ambivalent imbroglio home
April 24, 2006

What's “must-see” in the mid-Atlantic region?

Hey traveling people, I need your help: What places and things should I visit in the next 5 weeks before I leave this part of the country for good?

See, it looks like we'll be moving at the end of May—where has yet to be decided. Yeah, we decided when to move before we decided where. Sound crazy? That's just how we roll.

But wherever we end up moving, it's going to be pretty far from the D.C. area, which means there's no time like the present to make sure we've done and seen as much of that area as possible. So I ask you: What mid-Atlantic places would you put on your “must-see” list? Things I know I still want to do before I go include:

  1. Arlington Cemetery and the Iwo Jima Memorial
  2. Baltmore—harbor, aquarium, and what else?
  3. Colonial Williamsburg, VA
  4. Some beach in Delaware or Maryland maybe (I haven't been to the Atlantic coast once since we moved here!)
  5. ??

I'm obviously thinking of things that aren't too far from D.C. -- daytrips, a few hours of driving at most, probably. I was thinking about heading down to the lighthouses in NC but they are 300-400 miles away, which is definitely pushing it. Still, if there are must-see places at such distances from D.C., please let me know about them. We might be able to fit in a short multi-day roadtrip somewhere in there. And if not, at least we'll have a list of things to do some other time when we make it back this way. Thanks!

Posted 08:22 AM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

April 22, 2006

Tootsie Pop Conspiracy

From a recent comment on this photo of Tootsie Pop wrappers:

I have a theory on why you can never know how many licks it takes. Have you ever seen the center of a tootsie pop? It's not even round, so depending upon which side you start licking on.. it will always be different. It's a conspiracy I tell you.

More proof that the mysteries of the world are not accidental.

Posted 09:54 AM | TrackBack

April 17, 2006

Taxes? Done.

Thanks to Turbotax, my taxes were once again pretty easy this year—and a snap to do at the very last minute! It's much simpler when you make almost zero money. In fact, as you can see from the screenshot at right (click to enlarge), my income in 2005 was negative. It's a good feeling, actually—nowhere to go but up!

While Turbotax makes doing my taxes pretty simple, I'm not sure it does them right. I've used Turbotax online for 3-4 years now (always free for the federal return through the Tax Freedom Project) and I've never been audited or had any problems, but for some reason this year it says I get a huge refund from DC even though I only paid about $20 in DC taxes last year. I think it's wrong, but I can't figure out how to make that refund disappear w/out lying, so I'm just filing and we'll see what happens.

Posted 10:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 16, 2006

Happy Bunny

EasterbunnybawkTwo years ago I mentioned the “Thank you easter bunny, bawk bawk” M&Ms commercial that popped into my head for some reason in relation to Easter. Recently, one of the people who claims to have been one of the kids in the commercial (I'm not sure which one) wrote me and sent the link so you can now download or watch it for yourself.

From that entry two years ago it seems I was pretty bitter about world events. Perhaps I've just become resigned to the fact that when things look bad, they can always get worse, so and instead of treating you to another rant I'll just wish you all: Happy Easter!

Posted 01:10 PM | TrackBack

April 05, 2006

01:02:03 04-05-06

Asian Provocateur:

Did you know that tomorrow (Wednesday) at exactly two minutes and three seconds after 1 o'clock, the time and date will be:

01:02:03 04/05/06.

That will never happen again. Kind of cool, huh?

Yes, very! But it will happen again in a hundred years, won't it? Still, it's definitely a once-in-a-lifetime event for most of us. How should we spend it?

Here's an idea: If you're a student in class at that exact moment, you should stand up and shout “Time!” and then sit down. It will be like a flash mob thing. Speaking of which, what a perfect moment for a flash mob. Let's get a thousand people to storm the WTO bookstore at 01:02:03 today; everyone should shout “Time” and then quickly and quietly disperse. Yeah, me and my 1,000 friends.

Whatever happened to flash mobs, anyway? They seem to be over for some, but don't tell these people.

Posted 08:09 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Good Poetry, Other, Wigs, and Bb-days

Good Poetry: Thanks to the Scoplaw for a great reading Monday night.

Other: Blawg Wisdom just got its most recent monthly update. Please share any thoughts you may have on GPA in the law school application process.

Wigs: One of the things I detest most about my future as a lawyer is that I will have to wear suits far too frequently. However, today I am reminded that it could be much worse—I could have to wear a freaking wig.

Bb-days: Screaming Bean was three years old Monday. You should go wish Beanie a happy blog birthday. Maybe the positive energy will lead her to the perfect job!

Posted 07:52 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 26, 2006

Cherry Cherry Bloom Bloom

The National Cherry Blossom Festival started yesterday. If you're in D.C., you better go check it out. After I saw the Tidal Basin in bloom last year I can guarantee you won't be sorry. We went down there this morning and only a few trees were really in blossom. I'm thinking that by Wednesday or Thursday, the Tidal Basin will be awash in white, so plan to go then, if you can.

Posted 04:01 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 23, 2006

Online Airline Ticket Ripoffs

Ok people, please tell me I'm insane. Here's what just happened: Yesterday I checked on a flight just to see what the prices were. I checked Expedia and Orbitz. I also tried Hotwire but didn't get far Hotwire can't sell same-day return tickets. On both Expedia and Orbitz I found non-stop roundtrip tickets for $225.

Today, I was ready to purchase a ticket so I returned to Expedia only to find that the nonstop tickets were now $335! If I wanted to transfer flights once, I could get $255, but the $225 tickets were no longer available. Hmm. After just one day? It's possible, but.... So I checked Orbitz. Same thing. What about Travelocity? Same thing. Damn! It looked like I'd just missed it.

But as I was complaining about this to L., she suggested we check it on her computer, just to see if we could get that $225 price again. And guess what? The exact same search in Expedia on her computer gave us that low price—$5 less, in fact. So I bought the ticket through her computer for $220.

At first I thought the travel sites must have set a cookie in my browser; once they saw I was returning to search for a flight I had recently searched, they jacked the price. So I searched with two other browsers (Omniweb and Camino)—they both gave the higher prices, too. This seems like pretty clear proof to me that these travel sites are actually watching my IP address. They track what IP address looks at what flights, and if you return w/in a reasonable amount of time to the same flight, they jack up the price.

Am I insane here, or is this true? L. says Amazon is doing something like this now, too—charging different prices based on purchase history or something. Can this be for real? Swanno suggested the airline ticket sites were doing something similar last summer, but somehow this seems even more sinister. A few minutes searching around Google doesn't reveal any complaints about this, but how else to explain the fact that the same search produced different results on different machines?

Posted 10:04 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 22, 2006

This imbroglio's PersonalDNA

According to this test, this imbroglio is a:

Benevolent Inventor

It sounds mostly right. What's your PersonalDNA?

Posted 12:15 PM | TrackBack

March 15, 2006

Congratulations, Seester!

Yesterday was a great day—my sister just got a new job! I don't write much about my family here but this is just such great news I wanted to share it with the world. So: Congratulations, Seester! I hope this position will be as great for you as it looks like it's going to be!

Posted 11:07 AM | TrackBack

March 07, 2006

Fingerprinting in DC

I know it's not something most people need or want to do very often, but if you find that you need to have police take your fingerprints for some reason and you live in D.C., here's what you do:

Bring proof of District residency (driver's license or utility bill) to 300 Indiana Ave., NW, Room 3058, between 9:00 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. The cost for D.C. residents is $10. Call 202-727-4409 for more information.

I'm posting this here because I couldn't find the info online and I just went through a few phone calls to get it so I thought I might save someone those steps.

Note: If you're a VA resident in the DC metro area, try the Arlington Sheriff's office.

Posted 09:17 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 28, 2006

Can you cook up sumpn' good?

If you were going to make a nice meal for some good friends who don't eat meat or dairy, what would you make? Fish may be ok (I have to find out); eggs are ok, too. Any suggestions?

Posted 08:03 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 14, 2006

Lover's Rock

In honor of Valentine's Day:

“Lover's Rock,” by The Clash, is a great song, but its lyrics are nearly indecipherable.


Posted 08:34 AM | TrackBack

February 13, 2006

Heartowie: Please Send Anti-Valentines

Energy Spatula, everyone's favorite superhero, has had a little romantic setback. Don't you think she deserves a card from you?

Posted 09:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 04, 2006

I, Postmodernist?

This quiz brought to me by Lyco: What is Your World View?
You scored as Postmodernist. Postmodernism is the belief in complete open interpretation. You see the universe as a collection of information with varying ways of putting it together. There is no absolute truth for you; even the most hardened facts are open to interpretation. Meaning relies on context and even the language you use to describe things should be subject to analysis.



Cultural Creative














What is Your World View? (updated)
created with
That all sounds more or less true, I guess, but what those words in that description actually mean is really up for debate. ;-)

Posted 09:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 27, 2006

Top-40 Flickr Interestingness Is Mine!

Screenshot of my photo on Flickr's interestingness page.I was happy to discover late last night that my recent photo of the Washington Monument and its reflection made it into the top-40 on Flickr's “interestingness” scale yesterday. The screen capture at right is proof! If you look through those “interestingness” pages right now the photo has fallen to around 75 and will probably keep sinking, but it's just nice to see it getting so much attention.

For you non-Flickerites, “interestingness” is some amorphous measure of how many times a photo has been viewed, commented on, and made a favorite by other Flickr users. So it's both a measure of popularity and of an image's ability to spark conversation or elicit a response.

My ambivalent images project will hit its 2-year mark on March 10, 2006. I wasn't really sure how long I would continue it when it started, and there have been times when it has just seemed silly, but it has also been a fun diversion and I'm really glad to have the odd sort of record it provides of life in the last two years. I started trying to cross-post some of the “best” shots (the ones I liked or ones that other people commented on) on Flickr both to give them a wider audience and because it helps me connect w/other photographers (both casual and more professional) and gives me inspiration by giving me a chance to check out what other people are doing. The only problem with Flickr is that it's like a very deep well and once you start looking in you have to be careful you don't fall in and get lost fo hours. I just today found out about all these great Flickr Toys and I can already see I'm going to waste a lot of time playing with them sometime soon.

Anyway, once I'm finished with school it's kind of up in the air whether I'll be able to continue posting a photo every day, but we'll see. For now, I hope you see one occasionally that you enjoy!

Note: If you've ever wanted to have a screenshot of an entire webpage rather than just the bit that fits into your screen at any one time, check out Papparazzi for Mac OS X.

Posted 09:58 AM | TrackBack

January 08, 2006

Congratulations Caravan4Christmas

Congratulations to Law-Rah for successfully collecting and delivering a truckload of toys to needy kids whose Christmas was dramatically changed by hurricane Katrina. The project was a big one and she and her team had to overcome many obstacles along the way, but they did it and it looks like it was a huge success!

Posted 12:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 03, 2006

2006: The Year the Fourth Amendment Disappears?

Hi there. We just returned last night from our travels and we had a most excellent time relaxing and enjoying the company of family and friends. My loved ones spoiled me ridiculously so I have lots and lots of loot to wear, play with, and use in this new year, for all of which I am extremely thankful. Family and friends are the best part of life—something that's easy to forget in the day-to-day when you're far away from them. I'm very much looking forward to finishing law school and finding a job closer to the people I care about and who care about me the most.

Being immersed in all that family goodness for the last 10 days or so meant that I was largely tuned out of what was going on in the world. I tried to follow the domestic spying story but found that the Billings Gazette didn't seem to think it important enough to cover, other than to say the spying was more widespread than was originally thought. Instead I heard bits and pieces about the one-year anniversary of the tsunami, I learned that the Billings, Montana City Council seems pretty spineless, and more recently I heard repeatedly about an Iraqi child with spina bifida who has come to the U.S. for treatment. CNN Headline News seemed obsessed with that story the other day and curiously kept repeating that U.S. troops found the child during a raid on her parents' home. The message seemed to be that it's a great thing for U.S. troops to raid your home because then they can find your disabled child and maybe get her some medical help! Gee, CNN, when you put it that way, I'm thinking maybe we should all hope our homes get raided by U.S. troops! I'm sure they could find something they could help me out with.

The lesson I learned was this: If you depend on your local small-town newspaper and/or CNN for news of what's going on in the world, you're likely to get a really strange, fragmented, and incomplete picture. Oh, how I missed the internets!

And yet, now that I'm back and catching up on what matters to me most at the moment, I'm sickened to learn that just before Christmas 49% of Americans thought Bush's domestic spying was Constitutional and 50% thought it made the country safer. All I can say is that these people do not know their history. When the President starts spying on any American he wants and does so in secret and without any oversight, that can never make anyone safer and if it's only Constitutional if the Fourth Amendment is meaningless. But what's worse is the brazen way Bush continues to claim what he's done (and apparently is continuing to do!) is legal and necessary. Not only that, but he's trying to shift the focus from his own impeachable offenses:

The fact that somebody leaked this program causes great harm to the United States.

No, Mr. President, Whoever “leaked” this to the press is a hero. the fact that you are unilaterally spying on Americans without their knowledge or consent and without any judicial oversight in contravention of the Fourth Amendment is what is causing great harm to the United States.

Oh yeah, Happy New Year!


p.s.: Thanks to Marshall for making my point better than I did in arguing that whether the domestic spying is legal is not the point in terms of this being an impeachable offense. Marshall writes in the comments to that post:

Strictly sepaking, impeachment isn't a criminal remedy. It's way for democratically elected representatives to redress wrongdoing. In the impeachment context, “wrong” is not limited to simply criminal acts. Incompetence or malfeasance or a gross offense against those who elected you will do. I'd say this president has been guilty of all three at various times.

I could not agree more.

Posted 12:22 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 22, 2005

Gotta Run; Happy Holidays!

It's time again for us to hit the holiday road so updates here will be sporadic at best for the next ten days or so. Thanks so much to everyone who chipped in on my most recent job search post—I will be putting your advice into practice over the coming weeks. Best wishes and Happy Holidays to all of you!

Posted 06:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 17, 2005

In Praise of the Palm z22

Are you looking for the perfect little gift for that lawyer, law student, or just about anyone else in your life? Have I got a suggestion for you!

My wonderful girlfriend recently gave me a Palm Z22 and I have just fallen in love with this thing. I don't know how I ever lived without one! As the cheapest and smallest PDA Palm has ever made, the poor thing has taken some hits from critics as being too small, having a poor quality screen, etc. I think the critics are missing the point of a device like this. The Z22 is small and cheap; that's it. If you don't want small and cheap, you don't want this. But small and cheap are exactly what I wanted for one reason: I can drop this tiny thing in my pocket and have it with me all the time, anywhere, and since it was relatively inexpensive I'm not constantly worried that it's getting scratched or damaged—I can just use it and not think about it.

And use it I have! The absolute best thing about it is reading ebooks on the metro or any other time I find myself sitting or standing around waiting for something. The other day I got stuck waiting in court for about three hours. What to do? I pulled my Z22 out of my pocket and read several chapters of The Burden of Proof by Scott Turow. The time just flew by!

But, of course, it's also great to have all my contacts' names and numbers at my fingertips, and this little thing makes it worthwhile to keep my calendar up-to-date so I'm less likely to forget an appointment or to-do item. Plus, there's always a quick game of solitaire or Word Wiggle if I just have a few minutes to fill. Finally, I need never be caught w/out pen and paper again—the Z22 is always in my pocket to capture a note or bit of info I would otherwise forget.

For you lawgeeks, here's something very cool you could do with the Z22: Carry around your state's civil or criminal code and/or reference materials in your pocket! For example, here's Illinois Criminal Procedure, Virginia Crimes and Offenses 2005, and the Michigan Code of Criminal Procedure 2004. Not every jurisdiction is available, but if yours is, this could be an incredibly handy reference tool.

And did I mention how small this thing is!? It's about the size of a full-size iPod but weighs less than a deck of cards. It's so small and light that sometimes I even forget it's in my pocket.

Of course, as much as I love this thing, it's not perfect. I find myself wishing a little that it accepted flash memory cards to expand its 20MB of usable memory (I've already used over 17MB of that). And if it had the expandable memory, it would need a headphone jack so it could be your portable mp3 device along with everything else. It might be nice if it had bluetooth and/or wifi capabilities, but I haven't found a time when that would really be super-usefulyet. And, of course, I also dream of the day that something this small and light can do everything this device does, plus be a phone. You can already buy Palm devices that do some or all of these things (the Treo does them all, I think), but they are all either bigger or heavier, and all of them are definitely more expensive. For my needs right now, the Z22 is the perfect compromise of size, weight, and functionality, and I bet it would be perfect for someone on your wishlist, too.

(Note 1: Palm is going to give me $5 for every one of you who buys one of these things in the next ten days, so get shopping please.)

(Note 2: Note 1 is a lie.)

Posted 08:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 10, 2005

Why are baraccudas so naughty?

This seems to be a pressing question among spammers recently, and I've wondered about it from time to time myself. Why are barracudas so naughty? Will we ever solve this age-old riddle?

The same spammer that's full of deep questions is also full of sage advice, such as “Dont listen to rap music it's toxic to your soul.” I'm sure this spammer must have heard that guns don't kill people, rappers do—ask any politician and he'll tell you it's true.

Isn't spam just a wonerful thing?

Posted 07:27 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 23, 2005

Turkey Travel Time

Happy Turkey everyone! We're off for a few days of vacation and I don't know if I'll be able to update, so if not, I will just say: I'm thankful that you take the time to stop in and see what's going on around the imbroglio once in a while and I hope you have a grrrreat holiday!

Posted 06:25 AM | TrackBack

September 25, 2005

One Great Weekend in DC

The weekend has been just about as busy and action-packed as the last post predicted. What an incredibly cool weekend to live in D.C.! My photos from yesterday's peace march are here. I'll have more about all of it in the coming days, but for now it's all about Blawg Review #25.

Posted 08:55 PM | TrackBack

September 04, 2005

The Fisherman and the MBA Grad

I heard this joke a few weeks ago and forgot it, but just saw a variation of it over at George's Employment Blawg. It's about a fisherman and a businessman (MBA for short):

MBA: You spend your morning fishing, but the you spend your whole afternoon sleeping. Why not go fishing all day?

Fisherman: What's the point?

MBA: With the money you get, you could buy another boat.

Fisherman: What's the point?

MBA: You could invest your money, go public, buy more boats, and become a leader in your country.

Fisherman: What's the point?

MBA: As a tycoon, you could sleep the whole afternoon.

Posted 07:45 PM | TrackBack

August 31, 2005

Katrina's Aftermath

Scripting News is following the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, and it looks like New Orleans may not have seen the worst of it yet. One of the links there is to the New Orleans Times-Picayune weblog where you can find frightening stories such as this:

Those trapped in the city faced an increasingly lawless environment, as law enforcement agencies found themselves overwhelmed with widespread looting. Looters swarmed the Wal-mart on Tchoupitoulas Street, often bypassing the food and drink section to steal wide-screen TVs, jewelry, bicycles and computers. Watching the sordid display and shaking his head in disgust, one firefighter said of the scene: “It’s a f---- hurricane, what are you do with a basketball goal?”

Police regained control at about 3 p.m., after clearing the store with armed patrol. One shotgun-toting Third District detective described the looting as “ferocious.”

“And it’s going to get worse as the days progress,” he said.

In Uptown, one the few areas that remained dry, a bearded man patrolled Oak Street near the boarded-up Maple Leaf Bar, a sawed-off shotgun slung over his shoulder. The owners of a hardware store sat in folding chairs, pistols at the ready.

Uptown resident Keith Williams started his own security patrol, driving around in his Ford pickup with his newly purchased handgun. Earlier in the day, Williams said he had seen the body of a gunshot victim near the corner of Leonidas and Hickory streets.

“What I want to know is why we don’t have paratroopers with machine guns on every street,” Williams said.

Like-minded Art Depodesta sat on the edge of a picnic table outside Cooter Brown’s Bar, a chrome shotgun at his side loaded with red shells.

“They broke into the Shell station across the street,” he said. “I walked over with my 12-gauge and shot a couple into the air.”

The looters scattered, but soon after, another man appeared outside the bar in a pickup truck armed with a pistol and threatened Depodesta.

“I told him, ‘Listen, I was in the Army and I will blow your ass off,’” Depodesta said. “We’ve got enough trouble with the flood.” The man sped away.

“You know what sucks,” Depodesta said. “The whole U.S. is looking at this city right now, and this is what they see.”

In the Bywater, a supply store sported spray-painted signs reading “You Loot, I Shoot” and “You Bein Watched.” A man seated nearby with a rifle in his lap suggested it was no idle threat. At the Bywater studio of Dr. Bob, the artist known for handpainted “Be Nice or Leave” signs, a less fanciful sentiment was painted on the wall: “Looters Will Be Shot. Dr. Bob.”


The scene called to mind a refugee camp in a Third World nation. Liquor flowed freely and tempers flared amid complaints about the pace of the relief effort, which seemed to overwhelm the agencies involved and the city’s inability to contain flood waters.

Yikes. Vigilantes with guns against looters? Sounds like a pretty volatile situation, to say the least. I'm not sure about the Third World refugee camp analogy though; do Third World refugee camps have free-flowing liquor?

And, of course, there's always that little thing about oil—damaged production facilities in the Gulf mean the price is going up. Good thing Yubbledew is cutting his vacation short. I bet everyone suffering from Katrina will feel much better knowing the record-setting vacationer is in charge—especially since he's the guy that helped make sure the area would not be prepared for a disaster like this. Yeah.

Posted 06:18 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 22, 2005

You Suck and That's Sad

What “Happy Bunny” phrase are you?

you suck and that's sad

You are a very compassionate and sympathetic person. You use your divine sense of humor to cheer up a situation.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.

[via TSC Girl]

Posted 11:07 PM | TrackBack

August 04, 2005

Notes Upon Reading the Express

The Express is a free newspaper here in D.C. that you can pick up on your way into a metro station and read on the train. It contains ads, one-paragraph summaries of the biggest news, more ads, lots of little factoids and “news of the weird” type stuff, still more ads, and pages and pages of ads disguised as “information” about celebrities, tv-shows, movies, music, and crap for you to buy. It's published by the Washington Post and it has a more right-leaning competitor in The Examiner.

So anyway, yesterday's paper contained this real gem on page 8 I just couldn't pass up passing on:

“It is the government's job to deal with the hungry; we, the traders, are here for business.” —Ibrahim Bay, Millet Trader, on the high prices of food in Niger as the country faces a severe famine.

Oh yeah, I love free trade. And capitalism. It's a good thing that “the chief business of the American people is business.”

The Express also tells me that Gary Cole, aka “Bill Lumberg,” is going to play a tough cop on a new TNT show called “Wanted.” Don't get me wrong; I think Mr. Cole is a fine actor and I've enjoyed his performances in many things, but, well, a tough cop? Mmyeah.

Posted 08:13 AM | TrackBack

July 27, 2005

I'm Not a Libertarian

I'm chanting the title of this post like a mantra to keep perspective on this whole Maryland tax issue. I spent about an hour on the phone with people in various Maryland tax offices trying to figure out what they think is going on. First, I learned that they are trying to charge me MD state income tax for tax year 2002. That's all well and good, except that I don't think even set foot in Maryland, let alone lived there, until 2003, so their claim is clearly baseless. But the second thing I learned is that I have to prove it. I had to fax them my 2002 tax return and W2 form to prove I was really a resident of another state in 2002.

That's right: Maryland (or probably any other state) can bill you for taxes from three or four years ago and even threaten to garnish your wages—even if you had absolutely zero connection to Maryland during the time for which they are billing you—and you either have to pay or prove they made a mistake. Why should I have to prove them wrong? Why isn't the burden on them to prove they're right?

Ok. Mantra. They have to have the presumption here or they would spend all their time and resources proving their claims and have no time or resources left to actually collect taxes in an efficient way that benefits everyone who lives in or visits Maryland. Mantra.

But why did this happen to both me and my girlfriend? To me it looks like they're fishing for extra tax liability in a way that goes beyond a reasonable assumption. They claim that we probably received these bills because when we filed our 2002 returns we used a Maryland address. Since we filed in 2003 for tax year 2002, and we actually did move to Maryland for a few months in 2003, this seemed possible. But then I checked and neither of us used a Maryland address on a tax return ever. I told the MD tax people this and they just shrugged (over the phone no less—it was pretty amazing). So why are we being harassed like this? I dunno. My best guess is that MD just looks at change of address records from the postal service or something and if you've ever received mail in MD or paid a bill in MD or I don't know what, then they go back a year and assume you owe taxes there. The most helpful tax worker told me they spent lots of time fielding calls from people like me (at least 100 people/day) who are upset that they're getting back tax notices. She said about 50% of them actually do owe something, so it's worth MD's time to deal with the other 50% who don't. Hmmph. Mantra.

Posted 06:45 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 26, 2005

No Rascal For Us

After spending far too much time last week considering whether to get another dog, and after getting approval from the landlord to do so, I went to work yesterday morning thinking we were probably going to have two dogs soon. However, I was greeted with the news that somebody else took Rascal last Friday and he is already happily enjoying his new home somewhere in Pennsylvania with a building contractor who plans to take him to work every day, take him kayaking on weekends, and give him an acre of land to frolic in. Hmph. I can't really compete with that, can I?

While it's a little sad, I know it's all for the best—both for Rascal and for us. We were pretty ambivalent about getting another dog at this time. I think we both like the idea, but for all the reasons you all mentioned in the comments here and for others, now seems like not the best time. We had basically decided that we would be able to give Rascal a good home if his owner couldn't find anything better for him, but something better is exactly what she found! So it's all good for everyone.

I learned something though: The next time someone asks you if you know anyone who wants a dog, just say no. ;-)

Posted 06:55 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 24, 2005

An Open Letter to Maryland Tax Authorities

Dear Comptroller of Maryland,

I'm writing to let you know that your office may be at serious risk of a class action for harassing the public. I lived in Maryland for a grand total of five months in 2003, during which time I neither owned property nor earned any income from anywhere. Yesterday I opened my mail to find a bill from you for $1,832.53 for back taxes. Um, excuse me? Taxes? For what? Not only that, but it's a very threatening bill, a “final notice” that says you're going to garnish my wages or take some other drastic action to take from me this money I do not owe. FYI: I have no income to garnish, so good luck with that.

But seriously, this is ridiculous. You sent my girlfriend similar letters months ago and tried to bill her for Maryland income taxes for 2002. That might be fine except that she lived and worked in Illinois in 2002! Then you had the gall to force her to prove that she lived in Illinois in 2002 by making her send you something from the state of Illinois as proof. It's one thing for you to make an egregious mistake; it's another to force her to go out of her way to prove that you're mistaken. If you ask me, the burden of proof should be on you to show at least some minimal evidence that you have a basis for your tax claims, rather than forcing good taxpaying citizens to waste their time proving how wrong you are in order to protect their wages from your greedy garnishment actions.

Don't get me wrong: I think taxes are great and I will happily pay my fair share. But just now, I've got nothing to spare and since I haven't really had any income for going on three years now, I really don't appreciate being slapped with a huge and threatening income tax notice from a state where I only lived for five brief and income-free months. Please, if you must harass someone, find a target who at least has some money to collect!

Yours in really resenting this threatening and absolutely baseless bill you sent me,


Posted 04:54 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 21, 2005


Rascal and Sisu panting.We went last night to meet Rascal, the dog I mentioned yesterday, and to let our current dog, Sisu, meet him and see what would happen. As you can see from the picture, the two of them wore each other out. They got along famously; I don't think we'd have to worry about dog fights. Actually, the two of them look like they're siblings or something—very similar builds and features. When they were racing around the field we let them play in they looked like they were having the time of their lives.

But that doesn't mean we should get another dog. I realize, in practical terms, another dog is probably a bad idea. More cost, more time, more hassle, definitely bigger issue when looking for places to live. But, well, since when is even one dog practical? Who gets a dog because it makes logical sense?

We really don't know. I keep reaching a point where I realize we just don't need another dog, yet the thought keeps creeping back in my head that it might be fun. Of course, our landlord could be the final arbiter of that plan, yet I'm not even sure I want to ask.

And then it's always possible this is all just a distraction from other things....

Posted 07:45 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 20, 2005

Dog Roberts

Ok, I heard that Yubbledew* picked a nominee for the Supreme Court, and NPR tells me that Republicans are happy, Democrats are “cautious,” and Laura Bush is pissed. (Ok, NPR didn't say that, but it did say that Bush ignored his wife's public plea for a female nominee. Tee hee hee.)

That's all very interesting. I mean, I know I should care, and I do, but... Well, anyway, I have a more pressing and weighty issue that requires careful consideration: Should we get another dog?

Specifically, I'm wondering if any kind reader out there has more than one dog and can tell me how much more work and effort and cost is involved in going from one to two. Also, more generally (if generalizations on this are even possible), do you have any thoughts about pros and cons of having one dog as opposed to two, or two as opposed to one? Am I just crazy to even consider getting another dog when it's likely I'll be moving a year from now and starting a new job as a lawyer? (That's something that is also worthy of consideration, but as E. Spat. notes, that subject causes way too much anxiety so I'd rather think about other things—like dogs.)

The situation is that someone at work must get rid of her 1.5 year-old pit bull mix. He's nice, friendly with people and other dogs, crate-trained, has all shots and has been neutered, doesn't bark, responds to basic commands (sit, stay, come, roll over, etc.) and is almost exactly the same size as our current dog. I know if we don't take him he'll still find a good home, so it's not a question of being forced into it for the dog's sake. It's just that, against my own better judgement, I kind of like the idea of having another dog. Am I crazy?

* When I say that name I'm also thinking of the witch Valerie in The Princess Bride who is married to Miracle Max (the character played by Billy Crystal). Valerie keeps yelling “liar!” and “I'm not a witch I'm your wife!” But really what I'm saying is that when I think of Yubbledew I also think of that voice saying “liar!”)

Posted 07:07 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 16, 2005

This Is No Modern Romance, Spam Edition

Hi. Could it be? Almost two weeks without a post?

I apologize for being away for so long. As I mentioned the other day in a comment, our trip was a bit more adventurous than we'd planned or expected and it's taken a bit more time than I thought to get back into the usual ebb and flow around here. Long story short, our car broke down on the way home from Michigan and we rashly decided just to buy a new one rather than fix it. So L. and I are now the ambivalent owners of a brand spanking new, 2005, “sunburst orange metallic” Chevy Cobalt sedan. She likes it because it's orange. I like it because it has cruise control. Yay! We spent nearly 8 solid hours trying to get the stupid thing inspected and registered today. Not yay.

But there will be time for more about that later, especially over at ambivalent images where you will soon find plenty of pictures, I hope. For now, part of the catching up comes from the fact that I was greeted upon my return with a big steaming pile off spam spam spam! Apparently, this and other sites on our shared server have been getting attacked w/so much spam it's been shutting the server down. This led to intermittent disabling of comments, and that might happen again. It also means the server seems glacially slow (at least from my end). And worst of all, Blawg Wisdom appears to be hosed in a completely mystifying way.

So, I apologize for all of that, and I hope to have everything back to normal ASAP. If anyone has any ideas for good spam control on MT (yeah, right) or if you understand what that stupid “parse error” is when you load up the Blawg Wisdom home page, please let me know. As far as spam control goes, we've checked out the spam guide and we're already using MT-Blacklist, MT-DSBL, and we've turned off commenting on some older entries. The next step may be a captcha, but I'm certainly open to suggestions.

Posted 04:06 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

July 03, 2005

And We're Out

We're off for a week in the wilderness! Ok, it's not so wild in the middle of Michigan, but sort of. We'll be doing the usual fishing and hanging out at the lake—fireworks tonight, I think. Anyway, if the Imbroglio doesn't update for a while, this is why. I often have good intentions to post something when I'm away from home, but somehow it doesn't usually work out. Sometimes when you're getting away, it's nice to, get away, you know?

So if you're going on any summer vacations in the next week, happy travels. And Happy Independence Day to everyone!

Posted 06:23 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 23, 2005

Dating Industry

My email box was shouting at me this morning. “Men Needed!” it said. Sounds like spam, doesn't it? Of course, it is, but this message was not trying to sell me viagra or some other drug; instead it's trying to recruit me to a dating event—my “chance to experience a dozen first dates in one evening, and to have a friend along to help!”

I really don't know what to make of that, except that, well, I'm glad I have no reason to go. Now I just want to know: How did these jokers get my law school email address? Is it possible GW sells its students' email addresses to marketers?

Posted 05:35 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 21, 2005

Drama What?

Drama nerd
Ghetto gangsta

What's Your High School Stereotype?
created with

Just for the record, I was never in any sort of dramatic performance thingy. I'm sure I would have enjoyed it, but I never had the, um, as Popeye would say, noive. Otherwise, this looks more or less right, although probably I was a lot less stoner than 44%. [link via SuperD]

Posted 06:10 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 05, 2005

Cheap Laptops?

Ok, it pains me a little to do this, but my sister is in the market for a *cough* Windows laptop. I have never before purchased such a beast so I have no idea where to look for the best deals. She's looking entry level, simple, basic, dependable, and cheap cheap cheap. Of course, it would be best if it weren't fall-apart cheap, but you know what I'm saying. Bells and whistles she's not looking for. She wants to run MS Office, surf, and do email. That's basically it. She might use it w/her digital camera, but that's not super-crucial. So where should we start shopping?

Posted 07:36 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

June 03, 2005

Happy Annibirthsaryday

This is a big day for the family Imbroglio—it's both my sister's birthday and my parents' anniversary. That may sound odd, but it's really mostly a coincidence, I think. My sister was born several years after my parents married, but it just so happened she decided that their wedding anniversary was the perfect day to see the world for the first time. I think they sort of planned it that way, sort of, but I'm not sure. The point is: I have a terrific family and I hope they all have a wonderful celebration day!

Posted 07:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 19, 2005

Does this mean I have delusions of grandeur?

Mr. Incredible
Which Incredibles Character Are You?

brought to you by Quizilla

[another fun procrastination, this one brought to you via Blonde Justice]

Posted 08:04 PM | Comments (3)

April 16, 2005

Sounds Superfine to me

Your Inner European is Swedish!

Relaxed and peaceful.
You like to kick back and enjoy life.

Who's Your Inner European?

I actually think my Inner European is Finnish, but Sweden would be fine. If I could fit my whole music collection on my stupid toy hard drive I would be listening to the Replacements, "Anywhere Is Better Than Here" right now. Writing this paper blows.

(Thanks to Denise for helping me procrastinate by linking to this poll...)

Posted 08:59 PM | Comments (2)

March 28, 2005

Springing On

Hi. Happy Easter, late. The past few days have been busily unbusy. Things have been happening, and they have not. First, congratulations to LH, the masterful planner of the GW EJF Race For Justice. She almost singlehandedly planned and pulled off a really great event that raised something like $1500 for GW's public interest law students, and she did this against a backdrop of lukewarm (at best) institutional support. In this, the race's second year, it had over 100 runners (up from around 50 last year), including a lot of community support. I talked to at least one law student from GULC who was thrilled to be supporting the EJF, even if it wasn't at her school. (That reminds me: If anyone from GULC is reading this, the GW EJF would be happy to work w/you to do a joint race or some other joint public interest fundraiser next year. Just let me know if you have any ideas or want to talk about it.) The fastest runner was a GW alum who came in at 16:56 for a long 5k (b/c of where we stopped and started, the race was longer than 5k, but I don't know how much longer). I can't even imagine such a pace. I finished in a rather sad 26:49, but I was pleased w/that since the last time I ran at all was probably last year at this time. Ok, so my time this year was a close to a minute slower than last year; that confirms what I already knew -- my level of fitness has declined in the last year. I hope to change that in the coming months. Maybe next year I can come in under 21 minutes? Or maybe not. Besides the race, the weekend was filled with family things as L's family came to town to celebrate Easter and see the sites. We attended a Capital Steps show that was absolutely hilarious. Part of it is coming soon to a radio near you, so check your local NPR station for broadcast times. (The Capital Steps would make an awesome podcast, but I bet they're worried about giving their material away in digital format that way since they also try to sell it on CD....). We also ate at Maggiano's Little Italy, which was excellent and highly recommended if you'd like a really good, really big meal and are prepared to pay somewhere around $30/person. That describes me almost never, but for special occasions, I'll certainly keep it in mind. In between the entertainment and the eating there were many games of pinochle and some rounds of Ratchet and Clank w/L's brother, all of which adds up to an Imbroglio who had a great weekend but who is woefully behind and bewildered by the fact that he actually has to be in a law school class in just over an hour. Do you ever put school so far out of your mind you can't even remember what you're supposed to be doing/learning/thinking about? I worry sometimes that I can do this so easily and so often; does it mean I don't really care about law school or becoming a lawyer? Whatever. Posting may continue to be sporadic for the coming weeks. The finals schedule is going to be three finals in two days in the first three days of the finals period, plus a 30-page paper that I haven't started at all, so I'm basically screwed for the next six weeks, not to mention the auction a week from Thursday. Yeah. Awesome. Oh, and it's raining hard outside. That just makes this Monday the best!

Posted 08:49 AM | Comments (8)

February 24, 2005

Capital Weather

It's snowing now in DC, with 4-6 inches likely. Schools are closing all over the place, but not GW. ;-( If you're a DC metro dweller and you enjoy accurate weather forecasts, there's absolutely no better resource than If/when I leave the DC area, I will miss getting candid and accurate weather updates like this. Their “staff” photographer posts incredible pictures of the region, as well.

Posted 06:13 AM | Comments (2)

February 17, 2005

Perpetratin' ta be a lawya

Thanks to LawRah for leading me to Gizoogle, I bring you the first paragraph of yesterday's post translated into foshizzle:
I’m in law school, although you may not always be able ta tell fizzle tha content here fo' real. Often, I rap `bout bustin' but law school, whizzich is coz I often thiznink `bout anyth'n but law school, n I sometizzles brotha if I should takes thizzat as a sizzay: Is this really sum-m sum-m I should be doing if I’d so often spend mah time doing sum-m sum-m else? But schoo` is not practice, so I dismiss tha question. In mah spare time (what’s that?) I’m perpetratin' ta read Should You Really Be A Lawya?. Perhaps that should be filed in tha “better late thizzay neva category,” but I do W-to-tha-izzish I’d read this book before frontin' on somewhere near $100k in debt. * To those of you who is going crazy wit anxiety before even start'n law school, I say: Go buy this book or chizzeck it out from yo local library keep'n it real yo. Read it . Keep'n it gangsta dogg. Challenge yoself ta give it tha time n rizzy considerizzles it suggests you devote ta tha question of its title . Boo-Yaa!. You’ll . Boo-Yaa!. be glad you dizzay n this will be an excellent use of this interstice between perpetratin' n actually going ta law school.
I'm perpetratin' ta read now so I can be a lawya fo' real yo. Word.

Posted 05:43 AM | Comments (1)

February 16, 2005

Not What I Wanted to Hear

Today's weather report does not please me:
Jason was right on the mark when he said in his Monday post that today would be a “significant day weatherwise.” After warm weather during the first half of the day, a sharp cold front will shift winds from southerly to northwesterly and plunge the area back into the heart of winter.
Temperatures around here have been yo-yo-ing from 60 to 20 degrees (with nasty wind chill on the lower end) and I'm really tired of it. Just be winter or spring, already, will you?

Posted 07:30 AM

February 13, 2005

All Hail Slapcast

So you've probably head about this “podcasting” thing, and now that Notes from the (Legal) Underground and Jeremy Richey are getting into it, I thought I'd give it a try. And while creating podcasts sounds like it could be very complicated, thanks to, all you need is a phone! Here's all you need to do:
  1. Create a free account at
  2. Call an 800-number and leave a message (up to 5 minutes).
  3. Log in and enter the phone number you called from. Slapcast finds your recording via caller-id.
  4. Give your recording a title and write some comments about it if you want.
  5. Publish your recording (or Slapcast can just do that automatically).
That's it! Slapcast does the rest—it converts your recording to mp3 format, creates a webpage and RSS feed with enclosures for you so that people can subscribe to your podcasts, and it can automatically post a link to your podcast on your blog (supporting MT, Livejournal, Blogger, Radio, and WordPress so far) and/or email the mp3 file to you. If you want to get funky you can add sound effects to your recording like Jeremy has done, then re-upload it so it sounds more professional and entertaining. (According to the Slapcast creator, there may soon be an option to do something like this automatically via the slapcast web interface.) So hey, what are you waiting for? We all want to hear what you have to say! Oh, thanks so much to Mother and Sister Imbroglio for humoring me in my early experiments with this. The imbroglio is now seeking jokes, funny stories, deep thoughts, political or social commentary, legal criticism, or anything else you'd like to record. Send me your number (via email) and I'll call you and record and publish what you have to say through the magic of 3-way calling. Or maybe we could do 4-way calling or more -- imagine what two minutes of conversation between Energy Spatula and Soupie might be like. Whoo! UPDATE: Via Memory's Outbox I just also discovered Audioblogger, which allows audio-posting by phone to Blogger blogs (including all you Blogspot kiddies). Of course, I'd like to see Slapcast take off b/c it's multi-platform and b/c I've met one of the developers and he seems like a good guy. But hey, either way, posting by phone can be fun. Just ask Lawrah! (See the post from today, 2/13/05; I can't find her permalinks if they're there.)

Posted 11:07 AM | Comments (4)

February 07, 2005

Picture Worth Thousands and Thousands of Words

Once again I thank everyone who has sent paintings in response to my request the other day. The gallery is getting rather large and I'll definitely be making a special display page for all your masterpieces just as soon as I can. Meanwhile, because the paintings are disappearing from the “front” page here, I just wanted to make sure you see this one in action: Lawrah with “Law Student View” (action!) Lawrah Ai If you go to GW you'll know that Lawrah has almost precisely captured the experience of sitting in most large lectures there. I have a funny feeling the picture is not too different at many other law schools around the country. Absolutely frakkin' priceless (nodding to BSG for the otherworldly adjective). Painting is therapy, and come on, you know you could use some of that. If you haven't painted a picture on ArtPad yet and sent me a link, um, why not? ;-)

Posted 09:36 PM | Comments (1)

February 06, 2005

Ambivalent Art

Thanks to those of you who sent links to your ArtPad Paintings, a small gallery of Ambivalent Art is beginning to take shape. Click the “action!” links beside each thumbnail below to watch masterpieces in the making from: Divine Angst with “untitled” on a vacation theme (action!) Divine-Angst Energy Spatula with an “abstract homage to Miami Vice” (action!) Energy-Spatula Second Person Singular with “untitled” (action!) Secondpersonsingular Ai Ashley with “untitled” (action!) Ashley Ai Anonymous “Beret” (action!) Beret Ai Anonymous “Monkey” (action!) Monkey Ai Anonymous “Moon” (action!) Moon Ai Why Law with “untitled” (action!) Whylaw Ai E. McPan with “E. Takes A Holiday” (action!) Emcpan Ai Screaming Bean with “Enter the Bean” (action!) Beanie Ai Bamber with “dog” (action!) Bamber Ai Res Ipsa Loquitur with “untitled” (action!) Resipsa Ai kmsqrd with “Keep Droning, I'm Not Done Yet” (action!) Kmsqrd Ai Lawrah with “Law Student View” (action!) Lawrah Ai Spycygrl with “self-portrait/portrait of a law student” (action!) Cinnamon Ai Idlegrasshopper with “los pantalones” (action!) Grasshopper-Pantalones Ai Idlegrasshopper with “any questions?” (action!) Grasshopper-Brain Ai Sui Generis with “nothing inside” (action!) Sui-Generis Ai Aren't they fun? Thanks again for sending paintings—more are always welcome! (Note: This post will update as I learn about new paintings. If we get enough, I'll create a more proper gallery. Thanks!)

Posted 09:23 AM | Comments (5)

February 05, 2005

Please Send Paintings!

Ok, so this wasn't the most stellar week around the old imbroglio. In addition to flubbing an interview, I also lost another (the employer pulled out of next week's job fair after it scheduled an interview with me!), my journal editors told me my “note” is “extreme” and “unrealistic,” and I learned that my next three weekends are basically packed with special class meetings, ADR competition judging, interviews, paper-writing, and something else I know I'm forgetting—oh! applying for more jobs! With my weeks so full already, losing weekends to even more obligations is really, really not cool. So the week has not been the best; not awful, but not great. (Perhaps these weeks have to happen from time to time in order to justify a name like “imbroglio,” eh?) But you know what has been great this week? Watching people paint pictures on the artPad! For example, yesterday two friends (who will remain nameless to protect their identities and their future art careers) traded paintings back and forth and seeing them was the highlight of my day! Another friend also got into the act, although on an obviously different theme. (Be sure to adjust the replay speed to “fast” or watching those stars draw will take all day!) This is, in fact, so much fun, that I hereby request paintings from any and all! If you have 5 minutes to spare this weekend, please create a “painting” of anything you'd like and send me the link (or post it in the comments). (To get a permalink for you painting, click “send to friend” and send it to yourself, then copy the URL out of the email to post here in the comments or email to me.) I'll link to your creations here on ai, w/or w/out identification of the creator (your choice; just let me know) so that everyone can join the fun and appreciate your creative expression. (If you have a blog, you should, of course, feature your own work there, if you'd like.) Unless you specify otherwise, I'd also like to take a snapshot of the finished product so I can create an “ambivalent artpad gallery” of sorts. (Because who knows when will decide it no longer wants to host all these paintings and they disappear into never-never land?) So hey, get painting and send me links! Pretty please? Your effort will bring the imbroglio joy, and how could you say no to that? Your friendly neighborhood imbroglio thanks you.

Posted 08:18 AM | Comments (3)

January 19, 2005

News Archives?

Does anyone know a good resource for archived news stories? I'm looking for something like the Common Dreams News Center where archives are categorized by date and you can scan all the headlines from a given month or date range. In fact, the Common Dreams site is exactly what I'm looking for, but the selection of stories is too limited. Lexis offers archives of wire service stories and major newspapers, but the only way I know to reach them is through a targeted search and since I only vaguely know what I'm looking for during a certain time period I just want to browse headlines in that period. Many newspapers offer archives of their news stories, but they want you to pay for access and, again, the only way to reach the archives is through keyword searches rather than by date ranges. So, if you know of a resource where AP or Reuters or Knight-Ridder wire stories are archived by date range (like a blog would do it), please send me a link. Please? Pretty please? You'll be doing me a big favor! p.s.: This makes me think it would really be worthwhile for someone to start a blog where they just copied all the headlines from a major newspaper (or maybe BBC news—someplace where the archives are freely accessible) into a day's post w/links to the articles. Then, when people have research needs like mine, they could go to that blog, find the appropriate date(s), then scan the headlines for that date and access the articles they wanted. I bet this is out there, somewhere, I just don't know where...

Posted 04:06 PM | Comments (5)

January 14, 2005

BlawgCoop Welcomes Divine Angst!

After a bit of template magic to make her new home her own, stellar 0L Divine Angst has migrated her blog to her own domain! Check it out at Congrtulations, DA! (And everyone else, don't forget to update your links!) For now, when you go to you'll find that you actually end up at a blawgcoop url. Why? Because DA had the ingenious idea of getting her own domain, but hosting her files w/blawgcoop! Barring unforeseen difficulties, DA can eventually hide the redirect so that users who go to will never know they're actually being served files from the blawgcoop server. This is such a neat little innovation that I'd like to invite anyone interested in moving or starting a legally-related blog to do the same thing. The “get your own domain but host with blawgcoop” plan offers the following advantages:
  1. You secure your own domain name so if you ever decide to host your blawg yourself, you've got the domain you want.
  2. Readers will be able to find your blawg easily—you can make the URL match the name of the blawg.
  3. You don't have to pay the $5-$10/month it would cost to host the domain somewhere. If you register somewhere like you'll get free forwarding (and “masking” so that users won't see the foward) with your domain registration for only $8/yr.*
  4. You don't have to hassle with setting up and maintaining your own MT or WordPress installation, but you get all the benefits of MT or WordPress.
  5. You can import your entries from an existing blawg to your new blawgcoop-hosted blawg so you'll have everything in one place. If you ever decide to fully host your own blawg yourself, MT makes such a move relatively easy. (I'm not sure about the migration features of WordPress but I'm sure we could figure it out.)
  6. Bottom line: Your total annual bill for your own MT or WordPress blawg at your own, custom URL will be $13. Per year. ($8 for your domain registration, $5 to host at blawgcoop.)
That's a pretty good deal if you've been wanting to move away from blogspot or some other free service.** (For the sake of comparison, it's hard to find web hosting anywhere for less than $5/month.) Something to keep in mind, anyway. So thanks to DA for coming up with this slick idea, and congratulations on your new home! * If anyone knows of a quality domain registrar that would be better than GoDaddy for these purposes, please share. My own host, Dreamhost, will do it, but they charge more. ** It's possible there are drawbacks to this plan that neither DA nor I recognized. If you see any, please share them with us so any potential future users will understand the pros and cons.

Posted 07:44 AM | Comments (3)

Happy (late) B-Day, E. Spatch!

In the “better late than never” vein, here's wishing a happy birthday to Energy Spatula at Will Work for Favorable Dicta. Judging by the gazillion birthday wishes she received here and the cake her friend Legal Quandary made her, E. Spatch did not miss my good wishes, but I thought I'd send them anyway. Plus, it allows me to link to her post-birthday post, which is truly funny.

Posted 07:02 AM | Comments (1)

January 07, 2005

Caffeine Experiment

Coffee-Sleep The holiday allowed me to do something I've been wanted to do for some time now: cut down on my daily caffeine intake. I went from drinking a pot or more of coffee and numerous diet cokes every day to drinking 1-2 cups of coffee in the morning and then nothing else with caffeine. The great surprise? It wasn't very hard to do this. I had no headaches or other noticeable withdrawal symptoms. Even better, I've recently felt much less tired in the late afternoon and evening, which used to be the time of day I would crash. Is it possible that drinking so much caffeine actually made me more tired, rather than less? I'm sure. Of course, it's also possible I've simply been getting plenty of sleep on vacation, leaving me no reason to be tired. At any rate, I hope to continue limiting myself to 1-2 relatively small cups of coffee (or less) per day and I'm sure I'll learn in the coming weeks whether that seems to have any effect on energy levels. Maybe I'll send all the money I save on coffee and cokes to the guy in the U.S. selling bumper stickers that complain about the guy in China selling idiotic magnets. (Thanks to Dave! for the link.)

Posted 08:32 AM | Comments (2)

January 06, 2005


Back to work today means vacation is over. I will miss these long vacations that law school provides, but I almost think this one has been too long—my brain doesn't want to return to this reality. So instead I've been reading other blogs, including second person, singular (sps), which recently featured a great little discussion of the magnetic “support our troops” ribbons I saw far too many of while driving along the highways and byways of this land. Damn those damned magnet ribbons! What do they mean? They command us to “Support our troops.” Ok. But how? By voting for and supporting an administration that lied to us and the world so it could send more than 1,000 of our troops to their deaths? Is that support? I don't get it, and I don't think the magnet-displayers do either. What do they think they're saying? If you have one of these magnets on your car, what do you think you're saying? As sps notes, the magnet lets people proudly order everyone else on the road to “support our troops” even as they make zero commitment to that message themselves:
it really makes me proud to live in america, where the demands of the marketplace and innovation go hand in hand leading us to a brighter future.... because these ribbons that you see on the back of all those cars are magnets. yes, magnets that will peel off and not leave a trace, not leave a scratch on the paint, not leave a trace of that hideous adhesive. it is such a perfect solution, because in america, ideas matter, our principles matter, and we want our neighbors to know we have the courage of our convictions as long as they don't diminish the value of our possessions.
Brilliant, don't you think? Support our troops by driving around with a magnet that orders everyone else to support our troops, and if you decide you no longer feel like supporting our troops (whatever that means), just remove the magnet! Support support support! And the real genius of the whole thing is that the damned things are made in Taiwan (at least the ones I saw in stores) and every penny of profit on them is going to a handful of private individuals who don't give a damn about any troops except insofar as the idea of those troops can be exploited for private gain. Support our troops! Support our troops! Support our troops! Damned ribbons.

Posted 09:45 PM | Comments (16)

January 05, 2005

Chopper City

Washington, D.C., is a city of helicopters. After just over two weeks relaxing in the relative wilds of Montana and Michigan, we've returned to the city built (at least partially) atop a swamp. The temperature here is a balmy 45 degrees and the air is thick with humidity. Everywhere we go it seems we are serenaded by the staccato thump of helicopters and the shrill notes of emergency vehicle sirens. It is an unnatural music for a completely unnatural place. This is where we live. This is where we will spend 2005. 2004 was nothing like I expected; in fact, it was an incredible disappointment, thanks primarily to the outcome of our gerrymandered electoral process and the politics of fear. I'm not sorry to see 2004 go. Now, what will 2005 bring? I have little clue. The adjustment back into my so-called “life” will take some time. After spending the last two weeks almost completely disconnected from the internet, I'm surprised to say I kind of liked it. Kind of. It's good to really get away. Of course, now there's lots of catching up to do, both online and off. Meanwhile, did you see Jason Kottke's Best Links of 2004?

Posted 03:39 PM | Comments (2)

December 31, 2004

Airport Happy New Year

Hi from the Minneapolis airport. Did you know today is the 366th day this year? I've just had enough time to pay my $7 for the privilege of 'net access, download several hundred emails, delete several hundred comment spams, and learn that Jeremy Blachman is Anonymous Lawyer. Read all about it in the NY Times story! (Thanks to Monica for the tip in the comments here and for her links.) In the few seconds I've had to skim a few of the many links about it all, I've learned from Notes from the (Legal) Underground and Half-Cocked that there's some amount of controversy involved with the whole thing. I don't have time right now to understand what that's all about, so instead I'll just say: Congratulations, Jeremy! I didn't read Anonymous Lawyer much, but it obviously struck a nerve and if it helps to launch your desired career, then mazel tov! And to everyone else: Happy New Year! I'll check in again in 2005...

Posted 11:50 AM | Comments (2)

December 19, 2004


It's that time of year again, the time when I leave this place and go to others to spend time with the famdamily in a couple of states beginning with M. None of the places I'll be in the next two days have very good connections to the internet(s), so updates here will be less frequent than usual. I'll check in when I can, but for now, congratulations to everyone who has finished their semester, good luck to those who have an exam or two remaining, and may you all have the happiest of holidays!

Posted 07:48 AM | Comments (6)

December 17, 2004

Free Time Pays

I pulled $1.17 in change out of the tub of our washing machine today. Who knows how long those coins had been skating around in there, but from the looks of a few of them, it had been a while. Very clean money, though, that's for sure. Ah yes. Free time (as in: not a single stitch of homework to do) is a wonderful thing.

Posted 01:18 PM

December 15, 2004

Welcome Future Rabble Rouser!

Congratulations to my good friend and frequent ai commenter, Famous P, who became the proud father of a healthy baby girl late last night! Famous P is, among other things, a rabble rouser who hates nothing so much as social injustice and abuse of power. I'm guessing his daughter will be much the same, for which we can all be thankful. The world needs more people with the strength and courage to stand up for what they believe. (We now return to our regularly scheduled programming: Evidence evidence evidence...)

Posted 07:43 AM | Comments (2)

December 11, 2004

Ding Dong Wedding Bells

Congratulations to Raquel, my friend and fairly frequent commenter here. She's getting married to a wonderful boy named E! The two of them have promised not to let the marital industrial complex grind them down, which bodes well for their future, I think.

Posted 05:53 PM | Comments (4)

December 09, 2004

Is Wilder Better?

According to Wired, a new trend in traffic management and highway engineering is to remove explicit controls—such as signs and painted lines on the road, and even curbs to separate street from pedestrian zone—and replace them with implicit controls—basically the alertness and cooperation of the drivers, pedestrians, or bicyclists using the roads. One advocate of this new hands-off approach explains:
“Pedestrians and cyclists used to avoid this place, but now, as you see, the cars look out for the cyclists, the cyclists look out for the pedestrians, and everyone looks out for each other. You can't expect traffic signs and street markings to encourage that sort of behavior. You have to build it into the design of the road.”
So the idea, generally, is that you encourage community and cooperation by removing the safeguards that would keep you safe if you're antisocial or don't try to cooperate. What's interesting is the corollary argument that social safeguards actually encourage antisocial behavior; they assume such behavior is going to occur, they plan for it, they legitimize it, and therefore ensure it will exist. Does this mean that the more we regulate or try to make our world safer, the more we'll actually be making our world more chaotic, and less safe? The idea reminds me of two stories I tell all the time (and which I've probably told here before). Both are about lifelong NYC residents who visited Utah. One was a woman who stood on the edge of Bryce Canyon watching a beautiful sunrise and complained that “they should cut down all these trees—they're blocking my view. The other was another woman who stood on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and complained that there was no railing to prevent people from falling over the edge. These stories come to mind because I think of NYC as a place that's tightly controlled and regulated; the population density is so great, that people have come to rely on the ”rules“ of life in NYC to get by, so when they go someplace that's more open, less tightly controlled, they don't understand it, it makes them uncomfortable. (I'm thinking out loud here; I don't mean to disparage NY or NYers.) Those two stories, and the above article about the roads make me wonder if what we need is fewer laws, rather than more. We seem to have entered a stage of society where people will do anything, so long as there's no explicit rule or law against it, or even if there is a law but they think they won't get caught. See Enron, see the rise in plagiarism and cheating in our schools, see the general lust for wealth above all else. And I wonder if this is because people have stopped thinking about what's right, what's appropriate, what's good, and instead simply think about what they can get away with w/out breaking the rules or getting caught. As if the rules of society, or efforts to encourage better behavior, actually end up encouraging worse behavior. Does chaos encourage cooperation? I suppose it's the logic behind the Libertarian Party. Another siren singing, I think, but also there's something here that's good...

Posted 08:27 AM | Comments (3)

November 26, 2004

Just *Don't* Do It

You're supposed to shop today. Can you resist the urge? And why are some people calling this “Black Friday” while actually promoting consumerism? I don't get it.

Posted 11:31 AM | Comments (3)

November 25, 2004

Novel Turkey

It has been rumored that the ambivalent novel will not be completed by the deadline of Nov. 30 at midnight; however, after a burst of 5,000 words last night, the novel is almost back on track, and is at least within a plausible striking range. The fat lady has still not sung a note. To the editors of the journal for whom I supposed to be writing a “note,”: Um, sorry. I'd rather write a novel. To the professors who will grade my finals and shake their heads in dismay as they plant my GPA irrevocably in the bottom left of the bell curve: Run run run, fast as you can, you can't catch me I'm the stinky cheese man! To everyone else: Happy Turkey Lurkey!

Posted 08:31 AM | Comments (3)

November 24, 2004

Gifts that Keep On Giving

Without meaning to, it seems I've been posting about contentious or controversial things recently, but it's getting to be holiday time around this here imbroglio, so let's talk about stuff that's really important ... like Secret Santas!
To use Secret Santa, all you need is a wishlist* at Amazon. First you tell Santa about yourself. Then on December 10th you will be told who you're buying a gift for. And by Christmas Day, everyone has a sparkly present to open!
So sign up, why dontcha? The Secret Santa also offers gift suggestions for those in need of such things. As far as I can tell it's not linked in any direct way to Amazon, although it sure would be a smart marketing move it were. Anyway, it's about that shopping time, so get crackin' and move this economy forward! If you're a true patriot, everything you buy this year will be imported so that our trade deficit can get even larger and we can continue proving to the world how “exceptional” America is. And speaking of exceptionalism, just look at our national debt—largest ever ever ever! No one can beat the U.S.A.! Oops! Did I say that? Sorry, lost the holiday spirit for a moment when reality intruded. But not to worry, there's more gifty goodness going on at tauntinghappyfunball, which is spearheading a blogger mix cd exchange:
Basically, you make a CD for a stranger and send it to them. Simple. All it takes is a bit of a time commitment and a few bucks to get a CD and mail it. But the best part is that you aren't trying to tailor it to anyone in particular. In fact, I think the best way to do it is just see who wants to do it, make the mixes, and then have one person randomly assign a recipient. Since it's my idea, I'll be happy to do that.
Definitely a cool idea! Scheherazade took it in a slightly different direction by offering a mix cd to the first 20 readers who responded to her offer. Also a cool idea! Don't you think the ambivalent imbroglio needs a soundtrack? I mean, America has a soundtrack (to which I've been listening a lot, recently); doesn't ai need one, too? Ah, but there are those finals coming up.... So until I get around to actually making an ai soundtrack, you might enjoy the Top 40 Band In America Today from the information leafblower. Sounds like a pretty great soundtrack to me.

Posted 10:14 AM | Comments (1)

November 01, 2004


Randomly, I dreamt last night that I had just arrived in Norway, and that it was so breathtakingly beautiful that I made an immediate decision to never leave again. I have never been to Norway. I know it has many fjords, and that those glacial anomalies are, indeed, very beautiful. Still . . . Norway!? Maybe this election is getting to me in ways I don't even realize . . . .

Posted 07:14 AM | Comments (2)

October 27, 2004

Congratulations Boston!

So it's official, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series! Now let's just hope Boston fans and police play nice tonight...

Posted 11:47 PM | Comments (1)

October 24, 2004

RitzPix Needs Work

When I got a new digital camera just over a year ago (a very generous gift from L.), I started taking lots of pictures, some of which I post, but most of which I don't. The great thing about digital pics is you can take as many as you want for virtually no cost; however, the drawback can come when you want to share a photo with someone in real life, someone who is not online or who would like their own copy of a picture. You can always print your own photos on an inkjet printer, but I've never been thrilled with the result/cost ratio there, so I've turned to different online services for prints of digital pics. I've had good luck with Shutterfly, and I just put in an order with Snapfish, which is a little cheaper. With both services, you upload your photos, order prints or enlargements or other items (i.e., coffee mugs, mousepads, and calendars with your photos on them), then they ship the results to you in a few days. But I recently learned of a new service through Fuji Film. It involves Ritz Camera stores and lets you upload your pictures and then choose a local camera store to print them so that you can go pick them up in just a few hours. They call it Ritz Pix, and for a handful of photos, it works great. I uploaded just a couple of photos the other day, then picked up great prints a couple of hours later. Very cool. So I thought I'd try a few more photos, like 70. Bad idea. The RitzPix site just couldn't handle it. It took forever to upload the photos in the first place, and then, no matter what I did, I couldn't get it to complete an order. On Safari, the browser would time out, on Mozilla, I got a little farther, but still reached a point where the website would no longer respond. Maybe the site really isn't compatible with the Mac. I dunno. What I do know is that if you only want to print a couple of photos and you want the prints quickly, RitzPix works well. For larger orders, I'll stick with one of the larger online services.

Posted 01:05 PM | Comments (5)

October 21, 2004

Eerie Sports Analogies

Congrats to the Red Sox. Since I know nothing about baseball and pay zero attention to it normally, I am shocked to learn that Boston might face Houston in the World Series. Another way to put that: Massachusetts might face Texas in the Series. Is it just me or would that be an incredibly eerie coincidence? And the Series starts Saturday. Which will be over first: The World Series or the presidential election? Oh, and do you really want a president who feels threatened by people asking him silently to protect civil liberties? Or how about a president who suppresses CIA reports he doesn't like? Houston, I think we have a problem. Is Bush a pirate or an emperor? UPDATE: About the potentially eerie symbolism of a Massachusetts v. Texas World Series? Nevermind: Cardinals 5, Astros 2.

Posted 09:20 AM | Comments (6)

October 10, 2004

RIP Jacques Derrida

As thisdarkqualm notes, Jacques Derrida died yesterday (see also coverage from the BBC). As those stories indicate, Derrida had a huge influence on critical theory, philosophy, sociology, and politics in the last half of the 20th century, and his thinking had a huge influence on me, as well, especially in my first year of grad school. Yes, he may have gone too far at times, but he certainly helped explain the world we live in, and for that he will be sorely missed. If you haven't heard of him or aren't familiar with his work, I'm not sure where to steer you at the moment, but I found this little excerpt from a paper I wrote in my first year of grad school that attempted to explain one of his signature ideas, that of différance.
Différance refers to the double distance between the words we use and any “real” origin; words both defer their “real” meaning and differ from one another. An immediate example of this is the sentence: “You are reading what I am writing now.” Focusing on the word “now” in that sentence: First it's clear that this word has at least two equally “true” meanings — I am writing this now, December 17, 1999, yet you are reading this now, which is any time after it has been written. Thus, to say “now” is to fix a unique meaning on the word at some point which is always already changing. Any time we use a word we defer its “true” meaning in the sense of “the action of putting off until later, of taking account of time and of the forces of an operation that implies an economical calculation, a detour, a delay, a relay, a reserve, a representation” (Derrida 8). In other words, we can say that the question of the “true” meaning of the word “now” is irrelevant because we are always already, each time we use the word, deferring questions of “truth” to some later time that will never come (because each time we use the word we defer its “true” meaning again in favor of whatever meaning we intend to fix on it in the moment of its use, a process that continues infinitely). Second, the definition of the word “now” is a function of its difference from all other words; “now” is “now” because it is not “then” or “tree” or “onomatopoeia.” This is true for all words, therefore, for language as a whole. Thus, language can be seen as a system of representation, an assemblage of gestures toward “reality” (words) which we use to describe, or re-present, our world to ourselves and others. The above is based on: Derrida, Jacques. Margins of Philosophy. Trans. Alan Bass. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1982.
UPDATE 10/12/04: This slightly longer obit explains a bit more why Derrida was both so famous and so controversial. L. and I were talking about this and I unthinkingly said Derrida was “foundational” to the thinking of any philosopher, linguist, critical theorist, etc. today. That's funny b/c Derrida's main point is that there are no foundations to anything—it's kind of turtles all the way down. For a little fun primer on Derrida, you probably can't beat the Beginners illustrated version. This is a great series, btw; highly recommended for any “big thinker” when you'd like to try to understand the basics of their writing and thought w/out actually spending the rest of your life trying to read it. Other resources on Derrida include: a Derrida documentary made last a year, a intro, and a Wikipedia entry.

Posted 10:16 AM | Comments (9)

October 01, 2004

Happy Birthday Mom!

Happy birthday to the best mom ever! That would be the Ambivalent Mom, although she's much less ambivalent than I am. Most of you don't know her, so you'll just have to take my word for it—she's the sweetest, kindest, most generous and caring mother you'll ever find, and I hope she has a terrific birthday today!

Posted 09:20 AM | Comments (2)

September 30, 2004


Two quick public service announcements:
  1. Have you registered to vote yet? Please do so now! If you've already registered, you might consider donating to Just Vote or some similar organization to help finance their final push to get out the vote this November. Jason Kottke's Voters Information Guide offers more information and links to other organizations that are helping register people to vote and get them to the polls.
  2. Have you backed up your data recently? Everyone should back up freqeuntly, of course, but if you're a law student who is now several weeks into the fall semester and you haven't backed up your notes recently, all I can say is: Are you insane?
We now return to our regularly scheduled programming (trying to manage the chaos around here).

Posted 08:21 AM | Comments (3)

September 29, 2004

Network Down Again

Ok. Our wireless network is down again. I think it's time to stop whining and just pony up the monthly fees. Goodbye cell phone, hello land line and DSL!

Posted 08:42 PM | Comments (4)

September 28, 2004

Congratulations, Transmogriflaw!

Hey everyone! The future just got a little brighter -- Transmogriflaw now has a healthy, happy baby boy!

Posted 06:56 AM

September 19, 2004


FYI: The Next Big Thing is a cool radio show. I especially like the “Use It Or Lose It” feature, wherein “activist lexicographer” Erin McKean gives a writer a handful of words to use in his/her next novel or magazine or newspaper article. This week's words were lovertine (someone addicted to lovemaking), esprise (obsolete verb meaning “to inflame with love,” usually used in the passive, as in, “she was esprised and taken with his love”), and kakistocracy (a government run by its worst citizens). Hey, we're living in a kakistocracy! See why this show is great? McKean has also co-edited 1001 Legal Words You Need to Know. Do you know them all?

Posted 10:50 AM | Comments (1)

September 17, 2004

City Bikes Rocks

So after whining about how vulnerable my new Kryptoloc was to a Bic trick, I took it back to City Bikes where I bought it the other day. “Have you heard of the Bic trick?” I asked, putting my lock on the counter. The response was immediate. “Yeah. You want to exchange it for an On Guard lock?” So I did. It cost about $15 more and it‘s a lot heavier, but the flat key is supposed to make the thing a little safer. You can’t pick the lock with a Bic pen, anyway. So thank you, City Bikes! Now I see why you have a reputation as the best bike shop in D.C.! BTW, NPR is reporting on this as I type, it‘s been reported in the NY Times, and City Bikes has added a special page devoted to the issue. Oh yeah, this is going to be great for On Guard, and not so great for Kryptonite. It’s hard to have much sympathy for Kryptonite, though; it had the last 12 years to figure out how to avoid this problem...

Posted 05:06 PM

September 16, 2004

Bikers: Beware the Bic

A few days ago when I was leaving school I started unlocking my bike and found, to my great surprise, that it it was already unlocked. Apparently, that morning, since I was late to class I had rushed in locking the u-lock and I hadn‘t properly seated the u-bolt w/in the lock before I turned the key. So all day my bike sat outside the school in downtown D.C. unlocked. It looked locked, but if anyone had grabbed the u-locked and pulled, the lock would have come right open. Luckily, no one tried it. Also, I use a cable lock in addition to the u-lock, so a bike thief would have had to get through that, as well, before taking my bike. I don’t trust cables completely because I think they‘re too easy to cut. I’ve had three nice bikes stolen in my life (two came back to me—I‘m a very lucky guy!), so I try to be serious about locking my bike. After I discovered that my lock hadn’t really locked, I also discovered that it seemed to be locked open; I could no longer get the key in to open the lock and insert the u-bolt. I guess when I turned the key w/out the u-bolt being fully seated, I basically broke the lock. So the next day I went to the bike shop and bought a new lock. I didn‘t want to spend an arm and a leg, but I wanted a good lock, so I got the cheaper Kryptonite they had, a $35 standard Kryptolock u-lock. I was bummed about having to spend $35, but glad to know I had a quality lock. And then I saw this: Your Brand New U-Lock Is Not Safe!
As you guys might remember, I recently had the nicest set of wheels I’ve ever had stolen from me. Today I was hanging out with a friend and we got to talking about that - he said his friend showed him just recently how to open a U-Lock with a ball point pen. Of course I didn‘t believe it. That is until just thirty seconds ago when I opened my own Kryptonite Evolution 2000 with a bic ball point pen! This has to be the most absurd thing I’ve ever seen. Try it. Take the end off the pen, jam it in the lock, wiggle around and twist.
Is this for real!? It kind of looks like it. The above site links to videos of people actually opening Kryptonite locks with Bic pens, and Kryptonite responded and did not deny that this was possible. The owner of City Bikes (where I got my lock) even chimed in yesterday saying he‘d found the Bic trick quite easy to replicate. Some lock owners are talking class action. And I just bought a new Kryptonite lock. Crap.

Posted 11:07 AM | Comments (1)

September 10, 2004

Definition of Cute?

Ok, everybody go ooohhhaaaawwwww! (Note to those on dialup, this collection of images may take a while to load. For a quicker sample, see here, or here, or here, here, here, here, or here.)

Posted 04:28 PM

More Coolness This Weekend

In D.C. this weekend? Check out the D.C. Labor Film Festival at the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring. I'm thinking "Take Out" (tomorrow at 3:15) looks pretty good, as do some of the others, but they're all $8.50/each, so I'm thinking I won't be seeing more than one or two.

Posted 10:54 AM

September 09, 2004

Coolness Coming Up

Lots of cool things (mostly bands) are coming to D.C. Like, for example, Snow Patrol will be here Friday for $15. It appears that tickets are still available. No one really raved about them when I was looking for summer Rawk!, but they keep coming up in places I hear about good music. So, would you go? Next, the Green Festival will be in D.C. next weekend (Sept. 18-19) at the D.C. Convention Center. It costs $10 for lots of cool speakers (Amy Goodman! Jim Hightower! Greg Palast! Barbara Ehrenreich! Naomi Klein! William Greider! And more!). Or, they're still looking for volunteers to help out, and if you give them four hours of help, you get a free all-access pass for the weekend (plus a t-shirt!). Back to the music, The Killers, who nearly topped my summer Rawk! list, will play the 9:30 Club Sunday, October 3rd, for only $12. I'd love to see that, but Sunday!? And then, crazy joy of joys, who knew Camper van Beethoven was back? Apparently, they are, and their new album, "New Roman Times," will be out Oct. 12, which is also the night they're playing, you guessed it, the 9:30 Club. For $20, it's a pricey show, but how worth it! And how is it possible not to love this—according to lead singer David Lowery, the new album is a rock opera!
"We didn't want to make it an overt comment on the current political climate, so we made up a fictional North America in which there's many different countries that fight each other every once in a while, and Texas has gone neo-fascist and California has had a civil war. The main character is a soldier from the Fundamentalist Christian Republic of Texas, and the songs follow this solider and other people through the story. But it's not really that serious—there's space aliens, and we blow up the disco at the end."
I'm so there! If you can't wait for the album, the iTMS (iTunes Music Store) has an exclusive 3-song EP (that link will open in iTunes), which Lowery describes (iTunes link) as:
our very Camper-esque way of talking about the deep gulf between one America best represented by the right wing fundamentalist Christians of the south and interior, and the more urbane elements of the coasts ... we hope this record is an amusing distraction in the coming political season.
Gotta love it. (Note: No purchase necessary, void where prohibited, please see your local dealer for complete details. All plans, either express or implied, mentioned herein are subject to change w/out notice, depending on the exigencies of law school. Bleh.)

Posted 06:54 AM | Comments (3)

September 06, 2004

Just a little cannibalism

Talking with my dad yesterday on the phone about law, law school, and humorous cases (he went to law school, too), he reminded me of the fascinating case of Alfred (or Alferd) Packer, the Colorado (or San Juan) Cannibal. That link will give you the short story, including the legend of the judge's sentencing:
The verdict was guilty, with death by hanging. The legend was that Judge Melville B. Gerry, on pronouncing sentencing said..."...There was siven Dimmycrats in Hinsdale County! But you, yah voracious, main-eatin son of a bitch, yah et five of them, therefor I sentence ye T' be hanged by the neck until y're dead, dead, dead!". This was probably not the exact statement made by the judge as he was a well educated man, but makes for good story-telling. Later the sentence was reduced to manslaughter and he was given 40 years to be served at the prison in Canon City.
A more detailed account of the case can be found here, and the Alfred Packer Collection of the Colorado State Archives offers great documentation of the case (including what appears to be the more official transcript of the judge's sentencing order). For a more entertaining account of this and other "wild west" 19th century true tales that are stranger than fiction, head for your local library to check out a copy of Timberline by Eugene Fowler, a pseudo-historical novel that the City of Denver website describes as:
A gossipy, not always true, account of the adolescence of The Denver Post, written with as much zest and a shade more accuracy than the former con-man Bonfils and former bartender Tammen ever mustered for their outrageously sensational (and profitable) newspaper.
The book is kind of hard to find these days, but it's worth the effort—an excellent read. In its wild stories of the way Bonfils and Tammens swindled everyone they knew (always w/the best of humor), I suppose the book also proves the old adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same... Ok, back to obscure issues of intellectual property...

Posted 10:10 AM | Comments (1)

September 05, 2004

Feeling Fall

Labor Day Weekend. Fall about to begin. This is the best time of the year, my favorite. I love the changing of the weather (that hasn't really begun too much here yet)—when the nights get cool and the days warm and crisp and sparkling sunny, with leaves turning and falling to the ground and the air smelling so fresh and clean w/out the smog (and humidity) of summer. It's wonderful. But it is also hard, because it means returning to school, to class, to reading, to taking notes, to juggling schedules in very different ways from the juggling that goes on for most working people. It's not worse or harder, it's just different, and the adjustment takes time. I have not yet adjusted. I've read about 30 pages of the roughly 200 or more I've been assigned so far, I have a "pre-emption check" due for the journal on Monday, I have a half dozen things to do for different student groups (the Equal Justice Foundation (EJF), the National Lawyer's Guild (NLG), and GW Law Democrats), and something really must be done about getting a budget around here before I wind up in the poorhouse. (Does anyone have any good recommendations for a simple but efficient Mac money manager?) So much to do, and all I want to do is go hiking. (Click "more" for a blow-by-blow of the weekend's festivities and some notes on nostalgia.) I have very little to complain about, though, having spent all day yesterday sightseeing and hanging out with some of my best and oldest friends who have been in town this weekend for a wedding. We enjoyed tapas on Friday night at Jaleo in Bethesda, followed by drinks at the Barking Dog (which I don't recommend—loud, young, and they served raw chicken tenders, which is always a bad thing and tends to outweigh other factors in determining the quality of a place). Yesterday included a nonconventional trip right past the mall—we almost religiously avoided monuments and "must-see" sights—to the peddle boats in the Tidal Basin. L. and I pedaled our little four-person craft and quickly became exhausted and soaked in sweat. The weather was warm, partly cloudy, and deathly calm, so out on the water we just sort of baked in the heat. Needless to say, our paddle was short, but we did get some nice views of the Jefferson Memorial. I recommend the paddle boats in later September or early October when the weather is much, much cooler. The paddle boat excursion was followed up by a drink at someplace on F street called "The American Grill" or something similarly uninspired (I don't recognize it on this list of DC cigar bars). It was decorated in a mountain cabin motif and it turns out it was a cigar bar, complete with banks of personal humidors where the regulars kept their private collections of stogies. When we asked for a table for four we were asked, "Are you aware that this is an all smoking establishment?" We weren't, but we didn't care all that much at that point? "Does that mean we're required to smoke?" I asked. The answer was no, and thankfully the place was pretty empty and no one else was smoking, so it was a nice place for a beer and a few minutes watching Michigan trounce Miami Ohio. After a terrific bottle of wine back at our humble abode, we dined at Meskerem, a great Ethiopian place on 18th Street where I learned that Ethiopian custom is for everyone to eat from the same plate because those who do so will never go to war against one another. It may not be true, but in case it is, I think we should definitely change the customs at all meetings of international bodies and political leaders. We migrated from there to the Brickskeller (because, since I first visited a couple of months ago no one will now be allowed to visit me in D.C. w/out having at least one drink at the Brickskeller!) where we were joined by another great old friend. That triggered a mini-high school reunion with all the rummaging around in the cupboards of the past that such things can involve. We moved the reunion on the Childe Harold in Dupont Circle, and finally to the Big Hunt (what a bad bad name for a bar!) for a shot of Goldschlager (don't ask, except that, ok, they were right, I was wrong, it is real gold!). Nothing like topping off the night with something both viscous and sparkly! But, and so, the work awaits. And I don't want to do it, though I know I must. While fall is a beautiful time to be alive, all the beauty (and probably also seeing old friends) reminds me of all that I'm missing in this world and in this life as I work my way toward a J.D. I'll spare you the ruminations, but suffice to say that two more years like the last year sound very very unappealing right now. It was beyond words wonderful seeing old friends and seeing them seem so happy with their lives and what they've done and become in the many years since I saw them last. But the experience also brought on a bit of nostalgia about the past and also raises all the old questions of What am I doing in law school? And why am I doing it? And is this really the life I want to be living? I don't have answers to those questions and I feel pretty well past the point where I can entertain them seriously, anyway. But spending the weekend w/non-law friends also gave me an idea of why there's a stereotype that lawyers are boring and that is that they typically work too hard on things that they can't really talk about because of confidentiality reasons, meaning that since they can't talk about their work, and their work is really all they do, lawyers seem very boring to people who aren't lawyers. It's just a theory. YMMV.

Posted 08:10 PM | Comments (3)

August 28, 2004

Last Saturday before 2L

it's the last Saturday before school starts (for me), and I really wish it would last forever. I purchased books yesterday to the tune of $430 (that's 8 books). This was after picking up and depositing my "auto refund" check, which means I only had to use first order fake money to pay for the books instead of the second order fake money I've been existing on for a few weeks now.

Tangent: All borrowed money is fake money because it's not really yours; you have to find that money again someday to pay off the loan, so you're not really spending money, you're spending promissory notes. So both school loans and credit cards are fake money; however, school loans are first order fake money because you're getting cash directly from a lender. Credit cards are second order fake money because you don't even get cash, you get nothing except the debt, which, if you're like me, you can then pay off with the cash from your loans. It's all very ugly. Fake money is bad, no matter how you slice it.

But, and so, it's the last Saturday before school starts and I'm sure as hell not opening any of those gold-plated books I bought. instead, I want to try to finish reading The DaVinci Code, and we're also busily preparing for a BBQ we're hosting tonight. One benefit of our new apt. is the deck and grill out back—it would be a shame not to use it! So it'll be BBQ'd chicken, burgers, hot dogs, brats, portobellos, gardenburgers, and smart dogs (never say we don't have enough options), plus grilled corn on the cob, a nice fresh pasta salad, and a tangy BLT salad as well. For desert, L. has whipped up something with homemade pudding, cool whip, cappuccino, and oreos. I'm not sure what it is, but I know I'm going to wish there was more. The evening will end w/a no limit Hold 'Em Poker tournament, with a million dollar first prize. (Kidding about the prize part.)

See why I wish this day would last forever?

Posted 05:05 PM | Comments (4)

August 21, 2004

Gamblers R Us

It's 3:44 a.m. Do you know where your children are?

We're off to Atlantic City to gamble away all the money we don't have. (It's a late b-day trip for L.) Don't burn the place down while I'm away, ok?

p.s.: For the five of you who click over there each day, ambivalent images is kind of messed up right now. I'll try to fix it when I get back...

Posted 03:56 AM | Comments (1)

August 18, 2004

Settling in

And then we were moved. After a solid four days of almost non-stop moving-type activities (packing, throwing away, loading, unloading, unpacking, arranging, rearranging, etc.), our new place is beginning to look a little like a place we'll be able to live. A little. There are still many boxes to unpack, the furniture arrangement is still up in the air, and we're seriously flummoxed with the sorry state of the kitchen. How could we have missed the fact that there's almost no cabinet space and that which does exist is rotting (literally) and falling apart? Yeah, that's right. There are a total of five drawers in our kitchen, all very small. Of the five, two are missing their fronts—they apparently pulled right off. Two of the other three are about to lose their fronts, as well, primarily because the drawers are warped and swollen and barely move on their tracks. Great.

How do you persuade your landlord you need an entirely new kitchen?

Of course, that's not going to happen. Judging by other little details of this place, our landlord—who I must stress seems very very nice and who I like a lot—has kind of skated by, doing the minimum in maintenance for some time. In addition to the tiny, falling apart and otherwise completely substandard kitchen, the bathroom exhaust fan was broken, the walls are scuffed and pocked with holes, and there are about four strange little dead spaces at different points around the place. These dead spaces are little closet-type spaces containing the guts of the apartment—furnace, water heater, electrical panel, random plumbing and wiring, and other machinery I cannot identify. That's fine; every house/building must put these things somewhere. The trouble with this place is that all of these mechanicals have been positioned randomly and w/out any forethought, then they were enclosed in the same manner, thereby creating huge pockets of "dead space"—meaning space that is almost completely unusable, wasted. We're talking maybe close to 20 square feet or more of space that you mostly can't do anything with; you can store boxes or something in part of it, but otherwise, nada. This is a tragedy in an already small apartment.

But enough of the whining. The place is growing on me, and we're going to save $300-400/month (the savings vary b/c we don't pay utilities so I'm counting the variable costs we used to pay in utilities as savings). Plus, I've already replaced the bathroom exhaust fan, so there's one complaint out of the way. The bathroom is the size of a small closet and L. could not cope with the lack of circulation in there; after I'd replaced the fan, I realized she was right. Other big pluses include a cool covered and locked bike storage area in the entryway; access to the back "deck, including gas grill and patio furniture (w/prior approval of the landlords who live upstairs); and a dog park right across the street. No more walking a block and a half just to let the animal get her ya-yas out. (No, a block and a half isn't far, but it gets a little old when you do it 3-4 times/day and/or when you're in a hurry to get to class or work.)

So we're settling in. This is the third time we've moved in the last 15 months, and I'm hoping it will be the last time for about two more years. Moving blows.

I was going to write something about how much U-Haul also blows because they jerk you around w/your reservations and never have the equipment you reserved and their trucks smell bad and are in poor repair, and and.... I was going to write all that, none of which I need to write because if you've used U-Haul you know what I'm talking about already, but I'm holding off on that to see if their "SafeMove" insurance policy will save my buttocks. A big blemish on this recent move was that I sort of, um, got too close to a parked car w/the truck and pulled its passenger-side mirror right off. Oops! The repair bill is going to be upwards of $300, and I just don't have that right now. So now I'm waiting to hear back from U-Haul's insurance company to see if they will cover the claim. Keep your fingers crossed for me, will you?

Posted 11:06 PM | Comments (5)

August 12, 2004

NaNoWriMo News

Speaking of NaNoWriMo (which I was in the last post), this will be my third (or is it fourth?) year as a participant, and from the July update, it looks like this year will be better than ever. First, Chris Baty, the founder of the "event" or "contest" or "insane spectacle" — whatever you want to call it — has published a book:

No Plot? No Problem: A low-stress, high-velocity guide to writing a novel in 30 days will be out in September. It's 175 pages of fun strategy, tender support, and merciless pants-kicking, all designed to help you thrive in November's frenzied creative milieu. Once read, it will also give you the ability to speak Italian and see through steel, though the publishers don't want me to talk about that.

Sure, it's a shameless ploy to make some money off of all those aspiring novel-writers out there, but I've been getting writing encouragement and advice from Baty for several years and I can tell you this book will probably be worth your pennies.

In addition to the book, NaNoWriMo is partnering with a non-profit group to help build a library somewhere in the world where people don't have access to such a thing:

That group is called Room to Read, and they've built over 1000 libraries in areas like Cambodia, Nepal and India. We'll be donating 20% of NaNoWriMo's net proceeds to them this year. Our goal for 2004 is to raise enough money to build a NaNoWriMo-sponsored library in a community that could otherwise not afford one. This may seem like a ridiculous goal, but if there's something that NaNoWriMo excels at, it's ridiculous undertakings.

I don't think NaNoWriMo has ever had much in the way of "proceeds," but now there's a better than ever reason to make sure that changes. I can't wait for November. (But, well, yeah I can. I've got lots to do between now and then!!)

Posted 07:08 AM

August 11, 2004

The Book I Am?

You're Watership Down! by Richard Adams

Though many think of you as a bit young, even childish, you're actually incredibly deep and complex. You show people the need to rethink their assumptions, and confront them on everything from how they think to where they build their houses. You might be one of the greatest people of all time. You'd be recognized as such if you weren't always talking about talking rabbits.

Take the Book Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.

[link via Half-Cocked; see also Buzzwords, aka The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.]

Posted 05:54 AM | Comments (5)

July 31, 2004

Happy Birthday, DG!

Today, some small but unknown number of years ago, the world was blessed with the birth of the Ditzy Genius. All good people rejoiced, and said rejoicing continues to this very day. We treasure her wit and wisdom, and hope to never do anything to merit a mention on her enemies list. ;-)

Posted 12:46 PM | Comments (1)

July 21, 2004

Laramie Learns Ignorance

Web serendipity: Via a link on Scripting News to a cool photo of Arizona lightning, I just stumbled upon Learn Ignorance, a photoblog featuring daily shots of Laramie, Wyoming and environs. Nice!

Yeah, I'm probably biased about how nice this is. I did a lot of my growing up in Laramie, and got my undergrad degree there, plus it's just fairly rare to stumble upon anything from Wyoming—online or off. Last I checked, it was the least populated state in the nation (more cattle than people, I believe), spent more per capita on education than any other state, and its sole university is the highest (elevation-wise) in the nation at around 7,230 feet. Wyoming is a special place in many ways, one that very few people seem to know much about (it's somewhere near the heart of flyover country), so it's great to see such a neat site coming from there. I'm not sure about the name; are we supposed to learn about what we're ignorant of, or is it really encouraging us to be more ignorant?

For more than you ever wanted to know about Wyoming, check out its FedStats Page. Fun facts about Wyoming as compared to D.C. and U.S. averages:

  • Percent of population claiming to be "white": 92.1% WY; 30.8% D.C.; 75.1% U.S.
  • Median home value: $96,600 WY; $157,200 D.C.; $119,600 U.S.
  • Average commute time (minutes): 17.8 WY, 29.7 D.C., 25.5 U.S.
  • Median income: $37,892 WY; $40,127 D.C.; $41,194 U.S. Think about that. A good number of people in this country make $60-80k/year, others make over $100k, and still others make millions each year. If $40k is the average, then that means a lot of people are making much less than that.
  • Percent of persons below the poverty line: 11.4% WY, 20.2% D.C., 12.4% U.S.
  • Persons per square mile: 5.1 WY, 9,316.4 D.C., 79.6 U.S.

Posted 06:28 AM | Comments (7)

July 18, 2004

The Killers Are Killer

Before leaving for vacation a few weeks ago I loaded up the iPod w/some new music, including "Hot Fuss" by The Killers. After listening to the album round and round for a dozen times or more, I just wanted to say: They really do rock.

Thanks to Cinnamon and everyone else for the recommendations.

That is all.

Posted 01:21 PM | Comments (5)

July 13, 2004

More Wackiness, Please

Thanks to DG (via Beanie), my very own results in the latest quiz making the rounds:

Wackiness: 38/100
Rationality: 52/100
Constructiveness: 64/100
Leadership: 68/100

You are an SECL--Sober Emotional Constructive Leader. This makes you a politician. You cut deals, you change minds, you make things happen. You would prefer to be liked than respected, but generally people react to you with both. You are very sensitive to criticism, since your entire business is making people happy.

At times your commitment to the happiness of other people can cut into the happiness of you and your loved ones. This is very demanding on those close to you, who may feel neglected. Slowly, you will learn to set your own agenda--including time to yourself.

You are gregarious, friendly, charming and charismatic. You like animals, sports, and beautiful cars. You wear understated gold jewelry and have secret bad habits, like chewing your fingers and fidgeting.

You are very difficult to dislike.

That's what I call a backhanded compliment. On the one hand, I'm supposedly difficult to dislike; on the other, I'm supposedly a politician, which would make me very easy to dislike. Maybe I'll edit out the politician part and whip out this diagnosis the next time someone says they want to beat the crap out of me. Of course, now that I know DG is a mob boss, maybe I can just try to stay on her good side and let her take care of such problems. Or I could always ask Beanie to turn some of her evil genius against those those don't fully appreciate the difficulty of disliking me. Combined with GdG's font of knowledge, this sounds like an invincible team of superheros. As one of my neighbors used to say, "I know people...."

Posted 06:22 AM | Comments (3)

July 12, 2004

And we're back!

After a wonderful and extremely relaxing week in Michigan, it's time to get back in the groove here. For those with any interest, you'll find a few highlights from our vacation on ambivalent images (just click back through the last week of photos, or start here and go forward). Mostly we fished, played cards, read books, watched movies (in addition to Spiderman 2, I saw Paycheck and 50 First Dates) and ate too much great food. It was great times, but all good things must end, and so it's back to work here.

As everyone certainly knows by now, while we were away, Kerry picked Edwards as his running mate, so it's going to be John & John v. George & Dick. What else did I miss? Not only was I in a virtual Internet blackout (L's parents have a dialup connection so I did check email a couple of times, but no real surfing), but I was also in a virtual NPR and newspaper blackout, meaning my only source of information about the outside world was Fox News, CNN, and local tv news. After a week of that, the only thing I remember is something about Scott and Laci Peterson. TV has become a horrible source for news, unless you're watching The Daily Show or NOW with Bill Moyers on PBS. (Speaking of which, Tivo saved last Friday's edition for us and the interview with Thomas Frank about how the so-called "culture wars" have increased Americans' tendencies to vote against our own best interests is definitely worth your while.)

Anyway, even though it was a week ago now, I hope everyone had a happy Fourth of July. I'll be playing catchup around here for a while, but things should be more or less back on track...

Posted 06:35 AM | Comments (5)

July 03, 2004

Loaded for Bear

Well, we're off ... to Michigan for the Fourth of July holiday—and then some. Ambivalent Productions—theimbroglio, the bits, and the images—will be quiet for about a week, during which time I'll be busy living life instead of making other plans. I expect that will involve many hands of pinochle, poker, and possibly Wizard w/L's family, as well as some fishing and reading and movie-watching and great food and just generally relaxing and hanging out. Should be fun.

Thanks to everyone who helped with musical suggestions the other day, the iPod is now loaded with old Morrissey (Viva Hate) for old time's sake; the new Pixies single, "Bam Thwok" (no one mentioned it, but it's the Pixies, which makes it, by definition, superlative); Modest Mouse (of course); the Franz Ferdinand single, "Take Me Out" (it is yummy); and Hot Fuss by The Killers. That last one was in tight competition with Snow Patrol, which I really like the sound of for some reason, from the clips on iTMS—I hear some Dinosaur Jr., Led Zeppelin, and other strange goodness. Also I almost went for The Shins, but they'll have to wait for a more money day. Finally, we'll be listening to some "Fuzzy Math" from the George W. Bush Public Domain Audio Archive, and "Novel Writing" by Monty Python for inspiration and fun.

Of course, the iPod will also be spinning the complete Wilco oeuvre, minus the new one which I couldn't spring for yet, despite all the fuss it's getting. I just didn't feel like getting into too much more downtempo stuff for this trip, and it sounds like "A Ghost Is Born" is not a real sing-along sort of album. We'll also have some Jayhawks, Nuspirit Helsinki, Elliot Smith (talk about your downtempo), Weezer, The Donnas, Cat Power, Dashboard Confessional (yikes! more depression music!), Elevator Ride, the White Stripes, Interpol, The Viper and His Famous Orchestra, Weezer, Cake, TMBG, Flaming Lips, and um, um, more. I do think our ears will be pleasantly entertained for the duration of the 11-hour drive—at least until L. gets sick of my musical selections.

Happy Independence Day Holiday, everyone. Speaking of which, if you'd like a great read in the next week, The Corporation is an incredible page-turner. Funny thing happened on the way to independence day....

Oh, and speaking of books, note to self: Upon return, write up some reaction to the books you've finished recently, including Oryx and Crake (masterful! although L. says not as good as The Blind Assassin, which I'm taking with me), The Corrections, and How Can You Defend Those People? (what an interesting Google search that makes). That's all in addition to The Corporation, which I hope to say something more about soon. Gee. Suddenly my leisure reading has turned into a lot of work...

Posted 05:51 AM | Comments (3)

July 02, 2004

Not So Big

New in the blogroll: The Painted Turtle random thoughts by kmsqrd, a 20-something engineer who says she wants to live in a Not So Big House. I never knew it before, I but I probably want to live in a not so big house, too. Doesn't that sound like a good idea?

Kmsqrd also has a cool side-blog called Collected Thoughts, "a collection of quotations by others that encourage thought." This is a great idea, and another great use of the blog form. I would only note that a site like this is just begging for categories and keywords; as it grows, it may become difficult for kmsqrd and her readers to find certain quotes they're looking for, so this kind of "metadata" would be really helpful. Does the new Blogger offers such things?

Posted 08:08 AM | Comments (1)

July 01, 2004

I'll Sue!

To the jogger who punched me yesterday afternoon:

Hi. How are you? I'm the guy you punched yesterday. Remember? It was around 6:30 p.m. You were jogging toward me, I was biking toward you. We were on opposite sides of a multi-use paved path that was 8-10 feet wide with a dotted yellow line down the middle. There was a jogger ahead of me, also moving toward you. She was on the far right side of the path, you were on the far left, leaving a lane in the middle at least 4 feet wide for me to pass through as you jogged by. But you apparently decided that wasn't satisfactory. As we approached each other, I saw you begin moving toward the center of the path, instead of staying on the far left where you'd been jogging. I wondered why you were doing that, but it didn't matter; there was still plenty of room for me. Then, as we passed, you reached out and punched my arm. You punched me! It hurt, and was also quite shocking. I turned around to look back at you and it appeared you were shaking your fist and yelling at me. I thought about stopping to ask you why you'd assaulted me like that, but I figured I was probably better off keeping my distance from a potential psychopath who randomly punches people.

Why did you punch me? You looked to be in your 30s or 40s; how did you make it this far in life thinking that punching people was a good way to communicate? I assume you were trying to suggest that I should not have tried to pass the jogger in front of me when you were jogging toward me on the other side of the path, but if so, and if you weren't the kind of person who would rather punch than talk, I would beg to differ. There was plenty of room—plenty!—for all three of us on that trail. If you really think you need at least a 5-foot distance from all other path-users at all times, may I suggest you find another path to jog? The path we met on is very popular, and it's especially crowded between about 5-7 p.m. as people commute home from work and/or get their evening exercise after work. Most of the trail's users appear to understand that we must cooperate to use the trail. It's called sharing—you should really try it. However, if you really need a trail to yourself, perhaps you could try jogging at midnight; I bet the trail is fairly empty at that hour.

Really, I don't care what you do, except, please don't punch me again. If you do, I'll have to stop and ask politely for your name and address. I'm sure it won't take more than a day or two for the summons to reach you and then you can see whether a judge thinks it's ok to punch people for no reason at all.

Thanks, and have swell day. Sincerely,

Your friendly bike commuter.

Posted 07:08 AM | Comments (17)

June 30, 2004


A few weeks ago I predicted that "Float On" by Modest Mouse will be "the definitive 'indie' rock anthem of Summer 2004." While I may have overstated my case, if NPR has anything to do with it (and it probably doesn't) the song is on its way:

Music commentator Alexandra Patsavas is a music supervisor in Los Angeles, and we let her listen to all the new albums so we don't have to. Today, she's got five song suggestions that you should consider including in your summer music rotation: "Float On" by Modest Mouse; "Somebody Told Me" by The Killers; "Spitting Games" by Snow Patrol; "Saturday Night" by Ozomatli; and "One Horse Town" by The Thrills.

So what about the rest there? Anyone have any thoughts on The Killers, Snow Patrol, Ozomatli, or The Thrills? And who are these "Shins" I've been hearing a bit about? Bekah, Steve, Justin, (and anyone else, of course) hear my pleas for enlightenment!

Note: Looks like Steve's got some summer recommendations here.

Posted 06:30 AM | Comments (8)

June 20, 2004


If you were ever a reader of Cooped Up, a blog by IU-Indianapolis Law Professor Jeff Cooper, you'll be glad to know his hiatus from blogging has been broken with a couple of posts describing a breakthrough in his son's development. For those who aren't familiar with the story, Professor Cooper was a prolific blogger who suddenly stopped posting last October when he learned that his son, Noah, had a developmental delays and possible hearing disabilities. Seven months later, it sounds like Noah is beginning to do much better. Hooray!

On a light note, Professor Cooper's story should settle the Apple v. Dell debate once and for all — in favor of the magical Macintosh, of course. ;-)

Posted 02:14 PM

June 09, 2004

Ironing Is Wrong

I've often been told I'm a master of the obvious, and in that role I'm here to tell you that the act of ironing clothing has got to be among the most pointless and just plain wrong activities available to modern humans. There is something very sick and wrong with a culture that requires clothes to be free of wrinkles, and places such a premium on this that it requires hours and hours of horrifyingly tedious work in order to ensure that no wrinkle sees the inside of any workplace with a "business casual" or "business" dress-code. What, praytell, is so awful about a few wrinkles? Ironing is so pointless it makes me want to scream!

Perhaps I will develop a very short but scathing explanation for why I think anyone who notices or cares about wrinkles is an asinine moron. Then, I will wear very wrinkled clothes—I will never lift an iron again. When anyone comments on how wrinkled or rumpled I look, I will lay into them with my short but scathing explanation of why I think they are an asinine moron. Don't you think this would be a great way to win friends and influence people?

Posted 05:16 AM | Comments (10)

June 02, 2004

Mount Vernon Trail

Last Sunday, in my first bike ride of the summer, I took a little spin on the Mount Vernon Trail (see map). I didn't want to be too ambitious, so I just went as far as Old Town, Alexandria, which I believe is just a little more than halfway to Mount Vernon. As many others can attest, this is a popular ride/run/walk, and for good reason. The trail is generally smooth and the scenery is varied and sometimes quite beautiful. Between my apartment and Alexandria, I saw downtown D.C. (not bad, scenery-wise, as far as cities go—there's a monuments everywhere you look), the Potomac (which I crossed), grassy fields, dense deciduous forests with a few conifers thrown in here and there, and a short stretch of swampland just north of Alexandria which I imagine might resemble the Florida Everglades in miniature. In all, a very nice ride. The path also crosses right under one of the landing paths for Reagan National Airport, so if you're into that sort of thing you can take a break and lay in the grass watching the planes glide over your head so close it almost feels like you could reach up and touch them.

One note about this ride: As a bonus to the nice scenery the path is well-signed so once you're on it you'll have no trouble knowing where to go. The problem is in accessing the path in the first place. I searched high and low for directions from downtown D.C. to the entrance to the bike path on the 14th Street Bridge across the Potomac. I knew there was a bike path there, but I also guessed getting on that path might be a trick. I couldn't find any web directions, so I had to go down there and poke around. What I learned was that you actually need to access the bike path from a point just behind the Jefferson Memorial. If you're in downtown D.C., the best way to get to that point might be to head to the Mall, cross over, and follow Independence along the tidal basin until you find yourself behind the Jefferson Memorial. More directly, you can take 15th street past the White House and the Washington Monument, and just stay on it across Independence Ave. until, again, you're behind the Jefferson Memorial. You'll see the asphalt bike path to your left. (This map might help a little.) D.C. desperately needs more bike routes and dedicated bike paths, but even more crucial and easily-accomplished would be better signage for the bike routes that already exist.

I realize I am biased, but really, there's something about seeing the world from a bike that makes the world more beautiful. I'm ashamed and a bit sad to admit this was my first little ride of the summer. I envy Scoplaw, who seems to be spending the summer biking a lot and reading and writing (and writing about) poetry. I'm quite sure more biking and poetry (or perhaps really compelling novels) would make my summer infinitely better. To that end, I may begin commuting to work by bike. I wonder how well this garment bag pannier works...

Posted 05:07 AM | Comments (2)

May 30, 2004

It Has Us

What is The Meatrix? Just a little food for thought on this big barbecue weekend. Now pass me another burger, will you? (Hormone- and anti-biotic free, and from a family farm, please. Thanks. More info here.)

Posted 12:18 PM | Comments (1)

May 29, 2004

Happy Memorial Day Weekend

The weather here in D.C. is gorgeous—sunny and cool, with the promise of more to come. It rained last night, so the city seems fresh and clean and sparkly. It's a great weekend for outdoor plans.

The big event in D.C. this weekend is the dedication of the WWII Memorial on the Mall. Yesterday on my way home from work I noticed lots of veterans and their families on the train—you could tell because many wore items of clothing (hats, jackets, etc.) with identifiers of company, or branch of service, or rank, etc. Although the memorial has received a lot of criticism, this should still be a very memorable and meaningful weekend for those veterans who are able to come to the dedication. "The greatest generation" seems a bit hyperbolic, but I'm certainly thankful for the sacrifices and dedication of so many (American and otherwise) in the first half of the 20th century. I wonder what the vets coming to Washington this weekend think of the world they live in today.

Posted 06:49 AM | Comments (5)

May 12, 2004

Ani Live

I saw Ani DiFranco last night at the 9:30 Club. Great show, as usual. This was the fourth time I've seen her live since '96 (gulp! time flies!) and she never fails to play a great show. She doesn't seem to play very long (just a bit over an hour for the last two shows with only one, one-song encore), but she plays hard.

She's touring in support of her new album, Educated Guess, so she played quite a few songs from that album (the title track and "Origami" are the only ones I recognized; I don't have the album yet), as well as quite a few from the last album, Evolve, including the title track, "Phase," and "Serpentine." She also played some older faves, including "Firedoor," "Untouchable Face," "As Is" (with a super-funky arrangement—her electric guitarist, "Tony," was awesome), and "Angry Anymore" among others. Most of these were sing-alongs with the crowd shouting the lyrics so loudly in the small venue that they almost drowned Ani out. She played radical variations on some of them, and I wondered if one reason for that is to thwart the sing-alongs. I would guess she'd do this esp. on "Untouchable Face"; when I first heard her play the song live (at a show at the Berkeley High School, I believe), before she played it she actually asked the audience not to shout the chorus at her since it's not really fun to be at the front of the room while hundreds of people shout "F-you" at the top of their lungs. But that may have nothing to do with it; maybe she mixes up the arrangements just to keep the songs fun and fresh. Whatever the case, it was an awesome show. If she's coming near you this summer, don't miss it!

Posted 07:38 AM | Comments (5)

May 09, 2004

National Mall

You can't visit D.C. without spending at least a day on the National Mall visiting all the monuments. Or, avoid the sunburn and all the walking and take a quick virtual tour here.

Posted 06:49 AM | Comments (1)

May 08, 2004

DC Touristing

Ed. note: The following post was composed sometime in early March, but I never posted it for some reason. I'm posting it now b/c my family is in town and we're seeing the sights.

One of the benefits of going to school in D.C. is, of course, being in D.C. with all its monuments and museums and national treasures and whatnot. In a small attempt to appreciate some of that cultural/historical goodness, I took a tour of the White House yesterday with a small group from my section at GW. (The first-year class at GW is divided into four large sections of approximately 100 people who take all classes except legal writing together, plus one night section of equal size.) It was fascinating but short; the public is only allowed in a very small part of the building.

Humorous note: It was cool out, so I was wearing a jacket that just happened to have a "Dean for America" sticker on it. I believe I was in the Green Room and I asked one of the guards if she could tell me anything about one of the paintings on the wall. Rather than answering, she looked at my sticker and said, "It's pretty brave of you to wear that in here while George Bush is president." I didn't know what to say. How are you supposed to respond to that? So I just said, "It's a free country last I checked," and tried to smile politely. The guard also smiled and then looked up at the painting and began her well-rehearsed speech about it. Lesson: Be sure to prominently display your support for Democratic candidates if you take a White House tour. The guards enjoy the diversion.

A few ideas for when people visit you in D.C.:

Take them on a tour of the White House. Not very practical because you need a group of at least 10 or more and you have to sign up way in advance.

More practical might be: Tour the capital building! You have to line up in the morning of the day you visit to get tickets, but you need to write your Congressperson in advance of your visit if you want tickets to view the actual Senate or House chambers. I'm told it's well worth it.

Law students and their families might especially enjoy a tour of the Supreme Court. (more info)

And, of course, all those museums. I wouldn't recommend the zoo right now, though. Bad stuff happening there. Tragic, really.
Posted while listening to: The Golden Age (Live) from the album "Garage D'Or (Disc 2)" by Cracker

Posted 07:28 AM | Comments (5)

May 03, 2004

Remote Controlled Teaching

This story about teachers using "clickers" in university and law school class rooms is fascinating:

For these and other professors across the nation, the newest aid in the classroom is a small wireless keypad, linked to a computer. Students answer questions not by raising their hands but by punching buttons, with the results appearing on a screen in the front of the room.

Although some skeptics dismiss the devices as novelties more suited to a TV game show than a lecture hall, educators who use them say their classrooms come alive as never before. Shy students have no choice but to participate, the instructors say, and the know-it-alls lose their monopoly on the classroom dialogue.

Professor Wilde has her students answer multiple-choice questions to gauge whether she is getting her point across and adjusts her lectures accordingly. "I can instantly see that three-quarters of the class doesn't get it," she said.
. . .

The devices look and work much as a television remote does, sending infrared signals to a receiver at the front of the classroom. The receiver is connected to a computer, which tabulates and analyzes the responses. The data can be displayed by an overhead projector, incorporated into a spreadsheet or posted on a class Web site. Responses are anonymous among the students, but not to the teachers, who can identify students by the serial numbers of their clickers.

Doesn't that sound awesome? I'm not sure how these clickers would integrate with discussion; it seems a teacher would have to be well-prepared and very flexible to encourage regular, productive give-and-take of classroom discussion in addition to having time and opportunity to make the clickers useful. But that's just it; if teachers are forced to think a bit more about how they present information, and if students are constantly forced to engage, I bet learning improves. Maybe it's just the tech-fan in me, but I would have loved to try to make use of these things in the English classes I used to teach, and I would have loved to use them as a student in the past year of law school. [link via JD2B, which also links to an abstract of a forthcoming journal article on the subject of using clickers in law classrooms]

Posted 06:24 AM | Comments (2)

April 29, 2004

Contracts Schmontracts

Yeah, ok, the contracts final wasn't so bad. I'm in no hurry to get the grade, but I'm sure it could have been worse. On to ConLaw and ppppppProperty!

But not just yet. First, I want to read about Dick Cheney's absolute right to know and not tell, which is much more fun after a CivPro exam than I'm guessing it would have been before. I'm all over that writ of mandamus!

I also want to see what John Kerry Is A Douche Bag But I'm Voting For Him is all about. I mean, I think I can figure it out, but I'll take a few moments to ponder the implications, nonetheless.

And what about Operation Take One For The Country!? I think this will take some rigorous analysis. [UPDATE: Link via Three Years of Hell. Sorry I forgot to mention that in the first place.]

Then maybe I'll put my music library online with iPlaylist so you can all mock my musical knavishness, then add some recommendations to the Music Recommendation System for iTunes. Seems like a good idea, at least in theory.

Or maybe I'll just watch some crap tv. ;-)

Posted 07:22 PM | Comments (1)

April 28, 2004

Missing Homeownership

One year ago yesterday I sold the cutest little house I'll ever own. It was the cutest, because it just may be the only house I'll ever own, but after all the work I and my parents and sister and friends put into it, it was darned cute. One year later, looking at the pictures, I really miss that house. Damn nostalgia! But it's not just nostalgia. In Urbana, IL, where I used to live, I bought a two-bedroom house in 2000 for $50,000. My monthly mortgage payment was about $420/month. (I also paid $100-$300/month for utilities and whatnot; it varied a lot depending on the weather—poor insulation.) But that mortgage payment was more like a bank deposit because I got it back w/interest when I sold the place. Here, in the middle of D.C., L. and I each pay $850/month for rent alone ($1700/month total), and that's really a pretty great deal for around here. The kicker: We pay twice as much, and not one cent of that money is coming back. When we move out of this place, we'll be lucky to get our deposit back. Renting just blows. And don't even get me started on car parking (which is impossible around here; plan to spend minimum half hour circling the vicinity every time you want to park unless you just get really lucky) and the lack of a yard.

I want my house back.

Posted 06:17 AM | Comments (9)

April 23, 2004

Float On

I hereby predict the definitive "indie" rock anthem of Summer 2004 will be: "Float On" by Modest Mouse. [video, lyrics] If I were you, I'd follow this advice:


Now accepting nominations for other contenders in this or any other category of must-listen music. Studying requires a good soundtrack, no?

BTW: Several free (legal) and yummy mp3s here. And Better Propaganda also promises to be a treasure trove of great new tunes.

Ok. Back to making Erie my docile little plaything.

Posted 08:03 PM | Comments (5)

TV Turnoff Week

10th anniv logo cropped copy Due to what must be a magical alignment of the planets, this week, the week I'm supposed to be spending every available minute studying (obviously that's not working) is also TV Turnoff Week! We didn't realize this until Tuesday, but the TV has been dark since then. It's kind of nice, actually. Of course, our friend Tivo is saving up a few goodies for us to watch later, like The Daily Show and Survivor All-Stars, but, well... That's not really cheating, is it? Oh, that reminds me, have you heard about what's happening on The Apprentice? Now that's what I call must-see tv!

Posted 05:50 AM

April 18, 2004

Superman Loves Wyoming!

Jerry Seinfeld and Superman want you to use American Express. I hate that I enjoyed this so much. It's an advertisement, fergoodnessake! I saw the Daily Show episode last week where Seinfeld was talking about the extra-long commercials he was making for AmEx, and as a matter of principle I was determined not to go watch them. But then I was supposed to be studying for finals, so any distraction is a good distraction. Yesterday I turned over our washing machine to see if I could figure out why it was making such loud banging noises. (Answer: It's broken.) Yeah. Distractions are good. And then Scott at L-Cubed had to go and link to the Seinfeld ad, so of course I had to watch it. And then it had to feature Wyoming. And Superman. I mean, maybe I would be able to dislike the ad if I weren't from Wyoming, but I am, and the poor state just takes so much grief that even an ad that makes fun of Wyoming is a heartwarming change. And this ad is funny. It is. Dangit. And it has Superman wiping mayo off his face with his cape that is impervious to stain.

Just watch it. Give in. Succumb. You will be assimilated.

Posted 10:11 PM | Comments (1)

April 16, 2004


Knowspam claims it will eliminate 100% of spam. I discovered it by sending email to someone who uses it; I got a quick reply from Knowspam telling me to click a link to verify the email I'd sent was coming from a human. No big deal, but a bit of a hassle.

Anybody have any experience with/thoughts on Knowspam?

Knowspam: It works well! I love it. OR: It's a pain in the arse! Discuss.

Posted 08:01 AM

April 15, 2004

Audiovisual Crack

Maybe you're spending the day doing last-minute taxes, or maybe you're heading into finals period, or maybe you're just at work wishing it were Friday instead of Thursday. Whatever the case, you need some mental breaks. So, for your viewing pleasure:

  • The M&M's Easter Commercial I mentioned the other day but couldn't find. I knew it had to be online! Thanks Cinnamon for finding it!
  • We Like the Moon, apparently the inspiration for some Quizno's ads I haven't seen. This is far and away the funniest use of flash animation I've ever seen. Every time I watch it I bust out laughing again. Of course, YMMV. The first few seconds I watched it the first time, I didn't really get it. It just seemed dumb. But by the time it reached the end of its first loop, I was hooked.
  • The great Cat Smackdown: A hilarious home video compilation of two cats, well, smacking each other down. Mostly it looks like Bumpo smacks down Francis on a regular basis, but it looks like Francis mostly enjoys it.

Posted 07:59 AM | Comments (3)

April 14, 2004

I Am Whatever You Say I Am

Grammar God!
You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!

How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

This is so not true, but I'll take it. Now where's my crown and fiery halo? They were here just a minute ago and I think they might come in handy when I have to go to school and try to convince my professors not to flunk me. ;-) [link via a mi parecer]

UPDATE: It looks like Windoze users should not take this quiz —it might be loading crapware onto your computer! See the comments for more info.

Posted 06:31 AM | Comments (5)

April 13, 2004

Electra Made Me Blind*

Speaking of bikes (see the last post) check out the cool new Electra Townie. It's an upright (traditional) bike that's supposed to put you in a sort of recumbent position so you can put your feet flat on the ground when you stop, while still maintaining the proper distance from pedal to seat when you're pedaling.

Although it seems many people aren't aware of it, you generally should not be able to touch the ground when sitting on the seat of a traditional bike. If you can touch the ground w/more than a tiptoe while sitting on the seat, your seat is probably too low and you're not getting maximum efficiency out of your pedal stroke. Worse, you could damage your knees riding with the seat too low. Trust me on this. When I started riding 70-120 miles/day, I found out the hard way how much difference proper seat adjustment can make. After the first week, I could barely walk because my knee was so sore, and I couldn't figure out why. But I raised the seat a few centimeters and suddenly, all was well. The knee pain magically disappeared. All was right with the world. So, long story short, if you're riding a traditional bike, stop/go traffic can be kind of a pain because if your seat is at the right height, you have to keep coming off your seat every time you stop.

That's why the Townie makes so much sense -- it's the perfect commuter bike. Not only would it be good for stop/go traffic, but also the upright riding position would give you a great view of the road and traffic. The 8-speed Nexus hub and the fenders on the Townie 8 also help make it the ultimate commuter. Suddenly my Bianchi Milano -- with it's loose bottom bracket and off-true wheels from a hard winter of commuting — appears out-classed and out-cooled. Good thing I can't possibly pay for or store another bike right now, or else I might be in trouble.

Oh, and congrats to SuperD, who just got a neato new bike of her own.

* Kudos to anyone who can name the source of the title to this post, but since that's so random, I'll give you more: It's a song title. Who's it by? Of course you can do a search, but that's cheating.

Random related: The Macintosh was briefly and unofficially codenamed "bicycle,"— it was like a "bicycle for the mind" because it allowed your mind to move faster and more efficiently, just as a bike allows your body to move faster and more efficiently. The name didn't stick, but how cool is that?

Posted 10:18 AM | Comments (5)

April 11, 2004

Bawk! Bawk!

You know you live in a consumer society when you associate holidays with ads as much as with anything else. I can't think "Happy Easter!" without thinking of a 1980s tv commercial for M&M's candy, that featured a kid in a chicken suit saying "Thank you Easter Bunny! Bawk! Bawk!" If you know of an online version, please point it out because I can't find it and I'd love to see it again.

Nostalgia for television commercials. How sad.

For Christians, this is supposed to be a day of happiness, and I hope it is. Yet, regardless of your religious beliefs, today might also be a good day to think about the world we're living in. Just about a year ago the U.S. went to war in Iraq for no clear reason. Thousands have died in the last year — for no clear reason.Now, the Bush administration has declassified the August 6, 2001 memo saying Bin Laden was determined to strike in the U.S., that al-Quaida cells were in the U.S., and that their plans included hijacking planes. It's no coincidence that this memo was released on a late Saturday afternoon on a holiday weekend; clearly, Bush and Co. are hoping people will be too absorbed in their holiday observances to pay close attention to the significance of this development. Meanwhile, the completely lackluster walking corpse that is the Democratic nominee for president is MIA. Oh happy day!

I've been so absorbed in moot court competition (I didn't make the board, by the way), the auction and the finals looming over my head that I haven't had time to pay much attention to the news. I'm sure I'm not alone; it really is easier in many ways to concentrate on your own life and what's going on w/in your immediate sphere of existence than to devote time and thought and energy to the larger world. And there's certainly a bliss to ignorance, but where is our bliss leading us?

But what am I saying? It's Easter. We have funny television ads. Thank you Easter Bunny! Bawk Bawk!

p.s.: I really didn't sit down to write such a bitter pill, but then I read that memo and there you go.

Posted 07:35 AM | Comments (4)

March 24, 2004

Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime!
Which Colossal Death Robot Are You?
Brought to you by Rum and Monkey

I am Optimus Prime!

Vast, red and ready to turn into a lorry at the slightest provocation, you are a robot to be reckoned with. Although sickeningly noble, you just can't resist a good interplanetary war, especially when Orson Welles is involved. You have friends who can shoot tapes from their chests. Tapes that turn into panthers. And other friends who are dinosaurs. Dinosaurs who jump out of planes. Will you have my children?

Link via Screaming Bean.

Posted 07:29 AM | Comments (3)

March 23, 2004


One thing that makes busy-ness (bisy backsons are us) better is great music, and in that area Elevator Ride will give you all you crave and more. For starters, you can't beat four free songs, especially when one of them is "Nervous Breakdown Prevention Day," which, as I mentioned before, is in heavy rotation on the iPod and iTunes. Rockage makes all the difference. If you are about to rock, check out Elevator Ride. And I salute you once more.

Posted 05:47 AM

March 16, 2004

Bloggies and Pics Galore

For those about to rock, I salute you.*

I mean, congratulations to all the winners of the 2004 Bloggies . The list of winners and nominees includes so many great links it would take a week to look through them all. (Maybe I should take another spring break.)

A few quick favorites:

1. Blogumentary: A Documentary about Blogs. Hmmm....

2. Weblog Wannabe: Check out the "Distractions" in the right column. I really can't believe the Firdamatic. Incredible. Very distracting.

3. Just the other day I confessed my fascination with Ten Years of My Life. Little did I know (although I suspected) there were so many more variants on the theme. This amount of awesome imagery is truly humbling. But perhaps it's not so humbling that you won't want to make your own .

* Sorry. I had iTunes on random and it played one of the Dean Scream Remixes, so now I have AC/DC stuck in my head. But still, if you're about to rock, I do salute you, really.

Posted 06:21 AM | Comments (2)

March 15, 2004


Oh no! It's back to school! Runaway!

Here's a cool photo for your Monday. Now it's back to the books for me...

Posted 06:18 AM | Comments (1)

March 13, 2004

Top Rides 2004

There must be something about spring that makes people think about getting new cars. Maybe it's increased advertising? But as a quick followup to the car-focused post of a couple of weeks ago, Consumer Reports has announced its best automobile picks for 2004. DG will be thrilled to hear that the Ford Focus is the best "small sedan." (Check out DG's "enemies" list in the lower right column.) Scheherazade should also be pleased to hear the VW Passat tied with the Honda Accord for "best family sedan." FWIW, except for two versions of the Focus (the "SVT" model won for "fun to drive"), and the Passat tie, the top 10 cars are all Japanese.

L's car continues to have an annoying little coolant problem; there's a tiny leak somewhere, it seems, even though it was supposedly pressure-tested about a month ago and no leaks were found. Cars drive me nuts, which is why it's so great to be in a situation where I almost never need to drive (not to mention the joy of not having a car payment!).

Posted 08:09 AM | Comments (4)

Run for President Yourself

Nearly two years ago I heard about an idea for a "reality" tv show called "American Candidate," where contestants would somehow compete to become "the people's candidate" for POTUS. For a while, it looked like the show was really going to happen, but then I didn't hear anything more and figured the producers or networks or whomever had changed their minds. I was wrong.

So what are you waiting for? Get yourself an application and apply to be the people's candidate! According to the FAQ, the candidates will not actually run for president (obviously), unless they choose to after the show:

What the participants decide to do with the visibility and momentum they will have at the conclusion of the series is entirely up to them. If a participant in American Candidate chooses to run for president, he or she will have to follow the same process and operate within the same laws and regulations that govern all presidential candidates. We anticipate that if a participant does run, he or she would be doing so on a write-in basis. Of course, with the publicity and attention the candidate will have received, it is feasible there could be a substantial amount of public support for him/her.

Interesting, no? Theoretically, something like this could throw a huge curveball into what otherwise promises to be a mean and dispiriting general election. Of course, (and probably more likely) the "American Candidate" could also be a big flop and have no effect on anything whatsoever. Also, the show is allowing anyone 18-yrs-old or over to apply to compete. If anyone under 35 "wins," it won't matter if he/she gets "a substantial amount of public support" because he/she won't be eligible to actually be POTUS. (See U.S. Const. Art. 2, § 1, clause 5.) But then, maybe the kiddies will be eliminated in the early rounds...

Posted 07:14 AM

March 11, 2004

UnReality TV Minute

Thursday = Survivor Day. After last week's episode of Survivor: All-Stars, Just Playin asked: "Will Sue sue?" For those of you who didn't see it, Professor Yin has a detailed summary of the episode, but surprisingly he doesn't address the potential legal questions it raised.

But while Professor Yin was sympathetic to Sue, Salon's Heather Havrilesky weighed in with a scathing denunciation:

How much more pathetic could this season be? Sue chose to squeeze past Richard in the Balance Beam challenge instead of taking an unobstructed route, despite the fact that he was naked, he's insane, and he hates her. Richard flapped his genitalia in her direction and now she can't sleep at night, because she's been humiliated and abused and harassed and demeaned and whatever other words she screeched at Jeff Probst. Unhinged outbursts like hers give victims of real abuse a bad name.

And if that doesn't make it clear enough where Havrilesky stands on this burning question, she goes on to say:

It's also obvious that [Sue] needs to talk to a licensed professional about the fact that a glancing blow from a gay man's limp penis can transform a trash-talking trucker (who last week urinated while she was on the same raft with three other people) into a jumble of tearful recriminations and enraged outbursts. It makes me wonder if the Survivors are allowed to continue their usual doses of psychotropic drugs while they're in the wilderness.

Context is pretty important here, I'd say. Yet, the question remains: Will Sue sue? If she were going to, wouldn't she have done so by now? These and more burning questions next time on: UnReality TV Minute!
Posted while listening to: The Dog-End of a Day Gone By from the album "Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven" by Love And Rockets

Posted 07:22 AM | Comments (2)

Daily Photos

Ten Years of My Life.

I don't know how I stumbled on this, but for some reason it's fascinating. And of course there are many variations on the theme, including the Arrow of Time (a family portrait taken on the same day every year since 1976), and the Daily Photo Project (one guy taking his own pic every day for, well, a lot of days), which includes links to several others.

Oh, am I supposed to be working on spring break instead of trying to get to the end of the internet? Oops.

Posted 07:20 AM

March 08, 2004

Disturbing photo essays

Just two:

  1. What happens when you become unable to stop collecting "stuff."
  2. Racing through Chernobyl, 18 years later. (You may need to start here, but it looks like suddenly the pages are "under construction" or something.

Posted 10:17 PM | Comments (1)

March 04, 2004

Boing Spring Boing

The weather in DC recently has been perfect. I want it to be like this all the time. The daily temps have been ideal for shorts and a light shirt and jacket while it cools off just enough at night to remind you this isn't summer yet. Plus, it's been raining at night (very early morning), then clearing through the day, allowing us to wake up mornings to a crisp, clean, shiny new city. The trees are budding and the moisture on the grass gives it a healthy, organic scent, as if to say: "Hello, the process of turning green has now begun." Or something like that. It's just wonderful.

It reminds me of living in the Berkeley hills in, oh, about March or April of 1997. I'd wake up to the sound of water dripping on the roof from the night's rain, and my little apartment would be surrounded by fog. The bike ride to work was brisk and refreshing, and by the time noon rolled around the sun was out and the temperature would be somewhere around the mid-60s. It was like living in paradise, in a way.

Why can't D.C. be like this year-round?

Posted 10:44 AM | Comments (4)

February 29, 2004

New Wheels

Everyone's getting new cars these days, it seems. Sherry was looking and looking, looking, and thinking and looking and trying to choose between practicality and seduction, and then she bought and loved. You might sift through the comments to some of those posts if you're shopping for a car -- there's some good advice in there, including a link to the Confessions of a Car Salesman. Gotta know what you're getting into.

I was surprised to see that no one recommended the Prius. (Review, specs.)If that's not a dream car, I don't know what is. Wouldn't you just feel great driving a car like that? And isn't that what cars are for? To make you feel good? But ok, even if cars are for transportation and practicality, what's more practical than 60 mpg and super low emissions? Good for your wallet, good for the planet, just plain good.

But perhaps a good (or any) used Prius is hard to come by. They're still pretty new and there just aren't that many of them around, especially out in the wild wild west, where my sister and mother also just got new cars. Sis got a little red wagon, and mom got a little red toy (the 1999 Import Car of the Year!) Both got great deals on cars I would love to have. I've wanted an Outback since I first saw one; it's the perfect vehicle for throwing your bike in the back and going anywhere. And, of course, who wouldn't want a Beetle? And this one's a diesel, so mom's looking at 40-45 mpg. That's not quite Prius-level and there's still the emissions issue, but it's a definite step in the right direction.

Finally, someone else I know is shopping for a new new car, but she has to buy a GM, and maybe specifically a Chevrolet. So if you were shopping for a new car and you were forced to buy GM, what would you buy? If I could get any GM make, I'd probably look closely at the Saturn ION in rain forest green (roomy, cheap, fairly economical at 26/35 mpg w/manual trans.) . If the choices were limited to Chevrolets, I'd have to go for the 5-door Aveo in spicy orange (small, cheap, but sporty; good economy at 26/34 mpg), or maybe the Venture van (roomy and peppy, although it doesn't get great gas mileage at 19/26 mpg).

Of course, I'm not buying a new car or a new used car, which makes me think of the Dead Milkmen song, "Everybody's Got Nice Stuff But Me" (scroll down a bit):

People in nice cars how'd they get em? I close my eyes try to forget em Went out swimming got hit by a jet-ski Everybody's got nice stuff but me I wanna car I wanna jet-ski

Ok, so it's not true. I have lots of nice stuff, but I'm thinking of the song, anyway. It's a fun song.

And but so: Congratulations to all these new car owners (and the future new car owner). Good luck with those wheels, and may they roll long and trouble-free.

Posted 07:08 AM | Comments (5)

February 24, 2004

Log in My Own Eye

Have you ever had anything stuck to your eyeball that you just can't seem to get off? That's what happened to me on Sunday; while biking to school, something -- probably just a little spec of dirt -- flew into my eye and started irritating me to no end. It was crazy; I've biked literally thousands of miles through all kinds of terrain and conditions and never has anything like this happened before. The worst part: I couldn't read because my eye just kept tearing up and it felt like something was constantly scratching my eyeball (which it was). I could see the thing, but no matter what I did, I couldn't seem to get it out. I tried flushing with water, dabbing with Q-tips and tissues, and just rubbing at it with my finger. None of that's fun, since your reflex is always to blink to keep anything out of your eye, and none of it worked, either.

So yesterday morning, instead of attending ConLaw, I lined up at the GW Student Health Center, not sure what they could do, but hoping they could help. And help they did! They saw me almost immediately and the doctor had the speck out of my eye in about one minute from the time she said hello. She simply put some anesthetic eye drops in my eye, then dabbed at the spec with a Q-tip and the speck was gone. Sure, I'd done the same thing, but I'm no doctor. She said the cornea was slightly scratched and would hurt for a while, and she was right, but I still felt a zillion times better immediately.

Regular readers may know that I haven't found much about GW to praise, but that changes now: Thank you GW Student Health Center! You're the best!

While the thing was in my eye, I just kept wondering if it symbolized anything. Specifically, I wondered if there's something especially big or glaring I've been hypocritical about recently. Why would I wonder that? Well, this might be the first time ai has quoted from the Bible, but heck, there's a first time for everything, so here you go:

1: Judge not, that you be not judged. 2: For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3: Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4: Or how can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? 5: You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)

This passage was used to great effect in "Iron Jawed Angels,", which, btw, I highly recommend. That aside, it's really pretty good advice to live by. Funny how those specks in your eye seem to bother you more than the logs.

Posted 05:50 AM

February 12, 2004


Valentine's Day. Ready or not, here it comes. But there's no need to give Hallmark any more of your money. Instead, download one of the amazing cards at YouYesYou [link via SuperD], or send an e-card from Meish.
Dropping them a couple of bucks via PayPal only takes a few seconds and will greatly increase the chances you'll get whatever it is you're longing for this v-day.

Posted 05:07 AM

February 08, 2004

Saturday Night at Bethesda B & N Cafe

Two women are playing endless and intense rounds of competitive Scrabble. Their board appears to be a custom job, with the top cut from a "deluxe" board and mounted on a wooden turntable (looks a lot like one of these). Perhaps the board belongs to the coffee shop. But what about the Adjudicator 3500? That's right: The Adjudicator 3500. It appears to be a timing device with two lights and two little plungers on the top. When a player hits her plunger and calls out her score, it becomes the other player's turn. Both players write down each others' scores, to keep each other honest, I suppose. Their letters are guarded by the lions and toucans adorning their cloth letter-bag. These two just don't mess around.

At another table, a man reads a thick ream of laser-printed pages (a manuscript of some kind, perhaps?), and a paperback novel, alternately. He also seems to talk on his cell phone a lot, but I've never heard it ring or seen him dial.

Behind me a couple silently signs to each other, pointing at our table and making keyboard tapping motions. Are they signing about how much they covet the coolness that is the iBook? ;-)

Not far away, two men play chess. One of them discusses each move before he makes it. Is that a wise strategy?

At the window, a man on a cell phone calls the movement of traffic below as if he's calling a football game. It seems he's trying to lead someone to an open parking space. We're on the second floor, overlooking a parking lot, so he has a great view of spaces as they open, then all too quickly close again. I imagine this man does this for a living. He's the B&N parking man. For five dollars, you can call him and he'll guide you to a parking spot. He's always here, come any time.

I see a lot of what I would guess are married couples, men and women at that point in life where their kids no longer live at home and their jobs no longer demand long hours. They come to the bookstore on a Saturday night to browse and people-watch, then they drive home in their SUV-variant to watch the evening news on their large but not too large screen tv. Life is good.

One of the scrabble women is slowly making her way through a nice piece of choclate cake. They don't use the rotation feature of their special board; one of them appears to prefer playing upside down.

I know nothing about these people, they know nothing about me. There's a line for coffee, a line to pee, and every table is taken.

Saturday night at the Bethesda B&N Cafe. Who knew?

Posted 06:17 AM

February 04, 2004

States and Countries

For fun and money, or just because everybody else is doing it: The states I've visited:

states i have visited

(Make your own state map.)

States I've either lived or worked in, include: Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts. The others I've mostly just driven through or stayed a few days and nights in here and there.

The countries I've visited are much fewer:

countries i have visited

(Make your own countries map.)

I lived in Finland for 9 months, then biked through Europe for a summer, which is how I saw the rest of those European countries. I also spent a month traveling in South Australia many years ago. Someday I hope to bike from the U.S. to Tierra del Fuego, but first I'd like to bike across the U.S. itself. Don't attorneys get lots of time to travel? ;-)

Posted 06:40 AM | Comments (1)

January 19, 2004

Bikes, Brakes, and Cold

The recent "arctic blasts" in the northeastern U.S. has brought miserable cold, but it has also revealed a weakness in the "roller brake" on my bike—it simply doesn't work when the temperature falls too far below zero. I have a Bianchi Milano, which I bought on eBay about two years ago, primarily because it's one of the few bikes available with Shimano's Nexus hub. As Shimano describes it:

Nexus is unique in that its internally geared rear hubs and hub roller brakes (or coaster brake) eliminate the need for derailleurs and brake calipers. The result is a more streamlined, cleaner-looking and less complicated bike that requires less maintenance and adjustment. The Nexus bike is just the thing for commuting, fitness cycling, fun riding, or going on errands around town.

See that part about "less maintenance and adjustment"? As far as the hub itself goes, that's absolutely true. In two years of almost daily riding (commuting, mostly), I haven't needed to do anything but keep the chain lubricated. But while shifting still works like a dream, the rear brake just seizes up when the temperature gets below a certain point. Thank goodness the brake gets stuck open, so you can't pull the brake lever; otherwise, the rear wheel wouldn't move at all. When this happens, I can still ride mostly safely because the front v-brakes provide plenty of stoppage, regardless of the temperature—especially with new Kool-Stop Thinline brake pads. But still, having no rear brake is annoying—especially when dumb car drivers decide you don't deserve space on their road and cut you off. (Note to car drivers: Do bikes on city streets annoy you? You annoy the bikers. So there.)

A guy rode up to me the other day at stoplight on a brand new, shiny black Milano. From him I learned that City Bikes in D.C. sells and services the Milano. Maybe they can figure out the brake issue...

Posted 06:58 AM

January 13, 2004

El Embajada de El Salvador

Twice since moving to D.C. proper I've been stopped on the street by people who speak little to no English trying to get directions to the Embassy of El Salvador. Twice I've just had to say, "No se." But here it is, not far at all (map). But look at those streets! Giving directions in Spanish should be fun. But at least I'll be helping out next time if I can say, "El calle California y veintetres." Yeah, I need to remember that.

Posted 05:07 AM | Comments (2)

January 12, 2004

Book Revolution?

NPR's Morning Edition is running a story on the Fastback Book Binder from Powis Parker, Inc.. The story's teaser is that, with this new, simple, low-cost book binder, there's no reason for any book to ever go out of print again. Why? How?

This booklover's utopia would happen like this: Publishers would put their book catalogs online (probably within a subscription-only database). Bookstores would own Fastback book binders. When you want a book that's not in your library, you'd go to the bookstore. If they don't have the book on the shelf, they could go to the online catalog of books, download the one you want, and print and bind a copy for you in a matter of minutes and at a cost of a few dollars. How awesome would that be?

But even if we don't reach that point right away, how cool would it be to replace all your three-ring binders and plastic-spiral bound photo-copied packets of paper with real bound books? It could happen:

Though Parker is still interested in expanding his firm's geographic reach, these days he's also using technological breakthroughs to enter new areas—most notably the rapidly growing on-demand publishing market. Later this year, he plans to unveil a new digital machine, called Model 8, that can be used to create documents and books from a desktop environment.

The digital version of Fastback will be able to bind documents up to 350 pages in the time it takes to walk to the water cooler.

"Right now, 98 percent of these kinds of documents created in offices or homes are bound with punch holes and rings," Parker said. "That gives you a pretty good idea of the size of the market we can go after."

I believe the NPR story pegged the price of these new digital machines at only $1300/ea. Cool.

Posted 05:57 AM

January 07, 2004

Amazon: the Wal-Mart of Books?

A bit of a tangent: After reading a post and comments at Glorfindel of Gondolin about why she doesn't link to when she refers to books and other kinds of things Amazon sells, I'm experimenting with alternatives myself. One thing I've seen people do rather than link to Amazon is to link to a google search for the title, which allows those interested to easily get more info about the book or whatever, but gives them the choice of whether to go to Amazon or some other source for that info.

I'm not really sure how I could give up Amazon for a lot of things, and I'm extremely ambivalent about whether doing so is really necessary. Is Amazon the Wal-Mart of online stores?

In the "yes" column, Amazon probably dominates a lot of online sales categories, and this is almost certainly hurting lots of smaller players and local businesses—it has absolutely decreased the sales of many local bookstores. These are bad things.

In the "I don't know" column, does Amazon pay workers poorly and mistreat them? Does Amazon give its employees quality benefits? I doubt Amazon is unionized, and I'm almost certain that Powell's Books is.

In the "it may already be too late" column, so many independent booksellers have already been forced out of business by competition from Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Amazon, that probably the majority of those left standing have a loyal customer base that's not going to be affected by online links to competitors.

Let me know if you have any thoughts on this...

Posted 06:34 AM | Comments (4)

January 05, 2004

Happy 2004!

Whoop! Here it is. Ready or not, 2004 (and for me, the second semester of law school) is upon us. I know, I know, it's actually been upon us for several days now, but I've been out of town and far away from blogability. In fact, I was so far out of the news and information loop, I didn't even realize I was supposed to be on heightened alert. The past two weeks were filled with ping-pong, pinochle, and poker, ice fishing, ice skating, snowmobiling, driving, getting stuck in the snow, getting unstuck, wrapping presents, unwrapping presents, playing a newly discovered card game called Wizard, and eating lots and lots of very good food. Best of all, I spent the whole time with friends and family and hardly thought about law school at all. :-)

But now it all begins again—law school, that is. GW Law School will begin this semester on a sad note, mourning the unexplained death of a one-L whose body was found floating in the Potomac the morning after finals ended last semester. It looks like "foul play" was involved, but regardless of how it happened, it's a tragic loss. Welcome to the nation's capital, everyone!

Of course, we'll all have to move beyond that, and this semester should be packed, not only with classes, but also with the summer job search (which I've yet to begin) and the planning and execution of an EJF Auction. Of course, the classes are supposed to be the priority. This semester they'll include two carryovers from last semester—Contracts and CivPro—and two new contenders: Constitutional Law I and Property. I'm looking forward to ConLaw because, well, I'm more big-picture than fine detail, and questions of Constitutional law are more often big issues. Property I'm just not going to speculate on; I've heard bad things, but then, I can say that about every class/subject. I'll give it the benefit of the doubt; innocent until proven guilty and all that.

Good luck to everyone. May we all have a great 2004. (Only 10 short months until Bush loses in a landslide and gets a one-way ticket back to Crawford, TX!)

Posted 06:33 AM

December 20, 2003

Happy Holidays!

It is done. Finals are over. Can you say anticlimactic? But it's a wonderful thing, nevertheless.

And now it's time for me to head off to the Mitten (Michigan) and the Mountains (Montana) for family time. I'm looking forward to reading some good books, playing cards, and probably eating way too much great food. Holidays are wonderful, aren't they? I hope yours are.

I'll leave you with Golum W. Bush (flash animation) who says:'s the ring ring, and the bling bling, and the power thing, and the right wing!

Also, if you haven't heard of it already, don't miss Bush In 30 Seconds —over 1,000 30-second commercial produced by folks around the country to highlight the most important reasons they think we need a new president in 2004. Hours and hours of holiday cheer.

God bless us everyone! See you in 2004!

Posted 05:11 AM | Comments (1)

December 15, 2003

Happy Monday

Monday's are better when they don't include class or finals. Sure, there's always studying, but... Today is an extra-good Monday, in light of yesterday's big news. But what to say that hasn't been said? This is good—a recognition that taking Saddam alive rather than killing him on sight was a testament to American ideals of justice and due process.

Beyond that, since the media orgy (capture porn!) started yesterday morning I've been longing for some perspective. What does Saddam's capture really mean? The talking heads keep saying "this changes everything" and I've even heard some calling Bush's statement yesterday a "victory speech." So "winning" this war means capturing Saddam? The goal of the conflict changes so often I just can't keep up.

But the talking heads have incredible power. Friday night's study break (my life is really just one big study break; I should talk about breaks from breaks, which is the time I actually study) was a screening of "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," an incredible documentary about the attempted coup in April 2002 against Hugo Chavez, the democratically elected leader of Venezuela. The coup was led by the upper-middle and upper classes, neither of whom like Chavez because Chavez's basic goal is to redistribute the proceeds from Venezuela's vast oil resources among all Venezuelans, rather than allowing a small elite siphon those profits for their personal gain, which has been the status quo for the past century. The leaders of the coup used Venezuela's private television stations to convince people the at Chavez was a brutal dictator; the tv stations told outright lies and lied by omission—showing only certain clips edited to make Chavez look as bad as possible, while withholding footage that made Chavez look good. There's evidence that the U.S. backed the coup, but of course, the U.S. officially denies it. At any rate, the coup failed, largely because the mass of people who voted for Chavez demanded he remain in power. Today, Chavez does remain in power, and his efforts to redistribtute Venezuela's wealth more equally among all its people continue.

The point? Simply another illustration of the powerful role the media can play in defining an event. Just something to think about as you digest the constant stream of pronouncements on what the capture of Saddam Hussein means to you, the U.S., the U.S. presidential race, Iraq, or the world.

And while you're digesting all that, consider something you're probably not going to see on tv—Michael Moore's perspective:

Stay strong, Democratic candidates. Quit sounding like a bunch of wusses. These bastards sent us to war on a lie, the killing will not stop, the Arab world hates us with a passion, and we will pay for this out of our pockets for years to come. Nothing that happened today (or in the past 9 months) has made us ONE BIT safer in our post-9/11 world. Saddam was never a threat to our national security.

It's brash and bold, and definitely polemical in the current context. For a slightly less abrasive take on what Saddam's capture might mean outside of the media frenzy, leaders in other nations are expressing hope that it will mean a quicker return of Iraqi sovereignty. Finally, the Washington Post already has poll numbers on how the capture affected Americans' perceptions of the war, Bush, etc. Interesting, but probably not worth much so soon after the fact. Only time will tell. For now, I hear the siren song of CrimLaw...

Posted 08:25 AM | Comments (3)

December 09, 2003

Super Study Break

Have you noticed how many extremely fun things beg for your attention when you're supposed to be doing other things (like studying for finals)? There are so many diversions, it's hard to know where to begin.

But first things first: Be sure to chew gum during your exams! It supposedly improves your memory performance. Thanks to Ditzy Genius for the tip (and these other tips), and congrats to her as well for surviving exam numero uno.

On to study breaks and things to think about other than law school exams! First, Three Years of Hell (TYH), who is also studying, recommends the "I Hate Republicans" song, which is certainly entertaining, if a bit bracing. The same site ( also created this "Mission Accomplished" animation, which it then adapted for the Dennis Kucinich campaign. TYH doesn't agree w/any of this, by the way, but it was nice of him to point it out.

In a similar vein, you might enjoy FOXed, which ingeniously combines that disconcerting "Matrix"-themed Poweraid commercial from last summer with clips from those fair and balanced folks at Fox. Sure, it's a 2.2 MB download, but you can study while you wait!

If you feel like doing something a little more than watching movies, you could chip in a few dollars to a good cause. Here's an appropriate one for me at the moment: "Procrastinators for Dean." Or donate something for the troops via a USO Care package. Donate in someone's name as a Christmas gift to them, or donate in your favorite candidate's name as a way to promote your candidate. Or just donate. It will build good karma that you can harvest on your exams.

Want a break from politics on your study break? Then take a gander at this gigapixel image of Bryce Canyon National Park. Very cool, but what will we do with gigapixel images? I mean, yikes, it's almost too much information, isn't it? And here's another great gift idea: The Pop-up Alice in Wonderland. If you don't feel like buying, you can listen to an interview with the bookmaker, or even better, make your own pop-ups!

Finally, you could begin getting into the Christmas spirit by reading or listening to John Henry Faulk's Christmas Story (sappy/touching), or listen to David Sedaris' Santaland Diaries (hilarious).

I'm off to a torts final soon. I just hope no one assaults me along the way. Again, good luck to all test-takers!

Posted 09:43 AM | Comments (2)

December 06, 2003

Winter Finally

For the last two or three days the local media have been giddy with predicitons of winter stormy doom.
Snowy Tree, first snow of 03
Finally, something like said stormy doom has arrived here in DC, although as you can see, it doesn't seem all that doomy.

Still studying. The doom is this: I'm going to spend way too much energy on torts, then fail crim. The solution? I'll just make mediocre effort for them all! [Insert mad scientist evil laugh here. Yes, it's like that.]

Posted 06:57 AM


If you live in DC, try to avoid shopping at Safeway for a while.

Why? Something like six weeks ago, grocery workers walked out of Vons stores in California after Vons offered them a contract that would effectively eliminate health care benefits for workers over time. Then Kroger and Ralphs stores locked out their employees to show their support of Vons. Isn't it nice to see corporations showing such solidarity? Apparently no grocery corporation in California wants to provide its workers with health care benefits, even though they've all been doing so for decades. The CA Attorney General thinks the grocers are perhaps a bit too solid—he's investigating them for anti-trust violations.

Safeway owns Vons. Safeway has stores all over D.C. Now, the UFCW (Union of Food and Commercial Workers) has expanded its picket lines to D.C. Safeway stores. The union hasn't asked D.C. Safeway employees to walk out—yet. At this point, the union just wants to keep shoppers out of Safeway so that Safeway will understand that it's going to lose more money by fighting the than by simply agreeing to a reasonable contract.

So why are Safeway and its fellow grocery chains fighting so hard to reduce worker benefits? According to the corporations, the reason is . . . Wal-Mart. Safeway argues that because Wal-Mart is a non-union employer (Wal-Mart has a very aggressive union-busting organization that successfully fights every effort of its workers to organize), Wal-Mart can pay workers less (and not provide health care), therefore it can charge less for goods, and therefore it can drive the grocery chains out of business. Welcome to "everyday low prices."

And welcome to The Wal-Martization of America.

Did you hear the one about FAO Schwartz? It declared bankruptcy yesterday:

FAO has been losing money for nine years, battered by the deep-discounting tactics of top toy sellers Wal-Mart and Target.

Hey, look—it's Wal-Mart again! In the 1990s, Wal-Mart, the ultimate "category killer," put thousands of mom and pop stores of all kinds out of business on main streets throughout the U.S. Now Wal-Mart is taking over groceries and toys, even in big markets. What's next?

Posted 05:37 AM | Comments (4)

December 04, 2003


Two to four inches of snow expected by morning!? Whaaa? Why start now?

Disturbing evening headlines:

1) Justice to review request for medicare vote probe: Did someone attempt to bribe retiring Rep. Nick Smith of Michigan to get him to vote for the medicare bill?

2) Missing prosecutor found shot, stabbed:

Luna was trying the case of Baltimore rapper Deon Lionnel Smith, 32, and his one-time associate Walter Oriley Poindexter, 28. The two men were accused of heroin distribution and running a violent drug ring in part from their Stash House Records studio.

Luna and the defense attorneys negotiated through the afternoon Wednesday and reached a plea deal about 5 p.m., Quarles said. The men entered their guilty pleas about 11:30 a.m. Thursday, and they remained in custody.

Smith agreed to plead guilty to one count of distribution of heroin and to possession of a weapon for the purposes of drug trafficking. Poindexter agreed to plead guilty to three counts of distribution of heroin to a government witness.

The parties were expected to appear Thursday morning to enter the agreement, but Luna was not present, the judge said.

Crazy. Who knew being a prosecutor could be so dangerous?

Posted 04:39 PM | Comments (1)

December 02, 2003

December Already

December already. Hard to believe, isn't it? Where did November go? For L, it went into writing a novel—congratulations, L!
L wrote a novel!
Fifty thousand words (approx. 200 pages) might not sound like much, but try pulling 50,000 words out of your head in 30 days or less and you may find it's not as easy as it sounds. I stalled out at almost 28,000 words, but I did find some interesting characters and an interesting story I might come back to someday. Perhaps I'll return to it in March for NaNoEdMo.

The campaigns for president are heating up. Bush is raising money like crazy and his campaign claims it wants to build the biggest grassroots organization the U.S. has ever seen. That's a scary thought. Dean and Gephardt are locked in a tight race for Iowa. Meanwhile, continues to grow and gain attention—both positive and negative. This weekend, MoveOn is sponsoring nationwide screenings of the new film, "Uncovered: The whole truth about the Iraq war."

The Dean campaign continues to grow; however, the dirty laundry is beginning to come out. Apparently, Dean sealed his records last year to diminsh the amount of ammunition his opponents will have against him. One source of ammunition may be statements he made about judicial appointments. Hmmm.... This appears to be politics as usual, which is what makes it so disturbing. The big advantages Dean has as far as I'm concerned is that he seems to be doing something unusual with his campaign—he appears much less compromised by special interest money than the other candidates, and he appears willing to stand behind his ideas and actions. So why seal his records? I understand his fear that his opponents won't play fair with whatever they might learn about his past, but the idealist in me would have more respect for him if he'd simply say, "Hey, I've done things that people are going to say were wrong and bad. I'm human, and I learn from my mistakes, just like everybody else." The idealist in me says Dean should believe in voters enough to trust that we'll be able to tell when his opponents are unfairly smearing him, and when a past mistake really does matter. But, of course, we don't live in my ideal world, do we?

Another election development I just learned about: America Coming Together plans to campaign to defeat Bush in 17 swing states. Great idea, no? One problem: their website only offers one way I can help—they, like everyone else, want me to give money. I don't have money. I don't even have time. But I coulde "make" time, and I do have skills and energy they might use if they'd provide a way for me to do so. This really is one thing that has made the Dean campaign very different—it says "help us," then it provides the tools for you to help in whatever way you can. Just about every other political group that would like to change U.S. policy on some issue would do much better if they'd stop simply asking people for money and start giving them ways to take action for their cause.

Oh, and Dennis Kucinich hasn't found love yet, but it sounds like he's having fun looking.

I'm supposed to be thinking of nothing but finals, but I'm having trouble focusing. Stay of Execution has some good, practical, and calming study tips for 1Ls, although it feels a little late for making posters. Still, posters would be better than outlines; Mixtape Marathon has restored my faith in the humanity of law students (a faith I think I pretty well lost somewhere in November, but that's another story) by noting that law school outlines are evil. Some of my professors have sometimes sounded as evil as the outlines we're supposed to create for their classes, so I fear section IV of Bekah's wonderful outline could begin: "Many law practitioners transfer the soullessness of their outlines and exams straight into practice." I guess we'll see.

Posted 07:31 AM | Comments (2)

November 29, 2003

Ok, Now Shop!

Three Years of Hell doesn't think much of the idea of Buy Nothing Day, and I'm sure he's not alone. To me it's a symbolic protest, a thought exercise as much as anything. If the idea of buying nothing on the biggest shopping day of the year only makes you think of buying something you really don't need, something you "just couldn't justify to yourself," so be it. Such consumption is, in fact, the yin to Buy Nothing Day's yang; the protest (symbolic as it may be) would be impossible without the "sheerly pointless" consumption it attempts to comment on.

Pins from The Nation

But that was so yesterday. Now it's time to shop! The Nation offers some nice political protest gifts for not too much money. But that will only please a few, so tell me: What's your favorite online shopping site? What's the best gift to give this year? And what do you hope to get?

I should be thinking about outlines and finals, so while I'm doing that, please fill the comments with gift ideas so that when I come up for air my holiday shopping will be quick and painless. Thank you.

Posted 04:59 PM | Comments (4)

November 28, 2003

Buy Nothing Day

Buy Nothing Day 2003
It's probably too late for a lot of people, but in case you haven't headed out to shop yet, don't forget that today is Buy Nothing Day.


Posted 10:24 AM | Comments (2)

November 27, 2003

Food for thought

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! When you've finished your turkey or tofurkey or whatever is on your holiday plate, how about filling your mind with some incredibly satisfying thoughts. Here are a few:

First, an interview with Studs Terkel, author of Working and many other "memory books," including his latest, Hope Dies Last. If you don't have time to read the whole thing (and really, it's worth your while), think about this little bit:

There's a poem by Brecht: "Who Built the Seven Gates of Thebes?" When you ask who built the pyramids, the automatic answer is: the pharaohs. But the pharaohs didn't lift a finger. I was told, by Mrs. O'Reilly at McKinley High School in Chicago, that Sir Francis Drake conquered the Spanish Armada. He did? By himself? Brecht in the poem says that when the armada sank, we read that King Philip of Spain wept. Here's the big one: "Were there no other tears?"

To me, history is those who shed those other tears. Those whose brains and whose brawn made the wheels go around. I hate to use the word "the people." The anonymous many. But they're it. I know that the Internet has all sorts of democratic possibilities: That's how Howard Dean came up so fast, isn't it? At the same time, there's a fear of so much in the hands of so few.

I was also going to talk about the perversion of our language: To go more "moderate" means to go more toward the center, and to go toward the center means to go toward the right. If you could see me now, I could do a demonstration: If our physical posture followed our political posture and the perversion of our language -- I'd have to act this out -- we'd walk around leaning to the right. That's the normal way of walking. And then, the guy who's walking straight: "Look at that leftist!" Or if the guy who's walking straight leans a little bit to the left: "He's a goddamn terrorist!"

In a similar vein try listening to Christopher Lydon's interview with Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's campaign manager. (Scroll down; links to the mp3 files of the interview are near the bottom of the page). Trippi discusses many of the reasons why people like Midge Farmer, a proud representative of the great state of Wyoming, are supporting Howard Dean. (This comment on Farmer's letter from the Kiwi Cowboy is also pretty good.) There's too much in Trippi's interview for me to transcribe; just listen and you'll see what I mean. He basically argues that if Dean can win the nomination—and then the Presidency—without being bought out by corporate interests, his election will be revolutionary because it will break the stranglehold big money has over politics.
So far, Dean's proving to be a people's candidate, not a party candidate:

He rarely smiles during his 30-minute stump speech, which he delivers without notes. He does not make small talk, does not open with cute quips and does not engage in self-deprecating humor. He does not talk about himself, nor does he tell members of the audience how wonderful their questions are. He does not pretend to feel their pain.

But Dean still has an incredible amount of work to do. For example, check out what New Hampshire cab driver David Berthiaume has to say about the election:

"I'll tell you where my vote's going: to our president. I'm not a Republican, I'm an Independent. And I'm pro-choice. But I think he's done a good job, and so does at least 51 percent of the country. Fine, he might have been misled about Iraq, but it needed to happen anyway. We kicked Saddam in the teeth, and now he's gone. We should all be happy about that."

Dean's probably up against countless numbers of people who think just like Mr. Berthiaume, and it's precisely this kind of thinking that is unlikely to be changed by tv ads or newspaper articles. The only way to reach people like this is in person, one on one, listening to their thoughts and concerns, and explaining why Dean is a better solution to them than Bush could ever hope to be. If you listen to Trippi's interview, you'll have a much better idea of what I'm talking about.

Today I'm thankful for many things, but foremost among them is that I think Terkel is right: Hope dies last. But we can't just hope that our world will become a better place; we have to work to make it happen. The pharoahs didn't build the pyramids, Sir Francis Drake didn't defeat the Spanish Armada, and George Washington didn't win the revolutionary war. People did that. People like you and me. And it's only people like us who can change the direction our country is headed today. I'm thankful that for that, too.

Posted 01:58 PM | Comments (1)

November 20, 2003

Quizzy Whizzy

Which 20th Century Theorist Are You?


You are Louis Althusser! You tried to bring
together structuralism, Marxism, and Lacanian
psychoanalysis. Your brilliant analysis of
ideology and the state is still widely
influential. You murdered your wife, were put
in a sanitarium, and lived the last decade of
your life alone before dying in 1990.

What 20th Century Theorist are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted 06:55 PM

November 04, 2003

Crazy Legal Fact

How many lawsuits would you guess are filed each year in the U.S.? Before starting law school, I would probably have guessed a few million, at most. I would have been wrong. According to Joseph P. Glannon's Civil Procedure: Examples & Explorations, I would have been very wrong:

In 1998 an astounding 91,000000 cases were filed in the courts of the fifty states, while some 1,700,000 were filed in the federal courts (56).

Holy litigious society, Batman! Yikes.

p.s.: Batman can't fly, but the batmobile can. Discuss.

Posted 06:01 AM | Comments (11)

October 11, 2003

R.I.P. Neil Postman

Farewell to Neil Postman, author of Amusing Ourselves to Death (among other things). The book has been sitting on my shelf for years; I bought it simply because it had such an incredible title and because I'd seen it mentioned in so many other books. Judging from the Forward, now might be a very good time to dig it out. Comparing Aldus Huxley's Brave New World to Orwell's 1984, Postman wrote:

Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

Postman claimed Amusing Ourselves to Death was "about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right." It's definitely a thesis worth re-examining in light of, oh, I don't know, the events of the last 50 years or so.

UPDATE: Another Postman tribute.

Posted 05:54 AM | Comments (2)

October 07, 2003

Academic English Craziness

Yesterday Brian Leiter pointed to "Critical Mass," a blog written by Erin O'Connor, who is apparently a tenured English professor at the University of Pennsylvania. I don't have time to say all I'd like to about O'Connor's blog, but suffice to say it's a very scary thing. And then there's the Erin O'Connor Watch, which I've got to think will only make things worse.

If you're currently in English academia, you might recognize what's going on here from your own experience or from things you've seen or heard about. The bottom line is that making a profession of English at the university level requires very different types of thinking than most people will have experienced elsewhere. That thinking is not necessarily "liberal" or "conservative," it's critical. If you're unwilling to engage in critical thinking, you're likely to be shunned. O'Connor obviously exhibits an ability to think critically; some of the letters she posts from former grad students and undergrads—not so much critical thinking.

I think all academics should have blogs; if "Critical Mass" was but one among many, readers could easily evaluate its claims about academia. As it is, "Critical Mass" is like a squeaky wheel, and academics might want to take care that it doesn't get the grease.

Posted 05:18 AM

October 04, 2003


Instead of revising my first memo, reading, working on my legal research homework, or preparing for the ADR competition tomorrow, I'm being held hostage by the web's goodness. For example, who could tear themselves away from this letter slamming the hypocrisy and anti-competitiveness of Microsoft? And don't you want a MSfreePC? And whoa, Time Magazine's cover story this week is Mission NOT Accomplished. You know things are bad for Bush when you see Time shouting about it. Professor Cooper has the roundup on that, including a breakdown of the poll numbers.

In a more law-schooly vein, but also sticking with the anti-corporate fun, I'm loving the rants against Lexis and Westlaw at Three Years of Hell and

For great fun during a study break, you can't beat The Mr. Sanffleburger Corporation Children's Show! (I't a flash animation w/sound, so be careful if you're in a quiet office or library.) Conform. Consume. Obey. [link via TYoH]

Last night we had sangria and tapas at Jaleo, then we saw Lost in Translation, which was an incredibly great movie largely because it walked the line of being a horrible movie but just never really crossed over. In that' way it's a refreshing departure from the Hollywood norm, and it's also refreshing because its pace is human. Instead of relying on quick cuts and lame action scenes to keep viewers engaged, the movie relies on great character development to keep the plot moving. Both Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson give stellar performances. We were going to see School of Rock, but it was sold out. Lucky us; "Lost in Translation" was just that good. Highly recommended.

Ok. Must. Work. Now.

Posted 08:09 AM | Comments (3)

September 15, 2003

Now Live from Dupont Circle

Ok, so we've moved. Last Saturday we went from zero (nothing packed) to completely moved in 18 hours or less, which was a new record for me. It's great fun. If you get tired of your job or law school or would just like a change of scenery, I highly recommend just picking up and moving across town. You'll be so busy sweating your ass off, you won't have time to think about anything else. I really have no intention of passing my classes this semester, anyway, so it's all good.

But yeah, ai is now coming to you live from just outside Dupont Circle, which I like to tell people is the heart of the heart of the heart of the ____________ here in D.C. You can fill in the blank w/just about whatever you want—museums, coffee shops, book stores, live music, political activism, good restaurants, cool movie theatres, and on and on—it's all here or a short walk or metro ride away. Now my stroll to school is about 20 minutes, and by bike it's like I blink and I'm there. Life is good.

Bonus: We moved in to find full cable already in effect, including wireless internet access! I don't know who's paying for this, but I'll be happy to make use of it while it lasts. The only problem with the cable is that it includes HBO, which is basically video crack—like playstation, but maybe worse because it calls you at regular intervals to say "watch me, your favorite show is on! you can't miss this! drop everything and watch watch watch!" Last night featured a HBO-crack binge of epic proportions, beginning at around 8 p.m. with reruns of the Sopranos, followed by some SITC action (I've always loved Steve, too), and then we had to check out Carnivale (trippy—by far the most Twin Peaks-ish tv since Twin Peaks), and we just couldn't tear ourselves away from K Street. Holy firetruck, after all that, I practically had to be peeled off the couch, not only because all that programming was such an mental overload, but because well, what the heck is up with Howard Dean being on K Street and what the hell are he and HBO trying to do!? If you didn't see it, Salon summarizes most of the Dean part in its coverage:

In a debate prep with Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean -- which Dean agreed to partially because he was thrilled to get some free advice from two of the highest-profile political strategists in Washington -- Begala comments on one of the current president's strengths: "One of the ways that Bush is an enormously disciplined politician is he never answers hypotheticals. He doesn't entertain that option." Begala also says that the best way for Dean to "chip Bush down" is with humor. It's tough not to be interested and engaged with such slices of strategy-building.
What that summary doesn't tell you is that during this fictional? real? debate prep, one of the K Street characters fed Dean one of the big jokes he used in the Baltimore debate, which was:
Well, if the percent of minorities that's in your state has anything to do with how you can connect with African American voters, then Trent Lott would be Martin Luther King.

After watching the K Street, I couldn't decide if James Carville, et al, really fed Dean that line, or if the show's editors had just made it seem that way. Salon seems to think it wasn't just the magic of editing. I don't know. Does it matter? I don't know. Dean's blog went wild with comments after the show; I think they mostly liked it. The Washington Post seems a little baffled by the show. Ah well, it certainly entertained me.

And now CivPro beckons. Do you think 10 hours of homework/reading time/week is sufficient to achieve success in law school? ;-)

Posted 04:44 PM | Comments (4)

September 08, 2003

Backson Bisy Backson

Monday already? Where did the weekend go? According to The Tao of Pooh, Chinese philosopher Chuang-tse told this little parable about being busy:

There was a man who disliked seeing his footprints and his shadow. He decided to escape from them, and began to run. But as he ran along, more footprints appeared, while his shadow easily kept up with him. Thinking he was going too slowly, he ran faster and faster without stopping, until he finally collapsed from exhaustion and died.

If he had stood still, there would have been no footprints. If he had rested in the shade, his shadow would have disappeared (92-3).

Isn't that a great story? It's the best explanation I can offer for ai's silence of late. Catching up from the sleep deprivation of Vegas took several days, and then there's that thing known as homework that seems to take some time. So far I'm getting by on doing the bare minimum, but I haven't really been called on in any class yet, so I'm sure my slacking is going to tell on me soon.

This past weekend I thought I'd do all my catching up, but instead L. and I spent much of the two days scouting for a new place to live. She said all along that we should plan to live closer to GW so I could come and go from classes easily, walk the dog, go back to school for evening meetings or study sessions, etc. I disagreed, saying we should live further away to save money. She was right, I was wrong. The daily commute and trying to keep the dog adequately exercised is killing us, and already I've missed a number of extracurricular events that might have been fun, interesting, and certainly worth attending. Now it looks like we'll be moving downtown—perhaps as early as next week. What homework?

One tidbit from school: Some of the most annoying comments in class are those that attempt to tell the professor and the class what the decision in a case should have been, or what the rule should be, or how the law should or does work. Come on, people! Stop and think for a second how ridiculous these pronouncements sound! I've heard this advice before, but now I can say from experience that it's excellent advice: Talk in class only when you have something really good to say, and if you must speak, make it a question, not a pronouncement.

Bisy. Backson.

Posted 06:01 AM | Comments (1)

August 28, 2003

Skipping School

Since I don't want to maximize my chances of success in law school or anything like that, I'm off to spend the next 5 days in Lost Wages, NV (aka: Las Vegas). Did I mention I'm a gambling addict?

Oops! That was a lie. There's a wedding. In Vegas. Imagine that! I'm best man. And I made the promise to be best man long ago, so there's really no getting out of it now, no matter how badly I want to get to CrimLaw today to hear what PCrim has to say about retributive theories of justice. And I do want to hear it, because he's talking theory, and theory is where it's at, in a two turntables and a microphone rockage sort of way.

By the way, what I think I understand about the rich, creamy horseshit about holding people to rules we can't live up to ourselves is this: Coleridge was a servant of the law and felt he had to send a message that murder is wrong by sentencing Dudley and Stephens to death, but in his decision he encoded a hint to the queen that only she had the power to show mercy to these poor chaps, and that's exactly what she did. If it wasn't 5 a.m., I'd find the quote for you, but as it is, I'll leave it there and hope all you brilliant and knowledgeable people will tell me what you got out of the case or Coleridge's standard of law.

So posts probably be zero until sometime next week, when probably I'll flunk out of school, both because I'm missing two days of classes and because I don't have this software.

Have a great Labor Day holiday!

Posted 04:01 AM | Comments (2)

August 22, 2003

Amazing Congratulations

Congratulations to Reichen and Chip, winners of the latest circuit of The Amazing Race on CBS. The couple claimed victory for gay people everywhere, and they earned it—especially against the subtle homophobia of second-place-finishers, John and Kelly. Of course, some people won't be too happy for Chip and Reichen, but the rest of us can be thrilled about the serendipitous synchronicity that put a married gay couple on national TV for 8-10 weeks just as the Supreme Court was striking down U.S. anti-sodomy laws. Not only that, but as Heather Havrilesky noted last week on Salon, they seemed to be the most compatible, well-adjusted, and likable couple on the show.

Rereading that article also reminds me of the irony in the fact that the team that made each other the most miserable on this season of the Amazing Race may have been the self-proclaimed virgins who have dated for 12 years, Millie and Chuck. They crashed and burned a few weeks ago and seem destined for eternal unhappiness if they insist on staying together. Meanwhile, Chip and Reichen will have $1 million with which to show each other the depth of their love. Perhaps there is justice in this world, after all.

Posted 07:14 AM | Comments (5)

August 18, 2003

Amused and Rested

We survived Six Flags without incident. The Batwing was a little disappointing, really, but still plenty thrilling. Ranked in order of ability to make you feel queasy were:

  1. Two Face: The Flipside
  2. Joker's Jinx
  3. Batwing

But really probably the best rides for just great fun (w/out threatening to make you sick) were the old wooden coasters, The Wild One and Roar, and the new smooth, high-speed equivalent, Superman. The water park was also fun, but that's where the lines were, so we didn't spend a lot of time there.

Notes for if you want to go: If you want to order tickets online you'll save $10/person, but you have to do it far enough ahead so that the tickets can be mailed to you. Parking is $9, and that's pretty unavoidable. If you plan to dip in the water park, inner-tube rentals are $6/ea. You don't have to rent a tube to ride the slides, but you'll wait much longer if you don't. Total cost for the day for two people, including two meals at Subway (the healthiest option in the park, it seemed): approx. $110.

And with that, it seems my life of leisure has come to an end. I'm off to law school orientation, trying not to think too hard about what a lack of respect GW has shown by refusing to tell us what time orientation will end today. I do have a dog to walk, people! Oh well. As Beanie said when I complained about this before, I better get used to it. All my time are belong to them.

Posted 07:09 AM | Comments (1)

August 17, 2003

Get Your War On, DC Punk

In the ongoing saga of the country bumpkin (me) trying to take advantage of all that DC has to offer, I forgot to mention the joy that was ours the other night when David Rees, the satiric mastermind behind Get Your War On, spoke at Politics and Prose. He shared the bill with Mark Andersen and Mark Jenkens, authors of Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation's Capital (reviewed here). At first the pairing seemed a bit odd, but it turned out to be a nice combination since punk is all about alternatives to mainstream culture and GYWO is certainly that. But mainly L. and I were there for Rees, who impressed us as an amazingly deadpan comic; if you think his comics are funny when you read them on the screen, imagine having them read aloud to you in a crowded room. It was almost like a form of therapy.

Since I knew that proceeds of his book go to landmine relief efforts in Afghanistan, I've wondered how Rees makes a living. Someone asked that very question and the answer is he's now creating GYWO for Rolling Stone magazine, so he's finally making some bank for his brilliance. You can also give cash to him directly through the paypal link at the bottom of his comics page. Read the comics, throw the man a few bones for those laughs. Buy the book and help make Afghanistan safer. Everybody wins!

In a related vein, we also went to see "The Weather Underground" at Visions Cinema:

Thirty years ago, a group of young American radicals announced their intention to overthrow the U.S. government. In THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND, former Underground members, including Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, Mark Rudd, David Gilbert and Brian Flanagan, speak publicly about the idealistic passion that drove them to bring the war home and the trajectory that placed them on the FBI's most wanted list.

It's an incredible film about an incredible time and phenomenon in U.S. history, and provides invaluable lessons about the best (and worst) ways to bring about political change in a "modern" (really postmodern or postpostmodern or whatever) society. Short lesson: Violence against the state only gives the state license to use increased violence in response. See also Sept. 11, 2001.

Toward the end of the film, Naomi Jaffe, a former member of the Weather Underground, says something like, "even though we didn't achieve our goals, I think what we did was worthwhile because it shows future activists what's possible; it provides a history of resistance and activism that future revolutionaries can build on." And the thing is, she'd be right except for 98% of the planet, the Weather Underground never existed. History belongs to those who write the history books, and if history books ever mention the Weather Underground, you can bet they do so as minimally as possible and in the context of words like treason, radical, insane, tiny fringe, etc. Have you ever heard of the Weather Underground?

Finally, to come full circle, in addition to being one of the authors of Dance of Days (mentioned above), Mark Andersen is also the founder of Positive Force, a DC activist group. Andersen will join Sam Green, director of "The Weather Underground" (the movie) for a Q&A about the movie and about activism on Aug. 23 at visions. You know, if you want to boost your countercultural cred. a teensy bit, it could be cool.

Now, for something completely different, L. and I are headed off to Six Flags (MD) for a day of mass consumer debauchery of the junkfood and thrillride variety. It's my last day of "freedom" before law school starts, so I figured I'd go out with a bang, of sorts. Batwing, here we come!

Posted 08:15 AM

Fair and Balanced Friday:

Whoops! Friday was Fair and Balanced day in response to response to Fox v. Franken. See also "Freedom of Expression."

Posted 07:42 AM

August 14, 2003

Ani Rocks

ani difranco played a terrific show at Wolf Trap last night. Best lines from her new song, "Serpentine":

cuz the profit system follows the path of least resistance and the path of least resistance is what makes the river crooked makes it serpentine capitalism is the devil's wet dream

Ain't that the truth. Ani has kindly made more of her goodness available for download with her poem in response to 9-11-01 and the aftermath.

Hamell on Trial opened the show with good humor, high energy, and amazing guitar strumming. I got a good laugh out of "I Hate Your Kid," and I'm still wondering how one guy can get so much great sound out of one guitar.

Wolf Trap itself is quite possibly the best concert venue I've ever attended. Open air venues are usually great fun, but Wolf Trap lets you do it in style by letting you bring just about anything you want onto the lawn. We took a picnic and a cooler full of wine and beer and had ourselves a fine time. Highly recommended.

(Note: If you're transportationally-challenged or just prefer to rely on mass transit, the shuttles between Wolf Trap and the metro line work great and I think Wolf Trap tries to schedule events to end in time for you to make the last train into the city. At least they did with the Ani show....)

Posted 08:08 AM

August 11, 2003

Missed Opportunities

Why didn't someone tell me about Brickfest? Maybe because you don't know what it is. I didn't either until I heard a brief mention of it on NPR this morning. A quick search revealed that

BrickFest is a yearly gathering of AFOL (Adult Fans of Lego™) from around the world.

And it just happened this past weekend at George Mason University in Arlington. Aside from a few fun hours many years ago spent wandering among the fantastic creations at Legoland in Billund, Denmark, I haven't been a very active or dedicated AFOL, and now I've missed a perfect chance to make up for my infidelity.

*sigh* I miss all the good stuff. (Come on, you know you loved your legos (or "lego bricks," as their maker wants us to call them) when you were a kid. Didn't everyone spend hours—nay, days!—building fantastic futures out of little plastic bricks?)

Posted 08:57 AM | Comments (1)

August 05, 2003

Joke for John

I think JobforJohn would like this joke from the latest installment of Get Your War On:

1: Knock knock. 2: Who's there? 1: Jobs and Growth. 2: Oh, shut the fsck up! I mean, really! 1: Jobs and Growth of a sneaking sense of betrayal!

Posted 01:10 PM

August 03, 2003

National Gallery of Art Cafeteria: Observations

Observation 1: There's something not quite right about a 6-8 year-old boy wearing a suit and tie. The rightness is even more questionable when he's sitting with a man (his father?) who seems to be wearing an identical suit and tie. Suits and ties are just wrong. Suits and ties on 6-8 year-old boys should be criminal.

Observation 2: The waterfall that looks like it's always about to stream right through the window is very very cool. The reflective, stainless steel ceiling and lights in the back portion of the cafeteria is very very uncool. What were they thinking?

Observation 3: A Handspring Visor Deluxe combined with a Targus Stowaway Keyboard is a much more chic and, um, novel way to write a novel than is a slightly worn Apple iBook. Damn! Out-teched again!

Question: Which came first: The glass pyramids at the entrance to the Louvre in Paris, or the very similar (if much smaller) glass pyramids in the courtyard between the east and west wings of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.?

Posted 04:59 PM | Comments (1)

July 29, 2003

Near Death Experience

I'm a big fan of public transportation, but this morning it came a little too close for comfort. My dog and I were out for our usual morning walk today when she (the dog) decided to stop and sniff something near the corner of a major intersection. No problem there; stopping to sniff is just what dogs do. So we stood there for perhaps a minute until her sniffer exhausted whatever little treasure it had found, then we resumed our walk. But that's when things went a little weird because suddenly the quiet of our pre-dawn neighborhood was broken by the incessant blaring of what sounded like the horn of a big vehicle. To my left I saw a large truck following a city bus, but before I had time to really connect the truck, the bus, and the honking, I was startled by a strange "splat!" directly behind me, followed by a sinister whisper that seemed to be dopplering toward my right side at high speed. I spun around just in time to see a huge tire and wheel flying by me through the grass. And as I watched it roll and bounce down the grassy slope and smack to a stop against the wall of an apartment building, my brain finally caught up with events to bring me to the realization: My dog and I were nearly killed by a flying bus wheel!

But, we weren't.

And no, we wouldn't have died if it had hit us, but it wouldn't have felt too great, I'm thinking. Fun in the city just doesn't stop, does it?

Posted 06:11 AM

July 23, 2003

A Bunch of Stuff

Ok. After the interesting comments about various types of stress bombers, I really wanted to say something today about the "zero summers" and other personality types so well described in Brush With the Law. However, the day is slipping away so that'll just have to wait, along with all the other things I'd really like to wax poetic about, including:

"Congress to Bikers: Get a Car: Cutting money for sustainable transportation alternatives to cars is so short-sighted and stupid I just don't know where to begin. This is countered at least a little by "A green revolt against Bush," which I Hate Stupid People calls faith restoring. I don't know if I'd go that far, but it's a start.

Bradley's Almanac points to a frightening account of the FBI investigating what a random person was reading in a coffee shop (the guy was reading an opinion piece called "Weapons of Mass Stupidity"). Any faith previously restored is now gone.

L-Cubed continues its streak of provocative posts with a comparison of the different ways the Democrats and Republicans respond to criticism. Scott reports, you decide.

Dan Gillmore says "Voting machines need paper trails" and I couldn't agree with him more. He also provides some suggestions for action to make sure we can trust our elections in the future.

Unlearned Hand reports that the the pro-life movement has effectively stolen millions of dollars from U.S. charities (most of which have nothing to do with abortion, pro or con) and at least one of its members is fairly gleeful about that. Can you say "forest for the trees"?

Finally, Professor Jeff Cooper has returned from a brief break with a great roundup of the coverage of the Bush administration's alleged attempts to smear "whistleblowers" and some nice thoughts on the Tour de France and Apple's advertising.

So much to read and process, so little time.

Posted 09:39 AM

Day Pop Top 40 Report

DayPop's Top 40 rarely fails to offer links to flabbergasting or otherwise outrageous material, and today is no exception. Did John Gilmore really get ejected from a British Airways flight for wearing a "Suspected Terrorist" button!? Has this been in the news anywhere? I mean, doesn't that sound completely nuts? I agree with the guy—airport security is a farce to make us feel "secure" while adding very little in the way of real additional security. Gilmore has filed a lawsuit against a plethora of parties (FAA, TSA, etc.), specifically the legality of requiring all passengers to show identification before they travel. Reason Magazine ("the monthly print magazine of 'free minds and free markets'") is covering the suit. Why isn't anyone else?

And in a related vein of the insults we suffer under the name of "homeland security," "Bush Suckers the Democrats" argues that the scandal over the African uranium claims in the State of the Union Address is just an empty show to make the Democrats look foolish—planned every step of the way by Yubbledew and Co. (I guess that's why Bush's approval rating is dropping like a stone then, huh?) Whew! That's a relief! Just when I was starting to think the world was a complicated place, The Weekly Standard pulls through to reassure me that everything is, in fact, very simple. You just have to stick with the truth. And we all agree about what that is, don't we?

Also from DayPop: The Dallas Morning News has a blog on which its editors hash out their opinions on various issues. How cool is that? Now if we could just get the Bush administration to do this, we might just have something like a democracy again.

Posted 07:07 AM

July 21, 2003

Old Rag Mountain

It was a beautiful weekend in the DC region, so on the spur of the moment Saturday night, I decided to take a little hike. I'd previously searched for recommended hikes in the area, and found Local Hike's list of 5-star hikes , and of course I wanted to do the one billed as the "best hike in VA!" L. and I did the Bull Run "hike" a few weeks ago and found it to be less hike than walk, except for the low spots, which at the time were filled with water, making the "hike" more like a "swalk"—a swap walk. We also picked up some friendly tics there, as did our favorite dumb animal (our dog), so all in all Bull Run was nice, but I hoped that Old Rag Mountain would offer more climbing, varied terrain, and better views.

Old Rag did not disappoint. As the picture below should suggest, aside from the "smokiness" of the mountains, the views were pretty darned good.

And if you want climbing, you'd probably be hard-pressed to find more of it in the DC area than you'll find on Old Rag. As the Local Hikes description indicates, you climb over 2000 feet in around 4 miles. The "rock scramble" is also no joke; there were places where the rocks were so vertical I had to stop and examine them pretty closely to find a way up. However, since Old Rag is such a popular hike those few tough spots aren't really so tough—all the likely hand holds (including nearby trees and branches) are worn smooth from all the hands that have grabbed them over the years, and all the good toe holds are blackened by the scrapes of shoe rubber. So although it's a pretty challenging hike, it's well-traveled so you can hike in the knowledge that if you get in any kind of trouble someone will likely be along shortly to help you out.

If you want a great hike in the D.C. area, I highly recommend Old Rag. However, I'd add a couple of things to what the Local Hikes page says about it. First, it took almost exactly 2 hours to reach the trail parking lot from the Bethesda, MD area—follow directions to Nethers, VA if you want to look it up on Yahoo maps or something. Also, since you have to park 0.8 miles from the trailhead, this is really an 8.8 mile round-trip, not 7 miles. Finally, the 4-hour pace is a pretty brisk one. I did it, but it was kind of a forced march and I only spent about 10-15 minutes at the top. I imagine most hikers will want to take a more leisurely pace, so plan for 5-6 hours, at least. Other than that, take lots of water and have a great hike.

So what's next? If you have recommendations for hiking or biking (mt. or road) in the DC area, the comments link is calling your name!

Posted 11:07 AM | Comments (5)

Really Good Wretchedness

Kick off your week with some award-winning wretchedness! Feast your eyes on this:

They had but one last remaining night together, so they embraced each other as tightly as that two-flavor entwined string cheese that is orange and yellowish-white...

So begins the winning entry of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest ("where WWW means Wretched Writers Welcome"). The BLFC is "a whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels."

But what if you like string cheese?

[Link via Random Neural Misfirings which is definitely random and includes this nice little roundup of recent events.]

Posted 07:16 AM

July 18, 2003

Funny Business

I'm increasingly late to these fun link parties (i.e.: when someone finds something so insane or cool happens that everyone links to it and sends it to you in email), but it's better late than never in the case of Paul Kelly Tripplehorn Jr., the brilliant Washington intern who wrote such a horrible breakup email [pdf]—both humanly and grammatically—that he ended up losing his job. See Life, Law, Libido for more insight on the issue (also a follow-up here, plus a bonus link to the most hilarious thank-you letter [pdf] I've read in a long time. (And that's saying something; as a recovering business writing teacher, I used to teach students how to write interview thank-you letters, so I've read quite a few in my day.) To fully appreciate the letter, don't miss the recipient's interpretation of it at the end of LLL's post. What's funny about this is that, after having read so many letters like this, I know people send crap like this all the time; maybe not quite this bad, but bad. Perhaps that's something to think about that the next time you get worried about your competition in law school (or just about any other field, for that matter).

All this hilarity and horror comes via DG who, despite being "busier than a one-legged man at a butt-kicking contest," * is still somehow able to offer up daily posts that never fail to entertain and inform. She recently checked out the Dean for America and to me her comments demonstrate what I've been thinking more and more: Dean is looking like the best candidate to beat Yubbledew because Dean's not just some lefty wacko. Instead, he is (or he is selling himself as) a pragmatist who doesn't want a revolution, just a few changes here and there so people will have health care, a quality education, and a safe world. But who knows. Someone told me the other day that Dean is "losing his luster," so we'll see.

Posted 06:35 AM | Comments (4)

July 16, 2003

Car Rental Gotcha

While clearing my desk I ran across the receipt for the car I rented during my recent travels West. The total bill was $423.16 to rent for one week a recent model Chevy Cavalier, 4-dr., automatic, w/air conditioning and cd-player, and unlimited miles. It was a good car, it did the job nicely, and the rental company was fine. The problem is that I reserved the car and made all my travel plans based on the fact that it was supposed to cost $127 for the week. That's right: I was quoted a price of $127, but I ended up paying $423.

SO, this receipt reminds me that I wanted to rant about what a rip-off car rentals are and how there appears to be no such thing as "truth in advertising" when it comes to this crap and why aren't innocent and naive consumers (like myself) protected from this kind of scam!?

But why bother? In a few years I'll be a lawyer, and then, well, let's just say the car rental business better watch out. Paybacks are a bitch.*

*Yeah, I know having a J.D. won't probably enable me to sue the pants off of car rental companies for lying to their customers, but I'm told an active fantasy life is healthy, ok?

Posted 11:57 AM | Comments (2)

June 19, 2003

Fun with language

I may be going to law school this fall, but some part of me is still a writing teacher—specifically, a business writing teacher (at least some of the time)—and there's lots of good stuff going on these days in the wacky world of business writing. First, one of the "Big Three" accounting firms has declared war on just the kind of nonsense business-speak I spent the last four years trying to get my students to recognize, abhor, and never write again:

Deloitte Consulting admits it helped foster confusing, indecipherable words like "synergy," "paradigm" and "extensible repository," but it has decided enough is enough. It is releasing Bullfighter, a new software program to help business writers avoid jargon and use clear language.

Yay Bullfighter! Even the name is pretty straightforward. Be sure you don't miss Deloitte's own speil about its new program—you can even take it for a test drive or download it yourself (if you use Windows 2000 or XP). And best of all, send an ecard to all your friends who are full of bull!

Yeah, this is going to take the business world by storm. Not. But hey, at least now we know that some business people know they write nonsense, and as GI Joe always said, "Knowing is half the battle!"

For still more fun with corporate America using language as if they're just making it up (wait! they are!), check out this exchange between Coca-Cola and a former English teacher. And remember to treat yourself well. Ordinary. Drink Dasani bottled water. ;-)

Stuff like this almost makes me wish I was going to teach business writing again this fall. (Wait. Did I really write that? What I really meant was I think it's time for more Playstation....)

Posted 07:36 AM | Comments (1)

June 18, 2003

Dandy Dando

One of the great things L. and I have been looking forward to about moving to a city is the chance to see more live music. Last Friday night we checked out one of the top picks recommended by the Washington City PaperEvan Dando at the Black Cat. Back in the day I was a fan of Dando's old band, The Lemonheads, so I knew the show had potential, but I was skeptical; when lead singers go solo sometimes they change things up so radically that they're hardly recognizable. I'm glad to report that's not really true of Dando. He played some great new music from his album, "Baby I'm Bored," and jammed out on some old Lemonheads tunes to please the old fanbase.

Dando hit the stage alone with his acoustic guitar at about 12:15 to play five or six solo acoustic tunes, including notably "Favorite T" from Come On Feel. Dando's voice seemed older (it is) and rougher, like he's smoked a few too many cigarettes, perhaps, or is just out of practice. His range seemed smaller and his voice sometimes cracked on transitions between notes. His acoustic guitar was also jerky and at times it sounded and looked like he was working really hard to find the right chords and transitions. But hey, I don't play, so what do I know?

After the short acoustic set, Dando was joined on stage by a three-piece band featuring none other than Juliana Hatfield on base. Hatfield played and sang with the Lemonheads on several albums—not to mention putting out a lot of great music in her own right—so in a lot of ways, it was like seeing the Lemonheads reborn. The band performed some of the major Lemnheads hits, including: It's A Shame About Ray, Drug Buddy, Big Gay Heart, and Rudderless. Highlights for me were a super rockin' doublespeed version of Down About It and a slightly slowed but still energetic version of Confetti, one of my favorite songs that features exactly the kind of almost-too-cute-yet-nonetheless-poignant lyrics that always made the Lemonheads great: "Well he kinda shoulda sorta woulda loved her if he coulda, the story's getting closer to the end. He kinda shoulda sorta woulda loved her if he coulda, but he'd rather be alone than pretend."

In all, it was a great show. If Dando comes your way, and if you were ever a Lemonheads fan, don't miss it.

Posted 09:09 AM

June 13, 2003

Coming Soon

Hey Survivor fans: Jenna in the buff. She's making hay while the sun shines, I guess.

Posted 02:11 PM

June 10, 2003

Alive and Kicking

Hi. Sorry for the silence at ai. The trusty ai production iBook is now winging its way to Houston for repair -- most likely it will receive a new hard drive and return to me within a few days as good as new. Meanwhile, I'm getting by w/L's trusty Dell Inspiron, which is older than my iBook and is still working w/out problems, so chalk one up to the evil empire. ;-) (Note: When I first started using this machine to surf the web a week or so ago it was crashing 3-5 times/day. I downloaded the Mozilla Firebird browser and quit using Explorer and guess what? No more crashes. Chalk one up for open source!)

Andbutso, the lack of my very own dear computer has meant many things, one of which is no ai posts, though it appears the world has not stopped turning while I:

  • Drove a 17-foot U-Haul tornado (which is what it sounded like from inside the cab) halfway -- ok, a third of the way -- across the country towing L's car and all our worldly belongings. L drove some, too. Scratch "truck driver" from the list of things I might possibly want to do for a living in my imaginary romantic future. Not fun.

  • Unpacked (mostly).

  • Learned that driving anywhere w/in the D.C. metro area takes at least one hour, usually three. Hooray for the Metro! Every time I ride the train I'm fascinated anew by the wonder of public transportation. It works so damn well it's almost a miracle!

  • Saw "Gigantic," the huge documentary about They Might Be Giants. We saw it at the new AFI Silver Theatre, to which we happily live quite close. We'll be seeing lots of cool indie films here maybe. Yay!

  • Saw Illegal Art, an exhibition of "art that uses copyrighted or trademarked material without permission." Check out the Visuals page for some samples. Don't miss the story of Kembrew McLeod, the University of Iowa professor who trademarked the phrase "Freedom of Expression" and is now apparently suing AT&T for using that phrase in its advertising. Ironies abound. Kieran Dwyer's "Consumer Whore" Starbucks satire is also notable, especially since Starbucks has gone to so much effort to make sure no one sees it. (More on that story here and at Dwyer's site.) Link to the anti-logo and tell all your friends! And hey, "Illegal Art" is heading to San Francisco soon, so if you're there, I recommend it.

  • Saw one of Sam Shepard's many great American dramas, "A Lie of the Mind." We also saw "True West" at another DC theatre while visiting sometime last year, so seeing Shepard in DC is becoming something of a tradition.

  • Played Texas Hold-Em w/L.'s sister and friends. Lots of lawyers and political activists in the mix, which made for interesting conversation, much of which I mostly stayed out of for fear of outing myself as the leftist radical I think I am. See, strategically I'm thinking I need to try to get along w/people who love Scalia and think the way Yubbledew was placed in office was fair and legitimate. I'm going to be working w/people like this for the foreseeable future, right? So I need to learn to find a way to do that, it seems, without constant battling and flaring tempers. But L. asked a great question after we left: "When does thinking strategically slip into selling out?" Ah yes, it's the question of law school, isn't it? Because law school is a strategic move for me -- it's an attempt to do something from within "the system," rather than from the fringes (academia) where it seemed all I'd ever be able to do was bitch and moan. (No offense to current academics -- that was just how I came to see my future and it has nothing to do w/what you're doing and going to do.) When does strategy become strategery?

  • Saw "Coupling" Disc 1 via our brand new NetFlix subscription. Hilarious. The setups for the jokes are often long and layered, leading to huge, belly-laugh payoffs at the end of each episode.

So you see, it's really just all about the entertainment here in summerland. I should be getting a job or something, but, well, I'm well-fed and protected from the rain, so it's kind of hard to be bothered. Perhaps the motivation will strike soon. I moan that all the good jobs are unpaid, but I'm fully aware that's no excuse for sitting on my ass gorging myself on the copious produce of the various segments of the U.S. entertainment industries. I mean, if I'm not going to be getting paid for the next two months, I might as well see if I can help someone out in some way, right?

But until that happens, perhaps I'll just help Unbrand America to make up for some of my consumer guilt. And then, of course, there are all those books I was going to read. After reading Brush With the Law, it's pretty hard to fight the "screw it, I'll worry about it later" attitude w/regard to law school prep. Maybe I'll just ride my bike.

Posted 11:19 AM | Comments (3)

May 14, 2003


What a strange word that is, "catsup." It sounds funny, and it's spelled funny. How do you say it? Some people say it like "catch-up," which is what I'm doing now. The following are links I don't have time to really comment on, but which are worth posting anyway:

  • Earth to Bill Gates: Thank You—I saw the NOW program last Friday and I'll be damned if it didn't make even me, a hardened anti-M$ partisan, think twice about refusing to give my software dollars to M$. (But Gates still didn't pay for his coffee [link via Scripting News.
  • TV social experiment involving student ends—Still more proof that more money is not the complete solution to problems w/public education. For those of you who played LSAT games some time in the recent past, this story shows that money is necessary but not sufficient for a good education.
  • Type-Ho's—It must be hard to be a legal secretary.
  • Law Review: Worth it or not?—A must-read for people unsure of whether they'll pursue a spot on their law review. Don't skip the comments. [link via jd2b, I think.]
  • Senate broadens terror surveillance law—This is not good news.
  • Democrats flee Texas, freeze legislature—This also does not seem like good news—neither the Dems leaving or Delay's open attempt to rig the 2004 election in the Republicans' favor. If we thought American democracy could survive the gross influence peddling that is campaign finance, the debacle of election 2000, and unending wars on terrorism that are used to justify what increasingly looks like an unending war on civil liberties (not to mention a corporate press with goals contradictory to those of democracy), we might have to think again.
  • Verizon to turn pay phones into WiFi hot spots—This, on the other hand, does seem like good news.

Posted 12:22 PM | Comments (1)

May 13, 2003


Many of us don't trust what we see, hear, and read in the media, but usually it's not because we think the media is deliberately lying to us. Now that the NY Times has dismissed a reporter who has been doing exactly that since at least last October (possibly for the last four years), we now have more reason than ever to doubt the media—especially the mainstream media, since you don't get any more mainstream than the NY Times. Jayson Blair's list of lies is incredibly long; as the Times admits, he tried just about every form of prevarication known to man:

The reporter, Jayson Blair, 27, misled readers and Times colleagues with dispatches that purported to be from Maryland, Texas and other states, when often he was far away, in New York. He fabricated comments. He concocted scenes. He lifted material from other newspapers and wire services. He selected details from photographs to create the impression he had been somewhere or seen someone, when he had not.

(See also: This Editor's note.)

Meanwhile, if you watched "60 Minutes" last Sunday, know that Blair's trail of deception is nothing new. The show took a look at Stephen Glass, a writer for The New Republic, says he lied for the thrill of being able to give people the stories they wanted to hear. But whereas much of Blair's lying seemed to be plagiarism, Glass mostly just made stuff up out of thin air:

He made up people, places and events. He made up organizations and quotations. Sometimes he made up entire articles. And to back it all up, he created fake notes, fake voicemails, fake faxes, even a fake Web site -- whatever it took to deceive his editors, not to mention hundreds of thousands of readers.

That was five years ago. Glass has since earned a JD from Georgetown but is having trouble gaining admittance to the NY State Bar because of ethical concerns. Go figure. (But note how he turned to law for legitimacy after being utterly discredited on both a professional and personal level. Does law often attract shady characters simply because they're looking for its imprimatur of legitimacy? Damn, am I a shady character!?)

The fact that journalists are lying comes as no surprise to most writing teachers, who have seen an enormous explosion of plagiarism since the Web replaced the library as the source for research. At the major midwestern university where I've spent the last four years, Triple L has tracked down 13 cases of plagiarism among her students in the last year alone. They do exactly what Blair did—steal whole paragraphs and sentences from multiple sources, patch them together, revise a little, and hope no one notices. And the killer is that when you confront students with concrete evidence that they blatantly cheated and lied, they think you're going to believe them when they tell you they didn't realize what they were doing. At many universities, plagiarism is officially cause for expulsion, or at the very least automatic failure for the course in which the student plagiarized. And while it's possible some universities enforce their strict policies forbidding plagiarism, here at my school the customer—meaning the student—is always right; students generally get warnings and slaps on the wrist (failure on the paper in question, for example, or more often, just dropping its grade by a letter). What's more, the university (as far as I've been able tell) keeps no records of these offenses, so serial plagiarizers get a clean slate every semester to try their games again. This is at a major American university. Is it any wonder we've got young college graduates lying in the media?

(And don't get me started on the example set by politicians who "spin" everything to accomplish their goals. Not to mention Triple L's experience grading for an ethics in engineering class, in which she learned that the vast majority of college students seem utterly unable to recognize an ethical dilemma when it slaps them on the face. The there's the infantilization of American college students which leads them to think they'll never be held responsible for.... Like I said, don't get me started.)

Posted 09:20 AM

May 09, 2003

For Mom

Add a little extra to your Mother's Day gifts this year by slipping a copy of the original Mother's Day Proclamation into your card.

Posted 07:11 AM | Comments (1)

April 29, 2003

Completely Random

Heard this on NPR's "All Things Considered" tonight: A family-owned grocery store in Roundup, Montana closed down in the 1950s. Since then, no one has even gone in the building. Now, the items that have sat in this large tomb for 50 years are being auctioned off in Billings. You can bid by phone, and I know you want some Shinola.

Reason I care: My parents lived in Roundup for a few years. I'm not kidding. It was actually not a bad town.

Posted 06:34 PM

Building Karma Telepathically

Dear <i>ai</i> readers: If you happen upon this before 1 p.m., Eastern, please stop at that time, take a moment and send positive thoughts toward D.C. A special someone has a job interview today, and in this economy, we can all use any help we can get.

Posted 09:17 AM

April 27, 2003


As some of you know, I've spent a good deal of time over the past couple of months working on my house to get it ready to sell. The generous and talented parentals also came and did a huge amount of excellent work— the bulk of it, really. My mom's an expert painter, so she transformed the kitchen from a dark and dingy pit to a bright and beautiful place that now looks like this:

Meanwhile, my dad has mad construction skilz of all kinds so he framed up the opening from the ceiling to the roof so the light from my skylight could finally come into the house instead of just illuminating the attic. (We installed the skylight 3 years ago when we put on the new roof, but I never really got around to finishing the job. This is why I should not own a house.) Dad's work transformed the living room into the bright, roomy, comfy place I always knew it could be:

Now it looks like all that work may pay off. I listed the house for sale at about 3 p.m. Weds. Someone came to see it at 5:30 Weds. By about noon Thursday, I had an offer, just a little below the asking price (which I'd thought was too high to be reasonable). I thought about the offer for a few hours, then, on the advice of my realtor, I counter-offered to meet the buyer halfway between his offer and my asking price. Twenty minutes later, the deal was done. Almost exactly 27 hours from the time I listed the house, it sold at a good price. Needless to say, if this deal goes through it will make everything about the coming months infinitely easier. I'll actually be able to rent a moving truck, afford that first month's rent in MD, pay the rest of GW's initial payment ($600, I think?), and best of all, I should be able to afford a cable modem w/wireless network in the new apt.!

(If you have any suggestions for a good cable/dsl internet provider in the DC/MD area, please share.)

Posted 02:10 PM | Comments (3)

April 06, 2003

Academic Life

This week's Chronicle of Higher Education featured a personal essay from "Catherine Evans" (not her real name), a tenure-track faculty member in the humanities at a major, "near-Ivy" university. This professor is leaving academia (in the humanities) for a lot of the same reasons I've decided to leave—the work is never-ending, thankless, isolated and isolating, and invades every aspect of your life. Her moment of truth sounds like the future in which I worried I'd find myself trapped if I stayed in academia:

So there I was, caught in a job that made me miserable rather than excited, modeling for my toddler son a disheartening priority of rationalized duty over fulfillment, and apologizing to colleagues for the activities that energized me the most. I thought about spending the next 30 years or so of my professional life as an academic. I began imagining alternatives.

Alternatives are good. L. (who is also leaving academia) and I like to joke about academia as a deep hole and academics as diggers. You start digging when you head to grad school, and the closer you get to tenure, the deeper your hole becomes. And as your hole becomes deeper, you steadily lose your ability to see the world around you; dig long enough to get tenure, and the only part of the world you'll be able to see is the tiny speck of sky at the top of your hole high above you. (Imagine being trapped at the bottom of a deep, deep well.) This is why it's so hard for academics to see alternatives and pursue them—they're too deep in their academic holes. I'm sure climbing out was hard for Evans, but once you start, it certainly gets easier.

(If anyone reading this is thinking about going to graduate school in the humanities, please read Invisible Adjunct's advice and think again.)

Posted 05:54 PM | Comments (1)

April 04, 2003

Friday Five

There's a first for everything. This week's Friday Five:

1. How many houses/apartments have you lived in throughout your life?
21 (soon to be 22). Those houses/apartments have been in six states (Wyoming, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, California, and Illinois) and one foreign country (Finland). I guess I get around a little.

2. Which was your favorite and why?
For about three months in 1998 (or was it 1997?) I sublet a tiny, one-bedroom apartment high atop the Berkeley hills. It was the top floor of a garage, but it had a huge window and a big deck overlooking Tilden Park (on Wildcat Canyon Road). It faced East, so I was greeted every morning by the rising of the sun before I climbed on my bike to coast downhilll all the way to work (which was near 4th street in Berkeley, if you know the area). It was spring and the mornings were brisk and often foggy, the air heavy with moisture that would wrap around me as I zoomed down from the hills. I I was often nearly dripping when I arrived at work, but the ride as always a great, bracing, wake-me-up—a great way to start the day. Of course, the downside (punny!) was the ride home at the end of the day—uphill all the way (and steep in some places like you wouldn't believe). The ride to work took about 15 minutes, depending on traffic; the ride home took 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how gonzo I was feeling. Those were the days...

3. Do you find moving house more exciting or stressful? Why?
It's generally both. I've done it so much that I think of it as more of a hassle than a stress, but there's always excitement about new beginnings. But it's easy to get excited about moving because it's easy to believe that anything is possible when you move, that everything about your life could become completely different in this new place. It's taken me a long time and too many moves to realize that's not really true. What doesn't change is that you can't escape yourself. As Dr. Seuss says, "Wherever you go, there you are."

4. What's more important, location or price?
It depends, doesn't it? Location is always more important, if you can afford it. ;-) But yeah, I've learned it's a good idea to stretch your budget a bit (sometimes a lot) to live in a place in which you feel comfortable, so I'll go with location.

5. What features does your dream house have (pool, spa bath, big yard, etc.)?
I dream of house in the mountains with a sort of big turret on top of that commands a 360-degree view of the surrounding (breathtaking) landscape. In that room I will write little novels about the human condition. And since I can afford that room in this fantasy, I won't care whether anyone buys or reads my books. Also, my family and friends will frequently visit me in this house, which will be big enough to accommodate a large number of visitors at one time. Some of them will stay months at a time, some will only come for a weekend now and then, but the door will always be open so they can come and go as they please. Yeah, that would be nice.

Posted 09:14 PM | Comments (1)

March 11, 2003

Stupid Stupid Stupid!

Today, deep into Week 2 of our very own personal version of "Changing Rooms," my parents and I are covered in paint and layers of dust from various sources (wood, sheetrock, fiberglass insulation, and countless years of attic residue). Good times. And while we're hard at work putting things back together, the world continues to fall apart (more or less). How can our elected representatives be so absolutely stupid?

*Sigh* I'm going back to the dust, thanks.

Posted 05:26 PM | Comments (2)

February 27, 2003

Oh, So That's It

Caring for Your Introvert explains a lot of life's mysteries.

Posted 08:50 AM | Comments (1)


The hot new game for your next party.

Posted 08:41 AM

February 26, 2003


I used to work right next door to where this picture was taken. [Link via Scripting News] On alternating days my "office" was either a bicycle seat in which I'd ride 20-120 miles, or the driver's seat of a 15-passenger van in which I'd drive 40-250 miles. I guess you could say I worked in a big "office" park -- perhaps the world's largest -- known to most of you as Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, and lots of beautiful country in between. Since my "office" was mobile, I got to work in lots of other cool places, as well; for example, I had some swell times in and around Camden, Maine.

It all sounds great, doesn't it? And it was. There are books that list "dream jobs," and the job I had was often listed in those books -- it probably still is. Leaving that job was in many ways one of the hardest things I've ever done. Ask my friends. Every year I'd say I was finished. The next year I'd be back saying "just a few more trips." It was like a drug -- a whole different kind of "tripping out." But for lots of reasons, I finally broke the habit. That was three years ago. Now I'm going to law school.

Moments like this make me wonder if I should seek professional help.

Posted 06:33 AM | Comments (2)

February 23, 2003


The latest fashion. No comment, really. [Link via Scripting News]

Posted 10:25 PM | Comments (2)

February 18, 2003

Scary Fun II

You know, I'm tired of waiting with baited breath every day for the mail to come, only to find there's nothing but bills and credit card offers and coupons I'll never use. So I'm not going to do it anymore. Instead, I'll read the Onion, and I'll laugh. Yes, that's exactly what I'll do. What fun! Try this on for size:
Saddam Enrages Bush With Full Compliance WASHINGTON, DCPresident Bush expressed frustration and anger Monday over a U.N. report stating that Iraqi president Saddam Hussein is now fully complying with weapons inspections. "Enough is enough," a determined Bush told reporters. "We are not fooled by Saddam's devious attempts to sway world opinion by doing everything the U.N. asked him to do. We will not be intimidated into backing down and, if we have any say in the matter, neither will Saddam." Bush added that any further Iraqi attempt to meet the demands of the U.N. or U.S. will be regarded as "an act of war."
Wait. Is that funny, or scary? Today the game is to oscillate wildly (a la The Smiths) between the two interpretations: laugh your head off, scream your head off, laugh your head off, scream you head off. Whooh. Now catch your breath and try this one: N. Korea Wondering What It Has To Do To Attract U.S. Military Attention Ok. If you're up for more (and if you happen to be a fan of David Foster Wallace, which, I'm guessing, does not apply to many people, but still, if...), then feast your eyes on this great parody: Girlfriend Stops Reading David Foster Wallace Breakup Letter At Page 20. Ha! The paragraph supposedly on written by Wallace is strikingly like certain passages especially of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. And finally finally, if you haven't already reached your daily limit of laughs-a-minute vs. bowel-shaking-fears (now channeling Cake), get yourself on over to the latest two installments of Get Your War On:
Where the hell is my "Missle Defense Shield????"
ROTF, I'm telling you. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Posted 05:57 PM | Comments (1)

February 02, 2003


I like how Dave Winer of Scripting News is handling the disintegration of Space Shuttle Columbia yesterday. He begins this DaveNet with, "Here are some points of view you won't get from TV coverage of the Columbia disaster." He goes on to repeat a few of the things I've been thinking since about noon yesterday when it was clear that just about every U.S. media outlet had shifted into "shuttle porn" mode. Winer doesn't make light of the Columbia crash, and I don't want to either. But his concluding point about the seven people killed is what I think we should remember as we move on:

Yes it's sad they died. Yes. But it's great that they lived.

And jumping off from that celebration of life, perhaps as we mourn the loss of the Columbia crew, U.S. citizens (and especially U.S. political leaders) should question more seriously than ever the value of dropping bombs on Iraq or anywhere else. Perhaps we should consider the contradictions between non-stop media coverage that makes it appear that the world is ending when the U.S. loses *seven* astronauts, even as the U.S. moves almost full steam ahead toward a war that will kill thousands. If the lives of those seven astronauts were worth so much (and they were), then are the lives of Iraqis or the American soldiers who will die in a war against Iraq worth any less?

Posted 04:17 PM

January 28, 2003

We're Waaaiiiting!

As I wait to hear if any law school is going to let me in, I've got to say it's not a lot of fun watching JCA go through a similar apply-and-hope-and-wait process trying to line up a good job for the summer after her first year as a law student. Is this what every spring is going to be like for the next three or four years (until I get a "real" legal job)? Probably. But then, a lot of law is probably like thataren't you always filing papers of some kind, then waiting to see what people (i.e.: judges, juries, other lawyers) think of them? If so, I guess I should just get used to it. And anyway, here's where a desire to do something outside the mainstream of law might come in handyperhaps when it comes time to look for jobs, I'll like the sound of the kinds of things that other people dread, which would, maybe, increase my chances of actually getting those jobs. Maybe.

Anyway, this latest chapter in JCA's law school odyssey attracted this comment from Sue, who appears to be in the same boat as me right nowjust wishin', and hopin', and thinkin', plannin', dreamin', and prayin' ... that we get into law school. Good luck, Sue! Perhaps we should start some sort of blog-ring of our ownthe lawyers and law students have their "blawgs," so maybe we should call ours "p-blawgs," for "pre-law-blogs"? Yeah, I'll get right on that. ;-)

(But seriously, if there's anyone else out there like Sue and myself who is currently waiting to hear from law schools and blogging about it, I'd love to hear from you. And good luck to you, too!)

Posted 10:08 AM | Comments (2)

January 27, 2003


Just because it's there: Japanese Emoticons and the Dubya Bot. Oh, and has an Onion-esque scoop on that whole Michigan/affirmative action case.

Posted 12:03 PM

January 14, 2003

What Will Be in 2003?

Hi hi hi hi. After a looong and luxuriously stress-free break from school/work and other demands of "real" life, the time has come for getting back to businessboth here at ai and elsewhere. But rather than bore you with a litany of the mundane and unfun things I now must do to prepare for the spring semester (which begins next week), I'm going to indulge in the belated but fun ritual of annual predictions/hopes. I'm no oracle, so these are just a few ideas that are a combination of what I think might happen, as well as what I hope will happen in 2003.

First, we're going to war. [1] I still have hope that this won't happen, but not much. What I think will happen is that the U.S. will commence battle during sweeps month (is that Feb. or March?), both to get maximum viewers for the show when they want to brag about something, as well as to make sure there are plenty of other diversions (in the form of a new tv lineup) for American couch potatoes if things don't go smoothly. There seems lots of reason to believe things won't go that smoothly for the U.S.Iraq could attack Israel or gas U.S. troops, or the growing peace movement could reach critical mass and U.S. leadership could find itself engaged in a war w/out popular support. (This would be especially likely if Rep. Charles Rangel is successful in his attempt to bring back the draft. He won't be, but his effort has opened a new avenue for critique of Bush's war plans.) At this point it's looking like the best outcome here is that an attack on Iraq creates enough global anger at the Bush administration that the U.S. will be forced to start playing nicely with others and the Bush administration will have zero hope of being re-elected in 2004.

Many things in 2003 will likely hinge on what happens w/Iraq and N. Korea. If there is war on Iraq, and if it is "successful" (meaning not too many Americans die and somehow international and domestic opinion blesses it as a "good or at least not bad thing"), the Bush Administration will probably have carte blanche to continue its insanity of tax cuts, increased military spending, and starving all other domestic and social programs. But that's a big if. On the other hand, if the Iraqi war doesn't happen or goes south somehow, perhaps Americans will wake up and start being a little more critical of the dismal places Washington is sending our country (and our world). Already it's starting to look like Democrats (and many Republicans) are gaining traction w/their criticism of Bush's tax cut/"stimulus" planvery few people seem convinced that allowing the wealthiest Americans to keep more cash is really good for anyone but the wealthiest Americans. [2]

In 2003 we'll see a shakedown of democratic candidates for President. I haven't had a chance to really take a look at the field as it's forming, but from the little I've seen, John Edwards looks like a great potential candidate. I'll be following his campaign via Oliver Willis' blog, Americans for John Edwards. If Edwards can maintain his "raw potential" approach as something of a Democratic outsider (and if he really turns out to be the people's candidate he claims to be), he just might be able to re-invigorate the Democratic Party and have a good chance at getting the nomination. With regard to the 2004 election, I predict (hope) that as the contest heats up, a vigorous national debate will begin about the value of the electoral college. [3] Following an earlier post on the subject, I also predict that blogs will begin to play a bigger role in the political process. [4]

In an issue of special local interest, I predict (hope) that Illinois Gov. George Ryan's commutation of death sentences in Illinois will trigger a nationwide debate about the justice and necessity of the death penalty. Have you ever stopped to think about the connection between the death penalty and the U.S.'s militant foreign policy? Is it merely a coincidence that one of the only "free" countries in the world that still sanctions state executions is also the "free" country that is most aggressive militarily? We seem to have a culture that says that when someone does something we really don't like, that person has to die. On a micro level, this means the death penalty; on a macro level, it means war. In most free countries, people do not sanction state executions; they put a higher premium on human life than we do. Perhaps this also makes them much more reluctant to go to war. I submit that this is a good thing. So here's hoping that Americans will pause to seriously examine their approach to state-sanctioned murder on both micro and macro levels.

Another domestic conversation that will continue to heat up in 2003 concerns America's dependence on foreign oil, global environmental degradation, and the morality of driving SUVs. I've talked about this before, but also look for an upcoming post to return to thisit's becoming one of my favorite topics.

In my own life, it's looking more likely that by August I will be living in D.C., where I hope to be attending law school. Right now my ideal scenario is that I'll be awarded the Public Interest Scholarship at American University, which will allow me to afford to pay rent, eat, and be a good student. Honestly, the prospect of attending law school without a really significant scholarship is looking pretty scary. How do you concentrate on your classes when every breath you take costs approximately $5?

Finally, I have yet to hear from any marketing/video maestros with brilliant ideas of how I should go about selling myself to the producers of "Survivor," so whether 2003 will see me taking a critique of social darwinism to national prime-time television remains an open question. ;-)

[1] This "war" will not only ultimately prove a mistake for America's long-term health and security, but it will also be illegal and reveal some of the deep problems with our so-called "democracy"primarily that Congress has abdicated its constitutional responsibility to declare war. This is such a crazy fact that it deserves a post of its ownlook for it to follow this post.

[2] I heard Cokie Roberts on NPR this morning saying that the Bush Administration is breaking new ground in attempting to use tax policy for purposes of social engineering by reducing the so-called "marriage penalty," rewarding investment in the stock market, etc. I couldn't believe what I was hearing; tax policy has always been used for social engineeringit's called redistribution of wealth! The problem with the Bush vision is that it wants to do all it can to make sure wealth is redistributed up into the higher classes, rather than the other way around. If there's anything new about this it's simply the brazeness with which it's now being done. In the past the plutocrats tried to be more discrete about their attempts to shortchange the poorest Americans in favor of the wealthiest; now they seem to feel they don't even need to pretend anymore.)

[3] For those readers who have detected any cynicism in ai, please attempt to recall the last time there was a vigorous national debate about anything. If, like me, you have trouble thinking of a recent example, I think you'll agree that my predictions in this regard are quite optimisticutopian, even. ;-)

[4] If you haven't heard it already, check out the story of Tara Sue Grubman, the woman who sort of ran for Congress via a blog. She didn't win, but she did show the value of a blog to allow voters to get to know a candidate, and to allow a candidate to communicate directly w/voters in a relatively raw way. Sure, a blog could be "spun and polished" just like a tv commercial, so blogs will likely have a positive effect on the political process only if candidates use them honestly. Yes, another big "if."

Posted 09:39 AM

January 07, 2003

Survivor/Nash Equilibrium

Hi. Welcome to 2003 at ai. This promises to be a full and interesting year. I believe the theme will be Change. I hope to post a bit of a preview/prediction post sometime soon, but let's get right to the most important stuff here:

If you look at the little statistics generated by the Nedstat button in the right column, you'll see that ai is currently getting the majority of its hits from people looking for information about how John Nash's noncooperative game theory applies to Survivor. If you're looking for information on this, I suggest you read the following and you'll know just about all I know:

  1. Is the Key to Survivor in 'Non-Cooperative Games'?this is perhaps the most basic and simple explanation of the connection between the Nash Equilibrium applies to Survivor. I'd start here, then move on to:
  2. Survivor, Game Theory, and John Nashan article by a Professor of Political Science that explains a little more abstractly how the author thinks Nash's equilibrium would apply to Survivor. This article also contains three links to more practical applications of game theory to the most recent edition of Survivor.
  3. John Nash's Survivorthis is a long discussion board post that originally appeared here and discusses all five editions of Survivor at length. This page is where I found the links above.

What does all of this mean to you if you're planning to apply to be on the show? Your guess is probably better than mine, but there's some discussion of that question here.

If you have more or better information, please share (click the comment link below).

Posted 06:01 PM

December 20, 2002

Happy Holidays!

Four applications to law school are now out the door and headed for George Washington U., American U., George Mason U, and Boston College. Is five enough? Hmmm.. I'll ponder that some more ... later. But first, I'm off to Michigan, then on to Montana to spend time with the famdamily, so posts will likely be fairly infrequent for the next few weeks. If you'd like to direct my Survivor application video, please let me know so I can have my people contact your people and maybe we can do lunch early next year.

Now, everybody sing:
Let's hear those sleigh bells jinglin', ring-ting-tinglin', too.
Come on it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you...

Posted 08:24 PM

Survivor 5, 6, and 7

When "Survivor" first started several years ago, it spawned a wave of copy-cat "reality" television shows. The name is unfortunatethere's very little "reality" in the contrived situations "Survivor" casts have been in during the show's five seasons. Sure, they really do go hungry and have to sleep on the ground, but there is always a camera crew there with radio contact to helicopters and hospitals and whatever. That's not to say none of the so-called "survivors" has never been in any real physical danger; wasn't it the second season where Michael was choppered out after falling into the fire? So bad stuff can happen, but it's still only "real" in a very contrived sense.

So who cares about that "reality" moniker, is what I say. I find the show fascinating. "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race" are great, but you can keep your "Bachelor" and "Temptation Island" and "Big Brother" and "Osbornes." The appeal of those shows kind of bothers me. Why is it so great to see people humiliated and embarrassed and cheated on and lied to? Oh wait, that's also what happens on "Survivor," isn't it?

Anyway, "Survivor 5Thailand" ended last night and the official story says:

After 39 days on a physical and mental roller coaster, Brian Heidik, the 34-year-old used car salesman from Quartz Hill, California, won a majority of the Jury's votes, earning him the title of SOLE SURVIVOR and giving him the million-dollar prize.

One of the things that gets me about the show (and another way in which it is anything but "real") is the power the editors have over viewers' opinions of the action and the "players." I want to say that Brian was the satanic incarnation of the sleaziest used car salesman stereotype you've ever heard. But what do I know?He's also apparently an actor. So aside from internet gossip, we only know what the producers/editors decided to show, and it's obvious they do whatever they can to magnify character flaws and tensions between people. But the point is, what does it take to win? And the answer is: That depends. According to Jeff Probst, "King of the Hyenas" ('s name for Probst during the 2nd season), if you want to be a survivor, you should:

Study John Nash's "non-cooperative game playing theory." All the answers to Survivor are there.

If you want to be a Survivor, here's the casting call. According the application, Survivor 7 will be filmed in June/July 2003, and the application process goes from the Feb 11 application deadline to final selection in April. You know me; I'm crazy about application processes, and heck, by now I should be a pro at them. Don't you think a few weeks as a Survivor contestant would be a good way to blow off steam before starting law school?

The application requires a 3-minute video. Does anyone have a digital video camera I could borrow for the next couple of weeks? ;-)

Footnote: A history of "Survivor" winners:

  1. Survivor 1Pulau Tiga: Richard Hatch, the 39-year old corporate trainer from Newport, Rhode Island.

  2. Survivor2Austrailian Outback: Tina Wesson, mother and personal nurse from Knoxville, Tennessee.

  3. Survivor 3Africa: Ethan Zohn, the 27-year-old professional soccer player from Lexington, MA.

  4. Survivor 4Marquesas: Vecepia Towery, the 36-year-old office manager from Portland, Oregon.

Posted 01:05 PM

December 16, 2002

More Gift Ideas

I know you probably have your holiday shopping done, but if you're still looking, you might try looking around Cafe Shops from Cafe Press. They have lots of fun t-shirts, sweatshirts, coffee mugs, etc., for the politically interested recipients on your gift list. For example, Modern Humorist offers mp3 propagandatry a nice t-shirt that says:

When you pirate mp3s, you're downloading communism!

Or how about something from The Quotable Bush, where you'll find great apparel and whatnot with some of our President's greatest bits of wisdom, such as:

I know how hard it is to put food on your family.

And finally, Remixed Propaganda has taken American propaganda posters from previous wars (mostly WWII, I think) and given them an updated twist. Your friends will love a t-shirt that features a smiling GI with a cup of coffee and says:

Help yourself to a piping hot cup of shut your face and you'll feel a whole lot better. After all... You're not a terrorist, right?

Fun for the whole family! Plus, gifts from Cafe Press primarily support small businesses rather than huge corporations (if you care about things like that), and they're offering free upgrades to 2-day shipping until tomorrow (Dec. 17th), so if you order by then your gifts should arrive by you know when. (Note: I am in no way affiliated with Cafe Press; it just seems like a good idea and I really don't want to grade this pile of papers sitting on my desk...)

Posted 10:37 AM

December 15, 2002

Chaos Tower

From the random files: If you need to find a gift for the person who has everything, how about a chaos tower? Looks like endless fun for all ages, plus it could easily double as a quirky and interactive addition to your living room furnishings. Just an idear.

Posted 09:47 PM

Two Paths Diverged in the Woods

I went to a party last night where nearly everyone in attendance was an English grad studentmost of them further along in the program than I am (or was). In many ways, it's getting harder to hang out with these people who everyday become more dedicated to their profession, while everyday I grow more estranged from it. One of these grads is actually on the job market and just got a call yesterday to set up an interview for MLA. This is an amazing feat; just getting an interview is almost a miracle in a job market like this [thanks to SCW for the link]. According to the Modern Language Association (MLA):

the number of English positions fell to 792 this year, from 983 in 2001, a 19 percent decline. The number of foreign language positions fell to 535 from 675, a 21 percent drop.

I wish all the luck in the world to anyone who is willing to run the gauntlet that is the pursuit of a career in English these days. I admire your tenacity and perseverance, and sometimes I still wonder if going to law school is somehow selling out, or taking the easy way out, or ... something. And there are certainly ways that it is, and ways that it isn't; I've hashed over those pros and cons in this space before, so I won't drag you through them again. Suffice to say here that no matter how bad things get, I hope there will always be people willing to endure the sacrifices and hardships necessary to become an English academic; our world would be a far uglier place without you.

Still no word from Georgetown; maybe tomorrow.

Posted 12:07 PM | Comments (2)

December 10, 2002

Consumer Identity

Welcome to the random and sporadic world of ai, where there' s always something interesting going on, even if it's sometimes really hard to tell. And today it's All Alice All Day, and what could be finer? Hi Alice. Good luck on those exams.

In other news, I heard on the radio today that "identity theft is a consumer protection issue." That makes sense, considering the fact that "identity theft" is the term we use to describe what happens if someone steals our credit card numbers, social security number, pin numbers, mother's maiden name, etc. So we have these "identities" that are made up primarily of numbers and a few random little bits of information that, when assembled appropriately, tell computers and banks and businesses who we are. These identities are what enable consumption. Without these identities, we cannot consume or otherwise participate in our material culture, hence identity theft is a consumer protection issue.

However, if we were going to be precise about it, we'd have to acknowledge that these are not our "identities," but our consumer identities; therefore, the appropriate way to describe what happens when these bits of information are stolen would be "consumer identity theft." But we don't call it that. Why not? Have lost, or are we quickly losing, any idea of "identity" other than our identity as consumers? If we allow "consumer identity" to be reduced to "identity" as if the two are essentially equivalent terms, aren't we somehow also reducing ourselves to consumers, as if "self" and "consumer" are essentially equivalent terms?

There was a time when "lying politician" was not redundant. Has "consumer identity" become redundant? And if so, what have we lost in the process? I bet Professor Cass R. Sunstein would have a thing or two to say about this. (For a quick holiday read, check out, especially chapter five.)

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a lot of holiday shopping to do.

Posted 02:41 PM | Comments (1)

November 29, 2002

Cornflake Girl

If you're a Tori fan, be sure to check out NPR's nice report on her new album (scroll down a bit to the Real Audio link). I still haven't heard it, but maybe I will soon (hint, hint).

Posted 10:08 AM

Burn Baby Burn

Random: The students at Texas A&M University just love their bonfires. Remember the fire that killed 12 people in 1999? Apparently it's a big tradition, and isn't it funny and strange how attached university students are to traditions like these? I wonder where they get that attachment. When I was in college, I scoffed at tradition, almost on principle. I thought that a healthy contempt for tradition was what defined a college student. I guess I was some kind of freak.

Anyway, those Aggies are determined to have their bonfire, so whatever. What's noteworthy about this is the way the AP story about it is written. According to this article (first seen in the Billings Gazette real paper edition, but found online at CNN):

Several thousand current and former students gathered in a darkened field about 10 minutes east of College Station for the lighting. "Burn bonfire burn" was a familiar refrainshouted by student leaders who lit the pile with torches and flares and individuals in the crowd.

Wow. This fire is so important that student leaders had to sacrifice individuals in the crowd in order to light it! Now that's what I call a fire!

Posted 10:02 AM

November 19, 2002

Why Write?

The whole notion of "Total Information Awareness" (see previous post re: Homeland Security, etc.), combined with re-reading/teaching The Handmaid's Tale sent me on a little research about George Orwell. And since I'm currently supposed to be writing a novel for National Novel Writing Month, I was struck by Orwell's explanation of why he writes. Orwell says:

All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one's own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane. I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed. And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.

Unfortunately, in unskilled hands (like mine), even writing with a political purpose can easily become rather lifeless and purple. Which is to say: Don't expect to see the fruits of my novel-writing labors anytime soon.

Posted 04:21 PM

November 11, 2002

NaNoWriMo Me

Over the weekend I spent some time in Barnes and Noble, writing my novel. That's right: I'm writing a novel. I have to keep saying it so I'll make it come true. Besides, it's a fun thing to say, and technically it's true. The sort of slippery part there is "novel," but for the purposes of National Novel Writing Month, 50,000 words is a novel, and I'm over one-fifth of the way there. Heck, I'm nearly a quarter of the way there, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. And of course it helps if the 50,000 words all work together somehow, in some semblance of connection, as in with a plot and characters and scenes and whatnot, but it's not critical. I'm not worrying about these things. That's the whole point. It doesn't have to be good, it just has to be.

So I was sitting there in Barnes and Noble writing my novel, and I overheard some guy ask one of the employees this question: "Can you tell me how to get to Borders?" The B&N employee was pleasant, even almost like purposely outgoing and friendly. He gave good directions. And when the questioner walked away, the B&N employee said "thank you." Is that professionalism, or what? Is customer service supposed to serve the competition?

Posted 07:40 AM

October 23, 2002

Busy Busy Busy

Hi. I'm not dead, although this blog has been. I hope to get back to regular posting next week. At the moment I'm cracking out a few law applications with the silly idea of maybe making some early-decision deadlines. My fingers are crossed and all that (which makes it hard to post to a blog, you know?).

A bit of fun to tide you over: Fans of Wallace and Gromit will be happy to hear they're headed for the big screen in a couple of years. For now, you can get a taste of wacky British animated fun by watching their brand new short, "Soccamatic". It's no "The Wrong Trousers," but it's still good fun.

On the comic-strip front, "Get Your War On" is back with a new installment covering a selection of recent world events in its signature, idiosyncratic way. And if you're a true fan, you can now buy the book.

Posted 01:39 PM

October 08, 2002

Sopranos Future

What's going to happen to HBO's hit series, "The Sopranos"? According to this story in the NYT:

Officially, the show is to conclude at the end of next season, its fifth. But that plan may be changing. Executives are seriously discussing extending the show to a sixth season, though they acknowledge that it will entirely depend on the decision of the show's creator, David Chase. The show's cast, including its star, James Gandolfini, is already under contract for six seasons, if the producers decide to extend the show's run.

This is good news. I'd heard that the show was only scheduled initially for four seasons. So now we know we can count on at least one more full season, which means Tony can't die yet, which means he better get serious about getting Paulie and Silvio under control!

Posted 08:27 AM

September 27, 2002

A Nice Sig

In my inbox today was a message that ended with the following signature:

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a way that when you die You will rejoice and the world will cry.

Working on it.

Posted 03:52 PM

September 19, 2002

Progressive Web Work

If you're looking for a cool job, and if you have some "webmaster" experience and want to be a progressive webmaster, here's your chance: The American Prospect is hiring a webmaster. The job would even let you work (in a vague way) on Tapped, the TAP weblog. Sounds very cool to me, but unfortunately I don't really know Perl and, well, I'm supposed to be gearing up to go to law school. Oh yeah, there's that.

BTW: I learned about this job via the supercool resource known as Tell Idealist what kind of work, internship, or volunteer opportunity you're looking for, and they'll send you daily emails listing opportunities that might fit your interests—nationwide or global. Definitely a place to look if you ever consider a career change.

Posted 09:17 AM

September 15, 2002

Good Ol' Tenure

[ed note: the following is a bit dated—written a little while ago for another venuebut it's closely related to the post below about anti-academic vitriol, so.... enjoy!]

So you thought academia was a meritocracy, huh? You thought the smartest people, with the best ideas and abilities, who worked really hard, were the ones who ended up with tenure? Think again: More and more people (especially women) are being denied tenure because they're not nice enough or don't "fit in" with other faculty. In academia, if you play nice with others you're called "collegial," but:

"Historically, collegiality has not infrequently been associated with ensuring homogeneity, and hence with practices that exclude persons on the basis of their difference from a perceived norm," the statement [from the American Association of University Professors] said. "An absence of collegiality ought never, by itself, to constitute a basis for nonreappointment, denial of tenure or dismissal for cause."


Because tenure reviews are confidential, and based so deeply on personal judgment, it is often difficult to assess precisely what went wrong with a particular candidate.

As if the Humanities job market wasn't bad enough, now you have to be nice, too? :-)

The fact that promotions in academic fields (particularly the Humanities) can so easily become capricious and personal only proves the truth of Noam Chomsky's assertion that American universities are normalizing (read: brainwashing) institutions:

The universities, for example, are not independent institutions. There may be independent people scattered around in them but that is true of the media as well. And it’s generally true of corporations. It’s true of Fascist states, for that matter. But the institution itself is parasitic. It’s dependent on outside sources of support and those sources of support, such as private wealth, big corporations with grants, and the government (which is so closely interlinked with corporate power you can barely distinguish them), they are essentially what the universities are in the middle of. People within them, who don’t adjust to that structure, who don’t accept it and internalize it (you can’t really work with it unless you internalize it, and believe it); people who don’t do that are likely to be weeded out along the way, starting from kindergarten, all the way up. There are all sorts of filtering devices to get rid of people who are a pain in the neck and think independently. Those of you who have been through college know that the educational system is very highly geared to rewarding conformity and obedience; if you don’t do that, you are a troublemaker. So, it is kind of a filtering device which ends up with people who really honestly (they aren’t lying) internalize the framework of belief and attitudes of the surrounding power system in the society. The elite institutions like, say, Harvard and Princeton and the small upscale colleges, for example, are very much geared to socialization. If you go through a place like Harvard, most of what goes on there is teaching manners; how to behave like a member of the upper classes, how to think the right thoughts, and so on.

After nearly 20 years of formal education (gasp!), I still feel like I haven't learned how to think the right thoughts and how to behave like a member of the upper classes. More evidence that I need to find a new gig.

Posted 06:48 PM | Comments (1)

Anti-Academic Vitriol Redux

The other day Christian contributed a cogent mini-defense of academia as a response to a post in which I was being particularly snide about the academic life. As I noted, I agree with most of what (s)he? said, some of which includes:

Although no job is perfect, a career in academia has many unique benefits. What other job allows you the opportunity to work on the projects that interest you (and ONLY on the projects that interest you)? What other job allows you to change the projects you work on when your interests change? What other job allows you so much control over your own success and failure? What other job pays you to think and write about things that interest you? What other jobs allow you to determine your own deadlines? What other job pays you to create works of doubtful commercial value? What other job permits you so much flexibility in determining your work hours? What other job permits you so much flexibility in getting away to visit family and loved ones?

I suppose the point above that's most flawed in my experience is that academia allows you "so much control over your own success or failure." I mean, in theory, it seems that if you're smart, work hard, write well, publish, etc., you'll succeed. And it's true, these things will likely get you tenure, if that's success. Of course, along the way you'll have to kiss ass to varying degrees (depending on your department and its preferences and rituals), you may have to hide or tone down any political commitments you might have, and you may very well not be able to work on whatever you want, but be forced instead to struggle to make publishable a dissertation you might prefer never to see again. Also, if you are trying to get tenure at a major (public) university that relies heavily on graduate and temporary labor (as most now do), you'll also have to grin and bear your university's cavalier attitude toward the erosion of tenure and the abuse and exploitation of grads and adjuncts. What this means is you'll have to go to sleep every night knowing that you teach less than the grads and adjuncts in your department, yet get paid 3-10 times as much as they do. You'll also have to accept the fact that class sizes continue to grow and the quality of the education your institution provides its students continues to suffer because universities are now run like corporations and the bottom line is all that matters. In practical terms this means you'll have to accept that your department's purpose isn't actually to "teach" anymore at all, rather you'll be developing and executing an efficient "instructional delivery model." This will also make you an "instructional delivery vehicle," which should also make you feel just grand.

Of course, any sacrifices you have to make in order to get tenure will be worth it because once you have tenure you'll be free to do what you want, say what you want, make your own schedule, etc. Right? Well, yes, in theory. The current political climate means you'll still have to watch what you say and what groups you join or advocate for, but a certain amount of this would happen in any field. But here's the deal: By the time you get to that point, you're very likely to be so compromised and exhausted and indebted to the system that has granted you tenure, that you won't really care about much more than publishing a new book every couple of years and keeping your teaching and service-work loads light.[1]

In my experience, "tenured radical" is a misnomer, if not a blatant impossibility. If tenure provided all the freedom people always imagine, why don't we have a truly radical professoriate? Why aren't faculty in the U.S. the most outspoken and active citizens in our society? Why are faculty afraid to take controversial positions in the classroom and in public? Why don't faculty have any solidarity to use the power of their vaunted "freedom" to demand that education be properly funded in our country, rather than being sacrificed to corporate interests (often masquerading as "scientific" interests)?

Having said all that, let me say this: Academics are a truly vital—invaluable, even—part of our society. As a class, they have done the world incalculable good, and will continue to do so, even in their increasingly compromised and besieged state. How is it that I can sound so anti-academic one moment, yet praise academics the next? My answer is that, as Christian notes above, no profession is perfect. It just so happens that I've decided that—for me personally—academia's flaws outweigh its benefits. I'd simply rather do something else with my life. Maybe I'm dreaming to think that I can find some profession with better cost-benefit ratio for me [2], but I'm ready to find out. None of what I say here is really meant to discourage anyone from going into academia, or to disparage academia, per se. I'm just saying it's not for me.

[1] See also the next post (above) about whether academia is really the "free" meritocracy it appears to be.

[2] Sorry about the crude economic metaphor, but I can't think of a better way to say this. My mind has been colonized by capital. Damn! The matrix has me, too!

Posted 06:34 PM | Comments (1)

September 01, 2002


Along with the new workload of the fall semester, and after nearly a year of complete physical sloth (no real exercise), I've started taking spinning classes. They're brutal.

Spinning came along and became the big new exercise activity during the years I was leading bike trips for a living. (Its popularity seems to have dissipated into pilates and tae-bo and I don't know what else.) At first I scoffed. People would come on our trips and say, "I haven't biked much before, but I've been taking spinning classes so I should be fine." These were almost always urban women, often from New York. (A high percentage of our guests were from major U.S. cities, and New Yorkers seemed more eager than most to take our trips. Of course, the demographics varied by trip and by destination. For example, our Maine trips generally got more people from CA and the midwest, while our "western" trips (Utah, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming) got more east-coasters. It makes sense. Still, it was rare to have a trip without at least a small New York contingent. But I digress....) The most memorable was a woman who was convinced by her husband to take one our highest-mileage tripsBryce, Zion, and Grand Canyon National Parks. It's a nine-day trip, with one century (hundred-mile day), several other 80-90-mile days, and lots of big (by Backroads standards) climbs. As I was fitting her on her bike I asked her if she was ready to ride several hundred miles that week, and she gave me the extreme spinning response: "Actually, I've never ridden a bike that moved before, but I've taken a lot of spinning classes and my spinning instructor thought I'd do fine."

You've got to be kidding me! I thought. You've never ridden a real bike and you want to go out and ride 60 miles today!? Including a big (approx. 1000') climb to start, and then a 20 mile downhill on winding mountain roads? It sounded like a recipe for disaster to me. But as I'm fond of saying, I've been wrong before.

The woman seemed at first like she was going to be miserable. She could hardly stay on her bike and couldn't seem to figure out the gears (spinning bikes don't have gears or brakes, just tension knobs). But she gradually got the hang of it while circling the parking lot, and although she was nervous, she headed off to conquer the real road. Her first couple of days were a bit rough as she got used to things and got over the new fears that came with actually moving when she pedalled and seeing the pavement fly by beneath her. But by Day 3 she was kicking ass and having a great time. She was both fast and strong, so she could cruise on the flats and hammer on the hills. On the century she just wanted to keep going after she'd done her 110 miles. She still braked way too much on downhills, which always seemed like such a waste of good gravity to me, but I bet she figured she got a better workout if she didn't allow downhills to give her too much momentum for whatever came next. Whatever; she had a great time and had so much energy it was amazing.

Anyway, that extreme spinning Backroads guest made a spinning believer out of me, so when I decided I needed some sort of organized exercise to give me the discipline to get into shape again, spinning it was.So far I've been to two classes, and after about 25-30 minutes, I've been completely wiped out both times. We're talking zero energy, tank completely empty, having nothing left to give. And that's exactly what I was looking for so that's fine. What's weird is that I haven't really felt sore afterward. How can I work that hard and not be working any new muscles to the point of soreness? Am I doing something wrong?

Posted 08:59 AM

August 29, 2002

Chaos Descends

School has begun. I teach two (undergraduate) classes, take two (graduate) classes, and grade papers for an hourly wage on the side. Lots of busy. I've decided that what kills me about academia is the summer and the regular (and rather lengthy breaks): All that time off is forever an unfulfilled promise. You begin teaching thinking you'll have such a great schedule with big, huge breaks on holidays and during the summer, but this never turns out to be the case.

The cycle begins every August when you wake up and realize that the summer is almost over. You panic and try to pack as much in to the final weeks off as possible, which usually means you have to catch up on mundane chores like yardwork or whatever that you've put off all summer. This means you don't really prepare well for the fall (by spending more time developing your syllabi and lesson plans, or by reading ahead for the classes you'll be taking). Since you start a bit behind, work begins piling up quickly and you just as quickly start mentally scheduling fall break (Thanksgiving) as a catch-up time. Work through fall break, taking a day (maybe two) to lay in front of the tv and let your brain have a bit of a breather. Then bam! The semester's over, it's winter break (Christmas), and you've postponed so much over the course of the semester that you spend half or more of the "break" finishing up a paper that you had to ask for an extension on, so that again you start the spring semester behind and without adequately preparing lessons and materials for the classes you're going to teach and take, which means you're behind when spring break rolls around so you work through that, too, and when May finally comes and summer is supposed to begin, you probably have a paper (or by this time, two) dragging into June, and as soon as you finish that (or while you're finishing it) you're frantically looking for some sort of summer income to make it through the lean months and if you're lucky you find some kind of teaching- or editing-related gig that provides you (at most) something like $1000/mo. during summer, meaning you still can't really take any breaks because you have to work and because you can't afford to travel or indulge in any extras, and then it's late August and fall semester is starting and you haven't had the time or energy to prepare your lessons and class materials and....

....and it all begins again.

The bottom line is this: You get less vacation as an academic, not more. (And this isn't even getting into the fact that you never get a free weekend since weekends are filled with grading and class prep and catching up on the reading you fell behind on during the week.)

Don't you wish you could be a college English graduate student and instructor!? Good times, man. Goooood times.

(Of course, some people love the academic life, and thrive in it, and to them I say "More power to you." However, if you're thinking of applying to graduate school in the Humanities, let me humbly suggest that you not make the same mistakes I made and ignore all advice along the lines of the above about how it's often not all it's cracked up to be. One thing I've definitely learned in the past three years is that sometimes we should listen to the people who have gone down the road before us. Perhaps that's why I've been so obsessed with finding opinions and information about law school and law before jumping in with both feet...)

Posted 09:42 PM

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