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December 13, 2008

Winter blahs

The winter blahs are a particularly bad problem when you're living in Chicago. Victims report wanting only to sleep, eat, and kill time on the internet. I've heard it called "hibernating," which is a good way to describe it.

There are only two ways to cure my own winter blahs. One: take a long vacation to someplace less blah-y. Arizona and Colorado come to mind.

Two: exercise. Even though it's only 12 degrees out and already dark by 4:30, get those wooly clothes on and go shuffle around outside until you think your face is about to fall off. Then come back home and have a big hot chocolate.

It worked for me in Ann Arbor, and it's working for me now in Chicago.

November 28, 2008

Hideous

Suddenly, witnesses and the police said, the doors shattered, and the shrieking mob surged through in a blind rush for holiday bargains. One worker, Jdimytai Damour, 34, was thrown back onto the black linoleum tiles and trampled in the stampede that streamed over and around him. Others who had stood alongside Mr. Damour trying to hold the doors were also hurled back and run over, witnesses said.

Some workers who saw what was happening fought their way through the surge to get to Mr. Damour, but he had been fatally injured, the police said. Emergency workers tried to revive Mr. Damour, a temporary worker hired for the holiday season, at the scene, but he was pronounced dead an hour later at Franklin Hospital Medical Center in Valley Stream.

June 18, 2008

An ambulance crashes, and I'm not surprised

I'm surprised we don't see this more often.

During the year that I drove an ambulance, I had to deal with a) oblivious drivers, for whom my lights and sirens were like the sound of falling golf clubs to Tiger Woods, and b) crazy-ass Denver Health paramedics who drove like nutjobs.

Needless to say, I wouldn't be surprised if either vehicle was at fault for this crash.

June 06, 2008

Got bass?

Waiting for my girlfriend's plane from L.A. to land, I listened closely to Stool... uh, Tool, in the parking lot at O'Hare airport at 5 am after I'd worked all night in the ER. It was sublime:


And then this always makes me think of those cold nights camped under the stars in Wyoming:

October 07, 2007

It's art, right?

I've been considering what to hang on my walls. I like a lot of stuff. Brom, for example:

Continue reading "It's art, right?" »

July 26, 2007

Lost bird

"Lost: tame bird. Will not bite! Cannot defend itself from dogs or cats. Please call for reward."

Flyers with this announcement went up on almost every lightpost and street sign in my neighborhood last week, accompanied by a black-and-white photo of a small bird with a longish beak. Unfortunately, I haven't seen the bird, and that makes me sad.

The silver lining in this lost-bird story is that people are capable of missing their pet bird. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the person who went to all the trouble to post all those reward flyers actually loved that little bird. People can be self-absorbed and destructive, but they can also be loving -- and it's probably a good thing to remind ourselves of this every once in a while.

So I thought about love as I walked home. I started thinking about those of us who are so convinced of the non-equivalence, moral and otherwise, of people and birds that they would interpret this love for a missing bird as evidence that people sometimes misplace their emotions, or (more generously) that people have such a surplus capacity for love that they can afford to squander it on a being that isn't somehow intrinsically worthy of it. These people might say that humans alone can validate another person's love and can sometimes compel it, but a mere bird can only be the indifferent target of irrational emotion.

Surely you know people that think like this. You might even think this way yourself. After all, it does make instinctive sense to think of human beings as special in many ways, including perhaps their "appropriateness" as objects of our love.

But how can we know enough to be sure of this? If we can be confident about anything in the world, I think that we can be most confident about our ignorance. Religions, it seems to me, exist because at some level we're aware that we have no idea what the hell we're all doing here, or why, or what the point of it all is. Religions exist because we humans feel profoundly uncomfortable with this ignorance, and we mostly prefer faith -- just a belief in something we're not logically or empirically compelled to believe in -- to raw blubbering ignorance. We're uncomfortable not knowing what happens to us after we die, so we make up a story and believe in it rather than live with uncomfortable ignorance. We don't know why we're here, so we put our faith in a religious story that tells us why we're here and what we're supposed to be doing.

I'm not arguing against faith. I'm just saying that I think the ideas and stories we have faith in, that we believe without compulsion, are things we create and are not given to us by God. No, scratch that. I'm saying that even if there's a God that has given us anything, it's too difficult to distinguish which of our many yearnings and wishes and beliefs are God-given and which are conjured up by ignorant people just like ourselves. We have to remember that although faith may be a good thing, it's definitely not knowledge.

So what does this have to do with a lost bird? Even if many of you would agree with me that faith isn't knowledge and that we're ignorant about a lot of things, I'm surprised how many of us will act as if they know that loving a bird is a slightly foolish thing to do. But if it's a noble thing to love another person, why is it foolish to love a bird? Or to put the same thing a different way, if loving a bird is foolish, then aren't we just as foolish when we love each other?

It seems to me that in the dark of our ignorance, we could be a bit more generous than that. As far as I know, love is a wonderful thing, and it doesn't have to be hoarded up as if it were in danger of running out. Moreover, birds are wonderful too, and there's no evidence that we squander our love if we give some of it to a bird. So for all you humans-are-the-only-worthy-beings people out there, you can put a cork in it.

I don't believe you.

June 14, 2007

Jack LaLanne

"'If man made it, don't eat it,' he used to say, decades ahead of the popular movement to eat more whole foods."

Of course, we know that Jack meant "synthesized in a vat of industrial chemicals" when he said "made." Ordinary chefery has to be OK.

May 08, 2007

Time is my enemy; time is my friend.

As everyone knows, time passes. Sometimes it's your enemy, and sometimes your friend. Lately I've been saying to myself, "Time is my enemy; time is my friend." I repeat over and over again with a singsong cadence, as in "She loves me; she loves me not."

Now that I'm doing a month on trauma service, I can't seem to get this out of my head. Everyone who knows me knows that I love my free time and I love my sleep -- these months spent in the hospital all the time and not sleeping really crimp my style. Even though there are good enough reasons to do this (I did sign up for it after all), I go through these months like a little kid running through a cold sprinkler, with his face all scrunched up and running like hell, hoping to come out on the other end quickly.

From the time I wake up in the morning until I leave the hospital, time is my friend. Time passes, after all. Every second that goes by is one less second until I get to go home and post on my blog. Of course, when I'm home and indulging in the time I have for myself, time continues to pass. But now, it's my enemy. Every second that goes by brings me that much closer to the time when I'll have to go back to the hospital. See? Time is fickle. Or it seems that way, when I'm post-call and blogging on only two hours of sleep. :)

April 23, 2007

In lieu of saying something myself....

... I'll give you some good links.

This time it's a picture of newly hatched chickens, and a hint of why I love Colorado (both from Five Acres With a View).

April 09, 2007

What else are we missing?

From the Washington Post, one of the best articles I've read in a long time.

"If we can't take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that -- then what else are we missing?"

March 30, 2007

Super powers

As I approach the check-out lines in the grocery store, wouldn't it be cool if all the people who are going to be paying with a check would just glow blue or something? That way, I could tell which line was likely to move the slowest, based on the reasonable assumption that paying with check = takes frigging forever.

That's one super power that I'd like to have -- even if it isn't as cool as caped flight or x-ray vision.

March 21, 2007

Far Cry

The official Rush website has the new single from Snakes&Arrows.

It's got a good bass timbre like the best songs from Vapor Trails. Like most Rush songs, it doesn't grab me by the throat initially, but probably will after I listen to it a few times. Can't wait for the tour.

Rush fans, check out the gallery too. Good stuff.

February 27, 2007

Snakes and Arrows

Mark May 1, 2007 down on your calendars, because that's when the new Rush album comes out! Since you probably aren't googling "new rush album", you probably heard it here first. Here's Neil Peart:

"Just seeing the power of evangelical Christianity and contrasting that with the power of fundamentalist religion all over the world in its different forms had a big effect on me," he said.

"You try to put your own way of seeing the world into some kind of congruence with other people's, and that's difficult for me. I mean, I see the world in what I think to be a perfectly obvious and rational way, but when you go out into it and see the way other people think and behave, and express themselves on church signs, you realize, 'Well, I'm not really part of this club.'"

December 27, 2006

Good advice... but I'm not so sure about the sleep thing

If you're going to explore the boundaries of human endurance, you'll have to learn to adapt to more and more pain.

Be sure to read the rest.

October 21, 2006

Mottos, Creedos, Speedos

Sitting in a restaurant tonight with some friends. Passing around a sheet of paper. "Write your philosophy of life and pass it on." Paper comes back with this:

The Word is Yes
Deny all responsibility
Look for angles.
Always compete
No one leaves alive
I want cranberry juice

All in all, a good night.

September 01, 2006

"Bears" or "Bear"?

I bet you didn't know this, but there are several good reasons to use "bears" as the plural form of "bear."

The dictionary doesn't seem to favor one over the other -- it lists the plural form as either "bears" or "bear" without taking sides. But we should take a stand, and we should stand with "bears."

  • When you say "bears," it's easy to understand that you're talking about several individual animals, each of whom is a bear. But when you say "bear," we can't tell whether you're referring to the whole animal as it shuffles through the forest, or if you really meant to say something like bear meat. Think of how chefs talk about food: lion steaks and alligator burgers. Think about the hunter's vernacular: I hunt tiger. Poor bears!

  • Bears are not herd animals. Etymologically, some argue that the plural form of "bear" is analogous to the plurals of deer, sheep, and buffalo. Deer, sheep, and buffalo have the same word for both the singular and the plural, and they're herd animals. Bears are not herd animals. Saying "bear" suggests that you don't know anything about how the animal known as a bear actually lives.

Language is a powerful thing. So are bears. Let's make sure that we speak of them properly.

July 20, 2006

Not entirely accurate, but somehow right...

"Of course, to base one's faith on beautiful scenery is to leave oneself open to grave doubt if you should see Texas. Texas would make any man an atheist, unless he understood that God means to challenge us."
Garrison Kiellor is great.

June 26, 2006

Moving back to Hyde Park

One of the side effects of being a resident at the University of Chicago is being able to live in Hyde Park again.

Now, it's true that many of my fellow first-year residents (great people, all of them) have not chosen to take advantage of this opportunity. With a few exceptions, they've all rented apartments within a two block radius of each other near Clark and Diversey. Ok, I'm exaggerating. But not by much.

Anyway, Hyde Park: it has its good and bad sides. On the bad side, it's not anything like Clark and Diversey. Not as many restaurants, nowhere near as many bars, and there's no Bed, Bath & Beyond within a ten mile radius. On the good side, it's nothing like the north side. It's not as yuppified, and it's not as homogenous. People other than late-20-something professionals live here, and you'll see some of them walking home from the grocery store. Unfortunately, some of them will be carrying guns and will stick you up for your wallet, cell phone, and Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA -- but I don't think those guys actually live in the neighborhood.

Besides, Hyde Park has the best bookstores in the city of Chicago, and some of the best in the country.

How does it compare with Ann Arbor? You can read this great blog post (including all the comments), which gets it almost entirely right. The most insightful comment: "Not sure if this goes for the over or under side, but Hyde Park’s flocks of feral parakeets give it a certain flair that AA’s pigeons can’t attempt."

May 29, 2006

Musical taste

Remember those days in the schoolyard, when the little girl would show you hers and you'd reciprocate by showing her yours? That's a lot like the recent revelations of what's in Hillary Clinton's, George W. Bush's(by far the best list), and Condoleeza Rice's iPods. Faced with these titillating revelations, some people have graciously responded in kind.

It seems, too, that a lot of people feel the need to take sides in the Beatles/Stones war. I've never really cared much -- "norwegian wood" is great, and so is "street fighting man." I define my musical allegiances in other ways:

  • Elvis Presley over Elvis Costello
  • Bananarama over Cyndi Lauper
  • Alice in Chains over Nirvana
  • Real jazz over "smooth jazz"
  • Phish over the Grateful Dead
  • Dixie Chicks over Toby Kieth
  • Neil Young over Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Neil Diamond over Barry Manilow
  • Rush over Yes and Genesis (why people ever group these bands together is beyond me)
Let me reemphasize: Rush is more like Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin than Yes or Genesis. Get with the program, people.

UPDATE: Heidi points out that I linked to the wrong list for our Prez. I knew it was too good to be true. Try this for George W. Bush's iPod.

May 27, 2006

Names

My first name, Carey, is uncommon. I can count the number of other Careys I've met on only one hand.

According to this site, though, Carey is far from the most unusual name around. In 1990, it ranked 587 on the list of the 1000 most common men's names among all people living in the U.S. There were more Careys in 1990 than there were Grahams, Vinces, and Carters. The most popular decade for the name Carey was the 50s, when it rose to number 382 on the list of most common names. Since then it's fallen off the charts. The last year that Carey broke into the top-1000 list was 1992. Too many parents ditching it for Tyler, I guess.

When I was a kid, I hated my name. Everyone thought it was a girl's name, and no one knew how to spell it. Nowadays I love my first name precisely because it isn't Michael, Jacob, or Christopher. With all apologies to everyone with these popular names, if my first name was Mike, I'd hope to hell my middle name actually was Glorfindel.

It's also cool to find out that the name Carey comes "[f]rom an Irish surname which was derived from Ó Ciardha meaning 'descendent of Ciardha'. The name Ciardha means 'dark' in Gaelic." It isn't that I'm a particularly dark person, physically or otherwise -- it's just relieving to find out that my name isn't Gaelic for "stolid" or "picky-eater." It's almost as cool as my brother's name, Brian, which descends from the Irish king Brian Boru, "an Irish king who thwarted Viking attempts to conquer Ireland in the 11th century. He was victorious in the Battle of Clontarf, but he himself was slain."

Ahh, the noble victor who is later slain himself. Reminds me of Glorfindel of Gondolin (whose battle with a Balrog allowed Tuor and Idril to save the survivors of the fall of Gondolin).

April 23, 2006

Overheard in the C-shop

Sitting in the C-Shop at the University of Chicago yesterday,* I overheard a man talking to his son and daughter as they walked past my table looking at all the gothic architecture and at the old framed postcards on the walls. The kids must have been around twelve. Their father was telling them: "if you work hard and apply yourselves, you could study here. You could have all this."

Listen up, kiddies. It can be really, really fun.

----

* I'm in Hyde Park over the weekend to hunt down an apartment for next year. This place is great. I still don't understand why so many people claim not to like the neighborhood.

April 18, 2006

Not dead yet! Just napping!

I haven't been posting on this blog much recently, but that's only because I'm taking a little break to wrap up law school loose ends.

Like, for example, writing seminar papers. I finished one today, and I only have one more to go.

In the meantime, I've been thinking about adopting a Latin motto for myself. How about:

disce quasi semper victurus vive quasi cras moriturus: "Learn as if always going to live; live as if tomorrow going to die."

Some other candidates are:


  • hic sunt ursi "here there are bears"
  • cygnus inter anates "swan among ducks"
  • si peccasse negamus fallimur et nulla est in nobis veritas "if we refuse to make a mistake, we are deceived, and there's no truth in us"
  • quidquid Latine dictum sit altum viditur "whatever has been said in Latin seems deep"

April 02, 2006

And the most conservative circuit is . . .

Here's a simple test for ranking the federal circuit courts of appeal according to how liberal or conservative they are:

Step 1: Shepardize Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003) on Lexis. Or use Westlaw if you prefer Pepsi.

Step 2: Count how many times each circuit follows Lawrence. Count how many times each circuit distinguishes Lawrence.

The most liberal circuit is the one that follows Lawrence the most. That'd be the Ninth Circuit, following Lawrence twice and distinguishing Lawrence once. The most conservative circuit is the Fourth, distinguishing Lawrence three times and not ever following it.

I know, I know; you're going to say that it's silly to draw any conclusions from such a small number of cases, and that the value of my little test depends completely on what you mean by "liberal" and "conservative." To which I say, no test is perfect -- but at least mine is simple.

February 03, 2006

Friday

Marc Fisher doesn't mind "if insurers see records of everyone's personal behavior..." Huh? I don't mind if they see the records of Marc Fisher's behavior either, but keep them out of mine. My premiums might go up if they knew about my dry pasta habit...

Meanwhile, I'll throw up my random ten from iTunes (although the catblogging thing is really more interesting).

  1. Rush, Kid Gloves, Grace Under Pressure
  2. Rush, New World Man, Signals
  3. Duran Duran, The Reflex, Decade
  4. Primus, Bob's Party Time Lounge, Brown Album
  5. Miles Davis, The Meaning of the Blues, Miles Ahead
  6. Duke Ellington, It Don't Mean a Thing if it Aint Got that Swing, The Best of the Complete RCA Victor Mid-Forties Recordings (1944-1946)
  7. Charlie Parker, What Is This Thing Called Love?, Charlie Parker Plays Standards
  8. Charles Mingus, Goodbye, Pork Pie Hat, Three or Four Shades of Blues
  9. Angelo Badalamenti, Into the Night, Soundtrack to Twin Peaks
  10. INXS, Salvation Jane, The Best of INXS

February 01, 2006

Ted Koppel, randomized

Ok, so Jack Shafer at Slate doesn't think Ted Koppel is a good columnist. Not having read Koppel myself, Shafer's article doesn't give me any reason to agree or disagree. Shafer disagrees with Koppel's substantive claims, but how does that make Koppel a bad columnist?

More to the point, Shafer says that Koppel is a bad writer. As proof, Shafer offers up random sentences from Koppel's book extracted with the help of Amazon's "Koppel Randomizer." From page 126:

Rosafina, now an elderly cat entering her eleventh summer, is making it difficult to work. She keeps trying to walk across the keyboard of my computer, clearly for no other reason than that I do not want her to do so.
I've had cats all my life and this pretty much hits the nail on the head. Not boring at all!

The problem is that the Randomizer can make almost anyone look bad. I'll pull out my own jerry-rigged Randomizer and show you what I mean:

I'm going to guess that these [on-campus law firm] interviews aren't actually very useful for learning much about students or about employers. That's probably not their purpose. In only twenty minutes, the only thing that a student can count on learning about a firm that goes beyond what they've learned already is that the firm isn't (or is) peopled entirely with troglodytes.
[Me, from a post on this blog, August 30, 2004.]

The shower was now over, and a rainbow above the eastern woods promised a fair evening; so I took my departure. When I had got without I asked for a dish, hoping to get a sight of the well bottom, to complete my survey of the premises; but there, alas! are shallows and quicksands, and rope broken withal, and bucket irrecoverable.
[Thoreau, Walden, p. 167. Give me Koppel's cat, please...]
The most common cause of personnel wounded in action recently are due to roadside bombs. These are land mines or booby traps made out of locally available materials or another piece of ordnance, such as a cannon shell. These were used as far back as the Vietnam War. The IED today are larger as they are intended to damage the armored vehicle as well as the personnel inside of it.
[From the blog Doctor. Highly recommended, but you'd never know why.]

Of course, there are exceptions to this random-is-often-banal rule:

Much later on, when Nourishing was old and grey around the muzzle, and smelled a bit strange, she dictated the story of the climb and how she heard Darktan muttering to himself. The Darktan she'd pulled out of the trap, she said, was a different rat. It was as if his thoughts had slowed down but got bigger.
[Terry Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, p. 221.]

If Ted Koppel is such a bad writer, I'd hate to see what Amazon's Randomizer could do with Jonathan Franzen's latest novel. (Go ahead. Try it!)

January 25, 2006

Constellations

It's January in the northern hemisphere, so it's not surprising that I saw Orion tonight. The air was cold, the sky was clear, and as usual, Orion was the first thing I noticed when I looked up.

I remember seeing Orion almost every night in the fall of 1993 when I was on my three-month NOLS course in the wildernesses of the West. Although my life has changed in many ways since then, and although the scenery on the ground is very different, the constellation looks the same. Somehow, that's comforting.

Even though we tend to glorify change, and dynamic is almost always taken as high praise, I don't think human beings can thrive without a few permanent things in their lives. Most of us need some things that we can anchor ourselves to. Without some anchors, we'll probably be miserable at best; at worst we'll be lost, confused, misguided, and dangerous.

Richard Sennett wonders about the consequences for real people of a culture that most highly values a kind of person that doesn't exist (or at most is very rare).

"A self oriented to the short-term, focused on potential ability, willing to abandon past experience is - to put a kindly face on the matter - an unusual sort of human being. Most people are not like this; they need a sustaining life narrative, they take pride in being good at something specific, and they value the experiences they've lived through. The cultural ideal required in new institutions thus damages many of the people who inhabit them."

With all apologies to Jack Horkheimer, I hope you'll read the rest of Sennett's essay, and I hope you'll keep looking up.

January 24, 2006

New blog quiz

Via Prof. Bainbridge, here's a fun quiz:


You are the Golden Rule! You presume that the legislature would not want to apply the statute to achieve an unreasonable or absurd result inconsistent with its purpose. It's not what's on the surface that matters for you, and you try to do what's best in any given situation. You're a bit unpredictable, but you don't mind.


Which Canon of Statutory Construction are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

January 16, 2006

Cities meme

There's a cities meme going around, in which you post all the cities where you've spent at least one night in 2005. Since my list is particularly good this year, I'll put it up (in no particular order):

Ann Arbor, MI
Grand Rapids, MI
Denver, CO
Colorado Springs, CO
Portland, OR
Chicago
New York City
New Haven, CT
Washington, DC
London
Amsterdam
San Jose, Costa Rica
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

January 14, 2006

Lost decade?

In the coffee shop this morning I overheard a group of doctors talking about the past. One of them lamented all the years of training he'd had: four years of medical school and five years of residency. "I can't even remember what it was like to be in my twenties," he said. "I lost that whole decade of my life."

How sad! I'm not unsympathetic to this guy -- when you keep your nose to the grindstone for so many years, you can lose track of everything else, and when you finally look up, you wonder where all the time has gone. But I don't think there's anything inherent about medical training, or even hard continuous work, that necessarily results in "lost" time. It's only when you lose track of why you're working so hard, and of what you're working for, that the time spent working becomes a black hole in your life.

Here's why I think I'm lucky: I'm excited about starting my residency because I know why I want to do it. I know where I want to go, and I know how the hard work of residency fits in to that plan. I didn't always know this. Right out of medical school it felt like I was on a treadmill, just connecting the dots that someone else said that I should connect. I hated that feeling. I suppose that's the reason I decided to go to law school when I did. I understood why I wanted to go and what I wanted to get out of it. Now, I feel the same way about a residency in emergency medicine. I'll get much more out my residency now than I would have had I started right out of medical school. The unorthodox sequence of med school/law school/residency was right for me.

I've been lucky in so many ways. I don't have any lost decades. I've always been able to do things for good reasons and at the right time. May everyone be so fortunate.

January 08, 2006

Back from the dead

At last! I'm back from my self-imposed exile from the blogosphere. Although I had to fight constant low-level feelings of guilt for not posting on my blog, I've been having a great time.

I'm applying for a residency position in the queen of the medical specialties -- emergency medicine -- and that means that November and December have been spent traveling to interviews. I've been traveling from one coast to the other, spending money on plane tickets and hotels like a drunken sailor (although I don't think drunken sailors could spend money as fast as a residency applicant). Let's just say that, so long as I don't think about how much this is costing me, it's been really fun.

One of the things you learn very quickly on the interview trail is that all emergency departments look the same. Sure, some of them are more spacious; some of them have skylights; some of them use a whiteboard to keep track of patients and some of them use computers for everything. But really, when you've seen one emergency room, you've seen them all. That doesn't mean I don't appreciate the tours that every program provides, but the reason I like the tour is that you get to listen to the tour guide talk about the program. I can't wait 'til I'm the one leading the tour -- it'll be nice to be the only one who's not wearing The Suit.

To borrow a phrase from my brother, residency interviews are exactly like law firm interviews, only they're completely different. The interviews themselves are very similar -- four or five 20-minute interviews that are mostly getting-to-know-you affairs. What's totally different is the relative lack of any bling-bling on the residency interview trail. If med students knew how much money law firms spend to interview law students, they'd never tolerate any whining from a law student ever. Big law firms pay for the applicant's airfare; they pay for hotel and cab fare; they pay for all meals, and they usually take the applicants to lunch at a swanky place on interview day. Think Topolobampo or the Blackbird, for those of you who know Chicago. Residency program applicants are usually provided with a good solid lunch on interview day, but they're usually on their own for all the other expenses. Before I went to law school, I used to think that was Normal. Now I'm sure of it. Biglaw is a whole different world.

The other big difference is that Biglaw interviews happen during the summer, and residency interviews happen (as you may have guessed) in the dead of winter. This can make a big difference if your flight is delayed because of a blizzard or if you have to drive somewhere in the snow, but I was lucky: all my traveling went down without a hitch (that is, if you don't count the fiascos at JFK airport in New York, but they had nothing to do with the weather).

Anyway, I'm looking forward to my last semester of law school. It's hard to believe there's only four months left!

November 04, 2005

6000 pounds of speeding death on wheels

Twice this week I've almost been run over by careless drivers.

Two or three days ago I was crossing an intersection with the light and someone turned right across my path at about 30 mph without slowing -- a near miss. Today, I had just gotten the signal to cross the street when a big silver Cadillac with an elderly driver behind the wheel blew through the red light as if he hadn't even noticed it (which I'm sure he hadn't). Fortunately, I noticed him, or else I wouldn't be here posting on this blog.

The point of the story? For pedestrians, the cars always have the right of way.

October 27, 2005

Good news, bad news

The world is going to hell in a handbasket. The Arctic oil drillers keep trying, and they only have to win once. The Vice-President is openly supporting torture. The drug companies are trying to scare us with written-to-order novels about poisoned Canadian drugs.

On the other hand, the Chicago White Sox have won the World Series for the first time in 88 years. Things are still OK.

October 09, 2005

Rush in Rio

Note: All of you out there who aren't Rush fans, and who don't understand why anyone would be, can stop reading now. The rest of you can follow me. . . .

Continue reading "Rush in Rio" »

October 07, 2005

I will now link approvingly to Ann Coulter

I know my friends can hardly believe it.

However -- this Ann Coulter article about the Miers nomination is laced with delights.


Unfortunately for Bush, he could nominate his Scottish terrier Barney, and some conservatives would rush to defend him, claiming to be in possession of secret information convincing them that the pooch is a true conservative and listing Barney's many virtues -- loyalty, courage, never jumps on the furniture ...

I love to see Ann Coulter taking her rhetorical knife to fellow conservatives. At least Coulter realizes that fawning deference is an embarrassing thing to watch, no matter who's doing it.

Here, Coulter deftly explains why people like Hugh Hewitt and the nine republican senators who voted against the McCain amendment can plausibly be accused of "fawning deference" to George W. Bush:


First, Bush has no right to say "Trust me." He was elected to represent the American people, not to be dictator for eight years. Among the coalitions that elected Bush are people who have been laboring in the trenches for a quarter-century to change the legal order in America. While Bush was still boozing it up in the early '80s, Ed Meese, Antonin Scalia, Robert Bork and all the founders of the Federalist Society began creating a farm team of massive legal talent on the right.

Somebody tell that to Sen. Wayne Allard, please. But this next bit from Coulter is even more brilliant. Well, maybe it isn't brilliant, but when no one else is saying it, it looks really really smart:

To be sure, if we were looking for philosopher-kings, an SMU law grad would probably be preferable to a graduate from an elite law school. But if we're looking for lawyers with giant brains to memorize obscure legal cases and to compose clearly reasoned opinions about ERISA pre-emption, the doctrine of equivalents in patent law, limitation of liability in admiralty, and supplemental jurisdiction under Section 1367 -- I think we want the nerd from an elite law school. Bush may as well appoint his chauffeur head of NASA as put Miers on the Supreme Court.

ERISA preemption! Yes! Coulter reminds us that the Supremes do a lot of nitty-gritty work that puts most the political zealots on the left and on the right to sleep. Any monkey can overturn Roe v. Wade. Only a smart, qualified Justice can do a good job with ERISA (and sometimes even they have trouble).

Coulter even manages to get her licks in on the subject of law school rankings:


Harriet Miers went to Southern Methodist University Law School, which is not ranked at all by the serious law school reports and ranked No. 52 by US News and World Report.

Like I said, brilliant. I don't doubt that my friends will all forgive me.

September 10, 2005

Can anyone answer this question?

Heidi asks:

Where do I send the letter that gets these people investigated and thrown in the clink?

September 07, 2005

So this guy stops me on the street...

I'm walking to the grocery store today, and this guy who looked to be in his mid-20s approaches.

"Excuse me, but do you happen to know where there's a Baptist church around here?"

"Um, I'm not sure. I'm really no expert."

"What about just an area with a lot of churches? If I go this way [nods towards the south] are there any churches down there?"
"No, just a big lumberyard."
"Ok, well, thanks anyway."

Now if I were Neil Gaiman, I'd have rushed home and started writing a short story about how this guy was really an emissary from the Devil. He'd just gotten off at the Greyhound station in Ann Arbor, where he'd never been before, but he knew he was supposed to find this old Baptist preacher that his boss had had some run-in with years before in the bad part of Pittsburgh.

Instead, I came home and read this New Yorker article about Anthony Kennedy's predilections for citing foreign law. Obviously, I'm no Neil Gaiman.

August 30, 2005

Postal Service Service

Back in May I wrote about the great service I received at the post office in downtown Ann Arbor. It's too bad I can't tell a similar story about the service at the main post office out on West Stadium Boulevard.

About a month ago I shipped most of my books back to Ann Arbor from Chicago. Since I'd heard about Heidi's experience with the Detroit Bulk Mail Center Claims Unit, I figured I'd be better off insuring my packages in case they disintegrated enroute. That meant that the mailman wouldn't leave the packages without a signature. In fact, the mailman didn't even try to leave the packages; he left me a couple of notices saying I could pick them up in person at the main post office at 2075 West Stadium Blvd. For some reason, the Postal Service wouldn't move them over to the downtown post office, which is much closer to where I live. I spent about two hours on buses lugging what felt like 75 pounds of boxes back to my apartment, which is no big deal in itself, except that there didn't seem to be any reason why they couldn't have gotten my mail a lot closer to its destination than they did.

Moral of the story: the Postal Service is a cesspool of bureaucratic irrationality. Or, don't insure your boxes if you've already taped the living bejeezus out of them. . . . Or, don't take so much crap to Chicago in the first place. . . .

August 28, 2005

Comments are down

I've closed comments for a short while in order to fiddle around with administrative-type stuff on the blog. Hopefully they'll be back up in just a day or two.

In the meantime, feel free to email comments to me. I'll post them as soon as things are back to normal, administratively speaking.

August 21, 2005

Back in Ann Arbor

My time in Colorado is never quite enough to do everything I want to do. A few more breakfasts at Wades, a few more beers with friends from med school, and a few more trail runs would all have been nice. Maybe a few more days in the backcountry, hoping to see the elusive "bear" that I'm always looking for but seem to never see.

Nevertheless, it's good to be back in Ann Arbor. I'll be working on my journal's orientation program, catching up on email from friends, plotting my latest career moves,* and working on papers I need to finish. Basically, living the enjoyable life of a third-year law student.

One of the things I need to do is write a little about Werner Herzog's film Grizzly Man, the one about the guy who was eaten by a grizzly bear in Alaska. There's a few things I want to say about Timothy Treadwell, but all that will have to wait just a little bit longer. Right now, it's time for a beer, a book, and some sleep.
-------

* About which, more later...

August 15, 2005

"Fun" in the mountains

Since I wasn't struck dead by lightning today, tomorrow I'm heading off on an expedition to the Flat Tops Wilderness with my H-Dogg.

This time, I promise to bring my evil battery-eating camera to heel. I will return with pictures for my blog...

August 13, 2005

Lost Creek Wilderness

My backcountry trip to the Lost Creek Wilderness was amazing. Amazing because I'd lived so close to that area for so long and I'd never been there. Not that I expect to have been everywhere near Colorado Springs that's mountainous and beautiful (you could probably explore for a lifetime and not exhaust all the terrain), but this was a spectacular area full of granite cliffs and lush forests and open meadows. You'da thought I'd have been there a lot already.

There were only two disappointments on this trip. First, I didn't take any pictures because my camera batteries were kaput. Second, we didn't see any bears at all. Not even one. But we did see a beaver, twice. (Or maybe it was two different beavers--they all look the same to me.)

August 07, 2005

Into the mountains

I'm taking off today for five days in the Lost Creek Wilderness with some friends from medical school. I'll take pictures.

(The "Colorado locator map" on the linked page is wrong. The wilderness is to the southwest of Denver, not Colorado Springs.)

July 29, 2005

Preferences

According to this 9 year-old ex-Floridian now living in Colorado Springs:

"I'd rather be in a hurricane than have a bear in the house."

May 29, 2005

36 hours in Chicago

Chicago's the kind of place where just living your life for a while can sometimes make you sit down and tell yourself that you must be one of the luckiest people alive.

This morning I woke up and went running along the lakefront from the Navy Pier to what I suspect is the Oak Street beach. The sun was warm, the water was calm, and there wasn't any traffic noise at all. That's because Lake Shore Drive was closed to cars, and instead was packed with bicycles in both directions. Bikes are much quieter than cars. Lucky me -- apparently this was the morning of the annual "Bike the Drive" festival, and it was an amazing thing to see.

On Friday night we ate cod emulsion and horseradish mousseline (among other things) at Everest. Saturday we wandered through Millenium Park and checked out the Pritzker Pavilion and the Bean. Then we wandered into Symphony Center and picked up some reasonably-priced student tickets for the CSO that same night.

I'd wanted to see the CSO for years, and all of a sudden we were in the front row (if all the way to the left). Let's just say it's an amazing experience to hear Peter Mattei sing Mahler when you're close enough to see the spittle flying from his mouth (sitting on the far left has its advantages). Watching Daniel Barenboim conduct the orchestra was even more amazing. You really don't need to be familiar with the symphony (Bruckner's 9th), or with classical music at all for that matter, to appreciate Barenboim's intensity. He gestures, leans, scowls, sways, mops his brow with a cloth from his pocket, closes his eyes, points at people, clenches his fist, and occasionally exhales so loudly that even if you're sitting at the very far left end of the first row, you can hear it. He didn't seem to lose his focus for even a second.

Whew -- ll that, and there's still two more days left in the weekend. I suppose I'm pretty lucky to be here.

May 13, 2005

Thank you, big government bureaucracy!

Today I received the best service from anyone since I dined at Charlie Trotter's back in 2002. Did I eat at another fine restaurant? Did I spend through the nose at a snobby, exclusive private business? No. I mailed something at the Post Office.

You see, I have this little plant, a Spanish Ivy, that was severely injured last September when I left it in the cab of a rented moving truck in the parking lot of the hotel where I was interviewing with law firms. It almost died from too much heat and sun. Luckily, we were able to save a few leaves, and we kept them in a glass of water all year so they could sprout new roots.

I needed to sent the sprouts off to Chicago so I could care for the plant over the summer, so I wrapped them in wet paper towels, stuffed them in a Ziploc and headed for the Post Office. I bought a small box, stuffed the Ziploc inside, and stood in line. When I got up to the clerk, I said I wanted the box sent by priority mail. What I should have said was, "overnight" or "express mail." This being Friday, the plant probably wouldn't be delivered until Monday or Tuesday with plain old priority mail, but I wasn't thinking too clearly. I smiled and left.

Walking home, I realized my mistake, and started to mourn for that poor plant. An extra day or two stuffed inside a dark Ziploc would probably kill it. And after all it had already been through! "Fuck mourning," I said. "I've gotta go back to the Post Office."

I waited in line, sending a bunch of people through ahead of me so I could get to the same clerk I'd talked with before. Her name was Anita. I told her I'd goofed, and asked if there was any way to retrieve the box. She asked what city it was addressed to, and then she went off to look for it.

Time passed. I knew she'd never find it. Anita came back once without the box in her hands, and my spirits sunk. But she had only come back to make sure she'd looked around her station at the counter, and she quickly returned to the bowels of the post office again. More time passed. Another employee came out and said that it was probably at the very bottom of the big bin where all the Chicago mail was piled. I had visions of Anita wrestling huge boxes to dig down to the bottom. And what if she didn't find it, after all that work? My plant would die, and Anita would get a herniated disk...

Finally, though, she returned, holding my box and looking smug. I asked if I could send it overnight, and she gave me the express mail form to fill out. She could have berated me for being stupid, but instead she just mentioned that it was Friday the 13th and who'da thunk that anyone would ever find that box again? She asked me if I wanted to waive the signature requirement so that if no one was home the carrier wouldn't keep the box and try again the next day, the way UPS always does it. She credited what I'd already paid for priority mail against the charges for overnight mail. Wow.

People like to say that government-run agencies don't give good service, but that's essentially bullshit. Everything depends on the human being that's serving you, and great people like Anita work at the USPS just like they do at a place like Charlie Trotter's. Kurt Sorenson couldn't have done any better than Anita did today. Thank you, big government bureaucracy!

May 06, 2005

I killed him

I finally did it. After hours and hours of procrastination during finals, spent trying to kill Dr. No and sabotage his reactor, and getting killed again and again, I finally did it.

He's dead. And I'm moving on...

April 22, 2005

Unsurprising?

Your Linguistic Profile:

75% General American English
15% Yankee
5% Midwestern
5% Upper Midwestern
0% Dixie

I'm from Colorado, my mom's from western Pennsylvania, and my dad's from Chicago.

Via Samples Connection.

March 14, 2005

Colorado's quarter

Colorado Luis points us to this page showcasing all the candidates for the new Colorado state commemorative quarter, scheduled to be released in 2006. My favorite esthetic design is the maroon bells with the big "C" below it:

However, since I grew up in Colorado Springs, looking at Pikes Peak every day, I'd love it if the view I'm so familiar with winds up on our quarter:

The feeling would be comparable to discovering that New Line Cinemas was spending $300 million to make a film version of The Lord of the Rings.

February 27, 2005

Looking at mountains

Here are some good pictures of Ben Nevis in Scotland, a beautiful mountain I've never seen before.

They reminded me of my favorite mountain, Pikes Peak, which I've run up four times and on whose summit I worked for two summers as an EMT.

February 25, 2005

"Spring" break

... is here at last.

Ahh, the sweet smell of freshly fallen snow, the satisfying crunch of crusty two-month-old ice underfoot, and the familiar facial numbness from facing into the sub-20 degree late February breezes of Southeast Michigan.

Spring Break!

I'm staying here for the week, since I'm not too bothered by cold weather. It's fun to ridicule, at the very least. At most, it builds character. But either way, I'm looking forward to a productive week that will hopefully include a few good blog posts.

For all of you Michigan people going to Cancun: don't let the warm weather soften you up too much. You'll still have a month and a half of this cold stuff waiting for you when you get back... *cackles evilly*

February 21, 2005

Schulz had it backwards

Charles Schulz is alleged to have said "I love mankind -- it's people I can't stand."

For me, it's the exact opposite.

February 19, 2005

An exciting weekend so far

Wandering through the open reserve section of the law library, I saw a copy of Bosk's Forgive and Remember.

Can't really think of why a book on how surgical residency programs deal with errors would be on open reserve in the law library. But there it was.

February 14, 2005

"I feel the earth, move...."

I had the greatest experience in Jurisdiction today: a singing valentine.

A bunch of law students, all of whom sang really well, barged into Room 120 and belted out a bunch of awesome acapella tunes for a few people in the class. One of them, shockingly, was me.

The little paper valentine's day card that came with the song was signed "your secret admirers." I know it couldn't have been my greatest H-dogg ever, because she's not very secret.

So I'm left wondering who my secret admirers could be. What have I done that's worthy of admiration? I can't prescribe pain-killers for anyone, so that can't be it... Ah, yes. They must be fans of my blog. :)

You guys are the greatest! Thank you.

February 10, 2005

Overheard at the law school

You know you're in law school when you're walking through the snack bar and overhear the following snippet of conversation:

"...and you know that 'manslaughter' is just 'man's laughter'..."

I'd never thought of that.

February 08, 2005

My ass is sore; it must be Tuesday

Tuesdays are grueling. Here in this little bubble protecting me from the real world, usually referred to as law school, Tuesdays are a grueling exercise in endurance.

Why? I sit on my ass for a minimum of five (5) hours every Tuesday: one hour each for Jurisdiction, Bioethics, and Federalism. Two hours for Legal Ethics. On some unhappy Tuesdays (today was one of these) I have to go to lunch meetings which usually last about an hour. That makes six (6) hours with my butt in a chair. Plus whatever time I must spend sitting down to prepare for tomorrow's classes.

I know, I know. All of you out there working construction jobs must surely pity me. And with good reason! Why, your aching arms, legs, neck, stomach, and feet can distract you from any soreness in your butt. As a law student, these luxuries are denied me. I feel my aching ass acutely.

My advice to all of you hard workers out there: count your blessings that you're not in law school.

February 06, 2005

Technically correct. Esthetically abhorrent.

One of the most awkward sentences that I've read in law school appears at the end of 103(a) of the Patent Act: "Patentability shall not be negatived by the manner in which the invention was made."

"Negatived"?

Uggh. Today, I again encountered the word again, this time in an otherwise excellent article by Walter Gellhorn, Contracts and Public Policy, 35 Colum. L. Rev. 679 (1935):

But when the legislature selected only one sanction to enforce compliance with what it regarded as the public interest, the courts at once came face to face with the problem whether the selection of one negatived the desirability of also using the other.

Gellhorn is otherwise an excellent (and sarcastic) writer, so I'll assume he was smoking crack when he used the word "negative" as a transitive verb.

Technically, it's a correct usage. Esthetically, it's a disaster. Kind of like high heels. The women who wear them always walk funny.

February 04, 2005

Just playing

I'm fiddling around with my stylesheet, so the blog might look kind of strange over the next day or two.

Please do not panic. I'm trying not to.

February 02, 2005

Urgent bulletin

I was going to post a long thing tonight on Bob Woodward's second book chronicling the wars of George W. Bush, Plan of Attack. Plans have changed.

This is an urgent bulletin. Everyone should pay close attention. The information I'm about to share may not actually save your life, but it can make your life a hell of a lot more fun.

As soon as possible, you need to try whirlyball.

The pictures on the linked site, I think, say it all.

January 31, 2005

These online quizzes cut me no slack

kiss my ass2
congratulations. you are the kiss my ass happy
bunny. You don't care about anyone or anything.
You must be so proud


which happy bunny are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

(Via Amber.)

January 26, 2005

Winter weather

Winter weather in Michigan isn't exactly the most blissful thing I've ever experienced.

I'm not one of those folks who hate it so much that I'd rather kill myself or someone close to me in order to escape this parade of gray days with an unbroken string of below-freezing temperatures as far as weather.com can see.

Being from Colorado, however, I do miss the variety. Winter in Denver or Colorado Springs typically means high temperatures that vary, from week to week, from the 60s and even low 70s down to the single-digits and rarely below zero. There are gray days, and clear days with a crystal-blue sky. A little of this, a little of that. Not too much of any one thing.

The whole year, in fact, is packed with variety. Colorado Louis has managed to identify nine seasons in Denver, and his is a very plausible list.

Here in Michigan, it's all 14 degrees, all the time. At least until March!

January 22, 2005

psst!

Want to see an origami chicken?

January 19, 2005

Working out

I go trail running to have fun. It's never a matter of "willpower" for me. Sometimes, though, I like to try something else. Today I spent some time on this contraption:

This is a Concept 2 rowing ergometer, and anyone who's used one will understand why I call it the Machine of Death. Sure, the first few minutes are tolerable, but things quickly descend into a miasma of exquisite pain and suffering.

If this was the only way I could get a good workout, I'd probably let myself get fat and slobbery. Oh, I hurt just as much on some of my hilly trail runs, but it's different. I'm concentrating on the trail, seeing the land pass underneath me--it's almost meditative, and it's always fun.

For people who haven't found an activity that they can do for the pure fun of it, "working out" is more than just a physical challenge. You need as much mental energy as physical energy to force yourself to do something boring. Many people's New Year's resolutions to "exercise more" peter out after a few weeks because they haven't found a workout that they think is fun.

If I was a personal trainer, I'd level with people: if you're not having fun when you're working out, you need to try a different exercise, or you're doomed.

January 14, 2005

Via Heidi, the king nerd


I am nerdier than 77% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

January 12, 2005

Traveling

Traveling is good for at least two things. First, it's the most effective means I know of for breaking the anal-retentive habits that you accumulate from too much time in law school. Second, travel can expose you to diverse and surprising cultural treasures. For example, wandering around the streets of Alajuela yesterday, I passed a store displaying various kinds of panties in the front window. One of them was lime green. It had a cartoon frog printed on the crotch, with the words "Un sapito rico." "A Rich Frog."

Is this a peculiarly Costa Rican fetish? Maybe they're selling the English version of these panties at Wal-Mart, and I just missed it.

January 10, 2005

pura vida

I was last in Costa Rica 15 years ago. The thing I learned then was: don't worry too much about the schedule, 'cause it will change

We used to say "whereever you are, there you are." And it's true. Here I am in rural Costa Rica, and I can't get back to Michigan on time because of torrential rains.

So I think I'll just have to go buy a mango con leche, an empanada, and sit on the beach for a while.

Pura Vida!

January 04, 2005

James McMurtry; weightlifting with mom

What do these two things have in common? Nothing, except that I'm cramming them into the same blog post. Stand back, people, and you won't get hurt.

James McMurtry has been one of my favorite singer/songwriters since the early '90s. I'd pop in "Too Long in the Wasteland" back in the kitchen at Lynx Creek Pizza in Alaska when it was my turn to choose the music, and I'm sure I converted a few of my co-workers to the McMurtry cause by the end of the summer. (Of course, I'm sure I also planted the seeds of an undying McMurtry loathing in some of my colleagues with weaker minds, but I'm not responsible for their shortcomings.) Thudfactor now tells us that there's a new McMurtry live album out there:

James McMurtry continues to be my favorite male vocalist and performer. I recently picked up Live in Aught-Three which has fantastic extended jams from his entire catalog. I even like Chocktaw Bingo here, and I always skip the track on Saint Mary of the Woods.
Since I never skip "Chocktaw Bingo" on the studio album, I'm sure gonna love this, boy howdy.

On a different subject entirely (don't say you weren't warned), I did some weightlifting with my mom today. We went down to the gym after she got off of work, and I showed her how to use a few of the machines and how do do a few lifts with the dumbbells. When it came to moving the weights in a controlled way, my mom just seemed to "get it." Impressive.

One of the things that impresses me about both my parents is their willingness to try new things that they've never tried before. For too many people, if they haven't tried it by the time they're eighteen, they won't ever try it. I'm very proud of my mom and dad both for refusing to be sticks in the mud. They're both good role models for me.

January 02, 2005

Where's that blog gone?

Does anyone know what's happened to Intueri? That blog is so good that I'm suffering withdrawal symptoms after only two weeks of not reading it.

On a different subject entirely, this is hilarious.

EDIT: Apparently Maria got her domain name back. Nick had the right link.

January 01, 2005

Geese

Denver's winter skies are wonderful. The city sits underneath the migratory flyway for thousands of geese. You can usually hear them coming before you can see them: honk! honk! honk! The sound gets louder as they approach, and then you see them flapping past in these big V-formations. The goose in the front seems to know where he or she is going, and everyone else streams out behind like bike racers in a strong crosswind. The honking gets softer, and they they're gone.

December 22, 2004

Traveling gripes

Why is it that every time I get on a plane, the person in front of me has to lean their seat back as far as possible for the entire flight?

I never lean my seat back on planes. Well, I suppose I might if I was on my way to Europe or Hawaii, but for a 2.5-hour flight to Denver from Chicago? Come on, people. If I can sit upright through a 4-hour health law exam, you can sit up straight on the plane.

Grrr....

December 20, 2004

Happy Holidays

Turquoise Waffle Irons passes along a nice little holiday greeting from Harlan Ellison.

December 17, 2004

A great environment

Three exams down, one more to go.

A conversation I remember from a few days ago reminded me how important it can be to have a encouraging and supportive group of people around you. If, say, you work in an organization where the people around you don't have a very high opinion of themselves, let alone you, it shouldn't be surprising if you don't perform as well as you would otherwise. Certainly you won't have as much fun.

Watching the Appendices from the extended edition of ROTK, I think it's clear that one of the reasons the film was so good was that the day-to-day working environment for everyone on the crew was fantastic. They got along, they had fun, and they believed in each other. Peter Jackson made an offhand comment one day about how nice it would be to have a dead mumakil on the set, and in three weeks the props crew had a huge dead mumakil all sprawled out on the set. I don't think a crew that wasn't confident and that wasn't having fun would have seized on an offhanded suggestion like that.

Things are never perfect, but surrounding yourself with energetic and supportive people will usually be more than good enough for government work.

December 13, 2004

Tomorrow

What's on the schedule for Tuesday? Well, let's see...

Ah, yes. The Return of the King extended edition is released!

Looks like tomorrow's schedule is darned near full already...

December 12, 2004

Pavlov's dog = me

I'm like Pavlov's dog. Not because I'm furry and bark, but because I can't concentrate in the Starbucks when I hear the beeping of a two-way radio.

This morning I sat in the Starbucks for hours, studying patent law and antitrust, oblivious to all sounds--including the annoying giggling and even more annoying Michigan accents of the undergrads that surrounded me. Then I heard a faint "chirp CHIRP!" from a two-way radio or walkie-talkie phone somewhere.

The year I spent working on an ambulance has thoroughly conditioned me. My subconscious kept telling me "the dispatcher wants to talk to you! There's a code-3 [a call requiring a lights-and-sirens response] somewhere and the pagers aren't working! Lives are at stake! Your job is at stake!"

No wonder I couldn't concentrate. I've been Pavlovized.

December 05, 2004

Friends

One of the really bad things about college and professional school as I've experienced it has been the way it's made staying in touch with friends so difficult. I've spent time with so many good people, but never, it seems, for very long. As soon as we become friends, we all seem to scatter to opposite ends of the country (or world).

Continue reading "Friends" »

December 04, 2004

New blog

Via a long and winding path that began with IrishLaw, I've found:

The dullest blog in the world.

Fortunately, I've also found Adam Wolfson's new blog. Now if only Larry would post more often, and Mark Ashton would submit to the inevitable (return to blogging), everything would be great.

November 30, 2004

Olympic cyclist fails drug tests

From the New York Times:

With Ban Pending, Hamilton Loses Ride
By JULIET MACUR

Published: December 1, 2004

Tyler Hamilton, who won an Olympic gold medal for the United States in Athens, was fired last Thursday by Phonak, his Swiss cycling team, two months after testing positive for illegal blood transfusions. His termination was announced yesterday at a news conference in Switzerland during which Phonak said it had been denied a racing license for next year.

Hamilton tested positive for blood doping at the Olympics in August and at the Vuelta a Espaa in September. He could face a two-year suspension from the sport.

Illegal blood transfusions? How sad. The pressures to win must be very strong.

Hamilton is perhaps the best American cyclist apart from Lance Armstrong. In addition to winning the Olympics, Hamilton inspired everyone in last year's Tour de France when he rode day after day with a broken collarbone and managed to finish fourth overall.

Hamilton insists that he is not guilty of doping: "I am looking forward to the judicial process in my case and having the opportunity to prove my innocence. It is my sincere hope that once I am exonerated I can rejoin the professional peloton and the sport I love."

Hamilton's team has challenged the integrity of the new blood test which indicted the Olympic time trial champion. Details are here. Anyone with even a passing interest in minor blood group antigens should have a look.

November 28, 2004

Koyaanisqatsi

Everyone keeps asking me about this movie I rented the other day. I tell them "it's a photo-montage thing with a Philip Glass score, and it starts slow and gradually builds up and just when you think your head is going to explode -- blam!!! -- a whole bunch of stuff gets blown up, sort of."

And people say I "can't" describe it. Bah.

koy.aa.nis.qat.si (Hopi) [n] 1. crazy life 2. life out of balance 3. life disintegrating 4. life in turmoil 5. a way of life that calls for another way of living.

November 27, 2004

Cheese tip

If you've got a chunk of Appenzeller around, take it out of the fridge about an hour before you're ready to eat it. It'll taste better at room temperature.
______

EDIT: I encourage you to browse around the Zingermans website. Zingermans is an absolutely overwhelming place--so many cheeses, sausages, olive oils and other goodies from all over the world... Mmmm. It's definitely one of the best things about Ann Arbor.

November 24, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving

If you've been traveling this Thanksgiving, I hope you've arrived safely. Tomorrow, it will be time to eat.

This is a holiday that for better or worse has come to revolve around food. Perhaps we can take this opportunity to think about where our food comes from and how it's produced.

At Thanksgiving, we celebrate the food we eat. The cornucopia on our dining tables is the unifying force that brings family and friends from hundreds of miles away to partake of the delectable feast.

But unlike our pioneer ancestors who relied on their own crops and livestock, most Americans today see food as mere commodities, without any personal connection more compelling than patrolling the aisles of the supermarket.

We're fortunate that we all don't have to be farmers or hunters anymore. Some of us enjoy these activities more than others do, and some of us probably just aren't very good at them. But the fact that we buy our food in a grocery store doesn't mean that food is nothing but a commodity. If it were, then there would be no grounds for arguing that locally-produced food, grown by real farmers and not by machines or agricultural laborers, should be privileged in any way over mass-produced industrial food products that embody the corporate ideals of efficiency at the expense of the ideals of taste, variety, and health.

But there are in fact such grounds. Political, social, ecological, spiritual, ethical, and biological grounds exist for the argument that the corporate methods of food production may not be ideal.

Unfortunately, not all the news is positive. Over the past five years, the closure of several regional food processing plants has left area food growers with few options for selling their produce. Small farms struggle with high labor costs and stiff out-of-state and foreign competition.

The farmer's share of the food dollar has slipped from 37 cents in 1980 to less than 19 cents today, making farmers twice as likely to live in poverty as the general population and resulting in a 20 percent decrease in the number of Lane County acres in crop production between 1989 and 1999.

Even worse, only 2 percent of America's children meet all the recommendations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food pyramid. Incredibly, one of every three Lane County children is at risk of hunger!

When food becomes just another commodity, it can be outsourced, imported, and centralized just like every other "consumer good." When farming becomes "agricultural production," we can start to think of it as a "growth industry" (no pun intended) or as an economic dud in the mode of the American steel industry. The land we farm and the food we eat are subjected to the same speculative uncertainty as every other commodity in the global economy.

This may not be so bad for widgets, but food may be different. We don't build holidays around a widget. We don't gather with family around the holiday widget and give thanks for all we have.

The Pilgrims celebrated with food because food is a special thing. We ought to think about whether treating it as if it were just another commodity might not be the best decision we could make.

[You might be wondering, what's the point? How else should I think about food? Well, it's late, and I'm going to bed, so you're on your own. Turns off light, shuffles away from desk . . . "yeah, yeah, happy Thanksgiving! I'm hungry."]

November 20, 2004

Fashion sense

Via Book of Joe (via Cut-to-Cure), here's an interesting fashion statement from designer Alexander McQueen:


Apart from the haute couture designers, I think our culture is woefully bereft of interesting fashion--especially men's fashion. Everything is so homogenous; it's almost impossible to find simple banded-collar dress shirts, let alone anything really over-the-top.

When it comes to clothing (and spaceship technology) our culture could learn something from the Minbari:


Minbari men's clothing clearly displays both Asian and Elvish influences. At any rate, it's more stylish than most of the crap we Americans have to wear...

November 19, 2004

Cat-blogging

It's Friday. Time for cats!


This is Allie. She's curious, feisty, arrogant, playful--the perfect little cat!

November 18, 2004

Browsing

Mark Schmitt doubts that the Bush administration is serious about tax reform (or to put it more accurately, that the Bush administration's seriousness extends to anything other than shifting the tax burden away from wealthy investors). Sigh. We voted for him. Votes have consequences.

Professor Bainbridge might turn out to be the Republicans' canary in the coal mine. It seems he's one of the few right-wingers who can still recognize convenient corruption when he smells it. Sigh. This year's crop of Republicans won't be the first ones to have forgotten the timeless principle that power corrupts. Let's just hope they can remind the rest of us. 2006 is only two years away.

In more optimistic news, for only $104.95 you can get yourself a copy of University of Michigan Law Professor Peter Westen's new book (which is earning favorable reviews so far). If I were Professor Westen, I'd be trying to get the publisher to hurry up with the $24.95 paperback release.

November 17, 2004

The University of Chicago

Will Baude calls "sheer nonsense" the suggestion that the University of Chicago might be becoming a leftist bastion unfit for good little conservatives and other sensitive right-wingers:

All that aside, this tallying up and searching for conservatives at Chicago completely misses the point about what makes Chicago great, and what makes it a great place for the "Conservative students and parents" that Kurtz is warning. The University of Chicago's unusually strong commitments to free speech, even when it is uncivil and offensive, make the place welcome for all who believe in questioning orthodoxies on either side. People argue. Others argue back. That's what we do.
I've spent time at a lot of schools: Reed College, the University of Colorado, the University of Michigan, and the University of Chicago. Of all these places, the University of Chicago is far and away the most conducive place for serious (and playful) intellectual inquiry, and the most hostile place for knee-jerk politically-correct views (left, right, up, or down), that I have ever experienced.

The kind of student for whom the University of Chicago would not be a good fit is the student who insists upon being surrounded by a "comfortable" environment, where his or her political views are safe from challenge. A left-wing student of this sort might be better off at UC-Santa Cruz; a conservative student of this sort might do well to choose Hillsdale College. If you don't value real debate, stay away from the U. of Chicago.

November 16, 2004

Muscle soreness

A NYT article reports that the soreness you get about 24 hours after a hard workout may be due to inflammation:

No one knows for sure exactly what does cause muscle soreness. But many scientists now think that the delayed pain is caused by microscopic tears in the muscles when a certain exercise or activity is new or novel. These tiny tears eventually produce inflammation, and corresponding pain, 24 to 36 hours later.
I don't know a single person who would have thought this was surprising. But oh well. What surprises me is that consuming the right carb/protein mix during and after excercise might limit soreness and improve performance:
Consuming protein, however, may help. In a report published in the July issue of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, scientists found that trained cyclists who consumed a carbohydrate and protein beverage during and immediately after a ride, were able to ride 29 percent longer during the first ride, and 40 percent longer in a second session than those consuming carbohydrates alone.
Does protein consumption alter the inflammatory response? Does it improve performance by some other mechanism? At any rate, I'd rather have a can of tuna than pop a Vioxx.

November 15, 2004

New Blogs

Two of my classmates, Larry Marcus (AKA "LMark") and Steve Sanders, have new and interesting blogs. Check them out.

October 21, 2004

Robin Hobb trilogy

I've finally finished Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders series. This one gets the big thumbs-up. George R. R. Martin recommended Hobb on his website, and after reading this series, I can see why. Any author who can weave an engaging story around a talking ship has got to be a good writer. Robin Hobb is good.

The story takes place along the same coastline as Hobb's earlier Assassin series, but much farther south. There are only one or two references to the earlier books, though, so if you blink past these parts you'll miss the connection. Don't worry; these series are completely self-contained, and there's no need to read one before the other. The only reason to do so is to see how much Hobb's skills have improved with the later series.

Vivacia is a sailing ship owned by the Vestrit family of Bingtown. The ship is partially made of wizardwood, which is capable of becoming sentient if enough generations of Vestrits die on deck and lend their life forces to the ship. Althea Vestrit has grown up sailing with her father aboard Vivacia, and she expects to inherit the ship when her father dies and the ship comes to life. Unfortunately for Althea, her father leaves the ship to her sister Keffria, which means that under the patriarchal traditions of Bingtown society the captaincy belongs to Keffria's strong-willed husband Kyle Haven.

Kyle is a real asshole without being a caricature. Hobb's best asset may be her characters, which are uniformly believable and interesting. Kyle Haven is one of those men who truly wants to do what's right, and thinks that this gives him the right to direct the lives of everyone around him. He's infuriating, and all the more so for being realistic. Hobb must have known a few men like Kyle Haven in her own life. Althea, anyway, can't stand Kyle and abandons her ship Vivacia once he becomes the captain. Kyle's pig-headedness leads him to start carrying loads of slaves in the ship's hold, and this foretells doom.

Ultimately, Kyle and the Vivacia meet up with the pirate Kennit, who is both ruthless and a complete sociopath. Hobb makes us privy to Kennit's thoughts, and we realize that although he is charming and courageous and bold and charismatic, he is utterly devoid of concern for anyone besides himself. Nevertheless, the charm and charisma enable Kennit to attract a loyal following, which eventually includes Kyle's young son Wintrow.

There are also packs of huge sea serpents, an acidic river that runs past a buried city from a lost civilization, and a drug-addicted young Satrap who rules over the Jamaillian Empire to the south of Bingtown. These elements make for an engaging story that rarely lets up over the course of three books.

The worst part about Hobb's earlier Assassin series was the plot. While the plotting still isn't as good as the characterization, she's improved it dramatically over what it was in Assassin. Her settings are also good, although they're the weakest part of the story. I never felt like I really knew what Bingtown looked like, or Amber's store, or Captain Kennit's cabin, in the way that George R. R. Martin made me aware of what the Wall was like, or Winterfell. But that's a minor quibble. Hobb's characters are so interesting that you really don't care where they are, so long as you find out what happens to them.

October 20, 2004

pain and agony

This post deserves a link, because it's so damn good.

(For my non-medical readers, a Foley catheter is a tube that drains the urinary bladder through the urethra. It usually empties into a bag that enables doctors and nurses to measure exactly how much urine a patient is producing. This is important for assessing a patient's kidney function. Inserting the catheter through the patient's penis is said to be quite painful.)

btw...

GO RED SOX!!!!!

October 18, 2004

The American paradox

All the buzz about the New York Times Magazine article on George W. Bush's certainty might win more readers for an article about eating published in the same magazine.

After describing the American habit of continually pursuing one new dietary obsession after another, Michael Pollan writes:

If this volatility strikes you as unexceptionable, you might be interested to know that there are other cultures that have been eating more or less the same way for generations, and there are peoples who still rely on archaic criteria like, oh, taste and tradition to guide them in their eating decisions. You might also be interested to know that some of the cultures that set their culinary course by the lights of pleasure and habit rather than nutritional science are actually healthier than we are -- that is, suffer a lower incidence of diet-related health troubles. The ''French paradox'' is the most famous such case, though it's worth keeping in mind the French don't regard the matter as a paradox at all; we Americans resort to that word simply because the French experience -- a population of wine-swilling cheese eaters with lower rates of heart disease and obesity?! -- confounds our orthodoxy about food. Maybe what we should be talking about is an American paradox: that is, a notably unhealthy people obsessed by the idea of eating healthily.

I love America. But I wish the faddish diet crazes like Atkins would just stop, already. Give me a crusty loaf of ciabatta and some extra virgin olive oil for dipping. I'm hungry!

October 17, 2004

Martha

Want to see a large, opinionated pullet?

I thought you did.

How about some good posts on the Sinclair issue? (1, 2)

How about a post about what it means to think like a lawyer?

Blogs are made for lazy Sunday mornings. Now I have to get my ass out of the house.

October 05, 2004

Blog comments are down

For now. Apparently, the movable type script that handles comments is chewing up too much cpu power on my hosting company's server.

This has happened before. I thought this had been fixed, but I guess not. I'll work on this again and hopefully a solution can be found.

I like comments. I want them back.

October 02, 2004

Cubs choke; whine about it

The Chicago Cubs, who have gone more years without winning the championship of their sport than any other team in baseball, football, basketball, and hockey, were on the verge of grabbing a wildcard playoff spot this year. The Cubs, with their tradition of excellence, have stepped up to the plate and lost six of their last seven games.

The Cubs, famous for collapses over the past century, might have outdone their historic selves in the past week. Twice in that time, they lost games in which they were leading with two outs in the ninth inning and with two strikes on what could have been the last batter.

You'd think the real problem for Cubs manager Dusty Baker and general manager Jim Hendry would be all this losing. Instead, they seem to have focused on the "inappropriate" comments of broadcaster Steve Stone.
During Thursday's postgame interview on Fox Sports Net, Stone asked Baker about a couple of strategic moves that didn't work out in a 12-inning loss to Cincinnati that severely damaged the Cubs' playoff chances. The tone of the questioning visibly disturbed Baker, and he removed his headset before the interview was over. Immediately after Baker left the air, Stone mentioned that managers get paid big money to make such decisions, while broadcasters receive far less for giving their opinions. That's when Hendry decided Stone crossed the line.

This is not a good sign. Stone's comments may have been sharp, but they related to the job performance of Baker and the Cubs' players. Which has been very poor of late. If Baker and Hendry can't take the heat for leading their team through another monumental choke, perhaps they should be fired. The Cubs organization might do better without them and their whiny attitudes.

Steve Stone, on the other hand, might be a good role model for Baker's and Hendry's replacements. He actually gets angry when the Cubs blow it.

September 29, 2004

What did I miss??

Since I haven't been reading blogs lately I completely missed Ming's adventure on the sick side of life (you looked so normal in the halls), Denise's switch to a much better blogging system (now I can comment on your blog), and Julie's consistently on-fire posts skewering our nation's greatest contemporary absurdity, the Republican Party (and their legions of minions).

These are just a few of the many things I've missed. Well, hopefully I'm back to regular blogging and blog-reading now, so I cleaned up (some) of my links, including my "current reading" link to Robin Hobb's "Ship of Destiny," the last of the Liveship Traders trilogy. So far the series has been better than her Assassin series, but God woman, how much more effort would it take to come up with better titles??? Did your publisher insist on "Ship of Magic" and "Ship of Destiny," or is your creativity completely exhausted by the words inside your covers? Those have to be two of the worst titles of anything currently in print.

I swear, if George R. R. Martin hadn't recommended you, your titles would have scared me off permanently.

September 19, 2004

Love

I was in Chicago last week for a callback interview, and I was reminded of why I love that city so much. It isn't because of any specific things about the city that people so often point out, and that are so numerous that it would take me all day to list them: the lakeshore, the energy, the food, the architecture, the public transportation, etc.

All those things and more were important for inducing me to love Chicago in the first place, but now it's different. Now, I look at anything that's distinctly Chicago and think "I love that!" Not because it's particularly worthy in itself, but simply because it's Chicago. So I can't tell, now, which came first--the love of the specific thing, or the love of the city.

I suppose this sort of thing is common to all kinds of loves. In the beginning, you can easily say that you love A because of X, Y, and Z. But soon, if you really love A, then almost everything about A becomes lovable just because A has it. Love becomes circular; it's no longer an affect effect that's been clearly caused by things you can identify.

You could tell me that Chicago was pioneering a new style of architecture that involves people living in dark holes, and I'd love that new style because it was pioneered in Chicago.

Is this kind of thing applicable to people that you love? In some ways, it most definitely is. You start to love a person's flaws just as much as you initially loved their excellent qualities. In another way, though, it clearly isn't. A person I loved could start listening to Jon Bon Jovi, or decide to eat nothing but raw cauliflower, or start campaigning for George W. Bush.

Let's just say I wouldn't start eating more cauliflower.

September 12, 2004

Social trends

I spend so much time browsing in bookstores -- I suspect that my awareness of the world is shaped as much by what I see on the shelves as by what I read in the newspapers. It certainly has a greater influence than what I see on TV, because I'm not watching TV at all anymore.

Anyway, here's my impressions about some of what's going down in the world, based on what kinds of books I've seen prominently displayed in the bookstore:

  • The administration of George W. Bush has revitalized the liberals by angering them profoundly. Today's Democrats are not like those of the late 90's, who were either supporters of the "centrist" Democratic Leadership Council, or were tolerant of a Clinton administration that pursued the DLC agenda. The new books in the politics section don't just make fun of Bush (though some do), they seethe with anger in a way that liberals haven't displayed since the Reagan years. The best example is the new book by kindly Garrison Keillor of "Prairie Home Companion" fame.

  • The pharmaceutical industry's intransigence about the exorbitantly high prices charged for prescription drugs won't last. Books like the one by Marcia Angell are proliferating in the business and health sections, all laying out the case against the supposed end to Big Pharma R&D that they claim would result from sensible measures to control the prices of prescription drugs. This one is also getting a lot of shelf space.

  • Fiction publishers are still enamored of the sort of cover design that they used with Caleb Carr's The Alienist. I've seen so many covers with sepia-toned covers with a fuzzy picture of a 19th-century guy in a black cloak that I'm reminded of the feverish imitation that a few reality TV shows have spawned. Too bad I haven't kept track of the individual titles so I could post a few examples. Next time you're in the bookstore, keep your eyes out for this mimicry and you'll see what I mean.

  • September 04, 2004

    Michigan football weekends

    If you've never been in Ann Arbor when there's a home football game going on, and the weather is hot and humid, and the people are streaming through the streets all wearing some combination of Michigan's two colors, and the tailgaters are jammed in every available parking spot, including on the lawns of houses near the Stadium, and the fraternity houses are blaring music to the street as three thousand undergrads manage to cram onto just their front lawn, and down the street you can see three or four other frats, each with their own allotment of several thousand partying undergrads, and old alumni are waddling around with Michigan baseball hats and white tube socks pulled up to their knees, and the gutters are full of red plastic cups that represent just some of the beer consumed before the game has even started, then you've missed what it's like to be on the campus of the University of Michigan on a football weekend.

    It's worth seeing. Afterwards, no amount of time spent in the Law School's gothic buildings will make you forget that Michigan is a Big Ten football school, in addition to whatever else it might be. You won't ever forget that there are enough undergrads on this campus to populate two or three respectably-sized Midwestern towns, or to invade China. You'll wonder how they manage to avoid acute shortages of beer everywhere else.

    One of these days before I graduate, I'd like to get some football tickets and join the throngs surging toward Michigan Stadium. I'd feel like part of the group then, boy howdy, would I ever. Usually, though, when I go for a walk in Ann Arbor on a football weekend, I'm likely to be headed away from the Stadium, toward the bookstore, or the law school, or the farmer's market. I'm a fairly normal, average human being, but on football weekends I'm acutely aware that I'm different from most of the people around me. They all walk south; I walk north. They drink beer; I drink grapefruit juice. They watch football; I post on my blog.

    Michigan football weekends usually make me feel like a unique and self-directed individual.

    August 31, 2004

    Moving

    Oh, moving!
    What a pain in the ass.
    How did I ever
    Accumulate so much crap?

    Ah, moving!
    Dust bunnies and sweat.
    Next year,
    I think I'll just throw all this crap out.

    August 30, 2004

    Republican Convention Schedule

    No party that can even be caricatured this way will ever get my vote.

    August 27, 2004

    Paul Hamm's gold medal

    The controversy over Paul Hamm's all-around gymnastics gold medal (story here) reinforces my . . . not scorn, but wariness of sports that are judged in the way that gymnastics and figure skating are. It seems that in these sports, the athlete is always dependent not only on his own performance, but is also dependent on the judges' competence and honesty.

    Team sports that are refereed seem similar to this, and in some cases an erroneous call by a referee can give the game to the unworthy team. But in most of these sports, like baseball, football, or hockey, a single game involves many judgment calls by the refs that can be expected to cancel out any gross errors. Corruption remains a threat, but it's a threat that's inherent in sports. Even if there were no judges or refs at all, the athletes themselves are always subject to corruption.

    Sports like running, swimming, or cycling, where the winner is decided by the clock, seem to be the least subject to the incompetence of human judges or referees. When Natalie Coughlin or Tyler Hamilton finishes first in a swimming or cycling race, it's tough to argue that they didn't really, that the clock made an error. I find it easier to trust the results of these sports, because I don't have to worry about corrupt Russian/French figure skating judges, or incompetent gymnastics judges, telling me days after the competition that the person I thought had won really lost.

    As for Paul Hamm, I think this competition should be treated like a baseball game. In baseball, everyone realizes the umpire can make mistakes, but everyone agrees to live with his call. There's no instant replay. The results don't change. Paul Hamm was awarded a gold medal. He should keep it.

    August 14, 2004

    I wish I was a polar bear!

    When I was small and would go to the zoo, I would pretend to be one of the animals I saw: a hippopotamus, a panther, a tapir (tapir?). Usually, I would go home pretending to be a bear. For some reason I always really liked the bears.

    Today at the zoo, we were watching the polar bear, and one of the little kids reminded me of how things are when she shouted "I wish I was a polar bear!" Tonight in the bathtub she'll probably pretend she's a polar bear swimming in Arctic waters, looking for food. (Seals? Just "food.") Kids can empathize with animals through their imagination; they can imagine what it must be like to be a polar bear, with big furry paws and at home in the water. Most adults have lost this ability, or else they don't try it any longer. Wouldn't want to act like a little kid, I guess. Maybe that's one reason why kids seem to have a better time at the zoo than most adults.

    Sometimes it seems that adults would be happier if they could remember what it was like to be a kid. If they could use their imaginations again. They wouldn't have to take the great leap all at once--instead of pretending to be a bear or a tiger, these adults could work the rust out of their imaginative abilities with small, careful baby-steps. First imagine that you're still you, but that you work at a completely different job. You're not a lawyer, you're a zookeeper. Your job is to feed the penguins their yummy fish snacks. You get to wear big rubber gloves, carry a shiny metal bucket full of fish, and go inside the penguin cage and feed the penguins while all the people watched. Wouldn't that be fun? Later on, as your imagination started to catch fire, you could pretend to be other people: the mayor, a ship's captain, a Bangladeshi farmer. Later, if you got really good at it, you too could imagine what it must be like to be a polar bear.

    If adults could remember to use their imaginations, would anything be different? Would they be so quick to overlook the destructive consequences of some of what they do every day? Maybe it wouldn't go that far; after all, it's usually hard to know which of our everyday adult actions ultimately harms other people (or bears, or birds). Maybe the only thing that would change is that adults would start to enjoy the zoo again, like they used to when they were kids. Even that would be a change for the better.

    August 12, 2004

    Cultural imperialism defeated

    The interstate highways have a culture all their own.

    For instance, the blue signs informing drivers of what culinary amenities are available at the next exit display a marked cultural preference for the greasy and lowbrow over the overpriced and foofy. The signs will always tell you whether there's a Denny's, a Dairy Queen, or a McDonald's at the next exit, but not whether there's any trendy bistros or organic-foods supermarkets. I suppose these foofy places don't expect much business from hurried cross-country drivers. After all, if you're reduced to driving, you're clearly not foofy enough. Everyone knows that the foofy fly, and that the interstates are filled with pot-bellied truckers from Arkansas named Clint who equate "food" with "deep-fried meat."

    The United Airlines terminal at O'Hare in Chicago seems to sport at least 25 different Starbucks locations, but you can drive from Detroit to Denver on the interstates and never see a single one. The signs won't tell you which exits lead to Starbucks, so finding one on a cross-country drive requires courage, initiative, perseverence, and luck. These days, it's the essence of the archetypal American experience. Finding a Starbucks from the interstate.

    My own personal quest turned out to be a fruitful one. Nearly four miles away from the exit off of I-80 passing through Des Moines, Iowa, we finally broke free from the interstate's cultural imperialism.

    August 07, 2004

    Road Tripping

    Well, it's almost time to leave the Rose City of Portland and go back to the Blue and Maize Zone--or whatever they call it--of Ann Arbor. I'm looking forward to starting law school again, and I'm guessing that the second year of law school will be quite a bit different from the first. But before we get to any of that, there's one more thing I gotta do.

    ROAD TRIP!!!

    There's a particular style of road tripping that I really like. I suppose you could call it the "hippie style" or the "minimalist approach." It involves a preference for two-lane highways over interstates; mom-and-pop motels over Super 8s, and sleeping on the ground beside the car in remote turnouts over any motels at all. It means making time for mountain bike rides in national forests, wondering what they're trying to grow in those fields, and cursing the rural sensibilities that provide both kinds of radio station: country music and 24-hour right-wing talk. I'm an agrarian, but I have limits.

    One of the best accessories for any road trip, at least in the western United States, are the topo maps from DeLorme. Perhaps the best thing about these maps is that they tell you who manages the land you're driving across. Is it private, or Forest Service, or BLM? State land? Few other maps will tell you this, and if you're going to be spending the night beside your car in a sleeping bag, it's helpful to know at least where the public land is.

    Other must-haves for a good road trip are an MP3 player (if your tastes run beyond country and Michael Savage) and a hacky-sack (good for hacking or for playing catch during rest stops).

    It also helps to travel with someone smart and interesting. Good conversation beats listening to Rush Limbaugh every time.

    August 01, 2004

    Sea kayaking

    The problem with doing a new thing for the first time is that if you like it, you'll want to do it again. And doing it again, on your own terms and on your own schedule, usually means that you have to have your own equipment.

    For example, take sea kayaking, which I tried for the first time this weekend. It should surprise no one that I loved it. The boat is stable; you can get going pretty damned fast just by paddling; it's easy to steer; it's quiet (big advantage over a jet ski); and you can use one to do multi-day trips along unpopulated stretches of coastline.

    I want to do it again, and so I want my own sea kayak. Problem is, a plastic one is somewhere around $2000 and a fiberglas one is almost twice that much. Damned equipment costs. I suppose I'm fortunate that I haven't tried sailing yet. Or motorcycle racing.

    July 29, 2004

    Blogging from Portland, OR

    Here I am in the beautiful rose city of Portland, Oregon; home of rhododendrons that grow like weeds, neighborhood taverns with Rogue on tap, no sales taxes, and where it's illegal to even think about pumping your own gas.

    I went to college here, and coming back makes me realize how much I love this town. You want to know something of my taste in cities? Two words: Portland. Chicago.

    Today I think I'll go trail running in forest park, the largest wilderness park within citiy limits in the United States.

    *Yawn* Sorry if I make anyone jealous.

    July 25, 2004

    Yellow Jersey of Jesus

    ... what? You mean some of you haven't been overwhelmed by Lance Armstrong's sixth Tour de France victory yet, and are still bah-humbugging about bike racing?

    Well, I'm... very disappointed. We need to fix this. You just haven't been acculturated to cycling fandom. This will help; it's a prayer that was posted on a message board back in 1991 for for the American cyclist I grew up cheering for, Greg LeMond. I think it nicely bridges the gap between the European cycling culture and the American red-state-voter culture.

    ------

    Heavenly Father, we, the readers of rec.bicycles, ask you to watch and
    guide Greg Lemond as he pits the cardio-vascular intensity of his thighs
    against the steepness of Alpe D'Huez,

    that he may sense every break and crush it righteously to rise from the
    ashes like a Phoenix and breakaway on his own, with or without his team-
    mates of Z who may have made a pact with the devil to abandon him,

    that he may cross the finish line alone with his hands outstretched to
    touch your holy feet in Heaven, while his enemies are littered below on
    the mountain vainly speaking in tongues to their team directors,

    that he may fulfill your dreams for America by vanquishing the cycling
    forces of Satan who ride for the heathen countries where English is not
    spoken,

    that he may warp the time-space continuum for a measly 4:42+ and wear the
    Yellow Jersey of Jesus, the Son, into the City of Wickedness, the City with
    a monument to the Arch-Angel's Triumph, where the armies of Satan drink
    powerful dark liquids on the sidewalks and plot the downfall of America with
    Moslem expatriates.

    Lord, the Father, of this we pray.

    Your faithful groveling supplicant,
    Dave Harvey

    Weekend Rush Lyrics

    I know Rush was influenced by Ayn Rand in their naiive and impressionable youth, but I think there's a lot of support in their lyrics for my own agrarian neo-feudalist perspective:

    When they turn the pages of history
    When these days have passed long ago
    Will they read of us with sadness
    For the seeds that we let grow
    We turned our gaze
    From the castles in the distance
    Eyes cast down
    On the path of least resistance

    Cities full of hatred
    Fear and lies
    Withered hearts
    And cruel, tormented eyes
    Scheming demons
    Dressed in kingly guise
    Beating down the multitude
    And scoffing at the wise. . . .

    --Rush, A Farewell to Kings

    July 24, 2004

    Armstrong wins Stages 17 and 19!

    No doubt this year. No sirree Bob.

    As with Merckx, who was booed and on occasion was punched, Armstrong's domination has not earned universal popularity. A small number of spectators have whistled at him at stage starts. He was apparently spat on during the Alpe d'Huez time-trial. While most spectators' placards have been supportive, there was the odd one referring to drugs - 'EPOstal', for example - and the motto 'Lance go home' has been spotted.

    Normally he gives away a present or two to the other riders, but since the first stage in the Pyrenees, which he gave to Ivan Basso, there have been no gifts. It is as if he is trying to make the point that he is the strongest and it is up to the others to fight for what they can get.

    While fighting cancer left Armstrong weak and frustrated, it also allowed him to rebuild his body into the perfect shape for a cyclist. He had developed a strong upper body through swimming, but lost nine kilograms of muscle during his illness.

    As he prepared to walk out to the podium after Thursday's stage to be honored and applauded and kissed on both cheeks - by pretty girls, not by the race officials - Lance Armstrong met fellow five-time champion Bernard Hinault at the top of the stairs. "Perfect," Hinault assured him. "No gifts."

    I repeat the negatives over and over every day," he said on the eve of this Tour. "Its definitely a perception that I need that chip [on my shoulder]. Its probably also accurate most of the time. But, and this is an important but, most athletes perform better when theyre really motivated or angry about something.

    "I don't like to lose. I just despise it."

    July 23, 2004

    (The one at the bottom)

    Martha: a cute white chicken.

    July 21, 2004

    Outraged moderates; martyrs die off

    Julie Saltman uncovers Thad Anderson's Download for Democracy:

    During the last four years, the Bush administration's policies have gone against everything Ive ever learned about how America is supposed to work: as a political science major, as an Eagle Scout, and as a member of a family that has lived in the American South since before the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed...

    With each month of the Bush Presidency, and each new shocking abuse of power, it becomes clearer and clearer that what's really at stake in this election isn't merely about partisan politics. Instead, this a choice between standing up to protect America's democratic institutions, or deciding that we just don't care.

    Majikthise links to a description of the "absolute dumbest religious movement in history":

    The Circumcellions eventually suffered the same fate that befalls most suicide cults -- it died out due to excessive death.

    Armstrong wins stage 16!

    This guy is toasting everybody else.

    July 20, 2004

    Armstrong wins Stage 15!

    Lance Armstrong outsprinted his closest challenger, Ivan Basso, to win the 15th stage of the Tour de France.

    Jan Ullrich tried to make up some time on Armstrong today. He failed. Ullrich's unsuccessful attacks may signal that he doesn't have it in him to challenge Armstrong, Basso, or Kloden in tomorrow's time trial up l'Alpe d'Huez.

    (Anyone at all interested in the Tour should follow the stages in real time on the official site. I've linked to it in the upper-right corner of my blog. You can see the action in your mind as you read, and the descriptions of the race are...idiosyncratic. An example from today's stage:

    At the front of the lead group is Carlos Sastre (CSC). He has been setting the pace for past couple of minutes but now it's time for Azevedo to take over.
    With this posse approaching the cat-2 summit, we can expect to see Virenque pounce at any moment... oh, there he goes. What a surprise!

    The big time trial tomorrow may determine the winner. Be sure to tune in.

    July 18, 2004

    Seeking recommendations

    Can anyone recommend a trustworthy mechanic in Ann Arbor that can work on my 1985 Subaru?

    If you know of any good people, leave a comment or email me. Thanks for your help!

    Armstrong wins in Pyrenees


    In the words of Phil Liggett, "Armstrong, who never actually attacked anyone, watched his team crack an elite field then, as all team leaders should, he finished things off with a win on the top of the viciously hard climb of the Plateau de Beille. His 17th stage win of his career."

    Lance Armstrong is a long way from winning a record sixth Tour de France, but with a team as strong as US Postal has proven to be, and with the unexpected weakness of his rivals, it's starting to seem inevitable.

    July 16, 2004

    Genius!

    Somebody was taking pride in their work.

    Who blogs more, law students or medical students?

    Nick Genes, a medical student blogger of some notoriety (i.e., I know about him) asks, "How come law students blog more than medical students?" (Also posted here.)

    That law students are more likely to maintain a blog seems to make intuitive sense. I'm always stumbling across law student blogs; discovering a new med student blog seems like a rarer event. It also fits with my experience of both that law students would blog more than medical students. Law students just seem like bloggier people. At least the ones that I've known.

    It's harder to confirm these subjective impressions with real numbers. For instance, how many of each kind of blog are there? Nick cites a blog post that compares the number of Google hits for "law student blog" (276,000) to the number for "med student blog" (16,000). But when I tried "medical student blog," I got 113,000 hits. Many of those were European med student blogs, and many others were websites that just mention blogs and medical students, but aren't themselves med student blogs.

    Even if we knew exactly how many of each kind of blog existed, we'd have to compare these with the total number of each kind of student. Even though law school is only three years compared to four for med school, there are more than twice as many law students: 138,000 law students, compared with 66,000 medical students (simple math used to get the totals).* This ratio could be reproduced with some highly selective interpretations of the number of blogs based on Google searches, making it seem like law students and medical students are equally likely to blog.

    I don't believe it. I think there really are more law student blogs per capita, but I need a more effective way of determining the number of blogs in each category.

    Anyone got any bright ideas?

    --------

    July 14, 2004

    It's a strange world

    We all lose things--keys, cell phones, receipts. It's not every day you lose your oil filler cap.

    I thought I had lost it at an Indiana gas station on the drive from Denver to Ann Arbor back in May. It was late, I was in a hurry, I had to pop the hood to put oil in my car. When I next popped the hood two weeks ago and found my oil filler cap missing, I couldn't think of anywhere else it could have gone. I couldn't think why anyone would have stolen it. Unless, of course, they were on drugs.

    So I got online and ordered a new one. Today, I found my old one. It was in the parking lot at work. One of the small metal teeth that hold it in place had been sheared off, so I guess that's how it fell off. Why it fell off in the parking lot at work is a question I can't answer.

    Coincidentally, the UPS guy delivered the new filler cap today. I barely managed to catch him before he drove away, and he gave me the box. It was marked "American Red Cross. Albumin (Human) USP. 5% solution."

    Inside was an invoice and the requested oil filler cap for a 1985 Subaru.

    That's a human ear all right.

    July 12, 2004

    Mmmm.

    Cottage cheese is a special treat.

    Hot and humid

    I went for a run/sweat/dehydration session today in all this heat and humidity. Have you ever tried Bikram's Yoga?

    It was like that.

    July 10, 2004

    Spam

    Sometimes the spammers make me laugh in spite of myself. I just got a piece of spam with the following at the bottom of the email:

    ***********************************************************************************
    If you have received this message in error, please immediately advise the sender by reply email and then purchase the stellar services being offered for your own benefit.
    ***********************************************************************************

    July 07, 2004

    Armstrong in yellow

    Lance Armstrong's US Postal team has won the team time trial at the Tour de France, putting Armstrong in the yellow jersey for the first time this year.

    Can he stay there? The climb up L'alpe d'Huez will tell. Unfortunately, it looks like Iban Mayo won't be in any position to duel it out with Armstrong or Ullrich in the mountains.

    July 04, 2004

    Happy Fourth!

    Have a safe holiday. Remember, fireworks and alcohol do not mix. Unless you'd like to spend your holiday in the Emergency Department.

    Michelle Au reminds me why I didn't do pediatrics. I'm glad others rush in where I fear to tread.

    Donald at Crescat Sententia asks some smart questions about the "war" effort: "Someone, somewhere, will have to address these questions. And sooner rather than later."

    Ming guesses 750 hours to win the how-many-hours-have-I-played-Final Fantasy contest on Heidi Bond's blog. This entry will take guesses on how many ways Heidi will find to rhyme "Ming" with "freak" in the prize poem. :)

    Is Blogspot the crappiest blog host ever?

    Check out this great ERISA link. I know. Geek.

    June 30, 2004

    I love the New Yorker

    From this week's Shouts & Murmurs, "A Prayer" by Paul Simms:

    Well, that's about it, Lord.

    Actually, as long as I've got You, let me just mention a few final ways for me to die that may or may not seem funny to You, depending on Your sense of humor.

    I would rather be burned beyond all recognition than burned almost beyond all recognition, especially if the pictures are going to end up on the Internet.

    If some kind of rare organism eats away at my body from the inside, please let it be microscopic. Or just slightly larger than microscopic. Let's put it this way: if it's big enough to have a face, that would be too big.

    Thank You for Your time, Lord.

    June 26, 2004

    Todd Bertuzzi charged

    Proving that hockey violence does have limits, criminal charges have been filed in Vancouver against Todd Bertuzzi for attacking Colorado Avalanche player Steve Moore.

    June 23, 2004

    Baby chickens

    Pictures of cute baby chickens.

    June 22, 2004

    Two Buck Chuck

    Recently, it was reported that a two-dollar bottle of wine had won a prestigious double-gold medal at the 21st annual Eastern Wine Competition. The wine is a 2002 shiraz from Charles Shaw, and it's sold at Trader Joe's. Although it won the medal, it narrowly missed winning best-in-category, losing out to a wine that costs $50.

    Well, I'm tossing back a glass of the Charles Shaw Merlot tonight, and it tastes pretty good to me. (I've somehow got the urge to go spend $48 on really good cheese.)

    In other news, I saw my first snake of the year today, when I was biking the Potawatomi Trail northwest of Ann Arbor. Summer must really be here. Now, where are those damned turtles?

    June 20, 2004

    Style question

    Here's a question for all you blog connoisseurs out there:

    The Feanor heraldric crest on the right side of my banner-- what do you think?

    (I've tried not to ask a leading question here. There is a particular issue I'm trying to settle, but asking leading questions is not the way to do it...)

    June 19, 2004

    glorfindel reborn

    The blog looks odd. I know.

    I'm messing around with the stylesheet this weekend, so don't be surprised if it looks weirder than this on occasion. I'm shooting for some warmer colors; the syle won't change radically.

    It's damned uncomfortable climbing into this cramped little chrysalis...

    George R. R. Martin update

    Everyone lucky enough to have read the first three books in George R. R. Martin's series A Song of Ice and Fire has been obsessively checking to see whether the next book is done.

    Apparently, some people have been getting all huffy about it. They've been emailing Martin and accusing him of luxuriating in hot tubs with hotties in bikinis while his audience grows more frustrated waiting for the book.

    These fans need to chill out.

    Based on what he's done so far, Martin doesn't need to publish anything else, period. His story isn't finished, but it's already big enough and rich enough that it probably never will be. No matter how many more books Martin writes, his readers will probably wish he had said just a little bit more about this, or about that. We're all lucky that Martin himself feels like he wants to tell more of the story. We should all wait patiently for him to tell it like he wants to.

    In the meantime, as Martin suggests, we all have lives to lead. So quit bugging him, and get a life! (Just make sure to wear your seatbelt, since you don't want to get killed before A Feast for Crows comes out...)

    June 18, 2004

    Butt slogans for undergrad girls

    Some of the slogans written across the butt of those velour pants that undergrad girls wear are getting kind of old. "Sexy," "Hottie," and "Michigan" are so last summer.

    Here are the slogans that will surely catch fire this year:

  • Too Big--Getting Bigger.
  • Electrolysis: ask me how
  • My friends make me wear this
  • Employee of the Month

  • June 14, 2004

    New blogs

    They're new for me, at any rate, and they're worth reading.

    Via Jordan Fowles, here's HealthLawBlog.

    Anjali Taneja, who's active in one of the best organizations around, has been carrying the weight at the group blog To the Teeth.

    One of the most elegantly-designed law school blogs-- buzzwords.

    And I've finally begun reading Jeremy Blachman, Ditzy Genius, and BuffaloWings&Vodka on a regular basis. (Kind of like growing up in Chicago and not going to the top of the Hancock building until you're twenty seven. Just plain lame.)

    Finally, I don't know how I found the underwear drawer, but this blog by a pediatrics resident helps to cure my bias against pediatrics residents. :)

    June 12, 2004

    Goat. Goat.

    I got your Positive Goat Flow right here, baby.

    Annals of Civilizational Decay

    Staplers aren't what they used to be.

    Most standard office staplers are incapable of driving a standard staple through more than about eight pages of paper--any more than that and the staple inevitably gets bent and warped. If you think this is because the staple itself is too flimsy, think again.

    My dad gave me an old gray Swingline stapler that looks like it was made during the Kennedy administration. It's made of thick metal everywhere and weighs about twice what a new stapler weighs. Put an ordinary, modern staple in that sucker, and you can staple, cleanly, just about any stack of paper that you can fit between its jaws.

    Next week: the cheesy crap that's marketed as a "floor lamp."

    June 09, 2004

    glorfindel, rock critic

    (I'm not a real rock critic. I just play one on my blog.)

    Unlike most rock groups that put out their first album in 1974, Rush is still writing (good) new music. Its members haven't ODd on drugs, and they're still touring (and I don't mean packing them in at the State Fair as the opening act for Foreigner, either). This makes them relics and ass-kickers at the same time.

    Last night I saw Rush on their 30th anniversary tour, and they showed both sides of their nature. They showed their relic selves, but not in the pejorative sense of the word. Throughout the long medley at the end that included, among four or five others, "Xanadu," "The Trees," and "La Villa Strangiato," I was gripped by the feeling that these guys had been around long enough to make their own history--especially when they played covers of old Clapton a la Robert Johnson ("Crossroads") and other classics like "Summertime Blues" and "The Seeker." Their own older material seemed to take its place alongside these classics, and I can't help but think that thirty years from now some old band will trot out some Rush covers as an homage to the music that got them started. Hell, there are plenty of "old bands" right now who could do that.

    But let's be honest: Rush kicked a lot of ass. Their new stuff, most notably "Earthshine" from 2002's Vapor Trails, was blistering, and proved that no one, even now, puts out a more pounding heavy rock sound than Rush. But, as Neil Peart's drum solo and Alex Lifeson's funky spoken-word piece, mumbled into the microphone as he made some weird subterranean sounds on the guitar, hinted, Rush might make a damn fine jazz ensemble, too.

    One thing Rush will probably never be good at is hip-hop and rap. Nevertheless, they were one of the first, and still one of the only, old-line white-guy rock bands to try to incorporate some rap into their music. Even most Rush fans will admit that the rap bit in "Roll the Bones" didn't quite capture the essence of the form in the way that, say, Eminem has, so it was mildly surprising that Rush put the entire rap bit into it's performance of "Roll the Bones" last night. But why not? They deserve credit for branching out, and in a tour that's intended as a retrospective, it's very honest of them to leave that rap bit in. Talking skeletons and all.

    The show wasn't perfect. The sun was still out in the beginning and was shining directly into the band members' faces. Geddy Lee had trouble remembering the lyrics to some of the songs, prompting his quip as he went off at the intermission that they'd be back "after they got some brain surgery."

    But after it got dark, and the stars came out, and Rush had set the mood with an inexorably pounding performance of "Between the Wheels", the show began to move in the way only Rush can move it. . .

    To live between the wars in our time
    Living in real time
    Holding the good time
    Holding on to yesterdays. . .

    It slips between your hands like water
    This living in real time
    A dizzying lifetime
    Reeling by on celluloid. . .

    We can go from boom to bust
    From dreams to a bowl of dust
    We can fall from rockets' red glare
    Down to "Brother can you spare..."
    Another war
    Another wasteland
    And another lost generation. . .

    --Rush, Between the Wheels

    June 07, 2004

    Gus

    I work my 1L summer job all day
    So after work I want to play!

    This is why my heart is smitten
    (and also why my toes are bitten)

    For I have found a little kitten!



    Hey you little cat! My toes!

    June 06, 2004

    A caribou! Or is it just a rock?

    The New York Times has a new travel article about Denali National Park. They seem to have covered all the mandatory elements:

    Our bus, to Eielson Visitor Center and back, a 10-hour round trip, covering about 130 miles, left promptly at 9:30. The driver asked us to call out if we saw any animals, but cautioned us that the day before, he had seen only two caribou on an entire trip.

    This didn't so much diminish expectations as heighten desperation among the passengers who, bearing cameras and binoculars, craved any kind of sighting. And so, when a passenger spotted a distant speck on a ledge near the Savage River, about 20 minutes into our journey, and identified it as a caribou, everyone else, led by Jack and Peter, pressed onto that side of the bus for a glimpse.

    Ha! It seems nothing has changed since I spent a few summers working at Lynx Creek Pizza in Denali. The caribou are still there, and the tourists are still just as desperate to see them.

    June 05, 2004

    The pleasant surprise

    The pleasant surprise is an often overlooked necessity of life, I think.

    Oh well. There's a reason they haven't made me a Zen monk. . .

    May 31, 2004

    Memorial Day

    I hope everyone's had a fantastic Memorial Day. Watching TV, barbequeing, reading, trail running, or whatever else you like to do.

    Me, I spent the day reading and trail running. Not that I don't like to watch TV or barbeque; I just don't like them as much as reading or running along forest trails.

    I know. Geek.

    May 30, 2004

    Mmm. Love that burger.

    "Are you sure it isn't industrially produced?"

    "Sure, I'm sure. I found it on the Eat Well Guide."

    (Link via ai.)

    May 22, 2004

    I don't want to climb Everest

    With a 'failure rate' like this. . .

    Since 1953, a total of 1,373 people have climbed Everest from the Nepali and the Chinese sides. During that half century, 178 people have died on the mountain - a mortality rate of 13 percent.

    . . . I'd rather stay home and read Jon Krakauer books.

    May 21, 2004

    Going to see the elves

    ...Well, not exactly the elves. Valinor is too expensive a round-trip ticket.

    But I am going to see some people who are almost as cool: Geddy Lee, Neil Peart, and Alex Lifeson, of the rock band Rush.

    After spending barely less money than I would have had to spend on a ticket to Valinor (damned Ticketmaster), I'm all set to see Rush on June 8 at a place near Detroit called the "DTE Energy Music Theatre." Don't worry, people. You'll get over your jealousy in a few months. It's understandable. Who wouldn't want to see a band who plays songs with lyrics like:

    On certain nights
    When the angles are right
    And the moon is a slender crescent

    Its circle shows
    In a ghostly glow
    Of earthly luminescence
    . . .

    Floating high
    In the evening sky
    I see my faint reflection

    Pale facsimile
    Like what others see
    When they look in my direction

    . . .

    Brilliant, no?

    May 17, 2004

    Oh No!

    I was working a post for about the last hour and a half. It was a review of Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy.

    But I inadvertently closed the wrong window on my browser and lost the whole thing. Damn! Since it's too late to recreate all of that work tonight, I'll just post this complaint as a way of venting some steam, and maybe I'll try again later...

    EDIT: Just so I can say I didn't leave you with a post empty of all content (God forbid), I'll link to this useful reminder of the value of strength training for the elderly from DB's Medical Rants. Anyone who knows me will understand why I publicize this kind of thing as often as possible...

    May 16, 2004

    Food-shopping skills

    Today, for the first time in many months, I went grocery shopping.

    This hadn't been necessary while I was living in Law School-provided housing, because I had a mandatory board contract to eat in the dining hall. Even had I wanted to cook for myself, I had no kitchen in which to do it.* Now, though, my only choices are restaurants or cooking for myself. Since Ann Arbor's restaurants are generally overpriced, I'll do my own cooking. Besides, I'm looking forward to cooking as a satisfying summer activity in its own right.

    Anyway, I'm learning that grocery shopping is a skill that gets rusty with disuse. Successful shopping depends on the ability to visualize the raw ingredients in front of you as incomplete parts of potential meals. You see a wedge of brie. A bag of frozen green beans. A bottle of olive oil, and a bag of almonds. Unless you can visualize how you might use these things, your decisions to buy this but not that seem utterly random. Today, it felt a little like that for me. "I haven't put anything in my basket for a whole aisle now, so I think I'll grab this bag of almonds to give me the sense that I'm making progress."

    Ok, it wasn't that bad. But there was some of that flavor layered over the whole experience. I'm not sure that semi-random grocery shopping is always a sign of rusty cooking skills, but I think that for me, this time, it was.

    ------
    * While I could have used friends' kitchens, I was reluctant to because a) using someone else's kitchen infringes upon their personal sphere of autonomy in ways that are mysterious and deeply profound, and b) I was generally too lazy to do it.

    May 12, 2004

    The rest of the country

    I just took a train trip in one direction, followed by a car trip back to Ann Arbor. It wasn't a sightseeing trip, but I couldn't help but see a lot of sights.

    One thing I saw a lot of was farms. It's amazing how much of the land out there is devoted to growing plants. Some of the crops that these farms grow is of course used to feed people, but so much of it is used for other things like feeding livestock. A surprising amount of it is used to produce the "raw materials" for processed "food products" like corn syrup, carageenan gum, and other fillers that are ubiquitous in processed food but not essential for food in general.

    But that's beside the point. The thing I thought about as I stared out at all those farms was what it must be like to live on a farm. What is it like to be a farmer on the dry, flat farms of eastern Colorado and western Kansas, where the sky is blue all the way down to the horizon? Out there, you can stand under the bright sun and see thunderstorms off in the distance. They're discrete; you can see from one side of them to the other, and if they're far enough away you can see from their black bottoms to their white, fluffy, impossibly high tops. There are no trees to obstruct your view, and there's no humidity in the air to blur it.

    How about living on a Missouri farm? In parts of that state, the land is gently rolling; the small areas between the cultivated fields and along the roads is packed with tall trees and thick vegetation, and the warm wind in May smells like fresh-cut grass. In the low-lying areas there's almost always a small stream of the sort that gives you visions of turtles and frogs in the undergrowth.

    I'll probably never be a farmer. But it's good to get away from the law school for a while, and take a break from the narrow focus on the five or six largest metropolitan areas that's such a feature of life in law school, to just see what other people are doing. It's good to see where they're living, and remind myself that our country is a big, big, place.

    May 07, 2004

    Endings

    Overheard bit of conversation between law students on the last morning of exams:

    "You know, I usually feel like crying when things end. But I don't feel like crying now. This is the first time I've gotten to an ending and been, like, you know...really happy."

    I usually get sad when things end too, but not when I hate them. I wonder if the person I overheard hated law school. I hope not. The years that go by when you're hating what you're doing are like lost years that you can't have back. It's too bad we can't always tell in advance which things we'll hate doing. Sometimes those things sneak up and bite us on the ass. Figuratively speaking, of course.

    May 06, 2004

    All done

    Can you believe I was up 'til 2:30 a.m. last night? Me? Yes, even I will stay up late occasionally when I really have to.

    Because it was for a good cause. My exams are all done, and I deserve to party.

    (This means I'll probably take a long walk in the Arb.)

    May 03, 2004

    The successful blog

    How does one measure the success of one's blog?

    The number of links via technorati and TTLB seems to be a commonly used criterium. Accumulating links, though, can turn into an unhealthy obsession, and can sometimes lead to your becoming a blog whore or even a blogopath.

    How else can you tell if your blog measures up? The cool title? Its seeming omnipresence? A publisher asks you to write a how-to book about blogging? One of your posts is linked to by more people than there are blueberries in Alaska?

    Any of these will do, I guess. By some of these measures my blog is successful, by others of them, less so.

    But I know my blog is a smashing success. Try a Google search for "posner's cat." Guess what?

    May 02, 2004

    May 2nd

    Happy birthday to my brother! I hope your day has been great.

    May 01, 2004

    I just changed my Tuesday plans...

    I think I'll watch hockey this Tuesday night.

    Thanks, of course, to Super Joe.

    April 30, 2004

    Rhythm and melody

    It's method on the edge of madness
    It's a balance on the edge of a knife
    It's a smile on the edge of sadness
    It's a dance on the edge of life

    --Rush, "Out of the Cradle" (2002)


    Most of the best pieces of music are symbiotic unions of rhythm and melody--the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts.

    Lying underneath and tying everything together is the rhythm, which moves the piece inexorably forward without letting anything fall off the wagon to lose itself on its own. Tethered by the rhythm and drawing energy from its momentum, the melody plays on the surface and makes everything beautiful. The rhythm provides the inexorable; the melody provides the surprise. Rhythm is the power; melody is the play. Rhythm is the depths and melody the heights.

    Music isn't the only thing uniting rhythm and melody. Good relationships do this too. One person can play riffs off the other one if it's working right. Then they can trade roles, to show each other what they can do. The whole damned dozen adds up to thirteen.

    Does anything else partake of both? I think good arguments do. The best ones are unions of hard-driving power and agile maneuvering. Dazzle them with speed and then flatten them with power.

    (Take that, bitchez!)

    Poem on my blog

    Will and Heidi are observing "poem on your blog day" as a way of finishing off National Poetry Month. (I appear to have mistaken it for "national hockey-watching month.")

    Anyway, I like the old romantic poets: Keats, Tennyson, people like that. They do such great nature poems. Here's Ode to Autumn, by John Keats:

    Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
    Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
    Conspiring with him how to load and bless
    With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
    To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
    And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
    To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
    With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
    And still more, later flowers for the bees,
    Until they think warm days will never cease,
    For Summer has o'er-brimmed their clammy cell.

    Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
    Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
    Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
    Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
    Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
    Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
    Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
    And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
    Steady thy laden head across a brook;
    Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
    Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

    Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
    Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,---
    While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
    And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
    Then in a wailful choir, the small gnats mourn
    Among the river sallows, borne aloft
    Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
    And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
    Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
    The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
    And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

    April 24, 2004

    Starbucks everywhere

    Thanks to this guy, I can show you some of the Starbucks locations that hold special memories for me.

    This one, for whiling away the morning just before I came to law school.

    This one, for grabbing a coffee at 5:30 am as I headed in to the hospital on my third-year ob/gyn rotation in medical school.

    And this one, where I procrastinated most of this afternoon away...

    (Thanks to Monica.)

    Mowing with baby

    When you're sitting in front of your computer, pretending to be writing a paper even though you've run out of ideas and need to take a break, you sometimes notice things that you wouldn't notice otherwise.

    Maybe it's your brain trying desperately to focus on something else. Trying to let you know it's time to pack it in.

    This morning, I was staring out the window when I noticed a white male in his 30s who appeared to be pushing a lawnmower back and forth across the concrete courtyard behind the graduate library. Thinking that this would be a bizarre thing to do, I looked closer-- no, it wasn't a lawnmower. It was a baby stroller. He was pushing this baby stroller back and forth across the courtyard with the same kind of purposeful, task-oriented stride that people usually employ when mowing their lawn. "Only a few more lengths of this yard, and I'll be done."

    There was a small child in the stroller, so it wasn't as bizarre as it could have been. But my mind wandered, and I imagined the conversation he'd just had with Mom:
    "It's your turn to walk the baby."
    "Yes, dear. I'll get it done as soon as I can, and then will you please leave me alone so I can watch the hockey game on TV?"

    Definitely time to take a break.

    April 17, 2004

    Avs win!

    The Avalanche have sent the Stars to the golf course. Too bad I couldn't watch it.

    The problem with being in Ann Arbor is that when ABC has the games, they always show the Red Wings in this region. Bah! As if everyone in Ann Arbor was a Wings fan!

    April 16, 2004

    "I'm good at this!" (or not)

    I'll bet William Safire wishes he could take this one back (see Prediction #9).

    April 15, 2004

    Glorfindel feels guilty (or not)

    Me: Here's my written assignment.

    Lady in office: Oh. Well. Did you know that your partner had already turned in a report for both of you?

    Me: Oh. Well. That's interesting. But it's ok, I'm sure his report is good.

    Bureaucrat (sitting in the back of the office and eavesdropping): Did you not get the email from the professor about turning in only one report per group, or did you just fail to read the email???

    Me (thinking): "Oh! No! You caught me! I'll just castrate myself right here for my evil sins, and spill my blood in penance! Where's that hairshirt, anyway???

    April 13, 2004

    "common-interest communities"

    Ben has posted more of his thoughts on corporations and accountability. As with most posts I enjoy, I agree with some of his points and profoundly disagree with some others.

    But my comments will have to wait for a while. I've been wasting too much time reading about the Colorado Avalanche, who were up 3-1 last night and blew a golden opportunity to bury the Dallas Stars in a really deep hole.

    I also need to do some reading for Property class about "common-interest communities" (covenant-controlled subdivisions where you can't paint your house pink or park your beautiful primer-gray '78 Chevy Nova on your own driveway).

    I think I'm going to call them "icky, sicky, throw-up communities."

    April 12, 2004

    Relying on the unreliable

    Here at my law school, we have a computerized registration system. The registrar's office maintains that we can go to a website to register for courses; indeed, this is the only way to register here at my law school.

    My experience with this Priority Registration System ("PRS") is that it doesn't work. Sometimes, it gives an error message when I try to log in, explaining that "the system is not available" or some such rubbish. More commonly, any attempts to log in simply time out.

    It seems that if you go to the Registrar's Office and use the computers there, things work fine. But otherwise, the system is so unreliable that you must plan to go to the registrar's office to register. Most of the advantages of a computerized registration system are nullified by the system's poor performance.

    When I add my frustration with this unreliable Web registration system to my frustration with the Law School's decision to run a Novell network application which is incompatible with Mac OS (preventing me from using the network printers) and its decision to use an exam-taking software system (Electronic Bluebook) which requires all laptops to run some version of Windows, I can't help but rate my law school's IT environment as the single worst aspect of being a student here.

    (This means, of course, that everything else has been pretty damn good.)

    April 11, 2004

    New blogs on the blogroll

    Given all the articulate right-leaning medical bloggers out there, I was glad to find Cameron Page, who spices up the debate a bit. I also discovered a great new Michigan law student blog, written by Aaron Marr Page.

    April 09, 2004

    Ninja fetus


    I adopted a cute lil' ninja fetus
    from Fetusmart! Hooray fetus!



    (Thanks to Amy.)

    April 08, 2004

    Whoa, there you are!

    About three-fourths of the way through last semester, in about mid-November, I lost my Constitutional Law syllabus. It just up and disappeared on me. I couldn't find it anymore.

    I didn't cry; I didn't bitch; I didn't whine. I just copied someone else's syllabus, and went on with my life. Would it surprise you that eventually I just forgot all about my lost Constitutional Law syllabus?

    Would it surprise you that three days ago, on April 5, I found it? I was taking a break from reading Contracts in the library. I wandered down one of the aisles filled with old casebooks, noting an interesting one that was exclusively about Remedies, and another that was devoted to Cases on Federal Government Contracts.

    And then I saw my old Constitutional Law syllabus, lying there on the shelf, probably untouched since I had browsed this same aisle back in November.

    I don't need it anymore. What good is an old Constitutional Law syllabus anyway? But for some reason I'm going to keep it. I lost it, and then I forgot about it and then I found it again. This somehow makes it more important, now, than just any old syllabus.

    April 06, 2004

    The passing of an era

    The era of the independent bookshop is coming to an end. When they aren't forced to close by sales losses to Amazon or to Barnes&Noble, many independent bookshops die naturally when their owners retire. There isn't a new generation of booksellers to replace them. They're all working at Borders.

    Soon it will all be Taco-Bell.

    I remember the Chinook Bookshop, in my hometown of Colorado Springs. My family didn't live on that end of town, so we usually ended up going to the B.Dalton in the mall. But I enjoyed browsing in the Chinook. Their inventory of maps was "the largest from Chicago to the coast," and they always seemed to have strange books that the B.Dalton would never have.

    Sure, the Hardy-Boys books I liked were often cheaper at the B.Dalton. The Chinook never offered discounts. Period. It was a full-service, full-price place. I browsed at the Chinook, but I bought books somewhere else. No one has any nostalgia for the low prices at the Chinook. Perhaps in this way it was most obviously a creature of the era when it started, circa 1959. Back then, wages were high enough to raise a whole family on just one. This was fortunate, because if Mom wanted to work, no one would hire her because she was a woman (and when they did, they wouldn't pay her as much because she was a woman). We've made tradeoffs since then. Mom can get a job just like Dad, but neither of them can find jobs with benefits. These days, Mom and Dad sometimes both have to work two jobs. Just to afford the discount books at Sam's Club.

    Ahh, tradeoffs.

    Some independent bookstores will survive, here and there, but the era of the mom-and-pop bookseller is over. The world changes. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, and sometimes things just change.

    April 03, 2004

    You can comment, but you must reload

    This blog's comments are now operational. However, in order to see the comment you've posted, you'll have to reload the page after you post. The Trackback should work normally.

    Now get back to work, you procrastinators...

    April 02, 2004

    Darn

    Woe is me, that my comments and trackback should be inoperative on a day that Brian Leiter links to my blog.

    I suppose if that's my biggest problem, I'm leading a charmed life.

    Won't stop me from complaining, though. . . ;)

    April 01, 2004

    Blog Notice

    I'm still posting, but the blog isn't fixed yet. Comments and Trackback are still disabled. Until it's fixed, I'll try to keep this notice here at the top.

    Please don't hesitate to email comments to the address above.

    March 27, 2004

    Blog repair saga continues

    UPDATE: the comments and trackbacks aren't fixed yet; the blog remains crippled.

    However, progress has been made. Depending on how things go, the blog might be returned to full working condition before the weekend is out. But the future is cloudy, the prognosis tentative. So don't, um, get your hopes up too high yet.

    (I'm starting to feel like George R. R. Martin. For reasons every fan of his will know...)

    March 26, 2004

    I lied

    Will work on blog tomorrow.

    Fixing the blog; fixing the Avs

    Thanks to everyone who has contributed their know-how to helping me repair my blog, including Heidi Bond and Anthony Rickey.

    No, it's not fixed yet, but I'm going to be working on it tonight.

    (Hockey Interruptus: What is wrong with the Avs? They'd better wake up soon, or it'll be another first-round exit this year. Fortunately we have another game with Detroit tomorrow. The Red Wings are always good medicine. Especially road games with the Red Wings.)

    Tomorrow morning there's a race in the Arb. I haven't decided whether to enter or not. Of course, everyone who knows anything about me knows I wouldn't pass up a chance to go trail running. But one of the greatest reasons to run the trails, for me, is the chance to get away by myself for a while. Running a race seems to defeat that purpose, unless I'm in good enough shape to be out in front the whole time.

    Anyway, off to eat and perchance to fix my blog...

    P.S.: Ming, I hope you're not too disappointed. Either by my failure to own an Avs jersey, or by the Avs' failure to beat the Red Wings at home, again, yesterday.

    March 24, 2004

    The Blog is Back

    Thanks go out to Heidi for her help in restoring this blog. Her assistance turned what would have been a multi-day job into a few minutes of work.

    So what happened? I don't know. One minute, the blog is working. The next, it's using too much CPU power and overloading everything in sight. Why? Who knows.

    If there's one thing I have virtually no patience for, it's a tool that doesn't work. That's why I'll never, ever, ever be a "computer geek." When I think of all the things I could be doing with my time, finding and fixing obscure computer problems ranks pretty close to dead last on the list. It's like sorting through haystacks looking for pins. Some people have told me that they get frustrated with this too, but that they are so elated when they've finally "solved the problem" that it makes all their previous wasted efforts worthwhile. That's why it's so great that people have diverse interests. For every person like me, there's someone who enjoys solving computer problems, so eventually if you cooperate, things run smoothly.

    [This, of course, is not meant to imply that Heidi actually enjoyed helping me today. I suspect it was just as much a pain in the ass for her as it was for me. Which is why I'm sincerely grateful for her help. And why I'm explicitly not referring to her when I talk, in general, about people who like to solve computer problems.]

    Anyway, until further notice, the comments and trackback functions are disabled.

    March 19, 2004

    Pile on the bandwagon

    Some bandwagons demand to be jumped on.

    Just about everyone knows by now about the new group blog de novo; I'm just as excited about it as everyone else. To prove it, I'll link to Dahlia Lithwick's piece, and highlight what she says about happiness:

    The huge irony is that if I had known back in law school how happy I would be 8 years later, I'd have had the time of my life! I would have loved my classes, taken more interesting ones, never gone to an event I hated, done even more clinical work, learned to salsa dance, and made better friends. It would have been like undergrad, but in better shoes. The reason I got stuck was because I let myself feel stuck, thinking that unless I treated law school the way everyone else treated it -- as a dark tunnel to the world of corporate law -- I was doomed.

    Beautifully said. So much of our enjoyment of the present is tied to our thoughts about the future. A pessimistic view of the future makes it easier to be morose now; an optimistic view makes it easier to be carefree and happy.

    An analogy that works for me is mountain biking on rough trails. If you stare at the scary and dangerous roots, holes, rocks, and dropoffs ahead of you (pessimism), you're more likely to crash. If you focus only on the smooth line you could conceivably take through the obstacles (optimism), you're more likely to make it through alive. Or at least, free of lacerations and without forest bark ground into your face.

    March 14, 2004

    Sitting in Starbucks

    This morning, sitting in the Starbucks at State and Liberty, two (2) things occurred to me.

    First, the difference between the way the employees at a busy Starbucks approach their interaction with a customer, and the way the customer approaches their interaction with the employee, is usually very great indeed. The employee is sharp and focused; their goal is to complete the transaction with maximum efficiency and then to move on to the next customer, especially if there's a long line of customers waiting for skinny lattes and other foo-foo drinks. The customer oftentimes is listless, unfocused, and perfectly content to meander through the transaction. After all, they've come to Starbucks to relax. Take a load off. Take leave of their bodies and minds. Drift off into never-never land and play with the little green sprites... Ahem; well. Anyway, it often seems like that's what they're doing.

    I worked in a coffee bar (not a Starbucks) before, and this difference of approach was often an undetected source of irritation for me. Why didn't the customers just focus? Hello? Are we all sniffing paint here, or what?

    Clearly, I was not cut out for a career as a barista.

    As for the other thing: I think the key to getting people to do horrible things is to give them just the tiniest of rationalizations. Hooks that they can hang their consciences on, so to speak. For example, in Babylon 5, Garibaldi-- uh, wait; I shouldn't tell you if you haven't yet seen Babylon 5 for yourself. That would be cruel. Anyway, it isn't even relevant because after Garibaldi was captured he was-- um, better not spoil that one, either.

    Here's another example. Pro-bono work at a Biglaw firm. The tit-for-tat goes like this: you sign up for Biglaw, which you may find isn't your most ethically satisfying kind of work, but you'll do it because they give you a convenient rationalization: you can do pro-bono work in your "free time." Even though you know the net effect of this arrangement is still that the vast majority of your work is ethically unsatisfying, you'll swallow it because you've got a rationalization. Reason is trumped by the rationalization, you might say.

    Now, this is just an example. Clearly not everyone finds Biglaw work ethically unsatisfying. But my original Babylon 5 example didn't exactly work like I thought it would, so cut me some slack. Imagine for yourself some kind of ethically dubious activity, and ask yourself why you think people choose to do it. I'll bet that you'll be able to identify a few little rationalizations in there somewhere.

    Ahh, Starbucks.

    March 09, 2004

    Hockey Rules

    The Colorado Avalanche buried the Vancouver Canucks yesterday in a veritable cascade of delightful goal scoring that even the Computer Guy loved.

    But in the third period, Todd Bertuzzi of the Canucks sucker-punched Steve Moore of the Avalanche from behind and drove him to the ice. Moore lay unconscious in a pool of blood for several minutes. The NHL suspended Bertuzzi pending a Wednesday-morning hearing; Bertuzzi's violence obviously went beyond even the forgiving rules of hockey. Or did it?

    There are hockey rules, and then there are hockey rules. The former are written down somewhere in a little book that the officials memorize and (I'm assuming) swear a solemn oath to uphold when they don the officials' jersey. The latter are never cited chapter and verse, but every hockey player knows what they are. Todd Bertuzzi violated the former as a consequence of upholding the latter. And every hockey fan could see it coming.

    On February 19, the Avs and Canucks played a game in which Steve Moore hit Canucks superstar and Sweden's second-best hockey player Markus Naslund hard enough to put him out of the lineup for three games with a concussion. Markus Naslund! According to the informal rules of hockey, you don't just go around giving guys like Markus Naslund concussions. That's almost as bad as if someone were to give Avalanche captain and all-around good guy Joe Sakic a concussion. Can you imagine it? The Avs would be out for blood. As were the Canucks on Monday.

    This is one of the unwritten rules of hockey. You can fight, and you can injure people, but you can't do it like that. It's like pornography--you can't define it, but you know it when you see it. And that's why it's not written down. You just have to know hockey.

    As the Avs and Canucks demonstrate, there are rules, and then there are rules. Not to mention all those customs, habits, routines, guidelines, laws, norms, standards, morals, and commandments that burden us all.
    _________

    EDIT: It's now reported that Moore sustained a neck fracture. He's out for the rest of the season, and we don't know yet what the sequelae of his injury are.

    March 06, 2004

    Thanks everyone

    Thanks to everyone who's wished me a happy birthday! I'm having a great day, and I hope your birthdays are just as great, whenever they may be...

    Now if only the Avs would snap out of their slump!

    March 04, 2004

    The efficiency game

    Have you ever wondered how you could maximize your personal efficiency? The consequences of success are so huge that making even small improvements could make a huge practical difference over time. Plus, it's sometimes just a fun thing to think about. What would you do if your goal was to maximize your productive output for each unit of work input?

    I can immediately think of two things: get enough sleep, and get enough exercise. An hour of sleep-deprived work isn't as efficient as an hour of well-rested work. Exercise, also, tends to sharpen you up.

    Some other things which come to mind include:

  • Reduce distractions. This might include everything from getting rid of that damned cell phone to trying to "live in the present" and not worrying about the past or the future.
  • Adapt your work schedule to your daily energy levels. For example, I usually do my best thinking first thing in the morning, and after 8 pm. At 3 in the afternoon, I'm usually a person-shaped vegetable, mentally speaking. So, if I work out or do chores around three, and spend the morning and evening reading and writing, I'm more effective than if I foolishly try to work out first thing in the morning.
  • Avoid boredom. For me, this means not doing the same thing for too many hours in a row. Given six hours, I'd rather not read contracts for three hours straight and Property for the next three hours. I'd rather read Contracts for 1 hour, Property for 1 hour, Contracts for one hour, etc. This is one of the reasons I prefer emergency medicine to surgery (many straight hours in the OR) or to internal medicine (many straight hours on seemingly endless rounding)... ahem. Internists, you knew that was coming...
  • Choose what you spend your time on carefully. Given three options of what to do next, do the thing that's most important, not necessarily what's most urgent. Of course, it's easy to say this, but harder to actually rank things in order of importance.

    These are just a few ideas. I suppose I could have spent the last ten minutes reading for my classes tomorrow, but blogging is just so important...

  • March 01, 2004

    Feudalism: why not?

    In Property we've been meticulously covering the rich variety of estates that originated in English feudal land law. Every law student has to do it sooner or later.

    But I like it. I don't like memorizing the differences between contingent and vested remainders, heavens no, but I like delving into the feudal past and tracing its influence to modern times. I like words like "feoffment" and "disseisin."

    I know. Geek.

    Anyway, I asked my colleagues at dinner a few weeks ago whether they'd like to return to a feudal society. Straightforward question, that. But judging from the uncomprehending stares and expressions of shock, not too many law students have given the question of re-establishing feudalism any serious thought.

    Why not? Haven't they ever read a George R. R. Martin novel?

    Seriously; we're indoctrinated from birth in the belief that the way things are now are the best they've ever been. I don't believe it. I think some things were much better under feudalism. Such as:


    1. Absence of the pernicious belief that all land (not to mention everything else as well) is fungible.
    2. Absence of the belief that it's all alienable, too.
    3. More heraldry, and tapestries. Nowadays, even at the wonderfully Gothic campus here at Michigan, we call our student sections by such rich and sonorous titles as 'EFGH' and 'IJKL,' and we don't even get to wear robes with our section's crest on them, like the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws at Hogwarts.
    4. The conviction that who you were mattered, not what you had. I know; this is often cited in terms of the greater social mobility of modern life, and the semi-permanent caste system under feudalism. But I think this story is overly biased. Social mobility today is more mythical than we like to admit. And no society has ever completely rejected the idea of meritocracy. The paths to the top under feudalism are unfamiliar to us, but they existed, and they were traveled upon. And for those not on their way to the 'top,' at least they had a place for themselves, however modest, under feudalism. These same people in modern times are often completely and utterly dispensible.
    5. Less 'freedom' under feudalism. What? Less freedom is good? Uh, yes. Hell yes, in fact. Freedom is a lot like money. When it's pursued as an end in itself, it turns out to be empty and unsatisfying. Modern libertarians, unable to identify anything that freedom is good for, out of fear of infringing someone's freedom, resort to the claim that freedom is good in itself. But it isn't. The problem with modern life is not that we aren't blessed with freedom, but that we're blessed with freedom in a world where every choice, every lifestyle, is just as good as every other. The only argument for any choice is always just that it 'feels better for me.' Which is fine, as far as it goes. But when the biggest choices in life have to be defended on the same grounds that we defend our choice of toothpaste flavors, we've got a problem.
    6. Castles.

    Some things have gotten worse since the feudal era, as you can see, but obviously not everything has. We have made some progress:

    1. Antibiotics.
    2. Broadband internet.
    3. The idea of the intrinsic dignity of the person (however much this idea has been subverted by the coincident beliefs in infinite alienability).
    4. The move away from an excessive reliance on 'faith' (however much this has been replaced by our idolatrous worship of the idea of unlimited economic growth and the myth of progress).
    5. The video game DOOM (circa 1996).


    February 15, 2004

    'Angel' cancelled

    Via Computer Guy, it seems that someone over at the WB has been smoking too much crack.

    February 07, 2004

    Scholarly death-match

    While scholarship is often competitive, in the sense that professors commonly try to outdo one another for honors and recognition, occasionally this competition transforms itself into an actual battle.

    (Oooh, you say. Warring professors. A little like celebrity boxing...)

    This semester some of us are being treated to the "Hart/Fuller debate" about whether law is completely separable from morality. Hart, a positivist, says that it is, and Fuller, a natural-law theorist, says that it isn't. These two go back and forth over the course of a decade, accusing each other in articles and books of being--initially--mistaken and unclear, and--much later--of being"blind" and "bizarre."

    It's fun to follow the debate, even for people who may not give two stones about the connection between law and morality.

    This debate reminded me of another war that took place in the '90s about something you might also not care one way or the other about--whether the Hawaiians who killed Captain Cook thought he was a god or not.

    On one side, you have an eminence grise of American anthropology, Marshall Sahlins. On the other side, an equally established fixture of the anthropology department at Princeton, Gananath Obeyesekere.

    Most people think the first shot was fired by Obeyesekere, when he published a scathing criticism of Sahlins' widely-accepted account of Cook's demise. Sahlins had maintained that the Hawaiians thought Cook was a god, or at least a manifestation of one. They killed him in part because their own rituals mandated that the agricultural god Lono (a.k.a. Captain Cook) be killed by the war god Ku or Makihiki. Obeyesekere accused Sahlins of perpetuating the stereotypical view of native peoples as irrational, gullible, and prone to deification of white Europeans.

    Sahlins, of course, couldn't just take this lying down. So he wrote a response which accused Obeyesekere of cultural imperialism in the name of political correctness. By attributing to the Hawaiians an essentially modern, Western outlook, Obeyesekere ignored what was uniquely different about their culture. This, of course, meant that Obeyesekere, not Sahlins, was the real cultural imperialist.

    Of course, Obeyesekere had to include a response to Sahlins in an afterward inserted into later editions of his book.

    So who won? Since I don't pretend to any knowledge of anthropology, I feel comfortable saying "I don't know." I tend to root for Sahlins since he's at the University of Chicago (and did his undergrad at Michigan), but I don't know how the anthropological community has judged this debate. One thing it has done, of course, is add it to the syllabus in "anthropological theory" courses.

    As for Hart vs. Fuller, the general consensus is that Hart won that one. This isn't something I'm particularly happy about, but the reasons will have to wait for another post. . .

    (More about Sahlins/Obeyesekere is here, here, here, and here.)

    A picture of Obeyesekere (question: would you have the courage to argue with this man?)

    February 03, 2004

    Ok, people. You're not banned anymore...

    I was wondering why I wasn't getting any comments over the past few days. Turns out, it's because there was a glitch with my list of banned IPs that essentially banned everyone.

    So sorry. If you're not a spammer, you've been unbanned.

    Comment away!

    February 02, 2004

    Colorado getting fatter...

    Sure, Colorado is the least obese state in the nation, but that doesn't mean it isn't getting fatter all the time:

    And Colorado can no longer count on a cavalry of buff rock-climbers moving in to hold down the average. Population growth in the future, demographers say, will be increasingly driven by "natural increase" the children of people already here, many of whom are more apt to reach for a soda than a snowboard, as national health studies show.

    They want it both ways

    I'm talking about the Super Bowl producers and CBS, of course.

    They love the publicity of the Super Bowl, and fight every year for as large an audience as they can get. So, naturally, when Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson take advantage of the astronomical publicity to boost their own headline values, it seems a bit greasy for NFL Executive Vice President Joe Browne to issue such a phlegmatically disapproving statement as, "We were extremely disappointed by elements of the MTV-produced halftime show."

    Come on, Joe. That's part of the game. Everyone, including Jackson and Timberlake, just wants the ratings...

    February 01, 2004

    Ayn Rand and good music

    I can't stand Ayn Rand, but she has a crazy habit of showing up in songs I like.

    Most famously, she inspired one of my favorite songs from my youth: The Trees by Rush:

    There is unrest in the forest, There is trouble with the trees, For the maples want more sunlight And the oaks ignore their pleas.

    The trouble with the maples,
    (And they're quite convinced they're right)
    They say the oaks are just too lofty
    And they grab up all the light.
    But the oaks can't help their feelings
    If they like the way they're made.
    And they wonder why the maples
    Can't be happy in their shade.

    There is trouble in the forest,
    And the creatures all have fled,
    As the maples scream "Oppression!"
    And the oaks just shake their heads

    So the maples formed a union
    And demanded equal rights.
    "The oaks are just too greedy;
    We will make them give us light."
    Now there's no more oak oppression,
    For they passed a noble law,
    And the trees are all kept equal
    By hatchet, axe, and saw.

    In a slightly less successful effort (lyrically, at least), Rush also did the Ayn Rand-inspired Freewill:

    You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice. If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill; I will choose a path that's clear I will choose freewill. Etc., etc.

    Yeah. Free will is only a "clear" path for rock-star adolescents and Ayn Rand. Nevertheless, Ayn Rand keeps showing her ugly face in good songs. These days, I listen to Kid Rock. Imagine my surprise to find you-know-who in the lyrics to Where U at Rock?:

    And I'll be the long haired wizard with the lazy eye Ask the ladies and they'll tell ya that im crazy fly I'm steppin' to the mic like a soldier bro I hate to sound like a dick but I told ya so hoe Old Crow and a soul full of desperation I'm rockin' up on the mic with no consideration For your church or your family Ayn Rand couldn't stand me so she banned me I'm like a dandy lion Jack You can cut me down and then I'll pop right back And attack from the back like a great white I'm not down with the scrappin' but I'm down for the gun fight Behind my back talkin' shit But when I front your ass you wanna act like a little bitch Keep on and you get your ass smacked Kid Rock's in the house that's where I'm at

    I think I'll have to go read the elvish lyrics in the soundtrack to Return of the King. Just paranoid, I guess...

    My travels in the USA

    This pretty much gives you the right flavor. The Southern states have been seen only from I-10.



    create your own visited states map
    or write about it on the open travel guide

    January 27, 2004

    Good news, and polar bears

    Return of the King has received the most Academy Award nominations of any film this year.

    Celebrate by reading about polar bears.

    January 25, 2004

    Citations, cold, headaches.

    I'm working on citations for a brief due Tuesday. Bluebooking citations, like loud noise, causes headaches. The solution is to take frequent breaks.

    During my last break, I noticed that Ann Arbor got down to -15 F. last night, just missing the record low set in 1897 of -16 F.

    Boy, howdy; that's dang cold; yessirree Bob.

    Next time I'll check the hockey scores instead.

    January 21, 2004

    Spam

    This blog was just hit with 130 spam posts. Plus-or-minus 5 or so.

    This is ridiculous. Now I'll have to go clean everything up. Lovely.

    Welcome, new Michigan blogger

    JKrasch is witty and sarcastic enough to subtlely ridicule all of us with delusions of coolness based on our blogs. And yet, she is nerdy enough to have her own blog.

    I love it!

    January 19, 2004

    Sports

    These days, we're not watching people compete. We're watching lab animals.

    But the Penn team has become acutely aware of a population impatient to see its research put into practice -- the already strong, seeking to get stronger still. Sweeney gets their e-mail messages. One came from a high-school football coach in western Pennsylvania not long after Sweeney first presented his findings at a meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology. ''This coach wanted me to treat his whole team,'' he said. ''I told him it was not available for humans, and it may not be safe, and if I helped him we would all go to jail. I can only assume he didn't understand how investigational this is. Or maybe he wasn't winning, and his job was on the line.''

    Other calls and e-mail messages have come from weight lifters and bodybuilders. This kind of thing happens often after researchers publish in even the most arcane medical and scientific journals. A whole subculture of athletes and the coaches and chemists who are in the business of improving their performances is eager for the latest medical advances.

    Sweeney knows that what he is doing works. The remaining question, the one that will require years of further research to answer, is how safe his methods are. But many athletes don't care about that. They want an edge now. They want money and acclaim. They want a payoff for their years of sweat and sacrifice, at whatever the cost.

    All this talk of steroids and genetic enhancements of athletes makes me wonder whether I might enjoy watching local, amateur sports more than professional sports on TV. If you're a steroid freak, I start to lose interest in what "you" can do. Can you hit 70 home runs? Who cares, if 30 of those home runs are attributable to the androstenedione you took.

    Recess appointment: Bainbridge

    Bainbridge for Judge!

    As Anthony rightly says: "If you're not a right-leaning libertarian, link anyway: Bush isn't going to recess nominate one of your guys, so you might as well help us out."

    Might as well. Perhaps it'll come back to us when the inauguration of President Dean means their guys have no chance for any recess appointments. . .

    P.S. Bainbridge is clearly qualified; he has the requisite knowledge of J.R.R. Tolkien.

    January 17, 2004

    Staying warm

    Some people have been complaining that they're too cold. Luckily, I know something about staying warm, having had to learn during a two-week backcountry ski trip in Idaho when it got down to -11 F. The circulation in my fingers and toes is also really bad, so they get painful really easily in the cold weather. Here are some tips:

    1) Generate heat


    • Stay well-hydrated. Hot beverages are best, but not required.
    • Physical activity. Work those big muscles, like your quads. Shovel snow, do jumping jacks, pushups, whatever sounds fun.
    • Eat food. Especially food with a high calorie content. I remember at the end of a long day in the Idaho woods, I was freezing. After chowing down a whole bag of pepperoni, I was comfortable and warm!

    2) Retain heat

    • Get out of those wet clothes! Especially if they're cotton.
    • Put on another layer. A big warm fuzzy fleece, or wool sweater. Don't forget your hat.
    • Hide from the wind. You can do this either by taking shelter or putting on a wind-resistant outer layer like a nylon shell jacket.

    Note: whining will usually not make you any warmer. Sorry.

    January 14, 2004

    Funny Blog Posts

    Thanks to Angry Bear and Dispositive.

    January 03, 2004

    The Brian Leiter Project

    In the spirit of open-minded and very playful inquiry, I announce, with Heidi Bond, the Brian Leiter Project.

    Brian Leiter himself needs no introductions or announcements. His rankings of law schools and philosophy programs have done more to challenge the USNews orthodoxy than any other critique. His blog is adored by liberals and rationalists, despised by conservative bloggers and would-be theocrats, and linked to by my blog (note how I reserve the highest praise for last).

    Anyway, all bloggers of whatever political temperament are urged to participate in this important grass-roots project. Go here for the details.

    And all hail Brian Leiter!

    January 02, 2004

    Mountain trail running vs. Sushi

    1. Both are addictive.
    2. Going too hard up Gregory Canyon and getting blitzed by too much wasabi: both hurt, but they make you want to do it again.
    3. Sushi is much more expensive, unless you live in the midwest and have to drive or fly to find good mountain trails.
    4. Sushi is best done with friends. Mountain trail running is usually done by yourself.
    5. It's difficult to describe the joy of both sushi and mountain trail running to someone who's never experienced either.

    December 31, 2003

    New Year's Predictions

    Watching the TV over the last few days has been a grueling exercise in a) avoiding CBS and its Michael Jackson "coverage," and b) suffering through the pundits' predictions for the coming year.

    Rather than listen to another conservative talking head describe how Bush will lead us all to the promised land in 2004, I thought I'd turn off the TV and make some of my own New Years predictions:


    1. Cold Mountain will win the Oscar for Best Picture.
    2. By the end of the year, most people will have forgotten it. They will, however, still remember The Return of the King.
    3. Microsoft Windows will continue to be plagued with viruses, and more people will be switching to OSX and Linux.
    4. Karl Rove will meet his political match in the person of Joe Trippi.
    5. I will boldly predict that we won't be referring to "President Lieberman" anytime in the future. Ever.

    December 20, 2003

    Trail running

    One of the things I'm going to do over the winter break is go trail running.

    Why do I like trail running so much? It's hard to say. For one thing, it's perhaps the most meditative thing I do. It's also the most spiritual. You know how other people go to church?

    Well, I don't go to church. I go trail running, in places like this.

    Beautiful sky

    Living in Colorado, it's easy to take the sky for granted. After all, it's just the sky, and you see it every day.

    But after spending some time in the Midwest, when you arrive back in Colorado the beauty of the sky just hits you. The blue, the clouds, the sunset. Especially in winter. Everything seems so austere and dry and clean and stunningly beautiful.

    I think I like it here. The suburbs and the traffic are just as bad as everywhere else, but the weather, the mountains, the dry air...

    Mmmmm......

    December 13, 2003

    Ten things you didn't know about me

    In the spirit of these other blogs, a list:


    1. I am not married.
    2. This does not bother me.
    3. Despite all the flak I take for it, I still like hockey.
    4. For three summers, I worked at this pizza place in Alaska.
    5. I was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
    6. I spent time in high school in Agujitas, Costa Rica, on the Bajia Drake.
    7. When I was a kid, my favorite sci-fi TV show was Battlestar Galactica.
    8. Now, it's this.
    9. My totem animal.
    10. My nemeses.

    December 04, 2003

    Harry Potter

    Conservatives don't yet seem to know just what to make of Harry Potter, but they're working on it:

    When fundamentalists look at Harry Potter, they see a seething Hieronymous Bosch painting, a grotesque and frightening world rife with sin and temptation and devilry. When Elshtain looks at Harry Potter, she sees a Norman Rockwell painting with a Bosch painting behind it, a world of peace and family and Sunday afternoon dinners, behind which, and sometimes perilously close, is a world of sin and destruction. These two views of Harry Potter mirror two fundamentally conservative views of the world.

    I, unsurprisingly, prefer Michael Bronski's reading:

    He argues that fundamentalists, who find the series subversive, are on to something: "The Harry Potter books are a threat . . . not because they romanticize witchcraft and wizardry, but because they are deeply subversive in their unremitting attacks on the received wisdom that being 'normal' is good, reasonable, or even healthy."

    I would only add that their romanticization of witchcraft and wizardry also makes them great.

    (Left-wing Harry Potter analysis is provided by The American Prospect, with a nice blog discussion of the article here.)

    Even Virginia Postrel loves Buffy

    Via Demon-Haunted Girl, an article demonstrating that the Buffy the Vampire Slayer tent is big enough for all of us--even extremists like Virginia Postrel.

    November 30, 2003

    Mottoes

    "Live dangerously. Carefully"
    --James Michener


    "Fear no food."
    --Anthony Bourdain

    ". . . of doom"

    So, thanks partially to me but (for shame) thanks mostly to someone else, I have acquired a new title. I am so proud. This is going to go on the business cards and, of course, on the resume. Right below my name, and above my address.

    My path of advancement has just been greased.

    I am one of only two

    GOLDEN GARGANTUAN GERIATRIC GRANDAMES OF DOOM!

    November 26, 2003

    Thanksgiving

    I thought I'd get with the holiday spirit and post a Thanksgiving blog entry.

    So, here it is!

    November 24, 2003

    Yummy Turkey

    Well, it's not so yummy anymore--

    Because of their monotonous diet, their flesh is so bland that processors inject them with saline solution and vegetable oils, improving "mouthfeel" while at the same time increasing shelf life and adding weight. . .

    And you can't really say it's what the Pilgrims ate--

    These turkeys' immune systems are weak from the start, and to prevent even the mildest pathogen from killing them, farmers [sic] add large amounts of antibiotics to their feed. The antibiotics also help the turkeys grow faster and prevent ailments like diabetes, respiratory problems, heart disease and joint pains that result from an unvaried diet and lack of exercise. Because the health of these turkeys is so delicate, the few humans who come in contact with them generally wear masks for fear of infecting them.

    And it's, well, kind of mutilated--

    In order to fatten it up quickly, farmers [sic] clip the beak, transforming it into a kind of shovel. With its altered beak, it can no longer pick and choose what it will eat. Instead, it will do nothing but gorge on the highly fortified corn-based mash that it is offered, even though that is far removed from the varied diet of insects, grass and seeds turkeys prefer.

    But at least it's heavy, available, and cheap! So this Thanksgiving, bow your head and thank the industrial factories and the mass-production technologies that put that yummy turkey on your dinner table.

    Creeping, cancerous, Christmas

    The more I think about Thanksgiving, the more I depend on my childhood memories to keep me safe from the bald cynicism that the modern version of the holiday inspires.

    Even Thanksgiving consumerism isn't what it used to be. I remember when autumn's progress could be measured by the progression of holiday decorations in the stores -- the witches and black cats of Halloween, followed by the turkeys and cornucopeia of Thanksgiving, and then (finally) the trees and Santas of Christmas.

    Now, the Christmas consumer orgy has broken the traditional Thanksgiving barrier, and it's a rare store or public place that bothers to put out the cardboard turkeys and pilgrims. The naked consumerism of Christmas is already lapping up against the shores of Halloween, and in a few years I won't be surprised if the Christmas lights and reindeer get brought out after Labor Day and the jack-o-lanterns of Halloween start to seem like a quaint anachronism.

    The Starbucks in my neighborhood is an instructive example. Sure, they restrained themselves this year and waited until the day after Halloween to set out the Christmas cups and the Santa pens and the tiny Christmas tree in the middle of the store. Sure, they are careful to refer to "the holidays" but it doesn't seem like a coincidence that the store is decorated in red and white and green. Where is the yellow and red and brown of Thanksgiving? Nowhere. People don't traditionally buy home coffeemakers and espresso machines for Thanksgiving, after all.

    Make way for Christmas! Buy early! Our retail sector depends on you! And if you should happen to forget all about Thanksgiving, well. . .we must all do our part for the sake of the Nation's economy. I'm sure you understand.

    Today's young children won't even miss it.

    November 23, 2003

    "...it changes everything"

    I could tell you how great the Extended Edition DVD release of The Two Towers is. But you'll be more likely to credit the opinion of Kansas City Star chief critic Robert Butler -- he hated the theatrical version of Two Towers.

    All too often the special DVD "director's cuts" are of movies that were too long to begin with and certainly don't need additional padding.

    But the new extended DVD version of "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" is a case where more is better. In fact, it changes everything. . .

    . . .So what at first struck me as a tentative and under-inhabited spectacle now emerges as a truly gripping work that succeeds on a much more human, emotional level.

    Watching the three hour theatrical version was a chore. But this nearly four hour DVD cut seems to fly.

    In short, it's a great way to get pumped up for next month's opening of "The Return of the King." And, yes, Peter Jackson is a genius.

    The Extended Edition DVD release of the Two Towers is not just great; it's indispensible.

    November 18, 2003

    We're on our own




    Thanks to the church sign generator via Turquoise Waffle Irons in the Backyard.

    November 14, 2003

    Brother Bear

    I just saw a great movie. Better than the Matrix.

    It's called...

    Brother Bear.

    I know, I know. A Disney movie.

    But the reason it's great is that the story could have been (and probably was) lifted directly from a folktale of the tribes of the Pacific Northwest. Something about it rings true, once you get through the layers of Disneyfication.

    Oh, and the animation is great. Beautiful scenery.

    Brother Bear.

    Worth it!

    November 11, 2003

    Geek Test

    According to this fun-to-take Geek Test, I'm at 32.1499% - a Total Geek.

    I need to practice so I can do better next time...

    November 10, 2003

    ok, I'll play

    The results of my blogging personality test.


    You are a Megnut.
    You help to empower expression while getting money for commentating and speaking -- or trying to anyway.

    Take the What Blogging Archetype Are You test at GAZM.org

    November 08, 2003

    dual booting

    I use a laptop that dual boots Linux and OSX. Problem is, the damned bootloader won't stop and wait for me to choose which operating system to boot. If I'm not there at the right time to push the "x" key, it will default to Linux after about 2 seconds.

    I need to get it to stop and wait while I go get coffee. When I wander back, I want to be able to scratch my crotch and think to myself: "Linux? Or OSX? Hmmm....."

    Clearly a project for winter break.

    Desultory and Perfunctory

    After seeing Matrix Revolutions last night, I felt I needed to get a better grasp on the meaning of two words: desultory and perfunctory.

    Desultory: "Moving or jumping from one thing to another; disconnected"

    Perfunctory: "Done routinely and with little interest or care"

    Hence: "It was disappointing to learn that the story of the Matrix, which in the beginning showed the obvious love of the Wachowski brothers for their story, has been concluded in such a desultory and perfunctory manner. There was no love or passion in this story -- none between Trinity and Neo and none for the story by the scriptwriters, directors, and studio."

    November 05, 2003

    Gothic buildings I've lived in

    One of the factors to consider when deciding whether to attend this school or that school is, "will I get to live in a Gothic building?"

    Living in such buildings is cool. And you don't even have to be interested in vampires.

    I've been lucky. The first Gothic building I was fortunate enough to live in was Hitchcock Hall at the University of Chicago:

    (Thanks to UChicago student Jesse Friedman for the picture...)


    After that, I got to live in Burton-Judson for a while. This was, unsurprisingly, also at the University of Chicago:

    After an inconveniently long period of not living in a Gothic building, I moved into my third Gothic building: the lawyer's club at the University of Michigan Law School:

    I'm sure I'm a better person because I've been able to live in Gothic buildings. It's so tragic that we don't build more of them. I don't know if it's cost, underappreciation of the architecture, or just because people are dumb, but I say: everyone deserves to live in a Gothic building at least once in their lives.

    It enhances your humanity.

    October 17, 2003

    worthless World Series

    The world series will not be worth much this year. I don't care how competitive the games are. It just doesn't matter whether the Yankees or the Marlins win.

    There were four teams in the league championship series. The Cubs and the Red Sox were both there. This meant that there was a 75% chance that the World Series would feature either the Cubs or the Sox, and would therefore be somewhat interesting.

    But no. We got the most worthless, most uninteresting matchup possible. There was only a one-in-four chance of that, but that's what we've got.

    Well, for me the season's over. If you want to waste your time watching the Yankees and Marlins, no one's stopping you. It's a free country.

    October 13, 2003

    Public Service Announcement

    A friend of mine has informed me that, unbeknownst to most self-respecting dorks like me, Sean Astin (who plays Sam Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings movies) directed an episode of Angel last year.

    It remains mysterious why the WB didn't publicize this more aggressively. Speculation about the reasons for their soft-peddling might ultimately rise to the hights of the infamous Tom Bombadil controversy.

    September 29, 2003

    A bit about me

    Just so you know with whom you are dealing with, I will tell you a few things about me. This way, you will feel like you have some idea of what to expect on this blog. Whether this "feeling" is in any way "justified," well, you'll just have to see for yourself.

    Right now, I'm in my first year of law school at the University of Michigan. I came here after earning an MD from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, rather than immediately signing up for a residency in emergency medicine. I might do a residency yet--it all depends on how clinical training will fit in with my long-range life goals, which remain hazy around the edges. For the moment I'm focusing on my classes, this blog, and the upcoming releases of The Two Towers Extended Edition DVD and the Return of the King in theaters (not necessarily in that order).

    My interests are many. Rather than try to list them here, I invite you to read this blog in a regular and repetitive fashion, and learn something from the entries that you find. I will try to spice them up with dorky references to Harry Potter, Buffy, and the Silmarillion. Any critique of medical, legal, or political practices is enhanced with juicy allusions to the high points of our pop culture.

    Welcome to the Waters of Awakening!

    Welcome to my new blog, and congratulations!

    You are reading the very first entry. Many years from now, when your skin hangs loosely from your bones and the world continues its descent into darkness, you will remember this moment and smile. It will seem to you as akin to the moment when the Elves awoke along the shores of the Sea of Helcar and saw the stars for the first time...

    Or, maybe not. Even the wise cannot see all ends...

    Which brings me to my first set of "disclaimers."

    1) There will be a lot of J.R.R. Tolkien references here.

    2) I will occasionally seem pompous and arrogant. Don't worry. It's all an illusion.

    3) It will take me a while to master all the machinery which goes along with blogging, so in the beginning, please remember that I am a rank novice, and cut me some slack. Please, for the love of God, cut me some slack!

    More disclaimers will undoubtedly follow as I think of more things to disclaim. Meanwhile, as Elrond is fond of saying: May the sun shine on your faces!