December 26, 2005
When we flew to California last Monday, the thermometer read 1 degree. I guess one is better than none, but it was cold. [How cold was it, Eric?] It was so cold that our plane froze. As in, the airline couldn't start the plane because the engine was frozen.
This seemed odd, because surely frozen airplanes can be anticipated and avoided. After all, as cold as 1 degree is, it gets colder--much colder--in Milwaukee and other cold-weather airports, and it's not like the cold temperatures were unexpected. Maybe the airline was feeding us a line, but if the plane truly was frozen, I think someone screwed up. Don't they have engine heaters for airplanes?
To Delta's credit, virtually without hesitation they immediately made arrangements to put passengers with connections on other flights. However, these types of scrambles almost always set in motion a series of events that inevitably result in unhappy travelers.
In our case, we switched to a United flight but, unsurprisingly, our bags didn't make it. And after waiting 2 hours in the San Francisco airport for our bags to arrive on the next flight, we were disheartened to find only 3 of 5 made it. However, to United's credit, they did deliver both of the missing bags within 30 hours, and they did (grudgingly) loan us a carseat to allow us to drive home safely.
However, I'm still stuck on how an airplane freezes. Of the many things that can go wrong during Winter travel, this never occurred to me as one of the major risks.
December 25, 2005
'Tis the Season for Comment Spam
I left for California very early Monday morning. Since then, I got hit by hundreds of automated comment spams, including an incredible 225 on a single blog post (on why Wikipedia will fail in 5 years) in a 3 day period. I'm pretty frustrated that Movable Type appears to do little or nothing to control the automated submissions; it seems like it would be pretty easy for Movable Type to figure out that a comment spammer is in action. In any case, I've had to put "shields up" on comments to fend off the spammers. Sorry for the extra hassle.
One more thing while I'm grousing about blog spam. Movable Type also appears to do little or nothing to control referral spam. I've never fully understand the value of referral spam, but I get a fair amount of it. It's annoying because it distorts my statistics. It would be great if Movable Type gave me a tool to let me designate something as referral spam, at which point Movable Type would completely ignore the referral from all of my statistics now and in the future.
December 13, 2005
Bloggers as Journalists, Redux
I know there are plenty of unresolved issues about whether bloggers are journalists. Where ever you come out on that question, consider the following. I've been receiving a noticeable increase in personalized spam in the form of press releases and other marketing announcements. Last week, I even got a call from a PR agency asking if I had received a book they had sent for my review (I hadn't; they are sending another copy).
Clearly, the PR agencies view bloggers as potential influencers, just like other forms of media. Perhaps this just another manifestation of the latest fad called "buzz marketing."
Ironically, my blogs are pretty mom-and-pop as blogs go. As far as I know, I don't crack the top 1,000 blogs on any blog ranking list (and, probably, more accurately, I don't crack the top 10,000). So if the PR people are calling me, they must view blog exposure as valuable enough to chase down comparatively low-traffic/low-market-share blogs.
I've also noticed that the PR contacts/press releases have been pretty tightly focused on marketing issues. This isn't to say that they have been interesting, but the relevance is significantly higher than the average spam I get.
December 09, 2005
AmLaw on Cooley Godward
The American Lawyer runs a thorough status report [registration required] on my old law firm, Cooley Godward. Back in the 1990s, the firm struggled with the balance between servicing start-up enterpreneurial clients and institutional clients--a balancing act that appears to continue today.
Epinions Settles Stockholder Lawsuit
Epinions has settled the lawsuit brought against it by common stockholders frozen out in the DealTime/Shopping.com acquisition. Financial terms were not disclosed. Alas, because this was not a class action lawsuit and I did not individually participate, the settlement has no bearing on my financial situation. Fortunately, though, it should mean that I avoid a deposition (a low probability, but a possibility nonetheless).
While the settlement should close a messy and divisive lawsuit, it leaves open some questions--most obviously, what is the scope of venture capitalist liability for their dual roles as board members and preferred stockholders in private companies? More guidance on that front would have been helpful. Without the guidance, I wonder how much this lawsuit will affect VC behavior.
December 08, 2005
I love the idea of Wikis--there's something appealling subversive yet democratic about them. However, I am skeptical of the long-term viability of open-access Wikis because I believe they are inevitably overtaken by the spammers (among other defects).
I got a quasi-spam promoting Wiki-Law, which says its "goal is to build the largest open-content legal resource in the world." This struck me as an exceptionally bad idea. Wikipedia content is generally untrustworthy--a fact that Wikipedia's founder Jimbo Wales generally admits--but untrustworthy/not credible information about legal topics has zero upside and tons of downside. There may be some situations, like legal information, where no information is far better than wrong information.
December 07, 2005
Attorneys Exempt from Graham-Leach-Bliley Act
The DC Circuit has ruled that the FTC overstepped its authority by trying to include attorneys within the scope of the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act. This isn't huge news in the sense that the DC Circuit affirmed the lower court's ruling. On the other hand, this case is extremely important because, if attorneys were covered by the GLBA, it would have a significant effect on the industry.
December 05, 2005
It's the Most Unpleasant Time of the Year
Traveling between the Midwest and New England during December means two unavoidable truths:
1) Weather delays
2) Non-stop piped-in Christmas tunes playing throughout every corner of the airports
It makes for a very unpleasant combination!
December 03, 2005
NYT on Bar/Bri Class Action Lawsuits
December 01, 2005
Faculty Activity Reports
Faculty activity reports (FARs) are the way that faculty members report on their year's activities to the Dean. The report is typically used to set faculty compensation for the subsequent academic year. At Marquette, the FAR determines annual salary increases and affects summer research stipends as well. Therefore, the FAR is my chance to state my case for some extra bucks next year.
Beyond compensation-setting, the FAR can serve other purposes. For example, the report helps the Dean's Office collect information about faculty activities for their various upstream reports to other constituencies, such as the University, accreditation bodies, press, alumni, students, prospective students, etc.
I suspect that at some schools, the FAR also serves double-duty as a report for tenure and promotion purposes. Sadly, I have no such luck--I have to separately report on my activities to our P&T committee. I can recycle some of the FAR work, but effectively I have to write a second report.
The words "faculty activity report" strikes fear into the hearts of every law professor, for good reason. I spent virtually an entire working day filling out on my FAR--a pretty heavy reporting tax. And I haven't even started on my P&T report yet.
Why so long? Our FAR request has seven major sections, most of which are not surprising (e.g., teaching, scholarship, service, goals for next year). However, collectively these seven sections consist of a total of 46 line-item questions (some of which are further composed of sub-parts). Further, these questions are written exactly how a lawyer writes interrogatories--overbroad and burdensome.
In anticipation of each year's FAR fishing expedition, throughout the year I make notes about various activities in a Word document as they occur. This way, I have captured most of my reportable activities in a single file that I can conveniently consult at the year's end. However, there always seem to be new questions every year on the FAR for data that I wasn't tracking. Further, I still need to pull information to respond to the FAR from other sources--my CV, TWEN, my website, and various other documents. At one point yesterday I had 5 different Word documents and several web pages open at the same time...and the printer was smokin'.
The product of my day's labor? My FAR will include a 12 page (3,000+ word) written narrative singing my praises and explaining how I'm an virtuous human being plus a binder of a couple dozen documents (published articles, work-in-progress articles, syllabi, exams, class handouts) totaling several hundred pages. I suspect the Dean will have as much fun reading it as I had fun preparing it.
The good news is that I'm looking forward to moving this binder off my desk so I can actually do some work that is worth reporting...right after I do my P&T report...