Friday, November 30, 2007

Congrats to CAMS

While I continue to maintain my general disdain for US News and World Report rankings, I can't help but congratulate my high school, the California Academy of Mathematics and Science for its 21st place finish, out of the country.

Think of all the high schools in America - hell, in the greater Los Angeles area - all with better resources and all the right assets to place them among the greatest . . . and then there's us. Tiny. Focused. Diverse. Look what we did. And in this, the tenth year since I graduated, it seems fitting.

We won't be having a big reunion. When we attended CAMS - the fourth class to do so, the one that completed the school - teachers were only allowed 5 years before they had to return to their home districts. There's little institutional memory left to remember us, which is a shame. I see from the article that CAMS has a new principal. Perhaps our brilliant counselor, Barry Baker is still there, but I don't know.

I hate US News metrics for colleges. I'm sure, in may ways, their high school metrics are just as deficient. But CAMS is getting its due. I am happy.

This is how they judged:

They developed the methodology to analyze how well high schools serve their students. They factored in poverty and economic status, including disadvantaged students, average students, and college-bound students to make those measurements.

According to the methodology, a best high school is one that succeeds at the following:

Attains performance levels that exceed statistical expectations given the school's relative level of student poverty, as measured by state accountability test scores for all the school's students in the core subjects of reading and math.

Achieves proficiency rates on state tests for their least advantaged student groups - black, Latino, and economically disadvantaged students - that exceed state averages.

Prepares its students for college, as measured by student participation in and performance on Advanced Placement tests, which are administered by the College Board.

Using this methodology, more than 18,500 high schools in 40 states were analyzed for inclusion.
And to answer the question that 99.9% of the time followed up the question "where do/did you go to high school," "Is that a smart school?"

Yes. It is.

(For alumni.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chicken Soup For The Insured Soul

All Americans should travel more. Period. All the books in the world don't open your eyes to different ways of life like witnessing these differences firsthand. Of course, it's a two-way street. And above traveling, living in another culture will give you a crash course in life lesson 43978987: However it is that you think things Are Done, you don't know how fully you believe in that form of Done until it isn't around.

Case in point: Healthcare.

Sexy policy area, isn't it? Governors call special legislative sessions to address it. Hell, it's a policy area that literally can kill you.

Over the holiday weekend, I re-watched Michael Moore's Sicko with my parents and husband. (It was interesting to notice subtle yet potentially telling differences between the premiere version I watched in Sacramento, and what ended up on DVD, but that's for another post.)

I've been keen since I first saw the film for my husband to see it. He's English and Moore spends a chunk of the film comparing our private insurance system with the UK's National Health Service.

Given my husband's level of horror at the end of the film, we may as well have been watching "Psycho" instead of "Sicko." Not only did he surprise me by not disagreeing with the film's portrayal of the UK to extent I'd have thought, but his reaction to the depiction of OUR system made me feel bad for him having moved here. In short, the film does gloss over some of nationalized healthcare's large problems, but, for the most party, yeah, they have it pretty good. Do you have to wait for some services? Can there be a too-large gap between diagnosis and a necessary operation - yes. But if you don't feel well, you get to see a doctor. That day. Without a four hour wait.

Fortunately for us both, my employer provides good health, dental, and vision coverage. Now that we're married, my husband is insured too. I picked a doctor for him from my same medical group (mine isn't taking new clients anymore) and sent in the paperwork.

The assigned him to the wrong doctor.

To Blue Shield's credit, they remedied that problem with just a phone call (no long hold time either). We discovered the mistake, however, because I was trying to make him an appointment (he's under the weather, but fine). The doctor's office said the insurance company had to call to confirm the correction. The insurance company said usually doctors call them. The insurance company sent a confirmation fax to the doctor. The doctor said that because he's a new patient, the new patient coordinator would call within 7 to 10 days to collect more information. We said, but he wants to see a doctor. They said they'd call back. They called back and said the new patient coordinator would call within 7 to 10 days an the doctors nearest new patient appointments WERE IN MARCH.

So I'm supposed to be scared of socialized medicine and the long lines it creates because . . . .

We explained again that we appreciated that he couldn't get a new patient appointment until later, but what if he would like to see a doctor now? They said they'd call back. They called back and said that because he's only been feeling unwell for about a week, he should just wait and see if he still feels unwell a week from now.

It would, therefore, have been faster for him to have flown home, seen a doctor, received treatment and meds or whatever he needs and fly back.

Except of course he can't leave the country yet.

In short: I can see no argument against socialized medicine that can't be exemplified in our current system. So I'd rather pay the government than a private, profit-drive corporation because at least then I'll know everyone gets the same crappy coverage, which is still better than none at all.

Fortunately, my husband can maintain his NHS coverage even while he's living abroad by paying a comparatively VERY small amount of money each year. So God forbid something truly bad happen, at least he'll have another, potentially far more efficient coverage to take care of him.

Everyone's A Little Bit Racist Sometimes

You've seen Avenue Q, no?

There's a storm brewing on the mall as the California NAACP joins other state organizations in condemning the Chinese artist chosen for to sculpt the MLK monument.

Arguments against the Chinese artist based on China's crappy human right record carry some weight. Quite a bit, I suppose, when juxtaposed with King's life work.

But the condemnation jumps the shark right about here where we meet an Atlanta artist who's started a website to protest the Chinese artist's selection:

Young said he started his campaign last spring after he heard about the selection on television. He contacted civil rights organizations and American granite vendors.

"It is disgraceful that there will be a sculpture to honor a black man for his fight against racism in this country and we couldn't find one black person on earth to interpret his likeness," Young said. "It is insulting and does not serve my people well. It makes us invisible.

"I do not think that anyone outside of my immediate community should have been looked at first. We need a black artist to interpret Dr. King and a black name at the base of the monument, because he died for us."
And here I thought that was Jesus.

And what's a black name?

(Sidenote: during the research for my senior thesis on VRA as it applied to judicial elections in recently consolidated LA County courts, I tried to answer just that question. When you're looking for bloc voting patterns, it's much easier to categorize the potential Hispanic and Asian surnames than to figure out if voters can identify the African American heritage of judicial candidates.)

The article also mentions past controversial Mall artists - such as Maya Lin, a Chinese American who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Why? Because Chinese are basically just Vietnamese with different restaurants? Oh well, racist is as racist does.

The best summation of the conflict comes from a professor of museum studies (who know - but it makes sense):

"There are constant debates over memorializations," said Jeffrey Trask, an assistant professor of Museum Studies at New York University. "Monument building is always political and highlights conflicts within society. This doesn't seem to be an issue of what history will be represented but who has the cultural rights to represent it.

"Unfortunately, we can't figure out what the impact to the visitor is."
My guess is "not much" - which is, in itself, a sad commentary on the value we place on artists at this point in civilization.

If the argument is that monuments placed on the National Mall should be crafted by Americans, perhaps I can get behind that - at least it has a hint of jurisprudential support behind it. But if the argument is that only an artist of a certain color has the right to pay tribute to an American leader, well, you're not going to win me over with that at all.

Everytime I think we're moving forward, I'm proven wrong. In the words of a great billboard, and a high school friend's t-shirt: nobody's born a bigot. Too bad so few of us seem to avoid it later on.

Monday, November 26, 2007

We Don't Need Your Kind Of Protection

Non-citizens face a few, strict, bars to certain jobs - like being a peace officer. In this case, there's lots of no-nos - non-citizen, illegal alien, faking your identity. . . .

Still, hard to feel super angry in this case.

The brother should get his job back, but he probably won't.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Save A Lawyer: Live Life Like A T-Shirt

It's a jokey t-shirt that's deadly serious: Eschew Obfuscation.

Here, in case you need to double check: eschew obfuscation.

You know, I get that the joke is that the diction used is, itself, obsfuscates the phrase's meaning. But if you think about it, that's only for stupid people.

Okay "stupid" was a mean word - but really - if we embraced more fully the more elegant corners of our language, would we not employ such a phrase simply because of its succinct efficacy?*

But that's not really my point. The message is the point. Remember this post to which I linked a few days ago? The part about the jerky lawyers with whom you'll have to deal? Those jerks are obfuscators. If you're one of them, seriously, stop being obstreperous.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Shortsightedness, Exemplified

See either of two big items in today's Roundup. I'll leave it at this: what may seem like a good idea today is only a good idea if you ignore the fact that tomorrow will, in fact, come.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Trade Magazines Are Funny

Speaking of lawyering: I get these nifty law newsletters and whatnot delivered to both my home and office. The best are the young lawyer section newsletters - inapplicable, I'm guessing, to 75% of young lawyers since the articles address various Biglaw issues. I enjoy the ABA Journal too, though, probably for reasons its editors never intended.

Most recent item to make me chuckle: an article about the new trend in law professors banning laptops in their classrooms. Knowing how I used my laptop time in class (hint: you're reading it), I understand their concern. But the article doesn't stop there. It uses as an example one professor's concern, "particularly for women." And what is this concern?

Students "complained they were distracted and in some cases upset when other students viewed obscene videos or sent harassing text messages."

Say what?

So, viewing obscene material in class is only a problem for female law students? I saw a lot of on-line gambling and reading, but never porn. And I'm pretty sure that could bother both genders. Or it should. Or maybe it shouldn't. Or maybe protecting the pretty girls from the ugly online penises shouldn't be the motivating factor.

If you want to go macro on the problem, how about addressing hourly classroom requirements that force students to attend pointless lectures when reading the casebook and reviewing with friends will serve them far better on their final exams? Here's a hint to easily bothered students: turn off the wifi. Another hint? Keep your eyes on the board.

As if.

Whatcha Gonna Do When You Get Out Of Law School

The LSAT is approaching and the application deadlines hear, so it seems appropriate to dedicate YET ANOTHER post to stopping blind law school application. Amber links to this largely accurate post about why you shouldn't do it.

Among the highlights - this well phrased encapsulation of the type of people you'll get to work with - Jerks:

It's not always big things -- though big things are the ones that hit the news -- but patterns of obstreperous behavior and downright stupidity that can wear you down over a day-to-day basis. Bickering over stupid document production requests, delays, phantom schedule conflicts... all these things add up. Contemporary lawyering is often an expensive form of childish game-playing with the rules of civil procedure. It's psychological warfare for minute tactical advantage.
Those who know me know that I salivate over a good procedural battle. I relish knowing the playbook. I frolic in well-timed motions. But even I want to stab out my eyes when things get bogged down in the above-mentioned minutae. Seriously. It's not cool. In congress, it's fun. In the law, it's just retarded.

Also of interest - the reasons why this ain't no intellectual funhouse:

Unintellectualism. Contrary to popular belief, the law is not a particularly "intellectual" profession. Most of the reasoning in legal argument is patently casuistic. Legal arguments are often made in a "kitchen sink" fashion, throwing every conceivably plausible argument into a brief, regardless of the relative strength of the arguments or coherence of the submission as a whole. The practice of law is the development of a habit of extreme intellectual dishonesty where the routine is to state one's opponent's arguments as uncharitably as possible in aid of weakening their impact and conceal every possible fact or principle that is against one's interest which one isn't explicitly required to disclose.
Sounds about right.

This past weekend, an old friend approached me to ask my what I think of Hastings - my law alma mater (my lalma mater?). I told him I couldn't answer that question until I knew why he wanted to know. So we reconvened later in a long, long day to discuss his Life Plans. Now, this guy is awesome. We don't hang out a lot, but he's involved in some of the extracurriculars I take pretty seriously. He's a good union guy - longshore, to be exact. A good egg, through and through. So why ruin it, I asked him.

He gave me a very well thought-out answer to the "why do you want to go" question. He had practical reasons. Hell, they were labor law reasons, which I should totally be keen on, right? Frankly, he sounded like me: he wants to be a lawyer so he can sit across the table from other lawyers when it comes time to renegotiate his contract and really ably represent his union brothers and sisters. That's a far, far better reason than most others you'll here. Except that what he wants is to be an effective negotiator, not a lawyer. In the Venn diagram of life are those two things frequently linked? Sure. Always? Hell no.

So why do it? Why expose yourself to the debt and the time out from a career you love, I asked.

And, as most of these conversations go, the session ended up more about him convincing me that law school is a good decision than me effectively convincing him that *maybe* I know what I'm talking about.

I truly wish him the best. He's a practical, reasonable, smart guy. I think he can get what he wants out of law school and come out less saddled with debt/angst/regret than many others. I just hope, as he's planning to, he finds someone to foot the bill.

Bottom line: don't. go. For realz. Don't go. Unless you want to be a lawyer. And stop nodding your head that you do, you do!, want to be a lawyer, because you really have no idea what it means.

Friday, November 09, 2007

'Why We Fight'

WGA explains Why We Fight and their blog addresses the DGA question - or at least media spin about the DGA question.

It's somehow extra insulting that not only do too many film studies classes focus on and/or worship The Director, but their guild is seen as the bigger star as well.

I recall in college, my film studies professor spoke nearly exclusively about what the director was doing in this scene, or why the director had his characters say this in that scene. I asked once whether the director in fact had his characters say anything and whether, perhaps, the director merely framed the writer's work. My professor said, well, yeah, the writers wrote the words, but we were just going to say "director" as a shorthand for the film's author.

That always bothered me.

Strike on, WGA. I'm on your page.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I Would've Eaten This Cookie Either Way, But Now I'll Feel Slightly Less Guilty. Slightly.

News - A few extra pounds may save your life, according to recent research that more clearly defines the health-differences between the overweight and the obese (as each is defined by BMI).

BMI, of course, gets plenty of flack, some warranted, some not.

To me, the bottom line is of the "come-on, folks" variety. Obese people who champion their weight are irresponsible and do face health risks. The "overweight" category is quite broad in who gets caught in its magic BMI boundaries. Neither Kate Moss, nor Roseanne, are models of health. America Ferrera is probably the best example of someone who doesn't match her profession's standards who gets unfairly saddled with an "overweight" reputation and BMI number who is likely healthier based on the factors discussed in the article. At my lowest BMI, I still crept past the 25 limit line between "normal" and "overweight" - but not by too much, and at that weight neither I, nor my doctor, felt the label would've been appropriately applied.

I'm now - I'll admit since denying it could be easily disproved via photos - within the "overweight" zone according to BMI metrics. And I agree with the label because I know I was healthier at the lower weight. I'm far from obese, however, so at least, if this article relays accurate information, I merely have to worry about issues of self-confidence and self-worth, rather than worries about dying a fat-arsed death.

So that's a good thing.

But people who use this as a platform to rah-rah the truly unhealthy-overweight and obese should be made to shut it. There remain significant health risks for those in the 30+ BMI range - and those in the upper 20s should probably aim to do better, just in case.

Still time for that cookie, though.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

But It's Still Cool To Trade With Them, Right?

Congress lashes out at Yahoo for their part in the jailing of a Chinese journalist. Congressmen accused Yahoo of "complicity with an oppressive communist regime."

But we still trade with them, live off their cheaply produced goods, and can travel there. Thankfully, we're still safe from Cuban influence and culture, however.

(I'm not saying U.S. policy toward either country is incorrect as suck, just howlingly inconsistent. If someone can explain it to me a way that makes sense - and I mean real sense, not government talking point sense - I'll buy him or her dinner.)

There are some amusing parts of the article:

Callahan said at the time [of earlier Congressional hearings] that the Sunnyvale, Calif., Internet giant had no information about the nature of the Chinese government's investigation of Shi when the company turned over information about him.
'Cause the LAST thing I'd think of if a communist government known for putting the kibbosh on democratic activism asked to know what a journlist had been up to is "hmm, maybe some ill may befall him." I mean really, who would have suspected anything bad in complying with the Chinese government's request?

Then again, maybe Yahoo just didn't know the now jailed journalist was a journalist at all.

Maybe they should've googled him.

Anyway, enough snark. Ish. I suppose the article shouldn't bury the very real questions of a U.S.-owned company's foreign branch's authority to disregard what is a lawful legal order in that country. Even so . . . .

'West Virginia. W-e-s-t V-i-r'

I've mentioned this before, but as we now move into more exciting immigration forms, I can't help but laugh again over one form's absurdly broad question:

List your present and past membership in or affiliation with every organization, association, fund, foundation, party, club, society or similar group in the United States or in other places since your 16th birthday. Include any foreign military service in this part. If none, write "none." Include the name(s) of organization(s), location(s), dates of membership, from and to, and the nature of the organization(s). If additional space is needed, use a separate piece of paper.
Worth noting though - an older version presents the question thusly:

List your present and past membership in or affiliation with every political organization, association, fund, foundation, party, club, society or similar group in the United States or in other places since your 16th birthday. Include any foreign military service in this part. If none, write "none." Include the name(s) of organization(s), location(s), dates of membership, from and to, and the nature of the organization(s). If additional space is needed, use a separate piece of paper.
Catch that? Up there in the first line? The addition, or more precisely the subsequent deletion, of the word "political." Intentional? Oversight? Hyper-vigilant anti-terrorism measure aimed at catching people who don't consider their anti-American cult a political organization so much as a social-club with aggressive weekend activities?

Of course, perhaps it's also a nice example of grammatical issues. How do you read the sentence with the addition of "political?" Does "political" apply to all the words in the series? Or just to organizations, leaving "associations, fund, foundation, party, club, society, or similar group" more broadly applicable? Does the "or" at the end of the list answer the question? I think I'd read "political" as applying to the list of potentially politically-slanted groups, based on the "or," along with a natural reading of the sentence and, of course, my innate desire to avoid work wherever possible. Can the key to correct interpretation be in relying on the relative laziness of the reader during construction? Maybe.

Monday, November 05, 2007

More On FSOs and Iraq

From Amber's blog, an insider's opinion of what the diplomats' public hesitation really means.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Pencils Down?

In hometown Labor news, hollywood writers are one step closer to a long-rumored strike as their contract expired at 12:01 this morning. What happens next? Dunno. A large portion of their beef involves residuals earned on DVD sales - currently netting scribes a mere 4 cents per unit sold. Writers say they want 8 cents and that the 4 cent figure was agreed to in 1985 at a time when home video sales were trying to get a foothold in the market.

I haven't googled-it yet, but I wonder if their contract is a good read? Probably, like a lot of product these days, it's slow to start, picks up in the second and third articles, but contains stock subsections and tired clauses that detract from the documents forward momentum. But don't miss the shocking twist in article 20.

That may have been the most obvious joke one could possibly make about the situation. Then again, I'm not a screenwriter, so what did you expect.

Something I didn't know:

And if the WGA strikes, it's not going to have a lot of company from its union brothers and sisters. The other major Hollywood unions -- SAG, the DGA, AFTRA and IATSE -- have reminded members of the "no-strike" provisions of their contracts and noted that they must live up to any agreement they've made to work.
They're no-strike? Like cops and firefighters and stuff? Hollywood IS important.

I keed. Though many slam The Industry, it is the town company in Los Angeles, and as the city learned pre-9/11, the exodus of filming to Vancouver, Toronto, and those bastards in Montreal did a lot of damange to the local economy. Maybe not aerospace-closure damage, but damage.

And, naturally, I love me a good contract - especially when labor wins its battles to get one.

Did you know in India, lawyers can and do strike when they get mad at the courts for stuff? True story. My friend Avi told me.

That has nothing to do with anything, but I thought I'd share.

Living In The Now Isn't Always The Best Policy

The Roundup points to a Union-Tribune article about Darrell "Waterworks" Issa not being able to see past the end of next week:

"Rep. Darrell Issa, who heavily bankrolled the petition drive that led to the 2003 recall of Gov. Gray Davis, said yesterday he would dip into his personal fortune again to help rescue a Republican plan to change the way California's presidential electoral votes are allocated," writes John Maurelius in the Union-Tribune.

"'My involvement in this is as a minor contributor and a major supporter,' Issa said.

"California awards its 55 electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes statewide. The initiative, which would take effect for the 2008 election if voters approve it, would award electoral votes to the winners in each of the 53 congressional districts with the other two votes going to the statewide winner."
First of all, minor contributors aren't major supporters. I can majorly support something all I want, but money has a nifty way of amplifying one's support. So if Issa isn't really putting up, he should probably do more shutting up. Second of all: come ON! Any Republican who thinks this sort of electoral reform does something to even the playing field needs to buck up. Seriously, fellas, someday you might be in the majority again

Have you been east of the 5 lately?

How shortsighted must you be to want to reform an entire presidential selection process because you've had a bad cycle or two? And wait, haven't Republicans been winning?

Maybe they don't have it in them to be the majority again after all.