Sending out the signal

I am a product of ‘modern’ education and the university-economic complex.  I’ve spent over five years learning in a variety of fields, including literature, history, architecture, language, archeology, science, sociology, education, and math.  What does this qualify me for in the working world?  Possibly teaching.  So I’m going back to school, hopefully to gain experience in the field of law while in class.

But as I’ve spent over six years in the working world before re-entering academia, I have a slightly different perspective from some of my peers,  Debt is not the same superfluous concept that it was to me in undergrad.  Spending on my professors salaries, their textbooks, and indirectly, their research, no longer seems as necessary to me.  In fact, as a teacher of some experience myself, I find I’m less likely to full-heartedly embrace the requirements of others.  DO law school professors have something to teach me?  Absolutely.  could the knowledge be imparted at a lesser price?  More than likely.

That’s why I wanted to jump up and cheer after my Intellectual Property meeting today.  The teachers who are in charge of the intro to that class have taken the available technology and run with it – digital books under their own company for a fraction of the price of most law books.  True, these same professors still endorse buying (and keeping) the books for other classes, but they’ve made a concerted effort to make such books more affordable.  Ultimately, it’s efforts like this that lead me to the school I’m at – genuine efforts to teach, to share, and to listen to students.  As one professor remarked to me recently, “you are our customers, but not only customers”.  What would higher education look like if everyone had this outlook?  I’m not sure, but I hope to spread the trend.

And can I spread this trend myself?  Should I be sending out my WriMo work to the general public for free?  It’s an idea worth considering, especially if I can do it in a way that does not detrimentally affect my own work.

Because I have to.

I’ve been told that it’s absolutely necessary for me to keep up with this blog, especially now that I’m on the opposite coast.  And, naturally, law school is no excuse.  So instead of bugging my eyes out with any more case briefings, here I am type-typing away.  Unfortunately all I can think of to write about is law-type topics.

So, I was doing some reading in the blogosphere looking for inspiration when I discovered this post on Wikipedia and some study that women don’t contribute as much as men.  You can find the original articles here and here.  Anyway, it was an interesting article to me because I personally love Wikipedia, but have never contributed to it.  Which got me thinking.  Have I simply never noticed any glaring errors on the site which need immediate revision?  Or is there some deeper, more nefarious implication to the situation?  Do I simply not want to be known as a snob who goes around correcting people all the time?  Or am I really afraid of being wrong?

There’s probably some credence to each of these ideas, but mostly I think it’s just situational.  I know stuff, I have no inhibitions against saying things that may or may not be true, and I genuinely enjoy just making things up on the fly.  For example, I happen to know that the word ‘credenza’ comes from an old usage, ‘credence table’ which was where people put the food out to be tested for poison before eating.  Wikipedia’s current entry, while slightly differing, is close enough for me.  But if they hadn’t mentioned the poison, I would have felt compelled to help them out. Sure, Wikipedia isn’t the ultimate end-all of knowledge, but it’s a great place to get a quick summary of something you don’t know anything about.  If you still have questions or concerns, that’s why we have experts, specialists, and librarians.

So back to the original blog about what’s wrong with WikiP – evidently the writer is also a lawyer.  A lawyer who blogs about law.  A lawyer who blogs about why women lawyers don’t blog about law more.  Hey!  I’m a woman!  And like half a lawyer!  And I blog and stuff!  So, new topic, why are there so few of me?  Is it 1) People don’t notice them if they aren’t looking for them, B) lack of time due to familial obligations or for other reasons, or iii) exposure to personal attack?  There’s also some question about the statistics for legal academics being more balanced by gender, which leads me to my own theory about the disparity. 

Obviously, academics publish.  It’s one of the formost things they do, other than research and occasionally teaching someone something.  But underlying this requirement is a fundamental skill all academics have – they can write.  Ok, actually I retract that.  There are probably some who get away with limited writing skills.  But I would allege the ability of legal academics is generally higher than that of the average lawyer.

Of course, I have no proof.  But I’d be interested to see some stats on just how many lawyers think they’re good at writing, and more particularly, how many enjoy it.  Because, let’s face it, if you don’t derive at least some pleasure in expounding your ideas in a written form, why would you ever have a blog?  Until the day that someone figures out how to do a picture-based legal blog, I think that’s what we’re stuck with. 

Not that I’m saying women generally enjoy writing less or are generally less skilled at it than men.  It just may be a factor in the group of women that are lawyers versus the group of men who are lawyers.  And with that, I’m going to call it a day and pretend I’ve broken some major stereotypes.

Whatever.  I’m a member of the power elite.

Video Complete!

Amidst packing, 4th of July celebrations, saying goodbye to the city where I’ve lived for the past four years and all the people I’ve come to know in it, training a new employee, moving from couch to couch each night, and trying to enjoy the one sunny weekend in all of the spring/summer thus far, I have been hard at work.  But, at long last, my law school scholarship video is complete.  Please check it out:

Hopefully I’ll be a finalist in the running and calling on all of you fine people to vote for me, come August (Access Group, pick me!  I’m even blogging about you!).  Yippee!

A sense of accomplishment.

I was actually nervous going to the polls this morning.  Part of that was probably the fear of getting lost.  But I’m sure there were also other parts.  Voting means going alone into the public sphere, which is something I absolutely hate.  You might walk there with a friend or roommate, but eventually you’re isolated.  It’s just you, and a decision you have to make, and the potential future of your country.  It scares me, because unlike all the other life choices I worry about, it’s one that impacts the widest range of other people.

And yet, afterwards, I felt something else.  I got my little sticker that says I voted, which is something to be proud of, or should be.  I’d made my choice and it was irrevocable, which could inspire a sense of regret.  But honestly what I felt walking away from the experience was freedom.  This feeling could’ve been caused by the simple sense that I’ve ‘done my duty’.  But I think there was more to it than that.  It was the sense of completion, of ending, that made me free.  True, the majority of people I’ve talked to already are all about the results of the election.  The next big moment for them will come later tonight, watching various polls close.  But for me, the significant moment has already passed.  I made my mark, and i leave the rest to others.

Movin’ to the West Coast

In my future life discussion of the moment (a discussion with myself that’s really a step above talking to myself.  Really.), the topic of where I might go to grad school is a dominant theme.  I’m feeling the urge to settle.  Actually, I’ve been feeling the urge to settle for awhile, I just knew I didn’t want to settle up in Boston and hadn’t planned out my next steps.  So, one possibility for both next steps and settling has been someplace on the West Coast.  Several of my friends are from that area and will probably end up going back there, and it just seems like a nice place to be.  However, the specific location has eluded me, though Portland is the strongest candidate at the moment.

San Francisco or the Bay area generally also has a certain draw, but there are also drawbacks.  It’s basically another Boston cost-wise.  And while social outreach is really strong there (which is good, if you’re broke), it’s also big enough and popular enough to be highly competitive (which is bad, if you want a job in that area).  Of course, that same social outlook is also in the plus column for fostering acceptance and tolerance in the neighborhood.  Soon there may be another plus – a ‘decriminalization‘ of prostitution named Proposition K.  Basically this would mean no arrests or even investigations of prostitutes, though state laws would still call it a crime outside a local jurisdiction.

Responses to the law are mixed.  Some feel it would give added protection, in that groups could organize, remain highly public, and request police assistance if needed.  Others feel that the population of sex workers would explode in the city, bringing in money but also potentially causing an increase in sex trafficking as well.  In addition, when police are restricted from investigating prostitution, it may hamper their efforts to investigate other crime – drug use and distribution, abuse, and violence.  At the end of the day I’m not really sure how much Proposition K would benefit the lower echelons – would it mean more protection or less for those with drug addictions or in fear of injury or death who also happen to be sex workers?

Finally, I wonder at the name.  Really guys?  “I have a ‘Proposition’ for you?”  Gah.

Doctor claims “metabo sounds more inclusive than obesity”

Thanks to Cristen for the link.

The word “obese”, while not as aggressive and hurtful as ‘fat’, still has very negative connotations. There are associated ideas of a lack of health, a lack of self control, and can even be connected with the obtuseness of an individual. Classifying a person as obese, despite the best intentions of healthcare professionals, is a blow to the self esteem. Telling someone they need to lose pound for their own health is a blow, and not always true. But even worse is demanding a reduction in waistlines across the board, which is what Japan is doing currently.

Of course, with obesity on the rise across the globe, and conditions such as metabolic syndrome (metabo) becoming more frequent, there are definite health risks associated with weight. But putting a definite cap on allowable waistlines is fraught with complications. There has already been one death – a jogger who was part of a group dedicated to avoiding metabo and getting back in shape – due to a heart attack. Was the man pushing himself too hard? Or was it just circumstance? While the new guidelines might give doctors the opportunity to talk more easily about prevention of specific diseases like metabo (rather than about obesity generally), a specific waistline goal doesn’t seem to be realistic. A focus on being healthy is more than a measurement, no matter that the government can’t judge such as focus accurately or quickly. Starting a new healthier lifestyle requires more effort, and will always be more complex.

Left or found?

I would not be a good juror for the Entwistle case.  Despite not knowing all the facts, despite understanding the odd reactions of people under stress, I think he killed his wife and child, and that judgment may not be fair.  Statements by Entwistle himself have been made out to support my judgment, however.  Joseph Matterazzo, the murdered woman’s stepfather, testified that while on the phone with him discussing funeral arrangements, Entwistle had requested the two be buried together “because that’s the way I left them, I mean, that’s the way I found them”.

Could this slip of the tongue be the ultimate revelation of guilt?  Could Entwistle’s glee at escaping the US and potentially getting away with his crime have cause him to become tongue tied?  Or could the emotional stress of the moment be the only factor causing the slip?  He was, after all, talking to a man who he may have felt close to, a man he could slip with.

Still, I think we’re reading too much into this.  Sometimes, without cause, I lose my balance and stumble.  Sometimes I have difficulty getting a complete sentence out.  Neither of these accidental actions has thus far had anything to do with me killing anyone, nor do I think they ever will.  In addition, if he killed both of them, he still could’ve found them both in bed.  Even if he didn’t kill them, he still left them there.  Even his correction of himself could have been due to guilt at abandoning their bodies and not reporting a crime, rather than guilt at actually killing them.  But then, with so much of our justice system relying on eyewitness accounts, on personal opinion, on the interpretation of voice tone, body language, and facial expression, and on the rationality of various jurors that it will always be hard to grant fairness.  But perhaps that’s the way its supposed to be.

Can we say, study visa?

Sometimes the world hits you, and there’s no real way to hit back.  That’s what’s happened to 17 year old Arthur Mkoyan, who planned to go to college in California this coming fall.  He’s Armenian and has been living in the US since he was two while legal proceedings were underway to determine if he and his family would be allowed to stay in the US.  Now, after 15 years of waiting and becoming the valedictorian of his high school, he’s going to be deported.

It sucks.  He doesn’t speak Armenian and doesn’t remember the country at all.  He probably thought his achievements in school would give him at least a little security in the country.  But legally, he has no right to be here.  Legally, he could be allowed to stay if a private bill is passed, but that seems unlikely at this point.  Legally he’s Armenian, even if he doesn’t know how to act like one.

For his parents it would be easier.  They know the language, they lived and worked in Armenia before, they could do so again.  But how would it be for the younger brother who is a US citizen?  Would he be allowed to stay in the US without his parents?  Would he be allowed into Armenia?  What kind of mish-mash of an education would he get now by transferring between the countries?

To my mind, the solution has to come from the university Arthur was planning to enroll in.  They could easily get him a visa as an international student.  Since he’s already been accepted to the school, there shouldn’t be any problem other than paperwork.  Even if it means Arthur living in Armenia with his parents for a few months, it’s a solution.  After college, who knows?  Possibly a work visa and eventually a green card.  He’s obviously smart enough to be a valuable resource here.  And once he turns 18, he could also potentially have legal responsibility for his younger brother.

Bleak as the system may seem for this boy, there are still perfectly legal means and options for him that would secure what he wants from life.  It’s going to be hard, especially on the family, but it is possible.

But we paid good money for that!


(brānd) n.

    1. A trademark or distinctive name identifying a product or a manufacturer.
    2. A product line so identified: a popular brand of soap.
    3. A distinctive category; a particular kind: a brand of comedy that I do not care for.
  1. A mark indicating identity or ownership, burned on the hide of an animal with a hot iron.
  2. A mark burned into the flesh of criminals.
  3. A mark of disgrace or notoriety; a stigma. See Synonyms at stain.
  4. A branding iron.
  5. A piece of burning or charred wood.
  6. A sword: “So flashed and fell the brand Excalibur” (Tennyson).

American Heritage Dictionary

Though I am not certain, I would guess that our modern definition of ‘brand’ referring to a particular known company producing a certain item probably came from the marking of livestock and criminals. As in the past, the symbols and names of a brand denote a kind of ownership, a possession of both the symbol itself and the materials that make it. In some ways, it remains a demeaning mark. Branding in the modern sense often has longer-lasting unintentional consequences in the restrictions placed on the reuse of branded articles.

Take the recent purse prototype by TImbuk2. Made of recycled plastic bags (which really need to be reused, as they are very UN-biodegradable and often pose a hazard to animals), these flash-laminated bags are both water repellent and designed to take advantage of the bright colors and interesting shapes of the plastic bags themselves. Unfortunately Target saw the use of their bags as an infringement of tradaemark, rather than a promotion of their brand.

In some ways, I can understand Target’s side of the story – they are protecting their rights and defending their interests. And I’m sure they spent a considerable amount of money on the design of their bags, which use their logo interestingly. This good design is probably a part of why TImbuk2 included the Target bags in a prototype purse. But whether or not Target eventually takes advantage of this sort of niche eco-conscious market for bags, the Timbuk2 prototype probably would’ve done little harm to the Target brand.

The question for me that comes out of this story is the freedom given to corporations regarding the extension of brands. The question is not so much whether or not Target’s rights were being violated with the reuse of the bags, but whether or not the bags should be branded at all. Especially in a case like this, where the bags are detrimental to the environment, should corporations be held responsible for the number of bags the produce? Should they be rewarded for the number they recycle? Due to the branding of the bags, wouldn’t a corporation see excess bags as additional advertising, rather than a detriment?

It is for situations like this one that I am not a libertarian. The interests of business in this case are not aligned with the public good. The government, whether national or local, should step in to regulate how many branded article should be allowed, how they should be used, and what the environmental impact of such use can be. In addition, there should be a limit to how long brand-name packaging protection can ‘last’. If you want to brand a shirt, fine – the trademark protection endures. If your brand name is on a product package, that box or bag or plastic wrap should be immediately ‘free’ for re-use. Even advertising, such as billboards, magazine and newspaper ads, and even TV and radio spots, should have a certain shelf-life of protection. Afterwards, the public should be free to use it as it pleases. If it happens with copyright and patents, branded goods should be limited int eh same way.

Florida Tax laws and Bio-diesel

Students at the University of Central Florida are using their own small experimental bio-diesel reactor to avoid the growing costs of gasoline.  This fuel, made from fryer grease and chemicals, costs about 1/5 of the price of regular gas, and burns cleaner than petroleum-based diesel and produces less CO2 than diesel or gas (anyone know how to put subscripts into WordPress?).  They are also donating some of their fuel to their school. earning a tax break from the donation.

What was most interesting to me about the article however, was not the non-disclosure of the bio-diesel recipe or equipment.  It was not the implications of possible widespread use of this fuel.  It was not even the potential benefit to the environment through better, cleaner fuels.  It was the tax implications for the production of such a fuel.  Florida state, like many other US states, has a substantial excise tax fuel.  Excise tax is a tax for the production of goods – you make it, you pay it.  I would guess that in a typical situation, this sort of tax would not affect individuals.  Excise tax is only commonly imposed on certain goods like tobacco and alcohol.  So if you ferment your own cider, you might owe something to your state government.

However, I would think it’s likely that most small producers who don’t sell the goods wouldn’t suffer for not paying the tax.  Such small production has a minuscule impact on the local economy and tax revenue – usually.  However, with the shortage of gas and rising prices, this could mean big money that local governments aren’t getting, especially as more and more people turn to homemade bio fuels.  It may mean more money and certainly more annoyance for the consumers/producers.  The question is how much it will hamper local efforts for the production of a cleaner fuel, despite savings even with the tax paid out of pocket.

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