if justice is blind... Sua Sponte
My law school odyssey: three years, three time zones and beyond.


The perfect outlining horoscope!

G R E E T I N G S Capricorn

Some people take knowledge personally. To you it's a tool or commodity. You have a firm grip on the basics. You surf complexity with ease, shooting the curl of beautifully objective waves. With your navigation, any project will run smoothly. You don't even have to do any of the work unless, of course, you want to. Sometimes it's fun to see what others are thinking and what they intend to do about it. There's no hurry with this. You have plenty of time to see how it all turns out. And if anything needs a little tweaking, you're there to do it.

thus spake /jca @ 10:01 PM...

Well, after much angst, I have six pages of something that looks -- at least to the untrained eye -- like a workable Contracts outline.


The thing is cobbled together from Gilberts, two or three different outlines composed by 1Ls from other years and other schools, and, to a minuscule extent, class notes. I'm not sure how much of it I trust; it has a very borrowed, these-are-someone-else's-thoughts feel to it. Then again, I'm not sure how confident I could ever be in an outline based on my actual experience in Contracts class this semester, which has devolved into a twice-weekly experiment in preventing myself from falling into uncontrollable, hysterical laughter. This outline may contain someone else's rules, but at least it contains rules at all.

At least I've theoretically moved past the where-to-begin panic of last week's discussion group. Now I know where to begin, and am left with the much more conventional quandary of where to go from there.

thus spake /jca @ 9:31 PM...

My two outlining buddies, C. and K., are both compulsive formatters. They will spend fifteen minutes playing with tables and bullets and fancy graphs in Microsoft Word and wind up with a gorgeous study aid for mistake of fact or gradation of homicide.

I have the opposite problem: my outlines are ugly ducklings. But the up shot of actually finishing them (which I'm starting to do) is that now I've got the fun part ahead of me. I have a sufficiently-condensed mess of information which I can now pretty up and decorate to my heart's content. And it will actually count as studying.

It's tempting to go back to my Torts outline, which is complete as of yesterday, and start the beautification process. But I can't fall into the trap yet. I still have three more outlines to finish by the end of the week. Professor Crim's advice, if a bit harshly phrased, is starting to feel right to me. Outlining isn't really the point. You'll need one in the exam to make sure you don't miss a rule, but the real skill being tested here is issue spotting.

I've been practicing issue spotting. My husband, who's normally tremendously supportive of my law school efforts, made an atrocious tactical error on Thursday: he bought a DVD player, on which we can now watch the director's cut of the Lord of the Rings. He knows my weaknesses well. I had to flee to K.'s place yesterday to avoid being sucked in entirely by the running commentaries of the writers, the cast, the production staff.

Anyways, in the movie itself (which is now four hours long), I pegged solicitation, conspiracy, trespass to land, larceny, attempted murder, assault, trespass to chattel, implied-in-fact contract, false imprisonment, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, promissory estoppel, and negligence out the wazoo. If I watch it again (which would be the eighth full viewing for me), I could probably find more.

But not now. Outlines first, issue spotting later this week.

thus spake /jca @ 1:55 PM...


No mistake is more common and more fatuous than appealing to logic in cases which are beyond her jurisdiction. --Samuel Butler (1835-1902)

thus spake /jca @ 1:48 PM...


Off for a much-needed stay at a cute B&B in Half Moon Bay.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

thus spake /jca @ 5:06 PM...

I'm always afraid of saying things like this, since I'm superstitious about jinxing myself, but it appears that my laptop issues have been resolved.

I found -- miracle! -- an eBay seller who just happened to live in San Jose and who just happened to be selling the exact floppy drive that had broken in my Sony a few weeks ago. No one had bid on it, so the Buy It Now option was still available. Sony's parts hotline had wanted $170 for the item (which is a substantial portion of the resale value of the entire machine at this point); this guy was asking $20. He had himself a deal.

Row and I popped down to SJ this morning to drop off the $20 and pick up the drive. Row's now at an airport hotel watching American daytime television and indulging in a pint of Chunky Monkey (unavailable in Australia) before her flight home tomorrow; meanwhile, with my husband's help, I got the drive working and managed to validate my version of SofTest.

Mild panic attack upon seeing the dialog box at the SofTest launch: "Please wait for proctor to announce that you may begin," complete with little red flashing STOP signs. My God, this is for real. I'm going to be taking exams with this.

The good news is, it now seems that I can.

thus spake /jca @ 4:39 PM...


No sign of my lotions at the lost and found. Row says to give them up for gone. I just have difficulty letting go of these things, I guess.

Row came along to Crim today and had a fantastic time (at least I'm pretty sure she wasn't kidding when she said so). She didn't bother with Civ Pro, though, which was probably wise. She's also had a ball discovering all of the things one can eat in California that are unavailable, or at least exceedingly difficult to find, in Australia, including burritos, banh mi, pupusas, and -- [at this point I realize I can't move to Australia until they figure this one out] -- pomegranates. The two of us came home from The City today and tucked into a pair of pomegranates with all the fervor and delight of kids licking the bowl after Mom made cookies.

It is slowly dawning on me: I have five days without classes. All the time I haven't had to outline up until now, I suddenly have. I can do this. I can knuckle down in the next few days, polish off Torts, accomplish something similar in Civ Pro and Crim, and -- thanks be to Gilberts -- actually pull together a sensible enough Contracts outline to be able to move on to the issue spotting phase without the inevitable panic that follows from hitting a clear issue and blanking on the rule.

I love vacation. I wouldn't have thought that I'd look forward to it as an opportunity to work, but ahhh, what a relief to finally have a chance to just get done what I need to do without having to fight through the cluttered mess of my routine school schedule!

thus spake /jca @ 9:11 PM...


Argh, after such a lovely weekendlong break from studying (badly needed, if ill-affordable at this point) I had to go back to school and have hot coffee spilled on the lap of my faith in humanity.

I am rather more paranoid than the average person about theft. I don't like to wear clothes or jewelry that draw attention to themselves (with the exception of my engagement ring and wedding band, but I wear them all the time on principle). I enjoy the fact that my laptop is so old and obsolete, it would hardly matter if the thing were to be stolen. I try to have as little on me as possible to make taking any of my possessions worth someone's while.

Today I picked up an order of two Body Shop fruit-scented lotion gift sets I'd purchased for two young female cousins who enjoy that sort of thing. Only one of these fit in my pullman bag on top of my Monday books. The other I carried under my arm through most of the day. The problem arose when I set it down near a public computer, then got up and walked away without remembering to pick the thing up.

When I realized this, about fifteen minutes later, I rushed back to the computer...and it was gone.

"Are you looking for a box of lotion?" someone asked me.

"Yeah," I said.

"It was here a minute ago," she told me. "This other woman asked me if it was mine, and I said no, and she took it."

We ran all over the building in search of this woman, tall, orangeish hair, red and gray pullman bag. No sign of her. "She could have gone anywhere," the witness shrugged in resignation.

I scrawled a plea on the back of a mail-drop handout and thumbtacked it above the computer, begging whoever found the lotions to return them to me with no questions asked. Something may still come of this; in the meantime I'm left to stew over the fact that I'm out thirty bucks, still owe one of my cousins a Christmas present, and can't trust my fellow students for fifteen goddamned minutes.

Maybe it's just the pre-exam crescendo, breaking down our senses of propriety and making lawless freaks of us all...

thus spake /jca @ 11:23 PM...


Blogging will be sparse for the time being while husband and I entertain a houseguest from Australia.

thus spake /jca @ 11:06 PM...


G R E E T I N G S Capricorn

There are a lot of issues you have been avoiding, but today you finally have the courage to face even your biggest fears. A great change is at work in your life, although the source and direction of which may not be immediately obvious. Break down the barriers that keep you from seeing in all directions. Ask an older friend or relative for support and guidance. Their past experiences light the way for you.

~ extra hugs to Don ~

thus spake /jca @ 9:25 PM...

A good half hour of notetaking in the Career Services office this morning left me with a list of local judges who might potentially engage a 1L summer clerk after next semester.

I do (or at least historically have done) a decent amount of volunteer work, but I think this will probably represent the first time that I actually embark on a full-time job where I don't get paid. Although I guess, strictly speaking, school is a full-time job from which I draw no salary. And the stories I've heard of the "paying" jobs landed by the most doggedly determined 1Ls make me laugh out loud. These are grownups, people like me with previous careers and substantial resumes, who are slogging away for an hourly wage lower than the rate I pulled as a temp in 1996. I think I'd rather work for free; at least then I could convince myself that there was something highminded or noble about my job.

Either way, I think it would be more interesting to work for a judge than to try to fight my way into a firm. My family plans don't really mesh with a biglaw career track, and even if they did, after my spectacular flaming burnout at [large Silicon Valley company formerly known for making web browsers, now a subsidiary of a subsidiary of...etc.] last year, I doubt that biglaw and I could ever see eye to eye with respect to work-life balance. My position is simple: you couldn't pay me enough to make that kind of grind worth my while again. Their position, meanwhile, goes back to the old Cult of the Employed: You work here, we own you, your time is ours, and any attempt you make to reassert dominion over your evenings and weekends will be deemed ungrateful insubordination and permanently affect your status in this hierarchy.

No thanks.

A few weeks under a judge, on the other hand, could be entertaining. In the absolute worst-case scenario, it will be exactly like El-Dubyar, which I've already demonstrated to my satisfaction that I can survive. And in any better scenario, I'm apprenticing to one of the most important flavors of lawmaker, writing a lot(despite the best efforts of my El-Dubyar instructor to inspire doubt in my ability to do so), observing the machine from inside its control chamber, the system from within its...brain? Heart? Liver? Spleen? One of those, anyway.

That is, if a judge will hire me.

thus spake /jca @ 8:47 PM...


After a phone conversation of nearly two hours with my 3L cousin, and a glass or two of wine inter alia, I'm feeling much better.

Don is one of those incredibly laid-back people to whom nerves are completely alien. He did freak out during his first year -- apparently it's an unavoidable stage in the obstacle course, even for the mellowest among us -- but looks back on it now with some of the best advice I've been hearing lately.

"Everyone will study their asses off," said he. "Everyone will walk into the test knowing everything. And then you will be absolutely amazed at how they'll just panic, they'll freak, they'll lose it. And you won't."

"Sure about that?" I said, thinking of the howling swirl of ghosts chanting that effort doesn't matter and grades are chaotic and luck is fickle at best.

"Listen," he said, "you walk into that room and you damn well better be smiling. Big fat smile on your face. You better go in smiling and come out laughing."


"They should send sociologists in to law school exams," he said. "Because you're going to look back at all these classes and see that they're easy shit. But everyone in the room is going to freak, even though this shit's so goddamned easy, because they're so scared about grades. And they're going to blow it, even though it's easy. But you can do this, it's so easy. If I could bet, I'd put money on you."

I came away feeling much better than I had this morning...and having exacted a promise from my cousin to teach me contracts in the next two weeks.

thus spake /jca @ 10:58 PM...

Despite my nasty experience in discussion group, I couldn't help but notice that I was getting more and more excited all afternoon. By the time Civ Pro ended (ten minutes early, since we wrote our professor evaluations today and Professor Civ Pro was required to leave the room while we did so), I could hardly stand it any more. The buzzer finally sounded, and I squealed out loud:


In a way that's kind of creepy; we have class tomorrow, and then two weeks consisting only of Monday and Tuesday classes, and then exams. Such a short period of time to do so much is unnerving, when you think about it, but I wasn't thinking about it. I was only thinking that I was now free from those awful awful marathon Thursdays, the worst schedule I've ever had, bar none. They're all past now. All done. Over. Gone bye-bye. I was so happy at the thought, I could hardly stop giggling.

I imagine the last half hour of my Crim exam will feel somewhat similar, and by the time it ends, I'll be tripping out of the room in near-hysterical exhausted relief.

At least, that's what I'm hoping will happen. It beats skulking out of the room in defeat as something to look forward to.

thus spake /jca @ 6:52 PM...

Today during discussion group I found myself faced with my very first practice exam for Contracts -- and turned to stone.

I was supposed to be outlining the answer, but nothing was materializing. I flailed around for the basics and scrawled on my page: Offer. Terms? Acceptance? Consideration? Option contract? Promissory estop--

"Would it help more if we just talked through it?" the discussion group leader ventured, as soon as he realized how many of us were just goggling at the page in abject panic.

"You won't believe how screwed we are," I told C. (who had skipped the exercise) afterward. "You just look at the essay and go cold. Don't even know where to begin. We have nothing. We have nothing."

"So we need to take a weekend with Gilbert's," she replied, nodding.

"Yeah," I said, "and just chant rules at each other."

Professor Contracts has distributed a packet of old exam questions with A answers. They'll obviously be useful as a gauge for this particular professor's taste in essays (CRAC or IRAC? Recite the rule or work it into the analysis? etc.), but unfortunately, as I joked to M., "I'm actually learning the law by reading them."

I feel guilty resorting to borrowed outlines at this point, but my instinct for self-preservation tells me that it's wiser than flying blind any longer.

thus spake /jca @ 12:43 PM...


Medical students turn into hypochondriacs; law students alight on something like a sprained ankle like flies to honey. "Causation!" "Breach of standard of conduct!" "Duty to invitees!" etc., when in fact my injury was wholly my own fault for being a klutz and wearing shoes with half-detached heels. Ah well. I got a few stares at the granny boots, but my limp immediately explained them. I think.

I went to Professor Crim's office hours today, which were mildly discouraging. Prof. Crim hadn't previously given me the impression that he was one of those mythical nasty law professors who roll their eyes and sigh through their nostrils at 1L angst; but today, he kept a completely straight face as he told us what a waste of time all of our studying was, how little it would matter.

I still don't think he was being malicious about it -- he did give some pointers on the types of responses he preferred to policy questions -- but it just seemed peculiarly insensitive, to my unjaundiced eye, of a professor with so much experience teaching first-year classes to disparage all the work we're doing to prepare for his exam. I don't know. Maybe I'm just so stuck inside the machine at this point that everything seems oppressive.

Still, it seemed to me that Prof. Crim (who has shown remarkable sensitivity in class discussion) was capable of being much kinder to our efforts. Maybe he was just having a bad day, or was getting fed up with panicky 1Ls haranguing him for magic exam secrets. Or maybe he's a different kind of hardcore, and this is the first we're seeing of it.

As we walked down to MUNI, H. told me even more discouraging stories. "Prof. Crim told me yesterday that you can't really change anything at this point," he said glumly. "You either get it or you don't. It's like it's all preordained."

"Then why the hell are we here?" I groaned. "How can they, on one hand, set up the system so that the assignment of numbers is completely arbitrary and uncorrelated to actual effort, and then on the other hand make those numbers the all-important yardstick against which we're measured in the future?"

"I don't know," H. said, slightly choking up. "I mean, I can't defend the position, it's just what he told me. I don't know. I can't argue this. It makes no sense to me. I'm sorry."

Suddenly I felt awfully guilty for ranting at H. "No, no, I'm not picking on you, it's not your fault, we're all in this pressure cooker...Did I upset you? I'm sorry, I didn't mean to..."

H. just looked at me. I looked back at him. We were in exactly the same place, but somehow that didn't help.

We ran into A. coming toward the escalators at the MUNI station, laden with grocery bags. "Progresso soup on sale for a dollar a can!" she grinned at us. "I bought as much as I could carry."

H. offered to help her carry some of it back up to her apartment. She refused. He then offered again, indicating that he'd be happy to help her eat some. She laughed and responded, "I bought as much as I could carry...no more."

Maybe that's the key to studying wisely at this point. As much as you can carry, but no more.

thus spake /jca @ 10:19 PM...

Sleeping helped greatly. (Doesn't it always?)

My bum ankle is still bummed, but nowhere near as awful as yesterday evening. I bound it up this morning in an Ace bandage and tried walking: good progress, but no way was I going to wear those falling-apart old shoes that had been the proximate cause of my fall.

Turns out I didn't have to. Back in the recesses of the closet I really ought to clean out some day, I discovered a terrific boon: an old pair of lace-up granny boots that had been very stylish in 1996 and now just looked old. Fashion plate that I am these days, I could have cared less. They laced up around my Ace bandage and supported my ankle, and if they clash with my jeans and red wool sweater, so be it. At least I can walk again!

thus spake /jca @ 10:44 AM...


Husband has come home, reheated some stuffed salmon, and plied me with wine and Motrin. Ankle is still screaming in pain, but I'm not listening.

thus spake /jca @ 8:49 PM...

Phone rang. Got up to answer it, hop-hobbled across living room. It was husband, checking on me. Told him I was OK. Returned to couch and realized that the effort of fetching the phone had left me no longer OK, catching my breath in agony, near tears. Took the damn thing this long to start hurting for real.

Moving around is very unwise right now.

thus spake /jca @ 7:01 PM...

I was a remarkably clumsy kid. Even as late as college I retained the ability to spontaneously fall out of an otherwise-motionless chair. It's no accident that the only exercise machines I use at the gym are ones where my limbs are constrained to confined paths of motion. I can, and do, stumble over thin air if given the opportunity.

Today I very stupidly hurt myself, walking to the elevators from Crim. The class topic of discussion had been battered woman syndrome as a potential justification defense in homicide cases, and M., who sits behind me, was ranting on about how unfair it was to assume that a man was automatically more physically powerful than a woman.

"Come on," I told him, "if you and I met up in a dark alley you could easily take me out."

"I'm a bad point of reference." (M. is a rather buff guy with training in karate, it turns out.) "But take H., for example."

H., who is a good deal smaller in build than M., happened to be walking by at the moment. "Take me?"

"I could take you," I grinned threateningly.

"Why would you want to do that?" H. is a hugger, not a fighter.

"She'd hug you to death first," chimed in C.

I reached out toward H., pretending to punch him in the shoulder blades. "Bam. Bam. I'm committing battery on you," I joked.

"More like assault--"

And then, for no reason whatsoever, my childhood clumsiness reasserted itself. I swear I was standing still, and yet I managed to trip myself up and fall forward onto my right knee, bending my left ankle double in the process. My trusty pullman bag tipped over and landed next to me with a clatter of handle.

"Are you all right?" I. and F. were immediately there, helping me up.

"Yeah, I'm fine," I said, brushing off my knee, "the floor must be wet here or something." I stood back up and immediately felt a wash of nausea. Many synapses were telling me not to put any weight on my left ankle. It didn't hurt any worse than a stubbed toe (if you can imagine stubbing your ankle), but the rest of my nervous system seemed to be overreacting. Whenever my body expresses itself like this, usually it doesn't mean good news.

I rode the elevator up to the mezzanine and settled in to read my Civ Pro in the hour before class, propping my left ankle up on a chair. By the time I'd made it through York and Byrd, though, the thing had started to puff up like a pastry.

I tolerated it through Civ Pro, then realized afterward that I was limping for real. Gotta get home, I told myself, gotta get some ice. I hobbled down the nonfunctioning escalator at Civic Center and noticed, as I waited for MUNI, that I could actually feel it swelling more.

Unluckily, the 3:30 Caltrain featured one of those conductors who tsks at you -- "No feet on seats! no feet on seats!" -- even if you take off your shoes. I managed to fall asleep for part of the trip, but woke up around Atherton to realize that my ankle was now so swollen, it jiggled like a pair of love handles spilling over the top of my loafer every time the train hit a bump.

I finally made it home and got myself an ice pack, which felt like pure heaven. I've got the thing up and resting now, leaving me with only the residual ache of feeling like a total ass. What kind of idiot sprains her ankle just by standing still?

There's only one conclusion a sensible woman can draw from this:

I need new shoes.

thus spake /jca @ 6:29 PM...

Good news: The hotel next door to the administration building of my law school has an Exam Season rate of $59 a night, far less than the $129 advertised on their website or the $89 offered at the Ramada over by Starbucks. I'd been wondering how the hell I was going to manage to get into town for an 8:30 am exam; now I know. I'll already be here. I booked four nights at the reduced rate and will just take the train up the night before. It'll be vaguely lonely, sans husband or pets or stereo, but I'll be glad of it on the morning of an exam when I can get up at seven instead of five and not even have to think about catching a train.

Bad news: My long-suffering Sony laptop seems to be staggering toward the finish line. Its beautiful big display, which was grossly expensive in 1999, is now affected by an odd cross-shaped shadow which my husband attributes to the plastic frame behind the screen. K., on the other hand, says it's a sign and that my laptop is blessed.

That would be nice, but doesn't seem to be the case. Last weekend I noticed that the floppy drive was no longer able to read floppies. It spun and spun and then stopped spinning, and that was that. This wouldn't be a problem, except that the exam software deemed necessary by my school requires a functioning floppy drive.

In other words, unless and until this gets fixed, I can't take my finals on my laptop.

This could present a real problem. I type about a hundred words a minute, and handwrite about twenty-five. The thought of my exam essays being 75% less complete just because of a silly hardware problem is galling at best.

My husband, bless his heart, took both of our laptops apart last night to see if he could figure out the problem with my floppy. His floppy didn't work in my machine, mine didn't work in his, and he eventually concluded that if I couldn't pick up a spare-parts replacement drive at the Sony store at Metreon, it was probably time for me to upgrade.

This should be cause for joy. New laptops are invariably great fun, right? It's just that the timing is all wrong. We're getting into serious crunch season here, with the end of the syllabus in frighteningly close range for nearly all our classes. I need to be outlining like mad, finishing up my reading, starting to take the pile of practice exams which I'll need to get through before the real ones start. I don't have time to play with new toys. And new toys with the fun stripped away from them are hardly toys at all.


Maybe the floppy will change its mind and start working again. This laptop may, after all, be blessed...

thus spake /jca @ 10:21 AM...


Preoccupied by a recent post of TPB's, I decided to take a test to determine exactly how much more or less efficient it would be for me as a lawyer to give dictation as opposed to typing my own documents.

I have a reputation as a fast typist among people who sit near me in class. This is particularly handy in Civ Pro, when getting the professor's exact wording down is key to preparing for the test, or in Contracts, where sometimes the only way to make sense of the professor's speech is in print.

Turns out I type a hundred words per minute, according to the test. (103 if you include uncorrected typos.)

For some reason this doesn't make me proud. TPB's post unintentionally hit a long-dormant nerve. Anyone who has ever worked as an administrative assistant -- particularly anyone with a college degree who would have torn out her own toenails to be doing anything else -- knows what I'm talking about. It never leaves you, that sense of being bound to servitude, the fear that you'll be banished back down the org chart as soon as things don't work out. As you get older and your resume deepens, the fear is tempered a bit; work experience and graduate degrees insulate you from the risk. With a master's or a law degree, with more and more years of experience in other lines of work, it's less and less likely that the rug will be yanked out from under your feet, that you'll have to go back to the ten-line telephone and the unenclosed desk.

But at the end of the day, it's like waiting tables. You can tell former waitstaff by the huge tips they leave. I feel the same way about secretaries. My heart goes out to the talented young women (and yes, they're largely women) who are stuck taking dictation because they majored in something that wasn't economics. Should any of same ever wind up working for me, may I lose my toenails if I ever treat them the way I swore I'd never let anyone treat me again.

thus spake /jca @ 9:26 PM...

I've been carrying St. Daniel's paperback, Civil Procedure in a Nutshell, to the gym with me lately. (If you ever happen by the 24 Hour Fitness in San Antonio Plaza, and there's a woman on a recumbent exercycle reading Civil Procedure in a Nutshell, it's probably me, so do say hello.)

Today, though, Dogma was playing on one of the big screens in the cardio room. I grew up in God's Country (ask TPB!) and, wherever I may roam, a Kevin Smith movie will beat out venue statutes any day of the week.

"My God... I've heard a rant like this before."
"What did you say?"
"I've heard a rant like this before."
"Don't you fucking do that to me."
"You sound like the Morningstar."
"You shut your fucking face!"
"You do, you sound like Lucifer, man, you've fucking lost it! You're not talking about going home, Bartleby, you're talking about fucking war on God. Well, fuck that! I have seen what happens to the Proud when they take on the Throne. I'm going back to Wisconsin."

Waddling Thunder reports that the director's cut DVD of Lord of the Rings is everything we've wanted it to be. It's almost enough to make us buy a DVD player. When the complete box set of Kevin Smith movies comes out on DVD, we will have officially run out of excuses.

thus spake /jca @ 4:30 PM...

Money quote from the new Harry Potter movie:

"And as a school treat, all exams are cancelled."

I actually moaned out loud at the thought.

thus spake /jca @ 1:22 AM...


Top Ten Reasons to Hang Out with Engineers

10. They pick excellent places to go out for lunch. Today it was dim sum at the Joy Luck Place, the best dim sum we've found yet in the Valley.
9. They speak restaurant languages and can order things like dim sum.
8. They have no qualms about doing fun things to their hair for Halloween, since who's going to see them?
7. They're all comfortably cuddly-overweight from too much time at the desk.
6. They understand the student mentality; many of them have never lost theirs.
5. They're actually interested when you talk about things you're studying in law school.
4. They interrupt you to tell you things they think they know about the law.
3. Frequently, they're correct. (M. knew all about felony murder, for example.)
2. They appreciate any effort that involves intense work.

And the #1 reason to hang out with engineers:

1. Their unique value system and sense of perspective. Actual quote from J., describing a particularly thorny wireless protocol: "There's so much rocket science going on there. Actually, it's not even rocket science. It's...art."

thus spake /jca @ 2:26 PM...


Dreary, weary, bleary, Erie.

When will this semester end??

thus spake /jca @ 10:41 PM...


And the winner of the contest is...


Not a single one of ye worthy law mavens had anything to say on the difference between replevin and attachment. Dead silence on sequestration. Nary a peep on garnishment.

I guess this means that next semester, when I actually take property, I'm on my own?

thus spake /jca @ 7:40 PM...

What, no Boston?
I guess it's just in my blood...

Congratulations, you're New York City, the Big Apple.
What US city are you? Take the quiz by Girlwithagun.

Link courtesy of Nikki.

thus spake /jca @ 7:13 PM...

I had a lovely lunch today with Bill Logan -- Sua Sponte reader, lifelong San Franciscan and alumnus of my law school -- who very kindly provided me with two terrific boons. One was a complete set of his El-Dubyar memos, accompanied by the admonition not to stress over El-Dubyar (which shouldn't be a problem now that the class has ended). The other was a remarkably convenient fortune cookie: "You will have good luck and overcome many hardships."

Whoohoo! 'Bout time.

We gossiped about professors. Bill had had Professor Torts for Crim and Professor Crim for Federal Courts. He recommended a that I seek out a Contracts outline from a different professor. I told him stories about my current professor. He tipped me off that I could find grade distributions from previous exams in the basement. I forgot to go look for them later, but will hopefully remember on Monday.

Bill also introduced me to a new treat: Vietnamese coffee, drip-percolated over a layer of condensed milk right at the table and then stirred and decanted into a glass of ice. It left me nicely hopped-up throughout Civ Pro, which was good, since the rules for transfer of venue and forum non conveniens seem to contradict each other directly and in a less-wired state this might have annoyed me. Hat tip and a pomegranate to Bill! Let's do it again sometime soon.

thus spake /jca @ 5:05 PM...


...and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil...

Email from our El-Dubyar instructor, in salient part: "Email me the points value of your second memo - so I can verify against my list."

*gears grinding*

Why would you need *me* to report my number back to you to compare against your list? Do you really have a list at all? If so, what's the purpose of asking me to repeat my number, since you've already got it officially documented? And if you don't have a list, couldn't I just lie to you?


Not going there.
Not going there.

OK. Just sent off the email with the correct number. That was close. If I'd stayed up a bit later last night, were just a little more frustrated, hadn't found pomegranates at Costco this week...

thus spake /jca @ 10:31 AM...


My fingers are stained yellow from pomegranate juice, my fingernails are in sad shape indeed, and the trackpad of my laptop is slightly sticky. It's all good. Ahhh, if only this fruit were in season year-round.

Draft 4, revised, of my last El-Dubyar memo just arrived in the email courtesy of my long-suffering TA. His broadcast message to our class ended with the very cute words of wisdom: "Don't stress...law school is NOT worth stressing over." He must be having a particularly bad day. I guess that's one plus to getting the gentleman's B in El-Dubyar; you'll never be stuck TA-ing the class.

A friend recently told me of her experience seeing Sir Paul McCartney perform in the Shark Tank. "I was all excited for him to play my favorite Beatles song, but he played it early on, and then I started getting greedy and hoping for more."

"What's your favorite Beatles song?" I asked.

"Blackbird," she replied.

"Oooh, good song," I agreed.

I hadn't heard it in far too long, I realized. So this evening, as I sat down to my pomegranate, I queued up the White Album in search of some refreshing old wisdom. O-bla-di, o-bla-da, life goes on, blah! it told me and my yellow fingers and the pending fifth draft of my memo. I need a fix 'cause I'm going down, down to the bits that I left uptown. I need a fix 'cause I'm going down.

An old college pal of mine did a summer-abroad program training with the IDF, and came back swearing that happiness was, in fact, a warm gun. St. Daniel is a Second Amendment activist; I'll have to ask him to teach me to shoot the next time I'm out east.

I'm so tired, I haven't slept a wink...I'm so tired, my mind is on the blink...I wonder should I get up and fix myself a drink?

Yesterday I tasted some remarkable chocolate cake, made by D. from the front row. "The secret ingredient," he said, "is a pint of chocolate ice cream." G. asked D. if his pot brownies were this good as well; D. demurred.

"Pot brownies?" I was unfamiliar with the concept. "As in, brownies with pot in them?"

"They take about forty-five minutes to kick in," the consensus came back, "and then they put you to sleep."

"I want some," I told D. "Save some for me the next time you make them."

"I don't make them!" he protested, but went on to tell stories of all the people he knew who did. Turns out he's quite the connoisseur of narcotically-enhanced baked goods.

"You are NOT eating pot brownies," my husband told me that evening after I'd recounted the story.

In fact I've never even smoked pot. I've inhaled plenty of secondary pot smoke at various concerts and social functions, but the joint's never actually been passed to me. (And no matter how deeply I breathed, I never got a secondary high any more intense than an unpleasant buzzing at the nape of my neck.)

"They're supposed to help you sleep," I protested to my husband, who doesn't know how little of the Stoli Vanil is left, and doesn't need to.

"Go to bed earlier if you're having trouble sleeping," he replied.

No one will be watching us. Why don't we do it in the road?

The White Album was a twenty-first birthday gift to me from the 484 Guys, a set of roommates who included St. Daniel among their number, although another roommate was specifically responsible for this purchase. I miss him. I miss them all.

Half of what I say is meaningless
But I say it just to reach you, Julia...

My name isn't Julia, although it certainly could be. I wouldn't mind.

thus spake /jca @ 7:22 PM...


Recently I've noticed something particularly annoying about myself.

(You probably have too, but are too kind to say so.)

I seem to have lost the ability to speak without whining.

My voice has acquired an acid note, high-pitched and nasal. Even when I'm speaking good of something, it still comes out sounding plaintive and, well, bitchy.

What's more, it seems that I'm starting to have difficulty speaking good of things. This is truly scary: as obsessive or overworked as I've ever been in the past, I've always managed to stay optimistic.

What's happening here??

I caught myself complaining to C. the other day in Contracts and stopped mid-sentence. "You know," I said, interrupting my own screed on everything that was wrong with Contracts, "I'm really getting tired of hearing myself whine. Seems I can't open my mouth but to complain any more."

"Omigawd," C. exclaimed, grasping my wrist, "I know! I had to stop myself the other day when I was talking to my roommate. I couldn't even stand to listen to myself any more -- I was like, shut me up!"

"My mother always said that if you couldn't say anything nice, you shouldn't say anything at all," I said.

"Let's be quiet!" replied C.

I should just be quiet more often. It sounds better.

thus spake /jca @ 8:24 PM...

The official end to El-Dubyar has become the talk of the school, and the relief is palpable. It's only relief, though, devoid of real joy or satisfaction. A likely three-quarters of us have de facto failed to earn the grade in this class that Matters To Employers, and since we won't find out our grades until after finals, it's tough to predict whether the luck fairy blessed you this time or not. So no one's quite ready to celebrate, even though everyone's getting drunk anyway.

I guess it's sort of a Pyrrhic victory, clawing our collective way up from under mounds of photocopied cases and redlined drafts only to find out that now we're exhausted, burnt out, and faced with exams. Oh, and -- oops! -- as it turns out, we really should have spent all that time outlining instead of whittling away at our memos in the vain strung-out hope that it might matter, might change something. Alas. Alea jacta est, and now you'd better like the number you come out with, since you're stuck with it.

On the other hand, I've never been much of a fan of numbers on the resume. My undergraduate GPA dropped off my resume as soon as I landed my first real job, and my grad-school GPA never even made it on. The thought of branding myself with a number -- particularly a number as potentially nonrepresentative of my capabilities as a 1L GPA is rumored to be -- just feels entirely too meat-market for me. And scheeh, how cheesy is that, to put your grade in a frickin' non-GPA seminar as one of your educational accomplishments? I have real difficulty believing that this kind of thing truly Matters To Employers, at least any employers by whom I'd enjoy being employed.

Then again, I also have difficulty believing that people actually desire -- and pay for -- the style of writing I'm required to produce in El-Dubyar. So maybe I'm simply clueless, and need to work on that suspension-of-disbelief thing.

Maybe in time I'll succumb to the Stockholm syndrome afflicting so many of the former 1L's I know, who raise their eyebrows, smile, and shrug expansively when begged for advice on exams. "Grades are completely random, there's nothing you can do," they say, somehow not bothered by this, devoid of any sense that something's wrong with this picture or that we, inside the machine, might be able to do anything about it. "That's just how it is."

Maybe their psychological blisters have toughened over into calluses where mine are still bleeding. Maybe gangrene has set in and they've gone totally numb. Maybe I should knock it off with the silly metaphors and go brief for Civ Pro.

thus spake /jca @ 6:15 PM...


Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful: it's pomegranate season, and Costco stocks the biggest, ripest, sweetest poms you'll find in all of California. Or at least, they stocked them yesterday; by today they've probably run out, so good are these babies. Few things are as purely satisfying as having a whole six of these brilliant, wine-red, softball-sized delights beckoning from the kitchen counter. Well, five anyways. Make that four.

Pomegranates are my favorite fruit, and perhaps my favorite food, in the universe. You can't be unhappy when you're eating a pomegranate, greedily gulping mouthfuls of the seeds, joyously squirting juice all over yourself. It's an immersive experience, the perfect distraction from sixty-two pages of Crim notes that are vehemently opposed to being turned into a short outline.

Incidentally, is anybody going to bite on the contest? C'mon, property mavens, let's hear it!

thus spake /jca @ 12:39 PM...


My final El-Dubyar memo is now in its third draft, and I'm growing incredibly weary of the thing.

I've never been pleased with anything I've ever written that's required more than three drafts, and this is no exception. I don't mind revisiting something I've written and tweaking it a bit, and when the client is really fussy I can go back to the drawing board several times while still maintaining reasonably good cheer. But as a general rule, by the third swipe I take at a piece, most of its stuffing has already been beaten out and is strewn across the room.

That's what I've got now: a horrible beast of a memo, a monster with amputated limbs grafted back onto it in entirely wrong places, a creature that has littered my living room with gore and viscera (both figurative and literal, if interminable photocopied cases count).

I've been a consultant for awhile now, and an inhouse writer before that, so this is hardly my first problem project (or client). And I guess it's true that even if I never become a lawyer, I'll still and always be a consultant, relying on the mindset of keeping myself detached from the work and producing only the product that the client wants.

But usually the client is clearer about what they want. Or, even if they aren't, there's nothing more at stake than money, and if we can't get our thought processes to mesh after enough tries it's OK to just call it a wash and say never mind. In fact, thinking back, I haven't had a bad client since opening my own business for exactly this reason. As soon as an otherwise-good client started to go sour, I'd finish up the gig, send off the invoice and politely accept no further work from them. I had no incentive to suffer fools gladly. The pay wasn't worth the pain.

On the other hand, when I'm actually part of an organization and am expected to care about it and actively contribute to its success, the equation changes. Suddenly my product is important in and of itself, not just because someone's engaged me specifically to produce it. Suddenly my work has a context beyond one person's taste. And it's in these cases that the shit winds up hitting the fan. It's no longer a gig, it's a job, and doing my job well involves more than pleasing the person who's signing my invoices. It means sticking to my guns and doing what I know to be my best work, often at the expense of pleasing that person.

When I temped at a New York publishing house after college, I met a technical support representative who eventually refused to service any of the computer problems in our department. "Why don't you like us any more?" I joked with her once in the hallway. She responded with a grimace: "I can't deal with [boss's name] any more. I don't yes-ma'am too well."

I now realize exactly what she meant.

And that's much of the problem with this benighted El-Dubyar memo. My instructor is demanding a product of me that I am quite simply not comfortable delivering, and the effort it's taking me to operate entirely outside my skill set is wearing me down. The blessed consultant mindset (it's their product, not yours...it's your hourly rate, not theirs...give them what they want and keep your hands clean...it's not quality, but fit, for which you're paid...etc.) has gotten me this far, but at the same time, I know this isn't as simple as a consulting gig. This isn't just about a paycheck and a resume bullet point. This is an Achilles heel in the making, unless I manage to prevent it -- and that involves forcing myself to yes-ma'am more than I've been doing.

I'm accustomed, as I've said, to customizing my product to my client's specs. The goal is to come up with a [press release, brochure, web page, datasheet, executive communiqué, etc.] that satisfies the need for which it was commissioned, not to produce a piece that screams "JCA wrote this!" at the expense of the client's message. But this memo is stretching my stylistic flexibility to the point where it's cracking. I cannot in good conscience write a paragraph that reads "A because B. B [citation]. B means A. Therefore, A." and feel as though I'm authoring a document in any way beyond the capabilities of a seventh-grader. I lose all assurance of the quality of my work when I'm forced to speak in the voice of an amateur. Who would pay good money for this garbage, when you could have your baby-sitter write it for you?

But these are the specs I have to work with. "Use because more," reads a recurring comment on my drafts. "I'm confused here. Awkward. What does this mean?" I was a late-blooming nerd; believe me, I know from awkwardness, and this ain't it. But she says it is, and she's the boss, and she's the one who'll be measuring out that nectar more precious than money at the end of the semester. And I want some. And it's going to be worth the dozens of hours I'm spending, hobbling my language and chaining down my voice, hammering away at the monotonous drone of a document that she is expecting...if I can pull it off.

thus spake /jca @ 10:22 PM...


CNN headline: California Plunged Into Winter.

Umm, no we're not. It's still sixty degrees here. Scheeh, you give people one messy rainstorm and they see it as a hyperbole license.

thus spake /jca @ 10:42 AM...


Yet another reason not to go biglaw. (Link courtesy of Heather.)

thus spake /jca @ 10:29 AM...


Recently the reading in Civ Pro, cases on notice and the opportunity to be heard, has dealt with the constitutionality of a number of different flavors of repossession-type statutes that are starting to blend together in my mind.

So I'd like to propose the first Sua Sponte contest!

The commentator who responds with the clearest, most efficient, and wittiest way to distinguish between the following forms of property deprivation:
[and extra points for any other variants I've missed]

...will win one of my favorite MP3's to study to, a live recording of the Moscow Baroque playing Vivaldi's Variations on La Folia. (Or another MP3 of your choosing from my collection if you're not a Vivaldi fan.) Extra points will be given for cute gimmicks, such as rhyme or the ability to fit your definitions to the tune of a song.

Winners will be announced on Friday, November 15. Happy mnemonicizing!

thus spake /jca @ 11:24 AM...


You know, I think that actually worked!

I got the entire question answered in just under an hour. Bill Logan's excellent advice to spend a third of the allotted time outlining stood me in good stead (even though I don't think I took a full 20 minutes; probably closer to 15). My laptop didn't crash, nor did I need to cheat and peek at my outline while writing -- my memory seemed to hold up.

Best of all, the thing didn't spook me. The worst part about these things is the buildup: you go into one uncertain of how much you don't know, fearing that you'll blank out on the things you do know and be SOOL on a closed-book exam. But that didn't happen to me. I stayed calm and didn't forget anything I'd memorized off the flowchart, anything I'd reviewed before sitting down to the essay.

Now comes the $64,000 question: is this what Professor Civ Pro actually wants in an answer?

I'll find out next week...

thus spake /jca @ 8:20 PM...

It is raining like spit throughout the Bay Area today, for the first time since February or so.

These are the seasons we have here: spring, summer, and rain. (Spring is a bit dicey, even; rather, we have sort of a prolonged overlapping springsummer season where everything's in bud and in flower and in fruit at the same time.) It starts to rain intermittently in about mid-November. By February it's raining every night, like clockwork, as soon as the sun goes down and the sky is no longer heated and can condense and fall on us.

San Francisco is treacherous in the rain, at least the part of San Francisco through which I routinely pass. United Nations Plaza is uniformly carpeted in a film of water about a half-inch thick, which lubricates the already smooth brick sidewalk and makes for some pretty extraordinary flailing of limbs as people skate-walk across it, fighting to keep their balance. (Note to self: get everydayshoes resoled with an actual tread instead of a worn-smooth rubber pad.)

To complicate matters, the "down" escalator leading to the Civic Center BART and MUNI station had stopped working. I followed a much smaller, more slightly built fellow student down the non-moving staircase; she howled at every step, complaining that her unliftable pullman bag was straining her back and her mules were coming off. I hardly fared better, balancing my umbrella in one hand and hefting my own pullman bag with the other, praying that my slick-soled shoes wouldn't slip on the wet stone stairs. Thankfully, they didn't.

The wind is screaming bloody murder outside the sliding glass doors in our living room, and now I have to sit down and take an hour and knock off this take home practice exam for Civ Pro. I've been studying intermittently all week; one more quick glance at the personal jurisdiction test grid, then it's closed book, shut down browser window, start the timer and go.

Maybe I'll wear earplugs. This wind is just too dramatic right now.

See you in an hour...

thus spake /jca @ 7:08 PM...

Someone's cell phone rang in Contracts today, a rather different experience from a cell phone ringing in any other class. When people are quiet in Crim, it's the quiet of a movie audience as Professor Crim fills the room with his lecturing presence. When they're quiet in Torts, it's the quiet of folks watching a sitcom, ready to erupt in laughter or groans at any moment. When they're quiet in Civ Pro, it's because they've been cowed into silence by Professor Civ Pro's intensity of questioning or the implacability of the material. But when people are quiet in Contracts, it's the silence of the grave, or at least of the bedroom at about 4 am. Professor Contracts' pleasant but unremarkable declamation fails to rouse us. Everything slows to a crawl. Papers fail to rustle; the sound of keystrokes is somehow dampened. Focusing on anything becomes a monumental chore.

And then someone's cell phone goes off, cutting through the silence, and the ring tone is an old Guns-n-Roses song, Sweet Child O'Mine. A beat or two later, everyone realizes this and a group giggle erupts.

The spike in energy dissipates almost as quickly, and then we all flatline again.

thus spake /jca @ 2:15 PM...


[uncharacteristic political digression]

My heavens above, is our federal government majority Republican in every branch now or am I misreading things?


And here I was waiting for that massive Democratic rally to rock the polls and avenge poor Al Gore's unvictory back a few years. Or did the word finally get out that no one actually knows who won the popular vote?

S'aright s'aright, worthy leftists, y'all are welcome to come live in California under Gray Davis any ol' time. We even have a viable Green Party. :)

[/uncharacteristic political digression]

thus spake /jca @ 6:48 PM...

This morning, as I hurried through the Wednesday farmer's market, a shopper spoke to me. I was "wearing my Tenderloin blinders," which screen out any potential solicitations from activists, homeless people, homeless activists or any other such folk likely to be found at any given time on UN Plaza, including farmer's market shoppers. So I didn't stop to chat when I heard this fellow speak, even though he was being quite nice.

"You are very beautiful woman," he said to me in a heavy accent, by way of greeting.

This isn't true, strictly speaking, but hearing someone say it -- particularly someone who didn't seem about to hit me up for spare change -- put a smile on my face. I guess at heart I'm as vain as anyone else, at least with respect to my physical appearance.

thus spake /jca @ 10:35 AM...


Here's a fun history lesson on famous trials.

thus spake /jca @ 10:53 PM...

G R E E T I N G S Capricorn

Studying the surface of the situation won't tell you what you want to know, Capricorn. It's important to dwell on deeper, integral knowledge to get you past a disappointment. Your master plan allows for so many contingencies that you're still on track. If you want to show off, be sure that someone is watching. Otherwise, performing at this level all of the time is simply a waste of your precious energy and talent.

No wonder I'm so tired lately...

thus spake /jca @ 8:12 PM...

When faced with (a) outlining for Civ Pro, (b) redrafting my El-Dubyar memo, or (c) finishing my briefs for tomorrow's Torts reading, I of course choose (d), complain.

It's a good kind of complaining at least as far as Civ Pro is concerned. Professor Civ Pro spent a whole class period reviewing personal jurisdiction, such that I now wonder if actually outlining the rest of the stuff (as opposed to just reviewing my notes) is a waste of time better spent doing other pressing things. As if that review weren't already cool enough, our discussion group leader then distributed a huge snarly flowchart of tests for personal jurisdiction which handily fits on a single page and seems to obviate any further outlining efforts.

Maybe I should just study these, say screw the outline, and give the take home a shot? I'm nervous about falling into the over-outlining trap, leaving myself more material to memorize than my brain-pan can comfortably accommodate. On a closed-book exam this would be a very bad thing. I'd hate to forget the holding in Hanson v. Denckla because I couldn't break through the unrelated mental roadblock of the three approaches to establishing the state citizenship of a corporation.

At the same time, though, I wouldn't put it past Professor Civ Pro to leave something key out of his review, just to make sure we're doing all our homework anyway. He's really an excellent professor -- I could hardly believe, in reviewing his monthlong treatment of subject-matter jurisdiction, how perfectly thorough and clear he'd been (not that I'd have noticed, back in August) -- so it wouldn't surprise me if he had a few tricks up his sleeve.

And yet that doesn't make sense either. Why would he tell us something in our notes and not in a review session? He's not an absent-minded kind of professor. Nor, for that matter, is he a mean guy intent on screwing us over. Demeanorwise he's a lot closer to Santa Claus than an evil pixie, albeit a sterner, stricter Santa Claus with a bit more melanin than is traditionally credited to St. Nicholas.

If there were all the time in the world to spend on this I'm not sure it would be an issue...

thus spake /jca @ 7:31 PM...

I forgot my laptop power cable again today. Time was, this would have thrown me into a frothing panic as soon as I glanced in my bag and noted the lack of cable. So maybe it's a sign that I'm progressing towards that mellow post-1L haze where none of the little details matter any more; I calmly managed, between judicious shutdowns and borrowing other people's cables, to prolong the weak old battery all the way through the entire day. (Well, not exactly; it finally flickered dead about four minutes before the end of Civ Pro. But that's just a rounding error, AFAIC.)

I'm debating whether to spend this evening plowing further ahead on the Civ Pro outline or knocking off the second draft of my final El-Dubyar memo. On one hand, the memo is due by 4:30 on Thursday, but I can email it in at any time and just be done with it. OTOH this ungraded practice take-home Civ Pro exam is due at 1:30 on Friday, and for it to be of any value at all, I'll need to have not only completed my outline (at least through the end of personal jurisdiction) but actually studied the thing.

It's crazy in a way I can't quite fit my mind around, how law school just manages to stack and build and snowball and spawn to fill up any available space. I'm starting to feel guilty taking naps on the train.

thus spake /jca @ 5:28 PM...


I've finished the subject-matter jurisdiction section of my Civ Pro outline (four single-spaced pages at 10pt font), finally. Hours and hours going into this thing; it's going to be huge. I'm going to need it, though, since we have a practice take home test question -- closed book, just like the real exam -- due Friday. I'd rather not wait until Thursday night to do it, but if I must, at least there's no El-Dubyar this Thursday so I'll have some time. Who knows how much of this outline will be done by then. This effort doesn't count towards our grade, but I want to get as much feedback as possible.

Enzo is currently fretting in a small one-story cage, by fiat of the vet, who claims he'll "rest up" better in solitary confinement. The poor guy isn't resting in the slightest; he's climbing the walls and gnawing at the bars and generally making a ruckus to indicate that he would prefer to be elsewhere. I'm reassured by all the movement, but am a bit worried that in his stir-craziness he's moving too much. Every so often, though, he'll wear himself out and fall very cutely asleep.

Civ Pro. Civ Pro. Civ Pro.

thus spake /jca @ 9:41 PM...

After today's Civ Pro reading, Fuentes v. Shevin, I now fully understand the concept of replevin. (Not to be confused with Rep. Levin.)

thus spake /jca @ 7:07 PM...

Professor Contracts is starting to get annoyed at us. Dutiful laptop-notetakers all, we greet any substantive remark he makes with a flurry of keystrokes. He cut his law-professor teeth in the 1960's, so he'll have none of that. "Hey," he'll say, attempting to draw our attention away from the phrases in progress on our screens, "I'm up here." Or, if he's in one of his semi-regular peevish moods, "I feel as though I'm in a roomful of secretaries. Tap-tap-tap. Would you look up, please?" I guess when people took notes with pencils he had to find some other reason to pick on them.

Fortunately these moments are happening with decreasing frequency as he shies further and further away from saying anything of recordable substance.

J., a guy in the front row who has a knack for coming up with quotable quotes nearly as often as Professor Contracts fails to do so, has remarked the good professor's resemblance to "an evil pixie." The image is too perfect. Prof. Contracts is not a tall man, and his face is rather pointed, a trait emphasized by his beard. When he smiles, his face puckers into an expression that wouldn't normally indicate happiness. He also has a very pixieish laugh; when something in the class truly amuses him, he'll go into peals of giggles, turning upstage and supporting himself with one hand on the lectern. I don't think he's an evil person, but I can definitely picture him as an evil pixie.

thus spake /jca @ 6:00 PM...

Enzo is sulking this morning. He'll move around if you pry him out of his little corner of the cage, but otherwise just glares at you, a resentful little ball of fur annoyed that his legs feel funny.

I hope I'm not a bad influence on him.

thus spake /jca @ 9:29 AM...


Bad news: Enzo probably had a stroke.
Good news: He seems to be making a good recovery.

A few hours ago he was hopping about, but still stumbling on jumps. Now he can jump -- inelegantly, but successfully -- as well as he'd ever need to. And he still seems to be improving.

I'm so impressed by this little guy. A pound and a half of pure willpower, exasperated that his body won't do what it's supposed to, determined to keep trying until it does.

He gets all the treats he wants, today.

thus spake /jca @ 8:18 PM...

Perhaps because my karma was begging for a dose of perspective, something really gut-wrenching has happened -- a veterinary emergency.

My pet chinchilla Enzo is normally a spirited, energetic little guy who loves to explore and has little patience for being petted unless he's got a treat in hand. This morning, he was curled up under the exercise wheel, and didn't respond to either being petted or an offer of treats. He eventually stumbled out to the front of the cage, tripped over himself several times, and didn't quite seem to know what to do with his limbs.

Long story short, $160 and a few X-rays later, our vet thinks he may have sustained some neurological injury. He and our other chinchilla share a three-story cage with plenty of places to fall and sprawl and lodge and twist things, and the vet theorized that Enzo might have injured a disc in his spine that may be putting pressure on his spinal cord. It's a wait-and-see kind of injury, so the poor guy is currently parked in the living room in an old one-story cage, huddled under the shelter of a cardboard box and looking miserable.

I'm torn. I've got an outlining date with K. and C. today, this time for Crim. Crim desperately needs my attention, but so does Enzo, and so does Civ Pro which I could certainly do while staying home and watching Enzo. Or could I? I doubt I could be productive with the poor sweet little guy nearby looking so desperately in need of a shirt to snuggle inside. And my husband's here to take care of him if things go wrong. I should probably go, right?

My God, working motherhood is going to be hell on wheels.

thus spake /jca @ 9:59 AM...


San Francisco didn't win the hosting gig for the 2012 Olympics. I'm not sure if this surprises me or not, but this Chronicle columnist professes to understand exactly why they picked New York instead.

She knows a lot more about The City than I do, but I can at least claim a surfeit of personal experience with the "Urinetown" concept, a.k.a. the real reason why I stopped going to the Starbucks by Eighth and Market. Sure, I was peeved when they raised the price of a grande chai to $3, but ultimately I just got tired of holding my breath for half a block around the place.

thus spake /jca @ 7:46 PM...

Brain soup: I look at res ipsa loquitur long enough and see Lhasa Apso Lipitor.

thus spake /jca @ 2:51 PM...

Better today; looks like I haven't completely gone to pieces after all. I channeled much of yesterday's upset into some very very long overdue housecleaning. Now the master bathroom is once again safe for human use, and the laundry for the weekend is almost done. My husband took me out for vindaloo and, bless his heart, directed my mind back to where it's supposed to be.

"So you need subject-matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction?" he said as we munched on naan and tamarind chutney.

"Right, if either one is missing then the court can't adjudicate."

"Federal or state court?"

"Either, although most of the case law we've read on subject-matter jurisdiction was federal, and most of the personal jurisdiction stuff was state."

"When would a state court not have subject-matter jurisdiction?"

"When it was, say, a family court or something where it was specifically limited. Most state courts are general jurisdiction -- if you see in a fact pattern that X files a product-liability suit in California state court, you pretty much assume that they don't blunder into divorce court by mistake."

"What happens if they do?"

"It won't turn up on an exam," I smiled. Back to work, I thought, feeling better.

thus spake /jca @ 9:55 AM...


El-Dubyar is over.

By that I don't mean that I never intend to engage in legal writing and research again; in fact I'm going to need to redraft this week's memo for next week, and then again for the following week, and possibly even more iterations in between.

Class is over, though. The next two weeks aren't actually happening. The toothpicks were only for one day, as it turned out.

Our instructor is allotting us each half-hour-long "personal conferences" to discuss how we screwed up on the previous memo and how not to do so again on this one. Some of these happened today; some will happen during class time next week. The following week we're all going out drinking during class time, for which I'm ready to give my El-Dubyar instructor credit for understanding me a lot better than she has to date (particularly since she's offered to buy).

I chose my conference time today at 12:30, an hour before Civ Pro.

I wanted to get it out of the way as soon as possible, so I could redraft this beeyatch over the weekend and send it off again and again as many times as possible until it worked.


[unsuccessfully attempts to dodge the falling twenty-ton weight]

it's not going to work. It can't. No matter how well I manage to craft this memo, it can't save my grade.

"There were two or three really good papers," my instructor told me this afternoon, "and a few that were really bad. And then there were a few that were just fine, and yours was one of them."

I nodded, kept my face perfectly straight, and willfully did not blink.

"Not to put too much emphasis on grades or anything," she said, "but you're contending for the B-plus at this point. Or the A-minus, if you write a really excellent memo this time."

Poker-faced, I changed the subject. "And how can I do that? What needs changing here? Should I cite the statute in this instance..." And so on.

I fear this may be the crack that makes me crumble. I grew progressively more miserable throughout Civ Pro, barely managed to read one case on the train, and polished off the remainders of both a bottle of wine and a bottle of mead as soon as I got home.

My 3L cousin sent me a wise, truthful, and entirely unhelpful email stating in part: "Oh yeah, legal writing is huge, hate to say it.  Employers like it a ton, but the better you are at it, the better your finals will be written." (No comments on the number of points my instructor would have docked him for those two sentences.)

How the hell am I going to pull off The Grades on finals if I can't even write an A memo in a non-GPA class???

I'm stuck in this dream
It's changing me
I am becoming

"How is this memo so far?" I asked.

"In progress," my instructor replied, "but looking good so far." Which meant precisely diddly, as her favorite sections on the last memo -- the ones with the most "good" notations in the margin -- had lost the most points.

I asked my instructor how much of this she had to do in her actual job. Not so much in her current job in-house at a company, came the answer, but when she was doing transactional work at her firm she'd had to write memos all the time. For different partners. Each with their own standards of correctness. Each of whom presumably brooked no breach of those standards, despite the fact that other partners' standards might contradict their own.

"So this doesn't go away," I said, furiously maintaining a blank face, allowing myself a glance down at the table.

"No," she replied, "but you've learned a skill here."

She had misread me, but it certainly wasn't the first time. "That isn't what I meant," I said, and realized that nothing I said, and very little I did, could change anything at this point.

All pain disappears
It's the nature of my circuitry
Drowns out all I hear
No escape from this
My new consciousness

The demon on my shoulder laughed at me all the way home, as I vacillated between Murphy v. Martin Oil and staring out the window as San Francisco receded and the valley bloomed up around me. This is the best you can do! it said gleefully, this is the best you deserve! Sad, sad you, wanting more, spoiled pseudo-overachiever, who are you fooling?

I have to work harder. I have to outline, have to go get the Gilbert's supplement for Contracts by which my classmates are beginning to swear, have to finish this memo and wash my hands of this awful thing and shake off the purported effect that this is all alleged to eventually have on my life. I don't have time to be miserable now. There is too much to do. There's too much I can still do. I can work and work and make things be better. I can. I have to.

And at least El-Dubyar is over.

thus spake /jca @ 7:08 PM...

more final thoughts...

sua sponte
transferring law schools
on the moblog
the short list
otherwise of note
recurring themes
fellow travelers
other blawgs