from my inbox

An actual advertising mailpiece from a printing company that I do not think I will be using:

"1. Cut* where indicated.
*Caution: scissors may be sharp."

Query: if the scissors are not sharp, what the hell are they doing on my desk?


shred early and often

One of the lessons that I personally have taken from my observation of the Arthur Andersen/Enron debacle is that it is best to shred early and often. In other words, while I am not under criminal indictment, nor do I expect that I or any of my clients will be, I am reviewing old files and shredding everything I don't need on a regular basis.

After talking to my own accountant and ethics counsel, the category of "what I don't need" turns out to be quite large. So large, in fact, that I have begun oiling the machine daily as a part of its required maintenance for the amount of shredding I'm doing. (And feeling charmingly domestic as I do so. Doesn't every Betty Crocker Scholar oil her heavy-duty cross-cut shredder daily?) After reading about the technology which can be used to reconstruct even cross-cut shreddings, though, I'm developing a hankering for a disintegrator. I suppose if I wanted to be reeeeaaaaaally New Age I could consider this financial cleansing.

Some stuff, however, turns out to be too dumb to shred.

Case in point? My Y2K Readiness Disclosure research and testing documentation file. Recall that a federal statute, about which little now is heard, mandated this disclosure. I'd have to crank up the Wayback Machine to find the disclosure statement I so dutifully posted on my former website as a sole practitioner. I think it's safe to consign my test data to the recycle bin, not the shredder.



Getting the bunt signal (which he ignored).


the dark goddess of ... shopping?

I am well aware of tales of people getting credit card offers for their cats. In fact, I know of a cat who is a member of the American College of Forensic Examiners, although the cat's owner did go to some lengths to obtain her certification.

You can imagine my surprise, however, when my fictitious persona received a preapproved credit card offer in the mail from an obviously confused bank. Unfortunately, the corporate name I can include on the card is a maximum of 19 letters and spaces, so I won't be able to fit "dark goddess of replevin" on the credit card. Guess I'll just have to settle for "dark goddess."

And it looks like I ought to be looking into federal service mark registration, after all.


crime certainly doesn't pay

Oh my God, this is wonderful. I can't improve on it. Just read this.


i swear i do not make this up

Here is the actual contents of my email inbox when I came to work this morning.

"April is Washington State’s Disaster Preparedness Month and [Building Management] is proud to participate in the Statewide Earthquake Drill at [Tall Building]. This drill is an important reminder of what to do during the first few moments of an earthquake, and we encourage everyone to participate. Experts say your chances of reacting effectively during a real earthquake double every time you perform this drill.

The drill will take place at approximately 9:45am on Thursday, April 21. An announcement will be made over the public address system. When you hear the announcement, imagine that an earthquake is occurring, then:

DROP under a sturdy desk or table, ideally away from windows, bookcases, file cabinets, and other objects that can fall.

COVER your head and stay under cover, which you would do until the shaking has stopped. During this drill, stay under cover until the public address announcement has been completed (about 30 seconds).

HOLD onto the desk or table. If it were to move, you would want to move with it.

(If your normal work area does not have a desk or table to drop under, quickly crouch down next to a strong wall, away from windows and preferably in a corner. Cover your neck and head with your hands.)

(If in a wheelchair, lock your wheels, lean forward, and cover your neck and head with your hands or a hard covering, such as a book or stiff binder.)

What else you should do:

Note any difficulties you had in performing the drill. If it is not comfortable for you to get under your desk, find another safe place nearby.

Evaluate your work area and minimize as much as possible the objects that would fall during a real earthquake."


I'm sitting here wondering where this leaves me with a glass desk.

I'm also wondering if the drill works if I don't imagine an earthquake first.


all i did was sell the guy a book

I've been selling my used books at Amazon Marketplace practically since that option has been available. I buy a lot of my books there too. Even with regular trips to Goodwill, bookselling is the only way to stem the incoming tide and keep the house from being totally overrun with words (my husband described me as "an invading library" when I moved in). It's not hard. As the email sale notifications come in, I print off a label and drop the book envelopes off at my office, send a little courtesy email letting the buyer know the book is on its way, all very warm and fuzzy.

Until today.

In response to a little courtesy email I received the following salvo:

"Interesting that you send your products via 4th class carriers while Amazon charges me 1st class rates.....I think that there will oneday be a class action lawsuit about this unethical practice."

This is, take note, the first time that I have ever been called unethical for selling a guy a book. Or is he calling amazon.com unethical? Hard to say. Being, however, a helpful individual who takes customer service seriously, I sent the following response:

I was rather intrigued by your message, and so I did some research. I could not find anywhere any indication that amazon.com was charging you first-class rates. Rather, you were charged, from what I can determine from the website, a flat rate of $3.49. As to this see explanation of rates.

I also think the website is pretty clear that "standard" shipping is slow.

That flat rate is intended to cover not only my postage but packaging and labor. Of that $3.49, in the case of your transaction amazon.com credited me with $2.26 of which $1.84 covered postage and the remainder covered packaging materials (although I think I used a recycled envelope), gasoline, and time spent packing the books, sending confirming emails, researching and responding to an email of complaint.

The difference between $3.49, which is what you are charged for "shipping and handling" and $2.26, which is what I receive as compensation for "shipping and handling," is amazon.com's cut (they also charge a nominal commission which in case of this transaction was probably less than a buck).

There is nothing secretive about the spread between amazon's charge and my reimbursement, nor do I view the fact that I spent $1.84 on actual postage as unethical. The total cost to you of your used book was $6.49. If you had purchased it from amazon.com new it would have been $9.00 not including shipping or sales tax, and if you had purchased it in person in [state] you would have paid $12.00 suggested retail plus $.99 sales tax in the [city] area.

In short, if there ever is a class action lawsuit on this subject, I doubt you would make an appropriate class representative because it is hard for me to see how you have been harmed by amazon.com's pricing practices, which are fully disclosed. You'll get your book. I actually sent it out the very day you ordered it, which is 48 hours sooner than I am required to. And you got a great deal on it.

I hope this has adequately addressed your concerns. If not, I suppose the best solution would be for you to boycott Amazon Marketplace in protest. I would urge you not to do so because the deals really are very good."

Writing well is the best revenge.


descartes' error

After class

I find that the discussions I have with clients fall into broad categories whose themes I have come to perceive only gradually over time. Most recently I have been discussing the role of reason and emotion in decision-making: cautioning clients who appear compelled to make decisions that are purely emotional, and cautioning in equal measure clients who pride themselves on being purely rational.

Obviously, making financial, etc., decisions purely on emotion is dangerous in litigation. Many clients are surprised to hear me caution against the other extreme as well. But I have learned well the lesson of Phineas Gage, whose fascinating tale opens Anthony Damasio's book Descartes' Error (link in post title).

Gage was a nineteenth-century railroad man who survived a gruesome accident involving a tamping iron that went through his head, severing the part of his brain that governed his emotions. One would predict that the emotionless Gage would have had a rational life filled with sensible choices thereafter. The opposite was true. In fact, emotion is one component of "thinking." Building on Gage's experience, modern studies of the brain and brain damage have demonstrated that the "mind" depends on complex interaction between brain and body and that emotion and rationality cannot be separated, indeed can't exist separately.

To make matters even more complex than I generally do for clients, because our brains are assembled from three layers, reptilian, limbic, and neocortical, makes the integration of all the data we use for decisionmaking particularly complex. A single important decision (for that matter, even an unimportant one) can draw on all levels of the brain for input.

The Dalai Lama may have said it best when he said words to the effect of, honor your emotions, feel your emotions, cherish your emotions, but don't use them as a sole basis for making a decision.



Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Utah. Telephoto view of Rainbow Bridge, looking upstream. 1959. Digital File:hwr00034 ID. Hansen, W.R. 34ct

No, I haven't suddenly become a much better photographer. I have simply discovered the Earth Science Photographic Archive of the U.S. Geological Survey. I am reluctant to use copyrighted images without permission, the disclaimers and permissions granted are sometimes ugly, and Lord knows I can't fall back on too many skills as a photographer. So I am falling back on my skills as a researcher instead.

There are some remarkable photos at the Archive. Take a look!

resistance is futile

The Technolawyer collective mind, which has always been hard to describe, has spawned a blog. My first reaction: "Why didn't *I* think of suggesting that?"

My guess is that it may eventually subsume the Technolawyer newsletters, as lawyers unfamiliar with blogging, but at least aware enough to click on a link, venture from the primordial seas of the newsletters onto the wilder shores of the blog.


now this is collaborative law

Code (which has acquired modernized graphics) has been wikified.

And the wiki's been blogified. Is that even a word? I guess it is now.

I'm stupefied.


Bata de cola and mantoncita

The last time I wore a train it was white velvet, and I was getting married. This time it's red parachute nylon, and I'm dancing the caracoles.


don't blink!

I <3 Malcolm Gladwell (if you're not familiar with this fragment of geekiness, tip your head to the right).

I still haven't read The Tipping Point, but blink has been very helpful to me to explain to clients why it is useless for me--or my clients--to script client interactions with a parenting evaluator or otherwise try to influence the evaluator's thinking.

The source of my clients' unease, and consequent desire to control the evaluation process, is obvious. In a parenting case, everyone needs to think of the evaluator as God. Yet the evaluator is an aloof expert, urged on the client by an attorney--any attorney--whose expertise that client also finds impossible to evaluate.

I have read--but can't find a cite to the original research--that when we communicate face-to-face, the majority of communication is visual, through facial expressions, the next most important is information that is heard other than the content of speech, and least important of all is the actual content of our speech. As a professional wordsmith, I find these statistics disappointing, but I can live with them. Based on my personal observations, I also think they are correct. However, I can't convince clients of that. But with Gladwell's book I can point to research (even if anecdotally related) for that same proposition.

Of course, this only demonstrates that a good evaluator can cut to the heart of things, not necessarily that the evaluator in any particular case will cut to the heart of things. Faith in an evaluator can be misplaced. But that's another rant for a different day.


carnival of the blawgers

The maiden voyage of this Ship of Fools is hosted today by the inimitable Evan Schaeffer. The Review, or perhaps we should dub it the Revue, will move from blawg to blawg like a floating crap game. The action will arrive here on October 17.


unitarian jihad

This concept needs a name generator. Until I figure out how to create one, I'll have to content myself with Sister Hand Grenade of Love...although perhaps Dark Goddess of Replevin is already a Unitarian Jihad name, hm?

Update: I've done it. You can now receive your own Unitarian Jihad name, Holy Warrior! (there's that vocative case again...can't escape it)



Think I'll keep this one for a while.

Making the transition from a pure text blog to one that has more photos has been a rocky one. My beginning efforts as a digital photographer have been painfully, if not painstakingly, documented here. I discovered only a few days ago that the software I use to manage my digital images has--this is a real shocker--photo editing capacities. Gee whiz.

The barely adequate photograph above of my certificate of incorporation has been added and deleted several times as I try to figure out how to substitute it for the truly bad photograph of said certificate currently in my profile. Blogger was acting up yesterday when I tried to edit my profile, so now I've learned the trick of leaving this image up in a post at least until I am able to substitute it in. I am still rather shaky on how the concept of photo chat works. More philosophically, I am not sure I will ever trust software that addresses me in the vocative case, even if you can't tell in English.

landscape with bamboo

Ah, Seattle on a sunny spring morning

another illustration of the death of parody

I am not making this story up.

Beetle-Hunting Lawyer Held At Gunpoint By Police

A lawyer "apprehended at gunpoint while collecting beetles near his Scarsdale, N.Y., home has lost an initial appeal in his civil rights suit against the Village of Scarsdale and its police department.

Southern District of New York Judge Charles L. Brieant ruled that a jury had reasonably concluded that officers did not use excessive force when they pointed guns at the attorney, Harry Zirlin, and handcuffed him behind his back with his face to the ground.

The officers were responding to a woman who said she saw a man in the woods carrying a knife."

(Hotlink added.) Brieant wrote in Zirlin v. The Village of Scarsdale, 03 Civ. 9903:

"A reasonable jury could conclude, based upon the totality of the knowledge of the police at the time of their momentary and sudden encounter with the plaintiff, including information that an altercation involving threats of violence had occurred recently at the nearby Sanitation Department, led them to believe, reasonably, that they were entering a potentially hostile and dangerous situation. They were unaware of Mr. Zirlin's identity or intentions."

Zirlin, in fact, has at least two identities: associate at one of the city's leading law firms and recognized expert and collector of beetles. He has lectured and written widely on the subject, including co-authorship of the "National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Mid-Atlantic States.

I see at least four layers of irony in this article.

(1) The police cuffed a lawyer collecting beetles in Scarsdale.
(2) The lawyer brought a civil rights lawsuit in federal court in the SDNY, no less (people forget that the Southern District isn't just Manhattan).
(3) The New York Law Journal reported his loss.
(4) Law.com picked up the story nationally.

Now the blogosphere has got hold of this story, as googling his distinctive name will show. Sympathies appear to be running in favor of Mr. Zirlin.

I really feel bad for Mr. Zirlin, but this is the funniest story I've read all week.


today is my lucky day!

I know this because I have been presented with the following unique business opportunity:

"Dear friend,

How are you? I have a very sensitive and confidential brief from a top (oligarch) in russia to ask for your assistance in re-profiling funds in excess over US$423M, which I seek your partnership in ccommodating for me. You will be rewarded with 4% of the total sum for your partnership. Can you be my partner on this?

I am Mr Victor Smith Kuzin from Russia, The personal secretary to Mikhail Khodorkovsky the richest man in Russia and owner of the following companies: Chairman CEO: YUKOS OIL (Russian Most Largest Oil Company) Chairman CEO: Menatep SBP Bank (A well reputable financial institution with its branches all over the world)

The documents of the above funds in question was handed over to me to be used in payment of an American oil merchant for his last oil deal with my boss Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Already the funds have been deposited with Bank Menatep Russia where the final crediting is expected to be carried out.

While I was on the process, My Boss got arrested for his involvement on politics in financing the leading and opposing political parties (the Union of Right Forces, led by Boris Nemtsov, and Yabloko, a liberal/social democratic party led by Gregor Yavlinsky) which poses treat to President Vladimir
Putin second tenure as Russian president.

You can catch more of the story on this news. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3213505.stm [note: this link is legit]

All I need from you is to stand as the beneficiary of the above quoted sum and I will arrange for the documentation which will enable Bank Menatep Russia transfer the sum to you. I have decided to use this sum to relocate to American continent and never to be connected to any of Mikhail Khodorkovsky conglomerates.

The transaction has to be concluded in soonest before Mikhail Khodorkovsky is out on bail. Thank you very much. Please futher corespondence to me,should be sent to my private and confidential Email id ( Victor_smith57@xxxxx.ro ) I await your reply soonest.

Mr Victor Smith Kuzin [Note: link added by me, safe to click on]

-- [Victor_smith57@xxxxxx.com] --

Disfruta estos Puentes de las mejores vacaciones, vuelos y hoteles!

I think that the Spanish tag line from an email allegedly sent from "russia" is a particularly nice touch.

UPDATE: Why, bless her heart! Mrs. Khodorkovsky is writing to me now too. And she sounds like such a nice lady:

"From Mrs.Inna Khodorkovsky.
Hi Dear,

I know this may not be the best place to talk about this now because i will not feel safe passing vital informations of my husband's account details across the internet knowing fully well the situation,but i would have loved you come over to Russia for us to talk about this transaction but our government has set up mornitoring team against my family's communications and visitors, I seek your help and partinership in using your name and informations to Re-profile Twenty-eight million united state dollars($28,000,000.00) of my husband's funds lodged now with a in London and consequently seek transfer to your country of residence because of the fear of being freezed too like other accounts in Russia and swiss banks.

I am Mrs. Inna Khodorkovsky,wife of the imprisoned Mikhail Boris Khodorkovsky and owner of YUKOS OIL (Russian's largest oil company) and Menatep SBP Bank. My husband got arrested for his involvement in politics and in financing the leading opposition political parties (the Union of Right Forces,led by Boris Nemtsov, and Yabloko, a liberal/social democratic party led by Gregor Yavlinsky) which poses treat to President Vladimir Putin as Russian president.

As a result of this,all my husband's asset and bank accounts both in Russia and the Swiss banks have been frozen including the liquidation of his bank. Presently, the Government has intensified their probe into my husbands financial resources and the revoking of all our business licences round the world.

In view of this,we acted very fast to withdraw this money from one of our bank accounts through the help of the bank manager and deposit it with diplomatic warehouse in London as a Diamond Peace. No record is known about this deposit by the government because there is no documentation showing that we withdrawed such funds.

[etc. etc. etc.]

My Kind Regards to your family,
Mrs.Inna Khodorkovsky
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Jawa Timur? They have electricity?



High-tech, high-touch.
I figure that if someone is in my office, it's because their life is basically in the crapper. My electronics and desk are all glass and black, so I quite deliberately added a few calming touches to my lair.

My favorite touch is the little tabletop fountain directly behind my desk. One of my partners inspired me to do this, and we in turn have inspired a third partner to add a tabletop fountain in her office. I have added to mine a rock that has the word "Simplify" carved directly into the rock. How this will help me I don't know, but hey! it's a goal to aspire to.

I dropped the Treo in the fountain while taking this picture, but although it did not improve the picture it also did not appear to harm the Treo.

On the other hand, since I am after all a lawyer, perhaps I should add fog.