Thursday, April 29, 2010

In the Matter of S-G-

S.G., potential ghostwriter of 9th Circuit judicial opinions, is sending emails to her fellow HLS friends just to clarify that "hey! you guys! i'm not as NOT-RACIST as i came across at dinner! really! i am absolutely NOT convinced that 100 black babies would be as smart as 100 white babies if they all grew up together on Space Mountain."

Okay, okay. That's not exactly what she said. I mean, she didn't say "black," she said "African-American"! But, seriously, here's part of it:

"African Americans tend to have darker skin. Irish people are more likely to have red hair. (Now on to the more controversial:) Women tend to perform less well in math due at least in part to prenatal levels of testosterone, which also account for variations in mathematics performance within genders.

This suggests to me that at least some part of intelligence is genetic, just like identical twins raised apart tend to have very similar IQs and just like I think my babies will be geniuses and beautiful individuals whether I raise them or give them to an orphanage in Nigeria. I don’t think it is that controversial of an opinion to say I think it is at least possible that African Americans are less intelligent on a genetic level, and I didn’t mean to shy away from that opinion at dinner."

To read the whole thing, (click here.)

This woman is on Harvard Law Review and has a Judicial Clerkship in the 9th Circuit. And I'm not saying that a private e-mail she sent to her friends should disqualify her from those positions. It happens, as often does, that her offensive emails landed on a pair of eyes that didn't like what they saw, and someone took it upon him or herself to share what they read. The point... ahem

THE POINT is that there are so many people, so many very intellectually capable, white bright people, that go to law school and remain so IGNORANT of how basic concepts like ethnocentricty and socioeconomic status work. And so many of these people, sadly, never become AWARE... because you just don't need to know about racism* or privilege to do well in law school. You don't.

And considering the legal system is so deeply entrenched in privilege and social problems, that's just effing sad.

And by the way... a shout out to Above the Law. Because wow. This guy is for serious? Really?? Don't get me started on the commentary by America's next generation of Hot Shot Lawyers. (Sample: "Why is it fine to say that most African-Americans have better sprint times and are quicker, due to a higher proportion of Type II muscle fibers, and have bigger junk (come on, does anyone doubt this), yet it's not fine to acknowledge what decades of research have shown over and over again regarding African-Americans' IQs?")

* Or sexism or ableism or genderism or classism or any of the other -isms that Lat over at ATL think are so darn unhelpful to talk about in an academic debate

ETA: I took out the (publicly available) name of the person who wrote the email because I wish to focus on the culture of law schools, not the individual whose remarks sparked this particular controversy.

So. Turns out an 8 hour take home...

...not that bad! Wow, I didn't expect those would be the next words on this blog.

I'm dreading Immigration on Friday, but that's only because I did about 0.5% of the required reading. (In all fairness, he required over 1000 pages of reading. So that's, what, 5 pages? Eesh.) It should be the opposite of today's Corps: short and very, very painful. Oh well, at least I speak Spanish...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bad Law Student, be a Good Law Student

Okay, maybe one day I'll come back to finish my last post. But life, eh? Especially life in the lead-up to finals.

I'm sitting on the floor of the living room (from this blog, you'd think that's where I spend all my time), working on my Corporations outline. Because I'm one of those Bad Law Students who doesn't have their outline finished the day before the exam. I'm trying to ignore the voice in my head, taunting, "If you don't know it by now, you might as well forget it." Because I didn't know it by the day before my exams the last few semesters either, and I did okay.

I learned some major lessons this semester though. This Spring 2L year has been nothing like my other semesters, and not in a good way. I could blame it on my new laptop (I always handwrote before). I could blame it on my psychiatrist who basically laughed in my face at the beginning of the semester when I expressed concern about having ADD. I could blame it on the awesome winter break I had and the Xmas gift of Super Mario Wii, both of which were hard to put down. How about "all of the above"?

Whatever the case, when I sat down to finally get serious with my casebooks and *really* study for finals, I found exactly what I knew I was going to find all along. I'd avoided it but the day had finally come. Yes, when I cracked open Law of Agency and Corporations, this is what I found: Nothing. Blindingly white pages. Opening the file that supposedly contained my notes? Gobbledeegook. What?! What have I been doing all semester?!

Maybe I was expecting that somebody would see me frittering my time away and say, "hey, JE, you really need to get serious. You're going to be TESTED on all this stuff." Maybe I secretly thought, "The only thing that can wake me from this trance is to fall flat on my face." Maybe I believed that it didn't matter how hard I worked or didn't work, the grades would be random anyway.

I want to make a set of resolutions to myself for next semester. I've got a summer to refresh and recharge. I want to go back to being the hard-working, earnest student I was before this semester. I want to believe that I can get back my law school mojo. I don't want to carry around my old high school "too cool to study, too smart to fail" attitude, but I don't want to knock my teeth out on the concrete in order to rid myself of that mentality.

I may or may not be able to regain my Good Law Student badge, but if I even want a shot, here's what I must do next semester:

1. Throw out all my old highlighters with varying amounts of ink.
2. Buy a brand new pack - 6 colors: blue, yellow, pink, green, orange, purple.
3. Buy a bunch of pens with good ink flow.
4. Label the notebooks you bought this past semester and never used - put the name of one class on each.
5. Buy all your books before class starts.
6. Hand write your notes every day.
7. Don't bring your laptop to school.
8. If you have your laptop at school for some reason, activate Freedom for the entire time you plan to be on campus.
9. Highlight while you read.

Well. That's about it. Now back to cobbling together an outline for Corps before my 8-hour take home exam tomorrow. Best of luck to all youse students out there mucking your way through your own finals hell!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Elephants in tiny firetrap apartments

Scene: After dinner on a weeknight. I am laying on the floor in our living room. T is on the couch. The elephant is chilling in my grandma's green chair. We have decided to Talk About It.
It seemed (has seemed for a while now) like one of those issues that we just don't see the same way. I feel completely misunderstood. He feels villanized. The elephant is starting to actually believe that noone sees him. We go round and round and always end up more miserable than we began. How do we change this dynamic?

As T says, we're a good team. We haven't shied away from making some big, tough, decisions in the past. There have been times of sacrifice for both of us. Times when the choice was to either compromise on something big, or say goodbye. Together we've defeated some pretty scary monsters, so why is this pesky, gentle (kind of cute) elephant so hard to get rid of?

Back to the scene. I've made the opening volley and T has returned:

JE: "So, do you want to Talk About It?"
T: "Sure. Let's do it."
JE: "What happened?"
T: "I just feel..." and then we're off.

T and I have complementary strengths. My strength is in planning, seeing the big picture, being unfazed by the red tape and fearlessly charging ahead. I've got an "it'll all work out...and if it doesn't, we'll deal" attitude. That's what allowed me to travel the Americas while I was madly in love with a sophmore in college. It's what put me back in school at 27, the time when (I always thought) you're supposed to be On Your Way, not Making a Major Detour. I'm a leaper.

T's strength is in the details. He knows that if you leave the house without your tickets, you're not getting into the dance. While I'm dreaming up how we're going to use our fat tax refund to achieve our financial goals, he's the one actually filing the taxes. He's been a successful small business owner for over 7 years - and that requires a lot of organization and meticulousness. If he didn't have his act together, his vendors wouldn't get paid, his customers wouldn't get their orders and what little we have would probably belong to the government. T is a builder.

Of course, both of our strengths come with downsides that have the potential to be our fatal flaws. They're obvious, right? I forget to look before I leap. (Or read the sign before I park... hence many $40 parking tickets.) T sometimes waits too long to leap. (Or can't decide whether to take a Friday off work... hence paying last-minute prices on a ticket to Denver.) And since we've been doing this for a while now, it's pretty easy for me to spot T's weaknesses, and for him to spot mine. It's maybe a little harder for us to spot our own.

So we've got this elephant we need to get out of the room. And T wants to take its measurements and think about whether the downstairs neighbors are going to be disturbed by the sound of a 2-ton animal clomping around our apartment. And I'm all, "We gotta get this thing out, NOW!" Ready to shove the damn thing through the window, even though he won't fit and would fall three stories to the concrete, hurt himself and most likely take out the front wall to our apartment in the process. T reminds me that we don't HATE this elephant, we want to be gentle, plus we need to recover our security deposit. And I remind him that a giant elephant in the middle of the room makes it hard to see the TV, not to mention our lease says we're only allowed one (1) animal in the apartment.

(to be continued... I'm late for my last class of 2L year)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The music in the air

Really I want to talk about problem-solving and how T & I see things differently, and how I am learning to reconceptualize my approach to Big Life Decisions. But, see, it's 11:15 and I haven't even cracked open the Corporations case book that I took off work at noon to start outlining.

Um. Yeah.

So instead, I will mention, briefly, a beautiful little observation I made on my walk home from work this afternoon. The thing I like about living in the Big City is the music that randomly fills the air. And when I say "randomly" "fills the air," I really mean it. You can be walking along a city block one minute, turn a corner and suddenly feel like you're in a movie complete with soundtrack.

Obviously, this happened to me today or I wouldn't be writing about it. I was crossing the main street that cuts divides the city in two, when all of a sudden this beautiful jazz music was floating in the air. This baffled me, as it seemed to be the exact location where earlier this past winter, Christmas music inexplicably eminated from the tops of the tall buildings lining the block. Where was this random music coming from?

As surreal as it was, I just kind of accepted it because here in Big City, it's a pretty common occurence. I step outside my house, and there are church bells ringing beautiful drawn-out melodies. Everywhere I go, the cars keep me up to date on the latest hip-hop. Even though I'm not in NYC, I could sing the words to "Empire State of Mind" before I'd ever listened to it on the radio. Don't get me started on Nicki Minaj.

My favorite random music is at the train station by the law school. This particular station is underground, designed like a giant tunnel and has two express tracks whose trains whizz by instead of stopping. It gets very VERY loud. And when I take the train in the late afternoon, it's packed with high schoolers, law students and the usual riff-raff. So on top of loud, it's uncomfortable. And smelly. The train stations here are always smelly.

It's always during this least pleasant part of the day that some mysterious person (working the token booth, I assume) pipes classical music into the waiting platform. Are you even allowed to play music on the train platform? Do these stations even have speakers? Where does it come from? No idea. But it is the most soothing, calming and welcomed classical music I have ever heard. When that music is playing, the trains flying by aren't quite so loud. The masses of bodies aren't quite so massive. The wait isn't quite so long. The ubiquitous puddles on the ground look less like urine. And so forth.

And that is what I appreciated today about the place I chose to go to law school. Because even if it's smelly, it's rude and it doesn't take care of its things, this Big City has its own kind of charm.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A post not worth reading

Boring law school update: I finished my PR exam, my mock trial and the final paper for my serial writing course. Three "regular" (if you count an 8-hour take home exam regular) finals left and this I can finally chuck this semester into the wastebin, where I've been pretending it's been all along.

Aside from that, I've just been thanking my lucky stars that I snagged a man who knows how to communicate, doesn't hold it against me or shut down when I start to cry, tells me exactly why he's mad at me and is willing to spend 2 hours talking out a meltdown with me the next day.

Huh. "Meltdown." If I did a search for that word in my blog, I'd be willing to bet that it's come up every finals season so far. Should've seen it coming from a mile away.

What else? What else? I'm thinking about post-graduation possibilities. I'm thinking about immigration and whether this is something I'll want to practice. Pros include a high potential of getting paying work right out of school, maybe being able to start my own practice even, and really being able to help people in the community I had in mind when I left for law school. Cons include the very real possibility that it is drugery and not exciting work. I'm not sure. Haven't started my summer internship, but I suspect the pressure will be on before the end of the summer to figure out what exactly I want to do. Suckers. Nobody puts JE in a corner!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Crawling out of the hole

Ok, ok. I feel better now. Trial's over. We only prevailed on one of our four counts, if you go by the jury's verdict. But if you go by how badly I owned my cross-examination of the defense's star witness, I'd say we kicked royal behind. :P I love cross-examining. I got good feedback on my closing too, though I caught myself vouching a couple of times, which is a big no-no according to my last semester trial ad professor.

At the end of the trial, as we were packing up to head to the bar, the Judge asked me to hang back a second. "Ms. JE, can I speak with you privately a moment?" It took me a little while to figure out how to reach him, on account of we were in an Article III courtroom, and I still don't understand how the Judge gets to his bench.

Anyway, I eventually figure out where the secret door in the wood panel wall was located. So I slipped back stage, where the Judge in his black robes told me I should audition for Trial Team. He thinks I have skillz and need to build on them. I didn't get into it with him how I was brutally rejected this past fall. I was too flattered that he was going to give my name to the Team coordinators as one of his recommendations. That's a win in my book!

Now I am done with two of my six classes, and when I get this final paper in on Tuesday, I'll be halfway there. I just ran into 3L at the coffee shop where I'm writing this, and she said, "If you think you're doing the bare minimum now, just wait. Next year, you'll be taking slacking to a new level." Somehow, that's comforting to me. Haha.

With my new prescription filled (and 6 refills, to boot!), warm days, a few classes under my best and the weekend ahead of me, things are feeling slightly better round these parts.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The petulant child & the sulking casebooks

You can't make me. Nobody can make me.

That's what the small child in my head seems to be pouting loudly at every responsibility thrown my way, over and over throughout the day. I swear the only reason I made it to class on time this morning is because I thought I was going a half-hour late.

Right now I am just so resentful of law school and all the endless nagging responsibilities it entails. "Write me!" demands the paper due on Tuesday. "Make me clever!" comes the cajoling voice of my cross-examination for tomorrow's mock trial. "Hey, don't forget about us over here," my dusty old casebooks cry from the corner of the living room, where they've gone untouched for days upon days (weeks?). Ugh. Leave me ALONE!

I determined that there are only two times I really don't feel stressed out or annoyed at the albatross necklace that is law school: 1) When I'm at work, where I feel like I'm actually producing actual product and being clever and there's a point to all of what I'm doing. 2) When I'm defending a motion or doing a cross examination for my trial ad class. (Not to be confused with preparing for trial ad class, which I don't do.) These are the times I feel pleased with myself. Otherwise, I'm just really effing annoyed or burying my head in the sand with Super Mario Wii, in which I've worked my way up to Level 7 of the Star World.

I'm mad at law school, and I wish law school would just get mad at me back and decide that I'm not worth it, and leave me alone. Grr.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Oh, Jon Arbuckle

Garfield Minus Garfield

Today, I finally refilled my Prozac prescription. While I was at it, I also bought myself a little mini-notebook and a 20-pack of blue ballpoint pens. I slept through my first class today and had no excuse for it, except that I couldn't drag my ass off the couch. I haven't had that bad of a mental health day in a long time. Funny, then, that filling my prescription is like an automatic "feel good" ticket. Without even popping the pill, I already feel better. It's the whole empowerment thing, I think. Knowing I'm taking care of myself.

I don't usually feel this bad after going off of my medication. I think it's a combination of the gap in medication, PMS, the encroaching finals season, law school burnout, my parents' health problems and panic over my upcoming 29th birthday. Anyway, one foot in front of the other.

(I am trying to ignore the little voice in my head that says I shouldn't bother to blog, because I am just coming across as whiny.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

fast and loose

is how i do my takehome finals. T-minus 2 hours 16 minutes until it's due, and I'm about 60% done. Law school just don't seem to matter that much, you know?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Los caminos de la vida

As I was driving up to campus to pick up my Professional Responsibility exam (leave it to a 4-day take-home final to get me back on the blog), I was blasting some old CDs I'd re-discovered in the side pocket of T's car. There was this vallenato CD, a bootleg mix that I'd bought at a flea market back in North Carolina. So I'm driving up to school, blasting this accordeon pop and thinking about Colombia and the first time I heard vallenato, 20 years old sitting on the stoop of the guard station while my new friend Jose, the watchman at my uncle's neighborhood, stood sweating in the equatorial heat as he told me about growing up on la Costa.

Mis padres fallecieron, he said. My parents fallecieron.

Que quiere decir "fallecer"? I asked. What does fallecer mean?

Fallecieron. Se murieron. They died. They're dead.

I'll never forget the word fallecer. To pass away.

After that first trip to Colombia, we wrote a couple of times. He sent me a bracelet in a package I picked up from the post office on my way out of town over the Fall Break of my senior year of college, as I was driving to the home of my new friend and major crush, T. I was picking up T so we could take a road trip to Canada. I remember that package and that letter sitting there on the passenger seat. I showed it to T, but I couldn't really explain what it meant to me. How profoundly that visit to Colombia had affected me, what it was like to sit in the heat with that young man that my uncle clearly saw as beneath my friendship, as if I were the princess in some fairy tale. I couldn't convey the story I'd heard about the violence he'd witnessed on the coast, and why he joined the army, and how he hoped to become a computer technician one day.

So I put the package aside. By the time we got back from Canada, I was head over heels in love with T. I never got around to writing back Jose. Life moved on.

Then, two years later, I was back in Colombia, and my uncle was driving me back to his home in the valley. I was giddy with excitement. We pulled up, and the man in the dark blue uniform with long polyester pants in the perpetual sun stepped up the car and greeted my uncle, "Buenos, Don Federico."

Joseeee I shouted. And his eyes grew wide as saucers.

That visit, we chatted again, and he showed me pictures of his little baby girl. A little baby daughter who lived in the capital with her mom. He told me how he'd go visit them sometimes, but he still worked the 12-hour shifts, 6 days a week, and I didn't really ask questions about it because I didn't want to pry. He told me how he'd pissed off one of my uncle's friends, who drove up in his military car for one of my uncle's parties, practically ran Jose over and swore at him to be more careful. Something like that. And Jose made some smart ass comment, the kind that a poor kid from the coast shouldn't make to a military man trained in the U.S.A. His eyes grew dark when he told that story. But light again when I commented on one of the Vallenato songs on the radio, told him I could sing it word for word.

At the end of that trip, I went home to start my life after college in earnest. I didn't go back to Colombia again for another two and a half years, at a moment of crisis after T had graduated and we were living together for the first time. My uncle had moved to a different town. I was sad I wouldn't get to go to the old place, but by that time I knew Jose was up in the capital and a lot had changed anyway. I was resentful that I had to share my uncle with all his new wife's family over the holidays. I wanted him and his wife to myself, and instead I got lessons from one of his new nieces, a teenager, about how to cut chicken off the bone properly with a knife and fork. They all went out dancing one night, and I stayed in. I wish I'd gone.

Before that trip was over, as I was staying in the capital with my dad's cousins, an older couple, Jose called me. We agreed to meet up for a drink, and he came by my aunt's house to pick me up right after work. He was dressed in a suit and tie, part of his new job as head of security personnel at a company in the city. I'd told my uncle about this new development in Jose's life while I was visiting him. "Pumpkin," he said, "Don't be naive. People like Jose don't get management-level jobs. He's just pulling your leg." I was so mad at him for saying that, even though I knew it was just part of the mentality of his culture. When Jose came and met my aunt and uncle, and they were charmed, I felt vindicated. We went out for a drink and he invited me to come to his part of the city to meet his family - he and his wife had recently had another baby, a boy, Diego. Despite my genuine interest and affection for him and his family, I heard my uncle's words in my head, felt nervous and decided against leaving for an unfamiliar part of the city. He dropped me off, we all posed for pictures, and I flew out the next day.

I've been back to Colombia once since then. It was last summer. I was blogging on here by then. My uncle died suddenly, completely out of the blue. He had, in fact, passed away while I was on my flight to see him in the hospital where he was being treated in the capital. Fallecio. My new internship was just starting, and I didn't have time to stay for anything but the funeral. I didn't see Jose, or even let him know I was coming into the city.

Recently, though, I was on Facebook and he chatted me to say hello. We caught up a bit. He said he was sad, something to do with love. He told me he's been thinking of trying to get up to Canada. Asked me what I knew about it. He's heard there are fewer people there than in the U.S. and that they are more welcoming to immigrants there. He wants to make a better life for his kids. We joked about how we're both getting older. His daughter, he said, counts his gray hairs every morning. I told him I still listen to vallenato.

I was driving to school the other day to pick up my take-home exam, listening to this excellent bootleg vallenato mix CD, remembering Jose, Colombia, my uncle, who I used to be 8 years ago... 6, 3, 1 year ago. Life flies by, doesn't it?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Greetings, Earthling.

I can't write much on this blog these days because all the thoughts and things passing through my mind are the kind that I prefer not to blog about publicly. I am still alive.