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Anyone heard of LSI or TFAS?

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 2, 2010 in The 2L Life

Good evening y’all! :)

I’ve had this backlog of entries I’m working on, but concluded earlier today they’re never going to get posted. Sorry :beatup:

Time has just been in short supply here lately. Back on Friday I helped judge the tryouts for the 1L Trial Team,1 Saturday was a rough day emotionally,2 Sunday was Halloween, Monday had class all day, today was class and Election Day,3 tomorrow’s got a dentist appointment then class then a guest speaker at NCCU Law, Thursday’s got a motion in limine due in the morning and a philanthropy dinner with EIC in the evening, then at some point Friday I might conceivably be able to get everything knocked out… at which point I’d probably be a few entries behind again.

So I decided rather than work on the backlog, I’d just let it all slide and try to get back into a one-post-per-day habit again for more than a week at a time ;)

On that note: have any of you ever heard of the Legal Studies Institute or The Fund for American Studies?

One of my professors forwarded me an email yesterday to check it out, and even offered to “nominate” me for the program (whatever that entails). But as I’m looking through their website all I see is me having to pay $$$ — something I’m not interested in doing, and don’t have the finances to do even if I was. I’ve also tried poking around Google for more information but have yet to find any comments or testimonials or anything from actual attendees that isn’t also sponsored by LSI/TFAS themselves.

Any of y’all have any insights or thoughts? Would this program be worth my time (and potential expense), or should I stick to finding an internship in one of the DA’s offices around here?

Comments are appreciated :)  Thanks in advance, and have a great night! :D

  1. I was impressed with the 1Ls, but some of the tackiness on display by a few judges really killed my interest in doing 2L/3L trial team myself ::sigh:: []
  2. Featuring a less-than-cheerful convo with 雅雅 []
  3. Looks like Republicans will be taking over both chambers of the state legislature for the first time since the late-19th century :surprised: []

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Twitch

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 15, 2010 in Randomness

I’ve been blessed with good eyesight since I was a kid, and when I visited 雅雅 in Memphis the future-optometrist even determined I’m part of a relatively small number of people in the country who would be classified as a “true emmetrope.”1

After successfully making it through years of computer science and 1L year of law school without any problems, I guess I’ve been taking things for granted: between a research memo for DVLaw, a research memo for Legal Letters, and a midterm for ConLaw, this week I’ve developed this insanely annoying twitch at the outer edge of my left eye :cry:

Not sure if it’s plain ol’ eye fatigue or something serious, but I’m officially not a fan…

  1. Basically means both of my eyes are normal-shaped, compared to folks who have one or both eyes that are slightly misshapen but still see 20/20 due to the brain compensating for vision problems. []

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Back in the Bull City

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 3, 2010 in Randomness

Hey everybody! :D

If you’re one of the (few) people still visiting me here at law:/dev/null even after my extended absences,  you know I never did get those entries posted that I mentioned last week.

And you also know that, given my track record, it’s not a surprise to anybody :beatup:

Aside from fending off a horrible this-is-why-Fall-sucks weather-related illness, Saturday through Monday was filled with a bunch of meetings, football games, birthday festivities (both for Co-Counsel and Q.T.), then packing for a 5.5-day excursion to Memphis, Tennessee to visit 雅雅 for her White Coat Ceremony at the Southern College of Optometry.

That’s where I’ve been since Tuesday night :) Every time I thought about pulling up the laptop to finish editing the old entries, my body usually reminded me that I was dog-tired and would be better off going to bed at a reasonable hour. And so that’s pretty much what happened like clockwork — I went to bed at the same time while on vacation that I go to bed during a school week…

You may judge me now :beatup:

So now it’s Sunday night, I’m penning this on the plane flight from Memphis to my layover in Atlanta, and I figured it’d probably be a good time to post something before the last handful of you decide to stop reading entirely ;)

The trip itself was very cool. On the plus side: Tennessee has minimum speed limits; I saw all sorts of cool creatures at the Memphis Zoo; plus I got to walk alongside the mighty Mississippi River :D

On the not-so-plus side: Memphis drivers are roughly comparable to people on the New Jersey Turnpike in terms of insanity; and I can’t recall the last time I went 6 days without Bojangles’.  But getting to hang out with 雅雅 and explore a different state made up for it :)

I've hit 8 states since moving out on my own at 17; still have a lot more exploring left!

I actually got to explore -3- different states — Memphis is sufficiently close to Mississippi and Arkansas that we swung through those as well. Many many many years ago I set a life goal of being in all 50 states before I die; I’ve still got a long way to go, but I did bump my total by 16% in one trip :D

Before I head off for the night, I also want to mention that it’s incredibly cool AirTran has wi-fi available during the flight! I’m guessing other carriers have wi-fi now too, but it just blows my mind to think how much air travel has advanced from the first flight at Kitty Hawk to now, where a law student of limited/nonexistent financial means can now travel across the country for just a tiny chunk of his financial aid refund — and remain digitally tethered to the ground in the process :spin:

Can you imagine how much cooler stuff is going to be in the next 100 years?? I hope we live that long (and are still competent to enjoy it!)

That’s it from me y’all. If any old entries get posted I’ll let you know, but given my track record just assume they’ve ended up in the digital abyss :P  Have a great night everybody!! :D

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T.G.I.T.

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 26, 2010 in The 2L Life

Way back in March I mentioned one of the benefits of 2L status: my weekend starts on Thursday at 4pm.

Didn’t realize how much more appreciative I’d be of that perk after a rough week :beatup:

On the personal life front, 雅雅 is in Tennessee for optometry school and (understandably) homesick. The problem is she’s been there for 3 weeks now and it seems to be getting worse instead of better. Fully two-thirds of the text messages she sent me over the past couple days have been full of :( faces and references to missing me, missing her family, missing North Carolina, and so on. I try to cheer her up as best I can, but truth be told the whole situation sucks for me too… and constantly being reminded I can’t do anything about it just depresses the f*ck out of me. Not sure how to deal with it going forward but need to come up with something soon…

I figured out a solution fairly quick for Q.T. on the other hand, who over the past week has really gone out of her way to prove she has a maturity level roughly comparable to her height with a moral compass (to the extent it can even be called that) rivaling the most ignoble of politicians. And this is on top of her inconsiderate (footnoted) foolishness back on Monday.  So I blocked her on Facebook. And Twitter. And Gchat. And BBM. And Skype. I’d remove her contact entry from my phone entirely, but I needed it for archiving the text messages in case I ever develop a vengeful streak one day.

To all you disloyal immature jumpoffs out there: deuces

It’s a crushing change for someone who was a friend for 2 years, attended my graduation, even made my shortlist back at Thanksgiving :cry: But with some people sometimes you just need to chuck the deuces.1

Law school hasn’t been my typical 2L lollipops and rainbows either. The guy who recruited me for the VLAAC had some serious personal issues come up so he’s out of the competition, and me with him. Then there was yesterday’s workshop debacle. And with everything else going on I didn’t finish all the law school reading that had to get done for today, meaning I’ll need to shelve my plans to party this weekend so I can get caught up — I did, however, make sure to volunteer early and often in ConLaw when we were still covering the 3 pages I finished out of the 20 we were supposed to read :beatup:

Sorry for the downbeat opening y’all, just needed to vent a bit. I’m done now :)

A huge bright spot of the week: finally getting my $$$ for the semester. So I lifted my spirits earlier today by paying off all my credit cards, restocking the apartment with about $300 in groceries, and buying a new electric razor (I officially now :heart:  the Norelco Arcitec line). Now I’m packing to head down to Wilmington tomorrow to help with training for this year’s UNCASG delegates, which will at least give me an opportunity to be at the oceanfront tomorrow night — one of the very best forms of therapy ever created :spin:

I hope all of you have a great weekend, and I’ll do my best to keep things updated while I’m in Wilmington! :D

  1. I just kinda wish we had resolved everything yesterday, so the dates of us interacting with each other could have been a palindrome (10/25/08 to 08/26/10) #nerdfootnote []

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Tweet-sized Tuesdays #15

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 10, 2010 in Tweet-sized Tuesdays

雅雅 moves 13hrs away tomorrow; #notafan of that transition :( Enjoyed seeing new+old faces @ 1L Orientation today tho. Ready for the year! :D

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Dear NC DMV: #dobetter

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 18, 2010 in Fail

Having all-but-decided to go down the criminal prosecution path after I graduate from NCCU Law, you can imagine my surprise when I found out last week that I’ve apparently been a criminal myself for the past 4-5 months :eek:

First, three items of background:

(1) Back in undergrad at N.C. State I had a PO Box that I used for all of my mail, so nothing got lost while I changed residence halls over the last four years. Then in August when I moved to Durham I got a new license with my new address, and submitted a forwarding order to the postal service to forward my mail. The USPS has done so without incident since I moved.

(2) I have no criminal record at all, and my driving record is almost spotless. My last motor vehicle infraction was five years ago, when (during a 3am McDonald’s run while studying for a Calculus III exam) I ran a stop sign at a 3-way intersection that had been installed only moments before.1

(3) Back in February I had a 4-day lapse in my auto insurance coverage. The catalyst was innocuous enough — amid mailing off about a dozen things, I forgot to put a stamp on the envelope to the Farm Bureau :beatup:  The letter got returned to me, I realized what happened, then called the insurance office and had them do a payment via phone. With the premium paid my insurance was back in effect, but still had a lapse spanning that weekend through the morning following my phone call.

Like most states North Carolina requires drivers to maintain liability insurance in order to operate a motor vehicle. If insurance coverage lapses at any time, the insurance company is obligated to notify the Division of Motor Vehicles. I’ve since learned that the DMV then (purportedly) notifies the driver that a lapse was reported and the driver is required to pay a fine or have their registration revoked.

That notification is where things start to tick me off… because I got none :mad:

I had no clue there was even an issue with my vehicle registration until I went online to renew my tags before my mini-vacation to Virginia Beach. After clicking the submit button to renew, I got an error notice that renewal wasn’t possible. But the error had no mention of revoked plates: instead it said I couldn’t renew until my car was re-inspected, part of a law change last year where car inspections now take place the same month as registration renewals.

So I went and got the car inspected the day before I left, enjoyed myself on the break, and came back on Monday. I waited the week to make sure the mechanic had plenty of time to update whatever database the state uses to monitor inspections. Then the following Sunday — a week ago today — I went online to again try and renew my registration.

This time I got a second error notifying me that renewal was not possible, but this time the error noted it was not possible because my plates had been revoked… the very first indication I got that I’d basically been illegally driving around for 4 months on a revoked registration :crack:

It particularly frosted my Wheaties because I had just done a boatload of legal research on driving privileges for one of my final exam questions in my Race and the Law class a couple weeks ago. Although driving is a privilege and not a fundamental right, once something like a vehicle registration is conferred it creates a property interest that can’t be taken away without due process.  The due process standard is fairly low nationwide but always includes some level of notice prior to the revocation. And here I was being “notified” by an error generated by an automated registration renewal system, with no opportunity to contest the revocation before it happened. :roll:

The particular section of the law I had allegedly violated, N.C. Gen. Stat. §20-311, reads as follows:

(a) Action. – When the Division receives evidence, by a notice of termination of a motor vehicle liability policy or otherwise, that the owner of a motor vehicle registered or required to be registered in this State does not have financial responsibility for the operation of the vehicle, the Division shall send the owner a letter. The letter shall notify the owner of the evidence and inform the owner that the owner shall respond to the letter within 10 days of the date on the letter and explain how the owner has met the duty to have continuous financial responsibility for the vehicle. Based on the owner’s response, the Division shall take the appropriate action listed:
     (1) Division correction. – If the owner responds within the required time and the response establishes that the owner has not had a lapse in financial responsibility, the Division shall correct its records.
     (2) Penalty only. – If the owner responds within the required time and the response establishes all of the following, the Division shall assess the owner a penalty in the amount set in subsection (b) of this section:
          a. The owner had a lapse in financial responsibility, but the owner now has financial responsibility.
          b. The vehicle was not involved in an accident during the lapse in financial responsibility.
          c. The owner did not operate the vehicle during the lapse with knowledge that the owner had no financial responsibility for the vehicle.
     (3) Penalty and revocation. – If the owner responds within the required time and the response establishes any of the following, the Division shall assess the owner a penalty in the amount set in subsection (b) of this section and revoke the registration of the owner’s vehicle for the period set in subsection (c) of this section:
          a. The owner had a lapse in financial responsibility and still does not have financial responsibility.
          b. The owner now has financial responsibility even though the owner had a lapse, but the vehicle was involved in an accident during the lapse, the owner operated the vehicle during the lapse with knowledge that the owner had no financial responsibility for the vehicle, or both.
     (4) Revocation pending response. – If the owner does not respond within the required time, the Division shall revoke the registration of the owner’s vehicle for the period set in subsection (c) of this section. When the owner responds, the Division shall take the appropriate action listed in subdivisions (1) through (3) of this subsection as if the response had been timely.
(b) Penalty Amount.  [… table outlining penalty amounts …]
(c) Revocation Period. – The revocation period for a revocation based on a response that establishes that a vehicle owner does not have financial responsibility is indefinite and ends when the owner obtains financial responsibility or transfers the vehicle to an owner who has financial responsibility. The revocation period for a revocation based on a response that establishes the occurrence of an accident during a lapse in financial responsibility or the knowing operation of a vehicle without financial responsibility is 30 days. The revocation period for a revocation based on failure of a vehicle owner to respond is indefinite and ends when the owner responds.

Various emphases added by me.

With the statutory language in front of me, I called the DMV on Monday as soon as the office opened. The lady I spoke to told me the DMV had sent me notice. Five notices, in fact: she claimed the DMV mailed four separate letters, and a postcard to boot.

When I told her I hadn’t received any of them, she asked for my address which I provided. She then told me the DMV had been sending notices to my old PO Box in Raleigh, and that the confusion was my fault for not updating my mailing address.

The situation and her attitude made me want to reach through the phone and strangle someone. I figured my mailing address would have been updated when I got my new license back in August. But, even assuming the DMV didn’t use my new residence as my new mailing address and it was my fault for not updating them accordingly, that means the USPS would have had to not forward five separate mailings spanning over a month… even though they’ve successfully forwarded all of my other correspondence without a problem.

Even if I thought the USPS was the single most incompetent government enterprise to exist (I don’t), the idea that they selectively didn’t forward material from one particular correspondent on five separate occasions is just preposterous in its implausibility. The far more likely scenario, to my enfeebled mind at least, is that the NC DMV never actually sent the notices or has “Do Not Forward” printed across the front of the envelopes.

Anyhow, trying to contain my total disbelief and figure out how to get my registration renewed, I’m told by the bureaucrat that I’d have to contact my insurance company, have them send a Form FS-1 to the DMV notifying them I had active insurance (bear in mind I’ve been regularly paying my premiums since the 4-day lapse 5 months ago), then call back 2-3 days later to request a hearing on the revocation. I mention the statutory language to her, and she repeats that I need to have the Form FS-1 sent in and call back to demand an administrative hearing.

I contact my insurance agent and the Form FS-1 is faxed to the DMV less than an hour later. I call the DMV back the next morning en route to my Medicaid mediation, talk to a different bureaucrat who verifies the FS-1 has been received, and again mention the plain language of the N.C. General Statutes that my revocation should end and I be allowed to pay my civil penalty and move on with my life. The second bureaucrat asks if I’d like to demand a hearing (I do) and then tells me I’ll receive a notice in 2-3 weeks scheduling a hearing date 2-3 weeks after that. She then tells me that if I need to operate the motor vehicle I should go buy a temporary 30-day tag.

"Dear TDot: You were right. Oops. Sincerely, NCDMV"

Terrified something could happen and I get pulled over in an unlicensed vehicle, I go to the DMV in between the two Medicaid hearings and drop $63 on a 30-day tag as instructed. I then spend the rest of the week waiting for a letter telling me when my hearing will take place.

I got the letter on Saturday, which I took the liberty of scanning in for y’all to read if you’re interested.

Essentially the DMV agrees that the statutory language I pointed out to them was right, and in fact I don’t need a hearing at all. I just have to pay the civil penalty and move on with my life… the exact same thing I was trying to do on the phone with the apparently-less-than-competent DMV personnel. :mad:

Now I have no objection at all to being required to pay a civil penalty for the insurance lapse. We live in a society where people get penalized for their carelessness to teach them a lesson; I was careless in not putting a stamp on the envelope, I’m fine being penalized for it, and it won’t happen again.

But I’ve got serious reservations with:

  • Not getting an indication about the plate revocation the first time I attempted to renew my plates online, instead only being notified that I needed to get my car inspected. Solely because of the DMV’s negligently-coded website I drove in a vehicle with revoked plates across two separate states spanning five separate days; had I known the plates were revoked, 雅雅 and I could have just taken her car. It’s only by the grace of God that I didn’t get pulled over or in a car accident that would have had far broader repercussions.
  • My registration being revoked in the first place without any kind of notice at all whatsoever from the DMV. The notion that the USPS selectively failed to forward 4 separate letters and a postcard spanning several weeks — when they’ve forwarded all of my other bills and other correspondence without an issue — is simply too implausible to be believed.
  • The DMV arguing the lack of notice is my own fault for not updating them with my new mailing address… when they got my new mailing address on my new license I obtained in August. If a driver with a mostly-unblemished record hasn’t responded to numerous notices purportedly sent to a (older) mailing address, doesn’t it make sense to send at least one of the notices to the person’s (newer) address on their license?
  • Being told by two separate bureaucrats that I’d need to demand a hearing to review the revocation, despite the plain language of the statute I provided to them indicating no such hearing was needed.
  • Being given a series of hoops to jump through before I could even demand the hearing I didn’t need.
  • Having to spend $60+ on a 30-day temporary tag that I only had to buy because the NC DMV apparently doesn’t know the laws it operates under. Had I gotten a notification in the mail before the revocation, or a notice on the website when I attempted to renew my registration on July 1, or an acknowledgement that the revocation was temporary when I talked to a live bureaucrat on July 12, or even gotten the letter they sent on or before July 15, I would have had enough time to renew my registration without the wasted money and time spent buying the temporary tag.

Unfortunately the N.C. General Assembly has already adjourned for the year, because otherwise I’d be in downtown Raleigh raising hell that this level of pervasive, multi-faceted incompetence is allowed to take place in a government agency. This isn’t like a private marketplace where I can switch vendors if the one I’m using turns out to be incompetent — I have no choice but to register my vehicle with the NC DMV if I want to live and drive in North Carolina. So I expect better of a monopolistic enterprise funded by my tax dollars.

With service like this, it’s no wonder so many North Carolinians end up in court

Do better, N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles. Do better.

  1. The infraction was sufficiently comedic that the judge laughed when I appeared in court for the offense a few weeks later :beatup: []

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Spontaneity FTW

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 5, 2010 in Randomness

One of the things I’ve always hated about most vacations is how the last day usually gets wasted. Packing, traveling home, unpacking, etc etc etc — it’s a pretty blah way to end an otherwise-fun excursion.

So 雅雅 and I decided to fix that with a random side trip down North Carolina’s Outer Banks :D

Even though I frequently take the back roads home to visit Nan & Pops, and I’ve been to Elizabeth City State University several times back when I was President of the UNC Association of Student Governments, I never actually made it the extra few miles to North Carolina’s oceanfront. It was a totally different experience compared to what I was accustomed to growing up in the most populous city in Virginia.

I don’t know what exactly I was expecting, but what I found definitely wasn’t it. And I mean that in a good way :)

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First we crossed over the state border and stopped in Moyock, the global headquarters of Xe Services LLC (formerly known as Blackwater). The folks at the visitor’s center in Moyock loaded us up with various maps of the Outer Banks area, and we continued on our way south down US Highway 158 S.

One of the spots on the map was a shop called Lammers Stained Glass & Gifts. Originally we were planning on skipping it — folks selling stained glass didn’t exactly strike us as something worthy of “tourist attraction” status — and I actually did drive past the building as we headed south. But after seeing the shop on the drive-by, deciding it looked interesting, and concluding we had plenty of time for sight-seeing, we turned around and went in.

I’m glad we did :D

First, the place is almost comically huge. From the road it looks tiny, and even the room where you enter through the front is only about the size of my living room (roughly 187ish square feet). But then you walk in… and notice there’s another room. You walk into that room… and see another room.  You go in there… and see another room.  Then there’s a long hallway.  To another room.  Attached to another room.  Attached to a whole separate building. :crack:

Just in case there's any doubt about my career aspirations ;)

We’re talking almost 9,000 square feet total, with nearly every single inch packed with various types of stained glass, crystalware, ornaments, frames, jewelry, and various other odds and ends. The building in the back is a practical warehouse of antiques with all sorts of cool stuff you’d typically see on a show like Pawn Stars or something.1

Given my future vocation, I decided to grab something for my living room window before we left :)

After spending about an hour at Lammers Glass, we then resumed our journey south and east to the Outer Banks, then pivoted north toward the Currituck Beach Lighthouse.

As we’re driving through Duck up toward Corolla (where the lighthouse is located) one of the things that is hard not to notice is how isolated everything feels.  NC Highway 12 is basically just a two-lane road in most places. It seems like a phenomenal place to vacation2 but the first thought that ran through my mind while I was driving was “wow it must be a real pain in the @$$ to evacuate during a hurricane.” :beatup:

The whole area is incredibly beautiful. We got to the Currituck Beach Lighthouse about 45 minutes after leaving Lammers, and walked around the lighthouse grounds to check out the guardhouse and such. 雅雅 didn’t like the idea of paying the entrance fee to climb the lighthouse3… but really didn’t like the idea of waiting around while I climbed it, so we both started up the spiral staircase of the ~15 story structure.

View from the bottom (L); View from the top (R)

The view at the top was pretty amazing :) I took a bunch of photos to stitch a 360º panoramic view together, but until I get around to finding some software for that purpose you’ll have to settle with this single shot of the Atlantic Ocean :P

After hanging out at the top for a few minutes to snap photos and soak in the view, we headed back down and then ventured over to the gift shop.4 Some of the items in the shop reminded us that we needed to check out Corolla Beach, so afterwards we decided to see how far north we could get on NC-12. Feral horses roam all through the northern reaches of the Outer Banks, but the whole area is only accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicles because it’s not paved — you basically have to drive along the shoreline until you get to Carova Beach, adjacent to the Virginia border.5

But with my non-4WD Ford Focus, we decided discretion was the better part of valor and turned around about a quarter-mile in once I noticed the sand starting to pile high :beatup:

From there we headed south back toward Duck (population: ~500), where we stopped for lunch at the Sunset Grille & Raw Bar. Their outdoor seating area is set on the Currituck Sound so we got to enjoy the view while enjoying a superbly-cooked cheeseburger, french fries, and sweet tea :) After that I pulled out my BlackBerry, consulted Google Maps, and we decided to head south toward the Wright Brothers National Memorial down in Kill Devil Hills.

We checked out the building, which includes exhibits on the history of the Wright Brothers, pieces of the planes they built (as well as a replica), and other historical items about flight such as the first military aviation folks, the first female pilot, and so on. After that we ventured out toward the granite markers that designate where the Wright Brothers’ plane landed on each of their 4 test flights… and came to a realization.

Before reading further: don’t judge me please :oops: ;)

For whatever reason, when I learned about the Wright Brothers in my K-12 education I had the impression they took off from the nearby hill where the monument stands. I never really got the big deal, since if they took off from the hill and landed on the ground below they weren’t really “flying” so much as gliding to the ground. But standing there, seeing the piece of railroad track they used to take off, realizing (20+ years later) they took off and landed from the same height — I could only imagine the exhilaration they must have felt by that achievement!

Thinking I must have just been remembering my childhood years wrong, I told 雅雅… who admitted thinking she got taught the same thing. Maybe that’s a weakness in the current K-12 curriculum since we came from 2 entirely different states but both recalled getting taught something inaccurate? :beatup:

Anyhow, at this point 雅雅 and I were both pretty exhausted from all the walking around but I couldn’t resist heading over to the aforementioned hill so I could check out the monument. Similar to being at the top of the lighthouse, it’s a long climb but the view from the top is worth it :) I recorded some video on my camera phone to give you an idea of what it’s like.  I start off facing the Atlantic and circling around clockwise. The field you see at the start and end of the video is the area where the Wright Brothers made their first successful flights; the sound you hear is the wind whipping around like crazy :beatup:

After heading back down the hill and checking out the recent additions in the pavilion — which includes a replica of what Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills were like back in 1903 as well as information chronicling the history of flight since then — we once again consulted Google for the nearest tourist-worthy attraction and decided to head over to Roanoke Island.

On our way there we happened to pass by the Lone Cedar Cafe, owned and operated by state Senator Marc Basnight (D – Manteo). President Pro Tempore of the North Carolina Senate, Basnight is widely considered the most powerful politician in North Carolina. He never went to college but is a tremendously huge supporter of the 17-campus University of North Carolina and ensuring NC students have the ability to pursue a quality higher education in this state :surprised:  Even though I’m a fairly conservative Republican, and I disagree with the Senator on a fairly wide range of issues, I consider myself a Marc Basnight fan just based on his support for higher education.6

This live oak is 400+ years old!

Roanoke Island is home to the Lost Colony and is part of modern-day Dare County, named after the first child born in the Americas to English parents. Once we got on the island we headed north just before realizing it was getting near closing time for government agencies. We skipped past the NC Aquarium and instead headed toward the Elizabethan Gardens, an English pleasure garden built half a century ago in tribute to the colonists. The whole trail through the gardens is about 1.5 miles. I’ve never been a garden type, but I see why people enjoy stuff like this ;)

Particularly cool was a super-massive-huge live oak tree that is 400+ years old — basically meaning it was there in that same spot when those colonists first set up shop on the island! :eek:  It’s pretty neat being able to stand underneath a tree and imagine that someone four centuries ago once stood in that exact same spot of that exact same tree :)

By the time 雅雅 and I finished checking out the gardens, it was a hair past 7:00pm and time for us to start making the 3.5-hour drive back home to Durham (we had left Virginia Beach around 9am :surprised: ). We took US Highway 64 W, following along the Alligator River before seeing endless fields upon fields of North Carolina’s famed agriculture.

After driving for about 2 hours we decided to stop for dinner in Robersonville, a teeny-tiny town of roughly 2,000ish people7… and home to the most technologically-advanced Bojangles’ restaurant I’ve ever seen :crack:

The building was brand new, and included all of the “green” tech stuff you’d expect from a new building. The registers had the gizmos in the front where customers can swipe their own credit/debit card (an anomaly for Boj’s restaurants in the Triangle). There was free wi-fi. Even the bathrooms had Dyson Airblades — the first time I had ever seen them, and which worked surprisingly well.

Needless to say it was a fitting end, having dinner at a tourist-worthy Bojangles’ after all of the other bona fide tourist attractions we spent the entire day checking out :D

Folks who have worked with me know I’m an obsessive planner, and I’ve never been one to randomly take the day off and go somewhere out of the ordinary. But once I’ve cleared some days in my calendar as “time to go adventure” days, I absolutely love not having the slightest clue where I’m going and instead just figuring it out as I go along. I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money over this past week, but it has undoubtedly been the single best vacation I’ve ever had for that reason alone: no work, no Student Government, no class, no excuses for staying tethered to life back home — just taking a few days off to unwind and explore without a set schedule or agenda.

It’s good to be back in the Bull City of course, but that was definitely a blast :) And it reminds my why I’ve made North Carolina my home for the past 12 years ;)

  1. Including restored gas pumps from back in the early-1900s :surprised: []
  2. Definitely more laidback than Virginia Beach. Example: it’s possible to find parking :beatup: []
  3. She’s afraid of heights []
  4. Where I picked up a lighthouse ornament for the Christmas tree :spin: []
  5. It’s pretty cool if you pull it up on Google Earth, seeing the development in Carova Beach totally separate and apart from… everything. I’m determined to buy a Hummer or something so I can go check it out some time in the future :D []
  6. Which is actually a bit weird, because many of my predecessors in the UNC Association of Student Governments dislike him for various reasons even though they’re much closer ideologically to the Senator than I am :crack: []
  7. N.C. State has over 33,000 students, by contrast. []

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Happy Independence Day! :D

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 4, 2010 in Randomness

The vacation to Virginia Beach continues, spending today celebrating the 234th birthday of these United States… my favorite holiday of the year :D

雅雅 and I first spent the afternoon unsuccessfully trying to find parking somewhere near the Oceanfront, eventually giving up 2 hours later. I’m so accustomed to being at the beach either early in the morning or late at night that I totally forgot how insane it gets in the middle of the day :beatup:

The Hurricane

We made up for it by heading to Wild Water Rapids for a few hours1 B-)

Moving around was a little difficult due to quarter-sized blisters I got on the balls of my feet Friday, but a pair of bandages and some flip flops solved the problem. I even took the opportunity to ride The Hurricane, the crazy high-speed contraption in the photo.2

I chickened out back in 2008 but figured I’d give it a shot this time around. It was an experience ;)

Then we headed back to the grandparent’s house for the usual Independence Day grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, and various other summer food… and ice cream :spin: After that we took the 10-minute walk to Mount Trashmore Park for the annual fireworks show.

I know y’all couldn’t be there with me, so I recorded a bit of video on my phone and posted it on YouTube so you can pretend ;)

Hopefully all of you had a fun and festive day! :D Have a great night y’all!

  1. Our 3rd theme park in 3 days: we went to Busch Gardens with the family yesterday, and to Water Country USA by ourselves the day before. Crazy expensive but sooooo much fun :spin: []
  2. For my NC-based readers, the Hurricane is similar to the Dragon’s Den ride at Emerald Pointe… except you’re not on an inner tube. It’s just you. :surprised: []

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Sporadic posting ahead

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 1, 2010 in Randomness

Good evening folks :)

With the 234th birthday of the United States coming up — my favorite holiday each year, edging out Thanksgiving — I’m getting ready to take 雅雅 with me on a trip to Virginia Beach to see Nan & Pops for the weekend.

And since financial aid refunds got disbursed yesterday, I’m planning on making a bona fide vacation out of it ;)

I’ll be drafting posts during my absence; the June site stats entry is actually already in progress. But I can’t guarantee when I’ll get everything posted, so don’t be surprised if things are sporadic over the next week.

Hope all of you have an amazing weekend! :D

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TDot’s Tips: More $$$-saving ideas

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 13, 2010 in TDot's Tips

Good evening everybody! :D

A couple weeks ago I posted a handful of tips for the pre-L’s on how to live within their means when they get to law school in a couple months.

Several of you sent positive feedback saying you thought the tips were useful, but a few folks complained they focused more on money management habits (making a budget, living like a law student instead of a lawyer, etc) instead of tangible ways to save $$$ while you’re in law school.

Luckily for y’all, I’ve got a few of those too ;)

Here are some suggestions I’ve used to live large without going broke:

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1) FIND A 2L AND PHYSICALLY ATTACH YOURSELF TO THEIR HIP
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Figuratively at least :)

2Ls can already give you great advice because they remember 1L year like it was yesterday — since it basically was yesterday for us, being only a couple months ago.

An added perk of 2Ls: they’ve got 1L books they need to sell, or know classmates who have them. Selling direct to a 1L gets them more cash than they’d get from the bookstore, and saves you a tidy sum compared to what you’d pay buying from the bookstore or Amazon.

*PLUS* you get the added perk of their text highlights. It’s like peering into the mind of someone who was in your class just before you, and can be a huge help for digesting cases.

In my own case, I bought 2 of my books from Delta the now-3L1 and a 3rd from a classmate she arranged for me to meet. The highlights in my Torts textbook were spot-on — I didn’t highlight a single thing the entire semester because I knew exactly what “take home” points to pull from the text. Same with CrimLaw.

And I saved $100+ in the process, which got used to pay my BLSA dues and buy a handful of class-related t-shirts throughout the year.

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2) CHECK STATE SURPLUS FOR OFFICE SUPPLIES
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With few exceptions, every state and local government across the country has an office or agency where they take surplus government property and sell it to the public. Many universities have them as well.

These are easily among the biggest bargains you will ever find on anything office-related ;) A few (like North Carolina’s state surplus office in Raleigh) even have surplus vehicles and fancy stuff seized from drug dealers and such.2

Things like computers and GPS units are quickly snapped up by folks who then resell them on eBay, so if you want the good stuff on those you need to be there early and on days when shipments come in. But for things like chairs, desks and filing cabinets, they’ll always have a constant supply that you just have to inspect closely.

For example, my desk chair is nicely cushioned, vertically adjustable, rocks back, has rolling wheels on it, etc. It was sent to state surplus because the left armrest was loose, which I discovered could be fixed with about 10 minutes of work adjusting the screw.3

Retail price: $110 + tax
eBay price for similar style and use: $30 + shipping
My surplus price: $5 cash
Savings: $25+ (83%)

The only catch for most of these surplus offices is that it’s a cash- or money-order business many times. Most don’t take checks, and many don’t take credit or debit cards because state laws typically ban paying the card vendor fees (and the card vendors ban merchants from directly passing the fees on to customers).

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3) CHECK CRAIGSLIST FOR EVERYTHING ELSE
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More well-known than trolling the surplus offices (but still an excellent spot to find good deals) are the CraigsList listings for your area.

I’ve used CraigsList three times since law school. The first time was finding someone who had just moved in and needed to get rid of their cardboard boxes — got a bunch of really good ones free of charge, and used them to move myself to Durham :D

雅雅 also helped me look for a bed, where we found a lady who had a full-size bed and box spring in a spare room. She was upgrading her own bed to a queen-size, her old bed was going to replace the spare room bed, and the spare room bed needed to be sold. She was incredibly nice and even agreed to hold the bed until the week before orientation so I could come up with the cash.

Retail price for same bed and box spring: $900 + tax
eBay price for similar style and use: $500 + shipping
My CraigsList price: $100 cash (plus she delivered it!)
Savings: $400+ (80%)

Great for football, Wii, and L&O:SVU marathons ;)

The last time I used it was actually a couple weeks ago, when I needed to find a TV for my living room. I had previously figured out how to jerry-rig a normal office projector to play video from the cable box, and got über-spoiled by essentially having a 110″ TV in the living room.

I found a couple who had just moved from California to Chapel Hill, and because of the configuration of their new place there wasn’t a suitable place to put their projector and still get a decent-sized picture. Their loss turned out to be my gain :D

Retail price for cheapest projector with comparable specs: $700 + tax
eBay price for similar style and use: $400 + shipping
My CraigsList price: $300 cash
Savings: $100+ (25%)

The risk with CraigsList is its popularity among scammers, and the fact you typically end up visiting the house of someone you don’t know… who could conceivably be a serial killer or stalker or something. So if you’re nervous grab a buddy and bring them with you.

And like the surplus offices, finding the really sweet deals require a certain level of diligence and luck — check the listings regularly throughout the day, and if you find something you want contact the seller ASAP.

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4) SEE IF YOUR MOBILE PHONE PLAN IS OBSOLETE
====================

I stumbled onto this one by accident, so you’re forgiven if you didn’t know about it already ;)

Mobile phone companies adjust their calling plans frequently, usually at least twice a year. They usually feature capacity increases for minutes (and data usage if you’ve got a smartphone), changes to other calling features, and occasionally price reductions.

If you’ve got a plan that’s been phased out, your mobile phone company will happily continue letting you keep that plan and continue taking your money without ever telling you. But they also like getting rid of obsolete plans when it makes sense for them to do so, since it cuts down on operational expenses the more people are in a “one size fits all” arrangement.

Periodically check with your mobile phone provider and see if your current plan is obsolete. If it is, see if they’ll let you change to the new plan without requiring a contract extension (or if you really like the provider, extend your contract with them).

Two years ago, back when I was both NC State‘s Student Senate President and UNCASG President at the same time, I needed to upgrade my phone plan so that I’d have more than the 900 minutes I was originally using. I found out my current plan was no longer offered and I upgraded to 1350 minutes a month for less money than I was already paying.

Now that I’ve retired from both positions, I actually need to downgrade… and lucky for me it turns out the 1350-minute plans are no longer offered, so I can downgrade back to 900 minutes, pay less $$, and don’t have to extend my contract :spin:

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5) CHECK FOR YOUR UNIVERSITY’S DISCOUNTS
====================

While we’re on the topic of mobile phones, this one is a potential gold mine :)

Almost every school of law in the country is affiliated with a public or private university. And almost every university in the country works out special deals with all sorts of vendors so their students and employees can get discounts on a variety of products and services — anything to help lure people to the institution.

For example, back when I was at NC State everyone affiliated with the University was eligible for a discount on their Verizon mobile phone service: 20% per month, for the life of their account. All I had to do was present my student ID and a University-affiliated email address.

My mobile phone savings: ~$300/year

NCSU had a large variety of other discounts too, I just never used them. It seems very few students actually know about the discounts, especially in the graduate/professional schools where you didn’t have the opportunity to go through the university’s orientation they give the undergrads. Check with your University’s student affairs folks or the business office to see if they have anything similar, or just ask the companies you use if they have student discounts for your university.

The worst they can do is say no ;)

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6) ALSO CHECK FOR GROUP-RATE DISCOUNTS
====================

Similar to the discounts that universities negotiate as perks for their students and employees, many state/national fraternities, sororities and trade organizations have similar discounts as well.

Consider car insurance.

Back when I used to work as a paralegal for a personal injury attorney, I saw entirely too many cases where accident victims were left with debilitating injuries and future medical expenses that would never be covered because the tortfeasor was uninsured or had a low policy limit while the victim had minimal underinsurance coverage (used when the tortfeasor’s policy is nonexistent or maxed out; you make a claim against your own policy).

Out of paranoia I amped up the limits on my auto policy to the max most companies offer in North Carolina “over the counter” without drafting special contracts: $100K/$300K personal injury, $100K damage, $5K medical payments, etc etc etc.

The problem is that much coverage is @#$%ing expensive, even when you have a flawless driving record :mad:

Turns out the North Carolina Farm Bureau, an advocacy group I’ve been a member of for the better part of a decade, has its own insurance company. In exchange for the mere $25 a year in dues I was paying to the organization, I was able to cut my auto insurance bill in half for the same policy limits.

Your mileage may vary (pun intended) depending on where you live and your group affiliation, but it can’t hurt to check :)

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7) ADJUST YOUR THERMOSTAT TO YOUR STUDY HABITS
====================

We’ve all probably seen or read at some point the various public service announcements on TV or in magazines about the money you could save by tweaking the temperature in your house up or down a couple degrees depending on the weather.

If you haven’t done that before, law school is the time to start ;)

Particularly if you’re the type of person who will spend a lot of time at school, you won’t be in your apartment all that much during the week. Set your temperature a few degrees cooler in the fall/winter months so your heat comes on less frequently when you’re not at home to enjoy it. Do the opposite in the spring/summer.

How much you save will depend on a number of variables (including living space, type of heating/cooling, the weather, etc) but using my own apartment as an example I’m running about $15/mo less than the previous tenant. It’s not much, but it adds up.

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8) WATCH YOUR EATING HABITS
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Food tends to become an afterthought when you’re trying to read through dozens of cases a night. My (admittedly unscientific) observations suggest the overwhelming majority of law students I’ve met fall into 2 groups: (1) folks who forget to eat and then grab fast food on the way home, and (2) folks who get bored out of their minds while reading and frequently snack on junk food to break up the monotony.

My stomach and I happen to span both groups :beatup:

In addition to the unpleasant health side effects — I’ve got several classmates who ballooned during the semester, dropped a ton of weight during winter break, gained it back during the spring semester, and are now starving themselves to lose it again — constantly eating fast food and junk food will eat up a lot of cash (pun intended here too :* ).

Now I’m not going to parrot other folks and tell you to eat fruits and veggies and all that jazz. It’d be great if you did, but I’m not gonna give y’all advice that I don’t follow myself ;)

You might want to learn to cook at least a little bit; see this TDot’s Tips entry for more, and also check out TDot’s Treats for some recipes. In terms of food-per-$, that’s the cheapest route to go by far.

But if you don’t have time to cook or forget, try to stick to the low-cost value menus if you go to a fast food place. Not only is the food cheaper, the portions are usually smaller but still filling (limiting the 1L weight gain).

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9) AND WATCH YOUR OTHER VICES
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All of us have our own “guilty pleasures.” Some folks like to buy shoes, others prefer video games, still others hit the bar every night of the week. In my case it’s DVDs — you could probably guess from the projector :beatup: — an unnecessary expense I justify to myself as a reward for being amazing.

No matter how well-deserved that reward may be ( ;)) the costs add up quickly.

Try to keep a close eye on how much you’re spending to indulge those habits. You might even want to put a line item in your monthly budget for the occasional splurge.

Especially in the beginning of the semester when cash is plentiful, it’s real easy to dig a financial hole without realizing it… and one you’ll have to fill in right around the time final exams get here. Not a good situation, but one you can easily avoid :)

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That concludes my list of things to help save you money!

Hopefully all of you will find at least 2-3 items on this list that might be useful — and if you’ve got tips of your own, share them in the comments! :D

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Past TDot’s Tips entries:

  1. I need to change Delta’s tag btw; I’ll knock that out some time soon. For now just remember she’s officially a 3L. []
  2. The office in Raleigh once had a diamond-encrusted pool table from a drug dealer. The diamonds alone were worth $50K+ :crack: []
  3. Work which I concede I still haven’t done because I just don’t care enough to fix it :beatup: []

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