Learning is a long time getting

Vita brevis, Ars longa

“the words of Doderidge J., written when  legal literature was but a fraction of its present bulk”  —  ATH Smith, Glanville Williams: Learning the Law, 14th edition, (2010) [Sweet & Maxwell / Thomson Reuters, 2010], p 72. ISBN 9780414041738



Doderidge (Sir John), The English Lawyer (1631), p 38 [GoogleBooks]

Weeks and Days

Patterns in the water


(A) Weekdays and Year Cycles

Just like the way that the gears of an Enigma machine inter-mesh with each other to produce a set of combinations, the days of the week, combined with the days in the year, produce a cycle 10,227 days long (28 years) before the days of the week and the days of the month start repeating:  e.g., 25-August being a Friday, with 24-August being a Thursday, etc.

10227 = 7 x 1461 (1461 = 365.25 x 4)

Using slightly different cycles, we get:

10228 [-1]

25/08/2017 6          Friday
24/08/1989 5          Thursday
23/08/1961 4          Wednesday
22/08/1933 3          Tuesday
21/08/1905 2          Monday


10227 [0]

25/08/2017 6          Friday
25/08/1989 6          Friday
25/08/1961 6          Friday
25/08/1933 6          Friday
25/08/1905 6          Friday


10226  [+1]

25/08/2017 6          Friday
26/08/1989 7          Saturday
27/08/1961 1          Sunday
28/08/1933 2          Monday
29/08/1905 3          Tuesday


10225 [+2]

25/08/2017 6          Friday
27/08/1989 1          Sunday
29/08/1961 3          Tuesday
31/08/1933 5          Thursday
2/09/1905    7          Saturday

Note how the weekdays and day numbers go in step, and eventually ‘click’.



Numbers themselves form patterns. Here are some visual examples from the web of  Latex coding output: a helix based on square roots, and a set of curves, repeated and coloured. These sorts of things lead naturally to (Pascal) triangles and sieves (of Eratosthenes) and other things, like why 2 can be the only ever even prime number (in counting systems above base 2, anyway).


“root-helix” Latex code



the first mandala from “mandala” Latex code



The characters in a font are visual shapes, so they can be repeated, reflected, and reflected again, and patterns emerge.

Doing a basic experiment in Latex, if we take a character, say the Phaistos Disc dove phaistosbird(presented in left-to-right reading mode, the assigned Unicode code point is u000101EF) and a random letter (or better, ‘letter’), from say the Lao script letter (character slot 120 in the “Noto Sans Lao” font from Google, a combination of two glyphs, u0E9A + u0ECD), combine them together, birdletter and reflect, we get a motif for a book chapter or similar.



Fleurons can be tiled. Here are some examples running off code from an article by Wilson in the TeX User Group newsletter (TUGBoat), 2011.




Story structures also form patterns, with TV tropes being an ever-popular example, because sometimes they are so glaringly, but unintentionally, comical: the ‘syntax’ of a plot, or a set of scenes, appears too-obviously constrained. Fair enough, if the constraints are the laws of physics or what a stunt person can and cannot do (in those cases we can suspend disbelief and enjoy the show). In other cases, the background context influenced the ideas and choices, and it shows, like cave people with modern hairstyles, and even modern facial expressions and gestures. (Even a young Umberto Eco couldn’t help noticing how the Indians in Westerns were repeatedly constrained by the plot to present themselves as easy targets for showcasing the hero’s skill while standing on top of the runaway stagecoach, etc.)




All these things, gear-meshing, numerical version of the same, translating from one set of patterns to another, they all suggest the possibility of a notation algebra of some sort. One cat, called by different names in different languages, leads to the conjecture that the different words are equivalents of each other, and interchangeable: they are ‘the same’. That process breaks down and confusion arises when it comes to processes instead of things: the process of driving on the road in England is not the same as the process of driving on the road in a US state. The function or result is the same, getting from A to B (more or less), but the method is different, driving on the left instead of driving on the right, how to approach an intersection. Civil Law versus Common Law.


A cour d’assise is (sort of) a Crown Court, in a sense (the purpose or result), and some legal dictionaries ‘translate’ the one term to the other; in another sense (how it does it), a cour d’assise  never will be interchangeable with a Crown Court: the procedures (like the engines of different types of cars, or like the road rules) work in their own ways.

So, for a translator, the question is: *What* is being translated?

Some sort of notational algebra is definitely being called for.

If a and b are words (the forms) in different languages (together with their underlying concepts, the content):



Things are mappable:


Processes are not:




Speaking of transformations, based on cobbling together some Web code and other suggestions, I’ve got a legally-useful Latex document template up and running: traditional numbered paragraphs, un-numbered headings. Citation is a bit fiddly at first glance and took a couple of attempts to set up the procedures correctly (but the complexity of the process matches the complexity of the required rules, OSCOLA in this case – a huge amount of work has gone into the OSCOLA bibliography style file).


First Latex compilation run: citation placeholders are inserted

Then biber runs across the citations, collating everything behind the scenes.



Second compilation run: references are inserted, re-pagination done, cross-references updated, etc

(The case of R v Hill, about the competency of a witness to testify, is available at CommonLII.)



I’m very impressed with Latex (and its Unicode incarnation, Xelatex).





Examples of transformations (from “transforms.tex”)

LaTeX, treasure cave

Have discovered the joys of typesetting. Specifically, the XeLaTeX incarnation of LaTeX: it can understand Unicode, and can access any fonts installed on the system. Plus its code is expandable, and user-written packages extend its functionality and abilities.

Latex et al. (the tex part is from Greek τέχνη, techne, “art, skill, craft”, meaning both skill of mind and skill of hand) has maths typesetting at its core.



Using suitable packages if required (and there are thousands), you can do papers on more maths:




(and even, on the Arts Faculty side, smugcat)




Chess games (of course), step-by-step




There are a whole bunch of linguistics-related packages.

For syntax trees and glosses:


Glosses in other scripts:


Playful stuff:




And so on.


(As an aside, learning cuneiform must have taken ages at school, not to mention if you were Babylonian and had to go to Ancient Sumerian classes!)

There’s a package called manuscript, designed for emulating the old-style typewriter-written theses, which must have been written for LaTeX in the old days, I think. Now, with XeLaTeX, with its access to any and all installed fonts, one line of code (selecting a typewriter font) is all that is needed for emulating an old-style thesis.

Well, almost. Using the underline command, produces a nice, typeset line, which contrasts with the font (Urania Czech, in this case):



But with the old typewriters, you could backspace, and use the _ key (or the X key for typing errors, before liquid paper was invented):



And of course, some typewriter ribbons were red-and-black (never found out what the red ink was used for).


Lots of fun.





Addendum 27-Aug-2017: corrected spelling to: XeLaTeX.


Many Sheep

Agrarian contribution to law

Sheep are a part of legal history, and have influenced court procedure significantly, the reason being that sheep are finite in number, and, in the days before Marco Polo had brought back from the lands of the Khan an invention called “paper”, they (being the sheep) supplied the hide industry, which in turn supplied the writing industry (such as it was, back then), which in turn allowed Chancery clerks and other literates to endorse (‘write on the back of’) rolls of parchment, annotating them with details of law suits brought and decided in the King’s courts.
So space was limited.
On the question of whether a plea should fail for lack of sufficient particulars (say, of the sums owed), it was eventually decided (paper taking a while to reach the Records Office) that such a plea was good, because otherwise there would be a ‘stuffing of the Rolls’.

A likely story.

The nominate report:


(from GoogleBooks)


The English Reports:


Church v Brownewick (19 Car II, 1667) 1 Sid 334; 82 ER 1140; [1714] EngR 120


“Sometimes a plea is denied, as one seventeenth-century reporter who thinks he is writing in French, puts it: pur avoider le stuffing del rolls ove multiplicity del matter
— Charles Donahue, JR, “The hypostasis of a prophecy’: legal realism and legal history”, in Matthew Dyson and David Ibbetson (eds), Law and Legal Process: Substantive Law and Procedure in English Legal History (2013), [Cambridge University Press, 2013], pp1-16, p 15.



CommonLII: [1693] EngR 8

The Bishop of Exeter & AL’ v Sampson Hele [1693] EngR 8; [1693] Shower PC 88; 1 E.R. 61 (1 January 1693)


Of course, electric sheep have infinite backs:

This judgment is unavoidably lengthy and has taken some time to prepare because the Court has been required to answer hundreds of questions of law that have been stated in the various appeals as well as consider the applications for judicial review. The Court has received some 20,000 documents and hundreds of authorities and has had to consider over 3,000 pages of submissions.

Ortmann v United States of America   [2017] NZHC 189