Life As Is

...it being understood that Seller and Seller's agents make no representations or warranties
pertaining to the fixtures or state of repair of the World or any of its systems.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004
  Which Way is Up? : Don't know what to make of that last post? You're not alone. Such a somber, delicate sentiment and it's stomped on by those asterisks.

Hey--I presented my final paper in Advanced Public Mgmt. class today. A most excellent presentation. I was very sparing in my use of power point. And, people liked my idea.

I came home and made Kris and Sawyer sit on the couch so I could give my presentation again. I used to do that in 9th-grade speech class. Never really rehearsed the speeches beforehand, but then afterward wandered around looking for kind or unwitting people to be my audience so I could do the speech another time. Always looking for one last curtain call.
  November in Review : Four weeks ago I was hanging on every word of cutting-edge commentary uttered by Tom Ashbrook's guests (*) or the ol boys on MacNeil Lehrer (**), whereas now I'm more likely to tune in to Ira Glass or Chapter a Day. Or to talk to the person next to me, or sit in silence.

*And by that I mean whatever words they manage to get out before he cuts them off—in that Tom Asbrook way of his, that I admire so—to restate their idea for them and reduce it to just the right-sized piece for my discerning-yet-distracted-NPR-listening ear.
**Yes, I know the name has changed. I can't get over it. I still refer to the "Vintage Lounge," or whatever it is, as Gaidens. Are the U.S. and Canada WTO Members? No they're not, they're Contracting Parties to the GATT. You see where I'm going with this.
Monday, November 29, 2004
  Things I Would Forget If I Did Not Write Them Down : I've often thought that Prof. Komesar, in coining the phrase "majoritarian bias," could just as easily have said "majority bias." Turns out I'm wrong. It's similar to the difference between taxation and tax.

An ugly giant killer is three words strung together with an ambiguous meaning. An ugly giant-killer is a killer of giants who can't get a date. An ugly, giant killer is a killer who is very tall and can't get a date. And ugly-giant killer is a killer of giants, but not just any giants, the ugly ones .

There is no rule that says haiku has to be 17 syllables a pop. That is a myth and it's an evil one because it stifles poetry.
Saturday, November 27, 2004
  Mystery Guest Arrives—Eats, Gabs, Blabs :

This strange, but strangely attractive, man showed up on Thursday demanding turkey. We had no choice but to give it to him.

Volokh Commentary on the Commerce-Clause-Dope-Smoking Conundrum — here.

A new colorful SosySteps post — here!

Thursday, November 25, 2004
  Re-imagining / Five by Five : To go along with the series of posts at Eric's blog on re-imagining the law school curriculum (here, here, and here) see the series over at The Non-Billable Hour entitled "Five by Five—Law Student Edition." Five law-student bloggers each list five things that they would change sboput legal education. Two of the five posts are up, contributed by Mr. Poon and Buffalo Wings & Vodka (BWV over on my blogroll).

As far as the actual presentations on Re-imagining the Curriculum that will happen at UW Law School next semester, it appears as if there will be eight total, including one by fellow-law-student Ethan and myself giving "Student Perspectives on Curricular Reform." The rough ideas are coming together but I'll wait to describe it in detail until I've heard more of what ya'll think should be in there.

The other seven presentations will all be from law-school faculty or staff. Here is the list. The descriptions provided below are my own, and based on sketchy info at that, because I haven't been to all the meetings. In any case, you can get an idea of what they'll be about.

1. A presentation one of the faculty members based on her paper that will be published in the 2004 symposium issue of the Wis. L. Rev. Generally speaking it's about the role that social science can play in legal education.

2. A comparison of our first-year curriculum to that of some other law schools.

3. What do people mean when they refer to the "legal method?" This one, I assume is going to be about teaching methods (like maybe the case method, the Socratic method, etc.) but I actually don't know. It could be about "legal method" as a curricular outcome, as in the way that graduates should approach their jobs or something.

4. A look at the two-track approach to legal education used at some other schools. One track for those who will be practitioners, a second track for students who will use their degree for academics, policy work, etc.

5. A presentation on Case Western Law School's innovative "Case Arc" program, which integrates skills and writing throughout the curriculum (hopefully from someone on the faculty at Case Western).

6. Creative approaches to clinical experiences.

7. Institutional resources and barriers to innovations in teaching and the curriculum. I'm thinking that it should come near the end because it'll help take the ideas from above and focus them on what's possible.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
  All of the Important Information in this Post is Contained in the First Sentence [UPDATE: and in the Comments] : This is why I love Mixtape Marathon. It was the first thing I read after finishing my paper (a 30-pager) a few minutes ago. Now I'm off to begin another (a 15ner).

After being in grad school for a while the tendency to write about really technical topics that build on research from past semesters is way too tempting to pass up. (1) You don't have to start from scratch on the research. Who has time for that? Not me, I'm too busy googling Palindromes. (2) The more technical it is, the more sections and sub-sections and sub-subsection you get to have, and I like those. (Really--outlining is my favorite part, always has been).

So, the paper that I just finished was on non-violation complaints for intellectual-property rights under the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement. If you know about WTO stuff, this won't read like alphabet soup: Chile never should have left the FTA open to (what are essentially) GATT 23:1(b) claims for IPRs, which are not allowed under TRIPS as long as the Art. 64 moratorium remains in effect.

Yep, that's what the paper was about. I mean, that was the heart of it, at least. There was a lot of packaging. Anybody want to read it?

Now, for my next trick--the 15 pager--I'm going to go back to the basics. The impact of fed tax policy on state and local tax policy. Fed-state (mis)coordination issues are the friend of the Public Affairs student. I'm looking at partnerships and LLCs who participate in Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) districts but don't get the benefit of sec. 118 the way they would if they were an S Corp. I'm thinking that if they form a partnership with the city they can use sec. 721 to get the same effect, and that state TIF laws should help them do that. That's an untested theory at this point. I'll let you know what I find.

I'm writing it for my State & Local Taxation class, which I would recommend to PA and law students alike. It's a good class to take when you're not a home-owner, though, because the answer to every policy conundrum is always "more property taxes."

Now, stop reading this and go read Mixtape Marathon.
  Now That All I Can Think About Are Palindromes : For John Q's sake I thought to draft new titles for all my courses so that they would be palindromes, but my research assistant if off for the day. I did do a search and found some courses that might work. Only the last three are classes that I might actually consider taking:
Fencing – Evade me, Dave.

Cooking – Evil olive; A tip: save Eva's pita; Wontons? Not Now; (and my favorite) Go hang a salami, I'm a lasagna hog.

History of Religion – Deified; A dog! A panic in a pagoda!; Stop! Murder us not o' tonsured rumpots!

Womens' Studies – Sex-aware era waxes; women understand men, few men understand women (word-unit palindrome).

Seminar: U.S.-Panamanian Relations – Age, irony, Noriega.

Agricultural Econ of WI – Dairy myriad.

Lawyering skills – Some men interpret nine memos.

Legal Writing – Mix a maxim

Blogging 101 – Sis, ask Costner to not rent socks "as is"!
  It just Hit Me—My Class Schedule Next Semester is a Palindrome :
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
  My Major Contribution To The Blog Today Is The New Stylish Blogroll : It's got curves. Oooh ahhhh. While I'm at it I might as well come out of the closet about three blogs I read that are of the cutting-edge variety. Fafblog is unlike any blog you've ever read. If you like to take in the full spectrum it may be for you. Crooked Timber didn't seem at first like any great shakes, but then I realized it is. Club Whirled is a window into an amazing culture and all about the human experience on the one hand, and on the other hand it's nothing but a soap opera. But a well-written one.
Monday, November 22, 2004
  Add'l Announcements : While I'm making public proclamations:
To My Tax Study Group:You rock. Guys, sorry about missing what was to be our marathon study session this past weekend. I've been in full crisis mode for the last few days. But I'll be there on Friday (2pm-8pm) and Sunday (2pm-8pm). (Just as a side note to other readers: my tax study group is the bomb this semester. We've experienced a mind-meld a la george Bush and Condi Rice--only we talk about more important issues.)

To My First-Year-Property Study Group: Don't worry. Tax shot up to number two like a rocket, but you're still at number one on the all-time list.

Ole Thanks for buying me dinner last week (at Curry N' Hurry--that name is ripe for lots of joke-making but I'll leave it alone). I'm still going to pay you back, but hopefully we can negotiate a discount from the full price of $7.76, paid in U.S.-dollars on money earned in Denmark. The dollar has been slipping against the Kroner lately, you know.

Finally, To All The Public Affairs Students In My Masters Program: You guys are awesome. As often happens, one of you said in class today "Well, I'm just playing the devil's advocate here, but..." Let me just say again--I love that. The environment in a Public Affairs classroom is so grounded and healthy. It's all about trying to figure out what you stand for, and if you're arguing the other side for a second it's appropriate to call attention to the fact that you're just being a devil's advocate. At the law school NOBODY does that; the words aren't tethered to anything.
  Earth-Shattering News : A big public congrats to Sol, Eric, and Hatch for passing the Cal bar exam. As we all know, it's a fraking hard test to pass. Passage was less than 50-percent. But let us look into this a bit. Only people who aren't afraid of earthquakes would move to California... hmmmm... me thinks that the population of test-takers may have been skewed toward the non-thinking classes. (The unintelligensia, as it were.) With that competition I would hope that my boys would all make it into the top 1/2.

Alright, I just inadvertently slammed the all the people from Wisconsin who took the exam and didn't pass--of which there were quite a few. Didn't mean it. Take it back. The earthquake theory doesn't have a solid foundation anyway.

(I should be British, I really should.)

...For all we know the earthquake factor works in exactly the opposite way--only people who are inordinantly confident take the California bar exam, or people who are so smart that they're going to make lots of money very quickly and retire at age 35 to a low-tax state.

Bottom line, we can't measure whatever San-Andreas-fault effect there might be. And in any case, it's a hard test.

[UPDATE: I may have hit a raw nerve with this post. Check out the comments, where Eric posted a whole truckload of information from the California State Bar website, presumably so that readers won't get their information about the exam from me alone. I think his point is that the numbers look different when broken down into first-time and repeat test-takers, and then further based on schooling.]
Saturday, November 20, 2004
  There is exactly one month remaining in the semester :

That means I'm 30 steps from home.

  Actions Speak Louder than Words : Rather than give you my usual late-November lament about how the blue skies of autumn have given way to the gray skies of winter and--even worse--about how the semester is charging through that gray wall that divides the regular class period from the exam period, I was inspired to change my settings.

Practical tips for people like me who don't know jack about html but who like to charge ahead blindly fiddling with their blog's source page. One, hit "ctrl a, ctrl c" every ten seconds. Disaster can strike at any moment, and you need to be ready for it when it happens. Two, rather than starting off with the blogger template that is closest to what you want, you're better starting off with a clean canvas. Pick with the simplest one you can find and work from there.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
  Haven't Been Thinking About The State Of The Greater World Much Lately : Madison residents (and meatfood lovers everywhere) will observe that Bob Mould's banner today features our own unmistakable Oscar Mayer Wiener.

The text reads "win me for the day." Hmmmmmmmm, wonder what Bob is thinking here?

For a taste of Bob's more serious side, here's one of his post-election posts. I'll give you a quote:

I sense we are entering a period in our history where the alleged majority will, as a way to divide the masses and advance an extreme religious agenda, demonize the "gay lifestyle"; I hope they are ready to watch the teen suicide rates increase over the next few years.

Sobering thought. He's absolutely right. (By the way, if you follow the link, it's interesting to see where he goes with it. )

Lately thoughts like that have hit me harder than they used to. These two kids we're raising (OK, one raising, one rising), they're lucky, I know that already, because they've got K and me. But this world of ours.... Not what I ordered. Wrong time to be writing discrimination into the constitution--right as I am getting psyched up to raise a family. I'm going to make some serious noise if I have to.

Of course, the "serious noise" thing doesn't exactly feel right, either. Brings me back to the banner above: "A quiet and uninteresting life." I've been following Bob Mould a long time, tracing his trajectory all the way from his 80's band Husker Du to his "quiet and uninteresting life" today. His life is far from boring--peace of mind is what he's talking about. That sounds nice.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
  To The Guy Sitting Next To Me In The Computer Lab : What's happened? It has been almost a full 30 seconds since you last coughed, and I'm beginning to-- Oh, there you go.
  That Fine Line Between Information and Advice : I was talking with someone today (someone with no connection to the law school) about what I know of the tax consequences of selling a secondary residence. If it were a more difficult legal question I would not have ventured into the conversation, but I know this, so I was very tempted to spill my guts. DON'T WORRY, I didn't. I stayed well clear of giving out legal advice, and instead provided some very general information. Some readers may not understand why I had to hold back, but the fact of the matter is I'm not graduated, I can't practice law.

(Dear reader: test your knowledge. Why would a taxpayer prefer to sell a primary residence instead of a secondary residence, and what characteristics distinguish the latter from the former?)

I also included the standard disclaimer. Plus, because I'm a belt-and-suspenders kind of guy, during the our interaction I also sent up a few "I don't know" flags when in fact, I had a pretty good idea (J.--if you're reading this, I'm sorry!) and added: You'll have to be sure to ask your attorney about that part.

That, combined with the fact that the person with whom I was speaking knows darn well that I'm only a student and not an atty, was enough to cover me. Thank goodness I'm not an atty; if I was I wouldn't have time to post this because I'd be too busy scrambling to write the person a follow-up letter to clarify the fact that I haven't been retained as a result of our conversation.

What a mess. I am only half joking, now, in invoking the famous words that Uncle Ben uttered to Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spidey): "With great power comes great responsibility."
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
  MWAHAHAHA : That's how you make evil laughter, I just learned from Sol. When you do it under your breath, it's the sound of fate biting you back as you pretend to laugh at yourself.
  Personnel Changes : Dear Readers,

As you know, my blog is now entering its second term. There will be the inevitable reshuffling of cabinet positions as I turn my attention away from building up readership (which I don't have to worry about for another four years) toward the subject that will become my new focus: foreign policy, I'm thinking, or maybe faith-based initiatives.

Here are some new changes that will take effect on Jan. 25:

My new secretary of state will be Colin Powell. It's true that he fails to meet two key prerequisites for the position: (1) extremely scary looking, and (2) former-competitive figure skater. But he's got good computer skills, and I'm willing to overlook his shortcomings.

Also, except on Sundays, when he will continue to pen his "On Language" column, William Safire will be retiring from the position of as NYT-Columnist-Who-Constantly-Bugs-The-Crap-Out-Of-Me. Undoubtedly, the post will be filled by Thomas Friedman.

Finally, I myself will be going on mental sabbatical for at least the next six weeks. Not to worry, I should be able to keep the blog from drifting too far off course by recycling old posts. (Note: this is a departure my current policy of recycling old themes, which has been in place for over a year.) Once that starts to grow stale I will try to bring in a guest blogger or two, but I can't talk about that right now because I'm in middle of contract negotiations.

Keeping you informed about life *as is,*

Saturday, November 13, 2004
  Free Wireless + Laptop + caffeine = Procrastination : It's always too bad when you're at a coffee shop and the people sitting next to you who were speaking a cool foreign language get up and leave.

I'm at a chain-type establishment that shall remain nameless. The place is playing Ray Charles's music (exclusively) and prominently displaying his CDs, obviously in return for some huge pay-out from whoever is marketing the Ray Charles movie that just came out. Commerce gone amuck, I don't like it when it gets so sneaky and manipulative.

Check out the boy-shamen.
Friday, November 12, 2004
  And Now For Something Completely Different (From What I Should Have Been Doing) : I just spent the better part of two days on a major diversion. May just have been a flight of fancy, or it may end up being time well-spent. I leaned on some people for help, too, and bless their souls they came through, surpassing expectations. Thank-you, my good friends.

We shall see... but now it's back to reali-tay. Tonight at home, help Kris get her stuff done and both of us can get some sleep. Then camp out at the library w/ G-man, getting caught up.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
  Blog As Therapy : Eric writes:

"I don't really care about my spelling and grammar on the blog, since posting is therapy. Most posts take me less than a minute to type, I don't re-read them, and I never look at them again."

I always like to get the views of Eric (a fellow neurotic workaholic) to check them against my own. He's my own personal pundit. So let's test this hypothesis: posting is therapy.

First off, I definitely do care about spelling and grammar. My goal is to become progressively more articulate in English over the course of my life. It's up there with learning an instrument and building my dream tree house--all major components of my plan to avoid "the plateau" effect (a.k.a. mid-life crisis).

But onto the substantive point. I have another friend whose ideas incessantly rattle around in his head. He was given the advice at one point to "put them in a box" so he can leave the thoughts behind and focus on other things. Seems like posting could serve that (somewhat therapeutic) purpose for people. Dunno. It's interesting to me that someone would NEVER read their old posts. I might have to start a third blog and give it a try. Look for this future URL: www.BlackBox.blogspot.com. Three blogs? Definitely a candidate for therapy.

Maybe. For now, what I appreciate about this endeavor is the open book aspect to it. Posting forces me to take ownership of my thoughts and deal with consequences of what I say and think. In tax terms, posting is a REALIZATION EVENT.

And when I'm posting I think about language a lot (language is what attracted me to law in the first place). My old posts form the foundation of future ventures. I revisit them, draw connections between them, look for evolutions (devolutions!) in thinking, etc. Therapeutic? Yeah sure. It may be therapeutic for me in a different way than it is for him, but as usual, Eric is right again.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
  I, Brian, Seated In A Lateral-Support-Lacking, Ergonomically Evil, Law-School-Computer-Lab Chair, Have Risked Lower-Back Pain To Bring You This Post :
Alright alright. I do it for me, that's why I post. I've no one to blame but myself. (But chairs like these are a menace to bloggers everywhere.)

Family Front. I've added new photos to SosySteps. Someone asked me if Sosy is the name of our second baby, with Sawyer being the first. No, both names belong to the same little one-and-a-half-year-old munchkin. Sosy (pronounced "so-see") is the nickname, Sawyer is the real name. Number Two has not made his debut in this world... yet.

Re-Imagining Curriculum.Today was the day I got to sit in on a law-school-faculty working group charged with the task of "Re-Imagining the Curriculum." Committees can be unwieldy beasts, and I was generally impressed with the seriousness with which this group approached its task. And the people were realistic about what could be accomplished and how. Many good ideas came up and it was agreed that eight different presentations will be made next semester, with the hope that one or two of the ideas could gain some traction within the law school and form the impetus for change.

Yours truly, together with the one other student present at today's meeting, will be in charge of putting one of the presentations together. Developing story... details to follow.

Home Buyer's Class. Tonight is the second night of the two-part "First Time Home Buyer's Class" that K and I are enrolled in. The first class, you'll recall, was on election night and the woman teaching it let slip her not so favorable opinion about a certain president of the United States who shall remain nameless (a.k.a. the housing-authority-in-chief). She mentioned to some of us at break that federal money for her program has been drying up ever since, oh, I dunno, Jan. 2001. It'll be interesting, and kindof sad, to check in with her now a week later.
Monday, November 08, 2004
  If You're Going To Sleep In The Devil's Bed, You Might As Well Drink His Wine : So nice to relax with a glass of red wine after an arduous Civil Procedure class. I'm drinking Concha y Toro and appreciating words. Arduous--from Latin arduus, high, steep. Michael Ignatieff describes the marriage ceremony as "that moment when falling in love is replaced by the arduous drama of staying in love."

Concha y Toro is the winemaker. The wine is Casillero del Diablo. It's complex, which is a nice quality in a wine. That's true about it being complex (my dad will back me up on that) but it is difficult for me to take myself seriously when I am describing a wine.

Here's the thing. I was once a waiter at a froo-froo restaurant; didn't last long. The place served waaaaaaaay too many wines to keep track of and yours truly--enterprising young man that I was--quickly mastered the art of bullshitting wine descriptions. I notice some similarity between that and speaking in court, actually:

"Your honor, may it please the court, my client is fruity, smoky, well-balanced, round, and medium-bodied with firm tannins. I rest my case."

Anyway, about this C. del Diablo. I'm having the Cab Sauv right now but I've heard the Carménère is even better.
Saturday, November 06, 2004
  Link For Sore Losers II. (Election-Results-Map Fascination Combined With Post-Election-Anger Humor) : Link. (tks JFW.)
Friday, November 05, 2004
  Link for sore losers. Indulge in a little post-election-anger humor. : link. (tks Ocean.)
  Someone at work has now officially visited this blog : I've got irrefutable evidence (in the form of an e-mail exchange) that someone at work has read, or at least has visited, this blog. Everyone keep a close eye on me and watch out for signs that I'm wilting under the (conflicting) pressures, inherent in most workplaces, to come across as witty and uncontroversial. Will this change the way that I post, the things I say? I dropped an f-bomb a while back--a little edgy, I agree. Was it copacetic?

BTW, I'll have you know that I just checked the spelling of copacetic by googling "Run-DMC lyrics perfection." There now, that was both lacking in wit and lame, if not exactly controversial. I think I'm safe for now.
  tax headache--but in this case that's a good thing : I've got too much tax crammed into my brain right now. Just learned all about the Alternative Minimum Tax (s. 55 et seq.) and it happened before I had the old system down (before I knew there was an alternative!). I am fine with it, though. The reason I like my tax class so much is that my prof, the man himself, finds ways to give us a structure to hang it all on: the story behind the code. (Don;t you know there's always a story?) Compare alt. min. tax as a policing mechanism, pre-1986, with alt. min. tax as a revenue generating mechanism, present-day. When you've got a structure provided for you, it becomes easier to parse through the code, and a bunch of disparate sections start forming into patterns before your very eyes. Sometimes the pattern is ugly, as the law often is, but it's cool to get a look at it.

I'm still waiting for that Russell Crowe moment in "A Beautiful Mind" where the lights go dim and I start seeing patterns in numbers, cue the Ron Howard signature musical score. Keep in mind though that while mathematics may be beautiful, this is the law we're talking about. The law has all these odd growths and deformities that math doesn't have. If you look at the subject matter, a law degree is more analogous to a degree in linguists than mathematicians. Which is all just to say, the Russell Crowe moment I'm, imagining would have to be called "An Ugly Mind" moment. I doubt it would do well at the box office.
Thursday, November 04, 2004
  The Big NYT map : Win or lose, I LOVE looking at the big NYT map showing the election results in minute blue-red variations county-by-county. Maybe it's because I study property law and I just like counties. But I've always liked it even before my law school days. I appreciate the patchwork aspect. Those election-night maps are just ugly monolithic swathes of blue and red. (mostly red).

By the way, I don't think NYT.com has it available online. It's a special treat for the one-half-of-one percent of us who subscribe to the paper edition. I'll try to scan it and post it later.

Thanks to people for their comments about yesterday's picture. In person comments, I mean, which are the more popular form among my readers. Sol posted his comment online, but he represents the hip "youth" contingency. I try accommodate everyone.

UPDATE: check out this map that a friend just sent. A variation on shades of gray--in this case shades of purple.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
  Taking life *as is* means staying engaged in it no matter what happens.

Listen to music, eat good food, share your love with others.
  Oh Fuck : Fuck fuck a god-damned duck. Bush has a second term.

I wish I could pile up in advance all the things I don't want to have to read about happening. Save the time and lives wasted trying to reverse or undo it all. It's just so bad and such a waste. I don't know who to be mad at or what to focus on.

I can't spend time on computers and with tvs or NPR for a while. I need to be with people for otherwise I'll hit a wall. I need my son, Kristen, my family, sleep, good music, and the passage of time.
Monday, November 01, 2004
  Here are my official election night endorsements--see you on the other side :
Talking head of choice: Rather. He's got the best hair. But Brokaw comes in clearer, and Lehrer gets a better reception (at least in my neighborhood).

Essential snack combo:

Sometimes it's nice to turn down the TV and look at the computer. Here's the best website for tracking the electoral map: Electoral-vote.com

And let's not forget music: The Replacements (of course).

Be safe, everyone. Call me if you need to commiserate, celebrate, etc.


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