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The Great Portland Interview Experiment: Lawduck Edition

I had the pleasure of interviewing J-P Voilleque aka @lawduck for the Great Portland Interview Experiment. In this version, I asked the questions, and JPV provided the answers. I was also interviewed for this experiment by Grant Kruger if you are interested.

The Lawduck Interview

Dawn: What is one thing about you that most of us don’t already know?

JPV: I’m an out of practice, but still quite decent, juggler. At one point I could juggle five balls – nowadays I’m lucky to get enough practice to be proficient with three. I also do a fair amount of balancing weird things on toe/finger/chin. Circus arts rule. JuggleCamp ’09 is now my dearest wish.

Dawn: I see you at quite a few tech events around town, which is a little unusual for Lawyer-types. What is it about the Portland tech scene or technology in general that has you so involved in the technology scene?

JPV: By pure dumb luck I stumbled across Twitter, the Silicon Florist blog, and the inaugural Ignite Portland call for talk submissions all at once. I had left my job in litigation (because being a traditional attorney sucks) and was looking for new stuff to do. And I had a bee in my bonnet about law firm data management practices (still do), so I submitted that idea as an Ignite talk. Didn’t make it but attended the event and had an amazing evening.

That combination of convivial spirit mixed with deep geekiness was pretty much it for me. I love the energy, the entrepreneurship, and the open spirit of this group of people. Also, now that I’m doing web shenanigans and product development for EASCI, I have tangible reasons to hang out with people who are smarter than me.

Dawn: I saw this tweet from you on 11/13: “Torn between being happy that I was there to witness the 10,000th shout (@neophiliac) and being pissed that I didn’t shout before him.” How do you really feel about being a witness to the 10,000th shout on Shizzow?

JPV: That pretty much sums it up. 🙂 I think it’s great that Shizzow is gaining that kind of traction. Kurt and I both expected someone to show up with flowers and biscuits, though. So I guess you could add “irritated that I didn’t get a free biscuit for being near @neophiliac at the time.”

Alex H Williams and I were discussing today the awesomeness that is geolocation, and I also recently told Marshall K that we all need to be leveraging Shizzow, IceCondor, whatever, to urban letterbox and/or ARG-ify Portland haunts. Because hot damn, that would be nifty.

Dawn: I hear that you are doing Nanowrimo this year. How is the novel coming along, and what can you tell us about it?

JPV: Nanowrimo ate lots of turkey and went to bed at about 43,000 words. The book, however, is totally going to get completed as I have time over the next few months. It was intensely liberating to realize that I could get that much production out of the time I was already awake. It killed my efforts to complete Etrian Odyssey II on the Nintendo DS, but I consider writing a freaking book to be a fair trade-off. I expect it’ll take about 80K words to get to the end of the story, so next year I might need to pick a slightly less involved storyline.

The book is about a first year law student who goes to work for a solo practitioner, only to discover that he is actually a lawyer for mythical creatures, largely within the jurisdiction of Faerie. It’s a bit Harvey Birdman, a bit Terry Pratchett, and a bunch of other stuff. N.B. – the plural noun for “dragons” is “a rage.”

Dawn: If you could be any kitchen appliance, which one would you be and why?

JPV: The Braun Multimix is the single most profoundly useful kitchen gadget in the universe. It has a small (mini-prep sized) food processer attachment, an immersion blender, dough screws, and regular old mixer beaters. I like it because it can do a lot of stuff reasonably well, but still fit into a small space. Because I like to style myself as something of a jack of all trades, I think I’d take the Multimix.

Dawn: In early October, you mentioned that you were going to make the move to WordPress at the urging of @camikaos, but I’m still seeing a Blogger blog. Have you made any progress and are there any hurdles that our blog readers could help you get through?

JPV: I stalled long enough on these questions that this is no longer a problem 🙂 http://voilleque.com is up and running on WP, although now that it’s installed I’ve yet to tinker with all the gobsmackingly awesome stuff that can be added in. I really like the agregado theme, though – it’s one of Smashing Magazine’s free themes and is optimized to incorporate microformat and other social media updates (flickr, goodreads, all the usual suspects) in a lifestreaming sidebar.

Dawn: Can you tell us more about the breakfast tweetups? I would also like to selfishly know when you plan to bring the Tweetup to the Cup & Saucer on Hawthorne (hint, hint).

The breakfast tweetups are the brainchild of Don Park, Amber Case, Bram Pitoyo, and others, and I barged my way in and formalized things because I love me some breakfast. It is my absolute favorite meal. The current plan is to hold them twice a month, alternating sides of the river. The breakfast survey got some great recommendations for restaurants, as well as a lot of good feedback on what people wanted out of a breakfast tweetup. Basically, we the people want loose, enjoyable, egg-filled mornings. The conversations thus far have been really cool and intriguing.

Cup and Saucer is definitely on the list. The thing about breakfast places is that they are rare and sacred jewels in the landscape of restaurants. Ostensibly good ones (I’m looking at you, bijou) usually have nothing on the neighborhood secrets like Cup and Saucer, or (before they stopped serving breakfast) the Leaky Roof. In San Francisco there’s this place in SoMa called Town’s End Restaurant and Bakery. They have the best scones on the planet, and amazing other stuff. If I had one chance to visit a restaurant in San Francisco, it would be there. Not J’ardiniere or Fifth Floor or Gary Danko or any of the new ones that have undoubtedly sprung up, not Chapeau or Firecracker or Slanted Door or any of the other amazing niche cuisine places. Town’s End. And then I’d barge into LookSmart and ask them what the hell happened to my Weapons Proliferation categories.

Dawn: What is it about coconut milk that makes it so good for soup?

JPV: That was actually my first stab at coconut milk, for a spicy curry broth with poached fish and all kinds of good stuff. The coconut milk made a great, rich contrast to the heat of the soup, and also helped mitigate the fishiness of some of the other stock ingredients. Clam juice is great and all, but requires supervision. Coconut milk fits the bill.

I recently learned that water from young coconuts (I guess it’s not officially milk until the coconut is ripe?) kicks the crap out of gatorade and other hydration technologies. It certainly tastes great. An ideal mixer for something mojito-esque. Will publish results.

Dawn: What are your all time favorite books?

JPV: Oh, snap. This is an unfair question at the best of times, but I’ve recently been reading some amazing works, so it’s just that extra bit harder to answer. In no particular order, things that come to mind:

The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Harmonium by Wallace Stevens
The Limehouse Text by Will Thomas
Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
Tribes by Seth Godin
The Chet Gecko, Private Eye series (children’s books, reading w/ Claire)
The Zurich 1953 International Tournament by David Bronstein (chess)
The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake

Generally, authors I will always read include:

Neil Gaiman, Simon Green, Jim Butcher, China Miéville, Kage Baker, Laurie R. King, Neal Stephenson, Jeff Vandermeer, Michael Hoeye (local!), Tom Robbins, Will Thomas, probably others I’m forgetting

Malcolm Gladwell, Henry Giroux, Cornell West, bell hooks, Paul Ricouer, Delmore Schwarz, Helen Vendler, Marcus Buckingham, Jamie Oliver, anything from former U of O debate team members, and probably another metric ton of people I’m forgetting

Dawn: Let’s end with a few fun facts about @lawduck. What makes you a fun guy to hang out with, and not just another stuffy lawyer dude?

JPV: For starters, I think the practice of law is a racket and that firms need to be pushed off the cliff. Law school needs to be cut down to two years with a subsequent “third year” of practicum in public service positions or in partnership with firms willing to commit to mentorship and high standards of work assigned to apprentices. No one should ever be allowed to challenge a bar, and we need to attract more policy wonks into western mid-range schools so that we actually have state senators and representatives that know what the heck they’re talking about. None of these are fun facts, but they do effectively eliminate “stuffy lawyer dude.”

Others: I play guitar and (to a lesser extent) drums, ukulele and harmonica. I have strong opinions about practically everything but tend to mock myself for having them. I designed a t-shirt that made Amber Case simultaneously laugh and recoil in terror. Extreme Arts and Sciences does awesome and cool things and I’m increasingly getting to play mad scientist, so hanging out with me could generate interesting interactivity moments. I absolutely love tabletop gaming of all types. I *think* I know the difference between seeking the funny and trying to be funny.

It’s not too late for you to participate in the Great Portland Interview Project!