The Worldwide Celebration

Every year, I approach New Year’s Eve with a meh feeling.  It’s a phony holiday, I think, based solely on the arbitrary divisions of time set by medieval calendars created by forgotten leaders.  It’s also a an event that causes people to raise their hopes for great parties and great times, and often it ends up being a tremendous letdown.

Unbeknownst to me, however, there is a hard core of people out there who love New Year’s Eve.  They live for it and celebrate it with joy and fervor.

Why?  As one person explained it to me, it’s because New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are really the one worldwide holiday.  Many holidays are national, or religious, and therefore aren’t recognized, much less celebrated, by people in different countries or of different faiths.  But New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are different.  Across the globe, as the hour strikes 12 and the calendar page turns, people of all nationalities, faiths, colors and creeds celebrate the New Year and the promise of a fresh start that a new year holds.

I never really thought about it in quite that way — and while I’m not sure that the remote villages in Papua, New Guinea, for example, are waiting for a ball to drop, there’s a lot of truth to the notion that New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are the closest thing we’ve got to a worldwide holiday.  Turn on the TV now, and when it strikes the hour you’ll see fireworks and celebrations in some faraway land.  So maybe New Year’s Eve really does deserve to be the subject of festivity.  This year, we’re going to give it a shot.

17 Years Of Sunny Janie

The year was 1997.  Bill Clinton, fresh from a convincing victory over Bob Dole, was just starting his second term.  Titanic dominated the box office, and Pierce Brosnan was still James Bond.  Seinfeld and Friends were the top TV shows. And the Cleveland Indians lost, in heartbreaking fashion, in a seven-game World Series with the Florida Marlins.

IMG_4465That year a new but very experienced legal secretary, M.J. Salmons, joined our firm and was assigned to work for me and another lawyer.  Seventeen contented and productive years later, effective at the end of the work day today, Janie is hanging up her keyboard to join her husband in retirement.  Yesterday we cut the cake to celebrate her years of service and wish her well in the new phase of her life.

It was a lucky day for me and my fellow attorney when Janie came to our firm and was assigned to work for us.  We established a great working relationship immediately and in the years since have pulled at the legal oars together without a hitch or hiccup.  Her good work has shown how important the role of a knowledgeable professional secretary can be, as she has taken on increasing responsibility for preparing reports, responding to requests for information, scheduling, managing files, and countless other chores that have made my work days much, much easier.  I don’t know how many briefs and motions and pleadings we’ve produced, but I do know this — her departure will leave big shoes to fill.

But although Janie’s work has always been top-notch, it’s her winning disposition that we’ll miss the most.  With her 100,000-megawatt smile, ready chuckle, and unfailingly cheerful, always-helpful attitude, she brightens the work day.   She’s the sort of person whose positive phone personality gets mentioned by impressed clients.  And as technology has increased our efficiency, she’s taken on responsibility for more lawyers — currently, there are six of us in the Janie stable of attorneys — without a complaint.  As one of my acquaintances observed, she’s not a secretary, she’s more of a saint.

Thank you, Janie, for all you’ve done.  Godspeed and smooth sailing in retirement!

Our Encounter With Doubting Bob

There’s a lot of dislike for, and skepticism about, the Ohio State Buckeye football team lurking out there.  All of the sports pundits are picking Alabama to win easily, and the Las Vegas oddsmakers have the Crimson Tide as a 9.5 point favorite.  That’s a lot of points when you consider both Ohio State and Alabama have only one loss and Ohio State just won its conference championship game by a 59-0 score.

IMG_4431We experienced some of this pervasive anti-OSU passion firsthand during our recent trip to Jacksonville.  When we were enjoying a beer and some appetizers at a Riverside neighborhood tavern, we overheard this guy ranting about how Ohio State didn’t deserve to make the playoffs.  Actually, “overheard” isn’t quite the right word — this jerk was so loud that you couldn’t help but hear the scorn he poured on our beloved Buckeyes. To make matters worse, his name was Bob.

Why was this guy so deadset on saying that the Buckeyes were pretenders?  There were lots of reasons.  The Big Ten sucks.  Everyone knows that Ohio State chokes in big games.  The Virginia Tech loss showed Ohio State’s true value as a team.  Urban Meyer is a decent coach, but he screwed the University of Florida.  And, as is usually the case, he had a conspiracy theory, too — it’s all about money.  I don’t think he was saying that anyone got paid off to put the Buckeyes in; instead, he believed the playoff selection committee wanted to pick a Midwestern team to try to increase interest in the first-ever playoff, and Ohio State is about as well-supported and Midwestern a team as there is.

We didn’t engage with this loudmouth; you’re not going to change the mind of somebody like that with reasoned discourse, and there’s no point in getting into an argument in a bar.  But listening to his diatribe was enlightening.  It showed a perspective on Ohio State that is a lot different from what you get here in the heart of Buckeye Nation.  We won’t be able to change the conspiracy theories, but a win over Alabama Thursday night would go a long way toward changing some of the other views.

On The (Uneven) Cutting Edge

When Kish and I first made the decision to sell our home in New Albany and move somewhere downtown, I joked that we were “cutting edge, baby!”  She scoffed at that notion.  According to the Wall Street Journal, we’re both right, in a way.

Last week the Journal published an article about how Columbusites are increasingly moving from the ‘burbs to German Village, the Short North, Italian Village, and downtown housing.  So, we may not be cutting edge, exactly, but we’re part of a growing trend that is establishing a significant shift in Columbus’ population — and Kish is right, as always, because as the Journal article acknowledges that our ultimate destination here in German Village has been an attractive, thriving area for decades.

IMG_4290The Journal article captures the upsides (like parks, restaurants, and interesting places that are all within walking distance), and the downsides (like the cost of renovating century-old homes), of this trend.  (I’d add that another upside/downside of German Village is the brick sidewalks, which are beautiful to admire but are requiring me to adjust my normal shuffling gait to avoid stumbles on bricks shoved up by tree roots.)  For many people, obviously, the attraction of these kinds of moves outweigh the risks, and since we’ve made the move many of our friends have indicated that they, too, are considering this course.

This is a good thing for the city of Columbus, clearly.  More residents means more tax revenues for city services, renovated historic neighborhoods are safer, more energetic, and more attractive when Columbus pitches itself to businesses that are considering relocating, and the influx of homeowners, condoites, and apartment dwellers is bound to bring more business downtown, too.  It will be interesting to watch how this big this wavelet turns out to be, and what Columbus looks like in its wake.  There are still a lot of downtown surface parking lots that I’d like to see filled with condos, apartments, pubs, and shops instead.

Welcome Back, Coach Harbaugh

ESPN and other sources are reporting that Jim Harbaugh, most recently coach of the San Francisco 49ers, is returning to his alma mater to coach the Michigan Wolverines.  The apparent hire is supposed to be formally announced tomorrow.

I welcome Coach Harbaugh back to the Big Ten.  I’m not sure that I can speak for the rest of Buckeye Nation, but I am glad that Michigan has hired someone who has been successful virtually everywhere he has coached.  The hiring of Coach Harbaugh may make it more difficult for Ohio State to prevail in The Game — Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer and the players on the OSU roster obviously will have something to say about that — but I think it is good for the Big Ten if in fact Michigan has lured a fine coach back to the college ranks.

There seems to be a divide among college football fans.  Some people root only for their team, don’t really care about the other teams in the conference, and want their archrivals to lose every game in humiliating fashion; others root hard for their team, but want their conference to perform well and therefore pull for the conference foes — including the archrival — when bowl season rolls around.  I’m in the latter camp.  I hope that Ohio State pulverizes Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, and every other Big Ten team every time they play, but when Big Ten teams play in bowls, I hope they win every game.  I want the Big Ten conference as a whole to be respected — which would be a change from the recent prevailing perception of the Old Conference.

I think Michigan’s apparent hire of Jim Harbaugh is another step in attempting to regain the respect that the Big Ten has lost.  So I say:  Coach Harbaugh, welcome back!  And next year, I hope we kick your keisters in The Game with That Team Up North.

Trivializing The Police

In America, we’re going through an awfully rough period of relations between the police and the citizenry, culminating in the recent, terrible murders of two New York City Police Department officers. It’s the rockiest period we’ve seen since the ’60s.  The police feel that they aren’t being fully supported by the political classes or appreciated by those who they work to protect, and among the citizenry there’s concern about militarization of the police, a seeming change to more aggressive policing tactics, and potential racial profiling.

There are no doubt a lot of reasons for this shift in attitude, but I think it is caused in part by the expansion of the role of police beyond the classic assignments of investigating serious crime and protecting civilians from violence.  Our legislators have made so many forms of conduct into crimes that officers increasingly are asked to police behavior that, to many of us, just doesn’t seem important enough to warrant personal involvement by the armed security forces of the state.

IMG_4459The recent choking death of Eric Garner was precipitated because he allegedly was selling single cigarettes in violation of a law.  Anyone who uses a gas station or drives a car has seen the ad campaigns warning that the police will be watching to see whether we’re all wearing our seat belts, and if we aren’t we’ll be stopped and ticketed.  And while no one questions the importance of trying to stop drunk driving, the commercials that show multiple police officers faded into the scenery at every corner, ever watching us, has it’s own creepy quality that feeds into the unhelpful, “us versus them” perception on both sides of the police-citizen division.

I appreciate the hard work of the police in protecting our communities and risking their lives to do so.  I also think, however, that the criminalization of certain economic activities, like selling single cigarettes, and stupid personal behavior, like driving without wearing a seat belt, trivializes the importance of the police and hurts the relations between the police and the community at large.  When officers are stopping people to ticket them for failing to “click it,” they seem less like an essential part of a civilized society and more like officious busybodies who are just looking for an excuse the hassle people. And such interactions also raise the risk of a confrontation that escalates into something truly unfortunate.

We would do well to revisit our statutes, get rid of the petty offenses, and reserve the power of the police for investigating murders, rapes, burglaries, and other significant crimes and apprehending the criminals who engage in such conduct.  If police were returned to their obviously important, but more limited, core functions, the respect and support for the officers of the law would increase.

The Lure Of Minute Suites

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Philadelphia’s airport offers an unusual option for the weary traveler — Minute Suites, where you can nap in a private room during long layovers. Apparently Philly is the second American airport, after Atlanta, to offers these little private suites for rent.

I’m not sure I’d ever use Minute Suites, but long layovers — like the one today — make it a tempting prospect. Crowds and noise are among the most unpleasant aspects of modern air travel. Who wouldn’t want a little peace and quiet in the midst of a loud, jammed metropolitan airport?