A Columbia Law Student Blog - Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil

August 25, 2006

And like that... he is gone

So that's it. RIP Three Years of Hell, June 2, 2003 to August 25, 2006. After all these words, there are only a few things left to say.

Two sites, the Imbroglio and the Volokh Conspiracy, have given me a slightly premature sendoff, and their words are very kind. (The site has received its final Kerr Package.) In answer to Ambimb's question as to why the site is closing, the answer is simply that the project is done. I don't know what my next big task will be. I've got two articles in process (much more difficult now I don't have free Lexis access). There's a few chapters written of a novel, a thought made more exciting by three friends who have already written books. The more I look at law and technology, the more I think that an open-source, XML-based framework for writing judicial opinions would bring caselaw closer to the public (as well as weaken the WEXIS duopoly). Perhaps that's a project worth looking into. Whatever the case, I'm sure I'll have no problem coming up with other tasks to occupy my (soon to dwindle rapidly) free time. This story was always meant to have an ending, and after all these months, it is finally here.

Thank you to the professors and students at Columbia Law School who made this journey such a rich experience. The same goes to the bloggers across the 'sphere who've linked, commented and otherwise spread the word. (A special note should go to Martin, who started me on this path.) My family, although asked not to comment on the blog itself, never failed to give me encouragement (and fodder for quite a few posts) throughout my years here.

And finally, of course, thank you to all of you who've read this site over the last three years and a bit. Journeys are made better with travelling companions, and I couldn't have asked for a finer bunch.

Best regards,


And for those without blogs...

Dear Wormwood:

Our correspondence over these last few years, put together, may be the single longest thing I've ever written. For old time's sake, however, I hope you'll allow me to give you one last list, a few things I hope you'll take with you in your own purgatorial journeys.

At long last, Wormwood, our conversation is at an end. Please take with you my best wishes, and may your time in law school bring you every joy possible.

Continue reading "And for those without blogs..." »

Advice for 1Ls Starting a Blog: A Much Shorter Part II

Dear Wormwood:

I promised you two letters that might help your friend Scrimgouge in starting a 1L blog. The first letter focused mostly upon matters that any blogger, legal or otherwise, might find useful, be they technical or stylistic. But both you and Scrimgouge are now law student, which makes your efforts (and yes, dear Wormwood, I really am hoping that you too might start blogging) a bit different. So with the basics out of the way, I'd like to make a few quick notes and observations on what I've learned from law school blogging.

  1. Eschew anonymity: I've covered the reasons for this in one of my most oft-read posts. I know I bang on upon this, but anonymity certainly isn't as safe as you'd suspect. Besides, it's only polite that when you violate Godwin's Law, your opponent knows where to send the summons and complaint.
  2. Don't be surprised if your first year makes for the most interesting blogging: First year blogs are great, indeed positively addicting. Most 1Ls find themselves thrust into this bizarro land where Socratic Method suddenly makes sense as a pedagogical technique and everything--and I mean everything--starts being seen through the lense of law. On the other hand, 1L bloggers know that most of their readers aren't other law students, but their friends, family and associates from back in the "real world." The need to explain the pressure-cooker anxiety, and the urge to translate the experience to outsiders, makes for excellent writing.

    1L year is all about learning the game. 2L year, you merely refine it. By 3L, you're looking for another game to play because you know exactly how much class you can snooze through with minimal effect on your grades. Why do you think Scott Turow didn't write a sequel?

  3. Give your fellow students (and professors) some space: TYoH followed two pretty simple rules. First, don't mention a non-blogging professor by name. Refer to them instead as "Prof. Contracts" or "Prof. CivPro." It's not much, but it does mean that your blog entries won't end up as Google hits for their name. Secondly, if you have a story to tell about a fellow student, even if you're not mentioning them by name, shoot them a quick email with a draft of the post before you publish. They may not want their lives appearing online. Most of the time, no one will care, but it's a good habit that saves trouble later on.
  4. Blog about what fascinates you: Your text really comes alive when you have an interesting story to tell, or when you're passionate about an issue. All law student bloggers eventually create their own niche. I've posted quite a lot on gay marriage, for instance, but also on the appropriateness of professional status for legal practitioners (much more obscure) and strange tax issues. The Ambivalent Imbroglio should be one of the first reads for any law student thinking of becoming a public defender (or a prosecutor, for that matter). You don't have to comment fully on everything. If you find something interesting but don't have anything to say on it, an entry with a quick link is perfectly fine. Write in depth on those issues you care about.
  5. Engage others: Yesterday I wrote about connecting to other bloggers, but focused mostly on law professors or major players. Yet the real and lasting relationships in blogging will come from your own cohorts, your peers out there on the great wide internet. I've copied fair amounts of code from Heidi's effort. I've made fast friends with Chris. I've pimped Jeremy's book. These are the things I smile about when I remember TYoH, and I'll bet I do so a decade from now. Your cohort will be a source of support when things go wrong, both scholastically and technically. They'll also be something you'll carry away from law school.
  6. Keep a sense of humor: All too often, you'll be inspired to shout. When you do, put the post in "draft" and leave it to the next day. Remember that at the right moment and you'll thank me later.
  7. Keep in touch: Perhaps not advice, so much, but if there's a 1L out there starting a blog and they need a bit of help, don't hesitate to ask. I'm sure it's going to be a lot of fun reading your work in the years to come.

And that, dearest Wormwood, is that. I hope that Scrimgouge finds the next three years as exciting as I did.

Welcome to the Continuum! or Passing the Torch

Say hello to Luis Villa, a 1L at Columbia law school. He's another coder turned lawyer, and his musings on code and law strike a cord.

If there's any other Columbia Law School bloggers who would like to tie their blogs into the Columbia Continuum, feel free to email me. (I will be keeping that site working, and maybe even improved, after this site goes quiet.)

UPDATE: Welcome also to Legal Economics, another Columbia 1L. This guy will have no trouble in Reg State. Too bad it's not a required class anymore, eh?

(Please note that the Continuum requires an RSS feed, so if you're on Blogger or Blogspot, you should get a Feedburner account.)

Down to the Wire

Right... self-imposed deadline of tonight to finish this thing off, and still four or five posts that I need to complete. Right now all that quick typing in exams is coming in handy!

August 24, 2006

Advice for 1Ls Considering a Blog: A Very Long Part One

Dear Wormwood:

Who is this Scrimgouge whose email address you've forwarded me? It's certainly very flattering that he's asking you to ask me for advice on starting a law school blog. Nevertheless, there's no good reason for him to ask me at one remove. [1] You know full well I'd speak at the opening of a Doritos bag, and give away advice just as profligately.

Since your friend has asked, I'm happy to oblige. This particular project has run for over three years, and I'd like to think that in that time I've learned a few things that might help out a beginner. Of course, with the start of the fall semester, there is currently no shortage of advice for new law students, and I'm sure that similar wisdom about blogs is a dime a dozen. Hopefully your friend Scrimgouge will find one or two chestnuts here that he hasn't managed to gather elsewhere. Sadly for him, however, whatever angels generally look over my shoulder and force me to be brief have taken a tea break. What follows is quite lengthy indeed.

To help out a bit, I've divided the post into five sections that continue after the cut:
First, the commonplace.
Second, decide what you want to do.
Third, learn a bit about the technology.
Fourth, connect, connect, connect (to the Web).
Fifth, connect, connect, connect (to other bloggers).
Finally, have fun.

I hope it helps.

Continue reading "Advice for 1Ls Considering a Blog: A Very Long Part One" »

Could Be Worse

A friend of mine just gave me a "post bar exam gift": a copy of Ichisada Miyazaki's China's Examination Hell: The Civil Service Examinations of Imperial China. From the first page:

Competition for a chance to take the civil service examinations began, if we may be allowed to exaggerate only a little, even before birth. . . . Prenatal care began as soon as a woman was known to be pregnant. . . .

Legal education system take note: you have something to aspire towards.

Grumpy Old Man Alert: "In My Day, We Didn't Have the 'SONI' System Like You Youngsters. We Read Two Hundred Spam Emails From Every Society Imaginable, And We LIKED It."

Forwarded from a current Columbia Law Student, from one of Student Services' fantastic new staff members:

We have put in place a new system, the Student Organization News and Information (SONI) System, which allows student organizations and journals to email students directly and allows you to select to which student organization and journal email lists you wish to subscribe or unsubscribe.
We hope that you find this system a helpful way to receive information from student organizations, and a good way to cut down on your email traffic.

The SONI system works as follows. All students in the Law School are initially subscribed to each student organization's email list. You may choose to unsubscribe from any list, at which point you will no longer receive email from that particular organization or journal. If you wish, you can later choose to resubscribe.

What a fantastic idea! I'm sure this entry will attract a lot of groans from the Class of 2006 and older, though. They can take heart: scuttlebutt is that you still can't avoid the daily deluge of emails from the public interest folks.

August 23, 2006

New York Pungent

Strange circumstances conspire to bring me back to New York just before the blog ends. I drove through Jersey late last night. A blind man could smell his way up the Jersey Turnpike. My memory of New York will be forever mixed with the smell of garbage. Tokyo has its sweating salarymen with natto-breath crowding the subway. Summer winds blow stinging road dust into your eyes in London. But the smell of rotting dinners sets New York apart, simply because it's always there, and especially strong in the summer. No part of Manhattan escapes it. Walk up from a Times Square subway exit, the cleaned-up area for tourists, and spoilt meat assaults your nose. Walk down Broadway for a romantic meal and you're certain to pass at least three corners reeking of fish. Take a badly air-conditioned cab through slow traffic to a job interview on 54th street and you have a choice: roll up the windows and sweat or arrive with your suit smelling as if you cleaned a drainage ditch in it. Maybe as the years go by I'll grow nostalgic and I'll forget. But for the present, summer in New York is remembered with my nose.

August 18, 2006

The Beginning of the End

Dear Wormwood:

The bar exam is over. I've moved away from D.C. to Another State. [1] And today the last signs of law-student living left me: my free Lexis account no longer works.

I feel I shall soon have withdrawal symptoms.

In any event, it's about time for this project to end. After all, Wormwood, while your journey through law school is beginning, it's time for me to go on about my life. There's still a little left I have to say, mostly about blogging, school, and a few observations to send you on your way. But even of that, there's not much. I'm going home to visit my parents this weekend, but I should be back to writing on Monday.

So by way of forewarning, Wormwood, you can expect the final entry of TYoH to appear one week from today, on Friday, August 25th. Now I just have to get everything in order. There is, of course, a project plan.

[1]: Incidentally, if I hadn't believed it before, this move would have convinced me that the Scion xB is great value for money. Over 30 miles to the gallon and I can fit massive amounts of cargo in the back.

Giving The Devil His Due

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A Round-the-World Travel Blog: Devil May Care (A new round-the-world travel blog, co-written with my wife)
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Big Waves in Little Italy: The Desert Oasis of Jericoacoara

Dunes of Jericocoara 300x200 Big Waves in Little Italy: The Desert Oasis of JericoacoaraRomanticized by the backpacking set for its isolation and by wind sport enthusiasts for its strong and consistent African winds, Jericoacoara (pronounced Sheri-kwa-kwada) has become a bit of a geographic phenomenon. “Jeri,” as the locals call it, has long been on my radar. It was a favored honeymoon idea of mine and a place I was eagerly waiting to visit since my first trip to Brazil four years ago. Expectations were high but after one week here, one thing is abundantly clear: Jeri is a very unique place.

I admit much of my initial desire to visit Jeri on our around the world travel adventure was in its funny-sounding name, Jericoacoara. I loved the way it just rolled off your tongue, like an important emperor or ancient village. The name was given as a result of a rock formation along the coast and means “alligator taking sun,” which it closely resembles. While my joy in repeating its name has not dissipated in the slightest, I soon learned that the depth and complexity of the place needs to be peeled off in layers.

To get to Jeri, we had to take a 6 hour bus ride and then transferred to an open-air 4WD truck to drive the last hour through desert sands. This was a magnificent entry, as we watched the sunset over white dunes with palm trees dotting the coastline. The beauty of Jeri is easy to grasp, understanding it is another thing. It seems you are driving through the windy Sahara when all of a sudden you reach the coast and see the ocean.

Dune Views in Jericoacoara Brazil 300x225 Big Waves in Little Italy: The Desert Oasis of JericoacoaraAfter checking into our pousada we quickly realized that Jeri is one, big Italian ex-pat community. Discovered (rediscovered I should say) in the 70’s by an Italian windsurfer, the place took off and seems to have brought all of this initial Italian windsurfer’s friends and family, noted by the many pousadas that carry Italian names such as Maurcio and Calanda. There is no shortage of places to enjoy an espresso at any moment of the day and you have a selection of Italian restaurants where you can order pastas, pizzas, prosciutto sandwiches and pastries. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, right? I did, and managed to develop a serious addiction to espresso.

Our first day made it very clear that people come to Jeri for one thing – the surf. I think Laura and I were part of only a select few that were not perfecting our kite or windsurfing skills. The town is absolutely devoted to the sports with windsurfing clubs and hotels providing racks and storage space for all the equipment. People come from all over the world to surf Jeri. Few places in the world offer such consistently strong winds, in the range of 20-30mph, along with good waves to jump and do tricks on (that sounds really lame, but I’ve yet to learn the windsurfing lingo for such moves).

Much equipment is required for the sports, making it a bit cumbersome and prohibitively expensive, so we decided to have fun observing. Like skiers talking about “fresh powder,” people here are always talking about the wind and the tides. We had great fun watching professionals from around the globe. There were photographers with crazy lenses taking tons of photos, presumably for wind and kite surfing magazines, much like you see at Pipeline in Hawaii.

Moonrise in Jeri 300x225 Big Waves in Little Italy: The Desert Oasis of JericoacoaraWe were lucky to be there for a full moon which provides great waves and also a great backdrop for sunsets. We climbed the great dune at the edge of town with hundreds of others to watch the simultaneous sunset and moonrise. This was one of our favorite daily rituals, ending with everyone running, back-flipping, rolling or sand surfing their way to the bottom and into the ocean. Even crazier and something we can’t quite get used to, is the sun setting at 5:30pm. Being so close to the Equator the temperature and time of sunsets change very little during the year. For Midwesterners associating warm, summer-like weather with 8:30 sunsets, this was quite strange.

Unbeknownst to us, we happened on Jeri during the biggest music festival of the year called Choro Jazz. Each night for 5 nights, beginning at 10pm and going until 1am, the city came alive with jazz and choro (a jazz-influenced type of music very popular in the northeast of Brazil), with some of the best musicians from Brazil and others from France and Australia. There were bars and food stalls set up around the main square where you could eat local plates of arraoz (rice), feijao (beans), carne de sol (sun-dried meat), farofa (dried manioc root), queijo grelhado (grilled cheese), espetinhos (meats or fish on a stick), plenty of desserts and drain cheap fruit cocktails like caipirinhas or caipifrutas (cachasa or cane alcohol with pineapple, passion fruit, strawberries and other very fresh fruits).

Nightlife in Jeri was surprisingly very good. For such a small, laid-back town people like to break it down here, and quite late. After the concert each night, people would head to the beach where bars project surf films against a giant wall and dance to music that was popular a few years ago in other parts of the world. When that starts to wind down, around 3 or 4am, everyone heads back into town to a bar where people dance forro (a type of music blending folk and reggae, among others) until the sun rises. We only made it out until 4am, but were proud of ourselves nonetheless.

Sands Up 225x300 Big Waves in Little Italy: The Desert Oasis of JericoacoaraWe also took advantage of the many buggy tours the area offers. Along with another Brazilian couple, we went out on an all-day buggy tour, driving along the beach and over dunes to check out some cool lakes and petrified stone. While we couldn’t understand a word our guide was saying, it was clear the highlight was a massive dune plunging into a clear lake, where Laura and I rented, respectively, a sled and sand board. Typical to my style, I “ollied” and “hucked ropes” down the sand at rapid speed and had some nasty scars after it was over to prove it.

To sum up our time in Jeri, I am left with one word to describe it all: unique. I haven’t seen anything like it and don’t suppose I will on the rest of our trip. The juxtaposition of the dunes, palm trees and ocean make you feel like you’re in a different world. I strongly recommend coming here, whether you are a surfer of any type or not, just to take it all in.

pixel Big Waves in Little Italy: The Desert Oasis of Jericoacoara

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