Monday, May 29, 2006

Cape May, NJ

Originally taken in July 2004
Cape May, NJ

Reconsidering "Kindergarten Cop" (1990)

I recently came across Ivan Reitman's classic comedy about an undercover police officer posing as a kindergarten teacher. I haven't seen it in about ten years or so, and to my surprise, it really has withstood the test of time. It's actually not that bad of a movie at all.

At a little under 2 hours, the movie is not rushed and Reitman took the time to develop the characters and the story. I am amazed at how long it was into the movie before we even see the school children because usually in a movie like this, the director will bow to the gimmick and try to force those kids in there in a minute or two after the opening credits. But this movie resists that temptation and spends time doing the gruntwork.
And again, after Arnold meets the children, there is a huge uninterrupted section of comedy that I can appreciate. There are some plot turns--where Arnold thinks he has found the right child but its a false alarm--and no matter what, the movie seems to maintain its own internal clock.
Granted the evil ex-husband and mother-in-law characters are absolutely terrible, this movie still gets the most mileage from its concept and cast.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


I have worked for the Berkeley Technology Law Journal for two years now. Keeping track of documents, legal sources, hours, events, and calendars is a logistical nightmare at times. As of a week ago, we were mixing and matching various ad-hoc solutions, like Yahoo Groups, e-mail, a clunky and finicky VPN network offered by the school, and paper copies of most documents.
Enter BaseCamp. "Basecamp," according to its publisher 37Signals, "is a unique project collaboration tool. Projects don't fail from a lack of charts, graphs, or reports, they fail from a lack of communication and collaboration. Basecamp makes it simple to communicate and collaborate on projects."
If any of you have been searching for project collaboration services or suites, you already know that most of the ones available on the market are not cheap. Many services are based on Microsoft Sharepoint Services, which allow for advanced version control of documents and much better integration with Microsoft Office. However, navigating, setting up, and maintaining permissions to most standard Sharepoint portals is very cumbersome and counter-intuitive in many ways. There are some open-source suites available for free, though I found the user interface clunky and cluttered at times.
Why I like BaseCamp is that it has a relatively easy learning curve for those we expect to use the system. While it is true that other solutions would make life easier in some respects, you always have to take into consideration (1) cost; (2) implementation; (3) ease of use; (4) longevity. BaseCamp lets you create an unlimited number of users, whereas a lot of other services require you to pay as much as $35/month per user, which is unfeasible given that we have 100+ members.
Here's a quick rundown of only a few of the cool features the site offers. Our account can have up to 35 active projects, and each project has a separate page for it. One of the coolest features is the MILESTONES section, which allows you to enter in major due dates far in advance, giving your team members a clear view of where a project is headed in the next few months. Milestones can be set up with reminders and various notifications, and the calendar on the right side of the window is invaluable:
Another great feature are tasks, which work alongside Milestones to fill in day to day tasks. These tasks can be assigned to individual team members or to the entire team and can easily be checked off the list once completed, giving everyone in your team an idea of how work is progressing. One of the best features of BaseCamp is the ability to make a template out of popular task list items. Thus, if you find yourself doing very similar projects repeatedly (as in publishing), you can just create a master list and then just add them to a project. However, what seems rather odd is that BaseCamp does not offer the same feature for Milestones, which is terribly inconvenient because it takes awhile to enter in all the dates, times, and subjects of milestones for every single project you are doing.
There are some other cool features like time tracking, which basically lets every team member electronically log their journal hours. There are also message boards where people can post new developments, stories, along with attachments. Others, obviously, can make comments. The site also has a section called "Files," where you can upload project files and give everyone access to them. This is a great way to centralize your project materials and let any project member with a web browser able to contribute. As noted earlier, there is no embedded version controls, so you have to basically download a file, make your changes, and upload it again as another document. While I would have preferred something more integrated with Word, this is not that big of a deal for us.
BaseCamp offers a number of accounts with different size and project options. Our plan is 49.99/month, which includes 35 projects, 500MB of space, unlimited users, 128 SSL encryption and a few other things. My biggest concern is that 500MB of space is much too little space, especially for 35 projects. Luckily, BaseCamp allows you to hook up your site to any FTP site, which can have as much space as you want.
The only things I don't like about BaseCamp are the size limitations, the lack of Milestone templates, and the somtimes repetitive data entry required to set up a project. Creating user accounts can also be a pain if you don't organize your members correctly. I had to delete all of our members twice before I got it right. But most of that legwork is done . . . for now.

Monday, May 22, 2006

My "First" Day of Work

It's about 7:40am. Today is my first day of work. Or, should I say, today was supposed to be my first day of work. About two weeks ago I got a call from the Conflicts Dept. at the law firm I will be working at this summer. The call is pretty routine, following up on some of the legal work I've done in the past. One or two questions were about some work I did five years ago at the New York Public Interest Research Group, but most focused around the work I did at the firm I worked for last summer.
It turns out one of the clients I worked for last summer is a client that my new firm has a lot of work adverse to. So, my new firm had to call my old firm and ask them if they'd be willing to ask the client for a waiver so that I can start working. We're still just waiting on the client to sign the waiver. If signed, I can begin working. The waiver, however, does not let me work on any matters that might involve this client, so my new firm will create something called an "ethical wall" around me, which basicallly means I'm out of the loop on all of those cases and nobody can talk to me about them.
As of right now, I'm not allowed on the premises for my first day of orientation with all the other summer associates. Granted I always find orientation to be 2 or 3 hours of material stretched over 2 days, I still think it is important to go and meet everyone (including my summer mentor). A few of the coordinators tried to bend the rules a little so that I could just show up for training and social functions, but the idea didn't fly with the partners. My guess that it is just too big of a risk, even if I woudln't have computer access and wouldn't even start working until two days from now.
Although I'd like to start working, the weird thing is that I completely understand what is going on and why it needs to be done. I'm not mad at all -- I just feel like a fish out of water a little because it's Monday and I need to occupy myself by running more errands!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Subscription Time

It's that time of the year again. Time to renew or ditch magazine subscriptions. I currently receive the following magazines:
39.95 / year - ESPN The Magazine (as part of my ESPN Insider Account)
0.00 / year - PC World (gift subscription)
0.00 / year - Computer Shopper (gift subscription)
10.00 / WIRED
I'm planning on ditching PC world and the Computer Shopper because virtually all of their content is availalbe for free online. I mean I was happy to get them free for a year as a gift subscritpion, but paying for them is a whole other ballgame.
I've already renewed my ESPN Insider Account--well, ESPN renewed it automatically for me--so that's settled. But, I'm debating whether I want to keep my WIRED subscription. I am not terribly thrilled about WIRED's website, and the magazine has very good production values. The stories are very interesting and it's one of the few magazines I can actually read cover to cover.
There is, however, a growing list of other magazines I want to get. They include:
The Economist []
Adbusters []
The New Yorker []
Fortune []
I'm leaning towards getting an academic subscription to the Economist for 77.00 bucks, which is pricey, but seems well worth the wealth of well-reasoned commentary I am getting (not to mention online access). I think Fortune is probably the weakest link of the pack, and I never seem to have enough time to get into the New Yorker. That leaves the grossly underrated culturejammer's magazine, Adbusters. I wonder if it's exorbitantly high price (35.00 for 6 issus a year) is because it is TOO trendy, but the magazine is so damn cool.
Is there any subscription of these four I should get? Are there any magazines or sites that I am overlooking?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


2L year is caput. How does it feel, you ask?
I've got a headache.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Great Toyota Camry Story

As I wait for my 2003 Mazda 6s to arrive from New York, I am reminded of the events that led to the demise of the famed Rajani-mobile--the unstoppable 1998 Toyota Camry LE.

I got the car a few years back with only about 48,000 miles on it. I used it through two rough winters at Syracuse and then left it in my parent's driveway for an entire year when I moved to Berkeley. My brother picked the car out and boy did he do a good job. That year model is beatiful. It wasn't too bulky, had nice flat lines, and looked damn good with illegal tint. Though a bit underpowered as a 4 cylnder, the Camry had a slingshot-esque engine, one that took its time to get to 30, but took off just fine after that.

And what was lost in off-the-line performance was made up for in fuel economy. I could get 550 miles out of one large tank, averaging about 36 MPG on the highway. That's right, 550 miles out of one freaking tank.

Well, everything was going well. At the end of last summer, my intention was to keep the car until it died, which would have been at least another five years. I began parking it at my apartment in Berkeley. I live above a number of restaurants and the lot I park in has a set of dumpsters. There are usually no problems at all, but as I noted a few months ago, downtown Berkeley had a wave of rat problems.
Suffice it to say, that the rats wreaked havoc on many cars in the lot. They chewed up several wires in my neighbors brand new BMW (granted she deserved it for driving a Beamer), causing at least two thousand dollars worth of damage. Others had wires for car alarms damaged.
So what happened to my car? My car was inflicted with perhaps the foulest and most unpleasant stench known to man. It is epic smell, one that can only go by the name of "The Beast." I could never tell what the smell was, but it was coming from my engine and the front end. Rats probably dragged their food into the enging compartment because it was warm in there. But over time, it started rotting.
I got my car detailed. The engine steam cleaned, the undercarriage washed, the rear end pressure washed. I went to a do-it-yourself car wash about ten times, trying to powerwash the engine. No matter what, it kept coming back. I could not turn on my air conditioning or even open the vents. If you opened the windows, you could smell it. Ugh.
In January of this year I decided I would part ways with my Toyota. I put it up for sale on Craigslist on a Sunday night at around 9:30pm. I was asking $5900. The bluebook value for the condition the car was in was about $6,600, but this smell was terrible and I needed to get rid of it quickly. In two hours, I recieved about 65 calls and about 40 emails. Six people saw the car the next day and they started bidding higher than the asking price.
One gentlemen asked if he could buy the car the same day and was willing to put in $6,900. He was buying the car for his mom and he would get the smell taken care of. He spoke with a thick Arabic accent, and muffled his name. It was (I'm changing it a little) "Hashim." He said, in broken English, that he was going to arrive at around 3:00pm the next day.
I got a call at 12:00pm that day, "This is Hamid Hashim and I am in the area. I am buying a car for my mother. Can I come over now?" I said okay and showed him the car. He said, "So we settled at $6,700, right?" and I smiled, saying that I thought it was $6,900. He took a loook at the car and said alright. He went to the bank and brought the money. Done deal.
Then something weird happened. I got a call at 3:30pm the same day. "This is Hashim." I asked him how he was doing. "Good. What is your address again?" I wondered if something went wrong with the car or if he needed to mail me something. I gave him the address and a black Honda pulled up. I didn't recognize the guy. "I had appointment at 3:00 today, sorry for late."
What the FUCK?
There were TWO people who had virtually identical names. One was Hamid Hashim and the other was Hashim Hamid! And, BOTH were buying cars for their mothers. This second guy was really the one who was willing to buy the car at $6,900. Suffice it to say, he was not a happy to hear that I thought he already came and bought the car, but he understood what had happened.
Thank goodness he wasn't a contract lawyer. I remember so little of my Contract Law class to even figure out how a court would examine the situation. It was a potential disaser, but it all worked out.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Droppin' 24 on my Law Professor's Punk-Ass

Its that time of the semester folks. Patent Law examination. 11 pages of densely-written single-spaced fact pattern and 24 hours to hand in an answer.
I do have a bit of a stomach ache, but I think that has more to do with the Cinco de Mayo quesadilla I ate late this afternoon. I'm amazed how calm I feel. In fact, I'm not even going to stay up. I'm going to get some good sleep and do it in the morning.
I guess that means I'm droppin' 16.5 on my Law Professor's Punk-Ass.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Lakers v. Suns: Or Why I Didn't Have Time To Study For My Patents Final

Who would have thought this series would be this good. I'm sitting here: Game 6, Overtime, PHO just pushed it to Game 7. But for some reason, I still have this pit in my stomach that Kobe's going to win it still. This is the money time, folks.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Two Down -- Two to Go

Halfway done with finals, beeitches.