Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 Banned Words

Happy New Year, everybody. It is December 31st, which means (like every December 31st since 1975) Lake Superior State University has released what is now its 35th annual List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness. You can find the list here.

This year's list doesn't thrill me as much as last year's did, though I do have three observations.

First, I agree that most of the listed words are annoying (e.g., "tweet.," "chillaxin'," or "friend" as a verb) but that doesn't mean they are useless or overused. All of those words are irritating, but not banish-worthy. If someone says "I friended so-and-so," we all know they're talking about facebook. No misuse or uselessness there.

Others from the list, however, are right on point. "Czar" for example. Everyone who isn't talking about Russia should just stop using it. Right now. Ditto "teachable moment." I can't stand that phrase any more than the good folks at Lake Superior State University -- it's condescending, pseudo-philosophical, and just . . . yuck. I wish it would go away. What's wrong with "lesson"? Lastly, (*cough* Armen *cough*) I see that I have been vindicated with respect to "these economic times."

Third, there are a couple words on the list that I think are perfectly useful. "App" is one. So, probably, is "sexting." I mean, it really gets the point across, isn't prone to misuse, and if it's over-used, well, that may say more about our culture than it does about our language.

Finally, here are a few words and phrases I feel should be on the list, but didn't make it.
  1. "Pragmatic." Ugh. This is a high-nosed person's way of claiming to be blue collar. They could just say "realistic" but that word is too proletariat, too common, and creates a risk that people actually will think the person is common. "Pragmatic" is the verbal prius of American English, the goldfish of pets, and the Joe Lieberman of the republican party.
  2. "It's all good." The only time people use this phrase is when something isn't good.
  3. "Douche." It's been repeated to oblivion, thanks largely to all the douches out there. We need a new word or phrase for this idea. I'll open the comments by inviting your to imbed your suggestions in derogatory sentences directed at me. They're inevitable, so we might as well make it productive.
Setting all that aside for a moment, though: Happy 2010 everybody!


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In Hindsight...

As the decade comes to an end (a year from now for the purists and math majors out there), it's always fun to look back.  This will come as a shock to a lot of the readers, but I did not get a cell phone until I was a sophomore in undergrad.  Internet? Got it while in HS and even then it was dial-up.  Instant messaging programs like AIM or ICQ (stands for I Seek You, for you young ones) were great, but they were mostly an additional form of communication.  You still called or actually met people to settle on plans.  No texting.  Can you imagine that?  Nowadays, even I'm turning into an antisocial hermit who panics at the sound of human voice or actual emotions that are not created by the combination of grammatical symbols.  If someone is not on my GChat list, I may not talk to him/her for years.  And thinking about the future just makes my head spin.  Are my kids going to laugh when I mention BluRays, Blackberries, movie theaters, GPS, DSL, etc.? So, please rant about what we leave behind in "the aughts" and what we have to look forward to in "the teens." 

Of course, we need a bit of levity as well.  My brother has a theory that about half the Seinfeld episodes would not exist if they had cell phones (e.g., meeting at the theater, setting an alarm, etc.).  In that vein, this video takes a look at some of the movies that would have turned out differently if they had cell phones. 


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

My end of the year "list of things that piss me off" is getting ever longer.  I really wanted to gripe about how much Delta sucks (hint:  you know a merger is not going well when you see palpable tension between Northwest and Delta crews).  I am beyond annoyed by faux "the individual health insurance mandate is not constitutional" arguments that fail to explain how that can be true in light of 70+ years of mandatory social security participation (not to mention medicare).  Exposure of Tedford's incompetence (though this actually makes me a bit happy the same way that exposure of Karl Dorrell's incompetence made me happy).  Holiday shopping.  Christmas cards.  The list is long.

Instead, I'm just going to go with pictures of Chip playing in the Minnesota snow.  Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and here's to a better economy in 2010.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Snow That Ate Manhattan (and most of the Eastern seaboard)

I'm coming at you live from New York City, where I was lucky enough to land a job interview this week, so I can't complain too much. Nonetheless, the storm that blanketed most of the East with lots of fluffy white cold stuff has grounded every flight out of the city, and it looks like I won't be getting home until maybe Christmas Eve (or the 13th day of Hannukkah, equal rep!). My new plan: befriend the creepy pigeon lady in Central Park and start setting elaborate traps for Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci.

Judging from Youface, a lot of you guys are in the same boat. But if we can't be with our families today, at least we can be with our surrogate family of people named Anonymous who hate us! So if you're stuck in some crappy airport or even just bored with your relatives, sound off below.

Merry Christmas, you filthy animal.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Q: What Are These?

A: They are Nuts & Boalts word clouds, generated by



There is all kinds of SCOTUS junk out there, from baseball cards to bobbleheads. Generally, if it can be made, molded, and sold, then it can be SCOTUS-ified. No, really. It's true.

Wall-mounted bling is a nichier category. Traditionally, it has been dominated by Supreme Court bar membership plaques, which are awarded to that highly select group of 300,000 attorneys who are licensed to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States. A new poster entitled "A Visual History of the Supreme Court of the United States," which is actually very, very cool, threatens to upset that regime. Check it out here. And check out a SCOTUS Blog write-up, here.



Note that the poster describes 53 "landmark cases" along the bottom. As SCOTUS Blog observes, such a list requires judgment, and is subject to debate.

Nuts & Boalts is as good a place as any for that debate, so here are my two cents: Replace Bowers v. Hardwick with Northern Pipeline Co. v. Marathon Pipe Line Co. The invalidation of the bankruptcy statutes and Northern Pipeline's rule for the separation of Article I and Article III powers was more important than the Bowers holding — which was subsequently invalidated by Lawrence v. Texas, anyway.

I would also note that the poster is decidedly short on intellectual property cases. It seems pretty clear its designers consulted traditional, straight arrow con law types when selecting content. Which is fine. But I do think cases like Nichols v. Universal Pictures Corp., Sony Corporation of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., and MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd. are certainly "landmarks" deserving of recognition.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Something is Awesome in the State of Denmark

From yesterday's Daily Journal (sub req'd) (PDF of story, h/t anon):
Two Berkeley Law students will push for more awareness of the human rights implications of climate change policy as they join the thousands of people gathered in Copenhagen for the United Nations climate change summit . . . Second-yea law students Zoe Loftus-Farren, 25, and Caitrin McKiernan, 29, will present a paper at the conference tomorrow asking countries to think deeply about how they will handle such issues as the rights of populations relocated due to rising sea levels, biofuel production and its potential conflicts with food production, and dam construction, which may disrupt fishery-dependent communities.!!!!  So those two have their holiday plans laid out.  And as is tradition, feel free to share your plans.  Cynical, post-exam rants most welcome.


Friday, December 11, 2009

My outline is 800 pages long and it's fantastic.

If you haven't seen the Paper Chase, you need to.

This is behavior I never see at Boalt, which makes me happy.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Berkeley Law 3L: A Real Person of Genius

The WSJ Law Blog just ran a post (I kid you not) entitled: On Crushing Your First-Year Exams: Advice From Some Who Did.

The post interviews second- and third-year students from law reviews at various schools about "how they managed to kill it on their first-year exams." Specifically, they asked law students to finish this sentence:
The smartest thing I did while preparing for my 1L first-semester exams was ______.
The responses ranged from bizarre (Vanderbilt Law: "the smartest thing I did while studying for exams 1L year was to go through each entire course [in my head] in successively shorter periods of time") . . . to stressful (Virginia: take practice exams but "don’t just go through them, take them — pretend it’s the real thing, time limits and all. Then discuss answers") . . . to conventional (Brooklyn: "start outlining early in the semester") . . . . to reasonable, honest, and human:
Anonymous 3L at Berkeley, [an] editor on the California Law Review:

Perhaps the most important (and most difficult) advice is that you need to move on when the exam is over, either to prepping for your next exam, having a beer, or just generally getting on with your life. You might feel tempted to talk to your classmates about the exam, perhaps because you have nothing else to talk about (as your life of late was probably consumed with studying). Avoid this at all costs; at best you get affirmation in your answers (which could still be wrong), but at worst your start worrying that you missed something, which at this point is totally out of your control. . . . From my own experience and my friends, taking a law school exam can be defeating and leave students with the feeling that their days of studying were not properly translated to the answer they cranked out in three hours. Try your best not to dwell on those feelings

Not only was that solid advice, but it was also given in a way that put Boalt's best foot forward in a national forum. It represents the calm, grounded people we try to be, and not the frenzied, neurotic, anxiety-machines the rest of the WSJ Law Blog's post invited 1L's to become. Well done.


"That's a great plan, Walter. That's fuckin' ingenious, if I understand it correctly. It's a Swiss fuckin' watch."

A draft resolution for a "GOP Purity Test" has been banging around RNC members' email for comments prior to ratification by the party. Basically, the proposal is to deny party funding to any Republican politician who does not submit to at least eight of ten "principles" from a list supposedly ascribed to Ronald Reagan. I guess the operative theory is that the Republican party is faltering because voters feel it's not extreme pure enough.

I'm not an RNC member but I am a moderate conservative, and here is my comment: Who the hell do you think you represent? Pull your head out of the sand and get with the millennium that began almost a decade ago. Ronald Reagan saved the party in the 1980's, but the 1980's were 20-30 years ago. If you really feel the need, go ahead and cling to them as though they were Eden and Reagan were god, but do not expect salvation.

Or my vote.

Update: "What are you people for?"

Lawyers Viewed Better than Congress, Wall Street Execs

It's a pretty low bar, but according to the latest survey from Bloomberg news (.pdf), lawyers aren't the least liked people in America:
For each of the following major U.S. institutions, please tell me if your impression is very favorable, mostly favorable, mostly unfavorable, or very unfavorable. If you don’t know enough to give your feelings, just say so. (Rotate list.)

A. Small business: 92 percent favorable, 3 percent unfavorable
B. Lawyers: 39 percent favorable, 49 percent unfavorable
C. Corporate executives: 29 percent favorable, 57 percent unfavorable
D. Doctors: 85 percent favorable, 10 percent unfavorable
E. Wall Street executives: 18 percent favorable, 66 percent unfavorable
F. Congress: 29 percent favorable, 61 percent favorable
G. The White House: 51 percent favorable, 39 percent unfavorable
H. The military: 87 percent favorable, 8 percent unfavorable
I. Insurance companies: 36 percent favorable, 55 percent unfavorable
For reference, the only other institution or public figure to have the exact same favorable/unfavorable spread as lawyers: Sarah Palin. So perhaps the headline of this post should have been Americans like lawyers about as much as they like Sarah Palin...


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I'm Drawing a Line in the Sand

By far the most stupid of all Boalt Hall traditions is the 3L class campaign. Every spring, the BHSA recruits your fellow classmates to engage in public shaming of individuals who choose not to donate to Boalt Hall prior to graduating (and no, the last minute $580 fee increase for next semester doesn't count). While this constant harassing is annoying in regular years, it's outright insulting that they are going through with it this year. The jacked up tuition is leaving our class in record debt, our post-graduation employment rate is at a record low, and we've been forced to sit through two years of tractor noise and trekking down to the Hearst annex for class. The responsible, sensitive, and human thing to do would be to cancel the campaign this year (/drama).

However, they are likely to go on with it, so I'm posting a brief list of reasons why I will not be participating. I recognize full-well what happens when you buck a Boalt tradition (one particular similar occurrence resulted in Patrick spurring Armen to shoot off an irrational flurry of emails that resulted in a promise by an alum to ruin our legal careers), but tradition can be a poison if it's bad tradition, as this campaign is.
  1. The 100% 3L donation target is used to solicit donations from alums. I imagine the email goes "our 3L class cares about Boalt so much that 100% of them donated to it, so you should too!" I would surprised if there were many alums that donate when the number reads "100" that wouldn't donate if the number read "80". Now, I anticipate that we'll get a few responses that seem to speak for the majority of alums, but I think most people will realize that between the increase in tuition ($5.5k/year) and the much lower job offer rates, current Boalties are the last people that BHSA and the administration should be hitting up for handouts. An esteemed alum tells me that of the (conservative) 2-3 dozen solicitation letters alums receive, only a few use the "100% 3L donation rate" line, mostly the ones by Dean Edley.

  2. The actual amount raised is minimal. Face it, we just can't afford anything substantial. Even with the quadruple matching by the "new alumni challenge", this amount of money will likely just cover the costs of the free food & beer handed out at the campaign kickoff party. On top of this, the individuals bugging you to donate emphasize that you can "even donate just $1". So again, the point of all this is for the "100% donation rate among 3Ls" alum solicitation letter.

  3. In the past, some individuals have said that donating as a 3L "helps establish a habit of donating in the future". This is utter bull. Aside from the 17 times (or whatever scientists claim nowadays) it takes to establish a habit, I personally don't plan on donating to Boalt until my likely donations exceed the extra $16k in tuition I've had to pay. Even then, I would have to prioritize my donations between my undergrad (Idaho, playing in the Humanitarian bowl!), my grad school (Davis), Boalt, and all the other charitable causes I'd like to contribute (for personal reasons I'm a big believer in the work of St. Jude's). I will literally be weighing sick children against my alma maters.

  4. Failing to donate doesn't mean you don't care about Boalt. I care very much for my classmates, I'm very thankful for the alums that have donated, and I hope the very best for future Boalt grads. I'm loyal to all these people, but that's where my loyalty ends. My Boalt experience has been very frustrating, with the lack of a courtyard after the first year, having to tolerate the "chairs" of the Hearst Annex, having protestors disrupt class twice a week, the sheer amount of noise from construction, the lack of student offices for a semester, the lack of janitors and cleaning crew to actually empty the garbages once in a while... Tuition increases have been discussed ad nauseum here and elsewhere, so I won't get into that, other than to say it is also frustrating that the ceilings on borrowing federal dollars haven't been bumped to match, unless you want to take Grad "grab your ankles" PLUS loans.

  5. The more someone bugs me about something, the less likely I am to do it. Am I the only one? Maybe it's the Irish blood in me, but it seems that the tactic of bugging someone to do something they don't want to do will only have a perverse effect on whether or not they do it. In the past, people have commented saying "im really glad they reminded me a couple times, since i would have forgot lol!". There is a fine line here, and it's crossed the attempt after someone says "No."
Having said all this, I'm also very pragmatic. If someone were to, say, buy a pitcher of beer to share with me, then I would let them donate $1 in my name. But for the sake of decency, if others don't want to contribute (more likely this year than ever), don't burn bridges or destroy friendships.

3L campaign email announcement included after the jump.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Stop Chewing So Damn Loud in the Library or Proper Library Etiquette

Since I know you all have come to look to me for advice on how to behave in public (hint: it involves consistent heavy drinking) Peter and I wanted to give everyone a helpful guide of what not to do in the library:
  1. Don't cut your toenails. You know who you are.

  2. Don't wear perfume or cologne. This is a library not a fucking Abercrombie. If we can smell you and you're not making out with one of us then you're wearing too much fragrance.

  3. While we're on odors, take a shower. Again, if we can smell you and we're not making out there is a definite issue.

  4. Don't laugh. This is finals. We realize none of us are actually studying in our carrels, but don't break the illusion. (Also, Gunners, adverse possession isn't fucking funny).

  5. Don't chew with your mouth open. Don't grunt, don't snort, don't snuffle. We're right fucking next to you, dude. So every time you smack your lips while chewing that gum, grunt when you readjust your pants or groan when the combination of coffee and cheetos you've been eating for the last four days makes your stomach hurt, we can hear it. And it's gross. And we're studying. And did we mention it's gross?

  6. Don't come here if you're sick. Oh, poor you, you're sick. Get the fuck out of our library. You disgust us, you're distracting us, and if you get us sick we're going to knife you. (But not in the library because only a huge asshole would come to the library sick).

  7. Turn your cellphone to silent. Silent doesn't mean vibrate. AND DON'T FUCKING ANSWER IT.

  8. Stop unbuttoning your pants, loosening your belt or doing anything else that would remind us of my grandpa in an Italian restaurant. This isn't your fucking bedroom. You want to take off your clothes? Go home, or at least to the Student Center.

  9. See that thing about a half inch above your mouth? Breath through it. If it's clogged up, blow it. If it whistles, blow it. Blow ≠ sniffle incessantly. Honestly, you're probably sick so gtfo of the library.

  10. Just plain shut up. Stop talking. Right now. Whispering is talking. Yes, we can hear you. No, you don't understand proximate cause. Now shut up.

Peter helped me put this list together, but if you see him tell him (in American Sign Language, see rule #10) to zip up his fucking pants.

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Friday, December 04, 2009

FIFA...It's Not An Accounting Term

Following soccer in the U.S. is a bit like a cult membership (along with hockey).  I suppose like all cults, we try our best to evangelize outsiders to the cause.  In that vein, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) just completed its grouping selections for World Cup 2010 in South Africa.  The US will play in Group C along with England, Algeria, and Slovenia.  [Bonus points if you can name the capital of Slovenia or the first NHL player to emerge from the country, without looking either up.]  Not to knock either of the other two teams, but I think U.S. and England should emerge from the group to go on to the elimination round.

Also, in years past, one group has been dubbed the Group of Death because of the high concentration of top quality teams.  This year, I think Group G is a possible contender.  Three teams are really good--leaving North Korea.  I guess they'll be playing for their lives, so they at least bring something to the moniker.  [Max Power's alternate suggestion was that DPRK is the country of death...there's a lot of room to play with here.]

Thoughts?  Just dying to come out of the closet as a fan of the sport?  Will the current 2Ls have the audacity to take a week off as summer associates to travel to South Africa to watch the matches as co-blogger Disco Stu did?  


Thursday, December 03, 2009

Straight From The Horse's Mouth: Fall 2009

Welcome to the semi-annual professor quotes thread. I'll post mine in the comments, but these two may be my favorites. The first is from Federal Courts and the second is from Administrative Law:
Here is the SCRAP case in a nutshell: Plaintiffs are a bunch of law students. And I do not mean this disrespectfully, but law students as litigants are a royal pain in the ass. Give a man a hammer, and everything is a nail.

Professor: Can someone give me a summary of the basic worry about the administrative state without reference to the Constitution or to Chevron, and with passion and feeling and angst?
Student: Death panels.

Contributions welcome!


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The 1Ls are Too Smart

The (in my opinion) funniest video from yesterday got featured on ATL. Props to 2L DS, the video creator.

If Hitler were a Berkeley 2L