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,

A.R.

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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Notable Cafes of Buenos Aires

There is no excuse to be lethargic in Buenos Aires. Some of the strongest and best coffee this side of the Atlantic resides in the many thousands of cafes that dot this sophisticated, world-class city. As a visitor, one of the best ways to explore the different neighborhoods and capture the pulse of this captivating metropolis is to visit one of its many cafés “notables.” Noted for their historical and architectural importance, 60 of the city’s bars and cafes are recognized officially as part of the state’s cultural patrimony.

Café Tortoni

Cafe Tortoni Buenos Aires Notable Cafes of Buenos Aires

Argentina's most famous cafe - Cafe Tortoni

Perhaps the most well-known – and most heavily-touristed – café in Buenos Aires is Café Tortoni (Avenida de Mayo 825, Monserrat). You can’t ignore the history here. Several tables are posthumously occupied by sculptures of Argentine artists and intelligentsia that used to frequent the café, including tango’s most famous singer, Carlos Gardel, and the poetess Alfonsina Storni.

Café Tortoni’s service is gruff, but always impeccable. You won’t mind that your waiter is not trying to chat you up after ordering the piping-hot churros and chocolate. Waiters expertly serve rich hot chocolate from still richer-looking copper kettles and matching cups. You will need the accompanying milk to relax the thick, lava-like chocolate. After dipping a warm, sugar-coated churro in your hot chocolate, you will feel the guilt that comes with such decadence, but not enough to deter you from dipping again and again.

If you need a jolt after the soporific chocolate indulgence, order a cortado, or espresso, to get your mettle back. Then, take a peak behind the velvet curtains to take in one of the café’s tango shows or head to the back to shoot some pool. Undoubtedly, after such an elegant experience and a look around at the walls of Café Tortoni, you will leave with a better history of the city and understanding of its people.

Café Richmond

richmond1 Notable Cafes of Buenos Aires

Amidst the frenetic chaos of Florida Street, Cafe Richmond is a bastion of cool and calm

A trip to Buenos Aires would not be complete without a trip to the ever-busy pedestrian street Calle Florida. Amidst the frenetic outside activity of haggling money-changers and shopkeepers trying to hawk leather gaucho-wear sits the calm and sophisticated Café Richmond (Florida 468, San Nicolas). If these walls could talk, they would tell you little more than the coterie of dapper-looking, older men playing chess in the front room could. Retired they may be, but each day these men appear, clad in their Mad Men-style suits, ready for strong coffee and animated conversation over a game of chess. This is reminder enough that some things always are and always will be.

The décor is classic 1920’s with old chandeliers casting a warm glow over the long, meandering room. There are places still where a heavy haze of smoke just seems right. Café Richmond is one of them. Although smoking was banned in indoor bars and cafés a few years ago here in Buenos Aires, there are a few loopholes to get around the law. For this and to appease many of its clientele that have been frequenting the café for years, there is a smoking solarium toward the back. The bathrooms of the café are equally impressive in their décor and are worth a gander (seriously) when you patronize the place. Hang out at The Richmond long enough and you might begin to channel the writing voices of two of its leading habitués – Graham Greene and Jorge Luis Borges.

argentina cafe richmond buenos aires Notable Cafes of Buenos Aires

Cafe Richmond on Calle Florida is where Mad Men congregate

Update: Café Richmond has closed, sadly. Worse yet, it will be replaced by a Nike store, although Nike Argentina promises it will “preserve the façade.”

Café La Biela

Cafe La Biela Notable Cafes of Buenos Aires

La Biela is where the tres chic Portenos come for their cafe con leche

Such rich café experiences often demand rich zip codes. Therefore, there is La Biela (Avenida Quintana 600, Recoleta), one of the city’s finest and most regal coffee establishments. Located on the plaza in front of the famous cemetery where the likes of Evita Peron and other high-brow Portenos go to rest, La Biela caters to the sophisticated elite of Buenos Aires’s wealthiest barrio, Recoleta. The café dates back all the way to 1850 when Recoleta was more farmland than Belle Epoque, but received its present name in 1950 when Formula One champions and auto racers used it as a gathering place.

Patrons of La Biela have the fortune of enjoying their café con leche alfresco. Outside, one can enjoy a favorite Porteno pastime, people-watching. Indulge your curiosities and pass judgment on (or pretend to be totally indifferent to) the many tourists taking in impromptu tango shows, snapping photos of Recoleta Cemetery or admiring the bright white Nuestra Senora de Pilar Catholic church. In cooler months, this is a great place to warm yourself in the afternoon sun; during summer, cool off in the shade if you can snag a table underneath the great limbs of the famed ombu trees with their Wizard of Oz-like appearance.

la biela ombu Notable Cafes of Buenos Aires

Patio area at La Biela shaded by the long-limbed ombu tree

Inside, experience the opulence and splendor one would expect from a café situated just a block away from the Alvear Palace Hotel, the city’s oldest and finest. The room is simple, yet elegant in its fillings. Notably, visitors will see photographs of the connecting rods used in racing cars that the café is named after, along with the famous drivers that put them to the test. Service here is superb and you will be made to feel every bit as sophisticated as the company you are in.

Las Violetas

stained glass restaurant las violetas Notable Cafes of Buenos Aires

The stained glass windows of Almagro's Las Violetas is more coffee cathedral than cafe

Finally, leave the well-trodden tourist path and head to the Almagro neighborhood to visit one of Buenos Aires’s oldest cafés. The recently remodeled Las Violetas (Avenida Rivadavia 3899, Almagro) opened its doors again in 2007 for the first time in over 10 years after a lengthy restoration. Before being declared a cultural heritage site in 1998, the café had been partially abandoned. But now, Las Violetas has brought life back to the city’s Almagro neighborhood.

Enter through the gold-plated revolving door on Avenida Rivadavia and you will think you’ve entered a café built by Willy Wonka – the 1920’s version. The first thing you’ll notice are the magnificent glass cases filled with every type of sweet pastry your heart could desire: giant alfajores – mini shortbread cakes filled with dulce de leche and coated with sugar – and their baby offspring, fruit cakes, medialunas, cherry danishes, chocolate pastries, cakes and éclairs.

Like many other cafes of its time that sadly no longer exist, Las Violetas is enormous, having enough space to seat 200 guests at one time. Ceilings flaunting gold chandeliers rise 30 feet above finely-crafted Italian marble floors. The café was made more European during the 1920′s by the addition of French stained glass windows, giving it a bright, airy and open feeling. Female or not, one must head upstairs where the ladies’ restroom is located to take a gander at the café in all of its glory.

In a nod to Arthur Guinness, Las Violetas serves its coffee black as oil and thick as mud with a white, frothy, bubbling top. If tea is more your cup, then look no further than the Maria Cala tea service – an over-the-top spread of scones, finger sandwiches, cakes and pastries, meant for three, but large enough for six!

Bar at Alvear Palace Hotel Notable Cafes of Buenos Aires

Bar and cafe at Alvear Palace Hotel in Recoleta

The city’s thriving café culture should come as no surprise. It was, in no small part, instituted by the city’s coffee-adoring Spanish and Italian immigrants many years ago. While Buenos Aires is not impregnable to Starbucks – they have opened 5 locations since 2006 – the pervasive feeling among the local Portenos is that expediency is not nearly as precious as good company and strong coffee. Whether it’s to discuss the latest futbol standings, wildly escalating ice cream prices or simply gossip, Buenos Aires’s denizens will continue to get together to “tomar un café”, and with that, continue one of the world’s finest café cultures.

pixel Notable Cafes of Buenos Aires

Comments (6)

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  1. Jessica says:

    Now – those are some luxurious cafes!!!

  2. Nice post! I love a good cafe, and these ones seem great!
    Brock – Backpack With Brock´s last [type] ..Success! 31 Days of Posting and Finding Happiness First

  3. roundwego says:

    @Andi Absolutely agree. Some places are too unique and too special not to be enjoyed by lots of people, tourists and locals alike. Tortoni is definitely one of those places.

  4. I don’t care how touristy Tortoni is, I LOVE it. The churros there are out of this world!!!
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures´s last [type] ..Chicago: Day 2 (Part 2)

  5. roundwego says:

    @Caroline – We’ve been following along your and Josh’s journey, very jealously. Amazing to think you’re just at the very beginning of the best and most experiential year of your lives. Keep the updates coming and travel safely.

  6. Due to our love of all types of coffee, we will be taking notes and visiting cafes around BA :) We just tried Kopi in Singapore and love it!