Tuesday, September 28, 2004

so true...

From Crooked Timber: Dubya Channels Calvin, or Vice Versa. I couldn't add anything more.

first LawMeme post

LawMeme - PFF Files e-Commerce Amicus Brief in Interstate Wine Case

My first LawMeme post is up (with some editing from JG). Check it out.

Friday, September 24, 2004

insomnia posting

Can't sleep. Been up since 4. Happens once in a while. I've been catching up on my blog reading, which I've been very lax about. I've gone through every category but 'law', which I usually save for last. That and I'm jamming to a couple new CD's (on headphones given the time) I bought cheaply and hadn't gotten a chance to listen to yet. I highly recommend 'Rockin' the Suburbs' by Ben Folds. So as far as insomnia bouts go this is a fairly pleasant one.

Anyway, I'm reading along, and I get to the bottom of the 'econ' category, and I check out this post, which is just a brief comment on illogical disparities in vending machine prices for soda. Trust me, I do have a point I want to make here... patience. When you write a post like this, you're bound to get a bunch of people chiming in with their soda-price life stories. There were a few funny jokes too, and there were also a couple particularly inane comments by the same guy; those served as the actual inspiration for this.

Here's the point, in preview: unmoderated (or moderated only for obscenities) blog commenting is almost universal, and I don't know whether or not that's going to be feasible in the long run. Any time you allow a lot of people to participate in something without any semblance of a screening process, some people, whether through deliberate maleficence or mere idiocy, will come along and make the whole experience ... well, let's just say, much less pleasant than it would be without them.

Major bloggers, including Atrios and Daily Kos often put up 'open threads', just to allow their user community to converse with each other, and these can be terrific reads, because there are a lot of people with a lot of interesting facts and opinions to share, and they can't all maintain their own forums (and if they did we might not read them). But there are also bloggers who have had to disable comments entirely or use work-around systems to avoid spam (automatic programs which track down blogs and automatically insert advertising messages as comments) or, even worse, trolls, individuals who persistently post negative personal attacks on the blog host.

The ideals of these user communities are outstanding. The raw mass information exchange that blogging has led to is phenomenal (as evidenced most recently by the CBS 'leaked memo' scandals; I can track a link down if anyone's interested). And blogging wouldn't be the same without comments, either. I don't think people would read blogs as much if they couldn't comment, though I could be wrong about that. Haven't thought about it enough.

I guess I'm wondering at this point if there's a better way to do this, a better way to provide feedback to the blog writer and to exchange that feedback with others, one which can filter out some of the deadwood. I think the solution here is a peer-to-peer moderation process, something like what Slashdot does on its comment posts (a set group of administrators have permissions to rate posts on a scale of -1 to 5, and viewers can restrict the comment display to ranges of ratings). Maybe their system is enough, and maybe bloggers with big fan bases like Atrios could institute something similar. Again, though, would you have to use some sort of super-user to perform the moderation, or could anyone do it? There are problems with both approaches. And on political blogs moderation of comments could be used for bad purposes.

A lot of these questions are made more interesting by thinking of them in terms of peer-to-peer systems, and by comparing them to the 'client-server' systems of major news media web sites. This is starting to sound like my doctoral research. All I need to do is come up with a media equivalent of our supervised peer-to-peer overlay networks.

But perhaps I'm rambling incoherently because I'm trying to blog during an insomnia bout. I'll let you be the judge.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

having finally gotten sufficient sleep...

Thursday morning brings with it a cancellation of my 8:35 am Torts class, and I get to sleep in for the first time since Sunday. I'm not used to not getting enough sleep; I'm used to my 7.5-8.5 hours a night, and the 6 or so that I've been getting for the last week is starting to drag on me. I need to get used to going to bed earlier.

There's a significant variation in the amount of work which I have to do. The last few days I was fairly underloaded, and couldn't even really work ahead much (plus I find that when I do work ahead I have to spend more time, because I forget it and have to go over it again). Now someone pointed out to me that my first written assignment, a 500-word op-ed piece for Civil Procedure, carries with it almost 100 pages of reading. I have time to do it all this weekend, but still, you'd think the TA's would have said when handing out the assignment, "Hey, there's an enormous amount of reading to do for this, so make sure you don't wait until Tuesday night to start on it." I guess the hand-holding is done. But there are intermediate stages.

Anyway, the reading is about the Guantanamo detainees, and we have time for it, so I'm not complaining. I'm merely pointing out the swing in workload, because after feeling almost bored on Monday, I have 200-250 pages of reading for my classes, and a couple thick papers for the Internet law reading group I'm sitting in on (though naturally the amount of effort required for those is less than the amount for my classes), and I joined the law school a cappella group, and I want to help with one of the journals this semester. I may be overcommitting myself. We'll see how it goes. I'm quite glad that my classes are all pass/fail this term, so I don't need to feel like I'm ruining my future career by not working 20 hours a day to try to get all A's.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

sunday morning

I fulfilled my social expectations yesterday to the best of my abilities, going to two different parties that a few of my fellow 1L's had recommended to me. I'm still not a natural party-goer; when around more than a certain number of people, usually about 8, I instinctively gravitate towards the outside of the room and become quieter. At the beginning I wander around and meet people, but I get tired of that. Then I find people I know and talk to them. Occasionally, though, I get stuck in the middle of a crowded group of people, not talking to anyone, just feeling like a sardine in a can, and I ask myself, why am I here?

I think I got myself a "gold star" in Civil Procedure on Friday. We were talking about whether or not a welfare recipient could use the right to life as a reason to apply the Due Process clause to the removal of welfare, and I said that it's like being at a busy intersection. Without a crosswalk, you run the risk of losing your life; but it's not rational to say the government has an obligation to build a crosswalk in order to protect your constitutional right to life. Evidently my professor liked it, because he answered a few students' questions by saying things like 'The government is not the traffic'. I was mostly happy because the analogy was successful enough to move the thread of classroom conversation forward (which doesn't happen often enough for my short attention span). But now the prof may remember me and call on me more often. Which means I need to keep going to his class. Oh, well.

More pictures from my apartment:

Angle 1 of primary portion of living room:

Angle 2:

Dining area portion of living room (and the boxes we've been too lazy to throw out):

The other part of the living room that we haven't figured out how to use yet:

A view of the Yale med school/New Haven hospital from my balcony:

A view of the Long Island Sound from my balcony:

Thursday, September 09, 2004


First of all, I want to get something unrelated off my chest. Why, why, why can't people learn how to dial a phone number? Okay, I admit, once every five or six months I'll dial a phone number wrong. But I receive a wrong number call at least once every two weeks, and probably closer to once a week; so I'm definitely a net consumer, not producer, of wrong number calls. This morning some lady who wasn't speaking any recognizable language called my cell phone twice in a row. I want some way of charging her for calling me, or of recording the first 10 seconds of calls and issuing a license to use a phone that gets revoked if more than 10% of your calls are to a wrong number. Grr.

Whew. Feel better now. Anyway, I've had three of my four classes already; Torts doesn't start until next week. Contracts is unquestionably my favorite. The reading material is the most interesting; it's my small group which means more individual attention (I'm always a sucker for that); and the professor is definitely my favorite so far. The reading material he assigns is just cases, which is infinitely more interesting than the reading material in Civil Procedure (unless you really like affidavits). The professor himself is incredibly precise and correct, which didn't really strike me so special until I thought about how bad being imprecise and/or incorrect is for a professor. Beyond that, though, he talks faster than I do when I lecture, which is mighty fast indeed. But when I lecture, I make some mistakes, and use unnecessary words, and other rookie mistakes like that. He speaks clearly enough to be working from a script, only of course it's all improv.

Constitutional Law seems good too. The professor seems the nicest and least demanding of the three, though that could change in time. He ran the class discussion fairly well. I wasn't completely sold on the reading, but it was Marbury v. Madison, so it was appropriate if nothing else. It's just a little disillusioning to read that and analyze it and realize that the foundation of judicial review that we law students worship is based on questionable ethics (why Marshall didn't recuse himself), an arguable misinterpretation of statutes, and pure power struggles.

The jury's still out on Civ Pro. I need more than one class to decide my opinion of it. The professor was a little imposing, which doesn't really bother me, since I have more self-confidence in my academic abilities than any five people combined ought to have. He assigns a lot of reading, but some of it is fairly quick, so I wouldn't say it's too burdensome, it's just more than any of the other classes. But some class always has to assign the most reading. The thing that amused me most about Civ Pro is that he largely picks out people to answer questions by simply saying their last name. What's really funny about that is that on Tuesday in class he apparently decided to call students in alphabetical order by last name, beginning with 'J'. I won't list the names here, but there were a couple 'J's, followed by a 'K', then a couple 'L's. Once I figured that out I sat back and relaxed a little more. Now today in class if he starts randomly with 'R' I'll have to worry, because I'll be second or third. If he continues with 'M' I should be good until next week.

Last and completely unrelated: How 'bout them Sox? I think they've won 14 of their last 15 games now, or something ridiculous like that. Division title, here we come.

Monday, September 06, 2004

avoiding reading for contracts

To put off yet again the reading I need to do for my contracts class (which, in all fairness, I can easily do tomorrow), I thought I'd comment about the assignments I've already "completed". I say "completed" because while I've read through it all and made a bunch of margin notes, my comprehension and retention of some of it is questionable, and I may take some additional time tomorrow to review and summarize what I read.

I had a ton of reading to do for my civil procedure class. It started with 50-some pages of overview material, on all the different actions that are permitted within the course of a civil lawsuit, and a lot of similar material on criminal suits, and comparing and contrasting the two, and a few other similar introductory things. Terms abounded, a few of which I had never heard of before. It took an incredibly long time to read this, somewhere on the order of 2.5-3 hours (my timing is off because I spent some time in the middle talking on the phone). It was also not well retained, because there was just too much information. But I'm sure I'm not expected to have mastered it by the first day.

I also had to read Goldberg v Kelly for civ pro, a significant case on procedures for terminating welfare payments, a case discussed during a mock class at the Berkeley admitted students weekend that I attended. I think it's an interesting case and I enjoyed reading both sides of it.

For Constitutional Law, I read some historical background material, followed by discussions of Marbury v Madison, extending to the origins and early analysis of the concept of judicial review. Also neat stuff. But again, reading 30 pages took me at least 2 hours. I hope this speeds up as I get more used to it.

For Torts I had 17 pages about the constitutionality of workers' compensation requirements; this was pretty neat and I probably read it all in 45 minutes. Don't worry, I'm not changing my aspirations to be a personal injury lawyer. It was a neat analysis, that's all.

I still have Contracts to do. I have three cases to read, Poughkeepsie v Poughkeepsie, Cotnam v Wisdom, and Hurley v Edd-something. Cases are far more interesting than the background material (I never did care for history), so I think I can do that tonight.

Classes start tomorrow, but the only one that meets is Civil Procedure. It will be a warmup day. Wednesday I have Contracts and Constitutional law, a rougher schedule; I also have activities at 4, 5:30, and 7:30. That'll be a busy day.

Photos from apartment

I thought I'd put up some of the pictures taken of my bedroom with all my stuff in it. It's still a little messy. I'm going to get some bookcases. All the boxes by the bed are books. I have my eye on this $65 6' high, 5-shelf bookcase from Staples; I can put three of them on the wall beside my bed next to the window, and I think I have enough books to fill them. They have free shipping too.

We (the roommate and I) ordered a couch (Ektorp from IKEA), splitting the cost. It'll be here on Wednesday. Once it's in and the living room is cleaned up I'll post pictures of that too.

The white on the left of the top picture is the end of the wall in the little hallway. I'm not a very good picture taker. Need more experience.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

continued law school notes

Registration and orientation are over, for the most part. There's a cookout at 5 today and a big bowling trip after that. But most of the scheduled activities - the library tour, the auditorium speeches about the town and the school and the policies - have happened. I've probably shaken hands with three quarters of my classmates now, and may actually remember the names of a third of them. I'm actually fairly good with names, especially when I learn a few at a time. The holes are not in long-term storage but in the narrowness of the writing pipeline; shoving too many in at once tends to make all but a few get overwritten.

I finally met the people in my 'small group', the 18 people who are in my smallest class, the Contracts class with Carter, and are also in my other three classes; we took a library tour. There is at least one other 'small group', the Gordon group, which is in my other 3 classes as well, and which has a few people who I know fairly well and am beginning to consider friends. There are definitely a couple people in the Carter group who I think I will soon consider friends.

I have all my books, and I got away with spending at least $100 less than some people. There's one big Torts class that has 8 or 9 books. My biggest is Carter's, which has the casebook and 4 other little books, but none are particularly expensive. My Torts class just has the casebook and one little paperback. I also have assignments for the first day of class in all of them. It may be difficult for me to get back into the homework habit.

Oh, and I have a new cell phone. There's a Sprint store on Temple and Grove, or somewhere near there (I followed someone to get there and don't remember exactly). I'm a little tired of Verizon, for reasons I don't want to get into, and even though I haven't been incredibly impressed with Sprint (sitting in my bedroom, I get between 0 and 3 bars of signal seemingly at random and with rapid fluctuations), I think I'll give them a try for a couple years.

More updates as classes begin, or if I get bored.

next in the line of non-sports that ESPN will probably show

Today's NYTimes contains an entertaining article on tournament-level Rock, Paper, Scissors. I personally have always felt that the strategy is to try to be as random as possible, with two exceptions. First, other people will usually repeat themselves very little (while in a truly random sequence, with only three choices, there will often be long repeated stretches). Second, as the NYT article says, some people have a 'go-to' throw. Bart Simpson's was 'rock' ("Good old rock. Nothing beats that."), and Lisa always won by playing paper.

Other gems from the article: a strategy tip, calling a throw before making it (you may or may not actually throw the object you call). Psyches people out.

I'm also biased towards a NYT article that references the Princess Bride. I need to get a copy of that movie.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

unofficial schedule

So, here's my unofficial schedule, which was posted online (we officially hear them tomorrow, and these supposedly aren't final).

Torts (section A) with Calabresi, Mon-Tues-Wed-Thurs-Fri 8:35-10 am (I assume this doesn't really use all these time slots)

Constitutional Law (section B) with Gewirtz, MW 2:10-4

Civil Procedure (section A) with Fiss, 2:10-3:23 TRF

Contracts (small group 4) with Carter, 10:10-12 MW

Plus there's legal research and writing, and I'll be sitting in on the IP law reading group, and probably trying to join the YLS a capella group. It'll be a good semester.

By the way, check out the professor pages I linked. I have an absolutedly amazing group of accomplished professors. Maybe all the professors look like that, or maybe I just got the senior professors. I don't know how classes are assigned. I wouldn't be surprised if they are actually putting a ton of effort into it. I was assigned to Carter's small group, which at first disappointed me because it wasn't a Constitutional law small group - but it turns out Carter has IP interests, and the combination of contract law and IP (especially related to licensing agreements) is incredibly interesting to me. So if they decided to put me in Carter's group because of that match, then I applaud them for it. It's likely just a nice coincidence. I really hope that this is my final schedule.