December 2006 Archives

What I Learned in Wine Country

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As I alluded to last night, I just got back from a few days in Napa, which was kickin' rad. I didn't have the wherewithal for a substantive post at 1:00 a.m. this morning, but now I do. Here are a few things that my informative mini-vacay taught me.

Swirling wine in the glass actually does make a difference in the way it tastes, it's not just an affectation. Swirling things like water and orange juice, however, indicates that you've been spending too much time in wineries.

The process for making sparkling wine is extraordinarily complicated. The best part involves a flash-frozen plug of yeast being shot out of the bottle at a hundred miles an hour.

The name of the Italian opera song that I've been trying to identify for the past few months is "Con Te Partiro" by Andrea Bocelli.

Francis For Coppola has so much money that he can intentionally make ass-headed business decisions and have them talked up as positive things by his tour guides. For example, apparently FFC is concerned that people are buying his Niebaum Coppola wines because of his name, rather than the quality of the wines. In a move that will necessarily make the wines harder to sell, therefore, he's dropping the name "Coppola" from the winery and renaming it "Niebaum Rubicon" after the winery's flagship blend. Maybe he'll start taking his name off his movies too, you know, to make sure people are seeing the movie because the movie is good.

I'm really, really bad at golf.

Falcon Crest

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Dr M and I just got back from several days up in the Napa area, drinking wine and learning fun facts about wine and talking about wine and taking lots of pictures. I added the captions.* We returned with several bottles of quality grape, and the knowledge that we're an hour's drive away from all the wine we can eat. It really is a magical place.

*While it may seem odd that only one person has an anonymizing nickname, that one person is also the person with the most unique name and, and the person who is the most at risk of having her life complicated by errant teenage googling. Just so you know.

Christmas Cats

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Ruby and Pepe aren't big on visitors, but they like presents. Here are some pictures that I find humorous.

What Pepe doesn't realize is that this box contains a Chocolate Fondue Fountain, which makes it even more exciting.

Pepe with presents (and his needlessly large body).

"I claim this box in the name of me!"

Ruby getting tired of Dr. M's ribbon-based games.



A recent Something Awful thread cued me into the fact that I have grapheme --> color synesthesia, meaning I associate non-colored things with particular colors for no good reason. Well, the thread didn't alert me to the fact that I have it -- I've wondered about this for most of my life. The thread alerted me to the fact that there's a name for it and that other people do it too.

I can remember letters having colors as early as first or second grade, and my curiosity as to whether they had colors for other people, and if they were the same colors for everyone, followed soon after. Apparently the answers are (1) not everyone and (2) no.

For the record, here are my wacky color associations, which I've seriously had for as long as I can remember and at various times in my life have driven me crazy. In particular I would sometimes try to picture a letter with the wrong color (like a blue A), and it would bug the hell out of me and I didn't know why.


A Yellow
B Dark green
C Red
D Pink or orange
E Light blue
F Purple
G Green
H Dark red
I Yellow
J Dark blue
K Red
L Orange
M Green
N Dark blue
O Light blue
P Purple
Q Green
R Pink or orange
S Light blue
T Yellow
U Orange
V Purple
W Red
X Purple
Y Purple
Z Red

0 Light blue
1 Dark blue
2 Light blue
3 Red
4 Green
5 Dark blue
6 Yellow
7 Red
8 Orange
9 Purple

Sunday: Light blue
Monday: Green
Tuesday: Light orange
Wednesday: Light blue
Thursday: Red-orange
Friday: Purple
Saturday: Yellow

Just to be clear, I don't see these colors when I actually read words, letters, numbers, or calendars. But if I picture the letter "A" in my head it's inevitably yellow, and if I think about Wednesday in the abstract I picture the word "Wednesday" as light blue and have the color in the background as I think about doing things on Wednesday or things that happened on Wednesday. Apart from the nagging curiosity I don't think this has caused any significant problems, but I'm glad that it's an actual thing that happens to people and not just me.

Have a light orange Tuesday, everybody.

Somewhat Troubling


Another damn earthquake hit last night, and another this morning. That's three this week, all of comparable magnitude and in the same damn place.

I like smallish earthquakes as much as the next native Californian, but let's just hope they stay small side of smallish.



Dr. M and I went to see The Nutcracker last night at the SF Ballet. Shortly after the first act began, a small earthquake rattled through the theater. My immediate thought was: "Great. Either the theater and/or balcony is going to collapse and kill us, or we'll be crushed in the stampede of out-of-town yokels who've never felt an earthquake before."

Fortunately there were no further tremors, neither of these things happened, and the ballet was enjoyable. Dr. M also enjoyed it, partly because I didn't tell her any stories about Mr. Belvedere during intermission.

Gasp! An Economist Misses the Point!


Since my very first semester of law school when I was introduced to the concept of Law & Economics by a zealous devotee of Guido Calabresi, I've been extremely skeptical about the wholesale application of economic principles to draw descriptive and normative conclusions about the law. It didn't take long for this skepticism to transform into outright rejection, though now my views on the subject are somewhat more nuanced. I'm still very skeptical, and I have little patience for lawyers and legal scholars who seem to believe that the only thing the judge needs is good old-fashioned economics (and there are many). At the core of this suspicion is the recognition that L&E necessarily makes a lot of unsupportable assumptions and disregards numerous factors that are important in terms of the real world but don't translate well into dollars and cents.

This skepticism has translated directly to a suspicion of pop economists, particularly the smug bastards who show up on NPR and Slate to tell the ignorant masses that buying french fries is stupid. I haven't read any pop economics books, but I'm sure I'd hate them with similar vigor. The latest example of why I hate this kind of discourse appeared on Slate this morning via the ham-fistedly overstated link "Economic Proof That Gift-Giving Is Pointless" (note: in keeping with Slate's general practice, the link title and the article title are different).

In this article, Joel Waldfogel claims that gift giving makes no economic sense because the value per dollar spent on gifts is less than the value per dollar spent on things you buy for yourself. According to Joel:

On average, a dollar that people spend for themselves creates nearly 20 percent more satisfaction than a dollar that someone else spends on them. Put another—depressing—way, gift-giving effectively discards 20 percent of the gift's price. So, of the nearly $100 billion spent on holiday gifts each year, one-fifth is effectively flushed down the toilet.

It doesn't take much digging to see that Joel has completely missed the point of gift-giving. He explicitly states, twice, that his analysis disregards sentimental value. This means that, in Joel's Kool Aid-chugging, Economics-as-God world, buying a gift for someone is exactly the same as doing someone's grocery shopping for them without asking them what they want first. Of course people are going to enjoy things that they picked out specifically for themselves more than things that have been picked out for them. The margin of error is definitely larger when buying something for someone else. But the utility of the specific item isn't the point of gift-giving. There are all kinds of extremely important, dare I say, sentimental dimensions of gift-giving that numberfuckers like Joel seem all too hasty to dismiss. How about doing something nice for someone you like? How about the ritual of participating in a holiday or family event? How about the pleasure of sharing such an event with someone by including them in a gift exchange? Is there room for these sources of satisfaction in Joel's world? No, because they're "sentimental."

Indeed, even a totally useless, gawd-awful gift that no one in their right mind would ever choose for themselves brings pleasure to the recipient. Dr. M and I still laugh over some of the ridiculous things we got for our wedding (and have gotten for Christmases and birthdays and such). These things have no economic value but they give us something to laugh about (hint: laughter is good).

So, I maintain my healthy skepticism toward economists who say that such-and-such commonly accepted social behavior is pointless because it turns a dollar into three quarters. There are some things I'm willing to "waste" money on, and sentimental pleasure is one of them.

Total Perspective Vortex

An Inanimate Carbon Rod!


Time magazine is so stupid.

In unrelated news, this is more funny than not. It's not nearly as funny as it could have been, and there's a lot of humor based entirely on "OMG a Peanuts character said penis!!!", but it's worth ten minutes and twenty seconds if your time.

California's Stupid Marriage Name Change Law


Boy, this is just the week of dumb laws. Back when I got married (three years ago next week!) and Dr. M was going through the process of changing her name, I noticed that the marriage certificate was all the evidence she needed to get new ID cards, but that if I wanted to take her last name I needed to get a court order. I remarked that this was stupid, archaic, grossly discriminatory, almost certainly illegal, and quite surprising.

Apparently the ACLU agrees, and are suing to get the policy changed. It's an interesting story, particularly the part where Mr. Bijon goes to the DMV and the ladies poo-poo him. Props to Milbank for working some pro bono action in support of the downtrodden husbands.

Personally, I tried to talk Dr. M into coming up with an entirely new last name for both of us (my last name means "little arrogant person" in Gaelic, so I figured a change might be good), something cool like "McManus." But it never panned out. I'll just have to hope that we have twins so we can name them Tomax and Xamot.

Soy Gay


Apparently soy makes you gay. I'm glad we finally solved that mystery.

In other news, strawberries make you a terrorist, carrots give you large, sinful breasts, potato chips create an unhealthy tendency to question the government, and lamb chops are delicious.

More Mass Transit Advertising Hooey

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Following up on my earlier post about BART's dry advertising policy, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (they put the "Mass" in "Mass Transit") has decided to prohibit ads for violent video games. The decision followed demands from the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood.

The article also has a nice child in the chimney quote: "Linn added that the decision 'sends a strong message to the videogame industry that public property cannot be used to promote violence to children.'"

Jesus and ADR

As an employee of the courts I thought I'd pass this along:

"As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled to him on the way, or he may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison." Luke 12:58.

More Magic Cards

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I could really waste an unseemly amount of time on this if I wanted to. For now:

Supreme Court Magic Cards


Who needs bobbleheads? We've got Supreme Court Magic Cards!

(These are all done by me, using some dopey free software that creates ass-looking images. This will not have a very broad appeal, alas).


Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.

Justice John Paul Stevens

Justice Antonin Scalia

Justice Anthony Kennedy

Justice David Souter

Justice Clarence Thomas

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Stephen Breyer

Justice Samuel Alito

Stupid Bay Area Local Government Goings-On


Today I bring you two stories of unmitigated dumbery from some less-than-prominent Bay Area political bodies.

Item Number One: BART bans all alcohol ads. Without getting into the First Amendment dimensions of this (short version: It's commercial speech, so there isn't much of an issue), I just can't get behind this. The monkey idiots who run BART couldn't find their asses with both hands when it comes to actually putting together an efficient transit system, so I guess they decided to bend over to the Bay Area's powerful lobby of Teetotallers and Parents with Limited Actual Involvement in Their Children's Lives by taking a dopey moral stand on hooch. For the children, you see. I'd like to encourage BART riders to wear or otherwise display signs on their person that say "DRINK BOOZE" just to spite these people. This decision will cost BART $400,000 to $500,000 a year in ad revenue.

Item Two: Berkeley to Regulate Nanotechnology. The march of the luddites continues in Berkeley. They don't like nuclear technology, they can't stands biotechnology, and now they're finally standing up to tiny robots. Way to go, folks.

A Lawyer for One Year

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On a cold warm and grey sunny December mornin' afternoon one year ago today I was sworn in as a member of the State Bar of California. In other words, a for-reals attorney. Twelve months strong and so far I haven't committed any major ethical lapses, been sued for malpractice, or caused any particular client to be deprived of any substantial funds or assets (other than via attorney fees). Of course, I've been working behind closed doors for the government and not doing any actual representation for four of those twelve months, but still. I'm doing okay.

I'd also like to thank the State Bar of California website, without which I would certainly have forgotten the exact date of my admission by now.

Merry Freakin' Christmas


I'm posting this picture at the request of Dr. M, who says it made her officemates laugh.

I think this is much more wholesome than my previous candy cane photography.

Newspaper Blegging

Can somebody pick me up a copy of the North Bay edition of today's San Francisco Chronicle?

Please and thank you.

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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