Category: Just for Fun


Sunday Night Monday Morning music

I’m re-reading Gravity’s Rainbow (Pynchon now on Kindle by the way). Finished V. Finished Crying of Lot 49. Tried to pick up Vineland which I loved. Wanted the difficult, mad, beautiful language. Back to Gravity’s Angel. For fans I post a song I knew before I read the book. It is Laurie Anderson’s Gravity’s Angel. Honestly, she’s not for everyone. Maybe not for most. But if you dig experimental music and complex lyrics give it a shot. The album Mister Heartbreak from which the track comes is fun too. Again fun for some. It has William Burroughs on Sharkey’s Night. I quoted it at my Cal graduation. That is below too. Shorter.

Where’s the law? Not sure. As Burroughs intones, “And sharkey says: hey, kemosabe! long time no see. he says: hey sport. you connect the dots. you pick up the pieces.” OK for a bit more, as I have said here before, life beyond the law matters. And it turns out that knowing life beyond the law might make you a better lawyer. That, by the way, is why empathy for a judge is important and a good thing. If you can’t walk in someone else’s shoes, at least read more, listen to more, watch more. Great writing, great communication opens the door to the world beyond yours and mine. At least those are the dots I connect. The pieces I pick up.


42 minutes 59 seconds + copper wire (and a little more) = bliss

Question: Why 42 minutes 59 seconds? Not 43 minutes. Not 42 minutes, 58 seconds. 42 minutes 59 seconds. Solution: Step One. New receiver. Step Two. Unpack old B&W speakers. Step Three. Strip casing, twist copper. Step Four. Connect all. Step Five. Insert album designed for stereo. Step Six. Hit Play. Step Seven. Bliss.

Answer: Dark Side of the Moon. Forty years old as of March 1, 2013.

I unpacked my speakers and set them up a few weeks back. Headphones are nice. They are portable. They are personal. They may even allow sound to envelop you. But not like speakers. Dark Side of the Moon was the first CD I bought. It is a great way to appreciate music engineered for stereo. I put the disc in years ago. Hit play. The next 42:59 was great. The same was true a few Sundays ago. I had a cup of tea (loose leaf, my mix of lapsong, Assam, and Kenyan). I hit play. 42 minutes and 59 minutes slipped away. That was a good, damn good day.

I recommend getting to a stereo and trying it.

(Even on your computer, check out Money, below, for the stereo fun.)


Bring on Jurassic Park!: Resurrection of Extinct Animals

Scientists have come to a “technical, not biological” problem in trying to resurrect a once extinct frog. Popular Science explains the:

gastric-brooding frog, native to tiny portions of Queensland, Australia, gave birth through its mouth, the only frog to do so (in fact, very few other animals in the entire animal kingdom do this–it’s mostly this frog and a few fish). It succumbed to extinction due to mostly non-human-related causes–parasites, loss of habitat, invasive weeds, a particular kind of fungus.

Specimens were frozen in simple deep freezers and reinserted into another frog. The embryos grew. The next step is to get them to full adulthood so they can pop out like before. Yes, these folks are talking to those interested in bringing back other species.

As for this particular animal, the process reminds me a bit too much of Alien, which still scares the heck out of me.

the gastric-brooding frog lays eggs, which are coated in a substance called prostaglandin. This substance causes the frog to stop producing gastric acid in its stomach, thus making the frog’s stomach a very nice place for eggs to be. So the frog swallows the eggs, incubates them in her gut, and when they hatch, the baby frogs crawl out her mouth.

Science. Yummy. Oh here is your law fodder. What are the ethical implications? Send in the clones! (A better title for Attack of the Clones, perhaps).


“Game Of Negligence” And Other 1L Haiku

We recently covered proof of negligence in my torts class at the University of Washington. I gave my students an optional assignment: write a haiku about the reading (pages 238-67 of the 12th edition of Prosser). Here is sampling of their efforts, complete with kigo. Enjoy!


Winter is coming
Dangerous like icy roads,
Bananas and grapes.


No—don’t cry, they said
Not over milk that’s been spilled
but K-Mart will cry


Fall’s weary pattern
Of darkness, of rain and death
It speaks for itself.


Read More


Because It’s Cool, Time Lapse from Space

I sometimes suggest that folks, especially lawyer folks, should look up and remember the coolness of the world. This post of star trails and city lights looks down, down at the Earth from the ISS. It’s sort of 2001 updated. According to Wired, “Photographer Christoph Malin from Austria created the stunning film by stacking image sequences taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station.”


Calling Roland Barthes, Einstein’s Brain App

Somewhere Roland Barthes is smiling. Slashgear reported that there’s an iPad app that allows you “to investigate Albert Einstein’s brain as if they were looking through a microscope. The goal of the app is to make slides and images of Einstein’s brain more accessible to scientists, students, and anyone else curious about the genius. I read Barthes’s Mythologies and the essay “The Brain of Einstein” when I was studying rhetoric at Berkeley. The app reminded of his essay. Barthes shows that the focus on Einstein’s brain strips away magic, turns him into a machine, and “introduce[s] him into a world of robots.” “Through the mythology of Einstein, the world blissfully regained the image of knowledge reduced to a formula.” For me Barthes evokes Chaplin’s Modern Times but for the great man when he describes that Einstein becomes “genius so lacking in magic that one speaks about his thought as of a functional labour analogous to the mechanical making of sausages, the grinding of corn or the crushing of ore: he used to produce thought, continuously, as a mill makes flour, and death was above all, for him, the cessation of a localized function: ‘the most powerful brain of all has stopped thinking’.”

Why would we do this? Because we want to capture and conquer nature and move beyond magic. Maybe if we reduce and reify we can find the secret to Einstein and all become him (and then the fashion industry collapses as all realize wearing the same thing is quite smart). Yet we want the magic too. The blog Quantum Lit puts it this way:

Barthes goes on, with no little touch of sarcasm: “Through the mythology of Einstein, the world blissfully regained the image of knowledge reduced to a formula,” and no fewer than six times, uses the word ‘magic’ when referring to the myth of Einstein and his search for a unifying theory, concluding that “In this way [having not discovered the unifying theory] Einstein fulfills all the conditions of myth, which could not care less about contradictions so long as it establishes a euphoric security: at once magician and machine, eternal researcher and unfulfilled discoverer, unleashing the best and the worst, brain and conscience, Einstein embodies the most contradictory dreams, and mythically reconciles the infinite power of man over nature with the ‘fatality’ of the sacrosanct, which man cannot yet do without.”

Who knows? Maybe some physical thing is at work. “The study of Einstein’s brain allowed researchers to discover that Einstein’s parietal lobe was 15% wider than normal. The parietal lobe is the area of the brain that has to do with understanding math, language, and spatial relationships.” A clue but the riddle is unsolved. And alas! MRI was not available to model Einstein’s brain. Nonetheless the app enables crowd-sourcing of the quest: “slides and images of Einstein’s brain [are] more accessible to scientists, students, and anyone else curious about the genius.” So all is well. Together we can partake of the brain, the myth, of Einstein. Perhaps we will even grok Einstein; and if we can clone him, consume him as Jubal Harshaw did for Valentine Michael Smith.

SIDE NOTE: Apparently the version of Mythologies I referred to and read dropped some essays from the original. A new English translation is available.


In the tradition of Christmas before Halloween, silver and gold … shoelaces?

A certain Mr. Kennedy sells shoelaces. They come in silver or 24 carat gold. How much? I’m glad you asked. A pair of silver laces are $3,000. A pair of gold laces are $19,000. And in case you are not in awe yet, consider there is an order limit! Yes, my friends, there appears to be a limit of 30 units for silver and 10 units for gold. I could not believe that limits were needed. I poked around. It may be that these are limited edition. But the order info and language about shipping times varying depending on what is in stock make me think perhaps the limit is a security issue or maybe there are laws about that much precious metal being shipped about. I suppose one could be quite the Auric Goldfinger and smuggle using the laces.

I also love that the name is supposed to be a nod to the inventor of the shoelace but these works also have an odd fair trade labor gloss:




So we have name from a dead inventor, an invokation of local craft and sources, and an appeal to wealth and exclusivity. Maggie Chon’s work on Marks of Rectitude is a good read to see how fair trade and labor claims are more and more important. These items seem to take the ideal or Whole Foods (or Whole Paycheck as some call it) and go to the limit of the decadent, righteousness.


Turns out it is all a dream, err, simulation: Physicists and proving the Matrix

2003. “Oxford professor Nick Bostrom suggested that we may be living in a computer simulation.” IO9 reports that now

Silas Beane and his team at the University of Bonn in Germany, [argue that] a simulation of the universe should still have constraints, no matter how powerful. These limitations, they argue, would be observed by the people within the simulation as a kind of constraint on physical processes.

So, how could we ever hope to identify these constraints? Easy: We just need build our own simulation of the universe and find out. And in fact, this is fairly close to what the physicists are actually trying to do. To that end, they’ve created an ultra-small version of the universe that’s down to the femto-scale (which is even smaller than the nano-scale).

Apparently, certain things that should behave one way will deviate and that deviation will be the clue.

OK this work seems quite wild. (study here if you like) But IO9 points out that this first step could lead to “more powerful versions in which molecules, cells, and even humans themselves might someday be generated. ” I am not sure whether these more powerful versions would be new simulated worlds or new things in the current simulation. Perhaps it is both. Ah another film nod! I rather liked the end of Men in Black when our blue marble that held a galaxy in it was part of another marble holding another galaxy and that was being thrown around when not stored in a bag. Even if we are in a simulation, as my friend John Scalzi said on a show about what happens if aliens show up here, we still have to take out the trash.


One step closer to Star Trek, painless injections

Remember the syringe looking device that made a hiss and allowed Dr. McCoy to sedate folks? It looks like we might be avoiding needles and using lasers (so maybe Dr. Evil is happy somewhere) to deliver medicines. And it may be pain-free.

A series of very short laser pulses, lasting no more than 250 millionths of a second each, generates a vapor bubble inside the driving fluid. The bubble creates a pressure or elastic strain on the membrane, which forces the drug to be ejected through the tiny nozzle as a narrow jet no more than 150 micrometers (millionths of a meter) wide, or slightly thicker than a human hair.

Yoh explains that the jet pressure is higher than the tensile strength of skin, so it penetrates smoothly into the targeted depth underneath, causing no splashback.

The team has tested the device on guinea pig skin. This showed the jet drives the drug up to several millimeters under the skin, without damaging surrounding tissue.

The speed and narrowness of the jet should be enough to make the procedure painless, says Yoh. But just the fact they are aiming for the epidermal layer just under the surface of the skin, about 500 micrometers down, where there are no nerve endings, should already ensure it is “completely pain-free”.

The hope is that the device may be developed so that it could be used for mass vaccinations.


Watching the Door

My colleague, Gerald Uelmen, recently lent me a collection of wonderful articles he has written on legal landmarks in California, famous California murder trials, and other bits of local legal history. In one of these articles (published in the March 1981 edition of Los Angeles Lawyer), Professor Uelmen relates the following (probably apocryphal, as he acknowledges) story:

A criminal defense lawyer is making his closing argument to the jury. His client is accused of murder, but the body of the victim has never been found. He dramatically withdraws his pocket watch and announces to the jury, “Ladies and gentlemen, I have some astounding news. We have found the supposed victim of this murder alive and well, and, in exactly one minute, he will walk through that door into this courtroom.”

A hushed silence falls over the courtroom, as everyone waits for the momentous entry. Nothing happens.

The lawyer then says, “The mere fact that you were watching that door, expecting the victim to walk into this courtroom, suggests that you have a reasonable doubt whether a murder was committed.” Pleased with the impact of the stunt, he then sits down to await an acquittal.

The jury is instructed, files out and files back 10 minutes later with a verdict finding the defendant guilty. Following the proceedings, the astounded lawyer chases after the jury foreman to find out what went wrong. “How could you convict?” he asks. “You were all watching the door!”

The foreman explains, “Most of us were watching the door. But one of us was watching the defendant, and he wasn’t watching the door.”