Monday 28 February 2011

No Laptops in the Classroom

John Mayer of CALI has authored an excellent new blogpost on the subject of Laptop Bans, which is one of those pesky law school topics that just won't go away.  John says "I have long believed that the issue of banning laptops in the classroom is not the real issue, it is instead an indicator of student attention/distraction."  He goes on to unpack the arguments used against the laptops and make a very cogent argument for eliminating lecturing as the main pedagogical method for teaching law. 

Friday 25 February 2011

Friday Fun: no laptops in class

Walkshed Philly

Walkshed Philly is a great site that provides a map of "walkability" in Philadelphia.  It is a research project of Aaron Ogle, a software developer who lives there. His concept of a "walkshed" scores a location based on the number and quality of amenities that one can walk to within a one-mile radius, things like grocery stores, coffee shops, restaurants, public transportation stops, libraries, hardware stores, etc.The ease of walkability has to do with any barriers that might prevent pedestrians from reaching these amenities. You can set how important each set of amenities is to you on a sliding scale.
There is also a Walkshed map for New York; I've featured Philly because the AALL annual July conference is located there this year.

hat tip: Pat Roncevich

Thursday 24 February 2011

Boop Oops a Doop

In a 2-1 decision Wednesday, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling that Fleischer Studios Inc., the family of Max Fleischer,  doesn’t have standing to bring a trademark infringement lawsuit against several other companies that license Betty Boop merchandise, including Avela Inc.– because  it was unable to prove the chain of how the rights to the character was transferred over the years. Max Fleischer created Betty Boop in 1930. A decade later he transferred rights to Paramount Pictures. Control over Boop changed hands a few more times in the next 70 years, and it was up to the Fleischer estate to establish a chain of custody that resulted in them reacquiring the character in 1997.  The decision is available online.

Pocket Guide for Federal Judges Discusses Sealed Cases

A recently published pocket guide for federal judges focuses on the occasional need to seal court records and proceedings.  Published by the Federal Judicial Center, the 22-page pocket guide (pdf) draws on the voluminous case law to discuss the process courts use to keep some of the proceedings and records confidential.  The guide states: “Essential to the rule of law is the public performance of the judicial function. On occasion, however, there are good reasons for courts to keep parts of some proceedings confidential . . . Usually that means that any transcript made of the proceeding will be regarded as a sealed record.”  The guide offers a procedural checklist of considerations when a record is sealed or when a proceeding is closed to the public.

Monday 21 February 2011

HeinOnline Searching 101 Webinar

HeinOnline is offering a free 45 minute webinar on "HeinOnline Searching 101" this Thursday, Feb. 24, at two times: 10 am and 2 pm. You can find out more about the contents of the webinar, and register, on the HeinOnline wiki.  I have attended a number of HeinOnline webinars and can heartily recommend them - they do a really good, clear job of explaining the material.  

New Models for the FDLP

The Government Printing Office has retained Ithaka to develop sustainable models for the Federal Depository Library Program in the 21st century. ead a project that will develop a model for the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) to more efficiently accomplish its mission in a rapidly changing digital environment. Both Hillman library and the Barco Law Library are Depository libraries, and so will be impacted by whatever decisions are made about the program.  In the most recent publication from Ithaka, "Draft New Models for the FDLP",  they  lay out a series of new models for the FDLP that  seek to reshape the FDL Program to accommodate local and system-wide strategic shifts that are occurring across the library landscape with the transition to an increasingly digital environment, enabling libraries to more comfortably participate in the Program while maintaining or even increasing broad public access to government information and services to support its effective use. The full document is available as a 24 page pdf, and a Summary of the document is also available. Ithaka is asking for feedback and comments on the proposed new FDLP models.  

Cabell's Directories of Publishing Opportunities

The University Library System has announced a new online database subscription to the Cabell's Directories of Publishing Opportunities for Business and Education are now available online.  These Directories help researchers identify publications most likely to accept their manuscripts by providing information on journals published in select fields.  Information on the topic areas emphasized by each journal, the type of review process, acceptance rate, and number of internal and external reviewers are included. The Directories also include extensive information on manuscript guidelines for each journal and/or indicates the use of a standard set of publication guidelines (such as MLA or APA style) by a journal. Though these directories don't have provide information about legal journals, there may be interest in some of the journals in the areas of Economics, Finance, and Educational Technology & Library Science.

Friday 18 February 2011

Library of Congress history newpapers update

The Library of Congress reports that 178,000 pages have been added to the Chronicling America historic newspapers project, and that the website has been updated with improved search features and navigation. The ambitious project aims to provide information about and digitize historic newspapers from all across America in an online searchable database. 

Thursday 17 February 2011

BBC offers information on Middle East protests

The BBC has an online resource that provides country-by-country information on protests occurring in the middle east since the fall of the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia.   

Tuesday 15 February 2011

NYT reveals some Google "dirty little secrets"

A lengthy article in the New York Times this past Sunday was titled "The Dirty Little Secrets of Search" and should be of interest to anyone in the information biz - or anyone who uses Google to search, for that matter.  The article details how retailer J.C. Penney managed to game the Google system last fall to land at the top of  search results for pretty much anything J.C. Penney sells: dresses, bedding and area rugs; “skinny jeans,” “home decor,” “comforter sets,” furniture, tablecloths, and even grommet top curtains. The New York Times exposes the "sprawling, subterranean world of 'black hat' optimization" (using means that Google considers deceptive, as opposed to "white hat" optimization using methods that are OK with Google.)

Monday 14 February 2011

Pitt Law grads have Virtual law firm

The Post Gazette has an article today about a pioneering "virtual law firm" specializing in immigration law and international business law.  The firm was founded by 2 recent Pitt Law grads, John Riley and George Ernst, who graduated in 2008 and 2007. With the cooling job climate for new lawyers in Pittsburgh, the two friends decided to start their own firm, specializing in intermational and immigration law. Ernst & Riley bills itself as a virtual law firm that hopes to reach a growing number of people seeking legal services through the Internet. The firm maintains an office in Monroeville, but handles the bulk of its work on a Web portal that allows clients to access information and ongoing updates on their cases.

Sunday 13 February 2011

CA Supreme Court: stores can't ask for zip code

California's Supreme Court has ruled  unanimously in Pineda v. Wiams Sonoma  (15 page pdf) that retailers don't have the right to ask customers for their ZIP code while completing credit card transactions because doing so violates a cardholders' right to protect  personal information. The court's opinion points to a state law intended to protect consumer privacy by prohibiting retailers from "soliciting and recording information about the card-holder that is unnecessary to the credit card transaction". That includes not only the customer's address and phone number but also information, such as a postal code, that can be used to locate the customer.

Friday 11 February 2011

Mice trained to detect bombs and drugs

And in another interesting technological development, the New Scientist reports that Israeli scientists have developed a way to train mice to detect would-be bombers and drug carriers in airports. They have created a detector, similar looking to a full-body scanner but with three concealed cartridges each containing eight specially trained mice. The mice work 4-hour shifts during which the mice mill about in a common area in each cartridge as air is passed over people paused in the archway and through the cartridge. When the mice sniff traces of any of eight key explosives in the air, they are conditioned to avoid the scent and flee to a side chamber, triggering an alarm. To avoid false positives, more than one mouse must enter the room at the same time. 

Boston city government developing pothole app

The Boston Globe's reports that in Boston, the mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics is working on Street Bump, an application for smartphones that would automatically report potholes to the city's public works department when a car his a bump.  Apparently the GPS in smart phones can be used to identify bumps in the road.
Pittsburgh, sounds like an idea our DPW could use.

Thursday 10 February 2011

Congressional Quarterly to publish new information service

CQ has announced that it is launching a new subscription service called First Street, an information source for  lobbyists, law firms, associations and other groups working to affect federal government policy. First Street is "a revolutionary database built for researching political relationships and building coalitions." It contains the information in CQ's directories for Congressional staff  and lobbyists, combined with news and information about legislation.  The New York Times describes it as "a Facebook for lobbyists."
The Sunlight Labs blog ( part of the Sunlight Foundation, which has the goal of digitizing government data and making tools and websites to make it easily accessible) points out that much of the information provided by this service is freely available, though subscribers are paying for aggregation and some analysis of the info. 

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Plans underway for a large print journal repository

The Chronicle of Higher Education's Wired Campus Blog reports that a group of academic libraries in the western US has received a grant to implement plans for a large regional print-journal archives called the Western Regional Storage Trust.  The group includes the University of California libraries, Stanford, Arizona State, the University of Washington, University of Oregon, and western library consortia; the Trust will serve the entire US region west of the Mississippi River. Participating libraries will consolidate print journal backfiles at major library storage facilities and at selected campus locations. The long-term goals for the Trust are to preserve the scholarly print record at the lowest possible cost through a coordinated system of  archives, as well as creating significant freed-up space  in libraries and storage facilities. 

New CALI lesson: Dangerous Dog Laws & Procedural Due Process

CALI has a new lesson called Dangerous Dog Laws and Procedural Due Process.  The  lesson is an introduction to the basics of dangerous dog laws and is the first part in a series of three lessons that examines their interaction with the Fourteenth Amendment's procedural due process requirement. This lesson does not require any prior knowledge of animal laws or dangerous dog laws. While some general knowledge of due process might be helpful, it is not necessary or required.  The lesson is authored by Lauren Gallagher and Ledy VanKavage, two attorneys working for Best Friends Animal Society, a nonprofit, membership organization building no-kill programs and partnerships.  

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Super WiFi

The New York Times reports that the Federal Communications Commission proposes expanding broadband access to rural areas of the United States, using a new type of wireless network called "super WiFi" that it hopes will become a key part of rural America's infratructure. Unlike regular Wi-Fi networks, which are generally limited to providing high-speed Internet in a house, super Wi-Fi promises to blanket entire neighborhoods with high-speed access. The FCC proposes paying for this by converting the current $8 billion Universal Service Fund, currently used to provide telephone service to underserved areas,  into a new pool of $$  called the Connect America Fund, to be used for helping pay for making broadband available to underserved areas.

FDsys A to Z list

Enterprising govdocs librarian Carolyn Ottoson of West Texas A&M University has kindly shared a resource she created that provides a very useful A to Z list with links to all the online resources available in FDsys, as well as a link to the FDsys Additional Government Documents page. 

Changes in publication of U.S. Gov. Manual

On  Feb. 4, 2011, the Administrative Committee of the Federal Register published updated  regulations affecting publication of the U.S. Government Manual, removing the requirement to publish an annual print edition. According to the FR, the   "ease of online access to an updated version of the Manual, and given the decline in demand for the printed edition, the Administrative Committee, with the approval of the Attorney General, is amending its regulations to remove the requirement to publish an annual edition of the Manual.The Administrative Committee believes that publishing the Manual in a free, electronic-only format to Federal officials for their official use constitutes the distribution of a Federal
Register publication for official use without charge."
Printed copies of the Manual may still be issued and would be available from the U.S. Government Bookstore.
The Manual is the official handbook of the US government, providing comprehensive information on the agencies of all three branches.

Monday 7 February 2011

ABA unveils new website

The American Bar Association has unveiled a major website redesign, as well as a move from its well-known "old" website URL,, to a new URL,  The ABA President, Stephen Zack, announced the newly designed website,  adding that it provides "improved functionality that offer simpler navigation, better search capabilities and enhanced interactive features".  

"Develop for Privacy Challenge" competition

PC World reports that the new Develop for Privacy Challenge competition - sponsored by branches of the ACLU, the Tor project, and with the assistance of the Ontario Information and Privacy Commission - challenges mobile application developers to create tools that help ordinary mobile device users understand and protect their privacy.  The goal of the contest is explained: "as mobile devices become more sophisticated and handle increasing amounts of sensitive information, individuals need better tools to protect and manage this data. The goal of this Challenge is to demonstrate the possibility that apps for mobile devices can actually enhance the privacy of users. By doing so, we hope not only to generate technology that is useful today, but also to encourage developers and companies to adopt the “privacy by design” mindset so that future devices and technologies will be designed with privacy in mind from the start."
The deadline for submissions is May 31, 2011. Information about the project and how to submit entries can be found at the Develop for Privacy Challenge website

Saturday 5 February 2011

New York Public Library waves the Terrible Towel

On Thursday morning, a Terrible Towel was hoisted high in front of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, as a result of a bet between the mayors of Pittsburgh and New York on the outcome of the Steelers/Jets game. The location was chosen because Pittsburgh industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie funded the New York Public Library branch system. There is a video of the mayor hanging the towel on YouTube.

Thursday 3 February 2011

What is @?

This is a hilarious Today spot from 1994 where Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric wonder what @, .com, and "the internet" are all about.