Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas and Desperate Mothers

You know your mother REALLY wants a grand-daughter when she sends you a dress for your cat for Christmas:

(Or maybe its a decorative kitchen towel...)
Full blog post...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

November 2009 Netflix Summary

November 2009 Netflix SummaryArrived at HomeReceived at NetflixDays at HomeMonthly Average Days at HomeCost Per Movie
Zack and Miri Make a
Hard Candy11/1211/2311
The Boondock Saints11/1211/175
Dirty Pretty Things11/1811/3012
Streets of Mexico City11/2412/2430
El Callejon De Los

Ten movies from Netflix this month - most of them are catch-ups for things I've missed in the last few years. Timeline sucked, I can understand the appear of Twilight, and Zack and Miri, yeah, whatever. Dirty Pretty Things was very good and deserved all the acclaim it got, but my two favorites this month were Hard Candy - very intense and extremely hard to watch, even besides the obvious core revenge-fantasy scene - and Boondock Saints, a great little action/vigilante flick that is all the more amazing given the story of the guy who made it, told in the documentary Overnight. And El callejón de los milagros was a pretty good Mexico city movies, not as good as Amores Perres, but it tells a couple of compelling stories and stars a very young Selma Hayek (she was what, sixteen like her character here was?).

Full blog post...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Myths, Truth, and Fiction About Presidential Death Threats

A horrifying statistic was bandied around last summer - the number of weekly death threats against President Obama is 400% higher than those against President Bush the Second. To cut to the chase, that was never true and Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan said so last week in his congressional testimony about the two party crashers at the recent White House state dinner:
"The threats right now ... is the same level as it has been for the previous two presidents at this point in their administrations," Sullivan said.
Secret Service: Threats Against Obama No Higher than Normal (CBSNews.Com)

(His full testimony should eventually be available on the house committee’s hearings page.)

The alleged 400% increase was given in several places, including on the air at CNN (search for “400"), though the CNN anchor didn’t give a source, but other media, like the U.K. Telegraph does and provides the source, “according to Ronald Kessler, author of In the President's Secret Service”. So it was a journalist with a new book to promote who was the source for this figure, so it should have been suspect from the start.

And it turns out that this wasn’t the first story rebutting the 400% increase figure, but now with the Secret Service Director saying this in congressional testimony, that should put the matter to rest. If their budget was really as slashed as Kessler alleges and threats had increased, why would Sullivan deny that?

Another, related, story, ran this week in the Times Picayune because it look place just up the road in Poplarville (though it, too, is really old news):
Mississippi man receives probation for Facebook death threats
The twist here, though, is that the threat-maker was black and only posing as a white supremacist on Facebook. And what is absent, again, from this and a few other stories about threats against the president are any details about how he was found - it just says he was charged with sending the threat from a Poplarville computer. So like the skin-heads who were apprehended a week before the 2008 presidential election and whose internet activities were part of the case against them, the Feds must be able to get access to server logs and such without too much trouble in these cases. Fine by me; I guess its just when alleged terrorists have their e-mail monitored and libraries are asked to turn over information about their public access internet computers in related investigations that people complain.

So its a good thing that threats against the president remain constant no matter who is office; race and policies don't affect the number of crazy people out there. What we won’t see during this administration are fictitious representations of presidential assassinations and assassination plots against the president, like the movie and at least one book, that came out when Bush II was in office.

Full blog post...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Saints Beat Redskins to Go 12-0

My prediction/mock-up for the front page of the Times-Picayune tomorrow:

Saints Beat Redskins, go 12-0

Full blog post...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Alabama Wins SEC Championship!

Where is your God NOW, Timmy Tebow?

Tebow Wept

Full blog post...

Careless Military Uniform Errors in Movies

Anyone who’s an expert in any field or, hell, just works in any profession, can point out all manner of errors and mistakes in a movie that touches upon their area of personal experience. And any veteran knows that just about every military movie gets at least some details wrong. Minor uniform errors are common but, jeez, you’d think the wardrobe people could at least get the rank insignia oriented in the correct direction, right?

Mexico City” has several scene set at the U.S. Embassy. The Marine Corps guards in their Dress Blues look authentic, but at least two of them have their enlisted rank insignias on their arms upside down. This is one screen shot:

Military Uniform Error 1

And this is another:

Military Uniform Error 2

Stupider still is that in another scene, the rank insignia is correct:

Correct Military Uniform

There’s discussion in some forums that such uniform errors are deliberate either because its illegal for people to wear uniforms who aren’t actually in the military (try, with exceptions, including for actors portraying military personnel, duh), or because it’s a not-too-subtle anti-military protest. More likely its just some lazy costumers and continuity people on set.

Full blog post...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day 2009: Applebee’s and Rudyard Kipling

As Marines, we get a full two-day boost of testosterone and nostalgia each November - the Marine Corps birthday is November 10th, and Veterans’s Day is November 11th (and, as one version of the saying goes, there are no ex-Marines, only Marines no longer on active duty). Having already been pleased this past summer that all veterans can get 10% every purchase at Lowe’s EVERY DAY (unlike the holiday-only veteran’s discount at Home Depot), I was - belatedly, too late to take advantage of it - pleased to learn Applebee’s is giving all veterans and active duty military personnel a free choice of six of their basic entrees.

I could have had one of my semi-annual steaks today. If I knew where there was an Applebees around here. No where here in the city for sure, maybe our in the ‘burbs. Funny thing is, as much this may cost them, I don’t see that they’re being too strict about it. The official details state that their standards of “Identification” are pretty loose:
Applebee’s Veteran’s Discount Identification Requirement

“Photograph in uniform?” Does she qualify? I wonder if they report how many vets took them off on this offer.

I probably read less than five poems a year, and most of those are random stuff in the New Yorker just remind myself that I hate that crap. But this morning, I pulled my Rudyard Kipling book down and re-read Tommy, his testament to the two-faced attitude towards men in uniform under the British Empire. A representative stanza of the whole thing is:
Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.
The official - I guess its official - web site for Kipling has some great information about this poem. One interesting tidbit is that the newsletter of the Veteran’s Law Section of the Federal Bar is called Tommy after this poem. The web page also includes both a similar sentiment in verse that preceded Kipling’s take on treatment of members of the military:
In times of war, and not before,
God and the soldier men adore;
When the war is o’er and all things righted,
The Lord’s forgot and the soldier slighted.
And part of a modern update:
O then we're just like 'eroes from the army's glorious past.
Yes, it's "God go with you, Tommy," when the trip might be your last.
They pays us skivvy wages, never mind we're sitting ducks,
When clerks what's pushing pens at 'ome don't know their flippin' luck.
"Ah, yes" sez they "but think of all the travel to be 'ad."
Pull the other one. Does Cooks do 'olidays in Baghdad?
It's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, know your place,"
But it's "Tommy, take the front seat," when there's terrorists to chase.
Amen. Of course in legal education, the professors don’t advocate chasing down the terrorist: they would prefer that the a lawsuit be brought against the Taliban in the International Court of Justice under the 1971 United Nation Convention on Aviation Sabotage. (And some day, I swear, I will find that listserv posting where this was urged.) What’s the corporate agent for the service of process for the Taliban? How would the U.S. go about requesting the execution of a summary judgement after they don’t show up?

Full blog post...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, USMC

In my second annual Marine Corps birthday posting, here's another well-worn humorous piece you can find floating around on-line, and which probably pre-dates the internet by a good bit:

Letter Home from Marine Corps Bootcamp

Dear Ma and Pa,
I am well. Hope you are. Tell Brother Walt and Brother Elmer the Marine Corps beats working for old man Minchby a mile Tell them to join up quick before all of the places are filled. I was restless at first because you got to stay in bed till nearly 6 a.m. but I am getting so I like to sleep late. Tell Walt and Elmer all you do before breakfast is smooth your cot, and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay. Practically nothing. Men got to shave but it is not so bad, there's warm water. Breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and other regular food, but tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit by the two city boys that live on coffee. Their food plus yours holds you til noon when you get fed again. It's no wonder these city boys can't walk much. We go on "route marches," which the platoon sergeant says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it's not my place to tell him different. A "route march" is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city guys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks. The country is nice but awful flat The sergeant is like a school teacher. He nags a lot. The Captain is like the school board. Majors and colonels just ride around and frown. They don't bother you none. This next will kill Walt and Elmer with laughing. I keep getting medals for shooting. I don't know why. The bulls-eye is near as big as a chipmunk head and don't move, and it ain't shooting at you like the Higgett boys at home. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You don't even load your own cartridges. They come in boxes.

Then we have what they call hand-to-hand combat training. You get to wrestle with them city boys. I have to be real careful though, they break real easy. It ain't like fighting with that ole bull at home. I'm about the best they got in this except for that Tug Jordanfrom over in SilverLake. I only beat him once. He joined up the same time as me, but I'm only 5'6" and 130 pounds and he's 6'8" and near 300 pounds dry.
Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join before other fellers get onto this set up and come stampeding in.

Your loving daughter,

Happy 234th Birthday, to my beloved Corps! Semper Fi!, etc., etc...

Full blog post...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

October Netflix Report

October 2009 Netflix SummaryArrived at HomeReceived at NetflixDays at HomeMonthly Average Days at HomeCost Per Movie
Babel 10/01 10/03 2
Away We Go 10/06 10/08 2
Wait Until Dark 10/06 10/23 17
Sir, No Sir 10/13 10/23 10
The Girlfriend Experience 10/19 10/23 4
The Fountain 10/24 10/31 7
Amores Perros 10/24 11/10 17
The Children's Hour 10/24 11/05 12
FTA 10/26 11/05 10
9.0 $2.06

Nine Netflix movies this month. Babel and Ammores Perros were the best two of the bunch, and I didn't realize until after I saw them that they were made by the same director: Babel came up because its one I missed when it was out, and Amores Perros is one of several cities set in Mexico City that I've been watching in "preparation" for the early vacation my wife and I are taken there two weeks before Christmas. She didn't want to watch Amores Perros after the opening dog-fighting scenes, so I watched that by myself and those scenes indeed - and there were worse to come - were harrowing, but it was an excellent flick and, duh, you can see how it and Babel are similar in structure and scope. The Fountain was the other really good movie in the bunch, and both Wait Until Dark and The Children's Hour are two more in our efforts to watch all the Audrey Hepburn movies on Netflix.

Full blog post...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How Prevalent is Plagiarism of Unpublished Decisions?

After the situation with the professor who was cribbing the summaries and quoted language from unpublished opinions without seeing the actual opinions or citing the sources in which he read the summaries and quoted language (see earlier post), I got to thinking about this. It is, of course, possible that an author might come across a reference to an unpublished opinion, track it down somehow, read it, summarize it, cite it, and include it in whatever article you’re working on, but I would bet anything that what happens more often is that an author reads an article or book that does a good enough job of summarizing the unpublished opinion and the author doesn’t bother to track down the opinion, but just cribs the summary and quoted language without citing to the original source where they found the discussion of the unpublished opinion that they’re stealing.

So I was curious if I could find an example of this, just by searching for articles that quote language from unpublished opinions. Turned up at least one so far, in a unrelated bit of work where I noticed the following discussion of an unpublished decision.

In this student note from the Michigan Law Review:
Jennifer L. White, When It's OK to Sell the Monet: A Trustee-Fiduciary-Duty Framework for Analyzing the Deaccessioning of Art to Meet Museum Operating Expenses, 94 Mich. L. Rev. 1041 (1996)
There’s a discussion of several unpublished cases at footnote 23:
23 There have been relatively few court cases dealing with deaccessioning. Judges tend to give one-time orders that do not provide insight into their decisionmaking processes and, as a result, offer no direction for future applicability. See, e.g. [...] Hammond Museum, Inc. v. Harshbarger, No. 92E- 0067-G1 (P. & Fam. Ct. Essex County, Mass. Oct. 5, 1992) (issuing no opinion, only a judgment stating that the museum was authorized to make the sale, to use the proceeds to pay off a bank loan, and, “if residual funds are available, to preserve the remaining artifacts of the museum and purchase similar ones, and do repairs, maintenance, and to make necessary improvements on the museum's real estate insofar as any of these are necessary to keep the museum open and functioning”)
(Emphasis added.)

So this student at law school in Michigan quoted language from a four-year-old unpublished Massachusetts county court decision. Did she actually get a copy of the case? Possible, but not likely. But poke around for the quote and you’ll find this:
Elaine L. Johnston, Deaccessioning to Raise Operating Funds: Recent Cases, in Legal Problems of Museum Administration, American Law Institute - American Bar Association Continuing Legal Education ALI-ABA Course of Study March 24, 1993
Which says, at 173:
The Massachusetts Attorney General consented to the Hammond's proposed deaccessioning, and the Court granted the Museum's request for approval. The Court did not issue a written opinion, but stated in its Judgement that the Museum was authorized to sell the designated artifacts and to use the proceeds from the sale to pay off the bank loan and, “if residual funds are available, to preserve the remaining artifacts of the museum and purchase similar ones, and do repairs, maintenance, and to make necessary improvements on the museum's real estate insofar as any of these are necessary to keep the museum open and functioning”.
So the Michigan law student “quotes” the exact same language as the CLE author. Coincidence? Not likely. Lazy student dancing way too close to the line between sloppy research and plagiarism? Very likely.

Also, the student’s summary of the case that precedes the quoted text:
[I]ssuing no opinion, only a judgment stating that the museum was authorized to make the sale, to use the proceeds to pay off a bank loan [...]
Is only a slight re-working of the CLE author’s summary:
The Court did not issue a written opinion, but stated in its Judgement that the Museum was authorized to sell the designated artifacts and to use the proceeds from the sale to pay off the bank loan [...]
This is what I see our students do fairly regularly when they ask me to find some obscure document or case and it turns out they’ve already used it in some paper, but only read ABOUT it in some other resource but now need the original thing because a faculty member, or one of the journal editors, wants some other detail for the citation or something that the intermediary source where the student found the document or case did not contain.

Full blog post...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Leading - and TEACHING - by Example

One of my biggest pet peeves working with law students is a form of academic dishonesty that is some cases falls short of plagiarism but in some cases definitely goes over the line. At the least, its misleading and misrepresents the students' work. I find a few students each year doing this, either in the papers they're writing for seminars or for the journals, or in the articles the law review and journal staff are sub-citing.

Students can usually find a couple of relevant articles on Westlaw to get themselves started, maybe even a few good books on the subject, but if they find a good discussion or point about an additional case or some other resource - “Source 2” - in an article or book - “Source 1” that they’re reading, they'll often just cite to Source 2 without including an intervening "as cited by" or "as discussed in" citation to Source 1.

It is perfectly acceptable and the Bluebook provides rules for using “as cited by” or “as discussed in”, and if that Source 2 is really obscure or too hard or prohibitively expensive to track down, that’s what you do. But when you DON’T do this and just crib whatever Source 1 said about Source 2 and pass it off as your own research by citing to Source 2 as if you actually found that resource and read it, you’re mis-representing your work. That, to me, is plagiarism, though maybe of a lesser sort than copying an article’s language verbatim and not attributing it.

To make it clear - in case all this “Source 1" and “Source 2" is too confusing - here’s the example I came across recently, with dummy text and citations in place of the real things. This is the case a patron asked me to find:
Frenkel v. Ministry of Corpuscles, No. JK9817-03 (Fred. H.Ct., 1998)
This request came to me by e-mail, and the patron says its unpublished and he’s looked on Westlaw and Lexis and its not there (he had a list of several cases like this he needed). So I poked around and found a few references to it in some law reviews, including this one from the Topschool Journal of International Law:
As the Fredonia High Court said in Frenkel v. Ministry of Corpuscles:

The essence of undulations is that they should be ... a measure of the loss of highhandedness.

Frenkel v. Ministry of Corpuscles, No. JK9817-03 (Fred. H.Ct., 1998) (unpublished opinion), in Jones and Spurious, Law and the Way of the Untoward (2003).
Yes, its unpublished, but it was apparently re-printed in some treatise, which we have, so OK, happy ending - the patron can cite to the case in this book like the Topschool Journal author did.

But, curious about the general availability of Fredonia case law, I googled the case and find several other references to it, including this one:
As the Fredonia High Court said in Frenkel v. Ministry of Corpuscles:

The essence of undulations is that they should be ... a measure of the loss of highhandedness.

Frenkel v. Ministry of Corpuscles, No. JK9817-03 (Fred. H.Ct., 1998).
Wow, that looks familiar. Long story short, the punchline is that this wasn’t a student patron: the list of cases I was asked to find came from a junior professor who busies himself helping to shape the next generation of lawyers and the second cite above, the one I found through google, the one WITHOUT the Jones and Spurious treatise cite, is from SSRN and is his “accepted paper” from a top 50 law school journal that is publishing his article. So he needed me to find these obscure cases because the law review staff is sub-citing his article and needs copies of them, including Frenkel.

But how did our intrepid author find it in the first place if he needs me to get a copy of it? By reading the article by the author who ADMITTED he found the Frenkel case in the Jones and Spurious treatise. But not only has our junior faculty cribbed from Jones and Spurious, he’s blatantly plagiarized the summary of the case from the Topschool law review author, same exact quote, same exact ellipses, etc., etc.

So if the faculty pull this shit, we can’t be surprised that our students plead ignorance about similar stunts.

Now I have to go play diplomat and say “um, maybe you should cite to the law review where YOU found the Frenkel case, or to the treatise where THAT author found it”. I love my job, I love my job, I love my job....

Full blog post...

Friday, October 16, 2009

September 2009 Netflix Report

September 2009 Netflix SummaryArrived at HomeReceived at NetflixDays at HomeMonthly Average Days at HomeCost Per Movie
Trouble the Water09/039/118
12 Rounds09/089/124
Sunshine Cleaning09/1209/197
Lookin' to Get Out09/2009/299

Back working full-time now for the Fall semester, so only seven movies this month, and it sure took me a hell of a long time to get around to watching Charade. That's the classic movie this month that I have seen parts of several times, but never watched start to finish. Most of the rest of this month's movies were recent releases I'd missed. Duplicity was very good but suffered at the end from the one-twist-too-many/my-aren't-we-clever-filmmakers syndrome. Sunshine Cleaning was very good with characters and situations that played very real for the most part, with only a few scenes played a bit too much for laughs.

Trouble the Water is one of the best Katrina documentaries that I've seen so far. I was hoping it would be better than Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke, but after the home movie footage of the Ninth Ward flooding in Trouble the Water, the evacuation story of the protags begins to play out as too much of a "look at me" cry for attention. So despite its flaws, When the Levees Broke is still the definitive cinematic statement about Katrina, at least of the ones I've seen - a few still haven't seen wide release.

But Stop-Loss, on the other hand, I think is the best movie about the Iraq war so far. I haven't seen them all, but they've generally gotten lousy reviews and one of the one I did see - whatever that one where Jessica Biel loses her hand in an IED explosion - was pretty wooden and sterile except for Sameul Jackson's story line upon returning to the states. But Stop-Loss had real heart to it and all the character and the situations they're in played very real.

Full blog post...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, Leonard Cohen (Oh, and is Michael Jackson still Dead?)

A scary bit of news Saturday was that Leonard Cohen collapsed on stage in Spain. We saw him in Austin this past Spring and it still stands out as one of the best concerts I've ever seen. I got my wife the CD/DVD of the London show from this tour, and we play it at least once a week or so.

Today he turns 75, and even though he's in amazing condition for a man his age - he may look small and frail, but he was all over the stage when we saw him, up and down taking a knee regularly, and doing a little jig as he went offstage during the encores - but, sure, he's not going to be around forever.

When Michael Jackson died and we had 24/7 news coverage, it struck me that when Leonard Cohen departs this world, he'll probably get thirty second on the national news and maybe a few minutes on Entertainment Tonight or VH1. Yes, MJ's tragic death was perfect for the tabloid-style coverage that the cable networks love, but as far as anything you can define as "artistic merit" and the value of a life well lived, the attention given to Michael Jackson and the eventual coverage of Leonard Cohen's passing will be completely out of proportion to what they should be.

To me, Exhibit One in the debate over just how screwed up Michael Jackson was as a person and as an artist is the opening sequence to his movie "Moonwalker". That came out in 87 or 88, and it was one of the only American movies playing at this theater one afternoon in Toulon when I was in France during my time in the Marines. I didn't see that whole clip shown anywhere in any of the media coverage I saw because it is so bizarre. But, yes, its on YouTube. It consists of him performing "Man in the Mirror" in concert before a huge crowd of adoring fans interspersed with clips of - among others - Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat, and Menachem in their famous three-way handshake in 1979 at the Israel-Egypt peace treaty signing (at 1:40), Ghandi (at 1:48), Martin Luther King, Jr. and JFK (at 2:00 or so), RFK, Mother Theresa, Bishop Desmond Tutu (at 2:25), and so on. No further elaboration on the egotism of Michael Jackson is necessary.

Then there's the damn lyrics to the song:
Gotta make a change
For once in my life
It's gonna feel real good
Gonna make a difference
Gonna make it right
I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
Make what change? He was still black in this video, so I guess he was contemplating his supposedly vitiligo-inspired cosmetic lightening (though with vitiligo, a condition where your pigment becomes lighter in patches, the usual remedial action is to use dark make-up to cover up the light patches). So he’s basically saying, if you want to make the world a better place, look at yourself and just GO FOR that makeover, new wardrobe, whatever. You don’t have to actually DO anything external to your own narcissism.

Compare that with this clip from the Leonard Cohen DVD of his London concert; it’s the same basic show we saw in Austin (embed is disables for this clip, so you have to click the link):
Now I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah
Michael Jackson never wrote anything that comes close to poetry like that.

Full blog post...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

NPR’s Scott Simon Insults All Louisianans

I’m not sure why I’m semi-obsessed with obvious errors in what are otherwise very reliable media and other sources. It must be a librarian thing. Anyway, I’m rarely up at 6:00am on a Saturday, let alone listening to NPR, but in another episode of what is a typical, riveting middle-aged married life, I wanted to get to both Home Depot and Lowe’s soon after they opened.

So I was listening to Scott Simon on NPR wax poetic about Twitter. He had listeners read the “poetic”, “witty”, whatever Tweets that he had solicited from them. But in discussing political Tweets, Simon mis-spoke and referred to - I swear this is what he said - “Congressman Joe Wilson of Louisiana”. The President-heckling Congressman is, of course, from South Carolina, not Louisiana, and we’re so happy that a politician from somewhere ELSE was a national embarrassment for a while.

But when I went to capture the audio from NPR.Org, the error had been edited and he now mentions the correct state. But because this segment was about Twitter I had immediately got on-line and Tweeted my offense at his error, and, luckily, found one other Louisianan who also was not happy with Simon’s confusion about Southern States.

So except for Twitter there is no evidence that this error occurred. And because Twitter doesn't, as far as I know, archive all our Tweets in perpetuity, those two pieces of "evidence" won't be around forever. A minor point about a minor error, sure, but still. Its nice to know that NPR edits such errors out of its on-line archives. And I remain agnostic about Twitter being a revolutionary information/news resource and/or tool, but I’m regularly surprised at how it can be useful for random little things like this.

Oh, and Scott Simon’s whole segment was people reading their “clever” Tweets that he had asked them to submit. A few were cute, but one was about public libraries and was pretty clueless. The caller/Tweeter, Amanda Elend - @amandaelend - read her following Tweet:
Finding myself extremely thankful that the public library system already exists. Imagine trying to get that one past Congress.
Public libraries funding is, of course, mostly local, but the federal government does give a big chunk of change to help at almost every level. But there was no initial “Public Library Act” that had to “get past Congress” in some past halcyon day. In fact Congress still ponies up a big pile of money each year - $158 million for state library agencies in 2005 (out of a total $1.1 billion total revenue, so right at 15% comes from the federal government). I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised because I imagine a majority of the country can’t believe that any government program or function exists that doesn’t flow from the benevolence of the federal government.

Full blog post...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

August 2009 Netflix Report

August 2009 Netflix SummaryArrived at HomeReceived at NetflixDays at HomeMonthly Average Days at HomeCost Per Movie
The Whole Shootin'
Match: Bonus Materials
08/01 08/04 3
Session 9 08/01 08/04 3
Silver City 08/04 08/11 7
Robin and Marion 08/05 08/10 5
Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog 08/05 08/07 2
Emergency Kisses 08/07 08/11 4
The Soloist 08/08 08/11 3
The Inglorious Bastards (1978) 08/11 08/13 2
The Strange One 08/12 09/02 21
Hamlet 2 08/12 08/25 13
Shakes the Clown 08/13 09/03 21
Sleeping Dogs Lie 08/14 09/05 22
7.6 $1.54

These 12 movies are all over the board. A recent big release - the Soloist - was neither as cliched or as good as it could have been. Session 9 looked more interesting than it was when it was a "suggested" title at Netflix. Emergency Kisses was the worst of the lot - I only watched it because its a follow up to I Can No Longer Hear the Guitar, which was in last month's queue, and both of which, again, were mentioned in the Sunday New York Times' DVD new releases column and both of which I would gouge my eyes out before watching again - indulgent, autobiographical crap. But the NYT also highlighted the two Bobcat Goldthwait titles - Shakes the Clown (starred and directed) and Sleeping Dogs Lis (directed). The first one was damn funny, but the second one was really good, especially given a premise that must have been a hell of a pitch to try to sell.

And - I think I just realized this - when your next Netflix movie is not available from your closest distribution center, they'll let you know that its being shipped from wherever, BUT they'll also ship an additional movie that is next in your queue at the same time so you have an extra at home at no extra charge. This month, two movies - Shakes the Clown and Emergency Kisses - were extras for me.

Full blog post...

Monday, September 7, 2009

3 Weeks Out: Finally a NYT Book Review Katrina Correction

I guess other folks more concerned and more motivated about this than myself took a bit more effort to point out the problems with Timothy Egan's book review of Dave Eggers' Zeitoun: the Sunday NYT Book Review yesterday had a correction and there is now one appended to the on-line version of the review.

Here in New Orleans, the Times-Picayune did a bit of a better job by quickly publishing a letter to the editor from the founder of Levees.Org about President Obama's characterization of Katrina as a "natural disaster". That statement was made in an interview with the President by local reporters, so his mis-statement didn't get picked up nationally and, besides this one letter, I don't think it got much coverage locally. But, again, in some parallel bizarro world if a President McCain had made such an oversight, he'd be lambasted for being clueless about what flooded New Orleans after Katrina.

Full blog post...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Even Published Authors Can Mis-speak

Occasional errors in the morning paper don't surprise me any more. Even the Sunday New York Times we get delivered each week (but at thirty dollars a month, maybe not for much longer when I can walk down the block and get it for $5 at Starbucks) has routine mistakes that I chalk up on too much reliance on spellcheck and not enough on real editorship and skull sweat.

But this egregious mis-use/mis-wording nearly made me do a spit-take with my yogurt this morning. Its from an article-slash-interview with Ethan Brown, the author of "Shake the Devil Off: A True Story of the Murder that Rocked New Orleans", an otherwise fine-sounding book about a horrible post-Katrina murder-suicide committed by an Iraqi war vet. Brown worked as a reporter for a while and talked about applying his investigative skills to this story:
"That's what I was doing. Scavenging. Getting everybody's story right. Trying to get these two apocryphal events -- the Iraq war and Katrina -- right. " (Gag-inducing emphasis added.)
Of course - duh - he meant to say "apocalyptic", not "apocryphal", because for damned sure Katrina and the Iraq war are NOT "of doubtful authenticity".

Even a published author, skilled and experienced in weaving words into precise, poetic combinations, can mis-speak. But though these words are similar ... well, they start with the same two syllables, but they really ARE NOT EVEN CLOSE TO BEING SIMILAR ... they are as different in meaning as two words can be. A total, complete, mistaken choice of words.

And isn't it the interviewer's, or the editor's, job to catch this? Doesn't this deserve at least a [sic] after the word? Does anyone at the Times-Picayune own a dictionary that has actual pages?

Full blog post...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Follow-Up: Hurricane Katrina, No New York Times Correction, and Pres. Obama Makes the Same Mistake

Yesterday's New York Times Book Review didn't contain any correction or mention of the mis-statements that Timothy Egan made in his review of Dave Eggars' Zeitoun that I wrote about the other day. I searched both the NYT web page and the relevant database on Lexis and found nothing. (And, apparently, you can't leave comments on book reviews on the Times' web page. Huh?)

But I guess that the New York Times' error in this doesn't matter since President Obama is saying basically the same thing:
"I think that Katrina was really a wake-up call for the country...that all of us can fall prey to these kinds of natural disasters". Rebuilding New Orleans Still a Priority, Obama Says, New Orleans Times-Picayune, August 23, 2009, page A-21. (Emphasis added)
Oh, the shitstorm that would rain down in some parallel-hell of a universe where a President McCain made a statement referring to Katrina as just a natural disaster. The New York Times, President Obama, and the entire country may have forgotten this, but we in New Orleans still remember an important detail about Katrina: the catastrophic flooding wasn't due to the hurricane overtopping the levees, but resulted from the breeching of floodwalls that we now know were improperly designed and constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers over the past forty years.

Are the Times and the President glossing over this because now, all of a sudden, they don't want to draw attention to the inefficiencies and ineptitude of the federal government because the current administration is proposing that a big, new bureaucracy be created to provide a federalized health insurance option for one sixth of our population and take its place besides other great government success stories like Amtrak, the Post Office, and, yes, the Corps of Engineers?

Full blog post...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hurricane Katrina and Sloppy Errors in the New York Times Book Review

I guess with the increase in corrections in the New York Times, spotting errors isn't hard, but getting the date and details wrong on Hurricane Katrina is pretty egregious. Yes, its just in the Sunday NYT Book Review of Dave Eggers' Zeitoun, but saying that
"Katrina hits on Sunday, Aug. 28 2005" and that "[i]t's a Category 5 storm..."
as reviewer Timothy Egan does, is like talking about the 9/10 Terrorist Attacks.

Yeah, OK, on Sunday those still in town were definitely feeling the effects of Katrina, but it didn't make landfall until Monday morning; though that's the correct meteorological meaning of "hit", we can let that one slide. But though Katrina had been a Cat5 storm, it was down to a Cat3 by the time it made landfall in Louisiana; Egan just plain got that wrong in his review. (The Saffir-Simpson scale categories are based solely on wind speed; though Katrina's winds had decreased when it came ashore, it still packed a record storm surge and was one of the largest hurricanes ever. Maybe Egan and his editors just .... know, no excuse for this sloppiness, but OK - it was a powerful, big damn storm, Cat5 or not.)

Perhaps these are only things that locals would care about, but in what sounds like perhaps the best book about Katrina so far (haven't read it myself yet), and even perhaps the best book that Eggers has written out of his entire oeuvre, I think these oversights only serve to sour us in New Orleans on this otherwise great review. We're perfectly willing to forgive his sloppiness in specifying what neighborhood the Zeitoun family lived in (a lot of us can't keep some of those straight), but for us, 8/29 is just as evocative of the date our tragedy took place as 9/11 is for the entire country.

But what is unforgivable is the dilettantesque mistake that the reviewer makes in attributing New Orlean's deluge to just the shear force of nature. In describing the second day after the storm, Egan says:
"Day 2, the world changes. Zeitoun wakes to a sea of water, after the levees have been overtopped. He’s neck-deep in a city of a thousand acts of desperation."
If the New York Times and the rest of the country has forgotten that the catastrophic flooding wasn't due to Katrina overtopping the levees, but to the failure and breeching of the levees due to their improper design and construction, then we've learned nothing and made no progress in how we allocate resources and plan for risks such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and other disasters. (On the other hand, Eggers, apparently, gets it right - the local reviews and discussions of the book I've seen would definitely mention it if he had botched that critical point.)

So this Sunday I'm look for a big, fat, kiss-ass apology to New Orleans in the New York Times Book Review.

Full blog post...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Astroturfing via Twitter in Support of “Health Care Reform”?

This is really a brilliant idea, and its essentially a Twitter-based version of the “grass-root” campaign results I found that both supported and opposed proposed FCC rules on “Broadcast Localism” and which resulted in thousands of comments to the FCC web site that were identical to the form letters that different advocate groups urged their supporters to send.

Now to drum up support for health care reform, this blogger has provided easy cut-and-paste Tweets that users can Twitter themselves without having to think of an original thing to say, complete with the URLs to the White House “Reality Check” web pages.
But yet it’s the opponents of current “health care reform” efforts that get accused of astro-turfing this issue when they swap messages and post notices about how and where to voice their concerns.

One thing I’m really just understanding about’s url-shortening service is that it will let you track the hits for the web site through ANY URL, whether yours or someone else’s. So I plugged in those pages and see that he’s apparently had several of his Tweets propagated by as many as two thousand people, but some of the others only have two-three hundred hits. So either folks are being very selective about the dozen or so Tweets he provides. And at the bottom of this post he says this is something similar to what he, and others, I guess, did during the Iran election in July.

Good use of Twitter to get your message out via other people who can’t communicate in 140 characters on their own without help!

Full blog post...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dead Blue Dog Graffiti

Great graffiti, presumedly somewhere here in the city:
Dead blue dog on Twitpic

Finally something useful from Twitter! Thanks, NolaMaven! For my many readers not from New Orleans, the target of this is New Orleans artist George Rodrigue's ubiquitous Blue Dog motif/mascot/moneytrain.

Full blog post...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Twitter Over Capacity? Did I Miss Some News Story?

Maybe I don't use Twitter enough to have seen this before, but I was logging out and had this screen come up:

Twitter over capacity message

There isn't even any big breaking news story? I thought when Michael Jackson's death fried Twitter they learned how to "upscale" their servers on the fly. Guess it was just a glitch, or someone is doing another DOS attack on it. But the fact that they have this nice graphic ready to go means they know they're not up to the task of handling all the traffic they're getting these days, right?

Full blog post...

Monday, August 10, 2009

CALI, AALL, Social Media, and the Coming Backlash (Hopefully?)

Feels like I lost late June and most of July to the annual CALI and AALL meetings, and mostly to the bathroom renovation from hell, and now its August and school is ready to start again.

This year both the CALI and AALL meetings will big on Web 2.0 and social media - Twitter, Facebook, etc., etc. But the question I had at the CALI "unconference" session - a big, open free-wheeling discussion about anything - is still unanswered: what mission-critical tasks can these things do for us that we aren't already doing with the tools we've had for a good while now. In law schools, the two primary mission-critical tasks are educating our students to be lawyers and supporting our faculty in their teaching and scholarship.

I've had a lot of fun with Facebook getting in touch with old friends - though learning what they got on any one of the dumb surveys that propagate like weeds on Facebook or that they need help in whatever Mafia Wars task they're doing isn't my idea of "getting in touch", but I've had a few worthwhile exchange with some of my fellow high school alum and its looking like Facebook is going to be very useful in organizing our 25th reunion next year. (And our dog's campaign for the Mayor of New Orleans is making good use of Facebook and is going gangbusters so far.)

And Twitter is a blast during the conferences - very useful at CALI and very snarky at AALL since everyone could Tweet anonymously via @aallsecrets. Yes, there were a few useful Tweets at AALL about simultaneously scheduled programs and some folks posted some useful related resources live during the program, but less so than at CALI, which makes sense given who goes to each.

Two answers have been offered for what these Web 2.0/Social Media stuff can do for us at law schools - one was at that unconference session and involved publicity and I agree about that - one point made at another CALI session was that at the least every law school should have a presence on Facebook and probably elsewhere if only to serve as the official Joe Blow School of Law Facebook page and thus be able to point folks there if they are confused by ad hoc pages created by the school's students. But with the economy in the tank applications are up across the country and luring applicants to your law school is not like marketing sneaker brands where you better be up to date on every social media site and tool. But I do not believe anyone is losing enrollment because their school isn't on Facebook or Twitter or whatever.

The second answer was from a casual conversation at AALL and involved RSS feeds and using them to aggregate/push/whatever articles and blogs and other information to our faculty and students. I'm an RSS agnostic - a thread on ALL-SIS mentioned RSS feeds and one school mentioned a survey of incoming students that said only something like 15% of them used RSS feeds, which sounds a whole lot more accurate to me than the figure I saw stating that 65-70% of all internet users use RSS feeds; I'd believe that 65-70% of all internet users who happen to take a survey about social media probably use RSS feeds, but that survey sure seems like the respondents were self-selected.

RSS feeds may be neat but roping in some blogs as part of your research probably isn't mission-critical to what our faculty and students need. Faculty are going to be most concerned with the 600+ law reviews that Westlaw and Lexis can provide and for which I can set up a thorough, accurate automatic search and have new matching articles e-mailed to them regularly. (And when I last played with RSS, I clicked on the little orange RSS icon on two different web sites - one seemed to look for newsreader software on my computer, and the other asked me to choice between a half-dozen or so news "aggregator" services that it assumed I would have subscribed to. If I can't figure out RSS in five minutes - and, yes, I'm sure its easy once I spend 10 minutes or so with it - its not ready for prime time for the tens of thousands of students and faculty who would need help with even more basic on-line tasks.

It seems to me we're allowing ourselves to be converts to too much of the hype from the marketing types - where some of the hype may indeed be justified - and trying to be "cool librarians" by applying the lingo and mindset to what we do. But screw Clay Shirkey and his contention that "the tradition of one-way authoritative delivery of information is becoming extinct". Yeah, I thought it was neat that Skittles.Com turned their web site into 100% content other people are putting up about their product on social media sites, but in any field besides trying to sell more people your particular brand of stomach-rotting crap candy - i.e., all fields that really matter and strive to accomplish something to oh, I don't know, improve humanity's lot and more us forward as a species, like law, medicine, economics, whatever - questions need to be answered with a significant degree of authority and not cobbled together by people uploading photos to a communal web site or creating a wiki.

Yes, "authoritative" answers to a question may change over time as we learn more about the universe we're in (or, in law, as judges tease out new principles from the cases before them), and the answer to other questions are often really just another question or two, but we, as librarians, are responsible for getting those authoritative answers, or the means of finding those authoritative answers, or even determining that there is no definitive answer, to our patrons.

Are people getting useful answers via Twitter? Yes, I'm sure. But if you ONLY post an important question on Twitter, you're doing a shit job. Law-lib still answers more question on a day that I've ever seen on Twitter. (And please, you're just trying to show off your "cool librarian" cred if you post a survey question on law-lib and they ask for responses via DM .) Twitter is just a weird chimera that seems like chat, micro-blogging, or even e-mail, depending on how you use it but is it game-changing, paradigm-shifting, chose-your-cliche-here, as Shirkey et al says? Shirkey's Ted lecture on the page linked above is mis-labeled there "How Twitter Can Make History" (ummm, no, it can't - and I've ragged on the grandiose claims made for Twitter a few times already so enough said about that). Its a bit broader and is actually called "How Social Media Can Make History" and I'm still not convinced (guess I should listen to the whole thing). Twitter has only made it even more easier (read: more idiot-proof) for people to post stuff on-line, like blogs did a few years ago.

E-mail and the web itself - those were game-changers. All this Web 2.0 and social media hot-topicalism is just the hype-of-the moment. AALL and CALI both had a hell of a lot of sessions about wikis and blogs when those were the new hot things. OK, having students create a wiki in a faculty member's "banana and the law" course may be neat, but sorry if I didn't read about which Federal Circuit is now allowing pleadings in the cases it hears to be submitted via wikis - like I said, I'm RSS feed agnostic so I may have missed that news story.

Blogs were going to make it so much easier for us to reach our patrons but most of the law library blogs I've seen are on-line version of the "books we've acquired this month" newsletters we all used to print and distribute. A blog makes it a lot easier to put that sort of newsy stuff on-line, and at least the students are not throwing away that much paper because they can now not read it on-line instead of not read it when we waste a student worker's time putting a copy in each of their mail boxes. (And I may be baffled about RSS but you can NOT say I don't understand blogs - this post is longer and has more links in it than 90+ % of every other blog I've ever looked at.)

E-mail and the web did revolutionize the way we work and increased exponentially the ways and the ease with which we can connect with our colleagues around the country and around the world. To some extent, Web 2.0 and social media are just tools bringing this more to the masses who couldn't master effective e-mail use and basic html and who, let's admit, don't have that much to say anyway. These new tools aren't paradigm-shifters and in two to three years these annual meetings will have sessions on whatever new tools are being hyped then and which, upon later sober reflection will be seen, like blogs, wikis, social media networks, Web 2.0 collaboration sites, etc., etc., before them, as nifty but non-mission critical ways to get some things done but not the monumental advances they once were thought to be.

I finally had an excuse to put all this down here because I was inspired by an article in the New York Times today, Party On, but No Tweets, about how some social events and some venues are adopting strict no-Twitter, no-cell-phone pics, etc., policies, and people, though uncomfortable at first, are finding its actually enjoyable to just live in the moment and not obsessively share and document the moment. One of the clubs mentioned enforces this by blackballing members if they find Facebook pictures taken during its functions. Another recent article mentioned how membership in Facebook and other sites may have peaked in the under-30 or so demographic. One explanation proposed was that since the over-30 on up to the senior citizen demographics have only recently discovered all this stuff, it was no longer "cool". I don't think kids are going to give up their cell phone texting and Facebook pages, but it soon may be the "cool" trend to actually NOT chat on your phone during half the party and to let your Facebook page go un-updated for a significant length of time. So maybe "backlash" is not what we're going to see in a year or so - maybe "The Coming Ho-Hum" is more accurate.

Full blog post...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Henry Miller, Library Censorship, and a Honky-Tonk Pickup

This was one of the most unlikely movies to find a passing reference to censorship, libraries, and Henry Miller, let alone to find it used as part of a pick-up in a scene at a Texas Honky-Tonk bar:

This is from "A Hell of a Note", the first short film by Glenn "Eagle" Pennell, and is included on the Bonus Materials disc for the recent DVD release of Pinnel's best-known film, The Whole Shootin' Match.

Eagle Pennell was a 1970s independent filmmaker who worked mostly in Texas and was based in what was apparently a huge burgeoning arts scene in Austin in the 60s and 70s. "The Whole Shootin' Match" was made entirely without financial support or creative input from the film industries in Hollywood or New York, and so was an early "regional" film that eventually got national press.

Both "Shootin' Match" and "Hell of a Note" are rough on the edges and are definitely low-budget indie movies, but wow - the characters, stories, and settings ring more true than most current "art-house" type movies with budgets many times more than what Pennell had to work with.

Full blog post...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

July Netflix Summary

July 2009 Netflix SummaryArrived at HomeReceived at NetflixDays at HomeMonthly Average Days at HomeCost Per Movie
Vicky Christy Barcelona07/0107/1312
Carnal Knowledge07/0107/098
Days of Heaven07/0107/1413
Honkeytonk Man07/1007/166
I Can No Longer Hear the Guitar07/1407/2410
Tender Mercies07/1507/216
Last Holiday (1950)07/1707/203
Youth Without Youth07/2107/3110
The Whole Shootin' Match07/2508/039

Only made it through ten movies this month, what with the AALL meeting and the bathroom renovation from hell. It was mostly movies I've been meaning to get around to for years - Days of Heaven (really good), and Tender Mercies and Honkeytonk Man, which are a great pair of movies that I wish I had watched as a double feature. I Can No Longer Hear the Guitar is exhibit #1 for why making Netflix choices based on the New York Times' DVD column is a very dicey business - that was the biggest waste this month, with Tideland coming in a very close second. My third favorite after Eastwood's and Duvall's individual turns at country music movies, though, was The Whole Shootin' Match, which also was a NYT DVD column selection, so I guess it all comes out in the balance.

Full blog post...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"How I Spent My Summer Vacation (The Boring Middle-aged Married Homeowner Version)"

Alternate title for this post: the bathroom renovation from hell. Two weeks, including a full two days with a heat gun just removing the old, ugly, cheap vinyl peal-and-stick flooring the previous owners had slapped down and the linoleum beneath that, then five days prepping the floor, laying the natural stone tile, and fixing what I'd screwed up, misc time replacing and re-painting the trim, then a day and a half playing plumber to replace some old shut-off valves and supply lines.

But it does look great:
Bathroom Renovation Evolution

My wife indeed has the whole "vision" thing going on and her taste is impeccable and I'm not going to block HGTV like I swore I would do in the middle of all this. In fact, as much of a pain that it was to do this job - and it really only took so long because most of the time I was either being very careful doing something I'd never done before or fixing something I had screwed up because I had never done it before - the bad parts of it when I swore to myself I would never undertake such a big job again are fading from my memory in light of the completed project, and I'm confident I can do the other bathroom just as well and in a lot less time. But my wife says we can wait until next summer for that.

Best discovery during this process? Lowe's offers a 10% discount for veterans ALL THE TIME! But they seem incapable of registering you AS a veteran and I had to keep showing them a copy of my DD214 so I'm debating just getting it tattoed on my chest:
DD214 Tatooed on Chest

(NOTE: Stunt chest used, not author's actual body.)

Full blog post...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

Our holiday decorations for the peeing boy statue this year made him look more like "Little Mr. Stars and Striped Riding Hood":

Happy Independence Day!!!

Full blog post...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

June 2009 Netflix Summary

After starting this last month, I, of course, have to do this every month. Here's my Netflix activity for June:

June 2009 Netflix SummaryArrived at HomeReceived at NetflixDays at HomeMonthly Average Days at HomeCost Per Movie
Eagle Eye 06/02 06/05 3
Hard Eight 06/02 06/04 2
Labou 06/03 06/04 1
Rounders 06/06 06/10 4
The Postman Always
Rings Twice (1946)
06/06 06/15 9
You Can't Take it With
06/06 06/09 3
Crazy Love 06/10 06/12 2
Goodbye, Columbus 06/11 06/15 4
25th Hour 06/13 6/22 9
Defiance 06/16 6/23 7
David and Lisa 06/16 6/22 6
Secretary 06/23 06/30 7
Thumbsucker 06/23 06/30 7
Powder Blue 06/24 06/30 6
5.0 $1.32

My Netflix queue basically breaks down into a few categories based on why I'm watching them: stuff I'm just getting around to seeing, whether recent mildly-intriguing recent releases (Eagle Eye, Powder Blue), stuff I've encountered while flipping channels on TV and I want to see the whole movie (You Can't Take it With You, David and Lisa), and stuff I'm genuinely interested in seeing and for which I thank God that Netflix exists (Crazy Love, Hard Eight). Whatever the reason, I think I'm equally surprised and dissapointed whatever reason I'm watching a movie. David and Lisa was mildly intriguing when I saw part of it on TCM, but turned out to be one of the best old movies I've seen in a while (Keir Dullea is great, and Janet Margolin playing opposite him is also amazing - a great "nuthouse" movie). And for the first half of "The Postman Always Rings Twice" I was puzzled about why this seemingly-rountine noir intrigue was so reknowned, but then after ther great mid-point courtroom sequence (which should be mandatory for trial practice courses!), the movie really hits high gear and I agree it one of the classics. Goodby Columbus was alright - think a Jewish "The Graduate" - and Ali MacGraw os gorgeous, but its one like so many films of the late sixties and early seventies that doesn't really hold up.
The best surprise this month was Powder Blue - I thought it was just a gritty urban angst drama centered around the strip club where Jessica Biel's character works (she got most of the press for this movie as far as I can tell), but it was much, much more than that. A very sweet, very real movie that carefully veers just this side of being cheesy, but movies like this are why I endure watching a wide variety of movies I don't know a lot about (I really want the hours spent watching Thumbsucker and Eagle Eye back).

Full blog post...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Elton John to Perform at Michael Jackson Funeral:
Will Re-work "Candle in the Wind" Yet Again

Candle in the Wind 2009
Goodbye Michael J.
Everybody knew all too well
How you molested little boys
And now you'll burn in hell.
You grew up near Chicago
And you daddy whipped your behind
He handed you a microphone
And he made you sing your lines.
And it seems to me you lived you life
Like a pop star in decline
Still struggling for a melody
And some words to rhyme
I'm glad I didn't know you
When I was a little kid
Your legend burned out long before
Your lifetime ever did.

Full blog post...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Raptor on the Road

The power was out for an hour or so after today's refreshing thunderstorm, so we were out on the front porch for a while and noticed this guy across the street on a neighbor's porch, trash can, and eventually up in a tree. It was hard to get a decent photo, but these are the best:

Raptor on the Road

Raptor on the Road

Raptor on the Road

Raptor on the Road

We've seen various "raptors" in Audubon Park - which isn't unusual - and that's apparently just a loose catch-all term for a wide variety of hunter birds, including falcons, eagles, hawks and condors. We have a big bird book some friends gave us when we were feedings some Monk Parakeets in the backyard, and the closest I could figure was that this was a Cooper's Hawk or something similar. That's one of several types of birds apparently commonly called a chickenhawk, which is what our neighbor said he used to call these when saw then as a kid. One of the others, the Sharp-Shinned Hawk is also sometimes called a chickenhawk, and the WikiP picture of it looks more like the pictures of what we saw.

Full blog post...

Michael Jackson Dies and Twitter Fries

I was almost willing to concede that Twitter was a useful new type of communication/news tool during the post-Iran election protests, counter-protests, and government crackdown over there, but just almost: everything still seemed to be second-hand - reports of what CCN, MSNBC, and other cable news networks were showing, and links to different news website. But Michael Jackson's death yesterday seemed to show all the shortcomings of Twitter - nothing new was to be found through Twitter but everyone seemed to want to use it to say nothing new.

I made a few screen captures. This first one is from 5:53pm Central Standard Time.

Michael Jackson Dies and Twitter Fries

It was taking a long time for any search to run, and when I searched the provided "trending topic" nothing was found. I'm not sure how twitter generates the "trending topics", but I figure they're suggested searches based on common text in some threshold of tweets - they're not manually suggested by read people, are they? So something seemed screwed up early on.

This second screen capture was from about an hour later.

Michael Jackson Dies and Twitter Fries

The hashtag search for #michaeljackson took about five minutes to load (and other web sites were loading normally, so it wasn't my connection); the most recent tweet listed was an hour old and about ten minutes later when I took this screen capture, the "more results" listing was up to over 10,000. An hour's worth of tweets queued up? "Real-time" my ass.

In the middle of all this, someone decides this is the perfect time to resurrect what is apparently some old net-rumor that Jeff Goldblum has also died. This image is from 8:24pm CST:

Michael Jackson Dies and Twitter Fries

This is about 10-15 minutes after that twending topic loaded and new results - rumors, denials, requests for confirmation and the link to the same fake news story on some joke web site in New Zealand or somewhere else down under - are also well over 10,000 and, as the image shows, the most recent one for this hot topic was from two hours ago. (The tweets do not actually re-load even as the as "more results" thing updates itself.)

Then at 9:47pm CST, Japan and the rest of Asia are just waking up and Twitter is really screwed. My page was loading but anytime I searched for anything this is what I was getting:

Michael Jackson Dies and Twitter Fries

Luckily I had saved the #michaeljackson hashtag search saved because about forth-five minutes later:

Michael Jackson Dies and Twitter Fries

there's no "trending topics" on Twitter anymore!

At the peak last night, there were about 100 tweets PER SECOND for #michaeljackson, by my rough estimate. Wayyyyy too many to follow. And eventually Twitter had, it seemed, finally "up scaled" its servers or whatever and wasn't hanging up and taking minutes to search for specific hot queries and "trending topics". So was this just a case of Twitter servers not being as quickly "scalable" (or whatever the jargon is) as they had hoped they would be?

Full blog post...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Poster for 2010 CALI Conference

I had thought of this movie and poster earlier because of what year the next CALI conference will be in, but I couldn’t figure out how to make the tagline relevant. But when the location for next year’s conference was announced at the today’s end-of-conference plenary, I had my tagline, but calling it “relevant” is a long stretch. Below the jump...

Image Hosted by

Pretty dumb, but its just a proof-of-concept. Need a better tagline. “The Year we Make WHAT?” What techspeak or legal education jargon will work with that? Probably nothing. But because it will be the 20th CALI conference, the eventual logo should incorporate something like this:
Image Hosted by

Full blog post...

2009 CALI Conference is Now History

I know now what our professors are dealing with, since I finally dragged a laptop to a few programs at the CALI conference and when the speaker lost my attention I checked my e-mail, looked up stuff, and tweeted about both the program I was watching and about the tweets from people watching the other programs (I actually have some useful notes and suggested resources from the tweets from people watching the other programs - wow). Based on the many laptop screens I’ve watched at this and other conference for years, this is nothing new (except for the tweeting). But I don’t think I”ll do this during the AALL meeting next month.

But overall I thought the conference was above average in content and usefulness and I have a lot of things to investigate further and tell the faculty and administration about, but the biggest thing I’m taking away from it is that there was no answer to the question of whether Facebook, Twitter, etc., etc., can do something, give our students and faculty something, do ANYTHING critical to our mission of educating future lawyers and supporting our faculty’s scholarly “pursuits” that we’re not doing already with some other set of tools we already have. And in the absence of a “yes” answer, by default the answer to that question would be no.

Oh, and I just thought - there WERE a lot of useful tweets about the content of the conference - but Twitter doesn't archive all tweets forever, right? Surely there's some other website or tool that helps you do that. I don't fell like looking into that now, but I just tweeted about it. Hahahaha.....

Full blog post...

Friday, June 19, 2009

CALI Theme Song?

I’ve always thought that “Information Undertow” by Dada would be a good theme song for CALI.

Hadn’t listened to it in a while, and now I realize its more about media/information saturation in general, but some of the lyrics in the middle come to mind at some many of the CALI sessions I’ve been to over the years:
I picked up a new toy
To get me some quick joy
It's got all the whistles and bells
My friends are all jealous
That's what they tell us
So why do I feel like hell?

I lit up my Apple
Surfed through the shrapnel
Accessed my online babe
She reads Aristotle
Says she's a model
But I've never seen her face

If I got this BLIP.Fm thing to embed correctly, this should be a link to streaming audio of the whole song:

No, not working. I swear I've done this before. Maybe this? -
dada - Information Undertow

Huh, no luck - you can listen to it AT Blip, but via and embedded link, it tries to play and then is listed as "unavailable". But I also found it streamable at

Full blog post...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Videoconferencing is NOT Necessarily Always Eco-Friendly

In the CALI Conference program today, “Videoconferencing Without Busting Your Budget” - which had a LOT of good information - a clip was shown from a professor talking about how videoconferencing (“VC”) was more eco-friendly than taking a plane to whatever meeting where he needed to speak ("the increase in emissions from the speaker boarding and flying an airplane are significantly greater than the electricity used in VC").

If you have to drive a car to your destination, like another professor in a different clip said then, yes, VC is more green. But unless you’re talking about the alternative of flying your private jet to the distant class/presentation/whatever, VC is not necessarily more eco-friendly compared to air travel because any given commercial airline flight to whatever destination is still going to fly whether or not the professor is on it. If empty seats are available the additional fuel expenditure due to the presence of your body and luggage on the plane probably pales in comparison to the environmental cost of videoconferencing for the 20+ students who will have to fire up their laptops and stayed glued to them for the hour or so you are videoconferencing with them: not all of them will have been on their laptop for that hour anyway, and I would bet that the environmental impact of the extra electricity that it takes for them to be on-line with your VC feed is more than the impact of you being an extra body on the airplane. (And even if that flight was overbooked, bumping passengers to other flights will still only result in a slight marginal increase in the total passenger/baggage mass being flown.)

Full blog post...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

CALI Conference 2009 & Boulder via Bike

This bike-share thing in Boulder is great - sponsored by some realty company, there are apparently stations where you can pick up the bikes all around town, including at the two hotels for this year’s CALI Conference. So since I got here early this afternoon, I biked all around and after exploring downtown on foot promptly got turned around and forgot where I had locked the bike up. Luckily it was near the farmer’s market (which has more German sausage and beer than the farmer’s market back home) and the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (which has some great exhibits as well as free admission on farmer’s market days!).

And, belatedly, I saw the Twitter hash tag for the CALI Conference. Call me clueless/newly clued - I see how that can be useful for things likes this - someone tweeted that there is another farmer’s market on Saturday, and noteworthy stuff going on tonight around town. Excellent! I still think its over-rated as a news tool, but it can be worth using at times.
Full blog post...

Bill Hemmerling, R.I.P.

All who loved his art learned a few weeks ago he was at home under hospice care, but it was still sad to learn that Bill Hemmerling finally succumbed to cancer and died Monday.

Like the Times-Picayune obituary described (and the video further below documents him accounting first-hand), he had a significant spiritual experience years ago when he had coffee at the Café du Monde in the French Quarter with a man who looked like, and who Bill believed was, Jesus. His simple explanation for coming late in life to creating his unique and often very spiritual art was
“One day when I let God out of the box I built, he danced with me.”
(Endure a sporadic 15 second commercial at the link below and watch the WWL news profile of Bill from a while back:

My wife and mother-in-law found his gallery in Ponchatoula several Strawberry Festivals ago and with her near-impeccable artistic instincts she (my wife, not mother-in-law) insisted we buy what eventually became our own mini-Hemmerling gallery. This being his pre-Jazz Fest poster period, we could both afford them and get a few of his more early, unique pieces, one of which we bought at a festival in Lafayette. That was a hot, swampy day, and I was in my Greg Allman phase but a few years later when the Ogden Museum feted Bill in honor of his aforementioned poster and I stopped by right after work and recently shorn, I waited in line and when I talked to him briefly I described the piece we had bought in Lafayette and he looked at my coat, tie, and buzzcut and said “yes, I remember - you weren’t dressed up and you had longer hair”.

We’re just two among many Hemmerling fans and he was like that with everyone he met, but that’s the special memory of him that came to mind when I learned he was finally at peace and having that second cup of coffee with Jesus...

Full blog post...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Swiss Lawyer Hot-Tubbing Nude with Female Clients!!!

(NSFW image below the jump...)

Well, its just a medieval wood cut, but being a lawyer back in 16th century Switzerland sure looks like it was a lot more fun that it is today:
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Bailiffs back in 16th-century Switzerland were, apparently, some sort of municipal legal officer. But the husband seems to be upset because of the legal matters the wife is pursuing, and not because of the whole nude bathing thing since the tub looks like its on a porch or something else semi-exposed to the passersby with the cart and donkeys.

This was one of many great illustrations in the excellent book by Katherine Ashenburg, The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History. There was no further explanation of whether Swiss bailiffs (who were, apparently, municipal legal officers and not private attorneys) regularly conducted business nude in a giant tub, and the notes didn't have any more information about the "Schweizer Chronik", but this is definitely a subject for further research.

Full blog post...