Monday, December 21, 2009

Three of my favorite things

Dad, baby, and big Texas sky.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Study observations

Exam time is nearly upon us, and for those of us who had multiple papers due throughout the last week of class, the accompanying stress level settled in long ago. The things I'm eager to blog about have slimmed down from long-winded stories to quick observations, and since these rarely seem worthy of their own post, I thought I'd compile a few:
  • I've noticed that the more tired I become, the more my thoughts format themselves as Facebook status updates. For instance, "Lea Downey is infuriated that weather.com promised her 'breezy' today when it is clearly windy," or "Lea Downey once was lost, but now am blogging in bed with the cat."
  • From a research study cited in a journal article I'm editing, I just learned that 84.2% of responding tenth-graders believed there was a serious risk of harm in taking heroin occasionally without a needle. Meaning 15.8% believed there was NO serious risk IN SNORTING HEROIN. Meaning I may need to adopt 15.8% of all tenth-graders.
  • The more Russell and I miss Austin, the more enthusiastically we dive into any activity that helps us feel more connected to Texas - however much we may have shunned that same activity in the past. Last night I found myself unable to watch as Russell stood up and shouted at the television in the last second of the horrible, mistake-laden, comeback-taunting, heart-stopping, INFURIATING, but ultimately winning Big 12 Conference Championship football game against Nebraska. How did this happen? Did I actually come to Harvard and wind up LESS nerdy???
Well, that's it for now - if the fifty short-answer questions on my Evidence exam this coming Monday have anything to say about it. More soon, maybe about the lovely snow we got this weekend! In the meantime, hope all is well!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

CASER Closed

If you can't otherwise tell it's finals time, the fact that I have barely had time to blog for Admissions, much less here, is a pretty good sign!
However, here's a post that describes much of last week - the last week of any real obligations for my Community Action for Social and Economic Rights, or CASER, class. Unfortunately, the visit from my teens predicted at the end of the post didn't happen - extenuating circumstances were going to keep multiple group members from coming, and it seemed better to reschedule. If there's one thing I've learned from working with at-risk teenagers, it's to expect everything to happen an hour late, at half-speed, or on the second try at scheduling it. So no big deal.


More updates on finals and the end of this crazy semester soon, I hope!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More from admissions

Two posts I've made on the admissions blog lately:


Neither is much of an update on recent life, but I like how they've forced me consider what might interest people about HLS, and sometimes it's stuff I haven't explained in much detail here before.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Lazy Sunday

Views from where I spent the afternoon reading, basking in the sun, and enjoying some of our last 60-degree weather of the year:

Today might be more of the same, because thanks to the end of my Sex Equality class, weekends now last until about Tuesday evening. There's usually homework and sometimes some TAP work to be done, but generally it's exactly the reprieve I expected from an intensive class ending in October.

Russell, who's still at work with Disability Services as we speak, is so jealous he can hardly stand me.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ch- ch- changes

So I pretty much hate this time of year: the time change just pushed sunset forward an hour, and a good portion of each day seems suddenly plunged into darkness. It's messing with everyone, but for obvious reasons, it's especially messing with me. I wake up easily enough with sunrise also an hour early, but by noon it feels like late afternoon, and by four o'clock it feels like nighttime.

Luckily, while it's been a busy week, it hasn't been too busy for either a quick nap after lunch or a couple of hours watching TV with Omar most afternoons. These chances to recharge may be the only reason I don't collapse prior to 8 p.m. every day - I am seriously dragging fanny! So forgive me if this post isn't the most comprehensive update on my life.

Right now Russell is out getting a haircut, and I'm hanging out in bed with Omar, which is a perfect opportunity to blog except that I don't feel like writing very much. So maybe a few cute pictures from the past week or so will suffice?


Some shots of Omar I've been taking in the afternoons


Results of our pumpkin carving party


Monsters I carved (hard to see because they go all the way around)


Skull Russell carved


Anush's scary robot


Albert's very impressive HLS shield


Aftermath


In love with Omar yesterday


Well, readers, that's all I've got in me. Hope you're satisfied for now!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sappy, yes.

Excuse to cut and paste the majority of my post in a week with two different papers due, definitely.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Weather overview

Another post for the admissions blog - a tad controversial, perhaps, as you can tell from the editor's note afterward!
I think I was fair and encouraging, but you tell me:

Monday, October 19, 2009

White & early

You'll never believe what went on outside my window yesterday afternoon (unless you tuned into a national weather forecast around then, I suppose.)


I bounced back and forth like a pinball between being tickled and outraged by this, considering it waited until December to snow last year and no one wants the four-month New England winter to be more like six. I also had to walk to a meeting for my Community Action for Social and Economic Rights class in it, which was charming on the way out but not so much on the way home in the dark.

Either way, it didn't stick, so this morning the sun is shining and the ground is dry. And the forecast tells me our temperatures will be back in the sixties later this week, so maybe this was the pleasant fluke we all hope it was.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

So maybe you'll want to visit

This newest post to the admissions blog doesn't strike me as super interesting to anyone besides future HLS students. But who knows - maybe you'll be super jealous of our cool little town and decide to come visit us!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Crazy as promised

Yes, it really is high time you heard the story of my crazy week.
It actually began the Thursday before last, when my work for the Tenant Advocacy Project ramped up suddenly and immensely. I'd had a horrible time getting in touch with the client in my new case, leaving multiple messages over a two week stretch, and we were even considering rescinding our offer to represent her when I finally heard back.

This gave me exactly five days to prepare for her hearing, since asking for a postponement would only have left her without housing assistance longer. So with classes and career planning phone calls and blogging for admissions and meetings for my journal going on just like normal, preparations to save this lady's housing also went into overdrive.

Plus, on Friday I had a paper due for Sex Equality. For my topic I chose Supreme Court Justice Scalia's infamous dissent to the United States v. Virginia decision admitting women to the ultra-masculine Virginia Military Institute in 1996. I knew I hated that dissent, but had no idea how much or for how many reasons until I started writing. So I had to balance my TAP work with a paper that was growing longer and more important to me by the minute.

After my morning classes Friday and a quick visit to the TAP office for some phone calls, I spent several hours in the library finishing my paper. At 4:30 when I slipped it under my professor's assistant's door, I was positively braindead and bound to be useless at any work for the rest of the day. So, magically, Russell and I found two hours to see Zombieland at the theater in Harvard Square. It may have been my exhaustion talking, but I absolutely loved its funny and unexpectedly tender take on the zombie genre, and I can't recommend it enough (to anyone who can stomach a little gore... strangely similar to my feelings about law school.)

After that brief refresher, I spent most of Saturday writing a letter related to my tenant's case and preparing questions for her hearing. It was around this time that Betty, the administrative assistant at TAP, utterly saved my life by finding a volunteer to help with some of my legal research. Joe, a JD/MBA who joined TAP as a 1L and had recently been asking for work with them again, was a total godsend. As I told him many times, I probably could have handled this case myself, I just wouldn't have had time to eat.

In fact, because he stepped in I was able to spend Saturday night seeing Whip It with Russell and Anush. Yet another movie I recommend with all my heart, partly because it's set in Austin, which I wasn't expecting and which bolstered my mood through many of the tough days ahead.

Sunday, for instance, was a bad one because just as I was leaving home to meet my TAP client for the first time and co-chair the first meeting of my article team for my journal, I got an e-mail from my supervisor full of harsh criticism for those questions I'd spent most of Saturday preparing.

But Monday was a bit better, strangely enough. There was class to balance with about a million last-minute phone calls and faxes, but as things started to fall into place for the hearing and the remaining tasks became smaller and more discrete, I reached that place of artificial confidence and calm that comes with running on pure adrenaline. Sure, I had never done a housing hearing before and a whole family's finances would depend on my performance, and sure I had a runny nose and sore throat that allergy medicine didn't seem to fix anymore, but it would all be over soon.

Which is exactly what happened. The next morning, in a small meeting room in an office building very near where I worked all summer, I met my client and supervisor, a very supportive Joe, and a couple of people from the agency for the hearing. My client's leasing officer read the case against her from a prepared packet. I coaxed the important answers out of my client, then made our legal argument to the hearing officer, who seemed receptive. It all seemed painfully slow and awkward, but somehow it was over within an hour and a half.

Tense, but uneventful - that's how everyone who knows tells me these things always are. And you can never be sure until those 30 business days are up and the decision arrives, but over coffee afterward to debrief, my supervisor seemed fairly hopeful. For all her harshness, she had hardly any criticism to give, thank God.

So Tuesday morning was gone in a blur, and Tuesday afternoon was a blissful six hours alone in the apartment playing catch-up on sleep, Omar time, and some cleaning and decorating I'd been desperate to do since the move. That evening in my Community Action class, my study group had to give a half-hour presentation, but we'd prepared a week in advance so it was a breeze. Or maybe it just felt that way compared with that morning.

Things were quieter Wednesday and Thursday. I had a doctor's appointment and another couple of meetings for my journal, but these were a manageable, typical kind of hectic unlike what I'd been through the prior few days. The only problem, and one I should have seen coming a mile away, was that the nose drip and sore throat I mentioned earlier spiraled into a full-blown head cold as soon as I slowed down. In windy, chilly weather with a cough I couldn't control and either a sinus headache or a serious buzz from DayQuil at all times, I was almost as grouchy as if that hearing were still days away.

But it's Saturday now, and that too is wearing off. Especially since we have Columbus Day off school, making this a three-day weekend, making Saturday the perfect time for me (and Russell, who obviously caught this thing and is just at the peak of it now) to take a full sick day complete with crepes for breakfast and lots of television, napping, reading, playing board games, and watching Texas football on the folded-out futon. In our giant living room. With our awesome, grouchy cat.

A sick day! If that's not proof my crazy week is finally over, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Journal & neglect

You know, it really is my plan to do the HLS Admissions blog in addition to posting here, not instead of it.
But did I mention it's been a crazy week? Crazy. Seriously. So I think I have an excuse or two for neglecting you lately, not the least of which is my trip downtown yesterday for the hearing that was the culmination of my recent TAP case.

Now that that's over, I'm starting to get back in a rhythm that will accommodate all the blogging I want to do, not just what I'm paid to do. Expect results soon. And in the meantime:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Proof of life

For anyone wondering, I did in fact survive the big move!
This week of school may be another story, but for now, here's some proof that I'm alive and kicking:


That's my very first post to the HLS Admissions Blog. A few weeks ago I responded to an ad on the Harvard website saying they needed student perspectives, and now I'm one of their contributors!

I owe them a post a week, which I hope won't cut down on the amount I find time to write here. I'll be sure to give links as my entries are posted, or maybe re-post them entirely here if Harvard doesn't mind.

Wish me luck, and I'll try for a more thorough post about this CRAZY INSANE WEEK I am having before long.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Brilliant or stupid

I write to you, ladies and gentlemen, from the calm before the storm.
Starting tomorrow morning, Russell and I are doing something crazy, something we're bound to regret, although hopefully just for a few days:

We're moving.

I know, right?

Well, the story is, for several weeks the two-bedroom apartment across the hall from our one-bedroom has been sitting vacant. We've been peering in, admiring the size, and picturing our stuff in it for a while, but until recently we assumed it belonged to some new tenant who just hadn't arrived yet.

But then I got the idea to look up our building on Craigslist, and what do you know? The place was still listed, and for cheap! Russell and I had always agreed to find a bigger place my third year, when I hopefully wouldn't be paying tuition because of the Public Service Initiative. But we knew we might never see a price like this again, and the landlords seemed to be having a hard time moving the place. So we agreed to make them an even lower offer and see what happened.

And they met us halfway! They said we'd have to move THIS WEEKEND, which we knew was totally crazy, but they also offered a price neither I nor any classmates I've asked have ever seen on a two-bedroom apartment in Cambridge, ever.

So we're gathering some friends, who are surprisingly easy to sway with promises of pizza and beer, and moving everything we own across the hall this weekend.

It's either incredibly stupid or incredibly brilliant... or probably both, in that order. Either way, wish me luck - and I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fleeting perfection

My second anniversary with Russell is today, but we celebrated over the weekend with possibly the most flawless 24-hour period of my life.
We had been throwing around ideas for fun ways to celebrate, but didn't settle on anything until last Thursday, when we decided to book a hotel room and escape our tiny cat-dominated apartment for a night of room service, pay-per-view, and general luxury. Short of travel or some large piece of furniture (both a joke to anyone who's seen our home or my schedule), this might be the most expensive thing we could have chosen. But it couldn't possibly have been more worthwhile.

With fall in full and gorgeous swing here in Cambridge, even the walk to our chosen hotel - the lovely Sheraton Commander across Cambridge Common from my school - was too picturesque to be true. The people in sweaters playing soccer and frisbee, the handful of trees changing color too early, even the spectacular view from what turned out to be our top-floor room all seemed to be celebrating our two years of adorable couplehood.

So we ate an extravagant meal in our pajamas, spread out on the king-sized white comforter while the sunset blazed outside. We rented "Caprica," the feature-length prequel to our beloved Battlestar Galactica, then caught the last three quarters of the Texas football game with more enthusiasm than we could never have mustered otherwise. And slept nearly 10 hours without one interruption from Omar. And took long showers in a bathroom about twice the size, with about five times the water pressure, of our own. We were as sad to leave in the morning as if we'd stayed for six weeks.

After a quick, free breakfast in the hotel restaurant, we headed home to drop off our things and check on the cat. But the weather was so gorgeous we headed straight back out for frozen yogurt and a chess lesson in Harvard Yard. I humored Russell as long as I could, but really have no patience for chess. So we moved on to window shopping in the Square until a matinee showing of the glorious new Star Trek at the Brattle Theater, which screens "recent raves" a few months after they leave other cinemas.

We had been excited about Star Trek (you'd have to be, to see something a third time) but we honestly forgot just how much we both loved it. From the moment that booming, exuberant music of the opening scene started up, we enjoyed it as much as the very first time. It was like a metaphor for the entire weekend... barf, I know.

Anyhow, after so much activity, I wrapped up Sunday as quietly as possible: a long study date with Anush, fresh corn from the farmer's market for dinner, and an extra-dramatic Mad Men episode I spent curled up with Omar. It was the perfect way to wind down from the last long break before the real bulk of my semester.

Still, I expect it's too much to ask for an easy transition from this fleeting perfection into the daily grind of school. If I don't get too swamped, I'll write again soon and let you know how it goes.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

At it again



This gate on the undergraduate campus is a regular source of mushy, inspirational Harvard moments for me. With the school year finally starting and life kicking into full, brutal, can't-believe-I-forgot-how-hard-this-is gear, I find myself wishing education were always as dignified as these words!

I'd assumed my adjustment to school would be smoother the second year, but it hasn't exactly. Some things, like my speed getting through reading assignments, didn't come right back like I expected. Other things I figured would come later on the calendar, like the search for my next summer internship, have instead been pushed straight into these first few weeks.

So my 2L year so far has been insane! One appointment, meeting, errand, class, or study session after another, then another, then another. For a while I even attended two different Evidence courses because of some scheduling uncertainties that also prevented me from sharing my schedule with you until now. But those have been resolved (in a decision I might occasionally regret, an entertaining professor won out over having Fridays off) so here it finally is:

Monday:
9-12 Sex Equality with Catharine MacKinnon

Tuesday:
9-12 Sex Equality with MacKinnon
7-10 p.m. Community Action for Social and Economic Rights with Lucie White

Wednesday:
10:20-12 Sex Equality with MacKinnon

Thursday:
9:50-11:20 a.m. Evidence with Alex Whiting
5-7 p.m. The Art of Social Change: Education, Child Welfare, and Juvenile Justice with Elizabeth Bartholet

Friday:
9:50-11:20 a.m. Evidence with Whiting

It's downright gentle compared with last year, but with everything else added, there's nearly as much to stress and overwhelm me this time around. And if I weren't careful, there would be a lot less excitement to counterbalance all that. Luckily, there's a certain excitement in having a friend in her first year - it's part commiseration, part vicarious glee over famous professors and first cold-calls, and part gratitude I'm not in her place any longer!

So I'm sorry for all I've left out of this post, from career advising and all my incredible professors, to video chats with Mom and my incredible, TALKING baby sister, to our lovely Labor Day in the grass on campus and the gorgeous cool weather we're having. But I'm so insanely busy, and there's only more to come: new TAP cases, new duties at my journal, the public interest career fair I'm set to attend...

Maybe I'll manage to post it all during my visit to Austin next week? Because I already CANNOT WAIT for the free time. Until then, dear readers, take care. I hope all is well with you!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Then again

He can also be the sweetest creature alive!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tyrant

This little dude brought a recent card game between Russell, Anush, and me to a screeching halt no less than three times by lying down right on top of the cards.

He is increasingly social and affectionate, but still reacts badly if anyone tries to move him when he picks an inconvenient spot. We were pretty much forced to wait him out.

Anush, who loves to milk his resemblance to a certain German dictator, kept us entertained with a stream of comments like, “You know, Hitler had expansionist policies, too.”

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dodging the bullet (by opting for hard time)

Since this blog is supposed to be about Harvard Law, and right now so many of my classmates’ time and energy is devoted to one particular HLS institution, it seems time to clue y’all in. I’m talking about the Early Interview Program, or EIP.

EIP is how the majority of students—those wanting to work for private law firms or a few public interest employers like the IRS—are hired for the summer after their 2L year. Harvard invites firms from all over the country to interview here in Cambridge for their “summer associate” programs, on which students “bid” ahead of time by submitting résumés and transcripts online. Then they all spend several days at the Charles Hotel for a gauntlet of back-to-back interviews.

This process occurs right now, in late summer, although it used to be much later in the year as part of On-Campus Interviewing, or OCI (which now exists only for 1Ls, who can’t exactly interview for the summer before they’ve even started classes—right?) In this economy, I think Career Services wants to slim the chances we’ll be beaten to the best positions by other schools—although EIP also jives better with the university-wide academic calendar the law school has decided to follow from this year onward.

So, later in the semester, we upper-level students have a short break called Fly-Out Week that allows firms a school-sanctioned time to call back their favorite applicants for interviews on site. It’s a lot of logistics, apparently justified by the fact that the 2L summer is a crucial time in firm culture: if successful, it can end in permanent job offers, sewing up students’ career plans before they even begin 3L year.

Right now, you’re probably thinking this is all incredibly dry and doesn’t make for the greatest blog post. I know! Which, in a way, is why I’m not participating: the mechanical nature of the firm system, its structure and hierarchy, the way it can make my school feel like a machine churning out generic legal careers, is part of what makes it unappealing to me. That and, y’know, my tree-hugging yellow-bellied pinko bleeding heart.

So while many of my peers are suiting up for a long week at the Charles, I’m experiencing the calm before the storm. I meet Anush for long lunches and outings to my favorite Boston-area highlights, enjoying her presence even more than expected. I see movies with Russell, line up doctors’ appointments I won’t want to juggle with school later, come home for lots of bonding time with Omar.

Of course, dodging the EIP bullet doesn’t mean I’m actually spared. Without it, the job hunt is stretched throughout the school year, basically guaranteed to conflict with classes and weather in the worst possible ways. The public sector’s lack of a set timeline can also cause awkward timing problems (like how I was forced to decline a prized interview with the state Attorney General’s office last spring because I just couldn’t wait any longer to answer two offers I already had.)

So don’t count me too lucky, readers—there’s a long way still to go. And after Fly-Out Week, when these EIP participants have summer job offers and I’m still fighting for that perfect interview, they can all blog about how lucky they feel.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Overdue overshare

Is this the longest I've ever gone between posts? It must be close, at least. Fortunately, I have a very legitimate excuse for my absence this time- couple of 'em, actually. So I'll delve right in, hoping that you won't hate me too much by the end.

To start off, I have good and bad news. (I'm sensing a trend here, readers - don't I always seem to write with good and bad news?) Well, the bad news is that I didn't make the Harvard Law Review. Last week, like hundreds of my near-genius (but apparently not full-on genius) classmates, I received this e-mail:

Thank you so much for applying to the Harvard Law Review. It was a
very competitive year, with more than three hundred students
participating in the writing competition. We were impressed by the
many talented applicants and by the depth of thought revealed by the
submissions.

We very much regret that we will not be able to offer you a position
on the Review. We hope that you will continue to explore editorial
opportunities with the many other wonderful journals available at
Harvard and elsewhere.

Thank you again,
Joanna Huey and Colleen Roh
President and Vice President, Volume 123


Now, in the universe of bad news, this is pretty minor league. Not only was I expecting it, but I immediately heard from a classmate infinitely more brilliant than I am that he didn't make it either. If that doesn't make it impossible to feel bad about oneself, I don't know what does. Better yet, this bad news soon became a direct cause of some very good news I'll discuss shortly.

In the meantime, I want to get to those excuses for my delinquent blogging. Last Friday was the final day of my internship, you see, and things got pretty intense toward the end. I had two memos to finish before rounding out my summer, one long and one short, and my boss had been out of the country for two weeks while I started them, so her feedback came somewhat late and all in one rush and I had to accommodate it very quickly before leaving.

I wound up breaking my cardinal rule of nine-to-five summer employment a couple of times, e-mailing things to myself at home and working on them there in the evenings. I'm sure my friends at law firms for the summer would be disgusted that I avoided this for so long, but to me it felt like a real change.

Meanwhile, unfortunately, I was dealing with the worst sunburn of my whole life ever ever ever. Russell and I had visited Revere Beach on Boston's North Shore again the previous Saturday, and we had an awesome time, staying a little longer and spending a little more time together in the water than usual.

Yes, I was wearing sunscreen and even reapplied it twice, but only on the areas where I usually burn: nose, ears, and shoulders. Big mistake, I know, because I must have bent over looking at shells in the surf just long enough to turn my whole back, and the backs of both arms, a delicate shade of LOBSTER. I don't think it's the reddest I've ever been from the sun, but it was over the largest area of my body by far.

Now, I haven't been sunburned a lot in my life. I am not my redheaded relatives, but growing up I was always doused in sunblock as if I was. Obviously a good thing, except that it means I had no tolerance AT ALL for the discomfort I felt this time! What must be a fact of life for some people reduced me to tears more than once. I was so uncomfortable that I actually worked from home most of the following Monday and Tuesday so I could remain mostly undressed and apply aloe vera every few hours. Thank god for my flexible supervisors.

Fortunately, all this pampering must have worked, because the healing time was a fraction of what I expected. I was back at work, and fairly comfortable again, by Wednesday. Which was a very good thing, because it was around then that Omar came into our lives.


Omar is a kitty the superintendents of our apartment building found panicked and half-starved in the courtyard, where some moron tenant abandoned him after being evicted. It was proving hard to look after this very indoor cat who was wigging out so badly over being left outdoors that he wouldn't let anyone within a foot of him. So, perhaps in a moment of insanity, Russell and I agreed to take him in.

Not knowing his name, we called "him" (that's right, we still can't get close enough to discern a gender, but just saying "the cat" was really beginning to sap our willingness to clean his poop out of the bathtub) after a really iconic character on The Wire who carries a sawed-off shotgun and robs drug dealers, but whom everyone can't help liking, partly because he's openly gay. I can't tell you how strange it is to care for a cat so hostile you basically have to ignore him or get clawed ten times a day, but I can say that the name definitely fits.

At first, we were strongly considering finding a no-kill shelter to spare us the burden of socializing him. But we toughed it out, and now we're thrilled to see him slowly coming around: first sleeping in our presence; then gaining weight, cleaning himself, and beginning to play with the toys we left lying around; then actually climbing into bed with Russell and me last night. We still get swatted once in a while, but almost halfheartedly. It's pretty cool.

Which is just about the newest news I have to share, except this: the good part of not making the Law Review. Being accepted means coming back to school almost three weeks early, so being rejected means you suddenly regain all that time. Means Russell and I could FINALLY PLAN A TRIP TO NEW YORK CITY, from which we just got back!

We're pretty far behind on this - New York is only 4 hours away by buses that cost roughly $20 each way. People constantly seem to be slipping down there for long weekends- probably half my classmates did at some point during the school year. And as Austinites accustomed to driving that long just to reach Dallas or southern Houston, Russell and I really should have been among them - but we didn't find time until now.

Well, the trip was an absolute dream. A friend from school watched Omar while we took a Friday afternoon bus together and stayed with our dear friend Bella who just moved there. We saw Times Square at night, the Museum of Natural History, Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, the incredible new High Line, and (after Russell went home Sunday night - I stayed until Wednesday) the Museum of Modern Art. Best of all, we did it all with a beloved friend.

Which officially makes this the Summer of Excellent Visits with Family and Friends. I'll quickly recap our schedule for the past few weeks and near future:

May 24-25: College friend Lauren in Cambridge
May 25-30: Lea in Austin
June 13-15: Lea and Russell in El Paso
July 7-16: Mom in Cambridge
July 26: High school friend Eamon in Cambridge
July 27-28: Cousin Marcella and uncle Bob in Cambridge
August 7-9/12: Lea and Russell in New York
August 15: Anush MOVES to Cambridge!

If that's not enough to justify my long delay in posting, I don't know what is!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Precious normal

Wow, I've gone even longer than usual without posting, and now the prospect of updating you on everything that's been going on makes me wish I'd checked in a lot sooner.

First off, of course, Mom has visited since I last wrote. She was here for 12 days attending the Principal's Institute at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, thanks to a grant from a nonprofit for Texas educators. All her expenses were paid—airfare, tuition, a room at the gorgeous Charles Hotel, a lot of awfully nice meals with her grateful daughter…. In other words, Too. Effing. Cool.

Then, on the Sunday before last (which was her only full day off—have I mentioned before that Harvard doesn't kid around?) we took the commuter rail to Concord, home of transcendentalism, revolutionary war history, and the founding of the lovely hippie church Mom attends in Austin.

It was serene, verdant, quaint, and wonderful. I found it bizarre how different the landscape changed from Cambridge and Boston in just that 30-minute train ride. Sure I come from Texas, which has 15 or 20 different ecosystems all in the same state, but they also take 15 or 20 hours to cross.

Anyway, fast forward to three days later, when we were beyond stoked to be together for the July 15 opening night of the new Harry Potter movie. The affection Mom and I share for children's literature, especially by our hero J.K. Rowling, has made these releases a kind of pilgrimage for us in past years. How miraculous it seemed when, despite living 1900 miles apart, we happened to be together for this one as well.

Also miraculous: the dinner she, Russell, and I shared beforehand at a tiny, hip downtown Italian restaurant called Teatro.

But Mom headed home the next day, and life is back to normal now. If plugging quietly away at various legal memos while your boss is in Africa and your summer runs headlong toward Law Review competition results and the start of a new semester at Harvard can be considered normal.

Speaking of Harvard, the results of the electives lottery are finally in. Meaning I finally have a fall schedule—and a full one, too, since the system keeps assigning courses until you hit the maximum of 15 credit hours. Of course, I’m not thrilled about a schedule entirely made up of electives, so I’m still crossing my fingers I’ll get one of the two Evidence courses on whose wait lists I’m ranked pretty high. This leaves a lot in the air, but I’ll be sure to post my schedule once that changes, which will hopefully be soon.

Also big in my life right now: the third season of HBO’s The Wire, courtesy of Widener Library at Harvard (though only after a wait list nearly as long as the ones for Evidence.) Russell and I are completely absorbed and expect to be finished well within the week we’re allotted by the library. Funny, though, how the school impacts my life even during summer break.

Finally, I'd like to point out how much we’ve been cooking out lately. The grill in the courtyard really beckons in the cool, mostly sunny evenings we’ve been having. Most recently, we experimented with tofu and vegetable kebabs in a spicy Asian mustard sauce I based on something I always ordered at a restaurant back in Austin. Russell and I scarfed down 10 between us—I call that success!

Well, I hope all your summers are filled with the same happy, near-normalcy as my last few days. Law school, not to mention some of the unfortunate junk that’s happened since, reminds me of how precious that is. We’ll see how long it sticks around.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Pyrotechnics

So I came up with a punny way to post about two recent experiences at once. Here goes, and we'll see if it's as cute as I imagined it.

I saw my clinician (which is apparently what she's called) at Mental Health Services again yesterday. Just as before, the chemistry was a little bit like:


Get it?? I'm comparing her to the fireworks we saw over the Charles on July 4!

Kidding aside, the woman is my new hero, and her comforting can-do seriousness is a big part of how much better I'm feeling. Although the light box, the 48 hours of natural sunshine we're having, the ongoing visit from my mom, and the big white seagulls flying past my office window shouting "MINE? MINE?" don't hurt.

Hope all of you are doing great as well. Lots of love coming your way from Cambridge. And plenty of interesting, non-mental-health-related posts before long, too. I swear!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

End of the tunnel

A lot has happened in the week-plus since I last posted, enough that I feel a little guilty for not writing sooner. I’ve seen the greatest fireworks of my life, for instance. And I’ve been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

I have no clue how to portray this as the positive thing it absolutely is, except to say that if you periodically felt exhausted, hopeless and overwhelmed at the tiniest obstacles, and sad for no reason at all, it would be your dearest wish for someone with a prescription pad to tell you why.

This happened to me last week, after the sunshine I’d written about here was long gone and I was having a really hard time again. Everywhere I went, I trudged. It felt like a different person was at the controls of my emotions, making lousy choices with no relation to my life or who I am. Fed up and partly inspired by this woman, I marched up to the Mental Health wing of Harvard University Health Services for a walk-in appointment.

For too long, I had been reluctant to see someone because I wondered how many hours we would have to play tell-me-about-your-mother before they believed that I was healthy and happy aside from this reaction to the rain. Now I wish I’d gone much sooner, because the answer turned out to be… about one and a half. After a brief intake appointment and a single, perfect session, I was literally sent home with a prescription phototherapy light. It’s a loaner until my own comes in the mail—free of charge, of course, thanks to insurance. Proof, once again, that Harvard does not kid around.

This may be the most personal I’ve ever gotten with this blog, and part of me is sorry for the overshare. But the moral of this story—if you feel crummy, TELL SOMEONE—just seemed too important to keep quiet. I also wanted any of you who were worried by the tone of my recent posts to know that things are looking up.

So to balance out the drama (and prove that I am in fact functioning) here are some nice, everyday details of Cambridge life!

Both Russell’s office and mine were closed Friday, so after a leisurely breakfast we trekked out to the Target in Somerville. We needed some things, like a new alarm clock and a specific size of fluorescent lightbulb, that our tiny neighborhood grocery store doesn’t have. We also replaced about half our bathroom towels. I thought picking out colors was super fun. Russell disagreed, but can’t deny that the bathroom looks awesome now. Isn’t that how it always works?

Saturday, we cooked out on the patio with great success, despite extra uncooperative charcoal. Then we headed for the Charles River to watch fireworks. We joined thousands of people (and Cambridge is the less crowded side!) sitting on blankets, listening to Neal Diamond sing with the Boston Pops, and then watching some of America’s best fireworks literally yards from the boats where they launched. I have never oohed and aahed harder in my life!

Tired as we were the next day, with my mom’s visit and the one-year mark of our tenancy approaching, Russell and I agreed to a huge clean-out of the apartment. I bleached half the bathroom, polished everything I could reach, and literally spent time on my hands and knees wiping out dusty corners with Windex. Russell took all the rugs outside for a good shake. And our Mr. Clean Magic Eraser—buy yourself one right now, I cannot recommend them enough!!—made the kitchen counter look like it had never touched food.

The place feels so amazing now that Russell and I can’t stop remarking how worthwhile all the effort was. It’s like a fresh start, something I’ve also received at work because a beloved administrative assistant just retired and everyone, sensing my need for sunshine, insisted I move from my cubicle into her giant-windowed office.

She has great style, and a lot of her belongings are still around, making the place already feel like home. Even on cloudy days like today, my new city view manages to lift my spirits. All things considered, it seems the universe is finally conspiring to help me get well.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Better days

Maybe I should have blogged about our horrible weather situation earlier, because it has been better every day since I did.
On Thursday afternoon, I worked from home (or rather, the patio just outside of our home) because we had FOUR WHOLE HOURS of incredible, impossible, glaring, blazing sunlight that day! Here I am basking in it:


Can you tell I have NEVER been so happy to see the sun? Russell certainly could, so when he got home from work, he offered to bring dinner outside. He chose take-out from our favorite bakery/cafe up the street, and here he is after dessert.


Friday's weather was similar: a few big, serious clouds in the sky, sometimes raining, sometimes making way for the sun. So I worked partly from home again, brushing up on my legal research and writing skills to check source citations for a couple of our advocates who had court briefs due this week. I like the work- it's satisfying and makes good use of specific lessons from my year of law school. Most importantly, it can be done anywhere.

Of course, things got even better once the weekend came. This morning, I saw blue skies outside our bedroom window and immediately sold Russell on a trip to the beach. When we got there, a serious blanket of morning fog was still lifting off the water, reminding us that we aren't free of this vicious nor'easter just yet. I wish I could convey how strange this looked: bright, hot, sunlight coming from one direction and cool, swirling, white mist coming from the other. It was awesome, but I'm glad it burned off and gave us a more traditional beach experience before long.


We had two amazing hours- easily two of the best hours of my month- before the rain clouds rolled back in. We had known they would, so we went home happy- and sunburned enough that it's probably best we didn't stay much longer.

It's so funny how "partly cloudy" has become a MIRACULOUS state of being around here. The whole city seems to proceed in bursts of spontaneity, trying to get out under every ray of sun the sky will give us. They're forecasting rain again next week, so I guess we're going to need it. At least I am, if I ever plan to post here about anything else!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My so-called summer

You know, I honestly thought all this writing about weather would end along with my first New England winter. We all knew the cold climate would be a huge part of my adjustment to Harvard Law, so I didn’t feel too foolish making post after post about fall colors, snowstorms, skiing, or that miserable slushy period that stretched on into mid-April. But it’s late June now, and the amount that our weather has continued to affect my quality of life—and therefore my blog—is frankly becoming an affront to my pride.

All of which is to say: I haven’t seen the sun since a half-hour stretch last Friday, and not since Wednesday before that. The Boston area has been trapped under a layer of fog, cloud, and misty rain so thick and for so long that you’d think it was the start of the next science fiction or horror movie plotline! And it doesn’t look to be letting up anytime soon.

Just over two months ago, I posted our local forecast from Weather.com to show you how depressing the tail-end of a Cambridge winter could be. Well, bafflingly, I believe we now have that beat:
















I’ve been working on this post for a while, but it’s been difficult to finish because work has really ramped up just in time for the climate to render me record-breakingly inefficient. Also, I have mostly tried to be funny—thinking up jokes about how to hide the onset of webbed feet, telling stories about my supervisor’s umbrella repeatedly turning inside-out on our way to a meeting the other day, things like that—all the while sensing that humor was a dishonest way to handle this.

Because ultimately, unfortunately, I have to admit that this weather is making me seriously depressed. Which doesn’t feel funny at all—in fact, it feels a little too much like this:

http://tiny.cc/allsummer

Everyone from around here assures me that this weather isn’t normal, that it’s the worst summer since something like 1903. Why am I supposed to be comforted by this? In my slightly irrational state, I can only conclude that SOMEONE IS DELIBERATELY OUT TO GET ME. Why else put this weather in MY summer, the desperately-needed summer after MY first winter north of the Mason-Dixon line? What's more, in terms of my law school career, this will officially make ONE-THIRD OF ALL SUMMERS partially ruined by rain!

Combined with my grades and withdrawal from my incredible little sister, this gloominess has proved too much for my body. Despite weekly yoga with some women at my office, I feel like a flower wilting without sun: body aches, weakness, nausea and recurrent stomachaches. (Don't worry, Mom, today I finally called for a doctor's appointment.) We aren't sure whether my immune system is just shot and I'm having trouble shaking some bug, or whether the rain is actually doing this to me. I don't know which is worse.

Okay, enough whining. Partly because the sun is actually supposed to come out for a few hours tomorrow afternoon, so I might feel completely different by the time you read this post. So long for now, and I apologize for all the doom and gloom—wait, what am I talking about? There's probably sunshine where you are! You can take it!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Good and bad news

Well, I would sure love to stall by telling you everything about the El Paso trip and pretending, until the very last minute or maybe forever, that I didn’t just find out my spring semester grades. But the issue would still be there, looming, and some of you would probably ask about it eventually, which would only drag this out. So let me confess it right now: I got a bad grade.

The moment of truth was last night around 7:15, right as Russell and I got up from dinner. I opened my laptop, hit “refresh” on my unofficial transcript webpage, and almost immediately slammed it back shut. I may also have cursed. You might remember that I don’t like to share the specifics of my GPA here, but I will say my other grades were fine—unexpectedly high, actually. And I wasn’t surprised to have bombed this one exam, which was the last of the year, the one where my test-taking skills suddenly escaped me and my brain seemed to shut down for summer a few hours too soon. Yes, it’s nice to have a decent explanation… just not as nice as not needing one.

I can only imagine how many of you are out there laughing at my discomfort over this. In my defense, I’m trying not to be too ridiculously morose about it. Mostly, I’m bothered that this one grade is just bad enough to make the whole semester average out a tiny bit worse than the last. It contradicts what I guess was a pretty fundamental assumption that I would steadily improve throughout law school.

Of course, I didn’t fail. 1L year is still behind me, now more officially than ever. So this feeling is more unfamiliar than miserable. And the whole thing is tempered with a little humor, because I know this is such a typical Harvard Law student experience. So many people struggle with the first bad grades of their life here. I almost feel my education would be incomplete without it!

Which brings us to more pleasant things.

Most importantly, our trip to El Paso was every bit as wonderful as we expected. The weather was perfect, sunny and not too hot. Russell was utterly charmed by my little sister, and she took to him instantly too (although I’m definitely still her favorite, thank goodness.) It’s unbelievable how close to walking and talking she is, although her tireless energy and sweet disposition are more than obvious without either. I’ll let you see for yourself:




As for work, the last two days have been a bit slow. My boss has been out of the office and not responding right away to some roadblocks I hit early in the work she’d assigned me. This isn’t a big deal, since both our projects are quite long-term, and luckily I got to bide my time with a quick project for someone in the benefits division. I love the sampling of different areas I’ve gotten so far from this internship.

Well! Grades, baby, and work: I think that’s the full update. Until next time, dear readers, hoping all is well with you.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

News flash

I'm writing again so soon because the student body is abuzz! On Facebook, at least, where we’re all keeping touch from our various summer locations.

Since Elena Kagan stepped down to become Solicitor General, the leadership at HLS has been hard at work to replace her as dean. And today they made their choice:

http://www.law.harvard.edu/news/spotlight/classroom/minow.html

Martha Minow is one of Harvard’s most popular professors, with waitlists in the hundreds for her constitutional and family law classes every semester. And most importantly, she is MY professor for Constitutional Law: Fourteenth Amendment next spring!

My section-mates who made the class are all crossing our fingers that she still decides to teach it. Past deans have continued teaching, but usually just one course at a time, and who knows if we're the one? I'll let you know how it turns outuntil then, prayers welcome!

On a side note, while I was working on this post, Russell showed me the coolest quiz he accessed through CNN.com: "What kind of tech user are you?" The results were spot-on for both of us, so I thought I'd share.

http://pewinternet.org/Participate/What-Kind-of-Tech-User-Are-You.aspx

Enjoy, and wish me luck nabbing a class with the new dean!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Summer so far

First, let me apologize for what a delinquent blogger I’ve been! I have absolutely no excuse, because working life is so far just as peaceful and routine as I’d predicted. My biggest stressor is finding clothes to wear to the office, not because the environment is at all formal, but because—not going to lie—I gained a little weight from all that Tex-Mex on my recent Austin visit!

So no, I haven’t been too busy to write. Just disinclined to spend any more time at a computer after typing all day, I guess, which is hardly enough reason to leave friends and family in the dark. I do promise to make blogging a part of my summer schedule—and what better time to start than right now?

Since you’re probably wondering about the internship, I’ll start there. The bottom line: this work is as close to perfect as I could ever rationally have expected. I have things to do, and I feel they contribute to the important work of my supervisor—but I’ve never felt overwhelmed so far. Mostly I’m needed for Internet research, both the traditional legal kind and a more creative, fact-finding kind that makes me feel pretty sneaky. Starting soon, I should even be doing some field research with a local grassroots group one day a week. And who knows what else, as my boss seems to be trusting me more and more.

I also like gaining exposure to some of the other practices within this organization. Last week, I was asked to take notes at a very tense and important meeting with a certain state agency. This meant marching to the opposite end of downtown with two brilliant and hilarious attorneys, stopping midway for lunch at a cute local café.

Lunch is why I love working downtown. Bringing my own lunch each day would be healthier and cheaper, but most days I can’t resist the urge to get out in the city and sample the nearby offerings, which are numerous with so many businesspeople around. Sometimes I decide beforehand to look for a place I’ve heard recommended, and other times I just wander. If I’m too late getting back, I just eat at my desk, happy to have spent my hour exploring. Not that anyone probably cares how long a lunch I take.

Another thing bringing me joy these days is the new TV Russell and I bought last week. It’s a 22-inch Samsung flatscreen, modest but a huge improvement over our old one, which most people wouldn’t want for their kitchen.

Like I told my boss on our way to a meeting today, I sincerely wish I could be one of those awesome people who snubs television. But I’m not. I adore TV and think it’s the next great art form for my generation—if you don’t believe me, watch any two episodes of The West Wing, or my new addiction, HBO’s The Wire. We just finished the second season in record time, having bought it on DVD with the savings from our TV being on sale. Together, they were the perfect reward for a long school year, and the best possible use of a little extra loan money and some of Russell’s tax refund.

Russell, by the way, is in for yet another treat this coming Saturday around lunchtime. That’s because he’s finally joining me for a trip to El Paso, where my incredible baby sister is turning ONE YEAR OLD! It’s also Grandma’s birthday—her 90th, if you can believe that—so plenty of relatives should be in town to show the boy a good old-fashioned Downey family bash.

With all this activity coming up, who knows when I’ll have time to post here again. But it shouldn’t be too long, because June 17 is the official scheduled date for the release of spring semester grades! And we all know I’ll be itching to talk (or sniffle, or sob) about that. Also ahead: lottery results for fall electives registration (July 15) and news from the Law Review (late July!) It’s a busy summer, folks—but so long as there’s no homework, I’m happy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Finally

It's official: I am THROUGH with my 1L year at Harvard Law School!
Truth be told, I have no idea how to feel about this. It's been trickling toward completion for so long- classes ending in April and exams spread over two weeks, half my classmates already done because they weren't going out for Law Review, and everyone leaving Cambridge at different times- that I have trouble believing it's really over this time.

At 1:30 on Saturday, I handed my competition materials over to the Law Review people in a small classroom in Hauser Hall. Suddenly, I was done with 1L year for good- but I couldn't really go anywhere, because one of my classmates was using my USB drive to print his case comment and another, who realized at the last second she didn't have any Crimson Cash to pay the Copy Center, was borrowing my Harvard ID. So I picked a table outside the deserted Harkness Commons, put up my feet, and waited in sunshiny peace.

Not too much later, my friends had turned in their competition packets too, and it hit all of us how long it had been since we last ate. So we headed for lunch at Cambridge Common, a good nearby pub with great outdoor seating. Three hours, one beer, and two glasses of sangria later, I was sitting in the grass of Harvard Yard with Phil, the one who'd used my USB, talking through the competition and our summer plans, when his excellent wife showed up with more beer and a frisbee. We threw it around for a while in JFK park, where we figured Harvard Police were less on the lookout for public drinking. When they needed to leave for a friend's graduation party, I headed home for a movie, late dinner, and much-needed early bedtime. The things you can do with an afternoon of honest-to-god freedom.

Since then, I've had one day in Cambridge- mostly spent entertaining some visiting friends from undergrad, which was great- and one in transit to Austin, with tex-mex and an Alamo Drafthouse movie on arrival. And presently, I'm sitting in the sun on my mom's gorgeous patio, waiting for my laundry to finish, making plans by text message with a couple of friends I'm attempting to see on this visit. The freedom to do these things is so unfamiliar (literally, the last time I was in Austin without bringing work along from Cambridge, this blog didn't exist) that I'm not even sure I'm completely enjoying it yet. When is the other shoe going to drop?

The answer, probably, is next Monday. That's when my internship starts, and I'll only have Sunday back in Cambridge to prepare for it. But even that- a normal, nine-to-five job with real weekends and no fifty-page reading assignments cutting into dinner- is going to be so different from the last nine months that I barely know what to think about it. Except that I think it'll be pretty great.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The competition

It's one of those breathtaking Cambridge days, with the sunshine and the cool breeze, the perfect cotton-ball white clouds in the perfect blue sky and the impossibly green grass, bushes, and flowering trees. It's the sort of day that reminds me why I was once so excited to live in New England. And I'm spending it inside, my eyes glued to the computer, because I'm halfway through the writing competition to join the Harvard Law Review.
I know: it sounds soooooo unpleasant. Who in their right mind, after two weeks of already brutal exams (can you tell Property didn't go so well?) spends the first week of summer thumbing through 1,100 pages of court cases and journal articles just for the privilege of doing even more work next year??

About 250 first-year students each year, that's who. And a part of me is really, stupidly, masochistically proud to be one of them- even if I'm not one of the 40 who make it. The way I see it, there isn't much left at Harvard Law School that's this hardcore. You know this, readers- you've heard me chirp on about the free food, coffee, and course packets all year. You know Russell got his job because of my Dean of Students office, and- well, I haven't told you about the puppies they brought in for stress relief during finals yet, but now you know about them, too.

So can't you see the appeal in doing something that's stayed exactly the same since the days of Barack Obama and even The Paper Chase?

No?

Well, fine. Call me crazy. But since there seems to be a lot of voyeuristic value in other people doing work that sucks (why else would they make so much TV about emergency room doctors?) I thought you might like a quick explanation of how the competition works.

It's a week long: you pick up the materials on the Saturday after finals and return them the Saturday after that. And it has two parts: a "subcite," in which you proofread the text and check the source citations of an existing (very unrealistically flawed) article, and a "case comment," in which you write your own summary of a recent Supreme Court case and its implications.

Neither is very creative. The subcite is a nitpicky, obsessive-compulsive activity, which of course doesn't bother me (have you ever caught a typo in this blog? Did you check back later?), but it does get repetitious as the days drag on. The article is spread out over 33 pages in large print, with a very wide right margin in which you must neatly write things like "MISSPELLING: conceived, not concieved" or "MISCHARACTERIZATION: the court in Arizona Life found the restriction unreasonable and reversed summary judgment for the government" about 8-10 times per page.

The case comment has to follow a very specific formula. There is literally a chart:
¶1- Write a few sentences of background to the case and your argument. Then write: "Last term, in [insert case name], the Supreme court [insert holding]." Finally state your thesis succinctly.
¶2- Set out the case facts from the beginning.
¶3- Describe the procedural posture in the trial court.
And so on, for about 10 paragraphs. This is because practitioners use the Law Review's case comments to inform themselves about major decisions, so they count on uniformity. Which gives you an awesome sense of the important work you could do in the coming year- but also results in nearly constant anxious flipping to that page of the competition materials. Mine may tear out of its 3-inch binder before long!

And so here I am, around lunchtime on day 4 of this week-long ordeal, taking a break to blog and answer e-mails from Russell (today's his last day at a temp assignment with the fundraisers for HLS, which he has really enjoyed; tomorrow he's flying to Austin for his cousin's graduation. And he just heard that when he gets back, he'll be returning to University Disability Services, where he had his first, great assignment back in September.)

But I should really get away from the computer, or some break this will be! I'll try to write again soon, maybe at the close of this ridiculous week when my summer REALLY starts!

Monday, May 4, 2009

A little study humor

Microsoft Word spelling suggestions for former Bush Administration attorney John Yoo's last name:
You
Oyo
Yolo
Yoyo
Yom

Excellent.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Momentary lapse of glowing

I know my reviews of Harvard Law have always been glowing, and that's intentional. Why would I blog about this place just to complain? But there is one grievance I'd like to air, because it's one of the realities of student life here and you'd be pretty uninformed if I didn't mention it.


I'm referring, of course, to the online course registration system. Because it's about as lame, opaque, and disorienting as they come.


I was never thrilled with the system at UT: students were assigned a certain window of time, partly on a random basis and partly by seniority, to access the whole course catalog online and sign themselves up for any class whose prerequisites they met. 


This was stressful and sometimes meant watching the last slot in a class disappear before your very eyes as your browser refreshed- or worse, having all your preferred courses fill up before your registration window even started. This always struck me as terribly unfair. But it also strikes me, now that I've registered at Harvard Law, as providing a certain sense of empowerment. If things went wrong and classes were closed, there was always the freedom to think quickly and save your own schedule with some complex alternative arrangement of classes that were still open.


Harvard's system doesn't come with this freedom. It consists of three lotteries- one each for the electives, the clinics, and the big standard classes taught by more than one professor. Each time, students submit a ranked list of the classes they'd like, and a very complex and supposedly fair algorithm repeatedly sorts us into random order and assigns us each the available course we've ranked highest until we run out of schedule space or bids. 


We try to understand and accommodate this algorithm in our bidding, but it's beyond most of us. And as a result, things happen like MY 100% COMPLETE AND TOTAL LACK OF FALL SEMESTER COURSES (waitlists, but so far no courses) with no human being present to take notice and adapt.


Gross, right?? I'm managing not to panic just yet, because we're only through 2 of the 3 stages with electives registration still to go. But one semester of electives overload, fun as it sounds, will likely leave my remaining 3 semesters chock-full of Taxation, Corporations, Administrative Law, and Federal Courts... and a lot less room for Animal Law, Debating Race and American Law, Capital Punishment in America, or Law and Social Movements. 


Best of all, none of those gems I just listed are offered in Fall 2009. As far as I'm concerned, next fall has the least spectacular electives offerings I've seen so far at Harvard! Just my luck!


Okay, enough griping. The truth is, very little of this is the HLS registration system's fault. It's just finals season, and I studied for almost 9 hours today, and it feels good to sling mud at the institution responsible. 


Maybe it also feels good to hear me sounding like a grouchy, sleep-deprived, real-life law student for once!

Monday, April 27, 2009

In bloom

Of course, just in time for every law student at Harvard to start camping out in library carrels preparing for final exams, the weather takes a sharp turn for the better.
That's right, it's the last week of spring semester classes, which is apparently notorious for being Cambridge's first week of warmth and sunshine every year. At least I know my profound longing to go lounge outside in the grass rather than outline International Law has been shared by generations of budding legal minds.

I'm so neck-deep in that International Law outline (and Leadership case studies, catch-up Criminal Law readings, and a fascinating but inconvenient new TAP case) that I really don't have time for
 a lengthy post. But I've been thinking of you, dear readers, by making sure to snap pictures of spring in New England each time I walk to and from school.

Enjoy!









































































































I know, I know. One of those is a picture of flowers my mom sent me while it was still rainy, and two are of my classmates out enjoying the weather last Friday. But they seemed just as appropriate!

Hope spring is equally lovely where you are... and that you don't have to wait as long as I will to enjoy it! Wish me luck on all the fun I'll be having instead.... NOT.