Friday, June 30, 2006

Superman Go Home

We saw the first thirty minutes of Superman Returns, but then the bulb in the projector died and we left. I wasn't too broken up about it. Has the world learned nothing from Star Trek? How can you name a technology "Genesis" and expect things to go well? Brandon Routh was wooden and Bosworth's Lois was a Darwin Award contestant. Bleh.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

I hate Forrest Gump.

Hilarious summaries of so-called inspirational movies. (h/t) I especially agree with this one:
"Dead Poet's Society," 1989. No. There are many things wrong with the movie and I'll skip them for now....But, we have one kid who blows his brains out because he couldn't live with his father's disapproval. And we're supposed be sympathetic with the teacher who forced this confrontation? This is an evil, evil movie.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Rants and raves

Rant: Why is Spider-Man 3 not coming out until 2007? The previous two movies were released two years apart; this means we are due for another installment this summer. Instead we have Superman Returns. Blech.

Rave: Larabars = crazy delicious. They are also very filling; for once, I didn't count down the minutes until lunch.

Rant: Snape may die. No, not my Snape. This Snape.

Rave: Harry may die. Whinging little prat needs to bite it, says I.


So I am thinking of going on vacation for two weeks or so before I start my post-clerkship job. My current plan is 7ish days in Switzerland, a day or two in Salzburg, Austria, and then 6ish days in Croatia. For most or all of that time I will be by myself.

However, I am open to other ideas. This may be my last opportunity for a while to take a long trip. Should I go to Japan instead? Extend my trip a few days and go to Australia (it will be early spring there)?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Caffeine Free and Hating It

I really, really, really want a Diet Coke right now.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Book Review: Fatal Purity

I rarely read nonfiction, but this New Yorker article discussing the French Revolution and "the rise of the mass-murdering nerd" piqued my interest, so I picked up Fatal Purity at the Clerksville library.

First things first: you don't need to know a lot about the revolution to enjoy this book. All I was working from were some vaguely remembered high school history lectures and a bunch of paintings by David. Scurr does a good job of summarizing the action and the shifting factions so even if you didn't know your Hebertists from your Girondists before, you can keep tabs on what's going on.

There were three things that bugged me about what is otherwise an excellent and informative biography of a relatively neglected historical personage. First, Scurr uses many large block quotes from Robespierre's speeches. These get repetitive, not least because all of them make essentially the same argument (France has secret internal enemies and I know who they are! The state must crush them!).

Second, Robespierre had a fiancée! This was big news to me, and could have been a great window into the man if explored in depth. Unfortunately, there's more in Wikipedia about the so-called "Widow Robespierre" than there is in this book. Maybe he got engaged to someone he didn't care that much about. Maybe there aren't enough source materials to shed light on the relationship. But after telling the reader all about how other people's wives and families followed them to the guillotine, to not even mention her fate was odd.

Finally, and this is not Scurr's fault: Robespierre is kind of a boring guy. He twitched, he made speeches, he schemed, and he condemned people to die. But there's no there there. Most mass murderers have more personality.

Nevertheless, this is a decent book if you're interested in the French Revolution, politics, or why basing the legal system off of books* you read as a teenager is a bad idea.

* The works of Rousseau

Live in the 21st century

So now that Warren Buffett has pledged a billion or so to his deceased ex-wife's charitable foundation, do you think it will be able to afford a decent webpage?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Columbia Business School Rocks

For all the aspiring Fed chairmen out there. (h/t)

Have I mentioned how much I love bad cover songs?

Explanation: the Dean of CBS was allegedly considered for the chairman slot but the position went to Bernanke. The student playing the dean in the video bears a remarkable resemblance to him.

Beats the tar out of the HLS parody, let me tell you.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Drivin' my life away

After an airline mishap ruined my weekend plans, I ended up spending my Saturday making a four hour road trip (don't ask). I like driving, and I got to go to a Dairy Queen for the first time in about fifteen years, which was bad for my cholesterol but good for my ambition. There's nothing like being timewarped back to the socioeconomic status of the past to rev up your passion for billing.

Friday, June 23, 2006

More Dubious Relationship Advice

Don't: Call him or ask him out.

Do: Bite him.

I endorse neither of these strategies.

Zap Me

I want this machine NOW. (h/t)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

No rape charges?

That was my first thought also. There is a federal statute dealing with sexual assault in prisons, but the conduct here may not fall neatly within its purview.

Shouldn't we expand statutory rape to include prison guard/prisoner sex? It seems like a situation that is even less likely to involve meaningful consent than relationships between adults and minors. It appears that some states have laws like this. Why isn't there an analogue for federal prisons?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The telegram says you have gone away.

I am always shocked by who turns up on Metafilter. One person asked if Sylvia Plath wrote any villanelles besides Mad Girl's Love Song. The screenwriter for the Plath biopic Sylvia turned up and produced an answer.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Are you afraid?

This post reminded me of living in Cambridge. When I was deciding where to go to law school, many people pointed out that the University of Chicago is in a high crime area. Nobody ever mentioned this about Cambridge. I looked up some maps showing reported crimes, though, and was surprised to find that crime in the immediate area of the campus was about the same for both schools.

Of course, once I moved to Cambridge people were better informed. They couldn't help but be; every week or two, a new crime report email would pop into our box, informing us of a mugging, burglary, or assault. Since I am female and very small, many well-meaning people told me I shouldn't walk alone at night, and that I especially should not take the relatively untrafficked shortcut through the divinity school to get back to my house. They were right to point out that very few people walked there at night and that it was less well-lit than the straight main street to the south that led directly to my home. But taking the latter route added 5-10 minutes to my trip, increasing the time I spent alone, and more crimes were reported in the area the law school than east of it, making my route safer.

So did I choose my route home out of fear? I still don't know.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Jackie O Suit?

I know some of you don't like the fashion posts but suck it, Trebek, I need a consult.

Should I buy this suit?

  • The pink is so Jackie O.
  • The blue (click through the alternate views) is pretty too.
  • I need nice suits for the law firm.
  • If I buy it on Amazon I can use my gift certificates and get $50 off.
  • It's kind of Jackie O on the day of the Kennedy assassination.
  • Pink is more of a secretary color, and if it's the wrong shade it will make me look washed out or too young.
  • I could get the black-on-black version but I can't decide if it's chic or boring.
Thoughts, fellow fashionista lawyers?

Parisian Food

Karl asks, "How was the food in Paris?"

I had two decadent dining experiences in Paris: lunch at Taillevent and lunch at Jacques Cagna.

Taillevent was amazing but intimidating. We arrived ten minutes early and were seated in a holding area and served some kind of delicious cheese puffs and the best Gewürztraminer I've ever had. Unfortunately we only got one glass of it, as it was not sold by the bottle. We were then led into the dining room and proffered a amuse-bouche of gazpacho that had an odd dollop of something in it; it walked the line between intriguing and gross. We were then showered with seven courses of delicious French food: foie gras creme brulee, arugula ravioli, a fish course, a rather disturbing cross section of a lamb which reminded me of high school biology class, some fresh goat cheese that was a bit too heavy on the dill, a delightful strawberry gelatin and meringue dessert, and a chocolate dessert that made me curse my constitution. I ate everything, with the exception of what appeared to be a orange cherry tomato with a candy shell. There was an ancient man sitting next to us who ate alone, in total silence, and appeared to be a regular. He must be very rich and very lonely.

Jacques Cagna was much more informal (and I don't just say that because we were briefly greeted tableside by a friendly whippet) but also pleasant. Although they were very strict about requiring us to confirm the reservation, we had the entire place to ourselves. I had the foie gras ravioli with mushrooms, the smoked and roasted quail, which may be the finest bird I've ever tasted, and the Bourbon vanilla millefeuille. There was a very tasty blue with a easily remembered name on the cheese plate, but when we tasted it again the next day without the benefit of an entire bottle of wine, it was less exciting.

I don't know that I would go to either one again, but as a pair of special treats the restaurants were worthwhile.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Wifework: Not Just For Wives Anymore

There's an interesting post here on the emotional work women put into relationships and how even nice guys can end up in deeply unegalitarian pairings by buying into certain socially constructed expectations about this work. As someone who has struggled in past relationships to not be considered high-maintenance or needy, I can testify that being labelled a nag is something that most women will swallow a lot of resentment to avoid. Thoughts? (h/t)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Austin is a city in Texas.

If I have to read one more comment on the internet in which someone misspells Jane Austen's name, there will be blood. If you are literate enough to read her novels, you should be able to spell her damned name.

All the Supreme Court Clerks Ever

Wikipedia is a great thing.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Arms or Kids?

John has a question that's become more topical since the kerfuffle at Volokh over Emily Yoffe: "You have a choice. You can either (a) go the rest of your life without any arms; or (b) rear, along with your husband, 5 children. You decide."

Well, he said rear, not gestate, so the choice is easier than it would otherwise be. (Although being bionic would be sort of cool, and for the price of five years' worth of nannies and sixty years of boarding school tuition, you could get some sweet prosthetic arms, I'm sure. And are we talking amputation at the shoulder or at the elbow? But I digress.) Surely there are some foreign boarding schools that are relatively cheap? Since it sounds like these kids are adopted, how old are they when received? That plays into my expected cost. Even if my entire income for eighteen years goes to paying for the kids, at the end I am free, still have arms, and have been able to survive for that time thanks to a second income. I guess you've got me, John: I'll keep my limbs.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

More Q&A

Mike asks, "what things did you learn during your year of clerking? Was it worth it?"

Things I learned:
  • Seniority-based pay means that not all clerks are created equal.
  • The feds give you free online OED access.
  • Clerking for a senior judge means you get to travel to a wider variety of places but you get to travel less often.
  • A good catsitter is hard to find.
  • The sentencing guidelines are even tougher than you think.
  • Presented with a choice between using flexible, usable software or outdated, buggy crap, the government will pick the latter every time.
Clerking was worth it. I recommend it to anyone. The hardest part was the relocation. Some people are good at making friends in new places; I am not. If you're an introvert too and will be leaving all your friends and loved ones behind to clerk, be aware of how disruptive this can be and try to figure out how you'll deal. I got cats. Your mileage may vary.

Book Review: Anonymous Lawyer

I finished reading Jeremy Blachman's Anonymous Lawyer and here is my opinion:


I never found the Anonymous Lawyer blog, which purported to be from the point of view of a hiring partner at a big Los Angeles firm, very interesting or funny. The book is about as amusing as the blog; I laughed occasionally, but usually at some one-off joke like a funny name Anonymous Lawyer gave his colleague, not because I thought any of the insights about living la vida law firm were funny. The thinly veiled stand-in for Blachman himself was obvious and intrusive, especially when he attempted to justify his decision to become a musician after law school. I've already said what I think of that.

Still, the book made me laugh out loud a few times and I kept reading. This was my mistake. After cruising along for a while on anecdotes and over-the-top shock humor about workplace suicides and murderous plots to eliminate in-firm rivals, Blachman decides he needs to resolve the plot. Up until this point, that plot basically consists of the Anonymous Lawyer really wanting to beat his rival, The Jerk, in the competition to become chairman of the firm. Why he would want this is anyone's guess. One of the book's targets is the idea of pursuing prestige for its own sake, but this doesn't work when the prestigious position is fantastical and absurd.

Here is where the whole things goes off the rails as all of the characters suddenly begin to act in inexplicable ways that do not flow from anything we've been told before but do have the coincidental effect of moving the plot along to a hurried and artificial conclusion. (Spoilers below, for those of you who care.)
AL gets passed over and vows to take down The Jerk. An associate at his firm who has read his blog and discerned his identity contacts him and says she has evidence that The Jerk has been skimming money. She claims to feel threatened by how The Jerk is shaking up things at the firm and eventually agrees to help AL in exchange for being made partner upon his ascendance to the chairmanship (I found it completely unbelievable that he would have been able to do this, which made her trust illogical). She needs more proof, but coincidentally is a femme fatale and has a preexisting romantic relationship with the one person who can provide them with this evidence.

This person, who we can assume from his professional position is both savvy and intelligent, takes the unimaginably stupid action of writing down how he helped The Jerk steal money; he does this because a hot woman asked him to. When the plan fails and AL is not made Chairman, the femme fatale rats him out, for no reason that I can discern other than the fact that it allowed the firm to find out about both the attempted coup and AL's blog. The only thing I can compare this to is the last few chapters of The Firm, where we are suddenly hit with a whole bunch of nonsensical crap about stealing money and then the characters escape to the Caribbean.

Blachman is not entirely unfunny, but he fails to make his characters act in a rational or even believable way. The plot just plain doesn't work, and we don't really care at the end because all the characters, even AL, are cardboard cutouts who crack jokes or are the butt of them.

A substantive criticism: As at least one other person has noted, the satirized view of firms in this book doesn't really work because it's fundamentally tone-deaf and lacks actual knowledge of how firms operate. It hits the easy targets: Firms are nice to you while you're a summer associate and then make you work a lot! Lawyers are less charismatic than businessmen! Firms play bait-and-switch with people who think they're going to make partner! But on some counts, and at least one of them is reused relentlessly throughout the book, it's just dead wrong, and therefore not funny or pointed. That would be the relationship between lawyers and support staff.

Of all the people I've met in the last few years who have worked in law firms, only one had ever heard of an attorney throwing something at another person. Good legal secretaries are valued, and in some cases are more valued than associates. In a world where support staff can sue for the unbearable fact that they must to listen to a partner swear at third parties on the phone, Blachman's characterizations are jarringly off the mark and don't constitute effective satire.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Amazon Grocery Sucks

Amazon sells groceries. Unfortunately, they do not provide the nutritional information for the products they sell, only the ingredient lists. This means I and other health-conscious shoppers are unlikely to use their service. Boo, Amazon.

Question Time: Consensual Cannibalism

MT asks:
Consensual cannibalism between adults: Should it be legal?
My gut answer: Yes, assuming the parties are competent to consent. Some would argue that anyone who wants to eat someone else is crazy and therefore incompetent. I think the question is more pressing in terms of the status of the eaten than the eater, though. The standard for whether someone is competent to consent to be killed by another should be searching, but this concern is equally important in issues like euthanasia and can be dealt with by requiring disinterested physicians to sign off on the killing. (I think choosing the time when your life ends is a valid exercise of free will, which informs my position here.)

For lesser acts of cannibalism, the inquiry need not be as rigorous. Some people want to remove their limbs; whether they wish to give their unwanted body parts to a cannibal seems almost irrelevant. Eating the dead as a funerary rite also appears at first glance unobjectionable, since the individual is deceased (I would feel comfortable with this if the method of disposal were consented to by the person before death, but I recognize that this is slightly irrational.) The disposition of a piece of human flesh that is no longer part of a living person does not call for draconian regulation.

The main concerns with regard to cannibalism are public health (prion diseases analogous to Mad Cow can be spread via cannibalism) and the social effects of people seeing other people as food sources. Since it seems unlikely that cannibalism will appeal to most people, the issue is whether, for the niche population that would be cannibals if it were legal, the legalization of consensual cannibalism would result in an increase in nonconsensual cannibalism or whether gratifying the urge in a consensual way would satisfy the compulsion before an aspiring cannibal took violent steps to gratify his urge. At the very least, legalization of cannibalism might encourage people with this odd desire to speak about it in a serious and open way, which might lead them to seek help before they secretly, shamefully killed and attempted to eat someone.

This sounds to me a lot like the debates about artificial child pornography; if no children are harmed; should it be legal? Surely taking pictures of someone, no matter how degrading, is less offensive than murdering and eating them? If we believe that cannibals, like child molestors, would be spurred to new crimes by satisfaction of their deviant desire, then perhaps regulation is the prudent course.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Ask Amber

ashok says:
Remember a while ago, when you asked us readers to ask you questions, and you would pick interesting ones (for you) and blog about them? That was a fun game.
That was fun. Let's play it again, Sam.

P.S. I should have a review of Jeremy Blachman's Anonymous Lawyer later this week.

Why I love AskMe.

Questions like"Why won't my dog drink my blood?"

Monday, June 12, 2006

Ooh, shiny.

Good jewelry.

Bad jewelry.

PVD is a disease

Besides being ill, I had a rather nasty experience in the Providence airport yesterday. Here is what I did:

- Stood in check-in line for Continental. Noticed that line is not moving and that both counter employees are chatting and not helping anyone. Asked guy ahead of me if they are waiting to check in. Was told no, that this is something for luggage (note: BAD sign).

- Moved to first-class check-in line and walked to counter. Gave information to sullen counterwoman; was told that this was a Northwest codeshare and shooed away.

- Stood in NWA line (am I the only one who finds their abbreviation risible?) after trying to check in at self-service kiosk and being rejected. Was finally checked in by a man who did not speak to me.

- Because "Providence is not a drop-and-go airport," I then stood in line at the X-ray machine waiting for the four incompetent operators to scan the checked luggage. (Did I mention that they had one X-ray machine running for the entire airport?) Once our bag entered the machine (which was on continuously; isn't that putting out more radiation than necessary?), we were detained at the foot of the machine until our bag came out the other end. The bag was then tossed behind the counter and we were freed to go stand in the individual security line.

- After clearing security and making my way to the gate, I was faced with a very creepy poster which proclaimed that "Despite what you may have been told, you've landed in Warwick, R.I." I don't appreciate being taken to cities other than the one I thought I was going to, and I dislike being smugly informed of the stealth hijack by the mayor of Warwick even more.

I'm never flying into Providence Warwick again!

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Is there anything less fun than being sick in an airport?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Chair Love

I am in Boston for the weekend. Unfortunately, it has decided to rain constantly, making my wardrobe choices (cute summery dresses) tickets to chills and misery.

One of the bright spots of a gray day: this chair. Is it not delightful? It is comfortable without being lumpen, bright but not offensively so, and has few of the vertical surfaces my cats find most attractive for claw-sharpening. Turnoffs: the price and the name. The latter is both creepy and inaccurate, since it is impossible to be in the fetal position and use the provided ottoman.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Alito Clerk Hiring

Justice Alito may have filled a second slot for OT 2006 by hiring Chris Paolella, one of his former clerks. This leaves two open slots.

Thomas Clerkship Hiring

Rumor has it that Justice Thomas has one slot open for OT 2007 and is already hiring clerks for OT 2008. My source tells me that among the new Elect are a woman from Rutgers and someone from GW. Any further info, readers?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Ate opponents' brains and invented cocaine.

I am finally about to run out of Richard Sharpe novels. I rented the first installment of the British TV series they made out of the books, but it was kind of lamely plotted and had a very intrusive 1980s score. Sharpe has gotten kind of whiny in the last couple of books. Hopefully he doesn't spend the battle of Waterloo all hangdog about some woman.

Fortunately for Sharpe, he was too young to serve in the American Revolution. If he had, the series would have been much shorter because even a dirty-fighting killer like Sharpe couldn't win against this guy.


I find that this is true at this blog as well.

Also: I like doughnuts, but those trays of sliced-up rolls made out of cold cuts and giant tortillas should be banned from all conferences and lunch meetings forevermore.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Death and the Maiden

This story is like a real-world version of this film (which is fabulous, by the way). It even has an additional element of the bizarre, since the tortured woman met her torturer on the other side of the ocean after both of them had fled their pasts.

Tellin' you that I've had it with you and your career

I have finally figured out where I will be working after my clerkship is over. All the friends I have been boring into a stupor with this debate are probably even happier than I am.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Attack of the Cloned Mules

In an encouraging development for reproductive and genetic technology, two cloned mules won races in Nevada. (h/t)

For balance, here is a Slate article about transhumanists that's full of needless snark. It did make me want to see a before picture of Cat Man, though. He should get together with this woman and get the name of her surgeons. Is it really accurate to say that "it is illegal in the United States for a medical professional to alter someone's appearance beyond what society deems normal"? I mean, Michael Jackson, anyone?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Where's Edith Wharton when we need her?

One of the many reasons I hated my three years at HLS: the Northeast is full of people who take the OKOP/NOKOP distinction to heart. Seriously, if anyone made a comment about me because of how I tied my sweater, I'd want to slap them. This desire is, of course, itself NOKOP.

I wasn't aware that the Social Register still existed. It does.
Since its inception, the Social Register has been the only reliable, and the most trusted, arbiter of Society in America. As a service to its members, it offers a publication which lists the Association's membership, as well as contact information, club and college affiliations, and births, debuts, engagements, marriages and deaths as they occur.
That's Society with a capital S, and they don't appear to be joking. I have no words. (via)

Sometimes a nod is just a nod.

When I was in college, the uptick of the head described here was just a form of acknowledgement used by men in general. I picked it up for awhile and the world did not end. Maybe the guys I nodded to would say differently, but I doubt it. While nodding may have originated in a subculture, I think it's expanded in use to encompass more than just out-groups and has become just another way to say "hey." Calling it a manifestation of entitlement or an alternative to a sexualized form of greeting really throws me. What sexualized but inoffensive forms of greeting are in common use? Is a smile necessarily sexualized? Please. Only in America would people be offended because they weren't smiled at.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Anonymous Lawyer Book Review

Ted Frank, who actually practiced law in big firms, isn't impressed by Jeremy Blachman's Anonymous Lawyer. Read his review.

Social response to adultery

A young man had an affair with a married woman. Her husband discovered the affair and subsequently society turned against the interloper. The plot of a social novel? Nope, just the Chinese internet. Once again, online action has become the new venue for what would formerly have taken place in civil society (which, to be fair, was not terribly civil in this instance).

I'm not inclined to condemn those who called for "every company, every establishment, every office, school, hospital, shopping mall and public street to reject him . . . Don't accept him, don't admit him, don't identify with him until he makes a satisfying and convincing repentance." Freedom of association, baby. At some point, the behavior can cross the line into harassment, but simply refusing to deal with people who commit morally reprehensible acts is not itself reprehensible and can even be admirable. Whether the young man's actions merited this level of response is a separate question. They are having trouble keeping marriages together in China. Someone alert Stanley Kurtz and Maggie Gallagher.


Friday, June 02, 2006

Slate is stupid.

I don't want to horn in on Eugene Volokh's blogging territory, but in the last 24 hours I read two of the stupidest things I've seen in a while, and both of them were from Slate.

First: Emily Yoffe, who replaced Ann Landers's daughter as Prudence, should have stuck to writing about dogs, or at the very least picked up a couple of Miss Manners books before diving into a job for which she is apparently unqualified. Pop quiz, hotshot: if someone writes in and says that she is having problems with rude relatives lecturing her about her family planning choices, do you:

A) Offer a productive suggestion to avoid such awkward discussions,
B) Lecture the writer in an identical manner,
C) Both.

Hint: B and C are wrong. And if the same obnoxious and obvious points didn't convince the writer to reproduce when they came from valued friends and beloved family members, since when will the testimony of Slate's Human Guinea Pig change her mind? I haven't seen advice this terrible since I quit reading Salon's Cary Tennis (who has the virtue of being consistently wrong, so you can at least just ask youself: What Would Cary Do? and then do the opposite).

The other bit is more of a one-off sentence, but it also inspired a facepalm reaction. In a review of "Candy Licker," a new book in the street lit genre, the reviewer says, with apparent seriousness,
[The author] has a real talent for tight pacing and evocative language: The act of stabbing a heroin-filled syringe in one's arm, for example, is described as "skin-popping horse."
He has thoughtfully linked to a website that tells the unfamiliar reader that "horse" is a name for heroin, but to say that use of the term "skin-popping" is a manifestation of literary talent ignores the fact that skin-popping is an established term for a particular method of injecting drugs. If the ability to use common slang terms when discussing street life is a sign of a gifted writer, the bar has been dropped to new lows.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


That little ménage à trois in the Season 1 finale of Carnivale was cold. Damn, Sofie!

The end is a serious cliffhanger, although I guess I can just read the recaps to see who died. Alas, Season 2 does not come out on DVD for another couple of months.