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)
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A Clockwork Orange

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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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Camp Fiji

Ryan 300x225 Camp FijiFiji. The name itself conjures up visions of crystal clear waters, white, sandy beaches and stunning coral reefs. So, are the glossy advertisements and desktop backgrounds to believed? Could Fiji possibly be this beautiful? In a word, yes. Fiji lives up to the hype and is every bit as beautiful as it is made out to be. Honeymooners and tourists looking for their own version of paradise cannot be faulted for dropping thousands of dollars to call this place home for a week or two. Which begs the question – can all this goodness be experienced by the budget traveler? If you don’t mind your fun packaged summer camp-style, then your answer is yes.

Fiji is not an island, like I had always imagined. Rather, it is an archipelago of 333 islands that vary greatly. First, in size: many are but a blip on a map, capable of being circumnavigated in minutes. Others, like the mainland, Viti Levu, are quite large and require several days to tour around; Second, in landscape: there are volcanic islands, full of dry, scrub brush and rocky beaches, and others still with dense jungles enveloped by pristine, white beaches and a veil of mint green water; Third, and most notably, in cost: island resorts run the gamut from Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (with one island resort going for a cool $70,000 USD a night) to all-inclusive backpacker hostels on the high-end of cheap.

Boat 300x225 Camp FijiTravelers typically choose to concentrate their time on one of the two main chains of islands – the Mamanucas closer to the main island or the Yasawas further north. Prices to both islands proved to be quite expensive due to a monopoly on the ferry trade, with the trip to the Yasawas double in cost. We quickly learned that the bartering methods we had mastered in Brazil and Argentina were a foreign concept to the Fijians. In the end, we decided that Mama knows best. We opted for the closer Mamanuca group of islands and set sail for our soon-to-be home, the $30 dorm bunk beds of Ratu Kini Backpackers Hostel on the island of Mana.

Like almost all of the island resorts, the cost was inclusive of a compulsory meal plan. Typically, I enjoy eating as a way of experiencing a culture, so I was a bit dismayed to learn that my restaurant and meal would be chosen for me. However, after arriving to Ratu Kini on the island of Mana, it became apparent very quickly why this is the case. All of the islands are very small, and still very well preserved. A slew of bars and restaurants on each island would only deteriorate the condition of the islands rapidly and take away from the beauty – which, simply, is why everyone is there in the first place.

Fiji 188 300x225 Camp FijiEach day was spent doing something that we could hardly imagine doing just last week when we were home in St. Louis for Christmas. Again, because the islands are very small and there are no outside establishments, the resorts and hostels come up with some very creative ways to keep guests entertained. Similar to camp, each night had a theme. The theme of our first night was “Fijian Fun” with a traditional kava ceremony and some very entertaining Fijian songs and dancing. The next night at Ratu Kini consisted of a ridiculous cross-dressing session that was taken way too seriously by way too many people. It quickly became Studio 54 on acid. After happy hour – consisting of “stubbies” or short, fat, apothecary-esque bottles of Fiji Bitter or Gold – we witnessed the head dive instructor dressed as a femme fatale in a dance-off with the other cross-dressed guests. His/her dance included some very lewd and hilarious moves that would make top-end strippers envious. It ended as all great things do, with his 2-year old daughter confused and crying in the audience, asking, “Daddy, what are you doing?!”

Days began with the gulping of Fiji water (yep – they actually do drink Fiji water in Fiji, and it’s not $15 a bottle like in Vegas) to ward off any hangover that could’ve existed from the previous night’s fun and a communal breakfast with the other campers. We went for hikes around the island, through jungle forests, snorkeled and hired a boat with several others for an island-hopping adventure to take advantage of Fiji‘s beautiful waters.

Fiji 245 300x225 Camp FijiWe ventured to Matamanoa where we pretended to be guests at the posh resort and then to Monuriki, where they filmed the movie “Castaway.” Our group was pleasantly surprised to find the “Tom Hanks island” empty, with the exception of two nudist couples. Fortunately, we arrived before the big touring groups and were able to hike to the top to the caves and check out the incredible views of the surrounding islands.

Fiji 028 200x300 Camp FijiAfter two days, we were ready to leave behind the camp-style life and took the bait on a great deal the Walu Beach Resort was offering on the island of Malolo. With the Australian reality TV show “The Resort” cancelled, the literally made-for-TV resort is in limbo and was offering free upgrades for guest staying in dorms to beachfront bures. Bures are the traditional thatch-roofed huts with pitched roofs. It was a second honeymoon of sorts, with a deluxe bedroom, two bathrooms and a sitting room, all with ocean views.

We took advantage of the resort’s amenities, including an ocean-front pool, hammocks and sea kayaks to head out to a reef to snorkel. There, we saw yellow sting rays with bright blue polka dots, Nemo, zebra fish, electric blue starfish, a sea snake and, on my last day, a shark! It wasn’t huge – only about a foot and a half long – but it was so incredible to turn around and see a shark right in front of my eyes (not to worry, it wasn’t a Great White and was far less interested in me than I was in him).

Our last day we spent on the main island and had fun drowning stubbies of the local micro-brew, Vono, and hashing over camp-life with other travelers we had met along the way. While initially disappointed in the camp life that was Fiji for us budget travelers, we came to appreciate the forced fun. We were both quick to realize that we had met and formed friendships with more people in the five days we were on the islands than we had in the six weeks we were in Brazil, where we stayed in private rooms in pousadas. Budget travelers, do not fear. Take our advice, there is still a place yet for you in the wonderful isles of Fiji.

pixel Camp Fiji

Comments (10)

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  1. Shane says:

    Fiji is awesome, I stayed at Robinson Cursoe island for most of our stay, but the best part of the trip was watching a local Rugby game. They’re so passionate about the sport!!
    Shane´s last [type] ..Mass Transport Systems around the world [Infographic]

  2. Jay Chua says:

    Thanks for sharing the real adventure of Fiji, and I have heard so much about Fiji island.

    One of my favorite golfers all time, Vijay Singh used to live in Fiji for a while:)

    I have listed Fiji as one of my must visit destination on agendas..


  3. Sounds like a great place to go! And it’s nice that they have thought about preserving the beauty of the island and stop exploitation.

  4. roundwego says:

    Yes, definitely add Fiji to your upcoming travel plans! Think more budget options are on the up and up.

  5. Dave and Deb says:

    Nice to know that you can do Fiji on the “semi” cheap. Would love to go there one day!

  6. roundwego says:


    We’re certainly not missing the Chicago cold. After a month in NZ, we’re headed to Australia today, then on to India. Good things ahead.

    We are getting visas on the road, which is a pain but gives us a bit of flexibility.

    Thanks for following us on our adventures. More to come soon!


  7. Doug Rothrock says:

    Hi Ryan,Hi Laura — sounds like you guys are having a great time! I love the website. Did you get all your visas before you left? Or are you getting them on the road?

    Weather here blows — I’m jealous.

    Have fun!!

  8. dana marcu says:

    Good to see that you’re having fun. All the best from Chicago.

  9. Grandma Ann Keller says:

    Have fun. Be safe. Much love

  10. eric wiepert says:

    I am so glad that you guys went out to the islands. We stated at matamanoa. Right where you guys were. I agree with laura. That islands are amazing, but the water is unbelievable.