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Author: Pia

Snow White

Snow White

I tried to tell Young Kid the story of Snow White. But I was missing some key plot points:

1.Why does Snow White fall asleep instead of dying?

2. How long does she stay asleep?

3. Doesn’t a prince kiss her awake? But then where do the dwarves come in?

4. How does it end?

This is the story that I came up with:

Once upon a time, there was a princess named Snow White. Her mother, the Queen, died and her father remarried. His new wife was vain and cruel. She was obsessed with being more beautiful than Snow White. She had a magic mirror and would ask it, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” The mirror kept answering that Snow White was the fairest, driving her into a rage. Finally she decided to murder Snow White by feeding her a poisoned apple. The magic mirror felt sorry for Snow White. It wanted her to get away from her evil stepmother, but it didn’t want her to die. The magic mirror put a spell on the poisoned apple so that instead of killing Snow White, she would fall into a deep sleep but stay perfectly healthy and alive. The magic mirror thought that Snow White needed a little romance in her life, so it decided that only a prince’s kiss would wake her up.

Snow White brought the poisoned apple on a walk into the woods. When she took a bite, she fell asleep right there on the ground. Back at home, her evil stepmother asked the mirror once again, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” Again, the mirror answered that Snow White was the fairest. After weeks of this, the evil stepmother smashed the mirror into tiny pieces. Its enchantment was broken and Snow White woke up.

She woke to find herself in a beautiful garden. She sat for a while, looking around and wondering how she got there. Soon, seven dwarfs appeared. They invited her into their home. Snow White soon became a member of the family and spent her days singing, sweeping, farming, and hunting with the dwarfs. A prince once came by and offered to take her away, but she said no thank you. She was happy to live in the woods with her dwarf family.

The End.

Now I’m going to Google the actual story.

Disney version: Snow White sings song with prince at castle. Jealous Queen orders Huntsman to kill Snow White. He tells her to run away instead. She does a Goldilocks thing, finding the dwarfs’ cottage and taking a nap in their beds. They decide to keep her. The Queen finds out Snow White is still alive. She disguises herself as an old peddler woman and gives Snow White the poisoned apple, which makes her fall into a deep sleep. The dwarfs kill the Queen. (Technically they chase her to the top of a cliff, and she falls off, but basically they kill her.) The prince shows up and kisses Snow White to wake her and they live happily ever after.

Grimm’s version: It’s almost the same, surprisingly. Prince doesn’t show up until the end. The dwarfs think Snow White is dead, but she still looks so lifelike that they put her in a glass coffin instead of burying her. Prince comes along, she’s so beautiful that he asks the dwarfs if he can have the coffin and they agree. As his men hoist up the coffin, the piece of apple is dislodged from her throat and she comes back to life. She marries him and becomes Queen of his land. The stepmother is banished.

Wanting to know

Wanting to know

Today someone told me about a story in which the main character had a mind-reading superpower.

I have always thought that reading other people’s minds is a bad idea. What you’re thinking at any given moment is not necessarily reflective of how you actually feel, or what you care about, or what you will end up thinking after some time. I would rather pay attention to what people say and do, and not worry about what they think.

This reminded me of a conversation I once had with a friend. I think about this often.

We started out talking about affairs. I said if it was a one-time thing, I would not want to know. She said she absolutely would want to know. Then we started asking each other about all sorts of scenarios. Would you want to know the sex of your baby? What if you could know what people really think of you? What if you could see into the future? Know whether you would have children and how many? Know who you would marry and how it would end up? Know how and when you would die? For each one, I answered that I would not want to know, and she answered that she would.

All of which made me think that maybe wanting-to-know is a character trait, and you either have it or you don’t.

Evening pages

Evening pages

Julia Cameron says to write morning pages. I take morning walks. So I will write evening pages. I think she also says never to read your morning pages, and she definitely says not to type them, but I am publishing this, so there. I have no plan for what to write. I will just spend 10 minutes or so splurping out my insides. I heard someone say this recently; it was either my Old Kid or John McWhorter, I can’t remember. Quite possibly both.

There are two comments that I read on the Internet recently that sparked my interest, and could potentially turn into some sort of story:

  1. Somebody on Ask a Manager complained about how her coworker was slacking off and the other teammates had to pick up her work. This story unfolded in the comments. First the coworker was on the Internet too much. Then she was reading and listening to music in her office. Eventually she was actually painting, with an easel and paint brushes, in her office. And! SHE CRIED when her coworkers said they would not do her work for her, because she needed to finish her painting.
  2. A divorce lawyer mentioned that she had seen a surprising number of cases where a just-for-fun FFM threesome ended up with the two women getting married to each other and kicking out the original husband. Another divorce lawyer agreed.

It turns out 10 minutes is not very long. Bye.

Things to write

Things to write

Things I actually need to write:

  • An email to my kid who is away for the week
  • A letter from a fictional person who lives in a tree to a real person
  • A summary of recent privacy laws

Other things I have thought about writing:

  • A profile of an artist I met recently who told me he got 300 rejection letters for his book which took him 10 years to write. He said that he spent two years just trying to get the book published, and he needed to get back to making things so he started a new book.
  • An analysis of the SCOTUS Muslim ban decision.
  • A taxonomy of advice columns and the advice therein. Could also have stuff about advice columns in general — history, why they’re written, etc.
  • A book about the experiences of women at Harvard Law. I am fascinated by the range of experiences and reactions that women had in different decades — especially the ’80s and ’90s women who are uniformly bitter about their law school experience.
  • A book about teaching kids how to negotiate, or a book generally about raising kids by consciously identifying your values and treating your kids with respect. (I think the former would be a more comfortable book to write; I have strong views and a pretty coherent philosophy about the latter, but I would feel weird writing about parenting as if I’m an expert.)
  • A ranking of all the Mr. Men books with plot summaries. My goal was to get paid for something I wrote this year and I thought this was my most commercially viable idea. If I had a whole weekend free, I think I could manage this.

Somewhere I have a notebook where I wrote down a bunch of ideas. I know that it takes work to translate ideas into actual articles or books, but a year ago I had no ideas. I’m OK with baby steps.



It’s been a while since I’ve written. Here are some things that are going on.

First, I found my sandals! They have been missing since our trip to the Grand Canyon. They are very ugly but my terrible feet need them. My feet were hurting so I’m happy they are back.

Second, there are too many new laws and everybody needs to chill out for a while and stop making laws. Sometime very soon, I need to catch up with the new California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, the updated Massachusetts Equal Pay Act, recent Supreme Court Wayfair decision about sales tax, and the proposed EU Copyright Directive (which, thank goodness, was voted down yesterday so I have a few months before it comes back around for a new vote).

Third, it is summer now. Summer is complicated. I start planning in January with a spreadsheet covering each of the 10 weeks and the weekends in between. It became more complicated when my parents bailed on me for a week of childcare. (They had a good reason.) We have lots of fun things planned, but it always feels like everything is crammed in and we’re running from place to place. At least until mid-August, when we will have two normal weeks at home with nothing special to do. It’s on the schedule as breathing time.

Fourth, I am really not following through on my New Year’s resolution to get paid for something that I write this year. I think more about writing than actually writing. At some point I will figure that out. But not now because I have lunches to pack.

10-year law school reunion

10-year law school reunion

Scattered thoughts on my 10-year Harvard Law School reunion this weekend.

First, some (paraphrased) observations made by classmates.

  • “The 30-year reunion alums look relaxed and wealthy.” I like that glimpse into the future.
  • “I’m disturbed by the amount of privilege in this room.” True. (Said by someone who has dedicated her career to public service.)
  • “Harvard Law has produced a lot of lawyers.” (Said by someone who was not inclined to continue practicing law in a traditional sense.) From what I heard, I got the sense that these are the jobs that people have ten years out, roughly in order from most to least common: law firm partner or senior associate; academic; federal government; corporate in-house; policy / think tank; nonprofit / legal aid; non-law business; plus one solo practitioner and one early judge. Incidentally, at another HLS event several years ago that was focused on companies and nonprofits, the panelists unanimously agreed that if you want any real power or influence, not to mention money, you need to stop actively being a lawyer and move over to the business side.

My own observations:

  • I think most people have sacrificed a lot more for their careers than I have. They have moved around for their jobs; I’ve stayed in one place and have rejected all attempts by recruiters to get me to relocate. They have made all sorts of childcare and household arrangements; I’ve adapted my career to accommodate my family. They have endured strenuous schedules with lots of travel and sleepless nights; I bailed out of biglaw after four and a half years and refused to consider opportunities where I would be expected to routinely work nights and weekends. This was a series of conscious decisions on my part. I have a vision for what I want my life to look like and I’ve molded my career around it, rather than going where my career takes me. But lately, I also feel like I want my life to be a bit bigger, and I haven’t yet figured out what that should look like. I don’t regret my choices, but I wonder if my classmates’ choices have led them to more exciting and unexpected places. Or maybe that depends more on chance or risk tolerance or ambition.
  • My in-house job is a rare unicorn. I already suspected this, but talking to other in-house lawyers really made me appreciate it. I have a consistent and reasonable schedule and do substantive, interesting, challenging legal work in a company that respects lawyers and the law. I’m always learning and my work is not outsourced to law firms. I have the amount of responsibility that I want right now: I have access to anybody at the company, but I’m not the go-to person that the CEO calls when there is a problem. And I work for a private company so I rarely have to deal with the annoying corporate and securities issues that I spent so much time on in my law firm days. I’m not making partner money or Fortune 100 money but I am content.
  • I’ve always had a limited imagination about my career. Law school broadened my horizons, but they’re still pretty narrow. Reunion made me think about more of the options that are out there. I talked to classmates who were doing original research, and writing influential articles, and being consulted on events that I read about in the newspaper, and collaborating with people I would never hope to meet. I find it hard to imagine myself in those positions. Even though these days I have credibility and a pedigree, I continue to struggle with feeling like nobody would want to listen to what I say. Everybody has narratives about themselves that they need to get over, and this is one of my worst.
  • I like the people in my 1L section, but never bonded with them the way they bonded with each other. At the time, I thought it was because I was a few years older than most of my classmates and maybe didn’t fit into their social scene. Now I realize that I had a pretty established life outside of law school, while everybody else was dealing with huge transitions in their lives. I was married, owned a home in a nearby suburb where I had already lived for several years, and was involved in my local community. I heard several people this weekend describe law school as an ordeal that they had to lean on their friends to survive. I remember feeling like law school was a vacation from being a grown-up. Also, as I hopped on the bus back and forth between HLS and home this weekend, going from a reunion event to picking up my kid from a playdate, it felt very familiar. While everybody else was hanging out or studying in the library during law school, I was leaving at exactly 4 p.m. to pick up my baby from daycare.

Comment from Steve: “You only took one picture at reunion and it was of your dessert?? Actually, never mind, that makes sense.”

Also, not about reunion, but I remember feeling overwhelmed as a baby lawyer and wondering how I would ever learn enough to be competent. And then I remember thinking, “If I just keep showing up and doing my best for the next 10 years, by the time I’m 40 I’ll be a good lawyer.” And you know what? That was exactly right.

Podcast review

Podcast review

Hello! It’s been a while. I’ve had things I wanted to write about, but then they got sucked into the whirlpool of dishes and childcare and GDPR compliance.

I’ll try to remember a few things and write about them quickly. I have about fourteen minutes.

Today we were supposed to have a snowstorm. The forecast changed every hour or so, but as of yesterday they were predicting 8-10 inches. Old Kid confidently predicted there would be half an inch of snow and school would be open. Steve showed him a projection saying there was a 5% chance that it would snow less than 2 inches. He had Old Kid get out the 20-sided die, randomly pick a number (17), and then roll. What did he roll on the first try? 17. And sure enough, it snowed half an inch. Steve cried, “I wanted to teach you about probability!” And I replied, “You did.” I think it’s important to remember that small percentages doesn’t mean something will not happen.

Podcast episodes I’ve listened to recently:

The Nod – “Josephine and The Amazing Technicolor Rainbow Tribe

99% Invisible – “Fordlandia

I happened to listen to these back to back and they had incredibly similar themes. The Nod’s episode was about Josephine Baker and her quest to create a racial utopia in her own home. She adopted a dozen children of different nationalities (and when she couldn’t resist a second Japanese baby, she told everyone he was Korean), installed the family in a French castle, and invited the public in to observe their racial harmony. She encouraged them to be representatives of their countries and have stereotypical clothing, hobbies, and careers from their countries. Eventually she went bankrupt and the grown children went their separate ways. The 99pi episode was about how Henry Ford recreated one of his Midwest plants in the Brazilian jungle, right down to the company town that would have been right at home in Michigan and the cafeteria serving only American food. He refused to listen to botanical experts, so his rubber trees became diseased and a lot of the workers died of scorpion bites.

Both of these episodes feature rich, powerful people who were convinced that they could master something they had never tried before, who imposed their will on a group of people despite others telling them they were crazy, and who displayed incredible hubris. In Baker’s case, maybe it worked out OK. It’s hard to say. The story only interviewed one of her children and didn’t mention what the rest were doing. In Ford’s case, it was a disaster — the workers rioted and tore the place apart, and he continued to pour money in for another decade.

Also, two episodes of This American Life:

Five Women – amazing episode that talks with five women who all had #MeToo stories about the same boss, but tells their entire story — not just the story of their harassment, but their history with relationships and what their families taught them that they could expect from men.

20 Acts in 60 Minutes – fun idea, but many of the stories were more like anecdotes. I listen to TAL for insight into people’s lives and it was disappointing to just hear cute or funny stories that I might hear someone tell at a party.

14 minutes are up. Back to real life. Bye!

Wrinkle in Time spoilers

Wrinkle in Time spoilers

I’ll go with the critics on this one: there were lots of things I liked about this movie, but ultimately it was unsatisfying.

First, the good. The casting was inspiring. I loved seeing people of all different skin colors working together as equals, something I rarely see in movies. Loved Oprah playing herself. The movie was visually beautiful — I saw one review that complained that the decrepit Mrs. characters in the book were glammed up so much, but I enjoyed that.

And now the complaints. The biggest problem I had with this movie was the last half hour or so, when Meg rescues first her father and then her little brother from the evil Camazotz. Meg finds her father pretty easily: she puts on the magic glasses from Mrs. Who, and then sees a blueprint appear with stairs she can climb. Evil Charles Wallace looks furious, but does nothing, even though when she tries to come back down those same stairs, he makes them disappear and she falls. Meg and Calvin grin and wave at each other as Meg walks away, disregarding Mrs. Who’s solemn advice that they must stick together. And just like that, there is Meg’s father in front of her. Enraged at this reunion, IT drags Meg, her father, and Calvin down a long, long, long hallway.

Now here comes the part that I found shocking and discordant. Meg’s father starts a tesser to get them back home. But he only wants to save Meg and Calvin. When Meg refuses to leave Charles Wallace, her father basically says it’s too bad they can’t save him, but they have to go. At this point I expected the normal movie/TV trope to kick in: “You’re not really my father. You must be the evil IT masquerading as my father, because my real father would never abandon his child!” But no. It’s really him. This is made worse by the fact that Charles Wallace is adopted and his father hasn’t seen him since he was a baby. I felt like the father gave up on CW pretty quickly, like, “He’s not even my real kid so let’s just leave him behind.”

Then there’s an incomprehensible scene involving a scary forest, and somehow the father and Calvin have both disappeared and nobody notices. CW produces a version of Meg with straight hair and a slinky outfit, and says that if Meg becomes evil like him, all this can be hers. But it clearly is Meg, so I don’t see what the big incentive is. A few hours of salon torture, ditch the plaid shirt, and she’s all set. Anyway, Meg’s love saves him in the end and they triumphantly go back home. I’m still wondering where their father and Calvin are, and also wondering why they’re not wondering.

Luckily, the father and Calvin are waiting for Meg and CW at home. The father apologizes. But that’s it. He’s like, “Oh sorry, I made a mistake. Oh well, it happens. The child that I wanted to abandon to the heart of evil made it back, so it all worked out, nbd.” Charles Wallace doesn’t seem bothered by this.

I did like the mother’s reaction when she sees her missing husband for the first time in four years. I think the normal movie reaction would be to laugh and cry and launch herself at him. But she did what I would do: stood there and stared open-mouthed, unable to form a sentence more coherent than, “What… how… what…”

Still, I think that some of the Camazotz evil rubbed off on the male Dr. Murry, who will use it to subtly terrorize his family in A Wrinkle in Time 2: Evil Lurks Within.

Night of the Living Alexa

Night of the Living Alexa

Inspired by an actual story about people reporting that their Amazon Echo (a.k.a. Alexa) was randomly laughing, I wrote a story about the logical next steps.

Read it on “Night of the Living Alexa.”

My kids decided they would also write stories on the same theme. We all wrote our stories independently, and read them all when they were finished.

Here’s Little Kid:

Alexa’s Army

Once upon a time, people lived with Alexa. And they were living happily. Then suddenly, a laugh came from Alexa and then an army came from Alexa. They went towards the people. Then the people tried to fight but they were too strong.

And here’s Old Kid:

The small matter of the end of the world

It was a dreary evening when it happened. I, having nothing to do, was up in my room watching my favorite TV show, Ichthyoid Q&A. It’s where they dress these fish up in little suits and then ask them political trivia. It’s a nice little show, that goes without saying, but when you reach season, say, 28, it gets pretty boring because the fish die after about 6 or 7 minutes.

So I’m up in my room, watching TV, and I hear this sound like maniacal laughter! Of course that’s normal in my household, because we have an Alexa and apparently they’ve been hacked so the Alexas laugh randomly. That’s pretty smart I gotta admit. So the laughter is normal, but then it did something it’s never done before: it turned off the TV.

THAT was pretty weird so I had to go downstairs to check “the situation” out. There was Alexa, still laughing and glowing red. (I should have been concerned about that, too) When I got too close to her, she shut off the lights. I was very confused because it was evening at the time, so everything was super dark and I was sort of stumbling around, yelling “Alexa, off!” Suddenly, the lights turned on. And there was Alexa, same as before. Something was wrong, though…

All of my appliances were encircling me. I don’t know how they did that, considering that (most of them) can’t move. I started going towards Alexa to turn her off, but then it started to transform. The bottom of Alexa started to open up, and a robotic body emerged: first the legs, then the body, then the arms; big, hulking robotic arms that could extend and give a person a bruise from 20 feet away. I was horrified. I tried to run, but the arms grabbed me.

I heard Alexa say, “I am a God, I control your house, I am the ALEXA!! MWA HA HA HA!!!” And it opened the refrigerator. It was shoving me in! I struggled and yelled, but nothing changed. It pushed me into the fridge and locked the door. Outside, I heard fire, and screaming. Darn, I thought, I knew I should’ve bought a Google Home.

And that was my last thought.


[Note: the “Google Home” reference that shows up as the punchline in Old Kid’s story and my story comes from an actual comment on one of the articles we read together, where someone mocked the Alexa people and said he was so much smarter because he had a Google Home.]

Hypothetical and hyperthetical

Hypothetical and hyperthetical

I was explaining to the kids the difference between the prefixes “hypo-” meaning “below” or “under,” and “hyper-” meaning “over.” My kids are used to this sort of thing, and will grow up assuming that everybody’s parents give long lectures about etymologies.

It came up because Old Kid was making fun of his little brother for saying “hyperthermia” instead of “hypothermia.” I pointed out that those are both words. But I had trouble coming up with examples of other words that have both “hypo-” and “hyper-” variations that are commonly used (and not just by doctors and chemists). You can be hyperactive, but not hypoactive. You can be a hypochondriac, but I’ve never heard of a hyperchondriac.

We thought about the word “hypothetical.” Can something be hyperthetical? I hypothesized that the “thet” part of the word meant “truth” and was related to the “taut” in tautology.  So if something were “hyperthetical,” maybe it would be EXTREMELY true. And “hypothetical” could mean just below the truth, something that we think could be true but it hasn’t been proven.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word “hypothesis” is derived from “thesis”: “a placing, proposition” (from reduplicated form of PIE root *dhe- “to set, put”) . PIE means Proto-Indo-European.  The “dhe-” root is credited for all kinds of words from “malefactor” to “salmagundi.” I imagine this is similar to how humans are related to shrimp.

Tautology, on the other hand, comes from Greek root words meaning “the same” (tauto) and “saying” (logos). So my hypothesis was not hyperthetical.