Sunday, December 30, 2012

This blog has moved to

Hi, folks. All of my personal writing now lives at The archives of this blog are all there. And it's prettier.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My Californian brother meets Ohio winter

Last night Curt flew in from San Diego, where has lived for nearly 20 years. Then it started snowing. Then he did this:

Good to have you visiting, Curt.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A date with my best girl

I took Anna out to dinner tonight. It was a combination birthday dinner and reward for memorizing her multiplication tables up through twelve. A few weeks ago I asked her where she wanted to go. I had assumed she'd want Chinese or Mexican or something. Nope.

"I want to go someplace fancy," she said.

"Fancy? Like what grownups would consider fancy?" I asked.

"Yes," she said. "Maybe a steak place. I want steak."

So I decided to take her to Ocean Club. She may be turning nine, but she's a very mature nine.

Our evening started with drinks. I had a Cabernet, she had a Shirley Temple:

Next came a "birthday candle," which was dry ice in a martini shaker:

Cherry first:

I let Anna choose the appetizer. Sadly, she was unwilling to try oysters. But the Aged Wisconsin Cheddar Fondue was a hit. She ate the salami and crostini, I ate the broccoli and carrots:

Anna likes steak, but she's only ever had it cooked by her grandfather or me, and we just give it to her without much fuss. I prepped her about how one orders steak beforehand, including the part about how what most of us consider medium rare at home is closer to medium at a steak house.  When the waiter asked for her order, she said "petite filet, a bit above medium rare but still pink, please." The waiter smiled at me. The gray-haired couple just behind Anna later flashed me a thumbs up. Damn straight I'm raising her right.

She did not pussyfoot around. Oh, and the fries: Parmesan truffle.

Dessert is served:

Oh yeah:

And thus ends our night on the town.

The best part of a wonderful evening: it was so damn natural. Anna wasn't self-conscious. She wasn't constantly asking me questions about everything. It wasn't like some gimmicky and contrived event. We just enjoyed ourselves. We talked about all kinds of things during dinner. She told me about some stories she's been writing. We talked about our plans for the weekend. While on one level you could tell that she was enjoying doing a grownup thing, for the most part it was as though we go out like this all the time, and it was no big deal.

By the time the night was over I heard myself thinking "I'm going to have nice dinners like this with Anna for the rest of my life."  My little girl felt so grown up to me. It felt fantastic.

And if we can ever get Carlo to drop his "nothing fancier than Chipotle" rule, he can start joining us.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Great Moments in Customer Service

Back in November I bought two iPhones. One for me, one for Allison. Since we were both eligible for upgrades (and Allison was switching to my plan) they cost the introductory price of $199. Not bad for a little rectangle with more computing power than anything that existed until, like, a couple of years ago.

I got mine, activated it and was and have been happy ever since.  Then Allison's showed up, shipped to me. I was going to San Antonio the following week and was going to bring it to her but she was so eager to get it and I was so eager for her to have it I figured I'd ship it to her so she could get it earlier. Without ever taking it out of the box I slapped her address on it and sent it to her via Priority Mail.

Big mistake. Because it never got there. Just disappeared into the ether. Probably stolen by a postal worker. But the biggest mistake was all mine: I didn't track it or insure it or anything. Just stupid, but I didn't even really think about it. I've never had anything lost in the mail so I figured this thing would be fine too. And it wasn't. One of the dumber things I've ever done.

I followed up with the postal service. As of now that's still unresolved. They really have no clue and, because I didn't buy insurance, they have no incentive to find a clue.  Then I followed up with the insurance company that covers the phone, Asurion. Their position: even though I have insurance for all the phones on my account, no device is covered until it's activated and since Allison's phone has never been turned on they don't have to cover it.  Seems stupid -- I have proof I bought it -- but that was their policy and they were sticking to it.

So I called Verizon. Mostly to tell them about the phone being lost, but also to see if I couldn't buy another iPhone from them at the $199 price.  Their position: sorry, you only get one at that price and since it wasn't their fault it's lost -- it got to me just fine and then I shipped it off and lost it -- the best they can do is to sell me another one at full retail. Which is nearly $700. Christ on a crutch I wanted no part of that.  The next best thing they'd do is to try to persuade Asurion to cover it anyway. They'd contact them and call me back, but they literally told me not to count on anything good happening.

As of this morning it was two weeks since Verizon said they'd do that and I hadn't heard anything, so I called them.  While I was on hold, I started tweeting random things. Not out of anger, really, just out of boredom. Stuff like this:
And this:
That last part was because I was thinking about how I could game the system by, say, having my mom get an iPhone at the promotional price, decide she didn't like it, keep the phone, go back to her flip phone and then have Allison "buy" the phone from her and activate it on her number. Which could've worked, probably, even if I hadn't thought it all out yet.

But then something interesting happened:

And then, after some back and forth:

Which was rather surprising.  But not as surprising as the fact that, after I responded, my phone rang and the woman on the other end said "Hi, I'm calling from the CEO's office of Asurion, and we want to help you solve your problem."

Long story short: Asurion agreed to make an exception in my case and cover the lost/stolen phone even though, per policy rules, they didn't have to. Two minutes on the phone and they had another iPhone ready to ship to Allison. She'll get it tomorrow.  I'm gobsmacked.

Of course, I'm also pretty sure that neither Verizon nor Asurion get involved in this via Twitter if I don't have over 14,000 Twitter followers. Not that I'd start raising hell or anything, but I guess they don't know that.  Either way, I'm sitting here this evening feeling pretty satisfied, even if it's because, as far as social media goes, I'm part of the 1%.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The shady economics of law school

Back at George Washington I had a law professor named Lawrence E. Mitchell. He was my corporate finance professor. And we learned an awful lot about corporate finance.  The real takeaway from the class, however, was Professor Mitchell's teachings about dicey corporate accounting practices.

This was in the mid-90s, years before Enron and all of those other book-cooking corporations crumbled under the weight of their Alice in Wonderland balance sheets.  Professor Mitchell was WAY ahead of the game on this stuff, though, noting how rampant and wrong it was that corporations were valuing things as assets when they really were costs, setting themselves as virtual ponzi schemes designed to pay executives now and screw investors later and the like.

I found all of that incredibly useful as a lawyer. Indeed, I remember and use the concepts from that class more than any other class I took at GW. And not just in legal practice -- when all of the corporate scandals began in the early 2000s, I knew exactly what was going on thanks to Professor Mitchell. The man, quite literally, wrote the book on corporate irresponsibility and I am a much smarter and well-informed person because of him.

Flash forward to today and I read an editorial in the New York Times from one Lawrence E. Mitchell.  I had lost track of him over the years, but he is now the dean of Case Western Reserve Law school in Cleveland.  His editorial is about how, contrary to the growing sentiment over the past few years, law school is a good investment:

For at least two years, the popular press, bloggers and a few sensationalist law professors have turned American law schools into the new investment banks. We entice bright young students into our academic clutches. Succubus-like, when we’ve taken what we want from them, we return them to the mean and barren streets to fend for themselves.
The hysteria has masked some important realities and created an environment in which some of the brightest potential lawyers are, largely irrationally, forgoing the possibility of a rich, rewarding and, yes, profitable, career.

I realize a dean of a law school has to say such things, but the cold hard reality is that, unlike it was for me and my friends back in the 1990s, law school is no longer a good investment for most people. It's a piss-poor one, actually, and unless you (a) have rich parents or already have the money saved to pay the exorbitant tuition; or (b) have a great chance of getting a well-paying job due to family or personal connections in private practice, law school is a sucker's bet.

If you choose to go to law school, you will go into outrageous amounts of debt and you will come out facing a job market that no longer hands out jobs with six-figure salaries as if they were samples of Genral Tso's chicken at the food court.  It's brutal out there, and new graduates are killing each other for increasingly scarce and increasingly lower-paying jobs, all the while law schools -- which are used by universities as profit centers -- belch thousands of new graduates into the job market each May.

To be fair, later in the editorial, Dean Mitchell notes that the market is rough and that it may be wrong to focus on that first job out of law school. Look beyond that first job out of law school, he says, to the rewards that will come later.

There is some truth to that part. Indeed, I'm the living embodiment of a law school education helping one do things other than practice law. But as I have noted quite often, the road I traveled is not an easily replicable one. Indeed, if it wasn't for sheer dumb luck and the unexpected and possibly undeserved generosity of other people at a couple of key times in my journey, I never would have made it. Oh, and I also had the benefit of 11 well-paid years in private practice before that -- with jobs obtained in a radically different legal job market than the one exists today -- to help me along the way and to give me the comfort to take the sorts of risks I took to get to where I am.

So as I sit here this afternoon, I am more than a little dumbfounded. Dumbfounded that the man who taught me everything I know about financial mismanagement, shady accounting and corporate ponzi schemes -- the man who, more than anything else, warned me against anyone who would classify something as an asset when it truly represents a cost -- is in the New York Times advocating that students continue to go into crazy law school debt and defending what has become, in essence, an educational ponzi scheme, all because he believes this thing that is literally bankrupting students is truly an asset.

But hey, I bet there will be more applications for Case Western as a result.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Talking Head

When I was a teenager and people asked me what I wanted to be someday, I'd jokingly say "An expert."

When they asked me what I meant, I'd say "You know, those guys on CNN who they beam in via satellite. The ones you only see from the waist up, in front of some fake backdrop of a city?  Those guys who, somehow, just happen to know everything there is to know about whatever random topic just happens to hit the news that day?

"Man, where do they find these people? Do they just sit around, knowing their one little subject and nothing else, hoping that someone would call and ask their opinion?"

Oh ... wait:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

On the road again

Just over a year ago the wheels came off. In order to avert a head-on collision I steered into a ditch. As soon as I stopped skidding the engine blew up. No matter how good it looks in the garage, and no matter how hard you try to fight the rust, old wheels always stand a good chance of betraying you.

I started talking to Allison right after I crashed and burned. Talk turned to friendship, friendship turned to affection and affection turned to love. It's been close to a year now, and it's still wonderful. We just get each other and give other what we need without even thinking about it. Who knew things could be so easy?

It has not been totally easy, of course. We've had to work through some of my stuff, some of her stuff and a bunch of other stuff. But most of all distance. Distance is a bitch. We talk and, thanks to the Internet, see each other every day, but that's a pale substitute. We've visited each other often, but because of their rarity, our visits are imbued with a certain weight, as though we have to pack three or four weeks of a relationship into a long weekend. We've managed as best as we can to keep having fun and to keep living in the moments we have. We've managed to not get bogged down too much by stormy pasts, uncertain futures and those damnable, damnable trips to the airport which send us off on our separate ways. But it's hard. About as hard as something that you can still call happy gets. No one is meant to fly so much. It's such an uncivilized way to travel.

The future always remains at least a little bit uncertain and there is still stuff to be worked through, but we're about to eliminate a good bit of that uncertainty and all of those damnable drives to the airport.  In late December I'm flying to San Antonio on a one-way ticket. The next day Allison and I are taking off in her car and we're driving back to Ohio. She's moving up here for good.

Because of the kids and all of the changes and adjustments in the offing we're not setting up housekeeping just yet. But it is an important step. And an exciting one. For the first time we'll be able to get on like most folks get on. To hang out, go out and be together without all of that weight and distance getting in the way. Without having to worry that, if we pick the wrong restaurant, we won't be able to make up for it for another month. Most of all we're both creatures of habit and routine and it will be awful nice to fall into some comfortable ones with each other at long last.

I'm really looking forward to that. I'm especially looking forward to the drive back from San Antonio. It's been a while since I've been on the road. It will be nice to cruise down the highway again, confident that the ride will be smooth and steady.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Drugs, illness, the pro-PED doctor and other fun things in San Francisco

I posted this at HardballTalk, but it's mostly personal rambling anyway, so why not here too?
I had some aches, a mild fever and a cough over the weekend. It felt better by Monday night and I felt as right as rain on Tuesday, so I figured I had shaken whatever crud I was harboring. It came roaring back at me during the game last night, however, and as I stumbled back to my hotel room, I nearly dropped, my body wracked with violent coughing and awfulness.  I took a shot from my Batman flask — yes, that’s it in the picture — and hoped that frontier medicine and a night’s sleep would do the trick. Alas, it did not, so at midnight I called the front desk to see if there was an urgent care in the area. Instead, they hooked me up with a doctor they keep on call and we talked.
Doc: What are you in town for?
Me: Covering the World Series.
Doc: Hey, I was at the game tonight! Great stuff, wasn’t it?
Me: I suppose so. So, here’s what’s –
Doc: Three home runs! How about that Panda! [and many more minutes of baseball talk as I neared death]
We talked about my symptoms, he gave me a couple of things I could do in the meantime, and then said the best bet would be for me to come by his office in the morning.
“Is it walking distance from the hotel?” I asked
“Depends how sick you are,” he said.
I tried to sleep but did a poor job of it. When I finally woke up my fever seemed to have spiked and my cough had gotten so bad that I was tasting blood. If this were a 19th century novel there would be “telltale flecks of crimson on his handkerchief, his consumptive doom foretold!”  As it was, I sent emails to all of the NBC people I could find to tell them how useless I’d be today and/or what my last wishes were if I died before I was able to talk to them again.
The only thing that had made me feel moderately better the night before was a little warm food, so I sought out breakfast. I walked towards Dottie’s True Blue Cafe, which is a couple blocks south of where I’m staying and which many have recommended. There was a line of people out the door so I moved on — I’ll get it next time – turning the wrong way down Market Street where things start to get a bit sketchy. There I witnessed a deranged woman in her late 40s wildly swinging two garbage bags full of what looked to be pillows at another women while yelling at her to commit anatomical impossibilities. The other woman, who looked a bit less troubled, was dodging the blows but wouldn’t retreat. Instead, she kept trying to take pictures of her attacker with her cell phone. Not sure who was crazier.
Realizing I was heading the wrong way, I turned around and walked back north on Market. I walked by a group of three guys, one of which asked me if I wanted to buy some pot.  I have been on this Earth for over 39 years and, at one time, knew a lot of people who partook in such things. But never have I literally had a stranger bark out a sales pitch like that. I wanted to look around for cameras to see if it was some kind of joke, but I kept walking.
I found a little cafe where I ordered some coffee and some eggs. An older couple sat down at the table near me and I heard the husband ask the wife if she happened to see the score of the game last night. When she said she didn’t know I said “8-3.” They thanked me and asked me if I went to the game. I said yep. They asked me if I’m going again tonight. I said yep. Then they asked me if I’d be willing to sell my tickets. I explained my situation and the man said “Oh well. I can’t find a pair for under $500 so I’m asking anyone I can.”
After I ate I made it up to the doctor’s office. It’s just off Union Square.  I had a minute so I walked around the Square a bit because “The Conversation” may be my favorite movie of all time. I pretended that Cindy Williams and I were planning Robert Duvall’s murder, that Gene Hackman was listening to us and then I hummed a few bars of “When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob Bobbing Along.” There were no mimes to be seen.
It turns out that the whole practice is devoted to hotel guests and tourists and stuff, which is something that makes sense in such a hotel-and-tourist-heavy area, but is the sort of thing I never considered. Seems like something they’d invent in a Charlie Kaufman film. The doctor saw me right away. He’s a short Chinese-American guy, probably in his late 40s or early 50s, but dressed like he’s 25. A smile on his face at all times. I instantly liked him. Even when he creeped me out a bit by saying that he Googled me before I came in and was happy to see that I had lost some weight in the past few years based on older pictures. That’s … not weird.
Most of the visit was spent with him asking me baseball questions — he was really concerned about Bruce Bochy’s bullpen choices last night despite the victory because he thinks that an 8-0 Giants win would have “sent a stronger message.” Then we talked about PEDs at his prompting. Let the record reflect that if this guy had his way everything would be legal, blood spinning with added HGH would be mandatory and Barry Bonds would be canonized. “Just wait ten years and see what they have available,” he said. “The stuff everyone frets about now will seem like throat lozenges.”  Did I mention I really like this guy?
But it wasn’t all juice-talk. Another huge chunk of the visit was him giving me a vaguely new-agey lecture about balance — this included him taking pictures of my face with his iPhone to show me how I was “unbalanced on [my] right side” — and him explaining the need to excrete all of the bad things from our bodies lest we have no room for the good.  He then demonstrated the proper way to clear one’s sinuses and to inhale hot steam in the shower — it’s all about being upside down — and it all sounded rather like Annie telling Nuke how to breathe through his eyelids.
That was all nice, but what I was really there for was some weapons-grade pharmaceuticals. Thankfully the Good Doctor had the hookup. After the new age talk ended, he told me I either had a severe sinus infection or strep and that there was no use doing the strep test because either way he’s giving me the same treatment.  He had his nurse inject me with an antibiotic/anti-inflammatory cocktail (although based on the earlier conversation it may have also had some HGH and metabolites of Stanozolol), and then he loaded up a bag full of all manner of drugs for me to take with me.  Come to San Francisco: EVERYONE will give you drugs if you want them.
I took a big swig of the codeine cough syrup and walked down the street past Union Square. As I passed the Westin Hotel I saw a crowd of people with cameras and baseballs surrounding the entrance. Tigers outfielder Quintin Berry was standing there with an attractive young woman. He stopped to sign autographs.  The only question for him that came to mind was “why on Earth are they starting Delmon Young in left when your legs aren’t broken?” but I didn’t think I could ask it with the nuance it required what with the cough syrup and all, so I moved along and eventually back to my hotel room.
Here I sit. The game starts in about three and a half hours, but (a) I still feel like utter garbage; and (b) I have this feeling that my Baseball Writers Association of America application will meet with strong resistance this winter if I cough up blood and mucus all over the membership in the cramped confines of the press facilities at AT&T Park tonight.  Doctor Feelgood told that it would be about 24 hours of taking the antibiotics and stuff before I’d really be OK be active and not, you know, be Typhoid Mary. As such, I’m leaning strongly toward bagging tonight and coming back strong for Game 3 in Detroit on Saturday.
If that is what I ultimately decide to do, I will still be posting and tweeting and generally covering World Series business this evening from the comfort of my sick/deathbed, and of course Matthew and D.J. will have all kinds of coverage tonight as well.
See what happens when you leave your mother’s basement? Bad things.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Welcome to Texas

My many trips to Texas this year have given me a new appreciation for Texas.

Most of the stereotypes can be found if you look hard enough, of course, for all stereotypes have at least some basis in truth. But my overarching takeaway is that (a) Texans really love Texas; and (b) Texans simply don't give a fuck what you think about Texas. They're too busy really loving Texas, you see, to worry about why you don't.

This is a good thing.  Because while I don't ever see myself living in Texas, I would love to one day live someplace people really love to be and in which folks really take pride.  Ohio has its particular charms, but pride of place is not one of them. We'll tell you why Ohio isn't as bad as you think it might be, but at the end of the day the biggest thing it has going for it is its basic convenience and efficiency. People don't tend to put that kind of thing on coffee mugs and beer koozies.

And the Ohio hotel continental breakfast bars certainly don't have waffle irons like the one I encountered here in Dallas this morning:

Yee ha.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Kinda simple, but undeniably true.