Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Flotsam and the bar exam

I have made it seven weeks through this move, job transfer, studying, and two days of the bar exam without a meltdown, but I don't think I can make it through tonight. This test is just really difficult, and tomorrow is twelve essays that you can pretty much guarantee will include some issues that I just flat have no idea where to even start on. At least you can get partial credit (I hope!). Who knows if that's enough to pass?

Seriously, I found myself buying conspiracy theories yesterday because the Texas Procedure and Evidence exam included questions that weren't even of the "I recognize this, just can't quite remember the answer" variety, but were of the "I have never seen or heard of anything that would answer this question" type. I went back and verified in our BarBri lectures on a couple - flat out no reference to them at all. And I thought: do the bar examiners get copies of the BarBri books and then deliberately try to write questions that aren't in the study materials or past exams, just to think themselves all clever and to stump us? Like it's not enough material to pull from already - there were three, three-hour lectures and 130 pages of notes on crim pro, two three-hour lectures on civ pro, and two entire days of a review - plus multiple past practice exams, and hours of individual review. And are they happy they came up with some things nobody's ever seen? Well, bully for them. Way to NOT test what people have been studying (it's hard enough to get down the main testable areas in each of a dozen subjects) or what they might actually know. Memorization of stupid little details really are the true measure of a lawyer, after all. I'll be so excited to encounter that tomorrow on the essays. "Hey! They'll never get THIS arcane rule on probate!"

No conspiracy theories necessary for multistate. Those questions are just designed to be obnoxious and test the twists of all the rules -- you read through a fact pattern and think you recognize the rule they're looking to test, and then the question deals with a completely unrelated matter that just throws you for a loop. One thing that kind of surprised me this time around was that the subjects I thought were hardest three years ago - evidence, real property, and criminal law - were actually stronger for me on all the practice tests, where contracts and con law just seemed harder. (Also intentional torts, though negligence seemed fine.) There's just no way to know how you did on this until you see the grade, given the number of questions with hard to distinguish "right" and "also right but slightly better" answers.

One thing I notice during tests is that once my brain starts focusing and being active, all sorts of weird stuff floats to the surface along with (hopefully right) rules of law. So, Kanye West songs were playing in my head all day today (I know: que?) along with dinner options, house flipping TV shows, friends I need to get in touch with, and other things that just raced through along with contract formation, mortgage deed recordations, specific intent crimes, and strict liability theories. But that's all gone now. Time for wills and consumer law and commercial paper and oil and gas. Oh yeah, and my horrendously high electrical bill and house that I haven't had any time to help clean in weeks. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Don't stop thinking about tomorrow

No, that's not a reference to the latest amazing message of "hope" from the Dems (although, even more than when John Edwards promised to make the lame walk, Obama's promises to "heal a nation and repair the world" - and attendant Messianic swooning by voters and media alike - are both hilarious and cringeworthy).

Ahem. But, this post is supposed to be about football. Having put last year's excruciating season behind us, the Irish had an excellent day at National Signing Day two weeks ago, and we have a few graduated players with good prospects at the NFL combine coming up. At National Signing Day, the Irish landed a balanced class - ranked in the top two recruiting classes in the country by most observers - of 23 very promising players. Blue-Gray Sky ran profiles of each player when they originally committed, and they have a nice roundtable summing up the outcome. For myself, I've enjoyed watching the highlight videos of Dayne Crist in particular (and also WR Michael Floyd - great receiver, and doesn't go down easily!), and his enthusiasm for coming to Notre Dame is a great thing. He commented (although I can't get the video to play on NBC) that he isn't fazed at all by coming in only a year behind Clausen, because he thinks the competition will be a good motivator for both of them and he welcomes the challenge. With regard to coaching, Charlie Weis has already made a lot of changes for the coming year - e.g., he'll step back from offensive playcalling and focus a bit more on special teams; Jon Tenuta is joining the staff as assistant head coach, but will work with the linebackers in particular - which hopefully will have the effect of correcting a lot of last year's problems.

Finally, for the few players we have heading to the NFL, check out Trevor Laws's blog here. He always seemed to have a lot of energy on the field and in interviews - it absolutely comes through on his blog, too! Good luck to him - and to Zibby, Carlson, and Sullivan, who are also preparing - at the combine.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sunday school teacher smackdown

Inside Catholic tracked down this great clip from the Colbert Report the other night. He discussed the Fall with Philip Zimbardo, a guy who apparently argues Lucifer didn't act wrongly because God was being unjust, or something like that. I was watching the show after class (I can be awake for it now that I live the Central time zone - ha) and remember sitting forward a bit stunned at the intensity of Colbert's explanation of how Hell was created that he launches into at the end of the interview:

This is from a guy who's recited the entire Nicene Creed on his show in thirty seconds before. Now, he can mock Christian conservatives and Republican right-wingers quite a bit on the show - but sometimes he turns those parodies on their head and makes some pretty good points while people are laughing at him. Nicely done.

Friday, February 15, 2008

BarBri's over

Next step, bar exam. I'm running into an unexpected impediment to studying, though: this *!@#$$%^ dog next door to our townhouse, that starts barking incessantly every morning around 7:30 and won't shut up. Wow, it's annoying - and really hard to shut out. Earplugs aren't helping at all. In the neighborhood we're in, I'm not really inclined to try knocking on the neighbor's door, either. During my first summer in D.C., I once had to take a final exam with jackhammers going on the roof above us in the classroom building at GWU, but even that wasn't too bad since a steadier sound like that can kind of fade into the background. But not barking. I may have to retreat to a library or Panera someplace.

The last few days of class went well enough. The lecturer for Texas wills, trusts, guardianships, community property and family law (he did all of them!) was pretty good, although he never explained who the "Hobie Gates" of his hypotheticals was. (He said it would come to us in a revelation someday.) One thing that struck me during family law, as it did during the Florida segments a few years ago and would with any other state too, is how sad it really can be. Aside from the much more brief body of law dealing with marriage or adoption, the bulk of this law deals with divorce and its related subjects (spousal maintenance, child support, child custody, etc.). Once you get divorced and especially if you have kids, the government thereafter gets to be involved in your life indefinitely, weighing the "best interests of the child" standard, making social services visits, dividing time between parents, evaluating parenting skills, sometimes terminating parental rights, withholding money from paychecks, and holding hearings upon various life events (new spouse, new kids, new cohabitations, underemployment) to adjust the withholdings. And throughout, the kids get shuffled back and forth between houses ("between two worlds," as Elizabeth Marquardt puts it). The lecturer said you can always tell when it's visitation weekend in Texas (first, third, and fifth weekends of the month I believe), because the Southwest terminals are full of kids travelling solo. How sad is that? No matter how common divorce may be overall, it's still a tragedy for most of the individual kids who have to go through it. (Not to mention the 1/3 of American kids who are born out of marriage in the first place, who get the often tougher situation right from the beginning.)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday

For a relatively political person, I paid little attention to the 2008 race all of last year because I was annoyed it had started so early. Now that actual primaries are happening, I've missed them all between work and class. Mostly, I'm still bummed Fred Thompson never took off; Romney is otherwise closest to my positions, and I would vote for him in Texas if my registration is processed in time, but now it looks like McCain will finish strongest tonight. His next question will be, can he make nice with all the conservatives who, while respecting him personally and for many of his votes, are quite skeptical about issues like illegal immigration and campaign finance?

Multistate musings

On January 2, we packed up the apartment. On January 3, we drove to Nashville, and on January 4, we arrived in Dallas. On January 5, I encountered my first Texas-sized bugs - several of 'em - running across the kitchen floor in the empty townhouse we were renting, and I promptly freaked out. Luckily I'd brought the roach spray in the car with us. Before starting at BarBri and at work here, before the movers caught up to us, the first trip was to Target (purchases included roach bait) and the first call was to the exterminator. Well, yes I'm a wimp, but when I thought we'd move away from a "luxury" apartment into a perfectly fine-but-not-luxury much cheaper place here, I didn't intend to sign on for the bugs. So, they had to go. Things are much better now! (Our stuff made it all right, too.)

However, I'm still in BarBri, getting ready for the bar exam. It's about as much fun as last time, which is to say, not at all. At least all the MBE topics are sort of coming back to me - the practice test was all day Saturday, with review all day Sunday and yesterday, and I did all right. The review person, Rafael Guzman, was the same as three years ago; I imagine he does this every six months. He's pretty helpful for doing a 16-hour wrapup of topics. I remembered Joe Tom Easley's property review as well - apparently he does multiple states. (Even though I am a real estate lawyer, it doesn't mean I know anything at all about the Rule against Perpetuities.) But the Texas torts and evidence lecturers weren't as memorable as the Florida ones. I suppose it's a testament to how good the last guys were that I can actually remember some of their anecdotes. Does anyone else remember the example of fettuccine alfredo being used as a memory aide for a little old Italian lady witness for present recollection refreshed? Or the loathsome disease of the pox for defamation? Okay, maybe that's just me. (Ah, I just googled torts guy: Professor Roger Schechter from GWU. That guy was funny :) He does have other fans out there. Looks like evidence was by Professor Faust Rossi.) Class has been about every day since I arrived after work, and Saturdays. Still three weeks to go to study Texas subjects and do a few performance test practices. I just took tonight off since it's the first weekday in four or five weeks without class. Three weeks to go... Welcome to Texas.