This year's Ambulance Chase 5k is already over, but put it on your calendars for next Memorial Day weekend if you are in the northern Virginia area. Proceeds from the race, during which runners actually do chase an ambulance, go to support the Fair Oaks Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company.
According to the Washington Post, the Fair Oaks Ambulance Chase 5K and Kids' Fun Run was started in 2009 by the company's president, a local attorney named Hana Brilliant, which really is a pretty good name for an attorney to have. "I got tired of all the ambulance-chasing jokes around the firehouse," she told the Post, "so I decided to use it to the Fire Department's benefit."
This year's Ambulance Chase, which unfortunately nobody seems to have run in a suit and tie, raised upwards of $7,000.
Seems like that headline is pretty self-explanatory, so let's get to it:
Wainwright for the Peopleis a forthcoming young-adult book by Joel Rothman and Stacey Ballis that's intended to teach basic civics lessons about the legal system. It's in the form of a legal thriller but would be accompanied by student and teacher guides for classroom use. In a blatant and entirely successful bribe to get me to mention it, Joel has suggested that the book may include a reference to Lowering the Bar, which would be (1) awesome (2) not a "financial stake" of the sort disclaimed in my headline and (3) unfortunate for children. He'll probably have second thoughts about that, though, so this will remain a very worthwhile project. They are hoping to raise $40,000 through Kickstarter in order to finish the book, so please take a look and pledge if you can. (With Kickstarter, you don't actually "pay" unless the project is fully funded.)
Another awesome thing I spotted while I was on Kickstarter: this project (already funded) to make kits for one-foot-tall desktop trebuchets you can use to fling crap around your office. See, if you need funding for something like this, I guess you could go to the bank and say, hi there, I noticed you threw billions of dollars at people for stupid reasons over the last ten years or so, and so I was wondering if I could get $48,000 to buy a laser cutter to make these awesome desktop-trebuchet kits. When they say no, you can try Kickstarter. These guys got twice what they needed.
For those intrepid folk still determined to attend law school, consider the Law School Survival Manual: from LSAT to Bar Exam, by Nancy Rapoport and Jeffrey Van Niel. This is a great overview of the whole wonderful process. Note that it only briefly touches on the topic of whether you should go at all, but if you're going, this covers everything from what schools to consider to whether you should listen to jerks like me who insist on talking about how they answered the day's bar-exam questions. An informal and funny book.
Those who have recently finished that process or are hunting for new jobs may want to pick up the The Underground Guide to Job Interviewing, by Todd Moster. Todd was a practicing attorney before becoming an executive recruiter in the legal industry. Like the Survival Manual, this book is an informal and humorous guide to the subject matter and is one in which I have no financial stake whatsoever.
Here's a book that most of you will never need, unless you are a J.P. Morgan executive, but if you do need it, you'll need it desperately: Testifying Before Congress, by William N. LaForge. This is 400 pages of guidance that I don't think any potential witness other than maybe Elmo could do without. More expensive and detailed than the others by a long shot, but $125 probably seems pretty reasonable if you have a congressional subpoena sitting on your desk. Personally I was looking for a little more guidance on how exactly to take the Fifth Amendment, but I guess there's only so much to say about not saying anything.
Finally, another book (I get books in the mail, you see): Liars and Outliers, by security expert Bruce Schneier. I have mentioned Bruce several times here already because of our shared position that the TSA sucks, something he has analyzed in more detail than that, of course. This book discusses the national-security problem but is more about the general topic of how society ultimately requires a basic level of trust to function and what happens when that is threatened. It's a pretty scholarly book but is still remarkably informal and easy to read. It also has small metal strips built into the cover that spell out "TSA SUCKS" when it goes through the X-ray machine, or at least that would be a good thing to include in the second edition.
I recently learned about the work of Nathan Sawaya, a former corporate lawyer in Manhattan who left the practice of law to -- no kidding -- become a full time LEGO® artist, as he explained here:
To ease the stress of being a corporate lawyer in Manhattan, I built sculptures out of all kinds of material. One day I decided to make a self-portrait out of LEGOs. When I got some good feedback from friends and family, I decided to launch a website showcasing my pieces. When the site crashed in early 2004 because of too much traffic, I decided to leave law to play with toys. Today my LEGO sculptures usually go for around $10,000 to $20,000, with some celebrity pieces going for six figures.
Here's one of his many amazing pieces, depicting a colorful person emerging from a boring gray one. (Probably has nothing to do with his time as a lawyer, of course.)
This was called "Emergence of an Artist" on the Flickr page where I noticed it, but is actually called The Courage Within. If you want to own it, you can buy it here for just $12,500.
Sawaya told me that he "worked with some great people at the law firm, but it was not my passion.... I now travel the world creating art out of LEGO. I have several exhibitions that are currently touring, and have an art studio in Manhattan that holds over 1.5 million LEGO bricks." Not everybody will be able to turn a hobby into a career, let alone one where you get to play with LEGOs all day. (How great would that be?) But I thought this was a good reminder that you have to set aside some time for whatever it is you do in your spare time. At the very least it may keep you relatively sane, and you never know what might come of it.
There are sources out there that claim to do this, but they aren't very consistent. Often the laws they mention don't really exist, as far as I can tell, or have just been taken out of context. For example, it seems like cheating to say it's "against the law to tie a gorilla to a fire hydrant" if the law just says "fire hydrants shall be kept clear of obstructions." So this is intended to be, to my knowledge, the first such compilation in which the existence and stupidity of every stupid thing mentioned will have been confirmed by at least one lawyer and supported by a citation.
I believe this is something the world needs.
But the only way for me to get this done in the foreseeable future is to ask for your help. So, if you are or become aware of a law you think would qualify, please email me here with the subject line: "Odd Law Project." (Hyphen deliberately omitted for ambiguity because this is both an odd-law project and an odd law project.)
Here are the guidelines:
Please send the item only if you have a Solid Reason to think it really exists.
"Solid Reasons" include, but are not limited to: you are looking at it; you are looking at a reference to it in a source you consider reliable, or you can remember doing one of the foregoing.
"Solid Reasons" do not include: it was mentioned in one of the thousands of "funny emails" your aunt forwards you every year.
Although it would be great if you had a citation or even a copy, that's not required -- we (meaning my research assistant) will confirm these anyway. But see Solid Reasons, supra.
I will happily accept items from any country or jurisdiction. Where there are laws, there are odd laws.
I will happily accept items from any level of government, from international space treaties down to ordinances passed by your local city council. (In particular, if you happen across a definition of "buttocks" that exceeds 296 words, I'd like to hear from you.)
Note: I will also accept proposed legislation, even if it did not become law, as long as it was actually formally introduced.
Q&A: "How do I know what is sufficiently odd and/or funny to pass on?" I wouldn't worry about that. You wouldn't be here if you didn't have a pretty good idea.
"Will there be a book?" Hopefully, yes.
"Will I share in the glory of said book?" If any, yes. Reflected, anonymous glory, but yes.
"Will I share in the profits from said book?" If any, yes, but only to the extent of reimbursing you for what you have paid to access this site; i.e., no.
"Okay, but will you appreciate it and treasure our Internet friendship?" I already do that.
Just changed my living will to specify that I'd like to go this way when the time comes.
I haven't been able to find any additional details (which is probably for the best), but did confirm that this notice appears in the records of the California State Library in Sacramento (via Ancestry.com).
From What Do They Know?, a UK site run by mySociety.org that makes it easy for people to make Freedom of Information requests or read the results of those made by others:
Dear South Wales Fire Service,
How many cats have you saved this year?
Holway, Tracey (Admin Officer) South Wales Fire Service
29 November 2011
Please find the information below in response to your FOI Request.
We have been to 71 cat/kitten rescue incidents between 01/01/2011 and 15/11/2011.
This figure is the number of incidents and not necessarily the numbers of cats/kittens rescued but that is not always clear in the incident reports. That said, I would believe in most cases it would be one cat/kitten per incident.
A typically evasive government response. Only the number of "rescue incidents" is provided, which ultimately tells us very little; as the officer notes, each incident might involve multiple cats/kittens, so that the total could be well over 71, but he also fails to state how many of the rescue attempts were successful. The actual number of cats/kittens rescued, therefore, could be anywhere from zero to a thousand or more - we have no idea. What is the South Wales Fire Service trying to hide about its cat-rescue attempts?
What happens to all the wood lying around the park?
Is it possible to gather some wood in the park?
Dear Mr Hoontrakul,
Thank you for your enquiry ...
The Royal Parks' reply is as follows:
Under The Royal Parks and Other Open Spaces Regulations 1997 - which are the framework under which the Parks are managed - it is an offence, without written permission, to "interfere with any plant or fungus." The term "plant" is defined by The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as including algae, lichens and fungi, mosses and liverworts as well as vascular plants. Many lichens, mosses, fungus and liverworts will be living on a piece of decaying wood.
The wood you see lying in the Parks has been deliberately left or placed where it is to provide decaying and dead wood habitat for invertebrates. I am afraid you may not gather it, as doing so would interfere with an important element of the Parks' biodiversity.
Peter Lewis | Records Officer | The Royal Parks
It is a little irritating, I imagine, to be told that you can't take home a piece of wood from a park because of the risk of interfering with a fungus. Still, at least they get a pleasant response to their inquiries in the UK. Over here, this would probably get you put on a terrorist watch list.
As you've probably heard, police in Madison, Wisconsin, arrested Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop on several charges after they confronted him in a local park on January 5. Residents nearby had reported "excessive drinking and drug use" in the park, and according to a police spokesman the responding officers recognized someone there as "a subject they had previous dealings with, identified as Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop."
Zopittybop-Bop-Bop, likely the subject of a future biopic starring Johnny Depp, was arrested back in April 2011 under his previous name after officers said they found a loaded handgun in his backpack. (The report doesn't say why they searched his backpack.) He changed his name in October. He was searched again during the January 5 incident, this time because "he apparently put his hands into his pockets, which put officers on alert because of his past arrest."
This is a little sketchy. It's not impossible that these were the same officers, or that they had just looked up his record and so knew that he had previously been carrying a concealed weapon. Still, I don't think that having done so then makes you forever subject to search whenever you put your hands in your pockets (especially if the gun wasn't even in your pockets before). Nor does it appear this was a search incident to arrest, because he was arrested only after being searched, because of what they found. So, at least based on this report, it seems to me that the search was questionable and the evidence it turned up (marijuana, drug paraphernalia, and a knife - no gun) may be suppressed on Fourth Amendment grounds.
It might have happened differently, of course, and maybe it's different because he was on probation (though the earlier search may also have been illegal). Mainly I just want there to be a Supreme Court case one day called Zopittybop-Bop-Bop v. Wisconsin.
Probably no constitutional issue in the second case, which involved a traffic stop in San Rafael, California, one week later. There, the highway patrol stopped a car for speeding, and when the patrolman approached the car he smelled marijuana. As you should know by now, that isn't enough by itself to justify a search, but allegedly he also saw some loose marjiuana on the seat between the driver's legs. That might justify the thorough search of the car that followed, one so thorough that they tore apart the back seat, where they found several pounds of marjiuana. Anyway, the real point is that they ended up arresting one of the passengers, a 38-year-old man named Peace Baba Aquarius.
As far as I can tell, this one has not been widely reported, even in California, although that could be because this happened in Marin County, a place that may be teeming with Peaces, Babas, and Aquarii and so forth. The report linked above did not even bother to comment on the name. I guess it's also true that I have no evidence this guy wasn't born "Peace Baba Aquarius," and that's at least possible if he was born in Marin about 1974. Maybe nobody notices up there unless you don't have an astrological sign in your name.
Anyway, bail for Peace Baba Aquarius was set at $20,000.
Lowering the Bar Again Selected by ABA Journal as a Top 100 Blawg
The editors of the ABA Journal have again chosen Lowering the Bar, written by Kevin Underhill of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, as one of the top 100 legal blogs in America. The blog made the list for the second year in a row, again being named in the “For Fun” category, there really being no other suitable place to stick it.
This year, it also won the reader vote within that category. “Granted,” Underhill said, “declaring this to be the ‘Most Fun Legal Blog’ is a little like saying that Moe is the smartest Stooge, but both those statements are still true. No, I didn’t think that up myself,” he continued, “but write it down anyway.”
In fact, as Underhill was eventually willing to admit, after being reminded that he did not win last year, and after being promised the vodka bottle would be returned, there is nothing especially scientific about the ABA's nomination or voting process and there are actually quite a few legal blogs that are funny as well as interesting. Several of those were also nominated in the Fun category this year, namely:
Underhill also grudgingly admitted that a number of other blogs, some nominated in other categories this year, some not, are also often very funny even if that is not their main focus. He seemed about to name them for this press release but suddenly slumped into unconsciousness, gesturing vaguely in the direction of the right sidebar.
Lowering the Bar was nominated this year by Jeff Richardson of iPhone J.D., also in this year’s Blawg 100. “Kevin Underhill has a knack for finding the most absurd lawsuits and law-related events and then describing them with amazing wit,” Richardson wrote. “Every visit to Lowering the Bar is guaranteed to bring a smile to my face.” Reportedly, Richardson was heavily compensated for the endorsement but chose most of the words himself.
"Also write down that I thank them for reading," Underhill shouted, now awake but flailing his arms at what appeared to be an invisible cloud of bees. "Whether they voted or not, and whether they ever clicked on sponsored feed advertising or not. Write it!" Underhill then began to demand the name of Beyonce's husband, at which point this reporter chose to end the interview.
"My wife stole [it] and took it to work with her. Appparently a big hit in the ER.... Highly recommended." —Keith Lee, author of The Associate's Mind and The Marble and the Sculptor
"[H]ysterically funny.... I was unable to make it through the Introduction without ...annoying all around me with my loud laughter.... Buy this book." —Scott Greenfield, Simple Justice
"As a writer, I get a lot of books. My husband usually [just] glances at them .... This one, he hasn't put down. I can't get it out of his hands. Every time I look over, he's reading and laughing.... [C]heck out this awesome book." —Allison Leotta, novelist and author of The Prime-Time Crime Review