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Monday, March 22, 2010

Two awesome things: Google Voice, Boxer

1) Google Voice. An internet phone number that you may associate with any of your real life phones -- cell, work, home, etc. Dialing the number will ring all phones that you have associated with the number. Voice messages are accessible for online listening, and you get an email notice letting you know when there's a message to hear. Google Voice also automatically transcribes your voicemail, so if your caller speaks clearly enough, you may not even have to listen to the message. You may also setup your existing phone numbers to route through the Google Voice system so that voicemail from those numbers are also accessible online.

So far Google Voice is a closed party, and invites are required. My good friend Sov sent me an invitation to Google Voice, and I have been delighted by the service ever since. I don't like going through the bother of dialing my voicemail box on my cellphone to listen to messages, but with Google Voice, I can just click a button and listen to it online. I am also more likely to get a voicemail in a timely manner, because I pay more attention to my computer than my cellphone, especially since I leave the ringer off my phone while I'm in class, then forget to turn it back on. I was interested in Google Voice initially because it afforded me a way to get a Portland area code phone number without giving up my Utah phone number. But being able to access my messages online is super convenient and makes the service worthwhile even if you don't need a number for a new area code. Google Voice is awesome.

2) Boxer.  We had computers very early in my household growing up. The earliest I remember was a 386 running DOS. So I grew up playing a lot of really old school computer games, like Digger, Dig-Dug, Pac-Man, Hugo's House of Horrors, King's Quest, Laura Bow, Gobliiins, Conquests of the Longbow, Commander Keen, Cosmo's Cosmic Adventure, and many others. But then computers started to get faster, until they would no longer run the beloved games of my youth.

DOSBox was created for Windows to emulate older systems, so that you could run your old school games as if you still had a machine with a slow processor, but I always found the program exceedingly buggy and many of my favorite old games wouldn't play at all anyway, so I gave up on trying on my PC. Enter Boxer, the Macintosh version of DOSBox. Macs aren't perfect by any means, but software tends to run a lot smoother on them, and Boxer runs perfectly so that I can now revisit the games of my childhood. Boxer makes installation and running of old games very easy. It is designed to run like a regular folder on your computer, and when you drop games into it, Boxer associates those games with the DOS emulator without your having to know any DOS commands. Then you just open the game like you would any other program, and Boxer takes care of the rest. There are also handy shortcut keys to speed up or slow down the emulation, in case your games are still running too fast or too slow. This feeds my nostalgia so well. Boxer is awesome.


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Monday, March 15, 2010

Bereavement

When reacting to news that someone has lost a loved one, I don't think the question, "Did he/she lead a good life?" is a proper response. Nor is it proper to say, "He/she's in a better place now," or "It's God's will."

Regardless of what people believe about this life or the next, no one wants to be given the message that their pain is not valid. It's not that people don't want to feel better about the situation. Some people may take comfort in those messages, but generally only when the message comes from their own inner peace achieved through the grieving process, and not when it comes from someone outside trying to make it better. Grieving is an important part of healing, and we all deserve that right.

The proper response is only, "I'm very sorry for your loss."

Acknowledgment, validation, but no mitigation.




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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pardon me, sir, but could you please pass the muster...

In my final writing assignment of last semester, my writing professor criticized my use of the phrase "passes muster" as being a little too colloquial for a memorandum of law. Since then, I have seen the same phrase used in a law review article, a legal casebook, and a handful of U.S. Supreme Court opinions. I have also heard it used by at least 2 of my current professors in the classroom. I might also add that I have never before used the phrase in a colloquial context.  However, seeing as how my sensitivity to the phrase has heightened considerably, I may try to interject it into polite colloquial conversation with some regularity now.


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Friday, March 5, 2010

OK GO!

This is one of the most amazing Rube Goldberg contraptions I have ever seen.




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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

It's what's for dinner

Our new BBQ grill arrived today, much to my palate's delight. When Mr.
E and I moved from Utah, we got rid of our cheap tabletop grill which
used to sit on cinder blocks just outside our apartment door. We would
get a new grill when we got to Portland, we reasoned. A better grill.
As a happy matter of happenstance, we ended up in an apartment that
has a decent patio space suitable for BBQ grilling. But we never got
around to replacing our grill, because it turns out if you want a
better grill, you have to pay for it. So far we have used our patio
only as a place to store our bikes and my potted lime tree during warm
times, and to grow a pumpkin last fall. But now we can really put the
patio to good use with our Weber Q 100 and rolling cart. The grill
itself is a fancy tabletop propane grill with cast iron grill plate,
which will be perfect to take camping if I can ever manage to have a
recreational life again. But we also purchased a rolling cart which
attaches to the grill and places it at a decent, patio-friendly
height. Tonight we had grilled chicken. Tomorrow, maybe pork loin.
Then, and I can't wait for this, steak shall be had. I have learned
that if you want a good steak, you either need to pay $50 to a high
class steak house (Lonestar does not cut it), or you need a backyard
BBQ and someone who understands seasoning. Having not been able to
afford the former, and lacking a grill until today, I have gone
without steak since about July. It is time, my friends. It is time.

1:AM - Cat's Pawing Hour

Spent all evening writing, and now half of my huge legal memo is in reasonably decent draft form.  Luckily there's still tomorrow to draft out the next half.

We have an interesting scenario to work with. The law we are working under is employment discrimination, namely Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it unlawful for employers to terminate employees of protected groups -- one of those groups being sex -- because the employee is a member of that group. Our problem involves an intersex individual, which, if you are like the rest of my class, is a new term for you. It's, I suppose, a more PC way of saying hermaphrodite. In our scenario, the supervisor of the intersex woman walked in on her in the bathroom, and saw a little more than anyone ever wants to see of any one of their coworkers, and thereafter immediately began treating the intersex woman differently. The intersex woman was later discharged by the human resources manager for increasing absences and tardiness. The intersex woman is claiming that she was unlawfully discharged on the basis of discrimination under Title VII.

There are two issues here: (1) does Title VII's protected class of "sex" include intersex individuals, and (2) may a subordinate supervisor's discrimination be imputed to a non-discriminating employer under a special type of vicarious liability called "cat's paw"? (I'm not going to tell you why it's called cat's paw... well, ok, it's based on a fable in which a monkey tells a cat to retrieve some nuts out of a fire, and the cat keeps going in and burning his paw, while the monkey sits back and enjoys his nuts; basically the theory is that the subordinate is using the employer as a puppet to achieve her discriminating purpose.)

This is a partnered activity, and my partner is taking the intersex issue, while I am taking the cat's paw issue. Also, we are representing the bad guy -- the employer. Dun dun dun. (Reprehensible, I know, but it's better than my last pretend client, who was a child molesting priest. Who knew law school could be so salacious?)  But seriously, while personally I think, yes, intersex people should be protected under Title VII too (that's partially why I didn't want to take that issue -- too much personal bias on my part... although, if we were representing the plaintiff, that might have made me a good advocate), I actually also think it is important to protect not only employees but employers in discrimination cases. It is important to achieve a balance that serves both the remedial purpose of Title VII -- to provide an avenue of relief for plaintiffs with legitimate claims -- and the deterrent purpose of Title VII -- to encourage employers to create non-discriminating workplaces.

So my argument is basically that we need to apply a test that provides an opportunity for employers to break the causal link between a subordinate's bias and the employment decision, which might be completely legitimate and untainted by the bias, since the subordinate is not the one making the decision.  The test involves an independent investigation by the employer into the circumstances surrounding the termination which would allow the employer to consider whether there might be concern over discrimination tainting the decision-making process.

I have drafted the portion arguing for the test (in about 9 lovely pages), and tomorrow I will tackle the application of the independent investigation to the facts of our case.

Ugh. It's kind of exciting to talk about a problem once you start to really understand it, but it also kind of makes me want to die getting to that point, and then having to write it all out so it makes sense and is convincing. This too shall pass.

Oh, but then, after this draft, I will have to finalize and polish the brief, make it perfect. Because my partner and I want to win best brief (tall order, but it can't hurt to have aspirations). Then, the worst thing of all -- we have to orally argue our cases in front of a three-judge panel, one of whom will be an actual judge from the Oregon Supreme Court. I'm gonna need a Xanax or a shot before that happens. Seriously.

So that's where I'm at. If anything I have said so far (very undetailed explanation of a very complicated problem) sounds completely bonkers, feel free to say, "Hey, Sra, that's nuts, because..." Cause I'm trying to see both sides of my cat's paw issue so I can properly prepare for the oral gauntlet. I probably haven't given you enough to really work with though.

It's now 1:27 AM. I get really rambly when I'm sleepy. Good night.


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Monday, March 1, 2010

Thrings

1) Rode bike to school today for the first time since the Fall. Wanted to throw up halfway there. Had to rest for about 5 minutes in order to not vomit or pass out into the street. Why, oh why haven't I kept up my condition so riding would be easier? Sucks right now. But, every time I stop working out for a long time and then start up again, I vehemently hate it for about two weeks until my body catches up with my mental drive. So eventually I won't have to rest halfway again. I really want to put a screw mount on my handlebars and attach my video camera to record my journey to school. I would set it to the theme from Neverending Story, because that is what I always hear in my head when I ride my bike, ever since I was a child. Falcor! Yeah! It's like The Nothing never was! Woot!

2) Gave the back of my hair a self-trim today, and so my hair looks much less awkward. I had gone to get my first professional haircut since about last May or June recently, which I have been reluctant to do because no hairstylist ever seems to understand what I want them to do, and then I end up feeling like a weird dork with somebody else's hair. Well, once again that is what happened. My hair hasn't looked bad, but it's just not something I know what to do with. Feels like someone else's hair, as I say. The shape was all wrong. I don't understand how it is that people don't understand what "longer in front" means. It doesn't mean the front hair can come up higher than the back so long as the hairs themselves are longer than the individual back hairs. Not to me, anyway. But nobody ever understands, so I end up having to do self trims to get my hair slowly back to how I want it. I am convinced that is just going to be the way to go.

3) I am working on this big memo for my legal writing class, and it's going so badly. I've never had as much trouble before on a legal writing assignment. But my legal issue is really complicated, and I'm having a really hard time figuring out how to organize my arguments. In fact, I'm still a little fuzzy on how my arguments are going to play out entirely, so maybe that's my problem. Anyway, I have to turn in a draft on Thursday, and then conference with my professor next Monday, and before then I have to get the damn thing down on paper in a reasonably sensical fashion (it appears that sensical is not a word; I think, however, if nonsensical is a word, sensical also ought to be, so I'm using it). This is one of those times where I have no idea how I'm going to get through something, and all I can do is chant "this too shall pass" and work like mad.


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