Thursday, December 30, 2004

What Does All This Have To Do With The Law? Hey! I’m A Lawyer And That’s Close Enough For Government Work.

Missing In Action - Not Really

So, where the Hell have I been after making a big deal out of getting caught up and getting the ol’ writing batteries more or less recharged? To tell you the truth, I’ve been sort of zoning out over the holidays and not dong much of anything.

Work Is Still Work - Just Not Much Of It

Work has been at dead slow and steady as she goes for the last week and a half. Our Supreme Court sets the holiday schedule for all inferior courts and most counties just throw up their hands and adopt it, figuring "that’s one less thing to worry about in collective bargaining agreements." As a result, we generally have four day holiday weekends over the Christmas and New Year’s season. Our local courts pretty much go into stand-by mode for these two weeks. Even the crazed chief judge of arraignment court goes on vacation (I mean, consider - for six vacation days you get two full weeks off, with pay!) so no one is trying to do jury trials or anything too time consuming. The general rule of thumb for the assignment clerks is pre-trials, sentencings, pleas, settlements, uncontested divorces, and no-brainer motions only. Because our office is almost entirely court driven, this means a substantially reduced work load for these two weeks. We essentially go to half-staffing for the duration.

I’ve been doing some light adminstriva sort of work - figuring out how we’ll spend the intern budget for next year, reviewing a couple of requests for advice from local police departments, trying to sort out the implications of the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004 for our concealed weapons charging policy, and generally wandering the halls with my coffee cup in hand, looking for people to talk to.

Home Away From Home

At home I’ve been house/dog-setting for the ex. She decided this was the last chance for a vacation with the kids before they are scattered to the four winds by all that adulthood stuff. Number 1 son graduates from high school this summer and will, we hope, be off to tech college. Number 2 son will be entering his senior year and, being a much more into high-school-as-a-life-style than Number 1, will probably be booked up for the entire school year. Number 1-and-only daughter is off on her own, in an east coast state with the current love of her life, trying to decide what she wants to be, now that she’s all grown up. So their mom comes up with a grand plan.

It starts with a call from one of those annoying time-share brokers. This one offers a cut-rate cruse to the Bahamas between Christmas and New Year’s with a couple of days in time-share condos in Daytona Beach and Orlando leading into dates of the cruise. She’s already booked the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s for vacation, so that’s no problem. The boys’ last day of school is the 19th and they don’t go back until the 3rd, so that’s no problem. What to do with the five days between the end of school and the beginning of the cruise? Visit Number 1-and-only daughter!

Now, to add to the merriment, Number 1 son is a typical 18 year-old high schooler. That is to say, he’d rather have multiple root canals without anaesthesia than spend more than four hours in a row with either of his parents, particularly his mother! So she bribes him by offering to take his best buddy, who is also kind of a pal of Number 2 son. Do you begin to see the picture? Mom, with three teenaged boy (a matched set of a 16, an almost 17,and a just 18 year old – the nadir of male adolescence) sets out on a whirlwind tour with four stops in six days before the cruise ship departs for the islands. When she explains this to me, I flash on "If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium" but years and years of experience allow me to keep my mouth shut. The only problem is what to do with the damn’ dog.

It's A Dog's Life

Well, Hell. I can’t take him because the condo association has a weird dog size rule - nothing more than 30 pounds - and Buddy, scrawny mutant Lab mix that he is, still weighs 50 or so pounds. The irony here is that I’m renting the condo from the ex, and the lease form she used for the previous tenants expressly stated NO PETS. (It’s a long and boring story, don’t ask.) Anyway, even though we don’t have a lease, and she’s willing to risk Buddy trashing the place, I’m not willing to start anything with the neighbors/association ‘cause we/she have been a little bit confrontational with them about non-owner occupation over the last four or five years. So, given that we live all of a mile, literally down the road, apart, I offer to stay with the mutt and run back an forth for a couple of weeks.

So far, it’s actually working out without driving either Buddy or me insane - well, more insane than when we started. My online classes went on break on the 22nd, so I only needed to use my own computer to access the online classrooms for three days - the grading and feedback I can prepare from any computer with Office installed. Which is what I should be doing instead of this. But it’s my break, too, so there.

The lovely thing about being here, rather than my place, is I don’t feel obligated to work on work or class stuff (other than the grading stuff mentioned above.) None of the working files for the upcoming classes or pending briefs are on her computer, and the work stuff probably shouldn’t be anyway. Nor do I feel any compulsion to do any of the dozens of little household tasks I have on my to-do list over at the condo. Out of sight, out of mind. I do swing by every day or so to swap out underwear and such and to check the email to keep the spam under control. And the regular junk mail, too. I’ll be going over shortly to post grades and feedback for the last week of classes before the break - thereby starting a week where I have no obligations at all, other than to the damn’ dog.

Goals, You Have To Have Goals (or is that Goa'ulds?)

I fully intend to take the opportunity to watch my backlog of DVDs so I can start the New Year with a clean coffee table. I’ve made a respectable start, if I do say so myself. I finished season 6 of Stargate: SG-1, the final chapter of my marathon re-watching of the entire corpus from season 1 on which was inspired by watching the season 7 DVDs when they came out a couple of months ago. Then I went through the first and only season of Eerie, Indiana. A remarkable effort that, were it offered on USA or TNT, might actually find an audience today.

After the surreal world of Eerie, IN, I watched the first season of The 4400, USA networks’ take on alien abductions and returns. I am currently watching set 1 of the recollected Rumpole of the Bailey consisting of series 1 and 2 and the made for TV movie "Rumpole Returns."(or maybe it’s "The Return of Rumpole" I forget.) Each "series" amounts to 6 episodes - a practice fans of English TV shows are quite familiar with. Set 2, consisting of series 3 and series 4 is waiting in the wings. Speaking of wings - I hope to follow that with season 3 of The West Wing. Sometime in there I’ll ,manage to get to The Office Special. God, life it good!

Hell Raising At Home For Fun And Profit -- Well, Fun, Anyway.

In between letting the dog in and out of the house 50 or 60 times a day and wearing a MisterDA sized depression in the new love seat in the TV corner, I’ve been rediscovering the mindless fun of Diablo II with the Lord of Destruction expansion pack. That and trying to figure out why it appears to make the wife’s computer randomly blue-screen-of-death-II reboot with an error generated by the CPU that indicates it involves a hardware or bus problem that may include the CPU itself. Wonderful. The first time it happens I recall Number 1 son complaining about the same thing when playing the online game Ruenscape on his mom’s computer.

He didn’t like playing on his computer, even though the problem didn’t occur there, because the 802.11b link was too slow. I suggested that he take some of his money from his horde and buy an 802.11g airport/router for his mom’s workstation to replace the 802.11b unit that was there, and an 802.11g network card for his computer. Seeing as that would mean spending about 70 bucks of his own loot, he asked for alternatives. I observed that there was a Cat-5 line running from one the router’s hardware ports down an air return, across the floor of this room to his X-Box. Yeah, says he, so what? So, take 20 bucks of your horde and buy an Ethernet card for your computer and I’ll help you install it. So we do that and Runescape runs fine on his computer. Still a tiny bit slow - the difference between an 860 MHz Pentium III with an 32 MB ATI Radon video card and a 600 MHz Celeron with a generic Nvidia card, I suppose. But no blue-screen-of-death-II crashes.

So, Diablo cause the same problem. I ran MemTest86 in standard test mode for 24+ hours with no RAM errors found. I opened the case an moved cards about to make sure the Radon card was getting air circulation - I even reinstalled the slot fan I’d used while waiting for a new power supply after the original’s fan died. I even tried returning to the onboard Intel video but the damn’ drivers won’t install properly and Diablo can’t find a video mode that it can use, so I’m left to conclude it is either the video card - a pain in the ass to replace as this is a PCI only mother board, or the CPU, an even worse pain in the ass to replace - tried to find a Pentium III lately?

More, later. I hear my 9th level Sorceress, Willow, calling. It's time to kick some more monster ass!

Monday, December 20, 2004

I'm Back!

I admit, I’ve been a little remiss in updating this thing the past couple of weeks. As I think I’ve noted before, as an appellate specialist in a prosecutor’s office, I pretty much write for a living. Creative writing, in a way, on deadlines that really mean something.

Now, by ‘creative’ I don’t mean I get to make it all up! No, that’s what the other side gets to do. What I mean is that I often have to find ways to present fairly mundane facts and routine applications of well settled law in ways that will not cause the judges and/or law clerks reading my brief to doze off, smashing their heads/faces on various items of furniture. Well, not more than once an issue, anyway. This is harder than you might think.


Contrary to the way it is portrayed in the wonderful world of mass market entertainment, much of the practice of criminal law is boring and routine. Take a look at this post by a public defender who is being introduced to drunk driving defense. Holdin' a Deuce? Then you're a pain in the ass. . . (Her title, not mine.) Trust me, it’s the same from this side. When I was doing arraignment court prosecutions we (and by ‘we’ I mean the APAs and defense attorneys) used to joke that the defendant’s were probably being honest when they said they only had two beers – the first one and the last one. Everything in between was just a golden glow.

Repetitive, unoriginal work of any sort is harder than unique, original work. I don’t care if it’s digging ditches or cranking out appellate briefs. That’s what I’ve been doing the last few weeks. Answering unoriginal, unimaginative criminal appeals. The sort where, when you strip away all the make weight issues, amount to a whine that the jury believed the victim (or the State’s witnesses) rather than the defendant (or the defendant’s witnesses). If I had a dollar for every time I have actually written that sentiment in a brief I’d be able to buy that Palm Tungsten I’ve been drooling over at Big Boxes R Us.

Anyway, once I manage to stagger home and up the stairs to the PC, check the dozens of spam emails that I have received in the preceding 12 or so hours, deal with the few real emails, and review and post comments to the two/three online classes I’m teaching this week, the last thing I want to do is write some more. Sigh.

Well, last Monday I finished the last of the October crop of briefs (with two days to spare) and have been occupying myself with things like returning everything to its proper place, filing the unending stream of newsletters, tracking down various treatises and practice guides so the current updates can be posted, and reviewing and making notes on the next crop of briefs. Amazingly, from nothing pending on Monday, I have gone to four due in February in the space of about three days. If anyone cares, the due dates are 9, 10, 11, and 15 February. What this means, is that I’ve had, in effect, three days off. So I actually have some energy to expend on the blog. Imagine that.