Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Finding the Funny

If you're in touch with your inner nerd and looking for a laugh or fifty, check out the web comic xkcd. As I learned by reading the handy FAQ, xkcd is not actually an acronym; it's just a word with no phonetic pronounciation. Kind of like Prince's unpronounceable symbol, I guess.

Anyway, it made me giggle, so I thought I'd share. Thanks to Mr. Ortiz for the tip.

Monday, February 25, 2008

You Need What?

What's a blog for if I can't periodically use it to promote my friends' ventures?

We Need Girlfriends is a web series chronicling "the adventures of Tom, Henry, and Rod, recent college graduates struggling to understand the complex world of the New York City dating scene after all three are simultaneously dumped by their long-term college girlfriends." They've gotten picked up for a pilot by CBS! Hooray!

If you're interested, Slate recently reviewed the series here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Who Is Looking for Me?

I regularly - okay, obsessively - check the stats of the GW Law Student Blog. I can see how many people view the blog, what links they click on to get to us, and what search engine terms are used to find us. Today I saw that someone found the blog by searching for ME! The search term: "'[MY NAME]' gwu." Weird, right? Is an employer looking for me? An old friend? An old flame? If only the stat showed who was doing the searching... is it YOU?

Anyway, I'm right here. Hello.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Usage Tip #6

I'm on the lookout for a better title for these Usage Tip posts. Any suggestions?

This week everyone has gotten back their motions for summary judgment, and perhaps you are beginning work on your next assignment. To help you (and myself) over the next few weeks of brief writing, the Usage Tips between now and March 16th will focus on elementary principles of composition.

Choose a suitable design and hold to it.
A basic structural design underlies every kind of writing.... Writing, to be effective, must closely follow the thoughts of the writer, but not necessarily in the order in which those thoughts occur. This calls for a scheme of procedure. In some cases, the best design is no design, as with a love letter, which is simply an outpouring, or with a casual essay, which is a ramble. But in most cases, planning must be a deliberate prelude to writing. The first principle of composition, therefore, is to foresee or determine the shape of what is to come and pursue that shape.... The more clearly the writer perceives the shape, the better are the chances of success.

Make the paragraph the unit of composition.
As long as it holds together, a paragraph may be of any length--a single, short sentence or a passage of great duration.... Ordinarily, a subject requires division into topics, each of which should be dealt with in a paragraph. The object of treating each topic in a paragraph by itself is, of course, to aid the reader. The beginning of each paragraph is a signal that a new step in the development of the subject has been reached.... In general, remember that paragraphing calls for a good eye as well as a logical mind. Enormous blocks of print look formidable to readers, who are often reluctant to tackle them. Therefore, breaking long paragraphs in two, even if it is not necessary to do so for sense, meaning, or logical development, is often a visual help. But remember, too, that firing off many short paragraphs in quick succession can be distracting. Paragraph breaks used only for show read like the writing of commerce or of display advertising. Moderation and a sense of order should be the main considerations in paragraphing.

Omit needless words.
Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. Many expressions in common use violate this principle.
  • "the question as to whether" should be "whether" or "the question whether"
  • "there is no doubt but that" should be "no doubt" or "doubtless"
  • "used for fuel purposes" should be "used for fuel"
  • "in a hasty manner" should be "hastily"
  • "this is a subject that" should be "this subject"
  • "the reason why is that" should be "because"

"The fact that" is an especially debilitating expression. It should be revised out of every sentence in which it occurs. ("I was unaware of the fact that" could be "I was unaware that")

"Who is," "which was," and the like are often superfluous. ("His cousin, who is a member of the same firm" could be "His cousin, a member of the same firm")

[Since lawyers are by nature wordy, we'll do more with omitting needless words next week. Stay tuned!]

William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White, The Elements of Style, 2000, Longman Publishers, pp.15-24.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Law School-Inspired Business Idea #429

Law school has inspired me to come up with some wacky business ideas over the past six months. The first, I think, was the "law school sherpa," which students could employ to carry their books up and down the stairs and stake out seats on the first day of class. For obvious reasons, that one didn't take off.

But this time I think I've hit upon a winner. Imagine a teddy bear whose cute and cuddly face inspires thoughts of a cute and cuddly Constitutional Law professor, with jowls and big floppy ears and coke-bottle glasses sliding down his little nose, who comes alive when you press his hand with exclamations like "necessary and proper!" and "unconstitutional!" and "that's right!" He'd be wearing a teddy bear suit and everything. It's the Bearron! Wouldn't you pay $24.50 for that?

Hat tip to my partner in crime Little Benny for the totally awesome name.

[UPDATE (2/24): The Law Revue last night had a good joke about the ConLaw prof in question. Their name for him? JerrBear. Awesome!]

Teddy bear image from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Let's Just Call It Usage Tip #5

By popular demand, this week's topic is...

subjunctives. In modern English, the subjunctive mood of the verb appears primarily in six contexts:

  1. conditions contrary to fact: "if I were king," where the indicative would be am;
  2. suppositions: "if I were to go, I wouldn't be able to finish this project," where the indicative would be was;
  3. wishes: "I wish that I were able to play the piano," where the indicative would be was;
  4. demands and commands: "I insisted that he go," where the indicative would be goes;
  5. suggestions and proposals: "I suggest that she think about it a little while longer," where the indicative would be thinks; and
  6. statements of necessity: "it's necessary that they be there," where the indicative would be are.
While suppositions and wishes are the most common examples in conversation, the others are most common in writing. And they're worth keeping.

Garner's Modern American Usage, 2003, p. 756.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Obligatory Valentine's Day Post

So the big V is only two days away! Single ladies: got your tissues handy? Ready to spend the night sobbing on the couch with only When Harry Met Sally for company? Or, alternatively, excited to get sh!tfaced with other singles and hook up with someone whose name you don't even know?

Okay, so I'm exaggerating the depression a little. But I really kinda hate Valentine's day. Why have a holiday where people get sad? Why give people in bad relationships a disincentive to getting out of them? Why discriminate against groups of 3 or 5 or 10 in restaurant reservations? The whole thing is kind of silly, if you ask me. Holidays should be happy days, not days that make people feel inadequate for not getting as many cards as Billy in Ms. Teach's third-grade class.

[Now, so you don't think I'm a bitter old hag, I'll disclose that I am happily coupled-up for the 14th this year. I hate the day anyway, fabulous relationship or not.]

So... what to post to mark the Day of Chocolate and Roses? What better symbol than a little piggy! Turns out an adorable runty piglet was born with a heart-shaped spot 10 days ago, just in time! Isn't he cuuuuuute? I'd cuddle up with that little one anytime. (Thanks to JKatz for the tip.)

Image from the Daily Mail.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Quality >> Quantity

I just purchased my first new suit! Usually I would just get hand-me-downs from my fashionista momma, but she buys clothes for the more fashion-flexible Miami job market, and I keep hearing how conservative law firms, especially DC/NY ones, are. So, I splurged and got one all for myself. You can see it for yourself, here and here.

While it was kind of a big expense for me given my crushing mountains of debt, it fit neatly in my "buy this" fashion philosophy: if you have a hole in your wardrobe and find something to fill it, you should get it only if it fits you well and works with your body, not against it; you know you will use it; it's within your budget; and you LOVE it. As smarter people than I have said, "if you see something in a store and are still thinking about it two days later, you should own it." And, you can never, ever go wrong with buying a well-made classic piece in a high-quality material. A gray wool pants suit fits that category, for sure.

I love shopping, so if you ever need someone to go with you to find something fabulous, just holler!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Migrating Usage Tip #4

Please excuse the lack of consistency with this Usage Tip feature. I spent the weekend writing a (possibly terrible) memorandum in support of a (fake) motion for summary judgment. If that sounds like gibberish to you, you are correct!

Today's Usage Tip comes from the always handy Elements of Style by Strunk and White. If you do not own this book, you owe it to yourself and anyone who has to read your writing to go out and buy it. Right. Now. If you consider book length-to-usefulness ratio, I would say with utmost confidence that Elements of Style is the best textbook on writing ever written.

A Few Matters of Form

Colloquialisms. If you use a colloquialism or a slang word or phrase, simply use it; do not draw attention to it by enclosing it in quotation marks. To do so is to put on airs, as though you were inviting the reader to join you in a select society of those who know better.

Exclamations. Do not attempt to emphasize simple statements by using a mark of exclamation.

It was a wonderful show! It was a wonderful show.

The exclamation mark is to be reserved for use after true exclamations or commands.

What a wonderful show!

Parentheses. A sentence containing an expression in parentheses is punctuated outside the last mark of parenthesis exactly as if the parenthetical expression were absent. The expression within the marks is punctuated as if it stood by itself, except that the final stop is omitted unless it is a question mark or an exclamation point.

I went to her house yesterday (my third attempt to see her), but she had left town.
He declares (and why should we doubt his good faith?) that he is now certain of success.

(When a wholly detached expression or sentence is parenthesized, the final stop comes before the last mark of parenthesis.)

William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White, The Elements of Style, 2000, pp.34-38.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Victory! Justice! Aaaaahhhh!!!

Oh my god! The Giants win the Super Bowl! Yayayayayayay!

I was really, really hoping that the Giants would pull it out to give the cheatery cheater Pats exactly what they deserve. Children take note: hard work wins. 18-1 bitches!