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.

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Mumbai Makes an Impression

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Mumbai's central train station, Victoria Terminus, at sunset

“Prepare yourself.” These were the words Laura and I heard over and over again when telling others of our plans to visit India. Strangers mentioned it. Travelers impressed it. Even my Indian friends made this very clear. We heard it so often we began to second-guess ourselves and our decision to visit the subcontinent. But the simple truth is this; nothing can possibly prepare you for India. It is filthy, heartbreaking, exotic, joyous, disturbing and uplifting. India is, in a word, enthralling.

Our visit to India began with an early-morning flight from Singapore to Mumbai, the sprawling metropolis that more than 20 million people call home. The first thing that struck us upon landing in Mumbai was the slums. The largest slum in Mumbai – Dharavi, which is home to over one million people, is situated between the city’s two main railway lines. Before touching down, Laura and I could only shake our heads in disbelief at the sight of the slum’s corrugated, tin roofs reaching out in all directions. The despair we felt driving into the city and passing through the seemingly interminable slum was so great we knew what others meant by “prepare yourselves.”

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Children swimming along the Mumbai fishing wharf slums

The next thing that hits you is the smell. In the movie Darjeeling Limited, Adrien Brody’s character remarks, “I love the way this country smells. It’s kind of spicy.” And, well¸ that’s the summation of it. It’s absolutely intoxicating. Depending on which whiff you get, spicy can either be a euphemism for open sewage and the smell of trash and filth that litters the streets. Or spicy can be the smell of cumin, chilies, vanilla, cardamom, saffron and chai. Either way, Mumbai has a smell that you won’t soon forget.

It’s hot in Mumbai. It’s always hot. We changed our itinerary around to be here in March before the real heat of April and May sets in. It’s no wonder that summer brings monsoons because the humidity when we arrived was already oppressive. You can feel the wetness hovering overhead. Certainly, we felt it on our bodies. It was readily apparent with the dense air that we’d be smelling as spicy as Mumbai soon enough.

We auspiciously and unknowingly arrived to Mumbai the morning of India’s biggest religious celebration– Holi festival. This meant that instead of the ruinous noise of traffic one can expect from a seething city waking up on a Monday morning, we were treated to a street chalk full of zombies and riotous colors. You see, Indians celebrate Holi by throwing colored powder – or gual pol – at anyone in close proximity, followed by a good dashing of water (for posterity) as a way to welcome the coming of Spring. Our trip through the streets of Mumbai during the early morning hours of Holi was like walking into Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.

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Happy Holi greetings from young Mumbaikers

Unlike most other festivals where communities of people come together to celebrate in open streets or spaces, Holi is more of a private celebration, usually taking place at friends’ or relatives’ homes. But seeing as though the slums do not really contain “homes,” or at least not in the Western traditional sense, we were able to partake in the festival and could see people playfully, yet fervently, dousing each other until teeth were the only body parts spared a shade of the spectrum.

It did not take long for India to exude its national obsession – cricket. It’s everywhere. It’s on TV, on the radio, and most entertainingly, on the streets. Children in Mumbai play cricket like Brooklyners used to play stickball. In places as dense as New York or Mumbai, kids don’t need a field. Any alley, street or museum property will do. As futbol is to about every other country besides the US, cricket is to Indians. Whether it’s club or country, matches are heavily watched and debated by men all over the country. The rivalry between India and Pakistan is especially intense, as one could imagine.

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Our first meal in India at Mumbai's Rajdhani

We wasted no time in putting India’s famous cuisine to the test. I don’t think I necessarily travel because of food, but the two are invariably intertwined for me. In my opinion, cultures and people are often best expressed through food. And no place, at least according to reputation, expresses themselves so fully through their food than India. Our first meal, a Gujarati thali, did nothing to dishonor this reputation.

As only a novice of Indian food the word thali meant nothing to me. A thali can loosely be described as a tasting menu where diners are encouraged to sample a variety of different regional foods. In our case, it was an all-you-can-eat affair. And that’s exactly what we did. I absolutely knew we were going to feast in Mumbai. I just didn’t expect it to be our first meal there.

Thalis are served on a silver tray with eight or so small silver bowls. Server after server filled our tray with the various dishes that are part of Gujarat, a regional state north of Mumbai’s state of Maharashtra. First, there was bread in all of its Indian incarnations: chapatti – crispy, unleavened round bread, roti – thicker than chapatti and cooked in a tandoor (clay oven) and naan – thicker still, tear drop-shaped bread cooked with garlic. Bowls were then filled with rice, cucumber salad, curried eggplant, dhal (lentil curry), chutney (made of minced chilies and mint), the ever-present spicy lemon-chili pickle, raita (yoghurt-based dish meant to cool one’s mouth down after all the spice), and, of course, three different desserts: gubal agal (sponge-like cake balls drenched with syrup), a delicious custard with diced apples and kheer – a saffron, pistachio, flaked almond and cardamom-infused rice pudding for the ages! We left feeling very confident that we would not go hungry in India.

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Impromptu cricket game on the streets of Mumbai

We tried working off our thali with a stroll through the markets where everything under the sun (or soot) can be haggled for. Careful not to have a foot run over by a cycle rickshaw or a meandering cow, we ended our day watching the sun set over Victoria Terminus, the stunning relic of British rule that is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to Asia’s busiest rail station. Watching the sun’s last light over the station’s Gothic spires from our aptly-named Welcome Hotel would become my favorite memory of Mumbai over the next several days, as we’d repeat this ritual nightly.

Now if someone were to ask me, “What did you like about Mumbai?” I could not give a definitive answer. It isn’t a city of spectacular sights or cool neighborhoods or even wonderful culture. But it has a frenetic energy whose palpability absolutely should be felt. It gets under your skin in ways that only a teeming Indian metropolis can. Mentally, physically, psychologically –this dirty, chaotic and strangely beautiful city will challenge you. But if you rise to meet this challenge, I promise you, Mumbai will make an indelible impression and you will, with time, be pondering your return trip.

pixel Mumbai Makes an Impression

Comments (3)

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  1. I am greatly interested in being an international correspondent someday. I plan on studying abroad next term, but I’m not certain what country would be best for me? I know I want to visit the middle east or asia, but I’m simply uncertain which one. Any ideas?

  2. Ross says:

    I went to Mumbai a few years ago and absolutely loved it, compltet eyeopened to the wide extremes in living conditions between residents of the city, however overall i found it such a great place to visit.

    However the absolute best part of the trip was the food, i ate off the street stalls quite a lot and thougth the food was delicious, being a veggie too is great in india!
    .-= Ross´s last blog ..The Wee Chill Glasgow =-.

  3. Kim says:

    This post was very useful for me! My husband and I are also planning a RTW trip and leaving in June. We had the same warnings as you about India and have been timid about the experience. Your experience helped to ease my mind a bit! Great blog, by the way. I’m sure I’ll spend a lot of time here!