1

The “Decade from Hell” that wasn’t…

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

Happy New Year from law:/dev/null! :D

First, an aside to give a big *THANK YOU* to all of you who take time out of your day to stop by :) Somehow, despite my sporadic posting schedule over winter break, I still have regular visitors — and it makes me smile. A lot. And I’m normally not the smiling type ;) So thank you :)

***

2010 is finally here, which to hear folks tell it is either a good thing or A Good Thing™ depending on your perspective. Since apparently 2009 was a horrible year that ended a horrible decade and whatnot.

Time Magazine Cover on the "Decade from Hell"

Time's cover for the so-called "Decade from Hell"

Don’t believe me? A few weeks ago Time Magazine even went through the trouble of writing this article about “The Decade from Hell” to explain it to you, so surely it must be true.

What’s that, you say? You missed that particular article? Me too. In my case it was intentional, since I realized a few years back — during the 00’s coincidentally — that Time had long since turned into a publication worth far less than its cover price, stuffed with stories based on laughable premises like this one.  For all the complaints about the 00’s, I suspect decades like the 1930’s / 60’s / 70’s would beat it on the “this decade sucked” scale, especially if you happened to be something other than a relatively prosperous / white / straight / Christian male ;)

***

In my case I’d have to say the past decade turned out pretty well. It had its low points just like everything else in life, but considering where I’m at now obviously it turned out for the best :)

Let’s do a quick recap (inspired by this post at oh hay, it’s kk):

2000 – Get pulled off the ballot for Student Senate President at N.C. State, forced to drop out of college and give up my job with Apple Computer, and start loading trucks at UPS to pay bills. But prior to leaving NCSU, get appointed a Student Senator by the guy who won SSP, and then elected President Pro Tempore. Spend the rest of the year mentoring future student leaders with QuietStorm. Also get my first apartment.

2001 – Get my first decently-paying job as a file clerk at a law firm, then get promoted to a litigation assistant. Was sitting at my desk working on pleadings and listening to K97.5 when the news of the September 11th attacks came across the radio. Spend the rest of the day glued to the television.

2002 – Laid off from the law firm job in February when the economy tanked. But get hired weeks later by the North Carolina State Bar, and promoted twice in ten months. Several of the candidates I helped also win the November 2002 elections.

2003 – Voluntarily take a $10K/yr pay cut and leave the State Bar to serve as the first Director of Special Projects for the Wake County Clerk of Court’s Office. Ridiculously high-stress job, but have carte blanche to fix a lot of nettlesome problems around the courthouse and enjoy the responsibility. Also become the youngest elected Vice Chairman of the Wake County Republican Party.

2004 – Grow disillusioned with the WakeGOP, particularly its hostility to homosexuals. Decide to voice my opinion in the newspaper on the opening day of the State Convention; told to resign from the courthouse job by the (elected) Clerk of Superior Court soon thereafter as a result. Spend the rest of the year helping elect Richard Burr to the U.S. Senate and Richard Stevens to the N.C. Senate. Then snag a decently-paid paralegal position with a local law firm.

2005 – Voted out of the WakeGOP at its County Convention in March. Law firm dissolves due to disagreements among the partners; officially decide I dislike BigLaw. Convince N.C. State to let me come back to school. Become one of the youngest lobbyists in North Carolina a couple months later. Make Dean’s List for the first — and only — time in my college career.

2006 – Lose my race for a Student Senate seat… to a guy who didn’t even campaign. Get appointed to a vacancy by the Student Senate President, then made Chairman of the Appropriations Committee when the original Chairman resigns; spend the year remaking the appropriations process and writing legislation like I have nothing better to do with my time. Keep lobbying, and pick up a side job teaching Intro to Java to freshman.

An anonymous campaign poster from my SSP race

2007 – With 61% of the vote and 4 days on the ballot, win campus-wide election to become the oldest Student Senate President in N.C. State history after one of the craziest elections of all time — the same race where I was removed from the ballot at the start of the decade. Campaign becomes material for at least 3 different courses, including on campaigning, advertising, and the computer ethics of using Facebook for opposition research. Pay off my remaining ~$15K debt to N.C. State; give up lobbying to focus on Student Government. Unilaterally implement first ever student fee referenda.

2008 – Decide to postpone graduation to finish my minors in political science and economics. Lead a welltelevised silent sit-in at the February UNC Board of Governors meeting opposing tuition hikes. Earn the highest job approval rating of the 4 highest Student Body Officers, and get re-elected Student Senate President with 89% of the vote. A month later, win election as President of the statewide Association of Student Governments by a 1-vote margin. Finish the calendar year with the Student Senate all over local media again, and a revitalized UNCASG setting a 4-year attendance record.

2009 – N.C. State’s Student Government gets a 66%+ favorable approval rating when measured by the Poli Sci and Stats Departments. Retire as Student Senate President; protégé wins election as my successor. Unanimously re-elected to a 2nd term as President of UNCASG. Graduate with a BS in Computer Science and minors in both Economics and Political Science. Start my 1L year as a Legal Eagle at NCCU Law.

And start law:/dev/null :D

***

It’s been quite a ride. I’ve moved about a dozen times. I’ve made thousands of dollars in salary; paid thousands more in taxes, rent, car payments, tuition. I’ve met hundreds of people, including some who (hopefully) will be friends for the rest of my life. The list goes on.

Looking back it almost doesn’t feel like it took 10 years to get here. If the next 10 turn out even remotely as well, things are going to be pretty good :D

That’s enough reminiscing from me, I’m off to bed. Good night everybody! :)

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1

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 26, 2009 in Randomness

Second only to Independence Day, I have to confess Thanksgiving is my other favorite holiday of the year :D

It’s not about the food (though that’s definitely a perk for someone on the “impoverished law student” diet). Thanksgiving is a useful holiday for benchmarking how much things have changed over the years and reminds me how truly fortunate I’ve been.

Today I enjoyed a delicious meal with a half-dozen or so classmates who stayed in town to study for finals, prepping for the end of my first semester in professional school.

1 year ago I was in Virginia Beach visiting my grandparents, still a semester away from finishing my undergraduate degree, but enjoying the insane schedule that came with being a first-term President of the UNC Association of Student Governments and a second-term Student Senate President at N.C. State — highlighted by the Raleigh-to-Elizabeth City-to-Virginia Beach-to-Greenville-to-Raleigh itinerary for the break :)

Myself and QuietStorm back in 2004

Myself and QuietStorm back in 2004

5 years ago I had an equally insane schedule but it wasn’t quite as fun. I was a college dropout working 2 jobs, enjoying a small-but-delicious Thanksgiving meal at the country club apartment I shared with QuietStorm, thankful for having a full-time job after the 2004 election season ended but also relishing the day off before I headed back on Friday to work overtime on some pleadings. It was at that point I decided BigLaw was probably not my cup of tea :beatup:

And 10 years ago I didn’t have much of a Thanksgiving meal at all, with QuietStorm and I sharing some EasyMac and leftover Pokey Stix from Gumby’s while we surreptitiously stayed in my dorm room (despite the residence halls being closed) because I didn’t have the money to travel and she took pity on me wanting to make sure I enjoyed my Thanksgiving (it worked :heart: ).

Some people ask why my ego is so outrageously oversized.  In all candidness I’ve even wondered myself every now and then (ok really just once). Yet when I go back through the old photos and old emails from holidays past, when I reflect on going from a high school scholar to a college dropout, from being homeless to living in a ridiculously swank apartment, from having to work 2 jobs just to make ends meet to studying law full-time while being a student advocate on the side — it’s hard to be humble.

But it’s harder not to be humbled.

For all the experiences, I owe most of it to circumstances and people beyond my control. So with Thanksgiving 2009 winding to a close, here’s a brief (non-exhaustive) list of some of the things I’m thankful for this year:

Can you guess which one is the college degree? :)

Can you guess which one is the college degree?

  • My degree — After I dropped out back in 2000, I thought I’d never graduate from college. By the time I made it to my senior year in Computer Science, I really thought I’d never graduate from college :beatup: But for whatever reason my teachers took pity on me, and the Bachelors of Science degree they gave me this past June is proudly framed and hanging on my wall.
  • The NCCU School of Law — Out of my 3 options for law school, NCCU was really the only one I could afford. It turned out to be an excellent fit, plus I met some pretty awesome people in the process :D
  • Madame Prosecutor — Speaking of those classmates, no one has challenged me quite like this lady. She drives me absolutely bonkers at times but I’ve got no doubt my grades and overall 1L experience have been better because of her.
  • My SG colleagues — This is such a diverse group of people I can’t really single anyone out, but working with these folks has been the highlight of my life for the past 4 years. I appreciate and respect all of you, and look forward to the great things you’ll be doing in the years ahead!
  • Q.T. — One of those aforementioned colleagues, she’s not only helped me get things done in UNCASG but has been a great friend as well. She even helped me study for the CivPro midterm :)
  • 雅雅 — Dealing with me on a daily basis is bad enough in a normal year; it’s even worse when I’m active in 2 separate Student Government groups, interning downtown at the N.C. General Assembly, and trying to graduate in Computer Science. 雅雅 supported me the whole time even when more rational people would have bailed, and some of the best times in my life have been spent with her :)
  • Nan and Pops — I love my family, but my grandparents deserve more recognition than I could ever give them here. They helped raise me, helped me get back on my feet as a dropout, helped me stay in school when I made it back, the list goes on. When I was at N.C. State the 2nd time through I was terrified one of them would pass away before I got my degree, and more so than anyone else on this earth they’re responsible for me graduating and making it to law school.
  • God — I’m not a particularly religious guy, and I’m generally averse to publicly displaying my faith (not sure why, I’ve just been that way my whole life). Even so, I’ve had so many great experiences and been surrounded by so many amazing people that I can’t ascribe it to mere coincidence. I just hope I can live my life in a way that reflects my appreciation for all the blessings I’ve been given.

I’ll end the list there, since this entry is already pretty long ;)

I hope all of you had an amazing Thanksgiving with friends and loved ones! And remember: it gets even better from here :D

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4

Always bring your notebook…

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

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

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

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

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

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

“@#$%.”

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

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

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

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

w00t :beatup:

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8

Overanalyzing overanalysis

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 1, 2009 in Drama

I really hate being wrong.

Down in the comments of this entry from a few days ago, I mentioned to idwsj that the law school drama (at least involving me) had pretty much died off.  Evidently I neglected to knock on wood or something because one of my classmates was working hard to rope me in today.

It started shortly after Contracts.  Class itself had me rolling, as we went over cases like Wright v. Newman (266 Ga 519) — affectionately referred to as the Baby Mama Drama case.  I suspect few things can prompt more humorous class discussion among 1Ls :)

Once class was over I headed downstairs to my locker to grab a few books and head home, same routine I’ve followed for weeks now.  A fellow Legal Eagle I’ll just refer to as the Unnamed Gunner1 comes up to me and asks if I’m planning on being at the law building on Saturday since we have midterms next Thursday and Friday.  I tell him I’m not, that I’ll be heading to the Aggie-Eagle Classic2 in Greensboro.

Then comes the crazy:  “Yeah whatever man.  I saw you being the first one to turn in your LRA quiz on Tuesday and then the first one to finish in Torts yesterday.  Do you think you’re better than us or something?”

::cue scratching record sound effect::

I’m not sure if it was the comment itself or the look of “wtf?” that came across my face, but a young lady walking by us promptly choked on her coffee.

Let’s hit the obvious point first — why the hell are you keeping track of when I turn in my assignments? Insecurity? Envy? Inherent stalker tendencies?  You might get better grades if you pay attention to your own work instead of figuring out when I’m done with mine.  Just saying.

Second:  how does someone in law school make the logical leap from finishing an assignment first to feeling superior as a result? Last time I checked, none of us got bonus points for how many seconds were left on the clock when we turned something in.

I’m usually one of the first people done because I refuse to overanalyze the problems.  I’ll read the facts, re-read them again to make sure I understand them, pick an answer and move on.  It’s a strategy that served me well on the SAT in high school, all throughout college, and on the LSAT before coming to law school.  If I sit there and think about the question even more, I’m that much more likely to change my mind and go from having a maybe-correct answer to choosing a definitely-wrong one.

For an example, compare Madame Prosecutor and myself.  Madame Prosecutor is the archetypal “good student” — she has two degrees already, is heavily active in a bunch of stuff, studies hard, and makes good grades.  She’s also 1 of only 2 people I’ve met so far in my life who can successfully make me feel like I haven’t accomplished much in my almost-three decades on God’s earth.3

Madame Prosecutor takes a lot longer to finish her assignments than I do.  So do I feel superior to her because I finish sooner?  Of course not, because (among other reasons) she gets better grades.  But I’m also not going to do any better compared to her by mimicking her.  Would spending more time on a question help me do better?  Not likely.  It would, however, substantially increase my chances of doing worse.

That’s not me thinking I’m superior, it’s me doing what I know works for me academically.  I’d suggest you do the same… preferably without stalking me in the process ;)

Hope all of you had a great Thursday, and enjoy your night! :D

  1. Apparently a friend of the fine upstanding gentleman I was conversing with here []
  2. The rivalry football game between the Aggies of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University and the Eagles of North Carolina Central University.  Among HBCUs it qualifies as A Big Deal™ :) []
  3. The other being QuietStorm, an intensely competitive young lady I couldn’t beat at anything… so instead of trying to win I just convinced her to date me for 7ish years. []

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