Sunday, November 30, 2008

I'm here to recruit you!

If you're reading this, I really want to encourage you to go out and see the movie "Milk."
It's the true story of an unbelievably persistent man who stood for something important against impossible odds. Sean Penn's performance is so happy, authentic, and heartfelt, you'll fall in love inside of five minutes. And most importantly, the subject matter could not possibly be more timely.

I recommend this film with all my heart. Go ride its emotional roller coaster, and when you climb off angry and hopeful and ready to make America better, give me a call.

Monday, November 24, 2008

End-of-semester blues

Hi all, it's about 15 minutes until the start of my Torts class, and I was just wasting time on a school computer when it occurred to me to write you a little update.
Since my last post, I've had a super productive weekend getting the apartment ready for Mom's Thanksgiving visit, stocking up on groceries, and starting outlines for final exams in my classes. (Didn't get too far in that department, but just getting started feels like quite an accomplishment.)
Weather has been a little wild lately. This weekend was the coldest it's been all year- I'm not sure we rose above freezing more than a couple of times between Thursday and Sunday. Russell and I spent a lot of that time running errands, so we are now intimately familiar with what 28 degrees feels like in windy Massachusetts! However, it warmed back up today and should reach the mid-40's most of this week (good news for a visit from my uninitiated mom.)
Meanwhile, my case for TAP has stalled somewhat. My partner contacted the BHA about retrieving our client's records and is being given the run-around. I wish they'd get their act together so we can help our tenant!
With classes ending so soon, things are still pretty tense around here. Everyone is beginning to worry about finals, not to mention being on pins and needles waiting for the results of our elective registration to post online tomorrow morning.
I'll let you know whenever there's news on any of these fronts- for now, hope everyone has a lovely Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Heating up, cooling down

Hello, friends and family,

I can't believe November is almost two-thirds over and this is only my second post! If that doesn't speak to the hectic frenzy of my life lately, I don't know what does.
But I finally found a few minutes when I wasn't a) in class, b) frantically trying to prepare for class, c) frantically trying to prepare for something outside class, like TAP or electives registration, d) sleeping, or e) half-comatose on the couch, trying to enjoy TV because I feel obligated to relax but not take naps after 8 at night.
Just a few precious minutes, and I'm using them to tell YOU what's going on in my life- don't you feel special? I'm exaggerating, of course, but it has been crazy around here.
Here are a couple of the major headlines:

New TAP case assigned
So my work for the Tenant Advocacy Project has finally gotten into full swing with the assignment of my first case. Without going into too many details, I can probably tell you that it concerns the rejection of a Boston public housing resident's application for a transfer to a bigger, smoke-free apartment now that his wife has a new baby. There may not be much we can do for him if he's really overdue on his rent, as the Boston Housing Authority claims (they're wrong sometimes, but not terribly often.) Still, my partner and I are gathering his documents to compare with theirs, just in case he still has any options. Not the most exciting case, but it's satisfying when I think about it: because of us, he might get a transfer he otherwise wouldn't- or at the very least, someone will have done due diligence by a guy who probably doesn't see that happen very often.

Lunch, lunch, and lunch
On 3 separate days in a row last week, the opportunity arose to eat lunch outside my usual haunt, the law school cafeteria in Harkness Hall. On Wednesday, it was a Student Government-sponsored faculty lunch with maybe ten other students and my very cool Torts professor, who despite being an incredibly dynamic teacher and a serious hotshot environmental lawyer who's in front of the Supreme Court regularly, is a super modest and easygoing guy in person. It was great, listening over Chinese food as he talked about his own 1L classes at Harvard and which professors he thinks President-Elect Obama will hire. He also asked us a lot about ourselves, seeming genuinely interested and only cooler for it.
Then on Thursday, Russell called wanting to grab lunch in Harvard Square. When I went to meet him, I realized it had been over a week since I'd been out there... during which time the construction that's been making the Square ugly for months got finished! It looks great, and realizing how long I'd been cooped up at home and school made my panini at our favorite cafe, ZSquare, taste even better.
Finally, on Friday, a spot opened up in my Legislation & Regulation professor's weekly lunch with students, so I went out yet again. He was his delightful, curmudgeonly usual self and very entertaining (if a little disappointed to find out that I don't like Contracts, the subject he used to teach.) These little personal interactions are so nice- seeing how invested our brilliant, accomplished faculty is in us makes any amount of stress and hard work seem manageable.

Temperatures drop in Cambridge
So I'm increasingly aware of this, but maybe you'd forgotten: I live in NEW ENGLAND.
Actually, it isn't as bad as you're probably picturing. No snow yet, and just last week we still had highs in the 60's (although it was rainy, so it didn't really feel like it.) But now that it's dried out, temperatures have been dropping pretty much daily- to the mid-30's so far, with nighttime lows and wind chills in the 20's. It isn't uncomfortable yet, especially since all the buildings at school are connected underground; even at home we haven't turned on all the radiators. But I thought I'd remind you, if you're feeling cold wherever you are: count your blessings.

And finally, in other news:
First-year students just finished registering for their two elective classes next semester; it's a lottery, so I'll give you all an update once I know what I've got. Also, exam season is nearly upon us (and thoroughly upon the second- and third-years, who have exams before the holiday break, unlike us.) The libraries are getting quieter and more crowded, professors have started giving out practice exams, and I'm about to head off to a Civil Procedure review session with the author of one of our textbooks. Meanwhile, I met with a Public Intersest Advisor today, and it's looking like I need to figure out what I want in a summer job... before I even finish buying plane tickets for Christmas!

Okay, friends... sorry if I've made you feel as overwhelmed as I am. Trying to cram it all into one blog post makes it seem much worse than reality- I have days to finish all these things and only a few minutes to describe them! There's no need to worry anyhow, because my amazing mom will be here in less than a week to make me feel much better. (:

And as I sit in this gorgeous library, alongside the plaques listing decades of Ames Competition winners who went on to write my textbooks or the decisions within them, beneath the huge portrait of Rutherford B. Hayes, who was once the only alumnus of my school to be elected President, I can't help but think...

I really need to get going to this Civ Pro review session.

It's not glamorous, but I hope it holds you over until I write again. (:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hometown hero

Since everyone seems to be neck-deep in election news today, I thought I'd share a little Harvard news to spice things up. Turns out a lot has gone on up here since I last bothered to post about school!

For one thing, the grading system has officially been changed. HLS always used to give letter grades (A+, A, A-, B+ etc.) more or less like most of us had in undergrad, while our big rival, Yale, gave "mushier" grades (just Honors, Pass, Low Pass, and Fail) that were supposed to take some of the stress and competition out of student life. Stanford recently switched to Yale's system and now, after a few months of faculty and student input, Harvard has too. And since we first-years haven't had any exams yet, the change is being applied to us.

The general reasoning is that striving for the "A" or "A+" adds stress and competition to student life, discouraging involvement with time-consuming but fulfilling extracurriculars. I buy that, seeing all the work ahead of me with TAP and wondering how much studying it might prevent. But I also must admit a feeling of lost footing: unsure what's expected of me now or which grade I should be satisfied with, I'm finding it harder to let go of that "A" than I would have thought!

I'm tending to ramble a little here, so maybe I should employ bullet points. In other news:
  • I had my first advice day for TAP last week, and it was a real success. I returned two calls, one about an eviction and one about an unreturned security deposit, with mostly good news for both which was SO satisfying.
  • The Supreme Court case we saw "mooted" for Torts was argued Monday, and we were assigned the transcript of arguments to read for Tuesday's class. It's so exciting when you have a personal connection to something in the news like that. I wish I'd been there to discuss it- but I'll have to listen to a recording our professor made. I wasn't in class because-
  • I spent Election Day working as an exit pollster! The neighborhood where I was stationed was friendly and beautiful, and there was a big group of us, so things were smooth and fun. It felt good (if a little cold!) to be out and involved on such a big day, and the data we collected will tell our professors all kinds of things about the election, like whether there was any degree of Bradley effect.
  • Finally, it was a total joy being at school today. Most of us were fuzzy, sleep-deprived, and tardy, but the teachers- who were happier than we've ever seen them, as one of my classmates put it- were lenient and one even seemed impressed that so many of us made it to school at all. It made for a nice day, celebrating the success (even by Harvard standards!) of our local-boy-made-good.
Hope you all had fun this Election Day and are having an easier time getting back on track afterward than I am! More news before long, I'm sure.