Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Twitter, Google, Patrick Swayze, Judge Sotomayor, and Proposition 8

This story was in the news last week:

Google 'falling behind Twitter' (U.K. Guardian)

I can't see why that's an issue - I wrote a few weeks ago about how Twitter has been grossly over-hyped as a "breaking news" service. Google is also just a tool for finding web pages and anyone who thinks it's the way to find the latest "in the past five minutes" news is clueless about how it works - if a story breaks, go to Cnn.Com or wherever and read the latest or, yes, turn on the radio or TV. Most of the "news" that anybody posts on Twitter anyway are links to and comments about stuff they've read on different web sites; I still am unconvinced that there's ever been any real substantive "on the scene" reporting provided via Twitter. I saw references to live tweeting from the Mumbai, India attacks last November, but haven't seen examples of anything besides people tweeting about what they're seeing on the web or TV about those attacks or about any other breaking news story. ("MSNBC say blah blah blah...")

The other big Twitter story last week was this:

Publicist denies Patrick Swayze death rumors (Reuters)

Today's Twitter Hysteria Says Patrick Swayze Has Died; He Didn't (Gawker.Com)

Twitter is thus like the web in general, but faster and even more idiot-friendly: anyone can post anything and do something like really make life even worse for Mr. Swayze and family. As far as I can tell, there isn't any "rating" or way to indicate a Tweeter is reliable or a spammer/prankster/whatever.

I guess if you follow the Twitter feed for a reporter or news organization, you can rely on their information as much as you rely on their information in any other forum, but if something is so important that it needs to get out to as big an audience as possible will a reporter tweet it or call the office or newsdesk? I remember reading about a local TV reporter who was blocks away from the Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City when it was bombed. She called up the newsroom and was put on the air live to describe what she had seen. If Twitter was around then, would she have bothered texted 140 letters on what had happened instead of calling in and going live via cell phone?

And NOW - May 26th - with the announcement that Judge Sonia Sotomayor is President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court, we have another perfect petri dish experiment to see how Twitter works with "breaking news", though there's little actual news as Sotomayor's history and record on the bench has pretty much already been thoroughly examined since she has been a front-runner since Souter retired.

As of 11:00am CST today, there's about 100-120 Tweets per minute ("TPM"?) when you search for "Sotomayor" (and about 15-20 TPMs for "Sotomayer" as I and many other people have misspelled her name today). That's way too many to look at and, like with the initial round of swine flu hysteria, 98+ percent or so of them are either zero content statements or are links and comments about the same dozen or so news stories that anyone following the "breaking story" will have already seen. So of the MAYBE 1-2% of the Tweets that may have useful original content or link to the latest stories, its unlikely you'll see them while trying to keep up with the two Tweets every second that are being posted. And because the most important news stories will be both re-tweeted and tweeted about by others, you'll eventually see them. Whether watching a Twitter search feed instead of just scanning the major news web sites yourself is more efficient is, to me, still up in the air. But I'm convinced that when hot news is breaking, Twitter is most useful as a media aggregator and not as a place to find useful, original reporting.

And - just as I was writing this - the other big legal story of the day broke: the California Supreme Court upheld both Proposition 8 and all the same-sex marriages that were performed before Prop 8 was passed. The court had said they would hand down their decision at 10:00am local time, so I was watching the #prop8 hash tag search feed on Twitter while the CBS radio news was live with their reporter at the court. The radio reported the story a good 2-3 minutes before anyone mentioned the decision on Twitter via that hash tag.

Full blog post...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Letters to Cleo at Lafayette Park

They have a pretty impressive body of work, but here is a short clip of Letters to Cleo performing their biggest hit, Here and Now, at Lafayette Park yesterday:

(This is a test of how well ImageShack.Us hosts videos - haven't tried their feature for doing that before.)
Full blog post...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Everybody Gets a Ribbon Day at SSRN

Got this e-mail the other day:
Subject: Your Paper Makes SSRN Top Ten List

Dear Brian Huddleston: Your paper entitled, "Louisiana Legislative
History Resources" was recently listed on SSRN's Top Ten download
list for LIS: Legal Information: Authority, Citation, & Precedent
(Topic). To view the top ten list for the journal click on its name
LIS: Legal Information: Authority, Citation, & Precedent (Topic) Top
Ten and to view all the papers in the journals click on these links
link(s) LIS: Legal Information: Authority, Citation, & Precedent
(Topic) All Papers.

I was curious about this since the last time I checked, the downloads for that paper had barely moved into double-digits (and why I have that many I don't understand - I just put it on SSRN so I could link to it from my on-line resume and publications list, and I don't think I even told anyone it was up there). So I followed the link found this:
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(For the current rankings, see http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/topten/topTenResults.cfm?groupingId=1336982&netorjrnl=jrnl - I'm now third!)

Yes, as the e-mail said, its only the ranking for papers under the Topic of LIS: Legal Information: Authority, Citation, & Precedent, but, as the e-mail was NOT clear, its only in the top ten download for papers that were uploaded in the past 60 days, and, yes, second equals last because there were only two papers for this Topic uploaded in the past two months.

Is this the sort of thing that people trumpet by saying "my paper, Blah Blah Blah, was a top ten download on SSRN" without any qualifications?

Full blog post...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Legal Scholarship, Global Warming, and Jazzfest

I've been thinking about this for a few years, ever since I read Can We Save New Orleans?, 19 Tul. Envtl L. Rev 1 (2006), by Professor Oliver Houck of Tulane School of Law. It's a very good, informal riff on a lot of the environmental issues related to New Orleans, Louisiana, the Mississippi River, all tied up in a nice bow of justifiable post-Katrina anger and personal narrative, including excerpts from Professor Houck's own evacuation journal.

What stood out in my mind from this article when I first read it was a rather specific prediction about global warming, though I slightly mis-remembered it - he doesn't give a time frame like I had thought he had (a lot of anthropogenic global warming alarmists tend to omit specific predictions of when the planet is going to be significantly hotter than whenever their spreading their current hysteria). But Professor Houck does give a specific temperature prediction linked to one of our big annual cultural events here in New Orleans:
Here in Louisiana we will be warmer in summer (think, maybe, 103 degrees at Jazz Fest) .... Houck, Tul. Envtl. L. Rev 1, at 27.
For one, the "maybe" in the parenthetical is his big weasel-word out of pulling the specific figure of 103 degrees out of thin air. The rest of his sentence discusses predicted drier conditions and the effect that may have on our state's leading crops and then a footnote for that sentence refers to (after an "id." or two) this:
Envtl. Prot. Agency, Climate Change and Louisiana 3 (1997) available at http:// yosemite.epa.gov/OAR/globalwarming.nsf/UniqueKeyLookup/SHSU5BURCA/$File/la_ impct.pdf
The only part of that four-page report that I found which predicted specific temperature change in Louisiana was this:
[It] is projected that by 2100, temperatures in Louisiana could increase about 3°F (with a range of 1-5°F) in spring and summer, slightly less in winter, and slightly more in fall. Envtl. Prot. Agency, Climate Change and Louisiana 2 (1997).
Like a lot of the source material cited by alarmists, it's a bit more measured than the attention-grabbing headlines and statements: "could increase" anywhere from one to five degrees in a hundred years. But 103 degrees at Jazz Fest? Yes, Jazz Fest is hot: it's a music festival with tens of thousand of people crowded onto a dirt and asphalt racetrack and fairgrounds in late spring. Is it really likely to be 103 degrees there any time soon? Ever?

As a librarian I deal in facts. Students sometimes think we know how to find anything, but I tell them that while that's not true, I do know how to find out how to find just about anything. So I spent some time learning about weather data the did some research and came up with the average high temperature for Jazz Fest during its 40 year history.

Jazz Fest has had different schedules over its forty year history, so to have a consistent year-to-year set of data, I used a constant set of ten days over the last weekend of April through the first weekend of may - the first Friday through the next weekend's Sunday, which has been the more-or-less consistent schedule for the Fest in the past 15 years or so. Also, I included the days between weekends because the second weekend of Jazz Fest has started to include that Thursday so this way I'm taking an average of the more-or-less same ten days year to year (and because your hardcore Jazz Fest fans make good use of these weekdays to continue enjoying the local music scene, some consider Jazz Fest to be the entire ten day period).

The National Climatic Data Center, part of NOAA, has its primary on-line climate data search here:http://cdo.ncdc.noaa.gov/CDO/cdo

It took me a while to figure it out - you submit your query and they actually e-mail you a link a little while later with the information you requested (the link lasts two weeks, but I saved the important data). The various data stations collect different data, and the range of years for which they collected data varies, and the stations nearest the fair grounds don't have complete data for these forty years so I used the main station at the New Orleans airport (which, I think, is the main station in this area - it definitely has the most complete data).

There's no way I could find to get just the data for certain dates, or just the April and May data, for all forty years, so I submitted a request for all forty years of data and then copied the daily high temperatures to my spreadsheet for each year's ten day Jazz Fest "period". (You can view either the original data from the NCDC (PDF) or my spreadsheet of the daily highs (also PDF)).

What I found out is this: the hottest Jazz Fest ever was 2002, when the average temperature was 89.1 degrees. The hottest single day ever was May 2 of that year, when the temperature was 92 degrees. So even if the upper range of the EPA's 1979 prediction is correct, Jazz Fest might be 97 degrees in a hundred years. Still damn hot, but well short of 103 degrees.

Looking over the numbers, its clear there is no definitive warming trend; the second hottest Jazz Fest was 1987, when the average temperature was 84.9 degrees. This year was the tenth hottest (84.9 degrees), but the eleventh, thirteenth, and fourteenth hottest Jazz Fests were all in the 1970s: 1975, 1971, and 1978 - 83.5, 83.4, and 83.1 degrees, respectively. AND the third, fifth, and ninth coolest Jazz Fests were all in the last four years: 2005, 2004, and 2009 - 77.3, 77.7, and 79.1 degrees, respectively.

The full numbers are sorted different ways in the next three charts. Here's the average high temperatures for all forty years, in chronological order (click any of these charts to see larger versions):

And, because there's no shortage of fun things you can do while number crunching, here's the forty years of Jazz Fest ranked from hottest to "coolest" (74.9 degrees is "cool" here in New Orleans):

and here it is the data, coolest to hottest:

Conclusions? Yes, the planet has gotten warmer in the past century or so. But these Jazz Fest temperatures are consistent with a more realistic view of climate change than the anthropogenic alarmists have: there hasn't been a clear "hockey stick" temperature increase in the past few decades and its likely that what warming we have seen peaked in the late 1990s and that natural variations dwarf mankind's contributions to warming the planet.

Full blog post...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Law School Graduation Cartoon

In honor of law school graduations here at Loyola New Orleans and everywhere:
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(This scan wasn't so good, so I cleaned up the caption; the name of the building is "Norton School of Law". I wish I had the full source information for this, but I don't have the issue date for this cartoon; I'm trying to find it, but its not a big priority.)
Full blog post...

Friday, May 8, 2009

Law and Sausage: Public Comments on Proposed Regulations

I had to look up an FCC report for a faculty member yesterday. The FCC search function is pretty worthless, but an advanced Google search with the restricted-domain option worked fine and I found the report, which is:

“Report on Broadcast Localism and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” (PDF Copy)

Its available here (search for “localism” - the release date is January 24, 2008), along with all 116,490 comments that have been submitted as part of the required public comment process (the list of comments are under the link for MB Docket 04-233).

Even though the time frame for the comment process - 30 days for initial comments and an addition 30 days for response comments, or something like that - expired a year ago, the comments keep coming in, probably because of the internet advocacy that both supporters and opponents of this issue set up (more on that later).

I haven’t had to work with the regulatory comment process recently, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised by how many comments there are on hot-button issues like one: radio “localism”, which opponents consider to be a stealth version of the fairness doctrine and which supporters consider to be, well, a stealth version of the fairness doctrine.

Both sides were well mobilized and just randomly sampling about 20 of the comments I found a handful of form letters/e-mails from each side. For example, the Christian broadcasting folks must have called their army out to deluge the FCC with multiple copies of the same canned response, this one from Maria McFadden of Rock Hill, S.C.:
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That was sent by e-mail, I guess, but one that was, apparently, either submitted in print or faxed, from Susan Hollins of Slater, S.C. (there must have been a recent push on this issue in South Carolina) is:
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The other side of the issue also had their form letters, all using the anti-media consolidation issue, like this one from Theresa DeLeon of Pecos, N.M.:
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Sandra Hoffstram of Plymouth, M.N. sent the same identical message:
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(You can search for these individual’s names on the FCC comment page I listed above).

When I say “identical” I mean just that - word for word, so I googled “rules are about bringing greater transparency” and found this auto-comment page from StopBigMedia.Com.

Some of the non-form letter messages are on this FCC comment page are, um, less than erudite:
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However, there may be hope for the democratic process, as this one is a scan of an actually handwritten letter:
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Actually, it’s a single, fourteen-page PDF scan of several letters, actually, some handwritten, some obviously typed on manual typewriters:
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and a few which are scanned images of signed form letters. They are all from different parts of the country. Why were they grouped together as a singled document when every canned e-mail comment I found is its own “comment”? Hmmmm....

The e-mailed comments seem to greatly outweigh the actual written ones, and the proof in the pudding that no humans actually read the e-mailed comments is that several of the ones I found are spam, like this one from some sex site:
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And this one from a torrent site:
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and something that I don’t know what it is:
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But for that one, the listed “attorney/author” name and the mailing address on that (search for "229" on the master list of comments) should be a dead giveaway:
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Democracy in/action!!!

Full blog post...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Calvin and Hobbes and New Orleans

I’m re-reading some Calvin and Hobbes for a possible <*ahem*> research project and had forgotten this funny New Orleans reference (from GoComics.Com):

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Heaven indeed!

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Who Leeches the Leechers?: Blog Vacuums

I have a few “google alert” searches set up, mainly to test that service. One search is for anything that links back to my blog here - and I got a result - the first result, I think - that led me to this page:


Which is an un-attributed cut-and-paste copy of a post I made in March. HowDoHowTo.Com is a web site that apparently does just that: vacuums up content from elsewhere and posts it on its own website with its own ads around it.

There is a notice on each page here with contact information that says:
Some articles in our site are from internet and for purpose of display only, all rights reserved by the authors. If any of these infinges your rights, please notice us ( mazystar#msn.com #=@) and we will delete it as soon as possible.
Powered by WordPress. Design by Jinxuan. © 2009 How How How !.
It basically admits what they’re doing and contemplates that people will want their stuff removed if it “infinges” [sic!] their rights. I’ll e-mail that person and do just that in a minute.

Their front page changes so much I couldn’t see what the google alert had found, but the link in the e-mail indicated it was the “Thai Pirates” post about CALI, which is funny since the original post was about some web site leeching the CALI web page and posting it more or less as their own. When I did a search for CALI at HowDoHowTo.Com I found several other posts, includuing this one, which I kept as a screen capture because of the abbreviated excerpt from the CALI web page and the banner ad that followed when I viewed it:
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This new CALI mission statement warrants a session at this summer’s conference.

Full blog post...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Jazz Fest: Music, Food, and Tattoos

Besides the great music and food, Jazzfest is an amazing place for people-watching. There’s no shortage of interesting tattoos in this city, but I got pictures of three that were particularly notable.

Carpe Diem:
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Great advice, but a strange choice of location to put this on your foot.

Cadillac Logo:
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I hope he got paid for this.

And, my favorite, Bugs Bunny as da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man:
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Full blog post...