Archive for the ‘Tech & Interwebz’ Category

BetterWorldBooks is, far and away, my favorite online retailer. I love these guys. Whenever I can, I buy my casebooks and supplements from them, and all of my non-lawschool books come from them. They ship super quickly and have great prices, but the best part is that a portion of the proceeds go to fund libraries and literacy initiatives worldwide. Plus, they reuse/recycle books and their packaging is all 100% recycled post-consumer product. Also? They ship free. YEAH, IT’S LIKE THAT.

Also, they’re partnered with organizations like Books For Africa and Invisible Children, which is lovely. They were founded in 2002 by three kids from Notre Dame, and are based in Mishawaka, Indiana. Also, their (free worldwide) shipments are carbon balanced with Green-e Climate certified offsets from 3Degrees. They collect books from campuses, libraries, and more across the country, and buy them from readers as well. They sell them online and donate them to sister programs across the world.

I particularly love their Bargain Bin. Right now, if you buy 4 books, they are $3 each, with each additional book an additional $3. And even their Bargain Bin section is just jam-packed with titles, and it would probably take days to wade through it all.

But you know what I really, really love about BWB? The dorky little emails I get whenever I buy books. They’re so hilarious and cute and cheesy and lovely. They’re just dorky and lame, and I love them because I am also dorky and lame.

Here’s the email I got just now after I spent about $57 rooting through the Bargain Bin:

Hello Huma,


(Your book(s) asked to write you a personal note – it seemed unusual, but who are we to say no?)


Holy canasta! It’s me… it’s me! I can’t believe it is actually me! You could have picked any of over 2 million books but you picked me! I’ve got to get packed! How is the weather where you live? Will I need a dust jacket? I can’t believe I’m leaving Mishawaka, Indiana already – the friendly people, the Hummer plant, the Linebacker Lounge – so many memories. I don’t have much time to say goodbye to everyone, but it’s time to see the world!


I can’t wait to meet you! You sound like such a well read person. Although, I have to say, it sure has taken you a while! I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but how would you like to spend five months sandwiched between Jane Eyre (drama queen) and Fundamentals of Thermodynamics (pyromaniac)? At least Jane was an upgrade from that stupid book on brewing beer. How many times did the ol’ brewmaster have one too many and topple off our shelf at 2am?


I know the trip to meet you will be long and fraught with peril, but after the close calls I’ve had, I’m ready for anything (besides, some of my best friends are suspense novels). Just five months ago, I thought I was a goner. My owner was moving and couldn’t take me with her. I was sure I was landfill bait until I ended up in a Better World Books book drive bin. Thanks to your socially conscious book shopping, I’ve found a new home. Even better, your book buying dollars are helping kids read from Brazil to Botswana.


But hey, enough about me, I’ve been asked to brief you on a few things:



We sent your order to the following address:




We provide quick shipping service to all our customers. You chose Standard shipping. It should arrive in 7 to 14 business days.


The delivery confirmation number is [redacted]


If you have any questions or concerns, please email my friends in Customer Care at help@betterworldbooks.com. If you could please include your order number (redacted) that would be very helpful.


Eagerly awaiting our meeting,



The Wildlife Photographs
A Kiss Is Just A Kiss
The Wisdom of Islam (Wisdom Of Series)
American Islam: Growing up Muslim in America
Dog Observed
A Massive Swelling : Celebrity Reexamined as Grotesque Crippling Disease Other Cultural Revelations
Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (Oxford American Lectures)
Obsessed by Dress
The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book
The Essential Calvin and Hobbes
It’s A Magical World: A Calvin and Hobbes Collection
Hello, I’m Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity
A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now
It’s In the Bag: What Purses Reveal—and Conceal
Bad Girls and Sick Boys: Fantasies in Contemporary Art and Culture
The Indispensable Guide to Classic Men’s Clothing
Justice Brennan: The Great Conciliator
When the Birds Stopped Singing : Life in Ramallah Under Siege

Tell me that’s not adorable. 🙂

carbon balanced with Green-e Climate certified offsets from 3Degrees

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Good Job, Facebook.

I love this. 🙂 I’m glad that Facebook added this option under “Relationship.” It makes me happy but also reminds me of just how much work there is left to do until marriage inequality is finally done away with. Alexis is one of my law school (Twitter) friends, and I really doubt she’ll mind that I posted this here, especially since I made sure to blur the last names and pictures. Not mine, though, because I really don’t care if you nerds find me on Facebook.

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I absolutely abhor Farmville. True, I have never played Farmville. But I abhor it on principle, much like I abhor sardines. I have never had a sardine, but I know that they are small, oily fish that smell bad, so I don’t even want to try them. Similarly, I know that FarmVille is a game that you play on Facebook, and you raise livestock and build sheds and hire people to harvest your crops (and that’s not even a euphemism for anything, which is an additional crime, because that should be a euphemism for everyone except actual farmers), and it all just sounds like a colossal waste of time.

And as the mother of an anonymous British boy will tell you, it’s a colossal waste of money, too.

The child from across the pond spent about $450 of his own savings to play the game, and then, when the FarmVille monkey had a firm hold and refused to let go, he pinched his mother’s credit card and, obviously without her permission, racked up a whopping $950 in charges playing this game.

It should be noted that the game itself is free on Facebook, as are most Facebook-based games and applications. But many popular applications also have a paid version, in which users can do more things or get extra privileges or other such things. For example, if you want to send your friend a ‘gift’ on Facebook, you can send him or her a free gift based on the catalog (and it should be noted that these gifts are merely pictures of a gift that will be displayed in that user’s profile), or you can pay $1 to send a ‘special’ gift, like a picture of a stuffed monkey or a rose or other random things like that.

And for FarmVille, the same applies: you can play the game for free or you can pay for coins that help you advance more quickly through it. I’m sure my friends that actually play the game can fill me in, but please, resist the urge, because I have no desire to know.

As for the mother of the little FarmVille addict, she finds herself stuck with the bill because the creator of the application won’t refund it, nor will her bank without a crime number from a police report she must file against her own son. It might sound kind of cruel, but I find this perfectly reasonable. There’s no reason for the makers of FarmVille to refund the money if their TOS clearly state, well, their TOS. If you want coins, you pay for them. It’s not FarmVille’s problem if some kid stole his mother’s credit card.

Sure, the kid isn’t of legal age, but Facebook has its own TOS regarding the age of its members. And allowing any other kind of result would open the floodgates for parents who let their kids, either willingly or because they don’t notice what their kids are doing, to run up huge bills playing these games and then offer excuses about how they didn’t know their kid was using their credit card, or that it wasn’t even their kid but a relative or neighbor, or other such nonsense.

If someone steals your credit card and buys a new plasma at Best Buy, Best Buy doesn’t refund you the money that clown spent. Your VISA, Mastercard, or AMEX company does, and only if you can show that your card was stolen and the charges are, indeed, disputed. Why should it be any different in this case?

And I realize that, yes, this is fairly common sense to most of you reading this. I’m only saying it in some sort of belated venting exercise as I recall just how many dinner guests decided this was completely bogus. I have no idea why I let people in my house. They just come, eat my food, make me stay up when I’m tired, and disagree with me when I’m right. People need to stop doing that. All those things, really, but especially the last one.

So, for those of you reading this who do not play the game, come sit by me as we make fun of it.

For those of you that do play this game and enjoy it, good for you, and remember to live within your means on FarmVille, as in the real world.

And for those of you that are actually farmers and are reading this, I…I’m sorry. I’m just so, so sorry.

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An article I contributed to the National Law Review while being a guest blogger there.

According to a Career Builder survey in 2009, forty-five percent of employers use social media sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn to screen job applicants. Some applicants include a blog address or something of the sort on a resume, but even if such information is not supplied, it is easy enough for employers and human resource personnel to unearth a prospective employee’s online footprint. This can be both beneficial and detrimental for the applicant. On one hand, a personal blog devoted to a subject related to the job one is applying for (say, a hopeful-human resources director’s personal blog about employment law issues and developments) can make the applicant more desirable. On the other, an applicant’s uploaded pictures of a booze-filled tropical getaway hardly reinforce the image of a consummate professional.
Last year alone, two percent of employers said in this survey that polled managers and human resources personnel that they terminated workers for content posted on these social media sites, and one percent of workers were terminated due to videos they posted on media sharing sites like YouTube.

An employee’s problems regarding the discovery of social media outlets are many and well-publicized, but employers are also on dangerous ground when seeking to screen possible applicants using these technologically oriented methods. While it is true that employers can often be held liable for what their employees do and say online (e.g., defamation, improper disclosure of confidential or protected information, violation of FTC guidelines for blogging, etc.), employers do not enjoy immunity from the law when they scour Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or hosted blog servers for applicants. In fact, the likelihood of employers running afoul of anti-discrimination and privacy laws when they take a peek at pictures or tweets or recent blog posts is troubling.

Violation of Privacy

The first concern when it comes to employers pulling up Facebook accounts and Twitter feeds and personal blogs is for the prospective employees’ privacy. Intrusion upon a party’s seclusion or solitude is a tort, and it is not difficult to imagine how such a cause of action might arise in the instance of an employer poking around online and digging up information on an employee or prospective employee.

In order to prevail on the facts, an employee must allege an intentional intrusion (physical or otherwise) on his or her solitude or seclusion or private affairs or concerns, which would be highly offensive to the reasonably prudent person. An employer can defend on the grounds that the employee did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Though simply conducting a web search for a prospective applicant’s name and web presence certainly doesn’t meet the high standard for invasion of privacy, it is nonetheless an issue that an employer needs to be aware of.

Discrimination: Religion, Ethnicity, Political Activism, Gender, Protected Activity

Discrimination in the workplace takes many forms. An employer risks liability early on in the search to fill an open position by discriminating between potential hires based on things like the applicants’ religion, ethnicity, political affiliations and activism, sexual orientation, gender, and even activities that are protected under the National Labor Relations Act.

An employer’s examination of an employee’s or potential hire’s social network sites may provide the basis for claims under employment discrimination statutes if the employer used such methods of off-resume information-seeking to seek out information about the employee that was legally protected in some way. The problem escalates further if the employer takes some adverse action against the employee or potential hire within a short time after learning of the subject matter of the protected status or activity. Indeed, the employee or prospective employee may use that adverse action or treatment as circumstantial evidence of employment discrimination or retaliation.

Several examples spring to mind. One of the first things employers look for upon successfully locating a prospective employee’s Facebook page are pictures. Facebook allows its users to upload a large number of pictures from cameras and hard drives and arrange them into albums that are displayed fairly conspicuously on the user’s profile page. From these pictures, as well as the default “Profile Picture” that is displayed with every user’s name (unless privacy settings are modified) and on every user’s main page, an applicant’s race or ethnicity is immediately apparent. Facebook also has an information input field for religious affiliation, and many users include that as part of their profile.

Religious and ethnic discrimination is a pressing concern, particularly in a post-9/11 world climate. Arab and Muslim citizens nationwide suffered from the stigma suddenly attached to their ethnicity and religious convictions, a stigma which carried into the job market. Several lawsuits were filed in which the plaintiffs prevailed in showing that they were denied entrance into organizations or were terminated or suffered from adverse actions early in the hiring process due to their ethnicity or religion. If a plaintiff can prove that an employer used information garnered from social media websites to eliminate him or her from the selection process on the basis of race or religion, the employer will surely be held liable under the pertinent anti-discrimination statutes.

Similar concerns apply to gender and sexual orientations. If plaintiffs can show that they were discriminated against in the hiring process, or wrongfully terminated based on their gender or sexual orientation as gleaned from updates on Twitter, pictures on Facebook, or accounts on their personal blogs, the employers will be similarly liable.

Another concern that often goes overlooked is a potential employee’s political affiliations or activities. As social media sites enable the raw proliferation of personal information, such formerly underestimated liabilities are now articulated in warnings. As a first year law student, I remember sitting in a large lecture hall during a mandatory presentation put together by the Career Services Department and listening to the department head warn us about not putting any political information on our resumes, and to remove it from our Facebook settings.

“Law firms don’t want to know who you voted for,” she stated plainly. “You might be happy that Barack Obama is the new president of the United States. I can assure you that there are law firms right across the street where the people are not happy. Adding onto your resume that you’re a member of his fan club will not help you. If you worked as a campaign staffer or made cold calls for a candidate, participated in any kind of electioneering, and you really want to include that, go ahead. But consider removing the candidate’s name or finding a way to make it more general. You do not want to alienate yourself from the person making the hiring decision. Because they do look at that sort of thing, and it does factor into their decision.”

Even if political affiliation is left off the resume, it is often left on the Facebook profile, or reflected in blog posts or Twitter updates. It is, of course, difficult to prove that an employer used such information as the basis of an adverse action against a potential hire, but it is an issue that both employees and employers need to be aware of.

Another issue of workplace concern is protected activity, which may be embodied in the form of union membership or support. The National Labor Relations Act defines five unfair labor practices for which the employer will be held liable under the act:

  1. Interference with, restraint, or coercion of employees in the exercise of their §7 rights of organization;
  2. Domination of or interference with the formation or administration of any labor organization, or financial (or other) contribution or support to it;
  3. Discrimination in regard to the hiring or tenure of employment or any term or condition of employment to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization;
  4. Discharge or discrimination against any employee because he/she has filed charges or given testimony under the NLRA; and
  5. Refusal to bargain collectively with the representatives of the employees subject to §9(a).

It is clear that the third classification of unfair labor practices in §8 of the NLRA is the one of immediate relevance to this discussion. It is possible to learn from Facebook pages, Twitter updates, or personal blogs what a prospective employee’s feelings toward a union or unionization are. Pro-union or pro-management beliefs are intensely personal and often form the rational basis of discussions and discourse that are not expressly about employment at all, but framed in more general terms. Whatever the scope of the representation of the belief, it is very possible to glean from blog articles or Facebook status updates or even the posting of links on a user’s Facebook page where that user’s support rests.

Section 8(a)(3) expressly forbids discrimination in the hiring process based on an individual’s labor beliefs, whether that individual supports or opposes organization. If an employer can be shown to have used information about an individual’s labor beliefs found through social media outlets in order to discriminate against that person in the hiring person, that employer will have acted in direct violation of the NLRA and will be found to have committed an unfair labor practice.

These are some of the concerns that must be addressed when it comes to how employers may face legal repercussions for scouring various social media sites for job candidates. There are many companies, such as Smarsh and Teneros, that offer services and software that enable companies to weed out social media postings for employees and prospective hires. The software searches through the databases of sites like Facebook and LinkedIn for the applicant’s name and pulls up whatever is linked to that name for the employer to consider during the hiring process, or during the ordinary course of business for employers seeking to monitor current employees.

With such services readily available, and often for a reasonable price, it is even more important for employers to understand that there are legal consequences to having personal information on their job candidates at their fingertips, to this previously unthinkable extent.

And for employees, words of caution don’t seem to resonate but always bear repeating: do not put anything up online that you do not want prospective employees to see. Even if you think it is unlikely that they will, err on the side of caution. As a lowly first year law student, I learned that it was not at all uncommon for an interviewing firm to have another low-level associate ‘friend request’ an applicant on Facebook in order for the hiring manager to gain access to the previously restricted page. Even if you have rigid privacy settings, you can never be aware of what one of your ‘Facebook Friends’ might be doing with your information.

You do not need to tweet while intoxicated. You do not need to upload an entire Facebook album of a particularly revealing Halloween costume. You do not need to write an expletive and hate-filled blog post about recent political events. Some things are better left unsaid.

And for employers seeking to minimize liability or unethical conduct at large, some things are better left un-Googled.

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If you guys follow me on Twitter, you already know what Twitter is. Duh. For those that don’t, it’s Facebook distilled down to just the statuses, or ‘tweets.’ FourSquare is an application that works with Twitter and you log on from your phone and it posts a tweet about where you are. Like, “I’m at Meson Sabika, 400 Aurora Ave, Naperville” and a link or something. I don’t know.

All I know is that FourSquare scares me. It’s a great way of saying, Hey, I’m at this location about twenty miles away from my house. PLEASE ROB ME. NO REALLY GO AHEAD. YOU HAVE MY IMPLIED WRITTEN CONSENT.

This is why I will never use FourSquare or any other application that tells people online where I am. Because I don’t know you nerds. Some of you could be cool. Some of you could be rapists. Some of you could have spotted jumping fever. I don’t know. I have no way of knowing.

And this scares me, you guys.

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that FourSquare was released by a gang of international thieves who knew it would gain tremendous popularity on Twitter and other social media sites. They were like, Hey, sure, we’re rolling in diamonds and stolen TVs, but we could be rolling in MORE diamonds and stolen TVs.

(In my mind, robbers only steal diamonds and TVs. These are facts. Kind of.)

So they were like, Let’s write this simple code. Let’s give it the name of this cute little game with a big red ball that you played in elementary school where the most important thing in your life was figuring out who was putting his or her mouth on the drinking fountain because OH MY GOD THAT IS SO GROSS EVEN THOUGH YOU TOTALLY DID IT YOURSELF BUT THAT WAS AN ACCIDENT KIND OF, and it will remind of you of fun and sunshine and cookies and Play-doh and security.

This is what the robbers were thinking, you guys.

And then they were all, and these people will start using it. They already use Twitter to brag about the iTampon they just bought last week, and they tweeted a picture through TwitPic that was taken with what is probably a pricey digital camera, and now they will use FourSquare to tell us when they’re not home SO THAT WE CAN STEAL THEIR SHIT.


I know. I know. I wish I had thought of it first, too.

But before we plop down on the We Always Think of Cool Things Second bench, rap with me for a minute here.

I can’t just be making all this up, can I? What good can possibly come of posting your location online for tons of strangers and weirdos and sex predators and your mother to read? What good? First of all, who cares? No one. Not even your mother. Okay, fine, your mother, but that’s just because she gets lonely. You should call her sometime. Second, you’re going to get robbed. Third, it makes for awkwardness. What if you forget and you 4sq that you’re at a friend’s party, and this other friend that you follow on Twitter sees it and wasn’t invited to that mutual friend’s party and is all like BITCH and you’re all like DAMN.

These things happen, you guys. These things happen once every 8 seconds.


Okay, no, that’s how often a baby is born. Which, frankly, I think is abominable. Babies are ridiculous and they should be told as such. I make it a point to walk up to a stranger’s child in a stroller at least once per day and tell it point-blank to its fat little squishy baby face that it is ridiculous.

This is why I spend so much of my time in court.

(And you all thought it was because of the lawyer thing, right? Psssh.)

Anyway, this is the Hoomster telling you not to do it. Don’t post your location online. It’s dumb. You will be robbed. And that will also be dumb. Listen to the Hoomster, you guys. She is your friend. She only wants what’s best for you, except when she just wants to take your things, in which case she decidedly does not want what’s best for you.

I know, I know, you guys are thinking, Hoomster, you are brilliant. And as such, it follows that you would come up with this brilliant plan to rob people. So why don’t you actually do it?

It’s a valid question, you guys. But frankly? I would make a terrible robber. Observe.

(These Sweet Pea Designs are best viewed at highest illumination, otherwise my hair color and my twiggy arms look to be the same color. And in some of the panels the dude is talking first. Poor planning. I suck. But this is all free content, so shut your pie-holes.)


I’d be horrible at it.


This one was for Ryan, who needs something to stare at through glazed, heavy-lidded eyes while being stuck in Corporations.

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So, once again, I’ve said things. And I’ve said them online, where they’ve been published in a post on a website. Only this time, instead of talking about garden gnomes, and why they are the greatest world threat of 2010, I’m talking about Twitter and how I use it as a law student.

Today’s web edition of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin includes an article entitled, “Tweeting Lawyers Find Serious, Fun Connections,” by Allison Petty, and yours truly makes an appearance toward the end.


I did not say that.

The article includes only a tiny snippet of what I said, duh, because Ms. Petty talked to lawyers that actually do things instead of scour message boards for the most recent sightings of rabid garden gnomes come to take back what’s theirs. If you turds are interested, here are some of the relatively more important snippets in my email response to Ms. Petty about things that are not important. Like Twitter.

“…[Meeting the attorneys I follow on Twitter at dinner the first night of the 2009 ABA Techshow in Chicago] was a great exercise in networking, which I never really had to do before, and I emerged unscathed and even confident, with some great contacts.

…Initially, I used Twitter mostly for networking and reading up on different areas of the law that interested me. For example, I really found myself enjoying Labor Law, so I’d follow employment lawyers and read the articles and links they posted, which was how I found one of my favorite law blogs, “That’s What She Said,” which focuses on employment issues and violations on NBC’s “The Office,” starring Steve Carell and John Krasinski.

…I started using my Twitter account more informally. I’d tweet silly observations and funny TV/movie clips and music I liked and all that. I’m pretty sure I lost a number of followers among the attorneys that followed me, but that didn’t really matter. I didn’t pay attention to follower count anyway.

…[After exchanging a couple of direct messages with one of his law clerks,] I showed up and was let into the office of Judge Wayne Anderson, where I met up with @LawWriter, and Judge Anderson’s other clerks. We talked for a long while and when Judge Anderson’s settlement conference was over, he came out and introduced himself and invited me to quite literally ‘hang out’ in his private chambers. That part was pretty awesome. Judge Anderson is a delightful person, and one of the first things he said to me after we’d all gotten comfortable was, ‘so, are you going to show me how to use this…Twitter?’

…My blog and Twitter presence actually helped me score a few interviews, too, at the smaller firms in my town. The partners that interviewed me for possible openings at their firms heard about my blog and the things I write about (our little area of Naperville is surprisingly close-knit), and were interested in what I was doing with my web presence in relations to the law, law school, and the things I was interested in.

…I don’t take Twitter all that seriously, but I’ve learned that I get far more use out of it when I don’t just use it for silly personal things and following my friends…I don’t think it’s going to change our world, much less the practice of law or how lawyers work, but for now, it’s a neat little conversation tool that can help you get your name out there, emphasize your strengths, and better convey your personality as opposed to an 8.5×11″ piece of paper with a list of achievements.”

So…that’s about the size of it.

(That’s what he said.)

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This arrived in my inbox this morning from “noreply@facebookmail.com.” The email address alone made me a little suspicious – doesn’t Facebook just use the facebook.com URL for its no-reply mail? Whatever. Don’t quote me.

Here’s what it said:

Subject: Notice of class settlement

Facebook is sending you this notice of a proposed class action settlement that may affect your legal rights as a Facebook member who may have used the Beacon program.  This summary notice is being sent to you by Court Order so that you may understand your rights and remedies before the Court considers final approval of the proposed settlement on February 26, 2010.

This is not an advertisement or attorney solicitation.

This is not a settlement in which class members file claims to receive compensation.  Under the proposed settlement, Facebook will terminate the Beacon program.  In addition, Facebook will provide $9.5 million to establish an independent non-profit foundation that will identify and fund projects and initiatives that promote the cause of online privacy, safety, and security.

For full details on the settlement and further instructions on what to do to opt out of, object to, or otherwise comment upon the proposed settlement, please go to http://www.BeaconClassSettlement.com.

Please do not reply to this email.

Yeah, I’m not clicking the link. Just in case it’s some dumb phishing thing. I’m always paranoid about that.

And since there are no munnies to be had, and nothing to be done on my part, I’ll just let this go. I know I can opt out, but let’s just ignore it for a while.

You know what I think?

I think that, if this isn’t a phishing thing, it’s Facebook reminding me that I have a CivPro final coming up, and I need to make sure I have this class action bullshit down. Maybe review the four factors for class certification?

…Oh, go screw yourself, Facebook. Teaming up with law school to ruin my life and give me more ulcers because you think Eustace is getting lonely in there. EUSTACE IS NOT LONELY HE LIVES IN A HAPPY LITTLE GATED COMMUNITY IN MY STOMACH LINING AND IS A DUMB WHORE.


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