Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Law School

Back in the late summer of last year, I decided that I would go to law school rather than graduate school, as Andrew mentioned in his blog on August 9.

For the last six months, I have been planning to write about my decision, and I have decided to do so now.

When I was an undergrad, I always planned to be a lawyer. Until I met Andrew, I planned to enroll in law school immediately after receiving my Baccalaureate. In January 2006, I was admitted to three law schools and I expected to begin my law studies in September 2006—in fact, the law school I most wanted to attend had accepted me not long before I met Andrew—but things changed once I met Andrew.

Both Andrew and I were completely betwixt and between for three months, trying to figure out what to do.

One choice was for Andrew and me to part before we even started a serious friendship. Both of us rejected that choice.

A second choice was for me to proceed to law school in Boston, as planned, and for Andrew to return to Minneapolis, where he had already accepted an excellent job offer. That choice would have involved Andrew and me trying to maintain a long-distance friendship. I was unwilling to go that route.

A third choice was for Andrew to forego his job in Minneapolis and to join me in Boston. That choice would have involved Andrew trying to find a first-year associate job in Boston long after the spots had already been filled, or accepting a job with a much lower salary at a small firm or with the federal government or in private industry. This choice was under serious consideration by both of us for a very long time.

The final choice was for me to forego law school, at least for a year or two, and to join Andrew in Minneapolis. We chose this last option—or, more specifically, I chose this last option.

My decision was based upon many considerations.

First, neither of us had any kind of a family or social network in Boston, and the city of Boston itself had no allure whatsoever for either of us. I had only spent a weekend in Boston, and I liked it not at all. Andrew’s older brother went to college in Boston to get his undergrad degree, so Andrew had been to Boston a few times back in the 1990’s, while he was in high school, for brief visits to see his brother. Andrew never cared for Boston, either (nor does his brother, for that matter).

Second, if we had proceeded immediately to Boston, our first year together would have been a very rough one, I feared. It would have involved me going through my first year of law school, the toughest one of all, while Andrew tried to find a job he really didn’t want in order to mark time for three years while I slogged my way through law school. I genuinely feared that this might be a prescription for disaster in terms of forging a lasting friendship between us.

Third, I did not want to have to concentrate on anything but building a lasting friendship, and I did not think that this would be possible if I were immersed in law school our very first year together. Although I was only 22 years old at the time, I was mature enough to know that I was not mature enough to handle both the first year of law school AND the first year of a friendship at the same time.

Fourth, I had spent my entire life planning to be a lawyer, in large part because my father is a lawyer. I had never given any serious thought to pursuing any other career. However, in my last two years as an undergrad, I had given more and more thought to entering the field of history, my greatest interest, and I was uncertain whether I was making the right decision in continuing to pursue a career in the legal profession.

Fifth, I believed—I was not absolutely certain, but I was pretty sure, and thus willing to bet the farm on it—that Minneapolis would be the most hospitable environment for Andrew and me to develop an unbreakable bond. My instinct in this regard has proven to be correct.

Consequently, after both of us completed our final terms of school, I returned with Andrew to Minneapolis, and I decided that I would take a year or two to decide what I ultimately wanted to do: law school or graduate school.

My decision was the right one, as things turned out, but I was not 100% certain of this at the time I made my decision. My father was certainly not happy, to say the least. I’m not sure Andrew’s parents thought I was making a wise decision, either.

However, Andrew believed in me, and he was not worried. He kept telling me that we were both very young, and that we had all the time in the world ahead of us, and that I could enter law school or grad school or any school, and that I could do so in 2007 or 2008 or 2009 or whenever, and that it made no difference to him what I decided to do, or when, as long as I was happy.

And after a year of absolutely no pressure, from any quarter, I made my decision: to go to law school.

I based my decision on several factors.

One factor was money. Good lawyers make a lot of money, and there is no getting around this fact. Money is important, but only for one reason: if a person has money, that person has freedom. Freedom is what money is all about, or so I have always believed, and so does Andrew. In this respect I will quote him: “If you don’t have to worry about money, you can tell anyone, at any time, to go to hell.”

A career in academia does not offer the financial rewards that a legal career offers. As far back as 2000, starting salaries at large law firms in the Twin Cities went over the $100,000 mark, and today starting salaries at large Twin Cities firms are substantially higher than $100,000. In comparison, university professors, if they are lucky, have to teach for thirty years or more before they even equal the salaries offered today by top law firms to 25-year-olds fresh out of law school.

Another factor was job satisfaction. Successful lawyers are very satisfied in their work. University personnel, by and large, are not. Academic infighting has become legion (and tenacious) in the world of American academia, and this is “because the stakes are so low”, as the old joke goes—and there is a lot of truth in that cliché.

Further, the world of American academia, like the world of American publishing and journalism, is still fighting the wars of 1968. The rest of the world has moved on over the last forty years, but these two pursuits, stuck in a time warp, have not. Unrepentant old-line Leftists find their only sanctuaries today in academia and publishing, and in the United States they have virtually destroyed both fields. This situation will not improve in the short term.

Another factor is talent flow. Since the early 1970’s, the overwhelming talent flow in the U.S. has been toward professional schools, not toward graduate schools, and this talent flow began snowballing by the late 1970’s into an avalanche, an avalanche that has shown no signs of abatement. There is an enormous gulf today between the talent level of students proceeding to professional schools and those moving on to graduate schools. For the most part, students who go to graduate schools today do so because they simply cannot qualify for our highly-competitive professional schools.

I talked to a lot of persons, and sought advice from many quarters, before I made my decision. Instrumental in my decision was advice from my father and advice from Andrew’s father, as well as advice from several professors in the Twin Cities who have worked in academia for decades and who have witnessed, first hand, the deteriorating talent pool entering our nation’s graduate schools.

I observed and experienced this myself as an undergrad. University professors quickly identified the cream of the crop among the students, and guided the brightest students on to law school or business school or medical school, fields in which advanced education is the most demanding and rigorous. The rest of the students were left to fend for themselves, finding spots in graduate schools wherever and whenever and however they could.

I see the effects of this talent flow every day where I work. The attorneys at my firm are, without exception, extremely well-rounded individuals. They are highly intelligent, and highly learned in a multitude of subjects. They have many outside interests and activities. They are thoughtful, generous, civilized and humane, and in possession of all the necessary social graces. They are good citizens, committed to their communities, their churches and their schools.

I like the working environment at my law firm very much, and I like the people very much, too.

I like working in a large law firm, and I have decided that this is the work for me.

In addition, a law degree is invaluable even if a law graduate decides not to pursue a legal career after graduation. Lawyers are taught to write. Lawyers are taught to think. Lawyers are taught to analyze. Lawyers are taught to be objective. Lawyers are taught to be precise. Lawyers are taught to observe. Lawyers are taught to listen.

All of those skills will prove to be very useful, even if I ultimately decide not to practice law but to write history books instead.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Birthday Weekend

We all gave Andrew’s brother a good birthday celebration this weekend.

You only turn 30 once, and we made sure he had a wonderful birthday weekend.

Andrew’s brother decided that he did not want a German chocolate cake. Instead, he wanted a coconut-pineapple cake, made from fresh coconut and fresh pineapple, and Andrew’s mother made him one yesterday afternoon, with everyone helping her.

The cake was exceptional, as was his special birthday dinner last night. Andrew’s brother was treated to a weekend filled with lots of excellent food, lots of attention, lots of activity and lots of love. It’s too bad he had to go back to Denver this morning.

For his birthday, he received three books on military history, two military documentary DVD’s, an exceedingly handsome briefcase and a cashmere sweater of the highest quality. I think he was pleased with everything.

The dog didn’t give him anything! Not even a dime paperback novel! That worthless bum!

Things are busy at work for both Andrew and me, and neither of us sees any letup. It was good, therefore, that we were able to devote the weekend to helping Andrew’s brother celebrate his birthday.

We’ll see him again in the middle of February.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Coming Weekend

Andrew and I will spend this coming weekend at Andrew’s parents’ house, because Andrew’s brother from Denver is coming home for the weekend. He is coming home so that we can help him celebrate his 30th birthday.

Andrew’s mother will pick him up at the airport tomorrow afternoon, and he will be home, settled in, by the time Andrew’s father and Andrew and I arrive home from work.

I don’t think we will do much this weekend, because it has been brutally cold. Spending time outside is not rewarding in this kind of weather.

Tomorrow night, I think Andrew’s mother has Italian food planned for dinner. She makes a type of lasagna with chicken and vegetables that is one of Andrew’s brother’s favorites, and I think that will be on the menu tomorrow night. She is also talking about making veal parmigiana as a second course, because Andrew’s brother likes that very much, too.

On Saturday, I think we will go out and play basketball and swim in the morning, but otherwise we will probably just hang around the house, eating and playing with the dog and watching college basketball games on television. The Golden Gophers are on the road this weekend, so there is no home Minnesota game to attend. This is regrettable, because Andrew’s brother would love to be able to go to a game while he is home.

It will not surprise me if we have steak for dinner on Saturday night.

Sunday is Andrew’s brother’s birthday, and we will give him his birthday gifts on Sunday, and have a special birthday dinner in his honor Sunday night. I know that Andrew’s mother will make homemade butter noodles for him for his birthday dinner, and I suspect that he will want to have roast chicken and stuffing that night, too. I am betting that he will want a German chocolate cake for his birthday.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Three-Day Holiday Weekend

This past weekend was very, very cold, the coldest weekend of the year thus far.

Paul, our weekend guest, had predicted, for weeks, that his visit to Minneapolis would coincide with the coldest weather of the winter. As things turned out, Paul’s prediction was accurate.

Andrew and I took Paul into Minneapolis on Saturday morning and drove him around downtown, and we took him into Saint Paul on Sunday morning and drove him around downtown. We also took him to the Minnesota-Michigan State game on Sunday afternoon. Otherwise, however, we pretty much stayed home, remaining indoors.

We talked a lot, mostly—and mostly discussed the political situation—and we played cards and Andrew cooked for Paul.

Paul did not want to eat out, because he likes Andrew’s cooking, so Andrew did lots of cooking. Andrew even prepared dinner at home on Friday night, although Andrew and I had planned to take Paul out to dinner that night.

On Friday night, Andrew prepared Fettuccini Alfredo, Veal Scaloppini and grilled Italian peppers.

On Saturday morning, we had a big breakfast: cereal, grapefruit, bacon, scrambled eggs, fried potatoes and fried red tomatoes. Andrew also made orange bread, made with fresh oranges, and lemon bread, made with fresh lemons.

After we returned from downtown Minneapolis early Saturday afternoon, we had a good lunch: poached salmon, wild rice, broccoli and glazed carrots.

For dinner Saturday night, Andrew made a pot roast with tomatoes. We ate that with a potato dish made with cream and chives, along with green beans and corn and a pear-strawberry-walnut salad. For dessert, we had apples baked in pastry, eaten with a homemade cinnamon sauce and ice cream.

On Sunday morning, we gave Paul a breakfast of buttermilk pancakes and sausages, and an apple-walnut coffee cake. For Sunday lunch, between our trips to Saint Paul and Bloomington, we gave Paul a lunch of grilled tuna and spinach soufflé. Those two foods go together beautifully, something I would not have expected until the first time I tried them together.

On Sunday night, we ate dinner at Andrew’s parents’ house. Andrew’s mother had prepared a huge layout for us: she started with butternut squash soup; she followed that up with pan-fried breaded shrimp, which she served with a small plate of bowtie pasta and tiny shredded vegetables; the main course came next—roast chicken and stuffing AND a baked ham, mashed potatoes, peas, parsnips, cauliflower, a unique fried eggplant dish that includes shredded tomatoes and several seasonings, and her personal version of Waldorf Salad, which is far, far superior to the standard version; for dessert, she had baked a mashed-potato spice cake, which is to die for. Need I say that we all got more than our fill?

Paul had met Andrew’s parents before, but this was his first visit to Andrew’s family home.

Paul was amazed that the dog was so large. When the dog stands on his hind legs and puts his paws against someone’s chest, the dog is almost as tall as an adult human being.

Paul was also amazed that the dog was so playful and affectionate. Paul had never thought of German Shepherds as playful and affectionate before, and he learned, to his surprise, that German Shepherds can be as playful and full of affection as any other breed. He marveled all night at the dog, watching the dog monitor everyone and everything in the household, not missing a trick, and getting up in the face of whomever was the best mark at a given moment (and the best mark was often Paul). At Andrew’s parents’ house, that dog rules the roost.

That dog is a huge bundle of love and joy, and a lot of fun, and Paul was genuinely surprised that such a big, stern-looking creature was so sweet and gentle and endearing. (Of course, like all German Shepherds, he DOES look mean: Andrew always jokes “I HAVE to be nice to this dog—he can take me out any time he wants!”) I can’t imagine life without that dog.

On Monday, for breakfast we had Eggs Benedict AND genuine French toast, made with French bread and served with a special caramel butter. We had a very late lunch right before we took Paul to the airport: steak, French-fried potatoes, and a major garden salad.

It was a very pleasant visit, but I worry that Andrew and I did not have the opportunity to show Paul the city of Minneapolis at its best. Other than driving Paul around the Twin Cities and taking him to the basketball game, we more or less did nothing all weekend. We did not visit any museums, or see any plays, or attend any concerts. We ate a lot, talked a lot and slept a lot, and that was about it. We probably left Paul with the impression that Minneapolis is a very, very boring city, which was not our intent.

However, Andrew and I enjoyed the visit very much, and we hope that Paul did, too.

The next time Paul visits, we suspect he will want to come in the summer months.

Andrew and I have work, and nothing but work, on the schedule for the rest of the week. This coming weekend, however, Andrew’s brother from Denver will be flying home. He is coming home so that we can help him celebrate his 30th birthday, which falls on Sunday.

He is flying in late Friday afternoon, and staying until Monday morning. Andrew and I will probably move over to Andrew’s parents’ house for the weekend, so that we can spend time with him as well as help Andrew’s mother. It should be lots of fun.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Academic Plagiarism, Again

Yesterday Andrew learned that two students at a large Midwestern university had plagiarized his blog. This is the second time this has happened to Andrew (I wrote about a similar case of plagiarism, involving a student from the West Coast, on November 28).

Both Midwestern students were in the same course, and both Midwestern students inserted large portions of one of Andrew’s blog entries—including three paragraphs, lifted verbatim—into their end-of-term research papers.

Andrew has no idea what was the final resolution of the November case of plagiarism involving the student from a major university on the West Coast, but it appears that, in the most recent case of plagiarism, the Midwestern university is going to take disciplinary action against the students.

At least the students, in the most recent case, owned up to their borrowings, unlike the student on the West Coast. Of course, in the most recent case, since their papers were virtually identical, the two students truly had no choice.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Tonight, Iowa beat Michigan State, 43-36.

That is not a football score.

Andrew and I are in shock.

Michigan State entered the game ranked Number Six in the country, with an eleven-game winning streak. Iowa’s squad this year is the worst team in Iowa City since before Andrew and I (or Andrew’s brothers) were born.

Richard Nixon was President the last time Iowa was this bad. Howard Hughes was still alive, and believed to be the richest man in the world, the last time Iowa was this bad. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was in its third season--Betty White had not yet even joined the cast--the last time Iowa was this bad. John Wooden was still an active coach, with one more national title to win, the last time Iowa was this bad. Maria Callas was still talking about making a comeback the last time Iowa was this bad.

And yet Iowa won. Iowa held a lead through the whole second half, and accomplished what must be the biggest upset of the year in college basketball.

Iowa held Michigan State to its lowest point total since 1952.

And Andrew and I missed the game.

We don’t have a television.

At halftime, Andrew’s Dad, a diehard Hawkeye fan, called us, and told us that Iowa had a 20-18 halftime lead. He asked us whether we wanted to come over and watch the second half.

We declined. We assumed that Michigan State would get its act together and blow out the Hawkeyes in the second half.

They didn’t.

And we missed it.

We are idiots.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Looking Forward To A Quiet Weekend

I think Andrew and I will have a quiet couple of days at home again this weekend.

We enjoyed our quiet weekend at home last weekend, our first such weekend in over two months, and we look forward to another one this weekend. We will be able to catch up on things, and do some reading, and rest up.

Next weekend, we have a guest coming for the three-day weekend: one of Andrew’s law school classmates. It will be his first visit to Minnesota, and we will take him around and show him the highlights of the Twin Cities. Among other things, we will take him to see Minnesota play Michigan State on Sunday afternoon in a nationally-televised game. We hope it will prove to be another classic Tubby Smith-Tom Izzo match-up, along the lines of the memorable Kentucky-Michigan State 2005 Regional Final. We are all looking forward to it.

The only other item on the schedule for January is Andrew’s middle brother’s birthday, which falls on the 27th. He may come home that weekend, so we are keeping our calendar for that weekend completely open.

Friday, January 4, 2008

We Have The Dog For The Weekend

Andrew and I have the dog this weekend, since Andrew’s parents are in Washington, D.C., until Monday.

He was in our apartment when we arrived home from work today, dropped off by Andrew’s parents on their way to the airport.

He was glad to see us, jumping up on us and licking our faces and ears (he loves to lick ears).

Andrew and I changed our clothes and took him out for a long walk around the neighborhood. He loved it. After he had had his exercise, we returned home and we are going to prepare dinner soon.

We have all kinds of food in store, just for him. We have stewing meat for tonight, which we will cut up into tiny pieces for him. He will enjoy that very much. We have a hambone for tomorrow, which we will boil and give to him. That will occupy him for a couple of hours. We have his chicken for Sunday.

Otherwise, he will get his daily bowl of Science Diet. He will also get some table food, because he will insist upon it. He won’t starve.

Andrew and I will take him to the park a couple of times tomorrow and on Sunday and romp around with him. He will like that.

Otherwise, Andrew and I plan to catch up on our reading this weekend, and listen to music, and catch up on some other things that need attention.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Ringing In The New Year

2008 is here.

Andrew and I rang in the New Year the best way we knew how: in deep slumber. We went to bed at 10:15 p.m. the last night of 2007.

On New Year’s Eve, Andrew and I left our offices a little early, at 3:30 p.m., and we went home (“home” was Andrew’s parents’ house during the holidays). We played with Andrew’s nephew until dinnertime, when we were served a spectacular Norwegian feast: Bergens Fiskesuppe, Bergen fish soup, which takes several hours to prepare, and involves both fish trimmings and boneless fish, as well as parsnips, carrots, onions, potatoes, leeks, celery, spices and cream; Rullepolse, a complicated Norwegian meat roll, which takes a week to make and involves flank steak and two different kinds of seasoned pork and seasoned veal soaked in special brines, rolled together, cooked in boiling water, cooled, pressed (to remove excess water), chilled, and served cold, in slices; Norwegian potato dumplings, made with raw potatoes and bacon; and two desserts, Lingonberry cake ( a very flat, almost biscuit-like cake, topped with Lingonberry jam and streusel) and Bergen rum balls (very similar to cream puffs, but with a very dark and very moist and very heavy and very unusual pastry that includes pureed cherries, into which is stuffed rum cream).

I had never had any of these foods before, and I thought the dinner was stunning. Andrew’s mother was concerned that Andrew’s nephew would not like this special New Year’s Eve Dinner, and she had prepared other foods for him (boiled chicken, mashed potatoes, peas and jello with fruit), assuming he probably would turn up his nose at everything. Although boiled chicken, mashed potatoes and peas were his primary meal, he sampled tiny amounts of the new foods and he seemed to like everything very much, especially the desserts. He got more than his fill.

After dinner, we did not do much. Those magnificent desserts, I think, had done us all in. After Andrew’s nephew was put to bed, we sat around talking and keeping an eye on the Oklahoma State bowl game, which ended very early. By 10:00 p.m., we were all heading upstairs to turn in.

Andrew and I rose very early on New Year’s Day and got the dog exercised and fed. Then Andrew and I cleaned up and organized a big breakfast for everyone.

Andrew made Julekake, a sweet and heavy Norwegian bread with nutmeg, raisins, citron and cherries. While that was baking, we made omelets with ham, cheeses and cream. It was a very good breakfast.

We spent most of New Year’s Day watching bowl games, although Andrew and I and his brothers also spent a lot of time outside, playing with Andrew’s nephew and the dog in the back yard.

We only had a light lunch—tomato-cream soup and toasted cheese sandwiches, Andrew’s nephew’s favorite lunch—but we had a major dinner: seafood croquettes (which were to die for), a garden salad, chicken breasts baked in a cream-pepper sauce, asparagus tips, butternut squash, cranberry-orange-apple relish, and an apricot bundt cake. The dinner was a wonderful way to wrap up the holiday season.

Andrew and I are back at work today, and his brothers and his older brother’s family are on their ways back home right now.

Andrew and I did not get to spend as much time with his brothers this Christmas as we would have liked. We only had three complete days with them, and two of those three days were devoted to preparing for a family function.

We had, at least, an additional four evenings to spend with them, and that was good. It makes a festive household when everyone is present. Somehow everything seems right, natural, inevitable and complete when Andrew’s brothers are home. The house is filled with activity, chatter, laughter and fun.