Begging The Question

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Like Fitz, I've been kind of quiet for a few days too. My excuses are (a) computer problems at home (I'm actually at the office now); (b) I was tied up at a CLE seminar all day Friday; (c) I was busy Thurdsay finishing up a case since I wasn't going to be at work Friday; and (d) I really haven't found a lot worth blogging about lately.

I'll address these, but not in that order. As for (a), I'm still mulling options, but haven't had enough uninterrupted time to re-load Windows yet. As for (c), nothing much there, but it was one of those cases that looks hard at first but turns out to be really easy, which is always good. As for (d), I'm always open for requests for blog topics, if there's something you'd like to see here. I can't promise I'll write about it, but I'm happy to get suggestions.

As for (b), I don't want to say what area of law the CLE was in, because there are surely some nuts out there who would get to googling and discover where I am, even if I noted that I had to drive 45 minutes to get to the place. But let's just say that it was a specialty I have next-to-zero knowledge or interest in, so most of what I heard was either over my head or boring, or both. (It's kind of a long story how I even ended up there, but I'll have to keep that to myself too.) The presenters did a good job and I enjoyed hearing some war stories, but on the whole it was pretty useless being there. I'm sure that if I had even a modicum of knowledge in the area of law it would have been a good experience, but I don't, so it was hard to stay tuned in.

Anyway, the funny thing is that while I was there I met a pretty and nice young woman who it turns out is a clerk for a district judge in our building. We have very little contact with other clerks in the building, so I had never even seen her. I ended up eating lunch with her and a few other clerks. She was wearing an unusual ring, and I commented on it, and she had an interesting story to tell about it. I didn't really get to know much about her, but I made sure to suggest that she and her co-clerks join me and mine for drinks some time.

Finally, I've moved around a couple of sites on the blogroll and added a few. I've updated the address for my other haunt, Appellate Law & Practice, which has moved to TypePad. However, I still haven't gotten an invitation to the new site, so I can't post anything yet. I have added links for the much-hyped Becker-Posner blog, and am looking forward to seeing if it lives up to the pre-posting notoriety. Via How Appealing, I discovered the Disability Law blog. Its author is Prof. Samuel Bagenstos, whose latest article I touted a few weeks ago. And lastly but not leastly, I have added a link for Frolics and Detours. F&D has been a frequent and thoughtful commenter here, and even if her blog is merely a way to procrastinate during exams, F&D should know that it instantly elevates her from comment-crush to blog-crush for me! UPDATE: Once I got home, I realized I needed to add Brian Peterson's Blog, which covers (very well) legal news from West Virginia. When I'm feeling nicer, I refer to that state as some of its residents do: defiantly, as in "West (By God) Virginia." And when I'm feeling snarky, I refer to it as we did growing up: derisively, as in "Waste Virginia." Take heart, folks who would flame me for that: we probably wouldn't have told those jokes about people from that state if we hadn't had so much in common with them.

Again, feel free to suggest post topics. Unlike some bloggers, every day is all-request day around here (although I don't know how choosy those two are among the requests they get). OK, now I can go home.

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
Boomhauer: I tell you what, man, it's like the dang ol' world's becoming a sewer... got them shock jocks, and them rappers too... got Miss Manners' panties in a bunch, man.

Bill: You're right. I can't believe the filth they're putting on TV these days. And they beam it right into my home. I hit the pay-per-view button, and there it is, right in front of me.

Friday, December 03, 2004

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
Dale, discussing the fine points of balloon flight with Bill: "There is a small-to-large chance you will develop high-altitude pulmonary edema, meaning your capillaries will fill with fluid, preventing adequate oxygenation, and a spiral of worsening hypoxia, leading to a slow and painful death."
Bill: "I don't think I want that."
Dale: "That's why I brought the gun. If you start feeling any shortness of breath, rub your belly and I will give you one of Doctor Dale's .38-caliber pain pills."

Thursday, December 02, 2004

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
Trip, the Larsen Pork Products guy: "Where did Luanne go?"
Peggy Hill: "That's for me to know and you to find out. And for me to find out, too, because I do not know."

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Blogger v. MovableType
This morning, Blogger was down for a while at, amazingly, the exact moment I wanted to post some things. It wasn't a major inconvenience, but as the outage wore on, I got to emailing with Fitz about how long we should hold out before giving up on Blogger and switching to MovableType (TypePad), the main competitor to Blogger. In the end, order was restored and we didn't have to do anything drastic. But for the sake of feeding the beast, and to give readers some insight into why we stick with Blogger, I thought I would reproduce our email discussion here.
I have two little posts ready to go and a third halfway done, if Blogger would ever just get its act in gear. This is the kind of hassle from them that makes me consider MT more and more. I recognize there's a cost issue, and you'd have to figure out the coding for making sure we can keep sending people to our domain instead of some typepad jumble. But maybe you'll see a template over there that strikes your fancy. I'm not advocating for change (yet), but I think I have reached a position where I could be talked into it.

If Blogger remains on the fritz for the rest of the day, my position may be re-evaluated.

The thing is, I think it's a myth that MT is more reliable. And I guaran-damn-tee you we will have to deal with comment spammers because of the way MT comments work.

Still, if Blogger keeps bugging you I'm open to discussion about other options.

Do you have evidence to back up your myth hypothesis, or is the burden on those who assert MT's excellence to say it isn't? I may post on that later on. [Indeed!]

Are there options besides the big two? Thoughts on any of those?

As for spammers, could we have Haloscan comments and turn MT's off?

I think we could use haloscan comments, but if we're already paying $15 a month for MT we should make full use of it. You'll get a sense of MT from your other blog, right (it's MT if I recall correctly)?

The reason I say myth is because you can find posts on MT blogs bemoaning some of the same problems we have, but they do seem less frequent. Still, we've had what, 2 or 3 times that Blogger has given us problems? Certainly less than 5. In a year, that's not bad for a free service.

Ask some of the people at your appellate blog for specifics - why do they say MT is better and is it $15 a month better?

1. If "full use" of MT means using bad commenting, I don't see any need to use that. Similarly, using Blogger comments would have been (moderately) easier than using Haloscan's, but they're worse, so we don't. I mean, we probably wouldn't make extensive use of MT's category feature (at least I doubt I would, but I might). Just because a feature is there doesn't mean we have to use it if it's inferior, so long as the $15 (or $150 a year, I think) is well-spent on the stuff we do use. Of course, that would be debatable in itself.

2. The other blog just moved to MT and so I don't really have any experience with it yet. My sense from guesting at De Novo and Crescat is that there are things I like better and things I like worse, but I'm not sure how much of the things I didn't like was owed to (a) not being an administrator and able to make changes to things, and (b) simple unfamiliarity, which would of course dissipate over time.

3. You're right that I only recall a handful of total outages like this with Blogger, but I seem to recall a few other times when Blogger ate posts, which may or may not happen with MT. Now, of course, I am compulsive about copying posts before I hit "publish."

4. I agree that we've certainly gotten our money's worth from Blogger.

5. Here is the message we got from the person running our site:
I think we should move to Typepad. It's only $14.95/month or $149.50 if we pay for a full year up front. You can read about Typepad's features here and here. Typepad is better than blogger for several reasons. First, it's more reliable. Second, you can use full html. Third, at least three of the AL&P bloggers are familar with Typepad: Thus, if I am sick or out of town, they can keep everything operational. Fourth, Typepad blogs look better. Fifth, there are numerous features that Typepad offers which you can not get with Blogger. Sixth, Typepad is easier to use.
I have no idea what "full html" means. None of these were convincing to me, but I am a go-along-to-get-along kind of guy, and never chimed in.

The only advantage to BTQ would be if it is, in fact, more reliable. But it would need to be $150 a year more reliable. Full html means nothing to us. The other factors are likewise meaningless. I'd rather spend $150 a year on a truly professional site design and/or more server space so I wouldn't worry about posting tons of pictures. Or not spend $150. But I'm a go-along guy, too.

OK, done. I agree that the money would be better spent on size or design. And I don't think we need to spend for either right now. But what is "full html" anyway?

There are probably some code tricks that Blogger won't let you do, but I think that only applies to blogs hosted on blogspot. Since we are hosted on an external host, I don't think there are any limitations to what we can do with html. I could be wrong. Even if I am wrong, is there something code-wise that you feel like we're missing? Aside from a classy and attractive page layout (which is not a code problem), there's nothing I feel like we are missing.
So, folks, there you have it, played out over several hours between your humble hosts. I will say that I like the look of some MT blogs, but there are also Blogger blogs that I think look nice too. So it really ultimately comes down to whether Typepad is $150/year more reliable than Blogger. And while lots of Blogger-bloggers (including me) whine when Blogger goes down, I don't think Blogger's reliability is so awful that I'm willing to pay that much to eliminate it (and that's assuming no reliability problems from MT). And remember that we're already paying for the domain name, too.

I know readers get passionate about this subject, so feel free to try to convince us we're wrong.

Congressional Cowards
I've been thinking about the medical marijuana case the Supreme Court argued yesterday, Ashcroft v. Raich. (Queries: Will the caption be Gonzales v. Raich when the opinion issues, and will the opinion spell it "marihuana"?) I haven't been giving a lot of time to this case, so my thoughts might be a bit muddled, but as so often happens, someone else blogs something that helps me out. I was reading Prof. Balkin's post about possible Congressional responses if Raich wins, and it doevtails with what I was thinking about. Balkin is talking about ways that Congress might want to legislate so that it can keep on regulating the same stuff it is now -- basically, finding some economic aspect of the matter and regulating that.

My response is that I'm not sure this would work for every possible Commerce Clause challenge. What to do, for example, with McCoy, the Ninth Circuit case holding that Congress may not prohibit, under the Commerce Clause, the simple intrastate possession of home-made child pornography not intended for sale or distribution. There simply isn't an economic hook for Congress to hang its Commerce Clause hat on, unless, like the Government argued, it was sufficient that Ms. McCoy made her pictures with a camera that had been manufactured out-of-state. Congress isn't going to make it illegal to buy cameras. And while, as Balkin says, Congress can proscribe the prescription of medical marijuana (because filling the prescription is an economic event), there isn't an economic aspect to growing some pot plants in your flower box and smoking your own. (I'll leave aside buying seeds because it raises the thorny question of how many generations of plants the prohibition would apply to.) Now, this would have the effect of limiting Congressional remedial legislation to truly economic matters. But Balkin's thought experiment was stating that "the question becomes whether it is a good idea to require Congress to pass a new law each time a very smart lawyer comes up with a way to pose an as-applied challenge to a broad Congressional statute." My answer is that not every as-applied challenge would leave open this avenue for Congress.

Anyway, what I had been thinking about was why these laws are even here if they are so offensive to states' rights. After all, the states have plenty of representatives in Congress (in fact, the Congress is full of them). So why don't they just repeal -- or refuse to pass -- laws that infringe on traditional state concerns? Part of the answer, surely, is that once entombed in Washington, federal representatives become less concerned about representing the states as entities. But I think part of the answer is that they're just plain chicken. Note that in Raich the states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana filed an amicus brief supporting the notion that the regulation of doctors' practices is best left to the states. But have any Congressional representatives from those states introduced amendments to the Controlled Substances Act that would strike the offending provision? Did they vote against the federal arson act, or the felon-in-possession act, or the child pornography laws? If someone wants to go look up the Congressional Record, be my guest, but I know it's a lot easier for a member of Congress to simply vote for long sentences for child pornographers or pot smokers than trying to make a nuanced argument come election time about why federalism is more important than looking "tough on crime." A big reason these cases are in court is that legislators are punting: talking a big game about states' rights, but not taking the action they could be taking. (Although not a Commerce Clause case, another good example is everyone who voted for -- or signed -- the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act despite believing it to be unconstitutional, leaving the matter to the courts but avoiding being accused of supporting electoral corruption.)

Of course, maybe the states have to file amicus briefs because the Congressional representatives truly believe that the Commerce Clause power is that sweeping. But it also seems like an easy way to use the courts for political cover.

Tom Brokaw Mauled by Circus Lion
So today is the end of Tom Brokaw's run as the nightly news anchor. I very rarely watch the network news, but I liked Brokaw okay. I don't agree with Aaron Altman's take: "Don't get me wrong when I tell you that Tom, while being a very nice guy, is the devil." Dan Rather is, of course, unhinged, and Peter Jennings, I thought, was mentally adding "You stupid Americans" to everything he reported, but Brokaw seemed bland and decent. I mean, he's not the kind of anchor who invented the wheel and built the Eiffel Tower out of iron and brawn, but he was alright. Anyway, all the talk of Brokaw's retirement reminds me of a favorite old "Saturday Night Live" skit, in which Brokaw pre-taped increasingly far-fetched breaking news segments, so that he could spend the winter in Barbados but not let Stone Phillips steal all the glory if a big event happened. Most of the stories were about the many ways former President Gerald Ford might die, including overdosing on crack, getting mauled by a circus lion in a convenience store, and dying when the corpse of Richard Nixon emerged from the grave and strangled him. Fitz abhors adjectives in news stories, and one of the funnier bits in the "SNL" skit is the odd use of the descriptors "senseless" and "delicious."

So, have a nice retirement, Tom, and stay classy.

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
Bill: "I've been on a jury three times, and we did our duty -- three convictions."
Hank: "It is not your duty to just convict."
Bill: "Is too."

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Lamentation Tredux
It's funny that we celebrated our one-year anniversary last week (thanks for nothing, you non-linking hosers!) and Fitz chose to highlight one of my more noted posts, "Lamentation" (and the sequel "Lamentation Redux"). If you're new to BTQ since January, go back and read it, and it will give you a better sense of what Milbarge is all about. In short, it was a story of me meeting, online, a young woman I called "New Kate" (explained in the post) and my reluctance to meet her in person because I didn't want to be in a long-distance relationship. Well, that was the main reason. I also started to think that we were running out of things to talk about, which wasn't a good sign. But the upshot was that I decided not to go meet her in person, and we basically stopped talking to each other.

The twist in the long-distance hangup was that New Kate lives about four or so hours away from where I am now. It's about the same as going from Boston to New York, or from Austin to Abilene, except that there would be a reason for making the trip. So, periodically, we've stayed in touch with an occasional email here and there. And then in the last couple of weeks, kind of out of nowhere, we've started talking a lot. Long conversations, first about the election (she worked for the Kerry campaign at the county hq in a very blue county) and then about other stuff. And it's nice and comfortable just like it was last year. So, long story short, I asked her out and she accepted. We'll probably have to wait until after the holidays to co-ordinate our schedules and figure out what we're going to do (realizing that unless we meet in the middle, one of us will have to stay overnight somewhere). But at least it's something. I'm not picking out invitations yet, because there's still some complications. First, four hours is still "long-distance" to me. The cost-benefit calculus, which I got into at length with the first "Lamentation," is different, but still applies: the cost is lower, and therefore worth expending even if the benefit remains constant. But, the cost is non-negligible to me, and a concern in the long run. Second, I think the benefit has remained constant. There is something there, a spark or a connection of some kind. And it's so hard to describe that I don't want to misstate it, but my very vague sense is that it ultimately isn't going to be romantic. I like New Kate -- she's funny and cute and smart and really nice and pleasant. And I think we could be very good friends. And maybe we could even be something more -- I'm willing and open for that possibility. And I do feel really comfortable talking to New Kate, and comfort is very important to me. And the spark may conflagrate if and when we end up seeing each other in person. So I'm not ruling it out; I'm just saying I'm not consumed by her at present. Third, Kate has finished her graduate program and is looking for work. We're actually looking in some of the same places, and if it worked out that we're in the same city -- after August 2005, a long way off -- that would certainly change the analysis and outlook. But, the possibility is also present that she could move away anytime, and put me right back in the same position I was in last year.

So, I have to ask myself: Given everything that's happened, or not happened, since I first lamented my lot in these pages, did I make a mistake? After all, it's not as if by turning down Kate I ended up landing someone else in the interim -- missed connections notwithstanding. I still say I made the right call, for me. I mean, I know me -- I wasn't exactly brimming with confidence that I would find someone fantastic (or at all) in the six months before I moved away from that city, whom I would then be able to continue seeing. But I really didn't want a long-distance/high-maintencance relationship, so I'm still willing to justify my decision back then. By the same token, though, I've acknowledged that the situation is different now that I'm here, and I'm willing to act differently on account of it.

Anyway, I know that's not much actual news, but I wanted to provide the update, especially for everyone who was hanging in there with me back then. I don't want to make it sound like I'm hopelessly depressed and frustrated about my love life, but, you know, I'm kind of depressed and frustrated about it. I think about it a lot, and I'm not happy, and I don't see it changing soon enough. A friend told me the other day that she worried that she was romantically "doomed." The thing is that this friend is such a great person -- the kind of woman that any guy would be so lucky just to know, let alone date -- that if she feels doomed, then the earth might just open up and swallow me. OK, maybe I've been thinking too much about Krakatoa lately. I'm really not that woeful about it. And I am pleased with the development with New Kate. It's just that I've always been pragmatically, pessimistically realistic about things like this, and I'm not going to start swooning just yet.

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
Hank Hill, on buying a junked car for Bobby: "I didn't know if you were a Ford man or a Chevy man. It was the happiest dilemma of my life."

Bill Deautrieve, in response to Bobby asking for advice on love: "I'll take you to the all-you-can-eat! Let me get my sweatpants....If you're feeling full, at least you're feeling something."

Monday, November 29, 2004

Milbarge at Large: Somebody's Got a Case of the Mondays Edition
What I am doing at work: Finally, something terrifically interesting -- a death penalty habeas case. Well, that's not precisely true. The facts of the case, and even the legal issues involved in this appeal, aren't that fascinating or unusual, as things go. But the subject matter gets me more invested than I do with a run-of-the-mill civil case. I would wager, moreover, that even a relatively-mundane capital case would be more interesting for most people than, say, determining whether the Board of Immigration Appeals' removal decision was supported by substantial evidence. Anyway, this is about all that's going to be on my plate for a while -- the record is pretty thick, and the defense lawyers have been pretty good about making a record in support of the habeas petition. And, the real key is that they were good from the very start. With traps like procedural bar and exhaustion, if the lawyer(s) drop the ball on direct appeal or in state post-conviction proceedings, it's hard to win in federal court. I won't opine here about whether the level of deference the federal courts in habeas owe to state courts is a good thing, but it is what it is. So that ties our hands a bit. Well, I don't want to say that and give the impression that we're trying to do anything, one way or the other, but are hamstrung by AEDPA or something. It's more that habeas jurisprudence mandates a particular vision, or way of looking at the case, that doesn't always comport with "right and wrong." Of course, now I'm hearing in my head echoes from arguments I had in law school with my federalist friends: "He wouldn't have to worry about any of this if he just hadn't killed somebody." Can't argue with that, I guess. And it's not like they'd listen if you tried.

Anyway, that's my major duty for the near future. In addition, I might dash off a few cases that have come to us via the staff attorney's office. And I'll do things like offer feedback to my co-clerks on their bench memos and draft opinions. I enjoy doing that because I'm a good editor and I think I help improve our collective work product, and because it gives me a little taste of what else is going on in chambers without having to do a lot of research. All in all, though, things have been a little slow for a while, relatively speaking, and it looks like it might stay that way until after the new year, which will be nice.

What I am doing at home: Nothing, and loving it. I made a concerted effort over the long Thanksgiving weekend to do as little as possible. I barely left my house. I slept a lot -- an awful lot. I read -- I caught up on my magazines, even. I watched a lot of television. It was a really nice respite, except for one thing.

My computer is once again giving me fits. I was on the phone with the good folks at Dell for a long time this weekend, and we have reached a tentative solution. I am going to have to re-load Windows from the CD rom, and basically start all over. I'm blaming this on Bill Gates, et al., because things would be peachy if I could just get rid of Internet Explorer, but I can't, because it's bundled into Windows. So even though I'm using Mozilla's Firefox now, the viruses and spyware that infected my IE won't give up the ghost. So what happens now is that when I start up, about eight or ten windows of IE try to load, with the homepage hijacked and attempting to load various plug-ins. Once I close all of those, my internet connection is slow and spotty. I went two or three days over the holiday without internet access at all. Our supposition is that the memory draw that all those IE windows are taking has something to do with this. I guess starting from scratch can't hurt, but it will require backing up some stuff from my hard drive. The other hassle is that I have a wireless keyboard, and the DOS menus I have to use to reload Windows won't read it. So I have to get a corded keyboard (read: borrow mine from work) for this operation. It's so exasperating. What I really need is for someone to come to my house for an hour and teach me how to use Linux. I swear, I could make everything better if someplace like Microsoft hired me as a consultant. They need people on staff who don't know anything about computers. I'm not talking about focus groups that dicker over the tone of the startup chimes. I'm talking about a full-time job smacking programmers in the head for allowing error messages that make no sense. Why is the computer a consumer device that gets more complicated the more technologically advanced it gets? It's as if every successive Nike shoe had to be tied with more elaborate knots. Or if the new Chevrolets had a second clutch and required a hand-crank to start or something. It ought to be the exact opposite. And the fact that it isn't is, to me, a failure of the marketplace. [/rant]

What I am reading: As noted above, I read a lot of magazines over the weekend. I regularly read Sports Illustrated, Newsweek (although not much anymore, and I'm going to let my subscription lapse), Rolling Stone, the Atlantic, Legal Affairs, Mother Jones, the ABA magazine and a couple of other magazines from various sections of that body, the New Yorker, the alumni magazines from my college and law school, Wired, and the New Republic (online), and, when it is actually in print, the Oxford American. Less often, and not every issue, but a fair amount: Harper's, the Economist, Texas Monthly, the Washingtonian, National Review, and probably a couple of others I can't remember right now. Also, I check at least the headlines on the main web pages of about a dozen major newspapers.

And I don't know if this counts as "reading," but right now in my car I've been listening to the audio version of Krakatoa, which is linked in the right-hand column. It is about the tremendous volcanic explosion at that Indonesian island in 1883. It's good, but thick with tectonic details and Dutch names and sometimes hard to follow. I'm sure it would be easier to understand if I could see some pictures, too. It's still interesting, though. But it takes a while to get through a twelve-hour book when you're usually only in your car for the fifteen-minute commute to and from work. I like books on tape (or CD) when the trip is a bit longer. I had a Grisham book for the move here, and it was just as well I had to concentrate on the drive more than the story because the story wasn't that great. I listened to Jarhead by Anthony Swofford, which was very good (highly recommended by Milbarge!), and well-read by its author, too. Nothing, however, will likely top the David Sedaris box set. That's some good listening. Come to think of it, though...I must have let someone borrow those tapes, because I don't remember seeing them in the move. But I don't remember who has them, so if you're reading, I want my box set back!

What I am listening to: In the car, the book. At home, I got Scheherazade's mix CD, and it is wonderful. I'm really pleased with it, and have been playing it a lot. Thanks, Sherry!

What I am watching: I watched Miracle, the hockey movie, and it was enjoyable. I watched the "Seinfeld" special on Thursday night, and that was fun. I'm actually taping today's "Oprah" Seinfeld reunion special. It's funny: I think this will be only the second full episode of "Oprah" I've ever watched, and the other was a show a couple of weeks ago about swingers. I don't want to say that we watched it at work, but let's just say I didn't have to tape it.

If anyone ever doubts the genius of my co-blogger Fitz, make note of his brilliant reference in Soupie's interview of us to the movie Logan's Run. Anyway, I happeded to catch a late-night airing of that film over the long weekend. A couple of thoughts (major spoiler alert). First, the only other time I had seen it was years ago on TNT or TBS or something, so I was pleasantly surpised by all the casual nudity in the future. Second, that movie is really bad. Not only is sending only one Sandman after Logan once he leaves the city really dumb, but the way Logan wins in the end is quite disappointing. The computer brain of the city asks Logan about "Sanctuary," and Logan says there is no such place. And apparently the computer has no way to handle this bit of information. The inability to process this news actually destroys the computer, and not just shuts it down, but causes it to explode. Why anyone would design a computer to behave this way is beyond me. It must have been built by Microsoft. But fortunately, the massive explosions, in a domed city, don't seem to kill anyone or even topple the dome, so that's good. Overall, not worth watching.

Also, I caught the X-Men sequel. I guess it's fine if you're into that sort of thing. But a couple of thoughts (minor spolier alert). First, a shape-shifting mutant like Rebecca Romijn's character would do very well as an undercover police officer, or make a lot of money allowing people to do stuff with certain people they couldn't do those things with in real life, if you get my drift. Second, I think a real failing in the script is in the scenes in which Professor Xavier mind-melds with first the mutants and then the humans. Supposedly he is concentrating really hard on contacting all of them, and then concentrating almost hard enough to kill them. But we see almost none of this from the recipient's perspective. All we get are a few shots of our X-Men writhing about. But if such an event really transpired, imagine the effects -- even of a mind-meld short of a fatal one. Instead of writhing about like our heroes, most of the people Xavier brain-bonded with wouldn't be able to simply lay down and cringe. They would be driving cars or sitting at meetings or riding on an airplane or pushing a stroller or walking the dog or something. Not only would his initial bond with the mutants allow others to see who the mutants were (although they might not make this connection when the person next to them starts writhing; but it could have been something like the scene in Men in Black when we saw who some of the "undercover aliens" were), the effects would have been devastating. Why not show us the car wrecks and confusion and general distress that would result from something like this? And then repeat it on an even wider scale when Xavier connects with the humans? I think the answer is that, even if he didn't do it entirely with his mind, Xavier undoubtedly killed people when he made his connection -- even if it's only those driving cars, it would have been a massive death toll. But that would distract from the "story," and detract from Xavier's moral superiority, even if he was forced to do it. Anyway, it wasn't a major part of the movie, but it bugged me.

What I am thinking about: In addition to my computer troubles, I'm thinking about my job hunt, and starting to think about making some Christmas plans. And I'm thinking of an easy, legal, way to make a little money. It's too bad the government doesn't give year-end bonuses.

Also, I've been thinking about something else, but didn't want to make a whole post out of it. What's the deal with playoffs and conferences? I'm thinking specifically of the Big XII, which is putting Colorado up against Oklahoma this weekend instead of what it ought to do -- a rematch of Oklahoma and Texas, which is clearly the second-best team in the league. And don't you think baseball would have been happier, and the playoffs more compelling, if they World Series had been between Boston and New York instead of the measly ALCS? And look at the NBA, where the teams in the West beat each other up all season and in the East teams make the playoffs with .500 records. They should seed the playoff regardless of division. I suppose I can understand a system where the divisor is geography, like the NBA or the NHL. But it's not like intercontinental travel is unheard of these days, and we're only talking about a few weeks of playoffs. But it truly makes no sense for the NFL and MLB, where the leagues overlay each other geographically. The aim of any playoff should be to crown the best team, and the aim of any championship game should be to make it be a contest between the top two teams. Note that in basketball, even leagues with geographic divisions like the Big XII and the SEC allow for two teams from the same division to meet for the title. I think the Big XII is screwing Texas royally (no pun intended, for those who get that). And in the BCS era, it is doing itself no favors by having any chance of Colorado being its BCS rep. If Colorado pulls off a huge upset Saturday, it might be the champion, but I can't say it would be the "best" team in the league, or even the second-best. And what would happen to Oklahoma then? There is a team that deserves to be in a BCS bowl game, but both it and Texas would probably be out of that mix if Colorado wins. To me, that's just wrong. Colorado might pull a Buster Douglas, but that doesn't mean it deserved the title shot.

What I am not thinking about: The rest of the world, but especially the Middle East. Oh, and Ukraine. I hope it works out, but sorry, you're off my radar lately.

Nugget o' info about me: I was thinking about doing one of those collection-of-trvia posts that were such the rage a month or so ago, so I'll hold off for now. But I do have a post coming later today that will provide an update on my love life prospects. So stay tuned for that.

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    The views presented here are personal and in no way reflect the view of my employer. In addition, while legal issues are discussed here from time to time, what you read at BTQ is not legal advice. I am a lawyer, but I am not your lawyer. If you need legal advice, then go see another lawyer.

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