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Speaking French… in Russian

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 2, 2009 in The 1L Life

Glad to be back out on the deck enjoying this amazing North Carolina weather :) Those of you who are reading this from colder climates really are missing out:  it’s currently 78º F with low humidity and a slight breeze.  It doesn’t get much better than this (except when it goes back to the upper-80s this weekend, when it’s time to hit the pool) :D

I had a feeling from the traffic stats that this blog was getting passed around among my fellow Legal Eagles at the NC Central University School of Law — for both of the past two weeks there’s been an otherwise unexplainable spike in Wednesday traffic, which I realized today is probably due to the break in between CivPro and Property.  Also got confirmation from one of my classmates in Legal Reasoning & Analysis that it was getting “passed around.”

That’s not a bad thing of course — I’ll say anything I write here just as quickly in any other public forum — but someone asked me earlier today why I didn’t bother blurring out my name on the pic of my campaign poster I included yesterday.  Basically I know I’m not going to be able to stay anonymous anyway so there’s no real point in trying.  At some point I’ll add more info to the About section of this blog, but for now for the sake of the search engines I’ll throw out that (i) I am T. Greg Doucette, (ii) a native of Virginia Beach, (iii) graduate of N.C. State University, and (iv) aspiring lawyer extraordinaire :)

And someone downstairs just started cooking on a charcoal grill, so let me get to the point of this post before my stomach starts to demand food…

I mentioned in my reflections a couple weeks ago that my Legal Reasoning & Analysis lab section was my love/hate class:  the teacher’s nice and my classmates are all chill people who I probably wouldn’t mind having a drink with or joining at an NC State football game, but the course material itself clashes with my inner-Computer Science nerd.  On top of that (i) I’m just not very good at it relative to my peers, and (ii) there is usually dead silence when the Professor asks for volunteers so I’ve offered myself up as a sacrificial lamb twice now (I may not like being publicly exposed as wrong on homework, but I hate awkward silences).

Someone wanted me to explain how CSC and LRA clash, so that’s what today’s post is all about.  You’ve probably seen this Dos Equis commercial about the Most Interesting Man in the World.  One of the jokes of the script is that “[h]e can speak French… in Russian” — meant to be humorous, but from a CSC perspective actually makes sense; basically imagine a user typing English into a Java program and the bytecode in turn gets compiled into C to run on the host machine, and they’d be speaking C… in Java.  The concept applies to interfaces in general.

LRA is the same type of translation process in my mind.  After spending the past 4 years debugging code, checking Boolean algebra and conditional logic is almost habit.  Coincidentally, Boolean algebra and conditional logic are essentially the core of all of the law we’ve learned so far in the first 2.5 weeks.  So spotting rules and analyzing fact patterns should be pretty easy right?

Not so much.  Mentally flipping from plain English to read the rule, over to CSC to dissect the rule, then to LRA “English” to write the rule out, and back to plain English to understand it seems to lose a bit in translation.  Imagine a lawyer with a Heisenbug.  That’s me.

Consider the following from our first homework assignment; bear in mind these aren’t actual statutes, but just test language to see if we can properly dissect things.

Here’s how it’s written out:

“A person is liable for battery when she intentionally causes a harmful or offensive contact with the person of another, or to anything so closely connected with the other’s body as to be regarded a part of it.”

And this is how Professor LRA wants the rule broken down:

Rule:  a person is liable for battery when she

  1. intentionally causes a
    1. harmful OR
    2. offensive
  2. contact
    1. with the person of another OR
    2. to anything so closely connected with the other’s body as to be regarded a part of it

If I were trying to write this as a computer algorithm, here’s typically how I’d do it (I apologize in advance if any of this pseudo-code wraps or isn’t properly nested, I’m accustomed to a fixed-width terminal):

public boolean isLiable() {
     if (isIntentional() && (contact.equals(harmful) || contact.equals(offensive)) && (target.equals(Person) || target.equals(Person.connectedItem)) {
          return true;
     }
}

The CSC version just seems simpler and easier to understand… but instead I get to bang my head against my computer screen until my brain oozes out.

At least it’s amusing for those around me to watch :)

That’s my rant for the day. Heading out to the American Tobacco Trail to go jogging with a friend, trying to get my rotund former-CSC self into shape. Have a great evening everybody! :D

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