Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lawyering up

As I have mentioned before, I am involved in a lawsuit that involves my place of work.  I can't say much about it, because Everything Is Confidential.  Suffice it to say that there are some very fancy-pants lawyers involved on all sides, and, no matter who wins, as usual, the real winners are the lawyers.

I have had to attend meetings at the lawyers' office downtown several times.  It's in one of those buildings that is designed to intimidate.  The lobby ceiling is around 60 feet high.  The lawyers' office takes up an entire floor, way up above the roofs of the city.  The lobby of the lawyers' office is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass windows.  The hallway walls are basically an art gallery.  The artworks are rotated in and out of storage so that the entire collection has a chance to be seen, and the d├ęcor never grows "stale".

I had a good chance to observe all of this last week when I ended up waiting in the lawyers' office lobby for two hours.  TWO HOURS.  Two very boring hours.   I was supposed to show up at 4 pm with a colleague so that an independent evaluator could ask us some questions.  At the last minute, someone decided that I should not be in the room when my colleague was answering the questions, in case that might prejudice my answers when it was my turn.  In other words, it was like a police investigation in which the suspect and his buddy are placed in separate interview rooms.  Except my interview room was luxurious, and at the 90-minute-mark a nice lady in a uniform brought me cheese and crackers.

The first time I went to the lawyers' office, I felt intimidated.  I didn't know my way there; hadn't met the lawyers before; and didn't know what to expect.  I wasn't sure if I would understand the conversation.  I don't speak much legalese, and the level of stuff going on, with numbered companies and shell corporations etc., is way outside my experience.

Fortunately, the one lawyer that I have to work closely with is a nice guy.  Of all the hot-shot businessmen I've had to work with within the past year, I like him best.  He's smart, but he's straightforward and he's not full of himself.  He doesn't treat me like I'm a "little lady" to be patted on the head and sent to make photocopies.  He translates legalese into regular English with consummate skill.

More quickly than I would have imagined, I'm becoming comfortable going to the building with the enormous marble lobby.  I am starting to feel a little bit at home on the 20-somethingth floor.  My brain is beginning to grok the difference between directors and shareholders, and that sort of thing.  I would never have ventured into this area on my own initiative, but it certainly is a learning experience.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Feeling the burn

Spark's been on a wee bit of a diet this week.  Nothing extreme; I'm mindful that only a few years ago I was underweight and trying to gain.  It's just that in the warm weather, since I've been wearing form-fitting T-shirts, I noticed that I'd grown a little bit of a poochy belly.  I could suck it in pretty effectively, but when I relaxed it was really hanging right out there.

Yes, I am vain.  I admit that.  I believe that it's totally possible for women with a little extra flesh to look beautiful.  It's a matter of proportion.  It's not that I was filling out into an appealing, voluptuous hourglass.  I just had this belly.

Not being very experienced with weight loss dieting, I had to do a little research to figure out what was going on.  I wasn't sure if I was actually gaining fat, or maybe just aging.  Here is the alternate theory that I came up with.  Everything starts to sag as one gets older.  What about the connective tissue that holds the internal organs in the abdominal cavity?  Maybe that tissue stretches and all your bowels and pancreas and stuff just kind of fall down to the bottom of your belly?  Because, for example, my mom's skinny as a broomstick, but she has a small pot belly.  Could it just be gravity plus age plus bad posture?

I looked into it, and apparently no.  Internal organs are anchored in place by tendons.  To the best of my knowledge, those don't get flaccid with age like skin.  It's explained by visceral fat, which is that joyous thing that allows one to boast of pencil arms and a bloopy gut at the same time.  This is a common shape on one side of my family.

I am now on a modest diet, which basically boils down to "be willing to be hungry" and "do a lot of planking-related exercises".    I think I managed to drop a pound this week, judging by my slightly unreliable scale, my profile in the mirror, and how many times I was hangry every day.  I believe that is considered a healthy amount of weight loss for a reduction of around 500 calories per day.  I'm going to keep this up for one more week, and hopefully drop another pound.  Then the hard part will be maintaining it.

I guess it's a good thing I'm so vain, because it motivates me to be healthy.  And there's no concern that I'm going to get crazy about it, because I know exactly how unattractive it is to be too thin.  I'm not going there either.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Learning All of The Things

My latest attempt at figuring out how things work involves a book called On the Origins of War: And the Preservation of Peace by Donald Kagan.  It's one of the Big Questions that's been nagging at me.  Why does war happen?  Is it preventable?  Is it inevitable, given the essential truths of human nature?  And how do big wars (between nations, ethnic groups, religious groups, etc.) relate to the smaller ones, between individuals or small groups?  Is it basically the same thing on a different scale, or different altogether?

I guess it works like "Ask a stupid question; get a stupid answer".  Ask a horribly complicated question; get a horribly complicated answer.

This book is a brain-twister.  I can usually read in the same room as Ken while he's got the TV on.  In this case, no.  I need 100% of my little grey cells to stay focused on this book, and even without distractions it's a big effort.

The book takes 5 situations as case studies: two ancient wars, two modern wars, and one close call (war threatened but did not break out).  Considering that I know very little about the modern wars (less than I thought I knew, evidently) and nothing at all about the ancient ones, I have to take a run at each scenario from scratch, trying to keep straight all the players, individual and collective, and follow each of their own reasoning, lists of goals and priorities, and about-turns.  I need more RAM, honestly.  Stack overflow.

Here's what makes it so difficult: wars don't start out with only two sides!  Did you know that?  I didn't really think about it until I came upon this book.  You only get clear divisions into Good Guys and Bad Guys (or X vs. Y, if you prefer) after the war has gotten underway.  Before the war, for example, WWI, you have to consider England, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Turkey as six separate teams!  And they have complicated systems of alliances, ententes, etc., which morph from year to year, and then sometimes they don't do what they promised anyway.  OMG.

I'm a little less than halfway through the book so far.  I've covered one of the ancient wars and WWI. I'm going to take a break from it before ploughing in to the next ancient greco-roman scenario.  Good golly.  However, I can tell that it's going to be worth the effort to keep trudging through the pages, even though it's slow going.  I do feel that I'm getting just a tiny bit closer to Understanding All of The Things.

Saturday, July 5, 2014


I don't understand all you people who like to go away on vacation.  I mean, yes, okay, maybe in the winter, when we're all desperate to stop shivering, anyplace warm begins to look irresistibly inviting. Even I, the homebody of all homebodies, might consider dealing with the b.s. of airports, international flights, hotels, expenses, other languages, and undrinkable water in order to get away from slush and snowbanks for a week or two.  But in the summer?  Why does anyone need to travel in the summer?

I have never understood why people voluntarily get up early to pack and sit in traffic for hours just for the privilege of spending the weekend in what I like to call Bug Country.  Is it really that great to swim in a murky lake with gasoline slicks floating on the surface?  Is a walk not exciting unless you know you might run into a bear around the next tree?  Is the cottage so charming that it's worth exposing yourself to deer ticks and Lyme disease?

You may have figured out that I'm on vacation, at home.  A stay-cation.  A relaxing break in Puerta Backyarda.  It's great here!  I get to sleep in my own bed with my own pillows.  I can wake up at any time and not have to worry about whether or not they're still serving breakfast.  I can have a cookie of my choice from the mini-bar (i.e. my own pantry) and it doesn't cost me 8 Euros.  Actually, the whole experience is dirt cheap.  And speaking of dirt, this place is clean as a whistle.  I know, because I cleaned it myself.  When I reach for a glass, I don't have to wonder if housekeeping wiped it with the same rag they used to clean the bathroom.

I am totally happy relaxing at home.  And yet most people I talk to imply that "not going anywhere" for my time off is extremely eccentric, to say the least.  It's almost socially unacceptable.  The reaction I get when I say I'm doing a stay-cation is usually encouragement to go, like, anywhere else.  People seem uncomfortable with the idea that I don't enjoy going away from home.  Why?  Explain it to me, because I really don't understand why anyone cares that much.

I have had a lovely week off.  I went to a special exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario.  I've gone on long walks in the beautiful weather.  I spent a day shopping downtown with my mom.  I've slept in every day.  Just reading on the couch, next to a open window, listening to robins singing in the trees, is all I really need to feel perfectly relaxed and happy.  All I want is time to enjoy my little home in peace.  And if that's crazy, then I'll donate the money I saved on travel expenses to CAMH, so they'll be all ready for me when I get committed.