Archive for December, 2008

Christmas Cat Blog

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

I took this expression to mean that I couldn’t come in unless I was bearing presents.

Teapot Dome Scandal

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

We had our office holiday party the other day. We do one of those gift exchanges where everyone contributes a gift, then they draw numbers, and we go around with the option of taking an unwrapped gift or stealing someone else’s already-opened gift. We call it a Yankee Swap, but it goes by other names. I’m sure you’re familiar. A note, though — we do generally try to get useful or wanted gifts, not the humorous or useless gifts one sometimes sees in these events. There are usually a few funny ones, but rarely a pure “white elephant.”

Anyway, my turn came about a third of the way in, and amazingly, there had not been a single steal by then. I decided to steal my neighbor’s gift, a nice housewares product. It was stolen from me pretty quickly thereafter. I decided to take my chances on something still on the table, and ended up with a decent gift — a gift card to a store I don’t go to very often. But it was at least something I could use. Naturally, it too was stolen, and I faced a dilemma. I wasn’t particularly thrilled with any of the unwrapped gifts, and there were still a lot unopened. So I once again rolled the dice and opened one up.

I peeled back the paper and it started to dawn on me. Short, stout, handle, spout — check, check, check, check. Yes, it was a little teapot. With a little teacup! Just to rule out the faint possibility that someone had just used the box to wrap a better gift, I even opened the box. Nope, still a teapot. I heard a couple of “Oh, that’s cute” mumbles from the older ladies among us, but mostly I noticed stifled laughter. And sure enough, we finished the game without anyone taking so much as a second glance at my white elephant.

The kookiest thing about it was the instructions, including these: “1. Boil good water. 2. Give yourself the pleasure of using one of the many high quality teas available today. 5. Sit down with a lovely cup of tea. Take a moment to admire what a pretty scene you’ve created.” Yeah, I’ll get right on that. And to top it off, the box had a Barnes & Noble label on it, meaning that someone went in a Barnes & Noble, looked around at all the useful, noncraptacular gifts available today, and picked this gem. (The idea is so unlikely that I’m convinced someone just regifted.)

I don’t want to disparage whoever brought this thing. I’m sure it would be a fine gift for someone who drinks tea. I don’t (at least not hot tea). Of course, someone who drinks hot tea would already have plenty of teapots and teacups. So the box sat on the edge of my desk for a few days, with me occasionally pondering just what the hell to do with it. I knew I would never use it. I didn’t know anyone to give it to. I figured it would sit on a shelf or in my attic until I could take it to Goodwill to give it away.

And then, a Christmas miracle! One of my co-workers came in my office and asked, “Are you extremely enamored of your teapot?” I answered, “I don’t think that’s the phrase I would use.” But she volunteered to switch her gift with me so she could give my teapot to some family member. I don’t want to know about that family dynamic, but that’s her business. I was rid of my little teapot! And even better, my co-worker’s gift was a gift card to a store I actually frequent!

I was planning on writing this post before this welcome development, and it would have been a lot more ranty. But I will trade a better post for a better gift. Someone should write a short story about this: The Gift of the Magunk.

Home Sweet Huh?

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Let’s say (hypothetically speaking) I were interested in buying a home, and let’s also say (not hypothetically speaking), I have no idea how to go about doing that. Can anyone recommend a good guide (a book is fine; a website preferable) to buying a home? Here’s a few hints as to the level of sophistication I need:

Example A: I have no idea how to figure out how much home I can afford.

Example B: I have heard of “points,” but I’m not sure I can define them.

Example C: When I think about “closing,” this scene comes to mind, and I am not reassured.

The ADA Goes to the Movies, The Sequel: The ADAAA

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

I have written quite a few times (here and here and here and here and here) about the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act to stadium-style movie theaters. (One of those posts discusses the same legal principles with respect to racetracks.) In short, there’s been a great deal of litigation over how the ADA applies to these theaters; that is, where the theaters have to put wheelchair-accessible seats in order to provide comparable lines of sight for wheelchair-bound patrons and able-bodied moviegoers.

Over the weekend, Howard at How Appealing alerted me to the latest in this ongoing saga. A new decision from the Ninth Circuit discusses at length the differing approaches of the circuits to the issue, and what remedy is available against theaters found to be in violation of the ADA.

I haven’t taken the time to digest the opinion completely, but the upshot appears to be holdings that (a) the district court couldn’t order the theater chain to retrofit theaters for ADA compliance if they were built before the applicable regulations were promulgated; and (b) the district court couldn’t order a nationwide injunction when the law in some circuits is more favorable to the theater chain than the Ninth Circuit’s position.

I have been predicting a cert grant on this issue for years. I’m not sure this case is the right vehicle. Perhaps if the en banc Ninth Circuit revisits the scope of the right, rather than just the contours of the remedy. But sooner or later, the circuit split will become untenable and the Supreme Court will have to step in.

While I’m on the subject, you may have missed the news that President Bush recently signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (that’s right — the ADAAA). Here’s a primer on the ADAAA, and here’s some more coverage (both of those from the defense perspective, but good overviews). The ADAAA clarifies some of the original Act’s definitions and is expressly designed to ensure that the ADA applies more broadly than some courts have interpreted it. Since it’s mainly focussed on what constitutes a “disability” under the Act, I don’t think the ADAAA will affect the movie theater cases. But of course, the Obama administration could decide to revise the governing regs or push for even stronger legislation. And let’s not forget the kudos to both Presidents Bush for signing the ADA and the ADAAA, even if the latter wasn’t highly publicized.

Be vewy, vewy quiet…the wabbits are hunting you

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

A couple of weeks ago there was a very thought-provoking article in Sports Illustrated about the decline of hunting in America. The premise of the piece is that the fall-off in hunting has led to a explosion in various wild animal populations. This isn’t always good. For example, the booming numbers of deer, especially in the northeast, have led to a rise in car accidents and Lyme disease. The article details some even more harrowing encounters between humans and wolves.

The SI piece reminded me of a very good Washington Post Magazine story about coyotes in the D.C. suburbs. The catalyst there seems to be sprawl, and I think the combination of sprawl and the demise of hunting explains this trend better than either piece does by looking at just one aspect.

But in any event, both articles are good and raise a lot of intriguing issues.

The hunting thing reminds me of when I was a kid. I grew up in a pretty rural area (although it was a veritable Metropolis compared to where Sebastian grew up). I never hunted — I did some fishing, which suited my personality better — but I knew a lot of people who did and I ate the occasional venison. The first day of hunting season wasn’t a holiday in my schools, but licensed hunters did get an excused absence that day. So many boys were gone that day that they might as well have not had class at all. Maybe if Sarah Palin ever becomes president, the opening of hunting season will become a federal holiday.

Coincidentally, this week I saw this article in the Minneapolis paper about hunters who save money by butchering their own deer (link via Deadspin). There’s even some video! Sensitive viewers can console themselves by imagining that the deer is just sleeping…upside down…and inside out.

Anyway, watch the video for more on the way hunting used to be: