January 2007 Archives

Now that comments are back, here's a "Has this ever happened to you?" post.

Last night I was driving home and I heard a song on the radio (this is unusual for me, but I was avoiding NPR's pledge drive) that was popular in Spring 1998. I hated the song back then, but I found myself enjoying the experience of listening to it because it made me feel nostalgic about my freshman year in college.

Only here's the thing. I hated my freshman year in college. I was miserable most of the time. I was still working out my high school angst, I hadn't gotten used to being treated like crap by the university, my roommate was a pain in the ass, I couldn't get laid, I couldn't hang in Honors Physics, and the idiots on my floor kept me up all night with their loud music including, notably and ubiquitously, this particular song.

So what was I getting nostalgic for? The idea of being a freshman in college? Of having all that newfound freedom, that yet-to-be-squandered potential? On some level was I imagining how much better the year would be if I could somehow re-live it? Or are we just hard-wired to get all mushy when some unexpected sensory input takes us back in time?

(In case you were wondering, the song was "Ghetto Superstar" by that hot girl and the two dudes.)

Half Full

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One nice thing about NPR's pledge drive is that it gives me an opportunity to explore other Bay Area radio stations.

West Side Gets Straight-Up Dissed by BigLaw

Hokay, here are the five most expensive cities to live in, according to this CNN article from June 2006, with annual cost of living:

1. Manhattan ($146,060)
2. San Francisco ($122,007)
3. Los Angeles ($117,726)
4. San Jose ($108,506)
5. Washington, D.C. ($102,589)

Here's the complete list of cities that are being routinely included in the current BigLaw salary boosts:

1. New York
2. Washington, D.C.

Here's a sampling of markets that are not currently being included in the salary boosts:

1. San Francisco
2. Los Angeles
3. Silicon Valley (which is where San Jose is)

Can't we bridge these east coast/west coast rivalries once and for all?

Drugs and Politics

I hate politics. Here's why:

Conservatives: Clinton smoked pot! Clinton smoked pot! He can't be President! He smoked pot! POOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTTTTT!!!!!!!!!
Liberals: Oh, it's not a big deal he didn't inhale everybody tries pot in college seriously guys get a life.

President Clinton: It is of critical importance that we continue to put people in jail for trivial drug offenses.

Liberals: Bush used coke! Bush used coke! He can't be President! He used coke! COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOKKKKKKKKEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!
Conservatives: Oh come on what's the big deal he's been sober for like seven years besides Clinton used pot and you were okay with that.

President Bush: I support the War on Drugs. Let us continue to impose jail time for relatively minor drug offenses.

Liberals Conservatives: Bush Obama used coke! Bush Obama used coke! He can't be President! He used coke! COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOKKKKKKKKEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!
Conservatives Liberals: Oh come on what's the big deal he's been sober for like seven years besides Clinton Bush used pot coke and you were okay with that.

President Whoever, who almost certainly was among the overwhelming majority of Americans who tried drugs at least once during college: Jail for users! No exceptions!

Caffeinated Donuts

Yes, that's right. Caffeinated donuts.

I believe I can say without hyperbole that this is unquestionably mankind's greatest triumph.

What It Is, Is Andy Griffith


(Apologies for storm of posts -- I'm going through my starred Google Reader items. But at least they're all on different topics!)

Government Censorship vs. Private Censorship

A quick thought on the KSFO/Spocko controversy (HT How Appealing, apologies for linking to USA Today). The basic story is that an anonymous blogger has been posting particularly inflammatory clips from KSFO's local conservative radio hosts* on the Internet, and sending them to the sponsors of the station and its parent company (Disney). ABC/Disney retaliated by threatening to sue Spocko, or at least his ISP, for copyright infringement. The EFF guy quoted in the article correctly notes that Spocko's conduct is basically the reason fair use was invented, so the company doesn't have much of a case (and, indeed, appears to have dropped the litigation).

Okay, so this isn't a quick thought. Anyway, the dichotomy of the parties' respective conduct is interesting. ABC is trying to silence Spocko using the courts, and Spocko is (essentially) trying to silence the KSFO hosts by cutting off their funding. Using the machinery of government to stifle speech is intuitively more offensive than targeting advertisers. But, given the reality of mass media, in which very little can be said without corporate sponsorship, Spocko's crusade may have its own warts. In other words, when "private" action actually occupies most of a particular aspect of society (think HMOs and home owners associations), the public/private censorship distinction begins to break down.

Ultimately, however, Spocko is using speech against speech, which is Good for America(TM). Thank goodness for the Internet.

* KSFO is somewhat unique in that its programming doesn't consist entirely of piped-in syndicated radio hosts, but has a great deal of homegrown crazy to fill out the day.

Unexpected Twist in Radio Stunt Water Death

Most of us no doubt have heard the sad tale of Jennifer Strange, who died of water intoxication after competing in a Sacramento radio station's water drinking contest. The contest consisted of seeing who could drink the most water without urinating, the prize for the winner being a Nintendo Wii. The stunt was cleverly dubbed "Hold Your Wee for a Wii." Strange, who was trying to win the game system for her children, made it to the final round before leaving the radio station. She later slipped into a coma and died. She had consumed almost two gallons of water, fatally throwing off her body's electrolyte balance

Many people predicted that the family would sue the radio station, on perhaps questionable legal grounds (the full facts, obviously, didn't all come out at once), and that the radio station would settle it quickly to avoid the publicity. The station did act quickly -- by firing the morning hosts who had organized the contest.

The woman's family is indeed taking legal action against the station, though they're not just seeking money: their lawyer is petitioning the FCC to have the station's license pulled.

This is an interesting tactic, and one not likely to garner a lot of sympathy on the part of the family. The morning hosts were idiots, and perhaps legally responsible by some measure for Strange's death. But shutting down the whole station seems excessive.

I Fought the (Irish) Law

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I'm in the process of applying for dual Irish citizenship. The kind folks at the Republic of Ireland don't make it easy. Here are the documents that I have amassed in support of my claim to Irishness:

Certified copy of my birth certificate
Notarized copy of my driver's license
Two passport-sized photos of myself*
Two things addressed to me at my current address**
Notarized copy of my dad's driver's license
Certified copy of my parents' marriage certificate
Certified copy of my dad's birth certificate
Notarized copy of my grandmother's driver's license
Certified copy of my grandparents' marriage certificate
Certified copy of my grandmother's birth certificate***

In addition, the application form contains a section in which someone must verify that they know who I am. But, this section can only be completed by one of the following:

Member of the Clergy
Medical Doctor (Suck it, Ph.D.'s and Psy.D.'s!)
School Principal(!?)
Bank Manager(!?!?)
Lawyer (Yeah!)
Police officer

Apparently bank managers and school principals are held in high esteem in the land of Erin.

* I had these done at Walgreens, but I realized that I probably should have just done it my damn self using our digital camera and photo printer.

** The Consulate actually needs three things addressed to me, so I won't be able to file the application until I get another piece of junk mail.

*** I ordered this by mail from the General Registrar's Office in Ireland. I included a return receipt postcard on the request, and got the postcard and the birth certificate on the same day, about a week or two later. Startling efficiency, let me tell you.

A Message for the Volokh Conspiracy


Seriously. They should change the name of that blog to "andanotherthing.org." Do we need twenty posts on every single topic? How about you gather your thoughts and put together a unified post that contains your full analysis? The Internet doesn't have to be this organic.

Here's my impression of the Volokh Conspiracy:

[Eugene Volokh]
THE SKY: I've been thinking about the color of the sky. My initial inclination is that the sky is blue.

[Eugene Volokh]
MORE ON THE SKY: On further reflection, yes, the sky is blue.

[Ilya Somin]
THE COLOR OF THE SKY: Following up on Eugene's earlier post, I also agree that the sky is, in fact, blue.

[Eugene Volokh]
ADDITIONAL INFO ON THE SKY: Ilya recently posted his agreement regarding the color of the sky. I'd also like to add that the sky is apparently not green.

[Sascha Volokh]
GEOFFREY OF MONMOUTH ON THE COLOR OF THE SKY: According to an obscure twelfth-century text apparently written by Geoffrey of Monmouth that I was perusing this morning, the sky is actually teal.

[David Kopel]
SKY COLOR CONTROVERSY: The sky is generally blue. However, the sky is also sometimes gray, and at night it's black.

[David Bernstein]
THE SKY: I agree with my colleagues regarding the color of the sky. All sources indicate that the sky is blue most of the time and other colors at other times.

[Eugene Volokh]
CLARIFICATION: Thanks to David for the additional info re: the color of the sky. I acknowledge that the sky is also sometimes gray and black. It turns out that, during the sunset, other colors such as red, orange, and purple also appear.

[Todd Zywicki]
I WENT TO DARTMOUTH: I'd just like to remind everyone that I went to Dartmouth, where the sky is often blue.

It's Not Too Late to Topple the British Empire

Step One: Scottish independence.

Step Two: Catholic English Monarch.

In the meantime I'm working on getting Irish citizenship, which will probably help somehow.

A Generous Man

This post is directed at all the Boalt alums who read this blog, of which I believe there are surprisingly few. I received my copy of the Annual Report of Philanthropy yesterday, in which the school lists all the people who've donated in the previous year and the ranges of their respective donations. I'd just like to make it absolutely clear that I did, in fact, make a donation to the law school last year, and the fact that my name doesn't appear in the report is a result of Boalt's ongoing efforts to deny my existence and disassociate themselves from my person. This campaign is long-standing and well-founded and illustrated by the email exchange below from December. Incidentally, this exchange prompted one of my classmates to tell me that I'm "kind of a dick."

From: Boalt Hall
To: Matt
Date: Dec 13, 2005 2:53 PM
Subject: Congratulations!

Dear Matthew,

It was a pleasure seeing so many of you celebrate your admission to the bar here at Boalt. We are very proud of your accomplishments and wish you continued success in all of your endeavors. Please be sure to keep in touch and let us know where you are and how you are doing.

Again, our congratulations and very best wishes.

Best regards,

Jacqueline Ervin
Executive Director

P.S. Check-out our website for photos from the swearing-in ceremony at http://www.law.berkeley.edu/alumni/events/past/2005/statebar/.

From: Matt
To: Boalt Hall
Date: Dec 13, 2005 3:03 PM
Subject: Re: Congratulations!

All right. Next time I'm at one of these things and the photographer comes around sticking his camera in my face I'm going to tell him to take a walk. No matter how many Boalt events I go to, I never seem to make it into the official album afterwards. It's like I'm freakin' invisible. I KNOW there were photos of me and my family, and they've once again been excised from the official record. Clearly, there's something about my appearance that compels the PR folks at Boalt to want to disassociate the school from me. I can only suffer so many such blows to my self esteem.



P.S. In the interest of keeping in touch, I have a new address. Please send the Dean's heart-felt messages here from now on: [New address.]

From: Sarah
To: Matt
Date: Dec 13, 2005 3:38 PM
Subject: Re: Congratulations!

Dear Matt,

Thank you for updating your contact information - that way the Dean will be sure to drop you a line sometime soon! We have added a picture of you to the photo album, but incidentally, before we received your email, we put a picture that has you in it as the opening photo for the whole story! Please check it out: www.law.berkeley.edu. So actually you made the FRONT page!

Take care,

Giants Fan Fest


Dr. M and I went to Giants Fan Fest today, an event that should be called "Giants Line Fest," because all you do is stand in line. Pictures from the locker room and dugout here. Our favorite picture is this one. It created a great deal of amusement amongst us and the people around us.

The best thing about the event was the "garage sale" booth where they were selling off all the merchandise they couldn't sell during the previous season, with the intent of donating the proceeds to charity. Amongst the merchandise were several balls and bats signed by unremarkable players. The money quote of the day was from one of the booth workers, trying to close the deal on one such bat, and bolding proclaiming that "Vizcaino is good!" I didn't see any Armando Benitez balls, but if I had I would certainly have forked over the $40.

Our main goal for the day was to buy tickets to one of the Yankee games. Unfortunately Yankee game tickets were only being sold as part of in prohibitively expensive six-packs, and the five other games in the packs were all at inconvenient times or otherwise undesirable. We ended up buying two "Friday Night Packs" instead, which had no Yankee tickets. After waiting in line for over an hour.

Minor Tinkering


I've made a few changes to this here blog, changes that most of my readers probably won't even notice!

Change number 1: The sidebar (including the roast beef sandwich picture) has been ensmallened, and the blog text area has been enbiggened. This will hopefully solve the problems associated with posting large images, at least for those of you who aren't using small resolutions on your tiny monitors.

Change number 2: The sidebar now appears on individual entries, where it didn't before. Thus, while I have shrinked the sidebar in size, I have enlarged it in ubiquity.

Change number 3: Within the next 24-48 hours, the URL www.ifoughtthelaw.net will point to this blog instead of the comic strip site. I'm doing this for a variety of reasons.

First off, this blog is my main online endeavor, so it makes sense that the one thing I pay for in connection with online publishing (the URL) should connect directly to the thing I pay the most attention to (the blog).* That was an awkward sentence but I gotta keep moving.

Second, it's clear that I'm no longer able to draw comic strips with any degree of regularity (I've posted 22 strips sporadically since Fall 2005 -- Those aren't good numbers), so I don't think the comic site deserves its own store-bought URL. I'm not abandoning the comics, nor am I taking the site down. I'm thinking about alternative hosting arrangements, hopefully something that will involve a URL that doesn't include my name. What I'll probably end up doing is just dumping all the strips into a low-tech archive kind of thing, post new strips on the blog, and archive as I go.

Finally, based on my site tracking info, hardly anyone goes to the comics site. Seriously. And those who do almost inevitably come here. For those cherished few who like my art but can't stand my words, I hope that the inconvenience of clicking on the roast beef picture won't drive you away forever.

Anyway, that's my story. Welcome to the slightly new and nominally improved I Fought the Law.

*Money has changed hands in connection with the blog, but I consider those donations rather than compulsory payments. Because Gene is cool like that.

Now That's What I Call "Giving a Shit"

A retired French professor in Colorado is in trouble for giving a dog turd to her congresswoman. Apparently the professor, Kathleen Ensz, was angry at receiving mailings from Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, and retaliated by wrapping the poo (or "merde") in one of the mailings and leaving the package at the representative's office. The professor is now facing misdemeanor charges for "use of a noxious substance."

Ensz's lawyer claims that this is protected by the First Amendment. Regardless of the legal outcome of this, I think it takes a very special type of individual to actually go through with this sort of thing. Sure, lots of people think of sending poo in the mail (myself included), but if you sit down and trace all the steps that were involved in this transaction -- gathering the poo from the backyard, wrapping the poo in the mailing, presumably putting it into a box, and then personally transporting it to the congresswoman's office -- that's a lot of chances to stop handling poo that the professor didn't take. And how did she get it over there? Did she drive to the office with a box of crap in her car? Did she take a bus? A taxi? Did she walk?

Let's face it, this is a pretty crappy way to engage in participatory democracy.

Ohmigod, a Horrible Idea


Ladies and gentlemen, Legally Blonde: The Musical. You see, the movie wasn't annoying enough, so they decided to add some songs and dance numbers. This will no doubt mark our young century's apotheosis of cultural achievement.

To be fair, I've always hated musicals. I can't sing a damn note -- sometimes I'll hum a song and ask Dr. M what it is, and it sounds to me like I'm humming something but to her (and presumably other human beings) it just sounds like the same tone over and over again. In my drama geek days my tone-deafness was cast into sharp relief by my drama department's emphasis on musicals, and led to a feeling of marginalization amongst the drama elite. Early on I developed an unsound theory that musicals are plays with stories that are so weak that they need songs to fill them out. This is certainly true with respect to some, perhaps many, musicals (think the extremely boring Pygmalion and the unwatchable My Fair Lady). But I can no longer claim that this is true in a general sense.

I actually don't remember the last time I went to see a musical, and hopefully it's something I'll be able to avoid until my own children join the drama department of The Little Lord Fauntleroy School for the Weak in the hopes of meeting girls. I certainly won't be seeing Legally Blonde. In fact, I thank goodness that this wasn't playing in the Bay Area when I was a summer associate, as I anticipate that law firms will view this as prime "summer outing" material (the firms were all taking kids to see The Lion King when I was fake lawyering).

To be further fair, I haven't seen the movie Legally Blonde. However, the previews made me want to push my eyes into my brain so I don't think sitting through the whole film would give me any further insight into the film's merits (I've also sworn off of anything starring that particular gremlin-faced hack). Besides, Legally Blonde was one of only three things that people ever talked about during my first year of law school (the other two being baseball and The Sopranos), so I feel like my initial impressions have been confirmed. Here's a sampling of some of those conversations:

Classmate: I swear to God, they based Elle Woods on my college roomate. No, seriously, if you see the movie and then meet [Jennifer/Bethany/Samantha/Courtney] you'll totally freak.
Me: Yes, well, there's no shortage of shallow, obnoxious people at the nation's top law schools. Ow, you punched me.

Classmate (possibly the same classmate, possibly someone else): No, she's not actually stupid, see, because at the dress shop--

Classmate #1: I grew up in Northern California and am therefore a Giants fan.
Classmate #2: I grew up in Southern California and am therefore an Angels fan.
Classmate #1: Let us debate the merits of our respective teams as they compete in the World Series, including detailed discussions about last night's game and predictions about tonight's game.
Me: Any of you guys like stand-up comedy?

Law Review Write-On Application: [Sopranos LOL.]
Me: I want my Spring Break back.

Write Your Own Caption


Rachel Ray

Thanks Marie.

(P.S. Please don't bother posting those horrendous FHM images with Rachel Ray in the little apron pouring fudge on herself, or links thereto. Thank you.)

Supreme Court Smacks Federal Circuit Again

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The Supreme Court issued another patent opinion today, holding that a patent licensee can sue to invalidate the patents that are the subject of the license. It's a standing issue, really, but it's also (1) yet another reversal of the Federal Circuit and (2) another path to challenge patent validity. This is consistent with the Court's recent trend with respect to the Federal Circuit and patents in general. If this is any indication of what lies ahead, the forthcoming KSR Teleflex decision is going to be a Federal Circuit bloodbath.

Of All the Ass-Headed...


Apparently the geniuses at Fox have green-lighted "an ensemble dramedy about the personal lives of six U.S. Supreme Court clerks," and they're calling it... wait for it... Supreme Courtships. This news, sent to me by JMV, has inspired me to delve into my creative self-loathing and pen this. I apologize for the low quality but I'm afraid Ruby threw up on my art pencil (symbolism!) and I haven't had a chance to buy a new one.

First of all, why six clerks? There are thirty-six clerks at the Supreme Court. There are nine justices. Their format doesn't even cover all nine justices. Also, Supreme Court clerks are only at the Court for one year. How are they planning to make it past the first season? Are they going to replace the cast every year, or follow the original six as they go off and become law professors, Deputy Solicitors General, and high-powered litigators, thereby dislodging themselves from the show's central premise? And has Fox already forgotten the two Supreme Court-based television shows that have already failed?* This has bad idea written all over it.

Besides, what do Supreme Court clerks do all day? They read and they write. How does that make for good television? Maybe it'll be like Monty Python's "Novel Writing: Live from Wessex." I could seriously sit here and write all night about all the reasons this is a terrible idea for a television show, and hypothesize about all the dumb plot elements they're going to squeeze into the first episode. Will the the clerk for the super-liberal Justice have a forbidden love affair with the clerk for the super-conservative justice? Will the devout Catholic clerk be able to write an opinion upholding Roe v. Wade for her "abortion for breakfast" justice? How will the unpolished, self-made, pulled-up-by-his-bootstraps clerk from the 'hood cope with life among the wealthy elite? It writes itself. Extremely poorly.

As I said to JMV, I'm not going to watch this show, but I will enjoy watching it get pulled after four episodes (assuming it even gets picked up).

* I only know of one failed Supreme Court TV show (I believe it starred Joe Mantegna), but my co-clerk informs me there was another.

Phil Hendrie


Phil Hendrie retired from radio in June 2006. Since he wasn't broadcast in the Bay Area I listened to the mp3s on his website, mainly while working out. I just listened to the final mp3, and I am now sad. Fortunately the website now has years of archived material which I'll be able to listen to during future workouts, and when I eventually run out I can always switch over to Coast to Coast AM.

The Phil Hendrie show was one of the last of what Phil called "content-based" radio shows (at least on AM radio). Unlike the rest of AM radio, which seems to consist almost exclusively of conservative talk show hosts reading daily faxes from the RNC (or misguided liberal hosts being just as obnoxious), Phil's show was a bona fide comedy program and had a very strange premise. Essentially, each show segment would include a guest with a controversial, offensive, and completely unsupportable position on something ranging from national and local politics to mundane family affairs. Phil would talk to the guest and slowly flesh out what the guest was talking about, revealing the ridiculousness of the topic little by little. Ultimately, listeners would call in and argue with the guests, and the guests would be even more offensive to the callers. Only the thing is, see, the guests were fictional characters. And not only were they fictional characters, but they were being voiced in real-time by Phil himself. The callers were never in on the joke, but the general audience was. The result was something bizarre and hilarious. Significantly, like a ventriloquist with an annoying puppet, Phil was able to take the moral high ground against himself, including standing up for the callers and apologizing to them on behalf of the guests. In one breath he would antagonize the caller and in the following breath express righteous outrage.

I began listening to Phil during my first year of law school, when I didn't have a TV and I'd listen to talk radio while studying. As with most listeners, I was fooled the first few times I listened, and "got" it only after I realized that Phil was interrupting the guests without actually talking over them. Listening closely I was able to hear Phil's voice in the guests (he didn't use any special effects for the voices -- just talked into a phone and altered his voice naturally), and once I realized what was going on I became an instant fan. During the first broadcast I listened to, Phil's character was a female gradeschool teacher who had told her students that more planes would fly into buildings if they didn't do their homework.

Phil often talked about his difficulties dealing with the radio business, since his show was unique and didn't fit into any specific molds. He was on KNEW in San Francisco briefly before being dumped in favor of Bill O'Reilly. So he retired from radio to pursue other creative outlets (including, fortunately, adding more content to his website). It's unfortunate that there's so little room for genuine creativity on commercial radio. Hopefully Phil will find more acceptance elsewhere and continue to generate his delightfully inappropriate material.

Here's Hoping

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Via LawGeek comes this NY Times article about industry approval for genetically engineered peanuts. The article claims that genetic engineering "could lead to peanuts with enhanced flavor, more vitamins and nutrients, and possibly even nuts that are less likely to trigger allergic reactions" (emphasis added). I'm not sure if that means my wretched kind will be able to eat the fancy new peanuts with reckless abandon, or simply that we'll have more time to jab ourselves with EpiPens. In any case, this announcement only buttresses my already strong support for genetically enhanced agriculture.

It's been almost a year and a half since I began eating tree nuts, and it's been wonderful. I'm a big fan of walnuts in pastries, I like pesto and pecan pie (though not together), and I begin each morning with almond butter on toast. If I could finally add peanuts to the mix, that would be pretty sweet (or savory, or whatever the hell peanuts taste like other than agonizing death).

Mourning Wood

The courts are closed today for a National Day of Mourning for Gerald Ford, handily handing me an official four-day weekend after I already took two days off at the end of last week. Being a federal employee has its advantages.

Since conscience dictates that I should utilize this free time to meditate on Gerald Ford, here are two Gerald Ford-related things.

First, this SNL sketch from 1996, which has always been one of my favorite SNL sketches and was the first thing I thought of when I heard about Ford's death. It wasn't on YouTube immediately after his death was announced, but as you can see from the search results it's all over the place now. Be sure to click on a 4:39 version to get the full glory.

Second, Harper & Row v. Nation Enterprises, 471 U.S. 539 (1985), one of the leading Supreme Court cases on the fair use defense to copyright infringement. The case dealt with an article in The Nation in which the magazine published a 300-400-word excerpt from Ford's 200,000-word manuscript. While the excerpt was thus a small portion of the overall text, the excerpted portion deal with Ford's decision to pardon Richard Nixon, and was referred to by the courts as "essentially the heart of the book." The Court held that the excerpt was not fair use, in that it significantly cut into the market for the memoir. Essentially, people wouldn't buy the book if they could get the low-down on the Nixon pardon from the magazine.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2006 is the previous archive.

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