Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Seeing Galapagos Seals and Penguins - Sailing to Isabela

Seal Selfie (Can you get one?)
I took a seal selfie behind the condemned bank on the Galapagos Island in the middle of the afternoon. The seal knew I was there, and I heard people say not to get close to the wild animals because they are wild. (In law, we call this circular reasoning.)

But, I took my chance. I approached the seal. He slowly opened one eye, which looked like a massive amount of work for him. He saw me, then closed it again, like I didn't exist.

I got closer. I pointed at the seal, and my finger was so close to him, that if he lunged at me, he could've bit it.

But he didn't. He made high pitched happy noises, as if he was dreaming about coming upon a school of fish he could eat.

It reminded me of the noises my (now ghostly) cat, Luke, would make sleeping. Hearing such noises, both from Luke and this seal, led me to believe that animals do dream.

I'm getting heaps of emails that say that it looks like I'm having lots of fun. And the reason people assume so is that I'm posting such typical Facebook, social media pictures, that it gives this kind of impression or illusion. The truth is, this has been an average holiday.

I think this is partly because I've seen so many wild animals in their environment as an ecologist, biologist, and naturalist. As one commenter said about the Galapagos, you kind of feel like you're stuck in a kind of Ecuadorian Sea World.

I agree. And you're extorted by all these high prices, everywhere you go by Ecuador's federal government.

Though with that said, I really enjoyed meeting the French people I did. I enjoyed learning French and talking to them about the world.

I also met an Austrian mathematician. He was boring. (Tell you why later.) I had a conversation with him, though, about what he studied for his masters and for his PhD.

His explanations gave me some clues as to what kind of research the European Union was currently interested in. Nonetheless, at least for math, it wasn't very interesting, not interesting at all. (And I did understand what he was talking about; perhaps, it'd be more interesting. In short, he was designing equations to save fuel for space travel.)

I think I found the guy boring because all he could talk about was all the girls he was getting because he was European. But he was clearly a typical math nerd. So, without fully admitting it, he talked about how he wasn't so lucky back in Germany, Switzerland, or Austria. (So, he had to come to a third world country to use his European status to attract the young girls - and they were young.)

At one point, he said, "Back in Colombia, I was with my girlfriend."

I asked, "Oh, you traveled with your girlfriend, then, from home?"

"No. She was my four-week-girlfriend."

"That's not a girlfriend then."

"I meant, kind-of-girlfriend."

"Right. Go on." So, he did.

I felt sorry for him, for some reason. I guess (like myself, sometimes, like many people), he was looking for someone else to validate his self-worth.

Anyways, I was done with the island. Despite all the nice pictures with big animals, that make good posts for social media, I was bored and getting island fever (it's a feeling you get that you need to leave the island).

This is a good point: Just because people look like they're enjoying life on Facebook (which I'm not on), remember it's just an illusion, an appearance, or a mirage of a sorts.

I booked my ticket to leave earlier and booked my aqua taxi to the next island: Isabela.

The water was really choppy going to Isabela. Remember, the cold current? Well, that current was rather strong. At one point, a little boy was ready to throw up. So, another rider and me, switched seats with his father and him, because we were at the back of the boat, which had more fresh air and was outside of the cabin.

The problem was, that after, I felt like hurling. I was feeling ill. So, I closed my eyes.

The ride, all in all, was an hour and a half.

Here's a question for you: True or False? Can snow penguins be found at the Equator?

Well, I got this question wrong, in 2002 (14 years ago) in my Marine Biology exam. 14 years later, I didn't forget the question.

I marked false. Penguins are only in the cold, southern regions of the world.


The Galapagos Penguins, which are endangered, are the northern most penguins, which do live on the Equator.

Sailing into Isabela, they welcomed us, as our boat arrived into the harbor of the island. They looked like little tuxedoed birds, standing at attention. I wish they could wave at us.

It made me wish I went to the Galapagos before I took that class. I remember, I got an A- in it. Maybe if I got that question right on my midterm, I'd have gotten an A.

Galapagos Penguin
Copyright Konica Minolta
Anyways, we disembarked the boat. I asked the little boy, "Que tal?"

He looked at me with his brown eyes and said, "Bien," though he still looked ill.

His father smiled, for asking the question.

We all got taxed another $1 to enter the port. We got taxed another $5 to enter the island. (Remember my allusion to Sea World.)

I found my hotel. It had a beautiful kitchen and private restroom. I had a nice bed. It was $15 a night.

I realized that I was happier on the quieter Isabela, which is the largest island of the Galapagos. But of the three islands with towns, it has the smallest population.

I also realized that I didn't appreciate the noise, loud music, and party scene of the last island. I finally felt at peace. I finally felt like I found what I was looking for, a chance to unwind.

Here's a map of my travels, from Baldwin Park to Quito to the Galapagos.

Map of Baldwin Park to the Galapagos

Map of Boat Ride from Island Santa Cruz to Island Isabela

Monday, June 27, 2016

Seeing Galapagos Tortoises

A Galapagos Tortoise and Me
I saw the famous Galapagos Tortoises, at two locations. The tortoises are the largest living species of tortoises in the world. Unlike marine iguanas, however, these tortoises also live on the islands in the Indian Oceans. What makes them incredible is that they can live up to 170 years old. I wonder how?

I saw them at two locations: the Charles Darwin Station and at a ranch. At the Charles Darwin Station, I noticed that the tortoises and the iguanas they kept, looked unhappy. I found the whole foundation to be a marketing ad to donate money. I suppose I was unhappy to see how unhappy the tortoises looked.

I wanted to see them in the wild. But to do so, you need $40 USD for a taxi ride. And I couldn't afford that.

So, I convinced a truck driver to take me as close to the location I could for $1 USD. Then, I jumped off his truck and walked the rest of the way, until I hitched a ride with a cattle truck. I stood up in their pen.
My uncomfortable ride in the back of a truck

When he dropped me off, I saw the tortoises. And were they huge. Apparently, they can weigh up to 919 lb (or 414 kg). They're rather shy, and they pop their heads in, when a human approaches them. There are allegedly 10 species alive on the Galapagos. 5 have become instinct because of humans.

During the 1600's, English pirates lived on the Galapagos as a base to plunder Spanish ships that were carrying gold back from South America to Spain. For food supplies, these pirates took the tortoises on board, for food.

Sadly, they realized the tortoises could go a year without food and water, before they died. (This was before the days of having a refrigerator.) Imagine being corralled on a ship, without food and water, so that you could be chopped up into pieces to feed dirty pirates. What a horrible way to go.

Anyways, back to the ranch. I noticed in their natural environment, the tortoises were much happier. One of the reasons that I saw, besides not being penned up, is that they had mud and swampy water to roll around in.

Why this makes a difference? Who knows? But it appears that it's essential to have muddy areas and swampy waters, which the Darwin Station didn't have.

After seeing the tortoises, and the rich American and European tourists walking around, I wanted to go back. Like before, I hitched a ride with a truck, only this time I was allowed to sit in the cabin, and not the bed.

Not bad. I spent $2 to see tortoises in the wild. And I learned something about them.

What else is going on? I was alone at the hostel for awhile, but the weekend brought more tourists, mainly French backpackers. Usually, I find the French quite unfriendly to the non-French, especially when they're in a group.

But, these French people were so nice. There were two couples, and one single guy, who was on his sabbatical.

They fed me. They taught me French. We shared stories. They were quite pleasant to be around. And I really enjoyed learning French, and telling them in the morning, "Bonjour."

After awhile, I told them how I cheaply went to see wild tortoises. They ate up the advice and tried themselves.

Other than that, I can say the internet is rather shoddy on the island. Without internet, I've been reading a lot. So far, I've read, Domino Diaries, Nine, and am almost done with Ponzi's Scheme.

I have to say, Nine is highly recommended by me. The book delves into the secret history of the Rehnquist Court, and it's fascinating to see the inner workings of the Supreme Court.

Anyways, that's all for now. Update you more later.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Seeing Marine Iguanas on the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

The Marine Iguana and Me
Santa Cruz Island
When I arrived into the Galapagos Islands, it was gloomy and dark and drizzling. I saw cacti growing on the airport land. It was like a piece of Mexico broke off and drifted into the Equator.

But it wasn't like Mexico, either. The landscape looked like jungle, and desert, and mangroves and lava volcanoes, all mixed into one. In short, I arrived into the twilight zone, or bizarro world of nature. There's no ecosystem like the Galapagos.

Take for instance, the Galapagos is on Equator. It's in the Tropics. But, the weather is dark and gloomy, like Seattle or New Zealand. Whenever I've been to islands on the Tropics, it's hot and sunny, and dry and balmy.

After you arrive to the airport, you have to pay $100 USD as an entrance tax. You also pay $20 before you leave Quito, Ecuador airport. I wasn't too happy about this.

Upon arriving, a bus takes you to the port. You pay $1 USD to take a speed boat across to the main island. Then you have to pay $2-$5 to take a 45 minute drive into town.

I was struck by how dark and gloomy it was. I wanted sunshine, and like I said, it didn't feel like the Tropics - where the hot sun beats down on you, and the heat, makes you feel like you're in paradise. It's cold and dark and mysterious.

The reason for the unusual weather patterns in the Galapagos is because of the cold Humboldt Current. Usually, in the tropics, the currents are warm water currents.

But in the Galapagos, the cold current brings with it, cooler air. The hotter air sits on top. And as a result, there's permanent low hanging mists and clouds. In short, I don't like it that much. I like hot and sunny and warm.

If you didn't know, Charles Darwin made the Galapagos famous. But, really, it's all just a myth.

I found out that in Darwin's five year naturalist journey, he only spent 5 weeks in the Galapagos. Darwin also didn't come up with his theory of evolution on the Galapagos, as I was led to believe. His finches were not what gave him the facts to hypothesize on the evolution of species. (Darwin's Finches were named so, after he published his papers on evolution.) So, the story is all just a gimmick, to lure tourists.

That's not to say that I wasn't amazed or impressed by the marine iguanas. When I went to the beach, I'll never forget that I saw a black looking stick, oscillating as a snake in water. I thought, Is that going to be a marine iguana?

And when it came out of the beach, it was! I was so amazed and impressed. I couldn't believe I finally just saw one!

The thing looked so prehistoric and ancient! It looked like an ocean dragon. I was in awe of its spiky scales that lined its spine. If only the creature could be hundreds of feet large, it'd be the Leviathan the Scriptures spoke of.

Charles Darwin hated the lizards. He called them "imps," and thought they were ugly monsters. I disrespectfully have to disagree. They're quite fantastic and amazing to lay eyes on. There's nothing like them on earth. (I only wish they could spit out fire.)

The marine iguanas lined themselves on the beach, sunbathing. And no wonder. If you know anything about reptiles, they can't regulate their own body temperatures, as mammals and birds do. That's why they're cold blooded. Cold blooded means, they have to bathe in the sun, or go to a warmer area, to heat up their blood.

And why do they have to heat up their blood? Because they eat algae, or seaweed. (I eat seaweed too with my rice and sushi.) And to forage for seaweed, they have to dive in the cold water. (That's rather incredible, that such a creature can dive 9 meters or 30 feet. They can dive, the length of a three story apartment or house.)

Remember, the cold current? Water chills your blood over 100 times faster than air. So, after their dive, their blood turns cold - cold like the current water.

So after dining and bashing, they need to warm themselves up, or they'd fall into a stupor, sleep, and die.

They were just such amazing creatures. I couldn't help look at them for a very long time. Marine iguanas exist only one place in the world: The Galapagos.

Anyways, I'm here for awhile. The mainlanders in Ecuador told me it'd be really expensive. They were right.

I'm so lucky I had enough miles to buy my flight from Quito to the Islands. But, I feel like I'm trapped in Disneyland or something. The food prices, except for seafood, is really outrageous. For instance, a small can of Pringles Chips costs $3.15. One pound of tuna, however, only costs $3.00. I bought the tuna, not the Pringles.

I found a dingy hostel in the center of the village for $15 a night. It's nothing to brag about. It's really old and needs to be remodeled. But you can't beat the price. And I get my own room and bathroom.

Nonetheless, this isn't my favorite island. All the locals treat you like you're filthy rich, (when I'm far from being so,) and that they can extort you for as much money as possible, because every store is a small monopoly.

I've resorted to eating fish and rice and chicken and rice. I gotta make every penny count. Otherwise, I'll have no savings left upon my return.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

In the Cloud Forest, On My Birthday

Photo Shot by Paul Cook
I spent my birthday in the cloud forest, which is another way of saying rain forest, except, I guess in a cloud forest you really are in the clouds. In the middle of nowhere, I took a one-night, two-day-trip to the jungles, in the mountains, upon a recommendation of someone I met.

I arrived, hungry. So, up in the mountains, I ate a pizza, made in a wood fire oven. The locals, they always stare. Somehow, unlike other locals, these locals knows I'm not from Asia but I'm Asian. And they're always amused I speak Spanish.

As I walked to my cabin, some locals, were drinking by the creek. They asked me to join them. They introduced themselves and asked about me.

I wasn't forthright. I told them I was an unemployed writer, trying to become an academic. (And this wasn't a lie, either.)

They smiled and asked lots of questions. There was one black guy and one, and one full bodied, black girl, who had really big lips. She kept putting her hands on her butt and smiled a lot underneath the moonlight.

When the police came, they made me jump in the bushes with them. They said it was illegal to drink on the weekends, and that it was some stupid rule that the town made up. (It reminded me of how my city made up stupid rules all the time too. I guess it's a universal problem - dumb public officials.)

We all laughed after the police left. I said good night to them and slept in.

* * * *
The next morning, I woke up and took a hike to see butterflies. I've never seen so many different types of butterflies in my life.  They looked like paint strokes, lifted from an Impressionist painting, fluttering in a fury, in the air.

Their colors were brilliant and dazzling: lots of black and blues, yellow and blues, and yellow and white. It was like watching colored lights, dancing in the air.

I only had one day in the cloud forest. Not enough time. I wanted to see more, but I had to head back to catch a flight tomorrow.

PS: At my new location, my internet connection is horrible; so, it's harder to update everyone.

Monday, June 20, 2016

My Days of Recovery in the Barrillos

Copyright Piximus.Net
I've worked so much, I slept in three days straight. I didn't even go out; nor, did I want to.

I just surfed the net. I laid in bed - thinking about everything that's happened: the good and the bad and the painful. And I kept wondering, why I felt so tired.

Although I had just finished turning in three briefs: two to the Court of Appeals and one to the Supreme Court, it wasn't like I ran a marathon. But it felt like I did.

But more and more, writing these briefs, somehow leaves me feeling like something was taken from me, from my spirit, my emotions, and my thoughts. It leaves you drained, exhausted, and not wanting to put effort into anything.

In the last three years, I believe the way I viewed writing briefs, blogs, articles, and anything really, has changed, especially when it comes to law. Before, the aim used to be to write a mechanical legal brief. But I've since learned not to do that because I've realized the point of writing is to open up a talk with your readers.

In general, my briefs now seek to have a conversation with the court. I'm not telling them what I think anymore. I'm asking them to talk with me about an issue, which is something a mechanical brief cannot achieve. The hard part is how you open up a conversation, without directly seeing or hearing from your audience, while still staying in the bounds of acceptable legal standards.

I suppose I was moving towards this insight, as the stakes of litigation moved up. Hence, when I read a quote by Hemingway, it seemed like he was advising me. The words almost jumped out of the page.

Hemingway once said, "It’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself."

To re-stress the point, during my break, I watched a TED talk, in which the speaker said that the great problem solvers left their audience with an experience, not with a solution. And I guess, being a writer, an artist, a teacher, or a litigator, has left me with that question. What kind of experience is my work leaving with the audience?

But more generally, this applies too, with relationships. What kind of experience am I leaving as a son, a friend, a protege, or a mentor?

See: when you leave someone with an experience, you've sacrificed a part of yourself in your work, for someone. In other words, you do all the work for the other person, instead of the audience doing the work to understand you. And you feel how much that drains you.

Hence, I noticed that many people read the quote I selected about loving someone. Quote on Loving Someone

The insight in that quote was that, when you truly love someone, you accept them for who they are, no matter what flaws they have. You don't try to change them. It's not a feeling or an emotion. Love makes you committed to someone, despite their shortcomings and the things they do to annoy or bother you. And that's what I think I probably have to work on more in life.

(I guess, I thought more about this when my mother dropped me off at the airport early in the morning. As a young adult, I saw her flaws and wished she didn't have them. But when she woke up early, made me my coffee, and dropped me off - I realized how much she cared about me - because no one else would do that for me.)

So, I realized it's the same thing, when you sacrifice a part of yourself for your work. You do it, because you care about at least one person, if not more. And you're trying to direct a talk to communicate a message to help others.

Returning back to my state of recovery, I can tell you, I'm in the barrillos (Spanish for ghettos), recharging in South America. I'm paying $9 a night to stay in a decent place, which is surrounded by danger outside. The hostel owner has an iron bolted gate.

The manager tells me, "Don't go out at night. It's not safe." Oddly enough, it reminds me of living in Baldwin Park, though.

But I like it here. I like sleeping in until 10:00AM, hugging my blankets, closing my eyes for more rest.

I like being surrounded by backpackers from other countries, though I don't have the energy to put in the effort to talk to them. I can feel they want to talk to me, and when I don't, I can see people get offended, especially the women.

(Now, that's not to say, I don't like people. In the vein of this post, over the years, I've also developed a sense about people: especially when they want something from you, instead of wanting to get to know you. I guess I intuitively shut out the former, and welcome the latter.)

The hostel cook reminds me of my mother. She makes me potato pancakes and sausages every morning. She also brews my coffee, the way I like it, as my mother does. And when I don't finish everything, she tells me what my mother says, "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day." (Of course it's all in Spanish, which is improving leaps and bounds here.)

I just wanted to end with the most random thing. I was walking at night yesterday, and a kitty popped out of nowhere. I called to it. And it ran away, shy of me. But as I walked away, it ran to me, and asked me to pet it. So, I did. When I left, he cried. I told him I'd be back tomorrow.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Southern Cross Calls - Seeing the World Again

The Constellation: The Southern Cross
I had that yearning in my heart again to see the Southern Cross - the constellation you can only see South of the Equator. I fell in love with the Southern Cross when I lived in Australia and New Zealand, and the spirit of the Southern Cross was calling for me to see her again. (Incidentally, in the North, we have the North Star, the Big Dipper, which you can't see in the South.)

How was I supposed to go? After all, the courts not giving me my attorney's fees has made traveling extraordinarily difficult. But I had to go. I needed a break. I needed to see the world. I had that restless desire prick inside of me, over and over again.

But coincidentally, a great benefactor became interested in my cases against Baldwin Park and asked if I needed anything. I said, "A break."

"And what does that mean?"

"I need to leave Baldwin Park."

"And where would you like to go?"

"South. South to my second home. I'd like to see the Southern Cross."

"And why would you like to see the Southern Cross?"

"In my mind, the wonders of the world are different there. Besides, do you ever feel like, you have a calling? A yearning? Something unexplainable, but you know you're meant to do it? Or have to do it?"

He asked more details about what I'd like to see and do and when. I went into my imaginative mode and told him about my adventures across the seas, and how I almost died of thirst in a Turkish desert or the time I was placed under house arrest by the Russians. He listened, in such a way, that said volumes.

A week later, in my email box, were airplane tickets to my destination. Wow! I thought. I just won the lottery. I'm so grateful to my guardian Benefactor, who watches over my physical, emotional, and spiritual well being.

* * * * *
It's hard to breathe here. I walk a few steps up the hill, and my heart races faster, and I have to stop and gulp in more air.

I asked the locals, "Are we at a higher altitude?"

"Of course. It takes foreigners about two weeks to adjust."

* * * * *
So far, I haven't done much. I've slept in, since I've been exhausted by all my litigation. I watched one movie. And I walked around the city.

My favorite sight so far has been this gothic church. If looks so scary, with all these spirals and towers and dark stones. I love it for some reason, even though it makes God feel like he's so far away, up in heaven. So far away from us.

My favorite part of the church is the outside of it. And on the ledge, there are gargoyles, full of monsters and animals protecting the church from evil.

One night, the church didn't close the gate, so at midnight, I went to look at the gargoyles. And the sculptures stirred awe in me. I kept looking at the ugly, bat-demon looking monster. And I liked it.

I told myself, Only if I could climb the church wall. I'd kiss the gargoyle on the top of the head, and it'd come to life and I could take it home. It'd be protect me from evil for life, but after I die, it'd return back to the church and turn to stone again. It'd wait for centuries, until another traveler solved the mystery of turning death into life and life into death.

I just kept looking at it. And it kept looking at me. Sadly, I wasn't able to climb that wall. I don't get to take the gargoyle home. (But I want to). 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Public Works Director, Daniel Wall Resigns, Only One Management Team Member Left From the Garcia Regime

Daniel Wall, Public Works Director
A few days ago, Daniel Wall, public works director of Baldwin Park, resigned. The reasons are currently not being released.

He is the second director to voluntarily resign within several months. The pregnant Human Resource Manager, Shama Curian, also resigned recently, forfeiting all her health benefits.

Daniel Wall was one of the two directors hired during the Marlene Garcia regime. Now that he's gone, the last director from that regime left is Manuel Carrillo Jr. - Parks and Recreation Director.

So within about two and a half years, seven members of the management team have left by firing, forced resignation, or voluntary resignation. That means, within two and a half years, every member of the original management team is gone, except Manuel Carrillo.

Between December 2013 and January 2014, the City Council fired Human Resource Manager, Leticia Lara; Chief of Police, Lili Hadsell; City Attorney, Joseph Pannone; and City Manager Vijay Singhal. Then, around May of 2015, the City forced the Finance Director Craig Graves to resign. Several months ago, the Human Resource Manager Shama Curian resigned. Now, Daniel Wall resigns.

What does this all mean? Well, generally people don't leave a job that pays $150,000 to $200,000 a year, especially when one only has to work four days a week for it. Assuming people are generally self-interested, meaning they think of themselves first, that means whatever that money was worth, isn't worth it to them anymore because the risk of getting caught and paying for it, costs more.

Take for instance, what happened in the City of Bell. After the City Manager, Robert Rizzo was caught making $800,000, him and several other directors resigned, hoping they'd escape prosecution. Is the same thing happening in Baldwin Park?

Personally, I always found Mr. Wall to be courteous and competent in his work and his management. Thus, it's a shame to lose him.

But he's not without his faults. (I saw his signature once on a document - that was titled City Manager - instead of Public Works Director. Now, that's fishy.) It may also be that he left because he was tired of being forced into such unethical choices by his bosses.

The resignation also raises one last question. Why is Carrillo still around and getting a raise? I'm rather certain, it's because he's either the culprit behind a lot of the foul play in Baldwin Park or he knows where the evidence behind that foul play is, or both.

In response to Wall's resignation, the City has put a hiring freeze on all jobs. After spending millions of dollars in attorney's fees, giving hefty raises to themselves, and signing million dollar contracts for redevelopment projects, the City's finally coming to the conclusion - it may not have enough money to run a city.

The question for us is the same now, as it was before, where is all this money really going?

PS: If you have information leading to any foul play by the City people, please contact me. Your identity will be protected.

[Updated on June 18, 2016 - A source has told me that Dan Wall's salary wasn't included in next year's budget, which indicates the City Council may have planned to fire him regardless.]

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What Lawyers Do?

I've been working passed midnight, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. I haven't even had time to exercise. Between going to church and functions, I feel like I couldn't even breathe.

My mother knew I was working, as I was carrying stacks of paper, re-reading my briefs, and revising them. But I realized, she doesn't really know what lawyers do. (My cat used to be curious, but he gave up on figuring out what I do.) Do people even know what lawyers do?

When I started law school, I didn't even know what litigating was. Do you?

The best definition on says that it means "to carry on a lawsuit." But that really doesn't do justice to what the word means.

Litigation is war. It's a fight with the other side. And it's all about getting the judge to rule in a way to make the other side hurt, which usually means extracting lot of money from the enemy if you're the plaintiff (or the moving party), or if you're the defendant (getting away with what you've done). And so, if you've been reading my blog, you know it can get nasty really fast.

Yesterday, I filed my appellant brief, arguing that the trial judge didn't go far enough to make the City of Baldwin Park release records. That, it really should have done more and should have made them tell us the truth about what's really going on in the City, especially when there's a court order against the City to release records.

Now, that seems like a simple argument. But it's not really that simple. (Good lawyers, however, make all their briefs seems like it's obvious that they should win. Making things look that simple, takes a lot of work.)

You have to prove your points with facts. You have to do lots of research at the library to back up your legal arguments. And although my brief was about 13,500 words, which is about 27 pages, it feels like I've ran a marathon to write it.

A lot of time goes into strategy and revision. Regarding strategy, I have to make all these small decisions on writing. Like do I tell the court that Tafoya tried to punch me? The original version had that in there. But in the end, I took it out; so, it didn't seem like a personal battle. (And there are many more decisions that I had to make like that.)

A lot of the time also goes into revision. I don't know how many late nights I stayed up reading that brief, marking it up. Rewriting it. Then, doing it all over again the next day. Some times I don't work on it for one day, to give it a break. Then, I repeat the entire affair.

I think college and universities do a horrible job in teaching how to revise. You turn in the paper. You get a grade. And that's the end of that.

In the real world, professional writers (and litigators) have to revise their work continuously. (I had one class at UCLA - where the professor structured the class to be all about revision; it changed my life.)

I enjoy the revising, though, for some reason. Revising is like polishing a stone or sanding away at a rough piece of wood. After awhile, you really start to see the work shine; it just takes a lot to get it there.

But sometimes I'm so tired from thinking a matter over, or drafting a part of a brief, I go home and take a nap. I don't know why I feel so drained. One time, my friend Gordon called after I wrote a big piece, and I told him, "I feel like I can't even get out of bed. I'm so exhausted." I'll never forget that day. I laid in bed for three hours, awake, but feeling like a zombie.

I can't really tell you why I feel so tired from drafting a brief, as it's not physical work. But Hemingway did say: "The hardest thing in the world to do is to write straight honest prose on human beings." And writing a brief is exactly that; it's writing an honest prose on at least two human beings who are in conflict with each other.

And why work so hard? Well, one, my work always feels like it's not perfect. And even after I submit it, I realize I could've done certain things better. I told my professor once, after he said I made a mistake, "Well, I've learned from it now. Practice makes perfect."

He said, "No. Practice makes better. You never get perfect at this job. It's too hard." And I thought about it, and he's right: practice makes better.

And what about when you lose? In general, even if I lose, after putting in a good amount into the writing, I always feel like I won too.

What'd I win? The earned experience and lessons of writing better.

In short, that's what litigation is. You have to put in your best effort to really want to win, as in sports.

Like last night, after working nearly 13 hours, I laid down on my bed for 15 minutes. I could feel my mind drifting into la la land. It felt good.

Then I told myself, Get back up. You have work to do. If you don't get up now, you won't get it done.

And I told myself, that's enough rest now. I willed myself to stand up. I took out a sheet of paper. I wrote down what I needed to do to work on the brief for tomorrow. I put it on the dinner table, so I'd see it before I ate breakfast in a few hours.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Quote on Loving Someone . . .

I was listening to a talk today by Cambridge Scientist Margaret Heffernan; I heard it before. But when I heard it again, the scientist argues how to find insights in science. Dare to Disagree Talk

Here's the part that hit home today. Heffernan:

So what does that kind of constructive conflict require? Well, first of all, it requires that we find people who are very different from ourselves. That means we have to resist the neurobiological drive, which means that we really prefer people mostly like ourselves, and it means we have to seek out people with different backgrounds, different disciplines, different ways of thinking and different experience, and find ways to engage with them. That requires a lot of patience and a lot of energy. And the more I've thought about this, the more I think, really, that that's a kind of love.

That really made me rethink the world today.

Friday, June 10, 2016

$200,000 Not Enough: Manuel Carrillo, Parks and Recreation Director Gets Another Raise

Parks and Recreation Director
Manuel Carrillo Jr.
$200,000 is not enough for Manuel Carrillo Jr. With benefits, that's what Transparency alleged he made in 2014. Now, he's making a lot more, but the City won't disclose how much yet. It's definitely closer to a quarter of a million.

What are Carrillo's educational qualification? He certainly didn't graduate from college. We can't even verify if he graduated high school in El Paso.

Other notable Carrillo achievements is stealing City money through sham nonprofits, selling City park space who could release it for soccer programs, hiring those who commit sexual harassment, and hiring criminals to work with children. For all this, he's going to make closer to a quarter of a million.

So why's he getting a raise? And how is the City justifying this?

Given that there was an election this year, and that it looks like the Mayor committed unprecedented election fraud, I suspect he's being rewarded for his part in it.

How did the City do it? Well, the Mayor and two council members fired the community services director. Carrillo is the new acting service director. It justifies his pay raise. The City will hire a new community services director.

Carrillo steps down. But, his raise stays the same.

Folks, let's not forget this is the same man who fired a boxing coach who worked there for 20 years, and complained that $8.40 an hour was not a fair raise. So, Carrillo gave hime a 40 cent raise.

As Orwell said: "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Dark Secrets - The Tales of GX8

(This is a new series that I'm introducing. This is based on a true story. Remember when I took a break in Cabo San Jose this time around? Spring Break in Cabo)

Well, before I left, I received a cryptic message from someone I knew. The message said, "Meet in Cabo. I have something important to tell you."

I wrote back, "Sure. It'll be good to see you again."

We set up a time and a place.

We were at Hangman Tacos. I ordered a taco called Vampiro, which had melted cheese and fried pork. It tasted wonderful.

We talked about her family. I asked about the different mutual friends we have, you know, as friends do when they catch up.

But the conversation suddenly changed when my friend told me: "I have a secret for you." She (or he), pulled out a flash drive and slid it across the table.

My heart started beating faster. I knew this was important.

Did I really want to know what was on that file? How do I get myself into these predicaments? I thought I was just going to see a friend. I had to know.

"What's in the file?"

"Dark secrets. I don't know how to get it out. But it needs to be released."

"What kind of secrets?"

"We can't talk about it here. I just know that you can help me get it out. Are you going to do it?"

"What?! You're not even telling me what this is all about."

"It's a matter of trust, Paul. Either you trust that this is important or it's not. I have to leave this place soon; I'm being watched and followed. Will you find a way to get it released?"

I don't know why I said it. I wondered over and over again if I'd regret the answer. But without thinking too much, I said, "Yes."

She picked up the flash drive and said, "Show me your palm." She put it in there and said, "It's yours now."

She called for the waiter to bring the check. She paid the bill.

We walked out of the restaurant together. I got a hug. She said, "I gotta go now. I'll be in touch with you."

She called for a taxi. I waited. Then she was gone.

I could feel the flash drive in my pocket. What was this going to be all about?

Thursday, June 2, 2016

City of Baldwin Park Tries to Raise Property Tax on Scam Mosquito Control

Baldwin Park's at it again to steal our money, this time, by taxing us for nonsense reasons. Working with Los Angeles County, the City and Los Angeles County wants to raise property tax by $10 to $20 per parcel. That amounts to about $300,000 to $500,000 a year raised for the Vector Control Agency, which is supposed to control mosquitos.

What residents don't know is that the Vector Control will not be spraying or doing anything to take care of the mosquitos. All they will be doing is writing literature. And for that, you're going to be charged $20 a year. Once they tax you for mosquitos, believe me, they'll raise that tax each year.

There is such a thing as google searches, which are free. And I'm pretty sure, we all know that to control mosquitos don't leave still water around. For that, we have to pay $20 a year (which will go up).

I suspect that the tax is a ploy by Los Angeles County to put that money into their general fund to make up for its overspending.

I'm of the same opinion as I was before. These politicians, and their friends and family that work for them, have nothing else better to do, then to figure out new ways to take our money to buy that new BMW. Go tell them: Get a real job.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

UCLA Professor and Alleged Student Shot in a Murder and Suicide

Copyright TMZ
Here's another story on a shooting. UCLA shooting live updates: 2 dead in murder-suicide, note found I've been receiving heaps of emails on the gorilla shooting. About the UCLA shooting, here's my quick commentary.

I have an long and intimate relationship with UCLA. In fact, I was just there yesterday to have dinner with some friends.

I was an undergraduate, a teaching assistant, a law student, and now a visiting scholar there. I can imagine just what happened.

Right now is final's week for UCLA undergrads, which is a stressful time. Also, the professor was shot at Boelter Hall - which is the mathematics building of UCLA.

That most likely means that the student was in this professor's class. He was probably a science major, and it's likely (but doesn't have to be) a pre-medical student. Either that, or he was failing in this professor's class as a science major. The reason it makes a difference is because pre-meds consider themselves to be failing if they get B's or lower, in general, because that's not acceptable for a medical student applicant. If he was an engineer, a B is acceptable.

Being a teacher's assistant really showed me how much school changed. I graduated UCLA in the winter of 2004. I was also a science major, and I thought the pressure to achieve back then was unbearable. It was only when I taught in the fall of 2011, did I realize I was wrong. It seems like students are under so much more pressure to achieve, than when I was in school.

When I taught, every class, students lined up to ask me about their grades. Every class, students said I was too tough as a grader. Every class, students were worried about me making them do oral presentations or written essays. I just found that enjoying oneself no longer appeared part of the undergraduate experience.

A good number of my students were also from China and Korea. Because foreign students pay so much money to go to an American school, in general, their parents put so much pressure on them to achieve. (I have to admit, having two Korean tiger parents helps me sympathize.)

But it was taken to the extreme. Some of my students were studying every night until 01:00AM because they felt like their English wasn't good enough, or that they weren't going to make it. That in the end, changed the class dynamics and made everyone feel more stressed.

I get that we need to have a free market and great competition, but having a 4.0 doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be the best doctor or lawyer or engineer. Perhaps, the curve system needs to be rethought. In the end, something else I found in my class, was all the pressure just drove students to cheat more too. (And that made me wonder: is it the student's fault for cheating or is it the administrators' fault for creating an environment that demanded so much from students who were afraid of getting kicked out of school?)

According to one study, the best pre-university educations are in South Korea and Finland. In the former, however, junior high and high school students have a rather high suicide rate than the latter. I get that in the real working world, like in my job, that it can be really stressful. And although school should prepare everyone for the real world, school should still be a place to have a lot of fun. It should be a place where one can be free and discover him or herself.

What else is there left to say, except that this is a real tragedy.

Update: It looks like the whole incident was between a PhD student and a mechanical engineering professor. The student accused the professor of stealing his code, and then giving him bad grades (which I guess we can infer is because of retaliation). The school is claiming that the professor was a wonderful guy.

Let's see what else develops.