Russell Brunelle (russellb) wrote,
Russell Brunelle

Inter Alia - Q1

Welcome to Inter Alia, my periodic newsletter for Seattle's law students and law professionals. This issue covers the first quarter of 2012.


A new iPhone app by OCS Legal called "FedCtRecords" now provides PACER access to Federal district and appellate court records.

A new iPhone app by David Finucane called "US Code" now provides the entire U.S. code, and unlike a previous attempt at doing this does not cause the Windows version of iTunes to brutally crash: so, between this, Mike Kinney's "RCW2011" app, Tekk Innovations' "LawStack" app, West's "Black's Law Dictionary" app, and Tekk Innovations' "Manual of Patent Examining Procedures" app, you can now have an enormous amount of reference material available on your phone even when neither cellular nor Wi-Fi access is available.

Free e-book versions of the 2012 Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, and Evidence are now available, and Oyez is up to date with audio recordings of all the U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments through the end of 2011.


New Books

  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. This book, by an economics Nobel Prize winner, provides an excellent summary for general audiences of the various ways humans systematically misjudge probabilities. In my opinion, its applicability to both civil litigation and business management is both obvious and immediate.
  • The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker. This book identifies a surprising global decline in violence and attempts to rigorously analyze its causes. Its review of current scientific understanding concerning the conditions which predict domestic crime (as well as war crimes) may be inspiring to anyone who has started to doubt the ability of law to make the world a better place. [Note: In contrast to this author's last three books, evolutionary psychology isn't central to the argument this new book is trying to make.]
  • The Heights: Anatomy of a Skyscraper by Kate Ascher. This beautifully-illustrated coffee table book unpacks every important element of a modern skyscraper's design, construction, and maintenance, from building its foundation to cleaning its windows. So, if you successfully went the blue-chip route and now work for a law firm near the top of Columbia Center, as you ride the elevator up each morning this book will give you the satisfaction of knowing what's going on behind the scenes.
  • Courtwatchers: Eyewitness Accounts in Supreme Court History by Clare Cushman. This engaging and unique book delves into the history of the U.S. Supreme Court from the perspective of its staff.


  • A debate on same-sex marriage will be hosted on Jan 18 @ 7:30pm at Town Hall Seattle: on one side will be State Representative Laurie Jinkins and writer Dan Savage, and on the other side will be pastor Ken Hutcherson and attorney Stephen Pidgeon.
  • Jon Gruber, author of the new graphic novel Health Care Reform, will talk about 2010's national health care act on Jan 9 @ 7:30pm at Town Hall Seattle.


  • Northwest Film Forum presents Urbanized until Jan 12. This film (by the director of Helvetica) explores how cities are designed, and includes interviews with some of the world's leading architects and policymakers.
  • SIFF Cinema at the Uptown presents Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams in 3D until Jan 12. In watching this film, I found it humbling to learn that someone living 32,000 years ago could draw much better than I can.
  • Varsity Theatre presents The Conquest beginning on Jan 27. It's unusual for a biopic to be made about an elected leader while that leader is still in office, in this case about Nicolas Sarkozy.
  • SIFF Cinema at the Film Center presents Man on a Mission beginning Feb 10. Last year saw the end of the Space Shuttle program, and the ramping up of commercial space flight: this film documents Richard Garriott's voyage into space, as the first private citizen to do so.
  • Varsity Theatre presents Jiro Dreams of Sushi beginning on Mar 30. I've often wondered what my life would have been like if I'd focused on mastering one thing, and only one thing, for my life's entire course: this biopic examines the life of Jiro Ono, who did exactly this in becoming one of the world's greatest sushi chefs.


Seattle now has an indoor skydiving facility.

Registration for the Cascade Bicycle Club's tour of eastern Washington (Aug 4-10) begins Jan 10, and registration for its rides from Seattle to Vancouver BC (Aug 17-18 and Aug 18-19) begins Jan 11. These are widely regarded as the two best organized bicycle rides in Washington State, and I can personally attest to their quality.

Smash Putt (the miniature golf "apocalypse") will be held from Jan 6 - Feb 26.

Tickets for the 2012 Burning Man festival (Aug 27 - Sep 3) go on sale Jan 9 @ noon: attending this event is the best way I'm aware of to relieve yourself of the nagging fear that you missed out on anything in life.


The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society hosts its annual Big Climb fundraiser on Mar 25 at Columbia Center (the region's tallest skyscraper): the idea is that you walk 69 flights of stairs all the way to the top, which also allows you to imagine in a particularly vivid way that you're climbing the corporate ladder.


The Seattle Aquarium hosts its annual octopus blind date on Feb 14 @ noon: in this strange Seattle Valentine's Day tradition aquarium staff put two giant Pacific octopuses in the same valentine and rose decorated tank, put on some romantic music, and everyone attending hopes the octopuses mate. If you're planning to propose marriage to someone then please consider doing so with this as your backdrop: the octopuses, at least, will not feel upstaged.

Seattle Public Theater presents Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead from Jan 26 - Feb 19. This theater adjoins Greenlake, which basically makes it Valentine's Day ground zero (walk around the lake -> romantic dinner -> play).



The Seattle Art Museum hosts Gauguin and Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise from Feb 9 - Apr 29. This will probably be the Pacific Northwest's most important art exhibition in 2012.

The Tacoma Art Museum hosts its Northwest Biennial from Jan 21 - May 20. These dates coincide with several other interesting exhibitions at the neighboring Museum of Glass, so if you want to make a Saturday afternoon of it you could do TAM -> MOG -> Dorky's.


Wing-It Productions presents The Lost Folio, an improvised full-length play in the style of William Shakespeare based on audience suggestions, over Thu-Fri @ 8pm from Jan 5-20 and Feb 2-10.

In the "Seattle never ceases to surprise me" department, I give you The Bushwick Book Club: rather than simply discussing that month's book, this book club's members instead write songs about it and perform their songs at a public concert (Feb 14 @ 8pm for Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Mar 16 @ 8pm for Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451).

Central Cinema presents The Room on Feb 16 @ 8pm.

The next Salon of Shame will be held on Mar 13 @ 8pm: tickets go on sale Feb 19 @ 8pm, and as usual will probably sell out within a few minutes.


The long-anticipated PC/Mac game Diablo III is slated for a Q1 2012 release: basically Diablo is like World of Warcraft except that it doesn't ruin your life.


Traditional: Cappella Romana, a Portland choir which specializes in Slavic and Byzantine music, will perform Rachmaninoff's All-Night Vigil on Jan 7 @ 8pm at St. James Cathedral.

Experimental: On the Boards hosts a collaboration between vocalist and marimba player Erin Jorgensen and producer Steve Fisk over Jan 26-28 @ 8pm, and the Neptune Theatre presents the Kronos Quartet on Mar 23 @ 8pm.

Electronic: Fathom Events presents a concert broadcast by The Chemical Brothers on Feb 1 @ 7:30pm (local movie theaters hosting this broadcast include Thornton Place [301 NE 103rd St] and AMC Pacific Place 11 [600 Pine St]).

World: Meany Hall hosts Ladysmith Black Mambazo on Mar 10 @ 8pm.

Jazz: Arturo Sandoval performs at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley over Jan 12-15 (7:30pm and 9:30pm sets each day except Sunday), and he'll also offer a free live studio performance via KPLU 88.5 FM on Jan 13 @ 12:15pm.


The first season of the critically-acclaimed drama Boardwalk Empire (set in prohibition-era Atlantic City) will be released on Blu-Ray/DVD on Jan 10, and the first season of Game of Thrones will be released Mar 6.


Seattle Repertory Theatre presents John Logan's award-winning play Red (about the abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko) from Feb 24 - Mar 18.


Something that always intrigued me about law was the contrast between the permanence its aesthetics seem intended to evoke and how temporary its advances fundamentally are: on the one hand courthouses are built out of heavy stone in the style of ancient Greece, judges wear robes, archaic language is inexplicably retained, the first year law school curriculum never really changes, and the typesetting of the United States Reports exudes a timeless quality, but on the other hand a successful appeal on statutory interpretation to a state's highest court can be rendered moot by its legislature, the free time you spend getting one person elected can be rendered waste by the next person to hold that same position, and subsequent poor decisions by a former defendant can undo any of the mercy he or she was shown. But nevertheless, despite those frustrations it's not as if we can stop doing what we do, since without some path to justice other than private vengeance no society can be both stable and peaceful.

So, I humbly offer the following suggestion: whenever the lack of permanence in your work as a lawyer gets you down, instead look to science, where every discovery, no matter how small, belongs to humanity forever.

In that spirit, the following is my personal short list for the most significant scientific announcements of 2011:

  1. On Jan 21, we discovered a finite formula for something that mathematicians call the partition function. This is a long-standing problem which some of the most brilliant people to have ever lived, including Srinivasa Ramanujan, hurled themselves at to no avail. It's also one of the rare problems in mathematics for which regular people (including myself) can at least understand the problem, even if they can't understand the solution.
  2. On May 12, we learned that the antiretroviral medications used to treat men and women infected with HIV can also drastically reduce the risk of transmitting said virus to partners. This was widely considered the most important scientific advance of the entire year.
  3. On Sep 10, we launched two small spacecraft designed to perform a fine-grained mapping of our moon's interior. So, assuming they function correctly and report consistent data, from that point on whenever we look at the moon we'll also be able to imagine what's inside it.
  4. On Nov 1, India announced plans to construct the world's first nuclear reactor based on thorium instead of uranium.
  5. On Nov 26, we launched a rover toward Mars, which is scheduled to begin operation on Aug 5 @ 10pm. This rover (named "Curiosity") will assess whether Mars is now, or has ever been, able to support life, and its findings will support plans for a human expedition to Mars.
  6. On Dec 13, physicists associated with the Large Hadron Collider reported results which placed firm limits on the mass of the last "Standard Model" fundamental particle which has not yet been observed (and frankly they probably already observed it).
  7. On Dec 15, we declared the use of chimpanzees in medical research to be essentially obsolete.
  8. On Dec 20, we discovered two Earth-sized planets orbiting a sun-like star.

Comments for this post were disabled by the author