Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Slow Blogging" as a Movement

This story in the New York Times the other day:

Haste, Scorned: Blogging at a Snail’s Pace

basically talks about leisurely, reflective and in-depth writing in blogs and calls it "Slow Blogging", or rather picks up that term from a few people who adhere to this approach, including some guy who wrote a "slow blogging" manifesto.

I guess it can be useful giving anything a handy label, and "slow blogging" might be useful to distinguish these types of blogs from the now-too-common "two lines and a link" (my jargon!) blog of the "Here's an interesting story about XYZ: [WITH A LINK]", which seems to be what many blogs are.

But, and I don't think anyone interviewed in the NYT article points this out, blogging used to be viewed, at least early on, and the ultimate self-publishing format, and was seen as an alternate to traditional media, though it was then shortly criticized for being mostly self-centered naval-gazing. But, the point is, most blogs used to consist of long postings, and many always have. The better ones in legal education, though they haven't replaced the law review process as some predicited, are auxillary brainstorming forums to the process.

Did I have a point? I guess since I seem to have fallen into a once-a-week average posting, after a pretty prolific October, I was somewhat happy to see my pace (or lack of pace) of posting to be justified as a "movement".

What the article didn't mention is whether there's been any study of the lengths of post in relation to their frequency on different blogs. When I get started, I can write up a storm so I would rank high in that comparison.

The NYT article points out that some blogging, mainly those are consist of short posts to keep friends and family updated, are being displaced by Twitter and such. Similarly, I think the the "two lines and a link" blogs, where people just note an interesting article or web page and try to push people there with just a cursory description (which describe a LOT of law library/librarian blogs) are also going to fall by the wayside - people won't "read" those blogs, but they might follow someone's del.icio.us or digg tagging/accounts/whatever they're called, if they're interested in similar subjects.

Funny, I wrote up the AALL meeting in Portland last summer, including a whole session on those sharing technologies - and I don't even have the jargon down. And there was that discussion on the ALL-SIS list about RSS that somewhat confirmed how little its actually being used by law students. All this points in one direction, and idea for an article I had a while back: all these technologies that get hyped when they're the newest thing are reall just "Solutions in Search of a Problem" (that would be the title of the article).

Full blog post...

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Texas Funeral and Legacy Technology

Got back Sunday from Texas where my wife’s extended family gathered to lay her late grandmother to rest. Helping to sort through her stuff, I found the old 35mm slides and 8mm home movies that she and her husband had made over the decades. The slide projector worked for a bit, but the cord was frayed and was going to short out, so we stopped messing with it. But the 8mm projector was in perfect condition, the bulb worked, and we had a great time watching old movies that none of them had seen in, probably, over twenty years.

The movies themselves dated from the early to mid sixties through the early seventies, and though they were just haphazardly stored, they were in good condition and worked fine in the projector. The old spring-driven 8mm camera was also in working condition and with film would have been able to take new movies (is 8mm movie film made any more?).

Fastforward to today. My wife is on her third iPod because the screens keep going bad on her and I’ve had at least that many VCR and DVD players die on me in the past fifteen years, and my DV camcorder has a bad tape drive. In forty years, if some of our descendants dig out a thumb-drive of digital pictures, or a laptop with a powerpoint on it, or a DVD with home videos burned onto them, will they be able to fire up such ancient technology in 2048 and enjoy such a comparable treasure trove of lost memories like we were able to do? Doubtful.

Oh, and at the cemetery, a few rows down from the burial service, I saw the model for the tombstone I want:

Well, perhaps except for the tennis racket and the “little redneck” part. I don't play tennis and I haven’t figured out how to put a gun rack on the back of my bicycle.

Full blog post...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Happy 233rd Birthday to the Marine Corps

This joke comes to mind today:
The place is Tun Tavern and the day is the first day that the Corps of Marines has been authorized. The first potential recruit walks in the door and after he signs up he gets his free tankard of beer.
The second recruit walks in and after he signs up he walks up to the bar and begins to talk to the first recruit. The first recruit looks the second recruit in the eye and say, "Son, let me tell you about the Old Corps."
Another version has the exchange taking place in a boat below the trapdoor in Tun Tavern (apparently, in this telling, located on the docks of the Philadelphia harbor) into which the “recruits” fall after being lured in with the promise of a free beer (in this variation the early marines were a bit less than volunteers). The first recruit is waiting when the second recruit falls into the boat and tells him “If you think this is bad, you should have seen the Old Corps”.

And I’ve always thought the final stanza of the last verse of the Marines’ Hymn was funny:
If the Army and the Navy ever look on heaven's scenes,
They will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.
Yes, even in heaven, we get stuck with guard duty.
Full blog post...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tuesday's Second Biggest News Story: Michael Chrichton Died

One of my favorite authors, Michael Chrichton, died Tuesday. The Andromeda Strain was perhaps the first books that I was compelled to read straight-through, staying up as late as I could in college and then waking up to open it and continue the next morning. Later I read his late-1980s/early-1990s novels like Rising Sun and Jurassic Park. Since then, whenever his name comes up in casual conversations, I mention the fact that he was a graduate of Harvard Medical School which, for the most part, my fellow conversants do not know.

Nor do they typically know, until I inevitably inform them with the boring details, that he was also an active advocate and practitioner of various “New-Age” philosophies. Few folks who have read his novels know about his collection of non-fiction essays, Travels. Its one of my favorite books (though, I have to admit, I will now have to dig it out from whatever bookshelf or box I have stuck it in) and in it he writes about both his time at Harvard and his explorations into different new age things like aura-viewing and exorcisms (his personal experiences with both are detailed in different chapters in the book).

What to me is most fascinating is that he examined these new age beliefs with an open mind but was staunchly conservative in the scientific views expressed in his books, even besides his explicitly anti-anthropormorphic climate change novel “State of Fear”, a notable passage from Jurassic Park notes that the hubris of some of mankind’s belief that we can actually make significant changes in Earth’s climate is completely unfounded was brilliantly recited by the late Charleton Heston in this YouTube clip:

The concluding chapter in Travels is a lecture for some learned scientific society that he was invited to present, but which for some recent he didn’t actually go through with. He notes several historic instances of scientists who were later found to have falsified their results, but also points out that the weight of anti-paranormal arguments that are based on the inability of advocates to produce their purported results in a laboratory setting are reduced by counter-arguments based on the inability of artists and musicians to demonstrate similar results of their purported abilities when plopped down in a laboratory, surrounded by white-coated scientists, and connected to electrodes and compelled to conjure up the “art” and “music” that they claim they can create under less strenuous circumstances. I’ll have to dig that out and re-read it soon.

Full blog post...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

11/04/08: A Historic Night...

From Punditkitchen.Com, part of the LOLCat network of sites at ICanHasCheezburger.Com:

And now can we stop talking about how Republicans steal elections, the evil influence of money on political campaigns, and how America is a racist nation (unless you want to discuss the fact that a much higher percentage of African-Americans voted for Obama than Caucasian-Americans voted for McCain)?

Full blog post...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Senator Lamar Alexander, The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Bourbon Street

Listening to American Routes yesterday, I was surprised to learn that Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander is both an accomplished musician and clerked here at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for Judge John Minor Wisdom.

Because he wasn’t paid much, Alexander filled in for musicians down on Bourbon Street. In the one-minute clip below, he described the time that Judge Wisdom took the judges on the court down to hear Alexander play.

I got to meet Judge Wisdom briefly when I did a three-week internship at the Fifth Circuit law library, but I had no clue at the time that I was meeting a living legend of the federal judiciary. Only later did I learn how unusual it is for a court building to be named for a living judge, and that he had been at the forefront of implementing Supreme Court desegregation decisions in the Fifth Circuit. It did not make him popular, and there were death threats and I’ve heard stories about how his dogs were poisoned and rattlesnakes were left in his mailbox.

Alexander’s description of Justice Wisdom and the other judges stomping around and dancing at Bourbon street is great. The Father’s Moustache is indeed not that there any more, and I haven’t turned up many details about the place.

Full blog post...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Judicial Spelling Error, Multiple Mitchies/Miches on Banks and Banking, and the Legacy of Legal Treatise Authorship

A patron showed me this reference in a 1998 Louisiana Supreme Court case:
The initial deposit of funds gives rise to the contract between bank and depositor; the subsequent creation of rights of others to an interest in an account involves an amendment of the original contract. 5A Mitchie on Banks and Banking 18 (M.J. Divine & G.E. Legner eds., Rev. ed.1994).

Marx v. Whitney Nat. Bank, 713 So.2d 1142, 1145 (La. 1998)
And asked me if we have “Mitchie on Banks and Banking”. He had the report volume and showed me the reference in the case and I look it up but, no, we don’t have “Mitchie on Banks and Banking” and as I offer to see if any other law library in town has it, he says, no, its not that important, and walks away.

But then I think, well, I’ve never heard of "Mitchie on Banks and Banking" and I check anyway to see who has it and there is NOTHING listed in OCLC for this because, of course, the actual title is “Michie on Banks and Banking”. We do have this set and so I grabbed the first volume and found the patron and said, yes, we have it and I confirm that the case he showed me did indeed mis-spell the name of this set.

In fact, thirty-two cases have mis-spelled “Michie on Banks and Banking” over the years. That includes several cases back in the 19-teens which at first led me to think that maybe at one time there was ANOTHER multi-volume banking treatise called “Mitchie on Banks and Banking” that has since been confused with “Michie on Banks and Banking” (maybe each written by rival attorney brothers who altered the spelling of their last name to spite their arrogant, over-bearing Germanic banking-lawyer father whose original name was something like “Meitchei”). But, no, there are over 700 citations to “Michie on Banks and Banking”, some of which also date back to the second decade of the twentieth century, so I guess judges and their clerks have been mis-spelling “Michie” as “Mitchie” for almost a century.

Funny thing is! When I didn’t find a title phrase “Mitchie on Banks and Banking” and did a title keyword search on OCLC for “mitchie” and “banks” I found that one library actually has a record for “Mitchie in Banks and Banking”:

Mitchie in Banks and Banking, By the Editorial Staff of the Publishers. Under the supervision of A.D. Kowalsty, R.W. Walter and M.J. Divine.
Charlotte, Va : The Mitchie Company Law Publishers, 1993-
Description: v.
So, New Hampshire Law Libray, vanquish your erroneous cataloging record! Correct the spelling of “Michie” and change the mistaken preposition! Its “Michie on Banks and Banking”! Published by the lovely folks at Lexis-Nexis,
Michie on Banks and Banking is an encyclopedic treatise based on exhaustive and continuous study of the case law involving the organization, functions, rights, powers, duties, and liabilities of banks and other financial institutions. With more than 100 subject matter titles, Michie on Banks and Banking addresses virtually any question attendant to banking law and practice.
(“Any question attendant to banking law and practice” sounds like the same ad copy that might have accompanied this work when it was originally published way back in 1913 or whenever.)

Two questions come to mind: is “Michie” of this “On Banks and Banking” title the actual Michie for whom the publishing company, now owned by Lexis-Nexis, is named? And, just how long does somebody have to be dead before a legal treatise they wrote and which has been revised several times since their death no longer warrants the use of their name in the title? John Henry Wigmore died in 1943 but Wigmore on Evidence is still a leading treatise on that subject; which, I had heard, is undergoing a revision at the hands of a professor I once worked with, Craig Callen. What it will be called after this revision remains to be seen.

The other recent example is one I happened to actually use this past week. The standard treatise on statutory interpretation is still referred to as “Sutherland on Statutory Construction”, though the actual title had always been “Statutes and Statutory Construction” by J.G. Sutherland. Since I was a wee young law student at the University of Alabama, I’ve known that one of my favorite professors there, Norman Singer, has been the editor of that set for a good while, but he and Mr. Sutherland were still both listed as authors, though Sutherland died in 1902. Only this past week when I again had cause to use this set did I learn that the recent revisions have dropped Sutherland entirely from the credits, which is probably entirely appropriate since his last contributions would have occurred, at the latest, during the administration of Teddy Roosevelt.

So who was Michie and when did he - the actual person, and not the company - die? And when will his legacy fade away as subsequent authors feel their contributions mandate the erasure of a credit acknowledging the original scholar’s initial efforts?

Full blog post...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Were the Two Tennessee Would-Be Assassins Caught because of their E-mail?

Another pair of lowlife skinhead neo-nazi f*&!-heads were caught with some half-baked plan to both wage a race war and assassinate Senator Obama. They didn't even get as far as the meth-heads who had a similar plan back in August at the Democratic National Convention; those tweaker clowns were at least actually in the city where the Senator was known to be (but they apparently had no clue that it would be impossible to set up a sniper's nest around Invesco Field).

I looked at several accounts of the arrest of the Tennessee skinheads, like this one from the New York Times:

Arrests in Plan to Kill Obama and Black Schoolchildren

and none of the news stories describe exactly how their quote-unquote "plot" was uncovered. The stories DO mention that the "the two men met via the Internet through a mutual friend" and swapped e-mail with each other.

Hmmmm.... Could it be that the feds got wind of these yokels and discovered what they were up to through - gasp - monitoring the internet? Oh the horrors!

The affidavit of complaint against them (PDF)is from the ATF and lists some specifics about how the two guys were casing out homes and a gun dealer to rob and how they shot out a window of a church. The paragraph about their actually apprehension says that the day after shooting the church window they drew "racially motivated words and symbols" on their car and then "were taken into custody by Crockett Co. Sherriff's Office later that night". But it doesn't specify what they were taken into custody for.

The two thrill-billies now face federal charges for possessing an unregistered firearm, conspiracy to steal firearms from a federally licensced gun dealer, and for making threats against a presidential candidate. None of the articles say there are facing any state charges. And it is not clear from the affidavit of complaint if they were picked up for shooting out that church window or for their planned robberies, including the one where a dog may have scared them off. The affidavit says the ATF agent was contacted by the Sheriff's office to assist in the investigation, but it is not unlikely that it was the Sheriff who was tipped by the feds to check them out.

Plus, if they had just been arrested on suspicion of plans to rob a gun store, and the sawed-off shotgun mentioned in some accounts was then discovered, I think even the dumbest skinheads would probably know to keep quiet about their half-baked sceme against Senator Obama. Specifics like their plan to wear white top hats and tuxedos during their final rampage doesn't sound like something that would be included in a jailhouse confession, but like the weird boastful details that you would rave about in an e-mail exchange or a chat room session.

Also, note in that Rocky Mountain News story about the Denver meth-head conspiracists I linked to earlier that it specifies both that one of the suspects "told friends while doing drugs at a local hotel" that he wanted to shoot Obama during his acceptance speech at Invesco field. But, the story then says these two were NOT being charged with conspiring to kill a presidential candidate because their statements were the "rantings of people under the influence of methamphetamine".

The news stories about the Tennesse skinheads, by contrast, do not specifiy when and in what situation the threats to assassinate Senator Obama were made, but most of the stories specifically say that those two are indeed being charged with making threats to kill a presidential candidate. To me, that says they made the threats in some manner besides drug-fueled or off-the-cuff rantings and ravings. As in e-mails or chat room conversations. Yes, subsequent details may prove my suspicions wrong and it may turn out that the two Tennessee Sheriff's departments may have just been doing their ever-vigilant best to prevent burglaries and the skinheads may have been dumb enough to mouth off about their entire preposterous scheme, white top hats and all, but I won't be surprised if we either don't hear any more details about this case or some e-mail transcripts turn up or are referred to in later proceedings.

So if they were indeed caught because of Echelon or some other surveillance programs, did the feds have a warrant they served on the ISP? If not, had the ISP stood firm and not turned over the records without a warrant, would they be hailed as heroes of civil liberties even though the plot hadn't been stopped and the minor detail of the ISP's non-cooperation was later discovered?

What if these exemplars of human scum had the brains enough to suspect that discussing their plans at home with their primary e-mail accounts might be risky, and had used secondary e-mail accounts from computers at the local public library? Had the feds tried to examine those computers or the library’s server and the director stood firm and refused their warrant-less requests, or had even challenged a warrant and delayed the feds’ computer forensics examination until after some hearing, would the director be similarly feted for protecting patron privacy even if they had accomplished any of their plans?

To vary a legal aphorism, is it better that two low-life skinheads intent on a racial massacre and the assasination of a political candidate go free rather than one innocent man have his e-mail monitored?

I'll sleep better knowing my ISP is letting the feds search my e-mail for suspicious phrases if it keeps guys like these off the streets and prevents what they were planning to attempt. Of course, this whole post is now a prime example of Echelon Salt and so I guess I'll go whole hog and use this Wired Magazine article's suggested e-mail signature file:
I promise to be very cooperative when the Secret Service calls.

Full blog post...