Category Archives: I am a total nerd, out and proud!

Great Moments in Standing Law

In 1975, the plaintiffs — four public inebriates and one taxpayer — brought a class action suit against various governmental entities in the City and County of Los Angeles to challenge the prosecution of public inebriates under California’s public intoxication statute.

Sundance v. Municipal Court, 192 Cal.App.3d 268, 270 (1987).

You lawnerds know what I’m talking about:  to have standing to challenge a law punishing public inebriates, you have to identify as a public inebriate.   QED.

Photo dump from the Droid

Random cellphone photos that entertain me without actually being worthy of an entire blog post.

Let’s hear it for the First Amendment:


Do these people know about revisions to the rules of professional conduct permitting brand names for law firms?

2013-01-31_12-21-45_684 crop

We love The Belvedere where you can get pierogis and they have a beer named after an astronomer!


So you can feel like a true carnivore when you eat your hamburger:


Stay on the sofa or get off the sofa — it’s so hard to decide!


In the DU Law School café.  Kids today have it so easy!


A neighborhood bar offers a bit of advanced wine-pouring guidance:


And finally, as a passionate avocado fan, I am always sort of annoyed that the Safeway thinks I need subtitles to figure out which avocado is ripe.


Non-mom non-skinny jeans

Looking for suggestions for jeans that are neither this:


nor this:


which by the way, the good folks at J. Crew call “toothpick jeans.”  I guess that’s skinnier than skinny jeans?  Seriously, I’d rather not look like the top photo, but I’d also prefer not to look like I’m trying to relive my 20s.  Actually, not *my* 20s:


but perhaps someone else’s 20s.  The 20s of a much hipper, better-dressed person.  But when even Talbots is offering this


—  combining the dorkiness of Mom jeans with the awkward discomfort of skinny jeans — what am I supposed to do?  And yes, I shop at Talbots, perpetrator of looks like this


because they actually make [basic, non-plaid] office clothes for short girls.

I’m not just trolling for comments here, though that is always one goal!  I’m serious.  Where can I get non-mom, non-skinny, non-toothpick, comfortable-yet-hip-for-a-52-year-old-lawyer jeans?

And if anyone says “eBay” — you know who you are! — you’re gonna have to show me how to be sure I’m not buying someone’s used clothing.

Photo Essay

I know you’ve all been on the edges of your seats to see my photo essay, the final assignment for Digital Photography 201 at Illuminate Workshops.  The wait is over!  Of course, just in time for the final class, I had all sorts of legal adventures — trial prep! settlement! appeal! — and a major head cold.  So I didn’t actually attend the final class.  Or the make-up final class.  Or the make-up of the make-up of the final class.  What can I say – lawyers suck at non-law things.

The assignment read:

Decide on a subject whose story needs to be told.  … A story that is close and personal to you.

Shoot everything you can about your subject.

Make us see the subject from your perspective.

We were to edit down the photos first to 30, then to 12, print them on 11×14 paper, and present them at the last class.  But I missed the last class (twice) and I’m not good at following instructions anyway, so my photo essay has 20 photos, and is blogged, not printed.  It also reflects the fact that I ran out of time — even with an effective two-month extension — and had a cold.  Did I mention the cold?  So some of the photos reflect long walks around Denver thinking about my subject, while others reflect a bit of casting about my office last night for meaningful props.  But I think they show both my subject and some of the composition and developing skills we’re learning at (did I mention?) Illuminate Workshops.*

And the outtake … because nothing happens here without full canine supervision:


* How’s that for apple-polishing?  And I’m not even getting a grade!

Legal Reasoning: Multi-Use Technology

Because Carrie and I figured the rest of you were curious to know what happens when two high-powered civil rights attorneys use their finely-tuned analytical powers on important non-legal questions:*

Carrie:       where do children learn to put catsup on their eggs

Amy:         um, by osmosis by hanging around uncle tim?

Amy:         it’s disgusting, but it’s one of those great marital compromises . . .

Carrie:       lol

Amy:         for me it violates a sacred boundary:  between Breakfast Food and Not Breakfast Food

Amy:         now, you can eat Breakfast Food any time of the day

Carrie:       snort

Carrie:       i do put salsa on hashbrowns

Amy:         but you cannot mix Breakfast Food with Not Breakfast Food

Carrie:       so having leftover chinese food for breakfast is fine

Carrie:       just not if you add a bowl of cereal?

Amy:         yes

Amy:         for example, steak and eggs: wrong

Carrie:       i agree

Amy:         and scrambled eggs for dinner, also ok

Amy:         but scrambled eggs on pizza:  no

Carrie:       i agree

Amy:         ketchup is a Not Breakfast Food item

Amy:         putting it on eggs:  wrong

Carrie:       although we sometimes do have leftover donuts as dessert

Amy:         hmmm

Carrie:       but the dinner food is finished

Amy:         right!

Amy:         i think perhaps i need to refine the rule to say:  within any one course

Carrie:       plates cleared etc

Amy:         exactly

Amy:         you would not have, say, donuts covered with enchilada sauce

Carrie:       lol

Carrie:       because sometimes leftover donuts are not stale for dessert, but leaving for breakfast….

Amy:         excellent point!

Amy:         and i have no problem with cold leftovers for breakfast:  pizza; chinese; etc

Carrie:       right

Amy:         i bet people wonder how high-powered civil rights lawyers use their finely-tuned analytical powers on important non-legal questions…

Amy:         IOW, can I blog this?

Carrie:       snort

Carrie:       yes

Carrie:       non-leftover, non breakfast foods not acceptable for breakfast

Carrie:       unless it is a breakfast burrito

Carrie:       which has bacon or sausage

Amy:         wow – the breakfast burrito is right on the line

Amy:         yes you have to police it, though, to be sure it doesn’t have Not Breakfast Foods in it, like taco sauce

Carrie:       if bacon or sausage, it is breakfast

Amy:         yes

Carrie:       or chorizo

Amy:         if taco sauce + eggs:  wrong

Carrie:       hence, mcdonalds breakie burrito, wrong on many levels

Amy:         what does it have?

Carrie:       im not sure, but it comes with taco sauce

Amy:         blech

Amy:         wrong

Carrie:       plus from mcdonalds, wrong

Amy:         indeed

Amy:         but notice that we’ve isolated the actual tortilla itself as something that adeptly spans Breakfast Food and Not Breakfast Food

Amy:         hmmm

Amy:         further research may be required.

Carrie:       i think many bread items can be multipurpose

Carrie:       e.g. must be because I don’t go to the bread store often enough

Amy:         that’s true

Amy:         and rice porridge for breakie

Carrie:       true

Amy:         another starch that crosses boundaries

Carrie:       but eggs with rice, wrong

Amy:         agreed

* Lightly edited for order because, as I’m sure it will shock you to learn, Carrie and I constantly text over each other.

Nerd gear: dogs and photography

I’ve been trying to figure out how to combine photography practice with dog walks.  Before today, it has consisted of:



Seriously.. come.  Here.  No, over here.



Good dogs!

[Put leashes on ground.]



No!  Sit.  Staaaaaaay.

Good dogs!

[Compose.  Focus.]


[Pick up leashes.]

Let’s go!

Rinse. Repeat.

Until now!  I solved the problem with some gen-u-ine nerd gear:  a web belt and a large clip.

Now that is some seriously crappy photographic composition.  But you can see my nerd-gear dog-walking photo-practice hack.  And my ca. 1972 tennis racket.   Both the belt and the clip were available on, with the interesting side effect that ordering the belt — which has oddly knife-shaped pouches that will be perfect for dog treats — put me in interesting company.

Guess the pouches weren’t specifically designed for dog treats.  Anyway, all in the service of my continuing efforts to learn how to use my Nifty Fifty.


Absurdity Slider

No, it’s not a small, tasty, metaphysical snack.  It’s a review of a review — big time-saver! — and a digression into the meaning of life.  The slider is explained below.  (Look!  A teaser!)

I minored in philosophy.  At Swarthmore.  You’d think this would have trained me to overthink almost anything.  And honestly, I can overthink important things like the font in my email or whether to get the 90 Shilling or the 1554.  But I recently* read a review in the New Yorker of a book that I think may represent the gold standard in overthinking: David Benatar’s “Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence.”  The thesis: since it’s worse to suffer pain than to forego pleasure and since — in the words of the reviewer, “[e]ven the best of all possible lives consists of a mixture of pleasure and pain” — it is better never to have been born.

Yes, you read that correctly.  As the review notes:

The volume is dedicated to his parents, “even though they brought me into existence,” and to his brothers, “each of whose existence, although a harm to him, is a great benefit to the rest of us.”  (It’s fun to imagine what family reunions with the Benatars are like.)

But I think I’ve found the Rosetta Stone of disability discrimination.  As the reviewer explains it:

Benatar’s case rests on a critical but, in his view, unappreciated asymmetry. Consider two couples, the A’s and the B’s .  The A’s are young, healthy, and rich. If they had children, they could give them the best of everything — schools, clothes, electronic gaming devices. Even so, we would not say that the A’s have a moral obligation to reproduce.

The B’s are just as young and rich. But both have a genetic disease, and, were they to have a child together, that child would suffer terribly. We would say, using Benatar’s logic, that the B ‘s have an ethical obligation not to procreate.

They have a WHAT?

The case of the A’s and the B’s shows that we regard pleasure and pain differently. Pleasure missed out on by the nonexistent doesn’t count as a harm. Yet suffering avoided counts as a good, even when the recipient is a nonexistent one.

And what holds for the A’s and the B’s is basically true for everyone. Even the best of all possible lives consists of a mixture of pleasure and pain. Had the pleasure been forgone — that is, had the life never been created — no one would have been the worse for it. But the world is worse off because of the suffering brought needlessly into it.

Is this guy an android?  Everyone suffers at some point.  In fact, how does life have any meaning without suffering?  Hell, without pain, how do you learn basic things like not to touch a hot stove and not to listen to the Beach Boys?  I suppose if you never existed, you wouldn’t have to go through any bothersome learning processes.  But then, what’s the point?  I guess that is his point.

“One of the implications of my argument is that a life filled with good and containing only the most minute quantity of bad — a life of utter bliss adulterated only by the pain of a single pin-prick — is worse than no life at all,” Benatar writes.

He acknowledges that many readers will have difficulty accepting such a “deeply unsettling claim.” They will say that they consider their own existence to be a blessing, and that the same goes for their children’s. But they’re only kidding themselves.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is not The Onion and as near as I can tell, this dude expects his theory to be taken seriously.  On one level, it merits only derision.  Or this year’s Hitchhiker’s Guide Philosophy Award, an award I just started for philosophical arguments that measure up to my favorite ever, from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, explaining the existence of the Babel Fish:

Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mindboggingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.

The argument goes something like this:

`I refuse to prove that I exist,’ says God, `for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.’

`But,’ says Man, `The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.’

`Oh dear,’ says God, `I hadn’t thought of that,’ and promptly vanished in a puff of logic.

`Oh, that was easy,’ says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.

But on another level, the concept that it is better to avoid all pain than to experience any pleasure explains disabiliphobia.  It explains why the non-disabled world regularly projects on to people with disabilities a far lower quality of life than the latter actually experience.  This, in turn, leads non-disabled windbags like Peter Singer to opine that it is better for infants with disabilities not to be born or to be killed in infancy.  Benatar’s theory is simply the apotheosis of Singer’s: If it’s better not to be born than to be born with quadriplegia, where do we draw the line?  Better not to be born than to be born and later in life get the sniffles.  Perhaps it’s helpful to imagine this scale as a slider of the type I’m just now learning to use in Lightroom.  We’ll call it the Absurdity Slider:

The Absurdity Slider

Benatar took the Absurdity Slider and dragged it all the way to the right — up to 11 — where not only is it best to euthanize disabled infants, but it’s best that none of us ever have been born.

Given the highly accurate “that’s bullshit!” response most people will have to Benatar’s theory, I think he’s done us a service in placing Singer’s arguments along this all-important scale.  If only I had control of the actual slider.  Any coders out there want to help me develop a working Absurdity Slider, one that could tone down the absurdity in an argument the way you adjust the contrast in a digital photo?


* Yes it was in the April 9 New Yorker, but it is true that I only recently read it, as I have just now reached that archeological layer in the New Yorker pile next to my comfy chair.