Friday, December 30, 2011

New Pictures at Family Blog

I've added new pictures at the neglected family blog:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Music

Here's what I've been listening to (if you have Spotify, take a listen):

1. ELP's Christmas song is definitely not the song of a believer--but it's still classic Christmas. And it's the first progressive rock Christmas song (as far as I know). The vocals are fantastic. Just try to, uh, ignore the lyrics. :)

Emerson Lake & Palmer – I Believe In Father Christmas

2. Jackson Browne is quite different from most of what I listen to, but he has some fantastic songs, including this one. Again, not a believer (here he calls himself a "pagan")--but his message about the meaning of Christmas is right on.

"We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why they are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus"

Jackson Browne – The Rebel Jesus

3. California Guitar Trio (A Christmas Album)

California Guitar Trio – Greensleeves (What Child Is This?)

These incredibly talented guitar players do very intricate instrumental guitar music. This album is a bit simpler than most their stuff, and it's what I put on when I want to listen to my Christmas music and I'm worried about annoying other people with it. Compared to the rest of the albums here it's pretty mild. I didn't know one of these guys was a fellow Utahn when I discovered them--but there you have it. I recommend listening to the whole album (available in its entirety on Spotify).

4. Shadow Gallery--Christmas Day

Definitely light progressive metal. This one is actually one of my favorite songs by them. I find most of their stuff a bit too cheesy, but this song is great.

Shadow Gallery – Christmas Day (Act II)

5. Savatage--Dead Winter Dead

Okay, so this isn't really a Christmas album. It deals more with the evils of war. But hope is found on Christmas Day, and this progressive metal rock opera has a happy ending. The list on Spotify is not in order (which is horrible, since it is a rock opera and the songs tell a story--it's like reading a book with all the chapters out of order). You've heard "Christmas Eve" on the radio (it's the Carol of the Bells with electric guitar that gets played all the time around Christmas). The radio guys will say it's Trans-Siberian Orchestra, but Dead Winter Dead was the first time this gem was released. It actually led to the creation of Trans-Siberian Orchestra and was included in their first album.

Savatage – Christmas Eve

And the most amazing song on the album--with hints of Queen, only metal, more intense, and, quite frankly, better:

Savatage – Not What You See

6. And, of course, it wouldn't be Christmas without Trans-Siberian Orchestra. They've got three fantastic Christmas albums. Electric guitars, intense lyrics, music that experiments with progressive rock, progressive metal, jazz, blues, classical--and it's all good. Some of it's heavily based on classic Christmas songs, but much of it is all or mostly original. The radio likes the traditional classic Christmas songs, while I favor the original ones. Most notably, they stay away from the non-religious Christmas songs. How many pop stars do the same? Some favorites:

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – A Star To Follow

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – The World That She Sees

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – The Three Kings And I [What Really Happened]

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – What Child Is This?

And they can't stop from redoing Savatage favorites--here's the TSO version:

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Back To A Reason

And here's the Savatage version (which I prefer):

Savatage – Back To A Reason

These guys also put on a fantastic live show every year around Christmas.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Benefits of Good Credit

So as you know, I'm starting a new business. A new business, even a small one, has start-up costs. Not huge start-up costs, by any means--but, having spent all of our savings on school, and now being for the most part unemployed for the last several months (April's worked part time and I've made a little money doing contract work), we don't have money to start a business.

I figured I'd go to the bank and get a small business loan. Turns out banks don't like making business loans to new businesses, even just $4000 or so. Even if they did, the interest rate would be horrendous. But they don't. So that wasn't an option.

I hoped my parents would offer to lend me money, as they're not exactly struggling financially right now. So I hinted at it without asking outright. No luck, at least not initially.

Then I realized we kept on getting credit card offers for 0% APR for long periods of time (15 months, 21 months, etc.) We have great credit, so we get some nice credit card offers. I figure it's basically a loan, and if I can pay it off within the time limit, it's an extremely nice loan. So I applied for a couple of credit cards, including an American Express. I was expecting a $1,000 or maybe a $2,000 credit limit on each card, which is why I applied for two in the first place, but--we got the American Express today, and let's just say we'll probably use our American Express exclusively this year, both for personal and for business use. The credit limit is much, much higher than I expected. Our other credit cards (our faithful Discover and the backup Amazon Visa) will get very little use for the next 15 months. It's too bad we can't put our rent on the card...

The lesson? It pays to have good credit.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lowe's and Bigotry

If you haven't heard about the latest religious bigotry (and I'm not talking about Gingrich's otherwise inexplicable lead over Romney, although that's certainly interesting in and of itself), look to the major hardware chain Lowe's.

Apparently there's a reality show about Muslims in Michigan. They're pretty normal Americans, doing American things. Like almost all Muslims in America.

Apparently this made certain people mad (specifically, the Florida Family Association--another reason to distrust any group that has the word "family" in its name). The FFA believes that Muslims are dangerous, and that the show was misleading because it portrayed Muslims as being normal people. The group sent complaints to all the companies who advertised during the show, and then claimed they'd influenced those companies when those same companies failed to advertise during the show for next two weeks. Obviously, making such a claim is silly since most companies don't advertise repeatedly on the same show--but FFA claimed victory anyway.

Unfortunately, one company did cave in, and even admitted to doing so on Facebook.

I've known several Muslims during my lifetime, some of them American and some not. I taught a discussion on my mission to a room full of Muslim men, and taught additional discussions to other Muslims. I have a friend from law school who is Muslim. And guess what? They're all normal people.

I can imagine the FFA complaining about a hypothetical show about Mormons, based somewhere in the Mormon corridor, because it didn't show extremist Mormons (otherwise known as polygamists). The complaint would be equally as silly. Their bigoted ideas about American Muslims is disappointing. Even more disappoint is that a major company, Lowe's, caved in to their demands and then tried to justify it. I can't imagine being a Muslim employee of Lowe's right now. And I won't be shopping there until they publicly apologize.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Attorneys aren't really that smart and other observations

I've done a little work for a local attorney lately. Nice guy. Older (he has great-grandkids). But I've noticed a couple of interesting things.

First, a client of his is convinced everyone close to her is out to get her, and he buys into her conspiracy theory. I think he's starting to realize he'll need a lot more evidence if he wants to present it in court, but I'm a bit surprised to see him hoodwinked by it. I've seen other attorneys forgo rationality when siding with a client, but not at this level.

Second, he asked me if I was LDS and said that I'd need to be to be successful in this part of the state. It might be true, but it's a distasteful reality if it is.

Third, he started talking to me about immigration. Let's just say that he heeds Fox News instead of the LDS church on this issue (which nobody blinks an eye at, even though not being LDS is a big stigma here). I countered by discussing my experience in Cincinnati as EQP working with illegal immigrants (throwing in my Mormon creds while disagreeing with his politics, to try to balance the argument out). He showed me a part of the Constitution that he believes allows states to throw out illegal immigrants without federal support, and I thought about it and told him that I doubt a federal court would interpret "invasion" as "illegal immigration," and that the founders certainly didn't mean immigration when they used the term "invasion." He said the federal courts wouldn't have a say on the matter, since it's a state matter. He was deadly wrong on that point, but I didn't respond to it. (When there's a question about the Constitution, federal courts are responsible for interpreting the Constitution--and this includes the definition of "invasion.")

In any case, I hope I'm able to stay rational and still find a client base here without listening to Fox News or talk radio. Maybe I should start keeping my moderate political beliefs to myself if I want work (even if they align 100% with the church's stance). This might be a struggle...

Going solo

So I've decided to start up my own law firm.

I've been thinking about it for a while, investigating what I'd have to do to get it started, how it would work, who my clients would be, and so on. April's working part-time, and will continue to do so until I start bringing in enough money for us to get by. We're low maintenance, so hopefully that won't be too long.

Part of my reasoning has to do with the fact that I've sent out hundreds of resumes, had a dozen interviews, and still don't have a job. Good grades and good work experience can't make up for a lack of connections and a poor job market. The job market for new attorneys is particularly awful right now--other friends who also excelled in law school but didn't have the connections are struggling too. At least one of them has started up his own firm. Job prospects for the future look slim--I'm already starting to compete against the next class of law school grads.

The other part of my reasoning is that solo work tends to be a lot more interesting than working elsewhere. I've done a little work for an in-house counsel at a medium-sized company in Idaho Falls, and I've done work a little work for the solo attorney in our small (population 4000) town. There is no question that the solo attorney gets more interesting work. To be honest, the business law stuff I've done for the company bores me to death. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten a lot of work at either place.

The solo attorney I've done work for is the only one in this town, and he only does law half-time. He's more than ten years past retirement age. Most towns in Idaho seem to have one attorney for every thousand people; our town has 1/2 for four thousand. I think the majority of people here go to Idaho Falls when they want an attorney; I'd be a more convenient option.

The big downsides: start-up costs. I'd need money for an office, phone, and internet (around $300/month total--pretty reasonable). I'd need money for advertising (website, business cards, small ad in phone book and some money for Google). Business license is cheap. A couple of bank accounts shouldn't cost much, if anything. Equipment might run me some money--a desk, a printer that can handle large loads and has cheap ink (lawyers use a lot of paper), a couple of chairs, frames for my licenses and degrees, office supplies. Total start-up cost would only be a couple thousand dollars, but I'd need to take out a business loan.

Also--it's risky. A regular job offers benefits including healthcare. This wouldn't. A regular job offers guaranteed income. This wouldn't--and some projects wouldn't see income for years (for example, a personal injury case where I get 1/3 of whatever my client gets, but I have to wait a long time to get it).

I'd also have to keep my moderate leanings to myself. Nothing would make me unpopular faster than telling my small-town potential clients that the only presidential candidates I would vote for are Huntsman and Obama.

On the upside, I would have a lot more freedom. And the money I made would be mine to keep--it wouldn't go to my boss. Plus, going solo is a lot more exciting than working for the man.

I hope to have things running before the new year. Wish me luck...