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.