Barely Legally

confessions of a moot court bailiff

Endocrine Disruptors

From Scientific American comes this feel-bad story. Remember how your plastic water bottle had a “BPA-free” sticker on it? That’s good. BPA is harmful and is thought to cause cancer. Surprise twist ending, the thing they replaced it with is just as bad!

“[Manufacturers] put ‘BPA-free’ on the label, which is true. The thing they neglected to tell you is that what they’ve substituted for BPA has not been tested for the same kinds of problems that BPA has been shown to cause. That’s a little bit sneaky.”

How could this happen?

Currently, no federal agency tests the toxicity of new materials before they are allowed on the market. “We’re paying a premium for a ‘safer’ product that isn’t even safer,” [University of Calgary scientist Deborah] Kurrasch says. There are many types of bisphenols out there, so part of the public’s responsibility “is making sure [manufacturers] don’t just go from BPA to BPS to BPF or whatever the next one is.”

Facebook’s Fotoshop Fracas

A woman is suing because someone photoshopped her face onto nude photos of someone else. As she should. From Ars Technica:

Photographs “that depict the true face of plaintiff” were altered with Photoshop and “attached to false, phony, naked body shots, and at least one pose where there is plaintiff in a graphic pornographic-like photo,” states the complaint, which was filed on July 25 in Harris County.

“These phony photos falsely and maliciously depicted plaintiff in a clearly derogatory and false light … as some overly bold and overly aggressive sexual person, which plaintiff in fact and truth is not,“ writes Ali’s lawyer.

The complaint has kind of a clumsy sound to it, but like all pleadings, it reads a little funny because it has to cover lots of legal bases. If you’re going to seek damages for harm to your reputation, you don’t want to lose when the defendant says “you forgot to argue that your client isn’t actually aggressively sexual!” That’d be embarrassing. And weird.

National Deathbrick League

Via Priceonomics, How Dodgeball Became America’s Most Demonized Sport:

…the game was brought to the United States by an observant (but non-participating) missionary in the late 1800s. Rocks were supposedly substituted for “broken house-bricks,” and the game became known as “deathbrick.” During the game’s “golden age” from 1910 to the late 1920s, it was adapted as a sport at Princeton and Yale, and a “National Deathbrick League” was instituted. According to the questionable source, deathbrick is “alive and well today:”

BRB; selling my worldly possessions to journey across the country, apprentice myself to a master deathbrick player, and rise through the ranks to become the best ‘bricker the world has ever seen.

Sum-mer Time Blues

Elizabeth Green writes for the New York Times, asking Why Do Americans Stink at Math?

One of the most vivid arithmetic failings displayed by Americans occurred in the early 1980s, when the A&W restaurant chain released a new hamburger to rival the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. With a third-pound of beef, the A&W burger had more meat than the Quarter Pounder; in taste tests, customers preferred A&W’s burger. And it was less expensive. A lavish A&W television and radio marketing campaign cited these benefits. Yet instead of leaping at the great value, customers snubbed it.

Only when the company held customer focus groups did it become clear why. The Third Pounder presented the American public with a test in fractions. And we failed. Misunderstanding the value of one-third, customers believed they were being overcharged. Why, they asked the researchers, should they pay the same amount for a third of a pound of meat as they did for a quarter-pound of meat at McDonald’s. The “4” in “¼,” larger than the “3” in “⅓,” led them astray.

The only thing America likes more than overeating is being bad at math, apparently.

The rest of the article largely focuses on math standardized test scores in Japan (and China and Korea), which handily beat American students’ scores. That’s not news.

What is news: Japan and China and Korea are teaching their kids math with methods developed in America in the 1980s. We didn’t adopt the thing we invented, and they did. And it works way better than the instructional model we cling to. There have been numerous (heh) attempts at updating our math curriculum in America, but they’ve all been abandoned shortly after adoption.

Royalty Screwed

You know, I make fun of industries and institutions which predate the Internet a lot. They were built for an era when it cost money to infinitely copy and/or instantaneously move information around the world. (The horror!)

But sometimes they show a surprising digital savvy, and you wonder if they really have been paying attention all these years. Or if greed is just the best teacher.

From Grantland, a story about Weird Al Yankovic. He’s tired of making albums with parody songs of last summer’s hits, when he could just record single parodies and upload them in 48 hours. Record companies want records, though, and those take time. And then there’s that whole digital illiteracy thing:

“White & Nerdy,“ Yankovic’s first top-10 hit in 2006, [came] 23 years after the release of his first album. That song was released right when YouTube was taking off […] Yankovic suspected he was doing better online than his balance sheet suggested. Sure enough, an audit discovered that Yankovic was owed royalties from YouTube clicks and iTunes downloads.

Two years after approaching Sony with the discrepancies in 2010, Yankovic sued his record company for $5 million. (The two parties settled in December.) If Yankovic was looking for extra motivation to rethink his future association with record labels, this surely didn’t hurt.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure these folks know exactly what they’re doing online. Bravo, Sony. It seems like just yesterday you were screwing with artists in Old Media, and now you’re doing it in New Media. Sniff. They grow up so fast.

#barghazi

The bar exam is a topic that, not surprisingly, has featured heavily in posts on Barely Legally. Also, my Twitter feed. Also, my nightmares.

It’s the biggest baddest test a lawyer has ever had to face. You can easily confirm this by asking any lawyer about it and then being Talked At until you literally die of boredom. This works no matter how many decades ago he or she took it. Fact.

Now, when I sat for that exam in the stone ages, this blog was still called Almost Legally, and the year was 2010. In those primitive days, we hand-wrote exams in our first year of law school, and only earned the option of using computers to write exams in our second year. I never made the transition to computers because there was never an exam I was particularly eager to use as an experiment for the typing of my essays. I had practice hand-writing exams, so I kept hand-writing exams.

But that, Dear Reader, was ancient history. It was back when America only had one black president. Now we’ve had one two-term black president. Completely different world.

Nowadays, the kids use computers for all their exams, from first year up to and including the bar exam. A private company called Examsoft has contracted with the various law schools and state bar associations to sell nearly- and newly-minted JDs software for the typing of said bar exam. It costs $100-$150, and you probably know where I’m going with this.

The system went down. The Daily Dot has a good roundup of all the insanity and the apoplectic tweets that only a person robbed of their humanity for an entire summer can compose:

It appears that Examsoft’s servers had some problem dealing with the crush of bar applicants trying to upload their exams last night. As Inside Higher Ed and Above the Law report, many bar applicants were unable to upload their exams on Tuesday evening or had significant upload difficulties. Were that not bad enough in itself, the bar exam is delivered over multiple days, so even those who were able to upload their exams late into the night had to get up early this morning to take the next part of the exam.

To be honest, this sort of mishap was in the back of my mind as I put off learning to write times essays on my computer every semester. But this system worked for years and years just fine. Every year, I was the paranoid Luddite with ink on his hands, and I’m not about to scream “toldjaso” just because there happens to be a mishap. Someone at Examsoft must have misplaced a decimal point when they rented server bandwidth at Amazon or something.

But seriously, totally vindicated. High fives all around, guys.