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Somewhere in the snowdrift of paper on my desk is a program from an opera performance I attended a few months ago.  Among other things, it’s a document that tells you what the opera company is doing and who, specifically, is doing it.  It  also tells you — less directly — who’s paying, and how.  Among other things in it, I found:

  • a roster of individual donors arranged by the level of support they’ve provided
  • a roster of corporate sponsors
  • a featured list of corporate sponsors who are underwriting particular activities or programs
  • advertisements for various businesses, small and large, often with music-related slogans that are pretty dumb (“our pastries hit a high note”)
  • a notice of a business-networking event — a kind of meetup — jointly sponsored by the opera company and the local chamber of commerce

You’ll find similar things in the programs of every large and small opera company, symphony, and theater organization — any arts non-profit, really — in the country.  That’s not new; all of those things have been around for as long as I can remember.

What’s that got to do with the LII?  Well, in some form or other, all of these things are coming to the LII web site.  Some already have.  Other things that opera companies have — like admission fees — never will.  Here’s why.

The LII’s core staff consists of six people, augmented by a  pool of student editors, programming interns, and others who help us run a web site with over a quarter-million documents and 100,000 unique visitors every day. At any given moment, those same core staffers are responsible for one or two funded research projects, a series of consulting jobs, a guest blog, and occasional writing on policy and other matters of academic and public interest.  As continually as we are able, we improve our services and our technology.  We are spread very thin.  About a year ago, we realized that the LII had no prospect of either expansion or field-leading innovation so long as our core staff remains the same size.  We had more than fully committed ourselves to the maintenance and continued development of those collections we currently offer.  And to some of us it looked very much as though we might end up spending our careers watching others — people with more resources that we can command –  doing work that we knew how to do five years ago but could not fund.   At a time when there is more need than ever for our expertise and for innovation in the field, this seemed like a pretty bleak prospect.  By nature, most of us here are better pioneers than settlers.  And we have a lot of unrealized ideas that we would like to bring to you.

So for us the question was not really one of how to stay afloat; we could, we think, tread water indefinitely, although the Internet is usually unkind to those who lose momentum.  The problem was, and is, how to move forward, to continue our longstanding traditions of leadership in the field of legal informatics and service to the public.  As a practical matter, this amounts to asking, “How will we get more money?”  Real leadership demands not only that we support ourselves as we are now, but that we grow.  We need more people to carry on our existing programs even as we innovate in new areas.  The answer, it seems to us, lies in making use of our considerable traffic and other assets to support our activities, as well as relying on the continued generosity and commitment of our supporters.  So we began thinking about what our opportunities might be.

There are, of course, a lot of answers to those questions.  We got very interested in what might motivate people to help us.  We have always had a loyal core of supporters (thank you, and thank you again!) who believe in the idea of open access to law, and give us money out of pure belief and generosity.  We think that some among our donors are partly reimbursing us for a service we offer to their law practice (yes, all you law-firm librarians and small-firm practitioners — we know you’re out there and we very much appreciate your help).  And we think that many, many more might take advantage of an opportunity to do well by doing good.

Right now, such folks can help us — and themselves — by listing themselves in our lawyer directory and buying a badge showing their support for the LII; this (not coincidentally) causes them to be shown more prominently in the directory.  Very soon, we will begin recruiting sponsors for specific pages in WEX, everybody’s legal encyclopedia, for the LII’s Supreme Court Bulletin, and for our larger collections (if any of these interest you, contact us).  And right along we have been making use of a modest Google AdSense presence to bring in some revenue — right now, those little ads are paying for about half a staff person.  When we put the AdSense blocks in place, we half-expected to get some negative reaction from our audience.  That has not happened. Indeed, a few people have privately told me that they think that our pursuit of more commercial opportunities is just good stewardship of our donated income.  I think so too; that’s because I come from the “pray to God but row toward shore” school of assistance-asking.

No doubt this raises some questions.  For instance, what about grants?  We seem to fall somewhere in between the agendas of those organizations that support basic science (our work tends to involve applications rather than basic research) and those which have social or policy objectives (which tend to have more urgent priorities than legal information).  Almost none provide operating support.  So it is a small population indeed. We continue to look for good fits (as we have for many years), but we think that these are very infrequent opportunities that will not provide a reliable base.  A second, logical question is whether we are contemplating any kind of user fee.  The answer to that is a simple “no”.  We are building a business model by which we can find reliable ongoing support for open access to legal information, for practical work in legal informatics, and for the promotion of public understanding of law — at no cost to the consumer. Finally, no, this was not a decision prompted by the recession, or by any drying-up of support from other sources.  In hindsight, it looks prescient — but we were driven entirely by our collective need for professional fulfillment and our desire to offer more and better services.

So, finally –  my thanks to those of you who have been loyal supporters all along.  We can’t do this without you, and we don’t think it’s fair to ask you to do it all for us.  To those who would like to work with us in other ways, I look forward to hearing from you.  And if any of you have questions or suggestions, I’m always eager to hear from you at tom {{dot}} bruce [[at]] cornell {{dot}} edu.

Over in VoxPopuLII this week, Dan Dabney makes a number of good points about the proper role of LIIs and other public legal information providers. In his view, our useful purpose is to drive innovation up a ladder of value-added legal information providers.  West Group, unsurprisingly, occupies the top rung of his ladder.  I agree with him.  Duopolies are, in many ways, a terrible environment for innovation, because innovation is too often seen as a weapon to be used against the competitor rather than as a way of answering customer needs (I adhere to Guy Kawasaki’s view that your customers don’t care about eradicating your competition).   I am proud that the LII has contributed substantially to breaking the intellectual and engineering stranglehold that West and Lexis had on legal information twenty years ago.  And I think that we and our colleagues in the public sector have driven a great deal of innovation since.  You ain’t seen nothin’, yet.

Dan successfully makes the case — if I can equally reasonably shape his views into a different metaphor — that an average public-transit bus will never win a race against a Porsche Carrera GT.  And indeed it is true that LIIs have neither the holdings nor the editorial depth of Thomson Global.  Nor, I think, would we outpace them in any particular slice of American legal information. Though I might be willing to take him on in a street race with the US Code, for which I think we have better Web architecture, even though our edition is less speculatively up-to-the-minute than West’s.  But that is not my point. West is unquestionably winning the Grand Prix. The LIIs are just trying to help a lot of people get to work.

A couple of weeks ago, I started a draft article for this space with a self-conscious echo of Fred Rodell:

There are two things wrong with how we think about legal information. One is that we are not thinking about how it is produced, and the other is that we are not thinking about how it is consumed.  That about covers the ground. 

I want to concentrate on that second idea, because it would be fair to say that West and the LIIs are thinking about very different kinds of research consumers.

Dan Dabney imagines — as most law-school instruction in legal research seems to — that the aim of research is to support argument in high-stakes litigation, or in some other setting where potential hazard justifies the expense of a high-end service.  This echoes the position that John West himself took over a hundred years ago: the idea that legal information provides the lawyer with insurance against the loss of his case.  West was arguing for the superiority of comprehensiveness over selectivity in the publication of cases.  This is unquestionably true, and as West said the general policy of insurance is the best one.  It is equally true, however, that most people insure only to the value of the goods.  Few will throw $5000 worth of research at a $500 case.

Ken Svengalis has made himself endlessly popular with commercial publishers by making that point in the form of a buyer’s guide that stresses practicality over comprehensive acquisition.  And of course services like Findlaw and LexisOne are tacit nods to that principle, as are well-established, lower-cost commercial services like LoisLaw and FastCase. When we talk about those services, we are talking about services primarily intended for lawyers.  The aim of an LII — or at least this LII, for my colleagues elsewhere do very different things — is to provide legal information for everyone, something that they do by using technology in innovative ways.

And that means that we serve a type of legal research that is very different — not naive, necessarily, but different.  We primarily serve people whose aim is to manage risk using information, and to take bearings on the advice offered them by professionals.  In that respect, use of the LIIs closely resembles responsible use of something like WebMD.  And it continues a belief in responsible self-help that we have seen from diverse sources in the past — citizens advice bureaux, publishers like Nolo Press, trade- or interest-specific guides to the law, and so on.  This is not pro se representation, and it is not intended to take bread from the mouths of lawyers (my own belief, and Richard Susskind’s, is that it will increase the demand for legal services by lowering entry barriers).  It is simply a different activity (indeed, it was Dan who first clued me in to how different it really can be). It is aimed at those whose use of primary legal material is less rigorous because their aim is, perhaps, to get general orientation, or to make sense of the competing advice of professionals and pundits, or to fortify themselves for an initial encounter with a professional who, in their minds, represents a legal system that is scary and incomprehensible.

Of course, there are those with more sophisticated needs who cannot afford more highly priced services than ours.  In fact, most of our users are people making use of legal information in a professional context, not people having traumatic, episodic encounters with the legal system. An example I often use is that of a hospital administrator with a day-to-day need to know about public benefits law.  Many of our most supportive users are government lawyers, and I understand that in some agencies at least access to commercial services is at least limited by seniority if not altogether barred by the budget.  And quite recently the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Convention on Private International Law has become concerned with the high cost of legal question-answering across borders.  That is the problem with the Porsche:  it is fast as hell, well-made, and pretty, but far too expensive for a lot of people who need more ordinary transportation.

In a very recent paper , legal anthropologist Annelise Riles points out the existence of something she calls “the polycentric model of legal expertise”.  The idea, so far as I understand it,  is that there are benefits to be had from the distribution of a species of legal literacy throughout a population. She attributes some important aspects of Japanese legal culture to this phenomenon.  This, I think, is what LIIs are about in the long run: the promotion of polycentric legal knowledge.

That, and building shinkansen , which go almost as fast as Porsches, and carry a lot more people.  We’re starting to lay the track.

Our LIIBULLETIN publication is really two publications in one, delivered through the same e-mail channel.  It rapidly notifies subscribers of Supreme Court decisions, usually minutes after they are handed down.  More, it delivers sophisticated but accessible analysis of upcoming Supreme Court cases about two weeks before they are argued.  The analyses are student-written and student-edited, and so it’s tempting to think of them (and of the LIIBULLETIN) as a kind of law review.  That’s a little misleading, but not because the BULLETIN analyses demand any less of our students. I think it’s a different kind of experience, with unique strengths.

The LIIBULLETIN is written by 30 students. 24 are associate editors working in teams of two.  Each of four student “managing editors” supervises three or four of these teams.  An executive editor and editor-in-chief supervise them in turn, assigning cases to teams and performing a second review of the product. They are also responsible for a “print edition” that appears in the Federal Lawyer, the magazine of the Federal Bar Association, which reaches all members of the Federal Bar Association, all Article 3 judges, and all members of Congress.  Everything is aimed at producing high-quality writing and insightful analysis that remains accessible to non-lawyers.

The editor-in-chief and executive editor are chosen by the LII, usually with strong input from the current editor-in-chief.  The incoming editor-in-chief and executive editor participate in the choice of supervising (historically “managing”) editors.  All six then run a selection process for the associate editors, which consists of a written sample and an interview process. All involved are paid a very small stipend.

We ask the editors to do something hard:  to write for the person they would be if they weren’t law students. My slogan for that approach used to be  “write as though you were writing for your mother”.  I quickly discovered that an amazing number of law students have mothers who are lawyers. Now I just say “write for the person you were a year ago, and for the clients you’ll have two years from now”.  We stress that “non-lawyer” does not mean “unsophisticated”.  Where popular writing about the Supreme Court often consists in large part of human-interest stories about the parties, we ask students to produce thoughtful discussions of cases and their implications from a legal perspective, and to try to draw out the larger, non-technical implications of what the Court may decide.

This is different from law reviews in a number of ways:

  • The writing is by students, for attribution
  • The writing is pitched for people who will one day be their clients.
  • Deadlines are absolute, and frequent.
  • Teamwork and a mentoring process (particularly on writing) are built in.
  • Substantive consultation with faculty is frequent and rewarding.

You can, of course, judge the product for yourself.  We know that the BULLETIN is widely read — and that we often hear from those representing the parties and from academic observers of the Court.  Their feedback is usually positive and always valuable for the editors, though there are always partisans who want to relitigate the case with us.  District of Columbia v. Heller provided a great example of how different an experience this can be. It was rewarding to watch the students patiently and persuasively defend the objectivity of their analysis  in the face of attacks from advocates on both sides of the issue. Via e-mail and blog posts, they made their case.

Last month we decided to find out more about the LIIBULLETIN’s audience, via review of the subscriber list, by reviewing the inbound-link census we get from Google Webmaster Services, and by means of survey. What did we learn?

First, we learned that we need to be careful with survey results.  It is sometimes hard to know whether respondents are talking about the LIIBULLETIN that is a notification service for decisions, or the LIIBULLETIN that provides pre-analysis of upcoming cases.  This is particularly the case because the analyses are a relatively recent addition — they were started in 2005, while the notification service has existed since 1993.  Still, we know that about two-thirds of the subscribers read the analyses in their condensed form, and roughly half of those read the full version on the Web.

Second, we learned that we are at least 15% more popular than we thought.  According to its subscriber list, the LII reaches about 18,500 people and has grown at the rate of 1,000 subscribers per year for the last 3 years.  In reality, we reach at least 3,000 more people than that via “rebroadcasting” from our subscribers.  Often they relay it to whole firms (the largest of which has 450 lawyers), or to professional-interest listservs (as with criminal-defense attorneys in Alabama); sometimes it’s just to five or ten other lawyers in a practice group or small firm.  But, like everything else on the Internet, it adds up.

Third, we learned that we have a very diverse audience.  We have subscribers in:

  • all 25 of the AmLaw top 25 law firms;
  • 12 US Circuit Courts and 65 District Courts
  • a slew of Federal agencies
  • many corporations, including media outlets
  • 589 colleges and universities
  • 63 foreign countries

They’re a diverse group, including many, many extraordinary citizens, lawyers and judges, a Senate staffer, an RV transporter, an advisor to the president of an African nation, a forensic psychologist, a prison warden, the president of a Christian women’s college in Japan, an American Shari’ah law judge, and any number of people who want to hear a clear and objective report of what the Court has done or is about to do.

It is, if I modestly say so, an impressive list of accomplishments for any law school publication.  But if you were to ask me what I’m proudest of, it would be a toss-up between the high value we’ve created for our audience and the management model that we’ve perfected over the last few years.  I think we’ve found a scalable, stone-soup-based way of making high-quality law content.

We are going to do a lot more with what students have taught us as we worked together to perfect  that model.  We have a plan that may surprise you…. and we’ll be revealing it soon (yes, this is a blatant attempt to heighten suspense).

If, after this,  you’re moved to subscribe to the LIIBULLETIN, you can do so here.

scotus-scaffold1.jpgSomewhere between 13 and 22 seconds after the first offering of free content on the Web, the publisher asked herself, “How am I going to pay for this?”.  And web publishers have been asking that question ever since.  The current economic meltdown makes it a more urgent question, but it’s always been there.  We sum it up in a slogan:  this service is free, but it is not costless.  We spend a lot of time and effort trying to resolve that conflict between our aspirations and the need to buy groceries.

The open-access-to-law community (particularly in the US) has had trouble with this.  There are a variety of solutions, few if any complete in themselves.  Most open-access providers originally depended — as we have — on grant funding, and on extensive support from a parent institution or a consortium.  Most have added consulting income to the mix.  And many get income from commercial partnerships, often based on the sale of back-end bulk data services.  The most stable model is CanLII‘s, which is financed by a head tax on Canadian lawyers.  An excellent paper by Graham Greenleaf (abstract here, slides here), offered at the recent Law via the Internet conference in Florence, describes one prominent free-access provider’s experience in keeping the doors open.

In any case, open access to law presents some unusual sustainability problems.  And those problems vary a lot from place to place. Institutional and political settings are very different, particularly in transition countries ( no doubt some of our problems here at the LII would no doubt be seen as high-quality problems by others).   Here’s a brief catalog — full treatment would need a very long article indeed:

First, open-access providers don’t really do research, in the sense of either basic science, or quantitative social science, or any of the things funded by research-oriented outfits like the NSF.  We can sometimes make a plausible case for ourselves as testbeds or helpers on grants that go to others (as the LII has with its participation in the CeRI project).

Second, we are continually faced with rising costs of innovation. The new legal information products and services we imagine, and hope to build, are significantly more expensive to produce than the things we imagined when we began 16 years ago. This is partly the result of the Web’s technical evolution and partly the result of more sophisticated needs and wants — a slow but steady revolution of rising expectations that we share with our users.  In 1993, we could significantly raise the sights of everyone in the legal information world by spending a snowy afternoon putting Two Pesos v. Taco Cabana into HTML — a one-person task that created the first web-published judicial opinion.  These days, it takes many more people a lot longer to come up with something that interesting and useful.

Like other not-for-profit projects, we have more trouble finding operating money than we do finding startup funds.  A lot of people would like to see their law (or someone else’s) put online. Very few are willing to pay to maintain it.  This is a particular problem with legislation, which requires frequent updating.  It also distinguishes legislation and regulations from scholarly publishing, and from many open-access repositories, which (like judicial opinions) gather material that is relatively static once mounted.

Some deep-rooted reluctance surrounds the funding of legal information, perhaps based on the idea that free legal information is just lawyer subsidy, or only answers the information problems of the rich (as Dan Dabney once put it).  Who wants to feed the sharks?

Open-access providers could do more than they have to dispel this distrust.  For the most part, we’ve made the case for open access in highfalutin’ normative terms:  support the rule of law, level the playing field for human rights, force the state to meet the transparency/publishing obligations implied by the idea that ignorance of the law is no excuse.  That’s a regime where success is hard to measure, if only because assessment is often self-referential. We declare our results to be good because our intentions are noble. We are Doing the Right Thing, and who would question that?  We are now starting to see some work on evaluation of open access in much more hardheaded terms — how does it contribute to lawyer competence, support economic development, level the playing field between one-shot litigants and repeat players?  These are important questions that will, if we are able to answer them rigorously, provide us with a strong case for support.

And then there is the “Tweed Ring” challenge — illustrated handsomely by this Thomas Nast cartoon.  Everybody thinks that free legal information is the next guy’s problem. Private foundations think government should do it. Government thinks that it is doing it (via weak services like PACER), and that anything it isn’t doing must be some kind of value-added service that the legal profession should pay for, or a matter of interest only to academic researchers.  The legal profession would like to pass research costs on to the clients, and increasingly can’t (small and solo law offices probably never could).  And so on.

Nobody thinks that free legal information is a bad thing, or unworthy.  It’s just not at the top of anyone’s list.  The US is a particularly severe case because (unlike the countries of the European Union, where partnerships like ITTIG are fairly common) we have never thought that work in legal information was a matter for cooperation between government and academia. Partnerships have been almost exclusively with private industry, though private industry sometimes relied on basic research produced by information scientists.

This circle may break soon.  Government transparency-by-web will no doubt get a lot of attention from the new administration; expectations among the “hack-the-gov” crowd are already very high, and there is good reason for this optimism.  We are seeing what amount to open-access legal information projects of this kind demanded by assessments like the recent ABA committee report on e-rulemaking and realized in the efforts of people like the Sunlight Foundation (GovTrack.us is a good example).  And certainly the economic crisis is pushing us toward greater awareness of global interdependency and with it the need for global transparency of regulatory and other legal regimes.

At the LII, we are moving toward sustainable self-support; we’re not there yet. We get about 20% of our current budget from the generous contributions of private individuals who think we’re worthwhile (and if you’re one of them, let me thank you again on behalf of all six of us here).   We recently added Google ads to many of our pages; we’re seeking sponsors for others.  And this week marks the launch of a new service offered in partnership with our friends at Justia.com : a lawyer directory service that offers great value, and an opportunity for us to give reciprocal benefits to those who help us out either financially or with donations of their expertise in the form of wiki content and other things that benefit our audience.

We have great hopes for it.  Talk it up.

[ Guilt-inspired author note:  apologies for the long absence.  It's been an unusually busy six or seven months, even by LII standards.  With luck, this will be the first in a series of posts reporting on what I've seen and learned in that time.]

2DE5DE90-A87A-4B67-9847-4925F559C555.jpgAs a philosophical mascot, Jeremy Bentham makes trouble the way a real mascot does: he strays onto nearby lawns and does things you’d rather not watch. After all, this is the guy who designed a perfect surveillance regime long before Facebook, Google, or Flickr, and who had himself stuffed, mounted, and put in a display case [[note to self: use in future post on legal education]].

And Bentham could sure put the tort in tortured prose:

Proportioned to the extent of [[the field of evidence]] will be the number of persons, to whom, in the character of readers, independently of any such misfortune as that of feeling themselves stretched on the rack in the character of litigants, it may happen to find in the work, matter on some account or other not altogether devoid of interest: and in proportion as this supposition comes to be realized, a justification will be afforded to the words, by which, in the title-page, non-lawyers are spoken of as persons to whose use, as well as that of lawyers, it may be found applicable.

Uh huh huh. What an insanely laborious way to say “the idea of evidence is found in lots of places and lots of people will be interested in it, whether or not they’re involved in a lawsuit”. The passage is taken from Bentham’s Introductory View of the Rationale of Evidence, for the Use of Non-Lawyers as Well as Lawyers (we have our own take on it here at the LII).

Bentham’s cause – the idea of universal intellectual access to law — was nothing new. Coke played around with it more than a century earlier, and he was by no means the first. In fact it’s the penumbra of Coke’s well-known passage about ignorance of the law being no excuse, which can be read in context as a pitch for law in the vernacular. But it was Bentham who took the idea of public understanding to the limit:

He was no lover of the common law, which Blackstone put on a pedestal. On the contrary, he described the common law as a place of “dark Chaos”. He advocated substitution of the codification of law and its enactment in statutes passed by an elected Parliament which would take the place of the step by step accretion of common law principle, performed by analogous reasoning by judges of infinite variety. For him, codes and statutory principles would “mark out the line of the subject’s conduct by visible directions instead of turning [the subject] loose into the wilds of perpetual conjecture”. He had great powers of invective, often directed against ‘Judge and Co’ (ie the Bench and the Bar), whom he saw as a ‘sinister interest’ profiting from the operation at great cost to the public of an unnecessarily complex and chaotic legal system in which it was often impossible for a litigant to discover in advance his legal rights.

Those words are a paraphrase of HLA Hart, taken from an address given by Australian High Court Justice Michael Kirby at the Law via the Internet ’99 conference (the author gave the second-banana keynote speech). Kirby’s talk still rings true now, painfully close to a decade later:

Providing undigested legal material is not enough. It is essential that we provide citizens with the tools of thinking through problems, finding the applicable legal rules and deriving from legislation and case law any principle that must be obeyed….Throwing onto the plate of people, with fundamental misapprehensions about their legal institutions, a huge mass of undigested legal data will not truly make the law free and more accessible. It is the duty of schools and universities to help the next generation, including the overwhelming majority who are not lawyers, to appreciate the way in which law is written, may be found and is applied – at least in those matters which are of greatest concern to the ordinary person. Otherwise, Bentham and his followers will have been outfoxed once again by Judge & Co.

In the years since Kirby’s speech, we’ve seen enormous progress in making law available. Courts, legislatures, and agencies have all provided online warehouses full of their work product (and indeed the e-Government Act of 2002 requires Federal courts to do so). More recently, interest from open-access advocates among the technorati has resulted in admirable projects like public.resource.org, AltLaw, and an important and exciting venture in cross-subsidy for open access, Justia . They join an effort that started here at Cornell in 1992, one that has sparked more than 18 LIIs around the world. They now work with each other and with legal-information creators to provide open access to law. In parallel with these data-publishing efforts, there are technically innovative projects that take new approaches to search, that attempt to discover the structures within legal information, and that focus on the integration of legal information resources in ways required by new economic and political unions. But I would define making law accessible as something far more complicated than simply making it available and, frankly, it is a lot more expensive. It requires the availability that those projects imply, and the interoperability that some in other fields have thought about – and as Justice Kirby said, it also requires substantial amounts of explanation, commentary, and public education. These are things that a public legal information provider associated with a graduate law school in a great research university can do, perhaps uniquely well.

And, for the next few months at least, those issues of access, interoperability, and accessibility will be the focus of this blog – appropriately launched on Bentham’s 260th birthday. I’d like to explore some ideas about the Internet audience for law, and about how we can pull individual repositories together in ways that will better serve that audience. I’d like to say a little about what it takes to provide real explanations around raw legal information, and how we might think about making both information and explanation more discoverable. Some of it will be chatty, some theoretical, and some ridiculously technical in ways that suffer from the mutually reinforcing geek-pathologies of information scientists, legal bibliographers, reporters of decisions, and other people who worry about this stuff far too much. I won’t promise a regular schedule – my job here at the LII is a little too complicated for that – but I’m hoping for a fairly substantial post every other week.

In the meantime, happy 260th, Jerry. We’re still trying, and this time I think a couple of Judges & some of the Co. are along for the ride.

Best,
Tb.

PS: I’ve got a door prize for whoever concocts the best name for this damned blog. Suggestions will overwhelm the comments, so don’t post them here – send them to me directly at tom.bruce(you-know-what)cornell.edu. Winner to be announced March 14.