27 November 2007

Hey ... new plan: pass the bar!

Options, options, options. I've been researching which books, programs, tutors, and bullshit work the best and here's the general plan:

  1. Jeff Adachi's Bar Survival series - Bar Breakers I and II are the biggest parts, there are also flash cards (pretty good), a "Survival Guide" (has outlines which parallel the flashcards closely), and a book on the MBE's (which is supposed to be inferior to other MBE specific resources). ($100 off craigslist for all the above, ~$325 new)
  2. Strategies & Tactics for the MBEby Walton and Emanuel - recommended by many online and by John Holtz (see below). $56

Courses, seminars, tutors:
  1. John Holtz - PT and Essays, seminar and tutoring. 3 day course on the PT for $450 (reviews range from mixed to very positive, more on the positive end). Based in LA but teaches PT course in SF also. May be available to tutor for a similar price. Tutoring is over the phone and fax. Free study plan by email. You work off materials you already have or can get on the cheap (PMBR big books, Bar/bri stuff, the Walton book above, Bar Breakers, etc). I'll be using him personally, but below are some other options I researched.
  2. The Bar Code - $1200 for the "intensive" program, $3000 for the "complete program." Mixed reviews, some really like their materials, two of my friends recommended it. (I might use it with Holtz's program/help).
  3. Essay Advantage - Essays only, substantive review and essay feedback.
    1. $1500, taught by Jeff Adachi in SF, operated by Bar/bri. Supposed to be similar to the bar/bri experience but with sole focus on essays which get a bit more feedback than in the regular course (this apparently varies, but the same person has been grading them in SF for a while now and gives a respectable level of feedback).
    2. 12 classes, 6 graded essays. Classes during weekdays so incompatible with work.
  4. PT advantage - same as above, but for PT only, $450 for "alumni" of bar/bri.
  5. Emerson's tutorial bar review - Recommended by a friend of mine, but costs $4950.
  6. Barpassers - $2000, see chart, also recommended by a friend. Commonly used, slick presentation materials, on the affordable side but less personalized than most others.
  7. MicroMash - $900 for MBE's, $1600 for MBE's + State specific materials (for California at least). This is a computer program that is sold by Thompson-West. Supposed to be good help with MBE's. VERY similar to the Smart Study program Bar/bri students are familiar with.
  8. The Writing Edge - some people seem to like Vivian Dempsey, but her course is $5500, high even for a private tutor.
  9. CalBar Tutorial - many random recommendations, some negative though. Paul Pfau is behind this - some love him, some really hate him. Serious spite.
  10. Hugh Reed / passyourbar.com - good reviews out there, though few. Hugely expensive! Small classes for $4,400, private on-on-one tutoring for $14000 (and some options in between).
  11. Fleming’s - covers essays, performance exam, and MBE
  12. National Bar Review - private tutoring, they advertise heavily
  13. PASS - online course — covers essays and performance test
  14. Adaptibar - online MBE course.
  15. Bar Graders - private tutoring for essays
  16. Bar None Review - essays, MBE, performance exam
  17. Bar Perfect - private tutoring on essays, performance exam
  18. Shari Karney - WAY too expensive ($6,000 for limited help, $12,000 for the "platinum package" which I think includes hypnotherapy. Not a good choice in my opinion, few independent reviews. At least she includes her prices on the website (most other private tutors do not).
  19. There are others, post your recommendations, reviews, additions, or thoughts in the comments!
* Here's a link to my little spread sheet on the courses:

20 November 2007

The downlow on the MBE - free mbe questiosn from the bar examiners

All States other than Louisiana and Washington use the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) on their bar exams. The MBE has 200 multiple-choice questions given over two 3-hour exam periods. Ten "pretest" questions are not used for scoring purposes: the remaining 190 questions test the following substantive areas of law (links to outlines below, NCBE booklet here):

If you are taking the MBE, visit the website of the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) early in your bar review process. The NCBE provides a detailed description and subject-matter outlines for each subject tested. (Clicking on the subject-matter links above will take you directly to the subject-matter outlines.) The free MBE Information Booklet provides sample questions. Over 1200 MBE questions have been released and are available for purchase.

18 November 2007

Failing the bar - GOOD idea?!?

Name does not appear, etc ... so ... um ... yeah, we need a new plan ...

31 October 2007

Google maps of the Oakland taco trucks

We went taco truck tasting last night ...

(1) Sinaloa Taco Trucks and Taqueria International Blvd & 22nd Ave (excellent, good all arounder),

(2) El Novillo 1001 Fruitvale Ave, (in parking lot of Guadalahara Restaurant) great al pastor, great chicken (shredded ... yumm).

(3) El Ojo De Aqua taco truck Fruitvale Ave & E 13th St (ugg … not great, disappointing ... visible from El Novillo).

See http://www.chowhound.com/topics/450404 for a more detailed discussion of all things Oakland taco.

Any other recommendations?

25 October 2007

Evolution explained in 8 bit terms

Wow, excellent explaination ... this could have replaced 2 weeks of middle school science classes.

22 October 2007

Stop the junk mail! Seriously, tell them to stop here:

Just go to:
And fill out the form ... you don't even need to include your phone number or social security number.

Save this tree:
or this one:

12 September 2007

Cop caught on tape: "I can make up nine things to arrest you"

Because there are not enough people actually comitting crimes so cops have to mess with people and make some shit up ... right.

20 July 2007

dramatic chipmunk

two on one

two on one
Originally uploaded by jbrams
I wish I knew who drew this ... I like the snarl in the lip and the nondescript schmucks on the background. Any one have any ideas?

17 July 2007

It's not time to make a change, Just relax, take it easy. For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.

Father And Son
Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam)

It's not time to make a change,
Just relax, take it easy.
You're still young, that's your fault,
There's so much you have to know.
Find a girl, settle down,
If you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I'm happy.

I was once like you are now, and I know that it's not easy,
To be calm when you've found something going on.
But take your time, think a lot,
Why, think of everything you've got.
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.

How can I try to explain, when I do he turns away again.
It's always been the same, same old story.
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen.
Now there's a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.

It's not time to make a change,
Just sit down, take it slowly.
You're still young, that's your fault,
There's so much you have to go through.
Find a girl, settle down,
if you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I'm happy.
(Son-- Away Away Away, I know I have to
Make this decision alone - no)

All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside,
It's hard, but it's harder to ignore it.
If they were right, I'd agree, but it's them you know not me.
Now there's a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.
(Father-- Stay Stay Stay, Why must you go and
make this decision alone?)

15 July 2007

Remedies Outline from Essays Workshop ... but better

I reformatted and slightly condensed the remedies outline in the California In Class Work Book ... just thought I'd share.

Enjoy =)

Bar study + friends + booze

Thanks Lisa =)

Buffalo Theory

Cliff Clavin:
"Well ya see, Norm, it's like this... A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That's why you always feel smarter after a few

12 July 2007

Past Bar essays - all in on spot!

The Cal Bar offers some recent essays (July 01 until Feb 07). You can download them from the Bar's own site here.

But you can also download them ALL in one zip file and normal file names from HERE.
(Just click the "free" link, do not register with them or anything.

Share for karma points.

"It's like a koala bear crapped a rainbow in my brain."
-- Captain Murphy
Sea Lab 2012

13 June 2007

Prof Whitebread says there are 3 levels of knowledge and understanding of the legal materials on the bar exam.

1. The Glib understanding where you've seen the material and get some of it

2. The point where you understand the problems with your understanding and can identify where you're lacking.

3. The point where you've overcome your problems and have a true understanding of the material.

He guarantees that you only need to get to the point of glib understanding and that no state's bar can ask anything more from you. It seems like just the opposite, but if you just think of a few lawyers you know *cough*Monica Goodling*cough* this starts to make a lot more sense.

12 June 2007

Got an MP3 player

Got an MP3 (and MP4 - video) player - The Meizu 4gb - like the iPod nano kinda ($99 at walgreens.com). Has FM radio, recorder, bigger screen, at least $30 cheaper =)
Amazon reviews
DAPreview.net review

11 June 2007

43 pounds lighter - new handlebars

My current weight loss -
326.6 on January 3, 2007
283.6 on June 11, 2007
43 pounds over about 6 months

And I'm planning on getting Albatross Handlebars for my new bike (they are a mix between mustache bars and north road bars)! Yay for swept back handlebars! I'm going to get the steel version which is 56cm wide (wide!) but this means a little bike project because it requires new brake and deraileur cables and housings since the angle will be substantially different. Fun with Missing Link's free tool workshop!

08 June 2007

Bar hotels and bike pedals

Wondering where to stay for the California bar exam? Here's the bar's list of recommended locations.

Wondering which pedals to put on you bike?
Here's what I'm looking at to replace the cheapo pedals that came with my Jamis Coda Sport:
Each will probably get some toe clips of the metal variety ... something like this:

What do you think? I'm leaning toward the MKS Touring pedals - "rat trap" type or some such =)

01 June 2007

Now Abe's the Sicko!

I've been sick for about 10 days now, fun way to start BARBRI.

I'm getting better after visiting the Tang center and being told I have the perfect set, and timing, of symptoms for URI (upper respiratory infection). Yeah, a cold.

My solution after talking with the doctor:
(1) Tons of water. Liquids of all kinds are good, water is best. Duh.
(2) Vitamins - A daily multi-vitamin plus extra vitamin C (total of about 2000% of the daily recommendation).
(3) Echinacea - NYTimes says it doesn't work, I say it doesn't seem to be bad for you and it might help so here goes nothing.
(4) Goldenseal - makes the throat feel a bit better even if it's curative powers are overstated.
(5) Sleep - Okay, I haven't been getting enough, but this is a big one.
(6) Humidifier - does it get rid of the cold? Nah. But it makes me feel better when I wake up.
(7) Long, hot showers - helps with productive coughing.
(8) Day/NyQuil - or whatever equivalent drug you prefer, most are Tylenol plus nasal decongestant, cough suppressant, and antihistamine for the night time version ... that's what makes you sleepy.
(9) Zinc - in the daily multivitamin, recommended by my doctor and chiropractor (for whatever that's worth). Doc said it's faily proven in helping end the cold faster. But he also said I'd be coughing for another week ... not that he's wrong, I just don't like hearing it so authoritatively.

Here's another list:

What do you do to get over a cold?

PS - no, I'm not contagious anymore and Megan didn't get sick so we can shake hands and be friends.

21 May 2007

Did the Simpsons backdown when Fox News threatened to sue them? (for this).

HELL NO! (no, no, no)

This was the best episode I've seen is years!

"Then I had this crazy dream that my family were all just cartoon characters and that our success led to some crazy propaganda network called Fox News." --Bart Simpson

Murrow, attacks on Fox news and the secret is almost revealed!

Please post any links to video you can find and I'll update this post.

Also, at the end of the show, you can go here to enter a contest to win 4 tickets for the premiere of The Simpson Movie this summer. Make sure you pay attention to the kind of animal that Homer is holding up the ceiling during the commercial.

And afterwards Family Guy does some of the same, fantastic ... plus Back to the Future references, comeon, good times.

Friends, the press and the government are in bed together in an embrace so intimate and wrong they could spoon on a twin matress and still have room for Ted Koppel.

Journalists used to question the reasons for war and expose abuse of power. Now, like toothless babies they suckle on the sugary teet of misinformation and poop it into the diaper we call the six-o'clock news.

Demand more of your government! Demand more of your press!

More from Family Guy (text from comments):
In the alternate future that Peter created by going back in time, Gore was President (and he hunted down Bin Laden...who was hiding in the cast of Mad TV)...Cheney (the CEO of Halliburton) shot and killed Scalia, Rove, and Tucker Carlson in a hunting accident.

They also mention that Gore's universal health care, zero tolerance for gun crime, and a well funded education system are the reason they cannot find a dead body (as a result of premature death or violent crime).

19 May 2007

PMBR 6 day notes ... should I post them?

I'll post my PMBR notes to googledocuments if anyone is interested ... just reply to this post.

Also, now is a good time to look for stuff on Craigslist if you in the market for anything ... people moving out of the dorms this weekend.

The guy on the left is Craig ... the shop he's in is at 9th and Judah in SF, it's where I started playing Magic the Gathering ... oy.

13 May 2007

I'm getting MARRIED to Megan Cherry!

Pictures and details to come ... basically I proposed during graduation at Boalt as I was on stage, everyone freaked out, Megan said YES!

10 May 2007

Prof. Tikka - glasses DO make you look smarter!

Yes, I'm one of those happy dog owners.
She's like a child but cheaper to feed, free to clothe.

My picassa gallery (google)

Peets Coffee Democrats Unite! We'll take Starbucks too; Dem's love coffee the most!

I'd never heard of them until now, but apparently young, rich, moderately conservative (wah?), machiado guzzling suburbanites have been recently referred to as "Starbucks Republicans."

This gives a bad name to all the self-respecting suburban caffiene addicts - these people are not representative of Starbucks goers or suburbanites. Isn't there a word for those few wannabe hipster-ish, young, wealthy independents? Oh yeah, YUPPIES!

I don't, I think the coffee crowd has expanded, but not to the point of overwhelmingly conservative tastes. And I'll take the research of Ruy Texiera over some Rethug-lican pollster any day:

"About 58 percent of emerging suburban residents and 69 percent of true exurban residents are white working class – that is, are whites without a four year college degree. Only 23 percent and 16 percent, respectively, in these areas are college-educated whites."

"In terms of occupation, overwhelming numbers of emerging suburban and exurban workers do not hold professional or managerial jobs – 65 percent and 71 percent, respectively. In both types of areas, there are more construction and production workers than professionals and way more sales and office workers than managers."

I met Ruy once at the Century Foundation's Sagner fellowship ... he may be a number cruncher, but he's our number cruncher!

Funny thing is that Starbucks was inspired by, and initially got their beans from Peets ... kinda how Republicans reacted to Democratic grassroots activism by creating their own corporate version of grassroots activism then marketing it to the OC as a replacement for cocaine ... or something like that.

02 May 2007

Loan exit exam answers

So you have to take this test and you're pretty sure about your answers. If you get less than 70% you have to re-take the test with different questions. Here were my questions and my answers
  1. The maximum repayment period under the Income Contingent Repayment Plan is 20 years
    1. False, 25 years.
  2. This is an exit counseling quiz for the Pell Grant Program
    1. False,
  3. After I graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment, repayment will begin in 3 months.
    1. false, 6 months
  4. Under no circumstances can I postpone payment on my loan(s)
    1. False, there a a few reasons to postone payment.
  5. There are no serious consequences if I fail to make loan payments on time
    1. False, duh.
  6. If I transfer to another school and will be enrolled at least half-time, I should contact the Direct Loan Servicing Center to request an in-school deferment
    1. True
  7. If I am in default on my loan, I can still receive additional federal student aid
    1. False, but see which says, " The only financial aid you can be considered for while in default on a student loan is the BOG Fee Waiver and scholarships."
  8. The repayment plan in which my payments start out low, then increase every two years is the. . .
    1. Graduated Repayment Plan
  9. When interest accrues on my loan(s) I may pay that interest or it will be added to the principal balance of my loan(s). If interest is added to the principal balance of my loan(s) it is called ______________ interest.
    1. capitalized
  10. To make payments on my loan(s), I may elect to receive monthly bills or have my monthly payment automatically withdrawn from my checking or savings account through...
    1. an Electronic Debit Account (EDA)
Submitting now ...

10/10. The $95,000 test, boo!

Anyone else want to share their answers?

3.0 quake by my house, fun!

Everything you need to know about BIKES!

I just finished my LAST FINAL EXAM EVER and am essentially done with law school!

And now what? Study for the bar until the end of July.

But I'll be riding my bike daily to keep from getting bigger and slower over the next few months. In that spirit, and in case you or anyone you know need ANY information about bikes (how-to repairs, detailed technical info, spiritual thoughts) go to:


And give me a call if you want to hang out before Boalt's graduation (5/12) and the beginning of bar study (5/14) ... of if you handing out beers during that time!

26 April 2007

Slide show for Boalt Class of 2007

Preview for the two people who know that I have a blog =)

Fascist America, in 10 easy steps

Reminds me of my class with James A. Gregor ... who once goose stepped out of a UC Berkeley Political Science Department meeting! Naomi Wolf wrote an essay about the ten steps a corrupt government takes to create a fascist state, and provides examples of what the Bush administration is doing to fulfill the requirements of each step. These closely parallel what I was taught by Gregor - though he would say that you also generally need a charismatic leader ... and it doesn't seem like Bush or Cheney fit the bill ...

1 Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy

2 Create a gulag

3 Develop a thug caste

4 Set up an internal surveillance system

5 Harass citizens' groups

6 Engage in arbitrary detention and release

7 Target key individuals

8 Control the press

9 Dissent equals treason

10 Suspend the rule of law

"It is a mistake to think that early in a fascist shift you see the profile of barbed wire against the sky. In the early days, things look normal on the surface; peasants were celebrating harvest festivals in Calabria in 1922; people were shopping and going to the movies in Berlin in 1931. Early on, as WH Auden put it, the horror is always elsewhere - while someone is being tortured, children are skating, ships are sailing: "dogs go on with their doggy life ... How everything turns away/ Quite leisurely from the disaster." As Americans turn away quite leisurely, keeping tuned to internet shopping and American Idol, the foundations of democracy are being fatally corroded. Something has changed profoundly that weakens us unprecedentedly: our democratic traditions, independent judiciary and free press do their work today in a context in which we are "at war" in a "long war" - a war without end, on a battlefield described as the globe, in a context that gives the president - without US citizens realising it yet - the power over US citizens of freedom or long solitary incarceration, on his say-so alone."

25 April 2007

Stewart vs McCain - this is how to "frame" debate (very Lakoff Mr. Stewart, you win)

From Crooksandliars.com:

Stewart tries to explain a few things to St. McCain about fighting a civil war:

"…but that assumes that we're fighting one enemy—they're fighting each other. We're not surrendering to an enemy that has defeated us. We're saying, how do you quell a civil war when it's not your country?"

McCain got very angry that Stewart called them out for using the " you're not supporting the troops," theme and was trying to filibuster the segment…He tried to use the troops as a wedge. Stewart got hot and fought back…McCain started to stutter. (rough transcript)

Stewart: All I'm saying is you cannot look a soldier in the eye and say questioning the president is less supportive to you than extending your tour for three months when you should be coming home to your family.

McCain: Every American..

Stewart: And that's not fair to put on people that criticize…

McCain: Jon…

Stewart: And you know I love you and respect your service and would never question any of that—this is not about questioning the troops and their ability to fight and their ability to be supported. And that is what the administration does and that is almost criminal.

21 April 2007

Justice Holmes in Gitlow v. New York (1925)

"It is said that this manifesto was more than a theory, that it was an incitement. Every idea is an incitement. It offers itself for belief and if believed it is acted on unless some other belief outweighs it or some failure of energy stifles the movement at its birth. The only difference between the expression of an opinion and an incitement in the narrower sense is the speaker’s enthusiasm for the result. Eloquence may set fire to reason. But whatever may be thought of the redundant discourse before us it had not chance of starting a present conflagration."

That everything you say could be the words that excite someone to actually do something is powerful stuff. But the reasons it doesn't get them off their ass to actually do whatever it is are:
(1) they're lazy
(2) you're wrong, or
(3) you are not persuasive.

I like to think I have a combination of all three most the time.

Can you tell I'm studying for Con Law I?

Becoming a svelt Jew ... slowly

For anyone curious - I'm trying to lose weight (yeah, I'm fat, I'm working on it).

Here's my progress (publically displayed so you can hassle me is I start gaining weight or reaching for cookies or something):

I begin on 1/3/07 and weighted 326.5lbs
The last daily weigh-in was on 4/21/07, I weighted 291.2lbs

So I've lost 35.3 pounds in 108 days =
35.3 / 108 = 0.32685 ~ 0.327 pounds/day!
2.288 pounds/week!

I'm using The Daily Plate to count calories. There's another post on this site with a review of this and other such sites.

Now I want a cookie! Instead I'll ride my bike ... I guess.

19 April 2007

Forbiden mac and cheese ... drool

NYTimes "crusty mac 'n' cheese" with White extra sharp cheddar and Kirkland signature American cheese.

This is only a small batch ... the large batch which I brought to a BBQ contained 14oz of cheddar and 16oz of American cheese ... and 2 pounds of elbow pasta. Secret ingredient? MORE cheese!

Here's an article about mac and cheese and here's the recipe I used (and many people love). [PS - can't read NYTimes because you don't have "timeselect"? If you're a student you can get it free!]

And no, this is not on my diet, but thanks for looking out.

Gratuitous pictures:
Beginning a tradition is hard:
Right to left:
Lisa, Abe, Kendra, Mike, Dan.

Fun with the externs!

Send SMS (Text) messages from your E-Mail account

Here are the addresses for the top six US carriers. Substitute an actual phone number, send the e-mail and it will arrive as a text message.
Virgin Mobilephonenumber@vmobl.com

17 April 2007

After seeing two kids (high school freshmen) shot ...

... I'll never own a gun and I will work to keep them away from others.

The guns that caused this most recent tragedy and nearly all the violent deaths and injuries in the US were legally purchased at one point or another. Preventing people from buying guns (or ammo) will also prevent guns from getting into the hands of people who will use them irresponsibly.

Would an armed student have stopped the attack on VA Tech? Maybe.

Did a (legally) armed student cause the rampage? Yes.

First thing McCain can do to all but suck face with the neo-con right after this? Point out that he likes guns.

I've been shocked by the comments here and on digg and beyond. More guns are not the solution, guns caused this problem. Legal, easily purchased guns.

I've watched 15 year olds literally have their heads shot through because they were being kids in front of school just after class let out for the day. The person who had the gun bought it legally. He bought the ammo legally. He carried the concealed weapon legally. And he was only caught because he was foolish enough to commit another crime days later only blocks away. He was using another legally purchased gun then too.

Yes, we have a history with guns that's part of our tradition. Yes, once they were an important part of our revolution. But militias are out and guns are killing thousands of innocents ... thousands that would not be saved if they too had guns. If more people had guns they would simply go off more often. Road rage a problem with people pulling out their car jacks? What if they were all packing? What if they all got just a little more scared (what, you're not scared enough by the BushCo war and finance machine!?!)?

Keep the guns out of the streets by making them illegal. It works and it may be the only way.

I don't want to explain why there's a cross in front of the school to any more parents. Flowers and teddy bears won't help, activism to make serious changes in gun laws will. Please, I don't want to hold any more kids hands while their friends bleed out waiting for the ambulance. I'm begging you, please, please, please.

EFF has a job opening - "EFF Seeks Intake Coordinator"

This would be an incredible job at a very worthy office!

Straight dope from their site:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an Internet civil liberties nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, is seeking a full-time intake coordinator. EFF receives many requests for legal and other help from the public for Internet-related issues. The intake coordinator screens and gives initial responses to everyone who asks for our assistance.

Our offices are located in the heart of San FranciscoÕs Mission District. This person will support a dedicated staff of lawyers, technologists and activists. The environment is fast-paced, our mission is cutting edge, and EFFÕs staff is very smart and fun to work with.

Applicant must have general computer skills and knowledge of the Internet. Experience with basic legal issues and familiarity with EFF and our specific issues are also very helpful. This person must have great interpersonal skills, compassion and a sense of humor.

Duties include:

  • Greeting visitors
  • Answering general organizational telephone and email inquiries
  • Performing legal case intake and referrals
  • Managing database of cooperating attorneys and technologists
  • Coordinating volunteers and part-time staff for support projects
  • Assisting staff with assorted administrative tasks

Salary mid '30s plus good benefits package. EOE, we encourage diverse applicants to apply. Please email only resume and cover letter to intakejob@eff.org. Position available immediately. No phone calls please!

15 April 2007

Kurt Vonnegut tells you how to write (good for legal writers!)

Some writing advice by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. on the subject of short stories, from Bagombo Snuff Box:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.*

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

13 March 2007

Help your parents with their computer ... by remotely accessing it!

"Can you teach me how to send email again?"
"The internet crashed!"

Yes, you parents and classmates occationally say such silly things. But more often than not I can't help them over the phone because I can't see what they're doing. Here's a free remote access program that should solve that problem, called Logmein.
Access & Control a PC from Anywhere with LogMeIn Free
Also works for accessing your own home computer from work or the other way around. Great if you've got broadband connections on either end. I'll try with someone who has a dial-up connection and let you know what happens.

18 February 2007

12 Writing Tips from George Orwell

George Orwell has earned the right to be called one of the finer writers in the English language through such novels as 1984 and Animal Farm, such essays as “Shooting an Elephant,” and his memoir Down and Out in Paris.

George expressed a strong dislike of totalitarian governments in his work, but he was also passionate defender of good writing. Thus, you may want to hear some of George’s writing tips.

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

1.What am I trying to say?
2. What words will express it?
3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And he will probably ask himself two more:
1. Could I put it more shortly?
2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

One can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:
1.Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

From “Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell.

14 February 2007

Diet websites ... calorie counting basically

I've said it before, and most diet books will only make this point after taking your $10-30:
1 pound = 3500 calories.
You use calories everyday regardless of exercise (this is your basal rate) ... for me it's 3200-3500 calories/day (it's higher than yours because, well, I'm fatter or taller than you ... the sites below will calculate your basal rate for you based on weight, age, gender, and height - most will also account for your activity level).

Create a calorie deficit (eat fewer calories than you use) each day and you'll lose weight. This isn't easy to do in you head so there are many websites which can help you keep track of what you ate.
Some cost money. Some have better databases of food than others. Here's my list of the top 6:

(1) www.thedailyplate.com - free (but upgradable) tracker with excellent (BEST) food database. This is what I use. The reports are not as good as some other free sites (i.e., fitday), but it's only a small difference, really it gives you more reporting information than you'll have time to evaluate. Their food database can be added to and updated by the community ... when someone else enters a custom food, you can search for it and even add to it's description. This is a big part of the reason that they have such a huge database. Their weight tracking display is easy to use and looks nice enough. Great to see that downward slope!

(2) www.fitday.com - free (can pay for downloadable upgrade), great/simple interface, detailed reports, terrible food database ... but this can be made up for by using www.dietfacts.com which allows you to add foods from it's large database to fitday as "custom foods" with the click of a button. However, even with the additional dietfacts foods, the fitday database is much more limited than thedailyplate.

(3) www.sparkpeople.com - 100% free, excellent reports, community feedback, loads of features. But they won't let you set your loss rate higher than 2 pounds/week (I'm aiming a bit above that so this killed an otherwise excellent site for my purposes). They also have detailed reports, many helpful articles, and a very easy, good looking interface.

(4) www.traineo.com - free and easy to integrate into other community groups (many people have this in their "signature" for other forums they visit. Web 2.0 interface is a little excessive at times, but more often beautifully done. Food database is limited, but better than fitday.

(5) www.calorieking.com - this is a HUGE food database that is free and simple to use. However, their tracking and other services are only available if you're willing to shell out $45/year. Many agree that the cost is worth it for this excellent service, though I think there are such good free alternatives available that the frugal choice is to only use calorieking as a supplement to your other food databases.

(6) www.calorie-count.com - free tracker and adviser, some swear by it, but my review of this site is limited. MASSIVE food database, though many foods have limited nutritional facts available. They also have a helpful community support feature.

Other diet site resources:
Lifehacker 'weighs' in (more generally on lifehacker)
Great article by top-foodie Michael Pollan
Calorie-count.com has an excellent FAQ about weight loss here
What does 200 Calories Look Like?
Calories in many brands of beer

07 February 2007

CNN hitpiece on ... atheists!?!


"The Babel fish," said The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy quietly, "is small, yellow and leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe. It feeds on brainwave energy not from its carrier but from those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain which has supplied them. The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language.

The speech patterns you actually hear decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your mind by your Babel fish."

"Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mindbogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God."

"The argument goes something like this: 'I refuse to prove that I exist,' says God, 'for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.'"

"'But,' says Man, 'The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. QED.'"

"'Oh dear,' says God, 'I hadn't thought of that,' and promptly vanished in a puff of logic."

- Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

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07 January 2007

More cuteness, sorry

Tiny Animals on human fingers

Roly poly
Originally uploaded by Specklet.
Cuteoverload.com is a great page for ... umm ... cute pics of animals. This is from a flicker photo stream of tiny animals on human fingers.

04 January 2007

You are what you eat ... and here's what 200 calories of you looks like

Great pictures of 200 calories worth of different foods. Turns out you can eat a lot of celery and still get fewer calories than a few tablespoons of oil. Who knew!?!

Recommended dieting web-site: fitday.com which is free.

There are about 3500 calories in a pound of human body fat.

It takes a certain amount of calories to maintain your current weight. This website will tell you how many calories you need to maintain your weight.

To diet: eat less than is necessary to maintain your current weight.

The American Cancer Society says the easiest way to do that (eat fewer calories) is to cut back on portion sizes.

Here's a lady from Montana holding a 5 pound body fat replica: