Monday, June 30, 2008

50 Book Challenge #41: Wolfblade

If I am going to read fantasy this trashy, I expect more sex and death. Moderately interesting, but ultimately derivative.

50 Book Challenge # 40: Splinter

Interesting post-apocalyptic SF, although the number of characters seems too low for a reasonable breeding population. Gets all surreal and topiary at the end. Verdict: meh.

Darwin Award Playoffs Begin

Idiots make pilgrimage to site of other idiot's death; are likely to die idiotically.

50 Book Challenge #35-39: Tales of the Otori

I liked this better when it was called The Once and Future King.

50 Book Challenge #33 & 34: The Museum of Dr. Moses & 20th Century Ghosts

Two books of unsettling short stories. One is a little more polished, the other more lively. If both collections are much like what we've seen before by the author or a member of the author's family, it doesn't detract much from the pleasure of reading them. Recommended for short story fans.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

50 Book Challenge #32: The Ministry of Special Cases

This was a good book, and might have been a better book had the disappeared kid not been such an annoying twerp. Good for people who like Death & the Maiden but don't want to support dirty old Roman Polanski.

None of this is as bad as scratching through your skull.

American men hate vasectomies. Doctors do it without needles or scalpels now, but some men still won't go for it. You know what's painful, guys? Three to five centimeter episiotomy incisions. Perineal lacerations from 4.9 to 1.9 cm in length. Blood clots and strokes.

Going through a brief period of moderate discomfort with a stiff upper lip, especially if it spares your partner much more severe agonies: isn't that really macho?

Movie Review: A Lawyer Walks Into A Bar

Warning: vague spoilers.

A colleague recommended A Lawyer Walks Into A Bar, a documentary about the California bar exam, and I convinced Steve to watch it with me this week. It brought back lots of memories, especially since our humble protagonists took the test at the Ontario site (which they complained altogether too much about; there's an In-n-Out within walking distance, which is all you need).

It is a little silly, but the test-takers are mostly sympathetic. The main exception, who is insufferably princessy and looks disturbingly like one of my least favorite people, fails, so you get a nice dose of schadenfreude with your entertainment. I'm not sure why the head of one exam prep company agreed to be in the film; the test results don't exactly reflect well on his product. We spent a few minutes after the movie ended trying to figure out the fates of the test-takers; one was working as a contract attorney and one was at a small firm; one other passed the bar but there's no evidence that s/he's in practice. Recommended for J.D.s and wannabes.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Friday, June 27, 2008

Law Career Advice Bleg

Any career advice for my 1L friend?
  • He wants to become an AUSA after 2-4 years at a firm. "Political" firms are okay.
  • He is interested in white collar defense and government investigations.
  • He is a "a bleeding heart lefty albeit a somewhat moderate one."
  • He doesn't want to work in NYC.
Which firms in D.C. would you recommend to my friend for 2L employment? What long-term path would be best for him to follow?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sorry, your score only qualifies you for a slingshot.

Something I hadn't given much thought to until it was mentioned in passing in this DCist post on the Heller ruling: if it's unconstitutional to require literacy tests for voting, should it be unconstitutional to require a written test for gun ownership?

Police Files

Cops (at least in D.C.) have been known to kick prone, submissive suspects in the groin. Police in other jurisdictions steal, extort, and arrange gladiator games by forcing gangs to fight each other.

Unrelatedly: two concepts I hadn't heard of before: circumstantial innocence and optical intercourse. The former appears most vulnerable to the criticism that wanting to think about something and wanting to actually do that thing are extremely different; the latter also conflates desire with action.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fame: SO edition

Steve is in the NYT today!

The article highlights how dumb the plaintiffs were:
Brenda Stanhouse, who bought the game for her son, 15 years old at the time, said in a deposition that she did not know that a player in the game could “stomp to death innocent pedestrians.”

She also did not know that the game included prostitutes, that players could kill policemen or that “a player in the game can kill innocent pedestrians and steal money from them.”

“I’m aware that there is killing in the game,” Ms. Stanhouse said in the deposition. “I wasn’t aware of the stealing.”
The game is called Grand Theft Auto. * facepalm *

That the plaintiffs claim not to have been aware of the other sexual elements of the game partially undermines the article's premise that this is somehow motivated by parents' concern about sex and not violence.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Most Overrated Books?

These are the kind of books that I utterly loathe.
I importuned a bunch of writers and hacks about books they had read that now, when mentioned, make the red mist descend. Books that made them angry just thinking about them; that were once clotted with extravagant critical praise, like the butter surrounding the tiny crustaceans in the potted shrimp at White’s club, or that sort of sprang from the collective consciousness of the metropolitan elite of the time and that everybody felt they had to read. And that, from either category, we now realise are close to worthless.
This is another reason I am reluctant to read contemporary fiction. There's been no shaking out of the genuine masterpieces from the empty, trendy also-rans.

Help Blind Russians

This organization supports blind students and professionals in Russia. For only $30, you could buy a cane for a needy blind person.

The organization itself could use some help, too:

The MN Adamov Memorial Fund was registered as a nonprofit corporation in Massachusetts in 2005. It is not a Federal tax-deductible organization yet. (It will cost almost $1000 for that, and that's not how we want to spend the money--unless you are a lawyer who will help us pro bono.)

It is not an area of the law that I’m familiar with, but maybe publicizing their need will make it more likely that someone knowledgeable will help.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Dos and Don'ts: Police Files Edition

Is it reasonable to repeatedly kick a prone, submissive suspect in the groin? The D.C. Circuit says no.
Striking the groin is the classic example of fighting dirty. From the schoolyard scrapper to the champion prizefighter, no pugilist takes lightly the threat of a hit below the belt. What's more, Bruce supposedly kicked a man while he was down, hard enough to produce bloody urine. Although the constable surely has authority to use physical force in effecting an arrest, there are gradations of appropriate violence. A kick to the groin tends toward the vicious end of that scale. We have no trouble finding that Bruce's repeated kicks to Johnson's groin were a serious intrusion on his Fourth Amendment interests.

Next, we consider the countervailing governmental interests. An officer in Bruce's position has a legitimate and substantial interest in apprehending an armed suspect and protecting himself and the public from possible harm. Although these are weighty interests, it is not clear how kicking Johnson in the groin furthered either of them. (citations omitted)
I have a feeling that this case never would have seen the light of day had the kickee been a regular guy, not an off-duty cop.

Houston: Threat or Menace?

Paul Gowder, on the city of my birth:
Houston? Houston is the worst place in the world, a sprawling, ugly, traffic-laden, polluted, Republican hellmouth.
Unlike most of the country, Houston is doing pretty well right now. It still gets no love, though. Nobody writes poems about Houston.

The smog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over a sea of traffic
on Highway 90
and settles in.

. . . doesn't have that ring.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Goffman, Blogging

On writing, self presentation, and the internet:
Recourse to a backstage area is only one of a number of techniques by means of which performers may make the task of self-presentation more manageable. ...

I think that in fact there are no backstage areas online. On the internet, everything is a front, yet the stress and strain of maintaining a constant and universal front is so great that many performers on the internet make a show of abandoning the standards conventionally associated with a front. On the internet, the audience is with you too often, and sees you from too many angles, for you to pull any wool over their eyes, so the safest way to present yourself is by underselling. No intimacy comes with this deshabille, however. The environment remains dangerous. One skips through no-man's-land in one's pyjamas, as it were. If we live on the internet, as Keith suggested by the title he chose for tonight's event, then we keep ourselves as slovenly there as if we were backstage, yet feel as isolated and as trapped within our shells as if we were in front of the footlights....

Goffman writes that when a performer is publicly discredited, "the members of the audience may discover a fundamental democracy that is usually well hidden." That sounds like a boon, but it may be worth keeping in mind that the most powerful CEOs and politicians in America not only do not blog, they do not even use email. There is accordingly a limit to the internet's revolutionary potential.
I think this underestimates the potential of the net. It's not necessary for Barack Obama or John McCain to blog. If people around them--people who see them "backstage"--blog, then roughly the same thing is accomplished. (It's not as effective, since we don't see everything, and have no access to their unspoken opinions or motivations, but for that reason it may have more of an impact, since they are subject to the bloggers' interpretations and subjective perceptions and thus are at their mercy, unless they provide that inner access--almost blogging by proxy.)

Note to self

Check gauge before knitting entire first sock. Your socks will fit better.

Unrelatedly: I just bought some custom clothes over Ebay. (Like this, but cheaper.) It is sort of depressing to send measurements to Asian tailors.
waist [redacted] inches is your natural waist above belly button right? Many of my customers mistaken the low waist due to wearing low rise pants and skirts, so i have to make sure.. natural waist is smallest part of body above belly button.
Nope, that's just how big it is. This is even worse than shopping in Japan.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Snape has a long lost brother!

Off-Label EC?

If mifepristone is the best form of emergency contraception, with fewer side-effects and better efficacy, and it is already FDA-approved for other uses, what is stopping doctors from writing off-label prescriptions for it to be used as EC? (Update: besides the fact that it has to be administered by the doctor?)

"A- is the mark of entitled mediocrity."

This is sort of an insufferable article, but that doesn't mean that the author is wrong about the disadvantages of an elite education. Many of the themes of J.K. Rowling's Harvard commencement address are echoed. (via)

Disney Teaches Men About Hotness

Timothy Sandefur points out that much of what guys need to remember about male hotness can be summed up in a few lyrics from Mary Poppins:
You’d never think of pressing
Your advantage
Forbearance is the hallmark
Of your creed....
You have to be strong enough to have an advantage, but gentlemanly enough to never even seem as if you would press it. To this, add a dollop of casual openness to sensual pleasure and blend.

(Sandefur also muses on how women can be hot with greater ease because we're shooting at more targets. This is the only target I am shooting at.)

Everything we've discussed so far has been about heterosexuals. I'm sure there are some interesting variances on these themes in same-sex relationships, but I'm reluctant to generalize without experience in the area.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

50 Book Challenge: A Confession

I have read 50 books.

I just haven't reviewed them. In fact, I am so far behind on my reviews that I have started to forget what I've read. I'm debating embracing some kind of incredibly laconic, word-limited gimmick to allow me to actually review the books in question. Is this cheating? I'm dying here, people.

O zorn!

Dear Amber,

We wanted to let you know we will be eliminating Profiles, the feature that allowed you to set up separate DVD Queues under one account, effective September 1, 2008.

Each additional Profile Queue will be unavailable after September 1, 2008. Before then, we recommend you consolidate any of your Profile Queues to your main account Queue or print them out.

While it may be disappointing to see Profiles go away, this change will help us continue to improve the Netflix website for all our customers.
I am on the 6-at-a-time plan. Switching to two 3-at-a-time accounts for Steve and me will net Netflix -$2. Please don't make me do that, guys.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Life is Pain, Highness.

This is horrifying. Guys, there are so many petite ladies out there who would love to be with you. I can almost understand it for the sub-5' male set, but for someone 5'6"? 5'8"? Even in stiletto heels, there are plenty of women shorter than that. (And of course the whole idea that you have to be taller than your lady is sexist nonsense.)

If you want to be crass about it: Research indicates that women will broaden their dating prospects if you have more money--wouldn't $200,000 put a sizable dent in your love handicap? If an extra inch of height is only worth $1,000 per year in additional wages, is it likely that the impact on discrimination in the workplace will make this stuff pay for itself?

N.B. The average height for American men in the Details piece errs on the high side of the actual average. This seems to ring true; the average American man is 5'9" but says he's 5'10".

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Summer Reading

Some people on Unfogged got into a discussion of high school books and I looked up the summer reading lists for my old school district to see what they have kids reading these days.

A lot of the curriculum appears to be the same (A Separate Peace! Bleargh!), but what I find vaguely disquieting is that the summer reading requirements for the same course vary from school to school in a way that correlates rather closely with the composition of the student body.

For example, these books are required summer reading for the AP or pre-AP courses at the district's wealthiest school: Rebecca; Alas, Babylon; Lord of the Flies; 1984; Interpreter of Maladies; Slaughterhouse-Five; Poisonwood Bible; Crime and Punishment.

The same courses at the district's poorest school require: Anthem; Light in the Forest; Black Boy; 10 op-eds from news publications; Poisonwood Bible; Candide; plus two more selections that they didn't bother to announce.

Anyway, this is your opportunity to vent about terrible books you were forced to read (or wonderful books that were ruined for you by being forced to read them) or to bash my suburban school district.

Bloomsday, Trekkies, and Grown Women in Wizard Robes: A Common Thread?

An interesting question on fandoms and how they arise:
Bloomsday is fannish behaviour. It’s the same sort of thing as a Star Trek convention. Most authors don’t attract a fandom. There are exceptions: Conan Doyle and Jane Austen come to mind. But Ulysses? True, it’s a limited fandom — I don’t think anyone’s ever written Ulysses fanfic — but it’s a genuine fandom, and I’d like to know what there is about Joyce or Ulysses that permits it.
Re-enactment isn’t necessary for fandom. I don’t think it’s something prompted by detail either. Conan Doyle tells us very little about Sherlock Holmes (and even less about Dr. Watson) but there is a distinct Holmes fandom. On the other hand, you could probably conduct a whale hunt using Moby-Dick as a guide, but I know of no society, “The Shipmates of the Pequod.”
I've never been a big Joyce fan (too attached to plot, and I find wordplay for its own sake wearying). Why does Ulysses capture the imagination so? This is sort of a Henry Jenkins question, but it's been a while since I immersed myself in that particular scholarly pool.

Random Roundup

Bizarre Japanese Wii game.

Cute science tee shirts.

How to tone your thighs.

"When I get bored I smear peanut butter all over the dogs' faces and watch them lick it off each other."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Steve, Speciesist.

Me: Doesn't this cat look like Lily?
Steve: No, not really. That cat is much lighter.
Me: But it has the same markings, blue eyes, cinnamon-colored muzzle and pink nose. It is lighter than she is but they look somewhat alike.
Steve: All cats have markings and noses! That doesn't mean anything. If I put Lily in a pound with 200 other cats you would not be able to find her.
Me: You are just racist against cats. "Blah blah, all cats look alike! They're just a bunch of barfing animals!"

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Gender and Acting Hot

The men in the comments are skeptical about whether women would really appreciate their trying to act hot, per the previous post. Paul Gowder contends that one thing keeping men from manifesting hotness is the "looks bar":
I think the looks bar for men being able to get away with that sort of thing is higher. [The Apostate stated that "t]his lawyer, if he hadn't been shortish and cute as a button would have come across as creepy with those lingering gazes and flirty affectations." (Women who aren't actively repulsive can act sexy without punishment.)
I noted that part of men's difficulty with acting hot-but-not-creepy may be a lack of role models. Women can pick up "acting hot" from the plethora of hypersexualized female images in our culture, but men have fewer models to work from and thus are more likely to fall into an uncanny valley of almost-suaveness.

marcus challenged the idea that women would actually be receptive to hot-acting men:
Men are pathetically responsive to any sign of sexual seductiveness and unlikely to pick holes in the performance. Whereas women are as selective in this area as they are in the rest of the mating game, and more likely to deliver a withering critique when there are problems in the execution.
I've heard enough men give withering critiques of women's sexual presentation to think that this is fairly common for both sexes. Women may also be so intrigued to see a rare hot-acting man that they may be less likely to criticize. (The relative lack of models may work to men's advantage here; women have far less well-formed ideas of the various forms of hot-acting men.)

Assume, however, that women do in fact react more negatively to average males' attempts to act hot than men do to average women's. Why is it okay for physically attractive men to work it but not okay for less handsome ones? Can plain women act sexy without negative reactions? Hmm.

An integral part of hotness, per The Apostate's post, is "when a man acknowledges his sex appeal and wears it proudly on his person, in every look and gesture and the way he moves, signaling that at any moment, he’s down for doing the dirty." This makes him someone the viewer would have sex with (henceforth "A-hot").

The reason why unattractive women are not deemed creepy for acting sexy is that sexual advances from ugly women are not threatening. The small but real potential for a sexual advance from an unattractive man to turn into a nonconsensual sexual encounter discomfits the recipient. (By definition, a sexual advance from an A-hot man, if it turned into an encounter, would be consensual and desired.)

If you are not Pierce Brosnan or a button-cute attorney in California, how do you embrace your A-hotness without social opprobrium? The best advice I can think of is to project a non-threatening, humanistic, demeanor. An advance from someone who obviously regards you as an equal, desires enthusiastic consent, and doesn't act entitled or take himself too seriously is much more likely to be taken in good cheer, no matter what the fellow looks like. One can make sexual advances without objectification.

I also don't know if I buy the idea that women can act sexy without punishment; women who flaunt their sexuality are taken less seriously, have their agency undermined (overtures perceived as blanket and irrevocable consent), and are stereotyped as sluts by more puritanical folk. Men can also be a bit more direct in their advances than women can without being perceived as crass or crude. If it's unseemly for women in general to be too direct about their sexual needs, it's even more socially frowned upon for ugly women to do so (the subtext being that if anyone wanted to be with ugly women, he would have come to them; their more forceful approach is just evidence of their pathetic solitude, etc.). Needless to say, this is bad.

* And men who love men, but I'm interested in the gender roles at work here.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Ewan and Colin know.

The Apostate, on sex appeal:
It’s not uncommon for me to look at a woman and go, “Oh my. She’s hot.” And for me, “hot” means fuck-worthy, not merely good looking (Lance calls it “oomph”). And I rarely see a man like that - and that’s not because there aren’t good looking men around. “Hot” — or “hawt” — is when a man acknowledges his sex appeal and wears it proudly on his person, in every look and gesture and the way he moves, signaling that at any moment, he’s down for doing the dirty. Many women - including me when I’m feeling it, more rarely now that I’m getting old and bitter - do it consciously or unconsciously. Men? Much less common. Very unusual, in fact.
I generally attribute this to the fact that most men don't try to look hot. Projection takes effort! Maybe guys have internalized the idea that male bodies are unattractive and rely on dominance-related methods of establishing themselves as sexual beings. You are sublime, guys! Tap that knowledge, and go forth in hotness.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Judge holds that having attorneys bill 15 hour days during trial shows commendable industry but is nonetheless unreasonable.” (via)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Northern European Mutt?

What am I supposed to say when asked about my ethnicity? I don't find "American" to be a satisfying response, freighted as it is with nativist connotations, but for those of us who cannot trace our origins to any single immigrant group and who keep few or no traditions associated with a particular "old country" culture, are we supposed to just respond with befuddled silence? That is itself problematic, in that it presumes a white-bread default state. I suppose I am mostly Scotch-Irish, although my stepfather's Japanese background was probably a more obvious influence when I was growing up than anything else.

Go Zittrain!


Precious moments

Crying at work = totally fine. At least if you're the CEO of Microsoft.

Probably my most terrible crying-at-work experience was when I locked myself out of my apartment on my second day of clerking with a sick cat, drove to work listening to a really ominous voicemail from my then-boyfriend, called him from the parking garage at eight-thirty in the morning so he could tell me that he cheated on me, and then cried in my car until I gave myself a nosebleed. Some people cry photogenically, but I swell and turn colors and generally look like a hot mess. To the eternal credit of my judge and fellow clerks, they didn't say anything, then or any of the other times over the next week or two that I had to take a little break to sob uncontrollably in the bathroom.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


The subtle flavors of the Double Chocolate Cupcakes with Ricotta, Bourbon, and Orange Zest and the Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cake with Glazed Oranges were wasted on the folks at Steve's work picnic, who preferred gooey globs of chocolate and custard or cookies made of cake batter and funfetti.

Killed for the color of their skin

Could an albino from Tanzania obtain asylum? Albinism is not a race, although albinos could be considered a "social group." (via)

Friday, June 06, 2008

Squaring numbers is just like women.

Via Julian Sanchez, a funny little song about math. I was never a big Tom Leherer fan, although Poisoning Pigeons in the Park is cute.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A general denial, with spice

Via Overlawyered, an answer worth reading.

There's only one attorney at the firm with the initials "W.D.": any bets on whether he will be at the firm much longer? I would hope that this was a silly first draft and that the junior associate printed the wrong version and signed for the partner without reading it.

Help me win a dessert contest!

This weekend I will be entering a dessert contest. I leave it to you, the PTN readership, to choose the recipe for my entry. Some possibilities:

Chocolate Stout Ganache Cake

Ingredient-Intensive Chocolate Cake

Red Velvet Cake with Berries (a personal favorite)

Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cake with Glazed Oranges

Double Chocolate Cupcakes with Ricotta, Bourbon, and Orange Zest

Caramel Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Triple Citrus Bars

Whole Lemon Tart

Note: I am not particularly skilled at cake decoration, so recipes that involve lots of artfully shaped marzipan are probably not a good idea.

Change we can believe in?

Does Barack Obama yearn for stasis?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

I believe the technical term is "wacko."

My freshman year of college, I met a woman who claimed to be a virgin and grossed out by sex, but who flirted often with men. It turned out that she had been knocked up, married, and divorced, foisted the baby off on relatives, concealed her past by telling new friends that photos were of her niece, and reinvented herself every year for a new group of people. She also falsely accused a mutual friend of sexual assault and made my rooming situation unlivable by spinning a series of lies about me to new residents after I discovered her true past. Her liver was a born-again virgin too: every fall she claimed to have never been drunk before. (The preceding year's party photos begged to differ.)

This ATL post just jogged my memory. I doubt that any HLR editors have secret children in Spain, though.

UPDATE: She works in AI research now! This is why Skynet will turn on humanity.

Preach it.

I also hate LinkedIn. It is Facebook for people who want to hide all evidence of their personalities. It has all the charm of the Yellow Pages. It is almost completely useless. HATE.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

More HLR Shenanigans?

The great-grandson of one of the founders of the Harvard Law Review contends that Phil Telfeyan's Never Again Should a People Starve in a World of Plenty isn't the only dubious Note in the May 2008 issue of the HLR.

If I didn't know how dumb HLS students can be, I would wonder whether the May 2008 HLR was secretly doctored at the printer's by a YLS mole.

UPDATE: I believe it quite likely that the author of the moot court brief and the Note author are the same person. I also don't find it objectionable that sections of the Note were the same as sections found in an adversarial brief. I agree with McKelvey that it would behoove the HLR to make at least some statement regarding the Telfeyan Note.

Relatedly: Someone else has started a blog about HLR called Harvard Clown School. I am not sure whether it is related to the Harvard Parody blog from a few years ago.


The darkest of dark materials.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Random Roundup

- How to determine your worth (mine is $4440)

- A pair of photos

- Something that got me in trouble when I blogged about it a few years ago

- WANT. Also, WANT, for parallel secret life as a socialite in Monaco. (via)

- How to get no-offered by a law firm

Bleg: I need black strappy evening sandals. Suggestions welcome.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

I still had to look up "half-and-half," though.

(I am reading a draft brief on the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas settlement. There are many website citations. )

Steve: How long do tiny earls last?
Me: What?
Steve: You don't know what tiny earl is? How can you have been on the internet for like thirty years (ed. note: not true) and not know about tiny earl? Tiny earl dot com!
Me: You mean tiny U-R-L dot com?
Steve: Yes!
Me: U-R-L, not "earl." Tiny earl--what is that, like Prince Albert in a can? Earl? Come on!
Steve: * smolders *
Me: * laughing hysterically * John McCain was a pow!
Steve: Shut up.