Sunday, July 29, 2012

:-\

Whomp.  I am in the office today.  Got here at 10:30.  Will probably be here until the other 10:30.  I would like some kind of calculated distraction.  So tell me:

  1. What fun things are you doing today?  Let me live vicariously through your Sunday.  (And if you too are working, let's gripe.)
  2. What TV are you watching tonight?  I don't know about you, but Sunday night summer TV is probably one of my favorite TV nights.  My two Sunday night favorites on the air right now?



These shows are just about as different as they could possibly be...one is about a high school science teacher-turned-meth kingpin with terminal lung cancer and a price on his head while the other is about a peppy fashion model reincarnated as a slightly overweight plaintiffs' attorney who works at the same firm as her former-self's now-mourning fiancee.  In fact, it may tarnish my credibility as a die-hard Breaking Bad fan to even admit to liking the mental junk food that is Drop Dead Diva, but what can I say --- it's a cute mental break.

Sometimes I think there is a relationship between the difficulty of the work I do and the vapidity of my recreational activities.  The harder my days, the more I want to sit down with something empty for a while afterwards.  Does that make sense?

Speaking of work, are any of my readers law students who are interviewing for law firms this fall?  Just wondering if I will run into any of you in interviews!

Speaking of law firms, it's time to get back to mine...whomp again.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Improving Your Writing with Grammar

The good things about being flooded with work, when it's intellectually stimulating and in my area of interest, are* that I find myself gloriously busy and productive at work.  I love the feeling of getting to work and wasting little time, moving from a writing assignment to a meeting to a research project to picking apart a witness's** weaknesses based on his or her prior testimony.  When busy, especially when working on cases set for trial, I feel like I function at 110% or more.  I come home feeling tired but satisfied from working late but also working on matters I find challenging and interesting.

The bad thing, of course, is that it leaves me with very little creative energy to spend on my other life pursuits.  And I can't talk about the details of my job publically because for one most of the good stuff is confidential and for two I will not be one of those people who talks about work on a blog she knows some of her coworkers read.  (With one notable exception for a funny story.)

I've been doing a lot of writing -- and proofreading -- lately, which has prompted me to think about various ways to improve the strength of one's written work.  A few of my most-used tips are below and I would love to hear how you make your writing stronger in the comments section!



(Source.)

1.  Learn to Identify and Eliminate Your Use of the Passive Voice
The passive voice is a sentence formulation in which the object of the sentence becomes the subject.  For example, The witness was interviewed by the first-year associate.  This is a bad sentence.  It's clumsy and roundabout and uses unnecessary words.  A critic of the passive voice explained its weakness as follows:
Active voice makes subjects do something (to something); passive voice permits subjects to have something done to them (by someone or something). Some argue that active voice is more muscular, direct, and succinct, passive voice flabbier, more indirect, and wordier. If you want your words to seem impersonal, indirect, and noncommittal, passive is the choice, but otherwise, active voice is almost invariably likely to prove more effective.

(Wikipedia, supposedly from the Columbia Guide to Standard American English.)

You can often tell when someone is using passive voice by looking for "was"'s and "is"s.  When possible, rewrite the passive voice into an active voice by restructuring the sentence and switching the subject and object.  For example, The first-year associate interviewed the witness.  Ahh, better, no?


(Source.)  Don't confuse Finn with your vagueness.

2.  Reduce the Use of Vague Pronouns
Pronouns are words that replace more specific nouns.  I find that I am very prone to overuse pronouns, which makes my sentences vague to anyone who does not live inside my head.  For example, Ted interviewed Paul about the event.  He said it went very well.  This may be too over-the-top of an example, but you can see how the use of pronouns "he" and "it" confuses what I'm trying to say.  Lately I have attempted to replace pronouns with more specific nouns and I believe it has greatly improved my writing.  For example, Ted interviewed Paul about the event. Ted said the interview went very well.  (See, these more specific nouns may have changed the way you read the sentence!)

3.  Shorten Your Sentences
Almost every sentence could stand to be shorter.  After you finish writing something, go back through it and try to eliminate some of the words that you don't need.  It will sharpen up your writing and make it easier for others to read what you write.  If others can read your writing with ease, then they are more likely to understand your point.  That's the main object of writing in the first place.



(Source.)

4.  Know Your Grammatical Rules
I know that sometimes the rules of grammar can seem never-ending.  For practical purposes, they are.  However, there are a few very common rules that people break all the time.  These are a few of my own pet peeves:
  • Do not split infinitives.  An infinitive is a verb with "to" in front of it.  E.g., "to try", "to cross-examine."  Whenever you use an infinitive, you cannot put any words in between the "to" and the verb.  "To vehemently try" and "to brutally cross-examine" are wrong.  Instead, use "to try vehemently" or "to cross-examine brutally."
  • Who or whom?  I read a good rule recently:  "Who" should be used where it could replace "he," while "whom" should be used were it could replace "him."  For example, "Who/whom ate the last piece of cookie dough?"  You could also say, "Did he eat the last piece of cookie dough?"  Therefore, you would use "Who."  In the case of "Who/whom are you taking to the court?" You would also say, "Are you taking him to the court?"  Therefore, the sentence would read, "Whom are you taking to court?"  (Source.)
  • Read every TheOatmeal poster about grammar.  Seriously.  They are helpful.  (When to use "i.e.") (how to use a semicolon) (words you need to stop misspelling) (how to use an apostrophe).
  • It's could have, would have, should have, etc.  NOT could of, would of, should of.
  • Its v. It's.  This is covered in "how to use an apostrophe," but it deserves to be pulled out and highlighted.  Use "its" to indicate possession.  For example, Did you get the dog its water?  The water belongs to the dog, so we use "its."  On the contrary, It's so hot out here that the dog will need water.  There we are trying to say "IT IS so hot out here...".  When you want to say "it is," that's a conjunction and you use "it's."
That's all I've got for today!  I know I'm missing things, so tell me:  what are your grammatical hang-ups?

* Edit:  Ironically, this sentence orginally contained a grammatical error that I did not include in my list of grammatical rules:  subject-verb agreement.***  Subject-verb agreement requires that the subject of your sentence agree with the verb of your sentence (generally in terms of plurality).  The sentence orginally said:  "The good things about being flooded with work, when it's intellectually stimulating and in my area of interest, is that I find myself gloriously busy and productive at work."  The subject of that sentence was "things" (plural) and the verb was "is" (singular).  It should have been "things" (plural) and "are" (plural).  I find I am most prone to this error when I edit some of the words in my sentences and forget to check the rest of the sentence!

** Ack, another error (and an object lesson in more carefully proofreading posts about grammar). This sentence originally and incorrectly read "a witnesses' weaknesses".  I meant to refer to the multiple weaknesses of a singular witness.  Instead I used the plural word for witness.  As DebEditor thoughtfully pointed out in the comments, it should either be "a witness's weaknesses" or "a witness' weaknesses".  Thank you Deb!

*** This reminds me to mention verb tense agreement, which is another grammatical pet peeve of mine.  If you use multiple verbs in a sentence, they should all be in the same tense.  For example, it is wrong to say, "I am most prone to this error when I edited some of the words in my sentences and have forgotten to check the rest of the sentence!"  That sentence uses three different verb tenses.  I need to pick one.  "I am most prone...I edit...and forget..."; "I was most prone...I edited...and forgot..."; "I have been most prone...I have edited...and have forgotten".

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A few things I've purchased lately

Despite the fact that I am on a much more limited budget than I have been in the past due to an aggressive multi-year strategy to pay down my student loans (here)...


Ack, look how close I was to paying my first one off this month!!  Arrrrggg...

...I have made a few relatively frivolous purchases in recent weeks (within my budget) that I figured I would share!

(Remember these shoes from last week?  I returned them.  They ran wide.)

*~*~*


I am a TOTAL sucker for cookie dough, so a cookbook featuring only cookie dough recipes is pretty much guaranteed to make its way into my house.  I think I love the concept of this book slightly more than its practical ramifications...meaning that I love the very fact that somebody created this cookbook more than I love the idea of making some of these things.  Then again, making chocolate chip cookie dough fudge, marshmallows, brownies, and bread pudding are sounding like very good ways to spend the next few weekends.  (Also, sidenote:  the book is spiral-bound beneath the hardcover, which makes for easy page turning and holding-open!)

*~*~*

Have you ever played Apples to Apples?  Cards Against Humanity is billed as the "Party Game for Horrible People."  As you can see from the cards above, that's largely true.  Players take turns reading a black prompt card (example:  "why am I sticky?") and then other players contribute a white response card that they think is the "best" response to the prompt.  The prompt reader then selects the best card, using whatever criteria he wants.  What makes the game so outrageous and fun is that the cards are RIDICULOUS (other favorites include "German Dungeon Porn," "Shooting a rifle into the air while balls-deep in a squealing hog," and "Glen Beck catching his scrotum on a shower hook."  (Adrien and Marianne just blogged about the game here!) 



The only problem is that it's almost constantly sold out at Amazon, and you can't buy it at local game stores.  The upside is that the game is licensed under a creative commons license, which means that you can print it out for FREE right here.  (I recommend printing the black response cards on a different color paper.)  I bought one copy of the game and then printed out two more -- one to keep at my BF's house and one to keep at work.  (I filtered out the really inappropriate ones for the work version, and added a few work-specific cards to the mix as well!) (i.e., "Crying tears that taste like documents.") 

This game is just a great thing to keep around for that moment when the party lulls a bit but nobody is quite ready to go home!

*~*~*


This is not something I bought (yet!), but check out this awesome drawing of me from Vitamin J!  Isn't that fantastic?  Jyoti frequently draws what she wears on her blog, but she's starting a new feature where she will draw what other people wear.  I'm thrilled to have been the first subject!  (original outfit post here)

*~*~*

Other than these things, I've managed to avoid most of the tempting clothing sales I've been spying around the internet lately.  J.Crew almost got me (I love the Lucille Dress and Shirred Maxi Skirt in festival green!) but I'm hoping the prices will come down a bit more (on top of the current 40%-off promo, which ends today...) before I plunge.  Sigh.

Focusing on my goal of paying down my student loans quickly has been helping.  I actually find myself looking forward to the middle of the month when I can dump money into my loans.  With less than $60 left in my first loan, I KNOW I will be able to finally pay it off next month and move onto the next one!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Funday: The tragedy of the free Jimmy Choos, as told in .gifs

(said tragedy was originally referenced in this post)

So, I rode my bike into work in the morning like I usually do, all like,


When I went to change clothes, I realized...eff, I didn't bring any shoes.


After realizing I didn't have any shoes for work except ratty sneakers I was like,


But then I remembered that I had a few pairs of shoes from Target in my office that I'd planned to return, so I could just wear one of those in a pinch.  So I was trying both pairs on in the bathroom mirror, trying to decide which one to keep like,


When a power partner saw my struggle and was like,


She offered me two pairs of old shoes she kept in her office that she no longer wears.  I was like,


And then it turned out the two pairs of shoes she no longer wanted were both Jimmy Choos, and I was all,





I told my girlfriends and they were like,


But when I told my boyfriend that I got two pairs of JIMMY CHOOS he was all,



But then one of the shoes was already broken at the heel.  But I was still happy with the other pair like,


Then I took the unbroken pair of shoes to NYC on a trip with the BF and I was walking a few blocks to a power lunch


but then THAT pair of shoes broke at the same heel!  I was all,


The next day, I accidentally left the newly-broken shoes on the floor of the hotel room.  I didn't realize it until after we got back to DC, when I was like,


I asked BF if he'd noticed that I left a pair of broken Jimmy Choos in the room and he was like,


I was sitting there like,


He said he thought I didn't want them because they were broken and I was like,


I called the hotel but they said they didn't have them.  At first I was all,


And when I realized that housekeeping probably kept them,


So I spent a few days being like,


Now I'm just,


And this is why I can't have nice things.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Three Shades of Yellow


It's a shame this outfit got so wrinkled because I felt adorable in it.

Perhaps it's because the color scheme evokes the taste of a strawberry lemonade? That sweet association makes it possible for me to overlook not only the wrinkles but also the fact that the yellow items in this outfit are actually three slightly different shades of yellow.


So basically, what I'm saying is, I was a mess but I didn't care.


How do you like this yellow bag? I acquired it two or three years ago in somewhat of a coup...my dad bought me a matching Coach bag and wristlet from the Coach outlet that I did not like. I went to the regular Coach store to return it, despite the fact that they do not accept returns from the outlet, because I was not 100% sure my dad's gifts were from the outlet. (They were.) Anyway, the store refused to accept the wristlet, but for some reason the larger bag scanned as a regular-store item so they allowed me to exchange it for anything in the store up to $400. (I think the price of the bag in the outlet was closer to $150.)

My dad wasn't thrilled that I exchanged his gift, but he was pretty impressed that I was able to benefit from such a pricing mistake.

Anyway, that's how this bag happened.

I love that the bag can be worn on the shoulder or as a cross-body.

Over the course of a year or two it became terribly discolored and stained to the point where I no longer wanted to wear it because it looked so dirty. I finally nutted up and took it to some leather cleaners who repainted it and restored it to its original glory. (Truly, they did a FANTASTIC job. It looks like a brand new Coach bag, not a repainted old Coach bag.) (I used the guys at 1800 I Street NW if you live in DC.)

And because it took them 10 times as long to fix as they originally said it would take, I insisted upon a rebate or a free shoe repair to ease my frustration, upon which they agreed. So now I'm a very happy customer with a very happy bag! I just wish there was more summer left in which to wear it...


In this outfit:
J.Crew tank
Jones NY skirt (originally listed on my sale blog, but I'm probably not selling it anymore) (also, I have a TON of new stuff to list for you guys)
Seychelles Password Pumps (9) (TTS)
Kate Spade Wish You Were Here bangle [ETA:  similar here on sale for $66.  As I mention in the comments section, this is kind of a hard bracelet to wear...I find it only goes with solid colors and it feels silly to wear in the winter.]
Earrings from Eastern Market in DC
J.Crew factory resin droplet necklace (here)

[Edit:  check out Jyoti's lovely sketch of this outfit on her blog here!]

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Coldplay, DC Verizon Center, July 9, 2012

Alright, I had other things to talk to you about today but we are going to need to put that on hold so I can take a moment to tell you how awesome last night's Coldplay concert was.

It was awesome.

I would not consider myself a particularly big fan of the band although I am familiar with and like their music (my ticket was given to me by my law firm) but they KILLED IT live. The concert was a full-on spectacle, which was fitting for the huge venue that is the Verizon center. I wouldn't have thought that I'd enjoy a concert in a big stadium-like atmosphere like this (I tend to prefer smaller venues), but I am now eating my words. There were lasers...confetti blasters...


...beach balls filled with confetti that seemed to explode on command...

Chris Martin moved down to the end of the stage/catwalk for this song (the part shaped like an X), and people started passing him their beach balls, which he good-naturedly kicked or spiked back into the crowd.

...and at one point in a song that was talking about hearts, several beating hearts suddenly appeared in the audience.

See them?  They are the bulbousy things lit up between rows of people.

The best gimmick, however, were these multicolored wristbands that were distributed at the start of the concert. The wristbands had little LED lights in them that were controlled by a central system.

My wristband (you could choose your color).

Concert-goers were asked to don the bands and then at various points in the show everybody's wristband would light up in a blinking frequency to match the music. It created a beautiful twinkling of light in the crowd.

The overall effect.

The effect in motion.

Of course, Coldplay was also absolutely excellent musically.


Fix You -- one of my favorites.  It's a bit shakey because I was watching the stage instead of my phone!  (Did you see the documentary Young@Heart?  There's a very sad backstory in that movie involving this song and now I always tear up whenever I hear it!)


The band sounded pitch-perfect and Chris Martin seemed elated to be performing and was generous with gratitude. The band even performed one of their two encores in Section 111 surrounded by fans. They played for approximately an hour and forty-five minutes.

Overall, this was probably the best concert I've ever been to despite the fact that I rarely ever listen to Coldplay!  One of my co-workers said that she is an avid concert-goer and Coldplay's concert was probably the best she'd ever seen (in a very close heat with The Killers) and was better than both Jay-Z and Kanye's concerts!  That's just about the most ringing endorsement I can imagine.  If you have a chance to see them live (even/especially in a big, non-intimate venue like this), I'd highly recommend it. I didn't pay for my ticket, but if I had I am certain I would have felt I'd gotten my money's worth.

(Also, Robyn was the opening act and I've had "Dancing on my Own" stuck in my head since last night!)


Incidentally, have you heard of gomusicnow.com?  (Formerly gomusic.ru?)  You can buy songs for a mere 9-15 CENTS each!  I've been using this service since 2007 and I have saved TONS of money by avoiding iTunes.  (Read more about it here.)

What was your favorite concert-going experience?  Are you a fan of Coldplay?

Monday, July 9, 2012

I couldn't not. Or could I not have?

Witness the first new wear-able thing I have purchased for myself since committing to a strict loan repayment plan a few months ago (see here):

 
Kelsi Dagger Genelle Wedge 

I first saw these shoes months ago on Ideeli, and the next day on Ruelala, and both times I decided not to buy them.  I have since kicked myself nearly every day because I adore this shade of green and while I hate open toes I can definitely handle a small peep toe. 

At least once a week I have put on an outfit and thought about how these shoes would have perfected it.  I looked for them a few times in the weeks immediately following their appearance on my sample sale websites, but to no avail; they were either sold out in this color or twice the price I balked at initially.

Then, struck with another pang of love this morning, I googled them again and found them on Bluefly in my size and on sale!  With only two pairs left in my size!  Plus, Bluefly offers 25% off your first purchase for signing up to their email list.  (The available stock of size nine shoes went down to one while I was inputting my information into the system and they now appear to be sold out in that size but are still available in 7.5, 8, 8.5, and 9.5.)  (Also available at 6pm.com in black and peach for even less -- $40.)

My weekly budget refreshes on Sunday and I had a little bit of leftover money last week, so, happily, these shoes were within my budget and are on their way to me.  Who knows --- when they arrive I may hate them in person and return them, but at least I feel as though this particular online purchase was properly considered over the course of several months before it was ultimately made. 

(And moments later, I went across the street to my bank to deposit the cash from my weekly cash-only budget into my checking account to cover the purchase, which was made on my credit card.)

Which, when combined with a weekend full of eating out, leaves me with...$17.  Which is supposed to last until...Sunday morning.  Ehh, I'll let you know how this works out.

But I suppose that means this cute cuff will have to wait:

(found via Look4Less)

Man, it's amazing to think about how much money I used to spend each week just clicking "submit order" as soon as the urge struck to buy something.  You know what I mean?  I was moments away from buying these Seychelles cuties on a whim last week because they were only $30 on 6pm.com at the time (no longer available):



...but then I reminded myself that I could set aside that $30 to put towards something I have wanted even longer (like an ice cream maker, or the shoes I ended up buying today)!

It's been very difficult to resist sales at my favorite stores (Anthro, Madewell, and J.Crew I am looking at you here), but it's so satisfying to look at my credit card statement and see almost entirely work-reimburseable expenses and to see money in my bank account that I know will be going towards loans.  I think I'll be paying my first loan off completely in the next week!

On top of that, today I realized I'll be getting a nice bump in my take-home pay starting in October (about 15-20% increase, depending on taxes).  That will all go towards my snowball payment, which will essentially double the amount I can put towards my student loans each month!  Yahooooo progress!

I hope you all had wonderful weekends!  At least Monday is almost over...and I'll be seeing Coldplay in concert after work tonight!  (It's a free work event!  Thank Pete for our law firm's summer program, weight gain be darned!)
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