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TDot’s Tips: Bootstrapping your first law office

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 10, 2012 in TDot's Tips

I meant to post this entry back on Saturday night, but I got side-tracked by watching one of the 3 most-amazing NC State football games I can remember1 — as my alma mater came back from a 0-16 halftime deficit to beat the #3 Florida State Seminoles 17-16, scoring the game-winning touchdown with a mere 0:16 left on the clock (the first time we had the lead all game!) :spin:

Then of course life and the whole “needing to pay rent” thing got in the way, so you’re getting this entry 4 days later :beatup:

Since we’re now more than a full week into the new fiscal quarter, I wanted to share a few equipment-gathering tips for the entrepreneurial crowd in solo and small practice. If you’re like me just starting out — or a 3L heading that way soon — you’ve probably realized the practice of law is awfully damn expensive. And unfortunately you need to make certain expenses now so you don’t risk derailing your practice from the beginning.2

Luckily there are a few things you can do to create a functioning law office without breaking the bank in your first year. Here are four suggestions that can help:

  • Get a high-end laptop as a 3L: It’s not a widely advertised program, but the US Department of Education permits students to get an increase in financial aid once as an undergraduate and once as a graduate/professional student solely for the purchase of a computer and related accessories. If you’re still a 3L reading this, your financial aid office will have the details; to see how my N.C. State does it, check out the bottom of this Scholarships & Financial Aid webpage.3 Use your last year of law school to get something on the high end that will last you through your first few years of practice. Now realistically this means you’ll end up taking out more student loans, and I fully realize no rational person normally takes out a loan on a depreciating asset, but (i) when you start your practice preserving cash will be vital (landlords don’t like credit cards), and (ii) the terms of a student loan are almost always going to be better than the terms of financing the laptop on a credit card or some other form of credit.
  • Use a scanner + laser printer as your copy machine: The costs of a copy machine lease vary depending on where you are in the country, but dropping around $200-$250 per month is a typical expense — around $3,000 a year. The problem is that, in the start of your practice when you have comparatively fewer clients, you’re essentially paying for the machine to go unused.  A less expensive combination is to combine a solid laser printer with a standalone scanner, ideally one with an automatic document feeder (ADF) attachment. It will be a slower option than the copy machine but the cost savings are worth it early on until you’re making a lot of copies. Consider this: a Brother 2270DW (wireless+duplex) costs around $99, an Epson v500 scanner is currently $150, and the ADF costs another $200. That all comes out to $449 — one-sixth the cost of the copy machine lease, with no contracts or other hidden expenses after that initial purchase aside from toner and paper.
  • Government surplus == cheap furniture: I guarantee every single person reading this is within a 30-mile radius of a municipal, state, or federal government agency of some kind. Governments routinely upgrade equipment and furniture with each budget cycle (universities especially), and when the old stuff has to go it typically ends up at a government surplus department somewhere. Find the ones in your state and go do some shopping. Most of the items getting replaced aren’t in mint condition, but they’re still more than adequate. For example, I bought an ugly-but-comfortable office chair that had a broken left arm. Price from government surplus due to the defect? $3. Once I got it home all I had to do was break out my drill and screw it into a slightly different place on the frame to make it as good as new.4 In addition to chairs the surplus folks will also have fleets of desks, file cabinets, and just about anything else you’ll need for an office.
  • Negotiate for free office space: With the economy still in the doldrums, many landlords are sitting on space that hasn’t been leased in a very very long time. Take advantage of that opportunity by pushing the landlord to consider giving you 3-6 months rent-free while you get your practice off the ground. In exchange, you can even offer to help them out with any legal needs they might have. You’re not going to end up with the penthouse suite, but you’d be amazed the quality of office space you can get for pennies with just a little negotiation — and politely reminding them that unoccupied space doesn’t make anyone any money.

Hope those suggestions are useful to at least one of you out there! :) More to come later this week, including another entry in my “I’m a magnet for government incompetence” series ;)

Have a great night y’all! :D

—===—

Past TDot’s Tips entries:

  1. The others being the miraculous 27-point comeback over the University of Maryland last season, and the highlight-reel-worthy plays to beat the University of Non-Compliance at Cheater Haven the year before :D []
  2. CLEs are a key example: if you passed the bar in July, you have until Dec. 31, 2013 to log your hours — but some of the law practice management stuff is essential for new solos. []
  3. I couldn’t find comparable information online for North Carolina Central University, but I used the program myself just by talking to the financial aid folks in person and then providing them a receipt for the purchase. []
  4. I still haven’t actually done that of course, but that’s mostly because I grew accustomed to armless office chairs doing computer science work in undergrad :beatup: []

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4

Hi! I’m alive, thanks for checking

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 29, 2012 in The 3L Life

Yes, I’m still here :D

When I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I was sequestered in my own personalized version of 3L Hell, I wasn’t joking. For most of January my schedule’s followed a pattern: Wake up at 6am, feed/walk dog, bathe, get dressed, go to class then work then trial team practice, come home around 10pm, feed/walk dog, do homework until midnight-ish and go to bed. For a time I had briefly hit the point where I was downing five 20oz bottles of Diet Mt Dew a day and living off Pop-Tarts, animal crackers, multivitamins, and anything else I could eat in the car  :sick:

Which of course didn’t leave much room for updating law:/dev/null :beatup:

I don’t have *too* much time to write tonight, but I miss talking with y’all so here’s a quick bullet list on some of what’s happened since mid-December:

  • Fall semester continued in perpetuity; finally done. With the different extracurricular activities I was engaged in, plus a job on the side, the Fall semester didn’t actually end until a couple weeks ago. I had papers due in Employment Discrimination and another for Constitutional Law II, so I had flashbacks of undergrad and never really got a substantive break during the winter. It was basically a mini-mester trying to clean up what didn’t get finished and spending more hours than I care to admit in the law building.1
  • Wolfpack won the Belk Bowl. But I did take a few hours from the ongoing academic tedium to go with 雅雅 to the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, where the NC State Wolfpack dismantled the Louisville Cardinals :D  Didn’t have the time or money to stay overnight like we did for the Champs Bowl last year, but I needed the break and the game was only a few hours away. Watching another win in person was worth the freezing temps and packed stadium :)
  • Most un-Christmas-y Christmas evah. Christmas is my 3rd favorite holiday of the year, following Independence Day at #1 and Thanksgiving at #2… but this year there basically was no Christmas at all :beatup:  With the academic stuff due I couldn’t take the time to go visit anyone (and didn’t have the money for it anyway), but then on top of it I couldn’t even put up my own tree because Samson tried eating the ornaments — the stuffed ones apparently looked like toys worth chewing apart, and the ceramic ones evidently looked like dog treats. So it was easily the most un-Christmas-y Christmas I’d ever “celebrated.” Not sure what the plan will be for next year, but I need to figure something out to stop the dog from destroying things.
  • Samson nearly died before New Year’s. Speaking of Samson, he nearly died right before New Year’s :cry:  He was given one of those big raw pork bones as a Christmas gift, because they’re allegedly great for dogs, but somehow the snippets of bones he managed to chew off clogged up his insides. He wasn’t able to poop and howled in pain when he tried, then woke me up at 4am to go outside and puke. So I freaked out and rushed him to the vet; they took an x-ray and discovered he had backed up fecal matter running nearly the length of his body. They put him in the pet hospital, gave him an enema and an IV and some special food, and a few hundred dollars later he was miserable but alive. Though you can’t tell he nearly died from the way he acts now, as he still tries to eat every damn thing in sight… :mad:
  • Got myself a Christmas present: fixed TV. I can’t remember if I mentioned it in a past entry, but what seems like an eternity ago the bulb in my bought-cheap-on-CraigsList projector television finally burned out so I’ve been working for the past couple months either (i) in dead silence or (ii) with video-less music on in the background. So while Christmas itself wasn’t particularly festive, in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve I decided to give myself a Christmas present and finally fix the burned-out projector in the name of being more productive.2 With bulb costs being what they are for a projector that was/is 5 years old, it was actually cheaper to get a brand new projector with better specs. Money I couldn’t really afford to spend given the mortgage payments I still owe BarBri, but I wasn’t going to be able to make it all the way through to August without a TV :beatup:
  • Finally completed NC Bar application! On January 3rd I finally got my monster-of-a-bar-app mailed off. The North Carolina Board of Law Examiners likes knowing every single thing you’ve ever done in your life since you’ve turned 18 — and, in the case of my last name changing when I was adopted at 3-years-old, the stuff before 18 :crack: — to the point where starting the app back in September wasn’t even early enough for me to get all of it done before the last possible moment. I had to request documents from the Social Security Administration to make sure I listed every single place I’ve ever worked, go rummaging through my Bucket-o’-Files to find residential records from the period right after I dropped out of college,3 go to the Clerk’s Office to find out all the cases I testified in back when I worked as the Clerk’s Office ombudsman down in Wake County, come up with 12 different character references, make three copies of everything, and on and on and on. Then include the $700.00 fee to apply, and set aside another +$125.00 to use my computer on the bar exam.4 But fortunately — it’s all done. So yay. And to anyone even older than me: START NOW or you’ll regret it!
  • 1Ls won Kilpatrick-Townsend competition. I’ve already talked about this one at length so nothing much more to say. I’m just glad it validated my philosophy that people produce a better work product when they’re forced to develop it themselves :) Very proud of these folks!
  • Any guesses on which team is mine?

    Submitted brief for Howard moot court competition. A couple months ago I mentioned making the moot court team, the end result of an ill-conceived experiment to see if I had been avoiding it out of fear the past two years or if I really had the skill to do it if I wanted. I was slated for the Howard Moot Court Competition taking place in Washington D.C. at the end of February. Making the team and getting the Howard brief done both came at a high cost — days spent brief writing and editing, that probably should have been spent on classwork instead — but I’m proud of the end result. Feel free to review the briefs if you get bored and guess which one is ours ;)

  • Got a position with the Durham DA’s office… I also somehow convinced the Durham County District Attorney’s Office to bring me in as an intern :surprised:  First day was about 3ish weeks ago. The sheer volume of work — and the… mmm… unique folks who come through the courthouse (especially in traffic court) — have made it a pretty awesome experience so far. I could definitely see myself working there after graduation.
  • …and won my first case! I’m also officially 1-0 on my “real world” trial record! :D I’m slated to work on Tuesday afternoons, and typically there’s absolutely nothing going on in District Court so I end up working on subpoenas and other administrative stuff. So last Tuesday I decided to be a good little intern and show up to work 15 minutes early, get sent down to misdemeanor criminal court… and get handed two shucks and told “Go interview your officer, you’ve got this next case” :eek:  I had no expectation of trying a case, so I didn’t have any notes, my North Carolina Crimes book, nada. I was so absolutely terrified I quite literally forgot what it was I was supposed to prove in a criminal trial; as I’m out in the hallway going through the shucks trying to ascertain what’s going on, I grab an ADA who helped us with trial team last year and plead for a smidge of guidance. She replies “Well what are your elements for the offense?” and suddenly “DING!” my inner lightbulb finally clicks on. I find the officer, read his police report, get asked by him what he can expect on cross, and somehow came up with a quasi-intelligent and spot-on answer. I don’t think I’m allowed to go into too much detail, but it involved two Defendants (and their respective attorneys) charged with minor-but-serious firearms offenses.5 I went through my direct a bit fast due to the nervousness, but the more opposing counsel objected to a response — or asked something ridiculous on cross-examination6 — the more I got into my zone. Neither Defendant took the stand, and a few closing arguments later they were found guilty and sentenced to active time, a fine, probation, and a prohibition from owning firearms. Not bad for my first go-round :)
  • Rewarded myself with a new laptop. In exchange for getting the DA gig, I “rewarded” myself by finally upgrading my trusty 5-year-old MacBook Pro. The Department of Education enables students to get a one-time financial aid boost once in undergrad and once in graduate/professional school for a computer purchase, and it was hitting the point where I’d need something I could use for the first couple years when I start practicing. So I’ve now gone from an original Core Duo with a self-upgraded 250GB hard drive and 2GB of RAM to a new quad-core i77 with a 750GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM :eek:  Seeing how much the hardware has advanced in the past half decade is crazy. I don’t like some of the changes (e.g. there are new function keys to play/pause/rewind/fast forward, so I have to press the Function key to use Dashboard and such) but overall it’s nice being back on the leading edge of technology for another couple months.
  • Fall grades were a disaster. While everything else was going smoothly, my grades turned out better than anticipated but worse than I wanted (if that makes sense). I’ve now fallen back below a 3.0 for the first time in a year and will have to pull off a miracle to graduate with honors. And in all likelihood I won’t be able to finish the Civil Rights & Constitutional Law concentration I’ve been working on for the past 2.5 years. We’ll see what happens.
  • Debating giving up internship to focus on grades and SPICE. The grade situation has prompted me to reassess what I’m doing this semester, and I’m giving serious consideration to dropping the DA internship and some other activities to free up time to focus on grades and the SPICE proposal. It’s not an ideal situation, especially with the economy, but doing the jack-of-all-trades thing clearly isn’t working. I’ll keep you posted.

That’s it for tonight y’all, thanks for still reading :) Hopefully more posts in the days ahead. Good night!

  1. Including 2 separate occasions where I got thrown out by Public Safety because the building was supposedly closed :beatup: []
  2. I am, for reasons unknown to me, more productive when I have Law & Order reruns on in the background… []
  3. Note to the Board of Law Examiners: homeless people generally don’t have files or records of their homelessness. Nowhere to put our file cabinets and all… ::smh:: []
  4. As a point of comparison, the Marine Corps only wanted 10 years of documents back during my 1L year to make sure I passed the security check, and didn’t charge me for the application. Completing those docs was a cakewalk compared to this. []
  5. City code violations (hence the “minor”), but just about anything involving the discharge of an assault rifle qualifies as serious when it comes to prosecuting people. Especially in Durham. []
  6. “Didn’t my client tell you it was his mother’s assault rifle?” No bullsh*t on that one, that was the actual question! :crack: []
  7. Meaning 8 total virtual processors :surprised: []

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15

It’s October already?? O_o

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 10, 2011 in The 3L Life

Remember when I wrote that I enjoyed being in over my head?

I’ve changed my mind :beatup:

It’s safe to say the semester is going by entirely too d*mn fast when we were more than week into the month before I finally realized it was October.1 Midterms are this week for the 1Ls and 2Ls, and a string of papers are due for me. I’m ready for this month to be over and we just fast-forward to Thanksgiving so I can breathe for a few days…

  • The big news story from the past couple weeks has been the death of Steve Jobs last Wednesday from pancreatic cancer :( The good folks over at MacRumors have this comprehensive entry of news and reflections. I found out via a Drudge Report app alert (on my long-sought iPhone) in the middle of a reception I was attending, followed by a flurry of text messages from QuietStorm, 雅雅, and several classmates asking how I was dealing with the news.2 Steve’s been my role model for over a decade, and the combination of his own talents and his gathering other talented people around him at Apple has definitely enriched my life (and helped me get assignments done on time). Though a good many of us suspected he didn’t have much longer following his resignation as Apple CEO last month, the news still sucks. My heart goes out to his wife and kids :heart:
  • On a less depressing note, Wednesday was a whirlwind day in general — starting with me dropping off Samson for his last round of heartworm shots! :D He had to stay overnight at the Durham APS for two separate injections, but after another few weeks of activity restrictions he should be heartworm free and able to resume life as an active dog! :spin:
  • After dropping off Samson and heading to class, I then drove down to my alma mater for a videotaped interview with staff from N.C. State Libraries. A couple years ago they created a page in their “Historical State” archive chronicling former Student Body Presidents… and at some point expanded it to this Student Leaders page where they’re including folks like me too :surprised:  So they had about two-dozen questions on stuff that happened in Student Government when I was around back in 2006-2009, covering stuff like my role as a Senator when I wrote or sponsored 49 different pieces of legislation, the extensive drama surrounding the Spring 2007 SSP election,3 my first term as Senate President when I had a less-than-cooperative relationship with the Executive Branch, and so on. Makes me glad I did a decent job as SSP, otherwise my incompetence would be enshrined for all eternity :beatup:
  • Right after the NCSU interview I went out west to a reception for incoming UNC-system President Tom Ross, held at the Joint School of Nanoscience & Nanoengineering shared by UNC Greensboro and NC A&T State. I’d been to receptions before back when I was UNCASG President; I expected a sit-down dinner thing where you make small talk with 6-7 other education-oriented folks seated at your table, eat, and exchange pleasantries before departing. This was apparently more of a “make friends and influence people”-type thing, because the place was swarming with politicos, judges, fundraisers, and other people famous by NC standards, with no fewer than 4 different “liquor stations” where attendees could imbibe a variety of beverages.4 In general I’m not a particularly huge fan of these types of big, unstructured social events — see, e.g., my abject terror/awkwardness during the “mixer” at 1L Orientation two years ago — but I appreciated the opportunity to catch up with some folks I hadn’t seen since my term on the Board ended :D
  • Plus I got to meet Governor Easley!5 I saw him while talking to someone about the state budget and the budget cuts going on across the UNC system, and finally worked up the nerve to say hello. I tell him I’m a 3L at NCCU Law and the current SBA President… and he starts motioning other people over to come meet me instead :crack:  It easily ranks among the most surreal experiences of my life
  • My lapel pin collection, now with pins from all 17 UNC institutions! (the top 3 rows)

    …and when the event was winding down, on the shuttle back to the parking lot I had the serendipitous opportunity to meet Dr. J. Todd Roberts, the new Chancellor of the N.C. School of Science & Mathematics (North Carolina’s residential high school for high-achieving students). :D I noticed the NCSSM lapel pin on his jacket when his wife asked if  I had enjoyed the event. I replied that I had, then asked if he was “the new guy” running NCSSM.6 We exchanged introductions, and I somewhat-imperiously asked if they sold NCSSM lapel pins anywhere; it was the only institution still missing from my collection, where I had gathered lapel pins from all 16 other UNC institutions. He told me they didn’t, and he really needed his for President Ross’s inauguration the following day… but he offered it to me anyway! I basically pledged my undying loyalty to NCSSM right there on the shuttle, and sent the school a $50 donation when I got back to Durham — right after filling the one remaining gap in my collection :spin:

  • I wish I could say academics were going quite as well :( I’m currently sitting on a legitimate, bona fide “F” in Tax right now. Right alongside another “F” in Appellate Advocacy I. Fortunately both courses still have 80%+ of the grade still remaining to be earned, but the current standings highlight that I’m in deep sh*t academically. I’ve been trying to pare back my extracurricular activities to focus more on the papers and other miscellaneous stuff we have to do. It’s a deep hole to climb out, and will be taking me awhile to get there…7
  • To highlight how bad things are going, I was walking through the law clinic earlier today when Prof Tax herself called my name — in that “Go straight to the Principal’s Office young man” tone of voice that I think all teachers, from K-12 to college, have innately mastered — to make known she wasn’t happy with my sub-standard performance in her class. I pleaded my case but at the end of the day I’ve just been doing too much non-academic stuff. I promised I’d be in class on time tomorrow and work to catch up.
  • (On a somewhat-related note, I really dislike paper-based classes :mad: My colleagues gravitate toward them because it’s easier to get an A on a paper you can pour hours of time into — but I just can’t seem to find the time. I miss going through a couple weeks of hell studying for exams, having a test, and being done. Having four different classes with various papers due at various points over the semester currently qualifies as the most grating experience of my law school career…)
  • Even so, I’m still trying to write a brief to apply for our Moot Court Board8 :beatup:

There’s more stuff to write about, but I think I’ll cap it for this particular entry because I really need to get back to reading for class.

I hope all of you had a great Monday, and have a great week! (and a great October! ;) )

  1. And the only reason I noticed was because the 1Ls were panicking about midterms. []
  2. And yes, I’ll confess I cried a little when I got home :beatup: []
  3. For more details see Technician’s SSP Timeline 1 and SSP Timeline 2, along with the FIRE Act. []
  4. I stuck with the lemonade since I was driving :) []
  5. And yes, I was/am still excited even if he was/is our first governor to plead to a felony — he’s still a graduate of NCCU Law, the namesake for our 2L Opening Statement competition, and was both a superlative District Attorney and the twice-elected Governor of the 10th most-populous state in the nation. Bill Clinton was the first President impeached since Nixon, but I’d still be honored to shake the guy’s hand :P []
  6. When I was UNCASG President I had worked with NCSSM’s former Chancellor Gerald Boarman, who left to work in Maryland soon after my term ended. []
  7. Note to 1Ls/2Ls: DON’T REPEAT MY MISTAKES. #kkthxu []
  8. Just trying to see if I’m competent enough to do appellate work, that’s all! :angel: []

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Steve Jobs, Apple iCEO-for-life, steps down ::sadface::

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 24, 2011 in Technology

Wow.

Just… wow.

From Apple’s Press Info page:

August 24, 2011

Letter from Steve Jobs

To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.

Steve

I’ve got an entry on first impressions of 3L Fall prepped and ready to deploy, but this hits like a brick to the chest :(

I know Steve’s “just a CEO,” Apple’s “just a company,” Steve’s health has been getting progressively worse since at least 2004, etc etc etc. And yes, there’s an ever-so-tiny part of me that feels silly for being upset.

But I feel like I’m indebted to the guy.  It was the Apple Campus Representative program he created nearly two decades ago — long before MacOS X existed, before the first Apple Store was erected, before anyone even envisioned an iPhone or an iPad or buying music and apps on an otherwise-hardware-only store in the cloud — that gave me my first opportunity to do something really, really cool.

If you’re a long-time law:/dev/null reader, you already know the story about how that happened: me coming to college dirt poor and sans computer, flipping through the classifieds in N.C. State‘s student newspaper The Technician seeing if I could find someone selling their PC… on what turned out to be the only day Apple had paid for an ad seeking a campus rep.

Twelve years later, I still have no clue why they hired me :beatup:

But it was like being one of those kids finding a Golden Ticket in the old Willy Wonka movie.1

Suddenly I was immersed in the latest technology: a grape-colored Rev. D iMac, MacOS 8.5.1, programs like SoundJam MP,2 the list goes on. I was meeting administrators and other tech purchasers all over the N.C. State campus, learning the ins and outs of how the bureaucracy worked — invaluable information when I got back into the Student Senate nearly a decade later. Having my own @apple.com email address alone was adequate payment for the work I was doing each week.

But then Apple also added in training trips to California each summer. Every campus rep from across the country flown into San Jose, brought to “the Mothership” at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, and instilled with knowledge on all the latest Apple stuff.

At the risk of forever being labeled a nerd’s nerd, one of the Top 5 most-awesome experiences of my life came during one of those summers when, in a less-than-3-hours span, I met Jonathan Ive showing off a G4 Cube in Apple’s cafeteria, had a 15-minute technical conversation with Avie Tevanian about his Mach kernel, and as I was walking with the Campus Rep group back to our room I made a comment along the lines of “This is like a trip to Mecca” or something to that effect — which apparently was the first time Avie had heard anyone say anything like that, because he then took me to Phil Schiller‘s office to repeat it.3 :surprised:

I got to meet Phil, got to hold one of the first ten Newtons ever produced that he kept on a bookshelf in his office… and completely missed the next session of my training as my Apple Rep colleagues wondered why I came back with a ridiculously goofy ear-to-ear smile across my face :D

No, I’ve never actually met Steve himself. A couple years before I left for college, I remember reading in the business section of the paper in Nan’s kitchen that he had come back to Apple. I remember commenting as I read about how awesome that news was, how Steve was going to save Apple from its death spiral, and that maybe I’d be able to get an Apple for college  now. And I remember Nan looking back at me, laughing at the 15-year-old naiveté embedded in my comment, and just responding “OK.”4

But two years later there I was, Apple-toting tech guru, and — another iMac, an eMac, a Mac mini, a MacBook Pro, an iPod nano, and an iPhone later5 — I’ve never looked back :spin:

Steve Jobs was the driving force behind that Campus Rep program, behind the operating system I love to use, behind the iPhone I’ve got holstered to my hip on a daily basis, the list goes on and on and on (and on). He’s one of the greatest visionaries the technology industry has had, and even with his well-documented “mercurial” temper and other inevitable human flaws he’s still the closest thing to a role model I’ve aspired to since I was a teenager.

So even though the odds of Steve ever reading this law school-related blawg fall somewhere in between infinitesimal and nil, I wanted to post this entry and particularly one closing remark in response to his letter:

To Steve: Thank you. -TDot.

—===—

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

  1. The non-creepy, non-Johnny Depp version. []
  2. That Apple would later acquire and convert into iTunes. []
  3. I was terrified when I was told to come with him to Schiller’s office — I thought my comment had been construed as a non-politically correct remark unfit for a campus rep, and that I was about to get fired on the spot :beatup: []
  4. It’s actually more like a “OhhhhhhK.” It’s the grandmotherly equivalent of saying “That’s probably never ever ever going to happen, but since technically anything is possible I’ll let you keep thinking it just in case.” []
  5. Not to mention a wide collection of Pixar movies ;) []

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Freedom!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 11, 2011 in Technology

I’ve been waiting for this day for years — literally :beatup:

While AT&T folks didn’t like being tethered to their carrier, I didn’t like having to choose between keeping a phone run on the (increasingly rancid)  BlackBerryOS or getting one of those new Android-based phones that were busy sending text messages to the wrong people.1

PLUS it’s perfectly timed to come out about a week after Spring refund checks :D

Via ars technica:

Verizon iPhone: no longer a myth, available in February
By Jacqui Cheng | Last updated January 11, 2011 10:32 AM
Verizon iPhone: no longer a myth, available in February
Can you hear me now? Good, because the Verizon iPhone has finally made its public debut. Verizon made the announcement during its highly anticipated post-CES press conference in New York on Tuesday, noting that the device will be available for preorder starting February 3, and that the public will be able to pick it up from Verizon and Apple retail stores on February 10.

The phone being offered by Verizon is the same as the iPhone 4 that made its debut on AT&T in the summer of 2010, but with a slightly modified antenna and apparently no SIM slot. The device comes in 16GB and 32GB models for $199 and $299 with two-year contract, and can act as a 3G WiFi hotspot for up to five devices at a time (that’s definitely something we can’t do with our AT&T iPhones yet).

“If the press writes about something long enough and hard enough, eventually it comes true,” Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam said during the press conference. Apple COO Tim Cook was also present during the announcement, pointing out that the two companies have been working together since 2008.

There’s one major downside to the Verizon iPhone, though: it’s CDMA-only. “Why not go straight to the LTE mode?” Cook asked. “LTE would force design compromises we’re not willing to make, and customers want the phone now.”

Not only that, but Verizon refused to comment on when—if ever—the phone would become LTE compatible, and the company confirmed that users will not be able to use data and voice services at the same time—”consistent with other CDMA devices now.” The company declined to talk about potential data caps or even plan pricing.

“It’s all about getting it on Verizon,” Cook added. “The customers who want it there will be willing to make these tradeoffs.”

So far, it looks like the device is only available in black from Verizon, dashing rumors that the elusive white iPhone would be a Verizon-only exclusive. Verizon has posted a FAQ to its site for prospective iPhone customers, though there’s little more there than what we heard during the event.

::happydance::

:spin: :spin: :spin:

  1. And to the Verizon Wireless haters pointing out “You can’t use data while talking on the phone at the same time so AT&T is better!” — you’ll notice AT&T can barely make phone calls in the first place, so it’s not that much of a sacrifice :* []

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2

What could VZW be up to?

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 5, 2010 in Technology

For the past 2-ish weeks now I’ve been getting called at various hours of the day by Verizon Wireless. I’ve been with the company for almost a decade, I’m happy with my (lavish) phone service, pay my bill on time every month, enjoy my BlackBerry Tour,1 etc etc etc — basically there’s -0- reason for them to call me, so I just haven’t answered. My figuring is that if it was important enough, they’d leave a voicemail :beatup:

Well they called again around 7pm tonight, and one of my friends goes “You really should pick up, maybe they’re calling to give you money.” Implausible though it sounded, that thought hadn’t crossed my mind…

…so I called back.

And she was right :surprised:

Supposedly VZW was/is running a promotion “for certain customers, for a limited time only” to upgrade at my “New Every Two” discount 4 months ahead of schedule. I respectfully declined the offer because I don’t want to get locked in to another phone for 2 years when I’m hoping/praying for a CDMA iPhone to debut in January. She said that was fine… and in the alternative they were going to automatically credit me for one month’s free service, and I’ll still be able to do my usually upgrade in March :crack:

Then for the icing on the cake, she migrated me to a new phone plan that has unlimited minutes/text/data (versus my current 1350 minutes with unlimited text/data) that’s actually $10 cheaper a month, as part of a new 1-year agreement that will actually end ever-so-slightly earlier than my current 2-year agreement :spin:

Now I’ve mentioned my political leanings in past entries, that I’m generally a fan of business, I’m comfortable with companies making money as long as I’m getting a worthwhile product in return, and so on and so forth. But the soon-to-be-lawyer cynicism in me has to wonder what this was all about. Surely I don’t spend enough money to merit VZW just trying to keep me happy. I’ve never indicated a plan to switch to AT&T so that can’t be it. And even if they were trying to get everyone to upgrade to their new line of Android-based phones — a sentiment I’ve heard from several of my colleagues at school — they had no need to give me a month of free service when I declined.

Any of my less-cynical and/or tech-savvy readers familiar with the mobile phone market have any thoughts/insights?

  1. Even though I’m eagerly awaiting the iPhone :D []

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-

MacOS X, a decade later

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 13, 2010 in Technology

WARNING: Non-law content ahead :beatup:

I’ve been an Apple fan since middle school, a love affair I partly detailed in this Things TDot Likes entry from awhile back.

And 10 years ago today I was near the tail-end of my stint as a bona fide Apple employee, evangelizing on the company’s behalf at my alma mater N.C. State,1 when MacOS X Public Beta was released into the wild.

A screenshot of MacOS X Public Beta (Source: Wikipedia)

That’s version 10.0.0b (code name “Kodiak”2) for any of you who are current Mac users ;)

It’s hard for people to appreciate how much the state of operating systems has advanced over the past decade if you’re not a computer geek.

But I am, so let me tell you — things have advanced. A lot.

The great folks over at Ars Technica have dusted off their review of MacOS X Public Beta from a decade ago. Even if you’re not a gearhead like me, consider giving it a read and getting a feel for how primitive things used to be in computing not so long ago :)

  1. I had to give up the gig a month later, since it’s a bit difficult to be a “Student Representative” for a company when you’re no longer a student :beatup: []
  2. MacOS X releases have since been named after big cats: 10.0 was Cheetah, 10.1 was Puma, 10.2 was Jaguar, 10.3 was Panther, 10.4 was Tiger, 10.5 was Leopard, and the current 10.6 is Snow Leopard. I’m waiting for them to use Ocelot myself :D []

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-

When internet memes attack…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 15, 2010 in Site Stats

What do “nom nom nom”, “::headdesk::”, and “#fml” all have in common?

Lots of people looking for nom-ing bunnies...

They’re all internet memes I’ve been using here on law:/dev/null for months now… and they’ve turned into a real headache when it comes to site maintenance :beatup:

I first noticed something was amiss when the blog got hit by a massive wave of spam comments back on July 11th. The pageview spike was so massive I had to leave out that entire day when updating these bar charts, otherwise the “Pageviews per Day” bar would be about 50% higher than it is now.

To highlight the spike, I created a new chart below graphing the number of spam comments against the number of unique IP addresses we had in a given month (higher bars == more spam comments per capita).

As I spent the next couple weeks re-acquainting myself with .htaccess directives for this spam prevention entry, I noticed something else odd in the log files: we had a trio of referrer URLs showing megabytes upon megabytes of data being transferred but with -0- corresponding pageviews. After poking around I realized the bunny picture from this old Contracts entry was being hotlinked all over the place for reasons I couldn’t figure out.

So I logged in to Google’s Webmaster Tools for the first time in months, and figured out what was going on — over 15,000+ searches on 30 different variations of “om nom nom” :crack:

July brought lots of spam...

Apparently when I switched how WordPress sets post URLs last month (from the old numeric “?p=1234” to the current setup), the search index for that Contracts entry went up high enough that the bunny picture became the #1 result for anyone doing a Google search with “nom nom” in it.

Not the entire entry of course. Just the bunny pic. :beatup:

Things have calmed down a bit now that I’ve started banning spambots and limiting the hotlinks. My guess is traffic will go back to a more-linear growth pattern for August. We’ll see what happens :)

***

On the search query front, we had a bunch of duplicate searches but also some fresh ones. Here are 20 of the 100+ unique search terms that brought folks here in July:

  • chazz clevinger: worked with me as the Vice President of Legislative & Public Affairs for UNCASG two years ago. I haven’t kept in touch with him much since law school started, but he did good work for the students of North Carolina.
  • nc dmv 30 day tag for insurance lapse: cost me $63, and I didn’t even need one :mad:
  • nccu lsat score evening program: for 2009-10, was 151 for the evening program, with the 25th percentile folks at 148 and the 75th percentile folks at 155 according to the class profile.
  • blackberry messenger group nccu school of law ’11: exists, but I’m not a part of it since I’m in the Class of 2012 ;) Hit up one of the 3Ls for more info.
  • tdot surplus vehicles: HA! I wish I had surplus vehicles…
  • does duquesne law school give midterms?: I don’t know about Duquesne Law, but NCCU Law does :spin:
  • letter demanding payment from ex girlfriend: is probably not going to accomplish much of anything…
  • negative things about nccu law: vary depending on who you ask. I’m a huge NCCU Law fan, and my only real complaint is that the wi-fi can be spotty in certain areas of the building (like the Great Hall and the Fishbowl). Hopefully they improved that over the summer.
  • 2010 11 tuition north carolina: is unfortunately still going up by almost $1K at several universities, since state legislators decided to balance the budget on the backs of students :mad:
  • nccu law fall 2010 class calendar: can be found on the Law School Registrar’s TWEN page, or downloaded from the NCCU Law “Academics” page.
  • nccu school of law’s grading curve: follows a strict-C median, which I happen to enthusiastically support ;)
  • mary wright 1l advocacy competition: takes place every Spring semester for 1L students. You can watch the video of my 3rd place performance here.
  • daryl wade unc: is probably not the same guy as Daryl Wade, the former Student Body President at UNC School of the Arts who served as Vice Chairman of the UNCASG Council of Student Body Presidents last year. I’m sure the other Daryl Wade is still cool though… even if he goes to UNCCH :sick:
  • are 1l’s included in the 30 day delay for financial aid?: For the vast majority of 1Ls, no.1 This was actually one of the questions we had at my 1L Orientation last year, so you’re not alone in wondering :)
  • what percentage of nccu law school are white law students?: roughly 35-40% each class year. Another 45-50% are black, and the remaining 10-20% are spread across other races. We’re routinely ranked among the most diverse student bodies in the country.
  • nccu minority scholarships for white law students: “No, officer…”
  • nccu law fall 2010 book list: can be found above the academic calendar on the NCCU Law “Academics” page.
  • acpi:system state: could signal a dead motherboard :(  Take it to get looked at ASAP.
  • which computer apple or pc for law students: Apple. Hands down. Trust me. ;)

Definitely a different mix of search results getting here this month… :)

***

And finally, here are the Top 5 most-viewed posts for the month of July 2010, quite a bit different from past Top 5s due to the new indexing changes:

  1. On avoiding contract enforcement: Mmm Ks nom nom nom (02/16/10)
  2. On inexpensive résumé websites: Things TDot Likes: Persona Non Obscura (12/08/09)
  3. On post-1L class ranks: Learning what I already knew (07/12/10)
  4. On having a shadow: Spreading the (Law School) Gospel (02/17/10)
  5. On saving money: TDot’s Tips: Tips for the pre-L’s on $$$ (05/29/10)

*THANK YOU* as always to each of you for your continued support of us here at law:/dev/null! :D

—===—

Past Site Stats entries:

  1. My understanding is that some international students who have never attended a U.S. school previously get included, but I don’t know enough people (translation: none) who fall into that category to know if that’s accurate :beatup:   []

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7

Things TDot Likes: Apple, Inc.

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 28, 2010 in Things TDot Likes

Hey everybody! :D

I took the weekend off so I could focus on the presentation I told y’all about Friday along with wrapping up my final exam for ADR Practices & Process. In between I went through the laptop to free up space, including shrinking my Bootcamp partition that contains Windows Vista.

Each of those experiences in some way reminded me how appreciative I am to have access to Apple products.

Some of Apple's Products

Yes folks: appreciative ;)

And I’m not talking about the new-fangled iStuff either. I can’t get an iPhone unless/until they come to Verizon Wireless,1 and although the iPads are flying off the shelves they’re not really my thing. I’m talking about good ol’-fashioned Macs running MacOS X.

I’ve been an Apple fan most of my life. Back when I was in elementary school, Apple IIs were all over the place. Then the Mac line came out and they were everywhere too — I still remember going to the library in middle school to type my papers on a Macintosh LC II, because I preferred ClarisWorks and seeing when I bolded or italicized or underlined my text rather than having to decipher what different highlighting meant in WordPerfect on a PC :beatup:

But by the time I hit high school Windows 95 was out and school systems were deploying PCs everywhere to save money. My parents bought a PC and that’s what I had to use at home, where BSoDs2 became a part of life and I screwed up the Registry on more than one occasion trying to use the uninstall scripts that came with most programs (Macs, by contrast, use packages that you can just drag to the trash bin). Apple was in its own death spiral back then, as CEO after CEO found ever more innovative ways to piss away millions of dollars.

Then Steve Jobs came back and knocked some sense into folks ;)

I didn’t have a computer when I started college at NC State, and one day in the spring I flipped through the Classifieds in the Technician (our school newspaper) looking for someone selling a PC that I could buy. It turned out that was the only day Apple ran an advertisement looking to hire a campus representative as part of a new Jobs-approved outreach program. I applied on a whim, got an interview, and for reasons I still don’t understand I was given the job. In exchange for being a general Apple enthusiast, salesperson, and IT support guy for the campus, I was loaned a 333MHz G3 iMac (Bondi Blue), was paid $200/week, flown out to California each summer for “Campus Rep Boot Camp”, and hooked up with all the latest software.

And I haven’t looked back :spin:

I had to quit being a Campus Rep when I dropped out, but since then QuietStorm and I bought another Rev. D iMac, then upgraded to an eMac, then when I came back to NC State I snagged a Mac mini and then got my trusty MacBook Pro. I’m now running MacOS X “Snow Leopard”3 and looking forward to upgrading my laptop to the latest technology.4

I’ve got a lot of experience with Windows and various Linux distributions as well, so I’ll sidestep the quasi-religious war some Comp Sci folks believe in. But for anyone planning on going to law school, I strongly recommend getting a Mac. Here’s why:

  • High-quality hardware. It took 4 years for the circuit board on my MacBook Pro to die, and that was after using it a solid 8+ hours/day nearly every day for that entire time. Most of my colleagues had to buy 2 (or even 3) laptops during that same timespan due to failing parts. Apple’s computers are solidly built and include a ton of high-end technology, making them cost-competitive to a similarly-configured PC.
  • It just works. I’ve got a partition on my laptop running Windows Vista that I use solely for taking law school exams with ExamSoft. When I loaded up Vista last night, it began downloading the dozens upon dozens of software updates that Microsoft spews out on a near-daily basis… and during the installation of some of those updates I got a Blue Screen of Death and had to restart the computer :crack: Something is awry when the total system failures I learned to accept in 1995 are still happening in 2010. I haven’t had a “kernel panic” — the Mac/Linux equivalent of a BSoD — on any machine since MacOS X Panther came out 6 years ago. MacOS X is built on top of crash-resistant Unix (dubbed “Darwin”), which also gives you the perk of virus resistance as well. Plus its Quartz graphic engine uses PDF internally, so it not only looks amazing but you can print anything to a PDF file — great for sharing papers, essays, projects and so on. With MacOS X you don’t get a feeling like the operating system is standing in between you and your productivity; it’s more like a partner helping you get things done.
  • The iApps are amazing. Apple has an expansive slate of software products, including its iCal calendar program, its Mail app, its Safari web browser, its iLife suite (iTunes / iPhoto / iMovie), its iWork suite (Keynote / Pages / Numbers), and on and on and on.5 These are some of the slickest and most user-friendly applications on the market, and for many of them there simply is nothing comparable on Windows or Linux. I’m a particularly huge huge huge fan of Keynote, Apple’s competitor to PowerPoint. Keynote was in-house software Apple developed for Steve Jobs’s use in preparing his keynote presentations at MacWorld Expo (hence the name). The features built into this thing make it trivially simple to put together excellent presentations. I’ve been using it regularly since 2006 — for English class, my Senior Design project in Computer Science, UNCASG presentations, the list goes on — and the hours of time it saved me between Saturday’s plea bargaining piece and my group’s two presentations for Race & the Law make it more than worth the price.
  • The other apps are amazing too. Run a website? Panic’s Transmit is one of the best FTP programs I’ve used on any platform. How about instant messaging protocols? Adium combines over a dozen chat protocols into one refined interface. And although you might not be able to tell from this post, I’m actually a big Microsoft fan: their 2008 Office for Mac is far more intuitive than the Windows counterpart, and makes using Microsoft Word and Excel a lot less tedious. There are thousands of other really cool apps out there, far more than I can highlight in this already lengthy post. There’s a website dedicated to tracking these applications over at versiontracker.com — head over there and poke around :)
  • And, for the switchers, Windows is only a few clicks away. I mentioned up at the top that I’ve got a partition for Windows Vista. What I didn’t mention is that I’ve also got Windows XP, Windows 7, and Ubuntu Linux on here as well — a side effect of the Computer Science education :beatup:

    Windows running inside MacOS X with VMWare Fusion

    If you’re a PC user switching to a Mac, you can ease into it by having Windows only a click away. Apple includes a program called Bootcamp that helps you add a full Windows installation alongside MacOS X, enabling you to boot your computer directly into Windows.

    But the really cool stuff happens when you use virtualization. A company called VMWare has a product called VMWare Fusion that let’s you run “virtual OSs” at native speed inside MacOS X. I’ve included a screenshot of my Windows XP installation running (along with my terminal running the Unix top program). You can share files between the operating systems, connecting to the internet “just works”, the list goes on. Although virtualization has long been the refuge of technophiles like me, it’s great to ease the transition from one OS to another.

I could go on even more about some of the other features, applications and perks6 but you get the idea ;)

Thanks for letting me preach a bit :) If any pre-Ls out there have technology questions, let me know! Until then have a great night!!

  1. Soon, I hope :D []
  2. The Blue Screen of Death, basically what happens when Windows crashes. []
  3. Also known as MacOS X 10.6.4… roughly 7 full OS revisions from MacOS 8.5.1 that was released the day after I started as a Campus Rep :beatup: []
  4. Which currently includes multi-core chips clocking well over 3GHz+… well over 10x faster than my first iMac :crack: []
  5. As a highlight of how long ago it was when I worked for Apple, iTunes v1.0 was really just a reengineered SoundJam MP — a program that I’ve still got on an installation CD! []
  6. Like using IPP to successfully print for free on a Windows-centric network :angel: []

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3

Weekend Update

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Mar 1, 2010 in NotFail

Hey y’all! :D

Sorry for missing my self-imposed weekend deadline for writing. My monthly UNCASG meeting was Friday-Sunday on the NC A&T State and UNC Greensboro campuses, so the evenings when I usually write were instead spent enjoying the company of some folks I hadn’t seen in awhile. Hopefully y’all will forgive me :)

Here’s a quick 5-point update on the past few days:

====================
MBP BRAIN TRANSPLANT SUCCESSFUL
====================

Last Monday my 4-year-old MacBook Pro got shipped off to Texas for a new logic board, and wasn’t slated to be back in my hands until tomorrow.

Apple somehow got everything repaired and sent back to the Southpoint Apple Store by Friday — I got a text on my phone from FedEx around 10am when it was dropped off, and promptly skipped out of class to go pick it up :beatup:

I’m pleased to report the surgery was a success! :D In addition to the logic board it needed, the folks replaced the RAM chips, the fan assembly, the SuperDrive, and cleaned both the keyboard and the screen… all for the same price :surprised:

I already officially :heart:’d Apple. But all that made me :heart: them even more.1 :lovestruck:

====================
WHITE GUY WINS BLSA TRIVIA CHALLENGE
====================

No one was surprised last semester when I joined the NCCU Law chapter of the Black Law Students Association. I was active in the black community at my alma mater, had 3 roommates for years who were even more active than I was, etc.

And even if I wasn’t active, Delta the 2L was going to shake me down for dues anyhow :beatup:

So when BLSA had a trivia contest for Black History Month,2 I sent in an answer on a whim.  Turns out I was the first one to reply with the correct answer on that particular day, which prompted a pair of challenges: a nice “Now you know I expect you to win this right?” from Delta, and a snarky “What do you think you know about black history?” from a colleague I’ll leave nameless.

I don’t know much, but I do know I got declared the winner on Friday ;)

Here’s how the final scorecard turned out:

  1. T. Greg Doucette @ 7 points
  2. Melanie Bates @ 3 points
  3. Whitney Frye @ 2 points
  4. LaKeeshia Austin @ 1 point (tie)
    Lori Hale @ 1 point (tie)
    Stephanie Locke @ 1 point (tie)
    Alyssa Moore @ 1 point (tie)
    Ashleigh Parker @ 1 point (tie)
    Demetria Watkins @ 1 point (tie)
    Oluseun Williams @ 1 point (tie)

The contest had a $25 gift card as a prize, but I’m getting more joy out of proving a point :angel:

====================
UNCASG COLLECTS 22,000+ SIGNATURES
====================

That meeting I mentioned was one of our busier ones of the year as I try to wrap up everything I want done before my term ends April 30th. 3

The Tuition Petition stack... and this is without a handful of universities!

One of the highlights has been the UNCASG Tuition Petition campaign, where we’ve been getting students across the state to petition the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal a mandatory 8% tuition increase (with $$ going to the state’s budget deficit) and replace it with lower rates set by the UNC Board of Governors (with $$ staying on each campus).

We gathered up the petitions from most of the universities this weekend, and it looks like we’ve gathered over 22,000 signatures — well over our goal of 21,500 :D

Now comes the “fun” part: verifying names, erasing contact information, duplicating petitions, getting them bound into volumes, then distributing them to key legislators.

I think I’m gonna delegate that part to someone else ;)

====================
MIDTERM PANIC SETS IN
====================

Midterms start on Wednesday with Property II. CivPro II and Torts II are next on Thursday, then we wrap up on Friday with Ks II and CrimLaw I.

Thought I was freaking out before finals? Imagine what I’m like after not having my outlines for a week :beatup:

If my posts over the next few days sound more and more like the rantings of a delusional mind, I’ve probably gone crazy :crack:

====================
AND MORE @#$%ING SNOW…
====================

Oh and it’s scheduled to snow again starting tomorrow. This will be the 2nd time in less than a week, and at least the 5th time in 5 weeks.

Last I checked North Carolina is still firmly part of the South and Durham is still part of the generally snow-free Research Triangle. I love snow — once or twice a year. This is getting a bit excessive… :mad:

—===—

That’s the past week of my life in a nutshell :) Hope all of you are doing well, and enjoy the rest of the week! :D

  1. On an unrelated side note, I see why so may Mac users dislike Windows and vice versa. It’s incredibly un-intuitive going from one OS to the other. My efficiency on the PC laptop I was using in the interim was less than a third than on the Mac, at best. []
  2. Each day featured a trivia question relating to someone famous from the black community, and the first person to provide the correct answer got a point. Most points at the end of the month wins. []
  3. I can already tell letting go is going to be a challenge… :cry: []

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