August 2008


During the spring quarter of my first year of law school, a bunch of friends and I drove down to New Orleans and spent a week hanging out, eating fried food, and drinking.

One of the places we went, recommended by a friend of a friend, gave away free souvenir pint glasses with every beer you ordered on Wednesdays.  Drawn by the lure of free barware, we spent several hours there, and by the end of the night we each had a set of four glasses to take home with us, in several different designs featuring cartoons, top ten lists, etc.  (What? I was younger then, and more than able to drink four beers without moaning about feeling impossibly full and/or entirely drunk afterward.)

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Three years ago today, the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina caused 53 levee breaches in the city of New Orleans.  We all remember the horror that unfolded in the wake of that catastrophe.  I felt particularly drawn to the news accounts of the storm, unable to turn away from the photos of a city so entirely unrecognizable from the vibrant beautiful vacation destination I’d visited just a few months before.

A few days after the storm hit, I was idly drinking some water when I happened to glance down at the glass.  It was one of my souvenir New Orleans pint glasses, which we used all the time but to which I’d never paid any particular attention.   This particular design offered “Tourist Information” and I realized with a start that it was a wrenchingly prescient piece of glassware:

In case you can’t quite make out that second item on the list, it says “If the levee breaks, everyone will die.  No one seems worried about this problem either.”

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Today, after working out, I grabbed a glass out of the cabinet to get some water.  It happened to be that same glass, and I remembered again the anguish of three years ago, as I do now every time I use this glass.  It seems macabre, almost, to keep it around, with its casual, jokey prediction that ended up coming partially true, but I want to keep remembering.

And today, on the third anniversary of the day when things in New Orleans got unspeakably bad, the commemorative events have been cut short because the city is once again bracing for a major storm.  Hurricane Gustav is headed for the gulf region, evacuations from New Orleans look likely, and the Mayor of New Orleans is holding press conferences stating that the city is more prepared this time, while the Red Cross is making preparations of its own.

This weekend, John and I will be headed out camping, enjoying the three day weekend and the beautiful late-summer weather we’ve been having.  But in the back of my mind, I’ll be thinking of New Orleans and the rest of the gulf region, which are still hurting from that storm three years ago, which haven’t even come close to bouncing back 100%.  And before we go, I’m making a small donation to the Red Cross, hoping that this time it won’t be needed in the gulf region, but recognizing that it very well might.  If you’re so inclined, you can do the same here.

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As I noted a few weeks ago, I try to bring my lunch to work regularly, both for cost-saving purposes and for health purposes.  (Have you ever looked at the nutrition facts for some of the standard work lunch fare?  Chipotle, just looking at the sodium content of your burritos nearly stopped my heart.)

We also, like the good yuppies/hippies we are, subscribe to a community-supported agriculture program, which gives us a box of fresh veggies every Saturday that we use for the rest of the week.  I love the CSA program, as it forces me outside of my broccoli/baby carrots/romaine salad comfort zone.  There always comes a point, however, when we’re more than halfway through the summer and I’m starting to feel the strain from the constant wondering of what to do with the dregs of the box come Thursday and Friday, before it all starts over on Saturday.

Currently, I am the proud owner of:

  • one ear of corn
  • one green bell pepper
  • one small leek
  • two habanero peppers
  • two small (and slightly bug eaten, if I’m honest) bok choy

I feel incredibly guilty when I fail to use what is in the box before the next wave of veggies arrives, like I’m some sort of big CSA failure.  So I decided to put it to you, brilliant readers: I have two dinners, a packed lunch, and one weekend breakfast to make before the next box of veg arrives.  I feel quite strongly that I do not want to go to the grocery store between now and then, but you can assume (since it’s true) that my kitchen is well-stocked with basics (eggs, flour, spices, milk, pasta, etc.)  What should I make for dinner, lunch, dinner, and breakfast that will use up the bulk of this veg?

So I guess there is an upside to all my whining about everyone in the office taking a vacation while I slog through August in my business casual attire: their absence means I’ve gotten to take the lead on some pretty cool, higher-level projects that would normally be considered above my pay grade.  Which, of course, has an accompanying downside: work has eaten my face.  (Term credit: Alice.)

So it was especially nice yesterday to meet up with my longtime friends Princess and Monkey to go to the Chicago outdoor film festival, which was showing one of my favorite movies from childhood:

Apparently every white woman in the 18-34 year old age cohort in the city of Chicago had the same idea, so when we arrived at the park (45 minutes early! should have been plenty of time!) it was already packed to the gills and we had to insert ourselves onto a teensy tinsy strip of dirt between two large blankets people had already laid down.  We sardined ourselves in and got out our sandwiches to eat, and were munching contentedly when:

“I know! Those DeeGees are such bitches!”

“I know this one DeeGee from my chemistry class who seems okay, but I sororities aren’t the same at all schools, so I’m sure they are total bitches at your school.”

Oh no.  We had seated ourselves next to a large cluster of girls home from their freshmen  year of college whose primary objective was not to sing along and enjoy the campy goodness, but who instead wanted to chat, and catch up on what happened in that first year of college, and have deep conversations about true love while they passed the white zinfandel back and forth, swigging directly from the bottle.

Can someone please tell me: when did college freshmen start looking like such babies?  And when did I get so crotchety?  I was seriously about 2 “oh my god totally”s away from chucking a baby carrot at them and threatening to expose their underage public drinking to the cops patrolling the place if they didn’t shut up and let me gaze upon Danny Zuko in peace. (Or at least gaze upon his forehead, as we could really only see the top quarter or so of the screen, sitting as far back as we were with our view blocked by the surprisingly tall lawn chairs of people in front of us.)

But it was a truly beautiful night, cool and clear, and I looked up and saw the skyscrapers glowing around us and then looked down and saw thousands of fists pumping in unison, dancing along to “Greased Lightning,” and I realized: even with annoying teenage background noise, this is a pretty great town, and life is pretty good.

Friday:

We’re drinking margaritas out of low-slung glass bowls, chatting away with some of the nicest people I’ve ever been lucky enough to meet through the internet. I introduce a story with an offhand comment about how “I was a chatty kid.” “You, chatty? No! Impossible!” says Sweets, and I realize: I have been totally teasingly called out on my chatterbox tendencies by a person who I’m hanging out with for only the third time. This is either totally mortifying or totally awesome.

Saturday:

Sitting by the lake checking out the air show, the blue angels roar overhead in perfect v-formation. Thirty seconds later, a small group of geese thinks “What’s the big deal? That’s not so hard!” and to prove the point flies over the exact same spot, in the exact same formation. Charmed, the audience bursts into applause.

Sunday:

We wake up early and skip our planned workout in favor of one of our favorite brunch spots, run by a fairly innocuous-seeming cult. (No, really. Truly.) We arrive to find a sign in the window: “Closed for our August retreat to celebrate [our guru’s] birthday.  See you September 2!” But! But! We were counting on delicious french toast! Why does the cult-run brunch place always close right when our french toast needs are most acute? And why is it that EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE WORLD, even my favorite purveyors of french toast, seem to be conspiring to rub it in about how awesome it is to take vacation in August?

A note to any employers out there considering legal action against former employees:  before you send a letter threatening to sue your former employees for allegedly possessing company information that is only accessible to current employees, which they should have given back when they left the company, you should probably make sure that they are, in fact, former employees.  When 2 minutes of research reveals that they are actually current employees whose contracts do not expire until September, and you have taken no action to fire them, it makes it awfully easy to rebut your allegation.

This helpful tip brought to you by the “No Shit, Sherlock” department of Lawyer & Counsel, LLP.

What do you do when your husband goes off to hang out with his college buddies in California and you’re left all alone?

You go to the state fair to eat a bunch of fried crap, of course!

My friend Mooks and I battled through surprisingly bad traffic and a few wrong turns and finally arrived in West Alles, Wisconsin, home of the state fair grounds, and center of all things fried.

Not sure what, precisely, is French about cheese curds, but its all fried, so I wont argue.

Not sure what, precisely, is "French" about cheese curds, but I won't argue.

We wandered through the livestock tents:

Nonplussed

Nonplussed

We looked at prizewinning homemade foodstuffs:

SO MANY CATEGORIES of jam and pickles.  Was stunned.

SO MANY CATEGORIES of jam and pickles. Truly, this is less than a 1/3 of them. Was stunned.

And saw winners in categories I never imagined existed:

Let’s look a little more closely at that tag:

There is a Cheese Party Tray category!  I would EXCEL at this category.  Its a shame I dont live in Wisconsin, so I am ineligible.

There is a Cheese Party Tray category! I would EXCEL at this category. It's a shame I don't live in Wisconsin, so I am ineligible.

But the real draw of the Wisconsin state fair is the world-famous cream puffs.  Truth be told, my memories of these cream puffs are not fond.  Whenever we went to the fair when I was a kid, I just remember waiting for what seemed like forever for a messy, not-that-delicious wad of cream.  Of course, when I was a kid, I didn’t like fresh whipped cream, preferring instead the chemical, stable-textured Cool Whip.  I have since come to my senses, and decided it was time to give cream puffs another shot.

Shirts were not for sale.  Yes, I asked.

Shirts were not for sale. Yes, I asked.

They sell something like one bajillion cream puffs during the fair, and it’s quite a high efficiency operation.  First, slice open puff:

I totally didn’t notice this at the time, but the glove/knife arrangement in the lower right corner there is a little creepy, isn’t it?  It’s like someone left it that way on purpose to freak people out- “oh, that’s just the ghost employee- he’s really fast, and doesn’t take up hardly any space!”

Then, you fill the cream puffs:

They go through an INSANE amount of cream.

They go through an INSANE amount of cream.

And then, finally, most importantly, you EAT the cream puff:

Public service announcement: if you are eating a cream puff, and you get powdered sugar from the top all over your shirt (this will happen,) please look at your hands BEFORE you absently try to dust off your shirt, as your hands are likely to be even more coated with powdered sugar, and you will only make the problem worse.

On the whole, it was a tremendously successful afternoon.  I think, in fact, that I probably had a better time than John had with his 5 best friends, camping in Sonoma and then going wine tasting.  Oh, wait, that’s false.  Why does everyone, including my husband, insist on taunting me with their vacations?

I should start this post out by saying that I love puppies.  This will become important later, as some of you may be tempted to accuse me of hating puppies.  LOVE PUPPIES.

A person I know professionally, but not well, recently told me a very sad story.  His dog, a less-than-2-year old black lab, is sick.  Very sick.  It looks like this poor dog might have an aggressive type of diabetes, which will likely cause him to lose all his sight within a year.  He is also likely to suffer from incontinence and decreased physical ability.  His life expectancy is dramatically shortened, and his quality of life for his remaining years will be much lower.

This person and his wife are devastated.  They truly consider the dog to be a part of the family.

Hearing this I felt terrible for this family, and for this young dog who is suffering.  (See?  I LOVE PUPPIES.)  I said sympathetic things, and nodded my head, and listened attentively.

And then this person said something that surprised me.  “This is where I need your help,” he said.

“My help?” I said.

“Your help,” he said.

Turns out, the dog got sick after receiving a routine shot of some kind.  This shot, apparently, carries with it a very very small risk of the onset of diabetes as a side effect.  Much like my birth control pills carry with them a very very small risk of stroke, or my allergy medicine carries with it a very very small risk of a severe allergic reaction.

“We were never warned about the risk of this side effect,” he said to me.  “We weren’t given proper notice.  So I need your help finding a lawyer.  A litigation attorney.”

“Um,” I said.  “I do know a lot of litigation attorneys.  But I guess it sort of depends on what you’re looking for.  I assume you want to have a lawyer to do something like write a letter on your behalf when you are negotiating with the vet ?  Maybe the vet will waive the costs of the diagnosis, or won’t make you pay for the shot that caused it?”

“No,” he said.  “We want to be really aggressive.  We plan to sue the vet.”

[blink]

[blink blink]

“Oh,” I said.  “Okay, I’ll think about it.”

The thing is?  I don’t WANT to refer this to any of my friends because I’m not all that psyched about helping him sue his vet.  I understand that it’s very sad to have a very sick dog, but shit happens.  I have no doubt the vet feels horrible.  Vets do not give routine shots hoping that dogs get desperately sick from them.  I suppose that technically, yes, the vet should have explained to this family all possible side effects, but from this person’s description of the situation I have a strong hunch that they would have gone through with the shot anyway, even knowing the risks, because that’s how small this risk was.  (Also, and I don’t think I’m the only one who does this, I often just gloss right over the risks section when talking about routine things like birth control or allergy meds, all “la la la I can’t hear you!” and I know that’s probably irresponsible, but EVERY MEDICINE has some minor very low occurrence risks and if I allowed myself to be dissuaded by the 1 in 100,000 chance I’d experience dry mouth and constipation I would likely be pregnant and sniffly right now, and I prefer my childless, free-breathing state.)

This person also just had a baby.  If this had happened to the baby, I’ll admit, I might feel differently, because to me, though losing a dog is very very sad, it is still a DOG.  (Hi puppies!  Love you!)  The thought of losing a child is heart-wrenchingly, horribly worse, and I’m willing to consider that it might change my feelings on suing the practitioner.  Although I actually think, even if (god forbid) something similar happened to a baby, suing the doctor would likely not be my first instinct, heartbreaking as the situation may be.

For me, it boils down to this: when you use a drug as intended, and you have the bad luck to experience a very-low-occurrence side effect, a lawsuit is not going to make you whole.  There is real loss, to be sure, but suing someone, causing them pain and jeopardizing their professional career and eking some dollars out of the system is not going to fix what’s really wrong.  Someone you love is hurt and sick and that sucks, and you’re angry and sad, but the legal system can’t make that right for you.  It just can’t.

So I don’t think I’m going to refer him to any litigation attorneys that I know.  Is that wrong?  I guess I could refer him, and then let the attorneys decide for themselves if they want to take the case…but I don’t really want to.  What do you think?

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