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Mission Accomplished (or “T., Esq.”)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 2, 2012 in The After-3L Life

It’s a testament to how poorly a job I’ve done updating law:/dev/null that I’m just now posting about something that happened a week ago :beatup:

But I’m officially a minimally-competent lawyer now! :spin:

The North Carolina Board of Law Examiners put folks’ letters in the mail back on Friday 08/24/12 so most people got them last weekend. While mine was in my mailbox, I was at East Carolina University for the August UNCASG meeting where I ran a leadership development workshop I put together a few years ago for student leaders…1 anything to keep myself preoccupied and not thinking about bar results.

I got to the post office on Sunday afternoon, stopped to say a prayer a couple paces before getting to the box, opened it up, and found the NCBLE letter sandwiched in between a fundraising solicitation and a bill. Then I took a deep breath, tore off the right edge of the envelope, pulled out the letter, took a deep breath again, and unfolded it to see…

Unbelievable — I PASSED!

“Congratulations! I am happy to inform you that you have passed the July 2012 North Carolina Bar Examination.”

Right then I had to stop and briefly drop to my knees in prayer, just before following that up with a fist pump and blurting out something that was supposed to sound like “Yeah!” but I’m pretty sure came out more like “yeworilfkjsaszahh!” — thankfully I was the only person in the post office to hear it :beatup:

This also makes it the first year since 2009 that I successfully accomplished all of my New Year’s resolutions. :D

If you happen to be a long-time reader, you might recall back during 1L year I posted this entry with my ’09 and ’10 resolutions — and only managed to accomplish 1 of the 3 for 2010, finishing my tenure as UNCASG President on a high note (while ending 1L year well below the 3.0 GPA I wanted and never even making it to OCS after failing my Physical Fitness Test for the Marine Corps).

I never posted a 2011 entry because I was preoccupied with school at the time, but I only ended up 1 for 3 then too:

  1. “Push my GPA above a 3.0” (which it was, very briefly, before taking an F in ConLaw II);
  2. “Get back in some semblance of shape” (HA! 10 more pounds later…); and,
  3. “Win something” (the only one I finally accomplished this Fall).

Not to be cowed into timidity by my 33% success rate two years in a row, for 2012 I went with the 3 things that were most important to me:

  1. “Graduate with honors” (final GPA: 3.0002);
  2. “Don’t f*ck up my commencement speech” (Yes, that’s actually how I wrote it down. And I think it turned out well.); and,
  3. “Pass the North Carolina bar exam on the first try” (hence this entry).

To say I was surprised would be an understatement. I didn’t think I did bad enough to fail, but I also wasn’t sure I did well enough to pass (especially on the MBE). It’s a huge weight lifted off my shoulders — especially knowing I didn’t disappoint my grandparents.3

The whole occasion has been unexpectedly somber because a good chunk of my friends didn’t make it — NCCU Law‘s pass rate for NC first-time takers dropped to 60% this time :surprised: — but that just means I need to work harder on getting NC SPICE off the ground so I can help support them in February :)

At the very least they too can become big-time real estate lawyers while I toil away in the low-paid non-profit world :beatup:

More to come in the week ahead. Have a great night!

  1. The content and presentation both get good reviews, so if you happen to know anyone interested in hearing it let me know — I love that stuff! :) []
  2. Yes, I quite literally tied the cutoff for graduating cum laude. How incredibly epic is that?? :D []
  3. Nan’s brother’s son (my great uncle I guess?) is a big-time real estate lawyer, a point that apparently has been getting raised fairly regularly over the years as my side of the family has pursued far less lucrative occupations. But said big-time lawyer also failed the bar the first time, saying “Everyone fails North Carolina the first time they take it.” Needless to say Nan is quite tickled that she has a lawyer on her side of the family now and without hitting the “everyone fails” speed bump. ;) []

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Well that sucks…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 18, 2012 in The 3L Life

With the end of my last semester of law school (ever!) bearing down and final papers coming due, I’ve started worrying about…

…my grades. :surprised:

Now before I get accused of being a flip-flopper or hypocrite after penning entries like “Your 1L Grades Don’t Matter,” let me explain. I stand by my argument that law school grades are irrelevant; I’ve seen enough people with GPAs lower than mine to be convinced legal employment is largely a game of networking and not being a prick, with jobs going to socially adept people who outwork their competitors regardless of artificial scholastic achievement.1 My 1L grades were sufficiently low that graduating with academic honors was always a stretch, so graduating without them hasn’t been a big deal to me.

My family sees things a smidge differently though :beatup:

Nan has been pushing me to drop the extracurricular stuff and focus on my grades for years now. And my mom still has a tendency to bring up National Honor Society inductions in high school — 15+ years ago! — when I needed a 3.5 GPA for admission and only had a 3.492.2 Now that law school is my “last hurrah” academically, and especially with my GPA so close to the cum laude borderline (currently at a 2.934 on NCCU Law‘s strict-C curve), I’m basically facing the either-or dilemma of graduating with honors or… giving my mom yet another story with which to embarrass me in front of people decades from now.

You can guess which option I prefer ;)

I need a 3.667 semester GPA3 in order to reach a 3.004. One-half of one letter grade below that threshold — a single B+ in a sea of A-‘s — and I’d drop down to a 2.996 with all the parental (and grandparental) disappointment that comes with it.

So it was in that spirit I talked to Prof Ks yesterday, explaining my situation and asking for advice on how to gently twist professors’ arms for insight on how to get better grades. I was/am particularly vexed by Arbitration, where the Professor doesn’t seem to be a T. fan.

Not that she’s without justification. We have weekly journal entries to submit based on the readings for class, designed to ensure we’re sufficiently versed in the material to discuss the cases, and not surprisingly I’ve missed 2 this semester.4 We were also supposed to observe one particular arbitration in person, but the day of that arbitration became the day I ended up on the phone all morning with Sallie Mae trying to explain away getting screwed by the Department of Education; I basically stood in the foyer to the courtroom all morning in my suit, missing everything but the verdict, and earning an incredulous look from the Professor when I explained why I wasn’t in the room.

Like I said, she’s not a T. fan. Anyhow, the bulk of our grade is based on a final research paper and in talking with Prof Ks his suggestion was just to ask Prof Arbitration after class how amazing I had to make this paper to snag an A-.

So I did.

And it did not go well…

Favoring the direct non-poker face approach, I just came to her office and asked the question: what can I do to get an A-?

Prof Arbitration’s response: “Oh you’re beyond that.” Her tone of voice made it clear that “beyond that” meant “too low for it to ever happen,” but just in case I misunderstood she made sure to clarify by adding “And what I mean by that is that it’s just not possible.”

Me, to myself: “Well d*mn.”

It definitely put a damper on the rest of the day. Now I’m stuck in this worst-case scenario where I have to go all-out in Arbitration (an elective) to make sure I get at least the B+, and somehow swing an A in one of my other 3 classes.

It’s gonna be a long couple weeks…  :roll:

  1. Or, as Prof Ks aptly put it back during 1L year: “When your competitors are sleeping, you’re hustling. When they’re hustling, you’re hustling harder.” []
  2. No attention paid to the fact I had -0- actual interest in joining NHS, since a good number of the members looked down on folks like me who spent the day playing either basketball, RPGs, or video games. But I digress… []
  3. A-‘s across the board, and what would be my highest GPA ever in law school :beatup: []
  4. Even so, I’m one of only a quintet of students who regularly participates in an often-silent class discussion. I always do the readings, they just typically get done the night before class when I don’t have time to write a journal entry. []

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Should I just go solo after graduation? (Part I)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 27, 2011 in The 3L Life

Good evening folks! Hope all of you had a very festive and delicious Thanksgiving holiday! :D

On my end I made the (academically questionable) decision to go visit Nan & Pops for a few days, followed by lunch with 雅雅 on Saturday and dinner with one of my former colleagues/employees from UNCASG on Saturday night. The times in between have been spent steadily working on law school homework1 but I haven’t gotten nearly as much done as I needed to get done.

But frankly I also needed the mental break so I’ll accept the scholastic consequences :beatup:

Part of the holiday conversations included the $700.00 I have to shell out to the NC Board of Law Examiners on the 1st of this coming year,2 my current lack of paid employment for the Christmas break, and figuring out what I’m going to do after I’m graduated and licensed. Long-time readers of law:/dev/null might recall I was hoping to join the USMC JAG Corps before breaking my leg and failing the physical fitness test, with backup plans to go to Officer Candidate School during 2L summer getting shelved when I immersed myself in activities like SBA, trial team, and earning a decent GPA. I still like CrimLaw and could make a decent living as an ADA, but North Carolina’s finances are a mess and because of it there’s a glut of qualified applicants for few ADA openings.

So while I still plan on looking into the criminal prosecution route, I’ve recently found myself seriously marinating on something I had never seriously entertained before this year (seriously): should I just go solo after graduation?

The seed for that idea got planted in the week before the phenomenally successful (and first-ever) Speed Networking event that EIC and the SBA put together here at NCCU Law. Prof Ks asked when I was going to run for Governor because he was impressed with the stuff SBA had been doing; Prof PILO thought becoming a politician would be a waste of potential, and instead suggested I should “go be a CEO for one of these big corporations and make a ton of money” then become a philanthropist.

Both perfectly acceptable options… but neither involved being an ADA :crack:

Then about 3 weeks ago came the water, when over the course of that week I ended up getting 7 different requests for legal help that I had to forward to our legal clinic (2 drug arrests, a speeding ticket, a landlord/tenant dispute, a juvenile issue, a car contract / lemon law question, and patent/business idea inquiry). That’s on top of roughly a dozen or so various other requests I’ve referred to the Clinic over the past 2 years, along with the true oddities like getting calls for legal help from Mexico.

Granted, I know I wouldn’t have been competent to handle all of those issues even if I was licensed. But after years of meeting people through Student Government, UNCASG, and now the SBA, it reminded me that there are a lot of people with legal problems on any given day who need someone competent to advise them.

I’ve gotta get back to studying so I’ll clip the entry here, but I’ve designated it as “Part I” because I’ll be looking for feedback over the next couple months. Part II is in the queue, outlining some of the pros and cons I’ve already scribbled out when it comes to me potentially hanging a shingle after graduation.

Have a great night y’all, and good luck with the week ahead! :)

  1. Even foregoing watching the biggest comeback in NCSU football history  :cry: []
  2. And the extra +$125.00 to take the essay portion on the bar exam on a computer :roll:   []

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Gone ’til the weekend — happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 23, 2011 in The 3L Life

Good evening folks! :D

The pre-finals quasi-vacation for Thanksgiving has finally arrived, and I’m packing up to head to Nan & Pops’ place in Virginia Beach with Samson — his first out-of-state trip :)

Sadly I’ll be bringing homework with me, plus eating the actual Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt’s place because of the late notice I provided indicating my attendance, but at least I won’t have to cook Thanksgiving dinner on my own like I did last year :beatup:

law:/dev/null will be on hiatus until I get back to the Bull City. *THANK YOU* as always for letting me borrow your eyeballs for however-many-minutes of your day, and I hope you and your families have an amazing Thanksgiving! :*

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Signs it might be law school finals time…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 20, 2011 in Fail

I’ve already lost my exam number… that I just picked up on Thursday.

And apparently over the past month I completely forgot to notify my grandparents at any time that I’m coming to visit for Thanksgiving in a few days, so now Thanksgiving dinner is being held elsewhere :beatup:

I swear I’d lose my head if it wasn’t physically attached to my body. I’m ready for this semester to end already!…

Have a great upcoming week y’all, and GOOD LUCK to everyone trying to make it through the end of the semester alongside me!  :heart:

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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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Legal Eagles: I need your help plz :)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 7, 2011 in The 3L Life

Good evening folks! :)

I hope all of you had an amazing Independence Day weekend — the 235th celebration of my favorite holiday evah — and a solid start to the abbreviated-and-soon-to-end workweek :D

On my end I made my annual trip with 雅雅 up to Virginia Beach to see Nan and Pops, though the festivities this year were somewhat dampened (literally and figuratively) by thunderstorms that spanned Virginia and North Carolina… and the start of Summer Session II classes this past Tuesday :beatup:

Class this week plus that trip plus the preceding week helping with NCCU Law‘s Legal Eagle Law Camp was the reason for my most recent extended hiatus from the blawgosphere.1 The Law Camp in particular was an interesting experience that I’ll hopefully have time to write about in a later entry — it included everything from sitting in on an actual arson trial (featuring extensive vulgarity and sexual innuendo) with ~35 7th-10th graders, to witnessing the Durham PD’s drug interdiction unit arrest two people for trafficking in cocaine2 in the parking lot of a Burger King where I happened to be getting lunch with about 20 of those same campers, to watching my group successfully put on a full mock trial even after the group’s star witness was a no-show on trial day, to a bunch of other randomness in between :crack:

But that’s not the reason for tonight’s entry ;)

Those of you who have been reading law:/dev/null for awhile3 might recall the pie chart of class ranks I put together last year for the Class of 2012 day program.  I’m hoping to create new ones this year for all the classes, so we can (i) gauge how much the average GPAs have climbed between 1L and 2L year now that students can self-select their electives, and (ii) compare the GPAs across classes / programs / years. Did this year’s 1Ls perform significantly better or worse compared to last year’s?  Does the evening program really have higher median GPAs as rumored?  What are the odds of a now-3L reaching #.## GPA based on the curve and colleagues’ grades? Those are the types of questions I’d like answered.

However I’ve got two problems: my source for grade info last year is no longer around, and my new class rank doesn’t have the serendipitous function of being a cutoff for a round-number percentile like it was when I was the 40% guy last year.

And that’s where you come in…  :angel:

I know folks are über-secretive about law school grades, even though we all find out something anyway.  Taking that preference for discretion into account, I’ve created a temporary page on the blog (linked at the top) called “2011 Data4 that includes a comment field where you can anonymously enter your own GPA and class rank.  By entering in a fake name and using a fake email address, your comment will go into the WordPress “moderation queue” we have here behind the scenes, I can then harvest your GPA/rank without ever knowing who you are, and then delete your comment without it ever appearing to the outside world.

As of this entry I’ve got 14 people who’ve already shared their data — 4 from the class of 2012, 6 from 2013, and 4 from 2014.  That’s a solid start, but most of the folks who have commented are in a fairly narrow band rank-wise and I need folks across the spectrum to get accurate charts. So if you don’t mind taking a few seconds to shoot me your info I’d really really really appreciate :)

Once I’ve got enough data points to put the charts together, I’ll delete the 2011 Data page and put up a new entry with the approximate grade distributions.

Thanks in advance for your help, and feel free to recommend that a classmate send in their info too ;) Have a great night! :D

  1. And yes I realize I’ve had roughly the same excuse for randomly disappearing for most of the past two semesters now. Cut me some slack! :beatup: []
  2. One of whom made the unwise decision to resist arrest and was restrained with force as a result. []
  3. *THANK YOU* btw! :* []
  4. UPDATE on 07/13/2011:  Got all the data we needed so the page has been modified to remove the comment form and all the comments that were submitted have been deleted. Thanks for your help! :D []

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Best. Vacation. Evah.

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 31, 2010 in Randomness

Back in July, I took my first bona fide vacation in ages when 雅雅 and I went to visit Nan and Pops for Independence Day and took a roadtrip through the Outer Banks of North Carolina on the way back.

This past week was so much better! :D

First, my employer1 closed down the office on both Thursday and Friday for Christmas. I don’t get paid time off or anything when they’re closed, but it did let me leave out of here on Wednesday night and spend more time with family.

Speaking of family, those of you who were readers back during Father’s Day or who are friends with me on Facebook might recall that it had been an incredibly long time since I last saw Son of TDot.2 Well at some point recently he asked his mom about who I was and if he could see me, so she arranged for the three of us to have lunch on Thursday :surprised:

We met up at the food court of a local mall for what was probably one of the most nervous moments I’ve had ever in my life. It was amusing as I walked up because his mom was standing with her back to the direction I was coming from with Son of TDot facing my way. He saw me from about 75ish feet away and gave a look like “This guy looks oddly familiar”… and I basically gave him the same look, because I thought it was him but hadn’t seen him in so long I wasn’t sure :beatup:

It’s not surprising to share similarities with your own offspring, but some of it still took me by surprise. His hair was cut short like mine3 and he looks a lot like I did when I was 12. We ended up independently ordering the same thing for lunch: a 10-piece chicken nugget meal from McDonald’s with a Sprite for the drink. His favorite subjects in school were the same as mine (science and history). He loves playing with Legos (I’ve still got a box of mine in the closet). He also loves RPGs, specifically Kingdom Hearts — a spinoff of the Final Fantasy series I play myself, so a good chunk of lunch was spent with the two of us talking video games :D

He also has allergies in the winter like I do, to the point where he keeps tissues in his jacket pocket. The look on his face was priceless when I pulled out my own batch of tissues from my coat pocket too :lol:

I know he was nervous and I suspect his mom was nervous (and Lord knows I was nervous too), but all in all it was pretty awesome and I’m hopeful that it was the first meeting of many more in the future :)

The snow that was predicted (top) and what fell (bottom)

The next day was Christmas Eve, which is when the family gathers at Nan and Pops’ house to exchange presents with each other. If you count the various denominations of currency/gift cards as one gift, 50% of my Christmas presents were toothbrushes (an electric one and a travel one). It’s almost like my family was trying to tell me something…

Everyone got along this year, which is a switch from years past when there’s usually a bunch of arguing.4 And I enjoyed being able to finally afford presents for everyone in the family — even if it meant they all got NCCU Law paraphernalia :angel:

Then of course there was Christmas, my 3rd favorite holiday of the year after Independence Day and Thanksgiving :) Dinner was tasty and it was fun getting to hang out with the family.

Y’all already read about Snowmageddon 2010, my road trip back to Durham. The photo on the right shows the difference between what was forecast when I left for Virginia Beach and what had I actually fallen by the time I was driving home.  The red dots respectively show Nan and Pops’ house in Virginia Beach and my apartment here in Durham.

It was a bit of a white-knuckle experience but in hindsight it was pretty cool :D

Our view from the hotel room

雅雅 and I then headed down to Orlando the next morning for the Champs Sports Bowl, where we got totally spoiled by Nan using her frequent traveler points to reserve a hotel room for us at the Grand Bohemian in downtown Orlando.5 We were automatically upgraded to the “concierge level” on the top floor because of it, which included among other perks a VIP lounge with its own bar just steps from our door B-)

The photo shows part of what I woke up to on Tuesday morning :eek:

In a fitting dose of irony, however, our trip to Orlando happened to be accompanied by near-record low temperatures for Florida :beatup: We had to bundle up as we were exploring downtown, and had to double-bundle up before heading to the stadium.

But I think one of the coolest aspects of the trip (aside from the weather) was being able to connect with dozens of friends from undergrad, all of us in a different city of a different state, traveling from across the country to reunite in support of our alma mater. It was a fun realization :)

Then of course there was the game itself, my very first bowl game that I attended in person :D

My new red NC State hat!

I upgraded my black N.C. State hat that I’ve had since 2000 with a new red edition to help add to the red shading of the arena — which complemented the shading of the post-game crowd after the Wolfpack followed up with a huge 23-7 win! :spin:

It was definitely a lot of driving over the past week, but it was well worth it! It’s been an amazing year, and I’m incredibly blessed to have an opportunity to end it the way I have.

Now I’m recharged and ready for the Spring semester to get underway :)

Hope all of you had equally amazing vacations, and have a fun and festive New Year’s Eve! :D

  1. Do you call them employers for internships? []
  2. 8 years, 5 months, 7 days to be precise. []
  3. Voluntarily in his case, disguising the fact I’m going bald in mine :beatup: []
  4. My family puts the “fun” in “dysfunctional” ;) []
  5. She said it was repayment for me winning a trip for 2 to Atlantic City NJ during an elementary school fundraiser when I was in the 5th grade :surprised: []

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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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