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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The World’s Most Interesting Airports

I’ve been watching quite a bit of Anthony Bourdain’s new show “Layover,” and so have been thinking a lot about the many airports we spent time in on our around the world trip – 31 in all I counted. They ran the gamut – some big and spectacular like Dallas-Fort Worth, others small like Surat Thani in southern Thailand or charming like Nadi in Fiji, and some just terrible like Mumbai.

Here are the good, the bad and the ugly of the most interesting airports we visited around the world.

The Good

Suvarnabhumi Airport – Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok Airport The Worlds Most Interesting Airports

Bangkok's airport is a temple of contemporary architecture

Bangkok’s new, international airport (don’t even think of pronouncing it correctly) is nothing short of awesome. It’s new, it’s clean, it’s modern. It’s an architectural spectacle. We flew through here several times on the SE Asia leg of our RTW trip and every time this place exuded an impression of “cool.” This, I thought to myself, is what the future looks like.

Like Bangkok, the airport caters to an eclectic mix of people. Standing next to the airport’s Islamic prayer room were Thai ladyboys, and down the hallway in the airport’s slick food court were tubby, gruff Aussies with tiny, Thai women on their arms. It’s hard to decide which is the bigger spectacle – the airport’s clean, cool architectural modernity or the constantly moving zoo of humans it it, where people-watching is elevated to sport. Who knew that flights to Thailand and the country’s main airport were tourist destinations themselves?

Changi International Airport – Singapore

Singapore Airport The Worlds Most Interesting Airports

Singapore's airport tops our list of best places to lay over

It’s got a pool. Enough said. It also has free Wi-Fi all over which, for the long-distance traveler usually spending a long layover here, is a huge plus. We caught up on TV shows, news, Skyped with our families and even caught the exciting finish of the epic gold medal hockey game between the US and Canada at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

For something more low-tech, those on long layovers can actually get spa treatments or take a shower at the facilities in the airport. What really impressed us, though, were the two separate 24-hour napping areas, the six open-air garden areas and the array of shops that read like a who’s who of luxury retailers: Hermes, Prada, Gucci and Bulgari.

Because of our timing – we arrived from Sydney late at night and had an early-morning flight to Mumbai – we decided not to take advantage of the special pass offered to tourists, like us, on extended layovers to tour central Singapore for a few hours. All in all, Changi, for our money…er,time, is our favorite place to lay over.

The Odd

Bhadrapur Airport – Southeast of Nowhere, Nepal

Airport Security Bhadrapur Airport 1024x768 The Worlds Most Interesting Airports

No irony intended with the VIP sign at Nepal's Bhadrapur Airport

This is what a third world airport looks like. Not pretty. No international food court here, no wi-fi and absolutely zero chance you’ll get a spa treatment at Nepal’s Bhadrapur Airport, just across the northeastern border of India. On the good side, you don’t have to worry about airport car parking. Always looking for the positives when we travel!

Nepal Airport 300x199 The Worlds Most Interesting Airports

Third world airports aren't good for nervous flyers

According to Wikipedia (amazing that this airport even has a Wiki page), “It has one runway with an asphalt surface measuring 1,209 by 29 metres (3,967 × 95 ft).” That’s it, folks. One runway. And one of the crazier security screenings I’ve been a part of. The airport officers pull back a curtain and ask you to step into a bizarrely-decorated “dressing” room, where they frisk you by hand, after which you are then allowed to walk the grassy knoll single-file to board the propeller-engine plane. And we thought Indian bureaucracy was bad!

Once on the plane, the pilot eyes you by height and weight and shuffles the passengers around to keep the plane’s “equilibrium,” always fun to hear any time you’re in a moving object…flying in the sky…through the Himalayas. Needless to say, we made it safely with some spectacular mountain views Nepal is famous for. But this is one memorable travel experience I’m OK with looking back on and not eager to re-live.

Kilimanjaro International Airport – Moshi/Arusha, Tanzania

Kilimanjaro Interntional Airport The Worlds Most Interesting Airports

Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) is dubbed "the gateway to Africa's wildlife"

More quaint than odd, the Kilimanjaro International Airport is dubbed “the gateway to Africa’s wildlife heritage.” This seems fair enough as safari-seekers travel from as far as Frankfurt and Amsterdam to this tiny airstrip in northern Tanzania.

JRO, as its known in airport code, is situated between Arusha, where most visitors embark on wildlife adventures in the nearby Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater or across the border to Kenya’s game parks, and Moshi, where trekkers attempt to summit Africa’s highest mountain for which the airport is eponymously named, Mt. Kilimanjaro.

We first picked up Laura’s dad from here when he met us for some African adventure. He couldn’t believe that the 747 he was on was going to land in what he thought was a field. I got a taste of what he was talking about when I flew to Nairobi from JRO. Because I didn’t receive a wake-up call at my hotel, I was very worried security was not going to let me through to my gate when I arrived 40 minutes before my flight was set to depart, well under the 2 hours suggested for international flights.

What a laugh. Airports like these are my favorite – small, easily manageable and which represent the destination itself. Like Tanzanians, the airport was warm, welcoming and laid back. The security guard was one of about 15 people total in the airport and didn’t fuss about my late arrival. He calmly scanned my bag in seconds, leaving me plenty of time to enjoy the fruits of this quaint, aeronautical operation.

Mount Kilimanjaro The Worlds Most Interesting Airports

On a clear day after a storm, it's possible to get a view of snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro

I perused intricate rosewood carvings and banana-leaf dolls at the two airport gift shops. I even had time for a cup of Kilimanjaro coffee the area’s plantations are famous for producing, even if it cost me $1 more than it would at a Starbucks several thousand miles away (odd how that works…). Finally, my flight was called and walking out onto the tarmac, I was struck by a now rare sight – snow-capped Kilimanjaro in the distance. Even a stubborn Hemingway would be made proud.

The Ugly

Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport – Mumbai, India

Mumbai Airport The Worlds Most Interesting Airports

Mumbai's airport doesn't do much to contradict negative stereotypes

If you want to experience and understand the difference between the emerging countries of China and India, visit the countries’ major airports. Beijing’s airport is a slick nod to China’s infrastructural modernity and its place as a 21st century power player, basically leapfrogging a generation of technology. India, by contrast, continues to struggle with woeful infrastructure. Nowhere is this more apparent than Mumbai’s airport.

The place is a dump, to put it bluntly. A disorganized, bureaucratically corrupt dump. Laura and I walked out of baggage claim to find filthy, squat toilets in one of the world’s busiest airports. An airport official charged me 300 rupees to hire a taxi, which I realized shortly after was not an official price but an arbitrary one. The terminal hallway was dusty, old and prison-like. We were, at 6 a.m. local time, quickly shocked into “we are in India now” mode.

In all honesty, I didn’t really expect anything different from Mumbai’s airport. India is still a very poor nation, after all. It’s just that through traveling so many of my expectations had been subverted by the reality of a place. Yet, here I finally was in India, and the stereotypes generated through email chain pictorials with subject titles like “Is your country this crazy?” were proving truer than the impressions painted by Western media of a burgeoning economy on the cusp, along with China, of becoming the world’s next great superpower.

To be fair, in doing some research, I learned that over a billion dollars has been spent already to modernize Mumbai’s international airport, with pictures to prove it. It’s likely then that we arrived to an old gate in an old terminal. Still, double digit annual GDP growth India might have, but it has some serious PR problems on its hands if this is what half of the country’s main airport looks like.

pixel The Worlds Most Interesting Airports

Comments (9)

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  1. Laura says:

    I agree, airports like Arusha’s are great – so laid back! Recently we were quite surprised with the international airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – much better than Nairobi’s (where we currently live) and a breeze to get in and out of.
    Laura´s last [type] ..horseriding in ethiopia, part one

  2. Jessica says:

    What a great concept for an article – there are so many interesting airports around the world and Changi International Airport is an amazing place!!!

  3. Glad you included JRO as we will be flying there later this year for our trip to Tanzania. Based on your description, it seems like it shares similarities to the airport in St. Thomas, USVI, which has a small air strip, completely laid back TSA agents, and a quaint feel.
    Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans´s last [type] ..Búzios: Positive Energy

  4. Shane says:

    London City Airport is probably my best airport ever because it’s such a painless process from going from the check in counter to gate. You seriously can be at the gate in 15 minutes from the minute you get out of your cab!!
    Shane´s last [type] ..Mass Transport Systems around the world [Infographic]

  5. I agree, we loved Singapore, especially when you travel with kids. Our son Niko loved it! In terms of one of the most interesting, I would add Koh Samui in Thailand, it is a very welcoming cozy outdoor concept.
    Martin Pietrzak´s last [type] ..Malaysia Part 2 – Langkawi NYE on our Around the World Voyage with Niko.

  6. The airports are often as interesting as the place you are travelling.

    I remember taking a flight from the Great Barrier Island off the coast of Auckland. The terminal was just a shed. The check-in desk clerk, baggage handler and pilot were the same person! Classic

    Love the blog, kind regards, Si

  7. roundwego says:

    @Brock. Indeed – I guess what I always find interesting is when airports (or border crossings) are not very representative of the places we visit. For instance, Miami’s airport is a total dump in an overly developed state but then some underdeveloped countries and cities have great airports. Just goes to show that you can’t judge a country’s book by its cover I guess.

  8. It’s crazy how different airports can be! Some are as nice as 5-star hotels, and some are… not so nice.
    Brock – Backpack With Brock´s last [type] ..One Moment In Time – A Tribute to Whitney Houston From a Backpacker

  9. Chris Dowling says:

    Ah, yes, it seems like just yesterday that my plane dropped out of the sky to land at JRO- where I was able to meet up with my world travelers. Very apt description of JRO, quite a change from the airport I had departed in Amsterdam.