Sunday, December 31, 2006


This YouTube link to a weird animated German music video's kinda interesting...
(Hat Tip: Lore)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Five THOUSAND Visits

If you check out the "visitor counter" at the bottom of this blog, you may notice that I've just passed the 5,000 visit mark.
Five thousand hits in about two years. Really, it's a testament to you, my throngs of readers.

For those of you who have a difficult time wrapping your mind around a number as large as 5,000, let me make it a little easier.

First, divide by two, because half those hits are probably from me visiting to marvel at my own cleverness.

Then remove another 500 for people who clicked through from Google image search looking for the picture of a goat and another picture of Parker Posey.

Now it's down to a slightly less mind-boggling 2,000 visits (thank you, Google spreadsheets!)

In Biblical times, when people lived to be several hundred years old, many of the most compulsive and brilliant thinkers would spend their entire adult lives counting to see if numbers like 2,000 existed or were merely theoretical. Historical sources tell us many of them went mad, but whether it was due to the endless counting or the consciousness-altering secrets contained in such numbers was never recorded.
Then people died off at around 35 for a few thousand years, and until the invention of computers "one thousand" was still just a story told to scare naughty children.

Now we know that even larger numbers exist-- numbers like a million, and that great worm of naughts and commas, the billion. The consensus among scientists is that there are about a billion things in the universe, give or take 1,000.

And 5,000, give or take 1,000, is how many visits there have been to my blog.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hang In There!

So the FDA is having a hearing about whether antidepressant labels should mention the risk of increased suicidal thinking.
Well, that's an interesting thought-- you're seriously depressed and your pill bottle says:
"Hey, man.  You ever think about just ending it all?  Eat me, and that could happen.  Happen more, that is.  Life is hard.  So hard."
I think a better label would say something like:
"Hey, man!  No pill is perfect, but this pill can help some!  Hang in there, things will turn around.  Come on-- would it kill you to at least finish the prescription?"

I Regret That He Has But One Life to Give for His Country

So, Ahmadinejad?
I hear you're hosting a conference in Tehran to debate whether the Holocaust really happened. 
You pretend millions of Jews weren't murdered and you state that the purpose of your nuclear weapons program is to kill another few million, which is okay because that hasn't really happened before.
All kinds of crackpot anti-Semites are scurrying to bathe in your glow-- David Duke, Robert Faurisson and various other "Holocaust deniers, discredited scholars and white supremacists from around the world." 
I hear even Red Skull is giving a talk.
Dammit, Mahmoud, you're making it awfully tempting to drop bombs on Tehran.  I wish we were too smart to fall for it ... but less every day.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ancient Computer Rocks the Classical World

This NYT piece describes new research on the Antikythera Mechanism, built in the 2nd century B.C. to predict the movement of the moon.
2100 years later, and we're finally almost as cool as the Greeks were then.

An Ancient Computer Surprises Scientists

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Separated at Birth-- And Mama Only Loved One

They just have the same beguiling ne'er-do-well thing going on, is all.

And Who Will Police The Police?

So, uh.  Iraq is in the news again.
Gunmen dressed in Iraqi police uniforms and driving what appeared to be official vehicles rounded up scores of people inside a government building here today and drove off with them.
A spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior, which oversees the police, announced on state television several hours afterward that orders had been issued for the arrest of several police commanders who were responsible for the area where the kidnappings took place.
The kidnapping prompted an anguished address on the floor of Parliament, carried live on television, by Abed Thiab al-Ajili, the higher education minister and a member of the country's largest Sunni political bloc.
Mr. Ajili reported that 100 to 150 people had been taken, including employees and visitors to the building. He said he had repeatedly asked the government for additional security to protect his ministry and members of the university community, who have been under threat since collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime.
Arrest warrants have been issued for police commanders in connection with a 150-person kidnapping.
Iraq is seeking any police who are willing to try to serve the warrants, or anyone who will dress as police...

Friday, November 10, 2006

It don't take a brain surgeon to piece this one together

I thought they might be referring to my study of the sidewalks of New York.
Turns out the study has something to do with the distribution of a variant of a gene that regulates brain size.  Homo Sapiens - Neanderthal loving about 37,000 years ago, they say. 
Some days, I wish I could believe in Genesis.

Dowd Sizzles, Dubya Fizzles (Memailed)

Ouch! (Times Select, sorry, folks)
From Dowd's memailed column:
Poppy Bush and James Baker gave Sonny the presidency to play with and he broke it. So now they're taking it back. 
Two trusted members of the Bush 41 war council, Mr. Baker and Robert Gates, have been dispatched to discipline the delinquent juvenile and extricate him from the mother of all messes.



Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Teapot D'oh!

Q:  What's the difference between President Grant and President Bush?
A:  Grant ended a civil war.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Tenderfoot and I have talked about her moving out to Brooklyn-- my neighborhood is a lot less expensive and very livable (although she does live 2 blocks from work, which is a blessing of a sort).  I live in a nice one bedroom "floor-through" in a 3-story townhouse, convenient to good subways (the B, Q and 2/3) and close to Prospect Park.  I love the park and have been biking around it lately.  Plus, my mishpachah lives about 1/2 mile away.
I pay less than 2/3 of what TF is paying for her studio in a luxury building in Hell's Kitchen.  TF is the one who found my present apartment, sweet-talking the landlord into giving it to me instead of the hordes of other interested apartment-seekers.  He loves her and is always asking after her.  I think the rent I'm paying is probably below market because that the neighborhood has gotten safer and schamncier.  Occasional SHPOS harpoonings aside, however, I am an excellent tenant and add panache to any stoop.
A couple of weeks ago, I paid off a big chunk of my law school loans and was telling TF about it.  She said that she oughta move to Brooklyn.  Thing is, TF's family wouldn't like us living together.  They wouldn't like us dating either, but that's a whole other blog post.
So I asked her where she wanted to live in Brooklyn-- which neighborhoods, near which trains, etc.  TF said she wanted to be close to me-- one commute (to work) is enough -- near the same trains, safe, etc.  I set up this Craigslist search and said I'd check out some listings because I know the area.
Then TF says the best solution would be if she could move into the apartment on the third floor of my building.  Now, this is a very silly thing to say because (1) look alive, come on, renting two apartments in a 3-unit building? and (2) someone lives there.  No matter, we discuss this for twenty minutes.  The pros (maintain illusion for TF's family, proximity to Chez Litvak, cost) and cons (ridicule by friends, lack of near-work apartment, basically paying two rents for a big apartment with two kitchens, more ridicule).  I was on the "con" side, but mostly 'cause I thought it'd be silly.
I mention another con-- what if we broke up?
TF said she'd pour water on her floor to flood me, play loud music, etc.  I volunteered that I'd fill my landing with Rottweiller puppies (TF is terrified of dogs).  With all the contingencies addressed, we started talking about something else.  Probably how I knew Dr. Gray from Gray's Anatomy wasn't going to end up with Dr. McDreamy anytime soon. (Reason?  Then there's no plot left in the show.  Instead of whatver plot you get from intoning "Ally McBeal does surgery" over and over.)
Less than a week later, I'm browsing the Internet and check Craigslist.  In the list I see a 1BR with... my address.  For a moment, I think my landlord is renting my apartment!  Of course, it's the apartment above me.  The woman who lives there (it turned out) had just decided to move in with her boyfriend and posted the listing that morning.  I e-mailed TF, who called me back, excited, and I got excited, and TF called the woman who lives upstairs and my landlord... pre-empted another crowd of apartment hunters and is moving in on November 1st!
We're not sure if it's Destiny or silly coincidence or temptation from the Devil.  But I think it's pretty cool, if totally ridiculous.  Wish me luck with my new neighbor!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Movie Review: The Departed

The Depahted.
Matt Damon plays a "Southie" mole in the Massachusetts State Police (the "Staties"); DiCaprio plays a Southie Statie deep undercover among Southie gangsters run by Jack Nicholson.  Not a character played by Jack Nicholson, as far as I could tell, but by Jack himself.
High Concept?  Think "Good Will Hunting" meets "Reservoir Dogs."  But with even more blood.  And the characters all drop their "r"s.
The best thing in the movie is Mark Wahlberg playing a character who is supposed to be a cop or something, but whose job appears to be to drive every other character into a frothing rage with inappropriate insults taken to extremes.
DiCaprio:  Thanks fah meeting me, Sa(r)ge..  I'm sca(r)ed Jack Nicholson is gonna kill me, pa(r)k my ca(r).
Wahlberg:  #&(%! your mother.  I'm going to let them gut you and then I'll #&$! your dead %$^*!.
DiCaprio:  What's you(r) problem?  I wo(r)k fo(r) you.  I need your help.
Wahlberg:  Are you listening to me, #&$!*?  I'm too tired to help you after all the $(*%!@ your sister %$*#! $^^(#!$ on %^(!@ and $^*&!)#.  Oh, and ^$^&)(*&@!.
DiCaprio: ?
Not a bad movie.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

No Time For Losers Cause We Are The Champions

Thanks to Jack Roy for this link about an insane lying Yale undergrad and his bizarre self-promotion, cons, and especially, his autobiographical video of how AWESOME he is. Read it, watch it.
Of course his name makes it pretty likely he's a member of the tribe-- and me without the power to cast him out.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

That's a Hot Falafel

So, I wanted to make sure the best Lebanese place in New York -- Carroll Gardens' own Zaytoons-- is open for dinner tonight, and when I tried to open their webpage, I got this!:

Silly the Internet.
I'll have to check out that hot falafel-on-pita action at home.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

First you get the money. Then you . . . give back the money.

Miguel and Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela, the brothers who ran the Cali drug cartel in Colombia, pled guilty and were sentenced to 30 years in a federal court in Miami.
They agreed to pay $2.1 billion in forfeiture.
The Miami US Attorney's office is definitely getting a better coffee machine.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Then again, there's these guys.

Ordinarily, I feel envious of other countries' leaders.  They just seem to be more impressive than ours.  The greatest sign of the power of the U.S. is that it can survive so many mediocre presidencies. 
But other countries need sharp, competent leaders.  And often have them, too.
Even the tyrannical ones are generally bright and well-informed-- Uncle Mushu is a badass, and so is Putin.
Then again, there's these guys...
"Guess which hand is hiding the uranium?  Go ahead, guess!"

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Even Educated Fleas Do It

From the 9/27/06 Goats:
Some days the world makes more sense to me when I start from the axiom that we're all really puppets on the hands of a petulant intelligent broccoli god.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Thirty Thousand Feet Under the Sea

NYT reports that Chevron, Devon Energy and Statoil ASA have discovered an oil deposit in the Gulf of Mexico that boosts the U.S. petroleum reserve by about 50 percent.
Thirty thousand feet under the sea.
I just want everyone to know that that's really really deep.  It would take me a long time just to fall that far.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Litvak's Law #1

The world is composed of two kinds of people:  Those who cannot do the simplest things right, and those who can only do the simplest things right.

Monday, August 28, 2006

I'll Demote an Axe in Yer Gangly Shanks!

So, tha New York Times says tha International Astronomical Union has "demoted" Pluto to tha status of "dwarf planet."

Demoted, eh?
Well, we Dwarves will nae take this sitting down!
An', nae, I am not sitting down! I'm just short! A short Dwarf! Aye!
An' we don't need a Dwarf Planet. We have Earth, ye smooth-faced, uh, lanky type!

I guess that's all I hae ta say. Apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien, an' to Scotland fer borrowin' yer dialect.

Baruk Khazad! Khazad aimenu!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Uncle Mushu's New Book!

Uncle Mushu (Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf) has an autobiography (In The Line of Fire:  A Memoir) coming out soon, reports the BBC.
The byline (By Zaffar Abbas BBC News, Islamabad) explains some of the gem quotes:
If projections being made by some sections of the publishing world are to be believed, the book has all the ingredients of a big hit, and possibly even a best-seller.
Uncle Mushu will be bigger than DaVinci Code!  I'm sure they'll cast Sanjay Dutt as Mushu, but who'll play A.Q. Khan?
Since [supporting the U.S.-led invastion of Afghanistan], he has been perceived by many in West as one of the most liberal and enlightened faces of the Muslim world.
...who ever controlled the Pakistani press with an iron fist?
Soldier he definitely is, but is Gen Musharraf also a writer?
Definitely, yaar.  Definitely a solider.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Sit Back and Build Up Armies!

"Jack Roy" at the Litotical Construct is all worked up that the GOP wants to goad us into attacking Iran , figuring that that's totally batsh*t insane.

But he hasn't considered the basic military strategy I learned from the game of Risk: "One of the easiest ways to gain armies is to hold continents. If you hold an entire continent for an entire turn, you receive a number of extra armies, which is dependent upon the continent."

So if we hold (not control, mind you-- that's hard) Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran at once, we'll generate, like billions of dollars worth of armies for free! It's like printing money!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Lebanon Link

I know everyone who visits my blog also slavishly visits my links, but just in case... if you're interested in what's going on in Lebanon, I've had a link to this guy for a long time, and he's great. 

Friday, August 18, 2006

Einstein, This Man Isn't

What an idiot.
Link courtesy of Paul Phillips.

Bigotry's Cool in Atlanta - former Mayor, U.N. Rep

Wal-Mart has "accepted the resignation" of Andrew Young, former mayor of Atlanta and a former United States representative to the U.N., from his position as chairman of Working Families for Wal-Mart.
This, after Young told an African-American newspaper that Wal-Mart was preferable to mom-and-pop stores.
"You see those are the people who have been overcharging us," he said of the owners of the small stores, "and they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they've ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it's Arabs."
Huh.  Don't worry-- he sort of took it back:
"It never should have been said. I was speaking in the context of Atlanta, and that does not work in New York or Los Angeles."
Really?  But that works in Atlanta?
To paraphrase a Woody Allen movie, if MLK were alive today, he would never stop throwing up.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Don't Tread on Me

Empirical research has been harnessed to prove what no one ever doubted:  we feel our own pain more acutely than the pain we inflict.
Or, as the old saying goes, "Tragedy is when I stub my toe.  Comedy is when you fall down a manhole and die."

Breakin' Up Is Hard to Do

As I've said here and here about Iraq:
Split the country up already. Let the Baathists keep Baghdad, give the oil to the Shia and Kurds, keep around 30,000 troops in the Kurdish part to prevent civil war and discourage them from pissing off Turkey.
Now former U.S. Ambassador Peter W. Galbraith is saying the same thing:
As an alternative to using Shiite and American troops to fight the insurgency in Iraq's Sunni center, the administration should encourage the formation of several provinces into a Sunni Arab region with its own army, as allowed by Iraq's Constitution. . . . . This would be best accomplished by placing a small "over the horizon" force in Kurdistan.
Yes! Yes!!

Monday, July 24, 2006


My new webcomic love is Jonathan's Rosenberg's Goats.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Paleobiologists to NFL: Watch out, Sapiens

From Nicholas Wade's NYT piece today on trying to reconstruct the Neanderthal genome:
If the Neanderthal genome were fully recovered, it might in principle be possible to bring the species back from extinction by inserting the Neanderthal genome into a human egg and having volunteers bear Neanderthal infants. There would, however, be great technical and ethical barriers to any such venture.
Translation:  This is awfully cool, and, if possible, will happen.

Friday, July 14, 2006

NYT Gets the Scoop!

NYT is the first to report... that...
Envelope, NYT editorial (with a red "X" across it), and unknown powdery substance.
It'd really've stung if the Post had got the story before them.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Park Is Mine

This blog isn't my diary, so don't expect I'm going to fill it with important personal things.
Maybe good news, but if I have some kind of major tragic event, it's not going to be on the damn blog so the Internet can comfort me.
Just a disclaimer before I mention something bad.
On the afternoon of the 4th of July, my Dad was walking home with some shish kebab skewers for the grill.  He was on the block where my family lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, a block from Prospect Park.  Two teenage guys tackled him from behind, then stood over him and demanded his cash (but not his wallet).
Dad, who is quite sensible, gave the SHPOSes his cash-- which was a significant amount of money-- and the two ran off (in opposite directions, I think).
Two people were nearby, and quickly approached my Dad to find out what had happened.
A police car was driving up the street at the same time, and chased after one of the muggers-- and the NYPD (78th precinct, maybe?)caught the guy in no time a few blocks away.
The other guy ran the opposite direction--into the park--with the cash.  Of course, on the 4th of July, the park is full of families having barbecues.
I really, really hope these guys didn't step away from a family barbecue to knock over my Dad.
Some of New York's Finest went into the park and asked if anyone had seen a teenager wearing whatever mugger #2 was wearing (a white or black do-rag, I think, and some other distinctive clothing) running through.  People pointed the guy out, and, one-two, the whole dipsh*t crew's locked up.  Mugger #2 (or maybe both muggers?) confessed immediately, and said he'd thrown the cash into the bushes when he ran.
I was in Manhattan with Tenderfoot at some friends' apartment when Dad called me after leaving the precinct house.  He was quite calm.
I'm still upset.  For the past month or two, teenage guys have been mugging people in Prospect Park.
My parents live half a block from the park.
These guys could have seriously hurt my Dad (he seems to have no serious injuries).  They could have attacked my Mom or my sisters.
NYPD, don't make me pull some "The Park is Mine" / "First Blood" action.  Okay, don't make me fantasize about it.
Cruising RMPs along the main road through the Park won't catch muggers.  Don't let the park-- which is one of the nicest spots in Brooklyn-- turn into some Pirates' Cove.
Do a damn sting.  Call in "21 Jump Street," I don't care.
Vigilantes like The Whaler and BROKK!!! are funny ideas.  My Dad buying a gun is not.

I Spent 16 Months In A Secret CIA Prison And All I Got Were These Lousy White Shotes

So... the NYT reports on the story of Laid Saidi, an Algerian who worked for an Islamic charity in Tanzania and was "renditioned" by the CIA, imprisoned and tortured for 16 months, then released.  Here's the tragi-comic part:
In prison, Mr. Saidi said, he was interrogated daily, sometimes twice a day, for weeks. Eventually, he said, his interrogators produced an audiotape of the conversation in which he had allegedly talked about planes.

But Mr. Saidi said he was talking about tires, not planes, that his brother-in-law planned to sell from Kenya to Tanzania. He said he was mixing English and Arabic and used the word "tirat," making "tire" plural by adding an Arabic "at" sound. Whoever was monitoring the conversation apparently understood the word as "tayarat," Arabic for planes, Mr. Saidi said.

"When I heard it, I asked the Moroccan translator if he understood what we were saying in the recording," Mr. Saidi said. After the Moroccan explained it to the interrogators, Mr. Saidi said, he was never asked about it again.

Reminds me of that old joke--
Man at door:  I am ze Viper.
Person inside:  Who?!
Man at door:  I am ze Viper!
Person inside:  WHO?!
Man at door:  I am ze VIPER!!  I come to vipe ze vindows!

Monday, July 03, 2006

All The Lonely People

This NYT article (yes, it's memailed, or it's at number 7, anyway) describes a recent study by some sociologists that shows most adults have few or no friends-- fewer than they did in the past.
Well, that's depressing. Especially when I think about how long it's been since I've hung out with a lot of my friends.
I have a pretty active social life... considering the schedule of a law firm associate.  But reading this article reminds me that spending time with family and friends is a more important than another hour of poring over other peoples' e-mails and spreadsheets...
On that note... I'm out of here!

Y Unearthed

So, Tenderfoot found volumes 1 and 2 of Y: The Last Man.
Now I can lend them to friends and leave them hoplessly addicted.

Poker Strikes Again

Maine gets the Hold 'Em bug.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

You Say Tomato / I Say Harpoono

Deborah Tannen (author of something about moms and daughters) has a great (MEMAILED!) piece in the NYT comparing the reactions of women in Greece and New York to public molestations by men.
According to Tannen, Greek women are much more likely than Americans to smack, slap, kick, punch, curse, or stone their molesters.
My mom told me about a friend of hers who used to ride the subways with a long hatpin in her purse, and would stab it into the thigh of men who groped her.
Excellent, excellent.
It ain't a harpooning, but it's a step in the right direction.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Transfer Here for B, D, Q, Harpooning

NYT has a great article about perverts who expose themselves to or grope women on the NYC subways.
Not exactly news... every woman I know has seen this kind of thing.  And I've seen a man take down his pants and dance, singing at the top of his lungs, on a crowded train on a Friday night.  That was actually funny, though.
But remember my post from last year about me shooing a greasy pedophile away from a little girl on the subway?  Not funny.
These guys don't need help, or jail, so much as they need a good harpoonin'.  Nothing drives a point home like the swish-thunk-twang of a harpoon in the torso, maybe followed by a stern lecture on respecting others.  Where are you, The Whaler?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Say It Ain't So, Joe

Warning: Geek Rating - 9.6

I do enjoy OOTS. OOTS-- Order of the Stick?
Hello? You have been checking out my links, right?
(they're on the right)

Well, OOTS is this geeky web comic strip by Rich Burlew about Dungeons & Dragons characters who know they are D&D characters and make comments about the game's rules, the conventions and clichés of the game, &c. Very dorky.
For every D&D joke I get, I receive one demerit. I've promised myself I'll offset those points somehow:
  • One (1) merit: Throw one game-winning touchdown.
  • One (1) merit: Give a swirlie to a talented math student.
  • One (1) merit: Crash my car into the home of the administrator of an educational institution after a romantic liaison with the homecoming queen (1.5 merits if she is the administrator's daughter).
So far I'm in the hole a little. I may start awarding merits for slightly less cool achievements, like inadvertently inciting spontaneous dance crazes when I try to scratch my back / imitate traditional African dance, or when I inspire famous popular musicians in their early careers by introducing contemporary rock / hip-hop elements at school parties to which I have arrived via time travel.

Uh, back to the topic.

Then there's the Book of Ratings by Lore Sjöberg. He makes (made, alas) lists of things in categories ( e.g., "D&D Monsters"), describes (okay, I'm in denial . . . made) them with comic derision and assigns (can't ... employ ... proper tense) letter grades. Genius. Also quite dorky. But it is actually much funnier than OOTS, even if it lacks OOTS's winning combination of a psychopathic hobbit and hit dice jokes.

And so I was quite conflicted when I revisited a favorite BOR entry and recognized a recent OOTS joke -- lifted from a BOR entry.
Burlew must have just forgotten where he saw the owlbear joke first-- it's not that original, I guess plenty of people have thunk it (though BOR's "Umber Hulk" description will live forever for its quote-- "OW MY HIT POINTS!"...).

Watch out for the hawklion! Beware the vulturetiger! Don't worry too much about the sparrowspaniel.

The dreaded bunnywolf? The ferocious penguinlion? Perhaps the terrible ducksnake?

BOR owlbear / OOTS owlbear:

Say it ain't so, Joe.

Antigravity Acrobats

here...via the genius who brought us the Book of Ratings (and other fun things).

Stupid Server Tricks

A server somewhere on the Internet will listen while I tap the spacebar to the rhythm of a song and guess the song.
It's not bad, either.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Y: The Last Man

If you like comic books, or even if you don't, you should read Y: The Last Man.
Written by Brian K. Vaughan (who also wrote Ex Machina, which I brought with me to Malaysia) and pencilled by Pia Guerra, the premise is that a catastrophic something instantly kills every male mammal (or sperm, or fetus) on Earth except for an amateur twenty-something escape artist named Yorick and his pet monkey, Ampersand.
I've recently read all seven graphic novel compilations, and Tenderfoot is now also completely hooked.  Someone in her office knows Vaughan and lent her the most recent comic (they come out frequently as individual comics and are then compiled into graphic novel format) and she's taunting me with it...
The story is compelling and funny.  Yorick is goofy and likable.
Check it out!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Investment Opportunities in New Beachfront Property!

And awesome, in the less contemporary sense of "inspiring awe at holy **** that's a lot of water."

Joys of Firm Life # 1: Mr. and Mrs. Bear-Shark

One of the joys of legal reasearch comes up when a partner and several associates are sitting around after a conference call discussing the client's legal issues, when a novel-ish legal issue like this arises...
Partner:  I don't think they can, but can a bear and a shark be legally wed?
Of Counsel:  No.
Senior Associate:  That sounds unlikely.
Mid-Level Associate: ...
Junior Associate: [starts to stack up papers]
Of Counsel:  Junior Associate, why don't you find some cases on point?
Junior Associate:  Yes, sir.  What jurisdiction?
Partner:  Well, our client's bear lives in Utah, so look under Utah state law.
So, Junior Associate goes to find cases from a landlocked state in which a court addresses the legality of bear-shark matrimony. 
If he's lucky, he'll find a decision from 1833 in which a bear is acquitted of bigamy because his supposed second marriage to a shark was declared void ab initio or some such narishkeit
More likely, he'll find a case in which a court decides a custody dispute between a bear and an Atlantic salmon without addressing their marriage.
Junior Associate:  I believe we can infer that bear-fish marriage is allowed under Utah law.
Of Counsel:  But a salmon is a bony fish, and sharks are cartilagenous fishes.  Isn't there anything directly on point?
Partner:  My ex-wife is a salmon.
Then he hits the treatise.  Last updated 1981.
Treatise:  The traditional view on carnivore-fish marriage was expressed in the principle, "A bear and a shark may marry, but where shall they build their nest?"  Supervening developments have cast this early view into doubt.  Woe be unto the lawyer who wades into the fell littorals where shark and bear do court.  Addressing the issue in dictum, Judge Brow quipped, "In what states do a bear and shark marry?  Anywhere they should wish!"
When Junior Associate reports his findings to the team they will (much like you, now) not be entertained.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Deep Thoughts

I haven't taken or defended any depositions yet here at the firm.  I'm mostly working on internal investigations and the like. 
Today a woman called me for the nth time and explained that she's at a deposition services firm and, can she send me some updated materials?
She always uses the same phrase:  "Are you using anyone special?"
Wow, it really shook me to my roots.  I am alone in the vast and empty universe, deposition services-wise.  Adrift. Lost.
So I said she could mail me stuff.
Deposition Services Company, you complete me.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Lawrence Laughs

Okay, I'm three years late with this post.
But LitCon has a nice critique of a very silly article on Lawrence v. Texas-- the 2003 Supreme Court case that held you can't keep two men from engaging in "certain intimate sexual conduct" between consenting adults, viz., "contact between any part of the genitals of one person and the mouth or anus of another person."
Ah, Lawrence.  Justice Kennedy's opinion was clearly written to crack [don't even say it!] up adolescents:
Liberty protects the person from unwarranted government intrusions into a dwelling or other private places. In our tradition the State is not omnipresent in the home. And there are other spheres of our lives and existence, outside the home, where the State should not be a dominant presence. Freedom extends beyond spatial bounds. Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct. The instant case involves liberty of the person both in its spatial and more transcendent dimensions.
"Liberty protects the person from unwarranted . . . government intrusions into ... other private places."
Do I have to give you the punchline?  This is a 12-year-old's comic gold!
The "liberty of the person both in its spatial and more transcendent dimensions."  But particularly its spatial ones.  Unless I'm missing something [stop!].
I love the ending appeal to the Founding Fathers / later legislators:
Had those who drew and ratified the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment known the components of liberty in its manifold possibilities, they might have been more specific.
I can just imagine the reaction in 1868 to a proposed rider [come on, that's a bit of a stretch] to the 14th Amendment that addresses the "specific" components of liberty it was not granting to gays when they forbade slavery and disenfranchement of Blacks.
Anyway, I don't disagree with Kennedy that "[a]s the Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom," or with the outcome of the case.
I just think the opinion's rationale is silly-- the Court clearly saw "The Birdcage" and "Will & Grace" and recognized which way the wind was blowing [all right, already--grow up!].
And I'm an idiot who'll read SCOTUS opinions for laughs.

And That Rhymes With "P" and That Stands for Poker!

Okay, I play poker online.
I deposited $110 a few months ago.  I've played the wicked, wicked Texas Hold 'Em.
Up some, down some.
My balance is now $95 and change.  Meh.
This, it turns out, does not prove I'm a "fish" or a mediocre player (though both may be true).
It is actually, I just learned, a testament to my timid, prudent and non-addictive personality.
My clairvoyant powers (and subscription to Times Select) tell me that this Sunday's New York Times Magazine has an article about some PK (preacher's kid) who ran up $7,500 in debt playing online poker in college and robbed a bank.  I read the first page, anyway.
Here it comes... the researchers say it's addictive; it's part of the collapse of society into a swirling vortex of debt and abortions and AIDS; poker players are cheats and gunfighters and drink whisky and hate chillurn; evil moustiachioed foreign casinos are making our youth fritter away their futures and their parents' money; cats and dogs living together-- a disaster of biblical proportions.
The panic, the calls for legislation, etc.
It's all true, loyal readers.  If the world is still around on Monday, tell me how you liked the article.  I'll be holding a nursery hostage for $15.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

3-Day Weekend Recap

This last weekend was packed...

Friday night I came home with Tenderfoot and packed up my stuff.
Saturday morning, the movers came (several hours early) and trucked me off to my new place. Three Chinese guys with a truck and shoulders like Bluto-- they rocked.
Cable guy came by and hooked me up with the Internet.
Unpacked a little; bought some stuff at the hardware store, including two gallons of primer and a barbecue grill.
Saw a big film crew shooting part of Spider-Man 3 outside my office (roll film - drop desk from a crane - Ordinary New Yorkers #s 1-47 run around in panic).
Dragged three big boxes of TF's stuff from her old apartment to her new one.
Lugged the cans of primer over to the old apartment.
Sold my old coffee table to a couple from Park Slope.
Painted over several walls of my old place with primer.
Saw X-Men 3 (one word review: "Eh." Also, The Whaler wasn't in this one, either.)
Baked a birthday cake for Tenderfoot.
Held a rooftop Memorial Day barbecue / TF's birthday party at my old apartment. Grilled food, was grilled by sun. My thanks to the many wonderful friends came by-- sorry to any reading this for spending most of my time over the coals!
Gave TF birthday presents that I think she actually liked (I dread gift-giving).
Stopped by my folks' place.
Cleaned and moved most of the remaining stuff to the new apartment. My old landlord's on my case because he says the garbage men won't pick up anything from the curb that's not in a trash bag (like the frame from my old papasan chair). I told him I don't have a hatchet or saw, so whaddayawantfrommylife? Maybe I'll throw the chair frame under the wheels of the garbage truck to make the pieces baggable.

It was great. Hope your weekend was as nice as mine.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Child of Brangelina

Next time I'm interviewed by the Associated Press, I have to remember to say enough outrageously offensive things that they give me two quotes.
Darryn Lyons, who runs some kind of paparazzi company, called the Brangelina offspring "the most anticipated baby since Jesus Christ.''
He also said ''You could probably buy Namibia with that picture [of the baby]."
And the A.P. was sure to put his quote into perspective with some ridiculous facts:
Namibia, a country half the size of Alaska, is rich in diamonds and strategic metals, but most of its 1.8 million people are poor.
I don't think that addition qualifies this piece as "news," though.  Sorry.

2006 Greatest Flag Ever Award

goes to Bhutan, for a spicy mustard-and-sweet orange sauce colored field overlaid with a dragon holding four tapioca pearls.
Flag of Bhutan

X3: Spoiler Trailer

I can't wait for X3: The Last Stand.
Actually, I'm moving Saturday, so I'll probably wait until Sunday.
But I can't wait to complain about the posters.
I admit that I like looking at Famke Janssen as much as the next guy, which is to say, I might not notice my clothes had caught fire if she were asking me for the time. Which would be an excellent kind of superpower, but evidently, her character's powers in the X-Men movies include telekenesis and the ability to, well, resurrect herself from the dead.
Which are also good superpowers. I mean, "mutations." Far superior, as mutations, to albinoism or hemophelia.
But why couldn't they have let me find out* from watching the movie?
Instead, I see Janssen all over the movie posters. And I remember distinctly from the heart-rending climax of X2 that she nobly sacrificed herself by telekenesis-ing a stealth fighter containing her pals from out of the path of a recently un-dammed body of water and was drowned.
Or should I say, drowned-ish. Of course, if she could move a plane off the ground and hold back a raging river with her mind, it really didn't make sense that she couldn't do the same thing from inside the plane .
Unless she just wanted to wash her hair and play possum until the sequel. Sigh. I feel so manipulated.
The Lord of the Rings guys managed to keep it under their hats that you-know-who** was coming back in the second film; why couldn't 20th Century Fox follow their lead?

*Okay, I admit it. I knew about the Jean Grey = Phoenix thing from the Marvel comics. But it's the principle involved, yeah?
**Long beard, pointy hat...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Litvak Update

Big news these days for The Litvak.  Let's see...
I'm moving this weekend, from Carroll Gardens near the Gowanus Canal to Prospect Heights, right near Flatbush Avenue.
I just can't avoid my destiny as an engine of gentrification.  I should get to cheer on Ratner's project going up from my stoop.
Or, if roof access works out, from new Brooklyn Rooftop Poker home games.
Tenderfoot's birthday is coming up in a few days.  She's going to turn 25 again.  We have this deal where I increase my age by one on her birthday and she doesn't.  So far, so good.
Poker.  Well, it's not exactly new, and any of the poker bloggers I've linked to would never stop throwing up if they saw me play.  But I've started playing for very low stakes (VLS) online, which is new for me.  My bankroll went up a little, then down a little, and now I'm about dead even.  I think I've learned enough to beat VLS limit hold 'em (LHE) and VLS no-limit hold 'em (NLHE) sit & go (SNG) tournaments... when I pay attention.  Which, at 10 hour days, five days a week, would now earn me... probably less than minimum wage.  Time not to quit lawyering.
Mostly, I need to get home games going again.  The fun part for me is playing lousy poker with others who do, too, and winning or losing less than I contributed in beer money.
Online, I feel like a submarine captain who needs to outwit the other players to survive-- not always fun.
MalaysiaTerima kasi, as the Malays say.  As they say "thank you," anyway.  Tenderfoot and I got back about a week and a half ago from a vacation to Malaysian Borneo.  I'll post pictures of orangutans and things when I get a moment.  I think I'm 90% over the jetlag, which has been a killer.  A killer that waits until mid-afternoon and then stuffs an ether-soaked rag over your mouth, and can't be kept away with coffee, and gives you terrible nightmares about running ultra-marathons while conducting document discovery. 
I'll also make fun of various aspects of Malaysia, like their national tourism song, Malaysians' directions-giving aptitude, and their national motto ("Truly Asia").  So, if you want start a course of laugh-suppressing drugs to protect yourself from hilarity induced spleen rupture, maybe you can get that scrip filled tomorrow at lunch.
Exercise.  I need to start doing some again.  I'm getting fat and sluggish and irritable.  Hot summer weather should help me get ripped and shredded and maybe even thin again.  That, and some road work. No pics needed-- just imagine Ahnold and Van Damme looking at someone and thinking they need to hit the gym, and I'll be that someone.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

False Economy

Bolivia's Moves on Resources Worry Investors

Property of Bolivians
...and it was free!  ...All it cost was the trust of the rest of the world!

Monday, May 01, 2006


Then he'll try to hold his breath for the world record-- which is currently 8 minutes, 58 seconds.
While escaping from chains and padlocks, etc.
Uh huh.
It'll be fun to watch him try.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Planet of the Apes - Life Imitates Art

Some chimps in Sierra Leone attacked and killed some people.
Police don't know how the chimanzees escaped from the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary or why they attacked.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

OBL and Me Don't Always See Eye to Eye

Courtesy of Al Jazeera comes the text of Osama Bin' Laden's latest rant...
My fave bits, with retorts:
OBL:  The West is incapable of recognising the rights of others. It will not be able to respect others' beliefs or feelings. The West still believes in ethnic supremacy and looks down on other nations. They categorise human beings into white masters and coloured slaves.

The Litvak:  Dude, Saudi Arabia abolished slavery in 1962.  Sudan still has slavery.

OBL:  [Racism] is why [the West created] the United Nations and the veto power ... . They regard jihad for the sake of God or defending one's self or his country as an act of terror. US and Europe consider jihad groups in Palestine, Chechnya, Iraq and Afghanistan as terrorist groups, so how could we talk or have understanding with them without using weapons?

The Litvak:  Uh, what?  What was the jihad group trying to say in Beslan, exactly?

OBL:  The ongoing injustice and aggression did not stop in the last nine decades, while all attempts to reclaim our rights and exact justice on the Israeli oppressors, were blocked by the leadership of the Crusaders and Zionists' alliance by using the so-called veto power.

The Litvak:  Wow; you're making me wish I had this "veto power."  Oh, wait.  No.  You're saying I do have it.  Sweet.  Watch your step, everyone!

OBL:  [The West's] rejection to Hamas has reaffirmed that they were waging a crusade against Islam.

The Litvak:  Uh...

OBL:  The US was not satisfied by all the sedition and crimes, but went on to incite sedition, the largest of which was the west Sudan sedition by exploiting some disputes between the tribes and sparking a savage war between them that will spare nothing, prior to sending in Crusader troops to occupy the region and steal its oil wealth under the pretext of peacekeeping.

The Litvak:  The U.S. did that?  Finally, we're gonna get something out of peacekeeping...

OBL:  Our objective is obvious, that is defending Islam, the people and the land but not Khartoum government since our differences with them are so enormous, mostly when it backtracked in implementing the Sharia law and abandoned south Sudan.

The Litvak:  Well, I didn't vote for them either, Osama.

OBL:  I urge the mujahidin to get acquainted with Darfur state tribes and land and its surroundings, keeping in mind that the region is about to face the rainy season that hampers means of transport.

The Litvak:  Thanks for the travel tip!  I'll pack galoshes.

OBL:  ...This is one of the reasons why the occupation was adjourned for six months. So it is imperative to speed up action and benefit from the time factor by stocking a large amount of landmines and anti-armour grenades such as RPGs [rocket propelled grenades].

The Litvak:  Right.  I'll stop droppin' bombs all ova' Brooklyn an' save some for Khartoum, yo!

OBL:  What was the aim of the pressure against Indonesia by the Crusaders countries until East Timor, 24 hours after a warning by the UN? A Crusader-Zionist-Hindu war against Muslims.

The Litvak:  I would never have guessed the answer to that one.  Are you saying we have the Hindus on our team now?  We are so gonna kick your butt in the next Crusader-Zionist-Hindu v. Umma cricket match.  It'll be close, anway.

OBL:  With respect to Pakistan, some Muslims have done a good job by assisting their fellow Muslims, God bless them, but the Pashtun tribes must be aided after the Pakistan army devastated their homes in Waziristan in order to satisfy the US.

The Litvak:  Come on, everything the people you don't like do is not "to satisfy the U.S."

OBL:  What does the silence over Russian atrocities inside Chechnya mean, along with mutilating their bodies by tying them to tanks while the so-called free world gives its blessings and even secretly supports the aggression ? This is a Zionist crusade.

The Litvaks:  Yes, the Russians do our bidding.  It all makes sense now.

OBL:  And the use of depleted uranium, besieging Iraq for years, causing the death of more than one million children which amazed all who had visited Iraq, including the Westerners themselves? It is a malicious crusade against Muslims.

The Litvak:  Depleted uranium killed one million Iraqi children? I am amazed.

OBL:  What about the continuous cultural domination through the setting up of radio stations and TV channels along with the Voice of America, London and others to continue the cultural domination of Muslims, combat our beliefs, change our values, encourage vice and even interfere with school curricula? 

The Litvak:  It's all true.  First we distract you with the uranium-child-megadeath, then we land the school curriculum change!  Wham-BAM!

OBL:  I think I'm falling for you, The Litvak.

The Litvak:  Gotta go.  Take a shower.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

DNA, SchmeeNA

From an article from today's NYT about "recreational" genetic testing to determine the ethnicity of yer forebears:
Israeli authorities have so far denied John Haedrich what he calls his genetic birthright to citizenship without converting to Judaism. Under Israel's "law of return," only Jews may immigrate to Israel without special dispensation.

Mr. Haedrich, a nursing home director who was raised a Christian, found through a DNA ancestry test that he bears a genetic signature commonly found among Jews. He says his European ancestors may have hidden their faith for fear of persecution.

Rabbis, too, have disavowed the claim: "DNA, schmeeNA," Mr. Haedrich, 44, said the rabbi at a local synagogue in Los Angeles told him when he called to discuss it.

Undeterred, Mr. Haedrich has hired a lawyer to sue the Israeli government.

Please, Mr. Haedrich.  We are honored that you're so proud of your possibly Jewish ancestry-- but there's more to being Jewish than "Jewish genes," suing people, or moving to Israel.  Those are just stereotypes.
Why not start by going to a Holocaust-themed movie and eating Chinese food next Christmas?
On that note-- Happy Pesach, everyone.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Friedman's Asian Immigrant Fetish

Not to be outdone by Brooks's simple-minded column on immigration, Thos. Friedman pulls out all the stops with his metaphor-o-thon!: 
Gated Community:  When it comes to immigration, Friedman wants "a very high fence, with a very big gate."  That means tamperproof ID cards, which are like a fence you keep in your pocket if you want health care.
Sports Team:  Talented foreigners are "first-round intellectual draft choices."
Ye Age of Talente:  We now live in the "Talent Age, and countries that make it easy to draw in human talent will have a distinct advantage today."
Immigrants --> Cool Toys:  Switzerland's most famous invention is the lowly cuckoo clock because it is difficult to immigrate to Switzerland.  I suppose our most famous invention is the hamburger because we were savvy enough to open our shores...
Asian Immigrants are Economic Viagra:  The "huge pent-up aspirations" of China and India are like a shaken Champagne bottle -- "Don't get in the way of that cork. Immigrants keep that kind of energy flowing in America's veins."  Friedman is silent about what kind of wonder drug non-Asian immigrants might be.
Money quote #1:  "Porous borders empower only anti-immigrant demagogues, like the shameful CNN, which dumbs down the whole debate."  Pot, meet kettle.  Kettle, pot.
Money quote #2:  "...many [factory] jobs can now be done faster by a computer or cheaper by a Chinese worker."  Hah!  Friedman-- you admit there's a difference.  Gotcha!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Reading Newspaper May Cause Stupidity, Foaming at Mouth

David Brooks wades into the difficult and complicated immigration debate with this tripe (Times Select):
The anti-immigration crowd says this country is under assault. But if that's so, we're under assault by people who love their children.
Give me a break.  Even if Brooks is right about immigration, that is the single stupidest argument I've read in weeks.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

In a world. On a plane. With snakes on it.

"Snakes on a Plane" will maybe be a little too self-consciously "B Movie" to be the best B Movie ever, but I am there.
Check out the unofficial movie blog (courtesy of F Train).

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Monday, March 13, 2006

Hello there, Widdoo Killa'!

Habitat of the Florida panther disappearing, per NYT.  Booooring.
But wookit the baby panther!
Hewwo thea, Widdoo Killa'!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Firm Life a la OOTS

Rich Burlew, author of Order of the Stick (check my links, yo!), hits the nail on the head:

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Sh*t Sandwich in Iraq

Holy crud.
NYT's excellent Robert F. Worth (husband of a friend of mine) reports that-- if I may borrow from "Full Metal Jacket" and paraphrase Worth-- the situation in Iraq is a sh*t sandwich, and we've all got to take a bite.

Everyone in Baghdad seems to be either in the Green Zone, blowing up civilians, or is a civilian getting blown up in a line for a job, kerosene, or whatever.

As I said about two months ago:
Split the country up already. Let the Baathists keep Baghdad, give the oil to the Shia and Kurds, keep around 30,000 troops in the Kurdish part to prevent civil war and discourage them from pissing off Turkey.
There's going to be massive dislocation, but, I mean, a committment to creating a democracy that incorporates the Sunnis and the Shiites is looking pretty naive.
I don't think Iraqis are stupid.
And an Iraqi who voted for someone who's espousing liberal democracy &c., rather than protecting members of his sect from mosque-bombing fanatics, would have to be stupid.

Democracy among groups that don't want to murder each other seems moderately feasible, but this? Narishkeit.

Hmm. Looking back on the page, I see I've strayed into politics.
Fine, then.

I do have a less political question for this post--

Has anyone noticed that the ratio of dead:wounded in these bombings always seems to be about 1:4.5?
Any grisly theories to explain it?

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Manticore Eyes You Tenderly...

So, the New York Times reports that Dungeons & Dragons ("D&D") is going online.
Some poor reporter had to go interview some grown men who play pen-and-paper D&D...
The night's dungeon master, Rich, tax director for a New York City company, would not divulge his last name out of what he described as professional discretion. "I play because I have a very creative mind and a very noncreative job," he said (though some tax experts might disagree). "So the game helps me balance it out. There is no creativity at the computer, because you're limited by what the programmers thought you might do. Here in person, I can react dynamically to the players and craft an adventure specifically for them."
i.e., players can have sex with mythological creatures.
Sam Weiss, 41, from the Bronx, leaned over a few dice and the erasable grid on the table that players use to lay out combat scenarios with miniature figures. "Computer games are inherently limited because they only give you a set number of options," he said. "In a game like this, what we can do is limited only by our minds."
Oh, the poor nymphs!  The unfortunate, uh, dryads!  I'm just glad they didn't include any pictures.
Oh, wait. -->
Alack, mermaids.  Very sorry, valkyries.

Friday, February 24, 2006

I'd've Called it the "Lesser Litvak's Beaver-Otter"

Paleontologists in that dusty part of China where all the fossils hang out have discovered a fossil of the earliest known swimming mammal. 
164 million years of swimming mammals.
Looking like a miniature (1-2 lbs.) cross between a beaver and an otter, they named it the "Otver."  Well, actually, Castorcauda lustrasimilis, which amounts to the same thing.
My question is, I guess, did it really have a fin?:

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

What's Dark and Purple and Full of Torture?

Abu Grape.
Honestly.  The New York Times, reporting on the recently-released pictures of torture from Abu Ghraib, fits a megillah's worth of stupid into a little paragraph:
The prisoner-abuse scandal has been acutely embarrassing for the United States military, whose members are taught to treat prisoners with respect. The incidents at Abu Ghraib were considered especially damaging to the United States' image among Iraqi civilians and in the wider Arab world, where nudity is disdained.
"[W]hose members are taught to treat prisoners with respect." 
Okay, they have clearly failed that course.
And sex-themed torture hurts our reputation because ... nudity is disdained in the Arab world?
Do I need a punchline here?  Yecch.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Elements of Strategy #1: Don't Start a Pissing Match You Can't Win

Check this out:  Catfight!
The perfect illustration of a basic element of strategy:  Don't start a pissing match you can't win.
Plus, funny.
I'm linking to cats now.  I feel so... Litotical.

Monday, February 06, 2006

This Is Not a Time for You to Be Speaking

From CNN
Proclaiming "I am al Qaeda," Zacarias Moussaoui [ed:  the suspected 9/11 hijacker who couldn't make it that day] was removed from the courtroom as jury selection began Monday at a trial to determine whether he should be executed for terror conspiracy.
The disruption began with Moussaoui protesting that he did not want to be represented by his defense attorneys.
"I am al Qaeda. They do not represent me. They are Americans," Moussaoui objected.
U.S. District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema told Moussaoui that "this was not a time for him to be speaking."
About 120 prospective jurors who witnessed the outburst sat in silence.
After the interruption, Brinkema told potential jurors to note on their questionnaires if they thought Moussaoui's actions might influence their decision-making.
I suppose the answer would be, uh... what?  Would the defendant's declaration that he "[is] al Qaeda" influence my decision-making?
Hmm.  If I told you it wouldn't influence my decision about whether to, say, let someone watch my luggage before I get on a plane that he says he's al Qaeda, would you let me fly?
Of course not.  Someone with that level of opacity can't leave town-- we need him to serve on a jury.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Wages of Sin Is Now $145,000 a Year Before Bonus

Today's New York Law Journal reports that Sullivan & Cromwell has boosted first year associates' salaries to $145,000 a year before bonuses.
The raise, says the article, mostly shifts compensation toward salary and away from year-end bonuses.
Partner Benjamin Stapleton "said the firm was 're-balancing' its mix of base pay and bonus in recognition of the fact that most associates lived day-to-day on their salaries."
Even living in New York City, saving none of $125,000 a year while you wait for your $40,000 bonus seems kind of obscene.
Also, this means I'll probably be able to pay off my debt a little faster, when my firm follows suit.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I'm Rich!

Well, I've been corresponding with a guy in Liberia since last June.
He's promised me a cut of several million dollars if I help him in some unspecified way to move the money to the U.S.
I'm embarrassed to say I believed he was a scam artist, but now I know he was telling the truth when he said his poisoned father bequeathed him a bunch of money and told him to flee to the States and, get a college education.
Why do I believe? Because today he e-mailed me this:

Looks legit to me. Where do I mail my bank account number?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

You Got Your Chocolate in My Peanut Butter!

New York Times! 
Look.  I didn't vote for Bush, either.  But I'm not running the most esteemed newspaper in the world.
Does this really belong in a news article:?
Yet even as Haiti prepares to pick its first elected president since the rebellion two years ago, questions linger about the circumstances of Mr. Aristide's ouster — and especially why the Bush administration, which has made building democracy a centerpiece of its foreign policy in Iraq and around the world, did not do more to preserve it so close to its shores .
[my italics]
This isn't even close to the first time, either. You gotta learn to, you know, think some things that you don't write.
Even the rabid Wall Street Journal op-ed page doesn't leak onto the news.
Tsk. Tsk.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Thursday, January 19, 2006

OBL to US: Surrender!

So, after a U.S. missile attack apparently killed several senior al-Qaeda leaders last week in eastern Pakistan, Osama bin Laden has a new message for Americans:


As he puts it in his new recorded message:

My message to you is about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how to end them.

A mass murderer and a policy wonk? Where does he find the time? Well, go on...

And I say that, despite all the barbaric methods [of the U.S.], they have not broken the fierceness of the resistance.
Well, not to touch on a sore point, OBL, but they did break the fierceness of a few of your pals vacationing in Waziristan...

The mujahideen, thank God, are increasing in number and strength - so much so that reports point to the ultimate failure and defeat of the unlucky quartet of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz.
"Unlucky quartet." That's awesome. It'd be a great band name. Can I use that? Really? You're the best.

We don't mind offering you a long-term truce on fair conditions that we adhere to. We are a nation that God has forbidden to lie and cheat. So both sides can enjoy security and stability under this truce so we can build Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been destroyed in this war. There is no shame in this
You're all sunshine today! A truce with al-Qaeda. Well, that sounds interesting. Peace, fairness, no shame. Maybe we can sign the treaty in New York, it'll be all hugs and ticker-tape parades. Let's talk about the fair condi...

You have occupied our lands, offended our honor and dignity and let out our blood and stolen our money and destroyed our houses and played with our security and we will give you the same treatment.
Whoa! Hold your horses there, compadre! And, uh, buy a comma. We're trying to surrender. Now I believe you were talking about this "truce" option...

You have tried to prevent us from leading a dignified life, but you will not be able to prevent us from a dignified death. Failing to carry out jihad, which is called for in our religion, is a sin. The best death to us is under the shadows of swords.
You know, it really doesn't project a desire for peace when you talk that way. And I don't get what's so dignified about being dismembered by cutlery. What's second best, "mauled by a bear?" That's only slightly less dignified. Besides, a more technologically apt metaphor in your particular case would be to say that "the best death for us is to explode without warning into a blood-red mist."

Don't let your strength and modern arms fool you. They win a few battles but lose the war. Patience and steadfastness are much better. We were patient in fighting the Soviet Union with simple weapons for 10 years and we bled their economy and now they are nothing. In that there is a lesson for you.
Litvak (calling out across Tora Bora): Okay-ay! O.B. E-EL! You were right!
[SFX: silence]
Litvak (still yelling, cupping hands to mouth): I've abandoned my strength and modern arms! In what you said there was a lesson for me!
[SFX: crickets chirp]
Litvak: Come out and show me your steadfastness, I wanna win wars an' stuff!

Dammit, he's right. I'm never gonna get a chance to use my Barrett 50 Caliber Rifle.

...I guess I need a new hobby.


Happy Birthday, Trogdor.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

This Is Power Politics, Not Sharing Time in Preschool

A quote from George Friedman of Stratfor, discussing Iran's recent nuclear moves:

This, by the way, is a good place to pause and explain to readers who
will write in wondering why the United States will tolerate an Israeli nuclear
force but not an Iranian one. The answer is simple. Israel will probably not
blow up New York. That's why the United States doesn't mind Israel having
nukes and does mind Iran having them. Is that fair? This is power politics, not
sharing time in preschool. End of digression.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Prejudice Map!

I'm always falling so behind on my prejudices... No more, with this handy Google-fueled prejudice map!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Wages of ... Hastiness ... is Death?

345 people were killed in a stampede in Mina today.  The stampede took place at a part of the hajj (Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca) where pilgrims have to hit each of three stone pillars (" al-Jamarat") that represent the Devil with seven thrown stones in order to purge themselves of sin.  My condolences to the families of the pilgrims.
I don't know anyone with relatives on hajj, or I'd definitely call them.  Before blogging to make fun of the Saudi government about it.
So, uh, how exactly did that happen?
It seems the Saudi authorities and, well, everyone else, have different ideas about the cause of this tragedy.
According to ABC:
The site in the desert of Mina outside the holy city of Mecca is a notorious bottleneck in the weeklong pilgrimage and has seen deadly incidents in seven of the past 17 years, including a stampede in 1990 that killed 1,426 people and one in 2004 that killed 244.
Ensuring a smooth pilgrimage is a key concern for Saudi Arabia's royal family, which bolsters its legitimacy by touting its role as the "custodian of the holy cities" of Mecca and Medina, where Islam's 7th century prophet Muhammad was born and lived.
So important that the Saudis would probably have gone to any trouble to prevent another stampede, right?  And they did.  Of course. 
First, Saudi Arabia "sets a quota of participants, allowing every nation to send 1,000 pilgrims for every 1 million in population."  That's one in 1,000, and with 1.5 billion Muslims, only gets you to 1.5 million pilgrims.  But the same article said this year's hajj drew 2.5 million pilgrims.  Saudi population is about 26 million, so it's at least conceivable the extra million pilgrims are all locals, and not that the quota system isn't run properly.
Besides, "[a]bout 60,000 Saudi police and soldiers patrolled the Mina plain once the stoning ritual began Tuesday to direct pilgrims. Helicopters flew overhead, and authorities monitored the pilgrims from a control room through closed-circuit TV."  Please, no Saudi army jokes-- this is a family blog.
"They look indifferent. They don't carry out their duties seriously," Iftikhar Hussein, an Iraqi pilgrim, said.
Well, I think we can chalk that comment up to Iraqis and their impossibly high standards for personal security and competent government.  What else?
There are also entrance and exit ramps, and signs...
Thursday's stampede occurred below the platform, near one of the four big ramps. In theory, the crowds are supposed to enter the platform using two of the ramps and exit down the other two, but pilgrims often ignore the rules. Thousands of pilgrims were rushing to complete the last of the three days of the stoning ritual before sunset when some of them began to trip over dropped baggage, causing a large pileup, said Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, spokesman for the Interior Ministry.
Many pilgrims carry personal belongings tents, clothes and bags of food as they move between the various stages of the hajj.
"This was fate destined by God," al-Turki said. "Some of the pilgrims were undisciplined and hasty to finish the ritual as soon as possible."
Now I see. Destined by God.  Punishing with death those who were . . . hasty? Yes.  The wages of hastiness is death (Sura cite not likely forthcoming, though I've e-mailed al-Turki).
I'm sure God wouldn't care that "[m]any of the pilgrims are in a rush because of the time constraints on the ritual and their anxiety about past stampedes."  It's not like He would care that the pilgrims trekked from halfway around the globe to fulfil their religious duties if they finally succumbed to Hastiness.  A lack of discipline and patience, while it's not at the top of His list of sins, is certainly one of his, I dunno, pet peeves.
"This should not happen every year. It should be stopped, it's a scandal. There must be a way to organize this better," said Anwar Sadiqi, a pilgrim from Pakistan.
Sadiqi, you faithless whiner!  You think just because your government can split the atom that crowd control is within Man's reach? Didn't you listen to the Major General?  It's because God created Man from dust and clay, which are, if you don't think too hard about it, irredeemably undisciplined and hasty.
Past stampedes serve to test the valor and patience of the present pilgrims.  And those past stampedes, along with another stampede (in spite of, I might add, some at least half-assed efforts by the Interior Ministry to prevent stampeding) must mean this was God's will.  This is in no way a reflection on the feckless government in charge of Mecca, and anyone who insinuates otherwise is probably committing the sin of judgmentalism.
Whatchyagonnado?  It's not like people will stop coming.
I need a nap.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Close Contact of the Unspecified Kind

In today's NYT is a piece about how some people in Turkey have the avian flu virus but aren't sick.
From the article:

The group includes two sets of brothers: the two who show no symptoms at all,
and a set from the distant suburbs who developed mild symptoms after contact
with gloves that had been used to dispose of a dead duck. The fifth is a
65-year-old man from inside the city itself, who the Turkish health ministry
says had "close contact with a chicken," without elaborating on the
Uh, he is going to get such a ribbing from his friends because of this.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

"Best feature 'AVN' (porn) goes to...

... 'Pirates,' a relatively high-budget story of a group of ragtag sailors who go searching for a crew of evil pirates who have a plan for world domination. Also, many of the characters in the movie have sex with one another."

Monday, January 09, 2006

Gourmand Suicide-- Don't Do It!

This excellent NYT piece on the diabetes epidemic that's almost as depressing as last week's bombings in Iraq.
Maybe more so.
I can't really protect Iraqis from being blown up, but I could probably help out the obese (help them help themselves?).
Maybe NYC's many schmancy gyms should do pro bono to help out all the poor, sedentary people killing themselves with their forks.
Man, I need a donut.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Terrible News Day

Reading the paper today makes me want to go back to bed.
In the past day, Sunni insurgent suicide bombers murdered over 100 people in Iraq ( article)-- pilgrims at a Shia religious shrine, mourners at a Shia funeral, and police academy applicants standing in line.
The bomber at the shrine wore "an explosive belt under clothing packed with metal balls."
Insurgents also kidnapped the sister of the Iraqi interior minister, attacked gasoline tanker trucks and an oil pipeline (those whom the gods would destroy, they first give oil), blew up a number of car bombs in attacks against security forces, and killed 2 American troops with a roadside bomb.
"After news of the funeral blast, Secretary General Kofi Annan of the United Nations urged Iraqis 'to refrain from any action which could undermine Iraq's democratic progress.' He called the attacks the latest example of an 'increasing number of violent incidents' following the vote."
I suppose I should be happy to learn that Annan's comments are just as ridiculous after terrorists murder civilians in Iraq as in Israel.  And the same theme of "this constant violence is really getting in the way of our beloved peace--please don't dignify it with a response"... ugh.
Split the country up already.  Let the Baathists keep Baghdad, give the oil to the Shia and Kurds, keep around 30,000 troops in the Kurdish part to prevent civil war and discourage them from pissing off Turkey. 
Crap, I've strayed into politics, haven't I?  Well, more nonsense tomorrow.
Speaking of Israel (well, I was, a few paragraphs up...), Sharon's had a serious stroke and the Kadima party's as good as dead.  And along with, it seems, dies the hope of pushing everyone (right wing Israelis, most Palestinians) along into a two-state solution they can all be equally miserable about and then live with.
I need a beer.