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March 31, 2005

Don't know if this is liberating or terrifying (UPDATED: Frog Got His List Back)

OK, the information backed up on my PDA just got overwritten by the information from my old Outlook file. As a result, I've lost every contact change, every Calendar adjustment, and most importantly every task list change I've made in the last two months.

I have no idea what tasks I'm supposed to be doing this week. This just gets better and better.

UPDATE: Wow, am I lucky. Just last week I bought a Creative Zen Micro, and one of its trippy features is a synchronization with Microsoft Outlook. I played with it once, and as a result I have all but a very few tasks, contacts and appointments back on the computer.

From now on, I think I'm doing a weekly back up of my critical files to the Zen's hard disk.

What the Good Lord Giveth, the Good Lord Taketh Away

Well, you were going to hear from me today: some of my work was cancelled, there seemed to be a conspiracy of professors to get my workload reduced for 24 hours, and everything seemed to indicate that finally, I'd have an easy day.

Then there was a fire alarm, an accidental push of my hard drive into "hibernation" mode (which I know doesn't work), and an automated run of Scandisk in DOS mode. As a result, my Outlook.pst file has been reduced to 0 bytes. I haven't backed it up since the middle of January, though thankfully I archived my email yesterday, so I've only lost about two months of data. (All the contacts, tasks, etc. are safe in my PDA.)

So, figure, the two or three hours I thought I'd have free today will be spent repairing this fiasco. Damn, damn, damn.

Update: OK, I've managed to recover all my emails from January 19 and before. Anything after that is almost certainly lost. If anyone knows of an email they've sent me recently that's particularly important, please send it to me again.

Update II: My best file recovery software just gave up. I suppose I could start doing some detailed file-recovery work, but frankly, it's not worth the time just to recover my email. If anyone reading here (particularly at Columbia) has some idea how to recover data that's been lost by Scandisk redefining a file size, I'd be thrilled to know it.

March 30, 2005

The Amazonian Prime Directive

Way back in the early nineties, pundits who really didn't know very much predicted that online shopping wouldn't really take off because "people wanted that human touch." Anyone saying that has obviously never shopped at the Duane Reade near my dormitory. The managers are generally unfriendly. The store layout seems to have been designed with ineffeciency kept constantly in line: big signs instruct customers to "FORM ONE LINE PER CHECKOUT AISLE," an instruction that customers ignore to a man because to do so would actually prevent other customers from getting to the aisles. And the sales assistants, despite not showing any interest in talking to you, indicate that you are privileged to bathe in their noble presence, and any extra second that you do so is obviously your extreme joy. Hurry, therefore, is not in their nature.

The Rite-Aid is no better, so as you might expect, I'm willing to expend a certain amount of effort in order to avoid getting household goods there. Oddly, Amazon Prime has now provided me a way.

I'm mystified by how Amazon Prime is supposed to make money for Amazon.com. For a flat fee of $80, I get free two-day shipping on everything sold by Amazon (though not their marketplace sellers or other company stores within Amazon, like Target or Toys 'R Us). This doesn't sound like much until you realize what a broad range of products Amazon sells these days.

For instance, in the last 48 hours, I've purchased most of the household goods that I normally buy at Duane Reade: shampoo, bath products, chapstick, deodorant, batteries, facial tissues, etc. (Note: buying or looking at condoms causes the "Your Recommended Products" section to become more interesting than you may desire.) Looking over old Duane Reade receipts, the prices aren't that far off: a reasonable amount of bargain shopping shows that most of my purchases have a pre-tax price within +/-10% of bricks-and-mortar stores, better if something's on sale. (This is probably less true if you don't live in a high cost big city.) Items that I never would have ordered online because of the shipping (Q-tips, for instance) are now available to me, and I can buy items in bulk or in sizes not available at my local store.

It's a strange new experience, and if it works for Amazon, it looks to completely change the way I shop. I would have saved money in shipping simply through my normal purchase pattern, but now I'm looking at smaller, more trivial goods. It raises some major questions for me:

How is Amazon making money on this? Or rather, how did Amazon get its distributors to agree to this? I've tracked the packages every so often over the last few days, and they've been coming from all over America, usually via UPS. Instead of grouping products in the smallest number of packages possible, orders are being split into multiple boxes from multiple distribution sources. Surely on low-margin goods this is suicide?

How did Amazon get its marketplace and associate firms to agree to this? Or at least, are the other firms going to revolt? Even if Amazon charges a bit more than some of their associates, very rarely will the price difference be less than the shipping fee. At the moment, it's not easy to shop only from Amazon. For instance, if I do a search for Kleenex, I get offers from several different stores, and it's not immediately obvious which one I need to click to get free two-day shipping. This is a bit of a frustration, but the interface has gotten easier in only the last few days. (Besides, if you take "amazon" to the end of your search string, most of the items you get will be Amazon Prime material.)

The result has got to be a gradual cannibalization of partner sales, at least for partners whose product line largely matches Amazon's. If this becomes big, aren't partners likely to leave in droves?

Am I going to get in trouble?: I said the prices were competitive. What I forgot to say was that pricing was competitive for many of the items I buy before sales tax. On the other hand, Amazon hasn't charged me any sales tax on any of these goods: a frequent problem with online purchasing.

I'm not clear on the law in this area, but I'm dimly aware that I'm probably supposed to report all my purchases to the state of New York and send them a check. The thing is, I have no idea where I'd go to figure out what I owe or where to send it. I really wouldn't mind if Amazon reported it all to New York, who then sent me a bill, and I know that states haven't strictly enforced any such rule in a while. But given the significant amount of my income (well, loans) that will now be crossing state lines, will that change?

I don't know. What I do know is that my first consignment just arrived, and it is wonderfully convenient.

March 28, 2005

If You're Looking For Deep Thoughts, Look Elsewhere

[Sorry, serious blogging will resume shortly. The brain is well-fried today.]

Bloggers are a notoriously contentious bunch. We bicker, we argue, we throw around words like they were nothing, and frankly, we waste a lot of time because no one ever wins. This is a situation which I feel obliged to resolve, and resolve it I shall, in the traditional manner. Giant Battle Monsters.

For instance, you know that Chris Geidner and I go back and forth frequently. Well, finally we know that if Anthony Attacks Chris With Intelligence, Chris wins. (He'll be gratified at that.)

On the other hand, if Anthony Rickey attacks Heidi Bond using Intelligence, Anthony wins. (She'll be more annoyed that she's a giant blob and not a chicken than anything else, but I can't get anything chickenish to show up no matter how many variants of her name I use.)

But these are just squirmishes. Let's get to the big boys:

And what about the religious battles of the blawgers? When Irishlaw takes on Chris Geidner, who cares who wins, at least they'll both agree. I mean, he's pretty certain she's a giant dragon that "can Change Colour and is Covered with a Thick Slime," and she's not going to take much convincing to agree he "projects a Purple Forcefield and Screeches When Angry."

As you can see, all disputes between bloggers should be subject to definitive resolution through trial by Giant Battle Monsters.

Because we all need something funny today

I give you: Cats vs. Roomba. Apparently robotic cleaners can prove to be a whole-home entertainment center.

Hmm. And one more bit of craziness, stolen from the blog above.

Not Bright-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed

Suffice it to say that this week has been difficult indeed. I've not really done anything this weekend, except work, which is why you've heard so little from me. I'll try and put an omnibus entry of interesting things together tomorrow, but as for having time to actually write something? You must be joking.

Two people have emailed me recently, however, asking one question: should I apply for law review? I'll point you towards two conflicting opinions: one from Heidi, who thinks you should try out so long as you aren't doing it for the wrong reasons. Somehow she works St. Crispen's Day in there, so I suppose she thinks it worth shedding blood with brethren for. On the other hand, there's an old post by Scheherazade, who pretty much thinks the opposite.

My opinion? Yeah, like I have time to give my opinion.

March 25, 2005

Easter Gets A Bad Rap

This flash animation was passed on to me, and frankly, there's no reason you shouldn't suffer too. (Work safe, has sound.)

March 23, 2005

Strange Firefox Problem

Does anyone know if there's a memory leak in Firefox? Several times this week, I've been browsing a website that has some kind of animated advertisement, and found that all of a sudden Firefox's CPU usage jumps to about 85%. This then makes my computer's fans kick on in a very loud and annoying manner.

Notably, it doesn't happen under Internet Explorer. However, I can't figure out why this is happening. Any thoughts?

March 22, 2005

Damn You, Macintosh

I've been edging around the market for a hard-disk based MP3 player. Indeed, I've been thinking about one for about six months, just waiting until I found something that justified plunking down a couple of hundred bucks instead of waiting until summer. But I'm finding myself caught in a dilemma: I can't find a device with all the features I want.

I could live like a sheep and go for the new Second Generation IPod Mini, with 6GB of space, or the IPod Photo with 60GB. The first is nicely portable, the second would function as a spare hard drive. But neither will play DRM-protected WMA files, so all the Musicmatch songs I've downloaded would have to be burned to CD and then re-ripped into ITunes, which has to be the most annoying music-playing software I've ever encountered. If Apple weren't so insistent I use their blasted software, they'd have me sold.

So I've had to look at alternatives, mostly in the "mini" market. (I briefly considered the IRiver 340, but it seems to have some build-quality and battery issues.) I really like the look of the IRiver H10, it would play my music, and supposedly functions easily as a portable hard drive. But if I wait a month or two, they might have a much nicer 20GB model.

Finally, there's the Creative Zen Micro: DRM-WMA compatible, reasonable functionality, syncs with Microsoft Outlook. Still, the interface doesn't look so friendly to me, and Creative's offerings in larger sizes aren't as feature-rich.

Any advice in this arena would be welcome. I know so little about these silly devices.

March 21, 2005

Victory to Irishlaw, On Points

I've always enjoyed watching the squabbles between Ohio-blawgers Chris Geidner and the annoyingly-pseudonymed Irishlaw, and their latest back and forth over the Terry Schiavo case is no exception. In general, I approve of Irishlaw's process and Chris's substantive positions, but the entertainment comes from watching them act like an old married couple. [1] That said, this time I think IL has Chris on points, simply because he's trying to prove too much.

First, let me say that I have no position on the whole Terry Schiavo case itself, and intend to follow Prof. Volokh's lead: "I know nothing about the Schiavo matter, and despite that have no opinion." As a matter of policy, I couldn't tell you whether the bill Bush just signed giving jurisdiction to federal courts over the case is wise in this instance or not. When it comes to politics and law, I'm more interested in the overall structure of things than interventions in single instances. In that sense my impression is that intervention in the case is a bad precedent; on the other hand, it seems unlikely to be a matter that gets frequently legislated, and thus falls off my radar screen of major interest.

But in the Geider/IL dustup over the matter, Chris in two posts implies that Republicans (or at least those who oppose judicial "activism") are being hypocritical. The trouble is that making out the four corners of a hypocrisy charge--to murder a metaphor--can prove particularly difficult, especially because all the defendant need do is make some reasonable distinction between the supposedly hypocritical positions. When you look at someone crying hypocrisy, be on the lookout for a false equivalency: it's the most common logical error.

So, for instance, take Chris's attempt to make the charge:

The problem could be seen as, to put it in terms IrishLaw and others will understand, "adjudicating from the legislature." Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist and others are taking on the resolution of an individual case -- the judicial function -- as their own role.

I find it unfortunate that IrishLaw would encourage in the Schiavo case the mirror image of the behavior that she has spent the past years in her blog decrying from the right. Separation of powers either is your battle cry or it isn't, but some consistency would be nice.


But of course, there are three answers to this:
  1. First, Senator Frist has done no such thing. The Congressional subpeona no more "resolves" a case than this blog entry does. It ultimately overrules no judicial decision, though admittedly it may procedurally delay a ruling from taking effect. It does seem silly to subpeona someone who cannot respond, but I know of nothing that puts it outside the bounds of Congress's power. Nevertheless, neither subpeona nor any "hearings" brought by Congress can last forever, and they certainly aren't resolving a case. (Indeed, even today's law merely passes the matter to a different court, not decree a specific resolution.)
  2. This then gets to the false equivalency of Chris's position. As Irishlaw correctly states, "What conservatives . . . are frequently upset about with regard to 'legislating from the bench' is judges going outside of their authority to reasonably interpret the existing law in order to enact their own policy preferences." Chris seems to imply that conservative are willing to abandon a procedural position when substantive expediency demands it, but he can only make that case if he feels that issuing a subpeona is beyond the authority of Congress. Perhaps that's true, but he's not put anything forward to suggest this. Instead, the implication is that any interference into an individual case, whether within the formal power of Congress or not, is beyond the pale. If Chris wants to make hypocrits of Republicans, surely he should find something that makes them constitutionally impotent.
  3. Which then gets us to the separation of powers argument. There are several different views of what exactly is partitioned by "separation of powers." Is it different types of authority (adjudicating/legislating/enforcing)? Or perhaps different areas of authority (after all, courts promulgate ethical rules for lawyers that many states maintain are the perogative of the judiciary and not subject to legislative review, even though they look a lot like legislation)? Or is it simply that each branch has the power it can abrogate to itself, and its reach is merely restricted by what the other branches will tolerate?

    If your philosophy about SoP tends more towards the first option, then "adjudicating from the bench" isn't a problem at all, because Congress isn't adjudicating. Chris, in his next post, brings out the hypocrisy charge again by making an alleged inconsistency between attempts to remove jurisdiction on gay marriage from federal courts, but to grant such jurisdiction in Shiavo's case. While this may not be particularly intellectually consistent, it certainly doesn't run into problem with a functionalist conception of the separation of powers. Congress is perfectly permitted to be intellectually inconsistent, so long as it violates no other Constitutional mandate. Indeed, it often is. Don't get me wrong, a neutral principle is prudential, logical, wise policy, and probably politically astute, but it's not a requirement.

"Legislating from the bench," therefore, is not the mirror-image of "adjudicating from the legislature," though of course it is convenient for Chris to pretend so. Whatever the sins and consequences of each, they are different problems facing different constraints. First, "adjudicating from the legislature" would at least require passage of some law resolving a case on the merits, and no such law has been passed yet, nor has Chris pointed to such an attempt.

Secondly, such a vice is constrained by the political process. (As Prof. Leiter points out, this entire affair seems somewhat unpopular, and elections are coming.) A judge who legislates from the bench takes issues out of the hands of the political process. Every time Chris makes some comment about "inscribing hatred into Constitutions", he should remember that judicial legislation leaves this as the only option for political opponents.

I started this by stating that I have no opinion on the substantive merits of the Shiavo case, and this hasn't changed. On the other hand, Professor Bainbridge does, in a post where he struggles through the conflicting policies implicated by Congressional intervention in the Schiavo matter. In the end, he finds himself torn between a dedication to a culture of life and the rule of law.

A liberal (or other, for that matter) who thinks Shiavo should die might just as easily make their way through a policy argument: why respect for the rule of law should trump a culture of life, or why some other normative value should be paramount in this case. I might very well agree with it. But Chris instead takes the easy option of trying to hoist his opponents on dud petards of his own devising.

[1]: YES, I'M JOKING. Come on, folks... CG and IL as an old married couple: you tell me that didn't put a few folks at Moritz in stitches.... Ok, fine, if you must have some self-deprecating humour to soften the joke, you can imagine me as the know-it-all mother-in-law pestering the both of them about how her pseudonym isn't all that fetching and is he really going to bring that tired old argument out in public again...

March 18, 2005

Commentary of the Fairer Sex

What is it about Susan Estrich? Somehow, in an attack on Michael Kinsley, she's managed to stir far too much of the blogosphere and op-ed pages into a flurry of "Where are the women?" Where are the women's voices on our editorial pages? Where are the women's voices in the blogosphere?

As you'll be able to tell from the links above, this debate has been raging for weeks, which is several weeks longer than the debate deserved. Where are the women's voices in the blogosphere? You'd think no one had bothered to look. Most of the commentary has centered on various strange lists of the "top" blogs, in what has to be the most backasswards criterion ever devised. The beauty of blogs is in the linking, not the ranking: as big as they are, giants like Kos or Instapundit make up a trivial share of blog traffic in total, far less than, say, the New York Times share of the newspaper market. A better study--but of course, no journalist will go to this much investigative bother--would have to involve links between blogs: are women under blogrolled? are they ignored and unlinked? And here the evidence would certainly be more mixed. Glenn Reynolds links to Ann Althouse so often you'd think he's got a crush. It doesn't take you long to find the women in the hodge-podge of commentary at Kos. And it's worth noting that even curmudgeonly old me has seven women in the blogroll. (That would be Ann Althouse, Sherry, Not for Sheep, Irishlaw, PG, Heidi Bond, and Sua Sponte, not including the group blog Tres Chicas or any women solely on the group blogs.)

Of course, I'm a conservative, and I've often wondered if we solve our "woman problem" through inattention much more easily than liberals do whilst whinging over quotas. The British Labour Party demands all-female shortlists, while the Conservatives still worship at the altar of St. Thatcher. Estrich laments that the LA Times has a dearth of female commentators, but doesn't suggest that they poach Cathy Seipp or Kate O'Beirne from the relatively female-heavy National Review. And of course, as I've already mentioned, Republicans are trying to see what it would take to get Condi Rice on the ticket. I'd work for her.

What eventually prompted me to comment on this was a final bit of silliness from my friend Chris Geidner. In the process of giving Dahlia Lithwick as much respect as I normally grant her disdain, he bemoans that he only has four women's books on his bookshelf, and a dozen women's blogs on his reading list. Chris, stop beating yourself up. Far from listening to women's voices too little, you link to the perpetually-tacky Wonkette with a frequency that makes me wonder if you have a crush.

The self-flaggelation by bookshelf seems particularly odd. No one is ever going to accuse me of reading by quota, and yet a quick glance at even a portion of my bookshelf reveals more female authors than Chris will admit to. (And this doesn't fully reflect my reading: for instance, all of my Florence King, the rest of my collection of Carson McCullers, and anything I own by Kate Roiphe or Peggy Noonan are in storage.)

There's no reason to think that if Chris has "underread" female authors--to the extent that term has meaning at all, and I'm not convinced he has--it's because they've not written to issues he's been interested in, or he's been more interested in what male authors have had to say. This isn't a "problem."

But then, that's an advantage of being conservative: we actually have to commit a sin before feeling guilty about it.

March 17, 2005

Symbols, Shame, and A Number of Reasons that Billy Idol is Wrong

Like many men, I have very little in the way of jewelry, and what I do have does not change very often. For nearly thirteen years, I've worn the same necklace, a small silver chain with a scarab pendant, a gift from my parents when I was in Washington, D.C. for some high school contest or another. They'd picked it up while visiting the Smithsonian, knowing that I had a fondness for Egyptian mythology. To a certain extent, I wear it because it reminds me of them.

On the other hand, I was also mindful of the symbolic meaning of the scarab: while the specifics vary a bit from report to report, the stone is associated with protection, life, and rebirth (through its association with Ra). I wouldn't have worn it if I thought that either it meant something I disagreed with, or that believers around me would find it disturbing.

I mention this by way of Irishlaw and PG's discussion of a New York Times article about a trend among pregnant women to have white weddings.

Irishlaw approves of the marriages but wants the brides to show a little shame:

Pregnancy, if it has to happen outside of marriage, is a pretty good (and certainly age-old) impetus for marriage, and I do think the profiled women's desire for marriage (for their own sake and their children's) is a good one. It's just the brazenness here that's interesting . . . it seems like there ought to be a little embarrassment, instead of the sin verguenza attitude on display.

On the other hand, PG seems to approve of the "brazenness" and yet wonder about the marriage:
Still, I don't see a reason to be embarrassed about pregnancy in any situation. A woman without ring or boyfriend should be proud of having the courage to complete her pregnancy alone. If, as IL thinks, pregnancy is a good reason to get married, then the pregnant brides should be proud of choosing marriage.
. . . .
Saying that pregnant women and other nonvirgins shouldn't wear white dresses ignores the extent to which Western wedding traditions are valued more for aesthetics, and as traditions, than for their symbolisms' actual correspondence to reality. . . .
. . . .
If you already were planning to get married and your plans just get more urgent due to a pregnancy, that's fine, but I'm disturbed by the idea that pregnancy is a good impetus for marriage by itself. The first year of marriage can be difficult enough without the stress of an infant, and getting married when you otherwise wouldn't have, just because of a broken condom or missed pill or total indifference to the possibility of conception, seems like courting divorce.

A bachelor myself, perhaps it's ill-advised to get involved in a discussion between two women as to wedding dresses. My impression was always that if fortune showed such obscure humor as to make me a primary partner in such an arrangement, I need only make sure I could still fit into my tux. Nevertheless, the trend towards pregnant weddings, as part of the general devaluation of the white dress as a symbol, fills me with considerable unease.

There's a sort of mini-industry attempting to deny the obvious: that white has been used as a symbol of ritual purity in our society. Take, for instance, the invaluable Snopes, which holds that white was actually a matter of aristocracy, and has only symbolized virginity "recently" (where recently is described as a mere hundred or so years). Which is all very well: the white wedding may "only" date from the Victorian era, and may not have meant virginity before then. It remains a tradition. Now if the NYT had stated that these brides were attempting to redefine the tradition---"I'm wearing white because it symbolizes [insert here]"---I might think twice. But there's no sign in the article that they considered anything but the fact that it looks nice.

Whatever the "aesthetics" of a traditional western-style wedding, its symbolic elements still mean something to at least some people. I'm not sure I agree with Irishlaw that any pregnant bride should feel shame for not marrying as a virgin. Nevertheless, I think there should be at least trepidation, about stepping upon such traditions. Take one bride:

But for brides like Ms. Pampillonia, however, etiquette was not on top of the priority list. "Marriage is supposed to be a symbol of love and unity, and a child brings you more love and unity," she explained.

A wedding is not supposed to be a symbol of love and unity: it's an oath, a ceremony, a statement that goes far beyond the symbolic. If a wedding were a mere symbol, if it changed nothing, it would be close to valueless. On the other hand, the elements of a wedding ceremony have symbolic meaning in their own right. This is true in every culture, from the tsunokakushi of Japanese brides (a hat meant to hide horns of jealousy at the eventual infidelity of her husband) to the white dress of the western ceremony which symbolizes sexual purity.

While Irishlaw seems to project her disapproval of premarital sex upon the brides, I take less issue with this than PG's relegation of the symbolic to a mere "aesthetic." Symbols mean something, evoke something, and the devaluing of them may allow a bride to "have it all," but it shows a fundamental lack of respect for the "all" so desired. No matter how much I may think a dog collar looks good on me, I've never adopted the clothing of a priest: I shouldn't wear one. The robes for those who have earned a doctorate at Oxford look far nicer than the ones I'm entitled to wear on formal occasions: nevertheless, not having earned the right to wear them, if I have any consideration for the institution at all, I'll stick to my proper uniform. Legally, I doubt anyone could stop me from wearing either, of course, so long as I didn't actually exaggerate my academic or ecclesiastical qualifications. Nevertheless, to do so would be tacky.

(White-covered pregnancies also seem somewhat disrespectful to those women who have managed the very difficult task of maintaining their chastity until marriage. A bride who for whatever reason has cared enough to remain chaste until marriage should have a symbol of her principles that has not been devalued, no less than the professor or the priest.)

There's an argument that brides these days are attempting to redefine the meaning of the white dress, to return it to a more roman symbol of joy, perhaps, or perhap even to a Jewish conception of renewed virtue. [1] But certainly the NYT article gives no hint that these women were consciously replacing one symbolic meaning for another. I have less problem with a change of symbolic meaning, but in merely watering it down, reducing the symbolic to the aesthetic, something special is lost.

[1]: I'm not sure how authoritative this is, but while discussing/researching this, I ran across the following:

Ironically, while the white gown has come to symbolize bridal virginity in Christian culture, in the Jewish tradition the gown denotes something quite different-- that no matter how sexually active a bride may have been before marriage, the wedding purifies her. White is worn as a symbol of the purity conferred upon her by the wedding.

Anyone who can confirm/deny this is welcome to comment.

March 16, 2005

Staples Curiousness

April is coming, which means spring break is a good time for tax preparation, and in my case, tax preparation software. For the last two years, after some frustrations with Quicken, I've been using Microsoft Money as a money management program. Usually, something like TurboTax or H&R Block's TaxCut have done reasonably well in getting my taxes done quickly and (hopefully) accurately.

This, year, though, I got caught in Staple's Rebate Triangle: my software purchases were virtually dictated by the overlapping rebate offers and Staple discounts. Purchasing TaxCut Deluxe gave me a 100% rebate on TaxCut State, and up to $40 off the newest version of Money. Staples only charged me $39.98 for Money Deluxe, making that essentially free. In other words, although $80 went on my card today, I eventually expect to pay $20 for the whole experience (plus the cost of a pack of highlighters).

That is, if I spend 40 minutes, three stamps, and three envelopes to fill in all the rebates. There's something mildly insane about this system...

UPDATE: You must be kidding... there's another rebate in one of the boxes. Unfortunately, each of these require parts of box-tops, box innards, or photocopies of receipts, to the extent that I may need three boxes of one piece of software to claim all of them. So who knows what all of this will actually end up costing...

March 14, 2005

Now Reading

After a very fine dinner to celebrate a friend's birthday, I capped a day blissfully productivity-free with a trip to the bookstore. On checking out, I realized how spoiled I've become by Amazon's low prices. Buying four books caused quite a sticker shock. Nevertheless, I'll have some spring break reading material to enjoy in between attempts at catching up in Corporations and Professional Responsibility.

First on the list is Fragrant Harbor, which finally won out over many suggestions for the Hong Kong novel to read before I start summer employment there. I chose it mainly because, unlike some other options, it focuses mainly on Hong Kong as opposed to China as a whole, and covers most of the 20th and 21st centuries. It seems to be a sparkling read.

I'm only a few chapters into it, but John Lanchester has a gifted vocabulary and, so far at least, a talent for drawing out entertaining characters. Just reading it is breeding butterflies in my stomach: soon I'll be working in the environment he's writing about. I keep telling myself it won't be any different from any other foreign posting I've managed in the past, but then, I felt nervous before I started those as well.

Besides Fragrant Harbour, I also picked up a book of short stories, A. S. Byatt's The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye. So far I've enjoyed the first of five stories, and look forward to the rest. I think I've stumbled onto an author who I should have been reading for quite a long time.

I'm finding that Byatt, like Chesterton, Endo, or Bruce Sterling, is one of those authors who stirs up old itches to write a novel of my own, an urge that I suspect will last for days after I put her work down. I've been told in 3L year I'll have a bit more free time. Perhaps I'll join Ambimb in his annual National Novel Writing Month challenge. I've had a pretty good story in my head involving work in a law firm: maybe I can spin that out after I've had a little first-hand experience. Not "write about my work" of course--that would be an invasion of my employer, my clients, and just generally unwise--but it's difficult to write about a character until you've somehow walked a mile in his shoes. It just doesn't seem real otherwise.

cover cover

March 12, 2005

Sorry you've not seen me for a while

I'm afraid that while I wrote a few pieces I'm quite proud of, one of them has been overtaken by events and needs revision, and the other fell afoul of my "don't write about non-bloggers without their permission" rule. (Sorta. Suffice it to say it got nixed.) For one reason or another, everything I've written this week seems to quickly become unpublishable. (Ed.: Instead of just not worthy of being published?)

Still, next week is Spring Break. My plan is to spend the first half catching up with reading and perfecting the outlines, while the second half will involve travelling to Phoenix and staying with my brother. I probably won't be getting around much--Phoenix isn't supposed to be real friendly without a car--but at this point burning the last dregs of my cold away by sitting out in the Arizona sun sounds magnificent. Especially since there's still snow on the ground here in New York.

Anyway, you're likely to hear from me a bit more frequently over the next few days.

Do we file this under "The Less They Know, The Less They Know It" or Just Call Him A Naif?

Brian Leiter, a University of Texas law professor, does a nice line in mocking opponents and imperially deciding that one commentator wiped the floor with another, or that another law student is a "naif." So it's amusing to see him wax authoritative about a subject that has been thoroughly explored by others and is outside his area of expertise. It's even better to see Heidi Bond take him to task for it.

The debate itself concerns Xoxohth, an online discussion board for law students that Carey finds useful and Prof. Volokh thinks sounds like an old D&D character of his. Oh, yes, and among it's other nicer features, there's a lot of racist and anti-semetic comments raised by the kind of folks who have existed since well before the dawn of USENET. (UPDATE: Since someone wrote asking me to state the obvious, the offensive comments are not one of the "nicer" features, they're interspersed amongst other features that can easily qualify as "nice." The offensive comments are mostly dumb. I must struggle more diligently to avoid ambiguity in language.) What to do about them has been an ongoing debate. Leiter states:

Put aside ethical obligations, and let's just consider good taste and decency: how hard can it be for Messrs. Ciolli and Cohen to delete all the threads with certain words? And if they did that a few times, no doubt the infantile morons responsible for most of this garbage would give up and go elsewhere.

(emphasis added) Now, for someone who likes calling people "naifs," this seems uncommonly naif-like. Having moderated a number of bulletin boards and being old enough to remember the early days of USENET, I can't recall this tactic ever having been particularly successful. Deleting a few posts makes disruptive users go away? It's certainly not worked at 3YoH, though I try to keep the community here relatively friendly. Perhaps Prof. Leiter associates with a better class of disruptive user.

Heidi points out the problem quite nicely:

I also think that Professor Leiter is entirely naive about the effectiveness of filters. Just try filtering out the word "fag". Next thing you know, the perpetrators post "f@g". And then you filter that, and they start saying "ffag" or "fa-g" or "f.ag." It is easier for them to generate patterns that imply "fag" than it is for the few humans in charge of the site to generate filters. Furthermore, the racist, sexist, and abusive crap that comes out is not necessarily a result of language. How do you mechanically filter out a racist discussion bashing Blacks for racist reasons without also mechanically filtering out the discussions on affirmative action?

Indeed, trying to figure out an effective method of filtering comments without losing posts that are important has been one of the holy grails of the internet for as long as I've been using it. No one's managed it yet. Consider, for instance, the MT-Blacklist program that I use to stop comment spam. Every so often, I find that a perfectly innocent comment has been blocked because I set the filter with an overinclusive term. (I've caught this twice, and emailed an apology to the commentor, but doubtlessly I miss more than that.) The false-positive rate on such a filter isn't very high, because the MT-Blacklist algorithm is mostly fighting other machine-based algorithms, and a sufficiently-determined human can get around my blocking. What Leiter proposes is much harder: a machine that is trying to stop an individual human determined to write a single post.

The other option is human moderation. In an update, Leiter mentions Nontradlaw, which apparently fully moderates its forum. Moderation is a tradeoff, a high-cost strategy because human intervention is continually required, and thus a limiting factor on the size of the system. There are ways of reducing this--the user-moderation systems at Slashdot or DailyKos, for example. These are effective but complex systems, and again raise the price for the system administrator. [1] (Xoxoxth does have an "on/off topic" flag, but it doesn't appear as complex a system as Slashdot's.)

I actually disagree with Heidi on the propriety of deleting comments, as she's much more reluctant to do so than I. If someone leaves a racist or homophobic comment--or even one that I just feel is needlessly offensive--I may very well delete it. Then again, I've left up comments like that simply so that someone else could trash the commentor. (Or in one case, I went ahead and published the name of the firm at which one commentor worked, based on his IP address--I've made my feelings about anonymity well-known.) But that's because 3YoH is very much my project and associated with me: it's a blog, not a bulletin board. Not saying that Heidi's policy is wrong: it's merely hers, as mine is mine.

But what if I missed some horrible comment? Am I under some duty such that I've then become negligent? Have I been ethically lax in providing a forum for a nutcase? Or can we take it as read that those who run forums may choose to expend resources on other things than moderation, and that the occasional troll or flamer doesn't invalidate the usefulness of the board?

In any event, here's a challenge for Professor Leiter. He's got a high-traffic blog with commenting capability. He apparently thinks that deleting the comments, either through filters or manually, is a relatively simple task. Why not prove it? He can open up comments on all his entries, and I'm sure the good folks at Xoxoxth who he's been condemning would be happy to provide a number of comments for him to weed out. If he really thinks that creating this holy grail will be so simple, let's let him write the code. After all, if the man can drive flamers to the point of extinction, I'm sure he can more than triple his salary with the profits he makes from his new software.

Are you looking forward to LeiterFilters 1.0? I know I am.

[1]: For a good discussion of the costs of implementing a Caio M. S. Pereira Neto, Online Collaborative Media and Political Economy of Information: A Case Study, 21 J. Marshall J. & Info. L. 511 (2003). This study compares and contrasts the Slashdot and Kuro5hin accreditation systems and discusses their different goals and outcomes. More than likely, this is the kind of thing that Xoxohth needs, but implementing it is much more than the trivial task Leiter suggests.

March 09, 2005

Strange Prejudices

Heidi Bond comments on how displays of anti-semitism make her sick. I can't agree more, and wish Professor Volokh hadn't been dragged into such garbage.

On the other hand, Heidi might be interested in knowing that the Israeli army considers her to have a weak personality and would give her a low security clearance. (They would me too, as well as Professor Volokh.) Which isn't really related to anti-semitism in any way, but that article was too amusing to pass up on a link.

Well, That's Predictable

One more spam email, this one from the Student Senate, announcing a thoroughly predictable open meeting opposing the Solomon Amendment. We're going to pass (yawn) another resolution stating that we as law students object to legislation requiring us to allow the military to interview on campus.

I know, you're shocked, right? (Anyone betting against the passage of the resolution is advised to get very long odds.)

Suffice it to say that I will be spending my time not at the meeting (Thursday, March 10, 12:30 in JG 106) but having lunch, quite possibly a beer, and ignoring yet another piece of moral posturing by an elite group spouting off about their feelings of "academic freedom" being injured. The articles of the resolution are thoroughly uninspiring:

6. Recommend that the Administration supplement the asterisked note attached to Career Services e-mails and the posted flyers outside J.A.G. interview rooms with more effective means of ensuring the Students' accurate understanding of the issue based on current and future events.

(emphasis added) This makes CLS students sound rather thick, to be honest. We're already bludgeoned by information about this: does the Senate really think that the message just isn't getting through? Sure, the ALL CAPS EMAILS and the big blustery signs serve as wonderful bits of conformist intimidation ("Look: she just went into the JAG room! How dare she!") but I can't imagine supposedly intelligent law students need more to be put on notice. If one has gotten all the way to interviewing for JAG without hearing about the Solomon Amendment, one really shouldn't be hired by the JAG or anyone else (and should probably be checked for functioning vital signs).

The resolution is nothing but moral posturing. If this is really such a moral outrage, the Law School (and the Student Senate) are perfectly free to tell JAG never to darken their doors. Yes, they'd have to give away a lot of yummy federal money, but this is a moral issue, right? Certainly if we really think this, we should have the balls to turn away tainted cash.

Otherwise, if the University is going to take the King's shilling, it shouldn't be surprised when it gets dragooned [1]. In the meantime, I have enough trust in my fellow students to think that they can make their own moral judgments about the appropriateness of interviewing with JAG on campus without collective lecturing from the Student Senate, the administration, or anyone else. We are all supposed to be adults here, not high school juniors.

I'm all for politely asking those who wish to interview with JAG to interview elsewhere. After all, the "don't ask, don't tell" policy is offensive to some of my classmates, and as a matter of comity a polite request should be met with a polite reply. Presumably we could act as gentlemen. But comity cuts both ways: those who do want to interview with JAG shouldn't be beaten over the head with warnings more appropriate for tobacco cartons, nor do they deserve moral lectures from a self-satisfied majority. [2] This resolution isn't about comity, it isn't a polite request, and its language does nothing to suggest that those who disagree with it should respond with any good will in turn.

[1]: Since one of my commentators objects whenever I use a word like this, I mean dragoon in this sense: "To exact free quarters from."

[2]: Imagine if NARAL, when they decided to interview on campus, were to have a big sign placed outside their door saying, "THESE INDIVIDUALS HAVE SUPPORTED THE DESTRUCTION OF XXX MILLION FETUSES LAST YEAR," maybe with some tasteful display of a fetus. Appetites for moral lecturing on employers generally depends entirely on whose axe ox is being gored [3].

[3]: Update... "axe being gored?" Slip of the tongue combination of "whose ox is being gored" and "who has an axe to grind." One more reason why friends shouldn't let friends blog on cough medication.

March 08, 2005

Test Data that Heidi Bond Could Love

Don't ask me for an explanation. I guess this guy needed to lay out his paper before he wrote it. But here is an entire scientific paper consisting of only the word "chicken." Heidi can consider it a present.

Interestingly, it looks like he even managed to get the chickens into his equations.

(link via NTK)

March 07, 2005

A Few Thoughts on Loyalty

There's been a lot of commentary about this National Law Journal article condemning "Gen Y" associates:

Some call them slackers. Others are more diplomatic. But whatever the moniker, "Generation Y" associates are getting a bad rap for what some say is a flabby work ethic and an off-putting sense of entitlement.

Attorneys from Generation Y-those born in 1978 or later-are plenty smart and generally well educated, say firm leaders and industry experts. But these young attorneys also are lacking in loyalty, initiative and energy, so the criticism goes.


My first thought, of course, is that I'm two four years older than this definition of Gen Y, so I'm obviously on-course to become one of the cranky oldsters.

The commentary on the article has focused on the usual suspects: from the associates' side, partners are being exploitative, billable-hours requirements beggar belief, and loyalty declines because odds of becoming partner are declining. From the partner's side, the associates are either (a) simply lazy and whining, (b) don't understand how good they have it, or (c) are overly loyal to their own "class" instead of the firm. Then there's a third side, sort of structuralists, who argue that the problem is more a matter of how these firms are put together: young lawyers come to them often without business or work experience; law firms, on the other hand, often have a management deficiency, because they're run by good lawyers and bad managers; and less loyalty is only to be expected in an environment where few people make partner.

Now, I don't really have any great thoughts to add to this from a legal perspective, as my experience in a Japanese law firm last summer was probably an outlier. But I do have a thought about loyalty, and why I don't put much stock in a random partner's complaints about it.

Before coming to law school, I worked in a few places that had employee retention problems. It's relatively easy to get a job at a firm like that: they'll employ you pretty quickly if you've got talent, because they need to replace the last fellow who walked out the door. It's also pretty tough to get into firms where people don't leave, even in a boom or a bubble: people know when they have a good job at a good firm.

I worked for some very good bosses. (I also dated a manager of similar skill, and watched how she worked.) These were folks who, when the chips down, could get their people to work long, hard hours. Indeed, often they were more demanding than some "tough" bosses, but they received a great deal fewer complaints. In firms with retention problems, few of their team members walked out the door.

This lead to some significant benefits. Their teams were coherent, and thus more efficient. They didn't spend a lot of time making HR decisions. And they could spend time investing in their people, teaching them firm- or team-specific processes that increased productivity. In my twenties, I was doing my best to develop a management style, and wanted to learn from these people.

Every one of these high loyalty (or low turnover) bosses focused on three things. First, they knew each of their direct employees. By this I don't mean that they remembered birthdays or anniversaries (although some did, because they were that kind of people). Instead, they'd bothered to learn what made their employees tick. Some team members worked very well placed next to a high-flyer--they thrived on competition. Others worked better stuck in a corner where they could grow with less threat. Some lit up if they were praised, while others needed that occasional kick in the tail. The bosses made a note of it, and used it.

Secondly, they were all very interested in efficiency. Not bureaucracy or paperwork, but in actually making sure their employees spent the minimum amount of time on busywork and the maximum amount of time on getting their jobs done. One manager I knew was extremely good at this: if a corporate form needed signing by her team, it was on their desk the first thing the next morning with a note to fill it out before starting work. It neither interrupted her staff or kept them at the office when they'd finished up. This efficiency translated into loyalty because it looked a lot like "not wasting my time."

And third, they all were willing to break for their employees personal lives. That doesn't mean they allowed a lot of slacking, but if an employee had a personal event--death in the family, marital problems, a child ill--then the manager found a workaround. The best of these bosses put it to me this way: "Look, people spend more time in good times than bad times. Give them the bad times, and you'll get 120% out of them during the good. You make up the slack." I would have walked through fire for that boss. The guy who yelled at me? He got work out of me, and it was good work because I didn't want to get yelled at. But I'd not have spent a lot of time trying to get his fat out of the fire.

When I was a boss, I did my best to follow these precepts, although I'm sure I didn't manage it completely. To my credit, however badly I may have done, I did have low turnover. And to this day, I'll say the most important lesson I learned was that loyalty isn't something that employees come pre-packaged with: it's something you instill in them through good practice and fair dealing. You don't blame poor loyalty on your employees, or your associates: you look square at the boss.

But I'd also suspect that loyalty is more important in working environments where (a) the most important functional group is the team, (b) communications and groupware systems can be leveraged to the advantage of staff who are trained in them, and (c) the whole of a team's work has a value above the sum of its parts. While this is more of a guess than anything else, I wonder how much this applies to the modern law firm?

Law firms are professional associations, and at least at some theoretical level, those who work for them are supposed to be independent professionals, not team workers. And that seems to fit with the obsession for the billable hour. I mean, when you think about it, it's a pretty crude measure of productivity. If Employee A does better work more quickly than Employee B, his billable hours will be lower. If Employee B honestly tells a client that work doesn't need to be done, his billable hours drop. If this eventually leads to a client walking away... well, the individuals still have the hours they've already billed.

There's an entire industry out there developing employee evaluation metrics, and I won't try to step on the toes of my B-School brethren by listing them. But suffice it to say that I haven't ever worked in an industry that places such emphasis on a single figure.

When you focus so much on one number, everything else gets lost. Why do you need to retain staff, when one person's billable hour is the same as any other? If you're not trying to capture the efficiencies that experience brings, if you're not managing your knowledge, then why worry if some of it walks out the door? Think of the stereotype of the partner who is a "real yeller." An organization that cares about loyalty won't reward him if his underlings flee him at their first chance to jump ship; an organization that doesn't capitalize on loyalty will worry about how much he bills. Which sounds more like the stereotype of the law firm?

I'm not saying law firms don't make efforts in this direction (although knowledge management professionals are generally more than mildly scathing of most law practice, see this as one example at random), but they certainly don't seem to emphasize it. Call it a working hypothesis, but my guess is that if there's a loyalty complaint about Gen Y, it should run something like this: law firms don't value loyalty as highly as they might say; this, in turn, means that they don't put structures in place to promote it, or reward it particularly highly; and finally, this results in an overall low level of employee loyalty. This doesn't mean the firm won't be profitable--it can capitalize on different advantages to make sure it makes money--but it shouldn't be shocked that associates don't identify with the firm.

Anyway, that's my hypothesis at this point. Anyone is welcome to comment, but let me emphasize again that I'll delete impolite comments, especially about particular firms.

March 04, 2005

This is not a feature. It's a bug.

Oh dear. I had thought they'd fixed one interesting "feature" of the CLS bulk-mailing system that was a consistent thorn last year. It used to be that when a professor bulk-mailed a class, anyone hapless enough to hit the "reply" key would email not the professor, but the entire mailing list. This counterintuitive feature led to great annoyance and occasional hilarity last year.

I'd thought the problem had been thoroughly fixed. At least for the alumni, it seems not. There must have been a lot of alum with 60+ pieces of email yesterday:

Then the dean did what sounds like an innocent thing. He sent an email to all graduates, that is, alumni and alumnae, of Columbia Law School, with the entire editorial embedded in the email. In fact, I assume that the reason he reprinted his entire editorial in the email is that putting a link in the email wouldn't work because of the Sun's subscription requirement for Web access.

Perhaps you technology-weary can guess what happened next. Among the hard-working graduates of CLS were several lucky souls who were on vacation and had turned on out-of-office autoreply messages. Now, I just located the original message and hit "reply" (without sending, mind you!) to see how a return email would be addressed. It appears that, if one uses "reply" and not "reply all" that responses should go only to the sender. For some reason, however, those autoreplies, once they went back to the dean, were forwarded to the list. As were all the responses by all the people who became increasingly shrill as they received more and more and more email in response to the initial demands for removal.

Ah well. Multiple emails discussing the same thing with accidental replies sent to the whole list? For recent alumni, it must merely have invoked feelings of nostalgia...

March 03, 2005

Overdue

Citations to a number of articles by Professor Larry Ribstein ended up in my Note, and I found myself quite impressed by many of his ideas. I didn't even think to see if he had a blog. But he's the guy behind Ideoblog, which has now been added to the blogroll right under Professor Bainbridge.

That's about a year later than it should have been, then.

March 02, 2005

Roper, or Justice Kennedy Communes With The Innocence of Youth

One positive thing about being sick: while waiting to see the doctor, I could print out a copy of the Supreme Court's decision in Roper v. Simmons, which invalidated statutes allowing for the execution of those under 18. For those of you who haven't read it yet, the majority opinion is classic Kennedy: affirmation of the supremacy of the judiciary as moral arbiter, selective use of social science, and the feel-good assurance that this is all OK because it'll make us more like Europeans. As Scalia puts it in his dissent, the laws of several states have now been overturned through the awesome power of "the subjective views of five members of this Court and like-minded foreigners."

The majority opinion adds preposterousness upon preposterousness to try to make its decision match up with some kind of rule of law. First they rely on changed laws in a handful of states to come up with a "consensus" on "evolving standards of decency." Prof. Orin Kerr puts paid to this idea fairly well. Kennedy then spends a few pages gnashing his teeth over the fact that just two days ago, the United States was alone in the world in allowing the juvenile death penalty: all hail international law and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Nothing I can say to this is more appropriate than Scalia's dissent, on pages 19 and 20, which highlights just how Kennedy and his ilk pick and choose selectively those human rights which are matters of "civilized nations" and those rights on which they're happy to let the U.S. stand alone.

(Best quote on the international law aspect comes from Will Baude: "But I must say that looking to treaties that the U.S. has refused to sign borders on genuine chutzpah.")

A legal analysis of the case would be pointless: there is no "neutral principle" anywhere within the majority opinion that gives it predictive value in a legal sense. How can you tell when a "national concensus" is forming if five states can form it? When will "international opinion" play a role in evaluating our statutes? And as Scalia points out, if the court honestly believed its view on the need for bright-line rules and the immaturity of minors, then its abortion jurisprudence wouldn't require judicial review for minors who wish to have abortions without parental consent.

But I'm being churlish. Why do we need consistency here? We're making law!

No, analysis of Roper is much more interesting as what it is: a political opinion. Again, Professor Kerr highlights the new strategy this gives to death penalty opponents:

One interesting part of Roper is the incentives it creates (together with Atkins v. Virginia) for those seeking judicial abolition of the death penalty. Roper and Atkins tell capital defense litigators to delay their cases for as many years as possible. Drag out the appeals for a long, long time. During that period, have activists try to encourage legislators in a few select states to enact new legislative restrictions on the death penalty. It doesn't matter if those restrictions have any actual effect on how cases are charged; bans in states that do not actually bring any death penalty cases are fine, as the real audience is the Supreme Court. Years down the road, you can then use the new legislative restrictions in a few states as "objective indicia of consensus" that the practice of using the death penalty in such cases is impermissible. In effect, the changing practice in a handful of states can be bootstrapped by the courts into a constitutional ban that applies to all states.

In the same vein, Waddling Thunder points out that death penalty opponents who also have some respect for federalism may now not wish to overturn the death penalty in their state, lest it be interpreted as part of an "evolving consensus."

The truly pernicious thing about this decision, however, is that it is final, a victory cemented in stone. Suppose, for instance, that tomorrow Justice Kennedy were to suffer a freak hot tub and granola accident that misaligned his chakras such that he no longer felt able divine the moral consciousness of our society. When he steps down and is replaced by... let us say, for the sake of argument, Robert Bork, how will a case ever come to the court allowing Roper to be reversed? And, if it does, how will indicia of a "evolving concensus" be presented? Perhaps enough upstart states pass laws allowing 16-year-old executions--each of which is struck down--as to overwhelm Kennedy's analysis? Or perhaps we should just sit back and see if the international concensus dissolves? After all, those nations upon which Kennedy relies don't have our limitations: they can withdraw from the UNCRC, but we cannot withdraw from the Supreme Court.

I'm sure those who see this as a moral victory are undisturbed by the one-way rachet that's evolved in cases like Lawrence and Roper. So let me disturb them a bit. One's liking of a rachet is directly proportional to who holds the handle. Now consider this: George Bush has three and a half years left in office, the current Supremes are only getting older, and there's no assurance that the Democrats win in 2008. Nominations are a comin', and Justice Kennedy has just upped the stakes.

When the next Supreme Court nomination comes before the Senate, why should Republicans reject the "nuclear option"? If control of the Supreme Court allows an administration to cement its policy opinions long after the administration is gone, why not pack the court with young, highly conservative justices? Better yet, why not pack them with justices whose jurisprudence is more conservatively "pragmatic" and less bounded by ideas like originalism that might constrain them in inconvenient cases? With the stakes this high--the possibility of cementing a conservative bias into constitutional law for a generation--why show restraint?

When people ask why I support the Federal Marriage Amendment, it's this kind of ruling that springs to mind. Say what you will about "enshrining hatred into the Constitution", it does say one thing: change too much through the courts, and the people will constrain your power. It encourages citizens to debate and convince their fellow citizens, not merely place their faith in lawyers and the legally-educated.

In the meantime, let's remember what this case was about:

Petitioner, Christopher Simmons, was born on April 26, 1976. On September 10, 1993, when he was approximately seventeen-years and five-months old, petitioner was arrested for the murder of Shirley Crook. Following a botched robbery attempt, petitioner kidnapped Ms. Crook, bound and gagged her. Petitioner walked Ms. Crook down a railroad trestle, bound her more, and pushed her, while still alive, over the trestle and into the Meramec River. Prior to the robbery, petitioner stated to his accomplice that they could commit a robbery and murder and get away with it because they were juveniles.

(State ex rel. Simmons v. Roper, 112 S.W.3d 397, 419)

Forget what I said about Kennedy's jurisprudence having no predictive value. Immature as a 17 year 5 month male might be, he wasn't that far off the mark.

March 01, 2005

Oral Sex and Property Law

In the great state of Illinois, this is now settled law:

The judges backed the lower court decision to dismiss the fraud and theft claims [regarding a woman's decision to keep the output of oral sex and later use it to impregnate herself], agreeing with Irons that she didn't steal the sperm.

"She asserts that when plaintiff 'delivered' his sperm, it was a gift -- an absolute and irrevocable transfer of title to property from a donor to a donee," the decision said. "There was no agreement that the original deposit would be returned upon request."

Keep that in mind, 1Ls, when you have Property next year.

(Hat tip to Clearly Erroneous, who has such an appropriate title for the post.)

Giving The Devil His Due

Don't know if this is liberating or terrifying (UPDATED: Frog Got His List Back) (0)
What the Good Lord Giveth, the Good Lord Taketh Away (0)
The Amazonian Prime Directive (6)
PG wrote: Yeah, <a href="http://supct.law.cor... [more]

If You're Looking For Deep Thoughts, Look Elsewhere (3)
mls wrote: Oops, looks like my link above is b... [more]

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Richard Campbell wrote: For Cats vs. Roomba in comic form: ... [more]

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Easter Gets A Bad Rap (5)
David Mercer wrote: I need to wash my brain out with bl... [more]

Strange Firefox Problem (13)
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mikey wrote: Go for an/the iPod. I was surprise... [more]

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help wrote: guys i need information about terry... [more]

Commentary of the Fairer Sex (4)
the dark goddess of replevin wrote: On the Internet, no one knows if yo... [more]

Symbols, Shame, and A Number of Reasons that Billy Idol is Wrong (11)
Perzephone wrote: Phagh! I wore deep burgundy red for... [more]

Staples Curiousness (1)
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Now Reading (0)
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Adam wrote: Sitting in Arizona in March on Spri... [more]

Do we file this under "The Less They Know, The Less They Know It" or Just Call Him A Naif? (3)
martin wrote: Letierfilter? Isn't that a kind of ... [more]

Strange Prejudices (1)
PG wrote: The strange convergence of IDF and ... [more]

Well, That's Predictable (6)
Tony the Pony wrote: Well, objections to process are nev... [more]

Test Data that Heidi Bond Could Love (1)
Denise wrote: chicken, Chicken, CHICKEN!... [more]

A Few Thoughts on Loyalty (9)
Annoymous wrote: This is reminiscent of a documentar... [more]

This is not a feature. It's a bug. (6)
Tony the Pony wrote: I got all of them yesterday. And I... [more]

Overdue (0)
Roper, or Justice Kennedy Communes With The Innocence of Youth (12)
Tony the Pony wrote: Not justified by a body of law? Su... [more]

Oral Sex and Property Law (4)
PG wrote: My initial reaction was the same on... [more]

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Interesting new Expert DQ case
Decency, Due Care, and The Yoo-Delahunty Memorandum
Thinking About the Fired U.S. Attorneys


Ex Post
Student Symposium- Chicago!
More Hmong - Now at Law School
Good Samaritan Laws: Good For America?


Appellate Law & Practice
Those turned over documents
CA1: courts can’t help people acquitted of crimes purge the taint of acquitted conduct
CA1: restrictions on chain liquor stores in Rhode Island are STILL okay


the imbroglio
High schoolers turn in plagiarism screeners for copyright infringement
talisman
Paris to offer 20,600 bikes at 1,450 stations to rent by the end of the year


The Republic of T.
The Secret of the Snack Attack
links for 2007-04-04
Where You Link is What You Get

Distractions for stressed law students

The Other Side: Twisted AnimationsSomething Positive, a truly good webcomic

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Technologies


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