Monday, December 21, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
- 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???
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
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
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
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
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,
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.
May 24-25: College friend Lauren in Cambridge
May 25-30: Lea in Austin
June 13-15: Lea and Russell in El Paso
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
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
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
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
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
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:
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
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
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:
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 out—until 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.
Enjoy, and wish me luck nabbing a class with the new dean!
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
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
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Monday, May 4, 2009
Sunday, May 3, 2009
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!