Friday, December 28, 2007

The (Fallow) State of My Ovaries

I'm going to hope that most of my law professor/law clerk/judge/politician/lawyer (yeah, I check by IP address) audience is on vacation in time for the reversion I do every break to my weird posts of yore. And assuming some are still reading while they're grading, well, eh, you know me by now. Don't take this into account when you interview me. I'm talking to you, Dan Filler.

At any rate, after a few days of being a Glorified Unpaid Nanny to more children than I ever was personally in charge of when I worked in a daycare center (oh yes, I am professionally trained, and this is why I am Aunt Nanny) and having just spent 7 hours today going over test taking strategies for the verbal and essay sections of the SAT and proctoring a diagnostic exam for my 16 year old nephew, I swear, not until after tenure will I have a baby. Okay, maybe if I land a tenure-track job I will think about relaxing this edict slightly if the school lets you stop the tenure clock for a year and I and my partner are in a position to care for the child financially and emotionally, then I could imagine having a baby pre-tenure. But I swear I want to rip out my ovaries for now. I love "my" children, but if they were mine for more than this (and the year I spent at home, they were mine from 9 am to 9 pm, 5 days a week, and basically only unconscious and thus compliant at their parents' house), I would try to rip out my uterus for good measure.

I do not say this tra la la lightly and without consideration, like those stupid Yale undergrads did when they said they wanted to be stay at home mothers in the second iteration of the media-created "Opt Out Revolution" in that non-rigorous not-social science article written by the deplorable Lisa Belkin, an article so bad I refuse to link to it. But seriously. Have you ever cared for an infant in diapers for a significant period of time, from the time they wake to the time they sleep? Have you ever tried to do all of your work during naptime, only to be distracted by exhaustion or something to clean up? Have you ever taught children how to read, a slow and agonizing process? Have you ever watched signifcant amounts of children's television or come up with your own silly songs? Prepared 5 bowls of rice and feed three of the non-dexterous children at once? Given the same five children each baths until you can't straighten up after having bent over the tub for so long? Have you ever spent hours trying to talk to a teenager to convince him of the logic and pracitcality of personal responsibility and work ethic? I think this is only the minimum of what I have done in the past few days, and what I did for years: every weekend during college and law school, and currently every time I visit home.

Granted, when I have my own children, it will hopefully be one at a time, and I'll hopefully space out the births. But seriously, a child is a lot of work. Not the only work you can do, such that I'll quit my other job permanently (I have invested way too much time and effort in my own job and career and want to set that as an example), but a child is too much work, and too deserving of time and love for you to think of him or her as a mere hobby. It's a second full time job. I love children too much--my own, the world's, etc.--and I believe the children are our future, and that you should teach them well and let them lead the way, showing them all the beauty they possess inside. But if I hear one more cinematic platitude about how they magically make life better and even "easier," as if delivery = deliverance, I will randomly shoot some screenwriter in the next coffee shop I visit.

So why the weird diatribe on the state of my for now hopefully dormant-ovaries and womb?

Because I just watched Waitress. And re-watched Knocked Up. I've yet to see Juno, but dont' really see the point except maybe to watch some better acting by Ellen Page. I mean, what is up with the spate of movies about unexpected(ly delightful) pregnancies? All the movie reviews are spoilers--so, SPOILER alert--is Juno really just Knocked Up from the girl's point of view? Does Juno's happy single parent ending (SPOILER the same as Waitress' ending) really an upset of the family values debate? Is this the real kulturkampf? Seriously, in this late year? Single mothers? Really?! That's it?! That's the hot-button issue that redefines families in this era of political/social mobilization for legalizing gay marriage and in support of non-traditional LGBT families? I mean, seriously, single mothers?! Didn't we already go through this over a decade ago with Dan Quayle and Murphy Brown ? Doesn't it seem like we've regressed? It is a half step forward, two steps back.

WTF?! Did I just spend all four years of college donating to and working on behalf of NOW and A Million For Roe just to see the personal choice of abortion watered down and pushed aside in pop culture as a throwaway joke, something obliquely referred to as "smshmortion" in Knocked Up? Abortion is not really presented as a viable alternative in any of the movies (running out of clinics in tears? Dragging your one-night stand to the gynecologist to get an ultrasound when you could have dragged him to Planned Parenthood, if you dragged him anywhere at all, which is highly unlikely?!). What the hell was I doing in college with all that political activism for choice, and what the heck was I doing in law school waiting for Gonzales v. Carhart with such trepidation and anxiety and then dismay if none of this really matters in public discourse. I mean, is this how choice and unplanned pregnancy is really discussed? Glibly? Romantically? Unrealistically? If I wasn't busy tearing my ovaries out with my bare hands, I'd be tearing out my hair.

I really do love all of the children in my family, and feel, justifiably, that I have helped raise at least seven out of the nine of them. I've helped teach them how to read (literally, every weekend in college and law school, I had a little day care school), their manners, had the sex/drugs/alcohol talk with the older ones, and am both loved and feared by them all as an almost-equal authority figure who is nevertheless a little more honest, open, and slightly cooler than their real parents. I'm not their friend, I'm not their parent, but I'm really there. I couldn't imagine losing any one of them, and wouldn't for the life of me wish that any of them didn't exist. But they're all a lot of work, and while they're wonderful and life-fulfilling, they are not magical happy makers. They really are a lot of work, and blah blah, it takes a village--but seriously, they are supported by a large extended family network of grandparents, aunts, uncles, live-in nannies, and part-time day care. It does take that much. Sometimes I wonder what happens in these movies, when the credits roll and the screen fades to black, what happens to these couples and single mothers, who by the grace of pre WGA-strike writers, manage to find love and happiness with the schlub who impregnated them, get a deus ex machina resolution to their unhappy marriage and financial woes, or otherwise manage to escape AFDC/TANF and a life of extreme hardship. Really, I wonder.

I am in for another day of small-child childcare and SAT advising tomorrow, and at some point am going to try to do work, maybe after all the kids leave after dinner. And the work, ironically, will be on family and medical leave law. I can't say I live my work, and so yeah, maybe I'm a hypocrite, or sounding too much like Linda Hirschmann (with whom I do not totally agree, even as I have some agreement) --after all, even as I argue for expanded leave requirements, I've confessed in the first paragraph that I'll probably work around the ungenerous leave requirements and within the traditional job requirements, because that's the only thing I can figure will work. I can't plan everything, of course. Something might happen to upset all of these best laid plans. Something probably will. And if it happened right now, I would make the choice for choice. I would probably grieve over this, but I would. And life would probably go on, but in a way that was more a continuation of my previous state than if I were to have the child. Because everything changes if you have the child before you are ready, and there are times you are more ready than others. I think that such a time would be with a co-equal, loving partner who mutually decided to have a family with me, and when we, or at least one of us, was in a position to support this family. Not everyone has the same definition for readiness, but the truth is it's better to be ready. Unexpected doesn't mean unexpectedly delightful. And the movies don't show you that. They show you happy, cleaned up babies who give nothing but strength and encouragement to their mothers, and no stress or worry. Everything works out for them.

So, hypocrite that I am, I'll probably try to work hard, get a job, put in the hours and wait until there's a "better time" (there is never the "perfect time" or even a "good time", but there are better times than others to get pregnant and raise a child) and get in a position to provide my child the conditions for a happy, healthy, loving, and financial secure home. And when I think I can do this, then have a baby. Hopefully within my child-bearing years. Now I sound about as unrealistic as those Yalies who want to be stay at home mothers. But at least I'm being practical in my idealism.

The most depressing thing about my work is realizing that for all my idealism and desire for change, the gender/family care/work/life problem is so deeply entrenched in our social psychology and organizational structures and laws that it's going to take wayyyyy more than changing the FMLA to affect any real change. I honestly feel like a dishonest academic sometimes, pretending that my work really matters.

But even more depressing is that for however little my work does to change the public discourse, pop culture is so much more powerful a force and IS the discourse, and that's the message being bandied about these days. Nothing's changed. Unwed white mothers are still the biggest problem plaguing our nation, but because abortion is not really a choice (in fact, it's a retrenched choice), babies are magic blessings that make life better and easier, and somehow things work out and the babies are easily provided for. Barring that, you can always fall in love and stay happy with the father and raise the baby together.

Now, who sounds more idealistic, unrealistic, and stupid: me, the over-planning, optimistically pragmatic and rational aspring academic and future "I want it all" professional mother, or the movies?

I am so going to regret posting this, but it is really late at night, and the damage will be done by the time I wake up in the morning in California. But I'll eventually wake up. I'm at my parents' house, and the children will be here soon enough.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Augh!

I WILL blog my polemic against pregnancy soon, but not before screaming in protest against The Creepy Slumlord. Apparently, someone tried to break into our house, because my roommate's key no longer really fits in the lock. Someone jammed something else in the lock trying to force the door yesterday. And the landlord, who is conveniently away, is not returning the phone calls to fix this. I'll give him maybe a day or two on this, but this is no joking matter.

I am moving out by the end of May. If possible to break the lease before then and move out earlier, I may just do that.

Any property law professors know if this kind of stuff breaches the implied warranty of habitability or any other covenants than run with the land, blah blah?

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hmmm.

I have a draft post of a tirade against the "unexpected(ly delightful) pregancy"/ "delivery = deliverance" movies called "The (Fallow) State of My Ovaries", but am not going to post it until I determine that it is not too intemperate, indelicate and impolitic to do so.

Anyway, do think I should, you hot-headed, crass, and politically incorrect and much beloved readers?

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Dissertation Goals for the New Year

1. Refining my research question. It is still uncertain that I really have one.

2. Figuring out what "this is a case of". That is, coming up with a "theory."

3. Figuring out how it is that I have a mixed-method survey + interview research design and surveys without really knowing whether I have the preceding two taken cared of.

4. Coming up with testable hypotheses, even if this is a "theory generating" project.

5. Not losing sight of the normative, "legal" question, the motivation for the entire project on organizational compliance with the FMLA and how it should be amended. That is, the forest for the trees.

6. Finishing my literature review. Ughhh.....

7. Coming up with a sampling frame of organizations to survey based on a nifty database I found at the Liberal College Business School Library.

8. Getting IRB approval for the study. Ughhhhhhh.......

9. Doing my pilot study by May 2008.

10. Starting the field work by June 2008.

Bonus 11. Stop avoiding my advisor when I fall short of these goals. Ughhhhhhhhhhh..........

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My Rules for My 50 Book Challenge

Because my blog is law and letters, I think I am going to expand the rules to permit non-fiction works, so long as I don't use them for my dissertation. The idea of the challenge is to make me read more than I already do (which is not an insignificant amount, just unambitious), and document it so as to keep me accountable. And share the wealth with you all.

Because I don't have/watch TV, don't have Netflix and only rent/see maybe 1-2 movies a month, I don't have that as competition for my attention. No, it's the hours I waste surfing the internet mindlessly, and so I will have to put in a cut-off time each night to get in some extra-curricular reading. Anything not FMLA or org theory related is extra-curricular, and I should probably try to expand my store of knowledge, which is turning from dilettantish fox to boring hedgehog.

Also, re-reading books is something that should be encouraged, as experiencing a book at a different age teaches you something. And my memory is so crappy it's like a first read anyway. So in addition to the stack of contemporary and classic fiction I've acquired from Liberal Collge City's used bookstores, I am going to permit myself a wider array of things to count towards my 50 Books to Read On Top of the Never-Ending Stack You're Already Reading For School/Work.

So, new rules for me:

1. Re-reads permissible only if the work hasn't been read for over ten years. Heck, this means I can read Moby Dick again, because I'm not sure I remember all that much or got all that much when I read it at age 12. Being a precocious reader has its drawbacks. I should also probably re-read Madame Bovary and Ana Karenina, which I read at age 11. I mean, like I really got all that adultery and sex stuff at that age. I remember having to look up a few words when reading the introduction to Madame Bovary about Flaubert's sexual awakening and going "whoa! why would people want to do that?"

2. Non-fiction works are permissible if they are non-dissertation related, which gets separate review posts anyway (precises of the day posts). This means I get to review Brian Tamanaha's On the Rule of Law and Law As A Means To An End, and Eric Muller's American Inquisition. And these books will surely be of interest to you law folk, or those of you interested in politics and dismayed by the current state of the law.

3. New fiction genres are strongly encouraged. Bring on the science fiction and fantasy! Break down the walls of English major elitism!

4. Comic books count, and yes I call them "graphic novels." I'm sorry, Paul Gowder.

5. Works of poetry count, so long as I read the entire collection.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays

Whatever holiday you're celebrating, or none at all, have a happy day.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

More Randomness

Paul's Post of Randomness is inspiring, but in a bad way, because my randomness is always trite. More random thoughts collected over the last few days:

1. I love children, especially my nine nephews and nieces, but being a Glorified Unpaid Nanny to more than four children at once is enough to make me want to rip my ovaries out with my bare hands and toss them over each shoulder into a gorge. It's not that they're terrors, it's just that it's very tiring. I forgot how very tiring five to six children can be when two are still in diapers. I imagine I'll forget again in time for the next visit.

2. Alvin and the Chipmunks is possibly the worst idea for a live-action remake of a mediocre-at-best anthropomorphic '80s cartoon. Then again, I escaped those two Garfield movies. Damn, Jason Lee. I used to think you were cute and funny. But things like this, unattributable to the writer's strike, make me despair for "family friendly" films. It also makes me really worry about Gen X'er nostalgia for the '80s that they then transmit to their offspring in the form of cinematic reinterpretation. Grosse Pointe Blank? Awesome. Freaky talking CGI animals with irritating voices that make me want to pierce my eardrums with ballpoint pens? Not awesome.

3. Reading crappily written stuff like this that does nothing more than highlight the extreme selfishness and utter lack of self-awareness of the irredeemable, solipsistic author (who writes memoirs!) makes me homicidal. I mean, not since reading the first two pages of Prozac Nation or A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (I think I only got past the picture of the stapler) have I felt like stabbing a knife into a book (or in this case, the LED screen of my laptop, though that's inadvisable), hoping that by stabbing the pages I would kill the soul and thus life of the author behind the words. And then I read comments like these, which express more cogently and a little less violently what is wrong with such crap published under the rubric of "Modern Day Tales in Oprah-esque Public Admissions Lacking in Remorse or Actual Self-Awareness But From Which We May All Learn Something, Maybe", and think that maybe if we were left to extra-legal alternatives, public stoning and mob justice could make a real comeback.

4. Re-watching movies on cable like The Big Lebowski can make one powerfully miss a person, knowing at which points the laughter would chime in. It is fortunate that High Fidelity is not on.

5. The only thing worse than working throughout a break is helping your 16 year old nephew prepare for the SAT at the same time. While I write and edit, I will be proctoring 4 hour exams and drilling vocab. He thinks this sucks for him? At least this is his first time through this. No 27 year old should have to re-live the SAT's.

6. I have the reverse problem of the Princess and The Pea: my un-dainty back and apparently tough, wizened flesh cannot really tell the difference between my crappy Sultan Fangebo foam mattress, upon which I sleep in my I Am Totally A Graduate Student Apartment, a Sealy Posturpedic bed, or a $3,000 Tempurpedic bed. I'm currently sleeping on the Sealy Posturepedic in my childhood bedroom, and I sleep just the same as I do on the crappy Ikea bed. And the Tempurpedic bed is too mushy for me, though my siblings swear by it. This makes me wonder whether I can really distinguish between 300 and 600 count sheets; 65 v. 70% cacao, cabernet v. cabernet sauvignon, and other pretentions I've gained since going to law school and becoming a yuppie Ivory Tower intellectual. Then again, we just went to IHOP yesterday. They help keep me real. That explains it.

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Weird Numbers on LA cars: a Plea for Wisdom.

A few years ago, there was a plague of bumper stickers and the like containing references to a number and something about memory. (I thought it was in Los Angeles, but it may have been New Orleans, Virginia?) I puzzled about it for months and months. I think -- I only dimly recall -- that it turned out to be a memorial to some dead high-school football hero, to which I was completely oblivious not only because I haven't spent a serious amount of time in this city since 1997, but also because football falls somewhere only slightly above The New Yorker and recreational dentistry in my list of preferred worldly delights, necessities for self-fulfillment.

But now I see a new Los Angeles automotive numeric phenomenon. In the rear windows of cars, there are numbers on small square pieces of paper or cardboard, white text on a red background with another white border. Mostly, I see the number 12, but today I saw an 11. And it is mystifying me.

Did another football player pass Beyond, tragically, no doubt, driving his 64 Mustang off a cliff, his blonde girlfriend in his arms, and just before learning of his full football scholarship to Texas Tech? (My next major post will be in[ ]substantial part about snobbery, I possibly-dishonestly-promise.)

Or? Or?

-- are they parking permits, perhaps?

-- countdowns of the number of days of Christmas?

-- a very sophisticated space alien clock?

-- coded messages from spies?

-- something that someone saw Paris Hilton or one of those horrid nightclub people wearing or displaying in some fashion, something said someone immediately aped, as it went viral?*

-- a reference to the twelve apostles (Were there twelve? I don't actually know -- I was raised a good atheist boy. Perhaps there were eleven?), handed out by some fundamentalist church so its members could identify one another when the End Time (or the fundie Revolution) comes?

-- defiant insistence from the masses that math really has a rigorous foundation ("synthetic a priori, bitch!"**) despite Godel's incompleteness theorems, Russell's paradox, etc., etc. etc.?

-- mobile movie reviews, that change to follow the hottest new movie and subliminally aggregate the cultural zeitgeist? ("It looks like everyone gives Sweeny Todd a twelve! It must be good!") Or worse, ratings of the cars, assigned by unemployed book reviewers*** gone mad and after some fool sold them slimjims?

-- a demand from the geeks of the world that we start counting in base twelve (and the double-rebels who think it ought to be base eleven)?

-- a simple conspiracy against me, designed to slowly drive me mad with confusion?

Your speculations, or an actual answer, in the comments. I must know what these bizarre things are supposed to signify.


-----
* Incidentally, I'm horrified to learn that my hair has become fashionable. I was in a club on Sunset last Tuesday -- for good reason! The band claimed Sun Ra among its influences! -- and many of the horrible skinny rich hipster boys in intentionally bedraggled clothes had their hair deliberately done to look like mine naturally becomes after some months of malign neglect. I'm considering going shaven.

** Ok, I only threw in that one (which makes little-to-no sense) in order that I could link to the following two wonderful youtube videos: Nietzsche on Kant. Kant on Nietzsche.

*** See,**** e.g. the "Intellectual Situation" piece in the current issue of n+1, on book reviewers and their economic collapse. I don't care whether Belle thinks n+1 is pretentious or not, I love it and it is wonderful. Although I do not love its parties. More on this in a subsequent post, perhaps.

**** I don't remember whether the comma is supposed to be italicized or not.***** See, that is why I wasn't on Law Review.

*****[^******]The Bluebook actually has a rule on this! Cf.,;:,... e.g.,:' generally''()&, id, : Why You Shouldn't Go To Law School. (More on that later too, of course, always.)*******

****** Oh God, I've turned into David Foster Wallace! Someonesaveme. Save. Me.

******* A recent dialogue between myself and L., a 1L at a very good law school:

L.: i'm so totally done with first semester! gowder, why didnt you warn me that this was going to be an intellectually unfulfilling experience?

P.: I'm pretty sure I did, mon ami. There is still hope. The arms of grad school are always open... and you can come back to Stanford, and we can paint the whole frickin' universe red, gold, and green. Ja rastafari. (Sorry, just came from all-night party, collapsing to sleep, not coherent or sane. One love.)

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

No Really, It's 70 Degrees Fahrenheit

I'm home visiting my parents, in Orange County, where the women carry designer handbags; the men have too much gel in their hair; everyone eats at The Cheesecake Factory, Chilli's and TGI Friday's; and the children are all above average.

Posting has been sporadic due to travel yesterday and being immediately attacked and attached to by children. It is amazing how fast the hours pass just feeding, bathing, reading to, and playing with children. Somehow the day has passed and I am getting the children ready to go to another nephew's birthday.

Something interesting to come soon. In the interim, check out my Food Blog.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

...And the Kitchen Sink

I am beginning to think that my landlord is a slumlord*, despite the fact that our house is charming and in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Liberal College City. Like, we moved here to be safer and happier, and for the most part we are. Except that my neighbor's car was broken into, as was The Dude's, and our door handle has been jiggled at night. Fortunately we deadbolt as soon as we enter the house. Dude, apparently it is not enough that the nearby park is overrun with children rather than heroin needles, which was the state of the park near my old house. Apparently, at night, those little kids turn into delinquent Chucky dolls or something.

Anyway, onto today's questions:

How do you fix a loose pipe without a wrench?

You don't. Or rather, you can't.

How many grad students does it take to fix a leaky faucet?

I wouldn't know, because I've never fixed one.

Is this the beginning of one of those jokes in which the guy eventually ends up in the bar and the last line is "the aristocrats!" ?

No.

So there I was, cleaning my house and crying to country music, courtesy of an awesome mix by TC, happily wiping my eyes on my shoulder because my hands were encased in opera length pleated polka dot rubber gloves, when I went to get the Pine Sol and buckets under the sink. Which, to my surprise, was full of water. The U-bend popped off in my hands when I was seeing if it was loose. The entire pipe is loose, and the only thing solid is the drain pipe. I am not good at plumbing and construction like my Not The Model Minority contractor brother, but even I know this isn't good and can't be fixed by tightening it with my weak thin hands.

I called the landlord. I suspect he will respond in 2-3 days. And until then, the bucket remains under the sink, and the sink will be turned off. My very environmentally conscious roomate will be washing dishes in our tiny bathroom sink (in case you suggest paper plates), and I will be fortunately flying home where the water pressure is always the same, the water is always hot, and the sink is not drippy.



*I should also mention our mold problem in the cracks in our camp-sized shower stall, and the fact that he still enters without notice (or "email notice", before we have a chance to reply and go home to be present) to fix things. This almost makes us not want to call him to fix things, although that is not really an option when you have a broken sink and a yucky shower that you are pouring bleach into. But believe it or not, things are better than they used to be. The first time he entered our house without notice, my roommate at first thought someone broke into our house, until she noticed the repairs, but then freaked out again when she realized he messed up something in her bedroom. Her bedroom. That's when I bought the SpyFinder hidden camera detector. So far, we're not on any Girls Gone Wild videos that I can tell.

Why do we still live here? We love this house: its location, its size, the price. We also hate moving, which is a bitch. We're lazy girls.

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A Post To Herald The Mighty Jeremy Freese, Who On This 20th of December In The Year 2007, Visited This Blog


Why the heraldry?


Because he is Mighty. I posted on how mighty he is months ago.

Because he doesn't procrastinate, making him a better man than any of us.


Because ever since I started my dissertation work on organizational responses to family and medical leave, I have been reading all things sociology, including his very interesting work on social attitudes and causality.


And he says it's cool to bring donuts to your dissertation defense. Righteous.

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Because It's Raining Right Now




I love me Creedence Clearwater Revival.

And I love Freedom Rock.

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Things That Make You Say "Hmmm"

(Updated to include more Hmmm-worthy posts)

Marie Reilly explains the relevance of all the banking law and history surrounding the Bailey Savings and Loan in It's a Wonderful Life. Like, what was the big threat from Mr. Potter's bank to the welfare and happiness of the town's citizens, and why did Uncle Billy have to deposit the money that he misplaced in the first place? This is very interesting!


Colonel Density at Scatterplot admonishes (grad) students not to give gifts to faculty for things that are a part of the job as an academic, and a 41 comment thread tells them not to bring food to dissertation defenses either. Hmm. Maybe I should take back those "thank you" Levenger note jotter things for all those letters of recommendation that got me into Liberal College Law.


Jeff Lipshaw, professor of contract law at Suffolk University School of Law, cannot find contract law remedies for his bad but expensive Ecco shoes. Apparently, shoes whose soles wear within 6 weeks do not violate the implied warrant of merchantiblity because there is a warranty disclaimer on Ecco's website. The Internets disintermediate legal remedies! Foiled again! By the way, I love that the former VP and general counsel of a Fortune 500 company cannot conceive of paying $200 for a pair of shoes. I love how he keeps it real. My suggestion: buy shoes from Nordstrom, which has an excellent return policy for pricey shoes. Not that I buy those.


Mike Dorf at Dorf on Law points out inconsistent reporting by two issues of The New Yorker, telling us that people are getting smarter at the same time they are getting dumber. And yet, I do still love The New Yorker, despite the fact that both Paul Gowder and Ben Wolfson think of it as "middlebrow." Of course, their brows are so high and burnished that they reflect light well into space. Talking to either of them (or heaven help you, both of them at once) raises your IQ and yet makes it feel diminished by comparison. And only philosophy graduate students and child prodigies who read pretentious magazines like n+1 would consider the bedside reading of millions of academics and professionals "middlebrow," anyway. In case this is not coming across, I love you, Paul Gowder and Ben Wolfson. So very much.


Speaking of my smart friend Ben Wolfson, he has a very clever villanelle about "liberals are fascists" Jonah Goldberg, and you should read it.


Some people's one-paragraph summaries of entire relationships make me feel like I haven't been living enough.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

May I Remind You of the L&L Comment Policy

Trolls are NOT welcome. Any remarks that contain profane insults, particularly ones that suggest that I get into certain positions and use certain orifices to do certain acts, will be promptly deleted.

And I will ban your individual IP address, and your range of IP addresses. If this becomes a persistent problem, I will re-enable comment moderation.

If you have a disagreement with me, word it in a polite manner and I will respond and engage you on this issue. If you simply do not like me, stop reading me. If you take issue with my friends and those I support, take it up with them, or better yet, get a life. Those who make it their life's work to constantly harass their enemies and seek new enemies by pursuing the friends of their enemies have their work cut out for them. No rest for the pathetic.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Applying To Graduate School? Read This.

Thanks to everyone for their words of support and encouragement!

It seems like every grad student is competing against each other for "Worst Grad Student Ever": what with our crappy term papers, which occasionally arrive late; our slow middling process to preparing for qualifying exams and designing our research question and developing our theories; how we teach to fund our education but teaching takes time away from all of the above and yet we do it because we need the funding and like the positive reinforcement that comes with teaching (students like us! we are acting like the professors we want to be! we are not writing crappy papers, preparing for quals/comps, or doing fieldwork!); how we drag our feet with field work; how we barely move nanometers with our dissertation writing: grad students often get "stuck."

And yet somehow, we got into grad school in the first place, by not being those things. Dean and Professor Theda Skocpol has great ideas for reforming graduate education to get students out in under 8 years. I have a few ideas to offer you (despite being myself sometimes the worst grad student ever) for hitting the ground running:

1. Apply to the right schools in your program. Do some research and figure out which departments offer the best faculty resources and institutional resources for your particular area of interest. Do not go to a quantitative-dominant political science department if you want to do political theory, for example.

2. Figure out which faculty you want to work with and read their work. This means identifying faculty you want to work with, and go beyond reading the faculty profile page. Look up their articles on JSTOR, HeinOnline, or SSRN. See if they would have a good "fit" with what you want to do. Not sure what you want to do? Reading their work will give you some ideas.

3. Contact the faculty you want to work with. It helps to have faculty support and an "in," and often times the applications ask you who they should contact about your application. It's easy to get rejected from schools you'd be well qualified for on the numbers scale, simply because there's no one there to work with you. Thus, don't let your name be a "who did you say?" to your list of faculty on your application. Also, expressing interest in someone's work is always a good idea, and they might be inclined to work with you, or they may admit that they're on their way out on sabbatical or to another school and can't work with you. That would suck if you listed someone who could not be there to be your advisor.

4. Try to get alternate funding. It sucks to be a slave to the university and dependent on TAships and RAships. This may be my unfortunate fate, as I won't be a first year student eligible for long-term fellowship, but I'll be scrambling for departmental fellowships and the like if I get into my program.

5. Try to figure out what you want to do as early as you can. This sounds like a no-brainer, but most grad students start without an idea of what they will write for their master's thesis or eventual monograph. I actually have a dissertation topic, research question and design, but only because my advisor basically threw one at me, and there was no time to "explore" in my current S.J.D. program. The short life of the S.J.D. was conducive to developing a topic quickly, actually, so if I get into the Ph.D program, I have one ready to go. Most students just start grad school and get acclimated with coursework and methodology before they get around to figuring a topic. There's nothing wrong with this, but there's also nothing wrong with doing your methods and coursework with an eye to developing a workable thesis. See if you can start your program with a paper idea.


This advice, of course, is inapplicable to law school aspirants, whom I would advise (other than "Think hard. Are you sure you want to go to law school?") to just rock the LSATs and get a score above the 97th percentile, get above a 3.7 GPA, get some honors and awards, do a lot of community service, and do a grammar check on your admissions essays. I know this is cynical, but I have a strong suspicion that law school admissions are much more numbers driven and not as holistic in their review as they purport to be. At least you don't have to worry about advisor match-up though. Or funding, because there isn't really much for professional students.

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Yet Another Post from the L&L Outbox

You know how some bloggers post weird/stupid emails they get and call it "From the ___ Inbox"? Well, I don't need to do that. My outbox has plenty.

I really should think twice before hitting "send," particularly when I'm sleepy, slightly under the weather, and avoiding work by using the least number of brain cells possible.

Anyway, I actually wrote this to someone of superior intelligence, someone I will call Tax Prof Dude:

I think I will call the mix CD "I Want To Be Your Yoko Ono" even though that's entirely too derivative of that Barenaked Ladies song "Be My Yoko Ono." Ugh, BNL. Man, why did my teenage years have to be during the '90s in the United States? I should have been a teenager in the UK/US (dual citizenship, say) in like the late 60's-70's, man. After the boy-bandy era for the Beatles, when folk rock was awesome, Elvis Costello and the Attractions were doing their best work, and when things were good but before disco. Or otherwise, I wouldn't mind being a teenager during the '80s. My buddy Hipster Law Prof was born in 1971 and seems to be better for it, although it interests me that he finds a lot of 80s songs "emotionally resonant" because it was the soundtrack of his youth. I can't say that I think of '90s music as particularly emotionally resonant, so I feel like I got the short end of the stick. Like, who listens to Gin Blossoms or Toad the Wet Sprocket and thinks "Awwww, yeah! Summer of '96, f'ing A!"


Always think twice before you hit "send," particularly if you're going to be meeting up with a professor person blog reader for the first time.

Ah, well. If they read this blog they should know what to expect.

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If You Want To Ship Internationally and Don't Have a Car

My pick is UPS.

I have to ship two 20 lb. boxes measuring 16"x12"x9" to Moscow, Russia, and I don't have a car. So I want to schedule a pickup with a carrier service.

The USPS doesn't let you schedule pickups for international post for so much weight, and so they tell me to go to my nearest postal office, which is not that near when you are using a squeaky dolly cart to drag 40 lbs. Also, the nearest postal office doesn't let me ship more than 10 lbs, so I have to go to the main branch that is not as near. What's up with that?

FedEx's website is good for businesses with FedEx accounts or those with an excessive fondness for that weird movie, "Castaway." I have two graduate degrees and two bachelor's degrees, and could not figure out how to do a personal shipment to Russia, as the website kept saying I was in error for not specifying a company name for myself or my recipient. So after all these error messages and nothing getting processed, and not figuring out whether preparing a shipment was the same as scheduling a pickup, I bolted to UPS.

Which was remarkably easy to use. Where for $836.50, you can send two 20 lb. boxes of books to Russia in three business days, so that Favorite Russian Dude finally has his books that he's been storing at my house that he suddenly needed by the next month. It's a bit pricey, but I stayed within the allotted $1000 USD budget.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Think of This as a Mental Break


Substantive posting to resume soon, I promise. I'm recuperating and working.

But seriously, while you may not have thought going in that you needed to hear/see House of Pain's "Jump Around", don't you agree now that you did? Don't you feel happier for it?

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In Other Words, "What Do You Think?"

Overheard near the Faculty Club:

"Give me a brief summary of your thoughts on the current situation as it stands today."

Rule of Academia, #1: Never say in four words what you can say in sixteen. If you can't quadruple the number of words it takes to say something, you aren't a real academic.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

The Die Is Cast

We interrupt this blog and presumed weekend-away to inform you that as of today, Belle Lettre has submitted an application for admission to an unidentified Ph.D program at Liberal College.

Our far flung correspondent informs us that she is not entirely sure this program is right for her, or simply less bad than her much hated program. Apparently, factors for consideration are: coursework requirements, qualifying exams, a doubled-length dissertation, and how many more years this adds to her academic plans. In the face of such unknowns, the far flung correspondent admires the steely-eyed temerity with which Ms. Lettre has tossed her application to the wind, or at least on the desk of the Ph.D program manager. That look of devil-may-care is indeed fetching, not in the least because Ms. Lettre probably really does care, as being rejected would really suck considering her advisor is cross-affiliated with this department.

We now return you to your normal blog. Further announcements will be made as (good) news warrants and discussion may then ensue at that point; until then, good night and good luck.


And with that, I'm packing my bags and hitting the road in a couple of hours. See you on Sunday. This time, I'm really leaving.

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Cold Weather Prose



From Ethan Frome:


The last stretch had been the hardest part of the way. The bitter cold and the heavy going had nearly knocked the wind out of me, and I could feel the horse's side ticking like a clock under my hand.

"Look here, Frome," I began, "there's no earthly use in your going farther--" but he interrupted me, "Nor you, neither. There's been about enough of this for anybody."

~ - ~ - ~ - ~ -

The fact that admiration for his learning mingled with Mattie's wonder at what he taught was not the least part of his pleasure. And there were other sensations, less definable bu more exquisite, which drew them together with a shock of silent joy: the cold red sunset behind winter hills, the flight of cloud-flocks over slopes of golden stubs, or the intensely blue shadows of hemlocks on the sunlit snow. When she said to him once: "It looks just as if it was painted!" it seemeto Ethan that the art of definition could go no farther,a nd that words had at last been found to utter his secret soul....


From Doctor Zhivago:


It was bitter cold. The streets were covered with a thick, black, glassy layer of ice, like the bottom of beer bottles. It hurt her to breathe. The air was dense with gray sleet and it tickled and pricked her face like the gray frozen bristles of her fur cape. Her heart thumping, she walked through the deserted streets past the steaming doors of cheap teashops and restaurants.

~ - ~ - ~ - ~ -


That day the hard frost had broken. It was a still, heavy day; the cold had gone and the life had gone too--it was a day as though made for a funeral. The dirty snow looked as if it shone through crepe, and the firs behind the churchyard railings, wet and dark like tarnished silver, seemed to be in deep mourning.

And without further ado and absolutely no drama or exaggeration, I leave for a weekend in Cold Place In The Mountains (yes, I Capitalize Things Like A German). This will be a nice respite from work, and a much needed escape from the confines of the four white walls of my bedroom, which have begun to feel like a sanitarium. I am not entirely sure why I am leaving chilly weather for much colder weather, except that I have been told by someone I trust and whose company I generally enjoy that it will be fun. It is supposed to be very pretty. Something about the trees and the snow and the cabin or whatnot. It may bring to mind Little House in the Big Woods, or it may just make me want to plow a sled into a tree and pull an Ethan Frome. I am sure that's why he did it. It just got too cold for him and Mattie.

In any case, I am prepared with an inner fleece jacket, a waterproof insulated shell, sherpa-lined waterproof shoes (all purchased within the last two weeks, conveniently), borrowed ski gloves, and a wool hat and scarf. And since that is as prepared as a Southern Californian transplant can be, wool-cotton tights worn under jeans and ski-ish pants will have to do. I do not even know where one buys "long johns," or why they are still called such a name. Come now, you cannot even say it out loud in polite conversation.

While I am freezing and contemplating the cold and how it is the cessation of life and the will to live itself, I leave you in the capable hands of my good friend Paul Gowder, whom I am certain will try to depress you and convince you further not to go to law school or be a lawyer or do anything he has ever done in his still-young life.

See you on Sunday, unless I freeze to death or plow my sled into a tree.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Law and Letters Empire

You might notice a new author under the main banner just above this post. This is slightly premature, because as a 1L, 1L+ is not currently able to blog, because he is enduring the hell of finals (see below for exam taking tips).

But when he emerges papillonaceous from his cocoon of a cubicle, having bested Civil Procedure, Contracts, and Property, he will blog like no one has blogged before. 1L+, a J.D./Ph.D student at a Top Ten law school, will blog on all manner of things: the weirdness of being a 1L and a Ph.D. student; the relative merits of a J.D. program vs. a Ph.D program; being a legal academia aspirant; medical malpractice, tort reform, and juvenile justice. No really, it is Law and Letters that blogs on "law, the universe, and everything."

I'll still be your main source of esoterica and silliness; Paul Gowder will still be continuing on for the foreseeable future, and in the coming months I also hope to host Daniel Goldberg of MedHumanties Blog (I predict rich discussions between Daniel and 1L+) and Law and Everything Dude. They will be very cool additions to the team. Between my dabblings in employment discrimination law and organizational studies; Paul Gowder's deep knowledge of philosophy and political science; 1L+'s varied interests in medical malpractice, juvenile justice and tort reform; Daniel Goldberg's expertise in IRB and medical humanities; and Law and Everything Dude's interests in middle east law, communications law, military law and international and comparative law, well, we got a lot of bases covered.

This will take us well into Spring and Summer, and by then, my empire will spread like the sun over a field of flowers.

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Status Update

The flood of blogging means that I have not left the computer for days; have not seen anyone other than my roomate, and only because I have to use the bathroom or kitchen on occasion; and my only contact to the real world is virtual. I have eaten a lot of pasta and pizza and pudding cups. I am kind of sick of things that start with "P." I blog a lot, because I feel like someone should read my writing, since it's all so crappy it never sees the light of day.

I email a lot too, because it doesn't require real-time presence like the phone or Gmail Chat, which I basically disable during writing hell. I email all sorts of stupid status updates, like the non-deep thought referenced below in "That and It" to those who may be concerned. And I broke down today, unable to take more abuse to my corneas, and called someone to talk to a real human voice that was pleasant to hear, and went for a walk. It is possible that I lost weight just because my muscles atrophied over the last couple of weeks, and that my voice has grown faint from disuse. Just kidding. I mean, it is possible that I'm less fit than I was a few weeks ago, but I am so loquacious and unable to modulate the volume of my voice when excited that I never have to worry about growing mute; if anything people have to remind me that I'm shouting on accident.

Yes, I am writing and almost finishing my crappy papers with very bad non-testable hypotheses. Bless you, APA, for creating a citation system that is so much easier to do than the Bluebook.

I'll be in the zone for 48 more hours and then out of town this weekend, starting on Friday afternoon (road trip!). Just FYI, in case the flood of blogging suddenly abates, and you wonder if I have abandoned my blog to Byron and Simpson.

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Exam Tips for Law Students

Matt Bodie is not only a nice, funny and clever guy who very quickly guessed who I really am, he is also very helpful to you law student folk. Two years ago, he had an open thread inviting law students to ask for exam taking tips. Because you are all so smart and sophisticated.

But you don't stay that way. Dan Markel re-opened the thread, and you can ask more questions here.

But first check out the thread from two years ago. Some students get terrible advice from their TAs. Also, check out the most awesome post ever on exam taking tips by Dan Solove.

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That and It

I am trying to come up with testable hypotheses on the risk-taking behavior and power dynamics of sexual harassers in the workplace. This is not going well. I have nothing intelligent to say. So I am not going to say anything intelligent.

Instead, I will offer a personal blog post typical of a navel-gazing pseudo-intellectual, only I don't have a cat. But typical of all solo bloggers, I will endeavor to elevate narcisism to something along the lines of a Handy-esque "deep thought," like "You know when That happens? Yeah. Isn't That strange? I never thought of That that way. Wouldn't it be funny if That were always the case? Why don't we think more critically about That? Why hasn't anyone ever come up with a unified theory of That? Yeah. What's up with That?"

And that, my friends, it the typical structure of a space-filler post by a navel-gazing hipster pseudo-intellectual. I mean, substitute anything for "That"--an independent German cinema festival; when the sophomore album is actually better than the debut, defying all expectations; when you stand in line and realize you stood at the wrong end so that actually you are not in line at all but just standing there, and perhaps that is very much like all of life--give any mundane, stupid, boring, non-interesting topic to a pseudo-intellectual blogger, and s/he will try to make it sound like it would be original and interesting to talk about it using big words and metaphors.

Anyway, this is not That kind of post. It is even more stupid than That. It goes along the lines of the other not-cat-blogging post, the Stupid Obvious Observation. Basically, the structure of that is "It. Yes, It. It can be funny, can't It? Isn't It interesting?" The answer to this is "No." Nothing this mundane and obvious can be made interesting. It is like your cat or baby: it may be interesting to you, but not enough to say out loud or share with the world. In such cases, you should keep the thought to yourself.

So without further to do, the Obvious It of the Day:

Hair is Porous and Absorbs Odor

(Below, actual text of a procrastinating email that has been already sent, to my deep chagrin. In my defense I wrote more interesting emails full of interesting, insightful observations of That today, but they are not-bloggable):

"Sometimes I wish I remembered more from science classes: I forget how porous hair follicles are. Tonight, after I made myself yet another plate of pasta (it is always either pasta with pesto or spinach penne with ricotta) while reading an article, I couldn't take it anymore and went for a walk. And now my long, lovely, shiny black hair smells like cigarettes and chimney smoke, from the pack of guys smoking on the corner of ____ and ____ and a good number of houses that must be warmer than mine. Ewww. It's like how whenever I go to The Coffee Shop, I emerge smelling like Sumatra beans. I like the smell of coffee though, so I think that I smell delicious after I go to coffee shops. Like, I want to sniff myself after going to the shop, and feel like a very sophisticated scratch-and-sniff sticker. But right now I smell like a crotchety old man though. An old man named Ned."

Sometimes, I really wonder about myself. Half of what I write is interesting and I hope useful. Another 1/4 of what I write possibly funny and insightful. And then the remaining 1/4 is the above: pointless drivel and crap, and the people in my life are very indulgent and affectionate.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Worth Every Penny To Be Warm

Of course I am shopping for others. Fret not, loved ones. You will get stuff. Just not sure when. Because I am not wedded to 12/25, I think January is a perfectly defensible time to get stuff, especially if I hand-make something, and the only time I have to do that is over winter break when there is nothing to do at my parent's house anyway.

But for certain people I do not see because they live too far away, or for the spoiled children, I shop online. And then I shop for myself. Why? My house is cold, and we have no heater, and the the windows are not yet weatherproofed because I am fighting with my landlord and busy with papers and going out of town this weekend to someplace even colder.

Witness, these awesomely warmifying things that you or your loved one might enjoy. I just got these for this sudden cold snap. My house is actually as cold as the outdoor temperature, and so I wear these all the time, because a jacket with a temperature rating of 15 F makes me 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature of my house. Imagine, some people are cold when their house is 60 F. Wusses.

If you are likewise struggling with freezing weather, try:

Down slipper boots! No, they are not teh sexy, but they are teh warm. I should have ordered two day shipping, but until then I can wear:

Waterproof, Sherpa-lined Suede Chukka Boots! Very cheap, too. Totally not teh sexy, and more like teh mukluk, but my toes are not frostbitten inside my own house. I got these for frolicking in the snow, and so far am frolicking on the cold kitchen tiles. Same diff. I wear a ton of outdoors stuff indoors, like:

Windproof Lightweight Fleece. This one I got a while ago at a sale, and it has changed my life. I wear this outdoors, and sometimes to bed, over a tshirt, under two down blankets. I imagine this will also be good for this weekend in winter's playground, especially under an:

Extreme Squall Jacket. I apparently got the last size small jacket on the online outlet for a scant $40, but let me tell you, it is worth the full price. It is good for snow, and good for crappily insulated houses.


Yes I wear a lot of clothing indoors, and yes, it is ridiculous.

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Help A Brother Fight The Man



Hey you Law Professors and Lawyers!!

You know you want distractions during this exam period, because you haven't even gotten the finals back from the records' office yet.

Help a brother out:

Remember my unfortunate friend, Scott Eric Kaufman? The guy who survived cancer only to get hit by a car, watch undergrads have sex in his office, be accused of defamation, defamed himself, and then expelled after UCI Cashier's Office misapplied his registration fees as a donation to the UCI library?

Seriously, what can he do here?

He's without status and health insurance, and soon the Federal government will come knocking asking for loan repayment. That would suck. What can he do?

Why are his commenters, in particular esteemed blogger and professor of history Timothy Burke, telling him to seek legal representation? Does he have a case? And if so, a case for what?

UCI's bureaucracy is inept, that we know:

1. They took SEK's money.

2. The Library thanked him for his $2,000 donation.

3. UCI expells SEK for non-payment of his registration fees and letting his graduate status lapse.

Obviously, he wants is reinstatement of his status and benefits. The mis-allocated money should be re-allocated properly so that he gets his health insurance and student status back. But does he need legal representation for this? It seems that his department is trying to get the bureaucracy to correct this situation. The correct people to do this are the Cashier's Office and the Office of the Registrar. If this was more than inadvertant, then the Ombudsman could get involved. But do the lawyers?

Thus, I am puzzled why some are telling him to sue UCI, because I dont' know what he would sue them for: misappropriation of funds? Is this what this is? If Scott is not currently an employee (not currently teaching, grading, otherwise doing work for remuneration) but "merely a student," can he sue for wrongful termination of benefits? Can an organization steal from a student? When does a bureaucratic error give rise to a cause of action under tort or contract law?

In absence of that, is there some kind of due process claim? Oh wait, there is no constitutional right to education (Kadrmas v. Dickinson Public Schools, 1988), but there is such a right in the state of California under the CA constitution. Not sure that this pertains to a right to higher education though, and in particular graduate education. It seems that there is no denial of benefits or status based on illegal factors of race, gender, religion, or national origin. That UCI seems to just hate SEK for no particular discriminatory reason other than "You are SEK, what else do we need" and think that he deserves misfortune appears to be perfectly legal, if arbitrary.

Of course, I am a terrible person to ask about this. My program hates me as much as I hate it, which is why I'm considering transferring. Liberal College Law's Advance Degree Program Office mislabeled my re-admit student status, failed to register me in time for me to not get hit with student loan repayment, and took away $9,000 of funding, and I couldn't argue reliance or estoppel because I didnt' deserve the money to begin with.

But if I can help a friend fight The Man, I will.

Thoughts?

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Of Course Stanley Fish Is Wrong

I hardly agree with anything he writes, and neither does JJ at Feminist Philosophers:

1. Stanley Fish is wrong about political correctness.

2. Stanley Fish is also wrong about the irrelevancy of moral character in politicians.

Between Fish's blog and the Modern Love and Life's Work columns (both in the Fashion & Styles section!), why do I still read the NY Times?!

Wait, maybe that's why I read The Washington Post now.

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Even I Have Occasional Libertarian Leanings

I vote for tax increases for educational spending and other public services; I consider myself an anti-fan of U.S. v. Lopez and U.S. v. Morrison, was pleased by Gonzales v. Raich; was all "hells yeah" when I read Cass Sunstein's The Second Bill of Rights; am pro-regulation w/r/t the environment, employment, and securities law; think anti-trust law is under enforced; think governmental oversight agencies should have more power to police and enforce the law; and am thus generally a Commie pinko by most libertarians' standards. And yet I love such people and they love me. Mainly because I don't talk about this much and don't really care what you do or think as long as you don't care what I do or think. Wait, did I just sound like a libertarian there?

I do have really strong individualist tendencies, which occasionally confront my social justice and welfare commitments. I mean, it would be better for my political beliefs if everyone thought and acted as I do, and I tend to vote for politicians who believe in the same things (sort of, I am a pragmatist and so vote for the politicians that serve my most important political imperatives, e.g. pro-choice, anti-war, anti-torture, etc.). But I don't really proselytize or expect that others agree with me. In this manner, I am the worst political citizen: my concerns are communal, but my method very singular. Perhaps I have too much compassion and respect for others' people differences--the true mark of a liberal! I've never done phone banking. I've never really campaigned for anyone. I've donated to campaigns, where I imagine the people in charge take my money to do what I don't do. I can't explain the schism between my politics and my passive form of political participation. It's wholly different from my academic work, in which I do actually try to convince people to believe in what I believe and do things different: recognize discrimination in the workplace! do something about it! reform that law!

But I can imagine management and economic justifications for implementing suggestions to reform organizations to be less discriminatory. Gary Becker, discrimination is not economically rational or efficient. I dont' trust people though, so I do tend to want the government to regulate the workplace to enforce rights and provide avenues for legal redress.

But, sometimes, the government in the workplace is not so great. Perhaps I still retain some of my Libertarian leanings from my Objectivist Society years (1994-1997).

Over at Feminist Law Profs, David S. Cohen reminds me of one such instance: The Brandeis Brief in Muller v. Oregon, an argument for bad paternalistic regulation:

I’m teaching Muller v. Oregon (1908) on Thursday. For those who don’t recall it, it’s the case during the Lochner era in which the Court upheld a maximum hour statute because the statute applied solely to women. The opinion has all sorts of paternalistic drivel and concludes as follows:

"The two sexes differ in structure of body, in the functions to be performed by each, in the amount of physical strength, in the capacity for long-continued labor, particularly when done standing, the influence of vigorous health upon the future wellbeing of the race, the self-reliance which enables one to assert full rights, and in the capacity to maintain the struggle for subsistence. This difference justifies a difference in legislation, and upholds that which is designed to compensate for some of the burdens which rest upon her."


What the case has become most famous for is the “Brandeis Brief,” the amicus brief filed by then-attorney Louis Brandeis. It gives the Court the fodder for its paternalism, with all sorts of “evidence” that women are weaker than men and need special protection. It’s a good jumping off point to talk about the way the Court treated women as well as the role of amicus briefs in constitutional litigation.


There is good regulation and bad regulation, and such archaic, gendered policies protecting "delicate" women from over-working themselves (not that I want anyone to overwork themselves; which is why I am pro-minimum wage law, mandated breaks, workplace safety regulations, OSHA enforcement) or fetal protection policies are terrible. While I do want the laws governing the workplace to be more accommodating of workers' rights to family and medical leave, particularly because of the disparate impact on women because of their socially reinforced primary caregiver roles, I don't want to go back to Muller v. Oregon or UAW v. Johnson Controls.

It'll be tough to articulate a balance between more stringent regulation of the workplace to enforce rights that would go to increasing equality and closing the gender wage gap in the workplace without going into the nether region of arguing for discrimination-justifying difference and excessive paternalism, but I hope it can be done. It has to be done.

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For You, It'll Only Be A Daily Dose of Absurdity

But for my friend and favorite blogger Scott Eric Kaufman, it has been three years of absurdity. Okay, in this instance I will permit the use of "Kafkaesque."

Seriously, not that I am a competitive type, but Scott always, always beats me in the drama olympics. And I thought my weird immigrant upbringing was enough! Alas, growing up poor under a strict Asian father (SAF, enough to get "ohhhhhhhhs" from most people) and in a dysfunctional family is not enough. Maybe if I had actually done the perilous boat crossing thing with my other siblings, I might have had an edge. Alas, I was born here, and there were no complications during my birth, and I was not a gimpy child. Thus, I have nothing on one of the chosen people. And in Scott's case, his "chosenness" is particular; but his god is not the god of his chosen brethren. No, his god is pretty messed up, and a pretty unloving, "I smite thee for kicks' kind of god.

Go to the link for the full autobiography (with links to the stories as they happened!), but to briefly re-cap:

1. SEK gets cancer.

--> SEK starts a blog, to vent anger at his already wrathful god. I did not say that Scott didn't ask for some of this.

2. SEK walks in on two students having sex in his office.

--> SEK blogs about this. Millions of people laugh, but disbelieve him. His god decides this is funny, this so-absurd-it-can't-be-true-thing.

3. SEK gets harassed by a Troll of Sorrow who threatens to kill Scott's wife, accusing Scott of defamation for calling him a Troll of Sorrow.

4. SEK gets hit by a car.

5. SEK gets plagued by a crank who emails his entire department at UCI saying that Scott is anti-Semitic for arguing for context in criticism. Note that Scott is Jewish, which makes this truly and delightfully absurd.

6. SEK tries to pay his registration fees to UCI, but somehow his check for fees and his check for library overdue fines get mixed up and so the library has blood money.

7. SEK is expelled from UCI for letting his registration lapse.

8. SEK is still alive and blogging. (this is the most absurd)


One time I did this whole list of absurd drama in my childhood and early adulthood, and really, it almost made me laugh. Almost!

For now, I concede that I have lost the drama olympics to SEK.

Scott, I bow to you. The better man has won.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

There's Something For Everyone

I myself prefer books I'd actually read, nice kitchenware, cool-but-useful technology, nice clothes, or pretty jewelry, but for the not-normal person in your life:

How to Find a Gift for a Self-Proclaimed Nerd or Geek.

And in case you were wondering:

How to tell the difference between a nerd and a geek

and

How to be the type of nerd that girls love.

Seriously, there's a wikihow for everything.

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The Privilege of Having Choice

Over at Scatterplot, Olderwoman has a followup to her post on Priorities. This really is only a taste:

Third, there really is choice how to balance work and home issues, and I think we need to value our own choices and be less resentful of others. As a personality, I am about as competitive as it is possible to be, and tend naturally to a negative outlook, so I understand such feelings very well. But, really, if someone is choosing to be a workaholic and gets more done, why shouldn’t s/headvance further in the field? Why should I be complaining about it? I have the benefit of a richer life built around relationships. Why should I expect to have all those relationships plus the rewards of workaholism? Plus, there are a lot of people who have been unhappy in relationships or who cannot have children who shift to work because of their losses in other areas. On the other end of the spectrum, stay-at-home mothers are making choices, too, to give up on their own ambitions or desires for fulfilling intellectual work. Why should I complain because their lives are less stressful? Especially when I know theyhave their own stresses. (This is the point BlueMonster also made.)

Please note that saying that we need to get a grip and remember our own priorities and values and blessings is different from questioning the structures that make these choices so hard. Professional occupations often have some variant of the “up or out” decision that makes the early career of academics so stressful. It seems worth trying to rework the “rules of the game” and the structure of early careers to create more paths to success. And we would all benefit from doing our part to shift the cultural ethos away from competition and materialism and toward a more humane set of social policies. But we cannot reasonably expect to work less and get the same rewards as the people who work more. And a brutal fact about any intellectual field is that jealousy is an occupational disease and some people get more acclaim than others for reasons that are only sometimes related to the quality of the work.

Let me also name the materialist component of choice. We have more choices if we are willing to spend below our means and save, and we have more choices if we maintain a standard of living that does not cost so much. The median family income in this country is about $45,000 a year, and a lot of people are raising families on less than $30,000 a year. It is quite possible to live and raise a family on much less money than academics or other professionals earn. Policies and work structures that make it more possible to lighten workloads in exchange for being paid less can create more choices for people in the high-paid professions. Of course, this does nothing to help the stresses on low income people, and we should not forget that.

Which takes us back to privilege. The lives of the affluent are built on the backs of the lower wage work of others. Wage structures have become more unequal, and a broad ethos of competitive individualism has dulled the sense of compassion and interconnection among different groups of people. When we privileged folks locate our own tensions and struggles in the broader context of human interconnection and struggle, it is a lot easier to get a sense of perspective about the choices we have to make, even the difficult ones. And easier to remember to support the political struggles of others.


My work on the FMLA tells me that "choice" is often illusory w/r/t female workers, as they are so often in the position of being a primary caregiver. It is as illusory as the "lack of interest" defense in EEOC v. Sears. And while the above argues that choices are real, they are made within constraints, and often the product of privilege. If you have choice, good for you. If you don't have much of it, welcome to the real world.

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Truths and Potential Truths

1. One is either micro or macro, and I must soon decide which one I am.

2. I might actually write something publishable this year.

3. It really is already time to start thinking about something to submit to the Law and Society Annual Meeting in July, 2008. Crap.

4. I should really get a new passport, because mine, dating from 1996, is expired. This way, if I have to go to Montreal in July, I can go. Likely as not, I won't be able to afford to go, though. Ah well, next LSA will be in Denver, CO in 2009. That's more affordable at any rate.

5. I am cold at thirty-odd Fahrenheit, and below 20 degree weather sounds even less appealing.

6. Finishing by Friday is going to be some feat.

7. Yet if it can be done, I get to revel in cold weather. Wait a minute.

8. Dan Kahneman is a genius, and really deserved that Nobel Prize. Kahneman and Tversky's work is really interesting and useful.

9. Christmas cards are nice.

10. Two down blankets renders one immobile and warm, guaranteeing 7 hours of uninterrupted, deep sleep.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Brief Thoughts on Organizational Studies and Sexual Harassment Law

This is background info from a presentation I gave on a paper I'm writing, the interesting, novel bits being micro-organizational perspectives for preventing/correcting sexual harassment in the workplace, and reforming compliance standards thusly.


Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson

•Court’s citation of EEOC Guidelines:
–If the employer has an expressed policy against sexual harassment and has implemented a procedure specifically designed to resolve sexual harassment claims, and if the victim does not take advantage of that procedure, the employer should be shielded from liability absent actual knowledge of the sexually hostile environment. …In all other cases, the employer will be liable if it has actual knowledge of the harassment or if, considering all the facts of the case, the victim in question had no reasonably available avenue for making his or her complaint known to appropriate management officials.

•No Automatic Liability for Employers:
–“[Employers are [not] always automatically liable for sexual harassment by their supervisors. For the same reason, absence of notice to an employer does not necessarily insulate that employer from liability.”

•Agency Issues:
–“[T]he mere existence of a grievance procedure and a policy against discrimination [does not] insulate the [employer] from liability. While those facts are plainly relevant…they are not necessarily dispositive.”

•Implications for Organizational response: general non-discrimination policies that do not address sexual harassment in particular do not alert employees to their employer’s interest in correcting that form of discrimination, nor do grievance procedures that require the employee to first complain to the alleged perpetrator, without alternate avenue of notification or redress. Thus, what type of structures and procedures do organizations implement to address sexual harassment that will 1) insulate from liability and 2) help the employee resolve the problem?


The Ellerth/Faragher Affirmative Defense

•In cases in which the harassed employee suffers no “adverse, tangible employment action” (TEA), can the employee recover against the employer , under the theory of vicarious liability, without showing the employer is negligent or otherwise at fault for the supervisor’s actions?

•Court: Title VII was “designed to encourage the creation of anti-harassment policies and effective grievance mechanisms,” to further the goals of deterring harassing conduct. In the absence of a tangible employment action, the employer may raise the Ellerth/Faragher affirmative defense that the employer 1) “exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior,” and 2) “that the plaintiff employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive corrective opportunities provided by the employer or to avoid harm otherwise.”

•Implications for Organizational response: the Court appears to encourage prophylactic, but possibly merely symbolic organizational practices on the part of employers to address the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace. When is the endogenous, preventative regulation within and among organizations sufficient to satisfy the exogenous legal standards created by the courts to redress harms already suffered?


The Endogeneity of Law: Symbol v. Substance

•Institutional analyses of organizations from the cultural/cognitive perspective has produced a great deal of literature on the diffusion of organizational structures, practices, and outputs.
•Most pertinent to our inquiry are those studies that examine the effects of the law—coercive isomorphism, exogenous regulation—on the diffusion of human-resources policies and practices in response to state requirements (Edelman, 1992; Dobbin, Sutton, Meyer and Scott, 1993, Kelly and Dobbin, 1998).

•Sociolegal New Institutionalists have shown that laws are only partial codes, and so actors inside and outside the organizations must socially construct the meaning of vague and uncertain legal mandates.

•Organizational interpretations of, responses to, and promulgations of legal rules create a feedback loop into the law—and this is where the law is endogenous: organizations alter their behaviors and structures to respond to the law’s vague mandates, and so the law is but a partial explanation for the diffusion of policies and practices. Organizations respond to exogenous rules, but also generate, endogenously, their own practices and norms that are then mimetically copied throughout the industry, producing norms as much as they replicate legal standards.

Symbolic, Prophylactic Organizational Responses

•Back to Ellerth/Faragher: Justice Kennedy noted that “Title VII is designed to encourage the creation of anti-harassment policies and effective grievance mechanisms”—the recursion in this statement is key—the central purpose of a law is to promote practices designed by professionals (often to prevent/serve as future defense against litigation) to conform to the law. That is, the law itself doesn’t mandate a discrimination-free working environment, only that there be structures to promote the reduction or redress of discrimination—whether or not these structures are effective.

•Symbolic practices (sensitivity training) and grievance procedures (formal changes to the organization’s structure and operations) do not guarantee substantive, effective remedies for sexual harassment. The Ellerth/Faragher affirmative defense was the Court’s attempt to clarify employer liability in the absence of a TEA—to avoid the extreme of imposing strict liability under principles of agency; but stopping short of permitting the employer to hide behind sham or merely ineffective anti-harassment policies and procedures

•Back to Organizational Studies: Studies by Edelman, Bisom-Rapp, et al. demonstrate that agencies and courts may view procedures themselves as evidence that discrimination was not present. Courts may be using employers’ symbolic responses as ready-made yardsticks for compliance. Again, the problem of recursion: the law is both exogenous and endogenous, and at once exerting coercive force on organizations while accepting the organizations’ definition of compliance.

The Problem With the Affirmative Defense: How Organizations Say “Yes, But No”

•My argument is a pretty basic one: the Ellerth/Faragher affirmative defense is ineffective at what it’s trying to do: namely, clarify when an employer is liable in absence of a TEA. What is “reasonable, preventive care”? When it is unreasonable for a harassed employee to fail to utilize these preventive/corrective opportunities? What about the liability of employers for the harassing conduct of their employees who are not aided by the agency relation?
•Organizational studies may help us determine what is “reasonable, preventive care,” as well as explain why employees fail to utilize formal grievance procedures, and why such procedures don’t work. Yet the Courts fail to examine efficacy—they ignore the results in the myopic focus on process.

•Sexual harassment law should be reformed in light of new findings in social science research about how best to address problems in the workplace. Moreover, social science studies assessing organizational practices do not take sufficiently into account the possibility that more robust legal standards may be more efficacious in reforming entrenched organizational structures, particularly in confluence with managerial accountability programs. The law is both exogenous in its effect and endogenous in its incorporation into business practices; a two-tiered approach to sexual harassment law is necessary to both prevent and correct sexual harassment in the workplace.

•The question remains how to make the laws more effective? Coercive isomorphism may be weak, as organizations adopt structures to give the appearance of legitimacy and compliance without substantive result—but if we redefined, with the help of the social science studies, what constitutes compliance, what is most effective at remedying harassment, and redrafted the legal standards to make them more robust—might then organizations adopt more effective grievance procedures?

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Reasons For Returns, #1: It Didn't Fit




It's funny how the guys' hair looks exactly like the girls' hair. I love the '80s!

So wait, George Michael was with the brunette last year, gave her the ugly pin (gentlemen: NO) and his heart, but the very next day she gave it away to The Other Guy In Wham! ? Or is the story that She gave her heart to George Michael and the very next day he gave it away to Generic '80s Blonde Chick? I am not entirely clear on this. I can't tell the reason for the frisson between the Brunette and George Michael: unrequited love on her part, or his?

Either way, this year, to save themselves from tears, they better give their hearts to someone special.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

"Derisively," I explained.

Since Belle has the poetry blogging well in hand, I think I'll treat (subject) you to some prose blogging. But can't we give prose some love too? For while prose can feature many of the same delightful lyric qualities that make for joy-giving poetry (see, for example, the end of Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello), it has some virtues especially suited to the narrative form. And Wodehouse was to those virtues what Socrates was to wisdom, yo. Thus, consider two excerpted selections from two of the Jeeves books. As follows:

1. Absurdism

'Jeeves' services will not be required,' I said. 'I can handle this business. The programme which I have laid out will be quite sufficient to take young Tuppy's mind off love-making. It is my intention to insert the Luminous Rabbit in his room at the first opportunity that presents itself. The Luminous Rabbit shines in the dark and jumps about, making odd, squeaking noises. It will sound to young Tuppy like the Voice of Conscience, and I anticipate that a single treatment will make him retire into a nursing-hope for a couple of weeks or so. At the end of which period he will have forgotten all about the bally girl.'


2. Sharp Banter

So you think I'm going to strew prizes at this bally Dotheboys Hall of yours?'
'I do.'
'And make a speech?'
'Exactly.'
I laughed derisively.
'For goodness' sake, don't start gargling now. This is serious.'
'I was laughing.'
'Oh were you? Well, I'm glad to see you taking it in this merry spirit.'
'Derisively,' I explained. 'I won't do it. That's final. I simply will not do it.'


After starting on this Wodehouse kick of mine, I've found myself thinking "faugh!" on a frightfully regular basis. But now I must learn how to pronounce it.

Wodehouse's more contemporary heir was Kyril Bonfiglioli. Sadly, he only got a few books out before he died, but he too had the virtues in spades:

3. Misanthropy:

"It all started -- or at any rate the narrative I have to offer started -- at Easter that year: that season when we remind each other of the judicial murder of a Jewish Revolutionary two thousand years ago by distributing chocolate eggs to the children of people we dislike."


It is odd how my favorite writers all have contemporary heirs who come close to, but don't quite reach, the greatness of the master. (The exception being Byron, who, of course, can be followed by none.) For Kafka, there is Coetzee. For Hunter S. Thompson, there is Cintra Wilson. And for Wodehouse, there is Bonfiglioli. But I am definitely hooked on the vicious insult and scathing wit school of writers now. I shall have to go back and re-read Twain, Mencken, and Wilde in addition to Wodehouse and Bonfiglioli, and perhaps acquire Blackadder DVDs.

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The Mouse and the Wolf and The New Year

Being a basically non-practicing Buddhist, which is a non-deist religion, this month is supposed to not have much meaning for me. I mean, if I wasn't a non-practicing non-deist Buddhist, I'd be an atheist.

Still, I like the seasonal music, movies lights, decorations, etc. I like to exchange presents. I like any excuse for presents. I am Fox News' nightmare: the person who says "happy holidays," and doesn't really care about the original reason for the season. There seem to be a lot of reasons for the season, at any rate. Happy Chanukah! Happy Eid-Al-Adha! Merry Christmas! Unfortunately, nothing for us Buddhists.

While I have a peculiar fondness for "Good King Wenceslas" and "Greensleeves" (it's my affection for medieval lit and music), here are two of my favorite songs, both written by Frank Loesser.

Baby It's Cold Outside was originally a duet performed by Loesser and his wife at dinner parties. That in itself is such a charming detail. The male's part is called "the wolf" and the female's part is called "the mouse."

This is more cute than creepy, maybe because Neptune's Daughter was made in 1949, when times were more innocent and wolves trying to entrap mice were honorable (cough). This features Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban (yes, he of Fantasy Island and The Wrath of Khan):




I love this song, and this movie is so lame it's cute. And the song is true: it's cold outside. Stay in. Have a cup of cocoa. Stay longer. For more convincing, here's the sexiest version of the song, by Ray Charles and Betty Carter. Dinah Shore and Ann Miller doubleteam Fred MacMurray and turn tables on the patriarchy here.

I predict that Ben Wolfson will make fun of me for highlighting this particular version of What Are You Doing New Year's Eve, but I like Diana Krall's smokey timbre (although I very much like this King Curtis sax version):




I actually always spend New Year's with my sister, since I'm always visiting my parents from Christmas till a few days after the New Year. It's our thing to have the least celebratory, mundane New Years' each year. We're not into big parties, attaching excessive cultural significance to a day that's just like any other day (I know it's the "new year," but years are for me academic), and feeling angsty about stupid things like what you should do and who you should be with at midnight. Forget "When Harry Met Sally." I'm not into Valentine's either. I'd rather some other random day to get chocolate and presents and flowers, a holiday that should occur more often than once a year. The only occasions I like to celebrate formally are birthdays and the winter holiday.

So anyway, in case you were asking, that's what I'm doing New Year's Eve. I'll be at my parent's house, surfing the internet, and watching some Christmas movie with my sister. That I can predict this with almost 100% accuracy is comforting, where once I considered it pathetic.

I suppose the real question is, what are you doing the next year? New Year's Eve is just a day, like any other day. The hopefulness of the song attaches to the days thereafter, that a fresh start may be made together, and while it may be premature to ask, here's the question anyway. That's what I like about it.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Winter Is Icummen In

Ezra Pound actually had a sense of humor:

Winter is icummen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm,
Raineth drop and staineth slop
And how the wind doth ramm!
Sing: Goddamm.
Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham.
Freezeth river, turneth liver
Damn you, sing: Goddamm.
Goddamm, Goddamm, tis why I am,
Goddamm.
So 'gainst the winter's balm
Sing Goddamm, damm, sing Goddamm
Sing Goddamm, sing Goddamm,
DAMM.

This is the Middle English poem on which the above hilarity is based. I admit, the humor is buried.


Although, personally, I love this bit from Canto LXXXI:

What thou lovest well remains,
the rest is dross
What thou lov'st well shall not be reft from thee
What thou lov'st well is thy true heritage
Whose world, or mine or theirs
or is it of none?
First came the seen, then thus the palpable
Elysium, though it were in the halls of hell,
What thou lovest well is thy true heritage
What thou lov'st well shall not be reft from thee


The rest is dross, indeed.

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Because You Love Giving Me Advice

I want to do a half-marathon in April 2008, and run as much of it as I can. This is very doable, even if I have never run more than 7 miles at a stretch. I know how to train for a marathon by adding distance incrementally, running up hills and recovering downhill to build up leg muscles, and being less concerned with speed than mileage. Go the distance. Eventually, if I can do a couple of half-marathons, I want to do a full marathon next Fall.

My question to you, readers, is how do I cross-train for this?

I have weak ankles, tore a ligament a year ago and it still occasionally gets stiff and aches, and I have steel pins attaching each big toe to my feet (arch correction surgeries, yes, medically necessary, I did not bind my feet you orientalists). So, it probably would help me to build up some strength so that all the pressure is not on my feet. I just don't know where/what to strengthen.

It's very easy to masquerade behind the appearance of slimness, when in fact you're hardly capable of arm wrestling a child. I hate the claustrophobic gym, but concede that I should go inside it next term to build up strength in other parts of my body.

So, what do I do? I have no upper body strength, abs of meal rather than steel, and so I suppose I should be doing other things. And maybe some leg exercises as well? What does one do in the gym? Do I just do machines or take a class? Which muscle groups does one work out? Which machines to use?

Suggestions are appreciated. I'm already doing light yoga-like stuff on the days I don't run, but not very seriously.

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