Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

I saw David Cross tonight at Upright Citizens Brigade, in an Inside The Actors Studio-like thing where he was interviewed by someone about his work and life. It was pretty cool. He came across like a decent, humble, normal guy, who just happens to be on a sitcom and have some comedy CDs and do cool comedy-related stuff. It was good. He just talked for an hour, basically, but not like famous people usually talk. He talked about being frustrated that he hasn't written any new standup material in a while, and about how it's different to be on a show that he didn't write the material for, and about how he worries about being pigeonholed as a "nerd" character actor, but it could be worse. It was neat.
Earlier today I was in Chinatown and got ice cream at the "Chinatown Ice Cream Factory." The ice cream was good, but what was interesting was the paper menu I grabbed on the way out. There are two columns, "regular flavors" and "exotic flavors." Let's try a quick quiz. Guess whether the following flavors are listed as "regular" or "exotic" --

1. Black Sesame
2. Vanilla
3. Taro (Potato-like)
4. Chocolate
5. Avocado
6. Mint Chip
7. Wasabi
8. Strawberry
9. Ube
10. Chocolate Chip

1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 are "regular" flavors.
2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 are "exotic" flavors.

Vanilla is exotic. Chocolate is exotic. Wasabi is regular. Betcha only guessed right because otherwise this post would obviously have no point.

I don't have a clue what "Ube" is. Not even a guess.

I had the Avocado ice cream, which was much better than it sounds. It was really good, actually.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I Guess America Sucks

I was in the library just now and a book caught my eye. It's called "What's Up America: A Foreigner's Guide To Understanding Americans." I figured it could be interesting, to see what "Americans" are like, at least according to this author.

It quickly becomes apparent that the author of this book doesn't like America too much. It's an interesting thing to read. Here's some notes:

Chapter 1: America is an individual-focused society, as opposed to a family-focused one. "Some people call this independence; others call it self-centeredness." No one wants to take care of children or the elderly, and that's okay, because children and the elderly don't really want to be taken care of anyway. "When grandchildren finally come along, some active seniors choose not to take care of them. That responsibility wouldhinder them from pursuing their self-fulfilling activities." "Many adult children are not ready to make sacrifices for their aging parents... they are not willing to change their lifestyle... to do simple errands for them." "Who will take care of us when we are old? Nobody has been the answer so far in our culture."

Between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 is this friendly note: "Have a Nice Day! is one of the most overused expressions in the United States.... Does this goodbye phrase really cheer people up or does it force people to hide how they really feel?" Wow. Is this book published by the Communists?

Chapter 2: Americans are fake. We smile too much and pretend to be happy. We have to look happy or people will ask us why we look sad but they won't care about the answer. "We have happy hours at bars... so you can drink more and be happier." "The deep realities of human existence... are not dicussed." "We sell happiness in a bottle... 20-25 million Americans are taking anti-depressants to feel good." Americans also like to insult each other and put each other down. Our "jokes are mostly told about gender, weakness of character, and we have plenty of lawyer jokes too." And we're geographically illiterate too. Oops.

Our traditional vacations are void of any cultural experiences. We don't speak foreign languages. We use too many numbers in our weather and traffic reports. We make too many lists. There is no international news. Children watch TV forty times more minutes per week than they have meaningful conversations with their parents.

"We tell the most personal details of our lives to strangers in grocery lines." "When Americans have a serious problem in a relationship, we run to a therapist." Hey, maybe Tom Cruise wrote this book! "We trust in [the therapist's] knoledge more than our own family." Wow, what a nice picture this is painting of Americans. Gosh.

More cheer between Chapters 2 and 3: "Americans still give nicknames to various groups in our society based on skin color." Have a nice day!

Chapter 3: We have lots of ethnic diversity, but mostly we just like grouping people in inaccurate racial categories and then staying away from them.

Chapter 4: Families come in lots of varieties. "Some [people] want to travel or dedicate themselves entirely to their careers and don't want the commitment involved with raising children." It's really easy to get a divorce and some people even celebrate divorce as they would marriage. "For entertainment, a woman slapping a man may produce laughs for a sitcom or dramatic tension for a movie. On the screen, the man does not do anything to the woman. But if this happens in real life, a man usually hits back and the woman most often gets hurt." So, you moving to Canada yet?

Chapter 5: "Ketchup -- we put it on just about everything." "We lick our fingers, chew with our mouths open, and mix food on our plate...." We're fat slobs, basically, who gorge ourselves. Yum. We ask waitresses about quantity but never about quality. When we eat less, we feel the need to make excuses like having had a big lunch. Restaurant portions are enormous and people can ask for doggie bags. "Some of us eat the food in the doggie bag as soon as we get home." What? Who? What??? No one cooks, and even our non-food items (shampoos, etc) smell like food because we're such hungry fat slobs. "Many foods have high fructose sweeteners or corn syrup added for no apparent reason." That line made me laugh out loud, I swear. I probably shouldn't be as entertained by this book as I am.

We also never exercise. We just buy clothing with exercise company logos on it instead. Also, we destroy ethnic food to make it more fattening.

Chapter 6: We use confusing euphemisms, and want to force foreigners to speak our stupid bastardized language.

Chapter 7: We're superficial and know nothing about our friends. We go to stores wearing pajamas. "If Americans do not get your name at a party or personal setting, they most likely won't talk to you for any length of time." Favors are kept track of and we turn everything into commercial transactions. We put friends in boxes. We don't care about each other. We move too much.

Chapter 8: We have lots of rules. And lots of lawyers. Everything results in a lawsuit. Lawyers suck. Everyone binge drinks. We kill innocent people with the death penalty.

Chapter 9: We stink at math, our schools suck, and they're more like social centers than academic environments.

Chapter 10: Our houses are big and plain and we prefer artificial air to opening windows. Garage sales let us make money off our belongings and that's more important than the privacy of keeping our personal belongings private. Huh? We worship Martha Stewart even though she's a criminal. We call the police to complain about our neighbors.

Okay, that's only about two-thirds of the book, but you get the point. Honestly, I think the author's probably right about all of this stuff and maybe America does suck and Americans are all superficial and material and terrible awful people... but are foreigners all so much better? And is there NOTHING good about America? This is like the anti-immigration support manual. It gives no reasons why anyone would ever be happy here. I'm all for all these criticisms, and I agree that lots of people are fake and superficial and sometimes it's hard to make close friends, but sometimes it's not, and lots of people are really not like this and are very cool and smart and nice and good at math. :) It's a bizarre book.

Then again, I found it pretty entertaining.
Just FYI. A response from a reader, regarding Celebration Bar Review:

While the website does sound a little scary, I will say that celebration bar review is a really good course and the materials are awesome. It's cheaper than Barbri, has a much higher pass rate, and the practice questions are a really accurate reflection of what's on the bar exam. No, I don't work for them. And no, I'm not some religious zealot. I was actually really nervous about the "Christian business" thing. But, they never asked me about church or G-d or anything spiritual. I'd call in for feedback on my practice essays and they'd help me, a lot. If you do plan on taking the bar, I'd recommend the course.
Bizarre Things I Found When Looking For Bar Exam Study Tools On The Internet With The Sole Purpose Of Finding Bizarre Things That Would Lead To A Funny Blog Post

1. "Celebration Bar Exam Review provides Personal Home Study Bar Review as a Christian-based company." What does that mean? What does the Bar Exam have to do with Christianity. I clicked on the link to find out more. "For Christians, we hope that our business will be comforting. For others, we pray that how we conduct our business may spark curiosity about a relationship with God that transcends doing "business as usual."

I wish I could make up something this bizarrely strange. From the customer testimonials:

Finally I would like to mention that, totally unexpected to me, this course was also a very precious spiritual journey. I have no idea what church Sara and Jackson belong to, although I trust it is a great church, this never was an issue nor put forward. I guess if you do not show any interest on that side of the preparation you never get to talk about it. Through this course I learned how to pray more, praise more and let the trust in Christ grow in me. I prayed during the exam, as I had learned to pray while studying and it
certainly helped me a lot to put this bar hysteria in me and around me into perspective. I learned some life lessons here, which were frankly more valuable than passing the bar.

Isn't there something very unChristian about the American legal culture? About the way lawyers in this country behave? I can't figure this out at all, really.

2. And here's something that I hope even the most intense studiers will find a little over-the-top. I apologize if this is actually what everyone's life is like. Link

Kiss your family and friends goodbye. Do not try to explain to them the difficulty, pressure, or intensity of the bar exam. If they have not taken a bar exam, they will not understand. Unless you have been there, you will not understand studying 12-16 hours a day. That is the reality of it. Tempers will flare and profanities will fly, but you must persevere. Make sure you kiss and make-up when it is over. Unless you are physically caring for someone, you will have to keep your contacts with friends and family to a minimum or you will become distracted and take your eyes off the prize. Because I was married with a one year-old child, studying for the bar exam was perhaps a bit more difficult for me because I always felt that I was neglecting my wife and son. But I had to remember that the real neglect and dereliction would have been failing the bar exam and not having a job which might result in us living under bridges, stealing food from the market, and begging for bread in the streets. So start lining up your babysitters now!

...

I did not exercise because I was lazy. I did not eat healthily because I figured that since I was depriving myself of every other pleasure in life, I would at least eat what I liked. I did not shave.
I got a bunch of e-mails asking me not to kill the vapid book reviews, so here's two more.

"Atonement" by Ian McEwan has garnered praise from everyone on the planet. It was selected best book of the year by 43,000 newspapers and the Washington Post said McEwan writes better than anyone else currently breathing. I'm exaggerating, but only barely. The quotes take up a full three pages at the front of the book, and every one of them is stellar. A friend whose opinion about this stuff I trust pretty much more than anyone else I know told me I should read it and in fact lent it to me. If I can't like this, there's not a piece of literary fiction on the planet I'm going to like. I wish I was really able to get into it. I wish I could really lose myself in this. It's me, not the book. The book's great, I'm sure.

"Critical Condition" is a look at the US Health Care System that really hates the US Health Care System. I got about 75 pages in and then I gave up. We should insure everyone. We don't. Other countries do. That makes them better. They live longer too. So anyone who says our system is the best is wrong. That basically covers it.
Impressive article about one of the only newspaper columnists I'll go out of my way to read, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post. Link

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

New Rules on the New York City subway

From the New York Times:
Moving between cars - as well as resting one's feet on the seats, sipping from an open container (even a cup of coffee) and straddling a bicycle while riding the subway - will be prohibited under a new set of passenger rules adopted by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's transit committee yesterday, the first such rule changes since 1994.

Subway rules that will continue unchanged:

1. It is unfair for you to listen to music when your neighbors have none. Therefore, the only acceptable volume setting on your iPod is the maximum.

2. Especially when the subway is crowded, place your bags on the seat next to you, never on the floor. Similarly, on rainy days, place your wet umbrella on the seat next to you.

3. Smearing ketchup on exposed subway surfaces is encouraged.

4. Whenever the subway lurches forward and someone brushes against you, give them a dirty look, and when they aren't looking, steal their wallet.

5. The only polite thing to do is to hold the doors open for the people running down the stairs to make the train.

6. Touch subway pole. Touch the person next to you. Repeat.

7. When you see water leaking from the roof of the subway, it is cheating to tell the person standing directly under the leak and getting dripped on, if she hasn't noticed it yet.

8. Letting people pass to get off the train is for losers.

9. Getting a seat on the subway is a Darwinian exercise designed to support the principle of Survival of the Fittest. Never give your seat up for the elderly.

10. Whenever anyone asks you for directions, it is your job as a New Yorker to be as unhelpful as you can possibly be, and in fact direct the person into life-threatening danger whenever possible. ("Cross the tracks to get to the other side, and then...") (You'll want to walk through the tunnels to get to the next station...")

11. Subway employees know everything. Ask lots of questions.
I just got an e-mail that includes a nugget that made me laugh, but it makes an interesting point that I like and feel compelled to post so you can read it too. I've edited the quote a tiny bit to make it make sense out of context.

When I was at my last job, a colleague who was writing a book kept saying, “You’ll LIKE this,” and I wanted to interrupt, “I don’t like you. How could I possibly like what you’re going to say?”

Monday, June 27, 2005

WARNING: The following post starts out sounding like it's leading somewhere it isn't. I'm sorry to build up false expectations. :) It does lead somewhere, though.

This is hard.

Over the past three years, I've really enjoyed what this has become. I started my weblog not even really knowing what a weblog was, and just thinking it would be nice to have a place to put my thoughts, a reason to write every day, and a place to get material out there in the universe instead of just in a drawer somewhere, on the off chance someone would ever stumble across it. I never expected to build up any sort of readership, and never thought it would be as rewarding as it's been, and have helped me make as many friends as it has. Every e-mail I get, every time I'm linked by another site, every time someone I know mentions something I've written here, it's really quite a thrill. It's exceedingly rewarding to feel like there are people actually interested in what I have to say and wanting to read what I'm writing on a daily basis, even when I have very little that I think is necessarily worth saying.

Law school, in almost every way I can think of, provided great material to write about. There were constantly new things happening. Classes, extracurriculars, exams, recruiting, graduation. There was lots of interaction with people. There were lots of things that people cared about, or that were worth caring about, or institutional things that were able to be observed and written about and satirized. There were lots of commonalities -- things I was doing that every other law student was doing, things I was thinking about that every other law student was thinking about -- that made finding material to write about pretty effortless. And if one day was slow, there was always the promise of something new and bizarre and interesting happening right around the corner.

Since law school has ended, I've been fumbling around on here more than I should be. And I think what's happened is that the weblog has slid down a strange slope and become more about me than about my writing. That sucks. I mean, I suck for not realizing this sooner and being able to stop it. There's almost nothing in the past month that's particularly amusing, or even trying to be. And I've ended up writing some things that aren't worth writing and don't make me feel good about people reading. This is a real danger of a weblog. Of not having an editor. And of letting the thought that I should be writing every day overtake the thought that I should make sure I actually have something to say. I'm sorry. Honestly, I'm a little bit ashamed and a lot sorry. I hope you'll forgive the lapse.

With this realization, one more specific apology / explanation:

1. This whole bar exam stuff. I just got an e-mail that's shamed me into cutting the daily updates, because it's right on the mark:

You may think that you’re being self-deprecating and funny, but a fair segment of your readership, ie, those of us who’ve been your fellow-travelers through law school, is now buried under Bar prep. It’s really a miserable way to spend a summer, particularly when the cost of failing is so very high; many of us need to practice traditionally at least for a little while, and to do this we need to be licensed. I think it’s great that you don’t have that pressure, and if I were in your shoes I’d probably be investing as much/little in the process as you are. In fact, I might not even be taking the Bar Exam. But you are investing so little in the process—when most of your readers are investing a great deal and are losing sleep over it. Blogging daily about your de minimus approach is a little too much.... [I]f you were really doing Bar Prep – albeit without the horror of daily BarBri classes – it would be fun to read about that[]. The fact that your ‘study’ seems confined to running MBE questions on the subway is not fun to read about more than once.

I suck if that's the way it's coming off. Here's the deal, and why I started to post this stuff: I would sorta like to pass the Bar Exam, but I don't think I'm really in any position to, since I don't know all sorts of things that are on it. Obviously if I needed to pass it, I would be taking Bar/Bri, or if I wasn't taking Bar/Bri I would be studying some actual amount of time every day and I'd be worried about it and I don't at all mean to minimize the validity of anyone's worries about it. If you're going to practice law, you obviously need to pass the Bar Exam and it would be foolish to spend no energy on trying to do so, since it tests on all sorts of stuff that we don't just magically absorb by osmosis in law school. I'm in the amazingly fortunate position that all that is wounded if I fail the Bar Exam is my grandmother's pride in her grandson and my ability to tell people I passed it. That puts me in a different position than most people. Still, if I want to pass, I should study. Obviously. I thought posting about my progress would shame me into studying more. It hasn't really. And it's pointless -- and clearly from the e-mail, self-indulgent and obnoxious and bad -- for me to continue writing about not studying for the Bar Exam. So I apologize, really, because it's just indicative of this larger problem where it's become about me and not about my writing, so no more of that. Despite the front, I really would like to pass, and really do think that if I don't study I'll obviously fail, and am just lucky that failing won't actually have any real consequences for me, just by virtue of what I'm doing.

So I'm drawing a line in the sand, even though it's an imaginary line, and pledging to actually go back to thinking before I write, and trying to write funny, entertaining, interesting things that are worth reading and that I feel good about writing and feel like really add some value to the world to be written. The vapid and pointless book reviews will cease. More about the subway perhaps, since that's always fun.

That's all for now. :) I know this whole post is overblown, but I just started to feel like I need to press the reset button and make this fun again. Again, to everyone who's been reading, it's awfully cool to think that people are interested in reading what I'm writing, and I'm humbled by the fact that people do visit, and e-mail, and come back for more. Thanks.
Yesterday I went with my mom to see James Taylor in concert at the PNC Arts Center in New Jersey. He gives a good concert. Pretty impressive that his voice is in such good shape despite doing this for 30+ years. It was a really enjoyable concert. Good arrangements of his hits, a really nice horn section, a really good sound mix so you could actually hear the words, and a good selection of songs. He sang one song, "Frozen Man," that's a really cool song about a century-old man found frozen in the arctic who, in the song, wakes up and reflects on his life. But in his intro he said that over the years he's realized that it's really just as much about his father, and being emotionally "frozen." Nice song. I wish he'd done more off his more recent albums -- there was one song from each of his last three albums, I think -- but given his catalog of hits, it must be pretty hard to get it down to a 25 song playlist and still keep it interesting for him to play. He didn't do "You've Got A Friend" or "Shower The People" but I think all of the other big ones were accounted for -- "Sweet Baby James," "How Sweet It Is," "Carolina on My Mind," "Fire and Rain." He said in the intro to one of the songs that it often takes him a while to figure out what his songs are really about. That's cool. In an interview I've heard him say they come to him and he just sort of channels them. I've had that feeling writing too, sometimes, but not often enough lately. It's a cool feeling. It's interesting to think that there's words and music floating out in the ether somewhere, just waiting to be plucked out. Cool concert. Beautiful weather too.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

I passed by a garage sale earlier this afternoon, and noticed two books for sale. "The Satanic Verses" and "The Idiot's Guide to Dating." This struck me as amusing. What two books could have *less* in common? Maybe if he wasn't reading The Satanic Verses, he'd have better luck dating, no?

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The New York Times Magazine has a dumb chart here. The article is about television and politics, and lists the top 3 TV shows for summer 2004 among Republicans and Democrats.

Republicans:
1. Last Comic Standing
2. Everybody Loves Raymond
3. JAG

Democrats:
1. Last Comic Standing
2. Will & Grace
3. Law & Order

At first glance, I was a bit surprised. Last Comic Standing wasn't very good -- and it got cancelled last summer. How could it be the #1 show among Republicans AND Democrats, and get cancelled? But then I realized the graph said "summer." Last summer everything else on the chart was in reruns, and Last Comic Standing had new episodes. I imagine new episodes of most anything will beat reruns even of good shows. So it's a useless chart because it's measuring new episodes of one thing versus reruns of everything else, so it tells us nothing. Last Comic Standing surely wasn't the #1 show of the year for Republicans and Democrats. Why they didn't expand the time frame and have a chart that actually had some meaning, I'm not quite sure.
OK, Batman doesn't have superpowers, and that makes him different.

One reader wrote to defend the movie against my brutal attack:

I have no choice but to defend Batman Begins against some serious distortions of the truth you made on your blog. You see, Bruce Wayne doesn't "get superpowers," as if he's bitten by a bat and that somehow changes his DNA. He faces his inner demons, conquers his fear through that extended sequence in Asia in the beginning of the film. It's what sets this film apart from all the previous Batman films and pretty much any other superhero film today, including Spiderman. This film, for once, isn't so much about how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman and how he acquires his gadgets - although they do cover that -rather, it's about how Bruce Wayne the boy grows up to become an instrument for justice/vigilantism, through the symbol of Batman, all the while developing a cover behind Bruce Wayne, the playboy billionaire. In fact, I thought this film was the only Batman film out of the last 5 that didn't focus on Batman as if that were a be-all, end-all for stopping crime in Gotham City. For once, this film focused on the man behind the mask, and didn't give the audience a shallow, perfunctory trauma-spurs-revenge flashback and then onto some more explosions and fight scenes. But hey, you didn't like it, no big whoop.

See, I give equal time. :)
I just saw a commercial for "Beauty and the Geek" that called it "the funniest reality show in ages." Has reality TV really been around long enough for that statement to make sense? Like if I called Tom Ridge "the best secretary of homeland security in ages," or the iPod shuffle "the best variation on the original iPod in ages." Neither of those comparisons is great, but I think I have a point anyway. It's not like reality TV has been around an entire age yet, has it?
I saw Batman Begins last night. I liked it better when I saw it a few years ago and it was called Spider-Man. I know Batman's been getting great reviews, and, really, I didn't think it was a bad movie. It kept my attention. I didn't hate it. But plot point for plot point, it seemed like someone had just swapped out Tobey Maguire and inserted Christian Bale, turned the spider into a bat, and magic, we have a new summer blockbuster. Stop reading if you don't want more details, although I don't think I'm really giving much away here. Boy without superpowers and with loving family. Family killed, boy gets superpowers, boy seeks revenge. I guess the sequencing was different in Spider-Man, but same basic stuff going on. Imaginary modern crime-riddled city, exciting scene involving a subway train, some weird scientific mumbo-jumbo. Batman added in some foreign travel. Spider-Man was lighter I guess. In tone, and also actually filmed lighter. They spend a bit of time in Batman laboring over the question of whether Gotham deserves to be saved or not. Despite Christian Bale's lovely performance, I wasn't convinced it did. The weather in Gotham sucked. It seemed to be pouring in almost every scene, and when it wasn't pouring it was cloudy and dark and damp... who would ever want to live there? Maybe that was just because they filmed in Chicago. :) I don't even think they had to do anything to the Chicago subway to make it seem as dilapidated as it did by the end. It's a long movie. A long, long movie. And not a terrible movie. But I'm not sure I'm on board with all of the rave reviews it's been getting. Oh well. Worth seeing anyway.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

I ate at Union Square Cafe with a friend for lunch today, my only Restaurant Week experience. Usually it would be out of my price range -- and even at $20.12 for a three-course lunch it's still not cheap -- but we figured we could see what the fuss is all about.

The food was good, but not unbelievable. Last week's Restaurant Week article in the Times talked about how restaurants sometimes need to cut corners for Restaurant Week, using cheaper ingredients, smaller portions, etc, but quoted Danny Meyer, the guy who runs Union Square Cafe (and Gramercy Tavern and Shake Shack among others) as saying he provides "a license for chefs to toss food costs out the window" in the hopes of using Restaurant Week to attract new customers.

I did notice an absence of expensive ingredients like truffles and foie gras and other stuff that's sometimes on menus to justify charging a lot for food. I had the goat cheese / bacon / onion tart with "shaved asparagus" (shaved asparagus = asparagus sliced length-wise) as my appetizer, and grilled swordfish over a wheatberry and spinach salad as my entree. Good, and portion size was more generous than I expected, but it didn't really make an extraordinary impression. My friend had chilled melon soup as his appetizer (he liked it but said the melon and mint flavors were kind of in conflict) and fluke as his entree. The other entree choices were a pork thing and a chicken thing. The other appetizer choices were a tuna salad with olives and a summer squash risotto. Why I remember all of this is kind of scary.

The dessert did stand out. I had a rhubarb panna cotta with cherry coulis. Panna cotta apparently means firm custard, and coulis means sauce. My friend had a frozen caramel custardy thing. The other choices were a chocolate cookie cheesecake and a cornmeal pound cake with strawberry. My dessert was really, really good.

So the check came, we paid, and then when they gave back the change, they included two coupons for $20.12 off if we come back sometime this summer when it's not restaurant week. And that's how you get new customers. I mean, really smart. Because of course I'll go back, and it'll cost more than $20.12, and they'll end up having made a new customer. I mean, not a regular customer, since it's out of my price range, but if they can put themselves in a position where they become the "fancy restaurant" I think of if I need a fancy restaurant for something, then that's not terrible.

Anyway, that's my restaurant week experience.
Inefficient New York Subway Routes

1. To get from Grand Central to Times Square, take the 6 down to Canal, then switch to the Q and take it up to Times Square.

2. To get from Chambers Street to Yankee Stadium, take the 2 up to 180th street in the Bronx, switch to the 5, take that back to 59th, then the N to 34th, and get on the D, express, and it goes right to the stadium.

3. To get from Washington Square Park to Kennedy Airport, take the A, C, or E to Port Authority, take a bus to Boston's South Station, take the Red Line to Park Street, switch to the Green to Government Center, take the Blue Line to Airport, the shuttle bus to Logan, and board a flight direct to JFK.

4. Take the F.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A reader wrote in regarding my HDTV post. I share just in case anyone is wondering.

Dude, HDTV is the most amazing thing.... I recently replaced my aging bedroom TV and picked up the Syntax Olevia LCD. It's a 26" HDTV LCD unit for something like $625 after rebate. The one thing that sucks right now is that, even on HDTV channels, not everything is broadcast in HDTV. When I first got the Sony, I literally would watch anything in HDTV. ANYTHING. You're right - going back is like, wtf!

What most people don't realize is that it's actually considerably better than DVD quality. Most sports are 720p (720 vertical lines, progressive scan, better for rapidly moving pictures). Many movies and other shows are 1080i (1080 vertical lines, interlaced). By comparison, DVD is 480p or 480i depending on if you have a progressive scan DVD player.

Also, it's worth noting that commercials are generally not in HDTV.


Really Cool Thing I Just Found Out About That I'm Kind Of Embarrassed to Link To: here

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

I saw HDTV for the first time tonight, at a friend's apartment. Wow. Amazing. After two minutes of HDTV basketball, we switched back to normal TV and it was like we were transported back to the 1950s. It's really that different. You can see the individual beads of sweat. You can read the tattoos. You can see what they ate for dinner, caught in between their teeth. It feels like computer-generated action figures. A commercial with a stream of water looked like it was going to pour out of the screen into his living room. I'm now going to be unable to watch regular TV without realizing how crappy it is. You will be spoiled instantly if you see HDTV. It's so much more of a difference than I ever would have thought. Too bad HDTVs cost so much. Because it's really cool. Unbelievably cool. And I don't get excited about electronic stuff usually. But, wow.
Some books I read in the last couple of days:

1. Three Nights In August by Buzz Bissinger. Bissinger wrote Friday Night Lights too. Was a good movie at least. I haven't read the book. Three Nights in August is a baseball book. He followed Tony LaRussa, the Cardinals manager, for a year, and wrote about stuff. It's a solid read, he's a good writer, and it's interesting to go behind the scenes and see what life as a manager is like and to read about some of his thinking when making decisions. It's not revolutionary, but it's a really entertaining read for any baseball fans. Good book.

2. On Call by Emily Transue. She's a doctor. This is a diary of her first year as a resident, right after graduating from medical school. I put it down halfway through. It's not that it was terrible, but it just wasn't grabbing me. She grows as a person, she tries really hard, being a doctor is really stressful... she writes well... it just didn't really do it for me.

3. Crimes Against Logic by Jamie Whyte. Whyte is a former British professor of philosophy. This is basically a long essay tearing apart traditional political and journalistic argument structures. Techniques to confuse an audience, how people use words that have no meaning, how people hide contradictions.... I thought it would be more about tearing apart specific policies and making fun of the world as it is. It's really more like a William Safire tearing-apart-language kind of thing. Which is okay, but not as interesting as I was expecting.

4. The Power and the Story by Evan Cornog. This is a book about presidential stories -- how presidents have shaped their lives into a narrative to help get media attention and get elected -- like George Washington and the cherry tree or William Henry Harrison being a man of the people. It's a nice book. I liked it. If that kind of thing sounds interesting to you, it's a good read.

5. The Big Picture by Edward Jay Epstein. This book goes behind the scenes in Hollywood and describes the studio system, how movies get made, who all the players are, how the money flows... it's very comprehensive. I liked the sections about how things work today, and the creative side of the equation -- how a movie actually becomes a movie and who's involved with that. I ended up skimming the sections about how things were in the 1940s and about the minutiae of the DVD industry. Liked the parts I read; couldn't bear the parts I skimmed though. If the movie industry is of interest, it's a nice book. Would make a good "so you're going to film school" present.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Someone tells me there's a subject on the Bar Exam called commercial paper. I have no idea what this is. In three years of law school, I heard nothing about commercial paper. I know what commercials are, and I know what paper is. I know no more about what happens when you put those two words together as I know about Laptop Yogurt, Sneaker Jelly, or Phone Butter, just to put some random words together inspired by items in my room and/or my refrigerator.

Frequently Asked Questions about this post

Q. The Bar Exam? When did he start talking about the Bar Exam?

A. Yes, that's right. I haven't said anything about the Bar Exam yet. I am signed up to take the New York Bar sometime in July, whenever it is they're giving it. The fact I do not know the date (the twenty-somethingth, I'm pretty sure) should be indicative of how much attention I've been paying.

Q. But you haven't said anything about Bar/Bri or any other bar classes. What's up with that?

A. I'm not taking Bar/Bri, which I suppose means I'm going to fail the bar. It probably does mean I'm going to fail the bar, because besides not taking Bar/Bri, this post is the most focus I've given the Bar Exam yet. This is not because I'm lazy and stupid (although perhaps it really is because I'm lazy and stupid) but because the Bar Exam doesn't really have any stakes for me, so I'm not really feeling the need to study.

Q. But if you don't study, you're going to fail the Bar.

A. Yes, that seems to be true, since there are things like Commercial Paper on it, which I know nothing about, and also because I didn't take classes like Evidence. I think I'm pretty smart. I don't think I'm smart enough, however, to divine the rules of Evidence from thin air, or to figure out what all the laws of New York State are just by intuition.

Q. You should have taken Bar/Bri.

A. Well, from the stories my friends have been telling me, (a) no, I shouldn't have taken Bar/Bri because it's boring and everyone falls asleep anyway, but (b) yes, I should have taken Bar/Bri because it would have given me lots of fodder for writing and making fun of how inane it is.

Q. But you're going to fail the Bar.

A. Yes, that is true. But then I can write an article entitled, "How a Harvard Law Student failed the Bar" and maybe someone will want to publish it, and that could be cool.

Q. No, really. You're going to fail the Bar.

A. Yeah, and I was kind of okay with that, since I don't need to pass it for any real reason, except people I talk about this with, who aren't law students, keep saying stuff like, "no, you're smart, I'm sure you'll pass." When people say stuff like that, and then I think about how I don't know any of the rules of Evidence, I start to feel a little embarrassed. I don't really want people who think I'm smart enough to pass the Bar without studying to have to find out that maybe I'm not, even if it's more about them not knowing that the Bar Exam isn't an intelligence test than about me not being smart. So now I kind of feel obligated to pass the bar.

Q. But you're not studying. So you're going to fail.

A. Yes, that's the problem, isn't it. I have the Bar/Bri books from two years ago. I'm going to open them one day. I will do some amount of studying, I guess. But I can't imagine really being motivated enough to put in the work it would take to pass the bar.

Q. And you're writing about this... why?

A. Because I want my readers to help me. At the end of each day, I'm going to post a Bar progress report. I am holding myself accountable. If I write "I did nothing," I want you to feel free and encouraged to e-mail me a nasty note saying I should be ashamed of myself and should go learn about commercial paper.

Q. But wait. You shouldn't be spending all of your energy studying for the bar. You have a book to write.

A. Yes, that's true. So here's part two of my plan to force myself to be held accountable for my activities instead of spending all day re-naming my mp3 files to make them easier to organize in iTunes (yes, I did this). In addition to the space at the end of each day where I write how much Bar studying I did, I'm going to write how many words of my book I wrote. My aim is at least a thousand a day. If I report less than a thousand, even more than I want you to bug me about not studying for the bar, I really want you to tell me to write more book. Really. Send me threatening e-mails telling me you're going to hurt me. Seriously. I'm relying on you to hold me accountable.

Q. Starting today?

A. No. Starting tomorrow. Really, this isn't a joke. I am relying on you to make sure I write a book, and pass the Bar. Because there's no other way to keep from wasting all day downloading weird British documentary television shows than by publicly reporting my progress.

Q. You're going to regret this in the morning.

A. Yep. But there's no turning back. I'm not deleting this post. You can hold me to that too.

[Edited to add: I'm putting a hold on the daily reports. Scroll up to see why.]

Saturday, June 18, 2005

I saw two shows tonight and really liked them both. Saw "Rival" at the People's Improv Theater, a sketch/improv show performed by Ellie Kemper and Scott Eckert. I know them, so it's not an entirely unbiased recommendation, but I wouldn't be recommending it if it hadn't been funny. Ellie is one of the funniest people I know, especially when you put her on a stage. In undergrad, I would be very very happy when she was cast in one of my pieces, and very very sad when she wasn't. Just don't sit in the front row or you may find yourself hit by broken glass.

Then I saw Freckles Gets a Beating, a longform improv show that worked really well and was really funny. All six performers were really good, and they seemed really comfortable with each other and able to get inside each other's heads. It was as good as I've seen improv be. Very funny.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I want to once again recommend the new book "In The Shadow of the Law" by Kermit Roosevelt. I went to the book reading tonight, and what was good when I read it on the page really came alive when read aloud, and was funny and insightful and crisp. And the author seemed like a heck of a nice guy (especially for a law professor). I do think all law students and young lawyers will find the book at least interesting, if not more.

I read another new book yesterday, called "Maybe a Miracle," by Brian Strause. It's coming out from Ballantine in the fall. It's about a high school senior who rescues his sister from drowning in the family swimming pool, but not quickly enough to prevent her from slipping into a coma. The family has to cope with the crisis, his mother turns to religion, his father starts to withdraw, and he struggles to make sense of the strange events that unfold. It's a good read, without a doubt. The author has a good voice, it's very engaging, and even though it begins to lag about two-thirds of the way in, the ending saves it, and I ended up really liking it. For a novel. :) Bonus points because there's some baseball talk in it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Random question... are there summer socks and winter socks? I bought a bunch of socks this past winter that are a little thicker than the socks I usually buy, and they felt nice and cozy all winter, but now they feel too thick. This never crossed my mind before, but maybe socks do have seasons. Or maybe I should wear sandals.
Monday begins Restaurant Week in New York. Restaurant Week, as The New York Times explains, is a promotion where 201 participating restaurants offer three-course lunches for $20.12 and dinner for $35. Which, because this is New York, is a decent discount off normal prices and not a bad deal. According to the article, some restaurants skimp on portion size and ingredient quality to make up the difference.

Due to the success of Restaurant Week, other industries are following suit. Here are nine of the most interesting attempts:

1. Bus Week. Thirty cents a ride; bus never stops.

2. Tooth Week. Participating dentists offer 20% off a full set of dentures, except they're missing some teeth and don't quite fit.

3. Stamp Week. First-class mail costs 14 cents but never gets there.

4. Church Week. No collection plate, but no prayers get answered.

5. Bridge Week. Half-price tolls, but no more suspension wires to keep the bridge up. Oops.

(Thanks to Jesse for the idea for this post, which was a really good idea that I'm executing kinda poorly.)
I just got ices at a Brooklyn chain called Uncle Louie G's. I tried a flavor called "Peanut Butter (and Jelly)." What I didn't realize that meant was Peanut Butter flavored ices put into a cup and then mixed with actually grape jelly. It was kind of cool, but a little bizarre. Tasty. But a little bizarre. I don't know why it would have seemed less bizarre if they had done the mixing in the big vat prior to scooping, as opposed to after scooping. I really don't. It just seemed a little strange. But it was good. I'll try another flavor next time.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Here's a sketch I wrote last night that was more offensive than this version is, but I toned it down before I posted it because I lack the confidence that I know where the line is. And also because the offensive stuff wasn't the funny part. Maybe. Or I may have ruined it.

Boston Tea Party

(Frank, a colonial patriot guy, creeps on stage cautiously, looking out for unexpected guests. He looks at his watch. He waits. Moments pass. Joe, also a patriot, also creeps on stage cautiously. Frank cautiously approaches Joe. They whisper.)

FRANK
You here for the Tea Party?

JOE
Yeah. You too?

FRANK
Yeah. Thought maybe I had the wrong place.

(Steve, also a Patriot, creeps on stage cautiously. He approaches the other two.)

STEVE
You guys here for the Tea Party?

FRANK
Yeah.

JOE
Yep.

STEVE
Awesome. We all set? You got the tea? The boat? The Declaration of Independence?

(They produce the items. They begin to walk off stage.)

FRANK
Wait. Did you guys eat yet?

JOE
What?

FRANK
I figured we'd do dinner first, so I didn't eat anything.

(They both look at him funny.)

FRANK
Eh, nevermind, it's fine. I'll grab something afterwards.

JOE
No, you didn't eat something, so let's eat. I only had some cereal. I didn't really think about it. But I could eat.

STEVE
We're gonna eat? That's gonna take forever. I thought we were really focused today. Get here, do the Tea thing, all business.

JOE
We don't have to do a sit-down place, we can just do something quick.

FRANK
I feel bad now that I started something. It's no big deal. I'll survive. Let me just run in somewhere and get a piece of pizza or something. I'll eat it before the tea dumping gets started.

JOE
No, this is silly, we have all night, it's fine. We'll eat. I know this cool Chinese place.

STEVE
Is it fast?

JOE
I don't know. I've never been there. Benjamin Franklin said it was good.

FRANK
I'm up for Chinese.

STEVE
I had Chinese for lunch.

JOE
Oh, Steve. Okay, we can just wander till we find something.

STEVE
I just want to do this tea thing and go home. Rhonda's got some thing tonight at school we have to go to. I didn't realize this was going to be a whole big production.

FRANK
It's not a whole big production. It's just dinner. We didn't talk about it, so I just assumed we were all planning on dinner. It's not my fault.

STEVE
I didn't say it was your fault.

FRANK
Well, you're making me feel pretty bad about all this. Show some sensitivity, Steve. I have feelings too.

JOE
Don't get into a fight over this. It's no big deal. We'll find a place, we'll grab a bite, we'll protest the British, and then we'll go home. It's fine. We can handle this.

STEVE
Fine, but if we're grabbing food can I at least call Bill and invite him along? He's been asking me to do something with him and I keep blowing him off. This way, food and the protest, it's a whole evening, and he feels included.

JOE
Bill? Ever since the thing with the hat, you know Bill and I haven't really gotten along. I'd really appreciate if we just kept it to the three of us. You start adding more people and the whole vibe changes. This was going to be a fun protest, just the three of us, like old times. And now you want Bill to come? I know he's your friend and everything, but I don't click with Bill. I'd rather not do this with Bill.

FRANK
And you know Bill. Once you invite Bill, he'll have three more of his friends to invite, and we won't know them, and they'll take over. Where we start out keeping it simple, with the tea and the boat, you get Bill and his friends involved and suddenly there's fireworks and a guillotine. He turns everything into a production.

JOE
And his breath kinda smells.

STEVE
Okay, okay, I didn't mean to cause a production. I won't call Bill.

FRANK
We could call Sam though.

STEVE
Frank, Sam's kind of unreliable when it comes to these things. Remember the Stamp Tax?

FRANK
Yeah, you're right. I forgot.

JOE
We could call Edgar.

STEVE
Edgar's British.

JOE
Oh, oops. Forgot. (pause) But what if we just call him for dinner, and don't tell him about the Tea Party. We can just head our separate ways after dinner and meet back up again. Edgar's cool. I think it'd be fun.

FRANK
Joe, we're not inviting Edgar to the Boston Tea Party.

JOE
No, not the Tea part-

FRANK
Forget it.

JOE
Fine. I was just throwing it out there. So you want fish and chips?

STEVE
Sure.

FRANK
Yeah, that's cool. At that British place?

JOE
Yeah, that's what I was thinking.

STEVE
They're good.

JOE
Yeah.

(They walk offstage.)

Monday, June 13, 2005

One of the Harvard class marshals with a blog responds to the part in my commencement post where I talked about how they gave some speeches about giving money to Harvard. She writes:

I understand this reaction, that's why it sucks to be the chick who gives the speech about giving money, you get no respect. And I myself am more likely to give money to a private scholar to get students into Harvard as opposed to giving money to Harvard directly.

But I find it fustrating how much complaining Ivy League students do about what they are forced to do. I'm not talking about this one blog, I'm talking about law school students in general. We have a lot and maybe we shouldn't give to Harvard, but we should give. And maybe we hated meeting the pro bono requirement because it took us away from our dream of hovering over our money like Scrooge, but that 40 hours you spent in taxhelp being bored may really have affected someone's life.

I guess the grass is always greener on the other side, but it seems to me that a lot of people don't even take one moment to realize that some people don't have any grass at all and we are lucky to have something. I had problems with my educational experience, I complained and will continue to do so, but I have been grateful for this opportunity since day one. Harvard was far from perfect, but it gave me more opportunities than I had ever known before.

Um, I don't disagree with her. Harvard's given everyone lots of opportunities, and we should be grateful and we're lucky and of course we're incredibly fortunate to have had the chance to be students. That said, we did give them $150K already. And we're barely out the door. And Harvard isn't actually in that much need. I don't think it's contradictory to say that I had a great educational experience, and feel very lucky and extraordinarily fortunate, and also not write them a check for any more money. I don't think the pro bono requirement was a terrible thing we were forced to do. I don't think Harvard forces us to do very much at all. I think we should give money to charity if we can afford to. I don't know if I think Harvard is the most needy charity out there. I didn't mean it to come off as a comment about the speeches themselves, incidentally, or the speakers. The speeches were fine, and I understand why they have someone making them. We absolutely should feel a duty to help those less fortunate than us. Didn't mean for it to sound differently.
My reading muscles are cooperating more than my writing muscles the past couple of days. I just read "Early Bird" by Rodney Rothman. Rothman is a television writer (wrote for Letterman and "Undeclared") who decided to go "retire" at age 28 to a seniors community in Florida, and write a book about it. The New York Times has a short paragraph about it. It's not bad. I mean, you end up getting a picture of what life is like at one of these places, and he's a funny writer with some good observation skills, and it's a quick read.... I like reading things like this. Here's a passage I identified with:

"Are you going on the JDate bus trip tomorrow?" [the girl] asks. A potential response enters my head that I recognize would be a horrible thing to say. I wait for a new comment to replace it in my brain's on-deck circle. My brain is not cooperating, so I just say:
"JDate bus trip. I hope it doesn't get attacked by PDate."
"What's PDate, she says.
"It's, uh..." I try to think of something different to end this. I cannot. "It's uh... it's Palestinian date," I say.
[She] walks away.

I hate when you know what you want to say isn't funny but you can't stop yourself from saying it anyway. Happens a lot. Oh well.
I just read Freakonomics, the new book written by Chicago economist Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, the writer who wrote a New York Times Magazine profile of Levitt last year. The book is an outgrowth of the article and summarizes some of Levitt's research. The research is interesting -- on why the crime rate dropped in the 1990s, on whether baby names matter for outcomes later in life, about real estate agents, sumo wrestling, the KKK, and selling bagels in office buildings. It's a very quick read, well-written, and has a couple of things to make you think. But having read the New York Times Magazine piece, I'm not sure this added much that was new. Everything sounded familiar, even though I was reading the book for the first time. Each chapter of the book leads off with a quote from the New York Times Magazine piece, and that's really how the book functions -- it's the expanded version of the piece, basically. Which makes it good (the NYT piece was good, after all), but not groundbreaking. But Levitt seems like an awfully smart guy, tackling really interesting questions.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

John Lithgow's Harvard Commencement Speech, which I didn't see.

"Be creative. Be useful. Be practical. Be generous. Simple as that."

Not bad advice, I don't think.

"Many of you are leaving Harvard with lofty, ambitious goals. (Those of you who have no immediate goals, don't worry, you will discover them soon). A lot of you will achieve those goals, some with extravagant success. In fact, I'm secretly counting on you to go out and make things right in this perilous, suffering world and in this deeply troubled nation. But when you get what you're aiming for, or even as you go through the process of getting it, think about what else you can also do."

Reading this, I wish I'd seen it. It sounds like a wonderful speech.

"Since college graduation is the clearest possible demarcation between childhood and adulthood, I have decided to write a brand new children's book and to recite it for you. Think of it as a kind of fond farewell to your young years.

The book is about a mouse named Mahalia who goes to college. Just to bring things full circle, call it a picaresque tale. She has adventures and she learns a lot.

Is it useful? Well, it's certainly intended to be. It is calculated to make little children curious and excited about the notion of education in general and college in particular. And hopefully its usefulness will extend to pouring oil on troubled waters: your campus was roiled by a bitter, divisive controversy in the last semester of your undergraduate years. The book is my cheerful and constructive response to all the turbulence: Mahalia Mouse, you see, studies science."

The transcript omits the recitation of the book, which is disappointing, because it sounds neat. Man, I wish I'd seen the speech. (Although the cocktail party at the professor's house was awesome too, so it's not like I wish I didn't do that.... Hard choices.... Then again, I get to read a transcript of the speech, and that's almost as good.)
Alan Dershowitz reviews a new book in today's New York Times, "In The Shadow of the Law" by Penn Law professor Kermit Roosevelt. I read the book a couple of weeks ago, and liked it. It's a lawyer novel. Associates and partners at a big DC firm, a death penalty case and a corporate liability case, and a bunch of characters anyone who's spent any time at a law firm will recognize. What really works well in the book is that it gets you inside the law firm world, and has a lot to say about the tradeoffs people need to make and the pressures they feel and how the firm can really envelop the lawyers who work there. There's a lot of stuff along those lines that I found resonated with the other stuff I've been writing. And he creates some very real-seeming characters who you start to care about and want to keep learning about. So it's very well done in those respects. Too often I have trouble getting through novels, maybe because the third-person narrator just generally doesn't grab me, and I get bored. But I stuck with this one long enough to get engaged, and it was worth it by the end. I ended up reading the last seventy-five pages while waiting for a subway that never came -- and didn't even realize how long I'd been waiting until I finished the book. So I feel like that's an endorsement. It's a novel. If you're a law student, you'll relate and find it engaging, I think. I recommend. But don't necessarily take my word for it. The first chapter's on the NY Times page. And, he's doing a book reading at a bookstore in Greenwich Village called Partners & Crime this Wednesday at 7:00. I'm planning to go check it out. I already miss hearing law professors lecture, so I figure it can help fill that void... :)
I meant to link to this a couple of weeks ago but forgot. A very cool post on another weblog about the Bull Durham Principle. That is, that "no man or woman is more profoundly human than in the moment they at once and finally 'step out of character.'" That intro makes it sound boring but it's not. It's worth a read.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Commencement

I posted the first part of this on Friday, but I've added to it today, so if you read it yesterday, just scroll down to the ***.

So I'm done. I'm officially not a student anymore. Someone vested with some sort of authority by the President of the Board of Something who was on a podium too far away for me to really see granted me and my classmates a Doctor of Laws and pronounced us fit to help make the law a better thing. Or something to that effect. And then a couple of hours later I got to walk across a stage, tentatively following the student helpers designed to tell everyone when to stop, when to wait, when to walk, and where to look, and get a diploma, written in Latin, that will look great in my closet, until I get around to getting it framed, which would have been easy to do yesterday except I didn't. Still a little bizarre that I'm a law school graduate. I don't really know how that happened.

So I drove up on Tuesday evening with my mom and grandmother, and had trouble recognizing Harvard without the layer of slush. It's completely strange to feel too hot to do anything, since it's normally so much the opposite. After an uneventful five and a hour drive up, while parking the car I got too close to the car behind me and sideswiped them, leaving a scratch on their door and a ding in my stepdad's fender (bumper? whichever one is in the back), so we had a fun delay exchanging insurance information and generally making me feel like an incompetent driver (which I kind of am, but probably not as much as I think I am. I've never actually been in a moving vehicle accident, but this was the second parked car that I've dinged, and even though the other one was now 4 years ago, it still now with this addition feels like a pattern. I don't love driving, but I really don't like going in reverse. But, just a ding, and no big deal, and it didn't really screw anything up except my confidence that I'm not a complete idiot, so we exchanged information -- with the very pregnant woman whose car it was -- and off we went to dinner with some relatives). So, after a few moments of wanting to just turn around and go home, immediately, before I broke my grandmother like I broke the car, we went to dinner with some relatives in Boston, and that was fun, and then we drove (uneventfully) to the motel where we were staying and checked in.

A note on the motel. It made sense at the time we booked it, but I'm not sure why. Lots of people stayed at nice hotels, right near campus. I mean, the Charles Hotel at a thousand dollars a night (seriously, I think -- people sent e-mails trying to get rid of excess rooms they didn't need, and I think they said it was $1000/night, which I think is even more than they usually charge, because of graduation) would have been out of reasonable range, but I guess we could have done better than the Super 8 Motel in Watertown. Which looked closer on the map than it was. And by the time we booked, the first couple of places we called were sold out, and this seemed cheap and not too far... but it kinda sucked. The mattresses were made of the same material the walls were made of. Paper, that is. And the pillows were made of insulating foam. Or so it felt. Felt would have been better, actually. Nevermind, it's too early to try and be funny.

So we sort of slept, though not that well, and woke up Wednesday morning for Class Day. Class Day began with an Alumni Council lunch and a speech by Eliot Spitzer, which I hear was wonderful. But I forgot to buy tickets when they were on sale, so instead we went to IHOP for breakfast and skipped the event. A few things about IHOP. It seems, like KFC and the SAT, that IHOP is now not an acronym for anything, but just their name. Back in my day.... I remember when acronyms really stood for something. What was wrong with the International House of Pancakes? It's certainly more descriptive than IHOP. My grandma was confused and wanted to know why it's named IHOP. I didn't have a good answer except it's about three stores down from iParty, a party supply store that seems to think it's an Internet site instead of an actual store, or at least that's what whoever named it seems to think. The other interesting thing about IHOP was the seniors menu on the back where people 62 years of age or older can get much less food for slightly less money. It's quite a scam they have going for the older crowd. Because while for $6.99, you can get the International Breakfast Deluxe Monstronsity with 3 pancakes, 3 eggs, 3 links of sausage, 3 strips of bacon, hash browns, toast, syrup, all the coffee you can swallow, a stick of butter, a mound of lard, a teaspoon of jelly, a whole trout, some plaster of paris, a cup of lingonberries, and a entire Thanksgiving turkey, for $4.99, senior citizens can get a half triangle of french toast and a quarter-strip of bacon, on a really huge plate. We all shared the half-triangle of french toast, which even at it's comparatively small size would be enough to feed two or three law school sections, and, ready for the sudden onset of coronary artery disease, we proceeded back to the car.

My grandmother hadn't really slept enough the night before, so to make sure she'd be fresh for the day, and because the next event wasn't until 2:30, I took her and my mom back to the Super 8, gave them taxi instructions for meeting me an hour later for the Class Day session, and decided to take the bus to campus to pick up my cap and gown and graduation tickets, and return the library books I should have returned a month ago when I was still living on campus, but didn't.

***

So I went to pick up my cap and gown, and there was a prominently placed sign with a warning: "Please note: In the event of rain or excessive humidity, the dye in the gown can discolor your clothing. Please DO NOT wear the gown over valuable garments." Just to be sure, the clerk who handed me the gown called my attention to sign and told me, "So if it rains, the color will run. Consider yourself warned." And inside the package, there was a slip of paper that said the same thing. Three warnings. I can only imagine the situation the year before they started warning people. Throngs of angry graduates in discolored clothing, demanding their money back. Demanding back the $75 rental fee for something that would have cost $25 to buy. Demanding to have their dry cleaning bills paid. Demanding justice. I'm sure instead they got nothing. Except we who follow get warnings. Really, for $75, shouldn't they be able to find some gowns that don't discolor your clothes? And let's look at the warning for a moment. "Rain" I understand. I know what rain feels like. But "excessive humidity"??? This is New England in the summer. It's excessively humid every single day. Or do they just mean if I sweat? Is this a polite way of saying that everyone's going to know who the people are who are sweating through their clothing, so watch out? I don't know what "excessive humidity" means. They don't teach us that in law school. (Nor, just as an aside, do they teach us about "excessive humility," but maybe that's for another post.)

So I got the gown and I returned my library books and I got my tickets. The tickets which, incidentally, no one ever took. They made a big deal out of only giving us two tickets to the morning ceremony, and then they never even ended up checking them. But, anyway, pockets full of tickets, I met up with my mom and grandma to go to the Class Day event.

On the way, I passed a woman having trouble wheeling a piece of luggage. "Do you need help," I asked. "No thank you," she said. "But that Eliot Spitzer -- wasn't he wonderful? I'm going to vote for him RIGHT NOW." "Oh." I don't know where she was going. Where he was running for something RIGHT NOW and what that something was I have no idea. Oh well.

Anyway. We tried to sit in the shade. But the shade kept moving. We sat. It got sunny. We moved. It got sunny. I "went to the bathroom" but really just wanted to go inside and escape the sun. There was a very nice speech by the professor voted to win a teaching award, who I never had but now wish I did. There were nice introductions and speeches by a bunch of the class marshals, who are 3Ls we voted on last year to do this kind of stuff. There was a short speech by the head of the alumni association, basically telling us to donate money, and also some discussion of our "class gift" and which sections had donated the most money.

I don't understand why we should be expected to give money back to Harvard Law School when we've not even left yet. I mean, just generally I don't understand why if I was donating money somewhere it would be to somewhere with so much money already, that's charging a heck of a lot and not even necessarily doing that much good for the world -- do we need more corporate lawyers? But in any case, it's a little soon for them to be asking for money, I think.

The keynote speech was by a lawyer named Jeffrey Fisher who has argued before the Supreme Court and was named a top young lawyer by some magazines. He talked about how he got his chances to argue before the court. He was working on cases and the lawyers in charge didn't want to do it, so they asked him if he did. Okay.

After the Class Day speeches, we went to a reception where people got to meet their friends' parents, which was fun. My grandma is very good at talking to strangers. I didn't inherit that. But she was very happy to meet people, and ended up with more friends at law school than me. My favorite was when she'd compliment people on things they have no control over. "You're so tall. You'll make a great lawyer." She complimented two of my friends on their dimples. We ate enough of the little finger food that was around to make dinner irrelevant, which was nice.

After a whole bunch of time in the warm tent, I brought my mom and grandma into the air conditioned student center, and I wandered around to say hello to more people. Then we went back to the Super 8 and basically fell asleep immediately, since it was a long day in the hot sun and I was worn out making sure my grandma didn't say anything to embarrass me too badly (she didn't).

Commencement Day, Thursday, started early. There was a champagne breakfast at 7 AM. I would tell you about this if I made it there in time, but, alas, I did not. Couldn't get a cab from the motel (I wonder where everyone was going...) so I took the bus. The bus from Watertown to Cambridge is not that quick. But I made it in time to get in line with my cap and gown, and pray for no excessive moisture. My mom and grandma planned to leave the hotel at 8:00 to be a bit early for the 8:50 "this is when people will start walking in" time, and to get a seat. When I got there, one of my friends mentioned how his parents had gotten up at 5:00 to get seats. They ended up with better seats. He also helped me with my hood, since I had no idea what I was doing. "I know how to put on hoods" probably is a valuable skill in some parts of the country.

So we lined up and I was all the way in the back. Oh well. "4 across," they kept saying. They gave us plastic gavels as props to hold up when the law school was mentioned in the ceremony. Apparently they used to give inflatable sharks. I like that better. Some woman came up to where we were in line and asked if they were "real" gavels. She asked in an accusatory way, like we weren't really lawyers if we didn't have real gavels. I kind of wanted to hit her over the head with it to demonstrate, but that's probably a crime. If I knew any criminal law I might know the answer to that, but I don't.

Hours into the standing in line, we arrived at our holding pen, where the line no longer mattered and we could mix ourselves up and find our friends and make completely moot the line we had just been in. Why we couldn't show up to the holding pen at 9:00 I'm not really sure.

Then we walked in and got seats. I was almost on the end of an aisle -- there was an empty seat on the end, next to me. A reporter from Harvard Magazine (are they called reporters if they're from in-house publications like that? or are they just called PR people?) ended up sitting there. She didn't find my comment about the excessive moisture amusing. It probably won't end up in her article. I don't think she found anything I said amusing, especially the things I said partly for her benefit, in case she would find them amusing and write them down. She seemed to find little irony in the whole event. Oh well.

There were lots of anthems played by the orchestra. One of the Harvard anthems has the same tune as a Princeton fight song. I guess there's a limited number of Ivy League fight song melodies. Most of the anthems were credited to writers from the 1700s and 1800s, but one had a melody credited to a guy born in 1941. That's pretty cool to end up writing something that gets used in graduation and called an anthem, and not to be 200 years old. I was impressed.

Each school had props, like our plastic gavels. The education school had children's books. The medical school had latex gloves. The government school had inflatable globes. The business school had money. Sort of. The business school had international flags, but a few of the students on one side waved dollar bills instead. I think they were smart to do that. After all, other people may feel loyalty to their countries of origin, but they were simply admitting it doesn't matter, they just feel loyalty to the dollar. Other schools that don't exist and the things I imagine they would have held in the air if they did exist: the school of hotel management would have swipe cards, the driving school would have fuzzy dice, and the english grad school would have paper hats and french fry containers.

Then we went to the smaller law school ceremony. They gave us box lunches. My grandma's first comment upon opening the box: "I don't know if this is chicken, beef, or fish." Tasting it did not help. They were really quite dismal. Sources told me the vegetarian option was no better, but that the Kosher one was actually pretty good. Should've gone with that instead. They had us sort ourselves by first-year section and gave us pronounciation cards to fill out so the diploma reader would get our names right. Before the diploma ceremony, the lead class marshal and the Dean gave speeches.

The Dean's speech was about our pro bono requirement (40 hours). She said the average number of hours worked was (I think) something like 350. And that merely 11 members of the class had done the minimum. Sadly, I am one of the eleven. :) But that's not entirely fair, because the numbers are skewed by the ridiculousness of the requirement. You get pro bono credit for summer jobs that you get public interest funding for, so a lot of people got that from their 1L summers. You get credit for clinical courses. You get credit for a bunch of professor research stuff. You get credit for certain practice-related extracurriculars. So with all of those ways to get credit, sure most people have more than 40 hours. I just happened not to have had a public interest job or take any clinical classes or do research for professors or do the Prison Legal Assistance Project or anything nearly as law-related as that (you mean the Parody show doesn't count?). So I'm one of the eleven bringing down the average. Oh well.

Here's what I found most interesting about graduation. The Dean's speech was about pro bono and community service and how Harvard students are all so public service-minded. The speech by our class marshal (a very good speech, incidentally) highlighted a bunch of out-of-the-box things that graduates have done or are doing. It's the complete opposite from the focus while we're actually students. While we're students, all the talk is about law firms and recruiting and interview preparation and finding a job. But now that everyone has listened to them and found a law firm job, they want to talk about the other kinds of things law school graduates can do. Why wait until graduation to talk about this stuff? And no, it's not as stark as I'm putting it, but there's some truth to this, I think. The focus at school is different from what they want us to remember and think about on the way out. It's a little disingenuous, I think. Maybe I'm just imagining things. This argument made more sense at the time, and someone I told really thought it made sense, so maybe I'm just trying to convince myself there's a thought here, I don't know.

So after the diploma ceremony, I went to a cocktail party at a professor's house, that was up for auction at the public interest auction and one of my friends won it, so I decided it would be fun to go, and fun for my mom and grandma to get to meet a professor, and it was enjoyable and we had a good time, and then I drove back to NY Thursday night, didn't hit anything, my grandma didn't break anything, and now I am no longer a law student. Weird. Still sinking in.

Friday, June 10, 2005

My cousin Lisa doesn't read this, but if she did, I would write something about how happy for her I am, since she just gave birth yesterday to a healthy baby girl. So I guess I'll call her and tell her instead. :)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Fifteen People You Don't Need To See At Graduation, Generic Edition

1. The guy with the parents who smell like liverwurst
2. The girl who kept stealing your assigned seat in Con Law
3. The guy who got the job you really wanted
4. The girl who's graduating summa cum laude
5. The guy who was in your study group for a week until he quit because he found people he thought were smarter than you
6. The girl you cheated off
7. The girl you cheated on
8. The guy with the wooden leg (nothing against wooden legs, it's just awkward)
9. The girl who you once mistook for a proctor
10. The girl who you once mistook for a guy
11. The guy you once mistook for a girl
12. The girl you once mistook for a goat
13. The professor whose grade prevented you from getting honors
14. The professor whose grade prevented you from getting the clerkship
15. The professor whose grade prevented you from graduating

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Going back up to school for graduation. Probably be funny things to write about, but maybe it'll just be boring and endless. I'm sure I'll make it to the library to write whatever pops into my head, and make sure my fantasy baseball teams don't do even worse than they've been doing while I've been checking them eighteen times a day.

Monday, June 06, 2005

I passed by "The Park Slope Food Coop" today and decided to take a brochure to see what it was all about. Apparently, in exchange for a $25 payment, $100 refundable deposit, and 2 3/4 hours of volunteer time per month, I could save 20-40% on my groceries. So I did some Internet sleuthing to figure out if this was a good deal or not. And I stumbled on this page with rants mocking the ridiculousness of Food Coop board meetings.

He called the current coop shopping experience "an insult to the human species . . . you come into the current store and it's like a Waring blender at high speed." He said that the future, redesigned space would give a coop a "sense of unification." For instance, a matching bank of display cases will stretch across the rear walls of the three coop buildings. Soon after entering, shoppers will find an open "arena where you can catch your breath," with display islands featuring new products. The chilled-produce aisle will be "blown open" to double its existing width "because you have some unique shopping habits, like parking your cart in the aisle and abandoning it," he complained. After the redesign, "you can ping-pong back and forth; it gives you space to breathe." In the Building Next Door's shopping area, since six structural columns limit aisle structure, the plan has "sandwiched those puppies" in some refrigerated cases.

Looked like fun. Then I went to the Coop webpage and realized it's kind of like a communist cult.

Selecting a workslot will take approximately 15-20 minutes, though the whole process of joining could take longer if there are many people who want to join at once. Every adult member of your household must choose a workslot....

Until you receive your card in the mail, in order to enter the Coop you will have to ask the Entrance Worker to look you up on the “List of People Who Can Shop Without a Card.”....

When your child turns 18 and is out of high school, s/he is required to join the Coop as a working member. Children of members are exempt from paying the one-time joining fee but are required to pay the investment. Coop "children" who have turned 18 should contact the Membership Office about receiving their own membership card and selecting a workslot.
Also, if you miss a workslot, they kill you. Is all of this worth it to save 20% on my applesauce?
Got my spring term grades this afternoon. Someone wrote me in an e-mail, "I'm so glad I stopped buying casebooks." I didn't quite go that far, but, really, this is kind of a farce. I propose this challenge for a brave law school administrator: find a handful of your more successful (but not necessarily most successful) students. Have them, armed with the casebook, an outline easily found on the Internet, and maybe an hour of advance warning, secretly take exams in classes they aren't signed up for, with sufficient motivation to try and do well (a couple hundred bucks for an A?), have the exams unknowingly graded by professors in the normal stack, and see what grades they get. I'd bet they'd do just fine. And I think that's a problem. Yes, the point of going to class is to learn, not to necessarily succeed on the exam, but come on, it's kind of silly.
Quote of the day

I was just watching Sportscenter, and they did an interview with Alex Rodriguez, who recently donated $200,000 to a children's mental health center. They asked him about it, and he said:

"Therapy can be good. It can be therapeutic."

Sunday, June 05, 2005

For the first time in my life...

...I paid people to do my laundry. There's a laundromat around the corner, and they do same-day wash / dry / fold. Easier than spending two hours in the laundromat, and, actually, not all that much more expensive. I was surprised. At school, at $1 to wash and $1 to dry, I'd use three machines (whites / colors / towels+sheets) and spend $6, plus cost of detergent, fabric softener, dryer sheets. For what I guess was a typical-sized load of laundry I'll have, I just paid $10.80. So maybe $4.00 more than it would have cost me to do it, and it took me two minutes to walk there and two minutes to walk back. This is not a terrible economic decision.

And it's really cool, because they folded my clothes a lot better than I fold my clothes, and they even bunched my socks into pairs. I usually just throw my socks into a drawer and hope each morning that I'll be able to somehow piece together a pair that sort of matches. Also, however they folded my t-shirts, a lot more fit in a drawer than when I do it. They folded very well. There's a part of me that feels bad paying for this, because I could easily go do my own laundry. But it's worth $4 to me not to have to do it. So I feel pleased with the purchase. I actually didn't know this service existed, which may mean I'm stupid. I mean, I guess I assumed it did, but I assumed it was more expensive than it is, as compared to doing my laundry myself. But I'd never been to a laundromat before -- at school there were machines in the basement wherever I lived (or, at Princeton, in the next building over sometimes -- that walk outside in the snow with laundry was fun), and at home we had a machine, and when I worked before law school there was a washer/dryer in my apartment. So this is all new to me. And pretty painless, for laundry.

Wow, two paragraphs on laundry. Something please happen to me so I can write about it.

Oh, I saw the movie Palindromes yesterday. It was really quite terrible. Don't see it if you have a choice.
Shot in the dark, but if there are any partners or senior associates at medium-to-large firms reading this who wouldn't mind helping me think through something writing-related, just let me bounce an idea off you and see if there's any reaction, shoot me an e-mail and I'd be forever grateful.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

1. This article about teaching monkeys to use money is absolutely fascinating.

2. If you live in New York, go to a greenmarket and buy some strawberries. They're really quite amazingly delicious. Really. Unbelievable. I ate almost a whole pint of strawberries today. They're really good.

3. Overheard outside The Killers concert in Central Park tonight, one person: "This many people here is a fire hazard." Uh, we were outside. And, also overheard, some other person: "I have 5 words for you: Shut the **** up."

Friday, June 03, 2005

Three things I could be writing about, but I'm not, and here's why

1. The unmasking of Deep Throat, because I have absolutely no thoughts on this. I don't know who Mark Felt was, don't really know all that much about Watergate beyond the high-level facts that everyone knows, don't really feel compelled to read the Vanity Fair piece unmasking him, and have no opinion about what it says about journalism, what it means for America, and anything else anyone could say about this.

2. Michael Jackson's jury deliberations, because making fun of Michael Jackson is too easy and, by this point, really boring.

3. The stupid curtains I bought for my windows that aren't thick enough and so don't really block the light in the morning and I'm waking up at 6:30 every day only to realize wait, it's not really time to get up, and then going back to sleep for somewhere between 1 and 3 more hours. Because you don't care.
Yesterday I read the book, "Why Not" by Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres, both professors at Yale. It's about coming up with new ideas to better society, little things like reverse 900 numbers so telemarketers pay you to listen to their calls, or caffeinated orange juice, to fill some void in the beverage market I don't really see but whatever, I'm sure someone would like it. I've linked before to the associated web site, whynot.net, which collects reader ideas. But I hadn't read the book until yesterday. I like the book. I read Nalebuff's previous book, Thinking Strategically, for a class I took freshman year of college on game strategy. Also, Nalebuff is the co-founder of Honest Tea, which isn't half-bad. It's a quick, interesting read.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Spam Starts Already

Dear 2005 Graduate,

Congratulations on your upcoming graduation!

Harvard Magazine's July-August 2005 issue will feature extensive coverage of your own Commencement. Please make certain that the University has your forwarding address by visiting www.aad.harvard.edu and entering it into the alumni directory.

In honor of your graduation, we would like to make available to you a set of four glasses, satin-etched with images of Widener Library, Memorial Hall, the Weeks Memorial Bridge, and Harvard Yard for a donation of $25 (usually offered for donations of $100 or more). You can view these glasses and make your donation online at www.harvardmagazine.com/newgrads .

Welcome to Harvard Magazine!


With warmest best wishes,
In honor of my graduation, I can buy some crap from you. Great.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

I got a fair enough e-mail from someone in response to the post two below about the law-firm-or-not decision:

"I read your blog once in a while and it seems that in every post you always talk about going for your dreams and not putting them on hold just for immediate financial security. Is it at all possible that you place such a strong emphasis on your dreams of writing because you already have financial security in the form of a book deal? In all honesty, even though you say you went to your firm last year already looking for something better, if you hadn’t gotten a book deal, would you have called your firm back to try to revive the offer; would you have interviewed at other firms; would you at least be working 9-5 as a contract atty doing document review? I just feel like when people say ‘go for your dreams’, its only because their dream happened to work out in a fairly riskless environment [i.e. while in school] and they don’t want to look at the fact that it’s a one and a million shot and sometimes others need to be realistic.

As an aside, would you ever consider addressing how your loved ones reacted when you told them you wouldn’t be a practicing attorney? I know many law students whose families [regardless of whether they are paying for law school or not] would practically disown their kids if they told them that after an Ivy League undergrad & law school degree they were going to pursue something as risky as writing, art, or music [I’m exaggerating about disowning the kids but you get the point I’m sure]."

Here's my response, without really thinking about whether I'm saying too much or this makes a different point than I'm hoping it does, or whether I'm saying something stupid or naive, because I kind of want to get to sleep early. So, I'll delete this in the morning if it's a bad answer, but:

Fair point, and something I think about before I write stuff like that -- and I do feel like I try to put in the appropriate caveats but I'm also reluctant to write about the book deal much just because it feels uncomfortable to -- but, no, I wasn't going back to the firm. I turned down my offer the last day of the summer, when they gave us the offers -- and at that point I had no idea that I would end up with a book deal, or what I was going to do at all -- but I knew the firm wasn't where I wanted to be, and it wasn't the life I wanted to have, and so I turned it down with not much of a plan except to seek out whatever creative opportunities I was going to be able to find. Before the Times piece in December put things in motion with the book deal, my plan really was to go out to Los Angeles and try to get a job answering someone's phones or doing something entry-level, and hope that I could impress the right people and quickly find something worthwhile -- but I had nothing solid, and no interest at all in calling the firm back and trying to revive the offer, I didn't interview anywhere else, and I wasn't looking for contract work. I felt like my best path to financial security may have been the firm -- but that wasn't my only path to financial security at all -- there are jobs out there, I wasn't going to starve, and I was going to be able to find something to pay the bills even if it was tutoring or whatever -- but financial security wasn't tops on my list of considerations. When I went to work for a software company after graduation from college, I was influenced too much by the money -- I assumed that if they wanted to pay me a good salary, they must know what they're doing and I'd find out soon enough, and the money meant it was the right choice. It wasn't a mistake for me to take the job, but it was a badly-made decision, and I wasn't going to make that same choice again -- I really did tell myself I wasn't taking a job that from the first day I'd be looking to leave. I agree with you that the people saying to go after your dreams are a self-selected group of people whose dreams have been achieved or kind of achieved or whatever -- but all I meant to say in the post is that I just think you need to live with your decision. If you can live with turning the one in a million (and I think odds are better than that) into zero, then fine. Frankly, I think part of it is trusting whatever your passions are -- if you really think you have what it takes to be a [whatever], then maybe there is an element of leap-of-faith, and trusting that it'll work out. And if it doesn't? Look, I felt like the law firms weren't going anywhere. If I ended up 18 months, 2 years out of law school, feeling like the writing was never going to happen, then I could always go get a job at a firm -- maybe that's not true, but some firm somewhere would hire me. So what was I really losing? Just the temporary security. Maybe. But to trade that for a chance to find better than a law firm was worth it. I understand people having to make choices for money when they don't want to. The situation of a law student graduating from a top school with law school debt and choices of big lucrative firm job and less lucrative other job is a different situation from a homeless guy on the street or a guy with 3 kids and no college degree. There are lots of reasons to work for a firm, and I totally realize that. But it doesn't mean it's not a choice that actually has alternatives -- alternatives that may or may not make sense in any given situation, but, still, it's a decision.

To answer the second part, I feel fortunate that my family didn't put any pressure on me at all (and don't completely understand parents who do). They don't even really know why I went to law school to begin with -- it was my risk aversion, not theirs, that led me to law school. My mom teaches in the New York City public school system, and my stepdad worked at a wastewater plant and then did computer helpdesk stuff -- they were fine with me trying to be a writer without the law degree, and it was me who decided I wanted to have it just in case. So they were cool with whatever I ended up wanting to do, and just wanted me to figure out something that would satisfy me. I can't imagine there are *really* well-intentioned parents out there who are not satisfied enough with the law degree and need more from their children -- even though I know there are, and, what can I say. Hopefully, if they're good decisions, your parents either understand or they let you screw your life up. It's not like my plan was to go sell crack behind the bowling alley. I think they trusted me enough to realize I could figure out a good plan. Which was and is a nice feeling to have.
Here's a NY Times article about greenmarkets with a picture of Fidel Castro picking flowers. This article is pretty pointless. Here's a "recipe" for tomatoes on a plate. "Put salt and pepper on a plate or platter, drizzle on olive oil and sherry wine vinegar, place thick slices of tomatoes on top, and repeat the layering." Cooking is complicated, eh? Also, the article is racist. "And all Asian cucumbers make good pickles, because they have thinner skins." Also, "The Korean cucumbers are crispier, the Japanese ones are juicier..., and the Armenian ones have the thinnest skins." Those Armenians. Can't take them anywhere, especially to the greenmarket. Also, some corn porn: "if you run your hand tightly down the outside, you just want to feel a uniform cob, with no indentations and skips." "Heat is the enemy," Mrs. Smith said. Good advice. Thanks, Mrs. Smith.
I got an e-mail from a good friend wrestling with the decision of whether or not to go work for a law firm after law school. He's spending this summer, post-2L year, not at a firm, but feels like "maybe being 'an adult' means putting your dreams aside and going to work for a more 'respectable' profession?" So he wanted to know if I had any advice. Here goes:

Okay, clearly I'm not the best person to be giving advice here, since, at least for now, fate has worked out to give me a way to be okay without the law firm, and I'm reluctant to posit that it ends up working out for everyone.

But here's the thing -- I feel like the advice I've gotten from people happy with what they're doing has consistently been to follow what your gut is saying you should do, and pursue the things you're driven to pursue, and that it all works out in the end. Now the problem with that, of course, is selection bias -- if it hadn't worked out, you wouldn't be a person I'd be asking for advice. It's fine for a professor to tell our section 1L year that we should follow our passions, because she did, and it worked out for her. But maybe ten thousand other people with the same dream followed their passions and now they work at White Castle. So I don't know where that gets us.

I hear about the five year plan too [he wrote in his e-mail, "A surprising number of people over the past few weeks have been telling that they just plan on working at a firm for five years or so and then leave to pursue their dreams. Not a bad plan, maybe even a great one. But five years!?! That's much of young adulthood. I don't know what'll happen to my dreams in five years. I'm not sure exactly where I'll be with my life. If I can put it off for five years, then why not another five and then another five? ...[And other people] would be five years ahead of me in an already tight job market."] And, really, I'm of two minds here -- on the one hand, if you're only going to do it for two, three, five years, why bother at all if it's not what you want to do. The salary only goes so far -- there's only so much loan-paying-off you're going to get to do, and then you're back at where you started, having made no connections in the field you really want to pursue, and saddled with an expensive apartment, and just two, three, five years older, sadder, and more removed from the life you want to live. I have the same fear/expectation you do, that you can't balance the creative stuff and the law firm job, and that you end up losing that passion, and losing that urge to create. And you end up with a family before you know it, and the added financial pressures and time pressures there -- and the inertia against leaving proves too great, and why would you leave when you're just five, three, two years from making partner and seeing your salary jump to the moon. If the money incentive exists for $125K as a first-year, it's going to be even stronger down the road. It's just a question of when to jump. I wrote a piece about this for De Novo a long while back, about getting off the train. If you know you don't want to be riding the train, it's just a matter of what stop you get off at. Are the benefits of waiting exceeded by the benefits of getting off sooner rather than later? What do you gain besides some money -- and how much of that gain is potentially offset by (a) being happier, and (b) the chance to make up the money loss by getting further in whatever career you want to pursue.

Between post-college-job and law school, in the nine months I spent aimlessly trying to play with the idea of being a writer and realizing I had no idea what that meant and how to do it, I ended up giving myself one criterion for whether to take different part-time or full-time jobs I thought about / interviewed for / decided whether or not to take -- from day one, would I be looking for something better? If the answer was yes, I couldn't justify doing it. And that was the problem with the law firm. I wasn't going to take my offer, regardless of how all this writing stuff turned out, because from day one I'd be reading the ads in Backstage looking for something better. There seems very little worse than living a life wishing you were living a different life. You're not going to starve, I don't think -- I don't know your parents, but I'm guessing they won't let you starve. I'm also guessing they want you to be happy. My grandma doesn't believe me when I describe the law firm lifestyle as far as I see it -- she doesn't believe that people take these jobs if they don't really love them. I hardly believe it either. But the evidence seems to be there -- just among my friends at school, most people are not so excited for their law firm jobs. It's sad, because there's something wrong with the social order, perhaps, if arguably some of the most talented and brightest young people are all ending up doing things they find unfulfilling.

So this isn't advice, it's just rambling, and maybe it's all obvious stuff. But if you make the best case for why you should go to a law firm, is it enough in your gut? Is it enough that you can picture it working out in a way that won't make you regret the choice, and will turn out to be a good decision? Maybe the answer is yes -- certainly financial security is important and it may be enough to make it a good choice. That's a fair answer. But if it's not -- if from the first day at the firm you're going to wish you were somewhere else -- then is it really a path worth going down at all?

I mean, none of this stuff comes into play if you really love the idea of practicing law, and a firm is a no-brainer -- something you love, plus the money's good -- then it's an easy decision. But I don't know how to shape the decision at the margins, necessarily -- I don't know if there's a "right" answer or just a set of tradeoffs and whether it's worth it ends up with a different answer for everyone...