BMI: Big-Muscled Individual?

A simple question at coffee this morning–which country has the highest percentage of adult obesity?–produced a surprising result.  Some guessed the US to be the answer, and initial research (conducted not by me but someone with a real job–apparently it was a slow work day) seemed to support it, until someone else raised this question: what about Samoa?  More digging produced this chart from

The winner: Nauru, where 94.5 %of the adults are classified as overweight, based on Body Mass Index (BMI), a ratio of weight to height.  What I know about Nauru comes from the first story in this episode of This American Life.  It’s a fascinating tale, worth the 15 minutes.  Samoa placed 6th (80.4% of adults overweight), ahead of the U.S. which came in 9th with 74.1% of adults overweight.

These BMI results should be taken with a grain of salt–or a super-sized order of fries.  My BMI is 25.1, enough to include me among the 74.1 percent of overweight adult Americans.  I won’t win any body-building prizes but few would consider me overweight. We need a better indicator.



Law’s toll

I’ve posted about the legal profession a few times in the past year, focusing on economics for the most part. The personal cost of a legal career does not received the same attention, which is why I recommend Even Lawyers Get the Blues: Opening Up About Depression from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required). The money quotation:

That lawyers are among the most miserable of men — and women — is well-known. Some 19% of lawyers suffer depression at any given time, compared with 6.7% of the population as a whole . . . one in five lawyers is a problem drinker, twice the national rate. Escalating billable-hours quotas fuel chronic overload, and the ceaseless deadlines and adversarial nature of the work feed anxiety. Some 19% of associate attorneys quit law firms every year, research shows.

BigLaw Economics

Two posts from the Wall Street Journal Law Blog:

  • Wal-Mart Memo to Law Firms: No More Rate Hikes! Drawing a line over regular increases in hourly billing rates that it believes are linked to increases in associate salaries (now $160,000 for dewy-eyed law school grads) Wal-Mart notified outside counsel ““[w]e are today announcing a moratorium on across-the-board rate increases. Until further notice, we will only consider reasonable, individual requests for rate increases for those attorneys in your firm who are performing at an exceptional level and whose experience and knowledge is adding substantial value towards meeting Wal-Mart’s legal objectives.” Next week Wal-Mart will receive a raft letters from outside counsel telling it that all BigLaw lawyers perform at an exceptional level and add substantial value, just by walking into a room.
  • Except when they aren’t. McDermott to Create a New Class of BigLaw Attorneys reports that McDermott, Will & Emery “plans to create a new tier of full-time non-partnership-track attorneys to handle lower-end tasks at lower billing rates . . . first-years now earn $160,000, but some of their work, like electronic discovery, can be done by, well, someone not worth that much money.” McDermott has not announced this the salaries for this new class, how much they will be paid, or what they will be called. The Journal’s Law Blog invited readers to submit names. Responses include “serfs,” “plebeians,” and “pond scum.” Others note that firms already have non-partnership-track positions with different annual billing expectations and advancement opportunities; they are called staff attorneys. I also suggested some names: Lawyers with a life? Parents? Passersby at the rat race? See Legal Blog Watch for more about how staff attorney positions are desirable for those seeking a work/life balance.

The Undead

Like Cool Hand Luke rising from the ground each time Dragline knocked him on his ass or like the living dead from the George Romero movies, refuses to submit, popping up after each execution with an amnesiac’s disregard for its back story. See None of, Lives Yet, and–Is That All You’ve Got? This story reports that Russia caused the site to be shut down “to end criticism from the United States that Russia was failing to clamp down on music and video piracy.” By the time the press ran the story Media Services, the company behind, had opened a new site named that it claims is legal under Russian law. Since the arguments for the new site’s legality echo those used to support we can expect this saga to continue. Frustrating, I’m sure, for parties on both sides of the issues but a boon to a professor of Internet law, this story captures the nailing-a-blob-of-mercury nature of cross-border Internet regulation.


I followed a story today to cRANKy, “the first age-relevant search engine.” How does an age-relevant search engine differ from an age-irrelevant search engine? According to a press release dated today, cRANKy is “designed to deliver the most targeted search results by applying a 50-plus lens to every query . . .” The site is part of Eons, “a 50-plus media company” founded by creator Jeff Taylor. In cRANKy’s world those who are 50+ want their data pre-chewed and still cannot process more than four pieces at a time.

I started my exploration with the “Top cRANKy Searches 2006.” Example: Top Search Number 3 is Body Mass Index. A cRANKy sidebar links to a list of its most popular search terms for 2006, which overlaps yet is different from the Top cRANKy Searches 2006: Alternative Health, Entertainment, Finances, Health/Disease, Hearth & Home, Hobbies / Fitness, Ones to Watch, Relationships, Travel Spots, Web 101. Selecting Ones to Watch in 2007 I found ten subtopics: Brain Builders, Stephen King, Blogs, Work From Home, Elderhostel, Make New Friends, Jobs After Retirement, Arthritis, Online Dating, and RVs. Putting aside the obvious that (save for Stephen King) these are not “ones to watch” but Trends, perhaps, an image began to form of the cRANKy demographic. I pictured a graying couple hopping from elder hostel to elder hostel in their RV, reading Cujo, completing Sodoku puzzles with their new friends, posting blog entries (“Five Fun Facts About Phoenix”), and making pin money by selling macramé plant hangers at craft sales. I followed the first BrainBuilder link to a results page with abundant white space. Two sponsored links appear at the top of page. Below are only four organic results, followed by another four sponsored links in smaller type. Finding additional organic search results required clicking to page 2 for results 5-8, to page 3 for results 9-12, and so on. The four-results page is a cRANKy selling point, its response to the sheer overwhelming mass of a typical Google search. (When was the last time you navigated beyond page two or three of Google results?)

How is cRANKy for general search? (As I do with other trademarks like iPod I’m trying to be fair and enter the mark as it is written, but its inelegance is off-putting). If, say, a cRANKy user wants to understand this “Facebook” her college-aged daughter is talking about, can she get her answer cRANKily? I entered “facebook” in the search field and received a query back–Did you mean factbook?–followed by the standard four results: number one to a Business Week article, number two to a Technorati page of blog posts tagged “facebook,” number three to the Wikipedia Facebook entry, and number four to Somehow I don’t think the cRANKy demographic will want to make sense out of the technorati page, but to be fair the site is new. It intends to rank results based on user feedback (how very Web 2.0-ish!) and in six months, perhaps, the results will better reflect the cRANKy spirit.

Would I recommend this search engine tricycle with training wheels to my 85-year old father-in-law or the residents of the continuing care retirement center on whose board I sit? Not yet.

One L

For years, and for no good reason, I avoided reading One L, Scott Turow’s account of his first year at Harvard Law School. I’ve now corrected that omission in my legal education. All of you prospective law students should read this book.

30 years after its publication some of the book is dated: starting salaries for first-year associates are quaint, to point to a minor example, and the Socratic Method is not used as unflinchingly today as it was in his contracts class. As a graduate of Northeastern University School of Law (“the nation’s premier public interest law school”), some of what he relates was outside my experience. NUSL’s use of written course evaluations instead of letter grades and lack of a competitive law review selection process (because it does not have a law review) yield a materially different student experience in many important ways. Despite those differences Turow’s description of his uncertainty, frustration, mountainous work load, and charged classroom experiences resonated deeply.

One reason is that Turow is a terrific writer. Before going to law school he taught creative writing at Stanford. His 1987 first novel Presumed Innocent is an engrossing murder mystery that I read essentially non-stop over the course of 24 hours, going into my job as an associate in a large corporate law firm hours late because I couldn’t put it down. I mean I literally could not put it down–I’d pinched it from my wife and had I let it out of my hands she would have taken it back. (Does the fact that I was far more engrossed in a law-themed novel than my law practice offer any insights into the vagaries of a legal career? Nahhh.) The only similarities he shares with John Grisham are (1) they are both lawyers and (2) they both write fiction. Turow’s novels are more character-driven than Grisham’s plot-driven potboilers.

Turow’s unblinking self-honesty makes One L compelling. He does not paint himself heroically. He narrates how he submitted to the power of the permeating, competitive insanity that results when a few hundred very smart Type A personalities engage in the same activity. He captures the fear, claustrophobia, foxhole humor, and self-doubt that are universal to the first year of law school.