Friday, June 21, 2013

Slowly but surely putting this blog out of business -- and it's not a bad thing

No, Second Effort isn't going dark anytime soon, although it might have looked like it this week as I very nearly finished an appellate brief that has taken up most of my last six weeks. I even missed a few updates on The Blog of Days this month because of the brief.

But, lately, as I've come up with ideas for posts about legal topics and even some personal ones, I've more and more been tempted to use my 'real life' blogs as an outlet. Sometimes I actually do so.

And the world hasn't come to an end.

As for my occasional political posts, well... I included this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal webcomic in a February Frivolous Friday post... and it struck me then as uncomfortably close to true.

It still does. (Even if there's no such thing as "retirement" anymore, there is a traditional retirement age... which I'm creeping up on... well, you know where I fit on this graph if you've ever read one of my political posts.)

Even so, for the most part, when I've tried to present political ideas here I've done my best to be civil. But, as an anonymous blogger, especially one who's not trying to be controversial, or as one who's tried to speak of controversial matters in a non-controversial way, I'm just shouting into the Internet's hurricane headwinds. If I have opinions worth sharing, I should strive to have the guts to do so under my own name.

The family stories -- well, they're one of the principal reasons I started this blog -- and one of the reasons it will continue. I still think the cloak of anonymity is important for my wife and kids and, as an anonymous blogger, I don't have to worry about unintentionally hurting anyone's feelings.

Yes, I know, that's sort of the opposite justification for Internet anonymity than is customary. Usually, Internet trolls like to be anonymous so they can spew vitriol and invective without fear of discovery. (What would Mom think?) I never was any good at following trends.

In order to keep the blog from lapsing into long periods of inactivity (and losing the handful of readers that remain) I may even try and develop some focus for the blog -- something family related. Who knows? I may even grow traffic here.

But that's a task for a different day.

Today, having largely finished the brief project (I noticed this morning there's apparently still one more email I have to answer) I discover that I'm six weeks behind on timesheets and billing. And, much as I hate these tasks, they must be undertaken.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Father's Day at the Curmudgeon Manse

There are certain things that must be done every Sunday: Time must be found for Mass (lately, we've found that 7:00a.m. works best for us... even if we don't always get there much before 7:15) and the laundry. I started in on the laundry after church, and while Long Suffering Spouse and Younger Daughter went to the grocery, I resumed work on the appellate brief that I've been working on more or less constantly now for the last six weeks. (I just sent off a publishable draft -- but several sets of eyes must yet review and sign off on the document before it is filed. I anticipate there will be some additional changes requested but I'm hoping there will be no major rewriting required.)

I wasn't quite done with what I needed to do to the brief yesterday when Long Suffering Spouse got back. It wasn't because of interruptions, mind you, it's because polishing takes time. I stopped to hang out the laundry as each load finished, but the mental wheels continued to turn while I was out in the backyard. I had two phone calls -- Abuela called to wish me and Olaf both a Happy Father's Day. (Olaf was out, too, shopping for a card for his dad. I had the baby monitor. The baby-to-be-named-later was cooperating beautifully by taking an extended nap. In the family, everyone must do their bit.) Older Daughter also called to wish me a Happy Father's Day -- and to ask if I'd seen the email she'd sent. I had. She'd sent a picture from last summer, from Younger Daughter's rehearsal dinner. It was a picture of just the two of us, but I was thoroughly photographed out by that point in the evening, so I contorted my face as gruesomely as I could. "You're lucky I didn't post that to Facebook," Older Daughter said. "Oh, I agree," I said, and the pleasantries soon thereafter concluded and I went back to work.

I had reason to believe Oldest Son and Abby might come over, and Middle Son and Margaret, too. I'd been told that Younger Daughter had invited them for a barbecue, but I hadn't been informed when the festivities were scheduled to commence. I was guessing they have been planning to start a little later since I knew Younger Daughter and Olaf were going to the nursing home with Olaf's parents and his aunts and uncles to visit Olaf's grandparents. One of them knows they are there. The other? Well, this was presumably his last Father's Day here... only he hasn't been here for some time.

I'm not one of those who measures how much time a young couple spends with his family vs. her family. I remember how difficult it was for Long Suffering Spouse and me, back in the day. And I sure can't complain when Olaf and Younger Daughter visit his family -- after all, they're still under my roof. It does bother me some how hard it is to get Olaf and the baby and Younger Daughter out of the house -- but it was hard for us when we had only one child as well. When you have a small army of kids to move you just herd them to the car and go. When you have only a baby, however, there's luggage. Lots of luggage. And checklists that would do NASA proud. Checklists about luggage.

As Long Suffering Spouse put away the last of the groceries and we both tried to shoo Younger Daughter and her family out of the house, Older Daughter called again, this time to wish Olaf and me a Happy Father's Day. "We did this," I protested, as I filled up the cooler with the ice Long Suffering Spouse had bought at the store. (My mistake. I was supposed to put the beer in first.) But Older Daughter's call didn't delay her sister's departure by that much (and, after Long Suffering Spouse chewed me out, Olaf put the beer in).

So far, so good. I didn't look at the clock, but I'm certain that Younger Daughter et al. began the half hour drive to the nursing home easily five and maybe even 10 minutes before their scheduled 1:00 arrival. Just before their departure, though, I finally got the answer to my question about when Younger Daughter's older brothers might be expected. They were supposed to arrive at 2:00. You need no particular computational skills to figure out, from this, that, not only had Younger Daughter invited people over to my house without telling me about it (except as an afterthought), she had planned for them to be present at a time when she would be absent.

I was genuinely confused about this -- and so was Middle Son when he showed up with Margaret just before 2:30. His first question was "where's my sister?" By this point, Youngest Son had already fired up the grill out in the front driveway. The week's laundry was still fluttering in the breeze in the backyard. In general, there is a fragrance from line-dried clothes that's just cleaner and fresher-smelling than anything you get from stinky paper sheets placed in the dryer. But there is an exception to this general rule: Clothes hung out on the line when people are barbecuing nearby tend to smell like smoke. People come up to you on the street and sniff and ask if you've been in a fire.

I hauled down the clothes in a hurry. They were very nearly dry, anyway.

Oldest Son and Abby showed up not too long after with their dog Rodent. Oldest Son brought brats to grill; Abby brought some hard cider that she planned to share with Younger Daughter. But Younger Daughter wasn't there to share.

Long Suffering Spouse busied herself in the kitchen readying chickens and hamburgers (two kinds) and hot dogs and shish kebabs and sweet corn and a couple of different salads.... Later I asked her if maybe half as many dishes might have been adequate. "Well," she said, "not everybody likes everything."

But it all worked out well. Middle Son kept refilling my glass. I kept emptying it. Older Daughter called -- again -- to wish me a Happy Father's Day. I made a snappish response. Hank, in the background, told me to stop whining and have a Happy Father's Day. I muttered something, and so did he, and neither one would repeat what we'd said. It was just as well. "Who are we showing off for?" Older Daughter wanted to know. "No one," I said, "no one's here at all," whereupon Long Suffering Spouse, who was swooping by putting something down or taking something away contradicted me, loud enough for Older Daughter to hear: "Your brothers are here and Abby and Margaret and your father is being difficult as usual" -- and there was general agreement on this last point.

And the party kept going. Abuela came over (Middle Son invited her) and promptly informed us of her views about the U.S. Open and the pending NBA Finals game. (She'd been "rooting for Mickelson." She'd been taping the program at home, but she stayed with us to watch poor Mr. Mickelson fall short once again. Abby is a San Antonio native and she and Abuela were in wholehearted accord about who should win the NBA crown.) Long Suffering Spouse eventually accepted both a chair and a margarita. Younger Daughter texted me and said they were on their way back. Middle Son said, thanks for the warning. I texted this back to Younger Daughter (who responded "ha!"), then I got up to fill his glass this time (and my own).

The party went on for a while after Olaf and the baby and Younger Daughter finally arrived. But the baby was running out of steam -- she'd seen a lot of faces in one day -- and Oldest Son and Middle Son were both tired when they arrived. (Some of their wounds were self-inflicted, but both have been working hard of late.) Abuela went home first, then Oldest Son and Abby (Abby wanted to watch the NBA Finals game at home). Middle Son and Margaret held out a little while longer, but they had to go, too.

I put on a movie I thought appropriate to the occasion (Life With Father) and, although I had to do a tour of duty in the kitchen, I got to watch most of it. Olaf couldn't quite make it to the end; he fell asleep. The baby was too wired to sleep. It was after 9:00 and she looked like she was exhausted but she wasn't about to fall asleep no matter how her mother rocked her. Long Suffering Spouse and I suggested that Younger Daughter try putting the baby in her own crib. She'd go under, we told her. She tried (and it worked). She came back to drag Olaf to bed.

The phone rang.

You guessed it: It was Older Daughter, wanting to find out if I'd had a Happy Father's Day. Long Suffering Spouse talked to her for awhile (mostly reminding her that it was after 10:00 in Indianapolis -- important because Older Daughter has to be at work at 5:30 a.m. these days). I put on the news and fell instantly asleep.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I sure wish I liked hockey

The Chicago Blackhawks will host the Boston Bruins tonight in the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Maybe that isn't big news where you are. In Chicago, however, the Blackhawks are dominating the sports pages, the news pages, the features pages (did you know that, tonight, Bob Gertenrich of Skokie will attend his 2152nd straight Blackhawks game in person? did you know he started this streak in 1966 at the old Chicago Stadium when he was 19?), and even the business pages. Blackhawks flags festoon the County Building this morning and I saw men, women and children wearing Indian head sweaters or hats (or both) as I was coming into work.

The whole town seems bursting with hockey-infused civic pride.

But I don't like hockey.

It's not that I haven't tried. When I was a kid I'd listen to Lloyd Pettit call the Hawks games on the radio but I couldn't make any sense of it. I learned just enough to appreciate that Bruce Wolf did a pretty fair imitation of Lloyd Pettit back in the day. In college I went to some games (my school had a club team). I thought I might understand it better if I saw it in person. But it didn't take.

I know people who like hockey. One of my many ex-partners (whose son was a gifted hockey player) once told me that the only thing worse than having a kid who likes hockey is having a kid who's good at it. I told my cousin that when his two sons began to seriously take up the sport.

Little kids will have practices at 4:00am because that may be the only time that the ice is available. As a baseball parent, I schlepped my sons from the far north suburbs to the far south suburbs and groused about it. Hockey parents not only get up in the middle of the night for practice, they take their kids to Minnesota, Michigan, and even into Ontario -- and they like it.

But I just can't get into it.

This time around, I've taken to reading about hockey. Youngest Son has a subscription to Sports Illustrated and I've read a lot of hockey articles in the past few months as playoff fever began to build in Chicago. I noted with interest a recent column by Steve Rushin, who said that the famous Indian head logo that the Blackhawks use was designed in the 1920s by Irene Castle, then the wife of Frederic McLaughlin, the first team owner. McLaughlin named his new club for the 86th Infantry "Blackhawk" Division, the outfit in which he'd served during World War I. Rushin wrote that Irene Castle "introduced Americans to the bob haircut and the foxtrot" before designing the Indian head.

Ah, yes, I said to myself, Irene Castle. I remember now: The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, the last movie that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made together, and the only one filmed in color. I watched that -- once. Not a lot of laughs in the story of the two most famous ballroom dancers at the start of the 20th Century, not when British-born Vernon goes off to join the Royal Flying Corps and gets killed in a training accident.

Did you notice? I just can't stay focused on hockey.

Hockey strikes me as soccer on ice, only with sticks. I remember that Knute Rockne didn't much care for hockey; he didn't want the sport adopted at Notre Dame because he couldn't endorse any game where Irishmen were armed with clubs.

I'm happy for all the hockey fans, old and new. I feel like I'm missing out on something, but I just can't get into it. I wish I could.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

New Facebook privacy setting?

Obtained from FAIL Blog:

I've been too busy of late to craft any further snark about the revelations that the NSA is monitoring your grandmother's calls to QVC in the interest of foiling international terrorism, but Zach Weiner had a good take on the issue yesterday on SMBC (Mr. Weiner's language is more pungent than that usually employed here, but I ask your indulgence on this occasion):

I like Mr. Weiner's point about the "exchange rate."

Friday, June 07, 2013

The Party of Main Street should be all over this Verizon kerfuffle

Yesterday it was revealed that the Obama administration has obtained secret court orders allowing it to track hundreds of millions of phone calls made by Verizon customers.

This AP News summary, by Matt Apuzzo et al., suggests that the order disclosed yesterday was entered by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court under authority of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, "known colloquially as the 'library records provision' because it allowed the government to seize a wide range of documents, including library records. Under that provision, the government must show that there are 'reasonable grounds to believe' that the records are relevant to an investigation intended to 'protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.'"

So... this is all caused by the Patriot Act?

Well, one of the Patriot Act's original chief sponsors, Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, has written Atty. Gen. Eric Holder insisting that the newly revealed surveillance order is not appropriate under the Patriot act but is, rather, an abuse of the Patriot Act.

Actually, it's more polite (and, I think, more accurate) to say that broadly drafted language in the Patriot Act has led to some "unintended consequences." Thanks to sloppy language in so many statutes, these sorts of things happen all the time.

Still, in his letter to Mr. Holder, Congressman Sensenbrenner writes, "How could the phone records of so many innocent Americans be relevant to an authorized investigation as required by the Act?"

It's a good question.

But is it just a political one?

Well... it could be.

See, Mr. Sensensbrenner notwithstanding, many prominent Republicans and Democrats have united in pooh-poohing any civil rights issue in the government's tracking of our phone records (and it is assumed, at this point, that Verizon is not the only company turning over its records for government scrutiny).

This piece on the Huffington Post quotes California Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, and the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, as saying, "I read intelligence carefully, and I know that people are trying to get to us. This is to ferret this out before it happens. It's called protecting America."

This condescending attitude finds bi-partisan support. The ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Georgia's Saxby Chambliss, is quoted in the same article, as saying "Every member of the United States Senate has been advised of this, and to my knowledge we have not had any citizen who has registered a complaint relative to the gathering of this information."

Um, Senator, until yesterday no private citizen knew about this.

In the best tradition of the Stupid Party, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told Fox News, "I’m a Verizon customer. I don’t mind Verizon turning over records to the government if the government is going to make sure that they try to match up a known terrorist phone with somebody in the United States."

Some Democrats and some Republicans have decried this (literally) unwarranted invasion of privacy. Heck, no less a dedicated Statist than former Vice President Al Gore tweeted yesterday:

Apparently, however, it's easy to be for civil liberties when out of government -- but really, really hard to remember how to defend them once in power. Candidate Obama was a staunch defender of transparency in government. As President, he gives out secret email addresses to senior government officials, Guantanamo stays open, and he continues the practice of spying on millions and millions of law-abiding Americans in the name of detecting terrorist plots.

The Verizon kerfuffle shows, once again, that we have two parties in Washington. We have the Big Government Party and the Big Business Party. Their interests are often aligned -- aligned precisely on this spying issue, for example. Who cares about the Constitution? Warrants? We don't need no stinking warrants.

The government says that they are not listening to calls, or keeping track of who is making each call, only tracking calling patterns such as what number called what number and the duration of each call.

Here's a newsflash, dear readers: Enter your home phone number in your favorite search engine. Your name and address will pop up. (It doesn't work so well for cell phones... but you can buy that information easily enough.) In other words, if the government has your phone number, it also has your name.

If only there was a political party that cared about the working guy and the small business owner, the folks who are supposedly at odds with one another but who together make up the still viable, if declining, middle class. Call it the Party of Main Street. But we don't have one of those in this country.

Someone else laments the perils of long posts

I have been accused of putting up posts here that try a reader's patience. Of course, sometimes, that's a content-based complaint. Even those kindly disposed towards me have mentioned, sometimes politely, that my posts occasionally tie up too much time for an Internet grazer to really enjoy.

I discover, however, that I am not alone. This morning on Facebook I saw a link to an article on by By Farhad Manjoo, "You Won’t Finish This Article."

The article works through some analytics requested by the author for posts on -- and finds that most people 'bounce' away without reading a thing or else read very little before moving on. Most people, he writes, don't even bother to completely read an article they link to or tweet.

That makes no earthly sense. How do you know whether the article you are promoting, which seems reasonable enough at the outset, doesn't morph into some profane or racist screed by the end? Do you really want such an article in any sense linked to you? And even if there is no abrupt switch in tone from reasonable to rant, a perfectly reasonable beginning to an article may lead to conclusions with which the reader thoroughly disagrees. Or would, if he or she would but finish the piece. Why link to that?

I pulled this excerpt from close to the end of the piece, far further down the page (according to the author) than most readers will read:
Sure, like every other writer on the Web, I want my articles to be widely read, which means I want you to Like and Tweet and email this piece to everyone you know. But if you had any inkling of doing that, you’d have done it already. You’d probably have done it just after reading the headline and seeing the picture at the top. Nothing I say at this point matters at all.

So, what the hey, here are a couple more graphs, after which I promise I’ll wrap things up for the handful of folks who are still left around here. (What losers you are! Don’t you have anything else to do?)
In fact, read all the way to the end, even looking up the meaning of "TK" in the linked Wikipedia article (I was unfamiliar with the term).

That's the good news, Mr. Manjoo. I read the piece. Honest.

But I don't understand the analytics hardly at all.

Monday, June 03, 2013

So... it's June, right?

The calendar page has been turned. All the bills that I paid in May are coming due again. It must be June.


But yesterday morning I got up and turned off the air conditioner because the temperature outside (according to the radio) was 60 degrees. That was overly optimistic; it wasn't 60 according to the thermometer in the van when we went to church yesterday morning. A couple hours later, when my wife went to the grocery, she called me because the temperature had dropped to 53.

I'd put on a long-sleeve flannel shirt for Mass, but it did seem a bit chilly to me in the house so I added an Irish wool sweater.

It had been in the high 80s during the week before the rains set in, so there have been some signs of summer, and this is Chicago: We have to expect some variety in the weather. We can get two and sometimes three seasons on any given day.

On Sunday, though, we had only one season. Fall. The sky was slate gray and spitting drizzle and I was wearing flannel and wool -- but it really is June, you know. The calendar says so.