Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Reality Check

In general, I don't sweat the small stuff. I find it a waste of time that serves no useful purpose. So, I don't know if I can genuinely call today a return to reality. But, I will.

How can I possibly be expected to care at all about my "burden" of making grades and finding jobs with Mom now bearing the actual burden of a tumor? I could care less about being allowed to flood large, prestigious law firms with lavender scented resumes at midnight tonight.

My mind and heart are elsewhere.

She wasn't even planning on telling me about it. Still, I could sense something was wrong. I pressed the issue until, finally, she relented.

Mom did all she could to allay my concerns. She said that the tumor was "probably" operable and "likely" benign. I guess that these are "positive" signs...

She sounded surprisingly upbeat and things for a second seemed normal again. But, that veil was quickly lifted when she began to poetically wax about the future "should things go wrong." When she reminded me that she had lost both of her parents at an age younger than I am now, I gave up on having a productive day. I really wish I could be there for her right now. I feel helpless, though I don't know what I can do to help.

Why do I feel guilty going on with life here as if things are normal?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Stanford High School

I was recently asked by Brown Junior, a law school hopeful, how I would describe life as a 1L at Stanford.

I took a minute to think over how to best sum things.

"Remember what High School was like?"

I'm sure the experience varies from program to program.

But, things look a lot more like Saved By the Bell than you could possibly imagine.

This really isn't a new revelation on my part. Or, even something that few have noticed. But, it does seem as the class gels, that a small community grows even smaller. Apply fishbowl cliche here.

Things took a serious turn towards Bayside High today. I found myself selling tickets today in class to Saturday's semi-formal. I kid you not. (Wasn't there an episode in which Zack Morris siphoned proceeds from a car wash to pay for his trip to Hawaii? For shame, "Preppy." Always up to no good.)

The similarities don't end there. Here are a few that stick out...

*At Stanford, we each have our own locker on the bottom floor. Unfortunately, the lockers that Screech would fit into aren't bestowed until next year.

*There is a cafe(teria) in the law lounge. People wait on a single file line for the same weekly rotating meal selection. The half-pint carton of milk costs extra, though.

*Knowing all your classmates and professors, impossible in College, is inevitable here. Given the take-no-prisoners Socratic method, I'd rather skip class if I didn't get to all the reading than show up unprepared.

*Classes are largely proscribed, again. "A major? What's that? Law, I guess."

*Club and extracurricular activities reek of resume building. Does anybody edit for a journal because they enjoy cite-checking a hundred sources? Or, think that the Senior Class President will ever really win better food in the vending machines or expanded parking space for students?

All that aside, I kid because I love. I'd much rather spend three years here than at some lawyer factory.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Start Your Engines

The race towards summer employment for first year law students begins on Thursday.

On December 1, the ABA will first permit the most neurotic among us to send cover letters and resumes out to potential employers. I won't be sending anything out for a long time. Yeah, I might even wait until next week. I think that makes me somewhat of a rebel around these parts.

It does help that the two factors shaping my search for a summer position, criminal prosecution & New York City, have narrowed my desired employment to three offices (i.e, Manhattan DA, USAO in SDNY, USAO in EDNY). We'll see what happens. I'd be happy to expand the scope of practice area. But, living in NYC is a deal breaker. Unless, for some reason, Chief Justice Roberts needs my wealth of experience and sagelike advice to entertain him over the summer break.

I hate writing cover letters, though. What a shallow exercise of formality. But, reading them must be just as painful. Can you imagine sorting through dozens of paragraphs written by obsequious students that "would love to be challenged with a position in such an exciting organization."

There are worse distractions from collateral estoppel reading, though. I certainly don't mind thinking about summer in November.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Viva Las Vegas

Flying across the country can never be described as "fun." But, it never hurts to get bumped up to first class and make a quick connection in Las Vegas.

I haven't flown with the bourgeois in first class in about ten years. Apparently the trend these days is to forcibly hydrate the cabin. By the eighth time that Friendly Flight Attendant asked if I needed anything to drink, I just had to concede the point. It wasn't worth it. The woman was on a mission. But, eating airplane food? No amount of coercion could wear me down on that battle of wills.

Finally making it to Vegas, albeit for an hour, was entertaining. It seemed wrong to see the strip during daylight (and from 30,000 feet, at that). Though my inevitable rendezvous with the Bellagio Poker Room was thwarted this time around, people watching in the airport was fascinating in itself. Providing degenerates with slot machines twenty feet from the gate seemed like just the fix needed for those itching to feed their debilitating gambling addictions.

No, thank you, I did not partake. Slots are for monkeys. I stick to the skill games. Like Hold'em. "Why do you think the same five guys make it to the final table of the World Series of Poker every single year?" (Matt Damon, Rounders)

Anyway, after another twelve hours of pain free travel, I find myself in the Palo Alto trenches reading the same textbooks in the same coffee shop. But, coming straight off of bursting the Stanford bubble, things seem fresh again.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

McSorley's Mayhem

I was a little concerned last night that the $60 sushi dinner would cramp on my drinking capacity.

But, then, I realized that there was no reason to worry. The choice was made for me. You don't have the option to drink within reason at McSorley's. It's drink or be gone.

I had been looking forward to last night's action for a while. So, it's a little weird to look back in blurred recollection at a night that had great anticipation. But, here's a partial scorecard from a solid night.

5 Things that I know happened:
1) I thought taking one of the solid glass mugs as a keepsake was a rational enterprise.
2) Throwing liverwurst at Villanova's face seemed like the right thing to do given the circumstances.
3) Bartender Tommy suggested himself that we take a picture (must figure out how to upload cellphone shots).
4) Getting told that "you guys are class and the lot should be like you" felt like a marriage proposal.
5) Having to close one tab and start another became necessary after Tommy realized we had racked up hundreds in bar bills.

5 Things that I am confused about:
1) Why I told Bear Stearns traders that I was an equity broker at J.P. Morgan.
2) How I could have spent a hundred bucks on light ale, dark ale, tips, and bar grub.
3) Why the bartender at the place around the corner was personally offended that I asked for a round in my "own" mug.
4) Why that table in the corner sent two rounds over for our table.
5) How I manage to refrain from drunk dialing (though, I did send out the obligatory random texts).

Carved in oak above the swinging doors that serve as both entrance and exit is a sign that reads "Be Good or Be Gone." It's been good to be home. But, now it's time to be gone. Home has left me wanting more. I guess that's the way I'd hope things to be. I'm taking off for San Francisco at the tremendously convenient time of 7:50 a.m. tomorrow morning.

Friday, November 25, 2005

People Who Need People

Home has been relaxing and the feasting fattening. I had a pretty scattered day yesterday between spending the morning with Shuli in Setauket, the afternoon with grandparents in Bayside, and the evening/after-hours with the old guard in Port Jefferson. But, it was the best Thanksgiving that I've had in years. It's been too long since I have been able to spend time with the girl (that I already knew) and, after catching up with some kids while out last night, it turned out to be the same way with them. (Who knew the part-time barber was going to dental school? That Lebowski was starring in a multi-million dollar stage production? Or, that Travel Soccer Throwback was doing biotech research for a start-up?) It was a really random night that ended with 3:00 a.m. session of cards at Guitar Slinger's house.

But, I was caught most off-guard this holiday with seeing my brother again.

I've been in touch with Jarhead more recently than in any of the past five years. In my four years away from college, I feel like we hardly spoke to each other. He called me fewer times than I imagine somebody in prison could have. It was an odd dynamic to have with someone to which I would give a kidney and for which I would take a bullet. But, since he went away to college, we've connected a lot better. Especially since we now share that alma mater bond, as well. I've been able to play that advising/mentoring/ear-lending role that I've always tried to assume. We talk a lot more and I feel like I can now ask him about anything, though unsolicited commentary is still slow coming.

I respect him and love him and absolutely admire him for the fiercely loyal and refreshingly honest person that he is. He's also both tremendously confident for someone his age and typically in need of independence as comes with the age. I suppose that this is a part of why he never really leaned on me for anything. He probably feels like he has never needed to. I don't know what it's like to have an older brother. But, I want be more than a friend in need. For the first time in a while, it's starting to feel that way. For that, I'm thankful. Even more thankful than the all night session in store at McSorley's this coming evening...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Givin' Thanks

Fine, the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving. But, the day as we know it would not have risen to national prominence were it not for the foresight of Honest Abe. Add this timely 1863 Proclamation to the long list of Lincoln's historically signifant eloquence:

"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God...Order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements...It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving."

If someone has ever had a better way with words than Abraham Lincoln, I haven't seen proof of it. What a wordsmith. I don't think it's a stretch to say that the declaration bears the same significance today. With so many Americans mired in military conflict away from their families on this holiday, I hope even the most jaded among us can find something to value and appreciate. In honor of the service men and women doing their thing around the world, I celebrate today in the same spirit that President Lincoln intended. You should too.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Now Boarding...

I feel like a freshman in college again. I'm actually excited to be heading back to the vast cultural wasteland of Long Island. In the past, it's only been because of the people that I would look forward to breaks. That draw hasn't changed at all. But, having been so far removed from the nuances of New York and East coast living, I'm hyped to catch a breather in Ithaca before returning to the Trojan War.

Yes, the Hamptons are nice. It's also true that there are pockets of natural beauty. But, for the most part, Long Island is a textbook example of the suburban sprawl that happens when urban flight, big business, and cheap loans combine. It's a magical land with strip malls, diners, and housing developments as far as the eye can see. It's a wonderful place to live if you like being outnumbered by chinese restaurants and synagogues. I enjoyed growing up there but, by the time high school rolled around, I realized that I need the constant sensory stimulation that only a city provides. I guess this was the seed from which my New York obsession has grown.

So, I am booked on a 1:30 pm flight out of San Francisco bound for JFK. Assuming that the plane takes off on schedule, I will be on Brooklyn soil around 10 p.m. local. Unfortunately, that's really all conditional if I actually make my flight. I was left with the choice between leaving myself two hours between the end of my morning class and take-off or connecting through Atlanta on a later departure. I'm not one to shy away from a challenge. All it really means is that I need to hit no traffic, find an amazing parking spot, perfectly time the shuttle to the terminal, check-in without waiting on line, and find my gate while buying something to eat and read for the plane. Piece of cake...

Anyway, good luck to everyone traveling today.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

1 Latte and 1 Amicus Brief, Please

It's been confirmed. Stanford (and, in general, California) is the most relaxed environment of which I've been a part. I've had this suspicion for a while.

Yesterday night, while pounding through some Contracts reading at a popular vender of overpriced espresso drinks, I crossed paths with my

(ground breaking work conducted here)

Crim Professor. This, in and of itself, did not really surprise me. The fact that he was casually writing a last minute brief to be read by the Supreme Court did. The question to be presented in oral arguments this Monday is whether it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment to search and seize someone on parole without any probable cause. Kind of an important question. Not exactly bearing Roe or Brown-like precedential value. But, come on, last minute lawyering with national implications at Starbucks? That's hilariously refreshing. Forget ivory towers. Here, it's reclining chairs with Bob Dylan on replay in the background.

This guy is no slouch, mind you. Professor Bob Weisberg is Stanford's answer to Harvard's Alan Dershowitz. A former clerk for Justice Potter at the Supreme Court, Weisberg teaches from memory out of a 1000 page textbook that he authored. He's got a great style of tangential rambling that always manages to circle back to the principles at hand. Plus, most importantly, he's from The City. New York City. Though, he did have to correct my false presumption of Yankee allegiance.

I talk a lot about how I miss N.Y. things and N.Y. people. But, I'm convinced that I wouldn't be exposed to this casual approach to cutting edge legal theory had I chosen not to be here. I do like it out here, though I know that this is still just a temporary lily pad. For now, it's enough to go to the lectures just to hear him correctly pronounce "murdah" and "cawse."

On a side note, is it weird that I find my accent coming out more now that I'm so far away from home? I've thought about this before. But, it's hard to dig into your own subconscious. The best that I can come up with is that maybe it'll be a signal to fellow New Yorkers. I don't really know. Any thoughts?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Go Ahead Caller...

In an attempt to be reader friendly, this entire post will cater to the needs and views expressed in yesterday's comments...

Today's Guidelines

1. "Stop using such big words."
2. "keep doing what you doing."
3. "you used to be a boyfriend 3,000 miles away from the girl that he loved, but now you're just 3,000 miles away from the girl? that's harsh, perhaps a blog entry on what happened there is needed."
4. "Keep blogging."

Proceeding under the assumption that #2 and #4 don't substantively change anything, here is the simplest way (#1) I can explain why I changed the template the other day (#3): I thought it sounded too sappy. I also didn't really think that it was a detail anybody would notice, but I can definitely understand the confusion in anyone who did. Taking "love" out of the template description doesn't reflect a change in the way I feel about her. In fact, I think the uber (#1?) sentimental lyrics of John Mayer really still capture my emotions for the girl. I find myself smiling when I think about her and laughing out loud when I flashback to something funny we shared. Hell, I went kosher for her for no apparent reason.

Well, that's not entirely true. When she was out here for a couple days last month, I finally realized that it was more than a diet. It's almost a lifestyle. So, though she never asked me to, I thought I'd go kosher for her. I can't say that I believe in anything the Jewish faith has to offer (other than the same generic moral norms that all religions share). I'm not a practicing anything. This diet bears no religious significance to me. That probably doesn't make any sense. But, it did to me then and it still does for me now. I want to show her just how much I care about her. She thinks I'm crazy. But, if giving up shrimp and eating out at Peter Luger's Steakhouse convinces her in the smallest way that I'm serious about wanting her to move out to California, then it is an easy gesture for me to make.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Have We Met?

"Def(*&$@: btw it is so funny because i feel like i talk to you all the time because i'm up to date on your life from the blog." (2:30 p.m.)

I guess that could be my Jerry Maguire mission statement. I started writing this blog for one reason: to keep in touch with people. I am absolutely awful at the e-mail game and don't even ask about my cellphone skills. But, the fact is, I am really good at procrastinating. Fortunately, in the law school setting, putting off work that needs to get done is as vital a skill as any other. When the work and reading floods in the quantity that it does here, spare minutes develop a new found importance.

So, here we are. I've been rambling on the internet for almost a month now. I thought a blog might be a good way of spamming my life to friends and family. But, without any way of knowing who checks the site, I've realized that I don't know if I am blindly opining to said people or to complete strangers. Either way, I'm not really sure that it matters.

The very fact that you have read into the fourth paragraph of this incoherent melange is some evidence that writing may actually be a worthwhile attempt to keep up with new friends and old.

Anonymous comments are opened up. Feel free to drop a note and let me know if I'm on the mark or not.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The (Am)Big(uously Interesting) Game

The "Big Game" kicks off in three hours. But, the tailgating here started at the crack of dawn. It took me almost a half-hour to drive through the drunken revelry this morning. I was hit with a brief flashback to my own college days way back all of, say, six months ago.

Supposedly, Stanford-Cal is one of the best rivalries in college football. Anyone who is even marginally familiar with sports has probably seen the clip of Cal's last second touchdown run through a Stanford marching band mistakenly on the field. Today, they're expecting an attendance of about 80,000 people.


If so, that would make today's matchup the largest spectator event that I've ever attended. By comparison, Yankee Stadium only sits about 50,000. So, it's a little confusing to me as an avid sports fan, why I'm not hyped about it at all. But, as far as I can tell, the problem is two-fold.

One, I'm suffering from an unwavering East coast bias. I can think of a dozen sports teams that I have a more vested interest in than the Stanford Cardinal. I almost feel like I'm heading to the game today merely out of curiosity. You know that "rubber necking" instinct that causes drivers to slow and gawk at an accident on the side of the road? That's basically the impetus driving me to attend this afternoon. This game, as huge as it is to locals, just has no natural appeal to me. Period. It's kind of like rooting for Armenia to recapture their ancient lands from heated border rival, Azerbaijan. Who really cares?

Two, I think that the grad/undergrad divide is also a pretty huge barrier to my excitement. The law school is on our own schedule and relies on none of the facilities of the University at large. It's easy to forget that our 'one room school house' is a part of an 7,000 acre campus. At Penn, I was dripping with school pride. I went to almost every home basketball game in my four years and regularly attended football, soccer, and volleyball ones. In support of the Red and the Blue, I drove hours with my roommates to go to unheralded events. In fact, I still would. But, I'm struggling to motivate myself to walk a few blocks to the largest party kicking off West of the Mississippi. Given that the alternative is studying on a beautiful afternoon, I'll go tap into that kernel of interest any sports fan would recognize and, in all likelihood, a keg in the parking lot too.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Tupac and Frank

Think you can tell the 2Pac lyric from the Frank Sinatra one?

1. 2Pac v. Sinatra
I make mistakes, but I learn from everyone
And when it's said and done, I bet this world will be a better one
If I upset you, don't stress
Never forget, that God hasn't finished with me yet.

2. 2Pac v. Sinatra
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way.

3. 2Pac v. Sinatra
I've been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing:
Each time I find myself, flat on my face,
I pick myself up and get back in the race.

4. 2Pac v. Sinatra
If you can make it through the night,
there's a brighter day
Everything will be alright if you hold on
it's a struggle everyday, but you've got to roll on.

5. 2Pac v. Sinatra
In this game, the lesson's in your eyes to see
though things change, the future's still inside of me.
We must remember that tomorrow comes after the dark,
so you will always be in my heart.

Answer Key: 1) 2Pac, Ghetto Gospel. 2) Sinatra, My Way 3) Sinatra, That's Life. 4) 2Pac, Dear Mama 5) 2Pac, Unconditional Love.

How did you score? Even if you ran the table, the point that I'm trying to make is a really simple one. It's ridiculous to cast rap aside as an inferior art form. If you had trouble discerning between Sinatra and Pac, maybe the generational divide is all the only meaningful one. There's a lot of disgustingly terrible hip-hop artists out there (e.g., Nelly, DMX, Ja Rule) and the market is flooded with a lot of awful tracks. But, the argument that the game is only about violence, drugs, and sex, is a crude generalization. In fact, people who make that claim reveal just how little exposure to the material that they've had. Good rap is more poetic and thought provoking than the type of fluff that the Beach Boys cashed in on. (Really, where is Kokomo anyway?) I'd even argue that the word play, lyrical mastery, and oral flow that Rap prizes preserves the original notion of poetic art that Plato would be recognize. 2Pac's body of work exemplifies this. Nick Cannon in Blender writes: "Tupac's the greatest MC ever. He could talk about his love for his mom and at the same time, he'd talk about the strip club and how much he hates the police. He was more than a rapper - he was a cultural icon, a poet, an activist in the community, a modern-day philosopher."

I just think it's disingenous to arbitrarily call into question an art form because it conflicts with a so-called conservative value. Especially, since it looks to me that a 50s crooner and a 90s rapper both seem to have a lot to agree on.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

1.L. Phone Home

Long distance relationships are hard. Obviously. But, I now know from experience. Even though things are going better than I could have possibly imagined, it takes a consistent and conscious effort to make sure that the physical distance between us doesn't grow into an emotional one.

I try and speak to the girl as much as I can. I drop notes letting her know that I am thinking of her. We chat all the time. But, I'm always left wondering if its enough. No matter what I say or do, I can't help shake the feeling that I should be doing more. Should I have skipped the talk on cyberlaw to call her in between classes? Should I have spent an extra few minutes chatting online before going to study? I used to think I was reading too much into the details.

Until I got the following message this week: "I love you but hate when you don't call me back."

That scared me. The last thing I want her thinking is that I forgot about her. When I got her voicemail the night before, after leaving the library, it was already late on Pacific time. But on East coast time, it was the dead of night. I thought better of waking her up. I guess, maybe I should have? This is the problem that I'm having with a long distance relationship. The lack of transparency. Aside, of course, from the lack of (supply your own innuendo here).

I called her right away. I felt terribly. But, it turns out, that she was the one that ended up apologizing. She said that the distance was the problem and not anything that I had done. She said it was a message dropped out of frustration that we don't get to see each other as much as she'd like and was unbelievably sorry for having caused me to worry. She's amazing.

When you can't see someone's face or hold them close, communication suffers. We're left with reading intentions into things that may or may not be there. I think the communication revolution has actually stunted meaningful human interaction in exchange for convenience and immediacy. It's difficult enough already to figure out what a woman really means when you're face to face...

All I know is that next time, I'm waking Sweet Caroline up.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Politics As Usual

I am sick of partisan politics. Do you know what separates the Republican and Democratic platform? Five income tax percentage points and whether there is a health exception to an abortion in the third trimester. There is no real dialogue in this country any more. There are no compromises. There are real problems out there that need intelligent solutions.

France is crumbling at the hands of disgruntled immigrants. Israel is building the Berlin Wall Part Deux. China and India, already bigger, are quickly becoming smarter and stronger. Politicians think the number of ambulances and color coded warning systems are protecting us from terrorism.

But, still nothing changes.

When Republicans are in power, they pass temporary tax cuts and appoint right-of-center judges to the bench. When Democrats are in power, they increase aid to foreign countries and appoint left-of-center judges to the bench. In peace time, elections are won on economic issues. In times of conflict, elections are won by the geopolitical ones. The meaningful political divide in this country is actually so slight that Kerry had to manufacture a different position from Bush in order to appear like the candidate for change.

"Ah, yes, I voted to authorize the use of force. But, uh, if I had accurate intelligence, I probably would have voted against it. Maybe."

"Yes, I'd raise taxes. But, only after I lowered them."

The American people agree upon the great majority of issues. Why is this so hard to fathom? Pat Robertson, Louis Farrakhan, Hillary, and Frist can identify a hundred things they all agree upon. But, it's the squabble for the scraps on the table for which millions of dollars are spent.

Bush and his party are no better. The way the GOP portrays its critics as left wing radicals bothers me just as much.

"My opponent would force you to marry a gay person."

"John Kerry wants to take away your right to a doctor, tax the air you breathe, and provide illegal immigrants with terrorist training programs."

The American people deserve better. No, that's my own campaign platform in the making. I'd say that people are smart enough to hear real political arguments on the issues. But, maybe I'm wrong. Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Larry King, and the rest of the big media cronies are treated like actual political analysts instead of rating seeking whores. Enough is enough.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ailing for Ale

Some people are looking forward to turkey and cranberries next week. I'm one of them. But, I'm ALSO looking forward to sharing laughs with friends around an oak table absolutely covered with empty beer glasses...

And, of course, the mobile Irish bartenders goading drinkers into either downing more pints or moving along.

I can hear Bartender Tommy catcalling the Wall Street types now. "Come on lads, this is not a coffee shop."

This is the greatest bar ever established in the scope of documented history. You'll just have to take my word about that if you've never been there. Because, it's not up for debate.

McSorley's is located in way downtown Manhattan on 7th and 3rd. Opened in 1854, the bar has fiercely resisted all change in the last 150 years. They still serve only house brewed "lights" or "darks." They still serve brew in glass mugs. They still serve beers only in pairs. Hell, they only started serving women less than thirty years ago (and only then by court order). The place, right or wrong, has always stayed as physically and legally close to the era in which it was founded. It was the only legal pub in NYC during prohibition. My grandfather, later on, used to head there for corned beef and cabbage after knocking off work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in the '40s. Now, when I go there, I can feel his presence and the echoes of past generations in the oak long since dried out.

For all it's history, McSorley's remains a small ale house. Yes, it has appeared in a few movies and does market the signature ales. But, I know when I walk in there late next weekend with some friends from back East, law and sobriety are going to be the last things on my mind. There'll be a table cleared and tourist types sent packing by Tommy. One hundred days away from New York is a long time. No matter where I am, it always feels like the Empire State building is a homing beacon. Bartender Tommy likes to say, in Irish brogue, that "it's an honor to serve professionals." But, next weekend, it'll feel like it's my honor to be there more than ever before.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Battle of Stirling, It Wasn't...

...but it feels great, at the very least, to have my first law school exam behind me. For those of you unfamiliar with a law school issue spotter, imagine a two page single spaced fact pattern followed by a "yes-no" prompt. It was a furious race to argue as much as possible, as quickly as possible. I feel like I hit on every major point. But, since it is a legal certainty that I did not discuss all the potential issues, I have fiercely avoided any discussion of the exam. I think I may have taken it too far when I told one of my boys, 1L JCrew, to stop spreading the post-exam virus of cross referencing.

It will be nice to have people return from orbit, though. For the last week or so, the section started to take on all the attributes of law students that I imagined would be the norm. Frantic e-mails. Anal habits. Unreal questions. I had to send out a message last night to bring some levity back to the situation. I'll hold off on posting that here, since it is written in law school parlance (i.e., language of the dork). In the hour that followed, I received almost a dozen versions of thanks or electronic laughter. That, in and of itself, was a relief that there are like minded people out there. The best response, "you are my fucking hero," came from 1L Horn.

Now, I didn't come to law school to be coddled. But, I also don't believe in heaping pressure and stress on one self for motivational sake alone. What good is it to worry about things you can't control?

I think it was either Plato or Van Wilder that said, "Worrying is a lot like a rocking chair. It'll give you something to do, but won't get you anywhere." For this reason, you'll notice that the word "grade" appears nowhere in this post. Until now.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sun, Starbucks, Sykes

The current temperature is 70 degrees, but the calendar tells me that it is mid-November. I vow not to become a soft California space cadet in constant awe of this. But, come on. That's just amazing. Today is the type of day that makes me think that I chose the right school. I have a midterm tomorrow morning and, yet, it's so easy to keep things in perspective when it feels like early summer. Now, it's not like I'm taking full advantage of this. I am practically watching the day go by through windows inside this Starbucks. Is it more ridiculous that Palo Alto has three within a mile of each other or that I studied at all of them this weekend in an attempt to feel like I wasn't cooped up? I guess, that's neither here nor there. I concede the point. But, suffice it to say that I chose the right one to head to this morning...

As, I'm waiting on line for my caffeine jolt, still in a semi-groggy dreamlike state, I hear a familiar voice call out...

"Good morning, Mr. 1L Rambler."

I turn around and, to my amazement, is the man, the myth, and the legend -- my Torts Professor, Alan Sykes. For those of you who aren't familiar with Sykesy, I suppose it might be in order to qualify the hyperbole. This gentleman has been at Stanford for only three months. He's a tenured faculty member from U.Chicago on a visiting appointment. But, he's already become a student favorite. He's a phenomenal lecturer, poses innuendo filled hypotheticals, and somehow manages to meticulously cover material while making things feel laid back and comical. He's got a true open door policy. So much so, that he golfs with his students. On this particular morning, he was with his two daughters, as well. The young teens were very outgoing and not at all shocked that their Dad is part-Leno and part-Cardozo in class. What amazed me was how normal this all seemed. I don't think you get that type of community at other programs. Random casual moments like this make California seem less like a different planet and law school less like professional training. See? I can talk about Stanford without mentioning the weather for a few sentences.

And, for those curious, Sykesy's beverage of choice was a confidently ordered "grande nonfat extra-hot latte."

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Full Disclosure

I have a confession to make. I saw Pride and Prejudice last night. I saw Pride and Prejudice last night without being dragged by my girlfriend. I saw Pride and Prejudice last night without being dragged by my girlfriend...and liked it. Or, at the very least, found it a useful diversion from midterm related things.

I read it 10th grade and hated it. But, it was just damn funny this time around. Plus, I have an affection for all things Keira Knightley related, even if her character is supposed to be a plain Jane. I really like dry, sarcastic English humor. Plus, I went with a crew of great people laid back enough to let me crack lowbrow jokes without it feeling too inappropriate.

Personally, I was pulling for 50 Cent's gangsta thriller (Get Rich Or Die Tryin'). I guess I wasn't convincing enough on the merit of an alternative formulation of the traditional Horatio Alger (gutter-to-glory) tale viewed through a critical socioeconomic lens. I mean, isn't that what made Scarface such a classic? That, or gruesome murders, high level corruption, automatic weapons, and huge stashes of cocaine. Braveheart is, and always will be, my favorite movie. But, I can watch Scarface again and again, without losing any of enthusiasm for it. Scarface has become a source of inspiration to those consumed with the urban hip-hop culture. Nas, Biggie, and Mobb Deep all reference Pacino's character in their tracks and, well, the rapper Scarface doesn't exactly have a disfigured face. But, I really think everybody can draw something from Pacino's phenomenal performance as Tony Montana. Without endorsing thug life, everyone of us has an avenue straight to the top. This nation rewards everyone willing to put in their own work, blood, sweat and tears. Lawyers included...

"You want to waste my time? Okay. I'll call my lawyer. He's the best lawyer in Miami. He's such a good lawyer, that by tomorrow morning, you're gonna be working in Alaska. So dress warm."- Tony Montana, Scarface

Friday, November 11, 2005

Casebook Author, Say What?

The sequence and presentation of material in our Contracts casebook suggests that the author wrote the text in a single sitting. That's not really a good thing for a tome approaching 1000 pages in length. Throwing material at the publisher in the order he randomly thought of cases, provisions, and sources, I feel like I am aimlessly floating through a nutty professor's absent mind. It reads more like a history book, never really discussing or applying law. This makes learning legal principles difficult, as you might imagine. So, naturally, I e-mailed the author about this.

Dear Professor Barnett,

I just wanted to drop you a note about your casebook. The additional commentary and background offered that places disputes into a real world context is, perhaps, what I find most helpful about your text. However, and I understand there is no overarching consistent treatment of cases under the UCC or the Restatement, I think any newer editions could be improved by a section focusing specifically on these authorities. Rather than just listing relevant provisions sporadically, I think including jurisdictions where specifically codified, where the key differences are located, and how they have been formally received by different courts, would be more pedagogical.

1L Rambler

Figuring that was the end of the communique, I went back to watching Law and Order re-runs on TNT and skimming some notes. Only hours later, I found the following waiting for me in Outlook...

1L Rambler:

Thanks for your very kind words about my casebook. Your suggestion would be very useful to include in a future edition of the casebook. Perhaps when that day draws near (and it is a few years off), I could induce you to provide that information in the same way as David Snyder provided the materials on conditions, after noting their absence from a previous edition.

All the best,


Excuse me, do I read you right, Randy? You want me to author a section of your casebook? Consider it done. But, please be patient. I've already committed to assist Hawking refine unified string theory and help Chomsky clarify the origins of language. I should be able to have a working copy on your desk by tomorrow.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Coming Soon To Theaters: Legal Research and Writing!

The administration requires that first year law students take a year long class titled "Legal Research and Writing." Graded on a pass/fail basis and worth only half the credit of a substantive course, it's safe to say that it's lightly regarded, even among a collection of over achievers. Today, "lightly regarded" took on a whole new level. At this very moment, in these hallowed halls, I'm watching a clip of Reese Witherspoon's Legally Blonde. Incredible. I really don't know what to make of this. Today's session was pedagogically intended to teach us the tenets of client counseling. Clips from Erin Brockovich, A Civil Action, and Philadelphia were also prominently featured. Educational or not, probably not, moments of levity in law school need to be appreciated as they come. It's kind of ridiculous the things that have started to pass for humor. See yesterday's post, for example.

The class was completely caught off guard by the screening, as well. Too bad 1L Thug Life left class early -- and boldly at that. 1L Track Star gave him a gold star for it in the following section wide e-mail:

***Whether you find it ballzy or rude. The award of the day goes to 1L Thug Life for doing what everyone thought about doing, which is not being in LRW. Although, I think that I would have decided to not be in class before leaving, rather than walking out when Grace's back was turned.***

But, regardless, the transition between detailed powerpoint slides to Hollywood's latest was so damn seamless, I can't say I blame him. Or, maybe I'm off base in my shock and awe that Legally Blonde may actually hold educational weight.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Seinfeld Law School

Maybe the reason that I like Seinfeld so much is the every day nature of the show's humor. The show's routine works so well because it takes our nuances, formalities, and fads and pits them front and center for castigation. It lets us know that, no matter how normal we seem, we are all ridiculous in our own special way. Watching Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer wage psychological war for an entire episode while they wait for a table at a Chinese restaurant or look for their car in a parking lot is funny.

We've all been there. But, we all haven't been to law school.

Some of the things I've seen and heard around these halls can keep me laughing minutes, hours, and days after taking place. I've listed a fewrandom ones below. Names have been omitted to protect the innocent.

1. 1L Salsa Queen highlighting her textbook using rulers to ensure complete perfection.
2. 1L Hypothetical Fiend posing a single analogy involving a costume party, a murder out of mistaken duress, and a subsequent surgery lacking informed consent. Wow.
3. 1L Econ Deity suggesting that if pregnancy may fatally exacerbate an existing condition, that having sex may be a form of contributory negligence.
4. 1L JCrew Midwest opining that German luxury cars are crap, Grey Goose is mediocre, and Polo is shoddy quality. But, that Bud Light is the finest beer available.
5. 1L Saudi Norwegian declaring that pregnant women should not be allowed in public.
6. 1L Former-Big-10-Defensive-Back wearing an XXXL bright pink sweatshirt...without having lost a bet.
7. 1L Best Dressed telling me that I can dance "pretty well for a white guy."
8. 2L Femme Fatale claiming that a weekly grouping of steak eating guys was an unofficial sexist fraternity. Really.
9. 1L Southern Techie remarking that 1L Hypothetical Fiend needs "to be put to death."
10. 1L Blog Writing Yankee Fan sings Red Sox fan favorite "Sweet Caroline" at karaoke bar.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Tuition Dollars At Work...

Random things that I learned today:

1) Civil Procedure: The 14th amendment, which was intended to impose the Bill of Rights on each of the several states, was ratified in an attempt to ensure equal protection of the laws for all citizens. The real world application of the legislation was obvious, especially for former slaves in the wake of the Civil War. But, apparently, the 7th amendment need not apply. There is no right to a jury trial in civil action between citizens. States are under no obligation in civil actions to provide it.

2) Criminal Law: Duress is no defense to murder. If I'm told to kill someone, with a gun to my head while my family is being tortured and held hostage, the law still can punish. Mitigation to manslaughter or reckless murder may be appropriate. But, there is no exculpatory principle.

3) Torts: Towns and cities are under no duty to protect your property from fire damage. Despite taxing citizens for the creation of a fire department, our first responders can point, laugh, and pray for rain. But, failing to provide water pressure or get to the scene fast enough are examples of real world no fault examples.

4) It is generally rare that I ever find anything useful from the realm of Contracts, but I think today's closest reward of knowledge is the writing requirement. In general, oral promises can lead to a binding agreement. But, no contract, certain to take longer than a year for performance to be completed, will be enforced absent some minimal written evidence.

5) I was told by 1L Astros fan, in jesting tone, that I had an "interesting" conversation last Friday night. Unfortunately, delicious mixtures of vodka, kahlua, and milk have precluded my recollection of it. Need to dig deeper into this...

Monday, November 07, 2005

3000 Miles and 3 Hours

I'm not sure I can accurately convey how busy things are around here. I think war metaphors are incredibly overused but, in this case, quite apt. It is a battle. It is a battle every day and every week to keep up with the material and the writing assignments. I love the work and the people, but I feel like the parts of my life not law school related have been, through no intention of my own, neglected. There is always something going on that needs to be worked on. I am never ahead. I'm not really ever behind either. There's just enough time in the day to attend class, prepare for class, and eat (takeout). If it's not dozens of pages of reading, it's legal research. If I don't have a meeting during lunch, I probably have one after classes. They have even started the summer job hunt. I am really looking forward to Thanksgiving to catch a breather.

That really shouldn't be mistaken for stress level, though. All things considered, I think I'm pretty chilled out about this whole experience. I'd much rather be doing this than a 9-5 grind with a rush hour commute. If type A's can be said to fall onto a bell-curve continuum, you'll find me with a White Russian in hand underneath the lefthand tail.

But, I have done such a poor job keeping in touch with friends and family. I think I have found the time to send out one extended e-mail. There's so much that I want to tell people about. That's part of the reason that I'm forcing myself to write on here now. There's so much that I want to hear about the latest in the lives of people out of reach. The bubble of 3000 miles and 3 hours of time zones doesn't burst on its own, but I'm going to try and take it down.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Why Go To New York? Let New York Come To Me.

I just got back from the 49ers-Giants game at the-stadium-formerly-known-as-Candlestick. Big Blue won the day by a 24-6 margin. But, it was a whistleblowing affair with dozens of penalties. Shockey's ability to haul in Eli flutter balls is phenomenal and Plaxico is looking even better than a poor man's Randy Moss. Their contribution was the key today - combining for nine catches and about 160 yards of offense. But, clearly, the most entertaining part of the afternoon was bearing witness to unruly fan behavior. So, without further ado, I reveal...

Today's Top Three Most Ridiculous Fans

3. 14 year old male skater poser punk. You looked really alternative in your beanie cap and skateboard paraphernalia. But, I think you broke character when you started eating pink and yellow cotton candy. To ensure that nobody else in the section found your disaffected youth persona credible, you spilled your 30 ounce souvenir cup of soda on yourself. Just because I gave you napkins doesn't mean I wasn't internally laughing my ass off.

2. 26 year old fraternity meathead. No one, I'm sure, doubted your deep loyalty to the 49ers. But, I think that your profanity laced tirades were not warmly welcomed in our family filled section. Some people might have thought throwing popcorn and garbage at strangers was a sign of disrespect, but not you. For a 26 year old fraternity meathead, that's just how you do. Sadly, the 49ers only mustered 6 points and never had the lead. Because I have a feeling we really didn't get to see the best of all you had to offer.

1. 48 year old drunk wife. When a woman appreciates football, it can be a seductive turn-on. When the woman is in her late forties, wasted, and heckling against the home team, it is the stuff of which dreams are made. That, or objects of extreme ridicule. Rather than quietly blend in, you chose to let the whole section know, albeit in slurring sentence fragments, exactly what you thought of Niners futility. And you did it all in your powder pink hat. True, fraternity meathead found it entertaining to throw food at you. But, something like that couldn't ruin your time. Especially since you were too much of a lush to notice. Good thing your husband was there to play damage control, because the Asian couple to your right seemed somewhat irked when you sprayed beer suds on their child in celebration of a Shockey touchdown catch.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Bipolar Weekend

I'm all about keeping things in perspective. Not really prone to stressing out, I guess. I work hard and let fate and chance take care of the rest. But, this up and down weekend is just toying with my sanity.

Friday afternoon: Library and 11 page memo writing. Far from thrilling.
Friday night: Threw a party at my place. Lots of beer. Lots of liquor. I had a great time and woke up with a mild White Russian induced hangover. This was the second time that I've had people over at my place and the second time the video of Millionaire was viewed. I hope people don't think I host these things to relive a bygone fifteen minutes.
Saturday morning: (no entry)
Saturday afternoon: Library and 11 page memo writing. Mind numbing. Painful.
Saturday night: Heading out soon for dinner (and movie?) with 3JP from the section. Good people.
Sunday morning: Library and 11 page memo writing. #*(@&
Sunday afternoon: Going to NY Giants - SF 49ers game. Thanks, Brooke! The wonderful shoe-shopping queen from my contracts class offered me her extra ticket to see Eli Manning throw down.
Sunday night: Library and 11 page memo writing. Whatever.

Okay, seeing as I am still hopelessly mired in my above listed Saturday afternoon timeslot, I now sadly return to a fundamentally disabled attempt at legal analysis.

Friday, November 04, 2005

A Lawyer Walks Into A Bar...

(Jack McCoy, Assistant District Attorney for NYC)

Lawyer jokes have been an enduring comedic phenomenon for centuries. The opportunity to profit from exigent cirumstances, posit wildly improbable but possible theories, and act legally instead of morally are all valid justifications for such. I never really found any of them persuasive, however. The common law system that we have inherited functions only because of the adversarial context and our shared belief that we would rather a guilty man go free than an innocent man face prison time. If we did not provide the most morally depraved and culpable among us with the due process, we begin to slip down a slope where people are not treated equally under the law. Lawyers make the system work. Shakespeare's famous line from the Henry VI is frequently and unfortunately misquoted. The call to 'kill the lawyers' is a backhanded compliment, in fact. The suggestion was proposed by a group of rebels as a way to rid themselves of capable advocates of their adversaries.

Cool? Or, I guess you could go ahead distrusting the profession...until you find yourself in need of its services. In which case, I bill by the hour.

So, in that line, I'd have to say that criminal prosecution is where I see myself at this point (at least for the coming summer). There are so many panels and discussions around here concerning 'prison reform' this and 'legal aid' that. Is there something wrong with actually punishing criminals? There's a reason why so many prosecutors and district attorneys shift from the practice of law into lawmaking. Being tough on crime is generally a popular label with the people - and it sits well with me too. I would love to sit Martha's ass in jail for obstruction, Libby's smugness in the hole for perjury, and the Juice in the can for Murder with a capital M. There is something right and just about these pursuits. I definitely want to experience them first hand. Jack McCoy knows what I'm talking about.

Working for the public interest isn't something that is all too popular here. 2 out of 3 graduates go on to work for large, prestigious faceless law firms for a starting salary of $125K. That's hard to turn down, especially if you have student loans to pay off. I don't blame the culture here. But, I would blame myself if I fell into that track because it is easy and typical. One 3L told me that a pulse and a degree will get you that kind of bank. That's great. But, how else would you define a sell-out than as someone who blindly chases money at the expense of their principle interests and desires? I won't let that happen to me. I can't. If it makes sense for me down the road, that's a different story altogether. But, I know already that I need to find a career that pays in more ways than the bottom line.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Irish Boy Meets Persian Girl

I get to see her in 20 days. I have only known her for less than six months and I already can't imagine things without her. Those of you know me will know just how strange it is for those words (keystrokes) to finally come out of my mouth (inner monologue). For example, note the following excerpts from recent chats reacting to this post:

Def(*$#: i can't believe you are talking like this
Def(*$#: i mean its great, but its funny to hear coming from you because of all of the conversations we normally have about the girls you date


She is an incredible person and with her around, I finally know what love is about. In all my prior relationships, I felt like I was always settling. There would always be some minor flaw in a girl that would eventually blow up into a huge problem for me. It seemed like a shallow way to go about things. It's not the same with Shuli. She just seems perfect to me. I know that nobody is actually. There's a great line from Good Will Hunting. Robin Williams' character tells the tortured genius (Matt Damon's character), that love isn't about finding someone who is perfect. It's about finding someone that makes the two fit perfectly together. She does that for me. I would do anything for her. If she asked me to transfer to be closer, only eat Kosher, or learn Farsi, I wouldn't need a second to think about it.

For the first time in my life, I think I finally have things in perspective. Career, family, friends, accomplishment, money, prestige, health, charity. All important. But, with Shuli in my world, it all fits together. There is so much to look forward to with her around.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Long Island + Flawless Weather, Amazing Sushi, & Incredible Scenery = California

When I think of a "collegetown," I think of Ann Arbor. I think of Cambridge. I think of Madison. Even University City back in Philly was decent.

Palo Alto bears no likeness to any of them.

There are no crazy bars. There are no dive places to get greasy food. There is no culture of karaoke, quizzo, or 'after hours' action. It is a posh, wildly expensive suburb with fine wine restaurants, expensive furniture retailers, and investment houses. But, for the first time in my life, I don't mind living in a suburb.

Long Island and the Bay Area are roughly comparable. Instead, here, you get better weather, better restaurants, and better scenery. Like Long Island, you need a car to do anything. I can't even imagine being a Stanford student without one. Palo Alto, like the way that I have often felt about Long Island, would likely be suburban hell without a set of wheels. But, with a car, living in the Bay Area is solid as far as suburbs go. I always used to knock suburban sprawl for its destruction of a local cultural cachet. But, I am happy to report that the flaw I always found in suburbia was off the mark. After two months, I feel like I've already fell into the same New York routine of go-to bars, great sushi, and venti lattes. But, the difference is the context. It just seems like a different world out here. It's three weeks until Thanksgiving and I caught myself in a summer mindset today. It's the sun. It's the mountains. It's the wine. Suburbia is suburbia. But, the peripheral benefits of living out here seems to infectiously make everything seem a little more positive.

But, to be somewhat contradictory, I can't shake that feeling that this is but a temporary stop. All things being equal, I am still shooting for that Upper West Side brownstone one day.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Criminal Law vs. Civil Procedure

Here is an example why Criminal Law is typically a favorite of first year students and why Civil Procedure is the red-headed stepchild of intro classes (I can make a comment like that, since I have red hair).

Today in Civil Procedure we parsed through 28 U.S.C. 1367 - a federal statute that grants supplemental jurisdiction to the federal courts. Now, I love the Professor. She's a superstar in the field. She clerked for Breyer, is counsel for Padilla, and welcomes laughs to the classroom. But, despite all that, 70 minutes of analysis based upon the following exception to the statute can be numbing:

(b) In any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction founded solely on section 1332 of this title, the district courts shall not have supplemental jurisdiction under subsection (a) over claims by plaintiffs against persons made parties under Rule 14, 19, 20, or 24 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, or over claims by persons proposed to be joined as plaintiffs under Rule 19 of such rules, or seeking to intervene as plaintiffs under Rule 24 of such rules, when exercising supplemental jurisdiction over such claims would be inconsistent with the jurisdictional requirements of section 1332.

This is how your federal government operates. Thrilling isn't it? Now, I buy that you have to know the rules before you can play the game. But, here was our Crim class in comparison:

Battered wives. Self-defense. Murder. Acquittal.

Does a woman who honestly and reasonably but incorrectly believed that her husband was intent on committing her grave bodily harm, have the defense or the right to kill in self-defense? By allowing these defenses, don't we permit self-help homicides for spousal abuse? Has feminism distorted the self-defense claim by blurring the imminent harm requirement? Or, has feminism saved the lives of women by deterring wifebeaters?

That's what we discussed for 70 minutes. Actually, that's what we have discussed for 59 minutes. I have 11 more to go.