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.

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Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Photo 1 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Sunset over Moremi Game Reserve

Under this African sky littered with stars, I’m fighting off mosquitoes while journaling to the flicker of a citronella candle. We’ve just set up camp for the night, pitching our tent on the roof of our car. Two massive t-bone steaks sit beside me on a smoky braai (bbq) while our puny fire attempts to ward off the cacophony of sounds that surround. Hippos snorting, elephants trumpeting and lions roaring intermittently in the distance, it is the raw, rugged Africa we dreamed of. Deep in the African bush of Botswana, we realized we’d made it.

It didn’t take long for us to realize Moremi Game Reserve is a special place and quite unlike any wildlife park in the world. Encompassing 5,000 square kilometers in northern Botswana, it’s part of the inland river delta expanse known as the Okavango Delta. In stark contrast to the thorny forests and desert-like terrain of many of Africa’s great game parks, the Okavango Delta consists of a network of streams and marshland sustaining vast quantities of wildlife. The Moremi Game Reserve, however, is the only part of the Delta officially sectioned off for wildlife preservation, creating a flourishing oasis with the highest density of wildlife in all of Botswana.

Photo 2 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Pitching our tent for the night in Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana

Aside from mass quantities of animals here, the exclusivity of the park helps add to its appeal. Accommodation is limited to those willing to fork out up to $1,000 a night for the handful of high-end luxury lodges or those experienced or brave enough to embark on a solo-4WD bush-camping expedition. This means absent in Moremi are those massive tour groups traipsing around the continent and crowds of people looking for their taste of the bush.

Experienced we were not, but armed with a, now reliable (story on this saga coming soon), 4WD vehicle, lots of guts and maybe a naïve sense of confidence, to Moremi we were bound.

There was a lot we couldn’t be prepared enough for. First off were the roads. We’d just wrapped up two weeks of bush adventures in Namibia where there was lots of talk about how nice and smooth the roads were. We didn’t know where the hell this reputation had come from as they were quite possibly the worst and most dangerous roads we’d ever seen. There we’d been the first to arrive to the scene of a fatal accident and had several close encounters ourselves. Once we arrived to Moremi, however, we got it. Roads here hardly exist. Tracks in the reserve are made of clay and sand. And boy is it ever thick. Like a Zamboni machine floating over ice, you’re not really driving, but just steering as you hover over the sand, weaving around windy paths of the forest.

Photo 4 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Facing deep water on the roads of Moremi Game Reserve

The deep sand roads are reason enough to require a 4WD vehicle to enter the park, and then there is the water. Driving through the Delta meant we often came across marshland where water stood in our tracks. And it wasn’t just puddles of water we encountered. In some cases it was more like a river – waist-high. We had no choice but to test our wheels in the croc and hippo-infested water while crossing fingers we didn’t get trapped in the clay floor bed.

These were some trying moments, no doubt, but without them it wouldn’t have been the experience it was: the raw, rugged Africa we came for.

Now that I’ve painted a bit of a picture of the challenging conditions of the park, let me tell you about the beauty.

Beauty e1290591317636 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Marshland envelops Moremi Game Reserve

We arrived to our campsite mid-afternoon to begin our three days in the park. We were staying at Third Bridge Campsite, named after the third log bridge you pass from the South Gate entrance. Rustic would be an overstatement for the condition of the bridge over the idyllic Sekiri River, but picturesque would be an understatement for our locale. The campsite consisted of 10 isolated plots of land interspersed in the forest equipped with no more than a small stone slab on which to build a fire. Ours was number 10, way off in the distance in the most isolated section of camp.

Photo 5 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

The rustic log bridge over idyllic Sekiri River

Upon checking into our campsite, a hard-headed Batswana woman gave us a reality check on our surroundings: always be armed with a strong flashlight, build a big fire and don’t get out of your tent for any reason in the middle of the night. Midnight bathroom breaks are strongly discouraged and in an emergency we were to go together, right next to our vehicle and be on a guard for hyenas and big cats lurking. Confirming we were, in fact, flirting with a bit of danger way out here in the bush, Ryan declared this was the best check-in rundown we’d ever gotten.

Before concluding our check, the woman added, “Oh by the way, there was a kill today just up the road.” Within seconds we were off weaving down the sand roads and over dilapidated bridges to get a glimpse at our first kill and first real taste of Moremi. No more than 15 minutes away from where we were sleeping, we came across a male and female lion feasting on an enormous buffalo. It was just the two of us in the wild with two lions just feet away. We could hear their roaring purr and the crushing sounds of their jaw breaking the buffalo’s bones as well as the heavy, almost exaggerated, panting from the day’s work. Out there on our own with no one else around but the king of the forest with his lady and cub, we could hardly believe our eyes.

Photo 71 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Female lion and her cub snack on their latest kill

Photo 6 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Male and female lions cuddle up after noshing on a buffalo

This was the first of many spectacular wildlife moments in Moremi Game Reserve. We spent the next three days jaws dropped in complete awe of all that was around us. Morning and afternoon game drives brought us to all corners of the park. We watched giraffes graze on branches of trees where monkeys gathered with their young. In the shallows of rustling reed beds, we witnessed a ballet staring every hoofed mammal on the planet. There were kudus, impalas, gemsbock and springbok galore. Wildebeest, jackals and the ever-comical warthogs were plentiful and even a momma rhino and her baby made a debut. And splashing hippos were sure to make their presence known , with one trampling through our campsite one night amidst his thunderous snorts.

Photo 10 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

A male kudu proudly shows off his warrior markings

IMG 2629 2 e1290592349471 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

The king of Moremi takes a break from the sun

Photo 111 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Ever-comical warthog grazing the grasslands

Hurrying back to camp each night after our sunset drives, we raced to beat the falling sun so we could set up camp in the comfort of the last light of day. One night we didn’t quite make it. But this was for good reason. On our way back to Third Bridge, we experienced, quite possibly, the most beautiful moment of our trip. Driving into the unrivaled African sunset the sky was adorned in a symphony of colors as we drove directly into a herd of 40 elephants.

Photo 14 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Elephants fill the horizon against the unrivaled African sunset

At first startled by their mass presence, we started to veer our car elsewhere. We’d been taught to be on guard as the African elephant can be extremely aggressive, in some cases actually chasing down cars and tipping them over to protect their young. But this incident would be different. The approaching herd was nothing short of peaceful, graceful and magnificent, throwing the earth’s red dust into the air amidst the sinking hot sun. Now out on the top of our car, we looked at each other in pure amazement and were reminded again why we travel.

Photo 15 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Taking in the breathtaking sunset in Moremi Game Reserve

pixel Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Comments (3)

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  1. Camp Moremi says:

    Kudos for sharing this! You can definitely enjoy a great safari experience at Moremi. I will definitely put it in my checklist of places to go.

  2. roundwego says:

    @Jodi – you’ll get there if you want to. Thanks for reading. Looks like you’ve got a lot of adventure in front of you. Have a blast!

  3. Jodi says:

    I’m dying to visit Africa. Brilliant post!
    Jodi´s last [type] ..Singapore, I’m Charmed to Meet You!