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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D.C. Noir

My city. But darker.
A Clockwork Orange

About time I read this...


Projects I've Been Involved With

A Round-the-World Travel Blog: Devil May Care (A new round-the-world travel blog, co-written with my wife)
Parents for Inclusive Education (From my Clinic)

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Thai Time

Buddhist Temples in Chiang Mai Thailand Thai Time

Buddhist temples against a clear blue sky in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Pictures of Thailand have danced in my head ever since I caught my first case of the travel bug. The furious traffic and frenetic energy of Bangkok intrigued me. The sight of golden pagodas and taste of coconut curries excited me. And promises of pristine, desolate, white sandy beaches thrilled me.

With expectations sky-high, we wanted to devote a considerable amount of time to getting to know this so-called ‘Land of Smiles.’ As such, we used Thailand as our base in Southeast Asia, passing through Bangkok thrice and dividing up the rest of our time exploring the North and South of the country.

Immediately recognizable, Thailand was a stark contrast to its underdeveloped Laos neighbor. For better and for worse, Thailand offered many amenities we’d been missing: paved roads, well-appointed accommodation and modern trains and buses. This comes with a cost as 7-11’s and heavy traffic and pollution now joined the playing field.

Chiang Mai

Novice Monks in Chiang Mai Thailand Thai Time

Novice monks sit outside a Buddhist temple

Our first stop was Chiang Mai located in the mountains of northern Thailand. It’s the cultural capital of the country and a national treasure for Thai people. We hoped to discover a quaint town built into the mountainside, but soon learned our expectations would be given a reality check.

Chiang Mai, with a population hovering just below two million people, is more city than country, more polluted than pure and more hectic than peaceful. While golden pagodas are buzzing with streams of tangerine-clad monks, it’s also a place where traffic and whizzing mopeds are plentiful and the sex tourism thriving.

Where was the Chiang Mai travelers had raved about? Digging a little deeper into our pockets we were about to find out. A belated birthday splurge introduced us to Chiang Mai’s posh portfolio of adventures.

Enveloped by lush, mist-shrouded hills, Chiang Mai has a privileged setting. Stepping outside the city, these surroundings create an ideal backdrop for exclusive properties. We upped the ante and settled in at a delightful bed and breakfast along the river banks of the Ping River running through the city. At Baan Orapin, a 100-year old mansion turned B&B, we began to understand what Chiang Mai’s appeal was all about.

Baan Orapin BB in Chiang Mai Thailand Thai Time

Our room at Baan Orapin B&B in Chiang Mai, Thailand

And then there was the food. It didn’t take long for us to begin to unravel this piece of the puzzle. Juice shops on every corner introduced us to the mango, banana and dragon fruit shakes that would soon become our staple. All the coconut-milk curries we’d dreamt about, however, took the backburner, as we discovered the joys of Thailand’s northern cuisine. Here, in Thailand’s cooler climate, dishes are more stew-like. Spices and herbs from the dense forests are incorporated into dishes and pickled cabbage and lime add a hint of sourness to traditionally spicy dishes. Also setting northern cuisine apart is the sticky rice served with every meal and eaten with your hands.

Huen Phen Restaurant in Chiang Mai Thai Time

Enjoying the traditional cuisine of northern Thailand at Huen Phen restaurant

Smoked Tomato Salsa in Chiang Mai Thailand Thai Time

Smoked tomato and pepper salsa at Huen Phen restaurant

For animal lovers, Chiang Mai packs a big punch. On a visit to Elephant Nature Park (see video here), we spent a day caring for abandoned and abused elephants. Bathing, feeding and getting to know the stories of these gentle giants, we enjoyed an eye-opening day at the elephant sanctuary home to 33 rescued elephants.

Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai Thailand Thai Time

Making friends with rescued elephants at Elephant Nature Park

We also visited the nearby Tiger Kingdom (see video here), where we were face to face with the massive beasts. Ryan snuggled up to a big guy and I, smiling ear-to-ear, played with three-month old tiger cubs. While we enjoyed this unique encounter, we realized there may have been some shady things going on behind closed doors. The big tigers seemed a bit lethargic and made us question if they were being tranquilized. Further, their small cages suggested they are likely mistreated and looking back we do not recommend a visit here. Your money could be well-spent elsewhere.

Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai Thailand Thai Time

Loving on some baby tiger cubs

A Piece of the Pai

We made a brief detour north of Chiang Mai to the town of Pai, Thailand. We were anxious to get to know the so-called ‘mountain paradise,’ but what we discovered was more hippy commune than Thai escape. Crawling with ex-pat, dreadlock Rastafarians and filled with cafes blaring both Bobs (yes the Marley and the Dylan) this town seemed to have lost any Thai-ness it ever had.

To add to the strange aura, we had booked ourselves a room at a bizarre hotel called Spa Exotic Home. You’d think we’d been forewarned with the name of the place, but that passed us by. When we showed up at our Pai digs, we found our little, wooden bungalow was equipped with its own ‘spa.’ Our bathroom had a huge, stone tub shooting out hot, sulfur water that reeked of rotten eggs. To elevate the mood, there were paintings of water nymphs hung all over the walls of our room. If that wasn’t enough, there was a u-shaped, hot spring pool just outside our front door. The only thing rivaling the steamy waters were the Kama Sutra sculptures surrounding the pool.

Spa Exotic Home in Pai Thailand Thai Time

The strange aura of the hot springs at Spa Exotic Home

Our time in Pai will best be remembered for tooting around on a moped. Because our hotel was so far outside of town, renting a moped was essential. Once we hopped on, we realized we’d been missing out on this quintessential Southeast Asian experience. With Ryan at the wheel, we whizzed around town like a local. Check out the video below of my first and only attempt at driving the moped.

There is something about the Thai way that leaves you wanting more. Maybe it’s the food, the smiles and warm welcome we received. Maybe it’s the abundant sunshine, natural beauty and mix of Western amenities and rich culture. Perhaps it’s a mix of all of this. Whatever it was, Thailand was beginning to wrap us around her finger and our adventures in northern Thailand only whet our appetite for more.

pixel Thai Time

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