Monday, July 31, 2006

My Starbuckian Existence

Bechaied, this is what I do for hours each day. I hope it pays off.

Starbuckian Existence, originally uploaded by CaseWriter21.

I've gotten in the habit of downloading cases into Word and then making extensive use of the "Comment" function. I'll highlight some lines I want to quote, and then "comment" in a manner that closely approximates what I'll write in the paper. It's a very efficient system. Too bad I didn't figure it out until 3+ years into law school.

Touch to make it grow

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Lessons Learned from July 29-30, 2006

  • When doing anything that stimulates my mind -- such as writing a paper I'm very excited about -- never work on it all the way up to bedtime. Doing so is a recipe for a busy mind that won't shut the hell up and let me sleep. Always try to leave a few hours between extended analytical activity and sleep.

  • If a "Video / DVD" shop has totally blacked out mirrors and requires you to walk through two hefty doors to get in, it probably doesn't sell used copies of It's a Wonderful Life. This can be confirmed by looking around the cramped room to see whether you are surrounded by pictures of naked people having explicit sex. If this is the case, slowly back out of the shop and don't look back.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Security guards and special treatment

  • Well, the residency requirement for my new citizenship status at Starbucks is almost complete: Today I have begun to befriend the security guard, who spends pretty much all day just sitting in a chair waiting for something interesting to happen. I know I've really become accustomed to a place when I start befriending the security guard.

  • Okay, this is just too strange. I have been here for about 5 hours today, and just now the guy behind the counter walked over and brought me a free venti iced chai tea latte! They know my drink! They're treating me like an Important Person who deserves to be brought chais! Nevermind the fact that it was probably just a screwed up order that they figured I would drink because, "Hey, that redhead American guy likes chais, doesn't he?" Nevermind the fact that I've already had TWO iced chais today, just finishing the last one about 10 minutes ago, and I am officially stuffed. The point is, they're treating me like a High Roller! A High Roller, Jerry! I feel like I'm at the Bellagio!

    PS - I am so caffeinated, I won't be able to sleep until Tuesday!!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Does having a beard make one look thinner?

  • The results are in... and the answer is a resounding YES!

    These two pictures were taken within days of each other. I did not gain any weight. The results are conclusive: I look about 20 pounds heavier without the beard. I looked svelte! And now I just look pudgy.

    Of course I will try to get back in shape. But it will take me months to get back to unbearded svelteness, while it will only take me 4-5 weeks to get the beard back. As I haven't shaved in over a week, I am 25% there. By the time I get back to Washington, my beard will be back to the precise length I like.

    This concludes our test of the Emergency Beard System. We will now return you to normally scheduled programming.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I have enthusiasm, on paper

  • Is it odd that as soon as class lets out for the weekend, I rush to Starbucks and eagerly proceed to work on the paper I'm trying to get published? Is there something wrong with me, in that I am actually excited about working on it, and I would rather do this than watch a movie or go sightseeing? Should I be worried that when I find something in my research (a quote, a fact, a statistic, etc.) that really bolsters my claim, I become practically giddy?

  • I worked on the paper for five hours today. The problem is, Every time I think I'm nearing completion, I'll feel compelled to write a sentence that opens up at least another hour's worth of research to verify what I just said. Everything I say has to be cited -- and the research I do to cite it leads to a lot more work.

    For instance, I wrote, "They repeat oft-used explanations, note that new technologies built into cable and DBS services give users the power to deal with unwanted indecency, and that’s that – a few pages at most.[1]

    "[1] See, e.g. ___________ [LIST THE RECENT CABLE/DBS INDECENCY RULINGS]"

    And then I had to do another Lexis search looking for all the indecency rulings having to do with cable and satellite. So I put the search words into Lexis ["indecency & (DBS or satellite or cable)"] and limited my search to FCC decisions, and I got 260 results, at least some of which I had to skim to figure out what they're about. And then in skimming one, I'd see a title like, In the Matter of Complaints Regarding Various Television Broadcasts Between February 2, 2002 and March 8, 2005, and see that it's 97 pages, and realize that I have to read at least some of it. And that document will no doubt lead to at least another few questions, each of which have to be researched, beginning the process again.

    Or I'll re-read the paper and realize that I have left out some incredibly elementary (and therefore important) stuff. For instance, what's the TEST for whether something is indecent?

    Research papers are like plants, blossoming and sprouting new leaves every time you ask another question. It gets very unwieldy very quickly. The good news is that it leads to a lot of potential new paper topics. :-)

  • I've been having an amusing back and forth with somebody at the FCC, using the web "contact us" form. I'm trying to find out if the FCC can sanction obscenity on satellite radio. Obscenity is different from indecency; indecency has some limited First Amendment protection, while obscenity has none at all. The FAQ on their web site says yes, but the law they cite to only applies to "satellite television." So I'm trying to find out what the actual law is.

    The customer service rep writing back has only limited mastery of the English language, and probably no training in the law. I mean, try to parse this for an actual answer:

    Thanks for writing the FCC again. The information we sent you states the FCC has no authority to regulate programming on satellite radio. This also applies to sattelite and cable tv. No complaint received at the FCC remains unanswered. The Enforcement Bureau reviews complaints received and takes appropriate action when necessary. There´s a difference between not having authority to regulate programming and having authority to impose sanctions on obscene programming. I am enclosing our Fact Sheet on what constuitutes Indecency and Obscenity.

    As you might imagine, the "Fact Sheet" was just as helpful.

  • Okay, I'm pissed at the English language. Rereading this post, I realized that I wasn't sure if I had used the word "sanction" properly when I said that I wondered if the FCC could "sanction obscenity on satellite radio." I meant punish. Turns out, it can mean punish OR condone! You're supposed to determine the meaning contextually, but look what happens when it could go either way. Heh. I'm going to stop using that word.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Uncle Stu Goes to London

Originally uploaded by CaseWriter21.
After two weeks of exploring London solo (read: hanging out at Starbucks), I finally saw a familiar face this past weekend -- Uncle Stu! He made the 6,000 mile trip across the Atlantic to see the sights, visit his old stomping ground, and frolic with pigeons in Trafalgar Square. Together, we saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, went to Westminster Abbey, took in a couple shows in the West End, and of course, played with the pigeons. The picture was taken in front of Buckingham by a technologically savvy Asian boy (when looking for tourists to take your picture, I recommend young Asians). Plenty more pics on Flickr. And the pigeon video is seriously the most fun I've had in a long time. Enjoy!

Drinking with Uncle Stu
Originally uploaded by CaseWriter21.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Starbucks: Full steam ahead!

  • I can't even begin to tell you how elated I am that I have found a comfortable spot to work in London, and how pleased I am that Starbucks is so comfortable all around the world. I used to do a lot of my law school work at Starbucks as a 1L, and I'm sure I owe a rather large chunk of my academic success to their comfy plush chairs and relaxed atmosphere. I love how everywhere you go -- in the entire world -- you can find a pleasant, peaceful, familiar place to "mingle and mix and be."* Critics of corporations be damned; I'm glad Starbucks is taking over the world.

    This is all made better by the fact that I signed up for one of those T-Mobile HotSpots, which gives me a reliable high-speed Internet connection at about a billion locations around our Pale Blue Dot. Add Skype and an inexpensive high-quality headset to the mix, and I've got worldwide phone power at about 2.7 cents per minute.

    And when I'm done surfing, I can pull out the books and read.

    Highly pleasant existence, indeed!

  • JOE (on the television): I sell cheap books. Sue me.
    KEVIN: That's what you said?
    JOE: That's not all I said! I said -- I can't believe those bastards -- I said we were great, I said people can come and sit and read for hours and no one bothers them, I said we stock 150,000 titles, I showed them the New York City section. I said we were a goddamn piazza where people could mingle and mix and be.
    KEVIN: A piazza?
    JOE: I was eloquent. Shit.
    --You've Got Mail

Friday, July 21, 2006

Technology will help Matt complete his nanoruns

  • The Wall Street Journal reviewed the Nike+iPod jogging pedometer thing yesterday, and I am quite smitten. You put the tiny transmitter in your shoe, hook the tiny receiver into your  iPod Nano, and it measures everything about your walk/jog, including your speed, pace, calories burned, etc. But the coolest feature is that when you sync your iPod, all your run data gets uploaded to the web site in very cool visual form. So you can see a graph showing all your past runs, showing improvement over time; and you can see a graph of each individual run, which will show when you sped up and slowed down and how far and long you ran. This last feature is incredibly useful for people on the Body for Life system, as it will let you quickly visualize whether you're correctly implementing the HIIT (high intensity interval training) pattern on cardio days.

    Body for Life HIIT plan:

    NikePlus Graph:

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Routines, potential, and happiness

I am always at my happiest when I have a routine to follow. I don't know why. Perhaps having a comfortable routine reassures me that I am actually doing something useful with my day. When I don't have a routine, it means that I constantly have a wide array of choices of what to do next. But a lot of times, a wide array of choices can be debilitating. I can't be counted to always make the right choices -- I might just decide to do what is comfortable, and lay in bed or surf the net or eat all day.

But when I have a routine, it means I'm not just floundering about. It means I have come up with a plan. And if I've come up with a plan, it means that most of the plan has got to be worthwhile -- I mean, I wouldn't put something in the plan if it weren't worthwhile. And having designed a plan means that I've probably designed into it something that's good for me -- for instance, time to do homework or read or perhaps work out. And in limiting my choices, it curbs my sense of confusion. I know what I'm supposed to be doing right now, and I know what's coming next. It gives me a sense of order, which I desperately need because my mind is inherently orderless. It gives me a sense of purpose. It gives me a structure which allows my otherwise incredibly disorganized (yet powerful) mind to actually accomplish something. Routines allow me to establish and fulfill purpose which I have set. It gives me a comfortable framework to help me reach my potential. And reaching my potential makes me happy. :-)

What I'm trying to say is that I have started to develop a routine to help me conquer the vast metropolis that is London, and I think this routine is going to work out just fine. Here's how it goes:
  • Wake up
  • Grab breakfast
  • Walk to school and spend 4 hours in semi-interesting classes about newfangled "international" law
  • Go to Starbucks, get a venti iced chai tea latte, find a nice comfortable spot, surf the Internet and do my law reading for the next day
That's all I have so far. I'm sure "see the sights" will tend to fill the rest of the void, and I still have three weeks left to see the sights (two if you consider that I'll spend about a week superstudying for the exams). Part of this routine also implies that I have paid for an Internet access plan at Starbucks. Okay, so I have. I know, I know, it's insanely expensive (40 pounds for a month), but it really helps me feel comfortable and "at home." I debated with myself endlessly about getting it, but then I just went ahead and did it, and I could not be happier.

So that's it. I have been here enjoying my latte and doing Internet things for about an hour, and now I am going to read for an hour or two. When I am done, I will feel like a productive person who has fulfilled some portion of my potential. And I will be happy.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Hello Mister Winston!

Because nothing too exciting has happened to me in London in recent days, I hereby present: Mister Winston dancing! Yes, before there was Rudy, there was Winston. Named after the good Winston Churchill, this bird carries both the poise and the good humour of the original.

Ever seen a Quaker parrot dance?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

American tourist felled by British nano soldiers

Under Attack
Originally uploaded by CaseWriter21.
From staff and wire reports

LONDON -- In a stunning blow to transatlantic relations, invisible British nano soldiers on Tuesday launched an airborne attack against Matt, a visiting American student.

Matt, 26 years old and a native of Washington, DC, is in town for a month to study law and see the sights. At least, that was his plan. In recent days, he has found himself barely able to stay conscious, let alone study or see anything.

"It's not fair!" Matt said in a recent interview conducted over Skype. "All my flat mates are out dilly dallying at the pub, and where does that leave me? Alone in my room with a box of tissues and an empty memory card on my camera."

When a reporter reminded Matt that he traditionally abhors pubgoing, Matt ended the Skype communique.

It is not known why the invisible British nano soldiers chose to target the student. Experts say it likely has to do with his girlish American immune system, whose defenses have been down due to the transatlantic travel and other recent emotional blows.

"It's a shame anytime something like this happens," remarked Ben Kepple, a foreign affairs expert based in Manchester, New Hampshire. "Sorry to see him go. Now, let's talk about something interesting, ooh, like that headbutt! Are you the son of a terrorist whore too? OWW! Wait just a minute!"

At recent count, Matt has spent approximately 20 of the last 24 hours sleeping. This is markedly up from his normal 18 hours sleeping. According to analysts, if this behavior continues, Matt will only have enough waking hours remaining on his trip to see one more sight. Most observers believe he will choose the Madame Tussauds wax museum.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


  • "Why am I not surprised that you made it both to the largest Apple store in the world and the sex district on your first day in London." -Uncle Stu

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Lost in London

Today was a day of firsts. I ate my first English breakfast, visited Platform 9 3/4 for the first time, and took my first trip on the Tube! Oh yeah, I was also accosted by my first prostitute. I had wandered into the sex district of Soho (by accident!), and a beautiful woman approached me. "Excuse me," she said in her sexy British accent, "do you ever talk to ladies for sex?" Alas, I told her no. "Are you sure?" she prodded. Some small part of me was curious, maybe enough to engage in a little dialogue -- but I feared if I talked to her at all she'd end up tricking me into following her to her lair, and then what hope would I have? I am reminded of "Lovely Ladies" from Les Miserables -- "Old men, yong men, leaders of the land! See 'em with their trousers down they're never quite as grand!" I thanked her and moved on.

Some of my experiences are in the videos to your right. I guess I can sum it up in one word: overwhelmed. This INTJ doesn't much care for large throngs of people, and today I had my fill. It was fun, but I'm looking forward to more peaceful adventures over the next four weeks. I bought a guidebook of London and a great pocket map book today, and soon I'll start seeing the famous sights. (For a second I thought about saying "famous sites," which would also work, but I think "sights" is more fitting.) :-) Enjoy the videos, and be sure to take a look at the photos!

Self. Waving. Flag.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Friday, July 7, 2006

Goodnight my love

  • "A bird may love a fish, but where will they build a home together?" -Tevye, from Fiddler on the Roof