Thursday, March 31, 2005

Jailhouse lawyers

There are times when I get sick of reading and writing and start thinking that maybe it would not be such a bad idea to commit some small federal crime and get myself a nice little Martha Stewart sentence so I can go meditate for a couple of months. Today is one of those days. I don't want to research or write anymore about what an inmate needs to do to successfully argue that he is being denied his right to access the courts. He's gonna lose - can't I just write that instead? I know "sorry, you are wrong" is not exactly the response that either the inmate ot the judge is looking for, but it sure would make some cases easier. Yikes - starting to get bitter and I haven't even been here for 3 months.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

A little time to write

Yikes - looked at my site meter today and realized I have more than 2 readers. Ususally I look and I have about 10 visitors but then I realize that I was a visitor 8 times. But yesterday I actually had a whopping 7 visitors and there was nothing to see. So, for those random people who might drop by this site, today I will write at least a little blurb. To be honest I didn't find anything real interesting in the news to chat about today (although I did find the Supreme Court ruling on the Alabama highschool girls basketball coach Title IX case at least somewhat interesting). So instead I will give a quick update on my life as a newly minted lawyer. My caseload is forever growing, but I am starting to get to work on some cool cases. I have been given tasks to do on a case involving the guy who killed Dahmer, and it looks like I am going to be handling some stuff on a case involving an inmate who is being given female hormones (the press has taken off on this one a bit) and has ... well let's just say he has developed along nicely. Next week I get to go back to court to argue a motion to dismiss in a small claims case. And the following week I get to go to my first conference out of state (from what I can tell these are things that no one else wants to go to, but I am looking forward to getting out of the office). Yes I get to go to that farway land called Michigan. The conference is about what AG Offices should do to help states with emergency preparedness plans. We shall see what it's all about. And on a personal note, I just found out that I am going to be a tio (uncle) - what's even cooler is that my 11 year old and 4 year old half siblings are also going to become an aunt and uncle respectively. I still find it funny that it is possible to have an uncle who is younger than you (didn't we have some weird case in T & E about relating to weird hillbilly familial ties?).

Thursday, March 24, 2005

I'm back and I'm busy

Ok for those two readers out there. Ohio was a blast, except for hearing that one of the volunteers who was with us in Guatemala, and then became a Peace Corps Training Director in Kazakhstan has just died (very triste). We ate and drank like royalty, and our dog got to play with their dog (another Guatemalan chucho) who supposedly was not "good" with other dogs. Well Monty (their dog) must've known that Chula (our dog) was his compadre because they were playing non-stop. Anyways, I'm back, and yes I'm busy. I sorta thought someone, like myself, with no "real" experience wasn't going to be given very many responsibilities at my office until I became "experienced." I was wrong. They might not be "important" responsibilities, but yikes I've already filled up two drawers worth of files. Instead of the "why don't you help so and so by researching X" which I was expecting, instead it has been more like "here's another case that I am assigning to you." So it's back to brief writing for me.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Spring Break??

Today is the last day of classes, before Spring Break begins. Hooray for my wife. Wahhh for me. Having a job is nice, but I sure wouldn't mind a week off. I am taking Monday off however, and we are going somewhere this weekend. Not as luxurious as Florida or California, but out of staet at least. Yes, me, my wife and our chucha are going to the lovely state of Ohio. A mini Peace Corps reunion is in store for us with 3 of our closest Peace Corps friends. I am super excited for a nice weekend filled with reminiscing, boozing, and catching up. Maybe we'll even go search for a neighbor's pig to castrate just to remind us of the "good ole days."

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


The University of Central Florida (the alma mater of Freakin Rican, I believe) has released the graduation rates for the teams in the NCAA basketball tournament (UCF is one of the schools dancing this year and has a so-so graduation rate of 43%). A couple of big schools (LSU and Minnesota) have not graduated one basketball player since 1997-98. Not one!! Notwithstanding the occassional player who leaves school early to enter the draft, I just don't see how this can be considered acceptable by any coach, president, or university. Some of the schools really surprised me. Duke and Texas Tech both have coaches (Coach K and Knight respectively) who are known to say how important it is to have their "kids" become men under their tutelage. That they want their kids to prosper after school and realize how important an education is in realizing this. And yet they have graduation rates of only 58% and 33% respectively. Wisconsin's 73% graduation rate is high on this list. But to me, 73% still isn't cutting it. Now I understand that the UW's basketball team graduation rate is actually higher than the overall school's graduation rate (which hovers around 65%), but if I were the coach of a college team, my overriding concern would be to make sure that all the kids who I had chosen to represent the school through their athletic endeavor graduated. Coaches have the ability to get their players tutors, to make them go to "study hall", etc. I realize wins and losses are important, but what the hell is a 21 year old kid who has no shot of playing professionally going to do when his 4 years of eligibility are up?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Mistakes and my first google referral

Ok - I jsut read my last post and realize I am not a real good speller of the word "the" - it often comes out teh for me. Same thing with "just" - my fingers prefer jsut (see teh first sentence above). But I am too much of a lazy ass to actually edit teh (ok, yes you are right, I am now jsut having fun) posts so deal with it.

On another note - I checked my site meter and saw that my normal two visitors have been checking my blog (woo hoo at least I have two), but even cooler was the fact that someone came to my site after a google search. Bet you can't guess what they were looking for? That's right, my favorite standby, barnyard manure. To make it even cooler, it looks like it was a Vietnamese search for barnyard manure. See it here. I now declare myself semi-famous.


I went, I saw, I conquered. Last Thursday, my supervisor came in and said how'd you like to argue a case in Manitowoc on Monday? The lawyer who had been assigned teh case got teh flu so it fell into my lap. As I have previously said, I miss court action, so I said sure. The case involved a very over-involved father of a 20 year-old who is on probation. Daddy thinks junior should be given more breaks and has been harassing the kids probation agent and her supervisor over the last year with repeated phone calls where he yells, swears, and threatens to take them down for not doing their jobs right. In December he became more threatening and said he was going to come to their office and they should be ready to call 911 and that if he saw them in public he would at least get a disorderly conduct for how he would act. They got themselves a harassment injunction issued by a court commissioner. Daddy decided to have that decision reviewed, so they asked for representation. And that's where I came in. Dum dum dum, spleenless wonder to the rescue. It didn't seem like a real difficult case - I just had to prove he was harassing and/or threatening the agents. But I put a decent amount of time into preparing the case. And since I'm a rookie, my boss assigned a seasoned attorney to go with me and make sure I didn' t fall on my face. Well I nailed it - injunction granted. But before you start thinking what a natural orator I must be, I have to confess... the reason I won is simply because Daddy decided not to show up. Oh well - a win is a win right? And I did get to take a tour of a sub at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum - gotta love Manitowoc.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Here kitty kitty

No poker tonight = bad thing. Get to go to Manitowoc and actually argue in front of a real judge on Monday = good thing. Silly Madisonions = funny thing. Sometimes, our local papers are actually pretty cute. This story in the Cap Times, to me, fits the bill. Maybe it is just me, but I can easily see a stereotypical, pacifist Madisonion making a death threat against someone who says kitty kitty is not so angelic after all. I love Madison, but it is a funny town in a lot of respects. I grew up here, went away for college, and came back for law school. I remember telling my wife (who had never been to Wisconsin before our move) how "diverse" and "liberal" Madison was. And then we arrived and the (semi) adult me realized that a lot of this "madtown's" reputation is a bunch of bunk. Diverse?? Coming from California and then the Peace Corps - not so much - gotta face it, Madison is purty pearly. Liberal?? Yes and no - my perception is that a lot of Madisonions are liberal in a "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" way. Don't worry, I'm not totally off of the Madison bandwagon - after all, any capital city that has establishments serving fried cheese curds can't be too bad.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Tale of the Spleenless Wonder

Ok it has been a productive morning. One appellate brief finished, and a reply brief that isn't even due until next week is also crossed off the list. So I figure I have time on my lunch hour today to write the tale of the spleenless wonder. Once upon a time...

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. Our mode of transportation consisted of walking, hitchhiking, riding on decommissioned BlueBird school buses (yes the big yellow school buses made for elementary school students) which were re-painted into "cool colors" and often had a row of seats added in (see here), or riding bikes. On this fateful day, my wife and I decided to ride our bikes. Now, to be fair, these bikes were actually pretty nice. U.S. government issued, perfectly ridable, mountain bikes. But we did live in the highlands, so this wasn't normal bikeriding - it was riding down a huge hill, followed by maybe 300 yards of semi-flat biking, and then biking up a huge hill. And all of this was done on dirt (read mud in the rainy season and 6 inches of dust in the dry season) roads. Moreover, my bike, had been used very frequently by a previous volunteer at our site (including one trip from our site at 10,000 feet all the way down to the coast), so the brake pads were ... well I could clamp both of them down the whole way and the bike would only slow down a bit.

It was a really nice January afternoon (dry season = 6 inches of dust on roads) so there was no rain yet, and we made it to our meeting "sin novedad" (with no problems). In fact, I thought I was getting pretty good at the Flintstones style of braking by dragging my feet on the ground towards the bottom of each hill. It was on the way back that the adventure began.

I had just made it down one large hill using the Flintstones braking method when we made it to the top of the next hill. I actually stopped, looked down, saw a steep hill with a hairpin turn at the bottom and asked my wife if she thought I could make it. Foolish, foolish me. What I wanted her to do was go first, so I could see how fast she got going. But being the man that I am, I clearly did not communicate this well enough, so she responded by simply saying "I dunno." So I proceeded down this hill, with my brakes clamped down the whole way, gaining more and more speed and when I made it to the bottom where the hairpin turn began I began to try to make the turn but skidded a bit and realized that I would wipe out if I tried to fully complete the 180 degree turn. So I remember realizing in that milisecond that I had 2 choices: 1) wipe out, or 2) just go straight and run into those bushes in front of me. I chose option number 2.

Unfortunately "those bushes" was actually one decrepit shrub, followed by a ravine (but there were bushes on the other side of the ravine). Needless to say the shrub did not break my fall as well as I had hoped the bushes would. And dum dum dum, the flying gringo was born. Over the handle bars I went and fell about 20 feet down into a creek (I was actually very lucky it was only 20 feet, if I had flown off of the previous cliff we had just passed it would have been more like a 200 foot drop). My wife who was behind me, says that when she saw my feet disappear over the edge, she thought she would find me dead. Hurt yes, dead no. I don't remember the fall but I do remember landing - basically on my back. After shaking off the daze, I realized I was getting soaked and managed to scoot myself up onto a rock. At that point my wife appeared and when she saw I was actually sitting up, her fear turned to relief but she still was obviously in some sort of shock as well because the first thing she did was retrieve my bike which had landed about half way down the side of the ravine and dragged it back up to the road. Screw the hubby - get the bike!!

Next on the scene were two motorcycle delivery guys from Guatemala's equivalent of UPS. They managed to help me back up to the road and went off to our town to get the ambulance. By the time I made it to the road I was definitely cold, wet, and probably starting to go into shock. Of course this being Guatemala, meant that it probably took the guys about a half-hour to get to our town, and then when they did get there they had to track down someone from our town's Red Cross (probably another half-hour at least), and then of course that person had to find the keys to the ambulance, which was actually just a mini-van with the back seats taken out, (maybe an hour?) and track down someone else to accompnay him since this involved the gringo and he didn't want to do this by himself. So between 3 and 4 hours after I had attempted flight, the ambulance arrived.

In the meantime any person who lived nearby had by this time heard that a gringo had just flown off a cliff and had to come out to see the action. A cute, wizened up old lady was chanting over and over in a sing song fashion "el gringo va a morir" (the gringo is going to die) - she was doing this more as a prayer than a haha the honkey is going to die, but nevertheless they weren't really the words that either me or my wife wanted to hear. And of course I was offered coffee - but for the first time I felt it was not totally impolite to say no to the coffee, my wife on teh other hand still had to drink a cup. My clothes had somehow been removed from me (good thing), a blanket was placed over me (another good thing), but the blanket was generally used as a blanket that was put between a horse and his saddle so it smelled like manure (bad thing) and Guatemalan custom is to totally cover a person who is hurt or sick with blankets which meant that they were trying to put this stinky blanket over my head (another bad thing). The woman who brought the coffee also brought a pair of her husband's pants to put on me as well, but for some reason my wife and I were the only one's who thought it useless to try and put a pair of pants made for a guy who was at most 5'4" was gonna be useless on a guy who is 6'4".

Anyways, the ambulance finally did show up. And a half-hour to 45 minutes later we arrived at our town's medical clinic. My wife then called the Peace Corps nurse, who said we had to get to the hospital in Xela, a 3 hour trip away. So off we went again and eventually we did make it to the hospital in Xela. Of course, the CAT scan machine was only operable between 9 am and 3 pm so we had to wait until the following morning to finally figure out what was really wrong with me. I thought I had done something to my shoulder, my hip, and that something was wrong internally. I was pretty accurate - I had broken (but just a hairline fracture) my pelvis and lacerated my spleen. When the Peace Corps nurse found out my spleen was a mess, she decided I needed to get to the hospital in Guatemala City (where she was located) so that a US board certified surgeon could cut me open. So we had another little adventure trying to get to the mini-airport in Xela where a private plane was awaiting to fly me to the capital (pretty cool huh?). And only 2 days after I had originally attempted to be Supergringo by flying over the cliff, my spleen was finally removed. And that, my friends, is the tale of the spleenless wonder.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Maybe It's Because Spring Is In The Air/When I Was In The Peace Corps

It truly is a beautiful day here in Madison. The first crocuses are blooming, birds are chirping, I just cleaned the gutters. Good day. Maybe it is because spring is in the air that I am reminiscing about Guatemala - "the land of eternal spring." Or maybe it is because when I was walking my dog back from the law school (my wife likes to study there better than she does at her med school - yes we are going to be the Huxtables in reverse), we encountered a loose dog who had knocked down every trash can in our alley and was clearly enjoying himself as he was consuming his own buffet brunch. The funniest part to me was that our dog, a true Guatemalan chucha (street dog), who we brought back from our Peace Corps stint with us, has forgotten her roots. Instead of joining in the dumpster dive, our chucha decided to protect our alley by barking at the trash connoisseur. He merely looked up from the remnants of pizza he was enjoying, gave us two sniffs and dejectedly sauntered off. I would have tried to take him to his home, but my chucha was having none of that.

Anyways, for whatever reason Guatemala is on my brain today, and I miss it. Five years ago (jeez has it really been that long?), I joined my wife on our adventure to Guatemala. Peace Corps was something she had always wanted to do, and since the UW law school deferred my admission, I had no problems delaying "true adulthood" a couple of more years by going along for the ride. I ended up loving it. Now when Peace Corps comes up, people will ask how did you like it? My answer is always: "it was great." But that really doesn't do it justice. What follows is my meager attempt to explain (just some of the reasons) why it was great.

When I was in the Peace Corps...
1) I got to delay "true adulthood" for 2 more years. My wife had always wanted to do the Peace Corps and when the UW law school deferred my admission, I had no problem for what I thought would be "just going along for the ride."
2) I got to meet my wife's family. She was born in Guatemala and many of her Dad's siblings still live there, giving us a familial safety net in the capital whenever we needed it.
3) I got to learn Spanish (although not perfectly). Both my wife and I grew up in households where both of parents spoke fluent Spanish but did not teach it to us - so learning Spanish was a big deal for both of us.
4) I lost my spleen. Huh? How is that great? Well, I survived, and the story will forever be a good one to tell. I'll probably save it for another post, but it involved me flying off a cliff on my bike and a little old lady yelling/praying "el gringo va a morir" (the gringo, me, is going to die).
5) I only got to e-mail maybe once or twice a month, but every single e-mail had new and exciting stories to tell. 3 years post Peace Corps and my fellow volunteers write to each other about once or twice a year, all of us basically saying life is fine - but no longer are there stories of crazy rides on decommissioned BlueBird school buses that are used as daily transport (no at 6'4" I did not fit into the seats very well), new foods eaten, frustrations over learning a new language or trying to find "meaningful" work, families who have adopted you as one of their own, or even details of illnesses or what your poop looks like which for whatever reason becomes such a normal and interesting topic when you are in the Peace Corps but not so riveting when back in the States.
6) I made $2,000 a year and felt (and as a married couple we really were) rich.
7) I got a dog. Her name is chula (means cute). And I get to fool people in to believing she is a "Guatemalan Highland Terrier" - perhaps it is not a registered breed with the American Kennel Club yet, but I think she would win a dog show.
8) Time had no meaning.
9) I climbed the highest point in Central America and swam in a lake surrounded by volcanoes.
10) I walked everyday for hours a day and was not considered to be crazy. I will now walk from my house (close to Camp Randall) to say the square (maybe a couple of miles) and people will think I am wacko.
11) My dog was a celebrity - she was allowed on the buses with us (gringoes do have some privileges), and people there did not believe that a chucha could be trained so would always be amazed when she would sit, lie down and shake (especially since we trained her in Spanish).
12) I helped build a greenhouse.
13) I brought a truckload of pregnant goats from the coast to one of our neighboring communities in the highlands and felt like I was the king of the world.
14) We had a plancha, a wood burning stove, that was connected to the water pipes so that on special days when we actually had time to be at home and fire that sucker up we would have hot showers.
15) I learned how to bake using a propane stove (three burners connected to a propane tank) and a tinfoil dutch oven.
16) I killed, plucked, cooked, and ate a chicken.
17) I hitchhiked without fear. I could wave down and ride in the back of pick-up trucks with 15 other people (and our dog) for 1 quetzal (maybe 15 cents).
18) We used our kitchen cabinets as a fridge. Meat left in the cabinet for a day meant fresh meat. Now if I leave chicken out of the fridge for an hour I start to squirm about salmonella.
19) I learned how to castrate pigs (and rams), inject vitamins into any animal you could think of, trim hooves, cut horns, plant a corn field with just a hoe, graft trees, wash my clothes in a cement sink, and bargain for everything.
And 20) We didn't own a tv. I am a couch potato, so you would think this would be on my list of why Peace Corps sucked, but we didn't need a tv - we read books, played scrabble or cards, listened to music, spent two hours making meals, or we just talked. The time I spent with my wife is probably the thing I miss the most - for some couples the fact that we were together almost every hour of the day would have destroyed them. But we thrived. Sure we had some spats, but god I miss that time together. So if you have made it this far in my ramblings, those are some of the reasons why I miss Guatemala. And on that note, I am off to do some shopping, so maybe I can make some dinner for my constantly studying wife and I'll turn off my beloved tv and maybe for 15 minutes tonight we can talk and remember why we both say "Peace Corps was great."

Interesting Race Test

Gotta thank my mom for telling me about this site from Harvard. Basically Harvard has been doing research using black faces and white faces and "good" words and "bad" words to see if people have preferences for whites versus blacks. The majority of the whites who take the test end up with an "automatic preference" for European Americans relative to African Americans. You can take it here. They also have tests regarding gender and age.

Friday, March 04, 2005

The News I Like to Read

In case you haven't already noticed, I am generally not a big blabber about "current events." Not that I am not interested, I just feel that enough is probably being said by others already. So no Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart, Iraq war, or Aids in Africa here (well Michael and Martha are wacky enough that they might make a future appearance - you never know). Instead I bring you news that is really important. Like this. Who wouldn't want to know about this cruising cat? Maybe the owner can train it to ride on top of even faster cars - I might watch NASCAR if there were cats on top of the cars. For a feel good story from our own humble town read this. He is right too, his story would make a perfect movie (although I see it more on the lines of a made for tv/after-school special movie rather than the big screen). But hey, no one is going to make a movie about me.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The legend of the cane...

The University of Wisconsin Law School has a tradition where the third year class gets to saunter across the football field before the Homecoming game wearing silly bowler hats and carrying canes. We then got to toss our cane over the goalpost and if we caught it the legend has it that you are supposed to win your first case. Well I caught my cane but the winning part ... not so much in my case. But, to be honest I am not very heartborken. I was assigned a case in which a prisoner had has petition to change his name granted. The DOC found out about it when they got the judge's order telling them to change all of their records, and surprise surprise they then decided that they didn't want this guy to change his name after all. So I had the task of attempting to argue to the judge why the DOC should now be able to intervene after he had already granted the name-change petition and then reverse his decision. I gave it a go - but I was not too surprised nor upset when he basically said you snooze, you lose. The prisoner followed the rules by publishing his request for three straight weeks and the DOC had the opportunity to intervene at that point and did not. Oh well, at least I got to get out of the office for basically the whole day and it was a beautiful day for a drive.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Local Barnyard Manure

Funny how barnyard manure is mentioned just once and then it suddenly starts popping up all over the place huh? Last week the Ocean said she would write about barnyard manure if she came across any that was amusing. Well I found what I thought was an amusing story about manure last week (see Barnyard Manure post below). And now, although more on the lines of sad than amusing, we have our own local barnyard manure story. Too bad the Ocean didn't mention being willing to write about new Assistant Attorneys General winning the lottery. Oh well, at least I am not a trout in that stream - what a way to go. Death by manuratization. Pobre truchas.