Friday, January 19, 2007

This Week in Miscellany V

This Week's Anthems: The Dresden Dolls' "Delilah", "Coin-operated Boy" and "Good Day"

Miscellaneous Miscellany:


"You can't overestimate the value of low standards." -- Scott Adams

"We've 'tried everything,' by which we mean we've tried a few things that everybody else has done as long as they didn't involve doing anything differently from what we normally do." -- Scott (via Seth Godin)


Flight attendant: ... We don't expect a change in cabin pressure, but if it does occur, a designer oxygen mask will be released in front of you. Secure the mask on yourself first, then, if you are traveling with children, put a mask on the child with the most potential, then put a mask on the other one...

Mother passenger: [Gasps, horrified.]

Flight attendant: ... This is a non-smoking flight, but if you do decide to smoke, we will have you reseated on the wing of the plane where you can watch our feature presentation of Bye Bye Birdie or Gone with the Wind...
Designer: You shot the Rubik's Cube contest?

Photographer: Yeah. It was like watching fat, naked men greased up in butter sumo wrestling. You don't want to watch, but you can't look away.

Designer: ... You know, most people use the metaphor, 'It was like watching a train wreck,' but you took it to a really dark place.

Old Miscellany:

This Week in Miscelleny I
This Week in Miscellany II
This Week in Miscellany III
This Week in Miscellany IV

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"It burns! It burns!!!" or "How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Burning Crusade"

Yesterday, The Burning Crusade (TBC), an expansion pack for World of Warcraft (WoW), was released. As it happened, I left work early to meet up with a repairman at home (for our garbage disposal) so I had time to install and play TBC.

Unlike many others, I had no problems with the install. No CD issues. No patching issues (I had a 159 MB patch already downloaded so all I needed to do was download the 2.5 MB one that followed... which took about 10-15 min. with the Blizzard Downloader.) Also, since I was doing all this in early afternoon, I was even able to sign on and poke around the new zones. (*GASP!*) I include this last bit because later on, my server was down for a long time (at least from 8-9 PM).

TBC comes with two new races (one each for Horde and Alliance), new crafting recipes and new zones (6-7) and dungeons (all oriented for levels 60-70, though). This means that the new content, at first, is primarily going to be about leveling. Figuring things would be overcrowded on the first day/night (if not for the first month+), I decided to ride around the new zones exploring and getting flight paths. I rode around/through 4 of the new zones.

The first thing I noticed was that the new zones are gorgeous. It's clear that Blizzard had a lot of fun with them. They look very different and just generally cool. One is rocky (reminiscent of The Blasted Lands), one is laden with weird plant growths and critters, one is grassy with huge gorges and ravines and the fourth is very dark and chaotic. There are 2-3 other zones I didn't hit, primarily because they would be near-instant death for me at this level (60). Even so, one of the ones I did hit had some level 67-68 monsters kill me once.

One interesting observation is that I need tons more gold. It cost 10g each to raise my cap for two professions (Tailoring and Enchanting). I didn't even bother buying recipes as I couldn't rightly afford them. I did get the First Aid books but that cost another 5-8g. I'm really strapped for coin and I need a lot of it. Chances are I'll make some good coin once I start leveling, grinding, questing and finding things.

My initial impression is that the expansion looks like fun. There's a lot to explore, do, see and learn. For me, since I have two level 60's and a burgeoning 33 Warrior, I have some options. I can level one or both 60's to 70, work on their tradeskills, go for instances, work on my Warrior or take on new tradeskills with my Warrior. Considering I'm broke, I can probably only afford (right now) to work on leveling one of my 60's. Unfortunately, my Warlock is the only one with a fast mount and her gear is rather good (meaning it will be quite a few levels before she gets many upgrades). I'd probably rather work on my Paladin but he could really use a mount and that's not happening any time soon.

So I'll probably work on my Warlock if/when I can. Maybe work on my Warrior when the new zones are so crowded you can't throw a stone without hitting 10 other people. Really, the key is to be patient and relaxed. If it's too busy right now, back off and wait a bit. Of course, I don't want to wait so we'll have to see what happens. Initially I was thinking of ignoring the new zones for a month and working on my Warrior but now, I don't know. They look like fun!

ADDENDUM: At 9:30 PM last night, when it became apparent that I would not be getting on one of my preexisting characters on Argent Dawn, I opted to make a Blood Elf Paladin on the recommended RP server (Moon-something). Needless to say, the BElf youngling area was positively thriving with freshly-made BElves.

A few quick comments on that. One, just as NElfs (Night Elves) have a fun spin animation (head-over-heels) that randomly "procs" on a jump, BElfs have this funky whirlwind-spin animation that, similarly, randomly procs on a jump. Two, the Mana Tap racial ability gives Paladins (well, all BElfs, to be fair) a once-every-30-sec. ranged pulling option for enemies that have a mana bar. Three, I must be masochistic to make another Paladin.

Not that I actually intend to level up a BElf Pally to 60. Well, not yet at least. I am sorely tempted, however, because I haven't played the Horde side yet and BElfs, especially female ones, look very cool. I think a female BElf Pally could be fun, maybe one on a fresh, relatively low-population server. Maybe I am very masochistic. (3:13 PM)

This Week in Miscellany IV

This Last Week's Album: Evanescence's The Open Door

Yeah, this post is about five days late. Too bad.

Miscellaneous Miscellany:

Patent Learning Resources:


"What the Hell? That guy just chucked a scone at my head."
"Yeah, you don't want to insult baristas. They're like urban ninjas." -- PvPonline (1/08/07)

"Nobody knows shit. We're pinning ethereal tails on ephemeral donkeys." -- Tycho (PennyArcade 1/08/07)

"If the industrial revolution has taught me anything, it's that we're all replaceable." -- Diesel Sweeties (1/09/07) (Yes, I am purposefully omitting the follow up lines: "Except for you and me. We're special!")

"Did you bring your own massage table or should I just get naked and sprawl on a desk?" -- Dilbert (1/11/07)

So many quotes from Say Anything should be added to my quotes page...

No quoting this week. Not going to take the time.

One, Two, Three, Four and Five.

Old Miscellany:

This Week in Miscelleny I
This Week in Miscellany II
This Week in Miscellany III

Monday, January 15, 2007

I'm so _____ it hurts!

Initially I was going to start off with something like "man, I've been emo of late" or "I'm feeling real emo these days" but then I tried to figure out what "emo" actually means (I like to understand what I write... sometimes) and I was waylaid by the internets and a traveling pack of whiney, self-obsessed, neurotic boys. They dragged me to their underground, candle-lit lair (which, apparently, also doubles as a sewer). Anyway, once we arrived, they debated whether to sacrifice me to their dark lord or read me their poetry. (For the record, I lobbied for the sacrifice.) While they were distracted by their cleric's monologue on self-perpetuating stereotypes, I managed to chew through my bindings and sneak away. I found a manhole that led me back to aboveground. A shower and some fresh clothes later, the stench was all but a memory.

Yeah, good luck deciphering that one.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Ah-hah Moment

I'll be toiling along on a work-related something, attempting to process whatever the Hell it is the inventors thought was so damn fascinating and exciting that it deserved to be patented. Pouring over the various documents, searching the internet, rifling through references, I work on figuring out what the inventors are trying to say to me. Then, without warning...


It strikes! The Ah-hah Moment hits me like a magical pile of bricks falling from the heavens. (And sometimes it feels like that, too!) All of a sudden, and often based on no particular phrase or sentence, everything becomes clear. It is as if I finally cleaned my glasses or that ugly, pea-soup-thick fog has finally lifted and now I can see everything clearly.

Internally, I nod my head and think: "So that's what this is all about!" Then I smile to myself and continue reading, only now with an eye to what I should say about the invention to the Examiner.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I was

12 years ago, I was still heady from our marching band's unexpected win at championships.

11 years ago, I was contemplating colleges and the numerous visitations that would subsequently follow.

10 years ago, I was finishing high school, involved in a myriad of activities including jazz band, yearbook and the bicentennial team.

9 years ago, I was fondly recalling and anticipating the fantastic party atmosphere that, unknowingly, manages to evaporate between semesters.

8 years ago, I was hoping against hope that our plan had worked and the fraternity would have over twenty pledges for the following semester. (We had six.)

7 years ago, I was leaving on a jet plane for London to begin my six months of study abroad.

6 years ago, I was building a fire-fighting robot to compete in a competition and use as my Senior thesis/writing requirement.

5 years ago, I was attempting to remain sane while living at home and working.

4 years ago, I was dreading the upcoming resumption of law school Hell although I was also looking forward to seeing my friends again.

3 years ago, I was looking forward to seeing my friends again (I no longer feared law school).

2 years ago, I was wondering if I would get an offer from my part-time employer. (I did not.)

1 year ago, I was trying to learn what a patent agent does and improve on what I had already learned.

Currently, I am... (unsuccessfully) trying to focus.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Random Thoughts For Random Times

My best friend from college (my roommate for 2.5 years) is getting married. Congratulations!!! Although we've only met up a few times since college, he is definitely a good friend and someone on this planet who knows me better than most others. I will definitely have to visit him and his fiancée sometime in the next few months.

I have been very recalcitrant of late. What does that mean? Other than being perfectly descriptive, I have no clue either.

In an e-mail to a random stranger, I described a brief incident from the annals of my high school days. I'm not entirely sure why I chose to relate it. Sometimes I am apt to share rather personal things with complete strangers. Maybe such revelations serve as an interesting semi-summary of me whereas my close friends need no such telling incidents – they know who I am (sort of). Then again, much of this blog comprises sharing rather personal things with complete strangers, so there you go!

I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob.

Recently I've been working on my Favorite Artists page/links. It is growing beyond the 5 initial entries. Check it out if so inclined.

I am contemplating investigating purchasing comic book-related art. The only problem would be the concomitant increase in my dispensable income (i.e., the cost).

I want some chocolate.

Why is it that the majority of the profiles I read on eHarmony contain a few grammatical and/or spelling errors? Do people not proofread? Do people not care? Are the people I'm being matched with ones who are wont to not proofread or not care? Seriously, I have opted to not initiate contact with a few women because their profile has too many grammar/spelling errors in it (and that's while trying very hard to ignore the non-capitalization of "I").

A coworker and I (capitalized, hah!) were discussing the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame over lunch. At the end, I noted how we had approached it as patent attorneys/scientists – considering criteria, devising tests, examining example groups/performers against the criteria to see how it works, etc. One of his responses was that we were devising A Method for Induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Rather disheartening.

If I can correctly spell "disheartening" whereas some eHarmony people have trouble spelling "have," am I in trouble?

Ooh! I have had a chocolate truffle left over...

This could be why I've been quasi-addicted to chocolate milk in the past.

Mmmm... chocolate milk...

I <3 tangential tangents.

I have stacks of work to do. Stacks. It seems like work comes in waves. A period of catching up followed by a period of many deadlines. I've been stuck in the "many deadlines" one since the beginning of December. It won't go away until I catch up on the things put off then and now approaching overdue (i.e., maybe in February or March).

I wonder if they make a plush Bucky Katt (from Get Fuzzy, of course).

By the by, I have a Get Fuzzy daily calendar. My coworker friend has a daily Dilbert one. Thus, we can share between us and duly deprive the manufacturer, publisher, creator et al. from additional royalties. This must be a theft of some kind, or so, I am sure, the RIAA would likely have me believe. If it is of further consolation, I bought mine at half price. (Zing!)

And poof! There went the post!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Briefly of T-Shirts

I received my two dieselsweeties t-shirts in the mail today. (Man is he prompt with orders!) I got bacon is a vegetable and nothing says emo like emoticon. I know it was a gamble but I was anticipating that I'd get some of the canceled shirts like robot jesus (i.e., the one that does NOT resemble R2-D2) or such. Instead I got regular DS shirts. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking it - they cost me less than normal and it was a grab bag so I really had no guarantee that I'd get specific shirts, but these weren't the sort of shirts the offer had mentioned. I don't know, maybe he ran out of those and filled in the remaining orders with "regular" DS shirts.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Dresden Dolls In Repose

Yesterday, The Actuary, his girlfriend (henceforth referred to as "Gamer Girl" or GG for short), a longtime friend of GG's (Longtime Friend) and myself went to Cambridge, MA to see The Dresden Dolls perform.

The Lead Up: I had heard of The Dresden Dolls, and listened to 30-second clips of their songs, before learning of this "concert." I decided that I would go, on my own or with others, just because I had the sense that it might be "something interesting." In preparation for the event, I purchased and listened to The Dresden Dolls' two albums. I also got The Actuary and Gamer Girl (her Longtime Friend subsequently asked to join us if possible) to come with me to this unknown.

This was not a concert. It was a performance art piece. Oh they played 6-8 of their songs, but it was primarily acting (i.e., vignettes) interspersed between the musical tracks. A story or two or three or four was told in this process. A girl estranged from her father died in a drunk driving crash (when she was growing up, she collected tears). Onion Boy and Mute Girl met and fell in love (palm-licking ensued). A bartender revealed his attraction to a bear suit-wearing coworker. The wife in an out-of-town couple revealed that she could not have children. A man tied-up in tape was trapped and seeking assistance by dialing with his head (he also once spoke with a mute, drum-playing penguin). A man revealed his days as a child when his opera-loving father would yell at him for crying.

There were a number of themes to the performance. Tragedy. Sadness. Loneliness. Love. Secrets. Stories. Crying.

At one time, they passed out pieces of paper for the audience members to write on. Each paper contained a question. Mine: "When was the last time you cried? Answer now." My answer: "About 6 years ago, shortly after my dad died." Apparently they take all the papers (they have different questions printed on them) and put them on the wall in the hallway of the building. Very Post Secret.

Inarguably, the performance was designed to provoke a reaction in the audience. A very personal, heartfelt reaction. It succeeded immensely. Every one of us walked away with something - some thought, some reaction, some reflection, something.

Me? For me it was an artistic work that reminded me of tragedy, sadness and secrets. It had me thinking about my dad. Thinking when I last truly cried and why. Reflecting on my loneliness and my "search" to abate said loneliness. It had me contemplating my growing up, my youth. Lots of internal conversations and reactions.

For their part, The Dresden Dolls were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic! Love their music or hate it, you have to admit that the two of them are incredibly talented. Amanda can sing. She is fantastic. Her voice, the songs, the lyrics. Brian can drum and play the guitar. The two of them are so impassioned that it comes through their music ever so clearly. They are amazing. Musicians through and through but more - artists. And they love their art. Very passionate. It makes listening to their CDs now rather hard since I've seen them live and the flat recordings almost don't do them justice. To see her pounding on the keyboard. To see him pounding on the drums. The two of them feed off each other. They catch cues from each other. Funny, passionate, wonderful. It works. It works so well. Just amazing to behold.

If you have the opportunity, whether for this series of performances at The Onion Cellar or another time, GO SEE THE DRESDEN DOLLS. They are that good, that talented, that worth it. So worth it. So good. Amazing.

Yesterday's Adventure

Yesterday, The Actuary, his girlfriend (henceforth referred to as "Gamer Girl" or GG for short), a longtime friend of GG's (Longtime Friend) and myself went to Cambridge, MA to see The Dresden Dolls perform. The review/reaction to the performance is forthcoming in the post immediately following this one. (I.e., This is post no. 1 of 2 in a short series.)

The trip was minorly long. An hour drive from me to Actuary/GG (they cohabitate). A 1.5-2.0 hour drive from there to Cambridge. T'was a pleasant enough drive, and relatively fast at that.

It was very nice to hang out with The Actuary again. He and I are pretty good friends. He and I drove down to Georgia one summer about 2-3 (?) years ago when I visited The Lawless One there (he was interning in the Public Defender's Office, or was it the prosecutor-side?). The Actuary was also my "date" for Captain Kate's wedding. (A fellow, female law school friend brought another law school friend, female, for her "date" so I figured I could bring The Actuary as mine and Captain Kate was cool all around.)

In fact, The Actuary and I first met because he was a neighbor to other law school friends of mine. He and they have since fallen out though he and I remain good friends. The Actuary tends to be cool and laid back. We have similar tastes in movies and gaming. All around a generally cool person to know and hang with.

In true wonderment (and I know she reads this blog and write this in full view of that), his girlfriend, Gamer Girl, is fantastic. She is his equal in "coolness" and interests. A gamer, a movie-watcher, a generally nice person who is easy to get along with and such. All around, a very cool person. I said as much to The Actuary and congratulated him, both of them really, on such a wonderful match. The two of them appear to get along very well and he, both of them really, are fantastically lucky to have met one another and so on. I truly hope it works out for them.

I have to briefly contrast this with me meeting The Photographer and her new fiancée a month or two ago. That meeting was not 1/10th as easy, friendly or fun as this one. Granted, the relationship (i.e., non-happening) between The Photographer and myself may have had some small role there, but I got along very well with Gamer Girl and The Actuary. It was like night and day.

The Longtime Friend was an interesting person to meet. She's a little bit odd and perhaps a bit off. Someone I sort of wish was single so that I might have a shot at going out with her. Not to say it would work, but that it would have been interesting to see. I also do appreciate that there may have been lesser-desirable attributes to Longtime Friend that were not readily apparent. I also appreciate that my religion itself could have been a stumbling block. *shrug*

I *shrug* quite a bit these days. Hrmm. I don't "hrmm" as much as I *shrug*. *shrug* and hrmm? ...

All-in-all, a fantastic trip. It was a lot of fun and I had a great time. I suspect we all did. Fun trips like that are a rare commodity for me these days. I relish them when they turn out as well as this one did. It's one of those things I will remember for a long time to come.

ADDENDUM: A few more things about The Longtime Friend. (1) I thought she was very pretty. Not traditionally gorgeous, perhaps, but rather attractive. (2) She's ambitious. (3) Although she's in grad school, it seemed to me like she still has a college mentality, i.e., towards living and fun activities (e.g., bars, friends, etc.). It might not have worked out based on that alone.

I left college-like activities and mentality in the past. I hung onto it a little during my first year of law school but by the second and third years that was all but gone from my life. I'm uncertain whether I could go out with someone who latches on to that kind of a social life. I'm generally not into the bar scene, though I suppose I would be more into it if it were more readily available to me (e.g., more friends close to me to meet up with, etc.). Food for thought. [2:44 PM]

A Random E-mail From a Random Stranger

I received a random e-mail from a random stranger who happened to find my blog. Here is the e-mail reply I sent, in its entirety, unedited (except for removing the person's name):
Hello [E-mailer]!

I think I've gotten maybe 1 or 2 other random e-mails from strangers due to my blog. It's a rare occurrence but one I relish. Thank you for your e-mail. In some small way, and admittedly it's a little sad and a little narcissistic (but aren't all blogs to some degree?), I feel like such e-mails more-or-less validate my blog and what I try to do with it. That is, they are the proof that my writing inspired a reaction, some reaction, any reaction in another random perosn.

A little deep, but it goes with the "thank you" so too bad.

I would say don't feel as though you must finish American Gods. Neil Gaiman happens to be one author whose writing I have thoroughly enjoyed, over and over again in a variety of media, settings and context. If it doesn't do it for you, *shrug*. And honestly, I didn't find American Gods to be funny per se, just a well-written story involving mythology, journey and self-discovery that struck a chord with me.

Thus far, I have had zero luck with eHarmony. The women I was in contact with haven't responded. Others don't respond. I'm not sure whether they don't sign in or whether they don't wish to communicate further with me. I'm also dubious that paying for 6 months was a good move. (If you do decide to try any online dating service, I recommend signing up for only 3 months the first time. It's the best time-value-cost option, in my opinion.)

I'm a little creeped by the online dating but I feel as though my options are severely limited. So I play the hand I have chosen to play and I do what I can. It's pretty much how I stumble through the years though I can't say as to whether or not it is successful. (But then how do you measure success anyways? Etc.)

Nonsequitor - Actually, for Neil Gaiman I recommend his Sandman graphic novels. Preludes & Nocturnes is the first one. If you're okay with the comic book aspect, they are amazing. Bar none, some of the best writing and stories I have ever had the privilege to read. American Gods is great, but Sandman is incredible.

Yesterday, I spoke with a good friend (The Actuary) about my blog and it not being private. His comment was that "weird is okay." Employers and such don't care about weird. They care about if you can do the job and do it well. As long as I don't blog on company time (which for me means not billing for blogging, easy to do), it's irrelevant to a large degree. I found that to be a compelling argument.

And so "a pretty long email from a stranger who is not in the habit of emailing strangers but don't know why she did this time" is thus returned by "a pretty long e-mail from a stranger who is not in the habit of e-mailing strangers but enjoys it when he does."


-- Alan

Friday, January 05, 2007

This Week in Miscellany III

This Week's Anthems: Rammstein's "Sonne" und "Ich Will"

Miscellaneous Miscellany:


"You win this round, my evil queen." -- An Overheard Title

"Sie ist der hellste stern von allen" (It is the brightest star of all). -- Rammstein, "Sonne"

"We're going to save and/or destroy the world!" -- Flintlock flavor text


Overheard 1:
Receptionist: So we're going to need to reschedule his appointment, then?

Nurse: No, Mary*, this patient has passed away.

Receptionist: Okay, so then I'll call him in the morning?

Nurse: You don't understand. He's dead.

Receptionist: Well, Dr. Smith* has a slot open for Monday...

Nurse: He's dead.

Overheard 2:
Coworker: My sister got bit once, and she needed to get a tetanus shot.

Receptionist: What kind of dog was it?

Coworker: No, it was a girl at Taco Bell.

Overheard 3:
Associate: Do you think you could survive if we dropped you in the middle of the rainforest?

Temp: No way -- I would die for sure.

Associate: What about if we dropped you in a Wal-Mart?

Overheard 4:
Coworker #1: You know what we should do? Pool our money together and buy a cat.

Coworker #2: Would anybody feed it? 'Cause I don't want no dead cat runnin' around here.

Overheard 5:
VP yelling into phone: If I have the whale, then I'm king! Everyone has to follow me!

Overheard 6:
Cashier: Hi! How are you doing?

Customer, sighing: I'm 83 years old, my kids don't visit me and when they do their kids annoy the f*** out of me, I haven't had sex in 20 years, and you're out of my favorite ice cream.

Cashier: Look, lady, I didn't really care -- next time just freaking smile and say, 'I'm fine, how are you?' Now... Have a good day.

Customer: Thank you. See you tomorrow.

Overheard 7:
Managing editor on speakerphone: Do you know how to adjust columns in Excel?

Assistant: No...

Managing editor: What do you know?

Assistant: Um... I know that when a man and a woman get together, they--

Managing editor: --Come to my office.

Overheard 8:
Administrator: How was your Christmas?

Boss: Great. Now all I want is to get some sleep and find my underwear.

Overheard 9:
Staffer #1: Hey, Gary*, do you have a spoon?

Staffer #2: What kind of spoon?

Staffer #1: Um, one to eat liquids with... What other kinds of spoons are there?

Staffer #2: Well, jeez -- there's fishing spoons, crack spoons, and cuddling positions.

Staffer #1: You're the only person I know who would ever think of those kinds of spoons over a soup spoon.

Old Miscellany:

This Week in Miscelleny I
This Week in Miscellany II

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Patent Bar in Repose

I did a quick search of this blog to see what I've already written about the patent bar. Apparently, the answer is 'nothing substantive.' And so I shall endeavor to correct said oversight.

What is it?

The Patent Bar (and it truly does deserve the capitalization) is the 3.5th circle of Hell (reference). It falls squarely between the gluttons (3rd circle) and the avaricious/miserly/prodigal (4th circle). Unfortunately, all those who desire to practice patent law in the U.S. (with respect to drafting and prosecuting patent applications) must first pass this Hellish ordeal.

In more realistic terms, it's a test developed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (the USPTO or PTO for short), the successful completion of which is required in order to file and prosecute patent applications before the PTO. The Patent Bar consists of 100 multiple choice questions, 90 of which count towards your score. You need a score of 70% (i.e., 63 correct of the 90 "real" questions) in order to pass. The pass rate has traditionally varied greatly (e.g., 37-72%), although the more recent computer version apparently tends to have a relatively higher pass rate (56.4% for July 26, 2004 to June 9, 2005).

The test is given in two 3-hour sessions, 50 questions per session. My math gives a little over 3.5 minutes per question. Chances are that once you're prepared you won't need all of this time. Let's hope this is true because otherwise you're going to be in hot water.

The questions are based on the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (the MPEP for short). The MPEP is the patent bible (though Chisum is a close second). It provides a searchable listing/index of patent requirements, procedures and rules. The MPEP is based on and incorporates passages from Title 35 of the U.S. Code (USC, aka "the patent laws"), Title 37 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR, aka "the patent rules") and various patent-related federal cases (controlling or instructive ones). It also includes portions of international treaties to which the U.S. belongs, such as the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

Who can sit for it?

Good news! If you have a "hard" science degree (bachelors is fine), some money and strong masochistic tendencies (suicidal ones work too), you can sit for the patent bar! Isn't that great?!?

I've heard of this thing before. It's pretty ugly, eh?

The Patent Bar is very ugly. Although the questions are all pulled straight from the MPEP, looking up every answer is impossible. A single question with 5 possible answers might have you looking for 5 different portions of the MPEP (and having to search at least 3 additional, irrelevant portions to determine that they are, in fact, irrelevant). Such questions are not uncommon and the exam is rather time-consuming, to say nothing of the frustration it engenders.

Cut to the chase already. How do I pass the damned thing?

As with any difficult standardized exam, practice. Take the practice exams and carefully review your answers to learn from your mistakes. Pay particular attention to more recent ones (i.e., the 2002 and 2003 ones as of the date of this post). Don't try to memorize the entire MPEP or learn everything – that's impossible, it wastes your time and fills your head with unnecessary garbage. Study what is tested.

I passed the Patent Bar on my second try, in July 2006. Of my 100 questions, I counted at least 20 repeat questions – ones I had seen on the practice exams I took. I have no idea if this is customary or unusual, but I will say that I felt incredibly confident about the exam, in large part thanks to recognizing those repeat questions.

If you can make an educated guess on a question, do it. You can't look up every answer to every question so don't try. If you're pretty sure of the answer, go with it. Maybe jot down the question number to look up the answer later, if you have time.

Study using the same materials you will be given. That is, the current version of the exam provides you with a PDF of the MPEP. Unlike the HTML version, the PDF one does not contain linked cross-citations or such. In addition, there is no tabbed browsing – you can only view one portion of the MPEP at a time. When you practice, use the PDF version of the MPEP on a computer to look up your answers in a similar manner. As one of my old band leaders was fond of saying, perfect practice makes perfect.

The "usual" studying instructions also apply. Don't kill yourself, take breaks, eat and drink, prepare well for the day of the exam, etc. I abjectly refuse to go into detail over these as I consider them fundamental for any major exam.

Should I sign up for a review course or order materials?

That one is up to you. I didn't need them. I initially ordered the PATBAR materials but then subsequently "discovered" that I don't have the patience or drive to sit through 63-odd one-hour-plus audio sessions. That just wouldn't work for me. What did work was practicing old exams, and you can get those for free over the internet. However, I have heard from friends that PLI's software and/or sessions were helpful.

Is it harder than the state bar exams?

I didn't think so. Others would disagree.

I would argue that the fundamental nature of the exams is very different. The Patent Bar tends to test you on what you know and what you can look up in a short amount of time. State bars tend to test you on memorization and regurgitation. There is no "looking it up" aspect on state bar exams. You either know it or can reasonably fake it. You can't fake the Patent Bar.

That answers my questions! Thank you ever so much for your time and assistance!

You are most welcome! If anyone has any other questions about the Patent Bar that they would like to see answered here, please feel free to leave them in the comments or send me an e-mail.

Other References

How to Pass the PTO Exam in the New Format by Jim Longacre (excellent advice)

PATBAR's Frequently Asked Questions (very comprehensive)

Old Patent Bar Exams (1997-2003) (courtesy of BarPlus Patent Bar Review)

ADDENDUM: A few additional pieces of advice I've thought of since originally writing this post.

Ignore any old test questions concerning continued prosecution applications (CPAs). They cannot be filed for utility applications under the current rules (see MPEP §201.06(d)). They are still available for design patents, however. Instead of a CPA, an applicant can file a request for continued examination (RCE, see MPEP §706.07(h)).

If you can obtain or already have some experience in working with patent applications and prosecution, said experience will be incredibly helpful when sitting for the Patent Bar. Honestly, there is some amount of rhyme and/or reason (or at least a pattern) to the rules and procedures. There are a few relatively simple tenets that almost always hold true. I should probably mention some of them here.

During prosecution of an application, the absolute last time to file a required paper (i.e., a paper required to maintain pendency of an application) is the date 6 months from the mailing date of the document (i.e., the document from which the time period for responding is set). This holds true for things such as missing parts, non-final office actions and final office actions. The one exception I am aware of is for filing an appeal brief after filing a notice of appear. You have 6 months from the filing date of the notice of appeal (i.e., the date the PTO notes it as filed) instead of 6 months from the mailing date of the notice of appeal.

If there is any question as to error, the practitioner is wrong and the PTO is right. (Surprise, surprise.)

The statutory bars are 35 U.S.C. §§102(b), (c) and (d). If the application falls under one of those sections, you cannot simply argue over the prior art. The statutory bars are absolute and unyielding. If they apply, game over.

In contrast, prior art rejections are usually based on 35 U.S.C. §§102(a), 102(e) or 103(a). You can argue around these. (It helps if you have a good argument, a strong invention and/or your examiner fails to understand key aspects of the invention and is willing to learn.)

35 U.S.C. §101 relates to subject matter.

That's all that comes to mind right now. If I remember to ponder this more and/or look at some Patent Bar questions, I'll post additional useful information. I may also reorder or reorganize this Addendum since its style doesn't fit with the preexisting post. [October 7, 2007]

Also, a suggested studying technique. After taking a few practice exams (e.g., 1-3), I recommend taking a timed half practice exam (i.e., 50 questions, 3 hours) without using the MPEP. Those questions you can answer outright, do so. Those you can narrow down to 2-3 answers, pick the best one. Otherwise go with your gut instinct and just give it your best guess. You should finish the half with plenty of time to spare (hopefully at least 1 hour to spare). Afterwards, review your answers as you normally would (i.e., learn from your mistakes).

By doing this, you can see how far along you are and how well you "get" the exam. It gives you a fair indication of your readiness. I remember doing this once or twice when I was studying for the exam and I found it to be reassuring. Know that if you're not ready or you don't "get" the exam, this practice technique will reveal that (and it may not be pretty). Either way, it's good practice and you'll learn a lot. Worth it in my opinion. [October 8, 2007]

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The December-to-February Pit of Despair

I previously mentioned that I'm generally depressed in December-February (inclusive). Well, I am.

It starts with the holiday season. The holiday season means almost nothing to me other than halcyon memories of brilliant holidays past. Growing up, it meant snow and pretty lights on the houses and 8 days when I would anxiously wait for dad to come home so I could spend the ensuing 30-60 min. nearly-bouncing off the walls while I waited for him to relax a bit before we lit the candles and I opened 1-or-more presents. In short, I remember the holiday season as once being fun. Even during college, the holidays meant a break from the hectic life of assignments, homework and tests. A time to pause and reflect in a pleasant, patient atmosphere.

These days? Not so much. It's my mom and I. That's it. Presents are not requested or necessarily expected (and when they are forthcoming, they're generally of the lawyer-joke-book or shirt-and-tie variety). I stink at present-finding and giving, such skills having equivalent rank as my culinary skills (that is to say, random acts of actual decency). The holiday season has ceased to be a time of, well, holiday for me. Toss in to this gritty mix my lack of a S.O. and the coup de grace is readily apparent.

I don't know if this is to say that I wish we spent some of the holiday season with relatives. That tends to be a harrowing experience and is often well-removed from any relaxing activity you or I can think of. That also has no throwback to my memories of days long past. I suppose some of it is that my dad isn't around and I tend to miss him more this time of year, probably due to the aforementioned memories.

Moving on, New Year's Eve has never been very good for me. No fun parties, no fun really. January holds little to otherwise interest me. It snows, I clean off the car, we take the dogs out, we de-ice the dogs, rinse & repeat. Hooray for the Northeastern winter.

February, however, has the real kick in the teeth. Just when you thought it was about as bad as it could get – cold, dark and oppressing – here comes Valentine's Day to reinforce the fact that, according to modern society (of which I have clearly bought into), you're clearly an unwanted dreg of society if you don't have someone (i.e., a S.O.) to share your life with. Pretty much everything reinforces that leading up to V-day – the media, the consumerism, the chocolate. If you're on your own for Valentine's Day, you're giving pond scum a run for its money (and the pond scum is winning). Add in the fact that the anniversary of my dad's death occurs in later February and you can see I have no love for that month.

Now those who know me can attest to the fact that I'm generally not one to stress out or get upset easily or any such. I'm usually very calm and easy-going.

But come this time of year and I've usually had enough.

And so I dub thee my December-to-February Pit of Despair. From the current outlook, this year appears to be better than last year's considering I have no intention to spend weeks on end with painful walking nor a particularly unpleasant week in the hospital, as with last year. No, in that respect it's an improvement. Even so, it doesn't look like anything significant is going to occur to change my view. New Year's Eve was the usual nothingness with me ringing in 2007 at home with mom and the two dogs. Valentine's Day is looking as bleak as ever. No, the usual pale white cityscape remains unbroken by a hint of excitement.

So it goes.

ADDENDUM: Man this post is dark. As in not just dark but dark. I need to go play with a puppy or something, and not in the playing-hockey-with-the-puppy-as-the-puck kind of way, either. (Afterthought)