Observations From The Sideline

I have watched with interest, if not almost fascination, the presidential race on both the Republican and Democratic side in the last month. From the debates to the primaries to the overwhelming media coverage online, I have followed the candidates, their comments and the ups and downs on the road to Super Tuesday next week. As of today, I am unsure still as to who I fully support and who I may end up voting for. I definitely like some of the candidates more than others, but am currently just interested in the process. Along the way, I have made some observations and thought I would point out a few here on my blog.

Best Senator: Among the four remaining potential candidates from both parties, there are three United States senators. I realize that campaigning for the office of the POTUS is a full-time job, but who among Clinton, Obama and McCain is doing the most to maintain their current duties in the Senate? Where was McCain last Monday night at the State of the Union address? Should I be upset, as a New York resident, that one of my two Senators may be neglecting her duties to stump through most of the county on potentially the way to the White House? Should residents in Illinois or Arizona care? Does running for President absolve one from the duties he/she was elected to fulfill?

Demographics: There is no doubt that demographics matter in this election, perhaps more so than ever. There is much talk about who is obtaining the woman vote, the lower income vote, the Black vote and the Hispanic vote. There is little talk about who is obtaining the Asian-American vote (meaning Asia in its geographic sense, from the Middle East to the Far East). While the states that have held primaries so far may have small Asian-American populations, and concededly, Asian-Americans comprise a small percentage of the population of the United States, from my perspective, Asian-Americans are in many ways the future of the country. This is so because as anyone who has recently visited a college campus, law firm, investment bank, hospital or any number of industries dominated by higher education knows, Asian-Americans are present in much higher percentages than their proportion in the U.S. as a whole. Smaller numbers of Asian-Americans may make their way to public and government service than in the private sector for now, but among the industries that traditionally dominate the country, Asian-Americans are the face of the United States going forward.

It’s not Over Yet: Don’t count Mitt Romney out yet. And if Hillary and McCain emerge after next Tuesday as the true frontrunners, Bloomberg may return to the headlines, if not dragged there by millions not happy with the two parties’ choices.

Sakura Sensei

We were without cable television for the first year and a half that we lived in New York. I don’t recommend it. We picked up very few channels with the bunny-ears antenna that we had and what we could watch was not clear. The whole experience was far from the HDTV viewing pleasure that I now indulge in more than I should. One of the few channels that we did have was the local broadcasting station. As it turned out, each Sunday night at 11:00 p.m., the local New York station would air a Japanese drama, complete with English subtitles. I came across it and was soon hooked to a drama called “Sakura.” The drama was about a Japanese-American raised in Hawaii who decides to go to the Japanese countryside to teach English for a year and learn more about her roots. The show tackles many of the difficulties that foreigners encounter in Japan. Elizabeth Sakura Matsushita was the name of the main character and the show centered on her relationships and experiences in Japan. It was a fun show to watch, especially for someone who has lived as a foreigner in both Japan and Hawaii. I wish I could find copies of Sakura to watch today. Another one of my favorite Japanese dramas (or J-Dorama) is Tokyo Love Story. Although it seems a bit old by today’s standards (the show aired in 1991), the story is great and, for me at least, hits close to home.

Walking Hanna

Our little Hanna is not as little as she used to be. Soon she’ll be nine months old. Her favorite activity is to walk with the help of mom or dad. We hold her by her hands and she knows how to take steps to go somewhere. Interestingly, she seems to have no desire to crawl and may skip over the whole crawling phase and go straight to walking in the next few months. At some point, she’ll figure crawling out, but for now I’m still glad that I don’t yet have to rearrange our apartment.

Her fine motor skills have also improved quite a bit in the past while and she is quite good (and patient) at picking up the food and toys that she wants when she wants them. Her many teeth allow her to eat food that she would otherwise have to wait until she was older to eat. She has also figured out that if she cries long enough, someone will usually go and get her (usually mom). She is a cute kid and I look forward to seeing what more she can do in the coming months and years.

Power at the Podium

In watching the Democratic debates Monday night in South Carolina, I was reminded of an experience I had while still in my youth. Like most schools, my junior high school (which I have written about here before) held elections in which anyone can run for the school’s student body president. After a week of slogans, banners, stickers and intense campaigning (read popularity contest), the school held an assembly in which each of the candidates presented a short speech of their platform and why they should be the school’s next student body president.

I was in eighth grade when it happened. The more popular kid at school presented a skit based on SNL’s Wayne’s World, which was popular at the time. The whole thing was complete with wigs, air guitars and the legendary, “Wayne’s World, party on, excellent” rhetoric that my generation well knows. The student body received him and the skit well. I’m sure at the time he thought that he had the election in the bag.

Then the next candidate, a black and lesser known student, came to the podium. Dressed in a nice suit, he certainly looked professional. The first words out of his mouth were, “I am not going to stand up here and pretend that I am something that I am not.” He then eloquently outlined what he would do as president, although I do not remember anything he said. All I know is that he won the election in commanding fashion. In watching the debates last night, I was reminded of this experience, an experience that I have not thought of for many years, but was brought to my memory vividly in watching Senator Obama’s handling of Senator Clinton’s terse remarks. It will be interesting to observe what the coming months bring.

Big Brother No More

Since October I have been participating in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program organized through my employer as part of the pro bono program. Prior to the program starting for this academic year, I was interviewed at length and was accepted into the program as a “Big”. I was then matched with a “Little” at a middle school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I liked my Little and thought he was a bright kid. He also made me laugh a lot. The program brought the Littles to my office after school twice a month for group and individual activities. Part of our role is to help the kids become accustomed to an office setting as well as showing them what it is we do each day. Of course, our role in helping instilling confidence and maturity in these kids at their age goes without saying.

My Little and I were getting along fine and I was learning more and more about him with each session. But yesterday I received a call from the social worker that oversees our program with the news that my Little’s mother pulled him out of the middle school and put him into a new school in Queens. Because the program only works with the schools and not the individual kids, he is no longer eligible for the program. From what I can gather, social or academic reasons do not appear to be why his mother pulled him from his school. Instead, it seems to be reasons related to his family. I hope he’s okay and can adjust to the new environment – a change of schools in the middle of the school year is always difficult. I am going to find out more about the situation, but the reality is that I may never see him again. I wish him well and all the best in his life. It was fun while it lasted.

Man On Fire

Friday night was an eventful night on the 7:16 p.m. train home from Manhattan. At the stop before mine, I, like always, began putting my book and iPod away when the train died. It literally died – there was no engine or electricity or any sound at all. I thought nothing of it until people in train cars ahead of me began running past my car window hitting the windows and yelling fire. Startled, the passengers on my car scrambled to get out the door and evacuate the train. When I stepped onto the platform I looked in the direction of everyone else and saw smoke coming from near the front of the train. The smoke, however, was not coming from the inside of the train, but from the top of it. Someone began yelling that a person on top of the train was on fire. I looked intently and saw a man climbing the outside of the train with a coat. With his free hand, the man began hitting the man on fire on top of the train with his coat in an effort to put out the fire.

I know it sounds crazy, but yes, somehow a man managed to get himself on top of the train and the electricity from the overhead wires caught him on fire. The fire was out after a short time, but he was burned and in shock and could barely sit up on top of the train. Due to the high amounts of electricity still flowing through the wires and the top of the train, the firemen who arrived could not immediately get on top to treat the man. I found a friend who ended up taking the same train home from the city and we eventually found our way home. But it was not an ordinary night on the train home, even by New York standards. I found several articles online regarding the incident, the best of which is here.

Uncertain Times

Traditionally, January has been a good time for lawyers to leave their jobs and begin looking for positions at other firms. This is true for many reasons, but primarily because very little movement takes place at firms between August and the end of the year; lawyers wait to receive their end-of-the-year bonus before they are willing to leave; the fourth quarter is often a busy time of year; and lawyers are ready for a fresh start at the beginning of a new year. This year, however, there is uncertainty as to how active firms will be searching for lateral associates, especially given that there are now firms laying off associates in specific practice areas that have slowed due to the tightening of the credit markets. Numbers show that 2008 summer associate classes are smaller at the big firms and the overall prediction seems to be that the volume of deals in 2008 will be slower than the past several years.

Will those not armed with bankruptcy and reorganization experience be left with little to do? Will associate salaries again increase in 2008 as many believe will happen? Will more firms follow suit and begin laying off associates in an attempt to remain as profitable as they have been? It’s only the second week of January but much is at stake this year in law, business and politics. Personally, I have a lot at stake this year too. I can only hope for the best and hone my skills to adapt to whatever happens in this uncertain time that is 2008.