Sunday, December 28, 2008


Having discovered Evernote, I have now abandoned all of my Microsoft Office 2007 applications, with the sole exception of Excel.

The Calendar function was taken over by Google Calendar (so much better, and it allows me to maintain multiple calendars).

I never liked Word in the first place, and still use Wordperfect (which I realize is not to everyone's taste, but I love the control it gives me with respect to formatting).

Outlook email and contacts also went over to Google. Outlook never had a good sync function, and it was to put it bluntly, a pain in the ass trying to keep multiple computers synced up.

Now, OneNote is history for me. I have found Evernote, and I am happy (happy, happy, HAPPY!).

Evernote does one thing, amazingly well. It allows you to organize and refer to your notes (including typed noted, handwritten notes, web links, images, files) across any number of computers and even your smart phone, effortlessly.

I started with the free account which, while somewhat limited, still allows the user to get addicted. Oh, so very addicted. As of this writing, I have purchased a "premium" account, allowing me to attached any type of file (under 25MB) to a note, and to upload 500MB of data each month (with a new 500MB allowed the next month, and the next).

My Livescribe pen (discussed in an earlier post) works with Evernote, not natively, but all I have to do is print to PDF and then drag the PDF file into a new note. Bingo. Done. A single page of Livescribe notes is only 120KB, so I could easily print 20 pages of notes into a single Evernote note. Is that not great?? Clearly, I must think so, or I would not be writing any of this.

Even better, using my iPhone (or any email enabled smart phone) I can bring up the mobile version of Evernote and email any note (including those 20 pages of notes, or that PDF document), to someone who needs it .... from .... my .... phone!!

At $45 a year, Evernote is very reasonably priced, especially when you consider that OneNote costs about that much, and you'll have to pay for an upgrade eventually, and it doesn't have half the features or any of the mobile functionality.

Oh, and did I mention, you can very easily import all of your old OneNote notes into Evernote?? But, I bet you had already figured that out. So, witness the birth of an Evernote Evangelist!!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Understanding the Misleading Review

I read a review of the MiBook by Peter Svensson of the Associated Press. I don't think I have ever read a review that so completely missed the point of the thing the reviewer was reviewing.

You can read his review here: Svensson Review of MiBook. I will only be quoting bits and pieces.

Starting at the beginning (where I sometimes like to start), Mr. Svensson states that the company that is producing the MiBook is taking an approach to the ebook reader that is "so different that it brings into question the definition of 'book'". Really? Now I can hardly wait until he tells me about how they do that.

He moves on to say that the "books" are "memory chips with instructional videos." I see, so the new definition of a "book" is a "video." I guess that makes the local movie theater a "library." You know, I tried that approach with my mother when I was a kid. It didn't work then, it doesn't work now. Watching a video is not the same as reading a book.

Further, it seems the MiBook has "books" (videos) on cooking, home projects, gardening and child care. Hey, that's a really big selection of "books" they have there. But, where is the great literature, where are the best sellers?? (Understanding that from time to time the two are the same thing.)

Ah, Svensson goes on to say that "it's quite possible to consider it a book if it does what a book used to do." Now, I would have phrased that differently, since books still do what they were always intended to do, which is to allow a reader to read a book. The current e-ink readers still do that, and amazingly well.

Mr. Svensson notes that the MiBook is "considerably cheaper than's Kindle or Sony's Reader, "which sell (usually) in the $300-$400 range. The list price for the MiBook is $120, and you can get it on e-Bay for $75. Wow .... big difference in price there. But, wait ... there's more!!

While it comes with two books (what "books" they are, he doesn't say .... oh, I hope they are on child care!!), "[e]xtra books are $20 each." Ouch!! Thousands of books are available for both the Kindle and the Reader for FREE!! Great literature, sometimes even best sellers. Yes, you heard me right .... FREE. And, the online store prices for best sellers for the Kindle are generally $9.99, and go down in price from there. I don't have a Sony Reader, so I haven't priced their books, but I doubt that many of them run as high as $20.

So, the MiBook is cheaper up front, but then they screw you into the ground on the cost of their "books" ... which are not really books at all. Nice. By the time you've spent $300 on "books" for your MiBook, you'll have a nice little collection of instructional videos on cooking and child care, no books, and you will have spent more money that you would have for a Kindle or a Reader and thousands of books. Eeek!!

Mr. Svensson then tells us that the Kindle and Reader are "limited by their 'electronic ink' screen technology" which does not show colors and does a marginal job of showing photos, while video is out of the question. Ummm .... Mr. Svennson?? The Kindle and the Reader are for reading. The product you are reviewing is for watching videos. I realize you don't understand this, but there is a distinct difference between the two.

The MiBook is designed to be used at home and connected to a power supply (apparently the battery life is only about 2 hours at best), versus close to 20 hours for the e-ink devices, how is the MiBook supposed to "double as a . . . regular e-book reader."?? I guess it isn't supposed to, since, as Mr. Svennson notes, "the MiBook fails to fulfill its potential here, because its screen is of poor quality. Nothing looks really sharp, and it flickers. This doesn't matter so much when showing video - the screen is certainly no worse than an old tube TV set - but the idea of reading a novel or even a short story on it is unappealing."

So, in other words, the MiBook is a video viewer that makes a piss-poor excuse for an electronic book reader. Got it. He then states that it is "the most interesting e-book reader to come out since the Kindle ...." I'm sorry, really?? You still want to call this device an e-book reader??

Mr. Svensson then states that "[w]ith a better screen and some attention to the battery issue, the MiBook could have a better shot." However, he apparently also wants WiFi added to the mix. Gee, I hope he's aware that WiFi drains the bloody hell out of a battery. And, I can't help but wonder how much a better screen, better battery, and WiFi would add to the price of the product?? I see .... he wants them to "keep the price under $100."

People, this is an example of what I call the "misleading review." Just because the reviewer keeps calling this thing an e-book reader doesn't make it so. It is not intended to be an e-book reader, and I believe you would be wasting your money if you bought it as an e-book reader. If you want something better than this for less money, then purchase an old tablet PC on eBay, plug it into your wall, and download all the videos you want from YouTube. I'm sure they've got something there on cooking and child care.

If you want to read books, then either buy some books, buy a good dedicated e-book reader from any of a number of good companies, or read them on your computer or pda.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The ScanSnap by Fujitsu

Part of getting really organized, both at home and at the office, is eliminating clutter and being able to find anything you need very quickly. That can be harder than it sounds, but I have found a product that makes it really (really) easy.

Meet the Fujitsu ScanSnap S510.

This little beauty has a small footprint, but works like a champ! It's as simple as putting your document (or business card, or receipt) into the feeder and pushing the green button. Since the scanner scans both sides of each page in a single pass, it is remarkably fast, a matter of a few seconds for a single page.

I was also impressed with the ScanSnap Organizer software. It makes keeping all of your scanned documents organized, well ... a snap. The idea behind the software is rather simple. It consists of a set of filing cabinets (you create and name them), and folders which go in the cabinets. You can also create folders within folders. Once you scan a document, it's just drag and drop the thumbnail image into the correct folder.

I was much less impressed with something called Rack2Filer, a trial version came with the scanner. Unfortunately, whoever created this software didn't give much thought into how people actually organize documents.

Rack2Filer is based on a library, with shelves and notebooks on those shelves. Sadly, the user is limited to the number of libraries they can create, and the number of notebooks that can be on the shelves. Where they don't place as much of a limit is on the number of pages that can go into a notebook. However, with even 200 pages in a notebook, turning the page (a cute animation, but not really useful), slows even a beefy computer to a crawl.

Further, the number of libraries and notebooks on the shelves do not relate to any sensible system. As I recall (it has been a few weeks since I uninstalled the program and tossed the CD), the user is allowed 7 notebooks per shelf, and three shelves in a library. So, 21 notebooks ... try breaking your client files into 21 notebooks, or .... 63 notebooks if you use all three libraries. You say you have hundreds of clients? Yes, me too.

If there had been six notebooks on six shelves, at least that could be broken up into A-Z and 0-9, although the idea of mixing all of my "A" clients into one notebook doesn't fly in my comfort zone. Add that to the time that Rack2Filer takes to turn each document into searchable text, and the time it take to turn the page as the pages increase in number. It was a nightmare.

On the other hand, the ScanSnap Organizer software was an absolute joy to use. I'm honestly not even sure why they would have included the Rack2Filer software at all. Adobe Acrobat version 8.0 was also included.

The ScanSnap S510 is selling retail for about $389. I love this baby. It may be the best money I have ever spent. I am finally able to see my desktop, and that's really saying something.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Sometimes Civil Disobedience is Absolutely Necessary

A neighbor and I have been feeding two very sweet feral cats. Mother and son, and they are simply darling. Mom purrs and loves to be held, and her son loves to play. Hey, he’s a kitten, what would you expect.

They have been living under an empty and dilapidated old house that is just outside of the development in which my own home is located. The developer has been quite intent on “getting rid of” all of the feral cats in the area. And, by “getting rid of” I mean killing. Although we have a shelter that refers to itself as “no kill” ... they routinely euthanize the feral animals that are brought in there. So, those of us who love cats and dogs make certain that any feral cats or dogs are sent to a local organization that spays, neuters, and finds homes for them.

Yesterday, which was a cold and windy day to say the least, I took Harriet and Winston their lunches (yeah ... that’s what my next door neighbor - a wonderful woman - named them), and I found them in traps, no food or water and exposed to the full brunt of the wind. They were scared and very uncomfortable.

So, I picked up both cages, brought them home, gave them their lunch, and called someone to come get them so they wouldn’t end up getting the death sentence just for being alive.

This morning, as I was out walking my dogs, the foreman who works for the evil developer saw me and asked if I had their traps. I said that I did, and I could either drop them back over at the empty house or he could come pick them up. Which ever was most convenient for him. He said that he’d be by in a half an hour or so to pick them up. So, I stuck them out in my driveway for him.

An hour or more passed, and still the traps sat out in my driveway. The phone rang. It was the Llano County Sheriff’s Department calling to tell me that the evil developer (henceforth referred to as "ED") was “pressing charges against me” for “theft” of his traps. My response as you can imagine was “WTF”?? I explained to the deputy that I was waiting for the foreman to come get the traps and that I had absolutely no intent of stealing ED’s precious cages.

So, the deputy said he’d be coming out in about 5 minutes. I called the foreman to ask why he didn’t come and pick up the stupid things. His reply was that he called his boss (ED) who told him not to bother picking up the cages, that he would do it himself. Of course, he did no such thing ... he just called the sheriff’s department instead. Sure ... that’s the intelligent thing to do. That was three hours ago. No deputy ... no foreman ... no ED.

I walked the cages back over to the empty house and dumped them there. From my perspective I did absolutely nothing wrong. I firmly believe that those sweet cats have the right to live and to be left alone. They were doing nothing more than enjoying life. Since my neighbor and I were feeding them regularly, I doubt they were even doing much hunting. All I did was deprive ED the fun of killing them or turning them over to people who would do the dirty work for him.

Sometimes, I suppose in order to do the “right thing” you have to be willing to go the extra step. While I fundamentally disagree with those who are willing to cross that line even at the expense of human life or massive property damage (and yes, abortion clinic bombers, and ELF activists, I’m talking about you), I apparently have no problem with borrowing a trap just long enough to liberate its unwilling occupants.

I should add that the Llano County Sheriff's Office has been really nice throughout this whole episode. They understood that my intent was only to make certain the cats went to a good and safe home, and not to steal ED's traps. I mean really .... I'd be a pretty awful thief if the first thing I was going to do was tell the first person who asked that ... "yes, I have the traps, would you like to come get them?"

So .... I just got off the phone with one of the deputies. He explained to me that since there was no intent on my part to deprive ED of his property, ED would not be able to press charges against me for theft. Ah, gee .... I was so hoping to get dragged off in handcuffs. However, there will be an incident report about this. Which is a good thing. When I'm found murdered in my home, at least they'll have some idea about who to question first.

Note, originally I had actually named "ED," since what he did to me was a matter of record and my comments about him personally are my opinion. The last time I checked, I am entitled to my opinion. However, I understand that ED's attorney is making noises about taking me to court for telling the truth and voicing my opinion about his client. So, I've redacted ED's real name from this post.

I do hope that when people ask me directly about my personal opinion of ED (and they do ... all the time), that I am at least able to voice it then. People do ask me what I think about living in a development that is essentially controlled by this man, and I will not look them in the face and lie to them. That would be wrong and I won't lie simply because someone is willing to pay an attorney to threaten me.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Fuze Phone

I felt the need to get a phone a little more suited to internet access lately. With that in mind, I took home a Fuze phone, and .... returned it the next morning because, well, it was awful.

The awfulness was a combination of hardware design and software problems. First, the Fuze does not allow the user to do much in the way of customizing buttons. Further, the push to talk button is located in a spot that is almost impossible not to hit several times a day. I suppose that's fine if you use push to talk a lot, but I don't, and it quickly became an annoyance to have to decline subscribing to a push to talk service every time I hit the stupid button.

Then, there was the fact that the user is given one menu system if the phone is in portrait mode (with the keyboard hidden) and a completely different menu when the phone is in landscape mode and the keyboard is out. That is seriously bad design. What it means is that, if you are in a program, and suddenly need to pull out the keyboard, your running program will simply disappear to be replaced by a menu. Not good.

Then, for some unexplained reason, although I was able to get local weather, news and other information on my former phone (a Motorola Q phone), none of those services was available for the Fuze. As long as you want the weather for a fairly large city (say Austin, Texas), you are good to go .... but forget it if you live in the sticks.

I also took home a case that was supposed to fit the Fuze (it said so on the box). Sadly, the Fuze didn't work if you put it in the Fuze case. The touch screen became completely unresponsive. So, are you supposed to take the phone out of the case everytime you need to do something with it?? It's a snap on case that is supposed to give you access to all of the phone features while remaining on the phone for protection. So .... come again?? Take it completely off the phone in order to use the phone?? No thank you.

While I was debating whether to go back to using my Motorola Q and simply giving up the idea of moving more of my general data into the cloud, I got a chance to play with an iPhone at the same store where I was returning the Fuze. Gee, fast internet access, the touch screen works even while it's in the case, local news and weather (even for the hick town in which I live), end result .... sold, one more iPhone.

Difficult for me to do simply because I am not a fan of Apple products generally (I don't like products that make it difficult or impossible for the user to service at home if need be, and with iPods and iPhones and the related Apple products, the user isn't even able to change the battery), but the iPhone (3G) is proving to be the best choice for me, and I couldn't be much happier with it (well, maybe if they made it so I could change the battery ....).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I have begun a rather daunting project of organizing my home, which means my office, shop and home since they are all located at the same address.

One of the things that was making this a little difficult for me was that I was trying to use rooms in the house in a manner that had been predetermined for me by the builder. If the builder had put a toilet, sink and shower in a room, then it must be a bathroom, right? I should therefore use it as a bathroom, right? Wrong.

What I needed on my second floor was a utility room/closet. Not two bathrooms. I've got four bathrooms in this house. Why would a person living alone need four bathrooms?? The guest room has a bathroom connected to it, the master bedroom has a bathroom connected to it, and there is a small bathroom just off the entry. That alone is more than I need. So, the additional bathroom upstairs is about to be re-purposed into the utility room I really need.

I also ran across an article (in another blog that I intend to start reading on a regular basis). I share it with you now: How to Organize Mental Clutter. I plan to start putting these ideas into practice tonight.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Don't Always Assume You Can't Do It Yourself

Case in point. I've been living in my house for almost four years now. The house was approximately a year and a half old when I bought it. So, between the age of the house and the sometimes harsh Texas weather (which has ranged between 15 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit in the years I have lived here), the finish on my doors was pretty much gone.

Every contractor I spoke to told me that the only way to fix the problem was to sand the doors down to the wood, and then re-stain and refinish them. Estimated cost for this work? Between $3,000 and $5,000 dollars. Ouch. And, it would need to be redone every 4 years or so .... double ouch!!

The other day I decided to tackle this problem myself and see if there wasn't some way to give my doors a good protective finish without starting from bare wood. And there was!! I can honestly say that I highly recommend Homer Formby's Furniture Refinisher and Homer Formby's Tung Oil Finish. They have saved my doors -- which now look as good as new -- and saved me thousands of dollars.

I started with the furniture refinisher in "Golden Oak." One coat of that took my horribly worn doors and brought the finish up to a depth and brightness that matched the original (which was especially evident in those doors that had partial protection from the elements and were only faded and worn on the lower halves). I have a lot of doors (14 exterior doors alone), but two containers of the furniture refinisher was enough to single coat all of them.

Then, I put six coats of tung oil on each door, letting each coat dry for 24 hours before applying the next. Total time to put a coat of either the refinisher or the tung oil on one of the double doors was about 10 minutes. Just rubbed it on with a shop cloth ... it was easy.

A $8.00 container of the tung oil was enough to do six coats on one door or on one half of a double door. The furniture refinisher was also about $8.00. So, total cost:

Two containers of furniture refinisher: $16.00
Fourteen containers of tung oil: $112.00

I spread the work time out over several days. Whenever I had ten or twenty minutes to spare, I'd pop outside and do a door or two. No fuss no muss, and the materials were only $128.00. That is one heck of a lot better than $3,000 - $5,000 plus whatever the stain and finish would have cost me.

This is the sort of job that I can stick on my "do it every other year" list and keep my doors looking great for the long term. So, while I was working on the assumption that refinishing all the doors in this house would be way too much work for me to accomplish on my own, it turns out that it's actually very manageable ... as long as you are working with the right tools and materials.

Thank you, Homer Formby!!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sarah Palin's Qualifications as an Astronaut

Sometimes I simply have to wander over to see what's new at LOLcats. Oh, I might as well admit it, I go slavishly every day. Most of the time I stick with the seriously funny cat and dog ("kitteh and goggie") photos.

However, today I saw a photo of Sarah Palin with a caption that made me laugh so hard, my Welch's grape soda shot out of my nose.

Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures
see Sarah Palin pictures

I might have voted for McCain, had he chosen anyone even remotely qualified as his running mate. I cannot in good conscience vote for someone who thinks that Sarah Palin would make a viable Vice President, and (perish the thought) President.

So, I will be voting the Obama/Biden ticket this year. I've thought of myself as a Republican since I was in elementary school, but as the Republican Party has alligned itself, more and more strongly, with the religious right, they have pushed non-Christians such as myself farther and farther away. This will be the third election that I will have voted Democrat. I'm starting to wonder if, during my lifetime, the Republicans will ever field a team that isn't politically to the far right of Adoph Hitler and with all the religious sensitivity of the Spanish Inquisition.

It's probably too much to ask.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Windows Vista

I fought upgrading to Vista from XP, because, frankly, I believed all the bad news. However, there came the day that I had to get a laptop with a larger hard drive, and nothing was available except for Vista SP1.

Well, either there weren't any real problems to begin with, or they've all been fixed in SP1. I LOVE VISTA!! No ... really, I love the stability of the OS, and I love the look of it. So, I am one very happy camper.

My motherboard chose to die the other day. Maybe "chose" is the wrong word, but it's certainly deader than your average doornail. Since I am going to need to replace it, I will also likely spring for a new boot drive for that computer as well. That's a good excuse to put Vista on that machine as well.

Now, as I watch the current spate of Windows bashing Apple ads, I still find them sort of funny, but I no longer believe any of them are based on anything except wishful thinking on the part of the Apple marketing team. Which is a lesson that I need to relearn every once in a while ... don't believe everything you (1) read, (2) see, or (3) hear, especially not when the goal of the person behind what you are reading, seeing, or hearing is to SELL you something.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Cat Porch

I have cats. Lots of cats. Mostly handicapped or elderly; so they don't go outside. Still, I wanted them to have lots of fresh air, so I had a screened in porch built some time ago, connected to the house via a tunnel and a cat door.

I used a great product made by a company called "2x4 Basics" in order to build platforms that even the most crippled of the cats could easily jump up onto, and continue to climb in steps until they are up fairly high. They love it out there.

Today, I got an email from the company telling me that they had added a photo of my idea to their customer ideas gallery. I'm rather proud of that. It was my first large building project, and it turned out well. At least the cats haven't complained, or if they have, it hasn't been to me.

Since then I have built several other cat friendly projects (some of which are more "cat proofing" than they are cat friendly), and will post photos of them as time permits. Having pets has its challenges, especially when you are up in the double digits, but I find it is one of the most worthwhile activities in my life.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Getting Organized

I have been working on finding the perfect way to get everything, all of my information and all of the things I need to do, organized. Not just organized, but available and easy to find whenever I need them. It's no small task, but I think I've finally got a handle on it.

The last time I was this on top of things was back when I was in law school, and all I had to deal with was school and a full time job. Actually having my own law practice is ever so much more involved.

I started with some of the free Google apps that are available. Gmail, Google Calendar, iGoogle, and Google Contacts Manager. None of these apps require that I place any confidential information out in the cloud, but they do allow me to keep all of my computers and my smart phone synced, and additionally make it possible for me to access information (if necessary) from any computer with internet access.

The next step was to find the perfect internet based to-do list. I looked into Remember the Milk, which was nice, and I may return to that eventually, but I finally settled on Toodledo, which has a very nice task and subtask set up that allows me to organize and prioritize larger projects easily. Both have free versions to try out (the free version of Toodledo does not allow for subtasks), and the Pro Plus version of Toodledo is only about $30.00 a year.

Step three was the purchase of a ScanSnap document scanner. Every scrap of paper in my office is being converted to PDF and filed where it can be easily found. Easily found, you say?? Oh yes, in a soon to be written review of the ScanSnap and the software which comes bundled with the scanner, I will be writing about this in some detail.

Getting back on top (and staying on top) of everything that needs to be done is partly a matter of sorting out exactly what that "everything" is (because thinking of it as "everthing" is certain to make a person not want to do anything at all), and then sorting out what must be done first, and what items are dependent on earlier steps or input from others.

I also read a great short item by Guy Kawasaki today about procrastination. I highly recommend it as a bit of inspiration to get you started with your own organization project. If you are in law school or headed in that direction, this is absolutely necessary reading, because ... even if you follow my system to the letter ... if you are disorganized in your life and/or your thinking, no system in the world will work for you.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Livescribe Pulse Pen

Every once in a while, I happen on something that makes a major impact on how I do my work. While wandering through Target recently, I saw a display for the Livescribe Pulse SmartPen, and it was love at first sight.

The Pulse SmartPen is a pretty amazing bit of technology. The pen, when used with the special micro-dot paper, is capable of recording every key stroke made. Pretty nice, but wait ... there's more. The pen also contains a sensitive audio recorder. When connected to the computer, both the digital image of the notes and the audio connected to those notes are uploaded to the computer and synced.

As if that weren't enough, if you touch text that you wrote while recording audio, the pen will replay exactly that audio. Seriously, just touch the pen to the paper, or if you've uploaded it, click on that spot on the uploaded page. That's all it takes.

I took my Pulse SmartPen with me to the California Bar Association Meeting in Monterey, California, last month, and it performed like a champ. I recorded every minute of the 20 hours of seminars I attended (the 2G pen will hold about 200 hours of notes and audio), and found that, relieved of the necessity to concentrate on my notes, I was able to concentrate on what the speakers were saying. Oh, how I wish I had had the Pulse SmartPen in law school.

I have also started using the pen extensively in my law practice. Of course, I do ask for my clients' permission before recording, but I have yet to have a client who was adverse to having either the meeting or the teleconference recorded. Again, because I don't have to worry about getting every word of the conversation down on paper, or missing a digit in a phone number or address, I can spend more time really listening to what my client is saying.

The pen also contains a built-in calculator, which has come in handy more times than I can count, and additional programs (such as language translators) are in the works. But, even without additional functionality, I simply love my Pulse SmartPen!!

Now, before you complain about the need to use "special paper" in order to use the Pulse SmartPen, let me note that replacement notebooks (each standard notebook is 200 pages) are only about $5.00 each, which is what you would expect to pay for a plain paper notebook at most stores. There are also lined and unlined hardback journals available.

The cost of this marvel?? The 2G version is just about $200, the 1G version is about $150. It is available through Target,, or directly from In my personal opinion, it is well worth the additional $50 to get double the memory.

Do I have any complaints about my new toy?? Well, yes, one: if there is a way to turn off the introductory "music" that plays when first starting up the Livescribe Desktop software, I have yet to find it. But otherwise, this is the best piece of tech to come along since someone decided to slice the bread before they sold it. My Adesso Cyberpad is now history.

Monday, October 6, 2008

What are they trying to teach me??

I wasn't planning to post tonight, however, as I walked out my front door (to take out the trash), I had a clear sky overhead, an amazing thunder and lightning storm building to the Northwest, when very suddenly a meteor streaked overhead and broke up right before my eyes.

I took all of this as a sign that I should post something. Hey, it's my sign, if that's what I want it to mean, that's what it's going to mean.

So, let's take a look at the educational process with special emphasis on law school. Throughout most of a student's schooling, they have some inkling of what it is that they will be expected to know. If you are studying the American Civil War, you can be fairly certain that you will need to memorize names and dates from American History from the early to mid-1860s. If the course is called "Algebra" it will probably involve algebraic equations.

Is it the same when you attend law school?? Take, for example, a typical law school course, Contracts. Would you assume that the idea would be to teach the student all about current laws regarding contracts? If you did, you'd be wrong. And that can be a big problem for an incoming law student, they expect one thing when they are really getting another.

The law is constantly changing, everywhere, and all the time. In the United States, a particular law could be a bit different in every one of the (currently) 50 states. And, why is it that the professors have the students readings laws from 17th century England?? Especially when it's a case that states laws or ideas that have long since fallen out of use? But, if the point of the law school courses is not to teach the student "the law" then what exactly is the point?

The point, simply stated, is to teach the student the skill of "legal analysis." They seldom come right out and tell you that legal analysis is what they are trying to teach you, but that's the truth of it. No matter what they call the course, the skill being taught is the same ... only the elements you need to use in your analysis change.

Why read ancient case law? First, because the professors want you to see something of how courts (old and modern) applied legal analysis. Sometimes the court does a horrible job. Sometimes the court doesn't even bother to do any analysis at all, which is what brings me to the second reason. Second, because the professors want you to understand the legal process; the how and sometimes the why of how the common law evolves. Third, they want you to learn the elements of each type of matter.

The elements themselves are not that difficult to learn, memorize, and retain. However, just being able to rattle off a list of bullet points is not going to make you a stellar student or a great attorney. It is learning how to do the analysis that will make all the difference. I will be writing on this topic in some detail in later posts, so please keep tuned.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

An Introduction

The idea behind my starting a blog is that I may be fairly termed an expert in several areas of the general living experience, and, short of writing a book (which I may do someday ... just not today), a blog seems a great way to get my expertise out to a good portion of the general public (who can then decide for themselves if anything I have to say is worth a further price of admission).

For the most part, however, I will be writing on the following topics:

1. Surviving law school (and rising to the top 5% of your class) without driving yourself and others around you completely crazy;

2. Incorporating technology effectively into your law practice; and

3. Creating and maintaining a more or less "cat proof" home.

I'm not joking in the least about this last point. I am horribly allergic to cats, love them dearly, and live with 20 of them (as well as two beautiful dogs to which I am also allergic).

As for the first point, I graduated from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, in 1988 in the top 5% of my class. During law school I worked full time at American Red Cross in charge of "Reagent Production." I was on the Dean's List every quarter, won some prestigious scholastic awards, and was an editor on one of the school's law reviews. During that time I created a learning system which worked extremely well for me and which I hope I will be able to pass on to the readers of this blog.

In addition, during law school I became proficient at building computers, and after law school at implementing technological solutions to common problems facing law practices of all sizes. In 1992, having decided that big firm practice was not what I wanted, I started a solo practice in San Diego, California. In 2005, I moved my home to Texas, although my practice is still based in California. In that setting, it is imperitive to have technology work efficiently for me, so that I can best serve my clients while retaining a personal life.

So, there you have it. I won't be posting on just those three topics, because none of them exists in a vacuum. There will be technological tips in the posts about law school, and upholstry ideas in with the cat care. That's why I call it what it is: "Life: A Practical Survival Guide."