Saturday, December 31, 2005

Looking Back

I woke up today looking forward to what the coming year will bring.

I woke up today looking back at what the last few weeks, months, and years have brought.

New Year's Eve does strange things to the way people think. As far as I'm concerned, anything that (temporarily) inspires overweight people to get on a treadmill is worthy of academic consideration.

But, in my own mental meandering, it was a summer day that I found myself reflecting back upon. While rearranging my room, I came across the journal I kept over the month I wandered around Europe. The following excerpt caught my attention:

---------------------------------------------------------------------
London, Leicester Square, 6/29/04, 2:00 pm.

...Penn is a very homogenous place for all of it's so-called diversity. The pressures to conform to the same ideal of success are palpable. It looks something like this:

1) Stress over grades. You may do this privately or you may subject the world around you to your turmoil. If done publicly, I reserve the right to exploit your insecurity.
2) Plan on fleeing Philadelphia. New York, Boston, and Washington are acceptable post-graduate places to relocate.
3a) If you are in the College, apply to graduate school.
3b) If you are in Wharton, get an I-banking internship your Junior summer in preparation for a financially successful and emotionally unrewarding career on Wall Street.
3c) If you are in Engineering, go to medical school. Go straight to medical school. Tell everyone how you knew this while in the womb.

The social pressures to do these things stem from a desire, as I see it, to be successful as soon as possible. What this culture fails to understand is that we all have our own notions of what that is. I have entirely convinced myself that I want to go to law school for reasons of career aspiration, legal fascination, and a desire to continue learning. But, law school is a choice that I feel like I fell into. What else am I going to with a degree in Classics? Justifying an undergraduate expense in excess of $150K to parents, even ones working as educators, is not an enviable task. Responding to peers, friends, and family with shrugged shoulders about the future is a sign of weakness these days - and not self exploration...

...I hope it is never too late to decide to cross the ocean or the world on a whim. But, before it becomes more difficult, I felt I owed it to myself and my family to try my hand at this cliched emersion experience. And I'm having an incredible time.

-----------------------------------------------------------

I'm happy to say that law school has been the right choice for me. I love the path that I can feel this experience leading me down. But, there are times when I feel like I'm running down it too quickly. Law school is very destination driven. What markets are you looking at? What firms are you interviewing with? I'm much more about the journey. There's a huge part of me that still desperately wants to be whimsical. I want to go to Thailand, bar crawl on Broadway from end to end, and play in the World Series of Poker. I want to get to know each and everyone of my classmates for the people they are before they get to where they are heading.

The way I felt two years ago strikes at the heart of the way I feel today.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Holidays

All the best from me and mine to you and yours.

I'll be posting much more sporadically now for a few weeks. Call it a holiday hiatus.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Guitar Greatness

The other night, while enjoying an afternoon White Russian at the Ritz lounge, I started chatting with a fellow guest. He was a really talkative guy and far from the pompous sort filling the room. It turned out that I had bumped into Bruce Mays. Somewhat notable for being the nephew of baseball legend Willy Mays, Bruce is better known as being one of the greatest unknown drummers of the last thirty years. He backs up George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars. But, it blew my mind when he told me he was sitting in for the late John Bonham on the Led Zeppelin reunion tour.

I chilled out with the man that will be performing with Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones. That was pretty sweet.

To me, at least.

So, in honor of that random experience and Bruce (who swears he'll call me when the tour swings West), I thought I'd contentiously present the top ten guitar acts of all time. The criteria are entirely my subjective perception of their complexity and intensity. Artists are limited to one appearance.

Top Ten Guitar Tracks of All Time

10. Texas Flood, Stevie Ray Vaughan

9. Crazy Train, Randy Rhoads

8. Bohemian Rhapsody, Brian May

7. Comfortably Numb, David Gilmour

6. Sweet Child O' Mine, Slash

5. Freebird, Allen Collins

4. Layla, Eric Clapton

3. Thunderstruck, Angus Young

2. Stairway, Jimmy Page















1. All Along The Watchtower, Jimi Hendrix

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Dull Discourse

Just got back from Philly and the drive was every bit as numbing as I remember. I've had about all the radio talk that I can handle dealing with the transit strike and the poor Congressmen laboring to finish legislation before the holidays...

Here's what Sen. Harry Reid (D, Nevada) had to say this afternoon about the finance bill that squeaked by today on Cheney's tie-breaking vote:

The GOP is advancing "an ideologically driven, extreme, radical budget. It caters to lobbyists and an elite group of ultraconservative ideologues here in Washington, all at the expense of middle class Americans."

That very well may be. In fact, it probably is. Trying to sneak in a provision for Arctic drilling was a cute little ploy by Sen. Ted Stevens (R, Alaska). But, can we at least get some new rhetoric up in here? Reid and the Democrats have that criticism ready to roll off the tongue on any issue at a moment's notice. Perhaps the party could, I don't know, propose an alternative package? Or, at least go with Mayor Bloomberg's gangsta approach in calling out transit workers as "thugs" and "frauds." Even Judge Jones, in ruling against intelligent design, labeled the action as "breathtakingly inane." Christmas has come early for the folks at the 'Daily Show.' This stuff is gold for Stewart's satire.

















It just doesn't pack a punch any more. This type of dialogue benefits no one and curries no new supporters. John Conservative in Kansas isn't likely to be woken from his flag waving trance. Jane Liberal in New York already blindly supports the party in her own flag burning one. At this point, it doesn't even make a good soundbyte.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Long Distance Now, No Distance Later

I'm back in Philly for the night. It's a town filled with both our nation's history and my own. But, all I'm thinking about is the future.

She asked her parents last night whether they would support her in moving out next August to live with me in Palo Alto.

They do.

It also turns out that they encourage it. They figure, rightly so, that it would be hard to get even closer without this experience. So, why not?

I thought dinner out with her folks went well. I didn't know it went off that well. She's got a nice family and I felt comfortable throughout the night. I never really sensed that I was being sized up or whatever scrutiny goes on during these exchanges. Though, I think I did catch a little Farsi flying back and forth when table conversation split in half.

Anyway, I'm really excited to live with her. It hasn't set in that we're going ahead with this. When she comes out to visit on her week off in February, I guess instead of Napa and Carmel we'll be apartment searching and job hunting. I know it's a big step. But, it really doesn't feel like one. It seems natural and right.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Coffee Talk

This morning, I sat down and had coffee with Mom. With Dad at work and Brother still at school, it was just the two of us.

It was one of those moments where people connect beyond what a transcript of words would show. She ran down her laundry list of questions about the girl and life. But, the focus hardly stayed there for long. It was clear there were things that she wanted to say..."while she still has the chance"...

It wasn't scripted and it didn't take the form that I drew up below, but I thought that I'd spread her gospel forward. They are the principles by which she leads her life and/or have always encouraged me to incorporate into my own. They're not uniquely insightful. But, to me, they present a picture of who she is and my guidelines in moving forward.

1. Laugh.

2. Follow your heart.

3. No regrets.

4. Never stop learning.

5. Be kind to those who can't help you.

6. Be generous to those who can't repay you.

7. All you should expect from yourself is all you have to give.

8. Spoil your woman.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Here's To Windows XP And The Joshua Tree

I think the test of someone's good will is how they treat those less fortunate (or, in Stanford parlance, those "marginalized") when no one else is looking on.

And, I guess, when one doesn't have forty billion dollars or a legion of obsessively devoted fans.

That aside, congrats to Bono, Melinda & Bill on a year of good works. They've done some serious preaching from on high. But, they've put their money where their mouth has run. That's more than most people can say.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Land of the Free?

See Justice O'Connor's opinion in Hamdi for why I now believe the NSA wiretapping program to be a fundamental incident of war waging power of the Commander-in-Chief. In so doing, I fully acknowledge that the rest of this post "flip flops." Read ahead on the caveat that this was authored by a somewhat less informed individual than the one typing this today. (4.10.06) - sls1l
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Thus, we conclude that the Government's concerns do not justify departure in this case from the customary Fourth Amendment requirement of judicial approval prior to initiation of a search or surveillance...A prior warrant establishes presumptive validity of the surveillance and will minimize the burden of justification in post-surveillance judicial review. By no means of least importance will be the reassurance of the public generally that indiscriminate wiretapping and bugging of law-abiding citizens cannot occur."
- United States v. United States District Court, 407 U.S. 297 (1972)

There are civil liberties and there are civil liberties.

Staying completely true to the tenets of the Bill of Rights is a hard thing to do. If we are going to live in a land of free speech, radical Muslims have the go-ahead to spew perverted 'Holy War' dogma. If we are going to create a society with the right to assemble, municipalities must certify their right to associate and celebrate their culture of oppression.

If we are going to be secure in our person and effects, Big Brother simply can't be watching us or them without judicial checks and balances.


The true test of poker player is how he plays his hands when he's on a streak of cold cards. I'd argue that a society's commitment to freedom is measured at the time when the temptation to suspend those liberties is greatest.

That the President authorized domestic espionage on citizens without probable cause is all at once depressing, inappropriate, and contrary to every norm of criminal investigation in this country. (On a related note, I find it as offensive that this story was strategically released after months of wait to coincide with the renewal of the PATRIOT Act)

The article reports that 'Mr. Bush delivered a live weekly radio address from the White House in which he defended his action as "fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities."'

Really? See, because, I'm left wondering why legislators from both sides of the aisle are as shocked and insulted as I am. Talk of balancing interests and greater good are legally unpersuasive. Laws circumventing personal privacy have always received the most ardent scrutiny from the courts. If you have "nothing to hide," as some of the myopic critics as responded, I applaud you for being a model citizen. But, for me, it comes down to what kind of society we seek to live in. Because, in general, I don't think the regimes that have subjected their citizens to unwarranted oversight in their personal lives have been received too favorably in the hindsight of history.

Friday, December 16, 2005

25 Orbits Complete

Shuli turns 25 today.

I feel like I'm the older one, though. It's strange. I love to look after her, take care of her, and spoil her. But, she's got me by over two years.


I'm still not sure if she reads anything I write here. So, I'll have to leave to your imagination the gift coming her way.

Tonight we are heading into Manhattan for dinner and drinks with some of her friends and co-workers - many, of which, I haven't met. I feel like I am an actor stepping on stage in my debut role. Though I'm not worried, I hope to remember my lines, make a good impression, and zip my fly.

Dinner with her parents and family is next week. I'll be the palest person (and, the only white person,) in the room. Wasn't there an Ashton Kutcher movie about that? Anyway, Shuli tells me that her parents are "laid back" Persian types. From my few encounters with them, I'd agree. But, that still didn't change the discomfort I sensed in her the time I suggested I crash overnight in her guest room.

The six month milestone comes December 30th. Things are still as great as Day 1. She already mentioned, out of excitement, that she pulled us a pair of Yankees-Sox tickets to mark the occasion. At least I know where the bar has been set...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Red Eye Ramble

I'm exhausted. But, I'm home.

The red-eye is a brow beating experience. The last flight out of San Francisco got me in to JFK at 6:30 am. I've been dragging ever since. Seeing Mom for the first time since she got her news was emotionally moving for me. Even withstanding the four months of motherly nagging compressed into my last four hours.

Reality has set in though. Her twelve cycles of chemotherapy will begin in January. In six months, if all goes to plan, she will have killed off this evil.

Finishing classes has filled me with new life blood, though. It's refreshing. I think I overlooked that fact in yesterday's ramble about final exam scheduling. It's thrilling to be this far into the 1L ride. I feel like I just returned from my first tour in Vietnam.

And, like any good soldier on leave, it's time to let good times roll.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Holidays Should Not Be Study Days

I refuse to let this staggered final exam schedule rain on my time off.

There's too much else on my mind.

There's too much sleep and too much normal human behavior to catch up on.

I'm not sold on the post-Holiday testing schedule. That's probably putting it too mildly. There is not a single "benefit" of this backloaded approach that I find persuasive. This has all the makings of a messy break-up. Stanford and I get to split now for a couple weeks. Soon, I'll start thinking about her again. She'll call late at night. I'll be thinking about her while I'm doing other things. Before I know it, I'll be drunk dialing her letting her know just how much I care. I need a clean break.


Unfortunately, the High Priests of SLS have long scheduled 1L finals after the ball drops in Times Square. Given that they only have set this looming construct for first year students, I can only assume they do this in an attempt to quarantine the new class from one another. This is the first set of law exams and the positive feedback loop of stress here is palpable. I can't walk into the library without being overwhelmed with the high stakes that have been attached to waiting for documents at the printer station and fighting for a seat against undergraduate parasites.

If this is the justification, I'm simply unconvinced.

If these are big problems in life, karma must be rewarding law students for Christ-like behavior. I've always felt that life is a short day in the sun. With the new reality of Mom's diagnosis, I can't shake the existential 'carpe diem' lens that has been tinting my perspective. I'm not sure I really want to either. I'll be back in New York tomorrow and, finally, be able to wrap my arms around her. In a weird way, things make more sense now.

Unlike finals after New Year's.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

You've Got Mail

At Stanford, there are dozens of law school listserves. There's one for each class. There's one for law related talk. There's one for any old discussion.

I think there's even one for people trying to get pick-up basketball games together.

Over the last three months, I've received over four thousand e-mails. Excluding spam. They range from the banal and personal plea for an "earring left in Room 185" to the more pertinent "Ambassador Morningstar now speaking in 280A!"

This is par for the course and, usually, anything goes. If you have something to say, there's a listserve to say it on. Except, of course, if you want to post something on "law-announce." Many men have fought and died over the right to post on the Holy Grail of SLS communication.

E-mails to law-announce go out to every person vaguely affiliated with the law school. As you may surmise, that includes students, professors, staff, and, I imagine, the girl working at Law Cafe who makes those strange tofu rolls.

When it comes to law-announce, there's a modicum of decorum required. But, the general rule is that nothing primarily humorous or politically slanted passes muster. It must be urgent. It must be of general importance.

So, when the following message hit my Inbox, I was somewhat surprised. It was the kind of inextricably political announcement that has often cluttered my e-mail -- though usually through a list of another name.

"4 PM, December 12. Vigil in support of Williams' life, on the eve of his scheduled execution. Bring candles, signs, and warm clothing. San Quentin State Prison. Contact: info@savetookie.org, call 510-XXX-5418 or 510-XXX-7966. Several Stanford Law students will be participating. Please join us."

But, it was the response in kind, by Malibu Tiger, that stirred contentious embers around these parts.

"If anyone knows of a vigil for Albert Owens, Thsai-Shai Yang, Yen-I Yang and Yee Chen Lin (the four innocent people Tookie Williams brutally murdered in 1979) and/or a vigil for all those murdered over the years by the Crips, please let me know."

Regardless of your stance on the death penalty, I think it's fair to say that the victims and their families are too often obscured in the debate. There's substance in Tiger's parody. That's more than I can say of the ad hominem scolding that followed. Holding aside the surprisingly thoughtful response from the Professor credited with persuading Illinois' Governor to grant clemency to over 150 prisoners on death row, my favorite of the dozen or so replies is posted below.

"Dear Dick (sic), Please keep me off your fucking bleeding heart republican list. Figure out a way to reply to emails without sending your shit to everyone at the law school. It is finals week and the last thing I need is pompous asshole emails. If you need to reply, my personal email address is janedoe@stanford.edu"

Wow. Law Announce is not a force to be treated lightly. 1L Tiger has received his first and final warning. There's a lesson here somewhere. With great power, comes great responsibility. Or, at least, the implicit understanding to make sure that an arguably political posting be left-of-center.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Hasta La Vista, Baby

Arnold Schwarzenegger terminated Stanley 'Tookie' Williams' plea for clemency today.

So, at 12:01 am, barring some miracle stay from Justice O'Connor, this particular controversy and Williams will both be put to rest.

Call me crazy, but I'm not sold on the whole "Save Tookie" crusade. If you want to make an anti-death penalty argument, fine. That's a separate issue. But, don't bring up his saintly contributions to children's literature and his confusing nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize into the equation. There is no redemption without confession. It's plain illogical.

Adolf Hitler remains the tried and true standard used by Crim professors to pin down one's ultimate stance on the death penalty question. But, Williams has compiled a resume for an extremely compelling case in his own right.

STANLEY "TOOKIE" WILLIAMS
Death Row
San Quentin Prison, Cell Block D

LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE
Gang Founder, Crips, South Central Los Angeles
Responsible for hundreds of deaths, many of them in battles with the rival Bloods for turf and control of the drug trade. Allegedly implicated in numerous senseless killings that ruined many families, particularly in African-American communities, in the name of the Crips and gang warfare.

WORK EXPERIENCE
Condemned in 1981 for gunning down convenience store clerk Albert Owens, 26, at a 7-Eleven in Whittier and killing Yen-I Yang, 76, Tsai-Shai Chen Yang, 63, and the couple's daughter Yu-Chin Yang Lin, 43, at the Los Angeles motel they owned.

MISCELLANEOUS
Among the celebrities who took up Williams' cause were Jamie Foxx and rapper Snoop Dogg, himself a former Crip.

Thus, when defense attorney Peter Fleming Jr. asks "if Stanley Williams does not merit clemency what meaning does clemency retain in this state?," I have to respond that the death penalty suffers the same devaluation if denied in this case. I acknowledge that nothing except the crimes alleged and the facts in record should go into this analysis. But, even so, the acts stand on their own as brutal, cold-blooded, and malicious. The motel murders were committed in an attempt to conceal the first killing during the robbery. This is the quintessential aggravating circumstance.

I suppose it all depends on your conception of the death penalty. Is it to punish? Is it to deter others from like acts? There's no clear answer to that question. The ex post mitigating circumstances in this case are entirely unconvincing to me. Eugene Volokh writes about the ludicrously simple procedure to be nominated for a Nobel (prior potential honorees include Mussolini, Stalin, and, yes, Hitler). His books warning youth against the pitfalls of gang life are also unavailing to me without the accompanying admittal of guilt. As far as the celebrity outcry, I don't know, maybe I'd want someone else coming to bat for me than Reverend Snoop, the rapper who penned the lyrics to Murder Was The Case and records on the Death Row label.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

iPod Came, iPod Saw, iPod Conquered

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Class of 2006, buy Apple stock.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, Apple stock would be it.

Industry analysts claim that two patent issues (one with Microsoft, the other with Creative Labs) might cause consumers, under the auspices of legal uncertainty, to hesitate on the iPod.

My own arms-length "research" today is evidence that these concerns are ungrounded and the result of far removed, macro level, ivory tower analysis.




Two weeks before Christmas at two separate Apple stores in the heart of Silicon Valley, the iPod nano has sold out.

In black. In white. In 4 GB. In 2 GB.

Wow. What's an mp3 pirate who enjoys making impulse purchases to do?

Apple has had months to prepare for the holiday rush. The iPod nano has been out for just as long. They must have actuarial math geeks on the payroll locked in a room somewhere calculating supply side economics. Still, there's a shortage in technology obsessed Northern California. That means stellar revenues and, why I'm making a stock trade tomorrow, stellar profits.

No, Professor Nash, they're not restricting supply to artificially stimulate demand either. Not only is there no genuine competitor in the market to wage war with, but the good has risen to the level of a status symbol. People buy the iPod, in part, to own the brand. The device has pervasively reach a level that consumers are not able to think of digital music without it. Have you ever heard of someone shopping around for an mp3 player recently that wasn't manufactured by Apple? (Do I get at least a 3.4 on the economics, Vronsky?)


Apple is king.

As strange as ecstacy tripping shadow dancers are, Steve Jobs is cash money this December.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Nice Little Saturday

It's kind of funny.

Things that I used to consider errands, now actually seem more like relaxation.

Grocery shopping? Laundering clothes? Cleaning my apartment? Throw in a trip to 'Bed, Bath, and Beyond' and, to quote Will Ferrell from Old School, life has come through with a "nice little Saturday."















I imagine that this has less to do with a burgeoning twenty-something year old mindset and more to do with rejoicing in not reading the law. The reality of the 1L routine has devolved into the following binary: you're reading or you're not. If you're not, the world is your oyster and the possibilities are endless. If you are, well, spending a day turning pages at Starbucks seems entirely ordinary.

So, for better or for worse, all forms of life outside a casebook have merged under the single heading of "chilling out." I'm happy for people when I hear that they've gone to the mall or even that they cooked dinner from scratch. It's refreshing. If that sounds strange, I agree. Many things about law school are. "Contract land" is a bubble far removed from any notion of reality.

But, this bubble is where I prefer to be for the time being. At this point in my life, I still prefer the sheltered studies of academia to a generic nine-to-five grind. Even if academia has distorted my perception of r & r.

It goes without saying, then, that a night like last scored off the charts. I'll take my chances with The Big Lebowski, vodka, kahlua, milk, and eight kids from the section any night of the week.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Matrix

After I received a summer job offer only four days after I applied at my office of choice, I was left wondering about the importance of grades.

I didn't think it appropriate to stumble into Career Services and ask them that question. So, I outsourced the inquiry to Jeremy Blachman. For those of you are not in law school and don't have a daily rotation of two dozen blogs on your favorite links toolbar, I imagine that the name strikes no hint of recognition. It didn't with me a year ago, at least. But, Blachman is probably the most prodigious blogger about law school on the internet.

He graduated from Harvard Law two years ago and has maintained two regularly updated blogs for years - one documenting his experience at HLS and the other anonymously written by a partner at a fake law firm. The latter, of which, became so popular that it drew attention from the New York Times. Blachman became so disgusted with law firm life that he has chosen to parlay his success as a well-known blogger into book deals.

With that out of the way, here's the exchange. I think he makes entirely perfect sense.

Hi Jeremy, I'm a long time reader of your blog. But, I'm a first time law student. I'm finishing up 1L fall semester at SLS and I'm hoping you can hope clear up some persisting confusion surrounding this whole experience. It's a simple question, really. Why do people stress over grades at respected law schools? If it has to do with the pooling of America's Top Type A personalities, I can understand that. But, if one is not interested in big time clerking (as I imagine most aren't) why do kids flip out when it seems like if you manage not to drool during interviews, that the education tag on the resume will carry the most comatose among us to employment? Best, 1L Rambler

1L Rambler: In three years at law school I couldn't really figure it out. I don't know. Most people where I was and where you are will do just fine without all the stress. It's not like people are flunking out. No one's flunking out. You've got it right -- the difference is Supreme Court clerkship or, uh, less-prestigious clerkship? Or even -- gasp -- no clerkship at all, and having to settle for a $150K/year job at a law firm. Because you can be at the bottom of the class and still get those, in any city you want, practicing any type of law you like. Putting aside my own feelings about law firms, that's obviously the destination for the vast majority of the class, and, yeah, I don't know why people stress about it.I think maybe there's some plausible explanations.

1. Some of our classmates are paralyzed with fears of inadequacy. More than just being a type-A personality, I think there are people who really are scared they don't belong, and really do think they have to work really, really hard so that their cover isn't blown and they're not exposed for the frauds they fear they might be. It boggles my mind to imagine how anyone can get to this point in their educational life and not have had enough positive reinforcement to be pretty darn sure they're not lacking in the academic abilities department, but, still, I think there are people for whom this is really true. I'm thinking of one of my friends at law school, who went to a not-terribly-prestigious undergrad, and was convinced he barely got into HLS, on the strength of recommendations, or essays, or whatever -- and really did think he had something to prove. He didn't stress out like so many people do, but he did get a lot more worried than I did going into exams, and really felt at risk of not succeeding. It's irrational, but I think it's how some people feel.

2. Similarly, I think there's the flip side -- people who are convinced they're absolutely the smartest person in the universe, and they want to prove it, and so they feel the need to try as hard as they can to be #1 in the class, regardless of what ambitions they have for the future, just to be able to know they're better than everyone else. I think it's probably how some people feel, at least at HLS it was.

3. People who think law school is supposed to be stressful, and so it's a self-fulfilling prophecy and they make it so.I don't know if any of those are real reasons or I'm just trying to make it make sense. But, yeah, you're right, there's no good reason for it. No one's on welfare because they finished in the middle of their class at a top-5 law school and no one will hire them.

Shouldn't you be studying? ;) --jeremy


Now, I don't think there are really all that many people who fall into category 1 or 2 on his list. But, a lot of people suffer from the slings of his third division. Stress is what you make of it. Students of the world, unite. Wake up. You're living in the matrix.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

No Sleep 'Til (Stony) Brooklyn

I'll be home a week from today.

At this point, I'm counting down the last 140 hours. I'm just tired.


I am entirely convinced that I made the right choice in going to law school and, even more so, in coming to Stanford. But, that's not the issue. I'm literally just tired.

This morning, three espresso shots in my steamed beverage didn't even put a dent into my morning fog. Nearly two liters of Coke at lunch failed to do the trick either. I kind of hovered from class to class today. It wasn't until Happy Hour that I finally was on my game. (Side note: $1 'ritas at Compadres might just be the best deal in Silicon Valley)

This semester has been one of extremes. It's been more of everything than I expected.

To say the very least, it's been more work. It's also been more play, more edifying, and more inspiring. It's been faster, crazier and harder than I imagined. The people that I have met and made fast friends with are more amazing than I supposed they would be. There's not a single person in the 1L class that I wouldn't like to get to know more about. The Professors are more approachable, the weather is more utopian, and the class is more cohesive than the hype even suggested.

But, I don't know if I'm far enough removed from this experience to genuinely reflect yet. I still need about three straight days of sleep to catch up on what I've lost this term. I think it's only with that and in the hindsight of break that these past months can be properly received.

Until then, forward march.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Cinderella Story

I am more excited about Penn's matchup tonight against #1 Duke than I have reason to be. The NBA factory is favored by 22 points. But, as far as I'm concerned, anyone who lets a spread detract from excitement is not worthy of being called a college basketball fan. You know, come to think of it, I'm not a big fan of anybody or anything defeatist in this world.


Holding aside a fanatical devotion to Penn basketball, I find something incredibly compelling and inspiring in an underdog. It's the thread that runs through my favorite movies. Braveheart, Rudy, Rounders, Scarface and Rocky all trace eventual triumph through peril and adversity.

I'm inspired when Rudy runs through the tunnel and on to the field of Notre Dame Stadium.

My heart beats just a little faster when Stallone climbs the steps of the Art Museum in Rocky's training montage.

I well up when the Scots charge the fields of Bannockburn to recapture their independence from the English. Seriously. I don't think I'll ever tire of seeing Hamish's sword barrel through the darkened sky.

Now, I agree movies and sports are trivial examples of this theme. Though, I don't think that makes the emotional appeal any less salient. These stories are uplifting and comprise modern day mythology. But, if it's real life struggle you're after, there's no need to look all that far. It may not be particularly dignified or stylized, but the same tales are all around us. And often, these everyday heroes don't get to choose their adventures.

That's why I'll be there for Mom every step of the way during treatment. It's just another set of Rocky steps to climb.

That's also why I'll be heading to the only semblance of a sports bar in Palo Alto this afternoon. It's just another platoon of English troops to ravage.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Iceberg, Dead Ahead

Given the way I've been carrying myself lately, I feel like the iceberg analogy is pretty apt.

There's just a lot I'm dragging beneath the surface. Other than a few minutes with a few friends, I really haven't had one of those "moments" where I ramble about feelings.

People new and people old have been great with reaching out and offering to listen.

But, I'm not even really sure what I'd say. I guess it would sound something like the following...

I still feel like I am getting the run around from Dad about Mom's condition. In winding generalities, he glazes over her serious, though treatable, condition. I just can't bring myself to ask the hard questions...

How far has the cancer spread?

Why isn't surgery the primary treatment?

What's the prognosis?

I'm not even sure that I want to know the answer to these questions. What he's not saying speaks just as loudly. God bless Mom, though. She's able to laugh about the situation somehow. I only pray that continues into chemotherapy.

She's been to a different doctor just about every day this week. Specialists at Sloan Kettering. Researchers at Penn. Testing on the Island. This is her and our reality now. Only fools curse at the dark. I've said it before, but I'll say it again. I'm just going to burn furiously with positivity. She's seeing unbelievable physicians. She's got a great support system. The rest is out of our hands.

The traditional raincloud of petty gripes is what I really can't deal with. I wouldn't ever force my recent epiphany of perspective onto those around me. But, it sure does make it hard for me to commiserate.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Summer Loving

While struggling to sort through the logic in an obtuse discussion of product liability this afternoon, Microsoft Outlook politely signaled the arrival of an incoming message. Clicking the task bar revealed the following header:

SUBJECT: Summer 2006 Law Student Program - Offer

It's probably some spam from Career Services telling me about an exciting new diversity program in Tulsa...

___________________________________________________

Hello,

This is to advise you that we are making an offer to you of an internship in our Summer 2006 Law Student Program with the Criminal Division. An official letter will be sent to you shortly. Attached is information on available stipends and on issues that have caused problems with security waivers in the past.

Thank you.

Jane Doe
Human Resources Assistant
U.S. Attorney's Office
Southern District of New York
__________________________________________________

Really? That's it? I'll need at least forty-five seconds to think about it.

I'll be taking the offer and moving on with my life.

It's the right work.

It's the right office.

It's the right city.

It's right near Mom, Shuli, McSorley's, and Yankee Stadium.

So, with that in mind, I'm left wondering just what the actual importance of grades are. Though my innate Catholic guilt and Jewish drive will force my hand into the library, I am at a loss for what exactly the payoff is. I'm told it matters if you want to clerk for the Supremes. Okay? Is that it?

I feel almost deprived that I will be missing out on the 1L spamming extravaganza. There is some inspired mail-merging going on these days.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?

I'm not entirely sure that the script that unfolded last night, written by life and circumstance, actually happened. The only "formal" aspect of the entire evening could be found under the guise of attire and bubbly. Otherwise, it was a victory for everything informal.

I loved every minute of it.


People came out in full force. It was a miraculous sight. Ordinary citizens shed Clark Kent rags to reveal Superman riches. It's crazy to think that I've known these people for little more than three months, because I'll never forget some of these nights.

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Mere words couldn't even do justice to the events that transpired. So, instead, here's a sampling from the round of 'morning after' e-mails that went around today. Given Mom's ordeal, it was nice to be reminded that it is still okay to laugh...

"Beverages flowed until the end of the night. We had substantial numbers of 2 and 3Ls (but the 1Ls really ran the show) and just a couple people ended up getting drunk. (I mean didn't end up getting drunk.)" - 2L Cardinal (11:57 am)

"hope everybody is feeling better.....issue preclusion is tough business for me right now and i don't even feel hung over (just really slow for some reason--maybe there was brain damage)." - 1L Bulldog (1:45 pm)

"Hey kids, Did any of you happen to pick up my room keys while you were here last night? The key chain has two keys (room key and bike key) and a small silver light thingy. Boy am I hung over..." - 1L Husky (12:13 pm)

"if any of you happen to remember why 1L Blue Devil microwaved Pad Thai only to throw it at oncoming traffic, that would also be helpful." - 1L Quaker (12:17 pm)

"The guy was going way too fast, he needed to be slowed down a bit." - 1L Blue Devil (1:39 pm)

"And did making his car dirty slow him down?" - 1L Lion (1:42 pm)

"the pad thai was not necessary to slow the guy down. But as evidenced by 1L Fenn showing 1L Bulldog and I that she had a nice ass, I don't think much of anything that happened last night was necessary :)" - 1L Yellow Jacket (2:03 pm)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Prince Is Having A Ball?

Tonight is the law school's semi-formal. Or, translated into common parlance, tonight is an extra special opportunity for repressed worker bees to drink.

I have a sneaking suspicion, given the way people are predisposed to excess around here, that what passed for "semi-formal" in college ain't gonna cut it now.

So, I'll be taking a suit off the hanger tonight.

This evening, it'll be threads cut from the Trump Collection. I know, okay? I find the guy incredibly obnoxious too. But, the clothing is quality stuff. I haven't actually worn it to an event yet, so I'm curious to see whether it'll serve as a homing beacon for Slovenian supermodels in the vicinity. Persian pre-school teachers from West Egg would be equally acceptable.

By last count, about twenty e-mails have gone out this week regarding ticket sales, transportation, parking, and pre-parties. Either this party is going to be the most banging event all semester or we've got a serious case of the lady protesting too much.

Given how I could use a distraction these days, let's hope it's more the former.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Cancer

It is a disgusting enough word without attaching a personal face to the affliction. Now that an immediate family member is diagnosed with "it," I find the word just filthy and vile.






She doesn't deserve this at all.






The veil of ignorance, especially being so far away, has been a staggering impediment in dealing with this. But, at least, I feel like I'm finally abreast of the situation.

It goes something like this...

Malignant tumor. Colon cancer. Surgery. Chemotherapy. Radiation.

These are the "golden years," supposedly.

If there is a silver lining, they're not starting her with chemo for about five weeks. I don't know much about cancer treatment, but I'd assume she would be rushed for cycles if things were truly dire.

As much as I love everything Stanford, I am anxious at this point to be home. I just want to hug Mom.

She, of course, wants none of this to serve as a distraction. Ever the teacher, she still implores me to focus on classes and studying. She is an incredible woman who, perhaps excessively, reveres the value of education. If that's how I can serve her best (and, in doing so, keep myself distracted), I'll go ahead and maintain the same Starbucks study schedule I've refined.

She sounds almost existential in her reflections on life. Couched in conditional phrases, she'll remark that she's "had a wonderful life...with a beautiful family" and hopes that she has given me "enough tools and lessons to realize you can achieve your dreams."

I don't doubt for a second that she has. At the same time, it's both beautiful and jarring to hear. Seeing as how positive and stoic Mom is about this whole thing, I would be doing her a disservice were I not to do the same. I'm going to mirror that optimism right back at her. She doesn't need any negativity. Period.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

No News Is Bad News

I really wish I knew what was going on.

Every time that I phone home, the situation sounds worse and worse. Even now, I can't even be sure that I'm getting all the details.

I don't really feel like going into it. Especially when Dad didn't think it was useful to talk about remission or survival rates.

He did, however, make an analogy to Blackjack instead.

That didn't really inspire me with optimism.

Yet, I will try to be optimistic, if only, for her sake. She doesn't need any negativity. Mom is a rock on which I've always relied. It's my turn now. There is no limit to the things I would do right now to shoulder her through this. Thanks to everybody who has reached out offering to do the same for me.

2Pac had a pretty good beat on the way I feel right now...

"I wish I could take the pain away. 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 you've got to roll on." - Dear Mama