Tuesday, February 28, 2006

You're A What?

What the heck do I do for a living? Well, since you asked...

I'm a dialogue editor for film and tv. Mostly, my job consists of doing two rather mundane things: first, removing extraneous sounds from the audio that was recorded during production, and filling in the holes so you can't tell that anything was ever removed; and second, making sure there's no jarring discontinuity when cutting from one sound take to another. (As a rule of thumb, whenever there's a picture cut, there's also a sound cut. Yes, it's a lot of cuts.)

Dialogue editing is subtle, painstaking, and, yes, a bit dull; but occasionally I get to perform heroics... the entire point of which is that they pass unnoticed. When the actor playing a doctor can't pronounce "defibrillate," and the producers don't think it's worth bringing him into the studio to re-record the line, I'm the one who fixes it and keeps him from looking like a big idiot before millions of people. When the picture editor decides to use the close-up take where you can hear a car alarm going off outside - did I mention the show was set in the 1920s? - I'm the one who pieces together a clean line reading out of half a dozen other takes and makes it work. When you don't hear off-camera footsteps, dolly creaks, and the director's voice during the intimate love scene, I'm the one you should thank... if you only knew. But that's the point: that you not know.

Dialogue editing isn't as sexy as sound effects editing, but it's sneakier. I like feeling sneaky. Anyway, I'm not all that interested in creating artificial soundscapes; I prefer the real. I honestly can't stand most of the movies that have high-profile soundtracks with lots of "design" work. For starters, the movies are mostly lame stories, slicked up with camera trickery, visual effects (almost always unconvincing), and plenty of volume. The Chronicles of Narnia? War of the Worlds? Give me a break. For my money, one of the most interesting sound design jobs in years was Punch Drunk Love. Did it get any attention for sound? It did not. (Well, not much.) Maybe because the music was so annoying... maybe because it just wasn't loud enough, didn't cost enough money, and didn't have aliens or giant apes in it. But check out the scene where he beats up the bathroom, and really listen to it...

But I digress. My point was... well, no point, really. More of a biographical aside.

What does this profession have to do with law school? Almost nothing! Isn't that great? It sure makes me happy.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Who Doesn't Love a Mermaid?

(Courtesy of Diana Grace)

Signs of... Something or Other

Okay, I know I'm out of touch, but disposable electric toothbrushes? This is the sort of thing that, If I were only smart enough, would explain everything that's wrong with our culture.

Maybe I should ask that Freakonomics guy about it.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Night Thoughts of a Dialogue Editor

Okay, the new show I'm supposed to already be working on? Now seriously behind schedule. Like, going on three months. I'm awake, for some inexplicable but unrelated reason, in the wee hours, and just had a midnight realization that it might be time to find a steady gig, such as editing sound for DVD re-releases of crap tv shows from the early '90s. That way I'd be able to start law school without, for instance, enormous credit card bills. And I'm pretty sure I wouldn't kill myself from sheer boredom within the next six months.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Cognitive Librarian, part 2: Reference Clouds

A tee-shirt company has offered up a utility that scans a website and generates a word cloud for it. This offers a combination of technological sweetness and cutting-edge narcissism that I, personally, find irresistable. But one soon tires of contemplating oneself, especially when one is a mere wiggly worm in the ecology of the blogosphere. How much more interesting to use this tool to do a little amateur librarianism.

So here is a word cloud made from the text of the Constitution, sans Amendments:

(There may very well be a few internet-specific terms hovering in the cloud, because of the way I set this up and the way the program scans websites.)

Here is a word cloud made from the Bill of Rights:

Some predictable words pop out, which is as it should be - predictability is one of the things cataloguing should do.

Here is a word cloud made from the text of the Constitution, with all of its Amendments:

Note, for instance, that "people," invisible at this resolution in the Constitution, is quite prominent in the Bill of Rights, a lesser but still notable presence in the Constitution taken as a whole.

Now this, while it's more fun than useful, strikes me as very like something that could, eventually, be useful. What if someone expert in knowledge assessment, and the way the mind categorizes and organizes knowledge - say, a cognitive psychologist, or a cataloguing librarian - were to create a rich (i.e. useful, and large but manageable) bunch of categories, and then what if someone with a lot of time on his hands wrote a program that could extrapolate from words and phrases to those categories? Then one could cross-reference to other works by not just one, but any number of simultaneous categories. In other words, we would have created a multidimensional, interactive catalogue... something like what Library Thing does, only I believe it relies on user-generated tags, not any formal, well-defined system. How is this different from what search engines already do? Well, it would be different, and presumably better, because it would be designed by someone who could make it particularly useful. How? How the hell would I know? What do I look like, a librarian?

Actually, I'm sure any number of real librarians are working on this, as it is neither new nor less than obvious. But there is one thing that is new: now (thank you, Snapshirts and Project Gutenberg) I can do it myself.

Here are a few well-known works, automatically analyzed:

Monday, February 20, 2006

Lizard Boy

Boy has been a lizard on and off since Friday, and he's getting really good at it. Most of the time he's a Komodo Dragon ("even his poop is venemous"); occasionally he's a Gila Monster, sometimes a snake, or - tonight - an unspecified lizard. He'll resume human form and ways when we go out - this weekend there was a birthday party, and we spent this afternoon at a friend's house, and he was not recognizably cold-blooded at either - but on returning home, he's soon in his lizard costume, skittering or slithering about on the floor, creating a habitat for himself, or growling at the merely human members of his family. It scares his sister when Lizard/Boy growls at her or comes too close, and of course he loves that it scares her, and SW and I don't like that he loves that it scares her, so it's a lot of work sometimes, but... wow.

Boy is a classic case of ... something or other. It's nothing he's learned, or at least nothing he's been taught, or seen; but he's done this sort of thing from way back, it's the way he works. The day Girl was born, he spent hours pretending to be a newborn baby, crawling on the floor till he found out that newborn babies couldn't even crawl... then insisting that I pick him up, cradle him (otherwise his head would flop around on his neck), and let him suck on my little finger when he cried. "This is textbook," said the nurse.

To this day Boy will pretend to be a baby and instruct us in our roles in the game. ("Pretend you're surprised when the baby can walk across the floor..." or, "You say 'The baby can't talk,' and then you're surprised when you find out he really can talk...") Once, a few years ago, he was pretending to be a lion, and got so involved with being a lion that he nipped the girl who was playing with him. (Fortunately, he didn't follow through by rending her limb from limb, or crushing her skull with one blow of his mighty paw. Her parents should have warned her not to feed wild animals.)

I find it fascinating, as a case study in cognitive psychology: he pursues his interests by becoming the object of his curiosity; it's playacting but it's also science, because he's putting to work everything he knows about the animal's behavior, habitat, diet... in order to, I don't know, internalize a model of animal psychology? Call it an empathic approach to behavioral biology. Not that that's the point, because I don't think there is a "point" as such. Unless it's to avoid having to sit down for dinner.

But I'm a little bit afraid we might have to move to the Amazon someday (Siberia is too cold, thank you very much) so he can become a shaman.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Boy Likes the Olympics

Boy especially liked "snowboggling," where two people lay down on top of each other and "they go, like, 13 miles an hour."

"Baby's going to come with us," he wants me to write. (He's just wrapped his baby doll in a blanket and a hat, so it's ready for the snow. Or ice skating, though we'll have to rent skates.)

Cue the Music...

I just happened across this article on the place of The Law School in the ecology of the legal system; it wants only stirring music to be suitable for broadcast on, say, Court TV, were Court TV more concerned with things that interest me, and less concerned with things that interest people who actually watch television. Anyway, I'm keeping this bookmarked, in case I ever begin to wander from the idea that the law is a noble profession.

A few nibbles from the article:
To my belief, the great law school, rightly planned and rightly manned, will be one of the mighty contributing agencies in improving the law, whether in legislation, in the practice of the profession, or in the procedure of administration.
and the author speaks of
the difference that separates judicial rules that are drawn from a sacred repository of the dead past and those that are inspired by the immortal spirit of the common law...
That there is just ground for the charge that the law is mediaeval is due to the very fact that too many of our lawyers and judges ... do not know when an old principle is dead and when a new principle is born; do not know the spirit of the common law; do not know that, through the hands of the judiciary, the common law can and should give protection to new conditions as they arise, and so constantly give birth to new legal rights.
And - an interesting historical note - the article brings up an early incarnation of the controversial "right to privacy." (...I'm sorry, I forgot... why is this controversial, again? Oh, yeah: because it's not explicitly mentioned in Holy Writ. I mean, the Constitution. And as we know, what is not expressly permitted is forbidden. Unless you take the Ninth Amendment seriously, that is.)
Some years ago Mr. S. D. Warren and Mr. Louis Brandeis published several articles in the Harvard Law Review, the object of which was to show that there existed, under a true interpretation of the common law, what might be called a right of privacy...
Why is this an interesting historical note? The article is actually the transcript of an address delivered at the dedication of the Boalt Memorial Hall of Law... in 1911.

Juggling; or, Law School Admissions, the Mid-Game

Okay, apparently what happens is this: every law school you apply to makes a timely decision except for Harvard, Yale, and Stanford. They're the ones that keep you from having enough information to make any useful life decisions.

Then, to confuse you further, just before the elite schools can assemble their financial aid offers, the almost-elite and the second and third tier schools start weighing in with scholarship offers, ranging from the enticing to the humongous. (The offers skew humongous, the further down the tiers you go.) And deadlines begin to loom... and NYU doesn't hold their scholarship interviews until... mid-April? What the hell? Some schools have notification deadlines before that!

Anyway, right now there are a lot of things still up in the air.

Did I mention that gravity is my favorite fundamental force?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Developmental Angst

So the kids are out of town, but don't worry, so's their mom. And I had to come home and work. And Boy is "testing limits," as the child development books have it. In layman's terms, he's being an incredible pain. This morning, after he'd turned off the computer while ...

Wait a minute. It occurs to me, my wife needs a name. Something that will preserve her real-world anonymity, yet be endearing enough that I'll feel confident about using it in this blog. Something like... SW.

So this morning, after Boy had turned off the computer while SW was using it, and received the requisite admonition, warning, and explanation... he put Girl up to, yes, turning off the computer while SW was using it. Now I'm sure the legal issues here are well understood, but what about the parenting issues? Here's the problem: he's five, and...

... I'm thinking, actually, that that's pretty much it. But MAN, is it hard to take.

And Girl's going through a similar stage of "testing," only hers is less devious and more dangerous: she'll do things like run off down the block, and keep going when we tell her to stop; a few nights ago we were out for a late walk and she kept heading into the street, largely because we had told her not to. Finally, in exasperation - and no, I don't believe in spanking, but... - I swept her up and gave her a swat on the bottom. A light swat, I hasten to say, on her diapered bottom. Nevertheless, the point isn't whether it hurts, is it? The point is... well, I don't believe in spanking, again, even more than I didn't before. (I also wonder - cause that's the kind of person I am - if Girl is less likely to walk in the street now...)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

This Is a Job for... a Cognitive Librarian!

Okay, so remember that post wherein I wished someone would do a research project about people's idiosyncratic filing systems, how they think about the organization of their home libraries, and so on? Well, there is a website that does something similar: Library Thing. Unsystematic, but interesting. In fact, probably most interesting because it's unsystematic.

(It strikes me that I could probably stand to do a bit of research before posting some of my brilliant ideas. But I probably won't, because the thing that gets me interested enough to do the research... is the musing.)

(It also strikes me to wonder what insights a cognitive psychologist might bring to filing system research.)

Ezra Pound apparently experimented with a truly idiosyncratic filing system: he would hang things off the ceiling by strings. I wonder what Pound would have made of a "tag cloud"; and I wonder further what use a research library could make of such a thing. Also, somewhere I've seen a sort of "dynamic cloud" that shifted links three-dimensionally as I clicked through it... it was neat, but I couldn't think for the life of me how what problem it solved. I also can't remember what it was called, or where it was.

What a mess this post is.

A Little Learning...

I can't seem to find Dingbat's name anywhere on the disingenuous, glossy and unconvincing K12 website... which makes me think he, or at least the K12 board of directors, has decided that discretion is the better part of maintaining a customer base.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Million Dollar Ideas

First idea: the Army should sell advertising. No kidding. Look at the success of the Humvee - directly attributable to the armed forces... well, with the collusion of the media... giving it free advertising. How much was that exposure worth? They shoulda cut a deal.

For those who'd object to slapping a corporate logo on a personnel carrier, I say, make the contract payable in vehicle armor. Then ask the soldiers what they think about it. Of course this could negatively affect marketing efforts in, say, countries that we're invading. (Oops, I meant, "liberating.")

Which brings me to my second idea: license letters of the phonetic alphabet. Walmart Target Ford? you may be asking; but ask yourself this: how much money do you think it would be worth to certain business interests to have a military unit named "Costco Company" or "Amazon Flight"? Or, say, "Martha's Raiders," or "UPS Force."

And then of course there's intellectual property. Let's say, for instance, the Army takes out a patent on the following business plan: collecting huge and unaccounted-for sums of money on the promise of "rebuilding" the "infrastructure," and then failing to deliver. An extremely lucrative business model, low overhead, flexible of execution; and best of all, it's easy to identify infringers. And to enforce proper payment of license fees - the military might of the sole remaining superpower!

It's high time we started running this country like a business. I can't believe these things aren't already in place. Where'd Bush get his MBA, anyway? Some mail order school?

First Amendment Dissident

... law and economics be darned.
Here, burning a cross on a black person's lawn was recently protected as free speech by the Supreme Court. It's obviously a big subject, but the First Amendment, which keeps Congress from making laws that punish speech, doesn't say, for instance, that I have a right to say what I want, let alone that I have a right to say it on NBC or CBS. After I have expressed myself, the government isn't supposed to punish me. ...

... So the First Amendment protects the speech of Thomas Jefferson, but has Sally Hemmings ever said a word anyone knows about? My own experience is that speech is not free; it costs a lot.
Andrea Dworkin, please take a bow.

(And no, I don't believe the Supremes really said it was okay to burn a cross on a black person's lawn. Because if there's one thing that this nation holds holy, it is property rights. In fact, I would argue that to American conservatives, Christianity is a political stance; their real religion is private property.

(But yes, I think Dworkin makes a valuable comment on the limitations and (say it softly) inadequacy of the First Amendment. Whether that inadequacy can be usefully addressed within a legal framework, I'm not sure. Ask me in three years.)

Blogging on Blogs About Blogs

3LEpiphany, the law student who's blogging for credit, whom I mentioned lo, these many posts ago, seems to have generated a (relatively) huge amount of interest very quickly, partly due to his initial outreach, but mostly due to curiosity about his (very well focused) topic, and the sort of "viral marketing" that movie studios have been trying to recreate ever since The Blair Witch Project.

I'm sure it helps immensely that legal blogging is so widespread and well established, and that lawyers and law students seem to be online all the time.

Seems to me the primary thing a blogger has to do to attract lots of traffic is be fairly narrowly focused. (Quite unlike myself.) And then have one or more of the following traits:

1. Be amusing.
2. Be current.
3. Be interesting.
4. Be useful.

(Apropos of nothing, as Geoff Nunberg used to say in class, I think that talk of the blogosphere as spelling the end of so-called "mainstream media" is, for now, just talk: a blog, or cluster of blogs, that could replace the mainstream media... would have to essentially duplicate the mainstream media. In other words, would become the mainstream media. The same way Al Pacino became the Godfather...)

New Commemorative Half-Month

I can't stand that these blogs aren't swamped with comments and lively conversation in the margins. Come on, people! Make anonymous small talk with a librarian today!

I hereby declare National Make a Random Comment on a Library Blog semi-month!

For all the good that'll do.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Hooray for ProTools

To hell with tv, this is the proper use of digital editing technology.

Blogging on Blogs, and an Orgy of Hyperlinks

Oh, goody, another way of ranking law schools: by number of professors who blog. University of Chicago, cheaters, signed up a huge chunk of their faculty on a group blog called ... wait for it... The Faculty Blog. Chicago's blog rating: 14 professors... but only 3 blogs.

Cincinatti ranks unexpectedly high with 4 professors in 4 blogs... but their titles have an eerie similarity, to wit: TaxProf Blog; CrimProf Blog; Health Law Prof Blog; and Legal Writing Prof Blog. Odd, I say, and I dig deeper, as only someone uniquely skilled in the use of a mouse button can dig...

And Oh, good Lord! there's a network of Law Professor Blogs, and they have cleverly snatched up almost all the good names, such as "Environmental Law Prof Blog," and "Media Law Prof Blog," and "State & Local Government Law Prof Blog," and "White Collar Crime Prof Blog," and "Wills, Trusts and Estates Prof Blog," and... well, you get the idea. Dibs, though, on "Legal Blogging Prof Blog," which I will hold in trust for when 3LEpiphany wants it.

NYU boasts two professors, one with his own blog, the other a contributor to a group blog called "Supreme Court Extra," which has the worst internal links I've ever seen. (Check it out if you're the kind of numbskull who cares about verifying trivial gripes like that.)

U of Michigan has 3 professors contributing to 2 group blogs and 1 individual blog... but the individual blog is "devoted to reporting and commenting on developments related to Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004)." So I'm not going to go to that blog ever, until somebody both tells me what it means, and forces me to read about it for a class.

Harvard, 2 blogs by 2 profs, including one which I find almost impenetrably idiosyncratic, but I say that like it's a good thing. And there's something about a wiki, which I know from nothing, but maybe it's a good thing, too.

UCLA, impressive beyond its reputation, what with Volokh Conspiracy and Professor Bainbridge; Yale, of course, is not only Yale, but hosts (if that is the word) Balkinization... Berkeley has one professor who blogs, as a contributor to "Supreme Court Extra," vide supra...

Excuse me? One? The law school on the cutting edge of intellectual property scholarship, home of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, has one single professor who blogs? And not even on his own? And I can't even find him in the blog's own index, because its organization is for crap, or maybe he just hasn't posted anything? He does get points, though, for having been a Rhodes Scholar, clerked for a Supreme Court justice, and been given the first name "Goodwin."

Conspicuously missing from the list of schools with blogging profs: the University of Idaho College of Law.

Now surely that's a mistake.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Admissions Triage, or, Speak of the Devil...

In World War I, wounded soldiers were classified into one of three groups: those who could be expected to live without medical care; those who would likely die even with care; and those who could survive if they received care.
Columbia Law School is put out that I haven't applied. (Well, their automatic email system feels aggrieved, at least.) But they seem to believe that I can survive, if I receive care. So here is their final offer:
We can assure you, if you apply and complete your application promptly, that your candidacy will be carefully considered, even if you are unable to meet our February 15 deadline.
They should change the name, then, and call it, "... our February 15 gravely-wounded line."

This Just In...

Now University of Michigan Law School wants me. Among other things I like about the school, UMich does far and away the best job at recruiting of all the law schools I've had contact with. And not just because they sent me a snazzy new blue plastic binder to keep my admit materials in, either. But their admissions department has a sure marketing touch. What can I tell you, I'm a filmmaker, I appreciate production value.

(In case you were wondering, Columbia made by far the worst showing in the recruiting game. Well, except for Appalachian School of Law. But the letter I got from Columbia, inviting me to apply, bordered on insulting.)

Still to come, replies from the schools that really don't have to bother with recruiting, so they don't: I speak, of course, of Harvard, Yale, Stanford. Leave it to one of them to break my heart.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Law and ... Something

Okay, I was going to shut this stupid machine down and go play my guitar for a while, but then I checked my email and I found myself (eventually) reading this article. To summarize:

At least one player in the online game / virtual world, "World of Warcraft," was recently reprimanded for forming a queer-friendly guild. [The company that created and runs World of Warcraft is called Blizzard.]
When Ms. Andrews asked how the mere mention of an LGBT-friendly guild could violate the [World of Warcraft] Harassment Policy, Blizzard’s account administrator “Gorido” followed up with correspondence seeming to argue that because other players may choose to harass LGBT players, the mere mention of an LGBT-friendly guild violates the World of Warcraft terms of service.
So the Lambda Legal Foundation sent Blizzard a fairly restrained letter, pointing out that their policy was not up to snuff, law-wise. When I say "fairly restrained," I mean, "they threw the book at them." Here's a sample:
Online environments are public accommodations, subject to regulation as such. Butler v. Adoption Media, L.L.C., 2005 WL 1513142 (N.D.Cal.). Discrimination against LGBT individuals in the provision of public accommodations is clearly prohibited by California law. Id., see also, Cal. Civ. Code § 51 et seq. It has been so for more than fifty years. Stouman v. Reilly, 234 P.2d 969 (Cal. 1951)...
And so on in a similar vein. LILA (The University of Michigan's Lavendar Information and Library Association) will doubtless be following the story closely, for anyone interested in virtual - I mean, Internet - no, I guess maybe I do mean virtual - law.

Someday I'll get an article out of this stuff.

"Con" ... as in Constitutional

Several law student bloggers have written that they are finding their constitutional law classes boring, boring, boring. Since some day I, too, will have to take consitutional law, let me just note a few strategies that I might want to use, to make it less boring:
  1. Pretend to be an anthropologist investigating the religious doctrine of a fierce and proud, but primitive, people. (Because, well, you are.)
  2. Treat the class as research for your ultimate goal, which is to write a bulletproof constitutional amendment unambiguously setting forth a right to privacy. (For instance.)
  3. Synopsize important cases in verse.
  4. Synopsize the constitution in verse. (Limericks, I think.)
There. Now if I can just find this post again when I have to take the class...

Over the Rainbow...

Maybe somewhere... there's a taxonomy of blogs, where they're categorized according to spheres of influence - in terms of variety of media they influence, type of readership (using some more useful rubric than the tired old liberal / conservative division, God, I'm so sick of that one), scale of readership, whether they entertain ideas or just jerk their knees at every story the New York Times runs...

The Stanford Magazine has an interesting article about something called "deliberative polling," which might be a useful way to think about a certain type of blog - one where ideas are hashed out, rather than one where opinions are merely aired. So maybe it would be useful to say that some blogs are "deliberative," some are, let's call them "wacko rants," some are "informational," and so on.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

That Guy...

You know, that guy who advertised on Althouse. He wrote back.
My decision to run an ad on Althouse is an experiment. When it finishes running, I'll post the results on The Business of America is Business.
I'll be interested to read about his experiment, though it appears he's mainly interested in getting some data to do a dollar-based economic analysis of the efficacy of advertising. (I hope he'll correct me if I'm wrong.) I had assumed the ad meant he was more interested in eyeballs than in clicks.

Because actually (not being particularly business-oriented, much to my own detriment), I'm interested in the developing importance of blogs as one component of an academic career - that is, as a calling card, a means of collaboration, and a way of increasing one's own value in the academic market - very much like traditional publication does. I assume blogs are also becoming an increasingly useful tool for attracting business, as well as for getting the word out on various subjects of interest.

I know, I said that already. Vide infra, as they say. (Because, per standard blogging layout, what I've written previously appears below. Not above. Supra would be incorrect, geographically speaking. So nyah, nitpickers.)

There is, in addition to the dozens of dollars to be made from selling advertising on one's blog, a certain self-referential, blogospheric cache to getting lots of hits and lots of comments. For some bloggers that cache extends outside the blogosphere. Ain't It Cool News, The Smoking Gun and The Drudge Report, for instance, have high profiles in the real world; Instapundit and Professor Bainbridge, perhaps, more compact and specialized circles of influence; Althouse, as another example, seems to be read mostly inside the blogosphere. (Don't get me wrong, I like Althouse.) And then there's me, poor ill-favored thing...

Blog as Research

This news is a bit stale, but...

Dave Touretzky is a computer science professsor at Carnegie Mellon who maintains a "Gallery" of CSS descramblers, all of which are nominally illegal, under (I believe) the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Touretzky, however, claims the website as an academic publication, and bases a freedom of speech / freedom of expression defense on that, among other grounds. He explores legal issues relating to software patents, copyright, and the DMCA... interesting as another example of blog-as-scholarship (in this case, raising the stakes, the blog as actual, and controversial, academic research, which could not be performed in any other medium.)

Thanks to 3LEpiphany...

He did it for me. While I was sleeping. Reference a bunch of discussions about blogging and legal scholarship, that is.

He must be an elf. Good thing he didn't take my post and make shoes out of it...

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Economy of the Blogosphere

This guy is getting two law school credits for keeping a blog this semester. More power to him, I guess. He doesn't say exactly where or how, but implies he did more than a little outreach to drum up interest.

Meanwhile this guy took out an actual ad for his blog, in the margins of Carol Althouse's blog. This interests me as a purely commercial ploy, implying that he sees his blog as an important academic calling card, a way to garner some credibility, a way to get noticed. I mean, well, duh, that's kind of obvious, isn't it? What I mean is, the stakes for blogs seem to be rising. I'd be curious to know if blogs have begun to come up (for better or for worse) in tenure discussions. It's inevitable they will, but has it begun?

I've noticed an upwelling of interest lately in blog-as-research or blog-as-scholarship, at least in the academic law community. The concensus seems to be... yeah... well, sorta... sometimes... you know...

[This is me, too lazy and it's too late to search out any links to support my last paragraph. Sue me, I'd rather go make chocolate chip cookies.]

Someone Else's Research Project

There's a site that gives recommendations on which of an unfamiliar's author's books one should start with. An interesting idea, though it solves a problem I do not have.

But here's an idea I'd like to see implemented, if there are any librarians out there looking for hobbies (or theses): a study of idiosyncratic library catalogues. Such a study would look at the personal libraries of various people, and either:
  1. Attempt to draw some scholarly conclusions; or
  2. Just make the information accessible to curious people.

Starting with the compilation of a database of databases - a list of lists of books - this project would examine the organizational principles (psychological and utilitarian) behind the ordering of books, and (presumably) come up with some interesting and/or useful conclusions about such things as research techniques, cognitive mapping, the formation of individual knowledge structures. It would allow one to access a given person's idiosyncratic filing system and see, not only what books they have, but how they value those books.

Wouldn't you love to know how, say, Thomas Jefferson filed his books, before he gave the whole kit and caboodle to all of us? Wouldn't it be interesting to know what books, in what order, are in, say, Lawrence Lessig's personal library? Or Harlan Ellison's, or Cardinal Roger Mahoney's, or DJ Qualls's, or Ezra Pound's, or... name your own object of interest. As interesting, or more so, would be the collections of more ordinary people. I know whenever I'm in someone's house I enjoy browsing their bookshelves, not to find books to read but just to see what I can glean from the titles themselves...

Friday, February 03, 2006

What's for Lunch

Today's delightful diversion: an orgy of filing and tax preparation while the rest of the family's out of town. Oh, and don't forget, paying bills. Yay!

Thursday, February 02, 2006


Well, I find it funny.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

An Hour Dead and Buried

Jesus,what a waste of time, poking around and trying to figure out law school rankings. Here's the truth: in terms of faculty, if you want superstars, go find them, they're out there. In terms of libraries, come on. In terms of other students, they're all going to be pretty smart. In terms of your law degree opening doors... use the knob, it's not locked.

In terms of pursuing a legal education, it's pretty hard to find a bad law school. Yeah, there are better schools and not-so-better schools, and the choice between Yale and Pepperdine may be pretty clear (or then again, maybe not); but is Harvard really "better" in any meaningful sense than, say, NYU? Come on. Anyway, you'll end up taking all the same classes using all the same texts and exploring all the same cases anyway.

Well, but I got a postcard from Appalachian School of Law that advised me of the "Differnet Education" I would receive, were I to attend. I know I shouldn't judge a school on its recruiting materials, but that's where I draw the line. (Actually I draw it way above that.)

More on China...

The head of the Internet desk at Reporters Without Borders is named Mr. Pain. Isn't that wonderful? I couldn't make up stuff like that.

Mr. Pain is not sanguine about Microsoft's new stance:

"There's a good side and a bad side," Mr. Pain said. "It's clear that they've begun thinking about their ethical responsibility. But it also shows that they accept censorship, and that they believe in this new form of the Internet, in which the rights of users will vary according to their geographic origin."

This, he said, "is in direct contradiction with the original idea of what the Internet was supposed to be — something with no barriers, no boundaries."

Actually, the Internet was originally funded as a specifically American command-and-control system that could function even in the event of military attack resulting in massive destruction of communications infrastructure. To have gone, in a few decades, from that vision of the future, to one in which a Chinese censorship policy attracts widespread public notice and debate... is surely no poor thing?

As a matter of policy, I agree with Mr. Pain. I wish China would stop cracking down on "dissidents" and journalists. I also wish I, like Mr. Pain, had a colorful and descriptive name, even though his is probably French, therefore meaning not "pain" but "bread." I just think, if there's a choice between looking back to halcyon days of yore, or making sense... we'd be better off with the sense.

Fight the Power!

... oh, wait... they are the power.

The New York Times has this article about Microsoft's evolving standards for an appropriate level of, and process for, censorship when it is called for to appease arbitrary government authorities. (If I were writing a work of fiction then I would give Microsoft's chief counsel the name "Mr. Smith," and, happily, that is in fact his name.)
"One of the things we've looked at is, How far does a government's jurisdiction reach?" Mr. Smith said. "In most countries, a government has jurisdiction over the flow of information to its users, but no country has legal jurisdiction over the flow of information to users over the rest of the world."
Wow. Is this really Microsoft's position? I mean... well, two things. Two and a half. First of all, it's trivially true. First-and-a-half, it's an easy position to take, here in the land of the free. But secondly, where does Microsoft - a US company - draw the line? Where does the law draw the line? What if the United States government demanded Microsoft shut down a blog or a site? (Because... well, make up your own farfetched paranoid web-based terrorist conspiracy, God knows the government will.) Would Microsoft really be so bold as to merely black out U.S. users, leaving the site accessible to the rest of the world?

Or... I don't know, it just seems a very sweeping statement. I like it. Maybe someone could make a slogan out of it, something catchy, like, "Information wants to be free." Or maybe, "It Can't Happen Here."