Monday, March 28, 2005

Life as an NGO in Iraq...

I have a friend who was hired to well, I think he is re-keying Iraq. Or blowing up locks, or some such. I wrote and asked him what life was like over there and here was his response:

By an NGO:

Well, what is life like here? It's probably the best I've ever had it by myself! Aside from a few minor problems with the slow mechanisms in place for logistics here, I have absolutely nothing to complain about. The laborers are srilankan or filipino, usually. No iraqi's anywhere around me. I have a big room to myself, my own shop truck, and my own shop with 1 filipino worker. I don't have to cook, clean, take out trash, wash my truck, put fuel in my truck, or do my laundry. There is a large store here- like a Wal-mart- called the PX, that has everything I could want. There are Iraqi vendors that have stores here in the camps that can get ANYTHING from in Baghdad for a little bit of nothing. There is a pizza-hut, a Burger King, Subway, and Popeyes will be here soon. Aside from that food, the dining facilities are well funded with a lot of choices each day. Sometimes, they even have steak and lobster night! .

One of the biggest gripes available is the bloody weather. It rained here for about 6 days straight and turned everything into a knee deep swamp. Very few spots mud stuck up over the mess. It was almost impossible to walk in and it stuck to everything. But, it passed. The heavy machinery moved the dirt and rocks back to where they belonged and made the roads right again. And everything is back to "normal" again.

We hear, what we just call, "Booms" everyday. Usually it is from one of 'the good guys' shooting a 'bad guy' Lately, the EOD people have been setting off controlled detonations and scaring the hell out of everybody. Course, they don't TELL you it is a controlled detonation until a minute or so AFTER they pop it off, so everybody freaked out until we got used to it. Now, everyday, about this time, we'll hear 4 of 5 really close 'booms'

The women- it's a ratio of about 50 to 1 I'd say. Then, when you only count girls that meet parameters, that number dwindles sharply. The filipino women are automatically out of the equation. Srilankan women- forget about it! Most american women are followed around constantly by several men. And, the rest... well, they must be hiding or something!

Mind you, though, that every site is not like this. Even other people on my site don't have it like this. I think I got real lucky to be here. Besides, considering the questionable quality of other jobs I've had, I think I deserve a cush assignment like this! Fair is fair, right?

Hope this was what you wanted to know. If not, maybe I could answer som more specific questions for you.

***** Sounds pretty interesting. IF anyone out there needs to earn a lot of money (a lot of money-- with your expenses paid!) , has no dependants and can pass a background check it might be the place for you....if you can stand the highly increased likelyhood of Death. You also have to consider that Paul was twice Alabama's soldier of the year before leaving the Army- so he doesn't get too upset by military regulations or organization.

Also, I drove to work today for the first time since the surgery!!!! Lets just hope I can drive home too.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

You know you're a good lawyer when...

You know you're a good lawyer when.... The party whom you just beat up comes to you for legal advice later on when they need someone.

Two years ago I had an absolutely disgusting divorce. It was so horrible that for the first (and thus far only) time in my life I threw up before I left for the office that morning.

A and B, nah, lets give them cuter names, lets see... Anally obsessed and gramma were married. Anally obsessed wanted a divorce, 'cause Gramma, while she's screwed him 5x a week for 20 years, (Eeewww I hate having to know my client's sex lives) won't give up the back door...But he earned over 100K per year and knew he'd have to pay alimony and Child Support. He and gramma had adopted gramma's son's children, three girls. He did not want to pay child support and he didn't want to give her a dime.

He really said that, that she deserved none of the assets they built up during their time together. Since it was a long term marriage with children and he made over 100K per year...and she was 62 and had worked off and on (he was military so they moved every few years)... and did all their bookkeeping and cleaning and shopping and taking care of the girls... I knew we would get something. Shoot, Child Support alone was 1600 per month.

Anally obsessed's mistress was "friends" with the family. She and Gramma would call each other and record the conversations...each trying to fish something out of the other, which was pretty funny to listen to (and there were hours of the tapes to review...) Gramma was trying to get mistress to admit she was mistress and mistress was trying to get gramma to admit she was depressed.

Besides all the phone conversations and piles of discovery, I had 72 porn CD's that anally obsessed made while "practicing to learn how to use the CD burner on the computer" (that was how he answered my interrogatory regarding the Porn...) The CD's had such great names as: Anally Obsessed vols 1,2,and 3. Uranus Vols 1,2,and3. Barely legal Teen girls vols 1-6... and those are just the ones I remember.

I had to watch all of them too-- just for preparation of course. : )

There is naturally, a huge family attached to these people: both had been married three times and each had several children who had formed up on differing sides, except the only one of Anally Obsessed's side was gramma's son whos wife decided he wanted the girls to come live with him again, so he wouldn't leave her. It was hard to convince Gramma, but part way through the negotiations she realized that 1. She and Anal couldn't possibly cooperate enough to deal with the kids 2. The girls are teenagers and they'd be fine and 3. She was 62 and should move to Fla to her retirement job....

So, day of trial we're outside in this park beside my office and Anally obsessed's lawyer is um, well, he was military who retired and went to law school and he was...not at all military. He just kind of sits there, and is real slow about everything. Finally, anally obsessed and I are standing in the park and we're hashing out all the details and he's so mad he could spit... He's turning all kinds of red. He's sweating.... Did I mention this is a 6 '3" 475 pound dude who has a classified job for the Department of Defense? I'm wiping off my face (say it, don't spray it!) and smiling my "ha ha you can't make me angry" face and use my passive aggressive nature to get him to utter the words, "What, do you want it all? Fine you can fucking have every penny of my retirement if she'll just go away!"

There was a stunned silence while his lawyer is looking at him, hopeful that he can just go home.

And so I took every penny of his retirement, the kids went back to live with their dad and everyone on my side is happy. Gramma has a nice nest egg for herself (hell, she was 62... And while she got a job after the divorce she makes 8 bucks an hour and even though I won't tell you how much she got, she definitely felt her 20 years of forcing him to save had paid off), I got paid ! and Anally Obsessed makes enough money to put it back in....If he'd just quit eating out all the time....

And now? He really admires me and comes to see me and sends me clients.

That blows my mind.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Aphorisms from MadDog

MadDog always says great things, so I thought today would be a good day for MadDog aphorisms:

1. A lack of communication always breeds paranoia.

2. Absence makes the heart grow fonder of nearer lovers.

3. Someone who will cheat on their significant other to be with you will cheat on you.

4. He who tooteth not his own horn the same shall not be tooted.

5. Fool's names and fool's faces- often seen in public places. Which pretty much contradicts with another I hear a lot: "Sometimes you must see and be seen," but I can't get him to let me off the hook. And finally,

6. Early is on time and on time is late!

Ok, I know he didn't write most of those, but he did warp and twist them to delicious new constructions. Now, you know some of the things that run through my mind on a regular basis.

Have a great Monday and I hope to be bringing you a piece about my friend in Mongolia with the peace corps and a piece about the green zone from a friend who is picking locks for an NGO over there.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Working for yourself...

Not everyone is cut out to work for himself or herself. When I graduated from College I took a year off. I worked for a temp service, Old Navy and a printing company- among other jobs. Then, I took three months and lived in a van down by the river on the Columbia River Gorge in Washington and wind sailed.

I learned a lot and thought a lot and realized some basic truths:
1. People are crazy everywhere and at least here in Alabama I understand some of why they are crazy.
2. Just because someone owns and runs a successful business does not make them sensible.

I worked for a man who wrote these incredible algorithms to determine whom should receive the Junk mail from which company. I was hired as his Administrative assistant, because he had a lot of trouble getting people to work for him. His company was a pretty big deal-- they did the mailings for one of Michael Eisner's pet projects (and I got screamed at by his secretary!) and stuff like that. The man did not have a filing system. I, a 22 year old with a degree in Philosophy, and luckily a very organized individual-- set up a filing system, and set up important internal things like that.

I also worked for a publishing company where the coke head son punched a hold in the wall and then tried to steal my personal calendar to cover it up.

I realized that I wanted to work for myself.

I may have a bitch for a boss, but I really respect her. To work for yourself you must have internal discipline. You must be able to set deadlines and goals for yourself and meet them without any outside pushing. This is why even though my Doctor doesn't want me to work right now, I am at work. This is why during the pain of the last two weeks I have made it to the office to at least look at my email and messages every other day. This is why I was in Court yesterday morning and this afternoon.

This is why I have to go now and do that which pays the bills and makes me happy.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Be nice to everyone

Durring my recent confinement, I originally left a message on my voice mail giving MadDog's office number as an emergency number.

One woman, whom I had helped before, called, leaving me several tearful messages. I was already out of patience with her from the first encounter. The messages were more and more tearful and begging me to call her- to help her for free, which I wasn't about to do because I didn't have the wherewithall to deal with her at that point. Finally, MadDog's secretary called me because the woman had called her and wanted some information from her file and YELLED at her when she said she didn't have the file there. First, there was nothing in her file but some notes about her behavior last time because all I did for her was to help her get a copy of her Court record, which is public information. Secondly, I will now never help her because she wanted something for free and yelled at MadDog's secretary who is one of the nicest and most compitent people I know. MadDog often says she could practice law better than fully 25% of the attorneys here.

Its a lesson MadDog taught me early and often: Be nice to everyone. You never know who that person is or what s/he knows that you don't.

He also said, "Its nice to know Mr. or Ms. Big, but its more important to know his or her secretary." Most of the time the secretary really knows what's going on.

Two great examples:

A probate Judge told me this the other day:

A young man he knows had gotten a job training to be a sales man at the Merceedes dealership in Alabama. One rainy day early in his training there was a solitary black man wandering the lot. None of the other salespeople wanted to got out to the customer because it was cold and wet so they let the trainee go out because he wanted to. He was nice to the guy and helped him and when they returned to the office, it turned out that that man was Lionel Richie and he bought 4 Merceedes. The other sales people tried to horn in on the trainee's deal, but Richie wouldn't let them and that young man earned his stripes that day.

Be nice to everyone.

Story two: A man I know who calls himself a tree killer walked into a bank. He was tired and dirty after a long day of work. The people were giving him a hard time about something and were not treating him politely at all and sent him over to a bank officer to talk about something. (I happen to know this particular bank officer: he cut his fingernails while I was trying to talk to him about business, so while I have no idea what exactly he did in this situation, but I'll bet it was a doozie) So the officer treats this man poorly, and our hero tree killer shruggs his shoulders and says, "I'm sorry that's your attitude. I'll just close my accounts with you. Here are my account numbers, I'll wait out there for the cashier's check."
A large amount of cash later the officer was blubbering at his feet trying to make up for his rude behavior and was happy to do what the man wanted.

Be nice to everyone- even bank officers who are rude to you. The only thing you can do when someone doesn't treat you well is to take your business elsewhere.

Which is why Bellsouth will never ever again have my business... but that's a different story for a different day.

Oh, and if you're wondering why I shouldn't be nice to that woman and help her.. its because you can say "no" nicely. Which I did. I didn't even try to explain to her why she should have been nice to MadDog's secretary-- that's why I'm telling you.

Funny stories from a lawyer flat on her back

Ok, I won't bore you with the painful details, but after three hours in the emergency room (Whatever you do- never under any circumstances- injure yourself such that you have to go to the emergency room on a Friday night.) they finally gave me a shot of dilauden (Sp?)which made the pain subside enough to allow me to realize that I had to pee.

So, after some dithering, Mommie Dearest and my Beau take me, in the wheelchair with my leg still straight out, to the bathroom, a standard unisex hospital model. To begin with it stank so badly that in my drugged state I began giggling about how bad it smelled. A whole lot of bad similes flashed through my head too fast for me to vocalize so I just laughed. Mommie Dearest covered the toilet with paper towels before flushing for the last guest, because she read that flushing just flings the germs out into the air. She demonstrated "flings" with her hands. She is still trying to distract me from the pain.

The seat is well covered with tp and now we have to get me out of the chair and onto the seat without dislodging it. No mean feat considering that while the shot was strong enough to make the pain subside while sitting still, and to rob me of the voluntary use of most of my muscles, it was no match for the pain upon jarring or movement of any sort. They got me up, swiveled around on my good foot, pants unzipped and down and settled on the toilet.

And the flood began. After what felt like an eternity I began to giggle at the sheer length of the release which sidetracked me making me stop. Just when they were trying to get me up I started again. Now, we were all giggling at the truly absurd scene- my mom, my beau and me in the bathroom together...and I was still going. My Beau started making jokes about how long I was going- and in my drugged state the whole episode had a very surreal movie like quality to it I kept going and going and going... It was some great family bonding.

Family Bonding: Priceless

Trip to the emergency room: $875.41

The importance of a good Bar...

I've been out of comission for a while, as my 8 loyal readers may or may not have noticed : )

After a week of pain, I finally had surgey on my knee last Thursday and I feel so much better. The MRI suggested a simple tear of the meniscus, however, it turned out that most of the meniscus had come loose and was balled up between the bottom of my knee and the top of my lower leg. The surgeon removed most of it and I am back on my feet, at least for brief periods of time.

But the topic at hand is the importance of a good Bar. Aside from some difficult clients who couldn't seem to understand the meaning of the word Emergency, some good friends have really pitched in for me and it makes me realize how important it is to have mutual respect and flexibility towards each other in my profession. As one lawyer said to me a while back, "You can't double cross anyone here because its going to come back to haunt you and so you just play aboveboard and go along to get along." I haven't had one bit of difficulty out of any lawyers and several friends have handled what they could of my cases so that my appointed clients could resolve things without having to wait for me. I feel so thankful to work where I work-- a place where people pitch in and help.

*Bar: Lawyers admitted to practice before a particular Court, not bar: that place where if you drink too much and get behind the wheel you'll need a lawyer....

Monday, March 07, 2005

out of comission

Every good injury should have a great story.

Mine does not.

I was uncrossing my leg and I am out of comission. Lets just hope the mri does not show a torn tendon like the doc suspects.

needless to say, no writing for a while.

Naturally I am too anal to not come to my office to get things ready.
thank goodness for maddog!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

How to be in 3 Courts at the same time: A Primer

When I was first practicing I mistakenly accepted an appointed case when I had another case set. I was so stressed. I was in the floor, oh shit what am I gonna do, this is awful, I am so embarrassed I forgot I had the other case set- stressed.

MadDog laughed at me. He said that pretty soon I would become comfortable with being in two Courtrooms at the same time, and sometimes even three. "Its only hard," he said reassuringly "when you have to be in two Courtrooms in two different counties at the same time. Once I was in three Courts in three Counties and won all three cases."

So, if you have cases set in multiple Courtrooms you're supposed to write a letter to the Judge in each case and propose a solution. However, in practice, this is only done if you have two in differing counties because when they are in the same Courthouse, or at least the same town, it really is easy to manage, unless its specially set (I.E. the only one on the docket.) Usually, there are 40 to 70 cases on a docket. A docket is what we call the list of cases for the session. So, the Judge calls the docket at the appointed time, then steps off the bench to let everyone discuss and try to settle. (Except in Bankruptcy Court where the Judge demands that you settle first and be ready when he calls the docket. I love this because he can get through 60 cases in under an hour. We call this the Rocket Docket.) As long as people know where you are, and your client is there, you can fake it a little as to the exact time you come in to get the case settled or tried as the case may be. Now, when you have a jury trial it is much more time consuming, but these cases were all bench trials-- just the parties and the lawyers.

So, Wednesday I was in City Court at 8:30, District Court at 9, and had a 341 meeting in Federal Court at 11:30. So, I told MadDog to answer my docket in District Court and hit City Court. When I got there, one of my friends was doing a jury trial in Circuit Court and had a bunch of cases in City. I handled my case by 9:30, ran over to check on my District case, checked on friend in Circuit Court and ran back to City Court to tell the Judge where she was in her trial so he could figure out what to do with the rest of her cases. Then, I went back to District Court and decided to put that case off to the afternoon because the guy couldn't get a ride and I didn't want to issue a writ for his arrest because he's got a lot of health problems and it does no one any good to do that if we don't have to. Then, I ran to Federal Court, breezed through the 341 (I call the trustee the day before and fix any problems so my 341s are never a problem) and back to the office to answer messages and return calls, by 12. Then, back to District Court at 1:30 and wait for dude to show up. He's not there so I head back to the office and do some work until MadDog calls me at 3 to tell me dude is there so I run back over, handle his case and breeze back into the office at 4:15 for a last round of phone calls and work.


I was freaking exhausted. That's the thing about Court-- you have to be ON. You have to know your case, know what you want, know the law, know your client and be ready to answer the question from the Judge that was not at all what you expected him to ask.

Today, I am catching up on all the work I did not do yesterday in the 2 hours I was in the office.

Oh and my friend who had the Jury case? I asked the Judge what it was about when I stopped to talk to her at one point and she said "Hate." It was an appeal from City court and the the "victim" in the case was arrested in the Courtroom yesterday on a warrant sworn out by the Defendant on the exact charges the Defendant was up on in Circuit Court that day. (I.E. she had had him arrested for harassing her and then in Court he had her arrested for harassing him or something like that...hate.) Oddly enough, after that the Victim and Defendant agreed to drop the charges against each other and everyone went home happy.

I wish people wouldn't call the police every time they got mad at someone. It just makes it harder on everyone because the police have trouble telling the difference between the garbage and the real cases.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Competition and Children... Don't do unto others what was done unto you!

This is a little off topic for me, but I've just heard a lot lately about children and sports. Baseball season is gearing up. In Alabama in the last few months we had a mother who brought a gun to her child's game (Right here in River City!) and a free-for-all fight at a high school basketball game. (With slammed chairs, girl on girl bitch slapping, and a whole slew of arrests....made that fight in the NBA look amature!)

Last night on Fresh Air I caught part of an interview with a retired major league pitcher. I've always loved that about Terri Gross- she can make someone I am decidedly ambivalent about- interesting.

He (and I have no idea what his name was) was saying that his family was a tough family....blah blah blah... And how he and his son were playing ball in a father son game and he was running the bases and his son got thrown out at third before he scored the winning run so they didn't go to the playoffs. He (the pitcher, not his child who was thrown out) goes to his father who is watching on the sidelines, and says, something along the lines of "Well, dad, I tried real hard." and his dad spits a big wad of tobacco at the son's feet and says, "It weren't enough." or something similarly dismissive.

The Pitcher says how great it was that his dad was all tough like that and how that's what wrong with the world today that everyone wants to be praised even when they don't win...And we don't focus enough on winning.

and I wanted to grab him and shake him because he sooo missed the boat on that one.

He should be proud that he did well- that doesn't change the fact that he lost, because sometimes when you do your best you still loose. And that's fine, you just take refuge in the fact that you came, you played and you did your best. Hopefully you had a good time, which to me has always been the point. It is not bad to be proud in doing your best. I agree that we shouldn't be making up awards so every kid gets one-- but I also think that each and every child should have the exact same amount of playing time in all team sports until you get to say, high school.

Damnit people-- winning is just so not the point. Playing well, doing better than you did before, interacting with other and having fun- these are the points. This is why I quit every childhood sport I ever played- people take this stuff wayyyy too seriously.

I remember playing tennis-- about 8th grade and making an ugly face at another girl and my mom snatching me off the court and making me forfeit-- and it was just a face. Now, there is a good lesson for a child- you can never ever show hostility towards someone for winning against you fair and square. This lesson serves me well in life. I'm not sure my parents ever cared whether or not I won or lost-- did I play well, did I have fun and was I a good sport? These were their concerns.

Here's a great example: my Former and I were invited a few times to play kick ball with a really fun group of people. This was beer in the cup, dogs in the field, Saturday afternoon fun. He was a really competitive person, but because his Dad was such a nightmare about sports he never ever played because he got yelled at so much. We were going to play softball, but the first time he tried to throw up the ball and hit it with the bat he hit me in the head with the ball in the in the shin with the bat- and I was a good six feet behind him! I still can't figure out how that happened. So, kickball it was. First time up he tells everyone "go back, because I'm going to nail it!" He bunts really short. Then, he gets insulted and pouts when they move in for him next round. Then, the rule was no hitting people in the head when you're throwing them out- and he slams the ball into a girl's head! On Purpose!

See- winning was so important to him he couldn't deal with a nice happy game where people were just playing for fun. Needless to say, after the second try we weren't invited back- which bummed me out because I was having a lot of fun.

I hope if one of your parents ruined sports for you that you can get over it and get out and play with your friends and have a great time. Spring is right around the corner.... And I hope that you weren't stunted such that you refuse to compete unless you think you're going to win- because that is the worst thing you can do to yourself. In my opinion, being afraid to loose stunts more potential successful people than any other single barrier to success. If you aren't loosing on a regular basis you're not challenging yourself enough. Remember: Babe Ruth wasn't just the home run king- he was the strike-out king too!