Sunday, August 31, 2008

Things the Bay Area is Good For, Part XXI

Guess who finally got an iPhone?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Open Thread

Talk about politics here.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Going back to Cali and contracts class

Still alive: don't worry, folks. Tomorrow I get to go to a hearing (yay) and then this weekend I will be in the Bay Area visiting.

In the meantime, a question from a fellow knitter: what is the legal status of sock clubs that make you promise not to sell the club yarns for some extended period? Assume that the rules of the club clearly prohibit sale, but the seller made subsequent clarifying posts on a knitters' message board establishing that trading, even with non-members, is kosher. Assume an existing policy, applying to all yarns by the seller, of no sales for the purposes of profit (but sales are allowed to get rid of yarn that you don't like, although markups are deprecated). What is the import of the parol evidence rule here? The status of mixed cash/yarn trades has not been established (this is important because the pricing differential makes one-for-one trades unlikely).

My inclination is that 1) you're contractually obligated not to sell the yarn, but 2) the chances of actually being penalized are relatively low, as long as you are relatively inoffensive about doing so. Thoughts?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Old Fashioneds = Yum.

My name is Amber and I approve this message.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Amber is a sad panda.

Blackberry, where are you? Also, my brand-new interchangeable needle set came today and the cable broke in the middle of the first row, which nearly caused me to lose half of my sweater. Luckily, it came with two of each cable.

Warning: squicky stuff ahead:

To make my life complete, I have to wear my glasses all week because I lost a contact in my eye and spent the next few hours getting my eyeball scraped and prodded at the urgent care clinic. They said they couldn't find it; I guess I somehow blinked it out without even noticing in my frenzy of attempts to remove it, but just like you have a scratchy feeling in your throat after swallowing a fish bone, it felt like it was still there. Of course, this just means that my eye is actually scratched and I have to put Cipro drops in it and wear my librarian glasses for a few days.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Victim-blame much?

In an article about boorish, drunken British tourists, some hard stats:
A recent report published by the British Foreign Office, “British Behavior Abroad,” noted that in a 12-month period in 2006 and 2007, 602 Britons were hospitalized and 28 raped in Greece, and that 1,591 died in Spain and 2,032 were arrested there.
One of these things is not like the others . . . .

Nuts to Judd Apatow.

Check out this fascinating abortion blog.

Friday, August 22, 2008

My love-hate relationship with puzzles and games

I play a lot of board games, but have never been a huge puzzle person. The trouble is that I play word games and puzzles for the wrong reasons. I like crosswords because solving crosswords typically requires broad knowledge of a variety of cultural touchstones. Being well-read helps you solve the crossword, and therefore solving the crossword validates me as a well-read person, from which I derive a self-esteem boost. The puzzle is only the means to an end. At a certain point, puzzles are just organized mental fidgeting with no purpose or value.

Likewise, I've never seen the appeal of hard-core Scrabble. When I play Scrabble, it is for the purpose of creating interesting words. It validates your large vocabulary. However, at a certain point in Scrabble play you must engage in a rather mind-numbing, uncreative memorization of the two- and three-letter Scrabble-approved words and the placement of words on the board trumps the value of the words themselves. What is the point of putting down a cool word like pixelate or gherkin if your opponent plays some three-letter word straight out of See Spot Run that makes three other boring two- or three-letter words and gets more points?

My gameplaying habits have not won me fans at some gaming events. I enjoy games very much. However, like most people, I prefer to do things I am good at. If I already know how to play and game and that I like it, why would I (absent strong recommendations from a trusted source) set it aside to learn a new game, just of the sake of doing so?

1) It takes much longer to learn and play a new game. I have limited gaming time and want to fit in as many fun sessions as possible.

2) It is less fun to struggle through a new game than to play a game where all the participants already know the rules.

3) There is a chance the new game will suck.

At one local event I mentioned that I don't like to learn new games (if there is an option to instead play something I really like, of course). You'd have thought I killed a puppy before their very eyes. Of course, the same group kept records of the scores of every single player in every single game, even random matches with visitors like me. What is the point of tracking scores in dozens of different games? There is no way to convert the scores into a single metric or ranking, and the rankings would be adulterated anyway by the presence of random entrants and the constant introduction of new games.

Premonetary Barter Economies in the 21st C.

Person A wants Good X. Person B has Good X. Person B declares that she will barter Good X for Goods Y or Z of undisclosed types. Person A doesn't have those goods but could acquire them. Should Person A acquire several samples of Goods Y & Z for purposes of trading with Person B and similar individuals? If only there was some medium that would allow Person A to exchange with Person B in a straightforward fashion . . . .

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Baby Lawyer Advice Thread

Over the next few weeks, thousands of first-year lawyers will be starting work at firms. Do you have advice for them? Hints? Exhortations? Products of bitter experience? This is the place to share your wisdom. If you want to post extremely specific or personal stories, you may do so anonymously.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What lies beneath

Egyptian women in hijab report more sexual harassment than women who go without. Awesome quotes:
"It makes a woman happy when I call to her. It makes her know she's attractive," 20-year-old Alla Aldin Salem said on the sidewalk in Mohandisseen, after going out of earshot of the glaring fellow vendor in hijab.

"The woman herself is the one who makes men harass her," said Fawzi Tahbet, a 50-year-old man selling kitchenware on another stretch of the sidewalk, under the shade of a tree. "If she's walking, swinging as she goes, of course it will happen."
I like how men have no independent will or agency here. If you see a woman walking down the street, you have to harass her. No choice. If this is true, then women should be the guardians of the men, not vice versa.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mooning strikes me more as a C-X thing.

You can always pick out a former high school debater. I knew that there was some reason that I didn't participate. I'm sure the persistent stage fright had nothing to do with it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cheerleading is evil.

In a controlled experiment, n = 2, using the youthful inhabitants of my childhood home, the issue of whether cheerleading is in fact a life-destroying, crippling hobby was studied, with one individual participating in this subsidized evil and one individual taking part in activities with no physical component, like the high school literary magazine.

I have never broken a bone or had surgery, and I have no joint or tendon problems.

What Would Wes Buy?

He hasn't made a good movie since the Royal Tenenbaums, but Wes Anderson has decent taste in other media.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

My internet is boring.

I am devoid of bloggable topics.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Not so crazy about the cotton candy eel.

Steve and I went to minibar last night. There was much liquid nitrogen and foam had by all. Most of the same courses on this website were present last night as well. If you plan on going, though, it might be smart not to click that link; the element of surprise was half of the fun.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Ann Bartow is totally off base.

This discussion reminded me of this old post about message boards that try to exclude specific populations from certain fora, even for browsing, while refusing to implement technological solutions to enforce their rules. Is it "bullying" to lurk in a WOC-only thread? It's hard to say that someone's bullying you if the whole point is that you don't know you're being injured.

UPDATE: A nuanced, charitable exploration of these issues.

Vampire babies? There's some other kind?

This sounds almost as bad as Touched By Venom.

Monday, August 11, 2008


You'll never guess how I spent my day! Was I:

A) Stumbling around in the grip of a severe migraine.
B) Stumbling around while gorked out on migraine medication.
C) Attempting to compensate for previous hours of stumbling around.
D) All of the above.

In the spirit of crabbiness: I really wish that whoever invented the word "glibertarian" would take a long walk off a short pier.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

50 Book Challenge # 46: The Post-Birthday World

Lionel Shriver is probably my favorite contemporary writer. Her last novel, the Orange-Prize-winning We Need to Talk About Kevin, was a wringing and thought provoking look at maternal ambivalence and the potential innateness of evil.

The Post-Birthday World is a very different kind of work, but it is similar in that it reflects back on a woman's life and choices, and asks us what might have been. Where Eva, the narrator of Kevin, could only speculate on what her life would have been like without her unwanted child, in World we follow Irina McGovern on two dual paths and see where each would have led. Did you see Sliding Doors? It's like that, but good. The book alternates timelines by chapter, following Irina as she muddles along in a relationship with a think tank intellectual who is secretly cheating on her, and another course in which she leaves her partner for the snooker playing ex-husband of a former colleague, who gives her a more tumultuous kind of love but can never really connect with her.

Shriver has a quiet, cutting sort of insight into human psychology and relationships, and she doesn't hold back from showing us the very real benefits of each track for Irina, as well as how Irina's behavior patterns and limitations channel her toward similar outcomes no matter what her macro-level choices. We may sometimes ask how our lives would be different if we had made a certain choice, but in many respects the course is set by what is in us, not what we do. Very highly recommended.

(Flashback post: I read this book a couple of months ago.)

Saturday, August 09, 2008

50 Book Challenge #45: Lisey's Story

God, if I ever become this annoyingly saturated with intra-relationship slang you can just kill me.

Critics seemed to love this book, perhaps because it has relatively little gore. There is a much King-ier book buried in this; you get a glimpse of it with the Grand Guignol segment on the dead husband's upbringing and the confrontation with the stalker, but perhaps the best part is how it portrays relationships between siblings, parents, and spouses. The only terrible part (and it's really bad--I almost threw the book aside) is the protagonist's constant use of cutesy slang. It is like listening to someone's pudgy suburban aunt try to avoid swearing. The prose is, as Harold Bloom would be eager to tell you, only servicable, but you will be entertained. Recommended for people who are not too snobby to read Stephen King.

(Flashback post: I read this book a couple of months ago.)

Friday, August 08, 2008


So: I am old, and practically live in the burbs, and am not cool. I signed up for this Twitter thing. How do people use it? When I finally find a store that will sell me an iPhone, do I send updates from my mobile? Do I update from my computer? If so, do I have to log into the Twitter website? God, I feel ancient.

Mink-lined handcuffs and a honeymoon cottage.

Cloning. Vicious dog attacks and heartwarming doggie defense of his mistress. Topless photo shoots. Beauty pageants. Mormon missionaries. Kidnapping and rape. Going on the lam dressed as deaf-mute mimes.

This is too weird to be fake.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Another relationship poll/open thread

How can you get to the age of 25 or 30 and still be fundamentally out of touch with the concept of passionate, romantic love? How can you never have fallen in love?* Do you just never talk to people, meet people, interact? The world is full of people you could fall in love with, all of them irreplaceable and unique, and forgoing each could inspire a different regret.

* One of my friends is running into people like this repeatedly in her dating life, and I'm starting to wonder if I am closer to the emo end of the spectrum than to the Vulcan mindset I aspire to. I have been with men who "didn't know what love means, anyway," but just as often or more frequently I dated guys who seemed to have listened to a little too much Boyz II Men or were proclaiming their adoration before the first bouquet of flowers had wilted.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Random Roundup

A-cup A-listers defy the pressure to augment their assets.

Law schools make firms pay to do OCI? Unless every student is well-employed upon graduation, this strikes me as a betrayal by the school.

Birth is traumatic? I'm inclined to disagree with Jessica; lots of things that have been going on for thousands of years (death in early childhood, maiming and crippling from epidemic disease) are traumatic now because our society is comparatively safe.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Poll of Relationship Disclosure Norms

Websites like can perform a useful function. People love to write online diaries about their personal lives. Your interactions with other people constitute part of their daily experiences. To censor them from writing about you would be to tell them that they could not write about themselves. With that in mind, what information do you expect to remain offline?

- The real name of a former date? Other identifying information?
- The fact that you dated someone at all?
- The length or character or your relationship?
- Why you got together or why you broke up?
- Documentation of personal sexual history (ranging from "good kisser" to "check out these photos")?
- Anecdotes about incidents (good or bad) in your relationship?

If you believe it is generally improper to post any of the above online, are there circumstances in which you would find it warranted? How unusual or creepy would a person have to be for you to feel like a "don't date him, y'all" was justified?

Monday, August 04, 2008

The hero that Gotham needs right now?

This NYT profile of trolls has caught attention from some of my favorite bloggers. (I have been mulling over a long and detailed response to them, but in the meantime here is something dashed off and flippant.) The article examines a dark internet subculture that delights in hacking websites to induce seizures in epileptics, harassing women, and deceiving readers of personal ads into providing titillating information and then distributing the information far and wide, as well as more conventional criminal activity. The internet has made it possible for sociopaths to find like-minded compatriots and act in concert.

Belle notes that this is a conflict between competing norms and asks how to counter the new, evil norms. Megan McArdle has one answer:
The internet has allowed the deviants to find each other, to construct a community with shared norms that tolerate, even celebrate, the pain of others. And it cloaks them in sufficient anonymity to get by in the outside world. If people knew what they had done, I doubt they'd survive two weeks--no one would sell them food, rent them shelter, or for that matter, permit them to merge into the exit lane.* But no one knows.

I doubt that the solution is, as the author suggests, just to learn to live with it. Rather, I'd expect that countertrolls will emerge--hackers who put as much energy into harassing these people as they put into harassing us. Evolutionary biologists call people like that "altruistic punishers", and they serve an invaluable purpose in any society.
Which mode of conduct will survive online is in part determined by the numerosity and energy of the adherents of each norm. Witness any moderately controversial Wikipedia article: unless it's frozen by mods (the long arm of the coercive state, in our model), the content will reflect not the most accurate conception but that of the most single-minded proponent with the most free time. One of the reasons that the AutoAdmit boards were so toxic is that law students and aspiring law students have a lot of spare time and often have very aggressive personalities (at least the wannabe litigators).

So how to counter trollish behavior by individuals with no other hobbies or interests? You really need a few obsessive anti-troll crusaders: people with the skills to become evil, but who use their strengths for good instead. Note that one of the women in the NYT article prevails upon one powerful troll for rescue from the predations of another band. This is like asking the godfather for justice when you are wronged by another criminal. What she really needed was a Batsignal.

* If someone posted Jason Fortuny's whereabouts online, how long would he last? Is this on Intrade?

Sunday, August 03, 2008


I want one of these so bad, but there is no way to charge it in our building's garage. This sort of infrastructure problem is going to make it difficult for people living in dense housing to get more efficient vehicles. I should go be the crank at our next condo board meeting and nag about this.

Who shoots a dog as it runs away?

I wonder if these cops also shoot fleeing suspects in the back. (via)

Saturday, August 02, 2008


Melissa Lafsky versus Kerry Howley: not even a contest.


I am extensively quoted in an article about the Attorney General of West Virginia.