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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Majestic Rajasthan

Rajasthan Turban e1270651005582 Majestic Rajasthan

Turban coiled on the head of Rajasthani man

In the northwest region of India lies the colorful state of Rajasthan. Known as the Land of Kings, it’s home to an arid, desert terrain marked with the remnants of a rich and powerful past. In each vibrant city, there is an impressive ensemble of majestic palaces and magnificent forts and a plethora of sun-kissed rooftops where you can soak it all in.

When you picture India, it’s likely Rajasthan you have in mind. Here the clanking sound of sparkling bangles and silver anklets is hushed against the taunts of sari stall vendors pushing intricate fabrics. Bobbing through the narrow alleyways of endless bazaars, there’s a sea of brilliantly colored turbans bantering at the spice markets. It’s India at its best.

We spent three weeks uncovering the splendor of the enchanting state. Here’s a look at some of our fondest memories.


 Majestic Rajasthan

Sunset from Monsoon Palace overlooking Udaipur

It’s hard to forget your first sight of Udaipur at sunset, and that’s why we stayed so long…to do it over and over again. Udaipur has a fairytale setting. It’s built around a group of lakes, mountainous green hills and floating royal palaces. Dubbed India’s most romantic city, we celebrated Ryan’s 30th birthday here and lived like royalty. Thanks to our generous parents, we were treated to a spa day at one of the city’s lavish hotels and enjoyed a private, palatial dining experience surrounded by hundreds of twinkling candles on a bed of marigolds.

We fell in love with the elegant haveli where we stayed. This 300 year old mansion is a structure built for India’s elite where all rooms are centered around a courtyard. We enjoyed calling this place home for our brief stint and spent many a hours on its rooftop terrace enjoying the spectacular views.


Camel Trek 2 e1270650482500 Majestic Rajasthan

Camel trek shadow in the Thar Desert

The town of Jaisalmer sits amidst the sands of the Thar Desert. As India’s ‘Golden City,’ the windy streets are lined with honey-colored temples and havelis. Suffering from an extreme case of dehydration, I couldn’t muster the energy to accompany Ryan on exploring the sandstone castle perched above the city. I was saving my energy for our trek out in the desert.

On the back of camels, we wandered through the rolling sands of the Thar Desert, bringing us just 30 miles away from the Pakistani border. Here we set up camp for the night. Wrapped in blankets on a bed of sand under a full moon, it was a night to remember.


Jodhpur e1270650607772 Majestic Rajasthan

Walking the blue city streets of Jodhpur

As I said, Rajasthan is big on colors. That brings us to Jodhpur, the ‘Blue City.’ Here the Meherangarh Fort (one of India’s best) is dramatically perched over the blue city skyline. Long ago, the people of Jodhpur added indigo to their white paint as a way to keep away pesty insects and keep their homes cooler in the desert summer. Whether it works or not, I can’t tell you, but getting lost in the blue maze of the city at sunset was a brilliant experience and likely any photographer’s dream.


Pushkar Monkey e1270650527662 Majestic Rajasthan

Monkey scaling the rooftops at sunset

For the mere 10,000 people that live here, Pushkar packs a memorable punch. This holy city has more than five hundred temples and strictly forbids meat, eggs and alcohol. There are several bathing ghats in the center of town (looking to be no more than dirty pools of water) but actually are one of the holiest of places. Bathing in the ghats is said to cleanse the soul of impurities, attracting hundreds to the water each day to get their scrub on. A rare sight was seeing the traditionally and obsessively modest Indians here bearing it all as they slipped into the murky waters.

As a visitor to the ghats, we were invited to partake in a puja (prayer) session. Our puja entailed a priest asking us to repeat prayers while sprinkling rose petals and rice into the holy waters.

Aside from the holy rollers and strange pilgrims crawling all over the place, our favorite memory of Pushkar was at sunset. Atop the rooftop café of our hotel, we were captivated by the sight of monkeys jumping rooftop to rooftop as the blood-red, desert sun dropped behind the white-washed temples and soaring mountains.

Ah, Rajasthan…a magical place.

pixel Majestic Rajasthan

Comments (8)

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  1. WireIndia says:

    Hi Laura,

    Looks like you had a fabulous time! You’re right about it being difficult to take a bad picture here in Rajasthan! There’s a photo opportunity round every corner! Did you get a chance to visit smaller places like Ranakpur and Alwar? Now you’ve seen the big sites, its definitely worth coming back to see more “off the beaten track” locations another time!

    Good luck with the rest of the journey!

  2. roundwego says:

    @Mina – It’s hard to take a bad photo in Rajasthan, that is for sure! Simply the most photogenic place I’ve been. Thanks for the kind words.

  3. mina says:

    gorgeous photos!
    .-= mina´s last blog ..afternoon tea =-.

  4. roundwego says:

    Ah, forgot to mention the reason they don’t allow eggs in Pushkar is because it’s a total vegan town, meaning no meat, no eggs and no dairy products. They actually do serve ‘omelets’ using no eggs, only vegetables. Really interesting city.

  5. roundwego says:

    Hi Sofia – Glad you enjoyed the Rajasthan photos! It was definitely one of our favorite stops in India. Each city was so full of color and history. Could have spent months there soaking it all up. We just met a Kiwi guy who is buying a camel to explore Rajasthan. Now that’s an adventure we’d like to have!

  6. I loved it there too, want to go back there again soon and stay a bit longer. Love the pictures, especially the one “Walking the blue city streets of Jodhpur”.
    .-= Sofia – As We Travel´s last blog ..Weekend Reading – Best Travel Blogs From Around The Web (4-9 April) =-.

  7. Jocelyn Capen says:


  8. For me there is something magical about India. Everything is upside down but still somehow so right. Love the picure of the man in the turban!

    How come they don’t allow eggs, is it because it’s an animal product? Do they forbid cheese as well?