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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Law Firm Technology (5)
Len Cleavelin wrote: I find it extremely difficult to be... [more]

Post Exam Rant (9)
Tony the Pony wrote: Humbug. Allowing computers already... [more]

Symbols, Shame, and A Number of Reasons that Billy Idol is Wrong (11)
Adam wrote: Well, here's a spin on the theory o... [more]

I've Always Wanted to Say This: What Do You Want? (14)
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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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A Journey Down the Garden Route

There’s one place uniting nearly all visitors to South Africa. This spot is known as the Garden Route, a scenic 400-mile stretch running down the southern coastline of South Africa. Second to only Cape Town or Krueger National Park, it usually earns a spot on the itinerary of nearly every South African traveler. Promising incredible topography and vegetation with a wide range of outdoor and wildlife activities, we set aside nearly two weeks to traverse this terrain.

Garden Route 1 A Journey Down the Garden Route

Road trippin' it down South Africa's Garden Route

Arming ourselves with some wheels, we took off from Cape Town with our pals Greg and Ashley for a proper road trip along the acclaimed Garden Route. Our journey commenced in picturesque Hermanus Bay.

Whale-Studded Shores in Hermanus Bay

Hermanus 1 A Journey Down the Garden Route

Our charming digs in Hermanus Bay

The town of shake-shingled cottages with thick slated-roofs overlooking a rocky shoreline of crashing waves was straight out of a New England dream. We settled into a delightful little B&B on the Atlantic shores and the intricately hand-carved furniture and African accents were the only thing reminding me I was far away from home. While our adventure hungry pals, Greg and Ashley, set off to organize a cage swim with Great White Sharks (check out their blog for stories on this adventure!), I tended to my wifely duties. Ryan was suffering from a bad case of food poisoning – South African style – from the ostrich burger he mowed down the night before. Between caring for my sickling, I soaked up views from the balcony of our room of the sun setting over the dramatic coastline line.

Hermanus 2 A Journey Down the Garden Route

Whale-watching on the shores of Hermanus Bay

With the ‘bird flu’ behind us, we had the following day to enjoy Hermanus Bay. We were more than pleased with our charming digs and the coastal scenery, but what had drawn us here could be found along the water’s edge. We’d arrived in October, peak whale-watching season, to watch the massive water beasts put on their show. To our delight, a fleet of enormous fins poked out of the water followed by a stream of rolling, colossal bellies revealing themselves amidst breaking waves.

A Taste of the Wilderness

Wilderness 2 A Journey Down the Garden Route

Canoeing through Wilderness Wildlife Reserve

Next up was the eponymously named town of Wilderness . Here we found ourselves in the midst of – you guessed it – the wilderness. Surrounded by dense forests, deep ravines and rippling streams, the area is any outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. With little time on our side, we had to forgo the variety of nature hikes encircling the area and opted for a day on the water. Saddling up on canoes we spent a leisurely afternoon paddling our way to the waterfalls of Wilderness Wildlife Reserve. Paying proper adieu to the day, we then watched the sunset from the white-sandy beaches of Wilderness Bay with a bottle of cheap wine and block of cheese in hand.

Wilderness 3 A Journey Down the Garden Route

Enjoying sunset with friends over Wilderness Bay

The unexpected highlight, however, of Wilderness was a visit to a hobo camp on the outskirts of town. Our buddy Greg had gotten word of this remote encampment from a fellow traveler and was adamant we pay a visit. To my surprise, it did not disappoint. Following deserted train tracks around the side of the mountain, we walked through a long tunnel. This lead us to an enormous cave with unparalleled views of the rocky coastline. We immediately recognized this was no ordinary cave and were soon greeted by cautious hellos from the cave’s inhabitants. The cave is called home by thirteen homeless people and on a brief tour conducted by the mastermind of this eccentric ‘residence’ we learned it was unlike any place we’d ever seen.

Wilderness 4 A Journey Down the Garden Route

View inside the Hobo Camp in Wilderness

Entering the cave I felt as if I were walking into a Tim Burton film. Proudly leading us through his whimsical home, our dutiful guide explained how each ‘room’ had been constructed out of various relics found on the shoreline or around town. In reality this group of hobos had simply taken others’ rubbish and used it to create a residential masterpiece. In the three years of occupying the cave, they had skillfully crafted a beautiful home. Old mops and brooms were converted into ornate bed posts and vases. Fanciful strands of seashells strung together with fishing line magically hung from the cave ceiling and elaborate chandeliers made of pebbles and rocks look fit for a spread in Better Homes & Gardens. It was sheer genius.

Great New Heights in Storm’s River

Bungee 1 A Journey Down the Garden Route

Ryan preparing to take the plunge off of Boulkrans Bridge

On the eastern edge of the Garden Route, Ryan chalked up another one on the adventure list: bungee jumping from the highest jump on the planet. Located near the town of Storm’s River is the towering Balkans Bridge standing proudly over a deep ravine. It’s become the place for adrenaline junkies looking to take the plunge and claiming to have highest bungee jump in the world, my superlative-seeking husband wanted in.

Bungee 2 A Journey Down the Garden Route

About to make the jump off the highest bungee jump in the world

After getting strapped into his gear and getting an earful from me on how stupid I thought it was, he braved his way to the center of the bridge and made the jump. Standing a football field away, it was quite unsettling watching him make the jump and witnessing his flailing body suspended in the air hundreds of feet above earth. After confirming it was the most terrifying moment of his life, I crossed my fingers hoping it might be the last.

Bungee 3 A Journey Down the Garden Route

Ryan makes the jump at 708 feet above the earth

From pristine coastlines and whale-studded shores to cascading waterfalls and hobo camps, the Garden Route was a special place. And this was just the beginning. Standing out from our Garden Route journey were the wildlife encounters to come. Graceful cheetahs and fierce ostriches awaited us on our journey and wet our palette for the host of African wildlife adventures to come.

pixel A Journey Down the Garden Route

Comments (3)

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  1. Will says:

    I love the garden route especially living in a coastal town Jeffreys Bay on the edge of this route. Sometimes I have to drive through the scenic garden route for work purposes, what a privilege!
    Will´s last [type] ..Fall in Love with South Africa

  2. Ashley says:

    Loved this post! I am currently picturing that day Ryan bungee jumped. Think too much wine the night before and a group of American college students. Hilarious!!! So glad we did not do it…Miss you two!

  3. Patrick Shuff says:

    wow – look at you Ryno. Intensity in ten cities.