Sunday, November 27, 2005

I just send 'em on.

Gleaned from an email:

When my father turned 52, I remember, he made the comment: "They used to say
I'm a real card -- now I'm a whole deck."

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Do you have any respect for Law Reviews? If so, why?

Case in point: the Michigan Law Review, Vol. 104, publication date of May 2006, has an article entitled "Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy" (only an abstract of the article is currently available).

It purports to examine what the Harry Potter series has to tell us about government and bureaucracy. (Bad and bad, respectively.) 'Cause that's the whole reason J.K. Rowling wrote the series.

Leave it to law professors to suck all the fun out of things.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Overheard at work.

It's always fun to listen to folks as they chatter away at work, oblivious to what they're saying or who's listening. And given that we work in a glorified warehouse, at computers set up on folding tables, and that what we're doing is incredibly boring and tedious, matched with an utter lack of challenge, it's no surprise that odd subjects are discussed at length - and often, at excessive length - and that strange and revealing statements are made.

Today, one guy spent a lot of time at the shared computer with internet access, planning his December vacation to Thailand. He plans to travel light, with a small bag containing only underwear and condoms, as he expects to be able to buy anything else he needs - such as shorts and t-shirts - when he gets there. He says that Thailand is on the State Department's list of countries to avoid because of possible danger, and that just makes it all more attractive to him. "I do crazy [stuff]. I went to Belfast when it was really, really bad, just because it was." Yes, this all qualifies as crazy. But to be honest, the whippersnapper isn't old enough to have been in Belfast when it was really dangerous.

Earlier this week, one woman was talking about health food, which is good for you because it's healthy and all and they couldn't call it "health food" if it weren't actually healthy, and she started discussing Omega 3 oils. She proudly noted that kelp is a wonderful source for Omega 3 oils (normally found in fish) because: "Kelp is a fish kind of thing. You know, it's a living thing that lives in the sea." You learn something every day, and that day we learned that the green leafy stuff you find in the ocean and used to call "seaweed" is actually "fish."

She further redeemed herself the next day, when she noted "I'm kind of a pseudo-intellectual." I'd have thought that a pseudo-intellectual was something you either were or were not, and no "kind of" about it.

Still, the best conversation of the week had to be the one about popcorn. Movie-theater popcorn, to be precise, piping hot and complete with salt and melted butter. "And then," it was explained to us, "you open the small package of M&Ms you brought into the theater with you [it being too expensive to buy the M&Ms at the snack bar] and pour them into the popcorn." Apparently the heat of the popcorn heats the chocolate in the M&M, but not enough to cause it to split the shell. And the salt and butter play off against the crunchy nature of the shell and the sweetness of the chocolate. None of the three of us listening to the tale had ever heard of mixing M&Ms with popcorn, and I've had my share of movie-theater popcorn over the years but never with M&Ms. When asked, however, someone at the next bunch of tables said that she did it too.

I've had chocolate-covered popcorn before (usually purchased at a Boy Scout fundraiser), so the concept isn't entirely foreign, I suppose. But chocolate with hot popcorn was a new one to me, and mixing in melted butter just makes me shudder.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Hallowe'en is over, so it's time for Christmas decorations to come out.

And this year, you can have an authentic replica of Charlie Brown's Pathetic Christmas Tree. For a mere $24. Still, for that price, you'll get to keep the tree for many sad years to come.

And on the other extreme, the local paper is taking applications for houses to list on this year's Tacky Christmas Lights tour.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

How are people in Pennsylvania smarter than people in Kansas? Well, eventually.

Election results from Pennsylvania: All eight seats on the Dover, PA school board were won by pro-evolution supporters and all eight losers were supporters of so-called intelligent design.

Give people a choice between teaching their children science or filling their heads with rubbish, and they'll usually make the right choice.

Monday, November 07, 2005

If only wishing could make it so.

Gleaned from an e-mail, anonymously authored:

Moderator: We're here today to debate the hot new topic, evolution versus Intelligent Des---

(Scientist pulls out baseball bat.)

Moderator: Hey, what are you doing?

(Scientist breaks Intelligent Design advocate's kneecap.)


Scientist: Perhaps it only appears that I broke your kneecap. Certainly, all the evidence points to the hypothesis I broke your kneecap. For example, your kneecap is broken; it appears to be a fresh wound; and I am holding a baseball bat, which is spattered with your blood. However, a mere preponderance of evidence doesn't mean anything. Perhaps your kneecap was designed that way. Certainly, there are some features of the current situation that are inexplicable according to the "naturalistic" explanation you have just advanced, such as the exact contours of the excruciating pain that you are experiencing right now.

Intelligent Design advocate: AAAAH! THE PAIN!

Scientist: Frankly, I personally find it completely implausible that the random actions of a scientist such as myself could cause pain of this particular kind. I have no precise explanation for why I find this hypothesis implausible --- it just is. Your knee must have been designed that way!

Intelligent Design advocate: YOU BASTARD! YOU KNOW YOU DID IT!

Scientist: I surely do not. How can we know anything for certain? Frankly, I think we should expose people to all points of view. Furthermore, you should really re-examine whether your hypothesis is scientific at all: the breaking of your kneecap happened in the past, so we can't rewind and run it over again, like a laboratory experiment. Even if we could, it wouldn't prove that I broke your kneecap the previous time. Plus, let's not even get into the fact that the entire universe might have just popped into existence right before I said this sentence, with all the evidence of my alleged kneecap-breaking already pre-formed.

Intelligent Design advocate: That's a load of bullshit sophistry! Get me a doctor and a lawyer, not necessarily in that order, and we'll see how tha tplays in court!

Scientist (turning to audience): And so we see, ladies and gentlemen, when push comes to shove, advocates of Intelligent Design do not actually believe any of the arguments that they profess to believe. When it comes to matters that hit home, they prefer evidence, the scientific method, testable hypotheses, and naturalistic explanations. In fact, they strongly prefer naturalistic explanations over supernatural hocus-pocus or metaphysical wankery. It is only within the reality-distortion field of their ideological crusade that they give credence to the flimsy, ridiculous arguments which we so commonly see on display. I must confess, it kind of felt good, for once, to be the one spouting free-form bullshit; it's so terribly easy and relaxing, compared to marshaling rigorous arguments backed up by empirical evidence. But I fear that if I were to continue, then it would be habit-forming, and bad for my soul. Therefore, I bid you adieu.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

It's that time of year again: Election Day in the Old Dominion. Virginia has its state elections in the off-years. This year's election includes the statewide elections for governor, lt. governor, and attorney general.

It looks like a close election for Governor this year, with polls going back and forth as to who's leading, and always within the margin of error. Neither candidate is much of a gem, and it's pretty much "a pox on both your houses." Still, the Democratic candidate is only chicken pox, while the Republican is smallpox.

The Republican wins the award for sleaziest ads. He had a series of TV ads with relatives of murdered people (or, you know, bad actors pretending to be relatives of murdered people) complaining that the Democratic candidate voluntarily represented the accused defendants and actually tried to have juries find the defendants "innocent" and therefore, he cannot be trusted to be governor. 'Cause, you know, providing criminal defendants with a fair trial or otherwise trying to implement the Sixth Amendment is always a disqualification for public office. And what makes this series especially bad? The Republican candidate has spent the last four years as the state's attorney general.

He also wins the award for sleaziest printed ads. There's an independent candidate running, getting about 4 or 5 percent of the vote. A former Republican, although not as much of an idiot as the one the Republicans nominated. Still, clearly a Republican. Friday, I received a flyer in the mail, purporting to be an "Official Democratic Voting Guide for Governor," claiming to show the differences between the Democratic candidate and the Independent, and "clearly" establishing that the more progressive candidate is the Independent. And who sent out this ad? Not the Virginia Democratic party, who you'd think would be the only ones who would authorize an official party voting guide, and not the Independent candidate. In very small type, the ad discloses that it was authorized by the Republican candidate.

And the phone has been ringing off the hook, as somehow both parties consider me to be a strong supporter. So I've gotten taped pleas direct from each candidate this weekend, and taped pleas from former NY mayor Rudy Giuliani, who probably should be paying attention to the NY mayoral race instead, and from Virginia's Senator George Allen, who I knew to be a loudmouthed drooling moron when I was in law school, and he's not improved with age. Plus real-person phone calls from each party, inviting me to Election Eve pep rallies. Yeah, think I'll pass.

The good news is that by Wednesday, all the campaigning will be over. The bad news is that by Wednesday, one of them will be elected.