Thursday, December 31, 2009

Feelings, probably stuff I shouldn't post.

This is the second blog entry following the one immediately below this one. It's a personal accounting about how I'm feeling in life and what I'm experiencing under my hood, so to speak.

Generally, I'm feeling okay with who I've become. Obviously I could be a better person, a more religious person, and more kind or helpful person, but I'm generally a good religious guy. I wish I respected G-d more, because I am such of follower of His path, but once in a while, I'll have a "screw you, punish me if you want to, but I'm doing X" mentality. To my relief, my acts of defiance are usually something like "I'm not going to daven today," or "I'm not helping this person even though I could."

I often have a "let him rot" mentality because I feel that people don't do good when they could, and so why should I. [That's not a statement of whether I believe I should act or not; it's a reality of how I might act if the situation comes up (which it usually does not.)] I also can't get over why I am always so angry at the world. I try to keep a cheerful composure, but usually, I'm saying "f*** you, a**hole" to the person across from me in my mind.

It drives me nuts how I feel that I am superior to everyone else because I objectively know that I'm not except I don't believe that for a second. I feel that I've taken so much time in my life learning about how people function, learning about psychology, learning how to read a person's facial expressions, behaviors, and learning about efficiency practices such as reading ultra fast and listening to countless audio programs about how one can manage their state AND practicing everything I learn until it becomes unconscious that I have developed a belief that everyone living has a duty to live at their best or else they are wasting the minutes of their life and they don't deserve my respect. Caveat - many people have my respect, my love, and my friendship unconditionally, and I respect everyone's right to live their life however they want -- I just have a tendency to look at people and to think that they are stupid or shallow and thus I want nothing to do with them.

So many people take offense at the above paragraph, but I think "sc**w you," these are my thoughts and you're a moron anyway. No wonder why I don't get along with people.

In the law world, I'm sitting amongst these puny wannabe lawyers who spout law and use complex legal terms and try to educate everyone around them with their brilliance that it makes me sick. If I were a violent man I would want to strangle them, but really what I do is I try not to listen and if I can't focus, I walk away from them laughing to myself at the nasty lawyer world of unemployment, deceit, and unethical people they are about to meet.

Anyway, I have full belief that I'll do what it takes to ace this exam, and I'll rejoin the horrible lawyer world looking for a job or whatever as soon as this exam is over.

Bar review, day two.

Bar review, day two. There is a girl sitting across from me that looks in a spooky way like my torts professor from when I was in law school. Believing that people's looks and features have an innate effect on their personality, inclinations, and tendencies, I wonder if this girl knows that she has the capability of being a tough but good torts teacher.

Emotionally, I'm exhausted after today's class and yet I'm a bit excited. The review was quite intense and I was surprised that we were expected to do as much writing as we were. Barbri is notoriously known for their "fill in the blank" workbook, but my experience of this is that it's "write like mad until your hands fall out." I'm glad I had my laptop with me.

I suppose my plan of attack will be to pre-write the hierarchy of the outline in the workbook, and fill in the notes as the lecturer speaks. If there is content that is noteworthy, I'll add it in after the class.

One thing I learned from my first bar review (where I passed the bar) is after class to re-write notes in a format that I can memorize, and to use full sentences in my rules. Also, if I can, make mnemonics for items that need to be memorized or steps that will need to be followed on an exam. I'll be doing this with these notes.

Today's debt collection class was brand new to me, but the jist of it is if you misrepresent or do something against the statute, you'll get busted with a bunch of laws. Obviously this is too general for use on an exam, but here the devil is in the forest and not the trees. The detailed rules are just knowing the general rules of one set of laws, and knowing the distinctions between the local state rules and the federal rules. Not such a big endeavour.

I'll write about my feelings in just a moment in the next blog entry.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I should be more flexible. First day of bar review and I already had a fight.

Today was my first day studying substantive law for the NY bar exam. Today we went over how to write an essay which I found to be quite helpful, since I've forgotten this skill from my law school days.

I tried writing in the Barbri workbook as they suggested, but when it came to writing more than a few words, I couldn't keep up and I kept missing things the lecturer said. This was frustrating and so I booted up my computer and started typing notes on my laptop (and taking only general notes in the notebook). I figured that since I'll be typing the exam, it's not that big of a deal that I can't write quickly.

I took around 30 minutes after class to get a head start on tomorrow's subject, Federal Debt Collection and Unfair Competition. I started on the summary notes thinking that in the afternoon I would read the actual NY workbook which contains all the detailed notes. On the way home, I conservatively estimated that I'll require 5-6 hours each day after class to study. I spoke with my wife about it, and she agreed that it sounds like a good plan.

My wife was kind enough to have lunch ready for me when I got home. I did some socializing and playing with the kids, and then I got to work. I was going to go to Starbucks to study, but my wife wanted the car so instead I stayed at home and she went out with the kids and some friends.

When she came home after four hours instead of six like she agreed, I was really upset. I was so upset that I felt that she was playing games -- and on the FIRST DAY of the bar review, no less! I thought of words like selfish, etc., but I kept my thoughts to myself. However, seeing that I was upset, she got defensive which really set me off. Still trying to keep my cool, I told her I was going to study elsewhere, and I left. Her interruption cost me around 1.5 hours in study time which I felt was unfair. I drove to the nearest location to study, around 25 minutes away from our apartment. To this minute including the 25 minutes I'll need to drive home, this interception will have cost me 1.5 hours today, time that I could have used in a better way, such as helping my wife with the kids, etc.

I finished my studying and it is 8pm, slightly after our childrens' bedtime. I feel a bit bad that I wasn't there to help her out with it, but I am still upset that she ruined our agreed-upon schedule and cost me so much wasted time and so I don't feel that bad about having her put the kids to bed. I totally know that I overreacted, but I am still feeling like she thinks my studying is a joke and she doesn't respect the importance of an hour or two when there are so few hours available to study during the day. I really want to do the minimum to do this right, and I am upset that I was thrown off schedule on the first real day of studying.

In sum, I don't know whether I am more hurt that what I am doing is not being taken seriously, or whether I feel that I was egged on when I was visibly upset after being wronged. I really don't think it is a big deal, but it was enough to upset me.

I guess I got scared that the speaker asked, "How many of you have spouses?" "How many of you want to keep your spouses by the end of bar review?" That question bothered me because I'm really doing this for us and I wish I felt that my wife was on my team rather than opposing me all the time.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dislike the idea of taking a low-paying "stable" job rather than starting my own law practice.

I just finished taking a practice MBE bar exam (well, the morning session), and I have a few minutes, so I figured that I would record my thoughts. B"H as things stand right now, if I took the bar exam today, (at least for the MBE portion of the exam), I would pass. This is quite a relief, especially since the substantive portion of the bar review hasn't even begun. So I'm in a good place right now. Now to learn state-specific law these next few weeks.

I was talking to my wife last night about areas of law I would like to focus in with regard to my practice, and I was telling her that I felt threatened that people are now trying to put me in touch with people who would possibly be willing to throw me a job. While that's all great, I'm not so excited to find someone here in NY who would give me a $50K/yr attorney job when I know in my heart of hearts that I could make at least that working my own practice with one hand tied behind my back. My wife says that there are priorities and that I have a responsibility to put food on the table and to support our family, and if I get an offer for $50K or $60K, I should jump on it because even though it wouldn't make us rich, we would get by.

I seem to completely differ, and I believe that once I'm licensed in this state, I can jump into getting started in a law practice and I can do whatever it takes to make this work. ...and even if I failed, there are likely going to be document review positions and projects that come and go over the year so I am relatively certain that we wouldn't starve. She just believes that security trumps being a visionary, and I feel that being a realist AND a visionary is the responsible way to provide long term for my family.

$50K doesn't sound so good when our rent is $1000/month, electricity and gas is ~$300/month, school loans hover around $450-600/month, and that's before we even consider taxes on that income (NY seems to be disgusting regarding income taxes), and the daily living expenses such as food, health insurance (~$550/month), diapers, formula, etc. I just can't see how we can even think of settling for this kind of lifestyle when there is something better just waiting for me to grasp for it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How I've been feeling -- really -- lately.

Alright, more personal stuff. I'm davening these days, and I'm learning Chitas and Rambam each day. I'm happy with where I am, but I never expected to be HERE.

When I came to NY, I thought I was going to go back to school full time, live on federal loans, and that I would be working to get that much needed engineering degree (electrical engineering seemed to be my path of choice because it provided the best opportunities for patent attorneys). I never expected not to be in school, and I never expected to be taking the NY bar exam! This seemed to be the farthest thing from my mind, especially since I thought I'd be hiring by a law firm but this never happened. I suppose I didn't try enough when I got here, but I did pound my social network and none of the leads panned out. Even my Crown Heights yeshiva buddies and rabbis weren't helpful. I was disappointed by this, but I suppose that I have decided to start my own practice to spite them all and to show everyone including myself that I can do this.

I feel in a way that I am sticking a finger up at the law firm world and saying F.U. to those that thought I would fail. I am genuinely filled with anger at how things turned out, but I have no doubt that I'll pass this bar exam. I also will go against my inclination and will apply to law firms again once this bar review is finished. I will also apply in the summer as well, and will network with people should it be G-d's plan for me to work in a firm. All this being said, I'm going my own route and starting my own practice.

As for being a husband and a father, I think I'm doing an okay job. My kids are torah-oriented (my son doesn't like watching Rebbe videos but he loves saying pesukim), and we're doing a good job with chinuch. My wife works her butt off caring for the kids, and I feel bad for everything she is forced to do because of the choices we have made. That being said, to my surprise, she's taking a class to start the process of going back to school to specialize, and while I support her, I'd rather we work as a team on our family and our livelihood because I see her getting yet another degree when she's not using the two she already has as a waste of time and a threat to the integrity of our family. I really hopes she follows through with this and gets a job and is happy, but I don't think this is what she really wants, and she gets angry at me when I ask any questions about whether she has done enough due diligence in making an educated decision as to whether to go down this path or not. I know she has seen the bad news, that those in her field are unemployed, but I feel like she ignores this bad news and thinks things will be different for her, just as I thought law would be different for me when I entered law school after 2002. I just hope she knows what she is doing, and I'm trusting G-d to direct us in the right direction to open doors and shut doors as appropriate.

On another note, I keep asking myself, "is this all life is?" "Will I be doing this for the rest of my life? Making adjustments, changing plans, dealing with the mundane?" Where's the excitement in all this? Where is the fantasy? Where is the meaning and the euphoria?!? My life, even with all of its activity is boring and it often feels like it is a meaningless waste. I wish I knew what I was supposed to be doing, and I wish what I was supposed to be doing was energizing, meaningful, and fun. So far, I feel BLAH about everything. I'd love to break out of my shell, but I don't know where the boundaries are. I don't know what the goals are. Everything feels so wishy washy, as if G-d will direct me in the right direction, but I hate having blindfolds on.

My energy has also been quite low lately. I don't have motivation to do things like shower, cook, eat, exercise, clean, or take proactive steps in the planning of my life experience (even though I do each of these every day to some degree). I'm just going with the flow and doing what I need to do to get through this next hurdle, the bar exam, and becoming a father of soon-to-be three. I wish I had a bit more life and excitement in me.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dealing with a nasty goy at a document review project.

I've found it quite difficult to separate who is Zoe Strickman and who is the underlying author. Who should blog about what? Who should take a stand against certain issues, and who should stand silent letting his avatar speak out to the world.

I'm content with the way things are going. My few months of absence was because I was on a document review in NYC, and I couldn't really speak about things and people while they were happening. The project paid $35/hr which was good for me and my family despite the many hours I had to work to benefit the most from the project. I worked crazy hours -- I was on the subway each morning at 6:30am, and I didn't arrive home most evenings until 8:30pm. My wife was happy about the money coming in, but my main focus was to pay back the credit card bills that mounted up since our move just a few months ago.

To be quite frank, the merger due diligence project had too many attorneys and we were bunched up in a room that was too small for what we were doing. I was shoulder-to-shoulder day and night with people I would rather have had nothing to do with. One was a career document reviewer -- an old man who worried about everything under the sun. I usually don't mind disturbed people, but this one really bugged me and got under my skin because he compensated for his weaknesses by complaining to our managers about other people.

Generally, I worked quite fast and diligent. I hyperfocused for around an hour or so, and then I took a ten minute break to clear my mind, and then I went back to focused work for another hour or so. During my breaks, I usually opened up a browser, read the news -- anything to not think of the documents that were tiring my eyes and exhausting my brain. During mandatory lunch breaks, I usually didn't go out. I ate my lunch in front of the computer and surfed the web -- we weren't allowed to bill that time so nobody cared. However, this old SOB kept looking over my shoulder and yelling at me that it is unethical to browse the web on work time, even when I was on my lunch break. He took breaks too, just different kinds of breaks -- he walked around, took long bathroom breaks, took long lunch breaks, checked his Blackberry every few minutes, and made phone calls. When he wasn't doing that, he was slowly clicking away at the screen taking multiple minutes for each page he was reviewing. He didn't seem to care whether a document was a non-relevant document which we were supposed to code and move on, or whether the document was source code for a piece of software which we were supposed to mark as such and move on -- he sat there and read each page as if he was reading a newspaper. In the same time I reviewed 100 documents, he reviewed maybe 20, and he had the NERVE to complain to the manager that I was spending too much time browsing. Then when the manager didn't do anything, he yelled at me that he was going to call the disciplinary board and have me disbarred before I'm even admitted. I told him to go ahead.

We kept statistics of our work, and our quality control reviewers every so often asked us questions and made comments about our work. I had a miscatagorization here and there -- this is normal -- but the QC reviewers said my work was highly accurate and my pace was very impressive. That didn't stop this a*hole from bothering me each day though.

Every day I dreaded showing up to work because this guy would play the martyr, saying how he couldn't ethically see how I justified the work I did, and how I was stealing from the company. I was so upset that at one point, I told him to shut the hell up and mind his own business. He felt that as an attorney, he had the duty to also mind mine too. Occasionally when I would speak to the managers of the project, they acknowledged that he was complaining about me, but they told me not to worry, and that I was doing good work. That didn't stop me from being bothered. This guy made me so mad I had a difficult time keeping a smile on my face during the day. I was so twisted up inside and angry that there were many times I just couldn't think and I was sure this anger wasn't good for my health. I was joking around with my wife this morning that I was sure he took around a month or so off of my life, and I hoped that the review and the money was worth it.

What got me angered is that other attorneys came and left the project, many of whom sat near us and did personal work most of the day. But did he say anything to them about their personal browsing habits? NO! They clicked away watching YouTube videos (and in one case one girl was watching a movie on her iPod in front of everyone with headphones), and he said nothing! It was only me that this piece of garbage kept hammering away at with his nasty comments. I dare not say it had anything to do with me being Jewish, but believe me, the thought crossed my mind.

Anyway, THANK G-D the project ended just a week ago. I started Barbri this week in the city. I still take the train every morning, but I must say that it is a relief that I hope to never see this a*hole again. He made the environment so tense, so stressful, and so unpleasant that I thought many times of just quitting and finding another position.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Question: Would test tube grown meat from a kosher animal be considered kosher for consumption?

My friend asked me about the "Scientists Grow Pork Meat in a Lab, Annoying PETA People To Disappear Soon" article about how scientists have grown pork in a test tube, and whether growing meat from an otherwise kosher animal would render the meat treif or kosher.
I saw this and I was thinking the same thing... It's a very interesting kashrut question. I was asking myself whether it would even be considered meat...

Without ANY certainty, my best guess is that rabbis would have to look at the underlying animal to determine whether it was kosher or not and make their determination from there, no? If they're growing the meat from the DNA or the cells of a pig, it would be treif. If they're growing the meat from a cow, a giraffe, or any other kosher animal, as you said, now THERE'S the question -- can we eat meat that hasn't been slaughtered properly because there has been no need for slaughter!

Assuming they can monitor to certify that all the ingredients, ovens, and utensils used in the preparation of the meat from the kosher animal were also kosher, my best guess is that the cow would be just as kosher as, say, kosher pretzels.

My best guess would be yes it would probably be kosher. It would be really COOL to hear the arguments if this sort of thing ended up being the norm on how meat is prepared.


PS - From the conspiratorial point of view, do you think the big agribusiness companies would ALLOW the demise of their operations? "Growing meat" would absolutely kill their CORN and SOY business, as most of the corn goes to feed the livestock to produce the meat. Then, with the live animal farming becoming extinct (as it certainly would if farms growing meat rather than live animals), what would happen to the underlying animals who formerly were thrown into cages and slaughtered? Would they now be free to roam and to eat grass? I'm guessing that the organic market for live animals would then also prosper, although the meat would be comparatively significantly more expensive than the test-tube meat that they can produce en mass.

Monday, November 30, 2009

One small step at a time.

I'm in an interesting holding pattern for the next 85 days. I can't start practicing because I'm not a NY licensed attorney. I can do some patent law, but nothing IP related other than patent prosecution. It makes no sense to take clients with the bar exam looming and bar review begins in just a few weeks.

Its one of those "sit on your hands" moments.

In the meantime to pass the time, I have been working with a local document review company who placed me on a few projects to pass the time. The strange result is that there is now no time to do the things I'll need to do to get up and running -- set up a web site, set up a professional corporation or LLC (not sure which would be better), and looking into IP malpractice insurance. This has gotten me scared, making me want to run towards a safer route. I'm still resolute on starting a firm, taking this one step at a time.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Decided to keep blog up and running; life update.

It has been many months since my July 29th, 2009 posting where I put up a picture of a swine (no intuition there regarding the swine flu, which hit me pretty bad around Yom Kippur time) about the person that squealed my identity. Well, Yom Kippur has passed, and G-d has judged this person as righteous or wicked, and his judgement has been carried out. Chos v'sholom anything bad happen to him or her; I just wanted to point out that I received no apology and that is the path this person has chosen to take and so what happens is out of my hands. What I could say for myself is that I'm imperfect as well, as many of you can tell from reading my blog these past few years.

I have decided to take a different route and to refocus the blog in a new direction. I haven't figured out which direction that would be, but trashing my wife and using it as a venue to vent family problems is simply inappropriate. She's a wonderful, caring, and hard-working woman, and I should leave her out of my blog posts. I hope I am mature enough to keep our private life private.

Our new apartment in Crown Heights is suiting us well -- yes, Crown Heights, not California; we're private people to begin with, so the atmosphere is conducive to our personalities. The one thing that bothers me about being here is that there are so many rabbis, but I am not close to any of them and I miss my mashpia back home in Colorado. There's a lot of value in having a mashpia, and a phone call once every few months just doesn't cut it. He's busy, I know, and I've been aloof trying to get a job and stay afloat in many other ways, but I still miss him as he was also a friend and a father figure when we lived in the same state. Even when we moved around, we still made an effort to visit as often as we could, but with our oldest son now over two years old, the cost of a flight is now for three people rather than two, and my wife can't fly anyway since she's expecting our third child. Our daughter is now almost a year old herself and is walking and trying to speak; it's very cute. Either way, I need to make more of an effort to keep in touch with him. (I know his goal was to get to the point where I can function yiddishkeit-wise as a self-moving frum person, and he's achieved that goal as I am frum and self-sustaining in my yiddishkeit -- that being said, it was nice to have him stand over me and call me before a fast day just to remind me to fast and to tell me why we were fasting.)

Career-wise, I must admit that I'm still saddened by the advise of Anonymous some months ago which still rings in my head. To refresh your memories, he basically was pleading with me to let me know that even if I went back to school and became an engineer, because I didn't do it the right way -- going to college to become an engineer first and then going to law school and becoming a patent attorney -- I would never get a law firm job because I would always be an outsider because I didn't do it the right way. Well, when I moved to NY, I applied and was accepted into an EE program at CUNY, but I decided not to move forward with it; instead I decided that I was going to take the NY bar exam and open my own general practice law practice and practice as a patent attorney on my own without looking for support or a job from a law firm. I've been reading books since on how to do it, and I am certainly fearful, but every successful law practice started with one person joining forces with another, so why not start my own and build from there?

Lastly, as for G-d, I still firmly believe as a child would that G-d created the universe, and that he controls every aspect of our lives, and even though we have free will to do good or not, everything is still in his hands, and there is no reason to bend one's morality or to curb or hide one's religious practice in order to get ahead in the world, because why would G-d let me put him in the corner for my own advancement? It seems a contradiction, and so I would rather place my trust in him and believe that my plans will work out rather than doing anything that would sacrifice my yiddishkeit so that I can "fit in" to the real world and fit some partner's idea of what a lawyer should look like. "To hell with him" I think, although not literally. I will pass this bar exam and will start my own law practice and it will all work out and I will be thankful that I did.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Anonymous Squealed My Identity.

You know, on a real anonymous blog, any topic should be fair game. I should be able to speak about anything, and by sharing my true feelings without fear of repercussions or consequence, I can get answers from you the readers on how to solve any problem I am working on.

Everyone has problems, and nobody is a good person through-and-through. I have never hid my issues from you, but now I will have to because now there will be topics that will be off-limits which completely negates the purpose of this blog.

Over the years I have become friends with many of my readers. Many of you have earned my trust, and through my earnest opinions (as unpopular as they may be, ) I have earned your trust even though we have never met. I count on you as a resource and as a friend when I am in need.

Now we have a virus among us; an anonymous scum reader who has taken the unethical step of blowing the whistle on my identity for no reason other than his or her own sick pleasure. Anonymous, while you're spinning and rotating in your chair and basking in your success at my failure, know that I have prayed against you and that you have G-d to answer to for your misdeed. You have until Yom Kippur to ask for my forgiveness or else you're stuck with the consequences of your actions, and you obviously don't understand the gravity of what you have done.

I watch who goes on this blog, and from what IP address. I watch who reads what, and for how long a person is at each page. I don't do this often, but the information is there if I need it. What I always find interesting is who finds my blog, and under what keywords in a google search they have found it. I have full confidence that those reading my uncensored blog have benefited from my opinions and the problems I have faced. Through back-and-forth comments, tough issues have been resolved. Anonymous, not only have you forced me to erase blog entries and limit what I speak about in the future to my own detriment, but you have also denied access to others who would and could have benefited from reading the posts leading the way to one solution after another. You have until Tishre and then it is only on you.

I have scrubbed the blog from comments that are damaging to my wife and to my family, and from now on, they are off limits. I have also disabled anonymous commenting so that you will have to jump through the hoop at least one time to create a false identity with Google and then we'll see who's the liar then.

I am quite pained that yet again, I have to go back and erase a piece of my past from your view. I have always said that we are a culmination of our experiences, and I've tried my hardest to make the Zoe Strickman blog character as close to the real life me as possible, innocuously and consistently changing facts that don't change the story or the circumstances. I've trusted you with my story and with the me I've shared with you, and Anonymous, you have broken my trust.

Monday, May 11, 2009

So what happens now...?

A good chess player has to think many moves ahead of where his pieces are to see which plays would be to his benefit and which would be to his detriment. I don't play chess, but I do with my life... when I have to.

After being laid off in April, I packed up our home and moved our family to California (where my wife has family). She has been talking about going back to school, and knowing that this is the perfect opportunity to return to school AND have the government pay for living expenses by providing unemployment insurance payments for us, it seemed to be a win-win situation.

I applied to a UC program, and after a few weeks, I got an admission letter. However, I did not get into the electrical engineering program that I applied to, but a general undergraduate major. To everyone's surprise, with all the philosophy and other writing-intensive courses that I took when I was in college the first time, the only English course I took was English Writing 101, in which I received a C+. I am not apologetic about this score; I was 17 when I entered college. So with all the engineering classes I've taken, they are prohibiting me from registering for any engineering classes until I am admitted into the major, and that is only once I raise my score above a certain GPA which I can do with one English class that I could take over the summer.

The difficult thing is on top of the English class, they would require me to take CORE classes such as California History, and Social Justice, and other classes which have absolutely NO relevance to electrical engineering. This is a hurdle to getting the degree that I might not want to overcome. I was interested in going back to school to get an EE degree, not to take a Latin American Studies course so that I can fulfill a graduation requirement.

So I've started to look at other options on what to do because it is prohibitive to go back to school for another three years just to get a second undergraduate degree if the college porks up my curriculum with "graduation requirements."

One option is to take the California Bar Exam to practice as an attorney. Another option is to try to get hired as a patent attorney. A third option is to practice some non-state subject matter such as bankruptcy law or admiralty law which deals with federal practice and federal subject matter. However, I'm not sure whether a Colorado attorney such as myself is allowed to do this not being licensed in California to practice law. A fourth option is to give up my unemployment and start my own practice practicing patent law, and a fifth option is to just wait out the economy until one of these options materializes.

I feel as if G-d is opening and slamming shut doors faster than I know how to jump through them. I'm not exactly sure what to do.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Just a few abstract thoughts.

I've come a long way from the wandering boy in law school looking for a life of meaning and power. I can't say I'm a better person, in fact I'm sure I'm not. What I could say is that I've learned to take care of others in ways I used to only take care of myself. I've learned to take pleasure in the happiness of others, and to share in their joy and more. While I'm not as protected as I used to be, I'm more hidden. There are expectations that the person I was yesterday will be the person I will be tomorrow. I wouldn't try to change anything, except that I don't think I have much more to become other than smarter, kinder, more selfless, and more in control of my surroundings. Control...

Control is the one thing that I have given up, and it is the one thing that has freed me from my need of it. It's the source of my anger, my disappointment, and my frustration, and it is the seed of my enmity towards others both large and small. Yet as much as I have released my talons over control, it has not left me in the slightest bit, but it still lurks like a shark, surfacing in ways that make me take a deep breath and will it away. I am the ocean and the beasts that swim within are my thoughts. Should they be seen above the surface, they would become a spectacle, so they swim in the deep dark blue where eyes cannot see them. Control...

I am an actor, and a good one because by deep breath, I am able to convince myself that I am headed down the right path, and the current that is lapping at my calves gently show me the way in which I should allow us to flow. G-d has brought me here, and G-d will bring me there, and the surrender is with consternation but a sigh of relief - there is no relief, just a float down a stream that can turn dark, vicious, and violent at any time and I would be caught without a boat, without oars, or without knowledge, direction, or discretion.

The world is kind, the world is benevolent, the world is evil, disgusting, and self-serving. Society is just, society is voracious, with unkempt teeth that could rip through tin. Yet it smiles an evil smile as it consumes and shows a clown face with makeup smeared in the wretched place that distorts kindness into shock. If only I could let these animals stay beneath the surface all will be calm. But they do stir.

Only days will pass before I've closed this chapter of our picture perfect existence, the husband wearing ties and dress shirts to work, carrying his most treasured briefcase of soft brown scratched leather. The evil has prevailed and I have been benefited through the evil. It has become a tool for good yet it still will be punished greatly for hurting the good among us. And yet others unknowing will be rewarded for their unkind deeds without knowing why judgment is not sent their way. Haman will hang and Achashveirosh will remain king and Esther his stranger.

I'm doing what I think is the right thing to do; there is so much uncertainty that I don't know what else to do. My wife was not happy here - not with this life I have given her, not away from her home away from home. I can't stay here in good conscience knowing that the one I'm supposed to love and protect isn't happy. I don't think it's her fault either. We're both allowed to make our lives better and easier to live. We also - if we do it right - hopefully make it better for the other as well. I trust that there is a profitable job after all this work despite the number of times G-d has shown me my lack of value. I don't think I'm great in the least bit, and by dirt as my sky I can attest that I have no value other than who I am, how I act, and what I know. I could control the latter two, the first are my cards.

I'm tired of trying to forge my own path. I'd rather just take a deep breath, hold it until my body floats to the surface, and look at the sky as the sun distorts my vision until everything is white with shapes. I'm tired of trying to make sense of my life and trying to piece together my skills to find my path. I don't know what to do, where to turn, or with whom to speak but all I can do is just sit still and pray that I will be taken care of by the one who finds the most value in his creation. Tatty.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Why I *CAN* start a law practice after school.

So I have this blog reader named Anonymous who is a patent attorney and who has been sending me messages as to why I shouldn't go back to school to finish the electrical engineering degree, and instead, I should forget patent law altogether and I should just quit and move on because I'll never succeed going down the path I am headed.

Anonymous' reasons were 1) I didn't get an engineering degree the first chance I could back in college, so law firms will think I'm not a techy kind of guy, and so they wouldn't hire me, 2) I became a patent attorney through a technicality (e.g. piecing together science classes I took while an undergraduate student and taking what I was missing during law school to fill in the gaps) and thus I am not a real science guy and for that same reason, law firms won't hire me, 3) I am not following the traditional path (e.g. engineering or science route, then law school, then patent exam) and thus they won't consider me because I'm not a typical applicant, 4) I'm only going into electrical engineering because it is "hot" and so I am chasing the trend, not standing in front of it, and finally, 5) regular patent attorneys who did everything in the proper order and who went to the good schools and got the good grades are having a super-difficult time finding work, so why would I think that I will be in any better of a situation then they are. I think this list is complete.

Okay, here's my retort. No, I am not superior in any way to any of the other people that went to a better school than I did, I did not participate in moot court and I did not graduate within the top five percent of my class. Frankly, I am happy that I did the work and that I made it out of law school, that I passed all my bar exams, and that I worked hard and passed the patent bar exam on my first try. I am also happy that I have a family to support, that my family is growing in number by the year, and that I have a wonderful wife who is supportive of everything that I do.

I am not and have never been the ideal candidate for a law firm, nor do I fit the mold with my religious Jewish lifestyle, where Shabbos, family, and holidays take precedence over my position at work and my career. I will not be the type of lawyer who spends all hours of the night working because more importantly, I am a father who has children who I love and whose lives I want to be part of. I do have law school debt up the wazoo, and I'm no longer living in one of the states I'm admitted in, so my only option is to work as a patent attorney OR to work in some other non-lawyer capacity.

I *am* a techy kind of guy; I always have been. Just because I went the medical school route during my undergraduate years in college rather than the engineering route should not preclude me from practicing patent law now that I'm an attorney. To add to that, I have been taking the coursework which will lead to an engineering degree, and I feel that electrical engineering is the most useful of them all when it comes to designing patents and with regard to being part of the workforce should I choose NOT to practice law. Is electrical engineering the kind of engineering I would practice if I WEREN'T going to be a patent attorney? Honestly, who knows. However I DO know that I will be exposed to all the different engineering disciplines when I go back to school in the Summer, and I will have some time to make a decision as to which direction I would like to go.

Honestly, and this will not take up much room in my thoughts, EVERY career test I have taken over the years makes me either an actor, a movie director, some kind of artist, or some kind of performer. And since these fields are not within the pay range I am able to even consider with my law school debt, I will stick to the fields that will pay well that I enjoy doing, and when I am older and I don't need a paycheck to pay the bills, I will consider those fields as hobbies.

Speaking of a paycheck, all of Anonymous' arguments against what I'm doing apply to someone who is looking to work for a law firm. Trust me, in my life family comes first and I'm not looking for the kind of lifestyle that a law firm provides. Because I do not fit the lawyer mold, I will likely not end up on the partner track, and I will not work 80 hours a week just to make my billable hour requirement. However, I *am* and always have been a diligent and a hard worker, and I am not afraid to take calculated risks and to put in effort into endeavors which will take years to become fruitful. With this I am referring to starting my own law practice once I leave school.

I've been reading Jay Foonberg's book on How to Start and Build a Law Practice, and I believe I have what it takes to make this happen. I am willing to put in the effort to learn the ins and outs of running a law practice while I am in school, to get the connections with the people who can help me get started, so that WHEN I decide to go for it, I will hit the ground running. On top of that, my wife is going back to school for a second degree, so once we're done, she and I could both work and pay the bills while we get the law practice up and running. I have two years to figure out the ropes and to network, meet and befriend the right people to get started.

Lastly, looking at everything that is going on from a different perspective, this opportunity to go back to school while receiving unemployment insurance is a blessing in disguise, because it is also allowing me to look at the different fields out there even outside of engineering and patent law and to help me gain direction with regard to which direction I would like to go, if not the path I am already on. This IS potentially a mid-life career changer, and there is no denying this. Having the ability to return to school is quite a gift, as I feel that I HAVE made some major mistakes along the way with regard to career decisions (first thinking of becoming a doctor while being a Cohen, then going to law school thinking I'll be able to practice patent law right out of school), and so this could afford me a clean start. I will look at things from a fresh perspective, and will try to find the best profession that will fit the needs of my family and my goals. I expect that electrical engineering IS my path because everything has led to this, however, I AM open to other possibilities. What a privilege to be able to make decisions like this at my not-so-ripe age of 31.


Monday, April 06, 2009

I finished my projects and was laid off. :)

The great posts usually come when I'm fired up and angry, so I'm sorry if I disappoint. I do have good news though.

On Friday, April 3rd, I finished the patent application that I was working on and submitted it for review. I had one last project before I ran out of work again, and defying fate, instead of spacing out my work so that I was assured billable hours to fill my daytime in the days to come, I blew through the project being as efficient as possible. This was a challenge to G-d and to my boss because I knew that after this project was over, there was nothing further for me to work on.

Hours before I finished the project, my boss asked me for a status report on the project, and within minutes, I saw the CEO in a closed-door meeting with my boss. Minutes later, I got an e-mail stating that there was to be a company meeting with only a select number of people in attendance. In my heart, I thought to myself, "wouldn't it be nice if this meeting was the meeting where I would be laid off." "No luck" I thought, "G-d doesn't like me that much. I'm just going to have to quit after I use up my remaining days off during the coming Passover holiday."

I entered the meeting and thought the select people in attendance made for an interesting combination. "Mostly administrative staff," I thought. "I wonder what they want from me on this matter."

The CEO and the other partners entered the conference room and handed each of us an envelope. "Effective immediately," one said, "you are free to go home. We have terminated your employment here." Inside, I was totally overjoyed because work has been so dead for so many months I was thankful that I was being laid off and that I didn't have to quit. Instead, I kept a straight face and I said nothing.

Some stormed out of the meeting in anger, others just got up in shock and left without saying a word. I asked a few questions, offered to spend a few more days to make sure that everything went smoothly regarding the projects that I finished, but they told me it was not necessary and that they wouldn't be offended if I went home.

So that is it. I closed up shop, had a meeting with my boss explaining any loose ends that needed to be closed after I'm gone, and quietly left work without saying goodbye to people. I didn't want to make a fuss about it, and I didn't want to make a scene, if only to save myself embarrassment from being pitied. I called my wife and told her I would be home early, found a terminal where I had access to the internet and filed for unemployment online, and headed to my car to leave work for the last time.

Now all this might sound like a sad sad story, but as you know, I was days away from quitting. Not only that, I was quitting so that I could go back to school full-time to finish up my engineering degree and move my family to California where my in-laws are so that my wife can be around her friends and her family where people can help her out with the day care and the day-to-day activities of our family. Now I get to do all that *AND* I get unemployment insurance to fund my transition. I also called the unemployment office, and found out that there is no need to stay in the state, and going to school (even full-time) is not a hindrance to receiving unemployment; I would only have to be available to move back if I find comparable work which is fine with me. So there you have it. This chapter of our lives is over and the next chapter is about to begin.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Not fired, and ANGRY AT G-D FOR IT.

It has been a few days since my last blog entry where I was sure I was being set up to be fired, and to my consternation and disappointment, I wasn't fired. I received a few e-mails from readers about the difference between being fired for cause versus being laid off, and one thing that I kept in my head was that I wasn't doing anything wrong -- despite the fact that I would love nothing more than to be laid off so that I can be free of this negative environment, I still had a halachic duty to perform my work diligently and not to intentionally get fired. I kept a clear paper trail of the work that I did, the results that I produced, and despite the fact that I submitted everything on time and ready to be filed, we still missed the 4-month patent application deadline.

I was quite annoyed at this concept of being fired for cause, but the law in the state that I'm working is that regardless of whether your boss chews you out when you do something wrong, if he lets you go back to work afterward and doesn't fire you on the spot, and if he later changes his mind and fires you for your screw-up anyway, that is not considered being fired for cause because he let you go back to work. In my mind its similar to the adultry divorce cause of action -- you can't use it if you reunited with your spouse after the adultry and then change your mind and get a divorce anyway. You'll lose in court.

Anyway, all that is side news. Aside from the shock and terror of being fired because I felt that I was being set up, I am even more upset now that I haven't been fired at all. Look, I prayed many times for G-d to direct me in the correct path, and if I wasn't supposed to be fired, then I would accept that. I was just hoping that wouldn't be his plan. I have plans. I really want to leave and to move on. I am very -- VERY -- unhappy at my current job. I have no friends there. I have insufficient skills to do the work they're having me do. I can't concentrate because I am so stressed out most of the day. I am tormented by my boss who waits until I have my jacket on to leave for the day before he pulls me into his office for an hour long meeting grilling me about something or other, all the while knowing that I was leaving for the day. Even on Fridays when he knows I need to leave early for Shabbos. Since I've been working for him, there hasn't been ONE Friday these past few months where he hasn't delayed me in some form or another by calling me in for a discussion or asking me to do some task AFTER it became time for me to leave for the weekend. Most of the time so far I've been able to deal with it, in that I usually leave an hour earlier than I need to, just to account for unknowns such as traffic and delays. Cutting back to the point, it's a very negative environment and I wish my tenure there would end so that I can move on with my life.

I made the decision with my wife when I went to visit my wife's family that either way -- whether I'm fired or not -- I'm going to leave my job and we're going to move to where my wife's family is so that we can be nearer to them and so my wife and I can go back to school -- me for an electrical engineering degree, and my wife -- well, she wants to keep that private, because it doesn't jive with her other degree.

That being said, I also decided that I do not necessarily want or need to work for a law firm upon graduation. Rather, I decided that as soon as I can, I will be opening up my own patent law practice. I purchased the "How to Start & Build a Law Practice" by Jay G. Foonberg book, and I've been reading it and I believe that I fit the personality of one who would start his own law practice. Thus, in response to Anonymous' comment, you're right. Law firms suck. They're conformists and they don't give people like me even a chance, EVEN THOUGH I will have the electrical engineering degree. You know what I say? Screw them. I will get the degree anyway and I will generate my own business. I have hundreds of contacts with technology companies from working with them over the past years, and am friends with MANY patent attorney lawyers. I have no doubt that I can generate enough business to keep me busy for the rest of my life. However, I do feel that if I am to stay in patent law (which I must because the state in which I will be practicing patent law and starting a patent practice is NOT a state I am admitted to -- I have checked into this a billion times -- there is no issue with this because the law being practiced is federal law, not state law, and I am licensed by the US Patent & Trademark Office to practice patent law) I do need a specialty, because my liberal arts undergraduate degree just won't cut it in the patent world, even working as a generalist patent attorney on my own. I do believe an EE degree WILL help me get business, and to get a job working in-house for a technology firm later on if I choose to.

Now here's the G-d part. I am under SO MUCH PRESSURE knowing that if I don't get laid off by the end of the summer, I will be forced to quit and forego unemployment insurance and I'll have to find a way to raise money fast to pay for my wife and my schooling and our living expenses all the while I am back in school. This has been putting an undue amount of pressure on me, and I am having a difficult time dealing with it. I am finding myself angry at G-d for not having my boss fire me when he had the chance and when I had no work to do, and I don't understand (not like I need to) why he is not making things easy for me, and if he has other plans for me like he usually does contrary to what I think his plan is for me, I wish he'd make his plans known so I don't have to have a heart attack or a stroke from the stress of not knowing what is in store and hating... HATING where I am in life. I was crying today and I asked G-d, "what have I done that is so bad or so wrong that you punish me each day having me stay in an environment where I'm tormented and kicked around like a punching bag? Why do I deserve this?" and I find myself getting more and more distant from G-d in SPITE and ANGER at him making my life so difficult. I have paid my dues. I have always worked hard. Why is it that life is so darn difficult? Why is it that people who did not go to college and did not get educated take home more money every week with their $25,000 annual income than I do with my six-figure school loans and mounting interest that I can't get out from underneath? Why am I forced to be a slave in this lawyer job world system? Why can't I just say sionara to all my debt, declare bankruptcy, tell everyone to take a flying hike and just disappear out of the system?? Why?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Thoughts prior to tomorrow...

I wanted to share a few of my thoughts prior to entering the workplace tomorrow morning. I have spent much time thinking about this and when this whole fiasco started about being framed to be fired regardless of what the outcome of my work, I decided that if becoming fired were to become imminent, I wouldn't lower myself to the level of the one doing the mischief. There are things going on in this world that I cannot see or understand, and this certainly appears to be one of them.

This is a world of chaos; a world of unknown forces, and a world of backward plans that always seem to go awry just when I expect them to go a certain way. I've always joked that G-d has a sense of humor, but honestly, I don't know him. All I know now is that I am scared and I am intimidated that it appears as if fate has taken hold of the pages in the book of my life and have started doing the writing. How lucky I feel to have this happen. I am blessed. I have always believed that if you do not move in the direction of G-d's plan, then G-d will kick your butt or gently "help" you to move in his direction. That is the privilege I have, and to my knowledge, that is exactly what is happening right now.

I have an enemy. I have a nemesis. I have someone who has turned his fierce attention towards me in judgment, but he has no eyes and no power to judge and he is powerless in comparison to the judgment he will need to go through to reconcile his actions against me, a devout Jew who is nullified to his creator. I am a leaf that is carried by the wind; he swims against a current of angry war angels who only waiting to unleash their fury onto him. This is war, and he is the only one carrying a sword.

And yet I feel sorry for him. He's thinking with his head, rationalizing, and making business decisions all the while convincing himself that he has no emotion in his decision, yet he has the blood running through his veins which have a thirst for my demise. Apparently harmless, apparently friendly, apparently void of understanding that he is the messenger of G-d who is delivering to me my freedom from him and yet while he deals to me a kiss of kindness from above, he will be punished for his acts of violence against a Jew and I look away and shake my head in disappointment for the business relationship and trust I tried to build between us. Sour milk runs dry.

Now let me refocus on my feelings. I have no doubt that G-d will have some fun just to show me that I am not privy to his plan, and for some cosmic reason, I will not be fired tomorrow despite my hopes that I will be fired. I fully expect that things will smooth themselves out and I will continue working for another month or so before I run out of work or before it becomes time to leave on my own accord without dispersions or exiles from apparent wrongdoings. I am so sad about this likely fate that I want to cry at the added difficulty *not* being fired will visit upon me and that I would rather just take the red pill and slip into a deep sleep and wake up in the next chapter of my life. I no longer have the strength to ponder and to fight. I just want to know what I should do and what path I should take.

So there you have it. Tomorrow is the faithful day and I am faithless in my version of how I understand things will unfold and yet I am faithful in the fact that there is a fate and there is a time and a place for everything. G-d, show me your plan. I stand ready at the gates.

-Zoe Strickman

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Boss ultimatum letter -- get me the finished application by Monday, "or else."

I have a follow-up to my last post. I came home on Friday after working hard all day on the patent application (I completed it, with the exception of having the paralegals write up a few of the figures), and I realized after I left that I didn't write my boss a status update letter like I usually do -- this was never a requirement, but I have been doing so as a way to cover my butt (Ahuva) and to keep a track record of the work I did as he's been trying to remove me from my position from the day I first took off early on a Friday for Shabbos.

My boss and I haven't spoken in days which appears to be the kind of silent treatment he has a history of giving his employees before they get called in for the "you're fired" meeting. No sweat, I thought. I had nothing to lose because I understood that this would have happened regardless of whether I did good work (which I believe I did *if* he ever read it) or poor work. I told my wife that I do believe I was sabotaged here, first with my boss killing off every project I was involved in, and then cornering me about this application and wasting my time making changes to the instructions without even reading my work.

So doing the responsible thing, having completed the specification for the patent and the figures (with a few exceptions which I described above), I decided to log into my work e-mail remotely and write my boss a status letter so that he can take a look at my work just in case he wanted to. As I was writing him my e-mail, he wrote me a short ultimatum letter, something like "I expect to have a completed application on my desk first thing Monday morning, or else." After reading that, I saw where his thinking was headed, and so I decided to add a paragraph saying the unsaid things. In short, I am no longer afraid or intimidated by him. He cannot hurt me or intimidate me any more. I have pasted the letter I wrote back to him below.

Dear [Boss],

Since our discussion, I made some good progress re-writing the specification from the point of view you suggested. With a few exceptions which I will list below, the figures appear to be in order, and the specification has advanced almost to the point where we will be able to review the application on Monday together and present it to the client for his suggestions. The next due date would have been 3/15/09, but even with that falling out on a Monday, I am of the understanding that even though we wanted to be prepared to submit the application by then, you did not send the set of claims I sent you last week on to the client for approval and thus even without the required back-and-forth discussions that you said would have had to take place with regard to the specification, we would still not make this deadline.

The last thing that needs to happen before I give the application to you for review is that contrary to me trying to consolidate the figures from the initial specification, I came to the conclusion this morning that all of the figures relating to the XYZ system should be included for the disclosure to be complete, and that it would have been way too time consuming and complex to try to move forward without them unless you wanted to remove the entire XYZ system from the invention which in my opinion would go against what the client is looking for. Thus, when Bonnie returns Monday from her daughter's wedding, I will have her create the figures from one of the templates we have, unless you are able to retrieve them from the client because the copies we have are inadequate for use.

Lastly, I was thinking about what you said about me "spinning my wheels" with regard to the specification. I am hesitant to say this, but I do feel as if my wheels were spun because I feel as if I had different instructions at each point of writing and re-writing the specification. Had we sat down initially and discussed the figures rather than having me draw them up without review and then write the specification around them only to find out that the figures were not correct causing me to have to review and rewrite much of the application, and had we gone step-by-step and you reviewed my work as I went along as this was the first specification I have written for you, I believe many of the billed hours could have been spared.

All this being said, I do believe you will get a complete draft by Monday morning, but there is almost no chance you'll get the figures that Bonnie will have to write up when she returns.

Have a good weekend,
Zoe Strickman

I must add that I found it interesting (and a bit amusing) that my boss wrote me the ultimatum e-mail long after I left on Friday knowing (hoping?) that I wouldn't have received it until I got into the office Monday morning; that way, he could argue that had I been at work until 5pm like every other employee should be, I would have received that e-mail and if I were a dedicated employee, I would have worked through the weekend (even abandoning the Sabbath if necessary) to get the application on his desk by the time he asked for it. Obviously that is not going to happen, as my part of the application is complete and I am not the paralegal who draws the figures.

Let's see what comes of this now...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Zoe to be fired from his job?? The perfect storm of events at the law office.

Okay, it's been a few weeks since I last wrote because I had a job emergency come up that needed to be taken care of. In short, my boss has been holding work back from me these past few months causing a whole bunch of problems, and he has been threatening to fire me because there apparently is not enough work in the company to keep me employed.

This would be a big problem if it were true. I believe that I don't have enough work to do -- I've been complaining about that for some time to my higher-ups in the law firm. One time I wrote a letter to the partners asking for work and my boss (the partner to whom I am assigned to work under) stormed into my office screaming at me that I will get myself in trouble by rocking the boat. It was only later that I found out that there was plenty of work in the company, but my boss was keeping much of it and not assigning it to me despite my outstanding record of producing good work and way before the deadlines. When starving me of projects to work on didn't work (because I started to look for work with the other partners), he decided to work on another approach. He thought, "let's overload Zoe with deadlines he can't possibly meet."

Then I would go from famine to feast where I would be given a project that should take around 20-30 hours and a week or so to complete, and I was given the project to do TWO DAYS before the deadline, causing me to be at work until all hours of the night for nights in a row leaving my wife stranded taking care of the babies more-than full-time. I saw this as a test, and the three-or-four times this happened, I did what I was supposed to and I completed the project producing efficient, high quality work.

This last part however is what caused the emergency. This time around, my boss decided to give me a very complex and poorly written patent application to fix up, and I spend a number of hours and I fixed it up. Then he told me that I was supposed to draft the specification from scratch, so I got to work, and every day I e-mailed him where I was, a copy of my work, and questions I had on the path I was taking. He never read my work, never answered my e-mails, and never gave me any direction. Instead, after spending hours at a time going fully down one path, without looking at my work, he would tell me that he wanted me to write the specification in a different way, causing me to spend hours redoing everything I just did the previous time. Then when I completed my work, he would tell me to do it a different way, and I would redo my work all over again without him looking at the previous version. This has been going on daily for the past two months now. I did raise objections to him not reading my work or giving me feedback, but he insisted that he'll only look at the completed application, however, each set of directions he gave contradicted the previous set of directions, yet, I was able to do what he said, exactly as he told me to do it so I didn't think it was so bad. However, I did notice the HUGE amount of hours that were mounting up on this project, and I knew how many hours the client expected it to take and so I saw a catastrophe about to happen.

In short, prior to leaving work on Friday, he came into my office demanding a completed version of the claims and the specification. When I told him what I already e-mailed him, he started on the "no, I didn't want X. I wanted it Y." Funny enough, the way he wanted it was EXACTLY the way I gave it to him the previous version. Had he read the work I was giving him, he would have not made that mistake. Anyway, he demanded to see a copy of the specification as I had it (as if I wasn't sending him updates every day), and I confronted him about not getting feedback from him and so he agreed to meet me on Monday to review my work.

On Monday, we met and he was frustrated and he did not understand the flow of the patent application, and he wanted it a certain way which was in direct conflict with the way I had all 60 pages of the specification written. He also demanded that I give him an accounting of the hours I billed on the project because he couldn't figure out where I was spinning my wheels (pretending to be oblivious to or forgetting the fact that I was spinning my wheels following the different versions of his instructions). I was sure I was going to be fired, but by that time, I was no longer worried about getting fired because I figured out his game and getting fired appeared to be a certainty; I just couldn't figure out when it would happen. It appears to me as if he was either completely mismanaging the project, or he was intentionally causing me to redo my work and spinning my wheels to make me appear to be incompetent. I would give him the benefit of the doubt, but he has done things in the past to make me understand that he is always looking for a new way to cause me to be next in line in the unemployment office.

Anyway, my plan is that if I get fired, I will move my family to the state where our in-laws are, because my wife would really appreciate the help and the company. I would also return to school full-time to finish the electrical engineering degree I have been working on part time since I graduated law school and got this job. My wife also wants to go back to school, and so together we would be students again. To support this change, we would either take out loans (an option I am uncomfortable with) or one or both of us can get a part-time job to pay for our expenses while going back to school. Then, by the time we graduate, my wife will be able to go to work in her new field (she disliked her former occupation), and by then, the economy will hopefully have recovered.

While my wife is encouraging me to quit my job and go back to school regardless of whether I get fired, my opinion is that it would be nice to be fired so that I can receive an unemployment paycheck while we move to the new location and set up shop to go to school. Anyway, this is my plan, but I feel a moral responsibility NOT to do a chilul hashem and so I am working my hardest to finish this project and work diligently on every other project that comes my way until it is time for me to move on.

That being said, I couldn't help to think that it was a perfect storm of events where I had my first review with my boss this Monday, on the day I was fasting and leaving early, and the day before I was taking paid time off for Purim (I arranged this months in advance), and the 4-month date for the patent application is due this Sunday (which means in the patent world that it could be submitted on Monday), however I noticed the most interesting thing.

My boss has not shared the final and complete claim set to the client in over two weeks and the client is asking for it. Additionally, there is almost a certainty that we will miss the 4-month date for submitting the patent application because with all the wasted time, the half-day on Monday (the fast of Esther), and the day off on Tuesday, there is absolutely NO WAY it can be finished by the due date. Thus, I am almost certain that I will be fired.

To add evidence to my case, I had an office action due this past Monday. I had the completed office action prepared, completed, AND REVIEWED by him the week beforehand, yet he intentionally missed the deadline for filing my response to the office action (a slight note here, he demands that all filings with the USPTO be in his name regardless of whether he wrote the response or not). I was confounded when I found out he did this, but then it occurred to me that with the apparent mess-up with the huge amount of billing on the current application coupled with missing this Monday's deadline (even if I completed it in time which I technically could, my boss told me that he wouldn't submit it because he would need for it to go back and forth a number of times between him and the client which would take at least two weeks time), my boss is creating "evidence" to have me terminated.

If I were my boss, this is how I would play it (and I have a feeling this is exactly what he is doing). I would wait until I completed the application, and then I would fire me for "efficiency reasons" or "insubordination" in that I missed the deadline for the office action (which we both know is not true and I have documentation to prove it), and since I missed the filing date for the application I was working on. I (my boss) would still bill the client for the work I (Zoe) did, but I would give a discount and say that I fired Zoe because he was taking too long on his projects and missing deadlines. I (my boss) would then pretend to work hard on the clients application and I would present the complete claim set that I (Zoe) did, but I (the boss) would pretend that I did the work myself. Additionally, a few days later I would also present the 60-page specification that I (Zoe) worked on pretending that I (my boss) did it myself, and I would be the hero and Zoe would be canned, waiting on line for an employment check.

I have a feeling this is the way it will go down. However, as I said before, I *am* in school, and my wife could use the extra help which me being home with an unemployment check would provide. I would also use the unemployment to look for work, but at the same time, I would (and have) moved forward in starting plans for my transition into my in-laws' home town so that my wife can be nearer to them and so my children can have grandparents. This is the plan if I get fired, and if I don't get fired, I will still likely pursue this plan in the summer.

So this is what is going on. Long story told as it is without embellishments. I stayed quite late last night working on the application, and I will still diligently continue to work on it and I will have it ready to submit by either tomorrow or Monday even though I know it will not be submitted until next month. That being said, I am cool and calm with what is going on, and I have seen all the angles on how this can go down. All I hope for is that I can finish the project and do a good job, and hopefully I will be laid off because they don't have enough work for me rather than being fired over this one catastrophe which appears to be part of my boss' evil genius plan.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Unintended Consequences; Letter to my wife.

You could say the world is full of unintended outcomes... We elect former-President Bush, a republican, and we end up having eight years of a democratic government; we invade Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction, and that war becomes both his legacy and his downfall. I could go on, but really, I'm just looking for examples of unintended results to broach the point of this diary entry.

Mikey was correct in that I went through a few names prior to thinking up the brilliant gender-neutral name of "Zoe Strickman," a perfect conglomerate of the names of those of my past who have made me who I am today. You should know that the name "Zoe" is not pronounced "Zoey" (the woman's name), but it is just as it is spelled -- "Zoe," which in truth is short for Lorenzo, a man who I listened to almost daily for many years of my life and who I looked to for guidance in forming the person I wanted to be.

So Mikey was correct in mistakenly calling me by a previous blog name which was short for "Hershey Kisses" and "Hershey Park," formerly two of my favorite foods and places respectively prior to becoming religious to the point of keeping cholov yisroel and being introduced to Six Flags, my new favorite theme park spanning across the US of which I've visited many of their parks under one unlimited summer past during one fun-filled summer I will never forget.

All this talk of Mikey and my frustration of people trying to figure out who I am combined with the recent tensions I've been having at home between work difficulties, career direction difficulties, and school all balancing (and in my opinion secondary to) my home life I suppose has piqued EVEN MY WIFE'S INTEREST in the blog.

The problem is, even though I asked her to stay off the blog, she ignored my request and went on anyway.

I'm not sure this is a good thing, and this is certainly an UNINTENDED OUTCOME, the thanks to which I owe you, Mikey. Now because G-d made you think to call me Hershey rather than Zoe, I got annoyed and now my wife is one of you thus taking away my ability to be fully forthright in my diary entries for fear that I will get a lashback from the things I've written by those I love. This is why I shut down my first blog in its entirety; I had too many of my friends visiting and reading my personal blog and any time I wrote something about them (whether or not I named them), I'd get hate mail and hurt feelings from their misunderstandings of what I have written when the whole problem could have been averted by not reading my private stuff.

On the topic of my wife reading the blog, the problem is that I feel that any issues that need to be resolved between me and my wife should be resolved between me and my wife face-to-face, and not via a blog that she reads from time to time to take my temperature as to how I am feeling about things in the marriage or with the relationship. A blog should not be a crutch for human interactions, and I could easily see it being used that way.


Thus, IF you have disregarded my wishes that you not read the posts on this blog and you are reading this, then you too have violated my privacy and have invaded into an area into which you have not been invited. I feel hurt and very small that you have decided to disregard my wishes and read my inner thoughts when these inner thoughts are meant to be shared with you BY ME PERSONALLY where we discuss what is on our minds and we connect by sharing our thoughts and our feelings, not via a news feed.

If for some reason you have developed an interest in me and want to be more a part of my life than you have been, then yes, asking me to share with you PORTIONS of my blog posts is a great way to have me share many parts of myself with you. But some of the things I have written on this site are just simply too embarrassing or shameful to me because they expose a side of me that is out of control sometimes or lacking confidence or the kind of emotional strength I try to exude when I am around you, and I would feel violated if you knew those things about me which undermine what I try to show you as being who I am. The fact of the matter is that I don't share all my thoughts with you because we don't have that kind of relationship despite my attempts to develop that kind of trust with you. Another fact of the matter is that you don't know everything that is on my mind because half of the time you shut me up before I get a chance to even share what I wanted to share with you, hence much goes by the wayside.

But generally all you'll find on this blog are problems and issues. I don't have any motivation to write blog entries when my day has gone wonderful. I only write my diary entries when I have a need to reflect, hence this is not an accurate portrayal of the complete way I see things. My blog serves the same purpose of a diary -- to catch emotions and reactions -- and nothing more (except a blog has the perk of getting objective feedback in contrast to diaries which only gather dust on a shelf only to be burned years later when you're covering up things or values you ones thought or felt.)

Thus, unintended consequences. The point of discussing Mikey was never to have you come visit my blog. This was an unintended consequence; let's see what comes of it. Since our IM, you have shut down all communications to me and have not answered any of my correspondences to you, making me nervous that "here we go again" I have offended you, or that I have hurt you with my cold, sharp tongue which stumps out from the tongue of my hand writing each and every hurtful blog entry that threatens any rosy lalala vision of Eden that you might have, bringing to the surface the one unrecognized truth -- that one of our needs haven't been met and that one of us wants more from the relationship than the other has provided. Crashing windows, falling glass, welcome to Frumpterland.

Letter to Mikey on this blog's policy with regard to uninvited guests.

I was thinking about one of the messages I got from a person named "Mikey" which got me thinking. This message is not only to him, but to others like him who have stumbled onto my blog and who think they have "figured out" who I am. This goes against the purpose of this blog, and if any of such persons are on this blog without my permission, I consider this a violation and I expect that you will abstain from visiting the blog in the future. This blog is private.

The concept here is Loshon Hara, many people's favorite sin (and Mikey, I'm not saying this is yours, or that you are correct; you could be a well-meaning, good person). I am posting articles of this blog onto a public forum, hence anybody is able to access the blog. This is similar to me leaving the front door to my apartment unlocked. However, just because access is possible does NOT mean that it is not a trespass or a violation. A person wouldn't walk UNINVITED into another person's unlocked house, would they? Anyone that does risks getting shot.

My blog is my personal diary, and the benefit of the blog is that I have readers (many of whom I have developed friendships with over the past five years and keep in regular contact with and whose feedback I value) who read my blog for whatever their reasons -- hopefully the content on my blog helps them with their own issues that (chos v'sholom) they are facing. But, for whatever reason, I publish the blogs with the intent of getting FEEDBACK and COMMENTS which help me resolve or take positive steps to resolving personal issues that I am dealing with, whatever or with whomever they are at the time. ...back in law school, the blog was about dealing with the psychological issues facing a law student, and during other times over the years, they have been with regard to religious issues such as faith, observance, and understanding problems as they arise.

The blog has been a very helpful tool for me, but it only works when there is honesty, trust, and full disclosure of the issues and the feelings revolving the issues. The facts of the circumstances are obviously changed (and often not well enough) with regard to genders, locations, and relationships, but hopefully the changes are enough so that 1) the issues can still be properly addressed, and 2) as I have said in previous blog entries, so that those reading my blog would not recognize me "...if I were standing right next to them," as has happened on many occasions when friends of mine discussed the blog with me oblivious to the fact that I was the author. This is not because I have a big ego or that I get my jollies by having readers show an interest in my life, although I would never deny that this is a benefit of having a blog. I keep the anonymity for the simple reason that this world is not always a friendly place, that there are people who get pleasure out of hurting others (may they be cursed), and as a lawyer, there is an age-old rule, "NEVER WRITE ANYTHING DOWN THAT CAN LATER BE USED AGAINST YOU!" of which makes me nervous about anything I put down "on paper" in this blog.

Thus, in order for me to continue to keep this blog up, and to fully disclose to you what is going on in my life, I need 1) anonymity, and 2) privacy. I need to know that you will NOT be sharing details about my personal life with others. In Jewish law, this is called "Loshon Hara" and is a severe transgression. For that reason, I never name names in this blog, and I expect that you will never do so either.

But if anyone of my friends or those who know me want to get in touch with me, I have a private e-mail address under the Zoe Strickman name, If you know my real name, I invite you to either e-mail me or join me on -- depending on who your are, I might even be okay with you viewing this blog. However, if this permission was not EXPRESSLY granted, then this blog is NOT a place for your eyes -- the door is unlocked, but entry is NOT WECOME and NOT INVITED.


PS - Obviously, I can't enforce this or stare at you down the barrel of a shotgun, but if you continue to read this blog uninvited and against my wishes, you must understand that you are doing so under the condition that you KEEP WHAT YOU READ PRIVATE. You have been warned that discussing my private matters with others is a violation of loshon hara, and you'll have worse to answer to than to me.)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

2/22/09 Diary Entry, 10:30am.

Some blog posts are written for feedback, others such as this one are written just so that I can somehow record how I'm feeling at a certain time. Obviously my feelings don't have to be supported by reality or make sense.

I'm having a difficult time without my wife and my children. They've been in California for the past week with her parents so that my father-in-law could have a chance to spend some time with them because he couldn't come here. My wife obviously also needed to get away for some time because she's been under a huge amount of stress, but that's not the reason for this entry.

I'm feeling as if I'm needing something out of this relationship that I'm not getting, and I haven't gotten it in some time and the bad feelings are starting to creep up on me. It's difficult staying positive and keeping a smile on my face when looking my son in the eye over Skype when really I want nothing more than to cry that I feel the relationship between my wife and I is often lacking depth. Just because two people produce children doesn't mean that they have a right to not be part in the other person's life, or to ask what is going on or even to care what is going on. Further it is not proper not to open up to the one you love because as a spouse you have a DUTY and a RESPONSIBILITY to foster closeness within the relationship; both do.

I've been feeling more and more frustrated each day because all I'm doing on the videos is saying "BAH!" to my loving almost-two-year-old son and my wife is somewhere in the background, usually not part of the conversation. This goes on for 10 minutes at a time, and it has happened almost every day last week and I'm missing my WIFE. I want to spend some time with my wife; I want to connect with her, to say hello to her, to share how much we're missing each other (is she missing me?).

I'm just so fed up with the lack of emotion in our relationship that I just want to break out and scream! I have so much pent up anger and frustration from feelings of "I'm worth something! How come you don't recognize that or acknowledge that?!?" I'm feeling used, I'm feeling thrown away, I'm feeling like I served my purpose by being there for the children and making money, but my wife has no need for me. And then I get angry at her for rejecting me because rejected over and over is how I feel. If I've kept this to myself I'd be at fault, but I'm exhausted from the many times I've shared this with her, asking her to share things, feelings, thoughts, ideas with me but I get nowhere with her leaving me frustrated yet again and again.

What gets me so deeply and what hurts so deeply is that I see that my son is noticing this and that is killing me inside. He is starting to recognize other people's feelings, and is starting to look into my eyes and react to how I'm feeling which makes me wail in sadness inside because I'm afraid that he is sensing my frustration, tension and sadness and I don't want to share this with him; I don't want him to know this. And moreso, he's beginning to copy me.

This hurt the most the day my wife and I got into a verbal fight. I kept a calm demeanor when fighting with her over whatever the issue might have been at that point of time (sometime last week and the week before), but what has KILLED me inside is that my son has started to mimic my intonations -- my angry intonations when I've spoken to my wife in anger.

I've lost interest in writing. I'm going to get back to my school work.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Much to my wife's credit...

I appreciate that many of you are sticking up for me and even writing me letters with advice. While some of what you are saying is true, I felt that I needed to clarify the truth of things because I am not sharing all this with you so that I can have a pity party where I am the star of the show. My goal here is to get help which is to my being impressed is exactly what I have received from you, just as I have received really good advice from fellow bloggers back when I was dealing with issues back in law school, as some of you remember. However, I feel as your depiction of my wife is a half truth, and I wanted to correct that because in order to truly work this out, I need to be upfront and honest about both her AND me.

The me I'm pretty sure you know. I am a hard worker, a loving father, a caring husband. I let my work dominate my life from the hours of 8am-7pm every day, and I don't take my work home with me. Family is family, and work is work. For the most part I am not happy at my job because I am lacking enough work to keep me going at full capacity and thus I am often bored or I end up billing way too much time to a project just to make my minimum billable hours requirement. ...and when I bill hours, for the most part, I've done work to justify that billing. ...but that's okay because I feel that I am always one project away from being fired, so I do the best I can and I leave the rest of it up to G-d. Honestly, I would enjoy being home more than going to work every day, but the saving grace is my iPod with news videos which I listen to on the commute each way; it's my way of watching television since we don't have one in the house. At nights, I enjoy watching movies (Netflix/Hulu) on the computer, and I am taking electrical engineering classes to get an EE degree so that when I am fired (rather than if), I'll be able to get a job as a patent attorney without too much unemployment.

Those are my strengths. My weaknesses is that I have little self confidence despite the contradiction of being such a strong and commanding presence. I have an active mind that makes things up and that hears things all the time which often makes me think that something like wind batting the front door is someone trying to break into the apartment and attack my family, or that the pitter-patter of a dripping kitchen faucet are footsteps. I live my life very afraid that I'll get attacked or killed, but I keep it all to myself and I have learned over the years to stay calm so that when something freightens me, nobody around me can even notice that I've been startled (unless they have a heart monitor on me.) This is because I believe in things like angels and demons (or malachim and shin-daleds), but contrary to Jewish thought, even though I know mezuzahs on my doors protect me in theory, I'm always afraid of being wrong, especially from the many sins I commit against G-d. Now to the untrained or the therapist, I sound like I have OCD or some mental illness, but in truth, I am a realist and I know I've sinned and I sin daily and because I lack a fear of G-d I continue to sin. But I don't forget that one day there will be a reckoning for my sins, and I or my soul will get its butt kicked unless I figure out a way to change my life to act more in line with Jewish law. Bullocks, you say, but really, this is the way things are, and I'm not interested in being taught why I am wrong -- I have my mother who has more of a Yushka model of G-d then a Torah model. "G-d loves everybody for who we are, not what we do, yadda yadda, as long as we're good people, yadda yadda, he'll protect us." To take matters further, I've thought of not being religious to be more congruous with my feelings of apathy, but honestly knowing what I am supposed to do and be as a Jew, I'd be afraid to do anything else.

As for my relationship with my wife bless her heart, she and I have the same weaknesses with regard to religion when it comes to prayer and fearing G-d, but she has no secular past and I do. However, her personality is the kind of personality I've never seen until I met her. She is a kind person in that her heart loves, worries, cares for, and cherishes -- this I know because she's shared this with me telling me that she experiences this -- but I would NEVER EVER KNOW THIS BY LISTENING TO HER SPEAK OR WATCHING HER ACT. She is totally emotionless at the surface, almost as if her and Lillith (Frasier's ex-wife from Cheers) were sisters. On top of that, she has a mean and dark sense of humor where if I weren't paying close attention, I'd be hurt by her words. On top of that, she's not the best communicator out there, and being blatantly honest, her communication skills are quite poor and so she stays quiet for the most part which spooks me because the only way I know what she is thinking is based on what she says because I have a difficult time reading her otherwise. Me on the other hand, I am totally expressive, easily understanding of my feelings, and able to express them just as easily as I am able to feel them. I am in touch with my emotions, and my thoughts are crystal clear in my head. I might be a very slow thinker, but I am a very sharp thinker. Even in my wife's vocal inflections (the sounds of her voice), I can never tell what she is thinking because she's so well guarded. There is almost always ZERO emotion in her voice, and she doesn't show any interest when speaking to me (and I actually think she lacks interest because everything bores her) and so even speaking to her on the phone is painful and difficult. It always has been, even when we were dating. I just thought she'd warm up to me after getting married, and she has somewhat, but I still have a huge difficult time understanding and reading her, EXCEPT WHEN SHE'S UPSET. Then she breathes a certain way, she shoots anger in every direction (yes, I feel it), her tone is hurtful, and she might as well shoot fire out of her eyes because when she's angry it burns. The problem is that I have the feeling that she is exactly like me when it comes to anger, in that I find reasons not to be angry 1000 times before I decide that its appropriate to get angry. Then watch out because fire might as well be spewing out of my eyes as well. However, I've learned to short circuit this anger so I rarely lose my temper if ever, and she is the ultimate in controlling her emotions as well and so its rare that I see her anger until it has broken her down to tears. So I think you're getting an idea of who my wife is. Here's the contradiction.

I've found that she is happiest when she laughs, and she only laughs at sarcasm. Meanness calms her somehow, and so I've learned to go against my nature and to match her in her level of sarcasm, and when she's in a good mood we're perfect together. When she's not fully up to speed however, my sarcasm (which really is a mirror of her sarcasm) hurts her and makes her feel as if I'm being critical of her. But this leaves me confused because when I'm interacting with her, I'm interacting with her at her level, not at mine. This is not to say that I am not being myself, which is not true. I am myself. However, I am not my calm, friendly, and cheery self -- not with all the pressures I'm going through on a daily basis both at home, at work, and spiritually. Each is a huge burden to bear. But I do my best which is everything I can contribute emotionally and physically.

Here's the kicker. While I know she loves me, it drives me nuts that I can't see it, hear it, or even sense it from her. The only reason I know she loves me is because she is still here. I would not know it otherwise. She doesn't confide in me. She doesn't open up her feelings to me. She doesn't have conversations with me (it is usually me that has to start the conversations or else there's silence) and even when I start conversations, she's not only not interested in continuing the conversations, but she is DIS-interested in them and apparently gets annoyed by talking to me. Honestly, I often feel alone and unloved in this relationship because I get none of that from her. And when we are allowed to be physical with each other, it is rare that we are physical. I have my own bed (and might as well have my own room) which I sleep in even when being physical is permitted. While I'm sure there are exceptions, she is just not interested in me physically, even though she claims otherwise when I confront her on it. Anyway, most nights I sleep alone, and I don't even get a touch on the shoulder when being physical is allowed. I think I'm being complete in this statement.

But picture this. Under that hardened exterior is a woman who is completely in love with me, and who has committed fully her life to being in a relationship with me. She has mothered my children, and has an undying concentration and stamina to mothering our children. She tries her hardest to be a good wife and a good mother, and she also tries to do housework, although she often feels as if the attention given to the kids detracts from her interest or attention to taking care of anything else. She loves me and she can't wait for me to come home each night. In anticipation of my arrival, she often has dinner prepared (and often not too *evil grin*). She is for the most part frugal, and she's on board with our goal of curbing a lavish lifestyle for a few years so that we can get out of debt. She doesn't demand earrings, diamonds, or lavish gifts (although she certainly admits that she wants them), and she doesn't ask anything of me except for my attention, my help, and my time. She wants to be loved by me, and she wants to be shown she's loved even though she rarely shows appreciation of anything with regard to emotions in return. She treats me like a friend or a brother, but not like a husband. She doesn't lean on me, she doesn't pay attention to my feelings or even wonder how I am doing, and if she is, she doesn't show it. Since she's overburdened with the kids, she wants the paycheck, but she wants me home full-time as well.

This is my wife in a nutshell. In short, she's Olive Oyl and I'm Popeye.