TDot’s Tips #2: Go to class

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 11, 2009 in TDot's Tips

One of my friends from the NC State CSC Department sent me an email noting that my TDot’s Tips category included #3, #5 and #7 — no even numbers at all — and therefore my sequencing wasn’t very computer science-y.

First, to my former comrades at NCSU who think I’ve sold out since going to law school: (i) I promise it wasn’t intentional, and (ii) I was never that good at computer science anyway :P

But thanks for the email, since it provides a convenient segue to throw in another tip ;)


Seriously, going to class is A Big Deal™.

I don’t mean just physically showing up. Cut off Facebook, lose the laptop, grab some notebook paper, a pen, and a caffeinated drink of some kind (I prefer Diet Mountain Dew myself), and actually mentally go to class.

Actively listen. Engage in discussion. Physically write down notes.

If you’re a kinesthetic learner like me, writing down the notes will burn the information into your brain better than typing them on a laptop (or doing nothing at all because a 2L somewhere gave you their briefs and outlines).

If you’re a visual learner, your mind will benefit from seeing the people talking and the words on your notebook pages when you’re done.

And for the aural learners out there, you’ll practically be able to replay the conversations in your head at exam time (I’m jealous, it’s true :beatup: ).

I know I’m up for a Captain Obvious Award by even writing about this stuff, but I’ve been surprised at the quantity of classmates who have shown up to class physically but then spent the entire time checking Facebook or news or blogs or NCAA scores… and then were totally freaking out when midterms rolled around.

I’m not trying to imply I’m a stellar student by any means — I’ve got 2 weeks to wait until midterm grades come back — but if I’m going to do poorly at something, at the very least I’m going to make the best effort I can to avoid it first :)

Anyhow, those are my snippets of wisdom for the day.  Off to read CivPro and Torts for tomorrow as I start the last 7-week sprint of the fall semester!  Have a great night everybody :D



TDot’s Tips #3: Learn to Cook

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 14, 2009 in TDot's Tips

At the end of last week I mailed just over half of my Fall financial aid refund to my grandparents, both of whom are retired. It was the responsible “good grandson” thing to do, and the warm fuzzies you get from doing something positive are more than worth the cost… but I still had a minor heart attack when an entire digit dropped off the length of my bank account balance and I had forgotten why :)

On the upside it forced me to resume paying closer attention to where I’m spending my $$.

We all know living on a tight budget is a reality of student life, especially in law school when you’re actually not allowed to work more than 20 hours a week (and if you even work that much you’ll likely FUBAR your 1L academic record).  That makes law school a perfect time to learn to cook ;)

In looking at my last few grocery receipts, I can eat pretty doggone well on $100 or less a month depending on what kind of coupons / specials / etc I can score.  That’s less than $3.50 a day for 3 meals, snacks, and an obligatory dessert before bed (a bad habit I acquired as a kid).

You also get a better variety than your typical student diet.  Eggs or bacon or sausage or french toast or waffles or cereal for breakfast (or something else of course).  Steak, spaghetti, pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, bbq chicken, pork chops, beef stew, etc etc etc for lunch or dinner.  Salad to be “healthy”, Goldfish or Doritos to be not-so-much.  Milk, orange juice, and multiple flavors of Kool-Aid to wash it down.  And a couple gallon tubs of ice cream :D

That’s just my own kitchen of course — the great thing about learning to cook is that it’s like learning to ride a bike:  it’s ridiculously easy, and once you’ve got it down it opens up a whole range of new possibilities (plus it’s cost efficient and you never really forget how to do it).

And if you’re a guy, you get the added bonus of having a skill that guys apparently aren’t supposed to have unless they star in their own show on the Food Network ;)

That’s my snippet of wisdom for the day — have to be ready for PT at 0630 so I’m heading to bed.  For another culinary money-saving tip, check out Jansen’s post today also.  Have a good night folks!

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TDot’s Tips #7: Own your awkwardity

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! :D

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TDot’s Tips #101: Tie up loose ends

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 16, 2009 in TDot's Tips

I was hoping to post something substantive today, but what was originally planned to be a relaxed Saturday working on case briefings for the first day of class on Monday instead turned into flitting about working on various projects in haphazard fashion like someone with OCD cracked out on caffeine.

But being the sporting guy that I am, ever determined to snatch victory from the gaping maw of defeat, I figured the complete obliteration of my Saturday game plan would make a perfect and substantive post:  tie up your loose ends if you’re coming to law school.

Finances, extracurricular obligations, women (or men), setting up your apartment — get it all fixed long before classes start.  In my case I actually did a pretty good job cleaning up my life, then transporting it from Raleigh to Durham…  I just waited until the week before orientation to do so.  And as you might have guessed from the first item in my list of why a T4 was my first choice I’m not exactly rolling in cash, so there are certain basic accommodations for most living quarters that I’m currently missing (things like a couch/futon, chair, decent desk, or any other accoutrements to read/study law aside from sitting on my bed).  And boxes. Lots of boxes, filled with various things that people put in boxes but don’t need urgently enough to merit unpacking them in anything vaguely resembling a timely fashion.  Like books.  Lots of books.  8 boxes of books to be precise, of a mostly computer science or cooking nature.

The clutter drives me bonkers, so every time I started working on those case briefings I’d notice something else I need to do… then while doing it, notice something else that I need to do… then notice something else, that I actually start working on… then when I finish, realize I never finished whatever I started working on originally… and so on.  Before you know it the 11pm news is on and it’s about time for me to jot down some notes on the blog and head to bed.

So that’s my contribution to the betterment of your life:  tie up your loose ends before you come to law school ;)

I’ll let you know tomorrow if I actually succeed at working on work.  Good night folks!

(And no I don’t actually have 100 other tips that I haven’t posted yet, I just figured I’d use 101 since it’s (i) the first prime number greater than 100 and (ii) coincidentally happens to also be a binary number equivalent to my post count.  Don’t hate me for being clever :P)

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