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October 19, 2010

Origin of "Boilerplate" Text

One of my favorite games is called Origins. It's a trivia game about the origins of customs, cliches, inventions, words and superstitions. Why do we say "break a leg" to wish someone good luck? Or why might we say someone is "mad as a hatter"?

Mental Floss had a post the other day on the origin of the term "boilerplate" as a unit of writing that can be reused over and over without change, often in contracts or computer code.

In dem der olden deys, steam boilers were built from very heavy tough steel sheets. Similar sheets of steel were also used for engraving copy that was intended for widespread reproduction in multiple issues of newspapers--things like ads and syndicated columns. Regular, here today, gone tomorrow copy was set in much softer, durable lead.

Since no source was given, I checked it against the Oxford English Dictionary to see if the etymology was legit and it seems likely. Here's what appears as an added entry for "boiler"

1860 W. FORDYCE Hist. Coal, &c. 112 Various descriptions of Iron, such as nail-rods, *boiler-plates, hoop and sheet iron. 1875 URE Dict. Arts I. 410 The average resistance of boiler plates is reckoned at 20 tons to the square inch. 1893 Congress. Rec. Aug. 465/1 The country weeklies have been sent tons of 'boiler plates' accompanied by..letters asking the editors to use the matter as news. 1905 D. G. PHILLIPS Plum Tree 190 He attended to the subsidizing of news agencies that supplied thousands of country papers with boiler-plate matter to fill their inside pages.

Latest UW Law School Faculty Scholarship

Here is the latest faculty scholarship from the UW Law School Legal Studies Research Paper Series via SSRN.

October 15, 2010

GPO MetaLib - Federated Search Engine for Government Databases

The Government Printing Office has recently released a federated (combined) search engine for multiple databases compiled by the federal government. The new search engine called MetaLib includes reference databases, digital repositories and subject-based Web gateways.

View a complete list of all current resources that can be accessed in MetaLib.

For more info, see the FDLP Desktop.

October 8, 2010

Homecoming Cane Toss Traditions

This weekend, third year law students at the University of Wisconsin will honor an almost century long tradition (no one knows for sure) of the homecoming cane parade and toss.

A recent article in On Wisconsin describes the tradition:

When they arrive in the shadow of the Field House, students toss their canes over the goalpost. It's a decades-long tradition that holds that catching their canes means they'll win their first cases after graduation. Drop them and they lose.

When the concept of law students carrying canes first appeared at the UW is in question. One report indicates it originated at Harvard University and showed up here in 1910. The tradition is also strongly linked to law professor William Herbert Page, who claimed it started in 1917 when he came to Madison from Ohio State.

Here are a few more articles and photos of the cane toss:

October 6, 2010

Books Unbound Search Improved

The latest edition of InsideTrack from the Wisconsin State Bar highlights some major improvements in the search capability of Books Unbound. Books UnBound is the subscription-based online library of State Bar of Wisconsin CLE Books.

The first improvement is that you can now search across the all of the Books UnBound titles in your subscription. Previously, you could only search within one title at a time. To search across all titles, first open one of the titles in your collection. At the top, there is a search box in which you'll enter your terms. Search within "this book" is the default, but you can change it by selecting "all books" from the drop down menu.

It would be nice if there were a search box right on the main page without linking into a specific title, but at least it's possible to do the search across titles somewhere now.

The second improvement is that your search terms are highlights in your returned documents (see screen shot below). Previously, the terms would be highlighted in the list of results, but when you clicked in to the document, you didn't know where your terms appeared.

Unfortunately, there still appears to be no way to jump to the next search result without scrolling down the page or going back to the search results page by clicking the back arrow or re-doing the search. This would a nice improvement

Are there other changes that I missed? If so, please comment or email me.

The new search interface is powered by Google. I'm very pleased with the enhancements, although there is a little more room for improvement. Read more about the changes in the full InsideTrack article.
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Update: There is a third improvement that I forgot to mention in my original post. Since the search is supported by Google, there are some advanced search options available, such as phrase searching, boolean logic, number range, in title, etc. Carol Hassler, from the Wisconsin State Law Library, offers some tips in the latest edition of the LLAW Newsletter.

October 4, 2010

Supreme Court Affirms Diploma Privilege

This morning, Wisconsin Supreme Court voted 7-0 to keep Wisconsin's diploma privilege in tact. The justices rejected a proposal from a group of lawyers who wanted to end the practice.

Read more at the JS Online blog, Proof and Hearsay, and the Marquette Law School faculty blog.

October 1, 2010

Latest UW Law School Faculty Scholarship

Here is the latest faculty scholarship from the UW Law School Legal Studies Research Paper Series via SSRN.