birthday!

This has been a pretty awesome birthday.

As anyone who's talked to me lately knows, I was assigned a largish project at work last week. Of the handful of staff lawyers working at my organization, one is out on grand jury duty and another is out on paternity leave, so we've been pretty short-staffed, and so when this project came in she basically called me in and said, "Deal with this." Long story short, I've been working my butt off for the past week or so, and managed to get everything done today just under the deadline.

(Which, by the way, ended up being at 6pm instead of 11:59pm because the FCC refused to take electronic filings for this project -- I found that out at 4pm and still managed to get everything done. Whew!)

People have been pretty uniformly surprised at how much work I've been putting in -- I have the impression that it's pretty unusual for an intern to have the degree of responsibility I did on this project. She told me that as a thank-you, I could have my pick of projects for the rest of the summer and have two extra vacation days to take whenever I want. More importantly, to me at least, I got a credit on the FCC filing -- my name is listed next to those of the legal team, which is pretty unusual given my temporary position with the group. More importantly still, I've got massive goodwill from my boss, which is always a Good Thing.

Maybe I have a martyr complex, but there's something strangely satisfying about having to work on my birthday. I guess it's kind of an ego trip -- the whole "there's no one else who can do this so we need you to make this sacrifice," gives me a feeling of importance.

Anyway, we managed to get everything wrapped up in time for me to enjoy part of my birthday! I went out for a beer with Jef, one of the lawyers I work with. I like him a lot, though he's got this aura of California cool and I kind of feel like I'm not quite cool enough to hang out with him. He's pretty awesome, though, and we had a good time talking over beer. After that I headed over to another bar to meet some folks for dinner and, well, more beer, and afterwards went to a rooftop party that appeared to consist of every Michigan student in the DC area gathered into one place. I got to see a bunch of friends I haven't seen all summer, which was great, and then I ditched out of the party early to go get myself an espresso drink at my coffee place. Because coffee is really much more my speed than beer any day of the week. And the barrista gave it to me free as a birthday drink!

Sigh. Good day. What more could I ask for?
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    good good

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So, quick summary of my first year of law school: holy god, that was a lot of work. I was working 16 hour days (no joke) from mid-March until May 8, the day of my last exam, and then working halfheartedly on my journal submission for the week after that. I'm still trying to catch up on personal correspondence (including LJ) for the entire semester.

I'm in DC now for the summer, working for Public Knowledge. If you haven't heard of them, they're a public interest advocacy organization focusing individual rights in the digital age -- pretty much exactly what I want to do. They mostly work on copyright and telecommunications stuff. I'm supposed to do some blogging for them this summer on publicknowledge.org, which should be neat.

My feeling for the first few days has been: "So this is what it's like to enjoy your work!" The people are all great. It's not just the people at PK; I've met a bunch of folks from Google, EPIC, Yahoo, and other "key players" in tech law. There's been a good sense of camaraderie and goodwill, even when people disagree on issues. I guess this is the political process at work, from the inside.

I spent today at CFP (Computers, Freedom, and Privacy), an annual conference on... well, you've probably guessed. It was pretty freaking awesome -- I got to have lunch with Bruce Schneier and spend the day attending panels on a bunch of tech-law issues like cybersecurity and privacy, which is the kind of stuff I've been interested in since I was little. (Heck, I went into algebra in large part because I wanted to do work with cryptography.) The only "disquieting" thing was that... well, I've been reading The Stand for the first time, and the bad guys have these necklaces that are made of a black stone with a red scar in it that's shaped like an eye, or maybe a key. The CFP logo?



I actually like DC a lot more than I expected, although I miss lirelyn terribly. I'm living in a house with a few other folks who seem pretty decent, though my room is basically empty except for a mattress and a few piles of my junk on the floor. (Not that her being here would magically make furniture appear, but it's just not home without her.) Still, the weather isn't too hot yet, there's decent public transit, and the people are a lot friendlier than I would've thought. And I think I know a lot more people around here than I had expected.

Plus, I get to play dress-up whenever I want! Seriously, if you try walking around in the Midwest in a suit, you get looks. Around here, it's par for the course.
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mushroom

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Walking to school just now, I passed by a house with about half a dozen college girls in bikinis on the front lawn. "Hey, wanna come do a beer bong with us?" they asked.

Yes. Yes, I do. Unfortunately, I have a exam this weekend that I have to study for (and a lirelyn who would probably not be terribly happy with me) so I will instead spend the day in the dark, dank reading room instead of outside playing in the sun.
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    sad sigh

nuisances

I've really been in a pretty foul mood for the past few days. Rather than getting all our grades at once, the school posts them as they receive them from the professors, which is a great way to spread bad news over a long period of time. I didn't do nearly as well in any of my classes as I expected, resulting in basically a four day span of depressing news.

Plus, one of our professors decided to send out an assignment on Friday night for a five-page research paper due Tuesday. I haven't looked at it yet. I'm mildly offended by the short notice, and coupled with my sour mood from last semester's grades, I'm not inclined to feel very productive.

I tried to log into WoW to relax a bit, and found that there was more than an hour's wait to get on. I wouldn't find that so irritating, but Blizzard just recently offered free character transfers between servers, and shut them down early because they said enough people had moved. I try not to criticize game companies when there are problems, because running those kinds of things can be pretty challenging. But if hour-long waits are the intended norm, then it really looks like Blizzard's server admins are grossly incompetent.

I guess I've been kind of on edge lately. I mean, I feel like these are all valid complaints, but I can't shake the feeling that there's some underlying cause for my ill temper. I was in sort of ill spirits for my visit to Chicago last weekend, as well.

misc

Since the last day of finals, I've been in hardcore relaxation mode. I have a bunch of work that needs to get done soonish, but I'm still sort of decompressing. It's strange to think it was only a week and a half ago that I was staring down a constitutional law exam. It feels like a different world.

The ridiculous weather has probably added to the feeling. There was a foot and a half of snow on the ground when we left our apartment just before Christmas; the day after Christmas, it was almost 70 degrees here.

G and I came back to Ohio to spend the holidays with her parents. They got me some things for Christmas, which was novel: I don't normally get gifts for Christmas. They got me a few books I'd been wanting off Amazon and a nice bottle of scotch, and I really couldn't ask for a better gift.

Not getting gifts probably sounds a little depressing, but it's really not, at least for me. My family doesn't really have the money to spend on me, and I'm hard to shop for anyway -- I have particular tastes, and if I want something, then I tend to buy it for myself. If I don't, odds are it's expensive enough that I'd feel uncomfortable having someone else buy it for me anyway.

Plus, while I love the idea of getting presents, it's rare that the reality lives up to my expectations. A wrapped present is a universe of potential: there could be anything inside! Until you open it, that colorful box could hold the Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle you've always wanted. It's not until after you open it that you discover it's actually full of socks and underwear Aunt Martha got you again this year. So, as much as I love the idea of presents, the reality is never quite satisfying.

Maybe that's a pessimistic view of Christmas. Shopping for me is a punishment I wouldn't wish on anyone. You'll shoot your eye out, kid.

Anyway.

I've been spending my relaxation time doing what I love best, which is to say reading and playing video games. I'm reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics (one of my presents.) They're both excellent. I've started the former several times, but I always get derailed when he starts talking about philosophy; I invariably set the book aside to go read the philosophers he references, then put those aside because they don't hold my attention well. Interestingly, both of them keep coming back to "concept vs. reality" dualism (whatever you want to call it -- I still think of it as rationalism vs. empiricism, since I was first introduced to the idea in college through Descartes and Hume.) It's a little funny that such different books talk about the same topic, but I guess it's a universal enough idea that it shouldn't surprise me.

In a few days, I'll have to re-immerse myself in class prep and other work, but for now, I'm in a little slice of heaven.
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MMOs

To those who think World of Warcraft eats up too much time: meet Final Fantasy XI.

http://rukenshin.livejournal.com/17133.html

Skip down to just past "dispelling rumors" to see what I'm talking about.

On a similar note, I took my criminal law exam. It was MURDERous! (Yuk yuk yuk.) Seriously, though, it was pretty rough -- eight hours of exam with no break for lunch, and I ran out of time and didn't have a chance to fully edit it. The worst part may be that I won't know how I did for a couple months, because grading 90-odd of those exams takes forever.
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dream

I had a bad dream -- I hesitate to call it a nightmare -- this morning that woke me up. I dreamed that I had gone in to take my Criminal Law exam, only it turned out to be mostly physics and special relativity, and my classmates were the upper level math and physics students from undergrad.

Honestly, I'd almost prefer if the test tomorrow were special relativity -- I think most of the people in my class are here to get away from math.

Tomorrow morning marks my first law school exam. Wish me luck!

Obama

In spite of my efforts to post more, I've been largely unsuccessful. Partly -- in large part -- that's due to the volume of work I have from school, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit part of it was due to video games and the release of the WoW expansion.

Anyway, I think I'm probably the last blog in the US to have no posted on Obama's win, so here goes:

I don't think it's a big deal.

Allow me to explain.

I'm as sick of eight years of Bush rule as anyone, and I'm really happy Obama won. He's had no more vocal proponent than myself. I contributed my money (and more importantly to me, my time) to the campaign, which isn't something I've ever felt remotely inclined to do for a politician running for office. I've been following him since his speech at the 2004 DNC; when I heard him talk, I thought, "God, why don't the Democrats have someone like THAT running for president? Maybe he can run in 2012 after Hilary's had her shot in 2008?" What I'm trying to say is that I'm tremendously excited about his win, and I don't mean to downplay it.

People seem to be making a big deal out of the fact he's black, though, which I think is largely a nonissue. Yes, racism still exists today, but it's only a fraction of what it once was, and continues to diminish. Most of what we see these days that gets called racism is really classism in disguise.

A few years back, Jesse Jackson (of all people) commented that when he walked down the street at night, and discovered someone following him, he was relieved to find that it was a white person and not a black person. I don't really believe anyone would be worried if they discovered the person following them, white or black, was in a suit, rather than wearing "thuggish" attire. There's still a disproportionately large number of blacks who are lower class, so the issue isn't entirely divorced from the race, but I'm pretty convinced race is a superficial element and not an underlying cause.

Obama's not remotely lower class. He was a law professor and a senator. That's not a criticism; I want an educated and intelligent person heading the executive branch. But having an upper class black man instead of an upper class white man as president doesn't seem like it's revolutionary.

I'm really looking forward to being able to use the phrase "President Obama" come January 20. It gives me hope for the future. (And not having to worry about the damage Palin would do is a HUGE load off my mind. Hopefully he can undo some of the massive damage the current administration has done; it won't be easy.) I just don't believe his status as the first black president is the monumental precedent that people seem to be making of it.
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