Mixed Tidbit

There were a lot of reasons to cover your eyes yesterday:

Perhaps you watched and watched and watched the reply of Rev. Jeremiah Wright attempting to get out of a media hole by digging up. To Rev. Wright: Sir, I understand that you love the attention and that your honestly believe that this will help put the legitimate cause of blacks in America front and center, but are you willing to do that if it jeopardizes (I'll hold back from the term "submarines") the chances of the first black president - or even any democrat - in the fall?

Or maybe you saw the already putrid mess of the Rocket vs. His Pusher cyclone further down the toilet bowl as Macnamee's lawyer both leaked to the media allegations that Clemens had slept with a troubled country star Mindy McReady for years...since she was 15...and "grudgingly" noted that this would likely come up as a defense in the defamation suit?

Or perhaps any shred of sympathy you might have felt for the FLDS as Americans expressing their freedom of religion disintegrated as you saw reports that 31 of the 53 girls in the group between the ages of 14 and 17 were pregnant or had given birth to children already.

Great Footage of a Great Place

Extreme Time Lapse of a Day at Fenway, but Tom Guillette (I must have misspelled that)

One Day At Fenway - Letus Extreme Film - Time Lapse - HDTV from Tom Guilmette on Vimeo.

(Nod to MH)


Nonexistent Border Fence, Now Nonexistenter.

The U.S. has scrapped the "virtual fence" project, which sought to "protect" the U.S. from illegal border crossings with the use of sensors rather than barriers and patrols. It took us over $20M to conclusively determine the idiocy of this notion, which unfortunately is, for this administration, a bargain.

Political Tidbit

What is Karl Rove's angle? He has 'advice' for Barack in a Newsweek piece. Suggestions: step back above politics, work more in the Senate to show your commitment to substance, and focus on the general.

Like most of Rove's private sector analysis, it has been direct, astute, and seemingly correct. But I, and I imagine most dems, can't help but ask, "This is one of the sophisticated political animals on the Republican side. He is still intertwined with his party's interests, so this can't be for the good of the Obama campaign. What advantage would McCain get if Obama did every one of these things? Or is Rove giving the good advice knowing that Obama can't do it because of whence it comes? Or are we just being paranoid?"


Political Tidbit

Hillary jabbed that Barack's outspending her 3:1 didn't help him win PA. Wait, Barack is packing 3:1 money? ...while McCain admits that his campaign will likely use public funds and is searching out free media options?

Clearly, dems don't have a strong preference between HRC and BHO right now, so BHO's slight lead plus his prowess at building a massive war chest should give many democrats, particularly super-delegates reason to believe that he can build the sort of machine needed to beat McCain in the fall, no?

Before I get too many comments on this money argument:
1. I know that campaigns are about issues, but on the issues these candidates are pretty close. Second, regardless of the issues, which matter to the well-educated, especially in D.C., the law of large numbers in the election means that money counts just as much if not more than ideas.

2. There is a potential downside here. I don't know why Clinton wins the big states. Perhaps it is name recognition. I understand that most people don't take in the amount of political info D.C.ites do, but I still find it hard to believe that anyone in PA can claim ignorance of Barack. That gives me pause. Also, there is a risk that BHO's funding machine will slow. It is streaking right now, but a lot of supporters may not be able to toss in $2000 in the general after having done so for the primary. Barack without the war chest is likely a lot more susceptible.

It's Passover, Get Naked!

A man entered a store in J'lem and stripped but for a sock on his personality. He then called the police to arrest him. To this point, the story is either a lateral thinking puzzle or a trailer for Cops:Israel.

Why get nekkid on chol ha-moed (the interim days of Passover)? To stand up for religious tenets, of course. Israel bans the sale of chametz (leavened stuff like bread) in public places over Passover. Recently, the Israeli Supreme Court said, "Yes, but stores and restaurants aren't public places," effectively removing the restriction from the major places where it once applied. A demonstration was bound to ensue. The young man, claiming to be a yeshiva boy, went into a non-kosher supermarket where bread and other sundry items were sold, called the police, and then stripped. Store owners asked him to leave and he refused. When police got there, he asked to be arrested and they obliged.

His defense: This can't be a case of public exposure.

Problems: Not a bad idea. Two problems: (a) if the store is private it likely has the right to refuse service and remove people. He was asked to leave and didn't, so the charges might instead be for trespass. (b) Here in the U.S. we differentiate between a 'public place' and a 'public accomodation' - a private place open to the public. The wording of the Israeli indecency law vs. the sale ban could be critical. I doubt he checked.


A Douglas Adams-Style Device.

The description at Gizmodo made me happy and the machine was just silly fun.

Nationals Stadium

I attended my first game there and I liked it. There, I said it. It's not that everyone else who's reviewed it has said it is bad - but nobody wants to say that the park is good.

The chief complaint: "There is nothing DC about it." A fair point, but there is nothing LA about Dodger stadium, nothing NY about Shea, etc. Yankee, Giants, and DBack's stadiums are a bit different, but the latter two have just as many hokie add ons as the new DC digs. In our case, it's a Playstation arena, a massive "Diamond club" behind home plate, and an equally large eating/seating area across the park in the outfield. What can you do? This will never have the homie and hallowed feeling of Fenway or Wrigley, but instead of a tacky recreation of DC landmarks, they used retro 50's styling and a beautiful, wide open entry pavilion in center field. The overall effect is to make the park look small and really airy - and I, for one, can appreciate that.

And one more thing, at least National's Park is just that, not Fly-by-night Corporation Park.


There is a chocolate cake...

...in the office kitchen. It is now a quarter of its former dome shape, revealing silky cake insides with two seams of chocolate cream, topped with shiny chocolate from the foot-high top to bottom. It is taunting me.

Zealous, Nay, Pompous Advocacy

ATL reports on this gem:

Roger Phipps appeared before the Fifth Circuit. Roger Phipps pissed off the Fifth Circuit. They fired back:
Finally, and completely separate and apart from the issues raised on appeal, we would be remiss if we did not comment on the conduct of Roger Phipps, counsel for Hartz, during oral argument in this case on Tuesday, March 4, 2008. Phipps’ conduct towards the Court during argument was unprofessional. Even more serious was his admission that during his work on the case (including his preparation for argument), he had not read a key Supreme Court case. His cavalier disregard for his client’s interest and for his obligation to the Court was both troubling and disgraceful. [FN4]
Accordingly, we are ordering Phipps to provide his client, Hartz, a copy of our opinion immediately after it is released. In order to ensure compliance, we are further directing him to supply our Court with proof of service.

...and what did Mr. Phipps do which so incensed the court?

Phipps: . . . so that’s about all I have to say, Your Honor. I don’t have anything other than that. You know, my client lives in Chicago. ... She continues to earn a living, and she’s generally unavailable if you call her because she, she’s sort of a traveling doctor. Judge: That’s not much of thing you come in here and tell us, I guess.
Phipps: Well, my attitude is,the [district court] judge got it right . . . . And as far as whether even Ricks should apply, I don’t think it should.
Judge: What do you do about Morgan?
Phipps: I don’t, I don’t, I don’t know Morgan, Your Honor.
Judge: You don’t know Morgan?
Phipps: Nope.
Judge: You haven’t read it?
Phipps: I try not to read that many cases, your Honor. Ricks is the only one I read. Oh, Ledbetter, I read Ledbetter, and I read that one that they brought up last
night. I don’t know if that’s not Ledbetter, I can’t remember the name of it.
Ricks is the one that I go by; it’s my North star. Either it applies or it
doesn’t apply. I don’t think it applies.
Judge: I must say, Morgan is a case that is directly relevant to this case. And for you representing the Plaintiff to get up here—it’s a Supreme Court case—and say you haven’t read it. Where did they teach you that?
Phipps: They didn’t teach me much, Your Honor.
Judge: At Tulane, is it?
Phipps: Loyola.
Judge: Okay. Well, I must say, that may be an all time first.
Phipps: That’s why I wore a suit today, Your Honor.
Judge: Alright. We’ve got your attitude, anyway.



If you can internalize this ladies, you can understand your man. [ Nod to DS and http://www.brunching.org/]

Political Tidbit

Here we go...Dems are finally over the hump of excitement about Barack Obama and onto the downsloping backside of doubt. Barack is tracking even with McCain...in Massachusetts...and it's true he is untried...and he doesn't have an military credentials...and did you know that he is black?

There is no John Kerry this summer for the dems. There is no "safe" but destined to lose because he is totally uninspiring candidate. Instead, the dems will have to run a real candidate - someone with ideas that make some a little unconfortable, and they will have to get behind that candidate and push, push, push for 3 months in the general to beat a vibrant a viable McCain. Dems can get on their knees and thank god for being stucke between Barack and a hard place because it means they can't just check out; that option would guarantee a trouncing in the general.

As to Barack the candidate, is he any riskier than Hillary? If Barack wins, women still come out to vote in the general. If Hillary wins, many fear that blacks will stay home, while others fear that even those who hate McCain will come out to exorcise the next Clinton from the White House. And then there are white males. Has anyone seen any convincing numbers that show that a black man or a white woman does anyithing to swing these voters? We're so used to them being the establishment that we have no idea what happens when they become the swing voters.

Conclusion: this is an election that will have to be run at a spirited pace to its conclusion on the backs of three risky candidates. McCain is hardly an establishment Republican (well, he is as of late, but many think that his politics once president would revert to the classic firebrand variety), Hillary is Hillary, and Barack is, well, untried.


Law School (and B School) by the Cold Heartless Numbers

The ABA journal published this piece, arguing that students that don't finish in the top 1/3 of their class, even in Tier 1 law schools often don't earn enough in clerkships, small firm work, or government to cover or justify their debt.

That prompted my comment, which applies (I think) to both law and b-schools: [Note: the article segregate the top-14 from the rest of tier 1 (1-50) because there, 1/2 intead of 1/3 of the students get good jobs. I would argue my logic below also applies there]

This nearly got to an interesting story: If you are in the top 1/3 of your
class in law schools ranked 15-50, you are more likely to get a job. It is
easier to get into school number 50 than number 15, and an average student at
school 15 will likley excel at school 50. If the top 1/3 of students at both
schools are equally likely to get a big firm job (within perhaps $10-15K
starting salary of each other), the smart-but-not-stellar student would be far
wiser to attend school 50 where he or she is more likely to actually make it
into the top third.

And another news flash: smart students go to lower-ranked
schools because those schools pay them to. Another debt-reducing solution.

Some people find this view overly cynical, so I'll do a little to defend it:
  1. It is a lot of money. Law and Business teach economic efficiency in its many and varied forms. Paying $150 to earn $40 is not a good deal, and this is a profession, not an artistic calling so the money matters.
  2. Anyone who finds this too calculating has never been to either law or business school. Spend one week there and see how people covertly calculate their precise seat placement, track the complex calculus of social status, and game the system and their classmates in everything from sharing their class notes to interviewing for jobs to psyching people out before the journal writing competitions. This little bit of math is nothing.


OMFG - Don't Believe Anything You Hear

[ error on prior attempt to post ]

This is Direct Note Access and it will blow your mind.

For those of you who don't know, we can already correct or alter the pitch of every sound input, even in a live setting. Britney doesn't need to hit every note on tour. The computer can adjust her on the fly.

So what is the new tech? Before, you could only adjust the pitch of a whole sound source. If you played one note into the mike, you could change one one. Play one chord, edit one chord. But if you wanted to penetrate the chord to change a note - no can do - until now! Direct note access can take any chord and allow you adjust the pitch, tone, volume, cadence, or even existence of any note.

This just reinforces that sufficiently advanced technology just looks like magic.


Wall-E Watch

This featurette includes more footage + a discussion of the premise of the upcoming Pixar flick. Warning - if you want it all to be "new" and "fresh" on June 27, when you come by to pick up the tix I camped out all night to get for us...don't watch.


Now that they're gone, a few zingers for fun:
  • A harp is a piano after taxes.
  • The IRS, "We've got what it takes to take what you've got."
  • and finally, "Dear IRS, I would like to cancel my subscription. Please remove me from your mailing list."

[nod: www.bitsandpieces.us ]

Political Tidbit

Three quick items:

Barack was asked if he would investigate and prosecute the outgoing administration in connection with the war on terror. He hedged and said that he'd need information within government, but that he'd look to remedy crimes committed.

First, anyone expecting a suit against a high-ranking official in the executive can forget about it. That will play as a witch hunt. Further, any suit would butt up against executive privilege arguments. Despite noises to the contrary, I believe deep down that the next president will capitalize on W's expansion of the executive, reigning it in a little, but not back to Clinton/Reagan levels. That plays two ways: either the desire to keep this power will prevent the new president from attacking the executive privilege or, to the contrary, will use the attack on the W administration as a mere show of cutting back on executive power.

Second, you can also forget any criminal prosecution of the military. That's handled by the courts marshall and they are far more restrictive regarding this kind of prosecution. I don't know enough about it to provide more context, but this is a place where following orders under the then-understood limits of the law should provide a defense.

Third, even if a case is brought, a new POTUS would (and should for political reasons) only seek to prosecute the most egregious case. That would require political vetting of the prosecutor's decision of who to target. Many have criticized the Bush administration for micro-managing/meddling at DOJ; for the next president to meddle this way would do nothing to stem the tide.

Finally, if the new president is seen by the country and world as turning over a new leaf of "hope," it is likely a far better move to ignore this and focus on future policy. I know that it let's wrong-doers off the hook, but that's politics.

John McCain proposed to alter the tax system by creating a new one and offering it as an alternative to the current system. We already have 2 systems, standard and Alternative Minimum Tax, thought by most Republicans to be a travesty for policy and pocketbook reasons. To create this additional, optional plan would make for bigger government, more hassle, etc.

I have to imagine this is a first step to replacing the old system...but isn't there a better way?

DCCC filed a claim with the FEC claiming that the NRCC was writing the ads for an independent group (a 523?), violating the groups independence and, by extension, federal election law and the revenue code. The group's rep claims that he didn't get NRCC docs, but rather pulled up an old Word ad template he had from his days at the NRCC and saved it as a new doc.

Seems plausible. I want to know who forwarded the doc to the DCCC.


Oh the Places You'll Ho

The D.C. Madame was convicted today of all counts, too cumbersome to list here. But, there is a ray of fun-shine in this scandal-turned-mundane/technical/boring court case:

Bizarre fact one: Rhona Reiss, now 63, was a department chair at a VA university before being outed as an escort. She was employed with the service from 2000-2002. Am I the only one a little surprised that a near-senior-citizen would be tapped to provide services in a high-end racket such as this? No offense ladies, but if I am 50, I can likely land a 50 year-old. If I am paying for a sure thing - and paying a lot - I would mix in a little of the good'ole days.

Bizarre fact two: I searched Ms. Reiss's name. LinkedIn popped up, so I clicked. The facts indicate this is the same woman, and the sidebar indicates that we are only two levels removed! My friend knows her friends (more than one). iEwie.

Love Hurts.

The "RememberRing" contains a chip programmed with the date of your anniversary. The little round thing on the right is a heating element that scalds you once an hour the day before to remind you. If you are an idiot who needs this, you are clearly also an idiot who is willing to shell out $800 (3x the price of a comparable ring) for it. (thanks to www.uncrate.com )


It's "String of Amazing Photos Day" on the Blog

The stolt surf sailed into and, more impressively, out of a massive hurricane in the north Pacific Ocean in 1977. This is what it looks like when you chug up the face of a 60 foot wave.

.... and then crest it....

...only to drop off the back side...
(picture a 45 degree drop when you look at this)

...and start over.

There aren't many photos like this because (a) it is hard to hold a camera in these seas, (b) puke and film don't mix, and (c) even if you get the shots, you still have to make it back to develop them. Not possible for many who have entered such seas.

Still Think This Is Unskilled Labor?


Flying Dutchman

Much better than Rigolleto, thanks to a solid, pounding melody and a masterful use of the themes. Meaning no offense to the players, I must single out the set. A trio of variously tilted square frames set against an angled stage became a ship as the rear curtain bearing a picture of the ocean rolled up and down. It became a sowing house with a "rectangular" table meant to exagerate the feeling of depth. There were windows, silouhettes, masts, ramps, and rigging, and all without an intermission.

I think the singers might have noticed that their background overshadowed them a little. "Little" Senta, your classic vision of a soprano - particularly in a Wagner production, daintily deposited herself on a bench in the second act during an aria. As she settled, every seat in the house heard that seat issue a mild complaint.

Best moment of the night.

Adminsitrating Distraction

A suburban NY law firm (which I had never heard of until the story) has banned Blackberries at major meetings because they disrupt the flow of business. It is good that people are recognizing that this technology has its place. It is bad that individual lawyers (including the millions who don't work at that firm) don't realize the same.

Indeed, no less than Univ. of Chicago is banning (really - turning off) wireless Internet in classrooms during lectures. I am not sure it will work given the range of modern antennas and the compulsion of law students. Look for the dark, unpopular corner of the room that has experienced something of a cult Renaissance and you'll find the modern poppy blossom: signal.

[One note: we did waste a lot of time on the internet in class, but we also used it as a real-time impromptu chat session - asking and answering questions. I would have been sad to lose that.]

[One more note: Full disclosure: I, too, am guilty of occasionally answering the siren's oscillation of my BB when I should have been focused on the events and people in the room. It's a good thing we are all so ADD, or else we could never juggle the diversity of information which constantly bombards us.]


Went back to the ENT. Being "scoped" is a lot less pleasant once it
loses its novelty, and now I can't feel my teeth.

read the "small thoughts" blog


Picture This

You are a NM photographer with a socially conservative outlook. Someone calls to ask you about photographing their same-sex commitment ceremony. You say "We don't do that." They ask you to clarify. You respond, "We don't work same-sex ceremonies."

Now...that person files a complaint with the NM Human Rights Council recounting this and you are required to pay $6600 in legal fees for the violation.

So the question is, what violation?

Elane Photography is facing this issue in NM. The question boils down to this: Is photography a form of speech, or is it a public accomodation, like a burger joint, that provides a product or service to all and cannot discriminate?

NM's law has a religious exemption, meaning that you cannot be required to do things to which you are religiously opposed. There is nothing on the record yet as to whether Elane's motives were "religious" or not. And while we are at it, does "religious" include "moral"?

[ Nod to the Volokh Conspiracy where you can find more. ]

In an Abolsut World...

Absolut ran, nay pulled, this ad in Mexico. Turns out it pissed off Mexico's more vodka-friendly neighbor to the north...or in this case, east. I might understand if this were a tequila ad, but the more I think about this the further off the mark it gets.

Still waiting for:
- (Portrait of Hitler or Ghengis or Ivan) Absolut Power
- (Block of ice) Absolut Zero
- (Pat Buchanan or, for the reading and writing set, Kant) Moral Absolut
- (Bruce) Absolut Lee


From the Top

One last look up at the top and I click out of my skis on the ridge, toss them over my shoulder, tips forward, hooking the front binding over my back for leverage. Plucking the poles from the snow, I take a hurried pace to catch up with they guy already marching twenty meters ahead.

It is blindingly white up here. The whole ridge is snow without tree cover. At the top of Squaw Valley in North Tahoe, the California summer sun is doing a number on my face -- the only part not covered by ski gear or a helmet. That is the second reminder I still bear. The first is the alchemical conversion of fear to exhilaration, starting with a look to the top of Squaw.

The very top of the very top lift at the very top of the mountain is not the very, very top. Most people take the Funitel, essentially a big gondola on 2 cables, from the base to mid mountain at Squaw - roughly 1500 feet. Then they get off and ride another 800 feet on the high speed summit chair. From that chair, I'd watched all morning with wonder the cliffs of the real summit, up another 200 feet to the left. Around 10am, I started to see little silhouettes starting to make their way up, lending the crags a startling scale.

The snow up there looks perfect, though there isn't much of it. From below, the cliffs looks nearly sheer. The face is about 100 across, with three narrow chutes and two cliffs that I come to learn offer 10-20 feet of vacuous space before 350 feet of white wall. I am eyeing the "widest" chute to the far left. It is maybe twice the length of my skis and it is the longest hike.

I catch up to the hiker before me. Like most locals, he's really friendly and not a native. This is his sixth time down the face today. I'll settle for one. The snow ends, and the rocks start. We are climbing up the back side of the face, essentially on the other side of the mountain. Here, sharp winds from the west, today blowing at 40 MPH, have, on better days still, stripped most of the snow away. It's not that it isn't cold enough -- a few six inch shrubs show clear signs of frost at midday.

Skis aloft, my boots are digging into the dirt and scaling broken rocks. I teeter backwards briefly as I attempt to stand a little more erect. Head down, leaning forward, with a bit of pounding in my chest, I continue up.

It takes fifteen minutes to hike the 200 feet at a steady clip. At the top is a bare mesa with what I guess is a Doppler radar. I check it's sight-lines and stop dead. The view is 360 degrees to forever. Peaks roll away in all directions. To the southeast, about 7 miles as if it were nothing is the lake. To the north and west, wilderness for at least an hour's drive. I've never felt the sense of power at a summit before. Five feet below, it is just a mountain, but from here, the earth seems to foist you up on its shoulders to have a look around and to show you off.

I look to the east at my way down. The snow starts like the big water slide, two feet of water, frozen in this case, and then a sheer drop. Not a lot of space to put on your equipment. I step down backwards onto the snow to put on my skis. Something is caught in my boots; neither is settling properly into the bindings. I am not willing to lose equipment on my down this face. I saw two tumbles this morning. They look like the footage you watch at the end of the day in the lodge. I didn't want someone else recounting to their friends over a cup of cocoa my run as a puff of white and thirty seconds of quiet as everyone below watches the pile roll end over end inevitably until the mountain flattens out a bit. So the skis come off. Boots cleaned. Back on. Back off. Back on. Settled most of the way in, I decide that it's going to have to be good enough lest I tire myself out just on this.

I take a huge breath to relax and peak over the edge. That is, I see what I can see from here. A small bump at this grade eliminates any view below. I plan my first 2 turns and rely on skill for the rest. Dripping already, I begin the massive hops it takes to change direction. The snow is as advertised. Nearly a foot of fresh powder thanks to the shade of the northeast facing cliffs. Six turns, maybe seven, and I am back in the merely steep. 300 feet later, I carve to a halt in the flats and catch my breath.

Two runs later, I see from the chairlift that a guy is readying to jump from the cliff just to the left of the chute I skied. There is no snow there. He is standing on rock, tips jutting over. Two minutes pass. He leans forward and with a tap of the knees drops 15 feet, tips pointed down the mountain. He completes one and a half turns to my dozen. He must hit 40mph before he stops below my rising chair. He isn't even carrying poles. I guess I really am an amateur at this, but his jacket bears the white cross of ski patrol, so all I can say think is, "Clearly, you really can reach me anywhere."

Share This

I have been searching for a sharing tool for a bit now -- one that would permit you to add posts here to Technorati, De.Lic.ious., lo.ng.an.dsil.ly.u.r.l, etc. -- with ease. I finally stumbled on the BEST tool: www.sharethis.com.

It produces a free linking tool that imports into Blogger/Wordpress, etc. without the need to register (just have to click "no thanks").

Second, it permits you to email posts to friends (if you don't just copy the url into an email like I do).

Check it out at the end of this and every post.


A great opera by Verdi based on the book by Hugo critiquing the king of France. Of course, this isn't symphony, it is opera, so the action is pounded into the audience with all the subtlety of Lou Dobbs on immigration. Think "Head On" ads. That said, the singing was solid, the sets good, and the story fair.

Oh, and you Hugo fans will be glad to know. As with his other miserable stage adaptation, if you have to die, at least you get to go down singing. Forget the paddles, based on the survival rates of supporting actors, I'd teach everyone an aria. That'll buy doctors at least 6-7 minutes.

On to Wagner Thurs. More boom, less plume.


Patently Absurd

A patent for the proposal of marriage, actually filed with the PTO (in 2003, but still funny) To wit:
[0008] As the industrial revolution has passed and the computer revolution
has taken afoot, society has been submerged with innovation and novel ideas.
With the regularity of such innovation, society has become more prone to demand
novel ideas and innovative thinkers. This bias toward innovation has raised the
bar not only for industries, computers, and manufacturing, but also for
individuals involved in relationships. Individuals want their relationship to be
as unique and novel as the ideas that sparked the industrial and computer
revolution. Furthermore, individuals in a relationship demand such uniqueness in
their marriage proposal so that the individual can tout such uniqueness and
novelty in the relationship and have a written record of such events. A
significant setback to the aforementioned methods of proposing to marry an
individual is that they lack novelty and innovative effort. Such a lack of
novelty and innovative effort in a method of proposing to an individual may
result in a negative response from the individual in an effort to wait for a
more memorable moment. [0009] Accordingly, a need exists for a unique, novel,
and recorded method of proposing marriage to an individual.


FightMetric...getting some much-deserved attention

AOL Sports Fanhouse has posted a detailed interview with RG of FightMetric. Even if you never see a single MMA match, you should read this to get a perspective on what it means to create stats for a sport. There are so few sports left that aren't already stat driven that it is hard to imagine life without them. Still, in MMA that is the status quo. RG is working to evolve the sport into one where stats matter...but how that happens, and the recursive effect it may have on how the sport is practiced, is yet to be seen.

So, You Think You Can Prank?


Thanks to www.kottke.org.


Flying Squirrel Anyone?

Uncrate (http://www.uncrate.com/) has posted the "Air Suit" for sale. Price tag: $1,250 [Corrected - Thanks MS]. Not simply falling to earth like a stone: Presumably priceless.

Gross speculation: If you knew how to fly this thing correctly, you could land without the use of a parachute, just glide until you stall the thing, flare, and land on your feet.


Shoring Up Home Builders.

The Senate housing proposal includes $4B, several hundred million in tax breaks, and $6B for home builders. This seems wrong-headed to me. Home builders are not providing some public good with external costs that would cause them to be disproportionately targeted in a downturn. They came with their analysts and forecasters and investors and, after much planning, decided to build. They created so much of the excess supply that put pressure on this market and has led to such precipitous declines, particularly inthe south and midwest. They did it because they saw money; but with all of that intelligence, they must surely have also seen the risk. We can argue some other day about whether mom and pop should be expected to understand this, but one thing is clear -- the builders certainly did.

A cyclical economy - what other kind is there? - means that when the curve heads down, someone is left without a chair. Why should I buy developers a chair just so we can all keep playing?


My Private Ski Resort

Skiing at Apline Meadows on a Tuesday in the spring is having your own private ski area. Favored by the locals per my earlier post, this little gem accommodates several thousand skiers, perhaps into the 5 figures for super-weekends. Tuesday, there might have been 250 of us.

In spring, the mornings bring hard pack snow as the slush from yesterday has glazed over during the night. Staying on the groomed runs can be a rush when you are carving fresh tracks unimpeded down the mountain, cruising down alone over and over again leaving llong archaic "f"s in your wake.

By mid-morning, things have loosened up. The trees called my name for the same reason they keep everyone else away. Trees mean less sun and fewer people, which together mean deep snow. There is, as always the mixed blessing of the trees themselves, buy, hey, where do you think slalom came from? Sliding off your line and throwing a quick turn in "traffic" is what clears the mind.

Just before lunch, the north faces of the mountain should be primed. The area to the left of the summit lift is a bowl - the south faces get hit by the sun and go soft, the north facing sides loosen in the lighter heat. The bowl chair is closed, so not a soul has ventured there. Two days ago, it was kind to say that this was best snow on the mountain. Tuesday, it is damn-near perfect to my taste. 65 degree grade, light moguls on which the puffy stuff perches. I test it with my tips, gut check the cliffs to my right and, swing my first right curve. 45 seconds later, I've lost 400 vertical feet and my thighs are begging for a break. Huffing, I glance up at my fall line. These things always look steepest from two spots, the top and the bottom. When you are actually carving your way down, it just doesn't occur to you.

Lunch. A much needed rest for the quads because after lunch, there is the high traverse. This is why Alpine is known to be the best spring locale. Hit the summit chair, get a push off the lift and glide as far up the mountain as possible before you start to use your downhill skis like cross country ones. Duck walking, left, hop, right, hop, for a very long five minutes. If you don't ski, imagine climbing six flights of steps by skipping a foot in the air between each one. I am warm by the time I reach the summit in position to drop over the backside of the mountain.

The backside is "corn," it crunches when you drop slice into it. The top is soft like powder. Find a speed and rhythm and you can ride this down for several minutes without seeing a soul or a lift. Even the traverse back to civilization ain't bad. Still, these cruisers are too luxury-hatchback for my taste. I lift back up and head back into the double diamond trees.

Maybe the only problem in the tough stuff are the are chutes, little drop-ins usually to more than 12 feet wide. Sure, the rest of the run might have powder on it, but these are natures bottlenecks. Everyone has to run the same stretch of steep bumps and even last week's skiers can mean bulletproof conditions for me today. My edges hold - I sharpened them by hand on my way back out for the afternoon - and again, I look up to see I've left behind a pretty decent drop.

A run to the left, to the right, to the trees, and even to the terrain park to kick a few daffys and I am done. Spent. Tired. Content. A clean condo, a beer, and a cab ride to the Reno airport gets me on a plane, to Los Angeles, and through to a red eye as fast as humanly possible.

I still feel the undulation and pressure of the skis flexing under my feet when I lay down. I am holding on to that until next year's ski trip.

LOTR in Siessin

So thegameiam posed this question, an excerpt of which follows. What happened next is copied below. Law students, be kind. Some of us have been out for a while.

Consider the following facts:

  1. Sauron holds ownership in the Ring through accession, by working one thing (base metals) into a new thing (a ring of power)
  2. He is dispossessed by Isildur, who now holds possession in the Ring.
  3. Isildur loses the Ring (he has a manifest intent to exclude others but no physical control) when it slips off his finger as he was swimming in the Anduin river to escape from Orcs.
  4. Déagol finds the Ring.
  5. He is dispossessed by Sméagol (a.k.a. Gollum).
  6. Gollum loses the Ring and it is finally found by Bilbo.
  7. Bilbo gifts the Ring to Frodo. Later, Aragorn (the heir of Isildur) tells Frodo to carry the ring to Mordor, making Frodo his bailee.
  8. Sam, assuming that Frodo is dead, takes the Ring according to instructions to help Frodo with the Ring in grave circumstances. Sam is acting here as a (fictional) bailee and he returns possession to Frodo after finding him still alive.
  9. At the end of the book, Gollum restores his possession of the ring. Seconds later, he and the Ring are both destroyed. At this point all property held in the Ring disappears.

The Lord of the Rings story is that of a property hierarchy with one owner and a series of possessors.

My comment:

Ok, here we go with the first salvo:
This is all nice in theoretical property found in text books, but the reality is that a person is not generally required to return a lost object once found under English law (not Jewish law, where the rule is the opposite). Further, the following is mistaken:
7. Bilbo gifts the Ring to Frodo. Later, Aragorn (the heir of Isildur) tells Frodo to carry the ring to Mordor, making Frodo his bailee.
8. Sam, assuming that Frodo is dead, takes the Ring according to instructions to help Frodo with the Ring in grave circumstances. Sam is acting here as a (fictional) bailee and he returns possession to Frodo after finding him still alive.
First, if you believe that Bilbo does not have title to the ring, then he cannot gift it.
Let's say that he gifts it anyway, Frodo, being unaware that the Ring was previously lost, should take title without being subject to a prior claim. This is a lot like the "holder in due course rules" applicable to things like checks, travelers cheques, and other "commercial paper" in the Uniform Commercial Code.
Most importantly, if you follow the logic of the piece, Aragorn doesn't have a clean title to the ring, so he cannot tell Frodo what to do with it AND, even if it was Aragorn's ring and he told Frodo to take it to Mordor, it is clear that Frodo would not be a bailee at all - he would be Aragorn's agent. A bailee is merely one who keeps an object either for a fee or for free, not one who takes the object and does with it as commanded -- that's an agent and the duties owed are different. To wit: a gratuitous bailee (e.g. one holding the object for free) owes the owner a duty not to be negligent with the object. It is contradictory to ask a bailee, a keeper, to destroy his charge. Destruction is usually a negligent act or consequence. Here, to the contrary, Frodo is discharging his duty in destroying the ring. In this case, a failure to destroy the ring would be negligent - the opposite result.
Say that three times fast.

JW's response:

The premise is flawed. First, it states that LOTR is about property law (in the underlying piece). I disagree; rather, the underlying piece is merely issue spotting. One can do a similar analysis regarding Vader's light saber, cut from Annakin by Obi Wan, gifted to Luke by Obi Wan, and destroyed or abandoned by Vader when he cut off Luke's hand. Second, it is applying English common law to Middle Earth. Under choice of law doctrine, the law of England would be inapplicable, and one would have to look at the law of the situs of Mordor, the Shire, and Rivendell, et al., where the transfers took place.

Finally, it misses a key underlying fact. The ring is not merely a res. Sauron put himself into the ring, as evidenced by his destruction when the ring was destroyed. He cannot have been considered to have abandoned himself, even when the non-ring part of him mutated to a shadow. (This is not to be confused with abandonment of one's dead body parts; the ring contained his viability and power.) If Sauron was in the ring the entire time, he was always in possession. Smeagol, Aragorn, Bilbo, Frodo et al., were, rather, in custody of his corpus and he was then a slave in fact. Mind you, in the common law slavery is legal, as evidenced by the Dred Scott decision. The real question, then, is whether slaves had possessory and titular property rights. It seems they could, else it would be impossible for a slave to have bought his freedom, which did occur at times. (If not, I'd say Smeagol was the rightful owner--Isildur's heirs failed to claim the property, abandoning it; Smeagol acquired it, though through murder, from his next of kin, the finder and lawful owner; Bilbo stole it and never had good title--his gift to Frodo does not make Frodo a bona fide purchaser for value, leaving Smeagol free to void the unlawful conveyances).

Here endeth the lesson.

My reply:

Your analysis is astute, save one point: a slave's ability to own property was severely limited, if permitted at all. Indeed, many were only able to "own" themselves by working to earn theior freedom. (an example, take DC: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/sthtml/stpres02.html). Thus, if Sauron was a slave in fact to those holding the ring, he could not own it -- and if he did own it, common law slavery made that property the property of the master. As such, we have resurrected the problem.
To complicate matters further, your assertion that Sauron is the slave may be incorrect. The Ring itself has the power to bend men's wills.In that way it enslaves them. If Sauron and the Ring are one, then he arguably enslaves them and we have reversed your analysis.
From JW:

Upon reviewing your most recent correspondence, I must agree with your concluding analysis. The One Ring could enslave the bearer's will and it had a will of its own, exemplified by its departure from Isildur and Gollum, when it purposefully slipped away from them. The One Ring, as part of Sauron, was never the property but was independent or the owner of the bearer, depending on one's perspective. The One Ring was akin to the equestrian; the bearer was no more in title or possession than the horse of its rider.

Thank you for your consultation with this matter. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns on this or any other matter.


Hope you enjoyed it.

Geeking out for a moment.

I have a Lenovo now and i am generally happy with it, including the installation and some of the Thinkpad productivity tools - including wireless management, backups, etc. That said, I have never liked Windows and wouldn't keep it if I didn't have to. Here is the next best thing: n-Lite. n-Lite permits you to create a new windows installation CD and strip out all the things you don't need (and add the things you do like hot fixes and service packs). Awesome.

Oh, one complaint about the lappie - I noticed when I pulled it out of my bag today that the kbd left marks on the screen. That's normal if something protrudes unevenly against the laptop, but I figured that the Lenovo's legendary "roll cage" would prevent it. Lesson learned.


Thoughts from the tops of two mountains.

I have been out west skiing for the past few days. I come out here to clear my mind; it just so happens that the best way to do that involves several thousand vertical feet in which I can find something with rocks, trees, moguls, or a slope approaching 70 degrees. The more criteria a slope meets the better. Nothing like a little risk to focus the mind, and a little incline to concatenate the distance from thought to action.

The first of the two resorts we hit was Alpine Meadows. This is the family and locals resort of North Tahoe. Most resembling its VT and NH counterparts, it has a lodge framed by huge wooden beams, a green/brown/red interior motif reminiscent of the cup of hot cocoa by the fireplace stereotype. Locals here leave boot bags with sack lunches all over the lodge - in contrast to the normal practice at tourist traps - the locker or the basket check.

Conditions were not ideal, but if you are looking for ideal I think Scuba or perhaps golf is more your style. Skiing is about finding the highest mountain in the area and cutting just enough trees to make it passable. Toss in a few sticks, cables, chairs, and tanks-tracked tractors and you have yourself a ski resort. The wind still whips the slopes, the sun still beats down to create ice sheets over fresh powder on one day and to soften the bulletproof pack into slush on others. Right now, it is doing the latter. Based on the solid coat of zinc I have on my nose all day, it is doing it quite well.

That's a lot of setup for a simple thought, which came at the end of the day on Sunday. All day, the clouds that would coat Lake Tahoe were drifting in over Alpine Meadows, making for overcast conditions. Luckily, the mountains act as ski jumps, vaulting warmer valley air over the summit to protect us little people. But in the evening the sun broke through, permitting one to experience what a storm system moving at 40mph really looks like. If you were able to lay under the water and watch Niagra drive past your face and shoot into the abyss back behind your head, it would engender the same sense of awe at the immensity of this constant movement.

Winds from the West, escaping the setting sun meant the loss of warm valley air. We were hit with the cold blast, playing whirlwinds on the snows dunes at the summit. Skiers entered and emerged like momentary specters. Then the intense blue with rays piercing through the whirlwinds, lighting them. This is the kind of shot that elicits a verbal retort, like Aurora Borealis, or an air shot of a stampeding herd of water buffalo, or the best of Ansel Adams. A few minutes later, you think, "man that was amazing, but must have sucked to be there." Well, it doesn't. It's just makes you say "Wow," with and in spite of every one of the rest of your senses.
Three runs, I huddled on the chair as it crested the last ridge and watched this scene unfold. Three times, I alighted as a specter. And three times, the specter vanished into the trees.

more soon as I set to return.