What I am doing at work: Finally, something terrifically interesting — a death penalty habeas case. Well, that’s not precisely true. The facts of the case, and even the legal issues involved in this appeal, aren’t that fascinating or unusual, as things go. But the subject matter gets me more invested than I do with a run-of-the-mill civil case. I would wager, moreover, that even a relatively-mundane capital case would be more interesting for most people than, say, determining whether the Board of Immigration Appeals’ removal decision was supported by substantial evidence. Anyway, this is about all that’s going to be on my plate for a while — the record is pretty thick, and the defense lawyers have been pretty good about making a record in support of the habeas petition. And, the real key is that they were good from the very start. With traps like procedural bar and exhaustion, if the lawyer(s) drop the ball on direct appeal or in state post-conviction proceedings, it’s hard to win in federal court. I won’t opine here about whether the level of deference the federal courts in habeas owe to state courts is a good thing, but it is what it is. So that ties our hands a bit. Well, I don’t want to say that and give the impression that we’re trying to do anything, one way or the other, but are hamstrung by AEDPA or something. It’s more that habeas jurisprudence mandates a particular vision, or way of looking at the case, that doesn’t always comport with “right and wrong.” Of course, now I’m hearing in my head echoes from arguments I had in law school with my federalist friends: “He wouldn’t have to worry about any of this if he just hadn’t killed somebody.” Can’t argue with that, I guess. And it’s not like they’d listen if you tried.
Anyway, that’s my major duty for the near future. In addition, I might dash off a few cases that have come to us via the staff attorney’s office. And I’ll do things like offer feedback to my co-clerks on their bench memos and draft opinions. I enjoy doing that because I’m a good editor and I think I help improve our collective work product, and because it gives me a little taste of what else is going on in chambers without having to do a lot of research. All in all, though, things have been a little slow for a while, relatively speaking, and it looks like it might stay that way until after the new year, which will be nice.
What I am doing at home: Nothing, and loving it. I made a concerted effort over the long Thanksgiving weekend to do as little as possible. I barely left my house. I slept a lot — an awful lot. I read — I caught up on my magazines, even. I watched a lot of television. It was a really nice respite, except for one thing.
My computer is once again giving me fits. I was on the phone with the good folks at Dell for a long time this weekend, and we have reached a tentative solution. I am going to have to re-load Windows from the CD rom, and basically start all over. I’m blaming this on Bill Gates, et al., because things would be peachy if I could just get rid of Internet Explorer, but I can’t, because it’s bundled into Windows. So even though I’m using Mozilla’s Firefox now, the viruses and spyware that infected my IE won’t give up the ghost. So what happens now is that when I start up, about eight or ten windows of IE try to load, with the homepage hijacked and attempting to load various plug-ins. Once I close all of those, my internet connection is slow and spotty. I went two or three days over the holiday without internet access at all. Our supposition is that the memory draw that all those IE windows are taking has something to do with this. I guess starting from scratch can’t hurt, but it will require backing up some stuff from my hard drive. The other hassle is that I have a wireless keyboard, and the DOS menus I have to use to reload Windows won’t read it. So I have to get a corded keyboard (read: borrow mine from work) for this operation. It’s so exasperating. What I really need is for someone to come to my house for an hour and teach me how to use Linux. I swear, I could make everything better if someplace like Microsoft hired me as a consultant. They need people on staff who don’t know anything about computers. I’m not talking about focus groups that dicker over the tone of the startup chimes. I’m talking about a full-time job smacking programmers in the head for allowing error messages that make no sense. Why is the computer a consumer device that gets more complicated the more technologically advanced it gets? It’s as if every successive Nike shoe had to be tied with more elaborate knots. Or if the new Chevrolets had a second clutch and required a hand-crank to start or something. It ought to be the exact opposite. And the fact that it isn’t is, to me, a failure of the marketplace. [/rant]
What I am reading: As noted above, I read a lot of magazines over the weekend. I regularly read Sports Illustrated, Newsweek (although not much anymore, and I’m going to let my subscription lapse), Rolling Stone, the Atlantic, Legal Affairs, Mother Jones, the ABA magazine and a couple of other magazines from various sections of that body, the New Yorker, the alumni magazines from my college and law school, Wired, and the New Republic (online), and, when it is actually in print, the Oxford American. Less often, and not every issue, but a fair amount: Harper’s, the Economist, Texas Monthly, the Washingtonian, National Review, and probably a couple of others I can’t remember right now. Also, I check at least the headlines on the main web pages of about a dozen major newspapers.
And I don’t know if this counts as “reading,” but right now in my car I’ve been listening to the audio version of Krakatoa, which is linked in the right-hand column. It is about the tremendous volcanic explosion at that Indonesian island in 1883. It’s good, but thick with tectonic details and Dutch names and sometimes hard to follow. I’m sure it would be easier to understand if I could see some pictures, too. It’s still interesting, though. But it takes a while to get through a twelve-hour book when you’re usually only in your car for the fifteen-minute commute to and from work. I like books on tape (or CD) when the trip is a bit longer. I had a Grisham book for the move here, and it was just as well I had to concentrate on the drive more than the story because the story wasn’t that great. I listened to Jarhead by Anthony Swofford, which was very good (highly recommended by Milbarge!), and well-read by its author, too. Nothing, however, will likely top the David Sedaris box set. That’s some good listening. Come to think of it, though…I must have let someone borrow those tapes, because I don’t remember seeing them in the move. But I don’t remember who has them, so if you’re reading, I want my box set back!
What I am listening to: In the car, the book. At home, I got Scheherazade’s mix CD, and it is wonderful. I’m really pleased with it, and have been playing it a lot. Thanks, Sherry!
What I am watching: I watched Miracle, the hockey movie, and it was enjoyable. I watched the “Seinfeld” special on Thursday night, and that was fun. I’m actually taping today’s “Oprah” Seinfeld reunion special. It’s funny: I think this will be only the second full episode of “Oprah” I’ve ever watched, and the other was a show a couple of weeks ago about swingers. I don’t want to say that we watched it at work, but let’s just say I didn’t have to tape it.
If anyone ever doubts the genius of my co-blogger Fitz, make note of his brilliant reference in Soupie’s interview of us to the movie Logan’s Run. Anyway, I happeded to catch a late-night airing of that film over the long weekend. A couple of thoughts (major spoiler alert). First, the only other time I had seen it was years ago on TNT or TBS or something, so I was pleasantly surpised by all the casual nudity in the future. Second, that movie is really bad. Not only is sending only one Sandman after Logan once he leaves the city really dumb, but the way Logan wins in the end is quite disappointing. The computer brain of the city asks Logan about “Sanctuary,” and Logan says there is no such place. And apparently the computer has no way to handle this bit of information. The inability to process this news actually destroys the computer, and not just shuts it down, but causes it to explode. Why anyone would design a computer to behave this way is beyond me. It must have been built by Microsoft. But fortunately, the massive explosions, in a domed city, don’t seem to kill anyone or even topple the dome, so that’s good. Overall, not worth watching.
Also, I caught the X-Men sequel. I guess it’s fine if you’re into that sort of thing. But a couple of thoughts (minor spolier alert). First, a shape-shifting mutant like Rebecca Romijn’s character would do very well as an undercover police officer, or make a lot of money allowing people to do stuff with certain people they couldn’t do those things with in real life, if you get my drift. Second, I think a real failing in the script is in the scenes in which Professor Xavier mind-melds with first the mutants and then the humans. Supposedly he is concentrating really hard on contacting all of them, and then concentrating almost hard enough to kill them. But we see almost none of this from the recipient’s perspective. All we get are a few shots of our X-Men writhing about. But if such an event really transpired, imagine the effects — even of a mind-meld short of a fatal one. Instead of writhing about like our heroes, most of the people Xavier brain-bonded with wouldn’t be able to simply lay down and cringe. They would be driving cars or sitting at meetings or riding on an airplane or pushing a stroller or walking the dog or something. Not only would his initial bond with the mutants allow others to see who the mutants were (although they might not make this connection when the person next to them starts writhing; but it could have been something like the scene in Men in Black when we saw who some of the “undercover aliens” were), the effects would have been devastating. Why not show us the car wrecks and confusion and general distress that would result from something like this? And then repeat it on an even wider scale when Xavier connects with the humans? I think the answer is that, even if he didn’t do it entirely with his mind, Xavier undoubtedly killed people when he made his connection — even if it’s only those driving cars, it would have been a massive death toll. But that would distract from the “story,” and detract from Xavier’s moral superiority, even if he was forced to do it. Anyway, it wasn’t a major part of the movie, but it bugged me.
What I am thinking about: In addition to my computer troubles, I’m thinking about my job hunt, and starting to think about making some Christmas plans. And I’m thinking of an easy, legal, way to make a little money. It’s too bad the government doesn’t give year-end bonuses.
Also, I’ve been thinking about something else, but didn’t want to make a whole post out of it. What’s the deal with playoffs and conferences? I’m thinking specifically of the Big XII, which is putting Colorado up against Oklahoma this weekend instead of what it ought to do — a rematch of Oklahoma and Texas, which is clearly the second-best team in the league. And don’t you think baseball would have been happier, and the playoffs more compelling, if they World Series had been between Boston and New York instead of the measly ALCS? And look at the NBA, where the teams in the West beat each other up all season and in the East teams make the playoffs with .500 records. They should seed the playoff regardless of division. I suppose I can understand a system where the divisor is geography, like the NBA or the NHL. But it’s not like intercontinental travel is unheard of these days, and we’re only talking about a few weeks of playoffs. But it truly makes no sense for the NFL and MLB, where the leagues overlay each other geographically. The aim of any playoff should be to crown the best team, and the aim of any championship game should be to make it be a contest between the top two teams. Note that in basketball, even leagues with geographic divisions like the Big XII and the SEC allow for two teams from the same division to meet for the title. I think the Big XII is screwing Texas royally (no pun intended, for those who get that). And in the BCS era, it is doing itself no favors by having any chance of Colorado being its BCS rep. If Colorado pulls off a huge upset Saturday, it might be the champion, but I can’t say it would be the “best” team in the league, or even the second-best. And what would happen to Oklahoma then? There is a team that deserves to be in a BCS bowl game, but both it and Texas would probably be out of that mix if Colorado wins. To me, that’s just wrong. Colorado might pull a Buster Douglas, but that doesn’t mean it deserved the title shot.
What I am not thinking about: The rest of the world, but especially the Middle East. Oh, and Ukraine. I hope it works out, but sorry, you’re off my radar lately.
Nugget o’ info about me: I was thinking about doing one of those collection-of-trvia posts that were such the rage a month or so ago, so I’ll hold off for now. But I do have a post coming later today that will provide an update on my love life prospects. So stay tuned for that.