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.

Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy New Year. Really, I mean it. I had dinner with some friends tonight. Peruvian food. Plantain chips > tortilla chips. But tortilla chips > potato chips. And potato chips > any assortment of mixed nuts that's more than 50% peanuts. And we can't forget about chocolate-covered pretzels. No, I have no idea what I'm rank-ordering here.

Thirteen manageable New Year's Resolutions for law students

1. Go to more classes than not.
2. Read before class, at least occasionally.
3. Don't murder any professors.
4. Think about using the library.
5. Check online way too often for fall term grades.
6. Choose an appropriate number of classes to fill the schedule.
7. Eat something every single day.
8. No more purple highlighters, only yellow.
9. Sell back used textbooks.
10. Get yearbook photo taken, if you remember.
11. Make effort to find employment.
12. Don't raise hand more than ten times in any given class.
13. Okay, fifteen times.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Movies: 2004

Last year, I ran a list of movies I'd seen in 2003. I'd seen 18. This year, I've seen 28, which is an obscenely high number, I think. My excuse is that I saw 15 of them over the summer. I don't know why that's an excuse. Let's pretend it's an excuse. It balanced the 2 hours a day I spent reading on my commute. Of course, mostly I was reading Entertainment Weekly, so maybe it doesn't really balance. Hey, there's nothing wrong with Entertainment Weekly. It's good stuff.

The most recent movie I've seen is Spanglish, which is getting really mixed reviews ("Spanglish is more adept at balancing humor and drama than just about any movie I have seen this year." / "A desperate, shapeless, overreaching big-screen sitcom of a movie that just wants to be loved." Courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes. "Spanglish is the best movie of the year featuring Adam Sandler." / "Ends up regretting it didn't keep its original title, Engnish." Courtesy of nobody.). I actually kind of liked it, even though it was hard to understand what motivated the characters to do the things they were doing. There were glimpses of greatness. There were interesting characters. It didn't end up wholly satisfying, but the potential was there.

Unlike Taxi, which was just a mess, and I can't believe I spent $10.25 to see a movie that tries to make the audience believe that Jimmy Fallon is a New York City police officer and Queen Latifah is a New York City cab driver. Actually, I think if the roles were switched, the movie would've been kind of neat.

But Taxi was actually more tolerable than Closer, for me, because at least with Taxi I could laugh at how bad it was. Closer just felt like death. Probably because I just can't appreciate real drama, but, look, I don't pretend this is anything more than just my opinion. I like movies where characters smile every once in a while.

The #1 spot for the year, for me, goes to Before Sunset, which was 90 minutes of talking that didn't really accomplish anything, kind of like this post will end up being, but was really interesting to eavesdrop on, unlike this post, and so easy to like. I still haven't seen the prequel, but I almost don't want to because it can't possibly live up to my expectations. Before Sunset was a gentle trip into someone else's life for an hour and a half. It was awesome.

I've ranked Team America higher than I think most critics did, mostly because of the endlessly-amusing vomit scene and the Rent parody song. I've ranked Dodgeball dreadfully low, because it put me to sleep and it just didn't work for me at all. Whereas White Chicks I thought was so dumb it was funny. I feel like I should have liked Garden State more than I did. I want to have liked it more, because lots of people whose taste I respect said it was unbelievable. I just didn't really feel it. I thought The Terminal was inTerminable, although mostly just so I could say that. I thought Napoleon Dynamite was not. And I know Love Actually and Stuck on You came out in 2003, but I saw them in 2004, and, no, I don't know why I saw either one, and, even worse, how Love Actually ended up comfortably in the top half. The line break separates movies I liked from movies I didn't.

Despite seeing 28 movies, I feel like I did a fairly good job of picking things I thought I'd like, and, as you'll notice, there are entire categories of movies (ones with plots?) that I completely ignored. Horror films, psychological dramas, anything that could be called "gripping," anything starring an action hero, anything with subtitles. Sorry, horror films starring Vin Diesel in Japanese. I'm not watching.

1. Before Sunset
2. The Incredibles
3. Team America: World Police
4. Spider-Man 2
5. Control Room
6. The Bourne Supremacy
7. Fahrenheit 9/11
8. Collateral
9. De-Lovely
10. Love Actually
11. Super Size Me
12. Friday Night Lights
13. Garden State
14. Spanglish
15. Shaun of the Dead
16. Mean Girls
17. White Chicks

18. The Terminal
19. Jersey Girl
20. Stuck on You
21. The Corporation
22. Taxi
23. Napoleon Dynamite
24. The Perfect Score
25. The Polar Express
26. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
27. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
28. Closer

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Not among the e-mails I've received since the Anonymous Lawyer story: a proposal for Anonymous Lawyer action figures. Personally, I'm disappointed. What kid wouldn't want an action figure of a guy in a suit, hands flailing, Blackberry in his pocket. And the entire set of anonymous action figures, including Anonymous Word Processing Dude, Anonymous Vending Machine Filler, and Anonymous Front Desk Receptionist.

But, and I swear I'm not making this up, I did receive this e-mail:

"It’s hard to for me communicate with writers that I admire. I worry about making a good impression and you’re so skilled in criticism I’ve been re writing this sentence for way too long. So here it is: ... I want you to work with me on a screenplay for a lesbian porno in defense of promiscuity in a relationship."

It goes on to say, "Yes, you can also be present during filming."

I've got to imagine this is a joke. If not, it doesn't quite seem like the right fit if he's read any of either blog.

Because if I actually decided to do this, which I'm not, doesn't he realize this is what it would look like?

DOCTOR: Thanks for coming in, Mrs. Jones. You know, it's important you have these once-a-week breast exams.

MRS. JONES: I know, Doctor.

DOCTOR: Oh, please, call me Stacy.

MRS. JONES: Sure, Stacy. And as I was saying, I know these once-a-week breast exams are important, just like the once-a-week rectal exam, and the once-a-week inside-of-my-mouth tongue exam. But only one question. For these breast exams, why is it that *I'm* the one examining *your* breasts?

DOCTOR: Oh, it's a new policy. Our 360-degree evaluation program. The doctors examine the patients, but the patients also examine the doctors. Plus, my nurse comes in too and watches while she touches herself. Could you pass the bizarre looking medical instrument that can't possibly be a medical instrument but since we're in a doctor's office we're going to pretend?

MRS. JONES: Sure. But while I pass you this bizarre looking medical instrument that can't possibly be a medical instrument but since we're in a doctor's office we're going to pretend, can you turn on some terrible music that sort of sounds like '70s music, but we couldn't get the rights to that so it's just a bad imitation?

DOCTOR: Sure. And could you turn on the video camera?

MRS. JONES: Remind me why we're videotaping this...

DOCTOR: Quality control.

MRS. JONES: Oh, okay. That's fine. All set.

DOCTOR: Okay, here we go.

MRS. JONES: Ready or not.

DOCTOR: All set now.

MRS. JONES: What are we waiting for...

DOCTOR: I don't know...

[end of scene]

Yeah, well, now I've pretty blown that chance by posting this dialogue. Aw, shucks. For more lesbian porn written by a law student trying to be funny, check out a Family Law casebook near you....

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

No, there wasn't a post on Tuesday. I'm sorry. How about I make up for it with two on Friday?

Monday, December 27, 2004

An op-ed piece we're not going to see this week:

If there's one lesson to be learned from the tragedy in Southeast Asia this past weekend, it's that the people in Florida are wimps. At least 25,000 dead from the disaster, as opposed to what in Florida? Maybe 100? And yet all we saw on the news this fall was Florida this, Florida that. "Oooh, it's craaazy down in Florida. We've got floods and, oooh, my car is underwater, and, oooh, my house just fell apart, and, oooh, everything I own in the world is floating away and so is my baby daughter." Give it a rest, Florida. You were just looking for sympathy. Well, you're not gonna get it from me. Take your $42 billion in property damage and go cry to someone else. Letting a hurricane upset you. Weak. Weak, Florida. First you screw up an election, and then you complain about a little rain. Newsflash: it isn't all about you. And that's the big lesson from this week's events: Florida, we just don't care anymore.


And, no, I don't really know what the point of that is. But the idea got a laugh at dinner. My riff on Starbucks' new all-chocolate beverage, the Chantico, which is an acronym that stands for "Coffee's Healthy And Nutritious Taken In Comparison, Okay?" Reaction not so great. Maybe because "Taken In Comparison" is not so English. So you get the fake op-ed instead. And can only imagine the list of ten alternative new Starbucks drinks I was going to try and come up with.


Okay, you don't only have to imagine the list.

1. Pure Caramel
2. Pure Caramel, topped with a coffee swirl. (Call it "Macchiato Reversi"?)
3. Ground Beef Frappucino
4. Foam. All foam.
5. For the holiday season only: Melted candy cane in a cup.
6. Laffy Taffy Latte
7. Milked steam
8. Mud and cotton. For those times you only want to use your coffee as a movie prop.
9. Bacon, egg, and a shot of espresso
10. Diet Coke with Lemon

Sunday, December 26, 2004

...and the number one thing law students can do on Christmas Day... is admit they've been writing an anonymous weblog.

Gosh. I seem to be in the New York Times today. Kind of surreal. My cover's blown. There goes the job at the CIA.

The article's neat, and anything I add here is just going to spoil it. Chris and Sherry have done a better job explaining this than I'm gonna be able to do anyway. So for more, I point you there. They're both awesome. NeoTokyo and Evan have really nice posts too.

All I do want to say right now is that Anonymous Lawyer really has nothing to do with the firm I worked at this past summer. As I've written before, they're a great firm, and if I was going to work at a firm, I'd absolutely work there, in a heartbeat. I met a lot of great people over the summer. Partners, associates, and lots of other summers. I started Anonymous Lawyer more than two months before the summer started. It wasn't a reaction to the firm, and it's not an indictment of them. The firm was great. Anonymous Lawyer is a satire of the broader industry, and I hope that's how it's taken. I'd hate for it to be interpreted otherwise.

More later.


Saturday, December 25, 2004

And I thought no one would be visiting on Christmas. ;)

Ten Things Law Students Can Do On Christmas Day

10. Enter the brand-new Lexis contest, where you find every case that mentions the word "Christmas," type up a memo summarizing them all, send it to your Lexis representative, and get entered in a drawing for 10 Lexis points, enough to buy three paper clips from the Lexis online store in partnership with
9. Look for defects in your presents suitable for initiating mass tort claims.
8. Remind Uncle Frank of his Miranda rights.
7. Enter the brand-new Westlaw contest... which looks remarkably like the Lexis contest except with a different color scheme on the page.
6. Start studying for the Bar exam. (HA!)
5. Convincing children to believe in Santa Claus = Intentional infliction of emotional distress.
4. Speaking of Santa... how about helping Santa file the pleadings in his case against McDonalds for making him so darn big?
3. And speaking of McDonalds... although not really relevant to being a law student... but how disturbing would it be if McDonalds came up with a new "Christmas Burger" that was colored red and green... and how much more disturbing if they discovered that's what all their burgers look like anyway?
2. "I'll grab some dessert in a minute. Don't worry, I'm just helping cousin Timmy file for emancipation from his parents."

Unfortunately, this post is a cliffhanger. #1 is coming tomorrow morning, along with an interesting post I have yet to write, but will probably start with the word "Gosh" and end with the word, well, "Gosh." :)

Friday, December 24, 2004

My family's celebrating Chanukah on Sunday. So I get a holiday this weekend too. Happy Holidays to anyone reading.

I figured I'd re-run a piece I wrote around Christmastime last year, since it's appropriate for the season. Here goes.... I'll have something fresh tomorrow, I promise.

"The Twelve Days of Finals"

On the first day of finals, the law school got to see
A lot of straight-A students get a B.

On the second day of finals, the law school got to see
Two crammers cram
as a lot of straight-A students get a B.

On the third day of finals, the law school got to see
Three sleep through
Two crammers cram
as a lot of straight-A students get a B.

On the fourth day of finals, the law school got to see
Four laptops break
Three sleep through
Two crammers cram
as a lot of straight-A students get a B.

On the fifth day of finals, the law school got to see
Five kids who fail
Four laptops break
Three sleep through
Two crammers cram
as a lot of straight-A students get a B.

On the sixth day of finals, the law school got to see
Six students hanging
Five kids who fail
Four laptops break
Three sleep through
Two crammers cram
as a lot of straight-A students get a B.

On the seventh day of finals, the law school got to see
Seven leapers leaping
Six students hanging
Five kids who fail
Four laptops break
Three sleep through
Two crammers cram
as a lot of straight-A students get a B.

On the eighth day of finals, the law school got to see
Eight newly-decided business-school applicants applying
Seven leapers leaping
Six students hanging
Five kids who fail
Four laptops break
Three sleep through
Two crammers cram
as a lot of straight-A students get a B.

On the ninth day of finals, the law school got to see
Nine students in the professor's office begging for answers
Eight newly-decided business-school applicants applying
Seven leapers leaping
Six students hanging
Five kids who fail
Four laptops break
Three sleep through
Two crammers cram
as a lot of straight-A students get a B.

On the tenth day of finals, the law school got to see
Ten study groups in the library at three in the morning
Nine students in the professor's office begging for answers
Eight newly-decided business-school applicants applying
Seven leapers leaping
Six students hanging
Five kids who fail
Four laptops break
Three sleep through
Two crammers cram
as a lot of straight-A students get a B.

On the eleventh day of finals, the law school got to see
Eleven transferees transferring
Ten study groups in the library at three in the morning
Nine students in the professor's office begging for answers
Eight newly-decided business-school applicants applying
Seven leapers leaping
Six students hanging
Five kids who fail
Four laptops break
Three sleep through
Two crammers cram
as a lot of straight-A students get a B.

On the twelfth day of finals, the law school got to see
Twelve professors dancing
Eleven transferees transferring
Ten study groups in the library at three in the morning
Nine students in the professor's office begging for answers
Eight newly-decided business-school applicants applying
Seven leapers leaping
Six students hanging
Five kids who fail
Four laptops break
Three sleep through
Two crammers cram
as a lot of straight-A students get a B.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

All I Want For Christmas Are Some BAR/BRI books

Today I bought some old BAR/BRI books from a friend. Apparently he was able to remove the LOJACK device embedded in each volume to prevent the books from leaving the hands of the enrolled students and escaping into the evil clutches of people like me. In BAR/BRI lingo, they call us "the people who are going to fail the bar exam."

The truth is, if I was going to a firm, of course I'd take BAR/BRI. (And some special magic pills.) But unless a firm is paying, it's kind of expensive - I believe the going rate is $2400 if you sign up the morning you arrive at law school, $2600 if you wait until lunchtime, $3000 plus your left leg as collateral if you wait a week, $4000 if they don't like you, and $50,000 anytime after the first day of classes.

But if you're going to a firm, even if the class is useless -- and, no matter how much I want to believe it is, I'm guessing it's not -- if you don't take the class, and you fail the bar, you're going to feel stupid, and rightfully so. Even worse, your firm is going to feel like you're *really* stupid. Like unaccredited-law-school stupid.

But I figure I can learn from the books. And I'm learning. Well, so far I'm learning they're heavy. They're really heavy. But the covers are pretty and shiny. So pretty. So shiny. Like many unaccredited law school buildings.

Here's what I've learned so far.

On the cover of every book is a box: "celebrating 35 years of preparing law students for the bar exam." Is this really cause for celebration? What kind of celebration? I bet it would a pretty tame celebration. Maybe the most exciting part would involve a white board and some dry erase marker fumes. I'm trying to picture what the set of people employed by BAR/BRI should look like, and what it would look like for them to celebrate. I'm picturing them bringing out that very first law student they prepared for the bar exam. He'd be about 60 by now, I guess. They could have a reunion of everyone they prepared. Then, with all of the lawyers gathered in one place, people could start violating the rules of evidence, and no one would know.

The inside cover of one of the books announces, next to a picture of a Carter-era cell phone and a beeper that looks like my digital alarm clock, "Cell Phones and Beepers MUST be turned OFF before entering any classroom." Sounds straightforward enough. "If you wish to keep them on, they MUST be on vibrate mode." Wait a minute. Lawyers wrote this? If the same people who wrote these contradictory instructions are writing practice exam questions, there's going to be like six right answers. "MUST be turned OFF" is very clear. But then the next sentence says you can keep them on. What's the answer, BAR/BRI? Not enough guts to really mean what you say? But the third line is the real fun one: "IF CELL PHONES OR BEEPERS RING, YOU WILL BE ASKED TO LEAVE THE CLASSROOM AND EXCLUDED FROM FUTURE LECTURES." I'd bet the price of these BAR/BRI books that this rule is enforced about as much as the sign I remember as a kid at the "fixins bar" in Roy Rogers restaurants that said "Fixins are for sandwiches only." I wanted pickles with my fried chicken, and no one ever stopped me. People are paying thousands of dollars to be there, and the first two rules about cell phones are contradictory anyway. Do they really exclude people from future classes? Come on, BAR/BRI. No one believes you. I bet you've only spent 34 years preparing law students for the bar exam.

I opened up another book to find a cheerful and catchy slogan: "At BAR/BRI We Take The Multistate Every Time -- So You Only Have To Take It Once. That's Why Our Multistate Program Has No Equal." Say it with me, it's fun.

One book has some essay tips. Graders should not have to "search" for the answer. Remember you want the grader to "like" you. Not making this up. Oops, I mean, not making this "up." Use "quotes" throughout your answer, especially in "meaningless" places. You want the grader to "think" you can't "write."

Do not overemphasize [those three words are in bold italics] so many words that the effect is lost. Only "buzz words" should be emphasized. BAR/BRI isn't even following its own rules. I find the overemphasizing of the word overemphasize extraordinarily amusing. Maybe that's the dry erase marker fumes talking.

From another book: "No one achieves a perfect score on the MBE." That can't literally be true, can it? Not a single person? Ever? BAR/BRI doesn't seem to have a credible narrator. This is going to make it a chore to really follow the plot throughout all these books. I mean, there's that exciting journey through Evidence Forest, and then the trip down Property Lane... but what does it all mean? What's the big picture? Why is this column so long, yet so lacking in substance?

There's a book called the "Conviser Mini Review." I assume Conviser is a Latin word meaning "horribly unpleasant to read." I wanted to tell you that the "mini review" is 800 pages long, but I can't, because the pages aren't numbered. It looks like about 800 pages. Maybe.

Okay, that's about the best I can do without reading anything. Stay tuned for more BAR/BRI copyright violations in June, which will be the next time I touch any of these books. :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

World's Worst Socratic Dialogue

PROF: Mr. Smith, what time is the class over?
SMITH: 11:40.
PROF: Are you sure?
PROF: Why?
SMITH: That's what the schedule says.
PROF: How do you know?
SMITH: It's on my printout.
PROF: How do you know?
SMITH: I read it.
PROF: You did?
SMITH: I did.
PROF: How do you know?
SMITH: How do I know what?
PROF: I ask the questions, not you.
SMITH: That wasn't a question.
PROF: It wasn't?
SMITH: No, it wasn't.
PROF: How do you know?
SMITH: What do you mean?
PROF: Enough with your questions. You're throwing me off.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The amount of paper that must get produced every year is staggering. I never really think about it, but the number of trees, really, it must be quite unbelievable. Even in this age of computers. I threw out a stack of paper this morning that was about a foot and a half high, just stuff from my classes this semester that I no longer need. Class notes, assigned readings from the copy center, a couple of outlines I printed out, the advance copy of the exam I stole from the professor's mailbox, you know, stuff like that. I don't think I had an excessive amount of paper, either. I did take notes by hand instead of on my computer, but I only took about 5 legal pads worth total for 3 classes, so that's like 250 sheets, but most of them are filled with this semester's doodle of choice, which ended up being interlocking rectangular shapes that crossed under and over each other in endlessly entertaining patterns. At least I've moved beyond drawing dozens of three-dimensional cubes in the margins. Next semester I hope to graduate to real art, or at least caricatures of the people around me. Art isn't my thing. I can't draw. I can't paint. In ninth grade, we were assigned to paint something ironic. That couldn't have actually been the assignment, but it must have been something like that, I guess, or else I was just bizarre maybe. This was right around the 1992 presidential campaign, and Dan Quayle's "potatoe" spelling fumble. So I painted what I intended to be a potato growing underground, and the eyes of the potato sprouting into the White House, above ground. I think it ended up looking like a big white building that had just gone to the bathroom. The teacher made me explain to her what it was. She had no idea. I had no idea. I can't paint. I have other talents. In tenth grade art class, we did ceramics, and the teacher dropped my ceramic tennis court as she took it out of the oven. I'm convinced to this day that she did it on purpose, but if she did it was probably to spare me from having to look at it and realize it looked nothing like a tennis court, and I was simply not destined to be a potter. How in the world did I get to talking about clay?

Ah, yes, paper. We use a lot of it. It's a shame, really. Not that my notes would be of any use to anybody. Even if those guys who keep releasing books of everything Ronald Reagan ever touched eventually finishing combing through the histories of a couple million more people and it's finally my turn, these notes add no value to my legacy. And they won't help teach anyone Family Law, I promise. So of course I should throw them out. But it still somehow felt wrong to toss such a big stack of paper away. And at the law firm this summer, it felt kind of wrong to throw away stacks of Lexis printouts and memo drafts at the end of the summer, and materials from our litigation exercise, and hundreds of pages of Westlaw promotional materials along with seventeen logo-imprinted coffee mugs with impenetrable seals that cannot spill nor allow you to drink from them.

When I worked at the software company, before law school, I switched offices about a half-dozen times in 18 months. Each time, I would put everything I had into boxes, and move the boxes to my new office. And I would put them in the corner and decide that I would wait to open them until I needed something from inside, and until then, why clutter my new office? And not a single box ever got opened. Everything I needed was either in the tiny pile I didn't box away because they were projects I was currently working on, or it was electronic, somewhere in my e-mail or on the network. Or it was just useless from a past project. I didn't need the old printouts of powerpoint presentations, reference material I'd used before, things I'd printed out of convenience for something six months earlier. And, presumably, that all got tossed (or it still sits in the last office I worked in, waiting patiently) too. So much paper.

I've probably thrown away no fewer than 100,000 sheets of paper in my lifetime. That's a complete stab in the dark guess. 50,000 sounded low. A million sounded high. Think about it. Probably two thousand pages in my pile this morning. So two thousand a semester, 14 semesters of school, plus 4 years of high school, some paper in public school, and then all the non-class-related paper we deal with... I print out most stuff I write eventually at some point (not the weblog stuff, but other stuff I do), and a lot of stuff I read, and that all goes away. So 100,000 is probably an absolute minimum. Hundreds of thousands of sheets of paper. And that's just me. There's 300 million people in this country. Granted, some are illiterate, and some are toddlers, neither group known for its paper wastefulness (although perhaps if you were illiterate, you just throw away everything, because who knows what's important?! [One part of my brain to another: stop making fun of illiterate people. It's not funny.] Anyway, that's gazillions of sheets of paper. That's a lot of trees. And a lot of words to get there.

This entry has been sponsored by the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and my tenth grade art teacher who saved me from having to know the truth about my unfortunate lack of clay skillz.
I wrote last Saturday about how I like exams better than papers. Just came across Prof. Yin's post asking whether students prefer three-hour in-class exams to 24-hour take-homes. As one might imagine, the comments are mixed. Some people like the short ones, some people like the long ones. I've never had a 24-hour take-home in law school. Maybe in college. Probably not. I can't remember. I definitely recall some sort of exam that we had to pick up at some point and turn in some small number of days later, but most of my exams in college were in-class, and most were closed-book, I think.

Law school, here, has two kinds. 3-hour in class and 8-hour take-home. I had one exam 1L year that was a hybrid: 1 hour closed-book in-class and then 6 hours take-home. That was kind of cool, actually. Probably in the minority thinking that. I feel like, of the people I've talked to about this, opinion is pretty split. Some people much prefer the 8-hour ones because they don't need to panic and have time to read stuff, and think, and it isn't a race. Some people much prefer the 3-hour ones because they're shorter.

I think it's mostly a matter of personal preference, and one's own assessment of his or her strengths and weaknesses. I may have written this before, but I find the 3-hour ones so much more pleasant. And I find that I do better on them. In an ideal world, I'd love every exam to be closed-book, long enough that no one can reasonably finish in the time allotted, and with extra points for humor. :) It's partly because I really do prefer spending 3 hours taking an exam rather than 8 hours, and find the 8 hour ones just brutally horrible to sit through, because it's hard to do exam for so long without losing steam and wanting to leap out a window. But I think it's also partly because of what I feel like I do well versus what I feel like I do less well.

If I have any comparative advantage over some of my classmates, it's absolutely not in my depth of legal understanding. There are people here who really think about some of the legal issues we cover in class, who really have opinions, who really know what they're talking about, who care about child custody laws a lot more than I do, who could write a legitimate article on some of these things that would be interesting and incisive although probably kind of dry, and aren't just faking it. For the most part, I'm not one of them. I type fast, and I have a good memory for things I read. I'm good at spitting information back. I'm good at figuring out what a question wants me to do with it. I'm good at playing with course material on a surface level -- tying things together superficially, and seeing three paragraphs worth of a big picture, but not writing sixteen pages about the dissent and why it's wrong. I can recall case names and authors and trivia that makes it seem like I know more than I do. It makes me good at standardized tests and bad at useful class participation (although the lack of anything to say is probably not the only reason I don't talk in class any more than I'm forced to, I don't think it's a bad reason at all). Depth and real analysis, in the context of these law classes we take, is not my comparative strength here. Maybe because these aren't things I'm passionate about, maybe because I just haven't put the time into it, maybe all sorts of things. On whether the Mets should have signed Pedro, or on why the Debbie Downer sketches on Saturday Night Live aren't as funny as they could be, I can write with depth and conviction, just not about the rules of jurisdiction. On an eight-hour exam, I feel like I'm faking it. And because everyone else has the chance to go back and look at things and take the time to think, the fact that I remembered what the punitive damage award amount was doesn't really help me. I'd guess my eight-hour take-home answers don't look much different from what the same answer would look like in a three-hour in-class. Which means for an eight-hour take-home, my answers are not so thrilling.

So I like three-hour exams. That's all this post actually says. :)

Monday, December 20, 2004

Sean requests a song parody about the Bar exam, and suggests the Beatles' "Drive My Car." This is a little strange, but I think it's sort of funny. Maybe.

"Pass the Bar"

Asked my firm if they'd pay for Bar/Bri
They said that's a hefty fee
We wanna save money, so here's what we'll do
We'll hire a monkey to teach you

Maybe you can pass the bar
Monkey classes are bizarre
Maybe you can pass the bar
Or maybe you'll fail it

I told the firm that I never took torts
And they said they never go to court
I said their answer had nothing to do
With my question, and they said that's true

Maybe you can pass the bar
Monkey classes are bizarre
Maybe you can pass the bar
Or maybe you fail it

Bar bar'm bar bar yeah

Maybe you can pass the bar
Monkey classes are bizarre
Maybe you can pass the bar
Or maybe you fail it

I told the firm that the monkey is smart
It taught me evidence, it drew me a chart
They said that that was quite a relief
Cause they had him writing the firm's big brief

Maybe you can pass the bar
Monkey classes are bizarre
Maybe you can pass the bar
Or maybe you fail it

Bar bar'm bar bar yeah
Bar bar'm bar bar yeah
Bar bar'm bar bar yeah
Bar bar'm bar bar yeah
Exam went as expected. If I could fill pages in non-exam life at the same rate I wrote during the exam, I could write ninety books a year and still have time to eat and sleep. That's almost as good as Posner.

In celebration of being done with exams, I'm taking song parody idea requests. Give me a topic, a song to parody, or both, and I'll do what I can.

Also, in preparation for a week at home, I'm wondering: anyone watching any good relatively-new TV shows? Convince me to start watching. I'm open to starting to watch The O.C. if someone can tell me why it's good. But anything else too. Well, sitcoms and dramas. I don't really want to watch "What Not To Wear" on the Reality Sinkhole Channel or "Junk From Some Dude's Car" on QVC no matter how cool it is.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Tomorrow at 12:30, or slightly before, I will be done with exams for the semester, and can resume thinking about exciting matters like what the heck I'm going to do with myself after graduation, my 3L paper-screenplay that I'm writing, and which episode of Family Guy I should download next.

I've found it relatively difficult to focus this weekend on studying; I always find open-book exams difficult to study for, because they're open book, and it seems more efficient to learn things after you know the question, rather than before. :) Obviously time is limited during the exam. But still, everything right there in front of me... not enough time to learn a unit of the class, but enough time to skim an article or two, or search through some notes. This is the one exam that it's hurting me that I took notes by hand and not on the computer. It's 2 hours, one essay question. I mean, if it ends up being something I want to look back in my notes about, I'll be able to flip through and find it -- but my handwritten notes are perhaps less legible than the typewritten ones would be, so that may be a hurdle. I've re-read my notes, and feel relatively ready for the exam. I made a list of all the readings, with the plan to write in a sentence or two about each of them, but that hasn't happened. Maybe after I post this. Maybe not.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Proctor Instructions Fifty Years From Now

Please exit your hovercrafts and take your seats. This is the exam in Intergalactic Affairs with Professor [Tongue click]owitz. If you are not enrolled in this class, you are in the wrong academic space pod. Exit through the automatic retransportation hole and proceed to the appropriate pod. This is a closed book, no brain implantation devices exam. Please remove all brain implantation devices and place them in the basket at the end of each aisle. You will be able to collect them at the end of the exam. Please make sure they are turned completely to the off position. The electromagnetic fields can interfere with the administration of the exam. We have hard copy creation tablets at the front of the room in which you will write your answers in glow-in-the-dark gel ink bearing your own unique fingerprint identifier, courtesy of our friends at ExxonMobilGoogle. My robot assistant will hand out the tablets as I continue speaking. Thank you, robot assistant. In case of an electrical power surge, please float to the nearest retransportation hole and exit the space pod. Leave your tablets at your stations. If anyone has a broken excretory vaporizer and needs to use the manual depositories during the exam, you will need to leave your biohazard suit with the robot at the door before you will be allowed to leave. Please be sure to jiggle the handle on the manual depository. It has recently been getting stuck. The time of the exam is seventeen seconds. There will be forty questions to answer. There is also a physical challenge element. When you reach that portion of the exam, please focus your eye lasers toward the seal on the back wall, and further instructions will be electrosensomated to your cerebral cortex. Try not to blink. At the conclusion of the exam, my robot assistant will vacuum your tablets. Keep your hands a safe distance away from the tablets when time is called. We do not want a repeat of last year's tragedy. If you finish the exam before the seventeen seconds are up, you are permitted to use your cellular food rehydrators to prepare your lunch. Please be sure the sound is turned off. Yesterday, someone's ringer went off and the entire space pod was treated to fourteen seconds of "Candle in the Wind 2054" commemorating the tragic death of famed actor Haley Joel Osment in the wind turbine accident. Please avoid wind turbines on your way out of the space pod. Has everyone received their examination tablets? At the count of three I will morph into a werewolf. Once the morph is complete, that is your signal to break the fingerprint seal on the tablets and begin. Thank you.
I have my last exam on Monday. I'm making a short outline, basically just listing everything we read and writing one sentence about it, so that in the exam (it's open book) I know what I have to work with, and what to go back and look at if I need to refer to stuff. Also helping me remember what it is we did all semester.

Funny stuff later, hopefully.

Friday, December 17, 2004

I got a Wisconsin quarter back in change today for the first time. There's a picture of a cow, an ear of corn, and a wheel of cheese. And the word "forward." Is this the best Wisconsin can do? Did this entry actually beat out other choices? "Forward" may be the most baffling part of this. What does it mean? What's so "forward" about cows? I mean, they move forward. I guess. But if you're relying on cows, corn, and cheese for your economy, that sounds more backward than forward. Wisconsinites must be proud. A cow, corn, and cheese. I think you can make cheez doodles if you combine all three.

Some ideas for images on the back of the 'Law School' Quarter, if there was one

Student bubbling LSAT answers on scantron sheet

A courtroom and the word "justice"

A poor person and the word "contingency"

A casebook and the word "boring"

A final exam and the word "arbitrary"

Empty classroom and the word "expensive"

A hairy hand

A hairy hand touching a little boy (oh, wait, no, that's the Catholic Church quarter)

A non-hairy hand touching a little boy (oops, no, the Michael Jackson quarter)

A hairy hand touching a middle-aged woman, surrounded by the wreckage from 9/11 (no, that's Bernard Kerik's quarter)

Socrates, with a group of students surrounding him, spitting on him, and cursing his name

A student playing solitaire on his laptop and the word "listening"

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Bad Exam Technique Demonstration #743

On the one hand, professors like to see you argue both sides of the issue.
On the other hand, they want you to take one position and advocate passionately for it.

On the one hand, the Constitution guarantees a right to free speech.
On the other hand, who the heck said we have to listen to the Constitution? I mean, it's circular reasoning. The Constitution says it's so powerful. But if I call myself King, it doesn't make me King, just like that. Or does it?

On the one hand, I could write a cogent 4-page answer to the question you're asking on the exam, carefully examining the difference between rules and standards.
On the other hand, it's a multiple-choice question, so maybe you don't want a 4-page answer.

On the one hand, I could answer in English.
On the other hand, we've been independent from England for over two hundred years, so why are we still slaves to their language? They have imprisoned us. Without giving us substantive due process. And also violating Rule 76. I don't even know if there is a Rule 76. Or where these rules came from.

On the one hand, I could write my exam legibly.
On the other hand, I could do what you do on the chalkboard and just scrawl some arbitrary symbols and pretend it says something important and profound. That's also how you grade the exams, isn't it? ISN'T IT? ANSWER ME, YOU HEATHEN!

On the one hand, I could cite to the cases we studied in the course.
On the other hand, everyone else is going to do that, and you're probably eager for something different. So what if I cited to some stuff I'm making up? Hopscotch v. City of Turkmenistan, 23 F.4d 781. I made that up. But it looks real, doesn't it? Doesn't it? Oh, wait, someone once told me not use contractions when writing things for class. It looks real, does not it? Does not it? Does not? It?

On the one hand, I could hand the exam in on time.
On the other hand, is it even worth it? I mean, I didn't do any of the reading or ever show up to class. Oh wait, exams are anonymous. So I probably shouldn't say that. Ignore me. Did I get to the word count yet? Six more words? Done. Done. Done.
I just finished my take-home Family Law exam. Or at least a draft of it. I'll do some edits tomorrow. I also watched the 3-hour Apprentice finale. I'd only watched one of the episodes during the season, so I wasn't particularly invested or interested in the outcome, but, from what I saw, it seemed like the right person won. Aw, what the heck do I know? I'm sure they could have edited it to make the other one seem like a better choice too. Reality TV. What a crock. :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Ten Worse Places For Bernard Kerik to have had an affair than the apartment rented to the police department overlooking Ground Zero

1. Apartment overlooking concentration camp
2. Judge's chambers in Scott Peterson case
3. Saddam Hussein's spider hole
4. Under President Bush's desk in the oval office
5. Apartment rented to fire department overlooking Ground Zero
6. Between the strands of Rudy Giuliani's combover
7. The West Bank
8. NBC Today Show studio with the glass window overlooking Rockefeller Center, er, Democracy Plaza
9. OJ Simpson's guest house
10. In his wife's bed, while she was in it

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

"Exam" to the tune of Sting's "Roxanne"

Well, half a song at least. I couldn't really make this good, but at least I'm trying...

Don't you know the curve makes it all right
Straight A's are over
You just have to hope your classmates ain't too bright
You don't want to read that book tonight
If you pay tuition
You won't fail if your answers aren't right

Don't you know the curve makes it all right
Don't you know the curve makes it all right

Exam (Curve makes it all right)
Exam (Curve makes it all right)
Exam (Curve makes it all right)
Exam (Curve makes it all right)
Exam (Curve makes it all right)
One exam done. One more (next Monday), and my Family Law take-home, still left to go. One observation:

The exam was closed-book, no laptops. So it was handwritten. So the great source of amusement as the exam was about to begin was the mild laughter around the room as the proctor read the instructions, each time the instructions mentioned something computer related. "In the event of a fire alarm, please save your work to disk... uh, there are no disks, so just, uh, don't keep writing.... If at any point your laptop malfunctions... uh, skip that.... When time is called, please stop typing... er, writing... save your work on the diskette... uh, exam booklets... attach a label... um, nevermind.... Please turn off all computer sounds... er, yeah, that doesn't matter for us...." Yes, I am easily amused when about to begin an exam.

Monday, December 13, 2004

I took a break from pretending to study this afternoon and read "Hard News" by Seth Mnookin, a book about the Jayson Blair incident at the New York Times. Well, no. That's not entirely true. It's a book about the Howell Raines regime at the New York Times, and how Howell was a bad guy. The Jayson Blair incident was just what gave the rest of the staff the ability to get rid of Howell. A review I'd read said the book reads like a mystery novel. I don't remember the last mystery novel I've read. Maybe it reads like a mystery, but there is no real mystery. It's a well-written book, a compelling and quick read, but I'm not sure suspense was the emotion it was going for or the emotion I felt. Mnookin used to write for Brill's Content, which was a pretty cool magazine about the media industry that I may have been the only college student reading at the time. I read Howell Raines' long piece in the May 2004 Atlantic. Heck, I read Jayson Blair's book (aren't libraries cool?), which was not that thrilling. So I'm kind of a junkie on the issue. This was a good read. Clearly, the author did his homework. The book feels well-informed, and it feels like it's reporting from the inside, and giving a real feel for what life at the Times was like under Raines, and why much of the staff disliked him, and the path from his hiring to his departure. A good read. I recommend. reports that the Mets have guaranteed a fourth year to Pedro Martinez and are on the verge of signing him. Cool. Also, the Newark Star-Ledger had an article today that the Red Sox offered Manny Ramirez to the Mets for Cliff Floyd, and then the Sox would use the saved $$ to sign Edgar Renteria and maybe Carlos Delgado. Martinez may be a risk, and 4 years may be too long -- and Ramirez may be way overpaid -- but there aren't a ton of superstars around, and Martinez and Ramirez both have huge upsides and the chance to really make the Mets competitive, so if they can pull those deals off, as a fan I'd be awfully excited. In fact, the closer the Mets can come to just switching teams with the Red Sox, the better. :) Pokey Reese? Sure. Dave Roberts? Why not? Gabe Kapler? Heck, yeah. Doug Mientkiewicz? Well, maybe.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Well, I have five more pages about Family Law written than I did yesterday, so I'm getting there. But you don't care about my Family Law paper. I watched the three-hour Survivor Finale tonight, which was three hours too long, but that's okay. Survivor is interesting. This is the first season since season 3, I think, that I've watched any episodes of. It hasn't gotten much different. Yet it's still sort of compelling television. The people on the show do seem like real people, more than on something like The Real World, even though I'm sure, like on The Real World, a lot of them are acting, and just there to make a Hollywood career out of it. But somehow on Survivor they seem less varnished. Mostly because of good editing, I'm sure. But in part because stuck out there for 39 days, it's probably really hard not to let your real personality come through.

I'd be a terrible Survivor contestant. I'd be way too concerned with eating bugs or getting dirty or animals attacking me. I'm not big enough to really be a factor during strength challenges. I wouldn't last.

The next Survivor is in Palau. This one was in Vanuatu. I bet Survivor does a lot for the tourist industries in these places. Also, I wonder how many more deserted tropical places are left. I feel like there are probably a lot more deserted tropical places than I realize. I think it would be cool if they did one season in the Arctic, but I guess there'd be too much clothing and so no one would watch. I guess if they did it in the Arctic but provided each tribe with a hot tub, that might work. They should build a biosphere for the contestants and have the climate change every few days. So they build this great rainforest shelter, and start eating bananas and whatever else people eat in the rainforest, and then, suddenly, it turns into desert and they have to totally start over. I guess that would take the realism, if there even is any, out of it though.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

A cool article about George Carlin.
"When They're Over" (A Song About Exams)
to the tune of Sugar Ray's "When It's Over" (radio version)

When they're over
That's the time I brush my teeth again
And when they're over
That's the time I change my socks again
And when they're done, done, done, done
Too soon
They start again, start again

All the notes that I had to take
All the outlines I had to make
All the cases I had to know
I throw out the window
All the pens that ran out of ink
All the coffee I didn't drink
And the extra bag of blow*
I throw out the window

I'm failing two
I never opened up the tax code
I'm failing two
I never read the Model Penal Code
I study, but when I take take take take
The test, I fall asleep, fall asleep

Repeat Chorus

My socks were new
But if I changed them I'll be jinxing
My socks were new
And I'm not gonna throw the milk away
I need to, but when I do do do do
I know, it's gonna smell, gonna smell

When they're over
Can I do them over?
Cause if they're over
My degree is over

When they're over
That's the time I eat some food again

All the notes that I had to take
All the outlines I had to make
All the cases I had to know
I throw out the window
All the pens that ran out of ink
All the coffee I didn't drink
And the extra bag of blow
I throw out the window

Repeat Chorus

*I actually had to ask a friend, "Is blow still a synonym for cocaine? And would a bag be the right measure for it?"
Most people talk about the problem with grades only being based on one thing at the end of the semester is that it's too random, you can't compensate for one bad day, you have no second chances. I think the bigger problem is that it makes you run a race without giving you a chance to warm up. I mean, I haven't had to write something I don't particularly feel like writing since May. It's hard to work myself up to writing a paper about Family Law when I haven't had to exercise my academic muscles in a while. I should have done this weeks ago. We've had the questions since before Thanksgiving. We have to write two 7-8 page papers, picking two out of three questions offered. I still have plenty of time -- it's due at 4:30 on the 22nd, and the only other things I have are two 2-hour exams, on this Tuesday and one the following Monday, neither of which are the kinds of things with complicated concepts and case law and theory to puzzle through, so, regardless of how I end up doing on them, they're not the kinds of things that take days and days and days of studying. So I'm not in a race against time. But I'm having a tough time putting pen to paper -- well, finger to keys -- on this Family Law thing.

I've been taking baby steps. Yesterday I made a list of all of the materials we covered in the class and a one-sentence summary, so that I could have a sense of everything we've looked at before I focused my attention on how I wanted to answer the questions. It also helped me come up with a general idea for my answer to question 1. Today, I chose the cases and statutes I'm going to focus on to answer the first question, re-read them with a pen and highlighter in hand to mark up the margins, and, in my head, I feel like I have enough to say to fill the 7-8 pages, and to do so with a decent answer. Now all I have to do is write it.

And, instead, I just watched all three episodes of Ivory Tower, a "soap opera" made by Harvard undergrads that I read an article about the other day in a Harvard newspaper. The script is not wonderful, but it's kind of neat to watch. Of course, compared to the Family Law paper, anything is kind of neat to watch. I did laundry. I spent a few hours studying for my Tuesday exam, not because I felt like I needed to start doing that yet, but just because it's actually fun in comparison to this Family Law stuff. I did a practice exam. I can handle Tuesday's test. I mean, with the curve I may or may not do well. But I have a decent handle on the material and it won't be too grueling.

This is why I like tests better than papers. At least with an in-class exam, you go, whether you're ready or not, do it, and then you're done. They don't linger like papers. Linger for days. And days. And days. And days. And days.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Belated Hanukkah Wishes

Okay, we need to settle on a spelling of this holiday. I don't know how many K's, how many N's, whether there's a C at the beginning, or whether there's an H on the end. Leaving me with 16 choices. Hanuka, Hanukah, Hanukka, Hanukkah, Chanuka, Chanukah, Chanukka, or Chanukkah, and all 8 of those with two N's instead of just one. Some are clearly more popular than others. As a public service, I've googled all of them. Revealing, in order from most popular to least:

2,300,000 results
including the History Channel and the Jewish Outreach Institute

1,240,000 results
including the Jewish World Review and

300,000 results
including and the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation

191,000 results
including a press release from the International Society for Sephardic Progress and a page called "Fun Social Studies"

86,400 results
including "Jewish Children International" and ""

75,300 results
including Beth-El Shaddai Messianic Synagogue and

52,800 results
including the Woody Guthrie Foundation (yes, I'm stretching now) and, the website for supporters of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

41,100 results
including the Jewish Learning Initiative at Yale and the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies

26,900 results
including (that bastion of Jewishness) and "Jews in Green: The Ultimate Resource for Jewish Service Members"

24,600 results
including the American Israel Numismatic Association (how many members you think?) and the Society for Humanistic Judaism

9,110 results
including the Waldorf School in Lexington, MA and "Shalom Village" in Canada

7,960 results
including Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, CA and some guy's personal web site at the University of Connecticut

3,120 results
including pretty much no site that doesn't also spell it one of the more popular ways somewhere else on the page

1,950 results
including on a free sewing pattern and the message boards (inspires confidence this is the right one, doesn't it?)

1,690 results
including a site called, appropriately enough, and a Temple in Connecticut selling "hand-dipped" candles for the holiday.

264 results, making it less popular than a search for "eating mold" (really -- that came in at 326)
including a toddler's photo album and a bunch of German sites

Since the Internet is, well, the Internet, there's also 27 results for Hanuuka, 13 results for Chanuqa, and 2 results for Chanukkkkkka.

Can you tell I don't want to be writing a paper this evening? :)
The Idiot's Guide to Plagiarism: How Not To Not Write A Paper, sponsored by the Committee for Moral Rectitude

1. Don't copy from an article or book your professor wrote. Of course, this means that not only shouldn't you copy from any articles or books with your professor's name on them, but you also need to find out who your professor worked for as a research assistant when he or she was a law student, and avoid copying from those sources. Obviously.

2. The secret is in the speling. Er, spelling. Some professors have begun to do a Lexis search on sections of papers they find suspect. But Lexis is very particular, and even one letter off and there won't be a match. Some people evade this process by changing around some of the words, but why work that hard? Just spell some stuff wrong, intentionally, and then you'll be home free. So what if your paper looks like it was written by a preschooler? You're not looking for an A, obviously. Just take the C and relax.

3. Choose sources unrelated to the topic area of the course. This may seem counterintuitive, but you never know what your professor has read. You need to avoid copying from anything your professor could have read. Which means you need to write your paper on an issue of law your professor has never heard of. Which means you probably, again, won't get an A, since handing in a Torts paper to your Property professor probably won't fit the assignment. But, again, you're not looking for the A.

4. In fact, you need to copy from something the professor couldn't have possibly ever seen before. Because law professors, being the smart and well-read folks they are, could have theoretically read almost anything. So the best tactic is to write a paper from scratch yourself, and then copy it. This way they will have never had a chance to see the original and they won't be able to prove you've plagiarized.

5. Or, if you're pressed for time, you can just hand in the paper you will have written from scratch, before you copy it.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

I ate at a barbecue place for dinner tonight, for a friend's birthday. They made a big deal about how there are three kinds of sauces: vinegar-based for Eastern North Carolina, tomato-based for Western North Carolina, and mustard-based for South Carolina. Combined together, they were quite tasty. When I worked for the software company in Texas, before law school, the barbecue was beef, and the sauce was tomato-based. When I visited North Carolina once, the barbecue was pork, and the sauce was vinegar-based. I liked the Texas barbecue better.

No, I have nothing to write about today. Sorry.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I just watched The West Wing for the first time in a couple of seasons, since Aaron Sorkin left, because Jack & Bobby, which is one of maybe three shows I've been watching regularly on TV this season, is on hiatus until January. I liked. I didn't think I would, but I liked. I didn't love. There wasn't quite the same spark the show used to have, and nothing really seemed all that fresh and relevant like it used to, but I liked it well enough I'll consider watching again next week, although the promo promised an asteroid, and that just sounded pretty silly. I used to really like The West Wing. The DVDs are on my list of things I'll eventually buy when they're really really cheap. Mostly for the commentary tracks. I think commentary tracks are super-cool.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Course Evaluations

I filled out three course evaluation forms in class this week, and none of them asked the questions I really wanted to answer. People complain that the evaluations don’t really tell them anything about a class – sure, there are some professors at both ends of the spectrum that the evaluations identify, but the vast majority of classes fall somewhere in the middle of the pack (much like our grades?), which, on the one-to-five scale, is way too close to five, and not close enough to one (again, much like our grades). Like undergraduate seminars, just because everyone gets an A doesn’t mean everyone deserved an A. A lot of our classes don’t really deserve an A.

I’m afraid that part of it is that by the last day of class, anyone who doesn’t like it has stopped showing up, so there’s selection bias in the sample. But I think a problem just as big is that the forms don’t ask the right questions.

I don’t know how to evaluate a professor’s “sensitivity to student concerns.” It’s not something I’m basing my course choices on, and I don’t know what exactly it’s measuring. I think most professors, good or bad, react positively to things students say. If we ask them to talk louder, I think they will. If we ask them to close the window shades, they usually do. I don’t understand why this is one of the questions.

Or why it’s all that different from “Responsiveness to student questions.” If you don’t respond to student questions, you’re not very sensitive to student concerns, and you’re probably also not very effective. So we’re double-counting, and putting undue weight on a category even horrible professors can do quite well in.

“Presentation / acceptance of alternative viewpoints” is another bizarre one. Fits in some classes, but not too many. I only need to know one viewpoint regarding Corporate Finance. Or Advanced Legal Research.

And those are all from the useful section of the evaluation. Then we delve into real clunkers like, “Relevance of assignments to course”? What information is this providing? How is this even an issue in most classes? The class is called Family Law. The book is called Family Law. If the book was called Torts, it wouldn’t be relevant.

“Relevance / importance of subject matter” is also not helping me choose classes, since this adds no information that cannot be gleaned from the title of the class. Relevant and important to who? If I’m going to practice law in Japan, Japanese Law is really important. If I’m going to work for the Sierra Club, it’s not.

We need new categories. We need a new evaluation form. A form that will actually reflect the information we need when we choose classes, and not these useless categories that tell us nothing. So, after this 500 word prologue, I present: My Revised Course Evaluation Form.

Section I. Please rate the following on a scale from one (virtually none) to five (really quite high).

1. Odds you’re getting called on in any given class.
2. Odds you’ve done the reading
3. Chance the professor actually thinks he/she’s lecturing to a bunch of colleagues, who already know as much as he/she does about the subject.
4. Chance the professor actually wrote his/her most recent book.
5. Ease of online shopping while still catching enough of what the professor is saying so as to not feel completely lost.
6. Probability you’d be seeking emancipation if you found out the professor was your parent / grandparent
7. Amount of audiovisual equipment used.
8. Amount of food provided throughout the course of the semester.
9. Unpleasant professor odor.
10. Chance you’d take the class again, knowing everything you know now, except the material itself, because if you knew that, then taking the class again would be pretty silly, wouldn’t it?

Section II. Please answer with a percentage estimate between 0 and 100.

1. Percent of classes you have attended.
2. Percent of classes you wish you’d attended
3. Percent of students, on average, who return after the 5-minute break in the middle, if applicable.
4. Percent of students, on average, who fall asleep during any given session, with 10 extra percentage points added if there is regularly snoring heard throughout the room.
5. Percent of time you believe the professor has prepared for class.
6. Percent of time you believe that if the professor has in fact prepared for class, the professor needs some help in the “preparing for class” department.
7. Percent of time spent basically reading from the assigned materials.
8. Percent of time spent basically reading from unassigned materials.
9. Percent of time spent reading from the Bible.
10. Percent of your total net worth you would pay to have all memory of this class erased from your mind.

Section III. Open-ended questions. Please print neatly.

1. Is the professor funny? Give examples.
2. Do gunners seem to gravitate toward this class? Name them. We’ll get them.
3. Draw your best imitation of the professor’s blackboard penmanship, with an emphasis on illustrating the degree of legibility.
4. Would you recommend this class to your friends?
5. Would you recommend this class to your enemies?
6. Would you recommend this class be exported to Yale?

Section IV. Bizarre and Unrelated Logic Game

John has Con Law on Monday and Tuesday. Katie has Corps on Wednesday and Thursday. Bill has Tax, but he can’t remember what days, since he never even bought the book. Susan signed up for a seminar, but wishes she didn’t since there’s so much reading. Classes that meet on Wednesday never conflict with The West Wing. Which class has the hardest exam?
I have a semi-substantial piece about course evaluations that I'm working on. For this week's law school paper, but I'll post it here when it's done tonight.

A quick link. Adam Wolfson, formerly of the blog "Cicero's Ghost," has started up a new one, after closing his old blog in the spring. I met Adam once over the summer (he was at a firm in NY). He's cool. The old blog was good. I expect the new one will be too.

Also, Chris Geidner, who writes awfully well about stuff more politically charged than I do, is in the running for an award over at this site and asked me to help him out. He's got my vote.

And, finally, Mitch has the flipside of my advice for 1Ls. If you're having trouble motivating yourself to study, his might work better than mine.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Unsolicited advice to any panicking 1Ls heading into finals, from a 3L only left to panic about life after law school: right now is, without question, the most stressful and insane time you'll have in law school. The release once fall term finals are over is like untying a balloon and letting the air out. If you feel overwhelmed, know that it will never feel this overwhelming again, by any stretch. No one knows where they stand right now. By next term, everyone realizes they're at least in the mix. Everyone. And the spring feels totally different. Things feel like they matter less, like the stakes are lower. Because they are. Because you realize you can play on the same level as everyone else. And 2L and 3L year, really, are a walk in the park comparatively. For everyone. It's done. Right now is the hardest point, because there's all of this material and no way of knowing where you stand. If you're just worried that you can't do this for three years, that you can't handle it -- you're mere weeks from the end of the semester, and, really, truly, honestly -- the spring is so much better, and 2L and 3L are nothing. No matter how you're feeling now, it's not like that forever.

Of course, if you're feeling okay about everything now, even better, obviously. But then, you didn't need my unsolicited advice, didya now?

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Here's a fascinating article in this week's New York Times Magazine about a company called BzzAgent that signs up volunteers to test new products and agree to spread the word about them. A paragraph toward the end of the article:

It is certainly easier to defend the voluntary buzz-spreaders as less devious than the paid model pretending to like a product in public -- but the honesty and openness come with an asterisk or two. Those suggestions in the Bzz guides to call bookstores and pretend you don't know the exact title or author you're looking for are pretty hard to define as "honest." Similarly, it's most unlikely that (let alone The Concord Monitor) would consider the reviews of a BzzAgent quite as unbiased and helpful to readers as a review from someone who hadn't consulted talking points compiled with input from the publisher. The whole tone of the Bzz guides -- which read like a cross between a brochure and a training manual -- is a bit difficult to square with the idea of genuineness.

I'm not sure what I think about this stuff. I mean, I don't want to have to wonder if a friend who tells me one jelly is better than another jelly is actually working for an affiliate of the jelly company, motivated by something else besides just telling me his honest opinion of the jelly. But I also think it's probably pretty effective marketing, and if a company is trying to get its new jelly out there, I don't know how awful this is. I mean, I guess it's not great. It's disingenuous, like the article says. And that's not good. But it's not murder. I guess. Just read the article. Clearly I've got nothing to add on top of that.
Inspired by, but not at all a parody of, a recent e-mail thread among the members of one of the activities I'm involved in.

To: List of three dozen people
Re: Meeting Next Week

Hey, we should meet next week. Can we do it on Wednesday evening? Everyone e-mail me back your availability for Wednesday night.

To: List of three dozen people
Re: Meeting Next Week

I have class until 4:00.

To: List of three dozen people
Re: Meeting Next Week

You don't have to e-mail the entire list.

To: List of three dozen people
Re: Meeting Next Week

Besides, you didn't even really answer the question. 4:00 isn't evening. And you didn't say whether you were free afterwards.

To: List of three dozen people
Re: Meeting Next Week

It gets dark at 4:00. That makes it evening. I was also planning on watching West Wing from 9-10, so I can't meet then.

To: List of three dozen people
Re: Meeting Next Week

Can we meet Sunday morning instead?

To: List of three dozen people
Re: Meeting Next Week

When did Sunday morning come into play? I thought we were talking about Thursday. Incidentally, I'm free Tuesday afternoon, just in case you want to do it then.

To: List of three dozen people
Re: Meeting Next Week

I'll bring cookies to Monday's meeting, just let me know where it's going to be.

To: List of three dozen people
Re: Meeting Next Week

We should make sure we get the big room again. Can we do it on Saturday?

To: List of three dozen people
Re: Meeting Next Week

Sorry to be so late in responding. I'm busy all week. Can we work around my schedule?

To: List of three dozen people
Re: Meeting Next Week

Take me off this list please.

To: List of three dozen people
Re: Meeting Next Week

That's awfully rude. Isn't this meeting important to you? We need to come up with a time to meet.

To: List of three dozen people
Re: Meeting Next Week

Okay, okay, okay. Everyone e-mail me your schedule for the next week. Only me. Do not e-mail the entire list.

To: List of three dozen people
Re: Meeting Next Week

Free M after 6, T after 7, W not 8-9, T-F out of town, S I'm getting tested for a brain disorder in the morning but I'd appreciate it if you didn't share it with the rest of the list since it's personal and I'm only telling you because you're my best friend.

To: List of three dozen people
Re: Meeting Next Week

I won't tell anyone. You're my best friend too, not like that crazy guy with the thing who did that thing to me the other week with that thing and the other thing.

To: List of three dozen people
Re: Meeting Next Week

If you're going to gossip to the entire list can you at least make it clear what you're talking about. Also, good luck with the brain thing. Also, I'm busy Monday from 3-5, so make sure you don't schedule the meeting then.

To: List of three dozen people
Re: Meeting Next Week

Is everyone else getting Quota Full messages? I am. E-mail the entire list whether you are or not so we can figure this out. Also, here's a hilarious video of a chicken with his head stuck in a fence. It's only 20 megabytes and I don't usually forward stuff but this was just so funny I had to share.

Friday, December 03, 2004

So, apparently the Yankees' Jason Giambi has admitted to using steroids, and the Yankees are trying to void the $82 million left on his contract.

I thought, when I wrote that sentence, that I would have something to say about it. I really don't. Instead, I'll write a very mediocre song parody about it.

"That's What Creams Are For" (to the tune of "That's What Friends Are For")

And I never thought I'd hit this way
And as far as I'm concerned
I'm glad I got the chance to say
That I've been injecting steroids

And if they should ever go away
Well then I won't hit home runs
And all my skills will go away
But you still will have to pay me

A tumor, a tumor
That's what kept me out, but there's no link, for sure
That's what creams are for
Injecting, inhaling
I'll be gaining muscle mass some more
That's what creams are for

Well I started out real small
But now they're shrinking my left ball
And they want to void my contract

Oh and then for the lies that I have told
For the steroids I was sold
I will not live to be too old
Can you help me with this needle?

A tumor, a tumor
That's what kept me out, but there's no link, for sure
That's what creams are for
Injecting, inhaling
I'll be gaining muscle mass some more
That's what creams are for

Thursday, December 02, 2004

The a cappella concert tonight went really well, except for the line I spaced out on in my song. The words escaped me. So I was silent for, "Walkin' through the Charles Hotel / But it's all a maze" Oh well.

I'll do a plug for an event on campus tomorrow night -- the Improv Comedy Group, which my friend Taylor is in, has a show tomorrow at 8 in Hauser 105, and it's free. I went to two of their shows last year and it was a good time. And it's free, too. I harbor no ill will against the improv group even though they rejected me 1L year. I still think they're funny.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Oh, cool. An article in Student Lawyer magazine by Todd Chatman, a 2L and the writer of the blog ambivalent imbroglio, about law student, professor, and practitioner weblogs -- and I'm quoted. Todd posted in the spring asking for people to share their thoughts, and I sent him an e-mail. Here's the paragraph that mentions me (but you should go read the whole article):

Aspiring writers are drawn to blogs as a way to hone their craft. Harvard 3L Jeremy Blachman, whose blog includes comedy sketches he writes, says he started blogging "as a way to force myself to write every day and to give me a place to store ideas." Blachman originally thought he would be his own primary audience, "and if people found and read it, that would be a bonus. But it quickly gets addictive."

Cool. Didn't realize I'd be quoted.
I saw Peter Gammons give a talk at the law school tonight. (If you don't know who Peter Gammons is: ESPN's main baseball dude, and former Boston Globe sportswriter.) He was really good, it was a really enjoyable event. He gave a short talk about how we're in the midst of a golden age in baseball and then took lots of questions. Nothing shocking, but all cool stuff. He thinks the Mets will guarantee a fourth year and get Pedro, he thinks the Angels will sign Beltran, he thinks the Yankees will sign Leiter. He thinks the Mets' Benson signing was a disaster, that David Wright is awesome, and that Kaz Matsui will be better at second base than he was at shortstop. He thinks Bud Selig is a better commish than people give him credit for. He joked that he keeps having to tell Joe Morgan that Billy Beane didn't write "Moneyball" (this is an issue that comes up a lot over here, the awesome baseball message board site that might be the place I waste more Internet-reading time than any other site). He was very, very good. It was a really cool talk to go see. Much better than hearing lawyers talk.
I need your help with something tiny. In a way, I think this could be a cool experiment, to see if people actually can figure this out. I'm in a creative writing workshop here. A few weeks ago, I met with the instructor and she recommended I read a certain work of fiction. I have to read it by next week. I've forgotten about it. In fact, I've forgotten the name of the book and the author. Here's what I remember: it's about something in Africa, maybe the Congo, maybe the Serengeti. It's about some sort of trip or journey. It may be about a king, or about bones. Those two words are sticking in my head, but I can't remember. I think the Africa reference is in the name of the book. I think it takes place at some point in the past, either about 100 years ago, or much much farther back. It's a work of fiction, and apparently a well-written work of fiction. The author has a book coming out soon that is about something that sounded more interesting to me, maybe about intelligence gathering, but that's just a guess. But that book isn't out yet. I want to say the author's last name begins with an H, but I'm not certain.

E-mail me if you have any idea what I might be talking about. Thanks. :) We'll see if this is easier than just asking the instructor to remind me what the book was. Thanks much.

UPDATE: Two people wrote back and suggested I was looking for "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad. One person suggested "Henderson the Rain King" by Saul Bellow. Somehow, those two suggestions, while neither sounded like the right one, made me remember the name of the book: "King Leopold's Ghost" by Adam Hochschild. The Amazon page is here. I was right that it was about the Congo, about 100 years ago, a King, and the author's name began with an H. I'll let you know if I think it's any good after I read it.
LiveBlogging: Tom Brokaw's Final Newscast on NBC

Q. Why am I doing this?
A. I'm not sure. But maybe it'll be fun.
Q. Do you ever watch Tom Brokaw?
A. No, but I figure this is like an "event." Maybe there'll be balloons.
Q. Or maybe it'll just be a normal newscast, eh?
A. Maybe. But I hope not. That would make this post pretty boring.
Q. No kidding.
A. Maybe we should stop the prologue now and turn on the TV.
Q. Yeah, probably.

6:30. 40 years of Holiday Hess Trucks! Or at least on the Boston NBC affiliate, that's what we've got. I wonder if that's national or not.

6:31. They're gonna need to strip "Tom Brokaw" from the logo. I don't think I've watched any channel's evening news in a long, long time.

6:32. They haven't acknowledged it's his last day. Yet. That's too bad. I hope they do by the end. He doesn't seem natural. He's "announcing" the news more than he's really talking to anyone, it seems. Is this how he sounds in a conversation? It sounds stilted.

6:34. Whereas the reporters in the field sound much more natural and conversational. Although, I just figured out why Brokaw gets paid so much. "Jim Mcleshefsky"? Is that the correspondent's name? That's what it sounded like, and that's a hard word to say. Just saying that guy's name right is worth a couple million bucks a year, right?

6:35. Brokaw moves his head but not his body when he talks. His suit stays completely still. Maybe he's not really wearing a suit, and they've just superimposed his head onto a suit. You think that's possible? You think anyone would know if that's what they did? Would it be a scandal? Bigger than Dan Rather's scandal, or smaller? Is the fake-suit scandal what's leading him to retire?

6:36. Not to take my attention away from Tom Brokaw, but John Danforth talks too slow. His one meaningless sentence about danger being dangerous slowed the whole pace of the newscast.

6:37. "U.S. military intervention" has to be one of the easiest phrases for a news director to find video footage to place behind. I mean, you can show anything and no one's going to complain. I bet there's a whole reel of "stock military footage" that they go to all the time for generic stuff.

6:38. Brokaw looks down at the end of all of his sentences. It looks unnatural. Like the teleprompter is moving closer and he needs to see those last couple of words. Maybe the fake suit is getting in the way.

6:39. "Peaceful nations must keep the peace." Excellent, Mr. President.

6:40. Nope, easiest phrase for news director to find footage: "World War II." I think being the guy who finds the stock footage for newscasts would be a horribly boring job.

6:41. Ukraine? I always thought it was "The Ukraine." Guess not.

6:42. Face lift, or no face lift? Not too many wrinkles for a 64-year-old.

6:45. Back from commercial. Online credit reports. Hmmm. I just did that last week. Why's he smiling? Credit isn't funny? Funnier than Iraq, I guess. You think Tom Brokaw knows his credit score? I bet it's pretty high. What's starting today about free credit? You can already get free credit reports on Even I know that. The whole report is complaining about ads on the website? What's the big deal? And spam e-mail? Yeah, that's bad... but why was this called an "in-depth" report? It was pretty shallow. News must be slow.

6:47. 1/3 of all men 30-34 and 1/4 of all women have never been married. Thanks for the factoid, NBC research bureau.

6:48. OK. Sounds like he'll have some thoughts about retirement coming up later. But first, a heartwarming story about people in hospitals. Or at least that what it looks like. Oh, but first, another drug commercial. Last break had Lance Armstrong. This one's got a Lipitor commercial. "Ask your doctor...." If I was your doctor, I'd be annoyed if someone asked me about a random drug. More drugs. Bayer Low-Dose. I bet low-dose isn't any cheaper than high-dose even though it's cheaper for Bayer. Does eating Stouffer's grilled entrees increase your need for Lipitor?

6:50. They sent Brian Williams to Iraq right before he takes over for Brokaw? I bet Brokaw sent him there, just for kicks. "Hey, Brian, I know you're excited about taking over for me... but first, how about you go to Baghdad for a little while. Hope nothin' happens to you. He he he." Oh, wait, he's not in Iraq. He's at Walter Reed Hospital. That's in Washington, no? I'm not listening well enough. I'm waiting for Brokaw's final words. Maybe he got Jerry Springer to write them for him, like Springer's "final thoughts" at the end of all his talk show episodes.

6:54. Wow, Brian Williams is wearing an awfully nice suit. His suit is nicer than Tom's. I wonder if that's on purpose.

6:55. And, coming up after some more drug ads, Brian Williams reaches through the split screen and drags Tom Brokaw off. Procrit. One-a-day Weight Smart ("the first multivitamin with EGCG"). What the heck is EGCG? Why is the Postal Service advertising? "Mail? I forgot there's mail! Wow, mail!" Nexium. How many different medicines are there, and why do we want people calling their doctors. Shouldn't we rely on doctors, rather than actors, to tell us what drugs we need. All I know about Nexium from the ad is that it can make my esophagus feel better. Maybe my esophagus is what's keeping me from greater heights. How can I be sure? Should I ask my doctor?

6:57. Not leaving Tom much time, sadly.

6:58. "It's not the questions that get us in trouble, it's the answers." "And no one person has all the answers." "And buy my series of books on the Greatest Generation." It's not the questions that get us in trouble, it's the answers. Sounds nice, but what does it mean? I don't really understand that. Plus, I think the use of the word forbearance was a bit excessive. This isn't cable, Tom. You've got kids watching. Forbearance? I don't even know if I know what that means.

6:59. What the heck is this bizarre song closing us out? The photo montage is nice, though too short, but this 30-second song about Tom Brokaw... what *was* that? Odd.

7:00. Okay, well, that was uneventful. I like Tom Brokaw. I don't know how relevant the evening news is anymore, though. With the Internet and cable... I'm not sure. Certainly the "in-depth" report on credit scores was pretty useless, and really everything was pretty surface. All they get is 22 minutes or so, and the only thing I really learned was that I should ask my doctor about Celebrex, Lipitor, Procrit, Nexium, One-A-Day Linoleum, Three-A-Day Byzantium, and Twelve-A-Day Cerebrumum, to maximize brainium activity.

Q. So, was this exercise worth it?
A. I don't know. Maybe. Probably not.
Q. Gonna live-blog Rather's last newscast in March?
A. Maybe. We'll see.
Q. How about live-blogging C-Span for a while?
A. No thanks.