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January 31, 2006

Using Amazon to Keyword Search & "Shepardize" Books

Have you noticed some of the really cool features in Amazon.com lately? Although only available for books in which they have scanned the full text (you can tell by the "Search Inside" logo above the book's photo), this number is growing rapidly.

Back in September, I wrote about some neat statistical comparison features in the "Inside This Book" section. This includes statistically improbably phrases (book's distinctive phrases), a concordance of oft-used words (in a neat word-could format) and readability calculations.

The other day, someone clued me into a couple other useful features. Did you know that you can keyword search the full-text of books in Amazon? When you come upon a book that's available in full-text, just mouse over the book's image to get a search box - or click on the image to bring up a search page. To test it, go to the Amazon record for the book above, The Devil in the White City.

Maybe this has been around for a while and I've just been clueless - I don't know. I thought that the "search inside" thing was just for the first few pages and table of contents. Don't get me wrong - that's useful too, but not as cool as keyword searching the whole book.

Another useful feature I learned about is the Citations section (think "Shepardizing" for books). According to Amazon:

  • If a book cites two other books, we show you which two books it cites, and provide links to the pages in the book where the citations first appear.
  • If a book is cited by two other books, we show you which two books cite it, and provide links to the pages in those books where the citations appear.
One caveat here is that the "Books that cite this book" function only works for other books that are Appleby on Amazon in full text. But, still, this could be pretty darn useful.

Thanks to UW-Madison librarian, Amy Kindschi, for sharing this information at the campus libraries Reference Retreat.

Public Legal Notices

From DCLRC Blawg:
To promote better citizen awareness of local government actions, public legal notices are now available on a statewide web site hosted by member newspapers of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. Notices will be accessible for 90 days after publication date. Some advanced features will be free until February 28, but require fee subscriptions beginning March 1. Access the notices by clicking on "Public Notice Web Site"” on this page: http://www.wnanews.com/

January 30, 2006

Download Audio Books from Your Public Library

Courtesy of the Wisconsin Public Library Consortium, library patrons can now download digital audio books to their mp3 players or burn the files to an audio CD. There are currently over 600 titles available directly from your home or office. A library card and PIN number are needed to "check-out" audio books.

Unfortunately, however, the system only works with Microsoft-based mp3 players. iPod users cannot download the files directly since Apple doesn't license their technology to third parties.

For instructions, see:

Source: JS Online

Donation Value Guide

This one is from my sister-in-law:
I have always heard that people tend to undervalue their donation of goods to charities. I went online and got value guides from Goodwill and Salvation Army. I used these guides to inventory what I had in the boxes. I have 8 boxes (small-medium sized) to donate. Previously, I would have just scribbled an amount on the receipt at the donation center. Based on previous scribblings, I probably would have put down $150-200. Using the conservative values from their guides I totaled it at $329.00.

If you want to do the same, you can get the guides at:

Shushing She-Demons

"How do I convince them that librarians aren'’t the shushing she-demons we'’re always portrayed as?" was the question posed by a twenty-two year old library school student.

For an entertaining answer, listen to Lin Brehmer of Lin's Bin on Chicago's radio WXRT. See Are Librarians Cool? dated 1/18/06.

"Shushing she-demons" - I love that line.

Source: Law-lib

January 25, 2006

Old News is Good News: Historical Newspaper Databases

Earlier this month, I attended a retreat for UW Madison campus reference librarians. One of the presentations that day by librarian Barbara Walden was on historical newspaper databases. Turns out we have some pretty neat stuff for both the casual history buff and serious researcher.

The following full-text databases are all publicly available from any UW Madison campus library, including the Law Library:

  • ProQuest Historical Newspapers: New York Times, 1851-2002 & Chicago Tribune, 1849-1985
    Both the NYT and Chicago Tribune have excellent national and international coverage. Particularly interesting are the ads, editorials, comics and editorial cartoons. Business and legal researchers may find the stock quotes and daily weather especially useful.
  • Times (London) Digital Archive, 1785-1985
    The newspaper of record during this period, the times has excellent international coverage. Check out the "Picture Gallery" in the advanced search for some great illustrations.
  • NewspaperARCHIVElite, 1753-Present
    As a Wisconsin history buff, I find this one is particularly fun. It covers local and small town newspapers from across the United States. Coverage, however, is sporadic since many newspapers only have a few issues included. This is a great source for genealogists.
  • HARPWEEK (Harper's Weekly), 1857-1865
    Harper's Weekly was the pre-eminent American weekly magazine in the 19th century. History buffs and scholars will appreciate this source, especially for the wonderful illustrations. Unfortunately, we only subscribe to the Civil War years.
Source: Handout provided by Barbara Walden

Dane Co. Legal Assistance Program Schedules

From DCLRC Blawg: Update on Legal Asst Programs in Courthouse
Here is an update on the status of the Legal Assistance Programs offered at the Dane County Courthouse (215 S Hamilton Street).
  • Mondays: Restraining Order Clinic from 8 a.m. to Noon in Room 1001 (next to Probate), for assistance with Restraining Order procedures and forms
  • Tuesdays: Small Claims Assistance Program from 9 to 11 a.m. in Room L1000 (Jury Assembly Room), for assistance with small claims procedures and forms
  • Tuesdays: Family Court Assistance Project from 9 to Noon in Room L1000 (Jury Assembly Room), for assistance with family court procedures and forms
  • Wednesdays: Family Law Assistance Center from 11:30 to 1:30 in Room L1000 (Jury Assembly Room) for assistance with family court procedures and forms
  • Wednesdays: Family Court Assistance Project from 11 to 2 in Room L1000 (Jury Assembly Room), for assistance with family court procedures and forms
  • Thursdays: Family Court Assistance Project from 9 to Noon in Room L1000 (Jury Assembly Room), for assistance with family court procedures and forms
  • Fridays: Restraining Order Clinic from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1001 (next to Probate), for assistance with Restraining Order procedures and forms

January 24, 2006

Madison Police Dept Incident Reports

Want to learn more about an incident investigated by the Madison Police Department? Check out their Current News Media Releases where you can browse recent incidents or search by date, type of incident, or text.

Included in the reports are the location & details of the incident and information about the suspects & victims.

Source: Dane County Legal Resource Center Blawg

Maine Launches E-Waste Recycling Law

beSpacific informs us that:
"Maine launched the first manufacturer-funded program in the nation designed to capture hazardous electronic waste for safe disposal and recycling. Under the law enacted in 2004, beginning January 18, municipalities will send waste computer and television monitors to consolidation centers that are fully-funded by manufacturers. The manufacturers also pay to safely ship and recycle the electronic waste according to Maine’s environmentally sound recycling guidelines."

---From the National Resources Council of Maine press release

NCSC Publications on State Court Trends, Work, Caseload Stats, Judicial Salaries

New publications from the National Center for State Courts:
  • Future Trends in State Courts 2005 includes several timely pieces that focus on events that will shape the state courts in the years ahead and a court-specific environmental scan, a major tool for strategic planning for the court community.
  • Examining the Work of State Courts, 2004 includes an examination of reopened, reactivated, and pending caseloads as well as some new detail of incoming civil, criminal, and juvenile cases.
  • State Court Caseload Statistics, 2004 is a reference volume that contains detailed information about state court caseloads and structure.
  • The Survey of Judicial Salaries features the annual percentage changes in judicial salaries for the period 1992 - 2005 and provides the salaries of state chief justices and judges of all levels, and of state court administrators, as of April 1, 2005, along with a special section on retirement plans for general jurisdiction judges.

January 23, 2006

Burned by a Blogger? Judge Says Blog Back

From an article in The Register: Man sues over chatroom humiliation

In one recent case, the Delaware Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling that a council official, suing over remarks posted online by an unknown blogger, could force the blogger’s ISP to reveal his identity. The official first had to prove that the remarks were capable of a defamatory meaning – which he failed to do, according to Chief Justice Myron Steele.

“Blogs and chat rooms tend to be vehicles for the expression of opinions; by their very nature, they are not a source of facts or data upon which a reasonable person would rely,” wrote the Chief Justice. He added that plaintiffs harmed by a blog have an instant remedy available: blogging themselves.

Source: Law Librarian Blog

Cutting Through Information Overload Like a Skilled Surgeon

"But the reference librarian cuts through all the information overload like a skilled surgeon."

That's my favorite line from the Des Moines Register article mentioned last week over at Out of the Jungle. The title of the article? - "Our Librarians, Our Heroes." Oh, yeah.

Guide to Removing Sensitive Metadata from PDF Documents

Several times, I've posted stories about folks being burned by the release of overly revealing PDF documents. By not properly saving or converting documents, sensitive metadata can inadvertently be accessible.

But there is a difference between recognizing a potential problem and knowing how to avoid it. If you use MS Word, take a look at this guide by the NSA entitled, Redacting with Confidence: How to Safely Publish Sanitized Reports Converted From Word to PDF. It covers the different types of exposure and gives step-by-step instructions in MS Word and Adobe Acrobat for removing data.

Source: The ever useful, PDF for Lawyers

Updating Your Firm's Web Site

In his LLRX article, ABA Webmaster Frederick Faulker IV advises legal practitioners on ways to update law firm Web sites.
With the web increasingly becoming an integral part of our daily lives, including locating products and services, your website may require some freshening up. This is not to suggest that you need to completely redesign your website, but there are several types of approaches you can take to update your site, ranging from easy to challenging projects.
There are a number of good, easy-to-implement suggestions here. Even if you aren't ready to a complete redesign, tweaking your content and adding a few goodies here and there can certainly help freshen things up.

January 19, 2006

Podcasting: WestCast & New Search Engine

A couple podcasting items:
  • Thomson/West has joined the podcasting ranks with its new WestCast series (see box on right margin). In episode 1, West authors Hugh Ray and Joe Lee discuss bankruptcy reform.
  • Robert Ambrogi shares news of a new full-text search engine for podcasts called Podzinger.

Wisconsin's Politician-Bloggers

Dane101 has an interesting post on Wisconsin's politician-bloggers. State Rep. Mark Pocan, the "highest ranking blogger in town," shares his reasons for blogging and discusses some of the ethical implications.

January 18, 2006

Courts Using iPods

From the Ohio Legal Research Blog:

The U.S. District Court in Toledo is allowing the use of iPods by defense attorneys and their clients in a federal drug case. The Toledo Blade article ("Defense to use iPods to review evidence ..." Jan. 17, 2006) details the practical reasons for bringing iPods in for listening to over 100 hours of evidence:

  • 13 CDs of wiretaps are condensed and downloaded into the iPods
  • defendants are in scattered locations but can easily access the information
  • the devices are easy to use and ensure that the recordings cannot be reproduced, a concern of the court
  • access to the devices are controlled out of the clerk's office in the federal court
  • the cost to the taxpayer is minimal as compared to other methods of formatting information

Guides to Sources of Legal Information for WI & International Attorneys

At the request of our legal research and writing instructors, I've recently updated my guide to Sources of Legal Information for the Wisconsin Attorney.

In it, I've gathered electronic sources of legal information such as case law & citators, legislation, regulations and journal articles. For each database, I note the cost (including whether it may be free at a local library), coverage (contents & dates), and any additional information.

The guide also includes information on vendors/suppliers of legal sources and costs associated with each. Library document delivery services are featured, as well as vendors accepting credit cards and those requiring paid subscription.

This guide was originally compiled as a handout for our Surviving in the Real World workshop for our graduating law students. It has, however, taken on a life of it's own. It was published in the Wisconsin Lawyer in October 2002 and has been used in other classes and workshops.

Although the guide specifically focuses on Wisconsin resources, it also covers sources useful for practitioners in other states.

For our international students and visiting scholars, I created a second guide entitled, Sources of U.S. Legal Information for the International Attorney. This guide, which has also been updated, covers U.S. federal and state legal resources available from anywhere.

January 17, 2006

My Life, The Movie - Starring?

If they were to make a movie about your life, you would play you? Not sure? Check out MyHeritage.com's face recognition tool to find the celebrity whose face most closely matches your own.

I came out as a 59% match with Katie Holmes. I guess I can live with that. For more on how this works, see MyHeritage.com

Check out some other Madison celebrity look-a-likes over at Dane 101 - and thanks to Dane 101 for the tip.

PACER Enables Automatic Credit Card Billing

From the PACER Service Center Announcements, January 2006:

PACER customers now have the option to sign up for automatic credit card billing. Customers that sign up for this option will have the amount due each quarter charged to a credit card on file with the PACER Service Center without having to visit the web site or call. Balances of $10 or more are applied to the credit card on file just before payment is due.

January 12, 2006

Librarianship is an Excellent Career Choice Says US News

US News & World Report has identified "librarian" as an excellent career for 2006.
This is an underrated career. Most librarians enjoy helping patrons dig up information. They learn in the process and keep up to date on the latest books and online resources. The need for librarians, unfortunately, may decline because search engines make it easy for patrons to find information without a librarian's help. The job growth for librarians will be in nontraditional settings: corporations, nonprofit organizations, and consulting firms.
Ok, I agree with the underrated part.

But I have to disagree with the part about "the need for librarians, unfortunately, may decline because search engines make it easy for patrons to find information without a librarian's help." This is, in fact, why librarians are needed more than ever. Yes, you can find information with a search engine. Oh boy, can you find information!

Did you ever try to take a drink from a fire hose? Of course not! You'd get way too much water, when, in fact, you only wanted a little bit. Same goes for a poorly constructed query in a search engine. A good librarian can teach you how to narrow that stream of information to only the most relevant sources.

Thanks to LLAW President, Bev Butula for the tip.

January 11, 2006

Cleaning Your Mouse with your Fingernail, the "Handywoman's Secret Weapon"

If duct tape is the "handyman's secret weapon," then the fingernail must be the "handywoman's secret weapon." I've used mine as a screwdriver, tweezers, scraper, and more.

Check out this tech tip... Unlike the previous tip about cleaning "e-dirt" from your computer, this one explains how to clean real dirt from your mouse with a fingernail. But not to worry all you fingernail-less folk, the tip of a small flathead screwdriver or a wooden manicure stick will also work.

I frequently have to do this with our public computers. It's amazing how much gunk builds up in there.

Source: Depraved Librarian

Guide to Ridding Your Computer of Adware, Spyware, Etc.

"Do you suspect that your system is infected with adware, spyware, or other malware? Here's how to get rid of it," advises a recent article in Information Week. Handy dandy.

LRB Guide to Federalism & Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau has created, in their Governing Wisconsin series, a guide to Federalism, the division of power between the federal and state governments.

The guide explores the history of federalism in the United States and it's role in Wisconsin.

Search Scientific, Medical & Technical Literature Free from Infotrieve

From TVC Alert:
Introtrieve last week announced that it would enable free search access to ArticleFinder, a database containing bibliographic citations and abstracts to scientific, technical and medical literature. Searchers pay to retrieve the full-text article.
See more at Search Engine Watch.

January 10, 2006

Options for Billing Online Research

Carol Bannen, Law Librarian at Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren s.c., explains the issues surrounding Billing for Online Research in the fall issue of Class Action, the newsletter of the Wisconsin Association of Legal Administrators.

The article is part of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin publication campaign.

Workshops on Legal Research & Disaster Preparedness

The Wisconsin State Law Library is offering a full slate of workshops this winter. For registration and additional information, see the WSLL Classes and Tours page.

- The Wisconsin Legislature Website
Wednesday January 11, 2006 9:00-10:00 a.m. (Tomorrow!)

In this hands-on overview of the Legislature's site you'll learn how to track legislative activity, locate bills and acts, and search the online Wisconsin Statutes. You'll also learn about the Legislative Notification Service and where to find publications of the various Legislative Service Agencies.

- NEW!
Disasters: Prevent, Prepare & Recover
Wednesday February 8, 2006 10:00-11:30 a.m.

Fire, flood, theft, and weather are just some of the dangers that threaten your office. These events can cause computer data loss, phone service outages and destruction of paper files. Is your office prepared to recover from these events? Learn how to assess your risks and prevent avoidable disasters. Find out how to prepare for unavoidable disasters so your office can recover quickly. The class will be taught by Art Saffran, former IT director at the State Bar of Wisconsin.

- Tax Resources On The Web
Wednesday March 1, 2006 9:00-10:00

Is tax research giving you headaches? Forget over-the-counter remedies, just take this one-hour class. Our resident tax research expert will help you unravel the maze of tax-related websites and show you what's available for free in the way of online forms and assistance from the Wisconsin Dept. of Revenue, other states' revenue agencies, and the IRS.

Source: WSLL At Your Service (January 2006)

Federal Court Glossary

U.S. Courts, from the Federal Judiciary, has recently developed a glossary of commonly used legal terms encountered in the various federal courts.

January 9, 2006

Postage Rates Increase Today

Starting yesterday, it will cost you 2 cents more to mail a standard first class letter. Up from 37 cents, a first class stamp now costs 39 cents.

For additional rate changes and fees, see the USPS Web site.

Marquette Student Blogger's Suspension Overturned

JS Online reports that the suspension of a Marquette dental student blogger has been overturned by the dean of the School of Dentistry. The discipline, he said, was "not appropriate" for the circumstance.

Last month, in a decision that drew sharp criticism on and off campus, [Theodore] Schrubbe, 22, was suspended for the rest of the academic year and ordered to repeat his fall semester after a committee of dental students, professors and administrators determined that a half-dozen postings on his blog were in violation of Marquette's codes of conduct. One posting described a professor as "a (expletive) of a teacher." Another described 20 classmates as having the "intellectual/maturity of a 3-year-old."

Schrubbe did not use names on his blog, which included comments on subjects ranging from drinking to video games, and the Web site was intended for his friends' viewing only. Critics said the suspension was too harsh.

William Lobb, the dental school's dean to whom Schrubbe appealed, agreed. Schrubbe received a letter from Lobb on Thursday, informing him that his suspension was being repealed, Taylor said. The dean said he had made his decision with the help of an advisory committee.

January 5, 2006

Web 2.0 - What Is It & How Will It Affect Legal Professionals?

Web 2.0 seems to be a buzz word lately. Although it's difficult to get a handle on exactly what it means, chances are good that you are using it already. If you are reading this via your RSS aggregator, then you're definitely there.

"So what is this Web 2.0? In short, it's a set of new technologies that is making the Internet more interactive for its users," according to Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. The pair has written introductory article on Web 2.0 in this month's issue of Law Practice Today.

"Does Web 2.0 Point Us to Law 2.0?" is the question asked by Kennedy, Mighell, and others in the roundtable discussion also appearing in Law Practice Today.

Source: inter alia

Wonkette To Get New Identity

Law.com reports "'Underneath Their Robes' Blogger to Become the New Wonkette"

Wonkette is getting a new identity.

Ana Marie Cox, the voice behind the racy and gossip-filled political blog, is stepping down later this month after signing a second book deal.

Taking her place will be David Lat, a 30-year-old lawyer who anonymously wrote the irreverent legal blog Underneath Their Robes. Alex Pareene, 20, who has been a guest editor on the New York-based Gawker.com, will join Lat as co-editor

January 4, 2006

More on Lobbyists & Draft Legislation

JS Online has more on the role of lobbyists in drafting legislation.

See also earlier post describing Attorney General Lautenschlager's lawsuit against Senators Zien and Gunderson for refusal to share drafts of legislation concerning concealed weapons.

Deadbeat Taxpayers List Meets With Mixed Success

As mentioned earlier, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue's "web site of shame" is now live.

The site, required by Wis. Stat. 73.03(62), lists those who owe more than $25,000 for more than 90 days after all appeal rights have expired. The listing includes the name, address, type of tax, and total amount eligible for posting. A separate list of the Top 100 accounts is also available.

According to JS Online, the list has met with mixed success.

[I]t turns out, some of the companies and individuals are not in a position to be shamed. Some of the companies no longer exist; and some individuals on the list may no longer be alive. Others simply have gone so far underground that they are out of the reach of Department of Revenue agents. . . .

7,259 warning letters were mailed weeks ago, notifying those owing $25,000 or more that they would have their names posted on the Internet this month.

Since then, 913 taxpayers who owed about $8 million have contacted the Department of Revenue to agree to an installment payment plan; to notify the state that they had filed for bankruptcy; or to accept a compromise.

Madison Blogosphere 2005

Kristian Knutsen of the Isthmus Daily Page has put together a look back at the Madison blogopshere in 2005. Very nice.

Featured are the School Information System blog (re: Madison Metropolitan School District), blogs reviewing the Madison dining, tavern and music scenes, and political blogs. Mention is also made of the UW Law School bloggers.

January 3, 2006

Senators Used Paper Ballots

According to JS Online, at least 126 times this year, Wisconsin Senate committees employed "increasingly controversial" paper or e-mail ballots without senators voicing their votes in open sessions.

"Totals compiled by the Senate's chief clerk at the Journal Sentinel's request show that the so-called polling ballots were used on 126 of 561 public-policy issues - or 22% of all items acted on by committees and sent to the full Senate for debate."

See the full article for more about the use of paper ballots and the controversy surrounding them.

WSJ Unveils Law Blog

The new year has brought with it the Wall Street Journal law blog which focuses on on law and business, and the business of law. From lead writer, Peter Lattman (formerly of Forbes Magazine):

Law and business is a broad intersection, encompassing such current news as the Enron trial, the Merck litigation and the RIM patent dispute. The business of law is focused on law firms and in-house law departments. We’ll write about industry news and legal trends, with a sprinkle of good old-fashioned gossip. We’ll link to the best coverage of law and lawyers from around the Web, report some news of our own and look to you for contributions.

Also, look for the WSJ.com’s Law Web Page.

Source: Conglomerate

Fill-in-the-Blank with Acrobat Reader's New Typewriter Tool

Although the Law Library hasn't had any typewriters for a number of years, we still get occasional requests for them. Why? Because of fill-in-the-blank-forms. Luckily for our law students, our career services office still keeps a few around which they dust off when the need arises.

But I suspect that those workhorses-of-old will become even more obsolete now that Adobe has added the handy Typewriter tool to the latest version the free Acrobat Reader (ver. 7.05 - Windows & Mac).

"The Typewriter tool is the existing Text Box tool with a different set of default properties, which allows you to type text anywhere on a PDF document. This tool provides a simple solution for filling out forms that do not contain interactive form fields." -- Adobe Support Knowledgebase (see also for more features & instructions)

Source: PDF for Lawyers

Dane County Courthouse Moving Dates - Library & Assistance Programs

From the Jan. 2006 DCLRC Docket, the newsletter of the Dane County Legal Resource Center:


  • DCLRC will be closed Friday January 13 while we move into the new courthouse and Monday January 16 for the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday.
  • The Small Claims Assistance Program will move to its new location starting Jan. 17. It will meet 9-11 a.m. on Tuesdays in Room L1000 (right next to DCLRC).
  • The Family Law Assistance Center will move to its location starting Jan. 18. It will meet 11:30-1:30 on Wednesdays in Room L1000 (next to DCLRC).
  • The Family Court Assistance Project will start up again later in January. Watch the DCLRCBlawg for an announcement. It will meet in Room L1000.