Exam Software

Zipsix and Law v. Life have been complaining that the exam software limits the value of an honor code. I think they’re both right to complain. Law students should be trusted and expected not to cheat, and requiring silly software to prevent cheating only presupposes an inability to adhere to our shared ethical values. Of course, this argument has to be applied to law students as a group. If taken personally, one could always argue that the software protects the individual from others in the group. When applied to the group as a whole, the software serves a limiting function. It limits not the ability to cheat (I’m supposing that no one would) but rather the ability to choose software and conserve resources. (Students will ultimately pay the software maker, and it’s the students’ time that is used in installing and getting used to the new interface.)
I haven’t known BU to make a big point about cheating, but why should they? The message is clear enough: don’t cheat. It’s not the kind of tricky situation we study in a class about professional responsibility. There are no conflicting ethical opinions. It’s very easy to know where the boundaries are and to stay on the right side.
I’ve had at least one take home exam that wasn’t open book. Why can we be trusted not to talk to each other or look at study guides (when they’re easily available) but not to do the same thing in a supervised classroom?
Still, I’m in favor of exam software. It’s a mechanism to bridge the gap between new tech (computers) and old tech (bluebooks) in the eyes of administrators. To the extent it facilitates the ability to type exams without a noisy typewriter, I’m happy to comply.
I wrote a little more on the topic here.

Inkjet Ink Scam

I’m in the market for a low-end laser printer. Any recommendations?
My old ink-jet printer works just fine, but I want something that prints in ink that won’t smear at a quality professional enough for cover letters and resumes. That’s a fine reason for buying a laser printer, but quality and smearing aside, the outrageous cost of inkjet ink should dissuade anyone from buying an inkjet printer, or at least from buying inkjet ink.
By now we should all know that printer ink, like video camera batteries and refills for the swiffer mop, are one of the great scams of our time. Rob Cockerham has figured out that ink for his printer costs more per fluid ounce than Chanel Number 5.
TechTV has discovered a printer that actually costs less than the included ink cartridge. Amazon offers the Lexmark Z605 for $47, including one black and one color ink cartridge. These sell for $28 and $30 respectively, giving the buyer $58 in ink with a $47 printer. Under this pricing structure, we should expect to see Z605s out on the sidewalk as soon as they use up the included cartridges. It is cheaper to just buy a new printer than to buy the ink.

Rochester, NY

I went out to Rochester, New York this week for an interview. It was a short but interesting and enjoyable trip. Interstate 90 comprises almost the entire route from Boston to Rochester. In Massachusetts, it’s know as the Massachusetts Turnpike. In New York, it’s the New York Thruway. It’s interesting that both freeways have websites. I even saw a postcard for the Thruway, but I think it was meant to be a joke.
I-90 rolls through the Berkshires and along the Erie Canal, offering impressive views of each.
I was only actually in Rochester for half of a day, but I was pleasantly surprised. Eastman-Kodak, Bausch & Lomb, and Xerox are all based in Rochester, and these three companies have a huge presence in the city. Dinosaur BBQ also has a huge influence on the city. The smoke from the BBQ pit makes half the downtown area smell of slowly cooking meat. And it is a good smell.
Finally, and most amazingly, there is a huge waterfall located right next to the downtown area. Here’s a picture:

Public Solitaire

It’s a well known fact that somewhere between laptop technology and wireless internet technology, law school classrooms contained a half-circle of green computer screens beaming solitaire to the eyes of all the back-row kids. Indeed this is still the case even with wireless internet access. My property professor once announced that he was about to explain some ancient property history that would not be on the exam: “In other words, if there is a time during this course that you are not going to pay attention, it should be now. Now is the time to move red jack to black queen.”
Meanwhile, behind all those solitaire screens are carefully selected desktop wallpapers which convey the individuality and beliefs of the laptop owner. There’s the Eric Clapton guy, the girl with a picture of her boyfriend, the guy(s) with the Olson Twins, etc. The trouble is that no one ever gets to see these wallpapers, as they are always obscured by the solitaire game. And this, my friends, is what makes Howard Dean solitaire so ingenious. If only Microsoft would make a customizable version of the game, it would surely sell for a premium (ie something more than free with Windows). I bet solitaire is in the top three most used computer applications (excluding functionality programs).

What do you see?

Television commercials have scripts right? The decisions are made by more than one person right? How then is it possible that a commercial can be so mind numbingly bad as to contain the following dialog?
Announcer: “What do you see when you look at [blah blah car]?
Woman: “I see a man who knows where he’s going in the world.”
Man: “I see a woman who can make seats disappear.”

Dollars and Common Sense

This $200 note is blatantly fake, but I’ve known plenty of people, since elementary school, that think $500 and $1000 notes exist in the United States. Of course they’re correct. There are $500 and $1000 notes around, but they tend to be in museums. The Treasury does not currently produce anything higher than the $100 note.
There are some political considerations behind the size of a country’s largest note. I always assumed that the &#8364500 note was produced to make things easier for cultures that tend to pay with cash, but Eric Schlosser points out that, “The Supremacy of the dollar in the global underground has proven a boon to the American economy. . . . The new 500-euro note is perfect for black market activity. It has roughly five times the value of a $100 bill, allowing drug dealers and smugglers to lighten their suitcases. Portugal has banned the 500-euro note for those reasons, and its acceptance in other foreign undergrounds is not yet certain.” (page 6 of Reefer Madness)
I don’t know which I find more amusing, the fact that someone accepted the $200 George W. Bush note (see SG link above), or the fact that the US Treasury is often asked “Did the Treasury Department ever produce a $1 million currency note? I have one that I want to know about.” (see faq) I suppose I would want to know about it too.

Your Application Has Been Received

My roommates and I are having some fun reading and comparing the stack of clerkship application response letters we collectively receive each day. I’m surprised at the variance of such letters. Some are merely a handwritten postcard “acknowledging receipt of your application”. Others are letters on all different sizes of paper, in all different types of envelopes. Here are some of the better lines:
“The selection committee will be conducting preliminary interviews at Boston Law School on [date].” (Note that while there are several law schools in Boston, none of them are called “Boston Law School”.)
“A complete application includes cover letter, resume, law school transcript , a brief writing sample and a list of 3 references.” (if only the students were afforded such grammar and punctuation liberty)
“I shall study each [application] carefully and invite those candidates that I consider I would like to interview for a personal visit.”

“Where have yoooouuuu beeeeennnn”

There is a rumor going around that the Pixies are going to reunite for a tour and possibly an album. I’ve never seen the Pixies, but I’ve often thought of them as the band I’d most like to see reunited, so this is exciting news.
I have a practical question though. How can a band set an advance date for getting back together? “We’ve decided to put aside our differences and be friends again… beginning April 13 at 3:30pm. Until then, we hate each other.” (hypothetical quote)