Archive for June, 2008
Fresh from the why-didn’t-anyone-tell-me-about-this-sooner dept.: CHDK, the Canon Hackers’ Development Kit. CHDK lets you access capabilities of your camera that Canon never intended that you should, all without changing your firmware or doing anything other than writing a couple files to your SD card. You can change the shutter settings, take RAW photos, run scripts, even read text files and play games.
I strongly approve of this sort of thing, as evidenced by my prior enthusiasm for BitPim. However, unlike BitPim, which only lets you transfer files to and from your phone (although that is very nice), CHDK actually lets you do things that your camera is capable of, but that Canon didn’t design into the firmware. Personally, I feel that this verges on malpractice–if there’s something that the hardware can do and that most people won’t want to use, go ahead and hide it in an “Advanced” menu, or even behind a “Enter the following number in hexadecimal” challenge if you want to get fancy, but don’t make people who are smart enough to know what it is have to resort to hacks like this to use the hardware to its fullest. This is part of my problem with BREW–if my telephone can run arbitrary code, then I should be able to run arbitrary code on it, without needing to know any secret licensing handshake. Free hardware is an inherently good thing.
Politics aside, I suppose not knowing about CHDK earlier is my own fault for not keeping up with Lifehacker and Hack-a-Day and Photojojo and Wired and such. I suppose I’ll have to plead bar-exam craziness and get off the hook that way.
June 25th, 2008
My youngest brother, Jason, will matriculate at Washington University in St. Louis Law School this fall, and I compiled the following advice for him as he sets out on his legal education. As the eldest of three sons, I sometimes say that I’m the guy who ended up beta-testing life–making mistakes so my younger siblings don’t need to. There are benefits and drawbacks to this, as there are to everything, of course. In any event, I hope the material after the jump is helpful:
- It’s never too early, nor too late, to get involved and network. Volunteer at CLE events, consider doing writing competitions, do informational interviews, and talk to strangers. A rudimentary degree of competence in schmoozing will help you a lot, and it’s the sort of thing that’s only earned through practice. (As Prof. Wagstaffe said to my class, most of your cases will come from people you have talked with in the past week.) On a more immediate note, getting a job, as I said, is largely a matter of luck. But you can make yourself luckier if you know more people–someone who knows fifty people will be ten times more likely to get a job than someone who knows five. You can manufacture luck, but it takes some time.
- Similarly: consider joining bar associations as a student–not just the ABA, but local, regional, and practice-area groups as well. There are zillions, including the Half-Norwegian (on the Mother’s Side) American Bar Association. (This is particularly applicable to Jason and me, as we are half-Norwegian (on our mother’s side), although past presidents have had ancestry ranging from half-Norwegian (on the father’s side) to African to Italian to Danish-Swedish.)
- Sign up for Bar/Bri your first year–you’ll lock in that year’s tuition (and yes, it does go up every year–not by a drastic quantity, but hey, you need that money a lot more than Thomson does), but more importantly, you’ll also get their 1L and upper-level outlines, more on which later.
- Course outlines, hornbooks, and study aids, whether commercial or prepared by other students, can help a lot. One of the downsides of law school in the US is that they make you get the principles of law from cases that you read, and for every plain-spoken O’Connor or methodical Posner, there’s at least one inscrutable Frankfurter or some long-dead judge who clerked for Moses and must have gotten paid by the dependent clause. While it’s important to learn how to interpret legal opinions, these resources can help give you a roadmap to understanding the really opaque ones.
- A corollary: one of the best times to read outlines isn’t after class or while preparing for the test (although they can help then), but before the class, so you know what’s coming.
- Another book worth getting: Guerrilla Tactics For Getting The Legal Job Of Your Dreams, by Kimm Walton (aka the Job Goddess, and not without reason). This is the book that made me finally appreciate networking.
- Also: Glannon’s Examples and Explanations for civ pro is basically a must.
- Also also: Academic Legal Writing, by Eugene Volokh. Excellent advice for, well, academic legal writing, including the law review writing competition and your journal note or seminar paper.
- Speaking of legal writing and research, are you confused by the array of books you use in researching legal issues? I think someone made a Field Guide to the Law Library for that a while ago.
- A book not worth getting: Black’s Law Dictionary. If you must have a paper law dictionary, I think Barron’s puts out a good one that is substantially cheaper. However, Google and Wikipedia will be happy to enlighten you on the occasional obscure term for free. In the unlikely case that you need a really detailed definition, the law library will have a copy of the desktop version of Black’s, but I haven’t really needed to use any of ours (although I sometimes flipped through them while avoiding real work because I’m a word nerd).
- Some folks like making flashcards. I haven’t, but I’m trying out Genius now, and it’s pretty cool.
- Legal exam writing is unlike any other form of writing known to humankind. Your school will probably offer a workshop on this–Hastings had an outfit called the Academic Support Program that did it. Go to those workshops. Virtually everyone in your class will know the material, most people will be able to issue-spot well, but the presentation is what turns a decent exam into a great one. It took me far longer than it ought to have to realize this.
- Stay on top of things. It should go without saying, but even the most diligent people have been caught out by this one.
- It’s just law school. There are things in this world worth killing yourself over; the law is very, very far from being one of them. I’m not trying to scare you off–people with JDs do a lot of cool things–but you don’t get to, much less through, law school without being at least a little obsessive, and carried to extremes, this character trait can make you very unhealthy indeed. Hard work and a balanced life are not incompatible, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is deluded, or at least somewhat confused.
As I said, I hope this is helpful. If anyone in the audience has anything to add, please do so in the comments.
June 14th, 2008
My friends Joe and Dinah have a new blog! It’s called Bibulo.us, and it’s about cocktails–recipes, history, photos of old books, articles about bars, and the like. I had dinner and drinks with them at Range last night, which was a pleasure as always. We sat at the bar and and chatted with several of the bartenders, including Jeff, as we ate. Dinah gave him the recipe for the classic Aviation, which came out very tasty indeed.
The tagline ("We Plead The 21st") is also quite clever, but then again, that’s exactly what one would expect from these two. Check it out!
June 14th, 2008
Some background, first:
Becoming a Lawyer
The first step in becoming a lawyer in the United States is attending law school. In many other countries, law is an undergraduate major, but here it’s a three-year graduate degree.
The first year varies remarkably little between schools: contracts, civil procedure, torts, criminal law, and property. Some schools require constitutional law as well, and some allow students to choose an elective at one point. My law school required all the courses I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph (two terms of the first two and one of each of the last three) and allowed us to choose one elective our second term, all of which related to an area of law governed more by statutes than by prior cases.
Students will also generally need to take a course in legal writing and research. At Hastings, we did this our first term and took a moot court course in our second. (Moot court is much like it sounds–you get a case, usually one that’s pending before the United States Supreme Court or the highest court in the state where the school is located, are randomly assigned a side to argue, and spend a unit or two’s worth of time researching, briefing, and arguing it.)
In the second year, students pretty much get to take what they want. Some schools (including Hastings) don’t require con law and evidence, but you’d be a fool not to take them, especially as they’re covered on the bar exam, more on which later.
The third year, at Hastings at least, is much the same from a formal standpoint. Some schools (such as George Washington, I’m informed) take a page from medical schools’ books and have an entirely clinical third year–students work under the tutelage of experienced attorneys or judges assisting them in their duties. It remains to be seen whether this will become standard practice, but clinical programs are becoming more common and prominent in the American law-school landscape. For my part, I spent half my time my last semester of law school working for a judge at the San Francisco Superior Court. If you’re in law school, I strongly recommend it.
Of course, you could go the seriously old-school route and not bother with law school at all, instead taking a period of apprenticeship to an attorney or judge and studying under them. This used to be the only way to become a lawyer, but it’s far less common these days–most states don’t even allow it, but California is one that does.
June 7th, 2008
I’m studying property at Sugarlump, a very cool coffee place in the Mission. About half the people in this place are studying for the bar, I think.
June 7th, 2008
Dr. Hoenikker used to say that any scientist who couldn’t explain to an eight-year-old what he was doing was a charlatan.
–Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle
The work presumes a standard of education corresponding to a university matriculation examination, and, despite the shortness of the book, a fair amount of patience and force of will on the part of the reader.
–Albert Einstein, Relativity: The Special and the General Theory
In recent years, a lot of newly-minted JDs have blogged the process of preparing for the bar exam. I intend to follow through on this trend, blogging not only about the process of preparation but about the law I’m reviewing at the time.
As you are (and I am) about to find out, preparing for and taking the bar exam is a very serious undertaking. You might want to know why I’m bothering to write up these blog entries while I’m doing it. The reason is that I really enjoy explaining things, and that I thought that explaining the law I’m reviewing to a general audience (educated, intelligent people without any legal training) would be an excellent way for me to review what I’m doing and fix it in my mind as I prepare for the test. I also hope that these entries will be useful to other people, whether they are prospective examinees, law students, or curious civilians. In particular, I hope that you will find them useful, or at least interesting, or at the very least an efficient way to avoid productive work for a few hours.
At first, I’m going to blog about background topics that my bar review course won’t cover specifically, but that are important to understanding what’s going on. In my law school experience, I found that this was one of the harder things to pick up, as they weren’t explicitly taught, but left for students to discover on their own.
Later, I’ll blog about the particular substantitve topics we’re reviewing at the time, as well as my experiences while studying for the bar.
June 6th, 2008
I started using that phrase a while ago, and I just recently realized that there weren’t any other uses on the Net I could find. So hey, enjoy the phrase. Billion with a G.
More bar prep stuff coming up!
June 6th, 2008
Hi! Contrary to all apperances, I haven’t completely disappeared–I’ve just been extremely busy! This past term, I was finishing up law school, including working at an externship at a local court. Highly recommended if you’re of the law-student persuasion.
And I’m still a student of sorts, even though I’ve graduated, as I’m busy with my bar review course until the bar exam in late July. I’ve been writing some posts about the bar-prep process on my laptop, and I’ll upload them once I have a few more free moments. For now, enjoy the bright shiny new version of WordPress I’ve uploaded; I wasted far more time than I ought to have getting it set up and hacked so it works reasonably close to the way the old one did. (This would be a much easier process if I actually knew PHP instead of faking it; fortunately, the code I needed to tweak was pretty straightforward.)
More soon, but if you’re looking to waste some time, you could do a lot worse than TV Tropes, one of my other recent addictions. Have fun!
June 4th, 2008