Begging The Question

Friday, August 12, 2005

Don't be jealous that I've been chatting online with babes all day. Besides, we both know that I'm training to be a cage fighter.
Just a round-up of items that don't merit posts of their own.

1. Didn't I, didn't I, didn't I see you crying?
Verizon - my wireless provider and a company with which I am greatly displeased at the moment - has come along with a new, useless but cute feature - ringback tones. Now, when someone calls me, instead of the standard ringing tone they will hear a few bars of a song. I can customize the "ringback tone" (as it's called) for each of up to 25 different numbers in my address book. The selections from which I can choose run the gamut from Jessica Simpson to The Killers to Bon Jovi to Pavarotti, though there are significant gaps - no Van Halen, no Def Leppard, and no Sex Pistols, for example. I've only purchased three songs so far: (1) The Clash's "I Fought the Law" which is set as the ringback for Milbarge and various other lawyerly types who call me, (2) Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing," and (3) Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me." To peruse the available songs (and, if you are so inclined, to suggest any selections for me), go here.

2. If any more animals show up in my house, I'm callin' Jack Hannah.
Not only was I required to dispatch a snake in my house this week, but I had to deal with a mouse, too. Knowing that I had a mouse issue had me very conflicted when I was dealing with my snake issue the previous night. I had seen evidence of the mouse's presence for about a week and I finally discovered where it was he was gaining access to the house. I plugged up the hole with steel wool (after first dumping a generous portion of poison behind the wall) and baited several traps near his now-sealed "two-way friendship tube". The next morning, the culprit was stuck securely to the sticky trap. His last meal of peanut butter was about half-eaten but it did not provide him with enough energy to escape me. Two days later, the remaining traps are mouse-free, so I think (and hope) that the problem is resolved.

3. "Bow to Your Sensei!"
My gym recently hosted a UFC-style cage-fighting tournament for aspiring professional fighters. I didn't participate (don't act so shocked). I have no desire to step into the Octagon at all (or meet the Octagon), much less to fight some random stranger, but the guys involved seemed so enthusiastic about the opportunity to get the hell beat out of them. I am intrigued by the idea of training at a boxing gym or learning a fighting discipline, but I just don't see the fun in getting repeatedly punched and kicked. Anyone care to enlighten me?

4. Thank you, Steve Bilson!
Earlier this week we crossed the 100,000 mark. If you take away all the google searches for "begging the question," "Nicole Kidman," and "advanced masturbation techniques" that number drops by at least 50 percent. Of the remaining 50,000, it's not really accurate to count the hits from Milbarge and me checking the site 50 times a day each. So really it's more like 25,000 hits over the course of two years, which works out to about 35 hits per day. In all honesty, that's probably a very accurate calculation of the number of regular visitors. And to each of you (and to any irregulars too) I would like to say thank you - your readership and support make this whole enterprise so much fun. I hope you find something here that keeps you coming back.





Friday Spies© Compendium
In lieu of new questions this week, I thought I would finally get around to collecting all the Friday Spies© questions in one place. Feel free to answer any or all of them. A lot of these were specific to Fitz or me, so the usual participants might not have answered them before. I think it's interesting to see the change over time as the answerers changed. Anyway, future questions will be added to this list, assuming we can think of any.

February 11 (Milbarge answering)

1. What was your worst job?
2. Tell us about a place to which you've never been but that you hope to visit some day.
3. Your top-five list of television shows/series. Go.
4. Describe one of your guilty pleasures (not sweet tea).
5. I want to read a band story. Amuse me.

February 11 (Fitz-Hume answering)

1. What is the most expensive gift you've ever given anyone, excluding your ex-wife's ring?
2. Have you ever sold anything, bought anything, or processed anything as a career? Have you ever sold anything bought or processed, or bought anything sold or processed, or repaired anything sold, bought, or processed, as a career?
3. What were your least- and most-favorite courses in law school and why? If necessary, give answers for 1L and upperclass courses, because if a 1L class stunk, it's not your fault for choosing poorly.
4. What is your favorite city that you've only visited once, and why?
5. Tell us a fishing story -- the biggest you ever caught, the one that got away, etc.

February 25 (Fitz-Hume answering)

1. Who is an author whose work you've never read, but want to?
2. What are your three favorite "Seinfeld" episodes?
3. Name something that is essential for a married man to own, but that a single man might not even think about.
4. They're going to make a movie about your life. What's the theme song?
5. In honor of the new Tommy Lee Jones cheerleading movie Man of the House, feel free to take a few digs at the Longhorns. But I was wondering about cheerleading technique. What are some tips and tricks? Where does your hand go when you do those lifts? You've already told us about a fight among your cheerleading squad. Any other memorable cheerleading stories you wish to share?

February 25 (Milbarge answering)

1. Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?
2. Can men and women be friends?
3. Have you ever wanted to kill someone?
4. If you could choose to live in a different time period, would you? If so, when would live and why?
5. What is your favorite sports moment?

March 4 (Fitz-Hume answering)

1. What will be the first sentence of your obituary?
2. What is the scariest movie you ever saw (or book you ever read, if that's more appropriate)?
3. What was the first car you drove?
4. What's your favorite, and least-favorite, Supreme Court decision, and why?
5. Your ex-wife is a very talented artist who works in several media. Describe your favorite work of hers.

March 4 (Milbarge answering)

1. Who is someone you admire?
2. What is your biggest beef with Hollywood?
3. Is it easier to go a week without sweet tea or a week without blogs/blogging?
4. Tell us about a particularly bad gift you've received.
5. Recommend a magazine subscription.

March 11 (Milbarge answering) and (Fitz-Hume answering)

1. Tell me what's in your desk drawers right now.
2. How many states have you visited or lived in, and which of the others do you most want to visit?
3. What was the last cd you purchased, and what was the last movie you rented/bought a ticket to?
4. Have you ever sung karaoke? If not, what song would you be willing to sing in front of people?
5. What was the best concert you've ever attended, either because of the performance or because it was otherwise memorable?

March 18 (Milbarge answering)

1. Who is an author whose work you've never read, but want to?
2. Can men and women be friends?
3. If you could choose to live in a different time period, would you? If so, when would live and why?
4. Have you ever sold anything, bought anything, or processed anything as a career? Have you ever sold anything bought or processed, or bought anything sold or processed, or repaired anything sold, bought, or processed, as a career?
5. They're going to make a movie about your life. What's the theme song?

March 25 (Milbarge answering) and (Fitz-Hume answering)

1. What blog, other than your own, do you read the most?
2. Are you a gadget person? Do you have the latest thingamajigs and whoozits and geegaws? What sort of gadgets do you own?
3. If I gave you $1000 on the condition that you couldn't spend it on something responsible (e.g., bills), or save it, what would you do with the money? (Can you tell that a Democrat is asking that question?)
4. What are your five favorite sitcoms of all time, other than "Seinfeld" and "The Simpsons"?
5. Organize a film festival based on a theme. Choose a theme and a handful of movies with that theme, and tell us what you've chosen.

April 1 (Milbarge answering)

1. Have you ever been in a car wreck?
2. Sunrise or sunset?
3. If you could change, amend, delete, or pass one law, what would it be?
4. What is your favorite single article of clothing?
5. If you could/had to spend the day hanging out with another blogger (one you don't already know), who would it be and what would you do?

April 8 (Fitz-Hume answering) and (Nataliya answering)

1. James Bond or Austin Powers?
2. What is the most romantic thing you've ever done for someone?
3. Rachel claims this is her favorite movie. Her actual favorite movie is?
4. What is the perfect rock-and-roll song?
5. So what really happened to Milbarge?

April 15 (Fitz-Hume answering)

1. What names did you consider for your blog?
2. What is your favorite adult beverage and why?
3. If you could cancel 3 televisions shows, what would they be?
4. You've been asked to host SNL. Which cast would you choose to work with, and who would you choose as the musical guest?
5. What will Britney Spears name her baby and which three names will she consider and reject before settling on the "winner"?

April 22
(Fitz-Hume answering)

1. Which Simpsons character are you most like?
2. Name a song you hate that is performed by a band you like. Name a song you like by a band you hate.
3. What skills do you possess? Nun chuck skills? Computer hacking skills?
4. Coen Brothers or Farrelly Brothers?
5. What do you predict will be the worst part(s) of the new Star Wars movie?

April 29 (the week we provided the answers and you provided the questions) (Fitz-Hume answering)

1. Archibald Leach, Bernard Schwartz, Lucille LeSueur.
2. To get to the other side.
3. Drugs. Massive quantities of drugs.
4. Milbarge.
5. Without question, the single most idiotic thing ever thought up by the human mind.

May 6 (Fitz-Hume answering)

1. What is a food you have tried but will never eat again, and what don't you like about it?
2. What are your five favorite possessions?
3. How do you deal with confrontation? Do you seek it out or do you avoid it? Are you more apt to be the confronter or the confronted?
4. What will Michael Jackson be doing five years from now?
5. What is the worst movie sequel ever made, what is the best sequel ever, and what movie should have had a sequel but didn't?

May 13 (Fitz-Hume answering)

1. If you could change any element of your physical appearance, would you? If so, what would you change? If you could change any aspect of your personality would you?
2. Name a good make-out song (I believe the kids these days would call that "baby-making music").
3. What did Britney say to Kevin when she found out she was pregnant? What was his response?
4. Did Oswald act alone?
5. (Obligatory Friday the 13th inspired question) Are you superstitious? Do you believe in luck, karma, fate, the supernatural, etc?

May 20 (Would you rather? questions) (Fitz-Hume answering)

1. Live alone on a deserted island for 10 years or be paid handsomely to live at Neverland Ranch with the King of Pop for one year?
2. Be deaf or blind?
3. Have skin which changed color depending on your mood or visible sight lines?
4. Spend a year in prison or a year on tour with Celine Dion and John Tesh?
5. Have threesome with your close friends or with total strangers?

May 27 (Fitz-Hume answering) and (Milbarge answering)

1. What is the best thing about the city in which you live? What is the worst?
2. Describe an idea or invention of yours that you would like to see turned into reality.
3. Name an overrated author, musician, and movie. Name an underrated author, musician, and movie.
4. If your life were a sitcom slated to air in the fall, what would the show be called? Who would you cast in the starring role? And for extra credit, give us a brief treatment of the show.
5. When is the fun supposed to start?

June 3 (Fitz-Hume answering) and (Milbarge answering)

1. From Janie Q: "How about your favorite tv show when you were a kid, and why hasn't it been remade into a movie, or if it has, how was that movie, or maybe it shouldn't be remade at all?"
2. Stag asks: "Tell us about your favorite vacation or your fav place to go on vacation."
3. Soup inquires: "Are you a fan of Get Fuzzy?"
4. Sebastian Haff has a burning desire to know: "[Which] celebrities [do] you think are most likely to pose in Playboy and why[?]"
5. Energy Spatula gets to the heart of the matter with the final question for the week: "Why don't you write about which one [Fitz-Hume or Milbarge] is a huge liar?"

June 10 (Fitz-Hume answering) and (Milbarge answering)

1. What is the earliest movie you remember watching in the theater?
2. If you could strike one word from the English language, which word would you choose and why?
3. If you were a superhero, what would be your kryptonite?
4. Would you rather win an Emmy, Grammy, Tony, Golden Globe, Oscar, Pulitzer, or Nobel Prize? What work would you win it for?
5. What is your catch phrase? Don't have one? Then make one up!

June 17 (Fitz-Hume answering) and (Milbarge answering)

1. Which relationship will last longer, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie ("Brangelina"), or Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes ("TomKat")?
2. Less importantly, which will have nuclear bombs first, North Korea or Iran?
3. What is your dream car?
4. What book have you read the most times?
5. Are you a matchmaker?

June 24 (Fitz-Hume answering) and (Milbarge answering)

1. What's your favorite season?
2. Do you have a green thumb?
3. What is your favorite sport to watch? What is your favorite sport to play? Do you have a sports hero?
4. Which would you rather be: Mayor, Governor, Senator, or President?
5. What are ten must-own items for single men and single women?

July 1 (Milbarge answering) and (Fitz-Hume answering)

1. Is Tom Cruise correct that we're not alone in the universe?
2. What is a fashion trend that you would like to see go away, and what is a fashion you would like to see come back in style?
3. I was going to ask what city will win next week's vote on the host of the 2012 Olympics, but everyone knows it's going to be Paris, so I decided to tweak it: What city that you have visited (or lived in) would be a good Olympic host city, and why?
4. Happy Canada Day to our readers in the Great White North! In light of that holiday, and our own upcoming Independence Day, tell us your favorite Independence Day memory. (And yes, those of you in other nations can use whatever national holiday you celebrate.)
5. The Supreme Court ruled this week on one set of commandments, but we want to hear yours. What are the Ten Commandments of [X]? Pick a topic and reveal its ten most important rules. Phrasings with "shalt" appreciated but not required.

July 8 (Fitz-Hume answering) and (Milbarge answering)

1. Tropical Storm Cindy and Hurricane Dennis are causing trouble in the Southeast this week. Share a natural disaster story.
2. What is your favorite work of art?
3. Do you squeeze the toothpaste tube from the middle or the bottom?
4. What is your favorite "cult" film?
5. Would you go into space if given the chance? Where would you go?

July 15 (Milbarge answering) and (Fitz-Hume answering)

1. What time do you go to bed? What time do you wake up?
2. What do you want done to/with your body after you die?
3. Describe your dream house.
4. Are you an excellent driver? Do you speed, or drive the speed limit? Ever been ticketed?
5. What is your favorite animal, mineral, and vegetable?

July 22 (Milbarge answering) and (Fitz-Hume answering)

1. Why did you start blogging?
2. Are the reasons you blog now the same as when you started? If not, what's changed?
3. What would make blogging better for you?
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?
5. What is your philosophy of the blogroll?

July 29 (Milbarge answering)

1. What five things should you never buy used?
2. Sony BMG just ended a payola investigation by settling with New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer. So let's engage in some reverse payola: What song or artist would you pay to never have to hear again, and how much would it be worth to you?
3. In honor of the new Bad News Bears: Did you ever play little league, or other organized youth sports?
4. What was your biggest fashion faux pas?
5. In honor of all our readers who took the Bar Exam this week: What was the hardest test you ever took?

August 5 (Milbarge answering)

1. What's your favorite cheese?
2. Cheesy movie: If you were in Top Gun, what would your call sign be?
3. Big cheese: Tell us a boss story -- best boss, worst boss, a time when you were the boss, etc.
4. Say cheese: Are you a photobug? Are you photogenic? Or, in 1000 words or less, tell us about your best picture.
5. Just cheesy: What's the worst pick-up line you've ever used, or had used on you? Did it work?



Thursday, August 11, 2005

Gift Question
I need some advice about gifts. I've always said about myself that "I give good gift," because I put a lot of thought into it and usually do a good job. But I'm stuck here.

My job is about to end, and I'd like to do something for my co-clerks. I'm not going to spend a lot of money or anything, but I do feel like making a gesture, a token, something. Any ideas? If I can't think of anything else, I'll probably go with just a nice bouquet of flowers for the ladies, if you need some indication of what I'm going for. Guys are easier, because I can always go with something alcohol- or golf-related for them in a pinch.

I suppose I'm a little closer to a couple of them, but if I do anything, I'll get something for all of them. That just seems right, and a little less weird. I'm not sure if I need to get something for the secretary too, since we're all pitching in on something for her. I just don't know if she would feel left out if I got something for the clerks.

Anyway, let me know if I'm completely off base here to think of getting something, and if you have any ideas for small gifts that might be appreciated. Thanks.





Your Result: You are 71% Gay!
Hei Lun of Begging to Differ posted a list of "Seven Signs that your Male Child Might Be Gay" gleaned from Focus on the Family's "Is My Child Becoming Homosexual?" (via Dan Drezner), which consists of some true gems. Below are the questions with my answers - think of it as the "How gay are you?" internet quiz. I wish I had a Quizilla graphic to accompany the results.

1. A strong feeling that they are "different" from other boys.

Check. I've always felt like I was different from other boys. Never really enjoyed farting for an audience, never got into dirt bikes, preferred drawing and writing to cutting up in class.

2. A tendency to cry easily, be less athletic, and dislike the roughhousing that other boys enjoy.

Check, check, and check. I wouldn't necessarily say that I cry easily, but I cry more often than most men would find acceptable.

Less athletic than the other boys? So coordination and motor skill development effects whether I am sexually attracted to men? Interesting. I did not know that. Weird, wild stuff.

Dislikes roughhousing? That's odd. Grappling and wrestling with other boys, grabbing at each other, and touching each other makes you less likely to be gay?

So, according to Dr. Dobson, clumsy = gay, but "emotionally repressed" = not gay, and "likes to wrestle with and touch other boys" = not gay AT ALL. Are you following the math? I wish the good Doc had shown his work, because I'm having trouble keeping all the figures straight in my head. Of course, since at this point I'm at least 2/7ths gay, keeping anything straight might be too much of a stretch for me.

3. A persistent preference to play female roles in make-believe play.

Do I get a pass on this one? I've certainly dressed up in women's clothes a time or two in my life, but I guess my score on this question depends on how Dobson defines "persistent" - I'm guessing it means "ever." Judges? Yes, it means "ever." Damn. I'm 3 for 3 so far.

4. A strong preference to spend time in the company of girls and participate in their games and other pastimes.

Check. I have always preferred the company of women to the company of men. I like their games (watching them play soccer is a particular favorite), I gleefully participated in cheerleading, and who isn't a fan of slumber parties and tickle fights?

5. A susceptibility to be bullied by other boys, who may tease them unmercifully and call them "queer," "fag" and "gay."

Check, again. I wasn't bullied so much as teased, but I was teased without mercy and called "queer," "fag," "homo," and "gay" for most of my life. So other people's labels for me determine who I am? Because someone else says it makes it true? Okay...

6. A tendency to walk, talk, dress and even "think" effeminately.

Mostly guilty. I don' t think that I walk funny - at least not all the time. I had to go to a speech therapist in the first grade to loose my lisp (brought on by a lack of front teeth at the time). I use words like "fabulous" and "gorgeous" and "product." I wear girl jeans, I use lots of hygiene products, I use a facial mask, and I sometimes think that things are "pretty." Oh, and I admire Brad Pitt's body in Troy. It's unreal.

7. A repeatedly stated desire to be - or insistence that he is - a girl.

Whew! I avoided that one. I never felt like a was a woman trapped in man's body. I never felt like I got them menstrual cramps real hard.

Tallying up my Homo-score, it looks like I am 5/7ths gay. If this was the bar exam, I'd be gay for sure. Maybe a 71% score just means that I'm kinda gay. But I think that being gay is like being pregnant - you either are or you aren't. So, according to the quiz, I guess I am gay. I don't how that jives with my strong feelings of attraction to women, but Dobson is a DOCTOR. My brain is just a third the size of his. It's science.

Normally, I would kick into sarcasm overdrive mode here, but frankly, Dr. Dobson's list is so ludicrous that it doesn't even merit sarcasm. It merits only derision and scorn. Does anyone really think that this emergency list of "warning" signs tells a parent anything? And I'm not even going to address the notion of "becoming" homosexual. Ugh. Nothing like the tolerance of our religious leaders to really sway people to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Did I say no sarcasm? Well, that was until I was inspired. In the middle of writing this post I realized that, not only do I score a 5 out of 7, but a close personal friend of mine does, too. Yep, that's right, Jesus is 71% queer. It's true! Just ask Dr. Dobson. Too bad Joseph and/or God the Father didn't have Dobson's handy list (heh - Jesus has 2 Daddys) (heh - yes, there's some potential blasphemy in this post). Check it out:

1. A strong feeling that they are "different" from other boys.

From a very early age, from birth, actually, people knew he was different from the other boys. He had special gifts and a penchant for performing "miracles."

2. A tendency to cry easily, be less athletic, and dislike the roughhousing that other boys enjoy.

He wept! He walked, not ran, everywhere. He slept while his buddies rowed a boat in a storm. And he said "Blessed are the peacemakers," and "Blessed are the meek." He's famous for the idea of turning the other cheek. What a sissy! I bet the young and very manly Dr. Dobson beat up girly boys like him every day in the schoolyard.

3. A persistent preference to play female roles in make-believe play.

I don't recall him ever taking on female roles. There's some hope for him yet!

4. A strong preference to spend time in the company of girls and participate in their games and other pastimes.

He spent time in the company of many women, especially HIS MOTHER. He was a real momma's boy. She went EVERYWHERE with him.

5. A susceptibility to be bullied by other boys, who may tease them unmercifully and call them "queer," "fag" and "gay."

You might say that he was bullied and teased a little. Does being whipped and crucified count as bullying? How about being mocked as "King of the Jews" - is that teasing? Did I mention that he was thin, neat, and a thirty-something year-old virgin? I think we all know what that means.

6. A tendency to walk, talk, dress and even "think" effeminately.

Seriously. We all know that he wore a dress and long hair. A dress! It doesn't get more effeminate than that.

7. A repeatedly stated desire to be - or insistence that he is - a girl.

Whew! (again) Luckily, he too passes this stringent test. I don't think Jesus ever insisted that he was girl. Or maybe King James had those verses stricken from the New Testament.

So, Jesus, like me, scores a 71% gay score. That's quite gay, don't you think? I wonder if Dr. Dobson's next piece will be titled "Jesus Might Be Gay, But Your Son Doesn't Have to Be." Or maybe he could post his results for the quiz "Am I an Ignorant, Judgemental Prick?" I predict he'll get a perfect score - but at least he's not gay!





Thursday Recipe Post: Thai One On
alternative post title: I bring you the foods of Thailand, but without all the sweat and tuk-tuks

By "popular" demand (I'm looking at you, Wadsworth), I am bringing back the Thursday Recipe Post feature. Who knew that my calling would be as a food writer? I always assumed I would end up penning wildly popular erotica or perhaps a screenplay about stalkers and crazy ex's trying to hunt down and murder two bloggers in love. But you know what they say about about assumptions...

Today's recipe is Chicken with Snake Beans, which I adapted from a recipe for Thua Phat Muu (Pork with Snake Beans) taken from The Food of Thailand - one of those very nice recipe books filled with lots of background stories on the culture and history of the people, beautiful photographs, and great recipes.

First, let me explain "snake beans." Despite the name, snake beans are quite harmless, and, in fact, are not related to snakes at all. Snake beans are vegetables, similar to our green beans, but are much longer (sometimes approaching a yard long) and have a slightly leathery skin. You may be able to find them in a specialty food shop or gourmet grocery market. If not, substitute regular green beans. Now, on to the recipe:
Chicken with Snake Beans

1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
12 ounces of boneless, skinless chicken breast, finely sliced
9 ounces of snake beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 long red chili, seeded and shredded (for garnish)

Mix the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and water in a small bowl.

Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan and stir-fry the garlic over medium heat until light brown (stir constantly to prevent the garlic from charring). Add the chicken and stir-fry over high heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Add the beans and the sauce mixture and stir-fry for about 4 minutes more. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.

Transfer to a serving plate, garnish with the shredded chili, and serve immediately. The recipe serves 3 to 4 people.
This is a very simple recipe, it takes very little time or effort to prepare, and it is delicious and healthy. Including the time it takes to wash and cut the chicken and beans, this meal can be on the table in less than half an hour.

I'm going to stick with Thai cuisine for the next few weeks, but I'm always interested in what you want to read about. I am happy to accommodate our readers' wishes, so if you have any recipe requests please let me know about them.



Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Cheer, Cheer for the Fighting Milbarges!
Since I have to come up with a post per day, I thought I would wade in to one of the blogosphere controversies du jour, the NCAA's decision to ban "hostile and abusive" nicknames for teams competing in its tournaments. The NCAA listed about twenty names on its hit-list, mostly Indian-related names like the Seminoles and Savages. I can't imagine any of the teams are thrilled about this, and some are even threatening litigation. I'm not sure what kind of claims they would have; the NCAA isn't a state actor and is presumably free to set its own rules subject to approval by the member schools. I think this is kind of dumb, and it's being handled badly, and will be a PR disaster, but I'm not sure the NCAA can't do it if it wants to. But I think they've gone about it in a ham-handed way.

First, the ban applies to the nickname, not the school. So the school will apparently be okay as long as the jersey has the school's name and not the nickname, and the mascot doesn't suit up. That doesn't seem to be much of a punishment. Second, the ban will apply only during NCAA-sponsored tournaments, so it won't apply during the regular season (when there are many more games) or during Division 1-A bowl games (which aren't run by the NCAA but which afford lots of publicity for the negatively-nicknamed teams). Third, the terms "hostile" and "abusive" are extremely vague, and could lead to odd applications of the rule, depending on who is drawing the lines.

And fourth, that seems to be what's happened. Check out this list of nicknames for all the potentially offensive names left off the list. At a minimum, there are way more than twenty Indian-related team nicknames. Also, some of those nicknames are used with the express approval and satisfaction of the relevant, allegedly-aggrieved nations, like the Seminoles of Florida State and the Utes of Utah. But why no ban on the Aztecs of San Diego State? Why are the Illinois Fighting Illini banned but not the Notre Dame Fighting Irish? Are Warriors worse than Braves? What about the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors? And has a truly generic nickname spared the William & Mary Tribe?

Even apart from national or ethnic sensibilities, there are a lot of nicknames that could cause offense. Muslims might be offended by the Valparaiso Crusaders. Christians might be offended (and have in fact protested) the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and the Duke Blue Devils. Hydrophobes might be offended by the Tulane Green Wave. Angles might be offended by the Alfred University Saxons. The Mt. Saint Mary's Athenians might be offended by the Michigan State Spartans. I know I don't want to get between the Augustana College Vikings and the Luther College Norse. I wonder if Ron Burgundy played for the Rhode Island College Anchormen. (I don't want to be challenged to a duel, so I won't mention that some might take offense to the Ole Miss Rebels.)

My point isn't that these absurd examples prove anything about the legitimacy of Indian-related nicknames or the NCAA's decision. My point is just that the NCAA needs to do a better job defining its terms and stating its case. I think a lot of the Indian-related nicknames are pointless and genuinely offensive (like Redskins). I don't think the NCAA should get paternalistic, though, and go telling groups that they should be offended if they're not. And if it wants to ban certain nicknames, there's no good reason not to ban them outright, instead of just in a few tournament games. I'm not necessarily saying it should ban them outright (or that such a move wouldn't splinter the body by defections), just that it would make more sense than this train wreck. Oh well -- in the event of a train wreck, we can always count on the Lincoln Memorial University Railsplitters!





Once more into the breach
My brother left for Iraq last night. I last talked to him on Sunday, but I'm sure I'll get a chance to speak to him again sometime soon. His unit will be in Kuwait for a few weeks sorting out equipment, getting acclimated, and preparing for what's ahead. He is scheduled to be deployed for about 16 months and his enlistment technically ends in February 2007. I think his plan is to get out as soon as they will let him. I think that's more than sensible. He's put in his time and he's done more than his share for his country, having already served for a year in Afghanistan (for posts related to his experiences in Afghanistan, go here and here).

I hope to have regular email contact with him and, if so, will post what I can of those conversations to give our readers some frontline access to what it's like "over there."

Your best wishes for him are, of course, appreciated.



Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Attempt to Read this Post
Ken "The Hammer" Lammers links to a story about someone who was convicted of "attempted perjury," among other crimes. Ken reasonably asks how one can attempt perjury: either one tells the lie or doesn't. You can still be convicted of perjury if they jury doesn't believe you, and it's not a "knowing falsehood" if you think it's not true but it is, right? (I think I'm right on that, but please correct me if I'm wrong.)

Anyway, it reminded me of a similar type of crime, "attempted threats." The basic elements of the crime of threatening another are that you intentionally utter words designed to cause fear to the hearer. How can one attempt to do that? The thing to keep in mind here is the general criminal law concept that any completed crime includes the attempt to commit that crime as well. But ordinarily, attempt crimes get charged when someone tries to go the whole way but fails somewhere and doesn't complete every element of the underlying offense. But, as with perjury, how can one try and fail with threats? Once the words are out of your mouth, the crime is complete, right?

Well, that very issue came up before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals a few years ago, in a case called Evans v. United States, 779 A.2d 891 (D.C. 2001). Cops said they heard Evans threaten some folks as he was coming in to court for an appearance. Clearly, he committed the crime of threatening; he didn't merely attempt to do it. But he was just charged with attempted threats. So Evans appealed, arguing that he was convicted for a nonexistent crime.

I was at the oral argument in Evans (there were actually three cases argued that day raising the issue), and it was fun to see the judges and attorneys try to imagine some scenario where one could merely attempt to threaten someone. My favorite examples were uttering the threat over the phone, but it gets disconnected just before you speak, and threatening a person you don't know is deaf, and who can't read lips. (Can anyone else think of a better example?)

The court said that an uttered but unheard threat can be an "attempted threat." But that's really only supportable if the standard is an objective one -- that the words would convey fear to an ordinary hearer -- instead of a subjective one -- that the threat actually put the hearer in fear. That might vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. (And how would you prove he uttered it if it was unheard?) In the end, it was moot, because the court fell back on the general rule that any completed crime has the attempt as a lesser-included, and on the government's discretion to decline to charge the harshest offense it can prove.

So it might seem like the defendants were getting a break. (The guy in the story Ken linked to seems to have reached a plea agreement, so it probably was a break for him to plead to attempted perjury.) But one might ask why on earth the prosecutor would charge mere attempted threats instead of the whole thing.

The answer, which you know already if you skipped over and read the Evans opinion, is the jury trial right. Under the D.C. Code, defendants got a jury trial on any charge for which the punishment is more than 180 days in jail. Attempted threats fell under the general attempt statute, which provided that any undesignated attempt crime was punishable by just 180 days' imprisonment.

So even though the difference in jail time might be a solitary day, the government's decision to charge attempted threatening, even when it could prove threatening, saves it the hassle of affording the defendant a trial by jury. A neat trick. The D.C.C.A. said that was okay, because of prosecutorial discretion. I don't know the facts in the case Ken found, but the right to a jury trial might be a reason a crime like "attempted perjury" is on the books.





Crikey! She's a beauty!
After dinner last night of Thai-inspired stir-fried chicken and snake beans, I watched a Bill Kurtis documentary on the "I-45 Murders," a decades-long series of murders in the Houston area. It was an interesting show and the conclusion seemed to be that there are a number of serial killers who have worked or are working in the Houston area. Interesting but sad, because there are dozens of unsolved murders of young women dating back to the early 1970s and no one in law enforcement seems to hold out much hope that the murders will ever be solved.

After the show ended, I decided to hit the shower and then hit the hay. On my way out of the kitchen, I headed for the back door, a sliding glass door, to lock up the house for the night. As I approached the back door, I noticed what appeared to be a ribbon of crumpled paper or fabric lying in the track between the sliding door and the screen door. When I closed to within about five feet of the door I realized that it was not strip of fabric or paper, it was a snake.

A snake.

!

A long, brown snake with a lovely diamond pattern on it's back, like this.

!!

And when it saw me, it coiled up and . . . it began to rattle. So, not just a snake, not just a long, brown snake, but a long, brown, diamondback rattlesnake was coiled up at my back door and I had no means of removing him from my house.

!!!

My first reaction was not the most masculine. It consisted of a bit of loud swearing and my leaping back about 10 feet. To be fair, I was dressed only in a pair of gym shorts so I wasn't exactly suited up to do battle with a dangerous reptilian foe. Nor was I well equipped. Steve Irwin might tackle a 2-foot long rattler with his bare hands - hell, he might even do it while cradling his infant child in one arm - but I'm no Steve Irwin. What to do, what to do? I really was at a loss as to a plan, except that long pants and shoes would be required. I sprinted back to my room and donned a pair of jeans and some boots.

While I was pulling my boots out of the closet, I had a brainstorm. I took a metal hanger out of the closet, straightened it, and fashioned myself a long hook like the ones that snake handlers use on Animal Planet. But as I headed down the hall with my new tool, I realized that I could not just take the snake outside and let it loose. It could very easily return to the house, or it might head into my neighbors' yards - my neighbors who each have young children. No, it just wouldn't be safe to turn a poisonous snake loose in my backyard.

[Note to the squeamish: you may want to skip the next two paragraphs as they contain descriptions of violent acts]

Reluctantly (reluctant not only because I don't relish the killing of undeserving creatures, but also because I recently found a mouse in my kitchen, a mouse with whom I would have liked the snake to become acquainted), I made the decision to kill the snake. How was I going to accomplish this? I grabbed a knife out of the closet where I keep my backpacking and hunting equipment and figured that I would use the coat hanger to pin the snake's head to the ground and then quickly remove the head with the knife.

When I returned to the kitchen, the snake was still there, but it was coiled up and very unhappy. I tightened the loop I created in the end of the hangar and very cautiously slipped it over the snake's head. Then I twisted the hangar and used the loop to pin the snake's head to the ground. He did not like this at all. I didn't like it either, because his tail was rattling like crazy and his body was writhing and flipping about, trying to get free of me. Knowing that I had no time to contemplate the situation, and knowing that delaying my decision would not make it any easier, I reached down and cut off the snake's head with one clean motion. The body, now free of the head and the hangar, continued to writhe about for a little bit oozing blood all over the carpet, but I slid open the screen door and quickly flicked the now-dead snake onto the back porch. I went back inside and retrieved a garbage bag into which I scooped up the snake. I put the bag in the dumpster and spent several minutes cleaning the carpet by my back door before finally taking my shower.





A Hundred Grand...and a Promise
Well, I don't know how it happened, but it looks like we've been keeping this rattletrap ole streetcar running long enough to manage 100,000 visits (sometime today). Now, granted, that might only translate to fifty or so different actual visitors. But we'll take it; round numbers are cool. And we really mean an actual hundred thousand of something, not the 100 Grand candy bar. Thanks for stopping by, San Diego.

So, in gratitude for people continuing to visit even though we've been doing the blog equivalent of summering at the ranch in Crawford, here's a promise to our loyal reader(s). I'll have at least one post per day (average) every day until the end of August. I can't promise quality, but I can promise quantity. We'll see if making myself post something translates into posting something good. I think a lot of my writer's block can be helped by just getting back in the habit of posting, so I'm going to test that hypothesis. (And certainly, feel free to suggest potential topics!) Anyway, seriously, thanks for reading, and please come back often!



Monday, August 08, 2005

You can do it: My thoughts on the bar exam
(The following is excerpted from a post I contributed to De Novo's symposium on preparing for and taking the bar exam which you can read here)

I am a 30 year-old attorney and I work in the office of legal counsel to a state legislature. Due to the nature of my work, I don't write about law or politics on the blog, so consider today's post a rare and joyous occasion. You're more likely to see Halley's comet again than to see another law-related post from me.

What follows are my thoughts on taking the bar exam.

Not long ago, I was a mediocre student at a top twenty law school. I finished in the top-third of my class, I participated in a two-year legal clinic assisting capital defenders, and I wrote for and served on the editorial board of a legal journal.

A quick aside, if you'll permit me. I think it is truly bad advice to take courses in law school just because they cover subjects tested on the bar exam. Everything you need to know to pass the bar exam can be learned from the bar preparation materials, whether you get those materials from BarBri, MicroMash, or some other company. Beyond those courses that should make up the components of basic legal literacy (your first-year courses, plus evidence, admin law, and tax) I don't see any value in choosing your courses solely because they will be tested on the bar exam. Instead, take classes that interest you because you're more likely to care about those courses and perform well in them. Obviously, people will disagree with me, but you just don't need comprehensive knowledge of every subject tested on the bar. The first-level knowledge you need to pass the exam can be obtained from the review materials.

My bar preparation did not include PMBR or BarBri. I ordered the self-study kit from MicroMash and I could not have been happier. I chose MicroMash for several reasons: (1) it was much cheaper than BarBri and PMBR, (2) you could get a refund for the cost of the materials if you failed the bar, and (3) I couldn't possibly imagine sitting in class for several hours every day listening to someone drone on about the bar exam subjects. I had confidence that I could learn or re-learn everything I needed to know without watching videotaped lectures. If the mountain of debt I piled up during school was not motivation enough to get me to learn the material on my own, the BarBri videos weren't going to be the panacea.

To anyone looking for an alternative to BarBri, I recommend MicroMash without reservation. The CD-ROM filled with tens of thousands of multi-state multiple-choice practice questions is particularly useful in preparing for the Multi-State portion of the exam.

There is no reason that preparing for the bar exam should consume your summer. I did not study at all during May. Instead, I moved my family. During June, I spent perhaps an hour a day reading through the detailed outlines of the state-specific areas of law. I did not take notes, I did not make outlines, I did not write out practice answers. I just read the prepared outlines. I spent the rest of my time fishing, playing video games, reading for pleasure, or playing basketball. My bar preparation did not really begin until the Monday after the Fourth of July. For the next 3 1/2 weeks, I spent 10 to 12 hours per day studying, making notes, reading, re-reading, and outlining answers to practice essays. I divided my time pretty evenly between studying for the MBE and learning the state-specific topics. I spent the two days before the bar exam helping my co-blogger pack up his house and move.

And I passed the Virginia bar exam on the first try - without BarBri and without sacrificing my summer to the bar examiners.

I think that the fear most people have about passing the bar exam is misplaced. Yes, the bar exam is important. It may be the most important test you ever take, but a diligent law student has the tools to pass the exam. I'm not a genius, I'm not particularly gifted in terms of "getting" the law, and I certainly didn't exert an extraordinary amount of effort preparing for the bar, either, but I passed.



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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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