December 2007 Archives

I'll take this, please.

I wear a medium.

Just Another Manic Friday


A conversation with a coworker yesterday, with some embellishment for dramatic effect:

Me: Anything going on this weekend?
Him: Yeah, my brother-in-law is in town, and he's inexplicably a huge Bengals fan. So we have tickets for tomorrow.
Me: They're still together?
Him: What?
Me: [Pause.] Oh, you mean the football team.
Him: Yeah.
Me: Not the 80s chick band.
Him: [Questioning look.] Nnnnooo....
Me: [Hangs head in shame.]

Epilogue: I also though the Bangles were called the Bengals, at least on some level. At the very least I thought they were named after the tiger instead of the bracelet, which I didn't know about until last night when I told Dr. M this story.

Moron Astronomy


(In the event that I continue my astronomy hobby in light of recent events, I will be starting a whole new blog completely devoted to my star-gazing activities, which will operate in parallel to this blog. So don't worry if you're getting tired of the spacey posts.)

The extremely complicated telescope is on its way back to the online retailer, because it turned out to be a piece of crap. This is very disappointing, as I did a great deal of online research into the best telescopes to buy and the best way to approach the project of buying a telescope before I took the plunge. It's also disappointing because, as it turns out, shipping a telescope and tripod is very, very expensive. So now I have negative a bunch of money and no telescope.

Among the problems with the apparatus were: (1) the viewfinder mount was improperly installed, and one of the positioning screws didn't move; (2) the azimuthal lock on the tripod was unreliable, so the telescope would go tumbling forward every now and then for no reason and in a very scary manner; (3) the equatorial rotation lock broke, so it was difficult to get the telescope into its "home" position for the purposes of aligning the computer; (4) the motor was supremely unreliable, often not moving when I asked it to, or moving in erratic and useless ways; and (5) the computer couldn't find its ass with both hands, let alone interesting dots in the sky, meaning that I couldn't find anything to look at through the telescope unless I could see it with my own eyes first, rendering the computer completely useless.

I had planned to send the thing back, get a refund, and use the money to buy a more powerful telescope with no pesky computer or automatic controls, but with the cost of shipping we'll have to see how that goes. One thing is for goddamn sure, though. If and when I buy telescope number two, it will be at a brick-and-mortar location within driving distance of where I live.

In lighter news, however, on what turned out to be the telescope's final night in operation I finally managed to get a good look at the Orion Nebula (only because I was able to point the telescope at it with no technological assistance). It was blue and glowy and amorphous and really, really cool.

Further updates will be provided as circumstances warrant.

Supreme Court Comes Original

Over the past year, during my brief, glorious time on the payroll of the Federal Judiciary, I developed a somewhat unhealthy fascination with original Supreme Court jurisdiction. Which is why I was very excited about the case of New Jersey v. Delaware being argued this past week at the Supreme Court. Good old Article III gives the Supreme Court original jurisdiction over disputes between states, meaning that when New Jersey and Delaware got into a kerfuffle over the Delaware river, they got to take their gripes directly to the Supremes without wasting time at any District or Circuit Courts.

The New York Times covered the case here, summarizing both the dispute and the additional weirdnesses appurtenant thereto. The basic idea is that New Jersey wants to allow BP to build a natural gas plant on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River to bring a load of cash into the state, and Delaware isn't so keen on the idea on account of the Environment. Rather than settling their dispute through armed conflict between well-regulated militias like in the old days, the stately states asked the Justices to set things straight.

From my limited study of state-vs-state original cases, I've discovered that the binding authority can take strange forms. For example, in New Hampshire v. Maine, the Court's opinion cited a proclamation of King George. N.J. v. Del. doesn't seem to involve anything quite so archaic, though a 1905 compact between the two states regarding use of the river seems to be a key sticking point, as is a 1934 Supreme Court case that decided who owns various parts of the river.

Another fun wrinkle pointed out in the NYT article is the fact that Justice Breyer recused himself from the case because he owns stock in BP. This creates the possibility of a 4-4 tie in an original jurisdiction case, which has never happened. In that event the states will likely be forced to bust out their militias.

Finally, Justice Alito isn't very happy about having to hear the case. According to the wall Street Journal Law Blog, Justice Alito drew some laughs when he told the Delaware lawyer how silly his case is. Justice Alito, of course, was born and raised in New Jersey, which may, just may, be coloring his view of the case. But then again, he may also be expressing the John Roberts philosophy that the Supreme Court shouldn't hear any cases at all.

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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