Friday, April 13, 2012

A List of Clothing and Bags Currently Stashed Unnecessarily in my Office

  • Two grey suits
  • One black suit
  • Two black sports jackets
  • Black dress shoes
  • Brown dress shoes
  • Running shoes
  • Outdoor shoes
  • Blue hoodie
  • Grey hoodie
  • Gym bag
  • Backpack
  • Laptop bag
  • Leather satchel
  • Briefcase

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fucidin (tm)

There's no good way to tell a pair of cute nurses that the antibiotic cream they probably saw in your bathroom while they were visiting to watch The Lion King in 3D is for the moles you had removed two weeks ago, and not treatment for some sort of weird rash or something equally icky and potentially transmittable.

There's the chance that they didn't notice anyway, but the odds of that are pretty low. That tube could not have been more front and center, and you noticed far too late. On the one hand, they're nurses, so they're probably fully aware of the myriad uses for antibiotic cream. On the other hand, they're probably also aware of uses which involve horrifying diseases that you don't even know about. And bringing it up later, say, in some sort of offhand and charming tweet, well, thou doth protest too much.

Oh, and it doesn't help that the name of the stuff sounds like the answer to the question "how do you get a venereal disease?"

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hierarchy of Wrong

People are always doing terrible things. They're not necessarily terrible people; sometimes they believe themselves to be in the right. Lawyers exist because sometimes it turns out the not-terrible people were right about being in the right. (You did some terrible things earlier today and you didn't spare a thought for whether you were in the right -- I saw you and so did your God.)

But how to explain all the rioting this year? And, more importantly, what of the theft of my bike last weekend?

Hierarchy of wrongdoing:
  1. things that are not wrong
  2. things that are not wrong if done for the right reasons (I know there's an age gap, but she's eighteen and I love her!)
  3. things that are clearly wrong but about which one has no choice (if I don't steal this loaf of bread I'll die, and later Jafar will marry Princess Jasmine!)
  4. things that might not seem wrong if done for the right reasons but actually are still wrong regardless (you don't understand! she's a really mature fourteen! and I love her!)
  5. things that are just wrong
Sometimes rioting could fall into Category Three. If one lives under a tryrannical government, for instance, and foments a popular uprising. People will get hurt in the revolution, but lives will be saved when the thought police are disbanded. Ensure that nobody gets hurt, and maybe you can even keep it in the second category! But if you're running around indiscriminately killing shopkeepers in the name of the revolution, it's down to Category Four with you. Your cause is still just, but you're not.

And if you're just burning down hundred year old shops throughout England without any semblance of political message, or stealing iPods because the Canucks lost, there's no saving you. Category Five.

This is where you will find the individual who stole my bike. (Unless I find him first, in which case you won't find him at all 'cause I'll have arranged to have him sent to a mental institution with a false set of medical records ensuring both that his real identity is never known and that he is kept sedated 24/7 due to his violent nature LIKE BATMAN DID WITH RA'S AL GHUL THAT ONE AWESOME TIME.) This guy wasn't feeding his children with that bike. He was not making a statement, or operating under the belief that his actions were justified. He saw a bike chained up in a locked garage, and made a conscious and concerted effort to steal it. He returned with wire cutters to get into the garage, despite the presence of security cameras (ach! foiled by a baseball cap! dammit!), cut the bike lock with a bolt cutter, nonchalantly wheeled the bike back across the garage and disappeared like a thief in the night.

Left to my own devices in the company of this individual, I might find myself in Category Two.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chinese Wall

The first lesson in the beginner politician's manual should be how to speak so as not to offend broad swaths of people. Unless the speaker is a linguistically precise comedian who makes his or her living by producing incisive social commentary, there's little to be gained from offending people. Seldom does a politician a good comedian make.

But political correctness that causes us to dance around what we really want to say, watering down the nomenclature while adding nothing of value, should not be tolerated.

This week Nigel Wright left a private equity firm on Bay Street to become Prime Minister Harper's chief of staff, opening himself up to accusations of conflicted interests. He has suggested that he will erect an "ethical wall" to separate him from such conflicts. It has also been called a "conflict of interest screen". Either term would be perfectly reasonable in the circumstances, if we didn't already have a better one.

There is nothing objectionable, let alone racist, about a Chinese wall, yet the government, opposition and media have taken pains this week to avoid using the common and accepted descriptive device. Law firms throw them up whenever a new lawyer is hired from a firm with which they have files, yet the term is beginning to disappear even from professional responsibility textbooks. Why? Who are we trying to save from offense? Certainly not the Chinese. Does anyone think for a moment that Chinese Canadians are somehow ashamed of the Great Wall of China? Merely mentioning an ethnicity or nationality is not a racist slur. Going to great lengths to avoid doing so turns our language into a dull expanse of colourless nouns and verbs, in this case by ignoring a great wonder of the world.

The term is accepted for a reason. No one should be ashamed of it. The wall is more than six thousand kilometres long. It can be seen from space. [EDIT: No it can't, as it turns out.] It turned back marauding Mongolian hordes itinerant combatants. Isn't that more evocative than any barrier that could be provided by some flimsy screen, or worse, the suspect ethics of politicians?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Chad is Ugly from Space

Dear Google,

Please fix Chad. The images you've stitched together make it look like a face with an unfortunate forehead birthmark.


Also, please fix Other Chad. Both his brother and his wife are way more awesome than he is. That's got to be rough.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sometimes Things Work Out

When a four week trial settles on its second day, there are, to paraphrase Joker, a lot of little emotions to savor. The client's happiness in receiving an award and recognition without having to go through the hassle of a whole trial.

The jury's evident confusion about being brought in, instructed about their important and complicated role, and then being told that they can now go home, having done nothing but listen to some promises about what they were going to hear, and then taking a lunch break. The sadness of London news stalwart Nick Paparella, hanging out all day and having nothing to report.

The palpable rage of an old man tasked with presiding over a case that probably should've settled long ago. The humility of defense counsel, chewed out for being too argumentative in his opening statement.

The shock from plaintiff's counsel, reeling from the old man's admissibility ruling that painted the trial's potential in sombre shades vastly different from the vivid technicolour in which we had previously been viewing it.

But all of this pales in comparison to the emotions I'm feeling. I'm happy that the client is happy. I'm entertained by the way settlement rumours float around the office. I'm disappointed that I don't have a trial to drop in on for the next four weeks.

And I'm stoked that I don't have to finish all the assignments I was working on for this file.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fourteen Questions Not Answered on the Law Society's Articling FAQ Page

  1. humourous coffee mug, or no?
  2. what is the appropriate number of Batman posters with which to decorate one's law office?
  3. the mud and rust on my truck: too embarrassing to park where clients might see it?
  4. if I buy an expensive TV with my new income, but I have no time to watch it 'cause I'm always at work, have I really bought anything?
  5. can I wear headphones in my office, or do I have to sit in silence, saddened by the lack of Norwegian Black Metal in my life?
  6. my new firm laptop: will it be able to run Arkham Asylum?
  7. do I have to start eating adult food, or can I eat KD for lunch at my desk?
  8. how much of what I've seen on Mad Men still applies to the office environment?
  9. Harvey Dent: appropriate lawyer idol?
  10. bathing: like, every day?
  11. how much of my attention has to be on work for me to justify billing fifteen minutes while I watch The Daily Show?
  12. how do I respond when clients ask to be represented by someone with the ability to grow facial hair?
  13. will the Justin Bieber ringtone on my firm-provided phone negatively affect hireback?
  14. do I have to explain the whole articling process to girls at bars, or can I just start saying "I'm a lawyer" now?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Universities Can Tell Ann Coulter to Shut Up without Canada Becoming a Police State

Ann Coulter should certainly be allowed to speak freely, if only to demonstrate the ridiculousness of her opinions. And the official position should respect the public enough to differentiate for themselves between her shameless shit-disturbance and legitimate political discourse. And it has! Coulter spoke, insulted ethnic minorities and offended everyone unfortunate enough to wander into her sphere of toxicity. Then she got a letter asking her to watch her mouth. There is a significant difference between politely cautioning someone about the state of the law and "threatening someone with criminal prosecution". (The Vice Provost of the University of Ottawa does not have a say in who is and who is not prosecuted.)

Greenwald, however, is under the mistaken impression that what he calls "Canada's intrinsically subjective 'hate speech' laws" are responsible for this situation. He makes no mention of the Charter, nor this country's robust protections for political speech, instead equating a university official's letter with Big Brother-style thought policing.

Canadians' evident distaste for Ann Coulter has nothing to do with our laws, and everything to do with our advanced civil society. We're not a police state, we just don't countenance the pathetic infotainment that passes for political commentary in the United States. Unlike in America, our newscasters are more than babysitters waving shiny toys to keep us distracted between Cialis commercials. We're much the better for it. We allow political expression of all stripes, pushing social and political discussions to their logical limits in precisely the style of liberty John Stuart Mill envisioned. We just don't allow inflammatory hate speech. As a result we seem to have less hate.

Greenwald's main error is his conviction that all speech is of equal value. It is not. In a country as diverse as this one, verbal attacks on visible minorities serve no legitimate purpose, and are prohibited. This is not an arbitrary or draconian law, it's a progressive one. We have simply elevated the cliché of shouting "fire!" in a crowded theatre to the national level. No sane country allows any person to say anything at any time. Such extremist libertarianism leads to real disasters, not to mention the Hobbesian breakdown of society. The theoretical underpinnings behind the cliché are the same as those which justify limiting hate speech against vulnerable groups.

Ultimately, Ann Coulter, abhorrent though she is, does not pass the threshold for hate speech. She would not be prosecuted in this country for the simple reason that she is not taken seriously enough to warrant such official sanction. But that doesn't mean a respected university must ignore public outcry and let this hateful woman take up valuable campus real estate to spew her self-aggrandizing filth.

Limiting Ann Coulter's exposure is a valuable public service. It's not evidence of our Canadian closed-mindedness. It's a demonstration of our good taste.