December 30, 2005

Ever Notice

that when you haven't spent time or spoken with someone in a long time and you don't have time to catch them up properly on all the important stuff that's happened since you last hung out or spoke, that you have to choose between doing an explanation of the passed time no justice at all or opting for small amusing tidbits that may not tell the whole story but at least give a framed glimpse, and at the same time make you smile?

Yeah, me too.

So, in lieu of a failed attempt at catching you up, I recommend that you watch I heart Huckabees. Best movie I've seen in a long time. Seriously. I think I'm going to buy it and watch it whenever I need a comedic kick in the ass.

December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Even if the "christ" part isn't your thing, I'm wishing you all a happy and healthy set of winter holidays with your family & friends.

My life couldn't be any more different than it was just two short days ago. Since I took my last exam, I've slept at least 10 hours each night, eaten nothing but good food, drank good wine with every evening meal, and hung out with family talking about fun stories from days gone by and playing poker and pinochle.

Yesterday, I did a bunch of stuff I hadn't done in much too long: I went for a long run in the hills [damn I'm out of shape...], relaxed in the hot-tub, and for the first time since September, I'm reading for pleasure. Needless to say, I'm not going to hit 25 books for the year on my approximately 25 book challenge. I could, but I'd have to count my textbooks, and even if I did read some of them cover to cover, that's just wrong. The whole point of the challenge was to read about one pleasure book for every two weeks of the year. I think I'll be able to bust out at least one or two more in the next few days. Mmmm.... holidays.

December 22, 2005

And I'm Spent

A friend of mine told me that the best advice she'd ever heard about law school was this:

At some point, you will have to deal with something that is ridiculous. It will seem overwhelming. Impossible, even. But it happens to everyone. You will get through it. You will be okay.

Good advice.

This was the most difficult finals period I've spent thus far, both academically, and emotionally.

But it's done.

Happy Holidays.

December 21, 2005

Hold yourself back

I am so hot right now...

The best thing about finals (other than finals pizza, one click of the internet button away from our local family pizzeria) is that you can wear the same extra large sweatpants and zip-up sweatshirt for days on end.

We're not talking about a J-lo track suit fashion attempt. I'm living in Hanes sweatpants where the crotch of the sweatpants is almost to my knees and the waistband is ALL elastic, easily reaching the middle of my rib cage. The zip up sweatshirt? Oh, it's from JC Penny's finest.

Mind you, I shower, work out in separate workout clothes and change the undergarmets & shirt on a regular basis. But to the outer world, who just sees the basic shell of comfort and slovenliness--it stays the same. It's my way of saying to the world, "Yeah. That's right. I haven't changed my clothes in 2 weeks. What are you gonna do about it?"

(Note: I'm not, however, cool enough to actually wear this outfit for the exams. Perhaps next semester...)

December 19, 2005


Another 7 units down.

Wills & Trusts: What? Not really sure. Feel like I was hit by a train.

Legal Ethics: God bless the final paper. Turned in. Done.

Now all I've got are the 3 units of my non-profits exam to do on 12/22. Eyes on the prize. Tonight's off, and then it's 2 days of hard-core studying to be done on Thursday...



December 18, 2005

Finals are fun for everyone

Not only are finals great for me, they provide E with an endless array of entertainment too.

E [standing behind me, looking at my Wills & Trust outline]: What's a benis? [pronounced like penis]

[Note: Benis is how I abbreviate "beneficiaries" in my notes, but now I just can't see the word without laughing]

E: Dude -- it's a nerd party in here. [In ref to H & I furiously flipping through books and typing on our respective laptops.]
BT: Are you having fun making fun of us?
E: Totally. It's just like high school, only backwards.

December 16, 2005

Challenging the Standard Law School Thinking

In the interests of taking a short break from Wills & Trusts (to which I will dutifully return for at least one more hour on this fine Friday evening), I present the following:

Before the beginning, I had silly dreams of going to a local private school whose fees were roughly twice of those of my public school. Since then, the gap between the two has narrowed sharply, but I still had a very nice realization in the shower the other day. (Yeah. That's right. The shower. What? I was trying to make a point...)

Private school did me a huge favor by rejecting me.

I'll be graduating at least $40,000 less in debt thanks to their good judgment. I know the standard law school rule is that you go to the best school that you get into. But, for any of you pre-law kids thinking about where to go, I'd like to offer an observation from where I'm sitting: for me, the standard logic doesn't work.

Let's assume I had been accepted to Private school, graduated, and passed the bar (large assumptions, but work with me here) instead of attending my school: I'd have the same letters after my name, I'd have received roughly the same quality of education (after 2.5 years at my institution and discussions with students at Private school, I sincerely believe this) I'd probably have more or less the same type of job lined up, and I'd probably have a different set of interesting friends in place of the great ones I've made. Assuming the alternative is that I do graduate from Public school and pass the bar (fingers crossed), the Private school alternative is a wash. A different path on the choose-your-own adventure with all sorts of unexpectables, no doubt, but the 10,000 foot view is roughly equivalent. The take home, for me, at least, is that it doesn't matter.

But wait. Had I gone to Private school, I'd be in at least $40,000 more debt. In exchange for that privilege, I'd have a fancier school name on my resume and I wouldn't have had to commute as far. But the people who would prefer to hire me, know me, or whatever, because of the fancy private school name -- I can live without 'em. So for me, personally, it comes down to the commute and the money. And in hindsight, I'm happy to trade the commute for the money, although in the moment, I probably would have gone with the herd.

So, after I had the shower realization (thanks for the rejection, guys!), I did some back of the envelope calculations. And when the numbers started to look ridiculous by estimation, I did the real math. Turns out, this year I saved $13,103 by attending public school over private school. In 1L and 2L, it was significantly more (I believe when I entered, it was a savings of over $20,000 a year).

To attend public school, I commute about 1.5 hours a day over what I'd have to commute to private school, had I been accepted. I spend a bit on gas, but I'd have to pay for an expensive parking pass at Private school. I'd guess that I have about a $5 a day extra outlay in terms of parking and gas over what I'd have to pay for Private school's gas and parking. Come the close of the year, I will have attended approximately 115 days of class and finals and weekend law school events. That's 177.5 hours of commuting and $575 worth of additional expenses. Which means I saved $12,528 by commuting, or about $70.58 an hour. (First year, with the lower tuition, it was probably well over $100/hr.)

Had I been accepted to both schools and elected to go to public school, the $70.58/hr of commuting that I saved would be easily the highest hourly compensation I have ever earned (with the exclusion of very short one-off projects). That alone would have made it a smart decision for me, had I had the option of making it.

More important for challenging the standard law school wisdom, however, is that $70.38/hr is a higher hourly rate than the highest compensation that a 1st year firm lawyer at one of the highest paying firms can expect to earn. If you assume a 40 hour week and no bonus, then even the 1st years at Skadden don't "earn" as much money per hour for their toils as the student who opts to earn/save a bit by commuting 1.5 hours a day to attend Public school over Private school.

With the 40-hour week, 50 weeks a year, and no bonus assumptions, the few theoretical law students who end up at Skadden are making less per hour ($70/hr, to be precise) than I am during my high-earning commute hours.

This model is probably conservative. In reality, I probably "earn" significantly more per hour for commuting than the average Skadden 1st year because a 40-hour week is unreasonably low, and it is unlikely that bonuses work out to anything more than $70/hr. Both of those realities would make the Skadden 1st year "earn" even less than me on my commute. Also, I commute with friends several trips a week, which is an enjoyable experience that has allowed me to develop wonderful relationships and, in general, has been one of the better aspects of my law school experience. I'm certain that the laughing conversations we have on the way to and from school are less demanding and more enjoyable than at least some of the hours as a 1st year at a firm.

In sum, I'm so thankful Private school rejected me. I'm better off. I'm happy to be where I am. I was also, in all likelihood, too foolish to see the reality through my pre law-school glasses. Had Private school accepted me, I probably would have gone. It's great when life is smarter than you are. Just great.

Okay. Back to Trusts. No, seriously. I swear.

I've had exams I felt were graded poorly, worded poorly, or an unfair test of the material we covered. I've felt the sting of the surprise bad grade when I thought I knew the material and did well on an exam. I've even felt the surprise of a better than expected grade due to a friendly curve. But yesterday's corporate and partnership tax was the first time on a law school exam where I've felt the sheer disappointment of just not being prepared.

I knew how difficult the material was. I had done enough over the course of the semester to know what I needed to do to be prepared for the exam. But I didn't do it. And I took the exam unprepared. Each of the essay questions was a problem that I know I could have done in the allotted time had I practiced them, but without the recent practice I was slow.

Much too slow.

I even guessed on several of the last few questions -- not multiple choice guessing, mind you, I'm talking about essay exam guessing. As in making up transactions and asserting that they might be subject to non-recognition without any statutory support and a vague memory of something that may or may not be true about a transaction that may or may have looked like the one I made up.

Four hours later, I left the exam, frustrated and very disappointed. Tax is a very fair class. If you prepare and do the problems correctly on the exam, you will get all of the points. I like the material. The exam covered enough that you didn't have time to figure it out during the exam, but if you knew how to do the problems, you absolutely could have done well.

But I was not well enough prepared.

With an unfair exam, a surprising grade, or a rough curve, the disappointment stems from the fact that the grade is not representative of how well you knew the material. But I'm not really that hung up on my grades -- they don't represent how well I know the material and as long as I feel good about what I learn, both the sting and the happiness from grades usually dissolves in a day or two. I'm here, I'm going to graduate and life's not fair, so it doesn't surprise me that law school grades aren't fair either.

But this time, for the first time since I started law school, I knew that I just didn't know the material. (I'm sure I didn't know the material in other exams as well, but at least I'd put in enough work to *think* that I knew the material.) And, so, this time, I'm very disappointed in myself, as opposed to my grades.

Clearly, instead of wallowing, the best approach would be to focus on getting all of the material from wills & trusts into my head to avoid a repeat. Yeah... I'll get on that.

December 14, 2005

Not the best use of time

After all of my frustration with the lack of normative scores for the MPRE, I passed.

It's a relief.

What's hilarious is that I thought I was eating sh*t on the practice exams. Knowing that California required a 79 and not really knowing what a 79 scaled score meant, I somehow felt that I should shoot for above 79% correct, and then I could be okay (does this make any sense at all? No. Of course not.) So, I studied for several days and really tried to know the material. As a result, I didn't just pass, I tested "ethical" enough to be a lawyer in every state that accepts the MPRE, and I have quite a few points left over too. In hindsight, I should have been using that MPRE cram time to prepare for class (perhaps finals wouldn't be so rough if I had) or just relax.

So, for those of you who were wondering, if you are missing between 13-17 out of 50 on the MPRE practice exams -- stop studying. You will be fine, regardless of your State.

December 12, 2005


Contracts. Wills. Weddings. Funerals.

Ceremonial steps to make sure that all involved are aware of what's really going on. Notification to the world. Historical hoops to jump through because that's what the ages tell us we should do -- and part of how we all recognize what's going on is the simple compliance with tradition for tradition's sake. It's how many injustices are perpetrated throughout the ages, and for much of my life, I was a questioner. I refrained from accepting even the most simple of traditions without asking "why?" Occasionally, I even went so far as to upset those closest to me with my refusal to partake in a ceremony if I couldn't understand the rationale behind the motions.

Given that introduction, it shouldn't be surprising that I think of myself as spiritual, but not particularly religious. However, I had a Lutheran education as part of my upbringing, and all the big events of my family history have been loosely tied to Christianity. I haven't so much rejected religion as found a way to be spiritual in my own way that doesn't require a congregation, sermons, adherence to a particular brand of dogma, and allows for more questioning, philosophy and incorporation of the useful bits from other religions, cultures and my own personal life experience.

In keeping with that approach, this morning, I waited 'til all the family had left and I took some time by myself to walk around the ranch and say my goodbye to my papa on his land. It was where he wanted me to remember him, it was where he was born, where he died, where I will always picture him, and it's beautiful. I cried, sobbing in the open air, gasping for breath with the reality of his passing and how I'll never see him again. But I knew he was in pain at the end, that he had a full life to be celebrated, and that he was ready to go, so finally, I looked around me, looked up, took a deep breath and prepared myself for the funeral. I had completed my personal, spiritual goodbye and could be there to support my family at the traditional, formalistic one.

I was surprised to find, however, that hearing Eccleasiastes 3, Psalm 23, and saying the Lord's prayer in unison with over one hundred fellow mourners was balm to my stormy soul. The words washed over me and helped the primal part of me understand what my conscious mind was in the painful process of accepting -- it was time to say goodbye. This is how we do it. This is the real thing.

And I think, on some level, that is why I switched from one who didn't believe in weddings or marriage, to one who is struggling with the details of implementing one. Long ago, E and I understood our personal commitment to one another, but the act of being joined as man and wife in a wedding ceremony will formalize the reality. There is something amazing, awe-inspiring, soul-quieting, and hyperreal about taking part in a ritual that has been passed down through untold numbers of generations. Today, a part of me embraced the ritual to help me truly accept my Papa's passing. The connection to my history was more comforting than I could have imagined.

I understood the calming effect much more as I watched my niece today, almost four years old, too young to really understand what was going on, but old enough to comprehend some of it. She's been through the ritual once now. It's part of her, and on some level, because we were all crying and tried to explain that she can't see Papa anymore, some part of her knows what these steps mean. Someday, when she needs it most, the memories of today will sweep up from her subconscious and explain to her what is happening at a funeral where she needs to accept an incomprehensible loss and grief. Most importantly, she will remember that it's a part of life, and that we all got through it.

Formalism. What a fascinating human thing.

December 11, 2005

I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date

I'm nowhere near where I should be on my studies for this set of finals. Despite how little time I have left, I'm still at the overwhelmed and confused stage in most of my classes. I suspect I may have to take the exam in that state for at least a couple of 'em.

Yesterday, as part of my oh-so-productive studies, I spent about half an hour getting my head around the proposed regulations for penalizing disqualified persons who engage in excessive benefit transactions with their respsective non-profit organizations. Then I opened the supplement and read the ominous words: "replace pages 511-518 with the following pages." Yup, turns out, the proposed regs were enacted, with changes. Time to unlearn and relearn.

I have no one to blame but myself. Awesome.

December 10, 2005

Marathon procrastination

Although my knee is still purple, I was able to do my long run today.

I couldn't find the entrance to the Alviso Slough trail so I parked at the Environmental Education Center and ran around 'til I finished my scheduled 17 miles. My run took me through Alviso town, office parks in San Jose, the Mallard slough, which was closed for hunting season (huh?), and finally, a few miles on the Alviso slough loop. I'll know how to find it next time -- it's beautiful, empty of people, and full of birds.

Somewhere around mile 14, I made it back to my car for refreshments. I wouldn't have believed it 'til I tried it, but it turns out that Vanilla Bean Gu tastes pretty good when you wash it down with lemon-lime gatorade. Who knew? After the GU and gatorade, the last 4 miles were much easier than the last 4 of the 15 miler I did two weeks ago. So, either I'm getting better at distance, or the Gu helps. Either way, it's encouraging.

After driving to and around Alviso for 30 minutes (because I was unable to find the marina entrance), the long slow run, the brief stop in the Environmental Center to get a trail map and say hi, the drive home, and a nice hot shower, it's 2:30 PM, I'm tired and I've yet to crack a book, plus I still need to eat. But, damn, I haven't been this relaxed in days. And that, my friends, is why I do it.

December 9, 2005

Throw another log on the fire

I woke up in the middle of the night with stomach issues. They did not resolve themselves during the rest of the night. Now, I'm scared of our local sushi joint, feel like ass, and had to skip today's run. This is definitely one of the lower points in my life over the last few years.

I realize, however, just how ridiculously lucky I am to consider it a low point when the major negative is simply that I must simultaneously deal with: law school finals (lucky enough to get in, attend a good school, afford the education), be only slightly sick (in truth, I've got my health, my body is just annoyed with me), be in the difficult part of planning a wedding (I'm lucky enough to be marrying my soulmate), and dealing with the timely and peaceful passing of my grandfather (because even good stories come to an end).

No shocking and untimely loss. No famine. No trauma.

Basically, I'm whining a little bit. But, I wanna, so I'm indulging briefly before I go study all day. Apologies.

December 8, 2005

Antonio? Alexander? I thank you both!

Since my sister moved back to our home town, I'm the only one of my siblings and parents who lives more than 5 miles away from the others. I live a 3 hour drive away, so, generally, I feel lucky -- I'm able to see my family fairly often.

But last night, when my father called to tell me that my grandfather passed away, that 3 hour drive was a curse. I've never wanted to be in my hometown so badly and I've never felt so far away from those I need and who need me the most.

The phone partially bridged the distance, but not entirely. My sister called me, her words rushing out quickly between deep choppy breaths. Over the phone, I tried to calm her down. My dad and I spoke several times. He alternated between choked up, fine and possibly in denial, and tired. Each time, I tried to listen hard enough to understand what he might be looking like and feeling. The first time we spoke, my brother talked slowly and quietly in his deep voice and sounded as if he might be crying a bit, something I don't think I've seen since he was 14. I just wanted to give him a hug. I wanted to give them all hugs, but I missed my brother more than I thought possible. He and I weathered many childhood storms together, and I learned last night that his mere presence calms me, reassures me, and reminds me that this too will pass, and we'll get through it.

My main concern was my father: he's had a difficult year and had taken his father's illness very hard. Plus, he lives alone. I asked my brother if he and my sister would go and make sure my father was okay. Many phone calls later (dad: "I'm fine, I just want to sleep." sister: "Dad's being a jerk, I'm still going over to get a hug." brother: "yeah, we're going over there, just briefly though.") it sounded as if my siblings were going to be able to comfort each other and my father. 150 miles away, I relied on E and waited for my sister to call me after they left to tell me how my dad was doing.

I also did some thinking and decided that part of the reason my dad probably was reluctant to see his kids was because he's overwhelmed and knows that they are upset too -- perhaps he didn't want to feel obligated to care for them instead of himself. So, I did one of those over-reaching things that only family can get away with. I looked up one of my dad's best friends' phone numbers, called him, and told him that my dad's father had passed away. I asked him if he'd mind looking in on my father tomorrow. B, the friend, told me that my father had been in bed with the flu (didn't know that either...) and that he'd definitely stop by to make sure everything was okay in the morning. My papa's death was not my message to deliver, but I wanted to be reassured that someone who wasn't directly involved in the sadness would be there to support my father. I knew it was the type of action that could have gotten my father frustrated with me, but I didn't care.

After they left my father, my sister called, sad but calmed. She told me that B called dad while she and my brother were visiting and that dad was touched and wondered how B knew. When I heard that, I felt relieved, because even though I wasn't there, I was able to do something to support my dad last night.

When my brother got home, he and I stayed on the phone for an hour. We talked about everything and nothing, caught up, listened to my niece sing christmas carols and made plans for the holidays. It wasn't quite the same as waiting out the storm with him in person, but it was much better than nothing.

At the end of the night, 150 miles away, I felt pretty okay about the whole thing. I was included and I helped. All of this, of course, would not be possible without the telephone. While I may prefer email for quotidian communications, there is no substitute for the human voice in emotionally charged situations. So, Antonio Meucci, Alexander Graham Bell, and all the others (?), I sincerely thank you.

December 7, 2005

Procrastination II

I am not being particularly productive on my corp and partnership tax studying today. I am officially 1/15 done. Yes, I took the time to calculate that.

But, I've finished tons of wedding stuff: working on the invitations, the wedding website, getting engagement pictures printed, plans for the tasks I must complete with the family when I'm home for the holidays, etc. Every time I get a little bored with school, I can think of just one more detail that must be taken care of.

And though I'm annoyed that I'm not getting as much done as I should, I'm elated that we decided not to get married after the bar.

No matter how disciplined I like think I am, it is clear that I do not have the discipline to execute that kind of plan.

World, welcome Aaron I. Wright to blogland.

He's an amazingly talented Musician who's studying philsophy. His music and musings make for great excuses not to study.

December 5, 2005

Wedding Expectations

Back in the working world, I once had a manager who was very fond of the phrase, "I just need to manage their expectations better." It was his catch-all. He used it to explain every failure, frustration, and problem that he encountered, be it with his superiors, his colleagues, the members of his team, customers, or even, on occasion, when referring to his wife and children.

Repetitive language annoyance aside, he's got a point. Perhaps management really is simply that one thing, in any context (which is not to say that it's easy). I say this because I'm finding that if there's one thing about the wedding that is frustrating, it's dealing with conflicts between everyone's expectations (not the least of which is my own).

When we started planning, I was operating under the assumption that since E and I are throwing the wedding, our definitions of appropriate, fun, etc, would be the controlling ones. I'm not the kind of girl who always dreamed of the perfect wedding, so I figured I would be an easy bride, the whole wedding stress thing would not be a problem, and I figured that since E & I would be the ones with the ultimate say, it would be a piece of cake to make most of the decisions. E and I have different ideas about what this whole wedding thing should/could entail, but after we compromised on no elopement in exchange for a wedding party, E's pretty much on the "whatever you want is fine, honey" plan because he was raised by a mother whose wedding mantra is, "the bride should be the princess for the day." (Talk about a lucky on the family-in-law hand.)

So, I walked into this whole thing assuming it would be easier for me than for most. I've got reasonable expectations (or so I think), and our parents are relatively hands off because we are throwing the wedding ourselves.

But, while no one explicitly disagrees with the idea that it should go according to our plan, many of our friends and family approach the wedding with their own pre-conceived ideas about how it's supposed to work. Sometimes those ideas conflict with ours and we find ourselves in a situation where we have to decide between asserting our opinion and letting it be known that we disagree and would like it to be different than the assumed position, or opting to take the path of least resistance in a desire to not offend people.

For example, I've had a few awkward conversations with people who obviously assume they are invited. We have a budget and guest limit. Unfortunately, several of our close family friends are not able to be on the invitation list and our parents have had to convey their apologies. Also, many of our day-to-day friends are not on the list. Of course, we would love for all of these people to be able to celebrate with us. But it's not feasible. And, while our parents seem to be handling their end just fine, I'm finding myself at a loss for how to manage the expectations of our friends. If I say nothing, I fear they will continue to operate under the assumption that they are invited and will have their feelings hurt when they are not.

These conversations are often over before I even have a chance to sort out how I feel. A recent one went something like this:

When is your wedding? [BT answers]
Where? [BT answers]
Oh, how wonderful. I can't wait to go. It's going to be so much fun. Where are you registered? [BT freezes like a deer in headlights]
Oh, you're probably so overwhelmed with details, don't worry about it. Macy's is nice...

While I'm frozen, I'm usually racing through a million thoughts, including: does friend really think they are going to be invited? And they just asked me where they can get a gift to make their assumption known? Isn't that simultaneously sweet and rude? (that's me bringing one of my childhood expectations into the fray, because the theme is that everyone has their own set of expectations, and the stress is where they collide.) How long have we known friend? How well do we know friend? Did we mess up, should we have invited friend instead of Parent's Cousin Carol in Wyoming? Are we going to have to interact with friend in the future? Is friend going to be very hurt by not being invited?

When I told E about the first conversation I had like this, he said he'd had a couple at work that ended with him saying, "dude, you're not invited." The other guy said, "oh, that's cool man." So the corollary to the weddings are more stressful than you think rule is that it's MUCH less stressful for guys. Guaranteed that none of his engineer friends are trying to do anything thoughtful when he efficiently lets them know that they didn't make the invitation cut.

Another place where the expectations collide is with members of the bridal party. They also have their own ideas about what their commitment should mean in terms of how much say they get in the orchestration of the event, how much it should cost, how much effort they should put forth, when they should have to arrive, whether they should have to transport themselves, and how much of their input is required or necessary. These are our closest friends. To learn that there is such a gap in our baseline assumptions of how this is going to play out is surprising. I'm finding that my closest friends and family make choices that I wouldn't have made as a bridal party member, that I don't understand, and often, my gut instinct response is to feel hurt by their actions. This is where I need to manage my own expectations better.

I'm learning that I assumed people would want to defer to my opinions on style much more than they actually do. I was looking at it from the perspective that it is our wedding and we have to look at our pictures for the rest of our lives, so we should get to decide how they will look. But, the other side of it is that the people in the bridal party need to feel included, they want to be comfortable and feel good about being in front of all of those people too, and it may not be possible for them to do so within my idea of style, or with a consistent style between all of the different expectations.

So basically, when people talk about how stressful a wedding is, I wonder if they really mean that it's stressful to manage everyone's expectations so that the day ends up being as close to as fun, celebratory, solemn, and wonderful as all the different parties would like it to be. Certainly, that's what I'm finding the most difficult. We started with the idea of eloping, or a small destination wedding. But, we had to chuck that plan for the sake of our family. And, it's been one long quest to navigate the maze of everyone's hopes and expectations ever since.

In the course all of this, I'm learning quite a bit about myself, E, our family, and friends. In particular I'm learning that some of my opinions that I assumed were shared are not. I'm also learning that some of my opinions that I thought I had previously voiced surprise even those that are closest to me. In other words, I'm learning that people who I thought knew me well know me less well than I thought, and that I also know those that I thought I knew well less well than I assumed. There's something very stressful about that. How could they not know those things about me? How could I not know those things about them? Do they have a completely different idea of who I am than who I really am, and are they not going to like the bits of me that they don't know? And why am I having feelings like this about the people with whom we have our strongest relationships?

Putting on a huge party for those closest to you to celebrate the union with the person you love is such an expression of identity, love, and life, that's its bound to come with many complications. I just had no idea how many. It's very humbling.

December 3, 2005

Rant Against ExamSoft

My school, like many law schools and many state bars, requires you to install SofTest onto a windows laptop, register it, and bring it to the exam pre-registered, if you want to take your exam on a computer.

First year, this irked me because I primarily used linux as my operating system of choice. But, back then, it wasn't really a problem, because my laptop dual booted, so I installed the software on the not-so-often used windows partition and took my exams with it. Then, one day during my second set of finals, my old laptop died. I couldn't prove it, but suspected that at least part of its death was attributable to the terrible exam software that eviscerates Windows whenever it reboots into "secure mode" and then tries to go back in and tie up the entrails after each secure mode use.

So, when I got my dream laptop, I fearfully installed the exam software. I've taken three sets of exams on it, and the exam software seemed to work okay. Not great. But not disastrous. There's always a fearful minute or 10 while all the laptops in the exam room reboot into "secure mode." We're all hoping that we won't be the one whose laptop fails to play nicely on the day of the exam. There's usually at least one person in every exam.

Really, law school is all about the little things: the nice little added fun of computer russian roullette on exam day, for example.

Recently, I upgraded to the most recent version of the softest. Since doing so, I've bluescreen twice in 24 hours. I do not think this is a coincidence. I've installed no other new drivers recently and the stop code points to:

Typically due to a bad driver, or faulty or incompatible hardware or software. Use the General Troubleshooting of STOP Messages checklist above. Technically, this error condition means that a kernel-mode process or driver tried to access a memory location to which it did not have permission, or at a kernel Interrupt ReQuest Level (IRQL) that was too high. (A kernel-mode process can access only other processes that have an IRQL lower than, or equal to, its own.)

I know that softest does its job by sloppily replacing a bunch of REALLY important windows system files with its own versions. Additionally, it would not surprise me if the act of installing and running Softtest breached the Windows license that most of us have on our laptops. If so, the irony of many state Bars and law schools requiring students and would-be lawyers to commit copyright infringement in order to take an exam is too precious.

Honestly, I'm not too upset about the forced possible copyright infringement. I'm sure I accidentally breach the terms of my Windows license on accident all the time -- that thing is pretty limiting, and possibly not enforceable in all aspects, but that's another discussion entirely (not to mention that who wants to sue microsoft?).

I am upset that in order to take exams on a computer, I have to permit my computer to be injured. But, because I'd hate hand-writing for 4 hours (I'm not even certain I could do it, at this point) I do it. I'm mainly frustrated because I'm certain that the educational and bar administrators who contract with Examsoft have no idea to what they are subjecting their students' and bar-exam-takers' computers. This latest rash of blue-screens has me reconsidering my decision -- perhaps I should just remove the software and hand-write. I'd hate to lose an outline during the study period -- perhaps I'd hate the loss more than handwriting my exams? Who knows.

I'm also offended for people like Transmogriflaw who have to keep a separate "exam computer" just for the privilege of taking exams on a computer (although, if I had a junker, I'd consider it, just to keep softtest away from my computer).

While I understand the concerns about cheating, I have to assume there is an easier way to solve this problem in software at the application level (for example by disabling cut and paste from external sources? keeping a timer of when the app is in the foreground and maximized? Grabbing a copy of the message queue during the entire time the application is running and attaching it to the file when the exam is saved?). Add a good application level solution with warning to people that they will be caught, they are on their honor to report anyone they see in a different application, etc. etc. and you've got a halfway decent, cheaper, and less invidious solution. Also, open-internet exams would be a cinch... enable cut-and-paste and don't attach the log file or check the message queue.

[/rant concluded]

December 2, 2005

Foreshadowing: it's not just for movies

At mile 2 of my run today, the kid in front of me flew over his handlebars and caught himself on the pavement with his hands in a painful-looking pushup. He made an odd "oouuuffff" as he flew. It was quite a spectacle.

4.89 miles later, I made the same noise and found myself on the sidewalk in roughly the same odd pushup-like position. Bruised knee. Skinned palms. I limped away.

I couldn't see myself, but I'm pretty sure that I put on the better show.

I mean, come on, I'm a lady, pushing thirty, jogging slowly through a residential neighborhood in an oversized sweatshirt and baggy pants. Imagine if I tripped and bailed on the sidewalk in front of your house, flying forward while shooting, "ooufff" before I stood up and limped away.

I would have laughed at me...

December 1, 2005

Foot-in-mouth disease

BT: Ooohhh... I have a ton of lexis points. Maybe I'll get the coach purse. I mean I wouldn't normally buy one, that's just appalling (yes, I did actually use this word), but I'll take one for free.

H: Like this one? [holds up her purse]

BT: Errr....

I could try to spend multiple paragraphs explaining how I'm just generally opposed to paying a premium for the privilege of advertising for a brand, etc. etc. But, it'll probably just come out wrong like it did earlier today.

Gotta love it when you're in finals study mode and none of your words, whether on the computer screen or out of your mouth, are successfully communicating what you mean.


Also, I'm about 2 days behind on my study schedule thanks to underestimating my final paper for ethics (1 unit's worth of credit, jeez...) and the stupid journal article.

Love finals. Just love 'em.