Got up at 6:15. Our carpool leaves promptly at seven AM and I'm driving today. Traffic seemed a little lighter than usual. I have this hypothesis that early traffic is lighter on overcast days, because some people count on the sun to wake them up, and on rare shady mornings they oversleep. But it's sunny today. Maybe I have to alter hypothesis to include cold days — when it's cold (under 60) people maybe huddle under the covers a bit longer. The radio said it was about 55 when I woke up, which counts as arctic in these parts.
Home, pick up kid #2, make the shorter run to his school. After finishing the school run by 8:05 I have a little time to glance at the papers and review a bit of the reading for this morning's seminar.
From 9 to 11 I (co)teach our seminar on law and games. We've been reading about identity and the presentation of self and about the ways in which the gaming experience might effect players. The students in the seminar are great, as usual, and we have a very spirited discussion of the reading, notably Tracy Spaight's article “Who Killed Miss Norway” (which appears in Jack M. Balkin & Beth Simone Noveck eds., The State of Play: Law Games and Virtual Worlds (2006)) and Nick Yee, The Labor of Fun: How Video Games Blur the Boundaries of Work and Play, 1 Games and Culture 68-71 (2006). We don't get through them all; next time we'll take up, among others, the other two articles I liked most from this batch, Gunther Teubner, Rights of Non-Humans? Electronic Agents and Animals as New Actors in Politics and Law, 33 J. L & Soc 497 (2006), and Sherry Turkle, Always-on/Always-on-you: The Tethered Self, in Handbook of Mobile Communications and Social Change, James Katz (ed.) (forthcoming). Of these, the Teubner article is the most difficult; there's a lot going on there, much to think about, although I wonder if it coheres.
Then for almost an hour I meet with a student who has come by to find out why he did relatively poorly on his final. It always amazes me how rarely students do this. And to the extent that people do look at their exams, it's more likely to be a B+ that wants As than a C or C+. And you almost never hear from the D's. How are you going to improve if you don't look for feedback? Admittedly, it can be a painful experience for both sides: the student must revisit something that is not a happy-making event, and the prof has to be the bearer of unwelcome news, which typically includes several of: you missed this issue, you misread that question, you left out these cases, you recited facts but didn't give any analysis, I couldn't figure out what you were saying here, and on we go. I commonly recommend Fischl & Paul's Getting to Maybe for several of these problems, but it's not a panacea. On his way out, meaning I think to be kind, he asks if I might have gone to school with his father, who also went to Yale college. Turns out that the father graduated in 1965 — when I was in kindergarten. It seems that, at least to this user, my presentation of self in real life adds about twenty years…
At noon I go up to the faculty conference room where I'm giving a talk to faculty and staff on various tricks you can use to get more out of your computer. Most of it is about firefox plugins. It's amazing how much more efficient one can be with a few of the right tools. Talk starts at 12:30, finishes before 2:00.
Back to the office. Read some email. Nothing urgent, for a change. Work on putting together a list of possible visitors for next year. Although it's still unclear how many new people we'll actually hire next year, it's certain we'll be under full strength due to leaves and such so we have the luxury of thinking about who would be interesting and fun to have around — subject to the very real constraint that it would be a lot better if they happened to to teach in the areas we have needs. I'm chairing the committee that has to come up with names, which is fun but not as easy as it sounds. (If you are a law prof reading this and fancy a semester in a tropical paradise, please do get in touch ASAP.)
Home, where attempts to work are undercut by the need to try to ensure that homework gets done. Today's first distraction is the need to celebrate the winning of a science prize by the homework-avoider-in-chief. The second, later distraction, is a long fruitless hunt for a lost notebook. (It is later found at bedtime.) Eventually I give in and glance at the New Yorker.
Then it's time to prepare for tomorrow's administrative law class. I'll be finishing a somewhat whirlwind introduction to formal adjudication under the federal APA, subject of course to the Due Process clause of the Constitution. The class is at 8am, and the students who trek out to it three times a week seem like a serious bunch — but I also get the sense that several of them feel pretty lost. Now, in one sense that's actually a good thing: this is a confusing subject, one composed of a series of interlocking parts that only start to make sense once you've seen them all. Thinking that you get it at this early stage would most likely be the result of a false sense of security, or shallow reading. Then again, it's not much fun to be confused, nor is it all that much fun to be the source of confusion. So in addition to re-reading the cases and working in summaries of the latest decisions, I try to tweak my recycled notes from last year to include more explanation, but that is constrained by the need to stay on schedule and the fact that the courts keep on deciding new cases which refine rather than replace the old rules. The early morning hour has resulted in a dynamic in which students are not asking enough questions. I'm going to have do something about this. The first step is setting up panels of people to be called on — I don't much care for cold-calling after the first year. But it might even come to that in the end.
End the working part of the evening with another bout of administration, compiling a list of possible names for an academic center I've been helping to organize. It's hard to come up with something that accurately describes it, has a catchy acronym, hasn't been used elsewhere, and works in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
Finish with some time reading blogs, email, and writing this.
Not exactly a typical day, especially in that I gave a talk and didn't do any academic writing, but that was today.