Matthew's Foray into Blogging

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Mexican “Pharmacists”

My neighbors across the street are from Mexico. Although I have lived in my current residence for nearly two years now, I have never met these neighbors. I see people come and go from the house across the street, and I wave to them and they wave back, but I do not know who the actual homeowners are. This house across the street is actually only one of their multiple homes. They still reside in Mexico; this is just a second (possibly third?) residence that they maintain in this master-planned community north of Houston. Apparently, they make the house available to friends, which explains the frequent coming and going of unfamiliar people.

This house across the street is not a meager second residence. It is a $1 million-plus home. One of the cars driven by the homeowners is a Ferrari. They recently replaced the previous Ferrari with a new Ferrari, which I saw someone driving yesterday; it still had paper plates. The various friends who come and go also drive expensive cars, like late model BMWs and Porsches.

Supposedly, these neighbors from Mexico make their money in “pharmaceuticals.” I do not doubt that they are completely legit, but, wealthy “pharmacists” from Mexico – does this not hold the potential for all varieties of humorous speculation?

Envy of My Siblings

Because I am not in school and because I am unemployed, I am the envy of my brother, who strongly dislikes his job, and my sister, who would really rather not be in her first semester of law school. As a result, I must suffer such remarks as, “It must be nice not to have any homework,” “It must be nice not to have to work,” and “I wish I had free time.” I have put in my time in school; in fact, I did not find school as unpleasant as some people apparently do. It is not by choice that I find myself without a job and an income, despite my efforts to secure employment. These comments are wearisome, and, truth be told, I somewhat resent the gripes. I do not harbor any ill feelings, though. I do not like to see my brother and sister unhappy.

Someday, When I Have Money…

Someday, when I have money, I will replace the tires on the car I drive. When I had the Si in at the Honda dealership for an oil change, which was on May 2, they informed me that the treads on my Bridgestone/Firestone “TreadSeparator” model tires were worn (OK, I don’t really have dangerously unsafe Bridgestone/Firestone tires; the Si has Michelins), and that the tires would need to be replaced soon. I am inclined to believe the people at the dealership, because the dealership does not sell tires; thus, they would not have an incentive to convince me that my tires needed to be replaced, unless, perhaps, they own stock in a rubber manufacturing company.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

See the World, for Free!

More specifically, see Japan. The JET Program, the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, places young people from foreign (foreign to Japan) countries in government or education positions in Japan. JET participants live in Japan for a year.

As to the claim that one can travel to Japan for free, I made that up. However, the JET Program does offer an alternative to paying one’s way. Generally, as I see it, when one is traveling, a person is not earning money, but one is spending money (more money than I would spend sitting at home unemployed). Unlike when one travels at one’s own expense, JET participants are paid. The individual who brought the JET Program to my attention claimed that participants end up saving a considerable of money, because there are few places to spend it in the villages where the participants reside. Compensation is approximately 3,600,000 yen per year, after taxes, which is about $32,300 US. Round trip airfare is provided. However, it is also necessary to calculate in mandatory health insurance, employment insurance, pension fund costs, and accident insurance, at around 40,000 yen per month, or about $360 US. In addition, accommodations run from 30,000 yen to 60,000 yen, $270 US to $540 US, per month. This leaves about $23,000 US. These estimates do not take into account expenses for food. JET participants do enjoy fifteen days of Japanese national holidays, plus 12 to 20 days of paid leave. I do not know about the claim of becoming wealthy while participating in the JET program, but it probably affords a unique experience without the costs traditionally associated with travel.

I have not yet contacted the Embassy or Consulate General nearest me to obtain information or to apply for the JET Program. Since employment has not been forthcoming for me, I think it is something I might investigate. I probably should not be making the JET Program more widely known, in the event that other applicants take the limited number of places.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Now This Is Journalism!

I wouldn’t have believed there was a Hurricane Katrina hammering New Orleans had I not seen the moron news correspondents out there on the ground being blown about by the wind. Those satellite pictures are wholly unconvincing, to me. I have to see television images of idiots on the ground, in the roaring wind and driving rain, before I will be convinced that there is a category 4 or 5 storm out there. Those talking heads in the studios do not earn ratings. CNN correspondents coursing through the air does boost ratings.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

My Brother’s Blogosphere Debut

My brother has entered the fray. Currently, he is quite incensed, and rightfully so, because some lowlife swiped the badge from his STi.

The Subaru Impreza WRX STi is rather awesome. With a 300-hp 2.5-liter turbocharged boxer engine and Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, the STi is a veritable super-car. Yes, he has the one with the gold wheels. Why would anyone want to steal an STi badge? Go buy your own STi. Go buy your own STi badge to wear on a chain around your neck, or to affix to your car to pretend that you have an STi.

“Peak Oil”

In an August 21, 2005 New York Times Magazine article entitled “The Breaking Point,” Peter Maass writes about “peak oil,” the point at which maximum production of oil is reached. Matthew Simmons, author of Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy, warns of a shortage that will result in triple-digit prices per barrel of oil and worldwide depression. Sadad al-Husseini, former top executive for exploration and production of Aramco, the Saudi national oil company, is more candid than other Saudi officials. He admits that the world is heading for an oil shortage.

Messrs. Levitt and Dubner of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything fame, are unconvinced that peak oil presents a crisis. As they explain on their blog, they are confident that market forces will cause innovation that will result in extracting more oil, producing more efficient vehicles, and developing alternative energy sources. Consumers will adapt, they say.

The situation will come to a head before the oil shortage is addressed. I doubt that innovation can occur at a fast enough pace to avert a depressed world economy; any depression will be protracted, I fear, because developing alternative energy sources and converting the oil-based infrastructure and economy that are in place cannot be accomplished overnight.

Get on the stick, and start innovating!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

My Sister, the 1L: Update

She has good days, and she has bad days. After the fifth day, there was no more talk of quitting. I hope this is not going to be three years of an emotional roller coaster.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Life’s Passing You By!

On occasions on which my Dad has observed me doing engaged in an activity of which he does not approve, because he perceives it to be a waste of time, or merely not something that would be interesting to him, he has remarked, “Your life’s passing you by!” In my current state of unemployment, I feel that my life is passing me by.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Fine Dining

I spent $100 at Amerigo’s this evening. Unfortunately, it was not for my enjoyment. I purchased a gift certificate for someone who had performed a kind deed from which I benefited.

Amerigo’s was quit nice, I gathered from waiting in the foyer. I hope to have the opportunity to dine there some day. It is one of the few dining establishments in The Woodlands that is not a chain.

My Sister, the 1L: Update

I may have spoken too soon. After the third day, my sister was ready to quit.

Saving for Retirement

We all know the importance of beginning at an early age to save for retirement. The message is everywhere.

Actually, maybe this is not common knowledge. In an August 20, Washington Post article, “Initiatives to Promote Savings From Childhood Catching On,” Amy Goldstein wrote, “Since the early 1990s, the typical American’s savings rate has plunged from $7.70 per $100 earned to $1.80, according to federal figures.”

Nonetheless, starting early is essential. Houston Chronicle columnist Shannon Buggs wrote in a February 16, 2004 column, “A person age 20 who saves $120 each month and invests that sum in mutual funds or other securities that pay an annual return of 8 percent or more can retire at age 65 with a $1 million portfolio, [according to James Trippon, a Houston money manager, certified public accountant, and author of How Millionaires Stay Rich Forever.]” Tripton says the key is starting early. The longer one waits to begin saving, the more one must invest.

According to, in stating the power of compounding of earnings,

A 25 year old who invests $2,000 a year for eight years and never invests an additional dollar after the age of 33, will earn more by the age of 65 than a 34 year old who invests $2000 a year for 32 years, even though the 35 year old invests four times as much.

This being the case, I’m never going to be able to retire! :-(

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

My Sister, the 1L

My little sister’s law school journey is underway. I am so proud of her!

I hope she finds it enjoyable and enriching. Failing that, I hope she at least finds it tolerable. I found that, as with everything, it is important, above all else, to maintain a positive attitude.

So far it is so good. She seems to be working diligently and, going into her third day, she has not expressed a desire to quit.

When My Stomach Growls

I like when my stomach growls. When my stomach sends me that signal, I know I am hungry, and not that I merely want to eat for entertainment. Is that not spoken like a person who has never experienced true hunger?

Bush Is Bad for America

President Bush is bad for America in so many ways. One example is in the restrictions he has placed on federal financing for stem cell research. I guess my beliefs diverge from those of the religious right here, but I do not consider a few cells in a laboratory that would otherwise be discarded to be a human being. I can conceive that these embryos have the potential to become a human being. However, the potential also exists for me to win the lottery. The real potential is in the lifesaving cures that tissues grown from stem cells promise. Individuals who are suffering from terminal illnesses and who could benefit from stem cell research are denied the promise these miracle cells hold. Is this compassionate conservatism at work?

So, scientists in the United States must make advances in stem cell research with the aid of private funding. Meanwhile, researchers in Korea, India, Singapore, China, Japan, Sweden, Britain, and Israel, where the political and social climates are not so hostile to biotechnology, are forging ahead in this exciting field. Any advances in stem cell research and the remedies for diseases will not be made in America, thanks to Mr. Bush. Treatments for diabetes and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, human skin, blood and replacement organs genetically matched to their intended recipients, will be devised abroad. I hope Americans can benefit from them.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Feelings of Doubt

Am I deficient because I do not use fresh masa to make my corn tortillas, but rather use reconstituted masa harina? Diana Kennedy, in her excellent volume on Mexican cuisine, From My Mexican Kitchen: Techniques and Ingredients, advocates making fresh masa for your corn tortillas. First, you start with dried corn, about two pounds of it. I do not know how readily available dried corn is, but I have not looked for it. You boil the corn with slaked lime, calcium oxide, being careful not to overcook the corn. It is through cooking when the papery skins easily slide off the kernels, about fifteen minutes. After soaking the boiled corn overnight, you then rub off the yellow skins from each… kernel… of… corn. This sounds to me like an incredibly time-consuming, arduous task. What you have now is mixttamalizado. Now you take your mixttamalizado to your local molino, you know the mill with the round, flat grinding stones. You don’t have ready access to a mill? Neither do I. “The resulting dough, or masa, is now ready to be used for tortillas or antojitos like sopes or gorditas.”

It is interesting to learn how this process works, and I am pleased that Ms. Kennedy provides this recipe. It lends credence to her work, From My Mexican Kitchen, as an authoritative and comprehensive reference on Mexican cooking. However, Ms. Kennedy’s attitude toward purchased masa comes across as condescending. Ms. Kennedy is dismissive of masa harina. She does not even dignify factory made corn tortillas with a mere mention. Ms. Kennedy complains that in fourteen years, or some seemingly arbitrarily precise number, satisfactory prepared masa will not be available, because of advances in food science that add nutrition, increase ease of growing, and so forth, resulting in a product that is lacking in sapidness and a pleasing texture. She creates the impression that there is no other way.

Rick Bayless, chef-owner of Chicago restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, and author of several Mexican cookbooks, writes in Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen: Recipes and Techniques of a World-Class Cuisine, that, because making fresh masa is a labor intensive, time consuming process, they do not prepare the masa from scratch in his restaurants. He is fortunate enough to have a source for good quality prepared fresh masa for Frontera Grill and Topolobampo. Still, Mr. Bayless does not disdain masa harina. He states that the texture of tortillas and antojitos made from fresh masa is superior to that of corn masa snacks made from masa harina, but he is of the opinion that masa harina is a perfectly acceptable substitute. Further, Mr. Bayless even countenances the use of factory made corn tortillas! I like his approach, in that he just wants people to be exposed to and to experience the joy of more authentic Mexican cooking. He is not at all haughty about it.

Miffed at Our Leaders

I am angry with our elected officials. They are in large part at fault for the climbing gas prices, and the various side effects of expensive energy.

It is incumbent upon government to take action to cause America to wean itself off oil. Big businesses, such as the energy companies and auto manufacturers, have no incentive to begin exploring or utilizing alternative energy sources and technologies. The energy companies are sitting pretty right now, so they of course do not care that we are ruining our environment or that Americans are dying in Iraq. The auto companies in Detroit, in the interests of their bottom lines, are just giving consumers what they want. Dumb Americans: the impetus is not going to come from the idiotic drivers who want bigger, more powerful cars. Municipal government officials are, likewise, not going to invest in public transit when it drains more money from city coffers.

Government measures such as making gasoline even more expensive and imposing caps on emissions from vehicles and industries would cause consumers to feel the pinch and would directly force the auto manufacturers to begin producing technologies that require less oil. Then, American soldiers would not be dying in Iraq, the Muslims would not hate us for meddling in the Arabian Peninsula, we would not be destroying our environment, consumers would not need to take out loans to fuel their cars and to heat their homes – the list of ails caused by reliance on oil could go on.

We suffered through one price spike, artificially cause by the Arab oil embargo. This one is caused by heightened demand and diminished supply, both of which are real. When are we going to learn?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Italian Grandmothers

According to surfer short- and orange clog-clad celebrity chef Mario Batali, Italian grandmothers would never purée their tomatoes in a blender when making tomato sauce. As I crush tomatoes by hand, the only way Italian grandmothers do it, I wonder why matriarchs from this Mediterranean land have been so reluctant to embrace such technology as the blender, the food processor, or the food mill. I suppose I know the answer. Crushing tomatoes by hand results in an incomparable texture. Puréeing tomatoes produces tomato soup, which is probably not on the menu at Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Rip Van Winkle

I feel like Rip Van Winkle. In Washington Irving’s story, the protagonist, the eponymous Rip Van Winkle, wandered off into the Catskill Mountains and lied down to sleep. And sleep he did, for 20 years!

On this Sunday afternoon, I lied down at 2:00, thinking I would rest for a few minutes, maybe an hour, and then, when I rose from my nap, I would have some tea to sustain me through the rest of the afternoon. I woke up at 4:00. That was a lengthy siesta, for me. There went all my plans for the afternoon. I suppose I will have to start my novel tomorrow.

When I was in law school, I often thought that it would be nice to employ the Rip Van Winkle approach to school. The idea of lying down to sleep for a few weeks to awake just after final exams were finished seemed most appealing.

Lookin’ for Tax in All the Wrong Places

The government is taxing all the wrong things, and not taxing the right things. Though not a novel notion, the current astronomically high gasoline prices have again prompted me to have such thoughts. Amid all the speculation as to the reason for three-dollar-a-gallon gasoline, such as the war in Iraq or corporate greed, simple supply and demand seems to be the cause of our woes.

This again leads me to think that, if America were not so reliant on oil, I could hop in my alternative fuel vehicle and travel about without a thought as to how much it would cost me to power my automobile. One of the myriad ways government could reduce dependence on oil would be to make gasoline expensive enough that consumers would be forced to change their consumption habits; that is, government could tax gasoline more heavily.

In an August 13, 2005 New York Times article, “At the Pumps and on the Web, Drivers Check for Lowest Prices,” Kirk Johnson reported that George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, stated, “I think it would be a good thing if gasoline prices were twice as high as they are now, though I know that won’t make me popular.” “Professor Loewenstein said a gradual increase in the gasoline tax, as opposed to market-driven price increases that he said benefited mainly oil producers, would help the federal budget deficit and decrease dependence on foreign oil by encouraging conservation.”

Instead, the federal government offered tax incentives for the purchase of SUVs, and phased out tax credits for hybrid cars. Any vehicle over 6,000 pounds qualified for a $100,000 tax break until 2005. “Clean fuel” vehicles are eligible for tax relief, also. However, the deduction ceiling began at $2,000, with the tax deduction set to end in 2006, with $500 less available each year as the deduction is phased out. Fortunately, new federal tax credits for hybrids are starting in 2006. Unfortunately, less efficient hybrids receive larger tax credits than more efficient hybrids. For example, the four-wheel drive Toyota Highlander Hybrid will actually be eligible for a larger tax credit than the more fuel-efficient two-wheel drive version.

Energy companies benefit tremendously under the new energy bill, so they can continue using coal and oil. In the short term, it does not benefit their bottom lines to explore and produce alternative energies, so why should they? The new energy bill provides for $14.5 billion in energy tax breaks, much of it to traditional energy companies, such as oil and gas.

Rising gas prices are not the only ill that government could attempt to cure via taxation. Currently illegal narcotics could be a source of tremendous tax revenue, if they were legalized and the costly failure of a drug war was ended. That is a completely different subject into which I will not venture right now, though.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Still Not a Wal-Mart Shopper

The Wall Street Journal reports that Wal-Mart is teaming with Diageo, “the world’s leading premium drinks business,” to begin offering spirits – hard liquor, that is. From the article, I gather that Wal-Mart already offers beer and wine. This is an effort to make Wal-Mart your one-stop shopping super-center. This is also perceived as conflicting with Wal-Mart’s teetotaling culture. According to the WSJ, Wal-Mart forbids alcohol consumption on company property and at company events, and when Wal-Mart execs put business meals on expense accounts, the cost of any alcoholic beverages comes out of the execs’ pockets.

As alluring as discount-priced liquor is, this is still not enough to entice me to become a Wal-Mart shopper.

Gasoline Price Fluctuations: Who Cares?

On a daily basis, the newspapers feature articles with headlines that proclaim to the effect, “Price of Oil Inches Up Fraction of a Cent,” or, “Average Gasoline Price in Houston Reaches Record High.” I do not even care about the fluctuations in the price of gasoline. It is going up, and it is going to continue to go up. That is not news.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Minutemen Are Here

The “Minuteman Civil Defense Corps” have arrived in Houston for a four-day training session. One of the Minutemen goons became extremely angry when District director for the League of United Latin American Citizens Rick Dovalina took down the Minuteman’s license plate number. I understand that taking license plate numbers of Hispanics who they suspect are undocumented is one of the forms of harassment in which the “Civil Defense Corps” members will be engaging. The distinction between the Minutemen taking license plate numbers and Mr. Dovalina taking license plate numbers is not apparent to me. Perhaps it is because the targeted Minuteman was clearly not an undocumented Hispanic. Perhaps it is because someone whose intelligence is sufficiently low to be a Minuteman is not capable of or does not see the need to make logical distinctions.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

New York Times Wedding Announcements/Epics

The New York Times wedding announcements are ridiculous. I do not so much as glimpse at them, but other individuals in my household, for their amusement, will occasionally peruse these book-length wedding notices. These absurd epics detail not only the curricula vitae of the brides and bride-grooms, but also those of the parents of the betrothed.

The announcements are quite humorous. Some excerpts from the sagas that recently were read aloud stated that the bride “will continue to use her name professionally.” In one such instance, the intended was a recent college graduate. Does her name have goodwill associated with it? Is she a sole proprietor of a recognized business? Is she incorporated under her name?

The proclomations become absurd when they fill an entire page, relate the life stories of the bride- and bride-groom-to-be, and are written by a professional writer whose name appears in the byline. When a housemate persisted in reading aloud one of these tomes, in its entirety, I had no option but to leave the room.

Congressional Pay Raises No Tough Sell

The Roll Call Report Syndicate reported that, under the Ethics Reform Act of 1989, members of the House of Representatives and the Senate are guaranteed annual increases in their salaries, without debate or up-or-down votes. “The [Ethics Reform Act] pegs increases to the Labor Department’s Employment Cost Index, and makes them automatic the next January unless both chambers vote in advance to prevent them.” Obviously, debate or votes on pay raises are few and far between.

“A seventh consecutive increase will push rank-and-file congressional salaries from today’s $162,100 to $165,200 in January 2006.

“The House speaker and secretary of the Senate each will receive $212,100 next year, and the majority and minority leaders of both chambers will be paid $183,500.

Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, told the House of Representatives in 1997, “This is not a pay raise; this is about an inflation adjustment.”

I do not receive annual cost of living adjustments. Do you receive annual cost of living adjustments? (Military personnel, civil servants, or Social Security beneficiaries need not answer this.)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Majority of Texans Are Minorities

Approximately 50.2 percent of Texans are considered minorities, based on estimates from the 2000 Census. The Anglo population is below 50 percent for the first time. Hispanics make up the largest minority group in Texas, at 32 percent of the state’s population.

Does this make me, as a white male, a minority? Perhaps we should begin referring to minorities as pluralities.

“Detainees under Harry Potter’s Spell”

Rowan Scarborough of the Washington Times reported that a series of books about a boy wizard, authored by a J.K. Rowling, top the reading lists of al Qaeda and Taliban suspects who are being detained at the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay. Some detainees have even made requests to see the movie.

Who’s being mistreated?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Those Who Can Least Afford It

It seems that the people who most need the services of an attorney are those who are least able to afford the services of an attorney. At least, that appears to be the case in Montgomery County, Texas. The situation is probably quite different in Marin County, California, which is one of the richest counties in the United States. I would like to help these unfortunate people who need legal representation, but I do not care to make my living by taking money from people who can ill afford to part with what little money they have. I guess that is where pro bono representation enters the picture. But a young lawyer’s gotta eat!

Perhaps I could make my millions the way Joe Jamail made his billions, by representing the little guy against the big guy, and making the big guy pay.

Intelligent Redesign?

Intelligent design is the theory that intelligent causes are responsible for the origin of the universe and of life in all its diversity. Intelligent design advocates interpret natural selection as implying that the universe could not have been designed or created. Thus, natural selection is inconsistent with intelligent design advocates’ interpretation of the Bible and their belief in an omnipotent Creator. This sounds like creationism involving a biblical interpretation of life, which the Supreme Court ruled in the 1987 case, Edwards v. Aguillard, could not be taught in the classroom.

President George W. Bush recently said that schools should teach “intelligent design,” as well as the theory of evolution. “I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought,” President Bush said. “You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes.” The Kansas State Board of Education also recently drafted a report that proposes adding intelligent design to its new teaching standards.

If students “ought to be exposed to different ideas” regarding the origin and development of life, in addition to Darwin and Genesis, shouldn’t our schools be covering the Hindu, the classical Greek, and the Ute accounts of the origin and development of life? I am not clear how the theory of evolution is inconsistent with the Christian Bible. There seems to exist rather convincing evidence of evolution, though.

In a Friday, August 5, 2005 Wall Street Journal article, “Very Old Eggs Reveal a Fast, Changing Path Through Evolution,” Sharon Begley reports about the work of biologist W. Charles Kerfoot in the new field of science that he refers to as “resurrection ecology.”

Professor Kerfoot examined insect and crustacean eggs from cores taken from a Michigan lakebed. Although some of the eggs dated to 300 years ago, they would still hatch under proper conditions. For Daphnia, or water fleas, three hundred years would encompass 3,000 generations, which is equivalent to 120,000 years of evolution for humans, according to Professor Kerfoot. By hatching the eggs and comparing the generations to one another, Professor Kerfoot was able to observe “evolutionary” change.

The water fleas Professor Kerfoot studied shared the lake with predators, whose populations fluctuated, as evidenced by their rate of occurrence in the strata of the lakebed. Fleas taken from the muck with a high population of predators were clad in a “helmet” and had long spikes on their tails. As the numbers of predators diminished, the fleas’ helmets and spikes also diminished.

If this is not evidence of evolution, could Intelligent Redesign be occurring?

Monday, August 08, 2005

How Bad Is the Job Search Going?

This may be an indication of how poorly the job search is going. My mom has suggested that I begin looking for employment outside the legal field. “McDonald’s has high turnover among the burger flippers. They are bound to be hiring.” I jest. She did not really say that. My brother asked me when I was going to turn to a life of crime.

I had embarked upon my law school journey with the idea that the education it would provide (and the degree) would open a number of doors and would make me more marketable to employers in a number of industries, not just in the legal profession. However, after three years of schooling that was geared toward the practice of law, I would like to put to use the skills I gained. It appears, though, that it is time to investigate those other avenues. Crime is not one of those alternative avenues.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Creative Rejections

Despite reassurances that it is the job market, and not me that is the reason for my inability to land a job in my chosen field, it is difficult not to ascribe fault to the law firms that are not interested in my inquiries into the possibility of employment.

A number of law firms to which I submit résumés and résumé cover letters kindly reply with letters stating that they lack a position for me. I have a growing stack of such letters. They generally inform me that, although my résumé is impressive, they do not currently have a need for someone with my qualifications, they thank me for my interest in their firm, and they wish me luck in my legal career. A letter thanking me for my interest in their firm and stating, simply, that there are no suitable openings for me, is perfectly acceptable. Some of the law firms’ form rejection letters are rather creative and quite comical, however. I doubt that they pored over my résumé or even gave a second thought to contacting me. I have essentially no work experience and I did not graduate in the top five percent of my class. Therefore, letters stating that my credentials are notable and that the recruiter spent more than a brief moment opening and then discarding my letter and résumé are probably not entirely accurate. Following are examples from some of the more entertaining letters.

The Recruiting Coordinator from Cox Smith Matthews Incorporated drafted the thoughtful letter in which she stated,

Unfortunately, at this time we do not have a need for an associate with your experience. This is regrettable when one with your knowledge comes to our attention. However, we will certainly keep your resume on file, and if a need should arise for someone with your qualifications and background, we will get in touch with you.

The letter concludes, “If I may be of assistance to you in any way, please let me know.” Perhaps I will take her up on that offer.

The Hiring Partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP wrote,

After reviewing and fully discussing your inquiry concerning employment and our
staffing needs, we have reluctantly concluded that we are unable to explore further the matter of employment with you.

With the experience and credentials you present, it is difficult for us to have to decline the opportunity to discuss employment with you. At the same time, it is
obvious that someone with your qualifications will have little difficulty in finding any number of challenging and rewarding opportunities.

We appreciate the opportunity to consider your application.

Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P.’s Director/Lateral Hiring informed me, “Your information has been carefully reviewed by our Houston Office. Unfortunately, the Office could not identify a strong match between your experience and the current needs of the Office.”

Jenkens & Gilchrest had a similarly insincere response.

After carefully reviewing your background and assessing our current needs, we have concluded that we will not be able to consider you for a position with Jenkens & Gilchrest at this time. This is not a reflection on your qualifications, which we feel are outstanding, but more a result of our not having a position with specific requirements in line with your expertise.

Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP’s hollow letter stated, “The résumé forwarded to us indicates that you have established an outstanding academic and professional record.” The Legal Recruitment Administrator at Howrey LLP gave “careful consideration to your background and how it might match our needs.” The people at Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody claimed that they “appreciated the opportunity to review your resume and learn about your accomplishments.” However, they “hope to have the opportunity to meet with you professionally at some time in the future, and look forward to being your professional colleagues.”

I would like to think that I wasted some of these potential, but unlikely, employers’ time. However, these are no doubt creative form letters that they fire off to the hundreds of applicants, like me, who, laboring under the delusion that these law firms might have positions for them, futilely submit their résumés. If anyone would like an extensive list of law firms and their addresses, for the purpose of submitting résumés, I can make such a list available.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Contentious Cuisine

I quite enjoy food and cooking. The entire process is fun for me, from selecting from the grocery store the raw ingredients to cook, to planning meals, to preparing the food, and enjoying the fruits of my labor. It would be interesting to maintain a food blog, to chronicle my gastronomic adventures. There are a number of notable food blogs. Clotilde Dusoulier does an impressive job with her Chocolate & Zucchini blog, in which she exalts “healthy/natural eating — fresh produce, as little processed food as possible, artisanal products, a preference for organic or natural foods when possible.”

However, any narrative account of my experiences with food would quickly take a less than glamorous turn. In my family, food often seems to be a point of contention. Nary is a meal had without some complaint being registered. These are not civil statements of preferences, mind you.

Some diners seem to have the tastes and eating habits of preteen boys or girls. “This chicken has bones in it!” “Where is the white rice? I don’t like brown rice!” Two individuals are opposed to change; they have a problem with anything that is new or different. Unfamiliar foods or new manners of preparation result in statements of dissatisfaction or refusals to eat the offering. “What is this seasoning? It is burning my esophagus.” “That’s herbes de Provence.” A sudden shortage of “staple” items has been known to provoke outbursts.

One individual has a mild allergy to onions, allegedly. If onions are detected in food, major objections are raised. Onions have led to departures from the table in fits of anger. What doesn’t contain onions? We do not eat as much fish as I would like, as one member of the family is not fond of it, particularly if it is not cooked to the point that it is dried out. Insufficiently overcooked fish has, likewise, resulted in tantrums and storming from the table.

My sister has a “rule” that makes mealtime interesting. If the name of a dish does not describe a majority of the ingredients, the meal does not pass muster. Thus, vegetable soup and beef and vegetable stew, for example, are unacceptable. I do not know how T.V. dinners and “quorn” nuggets fit into this equation, but my sister consumes a steady diet of these foods (and I use the term “food” loosely).

Even meal planning is demotivating. If anyone is in the mood to think about it, which frequently no one is, most ideas are shot down. “That sounds too heavy.” “I am tired of beans.”

This crowd certainly takes the fun out of cooking. Let them eat T.V. dinners.

Ireland! Who Knew?

I was surprised to learn recently, as I mentioned in a previous post, that Ireland currently is the second richest country in the European Union, after Luxembourg. Ireland’s per capita G.D.P. is higher than that of Germany, France, and Britain. Ireland has 0% unemployment.

In the 1960’s, the Irish government made secondary education free, thus making a high school education an attainable goal for persons from the lower socio-economic classes. In 1996, Ireland made college education much more affordable – essentially free – resulting in a relatively highly educated work force.

To improve its economic situation, Ireland reduced corporate taxes and encouraged foreign investment. New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, in a June 29, 2005 column, wrote that 9 out of 10 of the world’s top pharmaceutical companies, 16 of the top 20 medical device companies, and 7 out of the top 10 software designers have operations in Ireland. Dell Computer and Intel have also set up operations in Ireland.

This makes the possibility of relocating to Ireland appealing to me. For someone who is unemployed, the 0% unemployment is a particular draw.

Friday, August 05, 2005

“Productive” Trips into Houston

I live in an unincorporated suburb of Houston. The Woodlands is a nice place to live. A fair number of trees have been left standing. There are restrictions on development so you need not fear a gas station going in next door. There is an extensive system of hike and bike trails.

The Woodlands is situated about 30 miles distant from downtown Houston. Uphill both ways. In the snow. Or the blistering heat. Of course, Houston is quite spread out, so few of your destinations are within downtown. One must travel elsewhere inside the 610 Loop. Houston is decades behind where it should be in mass transit.

A drawback of The Woodlands is that there is a dearth of shopping and dining venues. All the restaurants are chains, which I find objectionable, we do not have a Whole Foods or a Central Market, and most retailers are of the big box or chain variety. We finally have a Williams-Sonoma and a Sur La Table, but these, too, are chain retailers. I do like them, though. If one is interested in movies, all that shows at the theater are films targeted at the high school crowd. Alas, alack, if one yens for some entertainment or to be entertained, or needs to shop for something other than basic necessities, it is necessary to make the trip into Houston.

Therefore, if the need for a foray into Houston arises, I must make the trip “productive” by visiting one of these desirable shopping locales, namely Whole Foods, Central Market, or maybe Serenitea, “a tea boutique with a variety of the finest teas.” Even though today I am going to the Harris County District Clerk’s Office, which is in downtown Houston, and to the school, again in downtown, to request copies of my transcript and to see if they have a diploma for me, the trip just would not be worthwhile if I did not go by one of the aforementioned grocery stores or Serenitea.

Homemade Is Better

In nearly all instances, homemade is better. Soup or stock from a can? Perish the thought. T.V. dinners? No, thank you. Cake or pudding from a boxed mix? I’ll gladly pass. Pizza made from bread you kneaded yourself, dressed with a sauce you cooked in your own kitchen, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella cheese, and baked on the stone in your oven is far superior to the frozen or delivered varieties. Even perfectly acceptable staples such as prepared ketchup and good bread are delightful if made from scratch in your own kitchen. I could go on. As evidenced by the abundance of prepared foods and convenience products on the market, and some of the food choices I witness in the household of which I am a member, not everyone is so convinced. Rick Bayless has an interesting essay on his “Secrets to Good Food and Healthy Living” that is to similar effect. Mr. Bayless writes of shopping from the perimeter of the grocery store. That is where the fresh, raw ingredients are generally located, such as produce, dairy, fish, meats, and so forth.

I formerly enjoyed the Orville Redenbacher’s 94% fat free “Smart Pop” kettle corn. Popcorn is a whole grain, so it is even a nutritious snack! The non-“Smart Pop” product was heavily laden with calories from fat and sugar. I thought I could eat the “Smart Pop” product guilt free. Then I read an article that finally convinced me to stop consuming artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame. This article likened them to putting DDT in your tea. According to the article, “sucralose is a chlorocarbon—a chlorinated synthetic sugar molecule. Chlorocarbons are highly toxic to many species.” The only purpose chlorine serves is to kill things. The 94% fat free “Smart Pop” kettle corn contains sucralose.

I began making my own kettle corn, using popping corn, a generous spoonful of sugar, a pinch of salt, and enough oil to cover the bottom of a large saucepan, and cooking it on the stovetop. It is not too much trouble. It requires more effort, but does not take much longer than microwaving Orville’s stuff. It tastes good, also, and it has less chlorine than Orville’s “Smart Pop” kettle corn.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

To Law School, or Not to Law School

I have written a number of posts about my inability to find a job in the legal field, and my tone is less than upbeat. I have heard from a number of sources that the job market for attorneys is not strong. I hope it is just the market, and not me that is the reason I remain unemployed. A fellow alumnus of my alma mater said, “The market is just saturated with attorneys right now.” When I expressed these concerns to another alumnus, she said, “It’s the job market, it sucks! It is definitely not you.” I am beginning to believe that it is the market.

Given that law firms are not currently hiring new lawyers at a crazed pace, one might wonder whether this would be the time to embark upon a legal education. Had I to do it again, would I endure the three years of law school? Without question, I would.

I thought law school provided a wonderful education. It teaches one to read and to think critically. Some might dispute that it improves one’s writing ability, but lawyers and law students work with words frequently; lawyers are wordsmiths; it cannot hurt one’s writing. Law school teaches one to formulate an argument and to support one’s position. The material and courses were interesting, to me. A law school education offers a wide range of career options, in terms of practice areas and work environments. Law school provides a broad education that opens many doors, and not just in the legal field – it develops skills that are applicable anywhere. Lawyers are problem solvers, negotiators, counselors, and advocates. One student is of the opinion that it teaches survival skills – one learns to work with people who will smile at you, but would just as soon stab you in your back. I do not know that I would go that far. There will always be a demand for lawyers. Or so I thought. Some people might offer conflicting advice or have a contrary opinion, but I have no regrets about the decision to attend law school.