Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A Cornucopia of Google Logos

Google logo

Do you enjoy the special Google logos? Or, like me, do you usually hear about them after they have come and gone?

Now you can see the special Google logos you missed, or enjoy them again, at Google's online museum of holiday and event and fan-created logos.

Security Warning for Internet Explorer Users

edit menu from Microsoft Word I just saw this on Jim Calloway's Law Practice Tips Blog. If Internet Explorer is your browser, and if you ever use Copy and Paste or Cut and Paste in any application, continue reading.

It seems that some websites are using a combination of programming languages to steal the contents of your clipboard – the last thing you Copied or Cut, even if you have already Pasted it. edit buttons from Word button bar

If you have not already Copied or Cut and Pasted something since the last time you started your computer, do so now. Then go to using Internet Explorer. You will probably see that the page is displaying the last thing you copied or cut. Yikes!

Of course a website intent on stealing information would not display it. It would secretly redirect the contents of your clipboard into a database, where it could be mined for information worth stealing.

Security Settings box for Internet ExplorerHave you ever copied and pasted a credit card number, your social security number, or any other information you should not share with scammers?

Take the following steps to protect yourself:

  • From the Tools menu in Internet Explorer, select Internet Options.
  • Click on the Security tab then on the world icon to select the Internet zone.
  • Click on the Custom Level button near the bottom.
  • Scroll almost to the bottom of the security settings window that pops up.
  • Under "Allow Paste Operations via Script" click on the Disable or Prompt radio button.
  • Click on the OK button to close the Security Settings window, then OK again to close Internet Options.

That will keep your clipboard contents private. Thank you. I feel much better now.

UPDATE: Jim Calloway recommends choosing Prompt rather than Disable, in case a web application you like uses the clipboard paste feature for legitimate purposes. "So better to be prompted for this, or something else, than to have it suddenly stop working."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

What RSS Feeds Can Do For You, part 4

Most states are not yet taking full advantage of RSS feeds to distribute government information. As with previous uses of the internet to distribute state government information, some states are far ahead in their use of RSS technology, but the others will catch up soon. By this time next year, states that are not using RSS feeds to distribute a significant amount of government information will probably be in the minority.

Here in Illinois

As far as I have been able to determine, only two Illinois agencies use feeds. The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ILJIA) has feeds for news, grants, recent publications, links, and news releases. The State of Illinois Business Portal has feeds for regulatory changes and for business news. Neither the judicial branch nor the legislative branch seems to have any feeds at all.

Other State Executive Branches Using Feeds

Rhode Island seems to be leading the way in the use of RSS feeds to distribute state executive branch information. The official RI state website has feeds for highlights and news, and REX, the RI eGovernment Exchange Portal was set up to aid in the rapid deployment of shared data. The RI Secretary of State has a news feed and a feed for recently promulgated regulations, as well as experimental customizable feeds of the rules or corporations databases. Missouri and Michigan have compiled impressive lists of agency feeds. Like Illinois, most states probably have agencies that are using feeds, but they do not yet have portal pages with links to all the agency feeds.

State Judicial Branches Using Feeds

The North Dakota Supreme Court has been using feeds to distribute court news and opinion summaries, with links to the full text, for years. The West Virginia Supreme Court has four feeds—for recent opinions, civil topics, criminal topics, and family topics, each providing summaries of opinions with links to the full text. The Louisiana Supreme Court has a feed for its news releases, with links to the full text of the opinions, but the existence of the feed is not prominently displayed on the court's site. The Utah State Courts have a feed for Appellate opinions that are posted on its website. And the Oklahoma State Courts Network recently made opinions of its Supreme Court, Court of Civil Appeals, Court of Criminal Appeals, and Attorney General available via feeds.

State Legislative Branches Using Feeds

The Minnesota State Legislature has multiple feeds—for additions to its website, bill tracking, and reports and audits from the Office of the Legislative Auditor, as well as feeds from the MN House of Representatives and Legislative Reference Library. The Texas Legislature has multiple feeds—for bill text and analyses, fiscal notes, and house and senate schedules and calendars. The Utah State Legislature has a feed for news and featured links, as well as customizable feeds for bill tracking and legislative committees. Other state feeds for legislative information include: Hawaii Legislative Reference Bureau Reports, Rhode Island Secretary of State bill tracking, West Virginia Legislature's news and information feed, and the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau publications.

Non-Governmental Sites

There are also non-governmental sites that publish state government information., a website funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, has news, topic, and state feeds. LeapLaw's 50 State Blawg (fka Secretary of State Blawg) monitors state-specific information and requirements for corporate and UCC services that legal professionals commonly need to know. You can subscribe to the RSS feed for the entire blog or individual feeds for the states in which you are interested.

RSS in Government, a blog of news about how RSS is being used by international, federal, state, and local governments, has many feed options.

There is more to come on what RSS Feeds can do for you, including practice-area resources and customizable feeds. For previous entries in this series, see part 1, part 2, part 3, and Subscribing to RSS Feeds.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Illinois Trial Practice Weblog

One of my favorite lawyer blogs for practical tips and techniques is the Illinois Trial Practice Weblog (RSS Feed). Despite its name, this blog is not jurisdictionally specific. Any trial lawyer from any state, new to the practice of law or more experienced, can learn something from reading the Illinois Trial Practice Weblog.

Evan Schaeffer posts several times a week on topics such as Legal Writing Tip: Begin First Drafts in the Middle, Electronic Discovery: "Metadata" Becomes a Sexy Word, and Presenting an Expert Economist at Trial. You can find all entries on a particular subject by clicking on the appropriate category in the left column.

Evan also edits Evan Schaeffer's Legal Underground (RSS Feed) and

Saturday, November 26, 2005

What RSS Feeds Can Do For You, part 3

Another important way that RSS feeds can help you is by monitoring government information. Federal agencies make news and announcements, product recalls, proposed regulations, reports, statistics, and other information available through hundreds of feeds. See FirstGov's RSS Library, which groups government feeds into the following categories:

  • Agriculture and Energy
  • Business and Economics
  • Consumer
  • Cyber Security
  • Data and Statistics
  • Education
  • Federal Personnel
  • Forest
  • Health
  • International Relations
  • Military
  • Science

The government is not the only source of feeds for federal government information. Listings of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, with links to the full text of the decisions, are available via feeds from Cornell's Legal Information Institute. There are feeds for today's decisions and recent decisions. For some reason these feeds have not been well publicized, but they appear to still be current. Another good source of current Supreme Court information is the SCOTUSblog, which provides news, commentary, and links to U.S. Supreme Court decisions and related documents via its RSS feed.

GovTrack is a non-governmental web service that tracks legislation and Congressional activity. To subscribe to a feed for an individual person, bill, subject term, or committee, search or browse to the appropriate page, click on the "RSS or Atom feed" link in the Monitor box (see example below), and follow the instructions in the pop-up window. (Right-clicking on the link does not work.) To learn more about GovTrack, including how to receive email updates or subscribe to a single feed of all your "tracked events," see Research Tip:

example of GovTrack Monitor box

Stay tuned for more on what RSS Feeds can do for you, including state government information and practice-area resources. For previous entries in this series, see part 1, part 2, and Subscribing to RSS Feeds.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Thanksgiving Blue Laws

I had never heard of blue laws until I moved to Massachusetts in the early '90s. Moving from a state where grocery stores were open 24/7, I was astonished to learn that I had moved to a state where it was illegal for most retail stores to open before noon on Sundays. Massachusetts' blue laws have many exceptions, including "preparations for trials by lawyers" (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 136, § 6(40)), and they were amended by voter initiative in 1994, making it legal for retail stores to be open at any time on Sunday and certain legal holidays.

I left Massachusetts almost two years ago and hadn't thought much about blue laws since. So I was surprised to learn from this article that it is still illegal for a store, other than a convenience store or gas station, to open on Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year's Day. The article reports that the Whole Foods Market chain had been warned by the state of Massachusetts that it would face criminal charges if it was open Thanksgiving morning for last-minute shoppers.

Blue laws are also known as Sunday closing laws or "common day of rest laws." Although they have their origins in the Puritan 1600s, they are frequently justified as promoting secular values or protecting workers. These days, however, they are more likely to be the result of lobbying by businesses that do not want to open on Sundays or holidays. Whole Foods received a warning from the state, not because of complaints from employees or consumers, but because a competitor complained to the state's attorney general. The Shaw's legal department wrote:

Besides disadvantaging competitors, a Whole Foods opening would harm consumers, due to lack of choice in the marketplace for consumers to shop and compare prices for the best deal.

See In Mass., Thanksgiving Shoppers May Be 'Blue' — and in Violation of Law. It will be interesting to see if the voters agree with Shaw's, or if there will be another blue law initiative on the ballot in the near future.

Update: See what bk! has to say about blue thanksgiving.

A Good Blog to Know

beSpacific was publicly launched on January 4, 2003, but its archives go back to September 2002. It has consistently been one of the best sources for law, technology, and research news and resources, including links to reliable primary and secondary sources on e-government, government documents, copyright, civil liberties, privacy, ID theft, freedom of information, censorship, and many more important topics.

beSpacific is edited by Sabrina I. Pacifici, whom I was honored to meet recently at BlawgThink. She is a law firm librarian and web manager in Washington, DC, an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland College of Information Studies, and a principal of the Center for Information Policy (CIP) at the University of Maryland. She is also the editor of, which was one of our research tips last month.

beSpacific has RSS feed and email subscription options.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Did You Know?

front and back of library card, showing barcode numberYou can check your law library circulation record — what you have checked out, status of your borrowing privileges, and due dates — on the web.

From the law library home page, select "for Your Circulation Record" from the Law Library Catalog drop-down menu, or go directly to

You must enter both your last name and the barcode number from the back of your law library card.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

What RSS Feeds Can Do For You, part 2

Perhaps the most obvious thing that RSS feeds can do for you is help you monitor news sites and blogs. These sites are frequently updated, and visiting each individual site can take a lot of your time. When sites are very frequently updated, older information is pushed off the front page, sometimes more than once per day. You would have to visit some sites more than once a day or miss some entries.

Using a feed reader to monitor the feeds of news sites and blogs can save you time in two ways. First, a feed is only updated when its website is updated, and an updated feed only contains the new information. Second, you only have to look in one place to see all the updates. All feeds to which you have subscribed can be aggregated and displayed in your feed reader. For more information on subscribing to RSS feeds with a feed reader, see Subscribing to RSS Feeds. is an example of a legal news site that has a RSS feed. Jurist, a legal news and research service based at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, tracks law-related news and primary source materials and makes them available on its Paper Chase website and through its RSS feed. Several sections of the ABA, including Environment, Energy and Resources; Law Practice Management; Litigation; and the Legal Technology Resource Center, also have feeds for their news. For more examples, see the Virtual Chase's extensive list of RSS News Feeds for Law.

Law-related blogs, or blawgs, are also important current awareness sites. You may have heard of the SCOTUSblog, which focuses on the U.S. Supreme Court and has a RSS feed. There are a number of legal blogs with feeds at Law Professors Blogs. For more tips on finding law-related blogs, see Finding Blawgs on Any Legal Topic.

Start subscribing to some news and blog feeds in a feed reader, and we will be back later this week with more ways that RSS feeds can help you.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

THOMAS Website Improvements

The THOMAS website is one of my favorite sources for legislative history and other Congressional information. Not only does it provide access to a large amount of timely information, via a reasonably user-friendly interface, but it makes that government information available for free.

Now the THOMAS site has been improved, both in appearance and usability. The improvements include:

  • A navigation sidebar that links to major sections of the site from top-level pages;
  • "Breadcrumbs" at the top of most pages show where the displayed page fits in the site's hierarchy;
  • Drop-down menus on the front page allow you to browse bills introduced by Representative or Senator;
  • A link on the front page takes you directly to the "Search Multiple Congresses" page (this functionality was added during the last upgrade, but it was difficult to find);
  • Links to treaties, Senate hearings on Presidential nominations, educational materials, historical information on previous Congresses, and related Library of Congress resources.

Link to the THOMAS website and the full press release.

Source: Search Engine Watch and the ResourceShelf.

Finding Definitions in Cases

If you need to find a general definition of a legal term, you can use a legal dictionary. We have a variety of legal dictionaries in the law library, with copies distributed throughout the library for easy access. Westlaw has Black's Legal Dictionary, if you have a password. There are also a number of free legal dictionaries and glossaries available on the web.

But sometimes a general definition is not enough. You may need to find how the courts of your jurisdiction have defined a term. The best source for finding cases that have defined a legal term, rather than just discussing it, is Words and Phrases, a West publication available in three ways.

  1. Words and Phrases is a multi-volume set with abstracts of cases that have defined terms. The set includes cases from all state and federal courts, and it is arranged alphabetically by defined term. In the SIU law library, Words and Phrases is shelved right after the legal encyclopedias and dictionaries.
  2. The West's Digest for your jurisdiction will have one or more Words and Phrases volumes, usually at the end of the set with the Descriptive Word Index and the Table of Cases. If this set is available to you, it is a better source for finding definitions by courts of your jurisdiction. It contains case abstracts only from courts of the jurisdiction(s) covered by the digest.
  3. To find cases that have defined a term on Westlaw, do a terms and connectors search of the appropriate case database using the Words and Phrases (WP) field. For example, if you wanted to find cases that had defined the term "unconscionable," your search should include WP(unconscionable) plus any other relevant search terms and connectors.

Archive of Research Tips.

Subscribing to RSS Feeds

Yesterday we introduced you to What RSS Feeds Can Do For You. Today we will explain some of the ways that you can subscribe to RSS feeds.

RSS feeds are like email from a website. Law Dawg Blawg offers you two email options. FeedBlitz will send you one email each day that this blog is updated. RMail will send you an email every time this blog is updated. To subscribe to this blog via email, enter your email address in one of the boxes below and click on the Subscribe button. Each system will send you a subscription confirmation email. Follow the instructions in the email to complete the process.

Powered by FeedBlitz

Powered by RMail

If you would like to start using a feed reader (also known as aggregators), Bloglines is a good place to start. To subscribe to Law Dawg Blawg with Bloglines, click on the button Subscribe with Bloglines. You will be prompted to log in or register. After you do so, follow the on-screen instructions to complete the process. For more step-by-step instructions, see Using Bloglines to Manage Your Blogs and News Feeds.

If you already use a feed reader, you can copy and paste to subscribe to the Law Dawg Blawg feed. Alternatively, you can click on one of the following icons to subscribe. In most cases, you will be prompted to login or register, if you have not already done so.

Subscribe in NewsGator Online  Subscribe to Law Dawg Blawg with NewsGator Online.

Add to My Yahoo!  Get Law Dawg Blawg on My Yahoo!

Add to My MSN  Add Law Dawg Blawg to My MSN.

Add to My AOL  Add Law Dawg Blawg to the My Feeds section on your My AOL.

Add to Google  Add Law Dawg Blawg to your Google homepage or to Google Reader.

Subscribe to RSS Feed  More feed reader options.

For even more feed reader options, browse RSS Compendium or the Open Directory Project's list of News Readers.

For more information on feed readers and aggregators, see Current Awareness Made Easy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bloglet Subscribers

As many of you know, we have had recurring problems with our Bloglet email subscriptions. Last week, when I was at BlawgThink, I heard about FeedBlitz. It has a good reputation and seems to be a more stable email subscription service at this time. Therefore, I have replaced the old email subscription form with a FeedBlitz form in our sidebar.

I also imported almost everyone's Bloglet email subscription into FeedBlitz. (I couldn't import anonymous subscriptions.) I hope this solves our email subscription problems for a while. If you have any further problems with your subscription to Law Dawg Blawg, please email me at Thank you for your patience.

What RSS Feeds Can Do For You, part 1

A recent study by Yahoo found that only 12% of internet users are even aware of RSS, and only 4% of all users have knowingly used it to subscribe to news, blogs, or other frequently updated web pages. But the study also found that an additional 27% of all users actually use RSS on personalized start pages like MyYahoo or MyFindLaw without realizing that RSS is the underlying technology that makes it possible for them to personalize what they read.*

RSS feeds go by many names—channels, news feeds, site feeds, XML feeds, syndication feeds, and more. It doesn't matter what they are called or why they go by so many different names. You don't even have to know how they work to use them. You just have to know what information is available and how you can get it to come to you.

Tomorrow we will tell you how you can subscribe to feeds. In the following days we will tell you about some of the types of information that is available using RSS, with a special emphasis on what it can do for lawyers and other legal researchers. If you want to know more in the meantime, see What Is a Site or RSS Feed?

Chris Sherman, Study: RSS Still Not Widely Adopted, SearchDay, the daily newsletter of Search Engine Watch (October 12, 2005).

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Cool New IP Blog

I met so many interesting law bloggers and got so many new ideas at BlawgThink that I hardly know where to start. For example, let me introduce you to a blog that I discovered because of the event last weekend.

Brandy Karl is a happy lawyer with a solo practice in copyright, trademark, business, litigation, and entertainment law. She gave an intro to blogging, which she has made available on her blog.

Her blog is bk! She blogs about a variety of subjects in a style that leaves no doubt about her enthusiasm. She can find IP issues anywhere she goes, and her topic categories range from law practice management to "cool things."

Some recent posts on bk! have included: the Boston Web Innovator's Meetup, comments about overly-enthusiastic IP Policing regarding movies and t-shirts, a "billable hours" watch, and Self-Proclaimed Holidays.

Monday, November 14, 2005

My Favorite Shortcuts

I love keyboard shortcuts, those computer key combinations that let me perform frequent actions without moving my fingers from the keys to the mouse in order to click on a menu from the menu bar. For example, instead of clicking on the File menu and selecting Save, I can hold down the Ctrl key while I press and release the S key. This shortcut is frequently shown as [Ctrl + S]. Try Ctrl + S. It is much faster, and you will quickly get into the good habit of saving frequently.

My favorite shortcut is Ctrl + Z, which undoes your last action. Ctrl + Z does the same thing as clicking on the Edit menu and selecting Undo, or clicking on in the button bar. The next time you make a mistake, especially if the mistake involves deleting something, don't panic. Just Ctrl + Z. You can Ctrl + Z repeatedly to undo more than one action, all the way back to the last time you saved your document. Ctrl + Z works in most Windows applications, including some Solitaire games.

Here are some other keyboard shortcuts you might like:

  • Ctrl + Y re-does the last thing you undid;
  • Ctrl + A selects (highlights) all the text in a document;
  • Ctrl + C copies the selected text;
  • Ctrl + X cuts the selected text;
  • Ctrl + V pastes the text you copied or cut to where the cursor is;
  • Ctrl + F opens the Find dialog box;
  • Ctrl + P prints.

What are your favorite shortcuts?

Pending Legislation

Subtitle D of Title III of House bill 4241, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, sets aside up to $3 billion to subsidize the purchase of digital converter boxes for non-digital television sets. The Thomas website has the CRS summary of the House bill, Senate bill 1932, and other legislative history documents.

Amendment 2516 to Senate bill 1042 passed the Senate by a 49-42 vote Thursday. The amendment by Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is intended to nullify the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Rasul v. Bush, 542 U.S. 466 (2004), which held that U.S. District Courts have jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions filed by detainees at Guantánamo Bay to challenge their incarceration. The Thomas website has Congressional Record references to this bill and other legislative history information.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

BlawgThink 2005

I was in Chicago Friday and Saturday for BlawgThink 2005. Bonnie Shucha of WisBlawg and I gave an Introduction to RSS and News Aggregators, including an explanation of RSS or news feeds, demonstrations of free websites and software for reading feeds, and a discussion of the types of legal and government information available via feeds. You can view the presentation in MindManager or PowerPoint format. If you do not already have the viewers on your computer, you can download a free MindManager Viewer or PowerPoint Viewer.

The BlawgThink conference was organized by Matt Homann and Dennis Kennedy. I attended many interesting presentations, on which I will report over the next week or two. Speakers included SIU Law alumni Steve Nipper, whose blogs include the Invent Blog and ReThink(IP), Evan Schaeffer (Legal Underground and Illinois Trial Practice Weblog), Tom Mighell (Inter Alia and the Internet Legal Research Weekly), Ernest Svenson (Ernie the Attorney), Carolyn Elefant (My Shingle), Jeff Beard (LawTech Guru Blog), and Sabrina Pacifici (beSpacific). It was an amazing experience!

Just for Fun

I saw this link to If Dr. Seuss wrote for Star Trek: The Next Generation, by Dave Fuller, over at BoingBoing, and I just had to share it. The story begins:

Picard: Sigma Indri, that's the star,
So, Data, please, how far? How far?

Data: Our ship can get there very fast
But still the trip will last and last
We'll have two days til we arrive
But can the Indrans there survive?

Read the rest at the Dr. Seuss Web Page.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

News and Blog Feeds via RMail

Are you interested in subscribing to a few news or blog feeds but just not ready to take on another piece of software or website for aggregating and reading those feeds? Now you have another option for getting your feeds via email.

screenshot of RMail subscription form

You can subscribe to any feed via email by entering the feed address and your email address into a form at RMail.You will receive an email from RMail asking you to subscribe by clicking on a link in the email. When you click on the link, your browser will open to the RMail home page, with the phrase "Subscription activated" appearing just below the RMail logo.

How do you find the feed address to enter into the RMail form? Most sites with feeds will have something on their front page to alert you to their feed options. Frequently the availability of a feed is indicated on a web page with a small XML, RSS, or other small graphic like you see on this page, or with a "Syndicate this site" or "Subscribe to this site" link. Click on the feed link and copy the URL from the address box at the top of your browser. Or you can right click on the XML or RSS graphic or link and select "Copy Shortcut" (in Internet Explorer) or "Copy Link Location" (in Firefox). Then click in the RSS box on the RMail form and paste using the Edit -> Paste menu option or by holding down the Ctrl key and pressing the letter V.

Once you have subscribed, you will receive an email each time one of your subscription feeds is updated. The email will show the news or blog site as the sender. The subject line of the email will be the title of the individual blog entry or news item, followed by the word Rmail. The email itself will consist of the full entry, part of the entry, or a link to the entry, depending upon how the news or blog site has set up its feed.

How is RMail different from Bloglet? If you subscribe to a feed using Bloglet, you will receive one email for each day the feed is updated, regardless of how many times the feed is updated throughout the day. The email is sent by Bloglet in the early morning hours of the next day. We occasionally have problems with our Bloglet subscriptions, because Bloglet will disable a subscription if it has trouble contacting the blog's server. This can happen if the server is very popular and therefore very busy. For example, the Law Dawg Blawg is hosted on Blogger's server, which is so busy that the server sometimes has trouble keeping up with demand. Then Bloglet disables our feed subscriptions. I can re-enable them, but in the meantime you miss some entries.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Google Tips

For months I have been collecting these tips on using Google better, because we have been so busy teaching that I haven't had time to post them. Now here they are, all at once. I have enclosed search examples in [square brackets]. Don't include the brackets in your search.

To search for synonyms of words, use a tilde. For example [˜child] will retrieve child, children, kids, family, and other synonyms and related terms.

Use an asterisk as a wildcard to replace a word in a phrase. This can be helpful if you can't remember or can't spell some of the words in the phrase. For example, ["once upon a * dreary"] will retrieve the line from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven." (Westlaw and LexisNexis users, notice that the * replaces a whole word. There is no wildcard for a single letter at this point.)

To search only one website, include the "site:" operator and the site's URL. For example, [library] retrieves all mentions of the library on the SIU School of Law website.

Use Google shortcuts:

  • If you need a definition, rather than a discussion of a word, use the "define:" operator. For example, [define:RSS] will retrieve definitions of RSS on the web.
  • If you enter an address, including zip code or city and state, in the search box, your top search result will be to Google maps. For example, the search results for [250 Stadium Plaza, St. Louis, MO] will begin with a map of the area around Busch Stadium.
  • Search by telephone area code for maps of the area. For example, [312] links to maps of Central Chicago and Illinois from
  • Search by UPS, FedEx, or USPS tracking number for the latest information about a package.

Use Google as a conversion calculator. For example, [3.5 ounces in grams] returns "3.5 ounces = 99.2233309 grams." [60 percent of 25] returns "60 percent of 25 = 15." You can also convert currency, do basic arithmetic, or perform advanced mathematical calculations. See Google Guide: Calculator.

Sources: ResearchBuzz, Librarians' Internet Index, TechnoLawyer Blog, Library Stuff, BarclayBlog, and Google Blogscoped.

See also Google Help: Search Features and Google Help: Cheat Sheet.

Archive of Research Tips.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Another SIU Law Professor Begins Blogging

Professor Sue Liemer, Director of the Lawyering Skills program, has joined the ranks of blogging law professors. She will be co-editing the Legal Writing Prof Blog, a member of the Law Professor Blogs Network. The focus of the blog will be "information, news, and commentary of interest to and about legal writing professionals."

Subscribe to the Legal Writing Prof Blog Atom feed or RDF feed.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Junk Mail

You probably already know that the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. See my previous posting about Free Credit Reports. It is a good idea to check your credit reports periodically to make sure there are no errors and to check for evidence of identity theft.

Did you know that the FCRA also requires credit reporting agencies to allow you to opt out of firm (prescreened or preapproved) offers of credit and insurance?

Many credit card and insurance companies use prescreening to identify potential customers. Prescreened offers are based on information in your credit report that the offering companies obtain from consumer reporting companies, either by requesting a list of all people in the consumer reporting company's database who meet certain criteria or by providing a list of potential customers to a consumer reporting company and asking the company to identify people on the list who meet the criteria. Although these offers may provide you with information on credit or insurance choices, they also increase your exposure to identity theft.

Under the FCRA, consumer reporting companies are permitted to include your name and address on lists given to creditors and insurers for use in making firm offers of credit or insurance. However, consumer reporting companies that do so must also allow consumers to elect to have their names and addresses excluded from any list provided by the company in connection with a credit or insurance transaction that is not initiated by the consumer. See section 604 of the FCRA, codified at 15 U.S.C. § 1681b.

The official consumer credit reporting industry site for opting out of firm offers of credit or insurance is The toll-free number is 1-888-5OPT-OUT. You can opt out of the prescreening lists for 5 years or permanently. You can also use the site or phone number to opt in if you have previously elected to opt out.

The Federal Trade Commission has a collection of publications for consumers and businesses regarding the FCRA at its website on Consumer Information: Credit Cards and Consumer Loans. There are brochures and other information on credit scoring and building a better credit report, how to dispute credit report errors, and protecting yourself from identity theft and scams. The page on Prescreened Offers of Credit and Insurance also has information on other opt-out programs for reducing telemarketing calls, direct-mail marketing, and unsolicited commercial email.

Thanks to Bonnie Shucha of WisBlawg for this tip.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What's New in the SIU Law Library?

Would you like to be notified when we update or add something to the law library website? Now you can.

We have added a feed to the SIU law library website. You can subscribe to the feed to receive news of updates and additions, including the monthly Selected List of Recent Acquisitions, the weekly Current Index to Legal Periodicals (SIU Law only), and new and updated Research Guides. The URL for the feed is

For instructions on how to subscribe using a news reader, feed aggregator, personal start-up page such as My Yahoo, or the RMail email service, go to Notices of Updates & Additions to the Law Library Website.

If It Looks Too Good to Be True ...

You have probably heard the old saying that if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. These days we receive offers that look to good to be true through many media, including phone, mail, and email. How can you tell which of these offers are scams? Check out the new website,

The "Looks Too Good To Be True" website is the corner stone of a campaign to prevent internet fraud. It was developed by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and several major corporations and industry groups. The purpose of the site is to provide consumers with information to so they don't fall for internet scams. Features include

  • a Fraud Risk Test, to help you assess whether you are a potential victim;
  • descriptions of different types of fraud;
  • victim stories and a link you can use to share your story;
  • FAQs and tips;
  • links to pages where you can file complaints or report crimes to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, or the Federal Trade Commission; and
  • consumer alerts.

As the site's introduction notes, [e]ducation, good judgment, and a healthy dose of skepticism are the best defenses against becoming a victim. How are your defenses?

Alito Information Available from Univ. of Michigan Law Library

The University of Michigan Law Library Reference Department has created an information page on Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito, Jr. The page provides links to information about, and writings by, Alito. They are categorized and are arranged in reverse chronological order within each category, including biographical information, majority opinions, concurring and dissenting opinions, amicus briefs, party briefs, oral arguments before the Supreme Court, articles by Alito, and N.Y. Times articles about Alito. The site will be continually updated: links for Alito's confirmation hearings (including links to the live web-casts) will be added when the hearings begin and as information becomes available, as well Senate and House documents and statements.