Making Things

October 31, 2009

Because I am a lawyer, I don’t generally make things at work. I mean, I write stuff, which is a form of making things, and some satisfaction certainly comes from getting a positive outcome for my client, but somehow, getting a favorable ruling as a result of a brief I wrote on the applicability of equitable tolling to the expiration of the juvenile court’s subject matter jurisdiction can feel a little, well, abstract. As a result, I try to make actual things, either artistic or useful (sometimes both!) whenever I can. Since my life is largely divided into three parts – home, work, and travel between the two – my greatest creative goal is to create something in each area. This past week was a rare treat for me, because I managed to create something neat in all three:


First, Max drew some loopy teardrop shapes and asked me to make them into something cool, which I did:


Then, I decided I really liked the look of the elephant, so I rendered it again, more purposefully:


Finally, I went whole hog and busted out the acrylics and the packing paper for a mighty, three-foot-high version – about as close as I get to fine art:


And the best part is that Max can claim this as his own, or at least as a collaboration with me. He likes this.


Problem: I wanted a front rack for my bicycle, but front racks cost money, which I’m a little light on.

Solution: I have lots of old, decommissioned shelving hardware, and most importantly, lots of zip ties:


(Did you know that over six million zip ties were used in the construction of the Varrazano Narrows Bridge? It is not true.)

Home-made front rack


For my work, I must travel a lot, so I use a little netbook as my work computer. In an ideal world, this item would be supplied by my employer, but in the real world, my employer got a grant to buy new computers, asked me what I needed, looked at the little report I prepared comparing various netbooks, told me they would get it for me, then purchased a heavy laptop with a 17″ screen. (Luckily, my stepfather-in-law bought me the netbook as a present, so all is more or less well, employee disgruntlement aside.) But, since work won’t supply the netbook, work won’t supply peripherals either, so I must obtain a docking station for when I’m in the office:


Top-of-the-line masking tape integration technology for maximizing productivity!

And while we’re on the topic of making things, you may notice something at the righthand side of the photos above that gives you a clue on how I make decisions . . . that’s right, it’s a magic eight ball:


And it’s not just any magic eight ball! This one comes pre-approved for use by Connecticut lawyers in their day-to-day legal practice. How do I know? Because it was given to me by the Connecticut Bar Association when I passed the bar:


Not to be too serious about things, but is it a little bit troubling that the CBA gives these to new lawyers?



Running Down a Dream

October 27, 2009

On the whole, I would say that I am fundamentally satisfied with my life: My wife is a hilarious, brilliant, delightful woman. My children, while they are terrorists who hate our freedom, are also charming and kind and endlessly, marvellously surprising. And despite a complicated relationship with my boss and a much too intimate relationship with the Merritt Parkway, my job is pretty much awesome: I help teenagers, I put the Department of Children and Families in its place as needed, and my clients tell me I’m a gangster, which is pretty much the highest praise they can think of.

Still, sometimes I wonder if I’m following my dreams. When I lived in Boston, a friend and I had the idea to open a law firm / bar. That was a dream: two businesses that need the same prime real estate, but at different times of day, and with largely overlapping client bases. Brilliant, right? But liquor licenses were expensive and there would be no health insurance, and we let that dream fall by the wayside. In Hartford, all us bicycle nerds talk about opening a really first-rate bike shop (sorry, Ray Taksar, you’re just never open), with community-oriented , recycle-a-bike programs and coffee and an atmosphere that invites neighbors to stop by and hang out. But somehow, we never get around to it. From time to time, I bat around solid-gold ideas for charter schools, urban farms, proletarian armed uprisings, and other great stuff, but then I get home and there are dishes to wash, noses to wipe, and, well, so it goes.

Luckily, someone in my family is living his dreams. This week at kindergarten, Max is VIP, which means there’s a bulletin board in the classroom all about him, with pictures, favorite toys, and the like. It also includes this questionnaire:

Kung Fu Master

Take note of the last item. Then look at this photo, in which Max demonstrates something he learned this evening in his first Tae Kwon Do class:


Internets, that is a man who is living life to the fullest.

Very Far Away in a Manger

October 26, 2009

O Little Moon of Bethlehem

Night on the Town

October 24, 2009

Night on the town
“Sweet parking spot. Let’s see if we can get a table.”

Hard Times

October 24, 2009

Hard Times

Modern Times

October 17, 2009

Modern Times

(click the picture for a larger view)


October 17, 2009

Leopards figure prominently in the cosmology of our household. Local shamans frequently engage in rituals in which they are transformed into leopards as a way to express their emotions, chiefly concerning the mandated consumption of dinner and other hardships visited on this small, primitive community of hunter-gatherers. During prosperous times, leading members of the tribe will commission artisans to create representations of the powerful leopard totem, thought to ward off bad guys. Below, one such work, requested by Reuben (2) and created by Dad (32) and Max (5). Experts believe, based on marker-strokes and other indicia of style, that the head was created entirely by Max (known for his heavy use of the lopsided circle) while the body is a collaboration between Max and Dad.


Samurai Squirrel: Origins

October 15, 2009

You can push a squirrel pretty far. You can take his hoard of nuts, you can roust him from his favorite tree, you can drive him out of a park and into the adjoining neighborhood. But at some point, you push that squirrel a little too far, and it’s like throwing a switch inside of him. All the things that once concerned him – nuts, mating, trees – all those things are gone, and in his entire being only one thing remains: vengeance.

Samurai Squirrel


October 14, 2009

Last week I was at a conference in Washington, D.C., for lawyers who represent unaccompanied immigrant children. I am one such lawyer, so it wasn’t totally inappropriate that I was there, and in fact, because I have handled a number of referrals for one of the national organizations that organized the conference, they were gracious enough to give me half off the cost of entry. Not only was that flattering, but it proved a genuine economic benefit when I learned that there would be free booze at the reception held on the first evening of the conference. That means that instead of paying $295 for six glasses of wine and receiving a complementary three-day conference as a bonus, I paid just $147.50. Also, there was food, and I got a commemorative tote bag from the Embassy of Finland, where some of the conference was held. (Did you know that the Embassy of Finland was the first green (as in environmentally friendly, not as in grass-colored) embassy in D.C.? I didn’t know that before, but I do now, and if the amount one knows something were proportional to the number of times one hears it repeated, I would know this fact very well indeed, as our Finnish hosts missed no opportunity to remind me. In fairness to them, the building was really cool.) While consuming one of those $24.58-priced glasses of wine, I learned that I was one of many many lawyers who had been given the half-off rate, but it didn’t bother me: Minor let-downs don’t sting so much when you have over $70 worth of wine and Finnish food in your belly.

Anyway, my travels prevented me from blogging, not because our nation’s capital lacks internet access (it does not), but because the conference, in addition to being interesting, involved lots of after-hours schmoozing. I mean, I suppose I could have just holed up in my room and focused on my personal blog, but I know that by developing a national network of contacts with whom I can trade tips and advice on legal matters, I improve the quality of service that I provide to my clients. So I bit the bullet, put personal preference aside, and went salsa dancing till three in the morning with a bunch of lawyers eight years younger than me. Because I care. About my clients. (I also saw Zombieland by myself, and it was immensely delightful, perhaps in part due to the fact that I smuggled two beers into the theater. This, too, was for the benefit of my clients, though I can’t explain exactly how.)

Now I am back in Connecticut, and I have no fancy photos to share. Soon, I will surely write a long, meditative exegesis on autumn, or childhood memories, or the effect of luck and chance on romance, any of which will make for meaningful reading. For now, though, here are some pictures of my conference doodles:

Conference doodle

Conference doodle

Conference doodle

Conference doodle (Martin Fierro verse)
That’s a verse from Martin Fierro, and I have no earthly idea how or why I conjured it from memory at that particular moment.

A while back, Reuben, who is two, came to me with scissors and paper and said, “Cut a picture of me and you.” I congratulated myself heartily at the time, because I made this cool papercutting:

Me, holding Reuben

But when it comes to being a championship father, the greatest error is to rest on one’s laurels. Luckily, Max had asked me some time ago to make him a rhino costume for Halloween, providing yet another opportunity for top-flight dadliness:

Rhino mask

Cardboard and masking tape armature, plaster on top, gray spraypaint, and two googly eyes. Now I just have to get him a gray zip-up hoodie and sew a tail on it.