Begging The Question

Friday, April 29, 2005

You are assuming I'm one of those people who has hopes and dreams.
Lil' Pumpkin asks, "If you could live your life as the plot of a movie, which movie would it be and what character would you be in it? And why?" I'm glad I re-read the question, because initially I thought she asked me to choose a movie whose plot most accurately describes me life. Not sure I wanted to get that personal here (says the guy who blogged about male cheerleading?!? -- Ed.). Besides, I am afraid something would be lost in translation.

This question turned out to be much tougher than I imagined. James Bond is too easy. He has terrific adventures, you know he's going to make it out alive, and he always gets the girl(s). He has the fancy toys and the nice clothes. But it's too easy. Indiana Jones? Well, I do hate Nazis (especially Illinois Nazis) but I'm not sure that the academic life is for me. Captain Aubrey? Not a bad choice. Lots of swashbuckling and heroism. Plenty of ladies in the books, too, but none in the movie. That just won't do. What's more, how much salt pork can a man eat?

This is hard, but since I've been pressed to provide an answer, I'll go with Dennis Quaid's character Frank Towns from Flight of the Phoenix. First of all, Quaid's a Texan and thus I will assume that Towns is also a Texan. That's a good start for our story. And the guy's life seems pretty adventurous. He flies cargo planes around Asia delivering equipment and personnel to oil drilling sites. He's smart, he's resourceful, he's a leader and goddang he's a good shot with a pistol. Yeah, I'll take the life of Frank Towns. So the plot of the movie involves an improbable escape from a plane crash, which is cool. Towns survives, which is also cool. He (presumably) ends up with the smart blond chick from Lord of the Rings. Very cool.

Random Stuff
1. I am now the proud owner of an iPod shuffle. The little guy will hold about 120 songs. Any suggestions for tunes?

2. THL has been out sick. She's back now, if not at 100 percent yet. I'm glad she's okay. Very glad.

3. Milbarge is gone, but not forgotten. How can I forget the man when he emails me 20 times per day? Answer: I can't. A quick round-up of links he's sent me in the past day. Day. Ha! These are just the links he's sent me since I started typing this post:

A WaPo story on the Pentagon releasing photographs of soldiers' coffins

This amusing story entitled "Your Best Guy Friend is Me."

4. Good stuff I found without Milbarge's aid:
This post from Tom Smith on renting in SoCal.

Centinel gets all graphic and stuff to illustrate the breakdown of contributors to NPR.

TP is posting again. It's about damn time.

Slithery D weeps for the youth of America. God bless the new and improved(!) Dylan. Even with a focus on serious posting, he's still got it.

5. Finally, if you have any interest in Star Wars at all you need to check out Darth Vader's blog. Here's a little taste:
It's Christmas On Hoth

Big day. Storming the rebel ice fortress.

Took a nap first so I would be peppy. Leg feels pretty good.

Admiral Ozzol took the fleet out of hyerspace too close to Hoth, and the Rebel Alliance were -- you guessed it -- alerted to our approach. The cornerstone of Ozzel's arrogance is his insistence that rebel technology is so vastly inferior to Imperial technology that we need broker no caution.

This attitude is typical of a man who could not rephase his own fusion orb if his life depended on it. He cannot fathom what rebel engineers may accomplish out of desperation. People who are good with things, people like me, can appreciate the infinite diversity of possible tools buried in artful combinations of even the humblest technologies. Give me an hour to reconfigure an industrial grade repulsolift and I will give you an ion cannon and enough parts left over to build a droid to run it.

Ozzel just isn't the creative type.

The problem is solved now, however. I crushed his trachea with my mind, and promoted Piett to command the fleet. I have transmitted to following note to Ozzel's kin:

Dear House of Ozzel,

I regret to inform you that your son has been killed in the line of duty.

He was an incompetent, yammering boob and he will be missed by none. I have allowed the men to pillage his personal belongings, which is why we have enclosed nothing but the sole remaining item: a torn advertisements page from a magazine of midget pornography. May it shock and disturb you, and may you think of it always when you remember your dearly departed son, the ninny.

Know also that his limitations as a sub-par military professional caused the deaths of many of the Emperor's loyal soldiers, whose funeral expenses will appear on your next tax assessment.

D. Vader

Read the rest of the excerpted post here. I had tears in my eyes reading his posts, but maybe that's because the Dark Lord of the Sith was crushing my trachea through his blog (hat tip to Brian). If you are really in to Star Wars, check out this story at Slate about a Star Wars fan flick (hat tip to the 'barge).

Friday Spies©: Karnak the Magnificent Edition
[UPDATE: To give everyone a chance to provide their answers, I'll post the questions this morning and I will add my answers throughout the day. -Fitz-Hume] This week we're going to change it up a bit. Instead of five lame questions, Friday Spies is going Karnak-style with five lame answers. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to provide the questions that generated the following five answers:

1. Who are three people who have never been in Clif Claven's kitchen? Sorry kids, I apologize if that joke is too old for some of you.

Archibald Leach, Bernard Schwartz, Lucille LeSueur.

2. Why did they build the transcontinental railroad?

To get to the other side.

3. What does it take for men and women to be friends? What does it take to make this blog funny? What precipitated the first meeting between Milbarge and Fitz-Hume? Or, perhaps a reader submission: "Chris Farley" what led to his success to be a comedian?

Drugs. Massive quantities of drugs.

4. Who did Tarantino base the character "the Gimp" on?


5. What are tapered-leg jeans?

Without question, the single most idiotic thing ever thought up by the human mind.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Yeah, she's totally hot for you in that Chewbacca outfit. Ass.

Coalition for Darfur: The Man Nobody Knows
[The following post is this week's dispatch from the authors of the Coalition for Darfur blog.]

On February 24, 2004, an op-ed entitled "The Unnoticed Genocide" appeared in the pages of the Washington Post warning that without humanitarian intervention in Darfur "tens of thousands of civilians [would] die in the weeks and months ahead in what will be continuing genocidal destruction."

Written by Eric Reeves, a literature professor from Smith College, this op-ed was the catalyst that compelled many of us to start learning more about crisis in Darfur which, in turn, led directly to the creation of the Coalition for Darfur.

For over two years, Eric Reeves has been the driving force behind efforts to call attention to the genocide in Darfur by writing weekly updates and providing on-going analysis of the situation on the ground. As early as 2003, Reeves was calling the situation in Darfur a genocide, nine months before former Secretary of State Colin Powell made a similar declaration. In January of 2005, Reeves lashed out against "shamefully irresponsible" journalists who "contented themselves with a shockingly distorting mortality figure for Darfur's ongoing genocide." Reeves' analysis led to a series of news articles highlighting the limitations of the widely cited figure of 70,000 deaths and culminated in a recent Coalition for International Justice survey that concluded that death toll was nearly 400,000; an figure nearly identical to the one Reeves had calculated on his own.

Perhaps most presciently, on March 21st, Reeves warned that "Khartoum has ambitious plans for accelerating the obstruction of humanitarian access by means of orchestrated violence and insecurity, including the use of targeted violence against humanitarian aid workers." The following day it was reported that Marian Spivey-Estrada, a USAID worker in Sudan, had been shot in the face during an ambush while "traveling in a clearly marked humanitarian vehicle." The lack of security for aid workers has led some agencies to declare certain areas "No Go" zones or withdraw all together, leaving the internally displaced residents of Darfur without access to food, water or medical care.

And as the Boston Globe reported on Sunday, he has done it all while fighting his own battle with leukemia.

Were it not for Eric Reeves, it is quite possible that the genocide in Darfur would have gone largely unnoticed. We at the Coalition for Darfur offer him our prayers and support and express our heartfelt thanks for all that he has done to prick the nation's conscience on this vitally important issue. We hope that his courage and conviction will be an inspiration to others and that Darfur will soon begin to get the attention that it deserves.

A bird on the grill is worth two in the bush. Or something like that.
Wadsworth asked for some pointers on preparing game birds. I don't have any experience with chukkars or pheasants, but I will tell you that one of the best methods for preparing quail is on the grill (big surprise!). My favorite "recipe" calls for jalapenos (about 2 per bird), bacon (1-2 strips per bird), salt, pepper and toothpicks (soaked in water for at least 30 minutes before you begin preparing the birds).

Once you have the birds cleaned, start your fire. (NOTE: Check carefully for shot pellets!!! Shot does not taste good. Trust me. It's bad for the teeth, too.) You want a decent sized fire because you need to cook the birds over indirect medium heat. After you get the fire going, halve the jalapenos lengthwise (seed the peppers, too), season the birds inside and out with salt and pepper, and then stuff the breast cavity of each bird with the jalapeno halves. Quail are small but you should be able to stuff at least one jalapeno inside each bird. Now that the birds are stuffed, wrap each bird in a slice or two of bacon, securing the bacon with a toothpick. Depending on the size of the birds, you may only need one strip of bacon. You only want the bacon to make a single layer around the bird. Don't stack the bacon, not matter how tempting that seems, but make sure you use enough bacon to keep the jalapenos from falling out.

When your fire is ready* (coals piled high on one side, very few coals - perhaps just a single layer - on the other side) grill the birds breast side down with the grill cover closed over INDIRECT (which means over the shallow layer of coals - think of it as grill-roasting) medium or medium-hot heat for 20-25 minutes (or maybe longer, depending on the birds and your grill) or until the juices are slightly pink (turn once halfway through grill time). Quail is done when its flesh gives to pressure and the internal temperature reaches 145 F (62 C for our Celsius loving friends). For the most accurate results, use a meat thermometer placed in the thickest part of the breast, but not touching any bone. Quail breasts are dark meat, so the meat and the juices will be very pink compared to what you expect with chicken or turkey. That's okay.

Anyway, that's it. A fairly simple recipe for grilled quail. It works well for doves, too, but you'll have to adjust the cooking time due to their larger size. I hope that works for you Wadsworth. And when speak of me, speak well.

* To test the temperature of your fire, place your palm at cooking level above the side of the grill on which you will be grilling the birds. If you have to remove your hand after 2 seconds, the temperature is hot; after 3 seconds, medium hot; and after 4 seconds, medium. More than 4 seconds indicates the grill has not reached cooking temperature.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A post in which I channel the law-student bloggers
Um, yeah, so apparently I ran up a $48 bar tab last night ($60 with the tip). Alone. In two hours. Conclusion? A bar within walking distance of my office may turn out to be a bad thing. I remember downing 2 pints of Fat Tire and I remember pointing to a bottle of Maker's Mark. I don't precisely recall how I arrived at the $48 total though. Even estimating for outrageously overpriced drinks, that's probably more alcohol than I have consumed in years. Or should have. Well, except for the 8 shots of Jack Daniels and 4 beers I put away at the Violent Femmes concert on Saturday. That sonofabitch from Reno should never have advanced the argument that Nevadans are more manly than Texans. Or perhaps he should have chosen a different contest for proving his argument. I'm not sure that passing out mid-concert in your girlfriend's lap is the manliest thing, even in Nevada.

Those of you from the Great State can rest easy knowing that I didn't bring any shame to the Lone Star. I may have been a little loud. Perchance, I may have laughed in the girlfriend's face. Es posible. But unlike Mr. Reno, I didn't leave any liquor on the table or in the parking lot.

To hear other options, press "0" now.
I hate my cell phone.

I don't have a home phone anymore. Telemarketers and wrong numbers drove me to disconnect my home service. I have no friends in town, thus I rely completely on my cell phone to communicate with friends. I never thought I would be "that" guy. But I never thought I would be "that" guy about so many things.

Why do I hate my cell phone? I hate the antenna because it jabs me in the thigh. I hate that the phone is so bulky. I hate that the menus are not intuitive. And, especially lately, I hate the low battery life. Even on a full charge this phone will die less than an hour into a single conversation. Granted, some of that may be because I use the phone inside the building. Milbarge suggested that perhaps the battery drains faster because the phone has to work harder to get a signal out of the building. Reasonable enough, I suppose. Nevertheless, I don't like getting cut off because my phone decides to shut down. It's infuriating.

So, today I gave in and ordered a new phone. This one (link fixed). I splurged - I never thought I would pay as much for a phone as I did for this one - but my primary interest was in a small phone with a long battery life. So, despite my earlier protestations to the contrary, apparently I DO give in to my cravings. And now, I can drunk dial in style. Apparently, I am "that" guy, too.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Speak louder, Mr. Fitz-Hume! Fill the room with your intelligence!
stag inquires, "Give me some tips on law school. What do you know now that you wish you knew then?"

Hmm. Nothing earth-shattering, nothing guaranteed to bring you success, just some observations. There are probably many people who will find things to disagree with in this list. That's okay. I don't claim that these represent the keys to the kingdom, but here are some things that would have helped me during my first two years of law school:

Study hard, but study smart. There is little to no correlation between being prepared for class and being prepared for the exam. You'll have to consult other people on exactly how to study for law school because I haven't the foggiest idea how to do it.

Use study guides. Abuse them. Study guides are your friend.

Ignore what your classmates have to say in class. Ninety-nine percent of what they say is (1) wrong or (2) off-topic. More importantly, your classmates' opinions and novel hypos will not be tested on the exam. Listen to the prof, ignore the gunners.

I don't care what anyone says, you should not take any classes because the material will be tested on the bar exam. Anything you need to learn for the bar exam you can learn in the 2 months prior to the test. That is not to say that there are not some courses you should take in the interest of basic legal literacy (Evidence, Tax, Administrative Law) but don't let the bar exam guide your course selections.

Make time for yourself and take care of your body. Make sure you have time set aside for things you enjoy doing. You don't have to spend every waking moment studying. And exercise. Lots of people got huge during school, or if not huge, then just incredibly unhealthy. Between the stress, the long hours and the binge drinking you need to make time for running or whatever other physical activities you enjoy.

Use your professors as a resource for job hunting. Don't count on the Career Services people for anything. They are a treacherous and lazy lot. Expect them actively to sabotage your job hunting efforts.

Don't get caught up in the frenzy of on-campus interviewing. Very few people (the top few in the class) land jobs through OCI, but there is tremendous pressure to participate in the whole thing. If there are firms or employers in whom you are interested, by all means pursue them, but don't get sucked into the carpet-bombing game of OCI.

Try to keep your non-law school friends because they will be an important emotional resource when you get stressed out with school. Don't bore the shit out of them with tortfeasor jokes and legal mumbo jumbo.

Have I ever longed for something? I've yearned.
I am working on F-H's law school tips (such as they are) and a post on Tex-Mex vs. Mex-Mex. In the meanwhile, I'll tackle kmsqrd's questions: "Are cravings met in your world? Do you look at them and do something about them or do you let them fester until you cannot stand it any more? Is there another way? Oh, and what kind of milk do you like?"

Milk? I like whole milk for cooking. I like the organic ultra-pasteurized no-fat stuff for cereal. I don't use milk for anything else.

Cravings. Hmm. How honest should I be about this? I guess it depends on the situation. I crave lots of things. If it's food, then I will usually satisfy that craving immediately. I'm a glutton maybe, but not a glutton for punishment. I don't see any point in suffering for suffering's sake.

If it's material things, I can let a craving fester for a long time. It took me 2 years to give in to temptation and buy an X-box. I have wanted a GPS receiver for many years, but I've managed to resist the urge to buy one. I want a new pistol, but I've managed to hold off on that for almost a decade. Clothes? I'm not really fashionable - Milbarge, Centinel and the Colonel can attest to that - but if there is something in the way of clothes that I want, I just buy it. Like I said, I don't derive any pleasure from denying myself any of these things. Self flagellation is just not my bag. Usually, when I can't pull the trigger on such a craving it's because I haven't quite made up my mind that the expense is worth satisfying the urge.

As for any other cravings. . . I'll take a pass on that one. I want you to respect me in the morning.

(BT)Q & A
I'm sitting here with relatively little work. I don't really have any ideas for post topics, but I have the time to write. So, I want to open up the floor for questions or requests from the audience. Need some help with a difficult decision? I'm here to offer my two-cents worth. Any issues you'd like to see addressed at BTQ? Point me in the right direction. Anything you want to know about me or my cohorts? Ask away.

The Texasville Horror
The commercials for the Van Wilder re-make of The Amityville Horror which opened last week brought back some memories of the haunted house I once lived in.

This was just an ordinary little house in an ordinary little Texas town. To my knowledge, no one was murdered in the house. But murder house or not, lots of spooky things went on there.

My little brother would talk to people in his room. He was very young, maybe 2 years old, but he would carry on conversations in his crib at night. There was no one in the room, but he would babble on for long periods of time. And there were sounds like a voice responding to him, but there was never anyone in the room.

I also remember hearing whispered voices in the house. Nothing I could make out distinctly, but definitely voices.

Doors would open and close of their own accord. The floorboards in the hallway creaked with footsteps at night.

Things would inexplicably be rearranged in the house if we were gone for more than a few minutes.

Also, my room was haunted by a ghost. It was a huge, black Doberman. It never harmed me, but after my parents went to bed at night, this dog appeared near the window of my room and would slowly walk across the room until it stood next to my bed. It would sit there and stare at me all night. If I called for my parents it would hide behind the curtain until they left the room. Then it would return to its station at the head of my bed. And stare at me. Every single night for almost 2 years. Not the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters, but more than enough horror for a four-year old kid.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Next season on "The Apprentice"...and the season after that...and the season after that...
A longtime fan of BTQ (how long? He's been with us since the beginning. The fact that this is a law-related post should be a clue to his identity. Hint, hint. Nudge, nudge.) emailed these thoughts to me over the weekend:
Over at Crescat, Raffi Melkonian was talking favorably about apprenticeships for tailors and said this in passing: "If I was opening a restaurant, I'd go apprentice for five or six years in a classical French restaurant. A good lawyer ought to cut his or her teeth on the work of better lawyers for at least that amount of time." Hold the phone. Maybe I'm not entirely clear on what kind of apprenticeship Raffi has in mind, but I don't think I agree with this. Maybe -- I repeat maybe -- I could go along if he means engaging in an apprenticeship instead of going to law school. (A few states will still let you do that, but I'm pretty sure not even they require that long a training period.) But if he means in addition to law school, he's talking about eight or nine years' worth of education before one would be able to do whatever the legal equivalent of opening a restaurant is.

By the way, what is that equivalent? Hanging out a shingle or starting one's own firm? I'm not familiar with the French restaurant training system, but I would assume that sometime before the six years are up, the head chef at least lets his or her underlings toss salad or bake bread or something. In the same fashion, perhaps Raffi sees the mentor attorney letting the hireling take a few depositions or conduct a few cross-examinations or draw up a few simple wills. But I would imagine that Raffi's definition of leave-the-nest independence would include finding one's own clients and handling all their legal affairs without oversight from anyone. And note that if Raffi means five or six years after law school, how far back would that push the seven- or eight-year partner track at many of the nation's biggest law firms?

There are two real problems with this model. First, there just isn't that much law to learn. While every case or client would certainly bring some new education, it wouldn't take that long to get the basics down. An armed robbery trial isn't all that different from a trial for aggravated assault. And once you've done those, a murder trial brings higher stakes but isn't a difference in kind -- it's not as different as soup is from souffle. I'm not as familiar with the civil side of things, but to take one example, all contracts, from a store's order of a manufacturer's widgets to a complex bank merger, are based on the same set of generally agreed-upon rules. Even the rare lawyer who aims to be a generalist (from soup to nuts, to stretch the food analogy even further) won't have to study eight or nine years before having enough know-how to go it alone. While no one is able to learn all of the law, those so inclined are able to learn how to practice law in something less than a decade's time.

But more importantly, the law shouldn't be so difficult to learn that it takes eight or nine years of study and an apprenticeship to feel comfortable practicing it. We ought to have a legal system in which the reasonably intelligent lay person can handle the bulk of his or her own legal affairs. I'm thinking of things like taxes, wills, divorces, home sales, etc., for people of average means. Instead, we've built a system so protectionist and complicated that it's not laughable to suggest it should take five or six (or eight or nine) years of training before one enters it. And it wasn't that long ago that the basic law degree required only a two-year course of study! There's something wrong with this picture! Now, I'm not an anti-lawyer lawyer (a self-hating lawyer? well, maybe for other reasons), and I don't think we ought to close the law schools and issue everyone a set of the Nolo books. Education and training (and mentorships) are wonderful things, both in their own right and for what they do for one's practice. And sure, not everyone who passes the bar is as competent as the system presumes them to be. But I know people a year or less out of law school who are putting people in jail as assistant district attorneys, or keeping people out of jail as public defenders, or bringing in their own clients for small firms, or trying cases against major corporations. They were ready, and they didn't need that much hand-holding, and they served their clients well. Any system that would require them to still be using training wheels would be a waste.

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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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