Saturday, July 30, 2005

Canadians are just as bad at Math as Americans

Setting -- July 8, 2005, 11:27am, Customs, Pearson International Airport, Toronto

Aaron walks hurriedly away, suitcase on rollers in tow, from the standard customs booth. When he goes to hand his customs form to the man at the exit of customs, the agent signals that he must go to the customs special section. Aaron walks the short distance, with a slightly annoyed, slightly confused look on his face, until he reaches the line. He waits briefly before a customs agent signals that she is ready. He walks over to her station and hands her his customs form.

Customs Agent (looking at customs sheet): My, that's a lot of beer you have.
Aaron: Yes, I'm bringing it for a party.
CA: How many people are going to be there?
A: 50 to 60.
CA: Is everyone bringing this much beer?
A: Something like this much. Do you need to search my bag?
CA: That won't be necessary.
A: Ok, I'm kind of in a hurry to catch my next flight.
CA: When is it?
A: It's the flight to Montreal that leaves at noon.
CA (glances at the screen behind her): You won't make it, but don't worry, they fly every hour.
A (represses fume)
CA (keeps punching things into her computer, slowly)
CA: How much did you pay for the beer?
A: I don't know, I got it at different times. And they're different sizes.
CA: Can you estimate?
A: Figure there are 13 bottles, 5 are 750 milliliters, the rest at 12 ounces each. Let's see (does estimates in his head), about $50-60 US dollars.
CA: I'll just say it's $50.
A: Is there a problem with the beer I brought in?
CA: No, you just owe duty for it.
A: But I'm allowed to bring in 24 12-ounce bottles, or their equivalent.
CA: Yes, but you're bringing in more than a two-four.
A: No I'm not. I'm only bringing in 5-and-a-half litres, the limit is 8.5 litres. Look at the back of the form.
CA turns the card over, reads it.
CA: Ok.
A: So I can go?
CA: Yes.
A (repressing urge to scream at her): Thank you.

A hurries away in a vain attempt to catch his flight. Ultimately he got to the gate just after they had closed the doors, and he was indeed put on the next flight.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Seeking Travel Advice

Kathy has decided she wants to take some significant time off after the loss of the embryo -- to heal, to relax, to think, and to enjoy. She's going to take off starting August 9 and plans on being off through the end of August. Part of the time, she wants to travel, with me(!), and I'm happy to oblige her. So we're going to Copenhagen and London, for almost two weeks. It's going to be the first international travel (or anything longer than a long weekend) by ourselves in 3 1/2 years, so it's long overdue.

Does anyone have suggestions on where to stay and eat, and what to do in each of the cities? We've spent a grand total of 24 hours in Copenhagen previously, and have never been to London, so we're not sure what we should do (yes, we have travel books, but first-hand experience is always worth hearing about). And given how quickly this trip has come together, we especially could use the help.

A Long Way Down

Nick Hornby's book debut, the memoir Fever Pitch (which has since been made into two movies) was quite good, and his follow up, the novel High Fidelity (made into another movie, one which equaled the quality of the book), struck gold. His next book, About a Boy (yep, another movie), was entertaining but not as moving. Then came How to be Good, which was ok but plodded for large chunks. With that unfortunate trend before it, I read A Long Way Down on my flight out to Portland. The premise is unusual and clever -- four rather different people become "friends" when they chance to all meet on the same London rooftop ready to commit suicide of New Years Eve. Martin is a former morning show host, who has recently been released from a stint in prison for having sex with a minor. Maureen is a devoutly religious single mother of a brain dead adult. Jess is 18 and depressed about being dumped, and (as we discover) about the disappearance of her older sister and the effect that has had on her family. JJ is an American who's all alone in London, his band having broken up and his girlfriend having dumped him. The story is told in the first person times four, with each main character lending her or his distinct voice to the chapters s/he narrates.

Can a book about people who want to commit suicide maintain a sense of humor? To his credit, Hornby makes you laugh a number of times as you get to know the characters, mostly through the internal observations the characters make. Hornby has always had a knack for creating entertaining internal monologue -- he understands how to create a character in a way that lets the reader hear the character's distinctive voice via internal monologue. Given this talent, Hornby succeeds in making the first third of the book is pretty entertaining.

Sadly, however, Hornby decided not to make a novella, but a novel, and the remainder of the book bogs down. He wants the characters to grow, and to do so believably. He recognizes that real lives aren't going to be changed by miracles, and apparently he has learned since writing How to Be Good that people can only change so much (that defect being one of the reasons I didn't enjoy that book so much). Sadly, however, these characters aren't interesting/respectable/entertaining enough, and the amount of growth that takes place is too incremental. JJ is generally likeable, but his reason for suicide is so lame that even he realized it, and thus lied about it when it was his turn to tell the others why he was trying to kill himself. While Jess is entertaining at times, it seems like she's a puppet being jerked around from one behavioral extreme to another, rather than a believable individual. Martin has a decent reason to kill himself, i.e., his life is ruined, but there's so little redeeming about him, even by the end of the book, that I found it hard to care if he'd commit suicide. Only Maureen seems like enough of a human being, with enough reason to take her life, to respect and empathize with. However, she's only one-fourth of the book, which means that not only do you have to focus on the others most of the time, it also means that Hornby doesn't provide enough detail or nuance to her story. Perhaps her story can be fleshed out in the movie version (when I typed this, I thought I was being cute, but on a whim I looked it up and apparently not). Then again, that could be the explanation of this book's shortcomings -- maybe it's a draft of a screenplay rather than a well-developed novel.

Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

When Will I Learn?

At the end of the weekend or a vacation, Kathy often has trouble sleeping the night before she returns to work. Kathy was wound up when we got back from Portland, and the 3-hour time shift didn't improve the prospects of her getting a decent night's sleep. I was tired and likely could have slept pretty quickly, but we stayed up until midnight, to give her a chance to sleep when she went to bed. Still, she was stressed, so we talked out some of the things on her mind. It didn't take too long to relax her, and in the process, stress me out.

Now, three hours after she went to sleep, I'm still awake. You'd think I'd know better, because this isn't the first time this has happened -- I'm not sure what to think of the fact that I know better how to help her than help myself. Ugh!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Trying to Understand the Love of a Parent

Before we lost the embryo, a friend explained that he found it amazing how he could stare almost endlessly, with boundless love, at his sleeping newborn. I thought of that one morning this weekend when I found myself staring for quite a while at Kathy sleeping next to me, with what felt like boundless love. It was then that I realized the purity of the love that parenting provides, because with Kathy, in addition to the welling up of love I felt, I was wondering if I'd get lucky when she woke up.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

On the Road Again

Tomorrow we head for Portland.

This'll be Kathy's first real time to Portland -- I wonder if she'll love it as much as I do. Of course, recent events may affect her mood, which may affect her impression of the place. The weather's supposed to be great -- sunny, highs in the low to mid-80s, lows in the upper 50s. Beer, Powell's, beer, mountains, beer, the river, beer -- as much fun as it'll be, it's kind of a shame there's a wedding and related events going on while we're out there. ;). It's a cousin of Kathy's that's getting married, so she'll have lots of family (including her mom and sister) out there to provide a little extra support when she can really use it.

Be back Monday night.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

U.S. Involvement in Bosnia -- 10 Years Later

I found Richard Holbrooke's column on U.S. participation in Bosnia worth reading and considering. It's interesting to take a look at U.S. involvement in another country, from the perspective that a few years brings. Makes me wonder what I'll think of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in another seven or eight years.

Announcement Due

In a couple of hours, Bush will announce his nominee to replace Justice O'Connor. There are going to be millions upon millions of dollars spent on supporting/opposing the nominee no matter who he names. If it's someone to appease the Religious Right, moderates and liberals will be in arms. If it's a moderate conservative, the Religious Right is planning to attack, and I expect that liberal groups will as well.

I'm not going to like the nominee no matter who it is, but unless someone can show me that there's something more than an ideological quarrel (or someone like Janice Rogers Brown who wants to roll jurisprudence back at least 75 years), I want no part of the fight. It isn't enough to say I won't agree with the nominee -- it's the president's prerogative to name him/her. If we as a nation were stupid enough to put Bush back in the White House, then we as a nation deserve whatever we get as a result. Yes I want to limit the damage, but I also want energy to be focused on where we can do the most good. The "end of the world" mentality I see in the subject line of every e-mail has made me tune them out altogether (I haven't unsubscribed from their mailinglist, but almost all of their e-mails are deleted, unread). Maybe I'm in the minority of liberals, but I'd rather they prioritize than make every political fight BIG. Seriously, moveon will do battle no matter who Bush nominates, because he isn't going to nominate someone they agree with. That's absurd -- liberals didn't win the election, so we don't have a basis for asserting the right to approve the nominee. As far as I'm concerned, such a mentality severely affects their credibility.

Admittedly, a Supreme Court justice in his/her early-to-mid-50s could do a lot of bad for a long time. I guess what I mean by "the most good" takes into account the likelihood of success -- with 55 Republican senators, plus a likely defector or two such as Senator Ben Nelson, it'd take quite an improbable turn of events for the nominee to fail to get confirmed if it's simply a matter of ideology. There is of course the possibility of a filibuster, but I'm skeptical the Democrats would be able to pull it off (due to the nuclear option and how some of the Republicans in the group of 14 that "preserved" the filibuster interpret their agreement).

Monday, July 18, 2005

Miscellaneous, Melancholy Musings and Mutterings

But first, a haiku:

Awesome, glorious,
Heartless, random, cruel, vicious,
Beautiful Nature.

Says a man who used artificial insemination to bring about pregnancy in the first place.

Some people reach out to us and say kind and comforting things, others are at such a loss for words that their' tongues might as well be cut off. We've both been so appreciative of the first group, more than we thought possible.

The hardest part for Kathy has been having a lifeless embryo inside her -- the mind knows it's dead, but the body still gives her all the symptoms of pregnancy.

An August trip to Copenhagen and London could still lie in my future, and Kathy's as well.

As part of the post-transfer treatment, Kathy had been taking supplemental progesterone. With the bad news, she stopped taking it, and now she really misses it -- she finds that it kept her calm and composed. For her at least, prozac has nothing on progesterone (not that she's tried the former).

A number of friends have been more angry at our loss than we have, under some sort of "it isn't fair" mentality. I don't believe life is fair -- what did I do to win the birth lottery versus a child born into a life of malnourishment and disease who dies before age 10?

I want this to work out, I want resolution, I want Kathy to be happy.

A small silver lining --Kathy will be able to enjoy beer and sushi in Portland this weekend.

Tomorrow afternoon Kathy will have the surgery to remove the embryo.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Doing ok

I know a lot of people are sending love and support to Kathy and me right now, and I want to say thank you to all of you for your concern. In truth, we're doing ok. I won't lie -- we aren't all sunny, and we definitely are having some rough moments, but we're not sobbing incessantly or feeling like we're getting a cosmic screw job. We've been through difficulty throughout our efforts to get pregnant, and perhaps it's hardened us to the point where we can accept this latest setback fairly well. Even if it isn't that, we know that overall we're two incredibly lucky people, in that we have great family and friends, decent health, two sweet dogs, well-paying jobs, a lovely home, and most of all, we have each other. As I said last post, we'll try again, but if not having children is the worst fate to befall us, I think we're still ahead of the game.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Bad News

We found out today that the embryo (there was only one) has no heartbeat, so it isn't viable. We're sad, but are doing ok, all things considered. We've got two embryos that we froze at the time we transferred the others into Kathy, and in the next few months we'll try again with them.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Rove -- 3 Questions and Initial Take

If the leaking of the CIA agent was no big deal, as many Republicans are asserting now:

(1) why didn't Rove simply come forward when this issue started heating up two years ago?

(2) why did Bush explicitly state that outing a CIA agent was unacceptable and that anyone within his administration who was involved with doing so would be dealt with accordingly?

(3) why didn't we hear from the gobs of Republicans now defending Rove either before a special prosecutor was hired to investigate it, or at any other time before they knew Rove was involved?

I guess what I'm getting at is that I think the Republicans who are downplaying this incident are full of shit. For what it's worth, I also think folks who are saying that it's nearly impossible to convict Rove of the crime of knowingly outing an undercover agent are probably right -- that doesn't change the fact that what he did was reprehensible, and that he isn't fit to be in any presidential administration.

Call 1-800-aaron's-blog

I've been exchanging posts with a number of cool people, both on their sites and my own. But they don't provide their e-mail address, and given my desire to remain at least semi-anonymous, I've been reluctant to make my regular e-mail (which has my name on it) public. As of today, however, I've created an e-mail address just for people I've met through blogging to reach me. The address is argo0blog (at), and you can access it via my profile page.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Eastward Ho!

Even though I said that I wouldn't leave Kathy for the 11 days that I'd take to drink myself silly sillier in London and Copenhagen, the idea never really went away. Kathy hasn't been discouraging my ruminations either, now that the gobs of hormones she'd been injecting into herself no longer screw up her mood, and the gobs of hormones the pregnancy is inducing have been providing her with relative calmness. In fact, she's said I could go to the Great British Beer Festival in London and the European equivalent of the Montreal gathering, taking place in Copenhagen the following weekend. Sort of a recognition that even though her opportunity to gallivant has passed for the time being, mine has not, and perhaps I need to get such things out of my system.

In Montreal I was talking with the two people who were present and who also planned to do both beer events in Europe. Both urged me to join them, and I listened -- Montreal was so much fun, and Europe would be the equivalent and then some. Besides, when am I going to get the chance to take such a trip again?! My window of opportunity for such things is closing -- I may be able to get out there in the future, but likely it'll be at least a few years.

With Kathy's blessing, I can go. The trip should be a blast. I've decided I'm not going.

I want to go, but I don't really want to go now, even realizing I may not be able to go later. I'm already going to Portland next weekend (not for beer, but I'll get an opportunity for that as well), and the Great American Beer Festival at the end of September/start of October. Also, at the moment it seems extravagant to go by myself on a European beer excursion -- I should be saving up money for parenthood (and the possibility of Kathy not working for an extended period), as well as spending some on house stuff we want to get done before any additions to the family arrive. Another reason is that non-stop beer tasting for over a week, while a delight for the palate, is quite draining (though I suppose I could abstain during the few days between the weekends).

But the biggest reason I don't want to go is that Kathy can't be with me. She can't get the time off, and even if she could, she wouldn't have much fun following me around beer festivities in which she can't participate. Last year I went to Portland for the Summer Gathering, stayed out there for an extra week to attend the Oregon Brewers Festival the following weekend, and made my way to and from Seattle in between. A lot of the time I had a blast, but a fair amount of the time I was miserable at being away from her for such a long time. That long of a time away from Kathy is just too long for me. There was a day I particularly remember when I was in Mukilteo, which is north of Seattle and right on Puget Sound. The weather was beautiful, the water was gorgeous, and the islands off shore lush -- it was a spectacular moment, and I felt empty inside because Kathy wasn't there to share it with me. We spent 24 hours in Copenhagen in the summer of 2002 and loved it -- if possible, I'd want to explore the city in greater detail, and maybe even go places outside the city, with her accompanying me. Sad to say, neither of us has been to London -- I want us to experience it together.

So I'm not going, and I won't regret my decision. But I am looking into a long weekend in October for the two of us to go to London together, a last romantic weekend for just the two of us before she can no longer fly.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Rate Beer Summer Gathering Montreal

I had a great time this past weekend, starting with the Grand Tasting on Friday night:

Imagine ~60 of us at a small hotel conference room opening bottles upon bottles of beer, most of it fantastic (or supposed to be), though some of it is disappointing. Of the 60 people, 58 are men, about 8 people are over 40, 15 between 30 and 40, and the remainder under 30. You've got people from Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Colorado, Idaho, Oklahoma, Vermont, Wisconsin, DC, Michigan, Texas, Tennessee, West Virginia, California, Pennsylvania, and one hardy soul from Copenhagen. (and I'm sure I'm forgetting where a few people are from).

People arrive and either there's a finger-pointing asking who that guy is, or there's a "Norm"-like shout. In most cases you have people who take their beer as seriously as Miles from the movie Sideways took his wine (Kathy started cracking up watching the movie because it looked so familiar) -- though there's some milling, we sit at tables so we can take notes and rate the beers we are trying. Fortunately, it isn't gloominess - there's joy at sharing such wonderful treats with other beer geeks, especially when it's with people you've been conversing with on line for years. And of course the free-flowing beer, much of it with alcohol content high above standard beers, helps elevate the mood, as well as the volume. Rare bottles are opened, and people come forth from all over the room for their opportunity to try the nectar within. There are too many beers worth trying, and oftentimes not enough quantity of each for everyone who's interested to try, so it's impossible to try even half of them. There's often a twinge over a beer that you don't get to try, but it's easily assuaged by the next great beer you fill your glass with.

A couple of guys in their early 20s (known for years as having the most ratings while they were underage) show up with a 1/6 keg of a beer that's one of the Top 50 on the site. Later in the night one of the most esteemed members of the site (for both his palate and the sheer number of ratings he has) is encouraged to do a "keg stand" with it (in case you're wondering (and I didn't know what it was either), a couple of people pick him up and hold him upside down over the keg, while running the tap directly in his mouth) -- the member acquiesces and goes at it until it starts getting in his nose.

Bad beer is brought out for a laugh -- a "highlight" of the evening occurs when someone produced a can of the famous "Billy Beer," made in honor of then President Carter's ne'er-do-well brother. I feel fortunate to have taken a sip of this nearly 30-year-old beer that was bad then and disgusting now -- it is, after all, a testament to U.S. history.

Palate fatigue is inevitable, despite lots of water and bread/crackers/cheese. I begin passing on beers that I'd otherwise want because I know my tastebuds aren't fit to appreciate their subtle qualities. I'm one of the early birds, turning in just past 1am (7.5 hours after the festivities began), but not before grabbing a couple of bottles to take home. I took very little -- those who stayed up until the end (around 3:30) got some real treasures.

That was the first night. Saturday we went to one of the best brewpubs in the world as a group, Dieu du Ciel. Then we broke off into smaller groups to hit other brewpubs, drink more beers back at the hotel, or take in some of the city on a rainy day. I mostly did #1 and #2 on the post-DDC menu.

Sunday many people left, but 14 of us went into the countryside to hit three cideries, then a beer dinner at a nice restaurant, then a brewpub. It was a very warm sunny day, a great one to be out in the country. And though I would've been happy with fewer cideries, it was a nice change of pace to learn about something I know nothing about. In this case, Quebec is home to the a unique style of cider, the Ice Cider, which is made either by freezing the cider and taking the more concentrated product; or by using certain varieties of apples that don't fall from the trees and instead freeze on them (I'm sure someone will correct me if I don't quite have that right). The first place we went to had a tremendously tasty version of each type of ice cider.

And now I'm back in DC, after catching a morning flight and working most of the day. I've got lots of ratings to enter, but I'll have to get to them another time -- I'm pretty worn out.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Weekend Starts Early

I'm overdue for a healthy dose of manic behavior.

In a little while, Kathy and I are going out for my birthday (37, but who's counting) to a restaurant neither of us have tried (talk about adventure!).

Tomorrow morning I head to Montréal for three days of beer and cheer with 40-50 fellow members of RateBeer (malt musketeers, hop hedonists, beer brethren -- you get the idea), many of whom I've met at other gatherings, a couple of whom I've developed genuine friendships with (including at least one who comments here). This is the fourth annual summer gathering, and I went to the other three as well. Truly, I've enjoyed spending time with almost every person I've met from the site, and I've met over 100 of them. While hanging out with the group, I'll likely try over 100 beers, ciders and meads that I've not had before. Despite that, I'm quite confident that there'll be a sober moment or two.

My return flight is Monday morning, and I'm heading straight into work from the airport (I'll be a couple of hours late).

I hope everyone has a great weekend, and I'll post again when I get back home.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Sad Way to Start My Day

Apparently, I've been carrying around a cognitive dissonance with respect to one of my favorite comic strips ever, Calvin & Hobbes. This morning I realized that were it actually to resemble our society, Calvin & Hobbes probably should have ended in one strip.
Panel 1: Calvin is Spaceman Spiff in his flying saucer, a CALVIN! dialogue box at the top coming from the next panel.

Panel 2: Miss Wormwood is in front of Calvin
Miss Wormwood: Calvin, for the third time, what is the answer to my question?
Calvin looks puzzled.

Panel 3: Mom meeting with Calvin's pediatrician.
Mom: Calvin is having trouble in school -- he's having a hard time focusing on what's going on in class.
Doctor: Calvin has an attention deficit disorder. There's a medication that I'd like to try -- let's see if it helps.

Panel 4: 10 days Later, Calvin alone in his room with Hobbes the stuffed toy (not tiger).
Calvin: Hobbes, why are you just sitting there? Hobbes?
Every once in a while I really don't like where my mind's wanderings takes me.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Pregnancy Neuroses of the Week

Not that I have any experience in dealing with a pregnant wife, but I have to say that all things considered, Kathy is handling the whole pregnancy thing pretty well. One thing that really had been bothering her was the lack of symptoms. No morning sickness or other nausea, no aversions, no cravings, and no changes to her libido. One day when she didn't eat lunch before 2pm she started experiencing some double vision, but that's been the extent of it except for being tired -- she's been sleeping very well. In the last couple of days, she's been really tired -- either napping or going to bed quite early -- and that is what's finally convincing her that she's pregnant. Of course, she could always fall back on the two positive blood tests for verification, but apparently she really isn't ready to rely on science (never mind how she got pregnant in the first place).

Then there's the issue of what to eat. We eat fairly healthfully, and have for a number of years. But then these evil books say that she needs to get enough folic acid, or else the baby(ies) will never learn to walk properly and only be able to say "duh." And if she doesn't get enough calcium, the baby(ies) will develop fine because they'll suck it from Kathy's bones, leaving her doomed to osteoporosis. And she needs to get enough warrantium, gypscenium, borponastrum and dihydrogen monoxide else the baby(ies) will grow up to be lumps of coal. Et cetera ad infinitum. There's certainly the possibility that she's not getting enough of certain vital nutrients, despite our best efforts. As to whether she is, there's a wealth of info out there, much of it contradictory; there's a slew of pre-natal vitamins, but the fertility clinic told us they wouldn't prescribe any -- that's for the regular OB to do (keep reading); and she really needs all these vitamins and minerals, but somehow women have been giving birth to babies for thousands of years and have gotten along fine without the insane amount of pre-natal care and advice currently available. As you can see, this neurosis is every bit as much mine as it is Kathy's.

In 10 days we go in for the sonogram to see how many babies there are, and if everything's going ok. Assuming all systems are go, we then leave the care of the fertility clinic, and Kathy starts seeing a regular OB.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Thought Gang

One of the many wonderful things about the internet is that it gives you tons of books and music to consider that you otherwise might have missed. I discovered The Thought Gang by Tibor Fischer when I read a blog post (do a word search for Fischer in the link) that includes the book's opening passage. Intrigued, I checked it out from the library, finally finishing it this morning.

The story tells of perhaps the luckiest lazy man in the world, 50-something Englishman and philosophy professor Eddie Coffin. Coffin is an embezzler who has fled to France with his small fortune, which he expects will last him for the short duration he expects to live due to a lifetime of prodigious consumption of alcohol and food. The fortune is burned up almost immediately in a car accident, and soon thereafter he is held up by Hubert, a one-armed, one-legged robber who'd just finished his prison term that day. While Coffin has no money for Hubert, he does let Hubert stay the night in his hotel room. From their mutual need for cash comes an alliance to rob banks, a task at which they become improbably successful, to the point where a ridiculously over-confident Hubert dubs the duo The Thought Gang and attaches a different philosopher's philosophy to each heist. Coffin even gains a girlfriend, Jocelyne, a bored teller at the first bank they rob.

In between the present story, which also includes a Corsican detective as bent on wooing Jocelyne as he is hunting down the Thought Gang, the story of Coffin's life is told in bits and pieces as the story progresses, absurdity abounding in the vignettes told along the lines of this: "I suppose we've all found ourselves running brothels in Amsterdam without the proper training at some time or other." Among other flashbacks, we are also told the story of one of Coffin's colleagues, who would have been the luckiest man in the world had he not gone crazy and killed himself once he determined that karmic justice dictated that he was due for a gigantic comeuppance.

Philosophy is also fed to the reader, but never in an overbearing fashion, or even in a way that requires complete understanding to appreciate the book. One slightly annoying element of the book is that it is replete with words so obscure that it makes the word replete look as common as the word the by comparison. The protagonist/author has a particular obsession with words beginning with Z, but Fischer is kind enough to include a glossary that defines many (but not all) of them. Eventually though, the Z shtick becomes endearing.

The book is clever, funny, thoughtful, and outrageous. I highly recommend it to anyone seeking a read along these lines.
Rating: 9/10

Friday, July 01, 2005

More Odds

Who will President Bush nominate to replace Justice O'Connor?

3:2 Someone age 57 or younger
2:1 A woman
4:1 An Hispanic
5:1 A reasonable person
12:1 Senator Conryn
15:1 Alberto Gonzales
20:1 Janice Rogers Brown
115:1 John Bolton (ok, I admit this one is a joke)

My prediction/analysis -- Judge Edith Jones, a Reagan appointee on the 5th Circuit. The early names being bandied about clearly came from a list of possible Rehnquist replacements, and I think once the Bush Administration takes some time, they'll want to name a woman, given that the Court is now down to one. Judge Jones is considered fairly conservative, but I don't know of any controversy associated with her.

I have little doubt that Bush would like to name an Hispanic, an unrepresented group that he has actively courted. The most likely Hispanic nominee is Judge Emilio Garza of the Fifth Circuit. Ultimately, however, I think Bush will hold off here, on the likely correct assumption that Rehnquist will be gone very soon.

Regardless of who Bush selects, I don't think he'll go with a controversial candidate, i.e., someone who's already got a target on his/her back, e.g., Alberto Gonzales -- the Administration is now on record as saying that it would reach out to Democrats as well as Republicans in the Senate in making the decision, and if it is sincere on this matter, then this is a given. That's not to say he won't aim for a conservative, just not one that will engender a big fight.

Senator Conryn is mentioned as a former member of the Texas Supreme Court, and because the Senate historically has had little reluctance to confirm one of its own.