Sunday, May 29, 2011

very dull indeed

This is an old post that I started writing more than two years ago but never published because I decided it was stupid. However, in my efforts to update my blog more and to be less self-critical, I'll go ahead and publish it now.

Today I came across a quote which I think does a fantastic job of expressing a common-place idea. In discussing the problems of presuming that jury instructions will cure trial errors, the Fifth Circuit wrote: "[I]f you throw a skunk into the jury box, you can't instruct the jury not to smell it." Dunn v. United States, 307 F.2d 883, 886 (5th Cir. 1962). Vivid, to-the-point, and memorable.

It's brilliant writing like this that makes me feel all the inadequacies of my own writing. I may be able to string together a grammatically correct and logically sound sentence, but I don't feel like I've ever been good at conveying normal ideas in a vivid, interesting manner. That's not to say that I never find things I've written interesting -- I've been known to reread old journal entries for hours, after all -- but it's the subject matter, rather than the writing itself, that draws my attention. After all, it's hard to go wrong when you're writing about, say, the time you were car-shopping and drove the car into the wall at the dealership when you returned from your test drive.

Actually, on second thought, I take that back. I once had a roommate who could have made any story boring. She could have been telling you about how she walked on the moon, and you'd have been bored.

. . . So then we got onto the spaceship. It was a big spaceship. You might have seen the pictures of it. I said to John -- he was one of the astronauts, you know -- well, I said to him, "John, don't you think this is a big spaceship? I think it's a big spaceship." And he said, "You're right. It is a big spaceship. In fact, that's just what my wife told me when she dropped me off at the spaceship this morning. She said, 'John, this is a big spaceship.' And I agreed with her." Then I said to John, "Your wife is smart and observant. I'm so glad you married someone smart. Oh, weren't you telling me the other day that she was an accountant?" John said that she was, but she was between jobs at the moment. You know how the economy is these days. But she had had a good interview recently, and John really hopes she'll be getting that job. It would be so great for their family if she could. You don't know John, do you? Well, I guess you don't need to hear all the details of that, then. So, like I was saying, the spaceship was big. At least from the outside. When we got inside, we saw that it was smaller than it looked from the outside. I mentioned that to John, and he said, "I don't know about that. I think you just thought it was bigger than it was." And I said, "No John, you agreed that it was big. It looked bigger from the outside than it does on the inside. I don't know why you want to argue with me about this." You know, John is a nice enough fellow, bless his heart, but sometimes he doesn't observe things as well as he should. So anyway, the floors of the spaceship were gray. Not a really light gray though. It was sort of like a gray cellphone color, if that makes any sense. Not the color of your cellphone, though, so I guess that's not an accurate description. It was gray like the color of the TV, except maybe a little darker, so maybe it was closer to . . . ."

I'm not sure that I ever heard this roommate complete a story. I would make up an excuse to leave or tune her out long before she got to the part where anything started happening, if she ever did tell a story in which something happened.

So, I concede that my writing isn't as boring as it could be. However, I generally find it to be far from scintillating. For the most part, I don't get too hung up on this. Although a major portion of my job involves writing, it's much more important for this writing to be legally and analytically sound than for it to be interesting. I do sometimes think that my writing could stand a bit more color, but I usually decide that I'd rather just finish the work than try to make it all interesting and fancy-like. When I go to write on my blog, however, I really wish I could come up with something interesting to say, and an interesting way to say it. And that is why I have not updated my blog in some time. (Well, that and extreme laziness.)

"[J]udges are not like pigs, hunting for truffles buried in briefs." Gross v. Burgraff Constr. Co., 53 F.3d 1531, 1546 (10th Cir. 1995). Bloggers, however, are quite often like pigs hunting for the interesting tidbits buried in the woods of mundane every-day life. Whether they succeed, however, is left to the reader to decide.

Friday, May 27, 2011

something new

I feel like I've been doing a fairly good job in recent months of getting out of my comfort zone a little bit and doing things I've never done before.

Exhibit A: taking my first international trip (and to India, no less)
Exhibit B: going skeet shooting
Exhibit C: doing lifts while swing dancing. (Seriously, this one was a big deal for me. I have a phobia of falling backwards, and I've never even successfully done a dip before.)

The secretary at my work agrees that I've been leaving my comfort zone more than usual, and she's got a theory about what comes next. "Shooting last weekend, and swing dancing this weekend? Next thing I know, you're going to tell me that you've fallen in love!"

I'm not entirely sure I see the correlation, but I could go for that.

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

playing church

Some people in my family like to play volleyball. I am not one of those people. When we have family volleyball games, I prefer to look after my adorable nieces so their parents can play. I find this much more entertaining and far less traumatic.


Adorable nieces

When we stay around the house, it's easy enough to find something to do while the others play volleyball. When we all go over the church meeting house, however, we sometimes end up with limited entertainment options for the kids. And thus it was that I found myself "playing church" at our last family reunion.

Following a rousing rendition of "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes," my six-year old niece presented the lesson. Our lesson for the day, she told us, was going to be about waiting. It turns out that waiting isn't very fun, but we've got to do it anyway, and we shouldn't complain about it. My niece then illustrated her point with an example:
If you're at the restaurant and you're really hungry, you want to go back to the kitchen and yell, "Where's my food? I'm really hungry!" But you can't do that. You need to sit and wait and hope they bring you your food soon. That's better, because they might trip on you if you tried to go back into the kitchen.
Words to live by, my friends, words to live by. And if you've got a friend who doesn't blog very often, you might want to say, "Where's the blog? I want to read something funny!" But that might not help, and they might just trip over their writer's block. On the other hand, maybe they'd come up with something. Stranger things have happened.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

worth a thousand words

Although I've already posted hundreds of photos on facebook, there was one sequence of photos that was too awesome to be relegated to the depths of a facebook photo album. No, not our pictures of the Taj Mahal, not the beauties of Kerala, and definitely not the photos of our camel's backside in Rajasthan. This is something far more wonderful.

It all began when my mom decided to take a picture of my dad in front of a tree. Not a bad idea, although I don't know what was so special with this particular tree. Unfortunately, all did not go as planned.

Making lemonade out of the lemons, my mom decided to do a retake, this time with Becky added to the picture in more formal fashion. Unfortunately, Becky still hadn't quite reached formality when my mom snapped the photo.

My mom decided to make one more try. But she was again foiled, this time by me doing my best impression of an injured baby velociraptor. (That, or I was trying to fix my churidar in the most awkward fashion possible.)

I guess at this point my mom decided that it would be impossible to take a good photo with her ungainly children wandering into every shot, so she just gave up. Which is a real pity, since I would have liked to have seen what Rosie would have done in the way of an awkward entry.

I'm sure it would have been hilarious.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

in perspective

One of the great things about traveling to India is that it gives you greater tolerance for the dumb things about your own country. For instance, I think airport security in the US is frequently stupid, pointless, and needlessly violative of privacy. But when you compare it to being groped by a handsy Indian policewoman, well, it definitely could be worse.

(Now hopefully this post isn't giving TSA any ideas.)

Monday, May 09, 2011

commercial interruption

Ammo: $10
Gas to drive to the shooting range: $15*
Aloe vera gel to slather on my sunburned skin afterwards: $8
The look on my coworker's face when I told him I went skeet shooting this weekend: Priceless

*Okay, so I got a ride from someone and didn't actually pay for gas. But I needed a third item for my list.