Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Learning to Love the Law

When we last left our intrepid hero (me), she was freaking-the-hell out about law school. Well, I'm happy to say the freakout was unnecessary. Law school has been great, really great, thus far. I have four awesome professors, whose awesomeness ranges from brilliant-and-engaging-but-oddly-intellectually-insecure to over-the-top-classy-and-lucid to direct-and-dorky-with-gruesome-and/or-sexual-stories-to-illustrate-the-material to a-truly-extraordinary-teacher-and-thinker-and-man-of-the-people-with-a-Bronx-brogue. They all rule in their own ways. And I'm legitimately engaged with the material, which is exciting.

My classmates are great, as well. I am not the least intelligent person in the room - I think I'm holding my own rather nicely - but they're all "doers" (good crossword word) in a way I'm not. I'm one of fairly few people who's taking this break to go home and chill with my family and friends. Other people are taking crazy vacations or Obambulating. I'm going to try to make up for my general laziness by a) taking a Birthright trip in December, and b) going abroad this summer. I really should do that...become a citizen of the world, and all. In any case, I wouldn't say I have any real friends yet, in the way my friends are my friends, but I do have people I like and sometimes hang out with and want to become closer with. The small group thing has been good for letting me feel comfortable around a group of people. I have a really nice small group, and I hope to become better friends with the people in it. There are also some people in my procedure class (I sort of think of that class as a home base) who are awesome and I hope to become closer with. They include a fellow crossword dork (woot!), a nice and handsome Christian conservative (we have good discussions), and a physics major/former choreographer, among others. Good folks, them all. And it's been really nice having Brad and Alexandria around...they're great.

I've been a little overwhelmed with work, at points, but that's OK...I figure I'm supposed to be overwhelmed occasionally. I've been blessed with good small group TAs, so I think I'm getting as solid a writing experience as my school can give. All of those 400 word news stories have also given me a knack for tight, boring writing, which has come in handy. I think I now have to work on making it just as tight but a little less boring.

And now I'm on vacation for a week, reading my contracts professor's novel at Slave and hanging out with friends in the city. And thinking about the election...oh, the election! At this point I feel pretty good about Obama, and I have turned my worries to California's proposition 8, which looks likely to pass. If California, one of the biggest and bluest states around, amends their constitution to ban gay marriage, I think I will cry. It will cut off an opportunity for happiness for so many people, and it will say such bad things about our citizens. Bah. All right, I'm off to have lunch with mom. More updates later, perhaps.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Just Jump

Orientation starts tomorrow, and I am completely terrified. I'm not entirely sure what I'm terrified of, but here are a few possibilities:

  • Maybe I'll hate it. Maybe I'll realize that I had no good reason to apply to law school and I really am here on a two-year whim and I should have put more effort into this decision.

  • Maybe I'll say something horrible. I wouldn't put it past me. When I get nervous, sometimes my tact-dar, not great to begin with, goes completely haywire. Heaven help me.

  • Maybe I'll say something stupid (not horrible, just unintelligent) to or in front of someone important. Like a professor. Or the dean. Or a cute boy.

  • Maybe I just won't make friends. And my old friends will ditch me, and I'll be living in this beautiful apartment (it's really phenomenal) all alone, like Roderick Usher...or something.

  • Maybe I just won't do the work. I could become paralyzed at any moment. I could not show up to orientation and just stay in my bed trembling for the next month. I probably won't, but it doesn't seem as out-of-the-question as it once did.

  • But more likely, it will be good. Orientation won't be great; I can't imagine how it could be. But it will be fine, and then class will start, and I'll be stressed out. And then hopefully in a month or so, I'll look at my life and realize it's pretty good...that I'm spending a lot of my time and mental power on interesting and important philosophical and cultural issues. That's kind of what I'm hoping for. Wish me luck.

    Wednesday, August 06, 2008

    E Pur Si Muove

    Every time I take a long hiatus from blog writing (i.e., after every post), I feel an obligation to write an Earth-shattering blog post, worthy of a month-long absence. This never happens. I've had lots of great blog posts in my head over the last few weeks, yet I haven't managed to put any of them down on paper...or a black background. So my insights in this post will likely be minimal. I'll start with a recap of the past month.

    I moved back to Westchester on the 14th, and I've been here ever since. Well, except for the 8 days in a row where I went to the city. That was fun. Being unproductive has reached new heights here in the best of all possible Chesters. I haven't totally slacked on my running, but I've slacked a little. I've jogged my 1.5 miles a bare majority of days I've been back. It's really far less fun (but more convenient) to jog on a treadmill. The scenery sucks—even if the single spot on the white wall does keep my eyes focused—and I can always see exactly how many seconds/hundredths of a mile I have left. And my speed is constant the whole way. I could actually really feel it when I went from 4.8 miles per hour to 4.9 miles per hour. I know: You're intimidated by my speed. Don't try to hide it. I can just imagine all those nights you've stayed awake, tossing and turning, wishing you could run a 12:15 mile. I'm practically a fitness goddess.

    I've read one novel since returning to the Chester. If you've followed the hyperlink, you've probably figured out that Special Topics in Calamity Physics is awfully pleased with itself, kind of trashy, somewhat overwrought, and 100% fun. I recommend it to anyone looking for a good read with a tight ending and gratuitous literary references. If you love quote-dropping intellectuals or love to hate quote-dropping intellectuals, you'll enjoy it. And don't let the title fool you: It doesn't have significant quantities of physics.

    I've gone to Slave a few times since being back, including one visit with Andrew, who was in the NY burbs for the first time, and one visit with Cat, who's (temporarily) back from a crazy year of teaching English to English people. I watched an amazing Canadian TV series with V (on Jess's recommendation), and I've seen a few lovely movies around here, alone and with members of the fam.

    Speaking of the fam, I've gotten to spend loads of quality time with my mom, some with my sister, and a little with my father. Natalie has just moved into a gorgeous new apartment not too far from my old apartment, so I may be seeing even less of her over the next couple of weeks. They have a dishwasher. A dishwasher! When I was her age, we didn't have dishwashers in our apartment. We didn't even have running water. If we were lucky, we could make the rats lick our dishes clean. If you got the plague, too bad! At least it wasn't cholera.

    (That last part isn't true. When I was her age, I did have running water. But I also had the landlord from hell and a hallway littered with his nephews' half-empty food wrappers. So I'm surprised we only had mice, not rats, in our kitchen.)

    Since I have so much free time (and I have to put off cleaning my bedroom for as long as possible), I've fallen head-first into CONSUMER CULTURE. (Dun dun dunnnn!) It's not as bad as it sounds. I'm not buying unnecessary stuff, I'm just spending a long time looking for the things I need for my apartment. If I need lamps (and I do), why go to Ikea when I can look at every goddamn lamp on the Bowery? We (Mom and I) did manage to find some great lamps at non-insane prices. However, if you are a person who likes lighting and enjoys giving people gifts of insane prices, I would be happy to point you toward the work of an artist I rather admire. Just saying. If that's what you want to do, I'll return the lamps we bought.

    So, other than imagining the beauty of my future apartment, what have I been thinking about? Well, there was that Obama New Yorker cover a couple of weeks back. I thought it was cute...reasonably funny for the magazine, although nowhere near the greatest New Yorker cover of all time. Some people said it's the NYer's responsibility to censor themselves and put out covers that aren't going to attract the kind of negative attention and misinterpretation this one did and may have done, respectively. I think that media outlets with a broad national audience (Fox News, CNN, USA Today) have this responsibility, but the New Yorker should gear their covers to their audience. And I'm pretty sure anyone who understands their cartoons got the cover. And for those who say "it fails as satire," I might be inclined to agree...that "satire" is the wrong label for this kind of humor/commentary. I don't think that means it fails as whatever kind of humor/commentary it is.

    But that's old news.

    I guess my thoughts on easy-target-news have been rather limited. Speaking of easy-target-news, though, the Daily Show has begun. I'm going to go watch that. And if you're wondering what I'll be watching this weekend, well...

    Friday, July 11, 2008

    Unimaginable Luxury

    I'm over a month into my summer of complete freedom, and things couldn't be better. I'm jogging my 1.5 miles five days a week, sleeping 8 - 9 hours per night, reading a good novel, hanging out with friends every day, eating good food, drinking good coffee, seeing good shows, and generally living a life of, well, unimaginable luxury. It could only be better if The Daily Show and Colbert weren't in reruns now. And it would be better if the nightmares would stop. Seriously. Somehow when I'm completely relaxed during the days, my subconscious decides I'm not getting my RDA of stress, so it starts having stress dreams. I got a break for a few days when I went to the Adirondacks (so much fun), and for one day at home I was fine, but now the bad dreams have returned. It sucks not to look forward to sleep...usually it's so lovely.

    But anyway, while I'm awake, I'm happy. This sort of worries me. By and large, the great people of the world can't help but do stuff. Great artists always do their art. Great activists are always looking for ways to help. People who achieve things do so, in part, because they can't stand sitting around and doing nothing. I love sitting around and doing nothing...or at least I love not working. I am doing a fair amount, I'm just not working on making anything happen. I've given up on all of my projects for the summer, deciding I'd rather just have a good time. I don't plan to travel, because I don't like the hassle of traveling. And this worry that I have isn't some deep, motivating force; it's just a general acknowledgment of an unproductive temperament. I'd like to achieve great things in life, but with two major personality traits working against me—satisfaction without accomplishment and reluctance to commit to one discipline at the expense of all others—that's going to be somewhat difficult.

    Oh, I did win a trivia challenge this vacation. You can read all about my glorious achievement here. To read about the challenge, take a look at Day 1, and to navigate to all the puzzles, use Day 5. That was pretty exciting.

    Sadly, part one of this summer is about to come to an end. I move out of my apartment on Monday, back for a month in Westchester with my family. I think it'll be nice to hang out in the burbs for a while, and it will make the transition back to school more natural, but I'm also going to really, really miss living in the city and in this apartment. My roommates are awesome, and the freedom of New York living is unparalleled. I can hop on the subway and be anywhere in Manhattan in a half hour. It's awesome. I do like Westchester, and I love spending time with my family, and I'll be coming back into the city frequently, but it sure won't be the same. I'll be doing lots of errands and driving around and probably spending much more time in the house than I currently do in my apartment. So here I am, down to my last three days as a true New Yorker. It's the end of an era, folks.

    Wednesday, June 18, 2008

    First Time Around!

    Living in a post-work world has been lovely thus far. I wake up late and well-rested, I've been exercising, reading The Audacity of Hope, seeing shows, and slowly (and unsurely) working on a musical of my own. I get randomly anxious, of course, but I tend to do that when I'm not working. I also get not-so-randomly anxious...I should probably pick a day to move out and contact some movers, eh? Pshaw. Pura vida. Om.

    Today, I achieved my first goal of the summer: Jogging all the way around the reservoir in Central Park without stopping. This is part of my getting into shape plan, which now involves continuing to jog around the reservoir once a day without stopping. Hopefully I'll gradually get faster.

    My initial goal was to start with one lap and work my way up to two. I guess I underestimate how unfit I really am/was...or maybe I just underestimated how long 1.5 miles is because all of my in-shape friends say obnoxious things like "Oh, I just did a nice easy three mile run today," or "Yeah, that was a good seven mile run," or "I'm working on getting my 6.5 minute mile down to 6 minutes." (I'm looking at you, Greg.) In any case, when you haven't run since you were nine, 1.5 miles is hard.

    So my first day I had hoped to run a full lap but wound up running half. And I was in a lot of pain. The second day was worse. Much worse. I didn't even make it a quarter of the way around. The third day, sore of leg, blistered of foot, and broken of spirit, I speed walked. I took the fourth day off. Yet somehow, with some stretching, serious pacing, more selectivity of my music, and the misery of those first three days behind me, I started improving this week. Monday was the first day I did better than day one, making it over a mile before walking. On Tuesday I made it almost all the way around. And today, for the first time, I made it all the way around the track! Yay! 1.5 miles of pure jogging, baby!

    Now, when I say I paced myself this week, I mean I really slowed the fuck down. I've been operating under the jogging philosophy that my legs should always hurt more than my lungs. It hasn't entirely worked out that way, but it certainly helps me at the beginning when I just want to run and know that if I do, I'll never make it around.

    All right, time to switch the laundry. More updates TK.

    Tuesday, June 03, 2008

    Then We Came to the End

    I'm reading that book right now, and not only is it a great read, but it's also very appropriate for this week, when both my tenure at work and the Democratic primary come to their respective ends.

    I'm psyched to ride the Obama tide. I was an ambivalent but unwavering Hillary supporter throughout the primary, and I still think she would make an excellent president. I really can't get too worried about verbal gaffes or the sins of her supporters; I like her health care plan, I like her doggedness, and I like her solidity. But I think she now needs to concede—I always said she would never concede on the night of a primary win, so I'm not surprised she didn't concede tonight—so we can start the fight for Obama. And, actually, I think she needs to concede so the Republicans can start their fight against Obama. If they have aces up their sleeves that they're just waiting to rip out, it's far better they do it June than in September. And the sooner we can see him juxtaposed with McCain, the better. He will come across so well: He's quicker (I don't mean smarter, per se, but that too), he's more poised, and he's more passionate. He just needs really good foreign policy people whispering in his ear so he makes zero gaffes. I think Barack Obama will make a wonderful, thoughtful, and inspiring president, and I'm thrilled to have him as our nominee.

    I wasn't too upset about work winding down. I've been excited for the summer and all the possibility and freedom it holds, and I've been looking forward to living outside the 9 to 5 (or 10 to 7, as the case may be). But just last Friday I started to feel the impending nostalgia. I work in a great area with great people researching and writing about great ideas. There have been better times and worse times at work, but in the end, I've been working in a job most people can only dream about. Not only do I get to write, but I get to write about science. Not only do I get to research, but I get to talk to great scientists about their work. Not only do I report, but I get to think deeply about scientific ideas. Not only do I get to think about articles, but I get to think creatively, across as many media as can fit on a screen (and that's many). And I get to do it all with an uncommonly intelligent and young group of people. That's pretty special. Oh, and I get to proofread. Which I enjoy more than is probably healthy.

    There was a time, after I had been writing news stories for a while, when I was wondering whether I was really getting a lot out of my job. A couple of years later, I know I've learned an incredible amount. My writing is better than ever (and if you were looking for "but also"s to follow all of those "not only"s...I hate you). I have become more comfortable on the phone and with my ability to talk with people of all ages and levels of prestige. I have learned what it means to work in an office and what it means to work on a team...and how many things 'working on a team' can mean. I have slowly started to figure out what makes a good boss and what makes a good subordinate, although those are always a little slippery. While I never quite got the hang of thinking as a journalist—that's one of the reasons I'm not staying—I did get the hang of thinking about issues from the perspective of our publication, which is a worthwhile perspective to have. And I learned a lot about science. That's important stuff.

    I certainly can't sum up 32 months in a single blog post, but I'll just say, I've been grateful for them. Even in the most miserable times, I was learning, and even in the best times, I was finding out what was wanting in me and in my work.

    Oy, I've fallen into lots of soulful repetitions in this post. I think it's because I'm listening to Obama's victory speech as I write. Back to the Baracketry...

    Saturday, May 10, 2008

    Changing Taxonomies

    I am amused—as it is so easy to be—by the number of basic facts I learned in elementary, nay, pre-school that have changed since I entered higher education (middle school).

    Most obviously, the planet Pluto is dead. Long live dwarf planet Pluto! I guess there was always the possibility we'd discover another planet, and our solar system wouldn't stay at 9 forever. Yeah, that would have been cool to discover another planet. Maybe two other planets. We discovered there were probably about 200. So the IAU voted, and decided that it wasn't enough for a planet to orbit the sun and be sufficiently massive that it is nearly round, but it also has to clear its own orbit. Eight planets stayed in. Pluto was out. We never really learned that astronomers didn't have a good definition of a planet. Who knew this was even a possibility? That would have been an awesome lesson in ambiguity and human imperfection. Or it would have been an awesome excuse for some wise guy four-year-old not to memorize his planets. Maybe it's a good thing we just learned them.

    We all learned how to eat according to the food pyramid. It looked like this. Apparently, to live healthfully, you should carbo-load like there's a worldwide grain shortage (er...) and run like hell from fats and oils. Today we know the true evil of the carbohydrate and the vast healing power of the omega-3. Or something. The food pyramid now looks like this. Apparently the pyramid was either too good a shape to lose or too good a url to change. It doesn't really matter that the pyramid no longer has a base and really looks more like a 2-D prism than a proper pyramid. The important thing is it's a pyramid. I just tried to play with the MyPyramid menu planner, but apparently a coke with a steak for dinner already puts me over my recommended "extras" maximum. We need to set realistic goals, people. I'm not becoming a raw foodie anytime soon. Anyway, the food pyramid is gone, the food prism has arrived, and Michael Pollan's approach of "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." is probably the wisest option yet.*

    The good Lord made four apocalyptic horsemen, four Gospels, and four sons with varying question-asking abilities. He also made four tastes: Sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. Or so we were told. Long before my birth, those c-razy Asians knew the power of MSG to make food taste delicious. But only recently did Western taste taxonomists catch on and dub "umami" a fifth fundamental taste. I guess I understand why we were confused...it's a little hard to distinguish "savory" from "salty;" but the distinction is there, and the four elements of taste aren't the complete set of orthogonal bases I was raised to believe they were.

    So, now that I've finished mocking my elementary education and our general confidence with current knowledge, here's what I think the punchline is to all this: These were all good mistakes. Well, maybe the food pyramid was never based on anything especially solid, but certainly we had decent cause to believe that we had 9 planets and the tongue tastes four flavors. We didn't wildly misinterpret our evidence. We didn't miss an obvious interpretation of data because we were sticking to dogma. We just needed to wait until the right evidence became available for us to change our taxonomies. And it's also important to note that these are taxonomies, not theories. These aren't rules of science with great explanatory power from which we could make lots of predictions. It can be upsetting when we get those wrong. These are just discrete categories. If new evidence shows up, it's very easy to add and amend. And so we have done just that. I guess this just shows us that the things that lend themselves to elementary school memorization—which happen to be the things that stick in our heads for our entire lives—aren't usually the things that have the most meaning or pack the most punch. But hey, at least those multiplication tables will never go out of style.

    *Yes, I realize that steak is not a plant and coke is not food. Shut up.