Category Archives: jennifer j rose

#10 – Reading e-Books

There are two things that most lawyers like: gadgets and books. Now there is a gadget for books.

It is an e-book reader using a special electronic display that is particularly easy on the eyes. Unlike most displays, it can be read easily in direct sunlight, and it can be read at virtually any angle. It is like reading a regular book.

There is more than one type of e-book reader using this electronic display, all made by E Ink. Amazon’s Kindle and Bookeen’s Cybook both have a six inch screen and four grey scales. The Kindle has the big advantage of offering a wide selection of books through the online store. That store uses a proprietary format (ASZ) that only the Kindle can read.

I bought the Kindle because it solved some problems I had with buying books in Japan. I didn’t have space for new books, and I disliked the long wait for shipping. Also, the books on the Kindle are cheaper than regular books.

amazon_kindle In addition to reading books in the ASZ format, the Kindle can handle files in the TXT format, and (if not protected by DRM) in the PRC/MOBI formats. In addition, Amazon will convert other formats into ASZ format. This means that you can take your own files or files from other places, and read them on your Kindle. Most of my reading now is of books that I download from Project Gutenberg and read on my Kindle.

Recently, at a local computer club in Nagoya, I had a chance to compare notes with someone having the Bookeen Cybook. While I still love my Kindle, I realize that the Cybook has a big advantage in being able to read many more formats. While it can’t read the ASZ format, it can easily read PDF and DOC formats. Therefore, it is better suited for when you want to take your work product with you.

One minor annoyance with the Kindle is that it needs to use a limited set of the US ASCII set, otherwise one gets strange looking characters where there should be accented vowels. Another annoyance is that it isn’t available outside the United States. Still, the Kindle is one of my favorite gadgets.

A Kindle is a thing to love.

Ernest Schaal is a retired patent lawyer, living in Gifu, Japan.



#9 WordPerfect 5.1

A couple of decades ago the Law Practice Management Section of the American Bar Association had computer user group meetings as part of its quarterly meetings. Most of those user groups had about three to seven members show up, but one group consistently had thirty or more members. That group was for users of WordPerfect, the then favorite word processing program of most lawyers who used computers in those days.

wordperfect The all-time favorite version of WordPerfect was probably version 5.1, which was released in 1989. That is the version that most old users most reminisce about. Two reasons for its popularity were that it had reveal codes and that it had a very robust macro language.

People made macros for everything: from rapid entry of words and boilerplate language, to automatic formatting, to help printing labels and envelopes. One attorney in San Francisco developed a macro for making pleading paper, and gave that macro away for free to anyone wanting it. He did that because the WordPerfect community shared with each other.

That was back in the days of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when most computer users didn’t have graphical user interfaces (or GUI) on their machines. Instead, they had operating systems that were character based. Apple had released the Mac in 1984, but few lawyers had Macs back then. Most lawyers used MS DOS, and WordPerfect ran on MS DOS.

Then something changed. Microsoft released a version of Windows that didn’t work so well, followed by a version that worked a tad better. They also released a Windows-based version of Microsoft Word, and the market share of Microsoft Word skyrocketed.

What happened next is a point of controversy. According to some WordPerfect fans, the Dark Side of the Force, i.e., Microsoft used unfair marketing tactics to rob WordPerfect of market share. According to others, WordPerfect floundered because of poor business practices, like being too slow to adapt its software to run on Windows and selling software that had stability problems. Whatever happened, Microsoft got bigger and bigger, and WordPerfect had a series of reversals and changes in ownership.

Now  Microsoft Word is the industry standard, and WordPerfect is an also-ran. A large segment WordPerfect users still claim WordPerfect is still best, but there is little hope that it will regain the glories of its past.

There is  a lingering nostalgia about the good old days of WordPerfect 5.1, sort  of like some remember the automobile of their youth, even though it might not have had air conditioning, or cruise control, or GPS. They sound like King Arthur in the musical Camelot, except instead of thinking of kingdoms past, they say “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Word Perfect 5.1”

Ernest Schaal is a retired patent lawyer, living in Gifu, Japan.


#8 Helping Others

Interviewed by Katharine Mieszkowski in, Stuff White People Like creator Christian Lander answered a few questions about the breed of white people who become lawyers:

But obviously, there are a lot of white lawyers.

Oh, yeah. Some of the white people, who are not quite advanced enough white people, have sold out.

What does going to law school represent?

It’s what you do when you finish with your liberal arts degree, and you start to panic about realizing that the careers available for someone who knows a lot about Proust are very limited, and you realize that you still want money. So you end up going to law school. There are people who enjoy law school, because then you can work for a nonprofit organization, and you can be very helpful.

Why is working for a nonprofit important?

White people have the constant and unabiding need to feel as though they’re helping, and because this gives them the ability to hold it over other people.

Hang around lawyers long enough, and their urge to help is overwhelming. While nurses may rank high on codependency scales, they can’t hold a candle to lawyers, particularly in the organized bar. Even if lawyers are barely scraping by, they’ll delude themselves with a need to perform pro bono. A generation ago, young lawyers interviewing at law firms would inquire about the opportunities for pro bono, not having the first clue that the entire point of hiring them was to make money for the law firm. Bar association no longer view themselves as trade associations, wrapping the organization up in God, the flag and apple pie, stressing the availability of public service opportunities for lawyers who’ll even travel great distances at their own expense to set up playground equipment just for the photo opportunity. Forget what you hear about “thirst for justice” the next time you talk to a lawyer. It’s all about being helpful.

If you’re a lawyer, here’s your opportunity to be helpful, without even lifting yourself up from your chair and leaving your computer. Buy Christian Lander’s book Stuff White People Like. Now. (We blatantly ripped off the concept from him, so this plug is the least we can do.)