Monday, October 31, 2005


Lundi gras*

Halloween is tonight. It has become fairly commonplace for people my age to remark anecdotally that the number of goods roving through the neighborhood trick-or-treating is significantly lower than it was when we were kids. Too many poisoned-Tylenol-bottle and child abduction stories, and changes in mores about letting kids out unsupervised, I guess.

But there is still some trick-or-treating, and so I bought five $3 bags of candy packaged in sizes that have gotten ever-smaller over the years, from full, to half, to "snack" to "bite" sizes.

This is not necessarily bad. This candy is god-awful. It's full of chemicals and preservatives and emulsifiers, of course. In my trick-or-treating days they still used sugar in a lot of candy, I think, but for many years now it's all been high-fructose corn syrup -- which is perhaps the principal villain in the rise of obesity in the U.S. By doling out my five bags of candy, I'm just helping to fatten up our already overweight young people.

So I've belatedly come to the conclusion that after tonight I will no longer participate in the corn-syrup/industrial/obesity complex. No more damn crappy candy for Halloween!

But what do I give, starting next year, for a treat? Something cheap that is not food -- any ideas?

UPDATE: There are lots of great ideas in the comments. But nobody mentioned wax lips!
*Fat Monday

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Circumstantial evidence of unintelligent life on our planet

So what do you think -- should I explore this business opportunity?

Dear Sir/Madam,
We are exporters based in the Taiwan, we export raw materials, such as Calcite, Barytes, Manganese Dioxide , Dolomite, Mica , China Clay,Mangnese Dioxide,Ferrous(Iron ) Oxide,Paints, Rubber, Plastics,Construction chemicals and we export from Asia and export into Europe,America and Australia. our company Solenoids Industrial Co. Ltd.was established in 2001.We are interested in employing your services, to work with us as our payment agent who can help us eastablish a medium of recieving payment on our behalf for Goods and raw materials we supplied to our customers in Europe,America, Canada and Australia.If you are interested in transacting business with us. we will be very glad. Subject to your satisfaction you will be given the opportunity to negotiate your mode of which we will pay for your services as our representative in Europe,America and Australia. Please if you are interested please email us on and forward to us your phone/fax number and your full contact address.
Thank you as we await your further response. Sincerely,
Mr.Xiao Jun.
Solenoids Industrial Co Ltd.
55 An Suing East 9th Street,
Taichung, Taiwan
Lately I've been getting one of these emails every couple of weeks. Someone purporting to be from Africa or Asia offers to make me rich if I were simply to serve as a conduit for their money. Would I be their payment agent? Would I be willing to hold their $2 million until they can relocate from Ghana to a more congenial country?

My question is this: if the rate of return on this particular email scam were zero, it would have ended by now, wouldn't it? So doesn't that imply that every now and then some poor sucker is being taken in?

The only way to keep myself from imaging an unbearably sad person is to consider that, in addition to being unimaginably stupid, he's also kind of sleazy or dishonest. He reads:
"If you are interested in transacting business with us. we will be very glad."
He thinks:
What an easy mark! This guy can't even speak good English!
I guess that's one strategy for an effective con: appeal to your mark's belief that he's conning you.

Friday, October 28, 2005


Better get yourself a lawyer, Furby -- you're next

Federal prosecutors have intensified their crackdown on white collar criminals with "cutesy names that sound like stuffed animals or cartoon characters."

In the past two days alone, the Justice Department has handed down indictments of "Scrushy" and "Scooter Libby."


The company, having remade itself, should consider renaming itself

Let's help them with ideas for a new name, shall we? How about:
Victoria's Booty Cave

Victoria's Flaunting It

Victoria's Big Bag of Sexy
I mean, that woman is literally straddling a big bag of sexy!


What, at this point, is the secret?


Existential Friday: Cheese


I went a little crazy in the past couple of weeks buying cheese. The cheese looked really good to me at the grocery store, so I bought a bunch. Then a few days later at the cheese stand at the farmers' market, I bought some more. I now have a refrigerator full of cheese. Two or three kinds of cheddar, mozzarella, asiago, goat milk, three different kinds of soft cheese...

There's way too much cheese in there. I don't see how I'm ever going to be able to eat all that cheese before it gets mouldy.

It's possible that in the upcoming weeks, I'll have to throw away a lot of cheese.

Do you ever get the feeling that you have so much cheese in your refrigerator that there's no way you'll ever be able to eat it all in time? So much cheese, so little time... Do you ever feel that way? I just have too much cheese in my life right now.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Ooops... does this mean somebody has to move away now?

These two homeowners in my neighborhood both finished painting their houses (on either side of the brick house) just last week. Nice color choice!



What I would sometimes like to, but never do, say to young whippersnapper law students who give me lip

"I have shoes that are older than you!"


Let's not allow THIS to become a habit

I come home from work and take off my tie. Later, I go upstairs, but I don't think to bring my tie. The natural result, as seen this morning:


Wednesday, October 26, 2005


The Class of 1970 Reunion Dinner

Last Friday, I attended the Class of 1970 Reunion Dinner and presented after-dinner remarks on current law students. Members of the class of 1970 began law school in the fall of 1967 and were probably born in 1945 or so, making them close to 60 years old today.

It was interesting to listen to their conversations about being a student at that time. The law school class was of course male-dominated, a dominant concern at the time was the Vietnam War and the draft, and during dinner some alumni talked about draft deferments and law students dropping out of law school to pursue coveted positions in the National Guard which, in contrast to the current Iraq War, normally meant duty away from the front lines.

It was also particularly interesting to hear the animated discussion between two alums about old Professor Simmons, who taught first year civil procedure in 1967. Good old Professor Simmons. He was apparently the Professor Kingsfield of his day, most noted for intimidating his students in the classroom. Not only have I never met him, but I have never once heard his name mentioned even by the emeritus professors reminiscing about their colleagues.

It was a bit like the scene in "A Christmas Carol" where Scrooge, accompanied by the Ghost of Christmas Future, overhears some commodities traders talking about how pathetic it was that no one showed up at Scrooge's funeral. Can you imagine your entire professional life reduced to a conversation between a couple of 60-year-old guys saying, "Professor Madison? Yeah, I think I took a course from him."

Monday, October 24, 2005


Is there a "no porn spam" list for law professors?

This post violates the tried-and-true rule of handling someone who is obnoxiously pandering for your attention: "Don't pay any attention to him -- that's just what he wants."

I've previously complained about receiving too much "law porn" in my office mail. What is "law porn," you ask? It's the (usually) glossy four-color brochures and postcards law schools send out to promote and market themselves in the hope of rising in the U.S. News rankings. See also here and here.

Last week, I decided to conduct a little experiment. Instead of simply taking the law porn from my mailbox and throwing it directly in the recycling bin unread, I would let it accumulate in my office for a full week, and then dump the whole lot of it in the recycling bin unread.

The week got off to a great start: Here's the eleven pieces of law porn I received in the mail in the first two days.


In the above photo, I included one of my shoes, for scale. That's a big pile o' law porn: the SMU, USC and William Mitchell brochures are each full magazine size. The shoe was also meant to signal my intention to stomp all over this pile before dumping it unread into the recycling bin.

But it turns out that 5.5 pieces of law porn a day was a bit below average. Here is the law porn accumulation after one week:


No, my shoe hasn't gotten smaller. That's 43 pieces of law porn pictured there, including eight magazine-size glossy brochures. That's an average of 8.6 pieces of law porn each working day. And it weighs 5 lbs., 15.7 oz. That's right -- just a single postcard shy of 6 lbs of law porn in a single week, an incredible 1.2 lbs per work day.

Why are they sending me all this stuff? And what kind of stuff? This pile o' porn includes: general promotional brochures for the law school; announcements of new faculty hires; alumni magazines of law schools I never attended; brochures bragging about recent faculty publications and accomplishments; and announcements of conferences, distinguished speaker series and presentations of academic work.

The latter category sounds like it might have a function other than pure puffery, until you take a closer look. Of the 15 pieces of porn purporting to invite me to hear speakers, 6 were announcing speaker events in distant cities that were to take place in less than two weeks -- so I couldn't have reasonably arranged to attend even if I'd wanted to -- and 4 others were for events that had already happened. Five announced a full academic year speaker schedule, all of which included at least two dates that had already passed.

And some were just absurd: like I'm really going to fly down to Birmingham, Alabama to Cumberland School of Law, Samford University, to hear somebody's 1-hour lunchtime workshop. How far do they think I'd go for a free lunch?

As for the glossy brochures, the prize for has to go to NYU Law School -- the institution which arguably deserves the credit for starting this whole law porn trend -- for its magazine-sized brochure:


Isn' that precious? If their self-description as "The Law School," isn't enough to make you sick, there's that cover story, "Dworkin on Dworkin," in which the famous philosopher -on-a-law-professor-salary will undoubtedly hold forth on the importance of his work to legal discourse. How do you spell "wankathon"?

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Bayfield, October 2005: the End of the Carnival

Ever wondered what a carnival looks like when it's all packed up to hit the road?


DSCN5618 DSCN5613

DSCN5611 DSCN5612



World Series notes

Neel at Brevity has inspired me to think about a World Series I'd otherwise be inclined to ignore. I have very mixed feelings about professional sports, feelings that roughly track professional sports' own self-image of opportunistic ambivalence: "We are a national trust safeguarding an historic part of this nature's cultural heritage" versus "we are a business."

MLB honchos trot out the former when they want to extend their antitrust exemption or get sweetheart stadium financing deals, or generate fan interest, or get public support against the Player's Union.

They trot out the latter when they want expansion, or to threaten team relocation in order to bludgeon a city into a sweetheart stadium financing deal, or to charge ticket and concession prices that make it cost $100 for two people to attend a game and have a snack, or to squeeze every last dollar out of everything connected to the game.

To me, the Texas teams personify the "business" side of baseball. The Texas Rangers are a relocation team and the Houston Astros are an expansion team,* they seem to be owned by sleazier businessmen among the baseball ownership cadre, and the Astros originally sold the naming rights to their new ballpark to Enron. The Astros have historically had the most hideous uniforms.

So when a Texas team is playing, I find it an inherent turnoff that can only be overcome when a team I really like is playing against them.

Yet this World Series is interesting in that it features two cursed teams: one curse must necessarily end. Houston has partially ended the Texas curse, by being the first Texas baseball team to win a pennant. As I once blogged about the failure of a Texas team to win a World Series:
I call this the Curse of Bush because Texas baseball will not capture a World Series title so long as the Bush family continues to stain the public affairs of our nation.
Let's hope the Astros get no further.

*Yes, yes, the Astros (nee the Colt 45s) joined the NL the same year as my beloved Mets, in 1962. But the Mets were an "expansion" team compensating National League New York fans for the traitorous defection of two teams, the Giants and the Dodgers, to California, in 1957-58 -- the darkest moment of "baseball is business" primacy in baseball history.

Saturday, October 22, 2005


Bayfield, on Lake Superior: October 2005

On our weekend trip a couple of weeks back we visited a few farms and apple orchards.

It wouldn't be a proper farm if there wasn't at least one old vehicle stashed somewhere on the property, would it?



This next one looks like Grandpa of the Chevron cartoon cars, doesn't it?



Thursday, October 20, 2005


Could this be the answer?

Here's the question:
Even though most Americans are politically moderate, American politics is careening to the right. Why? And what can be done?

Here's The Book. Can't wait to get me a copy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Good taste or bad sense of humor?

I made what I thought was a very witty remark in class today.

I was teaching a case in which the plaintiffs were suing a New Jersey-based defendant in state court in New York. The New York court had the option of applying the law of any of four different states to decide the case: New York, New Jersey, Ohio or Texas. Trust me, this can happen.

Anyway, the plaintiffs would win the case if the court were to apply the law of New York, Ohio or Texas, but would lose the case if the court were to apply the law of New Jersey. So I said:
So, if we're the plaintiff's, our strategy is: "anything but New Jersey." Which happens also to be a good strategy for all of you when planning your next vacation.
Pretty good, right? Dead silence. Are New Jersey jokes so worn out? Or offensive? How could that possibly be the case in a law student crowd in My Home Town?

Anyway, I had no choice but to resort to the age-old standup comedian's trick of deploying a well-worn "save" line, one that makes a joke out of the failure of the joke just told:
You should know that I made up that last joke on the spur of the moment -- it wasn't pre-planned. Does that make it funny?
Scattered, mild laughter. But they made me beg for it -- I felt so cheap.


Am I a food pedant?

My favorite Italian restaurant in My Home Town offers an "antipasto" plate featuring olives, tapanade, artichoke hearts, prosciutto, salami and roasted garlic. It also includes a small sample-size portion of fettucini with pesto sauce.

It's yummy, but isn't it... wrong? Antipasto doesn't literally translate as "appetizer," it means stuff that you eat before the pasta.

This shows why I would be bad at running a restaurant. I would refuse to call the plate "antipasto," and get really stuck on just what to call it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Heath Care for our ERA

I’m signing up for the Employee Reimbursement Account or “ERA,” a fringe benefit offered through my employer that’s considered part of the health care plan. ERA is essentially a tax credit for uninsured medical expenses. It’s managed as a payroll deduction: you set aside any amount you choose of pre-tax salary up to $7,500, which goes to the IRS. At the end of the tax year, you submit your uninsured medical bills to the IRS, which sends you a reimbursement out of your “account.”

So like a tax credit, the benefit is a kind of discount or subsidy: because you pay your medical bills with untaxed salary, you realize a tax savings of about 1/3 off your medical bills, whatever taxes you would have paid on that ERA money you set aside had it been paid to you as regular salary.

Here’s the down side: the money you set aside is “use it or lose it.” If you designate $2,000 of your salary for the ERA but have only $1,000 of uninsured medical expenses for the year, the IRS reimburses your $1,000 of expenses and the U.S. Treasury pockets the other $1,000 of your (pre-tax) salary. So basically, you’re being asked to engage in a little off-track betting with your health. “How much money will I run up in medical bills this year?” If you guess high, you lose. If, like me, you play it safe and guess low, you end up getting ERA reimbursement for only a fraction of your medical bills.

The program offsets the guesswork a bit by taking a liberal, eclectic view of what counts as a medical expense. (E.g., therapeutic massages.*) But it’s still very difficult to know how much you’ll have by way of medical expenses.

Ultimately, ERA is a maddeningly stingy, idiotic excuse for a national health care policy. It represents the worst of Clinton-era policymaking: i.e., a Republic policy that Clinton embraced for the simple reason that he could sell it. Not only is it the standard Republican band-aid posing as a cure-all for policy ills – a smallish tax credit – but it its dominant quality is giving with one hand and taking back with the other.

Every year I sign up for ERA, and I think about how I have to gamble by choosing the ERA amount, and I think about what a genuine national health care policy would look like, I want to vomit – and then see if I could put in for ERA reimbursement for the cleaning bill.

*See comments.

Monday, October 17, 2005


What Kind of Dork Tag Are You?

Fast Food Name Tag.
You have no ambition, mistake informality for
friendliness, and don't understand why you
don't get more respect. You take no moral
responsibility for being an unwitting cog in a
machine that does people no good and just makes
them fat. When people ask you to jump, you say
"Would you like fries with that?"

What Kind of Dork Tag Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla


What the heck?

I didn't write this, and I'm not generally a big fan of email chain letters, but this one just struck me -- so why can't I post it to my blog for all 85 of you to see?

* Richard Gephardt: Air National Guard, 1965-71.
* David Bonior: Staff Sgt., Air Force 1968-72.
* Tom Daschle: 1st Lt., Air Force SAC 1969-72.
* Al Gore: enlisted Aug. 1969; sent toVietnamJan. 1971 as an army journalist in 20th Engineer Brigade.
* Bob Kerrey: Lt. j.g. Navy 1966-69;Medal of Honor,Vietnam.
* Daniel Inouye: Army 1943-47; Medal of Honor, WWII.
* John Kerry: Lt., Navy 1966-70; Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat V, Purple Hearts.
* Charles Rangel: Staff Sgt., Army 1948-52;Bronze Star,Korea.
* Max Cleland: Captain, Army 1965-68;Silver Star&Bronze Star,Vietnam.
* Ted Kennedy: Army, 1951-53.
* Tom Harkin: Lt., Navy, 1962-67; Naval Reserve, 1968-74.
* Jack Reed: Army Ranger, 1971-1979; Captain, Army Reserve 1979-91.
* Fritz Hollings: Army officer in WWII; Bronze Star and seven campaign ribbons.
* Leonard Boswell: Lt. Col., Army 1956-76;Vietnam, DFCs, Bronze Stars, and Soldier's Medal.
* Pete Peterson: Air Force Captain, POW. Purple Heart, Silver Star and Legion of Merit.
* Mike Thompson: Staff sergeant, 173rd Airborne, Purple Heart.
* Bill McBride: Candidate for Fla. Governor. Marine inVietnam; Bronze Star with Combat V.
* Gray Davis: Army Captain inVietnam, Bronze Star.
* Pete Stark: Air Force 1955-57
* Chuck Robb:Vietnam
* Howell Heflin: Silver Star
* George McGovern: Silver Star & DFC during WWII.
* Bill Clinton: Did not serve. Student deferments. Entered draft but received #311.
* Jimmy Carter: Seven years in the Navy.
* Walter Mondale: Army 1951-1953
* John Glenn: WWII andKorea; six DFCs and Air Medal with 18 Clusters.
* Tom Lantos: Served in Hungarian underground in WWII. Saved by Raoul Wallenberg.

* Dick Cheney: did not serve. Several deferments, the last by marriage.
* Dennis Hastert: did not serve.
* Tom Delay: did not serve.
* Roy Blunt: did not serve.
* Bill Frist: did not serve.
* Mitch McConnell: did not serve.
* Rick Santorum: did not serve.
* Trent Lott: did not serve.
* John Ashcroft: did not serve. Seven deferments to teach business.
* Jeb Bush: did not serve.
* Karl Rove: did not serve.
* Saxby Chambliss: did not serve. "Bad knee." The man who attacked Max Cleland's patriotism.
* Paul Wolfowitz: did not serve.
* Vin Weber: did not serve.
* Richard Perle: did not serve.
* Douglas Feith: did not serve.
* Eliot Abrams: did not serve.
* Richard Shelby: did not serve.
* Jon Kyl: did not serve.
* Tim Hutchison: did not serve.
* Christopher Cox: did not serve.
* Newt Gingrich: did not serve.
* Don Rumsfeld: served in Navy (1954-57) as flight instructor.
* George W. Bush: failed to complete his six-year National Guard; got assigned to Alabama so he could campaign for family friend running for U.S. Senate; failed to show up for required medical exam, disappeared from duty.
* B-1 Bob Dornan: Consciously enlisted after fighting was over inKorea.
* Phil Gramm: did not serve.
* John McCain: Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross.
* Dana Rohrabacher: did not serve.
* John M. McHugh: did not serve.
* JC Watts: did not serve.
* Jack Kemp: did not serve. "Knee problem," although continued in NFL for 8 years.
* Dan Quayle: Journalism unit of theIndianaNational Guard.
* Rudy Giuliani: did not serve.
* George Pataki: did not serve.
* Spencer Abraham: did not serve.
* John Engler: did not serve.
* Lindsey Graham: National Guard lawyer.
*ArnoldSchwarzenegger: AWOL from Austrian army base.
* Ronald Reagan: due to poor eyesight, served in a non-combat role making movies.

Pundits & Preachers
* Sean Hannity: did not serve.
* Rush Limbaugh: did not serve (4-F with a 'pilonidal cyst.')
* Bill O'Reilly: did not serve.
* Michael Savage: did not serve.
* George Will: did not serve.
* Chris Matthews: did not serve.
* Paul Gigot: did not serve.
* Bill Bennett: did not serve.
* Pat Buchanan: did not serve.
* Bill Kristol: did not serve.
* Kenneth Starr: did not serve.
* Antonin Scalia: did not serve.
* Clarence Thomas: did not serve.
* Ralph Reed: did not serve.
* Michael Medved: did not serve.
* Charlie Daniels: did not serve.
* Ted Nugent: did not serve. (He only shoots at things that don't shoot back.)
* John Wayne: did not serve.


In case you were wondering

Yes, I do drink hot coffee too, sometimes.


Sunday, October 16, 2005


Flushing Local


I can't complain about the Mets 2005 season. When all is said and done, the only disappointment was the team's failure to realize unrealistic expectations raised by their surprising hot streak -- they did better than expected, and hold out great promise for the future.

In honor of their season, and of my favorite Met's blog, Flushing Local, here are images from my journey to Shea Stadium to see the Mets beat the Braves on September 18.

The smooth ride of the Flushing Local.

Danger: Do not let people hit on you while they are leaning on doors!

Keep at least one step ahead of flames at all times.

Manhattan, as seen from the Flushing Local.

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Queens, as seen from the Flushing Local.

Nicholas Cage, as seen from the Flushing Local. And there's that door-leaning flirting guy again!

The end of the ride -- anticipation builds to an almost unbearable pitch!

Subway exit, Shea Stadium. That's the whole sign: not "Baseball Stadium," not a directional arrow, just the single word "Baseball." Just in case any of us have forgotten why we made the trip, a handy reminder.


Post-banking: Is there such a thing as cheating in blogging?

I admit it. I engage in the practice of writing posts in advance, saving them "as draft," and then publishing them to my blog on a later day in order to try to maintain a rate of at least one post per day.

I call this "post-banking" or "pre-posting." Pretty catchy names, don't you think?

The way I look at it: this isn't a contest in which I prove my consistency. I just want to keep you in the habit of checking in every day. Is that so wrong? (P.S. -- I wrote this last night!)

Saturday, October 15, 2005


B and I and B and B

There are two types of B & B keepers: amateur historians and small town prigs.

B and I went on a weekend trip to Lake Superior a couple of weeks ago. We stayed at two different B & B's. The first night was here, at the Anton-Walsh house in a town called Hurley.

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The Anton-Walsh House B &B has that Victorian, unmade bed sort of charm.
Well, in fairness, the bed was made, and quite nicely, before we slept in it and messed it all up.

Apparently, it was in the late 19th century, when extractive industries such as logging and mining were really thriving, that Hurley experienced its heyday, boasting the areas leading brothels. Now the town is a jumping off point for winter skiing and snowmobiling.

Dowtown Hurley. I have it on good authority that residents of neighboring towns
at least until recently referred to it as "Hurley Whore Town."

The owner of the Anton-Walsh House was a member of the Anton-Walsh family and had certificates tracing his ancestry both the the Mayflower and to the American revolution. But he was in no way priggish. Clearly, his interest in running the B & B dovetailed with an interest in history and family geneology. He was very knowledgeable about regional history, including the history of native American tribes.

His own family history, which he laid on us at breakfast with the lemon poppyseed scones after just the slightest amount of goading on our parts, illustrated some important themes of U.S. history generally. And it occurred to me that, in his small way, Mr. Anton-Walsh (not his actual name) was contributing to the preservation of historic knowledge. It made me happy to think of B & Bs dotting the country and serving as little museums.

The next two nights we stayed at the Old Rittenhouse Inn, which boasted spectacular Lake Superious views from the front porch and most of the rooms.

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The Rittenhouse, while beautifully preserved and well-appointed, is no museum, and the enterprise is clearly about the business of hostelry rather than history. That's fine -- it's an inn, after all -- but why do they have to pander to someone's Vegas-style conception of the romantic getaway weekend and stick a big fat jacuzzi right in the middle of this lovely Victorian room?

Room at the Rittenhouse. I liked the room a lot, but I'd have preferred
a nice reading chair next to those windows.

You'd think that innkeepers with such design sensibilities might have an engaging ironic sense of humor, but nooooo. These folks took themselves much more seriously than Mr. Anton-Walsh. There was no evidence of a sense of humor anywhere in the establishment. There were fussy furnishings, and fussy rules, and fussy attitudes galore. It was here that we had the little flap over the tea which I blogged about later that night. (Indeed, the innkeeper involved is the one pictured below.)


The Inn offered a huge breakfast. Lemon poppyseed scones, of course, but also an incredible array of menu items to choose from.


Unfortunately, there was no printed menu. Instead, the wait person launched into a lengthy recitation, describing each of at least eight entrees with the sort of lavish detail usually reserved for the two "specials" at fancy dining establishments. She spoke for five minutes straight. She performed the menu, with a determined verve that one might see in theatre productions in this region. There was no way I would be able to keep it all in my head. Could she really have said that the smoked trout omelette was accompanied by a side order of Whitefish?

"Um, wow, I didn't quite catch all that," I said. "Could I ask you--"

She cut in. "I invite you to listen while I repeat the menu to the folks at the next table over there."

I was put in mind of the ancient tradition in which a representative from one tribe sitting down to a parlay with another tribe might introduce himself by by reciting the names and relationships of all his ancestors going back several generations. These recitations could take many minutes, and if interrupted, or if a mistake was made, the recitor would have to start again from the beginning.

"Could you just tell me about the smoked trout omelette one more time?" I said.


One beautiful tree

There's a tree on campus. For about ten days last fall, it was so amazing that I wanted to tell everyone: "If you don't have time for a road trip to go look at fall colors, just drive by this one tree!" The leaves were mostly an incredible vibrant red, yet parts of it were an incredible vibrant yellow. A two-toned tree!

This fall, after a drought year, the red is duller, and there is less yellow.


It's still a nice-looking tree. I'm afraid this photo fails to capture the comparative dullness of its color this year, yet doesn't show how beautiful it is either.

Despite the drought, we're getting some nice yellows:


Friday, October 14, 2005


Existential Friday: What is your oldest article of clothing?

Here are the rules for this meme:

1. It has to be something you can still wear. I'm talking about clothing, not keepsakes. Not your Dr. Denton's footsie pajamas that you've handed down to your kid, or the sweater fragment you sleep with.

2. It has to be something you bought new. Not antique clothes or stuff you dug out of your parents' closet.

This subject came up last night when B was modeling some new clothes she ordered on line. Her "Dana Scully" business suits with the pants and extra-long jacket are quite out of style, and the new work suits she ordered to replace them have short jackets again -- a bit too "perky" or "kicky," if you ask me.

This made me reflect on my own suit situation. With my litigation days behind me, I don't wear suits very often, but even at the height of my career as a practicing lawyer I never had more than four suits. Now I have three. Their average age is 13.3 years.

Okay, my business suits are, respectively, 9, 10 and 21 years old. That's right: I have a suit that is old enough to drink, vote, be drafted into the army and get an abortion without parental consent. It's a charcoal Armani double-breasted number that I bought in Filene's Basement when that still meant only the basement of Filene's Department Store in Boston. It's in excellent condition, and it's still very much in the suit rotation. That's the thing about good quality clothes -- they last.

The 21-year old Armani suit. Pretty, sharp, eh? Eh?
You know, I never realized this before, but my bedroom closet
kinda looks like a fancy haberdashery.

The Armani is not my oldest clothing item. It is exceeded by my cocoa-colored cable-knit sweater and my "Harry Potter" academic gown (both age 23, though the gown is arguably no doubt a keepsake rather than a clothing item); and a 24 year old pair of white bucks that may technically be relegated to "keepsake" status unless I can work up the nerve to wear them again. That's problematic, because I can't wear them after Labor Day, and it's hard to find dressy summer occasions in my current lifestyle.

White bucks. Don't worry, those scuff marks can be
cleaned right up with some white chalk.

Still plenty of good wear left in the old cable-knit sweater.

There are probably a couple of odds and ends in obscure corners of my wardrobe, but it appears that my winning items are a tie. No, not a necktie, but two articles tied for oldest: souvenir T-shirts from the summer I went to check out college campuses. They are pushing 30, and I have had to reduce my wearing of them because they're likely to disintegrate in the wash one of these years.

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The collegiate T-shirts. The holes in the Penn shirt (right) are from wear and tear, not bullets.


Existential Friday: Yom Kippur

I'm a Jewish guy who put up three rather frivolous blog posts between sundown Wednesday and sundown Thursday, i.e., Yom Kippur. I ate dinner after sundown -- so that, while my co-religionists were breaking the fast, I was having my third meal of the day. A cheeseburger.

I felt that I owed at least an acknowledgment that I was doing this -- going about my normal business without observing Yom Kippur. I felt the need to observe my non-observance.

Part of that is conjuring the image of a person to feel guilty to. A guit object. For some reason, Phantom Scribbler popped into my head. I felt the need to observe my non-observance to her. Perhaps she would give me absolution.

This is strange since we've never met. What's more, it turns out that Yom Kippur is not even observed over at the Blue residence.

I have this notion that I will reconnect with my Judaism one day, and that I can do it at any time, even as a sort of death-bed conversion. This would be a return to "active Judaism." But that's not high on my priority list, and the second irony of this post is that I feel that I have the Nazis to thank for that. As long as I'm Jewish in their book, I feel Jewish. I guess that's "passive" Judaism, but it works for me.

Oh, and by the way, today is the anniversary of my bar mitzvah.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


This happens to me a lot

When I want to go to my blog, I type in the letter "t" and the URL window in my browser opens to my commonly visited websites starting with "t." I don't feel exceedingly self-centered when I admit that "Thecolumnistmanifesto" is at the top of the list.

But I often hit "enter" without clicking in the full URL to my blog. If you put "t" in your URL window and hit enter, you go to the T-Mobile home page. So I end up there by mistake a few times a week.

It's not so bad, though, because it allows me to check in on Catherine Zeta Jones doing her latest version of "slinky chic with cell phone."

This is powerful advertizing. If I have a T-Mobile cell phone, or perhaps any cell phone, I will get to date Catherine Zeta Jones. Or perhaps I'll look like Catherine Zeta Jones. Or someone she'd date. Any way you look at it, I'm gettin' me one of those.



When I was in New York last month, I took the train out to Jersey. That’s what people from New Jersey say. As in “You goin’ back to Jersey tonight?” “Nah, I’m gonna stay with my friend in the City.” New Yorkers say it too: “I’ve got family out in Jersey.”

Is there any other city or state in the entire country where the “New” is so routinely dropped?

While you could explain specifying the "New" in New Mexico as necessary to avoid confusion with the old one, there's no real likelihood of confusion between our other "News" and their British Isles forbears -- no more than the chance of confusing New Jersey with [Old] Jersey.

DSCN5527 DSCN5525

DSCN5338 DSCN5336

Yet no one compares "Jersey girls" to "York girls" or speaks of "Yorkers," nor does anyone go across the the George Washington Bridge to "York." People in Massachusetts don't go up to "Hampshire" for the weekend, nor do Manhattanites travel down to "Brunswick" or up to "Haven," "Rochelle" or "Paltz." You get the idea. What gives?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Here’s a time when we should just let the fashion police do their jobs

My niece Linney’s middle school has recently implemented a dress code banning the bare midriff look. Now, I’m no expert in fashion or in the education of 11-13 year olds, but doesn’t this policy show a rather appalling lack of understanding of child psychology?

Linney's middle school: now a bare-belly-button-free school zone.

How much longer can the exposed belly button really be expected to stay in fashion? Yet haven’t the school administrators contributed to prolonging it as a hip style by making it seem dangerous and “against the rules”? I mean, isnt’ it obvious that if all the schools are doing this, they’ll be adding ten years of continued life to a fashion that should otherwise be gone in a couple more years?

A friend of mine reports that her kid’s middle school prohibits exposed bra straps. There’s a sensible rule: won’t the girls try to interpret that to allow tank tops and the like so long as they don’t wear a bra? Well, maybe it will encourage the girls to become lawyers...

In any event, if this is the schools’ effort to mount an assault on the problem of social messages pushing precocious sexuality, it seems transparently lame. As fashion police, school administrators are condemned always to be keystone cops.

duff2 duff
Perhaps a more sensible plan would be for the schools pool their resources
and try to buy off Hilary Duff. Above: Duff with bare midriff and exposed bra straps.

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