Archive for July, 2005

Further Thoughts on the Supreme Court’s Docket

Monday, July 25th, 2005

This is a follow-up to my recent Supreme Court-related trilogy of posts. The final one is here, with links to the others therein. I won’t complain now about the lack of substantive comments or links to those excellent posts, but I will take a moment to thank Will Baude and Steve Minor for the links. Sorry if I missed others; please forward them if they’re out there.

Anyway, the third post was about the impact a new Supreme Court Justice might have on the Court’s small docket. I suggested that it was important to know what the nominee thought about the size of the docket, and in what circumstances he or she would vote to hear more cases. Well, now we know that the nominee is Judge John Roberts. And via How Appealing, I see this article providing a glimmer of insight into that issue. The piece looks at some memos Roberts wrote while in the White House Counsel’s Office in response to proposals to relieve some of the Court’s workload. (I discussed some of this in my post.) At the time, the docket was about twice the size it is today.

Roberts wrote that the Supreme Court didn’t have it so rough: “While some of the tales of woe emanating from the court are enough to bring tears to the eyes, it is true that only Supreme Court justices and schoolchildren are expected to and do take the entire summer off.” Nice. (He was 28 years old at the time, by the way.) That may be even better than Dahlia Lithwick’s line (I can’t find a link now) that being a Supreme Court Justice may be the perfect job for someone under eight or over eighty. Roberts expressed concern that hearing 150 cases per Term (as opposed to 75 or 80 these days) gave the Court more chances for mischief, and for that reason was not at all eager for it to hear more cases. But he also didn’t seem to think that 150 was too much of a workload. And of course, Roberts clerked for then-Justice Rehnquist when the docket was at those levels.

The point I was trying to make in my post was that the absolute number of cases a Justice votes to hear is less important than the reasons behind those votes. I hesitate to draw too many conclusions from a decades-old memo written under outdated circumstances. But my quick-and-dirty assessment is that a potential Justice Roberts might not vote to hear many more cases than the Court is currently taking, but it would be because he wants the Court to respect its limits in our system, rather than because he doesn’t think it can handle any more cases. As always, your comments are welcome.

Face down in Cabo, but lacking the motivation to turn this into a decent post

Monday, July 18th, 2005

I have no motivation or desire to write this post. Call it a case of the Mondays or another in a long line of blogging doldrums, but I’m just not in the mood. However, since I promised a post recapping my escapades from last week I feel obligated to write something.

So, my friend Mike attended a wedding in Sonoma on Saturday of last week. I drove up to Sonoma on Sunday and our plan was to hang out for a few days, fish, drink, and catch up. On Sunday, we hit several wineries for tastings, including Ravenswood, Domaine Carneros (beautiful location, if nothing else), Castle, and Mario Andretti’s vineyard. Mike really enjoyed himself. I had a nice time and saw some pretty country, but I’m just not into wines enough to really get into the whole tasting experience. We finished off the day at Fume, a decent bistro on the outskirts of Sonoma, and headed back to Nevada that night.

On Monday, we headed for the Walker River near the Pickel Meadows Marine Base. The USMC conducts mountain warfare training in the region, but we came for the fishing. We would have had better luck with the Marines, because the river was moving too fast and the water was too high for fishing. I did see some deer, though, and a cool yellow snake, some hawks, a pair of seagulls, and an eagle.

After the unsuccessful day on the river, we headed back to my house, cleaned ourselves up and headed to Stateline, NV / South Lake Tahoe. We cruised through the casinos and finally found a place to hang out, drink, and enjoy a nice view of the lake. We ended up at “19″ the penthouse bar and restaurant at Harvey’s. Not much to say about that. It was a relaxing and potentially romantic environment, but it’s charms were mostly wasted on Mike and me – except that Mike fell hard for the bartender.

From “19″ we headed to “Cabo Wabo” – Sammy Hagar’s “signature” cantina. Having an entire restaurant dedicated to the exploits of the Red Rocker is akin to having… well to having a bar dedicated to the exploits of my next-door neighbor, or Milbarge, or that guy who sells cotton candy at the county fair. It’s a bit much. Not that that stopped us from enjoying ourselves. Mike decided that we should celebrate my 30th birthday (which was almost 8 months ago) with numerous rounds of margaritas and beers – and we did so. This turned the final moments of my evening into a rather unpleasant experience, but such is life. In case you are curious, though, it’s not a good thing to have a black eye because you puked so hard you burst a blood vessel in your face. Not good at all. Not attractive either, but I digress.

From “Cabo Wabo” we headed to “Club Nero” – the “hottest” nightclub in Tahoe. Well la dee da. Color me unimpressed. I spent most of the night severely buzzed and text messaging someone very special with whom I would rather have spent the evening. Anyway, after “Nero” we called it a night and I crawled into bed around 2:30 am.

The next morning (and by “morning” I mean “early afternoon”), we decided to head back up to the lake and do some kayaking. We put in a couple of hours on the water and got a good workout. * After that, Mike convinced me to return to “19″ in hopes of seeing his beloved again. Sure enough, she was there, but she would not come over and talk to Mike until I left him alone at the bar and wandered over to look out the windows. Then, the two of them seemed like best friends. Nothing came of it, from what I could tell, but Mike seemed to enjoy himself. I enjoyed my $10 Jack and Cokes and spent most of the time (thankfully) on the phone.

* Between kayaking and “19″ we tried to eat dinner at “Riva Grill.” We finally got a check two and one-half hours after we were seated, two cold hamburgers and no drink refills after we ordered, a waitress who abandoned us for the first wives club party of nine, and a valet (mandatory & free valet at this place, mind you) who later threw a cup of ice on us because we did not tip him. Why no tip? Because he gave me my keys and we walked out to the car. I’m not giving anyone money for holding my keys while their restaurant gives me shitty service and a cold, plain $14 hamburger. It’s just not going to happen. Also, when one throws ice at a restaurant patron because one didn’t get a tip, one is a pussy. Say something to my face, if you feel you’ve been wronged, but don’t act entitled to a tip because you held my keys for 2 hours at a MANDATORY valet parking lot.

We left town on Wednesday morning and headed for San Francisco. Mike had to catch a flight out of SFO, but it didn’t leave until late in the evening. That left us with most of the day to check out the city. We drove through the Marin headlands and out toward the Bonita Point Lighthouse (which was closed). Good Lord was it cold out there! There was a lot of fog, so our sight-seeing was very nearsighted. From Marin, we headed to Twin Peaks, hoping for a clearer view of the city. No such luck. Still foggy, still cold. Same story at the Cliff House where we had a decent meal and much better service than the night before. We headed south for San Jose, I dropped Mike off with plenty of time to get through security, and made my way through Oakland and Sacramento and back home without incident.

Friday Spies&copy

Monday, July 11th, 2005

1. Tropical Storm Cindy and Hurricane Dennis are causing trouble in the Southeast this week. Share a natural disaster story.

I think I have been through six or seven hurricanes, although a couple of them may have weakened to tropical storm status by the time they got to me. What’s funny about that is that I have not spent a lot of time in your typical hurricane-prone areas, even though the nickname of my high school sports teams was the Hurricanes (a geographical oddity). I have been pretty lucky — never had a house collapse or had to survive on looted food. One time, my suburban co-workers were without power for about two weeks from a storm, and they all got mad when I complained that the worst thing that happened to me in my downtown Crackton apartment was that my cable went out for about an hour. My favorite natural disaster story involves a hurricane that came ashore in North Carolina when I was at Duke, Erin or Fred or something. The eye pretty much passed over Durham, and the whole city lost power, except for the Gothic Wonderland, which has its own power system. (It’s fueled by your hate, so have at it.) Anyway, in the midst of the pouring rain and howling wind, a bunch of kids from my dorm went out back and started sliding down the muddy hill, like something out of Woodstock. Eventually the cops came and ended the fun, pointing out what morons we were for standing around outside in the middle of a hurricane. But it was fun while it lasted.

2. What is your favorite work of art?

I like Nighthawks by Edward Hopper (more here, and mentioned by me before here and here). I like how Fitz’s choice is so different from mine. His bistro is pleasant, personable, chatty; my diner is grim, moody, quiet. The bistro is a place of potential and possibility; the diner is a place of depression and lost opportunities and pessimism. Or at least that’s what I see.

3. Do you squeeze the toothpaste tube from the middle or the bottom?

From the middle until it starts getting empty. I get screwed up, though, when I buy one of those toothpastes with two inner chambers of different pastes, the kind that mix together on your brush. I always end up getting all of one and none of the other.

4. What is your favorite “cult” film?

I like Rocky Horror and Office Space and Boogie Nights and Happiness and Dazed and Confused and most of the Coen Brothers films.

5. Would you go into space if given the chance? Where would you go?

In the words of Pink Floyd, “just an earth-bound misfit, I.” I’ll wait until they invent a way to travel in space without nausea. Plus, there are too many places on Earth I still need to explore.

Two Truths and a Lie: UPDATED

Sunday, July 3rd, 2005

I posted these the other day, and I appreciate all the guesses (and Sherry‘s suggestion for the post). I will work through them in reverse order.

3. I did not attend, and was not invited to, my Mother’s second wedding. TRUE

My stepfather proposed to my mother one year around Thanksgiving, and then that Christmas, they went away for a little vacation weekend, and got married during that trip. So no one else was invited, and the only people in attendance were, I guess, the Justice of the Peace and some required witnesses. They just didn’t want to make a big production out of it, but I’ve seen pictures, and it looked like a nice, sweet time. The spot where they did it is kind of a famous point in a city I like, so I have been to the site of the wedding, but I wasn’t there at the time.

2. I did not have a black person in my home until after I moved away for college. FALSE

This one is the lie. I worried that, between this one and the one above, I would make my family seem awful. I’m sure I knew people for whom a statement like this would be true because their parents would have a problem with it, but mine never did. One of the guys in our little gang in high school was the one black guy in my graduating class. (I thought some readers would guess this is true about me for the same reason it’s true about Sebastian: like him, I just didn’t grow up around a lot of black people.) Anyway, our friend went by the nickname Spud, and one reason we liked hanging out with him was because he lived with just his older brother, who was five or six years older than us (read: old enough to buy beer). So we usually hung out at his place or mine, although sometimes we went to Steve’s basement because he had a ping-pong table. At least as far as we knew, Spud was pretty cool about being one of the few black guys in school with us, and would make jokes about being the token, etc. The last I heard of him, he was driving and got hit by a tractor-trailer, and got a huge insurance settlement, so he’s probably doing better than I am.

1. I once dated sisters. TRUE

I’m a little disappointed in everyone thinking I couldn’t pull this off. Although, on Fitz’s recommendation, I left it ambiguous as to timing. I didn’t date them simultaneously. But there was overlap, to a degree. Their names were Heather and Amy. Heather was two years older than me, and the brainy, responsible one. Amy was one year older than me, and the wilder, prettier, um…less responsible one. They went to our church but to a different high school. Their mother liked me a lot, but their father didn’t care too much for me, I think. Go figure. Anyway, I had known the girls for years, but the first dating-type thing that happened was after a church youth group carol-sing for shut-ins one December. My brother and I were in the sisters’ car. (Like us, they had to share a clunker of a car. Theirs was a beige 1976 Buick Skylark.) After visiting a few houses, we broke away from the group and went cruising around. Amy and I were in the backseat. She and my brother shared a bottle of orange Mad Dog 20/20, and I could taste it on her lips. We went out for a bit, and I remember going to that godawful Kevin Costner Robin Hood movie with her. Some time after that, Heather and I went out a few times, but she moved away for college and we lost touch. Amy gave me credit for getting her in to college, because she needed a trigonometry credit, and I tutored her — I was ahead of her in math even though she was a year ahead of me in school. During that spell, we went out a little again. As far as I know, they never got upset with each other about it. My guess is that it was never that serious for either of them, and they both liked me as a friend, too. The weird thing is that despite how different they were, I still liked them both — I wish I could have found the perfect combination of the two. So, it wasn’t anything major, but I did officially date sisters, so the statement is true. I was a playa. Their dad probably still hates me.