Questions About Water Polo in Rio 2016

Tuesday afternoon. I’m watching Italy take down Greece in men’s water polo. I’ve been mulling over some questions about water polo in the 2016 Rio Olympics:

1. Why are the Australians so cool? Everything they do is cool. When they swim, they look cooler than everyone else. When they shoot, it’s with a powerful coolness that no one else possesses. When they talk, they sound so cool. When they yell, they sound even cooler.

2. How does Southeast Europe manage to dominate the sport of water polo? Here’s something to consider: The population of Montenegro is 675,000; the population of California is 39 million. Montenegro beat the US 8-5 in Rio. I think it’s great that smaller countries are able not just to stand up to the geographical giants, but to beat them regularly in world water polo competition. Hungary was won nine Olympic gold medals in water polo since 1900. The US has won zero.

3. How did that American play-by-play announcer get his job and why hasn’t NBC fired him? Seriously. He’s terrible. I would rather listen to silence than to be further subjected to his painful efforts at run-on sentences. He lost my support in the first game he announced when he referred to a player’s shot on goal as “delicious.”

4. Why do British announcers sound so fabulous no matter what the sport? The British announcers are top notch, as is the Australian guy. I love their accents. I love their descriptions of the play and the players. The Europeans, I am compelled to admit, have a much more colorful vocabulary when describing sport. My favorite so far: “And the end-of-play hooter has sounded.” So much more interesting than, “And that’s the final horn.”

5. Is there a strategic reason for the beards? Men’s water polo is like a high fashion ad in GQ. Ripped dudes with scraggly beards. They look great. Maybe that’s the only reason. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t allow them to swim faster.

Watching Water Polo on the NBC Sports 2016 Rio Olympics App

It’s Sunday afternoon. I’ve got my iPhone connected to my flat screen television with the NBC Sports app streaming the Spain-Montenegro men’s water polo match. Happily, the pool is a healthy shade of light blue. 

As a water polo fan, I give a huge thumbs up to NBC for their streaming app. I’ve been able to watch several hours of polo on my terms. If the live feed fits my schedule, I watch it; if not, I can go back to that particular game whenever I want.

NBC doesn’t broadcast all the games, but it’s done a good job of the selecting the most interesting match ups as well as all the US games. The US women’s team hasn’t disappointed, going undefeated in the preliminary round and scoring in double figures in each match. The US men’s team sadly didn’t do so well, and won’t make it to the medal rounds in Rio. With all the other games to watch, however, it’s been nice to get to the know the power teams (Hungary, Servia, Croatia) and start rooting for some underdogs–like Japan and France.

In fact, that’s what I like about what NBC has done in Rio in 2016. With streaming, they’ve been able to show us so much more of the Olympics, even when it has little to do with America and its athletes. Network television, provided for free to the masses and funded by the advertisers, has a big disadvantage when it come to Olympic coverage: the advertisers want the biggest audience for their buck. The demands of American advertisers give us an Olympic viewing experience that borders on jingoism. They demand that the network broadcast those events that will draw the largest number of American eyeballs. Water polo is not one of those events. 

Most Americans have no idea what “ball under,” “exclusion” and “hole set” might mean. The fact that the US men’s team is not a powerhouse doesn’t help viewership. There’s no way that water polo would get on network television and certainly not during prime time. 

But with streaming, the problem is eliminated, or at least moderated. The folks at NBC make the “less popular” events available on their smartphone app and then pop some commercials into the stream. They make money from their advertisers and I get to watch the events that interest me. I simply don’t want to watch gymnastics, men’s or women’s. Same goes for track. Bleh. I haven’t watched a single prime time event, and don’t plan, too. Water polo and cycling are my sports of choice and the NBC Sports app lets me get what I want.

I do have one gripe, however, and I know I’m not the only one. Get some more commercials, NBC! When I watch ninety minutes of polo, do I really have to witness darling Simone Biles do laundry fourteen times? It’s been indelibly scorched into my brain that she stands 4’8″. When she sticks a landing during competition, all the judges’ papers go flying. When she shuts her locker, it falls over and knocks down a bunch of other lockers, too, like dominoes. When she slams the door of her front loading washing machine and walks off smiling, laundry baskets fly into the air and pictures fall off the wall. I get it. She’s powerful. Haha. Yes, it was funny the first time. It was not funny the last 72 times I’ve seen that commercial. Maybe NBC could change its pricing or something to get more advertisers into the mix.

By the way, I know that the Biles commercial has something to do with laundry detergent, but I can’t for the life of me remember the brand. I’ve heard that the most annoying situation for an advertiser: creating an ad that’s memorable for the action but forgettable when it comes to the actual product. Whoops.

But other than that minor issue, good job, NBC! Keep up the good work.

Nifty Little Cartoon From Fiverr Looks Just Like Me

Fiverr Helps Law Firm Lighten Its Image

Attorney James Pixton finds an artist that makes him smile.

James Pixton in cartoon form.
James Pixton, attorney in cartoon form.

I discovered Fiverr recently. For five bucks artists across the world will go to work for you and draw up what you ask of them. Of course, five dollars will only get you a basic “gig.” To get the first-class stuff, you have to purchase additional “gigs” (each with its own price and not necessarily limited to five bucks). The more complicated the work, the more gigs you have to buy to get the job done. Still, it’s a deal and it contributes to the global economy. I get great artwork and I get to pay artists in the Middle East and Asia. They win. I win.

I even asked a couple different artists to draw up two of my kids as super heroes. They got a kick out of it and so did I. Here they are as Captain America and WonderWoman. They both liked their cartoon likeness but I don’t think they were as enamored with Fiverr as I was. Cartoons are wasted on the youth!

fiverr graphic artist paints Pixton kid digitally
James Pixton’s daughter in cartoon form from Fiverr
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What ten-year-old would be happy with the work of this graphic artist from Fiverr?

I’ve spent some time sifting through Fiverr and have found a lot of gigs that might add value to my business for not a huge outlay. For instance, voice actors will record my phone greeting. I’m thinking of hiring a woman with an Australian accent to do my phone greetings. After all, when you’re calling a bankruptcy or family law attorney Alameda, California, you expect to get someone with an Australian accent answering the phone, right?

An then there are some artists on Fiverr who will design logos and business cards that are out of this world. I could use a new logo. The one I “invented” myself is tired and uninspiring. I’m going to be spending way more time buying gigs on Fiverr!

Broke My Hand Playing Water Polo (Part 1)

Two Mondays ago, I went to water polo practice at Emma Hood Pool, adjacent to Alameda High School. I play with the masters’ team. During the scrimmage someone grabbed my fingers and twisted them the wrong way. Pop! I ended up with a broken hand (see X-ray). It hurt!

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I didn’t think it was broken at the time. I figured maybe some ligaments have been stretched or torn. I iced it up that night and then went to Kaiser Oakland on Tuesday when it still felt wrong. After a visit with a GP and a trip to radiology for an X-ray, I got the news through a radiology tech that I had “a little bit of a break.”

Eliza had come along with me so we headed upstairs to orthopedics. She took pictures. That’s where I first saw the X-ray. I’m no expert, but that looks like more than a little bit of a break.

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The orthopedist looked over the X-rays, told the tech to put me in a brace for a week and sent me on my way.

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Jot Pro by Adonit Is Perfect iPad Stylus for Attorneys – Once You Fix It

I love my iPad (3rd Generation). As an attorney, I frequently use its note taking capabilities. That way, my files can go anywhere I go. I use Evernote along with three apps: Penultimate, Notability and NoteShelf to take notes. I’m still trying to decide which I like best.

Note taking can be a bit of a pain with those rubber tipped styluses. IMG_3225They’re just not as precise as I’d like and I feel like I’m drawing with a crayon. Enter the Jot Pro by Adonit ($29.99 retail). It’s a work of modern art that works–eventually. It looks and feels like a regular pen except that it has a pivoting clear disc attached where the ink would normally hit the paper. The disc allows for a large enough surface area for the iPad to recognize the writing device while at the same time allowing the writer to see exactly where the line is being drawn. I love it–but I didn’t use to.

Although the Jot Pro is a great idea, out of the package it has a couple hangups–at least it did for me. From what I’ve read on the forums out there, I’m not the only one.

IMG_3226First, I have a Zagg Invisible Shield screen protector on my iPad. It’s a thick, practically indestructible film the covers the entire glass on the front of my iPad. It’s a necessity for me. The problem is that the surface of the Zagg is tacky and the surface of the disc on the Jot Pro is also tacky. Put them together, and the Jot Pro sticks to the screen when you want to write or draw. Kind of hard to write when your pen won’t move. This was incredibly frustrating for me until I found the easy solution: Scotch tape!

IMG_3227I simply cut a small piece of tape and placed it tacky side up on my desk. Then I touched the Jot Pro’s disc to the tape–stuck. Next I grabbed my trusty blunt-nosed safety scissors (I’m safety impaired) and trimmed off the excess tape. There you go! The Jot Pro now glides over the iPad screen like a dream.

Fixing the stick-to-the-screen problem uncovered the other little problem: skipping. Even though the stylus now glided along the glass, the lines it drew would suddenly stop and stop for no apparent reason. Instead of a solid line, you’d end up with a broken line. And it was getting worse. Again, the internet came to the rescue. I found a few posts that mentioned “thermal grease” from Radio Shack. Do you have any clue what that is? I didn’t either.

I went down to my local Radio Shack and of course the young woman behind the counter had no idea what I was talking about. Finally, after wandering around, I find a silicone-based, heat sink compound. It looked like it fit the description well enough so I bought it; one tube cost me about $3.50 plus a little aggravation. (Turns out there really is a heat sink grease. Moral of the story: Google it and print it before you go to the Shack.) I opted to give the heat sink compound a try.

IMG_3228First I carefully popped the disc off the ball joint on the tip of the Jot Pro and put just a tiny drop of the compound into the joint receptacle (the cup). Then I carefully clicked the disc back onto the Jot Pro and PRESTO! I now possess the best iPad writing instrument ever.

No complaints now. I just wish the folks at Adonit had addressed these two issues in the factory so I didn’t have to spend a couple hours solving what are really pretty simple problems to address. For lawyers looking for a note taking instrument, I recommend the Adonit Jot Pro.

[If you live in California and are considering bankruptcy, check out my bankruptcy law website at www.pixlaw.com. My family law website is pixtonfamilylaw.com]

Reading The Hobbit to a Nine-Year-Old is Golden

My beat up copy of The Hobbit
My beat up copy of The Hobbit

Round about the time that the new “The Hobbit” movie came out, I dusted off my old copy of the book and started reading it to my nine-year-old son Porter before he goes to bed each night. Jen reminded me that I probably bought this paperback back when the Lord of the Rings movies started coming out. Now I recall buying it along with the three Lord of the Rings books.

As you can see, my copy of The Hobbit is pretty dogeared. The only thing I may like better than a beat up old book (that I myself beat up) is a fountain pen. I should maybe get some Scotch tape and fix up the cover before it gets too late.

So my first observation about The Hobbit is that it is an absolutely delightful story to read. That delight only grows when I read it out loud. J.R.R. Tolkien was a master storyteller. He refers to orcs and wargs and wood-elves and wizards and dragons as easily as if he were talking about who he ran into in a little pub in Cambridge the other evening. Nothing odd or unusual about invisibility rings or talking giant eagles and spiders–nothing odd at all.

As I read, it takes me back more than twenty years to when I last The Hobbit. It was the late spring of 1990, just before I got married. I was a sophomore at Brigham Young University and had just finished up a grueling semester that included the world’s most difficult chemistry class for those who were not scientifically inclined (like me). As a mental reward, I went down to the sci-fi section of the BYU Bookstore and bought a copy of The Hobbit. I read it in just a couple of days.

photo(1)What has surprised me somewhat is how little of the story I actually remember. I have only shadowy recollections of Beorn the bear-man, the battle with the giant spiders and the escape from the wood-elves. Even reading the story of Bilbo getting lost in the orc tunnels and meeting up with Gollum this time around was almost like reading it for the first time. Perhaps all that legal training has helped me retain my dwarf-and-hobbit tales more clearly these days.

Porter loves to read with me. I’m not sure how much of it he understands. He often asks questions about who’s talking and what happened to Thorin and does anyone else know about the ring. The important questions.

[If you live in California and are considering bankruptcy, check out my bankruptcy law website at www.pixlaw.com.]

James Pixton on Applying to Law School

James Pixton attended Brigham Young University from 1990 to 1993.
Go Cougars!

Back in 1992, I was finishing up a bachelor’s degree in political science on Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. At the time, I was taking classes part-time, living in married student housing with Jennifer and working full-time at WordPerfect Corporation. Remember WordPerfect?

Law school admission required taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). I signed up and took it the first time–I don’t remember where. I do remember, however, crushing the first three sections and then completely collapsing on the fourth section. It was a reading comprehension section, the second of the exam. That meant that one of the reading sections contained evaluation questions that didn’t count for my exam and were just being reviewed for possible inclusion in a future exam. The problem was that I had no way of knowing which of the two counted for me and which didn’t. I immediately went home that day, called the special number they’d given me and canceled my test score. Back to the drawing board.

When I took the exam the second time a couple months later, I struggled again with the reading comprehension section, but this time I was bumping up against applications deadlines so I just had to take whatever score I got. On the day my score came in the mail (back before the internet), I tore open the envelope, glanced out the score and nearly passed out: 96th percentile! That meant I was still in the running for all but the Harvards, Yales and Georgetowns. I had no problem with that.

I ending up applying to a bunch of schools: Emory University, University of Washington, University of Georgia, William and Mary, University of Illinois, University of Iowa, University of Arizona, Duke, George Washington and Boston College. Ten schools.

My application to Duke crossed in the mail with their rejection letter. A “no” from the University of Washington followed closely. Then I got acceptance letters from Arizona, then Georgia, then Emory, then Illinois, then William and Mary. How about that! I was going to law school somewhere!

James Pixton attended Boston College Law School from 1993 to 1996.
Go Eagles!

I was wait-listed at Iowa, Boston College and GW. Eventually, I got acceptance letters from those three schools as well. Jen and I made plans to move first to Arizona then to Georgia and then to Illinois. When I finally got the call from Boston College Law School saying they had a place for me, that was the one we were waiting for.

In late August 1993, Jen and I packed up a U-Haul, strapped Jen’s Honda Prelude to a tow dolly and headed out of the cul de sac where Jen’s parents lived. As I drove around the corner I glanced in the side view mirror to see the Prelude rolling up over the curb and onto the sidewalk. The last thing I heard was Jen’s dad hollering, “Wide turns! Wide turns!” Sounded like a good idea.

[If you live in California and are considering bankruptcy, check out my bankruptcy law website at www.pixlaw.com.]

Alameda Pixton Kids Visit Animal Shelter

20121119-185732.jpg20121119-185745.jpgLast Saturday, the kids (with Emma in the lead) talked me into taking them to the Alameda City Animal Shelter. I’ve lived in Alameda for fifteen years and never could figure out where this animal shelter was that I kept hearing about. So the kids decided to show me. The shelter is actually down a tiny side street on the estuary end of Grand Street, right next to the Alameda City Maintenance Service Center.

20121119-185806.jpgWhen we pulled into the parking lot, I suppose I was a little surprised to see it full. The shelter is a bustling enterprise with a lot of volunteers. Through the main doors is the office and administrative area. Through a door to the right, down a short hall and through another door is the shelter itself. The dog area is around the outside with the cat room in the middle of the building.

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There are a bunch of pit bulls in the dog area, each in its own cage. Cute little things just waiting to rip your throat out or eat your children. It was very telling that probably a third of the available dogs were pit bulls. A big chunk of the rest were chihuahuas.

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The dogs all had this excited look look and barked hopefully when our little tribe passed by. When I mentioned this to one of the volunteers, she told me that one of the jobs of the volunteers is to acclimate the animals to humans so they’ll be pleasant and more attractive for adoption. There was a lot of tail wagging.

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The cat room was also full of animals who seemed to be dying to get out and play with us. So we did. The kids favorite thing was the laser pointer that projected a red mouse that the cats chased around.

Emma found a cute little dog named Rusty that was neither a pit bull nor a chihuahua. He was actually a German Shepherd mix. Emma begged. I smiled and said, “Go home and ask your mom!” At that point, the kids realized there was no hope. They sighed resignedly, we thanked our hosts and headed home.

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Alameda Bankruptcy Attorney James Pixton Reflects on 9/11

It was eleven years ago today that terrorists hijacked several airplanes on the East Coast. They were completely fueled up and headed to the West Coast (one was actually destined for my home turf in the San Francisco Bay Area). The hijackers flew two airplanes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center causing their collapse and the deaths of several thousand people including first responders–police, paramedics and firemen.
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Another plane was deliberately crashed into the Pentagon after apparently failing to find the White House. A fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania killing all on board. This plane had been hijacked later than the others and several of the passengers learned by cell phone calls to and from friends and loved ones that the other planes had been deliberately crashed. Determined to go down fighting, the passenger apparently charged the terrorists and tried to retake the plane. The plan didn’t work but the passengers perhaps spared many lives on the ground at the intended target.

I didn’t know anyone who died on 9/11. In fact, I don’t think I even know anyone who knew anyone who died on 9/11. I was purely a horrified spectator on that day eleven years ago. I know that at least five Mormons died in the attacks, either as plane passengers or on the ground. My Catholic friends at Boston College were harder hit. Twenty-two alumni of BC were killed.
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I recall reading an article a year later about a young man who always carried a red bandana. He was in the South Tower when the airplane hit. Several witnesses saw him wearing the red bandana over his mouth and nose to protect against the smoke and debris as he rescued and led a number of injured people out of the building. He had gone back in again with the first responders when the South Tower collapsed. His body was found in the rubble six months later with those of a group of firemen. His name was Welles Crowther, he was twenty-four, he played lacrosse, he was a volunteer firefighter in his hometown and he was a graduate of Boston College.

I remember details of that day but I remember foremost a feeling of anguish and something that I could only describe at the time as a desperate willing that the clock could somehow be turned back so somebody could have prevented all of this death and carnage. I recognize now that that feeling was helplessness and I have felt it at several times since September 11, 2011, the most prominent being when our youngest son Porter was diagnosed with cancer at age 3 months, when I was diagnosed with cancer three months later and when my wife Jennifer was diagnosed with cancer four years later. While I felt helplessness, none of us died. On 9/11, many husbands, wives, parents, children and love ones felt helplessness that was followed by hopelessness.

One of the most surreal recollections I have is that of watching on television as doctors, nurses and EMTs rushed to NYC hospitals to be on hand for the expected deluge of wounded. The deluge never came. The cameras showed images of medical professionals standing there with nothing to do because there were no victims to treat. I remember that look in their eyes. It was helplessness.

The morning of 9/11, I got up, played around with the kids, got ready and headed into the office. I arrived around 9:30. When I went to check my email, my Yahoo homepage (remember when you had a Yahoo homepage?) showed a story of about one of the towers of the World Trade Center collapsing. That’s impossible, I thought. A WTC tower isn’t just going to collapse.

When I clicked the link, however, I quickly read that a plane had flown into the tower which caught fire and eventually collapsed. I stepped out into the hall and walked down to the office of another attorney. “Paul, did you hear that one of World Trade Center towers collapsed after a plane flew into it?” “No,” Paul replied, “a plane flew into it but it didn’t collapse.” I realized that he hadn’t checked the news in the last little while. How quickly things changed that day. Shortly after that, we learned that the second tower had collapsed.

I struggled numbly through client appointments and legal work for a few more hours that day before wandering home. I remember hugging each of my kids and my wife Jennifer. My heart ached for the kids whose dads were no longer there to hug them.

I try to make meaning of 9/11, but I suppose I’ll have to leave it to minds greater than mine. I will, however, never forget the helplessness. Along with the feelings of helplessness, I think that I acquired a greater sense of humility and gratitude. Like the families of those who perished on 9/11, my life could change in a tragic instant. Perhaps that’s where the meaning is for me.

Photo 1 courtesy of kafziel
Photo 2 courtesy of wallyg

Attorney James Pixton Takes a Bankruptcy Trip from Oakland to Fresno on Amtrak

I had a morning hearing in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case I’m working on in Fresno today. Rather than drive for four hours to attend a short hearing and then drive another four hours back, I did one of my favorite things and hopped on Amtrak. Even though I had to leave at 5:30 in the morning, I slept for a couple hours before taking care of phone calls, emails and case work (Amtrak has wi-fi). I love not having to drive and in this case it was kind of a necessity: I probably would have fallen asleep on the drive down this morning.

Here are some pictures of the ride. Nothing big, but they do cause some nostalgia for me. Fresno is home of the federal courthouse where I had my first job as a bankruptcy lawyer.br />
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One of these days I want to take Jen on a cross country trip by Amtrak. With the wi-fi, we would both stay connected to work and family and would actually be able to enjoy the trip. Funny, I break out in nervous sweat at the thought of not having access to email. Maybe it’s not so funny.

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Isn’t there something other-worldly about train stations. Incredible things happen in them. Sometimes kids get magically transported to Narnia. Other kids go to Platform 9 3/4 and hop the Hogwarts Express. I just got on a train going to Fresno. No magic at all.

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Just like the train sets I used to play with as a kid.

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Plug the iPad into power strip, agree to some wi-fi access legal disclaimer that no one has ever actually read, and it’s just like being in the office–except for the fast-moving landscape.

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I don’t like to admit this, but the iPad has significantly improved my quality of life.

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Fresno is surrounded by vineyards. When we lived there in 1996-97, we went at least once to the LDS Church’s vineyards to harvest grapes. I hasten to add that, being Mormon grapes, these ones were destined to become raisins, not wine.

We each had a harvesting knife to cut the bunches off the vine and then we’d lay them out on a long roll of drying paper that ran down the rows between the vines. I’ve experienced some harvesting in the vineyard–and come to think of it, it was the Lord’s vineyard.

About the harvesting knife, I took it home and stuck it in the bottom of my toolbox for several years. To this day, my toolbox reeks of manure which come to think of it is what the vineyard smelled like. That sure explained the healthy size of the grapes.

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The train doesn’t go through the nice parts of town. This is one of Fresno’s finest graffiti art galleries. Sadly it gets more visitors per day than my websites!

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All the conveniences of the Alameda Theatre and Cineplex except the hot, buttered popcorn.

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There seems to be a connection between train tracks and junkyards, backyards filled with broken-down cars.

By the way, the hearing in Fresno went way better than I expected, making this trip very pleasant. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we don’t hit a cow on the way back to Oakland-Jack London, my origin and terminus of my journey into the Valley–fondly referred to as “the Other California.”