Being Nigel

I recently expressed some of my dissatisfaction with my current career:

It received much more of a response than I expected, but I stand by this statement 100 percent. And it’s not “yardwork” per se that I enjoy (though I do). It’s actually creating something and doing something that does not involve wallowing in minutiae while sitting at a computer for eight or more hours per day.

There is a deep undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the contemporary office job. This is for two main reasons:

  1. It is highly unnatural; and
  2. There is little to nothing to show for your efforts.

Where’s the sense of accomplishment in shuffling through emails? What pride can there be in spending hours contributing something infinitesimally minute to some project that you have no ownership over and does not affect you?

And in the case of law, everything is air. Everything is made up. A law doesn’t exist. It’s a shared fiction that everybody agrees to abide by under pain of financial injury or physical imprisonment. However, these things can be changed relatively quickly–today’s wrong is tomorrow’s right.

Plus, it all keeps coming. All of it. There is no end to the busy work.

This can’t be unique to law, but at least some other jobs probably provide a more tangible sense of accomplishment. I think of somebody working on creating software, or designing a building, or even a guy on an assembly line or out landscaping: At the end of the day, you’ve created a thing. I know it’s easy to romanticize physical labor, and I know it often doesn’t pay as well as our wonderful brand new “service economy.” But hear me out.

Remember the movie City Slickers? Remember when it’s “Career Day” at Billy Crystal’s character’s son’s school and the other dads have interesting jobs, but Billy Crystal’s character, who sells advertising space on radio stations, finally admits that he “sells air”?

That’s a lot of us out here today. Men, especially. No wonder Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, and Bruno Kirby decide to do something traditionally masculine and become cowboys. It’s a comedy, sure, but there’s an undercurrent of something real there.

Some days, I have an overwhelming urge to fight. I want to fight and get hit and hit other people and not know if I’m going to make it. I want to bleed as much as I want to make others bleed.

Other days, I want to go out in the forest, chop some trees, and build a house. Or a palace. Or make a castle out of huge rocks. Just because.

Although I hate the term “midlife crisis,” because it’s usually used to mock men who are unhappy with their work situations, the feeling is totally understandable. And I’ll tell you what I think it stems from: doing what we were told we should do. Continue reading “Being Nigel”

American Blasphemy

Blasphemy is the act of insulting or showing irreverence to God, or any other deity if that’s how you roll. But it also applies to anything considered sacred. And while we’ve abolished blasphemy laws in the West, at least as applied to Christianity (yay, I guess?), we still have blasphemy laws up the wazoo and don’t kid yourselves.

Sacred cows are alive and well in these United States. I’m going to speak blasphemously here, but let’s just say that your personal feelings and attitudes towards sodomy and it’s practitioners or baby killing, or even firearms ownership, can make you a persona non grata here in America . . . if they’re the wrong decision.

If you are of a certain chromatic disposition, saying the exact same thing as another can either be a-okay or complete verboten, enough to remove you from polite society.

You don’t even have to say anything mean or hateful. Just “wrong.”

Meanwhile, it seems like the only religions that have any sort of protection against verbal assault, no matter how mild, are either of the indigenous variety, or the one whose adherents get rather stabby/bomby at the merest hint of criticism.

So essentially, blasphemy laws, the current state of which in America is a weird and deadly combination of the hecklers’ and assassins’ veto. Continue reading “American Blasphemy”

Gut Instincts and Glory

I’ve already shared a story about detrimental reliance at the workplace, where I very nearly deep-sixed a matter by relying on a colleagues incorrect work.

I learned an important lesson that day: stay paranoid.

Sometimes, when you’re in the midst of a difficult task, the temptation to rely on someone else’s work exerts as strong a pull as an oasis to a dying man in the desert. But don’t do it.

Now here’s an even better story about professional failure for you. And it does not have a happy ending.

NOT the ending screen to our story.

I call this story “better” because of a very important axiom I just coined two seconds ago: THE BIGGER THE FAILURE, THE BETTER THE LESSON.

(Hey, failure is what we do around here).

This particular failure happened early in my legal career. I was maybe…a month into my first post-law school job. I had been scheduled to oppose one of our defendant’s summary judgment motions.

You see, the attorney who’s case this actually was couldn’t make it. So on short notice, I got the call.

“Great!” I thought. “A chance to prove myself!” Diligently, I told the attorney I’d get cracking on our opposition.

“No, don’t worry,” she said, “I’ll write it and send it to you.”

Against my better judgment, I agreed. Hey, I was busy, still getting my feet wet…and a little lazy.

Time passed, and I still didn’t have this attorney’s opposition. I was frantic, until the night before the hearing when she emailed it to me.

And it was garbage. Continue reading “Gut Instincts and Glory”

Ask A Christian, Part IV: God in the Hands of Angry Sinners

hand-of-god

Do you want to know what’s even more offensive than outright blasphemy?

People putting their own words, thoughts, and beliefs into the mouth of Jesus Christ–the son of God Himself–usually to score some some stupid political point .

This tends to occur when the discussion turns to taxation or government spending on things like welfare, or tax cuts, or other policies like open borders and immigration.

And since you asked, here’s why this boils my blood: Most of the people making these claims hate God, religion, and Christians in particular.

To all of these people, I give a hearty and sincere one-fingerd salute.

finger-pointing2
And I don’t mean this finger.

As Christians, we are warned about false prophets.

Don’t misunderstand me: There are Christians on all side who like to pretend that Jesus is on their side, especially when it comes to their own politics and personal predilections. And they all drive me up a tree, thank you for asking.

But Jesus minced no words when it came to this:

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

Matthew 7:15-17

The book of Revelations also describes the two-headed beast that is the Antichrist and the False Prophet:

11 And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.

12 And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.

13 And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,

14 And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.

15 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.

Revelation 13:11-15

There is more in the Bible, of course, but as you can see, misattributing things to Jesus Christ is a seriously bad thing.

Hey, for all you know, I’m a false prophet. Don’t listen to me. I’m just some yahoo with a blog. But I’m also not trying to claim I speak for the Lord! Like billions of us now and before, I’m just trying to understand and live His word as best I can.

As discussed in a previous installment of Ask A Christian, many of these examples involve one trying to wield God as a weapon yet clearly not understanding the context of the verse they are trying to weaponize. Yes, unlike a certain other so-called Abrahamic religion that is in the news a lot lately, the context in the Bible tends to make the Bible look better. Imagine that!

So here are some of the worst arguments that cause my blood pressure to spike every time I see some joker in the media parrot them. For the faithful among you, you have been warned: the annoyance-dial is about to get cranked to 11. Continue reading “Ask A Christian, Part IV: God in the Hands of Angry Sinners”

Bright Lines

In the law, there’s a concept called a bright line rule. These are those mythical legal answers where there is a definite write and wrong answer: If X happens, than legally Y must be the consequence.

I say “mythical,” because the law, as we know, tries to codify all of the wonderful occurrences that could happen in this thing we call life.

Don’t laugh, but legal language struggles mightily to be as precise as humanly possible, attempting to cover all of the bases and possible contingencies so as to avoid confusion, not create it.

Okay, seriously, you can stop laughing now.

But think about it: Killing another person is bad. That’s a bright line, sure. But in order to determine if the punishment fits the crime, we need to know:

  1. Was this a premeditated killing?
  2. If so, what was the mental state of the accused?
  3. Was it an accidental killing?
  4. If so, was it a crime of passion or negligence?
  5. If it was a crime of passion, what was the situation leading to the killing? (e.g., Self-defense? Finding one’s child or spouse being sexually assaulted?)
  6. If it was a crime of negligence, what were the facts of the situation? Were all parties contributing to the negligence, or just one?

And so on. There’s a balancing test here to determine the severity of the punishment.

The bright line has already been violated. Now we’re looking at the degree of the violation in light of all available evidence. It’s . . . a messy process.

Mind you, this is with an “easy” case like killing another human being. You can see why bright lines in the law are relatively elusive, though not for lack of trying. What laws attempt to do is provide enough flexibility to account for rare or unforeseen situations.

So what does this have to do with life in general?

Because in life, bright line rules seem to be the way to go . . . and with a similar level of flexibility allowing one to balance the factors in the appropriate situations.

This sounds messy, doesn’t it? But life is messy. Things might go according to plan 90 percent of the time, but there’s always that 10 percent where things go crazy.

Being the most rigid, holier than thou guy around might make you feel good, but the building will still be burning down around you. Continue reading “Bright Lines”

Business B.S.: Terms That Need to Die

I’ve been to business school as well as law school, so yes, I’m on b.s. overload, but here’s a dirty little secret:

BUSINESS LINGO IS WORSE. 

Contrary to popular belief, “legalese” really refers to strict definitions more than an entirely different language. The word “indemnify,” for example, really has one meaning, it’s just that “indemnify” is a word that isn’t used much in common parlance.

The law is also big on identifying things to (don’t laugh) avoid confusion and ambiguity. A contract has specific elements everyone needs to know and agree upon before the thing can become legally binding. A similar phenomenon is seen in the definitions of crimes, such as murder and robbery. 

The business world though…the business world is where the b.s. meets the road. Which is a pretty gross visual, but I digress.

Dig, if you will, the following abuses of the English language: 

Capture. As in, “Did we capture your concerns?” “Have we captured what we discussed?” It’s like you’re inprisoning words and ideas or something. I picture a cowboy wrangling a thesaurus or something, which would be a pretty hilarious visual, but I digress. 

Why not say, “Did we get that?” “Did we understand?” “Capture” sounds stilted and lame. 

Energy. Not as a physical or scientific phenomenon, but as in, “There’s a lot of energy around this.” “There was productive energy around this issue.” Nails on a chalkboard, my friends, nails on a chalkboard. 

Can one not just say “excitement”? “That was a productive conversation”? “We’re happy with the results”? 

“There’s a lot of energy around this” is trying to create vivid imagery where none is needed. Maybe it’s just me. But it’s not.  Continue reading “Business B.S.: Terms That Need to Die”

The Law of Managing Expectations


In the law, much of client relations involves babysitting and hand-holding. 

This is also known as managing expectations

Let me explain: I’m not making fun of people who need legal services, or their various crises. But thanks to television dramas, high-profile lawsuits,  and the generally litigious nature of American society, the legal profession has been glammed up to an undeserving degree. 

People, with some justification, view lawyers as magicians, able to use their magic words to get them whatever they want, usually easy money. But this is not the case. 

And so, at the outset, a lawyer needs to be ready to burst bubbles and set the tone so that ambitions aren’t unrealistically inflated. Don’t under-promise and over-deliver. Just be an adult and do your job. 

You see the parallels with life, don’t you? Whether it’s with your children, your spouse, or yourself, managing expectations is important. 

It’s difficult to get from point A to point B if you don’t even know what point A is Continue reading “The Law of Managing Expectations”