Begging The Question

Friday, July 22, 2005

Friday Spies: Navel gazing again
1. Why did you start blogging?

I got into this because Milbarge needed someone to hold his hand on the technical issues. He was into this whole "blog" thing well before I knew anything about blogs. I thank (and curse) him for getting me into it. I liked the idea of writing for an audience, too.

2. Are the reasons you blog now the same as when you started? If not, what's changed?

Milbarge is much more technically proficient than when we started, so I'm no longer needed for my computer hacking skills. I stuck around, though, because I need to write and this is a good outlet for satisfying that need in my life. This is not the exclusive outlet for my writing, but at least with BTQ I can get feedback from readers. I no longer talk about the same kinds of things I did in the beginning, but the shift in focus has probably made my posts more interesting. It is certainly more fun to tell stories than it is to be the one millionth blogger to chime in on Iraq, John Kerry, Rove, or John Roberts.

3. What would make blogging better for you?

A computer at home so I wouldn't squander my work day on blog posts. More reliability from Blogger. More inspiration for post topics.

4. Do you have comments on your blog? Why or why not? Do you comment on other blogs? What motivates you to post a comment?

We do have comments enabled and that is a big part of what I like about BTQ. I like the sense of community, though I recognize that our comments may sometimes feel like a clique that many readers don't feel comfortable joining. I would encourage those people to come on in, the water is fine. We're all friends here.

I do comment on other blogs, but I've cut back on the frequency of my comments in the last several months. I try to refrain from commenting unless I feel like I've got something interesting or amusing to say. That's not often, as longtime readers of my posts know by now.

5. What is your philosophy of the blogroll?

My philosophy is that I'd like my blogroll to be a list of the blogs that I read. The thing is, I don't practice that philosophy. I link to a lot of sites that I rarely or never read because, while it's not required, it's polite to link to sites that link to you. I read about a dozen blogs with any sort of regularity, but have about 3 dozen listed because I still have the nagging feeling that I'm supposed to.

Friday Spies© : Navel-Gazing Edition
1. Why did you start blogging?

I'm sure I have discussed this all before, but I'm too lazy to find the links -- but not too lazy to type it all out again! About the time I started law school, I was writing long emails to my college buddies, letting them know what I was doing and commenting on whatever was in the news. I will try to find some of these if I have them saved somewhere -- they may be the source of good law school stories -- but the "sent" folder of that email doesn't go back far enough. (The oldest one I found was from August 2000, during the GOP convention. I numbered the items in the email, and used letters for sub-thoughts within that item. My discussion of Bush's speech runs from a-to-u.) This continued, off and on, all the way through law school. Once I finished law school (about the time I found out what a blog was), I started doing the same thing with my law school cronies. After a while, I realized I was sending a lot of the same stuff to both groups. Over time, I realized the easiest thing to do would be to start a blog. Fitz and I talked about it, and I got him on board. Once we decided on a name, we were off and running. (Actually, now that I think about it, I had been giving it some thought, but figuring out the name Begging the Question was the final impetus. In some ways, then, it was the name that led to the blog, rather than starting a blog and hunting for a name.)

2. Are the reasons you blog now the same as when you started? If not, what's changed?

Eh, somewhat. It's still mainly a vehicle to talk to friends, except that my definition of "friends" has changed to include people I've never met. It's still about the interaction, and unspooling whatever detritus builds up in my brain. The things I feel comfortable talking about has changed a bit, but the reasons for talking hasn't much.

3. What would make blogging better for you?

Being able to talk about anything I wanted, even though that might not make this blog better for anyone reading it. Also, a social norm that made the notion of inter-blogger relations a little less weird sui generis and a little more like other human interactions.

4. Do you have comments on your blog? Why or why not? Do you comment on other blogs? What motivates you to post a comment?

Well, we have comments enabled on the blog, but that doesn't always mean we have any present. I like comments, and I think they have added a lot to this blog. While I hesitate to say I would give up BTQ if not for the comments, I think the changes to the blog wrought by eliminating comments would not, on the whole, be for the better. I like the interaction and dialogue they spark. I don't like it when an off-topic comment kills a thread, but it happens and I don't get too bummed about it. It's frustrating when I spend a lot of time and effort on a post and get nothing, whereas a throwaway nothing of a post gets twenty comments. I wish I could explain that, or see it coming, or bottle it. I'm not a comment whore, and I don't need people to comment just to say they read a post. But I really like knowing when/if a post I hoped would be thought-provoking actually provokes thoughts. I would like to know why people don't comment sometimes -- it would be about the only constructive criticism I could get in some cases. I comment on other sites when I think I have something to add to the discussion, or a (marginally) original take on the post, or to show appreciation to the author, among other reasons. I try not to just "ditto" whatever has gone before, though. If I have more than a few sentences to say, though, I might make a post out of my thoughts. (Preview: I'll be doing just that later today!) I wish there was a way, Gmail-style, to have posts and comments and replies -- across multiple blogs -- to show up on the same page, like a conversation. But if I could invent something like that, I wouldn't have to be working for a living.

5. What is your philosophy of the blogroll?

I have been ridiculed for my blogroll posts before. The reasons I sometimes pontificated a bit about it were (a) I didn't have anything else to write about but wanted to write something, and (b) it was a way to give a shout-out to blogs I liked. My blogroll is sort of a mess right now, and I need to straighten it up. I have dead links in there, and it's not in an order that works well for me. I like it to be an aid to my browsing, since I gave up using a feeder. I like to have it organized roughly based on frequency of visits (but not exclusively), but posting frequency on those sites, and increased attention on my part, can alter that. So it's all a little jumbled now. Watch for changes.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Fitz-Hume 411: Indian Summer Edition
What I'm doing at work: I should be writing an opinion letter on the insanity defense or drafting regulations for the State Environmental Commission. Instead, I am car shopping, emailing, and blogging. My Bronco is on its last leg (again) and it's only a matter of time before I'll have to get something new.

What I'm doing away from work: Writing, grilling, going to the gym, hiking on the weekends, and rearranging and reorganizing my house so that it feels like my own. I've done a little shopping lately, too. I picked up this and this to keep me cool now that summer is finally here (I paid substantially less for them than the MSRP listed). I also picked up a new daypack. My old one is functional, but rather heavy (it's made of 900 denier ballistic nylon) and devoid of internal pockets and water bottle pockets. My new one - a North Face Electron 26 - is much lighter than my old alpine pack and more functional, too.

What I'm listening to: Coldplay's new album. Yes, I know. I said they are overrated. I stand by that assessment, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy their music. This new album has really grown on me, especially "Fix You," "What If," and "White Shadows," and "Low."

What I'm watching: I bought the Old School / Anchorman boxed set at Target. So much good stuff between those two movies. The outtakes and bloopers alone are worth the price.

What I'm reading: The Complete Claudine, The Best American Essays 2004, The Gluten-Free Bible, and Far Side of the World.

What I'm thinking about: Getting over losing my dog; trying to decide whether to switch from cable to Dish TV; trying to brainstorm ideas for (1) Friday Spies and (2) the blog-based screenplay that will make millionaires out of Milby and me; trying to get back that blogging spark

What I'm not thinking about: John Roberts. Did you know that he's white? And he's a man! The horror, the horror.

Do my work for me: Any requests for future post topics? I'll write about anything that is moderately work-safe. And I do mean anything.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Is this some kind of fitness museum?
Six weeks into my gym membership, some observations about me and my fellow gym members:

1. There is a guy who smells like ass and who likes to use the leg press machines. Literally smells like ass. Show of hands, who thinks it is acceptable to smell like ass? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? No, it is not acceptable. Not at home, not at the mall, and certainly not at my gym. Has it escaped this man's attention that he smells like he doused himself in eau de latrine? How could it escape his attention? He's getting looks of disgust from people six machines away.

2. Five minutes of cardio - the bike, the treadmill, the stair climber, the elliptical machine, strutting around with your chest puffed out, or flexing and talking to the teeny bopper at the front desk, whatever - will not help you lose those unsightly bulges, saddlebags, or beer guts. You have to feel the burn for longer than a commercial break. Also, and maybe this is just me, but I don't think that eating a Twix bar (!) while you are on the elliptical machine is a helpful component of your workout regimen. I do, however, love the sense of humor of whomever it is who tuned all the televisions mounted over the treadmills to the Food Network.

3. The most ridiculous guy in the gym bar none is "Wife Beater and Jean Shorts" Guy. Runner up is his buddy "Flip-Flops" Guy. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride is their spotter, "Doing Bicep Curls While Talking on My Cell Phone" Guy. These guys are an endless source of amusement for me. They spend the entire time in the gym trying to pick up girls. It's sad, really, to see them crowd around some woman, each trying a different line, each one trying to be smooth, each one looking like a complete ass clown. It's like "A Night at the Roxbury" meets "Hans and Franz" but with that stupid "I like girls who wear Abercrombie & Fitch" song playing on constant repeat. "Flip Flops" seems very confused as to why he doesn't have six-pack abs after doing 3 sets of 5 crunches then making a circle through the gym trying to annoy every halfway attractive woman who is unlucky enough to be there at the time. The other two are too busy trying to DP the blonde chick on the stair climber to explain it to him and, frankly, I don't think he'd listen to me.

4. On the weekends, Saturday mornings in particular, the gym turns into a flabby-armed spanking machine. Nothing but geriatrics for as far as the eye can see! The upside is that all the free weights and treadmills are available. And there's a bonus - the smell of Brill cream and old lady lotion masks the smell emanating from the human septic tank over at the leg press.

5. As for me, I don't smell like ass, I don't hit on anyone at the gym, I don't talk on my cell phone while I'm there, and most days I feel like I'm going to puke during my last set of crunches. The gym has been a nice way to burn off stress these last several weeks, along with the obvious physical benefits of working out. My trainer took my measurements on Monday (yes, of course that's how they measure your prison!) and the results were nice to see. In six weeks I've dropped nine pounds of fat and added 6 pounds of muscle mass. My waist is the size it should be and everything else is moving in the right direction (i.e., bigger). I'm no Adonis, but at least I don't feel so much like the "Before" picture in a Charles Atlas ad.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The New Justice and the Supreme Court's Docket
This is the third, and probably last, in a series of posts about the upcoming Supreme Court nomination. The first one was about how the new appointment will affect the Justices' duties as Circuit Justices. The second one was mostly about whether the liberals on the Court should be asked who they would like to see join the Court, along with some speculation about who they would pick. This one is more like the first one, because it is about one of those hidden aspects of Supreme Court practice, the size of the Court's docket. I say "hidden" because it is very rarely mentioned outside of wonkish enclaves, and will probably not be a factor in this summer's confirmation battle. But it's the kind of under-the-radar issue that can have a big impact.

I will use the phrase "the Supreme Court's docket" in a less-than-literal sense. Technically, the docket comprises all the cases pending before the Court, including the thousands it declines to hear. For this post, I mean the set of cases in which the Court hears arguments and issues some kind of ruling on the merits. That cohort of cases is much smaller than it used to be. I was vaguely aware of that when I started law school, but hadn't given it much thought. But I ended up doing some research for a class on the Court's caseload, and I found two very helpful sources. One was the statistics published every November by the Harvard Law Review, which offer a wealth of data about the previous Term's cases. And another was an article by Margaret and Richard Cordray, "The Supreme Court's Plenary Docket," 58 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 737 (2001), which attempts to analyze the court's docket and the reasons for the decline in its volume. (That article used, among other sources, the files of retired Justices. I would love to see an update with new data from Justice Blackmun's papers.) If I were doing this research now, SCOTUSBlog has invaluable resources, too.

Around the time Justice O'Connor came on the Court, the Court was deciding about 150 cases per Term. In the 1970s, concerns that the Court could simply not handle the volume led to serious calls for fundamental reorganization of the federal courts. One proposal was for a "national court of appeals" that would serve as an intermediate step between the federal circuit courts of appeal and the Supreme Court. Other commentators or policymakers suggested narrowing the scope of federal court jurisdiction, for example by eliminating diversity jurisdiction. I don't want to characterize it as a panic, but reading those reports feels a lot like reading sky-is-falling doomsaying about the need to split the Ninth Circuit, if you need a modern analogue. Needless to say, crisis averted. In recent Terms, the Court has decided roughly half as many cases as in its docket-busting heydey, dipping to a low of 73 a few Terms ago, and usually hovering around 75-80. Close observers can't help but feel that the Court is neglecting to rule on important issues. But if the Court is taking so few cases each Term, there just isn't room for all the important cases.

The Cordrays' article analyzes and rejects many of the commonly asserted reasons for the decline in the docket. I won't rehash it all here, but I recommend it for those whom Will Baude calls "meta-Supreme-Court nerds" (including, I'm sure, himself). The authors found two primary reasons behind the decline. One is that the government, through the Solicitor General's Office, was seeking review in fewer cases, for a variety of reasons. You can get a sense of the numbers on the SG's briefs page. If you click on a Term, and then examine "Petition Stage" filings, you can see a clear reduction in the number of cases in which the government petitions for cert, as well as the cases in which the government files an uninvited amicus brief at the petition stage, which are quite influential on the Justices' decision to hear a case. The Cordrays suggest that these actions by the SG have accounted for perhaps a third of the decline in the Court's docket. This bears further consideration, but that is outside the scope of this post. But it may mean that the government is winning too much in the lower courts, or not seeking often enough to have its losses overturned, or something else entirely.

The main reason for the decline of the Court's docket over the last couple of decades, however, has been the Justices themselves. Specifically, the current Justices (including O'Connor) vote to hear fewer cases than their predecessors did. I know that sounds circular, that the docket is smaller because it's smaller. But obviously, what's important is why the Justices aren't taking more cases. Justices Marshall and Brennan voted, often futilely, to grant cert in capital cases as a categorical stand against the death penalty. Justice White dissented from cert denials numerous times when the Court refused to settle a circuit split, because he believed one of the Court's primary duties was resolving those conflicts. These days, though, dissents from denial are becoming rarer and rarer. (Granted, strategy comes into play with cert votes: It takes four to hear a case but five to win it. So one of the "four" might vote against hearing a case unless he or she is confident of being in the "five" later on. But that can't account for all the cases the Court isn't hearing.) The article concludes that we are stuck in the small-docket era unless and until we get a new Justice (or two or three) who want to hear more cases.

Between 1986 and 1994, the membership of the Court changed dramatically: Six new Justices and one new Chief took their seats during that period, with no changes since. Once that crop of newer Justices was settled in (especially after the retirements of Justices White and Blackmun), the docket began to shrink precipitously. It is unlikely that the new nominee alone can change these numbers, but he or she can further entrench the trend or take a stab at reversing it. Entrenching it means accepting that 75-80 cases is enough for the Supreme Court to hear. (Query whether some of the older Justices would feel able to handle twice the workload, and whether larger dockets would hasten retirements.)

Control over the docket is a fundamental distinction between a court with appeals as-of-right (like the federal circuits) and courts with discretionary review (like the Supreme Court). The speculation over how a new Justice would vote in cases raising certain hot-button issues is pointless if the Court doesn't hear the case at all. Therefore, it is vitally important to know a nominee's criteria for granting cert.

I hope the confirmation hearings get into this, and don't take it as a given that the Court's docket is so small. The Cordrays point out that Justice Rehnquist was asked about the docket during the hearings over his elevation to Chief Justice, so that's promising. (Rehnquist said that 150 "is just about where we should be at," for whatever that's worth.) But the issue isn't as front-burner as it was then; now it isn't even on the stove.

I will conclude by offering a few questions to think about when we consider the impact the new Justice will have on the Court's docket. There are certainly more questions one could ask about this issue; these are just the first to come to mind. If someone on the Judiciary Committee wants to ask them directly to the nominee, I won't even ask for credit, and I will helpfully phrase them in confirmation hearing-ready form:

Questions: Do you think the Court's docket is too small? What do you think is an appropriate number of cases for the Court to hear in a Term? What are your criteria for voting to hear a case? Do you believe that one of the Court's main roles is to provide guidance to lower courts? How important do you think it is to settle circuit splits? Would you wait for the split to "percolate," or be addressed by several circuits, or would you be inclined to hear a case when even two circuits are split? Are certain splits more worthy of Supreme Court review than others -- for example, splits on constitutional issues, or application of federal statutes, or between states and federal courts?

More generally, do you think the Supreme Court needs to be hearing more cases involving constitutional issues, or unresolved issues of federal law, or more criminal cases, or more civil cases, or more or fewer capital cases, or more cases from the federal courts, or more cases from the state courts? Would you be inclined to grant cert to settle questions left open in recent opinions -- for example, the way the Court granted cert in Booker to address the application of Blakely to the federal sentencing guidelines -- or would you prefer to give the lower courts more time to tinker with those unanswered questions -- for example, the application of Booker on plain error review? Would you vote to hear a case simply because it is an "important" issue -- to the public, the legal or business community, the lower courts, the states, the White House or Congress? How important would a case have to be in that circumstance, and how would you decide that?

Would you be inclined to vote to hear a case as soon as the issue is squarely presented to you, or would you prefer to wait for a better "vehicle" for addressing the issue? Would you give extra weight to the Solicitor General's Office when it petitioned for cert, or filed an amicus brief urging a grant of cert? Would you ever vote to grant cert even if you didn't think the case was cert-worthy, as a favor to three other Justices who did? Under what circumstances would you write a dissent from the denial of cert? Finally, how would you go about making your cert decisions -- would you read the petitions yourself, or delegate them to your clerks, or join the "cert pool"?

I don't want to suggest answers for these questions. Reasonable minds can differ on the Court's role in managing its docket. But I think it's a conversation worth having. Regardless of how many cases I would like the Court to hear, if the new Justice doesn't vote for cert in higher numbers than the current Court, I would rather have him or her rationally defend the smaller docket as the way things ought to be, as opposed to simply accepting without question that it's the way things are done. If the new Justice does vote for a larger docket, I'd like to hear the reasons for that, too. Your comments are welcome.

Until recently, I had a dog. He's gone now.

Dash is a good boy. He was always happy to see me and always eager to go for a hike or a ride in the car. Very obedient and well behaved. When he lived with me, Dash always wanted to be near me. He would lay on my feet at night, or sit next to me on the floor, or lay beside the couch if I was relaxing in front of the television.

He loves to run, to chew on squeeky toys, to retrieve objects, and to RUN. One of his other favorite things was to ride to the dog food store, pick out a fresh-baked dog treat, and play with the other dogs in the store.

Dash is one of the friendliest dogs ever, yet he has a very loud, intimidating bark which would scare deliverymen, neighbors, prowlers, and anyone who happened to ring the doorbell. The little dude would get so worked up when someone was at the door. His barks would terrify people, until the door opened and this friendly little doggie hopped up and down squealing and yapping, tail wagging back and forth. I used to ring the doorbell when I would come home from work just to get him excited, just to hear him bray and bark, just to hear that total change in his voice when he realized it was me at the door. Just to see that floppy-eared smile.

I caught myself ringing the doorbell yesterday.

Odds and Ends
1. If you're curious about the genocide in Darfur but don't really feel like you have enough basic information, it can feel like the discussions you hear are going over your head. You might not be sure who's fighting whom, how long it's been going on, or what the international community can do, and you might be worried that news stories, or even the Coalition for Darfur updates, skip over the basics and would leave you confused. Well, if you find yourself in that position, I think there's a solution. "The New Republic's" &c. blog is running a "Darfur 101" series this week. Here is the first post. This series (which has the CFD seal of approval!) has all those basic facts about the crisis in Darfur, and later in the week will discuss how to end the genocide. So there should be something worth checking out over there regardless of how much prior knowledge you have about Darfur, but it looks to be an especially good place to start if you don't know very much but are interested in learning more.

2. There's an excellent post by Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSBlog about the government's appeal in the tobacco RICO case. Go there for a thorough (but not at all dull) synopsis of the case, but here are the very abbreviated facts: The government sued the big tobacco companies under RICO for deceptive marketing practices (telling people "light" and "low-tar" cigarettes were safe). The Bush administration changed course from the Clinton DOJ's approach, and reduced the amount of damages it was seeking. But a key issue is whether the companies could be forced to disgorge their illegitimate profits (some $280 billion). The district court said yes, but a divided DC Circuit said no. There was some curiosity over whether the government would appeal at all, but yesterday it did petition for cert from the Supreme Court. SCOTUSBlog has links to the petition and appendix here. Three interesting points. First, for you remedies junkies, the petition is mainly a fascinating discussion of the scope of equitable remedies under RICO. Second, for you procedure junkies, there is some very interesting discussion about why this interlocutory appeal is different from most interlocutory appeals, which the Court doesn't ordinarily like to hear. And third, for whatever junkies it applies to, footnote 10 of the petition (page 26 of the document; page 33 of the pdf) lays out the probable timetable of the case if the Court does not grant cert now and instead waits until the case is finally adjudicated in the lower courts. The government suggests that if the Court were to grant cert and remand the case later, its "optimistic" projection is that trial proceedings after remand would begin in "late 2008 at the earliest," with appeals to follow, no doubt. It's a nice insight into how cases move up and down the judicial ladder when there's a Supreme Court remand, and a neat snapshot into why it takes so long to get anything done in Washington. At least it's not a criminal case, so they don't have to worry about retroactivity like in all those Booker remands! Anyway, if you need a Supreme Court nerd booster shot, check out this petition.

3. Scott at L^3 calls out Judge Posner for appearing to prejudge the legal merits of a claim for recognition of gay marriage. Without devoting a lot of time to it, here's my take. First, I think the Judge probably left himself enough wiggle room in his blog post to refute a contention that he has firmly decided the matter. His statement could easily be characterized as litigation advice and a prediction for advocates of gay marriage: essentially, it's too soon to rock the boat because courts won't go along. However, saying "I disagree with contentions that the Constitution should be interpreted to require state recognition of homosexual marriage on the ground that it is a violation of equal protection of the laws to discriminate against homosexuals by denying them that right" is problematic. Still, that sentence doesn't speak to myriad other challenges pro-gay-marriage folks could bring, including an equal protection sex discrimination case, if Judge Posner's statement is limited to the notion of an equal protection sexual orientation discrimination case. Yes, that may be too fine a hair to split for canons of conduct that talk about appearances of impropriety. (See Judge Kozinski's take on the canons here.) I tend to think that Judge Posner can avoid recusal if he wants to (subject to, perhaps, a mandamus petition in the Supreme Court) by finding safe harbor in the exception for scholarly commentary and legal education, and I don't think it's really even a close call. Why would we want to discourage judges, who are in a unique and crucial position in the justice system, from sharing their thoughts on how it works? Would it be better if Judge Posner had never said anything, and thus deprived litigants of the opportunity to know his position? Would they really prefer to be in the dark?

Okay, okay, the truly preferable course would be for judges to never prejudge issues that might even potentially come before them. But no one who devotes his or her life to the law can honestly remain ignorant of the big issues in the legal world. As Scott notes, we're going to hear a lot of discussion about this dilemma this summer. For my money, any nominee who says he or she hasn't given any thought to the hot-button issues is either too stupid or too dishonest to be a Supreme Court Justice. If we want a nominee with an empty brain, we might as well raise one in a Skinner box and install that tabula rasa directly on the bench. Less hyperbolically, consider precedent. When a judge writes an opinion, we want the author to consider the scope of the words. If the Supreme Court majority in Lawrence didn't wonder, if only fleetingly, whether that opinion could be read to support claims for gay marriage, they're morons (okay, so maybe I didn't drop the hyperbole completely). But saying "here's what equal protection and due process mean" today, plus knowing how our common law system of precedent and incremental slope-sliding works, doesn't necessarily mean the judge has prejudged tomorrow's case asking what equal protection and due process mean on those facts. It only means that the judge has enough foresight and common sense to see that case coming. So of course judges write today's opinion with tomorrow's in mind. But "tomorrow's" litigants can't ask the judge to recuse just based on what the judge said in a prior case. Look, I know this is getting rambling and disjointed, and I don't have enough time to flesh it out and articulate it very cleanly, so I'm sorry. My point is just that I generally think that it's good to know that a judge can look down the road a piece, and I like knowing what the judge sees, whether he or she tells us in an opinion, a blog post, a magazine or law review article, or a confirmation hearing. More later if I think of a better way to say that, and have time to update.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Friday-ish Spies ©
Better late than never, I suppose.

1. What time do you go to bed? What time do you wake up?

Generally, I go to bed between 11 pm and 2 am, depending on the circumstances of the day. Sometimes, I don't hit the rack until much later though.

I'm up at 5 am almost every day. Fewer than a half-dozen times in the last year have I slept later than 5 am.

2. What do you want done to/with your body after you die?

I don't really care. In fact, I'm not too concerned with what is done to my body right now.

3. Describe your dream house.

Small, comfortable, open, lots of light, well appointed, inviting, happy.

4. Are you an excellent driver? Do you speed, or drive the speed
limit? Ever been ticketed?

I'm an excellent driver, an excellent driver. I do my best to drive a "reasonable" and "safe" speed, and I've only been ticketed a couple of times.

5. What is your favorite animal, mineral, and vegetable?

Favorite animal - raptors of all sorts - hawks, eagles, ospreys

Favorite mineral - salt

Favorite vegetable - avocados, strawberries, agave, potatoes (yes, there are some fruits on my list, so what?)

What do you do when there's nothing left to say?
Some bloggers have recently confessed - some on their blogs and others privately - to going through that funk where blogging stops being fun and a disheartened blogger's mind turns to thoughts of throwing in the towel. When the blog starts to feel like a job, when you let yourself get drawn into the trap of feeling pressured to post, when the negative comments from readers and emails get you down, or when the lack of readers or commenters makes you feel like a loser, this whole blogging thing can lose a bit of its luster. I've been through that more than once and I don't really have any advice for those poor souls, except to say that when you get into that state you need to focus on the reasons why you enjoy blogging or writing and concentrate on those motivations.

One might think that I've been going through such a period, but my poor output lately doesn't stem from a lack of desire to write, or dismay with readership or commenters, or even any discouragement that this blog has moved in a direction wholly different from what was originally envisioned. I'm just flat out of ideas - and I have been for some time now. I don't want to stop writing, but honestly, I think I'm spent. My job basically prevents me from writing about law and politics - no bad luck there, though that was more or less the original purpose of BTQ. I've just about exhausted tales from my adolescence and young adulthood. The ludicrous fishing essays I've penned over the last couple of years are complete rubbish that I wouldn't dare foist on the dear readers of BTQ. I have no more humorous tales from law school that do not paint in a harsh light either readers, co-bloggers, or other bloggers (or all of the above). What I would dearly love to write about I choose not to, because now is not the time and BTQ is far from the ideal outlet for those thoughts. That leaves me with fiction and poetry, which I can do, but I'm not sure anyone wants to read such things here.

So, in an effort to regain some sort of blogging spark, please allow me put some questions to you. Those of you who are interested, if you would be so kind as to drop me an email and address the following questions: (1) What, if anything, do you most enjoy about my posts? (2) What do you least enjoy about them? (3) What types of posts would you like to see more of? (4) In what areas would you like to see my posts improve? Feel free, too, to offer any additional criticisms and suggestions, because I've got to do something to get my groove back.

To recap, I'm not quitting, I'm not even thinking about quitting, but right now I could use a little push in the right direction.

Face down in Cabo, but lacking the motivation to turn this into a decent post
I have no motivation or desire to write this post. Call it a case of the Mondays or another in a long line of blogging doldrums, but I'm just not in the mood. However, since I promised a post recapping my escapades from last week I feel obligated to write something.

So, my friend Mike attended a wedding in Sonoma on Saturday of last week. I drove up to Sonoma on Sunday and our plan was to hang out for a few days, fish, drink, and catch up. On Sunday, we hit several wineries for tastings, including Ravenswood, Domaine Carneros (beautiful location, if nothing else), Castle, and Mario Andretti's vineyard. Mike really enjoyed himself. I had a nice time and saw some pretty country, but I'm just not into wines enough to really get into the whole tasting experience. We finished off the day at Fume, a decent bistro on the outskirts of Sonoma, and headed back to Nevada that night.

On Monday, we headed for the Walker River near the Pickel Meadows Marine Base. The USMC conducts mountain warfare training in the region, but we came for the fishing. We would have had better luck with the Marines, because the river was moving too fast and the water was too high for fishing. I did see some deer, though, and a cool yellow snake, some hawks, a pair of seagulls, and an eagle.

After the unsuccessful day on the river, we headed back to my house, cleaned ourselves up and headed to Stateline, NV / South Lake Tahoe. We cruised through the casinos and finally found a place to hang out, drink, and enjoy a nice view of the lake. We ended up at "19" the penthouse bar and restaurant at Harvey's. Not much to say about that. It was a relaxing and potentially romantic environment, but it's charms were mostly wasted on Mike and me - except that Mike fell hard for the bartender.

From "19" we headed to "Cabo Wabo" - Sammy Hagar's "signature" cantina. Having an entire restaurant dedicated to the exploits of the Red Rocker is akin to having... well to having a bar dedicated to the exploits of my next-door neighbor, or Milbarge, or that guy who sells cotton candy at the county fair. It's a bit much. Not that that stopped us from enjoying ourselves. Mike decided that we should celebrate my 30th birthday (which was almost 8 months ago) with numerous rounds of margaritas and beers - and we did so. This turned the final moments of my evening into a rather unpleasant experience, but such is life. In case you are curious, though, it's not a good thing to have a black eye because you puked so hard you burst a blood vessel in your face. Not good at all. Not attractive either, but I digress.

From "Cabo Wabo" we headed to "Club Nero" - the "hottest" nightclub in Tahoe. Well la dee da. Color me unimpressed. I spent most of the night severely buzzed and text messaging someone very special with whom I would rather have spent the evening. Anyway, after "Nero" we called it a night and I crawled into bed around 2:30 am.

The next morning (and by "morning" I mean "early afternoon"), we decided to head back up to the lake and do some kayaking. We put in a couple of hours on the water and got a good workout. * After that, Mike convinced me to return to "19" in hopes of seeing his beloved again. Sure enough, she was there, but she would not come over and talk to Mike until I left him alone at the bar and wandered over to look out the windows. Then, the two of them seemed like best friends. Nothing came of it, from what I could tell, but Mike seemed to enjoy himself. I enjoyed my $10 Jack and Cokes and spent most of the time (thankfully) on the phone.

* Between kayaking and "19" we tried to eat dinner at "Riva Grill." We finally got a check two and one-half hours after we were seated, two cold hamburgers and no drink refills after we ordered, a waitress who abandoned us for the first wives club party of nine, and a valet (mandatory & free valet at this place, mind you) who later threw a cup of ice on us because we did not tip him. Why no tip? Because he gave me my keys and we walked out to the car. I'm not giving anyone money for holding my keys while their restaurant gives me shitty service and a cold, plain $14 hamburger. It's just not going to happen. Also, when one throws ice at a restaurant patron because one didn't get a tip, one is a pussy. Say something to my face, if you feel you've been wronged, but don't act entitled to a tip because you held my keys for 2 hours at a MANDATORY valet parking lot.

We left town on Wednesday morning and headed for San Francisco. Mike had to catch a flight out of SFO, but it didn't leave until late in the evening. That left us with most of the day to check out the city. We drove through the Marin headlands and out toward the Bonita Point Lighthouse (which was closed). Good Lord was it cold out there! There was a lot of fog, so our sight-seeing was very nearsighted. From Marin, we headed to Twin Peaks, hoping for a clearer view of the city. No such luck. Still foggy, still cold. Same story at the Cliff House where we had a decent meal and much better service than the night before. We headed south for San Jose, I dropped Mike off with plenty of time to get through security, and made my way through Oakland and Sacramento and back home without incident.

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