Friday, June 29, 2007

pseudo-intellectual musings

I'm reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, Team of Rivals, about Abraham Lincoln.  I'm about 200 pages into it and am finding it incredibly interesting.  Two things jump out at me that I can't stop thinking about.  First is how uncertain life was back then, and how much we take for granted our health (and the high quality health care we get) these days.  Women routinely died in childbirth, people died suddenly of fevers, cholera, tuberculosis, the flu, etc.  Of the four central characters in the book, every one lost at least one child and many lost parents and spouses at an early age.  By the time Salmon Chase was 44, he had buried three young wives and a daughter.  Chase had another daughter, and in a letter he wrote to her when she was 11, he chastised her for not making more of her time on earth and warned her that she might not live another 11 years.  Edward Bates and his wife had 17 children, only 8 of whom survived to adulthood.  Lincoln lost his mother at the age of 9 and a 3-year-old son to TB. 

The other thing that strikes me is how intellectual pursuits consumed the lives of Lincoln and his contemporaries, and how they viewed themselves as having a duty to matter in the world and in society.  They were utterly dedicated to the principles of democracy and self government that the American "experiment" embodied, and they spent much of their time discussing the issues of the day in broad, philosophical terms, writing speeches and pamphlets, stating their positions through correspondence with friends and loved ones.  They lived deliberately, perhaps not in the way Thoreau meant it, but with purpose so that when they died, they could say that they had lived and that their lives mattered. 

Monday, June 25, 2007

ebbs and flows

Not much terribly exciting going on these days, but rather than write the brief I'm supposed to be writing, I'm procrastinating by blogging. Pregnancy is going pretty well -- had a checkup last week and the baby's heartbeat is strong and he appears to be growing as he should. I'm feeling lots of kicks and flutters these days. The past few days I've felt kind of yucky. I had felt great for about a week and a half, then yesterday all of a sudden I was crazy exhausted and queasy. Jason made this incredible dinner and I couldn't eat anything but a bite of mashed sweet potato. Kathleen says that nausea in the second semester means the baby is growing lots of hair. I guess Zeke will be a hairy little monkey, but that's not much of a surprise, given the thatches on the heads of both his parents. Anyway, I'm still feeling kind of punky, which sucks because I've got assloads of work to do and not much motivation to do it.

Yesterday we went up to a beach at Makaha, on the leeward side. I'd never been there before. The leeward side is much poorer than other parts of the island and many of the beaches are filled with homeless people living in tents. But there's a state park that we went to that has a beautiful beach -- the water is crystal clear. When the surf is up, it's a great place to surf, but yesterday there were no waves so we went snorkeling instead and saw lots of pretty fish.

I'm heading to the mainland in a few weeks to visit friends and family -- I'll spend the weekend in Atlanta and then go up to New Hampshire to meet my new niece Hazel and to hang with my brothers and parents. While I'm gone, Jason's brother, Dean, is coming here for a visit, so he won't be totally lonely and miserable without me.

OK, back to the brief. xoxo

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

baby music

I'm listening to Bob Marley right now while I work. I read on a pregnancy website that the baby can hear things and that it's good to talk or read or sing to my belly. So I've got my iPod speakers resting on my lap, and Zeke is bopping around - little rasta baby!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The glamorous side of practicing law

I'm in Pasadena, California, right now. We have a case that is up on Thursday for oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and I've been here preparing since Sunday with my boss, Charlie. Since checking into the hotel on Sunday afternoon at about 6 in the evening, I have left the hotel once, for 20 minutes, when we walked over to a grocery store yesterday to get some lunch at the salad bar. Other than that, I've been sitting in Charlie's hotel room for 15 hours a day, typing on the computer, reading cases and briefs, preparing argument outlines, and practicing the argument. My wardrobe consists of sweat pants and ratty t-shirts. Sometimes I put socks on, sometimes I stay in my bare feet. We have candles burning in the room to keep the stink of room service and us from getting too overpowering.

I bet it was like this for Clarence Darrow, too.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Pickin' and grinnin'

I used to think that bluegrass and communities of bluegrass musicians were found in small, select portions of the globe. Namely, the southeastern United States, with the odd geographic anomaly here and there (like the fact that Bela Fleck is from New York). Then I fell in love with an Australian whose father, like me, plays the banjo. One of the best bluegrass jams I ever went to was an open mic night at the monthly meeting of my father-in-law's Sydney, Australia bluegrass association. I did four numbers with some fantastic musicians there, and they even did me the enormous honor of surprising me at my wedding with an impromptu bluegrass performance (and they let me sing!). I've decided that bluegrass musicians are like the Jews -- they're everywhere, and they'll eventually take over the world.

Australia wedding bluegrass

Last night I picked up my banjo for the first time in dog years -- I seriously don't remember the last time I played. I haven't played with any regularity in 7 years, which bums me out because I used to be decent at it. Now I can barely remember the most basic arrangements that I used to be able to play in my sleep. But I got out my old sheet music and my metronome and worked through some songs, and I'm going to try to play more regularly. I even found, much to my delight, that Hawaii has a traditional music and bluegrass society that organizes regular jam sessions. So I put myself on their mailing list and plan on trying to get up the nerve to play in public again, after all these years.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Why my mom is the awesomest person I know

My mother works for the State Department, doing passport security and immigration type work. She was recently talking to some American business owners who were trying to get work visas for a bunch of Chinese workers they wanted to hire. They were complaining to her about the fact that sometimes there is a wait in the consular section at the American Embassy in China.

"We've heard some people have to wait up to two hours in the consular section. It's demeaning!"

She replied, "is it really any more demeaning than being told by your government how many children you can have, or what you can think, or where you can live, or what political party you can belong to? More demeaning than that?"

That's like one of those comebacks you think of an hour after the opportunity to say it has passed, and then you kick yourself for the rest of the day for not having thought of it sooner. Given the time, you can think of the best zinger in the world, but rare is the occasion when the inspiration and opportunity to deliver it coincide. My respect for her, which has always been considerable, is now in orbit.

Also, if the Chinese consider waiting for two hours to be an extraordinarily demeaning experience, then the DMV in China must be a magical, wonderful place.

Zeke's progress so far...


I *heart* Michael Chabon

I'm about three quarters of the way through The Yiddish Policemen's Union, and I'm absolutely loving it. Reading Michael Chabon's writing is the intellectual and literary equivalent of savoring the most delicious corned beef sandwich from the best Jewish deli in the world. I adored Kavalier and Clay, but I think I love this book even more. I don't want it to end. And I think I've got a bit of a crush on the author, though I'm sure if I were ever in his presence I'd feel too stupid to say anything, since he's so conspicuously brilliant.

Friday, June 01, 2007


I learned how to swim when I was a year and a half old. People at our swim club in Venezuela used to freak out at the sight of a little two-year-old peanut leaping fearlessly off the diving board into the deep end of the pool, but my parents didn't worry about me because they knew I could handle myself in the water. I'm trained and certified as a lifeguard, including open water rescues. And until yesterday, I have never felt physically overpowered by any current or wave, whether in a lake or in the ocean.

Yesterday afternoon at around 5:30, Jason and I took the dog down to the beach for a walk. We do this at least 3 or 4 times a week. Sometimes we'll take our bathing suits and go for a swim, sometimes not. If one is in the water, the other stays with the dog because he tends to freak out if he can't get to us. He'll stand at the water's edge and bark nervously. It's kind of funny and kind of sweet.

I had done a hard workout just before we left, so I was hot and sweaty and wanted to go for a swim. The beach that we go to has a rocky shelf along the shore, so if you go out about 10 feet you'll be standing on flat rock, and then all of a sudden the ledge drops off and the water is 6 or 7 feet deep on a calm day. Yesterday the water was not calm. It wasn't crazy rough, but it was high tide and the waves were a decent size. We went to this spot where there's a break in the rocks about 20 feet wide, so you can swim without getting dealing with the rocks. But yesterday, the channel between the rock formations created a rip current that was very powerful. I waded out to the water until it was about chest high, and then all of a sudden a wave came and I was pulled back away from the beach. I tried to swim back to shore, but even swimming my hardest I was still moving backwards, and then being pulled sideways behind the rocks. At one point I tried to put my feet down to push off with my legs, but I was getting battered around so much that all I did was smash my ankle against the rocks. I gasped from the pain, and inhaled a huge mouthful of water.

I know enough about rip currents to know that you shouldn't fight them -- just let yourself be drifted down the beach until the current eases up and you can get out of the water. But I was scared of the rocks, particularly of smashing my pregnant belly and hurting the baby. and because of the water inhalation, I was coughing and having trouble breathing, plus I was tired from exercising. Jason, who was sitting on shore with the dog, could see that I was drifting out pretty far, and waved me in. I yelled that I couldn't get in, and he was up in a flash and ran into the water to get me. After a couple of minutes of struggling with the current, he finally reached me and grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the water.

When we were standing on the beach, panting and trying to catch our breath, we looked down at our legs, both of which were bloody with cuts. I had little blood spots on my ankle and the back of my foot, and Jason had hit his knee and shin pretty hard and had also cut up his toe. But we were safe and in one piece. I gave him a hug and told him he was my big strong hero, and he clung to me, still freaked out by the whole adventure. The poor dog was a mess as well -- when Jason ran into the water, Max tried to go in after him and was flattened by a big wave. The three of us decided we had had enough beach time and headed home for dinner.