a little touch of home and to know that people back home are thinking of them.

The girls, who are now in 6th grade, and their troop leaders were interviewed about the program on air. It was really quite cute and I was feeling the human interest the MSNBC editorial staff was obviously aiming for, until one of the troop leaders told an "amusing" little anecdote that she called "The Miracle of the Cookies". Apparently, a group of soldiers were stranded somewhere in Afghanistan and survived on nothing but the Girl Scout cookies-- and here, the leader paused for dramatic effect. My brain automatically filled in "...for three days until they were rescued!" or something similar. And then she continued: "...for twelve hours!"

That's hardly a miracle. I'm sure that the soldiers were very hungry-- twelve hours is a long time to go without food. But aren't they trained to deal with exactly this kind of thing? And I'm sure that they had no way of knowing that they'd only be stranded for twelve hours, so they probably were worried and afraid of what might happen. Still, having nothing but Girl Scout cookies to eat for twelve hours is hardly a harrowing tale of survival.

What the girls have accomplished is remarkable, especially given that they were 8 or 9 years old when they started this program. They've been honored by the Army and the President. There's no need to exaggerate with distasteful hyperbole, which has the end effect of minimizing what the girls have done.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Etiquette 101

If someone who is neither known to you nor wearing a doorman's uniform holds a door open for you to walk through, the proper response is to graciously say "thank you". If you can't do that, at least give them a tip.

New Feature Coming To Errant Apostrophes

As you may possibly have heard, I will be working in D.C. this summer. (I get such a kick out of saying that.) I am packing up my clothes and books and other things that I plan to take with me. And one of the things that I've planned for the summer is lots and lots of leisure reading. I have been gleaning from my bookshelves all those books that I bought or received for gifts, but never got around to reading. Those books are neatly stacked in a crate and I'm going to work my way through them.

Therefore, I am introducing the "What I'm Reading Now" feature here. Perhaps "feature" is too strong of a word, because really, I mainly intend to put a link in the column to the left, most likely leading to the Amazon.com page for whichever book is gracing my nightstand. However, I may very well offer my views on said books in the blog from time to time. Of course, if a book is particularly good or particularly bad, I'll share that as well.

Kicking off with my current bedtime reading. I recently read another of Bryson's books and really enjoyed it. I am not enjoying this one as much. Perhaps it is because Bryson comes across as the typical Ugly American. The entire book thus far is Bryson whining about the stupid Europeans and complaining that he can't possibly eat anything that isn't burgers or spaghetti because he doesn't speak the local language and might end up eating brains or liver. I am quite disappointed. I will probably give Bryson another chance, because he can be droll at times and because I enjoyed "I'm a Stranger Here Myself". But I would not recommend "Neither Here Nor There" at all.