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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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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Over-budget in the Land Down Under?

Sydney Skyline e1266454295411 Over budget in the Land Down Under?Leaving behind the unspoiled countryside of New Zealand we knew things would be different in Australia. But how different, we had no idea.

As budget travelers (perhaps a step above your typical backpacker and a flight of stairs below holidaymakers and vacationers), we’ve found ourselves, up until now, in a pretty good spot. Traveling through South America we enjoyed meager breakfasts followed by afternoon jaunts to corner cafes and sumptuous dinners out on the town. We could afford private, clean (albeit modest) rooms at budget hotels, family-run B&B’s and hostels.

In Fiji and New Zealand we were pushed a bit on these norms and had to make some minor changes: cooking in from time to time, restricting our café and alcohol intake a bit and opting for accommodation with shared bathrooms. Australia, however, turned out to be a whole different playing field.

Facing the Music
Nothing could have prepared us for how expensive Australia is. I’ve spent some time in some of the more expensive cities in the world, like Paris, London and New York City, and let me tell you: Australia (not just cosmopolitan Sydney) is right up there in terms of cost.

With the Australian dollar near one to one with the US dollar, we’re paying top prices for even the most basic goods. Here’s a look at the price tags you’ll find on some daily necessities in Australia:
- $4 for a cup of coffee
- $5 for a loaf of bread
- $9 for a box of cereal
- $15 for a six pack of beer
- $17 for a movie ticket

With these costs, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that budget accommodation (and I’m talking low-end, backpacker hostels, people) will cost you around $80-$120 for a private room and $60-$80 for two beds in a shared dorm. Yes, absolutely outrageous.

How? Why? After continuing to ask myself these same questions, I got down to the bottom of it. Australians are making big bucks. Yep, minimum wage is a whopping $14.31. That means a day of flipping hamburgers at a Sydney McDonald’s or picking fruit in the farms surrounding Melbourne puts a near $150 bucks in your pocket. Score a more prestigious job manning the espresso machine behind the counter and you’re darn near $200 bucks for a day’s work. To put that in perspective, that’s nearly $40-50K per year on a minimum wage job!

What does this do to someone like us, the budget traveler? It has prices skyrocketing, making it close to impossible to fully enjoy the beauty of the country without constantly struggling to keep your budget intact. We could literally feel our wallet getting lighter as the day wore on and realized we needed to re-strategize and fast.

Stretching Aussie Travel Dollars
Here are a few of the tips we’ve picked up along the way and some ideas for those looking to enjoy Australia without busting the budget:

Say No to Organized Fun: Australian tourist agencies are talented stalkers. They will literally hunt you down on the streets and try to convince you the only way to experience Australia is through organized tours. Heavily promoted at most hostels, most backpackers seem to fall into this trap, but stay away from these and you’ll avoid putting a huge dent in your budget. Want to see the Whitsundays, Fraser Island, the Blue Mountains? In most cases you can do it on your own and for much cheaper. Do your homework, rent a car, get your own group together at your hostel and weigh your options heavily before jumping on one of these tours.

Akaroa 9 e1266455848395 Over budget in the Land Down Under?Small Splurges: Even when money is tight, don’t give up on those little things that make you happy while traveling. If it’s an afternoon cup of coffee, a scoop of gelato or an ice cold pint at the corner pub that gets you excited, don’t go without. We began our time in Australia forgoing these small things to try to stay on budget and realized without the small pick-me-ups throughout the day we were left feeling bitter and frustrated. Find other ways to cut corners, but don’t sweat the small stuff.

Surf on Someone Else‘s Dime: Internet in Australia is very pricey with most places charging $4-6 an hour. There’s even a monopoly on places with WiFi that make you pay into a public network for use. Keep your eyes, peeled, however, for the gazillion travel agencies lining the streets. They offer free internet to tourists (to encourage you to book tours with them). Makes for a great place to stop in to catch up on email and get some free travel advice at the same time. Check out Peter Pan, Tribal Travel and Wicked Travel agencies in nearly every city in Australia.

Food Market Sydney1 e1266455898929 Over budget in the Land Down Under?Food on the Cheap: It’s no surprise eating out is the biggest way to bust your budget. In fact in Australia, even mediocre restaurants are charging $20-30 a plate. Cooking in is obviously the way to go, but even grocery shopping can be a budget breaker. Good news: Most cities in Australia have some really great food markets. Here you’ll find really fresh produce (and local food treasures you didn’t even know existed!) for nearly a third of the price you find in grocery stores. Head to the market in the afternoon to get the best prices (prices drop dramatically after the midday rush) or consider hitting up grocery stores for late night specials. After 7 p.m. you’ll see they often drop their prices on meats and produce, too, to get rid of fresh food before the day’s end.

Reassess Your Budget: We had a set idea of how much money we’d like to spend each day/week to make our 12-14 months of traveling a reality. We were right on target for our first four months and then we hit the wall: Australia. Instead of spending our days making big sacrifices to stay on track (i.e. staying in dirty, unpleasant hostels that more resembled frat houses) and being irritated we couldn’t afford to do much, we came to accept the fact we needed to give our Australia budget a little more leeway. We decided we would up the ante, adding a bit more to our daily budget, and vow to cut back when we hit cheaper places like India.

After two weeks into our month in Australia, we’ve learned how to make the most of a not so budget-friendly destination. We now better understand the importance of being flexible, realizing when to give in a little and when to pull back on the reins. We recognize our dollar may not take us as far as it once did, but we’ve come to realize those rare, authentic experiences are the ones that don’t come with a price tag. And along the way we’re discovering these are the challenges that push us to savor the daily adventure each day brings and make our journey all the worthwhile.

pixel Over budget in the Land Down Under?

Comments (7)

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  1. Kendra says:

    Thanks for the tips, as my husband and I are in the same boat with the prices just as bad 3 years later! And that is with camping too!
    Kendra´s last [type] ..South Africa Part 2

  2. roundwego says:

    Great to hear. Glad you enjoyed the article.

  3. Kristina says:

    Thanks for the advice! Loved this article!

  4. roundwego says:

    Yes, I think we’re finally at the point where we have accepted the outrageous prices and can start to fully enjoy our time here. Half of it was the initial shock and frustration.

    Greg – Thanks for the reco on Wotif.com. Great site. We heard about it, but just a little bit too far into our time here, which resulted in staying in some seedy places. Better luck next time, I suppose.

  5. Greg says:

    During our 30 some odd days in Australia, we heavily relied on http://www.wotif.com. You can book hotels at a fraction of the advertised rate. They cater to all price levels, below the $80 – $120 cited above. Often they are cheaper than hostels.

  6. Shannon OD says:

    I had a similar heart-attack experience when I first got to Oz. I was really fortunate that it was about 1.26 Aussie to the $ or I would have had to leave before my 2 months were up. It’s pretty hard to believe it when you’re walking through the stores and see how much everything costs. Good luck guys and great tips – I loved the Peter Pans because they’re everywhere and if there were not a lot of people they would let me stay longer :-)

  7. Shannon says:

    I just forwarded this to my two Aussie friends here in AZ. They just moved here from Sydney and they’ve been trying to explain the Aussie = pricey way to me. I forwarded them the link to this. Hope you’re having fun despite the expense. Miss you two!!!