Law and Conversation

August 26, 2010

Thursday thanks!

I’d like to thank cozy mystery writer Elizabeth Spann Craig, who writes the most excellent Mystery Writing Is Murder blog, for being the very first person to add this blog to her blogroll.  Elizabeth’s new book, “Delicious And Suspicious” (under the pen name of Riley Adams), came out on July 6.  You can read reviews of it as well as her earlier cozy mystery, “Pretty Is As Pretty Dies,” and order them from Amazon, here.  Elizabeth has a knack for taking mundane events in her life, such as going to the grocery store or getting her house ready for the installation of new carpeting, and relating them to the craft of writing.

I’d also like to thank Zimbabwean lawyer and writer Petina Gappah, whose book of short stories, “Elegy for Easterly,” and articles I read and wrote about earlier this summer, for visiting, leaving kind comments, and adding this blog to her blogroll.  Petina is part of a crop of vibrant modern African writers that includes Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie and Marguerite Abouet.  She presents a fascinating, three-dimensional picture of contemporary Zimbabwe in her fiction and nonfiction.

I love the Internet for making it so easy to find and connect with people with similar interests from all over the world!

Whom have I missed?  I have some more posts in the works thanking others who have linked to this blog and referenced my work.  If you’ve linked to this site and/or included it on your own blogroll, or otherwise referenced my work, please let me know.

June 14, 2010

Twitter is for trials!

Filed under: Law,Social media,Technology,trials — Helen Gunnarsson @ 1:01 pm
Tags: , , ,

If you’re fascinated as I am by the high-profile federal corruption trial of former governor Rod Blagojevich and his brother but actually have work or other obligations that preclude your attending the trial in person, the next best thing is following the Twitter feeds of journalists who are live tweeting it.  I’ve set up a list at of 15 (so far) journalists and others who are tweeting about the trial, either directly from the courtroom or from wherever they happen to be.  I’ve tried to limit it to those who tweet either exclusively or primarily about the trial, though some may tweet about other matters, generally related to Illinois politics and government.  Please tell me whether I’ve missed anyone whose tweets ought to be included, and I’ll be very happy to add that person.  If you’re a Twitter user, you can follow the list; alternatively, you can just check the link whenever you feel the need for a Blago trial fix.

May 18, 2010

Big Brother monitors the Internet, and Kindle readers, too.

In my cover story in the April 2010 issue of the Illinois Bar Journal, “The Internet:  Your (Mostly Free) Private Investigator,” I wrote about lawful methods of finding out information about people over the Internet.  As usual, I had incredibly knowledgeable, interesting sources who also happen to be very nice people:  two Chicago litigators, Todd Flaming and Kent Sezer, and an Alton, IL police computer crime detective, Mike Bazzell, who also presents on computer crime and internet safety issues.  The article’s directed to lawyers who have a need for finding out everything they can about their opposing parties, witnesses, and, in some cases, their own clients, but I think anyone reading it would find the information in it useful and interesting.

Since my article was published, some new developments highlighting the lack of privacy and what you can find out about other people on the Internet have been reported. 

First, PCWorld magazine’s blog, like other publications, reports on the multiplicity of clicks and menus that you have to go through on Facebook if you want to lock down your privacy settings.  Anyone on FB who cares about privacy probably already knows what a time-consuming pain in the neck it is to make sure all of your settings are adjusted to your satisfaction, but the article also refers to a free tool I was unaware of at to verify what, if any, information from your Facebook account is available to anyone. 

Parenthetically, every time Facebook tweaks its information sharing policies, I think about deleting my own account.  I haven’t because I really like FB for making it easy and efficient to get back in touch and stay connected with friends, especially those I may not be able to see much, as well as for providing an avenue to get to know people better.  I resolve my feelings about the data-sharing issues by never posting anything that I wouldn’t be comfortable seeing on the front page of the Chicago Tribune tomorrow.  The Zesty tool is useful for double-checking whether you’ve got your settings properly adjusted.

Second, I recently learned of a new site that aggregates publicly available information about people:  I must say that it’s a pretty good site!  But I wonder where it gets some of its information.   Among the information about me on the site was that I love to read; I’ve put that information out there myself, and I’m perfectly happy for people to know that fact about me.  The site also reported that I’m not interested in politics and I have a high school education.  Where did the site get the former information, I wonder?  It’s not quite true, though, indeed, I don’t generally enjoy political discussions and don’t volunteer my political views (though when asked, I have been known to answer).  The latter information also isn’t accurate:  I certainly do have a high school education, but I didn’t stop there!  And I only wish the site’s vastly inflated estimate of the value of my home were correct. 

Though none of Spokeo’s information about me was exactly offensive, I found it disconcerting to have this (not entirely accurate) data compiled about me as a virtual dossier, so I removed it by clicking on the site’s Privacy link and filling out the form.  I realize, of course, that other aggregator sites will still maintain such dossiers and that there’s not much any of us can do about it.  If you want to know what Spokeo has on you, hie yourself over to the site, plug in your name, and take whatever action you wish after doing so.

Third, and most unsettling to me, was some news about the Kindle:   Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project learned that Amazon is looking over your shoulder as you use the device.  She writes “It turns out that Amazon keeps track every time someone highlights a passage from a book on a Kindle! Yes, if you’ve highlighted a sentence on your Kindle, Amazon knows.” 

I don’t own a Kindle or want one myself, but the people I know who have them love them.  I can understand why:  it’s light, fits in a handbag, and if you’re an expat in a country where bound books in your language aren’t readily or economically available, like one family I know, it’s the perfect solution.  It seems to me it would also be great for students to use instead of having to lug around heavy and costly textbooks, especially since the device enables highlighting.  But I’d hate to have a Big Brother logging my highlightings or annotations–it’s way too much like having someone peering into your very thoughts.  Also, I can remember some pretty callow comments I made in the margins of some of my college texts, and I wouldn’t want anyone reading them and thinking I’m still so naive!

Speaking of The Happiness Project, it’s a lovely site, written by another lawyer mom who wrestles with many of the same issues I do–do check it out!

April 23, 2010

March 12, 2010

Happy reading!

Reading is probably my favorite activity in the world and always has been.  In fact, it’s so important to me that I notice I’m less happy when I get busy with other matters and let reading fall by the wayside.  If I schedule time for pleasure reading as I schedule time for business and family activities, I read more.  So one of my goals is to spend most evenings between 8 and 9 reading with my family.

Junot Diaz’s “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” has been on my very long reading list for more than a year, since a close friend and my husband read and recommended it.  Before I’d even finished Diaz’s 7-page introduction (complete with footnotes on the history of the Dominican Republic), I was hooked.  Diaz breaks a few rules–and breaks them very well–by, among other things, writing in Spanglish!  His energetic, honest, in-your-face prose reminds me of Sherman Alexie’s, whose “Ten Little Indians” and “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” my husband and I both enjoyed and admire immensely.  Now that I’m on chapter 2, I’m finding it close to unputdownable and can’t wait for 8 PM.

 Those who, like me, find it hard to squeeze time in for pleasure reading might like to take advantage of DailyLit.  The site, , has a number of books, short stories, foreign language lessons, and other offerings available by daily e-mail installments for FREE.  You can read for a few minutes each day or save them up and read several together.  If you find yourself with more time available, or you just can’t wait 24 hours for the next installment, you can have the next one sent immediately.  And if you get too busy even to read one e-mail a day, you can suspend the service for a while and tell it when to resume sending them to you.  I recently finished the 12th and final e-mail installment of one of Alice Munro’s short stories from her recent collection, “Too Much Happiness.”  No affiliation with the site—I’m just a happy reader.

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