3

Trapped

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Mar 25, 2012 in Fail

“I must be, like, a malfunction magnet.

Because your sh*t keeps malfuntioning around me.”

Some of you might recognize the quote.1 I got to live it earlier today :beatup:

After NC State‘s 3-point loss to Kansas on Friday night and some sleep + work + exploration yesterday, 雅雅 and I did some final roaming around of St. Louis before I headed home to Durham (I’m currently writing this from the massive Hartfield-Jackson Airport in ATL waiting for my connecting flight). I like checking out national monuments so I wanted to visit the Gateway Arch. And when I found out you can go inside to the top, naturally I wanted to do that too.

The experience got old after the first 2 hours… :mad:

If you’ve never visited the Arch, basically there are tiny orb-shaped trams that travel to the top every 10 minutes. You buy a ticket, climb down some stairs, enter the tram and take a roughly 4-minute ride to the top. You then get out, climb up some stairs, and walk into the archway itself where there are small angular windows you can peer out of to get a view of the neighboring area.

Panorama view from the west-facing side of the Gateway Arch

The view is cool — I took plenty of pictures for future panorama-making :D — but it’s also brief (and cramped). Most of the folks who take a tram up take the next tram down 10 minutes later, after jostling and pushing past each other for the length of the archway. Check out this blog entry from Quirky Travel Guy for a run-down of the experience.

And that jostle+push+ride-down-10-minutes-later was our plan. We made our way to the other side, “signed in” for the next tram ride down, directed to go down the stairs to our specific pod number, and waited…

…and waited…

…and waited…

…and waited…

…and waited some more.

After well over an hour went by, an announcement was made that the ground control folks downstairs had decided they wouldn’t be running any trams on either side of the Arch with no explanation as to why :crack:

We were all told to come back up the stairs to what was now an even more-crowded Archway with about 120 people stuffed into it. Then instructed by the Park Ranger to go to the other side of the Arch for the next tram on that side (which would have made us last in line and heading down 2-3 trams later). As we start jostling in that direction and people are clearly getting irate, we’re then told to turn around and go back to the side we were originally on. And told to “sign in” again. And sent back down the stairs for the next tram.

Two hours in the Arch, but another state crossed off the list!

Where we waited for another 45 minutes :beatup:

Luckily I’m not claustrophobic, but standing awkwardly in a cramped stairwell for over two hours isn’t exactly what I envision doing when I think about visiting national monuments. Eventually a tram finally showed up, 雅雅 and I got back onto solid ground, and I decided I won’t be re-visiting the Gateway Arch any time soon ;)

But at least I got to check off another state on my “Have to Visit All 50 Before I Die” list? :spin:

That’s it for tonight, about to board the flight for Durham.2 Have a great night y’all!

—===—

From the law:/dev/null “Excellence in Government” archives:

  1. From one of my Top 10 Favoritest Movies Evah. Yes, I’m a bit of a nerd — you should have noticed that from the title of the blog… ;) []
  2. Where I’ll turn 31 years old at some point mid-flight… :) []

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-

Greetings from St. Louis!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Mar 24, 2012 in The 3L Life

I miss blogging regularly y’all :beatup:

Sorry I’ve been gone for another half a month, there’s just been SO MUCH going on. Talking with folks at Sallie Mae and working out a solution to the situation I mentioned a few weeks ago. My last Spring Break (ever!) that was almost entirely devoted to creating a business plan for NC SPICE. My alma mater making it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006, then advancing to the Sweet Sixteen for only the 2nd time since 1986.1

The list goes on, and it’s long. And I’m somehow still somewhat afloat academically! :crack:

The view from the cheap seats at the Sweet Sixteen

With things going reasonably well — and not knowing for sure if/when NC State will advance in the NCAA Tournament again — I cashed in every single reward point I had on my American Express and booked a flight out to Missouri for the Sweet Sixteen. I got here on Friday just before heading to the game with 雅雅 (which we lost :beatup: ) and then spent today (1) catching up on sleep, (2) grading moot court briefs for the 2Ls trying out for next year’s team, and (3) exploring parts of St. Louis starting with the City Museum.2

Tomorrow I’m planning to head over to the Gateway Arch, and might swing by a casino if time permits just to say I saw one :)

That’s it for tonight’s entry because it’s already late and I’ve still got more work to do. Just wanted to say I miss y’all and I miss following the blawgosphere, talking on Twitter, and all that intellectual stuff — hoping to pick up again some time soon!

Have a great rest of the weekend! :D

—===—

From the law:/dev/null travel-related archives:

  1. I was 5 back then. For reference, I turn 31 on Monday… []
  2. AWESOME place! Though mostly designed for kids, it’s a serious workout for adults too. []

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6

F*cked by Government Incompetence

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Mar 6, 2012 in Fail

Let me start by apologizing for the profane title. We try to keep things family-friendly here but I truly couldn’t think of a sufficiently cathartic alternative title this time without dropping at least one F-bomb. :beatup:

Long-time readers of law:/dev/null know that Big Guv’mint and I aren’t exactly BFFs.  My love and support for education notwithstanding, I seem to be a magnet for every other buffoon making a living off the taxpayers’ dimes.

There was the whole conducting-a-levy-after-it-was-released debacle with the IRS during 1L year. The NC DMV conceding they improperly revoked my license the following summer.  My Post Office Box getting carpet-bombed by duplicate deferment notices a couple weeks after that.

I’ve even had the “joy” of a TSA crotch grab because apparently my cross necklace is terrorist-y…1

In each of those cases, though, an apologist for Big Guv’mint could at least make a non-frivolous argument that I bore at least some responsibility for other’s failures. I could have paid my taxes as they were due instead of trying to get back into college, could have called the NC DMV instead of assuming they updated my address when they sent my new license to it, and could have remembered to take off my suicide bomber bling in the airport.

This isn’t one of those times. :mad:

Let’s begin at the beginning: today did not start off well.  My car wouldn’t start despite a fresh battery installed just last week (driving car maintenance costs during 3L year to the $2K mark) so I once again headed to the repair shop. The repair guys still didn’t know for sure what was wrong, but ~$515 worth of repairs later they assured me everything would work this time.

So now being flat broke and not knowing how April’s rent is going to get paid, I decided to bite the bullet and call Sallie Mae to apply for one of their bar prep study loans. I give the agent my information, have him submit the preliminary app… and get told I can’t be approved for a loan. Which was mighty odd when I’ve been busting my butt to get my credit into the “as good as you can get without having a mortgage” zone, on top of me just disclosing my entire financial life to the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners at the beginning of January.  If something was wrong, I should have known it.

A new addition to my credit report, courtesy of Big Guv'mint's incompetence

Panicked now that I have absolutely no clue how I’m going to cover rent for April — or May or June or July or August — I log onto the Equifax website to check my credit report.

And see this.

That reads “150 days past due”.

As of February 2012.

On a student loan issued in August 2011.

Now those of you who are good at math might notice there’s a 6-month gap between August to February. Roughly 180 days give or take. As few as 155 if you’re going from August 31st to February 1st. Meaning whatever the hell happened with this thing, I’ve supposedly been “delinquent” since the day it was issued. No in-school deferment. Not even a grace period. Nothing.

At this point I briefly stop being concerned about the Sallie Mae app and start being terrified about my bar application itself. The NCBLE likes getting everything about your life and I had just told them in January I was current on everything. Now I’m listed as 5 months late. A pretty big omission that can’t be good for the whole “character and fitness” thing.

Luckily I’m ever-so-slightly OCD when it comes to legal and financial documents, so I’ve got a copy of every single thing I sent to the State Bar. I pull it out, flip to one of the appendices — and sure enough, even the Federal Direct Loan website had me listed as being current on everything :crack:

Big Guv'mint says nothing is due... but I'm apparently 150 days late on it anyway

It’s a bit hard to see because this is a copy-of-a-copy, but you can clearly make out “Next Due Date: 07/14/2013”, “Pay This Amount:  $0.00”, and the timestamp when it was printed out — 01/03/2012, when I would have been 120 days late according to the Department of Education’s report to the credit bureau.

Staring at physical evidence that something was/is amiss, I transition from being worried to being furious. I call the DOE’s 800-number and get to spend the next 30 minutes of my life talking with one of their agents.

He first tells me I owe ~$300ish dollars on March 14th (next week). He then tells me I’m on the verge of defaulting because I’m 150 days late and they report things to the credit bureaus at 90 days. Trying to contain my rage I politely reiterate that I’m still in school, don’t graduate until May, and am entitled by law to an in-school deferment.

Then I get put on hold :beatup:

About 5 minutes later he gets back on the line, tells me he’s going to flag my account as being in forbearance so it doesn’t become even further past due, and will “submit some paperwork” to correct the deferment issue.

And then adds “There might be a little smudge on your credit report. If that becomes an issue, call back and we’ll try to fix it.”

(1) “If”?
(2) “Call back”??
(3)Try“???

I got off the phone before I said something I’d regret. Then filed a credit report dispute with Equifax and took the dog out so I could decompress a bit.

Since Big Guv’mint’s got sovereign immunity — and I don’t have a property interest in a prospective loan, or other damages to bring me under the Tort Claims Act — there’s not much I can do in terms of legal recourse. And at this point, thanks to the DOE, I now have an oncoming financial train wreck bearing down on me that has to take priority.

But damn this is ridiculous. Completely, totally, inexplicably ridiculous.

This wasn’t some loan issued before they nationalized the student loan industry, converting something from my private lender to my public one and something getting lost en route. It wasn’t the first public loan issued to me, where maybe someone somewhere at some point might have been unsure of how the process worked. No: it’s the last loan of at least 13 of them issued under the Direct Loan program.

And the best they can tell me is “If us screwing up becomes an issue for you and you can’t pay your bills as a result, call back to wait 30 minutes and then we’ll try to correct our failures.” :mad:

I pray I can stay healthy for awhile, because with my track record God only knows what’s going to happen when these clowns take over my healthcare system…

  1. The full-body scanner showed I had nothing else on me except for the chain around my neck — why do you need to follow up with groping my genitals? :roll: []

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1

Shifting gears

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Mar 3, 2012 in The 3L Life

Hey y’all! :)

This is the first Saturday I’ve been home since January 28th and, aside from Samson seeming confused about why I’m still around, it’s actually felt great being able to sit around the apartment and catch up on the mundane parts of life like laundry and homework and such1 :beatup:

It has also let me shift gears into “soon to be graduated” mode — just 70 days until graduation day! :D — and start wrapping up the last few projects I’ve got left before I have to venture back into the real world.

For better or worse, that includes winding down one of the most successful SBA terms in law school history.  Our elections interest meetings happened on Thursday and filing for office is open now, but before the new folks take over we’ve still got a second Speed Networking event coming up at the end of the month, a completely new format for our annual Law Week Banquet, the last two meetings of the Presidents’ Roundtable group we created back in August, and of course prepping for the actual transition itself.2

Jillian Mack '12 and Travis Ellis '13 with NCCU Law's 2nd consecutive Bronze Key Award

Speaking of SBA, one thing I wanted to mention a couple weeks ago but didn’t have a chance:  apparently NCCU Law has the most ABA members of any law school in the ABA-LSD’s Fourth Circuit :surprised:

Yes, you read that correctly. Not the “biggest percent increase in membership” like we got last year in Williamsburg3 but the largest number of members overall.

Now under normal circumstances I probably wouldn’t make a big deal about it…

…but we’re one of the smaller law schools in the Fourth Circuit. :crack:

Consider as an example:  Charlotte Law, home of the ABA-LSD’s Fourth Circuit Governor, has a 1L class that alone is bigger than all of NCCU Law. And yet somehow we have more people in the ABA than they do.

It blows my mind. For srs.

This is also now the third time EIC has been recognized for her work as our ABA Representative! She was first highlighted as one of the ABA’s Top 9 reps nationwide back in August, and then recognized indirectly in the December 2011 issue of Student Lawyer magazine for the awesome Speed Networking event she envisioned and spearheaded.

Snippet from Student Lawyer magazine on NCCU Law's EIC-created Speed Networking event

Now she’s racked up another honor just two months later. With colleagues like that, no one should wonder why I love my job ;)

I also have to recognize our 2L SBA rep (who I don’t have a nickname for yet) for his willingness to drive to Charlotte for the meeting while EIC and I were both tied up with TYLA obligations. I remember what it was like heading to the Williamsburg meeting last year, and being willing to give up a weekend for this stuff is a much-appreciated sacrifice.

It’s also the first time in NCCU Law history that we’ve had people at every single ABA meeting for an entire year:  the Fourth Circuit meeting in Williamsburg under last year’s SBA, the ABA Annual Meeting in Toronto, the ABA-LSD “Super Circuit” meeting down in Charleston, the ABA Midyear Meeting in New Orleans, and now this year’s Fourth Circuit meeting in Charlotte.

And keep in mind all of this year’s successes — not just the Bronze Key, but the Speed Networking event, the standing-room-only Access to Justice / Civil Gideon panel,4 the packed judicial clerkship forum, the record-setting mentor/mentee program our Vice President reorganized, the list goes on and on — all of it has been done despite a -40% cut to the SBA budget back at the very start of the fiscal year.

To get all this stuff done in a year is groundbreaking in its own right, but to do it on a shoestring budget where we had the least amount of SBA funding since George H.W. Bush was President?

There’s a reason I consider us the best SBA in the country. B-)

Anyhow, enough of me crowing about my colleagues and all the successes they’ve achieved on behalf of the law school :)  I’m working on the second edition of this S.P.I.C.E. proposal and heading to bed soon thereafter.

Thanks for enduring this entry, and have a great night! :D

  1. Including randomly reviewing law:/dev/null stats — turns out Sunday’s entry from Washington DC was our 500th post! []
  2. All while The Chief is getting ready to step down, a search for his successor is ongoing, and the state’s education-gutting General Assembly is coming back to town… []
  3. Something I had planned to write about until my Gmail got nuked:beatup: []
  4. Another EIC production! []

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