Thursday, January 18, 2007

Winter after all.

I spotted snowflakes today. Not many, and not big ones, but some.

Not enough to stick to the grass, but there was a dusting on highway overpasses. Until it warmed up to above freezing, and the precipitation stopped anyway.

But actual snowflakes.

Fairly impressive, if you figure that less than 70 hours earlier, it was 75 degrees.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Because they can't read calendars.

From the front yard:

This crocus is one of a half-dozen or so that have already bloomed. Clearly, they are putting their tiny little heads together to figure out what to do about tonight's projected low temperature of 25. And tomorrow's of 19.

It can take a certain amount of pride in beating last year's first blossom, and by almost a month.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Flat flip flies straight.

It's Sunday afternoon. NFL division playoff games are on the tube. And yet - it's seventy-three degrees outside, in the middle of January. Most years, "the middle of January" means temperatures around freezing and some variety of frozen stuff on the ground. This year, we haven't had any freezing weather yet, and only a couple of evenings in the 20's back in December. And my poor bulbs are confused: I've already seen one crocus in bloom.

Still, 73 degrees in the middle of January shouldn't be celebrated by sitting inside watching football. That calls for shorts and flip-flops and being outside somewhere, doing something.

And on Sunday, "something" meant that I would find one of the Frisbee golf courses that are located in my county's park system. Well, "disc golf courses" to be precise. Although playing Frisbee golf with something other than an authentic Frisbee seems just plain wrong to me. So I found the closest course on Mapquest, got some general idea of how to get there, and took off. I was about halfway there when I realized I had left my Frisbee on the table by the door. Hmm. Setback. But I wasn't going to turn around and go home to get the Frisbee; not when I had the viable alternative of going to the course and playing a round of zen Frisbee. A round where I was guaranteed not to hook the disc into someone's back yard.

I had an interesting scenic tour of part of the county I hadn't been in before, while searching for the park, thankful that I started out with a full tank of gas. When I got to the park, it was so big that I couldn't find the course right away, so I wandered around. Perfectly reasonable course of action, given that it was 73 degrees. In the middle of January. There's the kiddie playground, with swings and slides. There's the picnic shelter. There's the path through the woods, with carved signs identifying the types of trees; someone's Eagle Scout project. There's the football field; there's the tennis court.

Ah. Way over there is the sign welcoming you to the disc golf course, and informing you of the rules: no alcohol, and you have to be gone by dark. Beside the sign was the path leading into the woods, as they have laid out this course through a small forest, the better to have trees and streams as obstacles. And ten feet down the path is a bench, where someone is clearly waiting for his disc golfing buddy to show up so they can start a round. How could I tell? He was carrying a shoulder bag full of flying discs. There must have been at least 10 of them. I couldn't help thinking to myself, "Holy cow. What a geek." But I kept my thoughts to myself, realizing that I was wandering through the woods that constituted this disc golf course, wearing an aloha shirt, shorts, and Corona flip-flops, and I didn't even have the excuse of carrying even a single Frisbee. Or some other, alien flying disc.

Fine. Well, I could still walk around and look at the layout of the course, so that if I do return with a Frisbee one day, I'll have some idea of where I'm going. The white posts indicating the tee box for the first hole were closeby. It took three or four minutes of searching before I spotted a disc golf "hole" - a pole with a basket underneath it for the disc to fall into. I walked up to it, and sure enough, it was marked hole number 1. Wouldn't you think that the tee box for the next hole would be in close sight? I would have, but I couldn't find it. Fine. Way off yonder, I could barely make out another "hole", so I set off through the underbrush to see what number it was. As far as it was, it was probably number 4, or maybe 8 on the way back. Nope. It was hole number 2. And here was a group playing up to it, from the other side of the hole (and thus not from anywhere near the first hole). I was considering asking them if they had a map of the course I could look at, or if they could generally point out where the holes ran - but then I realized that each of them had a shoulder bag full of flying discs. And hmm, for that matter, so did those guys walking along a "fairway" for what must be another hole.

Wow. I had discovered a flock of geeks, each one intent on selecting the right disc for the shot he wanted to make. Basing that decision on some variation on this table, listing flight characteristics of some 250 different flying discs (only four of which are actually Frisbees).

Each one of them would examine the next shot they were going to take, rummage through his bag for the "correct" disc, line up the throw, and send the disc on its flight. Invariably, it would bounce off a tree about 30 feet from the start or hook into the stream. So much for selecting a disc based on distance and flight characteristics.

I decided I'd done what I set out to do: I found the disc golf course, I had some idea of what the holes were like, and I hadn't been indoctrinated into the odd cult of bag-carrying disc golfers. Time to go find out how the football games turned out.

The new job.

I suppose it's time to report on the new job. Many things about it are a whole lot better than the former job, although there are a couple of drawbacks.

Good things first: They treat us like human beings. The firm has given us honest-to-goodness legal work to do, and are willing to let us make our own "legal" decisions on what we're looking at. (The firm has just taken over as General Counsel for a Fortune 100 company, and the former General Counsel boxed up all the case files and sent them on with a bare minimum of description of what's going on and what needs to be done right away. So we are going through the boxes of case files and writing case summary memoranda: we are to figure out what the case is about, who the parties are, where the lawsuit is located, what motions are pending, what discovery deadlines and trial dates are coming up, and even make suggestions as to what strategy to follow. Possibly four or five hundred cases involved.) The firm even treats us (mostly) as though we were permanent employees - we went through a day of orientation (HR paperwork and videos telling us that sexual harrassment was bad and computer security was good), we get subsidized parking in their parking deck in the firm building, we get our own email address with the firm's address, and they even put us onto their internal website.

And of all that, the best is that they give us actual legal work to do; stuff that would probably be done by the firm's associates if they had the luxury of a bit more time to do it in. But since we were discovering rapidly approaching deadlines (the last date for filing an answer in one case is sometime next week, or a trial in another case the last week of the month, for instance), they really didn't have that luxury.

Just a couple of drawbacks. First, they stuck us into a computer training room. You know, an interior room (i.e., no windows) with three rows of tables with a bunch of computers crammed onto them. The sort of room that you can barely tolerate for a two-hour class on How To Use Outlook. Fifteen of us were shoehorned in there, taking up all the computers. And with no room for the 4 or 5 boxes of case files that we each needed to peruse. (We would ask for mustard sauce, but I'm not sure the paralegals would understand the reference.) Just barely tolerable for a short-term project (and this one is scheduled to last 2 to 3 weeks).

And the other drawback? The project is already over. It lasted about six days. Plus-or-minus a half day, depending on how much work you had left to do when they announced, "This box we're handing out now is the last of the cases. Whenever you're done with what you've got, you're finished with the project." It turns out that at some point they decided that they needed us to look at only the product liability and personal injury cases, about 60 of the 400+ cases they were taking over, but didn't either reduce the number of people needed on the project or tell us that it would be even more limited than originally planned.

So it's back to being an unemployed layabout.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Looking for a new job?

Oh, wait. That's me.

Anyway, here's a job posting to consider, if "Find a new job" was your New Year's Resolution: Chief Beer Officer for the Four Points hotel chain. Part-time and compensation as yet announced. But they'd send you as their ambassador to brewery tours, beer festivals, and random nights out at your local watering hole, and they'd expect you to write a monthly (!) blog entry reviewing beer.

They even have an on-line application form for you.