The Academy

Blogging about nothing.

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Friday, February 07, 2003
 
Thanks to Bag and Baggage for its recognition of our humble blog (with a link and kind post).

From Bag and Baggage:

In a considerably lighter vein than Colin Powell before the U.N., pay a visit to The Academy, authored by several recent law grads who surface periodically from their "regularly scheduled billings" to give each other rafts of grief, note questionable (and hilarious) jurisprudential linguistic choices, and discuss the finer points of rubber bath mat design. Loving this. [via The Blawg Ring]

Now, I must bill - and justify my salary to those who have graced me with a job.

 
Don't worry, Sweetie. Here are two words that should allay your fears: state courts. *smooch* Jen, to you I say this: Federal Tort Claims Act. And this: I am extremely envious that you have managed to dodge that knowledge thus far.

Tonight I'm going to see Texas folk-rocker James McMurtry. I'm excited about that.

 
I personally think that people have more fun when they are UNdressed in the water, but I guess that is too far beyond NG's scope of coverage. Even Sports Illustrated draws the line there.

I enjoyed Mindy's use of "sporadically." I think it's particularly funny since Cher instructed her friend Ty to learn that as word to improve her vocabulary in "Clueless." But then, the last time I approved someone's word choice, I was reprimanded for being inappropriate. Dave and I were guests at his friend Patricia's wedding last weekend. The groom made a toast in which he congratulated himself and his two brothers for having chosen wonderfully pretty, loving, occasionally "acerbic" wives. As soon as we clinked glasses, I whispered to Dave, "That was an excellent use of acerbic!" Only, I didn't really whisper. I had had one or two (or three) too many glasses of wine and so the whole table heard me and laughed. At least I was overheard saying something nice.

As to Mindy's concern that she might be *gasp* becoming a Republican, I don't think there's any reason to worry. Although, I'm not a professed liberal and I can't really see much of a difference between the two parties these days, so I'm not sure I can be any kind of authority on the subject. Also, I'm really busy trying to figure out what the hell FTCA is an acronym for, so I can't really spare much time to divine Mindy's political philosophy from her views on judicial selection.

I hope y'all have a great weekend!



 
Now, Mindy, don't be rash. You don't have to become a Republican just because you believe that appellate judges have to follow the law. I understand your argument that a federal appellate judge's political views should not matter during confirmation because these judges must apply precedent, and must work within the panel and en banc constraints. I do not fear conservative judges in general. I fear Bush's desire to appoint 100+ idealogical opposites to Reinhardt. Activist judges, liberal or conservative, are a bad idea. It is hypocritical that the same Republicans who whine about Reinhardt's opinions are pushing Bush's nominees. The problem is, these nominees will not follow the law, they will not follow precedent, they will push the law farther right trampling on our civil rights while misreading, misquoting and ostensibly distinguishing the precedent that should rightfully bind them all the while knowing full well that the Supreme Court cannot reverse every case (even if it wanted to). If Bush seizes this opportunity to appoint such people to our courts, he will screw us for generations. We all know how often the panel selection in INS, ADA, NRLB and other such cases is outcome determinative. I fear that these nominees will make up a majority of the judges on the appeals courts, and then 3-judge panels and en banc review will do nothing to militate against such activism. I am rightfully scared. But I hope I am wrong.

 
My favorite sentence from the National Geographic Swimsuit Issue article is:

(drum roll please)

“The whole issue is just a retrospective of how people have dressed to have fun in the water over the last century,” he said.

That is just terrific. How have people dressed to have fun in the water over the last century? I MUST KNOW. Its also funny in context, because this is the PR person's effort to explain that a swimsuit issue is in keeping with the National Geographic mission. Oooo kkkkk.

I thank Robert for pointing out that we shouldn't let the Bashman mention go to our heads. And that we shouldn't deviate from our original intent to talk about important things only sporadically. I also thank him for putting a counter on the site, which should serve to quickly deflate our puffed egos and disabuse us of the notion that anyone actually reads this thing. (When I signed on just now the count was at a whopping 00002. I find the five decimal places entirely unnecessary for our porpoises.)

I post this article from USA Today to bolster my argument that the DC circuit is by no means the second-highest court in the land. I refer specifically to the statistical discussion. I am also pleased with the article's effort to refute some popular myths about the Ninth Circuit. From much of the non-legal press, it always sounds like its just this group of freaks who never leave the municipal boundaries of San Francisco. Yeah. It's not.

Jen, you know that I was kidding about the Third Circuit. Who could think that the Third Circuit is unimportant when it has jurisdiction over the Virgin Islands and all those FTCA suits involving coconuts, etc.?

Ok. I was kidding again. Seriously, my "macrotheory" is that every case is of enormous importance to the litigants, and that's the only measure of significance that should matter. If a Bush nominee to a Big Square State circuit is a documented bad guy, then that should alarm Sen. Leahy as much as a nominee to the super-cool, extra-important DC Circuit.

I'll go even further than that though. Am I the only professed liberal who thinks that its Bush's prerogative to appoint who he wants, be they stealth idealogues or not? Am I the only professed liberal who thinks that if Estrada is qualified then the Senate should confirm him? Am I the only professed liberal who's kinda sick of democrats whining that "President Clinton only appointed moderates so you should too. Waahh."? Should this belief, as Robert argues, require me to turn in my ACLU card and relinquish my previously well-deserved (I thought) pinko status?

I hope not because if I haveta become a Republican Robert will break up with me.

 
Mindy! You can't leave us hanging. What's your favorite sentence from the National Geographic Swimsuit Issue?

Go, Ma-ark! Go, Ma-ark! Please congratulate your team and tell them I wish them the best (but not luck cause I don't think they need that).



 
Congratulations Mark! And may I be the first to point out that now we, members of The Academy, are famous. That's right, Bashman himself has mentioned our lovely little blog in a post on How Appealing. Of course, we should not let our fame go to our heads. Although the original intent of this blog was to be an internal bantering, and we never thought in a million years anyone else would be interested in reading this nonsense, I believe we should keep up the Seinfeld-like mantra "Blogging About Nothing" rather than let our individual internal censors take control over our posts.

From Bashman:

More importantly, though, yesterday morning Denise [from Bag and Baggage] noted how very pleased she was to have discovered the new group blog known as "The Academy." I quickly browsed on over to the site and confirmed that Denise's reaction was indeed justified. As it turns out, I actually "know" three of the contributors to that blog (if you define "know" to mean "have exchanged multiple emails in the past with"), and they are quite wonderful people. They seem to like me too, as posts here and here confirm. What makes it all the more cool is that I actually understand most (but far from all, mind you) of what they're talking about over there.

Now Mark, I look forward to hearing your stories of Moot Court conquest. Keep us all "posted"!

 
OKOK - This post will suck because it is on WEBTV at the hotel. We are in the Quarterfinals. No falling so far. MORE LATER.

 
Thanks for the link the National Geographic article. I tried to find your favorite sentence, but there were far too many options. The Cultural History of the Swimsuit? Well, I'm sad to learn that the once-venerable National Geographic has fallen on such hard times.

Despite Robert's practical (and probably correct) assertion that there is no point in huffing about deeming the DC Circuit the "second most important court in the country," I will join Mindy's rant. I concur with all of Mindy's arguments (except, of course, her dig at the Third Circuit and the fact that she missed the humor altogether in Leahy lumping Puerto Rico into CA2 -- hi, the PARADE ring a bell?). Here is my fuel to add to Mindy's fire. Although I can't deny that the D.C. Circuit hears a lot of "important" administrative law cases, I am troubled by the conclusion that such a distinction elevates the importance of that court. After all, the administrative state is not constitutionally contemplated. It hears cases that weren't even imagined when Article III was drafted. Are we now acknowledging that the role of the judiciary in checking the administrative state is second in importance only to being the final interpreter of the constitution? Seemingly, yes.

As for Robert's point that the current court is rife with former D.C. Circuit judges . . . well, I think he might be overlooking a factor. Working in Washington gives one greater access to the powers-that-be than working in, say, Portland, Oregon or in the midst of a big, square, fly-over state. More optimistically, it could be that because so many people think it is the "second most important court in the country" a special effort is made to appoint the best and brightest to the DC Circuit and that they are more likely to be elevated to the Sup Ct due to their best and brightest-ness. Anyway, I fail to see how the fact that in recent history more judges have risen from the D.C. Circuit to the Sup Ct than from other circuits signifies that the D.C. Circuit is the "second most important court."



Thursday, February 06, 2003
 
Congratulations, Mindy. Your critique of AUSA was witty, and got a "Bashman mention." I also take pride in the fact that our blog has been linked by the celebrity himself. Unfortunately, it will take all the huffing in the world to turn the tide on the "second-highest court in the land" remark. You forgot to mention the argument that the Supremes have come from D.C. frequently over recent years. For better or for worse, the designation is likely to stick, regardless of its total incorrectness.

 
On a lighter note, please look at this. See if you can identify my favorite sentence. Also, in my third link to How Appealing today, I'm pleased to report that HJB has posted my review of AUSA.

 
Here's a topic for discussion. In Senator Leahy's statement he includes the following comments about the D.C. Circuit's status as the "second-highest court in the land.":

"As I have said for some time, the Senate and the American people deserve to have an adequate record and strong confidence about the type of judge Mr. Estrada would be in order to support a favorable vote on this nomination. Such is not the case of the sparse record before the Senate on this nomination to the second- highest court in the land, and as a Senator I do not have sufficient confidence to be able to support this nomination.

***

The D.C. Circuit is an especially important court in our nation’s judicial system. It is the most prestigious and powerful appellate court below the Supreme Court. Congress has vested the D.C. Circuit with special jurisdiction over cases involving many environmental, civil rights, consumer protection, and workplace statutes."

Pardon me for getting a little huffy about this, but I think it reflects an insular view of what kinds of issues are important. True, the DC Circuit is the court that hears most of the important administrative law decisions in the country. But how important is the D.C. Circuit's review of an FCC order when compared to the thousands of immigration cases the Ninth Circuit hears every year? An individual asylum case is much more important to the asylum-seeker, that's certainly true. What a bunch of Yalies think is important has nothing to do with what actually is important in the larger scheme of things.

There is no "second-highest" court unless its all the courts of appeal collectively. Any of those cases that Leahy is talking about -- if truly important in the national scheme of things -- have a thousand times better chance of being heard by the Supreme Court than does the individual asylum seeker in the Ninth or the individual habeas petitioner in the Second. Harrumph.

Now, the Third .... that's true. That one isn't really very important. Or, seemingly, the First... which Sen. Leahy shrunk in his statement, as Bashman pointed out, by giving Puerto Rico to the Second. How does that happen? How do the staffers working for Sen. Leahy think that Puerto Rico is in the Second Circuit? I'll tell you why. Because they went to Harvard or Yale and they refuse to acknowledge that there are other circuits besides the D.C., Second and Ninth. Who cares about people making law in those big square states anyway? Bastards.

Thank you for allowing the venting. This just smacks of my Yalie colleague referring to state courts as "lower courts" her first month here -- a notion that she was quickly disabused of. Nonetheless, this likely Yale-imposed heirarchy annoys me.



 
Mindy and I were just saying the other day how, in our ultra-geeky law clerk universe, Howard Bashman is a celebrity. To have our simple little blog permalinked by THE Howard Bashman on THE HOTTEST blog out there is quite an honor. This is almost like Fox turning our lives into a reality show. Only, not starring Scott Foley.



 
I am thrilled to pieces to report that Howard Bashman, my blogging idol, has posted a permalink to The Academy on his fantastic site, How Appealing. I blithered at Howard earlier about the Scott Foley connection between the two ill-fated law shows AUSA and girls club, and he replied with this message:

Thanks! By the way, could you be the same "mindse" blogging over at "The
Academy." If so, I just posted a permalink to that new and entertaining blog last night.

New and (gasp) entertaining. Without a trace of irony, I have this to say: I feel like I felt when I was twelve and Sting sent me a signed photo in the mail.

 
Oh my. Digital Mindy. I think the band photo speaks for itself. What could that be a reference to? Rare that my name comes up in popular culture. Although there have been some notable examples that led to years of abuse in elementary school.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003
 
Would now be an appropriate time to point out the existence of a band named Digital Mindy and its album, "Falling Up"?

 
Goodness gracious, Robert, I don't think that we could make an entire sitcom out of the ONE Mindy falling story. Now, if we combined all of the Mindy falling stories, that might last a season or two . . .



 
HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa! My God, that's funny. I have not heard the "Mindy falling" story told like that before. I think we could make an entire sitcom about that one event. It would definitely be better than A.U.S.A.! I want a re-enactment! Oh - and keep up the posts Mark!

 
It remains an incredibly funny story. Was there a moot court competition going on in Chapel Hill that week or was it just the Mindy Falling event? My only memory is the latter. After all, I was there. Wasn't I?



 
I am thrilled that Mark has posted because it means he has posting abilities even while he is stranded in the South. I expect daily if not hourly updates.

No, that does not nearly rival my falling story. After several of the aforementioned meaty Bloodies, my teammates and I were walking back to our minivan along the busiest pedestrian street in Chapel Hill. For reasons that remain unclear, I tripped. Perhaps it was a ridge in the sidewalk. Perhaps it was a shoelace. Perhaps it was the sides of beer that accompanied the Bloodies. In any event, I tripped. But I did not simply trip and then fall. What kind of story is that? Oh, no. I tripped..... and stumbled.... and stumbled.... and stumbled..... for literally about 50 feet.... and then fell. The stumbling was remarkably like vaudeville tap dancing too -- you know the move where your hands scissor back and forth along your sides while your feet shuffle back and forth alternatively? It looked like that. For about a block. Ultimately I ended up on my ass anyway, with a large tear in the knee of my pants. My teammates helped me to my feet after they regained their composure. It took some time.

 
But, that is nowhere even CLOSE to "Mindy Falling."

Keep trying, sugar.



 
Why did he put a salami in the overhead compartment? I think that's gross. If my bag had been up there, too, and then smelled like his stinky salami, I would've been PISSED. Gay has nothing to do with it, Mark. No man should be expected to hold another man's salami after it has been in an overhead compartment.



 
I am already close to having a Mindy falling story. Mine involves holding a man's salami after our flight landed and his overhead goodies SPILLED all over everyone. A large, flimsy salami like package landed in my seat and there I was FROZEN, knowing a gay holding a flimsy salami in the South was probably not a good idea. The perky in me took over, I grasped the salami and announced: "Would you like your salami?" He took it away from me - real quick like. THE SALAMI WAS FLIMSY AND SAGGING. Picture it. Not quite falling, but awfully fun.

 
Huh. An excellent point, Jen. How indeed? Never mind Central PA, what about the federal drug laws? I smell a rat.



 
Also, how come Jiminez (the ACTUAL drug dealer in that story) only served 39 days in jail for trafficking 59 pounds of marijuana? In central PA, that kind of quantity will send you away for YEARS. Also, how come the Mexican border guards are so good at finding drugs when they are coming into their country? They don't seem to find them when they are leaving their country.

I agree with Rafael's assessment of Night Court. I, too, stand in its defense. THAT was quality television!

Speaking of quality tv . . . did anyone catch American Idol last night (mercifully reduced to just one hour)? I find it to be rather dull as compared to last year. The good performers aren't as good and the bad aren't quite as bad. Simon isn't as mean and Paula isn't even quite as dumb. Does anyone feel me on this (to quote the ever-so-eloquent Randy Jackson)? That said, I'm cheering for J.D. Adams. The Founding Fathers have taken a beating in the past few decades, so I figure their image could use a boost.

I wish Mark and his team the best in Chapel Hill. Having judged them, I feel pretty good about their chances. But, I'm really really hoping that Mark comes home with a story to rival the "Mindy Falling" story (if not a trophy).



Tuesday, February 04, 2003
 
In other news... Take a look at this gem from Yahoo!'s Oddly Enough:

MONTERREY, Mexico (Reuters) - Francisco Rivera knew the used Nissan Pathfinder he bought from the U.S. Customs Service had some dents on the fender and dings on the door, but he didn't spot the marijuana stashed in a false compartment in the vehicle's rear -- and neither did U.S. agents.

However, Mexican soldiers did -- and charged Rivera and his brother-in-law, Alfonso Calderon, with drug trafficking.

The Tijuana businessmen spent a year in prison after the routine check uncovered what U.S. Customs inspectors had missed -- 37 pounds (17 kg) of marijuana in a false compartment.

Now Rivera and Calderon are out of prison and have filed a negligence lawsuit against the U.S. Customs Service and the firms the agency hired to hold an auction of seized vehicles.

"Someone had an obligation to make sure the Pathfinder was free of drugs," said attorney Teresa Trucchi. "My clients have paid dearly for their mistake."

Customs inspectors stopped the vehicle's former owner Jose Armando Jimenez on Jan. 25, 2001, crossing into San Diego.

They found 59 pounds (27 kg) of marijuana inside its gasoline tank, but the rest of the cache stayed well-hidden in a false compartment between the rear interior and the outside panel near the wheel wells, court documents state.

Jimenez was convicted of drug possession and served 39 days in jail. Rivera snapped up the Pathfinder for $2,600 at Customs' September 2001 auction of vehicles seized.

After driving the car without incident for five months, the men were stopped at a checkpoint near Ensenada, Baja California, where Mexican soldiers found 22 packages of marijuana stuffed in the hidden compartment.

The Mexican trial court found Rivera and Calderon guilty of drug possession.

An appellate judge upheld the verdict, ruling it was impossible that highly trained U.S. Customs inspectors with millions of dollars of equipment could make such an error.

But as the men waged their appeals court battles, the evidence against them was deteriorating. The marijuana had been in the car for nearly a year when Rivera and Calderon were arrested -- so old it was rotting, a Tijuana attorney showed.

In January a higher court overturned the convictions and ordered the men released.

-- 2 things: if only they had known - the truck would have paid for itself, and, where can I get a Pathfinder for $2,600!! Sounds too good to be true.


 
The Post's review of A.U.S.A. states: "Perhaps Richard Appel, who wrote the pilot and is an executive producer, grew up guffawing over "Night Court," another series set within the judicial system, funny only by comparison with this one." Is that a bash of Night Court? I take issue with that. Night Court was hilarious and deserves utmost respect. The sentence should read: "Perhaps Richard Appel, who wrote the pilot and is an executive producer, grew up guffawing over "Night Court," another series set within the judicial system, and a helluva lot funnier than this one." So there.

 
I should advise my colleagues that tonight marks the debut of A.U.S.A., a new NBC comedy that details the whimsical exploits of a young Asst. United States Attorney. I have not known that many AUSA's, but the ones I have known have had no sense of humor whatsoever. From the looks of this sitcom, that is accurately depicted.

 
Marilyn says that the bath mat with the suction cups is fine. In fact, it is preferred. Of course, today when I set foot on the new one in my tub I slipped *again* because it had not yet sucked itself steady. My bathroom is the site of so much slapstick comedy. I will go to Origins today and see if the shiatsu mat is too costly for me.

Let's all wish Mark good luck. He leaves today for Chapel Hill with his Constitutional Law team in tow. I wish him good luck, of course, not in the competition because I'm sure he couldn't care less. However, I do wish him luck in avoiding jail. I spent a week in Chapel Hill at that Constitutional Law competition myself some years ago. The only things that kept me from going kooky and ending up in the clink were the delicious Bloody Maries served at 23, Michael Jordan's restaurant there. Those drinks eat like a meal. Actually, they really do because they are garnished with meat and served with a side of beer. Mmmmmm. The perfect antidote to the mood at that competition. (To make it worse, UNC is a "dry" school so none of the competition events involved alcohol. DANG.)

Unfortunately for Mark, I note that 23 is "Temporarily Closed for Renovations." Perhaps my good luck wishes are best expressed to Mark's team -- specifically his roommate -- and the citizenry of Chapel Hill.

 
May I suggest the Shiatsu bath mat available at most Origins? It has pointy rubber things that stimulate your feet.

 
I have the bath mat with the suction cups on the bottom in my tub! Please someone ask Marilyn if that is acceptable. Hurry!



Monday, February 03, 2003
 
Also, I have to say the head PD had in coming in that 9th Circuit case. I find it hysterical that Public Defenders - those very people who should be fighting against this sort of nonsense - would force defendants to take a LIE DETECTOR TEST (when everyone knows the vast majority of these defendants are guilty as hell) and rewarding those with the skills to fool the test. Good going y'all. I guess they forgot about the part where the lawyer fights for the civil rights of the client, protects the constitution, etc. even if that means setting a guilty guy free.

 
Possibly the best part of Mindy's story below is that during this weekend's bliss, we took a romantic trip to the grocery store (although this is more than just your ordinary grocery store, mind you). Anyway, we come across a bath mat identical to those at hotels with the suction cups on the bottom and determine this mat to be the ideal solution. My reaction: "Now you won't die. And you won't make the biggest mistake of your life." Thank heavens.

 
After that meaningless drivel, I feel the need to post something useful. Consult How Appealing for the most recently filed 9th Cir. en banc opinion. I welcome your thoughts.

 
Yes. I was at my desk very early this AM. I had to take RFL to the airport. Blech. However, we did have a very nice weekend. And I will see him very soon, so, I am trying not to be sad. Speaking of RFL, I had forgotten that my NYC friends are not familiar with the nickname that last year's O'clerks (them's the clerks who clerk for the Man Upstairs) gave him, which was Rafael. So when I referred to Rafael in an earlier post, I was not brazenly crowing about my unfaithfulness. I meant RFL, in fact. Rafael is also his sim's name.

To give you an idea about my mother, I offer the following anecdote.

Last week, I fell down in the shower. It was scary. If I were over 60 years old, there is no doubt that I would be sporting a broken hip right about now. Thankfully, I'm still young and not that fragile so no serious damage was done. However, it became clear that my tub is waaaay tooo slippery. This is likely due to a product I recently obtained as part of my Blisscription, that tends to make the tub quite slippery. Jen, I know what you're thinking -- but I do clean the thing pretty much weekly so that's not it.

Anyway, I went off to the Fred Meyer to pick up some of those little sticky decal things that you put in your tub so that you don't kill yourself. I chose some white seashell shaped ones. As I was punching the decals out, my mother called. She asked, "What are you up to?" I seriously considered saying, "Nothing," because what I was doing was so depressingly boring. But it was so mundane that I thought it might be funny to actually report it. So, I said, "Getting ready to put some of those tub decal tread things in my tub."

At this point, my mother gasped. She literally sucked in air with such force that I'm amazed she did not aspirate the phone. "DEAR GOD NO!" she shouted, "DO NOT PUT THOSE IN YOUR TUB!!!! Whatever you do, do NOT put them in your tub. MY GOD I remember I put those goldenrod daisies in our tub in Memphis in 1971 and I could NEVER get the bathtub clean again. I could NEVER get them off! And with the bath oil and stuff they became (she's sounding kind of frightened now) SLIMY!!!! I promised myself that I would NEVER, EVER, EVER put those decals in my tub again!!! DO NOT DO IT I am telling you you will be sooooo sorrry!"

Cut to me, standing stupidly with a wad of decals in one hand and with the phone in the other, "Well, its not my tub you know.... I'm renting."

Undeterred, she continued the anti-decal tirade. "You'll NEVER get your deposit back if you put those in your tub!!! Never ever ever!!! Do NOT do it I am telling you ....I swear.... do not! You will regret it for the rest of your life!"

I finally said, "OK! Jeez! I won't mar the tub with these cursed things."

Relieved, she said, "Thank goodness."

I then said, "Well, I'm glad I mentioned it. I had no idea you had such strong feelings about bath decals. You'd think that was the biggest mistake you've ever made in your whole life or something."

There was a silence. After a moment, my mom said, "You know.... actually.... looking back.... I think that was the biggest mistake I've ever made in my life."

And the thing is, I believe her.

 
What time does the window open? That's early.

 
I think the world needs to know that Mindy was at her desk by 6:45 am this morning. And functional.



 
To start your day this morning, I recommend a quick little Dahlia Lithwick gem about Barbie. Jen, as usual your cultural insensitivity is glaring. Chinese New Year was this past weekend. I would guess that Mongolia is kinda Chinese or something and that's why they're so "late" with the New Year celebrations.

I have to say though that those friends of Mark's and P's sound terrible. Why create such obstacles to party attendance? I'm just plain confused. Not to mention sleepy.

 
Yeah for Mark! I have to admit, though, that I did not have as much luck escaping the pirate's grasp as you did escaping the vodka-pushing, Mongolian man's embrace. Do the Mongolian's realize that they are a little late with the new year celebrating? Maybe that's why I am not wearing anything "Made in Mongolia."



Sunday, February 02, 2003
 
Patrick and I went to a MONGOLIAN NEW YEAR party last evening hosted by a friend of ours. Hanging outside the door to the apartment in which the party was Mongolianing, was a small printed sign which contained instructions on the FOUR things (and photos of how to do these things) one had to do in order to enter. The instructions were complicated and involved touching the small man at the door, sniffing the small man while he sniffed back, doing a shot of vodka, giving the man $5 (in a queer laying of the fiver on his outstretched hands) and a donation of used books for a library in Mongolia (I brought my never read copy of A CIVIL ACTION which has a photo a John Travolta on its cover.) Patrick, after reading the instructions insisted he couldn't remember everything and wanted to leave. My reaction was "Well, I'm going in but I'm not fucking doing that shit - these people are strangers to me." Patrick, ever the trooper, got through the entrance routine and passed right through. It was now my turn to shine. I fake touched the small man making sure my hands were completely inside my coat and used my height to make sure he couldn't touch my face with his. I then informed him I didn't drink, so he could relax with the shot of vodka AND that I only had a ten dollar bill, so the ritual involving handing him a five could be simplified if he just reached for the change and handed it to me real regular like. Undeterred, the small man informed me I could "sniff the vodka" and flick it into the air. I looked at him with one eyebrow raised and said "I guess I wasn't clear. I'm not fucking doing that. I don't drink. I don't like the smell of liquor. We're skipping the vodka - get it?" This outburst caused him to just wave me right in handing me my five dollars in change. I tell this story because it reminds me of Jen and a certain pirate man on a cruise ship in the dining hall.