UJ And Man’s Best Friends

Regular readers of this blog will remember my brother UJ, who has posted occasionally about his adventures and travels.

52812917_2017707298284358_42568911224307712_nLately UJ has been volunteering at the Franklin County Dog Shelter, where his principal activity is walking the dogs and, in the process, giving them a little bit of the human attention that dogs seem to instinctively crave.  Then, he posts about his exploits and the different dogs he has met on Facebook.

UJ had not previously indicated, from outward signs at least, that he was a big dog lover.  For example, I don’t think he’s ever had a dog of his own since he left our parents’ home, where we had a cantankerous “teacup dachshund” named George.  However, when one of his friends suggested the volunteer activity at the Shelter he gladly took it on, and it’s clear that UJ and the Franklin County shelter go together like hand and glove.  The Shelter has acknowledged UJ’s dedicated volunteer work with some posts of its own, like the photo to the right.

It’s interesting, too, that the focus of UJ’s Facebook posts has changed somewhat since he started his volunteer work.  After a few posts about what he was doing there, it really became all about the dogs he was walking and their desire to be adopted.  UJ will walk the dogs, take some pictures and video, and then post something about the dogs and how good-natured and easygoing they were.  And, UJ and his Facebook posts publicizing the dogs he’s walking have helped the dogs at the Shelter who are up for adoption find homes — including homes with some of UJ’s Facebook pals.

I’ve been a critic of social media, and I still think it has contributed mightily to our current polarized political situation.  But UJ’s efforts at the Franklin County Dog Shelter show how a little volunteer work and some social media attention can really have a positive impact.  I’m proud of UJ’s good work, and I think his use of Facebook to help orphan dogs find a human family illustrates what is the right role for social media in civic affairs — to let people know about what’s happening in their communities, and how they personally can make a difference.  Kudos to UJ!


Rethinking The American Home

The New York Times has an interesting opinion piece on the annual effort of the National Association of Home Builders to present its vision of the “New American Home.”  Since 1984, the NAHB has built a New American Home somewhere in the United States.  The underlying concept is that, in the process, the NAHB will try out the latest building and energy technologies, consider the functionality of different floor plans, and innovate with new materials.

dji_0028-editBut what’s happened is that the New American Home has gotten a lot bigger and a lot more elaborate.  The first New American Home was 1500 square feet, but since then the standard has changed considerably.  The 2018 version, pictured at right, is close to 11,000 square feet, with eight — 8! — bathrooms and both an elevator and a car elevator in the garage.  The 2019 version will be 8,000 square feet with an “inner sanctum lounge.”  Prior versions of the New American Home have included amenities like a waterfall off the master bedroom suite.

The article wonders whether the concept of the New American Home hasn’t gone off in the wrong direction.  Rather than going for increasingly elaborate McMansions out in the suburbs, why not focus on condos, or smaller houses in urban settings?  Why build “homes” that exceed 10,000 square feet and have 8 bathrooms when American families have grown smaller, not larger?   These are all good questions in my view.

For years, home ownership has been a core part of the American dream — but that doesn’t mean the home has to be some sprawling monstrosity on an acre and a half of property in a gated community.  When immigrants came to the U.S. in the 1800s they built neighborhoods like German Village, where I now live — a neighborhood right next to downtown Columbus, where the houses are small (ours is less than 2000 square feet) and are placed cheek by jowl with commercial buildings and apartments.  It’s a great community, and just about everything we need is within walking distance.  We love the convenience and the neighborhood feel.

I like living in a smaller space.  We don’t need 10,000 square feet to rattle around in, and I wouldn’t want to pay what it costs to get that amount of personal space, either.  I think it would be interesting if the NAHB revisited the New American Home concept and tried to develop homes that are smaller, less expensive, and closer to the downtown cores, and don’t contribute to still more suburban sprawl.  Wouldn’t home designers welcome a challenge to build homes that don’t require endless space, where creativity is needed to make use of every square foot?

Unsuccessfully Stifling A Cough

The last few days I’ve been battling sinus drainage, which is a disgusting condition I have to deal with every few years.  I’m sick to death of my nose running and the river of slime crawling down the back of my throat.

can-you-eat-too-many-cough-drops-can-you-eat-too-many-cough-drops-a-close-up-of-several-cough-drops-can-dogs-mice-eat-cough-drops-can-you-eat-ricola-cough-drops-when-pregnantAt some point, the sinus drainage condition always turns into a coughing condition.  The phlegm irritates the back of the throat, and some coughing ensues, but the real coughing jags happens when it feels like there’s a dry spot.  In those unhappy moments, I can cough until it sounds like I’m going to hack up a hairball and never be able to draw breath again.

And here’s the other thing — you can try, but you can’t really stifle a cough.  Basically, you’re helpless against physical forces that are beyond your control.  Yesterday I was at a lunch meeting where I listened to an interesting presentation.  I drank lots of fluids, came armed with a pocket full of cough drops, and popped them into my mouth like I was a chain smoker.  But cough drops can only do so much, and still the coughs came.  When I tried to hold them back, my eye started watering, I emitted tiny strangled cries, and my distress was apparently so obvious that a friendly fellow attendee at the meeting handed me a bottled water with a silent nod and a pat on the back.  I accepted it with gratitude, promptly took a few swigs, and decided that a few discreet coughs to relieve the overwhelming coughing urge was probably better for all concerned than a full-on hacking attack.

It’s weird when you’re asleep and you wake up coughing, too.  It makes you realize that while your mind may be asleep, your body and all of its membranes and organs are still working away.  And, ultimately, the nose and throat are in control, whether you like it or not.


Today my law firm, Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP, turns 110.  The firm has maintained its roots in a building at 52 East Gay Street in Columbus, Ohio for the entire time of its existence.

110 is getting up there.  I’m happy to say that I’ve only been at the firm for less than a third of those 110 years, having joined the firm in August 1986.  It’s been a wonderful place to work, and I can’t imagine practicing law anywhere else.

Happy birthday, VSSP!  May you have many more!  And on a day like this, Cracker’s Happy Birthday to Me seems apt.


Arizona Sunset

On my last night in the Southwest, we were treated to a spectacular Arizona sunset. We just don’t get them in Ohio during the winter months.

We came to the Southwest in search of the sun — and we found it, and how. The temperatures have been a bit cooler than normal, but seeing Old Sol everyday makes up for just about anything. I’d recommend the desert in winter to anyone interested in combating the Midwestern gray sky blahs.

The Sun In Tucson

We came to Tucson, Arizona in search of blue skies, which are such a rare commodity in Columbus during the winter that we felt we needed to take a trip to find them.  Local lore in Tucson holds that it is sunny here more than 330 days out of the year.  The precise number of bright, clear days seems to vary somewhat depending on who is doing the telling, perhaps because the people doing the counting decided it was boring to sit and count the sunny days and it would be more fun to get out and actually do something in the fine weather.

And Tucson didn’t disappoint in the sunshine department.  When we ventured out yesterday morning it was cold, and the locals we encountered marveled that the Catalina Foothills mountains that border Tucson on one side were covered in snow and shining in the distance like low-lying clouds, as shown in the photograph above.  But the skies were a cheery, bright blue, the sun was blazing forth with superb intensity, and we had to use the visor of our rental car to allow us to move around town in the glare.  I immediately regretted that I forgot my sunglasses, but the sunshine was welcome even at that.

We knocked around Tucson and tromped through some of the desert areas, enjoying how the bright light allowed us to see every detail of the gigantic Saguaro cactuses and the other desert plants.  Later, we walked around the very cool Sam Hughes neighborhood adjoining the University of Arizona campus, where the colorful stucco walls of the ’20s-era Spanish style and Santa Fe style ranch houses glittered in the sunshine, the houses featured carefully tended desert plants and rock designs in their front yards, and some of the streets were lined with towering palm trees.  The sun was so bright that the shadows of the palm trees made it look like the sidewalks had been striped with black paint.

Oh, and we enjoyed some pretty good Mexican food, too.  Mexican food seems to go well with blue skies and sun.

Traveling Under Cover Of Darkness

Last night we boarded a plane in Columbus at about 6 p.m., as dusk was falling.  The plane took off and headed west, flying through the gray, turbulent Midwestern skies toward the rapidly setting sun.

128215212Soon it was black outside.  From a look out the window and past the wing you could just make out the dim outline of the darkened ground far below, with a few winking lights of small towns rolling past to mark our progress.  We chatted, dozed, fiddled with our cell phones, drank our free beverages, and ate our complementary snacks as the long flight wore on.  Hours later, we landed in utter darkness at a faraway airport, boarded a shuttle bus to the rental car center, grabbed a random SUV for our rental car, and hit the highway, heading southeast.

It was dark as pitch outside and for most of the way the highway was under construction.  You couldn’t really see much of anything other than the rising moon backlighting light cloud cover, the temporary lane barriers that made us feel like we were driving through a narrow tunnel, the taillights of the tractor-trailers we were passing, and the blinding headlights of the oncoming cars.  We hadn’t had dinner, so we stopped at a Burger King to get a a very late, generic — but welcome — fast food meal.

We finally arrived at our destination at about 11:30 p.m. local time, dropped our bags, and hit the sack.  This morning I’m up early, local time, because I haven’t adjusted to the new time zone — and also because I’m excited about where we are.  But because we traveled entirely under cover of darkness last night, our location doesn’t seem quite real yet.  It won’t, not really, until the sun rises and we get a good look at our new surroundings for the first time.

It’s exactly why I like traveling under darkness.  There’s a certain mystery to moving from point A to point B at night, when you can’t actually see landmarks and process the change in topography.  You don’t get the big reveal until morning comes and you find yourself on a new day in an entirely new place.

Where are we, exactly?  In an hour or so we’ll find out.