Park day!

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Since today was likely the last day of the year warm enough for a trip to the park, Eliza and I spent part of the afternoon on the swings and climbing on the jungle gym. (Well, she did the climbing and most of the swinging.)

Taking a kid to the park is an adventure, because you’re constantly having to balance making sure the kid doesn’t get injured with staying back enough to give them independence and let them try new things. For example, today I was able to encourage Eliza to cross a bridge and climb a ladder by herself, but at the same time I had to be close enough to catch her if she fell. It’s a challenge as a parent, because I don’t want to be one of those helicopter parents who never lets the kid fail, but at the same time I don’t want to have to take her to the ER for a broken arm because I wasn’t there to catch her when she falls.

Parenting: not for the faint of heart.

Categories: Thoughts and Ideas

Changing old habits…

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m committing myself to pulling back on how I’ve been doing things lately. More specifically, I’m pulling way back on the amount of time I spend on Facebook and Twitter. It’s getting to be too common for me to focus on them instead of focusing on what I should be doing.

In law school news, I’m starting to really think about where I want to be and what I want to be doing when I get out. The idea of trying to hang up my own shingle and start a solo practice intrigues me, but at the same time it’s a HUGE risk to try and start your own firm from scratch right out of school.

Waiting on grades for last semester, trying to figure out how to fix my laptop so it works without giving me problems and marking the days until Christmas. That’s my break in a nutshell.

If you’re reading this, consider me surprised.

Realignment: Why it’s all Texas’s fault

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

OK, so maybe that headline is slight hyperbole, but only just.

The news that Pitt and Syracuse are headed to the ACC on the heels of Texas A&M bolting for the SEC means that we’re officially in the endgame for conference realignment in college sports. By the time it’s over, we will likely have four 16-team conferences representing the top teams in football, and the NCAA will start getting nervous that the conferences are going to decide they don’t need them any more.

When this all started, people (like Baylor and Iowa State) were attacking Texas A&M for causing this craziness, when in fact the guilty parties are ESPN, the University of Texas and the commissioners of the Big XII and the Big East.

The decision by ESPN and Texas to create the Longhorn Network was, conspiracy theorists might say, a poison pill designed to break up the Big XII and let Texas control their own destiny long-term. Allowing Texas to have its own television network puts the other members of any conference they are in behind the 8-ball with regards to revenue and recruiting. A&M’s decision to leave for the SEC reflects a desire to be on a more level playing field, and you can’t fault them for that.

The commissioners of the Big XII and Big East don’t have clean hands here, either. Dan Beebe and John Marinatto have handled this realignment about as well as the captain of the Titanic handled the north Atlantic. Marinatto needed to do more a year ago to ensure the stability of Big East football than add TCU in 2013. As it stands right now, TCU may not have a conference to join next season, especially if the Big XII falls apart with a Texas-Oklahoma-OK State-Texas Tech exodus to the Pac-12.

So what’s likely to happen? Hard to say for sure, but here’s a potential scenario:

UConn and Rutgers to the ACC
West Virginia, Missouri and a third team (TCU? Kansas?) to the SEC
Texas, Oklahoma, OK State and Texas Tech to the Pac-12
The remaining football members of the Big East (Louisville, South Florida, Cincinnati) and the Big XII (K-State, Iowa State, Baylor) pull together with whoever’s left out to create a bastard conference that will eventually be raided by the Big Ten to expand to 16.

Categories: Uncategorized


August 18, 2011 Leave a comment

So, last night was the latest edition of Rifftrax Live!, where MST3K writer/performers Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy perform their brand of movie-shredding comedy in front of a live audience, with the entire event shown in movie theaters across the country.

Last night’s film was the 1962 cardboard swords-and-claymation sorcery “epic” Jack the Giant Killer, which is best known for not being known well (although it’s being remade by Bryan Singer for release next year.) The show began with a series of fake Rifftrax pre-feature slides making some excellent movie jokes. My favorite had to be the movie anagram where “Blil Plulman” spells out “Bill Paxton.”

Once the show started, we got a short entitled “What is Nothing?” (short answer: the amount of effort put into the film) and a couple of cartoons from Rich Kyanka before the feature started. Once the feature started, the riffs were flying fast and furious. Highlights include the line quoted in the title (from an anti-climactic fight with a bunch of guys gently swaying back and forth) and references to Kanye, Stevie Nicks, Super Mario Bros., a chimp in a thong and Star Wars.

While I probably could have used the time to read or prep for class, taking a two-hour break last night to have the most fun I’ve had in a theater since “Role Models” was well worth it.

Categories: Law School, Movies

Making technology work for you.

August 17, 2011 Leave a comment

With law school starting across the country, thousands of students are entering classrooms with one thing in mind: being as successful as possible.
Keeping up with reading assignments, writing projects and managing your time, however, can be difficult. That’s why, as a public service to everyone either starting or returning to law school, I am assembling this guide to show some of the software and services I use to help streamline my workflow and save time.

1. Don’t pay for Microsoft Office.
One of the most important pieces of software a law student uses is a word processor, whether it’s for taking notes, writing a memo or brief or looking at documents from a professor or employer.
The thing is, there’s no need to spend hundreds of dollars on Amazon or at the university IT store to get Microsoft Office. There’s a completely free, legitimate alternative that works better than Microsoft’s product: LibreOffice.
LibreOffice is the latest version of what was formerly known as OpenOffice, a free open-source alternative office suite. LibreOffice provides the same functions as Microsoft Office (word processing, spreadsheet, presentations) but in a package that is more stable than Microsoft Office and at a much nicer price tag.
For 99.9 percent of documents you will encounter during law school, LibreOffice will work perfectly, although there will occasionally be a document produced in a older version of MSOffice or with a particular formatting technique that will not display perfectly. However, since virtually all law school computer labs include a copy of MSOffice, you can print or save the document in a fashion that LibreOffice will handle.
Download LibreOffice at (available for Windows, Mac and Linux.)

2. Get a Google Account.
There’s a reason Google dominates the search market and is a major player in a number of other fields: it just works. Having a Google Account is incredibly valuable because it offers you more e-mail storage space than you will ever use, plus it gives you a cloud-based calendar, an online document editor (Google Docs) that can be used to tweak or review documents in a pinch and some other useful tools as well, such as photo storage.
Being a successful law student means being able to get to information in a hurry, and having a Google Account is the first step to that, as you’ll see in a bit.

3. Thunderbird and Lightning: Calendar and e-mail in one package
Being able to check your e-mail is, in the modern age, more important than answering the phone. With everyone having three or four addresses, however, it can be hard to remember to check every account, especially if you’re adding a school e-mail address to your personal addresses.
Using Thunderbird, however, gives you an Outlook alternative that puts your e-mail right on your desktop, and pairing it with the Lightning add-on gives you a robust calendar manager to keep your assignments straight.
Thunderbird is a Mozilla product just like the Firefox browser, which means it’s free. Most law school IT departments include instructions for setting up Thunderbird in their e-mail instructions because it is so common, meaning you can quickly get it set up and get help if it breaks.
The Lightning add-on gives you the ability to sync your Google Calendar to Thunderbird, giving you access to your calendar without opening a browser window.
Lightning will not sync a to-do list, however, but there’s a way around that.
Download Thunderbird at and get the Lightning add-on at . Instructions for adding a Google Calendar to Lightning are available at .

4. Use Google Tasks to keep a to-do list available anywhere.
Keeping a to-do list is valuable because you can add assignments to the list as each teacher gives them. Google Calendar includes a tasks list manager, but it does not work with the Thunderbird tasks manager. To avoid having to use only the Thunderbird manager and not having cloud access to your list, I’m going to show you how to keep your Google Tasks list available on your desktop outside of a browser and then tell you how to sync the list to your smartphone.
The simplest way to get Google Tasks access is, of course, by opening GMail in your browser. If you don’t want to keep a browser window open (a possible distraction), you can install the Google Tasks AIR app linked below. Once you log in, the app (which requires Adobe AIR, which many people already have installed) will show you your Google Tasks list and allow you to add, edit or delete tasks.
Once you have your list set up, you can set up your smartphone to get access to it. Using your phone’s browser, go to, sign in if necessary, and then bookmark the Tasks page. This will give you access to your Tasks list from your phone, which can be useful if you need to check an assignment while you’re away from a computer.
Download the Google Tasks app at and install.

5. Dropbox: Keeping your notes safe.
Having cloud access to your notes is useful because you may not always have your laptop handy to review what a professor said. Using Dropbox allows you to sync your notes seamlessly to the Internet so you can access them from anywhere.
Start by signing up for a free account at and download the Dropbox software to your computer. Once the software is installed, install the Folder Sync add-on linked below and choose the folder(s) where your notes are saved. That’s it. Dropbox will automatically copy your notes in the background to your account while you are connected to the Internet, and you can access them from anywhere you have an Internet connection.
Download Folder Sync at and follow the instructions.

There you go: you’re set up to work quickly, easily and from anywhere. No muss, no fuss, just access to the information you need at any time in any place.

Brian Smith is a 2L at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law and a former journalist. E-mail him with questions at

Categories: Law School


June 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Tonight I’m making some chili, because we haven’t had any in forever.

I really do love food, as anyone who has seen me might imagine. I’m working on developing a good pizza recipe, I’m experimenting with my burger recipe (again!) and I have designs on adding some new items to the repertoire, namely a good pasta sauce and potentially some advanced stuff, like homebrewing, making my own ground beef and bacon curing.

This culinary foray is inspired by my desire to stop eating the same processed crap all the time. If I can make a pizza that’s better than what Papa John’s is able to bring to my door, or a better burger than what Wendy’s can turn out, why shouldn’t I? It’ll be cheaper and at least a little healthier than sitting in the drive-thru lane.

So don’t be surprised to read about my food exploits in this space in the future.

Categories: Food

In the summer, summertime…

May 25, 2011 Leave a comment

No sitting back or unwinding for me, sadly.

Grades came out not long after finals, and I did better on some than I expected and about what I expected on others. Sadly, I haven’t had any luck getting a gig this summer, so I’m temping, doing some test grading over the summer.

I’m going to try to write here more often over the summer. I don’t write nearly enough in any format, so this is as good a venue as any.

Watch and see if I actually stick to this.