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August 13, 2005

Damn the Wildcats

I may or may not be leaving London tomorrow. It will depend upon how far British Airways has recovered from wildcat strikes.

The British have a charming knack for misnomer. A petulant union making sure that thousands can't travel, produce or consume anything, who do so by not doing any working themselves, are repeatedly referred to as taking part in "industrial action."

And you wonder where they get that wonderful dry sense of humor.

August 07, 2005

Gods Whom the Gods Drive Mad?

So a blogger calling himself (and presumably not really named) Mithras published a particularly bile-filled "taxonomy" [1] of the right-wing blogosphere, including some language that would fall afoul of hate-speech codes at many universities. As pointed out on Volokh, it's pretty typical these days, barely enough to warrant a yawn, though it has gotten a lot of attention from
the usual suspects.

As I said, yawnworthy, except for the name of the blogger, who I'd not much followed before: Mithras. I've known some bloggers to pick pretty impressive names--take a look at Ex Post for some pretty impressive pseudonyms--but I don't think I've ever seen someone who chose a god as a nom-de-pixel.

Besides being a particularly interesting mythological figure--the Mithras legends bear some striking resemblances to Christianity in places--the name sticks out for me because there's a Temple of Mithras in London not far from where I now work. I've not been there, but maybe I'll put it on my list now.

In any event, I'm now curious: does anyone know of any other deific (or demonic) bloggers?

Update: The traditional welcome to Instapundit readers.

[1]: I'm a bit befuddled by Mithras' claim that his list is a "taxonomy." I'd think that the bare minimum required for anything to be a taxonomy would be an attempt at classification useful for blogs that aren't listed. What Mithras has published is useless for such purposes: for instance, is Three Years of Hell a "Volokh" or an "Instapundit"? I write about things Japanese a lot, so maybe I'm a "Malkin"?

Actually, it looks like Mithras has just decided it would be funny to spit out a list of insults and tack onto it some "science-y" word. I might take it more seriously the next time someone starts wailing about the poor state of science education in America.

July 20, 2005

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.

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 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?

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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.

Giving The Devil His Due

Damn the Wildcats (2)
A. Rickey wrote: Not sure I buy that analysis, Paul.... [more]

Gods Whom the Gods Drive Mad? (9)
PG wrote: rmg, Don't be too amazed by the ... [more]

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

Attack of the Fifty Foot Deadlines (1)
DG wrote: It's been around since about Februa... [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]

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What I'm Reading

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D.C. Noir

My city. But darker.
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A Clockwork Orange

About time I read this...


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Nancy Pelosi covers her head and visits the head of John the Baptist.
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Omikase/"American Idol"


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We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming


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BuffaloWings&Vodka
Signing Off


Dark Bilious Vapors
Jim (The Waco Kid): Where you headed, cowboy?
Bart: Nowhere special.
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Bart: Come on.
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Technical Difficulties... please stand by....
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the imbroglio
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talisman
Paris to offer 20,600 bikes at 1,450 stations to rent by the end of the year


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