March 30, 2007

Law school talent show

I went to the annual law school talent show this year. It didn't have quite the range of types of performances that it had last year, but there were more people trying to do funny songs. There were two bands with banjos. A couple of notable songs involving banjos were "Fat Bottomed Girls" from Queen and a Dr. Dre song I won't name here. Yes, it was very wrong stuff that was strangely amusing. Mikey Mel and the JDs played again, and Mike wore a suit jacket, tie, and boxer shorts, as usual.

I spread out some of our liriope in the backyard. Eventually I will spread it out more, and it will deter people from walking in the yard, or at least when a golf ball comes in it will just disappear (like Casey Martin's last year). Speaking of golf balls, one almost hit a neighbor while we were working in our yards. We are never safe. At least I'd rather be hit by a ball than a stray bullet, although that Nike commercial for their new golf ball with all that ballistic footage made me really nervous. I can just see one going through our house like that bullet in Korn's "Freak on a Leash" video.

The air was filled with smoke from a controlled burn in Oglethorpe County today, but we were convinced it was pollen.

March 29, 2007

Casting earthly shells

Along the highways we are often reminded that people feel there is meaning at the location where a loved one passed away. Of course, the final resting place is most important -- the grave, vault, or urn -- but we also take interest in that spot where the person's life functions ceased. Along the highways you will see crosses and flowers at intersections and curves. Families honor their dead and remind drivers that their work is dangerous.

We also mark these sites away from highways, even when the death is natural. We pause to reflect on our loved ones at these places. How can our feelings be explained? Do we feel that we can be closer to them at this spot? Do we want to see what they saw in their last moment to understand what it was like?

There is also a lot of meaning for one's personhood when life functions cease. A living person, even if brain dead, is a person. After death, there is a change in identity: the person is gone, and a body is left behind. A doctor treats a him or a her, but a mortician prepares his or her body for a funeral.

This distinction is usually followed by journalists in news reports. However, I recently heard a couple of deviations in reports of a missing person recently found dead. The journalists said that he (by pronoun or proper name) was found floating in a pond. Normally they would say his body was found. I took notice but did not understand why the deviation was made.

March 28, 2007

Old guy on international relations

I listened to Lee Hamilton speak at the UGA Chapel today about what the United States should do with its power. He is a former Congressman from Indiana, and he has been on the 9/11 Commission and the Iraq Study Group. He wasn't just another boring old lecturer; he knew how to give a speech. I guess that's why he got elected for 34 years. Anyway, he spoke passionately and sometimes decrescendoed to provide transition. His views seem pretty moderate. For instance, he said that although our country is justified in taking unilateral action to respond to dire threats, we generally should seek help from allies to accomplish our goals around the world. He said that the U.S. is the most powerful country but not powerful enough to bend the world to its will. He likened international relations to representation in Congress: he suggested that the U.S., like a Congressman to a constituent whose problem he cannot promise to fix, should tell other countries that we want to help them although we cannot fix every problem around the world. He said that our biggest issue is weapons of mass destruction, but diplomacy must be pursued with our enemies.

Hamilton summarized his advice with something to this effect: "We should be idealists without illusions and pragmatists with vision."

There was quite a bit of clapping. Let me just share a pointer on clapping: If you're one of those people who can make very loud, percussive claps -- the kind that stand out from the bleachers at a baseball field, sounding like a hammer rather than just a pair of hands -- please temper your enthusiasm when you are indoors and close to other people's eardrums. Use your "indoor" clap at lectures.

I looked for a quick lunch before going to the lecture. I was going to eat one of those instant Cup Noodles things, but I looked at the Nutrition Facts label for the sodium content because I know that's an issue with that product. OK, it had a four-digit number. You should not have over a gram of sodium with a small portion of food. I ate a sandwich instead. Do servings of Cup Noodles raise your blood pressure within, like, an hour? Because I feel weird after I eat those things.

March 26, 2007

The answer to the legal question: there is no answer

Quite often the answer to a legal research question is that there is no answer. I don't feel comfortable when things are pointing to that particular answer, though. Today I wrote a four-page memo on basically nothing, but not quite in the Seinfeld way. I felt like I should have come up with a little more somehow, by analyzing and extrapolating from the related material to come up with a more sophisticated version of nothing.

Random observations about news sources on online research systems: Westlaw has the Fulton Daily Report, but I cannot find that on LexisNexis. LexisNexis actually has the Jones County News from my hometown of Gray, Georgia, which is weird because it doesn't have many of the state's metropolitan newspapers. Westlaw is my friend right now, though, because of its "Results Plus" feature -- which is sort of like when Google adds special results in the right hand column when you run a search. You can search cases and get links to special results from treatises. Pretty handy.

March 25, 2007

Record weather

So we are experiencing record levels of dryness and heat for March. That is just great -- the weather looks beautiful, but that is deceiving because it is really destructive.

The cat that has been hanging out in front of our house now has a collar with a bell. To me that means someone has taken ownership of it. I don't have to worry about it starving or anything.

I have been thinking about making certain changes in the backyard to deter trespassers. One possibility is planting a cover of some type of monkey grass. A more dramatic idea would be to grow a big stand of bamboo, but I'm not going for Michael Stipe's style. Another possibility is to mount an anti-aircraft machine gun on the back deck and have it loaded up with a belt of ammunition ready to go. I would rather the junipers hurry up and grow.

I recently wondered how many lawyers work in Barrow, Alaska, and whether their legal market is served sufficiently. Amy said that at least if they're up there and happen to be on a Weight Watchers diet they can figure out how many "points" whale meat has since someone actually posted a number on the Internet.

March 16, 2007

I can hear that spring is here

Spring really seems to be here. First it seemed to be an assault on our senses with all its loud birds and warm blazing sunshine. We weren't ready because we feel like we've been robbed of our normal winter. But then finally this week I think there was a subdued, less blazing warmth with the nice spring smells that brought out my usual visceral reaction -- spring fever, if you will. That's right -- my viscera said, "Hey, that's kind of nice." Then I said to my viscera, "Why are you talking? I never hear from you." Seriously, though, it wasn't much of a reaction because the weather has been warm so often this winter. (Yes, it is still winter, astronomically speaking.) However, there is nothing quite like actually being in a cold region where the first time the temperature goes above 60 degrees is some day in April -- that's a spring for real.

The weather is very windy today. Something about a big storm system causing lots of snow in the Northeast. Here we had rain this morning and senseless wind this afternoon. I actually told Amy, "We need rain," and I felt like there must be an old person growing inside me. I was actually concerned about my new bushes, something that old people like. I also want my weed-and-feed fertilizer to get absorbed into the grass, something else that old people like.

A big noisy feature of this spring is the cacophony of birds in our backyards over here in our neighborhood. Farms have roosters, and we have songbirds with amplifiers. I think I saw one plugging up to the outlet on our back porch. The last time I went to the Chick-Fil-A drive-through I'm surprised they could hear my order over that loud bird in the back; I went there to eat a bird, not listen to one. If Rachel Carson hadn't written that book, man, I would be able to sleep in a little bit now and then. DDT would also be legal, and I might use it on the carpenter bees that have returned to our foyer window. Does anyone have some DDT left over? I hear it was good stuff.

One thing I do like about spring is Cadbury Creme Eggs being sold at the grocery stores. I love those things, although they must be in moderation or I'll get tired of them. One year Amy hid some from me and surprised me at, like, Halloween, and they weren't as good. Some people say they don't like Cadbury eggs, but I've also noticed that these are the same people who like lemon meringue pie and key lime pie. Lime and lemon make nasty desserts, so you folks can't criticize my normal chocolate and sugar.

March 12, 2007

Taxes

I have accomplished something on spring break -- filing our tax returns. I can't possibly imagine doing it on paper, but it is still a hassle even though I've done it with software and electronic filing for six years now. This is the first time I've done a return online, though, and that was nice (and cheaper for some reason).

There is the hassle of going through our documents and typing in everything, and there is also the element of fear. Yes, fear that I forgot something importan or misunderstood something. Because software doesn't actually explain everything, even though they mislead you into thinking they will. We have all these forms called 1099-G, 1099-INT, and 1099-WTF or whatever. Form 8863? What about Forms 1 through 8862? Did I miss something? And then we have to pay the company that does the electronic filing because the IRS hasn't figured out how to let us file directly in cyberspace, or else H&R Block has lobbyists keeping it that way.

Well, at least it's rewarding to get it done with. We won't have to pay Georgia this year, and we can look forward to buying some deck furniture for the spring or something with our refunds.