January 2008

So, I quit law school yesterday. Actually, I took a leave of absence, which gives me the option of coming back in Spring 09, but I likely won’t go back.

What Happened

First semester, I struggled to keep a balance between school and the rest of my life. But, the system kept crashing that in. What killed most of my finely-tuned schedule was that damned Legal Writing class (lots and lots of assignments, very little reward), but I also got sick over my Fall Break and then started rebelling against the workload, setting me several days (up to a week and a half in one class) behind in the readings and making it tough to catch up. I eventually did catch up and I passed all of my finals, but by the end of the process – really throughout the whole process – I was nothing short of angry all the time.

Then Winter Break started and I went back to work to make some money. I was still continuously angry through January 1st, taking it out on Brent the whole time, when finally I started to detox. I began to feel more like the person I was before I started school. I felt positive and happy. I had energy. I looked forward to each day without the sense of impending doom. It felt good.

Critical Mass

Then Friday, January 11, I started to get the e-mails. Professor #1 – pick up the Property packet from the copy center and read it for Wednesday’s class. Professor #2 – pick up the text from the copy center and read pages 1-22 for Wednesday’s class. Professor #3 – pick up the text from the copy center and read chapters 1 & 2. Professor #4 – read pages 3-69 in the text for Thursday. Mind you, not all of these came on Friday (which would have theoretically given me plenty of time), but even if they did, I was still at work and the copy center wasn’t open over the weekend – forcing me to take a day off from work to go pick this stuff up and start reading it. I chose that day to be Tuesday to give them the latest possible time to add more to my To Do list so that I only had to make one trip to Albuquerque. All the while, Professor #5 was strangely silent.

Then I got an email from a fellow classmate (sent at 4:30 PM, Tuesday, read at 6:00 AM, Wednesday) telling me that Prof. #5 had an assignment posted on a bulletin board upstairs (pick up the text from the copy center and read pgs 1-18 for Wednesday morning). Now, (A) I was in the copy center at 11:30 AM on Tuesday, no text for his class was found (I later found out that he requested the books to be kept behind a desk and as luck would have it, the copy center was devoid of people to tell me this), and (B) even if I had the book, there was absolutely no time to read the stuff before class. So I wrote to Prof. #5, apologizing for my lack of preparation, and requesting that he not call on me during class. Surprise! He called on me. A few times.

Now, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he didn’t read the e-mail before walking into the classroom. But the result was the same as if he had done it on purpose. I was already anxious and pissed off when I showed up on campus, and that was just the last straw. I felt like every time I walked into a classroom I was preparing for battle – defenses up, ready for the inevitable attack. The process wasn’t fun or rewarding, and my mind was just closing off. Then when I started looking through the syllabuses of the other classes, I decided there wasn’t anything in it that I gave a crap about and I no longer wanted to do this. Enough really was enough.

The Aftermath

Even though I’m sure this is the right decision, I’m feeling like a big, fat Quitter. I haven’t slept well in a few days, either, which doesn’t help. But, as I tell people my tale, I’m feeling a bit better. I wish I was one of those people who loved law school because I know that the degree would help me do what I set out to do – policy analysis, lobbying, etc. The cost/benefit is completely upside-down, though, and the fact is that law school was 3rd on my priorities list (after my health and Brent), but I was treating it as if it was my only priority (in fact, the system is designed for you to treat it as your only priority), ignoring the really important stuff. I definitely don’t want to be that person.

Earlier this week, I found an article on The Slate that made the argument that Starbucks really isn’t running indie coffeehouses out of Dodge. Instead, it explained that the Starbucks marketing machine actually helps the local shops by hyping up the perceived need for foofie-coffee through huge advertising campaigns, moving into neighborhoods that were covered by the local shops, and then essentially being more successful than customers (unaccustomed to waiting in long lines for coffee) were happy with. Hence, the local shops get the Starbucks overflow business.

I thought this was an interesting enough perspective, so I e-mailed it to, among others, my brother, who has been on the anti-coffee-corporatization bandwagon for many years now. In response, he sent me a five-paragraph thesis, complete with references and footnotes, on how the article was full of it. He cited another blogger’s response to the Slate article, and explained that Starbucks did indeed run his own favorite coffeehouse out of business many years ago, and then pointed out that Seattle’s Best Coffee (referred to in The Slate’s article) is actually now owned by Starbucks. Sneaky Starbucks.

Anyway, I bring this all up because I continually marvel at how easy it is to have a dialogue these days cluttered with all kinds of facts/fallacies, information/misinformation, and how we can all fact-check within the span of a few minutes. I often find myself talking with someone about God-knows-what and saying, “Let’s look it up!”

This happened just recently when my smarty-pants coworker and I were talking about all of the things that Bill Gates could do with his cash (i.e. single-handedly eradicate all of the basic diseases from the planet that we already have vaccines for, etc.). I, being prone to exaggeration, claimed that Bill Gates was worth somewhere around $400B. Davis challenged me and instead of arguing with him about something that I know nothing about, we looked it up. Turns out, I wasn’t even close. Bill is only worth $56B. But still – we had that info right at our fingertips so we could pass that little stumbling block and continue with the meat of the issue. I love that.

What did we do before open access to the Internet? Were we all just lying to each other all the time? I know I would not have gone to the library to look up Bill Gates’ net worth on Business Week microfiche. Maybe I would have talked to someone who keeps up with Bill Gates, or at least had a subscription to Business Week, and I would have trusted that they had a better memory for these kinds of figures than I do. If they were wrong, then I would be passing along faulty information and contributing to the whole problem. What a mess!

Another thing I like about the Internet is that I can look up transcripts of speeches or full texts of legislation that I had heard someone else’s spin on, but just didn’t seem right (yes – I did this before I thought about going to law school. What a nerd.). Even though most of this information has always been publicly available, I wouldn’t have had the first clue about where to go searching for it. Plus, it would have taken forever. Now, I can just whip something out of my computer and instantly sound like I know what I’m talking about. Fabulous!

Yet another thing – when was the last time you got an e-mail warning about perfume salesmen preying on women at gas stations, spraying them with a drug, rendering them unconscious? A while? Me too. I haven’t received one of these “Warning! This is not a joke!” e-mails in over a year. I think this is in no small part thanks to sites like snopes.com gaining in popularity. People are still gullible, but they have the ammo to check the facts before forwarding this stuff to their friends.

I know what you are going to say. Everything on the Internet is crap. It’s all shopping, phishing scams, and a bunch of bloggers with more ego than brains (ahem). Oh yeah – and Wikipedia is full of lies. Especially with Stephen Colbert mucking up the wikiality. Well, you are right, but you have to look at everything with that sceptical eye. For all the bad, there are islands of good that make all kinds of information available to people who might not otherwise have access to it. People have to opportunity to increase their knowledge and awareness of the world, and I really dig that.

Since I can’t bring an iPod into my new LANL digs, I’ve been listening to a lot of KFOG. Not bad, really. New Mexico airwaves are pretty much owned by ClearChannel (death to the infidels), so KFOG is a nice vacation from the same-old crap on the radio. Plus, they don’t edit out the word “bullshit” in Pink Floyd’s “Money” – which, I believe is one of the great examples of our artistic and musical history being white-washed under the banner of protecting our children from bad words (and independent thought) — another soapbox for another day.

Anyway, they have a segment they run every day at 10:00 AM, PST called “The 10@10.” Ten songs at 10 o’clock all from a particular year. Today’s year was 1997. So, I’ve just rocked out to 10 songs from 1997 – many of which I have loaded on my iPod so I’m happy. At the end of the hour, the announcer-person says that 1997 has just been inducted into the 10@10 vault.

Why do I care? Because a decade has to have passed before it can be a 10@10 flashback year. Has it really been 10 years since 1997? I mean, I know I’m not so hot on math, but it doesn’t feel 10 years since ’97. This one hurts.

OK, I know that it is a new year and that I’m supposed to be all optimistic and positive, blah, blah, blah. But is anyone else ticked off at how the whole country has automated their bathrooms? I mean, the auto-flushers are OK – they have noticeably reduced the mess in the girls’ bathrooms over the years (except when they aren’t working, which is a whole other Oprah), but those stupid auto-faucets are the bane of my existence. I swear they were put in place just to screw with me. Pump a few pumps of liquid soap into my hands, then realize that the sinks have no “real” faucets and start waving my hands under faucets like a mad-woman until I find one that will turn on. I don’t know how these things work – infared? motion? heat sensor? radar? sonar? retinal scan? – but they never seem to work for me. The ones at the Albuquerque airport are the worst, but it happens everywhere. Now I’ve just moved into a new building where the whole thing is automated. I stood there at each station – the soap pumper, the sinks, the towel dispenser – waving my hands around the whole room like I’m swatting at the flies in my head trying to get these stupid machines’ attention. Rosie the Robot they are not. In my opinion, some zones should simply be technology-free, and I would classify public restrooms in that category.