Wednesday, December 26, 2007

No-Alarm Mornings

I feel obligated to record my reflections from the first semester of law school. Since coming home after exams, I've been too exhausted to think about it. I think I slept for five days straight, and I make no apologies for that. To anyone in law school: we deserve it.

The first semester of law school was like running a series of intellectual sprints when you're desperately out of shape. I have no idea how I did on exams, but I told my parents that if I get straight Cs then I'll be proud of my straight Cs, and I'll know how to do better next time.

With first semester behind me, the whole ordeal seems less daunting. Law school is rough, but in the end it's just more school. There are tougher things in life, and if this is the most difficult thing I face in the next 20 years, I'll be very lucky.

Of course, I'm saying this from the sanctuary of Christmas break. The no-alarm mornings will run out, and I'll be complaining about Evidence and Contracts again in a few weeks. Oh well. At least I can sleep in again tomorrow.

Google may be my soulmate.

I was already smitten with Google because of Gmail and Blogger, which are both great (and free) services. Now Google went and sealed the deal: you can sign into AIM from Gchat and IM people from Gchat, without running the AIM software on your computer.

Lately my computer has been getting slower from old age, and the AIM program was taking up too much of its processing power for it to be worth it to run AIM in the background all the time. I found myself relying on Gchat more and AIM less. Gchat also has the added aesthetic benefit of being less obvious, so when I'm Gchatting in class it can pass for doing actual work. AIM was too flashy; if anyone saw the AIM boxes on your screen, you were caught goofing off, end of story. Maybe professors will catch on to Gchat's stealth style, but for now it's a nice visual trick.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sidenote: Kinky

I looked up "unconventional" in a thesaurus for that last post, and "kinky" was one of the words that Roget's substitutes for unconventional. So yes, I'm a fan of unconventional, provocative, kinky literature when it is appropriate.

Have you had your kinky literature today?

Merry Christmas, Everyone.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And mild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Priorities in Writing

I interviewed with Katherine K. Lee of the Tuscaloosa News a few weeks ago, and she wrote an article about the good-grammar movement for the Sunday, 12/23 edition of the paper. I just realized it was online tonight, so here's the link.

Katherine also quoted an English professor at the University of Alabama:
Michael Martone, a professor of English at UA, said that where sticklers for grammar see mistakes, he sees creative minds at work.

The use of the word "ain't," for instance, in the right context can be effective and dramatic, just what a writer is looking for.

But Martone said he understands why bad grammar might drive someone in the law profession crazy.

"Law wants language to be static and universally recognized," he said. "But for creative writing, part of the creativity is taking perceived categories and opening them up to possibilities."
I've never really thought about it like that, but Michael is right. In most contexts, my preference is for language to be static in nature and precisely used. Without a common base, how could we communicate? But, when it's appropriate, I do appreciate the creative use of language.

Now that I'm analyzing it -- I appreciate the unconventional use of words when describing a thought or feeling more precisely (albeit unorthodoxly) than it would be described with conventional words used conventionally. So precision is my priority.

"Follow your heart, but do it with your head."

-- Steve Jobs. That quote instantly made me a bigger fan of Apple.

Lyrical Interpretation

Maybe there's a God above
And all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you
It's not a cry that you hear at night
It's not somebody who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.

What do you think it's saying? The first three lines present an image of a person trapped. When somebody outdraws you, they're quicker than you are. They have their gun pointed at your heart, and you're vulnerable. He's saying that all love ever taught him was how to get out of that vulnerable situation -- how to get his gun and hurt the other person before they've hurt him, even when they have the upper hand.

He moderates that image in the last three lines. "It's not a cry that you hear at night," so love isn't desperation. It's also not blind faith, which he makes clear by invoking, then dismissing, the image of seeing "the light." That's a religious image, and he's saying that love isn't like religion. I understand that -- it's not a panacea, it's not something that will save the world. Don't put all your hope in love, because it will not, in the end, impart ultimate meaning to life.

But then he invokes another religious word, hallelujah, so he is comparing love to religion. He's saying that, although love isn't going to save the world, it is something to hold onto. Love is essentially human: it's imperfect and painful, it doesn't always respond to your preferences, but that doesn't detract from its beauty. Maybe there is a God above, but I'm experiencing life and love from this vulnerable, fragile human perspective. And it is still beautiful.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I heart scarves.

My parents live in Annapolis, MD, although I go to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. There is quite a difference in the weather between the two, and I'm re-adjusting to the Annapolis cold right now.

Inspired by Postsecret, here's my irrational secret of the day: sometimes I rationalize that a scarf will be as warm as putting on a real coat, and I can just wear a scarf instead of searching the closets for my real coat. Usually, I'm wrong.

(But I never admit it!)

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Other semesters will be difficult, but we'll never have to adjust to a new place, new set of friends, new set of professors, AND a spirit-breaking workload again in one semester. The remaining five semesters will merely be spirit-breaking, but I think we know how to handle that now.

Congratulations, everyone!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Book Update

I created a Facebook group last year called "I judge you when you use poor grammar." As I've mentioned in the blog, we're working on a book that will be a collection of the group's best materials.

Here's the update on this process. We've received two offers from publishers, and we're waiting on a third. Negotiations will probably continue through the New Year, and then I'll start working on the actual book. I'll still be in law school, but the book will become more of a priority. The timetable on the book's printing isn't firm, but a good estimate is Christmas 2008.

The whole process has been an exciting little adventure and a solid distraction from law school. Although anything could happen at this point, I'm thankful for all the support we've received so far. Keep having fun with the group, and keep correcting my written faux pas on the blog. It keeps me on my toes.


Muddy Writing

I got some negative feedback on that last blog entry. Maybe my lack of eloquence in that post was balanced by my brilliance on my Contracts exam. Eh, doubtful.

Out of all the exams I've taken so far this semester, I'm the least confident about the contracts exam. There were about 30 multiple choice questions, which I find extremely difficult for this type of material. It was the first exam to have multiple choice questions on it.

I prefer essays because you can justify your answer in them. With multiple choice questions, you're confined to the answers that the professor proposes -- what if none of them is actually right? What if 3 of them are actually right? You're stuck having to judge between nuances in the professor's opinion, and hope that the professor writes clearly and precisely. I guess the task of judges is somewhat similar, only they're dealing with fine distinctions in the actual law. In law school exams, we're applying the law to the professor's fact pattern as represented by his or her word choices. If they write clearly, that doesn't end up being a problem, but if they use a word with several shades of meaning, it can change an answer completely.

It's done, and I'm moving on. Thank goodness.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Post Exam Debauchery

...Is to come. I just took my Contracts exam, and after the pain it involved, I'm circling the wagons and banning law school from my life. Just for the day.

Civil Procedure is next Wednesday, then I'm going home for the holidays with first semester of 1L behind me!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Birthday in Tha Loose

I completely forgot to mention my birthday. The past few days have been a swirl of high priorities in my head, and since not failing law school (and, therefore, not failing at life) is a higher priority than celebrating a birthday, I forgot about my birthday until the day before. Luckily, I have wonderful friends, and Stephanie organized a last-minute dinner at a sushi place here in T-Town (more amusingly known as "Tha Loose": Tuscaloosa, Alabama).

My birthday is December 6th, which unhappily falls during exams each year. I turned 21 in the library, and that was a dark, blustery and sad night.

This time around was much better. I turned 23 in the company of great new friends who are fighting in the same adversarial system than I am. Although we're technically competing for grades (and football team allegiances), about ten other students and several Auburn fans came out for my birthday.

It was an encouraging demonstration of camaraderie during the most demanding time of the semester. Thank you, everyone!

Exam Writing Styles

While talking to my friends about their exams, I've noticed that there seem to be two different ways that professors write their exams. My professors have written broad, far-reaching exams with fact patterns and an instruction, like in my Torts exam, to "Analyze all potential legal issues" that might exist. Although this is an almost impossible task to complete in 4 hours, it does give the test taker a chance to show off every relevant thing that they know. My strategy for those tests has been to identify as many legal issues as possible, do an IRAC for all of them, and write till the time runs out. I haven't run out of things to write about yet, which I take as a good sign. I'd be much more worried if I ran out of things to write about and left the test early.

The second type of test that I've heard people talk about is a more limited one. Typically, these will include one fact pattern, and give the entire exam period to analyze that one fact pattern. When the scope is more limited like this, an answer needs to be very accurate and tailored to the specific facts. But exams like this only test you on a limited part of the information you learned over the semester, so I can understand how this would be frustrating. The good side is that you can completely answer a question like this in 3 or 4 hours; the downside is that the standard of competition is raised, and you darn well better have answered it perfectly.

Which type would you rather take, and why?

Mid-Exam Musings

Yes, I used alliteration in the title of this post. Yes, alliteration is a cheap literary trick. Yes, I still like it anyway.

I'm in the middle of my first law school exam period, and I'm surviving. I turned in my memo for Legal Writing class (ten minutes late with a ten percent penalty, but at least it's done). I finished a Torts exam that included three two-page fact patterns and the instruction, at the end of each fact pattern, to "Identify and analyze all potential tort issues." Yesterday, I swam the dirty waters of Criminal Law and emerged -- traumatized but alive.

Two more to go: Contracts is tomorrow, and Civil Procedure is next Wednesday. I fully plan on wasting a day in between Contracts and CivPro by sleeping until afternoon, watching a marathon of America's Next Top Model and eating Cheezits in bed. It'll be glorious.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Torts Exam Thoughts

I took my first law school exam. I'm glad it's over.

It was a Torts exam with three fact patterns on it. The fact patterns were each more than a page long, and the instruction at the end was "Identify and analyze all potential tort issues." We had four hours to complete it.

Our professor made it long and overwhelming on purpose. Since we're graded in comparison to each other, this kind of exam was helpful because it gave us all a chance to distinguish ourselves. Other sections had shorter tests, but when a test is short you end up with everybody giving almost the same answer. Our exam was a lot more difficult, but it gave us the latitude to discuss pretty much any issue that we could tie to the fact pattern. I feel pretty confident about torts after taking this exam.

My strategy is to expect a C. If I expect a C and do better, I'll be ecstatic. I haven't contemplated the possibility of doing worse than a C. It just can't happen.

Three exams left: Criminal Law on Monday, Contracts on Thursday, and Civil Procedure on Wednesday the 19th.

I love Cops.

I love Cops, the TV show. I also have a fondness for real cops, especially after the events of the other night.

Our house was broken into. Thankfully, we didn't lose anything. My brother, Jay, is 21, and he came home about ten minutes before I got home. Apparently Jay surprised them in the act, and he hung out downstairs while he was waiting on Josh and me to get home. Jay said there was more than one person, and he listened to them scramble around upstairs, presumably looking for a way out, while Josh and I were on our way home. When Josh and I got home, Josh went upstairs and searched the house with Jay. Jay's bedroom window was open and the screen was kicked in. My bedroom window was also open (and I definitely didn't leave it open). The only thing missing was a set of house keys that also had my car key with them.

We called the police and filed a police report, and Jay changed the locks yesterday. I'm also parking in the garage from now on. The police said that this happens a lot over the holidays, so be careful!

But anyway, back to the TV show Cops. My favorite is when they arrest drunk people. I was watching the other day and they were arresting some kids for breaking into someone's house, and a drunk homeless man happened to stumble through the scene. He bumped into the cameraman, looked up, and said "I'm gonna kung-FOO jitz-ZOO kick ALL Y'ALL!"

The cops arrested him too.

Monday, December 03, 2007


My first set of law school exams are coming up. For anyone who's not in law school or who hasn't had the good (ha) fortune to have gone through this process, I'll tell you a little bit about our exams. I have four exams: Torts, Criminal Law, Contracts and Civil Procedure. Each exam is four hours long, and yes, it does take the entire four hours.

The good news is that they're spread out over about three weeks, so we have plenty of time to study. Two of my exams are open book and open note, and two are closed. However, having an open book exam doesn't necessarily help you out. The tests are graded on a pretty strict curve, so we're all directly competing with each other. If an exam is easy to you, then it's also probably easy to everyone else. That means the standard of performance is raised, because you still have to do better than almost everyone else to get an A. A good exam answer one year may be a poor one the next; it just depends on how well you do compared to everyone else.

This environment fosters some cutthroat competition. Thankfully, I haven't experienced any sabotage attempts at Alabama, but I've heard stories of students ripping out pages of books in the library or hiding them so other students can't find the book they need. Anything to get ahead, right? No wonder lawyers have such bad reputations.

My first exam is Torts on Wednesday. Our professor, Susan Randall (who I have a girl crush on) is doing a question and answer session for us this morning. She went to Columbia for law school and (like me) she was a philosophy major in college. Clearly we were meant for each other.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I'm in love.

I'm starting to become more comfortable with law school. Law school and I haven't exactly become friends yet, but we're on a first name basis. Law school and I will be spending a lot more time together in the next few years, so we have plenty of time to take this relationship slowly and get to know each other better. I'm still skeptical, but it's getting better.

Westlaw, on the other hand, is my new true love. You can look up people's criminal records! If the law school authorities were really serious about getting us to pay attention in class, they wouldn't have taught us how to snoop on Westlaw.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"Chuck Norris Approved."

I am deLIGHTED with Mike Huckabee's new campaign ad (via Althouse). Thoughts?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Boring Interviews

Although I'm greatly appreciative of all the press the Facebook group has been getting lately, it all has been a bit boring. The pieces are feel-good, fluffy stories, and that's fine. That's all I can expect from a story reporting on a Facebook group.

However, my publicist (Gloria) has been brainstorming some quotes to make these interviews more interesting and memorable. Here are her first two shots:
Grammar is my Malawian baby - like Angelina and Madonna, I got tired of being pegged as just another outrageous, definitive sex symbol and I needed to be taken seriously. My psychic suggested grammar and my Scientology advisor agreed.

Grammar is trendy right now, but its my goal to make it timeless - more Cartier than Tiffany, more Hermes than Balenciaga. Grammar is the new black, and it looks good on everyone.

Crimson White article

The Crimson White is Alabama's school newspaper, and Keli Goodson wrote an article for us for today's paper. Here's the link, and the full text is reprinted below. I'll post some thoughts about it later.


Grammar lovers united by Facebook

Keli Goodson
Senior Entertainment Reporter

Issue date: 11/14/07 Section: Entertainment

For those English speakers who just can't use correct grammar or spelling, there is a Facebook group out to get you.

Formed in October 2006, "I judge you when you use poor grammar" has more than 220,000 members and has garnered plenty of attention lately, with mentions in The New York Times, the Canadian press and a blog from the Wall Street Journal.

First-year law student Sharon Eliza Nichols is the founder of the group.

"It's kind of overwhelming, still," Nichols said of the attention the group has gotten. "It's growing by one or two thousand a day."

"I judge" had to make another group after the first one completely filled the space Facebook allows for images, Nichols said. There are about 5,000 images on the group's Facebook Web page.

The first bit of attention the group received was from the newspaper The Ottawa Sun on Sept.r 7. A mention in The New York Times on Oct. 21 was next, followed by a post in the Law Blog of The Wall Street Journal on Oct. 26.

"It's been mentioned other places," she said, "but those three were the big ones."

Since the mention in The New York Times, Nichols said, she has gotten an agent, and a book deal is in the works.

"We're going to make a book with pictures and information from the group," she said.

The book will be a lot like the popular "Post Secret" books, as it will be mostly images posted on the Facebook group's Web page, Nichols said.

A book proposal has been written, and the book's release date will not be decided until Nichols and her agent choose a publisher, she said.

"I judge you when you use poor grammar" has also spawned its own line of T-shirts, produced by and available at

The group started with a sign she saw one day that said "Applications Excepted," instead of the correct "Applications Accepted," Nichols said. She said she felt embarrassed for the business when she saw the sign.

"I started it as kind of a joking response to that," Nichols said.

She said another pet peeve of hers was the inability of some people to correctly use "it's" and "its."

Images in the group include things like pictures of Facebook profiles, church signs and billboards with misspelling, improper punctuation and other things group members find grammatically offensive.

"I think that the Internet has made written communication more commonplace," Nichols said. She said that results in some people not knowing better or just not caring.

She said it seemed grammar on the Internet was getting better, because people are beginning to be more careful about what they say and how they say it.

"Powerful people should choose their words carefully," she said. "When people mispronounce things it conveys a definite impression to other people."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Women's Studies discussion in Manly Hall.

First line in an email I just received:

Today at 12:30pm, the Women’s Resource Center and the Department of Women’s Studies at the University of Alabama will hold their next Brown Bag Series discussion in Manly Hall, Room 102.

Anyone else find this really funny?


I just used up my first law-school highlighter. Ha!

"Thought surgery."

The other day, a friend of mine compared law school to "thought surgery." It's an accurate comparison because they're teaching us how to think differently -- how to approach and analyze subjects from a legal perspective, as opposed to whatever we came in here doing.

I'm not taking issue with learning how to think differently. That part of law school was expected. I'm wondering, though, how law school will affect my writing. In your experience, has it made you a better writer? Worse? More stilted, or more creative?

My prediction is that it will make me a more precise, but less interesting, writer.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Gobble Gobble

I go to law school in Alabama. People like to hunt here, as shown by the funniest cell phone ring tone I've ever heard.

Today in class, a friend's cell phone rang. The ring was the sound of turkeys gobbling with a shotgun blast at the end.

"Gobble gobble gobble."

I'm turning blue.

It's always a little uncomfortably cold in the law school, and I have a theory explaining it: I think it's to keep us awake! The school keeps the temperature around 65 so that students are always a little uncomfortable, and therefore we stay awake.

It doesn't work with uncomfortably warm, because people tend to fall asleep when they're warm.

Monday, October 29, 2007

"Okay, moving on. Even I'm bored by this."

-- Legal Research professor during Westlaw training today.

ALSO: "I could go on all night about this... which is why you won't invite me to parties."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Laptops in Class

First of all, I'd like to state my appreciation for the email function that lets any law student send mass emails to the whole law school. There's a good argument to be made about that function encouraging open debate, but my approval is grounded in the amusing exchanges that happen every once in a while because of that function. Here's the most recent email-based controversy that made me laugh.

The law school is considering banning laptops in class. They sent an email out last week listing their points:

  • in class laptop use encourages students to surf the web,
  • students are failing to contribute to classroom discussion as a result of laptop use,
  • laptops encourage students to become stenographers rather thoughtful note-takers,
  • students surfing the web cause a distraction for other students.
Those are some pretty paternalistic arguments. Here are their proposed solutions:
  • A no-laptop policy: a ban of laptop use (in-class)
  • Honor Code Violation: any non-authorized laptop use will constitute an honor code violation; likewise, failure to report a fellow student’s non-authorized laptop use will also constitute an honor code violation
  • Absence: professor may mark students absent for non-authorized laptop use
  • Grade Deduction: professors may lower students grades for non-authorized laptop use
Are we in high school again? If you have to threaten students with an honor code violations and grade reductions for not paying attention in class, something is wrong. A couple (highly reactionary, but hilarious) emails were sent in response to the school's email. Here are the highlights:

"If laptops are taken away, I'm going to bring my desktop."

"How much money does the school collect each semester in tuition? Frankly, if I want to sleep through class and borrow an outline to prepare for the exam, I think I've paid for that right. And I will take responsibility for my grades."

"If the faculty and administration want to treat this "school" as a business, I fail to see why the students shouldn't respond in kind."

"[I]t all comes down to personal responsibility. The faculty and administration should focus on controlling the aspects of our legal curriculum that they control. They should leave the practice of being students up to the adults who happen to be their students."

So, what do you think?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Wall Street Journal Profile

Check out the profile we scored on Peter Lattman's WSJ law blog. Be sure to leave him some comments.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"Under Neat That"

From the Grammar Group:

We had a "going away" party yesterday for a lady at our Little Rock claim office. One of the supervisors called a Wal-Mart and ordered the cake.

He told them to write:
"Best Wishes Suzanne" and underneath that write "We will miss you."

Saturday, October 20, 2007

New York Times

"Your Modifier is Dangling"

In the highlight of my grammar career so far, the New York Times interviewed me last week about the Facebook group (I judge you when you use poor grammar.) The article is in this Sunday's Sunday Style section, and here's the part of the article about the group:
“Unfortunately, using poor grammar comes off as less pretentious,” said Sharon Nichols, a 22-year-old law student. “Everything is just so calculated in politics.
Ms. Nichols is one of many young people throwing off her generation’s reputation for slovenly language, and taking up the gauntlet for good grammar. Last year, after seeing a sign on a restaurant window that said “Applications Excepted,” she started a grammar vigilante group on Facebook, the social networking site, and called it “I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar.” Its 200,000 members have gleefully and righteously sent in 5,000 photographs documenting grammatical errors

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ever heard a tornado siren?

Yeah, me neither until today. Scary!

In other words, your lawyer is an idiot.

Judge Lynn N. Hughes, in Faulkner v. Fort Bend Independent School District:

"The plaintiffs are ordered to replead... eliminating from the amended complaint all excessive capitalization, empty formalisms, obscure abstractions, and other conceptual and grammatical imbecilities."

Attractive Nuisance

Favorite thing I learned in law school today: the phrase "attractive nuisance."

Best email I've ever written.

David Lat edits Above the Law, an online legal tabloid of sorts. He's looking for a personal assistant, and I sent him this Facebook message about it.

(Keep in mind the site is VERY gossipy and irreverent.)

Hey David,

I have a (legal, heh) proposition for you. Right now I'm not in the DC area, but I saw your note and wanted to log my interest in working for you this summer.

I'm currently in law school, but I've had some unusual experiences. I started the Facebook group "I judge you when you use poor grammar," of which you are a distinguished member. Because the group became unexpectedly large, I've gotten some experience in entrepreneurship, dealing with the media, and writing for a large audience. Our latest and greatest piece of publicity is an upcoming article in the 10/21 NYT Sunday Styles section.

So I find myself in an interesting position. I have a formal education in political science and law, but an interest in tawdry political commentary and general frivolity (but then again, who doesn't?). It's my sincere desire to contribute to the world of political sensationalism, and preferably not as the object of some politician's philandering.

On that note, keep me in mind if you need an employee for the summer. If you've already found the perfect personal assistant, I'd love some advice on where else you think I might find summer work. Either way, I'll continue my faithful reading of Above the Law. It gives me hope from the stuffy world of law school.



Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Legal Research professor, on his insistence on printing paper handouts:

"I'm giving this to you solely because I hate trees."

"I Am America (And So Can You!)"

"After nearly 15 minutes of soul-searching, I have heard the call….I am hereby declaring that I will enter the presidential primary in my native South Carolina, running as a favorite son," Colbert said on his show Tuesday night. "I defy any other candidate to pander more to the people of South Carolina — those beautiful, beautiful people."

Stephen Colbert announces his "candidacy." (CNN)

"Colbert-Colbert — that's a strong ticket," he argued.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Latest and Greatest

Last week, I interviewed with Bob Morris of the New York Times about the Facebook grammar group. His article isn't specifically about the group, but it is about correcting people's grammar. Look for it in the 10/21 Sunday Styles section.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

“If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

That quote is, of course, from Johnny Cochran at OJ Simpson's famous trial. Here are some quotes from my law school professors for your amusement:

"...just pull out a dictionary and make it up. That's what judges do!"

"This will be a helpful way for you to study. So helpful, I'm imposing it on you."

"What is a legal intention? What is it? I don’t have a clue and neither do any of the judges who wrote this decision."

"I’m like you – I didn’t read this case until the night before. If I had, I wouldn’t have assigned it because this case is bad."

"Breathe it in; have fun playing with the Model Penal Code."

Sunday, September 09, 2007

My first interview.

We got our first real press coverage this week when The Canadian Press decided to interview me about the Facebook group. Here's the article (The Ottawa Sun):

By Angela Pacienza

TORONTO (CP) - Tired of hearing the word "like" at the end of every sentence? Does a wayward apostrophe drive you round the bend? You're not alone.

There are plenty of people who are fed up with what they say is a growing epidemic of bad grammar. Among them are more than two dozen groups on Facebook -everything from "Citizens Against Poor Grammar" to "Grammar and Punctuation Are Your Friends" and "Grammar Freaks United" - dedicated to improving the world's linguistic skills.

Many blame the Internet and its ubiquitous abbreviations for disintegrating proper language. "I hate misplaced apostrophes, but what winds me up possibly even more is when people use 'txt spk' when writing online. Surely it takes longer to work out which letters to miss out and make sure it still makes sense, than the time it takes to just type the sodding word!" wrote Rhea D on the "Actually, Good Grammar IS Important" group, which boasts more than 1,500 members.

Listing her grammar pet peeves, Sarah-Jane Smith of South Africa wrote: " 'Could of,' 'would of'... etc... AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH."

One U.S.-based Facebook group, "I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar," went so far as to have T-shirts made mocking U.S. President George W. Bush's use of English. The shirts are emblazoned with Bush's face and the phrase: "I judge you when you use poor grammar."(

Led by Sharon Nichols, a 22-year-old University of Alabama law student, the group boasts 180,000 members and has sold several hundred Bush T-shirts.

"I've been pleasantly surprised by the huge response," said Nichols. "I think the group is a lighthearted way to address something annoying."

The Facebook groups typically have a heavy educational component.

"Citizens Against Poor Grammar" was started as a forum for people to learn about commonly used phrases that are grammatically incorrect, says founder Meredith Maloney, a 35-year-old Torontonian who works in the social service sector.

"I am by no means a grammar expert," admits Maloney. "I initially wanted to expand my vocabulary and change some phrases that I may say incorrectly." The group's membership was initially made up of Maloney's friends. But it's now grown to about 60 members from all over the world.

"People seem to enjoy venting about things that their co-workers, strangers and family members have said to them. It's a bit of comic relief too," Maloney said. Her favourite incorrect phrase? "'I didn't mean to earsdrop on your conversation,"' she said.

Grammatical correctness is also making its way into reality TV. CBC will air "Test the Nation: Watch Your Language" on Sunday, a game show testing contestants' knowledge of the English language.

Participants will include romance novelists, word gamers, ad agents, comedians and English teachers.

"It's kind of sloppy," contestant Mary Ellen Perley, a teacher at McNally High School in Edmonton, said about the state of grammar among today's youth. "Sloppy spelling, sloppy use of past and present tense."

"When you try to explain to them why it's got to be (a certain) way, there's a blank look." Perley, a self-professed grammar cop, blames the school system for not putting more emphasis on teaching the basic ABCs of grammar.

What does she consider the most cringe-worthy error? The "it's" versus "its" blunder.

"That one drives me cra-aaa-zy. That's a big one. And you see it everywhere. You don't just see it in schools. It's creeping into published documents."

Maloney hopes Facebook groups like hers encourage more young people to openly discuss the state of grammar.

"I don't want the onslaught of technology to encourage people to become lazy. That would be a true shame."

Friday, August 24, 2007

One week down...three years to go.

I just finished my first week of law school, and I wanted to write down my thoughts about it so far.

Law school is more demanding than undergrad in a very specific way. The material (so far) has not always been more difficult than the material I saw in college. The biggest change is the way in which students are held accountable for doing the work. In undergrad, your performance was evaluated, semi-anonymously, apart from class time. You turned in papers, the professor graded them and handed them back. Other students didn't see your work unless you showed them yourself.

Although most of our grades in law school are based on a final exam, we're evaluated on our performance every day. Professors call student names from the roll, and if you don't know the answer to a question, they embarrass you. It's an extremely motivational way to get students to do the reading.

It's also mentally exhausting.

Monday, August 20, 2007

I done good.

The University of Alabama won the #19 spot in Princeton Review's top 20 party schools of 2007.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I almost had a heart attack.

Maybe not a heart attack. It was more like an acute rush of embarrassment. A few days ago, I emailed my picture to the University of Alabama's law school, for (what I thought was) my student ID. I picked out a nice, respectable looking picture of myself from college graduation. In the picture, I'm wearing a strapless dress and pearls, and the side of my mom's face is slightly visible where I cropped her out. However presentable, the photo was absolutely casual.

When I realized the picture was for the online student photo directory instead of my personal ID card, I rushed to the law school's website to see what type of pictures the other students had sent in. I clicked on the class of 2008 -- the first class listed -- and found that the power suits were out in full force. Every picture was formal and taken by a professional photographer.
Great, now I'm going to be "that hippie girl" who sent in her Facebook picture for the law school directory.

Then I checked what I should have checked originally. In my own class photo directory, the class of 2010, the pictures were blatantly casual. My wavy hair-down strapless-dress picture fit in perfectly with the vibe of the rest of the pictures. Power suits were in the minority, and tanned faces cropped from bright vacation pictures ruled the day. What's going on here? Is the south becoming more casual? Is the practice of law becoming more casual?

I blame it on Facebook.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

"You have that sharp, useless look about you."

-- Vivian's response to Edward's question in Pretty Woman. The question:

"What makes you think I'm a lawyer?"

I'm starting law school in the fall, at which point I'll resume blogging regularly.

Friday, June 01, 2007

"Dean Randall, Dean of the law school since the mid-90s..."

"... successfully leg-wrestled a cougar for the last half of a chocolate mallomar in 1975." -- from the Wikipedia entry about the University of Alabama's School of Law.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"If there are two things I can say about Sharon it would be that she calls her own shots and she's always been a deal more ambitious than me."

Justin Pavlischek wrote an entry in the phenomenal Plog about the Facebook group today ("I judge you when you use poor grammar").

I dig the Latin in the outro, Pav.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Wear your disdain on your chest:

"I judge you when you use poor grammar" T-shirts are (finally) here:

Go ahead; embrace your inner grammar nazi.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The blog and I took a break.

We were getting on each other's nerves; it was being entirely too demanding and I was feeling uncooperative, so we took a break. Happily, we're back together now.

We're taking things one day at a time.

The YouTube defense.

My parents, like their parents before them, think that their kids' generation is more morally deplorable than their own. My dad recently labeled my peers and me the "Me Generation," pointing to our selfishness that supposedly exceeds that of previous generations.

Technology is allegedly contributing to our moral downfall. I remember hearing someone at church actually saying "The devil is working through the internet." I was 13 or 14 at the time, the internet was relatively new, and some discomfort with change probably motivated that comment, but the message was the same. The future is full of backslidden young people making new things through which evil will do its dirty business.

Maybe I'm young and naive -- or perhaps just delusional -- but my perception of the world is very different from that of my parents.

I'm heartened by the evolution of philanthropy just in my own lifetime. There are now charities that are helping solve problems all over the world more efficiently, generously and creatively than ever before, in all of history. And a lot of the credit goes to technology.

New developments in communication have been forces for good in other areas besides direct philanthropy. This caught my eye today. It's an article by Andrew K. Woods for Slate about how YouTube is helping prevent torture and promote human rights.

Yes, there are horrible things happening in many places, but thanks to communication technology, these things are more visible than ever before -- making them bigger targets. We know about human rights violations because of cell phone cameras and YouTube, and therefore we can work against them.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Other projects.

As you probably know, a few months ago I created a Facebook group titled "I judge you when you use poor grammar." It now has over 116,000 members.

My big project right now is getting t-shirts made for the group. I've hired a graphic designer and bought a domain name, and we're in the final stages of getting the shirts ready. This is a big reason that I haven't posted much lately.

Keep checking back for updates. When the shirts are ready, which will probably be next week, I'll link to them from the blog.


Friday, February 09, 2007


First, I apologize for the delay in new posts. A lot has been happening this week, but I'll shape up soon.

Next, I need to tell the good news. I found out that I was accepted to law school yesterday. I've only heard from one school so far, University of Alabama, so I'm going to wait on the others before I make a decision. Alabama did inform me in style though -- the head of admissions called me. I said "I thought I'd get a letter!" and he replied, "Well, we call people when we can." I thought that was great.

Tonight is for celebrating; tomorrow is for posting.


Friday, February 02, 2007

"We want everyone to know how sorry we are, and that we are willing to do anything to make things right."

I've been meaning to write about this:

Clemson University and the NAACP said Tuesday they are investigating an off-campus party held during the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend that some considered offensive because white students drank malt liquor and at least one partygoer wore black face.

Pictures from the party were posted online, and Clemson officials learned of the January 14 party this past weekend. The school is probing whether students were harassed or whether there was underage drinking. (AP via CNN)

The pictures were posted on Facebook, and almost immediately there was an uproar from students who saw them. The main issue here is: were the students dressing as an exaggerated stereotype of an entire race, or were they just sticking to a theme (ghetto/rapper)?

If they had stuck to the rapper theme, with jewelry, baggy clothes, etc. -- which is the predominate style for white and black rappers -- then the party would be difficult to condemn. A theme party where guests dress as rappers wouldn't be different from one where the theme is Bikers or CEOs and Secretaries. However, the fact that it was during Martin Luther King weekend, as well as the kid who dressed in black face, took it over the edge. Black face has been widely condemned as offensive, and the kid who did it knew it was offensive.

It's unfortunate that this happened at all, especially at a school like Clemson where racial tensions are already pretty high. It's also another example of people unwisely falling for the false sense of security that Facebook conveys. Unless you're ready for the world to see it, don't put it on the internet.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Buy a stack of postcards, put postage on them and address them to a member of the military serving overseas. Take the stack and several pens out somewhere, get people to write supportive messages on the postcards and drop them in the mail.

I did this a couple weeks ago for a friend in Iraq, and he just received the postcards. It works especially well if you hand them out in a bar -- the messages will be much more varied and entertaining. It only costs a couple dollars, it was fun to do and it will be meaningful for anyone serving away from home.

Now go and do your good deed.

Monday, January 29, 2007

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

My senior seminar (the last class I have to take to graduate with my political science degree) is on food and government food policy. We're reading The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan now, which is an interesting and often alarming description of the foods we eat, why we eat them, and how they're made.

Pollan has an article in the NYT today:

"...if you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat." (NYT)

The article is really long, but that's the main idea. Eat fruit and vegetables, some meat, and stay away from processed "foods." If you look carefully, a lot of things in the supermarket are even labeled like they're non-food products. What we commonly call "American cheese" is labeled "cheese food" or "cheese product." I'd rather not eat "product."

Sunday, January 28, 2007

"I judge you when you use poor grammar:" almost 110,000 strong.

This is incredible. I created this group on a whim, and it caught on quickly. I'm working on designing some t-shirts for the group, so keep checking back for updates. I'll link to the shirts when they're ready.
Keep fighting the good fight!
(Explanation for those of you not on Facebook: Facebook is a social networking site, similar to MySpace, except that Facebook was originally just for college students. I created a group a few months ago titled "I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar," and the membership has been increasing wildly ever since. We're now on the verge of 110,000 members.)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Kerry's out.

No, really?

It would have been fun to have him in the race, just for kicks. Oh well.

"We were very disappointed to hear that Microsoft was taking that approach..."

Microsoft tried to hire a blogger to change Wikipedia entries so they'd be more flattering to them. Is it an ethical issue?

Wikipedia is known as an online encyclopedia that almost anyone can edit, although some parties (PR firms, campaigns) are barred from changing entries. By hiring a blogger to change the entries, Microsoft was working around the Wikipedia restrictions.

But the real question is: why would they risk a scandal just to change a Wikipedia entry, which doesn't even get that much exposure? Those entries are only seen by people who purposely set out to find them, which wouldn't be their target audience anyway.

Monday, January 22, 2007

About all those single American women:

Remember that statistic that came out a few days ago, about women and marriage? A study by the NY Times said that 51% of American adult women were living without a spouse, and "family advocacy" groups told us that was a lamentable statistic. As I wrote about here, I didn't see anything negative in that conclusion, and now some analysis is coming out to support my stance:

Statistics show that college educated women are more likely to marry than non college educated women — although they marry, on average, two years later. The popular image might have been true even 20 years ago — though generally speaking, most women probably didn’t boil the bunny rabbit the way Ms. Close’s character did in 1987. In the past, less educated women often “married up.” In “Working Girl,” Melanie Griffith triumphs. Now, marriage has become more one of equals; when more highly educated men marry, it tends to be more highly educated women. Today, Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver would live happily ever after.

Women with more education also are becoming less likely to divorce, or inclined to divorce, than those with less education. They are even less likely to be widowed all in all, less likely to end up alone.

“Educated women used to have a difficult time,” said David Popenoe, co-director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University. “Now they’re the most desired.” In Princeton, where he lives, men used to marry “way down the line,” Mr. Popenoe said. No more. (NYT)

The article closes with another positive finding:

All this leads to a happiness gap, too. According to the Marriage Project, the percentage of spouses who rate their marriage as “very happy” has dropped among those without a college education, while it has risen or held steady among those better educated.

Body parts everywhere.

I woke up to CNN saying that today is supposed to be the worst day of the year: Blue Monday. The weather is bad (63* and rain all day here in Charleston), leftover Christmas credit card bills are piling up, and most people have broken their New Year's resolutions.

Then I looked online, and the biggest headline on my home page was: "Body Parts Everywhere."

Saturday, January 20, 2007

"Bill, I'm whoever you want me to be."

-- Stephen Colbert on The O'Reilly Factor the other night. The two men were guests on each other's shows on the same night. Some other memorable quotes:

Colbert: "You know what I hate about people who criticize you?"
O'Reilly: "What?"
Colbert: "They...they criticize what you say, but they never give you credit for how loud you say it."
O'Reilly: "That's true. There are not many people as loud as me."
Colbert: "Or how long you say it."

Here's O'Reilly on Colbert's show, and here's Colbert on O'Reilly's.

John Edwards is a college basketball fan!

I'm watching the UNC/GA Tech game, and the camera keeps zooming in on John Edwards in the stands. Is it bad that my opinion of him has gone up since seeing him at the game?

"She's growing up. Get used to it." (NYT)

And what better way to demonstrate your maturity than playing a rape victim in a movie?

Twelve-year old Dakota Fanning plays a young rape victim in the independent film "Hounddog," which premieres at Sundance Film Festival this week. The problem is that the film most likely violates child pornography laws. Even though Fanning herself has been publicly justifying her (her agent's? her parents'?) decision to film the rape scene, the controversy is unending. The movie was filmed near Wilmington, NC, and there's a petition asking the district attorney to prosecute the people involved for participating in producing child pornography.

The NY Times article is quite kind towards the filmmakers, and I was almost convinced by the time I finished reading. However, laws protecting minors don't take effect only when the minor invokes them. The laws exist to protect minors, who are assumed to not be mature enough to give consent (for example, to sleep with an adult or to film a rape scene in a movie). The law makes those activities illegal regardless of the minor's consent.

This could be a precedent for a lot of other films and art, and I hope the issue is given proper consideration.

'I'm in to win."

Hillary Clinton throws her hat in the ring.

Friday, January 19, 2007

When camera phones attack.

Michael Agger at Slate vilifies the camera phone, citing the recording of Saddam Hussein's execution as the peak in recent shameful uses for the phones:

In glorious retrospect, it seems like a terrifically bad idea to give the world a spy camera that looks and functions like a cell phone. Peeping Toms quickly realized the potential for upskirt pics and shower-room souvenirs. Chicago tried to block cell phones from gyms, and a California legislator has proposed a law requiring the cell phone to make a shutter snapping sound or flash a light when a picture is taken. We have trained ourselves to be wary when a cell phone is pointed at us, but the device's relative inconspicuousness still creates problems. In Saudi Arabia, women have been taking pictures of other women unveiled at weddings and e-mailing them to matchmakers, a practice that has caused uproar in a culture in which any sort of image can be cause for loss of honor.

Technology can't be blamed for the bad uses that people dream up for it. Camera phones, like any other technology, are ethically neutral. People decide what to use it for, and people should be blamed when bad decisions are made. Although Agger does describe some positive outcomes involving camera phones, he sticks to his argument that we'd be better off without them.

He gets this part right:

One consequence of this is an altered perception of the gravity of our day-to-day routines. We are now more aware of ourselves as observers of "history." When a van catches fire in front of our house, we and our neighbors are now out on the lawn recording. We e-mail this to our friends, who testify to the enormity of the event, and then we all await the next sensation. This impulse can be positive, but it also fuels the increasingly destructive American habit of oversharing. The snapshot speaks with a small voice: I'm alive and I saw this. The cell phone camera picture or video is a shout from the rooftop: Check out this crazy thing that happened to me.

Technology does seem to bring out the narcissist in people.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sojourner Truth:

"Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him."

-- From a speech at the Women's Convention in Akron, Ohio (1851).

The page-view problem.

David Carr:

Here at The Times, the Most E-Mailed list on our Web site has gone from being an in-house curiosity to a measure of salience, as much as getting an article on the front page. The list can be wonderfully idiosyncratic — last Friday, a six-month-old goof on using animal training on husbands (“What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage”) reappeared alongside Thomas Friedman’s meditation on the president’s plan to send more troops to Iraq.

But at some point, ratings (which print journalists, unlike their television counterparts, have never had to contend with) will start to impinge on news judgment. “You can bemoan the crass decision-making driving by ratings, but you can’t really avoid the fact that page views are increasingly the coin of the realm,” said Jim Warren, co-managing editor of The Chicago Tribune. (NYT)

Print journalists have had to deal with their own "ratings" system in the past: distribution. The more newspapers or magazines sold, the better. However, online newspapers allow editors to keep statistics on which articles get the most views, instead of an issue (of a magazine, or printing of a newspaper) as a whole. It takes pandering to a whole new level, and just might lower the quality of writing at newspapers.

The page-view problem might also change the kind of issues that get the spotlight. Instead of editors having total control over what makes the front page, readers will have more input. The more page views an article gets online, the more likely that it will make the front page of the print issue -- if there's a new development by the next day. People are tired of hearing about the Iraq war? Put Britney on the front page! That'll sell some newspapers.

Uh oh.

Charleston smoking ordinance.

Last Tuesday, the Charleston City Council voted in favor of the Smokefree Ordinance, which would ban smoking from all public buildings (restaurants and bars included). The vote was 9-4, however, the ordinance will be read and voted on two more times before it can become actual legislation.

At first glance, it seems invasive for the government to limit where people can smoke in public places. Personal freedom is worth defending, but when exercising a freedom hurts bystanders, it ceases to be a personal act. Smoking doesn't just harm the smoker; it harms anyone around the smoke. Obviously, the main concern is lung cancer from secondhand smoke.

Putting aside the most troublesome potential effect, there are other concerns -- such as my personal grievance, cigarette burns. I have 3 different scars from accidental cigarette burns by others, and while their sincere apologies are appreciated, they can't do anything about the scars.

The next reading of the ordinance is Tuesday, January 23, at 5:00pm at 180B Lockwood Drive (across from Riley Park). There will be a chance for people to speak, so go and let the City Council hear your argument.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

51% of American adult women are living without a spouse.

“For better or worse, women are less dependent on men or the institution of marriage,” Dr. Frey said. “Younger women understand this better, and are preparing to live longer parts of their lives alone or with nonmarried partners. For many older boomer and senior women, the institution of marriage did not hold the promise they might have hoped for, growing up in an ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ era.” (NYT)

Women being less dependent on men and marriage shouldn't be a negative thing. Even if you believe that traditional marriages are ideal, two independent parties who decide to come together would create a stronger marriage than one party who feels dependent on the other or on the institution.

More explanation is available at the link.

Excerpts from an interview with Paula Abdul:

Interviewer: "Did you have any idea in the beginning that this was going to be this kind of hit? I mean, it was doing really well in England I guess..."

Paula: "I did. I really did. I really believed that this was going to be a huge, huge show, and it would change variety, I mean we're named into being a reality, but it's reality-variety, and it's a fantastic show."

Interviewer: "Besides the obvious, how has it changed your life?"

Paula: "Ha, you- it's a funny question, you know, you- I've always had this thing with my career, that I'm able to overcome hurdles, and, Laker Girl, you'll never be- you'll never be a choreographer, and then I win every award in choreography, and then I secretly record an album, and they say..."

Abdul actually seems more coherent when her sentences are written out, but in the video it's apparent that she's inebriated. I see rehab in her future.

Obama Barack announces formation of presidential exploratory committee.

Which is another way of saying "I'm running for president, but I'm not going to announce it yet."

Monday, January 15, 2007

When I was watching Top Chef today, the host directed the chefs to pack up "using your Gladware" and "leave the Kenmore kitchen..."

It was then that I realized product placement would take over the world. This article confirms my fears.

Competing philanthropies:

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with its $30-billion-plus endowment that dwarfs all others, now dominates discussions of philanthropy, and the philanthropic experiments of young billionaires like Pierre Omidyar and Jeff Skoll are studied and mimicked.

But the Carnegie Corporation and the Rockefeller Foundation are fighting back, hoping to get more impact for their money, increase their influence and extend their legacies by changing the way they have operated for years. They are pushing to streamline their operations by eliminating internal fiefs and to improve their efficiency by increasing collaboration among staff members. (NYT)

It's ironic how charities are motivated by greed (for attention? prestige? the "number-one" label?) to compete with one another. Whatever the motivation, at least the outcome is good: more people being helped.

Later on, ranking the philanthropies by size of their endowments:

With roughly $12.5 billion in assets, the Ford institution is the country’s second largest foundation, but it is just one-third the size of the Gates Foundation. The Rockefeller Foundation is 15th or 16th in the pecking order with roughly $3.6 billion, and the Carnegie Corporation, with $2.6 billion, is no longer among the top 20.

"During the hanging, one of the men was inadvertently decapitated..."

Two of Saddam Hussein's associates were hanged to death before dawn today after their conviction for crimes against humanity, the Iraqi government said. During the hanging, one of the men was inadvertently decapitated, which further raised tensions in the country just two weeks after the spectacle surrounding the hanging of Hussein.

Iraqi officials carried out the executions of Hussein's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti and the head of the revolutionary court Awad al-Bandar, at 3:00 a.m. Monday, for their role in the killings of 148 men and boys from the Shiite village of Dujail following an assassination attempt. (WaPo)

This is the last that I'll post about the death penalty for a while, lest you think I've got a strange fixation. However, I will say that this is horribly unacceptable. After the debacle that was Hussein's execution, you'd think that extra precautions would be taken to ensure that nothing outrageous happened this time. Like, say, the decapitation of a condemned man.

How long can this stay interesting?

Be thankful my interests are broader than this.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

“They’re amputating in order to save the patient,” said an executive at a competing publishing company.

The New York Times on Time, Inc.'s job cuts:

People magazine’s article this week on Britney Spears and her “new guy,” model Isaac Cohen, is five paragraphs long. It was reported and written by seven people.

Seven people to write one article? Writing with a group has always taken longer in my experience, and the end product is less cohesive. Some projects benefit from multiple sources of input, but not writing. Although People is not exactly The New Yorker (sarcasm), the quality might actually improve with fewer writers contributing to each piece. Also, seven reporters on one article is just absurd.

The end of capital punishment?

Lethal injections, once thought of as perfection revealed, are now on hold in Maryland, California, Florida, Missouri, South Dakota. Doctors say that, if improperly administered, they might cause the condemned to die in pain. Since this pain violates constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment, and since lethal injections are now the method of choice for almost all executions, opponents think they may have found the way to do away with capital punishment in America. (WaPo)

Word of the day:

Recidivism. Try to define it before clicking on the link.

Lunch with the cartoonists at The New Yorker.

How many times have you heard this: "I just read The New Yorker for the cartoons."?

My perception of The New Yorker, and the people who write/draw for it, is that they're a bunch of self-important academics who've found an outlet for their own pretentiousness. But don't take my word for it -- read the article for yourself. (NYT)

"You're freer to vote your conscience," said Rep. Jo Anne Emerson.

This paragraph struck me in the Washington Post article today about the Republican minority in Congress:

Freed from the pressures of being the majority and from the heavy hand of former leaders including retired representative Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), many back-bench Republicans are showing themselves to be more moderate than their conservative leadership and increasingly mindful of shifting voter sentiment. The closest vote last week -- Friday's push to require the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare -- pulled 24 Republicans. The Democrats' homeland security bill attracted 68 Republicans, the minimum wage increase 82. (WaPo)

I've never thought about the "pressures of being the majority," but it's true. Being the minority party has freed some of them up to be more moderate, to -- presumably -- follow personal convictions. This could be a great thing for the GOP.

Friday, January 12, 2007

"There can be no justification for such a senseless act of violence," U.S. Ambassador Charles P. Ries said this morning...

A missile hit the US Embassy in Athens, Greece today. I studied in Athens last spring, and when we first arrived our program had us register with the Embassy. There's a huge iron gate in front with soldiers stationed by it, and to get inside you have to go underground, through two metal detectors in a security station, and then climb a staircase back up into the compound. It's almost comical to compare the heavily-fortified American Embassy to the humble office buildings around it that house the other embassies.

Although I became familiar with the Greek passion for strikes and protests, the violence was at a minimum during my semester there. Thankfully, no one was injured in this attack.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

David Beckham wants to make a difference.

"There are so many great sports in America," the former Manchester United star [David Beckham] said. "There are so many kids that play baseball, American football, basketball. But soccer is huge all around the world apart from America, so that's where I want to make a difference with the kids." (WaPo)

I'm betting that the $250 million that the LA Galaxy soccer team offered was a bigger factor in his decision than a desire to "make a difference." My skepticism aside, Beckham in the US just might inspire more kids to play soccer, and it certainly will create a bigger fan base for American soccer.



Top Bush administration officials, pushing the president's case for sending thousands of additional troops to Iraq, faced tough grilling on Capitol Hill today as both Republican and Democratic lawmakers demanded specific answers on how the new plan will lead to victory in Iraq.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace held a morning news conference before Rice faced senators in a sometimes contentious hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Gates and Pace then testified in the afternoon before the House Armed Services Committee and Rice went before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Accountability is never a negative thing. They should have to explain, in detail, why their plan will work this time. There's more at the link.

The war.

I'm having trouble writing about politics lately. All the news is centered around the war in Iraq, and I just don't feel qualified to make a judgement about it. My gut feeling is that an increase in soldiers, as President Bush announced will happen last night, might be a good thing -- in the SHORT term. It will give the troops who are already there more protection, more power, and more latitude to get done what they need to do. However, I'm not comfortable with increasing the number of troops in Iraq indefinitely.

While I don't necessarily agree with the president, last night's speech was the most honest and forthright I've ever heard him be. It's significant when a president says "Mistakes were made, and I take responsibility."


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Life at $7.25 an hour.

The Washington Post's David Finkel wrote a comprehensive piece on the complexities of raising the minimum wage in today's WaPo. I usually take the position that public policy decisions are separate from morality, but it is hard to deny that some policy choices are moral issues -- especially when evaluated at the individual level.

"The days of smoke-filled rooms in the United States Capitol are over," [Nancy] Pelosi said.

Pelosi, D-California, announced Wednesday that effective immediately, House members would no longer be able to light up in the ornate Speaker's Lobby off the House floor where lawmakers mingle during votes.

The room is often hazy with smoke, as it was Tuesday night as the House voted on anti-terror legislation; Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, often has a cigarette in hand, for example. (AP via CNN)

I have little sympathy for smokers, and none for those who started smoking in the past few years. It's surprising that it has taken this long to ban smoking in the House.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Do you know how much a polar bear weighs?

Enough to break the ice. Hi, I'm Sharon.

[I dabble in Bad Jokes.]

"[T]he government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..."

" it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen."

From the Treaty of Tripoli.


I started a Facebook group a few months ago titled "I judge you when you use poor grammar." Today, it surpassed 100,000 members.

Keep up the good fight!

How unhealthy is it, really, to be model-thin?

It depends.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Alabama football.

Alabama just hired a new football coach, Nick Saban, who is reportedly being paid the highest salary of any college football coach in the nation. The eight-year deal will pay Saban $32 million PLUS other benefits. That's $4+ million a year.

Because the football program brings in so much money for the school, it makes sense for them to shell out what's needed for the best coach they can find. Right?

That's fine, until you consider that Alabama public schools rank below the national average in all of the testing areas mandated by No Child Left Behind. There's a solid argument that the money would be better used to improve the state's public schools as a whole.

ADDED: I was just told that football coach salaries are typically drawn from the revenue of boosters, alumni associations and the football team itself, but I couldn't find any information backing that up. However, even if the money is taken from the football team itself, the team is a part of the university, which is part of the state's public school system. My argument still stands.

Do you smell that?

The biggest story today seems to be the strange smell in New York City. The last 15 minutes of CNN on TV has been devoted to the situation:

Authorities were investigating widespread reports today of a strong odor that many described as similar to natural gas, permeating parts of New York City and nearby areas of New Jersey during the morning commute. In some buildings, office workers were evacuated and subway and train lines affected, but the mysterious smell did not appear to be harmful. (NYT)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Obesity "report cards."

NY Times:

The practice of reporting students’ body mass scores to parents originated a few years ago as just one tactic in a war on childhood obesity that would be fought with fresh, low-fat cafeteria offerings and expanded physical education. Now, inspired by impressive results in a few well-financed programs, states including Delaware, South Carolina and Tennessee have jumped on the B.M.I. bandwagon, turning the reports — in casual parlance, obesity report cards — into a new rite of childhood.

The article gives the impression that the student's BMI is stated in a letter sent home to parents, without directly addressing the student. The phrase "rite of childhood" calls to mind public, gym-class measurements in which scores are compared and students are teased, but a letter to parents is hardly that.

Legislators in other states, including New York, have proposed them as well, while some individual school districts have adopted the practice.

Here, in the rural Southern Tioga School District, the schools distribute the state-mandated reports even as they continue to serve funnel cakes and pizza for breakfast. Some students have physical education for only half the school year, even though 34 percent of kindergartners were overweight or at risk for it, according to 2003-4 reports.

The BMI-reporting program is a good idea, but districts should prioritize cafeteria reform before they send letters to parents telling them to deal with their chubby kids.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Back in Charleston

After another long drive, I'm back in Charleston. Classes -- for my last semester in college --start Monday, so regular posting will resume then. Be happy that your break is longer than mine.

Friday, January 05, 2007

"Ashley's smaller and lighter size makes it more possible to include her in the typical family life..."

In a case fraught with ethical questions, the parents of a severely mentally and physically disabled child have stunted her growth to keep their little "pillow angel" a manageable and more portable size.

The uterus and breast tissue of the bedridden 9-year-old girl were removed at a Seattle hospital, and she received large doses of hormones to halt her growth. She is now 4-foot-5; her parents say she would otherwise probably reach a normal 5-foot 6.

The case has captured attention nationwide and abroad via the Internet, with some decrying the parents' actions as perverse and akin to eugenics. Some ethicists question the parents' claim that the drastic treatment will benefit their daughter and allow them to continue caring for her at home. (AP via CNN)

As medicine and technology progress, I expect many more ethically murky situations like this --and laws attempting to address them.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

It's a new year, all right.

Dems take control of Congress and pledge a "new effort" at bipartisanship.

Also, here's an article on the new ethics rules that the Democrats have proposed:

Democrats, who campaigned relentlessly last year on the theme of a Republican culture of corruption, introduced the proposed ethics rules as part of a week of choreography designed to deliver the message that they did not intend to do business as usual in Washington. In some cases, like restrictions on the use of corporate jets, the rules on gifts and travel by lobbyists go further than what Democrats had pledged earlier.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Oh, well if Pat Robertson said it... MUST be true. Right?

The Jungle

“I aimed at the public’s heart,” he [Upton Sinclair] famously declared, “and by accident I hit it in the stomach.”

“The Jungle,” and the campaign that Sinclair waged after its publication, led directly to passage of a landmark federal food safety law, which took effect 100 years ago this week. Sinclair awakened a nation not just to the dangers in the food supply, but to the central role government has to play in keeping it safe. But as the poisonings of spinach eaters and Taco Bell customers recently made clear, the battle is far from over — and in recent years, we have been moving in the wrong direction. (NYT)

My political science capstone (the final class required for any major) this semester is about the government's involvement in the food industry. How much of a burden does the government have to regulate what we eat?

The topic is especially appropriate given the recent e. Coli outbreaks and the 100-year anniversary of the passage of the first federal food safety laws.

Excellent article title:

"The Power of Free Will: Experiments suggest that conscious choice is an illusion, but some experts choose to disagree." (NYT)