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July 21, 2003

What, Me Worry?

The summer is flying and participants on the GW admitted students discussion board are exchanging vital info about where to live, what cell phone service to get, and how much they love their shiny new Dells. Good for them, I say. I'm just bitter because the one thing everyone on the board seems to agree on is that Sprint's cell service sucks, and they're absolutely right, but that's what I'm stuck with for the next 8 months. Where were these people in March when I got my phone!?

But in addition to confirming that I have the sorriest excuse for cell phone service in the universe, the posters at the GW discussion board (which I'm not linking to because it's all password-protected and whatnot) also introduced me to Law, which offers a "free, 6-step workshop" to help prepare you for law school. It's basic, but hey, so am I, plus it's short, which means I may even read it all. In addition to the vitals like explaining IRAC and how to brief a case, the Law Nerds advice includes more subtle gems like daily affirmations (!?) and staying away from the "stress bombs":

Some people purposefully create stress as a motivator for themselves. They freak out at the workload and use it as a way to bond with other students. Stay away from the people who are stressing out. Stress creates stress, and you want to focus your energies on studying, not stressing out.

I saw this in my English grad program all the time. There were some people who couldn't seem to have a single conversation—or even exchange greetings in the hallway—without reference to their workload, lack of sleep, problem students in the classes they were teaching, or other stress factors. In my first year, every time I'd talk with one of these people I'd walk away thinking there must be something wrong with me because I didn't feel nearly as behind as they did (even if I had more work I needed to catch up on), and I certainly didn't feel stressed about any of it. By the second year I'd spent enough time with people like this that I started to be like them. They taught me what should stress me out and how to magnify those things (and my stress from those things) into conversation pieces and life-dominating albatrosses. It got to the point where every gathering of grad students was just a big exchange of what we were stressed out about. It was pretty sick. And it's a self-perpetuating cycle. As the Law Nerds say, unless you're one of these people who can only function if you're stressed to the verge of exploding: Stay away from people like this. Far away. If you walk away from a conversation with someone in your first few weeks and you feel more stressed than you did when you began the conversation, think really hard about whether you really need to talk to them again. Of course, a certain amount of stress is probably a healthy motivator for all of us, so a good strategy may be to try to find friends and study partners who are a good mix of more and less stressed than you are. The more-stressed people can help keep you (and your group) on your toes, while the less stressed people can be a voice of sanity, reminding you (and your group) when the stress is going beyond the healthy point.

I'm just thinking out loud here.

This whole avoiding stress thing has a corollary, which the Law Nerds put this way:

Putting in more hours doesn't necessarily lead to more knowledge.

This will be vital to remember if you find yourself surrounded by stress bombs. They'll be talking about how many all-nighters they've already pulled and about how they've read three extra books that weren't even assigned and yadda yadda yadda, and you'll be going, "um, I've been sleeping 8 hours a night and I haven't even done half the assigned reading, let alone anything extra." At first you'll be ok with this, but beware! The stress bombs have planted seed of doubt in your mind, and if you're not careful, before you know it you'll be panicked and paranoid that you're not working hard enough and will be doomed to failure if you don't also read many extra books and stay up all night doing it. And of course you know if you go that route you'll just get strung out and more paranoid and worried, rather than less, so you don't want to go there, right? Right?

Um, did I mention I was just thinking out loud here?

And while I'm at it, let me just say that signing the promissory notes for the $36,330 I'm borrowing to pay for the next 9 months of my life was, well, a sobering experience. Suddenly firms look very different to me, as in, well, maybe not so bad. I mean, it's good experience to work in a firm for a year or two, right? It doesn't have to be awful, right? And as L. pointed out, some top law students are lucky enough to get great paying gigs during their 1-L and 2-L summers; we've known people who made close to $70k total in just two summers "interning" for firms. So forget what I said about not wanting anything to do with firms. Where do I apply?

Which reminds me: Just about every law school advice book (and someone from the PR boards a while back) tells you to get your resume polished up before law school starts so you'll be ready to send off applications for summer work when the application process begins on Dec. 1. Just FYI.

Posted 11:36 AM | Comments (2) | law school

Old Rag Mountain

It was a beautiful weekend in the DC region, so on the spur of the moment Saturday night, I decided to take a little hike. I'd previously searched for recommended hikes in the area, and found Local Hike's list of 5-star hikes , and of course I wanted to do the one billed as the "best hike in VA!" L. and I did the Bull Run "hike" a few weeks ago and found it to be less hike than walk, except for the low spots, which at the time were filled with water, making the "hike" more like a "swalk"—a swap walk. We also picked up some friendly tics there, as did our favorite dumb animal (our dog), so all in all Bull Run was nice, but I hoped that Old Rag Mountain would offer more climbing, varied terrain, and better views.

Old Rag did not disappoint. As the picture below should suggest, aside from the "smokiness" of the mountains, the views were pretty darned good.

And if you want climbing, you'd probably be hard-pressed to find more of it in the DC area than you'll find on Old Rag. As the Local Hikes description indicates, you climb over 2000 feet in around 4 miles. The "rock scramble" is also no joke; there were places where the rocks were so vertical I had to stop and examine them pretty closely to find a way up. However, since Old Rag is such a popular hike those few tough spots aren't really so tough—all the likely hand holds (including nearby trees and branches) are worn smooth from all the hands that have grabbed them over the years, and all the good toe holds are blackened by the scrapes of shoe rubber. So although it's a pretty challenging hike, it's well-traveled so you can hike in the knowledge that if you get in any kind of trouble someone will likely be along shortly to help you out.

If you want a great hike in the D.C. area, I highly recommend Old Rag. However, I'd add a couple of things to what the Local Hikes page says about it. First, it took almost exactly 2 hours to reach the trail parking lot from the Bethesda, MD area—follow directions to Nethers, VA if you want to look it up on Yahoo maps or something. Also, since you have to park 0.8 miles from the trailhead, this is really an 8.8 mile round-trip, not 7 miles. Finally, the 4-hour pace is a pretty brisk one. I did it, but it was kind of a forced march and I only spent about 10-15 minutes at the top. I imagine most hikers will want to take a more leisurely pace, so plan for 5-6 hours, at least. Other than that, take lots of water and have a great hike.

So what's next? If you have recommendations for hiking or biking (mt. or road) in the DC area, the comments link is calling your name!

Posted 11:07 AM | Comments (5) | life generally

Really Good Wretchedness

Kick off your week with some award-winning wretchedness! Feast your eyes on this:

They had but one last remaining night together, so they embraced each other as tightly as that two-flavor entwined string cheese that is orange and yellowish-white...

So begins the winning entry of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest ("where WWW means Wretched Writers Welcome"). The BLFC is "a whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels."

But what if you like string cheese?

[Link via Random Neural Misfirings which is definitely random and includes this nice little roundup of recent events.]

Posted 07:16 AM | life generally

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