Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 31, 2009 in Technology
Sorry for the abrupt and only partially-explained disappearance over the last couple days. I’m actually the guy in charge of that statewide student advocacy group mentioned in Friday night’s post, so any time they have a business meeting I usually go without sleep the day before making sure everything is totally prepared, stay in a very stoic über-focued “ASG mode” shepherding legislation and other initiatives through the end of business on Saturday night, then party with everyone after it’s over, go to bed late, and drive home the next day. That quasi-ritual gets slightly more extreme when things go really really really well and I get everything I want done (as happened this weekend), so the plan to post something on Sunday never materialized.
The upside? Not only do I have more stuff to write about for the rest of this week, but my absence has helped fix the disproportionate traffic stats on my server logs
My apologies if you were expecting something more significant It’s been agitating me for weeks that such a high percentage of our August traffic was showing up as MacOS X 10.5.8 / Safari just because I was the only visitor here when the blog got started. Since I’m no longer in the CSC game I don’t bother trying to do “graceful degradation” of stylesheets to accommodate the majority browser(s), but it’s still nice to know that the high volume of Mac visits was partially an anomaly (though there are still quite a few non-me Mac users as well as Windows Safari folks stopping by).
In a minor bit of law-related news before I devote the rest of my night to Contracts reading, a couple folks asked how my campaign for SBA Representative was going (and thanks to Evan Schaeffer at the Legal Underground for including the post in his Weekly Law School Roundup!). Our “platforms” were due to the SBA folks today by 3pm and are now available online for the Class of 2012 to review. I put “platform” in quotes because we’re actually supposed to put it in the form of a letter, which runs counter to everything I’ve ever learned as a student politician. If you’re bored and want to see how awkward a platform in paragraph format looks, feel free to check out a PDF copy of my letter. Basically I’m hanging my hat on getting earlier refunds for everyone, and praying I can overcome my general distaste for pandering for votes to introduce myself to the other class sections tomorrow and Wednesday.
Also missed both of my classes today, ironically in both instances as a result of dealing with government agencies (State Motor Pool and the Internal Revenue Service, respectively). If I’m in a sufficiently salty mood later in the week I’ll rant about one or both of those great bastions of government efficiency (</sarcasm>).
Finally, installed Snow Leopard on my laptop last night. Have to confess to being disappointed so far, largely because of the things it breaks (Little Snitch), bugs it creates (had to create a new Location in Network preferences to properly use NCCU’s wifi), and UI improvements that don’t really improve anything (the new Dock context menu background sucks IMO). Hopefully I’ll be more impressed as time goes on.
That’s it for tonight — off to study Contracts! Thanks for sticking around through the hiatus and reading this far through the post! Have a great night!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 29, 2009 in Student Government
Not much to post today or tomorrow most likely — I’m currently at UNC Wilmington for the first business meeting of the UNC Association of Student Governments.
And despite scheduling this meeting almost 6 whole months in advance, it still managed to rain on the meeting day. At least the hurricane stayed away so we don’t have to evacuate
A return to quasi-meaningful posting will take place at some point before the weekend is over. Until then have a great night everybody
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 27, 2009 in Randomness
It’s probably a good thing that RSS readers play such a big role in the traffic to law:/dev/null, because this whole plan to consistently write earlier in the day has been pretty hit-or-miss (with slightly more miss than hit).
I actually had plans for an entry last night, but I ended up staying up late celebrating with friends — one of my former protégés in the NC State Student Senate, a mere sophomore, got elected President Pro Tempore last night over seasoned opposition (congratulations again Jackie! :D). So I cut short reading my Contracts cases to head to Raleigh and meet her and other folks at the Carolina Ale House for food and drinks, and didn’t make it back to Durham until around 1am or so.
Then after classes today I headed back to Raleigh to knock out my Physical Fitness Test for the United States Marine Corps (joining the JAG after law school) — don’t think I’ve ever been more physically drained since I moved to North Carolina over a decade ago. I’ve let myself turn into a pudge-ball over the last 2 years and have a lot of work to do before Officer Candidate School next summer.
A brief nap, dinner, and some Torts readings later, and here I am realizing I forgot whatever my earlier poignant entry was going to be, so instead you get random snippets on miscellaneous miscellany
- I announced to the class that I’m running for one of the SBA representative positions for the Class of 2012. Almost got thrown off my game by a young lady I’ll call Madame Prosecutor, who called me out right after I tested the microphone and goes “Mr. Tdot, are you running for office?” It made me smile… but then broke my concentration on my speech so I could make 110% sure I remembered her name and figured out how to incorporate her commentary into my own. I tend to get crazy nervous when speaking to a large crowd, and that brief lapse in focus made me acutely aware of how large the room looks from being up front. Not sure anyone noticed it though, because I even got some pity applause when it was over
- Refunds tomorrow! (hopefully) I need $$. And I’m fairly certain I’m going to make getting refunds sooner the central platform plank of my campaign, because I’ve basically leveraged my position with that non-profit group I work with to start a conversation with our Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer on how to make it happen.
- And Snow Leopard gets released tomorrow too. It’s like Christmas in August
- First graded assignment turned out pretty well, so the Professor is actually letting us skip Friday class if we want. If sleeping in is the reward for good grades, I’ll be a 4.0 student by the end of the year
- Still enjoying the people in law school too. No matter how monotonous the material in any class gets, all of us cut up in the back of the room. Folks are getting more comfortable with each other too. Even though we’ve got some clear cliques already, people actively talk to the folks in the other groups. Still haven’t found study partners of my own though because I’m still trying to shake the K-12+college habit of studying on my own. Hopefully I’ll get that fixed soon.
- First business meeting of the UNC Association of Student Governments starts tomorrow night at UNC Wilmington. There’s a hurricane off the coast of North Carolina (naturally), but I’m still going to have fun
- We’re officially on the radar of spammers as of about 48 hours ago. I wasn’t running Akismet originally, but after logging in to find two dozen comments on “crack smokin’ grannies” and other various topics that can’t be mentioned on a quasi-family-friendly blog, I went ahead and got a WordPress API key and turned it on. I’m still amazed people actually spend so much time in their day writing scripts to discover spam-able blogs and then carpet bomb their comments sections…
That’s it for tonight, off to wrap up the Torts readings and head to bed. Have a great night everybody!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 26, 2009 in Randomness
… or the law school equivalent at least
Filing opened yesterday for class officer positions (President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer) as well as 2 spots for Class of 2012 representatives to the Student Bar Association, the law school’s Student Government. The interest meeting was pretty packed in my (admittedly uneducated) opinion, considering we’re all 1Ls and supposedly going to be short on time to do anything extra — there were at least 3x as many interested candidates as there were slots.
I thought about “aiming high” and going for the big positions, but the class officer spots have really never interested me. Those of you who know my track record in N.C. State’s Student Government know my heart has always been in the legislative branch of government. I started out as a Student Senator when I was a freshman, and I happily remained there until I was a soon-to-be senior (when a friend of mine got unjustly removed from the ballot for Student Senate President and a number of folks talked me into taking his place). My home is in the background, getting things done without the political correctness and other silly considerations that have to be considered when doing things in the limelight. So I filed for one of those representative positions, which is as close to a Student Senate as I’m going to get for the next 3 years.
And how exactly does a relatively shy, slightly awkward, definitely white 1L who can no longer distinguish himself as “the old guy” like he did in undergrad get elected among a class of folks he mostly hasn’t met at a HBCU? No clue.
But it’s going to be fun trying to figure it out
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 25, 2009 in Technology
Nothing law-related in today’s post. I stayed up late reading Contracts, but still got up on time, got out the door on time… and got stuck behind a tractor trailer for most of my early morning commute, thereby making it to class about 4 minutes late, just in time for a quiz in Legal Reasoning & Analysis. I was sick of law for the day by about 8:05am
The spark for today’s post actually came from looking at the server statistics for law:/dev/null: I didn’t realize how significant an impact things like RSS readers have on blog statistics, and I got my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science!
Last week we averaged about 312 unique visits a day. Now bear in mind a good chunk of those numbers are web crawlers and of course me, but factoring out the roughly 50% of the traffic from those two sources that leaves ~150ish daily visits — which completely blows me away btw, and I suspect is due in large part to people following shout-outs from other blogs like No634 and the Reasonably Prudent Law Student. Last Wednesday’s entry on Professor Torts murdering a student’s self-esteem was the spike for the week, with 660 unique visits.
But what about last Friday, when I fell asleep before writing anything? A mere 79 visits, of which it appears only 33% weren’t myself or bots — meaning only 26 unique visits by other humans, a drop of 83%+ over the week’s average (which was itself weighted down as a result of that particular low-traffic day).
How did all those folks who were stopping by daily know not to check for a post on Friday? Did everyone take the weekend off? Are we all psychically linked? Is my writing just that bad? (Don’t answer that last question ;))
My slightly-educated guess is that RSS readers, things like Safari’s “Top Sites” update indicator, and other new “content-on-demand” technologies are responsible for the overwhelming amount of traffic any given blog gets, at least in its formative months. On the upside it means a blog’s audience can expand rapidly in a fairly short amount of time if people visit once and then add you to their RSS feeds. The downside is that your traffic will virtually disappear if you’re not able to produce something on a fairly regular basis.
Those are my CSC-based pontifications for the day Off to go study for “hump day” classes, which in my case actually are in the shape of a camel hump on my schedule (and, correspondingly, suck). Have a great evening everybody!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 24, 2009 in The 1L Life
I got here early today to wait for Torts to start, and have inadvertently ended up in a workshop talking about the importance of study aids and study group composition. So I figure it’s as good a time as any to pen some thoughts for the day
All of us have (hopefully) heard the phrase “missing the forest for the trees.” The cliché is (ab)used so often by so many people that once upon a time I started compiling a list of alternative phrases that had the same meaning. I never did anything meaningful with that list, but the one I end up using myself came from a former Student Government official at N.C. State who always complained about Student Senators “getting stuck on the dot” — which in his case referred to the Finance and Government Operations Committees exercising their oversight powers in questioning his not-exactly-ethical financial practices, but is just as good a metaphor as any.
Getting "stuck on the dot"
My initial impression is that 1Ls seem to get stuck on the dot pretty easily (myself included). Maybe it’s the abject terror of ending up like That Guy, or maybe it’s just a more simple fear of being the awkward kid in class. But when you remember not to get stuck on the dot, it’s fun watching everyone else respond
Today’s example: Civil Procedure this morning (3rd class of the semester) where we’re discussing Mas v. Perry (489 F.2d 1396 (5th Cir. 1974)) and diversity jurisdiction of federal courts. Mean Dean Green — who thus far doesn’t seem to be mean at all, although his sarcasm is just plain funny — pulls up Article III of the United States Constitution and puts it on the projector screen prior to the case discussion.
Midway through the discussion there is a reference to a different court’s opinion that (in a nutshell) noted a court has general jurisdiction over certain classes of issues unless Congress specifically removes its jurisdiction via statute. He then asks the class “How do you know if a federal court has jurisdiction over an issue? What are the 2 primary sources we use?” The first person responds with “the statutes” (obvious + correct). The professor asks what the 2nd source is… and… silence. Frantic flipping through pages in books. More silence. More flipping. Someone responds with “the United States Code”, which of course is the same thing as the statutes. Someone else says case law (no), someone else says common law (no), someone else says state law (no).
Bear in mind the United States Constitution has been on the screen the entire time this Q&A is taking place.
In the back of the room, once one or two people get the answer to a question it’s usually whispered around to the rest of us or passed via notes. So I whisper “Section 2 of Article III” to Karl(a) (another member of the Gang of Eight), most of the other folks in our vicinity realize it in short order, and we just sit back and watch at the perplexed look on the faces of people worried they’re going to get chewed out for not being prepared.
Once someone said the Constitution, you can hear this class-wide “oooohhhhhhh.” I’m fairly sure we all knew it, we just got stuck on the dot and never said it. So if you find yourself trying to answer a professor’s question and can’t figure it out, (1) breathe and (2) take a top-level view and make sure you’re not missing something painfully obvious… especially when it’s on the projector in front of you
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 23, 2009 in TDot's Tips
Law school, in many respects, reminds me of kindergarten. Your entire grade is divided up into a few groups. You stay in one room for the entire day and different teachers come to you instead of the other way around. Several professors have you fill out index cards with basic info and facts about yourself (I even had to buy a glue stick for 2 of them — first time I’ve used glue in well over a decade). You have your teacher’s pets in the front of the room (not me), your cool kids in the middle (not me), and your miscreants in the back (me).
And awkwardity seems to be everywhere you look.
My guess is that it’s a result of everyone being in a foreign environment studying foreign material and not knowing what answers to provide to the professor’s foreign questions, but even the suave kids find themselves thrown off their game. And I, being the incredibly suave guy I am (no snickers please), seem to have already enjoyed my fair share of awkward moments.
The first week of school was kind enough to continue that trend. On Friday mornings we have a lab section for Legal Reasoning & Analysis, which is the only class where our 60ish students are divided up into groups of 20 or so. Professor LRA announced the sections we were in on Wednesday and passed around an attendance sheet that included info on it. I signed it, then dutifully wrote down the room number I was to report to on Friday. Friday morning arrives, I get to class on time (barely), see DMoff and M.P. (both part of the Gang of Eight) in the back, go to join them… then get quizzical stares from several people. DMoff asks if I’m in the right section, pulls up the roster on his computer, and sure enough it says I should be in a different one than I am.
The professor, ready to start class, wants to know what we’re talking about. Now with the light shined firmly on me, feeling like a goober (again), I note that it appears I’m in the wrong section, re-pack my stuff, and walk myself across the hall. Come in to the new class late, hand the professor in there my homework assignment, and tell her it seems I wrote down the wrong section info yesterday and should have been there instead. She starts class as the attendance sheet is going around. The attendance sheet gets to me… and my name isn’t on it. Turns out I was right the first time, and that the roster which was posted online was an older edition. So I gently raise my hand, tell the teacher about my now-2nd screw-up, grab my assignment from her and go back to the class I was at the first time.
Ordinarily I would have been beet red from embarrassment before walking into the other class, but I realized after orientation last week that I was/am destined to end up being “that guy” (not to be confused with That Guy). So before I left that first class the first time, I cordially announced that knowing my track record I was probably wrong and would be back shortly (which of course I was), and upon my return intentionally waved in an idiotic fashion to the professor and the other students in the room. Apparently at least a few folks thought it was endearing.
I suspect the overwhelming majority of us are socially awkward creatures, and the reason we laugh at someone else’s faux pas is out of a nervous gratitude that “at least it’s not me!” So the easiest way to preemptively cope with that reality is to take ownership of your awkwardity. Make a joke out of it. Self-deprecating humor is a staple of lawyers and politicians alike precisely because it disarms people and builds a bond between you and them. It conveys to the other person that you know exactly why they’re laughing, and it’s OK because you agree that it was pretty damn funny.
That’s my take on it at least, and it seems to be working well so far
I’m off to read Civil Procedure and Torts cases for the rest of the night. Have a great evening folks!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 22, 2009 in Weekend Roundup
Thanks for the handful of panicked text messages I got from folks wondering if something was wrong because I hadn’t posted an entry for the night, I’m alive and well
Sorry for not posting something in a more timely fashion — my friend 雅雅 and I decided to try and replicate my grandmother’s recipe for spaghetti, and after eating a very large and tasty dinner (the experiment was a success) I ended up falling asleep. Last thing I remember was watching “Locked and Loaded with R. Lee Ermey” on the History Channel, wondering where I put my laptop so I could write my post for the day… then my cell phone alarm going off at 6am >_<
Now that Week 1 of “real class” is finished, there are a few things I’ve realized so far:
- Law school isn’t nearly as bad as I expected. I’m sure it will get worse throughout the semester, but looking at the reading lists the volume of material is easily readable and comprehensible for a typical law student (I can’t speak for non-traditional students like folks raising families or students working 20-hour a week jobs — y’all are better people than I am!)
- It’s also a lot of fun. Having worked in a variety of law-related areas back when I was a college dropout, finally understanding the intricacies of the legal arguments I used to read in briefs or hear in oral arguments is like a bunch of little lightbulbs turning on in your head. And having classmates who I know are smarter than I am makes the debates that much more fun because of the challenge.
- Legal Reasoning & Analysis is going to be my “love/hate” class. The smaller class size in lab is great to see people’s thought processes up close (including who comes at things from a prosecutorial vs a defense mindset), but the way we’re being taught to break down the applicable rules and case law is totally conflicting with the Computer Scientist in me. It reminds me of this Dos Equis commercial and “speaking French… in Russian.” More on LRA in a later entry.
- Not sure if it was total coincidence or fate, but having the Gang of Eight in the back with me makes the whole experience that much more enjoyable. If you’re a 1L, find some friends before everyone cliques up — you’ll be glad you did
- Even though a few more-seasoned students have told me I’m strange for it (including Delta the 2L), I genuinely like all of my professors. They’ve all got strikingly different personalities: Professor Contracts has a ton of energy for an early morning class and an excellent sense of humor, Mean Dean Green has a sarcastic streak almost as wide as mine, and you’ve already read about Professor Torts and her no-nonsense attitude. Throw in the Traveling Professor (my Property I teacher) and Professor LRA, and the group is providing a well-meshed experience for all of us.
- The mere possibility of being a good student again is an intense incentive to perform. By my last couple semesters at N.C. State, I had so many credit hours between my Computer Science major and minors in Economics and Political Science that I could have failed every class and it wouldn’t have significantly impacted my GPA… and could have gotten an A+ in all of them with similarly negligible effects. That’s a recipe for the most hellacious case of senioritis one can experience. Now I actually enjoying studying again (for now).
That’s it for this entry. Going to take Saturday off and try to clean up the apartment a bit… including the spaghetti sauce I left on the stove after falling asleep last night. Have a great day everybody!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 20, 2009 in Mail
Before jumping in, I’m going to try and write these daily posts in the middle of the day from now on. I’ve noticed that when it gets late and I haven’t typed something, I’m more inclined to put off case briefs in order to write an entry. Although I’ll probably post less content as the semester grinds on and I have less time, I’m trying to keep with Jansen’s advice of posting daily so I don’t abruptly give up on it
As odd as this might seem to the non-CSC folks out there, I actually forgot I had an email address for this blog that had been passed around in a couple places (and evidently forwarded on from there). I created it right before running the WordPress installation, but I maintain just shy of 20 different websites for various groups with dozens of email addresses so I just forgot about it afterwards. When I randomly remembered it last night and added it to my list of accounts in Mail.app, I had a few dozen emails from WordPress and surprisingly a few emails from folks I don’t even know.
So I’m bundling that with recent Facebook and text messages into a quasi-“Reader Mail” segment
Q: Alice writes:
What does law:/dev/null mean?
A: On any Unix-based operating system (e.g. MacOS X, Linux, etc) the word(s) before the “:/” is the name of the volume (the disk). On Windows it’s probably called something like “Local Disk” or “C” or something similar; Mac and Linux users get to personalize theirs (despite my age I’m a fan of Pokémon video games so my laptop drive is named “Umbreon”).
Those same Unix-based operating systems have a folder at the root of their filesystem called “dev” which is shorthand for “device”, which includes files that are used for interfacing with programs. Input is done by writing data into those files; output reads data from those same files. So, for example, input from your keyboard is typically routed through the
stdin file (“standard input”), output to the console/terminal/screen goes through
stdout (“standard output”),
disk0 is the file representing your hard drive, and so on.
null is the “null device”, which basically is a “fake” device used for discarding input as soon as it’s received and not displaying to anything or sending it anywhere. If you ever go to the office of a grouchy IT worker, you might see a sign that says “All complaints will be filed in dev/null” or something similar, which roughly translates to “Don’t bitch because you’re going to be ignored and anything you write down will get thrown in the trash.”
I’m pretty egregiously oversimplifying all of that for those who aren’t technically inclined, but putting it all together in a nutshell law:/dev/null would be the null device on the volume named “law” where you’d send any input you want discarded as soon as it’s entered
Q: Bob from my alma mater writes:
Did your entry from yesterday about That Guy actually happen?
A: Oh yes. Ooohhhhh yes. I wrote it as a quasi-judicial opinion to be mildly humorous, but That Guy was very real and the withering-but-deserved tirade he endured from Professor Torts happened as I laid it out.
If any of my Section 103 folks happen to read this, feel free to jump in and vouch for me
Q: Cici writes:
Did you really count the lights from your apartment to school? Are you OCD?
A: (1) Yes. (2) Maybe. I just counted the lights because it seemed every morning I was late I’d hit a majority of them, so I figured I’d test my theory
There are 16 total from the apartment to the parking lot by the way…
I’ll add more as I go through them, I’ve still got a few left but may save them for whenever I run out of something worthwhile to say
Enjoy your evenings everybody!
Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 19, 2009 in The 1L Life
I wasn’t even going to write a second entry today given my sadly predictable start to the morning.
But it’s not every day you get to personally witness a homicide…
STATE v. TORTS
Supreme Court of TGD, 2009
10 F.2d 747
TDOT, CHIEF JUSTICE. The victim was the self-esteem of a 1L student (hereafter dubbed “That Guy”), mercilessly decapitated in plain view of about four dozen witnesses. The accused claims self defense and accordingly has filed a Motion to Dismiss, citing the deceased’s attempted assault on her intelligence. The incident took place at approximately 2:15pm in Room 102 of the Turner Law Building at NC Central University.
Defendant was teaching her course in Torts I, and had selected That Guy as the student responsible for debriefing the second case of the day (Spivey v. Battaglia, 258 So.2d 815 (1972)). That Guy sat in silence for at least 45 seconds, to which the Defendant indicated he could “begin at any time.” That Guy replied he was just trying to open his brief on the case. Students adjacent to and behind That Guy noticed he was pulling up an incomplete brief provided by the 2L students to 1Ls as a supplement, containing minimal case information. That Guy proceeded to recite the information contained in the 2L-originated brief.
Defendant asked the victim a series of questions relating to the case, whereupon it became evident That Guy had read none of the material and was simply trying to bluff his way through his experience with the Socratic method of teaching. Defendant continued questioning, receiving in response the same minimal information reworded in various ways.
Upon realizing the cluelessness of That Guy, the Defendant proceeded to ask a variety of trick questions. For example, in an incredulous tone she asked if Battaglia did indeed paralyze Spivey with just a one-armed hug around the neck (he had), to which That Guy replied that he “thought she might have fallen down or something afterward that caused it.” Defendant corrected That Guy and continued with similar questions.
Defense Exhibit A. Note the different colors for Torts (blue) and Property (red).
After roughly 10 minutes of questioning, That Guy replied that he was sorry and should have been more thorough with his brief. Defendant replied that he should ignore what is written in his brief and consult his textbook. The Court notes at this point that the covers of textbooks for 1L students are in different colors as apparent in Defense Exhibit A.
That Guy turned a couple pages in the open book on his desk and began to speak. Defendant interrupted the deceased before he could utter a word and noted the book on his desk was (by virtue of its red cover) not the Torts textbook. In a menacing tone Defendant inquired if That Guy was reading for another course in her class, on the second day of said class, when he was clearly unprepared. Defendant further interrogated That Guy by asking what exactly he was thinking or how exactly he was expecting to get away with responding to Defendant’s questions with text from another book. The verbal exchange between That Guy and Defendant continued for an unknown period of time until That Guy placed his Property textbook in his bookbag. His face as red as a baboon’s hindquarters with a sunburn, the deceased stammered various indeterminable utterances before the Defendant moved on to the next case.
None of the facts entered into evidence in this matter are disputed by the State. It is apparent to this Court that the deceased read none of the material required for his class. It is further apparent that he attempted to mislead the Defendant by reciting information from an incomplete brief that he himself had not completed. It is still further apparent that he did, in fact, attempt to assault the Defendant’s intelligence by then reading the text of a different course’s textbook in search of suitable answers to Defendant’s questioning.
Based on the record before this Court, the cause cannot be sustained. The Defendant’s Motion is granted. Charges dismissed.
Advice to current and future 1Ls:
- Read the material in the syllabus.
- If you haven’t read the material, confess your sins and accept the penance imposed upon you.
- Never try to bluff a professor. They know more than you do.
- If you’re going to roll the dice and try to bluff a professor, don’t use a canned/incomplete brief… and make sure you have the right textbook on your desk
Good night everybody!