Thursday, December 20, 2007


I guess this has been around for a little while, but I just heard about it, and I think it's cool.

Kiva is a website that lets you lend small amounts of money ($25 or more) to small entrepreneurs all over the world to help them grow their businesses. The website has profiles of the entrepreneurs, including descriptions of what they want the money for. Most of the people are only trying to borrow a few hundred dollars. When you lend to someone, you get updates about how the business is doing, and as they pay the loan back, you get paid back. (Kiva's repayment rate to date is over 99%). Then you can cash out or reinvest in another business. Right now, you don't get any of the interest the borrowers pay, so it's a charitable act and not an investment. Here's how it works.

I've only heard bits and pieces about microfinance, and I know there are downsides. But for the most part, I think Kiva's model is really interesting. The loss of the interest on $25 or $100 for several months is not something most middle-class Americans would even notice, but that money could make a massive difference in someone's life. And unlike most traditional giving programs (which I also support), it could help build economies and sustainable occupations. And it's easy. And it encourages people who might not otherwise give to get involved.

Automatic Take-my-money Machine

Today, I pulled up to the ATM with some checks to deposit, put them into the envelope, and stuck the envelope into the machine. It made that grinding sound that it does when it's sucking in your envelope, and the envelope disappeared into the machine. But the grinding sound did not stop. The ATM screen asked if I needed more time to complete my transaction. More time? My envelope was already gone--what more did I need to do? But there was no way to communicate this to the cold, inflexible machine. It told me that my transaction was incomplete, gave me a "receipt" that in no way reflected the fact that it had just received $1000 worth of my checks, and sent me on my way with nothing.

For years, I have resisted making deposits at ATMs. I figured that if I was going to hand over my valuable negotiable instruments, I wanted some human person to see them, take them, and give me a receipt. But everyone told me I was being ridiculous. "I make ATM deposits all the time!" they said. "It works fine!" they said. Well, I've done it four times now, and one in four times it has taken my checks without giving me credit. I don't like those odds.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Christmas Pandora plug

As most of you know, I love Christmas music, and commercial Christmas radio stations sort of suck. So I've taken to listening to Pandora. I think someone (fuzzy?) may have posted about this a while back. The way it works is, you type in a song title or artist, and it generates a custom radio station for you with stuff it thinks you will like. You can guide it along the way by giving thumbs up or thumbs down to certain songs, and you can skip ones you don't like.

It is amazingly effective for Christmas music. I typed in "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," selected a version by a choir, and since then have been treated to a beautiful series of traditional carols. There's not a "Christmas Shoes" or "Holly Jolly Christmas" in the bunch, and the well-known songs are mixed in with lots of lesser-known but awesome songs like "Once in Royal David's City" and "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming."

You have to register after you listen to a few songs, but it's free and easy and worth it.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Romney's faith speech

I heard Mitt Romney's speech, and I think he gave the best possible speech he could have, given his audience of Christian conservatives. I also respected that he basically said that he was a Mormon and he wasn't going to distance himself from that to get elected.

Two problems, though:

(1)Disturbingly, there was absolutely no suggestion anywhere in his long speech that he has any respect for non-religious citizens--their rights, their potential contributions, or their morality.

(2) A key component of his message is incoherent. He thinks:

(A) it is illegitimate to "have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church’s distinctive doctrines" because doing so "would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution"), yet
(B) it is legitimate for a candidate to proclaim in his campaign speeches that he believes that "Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior of mankind." (as he did in this speech).

He won't answer questions about his Church's doctrines, but he will answer questions about what he believes about Jesus? The implicit message is that a belief in God and Jesus is not a "doctrine"--rather, it's the baseline faith we all agree on, the standard. But to many people--Buddhists, Wiccans, animists, Shintoists, people who consider themselves "spiritual," agnostics, atheists, doubters, questioners, and adherents of traditional American Indian and non-Western religions--even the belief in God is a distinctive doctrine, not a given. When he talks about God and Jesus, Mitt IS talking about the distinctive doctrines of his church. So I don't see how he can get all self-righteous if people ask him to get more specific about what he thinks about Jesus and God.

Mitt wants to draw the line between "faith" (what a you can ask a candidate about without it meaning you're imposing a religious test) and "doctrine" (what you can't) exactly where it best suits his political goals: right next to Jesus. I don't see that as a principled position.

Note: I just found this article by Andrew Sullivan and this one by E.J. Dionne, which make essentially the same points as I do. And David Brooks has a really good piece too.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Whiny Wednesday

Things that bother me:

1. People who walk around at night in neighborhoods without sidewalks or streetlights, particularly when they wear road-colored clothes. Every day on my drive home I come close to killing many, many people.
2. The word affidavit. I misspell it as "affadavit" 99% of the time.
3. The shape of footballs. You know how virtually every other ball in the world is round? There's a reason for that. Round balls are easy to throw and bounce predictably.
4. Vending machines with weird selections. I'm looking at you, work vending machine that does not have pretzels, regular potato chips, or M&Ms, but does have have multiple types of Fritos.
5. The common practice of that saying "I just do not understand how someone can believe X" as if it's an argument against "X." There are obviously reasons someone believes it--why do you think your proclamation of your own failure to grasp those reasons is an argument?

The fatted calf

I know I don't exactly have the ideal body type for clothes-buying. But not until yesterday did I believe that I was grossly deformed. Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I decided I needed some boots (non-hiking/snow variety) to wear with skirts in winter. I thought this would be simple. Go to the shoe store, pick out a pair of tall black leather boots in a size nine, and move on with my life. It didn't work that way.

After multiple shoe stores and about 20 pairs of boots, I still had not found any boots. Not because I was being picky, but because out of 20 pairs of boots, zero would fit on my body. We're not talking, "hmm, that's a little snug." We're talking, I could not physically move the zipper more than a couple of inches up from my ankle because my calves are so gigantic. I even tried some size eleven boots too see if the calf size would be large enough. No luck. I even tried on boots at a plus-size store that caters to women up to a size 32. No luck. I am a freak!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Mitt Romney and religious questions

I think Mitt Romney's upcoming "JFK speech" on his faith is likely lead to more discussion of the LDS church in the media and more questions for Romney about his faith. So, what should Romney say when reporters ask him about specific questions of Mormon doctrine?

Several months ago, George Stephanopoulos asked Mitt Romney, "In your faith, if I understand it correctly, it teaches that Jesus will return probably to the United States and reign on earth for 1,000 years . . . Have you thought about how the Muslim world will react to that . . . . ?" Mitt's response was "Well, I'm not a spokesman for my church . . . that doesn't happen to be a doctrine of my church . . . Our belief is just as it says in the Bible, that the messiah will come to Jerusalem, stand on the Mount of Olives and that the Mount of Olives will be the place for the great gathering and so forth. It's the same as the other Christian tradition." Then ABC contacted an LDS spokesperson, who clarified the LDS belief: "One appearance will be to the new Jerusalem and another will be to the Jerusalem of the old world . . . It is our belief that the new Jerusalem will be established within the state of Missouri."

I know nothing about this doctrine or the accuracy of George's description of it. But given the LDS church's statement, Mitt's answer looks dishonest and evasive. If a Catholic politician were asked a basic question about a strange but well-established Catholic doctrine (say, transubstantiation), and he answered, "I'm not a spokesman for my church" or "We celebrate Christ's sacrifice in communion. It's the same as the other Christian tradition," I would be annoyed. Those answers suggest either ignorance or shame. It's a basic tenet of the religion--own it.

Now, I don't think issues like this affect a candidate's qualifications, nor do I think a candidate should have to be a spokesperson for his religion. But given that Romney is inevitably going to get these questions, how should he be answering them? Some options:

a. "If you want to talk about the specifics of my church, you'll have to ask the church."
[but can he really do this if he IS willing to talk about the easier-for-Protestants-to-swallow specifics of his religion, like the Mount of Olives stuff above?]
b. Answer honestly, explaining if necessary how the reporter has the doctrine wrong.
[but it could be politically risky]
c. "I'm not sure."
[my sense is this would work only for an obscure or debatable doctrine]
d. Evade and pretend that your doctrine is "the same as the other Christian tradition."
[makes you look like you lack integrity; plus, wouldn't this make LDS supporters mad? Also, if arguably the most publicly visible member of your church is saying it's just like other Christian denominations, why should anyone convert to it?]

Any thoughts?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Día de los Muertos

Happy Day of the Dead, everybody!

On November 1st and 2nd, Mexicans celebrate their dead relatives and friends. They gather in cemeteries and hang out there for hours, picnicking and reminiscing. They decorate home altars, prepare elaborate meals, make a special bread ("pan de muerto"), and make candies in skull shapes.

The holiday is derived from an Aztec celebration, but the Spanish later moved it to early November to coincide with the Christian holiday of All Saints Day. The modern celebration seems to draw heavily from Christian traditions, with lots of crosses and Blessed Virgin Mary imagery.

I think this is a cool tradition, though the skull-shaped stuff really creeps me out.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

In hiding for Halloween

I live in a guesthouse behind someone's regular suburban house. My guesthouse sort of faces a street, but it doesn't look like an actual house--more like some weird garage or studio. I figured I wouldn't get any trick-or-treaters, so I didn't buy any candy.

Moments ago, I heard a bunch of people come up to my door. There was a knock at the door, two feet away from where I was sitting. I froze, trying to keep as quiet as possible. I heard voices:

Mom: No one's answering; maybe we should just go around the front.
Kid: No, there's someone in there!
Mom: No, no one's answering.
Kid: But if there's no one there, why is there a light on inside?
Mom: Come on, let's just go around to the front. I don't think this is really where they live.
Kid [yelling]: But why is there a peephole in that door if there's no one living there?! And there's a light on!

I thought that kid was going to break in. I almost wanted to open the door, congratulate him on his logical skills, and offer him a can of chick-peas or something. But I did not.

I am now having the scariest Halloween ever.


My iPod just started displaying this image. My own face looks much the same. The suggestions on the Apple website have not worked, so I am going to spend the evening on the internet looking for more advanced fixes. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wonderful Wednesdays, edition 3, one day late

More good things:
1. Fountain soda from the gas station. 32 ounces of ice-cold Diet Dr. Pepper for $0.79 is hard to beat.
2. H.E.B. Central Market brand Indian frozen dinners, especially Chana Masala. H.E.B. is our local supermarket, and "Central Market" is their Whole Foods-esque line of products. Indian food seems to do pretty well in the freezing-reheating process.
3. Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers. They're a band. They're good.
4. Corner Gas reruns on cable. I was first introduced to this Canadian sitcom by Squishy Burrito, and it I loved it. Now I can watch it every day. If the information I give the Nielsen people has as much impact as I think it will, there will soon be several episodes of Corner Gas on every day.
5. Pre-washed spinach in bags (non-E.coli type). Healthy and easy.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Stephen Colbert and the religious blogosphere

I came across this blog yesterday: The WORD: A Colbert Blog for Catholic It-Getters. It basically collects and discusses Stephen Colbert's references to his Catholicism on the Colbert Report. For those who don't know, Stephen Colbert is a practicing Catholic who teaches Sunday School and raises his kids Catholic. He talks about it in an interview with Teri Gross here.

Here is an awesome YouTube clip of Colbert singing (and dancing to) one of my favorite hymns from childhood. I also recommend this clip of the Colbert Report.

Some exploration of the links from The WORD revealed a couple of things:
1. Catholic bloggers LOVE that Stephen Colbert is Catholic. I sort of do too. I think there's a real lack of cool, smart, funny, and sincerely religious role models in the media, especially for the sort of people who enjoy things like the Colbert Report.

2. The Catholic blogosphere is very lame. As I looked for Catholic blogs, I saw page after page doing nothing but rehashing the same issue--can you be pro-choice and Catholic? Yes you can! No you can't! Boring. In my travels in the religious internet, I also came across the quite amazing and large Mormon blogosphere, a.k.a. the Bloggernacle (I especially liked By Common Consent, the first one I saw). I have no idea about the religious value or accuracy of the material on the Mormon sites, but they appear to contain the kind of thoughtful and diverse commentary on issues theological, historical, and social that I wish existed for Catholics.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I have so much power.

Moments ago, I was offered, and accepted, an opportunity to become a part of the Nielsen Ratings System by recording my TV viewing habits for a certain period of time.

Finally, the American people will have the benefit of my near-perfect taste in television. You are so lucky! And I am going mad with power right now.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Breakfast Tacos

You know how, in a most offices and institutions, if there's a breakfast event, people will bring bagels, doughnuts, or pastries? When I was planning to move to San Antonio, someone from here told me that here, people will bring breakfast tacos instead. I was skeptical--that is, until my boss showed up one day my second week with a big bag of breakfast tacos. This happens about once a week.

Also, just about every other restaurant here is Mexican, and just about every Mexican place (and some non-Mexican places) sell breakfast tacos. A breakfast taco is basically a (usually) freshly made soft flour tortilla, usually with two of the following: eggs, chorizo, potato, bacon, cheese, or beans. They can be pretty tasty.

According to this article in the Denver Post, San Antonio is the birthplace of the breakfast taco.

Aunt Panda

My (and Warm Fuzzy's) little brother's wife had a baby yesterday, making us aunts! I am excited.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Wonderful Wednesdays, edition 2

More things I like:
1. Dual computer monitors. We just got these at work. Westlaw on one screen, memo on the other. It doesn't get any better than that, people.
2. Rice cookers. I didn't bring my rice cooker with me to Texas. I discovered I couldn't live without one, so I bought a $9.99 version at Walgreens. Perfect rice every time, with no judgment calls. If you are cooking your rice in a pot to save $9.99, you are a sucker.
3. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. There's been a crime. You have the guy who did it. You know he did it. He may even admit that he did it. But we let him go anyway! What an amazing dedication to principle.
4. Suburban running tracks.
I have taken up running again. I do this about once a year. This time, I'm running on a track at the local junior high. It is wonderful! It's easy on my feet and safe after dark--I ran tonight after 8 pm without a single worry of being mugged. The suburbs are growing on me.

5. Altoids.
They are curiously strong.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Chain restaurant!

A Panera Bread (a.k.a. St. Louis Bread Company) just opened near my house. On my way to work, in fact. I am extremely happy about this. Being fairly alone and perpetually lost in a new town, it is very comforting to walk into a place that looks exactly like the place I spent many happy (and some unhappy) hours surfing the internet, reading newspapers, and studying for the bar exam. Plus, San Antonio has a bizarre dearth of free wireless internet in any places where you'd actually want to go and surf the internet. (My Chinese restaurant has wireless internet, as does the local Denny's-style diner place--who gets out their laptop places like that? It's bizarre.)

I do feel a tiny bit guilty about this--I typically try to patronize independent, locally owned businesses. I like supporting things that are a little different, to help slow our society's inevitable progress toward becoming a nation of identical strip malls with no local differences other than the content of the maps and street guides they sell at Barnes & Noble and the Shell Station.

But at least the profits on my $0.89 bagels are going to St. Louis and benefiting what will be my local economy in the future, so that's something. I just wish Panera had kept the name "St. Louis Bread Company" for its national expansion--my hometown could use some positive publicity.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Things I like

Below is a list of some stuff I like. Maybe I will make this a regular feature--"Wonderful Wednesday"? If I'm in a bad mood, it can always turn into "Whiny Wednesday." Anyway, here it is:
  • Lint rollers. If you haven't used these, they're like giant rolls of masking tape, with the sticky side out. They're essential if you have a pet or tend to dress in black.

  • The book Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer. It's the true story of a bright and educated young man who went, alone and ill-prepared, into the Alaskan wilderness and eventually died of starvation. The book does a fascinating job of exploring the mystery of what motivated the young man.
  • Vanilla Wafers. Simple perfection in cookie form. The best are the Nabisco ones, a.k.a. "Nilla Wafers." Under no circumstances should you try to save money by getting the store brand.
  • The Reach Access dental flosser. The greatest advance in dentistry to occur in my lifetime.
  • The song "If You're Into It" by Flight of the Conchords. It has been in my head nearly constantly for the past two months. The premise is that a guy is writing a song for his new girlfriend about how he'd do anything for her--climb the highest mountain, etc. When his friend points out that he wouldn't actually be willing to do any of that stuff, he writes a more realistic song about the things he would be willing to do, like hanging out.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


People frequently praise particular ethnic restaurants as "authentic" and criticize others as "Americanized." I used to do this. No more. I have made an uncomfortable discovery: I often prefer the Americanized, inauthentic versions of cuisines to the authentic ones.

I've always suspected that I'd feel this way about Asian cuisines. Although I've probably never had truly authentic Japanese, Chinese, or Thai food, I would bet any amount of money that I would prefer Chicken Teriyaki, Beef with Broccoli, and Phad Thai over what I would actually be served in those countries. I always thought that was just because of my aversion to seafood and to animal parts not commonly eaten in the U.S.

But lately, I've been going to the authentic Mexican restaurants here (which use, at least in many dishes, ingredients I'm fine with), and I don't love them as much as I'm supposed to. They're good, but to be honest, I prefer mission-style burritos (think Chipotle) and taco salads to their enchiladas and tacos. The authentic Mexican dishes I've had are a little too meat-heavy for my taste, they tend not to have enough vegetables, and they favor corn tortillas instead of my preferred flour tortillas. But I am made to feel bad about my desire for burritos, which the Hispanic people in my office dismiss as "white people food." I don't see why I should feel bad.

Don't get me wrong-- I still think there is a benefit to authenticity. Just as I would enjoy visiting Tokyo once or twice to see how people live there, I would enjoy going to an authentic Japanese restaurant once or twice to see how people in Japan eat. But just as I would not want to live on a daily basis the way that people in Tokyo live, I don't want to eat on a weekly basis the way people in Japan eat. Bring on the burritos.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


These tall religious candles are EVERYWHERE in San Antonio. There are big walls of them at the grocery store, at Wal-Mart, wherever. They come with different saints on them (though mostly Mary), and they only cost $1-$2. Their low cost and wide availability suggest that a lot of people use them and that they go through them frequently.

I really like them. I bought one of the Virgin of Guadalupe. I haven't found anything online about their history or use, but I'm curious.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

My new home

As most of you know, I've just moved to San Antonio, Texas for a temporary year-long job. I'm starting to settle in.

Good things:
1. The low cost of living.
2. The abundant and delicious Mexican food.
3. My totally awesome furnished guesthouse, which has more space and nicer stuff than I have ever had/will have in the foreseeable future. Let me tell you that I will NOT be living without a washer and dryer inside my apartment ever again.
4. The Riverwalk downtown-a long walkway one level below street level that goes along the San Antonio River and has shops and restaurants.
5. The presence of a giant, pointless monument in the middle of the city (the Tower of the Americas, pictured above). I refuse to live in any city that doesn't have one.

Bad things:
1. The street system. Why are all the businesses on one-way access roads on either side of the interstate? Why does everyone expect you to get on the interstate to drive to the grocery store that's a mile away? Why are there no through east-west roads for 2 miles in any direction from my house?
2. The lack of coffeeshops with free wi-fi. Fortunately, a Panera is opening up nearby soon.
3. The bugs. All the apartment complexes I looked at advertised their pest control services. I have found dead bugs in my house. Grocery stores have entire aisles labelled "Insecticide." Yuck.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Reflections on moving

Things that have gone up in my estimation during my recent move:
-The Magic Eraser cleaning tool (it is amazing)
-SMALL moving boxes
-Brown paper packing tape, because you can tear it by hand
-Housecleaners (they did in 2 hours what I could not have done in 20, and thanks to them I'm getting back a security deposit worth 8 times what I paid them)

Things that have gone down in my estimation:
-Book purchases (I am going to make friends with the library system in my new city)
-Poorly thought-out clothing purchases (I discovered clothes that I never even took the tags off of)
-Furniture of any kind
-Large moving boxes
-Refrigerator magnets (they can leave marks on a bumpy white fridge; see also Magic Eraser, supra)

Also: I'm never buying anything nonconsumable ever again.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What's in my backpack

I'm going to another state for an apartment-hunting trip this afternoon, and I just packed my backpack to take on the flight. It's the same backpack I brought back from my trip to take the bar exam yesterday.

What I took OUT of the backpack:
-A book of Multistate Essay Exam problems
-A book of Missouri Essay Exam prblems
-The Missouri Bar/Bri lecture notes
-The book of practice Multistate Performance Tests
-Hundreds upon hundreds of flashcards containing phrases like "fee simple subject to condition subsequent" and "30 days after the trial court rules on the last timely filed authorized post-trial motion"

What I put INTO the backpack:
-The new Harry Potter book
-My iPod

It's a good day.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Happy bar exam week, everyone!

I just wanted to wish all the bar applicants in my readership luck with the exam. The people of Colorado, Maryland, Missouri, Oregon, New York, and Pennsylvania will be lucky to have us licensed to represent them.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


So, I'm not going to be able to read the new Harry Potter book until after the bar exam is over--a full 5 days after the book comes out. I am not sure how I'm going to make it through those five days without hearing how it ended. Specifically, I am concerned about hearing whether Harry dies or not.

Any thoughts on how likely it is that I'll be able to do this? Any suggestions? I'm thinking noise-cancelling headphones and a t-shirt that says, front and back, "Don't tell me how Harry Potter ends!"

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"(C) is incorrect for several reasons."

This is becoming a sentence I read far too often. Contracts law, why do you still elude me?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Big Love

The new season of Big Love has begun on HBO, and I could not be more excited. As most of you probably know, Big Love is a show about a family of suburban polygamists.

I should note, as many people do when discussing this show, that the LDS Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church) does not condone the practice of polygamy, and these people are not Mormons. Some of them call themselves "Fundamentalist Mormons," a designation the LDS Church does not approve of. By the way, no one who watched the show could possibly come away from it thinking that the LDS Church approves of polygamy.

The show is great as a show, and I recommend it for the fascinating explorations of the wives' reasons for getting into polygamy and their reactions to the challenges it poses (which are many--intra-family jealousies, fear of exposure of their illegal lifestyle, disapproval from neighbors and relatives, psychotic relatives from the nearby polygamist cult, etc.).

But I also use the show as a jumping-off point for thinking about polygamy more generally. Is it a legitimate lifestyle choice? Is it inherently sexist or abusive? How many people really practice it in the suburbs rather than in some isolated compound? Would a sane woman ever choose it freely? How should it be treated by the law? How many of its problems are caused by its marginalization? Is it sustainable, what with all those extra men?

Some interesting links:

Here's an article about a real-life family of suburban polygamists. (link fixed now, I think)

Here's an interview with another former plural wife (and pro-polygamy activist) who still believes in the practice.

Here's a blog by a former plural wife who still believes in the practice.

Here's an interview with a writer who says she went undercover in a polygamist compound to research a book. (Some have questioned her credibility, so take it with a grain of salt.)

Go here to find the Television Without Pity thread for discussing polygamy in the context of the show.

The Salt Lake City Tribute has a plural marriage blog and a polygamy section.

Tapestry against Polygamy is probably the best-known anti-polygamy organization. Many of members are refugees from polygamous upringingings, and they REALLY hate polygamy. They're also critical the LDS church for not doing enough to stop polygamy in Utah.

Principle Voices is the best-known pro-polygamy organization.

I'm done

That's it. My brain is full. I can learn no more new law. No more timing requirements, elements, standards of review, modern approaches, or exceptions to the general rule. My bar review materials indicate that there is going to be material tested that I don't know about, but I no longer have the capacity to care. I will be passing or failing based on material I have already covered. Let the reviewing begin.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bear attack

There was a fatal bear attack in Utah a couple of days ago. A kid was sleeping in his tent when a black bear grabbed him, dragged him away, and mauled him to death. Read more here.

Think there are no bears in your area? Think again. Colorado, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, and Pennsylvania all have bears. Here is a range map and collection of population estimates from 1994. In most places, conservation efforts have led to population increases; Missouri, for example, is now estimated to have more than twice as many bears as it did in 1994.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Paternity testing

As some of you know, one of my great guilty pleasures is the watching of talk shows (specifically Maury Povich) on which paternity test results are revealed. These shows typically involve two distinct types of situations:

1. Woman swears she's 100% sure that a man is the father of her baby, and the man swears that he's not because the woman is sleeping with the whole town.

In this scenario, I'm usually on the woman's side. In part, it's because the men seem so idiotic (on the show I watched today, one guy said he was 100% sure he was not the father because "I've slept with three virgins, and I've didn't get any of THEM pregnant!"). In part, it's because I figure the woman is in a better position to know who the father is. What shocks me is how many women insist that there is NO WAY that anyone else could be the dad and then end up being wrong. That happened to both women today.

2. Young, happy couple has a kid (or one on the way), and the woman has brought the man on Maury to tell him a "terrible secret." The secret is that the kid might not be his (one woman on today's show was sleeping with 8 different guys around the time of conception). It goes without saying that if you're in this situation, going on Maury to tell your boyfriend/husband is a bad idea. But I'm torn about whether you should tell him at all. Who does it help? If he wants to be the father, and you want him to be the father, and he's a good father, is the DNA test a good idea?

Friday, June 01, 2007

The bears are coming for me

For all those who laugh at me for being concerned about bears on my hiking trips (see my earlier post), I offer this terrifying article.

The elementary school where the bear's tracks were found is 36 miles west of my house, and the bear is moving east. Thank goodness I live in a high-rise apartment building.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pizza guy

Last night, after getting home from a road trip, I ordered a pizza. When the pizza delivery guy arrived at my door, he said, "Are you a doctor?" I sort of stared at him, confused, and said, "Uh, no," and looked at him quizzically. He said, apparently by way of explanation, "Well, you keep such a clean house."

I should note that my apartment was quite messy at the time--within the pizza guy's view at that point were an open suitcase, two empty diet coke cans, a tipped-over tote bag with stuff falling out of it, and some shoes. In no way was my house clean.

What was he talking about? What does house messiness have to do with being a doctor? And why would a pizza guy, seconds before I am about to decide on his tip, insult my housekeeping?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Promotional items, good and bad

Sometimes, when you buy a product or donate to a cause, the company or nonprofit involved gives you free stuff to promote itself. Some of these items are good, and some annoy me.

Things I do not want to get any more of:

1. Travel coffee mugs. These are those metal mugs with plastic handles that are designed to go into car cupholders. I don't drink coffee, so I have never used these. Yet I have acquired 5 of them. They seem too nice to throw away, so I just continue to take up my extremely limited cupboard space by storing them. People who drink coffee already have them. Stop giving them away.
2. Jewelry. I donated to a cause once and was given a crappy plastic-and-metal necklace. Who is going to wear that?
3. Keychains. Everyone has a keychain already. Possible exception: value-added key-chains that have a bottle opener or (maybe) a flashlight.
4. Messenger bags. The free ones I have are poorly made, with a thin, uncomfortable strap. I'm not going to use them.
5. Buttons. What the hell am I going to do with a button?

Things I like:

1. Refrigerator magnets, especially if they're strong enough to hold up pieces of paper. They don't really take up room, but I see them every day, and I can use them. Very effective.
2. Pens. It's a little lame, but Ican always use another pen.
3. Tote bags. They're small and useful, and a cheap one works fine.
4. Tape measures. Best promotional item ever.

The lost art of doodling

In my bar review class, they give us a fill-in-the-blanks workbook, and we sit there for 3 1/2 hours every day, filling it in. There's really no legitimate need to bring a computer to class, so screwing around on the internet to combat the inevitable boredom is not an option. Instead, I have taken to doodling in the margins of the book. However, I find myself at a loss for good doodling ideas--three years of taking notes exclusively on computers have made me forget what I used to do. I am open to suggestions.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Things fall apart

Today, within a span of two hours, the following happened:

1. My cell phone fell apart. Miscellaneous external parts of the phone began falling off, followed shortly by the snapping in half of some sort of important-looking electronic-type component.

2. The power cord for my computer fell apart. Where the cord meets the big square thing, the plastic (rubber? I don't know) came off, and broken ends of wires are now sticking out. A replacement power cord for my computer costs eighty dollars. Eighty dollars! I think I can get a non-Mac-manufactured version online for less, but still.

What is going on? Have my inanimate possessions decided to self-destruct because they sense that I am done with school and should be able to afford technological items that are less than four years old? If so, they are jumping the gun by least four months.

A new addition to the blogosphere

Welcome, Perma-Three Seat! This moment has been a long time coming.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Shattered Glass

Last weekend, Fuzzy and I watched the movie Shattered Glass. It tells the story of Stephen Glass, a rising star at The New Republic, known for his extremely interesting and colorful stories. It turned out, though, that many of those stories were made up. We're not talking about a doctored quote here, a made-up source there; we're talking about people and companies that never existed doing things that never happened. He made stuff up out of whole cloth.

Take for example, the Hack Heaven, the story that got him caught. Read this story. The people in it don't exist. The software company doesn't exist. The conference didn't happen. The legislation he said had been proposed in 21 states had not been proposed in any. The New Republic supposedly had an extensive fact-checking system, yet he only got caught after another reporter at Forbes online tried to write a follow-up story [warning: very spoilery if you might see the movie] and couldn't find any of the people mentioned. A Slate article addresses some of the reasons he wasn't found out sooner. Another Slate article discusses the film.

In addition to Hack Heaven, Glass fabricated dozens of other articles, indexed here. After looking at this list, I realized that I had probably been fooled by him too. One of my favorite This American Life stories is in the episode "How to Take Money From Strangers." It's the story of former phone psychic; he tells us really moving and compelling stories about his callers, his interactions with them, his guilt over lying to them about his psychic abilities, and his guilt over bilking money out of people who can least afford it. The former phone psychic? Stephen Glass. I feel so betrayed.

Glass has since been interviewed by CBS [also spoilery], and he acts all contrite, but I don't buy it.

Anyway, see the movie. It's a fantastic story.