May 02, 2010
Ghosh on Jeopardy, Part III
[Third in a series on Prof. Ghosh's appearance Friday, April 30, at least in TV time that is, on the grueling quiz show, in his own words. A Legal Profession Blog exclusive. -- Alan]
That morning the Jeopardy crew was testing out a prototype for Watson, a robot created by IBM to play Jeopardy against human contestants. The first game with Watson is scheduled for later this year or perhaps in early 2011. I really could not make out what the director, cameramen, and other technicians were doing with Watson, perhaps whatever passes for make-up in the robot world. ["Only its hairdresser knows for sure." -- Alan] We were asked to sit patiently as Watson was tamed and then escorted off stage like so many other contestants past and future. Then the real fun began: learning how to use the game equipment. The director had us up on stage, three at a time, to try out the buzzer and learn what it felt like to be behind the podium. We saw how the Board was set and reset, where the videoclues were displayed, how the sidelights came on and off indicating when we could buzz in, and the nifty, but not so-futuristic, sliding doors through which Alex entered. Platforms behind each podium raised and lowered contestants so that they would all appear to be the same height for the home viewers. We practiced a game with easy questions, some involving Sony products, to get used to the feel of the buzzer, the flash of lights, the cadence of the questions as they filled the sound stage. I fumbled with the buzzer, kicked myself for not getting “what is a walkman?,” and ever so briefly worried whether I had on too much make-up. I felt ready to go, but inside thought of all the million ways I could screw up, many of which I executed perfectly later on.I wasn’t picked in the first group of contestants which consisted of the returning champion from the previous day’s taping, or last Friday’s show as it would be referred to, and two of the newbies. I figured I would be the last one selected and I was, but that gave the whole day to watch the behind the scene action and mingle with my fellow contestants. Under the terms of our sequestration, the contestants sat together on the side bleachers of the studio audience and are not allowed to communicate, even look at, friends and family sitting across the aisle. We were told not to speak out any answers, even in a whisper. Conversation among the contestants was limited to how the last game went, experiences with the audition and other games. One just had a baby. Another mentioned that the family car broke down on the day she got the invite call; the money would help out. A graduate student in art history from New York, a researcher on the mathematics of earthquake prediction from California, a high school teacher and quiz bowl coach from Arkansas—all brought together by the promise of being on TV for twenty minutes and earn several thousands in prize money. [part 4, the last, is next.]
November 16, 2009
Ethics 101: That Which Is Normatively Advisable Is Not A Function Of Its Being Positively Possible
Posted by Alan Childress
Like cloning and karaoke. And now the invention of the Laptop Steering Wheel Desk. Amazon has it on sale at a great price, though one that may not internalize all the societal costs of the product. No worries!... It warns you: "For safety reasons, never use this product while driving." Most of the reviews are positive, like:
I loved my Laptop Steering Wheel Desk so much I got one for my 90yr old mother. She is an avid crossword puzzle fan and now she can work on them while she is driving back and forth from bingo at the senior center. One cautionary note be careful of those jerks that stop at yellow lights, my poor mother rear ended one and the airbag drove the desk back into her stomach which ruptured her spleen, well after a short down time I'm glad to say she is back on the road and cranking out those NY Times crosswords once again. Thanks Laptop Steering Wheel Desk you have made my mothers life more complete.
A commenter did not like the review above, saying, "Your mother should be paying attention to the road instead of her crossword puzzles. Those puzzles can wait, not her life or someone else's on the road." Maybe the commenter is right, but really tomato, tomahto. It's all just a normative opinion.
But one reviewer gave it five stars: "This has been a total lifesaver. It allows me to prop my sheet music against the wheel, allowing me to play the guitar with both hands while driving." To which a different commenter replies: "I think you and your guitar are a threat to the safety of others on the road."
My son hates it when I say that a certain intersection or product is an accident waiting to happen. (Hey I teach torts.) And so I now say that it is a mishap anticipating its own occurrence, just to annoy him.
Just in time for Christmas! Maybe I will get that for everyone instead of the GR8 TaT2 Maker. That's a "home tattoo parlor" for those of you who do not speak fluent license plate yet. For ages 6-12 (somehow outgrown by, and inapt for, the teens).
Hat Tip to discourse.net.
August 04, 2009
Organ Donation Article's Title Makes One Blogger Lilly-Livered + Are You Missing and Declared Dead?
Posted by Alan Childress
The Lowering The Bar blog, in its post called Law Review Article Titles: Stop the Madness, groans at
LTB asks you to email them your favorite clunker. Jeff's titles are usually entertaining, though they sometimes require unwinding and occasionally put one on obscure-allusion alert. But my nomination? I really like the title of a colleague's study of what happens when a court declares someone dead after seven years--and he shows up fairly pissed that he can't get a brake tag or Blockbuster card anymore:
Jeanne L. Carriere, "THE RIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD: Absent Persons in the Civil Law," 50 Louisiana L. Rev. 901 (1990).
Actually his insurance/social security beneficiaries may be even more pissed that he showed up at all. Such implications are nicely explained in this blog, drawing on Jeanne's article and referencing Tom Hanks and Wilson in Cast Away. (Wilson never actually showed.) There are up to 100,000 "living dead" in the U.S. (or at least from it--I'd pick Crete), Jeanne points out, raising many live issues. If you want someone in that category to be "dead" faster (just four years), hope they are from Georgia or Minnesota.
The most famous evidence-law case involving The Disappeared is Mutual Life Ins. Co. of N.Y. v. Hillmon, 145 U.S. 285 (1892). The widow Hillmon wanted the insurance company to pay up for her maybe-dead husband John whose body apparently showed up in Crooked Creek, Colorado. But Mutual said the body was of a guy named Walters and wanted to prove it with a a letter from Iowa that Walters wrote to his sister, saying he was heading out to Crooked Creek. While the Supreme Court makes no mention of any inference of veracity to be drawn from the name of the town he chose to die in, it did create an exception to "hearsay" to allow the letter into evidence as some proof that the body in Crooked Creek was actually Walters' (or at least that Walters intended to go there). The verdict for the widow was, of course, reversed for new trial using the Walters letter (which, btw, many people now think was forged by Mutual).
An evidence-prof's aside: the Walters letter also said that he was going to Crooked Creek with John Hillmon, so maybe the body was Hillmon's after all! But many courts have since ruled that such a letter would not constitute proof that the Other Guy went there; it's inadmissible hearsay as to the one not writing the letter. It can't prove that Hillmon went, just Walters. If you don't see the difference (other than one makes the widow of course lose), you need to gouge out your common sense and go to law school. We get it right away, and charge you for explaining why. [Other courts would allow it--your basic law split.]
Of course some people would somehow not be satisfied until they see the long-form death certificate.