Thursday, July 22, 2010

Testing Knowledge of Wisconsin Law, or Knowledge of Wisconsin?

Next week, across the nation, thousands of fresh law grads will be pouring into large conference centers, pouring all the information they’ve spent the last two months memorizing onto an answer sheet and watching the sweat pour down their faces.  With them will be a smaller, and theoretically less nervous, group of veterans.  Attorneys who have done this before; glutens for punishment that have found a reason to take another bar exam.

I’m one of them. Next week, I’ll be in the happiest place on earth, sitting for my second bar exam.  Wisconsin, here I come!


In preparation for this upcoming exam, I’ve been doing a bunch of essays from previous Wisconsin bar exams.  The hardest part is not going to be remembering the law, applying the law or finishing on time.  The hardest part is going to be remembering how to be a Wisconsonite.

The questions are full of language, incidents, names and the occasional joke, that will only make sense if you know Wisconsin.  Essentially, the questions are written in Wisconsin-eese (not to be confused with Wisconsin cheese).


Here are some examples of things that would have a non-Wisconsite surely perplexed:

Last Names, like Lomanski and Bielski, Backhausen and Mentzel.  More ski's than Tahoe, more sch’s than Cindy Brady.   String a bunch of those together and it’s enough to make most people skip over half the page.  But not in Wisconsin.  Not only can we read those, we can pronounce them, too!  Heck, we probably have a bunch of friends with those names.

 Geographical locations “Whiskey River,” image“Nonesuch County” and “Waukesha.”  That first one would stop most people dead in their tracks out of pure shock.  The second would leave them scratching their head and the third, although it’s a real place, would leave them tongue-tied.  (Trust me, I’ve heard enough out-of-staters try to pronounce it.)

Whiskey River falls into another category of things, the things I call the “wait, is that acceptable?” category.  Sample answers that begin, “My prayers and thoughts are with you” in a tax advice letter to a terminally ill client.  Prayers?! in what you’re supposed to write?!  Why that’s enough to make a Californian turn blue and pass out from shock. 

My favorite though was the answer that pointed out the police officer’s stop was probably a pretense for profiling, but then goes on to explain why that’s ok under the law.  I had started to write that in my answer and then thought, ‘no, wait, I shouldn’t include that, it’s not time to get on a soap box.’  Should’ve stuck with my gut, my Wisconsin gut.

Schuh Cousins in 60's Seemingly-crazy situations which really aren’t that crazy: a family with six children, each of whom has four to eight children of their own;  a foot of snow falling during the work day and a guy losing control of his car on I-94 driving home through the storm; an acre of quarry in the middle of a farm; or a person signing a check over to another person.  -  I once asked Mr. Trizzle to sign a check over.  He and the Legend looked at me like I was nuts, called me nuts, told me it wasn’t possible.  Hah! – These aren’t parts of the issues in the question’s fact patterns, just supplemental details, but they’d certainly trip up a non-Wisconsinite into going down a very wrong path.  (probably into Whiskey River).

Photo: My mom and most of her cousin’s on her mom’s side of the family (more were born later).  She’s one of 6, her mother was one of 9.

Oh, and then I musn’t forget, the questions that aren’t asked.  The Wisconsin problems tend to ask one, fairly specific question, when what’s really wanted is the answers to four questions.  This is different than the questions on other bar exams, for example the California exam, where there might be on big question that requires answering a bunch of small questions in the process. 

No, this is more like asking “did you go to the store” when you really want to know if the person bought pickles, if the new store next to the grocery, which is implied by “store” in your question, is open and if the cute cashier was working that night. 

It’s the sort of thing I do to Mr. Trizzle all the time.  And it’s taken him a long time to break me of the habit of answering all the unasked questions when he asks me a question.  He’s not from Wisconsin; he’s actually only asking me one question.

“Did you make it to work on time?” 

“Well, the original bus didn’t come, but I did get on BART, which then broke down, but it was ok because I left half an hour early because I had a good night’s sleep last night and had no trouble picking out an outfit this morning.”

The your-doing-it-again look shot in my direction…

“Yes. I made it to work on time.”

At least they throw in some nice midwesterner funnies, too.  How about a potentially unconstitutional diversity policy at Great Lakes State University?  Or a company in IL called “Flatland”?  The only way that could have been better was if it was Flatland International Bank, FIB.


Hopefully, my few extra days in Wisconsin before the Bar Exam will get me wholly back in the Wisconsin mind-frame needed for this exam.  Mommy, I think I better get some Leon’s and cheese curds when I arrive.  You know, to help me remember Wisconsin, hey?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Perfect Present

I think it is ok to use the proper word as Mommy would likely not find it vampire-worthy, in this instance: The Gates of Hell. To Dante, a reason to abandon all hope. To that poor armless, legless boy in the ICP song, something he never saw coming. To art fans, it is magnificence and beauty. And to me, to me it is a great story.

The Search

“I called Tokyo and Paris, neither of them have one.”

“Darn, and I called Philadelphia, and they didn’t have one either.”

“You, know it’s possible there just isn’t one made.”

My friend, Ant, was attempting to help me find the perfect jonny and jonathanbirthday present for another friend, Mr. Maintenance Man.  I knew exactly what I wanted to get him, but it was starting to seem that the perfect present literally didn’t exist.  A poster.  It seemed simple enough.  A poster of his favorite piece of artwork, Rodin’s Gates of Hell.

The birthday boy and my goat, which I named after him (for reason).

Ant and I had started by searching online stores.  Though not as ubiquitous eight years ago as they are today, there was still a pretty decent selection of stores.  But try as we might, we couldn’t find anything.  So we started calling the Rodin museums around the world and inquiring about their gift shops.  Nothing.

The Plan

Then. An idea.  It was 2am, or some other ridiculous time of night when only drunks and college students are awake.  The Rodin museum in Philadelphia, the only one on this side of the planet, has a Gates of Hell, outside, in front of the building.  A road trip!  Yes, that’s it, a road trip!  I’ll just go there and take a picture myself and get it turned into a poster.

But work, shoot, I have work, and I can’t miss that.  A weekend!  I can go on a weekend.  Where is Philadelphia?  Ouch, that far?!  I can’t drive there and back, and get to the museum while it’s open in a weekend….  I know, an airplane!  I’ll fly there and back in a weekend.  How much are flights?  Oh, that sucks.  Hmmm……

And then, the most brilliant idea ever: Greyhound.

Oh, and I’ll need company.

It just so happened that my very good, and practically life-long, friend, The Great Ecclestone was on AIM.

Hey, wanna go to Philly?  On a Greyhound?  To take a picture of a statue?

What?  Ok.

Alright, so the conversation was a little longer and convincing him might have taken a bit more work, but soon we were set.

The Trip

Nelson and our bus ticketsEarly on Saturday morning ,we stood at the Milwaukee bus station.  I had never been in a bus station before and had no idea what to expect.   People and luggage were everywhere.  Buses rolled in an out, trails of fumes behind them.  The Great Ecclestone and I looked at the stack of tickets in our hands.  One ticket for every bus we would board on our 24-hour trip eastward.  The strip of tickets reached almost to the floor.

The Great Ecclestone and our Greyhound tickets.

Many filthy bus terminals and bathrooms fit for a lead-in to CSI later, we arrived at our destination.   Backs sore, feet and legs cramping, groggy and damp with sweat, we disembarked from our last bus into the hot Philadelphia summer sun.  Sunday morning, welcome.

The Rodin museum was only about a mile or so from the bus station and would be opening in a short while.  Time for some breakfast, and a change of clothes.

My SLR camera and about a dozen rolls of film jostled in my bag as we approached the large iron gate at the foot of the museum’s walkway.  No tripod, not allowed in the museum.  And there it was, shining brightly in the sun, towering far above me, immense yet exquisite in detail.  The Gates of Hell.  I began to take my pictures.

Rodin sculpture The Shade All day I stayed at that museum.  All day, taking pictures of The Gates of Hell and of the art work inside.  The Great Ecclestone accompanied me through the small museum and then headed off to the large art museum down the street.  Perhaps he even ran up the steps like Rocky.  I don’t know, I had a job to do and shadows to beat as the sun came over the roof of the museum  and illuminated bits and pieces of the giant brass sculpture.

Rodin sculptures: The Shade.

When I had finally finished my pictures, and my film, I met up with The Great Ecclestone again and we went to see the Liberty Bell.  We had to.   I mean, you can’t go all the way to Philadelphia for the first time in your life and not see the Liberty Bell!  It’s a bell.  With a crack.The Liberty Bell

Dusk began to settle over the city.  We grabbed some Chinese food for dinner and headed back to the bus station for our long ride back.  Our day in Philly was over.

The Liberty Bell.

Getting Back

After the ordeal of getting out to Philadelphia, we thought we had a pretty good idea of what to expect on our twenty-four hour ride back.  Boy we were wrong.  24 hours later, when we were supposed to be back in Milwaukee, when I was supposed to be on my way to work, where were we?  Stuck in a bus station, in Gary, Indiana.

Never been to Gary, Indiana?  Good.  Keep it that way.  Let me give you some perspective, some places where it might be worse to be stuck.  ….  Places where it might be better to be stuck.  A bus station in Chicago, a bus station in Lusaka, a bus station in Oakland, a luggage locker in a bus station in Oakland.  You get the idea.

Five hours.  Five hours until the next bus.  Our bus to Gary had gotten stuck in construction traffic on the highway and we had missed our connecting bus from Gary to Chicago.  Five hours.  Needless to say, I had to call into work stranded-in-Gary.

We did eventually make it home.  And the present, the present turned out spectacular.  He loved it, and the Philadelphia Chinatown fortune cookie.

The Gates of Hell poster shotThe photo that became the poster: Rodin’s Gates of Hell.

*Note: the white edge is from a crooked scan and was not on the poster.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Monochromatic Life

A few weeks ago I wrote about my little sister and her anti-obsession with pink.  It’s not fair to just pick on my pretty little munchkinhead though; I too have had my obsession with color.  But mine was a little different.

Pink, blue, green, yellow.  It didn’t matter, as long as everything matched.  And I mean everything.

Getting Dressed

Every morning I went to my color organized closet (ok, I still do) and picked out my outfit for the day.  Usually, one of my classic dresses, a princess seamed, knee-length dress, generally made out of a light weight cotton.  The first of these was light blue gingham check with little blue flowers on it, made for me by Blue dress and cotton candy Baraboo 2002 croppedMommy my freshman year of high school.  I wore that dress in my senior pictures.  I wore that dress to high school graduation.  I wore that dress to law school graduation.  I love that dress.  By the time I was a freshman in college, I had the same dress in every color of the rainbow.

Little ruffled socks, the color of the dress, and matching shoes and I was basically dressed.  Light blue socks with dark blue denim shoes, white socks with pink flowers on the ruffle with light pink canvas shoes.  Orange dress, orange barbie slides (no socks).  Same for red.  Every color, a pair of shoes.  But that’s hardly remarkable.  The really remarkable part is that most of those shoes were flat!


  Once decked out in my dress, I went to the large mirror to accessorize and put on my makeup.  A small plastic drawer set, the kind used for sorting nails and screws, sat on my counter.  Each little drawer held a different color, in rainbow order, barrettes, hair rubber bands, and earrings together. (Ok, they still do.)  If my dress was blue, I opened the blue drawer and put on blue earrings and clipped my hair back with blue barrettes.  If my dress was yellow, so were my earrings and barrettes.  My toilette was finished with eye shadow of a matching lawnmowing outfit

A Meal

pink breakfast pasted together Breakfast time!  Pink dress?  Pink bowl, pink napkin, maybe even a pink plastic spoon.  Strawberry oatmeal for pink days.  Blueberry on blue days.  Yellow? Cheerios.  At dinner, I’d reset my spot so my cup and plate could match my outfit.

Final Touches

After breakfast, it would be time to head out of the house.  No jacket needed in summer, but a visor was always a must.  Pink Adidas, Blue Adidas, Yellow Adidas, White Adidas,  Orange Wisconsin Dells.  (singing: One of these things is not like the other…)  And then, the most important piece: my purse!

I had a purse in each color, and each purse had its own color-coordinated collection.  A comb, a pen, some kleenex, if it came in that color, chapstick, a lighter and keys.  Yes, keys.  I had a set of keys for each purse, each with plastic key covers the color of the purse. It helped that I worked at a hardware store and could all the key copies myself. 

I didn’t smoke, but I liked that the lighters came in a rainbow of colors.  One time, I even found colored cigarettes, so I bought them just to have the matching ones in each purse.

All Good Things

And then one day, it all came to an end.  I was wearing blue.  I could only find my green and pink keys.  I was running around the house trying to find the blue ones.  Looking everywhere.  I was running late for work.  I couldn’t leave.  I couldn’t drive my car without keys.  I had two sets of keys in my hand.  Two sets of keys that would drive the car.  But I wouldn’t leave because they weren’t the right color.  There was green in my dress, on the little leaves, the green keys would have matched.  It wasn’t good enough.  I had to have those blue keys!

Then all of a sudden, I realized the absurdity of the situation.  I was about to be late for work and risk getting in trouble because my car keys weren’t the same color as my dress.  It was so silly, it made me laugh.  And it scared me.  A little further over the edge, and I might have a full fledged mental disease.  That was it.  No more absolute one-color matching.  (Ok, once in awhile there still was.)

Now, I just coordinate.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

An Injustice for an Injustice?

Some of you may remember a video and a post from shortly after New Year’s 2009.  The murder of Oscar Grant.

Except technically, I’m wrong for calling it ‘murder’.  The jury on the trial of that officer in the video that you see shooting Oscar Grant in the back while Oscar Grant is lying face down on the platform and then, after Oscar Grant is bleeding to death, puting handcuffs on the dying man – the jury in that officer’s trial came back with a verdict yesterday.  A verdict of involuntary manslaughter. 

Those twelve people decided that not only was this not murder, the officer did not intend to hurt Oscar Grant.  Somebody, please watch that video and tell me if you believe the officer didn’t intend to hurt Oscar Grant.   But then a video didn’t matter in the Rodney King trial either. 

Anyway, I could go on about how ridiculous I find that verdict, and why, but I won’t.  I’m not the only one that was angered by this.  Lots of people were, and they took to the streets in Oakland last night to protest.  There’s a beautiful set of pictures of the event on Thomas Hawk’s Flickr Stream

It paints a fitting portrait of the police in light of what happened to Oscar Grant.  The police from all over the area converge on downtown Oakland for the “Oakland Riots.”  The Oakland Riots, considered riots because they were named such by the media before the trial even ended, named in expectation.

Riot Cop and Assault Riffle, Oakland Riots, 2010 da Thomas Hawk.You can see the clearly angry and upset, but restrained, crowds with their signs, making their speeches, demanding the justice they didn’t get.  You can also see the police, in full riot How Many More Black Men Have 2 Die, Oakland Riots, 2010 da Thomas Hawk.gear, looking like something out of a 1960s picture of the South, utterly stupid in their mis-match of armor.  Assault rifles in hand, assault rifles against cardboard protest signs.

Riot Police Hold Line at 15th and Broadway, Oakland Riots, 2010 da Thomas Hawk.

And then, there’s these guys:

Looter Holds Pair of Shoes, Oakland Riots, 2010 da Thomas Hawk.

who decided that the injustice of the verdict was a permission slip to steal sneakers.  And this is what really pisses me off.  (There are several other pictures of the Foot Locker looting on the Flickr Stream.)

One, how does a bad jury verdict in a murder trial justify stealing shoes?  Ok, maybe in the OJ trial if you were stealing some OJ shoes or something so he didn’t get the royalties.  But stealing shoes because a BART officer got off easy?  They’re not BART shoes; there’s no little  See full size image logo on the side; they don’t get you on the train for free.  How about just jumping the toll gate at BART instead?

Two, why are you busting stuff in your own neighborhood?  It’s your neighborhood!  You’re mad?  Justice wasn’t done?  You wanna break something?  At least go break the officer’s windows so your angry, aggressive, illegal behavior makes some bit of sense!

The protesters were of all ages and races, all styles of dress, from suits and ties to hippie gear.  The looters, at least in the pictures, almost completely 20-30 year old black men in ghetto-styled clothes.  This is not a good look for the black community!  (and I’m not talking about the clothes; those look fine.)  I’m not going to begin to discuss the amount of stereotypes this perpetuates; I get to sad.

This looting of the Foot Locker, this alone almost* justifies the presence of the full-riot gear police in Oakland.  And to some people, as sad as this is, it may even help justify what that officer did to Oscar Grant.  The black community deserves better than that.  Oakland deserves better than that.  Oscar Grant deserves better than that.




[All photos, except the BART logo, by Thomas Hawk, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license and available at]


*Thomas Hawk gives a good 1st person account of the event, which includes descriptions of when the crowds did turn violent later in the evening and broke windows on other area businesses.  Although I still don’t think assault rifles are ever appropriate against unarmed people, Hawk’s account does show that some riot protection and the heavy police presence were eventually necessary.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Translating a Simple Conversation

It’s amazing how different girls and guys are.  Let’s take the following scenario.

Guy and girl are together at an event at point A. Guy needs to get to point B and girl needs to get to point C.  Getting from A to B and from A to C require going on the same overlapping route for at least half the trip.  There are public transport portals, called BART stations, at various points along the overlapping routes and at point C.

What girl says to guy: “Hey, could you drop me at a BART station that’s convenient for you?”

What girl means: “Hey could you drop me at a BART station that’s convenient for me?  I’m open to a compromise where you drop me at one that’s sort-of convenient and sort-of-not-convenient for both of us, but I know you won’t drop me at the one that’s most inconvenient to me and furthest from where I’m going even if it is the most convenient to you because that would just be mean and rude.  I’ve already shown you that I appreciate you and value your time by suggesting that you pick one convenient to you, so you should show me that you appreciate me and value my time by taking me to a BART station that isn’t inconvenient to me.

What guy hears: “Hey… BART station… convenient…”

Then guy drops girl off at the BART station closest  to point A, to where they both just were, most convenient for him, least convenient for her.

What girl thinks as he drops her off: “I can’t believe he’s dropping me off here!  I’m going to have to switch trains; it’s going to take me forever to get to point C.”

What guy thinks as he drops her off: “This is a convenient BART station.  I am a good person because I went out of my way to do exactly what she asked me to do and saved her the walk here.”

What girl thinks on her BART ride home: “It’s the end of the world!  He doesn’t like me.  If he liked me, he’d want to spend time with me and talk to me, and if he wanted to spend time with me and talk to me he would have kept me in the car longer, but he got rid of me as soon as possible so clearly he doesn’t want to talk to me or spend time with me so he clearly doesn’t like me.

He doesn’t care about what happens to me.  He dropped me off by myself at nighttime in the city, far from home.  If he cared about me, he wouldn’t want me roaming around the city by myself after dark, he would want me next to him to be sure I was protected and safe.  But he just dropped me off to let who knows what happen to me, clearly he doesn’t care about me.

He doesn’t respect me or my time, he thinks the things I do aren’t important.  He knows it’ll take me an hour to get home from this location and he could have saved me at least 20 minutes by dropping me at a different BART station. That might have cost him an extra 5 minutes but if he doesn’t think 5 minutes of his time is worth 20 minutes of my time then he clearly doesn’t value my time, and if he doesn’t value my time then he doesn’t value what I do and he thinks the things he does with his time are more important than the things I do with my time.  He’s so self-centered!"

He doesn’t respect me!   He hates me!  It’s the end of the world!

What guy is thinks on his drive home:



Sometimes, it’s tough being a girl, with all this thinking and "logic and expectations of considerate-ness….  Yeah, being a girl can be a pain, but for the cute shoes, it’s totally worth it.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Of 3rds and 4ths

Today is the 3rd of July.  That means tomorrow is the 4th of July, my 3rd favorite holiday!  (After Easter and Palm Sunday.) So, seeing as it is the 3rd before the 4th that is my 3rd, it seems like a good day to reminisce about some of my favorite 4th of July memories.


Growing up, the 4th of July meant hot, sunny days and warm nights, parades and swimming and fireworks.  Mommy and Daddy would sit on lawnchairs on the wide grassy part between the sidewalk and the street (something they don’t really have in the Bay Area).  My sisters and I would sit on the cement curb in front of them, perfectly poised to jump up and snatch some tootsie rolls when the candy-throwers came by.


Wendy in parade cropped As we grew older, we did less watching and started actually being in the parades.  First it was Alfred, who joined the baton twirling corps in 1st grade.  After watching her in a few parades, I wanted to be in them, too.  So I became a banner carrier for the twirling corps.  And eventually I started to twirl as well.  I was terrible.

[Alfred marching with the Senior twirlers.]

I remember my first parade as a twirler.  Not because there was anything especially memorable – I chased my rolling baton to the curb as much as any other parade -, but because there’s a video somewhere taken by my aunt from Daly City who was out visiting us.  I approach the waiting family, including this favorite aunt we don’t get to see enough, and instead of running to give her a hug or asking for water or anything nice, I, in all my early-teenage glory stomp my feet, whip my baton through the air and yell “I’m never doing that again!” Right as one of the military guards marches past and fires their rifles, so it comes out more as “I’m Me 1997 Beginner Miss Spring croppednever doing – BOOM *flinch* – again! *baton swing*.” 

But of course, I did do it again, many, many more parades and competitions and parents shows.  I wasn’t particularly good at twirling.   I usually won just because there weren’t any other 16 year-olds still in the Beginner category.  But it was fun, and I do love me some pretty outfits. ;)

[Beginner Miss Spring 1997; me in pretty outfit.]


The best 4th of July parade I was ever in was the one I ran myself.  In Zambia.  On like July 10th or something. 

I was living in in Cheelo, about 2.5 hours outside of Monze.  It was my first Fourth of July outside of America.  And I was sick.  Really sick.  I spent the entire day lying on my foam mattress on the dirt floor, under my mosquito net in my small two-room hut.  It was not fun.

So I celebrated the Fourth of July when I was better a few days later.  Since I was the only American for miles, it hardly mattered that I was a few days late.  I didn’t have my special American Holiday shoes (described here) in Zambia at that point, so I had to come up with a new special outfit for this occasion.

Using my treadle sewing machine, some fabric left-over from making dresses for Side of my 4th of July outfit 2006Peppino and Ngandu and some old bicycle spokes from when Ba Lenix repaired his bicycle, I made my first home-made corset and a matching skirt.  July is the middle of cold season in Zambia (much like the Bay), so I wore a long-sleeved leotard under my outfit.

[Me in 4th of July corset.]

I looked more like a Bavarian sheep herder than anything else, but whatever, it was still special!

[Below: The banner.]

4th of July banner 2006Our Parade

Then we had our parade.  We lined up in front of my hut door, “Happy 4th of July” scrawled on my skirt pattern pieces clinging to the rough wood.  John Phillip Sousa marches warbled out of the small plastic speakers set at the hut’s base.  Bana (children), Ba Lenix, a few other grown-up men from the village and me in a line, we set off marching around the compound, waving American flags, blowing whistles, banging nsima spoons on pots, slamming pan lids together, smiling and laughing.  It was fabulous!

10th of July 2006 parade

[Our 4th of July / 10th of July parade. Ba Lenix is the one in the camouflage shirt.]

After our exhausting parade, we popped some popcorn over the open fire and enjoyed some more of that warbley Sousa music.   What a perfect non-holiday Holiday.