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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Law Firm Technology (5)
Len Cleavelin wrote: I find it extremely difficult to be... [more]

Post Exam Rant (9)
Tony the Pony wrote: Humbug. Allowing computers already... [more]

Symbols, Shame, and A Number of Reasons that Billy Idol is Wrong (11)
Adam wrote: Well, here's a spin on the theory o... [more]

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Wild Cats

Cheetah Face Wild Cats

A beautiful face welcomes us at the Tenikwa Wild Cat Center

There’s little debate that wildlife is Africa’s main attraction. With nearly two weeks since stepping foot on the continent and no more than a few baboons and bird sightings, we were due. It was time to step it up a notch with an up close and personal encounter with South Africa’s wild cats.

On our journey down the Garden Route we learned of a unique experience at the Tenikwa Wild Cat Activity Park. The park is dedicated to taking in injured cats of all shapes and sizes to nurse them back to health. Those that are prepared to return to the bush are released back into the wild.

Putting a special emphasis on cheetahs, the park rangers make long walks with these magnificent cats a daily priority. At sunrise and sunset they walk these cats through the surrounding dense forests to give them a chance to get much needed exercise. They now allow visitors to the park to share in the experience, and it was an opportunity we would not pass up.

Photo 11 Wild Cats

Meeting our girl Tandy for a walk in the woods

Arriving to the park on a misty spring morning, we were greeted with freshly baked scones and piping hot coffee before meeting our furry friends. Just outside, brother and sister Tandy and Shockra awaited us. When we caught our first sight of them, we were awe-struck with how just how beautiful they were. They also seemed much bigger, taller and brawnier than expected. Upon entering their man-made den, we could hear the rumbling roar of their purr and were quite hesitant when given the okay to run our fingers through their fur. Cautiously extending our hands into their hay-like hair, we were surprised to find the coarse spots on their coat actually raised above the rest of the fur.

Cheetah Body Wild Cats

Gracefully spotted body of the cheetah

Cheetah Yawn Wild Cats

Don't fear, this cheetah is just taking a yawn

The park is home to five cheetahs with Tandy and Shockra the youngest at 22 months. These cheetahs weren’t rescued directly from the wild but from other game reserves where they had plenty of human contact. Though there was no doubt they were wild cats, their upbringing ensured they were much more docile than many of their feral relatives.

Laura Cheetah Wild Cats

Cautiously buddying up to Tandy the cheetah

We learned all about the beautiful animals with whom we’d be spending our day. The cheetah is the fastest animal on land, however, in recent years has become critically endangered. Its timid ways, non-confrontational demeanor and picky eating habits have all affected its survival. Unlike most cats which are nocturnal, the cheetah hunts during the day. They typically hunt at sunrise and sunset in open plains where they can use their speed to run down predators. We were surprised to learn that while the cheetah is fast, endurance isn’t their strong point. They can reach 60 miles an hour in three seconds flat, however, can only hold the speed for thirty seconds before needing a half hour to recover.

Photo 7 Wild Cats

Another interesting factoid we learned about the cheetah is the function of the distinctive black “tear” running from their inner eye down to their mouth. This actually works much like sunglasses do for humans, blocking the sun from the cheetahs’ eyes, thus allowing them to hunt during the day.

Sunrise Walk Wild Cats

Sunrise walk with our cheetah Tandy through the forest

After a brief introduction, we set out to begin our sunrise walk. The cheetahs were strapped into a small harness with leash attached and soon we were on our way. We were instructed to hold the leash and walk behind the cheetah, letting our Tandy lead the way. Should Tandy take off running, which she did several times, we were instructed to drop the leash. Of course there was no way we could compete with this kind of speed.

We were also told, for good reason, they don’t allow small children in the park. With children the size of their prey, cheetahs feel they can dominate them and may opt to take advantage. At my petite size, I learned this first-hand. Accidentally stepping in front of Tandy’s path, she closed in, wrapping her front paw tightly around my leg. Though I was soon freed, it certainly gave me a good scare.

Ryan Cheetah e1290587836204 Wild Cats

The lack of endurance in the cheetahs was certainly evident. Tandy tired fast and plopped down several times, seemingly unwilling to take a step further. A few water breaks and toss of a soccer ball helped to get her going again as we lead her back to her home. Here she and her brother were delighted to find raw chicken awaiting them and within seconds they had torn into it and gobbled it down.

What a surreal feeling it was walking through the forest with a cheetah by my side and during our hour walk, this feeling never got old. I didn’t want this experience to come to an end, but it was time to say goodbye to our cheetah friends.

After quite a memorable morning, we were off to meet some other wild cats.

Serval1 Wild Cats

The petite-sized, spotted serval

Next up was the spotted serval. It’s almost as elusive as the leopard, but a much smaller cat. It has large, bat-like ears and has a distinctive hunting style of using high leaps to pounce on prey. Entering serval land the little guy welcomed his visitors by jumping up in the air in excitement, and we got a chance to see the leaping bounds this cat is known for.

Caracol Wild Cats

Our visit with the small but aggressive caracals

We closed this special morning with a visit with two caracals. The small cats have a brown coat and big, pointed ears. Though small and size, the father and son duo we met were a bit more aggressive than the other cats so we were warned to watch our backs when entering their den. Hard to believe these little guys, just larger than your typical domestic cat, could do any damage but we weren’t going to test our luck.

What a morning it was getting to know some of the many wild cats that walk this land. We left even more anxious to meet again out in the wild.

pixel Wild Cats

Comments (1)

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  1. I’m so jealous! Cheetahs are like my favorite animals ever and it’s always been my dream to see them in the wild. Wonder if we’ll get to see them in Kenya/Tanzania next year. Following you now.
    Jill – Jack and Jill Travel The World´s last [type] ..RSS and Twitter – Socially Challenged