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August 06, 2006

Caution for Incoming CLS 1Ls

Dear Wormwood:

I hope you are finding your law school preparations none too taxing and your final summer outside the law enjoyable. I see in your latest letter that you're wondering about the living arrangements at the University Discordia Law School. I'm sure you're already tired of my own travails with a dorm room. Nevertheless, I'd advise that a choice of housing is something into which you should put a great deal of care.

I say this because at least at Columbia, price is no guarantee of quality. Yes, I ended up in a dormitory room, and I suffered from unsanitary kitchens and unwanted visitors therein. But heck, I was paying about $600 per month for 196 square feet of living space in a quasi-nice area of Manhattan, so I couldn't complain too much.

On the other hand, one of my best friends at Columbia lives in the elite law student housing at Lionsgate Apartments with a rent of around $1100 per month. Over the last two years, his eighth floor apartment flooded to the depth of two inches and an area of the floor becomes an artesian spring any time there's a hard rain. One window shows obvious water damage, and the superintendent took two months to replace some broken blinds[1]. Now I learn that her subletter has also complained about mice. This in a building described by the school as a "luxury high rise."

You're quite clever, Wormwood, so you can see the connection: same problems (well, OK, I never had flooding), but for twice the price. And once you're in to these buildings, it's made very difficult to get out. (Whereas trading for a more expensive room from a dormitory is not particularly difficult.)

So my advice to you before heading off to University Discordia is to find some friends among your soon-to-be-classmates and ask for their advice. Nothing substitutes for local knowledge. Then choose carefully.

[1]: In case you're thinking that non-functional blinds are no big thing, it's worth remembering that in New York City, anyone on your floor or above will be able to see straight into your bedroom at night if you have the courage to turn a light on.

January 17, 2006

Something I've Learned My Last Semester in Law School

I'm squeamish about mice. Not being particularly bad with insects or spiders, I didn't expect that.

In my defense, this is a limited sort of squeamishness. It involves an unwillingness to clean my dishes six inches away from the garbage bin that seems to be the locus of the mouse infestation while the mice are actually scuttling back and forth. (These little blighters aren't shy, either: they will run from kicks or old sponges being thrown at them, but the mere presence of over six foot of graduate student isn't sufficient deterence. Are all mice this friendly?)

By contrast, I don't really consider my aversion to using the kitchen when there's a dead mouse carcass stuck to the sticky/gummy mousetraps squeamishness as such. I take it as a sign of egalitarianism and enlightened environmental consciousness. I don't partiicularly enjoy cooking with other people in the kitchen, so why should I discriminate in favor of four-legged co-chefs?

May 12, 2004

One More Reason Not To Accept A Dorm

My suggestion to any incoming 1Ls--stay out of the dorms at all costs. You can see my tale of dorm life by looking in this category, but yesterday I ran into one more absurdity.

In order to keep my right to on-campus housing, I have to keep renting a dorm room from the University Apartment Housing office over the summer and sublet it out. While with the apartments this means continuing a monthly rent, with the dorms you must pay the entire summer term's rent up-front. Notably, I can't get loans for the summer, and an extra three-month's rent is not in the budget. Which means I'm stuck with a rent bill before I have a paycheck to cover it.

That's $2K I've just not got.

As I said, stay out of the dorms. It's just one more bit of stress you don't need.

February 25, 2004

Bizarre Product Lust

For some reason, tonight I accomplished almost nothing. I was beset with odd and obscure desires, and spent my night shopping for these.

My dorm room has no space for one of them. I can't afford any of them. And if I'm not wrong, my family already has one in storage, so if I wait, I might inherit it. Still, for some reason life doesn't feel complete without one. This is probably the best sign yet that law school is driving me mad. Or at least into the realms of poor taste and tackiness.

Anyway, it's not true that I got no work at all done. A bundle of the administrative tasks necessary for my job search were completed. But no reading, no work on my papers... nothing, in short, that gets me ready for tomorrow.

November 12, 2003

They don't get to live with me until they start paying rent

This morning, rushing to my Torts class, I saw the first cockroach in the House of Fire and Motions to Dismiss. [1]

I don't know if he's part of an organized party, or just on an exploratory mission. But tonight it's time to sweep the floor up, lock and load the roach spray, set the roach traps, and drive the little bastards out. "Take off and nuke them from orbit... it's the only way to be sure."

My room's not very organized at the moment, but it's at least pretty tidy. I guess I'm lucky to have kept them out this long without much work.

[1] For those who've forgotten, the House of Fire and Motions to Dismiss is my dorm room.

October 07, 2003

Health Tip: Your Back Will Thank You

Since every law student I know is complaining about the weight of the books we carry around every day, I figured I'd draw attention to Stressbusters, a volunteer student massage service at Columbia. Between noon and 1 PM on Wednesdays, they do free neck massages.

Don't say I never did anything for you.

October 01, 2003

Dinner, Dessert, Torts

Sometimes, as much as it goes against every grain in my body, I enjoy cooking for vegetarians. It gives one a chance to branch out. So tonight's dinner was a fruit salad I've been meaning to cook for a long time, topped with sauteed portobello mushrooms. The recipe:

1 1/2 teaspoons of soy sauce per mushroom
1/2 teaspoon of worchestershire sauce per mushroom
(above measurements are approximate--basically splash the two sauces together in tasty proportions)
Salt and a dash of garlic powder
(if you add 1/4 cup of red wine, it'll taste sort of like beef, too)

Cook for long enough to sing a verse and a half of Cat Steven's Portobello Road. If you're not alone in your kitchen or apartment and you sing as badly as I do, sing in your head.

Top the salad with poppyseed dressing, and serve the mushrooms over it.

Serve with Franziskaner Dunkel (odd, since it's a dark beer with a salad, but trust me here).

Dessert was even easier. Halve a pink grapefruit, spread honey on top of it, broil for 10 minutes until the honey browns.

Very simple, but very pleasant. I've now got enough vitamins to hit my books.

September 16, 2003

In other news...

So here's a question: do I need to buy a new bed, or just a new mattress? I woke up with the most outrageous backache today, which I'm choosing to blame on the rather shot mattress on the dorm bed. The way I see it, I've got two choices:
a) buy a new bed, and have the old one taken away.
b) buy a new mattress, and put it on top of the old one.

Problem is, if I were to buy a new bed I'd get a double; the dorm bed is a single. So I don't want to buy a new mattress and find out it's useless if I leave the Malebolge and end up buying a new bed. On the other hand, I'm not sure I want to go to the expense of getting a bed delivered to the Malebolge if I am just going to move it soon. In the meantime, my shoulders are crying out to do something.

This is coupled with one of the more difficult problems I'm finding with finances. My budget for the year doesn't look bad, owing to the fact that my daily outgoing expenses seem manageable (though the beginning of term while I couldn't cook has put a hole in that), but for the term is pretty grim. This is because all the major expenses, like a computer, furniture, moving, etc. occur in the first term, but money is only disbursed in halves.

So in other words, all of my graphs say I'm fine in June, but I go broke in December. Credit cards, here we come....

September 07, 2003

Hell's Kitchen Update

I'd like to give a thank you to the lovely Ms. K and my newly-met neighbor Mr. S. These two sterling towers of courage and intestinal fortitude helped me throw out everything in our kitchen that wasn't nailed down or otherwise labeled. If the dorm authorities here at the Malebolge are true to their word, all those surfaces will be cleaned tomorrow.

Of course, there's now about two years of spoiled food rotting in the hallway, but we really couldn't figure out where else to put it, there being more waste than would fit in the garbage cans. Highlights of the evening? Throwing out milk that expired in March (again, many thanks to the courageous Ms. K.); no less than three pans that had seen better days; the rusty knives finally gone. All of us stink like a garbage midden. If there were justice in the world, we'd send a bill to the housing authorities. Then again, if there were justice in the world, we probably wouldn't be on our way to lawyerdom. But at least it's over.

We hope.

So, Malebolge status?
Kitchen: On its way to habitable.
Call box: Still broken (well, missing presumed replaced), but I don't miss it.
Hallway: I hope the garbage men are coming tomorrow....

September 04, 2003

Putridity has become policy

A little note to those of you thinking of becoming 1Ls here, with regards to the dorms:

Policy, as I now have in an official letter, is that the cleaners will not throw out anything in the kitchens. This sounds all well and good, until you realize that no one checks to make sure that anyone takes their things out of the kitchen before they leave. This means new tenants, like I and my hallmates, are now being told that if the kitchen is to be cleaned, we'd better throw out the rusty knives, ancient bottles of soy sauce, and crusty jars in the fridge before Monday. [1]

The kicker? This line from the relevant bureaucratic office:

At this time I would like to remind you that we cannot take responsibility for removing any item in the kitchens. I strongly suggest that in the future you all be considerate with your neighbors and discard what is no longer needed.

Since (a) 'remind' implies this is a policy posted somewhere (as opposed to the 'All items left in these areas will be discarded' sign actually on the wall), (b) we seem to need 'reminding' not to leave belongings in a place we've never put them, and (c) the big problem is things left behind by people who will never get that email, I'm not sure I'm amused.

Anyway, if you find yourself in a situation similar to mine next year, just throw out everything that's disgusting when you move in. What you might end up paying your fellow hallmates to replace their stuff will be less than the excess of eating out for a month while it gets resolved.

[1] Torts question: one of us cuts ourselves with a rusty knife whilst doing this and gets tetanus. What torts?

September 01, 2003

Determined Optimism

What's the only good thing about spending an entire morning arguing with the fact that the cockroach-ridden nightmare of a kitchen at the Malebolge seems to have been declared the "tenant's collective responsibility?"

After that, the idea of doing 100 pages of reading on the Civil Rights Act, about six case briefs, and an outline update is positively a stress-free joy.

August 29, 2003

A new form of torture

Note to future 1L's in this dorm: stuff in the Malebolge always breaks while the supervisor is out for a long weekend.

In this case, my call-box to the door has decided to start issuing a barely-audible high-pitched squeak. It was such that I could never get to sleep with it working, but of course, the super was out. I had two choices--find somewhere to crash or disconnect it.

I'm sure I've broken some rule of the dorms by unscrewing the faceplate and disconnecting the wiring. Still, it's better than feeling my ears start to bleed.

August 27, 2003

The itinerant chef strikes again

My plan to steal the kitchens of friends in apartments and entertain them with malice aforethought has gone one step further, this time with a cajun salmon (I was going to do tuna but Fresh Direct decided not to deliver it) over a three-pepper stir fry with wild rice. The salmon was a touch overcooked, and next time I'll do something a bit more special with the stirfry, but it went off fairly well and I might be invited back to cook.

So not having a dorm kitchen isn't completely defeating me. Indeed, it gets me out of the house and meeting people, and provides a nice break before studying in the evening. At the end of law school I think I'll write a book called The Itinerant Gourmet: How to Cook For Four With No More Food Than You Can Carry in a Handbasket.

Next stop, an apartment of four guys. This time something with lots of red meat and red wine, or even beer. Recipe suggestions?

Wonder of wonders!

The ethernet connection to the Malebolge now works. OK, the kitchen is still a cockroach-ridden abomination unto the Health Department, but at least I can browse the web from the dubious comfort of my dormitory.

August 25, 2003

Blue Laws

Forget about Judge Moore, the rule of law, and constitutional issues... why did no one tell me that in New York City you can't buy wine on Sundays?

I expected that in Alabama, but this is supposed to be a progressive state?

August 17, 2003

Not for the unsure of stomach

I've had a few people mail me and say, "Tony, you've always been picky about your kitchen, I'm sure you're exaggerating the state that Hell's Kitchen's in." So, before the super has his folks clean it on Wednesday, hopefully with tactical nuclear weapons, I figured I'd show you what a lair of minions to Beelzebub the place really is.

First, there's the refrigerators. Note that the box of eggs that you can see in one of these pictures expired in June. (We threw away the ones from February and March, but these might in theory have belonged to somebody.) And there's the impressive collection of moldy gunk on the surfaces...

Stuff from this fridge is gradually dripping on the floors...

Now, near as I can tell what happened here is someone spilled soy sauce on a bag of sugar, and it dissolved the bottom of the bag. This looks like a petri dish, and the image doesn't do it justice--there's little things of black mold growing in the goop that you can't see here.

The counter. In fairness to the cleaning staff, twice a week they do clean the surfaces, though not around anything that's left on them. This includes the pan of one of my floormates. Near as we can tell, he cooks with it each evening but never cleans it, a practice which means that when it's heated, it stinks to high heaven.

And finally, the crowning glory. The two big butcher's knives, complete with whetstone, hidden in one drawer for no readily discernable purpose.

Again, in fairness, I've been told this will be taken care of by Wednesday, which would be nice, because then I might be able to use my frying pan and lovely new set of dishes.

OK, off to bed. First day of classes is tomorrow, so I ought to be asleep by midnight.

Lemons and Lemonade

So my dorm doesn't have a kitchen you'd want to cook in, or indeed enter. Never should I let that stop me from having healthy meals, enjoying the cooking I do, or entertaining my fellows. In the bottom of my 'mini-kitchen' in the HFMD now sits salt, pepper, oregano, olive oil, some relatively good basalmic vinegar, and other dry-good spices. Next stop is to get a small basket and a wok.

The plan, as enacted for the first time yesterday, is to convince folks who have apartments to let me come cook dinners for them. They get prepared food, I get to cook, and so long as they chip in for their part of the groceries and do the dishes, I don't mind. Now I just need to figure out how to convince more people this is an equitable arrangment.

Last night was salmon poached in white wine, lemon juice, and spiced rum--a bit extravagant, but it was a Saturday night.

August 16, 2003

The New Hit Movie: Law School Monk!

Yes, it's the new hit movie: Law School Monk!...

This was my thought as I stepped into the shower and wondered at the mystery that is the dormitory water system. Sometimes it takes up to ten minutes for the water to warm up in the shower up in the Malebolge. For most of this week, my patience has run out before my fear of discomfort, and so I've endured some shockingly cold showers. The days I shave my head, the water's gotten warm enough to do so just about the time I'm done getting cleaned up. My roommates must be amazed at these thirty-minute showers, but honestly, I wait about ten before I grit my teeth and brave the cold.

Ah well. My old tutor used to mumble about the cold showers he endured back in his public schoolboy days, and how they built character. So here's a thought: how's law school like shaving one's head? If you're going to start out, make that first shave down the middle, because once you've done that, you'd look a right fool to back out.

August 15, 2003

It was full of stars...

As most of the rest of the world knows, a lot of the eastern seaboard, including the island of Manhattan, was blacked out last night. I've still not been able to figure out why, mostly because I've been trying to do my law school reading and failing to find a newspaper. (This not having net access in my room is truly lousy.) I'm typing this quickly in a friend's room, so I'm not going to go searching CNN to figure it out.

Last night was... well, a wonderful disaster. It cut short our lecture on financial planning and how the one hundred thirty-some thousand I'm going in debt is an 'investment.' Since most of this seemed obvious to me (admittedly, I'm a personal finance junkie) I didn't miss it, but the downside is I've still not gotten my loan checks. So I'm a poor devil.

Then passed a number of hours of total cluelessness, trying to figure out what was going on. Mostly, I hung around with some friends and fretted about dragging my notebook bag and the lovely Columbia University Law School bag of stuff (total haul of variously-branded mugs: 3) up eight flights of stairs to the HFMD. Then I met up with a lovely classmate whose problems were much more serious than mine: her fiancee was supposed to be at JFK airport for a flight to Budapest that Northwest airlines was doggedly insisting would leave on time, at least if you called the only source of information available, their automated 800 number.

Cue myself, another 1L, and these two deciding he'd not be able to go and lugging three suitcases up eight flights of stairs. Follow this with him getting nervous, and me (having the only working cell phone) calling parents, ex-girlfriends, old contacts, and anyone else I could to try to answer the simple question "Is JFK even bloody open?" And finally, we get him on a cab to the airport (that's another trip down the stairs, again heavily-laden), only to have him walk up to us at a bar forty minutes later--his flight was, predictably, cancelled.

So, there was much drinking at Nacho Mamma's, much grumbling about planes, and the wonderful sight of Broadway on a night in which you could see the stars. New York is a wonderful city: someone dressed himself up in Christmas Lights and wandered down the streets, the police were out in force (although someone ransacked the local Radio Shack, showing incredibly poor taste in burglary), and we all wondered what would happen tomorrow.

The power came on about 6:45 in my room, and the air conditioner returned to blessed functioning. And what happened, it seems, is that Columbia closed down for the day and our orientation events were cancelled. Whether that means our course schedule on Monday is now invalid, I don't know: we've not had our second day of events, but I doubt we'd miss it much. I spent most of this morning trying to find and copy necessary course materials from those lucky (or foresightful) enough to have picked them up before the blackout, since I think that Monday we'll just start our courses.

Life doesn't look like it's ceasing to be interesting. (Although the best line of the night was a security guard in my dorm, when I asked if I could go up on the roof to look at the stars. "No, you can't go up there--you might decide to jump off." I find it inspiring that he feels I'm enough of a hard guy that jumping the seven-some stories from my window wouldn't do the job.)

August 14, 2003

Dorm Life and Other Distractions

While a lot has happened over the last week, I'll start out by filling you in on life in my dormitory (nicknamed The Malebolge). Last night I officially finished 'moving in' to my room (The House of Fire and Motions to Dismiss), since each and every thing now has a place. We'll see exactly how long this organisation lasts.

I'll put a full description and pictures in the extended entry below, but as a rough guide I've got about 14 square feet, now full of my own mini-kitchen, a corner desk, more electrical equipment than the wiring can probably hold, and a bed which is... servicable, if not incredibly comfy. I've managed to get it decorated since I've been here, so it doesn't look horribly empty. The kitchen, however, should be either condemned or cleaned with acid.

I've also had time to visit some other students in their apartments, which answers the question: what's so bad about the dormitories? Basically, they're fine in and of themselves, but the apartments are so much better. One friend lives in an apartment with one roommate, and between them they have two bedrooms, a parlour, a front room, a dining room, a kitchen easily the size of the one on my floor, and a nicer bathroom. For $100/month more than I'm paying, it's a great deal.

Anyway, if you want to see what my domain now looks like, just click below.

Continue reading "Dorm Life and Other Distractions" »

Giving The Devil His Due

Caution for Incoming CLS 1Ls (1)
Luis Villa wrote: Of course, in most of Lionsgate you... [more]

Something I've Learned My Last Semester in Law School (0)
One More Reason Not To Accept A Dorm (0)
Bizarre Product Lust (0)
They don't get to live with me until they start paying rent (2)
Michael wrote: Yeah, I spotted one in the kitchen ... [more]

Health Tip: Your Back Will Thank You (2)
A. Rickey wrote: Well, yes, it was aimed more at my ... [more]

Dinner, Dessert, Torts (0)
In other news... (3)
Madam Jack wrote: Look on Craigslist.org. In SF there... [more]

Hell's Kitchen Update (3)
Katherine wrote: http://www.cc.gatech.edu/people/hom... [more]

Putridity has become policy (1)
Katherine wrote: I would so go for strict products l... [more]

Determined Optimism (2)
A. Rickey wrote: Thanks for the advice. I wasn't pl... [more]

A new form of torture (0)
The itinerant chef strikes again (2)
JuicyCash wrote: nice red meat lol... [more]

Wonder of wonders! (0)
Blue Laws (6)
Nicole wrote: i think that blue laws suck and the... [more]

Not for the unsure of stomach (1)
Katherine wrote: my first day of classes is also tom... [more]

Lemons and Lemonade (1)
Katherine wrote: let me know if you ever stop by in ... [more]

The New Hit Movie: Law School Monk! (1)
the Pegging Elf wrote: Why not shave your head using clipp... [more]

It was full of stars... (1)
Adam Wolfson wrote: lol. Maybe the guard just recogniz... [more]

Dorm Life and Other Distractions (3)
Katherine wrote: hope you survived the blackout okay... [more]

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