Thursday, July 31, 2014

Last Post of July

So it's been another busy month.  we spent the majority of it attending baby showers and getting the nursery prepared for Moose and Squirrel.  I really do apologize for being such a craptastic blogger of late. This has truly been the week from purgatory, and simply unrelenting.  But it’s purgatory, not hell. Like having a rock in your shoe.

The most recent (and hopefully last) shower was at our place last weekend.  It was also a backyard bbq which makes it co-ed and kid friendly, which apparently is becoming a thing so that you can make them co-ed without anyone feeling too awkward.  Our friend B did an excellent job (and most of the heavy lifting) of throwing Nightingale a shower.

I was going to write a few thoughts about parties in general but I'm just not in the mood.  Suffice it to say that they are almost never as much fun for the hosts as for the guests, at least if you did them right.  We have a ton of soda, beer and food which is good for leftovers.

My mother surprisingly didn't make it to the party.  It turns out she was not only sick, but much worse than she led us to believe the previous week.  She does not take good care of herself and has always had poor health throughout her life.  At the moment we are currently taking care of her, which I pray to the gods isn't the breaking point for us.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Late Court Filing Runs and paralegal SLA

I've written about the time at the BigName Law Firm 1.0 and promised to write some more posts when I'm looking for post fodder.  I really should let this part of my past go but for some reason my mind wanders to this time period when I drive to work.  Which implies that something going on today is influenced by something from the past.  Or at the very least writing about it will help me exercise those demons so that there is room for more current devils of torment. 

The PA position was created to serve two primary purposes.  The first was to perform  Late Court Filing Runs.  The other was to work on non-billable tasks or tasks that should be billed out at a lower rate than the standard Legal Assistant rate.  Both of these roll into the bucket of Things the Paralegals Didn't Want to Do.

I've given a few examples of the non-billable low-billable tasks we were given.  Most of the time they were mind-numbing mundane things that we were obviously given because the paralegal didn't want to do them.  That wouldn't have been so bad if it had been properly communicated that this is as good as it gets.  Instead a tactic many paralegals used was the implied promise that if you did enough of the crap work, they would eventually be able to trust you with the more substantive stuff.  Later than sooner,  I realized that there wasn't a large supply of substantive stuff and whatever there was, they kept for themselves.  

One of the things we could and were expected to bill for was Late Court Filing Runs (LCF). What this involved was being available to run to court after the last daily docket run if an attorney had a last minute filing.  This was supposed to be a rarity but alas in a firm with a litigation dept as large as ours and as many attorneys who wanted to spend as much time as possible making sure that brief was perfect -- not because they cared over a silly filing but because they didn't want to take any chance of screwing anything up on their path to partnership -- you eventually got more requests than capacity.

A smart thing to do would have been to provide LCF as a service and bill accordingly for it, but we -- and perhaps Corporate America -- were not there yet in terms of business maturity.

Our building was a good 15 minute walk from both the US District Court and also the State Court House.  Even if you jumped in a cab, at that time of day with traffic (foot and car) it could still be a good 10 minute trip. 

For some reason, the PAs didn't like LCF probably because the onus of success was on us.  It didn't matter if the filing got to us so late that by the time we got to court, the clerk wouldn't let us file it.  In the attorney's mind, we had enough time and there wasn't any of this governance thing to protect us.

There was also the pettiness amongst the PAs.  The problem with a random assignment is that during a short cross section of time, it can seem disproportionate.  "So and so never has to go to court but the late filings come on my day. "   Add to that the more malevolent PAs gaming the system and you have some animosity.

One thing to consider is that back then, work flow processes and job responsibility, along with employee maturity, were in its infancy.  The concept of taking on Docket overflow was  ad hoc when it should have been better thought out.  The necessarily training was omitted from the PA position partly because it was supposed to be the exception not the rule but also because on the job training wasn't really a thing there.

If I knew then what I know wouldn't make too much difference because we certainly weren't empowered to change anything.  and we were marginalized, the paralegals didn't care because we were there to do the LCF and with five or six of us, they would never themselves have to go run to court.

Still, it would have been better to have a weekly rotation instead of daily with a primary and backup lined up.  The backup for one week could be the primary the next week and could shadow docket people to court on scheduled runs to learn where everything was and how filings worked.  [I write this in case some day the technology exists for Future Me to warn Past Me about all this.]

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Back in the fold

 Looks like I need a few more aliases for friends: A quick search on this blog shows I haven't written anything about a group of friends I use to hang out with a lot in the early 2000s.  I actually knew these people in high school as I was classmates with Ross and met his sister Monica and her friend Katness way back when, though we lost touch during college years.  In 2002 we ran into each other at Movies in the Park and I think we did like we always do whenever we ran into each other over the years since high school: exchange business cards, promise to keep in touch and then forget about it.

However, this time his sister stepped in and emailed me a day or two later.  We got together for a catch up dinner and Monica invited me to join them for their weekly MSTV night -- when they would take turns hosting dinner and watching the NBC lineup of Friends, Will & Grace and ER.  This is the group that K of KandJ is part of.  Katness went to high school with Monica.I should add that I'm sort of the Ted McGinley of the group as I came along well after this tradition was established, though somehow I moved into the primary core of the group.

In the years that have followed a strange thing has happened.  At first Monica and I were good friends, emailing every day and getting together whenever we could, picking up our friendship were it had left off from our high school days.  Ross and I were never tight in high school, but we got along and hung out in the same groups from time to time.  Monica's friend Katness however didn't seem very friendly.  I don't know if I was simply a useless male or if I had offended her somehow back in the day and she was still holding a grudge.

However, something changed somehow because over the years, Monica and I have grown apart while Katness and I have become better friends.  Not the interested in every aspect of each others lives friends the way Monica and I were, but I was invited to her wedding and she does take a spectators interest in my love life.

Anyway, while we've been couple dating KandJ, we have fallen out of sorts with Monica and one of the less frequent members of the MSTV crowd.  On Saturday that changed.

We were invited back into the larger MSTV gang.  With weddings there is always someone you wish you had invited and didn't and someone you invited and wish you hadn't.  Ours was no exception and when we got married, we couldn't invite everyone and one couple from the extended branch of the MSTV gang didn't make the cut.  So for the last three years on the few occasions where we did see them there was a slight understandable cold shoulder.

At the same time we also didn't see much of Ross or Monica either.  They actually opted to skip our wedding for a family reunion in Canada on the same day.   And I wouldn't have minded so much if Monica had told me when we were at Ravina two months prior. 

Any way since we, like KandJ are having twins and Basia and her husband also had twins a few years ago, we are now in the Parents-of-Twins club.  I don't really we are going to be hanging out as much as we did in the pre-married days.  But it is nice that fences are being mended and doors opened so that it is easier on everyone to have the entire crew over.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Code Name: Moose and Squirrel

Assembly time is almost longer than time kids
will actually be able to utilize it
So people are starting to ask if we have names picked out.  Most are just making conversation.  Others, closer relatives and friends, are lobbying for their choice and/or to be the babies namesake.  A small minority are just trying to be in the know.  We definitely want our kids names to be slightly unusual and not mainstream, but not wacko out there either.  We are trying to avoid names that have multiple common spellings (such as Steven and Stephen) or have an icky nickname.  I looked though a list of Polish names and found that most of them are simply derivatives of other names so there really isn't much point naming our daughter Kasia if she's gonna end up being Katie anyway.

We have made the decision not to reveal any of the names we have on our short list.  Therefore I will refer to them, now and probably forever on this blog, as Natasha and Boris.  Sidenote:  I actually lobbied for the name Natasha but it just didn't work out with our final decision.  Boris was never an option.

Our last ultrasound showed that our future kids are healthy.  Boris is 2lbs 8 oz.  Natasha is 2 lbs 7 oz and breech so the C-section is still on the table. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Where do we put it all

getting his muddy feet prints on Everything!
Between the baby shower and a friend of the Adama's giving us a crib, a changing station and a few other items, it made sense to rent a U-haul trailer to bring it all back here. It was a challenge to load the darn thing because we didn't have everything together at once in order to put the heavy items in the rear.  It didn't help that Little_Monkeys wanted to help and play in the U-haul. 

After everything was packed, Nightingale remembered that we forgot a chair and otterman so I had to rearrange a few things.  It was at this point when the 6th person helpfully stated: "Don't forget you also have the back of your SUV".  I'm glad six people felt compelled to tell me this because the first five just weren't clear in what message they were trying to deliver.

From my years of traveling in situations like this is what often happens is you put things in the back of your car that could fit in the U-Haul and then you still have to find room for the luggage you forgot about in your room. 

We made the trip home in decent time though we did hit a few pockets of construction related traffic.  Now the house is kinda a mess as we put the majority of the stuff in the basement.  We also got an email from a Day Care Center we were supposed to tour the next day.  They emailed to tell us that they filled one of the vacant spots and since we are having twins, they are canceling the tour until another spot opens up.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Away on Planet Michigan

Over the weekend we were in Grosse Pointe, Michigan for the first of Nightingale's baby showers.   Whenever we drive up here I inevitable think about all the times I drove out to Kirksville for college and even to visit afterwards.  I don't know how I managed that 7 hour drive, most of the time on my own.  
Nowadays I don't like to drive more than a couple of hours at a time, probably because I now commute 90 minutes a day four times a week for work.   
Alas for this trip I had to do all the driving because Nightingale cannot drive comfortably in her condition.   The good news is that we left just after rush hour, made good time and only needed to stop once for a bathroom break, once for lunch and gas. 
It was a nice trip overall and that is probably because after all these years of traveling to either Nashville or Michigan, we have finally reached our family equilibrium, the point at which a family becomes so use to each other and each others' subtle nuisances that we learn when to engage and when to leave one another the hell alone.
Nightingale is big on getting together with her entire family and they make a big effort to do it even though everyone now lives in different states.  I recall the first time we went to Tennessee to stay with Nightingale's folks, probably Christmas 2009.  The Adamas, who only had Little_Monkey#1 at the time, were also coming.  The future in-laws only had three rooms in their townhouse and the expectation of Adama was that he and his wife got one room, his 2 year old son would get the other because he was such a problem sleeper that he needed total darkness and silence and the parents would get the other room.  Leaving Nightingale, myself and her younger sister in the hallway on pull-away beds.

I was NOT going to sleep in the hallway so that a 2 yr old could have his own room and said that I could either stay in Chicago and give
Nightingale a lift to the airport or the Adamas could suck it up for two nights and cram into a room.  My reasoning followed the insane logic that just because Little_Monkey#1 was a bad sleeper 18 moths ago when you tried it, perhaps possibly something has changed and you know, why not try it again?  Adama wasn't trying to be a dick to the other adults so much as he was thinking about his son and also assuming that we all wanted what was best for the little monkey and would all benefit from him getting a good night sleep.  And also being a dick.  
I had already taken the Adamas free baby sitter away from them when I started dating Nightingale and this was yet another silent battle in many to come over Adama Needs not trumping other family members.  This one was solved by someone -- MIL I believe -- getting us a hotel room off her rewards points.  It would turn out that Little_Monkey#1 sleeping issues stemmed from being hungry and though he still prefers to sleep in a dark room (who doesn't) he actually thinks its kinda cool to get to sleep in his parents room.

This trip is special because it is not only
Nightingale's baby shower, but also Little_Monkey#2 baptism.  This brings lots of Nightingale's side of the family to the Adama compound including youngest SIL and future. BIL.  Just just say it is a crowded house but we are not on top of each other because it is such a big house and that Family equilibrium thing.  That doesn't mean there still wasn't a little bit of controlled chaos.

Future BIL is lobbying to get us to take SIL cats since they are moving in together into a smaller abode. I should be a good guy and take him up on it since Future BIL has taken a lot of pressure off me because he's more FIL's type of guy when it comes to social political issues.  On the other hand, if we get more cats I want to raise them from kittens.  Furthermore when poor Austin passes, I think it would make sense to have a short period of cat free time, no more than a decade of course.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Struggles that I didn't ask for

Well I asked for it didn't I:  It's funny how when no one read my blogs I wrote all the time and wished for an audience.  Now that I have one, I find it hard to find energy to write.  I say energy because I have tons of ideas and topics I want to write about but often lack the energy to write a post.

That's because I have other things that take up my time like projects around the house, work and attempting to get back into marathon running shape.  Also, I've learned that hammering out 500+ words on a post is one thing, but it helps if there is a good picture to go along with and if I can through in a good SEO headline all the better.   Yuck, that is a lot of work and sometimes I'd rather not bother.

Some things I struggle with:  A short time ago the carpenter that was working on my neighbor's deck asked me what I do for a living.   I told him I'm an application manager and he asked me: "What's an application?"

I really don't know what to do when this comes up and it comes up in various forms more often than it should.  I'll be at a party and someone is making small talk or I'll run into a friend I haven't seen in a long time and they have a non-Corporate America type job.  I'd say 80% of the time a simple "I work in IT" gets the job done.  But every so often I run into someone who just has to really, really understand what it is I do and cannot accept a throw away answer like "I work in Information Technology." 

 Everyone knows what a doctor is and what a lawyer does.  And while they really don't know the day-to-day activities, they can make a good enough guess of what an accountant or an administrative assistant does.  But a lot of Corporate America titles in no way, shape or form describe the mind-numbing, soul-sucking tasks we perform.

Is it really my job to fill in the gaps in the knowledge/experience of the carpenter who probably never spent any time in a white collar office environment?  Or the massage therapist or self-employed translator that doesn't know the inner workings of CA?

And while we are on the subject things I struggle with is asking people for help.  One of the reasons I struggle is when you tell someone your problem, they usually suggest a course of action based on the elevator pitch you made summarizing your problem.

And if my issue were such that it were that easy, I probably would have thought of whatever solution you came up with 30 seconds after hearing about the issue I've been struggling with for x weeks.

The other frustration is filling in the back story necessary to bring someone up to speed, especially if I've told the story before.  Contrary to popular belief, I don't expect anyone to memorize every aspect of my life.  However I feel if you are compelled to ask me the same question more than a half dozen times, maybe, just maybe you should allocate a brain cell to remembering the details so you don't have to bug me a 7th time.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Another rough week for our household

Last Tuesday our cat Austin went from bad to worse.  He seemed listless and almost catatonic (no pun intended) so we took him to the emergency vet hospital closest to our house, a location in Avondale/Logan Square.  I'll come back to that in a moment.

It turns out Austin has diabetes.  We knew there was a risk based on his other health issues and we are bad cat parents for not noticing the signs like peeing outside his box and being extra bitey.  so Austin spent two nights in the hospital and we spent a crap ton of money to keep our pet alive because losing him two weeks after putting Maggie down was not an option. 

So we found this hospital because our regular doctor couldn't get us in and I didn't really want to go to the far away Pet emergency center at Clybourn and Belmont.  it turns out that this place is 1) much closer to our house and 2) has an endocrinology set upso we could have taken Maggie there instead of schlep out to Buffalo Grove.

This is not the first time some agency we rely on has "failed" us because of the limitations of their geographic knowledge of Chicago.  My dentist asked her administrative assistant to find a surgeon who could remove my wisdom teeth that was close to my home and took my insurance.  In all of Chicago she found one dentist who qualified and his office was on Michigan and Chicago, about 9 miles from my home as the crow flies.  [Technically I did suggest somewhere near my work office too but this place is 4 miles from there.]

I can deal with my transplant friends thinking that Chicago is only the Loop, Lincoln Park and maybe one or two other trendy neighborhoods.  And I can deal with my ill-informed suburban co-workers who think City of Chicago = Sears Tower + Buckingham Fountain and then surrounded on all sides by Cabrini Green like warzones until you get to Evanston or Oak Park.  What I cannot accept is a business not being aware of the local geography enough to be able to determine that "hey there's a dentist right around the corner from your address because Google Maps!"