Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Constitution of Carolyn

I’m visiting my sister Carolyn in California for ten days, enjoying a nice vacation from noise and some quality writing time. It’s marvelous. Hopefully I’m not driving her too crazy.

Carolyn’s birthday is also coming up, so she hosted a nerdy game night/party tonight in celebration. Trying to be a good sister, I volunteered to provide the cake.

The plan was that I would take a picture on a flash drive, hand it to an employee at a local bakery, and ask them to print an edible image of it for me. I would then take that sheet of printed edible frosting back to her apartment, slap it on a sheet cake, and declare victory. In Texas, I have done that several times at H.E.B., a jewel of grocery stores. It took 20 minutes to get Eric’s birthday cake image printed, last September.

So, last night (Friday evening), I designed a picture. When I did research about getting it printed, though, I realized that some bakeries might decline to run off a copy of a Monopoly board, since it might be copyrighted. At first I tried keeping the problem a secret, merely asking her for general suggestions about how to handle a possibly-copyrighted image of a game board. (She suggested I do a filtered search on flickr, and that almost worked, but not quite.)

I gave up and enlisted her help. “Carolyn,” I said, “I hate to ruin the surprise, but I need your intellectual property law expertise….” I showed her what I wanted to make, which included bold geometric designs with lots of red, some text, a Monopoly board, and a picture of her notes as the Recorder of Deeds the first time I ever played “Anti-Trust Monopoly” with her, two-and-a-half years ago.

“Monopoly was copyrighted in 1937,” she said, and then stared into space for a minute, in an eerie trance of infracranial searching. Then she typed on the keyboard for a minute and declared, “Here, use this.” She had pulled up a “vintage” Monopoly board and assured me that this older printing had moved into the public domain though more modern ones had not. In typical Carolyn fashion, she solved a problem I’d spent more than half an hour on in a sixth the time. (I’m still unnerved. Who the heck memorizes things like “Monopoly was copyrighted in 1937?” I knew it was during the great depression. I could have given you the correct decade. But… well, that’s Carolyn.)

I pointed out that most minimum-wage, frequently Spanish-speaking, bakery employees likely wouldn’t know the difference between an out of print “vintage” Monopoly board and a more modern one, but I offered that, as part of her birthday present, she could come with me and argue the point. Fun times!

How do these bakeries sleep at night? I don’t know how the bakeries in California can live with their consciences.  To think that the Bay Area bills itself as the center for bleeding edge tech, only to be superseded by a regional chain in Texas! We tried six honkin’ different bakeries today, and none of them could do what I wanted. Even the ones who would take the job wanted to make the cake themselves from scratch and get the final result to me on Monday.

Eventually, I pulled the plug on printing the design I wanted. I just bought a sheet cake instead and wrote her name on it. (Badly.)

Here’s a picture of the cake I designed:

"Carolyn: Keeping things fun and fascinating since 1987." The notes, written in Carolyn's hand, say things like "Kyle owns the light blues in name. Gail is a joint tenant with right of survivorship" and "The Corporation of Orange New Jersey: All shareholders have easements."

And here's a picture of the cake she got:

"Court of Carolyn, est. 1987"

Ah well. Time spent with a sister is never wasted.

(Aside: It was particularly impressive when I looked out the window at a run-down neighborhood of 1970s houses, each about 1000 square feet with small yards, and mused “I wonder how much THOSE houses cost?” -- 
“Eight hundred thousand dollars,” Carolyn answered promptly, then pulled up a map on Zillow to check. She was spot-on. I’m used to the idea that houses in the Bay Area cost 3x what they do in Texas, but these houses were nasty! I mean, if they were cute little bungalows from the 90s, I might understand it, but these had broken garage doors and peeling paint. Every time I think I’ve adapted, I get sticker shock again.)

I digress. It’s the thought that counts, right? I totally made her life easier by hauling her around to various stores for two hours today. In her car. She drove. What are sisters for? (I did try to do online research and call ahead, which helped to filter out some stores, but it was an imperfect effort. The Walmart 20 minutes south didn’t have a phone extension to its bakery, for example.) All for naught.

But never fear: I had an Ace in the Hole!

Last night I also contacted Carolyn’s boyfriend and enlisted his aid in a separate project. My thanks to Brad Jones for his assistance in editing and making some improvements, particularly to footnote 7, which is entirely his work. Any errors which remain are entirely my own; in particular, he recommended that I strike the language about “British common law,” but I just couldn’t resist.
Carolyn, I know Article III is inherently more awesome, since it deals with the judiciary, but it really didn’t work for what I needed. Sorry to relegate you to Article II, instead. And happy birthday! I loved watching you laugh when you read this. Thanks for letting me crash here!

The Constitution of Carolyn
Article. II.
Section. 1.
The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United Nerds. She1 shall hold her Office during a Term of Good Behavior.2
Section. 2.
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of Catan, and of the Military of the several Warmongering Games;3 she may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Players,4 upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and she shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United Nerds, except in Cases of Impeachment.
She shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Guests, to organize Games, provided two thirds of the Guests present concur.
The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess5 of a Guest, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.6
Section. 3.
She shall from time to time give to the Citizens Invitations to Nerdy Game Nights, and recommend to their Consideration such Diversions as she shall judge necessary and expedient; she may, on extraordinary Occasions,7 convene all Houses,8 or any of them.
Section. 4.
The President, and all Citizens or Guests, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, Cheating, Incivility, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

1 Surprisingly, there has been no major test case of this gendered pronoun.
2 There is no provision for term limits, and Carolyn has held this position for 29 years. Ronald v. Carolyn (2005) sought to challenge her President-for-Life status, but was struck down by the Jones court.
3 Recent legislation has enumerated that “Warmongering Games” includes Risk, Axis and Allies, Twilight Struggle, Seven Wonders, and any board game which includes reference to a military. Strict constructionists believe that Settlers of Catan is not a “Warmongering Game” despite the “largest army” card and the occasional removal of the bandit; a case challenging that interpretation is currently pending in the lower courts. Still unsettled in case law are non-board games such as RPGs and LARPs.
4 “Players” has long been considered to include both the singular and the plural. This understanding of “teams”, which hearkens back to British common law developed in the medieval period, is especially applicable in cases where underage children sit on a parent’s lap. See Haupt v. Homer (1981).
5 “Recess” has been defined by statute as “leaving the game early.” But a plurality of legal scholars believe it could refer to temporary illness or indisposition.
6 This is generally interpreted to mean that if a guest leaves in the middle of a game, the President may appoint another guest to take over game play for the remainder of that specific game. See Laurence v. Moody (2002). A fascinating case about recess appointments, involved a mother who left for three turns to deal with a screaming toddler, and then wished to resume normal game play on her return, but was told her younger brother had taken over her seat. This matter was settled out of court in 1999, so the question remains murky.
7 Per statute, “extraordinary occasion” includes such recurring events as fairly and usefully designated by the Guests to include, but not be limited to, annual revelries, convivialities, festivities, and frivolities – particularly those whose occasion are coterminous, but not consubstantial with, celebrations on the anniversary of one’s birth. See 17 UNC § 107.
8 Though untested, this would seem to indicate that Carolyn could convene simultaneous nerdy game nights in different locations, via skype.