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July 28, 2005

Lock Up Your Daughters! Put Your Adolescent Sons In Chastity Belts!

There's a software patch that lets characters in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas "simulate sex." That is to say, you can see pornography enacted by pixellated images hot enough to get Hillary Clinton's knickers in a twist.

Christine Hurt thinks Hillary's case of the vapours is unpresidential. Will Baude opines that her draconian speech restrictions may be unconstitutional. Me, I just think Hillary's about fifteen years too late for the "sex in video games" craze. To my fellow bloggers' justified condemnation I'd just add that griping about sex in video games just makes Hillary her age.

Look, not only was there more sex in Infocom's Leather Goddesses of Phobos, but that game often turns up available online for free! And over a decade of bondage in text-based adventures hardly seems to have put a dent in the national moral character. Certainly not as much as, say, ten million internet porn sites available to any adolescent boy whose hormonal drive outweighs his scruples at declaring himself 18 to a click-through entry screen. Or even a nation riveted by nightly news tales of oral sex and cigar frolics.

(OK, I admit: this whole post has been an attempt to introduce a new generation of Young Democrats to Leather Goddesses of Phobos, possibly the silliest combination of light bondage and space opera since William Shatner stopped kissing blue-skinned venus-babes. And if I get a hit from naughtybill.clintonlibrary.gov, I'm going to give the Senator something to really complain about.)

For those who sincerely want to know what is making Hillary blush, you can read a gamer's description of the patch, or even download a short video that shows you what the Senatoress doesn't want your kids to see. I suppose I should give an obligatory Not Safe For Work warning, but don't expect anything too exciting. Also, it takes forever to download.

If your kids can be corrupted by this, please send a complaint to your local Bureau of Infernal Quality Control, as their assigned tempters have not been working too terribly hard.

For completely losing the plot, however, you have to hand it to Matthew Yglesias, who thinks that by mocking Clinton I'm under the spell of the vast left-wing conspiracy:

I think Ezra Klein's shrugging attitude toward Hillary Clinton's campaign against Grand Theft Auto is a serious mistake. To be sure, he's quite right to say that nothing Senator Clinton is proposing is genuinely worth getting agitated about. But for this to work as a repositioning effort it needs to be condemned by young people and video game fans. That's the proof she's a "different kind of Democrat" and/or that the party has learned its lesson and is now sensitive to the needs of America's parents.

Note to the out-of-touch Democrat: the kind of parent who is concerned about this sort of thing doesn't buy their child Grand Theft Auto games in the first place. If Clinton wants to reposition herself, take aim at something that a parent can't prevent her children from coming into contact with: giant signs showing sex acts on Houston and Lafayette, for instance. (Note to Hillary: this does not triangulate well, because your present base is located around... Houston.)

And take a look at that video clip above: is the wedge problem here really the game mod? How about the first few frames, in which the main character is carrying a shotgun around a neighborhood in broad daylight, seemingly to a date?

July 27, 2005

Magnificently Obtuse

I don't have a copy of the 18th Edition of the Bluebook over here, but if PG's quotation at De Novo is correct, the new rules for citing blogs seem spectacularly daft. At least according to that quotation--I can't find an online source at the moment--the correct citation for this blog entry would be:

Three Years of Hell, http://www.threeyearsofhell.com/ (July 28, 2005, 20:40 EST).

There must be a justification for this format that I just don't see. How useful is the time and date stamp if you actually want to visit the blog entry? Why not use the simple expedient of the permanent URL?

And what's that EST doing there? On my blog, that's only really identifiable if you look at the source code for an individual entry, or maybe in the RSS feed. (Where, of course, it's not in EST format, but as GMT - 05:00.) I have no idea how you'd figure that out on a standard-issue Livejournal or Blogspot site. You could just try to figure out where the blogger lives, but what about bloggers who modify their timestamp when they're in a different country?

It's as if there was a conscious attempt to make the citation format as unhelpful as possible for an actual practitioner to find, as difficult as possible for a member of staff to check [1], and as unlikely as possible for an article author to comply with the standard. I suppose one should just sigh in resignation when the Bluebook insists on citing to a paper source no one uses in favor of electronic sources freely available and more commonly referenced, but when there is only an electronic source, would it be too much to ask that the Book try to match itself to electronic reality?[2]

UPDATE: A reader asks what my preferred citation format would be. I'd probably respect the fact that blog posts generally have titles, their authors might like to see their name in print (especially academic authors who otherwise wouldn't be picked up in a citation check), and all information to be collected should be available on the webpage. So something like Author (if available and not a pseudonym), Title (if any), on Site Name, URL (to source if available, to root otherwise), (date, no time unless necessary). So this post would read:

Anthony Rickey, Magnificently Obtuse, on Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil, http://www.threeyearsofhell.com/archive/003609.php (Jan. 27, 2005).


There may be some problems with that--I'm by no means an expert in the Bluebook, so it may conflict with another citation format--but it accomplishes everything the "proper" citation does, while giving better information to the reader and avoiding unnecessary staff time.

[1]: Here, again, that EST requirement befuddles me. If the information required by a citation is only commonly available for those who know how to read the right bit of a blog's source code--and that only if it's run on MT--who is going to train the staff to do this?

[2]: True, there are blogs that don't feature permalinks for their entries, but they're certainly not standard, whereas I can't think of a single set of blogging software that makes timezone stamps an out-of-the-box feature. Certainly a rule stating "use permalinks when possible, and if necessary identify the post by date and time; otherwise, use only the date" would be more sensible.

July 26, 2005

No Tree Falls in London (or Life Outside the Big City)

When my father tried to go to work today, an obstinate thunderstorm wiped out the power in the small... well, we'll call it a 'hamlet' in order to make it sound romantic, shall we? The house is huddled among some others back in a woods, and there's only one real way in and out.

Today, after getting into his suit and thinking he'd be on for a meeting about a hundred miles away, he found the storm had knocked a three-foot thick tree trunk across his path.

So it was back home, out of the suit, into some jeans, and out with the chainsaw. About an hour and a week's worth of firewood later, it was time to head off for the meeting.

There's one thing I never worry about in London or New York.

July 25, 2005

Diversity!

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein slightly underestimates the diversity of the Federalist Society's membership:

The media's new obsession over whether John Roberts is or was a member of the Federalist Society is pretty foolish. I know members whose political views range from moderate conservatives (more moderate than, say, O'Connor or Kennedy) to Christian rightists to libertarian anarchist individualists. Judicial philosophy ranges from Borkean anti-judicial review views to Randy Barnettian presumptions of liberty. In short, membership in the Federalist Society tells you nothing about a nominee except that he or she is not "on the left", which one presumes would be true about any Bush Supreme Court nominee.

(emphasis mine) Actually, I know at least one left-wing, Kerry-campaigning, certifiably-lefty member of the Federalist Society. Admittedly, I only know one, but then, I don't know that many Federalists.

I Hate To Break It To Some Readers, But You Don't Know Me

It is, I suppose, the preserve of professors of philosophy to tie one up in logical knots, but Professor Brian Leiter has outdone himself. In his latest "look how dumb someone is" rant, he bloviates:

In the conservative pity fest for Mr. Non-Volokh back in late June, this right-wing blogger . . . charges me with having displayed "ignorance of blogospheric custom and history."

Ignorance of blogospheric custom and history?

How old is someone who writes things like this, and apparently means it seriously?


(links removed)

I don't know, let us ask Professor Leiter: how old is someone who writes this kind of thing and means it seriously? He should be able to tell us.

Some time ago, after making various dark threats and suggestions that some unnamed Columbia professor was ashamed of my blogging, Leiter "thanked" me for respecting the confidentiality of the correspondence. I replied that I was unaware of any obligation to do so, upon which Prof. Leiter himself responded:

I'm sorry, I guess we'll have to end this correpsondence. [sic] I had understood confidentiality of e-mail exchanges to be one of the universally adhered to norms of the blogosphere.

(emphasis mine) Now, perhaps the blogosphere has universally adhered-to norms, but not "custom and history." And perhaps Professor Leiter knows those norms, but is as confessedly ignorant of the customs and history as he is of that of "CB radio, . . . Dungeons & Dragons, Pokemon, fantasy baseball, and so on." Or perhaps he can explain how a norm evolves--and is understood--in an environment that has few written rules and does so outside its culture and history. Or perhaps he just picks and chooses the norms he wants to believe in depending upon convenience.

In any event, I don't feel particularly bad now about publishing a part of that email of Leiter's, given his view on such statements.

But wait, there's more from the Professor in the same post:

Has anyone else noticed that the blogosphere is full of folks who don't seem to have real lives? . . . They don't appear to have real-world status, accomplishments, skills, knowledge, attachments. Blogs and their relationships with others who have blogs appear to be their lives. And if they're suitably reactionary, as this joker clearly is, then InstaIgnorance links to them and gives them a "life."

I'll give you a few seconds to collect yourself while you brush the specks of Leiter's bilious arrogance off your lapels.

How full of yourself do you have to be to cast judgment on the whole of someone's life because you read what they write on a website, or to think you know what they "seem" to be like? A long time ago, when discussing why anonymity wasn't that useful, I wrote:

But [readers] won't get [an authentic idea of what law school is like through your blog:] at the very best, they're getting facets of your law school experience, filtered through your own particular opinions. Unless you're going to spend an inordinate amount of time blogging in a day, your readers will get disconnected vignettes, small glimpses of the highs and lows of your experience. They're not getting 'authenticity' anyway, they won't miss it because you decided not to slam some gunner you didn't happen to like.

There's a lot of topics that are dear to my heart that don't make it to here. There's some political issues I won't address, not because I don't have feelings on them, but because I do and I know they'll offend some people unnecessarily. Much as I'd love to tell you about my love life, my relationship with my family, or the juicy gossip of the law school, it's not getting published.


And indeed, recently a lot hasn't been getting published, for reasons varying from Model Rule 1.6 to simple lack of time.

If I, or anyone, reads a weblog, they know some aspect of the author that they're willing to put online. I've been pleased--indeed, privileged--to meet many of my fellow law bloggers while TYoH has been running, and they're never entirely what I would expect from just reading the blog: they're fuller, more deep, more real than they ever could capture by putting fifteen minutes into a page every few days, or even every evening. Even Stay of Execution, which is more heart-on-your-sleeve than most of what I read, pales in comparison to the author herself.

If blogs and blogging appear to be the life revealed on a blog, well, that's the nature of the medium. And as for those who would stand in judgment while sitting in glass blogs. . . .

July 24, 2005

Catching Up on Pop Culture?

I've not had a TV--certainly not one with cable--for most of my time at Columbia. While I'm in London, my normal background noise is the Top Hits channel, which unlike MTV actually plays videos most of the time, instead of the Puff Daddy Pimp My Cooking Show Marathon.

On the other hand, it's leading to a number of disturbing revelations. I've already written of my discovery of the bastard child of Nelly and Tim McGraw. [1] Now I'm wondering, "When did Charlotte Church start marketing herself as a sex kitten?" Her latest video is, to say the least, a little more provocative than her debut albums.

I'm telling you, this world: you turn your back for one minute to do something like clerkship applications, and they just start redecorating the whole damn place...

[1]: (Pity anyone who Googles that.)

July 20, 2005

Well, you are reading TYoH...

So, on the day when everyone and their dog keep blogging about Supreme Court nominations, I'm writing about technology in law firms. And I'm tired enough that I can't find my way to worry if Bush nominated a Democratic gerbil. [1]

How badly does it reflect on a clerkship-seeking law student not to have an opinion on a (quite-possibly soon-to-be-powerful) judge?

[1]: My "jurisprudence" basically boils down to this: overturn Roe v. Wade and no state will ban abortion; no Court however conservative will overturn Goodridge. Nominees are important, but the Court is the branch against which the populace has the least influence and the least protection. Selection of justices isn't really worth the political energy to follow closely unless you're one of the politicians, or more powerful in politics than I ever think I'll be.

Law Firm Technology

One thing about coming from the tech industry into law: it becomes shocking the decade--if not the century--in which we do most of our work. Just discussing with friends, it seems common for all of us to work on projects with hundreds of documents, dozens of attorneys from multiple firms, and even tens of clients, all the while communicating with nothing more than email. I would have imagined at least a single client extranet laden with useful tools, if not multiple client extranets from different firms linking together intelligently.

Three things lead me to think that there's a lot of money on the table for someone who can build a good legal software package in a manner that actually saves firms money. First, law firms pay their staff a lot of money, and at present a huge amount of staff time is not particularly value-added. [1] Second, a more competitive legal industry is allowing many larger clients to insist upon fee caps or even fixed fees, which change the dynamic of any project: you can lose your shirt on a deal, but a deal planned well right from the start has the potential for vast profitability, since the firm keeps any gains. And lastly, a lot of the technology useful for allowing highly-skilled knowledge workers to collaborate in the creation of knowledge (and its artifacts) has lost its bleeding edge and moved into the realm of the proven.

As I've worked this summer, the structure of some of these tools has taken root in my mind: how they should work, how they should integrate seamlessly with the processes that lawyers already use, and how those processes might evolve. But I also realize that I can't be the first person to think these ideas. While I don't want any of my readers to reveal any confidential or proprietary information, if anyone has answers to the following questions, I'd be very interested:

  1. Does anyone know of a firm that employs (or a software company that provides) a well-regarded client-extranet to manage documents, workflow, and timelines? Something like the Sharepoint of law firms?
  2. In a similar vein, I've been thinking about my ideal Microsoft Word add-ins for legal work. (Because firms are usually wedded to their existing word processors, I think talking of ground-up ideas for new software is a tough sell.) I was thinking particularly of an add-on that would quickly and easily remember where the data in a document came from. For instance, if I had cut and pasted data from a company's online annual report into a prospectus, the document would remember that some of its contents came from another source (either webpage or document)?
  3. Finally, does anyone know of a firm that actually employs dedicated project managers? I know that this is often considered a partner's role, but it seems like partners wear multiple and often inconsistent hats: project manager, relationship manager, resource manager, programme manager, etc. On the other hand, project management is its own discreet skill, there are trained project managers widely available in the marketplace, and (trust me, I used to be one) for what you pay a first year associate you can get quite a few talent project managers. Does anyone know of a firm that's considered changing its work processes to take advantage of such creatures?

If you know someone who might know the answer to these questions, please feel free to email them the link to this post.

[1]: Don't get me wrong--much of what lawyers do is a tremendous value-add, even when the work is merely checking detail: there's virtue in the level of care that goes into legal work. But the process to get to added value is often far more difficult than it really needs to be.

If you look very, very closely

My brother points me towards Google's moon site, which makes an intriguing scientific discovery if you employ the closest possible zoom...

July 19, 2005

Attack of the Fifty Foot Deadlines

I'm afraid you might not hear much from me in the next couple of days. The girlfriend's visiting London next weekend, and I'm not inclined to be online while she's paid a large chunk of money for a plane ticket to come see me. In the meantime, I've put off a lot of clerkship work until right before the deadlines, and the deadlines are... now.

I've had 4AM nights for the last three nights, and I'm pretty certain I've not been writing English when I've been putting some of this stuff together. Needless to say, this is not when you want to read what I'd be blogging. It would sound more like a stoned two-year old than normal around here.

On the first of August, however, normal service should resume...

UPDATE: Right, I've not had a lot of sleep, but I just turned on one of these European MTV knock-offs and found out that there's a Nelly/Tim McGraw duet on the tube. For a second, I thought I was hallucinating from lack of sleep.

I take it this has been around for a while, but it's been off my radar screen. What were they thinking? And how long has this been around?

July 12, 2005

Since it's about that time of year...

Dear Wormwood,

I know it's been quite a long time since I've written you a letter, a dereliction of duty that should have me sent back to the lowest pre-tempter stage. Nevertheless, I've been moved to write by the question posed by Prof. Smith over at the Conglomerate: if I could recommend one book for you, dearest Wormwood, what would it be?

While I gave you some recommendations last year, it certainly wasn't in the context of one book to read before you begin. And I disagree with many of the suggestions given so far. I tried, for instance, reading Glannon on Civil Procedure (suggested by Prof. Kerr) before arriving at Columbia, but while that is an excellent pre-exam study tool, it's not very gripping. Unless Civ Pro is really your thing--and maybe it is--it'll be a hard slog to force your way through. I haven't read Prof. Smith's suggestion of Simple Justice, so I can't comment on that.

But for my money--and yours, dear Wormwood, because I'm afraid I can't be buying books for you--I couldn't suggest anything better than what was recommended to me by one commentor on TYoH when I asked this question way back in the day. And that book would be Chirelstein's primer on Contracts. It's a good overview of what will almost certainly be one of your core 1L courses, while the text is engaging and won't make you feel like you're lost while reading it. As such it's a good cure for both the pre-1L jitters and an enjoyable little tome for a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Well, it certainly didn't do me much harm.

cover
Concepts and Case Analysis in the Law of Contracts

July 10, 2005

Speaking of Quality Control, or Glass Houses, Anyone?

Speaking of quality control, one thing I want to do as soon as the computer is fixed: clean up Three Years of Hell. Blogger has obviously changed something in its ATOM feeds, because most of the blogger links on my right hand navigation are broken. (Oh, joy.) I need to fix the top navigation of the site so that it will work on other browsers. And if there's one thing I've learned from this meltdown, it's that it's always handy to have a PDA-readable version of the site available.

(If anyone else has suggestions for site maintenance and repair, please feel free to leave them in the comments.)

But all that will have to wait. As will revising my Note and clerkships. I seem to have an involuntary free day today.

Dell Quality Control Sucks

So Dell Tech Support outside the US is being typically useless: not open on weekends (you'd think this thing is programmed only to break Friday and Saturday), and always with a very helpful message on the phone before telling you that they won't help you any other way, informing you that you really should look at the website. Note to anyone at Dell reading this: your customers get frustrated when you tell them to look at a website with a computer that's shafted. If you can't get your customers to useful service, then hang up the phone before costing them more money.

In an attempt to avoid buying a new computer, I'm going to get this machine fixed once more. On the other hand, this will be the fifth LCD screen this machine has had, possibly its fourth video card, and it's already on the third motherboard. I've not cracked open my server as often as this machine's been gutted. A complete list of everything that's gone wrong that I got from Dell today?

  1. 035271301 - dell drivers and utilities cd Date : 12th June 2003 [Not a big deal, they thought this would fix the original monitor problem.]
  2. 035583670 - LCD and Keyboard was replaced. Date : 29th June 2003

  3. 035684005 - Motherboard was replaced Date : 29th Auguest [sic] 2003

  4. 036422135 - LCD and Video card was replaced Date : 5th Auguest [sic] 2003

  5. 042565604 - LCD and Video card was replaced Date : 25th Febraury [sic] 2004

  6. 057350883 - Ac adapter and power cable date 15th May 2005

  7. And they don't include--presumably because Hong Kong repairs aren't on their system--how they replaced the motherboard last month.

So I'm wondering if I ought to contact someone at Dell and say, "Look, give me a loaner for a week that I can swap the hard drive out of, and just take this machine back to look at it?" Because nothing should break this often in such consistent ways.

Online tech support is quite uninterested: just book the call, get the serviceman out, close the call, get it off their desks. That seems shortsighted in more ways than one. After all, I will be replacing this notebook once the three year warranty runs out--especially at this rate. One would suspect they would like to impress me if they want another sale and the chance to make back some of the money they've lost on this warranty.

Anyway, I have no idea who I'd contact within the company. I suppose I could put all my Dell-related technical posts into one category and buy a URL like dellsupportsucks.com (which is both already taken and forwards to geeksupport.net, go figure), but that seems an antisocial way of drawing the attention of the higher-ups. Still, I'm at a loss of what to do, other than never buy one of these machines again.

July 09, 2005

Probably need a new computer

It looks as if, even though I still have one more year of technical support left on this PC, I may be replacing my Dell Inspiron 8500. Less than a month since my last technical support call to get the blown motherboard replaced, the monitor has now given way. This is two days before my Note resubmit deadline, which means that there is no real way for me to submit my Note to the Law Review. In trying to contact technical support through expensive international calls and internet cafes, I've spent over $25 in the last two months. In short, I've had it up to here with Dell: in general I find their technical support services to be superb, especially the online technical assistance, but there is no reason I should have to rely upon it so much.

I hate this. I can't afford a new computer--though I was hoping to buy a new cheap desktop when I got back to the US--but I don't want to be without my own personal machine for a month. Dell is telling me that they don't think replacing the monitor again would help, so they're reluctant to do it. Which is fine, but until they come up with a solution, I've got a 6lb. paperweight with one year of warranty left, and no force on earth is going to get my Note nd research off my hard drive. [1]

I suppose I could pull a Bainbridge and ask my readers to donate enough money for a new computer. Even if it would work--and yes, I'm laughing as hard as you are at the thought that I blog in those leagues--I'd feel like a jerk: most of my readers are law students with no more money than I have. Besides, I don't blog to support my computing habit.

But if any of my readers have an idea of where I could get a cheap, quality notebook with good international support--especially if the UK supplier is having a sale--I'd greatly appreciate it.

Update: Great. The chat client that Dell uses for online support crashed just before the tech gave me a case number. I need that in order to talk to UK tech support. The web cafe I'm in is closing. What a comedy of errors, except it's not remotely funny. This, in the end, is the problem with Dell: good support, but it needs to be because the products break down.

[1]: Some Columbia readers will wonder how it is that I can save everyone else's paper from failed hardware, but not my own. If I were back home, I could, but I don't have the toolset that I'd normally use with me. It's probably ironic, in the Alanis Morrisette way.

July 08, 2005

Coincidences of Terrorism

Given recent events, I find it strange that I didn't know that they're making a movie of the old Alan Moore comic V for Vendetta until I read about it today on Althouse. Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman star, while the Wachovski Brothers and Joel Silver are in production. And unlike another Hollywood recreation of a Vertigo Comics property, not doing something stupid like setting the film in the States.

From the synopsis:

Incomparably charismatic and ferociously skilled in the art of combat and deception, V ignites a revolution when he detonates two London landmarks and takes over the government-controlled airwaves, urging his fellow citizens to rise up against tyranny and oppression.

Well, sort of. In Moore's vision of the future, Britain has become a fascist state, brutally corrupt and oppressive, inspiring the anti-hero "V" to hide behind a grinning Guy Fawkes mask and a purple overcoat while committing acts of terror. The comic has an eerie ambivalence: V appears as a psychopath willing kill anyone and to torture his own accomplice in order to teach her a lesson in "freedom." The government, on the other hand, sports fascist goon squads and secret torture laboratories. While I didn't find V for Vendetta to be Moore's best work, he at least presented an anti-hero with moral failings that lent the work a complexity often lost on Hollywood.

Which is why this line from the synopsis of the movie novelization is worrying:

A frightening and powerful story of the loss of freedom and identity in a totalitarian world, V for Vendetta takes place in an alternate future in which Germany wins WWII and Britain becomes a fascist state.

The original didn't feel the need to blame the Germans: post-apocalyptic Britain descended into fascism very well on its own. And shorn of its moral ambiguity, I'm not sure what much of interest remains in the story.

More than that, I wonder about the timing. When so many are busy using the term "fascist" to describe the American--and occasionally the British--government, and terrorists have actually struck London, what will be this film's market?

cover
V for Vendetta

July 07, 2005

Walking Back Home

The buses have restarted, and an entire city is quietly filtering back home, by hook or by crook. I'm back in the same internet cafe I was writing from earlier, and I'll probably be able to get a bus back home soon. Like a dropped pocketwatch, London skipped in its course a little, but seems relatively back to ticking. Sorrow, commiseration, and resilience seem the order of the day.

According to the Back to Iraq blog, Quaeda't al-Jihad (a European chapter of Al Quaeda) has taken credit for the bombing. (Hat tip to Dark Bilious Vapours) Not really surprising, though sad. In taking credit, this group also takes win, place, and show in the Spinning For The Domestic Audience contest:

As retaliation for the massacres which the British commit in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mujahideen have successfully done it this time in London.

And this is Britain now burning from fear and panic from the north to the south, from the east to the west.


At least so far as I can see on the walk home, whatever is in the air ain't fear. London's made of sterner stuff. The bombings themselves are tragic, but enough of the British gallows humour has rubbed off on me: the histrionic mewlings of these nutcases brings the shadows of a dark sardonic grin. Look at how proud they are, how much they think of themselves. Look at what they think they've wrought. "Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair."

Right.

Explosions in London

There's a lot to say about the explosions that rocked London this morning. I'll leave it to others to say it. For the moment, I'm mostly writing to let my friends and family know that I'm fine. My story of the morning is fairly undramatic.

I'd left the flat a few minutes late this morning, as I'd taken a bit of time to talk to my girlfriend over AIM. In the end, I made it to Sloane Square station to find a train packed to the gills and unmoving. No sooner had I gotten on the train than the announcement came: "Due to a major security alert, no trains will be operating. Please exit the station."

It wasn't until a few minutes later--while I was trying to figure out which bus would take me to Saint Paul's--that someone passed me saying, "Explosion at Liverpool Street."

Since then I've walked over almost half of London, trying to get to work, before I got hold of the office and they told me not to come in. As I came closer to Westminster and then into Central London, sirens became a more frequent occurrence. You still hear them now. As I passed each office building, I'd see clutches of staff clustered around screens watching the BBC. Occasionally I'd pass a small huddle of people talking to others elsewhere in the city.

"Hi, darling. Are you OK?"

"Do they know who did it?"

"I just left from King's Cross. Is that where they said the bus was?"

"Now some idiot is going to say this was justice."

The last was the only close to political comment I heard, though. Otherwise, those I passed on the street seemed quiet, hesitant, processing.

Most of the walk was spent on my cellphone talking to my parents: I'd woken them to tell them I was OK. They told me most of the news, my father online and my mother in front of the TV: one irony of the modern world is that it's often easier to figure out what's going on by making international long distance calls. Right now I'm near New Oxford Street in a web cafe, obsessively refreshing the BBC website to see if they've found anything new.

As for what's happening, there will be plenty said by plenty of others in the next few hours. I'll just close by saying that my heart goes out to those who have been injured, and for my friends in London, if you have a moment, please contact me to tell me you're OK.

UPDATE: I've seen reports that the mobile phone network in London is taking emergency calls only. The notice comes from my webhost, so it's not 100% authoritative, but my cell phone isn't working. If anyone out there (especially over the pond) is trying to call someone on a cell phone in London and it's not working, don't panic.

UPDATE II: From the BBC website's quasi-blog of reporters on-scene:

In Tavistock Square the wreckage of the roofless red London bus sits outside the offices of the British Medical Association, newspapers blowing in the road. A symbol of an ordinary Thursday morning commute cruelly interrupted.

As I was talking to my parents this morning, having them relate the news, that bus represented a turning point in my thinking. "Something bad's happened on the Tube," I thought, "But it's old, and the Central Line's had some problems before." When I learned there were a number of tube explosions, Denial kept whispering in my ears. Well, maybe there's sympathetic explosions within the network. It doesn't have to be terrorism. And then my parents mentioned the bus, and the range of possibilities collapsed.

I haven't seen pictures of the bus yet. To be honest, I'm avoiding them. But my thoughts are with the riders and their loved ones, as I suspect are the thoughts of most Londoners.

July 04, 2005

[from London] Law, Sci-Fi and Fantasy

I arrived back in London early Saturday morning and am again in the clutches of jetlag. Fortunately, this has meant I've gotten some Law Review work out of the way in the hours between 3AM and 8AM, but I wonder if there's enough coffee in London to keep me going through this first day of work.

One nice thing about long plane flights: it gives me a nice long stretch of time in which to read. I burned my way through a novel or two, one of which brought a question to my mind.

While science fiction invariably has science as one part of the genre, much of the interest of many sci-fi novels is the interplay of characters with future societies. Most recently I've read Gibson's All Tomorrow's Parties, but an even better example would be any of Iain M. Banks Culture novels. (Bank's future society can best be described as "a bundle of happy communists" who live in a future where the laws of scarcity have been overturned.)

What I couldn't bring to mind, though, was a science fiction novel that really dealt with the intersection between technological change and law, where the legal aspect was more than a tangent in discussing a future society. Neil Stephenson's Diamond Age came close, but again was worried much more with post-scarcity sociology. The closest thing that I could remember was Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man, a sort of extended novella about a man who plots out the perfect murder in a society in which the police can read your mind.

The more I think about it, the more I think there's room for a genre novel that deals specifically with changes to law and legal society. (Actually, I have a long-formed idea in my head about a modern fantasy novel that deals with various aspects of legal theory, but that's a thought for another time.) Before I go considering it much further, can any of my readers suggest an existing science fiction or fantasy novel that might fit the bill?

July 02, 2005

O'Connor Resigns...

...conservatives breathe a sigh of relief that they won't have to read another masterpiece of mush like Casey. Now the succession battles begin.

Instapundit points to GullyBorg's suggestion that Ann Coulter get the nomination:

Either [the Democrats] confirm her, or they raise hell. Assuming they raise hell enough to block the nomination, anyone else Bush puts up as a replacement looks moderate by comparison. Then, he can name someone in the mold of Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas, and the opposition will have to give in, since the replacement will be soooooo much better than Ann Coulter.

Three Years of Hell readers will recall that I made a similar suggestion--about as seriously--almost two years ago. Furthermore, I'm ready with t-shirts for the campaign.

July 01, 2005

Natural Selection and The Strength of College Conservatives

Over at TPM Cafe, "Cold Cardinal" does some moaning about the weakness of college Democrats. I'll have to say, I've never noticed a lot of weakness, but apparently Mr. Cardinal thinks otherwise:

In short, the College Democrats Iíve observed are little league. Year after year, they get their clocks cleaned in the campus debates. Republicans are charismatic and articulate, while the Dems stammer and fumble their way through hastily assembled factoids and lame talking points. The liberal professors are reduced to cringing in the corner as we wonder what the heck happened to the insights we thought we were imparting in class.

Now, first let me say that I certainly can't say that my anecdotal experience would fit with Mr. Cardinal's in any but the weakest of forms. Columbia has a great and active Federalist Society, I suppose, but the ACS--other than having a weaker website--has never seemed too much out of its league by comparison. (Cardinal is, of course, talking about undergraduate education, so I may be comparing apples and oranges.)

Mr. Cardinal goes through a laundry list of reasons for why the conservatives are so much better off, some of them sounding like the standard conspiracy theories. We're awash in Scaife/Horowitz money, for instance. (One would think that this is outweighed by the vast institutional advantage that lefties get from the institution itself. For instance, one might make some kind of argument that the Public Interest Law Foundation or the Center for Public Interest Law are non-ideological. You can excuse me while I laugh.) He also mentions that while the left has a multitude of activist groups that dilute the talent pool, Republicans are more concentrated. As a conservative in higher education, however, I think I can point to two factors that present even greater advantage--if such advantage exists--to conservatives.

Just Because Some of the Party Doesn't Believe in Natural Selection Doesn't Mean We Can't Benefit From It: For an extreme starter, let's take an issue often espoused by conservatives that I do disagree with, intelligent design. Imagine sitting in a small student gathering at Columbia and trying to argue that evolution should be taught in schools. Even if your argument is pretty weak, you're going to get a pass, because few if any people are around to disagree with you. Now imagine trying to uphold an idea like intelligent design: whatever the merits, you'll not be short of those to cross rhetorical swords with. Many of those folks will be skilled with data, have relevant expertise, or just be good debaters. You'll get good fast, or you'll be dead.

At most campuses--at least at places like Harvard or Columbia--conservatives are in that position on almost every issue. The exercise of having to constantly justify your position makes one used to the necessity. Indeed, it becomes second nature. I was at a largish lunch recently where I was seated with two fellow conservatives, and we started talking about some of the events at Columbia and the Solomon Amendment. Almost without thinking, I was taking issue with the conservative, trying to tone down what we were saying, because, after all, it's what I've been doing for three years. The idea--all of a sudden--that it wasn't a necessity, that I was in the real world where there are a multitude of allies, hit me like the proverbial lemon wrapped around a gold brick.

Conservatives Who Don't Like to Argue Shut the Hell Up: If Mr. Cardinal thinks that Republicans at most universities are on average better debaters, he might be surprised by how much that's because the less eloquent have left the field.

Since I was overseas for university, this might not be the norm, but during my undergrad experience there were a lot of very quiet conservatives. I was not one of them, but I was surprised the number of parties or dinners after which, as denoument, ended with some otherwise quiet member of the table approaching me and confessing that, "Well, yes, I pretty much agree with you, but I just didn't feel like having the fight." Look, in most social settings in college, supporting redistributive taxation, affirmative action, or homosexual marriage doesn't take much courage: bad arguments for these positions will be accepted by most colleagues because one's heart is in the right place.

These Two Principles in Action: I remember particularly a conversation at Columbia just before the last election. One young lady--a rather passionate woman of the type I imagine Mr. Cardinal speaks--said to me, "Well, you can't argue that we [the Democrats] are the party with a greater diversity of ideas, and that gives us the advantage." (This was back when at least some New Yorkers thought Kerry was a winner.) I should have let that pass, but it was the phrase--"you can't argue"--that goaded me on. And sure enough, I did precisely that. Actually, I first asked her for her support for the position. It amounted, basically, to, "You know what I mean."

"Well, yes, I know what you mean. You mean that the Democrats are more racially diverse, which is probably true. That's not the same as diversity of ideas. Republicans have both pro-life and pro-choice candidates on the stage at their convention. In the meantime, Democrats like Gov. Casey only get their fame in Democratic circles through case names. We've got differences in just about every aspect of the party, and there's not a lockstep march even within the pages of National Review. My guess is that both parties are pretty diverse but find it more difficult to see the diversity in their opponents--a heuristic bias that's understandable--but I'd not want to put that forward as more than a guess until I had some evidence to back it up. Meanwhile, I'd really like to see the evidence of intellectual diversity--not diversity that is purely racial--that makes your position unarguable, as it doesn't fit my experience."

Believe it or not, asking for justification was taken with offense. The young lady belonged to Dean's 'They're all white, upper-class Christians' part of the Democratic Party, and I'd offended the orthodoxy. Let me suggest that a conservative whose orthodoxy is so easily offended in law school should be prepared for a very lonely existence. More likely, they'll just go turtle until they graduate. When faced with "unarguable" propositions, they'll just not argue.

I don't think that American universities are so hostile to the right that they're uninhabitable, but there is an adversity to be faced as a conservative that sharpens one's skills. What is amusing is how transparently Mr. Cardinal avoids these rather obvious explanations. If Republicans can be said to be better organized, better prepared, better debaters, the answer would seem to be clear: in a hostile environment, you're either good, or you're not there.

I didn't mean it. Really

Through Half the Sins of Mankind, I learn that I am, at least for now, the top Google hit for International Kissing Day.

Ouch. Especially since I agree with PG on the whole hugs vs. kisses debate.

Political Mass Mailing

As a political marketing techniques go, I'm a bit suspicious about the use of mass emails. True, you get the message out to a lot of people, but you don't really know to whom you're delivering that message.

Case in point: here is how I learn whatever the newest message from the Republican National Committee's Ken Melhman.

  1. I receive an email from Ken Melhman in my mailbox. Deciding that I have infinitely better things to do than read the spin-drenched ramblings of my own political party, I go and put on some water for coffee and read The Economist. Poor Ken's email hits the Deleted Items folder with a soft electronic 'thud.'
  2. Upon reaching sites like Talking Points Memo or Chris's Law Dork, I find that the email has been nicely summarized, criticized, and satirized for me.
  3. I idly think of adding Mehlman to my spam-blocking list, but get this horrible twinge of guilt that without an SUV to my name or any other claim to plutocracy, putting the RNC Chair on my spam list might hurt my Republican street cred. [1]

True, my experience may not be typical, but I do wonder if these days party emails get read more by the opposition than their intended targets? Perhaps some smart marketing type has already figured this out?

[1]: Do Republicans have "street cred"? Country-club cred? I leave the question as an exercise for my readers.

Giving The Devil His Due

Lock Up Your Daughters! Put Your Adolescent Sons In Chastity Belts! (3)
Anthony Rickey wrote: You know, Tung, when I posted this,... [more]

Magnificently Obtuse (5)
ambimb wrote: I agree w/Anthony completely on thi... [more]

No Tree Falls in London (or Life Outside the Big City) (0)
Diversity! (0)
I Hate To Break It To Some Readers, But You Don't Know Me (7)
A. Rickey wrote: Sarah, I'm not saying that I don... [more]

Catching Up on Pop Culture? (1)
H wrote: Wait til you get back to the States... [more]

Well, you are reading TYoH... (1)
Maddie wrote: It's worth remembering for us laype... [more]

Law Firm Technology (5)
Richard Noalnd wrote: You ever heard of AMS-Legal? Law f... [more]

If you look very, very closely (0)
Attack of the Fifty Foot Deadlines (1)
DG wrote: It's been around since about Februa... [more]

Since it's about that time of year... (1)
Adam wrote: Another good one might be "A Civil ... [more]

Speaking of Quality Control, or Glass Houses, Anyone? (3)
Anthony wrote: Jonathan, Why do you think the h... [more]

Dell Quality Control Sucks (1)
Matt wrote: Anthony, Not that we know each o... [more]

Probably need a new computer (2)
Anthony wrote: I don't have an external monitor in... [more]

Coincidences of Terrorism (0)
Walking Back Home (1)
christien wrote: glad to hear you're ok.... [more]

Explosions in London (8)
isph wrote: I'm glad to hear you're safe too...... [more]

[from London] Law, Sci-Fi and Fantasy (8)
AndyHat wrote: Greg Bear's two novels Queen of ... [more]

O'Connor Resigns... (1)
PG wrote: I don't think I could wear a "Nomin... [more]

Natural Selection and The Strength of College Conservatives (4)
A. Rickey wrote: Blaine: I wouldn't have said any... [more]

I didn't mean it. Really (2)
Chris wrote: Would that preference make you like... [more]

Political Mass Mailing (0)

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