12.28.2006

Something to Ponder

Question: If a Muslim father makes one a Muslim (a claim falsely made by Debbie Schlussel to smear Barack Obama) and a Jewish mother makes one a Jew, if a Muslim man marries a Jewish woman and they have a kid, is the child both Muslim and Jewish?

If so, can we fix the whole Middle Eastern situation through intermarriage?

Richard Dawkins would argue against the frame of the question. In his latest book, The God Delusion, he posits that children can't truly hold religious beliefs, so a child is a "child of Jewish parents" rather than a "Jewish child."

UPDATE: As I thought, being a Muslim requires one to submit to Allah. So much for that idea.

12.19.2006

Profound Atheist Quote

"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." -Stephen Roberts

12.14.2006

A Momentary Reprieve

As of 9:05 pm last night, I'm done with finals for this semester. Not sure how I did on my last exam, but at this point I'm placing all my faith in the professor's excellent grading skills. Wish me luck.

12.12.2006

Michigan Proposition 2

In the wake of Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244 (2003) (invalidating a hard 20-pt advantage for racial minorities in admissions) and Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003)
288 F.3d 732, affirmed (upholding flexible racial preferences in admissions), Proposition 2 passed in Michigan. The language of the proposition, which won despite opposition from the Democratic governor and her Republican opponent.

The language of the proposition is as follows:
"The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting."


Is the passage of this initiative a good thing or a bad thing, and why? Cathy Young's Boston Globe column argues that it's progress in ending racism, while Cheryle Jackson argues in the Chicago Sun Times that affirmative action is still vital.

My biggest problem with affirmative action is that you don't get what you want by settling for something you don't want. Law students that want to do public interest work don't get there by joining big firms. I can't see the path to ending racial discrimination that stops at institutionalizing racial preferences on the way.

If affirmative action is necessary to dismantle years of institutionalized racism, when will it no longer be necessary? Furthermore, are any of the affirmative action laws and policies written with these success criteria?

Institutions have their own momentum and are much harder to stop than they are to start. We should be careful about trying to destroy one institution (racism) by starting another one (affirmative action).

12.10.2006

Code Monkey

Derek sent me a link to Jonathan Coulton's Code Monkey, a beautiful little song.

His code not functional not function or elegant. What do Code Monkey think? Code Monkey think maybe manager wanna write god damn login page himself. Code Monkey not say it out loud. Code Monkey not crazy, just proud.


Yours truly,
Mr. X


...code monkey...

11.27.2006

For Want of a Nail

Many houses are lost in hurricanes and earthquakes, not due to failure of the wood, but due to failure of the nails to hold the structure together in gale force winds. Dr. Ed Sutt has invented a nail that solves this problem (all for about $15 more in the cost of new home construction).

Sutt’s bosses at Bostitch must be happy too. The company is selling every HurriQuake nail it produces and has been doubling production capacity every month. Although the nail is currently available only in the Gulf region (it adds about $15 to the cost of an average 2,000-square-foot house), the company is adding new production lines to meet nationwide demand. Meanwhile, the nail is getting rave reviews from building-technology experts.

“This is a major innovation,” says Tim Reinhold, director of engineering for the Institute for Business and Home Safety, an insurance-industry research group. “And in places that are affected by high winds and earthquakes, it looks like it’s going to make a big difference.”


Simply amazing.

11.16.2006

Milton Friedman Passes Away at 94

Milton Friedman, nobel prize winner and champion of liberty, passed away this morning in San Francisco. His son David has a truly touching epitaph:
Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But the good name never dies
Of one who has done well.


Words to live by on our shuffle through this coil.

11.14.2006

A Cry for Help

I'm not normally one for blegging, but if any readers know people at DC law firms and would be willing to pass my resume along for a 2007 Summer Associate position, I'd be greatly appreciative.

11.07.2006

Election Day

I got up early and voted this morning. Kevin Zeese for Senate, Bob Ehrlich for Governor, and a melange of abstaining, writing myself in, and voting for the Republican (since it's a Democrat-heavy district and I'm a contrarian) in the down-ticket races.

My girlfriend, like Jeremy, isn't sure about voting. She (and all other Marylanders) should at least go to the polls to vote for Kevin Zeese for Senate, even if you leave the rest of the ballot blank.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...voter...

10.12.2006

Amish Proceed Stoically Following Tragedy

Rather than place a memorial or some other shrine to the five little girls killed in a school shooting in Nickel Mines, PA, the Amish community quitely demolished the schoolhouse in the wee hours of the morning and plan to leave the site as a pasture.

One of the toughest aspects of being stoic is accepting that death is a natural part of life and that we're all living, quite literally, on borrowed time. Ironically, accepting death allows one to live life more fully. As it is said, tempus fugit, memento mori.

10.06.2006

Will, Quoting Sager, on What's Wrong With Conservatives

George Will is no longer amused by the Republican Party's hijinks. This column blasts Mark Foley and Dennis Hastert for scandal and coverup, respectively.

Foley, who has entered alcohol rehab, says he takes "responsibility" for what he has become as a result of abusive priests and demon rum.

Having so quickly exhausted the Oprah approach, the Foley story moved on to who knew what, and when. That drove Speaker Dennis Hastert to the un-Oprah broadcasting couch on which Republicans recline when getting in touch with their feelings. To Rush Limbaugh's 20 million receptive listeners, Hastert, referring to Republicans as "we," said:

"We have a story to tell, and the Democrats have -- in my view have -- put this thing forward to try to block us from telling the story. They're trying to put us on defense."

It is difficult to read that as other than an accusation: He seems to be not just confessing a coverup but also complaining that the coverup was undone by bad manners. Were it not for Democrats' unsportsmanlike conduct in putting "this thing" forward, it would not be known and would not be disrupting Republicans' storytelling.


Ah, if it weren't for "those meddling kids," Hastert would have gotten away with it. I'm shedding a tear. No really, it's trickling down my cheek right now.

Lots more good and well-deserved criticism in the column, but the real money paragraph is this one, excerpted from Ryan Sager's book, "The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians, and the Battle to Control the Republican Party":

"Whereas conservative Christian parents once thought it was inappropriate for public schools to teach their kids about sex, now they want the schools to preach abstinence to children. Whereas conservative Christians used to be unhappy with evolution being taught in public schools, now they want Intelligent Design taught instead (or at least in addition). Whereas conservative Christians used to want the federal government to leave them alone, now they demand that more and more federal funds be directed to local churches and religious groups through Bush's faith-based initiatives program."


It's the most clear and concise description of what happened to the Republican Party. Looks like when the Dems gave up the "Dixiecrats" it was like selling smallpox-infested blankets to the Indians.

9.27.2006

The Most Fun Violation of Legal Ethics

Breaking Model Rule 1.8(j):
(j) A lawyer shall not have sexual relations with a client unless a consensual sexual relationship existed between them when the client-lawyer relationship commenced.


Looks like Howard K. Stern broke that rule at least once with Anna Nicole Smith.

9.24.2006

Lincoln on Litigation

"Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough." -Abraham Lincoln

9.21.2006

Medical Tourism and Stupid Unions

I was listening to Marketplace Takeout this morning on the way into work and heard something interesting. You know how the conventional wisdom is that in-person services like surgeries are shielded from global competition? According to this story, that's all changing.

This month, eight Americans are scheduled for stomach stapling surgery here at Delhi's Apollo Hospital. That complicated procedure is only going to cost them $5,000 in India, compared to at least $20,000 to get it done at home. There's a simple reason why medical care is so much cheaper here — the cost of labor is that much lower in India.
...
Apollo lures foreign patients with "five-star wellness packages" that are more like vacations than medical treatments. It starts off in a deluxe hospital suite on the top floor of the facility, where the nurses have been trained to pamper foreign patients.


Sweet deal, huh? You get quality medical care at 25% the cost, and you get to stay in a luxury suite while you do it. I don't need a stomach stapling, but if I did, I'd be all over the idea of getting an international vacation out of the deal.

According to a related story, companies are all over the idea too.

Carl Garrett is 60. He's worked as a technician at the same paper mill in North Carolina for 40 years. When I first spoke to him he was a week away from having his gall bladder removed and a rotator cuff mended at the Apollo Hospital in New Delhi.

GARRETT: "I'm not nervous. Matter of fact, I'm just excited and anxious to get going."

His employer, Blue Ridge Paper, can save tens of thousands of dollars if an employee has an operation in India rather than North Carolina. But their nascent healthcare option saves Garrett money too. The luxury package to India is completely covered by the company: he'll even get a portion of their savings. To have both operations done at home, he says, he'd fork out up to $10,000 in deductibles and out-of-plan costs.


Win-win, right? Garrett is excited about the trip, gets needed medical care, and saves money. Blue Ridge Paper saves money on providing the treatment and gets a healthy employee. What could possibly be the problem? Garrett's union, that's what.

But a few days after we spoke events took an unexpected turn. Local leaders at United Steelworkers, Garrett's union, voiced loud objections to the trip. At the last minute, Blue Ridge Paper told him it was off. Union representative Stan Johnson:

STAN JOHNSON: "It's deplorable that the right to safe and secure healthcare in somebody's own country should be surrendered for any reason, much less bartered for a tour of the Taj Mahal or five-star accommodations."


"Deplorable" that Mr. Garrett should have the freedom to barter with his employer "for a tour of the Taj Mahal or five-star accommodations." Personally, I think it's deplorable that Mr. Garrett's union would force him to delay his surgery and go into debt for it. And so does he:

CARL GARRETT: I'm still in a, kind of a state of disbelief. It's a crying shame that, uh, I don't have that option, simply because of a union that I have supported for 40 years. And as far as I'm concerned they have taken money out of my pocket." The irony, he says, is that the other union members he works with couldn't wait for him to get back, to decide whether to sign up for an overseas operation themselves.

9.14.2006

Keillor on Airline Security

I almost never agree with Garrison Keillor on anything political, but his latest column in the Chicago Tribune is brilliant.

They can search each laptop for possible terrorist-type writing and confiscate cell phones, white powder, shoelaces, car keys, pencils, anything sharp or cylindrical or made of glass, and interrogate people randomly, putting them naked into cold rooms with ugly music played at top volume. It's all fine with me. I'm a liberal and we love ridiculous government programs that intrude on personal freedom. But where are the conservatives who used to object to this sort of thing?


Alas, the conservatives have been replaced by Republofascists who make up agencies with names like Department of Homeland Security, and the country is worse off for it.

8.29.2006

A New Drinking Dilemma

In a drinker's life, there are many hard choices: Bourbon or Scotch? Vodka or Gin? Lager or Ale?

While I've successfully dealt with all of these before, there's a new dilemma that has me stumped:

Beef or Pork?

Like the infamous OPB, I might take a pass on this one.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...eclectic...

8.24.2006

Three Book Reviews

Three excellent book reviews for what sound like three terrible books (one of which is on my shelf at home, waiting to be read).

First, Reason's Cheryl Miller rips into Judith Levine's anti-consumer book, Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping.

Levine airily insists that necessities in New York are different from those of a “farmer in Bangladesh.” But she seems to forget this relative wealth when she describes the daily life she leads with her partner, Paul. She paints a pitiful picture: This “highly insecure” existence includes two residences (an apartment in Brooklyn and a house in Vermont), flexible work that allows the couple to take off and ski in the afternoon, three cars, a windsurfer, and a healthy diet of such Whole Foods staples as “Thai sweet black rice” and “Mexican huitlacoche fungus.”


Second, Matt Taibbi of the New York Press straightens out Thomas L. Friedman's The World Is Flat.

Friedman is such a genius of literary incompetence that even his most innocent passages invite feature-length essays. I'll give you an example, drawn at random from The World Is Flat. On page 174, Friedman is describing a flight he took on Southwest Airlines from Baltimore to Hartford, Connecticut. (Friedman never forgets to name the company or the brand name; if he had written The Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa would have awoken from uneasy dreams in a Sealy Posturepedic.) Here's what he says:

I stomped off, went through security, bought a Cinnabon, and glumly sat at the back of the B line, waiting to be herded on board so that I could hunt for space in the overhead bins.

Forget the Cinnabon. Name me a herd animal that hunts. Name me one.


Last, but not least, Garrison Keillor savages Bernard-Henri Lévy's American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville.

In more than 300 pages, nobody tells a joke. Nobody does much work. Nobody sits and eats and enjoys their food. You've lived all your life in America, never attended a megachurch or a brothel, don't own guns, are non-Amish, and it dawns on you that this is a book about the French. There's no reason for it to exist in English, except as evidence that travel need not be broadening and one should be wary of books with Tocqueville in the title.


No matter how much these books suck (or not), the book reviews are a wonderful thing to behold.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...digging the critics...

The New Suffix

My friends and I have a habit of reading fortune cookies at Chinese restaurants and sharing them with each other. Nearly all fortunes are made much more entertaining by the addition of the words "in bed" at the end.

Example:

"Every exit creates a new entrance." - trite homily

"Every exit creates a new entrance, in bed." - naughty suggestion

Michael Brendan Dougherty notes that a similar method can be used to take the inane nation-building suggestions of neoconservatives and make them more entertaining.

Now I've discovered, with the help of booze and Jim Antle of 4pundits.com that there is a phrase that you can tack on to most neoconservative op-eds and essays - which helps to clarify the point they are trying to make. Whenever a neoconservative says something should be done, whether it is democracy promotion, or instilling purpose in an enervated American populace, or diplomacy you can finish the thought for him by adding three little words: by killing people.


Sometimes it's too easy.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...chuckling...

8.06.2006

The $40 Lawyer

It's Fall recruitment time and I'm sending out resumes to large law firms to get a coveted summer associate position next year. Probably in a nice firm with a big office and a high salary. Nice as that is, I sometimes think I'd rather be this guy:
Prosecutors keep pressuring him to make their lives easier. They want him to stipulate, for instance, that the chalky white powder found on his clients is cocaine. If he stipulates, they won't have to bring in a state chemist to prove the obvious.

Early on, he decides not to cut prosecutors any breaks. Let them prove it's not baking soda.

These first few weeks, he quickly learns to analyze statutes, negotiate pleas, pick apart witness statements. He also learns to turn the system's glut of cases to his advantage.

To stymie the state, Charley deliberately clogs the court docket. When he gets a case he knows he can't win - misdemeanor shoplifting, say - he sets it for trial and demands a speedy one. This forces the state to exhaust resources on petty crimes, reducing its ability to fight more serious ones. This increases the chances, Charley figures, the state will come through with generous plea offers.

In such ways, Charley delights in torturing the young prosecutors. At the same time, he frets constantly about what they think of him.


The entire three-part series follows the transformation of one man from a desperate loser into a confident lawyer. Inspiring stuff.

7.20.2006

A Funny Thing Happened in the Forum

The International Stoic Forum, that is. A certain provocateur posted a message about how we forum members were all "peace-nick pacifist care-bears." Certain members were not familiar with the term "care bear" and its usage in Internet parlance. Which led to this hilarious reply from Robin (emphasis mine):

Paul wrote:
> --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, "alicorn1976" wrote:
>> I've been reading this forum for a while now and I really have to
>> wonder why there are so many care-bears on here.
>
> I have missed the point entirely, I'm afraid. What is a "care-bear"?
> On second thoughts, I probably don't need to know.

If you have a strong stomach, go to www.care-bears.com The phenomenon has spread worldwide, but is mainly based in America. The UK has Teletubbies ;-)

The term is sometimes used to mean people who will go to great lengths to avoid confrontation. Just like Cato and Marcus Aurelius, who as we all know spent all their time dressing up in pink fluffy suits and giving out hugs to all and sundry.

Robin


Read up a bit on Cato or Marcus Aurelius and you'll see why I laughed.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...in a pleasant mood...

6.27.2006

Subversive Philly Ads

The Philadelpia Daily News has a series of mock ads encouraging people to move to the City of Brotherly love. They're cute and subversive.

In other news, law school continues to kick my ass and I'm going to be in Portland this weekend for the Libertarian National Convention.

What's happening with you?

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...tired...

6.12.2006

Short Update

Evidence is kicking my ass, Law Review is kicking my ass, and work is kicking my ass. Hence the light bloggery. Also, the following quote is gold:
"A man may fail, but he does not become a failure until he blames somebody else." -J. Paul Getty


Yours truly,
Mr. X

...iron, lion, zion...

6.06.2006

People Don't Do the Right Thing

There have been a number of instances in the past few weeks where people have not treated me appropriately. Whether through malice or negligence, they just didn't live up to the standards that I would expect. This used to be something that I would get angry about, where I'd say, "They should treat me better."

The Epictetus quote for today provides some insight for handling this problem:
“‘My brother ought not to have treated me so.’ Very true; but he must see to that. However he treats me, I am to act rightly with regard to him; for the one is my own concern, the other is not; the one cannot be restrained, the other may.” - Discourses 3.10.19 [Higginson Trans.]


It's far too easy to use other people's shortcomings to justify our bad actions in response. It feels good in the short term, but in the end we race to the bottom, responding to bad treatement in kind, until we become just like the person who initially wronged us.

Far better to take Marcus Aurelius' advice: "The best revenge is not to be like that."

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...not Spike Lee...

5.26.2006

Rebirth

My laptop hard drive suffered a catastrophic failure earlier this week. All of my data files, pictures, and music were lost. Luckily I had a backup of Quicken, so my financial records should be safe or at least easily reconstructed.

I've ordered a new hard drive that should get here next week and I'm buying a used desktop computer from a friend of mine tonight, so I should have redundant computing by the middle of next week, just in time for the beginning of Evidence class.

Losing the entire hard drive is kind of cool, once the initial loss is over. I get to start over from scratch, clean and fresh.

Besides, if I lived in Telezonia, I wouldn't have a computer at all.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...bouncing back...

5.15.2006

Vegas and a quote

I'm off to sunny Las Vegas on Thursday. Wish me luck at the tables and in a poker tournament I'm playing in.

Also, this quote touched a chord:
There is only one way to achieve happiness on this terrestrial ball, and that is to have either a clear conscience or none at all.
-Ogden Nash, author (1902-1971)

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...still not dead yet...

5.03.2006

Netflix and ING

If any of my intrepid readers who don't already have Netflix would like a free month to try it, drop me an email before May 8. Ditto for anyone who doesn't yet have an ING Direct account and would like a free $25.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...clearing the inboxes...

4.26.2006

My Slippery Slope is Lubricated by Mormon Sex Brigades

A dire warning about the dangers of gay marriage should give you all pause.

But gay marriage and polygamy are only the beginning, because the dark road that begins with equal rights leads inexorably to the next terrifying step: legalized, state-sponsored robot sex!


I love my iPod, but I don't love my iPod.

Yet.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...portent of the apocalypse...

4.21.2006

Knapp on Iran

Tom Knapp has a cool, dispassionate analysis of why it would be batshit fucking insane for us to attack Iran.

Shithouse rat crazy doesn't even begin to cover the state of mind required to entertain this kind of thing. Throw in the trial balloons about preemptive nuclear strikes -- on a country bordering Russia -- and it's pretty much a David Lynch production of Dr. Strangelove Meets Sybil. We're talking serious childhood trauma combined with a rigorous schedule of psychoactive drugs and BDSM sessions here.


Not that there's anything wrong with BDSM or psychoactive drugs. Read the whole thing, it's worth a laugh. Remember, if we don't laugh, we cry.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...happy weekend...

4.17.2006

War on Jihadism

Jonathan Rauch has an excellent article at Reason that clarifies who and what we're really fighting in the "War on Terror."

Jihadism is not a tactic, like terrorism, or a temperament, like radicalism or extremism. It is not a political pathology like Stalinism, a mental pathology like paranoia, or a social pathology like poverty. Rather, it is a religious ideology, and the religion it is associated with is Islam.

But it is by no means synonymous with Islam, which is much larger and contains many competing elements. Islam can be, and usually is, moderate; Jihadism, with a capital J, is inherently radical. If the Western and secular world's nearer-term war aim is to stymie the jihadists, its long-term aim must be to discredit Jihadism in the Muslim world.

No single definition prevails, but here is a good one: Jihadism engages in or supports the use of force to expand the rule of Islamic law. In other words, it is violent Islamic imperialism. It stands, as one scholar put it 90 years ago, for "the extension by force of arms of the authority of the Muslim state."


I generally view religion as a misguided foible, but when religion justifies violence against others, it passes from harmless ignorance to credible threat.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...freedom fighter...

4.12.2006

Today is Inbox Zero Day

Fueled by coffee and the sweet electronica of Deep Dish, I'm implementing Merlin Mann's Inbox Zero today at work.

Because 271 messages in my Inbox is 271 too many.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...clearing the decks...

4.05.2006

Legal Writing (and Doodles)

This divorce petition is a shining example of...umm...creative legal writing.

Don't miss the special guest appearance of General Relief on pp. 8.

Hat tip: De Novo

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...aspiring to greatness...

3.22.2006

Choose Math

Via Boing Boing, Choose Math.

Choose math because you will make more money. Winners of American Idol and other "celebrities" may make money, but only a tiny number of people have enough celebrity to make money, and most of them get stale after a few years. Then it is back to school, or to less rewarding careers ("Would you like fries with that?"). If you skip auditions and the sports channels and instead do your homework -- especially math -- you can go on to get an education that will get you a well-paid job. Much more than what pop singers and sports stars make -- perhaps not right away, but certainly if you look at averages and calculate it over a lifetime.


Yours truly,
Mr. X

...Begbie...

Centerfolds

The New Yorker has an excellent review of "The Playmate Book: Six Decades of Centerfolds". Like most New Yorker reviews, there is a brief discussion of the book and then a long and winding road into the context from which it comes. Joan Acocella examines the background and later works of the various centerfolds, the history of Playboy, and the unchanging nature of Hugh Hefner.

"That, in the end, is the most striking thing about Playboy’s centerfolds: how old-fashioned they seem. This whole “bachelor” world, with the brandy snifters and the attractive guest arriving for the night: did it ever exist? Yes, as a fantasy. Now, however, it is the property of homosexuals. (A more modern-looking avatar of the Playmates’ pneumatic breasts is Robert Mapplethorpe’s Mr. 10 ½.) Today, if you try to present yourself as a suave middle-aged bachelor, people will assume you’re gay. But though times have changed, Hefner hasn’t."


Yours truly,
Mr. X

...si non oscillas, noli tintinnare...

3.13.2006

Creepiest Safety Video Ever

Via Hit & Run, I give you the creepiest safety video ever. Watch the rat-tailed ape-children get hit by cars for failing to use proper bike safety.

Warning: Do not watch under the influence of hallucinogens.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...mourning Tinkerbell McDillingfiddy...

Mohammed Cartoons

Professor Eugene Volokh has a good analysis of the cartoon controversy, complete with illustrations.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...instablogging...

3.09.2006

On Folding

I haven't been playing much poker lately, but in preparation for getting back into it, I read Tommy angelo's article, Folding.

After my first taste of big-time folding, I felt that if I could get really good at it, I could quit my job. So I made folding my holy grail, my quest, my mountain to climb. I could see the mountain. I could see my path. I looked at the ground in front of me, and I took a step.

By 1990 I was folding enough to support my food and rent habit. This freed up lots of time for lots more folding. Before long I got so good at folding that I could afford to get stupid at first one flavor of gambling then another and another. My tether line to solvency was always the folding. Anytime I was low on money, all I had to do was stop betting and stop eating and get back to the folding.


It's the money you leave on the table chasing bad hands that makes a losing poker player, not the bad beats.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...aspiring folder...

3.02.2006

How To Become Wealthy

While wading through a very bad argument on The Volokh Conspiracy, I (and other critics) were dressed-down in the comment thread by Clayton Cramer. His critiques were of tone, rather than substance, which I take as evidence for the rightness of my opinion.

I clicked on his website, to get a sense of where he was coming from politically, and found the following very valuable essay on How To Become Wealthy. In the midst of good financial advice, there's some funny bits, such as this one from the "Cutting Spending" section:
At the financial planning class I attended in Irvine, the instructor told us a very funny story. One of his new clients was on the edge of bankruptcy; he was unable to raise a family in Orange County, California, on $100,000 a year. (Obviously, the cost of living was a lot lower in 1985 than it is today--substitute $180,000 today.) As he went through this guy's monthly bills, he found one bill for $75 a month made out to some sort of doctor.

"What's this for?"

"That's the dog's psychiatrist."

"Why does your dog need a psychiatrist?"

"If we leave him in the house, he pees on the carpet. If we leave him outside, he barks and the neighbors get upset."

"You're about to go into bankruptcy. Get rid of the dog!"

Learn to distinguish "need" from "want." Shelter, food, transportation to work and school are needs. Vacation, pets, fancy cars, entertainment equipment, a health club, and yes, dog psychiatrists, are wants.


I've seen friends who take this advice and they do well. Others do not and are in constant struggle. The choice is yours.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...becoming more fiscally responsible...

2.16.2006

The Meme Machine

Heidi, one of Boozie's readers, tagged me with one of those damnable Internet memes. In a rare exception to my general rule not to do things like this (the only thing worse are those damn tests, e.g Which Rule of Federal Civil Procedure Are You?, here goes:

Four Jobs that I've Had


  1. Food Distribution Manager - I managed the distribution of food for a relief agency in Albania in 1999. Albania's one of those countries where the infrastructure was bad enough that Kosovo was better after we bombed it than Albania was without any bombing.

  2. Waiter - My first job was waiting tables at a pancake restaurant in the Chicago suburbs. I was an awkward teenager and rode my ten-speed to work. Decent money, though, and I got to eat for free.

  3. Computer Consultant - Many, many years doing system analysis and software engineering for a variety of government agencies. On the bright side, I got some good experience and I know that I'm eligible for a security clearance. Not that I ever want to do Dept. of Defense work again, but I could.

  4. Timeshare Salesman - There was a brief stint selling timeshare. No, I was not the guy on the phone. I was the guy who gave people a tour of the resort, chatted them up about vacations, and tried to get them to take out a mortgage at the end of 90 minutes. Given that these people had made a blood oath prior to attending a presentation "not to buy anything today," it was a tough gig. Still, I made a fair number of sales and learned quite a bit about people.



Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over

  1. The Fifth Element - Super green.

  2. Gladiator - Stoic resignation combined with decidedly un-Stoic quest for revenge, plus great cinematography and action choreography.

  3. Strictly Ballroom - Baz Luhrmann's first and best. Sure, he does great work when he has a bigger budget, but this is still a better movie than Moulin Rouge or Romeo + Juliet.

  4. Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory - My favorite movie since I was a little kid. I'm a huge Roald Dahl fan and despite the campy screenplay and the overlong first act, this movie still makes me happy in a way that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory never can.



Four Places I Have Lived

  1. Phoenix, AZ

  2. Portsmouth, Dominica

  3. White Sands Missile Range, NM

  4. Binghamton, NY



Four TV Shows I Love

  1. The Office (UK version)

  2. Penn & Teller's Bullshit!

  3. South Park

  4. The Simpsons



Four Places I Have Vacationed

  1. Istanbul, Turkey - I highly recommend staying at the Hotel Kybele. It's right near the old city in Sultanahmet,and absolutely beautiful

  2. Las Vegas, NV

  3. Atlantic City, NJ

  4. Cozumel, Mexico



Four of My Favorite Dishes

  1. Balsamic-glazed Chicken with Rosemary

  2. Eggplant Parmagiana Sub

  3. Vegetable Chili and Cornbread

  4. Risotto



Four Sites I Visit Daily

  1. Hammer of Truth

  2. Boozie

  3. Bloglines

  4. The Straight Dope



Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now

  1. Las Vegas, NV

  2. In bed

  3. New Hampshire

  4. Azeroth - "Nerd Alert!!!!1"



Four bitches that done got tagged by me.

  1. Johnny Law - because he hasn't updated in eons.

  2. Isobel - because it's an excuse to read her blog.

  3. Jeremy - because he's been entirely too damn serious lately.

  4. Alli - since she (a) hasn't updated and (b) might enjoy it.



Yours truly,
Mr. X

...served and dancing back...

2.13.2006

Killer Shrimp Update

In perusing my logs, I've noted that "killer shrimp" is one of the most common search phrases that leads to my site. It all stems from a post about a man who died after having a shrimp flung at him by a Benihana chef and his subsequent lawsuit.

It looks like he lost. Hat tip - Volokh Conspiracy.

A Benihana chef may have tossed a hot shrimp at a customer five years ago, but a Nassau jury decided yesterday it's not the restaurant's fault the man wrenched his neck that night and later died.


Common sense prevailed...this time.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...bubba gump...

2.01.2006

Kozinski Strikes Again

Goddamn, do I love reading Alex Kozinski's opinions. The latest, exonerating a woman who was wrongly imprisoned for twelve years for allegedly writing bad checks, is genius.

Goldyn was convicted by a jury of five counts of Drawing and Passing Checks with Insufficient Funds on Deposit, in violation of Nev. Rev. Stat. 205.130. Because she had previously been convicted of three felonies and one gross misdemeanor—all fraud related—she was sentenced as a habitual criminal to five life sentences. After twelve years in prison, she was released and placed on lifetime parole. On federal habeas, Goldyn presents a simple argument: If the bank was obligated to cover them, then she can’t have written bad checks. (citations omitted)


Maybe one day I can clerk for him. A boy can dream, can't he?

Hat Tip: Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...in awe...

1.31.2006

The Peekaboo Paradox

I just finished reading the best newspaper article I've read all year. Gene Weingarten profiles children's entertainer and compulsive gambler, The Great Zucchini, with a sensitivity and honesty that floored me.

The Great Zucchini actually does magic tricks, but they are mostly dime-store novelty gags -- false thumbs to hide a handkerchief, magic dust that turns water to gel -- accompanied by sleight of hand so primitive your average 8-year-old would suss it out in an instant. That's one reason he has fashioned himself a specialist in ages 2 to 6. He behaves like no adult in these preschoolers' world, making himself the dimwitted victim of every gag. He thinks a banana is a telephone, and answers it. He can't find the birthday boy when the birthday boy is standing right behind him. Every kid in the room is smarter than the Great Zucchini; he gives them that power over their anxieties.

The Great Zucchini's real name is Eric Knaus, and the last few analytical paragraphs will come as a surprise to him. Eric is intelligent, but he is almost aggressively reluctant to engage in self-analysis, even about his craft. What he knows is that he intuitively understands preschool kids, because he's had a lot of practice. He worked at Washington area preschools and day-care centers for more than a decade.


I saw more than a little bit of myself in this guy, some good (rapport with children), some bad (penchant for gambling and general disorganization).

Anyway, the article is long, but if you read just one story this year, this should be it.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...moved...

1.27.2006

What is Design?

Joel Spolsky, author of Joel on Software and CEO of Fog Creek Software is writing a series of articles on "Great Design." The most recent installment, Great Design: What is Design? (First Draft), contains some good insights. First, for all of my graphic artist friends:
You know those gorgeous old brownstones in New York City? With the elaborate carvings, gargoyles, and beautiful iron fences? Well, if you dig up the old architectural plans, the architect would often just write something like "beautiful fretwork" on the drawing, and leave it up to the artisan, the old craftsman from Italy to come up with something, fully expecting that it will be beautiful.

That's not design. That's decoration. What we, in the software industry, collectively refer to as Lipstick on a Chicken. If you have been thinking that there is anything whatsoever in design that requires artistic skill, well, banish the thought. Immediately, swiftly, and promptly. Art can enhance design but the design itself is strictly an engineering problem. (But don't lose hope -- I'll talk more about beauty in future articles).


Also, for all those who question why design is more important than, say, adding the all important "features" to a product:

Design is something you only have to pay for once for your product. It's a part of the fixed costs in the equation, not the variable costs. But it adds value to every unit sold. That's what Thomas C. Gale, the famous Chrysler automobile designer who retired in 2001, meant when he said that "Good design adds value faster than it adds cost."


The whole article is good, as are most of his writings (available via email subscription at the bottom of the article, or via RSS feed).

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...back to blogging...

1.04.2006

Law School Thoughts

A funny article for you to peruse as I leave for my cruise. Five days on a boat eating and drinking with abandon. Be jealous.

Boozie emailed me Miss Doxie's Law Students, You Are Asking For Trouble, And I Am Now Forced To Bring It, because "it reminded me of you."

She was right, especially this line, which is exactly how I felt about my Property final.

"Oh, God in heaven," you will think, staring at the dark ceiling. "I have forgotten what a fee simple determinative is. Surely I do not deserve to live."


Except for the 'God' part, that is.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...vacationing...