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Illiteracy FTL

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 22, 2010 in Fail

A tidbit of advice:  read directions closely :beatup:

Several of my 1L classmates at the N.C. Central University School of Law knew I had been having an absolute dog of a time writing our semester-ending memorandum in Legal Research & Persuasion.  Essentially, all of the miscellaneous assignments we worked on throughout the semester got synthesized into a legal memo to a fictitious court, supporting a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss a fictitious lawsuit.

We got the assignment about a month ago, and when I read through the instructions I could have sworn they said the memo had to be single-spaced. So I worked on a single-spaced memo over the ensuing weeks.

I ended up hitting a wall after 4.5 pages. With the case law we were required to use, I just couldn’t figure out what else to add without being needlessly loquacious and redundant. But that was actually fine with me: those same instructions said there was no page minimum (the page max was 10) so 4.5 should have been fine.

Then I talked with some of my colleagues who had met with Professor LRP, who apparently told each of them they wouldn’t be able to thoroughly discuss all points of law without using nearly all 10 pages. I had no clue what I was missing… so I spent the past few days staring at this memo at every opportunity, adding a paragraph here, a new argument there, some additional authority I found somewhere else, etc.

Finally, around 4am or so this morning,1 I got to 10 pages. I print out the memo, read through it, ensure all the BlueBook citations are accurate, staple it, then go print out the grade checklist we have to turn in with the memo…

…which I notice very clearly says only subheadings are to be single-spaced :cry:

I figure I’m hallucinating.  “It’s 4am, I’m cracked out on caffeine. There’s no @#$%ing way this is supposed to be double-spaced.” So I go back to the instructions… and sure enough they say the same thing as the checklist.  Where I had paused at 4.5 pages — which would have been around 9 double-spaced and could have been turned in on time — I ended up with a 19-page memo that I had to somehow pare back to the 10-page max.

Long story short, I finally turned in a less-than-stellar memo around 7am this morning at the price of not sleeping at all for the past couple days. All because I misread directions a couple weeks ago.

Just thought I’d share in case any of you can learn a lesson from my illiteracy :beatup: Have a great night everybody! :)

  1. Downing an entire 12pack of Diet Mountain Dew and various other sugary substances in the process to stay awake — trust me when I say that is a certifiably Bad Idea :sick: []

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2

#PFTfail

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 3, 2010 in Fail

That make-or-break PFT I mentioned ended up more on the “break” side of the spectrum :beatup:

Before I can head to Officer Candidate School for the Marine Corps, I need a passing score among pullups, crunches and a 3 mile run. Each section is worth a max of 100 points apiece (max of 20 pullups, 100 crunches, 18min on the run) and a passing score is 240 of 300.

And for the however-many-th time, I continue to be thwarted by the 3mi run :mad:  It took me an embarrassing 32:02: netting me -0- points, and meaning no OCS for me this summer.1

Now none of this was particularly surprising — I mentioned to you back in January that I might have to push back a year — but it’s incredibly frustrating. Just about everything I’ve tried to do in life has used GPA or some similar criteria as the bar to admission. This is the first time I’m trying to do something and it’s my physical condition stopping me :beatup:

I’m trying to take solace in the fact I shaved 4.5 minutes off my time from my last PFT. But even at the peak of my physical fitness in high school, where playing basketball was a bigger part of my life than doing homework, a 10-minute mile was a miracle — no clue howtf I’m going to do 3 of them back-to-back-to-back in 8min apiece or less :crack:

For at least the next few weeks though I get to push it out of my mind.  Need to focus on studying for finals, wrapping up the UNCASG presidency, and finding a job.

If you happen to be hiring any slightly overweight, modestly balding 1Ls with an affinity for technology and a slow 3mi runtime, let me know ;)

  1. Interestingly enough, 2 of the folks I took the PFT with were both people I met in NCSU’s Student Government years ago. Another reminder not to burn your bridges! []

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4

Irony

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Mar 8, 2010 in Fail

i•ro•nyn., a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects:  After successfully preserving his health during midterms, TDot noted the irony in abruptly falling ill at the start of Spring Break.

:(

 
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Ouch…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 5, 2010 in Fail

I see why folks told me to be grateful after reading my complaints about not yet having grades back. The CivPro final exams got returned about an hour ago, I got mine soon thereafter…

…and I nearly failed :beatup:

This is the same class where I can quote you nearly every case we’ve studied by name, along with the relevant points of law. The only class where I actually felt comfortable with the material. The class I professed my love for after riding the curve to an A on the midterm.

The final wasn’t nearly as kind.

I rocked out the multiples (16 out of 20) but got eaten alive on both essays (14.5 of 20 on the first, 20 of 35 on the second, 2 of 5 for writing style). That leaves me with a 65%, on the test that makes up 80% of my grade.

Part of me feels bad for thinking it, but I’m hoping history repeats itself and all of us did sufficiently bad that there’s a tremendously huge curve. Fingers are firmly crossed…

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4

Always bring your notebook…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 5, 2009 in Fail

I’ve been enjoying law school so far, and realized around Fall Break that I was griping more than experience warranted. But every now and then things just don’t work out the way I intended. Like today.

As absurd as it probably sounds to y’all, I’m convinced that I’m allergic to the cold. It’s not a bona fide “allergy” per se, but for years now any time the temperature around me drops below 70 or so I end up with the symptoms folks would have for the flu:  stuffy nose, sore throat, burning eyes, etc. It makes for a pretty miserable fall/winter (and even summer — when QuietStorm and I lived together and she insisted on having the AC set to “arctic” 24/7 :beatup: ). I compensate by staying warm, to the point where 雅雅 once teased me that being in my apartment during the summer reminded her of being in Shanghai.

I must not have set the thermostat high enough before going to bed last night, because I woke up at 5am feeling thoroughly wretched. I pulled the covers over my head and went back to sleep, just to wake up again an hour later. I got out of the bed, made some breakfast, read the news, and decided I felt bad enough I was just going to skip Contracts class and go back to sleep.  Then around 7:45 or so I woke up, felt guilty for skipping, once again crawled out of bed and headed for the law school.

Professor Ks is more laid back than the other professors, and let’s folks show up late to class — provided that if you walk in late, you’re “on deck” for all of the questions for the day. I get to the law school about 5 minutes before class is scheduled to start, and skip going to my locker to get my notebook so I can make sure I’m on time. We were starting a new section on the syllabus anyhow (Principles of Interpretation) so I figured I wouldn’t need my old notes for class.

By 8:28am I’m at the classroom… and Professor Ks has already started.

“@#$%.”

Instead of going back to get my notebook, I figure “what the hell, I’ve read everything we’re going over today and understand it. let’s go.” and walk in. Professor Ks greets me with his predictable you’re-going-to-get-grilled-and-better-be-ready smile, and starts to ask me questions about… the Statute of Frauds.

We were starting with a review of the previous section. The section that was in my notes… in my notebook… in my locker… that I skipped getting to be on time and avoid getting grilled.

I couldn’t even bluff my way through because I felt like shit and hadn’t reviewed the SOF material since Tuesday. Professor Ks called on someone else to bail me out on the review, but then instead of coming back to me for the new stuff and giving me a chance to recover (since I knew it backwards and forwards) he picked a few other folks and I was left to sit there in silence.

It was a decidedly not-fun experience, and successfully earned me a “see me after class” admonition from the professor. And I’m pretty sure I’ll be called on next week due to the poor performance…

w00t :beatup:

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About those midterms…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 12, 2009 in Fail

A couple keen observers noticed that my last three entries completely avoided any reference at all to my final two midterm exams in Torts and Property.  The omission was intentional — I discovered on Friday that the N.C. Central School of Law is apparently one of relatively few law schools that even have midterms (which just seems strange to me) so I didn’t want to dwell on the topic in deference to my non-NCCU readers :*

But then we had CivPro this morning…

Now remember I mentioned a few days ago that I thought things turned out better than expected in CivPro. And although I got [K]O’d in Contracts, I also felt pretty good about Property and at least so-so in Torts (I n00b-ishly didn’t watch the clock and ran out of time on the essay, but blazed through the multiples).

And then Mean Dean Green1 took all that confidence — both from myself and other students in the class — and dashed it across the cold, jagged rocks of reality.  He noted we will be having a “debriefing session” on Friday.  That translates to “extra class,” which triggered alarm bells in my mind since a midterm that generally turned out well could just use a snippet of pre-existing class time for review.

He also noted at several points that we would be “kicking it up a notch.” And if that didn’t adequately convey the point, he also noted that “y’all are not where you need to be.”

::cue the little siren GIF from the Drudge Report::

So to satisfy my own morbid curiosity, after class I went to his office hours and inquired about the class grades. He wasn’t willing to divulge much information, except to note that “the class average on the multiples was failing. And the essays I’ve read so far are much, much worse.” :beatup:

I’m going to be pulling out the little bit of hair I have left on my head waiting to get my paper back on Thursday…

Off to study Contracts and Property for tomorrow, and hoping those midterms turned out better.  Have a great night everybody! :)

  1. An appellation that, as previously noted, really doesn’t fit the man at all. []

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1

Getting [K]O’d

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 8, 2009 in Fail

Ugh.

Had my Ks midterm at 8:30 this morning (that’s “Contracts” for my non-law readers who’ve been trying to understand my Facebook status ;))…  I’ve got a lot of work to do between now and finals.

It’s not that I didn’t know the material, I just didn’t know it well enough to be comfortable. And since law professors like to ask tricky questions, not being comfortable meant I started second-guessing myself and overanalyzing them.

For a 50-minute midterm, we’re “strongly recommended” to spend no more than 25 minutes on the set of multiple choice questions and then the rest on the essay.  The multiples took me 40 minutes. And my essay response had more holes than Swiss cheese because I didn’t have enough time to finish typing even though I knew the issues inside and out.

A word of advice: do the essay first if you know that material better :beatup:

I'm flattered, but I don't see the resemblance... >_<

I'm flattered, but I don't see the resemblance... >_<

And study more…

On a totally non-law-related note, after exams I headed to Chapel Hill for the monthly UNC Board of Governors meeting and got compared to Jason Statham in The Transporter. I had no clue who he was and had never seen the movie (or apparently any of his other films).  When I wiki’d him once I got home, I confess I can’t see the resemblance — maybe they were referring to the thinning hair?  You be the judge.

Heading back to Torts and Property outlines, have the last two midterms tomorrow.  Good night everybody! :D

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The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 24, 2009 in Fail

Or more accurately just the law library.  Well actually just one of the computers in the law library, based on the flurry of Facebook status updates, tweets and text messages I got as the building was being evacuated.

And I missed all the excitement because I skipped my classes to make sure everything is ready for this weekend’s meeting of the UNC Association of Student Governments.  Fail.

Interestingly enough, construction workers managed to take out a transformer where they’re building a new parking deck on campus, which took out power for everyone else.  The aspiring lawyer in me thinks that’s too coincidental to be coincidence, while the already computer scientist in me knows it’s pretty doggone hard to get an otherwise functional computer to randomly combust.

My suspicion is that library staff overloaded a surge protector (or didn’t use one at all) and there were voltage fluctuations from that transformer just before it burst into flames itself.  Luckily no one was hurt and nothing was significantly damaged.

I’m just sad I missed all the commotion…

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The joys of the Socratic method

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 16, 2009 in Fail

Envision for a minute that you’re watching television.

A Pay-Per-View channel specifically.

And not just any Pay-Per-View channel, but one with shows that are kind of a blend between a UFC match and the movie Gladiator.

Where the bad guy is a robot, wielding a 500ish-page Torts textbook in one hand and a 500ish-page Contracts textbook in the other, trying to bludgeon its opponent to death, and the only way to stop it is to utter the right combination of cryptic phrases like “shopkeeper’s privilege” and “sua sponte” and “offer / acceptance / consideration / mutual assent”.

And the hero dies in the end.

That’s a rough approximation of how I envisioned the Socratic method of teaching law.  Fortunately it hasn’t turned out nearly that bad — no one’s died so far as I know :) — but as I mentioned yesterday I’m a little worried I’ve become a marked man.

It all started this past Monday in Torts.  Remember a couple Fridays ago when I volunteered to go over Pearson v. Dodd, flubbed my response, and Professor Torts noted with a Cheshire Cat smile that she’d be “coming back to [me] very soon”?  Yeah, that was Monday.

We’re going over defenses to intentional torts, and the case being reviewed was Bonkowski v. Arlan’s Department Store (12 Mich. App. 88). Unlike my last crash-and-burn experience, though, this time I just knew I had outmaneuvered Professor Torts! Figuring she’d call me at some point in the week, I not only (i) had hand-written case notes but (ii) instantly pulled up my typed case brief on my laptop and (iii) flipped to the well-highlighted pages in my textbook.  I was going to nail these questions.

I went over the case summary without a hitch.  Answered the first couple questions without a hitch.  Then got asked why the Court brought in the Montgomery Ward case for comparison (Montgomery Ward & Co v. Freeman, 199 F2d 720), and… splat.

There were/are essentially 3 “take-home points” from Bonkowski as far as defense goes:  validating the shopkeeper’s privilege, a distinction regarding the length of time a customer is detained, and a distinction regarding where the customer is located at the time the shopkeeper attempts to detain them.  I had all 3 points written down with corresponding notes, but never put in my notes the source documents the Court was comparing against with each (the Restatement (Second) of Torts, the Montgomery Ward case, and the R2T again, respectively).

So after making it through shopkeeper’s privilege and getting the M. Ward question, I realized the shortcoming in my notes, mentally freaked, couldn’t find the right passage in the textbook quickly enough, figured I had a 50-50 shot at guessing 1 of the 2 remaining points I wrote down, and picked the distinction re location (aka the wrong answer).  The Professor gives me the raised eyebrow that says “You’re totally wrong and trying to BS me.” I notice, then promptly correct myself by referencing the timeframe of detainment.  The Professor confirms but notes that “Whenever the Court is bringing in another case, you need to make sure you understand why the Court is bringing in the case” (“Yes ma’am.”).  Now I’m thinking I’m in the clear… when she asks what other take-home points, if any, I found.

In my mind I’m thinking I already brought up the location issue so that covered the 3 issues and there shouldn’t be anything else. But since the location issue was the wrong answer at the time I brought it up, I found out after class that the Professor was expecting me to repeat it at the appropriate time… and instead I had said I didn’t have any other points.  Which prompted a less-than-happy string of commentary to the class that we’re clearly not reading the material and if we don’t stop playing around with her and the course we’d regret it by midterms.

Professor Torts:  2.  TDot:  0.

And like the last time someone flubbed a response that indicated they hadn’t read, who was the first person to get called on the next day in Contracts?  Yours truly.

Not only was I the first person called, but I felt like I hadn’t even been attending the class because the questions asked didn’t line up at all with the notes I had written down.  By the time my 5 minutes worth of fumbling for answers was finished, it was pretty well-cemented in my mind that I need to do a better job picking the salient points to jot down in my notes…

Anyhow, hopefully I’ll at least have a reprieve for the next few classes :)  I’ve been spared recent humiliation both in Property and in CivPro — though in the search logs for law:/dev/null I noticed 2 separate visitors who came here yesterday after searches for Mean Dean Green, so I might be on the hit list now for that class too (Prof Green, if you happen to read this: the entire Gang of Eight, myself included, thinks you’re a phenomenal teacher.  And I had nothing at all to do with the nickname.  Don’t kill me plz.)

Hope all of you are having a great week so far!  Have a good night everybody!! :D

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Fabulous Fed Fun…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 9, 2009 in Fail

One of my classmates in undergrad was a British exchange student, and he seemed to derive great pleasure in referring to me as a “queer bird” whenever we talked about politics (you have to imagine it being said in a thick British accent for full effect).

I’m a registered Republican, once-upon-a-time the youngest elected Vice Chairman in the history of the Wake County GOP… only to get thrown out of the party by the same folks 2 years later for being “too liberal,” then spending most of the years since electing / working for / working with Democrats with whom I agree on almost nothing.1  My political views would generally be considered libertarian — quasi-neocon on taxes, firearms and national defense, with a “leave me the @#$% alone” philosophy on social issues like gay marriage and abortion — but unlike most big-L Libertarians I’m totally comfortable with the government taking on certain obligations (e.g. education) and even have a positive opinion of most government agencies like the US Postal Service.

And, as irony would have it, the IRS.

It’s not that I particularly like them, but I recognize the jobs they do are necessary for any complex, functional nation-state.  And — having worked for a handful of state agencies myself — I know most of the positions are filled by individuals who are individually rational and competent, even if the bureaucratic mosaic they compose lends itself to some of the most profound idiocy imaginable.

So today really shouldn’t have been a surprise to me.  But oohhhh it was…

Let me first give you some background on me. I’ve mentioned in a couple posts already that I’m a former college dropout:  I started as a freshman at N.C. State University in August 1998 and by June 2000 was essentially thrown out because I couldn’t pay off my bill.2

So there I am at 19, a bundle of freshly minted fail, loading trucks from 3am-8am at UPS to make ends meet.  I eventually get a low-paying gig as a file clerk at a law firm, which leads to a slightly less low-paying gig as a paralegal, and so on.  Over the next few years I compile a pretty banging résumé and some crazy war stories, but realize I make a laughable salary, my life isn’t really going anywhere sans college degree, and I’m basically just treading water.

But I owe N.C. State $16K+ before they’ll let me re-enroll.

Determined not to waste my life doing nothing, I decide to take a gamble:  I intentionally underpay my income taxes for the FY2003 and FY2004 tax years, and offer up the money “saved” as a down payment to N.C. State  to convince them to let me pay off the balance in $550/mo increments from when I came back until I graduated.  I still filled out my tax returns fully and on time, and expected to pay the taxes owed along with the applicable penalties and interest once I had a degree and started making real money — even with those penalties and interest, a few thousand dollars is nothing insurmountable.

In one of those res ipsa loquitur moments of my life, the plan worked.  I came back to NC State in August 2005, had the full $16K I owed them paid off just over a year later,3 set up a payment plan with the IRS to repay the back taxes, and graduated this past June with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science before heading off to the North Carolina Central University School of Law.  Things seemed to be going pretty doggone well compared to only a few years prior when I was working 60+ hour weeks between 2 jobs for a paycheck that barely covered the bills.

Fast forward to last Monday when I missed my classes.  I not only owe the IRS $0.00, but have ample documentation that I owe them $0.00 because I’m a packrat and generally don’t throw away financial records (I’ve even got bank statements from my first savings account my grandmother opened for me in the early 1990s.  I’m that bad.).  I check my PO Box in Raleigh — the staff there being one of the main reasons I like the Postal Service :) — and see a notice that the IRS is going to levy my bank account for $611.51.  I drive in-person to the IRS office in Durham to get the situation handled… only to find the office inexplicably closed until 1pm when its posted hours are 8am-5pm Monday-Friday.

So after missing Civil Procedure and spending the afternoon killing time, I go back around 12:30pm where a line is starting to queue up.  The office opens with an impressive -1- employee working in a space roughly the size of a few law school classrooms stacked together.  I wait about 2 hours before getting seen.  Explain my situation.  Get a cordial response.  The IRS agent is understanding and gives me 2 copies of a Form 668-D indicating the levy is released, telling me to keep a copy for myself and give the other to my bank.  I then drive straight to my local branch, see a customer service rep there, hand them the levy release, and they mail it off to the bank’s legal order processing folks in New York.

This is all 2 Mondays ago.  August 31st.  So I log into my account today to find… a $611.51 tax levy debited, with an extra $100.00 “legal processing fee” thrown in for the hell of it.

I call the bank, who tells me to call the IRS.

I call the IRS, who tells me to call the bank.

I call a different person at the bank, who forwards me to a 3rd person’s voicemail because she has no clue wtf is going on.  I’m sufficiently pissed off at this point that my ears burn and my face looks like a tomato.

After Torts, I drive in-person to the bank branch and politely ask them to contact the legal processing folks in New York to figure out the situation.  The people in NY have no record of the levy release, even though they got other mail from that same branch office mailed that same day.  Why no record of the release?  Because the IRS sent them the levy notice Friday 09/04/09 — aka an entire workweek after my in-person meeting with them — so when the bank’s people would have received my little piece of mail some time around the Wednesday or Thursday prior, there was no levy in their system for the release to affect.

I’ll sidestep my annoyance at the bank — yeah they should probably have done a better job at data entry, but they’ve been good to me on a host of issues for years now (including a crazy identity theft incident that turned into a total cluster@#$%).  But the IRS… the glorious and amazing IRS… somehow sent an erroneous levy notice days after the branch office gave me a release and documented in their little national database that I owed $0.00.

I could understand a screw-up of this magnitude back in the era when everything was documented on ledger sheets and networked computers didn’t exist.  But if I can access an account by my Social Security Number on IRS.gov, there’s no reason for less-than-realtime updates from a branch office — and at the very least that same branch office providing a release form should tip off whatever office is issuing levies that… well… there’s no grounds for the levy.

So now I get to wait 48 hours or so for the bank to credit my account the $611.51 the government essentially stole from me, and will likely have to fill out an IRS Form 8546 to get reimbursed at some point for the bank’s $100.00 legal order processing fee caused by the government’s incompetence.  Not to mention the hours wasted on the phone and in person trying to get things fixed when I probably should have been studying CivPro.

And bear in mind I’m pretty damn lucky in this situation — my tuition refund covers my expenses for the entire semester, so I can afford to be short $700 for a couple months.  Imagine if I was regular taxpayer providing for a family and living paycheck-to-paycheck…

Anyhow, sorry for the rant.  I had some legit law-related stuff to blog about but really just needed to get that off my chest.  Back to normal posting tomorrow :)

Have a great night everybody! :D

  1. Political types refer to it as “seeking retribution” ;) []
  2. The whole situation was a *lot* more convoluted and wtf-able than that, but I need a few drinks to retell it with adequate exasperation :) []
  3. Thanks to my already impoverished grandparents moving heaven and Earth to make sure I graduated — I <3 you Nan and Pops!! []

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