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Lost Season Finale Round-Up


Last night was the two-hour season finale of Lost. As with all things Lost, it was drastically over-hyped. But it was pretty good. Here are my thoughts on it, in case you're interested.

Body Count

Confirmed dead: No one, except an Other shot by Sawyer. This is surprising, given the fact that the title of the episode was "Live Together, Die Alone." But then again...

Very likely dead: Desmond, who suddenly became really important in this episode. Desmond was at the epicenter of the magnetic freakstorm, and the sense of things was that he was sacrificing himself to save the island in some unexplained way. But he could still be alive, for reasons which will become apparent below.

Probably dead: Locke and Eko. Both were in the hatch when the hatch imploded/exploded, so their survival seems unlikely. From the producers' standpoint, however, it would be surprising if they killed off Locke and Eko, since the two characters are extremely popular (especially Eko). Popularity aside, however, the writers seem to have made a hard turn toward full-frontal Sci Fi and away from all that spirituality crap they've been carping on for the past two seasons, so killing off the Island's two spiritual leaders may be a dramatic way of sealing that deal. With the mystery of the button revealed, Locke and Eko's dueling faiths have lost their place in the show. Also, now that Charlie has thrown all the heroin into the ocean and made his peace with Claire, he doesn't seem to need spiritual guidance anymore.

Possibly dead, or in serious danger: Sayid, Jin, and Sun, who promptly vanished from the plotline as soon as Sayid discovered that the hut city was fake. The radio silence from that end of the storyline really bothered me.

New Information About the Hatch

This was the big selling point of the show: They were going to reveale (1) what happens when countdown goes past zero and (2) why the plane crashed. Since Lost is too stingy to make more than one big revelation per show, these two things are the same thing. It turns out that pushing the button every 108 minutes discharges some build-up of electromagnetic energy, and failing to press the button causes an electromagnetic shitstorm. How do we know this? Because the last time Desmond didn't press the button, the plane crashed! Damn you, Desmond!

New Information About the Others

Not much. I was hoping for a big show-down with the Others at the end of this episode, but there wasn't one. The Others pwnt the Castaways, just like always. The only thing we really learn is that NotHenry is the leader of the Others, which is kind of cool but doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But, given the demeanor of NotHenry in the final scenes and Beardy's terror at having to explain to "Him" why Ethan messed up the list project, I think that when NotHenry said the man in charge was a "great man, but not a forgiving man," he was actually speaking accurately about himself, not just making shit up.

We also learn the real names of Beardy (Tom) and Mrs. Clue (Bea).

There are also some hints that the Others aren't/weren't part of the Dharma Initiative, which would be a big surprise. Kelvin refers to "hostiles" when he talks about leaving the hatch, so he could be talking about the Others. Then again, he could have been lying to keep Desmond from going outside, or he could himself have been fooled by the DI higher-ups as part of the mind experiment. The Others, meanwhile, at some point were in charge of the medical hatch, but they may have taken that over. Also, if the Others were part of the Dharma Initiative I would have expected the compass bearing they give Michael at the end to escape the Island would be some permutation of "the Numbers," but it wasn't. It was 325. 324 would have been 3 x 108 (108 is the number of minutes between button pushes and also the sum of the Numbers), so the magic compass bearing is one number off. Very strange.

At the end of the day we still have no idea who the Others are. When Michael asks, "Who are you people?", NotHenry's response is "We're the good guys." So all we know is what we've known all along: The Others are some weird culty group driven by an odd definition of "good" that includes deceit, murder, and kidnapping. If I had to guess, I'd say the Others are Scientologists (oh snap!).

The hut city was revealed to be fake, but we already knew that. What was surprising was that the hut city hatch was also fake. It seems like they're setting up a lot of complicated questions regarding the Others and the Dharma Initiative that will fuel the action next season as Jack, Kate, and Sawyer begin their lives as kidnappees.

New Information About the Island

Again, not a whole lot. And nothing really concrete. We know that Desmond has been sailing for two months trying to get to Fiji, but ended up back at the Island. He says that there's no outside world, and that the Island is a "snow globe," which is an interesting concept and one that has certainly been thrown around. But, in the final scene we see a team of Russian scientists monitoring electromagnetic activity (on a computer with an English user interface!), and they seem to pick up on the freakstorm that Desmond unleashed. So there's enough outside world to observe the Island. But, the fact that the Russian scientists were in a cold, snowy environment lends some additional meaning to Desmond's "snow globe" comment.

Not really any new information on the plague, the security system didn't make an appearance, and no sign of Rousseau except one of her traps.

New Wacky Connections

The big one, obviously, is that Libby gives Desmond the boat that lands him on the Island. This is the third incarnation of Libby we see: a smartly dressed, affluent widow with strawberry blonde hair. This Libby will later turn into a brunette with a debilitating mental illness, and crazy Libby will eventually become sandy-blonde Psychologist Libby. Rumor has it that we're going to learn Libby's story through flashbacks next season, even though she's dead.

Also, Kelvin was the U.S. Army guy who in Iraq who turned Sayid into a torturer. Thanks to JMV for alerting me to that.

My Theory

Penny's father is connected to the Dharma Initiative. He knows that Desmond is going on this sailboat race, and somehow sets it up so that he ends up on the Island. Once on the Island, Kelvin dutifully keeps Desmond locked in the hatch for two years, long enough for Penny to finally forget about him and marry whoever Penny's father wants her to marry. But Penny gets wise to this and figures out that she'll be able to find Desmond by looking for electromagnetic anomalies. In the final scene of season two, Penny's scientists call her and tell her that they may have found Desmond (this would be one reason for Desmond to survive the clusterfuck, since that would enable us to learn more about Penny, Desmond, and Penny's father next season).

Meanwhile, we'll learn a lot about the Others, through the eyes of Jack, Kate, and Sawyer. Alex will probably become a principal character, since she's an Other but not fully on board with them. Hurley will return to camp and tell his sad tale, and Sayid and Jin will lead an expedition to rescue Jack, Kate, and Sawyer that will take at least half the season to get off the ground. If Locke and/or Eko are still alive, they'll join the campaign. Otherwise it'll probably be Brand New Charlie. Michael and Walt will probably return at some point, and Michael will help rescue Jack/Kate/Sawyer to atone for his fatherly sins.

Calling All Music Geeks


You know the song "Hook" by Blues Traveler? If you listen to the opening chord progression, it's basically a direct ripoff (or "homage" if you like) of a famous classical song that I don't know the name of.

It (the classical song) shows up at a lot of weddings. It's really slow and sweet-sounding. The first four bars are each two long notes, and then in the next four bars it breaks into a bunch of shorter notes overlaid on the long notes. Kind of like this:

|Dooooooo dooooooo|dooooooo dooooooo|
|Dooooooo dooooooo|dooooooo dooooooo|
|Do do-do-do do-do-do do-do-do-do-do-do|do do-do-do do-do-do do-do-do-do-do-do|
|Do do-do-do do-do-do do-do-do-do-do-do|do do-do-do do-do-do do-do-do-do-do-do|

I can't find a MIDI of "Hook," or else I'd post it. Any ideas on the name of the classical song? It's really driving me crazy.

My blog is dumb.

Vulgar Marketing


I like obscene hand gestures as much as the next guy. I actually probably like them more than most people. Perhaps to an unhealthy extent, in fact. So when Meli received this in the mail among the usual pile of student loan consolidation scams, I wasn't so much offended, as surprised:

Needless to say, my confusion stemmed from the little hand logo. That's a hand gesture that I have only seen in the movie Summer School, when Dave uses it to indicate sexual intercourse between Shoop and Ms. Bishop (granted, Dave used his middle finger, which is more readily associated with the wang, but I don't think the gesture loses much from the substitution of Mr. Index). The envelope seemed to suggest that Congress was violating us in a sexual manner.

But perhaps, I thought, this wasn't actually an obscene gesture. Perhaps the mystery of the intercourse hands would be solved when I opened the envelope. Here's the full context of the image:

So either the hand-sex image is a really obscure and altogether indiscernible representation of loan consolidation, or it was just there to get pique the recipient's curiosity enough to open the envelope rather than immediately throw it away, and someone along the supply chain probably intended (or at least desired) it to be vulgar. In my case, it worked, though I obviously didn't go so far as to consolidate my loans with the Grad Team.

In any case, kudos to the Grad Team for pushing the envelope (hurr!) with their marketing strategy, but all the same I'm getting a little tired of the junk mail.

And, of course, Congress is indeed screwing us in the student loan department. I'm glad I locked in that low rate when I did.

EDIT: My apologies to IE users for breaking the table with the envelope image.

She Passes!

A hearty harumph to former Standorf Law School Dean and famous California Bar Exam not-passer Kathleen Sullivan. I guess all the essay questions this year must have been on Constitutional Law.

"Naked Guy" Dies

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While we're on the subject of vanishing Berkeley institutions, apparently the "Naked Guy" died in jail this weekend. The death was an apparent suicide after a decade battling mental illness.

I heard about this just as Meli has begun asking everyone she can get her hands on to read Crazy, a book about the problems with America's mental healthcare system and its effects on people like the Naked Guy (the book doesn't mention the Naked Guy but his story sounds very familiar after reading the book). I'm about a hundred pages into it and I also think everyone should read it. I'll have a more substantive blog post about the book (and probably more to say about the Naked Guy) when I finish it.

Linguistic Redundancy


I found this doing some research a while ago (it had nothing to do with the research I was doing, so I'm not breaking any confidentialities here). For some reason it really tickles me:

"Section 285 does not permit sanctions except in exceptional cases." Atlantic Thermoplastics Co. v. Faytex Corp., 970 F.2d 834, 835 (Fed. Cir. 1992).

Cody's on Telegraph Shutting Down


I heard about this yesterday via an article on Slate. Cody's shutting down makes me sad, not because it typefies the demise of the independent bookseller (Berkeley's coddling of independent merchants is something that I've always had mixed feelings about), but because I spent a lot of time at Cody's during my eight-minus-one years in Berkeley and I have a lot of warm fuzzy memories associated with the place.

I won't try to catalogue, or even put together a representative sample, of my Cody's experiences. Suffice it to say that on the many, many nights when I would wander aimlessly around Berkeley in search of adventure, I would inevitably end up at Cody's, perusing the impressive and bizarre collection of alternative magazines, looking through the table of the latest socially responsible nonfiction titles, and browsing through the heavily over-categorized shelves. Cody's had a great bookstore atmosphere, with its hip patrons observing reverent library silence as they read books without buying them. The staff, as with most independent booksellers, knew a lot about books. I wouldn't have to spell "Neuromancer" four times if I were asking a Cody's staffmember where to find it (as I once had to do at Barnes & Noble). I introduced Meli to Cody's rather early in our relationship, so a lot of my positive associations with the doomed bookstore involve her as well.

Without being too dramatic, I'd like to claim that one of my life's major defining moments happened inside Cody's: I was in Cody's when I decided to apply to law school. It was my last semester in college, and I had been tossing the law school idea around for for a while without taking it too seriously, when one night (during one of my aforementioned aimless wanders), I went into Cody's, picked up an LSAT book, and did a few of the problems in my head. The fact that I got most of them right transformed the notion of law school from simply a decent idea into something I could actually do. It was at that point that I really got serious about pursuing the Dark Arts, and now here I am, blogging when I should be lawyering. Could this moment have happened at Border's or Barnes & Noble? Of course. But it happened at Cody's, and that's how I remember it.

It'll be sad to visit Berkeley and not go to Cody's. Its prominent location at the corner of Haste and Telegraph will make its absence conspicuous, regardless of what replaces it (whether it's a chain bookstore, some other commercial venture, or -- God willing -- student housing). But I'm glad that it was around long enough to be part of my life in Berkeley.

Another Swipe at Citizen Standing


The Supreme Court did a bunch of crap yesterday, and I'll probably be blogging about a number of its orders and decisions severally over the course of the next few days. Then again, I might not.

I did want to point out that the Court reaffirmed its broad skepticism toward "citizen standing" in DaimlerChrysler v. Cuno. The underlying issue was whether state tax subsidies to an auto manufacturer violated the Commerce Clause, but the Court unanimously punted the case on standing grounds, holding that the plaintiffs couldn't challenge the tax breaks simply because they paid taxes too. In other words, you can't sue the government just because you don't like what it's doing with your taxes. At least not in Federal Court (because of that whole Article III "case" or "controversy" requirement).

The Court has often used the standing requirement to duck issues that it didn't want to get involved with. Although this practice has become less necessary since the Certiorari Act (which made the vast majority of Supreme Court appeals discretionary rather than mandatory), it still happens every now and then. The Newdow Pledge of Allegiance case was dismissed on (questionable, some might say) standing grounds. Here, the Court may not want to get its hands dirty on the subject of corporate tax subsidies. Although Chief Justice Roberts does sing, or at least mumble, the praises of tax subsidies in his discussion of whether the plaintiffs had alleged an injury at all.

Another thing that struck me is that the Court once again limited the Flast v. Cohen decision to its facts. In Flast, the Court held that taxpayer standing existed within the context of certain Establishment Clause challenges (the facts, I believe, involved a Congressional grant of property to a religious group). Roberts did a big song and dance to distinguish the Flast holding from the current case, since the Court still doesn't have the balls to admit that Flast is an outlying case that isn't really consistent with the Court's overall standing jurisprudence.

There are my thoughts. I probably got a few things wrong, but I may have done that intentionally just to see if Steve still reads this blog.

The Supreme Court handed down its decision in eBay v. MercExchange this morning. At issue was whether an injunction should automatically issue upon a finding of patent infringement. The Federal Circuit had established the "general rule" that patent infringement should always be enjoined. The Supreme Court unanimously disagreed, holding 9-0 that the traditional four-factor equitable test for injunctive relief is applicable even in Patent cases.

Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court without much elaboration. Chief Justices Roberts, joined by Justices Scalia and Ginsburg(!), filed a brief concurrence in which he pointed out that the equitable inquiry should be guided by the historical background of patent litigation, and claimed that the long history of injunctive relief following a finding of infringement probably means that infringement will still generally be enjoined (i.e., the four-factor test will usually favor the patentee).

Justice Kennedy, joined by Justices Stevens, Souter, and Breyer, took issue with Roberts' historical approach and laid down some Legal Realism, including some thoughts on patent holding companies (or, less kindly, "patent trolls") (emphasis added):

In cases now arising trial courts should bear in mind that in many instances the nature of the patent being enforced and the economic function of the patent holder present considerations quite unlike earlier cases. An industry has developed in which firms use patents not as a basis for producing and selling goods but, instead, primarily for obtaining licensing fees. [Citations.] For these firms, an injunction, and the potentially serious sanctions arising from its violation, can be employed as a bargaining tool to charge exorbitant fees to companies that seek to buy licenses to practice the patent. When the patented invention is but a small component of the product the companies seek to produce and the threat of an injunction is employed simply for undue leverage in negotiations, legal damages may well be sufficient to compensate for the infringement and an injunction may not serve the public interest. In addition injunctive relief may have different consequences for the burgeoning number of patents over business methods, which were not of much economic and legal significance in earlier times. The potential vagueness and suspect validity of some of these patents may affect the calculus under the four-factor test.

It would have been nice to see this in the opinion of the Court, but I'm glad this approach got at least the four votes. Supreme Court vote counts don't necessarily hold much water in Patent litigation, of course, since the Federal Circuit is notoriously willful and district courts tend to do what they want as well (only to be reversed 50% of the time by the Federal Circuit), but hey. Reading Kennedy's feet-on-the-ground thoughts on patent litigation was a nice way to start the day.

Yesterday was the Boalt Commencement Ceremony, where Howard Dean was scheduled to be the Commencement Speaker. Unfortunately, the campus service workers were picketing the ceremony. [Aside: The campus service workers were picketing last summer to. I have no idea whether this protest has been ongoing for the past year, or whether this is a new protest with new issues, or whether they just protest once a year to keep themselves spry.] Anyway, since Howard Dean is either (1) committed to liberal ideals, (2) politically astute, or (3) both, he cancelled his appearance when he heard about the strike, not wishing to cross the picket line. This meant that Boalt was without a Commencement Speaker for its graduation ceremony.

Based on a few extra facts I've heard about this, Dean's cancellation was not entirely a bad thing. As the title of this post suggests, this gives the Boalt class of 2006 a great story to tell when people ask who their Commencement Speaker was. Liberal alumni can say, "Howard Dean blah blah strike blah blah blah. Isn't that cool?" Conservative alumni can say, "Howard Dean blah blah strike blah blah blah. Can you believe that crap?" Everyone else can say, "Nobody, which made the ceremony a lot shorter. Isn't that great?"

Also, apparently the cancellation was far enough in advance that Dean Edley was able to throw together a party at his house to which he invited the graduating 3Ls, and Howard Dean showed up at the party and gave some kind of talk. So the graduating students got some Dean action, but their friends and families missed out. Edley further softened the blow by doing his own impression of Howard Dean during his speech at the ceremony. Specifically, he re-enacted the moment where Dean's candidacy fell apart (the list of states followed by the scream). Remember, kids: Jokes aren't appropriate for graduation ceremonies unless they're at least two years old and have already been beaten to death.

A Weekend in Southern California


I visited a handful of Southern California cities this weekend. Here's how it went.

On Friday morning I went down to La Jolla for The Firm's Intellectual Property Practice Group Retreat. The plane was a teeny, tiny American Eagle jet, that was mostly filled with people from my firm. The plane was so damned small that before we could take off they had to ask someone from the front of the plane to move to the back of the plane to balance the weight. This did not make me feel comfortable about soaring through the air in this thing.

The retreat was fine. Junk food for days. Literally. I learned a lot about a lot of things I'm not that interested in. On Friday evening I ditched the poker tournament/karaoke party after a few hands of T3x@s H01d'3m (coded to throw off Googlers) and grabbed a drink with my brother in law Mike and his girlfriend at the hotel's sports bar, since Mike wisely suggested we avoid traveling out into greater San Diego on Cinco de Mayo. After the drink I went back to the poker/karaoke imbroglio with the good faith intention of maybe banging out a song, only to find that the song list was completely devoid of any respectable hair bands. No Boston, no Journey, no Def Leppard. I went to bed.

After the half-day festivities of day two, my dad picked me up and we drove up to see my grandparents in Mission Viejo. Beset by a sudden obsession with their own mortality, they had covered their kitchen table with all the pictures of their grandchildren that they own, and gave me almost all of their Matts. This was sad, but also kind of nice. We had a pleasant visit, during which I borrowed some Tums (I just can't shake a hangover like I could when I wore a younger man's clothes). Afterwards we headed up to Redlands.

Redlands is home to my two teenaged half-a-siblings who barely know I'm alive. Their interactions with me were a delightful mixture of garden-variety teenager surliness and the awkward detachment of a member of your immediate family that you hardly know. I don't have a pithy conclusion for this paragraph so I'll just move on.

Saturday night I borrowed my dad's car and drove out to Hollywood to attend Julie's birthday party, which had a Quentin Tarantino theme. As you can see from the photos, I was the only one not in costume. This is because I wanted to pack light for the weekend, and I'm also lazy. It was great to see John and Julie, since I keep missing them when they come up here, but my lingering hangover and the long drive back into the barren wasteland of the Inland Empire forced an early departure. But not before I ate more snickerdoodles that I should have.

Sunday I played golf with my dad in Redlands. I was worried about this, since I am a bad golfer and my dad has notoriously little patience. I'm pretty sure he almost strangled me when he was trying to teach me to drive a stick shift. Much to my surprise, however, he was surprisingly patient, and even nagged me about proper technique and proper club selection. This resulted in a net gain to my golf game, since I can now hit with woods but was having trouble hitting with irons. Woods make the ball go farther than irons. The only bad part about the golf outing was getting attacked by a swarm of bees on the seventeenth fairway. That was something that I didn't enjoy at all. I didn't get stung, but I did get scared. It was a lot of bees.

I caught a morning flight on Monday, came straight to the office from the airport, and worked all afternoon so I wouldn't have to burn a vacation day. Fortunately nobody was looking for me all morning so I don't think anyone noticed. It's nice to be unimportant.

They Grow 'Em Stupid Down in Festus


I went to a firm retreat in cold, cloudy La Jolla on Friday and Saturday this weekend. The retreat was spent almost entirely in a large ballroom fashioned into a large conference room, except for the meals, which were taken in the Garden Courtyard, and the Poker Tournament/Karaoke Party, which took place in some other room. During the presentations in the ballroom, there were little bowls of brand-name candy on the tables. This means that I ate a lot of candy this weekend.

Among the offerings were Laffy Taffy, a candy that I enjoy both for the chewy fruitiness and also the awful jokes on the wrappers. I'm a big fan of groan-inducing jokes, but one particular one was just bad. I would even say this is not a joke at all. It comes to us from Christy M. of Festus, Missoura:

Q: When was meat so high?
A: When the cow jumped over the moon.


Firefox Problems


I've tried my dangedest to be a good Firefox user. But here are some other reasons why I should go back to IE:

(1) does not work on Firefox -- I just get a blank screen.

(2) The pull-down menus on the MySpace school search do not work on Firefox -- when I click on the little arrow, I just get an empty box. No graduation years at all.

(3) None of the buttons on Yahoo! Mail work on Firefox -- not [Reply], not [Delete], not even [Spam].

I know it isn't a question of having the right version of Firefox, since I have the latest version. It may have something to do with the settings, but I can't find anything to change that would seem to make things less terrible. It may very well have something to do with my odious VAIO, since I don't have these problems when using Firefox on the new HP that Meli and I just bought. Whatever the problem is, it doesn't seem to be amenable to an easy solution other than switching back to Internet Explorer. If that makes me lame, then I guess I'm just a big lame.

New Comic Strips


Remember when I used to draw comic strips? Well, yeah. There are two new ones. I was aiming for five and I hit two. One is a commentary on the amazing world of e-filing. The other is a long-awaited resolution to the Jessica Alba cliffhanger of so long ago. We also get to meet Kam's secretary. Her name, for now, is Marcy.

I'm still figuring out the best way to not color these things.

The Onion Does It Again

I sure hope somebody is keeping a running tally of these things. 'Cause I sure hain't.

Thanks to Sean for the tip. That's two posts in as many days that Sean has helped out with. You're the man, Sean.

NASA Announces Plan To Launch $700 Million Into Space, The Onion, May 2, 2006.

NASA Streamlines Operations, The Heuristic Squelch, February 2000.

It Was In My Pants


I play with my wedding ring a lot. I have two methods of playing with the ring. In the two-handed method, I take the ring off my left ringfinger with my right hand, then put it on my right ringfinger, then back to the left ringfinger, etc., like Vladimir and Estragon sharing a hat. In the one-handed version, I use my left thumb and pinky to slip the ring off my left ringfinger, flip it over, slide it back down, and then slide it back up. This latter method is more conducive to work, and also to dropping my ring.

Just now, while working, I was one-handing the ring and I dropped it onto my chair. I felt around for it in my bumular area and couldn't find it. So, I stood up. It wasn't on the chair. I hadn't heard a "plunk" sound, which would indicate that it had fallen on the floor, but I checked the floor anyway. Not there. I checked my pockets, my shirtsleeves, and the cuffs of my pants. No luck. The ring had disappeared like a major world landmark in a David Copperfield special. I spent a great deal of time looking under my desk, around my desk, even recruiting the help of another first-year who agreed to assist me out of sheer amusement. The ring was nowhere to be found.

Realizing that I was about to spend the rest of the day looking at every square inch of my office until I found my ring, I decided to take a bathroom break. Once I was in the men's room, I undid my pants and, just for good measure, gave them a little shake. The ring came tumbling out onto the floor. I had apparently tucked it into my waistband while I was feeling around for it on the chair. Mystery solved.

I should probably stop playing with my ring.

Dear Gene


EDIT: Sean helped me out with this. Thanks Sean!

Hi Gene. I hope you're enjoying Europe. I was wondering if there was a way to fiddle with my blog so that it doesn't only show posts that are less than a week old. That way, my blog won't look empty if I go a week without posting, as I'm wont to do given the combination of laziness and work demands.

This is a really lame post, I know. But if I didn't need to fill this space with something to make it look like I'm not dead, I may have done this over e-mail.

And if there are any lawyers on the line, I invite you to join this here site, to which Eve directed me. It's MySpace for lawyers, and right now there are only about three dozen people on there. And nobody's got a picture. What the hell?

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