February 2007 Archives

Madcap Sorority Hijinks


Please read this article about a sorority the kicked out a large chunk of its members, allegedly for being unattractive. The farther you read into the article, the more it sounds like the premise of a screwball college sex comedy. The president of the university is named "Dr. Bottoms."

As sad as the story is, I just can't stop giggling.

Fountain of Goop


Last night's Cementhorizon birthday extravaganza marked the debut of the chocolate fondue fountain that Dr. M and I got for Christmas. Behold:

It turns out that you don't just dump chocolate into the thing and magically get a chocolate waterfall. Not only do you have to melt the chocolate before putting it into the fountain, but you also have you add some proportion of vegetable oil to the chocolate in order to achieve the appropriate viscosity. As you can see, we missed the mark in the viscosity department (it's supposed to come down in a sheet rather than dribbles), so we'll use less oil next time. The dribbliness of the flow did not, of course, prevent partygoers from covering various things with chocolate and then consuming them. It just made it a more delicate enterprise:

The chocolate fountain is surprisingly easy to clean. And all the components (except the base, which doesn't get chocolatey because the bowl comes off) are dishwasher safe. I did a cursory wash in the kitchen under the supervision of our host's father, and it was refreshingly painless.

Somewhere there's a picture of me holding a jar of unused chocolate/oil, since I was dissuaded from pouring the leavings down the drain. I will post that picture here when it turns up.

Sadly, the chocolate fountain experience was not uniformly positive. A very important component of the fountain (the "cap," which is the thing that snaps onto the top of the pump tower and makes the chocolate flow out) has gone missing. Hopefully it'll turn up before next weekend, when the fountain is slated to make its sophomore performance at another party.

Also, a lot of people at the party were curious to see how the fountain actually works. It's a simple augur pump (or "Screw of Archimedes," as some folks referred to it last night) -- just a giant corkscrew that carries the chocolate up a plastic tower and then spits it out at the top. A "guard," similar in shape to the visible canopies but much smaller in size, lies at the base of the tower, submerged in the chocolate, preventing large bits of fruit and pastries from getting into the pump and mucking things up. It's startling in its elegance, really, although the many removable parts leave a great deal of room for despair.

Our Giant Cats


I often talk about how unreasonably large our cats are, but am often met with skepticism and incredulity. Unfortunately, even when people visit us in person, they often don't get a sense of Pepe's size, because he's so shy around strangers that he literally curls up into a ball (like a Popple -- remember Popples?) when we pick him up and show him to guests. Accordingly, this weekend Dr. M and I set out to take photographs of our cats that convey their sizes through the use of points of reference.

First up is Ruby, alongside a standard twelve-inch ruler (the ruler has my dad's name on it, which I blurred out, but otherwise the photo is unaltered):

As you can see, Ruby is rather large. Not as big as Pepe, though. Here's Pepe trying to open the sliding glass door:

Two apartments ago, Pepe used to sit by the door and stand up and bat at the doorknob every time we walked by. One time he actually undid the deadbolt, which was several inches above the knob. Pepe is a large cat.

Here's Pepe with the ruler (we waited all weekend to find him stretched out like this):

That should give you an idea. I think if Pepe wanted to kill us he probably could.

Moron Pie


One of the great things about the Internet is its ability to generate a great deal of information and debate on either side of an extremely pointless controversy. For example, on a recent Internet forum about sucker bets I was unable to convince my fellow users that a pound of gold is lighter than a pound of feathers.* On that same forum, someone tardily disputed another bit of trivia that I had posted -- that Alaska is the easternmost U.S. state because part of the Aleutian Islands lie in the eastern hemisphere. The thread died before that debate really took shape, but I'm not willing to give that one up. Basically, the dispute arose over the fact that the International Date Line actually zig-zags around Russian and Alaska, keeping all of Alaska in the same time zone. However, the hemispheres are delineated by longitudinal lines,** not time zones, and the 180 degree line still cuts through the islands, so I'm comfortable saying that part of Alaska is indeed in the eastern hemisphere (besides, I got this tidbit from Eugene Volokh, and he's generally a credible source on matters of pointless trivia).

Anyway, on to the actual point of this post. Apparently pie charts are bad. I read some of the links and I'm not convinced. Like any type of chart, they're better for some things than for others, but I'm not ready to swear off pie charts just because a bunch of people on the Internet say I should. Of course, if Wikipedia ever says pie charts are bad I suppose I'll have to rethink my stance.

* No really, it is. Gold, and other precious metals, are measured in Troy weights, and a Troy pound is lighter than a regular pound.

** According to The Fountain of Unquestionable Truth, the most common divider of the two hemispheres is the Prime Meridian, which is opposite the International Date Line. However, a few of the Aleutian Islands are clearly visible in this picture of the Eastern Hemisphere, and the End Meridian, as opposed to the IDL, does indeed pass between two of the islands. It would make a lot more sense to divide the hemispheres spatially rather than temporally, so I'm sticking to my story.

Dog Balls


I highly recommend this post by C about the unfolding controversy over a Newberry Award-winning book that contains the word "scrotum." I don't have much to add beyond C's comments, except my generic belief that people are too uptight about letting Our Children explore the real world through books. The real world has scrotums in it, and about half of America's Children have scrotums on them.

Besides, the fact that so many librarians (though not the majority of librarians, it seems) are banning this book really deals a blow to the whole "sexy librarian" image.

The Sarcasm Center of My Brain Just Exploded


I didn't think anything could be dumber than that TV show about Supreme Court law clerks, but I was wrong. It seems that some intrepid filmmaker, plumbing the very depths of human stupidity, has made a documentary about studying for the California Bar Exam. The movie is called A Lawyer Walks into a Bar, which makes no sense at all unless the movie deals only with out-of-state attorneys taking a second Bar Exam, which it probably isn't.

What can I possibly say about this. It's... there's really nothing. My brain cannot form the words. Why would anyone do this? Who thought this was a good idea? More importantly, I need to quit my job, right now, and get my comic strip made into a movie. My strip is inconsistent, often inaccessible, and generally unfunny, but if "It has lawyers in it!" is enough to make a movie about studying for a test, there's no reason I can't get this movie made in the next nine months.

Also worth noting, from the synopsis, is that the film features cameos from the following "legal luminaries, politicians, well-known comedians, celebrity lawyers and other notables:"

Comedian Eddie Griffin (???)
O.J. lawyer Robert Shapiro
Googly-eyed sensationalist Nancy Grace (all right!)
Scott Turow, author of 1L, another pointless creative work that people are only interested in because it's about the legal profession.
Hideously overexposed Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz
A U.S. Senator and a former Clinton advisor who apparently have nothing better to do
Jim Jamail, the lawyer from this notorious deposition video
Michael Ian Black, whose post The State career has consisted almost entirely of regular appearances on VH1's "I Love Kitschy Clip Shows" series and the horrendous failure Stella, but who probably knows a lot about the Bar Exam for some reason, just like Eddie Griffin.

I feel the need to punch somebody.


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As I was leaving my apartment this morning I realized that, because it was raining out, I was going to have to wear my raincoat to work instead of my usual London Fog number. As I opened the closet I announced, "I hate wearing my raincoat."

About an hour later, as I was walking from the BART station to my office, I got crapped on by a bird. The crap landed on my sleeve, and was quickly washed away by the rain, leaving no trace. The crap would not have vanished so quickly if I had not been wearing my raincoat.

Clearly, I owe my raincoat an apology. I'm sorry, raincoat.

I still hate the song "Raincoat" by They Might Be Giants, however.

ABC's Broken Promises


The previews for last night's episode of Lost promised to reveal three mysteries. The episode actually revealed zero mysteries. However, here are some things that may have qualified as revelations in an alternate universe where the producers of Lost don't actively hate their viewers.

1. The Others don't live on the little island. They live... somewhere else!

2. Jack got his trendy Chinese character tattoos from a Thai transvestite prostitute who has the gift of giving people trendy Chinese character tattoos. They say "He walks amongst us, but is not one of us," but according to Jack, that's not what they mean. Judging by the flashback/main action parallelisms of last night's episode, what they *mean* is "I force women to do things for me that don't turn out well."

3. When the Others kidnap children, they... give them a better life!

4. Alex's boyfriend is... a total weenie!

5. Something about Kate and Sawyer that my brain would not allow me to register because I'm so amazingly sick of Kate and Sawyer.

6. Marie also suggested that the constellation talk may have given some clue as to where the Island is located, but a clue isn't the same thing as a revelation.

7. The Others have a whole buncha boats.

I'm really starting to hate this show.

Food is for Eating, not for Competing


The latest strip, having nothing whatsoever to do with law, is dedicated to my Food Network geek friends. And also Zack, who will hopefully appreciate the Swedish Chef cameo.

I'm finding myself less enamoured of the only channel that M and I watch regularly (other than Sci Fi, which provides us with awful weekend entertainment), as I slowly realize that watching people cook just isn't that interesting for someone who never cooks. And the only thing boringer than watching people cook is watching people cook competitively, which is why I really hate Iron Chef America. The original at least had enough of a "wacky Japanese" factor to keep it entertaining, but watching Mario Batali and his fat hairy meatloaf body sweat all over the kitchen arena is just sickening. So I give you this cartoon, setting forth my vision of the Food Network's increasing pile of dumb.

Rachael Ray is still hot, though. Overexposed but hot.


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Not being registered with a political party, I don't vote in primary elections, so my interest in the dozens of people running for president is largely academic. I find myself fascinated with the public's messianic obsession with Barack Obama, I'm looking forward to watching Mitt Romney crash and burn, I think John McCain's political hackery knows no bounds, and I think John Edwards has some good ideas (hiring maniac bloggers for his campaign website not being amongst them).

I read two articles this morning that make compelling points about two candidates, both in their own distinct ways. The first is this Slate article, discussing Hillary Clinton's irrational refusal to acknowledge that voting for the Iraq war was a mistake. These quotes sum up how I feel about this:

This calculation is cynical, self-defeating, and wrong. There's nothing wimpier than a presidential candidate who spends every moment trying not to look like a wimp. Worrying about your image is a female stereotype. Protecting your poll ratings is classic Bill Clinton. And refusing to admit mistakes is classic George W. Bush. Just when voters have gotten sick of a Republican president too proud, stubborn, and insecure to fess up, the Democratic presidential front-runner, a woman, decides to emulate him.


How odd. Voters just repudiated a president who thinks that stubbornness is responsibility and that admitting mistakes is groveling. The way to act responsibly is not to act like him. It also happens to be the way to get elected. And if you don't understand the former, you don't deserve the latter.

Turning to the other side of the spectrum, I greatly enjoyed Giuliani To Run For President Of 9/11, from the Onion. Again, here's the money shot:

"Sure, he has no foreign or national policy experience, and both his personal life and political career are riddled with scandal," said Hammond. "But in the key area of having been on TV on 9/11, the other candidates simply cannot match him. And as we saw in 2004, that's what matters most to voters in this post-9/11 world."

The article also mentions Bernard Kerik and the fact that Rudy is on his third wife. To say nothing of this. Now there's a solid Republican frontrunner if ever I did see one.

Have fun picking a horse, chumps.

Three Senators have introduced a bill designed to curtail the use of overseas tax havens. Normally this wouldn't be a big deal, but for us IP geeks of the world there's a particular provision that stands out:

The measure would also prohibit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office from issuing patents for accounting strategies intended to "minimize, avoid, defer, or otherwise affect liability for federal, state, local, or foreign tax."


A lot of things aren't patentable based on the general requirements of the Patent Act (laws of nature, mathematical formulas, naturally occurring substances, and mental steps being the main examples). Human beings aren't patentable because of the Thirteenth Amendment. There are also various rules related to harmful or offensive patents, though those don't come up as often (deceptive inventions are generally patentable based on the Juicy Whip case, and people usually don't try to patent their new formulas for crack). But the only instance I'm aware of where a specific class of otherwise patentable inventions is specifically and explicitly designated as unpatentable is 42 U.S.C. ยง 2181, which prohibits patent for inventions "useful solely in the utilization of special nuclear material or atomic energy in an atomic weapon." In other words, if you invent a new and improved atom bomb in your garage, don't bother taking it over to the Patent Office.

The development of nuclear weapons was obviously a watershed moment in destructive technology, and it makes sense that Congress would act to limit private enterprise in this area. But is it really time to start treating other things like nuclear weapons in the patent world? And are inventions designed to reduce tax liability really the place to start?

Hat tip Patently -O.

Evolution Debate Takes a Turn for the Weird

It turns out that evolution and the Big Bang weren't dreamed up by godless socialist homosexuals after all. Nope, it was the Jews all along. The Pharisees, to be exact.

Kudos to Marshall Hall for cracking this caper, to Georgia State Representative Ben Bridges for giving Hall a national voice, and to the AP and the New York times for directing traffic to Hall's website (something I won't do here).

Creepy Safeway/Coke Zero Coupon


Dr. M just returned from Safeway, where she was presented with this coupon after she checked out:

Somewhere, some advertising team was paid a jillion dollars by Coke and/or Safeway to come up with a campaign that basically says, "Hello, we are stalking you! LOL!"

Dr. M is thoroughly disturbed by this, and may avoid using the coupon just to keep Skynet off her trail.

This is an extremely dumb campaign. Plenty of people use Safeway cards, and either don't realize or are content to ignore the fact that the cards are being used to track their purchases and create shopper profiles for them. Calling attention to it like this, and intentionally adding an explicit creepiness factor, is an amazingly bad idea. In the words of Jerry Seinfeld, "Who are the advertising wizards that came up with this one?"

A draft report being circulated at the FCC concludes that the FCC's authority to regulate offensive content on television, which is currently limited mainly to profanity, obscenity, and indecency, could be extended to regulate violent content as well.

Anyone who's read any of my previous posts on the FCC can probably figure out that I'm not a big fan of this idea. One critic hints at one of the many problems with allowing the FCC to punish networks for violence:

"Will it count on the news?" asked Jonathan Rintels, executive director of the Center for Creative Voices in Media. "Will it count on news magazines like '60 Minutes' and 'Dateline'? What about hockey games when the gloves come off and people start punching each other?"

But I would like to respond specifically to one grossly misleading statement in the article, involving Commissioner Michael Copps:

The issue is bipartisan. Martin, a Republican, gave a joint interview yesterday to the Associated Press with Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps.

"The pressure to do something on this is building right now," Copps said, noting that television violence comes up regularly during media-ownership hearings he conducts across the country. "People really feel strongly about this issue all across this land. This is not a red state or a blue state issue."

True, Copps is a Democrat. In the area of content regulation, however, he's probably the most conservative member of the Commission. As I pointed out in my note on the 2004 indecency crackdown, Copps consistently voted with the Republican commissioners on every draconian indecency fine, and dissented only where the majority didn't punish broadcasters enough. I daresay that Copps doesn't represent a bona fide liberal viewpoint on the Commission, so parading him out to show that a study calling for increased content regulation is "bipartisan" is, as I said, misleading.

And given the fact that the Parents Television Council and its spam email campaign was solely responsible for the indecency crackdown a few years ago, I have trouble believing Copps when he says "People really feel strongly about this issue all across this land."

Scalia's Daughter Arrested for DUI

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Sorry, Nino. They can't all be priests.

Story here.

You Can't Trademark Everything

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One of the externs passed this along, dealing with the USPTO's rejection of someone's application to register "Obama Bin Laden" as a trademark. Among the reasons for the rejection was the failure to get written consent from Barak Obama and Osama Bin Laden. Don't miss the classy airbrush image.

Note that this doesn't mean the guy can't sell Obama Bin Laden merchandise. It just means he can't stop others from doing so (which is where the real money would have been).

Encapsulating Blather

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After an extremely busy week and a weekend of being deathly ill, I've managed to pen, color and post a new strip, which is unusual for me these days. Given the fact that my previous strip was motivated by irritation at an ass-headed TV pilot and the latest strip arises from my growing impatience with folks like Jonathan Adler, perhaps anger is still my greatest muse. It's like I'm on the Squelch again.

So, yes, I'm getting a little fed up with Professor Adler. After a long stint of AEI apologism and thinly veiled climate change denial, Adler has recently shifted his sights toward the Supreme Court and the death penalty (following, of course, the Volokh Conspiracy rule of a jillion posts per topic). The latter thread surrounds this article by Dahlia Lithwick, which is actually quite interesting as long as you're willing to accept certain realities about the Supreme Court's death penalty jurisprudence. I encourage you to read the Lithwick piece. But for God's sake don't read the comments on any of the VC posts.

This would probably also be a good time to introduce the new, fully integrated I Fought the Law. As you may have noticed, the comics page is now hosted on Cementhorizon, including every individual comic. I've even resurrected two strips that went missing when I re-launched after the Bar Exam: Bar Review and Kam of the Future. I've also gone back and updated all the blog entries so that they point to CH pages, meaning that the previous fuzzydice incarnation is fully poised to be erased from existence. Many thanks to webmaster Gene for his help in making that happen.

What In God's Name Is the News Media to Do?

The engine had barely warmed up on the crazy astronaut story, and then Anna Nicole Smith had to go and die. CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and so forth only have so much bandwidth available for pointless, sensationalistic stories that demand our constant and unrelenting attention. It'll be interesting to see how they carve this up.

If it were up to me, I'd just go ahead and do a split-screen. Crazy astronaut on the right and Anna Nicole on the left. And on the bottom of each screen, a constant scrolling news feed devoted entirely to the story on the other screen. That's really the only sensible way to handle this.

You Think I'm Kidding

I draw your attention to this previously published IFTL strip (which, by the way, was linked on a feminist law professor blog, which I think is pretty cool), in particular to the sixth entry down.

Now, take a look at the cover of this month's issue of California Lawyer:

As Phil Hendrie would say, "Three points from the top of the key."

(I should also note that Dr. M was put off by this woman's "impossibly high crotch.")

Talking to Strangers


Every now and then I'll find myself on BART sitting next to someone who appears to be a law student, either because they're reading LEXIS printouts, carrying telltale red, blue or brown textbooks, or other books and documents indicative of law studenthood (the other day I sat next to someone flipping through Lexis' pocket-sized edition of the Federal Rules of Evidence -- quite a page turner, tell you what).

I'm usually tempted to strike up a conversation with these people, if only because in social situations like this it's relatively rare to identify a stranger with whom you definitely have something specific in common.* I also feel like striking up conversations with strangers is a good skill for a lawyer to have. When I went on a business trip with a senior partner at my old firm, every time we stood in line for something he became fast friends with the person behind him. It was amazing, really. I know I'll never get that good, but it would be helpful to shave off some of my latent awkwardness.

I don't know how many law students still read this blog, but I ask you -- How would you feel about an articulate, strikingly handsome, and pleasant-smelling gentleman leaning over to you during your commute and saying, "Personal jurisdiction, eh? Boy, is that a mess."?

Bar/Bri Class Action Settles


$49M settlement, and a $125 check for every class member. Nice!

The question is, if your firm paid your Bar/Bri fees, do they get the check?

Rehab for Gavin


Is anyone else tired of high-profile individuals making idiots out of themselves in public and then immediately seeking treatment for alcohol abuse?

I'm not saying Newsom doesn't have a drinking problem (or that he does, I have no idea), but this sequence of events has almost become cliche. How can the country have this many famous alcoholics?

I think this quote from Gavin sums up why this happens so frequently:

"Upon reflection with friends and family this weekend, I have come to the conclusion that I will be a better person without alcohol in my life. I take full responsibility for my personal mistakes, and my problems with alcohol are not an excuse for my personal lapses in judgment."

There you have it. Paying lip service to personal responsibility but also claiming that you're about to transmogrify into a whole nother (and better) person because you've decided to stop drinking. If you pick this apart, though, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Essentially he's saying, "I chose to bang my co-worker's wife. Therefore, I'm going to stop drinking." This only makes sense if alcohol, not personal judgment, is the cause of his bad behavior.

What he really means is, "I chose to drink, which is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. Unfortunately, alcohol made me bang my co-worker's wife. I am now choosing to stop drinking, because alcohol makes me do unexpected stupid things." It creates a layer of insulation between himself and the specific objectionable conduct by linking it to drinking, which is objectionable only in excess. In other words, banging your co-worker's wife is always bad. Drinking is only sometimes bad. Running to rehab after you screw up turns your transgression from one of kind (adultery) to one of degree (drinking in excess).

Not every idiot, bigot, and sex maniac is a drunk. Some people just have genuinely poor judgment, sober or not.

Did you know...

The United States Supreme Court has original (rather than appellate) jurisdiction over "all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party"? That means that when a state sues another state, the complaint is filed in the Supreme Court.

Needless to say, this doesn't happen very often. But it did happen on Thursday:

"The state of Montana asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to allow it to sue [sic], directly in the Court, a lawsuit claiming that the state of Wyoming is illegally withholding waters from the Powder and Tongue Rivers. The lawsuit, an Original motion to file a bill of complaint along with a complaint, has not yet been assigned a docket number.

I'm tickled by this because I like the idea of original Supreme Court jurisdiction (after all, improper original Supreme Court jurisdiction gave us Marbury v. Madison), and it's particularly fun because just last week I read another state-vs-state water rights case originally filed in the Supreme Court in which the Court was called upon to interpret a decree from King George.

Law geekiness aside, however, I think a better system for resolving state-vs-state disputes would be simple armed conflict.

UPDATE: When I was talking about the King George case with my co-clerk we wondered how these cases actually proceed, since it's difficult to imagine the Justices dealing with things like discovery. We quickly discovered that the Court appoints special masters who basically act as trial judges and make recommendations to the Court. A SCOTUS blog post on these Special Masters is here. Apparently these filings happen more often than I thought -- there have been two such cases decided in the last few years, one in 2003 and one in 2005.

Cement Chorizo Birthday Party


This month marks the fifth birthday of Cementhorizon, the glorious website on which this here blog is hosted. A party is being held in celebration of this milestone, and you're invited. Yes, you. Not "You" in the Time Magazine Person of the Year sense, but you in the sense of the person reading this blog. Yes, friends, the Cementhorizon birthday party is open to everyyone who reads Cementhorizon. Even you. Especially you.

Sure, the majority of visitors get here by searching for "Reese Witherspoon," "Zip Zap Rap," "Hawaii spiders," or "I Fought the Law and the Law One[sic]," but I'm sure there are a handful a loyal readers that I either see very seldom or have never met. So come to the party and stick your fingers into the chocolate fountain.

Here's the lowdown (via Didofoot):

WHEN: Saturday, February 24, starting 8pm

WHERE: San Francisco. RSVP to rsvp-at-cementhorizon-dot-com for the exact address.

WHAT TO BRING: Drinks if you want to drink. We are providing NOTHING in the way of drinks, not even mixers. Food will be provided on an extremely limited basis, so bring your own damn chocolate chip cookies and wasabi peas.

- A CH birthday cake
- A Photo Booth of Unfettered Lust
- Possibly Very likely a chocolate fountain provided by me.
- Superstar bloggers wandering the party signing autographs
- A wicked party soundtrack provided by Gene
- CH-themed jello shots provided by Michele
- Rhyming toasts created on the spot by Sean

But most importantly, you'll get to meet me in person, and find out if I'm really as boring as I say I am.

Oh, Gavin...


Gavin Newsom's re-election campaign manager just quit. Rumor has it that he quit after confronting Newsom about an affair that Newsom had with his wife.

I'm not a political scientist or anything, but it seems to me that if you're a politician looking to hire someone to be in charge of convincing the voters that you're a great guy, you probably shouldn't pick someone whose wife you banged. That just seems intuitive to me.

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