Sunday, September 30, 2007


Doing law school readings makes me really sleepy and sadly sleeping doesn't get the reading done. I really do often feel like the book is leaching life energy from me, thought that thought probably doesn't help me much in getting the work done (unless the books suck all the life out of me and I become some sort of cool zombie lawyer immune to the books effects, which would be cool, but I digress). So far, I think the most dangerous aspect of law school is just the guilt. The guilt that whatever it is you are doing you should be doing work for law school instead. There is always something you could be doing. It is like being constantly nagged. What is really tricky is even though you think the person doing the nagging is crazy, they could be right so you still have to listen and try and spend as much time with the books and deciphering their arcane meaning.

What is irritating is that grades are really the measure of all things in law school. Basically firm only look at the top 10% of students from non-top ten schools (and if you want to transfer they are looking for people in the top 10%). The problem is no one tells you how to get these "grades." The professors can't because becoming a professor is also based on how you do in law school so pretty much by their very nature law professors never had trouble getting good grades. So at this point I am working on not failing.

Also, my mom, the source of encouragement that she is, sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal that prominently featured a graduate of Columbia who had gone on to Brooklyn Law only to graduate with pretty bad job prospects and paying 60% of his income for his student loans alone. Don't think that will be me, but still not encouraging.

Anyway, I have to go tomorrow and have my first memo ripped to shreds. The year so far is just a bit like being told again and again that you know nothing about the law, I tend to agree with them which they don't like toj much, but so far I have nothing to put in the blank space of the response they really want: No, I do...[some brilliant insight about the law].

Friday, September 28, 2007

Hang Man

My sleep schedule is very messed up. For a couple days this week I have slept about three hours the entire day, and on other days I haven't been unable to sleep for more than an hour at night, but am ready to pass out by my last class. I am sure there is any easy way to fix this, like making myself stay up until it is a normal time to go to sleep, but sometimes that involves staying awake for another twenty hours when I am already ready to pass out so it is a bit tricky.

So law school, yes. Pretty much everyone here will freely acknowledge that they know nothing. We are well aware that we pale in comparison to the professors' knowledge, yet as a result of the fabled Socratic method we are the ones that have to answer questions when we go into class. Most of my professors don't lecture, they mainly just ask questions about the readings expressing dissatisfaction with the many attempts at answers frightened 1Ls attempt to offer them as sacrifices of appeasement. To be honest, I don't really mind that the professors don't like our answers, mainly because well, we don't know what we are talking about. What I mind is that they never answer the questions, so all we have at the end are the various shards of answers that failed to please.

It is perhaps the most frustrating in my civil law class where the professor usually tells us she is looking for one specific word and proceeds to call on people for the next ten minutes or so to get words that are completely different. These are moments when I think a game of hang man would be much more efficient. We would guess letters and even if they were wrong we would have the spectrum narrowed by multiple possibilities. Eventually we would figure out the word and with each guess we would be a little bit closer. At some point though in the real world we give up, which does not really matter though since guessing does not have to be voluntary. Then the guesses become really interesting. The fun thing is by then we are all pretty much convinced that the word must be pretty advanced legalese or at least in latin, and then it ends up being something like "status." By guessing, we have actually become dumber apparently. Sometimes though we never get the actual word and after being told there is one the professor lowers his or her standards and accepts a rambling paragraph which if anything is comparatively less wrong as opposed to right. Fun.

Here are some picture from this morning when I couldn't sleep and decided to go for a walk:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Who cares about Iran?

Iranian President Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia this week. This week is the world leaders forum, when Columbia tries to net visiting dignitaries while they were in New York. They tried to get Ahmadinejad last year, but he confirmed too late and they couldn't set up the security. Well they got him this year. The whole event was a huge controversy as Ahmadinejad is fond of making comment, no international conferences dedicated to, thing like the holocaust not having happened (oh sorry, "needing more research"). Loads of protests (from both sides of the political spectrum). Anyway, after weeks of defending inviting Ahmadinejad and his right to free speech, Columbia's president introduced him as a "petty and cruel dictator." Ahmadinejad didn't quite agree and went on to make some choice remarks about their being no homosexuals in Iran (hint: there are).

The whole event got a lot of media coverage and Bollinger was mentioned on the cover of every paper I saw the next day. The whole event has also greatly boosted Bollinger's popularity, who to my knowledge has never been popular among either students or faculty. Eh. Not quite sure how I feel about the whole event. It certainly was not particularly nice to invite Ahmadinejad and then insult him before speaking. I think more than anything I don't really see the point. Ahmadinejad has some fairly cracked out views about Jews, homosexuals, women, well most topics really (my favorite involves his days as Mayor of Tehran when he had billboards of David Beckham shaving banned and encouraged/required people to grow beards), but there are also a lot of people in Iran that agree with his crazy positions. Perhaps it is worth challenging him on those positions, but it won't change his stances, it only makes the Americans who probably would not like any Iranian president feel like he got what he deserved. Also, and I am no expert on Iranian politics, it seems to me that the President of Iran does not have anywhere near as much power as we give him credit for. There is a whole conservative layer of government above the president (let us not forget the ayatollah). Still the more sensationalist American newspapers had a field day with the whole thing playing on some populist issues, which is rather ironic as Ahmadinejad has always been a pretty populist Iran.

Also the new president of Turkmenistan came to visit. Nobody asked him about what he will do with golden statues of Turkmenistan's last dictator or with all of things he renamed after family members an inanimate objects he was fond of (including his autobiography which I am pretty sure has its own month, but at the very least is what the test for university admission is based on).

Also he can't smile.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Birthday Party

After a week all of my birthday hijinx have come and gone after celebrating on Saturday night with friends. It is sort on annoying that after 21 there isn't really anything special you get to do when you get older (except for rent a car in some places, but that really isn't too exciting). it was really nice to see people and I was in full traditional Ukrainian attire. The host thing is a bit weird as you don't really have much time to spend with any one group of people. Fewer people showed up than last year, but I suppose that is to be expected with me having been abroad the past year and me inadvertently competing with the Jewish holidays. Still it was very nice with some people from High School, College, Austria, and Law School so I also felt like most of the key parts of my life were represented.

Other than that I am still figuring law school out. It is a wee bit frustrating that you know you know next to something and really hope the professor will teach you something and most classes turn into giant guessing sessions (honestly I think most of the professors after shooting about twenty students' responses to their questions down lower their standards and will accepts pretty much any old answer). Still I am hoping to make it to Russian arctic law and nuclear law one day.

* The image above is a t-shirt I am going to buy and wear to my Constitutional law final. If you are a little slow like me you not have gotten it at first, which makes it all the more wonderful later: the second amendment is the right to "bear arms." I rather like this interpretation of that right.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Another birthday has come and gone. It wasn't even one of the fun ones where you get to legally do things you have long had the opportunity to do if you wanted to anyways. Still for me my birthday stretches pretty much a week from when I celebrated it with my parents a couple of days ago till a week later when I finally have my party with my friends (where the creepy guy told me if I bring enough people I drink for free, huzzah!).

Really not so eventful so far. My parents felt like sharing the story this year about how my mom's water broke when she was pregnant with me and they had to go look for diapers (my mom pointing out that they could just use the other ones for me later anyway). Ah, family bonding.

Not much more to say really than the cake in the picture above is made of foam. Doesn't it still look sort of tasty though?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Back in New York

So I have been back in New York for a few weeks now. It has been really great to see some familiar faces and spend some time with my family, but at the same time there has been so much new stuff going on that it doesn't quite feel like a homecoming. Where after my other stints abroad I always had Columbia to come back to, I am now in a different part of the city, living with different people, and studying something new. A lot of those things are really positive and being closer to down town Manhattan is great, but at the same time it adds to a general feeling of insecurity as I try and figure out where I sit with things. As much as I feel more at home in New York than anywhere else, I have realized over the past several weeks that this is more of a new beginning than a continuation from where I left off last. I still have all of my college friends and am extremely thankful for that, but at the same time I am spending most of my time with an entirely new group of people and don't really run into people from college unless we make plans (though I do run into lots of people from jr. High School apparently). It is sort of the same with my studies, I do have some experience with studying law having taken a number of courses on European and international law while in Vienna, but I have no experience with American law, which is what I will be spending all of this year doing.

So it is a new beginning. Did I mention I don't like beginnings? I like knowing where I stand with people, what I am good at, what I can expect. With languages I always hated the elementary classes. Preschool, however, I remember fondly. Anyway, that's about it so far. Mainly a lot of confusion and bright lights.