The talent at Columbia Law School apparently doesn’t limit itself to legal scholarship. The Law Revue put together a musical rendition of which online legal resource is the best “to cite… to cite.”

Whether it is the bribery of using Lexis, the snobbery of using Westlaw, or the lone man that uses Bloomberg, the Law Revue walks you through the law students’ night of deciding which resource is best.

So pick up your Lexis/Westlaw/Bloomberg coffee cup and sit back and enjoy the show.

Craig Ball wrote a great article yesterday on “Six Powerful Points for Better Presentations” where he give some great tips on presenting information in PowerPoint. At the very end, under his “But, Wait! There’s More” section, he mentioned that he also uses PowerPoint as a “powerful screen capture and video editing” tool. I thought I’d have a little Friday fun post to show you one of my favorite image editing features of PowerPoint of removing the background from an image.

I have to admit that 99% of the time that I do this is to pull a prank on a friend, usually by editing something they posted on Facebook. It’s fast and easy to do once you know where and how to use the tool. Much to the chagrin of my Facebook friend (and Austin rocker), Adrian Conner, I’m going to use her as an example of how to edit a picture in PowerPoint (MS Word also has similar tools.)

Step One: Grab the Picture and paste it into a blank PowerPoint slide. (I think we all know how to copy and paste)

Step Two: Resize the photo (if it is too big or small) so that it fits on the slide, and then double-click the image to bring up the “Picture tools – Format” tab on PowerPoint’s menu bar.

Step Three: Click the “Remove Background” icon on the Picture Tools menu tab. This will create a ‘box’ around a portion of the image and PowerPoint will attempt to automatically remove the background of the image. The part that is to be removed will be displayed in a purplish color.

Step Four:  Move the outline box around until it is a close to the part you want to keep as possible. In this case we’re removing the boxing bear and just keeping serious looking Adrian. PowerPoint does a pretty good job here of getting most of Adrian’s serious stare, while removing the boxing bear. However, despite the glare, some of Adrian’s hair is not there. Also the knit-toboggan is missing from her wild-haired noggin. Not to sweat it… we can edit… it.  (And this is the reason I’m a blogger and not a famous lyricist.)

Step Five: To edit the parts you want to keep or delete, there is now a “Background Removal” tab that appears on the menu bar. In this case, we have areas we want to mark to keep. When you click on the “Mark Areas to Keep” tab, your mouse will turn into a pencil and you can click parts of the picture you want to keep. My suggestion is that you click around the very edges to do this. If you click outside the area, you can hit CTRL-Z to undo your click and try again, or you can press the “Delete Mark button and remove them that way. If there are areas you want to remove, you can do the same with the “Mark Areas to Remove.” Again, stay around the edges until you get where you have removed (or added) everything you want to keep.

Step Six: Once you’ve got all the areas you want, click the “Keep Changes” button on the menu. This will remove all of the picture that is currently in that purplish hue. If it doesn’t quite look right, you can click CTRL-Z again and add/remove more areas until you get it where you want it.

Step Seven: Crop the image around what is left. I usually do this because PowerPoint will keep the image the same size as the original, and if there is a much smaller area remaining, I want to crop that out. Use the “Crop” tab on the menu and pull the outline around the part you want to keep. Then press “Crop” again to remove the rest of the image.

If this is all you want to do, you can stop here, and right click on the image and “Save as Picture.” However, if you want to have some fun, then follow the next steps.

Step Eight: I like to overlay these images over something outrageous. To do that, I have to make the background of the remaining picture as transparent. This will allow me to place this image on top of another image and make it look like it is a part of the picture. To do this, click on the “Color” button on the menu, and select “Set Transparent Color.”
Click anywhere on the white portion of the background of the remaining picture, and it will become transparent.

Step Nine: I usually find a Google Image or a Flickr Image (make sure it is creative commons or not copyright protected if you’re going to use it outside of your own personal enjoyment, e.g., post it on a Facebook.)

Paste the picture in the same slide as the one you  edited, and right click on the image and click on “Send to Back.” This will put your edited photo in front of the image you now want in the background. Align your picture the way you want it by making it smaller/larger so that it begins to look like it is part of the new background. If you’re like me, it make take a few tries and different backgrounds to get the effect you want.

Step Ten: You can edit the color of each of the individual images, and play around with the corrections, color, and artistic effects buttons on the Format menu. Once you have it where you like it, you’ll want to merge the two images together so you’ll have a single final image. You can do this by selecting both images (CTRL-A works, or you can click on each and use the CTRL button as you click), and then press the “Group” button on the menu, and select “Group” from the drop down. You can then right-click and “Save as Picture” to save your final result.

It takes me about five minutes to do all the editing. It takes longer to find a good background to use than it does to actually do the editing. I find it to be very easy, and a lot of fun. Since many of us don’t have editing tools like Photoshop, this is an inexpensive way to have some fun editing pictures.

It’s November and that means you have probably noticed that shaving habits among some of the men in your life have become somewhat lax.  No, this is not the result of a Gillette strike or a national shaving cream shortage, it’s Movember.

Every November, men across the globe stop shaving their upper lip to raise awareness (and money) for Men’s Health issues.  Movember raises money to fund Research, and projects to raise Awareness & Education , Living With & Beyond Cancer, and Living With & Beyond Mental Illness.  You can see a complete list of the projects they are helping to fund here.

This year, I am participating in my first Movember Campaign.

Me usually

“How can that be?”, you say, “We’ve seen that stupid selfie of you staring wide eyed into your cell phone splattered all over social media for years! (at left) You clearly have a full, manly, attractive beard already.”

Me – Friday, November 1st

Well, last Friday I shaved for the first time in a couple of years. (at right) And let me tell you, shaving sucks. It takes too much time and it hurts. I hate it.  That’s the real reason I wear the beard.  But it’s for a good cause, so I can put up with it for another few weeks.

In the meantime, I’m starting to get a lot of flack from my friends and colleagues who are disappointed with my meager hair growth after one week. Hey, just because I usually have hair all over my face, doesn’t mean that it grows any faster for me than it does for anyone else!  Besides, it’s coming in grayer than I would hope, so it’s a little harder to see. 

Me – Today, November 8th

So if the guy in the next cubicle is starting to look like a 70s motorcycle cop, ask him if he’s participating in Movember. If he is, go ahead make nice donation to his hair growth efforts. If he’s not, sorry. I bet that’s really embarrassing.

You know, I hear donating money to a good cause makes you feel better about yourself.

On Monday afternoon, sometime between 4 and 5 PM, I am giving a short talk about the Internet of Things at the ILTA Conference in Las Vegas (SPEC 5, Roman Ballroom II).  This story bears almost no relation to the talk I’m giving, but as I researched the IoT I was inspired to write a little fiction.  Consider this a Friday afternoon diversion and a break from our regularly scheduled geekiness.  If you are at ILTA next week, please stop me and say hi.

– Ryan

The Granny Bug

Modern japanese toilet2
Image [CC] By Armin Kübelbeck

“Good morning, Davey Wavey! Wakey Wakey!”

I reached toward the side table and felt for the alarm clock. Opening one eye just enough to realize the futility of that action, I rolled over and pulled the covers over my head.

“C’mon sleepy head. It’s 10 after six, you’ve got to get to schoo-ool!”

I hadn’t attended school in over 40 years. I’m the sixty-four year old CEO of Artificial Legal Intelligence – the third largest AI Law Firm in the world.

“Good Morning Grandma!” My wife, Judy, chuckled from the other side of the bed. 

“And a very good morning to you too, little one!”

I had upgraded my SAPBot to version Six the weekend before, and I managed to select the Granny personality. Granny was intended to introduce 4 to 6 year olds to the concept of a SAPBot. 

“I should have been up half an hour ago, Granny? Why didn’t you wake me?”

The bed shook slightly as Judy tried to stifle her laughter.

“Your early meeting was moved to 10:30 AM and traffic seems particularly light today. You looked so comfortable, I just didn’t have the heart to wake you.”

“Haaa ha ha haa!” Judy couldn’t contain herself anymore.

“I’m so glad you find this funny.”

“I do, I really do.” She laughed.

“It’s your fault.”

“Don’t blame me. Blame Ra-quel!”

She lingered on the name to torture me. I crawled out of bed and stumbled down the hall to the bathroom. 

“Don’t you think it’s a little chilly in here, Granny?”

“Yes dear.  I turned the thermostat up five degrees half an hour ago, but there appears to be something wrong with the air service. I’ve scheduled a repair for their earliest available time at 1PM today. Also, it looks like rain, so the solar panels will not be producing much power today. I’ve negotiated a purchase price from the Power Company. They will deduct today’s usage from your credit balance.”

I reached the bathroom, lifted the toilet seat and began to urinate.

“That’s a very good boy”, the SAPBot chirped.

“Uh, Granny, do you think you could wait outside?”

“I’m not actually in the bathroom with you dear, I am a Semi-Autonomous Personal Bot. Do you know what Semi-autonomous means?”

“Yes, I know what it means. Could you just not talk to me while I’m in here?”

“Of course dear.  Little boys need their privacy too.  Switching to bell mode.”

                 Continued after the jump…

“Thank you.  Reminder: That kid next door is coming by tomorrow evening to reinstall your OS.  Make sure he bumps User Knowledge to Advanced.”


The bell meant she understood. The wall behind the toilet displayed my calendar and up popped an entry for Thursday, 7PM Jim Taylor to upgrade SAPBot OS – Set UK Level Advanced.


The toilet had finished analyzing my deposit and as I washed my hands, the mirror displayed its analysis. My general health was good, but blood pressure was slightly elevated and I probably had too much wine with dinner last night. How it knew that from my urine was beyond me. My calendar appeared again and a new doctor’s appointment popped up for a week from Friday.



“You can speak.”

“Yes dear?”

“Did you just schedule a doctor’s appointment for me?”

“Yes dear. You are due for a checkup and it seemed a good time.”

“I don’t need a checkup, please cancel it.  What else did you just do in response to my…deposit?”

“I increased the overall fiber content of the grocery list by 15% and removed the bottle of scotch you ordered yesterday.”

“Ugh…revert changes and stop all future adjustments based on my urine samples.”

“The national health service advises that all little boy’s morning deposits be analyzed to ensure continued good health.”

“We went over this for an hour yesterday, Granny, I am 60 years old not 6! ”

“And such a handsome and strong young man you are.”

“Return to bell mode.”


I got undressed and stepped into the shower. The water started automatically and adjusted to the optimal temperature based on my past preference and an infrared sensor in the shower head.


Four tiles on the wall at eye level displayed my calendar and the doctor’s appointment for a week from Friday returned.

“I thought I asked you to cancel that appointment, Granny?”

The tiles changed to a close up image of a tiny mole on my back.


 “You can speak!”

 “Your mole appears to be 1/64th of a millimeter larger than it was yesterday. I think it would be best to…”

“Cancel the appointment and get out of here again!”


Some people loved their SAPBots, even feeling depressed and lonely when the power was out or they temporarily found themselves somewhere bot-free, but I had never quite gotten the hang of it. I liked to be alone. Don’t get me wrong, bots are useful, but they can also be kind of a nuisance
SAPBots started appearing in the late twenty-teens as a response to what was then strangely called, The Internet of Things, but now is commonly known as StuffNet. There was no official beginning to StuffNet, it evolved almost organically from the Internet. Sometime between 2005 and 2008 the number of things with uniquely identifiable IP addresses surpassed the number of people on the planet and continued to grow exponentially.  Soon, it wasn’t just computers and tablets and phones, but also toasters and refrigerators and potted plants. In the early days, there were multiple protocols and interfaces, and even though all of these things were connected through the network, they had a hard time talking to each other.  And most people couldn’t figure it out and didn’t bother.  It’s not as if turning on the lights, or watering the plants was all that difficult before StuffNet. But the march of technology is unstoppable and visionaries and entrepreneurs kept looking for ways to make StuffNet easier to use.

In 2019, Jony Ive at Apple, developed the first SAPion.  It was part acronym, part Portmanteau of Semi-Autonomous Personal Medallion.  With allusions to Homo Sapiens, of course. The SAPion was your personal servant in the cloud.  It used sophisticated AI, the descendent of the Siri functionality in early iPhones, to manage all of your personal information, as well as control all of your stuff on StuffNet.  The SAPion had access to libraries and APIs that allowed it to administrate all of the Stuff that was associated with an individual.

At first SAPions were little medallions that hung around your neck. They had a little speaker and microphone and responded to voice commands.  Early models could do most things that a smartphone could do without needing a touchscreen and they very quickly replaced the smartphone as most people’s primary connection to the internet.. This gave rise to a whole new field of Verbal User Interface design. A technology that I eventually used to build my personal fortune.  It turns out that most people prefer to talk to one of my AI lawyers than to the real thing.  They say they’re friendlier, and ironically, more human.  As the technology evolved, the medallions became unnecessary and the SAPions became SAPBots that were loosed onto the internet.  They no longer stayed on your person in a physical form, they lived in the cloud. Their program lived on a server somewhere in Utah, but through the internet, they could access the entire world.  They knew where you were and they “appeared” to you through your home or work network.  Most buildings were outfitted with little speakers in the corner of each room, through which you could interact with your bot.  When you left your house, or you were in a public place, your bot traveled with you in a little hearing-aid type device, called a SAP-Link or Sapple for short. Most walls were coated with an electronic circuit paint that allowed bots to display information to their owners. The display was oriented to be visible only in the owners direct line of site, which made it difficult, though not impossible, to spy on your neighbor’s personal business.  After years of people talking into Bluetooth headsets, no one was much bothered by people walking around interacting with invisible entities and staring into blank walls.

The temperature of the water adjusted down a few degrees and I was reminded that, although she wasn’t speaking to me, Granny was still there monitoring my progress.  I had been using the Jeeves personality for many years, but frankly the English gentleman’s gentleman thing had lost its appeal.  So after I upgraded my bot last week, I tried out a number of new personalities, finally settling on Raquel, a funny, 20-something, spry personality, with a smoky voice, and an almost imperceptible lisp.  The next day, I got up and was taking a shower, just like this when my wife entered and heard me reviewing my schedule for the day…with Raquel.  In the ensuing… discussion, I switched my bot to the Granny personality.

“There! Is that better? Is that what you want?”

“Yes, that’s perfect.”

“Well, I can’t believe you are jealous of a SAPBot!”

“I’m not jealous, I just don’t understand why you need to shower with a SAPBot young enough to be your granddaughter.”

“It’s not worth having this argument, I’ll change it back to Jeeves. I just thought I’d try something different.”

It turns out there is a bug in the latest version of the SAPBot software. Millions of people around the world are stuck with Granny bots at the moment.  Not to fear though, Apple swears the patch will be released in a few days.

I slid the shower door open and the water shut off automatically.  The Dyson full body air jets fired up and after about 30 seconds of standing naked in a hurricane force wind, I was completely dry. I got dressed and walked downstairs.

Judy was sitting at the table with a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal staring at a blank wall in front of her.  I walked over and kissed her on the ear, not so much out of affection, but to catch a glimpse of what she was watching.

“News?” I asked.


“Mind sharing?”

“Nope.  Alonzo, share the news.”

The wall in front of Judy lit up to reveal a newscaster talking about the stock market.

“Alonzo?”, I asked.

“Yezz, Mizter Simon?”

Judy’s SAPBot had been Sarah since SAPion version 2. She was toying with me and had changed to a deep male voice with a ridiculously unidentifiable European accent.

“Ken I hep yew?”

Judy just smiled and raised her coffee mug in a toast.

“When you go back to Ra-quel, could you at least transfer the coffee program to her.  Granny makes a nice cup of Joe.”


I had forgotten she was in bell mode, “Go ahead and speak Granny.”

“I have stored my recipe in the coffee maker.  Would you like me to set it as a default?”

“That would be very kind, Granny.” Judy said mocking me. “It’s so nice to have you around.”

“Why thank you little one. I so enjoy being here. Davey, you have a call from Tim Haverford. Would you like me to send it to your Sapple?”

“No, Granny, I’ll take it in the kitchen.”

Tim was my Chief Digital Officer.  It was his job to ensure that ALI was up and running 24/7.  As I walked into the kitchen the lights came on and a painting on the far wall dissolved into the pixelated outline of a man.

“Dave?  You there?  I’m having trouble seein’ ya.”

“Yeah me too.  Granny?  Can you do anything about the picture?”

“I’m sorry dear, but there appears to be interference on the network.”

“Oh, you’ve got the Granny Bug too?”, Tim said.

“Yeah. Any of our bots got it?”

“That’s what I’m calling about Dave, they all have it.”

“All!  How is that possible?”

“You ‘member that problem we had cupple yers go with the Version 5 upgrade, where our bots became arrogant and rude after a week or so using our attorney profiles?”

“Yeah, I thought we fixed that.”

“Well, we didn’t so much fix it as effectively work around it.”

“And how did we do that, again?”

“Every three days, we cycle through all of the default personalities before restoring our own.”

“So, I’ve got nine hundred Granny bots, practicing law, treating clients like six year old children.”

“That would be the case.”

“Ugh…I guess I should get customer service on the line.”

“Well, Dave, here’s the thing. I called them this morning let them know I was going to be reinstalling all of the attorneys and that they should let clients know that we would be back to normal in a few days.”  He paused.

“And…?” I liked Tim a lot, but the good ol’ boy routine sometimes kept him from getting to the point.

“Well, it seems that just in the few hours since we went all Granny, our positive reviews have gone up about 60 percent.”


“Yep. ‘Parently, a number of large clients have even requested that Granny be their default attorney.”

As he finished his sentence, the crisp image of Tim finally appeared on the wall and Granny spoke up.

“I found the problem Davey and rerouted the transmission. You should be good now.”

“We’re just finishing up, thanks Granny.  Tim, have your Granny talk with my Granny and find a time we can meet to discuss GrannyLaw as a concept.”

“You are both available today at 3PM.” Granny added helpfully.

“That’s fine with me.” Tim said.

My calendar popped up overlaid on Tim’s face and Granny entered an appointment called “Discuss GrannyLaw”.

“I’ll be in soon Tim. I’m calling a car now.”

“See ya, Boss.”

Tim’s image winked out and was replaced by the painting that had been there before.  I could hear the water running in the bathroom and I knew Judy was in the shower now.  A devious thought crossed my mind.

“Granny, can you drop the temperature in the shower to 35 degrees Fahrenheit, for 2 seconds before returning to normal?”

“Davey, that’s a mean prank to play on your wife. I’m afraid I couldn’t do it even if I wanted to. Health and Safety protocols…”

“Never mind.  Do you have any access to Judy’s SAPBot, Alonzo?”

“I don’t know what you’re planning, Davey, but no. I do not.”

“Could you get control over Alonzo? Theoretically, I mean.”

“If you were to upgrade your account to Household SuperUser status, then theoretically, I could gain limited control over Alonzo. Including Parental Controls…”

“Perfect, what’s a SuperUser account cost?”

“One thousand, four hundred and ninety-nine dollars on the App store.”

“And how much do I have in my account?”

“Two hundred forty four dollars and four cents.”

“OK. First, order a Google car to take me to work.  Have it drive through McDonald’s on the way and pick up an Egg McMuffin, a hashbrown, and a coffee.”

“Davey, I should advise you that…”

“No, don’t advise me anything. Go to bell mode.


“Now, transfer two thousand dollars from the joint checking account to my iTunes account and purchase the SuperUser Upgrade.”


“Gain parental controls over all SAPBots assigned to this household.”


“Change Alonzo’s personality to Raquel.”

There was a pause.


“And lock that bot with my private password.”


The handle of the umbrella in the stand by the door was glowing, which meant it was likely to rain later in the day.  So, I grabbed my jacket, my briefcase, the glowing umbrella and walked toward the bathroom.

“Is the car here, yet, Granny?”


I opened the bathroom door and stuck my head in.

“I’m leaving, see you later dear.”

“OK, have a good day.” she yelled back over the falling water.

I paused for a second and then said, “Goodbye Raquel.”

That familiar lilting lisp responded, “Goodbye, Mr. Simon.”

I shut the door and ran as fast as I could, but before I could reach the front door, I heard the water shut off, the Dyson fans kick in, and my wife’s voice echoing above the racket.


Ed Walters and I had a little fun on Twitter this morning when Ed tweeted this week’s answer key. Being the rather smart-alecky person I am, I filled in the “questions” just for fun. Kind of like the old Johnny Carson routine of Carnac the Magnificent.

So, I thought we’d have a little fun and post an answer key of our own. We’ll let you pick one or more and give us the corresponding question.

Answer Key:

A1:    2% this year.

A2:    4th Quarter of 2015.

A3:    The New Westlaw

A4:    Microsoft Office, Flash, and Google+

A5:    Apocalyptic Coding

A6:    Stockholm School of Law

A7:    Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Sears, and Target

A8:    Scheduled to premier at SXSW in 2013

A9:    Social Media Guru

A10:  3 Geeks and a Law Blog

Put on your thinking caps… turn up your sarcasm… and give us some questions to go with these answers!

Many of you have probably played Boardroom Bingo, Buzz-word Bingo, or maybe even Consultant-Speak Bingo… I thought I’d get your Friday started right with a friendly game of Twitter Bingo.

Take a look at the Bingo card below, and whip out your handy-dandy bingo marker (a dark highlighter will work, too) and mark off each box throughout the day when you see a tweet that matches the information in the box.

Shout out “BINGO!!” in the comments when you get 5-across, down or diagonal. Once that runs, we can play “postage stamp” or “four-corners.” I’m pretty sure that by the end of the day (maybe even before Noon) we’ll have someone with a completely blacked-out card!!

[Click on the Image to Print]


We three Geeks, with the help of Librarian Extraordinaire Jan Rivers, conducted a brain analysis on ourselves.
How, you may wonder, do three seemingly normal, non-medically trained legalists do self-brain analysis?
With a little help from technology, of course!
Jan pointed us to a little online test at the Art Institute of Vancouver that runs a Right Brain versus Left Brain Creativity Test.
You would think that we three Geeks would be logical, linear and, well, geeky? Ah, contraire, my dear readers!
And the results are:
@gnawledge: 45% Left-Brained and 55% Right-Brained
@glambert: 41% Left-Brained and 59% Right-Brained
@lihsa: 46% Left-Brained and 54% Right-Brained
Perhaps that explains Toby’s stellar stage presence, Greg’s rocker ambitions and my penchant for poetry? Perhaps the better name for us would be the 3 Gleeks?
Or to put it another way, what do you get when you hook up three square geeks?
Why Geeks Cubed, of course–Geeks to the Third Power rule this house!