Thursday, March 31, 2005

Sickly and Cranky

I hate smoking.

I grew up in a smoking household. One of my chores as a teenager was sometimes to empty the overflowing ashtrays. I should be immune to annoyance at smokers. But years in California and Boston and in a non-smoking living environment have coddled me into thinking that all public spaces, everyone´s clothes, and my hair should not reek of tobacco smoke. I am sick and can barely smell, but you better believe that the stench of your Lucky Strike comes through, buddy. Likewise, I have enough problems navigating unfamiliar streets without also having to contend with a maze of lit ciggies being brandished at eye and waist level. For a continent so obsessed with pure food (witness our dinner establishment, which boasted its own organic beer), Europeans seem remarkably nonchalant about destroying their sense of taste and smell with smoke and poisoning their lungs with carcinogenic smoke.

At least the plane tomorrow will be safe and smoke-free.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Merits of Narcing

Interesting reads, especially in juxtaposition:

Laura K. Pahl is a plagiarist.

Request for help dealing with LiveJournal serial rapist

No Child Left Untested, No Public School Left Standing

Hello! For those who don’t know me, my name is Kathy and I was Amber’s roommate freshman and sophomore years of college at good ol’ CMC. We are not sure how we got to be roommates, but we usually got along desptie dramatically different life philosophies. After college, I served in the Peace Corps for two years and I am now in a graduate Special Education program. I asked Amber is I could guest blog because I’m interested in getting a more Libertarian and/or Republican perspective about some of the issues I am concerned about. Of course, old fashioned Liberals (and anyone who doesn’t fit into a convenient label) are welcome to comment as well!

Today I would like to rant about the No Child Left Behind Act Before I began teaching, I thought that NCLB was a well-intentioned, but poorly thought out and poorly funded bill. The more I get into my student teaching, however, the more I agree with the conspiracy theorists who believe that it’s purpose is to destroy the public schools. Here are just a few of the problems with it:

Under NCLB, every teacher within a certain number of years willhave to be “Highly Qualified” in his or her subject. This sounds like a good idea, as some teachers end up teaching subjects that they are quite unqualified to teach. But then there are teachers such as my current Cooperating Teacher (the teacher who is mentoring me with my student teaching), who teaches Special Ed Algebra and Geometry. She is Highly Qualified in Special Education, is a fantastic math teacher, and the students love her. She is not, however, “highly qualified” to teach Math and therefore would not be allowed to teach Math without a Team Teacher under NCLB unless she takes more classes and/or exams. When I asked her if she was worried about this, her response was, “Where are they going to find another Special Ed Math Teacher?” This is a good point. The schools can scarcely find Special Ed teachers or Math teachers individually, let alone somebody qualified in both fields. If schools are asked to get rid of their teachers who are not “highly qualified”, who are they going to hire in their place? Maybe they can find enough English and History teachers, but what about Special Education, Math, Science, and Foreign Language? Are “highly qualified” professionals suddenly going to start coming out of the woodwork because they heard that the schools are hiring? Probably, the schools will do everything they can to keep the experienced teachers that they have, HQ or not. I certainly hope they wouldn’t fire an experienced teacher and replace him or her with an inexperienced person who passed a test.

The second, more problematic aspect of NCLB is that the state can take over a school that does not meet “Annual Yearly Progress” (AYP) in even one subgroup. Under NCLB, all students, including Special Ed and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) are expected to meet the same high standards as every other student. (Only the lowest-functioning SPED students and first-year ESOL students are exempt.) This sounds good, especially since, in the past, people have expected practically nothing from these capable students and they have suffered as a result. But the law does not stop there. If a large percentage of students in a school qualify for Special Ed or ESOL, they will be categorized as a “sub-group” of the school. IF EVEN ONE SUBGROUP FAILS TO MEET AYP, THE ENTIRE SCHOOL FAILS! So, by my understanding of the law, let’s say that an inner-city school with limited resources fails to meet AYP their first year. The school has 15% ESOL students, 15% Special Ed students, and 70% General Ed students. Everyone in the school pulls together and works their ass off to improve their standardized test scores. After two years, most of the students are kicking ass. The General ed students show rapid improvement and the ESOL students are all learning English and doing almost as well. 85% of the school easily meets AYP. But the Special Ed students, while they also show improvements, do not meet the same AYP standards set for everyone else. This is probably because this group of students typically does very poorly at standardized tests. Many of them know the material but simply cannot concentrate through an entire three-hour test and, halfway through, they begin randomly marking the bubble sheet so the painful test will be over. Because one subgroup didn’t meet AYP, the entire school is labeled as a failing school. Now, the government can take over the school, force all staff and teachers to reapply for their jobs, and allow students to take their federal funds to a private facility for extra help. Of course, private programs can pick and choose whichever students they want while the public schools have to include everyone. So the private facilities end up with higher test scores. Then, everyone points to the conclusive evidence that private schools are more effective than public schools.

People love to talk about high expectations, but these are impossible expectations! I'd love to see George Bush come and help the Special Education High School Geometry students ace their standardized tests. Don't get me wrong, the students are learning Geometry and it is impressive when you consider the learning disabilities that they have to work through. But many will still not be able to pass the test, either because they freeze up during long exams or they have trouble dealing with multiple concepts at once. Maybe Laura Bush could do a better job, and crack down on the gang problems while she's at it. But Laura Bush isn't “highly qualified”! So they'll just have to stay in White House and lament the failure of public education . . .

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Small Business

Apparently the men brandishing six packs are actually selling the beer. I suppose 1 euro for a can of beer is a decent price, and I´m glad to see the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Europe.

Monday, March 28, 2005


What´s nice about Barcelona is that the fact that I don´t speak the language becomes less important, since no one can really expect visitors to be fluent in Catalan. The city is bit on the drunken side for me, but it´s interesting. Today is Easter Monday, yet another holiday, so most things are still closed, but the Picasso Museum was open so we went to that. It has a lot of early works, from back when he was still painting people who looked like people. I enjoyed it. Tonight, the migraine gods willing, I´ll venture onto the streets for some nightlife. Or not.

Query: in what parallel universe does standing in the center of Los Ramblas at 6:30 AM brandishing a six pack and cooing "nice beer, sexy beer" actually result in female companionship?

ANNOUNCEMENT: My former college roommate, Kathy Nesteby, will be guest blogging for the next week. I´ll continue to post from Spain, but Kathy should give you all something more to chew on. We don´t agree about much, so those of you who are accustomed to my libertarian perspectives may get a surprise.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Museo, Museo

Tiffany and I hit two museums today, since they are one of the few things open on Easter Sunday in Spain: the Prado and the Thyssen-Bornemisza. The latter has been talked up so much by my housemate that there was no way that it could measure up, and neither of us really loved it. I'm not a big fan of El Greco or Goya, and my appreciation of Velasquez is not much more intense. Then again, perhaps this is another manifestation of my bias in favor of art I like looking at. Both El Greco and Goya were important and innovative, but I don´t like looking at stretched out, acid-pink Jesuses or blurred portraits of Spanish royalty and leering faces.

(Quibble: too many artists depicting mythological topics are just not thinking. How could Saturn be fooled by the substitution of a stone for Zeus if, instead of swallowing his children whole, he chomped into them and bit off heads and limbs?)

The Thyssen was more to our taste and had several great paintings, including a vibrant seascape and sailboat by Hopper like nothing of his I´ve ever seen before. Unfortunately, they didn´t sell postcards of most of the good ones, and so I left without a nude by Corot or a Pissarro landscape.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

In Espana

My high school Spanish is just not cutting it. I know how to say I want things, and what I want, but most verbs are beyond my recollection.

We arrived in Madrid and have been coasting around on very little sleep, which makes walking into processions of hooded Easter celebrants brandishing maces even more surreal than it otherwise might be. Tomorrow we head to the Prado and thence to Barcelona--if our last ditch attempt to buy bus tickets through the hostel desk clerk pays off, that is.

Friday, March 25, 2005


Via Matthew Yglesias, a map of countries visited. In one week, I can add Spain and Switzerland (we are flying via Zurich on SwissAir, thus avoiding the hated SkyTeam alliance). New goals: seeing more of the Americas, finally making it to Russia, and popping down to Oz for a spell. Maybe this Christmas?

create your own visited country map
or check our Costa Rica travel guide

Friday Spies

Friday Spies, via Begging the Question

1. What blog, other than your own, do you read the most?

Probably Metafilter. Its constantly updating content makes it an ideal procrastination tool. Besides, Ask Metafilter can tell you anything you want to know. Anything. And there's serious stuff, too.

2. Are you a gadget person? Do you have the latest thingamajigs and whoozits and geegaws? What sort of gadgets do you own?

I like gadgets, but I am too much of a cheapskate to always be buying the latest whatzit. Kitchen gadgets are a good compromise purchase because they have the appeal of gadgetry with the rationalization of practicality (food is important, therefore I need a candy thermometer).

3. If I gave you $1000 on the condition that you couldn't spend it on something responsible (e.g., bills), or save it, what would you do with the money? (Can you tell that a Democrat is asking that question?)

I would buy gadgets! A new digital camera, a long life battery for my laptop, and some new headphones for my Ipod.

4. What are your five favorite sitcoms of all time, other than "Seinfeld" and "The Simpsons"?

I don't really watch TV anymore, but when I did I really liked the Drew Carey Show, Frasier, and Friends. Now I like the British version of The Office. And when I was really young I liked Family Ties, because Alex P. Keaton was awesome.

5. Organize a film festival based on a theme. Choose a theme and a handful of movies with that theme, and tell us what you've chosen.

My movie festival would be based around the theme of quotability and would screen such gems as Tombstone, Office Space, Clerks, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Princess Bride, and The Big Lebowski. This is probably a bad idea, since everyone would just run around quoting movie lines at each other and by the end of the festival there might be a murder. Hmm.

Viva Espana

Tonight I am leaving on my second spring break trip, this time a jaunt through Spain with my friend Tiffany. It promises to be a lot of fun, with more temperate weather, Santa Semana festivities (check out the creepy costumes), and 100% fewer lecherous Turkish guys (although Geoffrey has warned me that Ramblas can also be rife with street harassment, so some spring break traditions will continue). Watch this space for updates from Spain!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Dodging the BIGLAW Bullet

Congrats to Jeremy Blachman on his book deal. I found out about it today from a friend. She was incredulous that there had been any significant mystery about the identity of Anonymous Lawyer, since in her opinion the writing styles of that site and Blachman's eponymous blog were obviously similar. Then again, she's a writer herself and is tuned in to such things.

She also commented that both blogs had a voice that is very close to Blachman's manner of speaking. This made me ask if I, too, write like I talk. She says yes. Is your writing style the same as your conversational style?

Another Book Meme

I saw this on Pharyngula and thought it was more fun than the Proust Questionnaire, so here goes:

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be? (N.B.: this refers to what book you would memorize, as do the characters at the end of Bradbury's novel)

The collected poetry of Emily Dickinson

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Yes. Richard III, from Sharon Kay Penman's The Sunne in Splendour (and, incidentally, on the Ian McKellen version of the character). And on Tyrion Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire. Is this unhealthy?

The last book you bought is:

Federal Jurisdiction

The last book you read:

A Changed Man

What are you currently reading?

The Persian Letters, Anabasis, Textual Poachers, and Federal Jurisdiction.

Five books you would take to a deserted island:

In Search of Lost Time, Godel, Escher, Bach, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Gone With the Wind, and the U.S. Army Survival Manual.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons)? And Why?

Will Baude (because I can use his list as fodder for future library expeditions), Heidi (because she's guaranteed to surprise), and my pal Dana (for catching up purposes).

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Why People Work At Big Firms

Because they can buy shoes like this whenever they want. I am almost drooling.

Tribe Plagiarism Scandal Continues

I honestly don't know what to say about this, so I'll just offer it up for your perusal. Although perhaps it's a bit much to say I was right--there has been no proof of dart throwing or maniacal cackling.

UPDATE: Despite the speculations on the Greedy Clerks message board, I am not Frumpy the Clown. Like poster "one nice son of a bitch," I received an email alerting me to the existence of the HarvardParody blog today. That I posted about it immediately reflects my immense dislike of Fed Courts reading and resultant internet procrastination, not any devious plan to hide in plain sight. And as a former clown victim, the idea that I would pose as the hated Frumpy is silly.

50 Book Challenge #20: A Changed Man

Francine Prose probably had to be a writer with a name like that, and she's a good one. Her latest novel, A Changed Man, follows the story of a white supremacist who decides, after a Ecstacy-fueled experience at a rave, to turn his back on his past and go work for World Brotherhood Watch, a human rights organization founded by Meyer Maslow, a Holocaust survivor who doesn't get as much press attention as Elie Wiesel or sell as many books as the Dalai Lama, but whose charisma could persuade almost anyone. Vincent, the Nazi-cum-activist, crashes with Bonnie, the development director of WBW, strikes a cautious balance with her and her two sons, and scores tons of publicity for the organization. But is Vincent's conversion genuine? Will his old buddies catch up with him and put him "in the hot seat" (word is the last guy who tried to quit lost three toes)? Will Bonnie fall for the muscular Tim McVeigh-lookalike sleeping in her spare room?

In a lesser novel, these plot questions might predominate, but Prose manages to keep us guessing about what will happen next while simultaneously exploring each of these people's minds with the depth of a character study. I look forward to reading Prose's previous novel, the National Book Award nominee Blue Angel. However, I have sworn off the 50 Book Challenge until I get caught up in Fed Courts.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Toilet Humor

This may be the best story about poop ever written.

Cleaving, Leaving

I haven't weighed in on the Schiavo case (and I won't call her Terry--it's infantilizing and overly familiar. more thoughts on a related angle here), mostly because I thought it would be useless. People have already made up their minds.

But I do wish to come out in favor of permitting spouses, not parents, to speak for us when we cannot speak. I am not coming out in favor of "killing brain-damaged people whenever their spouses think they would want to be killed," but I am arguing for meaningful agency. When we marry, we break the bonds of the family into which we were born and legally register our intention to establish a new next of kin: one we choose. We choose someone who relates to us not as a parent, with all the tendencies to ride roughshod over childrens' wishes that years of dependency and paternalism imply, but as one free adult to another. There has never been any proof that Schiavo's husband lied about her wishes, and for better or worse, no matter what kind of a person he is, he is the one she chose to convey those wishes to the authorities so she could die as she desired. Refusing to listen to her husband on the basis of ad hominem attacks that have no bearing on the accuracy of his testimony is repellent and undermines the dignity of Schiavo's choice to marry, as well as her choice about how to die.

This is especially meaningful to me because I am afraid of what would happen to me if I were in a similar situation. My mother, at present my next of kin, has told me many times that she will disregard my clearly expressed wishes about bodily integrity if I am incapacitated. A living will might help, but unless it's found before she is contacted, the window for making sure it is my wishes which are acted upon and not hers may pass.

Birth is an accident. Who you bind yourself to in the future, and your beliefs, are freely chosen. That parents can forever own the lives of their children, despite clear actions that establish an intention to enter into a mutual relationship of agency with another adult, is deeply offensive to notions of personal sovereignty and independence.


I plan to start writing a screenplay sometime in the next six months. Can anyone recommend good resources (books, websites) to explain the unique aspects of the writing process for a screenplay? I don't want to waste money on classes like the one in Adaptation, but it's been a long time since I read any screenplays and I'd like to get the format right.

50 Book Challenge #19: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

This is perhaps the best book of the nineteen I have read so far this year. Told from the point of view of an autistic teenager, it's a totally believable window into the experience of living with autism and also an engaging murder mystery and adventure, but it never departs from the realm of everyday experience. As someone who finds most fiction set in contemporary times self indulgent and uninteresting, I was delighted to follow this book's relentlessly realistic yet still surprising narrative. Another great strength of the book is its ability to represent characters who are deeply flawed and unappealing with sympathy and understanding. The author has worked with autistic children, and his experience shows in the verisimilitude of his renderings of these children and their families.

One warning: do not pick up this book if you don't have a chunk of time available to read it in one sitting. I intended to read just a chapter or two before bed as a reward for finishing two assignments of Fed Courts, and instead stayed up until 2:30 reading it.


I know you are dying to know what delightful Venetian souvenirs I bought, so photos follow. I purchased a Carnevale mask with every intention of actually wearing it to the 3L masquerade ball, but last night I heard that some of our class marshals decided to cancel this exciting event. Those party poopers.

But anyway, back to what I bought:

Funky Italian shoes

The aforementioned mask

Glass jewelry from Murano times two

Special bonus photo of me at the top of the Campanile Tower wearing a turban. Just before this, some tourists in St. Mark's Square asked if they could take my picture and where I was from. Yay for being a tourist attraction.

Monday, March 21, 2005

50 Book Challenge #16, 17, & 18: Wide Sargasso Sea, Dry, & Invisible Cities

Before my departure last week, I finished two books. While in Venice, I snagged a Calvino to enable me to evade my own well-intentioned attempt at forced studying (I only brought Chemerinsky on vacation). All three were short volumes, but I'm counting them anyway.

Wide Sargasso Sea
is one of the first examples of what has now become a mini-genre: the feminist reimagining of an established work of literature. I actually picked it up because I'd confused it with this book about Ahab's wife. WSS is the story of Rochester's first wife and fills out a backstory for this sketchy Jane Eyre character. I understand from the introduction that Rochester was supposed to be an even more disagreeable and unsympathetic character in this book than he sometimes was in Jane Eyre, but the further I read, the more I sided with Rochester. Antoinette (AKA Bertha, renamed by Rochester in his only really troubling act in the book) is a pathetic, overwrought lunatic, and despite her relatively passive role in their marriage, she still takes part in an act of deception and entrapment, which undermined any goodwill she'd built up with me previously.

Dry, Augusten Burroughs' memoir of alcoholism and drug abuse, was also not what I'd expected. Instead of a tale from the Betty Ford Clinic with a McSweeney's sensibility, it was darker and more superficial than anticipated, with a half a dozen laugh-out-loud moments and just as many horribly uncomfortable moments of insight for Burroughs. As the daughter of an alcoholic, I got little insight into rationalizations for addiction that would have explained some of the events in my own life, but I did enjoy reading about Burroughs' continual inability to draw back from self destructive action. The anecdote about falling in love as a child with a crystal decanter and glasses and saving up to buy it from the store was more poignant than any of his rehab tales, but the Christmas Carol style deus ex machina resolution failed to grip me and the last 30 pages or so felt tacked on.

Calvino's Invisible Cities was a very appropriate book to read in Venice (more I will not say), but the slim tome's greatest strength is its variety of meditations on a single city, on many cities, of the fantastic and humdrum experience of urban life and the repeated joy of entering new places. I found the connective material (interludes between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo) to be unsatisfying pseudo-philosophy. All in all, it was better than Federal Jurisdiction but not as good as If on a winter's night a traveler, Calvino's other novel of interconnected interludes.

Poetry Generator

The Guardian has a quiz to provide you with poems to match your mood. My result:

Shall earth no more inspire thee,
Thou lonely dreamer now?
Since passion may not fire thee,
Shall nature cease to bow?

Thy mind is ever moving,
In regions dark to thee;
Recall its useless roving,
Come back, and dwell with me.

I know my mountain breezes
Enchant and soothe thee still,
I know my sunshine pleases,
Despite thy wayward will.

When day with evening blending,
Sinks from the summer sky,
I've seen thy spirit bending
In fond idolatry.

I've watched thee every hour;
I know my mighty sway:
I know my magic power
To drive thy griefs away.

Few hearts to mortals given,
On earth so wildly pine;
Yet few would ask a heaven
More like this earth than thine.

Then let my winds caress thee
Thy comrade let me be:
Since nought beside can bless thee,
Return--and dwell with me.

-Emily Bronte

The Greater Cats

The greater cats with golden eyes
Stare out between the bars.
Deserts are there and different skies,
And night with different stars.
They prowl the aromatic hill,
And mate as fiercely as they kill,
And hold the freedom of their will
To roam, to live, to drink their fill;
But this beyond their wit know I:
Man loves a little, and for long shall die.

Their kind across the desert range
Where tulips spring from stones,
Not knowing they will suffer change
Or vultures pick their bones.
Their strength’s eternal in their sight,
They rule the terror of the night,
They overtake the deer in flight,
And in their arrogance they smite;
But I am sage, if they are strong:
Man’s love is transient as his death is long.

Yet oh what powers to deceive!
My wit is turned to faith,
And at this moment I believe
In love, and scout at death.
I came from nowhere, and shall be
Strong, steadfast, swift, eternally:
I am a lion, a stone, a tree,
And as the Polar star in me
Is fixed my constant heart on thee.
Ah, may I stay forever blind
With lions, tigers, leopards, and their kind.

-Vita Sackville-West

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Venice in Pictures

A selection of my vacation photos can be found here. Here is one of me!

Air Woes

The Air France/Alitalia/Delta SkyTeam alliance can collectively bite me.

I just returned from Europe three hours ago. I should have done so 24 hours earlier, but a snafu of gargantuan proportions at Charles De Gaulle airport resulted in an unscheduled day in Paris. Normally I would welcome a day in Paris, but seeing as it was spent in the airport and the seedy French Motel 6 equivalent near Parc Asterix provided by Air France, I had no access to beautiful sights, delicious food, or internet connections, thus making it an extended stay in hell. The only way I was able to contact anyone was when some fellow travelers allowed me to use a minute or two of the connection time they had purchased for their laptop (CDG is apparently the only European airport not to have realized the lucrative potential of freestanding internet kiosks and provides only a set of dirty plugs for those with their own computer).

However, because they did not force me to sleep in the airport or lose my luggage, I will not devote my entire life to the destruction of Air France and instead will take a deep breath and share some lovely vacation photos.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Additional Thoughts from Venezia

Internet time in the former city-state is as expensive as everything else, so my communication will be brief. I have taken over 200 photos and will cull a handful of the best for your viewing pleasure once I have returned to the states (a better use for photographs than argument against atrocity is to use them as documentary evidence of pleasure). Until then, text observations:

-It was not good to be the doge. Ten guys poised to behead you at any moment, no power but persuasion, and you have to live in a giant chilly box with a bunch of prisoners and bureaucrats. And no foreign vacations: they're illegal!

-There are an almost infinite number of ways to fantasize about eradicating the pigeons in St. Mark's Square. Tom Lehrer was quite unimaginative.

-Woman cannot live on gelato alone. But she can try.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Life in Venice

After little sleep, late flights, and a close encounter with some of the stinkiest feet to have ever menaced an aircraft (Britney Spears, move over: there is a little Italian boy who gives your stench a run for its money), I arrived in Venice. The apartment has a view of the Grand Canal and may have been owned by the Sforza family in olden times. I need to spend a little time on its highly unsafe terrace to take in the view, but we have been running around constantly. The streets in Venice are a delightful warren of crumbling brick and stone, and just when you think that your goal is in sight, an unbridged canal will block your path. Not that I mean to criticize; the city is small enough to be a manageable walk, so long as you do not mind frequent detours and scenic routes.

Our first stop was the Guggenheim, where Peggy and her dear doggies are buried. The house includes some extremely desirable pieces of art, particularly the several Calders. Unfortunately, many of the works are behind glass and less than perfectly lit, which resulted in my boyfriend's purchase of a print which looked better than the painting itself.

We've also been to Saint Mark's, where I was mesmerized by the 2200 year old bronze horses that were stolen from Delos by Venice, snatched and then returned by France, and finally brought in from the elements a mere 30 years ago. As emblems of the Evangelists, they are iffy; as sculpture they are sublime. We then adjourned to the balcony that overlooks the piazza and meditated on the geometric increase in civility that takes place between the ground and the sky. In the piazza, all of the tourists are rude and rowdy and wouldn't give you the time of day, but once they ascend to the top of St. Mark's, they become courteous and giving, with people of all nationalities meeting in the clouds to altruistically assist one another with that most worthy of endeavors, the vacation photograph. We took photos for couples from at least three different countries and received photos from several in return (alas, an older American gentleman remarked that he knew we were not Italian because my boyfriend was not kissing me for the photo. As founder of International Kissing Day, I have vowed to improve this situation).

Still to come: the Doge's palace, the Accademia, Murano, more galleries, more shopping (I do have a charming Carnevale mask already, but nothing glass as yet), and a gondola ride!

Friday, March 11, 2005


This afternoon I leave for Venice. If there are easily accessible internet cafes, I'll continue my tradition of international blogging. If not, I won't. Stay tuned for dispatches from Venezia!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Life's Little Defeats

The branch of the Cambridge public library closest to our apartment is closing, so I went on an ordering spree on the library catalogue website requesting books from other branches (unlike the Harvard library system, the local public library system will send over books from other libraries to your home library, and I hate carrying bags of books all the way from another branch).

I requested a copy of Cloud Atlas, the hot new fantasy novel by David Mitchell that's a favorite for the Booker Prize and the Nebula.

And when I got home to spread my hoard out for Geoffrey to see, what did I notice?

This. I don't know if it was my mistake or the library's, but: phooey.

Parody Thoughts

I wrote a long post about the parody, but Blogger ate it. A brief summary:

-Seeing dozens of brilliant women reduced to legs and midriffs is vaguely creepy.

-The law school as a whole is not over the election, as evidenced by the recurring themes of the show ("Justice Stevens Please Don't Die" to the tune of "Hit Me Baby One More Time," sketches about the desperation and ineptitude of progressives, depicting the Federalist Society as a bunch of Scalia-worshipping baby eaters and practitioners of human sacrifice).

-They apparently couldn't get Dean Kagan for last night's show and had to make do with Dean Cosgrove. Boo.

-Law school parodies never have more than a thread of plot, so using that limitation as an excuse to make the show charmingly meta and breaking the fourth wall was probably the best decision the writers could have made.

-No clown was present, but they still managed to get in some vicious jabs at a few students. Do these students really deserve such treatment?

-They didn't bother to parody the actual president of the Federalist Society, instead subbing in a 2L with a funny name for that role. What the hell?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Today I have to finish the draft of my 3L paper before heading over to Pound to watch the Parody. I hear it's funny, but I'll report back late tonight with my thoughts.

For some reason I feel this massive wave of melancholy swamping me. Perhaps a holiday will break the snowy tedium and temporarily free me from the pressing obligations of journals and papers.


Just as I am wont to do with respect to members of my family, I forgot the birthday of this blog. On March 4th, this blog turned one year old. Yay BamberBlog!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


First I was reading this thread and saw that the secret recipe for Ninfa's green sauce is on the web. Then I found out that I am a ten minute walk from some of the most delicious tacos in greater Boston. The only problem is that I have never been able to find tomatillos here in Boston.

It's too bad I have a journal dinner tonight. Tacos >>>> Catered Harvard food.

5 and 5

Balkin prescient?

Ain't that America?

Given all the discussion about Blue State provincialism lately, I thought it might be interesting for bloggers to indicate where they've lived and been, if only so we can account for it in reading. My travels:

bold the states you've been to, underline the states you've lived in and italicize the state you're in now...

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C /

Go HERE to have a form generate the HTML for you.

Monday, March 07, 2005


Is an adoption decree a judgment for full faith and credit purposes?

Intrepid Girl-Blogger On the Scene!

The issue of whether bloggers are members of the press is whirling around the blogosphere. Laura M. at Apartment 11D makes a common, but flawed argument.
Bloggers want the same First Amendment protections that reporters enjoy.

Bloggers should have the right to protect their sources without fear of prosecution.
In the physical world, being labeled a journalist may confer little prestige and may even evoke some contempt. But being a journalist can also confer certain privileges, like the right to keep sources confidential. And for that reason many bloggers, a scrappy legion of online commentators and pundits, would like to be considered reporters, too.
. . .
However, this is a double edged sword. Along with formal protections must come certain responsibilities.

Yes, reporters do enjoy many protections, but they also have many legal and ethical restrictions that freedom-loving bloggers might hate.

Do bloggers want to be open to slander and libel cases? Not only would the political bloggers be at risk, but all the personal bloggers who blog about their neighbors and family. Thousands of mothers-in-laws could open up cases in court against bloggers with a poison keyboard.
Bloggers are already open to prosecution for slander and libel. This is not an offense exclusive to journalists.
The FEC monitors their actions. I'm not eager to curtail my potty mouth. I'm not sure that would make Wonkette too happy either.
The FEC monitors everyone’s actions, although the regulations differ for members of the press. Hustler and Playboy are members of the press, too. They haven’t been shut down, so I think Wonkette is safe for now.
Reporters have a code of ethics. The right of response. If one is discussed in an article, the reporter has the responsibility to get a statement from that person or his staff. Errors must be corrected immediately and publicly. It is debatable how well traditional news sources hold to these ethics, but they exist nonetheless.
Regardless of what journalistic ethics say, the press is not required to provide an opportunity for response. In fact, such a requirement would violate the First Amendment. See Miami Herald v. Tornillo.
For bloggers to receive equal protection under the First Amendment as reporters, then there must be a commonly agreed upon code of ethics for our behavior.
This is incorrect. The First Amendment is not contingent on whether the press is confined by canons of professional ethics. To the extent that those canons affect the content of speech, incorporating them into the law would likely be unconstitutional. Bloggers are protected by freedom of the press just as solitary leafleters or authors of books.

I'd be interested in what my journalism savvy pal has to say about this.

So. Disorganized.

Jeremy has a post up about our Legal Professions class and the law school parody. I bought a ticket for the parody and was all set to go with my friend, but unfortunately for both of us I am a totally disorganized dope and failed to realize that my flight to Europe is that day and thus I will be on a plane while the Friday show is taking place. I am going to try to buy a ticket for a different show today, but wow, how stupid am I?

(P.S. I give wrong answers in LP class all the time, although not because I don't want to read from an outline. I should probably download this outline Jeremy is talking about so I can quit doing that. Then again, why spoil her opinion of me as go-to girl for a disconnected and amoral answer?)

Sunday, March 06, 2005

50 Book Challenge #16: Promethea Book I

I wasn't going to count this as a 50 Book Challenge entry because it's so short, but my boyfriend convinced me that accurate representation of my reading habits is superior to picking and choosing.

Promethea is not as good as Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which had more of a self contained narrative and more engaging characters (although selecting some of the most memorable figures of fantastic literature gives League a marked advantage on this score). I thought Moore would be really groundbreaking and have a middle-aged, portly female superhero, but this imagining of Promethea is only temporary, and quickly she becomes a more conventional looking heroine. There are still lots of mysteries swirling at the end of Book I, and if I can easily procure the next volume I might continue reading. Then again, maybe I should focus on Federal Jurisdiction.

Off to campus to read and write (no 'rithmatic: I am a law student).

Saturday, March 05, 2005


My neighbors this year are much louder than the previous ones. Tonight they are having a loud party. Earlier today they were listening to very loud disco/1980s music for a couple of hours. And they just got a cuckoo clock.

I wish I had a dog. Because where else can you get bags of burning poo?

International Law Scholars, Help Me Out Here.

Pakistani justice is really something else. To punish her family, tribal elders sentenced this woman to be brutally gang raped in public. Over 150 people witnessed the assault and the rapists were neighbors of the victim. However, instead of committing suicide, the victim demanded prosecution and six attackers were sentenced to death.

Five of those men have just been freed. Their convictions were overturned for lack of evidence.

Lack of evidence. What would constitute sufficient evidence, I wonder? A videotape? If they had carved their names in her flesh? Or can only confessed rapists be convicted?

This is sick.

UPDATE: Philly justice isn't much better. A rapist just got house arrest and probation for drugging and repeatedly assaulting his college roommate's niece. Apparently being a medical researcher gives you a get out of jail free card.
McIntosh, 52, of Media, could have received a maximum of 11 years in prison. But Means said he factored in McIntosh's important work with stroke victims and brain injuries, and sentenced McIntosh to a year of house arrest and 12 years' probation.

Friday, March 04, 2005

50 Book Challenge #14 & 15: Blankets & Atonement

I was laid up with a headache all day, so I got nothing done on my 3L paper. However, staring at a page is less pain-inducing than staring at a screen, so I did finish two more books.

Blankets is a semi-autobiographical graphic novel about growing up poor and religious in the snowy Midwest. Most of the book takes place in winter, and the tone is chilly as well, reflecting the isolation of the narrator. Between poverty, unpopularity, fundamentalist Christianity, a brutal father, molesting babysitters, and uncertainty about the future, the young Craig Thompson has plenty of reasons to be unhappy. His first girlfriend, Raina, introduces him to something better, but even his fledgling love for her cannot overcome the pain that both families have inflicted on the pair. Bittersweet and acutely perceptive, Blankets is a fine read.

Atonement is another unhappy book. Unlike Blankets, which has a certain timelessness that puts me in mind of Wes Anderson films, this beautifully written novel is set in England in the time immediately before WWII. Period mores are important to some of the plot developments, but I don't want to give too much away; this book is best experienced fresh. My only quibbles came toward the end; I was sufficiently drawn in by the book to feel angered by Briony's repeated acts of cowardice, and the epilogue yanks away any partial satisfaction you may have gained from her efforts at atonement by revealing that [SPOILERS] the happy ending was a fabrication for the benefit of the readers of her book within a book. Even the narrator admits that letting us know that is not a very good ending, but McEwan gives it to us anyway. Bleak realism is one thing, bait and switch another: Atonement is a good book if you don't mind getting suckerpunched.

Dogs and cats whizzing together -- mass hysteria!

What is the big freaking deal about unisex restrooms, anyway?

Safety concerns? Like men and women being alone together in a small room? How is it more difficult to attack someone in a bathroom versus a conference room or a copy room? Is some guy going to be overcome with lust at the sight of a lady's ankles under the stall door and run mad?

Privacy concerns? Is it so traumatizing to think that someone of the opposite sex might hear you pee? After switching to single sex restrooms in its law student dormitories, HLS has had a mini-epidemic of peeping toms. If some weirdo wants to watch you in the bathroom, he will.

As for the allegation that men are dirtier than women, I'm not sure that that's accurate. Women's bathrooms can be pretty disgusting. At least stupid men never flush maxipads and flood the place. And for every man with bad aim, there's a woman who hovers above the seat so she doesn't catch cooties and makes a mess. Both sexes are gross. Why not have them be gross together?

Previous posts on bathrooms.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Conspiracy Theorists

Amanda at Mouse Words, whose blog I usually like very much, has jumped to some pretty questionable conclusions after reading this interview with FEC Commissioner Bradley Smith. Smith discusses the impact of McCain-Feingold on blogging:
A: The commission has generally been hands-off on the Internet. We've said, "If you advertise on the Internet, that's an expenditure of money--much like if you were advertising on television or the newspaper."

The real question is: Would a link to a candidate's page be a problem? If someone sets up a home page and links to their favorite politician, is that a contribution? This is a big deal, if someone has already contributed the legal maximum, or if they're at the disclosure threshold and additional expenditures have to be disclosed under federal law.

Certainly a lot of bloggers are very much out front. Do we give bloggers the press exemption? If we don't give bloggers the press exemption, we have the question of, do we extend this to online-only journals like CNET?
Now this is a big problem, but hurts both sides. So why does Amanda think that "this is nothing more than a bunch of Republicans using their power to shut down citizen influence on a democratic government"?

Smith is a Republican, true. But the reason the FEC's prior hands-off approach to the internet is coming to an end is because of the ruling by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly that "'The commission's exclusion of Internet communications from the coordinated communications regulation severely undermines' the campaign finance law's purposes." Judge Kollar-Kotelly was appointed by a Democrat. The Commission could have appealed her ruling; Smith wanted to. But the three Democratic members of the Commission refused.

So when a Democratic judge and the Democrats on the FEC Commission decide that McCain-Feingold (a bipartisan bill; Feingold = Democrat) should be applied to the internet, how is this a giant Republican conspiracy?

Cripes, I'm a member of neither party, but I do know that Brad Smith is a hard core free speech advocate and that you can't pin the blame for this abortion of a campaign finance law on one side of the aisle. So unless Amanda knows something the rest of us don't about Markos Moulitsas receiving some sort of threatening communique from the bowels of the FEC, I'm baffled.

Not very good at this girl thing

This sounds like it might be relaxing, but my first thought was that I would fear cross-contamination of tea and foot-water too much to enjoy it. Then again, I hate spas. Two years ago, for my birthday, I got a trip to some fancy spa in New York. My experience:

It began with a "sea scrub" massage, in which I was rubbed with oily kosher salt. At first, this felt good, then mildy uncomfortable, and by the time she got ready to move to the next leg I was wondering if I would have any skin left. In the end, though, I was smooth (if covered in salt) and relaxed. I had to shower off the salt, resulting in my hair puffing up into wannabe Texas matron bigness, and then put back on the giant robe and go to another room for my facial.

This consisted of my eyes being covered with damp cotton, and then I was smeared repeatedly with creams, prodded, told I had combination skin (duh!) and then that my face was covered with blackheads (I still don't know exactly what this means... there was nothing black on my face) and that I needed a "herbal pack" to get the years of accumulated grossness out of my never-been-facialed-before pores.

If I had been paying I would have been suspicious of people trying to sell me things while I was blind and vulnerable, but I said sure. She then swaddled my face in strips of cloth smeared with herbs, parked a giant steam pipe in front of my face, and left for fifteen minutes. I had problems breathing, what with the steam and my bad cold, but soon she came back, wiped all the herbal gunk off, and started the paraffin treatment for my hands, which meant she brushed molten wax all over them and then folded them up in paper to dry. I consoled myself with the testimonial from Gabriel Byrne I had seen on the wall; if famous guys can do this, so can I. She then smeared more gunk on, and then proceeded to poke me with something sharp and then squeeze all the bits of my face that were or tend to be pimply. I couldn't help but think that if the same things were done to a child it would be abuse. Beauty is weird.

Random roundup VI

Glen Whitman has an interesting post on why anti-abortion laws violate the Takings Clause.

Eugene Volokh links to this article about honor killings in Germany. Note the passage on families selecting juveniles to do the killing because they get off light in German courts.

Word of mouth is the way to publishing success. No joke! I just heard my housemate recommending Old Man's War to his dad, and most of my recent reading has been books selected due to recommendations from fellow bloggers.

Can you even be six feet tall as a seven year old?

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Apropos of something

People think love is an emotion.
Love is good sense.

~Ken Kesey

50 Book Challenge #13: Cetaganda

Yes, it's another random SF paperback. (My next book is serious literature, I swear.) This one was a lot better than the last, but I still couldn't get that enthusiastic. Part of my discontent was at having to pick up the story line in the middle. Bujold's characterization is strong, but when I don't know the background relationships it's tough to really appreciate what's going on. Is Ivan brain damaged or just not as brilliant as Miles? Who are all those Barrayarans again? The plot was decent, but it felt more like a mystery novel than a novel of ideas, and I prefer the latter.

Share Alike?

Predictably, the folks at Family Scholars blog just loved the David Brooks column I blogged yesterday. Their response:
With separate accounts, a homemaker stands in a much weaker position than the primary breadwinner. A shared account–while not eliminating the power imbalance–shifts power to the spouse who earns less, because now the money is theirs. In a shared account, it matters less which spouse earned what; they are now an economic unit. The money should be shared equally precisely because the labor is not.
Having separate accounts does not preclude the possibility of having a joint account for joint expenses. Neither does it mean that both spouses must contribute the same number of dollars to the joint account regardless of differences in their earnings; they could each chip in a set percentage of income instead. A shared account may enable married persons to spend beyond what would otherwise be their means, but to state unilaterally that shared accounts shift power to the lower (or non-) earning spouse ignores the very real psychological issues in a marriage that stem from one party having what is perceived as more of the power and control. Heidi's observations about how pooling all expenses made her feel monitored are a great example of this. And the Family Scholars, like Brooks, ignore the huge costs that joint accounts can impose on a marriage that ends--an abusive spouse may drain the joint account so his wife cannot leave, or a widow may be temporarily broke when her dead husband's accounts are frozen (examples from the comments here). But even discounting these worst-case scenarios, there's no reason to get exercised about some modest financial independence in a marriage, if that's what makes the spouses happy.

Even married couples have some privacy from one another, unless the Family Scholars use the toilet with the door open when their spouses are around. Even the most loving couples need time to be alone sometimes, otherwise a night out with the boys/girls is somehow anti-marriage. Having separate accounts is just a financial analogue to the other little ways in which even married people give each other a little space. If you are comfortable inviting your spouse in for a conversation while sitting on the can or if you don't mind having your husband be able to count in Quicken every cup of coffee you bought, that's fine. But please don't press your unity-at-all-costs philosophy on those who are less financially gregarious.

P.S. Interesting discussion of a problem indirectly caused by joint accounts here.

UPDATE: Phoebe points out that the separate account may be a ticket to nowhere for some abused spouses. Maybe, but not all abused spouses don't work or have a minimal work history, so they could have an opportunity to squirrel some money away. And frankly, if someone is a penniless, skillless, jobless SAHM with a husband who demands that everything be in a joint account and is free with his fists, I don't have any qualms about encouraging that woman to systematically steal money from the joint account and sock it away someplace safe until she has enough to get out on her own. Your rights stop where my nose begins, and all that.

Where y'all from?

Take this test to see if you speak Southern. I registered as "73% (Dixie). You are a solid Southerner!"

People who think this is cool might also like playing around with these data sets.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


More humorous stuff from my housemate's history reading:

The phrase "universal manhood suffrage."

You'll Pry My Checkbook From My Cold, Dead Hands

I've never been a fan of David Brooks's columns in the NY Times, but he just keeps publishing such irredeemable tripe that I end up reading them just to see what everyone else is so ticked about. His latest assertion: separate checking accounts are anti-family.

I should have known the column would be infuriating when he led in with a reference to Tolstoy, one of the main reasons I quit studying Russian (one of the few holdovers from my Objectivist days is a strong aversion to certain works of literature based solely on the sense of life they embrace--if I lived in Tolstoy's world, I'd kill myself).
[Tolstoy's couple is] married but grow apart. She likes parties, while he doesn't. Then one day they are sitting at home and her heart suddenly grows light. She looks around and realizes that the courtship phase of their relationship has ended, but it has been replaced by something gentler and deeper:

"That day ended the romance of our marriage; the old feeling became a precious irrecoverable remembrance; but a new feeling of love for my children and the father of my children laid the foundation of a new life and a quite different happiness; and that life and happiness have lasted to the present time."

Tolstoy's story captures the difference between romantic happiness, which is filled with exhilaration and self-fulfillment, and family happiness, built on self-abnegation and sacrifice.
This, among other reasons, is why I am never having kids. Having 50 years or so of my life dedicated to self abnegation? It's like voluntarily emigrating to a totalitarian communist state. And what must it be like to be married to someone who sees your relationship as based on sacrifice, not mutual benefit and joy?
(Another thought: doesn't this sound like the tale of every sad married sack who complains about how much his marriage lacks "passion" since the kids came along, or of every woman who can't understand why her husband ran off with the secretary? Relating to your husband as the father of your children and not as a romantic partner sounds like a great way to destroy a marriage--but of course Brooks ignores this age-old wisdom in favor of his self-sacrifice schtick. Because that's always sold well.)
It also illustrates how the family is a countervailing force in society. Public life is individualistic. It's oriented around goals like self-development, self-advancement and personal happiness. (This is, of course, even more true in America today than in the Russia of the 19th century.) The goal of family life, on the other hand, does not revolve around individual choices but around the unconditional union of souls. When we get married, and then when we have kids, we learn, sometimes traumatically, to say farewell to the world of me, me, me.

Tolstoy's novella came back to me while I was reading, of all things, The Wall Street Journal. The paper's Work and Family columnist, Sue Shellenbarger, had a piece last week reporting that the number of couples who now have separate checking accounts is rising rapidly. Roughly half of all married couples now keep multiple accounts, according to a Raddon Financial Group survey.

Some of the reasons for separate accounts are entirely reasonable. People who marry at older ages or who are forming second families may already have complicated financial arrangements that would be hard to pool. Some couples have found after long and bitter experience that they have different spending philosophies; instead of fighting, it's easier to give each spouse a little personal space.

But some of the people quoted in Shellenbarger's article seem unaware that there may be a distinction between the individualistic ethos of the market and the communal ethos of the home. A Texas woman celebrated her family's separate accounts, remarking, "It's so freeing to be your own person, and not feel like someone is looking over your shoulder." It's not clear whether she's talking about a marriage or a real estate partnership.
Maybe she views her marriage as a partnership between two people; maybe she realizes that even if your souls are united your wallets are not. "What's yours is mine and what's mine is yours" only goes so far when you are two physically distinct persons with disparate interests. And maybe she recognizes that giving herself and her partner a little independence--a little "me money"--can be psychologically healthier than depriving married partners of all capacity for individual action.
I'm not saying that people with separate accounts have marriages that are less healthy than anybody else's. I'm saying we should pause before this becomes the social norm. Private property is the basis for our market democracy. But private property in the home is an altogether trickier proposition.

For one thing, separate accounts can easily turn into secret accounts. A person's status and resources inside the home shouldn't be based on how much he or she is making outside it. A union based on love can easily turn into a merger based on self-interest, where the main criterion for continuing becomes: Am I getting a good return on my investment, psychic or otherwise?
Secret accounts are only a problem if you have a spouse who breaks your trust, and if that's true then your banking arrangements are the least of your worries. (Alternatively, a separate bank account can be the only way for people in abusive relationships to escape a controlling spouse.) And yes, if the higher earning spouse held his superior salary over the head of the lower earning spouse it would make for marital discord, but again, that's more a function of interpersonal problems between the spouses than the accounting. The same situation could arise with joint banking.

Since so many couples fight about money, why shouldn't we nip those arguments in the bud by having a social norm that personal expenses are made at a personal level? Then the couple can work out an initial contribution scheme and any future disagreements could only stem from problems meeting joint expenses from a joint account. Why glorify a state of affairs that has the potential to turn marital finance into a zero sum game in which every Pay Per View wrestling event means no new high heels? Negotiating every little daily purchase is fodder for conflict. Unless, of course, one party demurs like a sweet little self-abnegating wifey should.

I can see that in community property states, the separate accounts arrangement might have fewer advantages, and if one spouse can destroy the credit rating of another, it might behoove the couple to monitor each other so neither have spending slide out of control. But attacking private property in marriage as such is deeply troubling, because regardless of Brooks's pretty platitudes about a union of souls, a marriage is still an arrangement between two people, and power over their property can only be exercised by one of them at a time. How convenient that it would probably be the man (who, after all is probably the higher earner, since according to Brooks we younger women should be taking time off from the career treadmill to have babies right now) who makes these decisions. Tolstoy would approve.

UPDATE: I have another post on this topic here.


I now have a ticket for the law school parody. I was ambivalent about attending this year because last year's parody was a) not funny and b) personally offensive. However, I am informed that the end-of-show routine with a clown wandering the audience spotlighting individual people and insulting them has been eliminated and thus my main objection to the show has disappeared.

The whole ticket acquisition process is especially amusing to me because I am going with my friend and former roommate, who spent hours ranting this summer (with my partial agreement) about the pernicious effect of the parody on law school civility.

You, sir, are no Nabokov.

Once again, allegations of pretention have been leveled at my favorite non-Bamber blog, Crescat Sententia. Mr. Baude and I discussed this issue at great length and with some heat, but in the end I was left with a few unanswered questions:

- What does it mean to be intentionally obscure, and can one be excused if one merely foresees that others might find a passage thus?
- To what extent can the blog reader be expected to sift through clever lies and a shotgun spray of literary allusions to get to the meat of a topic?
- Is it too much to ask that a post have a topic or topics that is rapidly apparent?
- Are Jeremy Reff and Chun the Unavoidable sharers of a single hive mind?

I'll wrap up with some links:

Bad Writing
On Bad Writing
A handy checklist to have while writing, compliments of Orwell:
A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

1. What am I trying to say?
2. What words will express it?
3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And he will probably ask himself two more:

1. Could I put it more shortly?
2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?