Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Belated blogging about law school

Mike, the person who insisted I start this blog, subtly nags: "How goes the effort to learn the majesty of the law?"

To which I reply:

It's the law, man. New classes this quarter are Criminal and Constitutional, but Constitutional focuses on the Civics-like aspect of the thing, not all the fun rights. However, since I've been a Civics nerd ever since my bizarre obsession with the Bicentennial in 1975-76, I still think it will be fun. Have I told my Bicentennial story yet? Who here read "Common Sense" when they were 8? (If J's still reading this, I expect a comment from him. He became a "miniature Alan Dershowitz" after reading the Declaration and the Constitution. Evidently he wanted to sue his parents for unreasonable search of his room.)

Criminal is so far focusing on how to accurately restate the holding from a case. Should we have learned this earlier? Probably. Our prof is billed as the school's "most Socratic." He chides students who say the opinion "quoted" an authority when it merely cited to it. Today he spent part of class talking about I.A. Richards. So far we've spent every day dragging the holding out of the case, often in excruciating detail. By the time we are done, we have stuff on the white board that looks like sentence diagramming. I'm actually pretty happy with this, being both a former English major and an anal-retentive freak.

Yesterday, I picked up my Contracts problem set from last quarter. I could not remember writing it, and furthermore, I couldn't understand what I said. Nonetheless, I did OK, gradewise (as did everyone). Typical example of my prose:
However, under Rest. 237, a court would impose a constructive condition of exchange and hold that the Broker’s promise to “use reasonable efforts to procure a ready, willing, and able Buyer of the property in accordance with the price, terms, and conditions” of the agreement is a condition of the Seller’s further performance in paying the Broker. A court would probably not hold that the Broker’s advertisement of the property, posting of “for sale” signs, and cooperating with other brokers was a constructive condition of exchange, because those requirements go to method of performance rather than the substance of performance.

Probably the clearest sentence in the whole 7 pages:
A credible reading of the contract would find that the clause is intended to manage the risk of the Seller finding his own buyer while the Broker is performing, not insulate the Broker against the risk of his own nonperformance.
OK, that's recognizable.

Eventually, after re-reading, it began to make sense. It's also kind of unfortunate that I dumped all that knowledge so quickly--I'll need it for the bar.

I got the summer externship of the odd interview, so that's good. However, I'm feeling kind of ambivalent about it because after my trip to New Orleans, I was thinking it would be good to do a volunteer gig down there this summer, because I could probably stay with Ms. C, and because helping people keep their homes is God's work, and because the whole Common Ground vibe took me back to my student co-op days, which were good. But nailing employers for OSHA and minimum wage violations is also God's work, and if I still feel this way next summer, there will be plenty to do then.

Still, I'm worrying that I'm making a choice that's safe and makes sense, but goes against my heart. Since I came to law school to find more meaningful and challenging work, that's not good. Grph.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

If I wanted to order shoes, I'd be at the computer right now.

Last week I went to my favorite comfort shoe store to maybe buy some new Dansko clogs, maybe not, putter around, see what's there. I ask to try on a couple of pairs of shoes, but they don't have ANY of them in my size in black. They have other colors in my size, and bring them out for me to try on. I ask when they'll have black in stock, and the gal says "I don't know. I can order them for you." Um, no. I realize that retailing in the Internet age has got to be a bitch, but this happens to me every time I go to this store, and it's ridiculous. I consciously go to this store rather than Zappo's because I want them to stay in business. But you've got to meet me halfway folks.

New Orleans Photos

First of all, I need to emphasize: these are from right in front of the industrial canal break in the Lower 9th Ward. The whole city does not look like this. The whole 9th ward doesn't look like this. THE WHOLE LOWER 9th WARD DOESN'T EVEN LOOK LIKE THIS.

This one totally gets to me, because that's a really cute purple bathtub that someone picked out and probably really loved. And please note how the force of the water wrapped the car around the tree.
This is typical of the few blocks near the break. Heavy concrete steps are still there. Lightweight frame house is not.

Common Ground center in the Lower 9th.
Stencil art at the Common Ground base in the Upper 9th.

My extremely annoying car accident.

Today we have (what I hope is) the denoument of my very annoying car accident of Saturday March 11, aka the Saturday before finals:
[Voicemail] Hi, this is Chad from State Farm calling. We just wanted to let you know that we've concluded our investigation of your March 11 accident and concluded that the other driver was entirely at fault.
OK, does this mean my rates *aren't* going through the roof?

My very annoying car accident involves me driving in the leftmost lane of Western Avenue in Belltown when some rube from Eastern Washington finally figures out where his street is and makes a left turn out of the lane to my right without checking his blind spot first. I lay down rubber trying to avoid hitting him, but end up scuffing his bumper on the left rear side (where it wraps around the quarter panel) with the front right of my bumper. In other words, the front of my car hits the side of his car. Because he's sideways in front of me. Because he's turning. Which, let me tell you, it is scary to just be driving along and then suddenly there's some jackass sideways in front of you.

But wait. That's not all. There's also the part where he yells at me and continually accuses me of trying to drive away and not having insurance, even when I'm 1) Offering him my insurance card, 2) Going back to my car to get pen and paper so he can write down my insurance information (which just causes him to yell that I'm trying to drive away), and 3) Standing there with card, pen, and paper. Meanwhile, he won't actually hand me his insurance card, so all the information I'm able to get is his name and policy number, which I jot down by looking over his shoulder while he's writing down my info. When I ask him for my card back, he says he needs to get my phone number first, and when I tell him I don't have to give that to him and won't give that to him, he won't give me back my card. I end up having to take it out of his hand so I can leave. As I'm getting in my car, he's storming after me yelling "You'd better get ready."

Which I do, by calling my insurance company telling them that I hit some illegal-left-turning maniac who says I'd better get ready. So what he told his insurance company is that he never changed lanes (Technically true--he didn't change lanes. He just turned left out of his lane and across mine), and that I DID drive away, which is kind of hard to reconcile with the fact that he has all of my insurance information, and which made the investigator from State Farm laugh out loud.

Do I have a point here? Maybe a few, like:
  • So far, my experience with this claim is sucking much less than I thought it would.
  • This guy is a complete idiot and I hope his insurance company jacks his rates, which he richly deserves for being both a crappy driver and a huge asshole.
  • I found this guy's behavior really disturbing, not just because of the yelling and threatening and not giving my card back (prima facie disturbing, that), but because he was so entirely unwilling to acknowledge that he might have missed something (such as an entire lane with a car in it), and because his crazy behavior was so weirdly self-righteous. There seemed to be something actually at stake for him not just in getting my information so that he could file a claim, but in making sure that I was wrong. That paranoid leap from "Oh, I've had a car accident with this person." to "This person doesn't have car insurance [never mind the card] and is trying to drive away [never mind the pencil and paper] and is an evil person trying to victimize me and I have to fight fight fight" is just weird.
  • And um, yeah, kind of reminds me of my mother.

My trip to New Orleans

I went to New Orleans for part of my spring break, arriving late Saturday and leaving Wednesday afternoon. Here are some of my notes and thoughts. Later I'll upload some photos that my friend C took.

Sunday we toured the devastation, which is totally fucked. OK, it was Sunday, not a work day, but the only neighborhoods with any construction going on were the ones without much damage. Basically, where it didn't flood, people have enough insurance money to fix things. Where it did flood, not much is happening because not everyone had flood insurance, and the government flood insurance program (that they all dutifully paid their premiums to for decades) ran out of money and wasn’t able to send out checks from September to January. There are still huge piles of garbage on the streets, and C thinks the deadline for free FEMA hauling passed last week.

Even folks who did get their money aren't sure it makes sense to rebuild when the city still might bulldoze their houses and take their land. There was an initial orgy of "urban planning," resulting in decisions like "let's bulldoze this relatively prosperous neighborhood where people did have insurance and are back, because it's close to downtown and would make a nice park." Like it's just theirs to take. Current Mayor Nagin has now rejected those parts of the plans, but the current mayoral race* may change that.

Those are just the better-off neighborhoods that got 6 feet of water or less. We also took a drive through the lower 9th ward near the Industrial Canal break. The water came out of there with enough speed and force to snap live oaks with 6' diameter trunks and wrap cars around trees. The houses near the break aren't even piles of rubble--there's just a debris field studded with concrete steps leading up to the front porches that aren't there anymore. A little further from the canal break, there are houses washed into the road, houses on top of cars, cars on top of houses, cars on top of houses on top of cars, etc. They've just started bulldozing the houses that are in the streets, so a lot of folks, including folks from the neighborhood, were out taking pictures to document the devastation while it's still there. We talked to a Nicaraguan guy who was in Colombia at the time, but whose daughter lived about 3 blocks from the canal about 4 blocks over from the break. (Her house was still roughly where it used to be, but a neighbor's place was in her front yard. I said “You must have been so worried!” and he said “Eh, I’m from Nicaragua.”) Now she's living with him in his house and waiting for her FEMA trailer. His house took about a foot of water, but it didn't stand for long--just came in long enough to ruin the furniture, then washed back out, so he feels fortunate. The flooded areas smell like a mixture of mold, motor oil, and some kind of acrid stinging something.

The town is also overrun with jackass out of town building contractors in massive 4x4s, who drive like assholes. (I think they used to call these folks “carpetbaggers.”) Every corner in the flooded areas has about 10 signs for demolition, drywall, tree cutting, etc. People are being gouged, and the city doesn't have the money/staff/wherewithal to regulate these people at all, although they are letting them camp out in City Park. (This may be ending soon.) There's also a lot of tension between the locals and the Central American day laborers actually doing the work. There was some kind of big immigration raid on Lee Circle. This seems extremely counterproductive to me. C hopes that 20 years from now, people will reflect that Katrina brought the Central Americans and their delicious food, heretofore unavailable in New Orleans. There are already a lot of barbecue places opening to accommodate the Texans.

After our drive through the Lower Ninth Ward, we stopped by the Common Ground Collective sites in the Upper Ninth so C could drop off some propaganda for the women’s center. While there, we were recruited to do a store run for dinner, so we took their $40 (very trusting, these Common Ground kids) and brought them back 40 pounds of onions and a big can of olive oil. The guy running the kitchen seemed to be a former professional cook, and was having to train his volunteer helpers on basic things like: peel the onion before you cut it. The Common Ground operation has been cleaning and gutting houses in the Upper Ninth ward, among many other things. Their operation seems very professional—they provide training and personal protective equipment (respirators, Tyvek suits, etc.) for the volunteers, maintain a tight schedule, spray down the houses with anti-mold stuff before the crews go in, etc. They supposedly had about 1,000 volunteers down during these spring break weeks, and gutted up to 60 homes a day. They’re also doing a summer thing.

We finished our day by going to a wine shop in the Bywater, buying a bottle, and drinking it with an incredible middle eastern meal cooked out in the wine shop’s courtyard by the chef from Marisol, one of C’s favorite restaurants, now closed due to the storm. We sat next to a gorgeous pale pink night blooming trumpet plant, and it was lovely. Here at the end of this entry, I want to emphasize that New Orleans is still a great city to visit--a lot of great restaurants are open, and the parks and gardens are still really lovely, if a little windblown. And they need your tourist dollars. Other awesome meals I had include: po boys at Domilise's and [some place I can't remember right now], crawfish and shrimp from Big Fisherman on Magazine (I had to drive to pick these up, and I'm pleased to report that I successfully dodged all the Honda-Civic-sized pits in the street), and some delicious French pizza thing that I packed in my luggage and ate last night after I got home.

*The mayoral race is also potentially very messed up. The neighborhoods that escaped flooding were disproportionately white, so the city is now disproportionately white. Most of the difficult land use decisions are in neighborhoods that are disproportionately black, and the fear is that if all the dispersed residents aren’t able to vote (the deadline for registration was yesterday), those decisions will be made against their interests. Additionally, the city’s top elections official is a bit of a nutball. Now, everyone in New Orleans is fully aware of that and many, many people are working to contain the damage. I don’t want to contribute to the “wacky, corrupt New Orleans” stereotype here. It’s just unfortunate that she’s in charge of this particular election, is all.

Monday, March 06, 2006

I am annoying the shit out of myself.

OK, I'm stressed. Finals are next week, I had graded homework due today, and a job interview this afternoon. And I couldn't sleep last night because of the wind and ended up lying awake half the night worrying about my mortgage, and what if I can only make $35,000 a year as a lawyer or something, and why did I ever quit my job anyway, and what was I thinking, and who would ever hire me, and do I make sense to anyone anywhere, and let me tell you, these were the absolute BEST thoughts to be subjecting myself to for 2 or 3 vulnerable hours in the middle of the night the day before an interview for an unpaid internship. Super.

I think the whole chain got started because the wind woke me up, but I didn't know the wind woke me up, and the wind always makes me anxious about my house because I fear it might blow away. So I woke up with diffuse house anxiety that attached itself the mortgage rather than to the wind.

On the upside, or maybe the downside, or maybe just the side, the interview was interesting. But weird. Encouraging: the interviewer seemed to understand my resume, and see me as qualified, and kind of asked why I wasn't looking for a paid job for the summer, implying that my resume looked like that of someone who could maybe get a paid job their 1L year. (Hmm. I may have new plans for the second half of my spring break now...) Weird: the interviewer asked me how much I made in my last job. And I answered, and then we discussed how I think I'll probably make less than that after I finish law school. Discouraging: I felt kind of diffuse and ill-prepared, and regretted not spending more of my insomniac hours researching the employer. And it was odd to be simultaneously recognized as at least a former adult and professional, but basically a child in the context of the law. The interviewer straddled that chasm with ease, but I still felt kind of awkward and senseless.

So now I'm second-guessing every pause or imperfect statement I made in the interview. Did I seem unfocused? Did I seem like a dilettante? Did I seem like a huge hippie? Am I an irredeemable idiot who no one will ever give a job, even an unpaid job, ever again?

I think the infantilizing nature of schooling has begun to take hold of me a bit too much. How do I stop this?

And also, in the past few weeks I'm just sick of my own anxiety, and mightily annoyed that, although I have worked my ass off to try to find a way of not constantly living as if the world is a hostile place and a fit object of terror, I will never be an effortlessly happy person, and I constantly, constantly, constantly have to work at this. I will be balanced for a while, and then like some kind of tentacle winding itself around my leg, the anxiety will start tugging at me. Good routines are not always enough. 8 hours of sleep and yoga and trying to be present and truthful is not always enough. The chronicness of the whole thing is depressing me. For the past couple of years I've been able to be philosophical about that--it's the hand we're dealt, the life we've got, we're an oddly-wired, jerry-built kind of species that way, blah blah blah. But lately I'm tired, and I just wish things were different.

And also: It annoys the shit out of me that it's only taken SIX MONTHS for law school to strip me of all my confidence about my ability to make a living and survive in the world. (Hmm. Maybe that belongs in the "law school is like a bad boyfriend" entry.)

Look out!

Sitemeter tells me that someone from the US Marine Corps has been googling "attack crows." Now I'm going to be a little more wary about my feathered friends...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Heath Ledger was robbed!

I'm sorry, I saw "Capote," and Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance was strained and actory. He was sending two messages: 1) "I'm Truman Capote, man!" and 2) "Look at what a good acting job I'm doing! Watch me act! Watch me act! Ooh, I'm an actorrrrrr!"

Heath Ledger, on the other hand, was transparent and heartbreaking. Maybe he made it look too easy?

Michelle Williams was robbed too, and probably for the same reason--she completely inhabited her character. It didn't look like she was acting.

Idiots. Was this some kind of political bullshit? Even Ang Lee didn't thank his fucking actors. Are they in trouble or something?

And as for Best Picture, don't even get me started on "Crash," which was complete LA cliche tripe, like some kind of inbred degenerate bastard child of "Magnolia" and "Grand Canyon."

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