Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sweet Sweet Smile

While Macon is busy posting about skiing with Aidan, I thought I would throw in a couple of photos of the girl. Even sick, she has a sweet sweet smile!

Aidan On Ice

I'm on vacation. Remember last time?

Today Aidan took his first trip on skis. His Papa (Kellsey's Dad) coached him, and I walked along beside him. (Kells was the photographer.) Aidan did really well, though I have no idea if he'll want to do any more skiing until next year.

No skiing for me anymore. Just the board. I like only having to worry about two edges, instead of four.

Good-Bye, Sarah Connor

I watched my third and last episode of the Terminator series Monday night. For the same reason I stopped watching Heroes two years ago, I am letting Sarah go. The reason is the graphically obscene way the show deals with human bodies, not in the pornographic sense, but in the sense of gore and mutilation. Even my senses, dulled as they are by the staged violence of the media for 60+ plus years, found what I saw on Monday just too repelling. I reacted the same way that I reacted to the cadavers that were all over Heroes by its second or third episode. (And, for that matter, to the images in Sin City.)

When we consider that our corporeal selves are the image of God, should we voluntarily expose ourselves to such contrived and violated images?

Ah, Miami!

This morning I went by the little food/coffee stand in our lobby. Its refrigerated display includes some little Jello cups, and I decided to get one because my stomach has been giving me a little trouble the last few days and I'm eating carefully.

It was busy and noisy, and when the saleslady got to me I asked for some "Orange Jello". She bent down and brought up a bottled orange drink. "No", I said, "orange Jello", and pointed to a row of little cups at the bottom of the cabinet. "Oh," she said, "Yello. That's Yello." "OK," I smiled, "Yello", and I got it.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

So, what did you think?

UPDATE: I saw the second episode last Monday night. It was very good too. I think I am getting hooked. Glenn Reynolds likes it. Here is his post on various Terminator editions.

Someone needs to come up with a graphical way to chart the various time jumps, because this is beginning to get complicated and I am getting on in years. Let me see, do we know people who are graphically gifted?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Marathon Man

A hero for my demographic.

Internet Power

Last night, Carol and I wanted to watch the Republican Presidential candidate debate. We thought it would be on the Fox network channel here in Miami. It was not. Perhaps it was on the Fox cable news channel, but we do not have cable.

So we went to on the internet, and there it was.

Power to the People!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Ultimate Reference of Merit

The December 2007 issue of The New Criterion magazine features a special section on Art. It includes an essay by Marco Grassi, a "private paintings conservator and dealer in New York". The essay, entitled "The Great Collectors" proposes that "one way to understand the history of art is through a history of collecting." Grassi writes, "We can divide the last century into four periods, each exemplifying certain attitudes toward art collecting". He goes on to describe those periods in a very well written and informative way.

Grassi is not happy about the last period, which he describes as "the postmodern". In this period, typified by the Saatchi brothers, the norm is "the exploitation of art for speculative and headline-grabbng self-aggrandizement . . . Museums, rather than being final destinations for lifelong collecting endeavors, have all too often become useful marketing stopovers for lender-entrepreneurs who exercise droit de signeur over the holdings . . . "

Grassi cites the yearly Miami-Basel "kermesse" as an example of the culmination of the postmodern malaise. He writes:

Drawing a line, in this time frame [of the past century], from Frick [the "imperial" phase, 1880-1920] through Kress [partnered with the Continis] and Simon [the "modern"], and ending with Saatchi, one sees all too clearly how these collectors embody the aspirations, myths, an ideals of each period; and how - in an ascending curve - the function of money has played an ever-increasing role. Wealth, of course, has always been important, but now it has become, finally, the only protagonist - the ultimate reference of merit, quality, content, and meaning.

I certainly cannot second guess Grasso on his history, but I can affirm the idea that money seems to have become "the ultimate reference of merit, quality, content, and meaning" in so many endeavors, including the law. But is this new or is this simply God versus mammon, an eternal struggle, although one with which our country seems to be having particular difficulty?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

What Lax Anti-Gun Laws Will Do.

Glenn Reynolds reports.

Dave McDonald

On a somewhat difficult estate planning matter, I have run into a lawyer I have known for years, Dave McDonald. He is sort of the "general counsel" for a successful businessman who became my estate planning client last year. This has given me an occasion to renew my acquaintance with Dave, who is a terrific trial lawyer.

I found that out during the early 70s, in a jury trial in which I represented Lloyds and he represented the owners of a cargo airplane that crashed in Africa. My client had the "hull" coverage, meaning that the Lloyds syndicate I represented was supposed to pay the owners the value of the airplane that went down. Our defense, as I recall it, was a clause the excluded coverage in the event of a war. The plane may have been shot down by guerrillas.

I knew I was in trouble when all the older trial lawyers at the firm I was with back peddled away from the case. (The trial was only the second or third I had tried on my own.) The case was actually controlled by a lawyer in a law firm in New York City through whom the case came to my firm. He didn't went to settle the case, and insisted we try it, and I did, and the NY lawyer sat next to me during the trial as an observer. A locally well known judge, Judge James W. Kehoe, presided. (His weekend job was as a referee for high school football games. Later, he became a federal judge in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida.) It was before a jury.

When the jury came back with a verdict for Dave's client, several of the jurors came over and shook my hand and told me I had done a good job, which is the only time that ever happened. The court house was close enough to our law office to walk, and we always did. Before I returned from the court house to our law office, Judge Kehoe had called one of the senior partners at the firm to tell him that I had done a good job and that the NY lawyer was a jerk.

Anyway, Dave did a fine job in winning the case for his client. He was always a complete gentleman and was (and is still) a gritty, intelligent advocate. I was glad to run into him again on the current estate planning case.

"Prenup OK?"

The return of the Bittersweets!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Our last 2007 business day at the firm closed with a bang. Putting together the numbers so that my partners and I can decide on a fair way to divide the profits is always a challenge. For the past several years the other partners were content to have me figure all of that out. To have any sort of hope of getting the division just right requires us to collect the data as close to the end of the year as possible. Then we need to analyze it, decide on a division proposal, present it to the other partners and get their approval, and then notify our payroll manager (Paychex) of how it should cut the checks. Our deadline was 2 PM on Monday. Carol called Paychex about 1:55!

But this year, Carol and I started early in putting together a format for allocating revenues and costs in a deliberate manner, using our commercial time and billing system and figuring out how to import its data into Excel spreadsheets we invented ourselves. Carol really worked hard at the task, and I put hours in on the matter. At one point, we engaged our accountants to help us, but we realized that beyond their confirming that our general approach was correct and helping Carol with some adjusting entries (as they do each year anyway), the real work was up to us.

During the year, Carol had collected a number of articles concerning compensation approaches for law firms that I found very helpful. Of course, having been in law firms since 1972, I have had experience with all sorts of approaches. One of the articles showed a sort of history of law firm compensation that exactly reflected my own experiences. When I began practicing, the compensation scheme was basically seniority driven and that lasted well into the 1980s until the firm essentially exploded because the younger partners felt the system unfairly held them back economically. Then we moved into a struggle between the "origination" approach and the "billable hour" approach, with "originations" finally prevailing, at least for awhile. But that contributed to firm instability in a big way. In all of these approaches, firm management sought to capture just the right "formula", a sort of deus ex machina solution. This way, with a formula, one wouldn't need to actually sit down and look at his partners in the eye and say, "This is how much I think you are worth and how much I think I am worth", and then sit back and see if anyone is upset to the point of walking out. But that's really the way it is, finally, whether that the explosion (or not) takes place at the end of the year in fast motion or whether the explosion occurs in slow motion, taking several months thereafter finally to pull the relationships apart.

We worked hard to put together a formula that was mainly based on "production", that is, how many dollars came in the door as a result of one's billable hours. We then worked on attributing dollars to partners that were earned by non-partners. Finally we allocated costs to each partner and came out with a "net revenue" number for each of us.

But we didn't distribute on the basis of net revenue. We took those numbers and added intangibles to it. One intangible was a sense that we should treat each other the same. Another was "originations" - how much recognition should be given to the partner who brought in the client in the first place, regardless of how much he worked on the client's case. And other factors as well. When we finished massaging the numbers, one could ask why we had gone to the trouble of getting to the "net revenue" numbers in the first place. But that number was the platform upon which our gestalt allocations could be made. And everyone had the spreadsheets that got us to the "net revenue" numbers. So there was full disclosure. Finally, when we had our meeting with 2 PM breathing down our necks and reached agreement on the numbers, everyone at least seemed to be happy.

So we got that big stone up to the top at 2 PM December 31.

Of course, it rolled down the mountain yesterday, and I'm beginning to walk down after it this morning. I know a lot of people are making that walk this morning. If it's happiness I feel, it is a strange sort of happiness.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

But what about world peace?

Anyone want to argue about man's depravity?

Thanks Instapundit.

(On the other hand, we have only his side of the story. But beauty queen? No.)

UPDATE: This is a very sad looking group of people. Note also that the beauty pageant people are not exactly backing up their winner 100%. The beauty pageant's spokesman said:

"While this young woman was indeed named Miss Pima County 2005, we find it important to note that the Miss Pima County scholarship pageant was under different leadership at the time."