Wednesday, December 26, 2007

No-Alarm Mornings

I feel obligated to record my reflections from the first semester of law school. Since coming home after exams, I've been too exhausted to think about it. I think I slept for five days straight, and I make no apologies for that. To anyone in law school: we deserve it.

The first semester of law school was like running a series of intellectual sprints when you're desperately out of shape. I have no idea how I did on exams, but I told my parents that if I get straight Cs then I'll be proud of my straight Cs, and I'll know how to do better next time.

With first semester behind me, the whole ordeal seems less daunting. Law school is rough, but in the end it's just more school. There are tougher things in life, and if this is the most difficult thing I face in the next 20 years, I'll be very lucky.

Of course, I'm saying this from the sanctuary of Christmas break. The no-alarm mornings will run out, and I'll be complaining about Evidence and Contracts again in a few weeks. Oh well. At least I can sleep in again tomorrow.

Google may be my soulmate.

I was already smitten with Google because of Gmail and Blogger, which are both great (and free) services. Now Google went and sealed the deal: you can sign into AIM from Gchat and IM people from Gchat, without running the AIM software on your computer.

Lately my computer has been getting slower from old age, and the AIM program was taking up too much of its processing power for it to be worth it to run AIM in the background all the time. I found myself relying on Gchat more and AIM less. Gchat also has the added aesthetic benefit of being less obvious, so when I'm Gchatting in class it can pass for doing actual work. AIM was too flashy; if anyone saw the AIM boxes on your screen, you were caught goofing off, end of story. Maybe professors will catch on to Gchat's stealth style, but for now it's a nice visual trick.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sidenote: Kinky

I looked up "unconventional" in a thesaurus for that last post, and "kinky" was one of the words that Roget's substitutes for unconventional. So yes, I'm a fan of unconventional, provocative, kinky literature when it is appropriate.

Have you had your kinky literature today?

Merry Christmas, Everyone.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And mild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Priorities in Writing

I interviewed with Katherine K. Lee of the Tuscaloosa News a few weeks ago, and she wrote an article about the good-grammar movement for the Sunday, 12/23 edition of the paper. I just realized it was online tonight, so here's the link.

Katherine also quoted an English professor at the University of Alabama:
Michael Martone, a professor of English at UA, said that where sticklers for grammar see mistakes, he sees creative minds at work.

The use of the word "ain't," for instance, in the right context can be effective and dramatic, just what a writer is looking for.

But Martone said he understands why bad grammar might drive someone in the law profession crazy.

"Law wants language to be static and universally recognized," he said. "But for creative writing, part of the creativity is taking perceived categories and opening them up to possibilities."
I've never really thought about it like that, but Michael is right. In most contexts, my preference is for language to be static in nature and precisely used. Without a common base, how could we communicate? But, when it's appropriate, I do appreciate the creative use of language.

Now that I'm analyzing it -- I appreciate the unconventional use of words when describing a thought or feeling more precisely (albeit unorthodoxly) than it would be described with conventional words used conventionally. So precision is my priority.

"Follow your heart, but do it with your head."

-- Steve Jobs. That quote instantly made me a bigger fan of Apple.

Lyrical Interpretation

Maybe there's a God above
And all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you
It's not a cry that you hear at night
It's not somebody who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.

What do you think it's saying? The first three lines present an image of a person trapped. When somebody outdraws you, they're quicker than you are. They have their gun pointed at your heart, and you're vulnerable. He's saying that all love ever taught him was how to get out of that vulnerable situation -- how to get his gun and hurt the other person before they've hurt him, even when they have the upper hand.

He moderates that image in the last three lines. "It's not a cry that you hear at night," so love isn't desperation. It's also not blind faith, which he makes clear by invoking, then dismissing, the image of seeing "the light." That's a religious image, and he's saying that love isn't like religion. I understand that -- it's not a panacea, it's not something that will save the world. Don't put all your hope in love, because it will not, in the end, impart ultimate meaning to life.

But then he invokes another religious word, hallelujah, so he is comparing love to religion. He's saying that, although love isn't going to save the world, it is something to hold onto. Love is essentially human: it's imperfect and painful, it doesn't always respond to your preferences, but that doesn't detract from its beauty. Maybe there is a God above, but I'm experiencing life and love from this vulnerable, fragile human perspective. And it is still beautiful.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I heart scarves.

My parents live in Annapolis, MD, although I go to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. There is quite a difference in the weather between the two, and I'm re-adjusting to the Annapolis cold right now.

Inspired by Postsecret, here's my irrational secret of the day: sometimes I rationalize that a scarf will be as warm as putting on a real coat, and I can just wear a scarf instead of searching the closets for my real coat. Usually, I'm wrong.

(But I never admit it!)

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Other semesters will be difficult, but we'll never have to adjust to a new place, new set of friends, new set of professors, AND a spirit-breaking workload again in one semester. The remaining five semesters will merely be spirit-breaking, but I think we know how to handle that now.

Congratulations, everyone!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Book Update

I created a Facebook group last year called "I judge you when you use poor grammar." As I've mentioned in the blog, we're working on a book that will be a collection of the group's best materials.

Here's the update on this process. We've received two offers from publishers, and we're waiting on a third. Negotiations will probably continue through the New Year, and then I'll start working on the actual book. I'll still be in law school, but the book will become more of a priority. The timetable on the book's printing isn't firm, but a good estimate is Christmas 2008.

The whole process has been an exciting little adventure and a solid distraction from law school. Although anything could happen at this point, I'm thankful for all the support we've received so far. Keep having fun with the group, and keep correcting my written faux pas on the blog. It keeps me on my toes.


Muddy Writing

I got some negative feedback on that last blog entry. Maybe my lack of eloquence in that post was balanced by my brilliance on my Contracts exam. Eh, doubtful.

Out of all the exams I've taken so far this semester, I'm the least confident about the contracts exam. There were about 30 multiple choice questions, which I find extremely difficult for this type of material. It was the first exam to have multiple choice questions on it.

I prefer essays because you can justify your answer in them. With multiple choice questions, you're confined to the answers that the professor proposes -- what if none of them is actually right? What if 3 of them are actually right? You're stuck having to judge between nuances in the professor's opinion, and hope that the professor writes clearly and precisely. I guess the task of judges is somewhat similar, only they're dealing with fine distinctions in the actual law. In law school exams, we're applying the law to the professor's fact pattern as represented by his or her word choices. If they write clearly, that doesn't end up being a problem, but if they use a word with several shades of meaning, it can change an answer completely.

It's done, and I'm moving on. Thank goodness.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Post Exam Debauchery

...Is to come. I just took my Contracts exam, and after the pain it involved, I'm circling the wagons and banning law school from my life. Just for the day.

Civil Procedure is next Wednesday, then I'm going home for the holidays with first semester of 1L behind me!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Birthday in Tha Loose

I completely forgot to mention my birthday. The past few days have been a swirl of high priorities in my head, and since not failing law school (and, therefore, not failing at life) is a higher priority than celebrating a birthday, I forgot about my birthday until the day before. Luckily, I have wonderful friends, and Stephanie organized a last-minute dinner at a sushi place here in T-Town (more amusingly known as "Tha Loose": Tuscaloosa, Alabama).

My birthday is December 6th, which unhappily falls during exams each year. I turned 21 in the library, and that was a dark, blustery and sad night.

This time around was much better. I turned 23 in the company of great new friends who are fighting in the same adversarial system than I am. Although we're technically competing for grades (and football team allegiances), about ten other students and several Auburn fans came out for my birthday.

It was an encouraging demonstration of camaraderie during the most demanding time of the semester. Thank you, everyone!

Exam Writing Styles

While talking to my friends about their exams, I've noticed that there seem to be two different ways that professors write their exams. My professors have written broad, far-reaching exams with fact patterns and an instruction, like in my Torts exam, to "Analyze all potential legal issues" that might exist. Although this is an almost impossible task to complete in 4 hours, it does give the test taker a chance to show off every relevant thing that they know. My strategy for those tests has been to identify as many legal issues as possible, do an IRAC for all of them, and write till the time runs out. I haven't run out of things to write about yet, which I take as a good sign. I'd be much more worried if I ran out of things to write about and left the test early.

The second type of test that I've heard people talk about is a more limited one. Typically, these will include one fact pattern, and give the entire exam period to analyze that one fact pattern. When the scope is more limited like this, an answer needs to be very accurate and tailored to the specific facts. But exams like this only test you on a limited part of the information you learned over the semester, so I can understand how this would be frustrating. The good side is that you can completely answer a question like this in 3 or 4 hours; the downside is that the standard of competition is raised, and you darn well better have answered it perfectly.

Which type would you rather take, and why?

Mid-Exam Musings

Yes, I used alliteration in the title of this post. Yes, alliteration is a cheap literary trick. Yes, I still like it anyway.

I'm in the middle of my first law school exam period, and I'm surviving. I turned in my memo for Legal Writing class (ten minutes late with a ten percent penalty, but at least it's done). I finished a Torts exam that included three two-page fact patterns and the instruction, at the end of each fact pattern, to "Identify and analyze all potential tort issues." Yesterday, I swam the dirty waters of Criminal Law and emerged -- traumatized but alive.

Two more to go: Contracts is tomorrow, and Civil Procedure is next Wednesday. I fully plan on wasting a day in between Contracts and CivPro by sleeping until afternoon, watching a marathon of America's Next Top Model and eating Cheezits in bed. It'll be glorious.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Torts Exam Thoughts

I took my first law school exam. I'm glad it's over.

It was a Torts exam with three fact patterns on it. The fact patterns were each more than a page long, and the instruction at the end was "Identify and analyze all potential tort issues." We had four hours to complete it.

Our professor made it long and overwhelming on purpose. Since we're graded in comparison to each other, this kind of exam was helpful because it gave us all a chance to distinguish ourselves. Other sections had shorter tests, but when a test is short you end up with everybody giving almost the same answer. Our exam was a lot more difficult, but it gave us the latitude to discuss pretty much any issue that we could tie to the fact pattern. I feel pretty confident about torts after taking this exam.

My strategy is to expect a C. If I expect a C and do better, I'll be ecstatic. I haven't contemplated the possibility of doing worse than a C. It just can't happen.

Three exams left: Criminal Law on Monday, Contracts on Thursday, and Civil Procedure on Wednesday the 19th.

I love Cops.

I love Cops, the TV show. I also have a fondness for real cops, especially after the events of the other night.

Our house was broken into. Thankfully, we didn't lose anything. My brother, Jay, is 21, and he came home about ten minutes before I got home. Apparently Jay surprised them in the act, and he hung out downstairs while he was waiting on Josh and me to get home. Jay said there was more than one person, and he listened to them scramble around upstairs, presumably looking for a way out, while Josh and I were on our way home. When Josh and I got home, Josh went upstairs and searched the house with Jay. Jay's bedroom window was open and the screen was kicked in. My bedroom window was also open (and I definitely didn't leave it open). The only thing missing was a set of house keys that also had my car key with them.

We called the police and filed a police report, and Jay changed the locks yesterday. I'm also parking in the garage from now on. The police said that this happens a lot over the holidays, so be careful!

But anyway, back to the TV show Cops. My favorite is when they arrest drunk people. I was watching the other day and they were arresting some kids for breaking into someone's house, and a drunk homeless man happened to stumble through the scene. He bumped into the cameraman, looked up, and said "I'm gonna kung-FOO jitz-ZOO kick ALL Y'ALL!"

The cops arrested him too.

Monday, December 03, 2007


My first set of law school exams are coming up. For anyone who's not in law school or who hasn't had the good (ha) fortune to have gone through this process, I'll tell you a little bit about our exams. I have four exams: Torts, Criminal Law, Contracts and Civil Procedure. Each exam is four hours long, and yes, it does take the entire four hours.

The good news is that they're spread out over about three weeks, so we have plenty of time to study. Two of my exams are open book and open note, and two are closed. However, having an open book exam doesn't necessarily help you out. The tests are graded on a pretty strict curve, so we're all directly competing with each other. If an exam is easy to you, then it's also probably easy to everyone else. That means the standard of performance is raised, because you still have to do better than almost everyone else to get an A. A good exam answer one year may be a poor one the next; it just depends on how well you do compared to everyone else.

This environment fosters some cutthroat competition. Thankfully, I haven't experienced any sabotage attempts at Alabama, but I've heard stories of students ripping out pages of books in the library or hiding them so other students can't find the book they need. Anything to get ahead, right? No wonder lawyers have such bad reputations.

My first exam is Torts on Wednesday. Our professor, Susan Randall (who I have a girl crush on) is doing a question and answer session for us this morning. She went to Columbia for law school and (like me) she was a philosophy major in college. Clearly we were meant for each other.