Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Rollerblading in Kingston

Frankly, it sucks. In the 22 days I've lived here, I have ventured all over trying to find a decent rollerblading path. The streets are generally poorly maintained and the sidewalks are narrow. You do see rollerbladers in the city, but they just mill about. I asked one of them for the best route and I was told to blade along Lake Ontario. But it's awful. The sidewalk is about 4 feet wide, full of cracks, and the route has a portion with major gravel. Not fun.

You know what really irks me: Queen's suggests that we "rollerblade along the lakefront pathways bordering the Queen’s campus." Have they ever tried to blade along a narrow path with gravel and countless cracks? You can enjoy it for about 30 seconds.

Sorry, I'm being too negative. OK. The best place I've found are some of the back streets around Queen's. The only scenery you have are houses and messy yards, but the pavement's not too bad.

I'm missing the streets of Manhattan. Best way to see the city. Great group to boot!

I've heard blading in Philly is amazing.

And here are some more groups around the world.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Legal v Ethical

In the New York Times yesterday, Randy Cohen identifies the clear distinction between legal actions and ethical actions. Here's an excerpt:
I have an opportunity to buy the property of my dreams. The problem is that the elderly couple who have lived there for more than 40 years love the house and assume that I will maintain it. I intend to tear it down and build a more modern house on this beautiful property. If I reveal my plan, they may refuse to sell me the house and land. Am I ethically bound to tell? W.S., Maryland

The elderly couple can put a covenant in the deed to limit how a buyer uses the property. If they do not, you have every right to flatten the place or convert it into an Anti-Elderly-Couples Party Barn -- or so a two-fisted free-marketeer (or his lawyer) might argue. Similarly, one company might buy a competitor simply to shut it down, contrary to the wishes and expectations of the original owner.

This position, while legal, is ethically dubious. You should volunteer your plans. An honorable business transaction can occur only if both parties have access to all pertinent information. By deliberately withholding facts the seller regards as paramount, you are practicing tacit deceit, and there's nothing ethical about that.
I remember learning about this distinction from my days studying philosophy in my undergrad. Before we would tackle an ethical conundrum (like the one above), my Phil prof would invariably say something like, "now don't ask yourselves if this is legal or illegal. Remember: what is legal is not necessarily ethical." And, sure enough, as pointed out yet again, it's true: just because it's not against the law doesn't mean you should do it. Guys, help me out here. Is this a good thing?

Ethics is based on principles - simple, universal principles that guide our actions. When Randy Cohen answers the readers of the New York Times, he backs himself up with an overarching principle (above, in bold). Our (common law) legal system, in contrast, is built on lengthy legislation and precedence that goes back centuries. Is it so difficult for our legislators and judges to take the simple principles (like the one above) and make them law? Am I just advocating for a civil law system?

An analogy: the law is a loose net, and ethics fills in the gaps. In this view, law and ethics have a symbiotic relationship where the lines of one naturally blend into the other. Maybe we don't want the net to be impermeable and all-encompassing. We might not want the law to cover buyer A's intentions to seller B if we do not want cops to hunt down buyer A for buying on unethical grounds. Sounds like 1984. Maybe, instead, buyer A should just act ethically and she should not need anyone to tell her what is the right action.

In Japan, for example, I believe there are fewer laws, and certainly fewer lawyers, than on this side of the Pacific. Continuing with the analogy, the net of the Japanese legal system is very loose, with large holes - and ethics is taught vigorously in school to fill in the gaps. Singapore, on the other extreme, doesn't rely on anyone to be taught ethics. If you haven't been taught not to spit on the sidewalk, get regular haircuts and not to chew gum then the police will help your pedagogical development with a nice fine. Although I've heard that they're recently repealed the anti-chewing gum law. Anyhow, I'm starting to ramble so I'll shut up. I'll continue this another time.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Fruits of the Net

I just wanted to share some fruits of my surfing. Here are some of me favs:

Travel Sites

Mobissimo is the best place I've found to find deals on flights. Better than Priceline, Expedia, Travelocity, Farechase, and QIXO. Compare for yourself - then take a vacation. :)

To check currency rates for your vacation (I'd recommend Bali), try OANDA.

For languages, Babelfish is the best translation site out there. And it's free. (Thanks Altavista.)

To stay in touch while you're away, I'd recommend the free VoIP software Skype. (Now available for the Mac!)

The best car venture in the US (not in Canada yet - grrrrr), check out ZipCar.

Answer Sites

DMOZ could become the next Google.

For searching blogs, try Blogpulse.

For finding word usage and reference materials, Bartleby is amazing.


For a witty left-wing radio stream, nothing beats Air America Radio. (I'm partial to The Majority Report.)

Gotta love Utne Reader.

For introspective articles, The Sun Magazine hits the spot.

And to get a Canadian perspective on the world, try The Walrus.


For good ol' geek fun, build a SODA.

For online community fun (or to test the meat of your computer), try the World of There. (Not Mac friendly - grrrr.)

For *lol* fun, I like Yahoo's Oddly Enough.

And for family room fun, Netflix (US) and Zip (Canada) send DVDs to your door. Walmart has also gotten into the DVD snailmail game. (OMG - shoot me now, I just added a link to Walmart. hrrrrmmmmmm.) I'd recommed getting Walmart just for the trial period and then going with the other guys if you like it. ;)

What are your favourite sites?
Is there a gem out there that you'd like to share?


Thursday, September 23, 2004

Having a Mac @ Queen's

Honestly, there aren't many Macs here. I know only 6 Mac users in my class of 160 (and most of us bring our laptops to class - it's basically a sea of Dells and Toshibas). That said, I have been approached by two students who are thinking of switching to Apple and others who say they would have bought a Mac if they were cheaper. Just to let you know, I have had zero problems with my Mac here at Queen's. Compatibility hasn't been an issue in years.

Here's an article about how American students are flocking to Apple computers.
In Tucson, at the University of Arizona's on-campus store, salesman Jeff Guba says Apple sales are way up from last year, when 4 of 10 computers sold were Macs. This year, it's 6 of 10.
And here's an article (the #1 most popular on yahoo.com today) on the latest virus threat to Windoze.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

FEP a.k.a Future Earning Potential

I wish I could do a survey within blogger. I would ask you guys: How many of you are going to law school for the money?

From Kristine's comment (that has kind of lingered in my brain), I get the feeling that many folks out there are going to law school for the FEP. Is that true? Certainly, I can imagine that there are a number of sources that could put dollar signs in your eyes. For example, the Economic Research Institute forecasts the 2018 mean salary potential of a practicing lawyer at $118,885 USD. Not too shabby. For comparison, a 2018 Mean Salary Potential of a doctor is $128,797 USD. Of course, ERI is a US-based thinktank, so although these numbers might look great to our American brethen, they don't apply so well to us Canadian law school students - but I bet they're not that far off. :)

At least there are other reasons to do to law school. I gave my idealistic little shpeel on why I'm here a few months ago. For a good read, check out The University of Southern California's nice piece that looks at other reasons why students have gravitated towards studying law.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Case Briefs

We just had our first assignment handed back. On a pass or fail basis, we were supposed to write a "case brief" on a famous ruling in Tort Law, Turner v Thorne. If you're interested, the case is about a delivery guy who screws up and (indirectly) causes injury to another guy. The facts are pretty clear. Our problem was that we didn't know how to write a "case brief." In every class the professor has given us their take on it, but they invariably tack on a disclaimer like, "but this is just my view; you can do whatever you want." How is that helpful!? Do what we want? I mean, we're writing the case brief for the professor not for ourselves. [Actually, I have to admit, I did write a brief but it was very informal and I wouldn't want to show it to anybody.] Anyhow, handing in this nebulous brief was quite stressful but it has alse been a useful excersize.

Thankfully, I passed.

Friday, September 17, 2004

The end of Orientation

Tonight is our semi-formal, the last event on our Orientation schedule. If the purpose of the Orientation events was for us to get to know each other and gell as a class, I think it did a pretty good job. Of the 160-ish students in first year law at Queens, I think I have met over 100. Do I remember everyone's name? Hardly. But if I was in a room full of strangers, I would probably be able to pick them out. They say that Clinton knew the names of everyone in Yale Law after his first week. Hmmmm. I wonder if that's just an urban myth. [If you want to pretend Clinton knows your name, check this out.]

Thursday, September 16, 2004

An Iranian in LA going to law school

Landing Softly

[Apologies for taking an extended vacation. I arrived to Kingston on Sept 6th, went directly from the airport to a Queen's Orientation event, and it seems like since then I've been wrapped up 24/7 in either an Orientation event, reading or cheering Team Canada.]

Before I came to Queen's, I was warned on many occasions that the 1st year of law school would be . . . well, hellish. I can tell you now that they were wrong. I know, I've been in class for just over a week and so I might be premature in my declaration. I'm sure there is still time for things to turn hellish. But, if the quality of teachers or students has anything to do with it then my understanding of Dante's Inferno will just have to wait.

Some general observations:
- Ages in the class range from 21 to about 49, with the median age at, maybe, 24 or 25.
- Upper year students bend over backwards to answer our questions and ease our anxiety.
- Professors are not as mean and intimidating as they are in OneL.
- About 90% of us bring laptops to class and I've heard that by Christmas it will be 100%.
- I think I've had more beer since I arrived to Kingston than in the entire past year.
- My classmates seem pretty sharp.
- Our Dean is friendly, approachable and ignores cheeky comments (I won't name names) very diplomatically.
- We have been assigned a lot of reading! To give you an example, last night I had over 100 pages of reading for Public Law (1 article and 2 Supreme Court decisions), about 40 pages of reading for Torts (3 cases), and about 30 pages for Property Law (2 articles and 2 cases). What's that? Over 170 pages. Yeah. I was up all night reading.

OK. Now I have some reading to do for Criminal Law.